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Showing posts from 2011

Best Dishes of 2011

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This time last year, I was still basking in the reflection of a trip to Spain that included two meals that will probably always be among my most memorable - Asador Etxebarri in the Basque Country, and el Bulli. Not surprisingly, my "Ten Best Bites of 2010" list had a distinctly Iberian tilt. We didn't venture out of the U.S. in 2011, but nonetheless ate well, at home in Miami, on the other side of the continent during a trip to Portland, Oregon, and during a too-brief sojourn to Chicago.[1] For much more worldly lists, I'd highly commend those assembled by Ulterior Epicure and Doc Sconz, who in one year could check off my dining wish list for the next decade or so.

It's always a fun task to compile these kinds of lists. The exceptionality of some dishes is immediately apparent, the experience of them firmly and indelibly imprinted on the memory. Others may need the perspective of time to truly appreciate, perhaps seeming simple at first but gaining depth and nuan…

CobayAzul (a/k/a A.B.C. - Azul Bizarre Cobaya)

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The basic idea behind Cobaya is a simple one: let chefs cook whatever they want, for diners who want to experience it. The execution of that idea can sometimes become very elaborate. It did at Azul earlier this week, where Chef Joel Huff and his crew assembled an eight-course dinner that was often as complex as it was flavorful.

Another of the ideas behind Cobaya is to highlight chefs who may not be getting the attention they deserve for doing interesting, creative, inspired work in Miami. This latest dinner was another good example. Azul is one of Miami's few "fine dining" spots, and some great talent has worked there - its first executive chef was Michelle Bernstein, who spent four years there before going off on her own, when the talented Clay Conley took over - but like many hotel restaurants, it's a place that's more popular for visitors than locals.

When Chef Huff took over Azul this year, we quickly put it on the list of places that we thought could fit w…

CSA Week 2-3 and its Uses

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Uh oh. Only three weeks into the CSA season and I'm already a full week behind in posting. Not an auspicious start. This is no fault of Little River Market Garden, which has been supplying great stuff. Let's see what we can do to get caught up.



The Week 2 share brought kale, pei tsai (the unnamed mystery green from Week 1), basil, passionfruit, chinese leeks, long beans, roselle (a/k/a Jamaican hibiscus), and green beans (in the bag).

The basil quickly went into a salsa verde (Italian style, not Mexican), which is good on just about anything and everything: with fish, chicken or beef, tossed with vegetables, dressing a salad, slathered inside a sandwich. The kale and pei tsai hung around the fridge until Week 3 (no picture) arrived with more greens (more kale, radish tops, kohlrabi tops). They all went into a gumbo z'herbes, about which, unfortunately, the less said the better. I was working from the Commander's Palace cookbook, which would seem a decent enough place t…

Art Basel Dining Guide: Off the Beaten Path Part 2

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Yesterday, we explored a couple of Miami's less-heralded destinations for those Art Baselites who lack the foresight to have made reservations in South Beach or the Design District / Midtown / Wynwood, and lack the patience to wait for a table at the no-reservations spots. We journeyed through Downtown, then made our way to North Beach and crawled up Collins Avenue. Today, we can pick up where we left off in North Beach and start trekking back toward the mainland, winding up on Miami's "Upper East Side."

Lou's Beer Garden - slip inside the gates of the New Hotel, an updated MiMo hotel in North Beach, walk to the back, and you'll find Lou's Beer Garden, a funky little hideaway around the hotel pool with an outstanding beer selection, better than decent food, and a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere. The menu is mostly populated with simple stuff like salads, burgers and pizzas, but keep an eye out for Chef Luis Ramirez's more esoteric specials like the cris…

Art Basel Dining Guide: Off the Beaten Path in Downtown and North Beach

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This week has seen no end of Art Basel guides: art fair guides, music guides, party guides, and, yes, food guides, some even in handy Q&A format. I got into the act myself last year. And while many of last year's recommendations will still hold up, I thought I'd take a slightly different approach this time, while expanding a bit on some of last year's list.

See, here's the thing: if you're just getting around to looking at this now, it's going to be too late to snag a table at most of the hot spots in South Beach where Art Basel proper resides, or in the Design District / Midtown / Wynwood enclave where you'll find most of the satellite fairs and local galleries. But! You shouldn't starve, just because you didn't have the foresight to make a reservation or don't want to wait hours for a table. Just expand your horizons a bit, there are good eats to be found elsewhere. May I humbly suggest you explore a couple of Miami's less heralded de…

CSA Week 1 and its Uses

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I started buying vegetables from a CSA two years ago, and set out with the best of intentions to blog the manner of consumption of each week's vegetable share. In year one, that lasted for about six weeks, with sporadic posts thereafter. In year two, I faded after only two weeks. You can observe, and then mock, my feeble output by searching the "CSA" label.

I'm back at it again this year, but with a new supplier. I signed up this season for a CSA with Little River Market Garden, a pocket-sized little farm on a residential lot near Miami's Little River. It's less than five miles away from my house, which somehow seemed more in keeping with the spirit of a CSA. It's nice to be able to pick up right from the farm, instead of a neighborhood drop-off point, to see the stuff growing right there, and to say hi every week to the person growing it (Hi Muriel!).


The season just started this week - yes, South Florida growing seasons are completely inverted, so we…

P.I.G. 3

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It's no secret we're big fans here at FFT of (1) pig and (2) Chef Jeremiah. The two will be coming together for a third reunion on Sunday November 27 for P.I.G. #3.


"P.I.G." = "Pork Is Good," Chef Jeremiah's celebration of all things porcine. For a bit of a preview, you can read my takes on P.I.G. #1 and P.I.G. #2, or you can just go and experience it for yourself.

The festivities begin at 4pm on Sunday, November 27, right around the time you start to get tired of Thanksgiving leftovers. There will be plenty of porky goodness being served from Chef Jeremiah's gastroPod and Ms. Cheezious, desserts from Coolhaus, a cash bar tended by Bar Lab, and music by Cog Nomen. Location: 210 NE 65th Street in Little Haiti.

Naoe Revisited - November 2011

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When I wrote about my first visit to Naoe shortly after it opened, it felt much like recalling a dream with near-perfect lucidity from the night before. Though I've posted about Naoe since then, I've found it increasingly difficult to capture the experience in words - or new words, anyway. It's not that each meal is any less exceptional than the first; they have all been outstanding. Rather, there is such a pristine simplicity and purity to Chef Kevin Cory's style that it evades my descriptive abilities.

This is not about high-tech cooking methods. It's not about surprising flavor combinations. It's just about the best ingredients that can be found, prepared with thought, sensitivity and care.

I was back to Naoe again last week and had what may have been my best meal yet. As has been the case since the 17-seat restaurant opened, the meal followed the same pattern. The menu offers no choices other than a list of drinks: Sapporo on tap, a selection of sakes from…

Cobaya Cabrera

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When I wrote about Chef Alberto Cabrera's latest venture, The Local Craft Food & Drink, I described him as a "culinary mercenary." That was by no means intended as criticism. Fact is, Chef Cabrera has been through a lot of kitchens. They include some of South Florida's finest: he worked his way up to chef de cuisine at Baleen in its heyday while Robin Haas was there, was with Norman Van Aken at the original Norman's in Coral Gables, and spent time at Sergi Arola's short-lived Miami outpost of La Broche before opening up Karu & Y, back what seems a lifetime ago in 2005. After that, he had several lower-profile consulting type gigs before coming back to the attention of Miamians with The Local.

I like what Chef Cabrera is doing at The Local, but it only scratches the surface of his abilities. It's exactly the kind of situation that we created Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs for. So when Blind Mind got him interested in doing a dinner, I expected good t…

Pizzeria Oceano - Lantana, Florida

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This was not the pizzeria I expected to be writing about now. With Miami's local hero Michael Schwartz having recently opened a pizzeria of his own (Harry's Pizzeria, named for his son, in the Design District spot that used to be the home of PizzaVolante), I figured that was going to be the subject of my next ode to pizza.[1] But earlier this week I found myself driving back from West Palm Beach around dinner time, and made a stop at Pizzeria Oceano in Lantana, a a place that had been on my radar since stumbling across this little blurb in Broward New Times (yes, you can always catch my attention with whipped lardo).

Two years ago, pizza was all the rage in South Florida, so much so that we staged a fourpart, elevenlocation pizza crawl in the summer of 2009.[2] That happens to be around the time that Pizzeria Oceano opened. But Pizzeria Oceano doesn't seem like a place trying to latch onto a trend as much as a genuinely singular vision. Chef/owner Dak Kerprich keeps a sho…

If You'd Like More Food and Drink ...

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It had been a while since I had passed any of these along, and now there seems to be a wave of really good looking dinner events coming up. To supplement the list from earlier this week:

October 30: The Local + Brooklyn Brewery


Coral Gables gastropub The Local Craft Food and Drink pairs up with Brooklyn Brewery for a multi-course beer and wine pairing, and Chef Alberto Cabrera looks like he's put together a good one:

Salt Cured Sardines Bread & Butter Vegetable Relish, Hot Sauce, Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette & Dill Biscuit Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
Cured Foie Gras Country Duck Ham, Frisee, Pickled Mango, Scarlet Beet Puree & Duck Fat Vinaigrette Brooklyn Local 1
Sous Vide Bacon Fat Pork Belly Farm Egg, Scallion Puree, Peanut Powder & Bacon Dashi Brooklyn Local 2
Crispy Lamb Sweetbreads Peas, Lamb Sausage, Pecorino, Spearmint, Polenta Chips & Natural Lamb Jus Brooklyn The Companion Ale (100% bottle re-fermented)
Pan Roasted Grouper Cheeks Butternut Squash, Sweet Peppers, Gre…

If You Like Food and Wine ...

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You're in the right place. If you don't like food and wine, well I'm not sure what you're doing here. With Miami Spice season concluded, those of you who do like food and wine may be wondering how to spend your dining dollars. Some local restaurants have a few ideas: as if it to make up for two months of serving $35 three-course dinners, several places are now rolling out some higher-end dining propositions. Here are some upcoming wine-themed dinners, including a couple for tonight that may still have seats available:

October 18: Domain Lucien Albrecht Dinner at db Bistro Moderne:


Chef Jerrod Verbiak will be cooking a four course dinner (no menu posted), paired with eight of Alsatian vintner Domaine Lucien Albrecht 's wines. Domaine Lucien Albrecht's owner Marie Albrecht will host. Reception at 6:30pm, dinner starts at 7:00pm, spots are $150 per person including tax and gratuity. Sign up here.

db Bistro Moderne
255 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami
305.421.8800

Octobe…

SOBEWTF, or WWUED?

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Maybe I'm not the best person to comment on the South Beach Wine and Food Fest. Truth is, I haven't been to an event in years. I still recall going when it was primarily a wine tasting in a tent on the Florida International University campus, but those days were some time ago. My most recent experience was to take my spawn to a "Kidz Cooking" event a few years ago, in which we got to watch Giada DeLaurentiis demonstrate how not to finish a single dish in an hour.

Over the years, the SoBeFest itinerary has become increasingly dominated by "TV Personalities," which I suppose is fine for those people happy to pay just for the opportunity to stand near them, perhaps in ways the personalities don't necessarily enjoy. But the experience doesn't come cheap. The keynote dinner events - the "Q"[1], the "Burger Bash," the "Best of the Best," and the "Tribute Dinner"[2] - are priced between $225 and $500 a person. And w…

Aged Stone Crabs, Anyone?

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I've generally done my best to ignore the recent glut of dining "deal" sites. "Groupon" is just a tremendously unappealing-sounding name, and there is usually way too much fine print for me to pay much attention to the various other incarnations. Besides, in food as in life, what sounds like a "too good to be true" deal often is, and many other folks are doing a fine job pointing that out, including Ryan Sutton with "The Bad Deal," and closer to home, Chowfather with his "Jilt City" experience at STK Steakhouse. There's also been plenty of discussion of whether participation in these deal sites is really any good for the businesses either.

But they don't seem to be going away any time soon, and even almighty Google is getting into the act with "Google Offers." Still in "beta," the inaugeral Google Offer for Miami was a $69 signature meal at Joe's Stone Crab, featuring a choice of stone crabs, steak,…

Chef Philip Ho - Sunny Isles

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People of South Florida, I have an important announcement. There is a new dim sum restaurant. In Sunny Isles. And it appears to be quite good.

This is not my usual style. I usually will give a place at least a couple of visits, and typically a couple of months after opening, before writing about it. But there is dim sum involved here, people. I love dim sum.

Dim sum options in Miami are fairly limited. Most often, we make the pilgrimage south to Tropical Chinese, which I prefer to some of the other more southerly options, Kon Chau and South Garden. Chu's Taiwan Kitchen in Coral Gables is in my weekday lunch rotation, and is also one of the few places in town that have xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. On the northern end of town we used to frequent Hong Kong Noodles, which was inconsistent, not exactly the cleanest place, and closed down a while ago; I could never get that excited over Sang's. And of course there is Hakkasan in the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach, which is excel…

CobayaJeremiah with Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog

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Though our Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs events are sometimes called "underground" dinners, that's probably a bit of a misnomer, since we happily have some events in operating restaurants. But we really do strive for each of them to be an experiment. What we want, very simply, is for both chefs and diners to see it as an opportunity to try something new and different, to take chances.

Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog of the gastroPod has been one of our most steadfast supporters and facilitators since we started doing these dinners two years ago. He didn't cook our first dinner, but he did do the second one, and has lent a hand and sometimes even a kitchen to severalothers. So when Jeremiah came back from a trip to the MAD FoodCamp in Copenhagen and a stage at Noma[1] restaurant full of inspiration, we were glad to line up another dinner.

There were several firsts for this dinner: it was our first time trying staggered seatings, with rounds of about 8 diners being seated every…

Phuc Yea! - Pop-Up Downtown Miami

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I usually try to give a restaurant at least a couple of visits and a couple of months before writing about it. But with Phuc Yea!, a Vietnamese pop-up restaurant slated to be open only a few months total, that may be too late for the information to be of much use. Phuc Yea! doesn't follow the rules of a normal restaurant, and so my review won't either.

Official opening night was last Thursday, and I was there. We had a great meal, basically eating our way through the entire menu and then back again. You should go and do the same.

I gave a bit of a preview last week and won't repeat what's said there. But a bit of nitty gritty before talking about the food. Phuc Yea! is operating out of the "Crown Bistro" space located within the Ingraham Building downtown, across from the Gusman Center. There is no signage outside on the building for either Phuc Yea! or Crown Bistro. You get to it via SE 2nd Avenue, where there is an entrance just north of the main entrance …

A Little Bird Told Me (Twitter for Restaurants)

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A local restaurant recently used Twitter to do a very smart thing: it asked its followers how they thought the restaurant could more effectively use social media like Facebook and Twitter to better serve its customers. My response was perhaps a bit harsh:
More tweeting of daily specials, menu updates; less retweeting of every single tweet mentioning you, no matter how inane? But it's a pretty accurate encapsulation of my thinking on what is a very worthwhile question to ask; worthwhile enough that I thought it was worth expanding upon.

Some qualifiers: I'm not a PR person. I make no claim to being a social media expert. In fact, I do my best to ignore and avoid stuff like Foursquare and really have never taken much of a shine to Facebook either for that matter. But I like Twitter.

So who am I to have anything to say here? I'm a diner. A diner who is on Twitter and reading your restaurant's Twitter feed. (In fact I've got a list with every Miami restaurant I know of…

My 7 Links

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One of the consequences of the immediacy and constancy of social media is that content tends to get buried under the neverending avalanche of information. A blog post that is more than 24 hours old won't even be seen in many peoples' RSS readers. Some good writers have given up on their blogs entirely, finding it more convenient and effective to communicate their thoughts in 140-character Twitter bursts, the epitome of ephemera. What any of us were saying last month, let alone last year, often gets lost in the electronic ether.

I'm usually wary of anything that sounds like a chain letter, i.e. "Do this and then ask another five people to do it." But I'm a big fan of recycling, including recycling blog content. I was also honored to have been nominated by Doc Sconzo (one of the people who indirectly inspired me to start this blog) to participate in something called "My 7 Links" started by the Tripbase website, the idea of which is "to unite blog…

Genuine South Beach?

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Down the block over at Miami Rankings, there's some concern over the recent announcement that Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink will be taking over the restaurant (and all F&B) at South Beach's Raleigh Hotel. South Beach, with its fancy cars, glitzy hotels, and abundant breast implants, may seem a potentially less than "genuine" move. This, no less, right on the heels of the news that Schwartz is also taking over Jonathan Eismann's recently closed PizzaVolante spot in the Design District to open Harry's Pizzeria (named for the chef's son, who is still a bit too young to be working a regular shift on the pizza oven).

I understand the concern. And I have noparticularlove for South Beach myself. But I think some of the worry is misplaced.

The success of Michael's Genuine since it opened in 2007 was and remains a significant development in Miami restaurant history in a number of respects. Along with Michy's on Biscay…

Phuc Me? Phuc You!

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Several weeks ago, I was disappointed to hear that Aniece Meinhold and Cesar Zapata had packed their bags and left Blue Piano. I'd only gotten in once to the pocket-sized wine bar and music lounge just north of the Design District, but was very pleasantly surprised by the well-selected wines and the creative and tasty tapas-style bites while Aniece was running the bar and Cesar was in the kitchen.

Silver lining and whatnot, Aniece and Cesar, along with Daniel Treiman (chef and occasional Short Order and Eater Miami contributor) are now teaming up to do Phuc Yea!, a modern Vietnamese pop-up restaurant that will have a 3-month run in downtown Miami.

Launch date is this Thursday September 8, after which they will be up and running Tuesday - Saturday from 5:30pm - 10:30pm until November. Phuc Yea! will be setting up camp in the Crown Bistro, located inside the Ingraham Building in downtown Miami (19 SE 2nd Avenue).

Some preview menu highlights include mini banh mi sandwiches with roa…

Ned Ludd - Portland, Oregon

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There are times when you are just utterly charmed by a restaurant. It may not be the most breathtaking food, it may not be the most ostentatious decoration, it may not be the most obsequious service, but sometimes a place captures a bit of magic that seems to make every piece of a meal fit together perfectly. That was our experience with Ned Ludd.

Ned Ludd the man was a late 18th century weaver who, in a fit of unexplained rage, destroyed two knitting machines. Decades later, this little incident acquired something of a mystical aura as he became the mascot to the Luddites, a group of rebellious textile workers who vainly opposed the developments of the Industrial Revolution, opposition that was often expressed by breaking the machines that were taking away their jobs.


Ned Ludd the restaurant is not quite so revolutionary, but the name is definitely a signal. The food here is very down to earth, the preparation methods simple, primarily using a wood-burning oven that was left behind …