Showing posts from January, 2011

Sustain - Midtown Miami

[sorry, this restaurant has closed]

I've already repeatedly mentioned here how the contemporary Asian trope has taken hold here in Miami. But that isn't the only trend afoot. If restaurants weren't turning Japanese (or Chinese, or Korean) this past year, they were going green. "Farm to table," "sustainable," "eco-" this or that appeared in every other press release announcing a new opening. De Rodriguez Ocean pitched itself as a "sustainable seafood" restaurant. 1500° was a "farm-to-table restaurant with a heavy steakhouse sensibility."[1] Even the mega-chains got in on the act, with Darden Restaurants (the people who bring you Red Lobster and Olive Garden, among others) launching Seasons 52, which claims a "seasonally-inspired menu" but was serving asparagus in December when I visited their new Coral Gables location.

Some of this is just blatant greenwashing. And yet sometimes there is a genuinely serious commitm…

BlueZoo - Orlando, Florida

Orlando is not exactly perceived as a dining destination. But we ate exceptionally well during our quick visit before the New Year. After finally making our first trip to The Ravenous Pig, we went the following night to BlueZoo in the Swan and Dolphin Resort. BlueZoo is nominally a Todd English restaurant, but given that there are more of those than you can count on all your fingers and toes, I'm not quite sure what that really means. What I do know is that Chris Windus is the Executive Chef at BlueZoo, and he put out a meal for us that was genuinely exceptional.

I met Chef Windus about a year and a half ago when he cooked with Chefs Kurtis Jantz and Chad Galiano for one of their much-missed "Paradigm" dinners. In fact, I got to spend the night in the kitchen with the chefs, an experience I wrote about in this epic three-part series. After that meal - more specifically, after tasting Chef Windus' ravioli with a liquid corn filling - I declared "One bite and I kn…

This One Goes to Eleven - Cobaya at Chow Down Grill 1.11.11

It's always an interesting experience planning these Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs dinners. The mission statement for the chefs is a simple one: cook exactly what you want, without limits, so long as it's on off-the-menu experience that diners won't find in a restaurant. That leaves much room for interpretation. The particular dishes, the menu format, pretty much everything is up to the chef. Ideally, it gives the diners a chance to experience something new and different, and gives the chefs a chance to explore ingredients, cooking methods or ideas that they might not have an opportunity to use otherwise.

Chef Joshua Marcus of Chow Down Grill (you can read my write-up of Chow Down Grill here) is one of those who "got it" immediately. When we decided to do a dinner together, he really got into the spirit, setting things up so that diners were brought in via the alleyway behind the restaurant through an unmarked door that led into the (tiny) kitchen, managing to squ…

The Ravenous Pig - Winter Park, FL

Ever since rave reviews began appearing a couple years ago on Chowhound, I've been meaning to get to The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, just outside of Orlando, Florida. It sounded like my kind of place: it's got "Pig" in the name, it styles itself as an "American Gastropub," its menu shows a strong focus on locally sourced product and in-house charcuterie - what's not to like? It took a while for the stars to align, but they finally did a couple weeks ago as we took a two-day jaunt up to Orlando before New Years'. All the raves proved completely justified: this is a place that does what it sets out to do exceptionally well.

The Ravenous Pig doesn't really look all that much like a pub, rather more like a tony suburban restaurant: lots of burnished wood, brick walls, and taupe fabrics. There is indeed a lively bar as you walk in, though, with overflow perching itself around a long bar-height table. A second dining room is more civilized and peacef…

PubBelly - South Beach

PubBelly styles itself an "Asian inspired gastropub," but I'm not convinced that's entirely on the mark.  With its semi-open kitchen, a menu dominated by small plates, and an overt pork-centricism, PubBelly's Western influences seem much more Iberian than Anglican in derivation. If anything, PubBelly strikes me less like an English gastropub, and more like a well-mixed mashup of a Spanish tapas bar and a Japanese izakaya - which, it should go without saying, is far from a complaint.

PubBelly also claims to be the first of its type in Miami, and I'm even more certain that's not the case. As has been noted here seemingly adinfinitum, the contemporary casual Asian meme has clearly taken hold in Miami, and did so well before PubBelly opened its doors around Thanksgiving. But I've also said that I think there's plenty of room in this particular sandbox, provided the food is done well and there's something to distinguish one place from another. And…

2010 by the Numbers

I remember, back when I used to have more functioning brain cells than I do now, how much I used to enjoy reading the "Harper's Index" that was in every issue of the lefty-leaning Harper's magazine. As a final sendoff to 2010, here's my take on the year just past in the same format, except I may have made up at least 50% of the statistics in this list (including that one):

Food For Thought's Index
South Florida restaurants (or food trucks) written up in FFT in 2010: 38[1]
Non-South Florida restaurants written up in FFT in 2010: 18[2]
Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pig dinners written up in FFT in 2010: 7
Number of dinner experiences in 2010 I enjoyed more than III Forks: 364
Number of contemporary Asian restaurants opened in Miami in 2010: 9[3]
Percentage of restaurants opened in Miami in 2010 that are contemporary Asian restaurants: 79%
Number of steakhouses opened in Miami in 2009: 8[4]
Number of steakhouses opened in Miami in 2010: 3[5]
Number of seafood restaurants opened…