Showing posts from July, 2011

Spiceonomics v.2011 (Part II)

With Miami Spice season starting on Monday, we've likewise begun our annual tradition here of looking for the most interesting, best value Spice menus local restaurants have put together. A few days ago we did South Beach. Here we'll do the Mainland.

Perhaps the most interesting Spice news to some is that Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, probably the most popular restaurant in town, is back on the list. I'd initially thought Michael's had never done Miami Spice. Chef Schwartz thought they'd skipped the past two years. Turns out it was actually three years, even though they did a Spice-like summer special in 2008 despite not being an official participant. Anyway, they're back, and there will be much rejoicing.

Remember the rules: don't seek out a Spice menu at a restaurant where a regular dinner costs the same thing; and don't settle for boring food. And again, I'm not listing complete menus here, just those choices that sounded most interest…

Spiceonomics v.2011 (Part I)

It's that season again: Miami Spice season. For the next two months, diners go hunting for $35 dinner bargains, restaurateurs squeeze every bit of fat out of their food costs, line cooks go quietly crazy cranking out the same three items over and over again, and servers look forward to the generosity of their penny-pinching customers. Ah, what fun.

We've been over this before here, but to quickly reiterate my rules for navigating Miami Spice season: (1) there's no reason to bother with restaurants where a $35 menu is not a meaningful discount from their regular prices (though, of course, go to them if you like them; just don't do so because they're offering a Miami Spice menu); (2) the infamous chicken breast/farmed salmon/churrasco (or substitute short rib) "trifecta" is usually a tell; and (3) look for food that actually interests you. If a restaurant doesn't excite you the other 11 months of the year, it is unlikely there's going to be s…

Cobaya 17 - Dinner at Market 17, Fort Lauderdale

It's always interesting to me to see the different approaches chefs take to putting on one of our Cobaya dinners. Some treat the group as true guinea pigs (that is what it means, after all), trying out dishes that may or may not end up on a restaurant menu one day in order to gauge the group's reaction.[1] Others see it as an opportunity to do something different from their usual routine. When we approached Market 17 in Fort Lauderdale to put on a dinner, they clearly gave it some thought. The restaurant, opened less than a year ago, embodies the current farm-to-table ethos and the menu usually features ingredients from close to home. But for our dinner, Chef Daniel Ramos purposefully set out to expand his horizons, which eventually turned itself into a seven-course dinner where each course focused on a different continent. Our menu for the evening started in Asia, then wound its way though South America, Australia, Africa, Europe and North America before ending up in Antar…

The Local Craft Food and Drink - Coral Gables

Miami may only occasionally be a true culinary innovator, but lately it has proven at least to be an increasingly adept early adopter. Small plates, food trucks, contemporary Asian, locavorism, pork obsessiveness; all are trends that Miami quickly embraced. Yet some others seem to have largely passed Miami by. The gastropub is one of them.

The idea of the gastropub originated in London in the 1990's, when some enterprising souls set out to elevate the quality of the "pub grub" served in the city's traditional "public houses." With an approach that presaged both the current farm-to-table and high-end casual trends, the food was often local and seasonal, and brought "real" cooking to humble watering holes. Plus, of course, there was always beer. Good beer.

Though gastropubs are old news in England, they were rather slow in working their way across the pond. When Mario Batali opened the Spotted Pig in New York in 2004, importing April Bloomfield from…

1500 Degrees - Miami Beach

It would have been easy to dismiss 1500°, which opened last October in the Eden Roc Hotel. Its combination of steakhouse and farm-to-table themes could easily seem a cynical effort to simultaneously play both the lowest common demoninator and the latest trendy fashion of restaurant buzzwords. Its chef, Paula DaSilva, was perhaps better known for a stint on the culinary torture porn that is the Gordon Ramsay-hosted Hell's Kitchen than for her work as chef de cuisine of Dean James Max's 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale. And hotel restaurants on the Beach, with limited exceptions, have generally not been the most fertile dining grounds of late.

And yet ...

And yet, 3030 Ocean was a fine restaurant when DaSilva was running it. And yet, that "farm-to-table" routine may be more than just lip service, with a menu that features many local products and artisan producers like Benton's Hams.[1] Maybe I should quit being so cynical and just try it. So I did, a couple times ove…

Let's Get Loaded

Looking for a way to extend the holiday weekend a little longer? This ought be cool. One night only, Thursday July 7, 8pm, $33 for 3 cocktails (and where it says "Very Special Guest Mixologist," I know of what is spoken here and it is true), and some fine bites from Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog. If you're interested, click above or here.

Speaking of Loaded ...