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Best Dishes of 2014 - Part 3

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We're in the home stretch. Here is Part 3 of my favorite dishes of the past year. This last set includes several more welcome additions to the Miami dining universe: N by Naoe, Oolite, L'Echon Brasserie, Mignonette, Proof, Seagrape, plus dishes from chefs Diego Oka, Danny Grant and Brad Kilgore. There's also a few items from visits to the Northeast (Toronto, Boston, Maine and Quebec) and a couple great meals in Chicago a couple months ago. In case you missed it: Part 1 and Part 2. You can also see all the pictures in this Best Dishes of 2014 flickr set.


Bento Box – N by Naoe (Brickell Key, Miami) (read my thoughts and see all my pictures from N by Naoe)

A few minutes after you're seated, a three-tiered bento box is brought to your table. It's unpacked to reveal six compartments, each stocked with several different items – similar in style and quality to the elaborate bento that starts a meal at Naoe.

So what's inside? This day: a battera roll of madai (sea bream) …

Best Dishes of 2014 - Part 2

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Picking up where we left off in our Best Dishes of 2014 – Part 1, here are the next twenty. The end of Part 1 coincided with the last days of our two week, twentieth anniversary trip to Japan. Part 2 here starts in Los Angeles, where I took Frod Jr. during his spring break for a quick college tour. I've never spent much time in LA and never particularly wanted to – I've always envisioned it as embodying some of Miami's worst features, on steroids. But I'll say this: there's some good eating there.

This set also includes a few great new additions to the Miami  restaurant landscape – BlackBrick, Zak the Baker and Niu Kitchen – and some outstanding one-off dishes from the increasingly deep pool of local talent, including Jeremiah Bullfrog, Timon Balloo, Brad Kilgore, Conor Hanlon and Giorgio Rapicavoli.

Jeremiah and I happened to be in NYC at the same time in June, and lucked into a last-minute seating at Atera – which was one of the best meals I had all year.

(You ca…

Best Dishes of 2014 - Part 1

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Sixty dishes? Really?

Well, it's been a really good year. 2014 started with a snowed-in fairy tale of a weekend in New York City. In February, Mrs. F and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary with a two-week trip to Japan that was every bit as thrilling as I had hoped, and then some. The next month, college visits for Frod Jr. over spring break provided a good excuse to visit Los Angeles for the first time in ages. Then the summer included a quick return to New York as well as visits to Toronto, Boston, Maine and Quebec. A brief Chicago jaunt in October served up a couple of my best meals of the year.

In between all of that, my hometown Miami has had a great year too. Several new restaurants have quickly become favorites, a new generation of young talent is starting to emerge, and established chefs have added to their repertoires. This may have been as good a year for Miami's food scene as there has been in the five years since I started writing this blog.

These dishes are pr…

How Does My Garden Grow?

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The primary focus here at FFT has always been restaurant dining – but sporadically I've indulged in missives inspired by my CSA subscription with Little River Cooperative, and even the occasional backyard planter box tomato. This October, we plunged in a bit deeper. As part of a landscaping project at the house, we installed a raised vegetable bed in the backyard, and also filled in a defunct little kidney-shaped "pond" with soil and planted it with greens and herbs.[1]

I make no claim to having a green thumb; indeed, if I don't kill a plant within a month I feel like I've accomplished something. But despite my very limited experience, this little garden has been a source of a disproportionate amount of joy the past few months.

We started at the beginning of October with this:



Today, it looks like this:



(You can see all my garden pictures in this flickr set.)

I've been giving something of a weekly play-by-play on Twitter and Instagram, but if you've not …

Cobaya Diego at La Mar

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It was big news when Gaston Acurio – Peru's most famous and celebrated chef – decided to open a restaurant in Miami. But Acurio has literally dozens of restaurants around the world; he's clearly not cooking in all of them at the same time. At Miami's La Mar, the executive chef responsibilities fall to Diego Oka. In an Edible South Florida piece last year, I recounted Diego's introduction to Acurio as a nervous 16 year old peeking around the corner of a supermarket aisle. He was invited to visit Acurio's restaurant the next day, and pretty much never left. After working with Acurio in Peru, he opened La Mar Cebicheria Peruana in San Francisco with him, then came to Miami to open our own version of La Mar.

Perhaps unlike many other U.S. cities (including San Francisco), Peruvian cuisine is nothing new here. In fact, South Florida already had over 200 Peruvian restaurants when I last counted, as La Mar was opening. But there are few, if any, places, that show the sam…

P.I.G. (Pork Is Good) #5

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Almost exactly five years ago was one of the first times I broke out a camera for a food event. The occasion was the inaugural "P.I.G." (for "Pork Is Good") party put on by Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog. A couple dozen folks showed up at the Harvey W. Seed American Legion Hall, Jeremiah served up some chicharrones, some smoked pork butt bao buns, a whole pig rolled porchetta style and cooked in a caja china out back, and a bevy of beverages, and everyone was greasy and happy.

Jeremiah's done it every year since, and every year it's grown. Last year, P.I.G. #4 was more of a collective effort, with several other local chefs chipping in on this ode to all things porcine. A couple weekends ago, P.I.G. #5 saw many of the same faces and some new ones too: Kyle Foster (formerly the sous chef at the late, lamented Talula), Conor Hanlon and Josh Gripper (The Dutch), James Strine (Café Boulud), Brad Kilgore (soon-to-open Alter, until recently at J&G Grill), Todd Ericks…

Alinea - Chicago

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The idea of dinner as spectacle is hardly a new one. In the Satyricon, Petronius recounts the (fictional) dinner of Trimalchio, featuring such delicacies as pea hen eggs filled with tiny songbirds, a hare with wings affixed to it to look like a pegasus, and a whole wild boar with baskets of dates hanging from its tusks, surrounded by pastry piglets and stuffed with live thrushes – preceded by a presentation of hunting-themed tapestries and a pack of hunting dogs traipsing through the dining room to set the mood.

Fast forward a couple thousand years, and recently Jeremiah Tower – one of the titans of the 1980's dining universe, who is returning to the business on a mission to resuscitate the Tavern on the Green – spoke with Andrew Friedman about the theater of dining at TOTG:
Friedman: When you say outrageous, what do you mean, for people who weren't there back in the day?
Tower: Oh, I mean, my God. Oversized chandeliers and didn't he put live animals at one point for some…

L2O - Chicago

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I was looking forward to writing about my meal at L2O in Chicago last month. I didn't realize it was going to be a eulogy.

L2O first vaulted to prominence in 2008, when the Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises group lured chef Laurent Gras from San Francisco to open a high-end, seafood-focused restaurant in Chicago. In 2010, L2O earned three Michelin stars; that same month, Gras left. The next year, Matthew Kirkley took over as chef de cuisine and eventually was elevated to executive chef. Many quietly said that the restaurant under Kirkley was every bit as good – if not better – than under Gras' reign.

Now comes news that the restaurant will be closing at the end of the year. On one hand, it's a big surprise: L2O is one of the city's – and country's – most highly regarded restaurants, even if it doesn't seem to draw the same quantum of attention as the venues of Chicago royalty like Grant Achatz, Rick Bayless, and Paul Kahan. On the other hand, L2O always seemed…

Elements: Scott Anderson Dinner at The Dutch

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Much as I might wish for it, I don't get to spend my days traversing the country from restaurant to restaurant. We're fortunate to travel often and usually eat very well when we do, but even so, there are places I'm unlikely to ever visit. Princeton, New Jersey would fall into that category.[1] And as a result, I figured I would never eat at Elements, Chef Scott Anderson's restaurant which opened in Princeton about five years ago (and is currently closed while moving to a new location).


This was cause for regret, because I'd read and heard many very good things about it. A coupleguys whose opinions I value raved about their meals there. Despite being somewhat off the grid, it was highly regarded enough to make Opinionated About Dining's list of the top twenty restaurants in the U.S. So I was pretty excited when I learned, through Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, that Scott was interested in doing a dinner here in Miami.

We sent up some Cobaya flares for other folks who …

elements - Scott Anderson Dinner at The Dutch 10.20.14

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I've been teasing it on Twitter and to the Cobaya - Gourmet Guinea Pigs mailing list, now it's official: October 20, 2014, 7pm, Chef Scott Anderson of Elements restaurant will be doing a nine-course dinner with chefs Conor Hanlon of The Dutch (which will also be graciously hosting the dinner) and Jeremiah Bullfrog of the gastroPod.

Anderson's restaurant is one of those places I've always wanted to visit but didn't ever see the opportunity – I'm not often passing through Princeton, New Jersey. Now, instead, he's coming here. To get some idea of why I'm excited, I'd encourage you to read these write-ups from a couple folks whose opinions I hold in high regard: ChuckEats and DocSconz. And they're not alone: despite not being on everyone's radar screen, Elements was included in Opinionated About Dining's Top 20 US Restaurants list.


The dinner will be $206 per person, inclusive of tax and tip. A pairing option will be available for purchase …