Showing posts from March, 2015

Cobaya Griese at MM74

One of the reasons we enjoy these Cobaya events is that even as the organizers, we never quite know what direction the chefs will take. You can't necessarily predict where a chef's real passions or interest lie from the kind of restaurant they run.

Thomas Griese is the chef at MM74, a Michael Mina restaurant in the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach. It's a "dressy casual" kind of venue, someplace you might go to before heading to Liv (or maybe even after clubbing: it's open until 2am on weekends) and get anything from hamachi "poppers" to a $26 burger to Mina's classic lobster pot pie. Don't get me wrong, the food at MM74 is good – very good, in many instances – but you wouldn't expect a high end, classically French inspired dining experience there.

But that's what Chef Griese did for his Cobaya dinner, drawing inspiration from his stage at The French Laundry and other fine dining venues[1] to put together a meal that was as luxur…

Who Wore It Best?

In a post earlier this year, I mentioned a recent experience I had at St. Petersburg's Dalì Museum: seeing some of the artist's early works, what was most striking about them was how derivative they were. Several of Dalì's paintings from the late 1920's looked like lesser works of whichever contemporary he was currently in the thrall of, including many that bore remarkable similarities to Picasso's and Miro's works. It was not until the following decade that one of the most distinctive artists of the twentieth century actually found his own style – when Dalì started making paintings that looked like Dalìs.

The delicate subject of inspiration versus copying in the cooking world is one I've explored often here. Few, if any, artists start their careers with a fully formed vision of their style together with the technical ability to execute it. There's plenty of exploration, experimentation, and, yes, copying, that usually comes first. And I suspect it'…

Vagabond Restaurant - Miami MiMo District

When chefs from other cities open restaurants in Miami, there's often a sort of "I'm going to show you how it's done" swagger that locals can find off-putting. You hear lots of broad brush "Miami doesn't have ____" and "Miami doesn't do _____" statements from people who sometimes have spent less than a week here. That limited experience doesn't keep them from professing to educate us all about ourselves and what we're missing.

I was worried we were getting more of the same when I read a pre-opening interview with Alex Chang, the young chef[1] selected to run the Vagabond Restaurant & Bar inside the newly renovated and restored Vagabond Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard.[2] Here's the brash newcomer telling us, "So ... it's different compared to other big cities... I think the food here is not quite as progressive and innovative. I think there's some great chefs here and a lot of people doing some really great stu…

Cobaya Five 0 with Chefs Jeremiah Bullfrog and H. Alexander Talbot

I will save most of the nostalgic reminiscences for another post, but this was a special one: our 50th Cobaya dinner. When we started this little experiment nearly six years ago, I had no idea if we'd get enough people to show up for a single dinner, much less be able to do it 49 more times. So it was particularly appropriate that we got to do Cobaya Five 0 with some people who have been a big part of our story.

Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog was one of the first people to reach out to us when we started on this endeavor – this was before gastroPod v.1.0, much less v.2.0 in a shipping container in Wynwood (and the new v.2.5 in Aventura Mall). He cooked for Experiment #2, made a return a couple years later for Experiment #19, and has helped out on countless other events.

H. Alexander Talbot – one of the co-creators, along with wife Aki Kamozawa, of the Ideas in Food blog, and co-author of "Ideas In Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work" and "Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will…

Saison - San Francisco

There are few meals I've looked forward to with as much anticipation. Between the reports from trusted friends both virtual and flesh and blood, the three Michelin stars conferred late last year (which many thought were overdue), and myriad other raves and recognitions, my expectations for Saison were quite high.

Some reputations are so lofty that I fear the reality cannot possibly compare. But Saison did not disappoint.

Ingredients. Focus. Smoke. Pleasure.

These are the words that keep coming to mind as I look back on our meal.

Ingredients: With a menu that uses primarily seafood and vegetables, prepared in a minimalist style, every item that makes it to the plate has been selected with fanatical attention and care. Many are sourced from nearby: sea urchin from Fort Bragg, seaweeds from Mendocino, vegetables from the restaurant's own farm plot, milk "from our cow."

Focus: Instead of dozens of components thrown together, Saison's dishes have a unity of purpose: near…