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Showing posts from September, 2015

best thing i ate last week: schmaltz herring toast at Zak the Baker

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It was the first thing I ate at Zak the Baker when the Wynwood café opened last May: a toasted slab of his fantastically crusty, naturally leavened multigrain bread, topped with slick, fatty brined schmaltz herring and pickled onions. On that first visit, it was paired with a 10 a.m. vodka shot which Zak rightfully insisted was an essential accompaniment.

This past Sunday morning, there was mercifully no hard liquor, but there was that same delicious fish, that same delicious bread, those same tart onions, though a pickle-infused aioli substituted for the creamy creme fraiche of that first visit. Still mighty good. And the best thing I ate last week. Pro tip: ZTB gets crazy busy with Sunday brunchers, but still keeps baker's hours, and opens at 7 a.m. If you can rouse yourself early, you may be able to squeeze in before the crowds.

Runner up: a classic from chef Michelle Bernstein's repertoire, on the menu at her Miami Beach restaurant, Seagrape: a delicately fried squash blo…

a message from the future

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A couple weeks ago Eater Miami asked me, "What do you think the future of dining looks like?" Some of my comments ran yesterday along with responses from several other locals as part of a series of "Future Week" stories across the Eater network. It may not surprise you that I actually had a bit more to say on the subject. Here's an expanded version of my thoughts on the future of dining, particularly in South Florida.

1. Tipping may become a thing of the past.
There is already movement in this direction, and the political push for minimum wage increases plus the shortage of line cooks will create increasing pressure to even out front-of-house and back-of-house compensation. (Sooner or later the light bulb will go off that there's a connection between the low wages for kitchen employees and their scarcity). Putting service staff on salary without a tip credit will be a big shift, but possibly a necessary one.

On my last visits to the Bay Area, several places…

best thing i ate last week: chilaquiles verdes at Centro Taco

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My first visit to Centro Taco was in late July, the day after they opened. And I was pretty excited by what I found: house-made tortillas rolled out at a workstation in the middle of the dining room, serving as vehicles for toppings which paid more heed to flavor than rigid authenticity. There were gator pibil tacos, duck carnitas tacos, and best of all, a gordita topped with Haitian style griots and pikliz that was the best thing I ate that week.

I finally got back for a second visit this past Saturday, when Chef Richard Hales features a brunch menu in much the same spirit. My favorite of the few things I tried was his version of chilaquiles. Fried tortilla shards are softened with salsa verde,[1] and serve as the base for a potato and pepper hash, poached egg, and some Proper Sausages chorizo verde flecked with green chiles and herbs. Slivered radishes, fresh cilantro, and yeah, some flower petals – because Richard's a sensitive vegan who likes flowers now – finish the dish. It…

best thing i ate last week: angel hair with crab, calabrian chili and lemon breadcrumbs at Proof

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I don't often go to Italian restaurants, for reasons I've previously expressed. Put in less vulgar terms: it's not so easy to find it done much better than I can do it at home. So when I do go out for Italian, I go to a place like Proof Pizza & Pasta. The modest name belies the seriousness of the cooking here. The pizzas are very good, but the pastas are easily some of the best in town, rivaled only by Macchialina and perhaps Scarpetta (where I haven't been since Nina Compton left).

Case in point: their angel hair with crab. Angel hair is usually the most insipid and pointless of pastas, but here the noodles still have a substantial texture despite their diminutive width, making them an ideal vehicle for the sweet crabmeat. It all swims in an intense crustacean sauce somewhere between broth and bisque, with some Calabrian chiles for some zing, and lemon breadcrumbs for brightness and texture. It was the best thing I ate last week.

All the pastas at Proof are prett…

Coi - San Francisco

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There's a passage in Daniel Patterson's book "Coi: Stories and Recipes" that I found almost painfully evocative. The chef was writing about his first restaurant in Sonoma, and the turning of the season from summer to fall:
It was when the rains came, and the tourists went away. The first year the bills piled up on the mantelpiece at home, one pile per week, carefully bound with a rubber band, the total owed marked on a Post-it on top. At first there were two, then four and later eight piles, sitting there as a constant reminder of our empty dining room. The rain cut off roads and flooded fields, seeping into our subterranean bedroom at home, filling it with the smell of damp concrete and mold. Subsequent years were never as bad as the first, but every fall after that, as the days shortened and our bank account dwindled, my heart broke a little as we dug in for an isolated, depressing winter. That was some time ago, but the scars still remain. Every year, even now, wh…