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Showing posts from March, 2016

best thing i ate last week: everything at the Central + Alter dinner

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Don't make me pick a favorite. I just can't.

Last Tuesday was the second collaborative dinner hosted at Alter restaurant by Chef Bradley Kilgore. This time, he brought in Chef Virgilio Martinez of Central in Lima, Peru. These kinds of team-ups can be something of a crap shoot for the diner: even with talented chefs, it's unpredictable how effectively their styles will mesh, or how well someone's cooking may show on the road.

Yet this dinner was so in tune that for most of the night I couldn't tell who had cooked which dish, other than that Virgilio's sometimes had a tell: if I had to google an ingredient, it was one of his.[1] But regardless of the creator, everything - everything! - at this meal was exceptional. If I had to narrow it down to two:

(You can see all the pictures in this Central @ Alter flickr set.)


"Valley Between Andes" – I later figured out that Martinez's menu at Central features dishes inspired by the products of different elev…

best thing i ate last week: razor clams and rice at Bazi "kaiseki" dinner

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I was surprised when I heard that pasta master Michael Pirolo of Macchialina was opening an Asian-inspired restaurant – Bazi. Pirolo's culinary upbringing is Italian through and through. He was raised in Italy, went to culinary school in Torino, and did apprenticeships in Bologna and the Piemonte. The first kitchen he ran as chef de cuisine was Scott Conant's Scarpetta, then he went out on his own with Macchialina (originally opened with the Pubbelly boys, but from whom he split a few years ago).

I didn't see how an Asian restaurant fit with that resume and, to be very candid, figured the motivation was money rather than passion. My theory was thrown into doubt, though, when Bazi recently announced it would start doing a special "kaiseki" style dinner on Wednesday nights for up to eight people at the downstairs bar. Not that $150 per person is exactly giving food away, but considering it's for a ten-course dinner inclusive of drink pairings, tax and tip, it …

Cobaya Kamayan with Chef Dale Talde

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We encourage chefs to think of a Cobaya dinner as a chance to do something different, something they typically couldn't otherwise pull of in their restaurants. Chef Dale Talde of Talde Miami Beach (and also of Talde Brooklyn, Talde Jersey City, Pork Slope and Thistle Hill) got the message.


(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Kamayan with Chef Talde flickr set).

We gathered in the restaurant's bar as our twenty-five guinea pigs made their way to Mid-Beach. Though Talde is inside the Thompson Hotel, it ditches the typical bland, anonymous feel of a hotel restaurant for a hodge-podge of Asian-Americana and hip-hop motifs: behind the hostess stand is a tongue-in-cheek portrait of Talde with a couple bikini-clad models all holding plates of food; one wall is covered with a street art style picture of a tangle of ramen noodles.

As we were assembling our guinea pigs, the Talde crew was getting ready for us, spreading out layers of banana leaves on one long communal table. Th…

first thoughts: Plant Food + Wine - Miami (Wynwood)

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Skeptical. Doubtful. Dubious. Let's just say I wasn't really so sure that I'd enjoy a restaurant committed to an entirely vegan, raw menu. It's not that I'm opposed to vegetables – I love them. But as an unrepentant omnivore who cares about flavor first and foremost, I'm wary of any dogma that would keep huge categories of delicious edible things off my plate, and even more suspicious of the notion that none of the things on that plate should be cooked.

But that's the thinking behind Plant Food + Wine, Chef Matthew Kenney's new restaurant in Miami's Edgewater neighborhood.[1] Kenney is a chef and "lifestyle" guru who also runs The Gothic in Belfast, Maine as well as another Plant Food + Wine in Venice, California. He has published several books and hosts "Culinary Academies" to teach plant-based cooking techniques, all under the tagline of "crafting the future of food."

Pleasantly surprised. That's how I felt after…

best thing i ate last week: sweetbreads with tomato, fennel and pickled strawberry at Cena by Michy

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The decor and menu have changed at Cena by Michy (f/k/a Michy's), but at least one thing remains the same: if there is a sweetbread dish on the menu at a Michelle Bernstein restaurant, it will be outstanding. Case in point: this sweetbread milanese, like a cloud encased in a crispy shell. It's served with a tangy sort of stew of cherry tomatoes and fennel ribbons, with a wonderful little surprise: pickled strawberries, which provide little jolts of refreshing, sweet-tart contrast.

I had been holding off on a visit to Cena because the online menu had not changed since my last visit and I was hoping for a little variety, but it turns out that's just because it's not updated in real-time. A couple other new items I really liked: croquetas of 'nduja and stracciatella, served with a romesco dipping sauce; and lurid magenta beet cavatelli with a pistachio and green almond crumble and Point Reyes blue cheese.

Cobaya SoBeWFF 2016 with Chefs Alex Chang, Andrew Zimmern, Vinny Dotolo, Jon Shook and Carlo Mirarchi

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Last year, Cobaya Gourmet Guinea Pigs brought its talents to South Beach, teaming up for the first time with the South Beach Wine and Food Festival to put on a dinner together. That one worked out pretty nicely, so we decided to do it again.

This time around, Chef Alex Chang (an alumnus of Cobaya Experiment #53) of the Vagabond on Biscayne Boulevard played host, Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods made a repeat appearance, and Carlo Mirarchi of Blanca, the exceptional tasting-menu sibling to Roberta's Pizza in Brooklyn, joined us, along with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, of Animal, Son of a Gun and several more new L.A. restaurants.

It was another great night: an ideal location in the refurbished Vagabond Hotel, some great chefs serving some great dishes, and a really nice crowd that included a lot of Cobaya veterans, as well as a good number of SobeFest attendees who were new to our little experiments. We don't really get the chance to do anything of this size (over 100 guests) on…

best thing i ate last week (feb. 15-21): beef, chimichurri, lettuce cores at Alinea Miami pop-up

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There is something surreal about any dinner at Alinea, a meal which may feature edible helium balloons, bottomless plates, and desserts served right on the table. There is something even more surreal about having such a dinner in Miami.

But the surreal has become real. While their Chicago home, which opened in 2005, gets a facelift, the Alinea team has been doing a traveling road show: first a couple weeks in Madrid, and starting a few weeks ago, a run here in Miami at the Faena Hotel.

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

I was there on February 18, the day after the opening, and overall, was very impressed by how well they played for a road game. The menu included both some "greatest hits" from the Alinea oeuvre – hot potato cold potato, black truffle explosion, the bacon trapeze – as well as a few items that took inspiration from the local flavors.

From this latter category came my favorite dish of the evening, and of the week. To save a bit o…