Posts

Showing posts from November, 2016

review: Proof Miami - Midtown

Image
Someone asked me recently[1] "So, when you are going to write an actual review of a Miami restaurant again? You know, like you used to?" Fair question. Like the food writers I used to berate, I'm probably more than a little guilty of the Magpie Phenomenon – being constantly distracted by the latest shiny object. I try to keep relatively current on Miami dining with the "best thing I ate last week"  and "first thoughts" posts, and I report on our roughly monthly Cobaya dinners; but then the bulk of my more expansive writing lately seems dedicated to "travelogues" or other recaps from "further afield," rather than locally focused.[2] Mission creep has taken hold.

So let's fix that. And let's start with a place that may not be among the most talked-about restaurants in Miami, but one which I think deserves more attention for what it does: Proof. Chef Justin Flit[3] opened "Proof Pizza & Pasta" almost exactly two…

Willows Inn - Lummi Island, Washington - October 2016

Image
Our first visit to Willows Inn was almost exactly three years ago. It still stands out as one of my most memorable dining experiences. (I wrote quite a bit about it here.) It was so good, in fact, that when we finally made a return visit last month, just seeing this dock – for the Whatcom Chief ferry that traverses between mainland Washington and Lummi Island – triggered a Pavlovian reaction.

There's nothing particularly showy or ostentatious about chef Blaine Wetzel's cooking. Quite the opposite, he willingly sets his ego aside and let the ingredients take center stage. That's not to diminish the skill with which he handles the wonderful things he finds in this little corner of the world, but rather to say that he really knows how to tell a story of time and place through a meal, eschewing unnecessary embellishment in favor of clarity.

So here, then, is the story of Willows Inn, and Lummi Island, on October 9, 2016.[1] More pictures, less words from me this time. (You ca…

best thing i ate last week: banchan at Gabose Korean BBQ

Image
Can someone explain to me why there is no good Korean BBQ in Miami? How is it possible, with a population of over 2.5 million in Miami-Dade County, that I have to drive across the county line to Broward to sate this particular craving?[1] Fortunately, Gabose Korean BBQ is only about an hour away, and we happened to already be heading in that direction this weekend.

I was too hungry and impatient to wait for one of the charcoal grill tables, so we let the kitchen do the cooking instead. The gochu pajun (a sort omelet / pancake hybrid like Japanese okonomiyaki) was generously studded with green onion and fresh chiles, a welcome recipe for bad breath. The daeji tofujigae, a spicy soup with tofu and slivered pork, came to the table ferociously bubbling, its broth redolent with Korean chile flakes. The marinated galbi was good as always; the haemul dolsot bibimbap, a rice dish studded with seafood and vegetables cooked in a blazing hot metal bowl, was actually a bit bland before we perked…

highlights from P.I.G. (Pork Is Good) #7

Image
Seven years ago, about twenty-five folks gathered at the Harvey Seeds American Legion Hall for a celebration of all things porcine, orchestrated by Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, and P.I.G. (Pork Is Good) was born. I faithfully reported on the event here. Jeremiah's done P.I.G. every year since, and every year it's gotten bigger and better. No longer a one man show, the event now brings together dozens of my favorite chefs in South Florida, plus some special out of town VIPs, and hundreds of attendees. I have repeatedly said that this is my favorite food event of the year, and the latest iteration only validates that.

There were so many stations this year that I couldn't make my way to all of them, but here are some highlights:

(You can see all my pictures in this P.I.G. 7 flickr set).



Aaron Brooks of Edge Steak with some fire-roasted pork belly, served on a blood and black olive flatbread baked on the embers, topped with pork fat tahina, pomegranate chermoula, and hot pink pick…

In Situ - San Francisco

Image
In Situ, the new restaurant in the recently refurbished and reopened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is a bundle of contradictions. The chef is Corey Lee, whose tasting-menu flagship, Benu, just retained the three Michelin stars it was first awarded in 2014. But the highly regarded chef didn't create a single recipe for the restaurant. Rather, the menu consists of a rotating selection of other chefs' dishes from all around the world, which the In Situ kitchen sets out to faithfully recreate. In other words, it's a restaurant in the model of an art exhibition, with Lee as the curator.

In this and other ways, including the exhibition catalog-style menu, In Situ clearly advances the notion of chef as artist. But the manner by which it is implemented – with Lee and his crew duplicating the "artists'" creations – undermines the very notions of authorship and uniqueness that are generally thought of as essential to the distinction between "art" and &q…

sitting shiva and eating P.I.G.

Ugh. This is going to be one of those personal posts.

Even worse: it's going to be a political one.

And just to make it really atrocious: it's going to have a food-related tie-in at the end.

Sorry. But you've been warned.

I know there's nothing unique about my grief, but sometimes it feels a bit better to share it, so here goes.

Publicly, anyway, I've generally kept my political beliefs to myself. If someone wants to talk politics I'm glad to do so, but I've never been one to put bumper stickers on my car or signs in my lawn or spend my spare time telling other people how they ought to vote. And I've treated my online presence the same way. That's not because I'm one of those "stay in your lane" types who thinks that if you're generally known for something else (i.e., food), you're somehow obligated to shut up about politics. To the contrary, I have nothing but admiration for very prominent people with business interests potent…

Cobaya Byblos with Chef Stuart Cameron

Image
I've been meaning for some time to write about Byblos, a new-ish restaurant on South Beach in the old Shorecrest Hotel. A more expansive review will be forthcoming at some point, but the short version is this: despite my general aversion to South Beach hotel restaurants, especially those by big out-of-town restaurant groups, I think Byblos is putting out really flavorful, contemporary Middle Eastern food in a beautiful space and providing excellent service. Even shorter: I really like it.


In the meantime, here's a recap of the Cobaya dinner we held there last week with Chef Stuart Cameron, who came down from Toronto to cook for fifty of us guinea pigs who took over the upstairs dining room. I thought he and his crew did a very good job of going off-menu while still capturing the spirit of the place.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Byblos wtih Chef Stuart Cameron flickr set).


For a first bite, foie gras bonbons, rolled in nuts, drizzled with rose jam, and wrapped l…

best thing i ate last week: aji nigiri at Myumi

Image
There's been a deficit of "best thing I ate last week" posts the past few weeks on account of travel – Seattle a couple weeks ago, including a wonderful return to Willows Inn, and San Francisco this past weekend. Let's try to fill in the gaps. Since I already wrote about our last Cobaya dinner with Gabe Fenton at Bourbon Steak, and will hopefully get around to writing about Seattle and San Francisco shortly, b.t.i.a.l.w. honors for the week before last goes to a bite from an omakase meal at Myumi, now situated in Wynwood Yard.

I wrote about my first visit to Myumi last year. The quick version: an omakase-only sushi tasting menu, served out of a truck, of surprisingly great quality. And my latest experience was every bit as good as my first. The highlights included shima aji with a nice snap to the flesh, meaty steelhead trout, salted and peppered and seared, and one of my favorite fish, the silver-skinned, polka-dotted kohada, lightly cured in vinegar.

But maybe my …