Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pizzeria Oceano - Lantana, Florida

Pizzeria Oceano

This was not the pizzeria I expected to be writing about now. With Miami's local hero Michael Schwartz having recently opened a pizzeria of his own (Harry's Pizzeria, named for his son, in the Design District spot that used to be the home of PizzaVolante), I figured that was going to be the subject of my next ode to pizza.[1] But earlier this week I found myself driving back from West Palm Beach around dinner time, and made a stop at Pizzeria Oceano in Lantana, a a place that had been on my radar since stumbling across this little blurb in Broward New Times (yes, you can always catch my attention with whipped lardo).

Two years ago, pizza was all the rage in South Florida, so much so that we staged a four part, eleven location pizza crawl in the summer of 2009.[2] That happens to be around the time that Pizzeria Oceano opened. But Pizzeria Oceano doesn't seem like a place trying to latch onto a trend as much as a genuinely singular vision. Chef/owner Dak Kerprich keeps a short menu that changes daily, procures as many of his ingredients as he can from local farmers and fishermen, and refuses to compromise on quality. In the morning they prep as much as they think they'll need for the day, and when they run out - sometimes as early as 7:30 pm - they close up for the night. Much to the puzzlement and chagrin of some, Pizzeria Oceano won't do takeout, and they won't do substitutions or additions. If you don't like it, they're OK with that.

So am I.

Pizzeria Oceano menu

The place itself is mostly patio, with about a half-dozen tables outside on the front deck sharing space with planters of fresh herbs. A tight indoor space has a couple more tables and a row of barstools along with the kitchen and its wood-burning oven. The menu lists a short selection of appetizers (a/k/a "Not Pizza"), and an equally short selection of "composed" pizzas along with one "basic" version topped with mozzarella, pecorino, tomato and basil which you can further embellish with a choice of toppings. The menu also lists the provenance of almost all the ingredients you'll find in the dishes.

Roasted Bluefish

You don't see bluefish on restaurant menus often, primarily because the oily fish has a tendency to turn rapidly, and is consequently accused of being too "fishy." The waiter advised that theirs was just caught off the coast of Cape Canaveral, and the fish was gorgeously fresh and clean-tasting. Accompaniments were simple and classically Mediterranean: wilted escarole, slivers of lightly pickled onion, toasted pine nuts.

Country Ham & Egg Pizza

But what we really need to talk about is the pizza. Though I had some inclination to try their "Basic" as a baseline test, the "Country Ham and Egg" won out. Of course it did. It's topped with shavings of country ham from Edwards Ham in Surry, Virginia, a couple of golden-yolked fresh eggs, creamy fontina and salty, sharp pecorino cheeses, a scatter of green onions and a generous grinding of black pepper.

(continued ...)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

If You'd Like More Food and Drink ...

It had been a while since I had passed any of these along, and now there seems to be a wave of really good looking dinner events coming up. To supplement the list from earlier this week:

October 30: The Local + Brooklyn Brewery

Coral Gables gastropub The Local Craft Food and Drink pairs up with Brooklyn Brewery for a multi-course beer and wine pairing, and Chef Alberto Cabrera looks like he's put together a good one:

Salt Cured Sardines
Bread & Butter Vegetable Relish, Hot Sauce, Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette & Dill Biscuit
Brooklyn Sorachi Ace

Cured Foie Gras
Country Duck Ham, Frisee, Pickled Mango, Scarlet Beet Puree & Duck Fat Vinaigrette
Brooklyn Local 1

Sous Vide Bacon Fat Pork Belly
Farm Egg, Scallion Puree, Peanut Powder & Bacon Dashi
Brooklyn Local 2

Crispy Lamb Sweetbreads
Peas, Lamb Sausage, Pecorino, Spearmint, Polenta Chips & Natural Lamb Jus
Brooklyn The Companion Ale (100% bottle re-fermented)

Pan Roasted Grouper Cheeks
Butternut Squash, Sweet Peppers, Green Beans, Shitake Mushroom Chips, Meyer Lemon Puree & Basil Buerre Blanc
Brooklyn Cuvee de la Crochet Rouge

Iron Skillet Seared Ribeye
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Pearl Onion Marmalade, Arugula & Bone Marrow Vinaigrette
Brooklyn Cuvee Elijah

Peach Trifle
Brown Butter Cake, Basil & Buttermilk Ice Cream
Vintage 2010 Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Spots are $85, 7pm start time, RSVP (required) to

October 30: Share Our Strength Benefit Dinner at Būccan
If you're feeling charitable, Chef Clay Conley is hosting a benefit dinner at his Palm Beach restaurant Būccan for Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to ending child hunger. Locals Timon Balloo of Sugarcane and Jim Leiken of Café Boulud will be joining RJ Cooper of Washington DC's Rogue 24 and Jonathan Waxman of New York's Barbuto along with Chef Conley to put together a cocktail reception and multi-course dinner.

6pm reception, 7pm dinner, tickets $200 each (but it's for charity!). Contact or 202.649.4356 or do it online.

November 3: Local Farmers' Dinner at 1500°

Fresh off being named to Esquire's latest "Best New Restaurants" list, 1500° celebrates the arrival of South Florida's growing season with a dinner featuring products from local farmers including Paradise Farms, White Water Clams, Palmetto Creek Farms, Jackman Ranch, Swank Specialty Produce, Hani's Mediterranean Organics, Maggie Pons, Lake Meadow Naturals, Seriously Organic, and Teena's Pride:

Crispy Pork Belly Tacos with Kimchee
Florida Wahoo Ceviche
Deviled Eggs with Capers and Pickled Veggies

Garden Leaf Lettuce and Heirloom Tomatoes
with Crispy Calabaza Blossoms and Hani’s Goat Cheese

White Water Clams with Spicy Greens, Grilled Bread
White Wine Butter Sauce

Whole Fried Local Snapper and Lake Meadows Roasted Chicken
accompanied by Cold Cucumber Salad with Fish Sauce and Sesame Seeds,
Anson Mills Black Rice, Braised Local Greens and Roasted Radishes

Palmetto Creek Pork Loin Chops and Jackman Ranch Florida Raised Wagyu Beef
with Anson Mills Polenta and Hani’s Cheese, Grilled Baby Squash, Roasted Carrots, Braised Oyster Mushrooms, and Spicy Smoked Potato Salad with Benton’s Bacon and Farm Egg

Selection of Homemade Pies and Tarts with Homemade Ice Cream

Reception and five courses, including paired wines and cocktails, is $85 per person (excluding tax and tip). 7pm start time.

(continued ...)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If You Like Food and Wine ...

You're in the right place. If you don't like food and wine, well I'm not sure what you're doing here. With Miami Spice season concluded, those of you who do like food and wine may be wondering how to spend your dining dollars. Some local restaurants have a few ideas: as if it to make up for two months of serving $35 three-course dinners, several places are now rolling out some higher-end dining propositions. Here are some upcoming wine-themed dinners, including a couple for tonight that may still have seats available:

October 18: Domain Lucien Albrecht Dinner at db Bistro Moderne:

Chef Jerrod Verbiak will be cooking a four course dinner (no menu posted), paired with eight of Alsatian vintner Domaine Lucien Albrecht 's wines. Domaine Lucien Albrecht's owner Marie Albrecht will host. Reception at 6:30pm, dinner starts at 7:00pm, spots are $150 per person including tax and gratuity. Sign up here.

db Bistro Moderne
255 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami

October 18: Spain: A Wine Dinner at Charlotte:

Chef Elida Villaroel closed down her charming Charlotte Bistro over the summer, revamped, and recently reopened. To help kick off the reopening, she's hosting a Spanish-themed wine dinner at the restaurant together with Sunset Corners. The lineup:

1+1=3 Cava Brut (D.O. Cava)

King Crab Risotto with truffle emulsion and micro-greens
Abadel Picapoll 2008 (D.O. Pla de Bages)

Grouper with celery root puree and a lemongrass veloute
Becquer Tinto 2008 (D.O. Ca. Rioja)

Magret de Canard with a fruit chutney and finished with a balsamic pomegranate emulsion
Luna Beberide "Finca la Cuesta" 2008 (D.O. Bierzo)

Lamb Shank with red wine au jus and fennel salami finished with fine herbs and cacao beans
Finca Torremilanos, Torre Albeniz Reserva 2006 (D.O. Ribera del Duero)

Moelleux au Chocolat with Grand Marnier creme anglaise

Dinner starts at 7:00pm, price is $69 per person plus tax and gratuity. Contact the restaurant for a reservation.

264 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables

(continued ...)

Monday, October 10, 2011


Maybe I'm not the best person to comment on the South Beach Wine and Food Fest. Truth is, I haven't been to an event in years. I still recall going when it was primarily a wine tasting in a tent on the Florida International University campus, but those days were some time ago. My most recent experience was to take my spawn to a "Kidz Cooking" event a few years ago, in which we got to watch Giada DeLaurentiis demonstrate how not to finish a single dish in an hour.

Over the years, the SoBeFest itinerary has become increasingly dominated by "TV Personalities," which I suppose is fine for those people happy to pay just for the opportunity to stand near them, perhaps in ways the personalities don't necessarily enjoy. But the experience doesn't come cheap. The keynote dinner events - the "Q"[1], the "Burger Bash," the "Best of the Best," and the "Tribute Dinner"[2] - are priced between $225 and $500 a person. And while they feature some pretty impressive names, when I think of the meal(s) I could buy for that kind of money, I just can't bring myself to join the teeming hordes. I mean, for $500 a person I could fly to New York, have the tasting menu at Eleven Madison Park or Le Bernardin or Daniel, and still have a good bit of money left for the wine.

There are several lower-priced events, however, and when you consider the prospect of paying as much as $1,000 for you and your significant other to have dinner, suddenly $95 per person starts to look incredibly reasonable.

Consider, for instance, "Party Impossible," hosted by the hammer-headed, resume-fudging Robert Irvine and presented by Epicure Gourmet Market. This event on the roof of the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage "showcases Epicure Market, Miami’s answer to Dean and Deluca" and presents "the gourmet meats, cheeses, breads, soups, pastries, prepared foods and much more that can only be found in this vivant store in SOBE and in Sunny Isles."[3]

What's it going to be like?
"Expect to walk around like you would a grocery store, with one major exception, instead of pushing a shopping cart, you’ll be holding a glass featuring the hottest spirits from the Southern Wine & Spirits portfolio."

Who would want to do that?

"This event is perfect for locals who can’t get enough of Epicure’s delights and bon vivant out-of-towners who have heard the buzz for years."

SoBe Fest grand poobah Lee Schrager is particularly excited about this one, saying:

"We're basically recreating an afternoon at Epicure [Gourmet Market] -- all the best prepared foods you can find in market will be there."

So. It's just like going to the grocery store and eating the grocery store's prepared foods, except you get to pay $95 per person for it.

You know how else you can get an experience like that? You can go to Epicure Market. Which, I know, seems like it would be really hard to do. But I'm going to let all of you "bon vivant out-of-towners" in on a little secret that only us locals who are hopelessly addicted to Epicure know: Epicure Market is literally directly across the street from the venue for this $95 event.

(continued... )

Friday, October 7, 2011

Aged Stone Crabs, Anyone?

I've generally done my best to ignore the recent glut of dining "deal" sites. "Groupon" is just a tremendously unappealing-sounding name, and there is usually way too much fine print for me to pay much attention to the various other incarnations. Besides, in food as in life, what sounds like a "too good to be true" deal often is, and many other folks are doing a fine job pointing that out, including Ryan Sutton with "The Bad Deal," and closer to home, Chowfather with his "Jilt City" experience at STK Steakhouse. There's also been plenty of discussion of whether participation in these deal sites is really any good for the businesses either.

But they don't seem to be going away any time soon, and even almighty Google is getting into the act with "Google Offers." Still in "beta," the inaugeral Google Offer for Miami was a $69 signature meal at Joe's Stone Crab, featuring a choice of stone crabs, steak, chicken or salmon, open beer and wine service, side dishes and dessert. Of course nobody in their right mind goes to Joe's Stone Crab for the steak, chicken or salmon (at least not for $69 - though the fried 1/2 chicken for $5.95 remains one of the all time greatest deals in the food universe). It's all about the stone crabs, a seasonal and usually pricey item. Indeed, Google Offers claims the dinner is a "$135 value."

Even better, the "exclusive, private dinner" scheduled for October 10 lets you kick off the stone crab season early, ahead of all the shmoos waiting until the restaurant officially opens nearly a week later.

There's just one hitch: by law, the season for harvesting stone crabs in Florida doesn't start until October 15. The Florida Administrative Code says:

The season for the harvest, possession and sale of stone crab claws shall be from October 15 through May 15, each year. No person, firm or corporation, shall harvest, or have in his or her possession, regardless of where taken, or sell or offer for sale, any stone crab of any size, or any parts thereof, from May 16 through October 14, each year, except for stone crab claws, placed in inventory by a wholesale or retail dealer as defined in Section 379.414, Florida Statutes, prior to May 16 of each year.

If you're eating stone crabs on October 10 - they've been on ice for the past five months.

In other words, Joe's Stone Crab just convinced 400 people to pay $70 for last season's stone crabs. There's a reason they've been in business 99 years.