Showing posts with label Little Havana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Little Havana. Show all posts

Monday, December 12, 2016

Cobaya Smokers with Chefs Andres Barrientos and James Bowers

We've been on a run of fancier Cobaya dinners lately, inside swanky South Beach hotels and other posh places, some with some very well known chefs. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but for Experiment #67 we were looking to get back to our roots a little bit: a more casual dinner with some guys you may never have heard of, at a place you might not know.

Miami Smokers is a butcher shop and sandwich shop (they call it an "urban smokehouse") in a nondescript stretch of Little Havana run by Andres Barrientos and James Bowers. You may have never been in there, but if you've been eating around Miami for a while, you may well have already sampled Miami Smokers' bacon, which they supply to several local restaurants. They also produce a few different kinds of salumi, several sausages, some other charcuterie items, and a small supply of fresh pork cuts, which come from heritage pigs they're raising at a farm in Clewiston, Florida. They turn out a really nice selection of sandwiches from their products, including a great version of a classic Cubano, which are also now available at the American Airlines Arena.

After they recently expanded their place on 27th Avenue to add more seating, we talked to them about using that extra space for a Cobaya dinner where they could spread their wings a little. Here's what they came up with – a very pork-centric menu modeled after the Cochon 555 events which celebrate heritage pigs by using every bit of them possible.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Smokers with Andres Barrientos and James Bowers flickr set).

They started everyone off with a self-service charcuterie bar, featuring several of their house-made products: a couple different kinds of cured and smoked hams, a silky coppa, a couple different dried sausages. These were accompanied by a complimentary cocktail with a frothy egg-white crown, which struck me as like a whiskey version of a pisco sour.

As everyone found their way to a seat, Andres and James made their introductions and talked to the group about what they do at Miami Smokers: the focus on making everything in-house, using local products and heritage breeds. It's a common refrain these days, but these guys really seem to be walking the walk.

To start things off, a little amuse bouche with some local flavor: bacon croquetas, warm and oozy and barely holding together, served over some house-made guava jam.

(continued ...)

Friday, August 12, 2016

30 Great Things to Eat in Miami for Less than $11

A disproportionate amount of my time and energy writing here is devoted to higher end dining (leading some people to think I actually eat that way all the time!). Yes, there's a lot more glamour in a fancy tasting menu than in the average daily meal. But not necessarily more satisfaction.

And as Miami rapidly becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, there's a particular joy when that satisfaction comes cheap. As we enter the season of Miami Spice, when everyone goes scrambling to sample all the $39, 3-course dinners, this year I decided to do something different.

So forgive me for the click-bait title, but here are thirty great things to eat in Miami[1] all of them under $11.[2] A few of these come from Miami's most celebrated chefs and restaurants. Others come from places with no websites or social media managers, made by cooks whose names I will never know. Many are not terribly Instagram-friendly. What they all have in common is that they make me very happy when I eat them.

Though it was not my original purpose, and though it's obviously skewed somewhat by my own personal predilections,[3] I suspect this list might just give a more complete picture of our city than the latest restaurant "hot list" – not just the million dollar dining rooms in the South Beach and Brickell towers, but the many Latin American and Caribbean and other flavors that give Miami its – well, flavor. I'm always gratified to see exciting things happening in the Miami dining stratosphere; but there are good things closer to the ground too. Here are some of them.

1. Pan con Croqueta ($10)

I wrote recently about All Day, and won't repeat myself here. Instead, I'll mention something that only occurred to me in retrospect: how comfortably it traverses the territory between new school coffee house and old school Cuban cafecito shop. Sure, the coffee beans are a lot better than the regulation-issue Bustelo or Pilon, and they don't need to put an avalanche of sugar into an espresso to make it taste good, but there's not as much space as you might think between a fancy Gibraltar and a humble cortadito. All Day even has a ventanita where you can order from the sidewalk. And, they've got an excellent version of a pan con croqueta, with warm, creamy ham croquetas and a runny, herb-flecked egg spread, squeezed into classic crusty pan cubano.

(More pictures in this All Day - Miami flickr set).

All Day
1035 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida

2. Croqueta Sandwich ($5.90)

If All Day offers a new-school version of a pan con croqueta, the prototype can be found at Al's Coffee Shop, hidden away inside a Coral Gables office building. Despite the obscure location, it's usually full of police officers and municipal workers, who know where to find a good deal. The croqueta sandwich here starts at $4.65; you can add eggs for an extra $1.25. Bonus points: on Tuesdays, those excellent croquetas are only 25¢ apiece all day.

Al's Coffee Shop
2121 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, Florida

3. Curry Goat ($10; $7 on Thursday)

For as long as I've been in Miami – which is a long time – B&M Market has been open along a dodgy stretch of NE 79th Street. Run by a sweet, friendly Guyanese couple, this Caribbean market with a kitchen and small seating area in back turns out fresh rotis, staples like braised oxtails, jerk chicken, cow foot stew, and my favorite – the tender, deeply-flavored curry goat. A small portion, with rice and peas and a fresh salad, is plenty, and will set you back $10 – or go on Thursday when it's the daily lunch special, and it's only $7.

(More pictures in this B&M Market - Miami flickr set).

B&M Market
219 NE 79th Street, Miami, Florida

(continued ...)

Friday, June 3, 2016

first thoughts: Doce Provisions | Little Havana (Miami)

I'd been meaning to ask Burger Beast, who is my expert on such things, what was his favorite Cuban sandwich in Miami. Then I found myself driving through Little Havana on the way back from court yesterday, and may have come up with my own answer to that question.

Doce Provisions is a pocket-sized restaurant on SW 12th Avenue, just a couple blocks north of Calle Ocho. (The spot used to be Alberto Cabrera's Little Bread). There's not much to it: a few tables, a counter along the wall lined with stools, and an open kitchen, though a roomier patio in back provides outdoor seating if weather permits. The menu is pretty tight too: the centerpiece is five varieties of sandwiches, bookended by several appetizer type items "para picar," and five bigger "family meal" options, all available in small or large portions.

(You can see all my pictures in this Doce Provisions flickr set).

The crumbly exterior of Doce's croquetas encases a filling of Miami Smokers[1] chorizo bound in a molten bechamel sauce. These would hold up well in a croqueta showdown with just about any others in town, save maybe Michelle Bernstein's ethereal versions. At $5 for four pieces, that's not too shabby. And while a "mostaza" dipping sauce tastes more of mayo than mustard, a delicate little side salad of frisée and slivered pickled peppers provides exactly the zing I was looking for.

It's a solid opening act to the main event: Doce's El Cubano. This Cuban sandwich is unorthodox in several respects. There's thin-sliced smoked pork loin and cured soppressata here, versus the traditional roast pork and ham.[2] The bread is neither the customary, flaky Cuban bread nor the sweet, eggy medianoche variation, but lies somewhere in between: the crumb more tender than the former, the crust a bit more substantial than the latter.

(continued ...)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

El Rincon Asturiano - Miami

"Vale." It's a word we heard throughout our travels in Spain, with no precise definition we could discern, potentially meaning "OK," or "So...," or "See?", or "Voila," depending on the context. Apparently more European (and possibly Castilian, more specifically) than Latin American, it's a word I almost never hear in Miami, despite the abundant Spanish-speaking populations. We heard it almost immediately, and regularly, upon sitting down at El Rincon Asturiano this past weekend. I took that to be a good sign, and I was right.

jamon iberico

Rincon Asturiano is a small restaurant in Little Havana near the corner of Flagler Street and SW 17th Avenue, not particularly noticeable from the street. There are several outdoor tables under a covered patio, as well as a small tapas bar and several more tables packed inside, including a narrow bar-height two-top that we squeezed into on a Saturday night (the place was filled). Asturias is an autonomous community of Spain on the northern coast by the Bay of Biscay, a couple hundred miles west of the Basque Country. The region is known for its seafood, its ciders, and most of all for the bean and sausage stew known as fabada. Rincon Asturiano's menu offers some of these specialties (the daily specials in particular seem to focus on Asturian dishes) as well as a broader selection of typical Spanish tapas, together with some heartier main courses and a variety of paellas.

Our server, in between "Vales," spoke only in rapid-fire Spanish and I struggled to keep up as she recited the day's specials. But with my dog-like ability to understand those words essential to my universe, I got the gist of most of it. For instance, I understood enough to know that she disapproved of my choice of wine, and recommended the Muga Rioja Reserva 2005 (at roughly the same price as my original choice) instead. I'm glad I listened, as it was a wonderful wine and a great value (at $36, less than 2x average retail).

As for food, we stuck with the tapas, and ultimately had to do something of a plate-juggling act to make room on our tiny table. We started with Chorizo a la Sidra, with chunks of pleasantly soft chorizo sausage cooked in cider stained bright red from the paprika in the sausage. Like New Orleans style BBQ shrimp, this is a dish that's as good for just dipping bread into the sauce as for the star ingredient itself (and the bread here is nice crusty Spanish style bread). The next item to hit the table was one of the only disappointments of the evening, Pulpo a la Gallega, the traditional dish of boiled octopus with potatoes, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with paprika and served on a wooden platter. But this was solely a matter of personal preference - boiling rather than grilling leaves the exterior layer of the octopus with a very slippery texture, and I prefer it grilled. But the preparation was absolutley authentic.

A slippery texture I do like is that of tripe, and so I couldn't pass up the Callos a la Asturiana. Callos is a Spanish stew featuring tripe and usually other miscellaneous parts. Though for years I only knew from Callos a la Madrileña, I've more recently learned of different regional variations, including a Sevillan version and this Asturian version. While Madrid's version, as I've seen it, often involves garbanzo beans in addition to chorizo and morcilla sausages and various other pig and/or cow parts, in a thick rust-colored stew, this Asturiano version omitted the beans, and had an intriguing spice note to it on top of the paprika - maybe nutmeg or even cinnamon? It was chock full of mysterious unctuous bits and pieces in a densely flavored gelatinous broth. Apparently the Asturians may be even more hardcore about their callos than the Madrileños: it seems that every year in the town of Noreña, they have a callos festival where more than 30 restaurants cook more than 7,000 pounds of tripe for about 10,000 visitors.

But it's not all about the nasty bits. The Patatas Bravas here were the finest I've had outside of Spain, the cubed potatoes cooked perfectly to have a bit of crispness on the exterior, while still being pillow-soft and hot in the middle (presumably the result of a double-frying technique similar to those used for good French fries), and were served with both a pungently garlickly and thick aioli, and a spicy tomato "bravas" sauce. The latter initially came on too sweet and ketchup-y, but that initial impression was quickly corrected by a pleasingly spicy follow-through.