Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Sorry it's been so quiet over here lately. I'd love to tell you I've been deep in thought, reflecting and ruminating on the year and decade as they come to a close. But frankly I'm still coming out of a bit of a food coma after a three-day visit to New Orleans (here's a preview: Stanley, Lüke, Mr. B's Bistro, Dante's Kitchen, Cochon, and Stella - and one word summary: wow).

I thought perhaps this evening I'd take a shot at some sort of year in review (I'm not big on New Years' festivities), but when more modest plans fizzled out, we actually stumbled into seats at Michael's Genuine tonight when there was a cancellation. I'd take that as a promising omen for the year to come. In the meantime, here's some good year-end reading material:

Eater Miami gives recaps of several favorites and predictions for 2009 and the coming year (this post links to all their various lists), including from yours truly.

Lee Klein of Miami New Times gives an interesting "Top Ten Most Important Restaurants of the Decade" list. I'd agree with many, though I'd question whether Barton G's food is anywhere near as impressive as its presentations, and suspect places such as Altamar, Pilar, and even Grillfish might wonder whether River Oyster Bar was the only place serving fresh fish in a contemporary manner. Red Light may have been given short thrift by being lumped in with Pascal's, very different places, though I think there is a point that they are both very personal visions of very honest, heartfelt food. A couple glaring omissions, in my opinion: Ortanique, which Chef Cindy Hutson opened in 1999 and successfully elevates Caribbean cuisine to high dining; and Talula, which opened in 2003 and is one of the few places left in South Beach where you can find great food without the hype and pomp of a trendy scene (and the prices that go with).

And finally, Frank Bruni resurfaces from hermitic seclusion after stepping down as the New York Times' food critic (just kidding: I think one of the trends of 2009 that is hopefully over is learning not only what the food critics ate, but how long it stayed in them) to give his glowing take on Miami's restaurant scene, including much praise for Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Sra. Martinez, Pacific Time, Red Light, Area 31, and Hakkasan. These are some of my favorite places as well, though I have to say his take on Red Light is puzzling. Though he seems to lump it into the bacon-intensive, animal-style, "This is Why You're Fat" genre ("If you're looking for spa cuisine, don't go to Red Light"), I actually find Chef Kris Wessel's cooking to be fairly health-conscious (maybe my standards are low). There is typically not a single fried thing on the menu (I don't think they own a deep fryer), it is usually heavy with seafood (including always at least a couple fresh fish options), and even items like the ribs or the burger come with lighter sides like an apple-slaw or a salad.

In any event, I think it all points to a promising 2010 for the Miami food scene. Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy new year. As my grandfather used to say, "Always better, never worse."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tropical Chinese - Miami (A Traditional Jewish Christmas)

It is a Jewish custom nearly as old, and nearly as universally observed, as lighting Shabbat candles and saying the Kiddush and the Hamotzi: we go out for Chinese food on Christmas Day. Unlike our Christian brethren, we are not busy opening presents, singing carols, or preparing a ham or a goose for Christmas Dinner. And while most restaurants are closed for the holiday, it seems in most places the Chinese restaurants remain open. Though I'm not sure it's actually in the Torah, it is a natural and logical tradition. And possibly the best place to observe it in Miami - whether Jewish or not, and whether on Christmas Day or any other time - is Tropical Chinese Restaurant, across from Tropical Park on the west side of Miami.

While Tropical has a full menu, I've visited (many, many times now) almost exclusively for the dim sum, which is served daily during lunch hours. Service is pushcart style, with roughly a half-dozen or more heated carts working the sizable room, a glassed-in open kitchen where you can see the chefs at work, and nicer, more polished furnishings than you'll find at many other more bare-bones dim sum houses. Frod Jr. and I observed our Christmas Day tradition this year with some other good eaters; since a good part of the joy of eating dim sum is the variety of little bites, this really is the ideal way to do it.

You can barely get your butt into the seat before people start plying you with food, so let's move to that quickly.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

CSA Week 4 - the beginning, plus some leftovers

So what do we have here? Clockwise from the left, collard greens, hakurei turnips, dandelion greens, parsley,zucchini, tomato, green pepper, the dirtiest grapefruit I've ever seen, and Lula avocado.

Nothing much of note has happened to any of them yet. I quickly trimmed the greens off the turnips and stored them separately, until they eventually got together with last week's white chard, the dandelion greens, an onion, and some serrano ham that was lurking in the fridge:

This will eventually wind up with some pasta, over some toasted bread with a fried egg on top, or in an omelette. Need to dig up my friend's recipe for Ethiopian Yegomen Kitfo for those collard greens.