Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Legendary Nil Lara Live in Miami Tonite...

Saw Nil Lara perform a couple of weeks ago, and I was really amazed at how this local legend can rock, play the guitar and quatro, break hearts with his screaming love/hate songs, and get the crowd to feel like they are part of a great show. It was just a few songs (it was Sweat Records Anniv. Party), but the crowd was transfixed. Go check him out tonight, Thursday, May 1st, at Transit Lounge (729 SW 1st Ave) at 10 PM. I apologize for the minimal quality of my shaky video, but I was still sober (nice Roger McGuinn twangy twelve-string-like riff, though). Go to http://nillara.blogspot.com/and listen to a song or two. I promise you, you'll want to hear the whole set.
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Monday, April 28, 2008

Mother's Day Cakes...

The Famous Strawberry Squares that started it all...



I met Alex Llaneza's mother at Hardcore Gallery, on N. Miami Ave., and she beamed when she told me the tale of his 'secret recipe' cakes. I thought, in honor of Mother's Day (and if you need to do some last minute cake-buying), I would share Alex's story, in his own words.





"Growing up in a family where eating well and often was of utmost importance, and most family members are food connoisseurs (going all the way back to my great-grandmother, Oportuna Cueto, looking to an old family recipe when I wanted to make some extra money was intuitive.

It all started my sophomore year of high school when I noticed guys making decent money selling sandwiches. Realizing that specific market was saturated, I decided to try selling dessert. Coincidently, there was this amazing cake my great-aunt, Tia Berta Llaneza, would make at family lunches (recipe was handed down by my great-grandmother) which not only did I love, but I found it to be pretty addictive. From a business standpoint I thought it was perfect!

I presented the idea to my mom, Rochi Llaneza, and she quickly jumped aboard for the production. We cut the cake into 24 pieces and packaged them in individual zip-loc bags. The next day I came home with $26…selling them at a dollar a piece, I had to auction off the last two. The cakes were a hit!

But things quickly got a little more complicated. I went to an all boys high school, Christopher Columbus, and what I was doing was technically not “legal.” Initially, I had the support of certain teachers, like Mr. Lightfoot, who allowed me to sell during the first few minutes of class, but eventually I got caught. After a week of detention and some advice from teachers and friends, I brought a couple guys on the team and gave them a percentage of sales. This went on until I graduated, and I made more money my senior year of high school than my first year in college working at a bank.
As friends went away for school I continued getting requests so I set up a small website. In the mean time, I've pursued another family business and hobby, and opened a cigar store, Puros Fine Cigars, with my cousin Alejandro Alcorta. Ultimately, my experiences have led me to conclude that working at something you are truly passionate about will almost certainly lead to success."




Chocolate...................................Lemon

Happy Mother's Day...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Must Love Cats and Bad Food...



I'm often asked how I pack away all that food and drink and still retain my buff physique. Of course I try to eat as much good stuff as I can, and as little of the bad stuff as possible. But I also have a trade secret. It would be a shame to waste even bad food, stuff that I wouldn't even give away to a homeless guy, so often I am to be found dumping mounds of crappy stuff you wouldn't feed to a sick dog into...my cat's dinner bowl. Yes, PJ, an odd domestic shorthair of about thirteen years of age, has been known to eat p'tcha, Rokeach 'Old Vienna' Gefilte Fish (Ingredients-Water, Carp, Mullet, Whitefish, Pike, Egg Whites, Sugar, Onions, Matzo Meal, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Xanthan Gum, Carob Seed Gum and Natural Flavoring), dried-out ribs, greasy Haitian foie (liver), and any number of shitty leftovers I couldn't bear to toss, but was happy to watch her eat. Here's the noodle pudding (luckshen). God it was revolting...



PJ can be reached at her blog, 'Meow by PJ' http://www.pjsblog.com/ ...she likes to stay out in the rain, get muddy, take showers, and eat ribs....She also catches and eats fresh lizards to augment the Meow Mix and three-day-old leftovers...


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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bagels & Co. and Company...

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(Why It's Sometimes Referred To As 'Bagels & Guns')





Pumpernickel, Poppy, and lox-spread, heavy on the lox bits...


Crusty...

Crunchy...

Runners-up from Bagel Bar East...

...and Bagel Cove...

Try a Bagels & Co. Kasha Knish. Not Yonah Schimmel's Knishery on Houston St., but close enough...



Bagels & Co.
11064 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
(305) 892-2435
Open 365 Days a year, 6AM-4PM
(They have a generator, too, so even if there's a hurricane, and the power goes out, you'll never miss a day...)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jesse Gets Serious...

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Quick plug for my boy Jesse Jackson, who will be playing his final show for a while at Amendment XXI (190 NE 46th St, Miami) tonight (Tuesday) at 10PM or so, as he heads into the studio for some hunkering down. Here's some video of him and Mr. Rock 'n' Roll drummer himself, a latter-day Mitch Mitchell as it were, playing at Sweat Records' 3-year anniversary Saturday night next door at Churchill's. I managed to score some great stickers at Sweat, lots of old friends came and went, and the store was packed with well-wishers and music lovers. Congrats to Lolo for her dedication and success...

Also an incredibly soulful in-store performance by Nil Lara, who is playing Transit Lounge May 1st. More on that soon...


Store was jammed...


Sweat Records' Lolo and Stop Miami's Alex


Silk Shirt and all...


JJ and Jason (MAP Magazine) chat 'em up...


The soulful Nil Lara....video on its way...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

red light goes GREEN...


Dinner and Dancing....


Three Cheeses...(blogger blurry)



US Kobe burger...


Spiny Lobster sous vide


Cheeses, focused...

According to the bylaws of United Bloggers Local 3036, Miami Division, I am required to post about Chef Kris Wessel's 'red light' at least once a week, or risk losing my union card. I don't mind, I like the place, and I always support my brothers and sisters.





So for Earth Day weekend, Kris has listened to one of his little daughters, and created a small menu focused on organic foods, and local ingredients. I started with the Cheese Plate, which was a bargain at $6. It was an abstract mound of Loxahatchee mild goat, a stinky Triple Cream from Nantes (France), and a Cheddar from upstate New York, that was nice and sharp, with a long finish. It was served with 'guava chew', which tasted like guava jerky, and some chunks of Asian apple and toast. It was a nice, big, plate, which carried my constant companion and I through our first bottle of wine-a very nice Syrah-heavy Côtes du Rhône ($32)





We moved on to the 'Spiny Lobster, leeks, orange confit, red bliss potatoes, and little neck clams' ($12-half portion), a dish that is cooked sous vide, which means the ingredients (at least the lobster and one or two other ingredients) are cooked in a vacuum pouch in water at low temperature, sometimes for several hours, although for this dish it's cooked at 110 degrees for twenty minutes in the thermal circulator. For serving, the pouch is opened table side, and poured over the other ingredients (see below). I've never eaten 'spiny lobster' that tasted quite like this. I'm not going to write a 'review' here; all I'm saying is that this dish is both fascinating and frustrating at the same time. Order it, it is tasty, and see if you agree.





The US Kobe Beef Burger moves to the top of the pack in the 'Best Hamburger' category, and at $12, served with a densely delicious salad, is really a complete and healthy meal. I would politely suggest you order it rare, to best savor the rich yet subtle tang of the meat. Don't be afraid.








Other menu items included a 'pan roast' of garlic, shrimp, green tomato, and thyme butter toast, two nice-looking salads (organic tomatoes, 'safewater' albacore tuna), an 'earth mushroom' soup, fresh Cobia, and organic milkshakes(!) and sour orange sorbet with saw palmetto honey for dessert.





Kris is working hard, and Julienne is splendid behind the bar. The service is still very relaxed, and the food may take a while, so just sip your wine, relax, and gaze off at the spookily-hypnotic titty bar neon sign across the river. I haven't seen any manatees on the river yet, but I did see a duck. Patience, they say, is a virtue. A damned annoying one, but a virtue nonetheless.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Big Chef Makes Tiny Food...

For those of you who've claimed I'm being unfair to Celebuchef Doug Rodriguez by castigating Lee Klein's review of OLA http://www.presschops.com/ and by belittling his tiny, um, tacos http://www.miami.com/culinary-cage-match-the-fish-taco-article I'd like to say that I have nothing but respect for the Beard Award-winning master, I even own his cookbook, Nuevo Latino. Here are the pictures. You be the judge...







Smoked Marlin Tacos...
Is that a potato chip?




They're exactly 3" across






Tuna Tacos...



Best part of the place? Without a doubt, the bathrooms. (For the rules on bathrooms, see http://dailycocaine.blogspot.com/2008/03/dailycocaine-meets-nightlycocaine.html ) Plenty of surfaces, good area, decent lighting, clean as hell, and the blue tile pattern is trippy after a few. And the walk back from the bathrooms is pretty cool, too, you're outside getting some fresh air. Take a nice deep breath. Just don't get to close to the pond, and walk quickly-those big fish look menacing; and don't try to sit in those clear acryllic chairs-they're just an illusion...

































Go back to the bar and grab a cocktail-the bartenders, at least, are not skimpy with the alcohol, and know how to make a good caipirinha. For $11, that's cheaper than the 5 teeny tacos for $15, and probably more filling. Plus, you're probably not that hungry anymore.




Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Last Jew in Miami...Part Two...

As an adjunct to 'The Last Jew in Miami', and since we're coming up on the Jewish holiday of Passover, I'd like to offer some photos of the good stuff.





Fresh made Challah (braided egg bread), chopped liver,

Jewish gnocchi, and homemade Gefilte Fish, all from

Kastner's Market on 41st St (#700), Miami Beach.

The Gefilte Fish was very sweet, and unusually,

(how shall I put this?), tasty.




11" Falafel Sandwich (yes, I carry a tape measure) on Laffa (thicker and bigger than a pita, no pocket) from Pita Hut Grill and Sushi bar on 41st St (#530). $8.99, on a pita it's $6.99. Filled with five or six freshly fried balls, hummus, salad, tahini, whatever else you want, it's big. Split it between two of us. The Kibbe, which is the egg-shaped thing, is seasoned ground meat encased in crunchy dough that is deeep-fried (2/$5). And the egg-roll looking thing is actually filled with bastirma, which is kind of like Turkish pastrami. Eat them both hot.






A lot of stuff going on there...




Closer....



Too close...

(Items pictured here are not Kosher for Passover...)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Italian Man Makes a Pizza...






Throw around bullshit words like 'artisanal' all you want. When someone knows the craft of creating delicious, hand-crafted food, there are simply no words to describe it. Vito the cheese maker shows you how to craft a mini-pizza from home made, semolina flour 'spotta' dough, which means a dough that jumps up like a balloon, then deflates, creating something like a pita. "You make this dough?" I ask him. "Of course," he replies. "Well, my wife made it." He then cuts it in half, and fills it with thick slices of fresh tomato, and his creamy, 'artisanal' mozzarella. After adding some squirts of olive oil, it goes on the grill, where it gets crunchy, and the mozz gets gooey. Best thing you'll eat all week, for just $3. At the Upper Eastside Greenmarket (Biscayne and 65th St)-Saturdays, from 9AM-3PM.


And I hear that his cheeses, including the creamy burrata, will be featured at Fratelli Lyon in the Double D, when they open in May (yes, May). Also look for his amazing Whey Butter. It's way better than butter.

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One for here, one to go. Melty...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Big Guns BBQ...






'James' BBQ, behind the Publix at 4870 Biscayne Boulevard, is manned by one 'James'. A big dude with a big smile and a ready pair of over sized tongs, he flips the racks with gusto, and checks on the chickens ever so gingerly. When I ask him who has the top ribs in Miami, he says, "I don't know whose are the best. But I'm second best." And with The House of Bargains rib dude apparently gone for good, I'm needing someone to fill in the pantheon alongside pastor-turned-smoker Mark A. Gibson (46th St and NW 2nd Ave.), and the Fat Man (Take One Strip Club-333 NE 79th St.). His ribs are never boiled, just smoked until tender and juicy. He's there every weekend, starting around 10:30 AM, and his wife has been holding down a stall at the Upper Eastside Greenmarket for the last few weeks as well. Working out of a parking lot on a lonely strip of Federal highway has its drawbacks, but the Upper Eastsiders have taken warmly to James's smoked stuff. "You've got to expand your base," he sagely remarks. Delicious stuff. Definitely top-fiver. See below for instructions on 'presentation'.




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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Last Jew in Miami....



In the old days people would come to Miami and ask, “Where's the best deli?” Today they mostly ask where to eat Cuban food. But with the closing of Rascal House up in Sunny Isles Beach, there was a lot of hand-wringing about the disappearance of a culture. The last time I ate at Rascal House, Thanksgiving 2007, there was a birthday party behind us, and the young lady was celebrating her 91st birthday. I can also say with certainty that she was not the youngest person at the table. The alta-cocker culture may be drifting away, as are the people who once inhabited it, but there are still signs of vibrant Jewish culture here in Miami, along with some pretty decent food to match.


I started with The Old, Old, Restaurant Row, 41st Street on Miami Beach, AKA Arthur Godfrey Road. For those of you who don't know, Arthur Godfrey was kind of the Harry Reems of his day. Huge porn star. Not really sure why they named a street after him; but of course that was back in the fifties when porn was the most respectable industry in Miami (pre-cocaine, in other words). Jackie Gleason, for whom the Gleason Theater was named, was also an amazing lush, although, unlike Godfrey, he actually had talent, and his tag line, about beating the shit out of his wife, was hilarious. http://miamisunpost.com/041008bites.htm



But back to Rascal House. My constant companion, as it was Thanksgiving, demanded, and got, the full works-turkey with all the trimmings, as they say. The food was okay, a little bit better than good steam table fare, and the whole boat including matzoh ball soup and a glass of wine was $22.95 (tip not included, as our waitress informed us several times-guess she'd been burned more than once by those Canadian/Russian tourists). I got the flanken, or short ribs, which was done up old-school-Jewish style, i.e., boiled to death. It was the boiled dinner, after all, and the
carrots, potato, beans, etc., all seemed to have been put through the same de-flavorizing machine (apologies to the Woodman).



There was some taste, some taste-memory, in fact, that no amount of overcooking could kill. This piece of meat was not savory, but it was substantial, which, where I come from, takes precedence. The matzoh ball soup was a little thin, but the ball itself was light and eggy.






The gratis accoutrements, the half-sour, and sour pickles, the pickled tomatoes, the thick cabbage slaw, and the four or five bread items (dark onion-y bialy's, etc.), were fresh, and were the biggest hits of the afternoon. The service was also delightful, and our waitress satisfied our curiosity (which we didn't know we had) about every customer by informing us of their habits, both good and bad, in minute detail (“hates bread”, “only eats bread”, “they take the leftover bread home with them”-yeah-it was mostly about the bread, in retrospect). The picture of Gleason on the wall was priceless, as he's one of my all-time heroes, and the characters at the horseshoe counter were alternately calling for their waitress to either turn up or turn down the volume on the game on the TV (she never moved).



There are good things and bad about losing this place. Maybe restaurants past their prime, no matter the sentimental value, should be allowed to die a (semi-) dignified death, and go off into the night with fondness, as it were. (Especially in a world where many deserving restaurants struggle, suffer, and die an ignominious death, remembered by no one.) For example, the last time I was at Wolfie's, on South Beach, several years ago, the front windows were grimy, and the place smelled like old grease and rotting flesh. Probably remembered as a great deli (which it was in its heyday), now that it's gone, but inedible food and horrible service at its demise. At least Rascal House kept its nose clean, and kept on sending out those simulacra of good Jewish Deli food, right up until the bitter end. Of course, without anything to compare it to, it may be remembered as a lot better than it was. But like a good museum, where every single piece of art doesn't have to speak to every patron, the same goes for this old place. Just enough items to smell and taste good, to remember, and maybe not for everyone's taste, but comfortable as an Alexander Calder mobile, or a nice bowl of hot chicken soup.
See you at Sam's.


The 'Rascal'






Before...








...and After....


"...and away we go..."

(apologies to Leslie Fiedler)