Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dinner In Paradise

The event that lives up to its name is hard to come by (almost every event that ends in the word 'Festival', for example).This incredible food journey, founded by Celebuchef Michael Schwartz, of New York Times 'Best 10 New Restaurants in the US Outside NYC' fame, and Paradise Farms owner Gabrielle Mawerski, is an amazing exception. Eating food prepared in the place where some of it is grown, in these times, is an almost mystical experience (if I may wax Zen-like for a moment). See the full story, with pictures, at Scroll down to the photo of the chefs in the herb fields...
Special thanks to Alexandra Rangel Brody for the transplendent photos. Also thank you to Gabrielle, Michael, Chef George Fistrovich of the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne and his staff, Chef Urbani, and everyone at Paradise farms for their help, kindness, and damn good food...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Anthony Bourdain Claims Food Network "Dog Murderers"

"They killed my poor fluffy!"

One last hilarious bit from St. Tony, where he gets all sensitive, soft, and tender. Miami kind of brings that out in people.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Giada's Yada's

The sunburned snowbirds on Ocean Drive.

Under a gorgeous sky. Big line to see...


Ahem. Kim and Dania pour sparkling liqueur Nuvo, my new favorite cocktail. "Nuvo is best served chilled over ice in a Champagne flute, to capture the essence of the Nuvo Experience." Go on...

Nazly and Pamela from Domo Japones.
Catch their 'Cocktails Anyone?' on Thursday night.
There's some cocktails involved, apparently, according to Shal ben-Ami ("The Operator"),
but I'm a little hazy on the details. I believe we spoke of cucumber foam, shiso-based Mojito's, and lighter fluid (that's what it says in my notes, anyway).

Wonder if they'll be serving Nuvo?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bourdain on Cocaine...

Wherein St. Anthony gets asked a question that isn't about his baby (three), or, "My favorite show took place in [blank]. Will you be going back?" (the rest). A radiant Bourdain, with an equally toned Michael Ruhlman at ringside (it looked like they had both gone to the spa at The Loews that afternoon, and gotten massages and facials together-apparently the drinking and smoking have been replaced by more lady-like pursuits) couldn't remember to whom they had given their own awards. Apparently this was hilarious to them, although the humor escaped me. Then Bourdain rambled about nothing for a few minutes, and opened the floor to questions. As my mind wandered after the second 'baby' question (AB was actually sporting something of a 'baby bump' himself, starting some foodie gossip), it occurred to me that Bourdain was using his bottle of beer for a prop (he never took more than a sip), and that he reminded me of an old Borscht-Belt comedian who has delivered his punch lines so many times, and so well, that audiences still laugh even though they've heard it a million times before. It's shtick, but, in person, it feels homey, almost familiar, somehow. And Bourdain seems oddly tame, and likable; and far less dirty than his PR people would have you believe. In fact, Dana Cowin, Editor of Food & Wine Mag, looking like a translucent pixie melting in the heat, and who introduced him, used more four-letter words than he did.
But back to Daily Cocaine. DC asked Bourdain, "With all the emphasis placed on seasonal, and especially local ingredients, how would you incorporate Miami's most well-known ingredient, cocaine, into your repertoire?" A sputtering Bourdain doesn't get the joke, and goes off on a mini-tirade. Then walks off, 15 minutes before his scheduled end time. Sorry, Tony. Next time I'll ask about the kid.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

South Beach W$F Clusterfuck Alternative for Locals......

Just returned from Zeke's on Lincoln Road, where all beers are $3. That's not a misprint. Purple Haze. Pilsner Urquell, UFO...And on the way home stopped at what has to be the ultimate neighborhood spot, Boteco, on NE 79th St. Octopus salad, skewers of shrimp, beef, and sausage, picanha (filet) with fried yucca, the good steak with all the fat attached for your greasy pleasure. The staff so inviting and...Brazilian. Live music, and $5 Caipirinhas. Coming soon-chopp-the Brazilian way of enjoying draft beer , pronounced shoppe. Miles and miles away from the hype of south beach, especially this weekend. You won't be disappointed. See you at the bar.

Celebrities Damien B. and Natasha Tsakos AKA ZERO

Tripe Is Right...

Best Mondongo in Miami-location to be revealed soon...
The tripe was pristine...

Coolest boat at last week's Boat Show-the $5.7Million 86S from Azimut

Best thing about last week's Boat Show? Hands down, the hard-to-come-by-in-Miami, Vienna Beef Hot Dogs

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

jesse jackson's blues...

Baby Doll and Camus' Daughter
Pappy J
why they're willing

the sad, sad story....

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hot Sauce War Heats Up...

Things are getting ugly. First Chef Dewey LoSasso, of North One10, creates a hot sauce (above), made from habanero peppers, that belongs next to a bottle of mescal and a warm young heartbreaker, tempting you to go a little further, get good and hot, I like it like that, now kiss me till it burns. The plain white label warns that this is not a bottle to be taken lightly, no abuelitas or guys in sombreros to make you titter, this is pure heat.

Then, apparently inspired by D-Lo's courage, Chef Michael Schwartz, of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, takes to the hot sauce-making like a bull mastif to a French poodle. Hard. He not only one-ups the Scovilles (scientific hotness measurement), he adds a mysterious orange-colored substance (okay, carrots), which gives the sauce a sweet jailbait essence that is illegal in 22 states (apparently including Florida), and so he packages the thing in a tall test tube-like bottle, with a plain cork stopper. No label. NO LABEL.

You know a great man once said that the best government is one that governs the least. And another great man rejoindered that, in that case, the best government was the one that governed not at all.

The same applies to hot sauce labels. These are both just shy of US Grade Pepper Spray. But I can't put pepper spray in a bloody mary or on top of penne with fresh mozzarella. Or can I.....?

This was the result of me running to the sink like a schoolgirl and knocking the jar over after I seared my freakin tongue. I actually let it sit there for awhile, I thought it might attack me (that was just a hallucination from a mild capsaicin OD. I'm okay now).
Muchas Gracias to the Thomas Paine and Henry David Thoreau of Miami chefs....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

BBQ Contest-Winning Secrets Revealed.....and Fat Man's Tenderoni...

Part III, where Ben, of Fat Man's BBQ, reveals how he baffles the judges, and wins the contests. And what exactly is Tenderoni? Ben lays it out in the first ten second, so I suggest you loosen your ears...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It BE'S That Way Sometimes, Cupcakes...

Puerto Rican Tamal Wrapped, and Unwrapped

Cuchifritos-just the word alone conjures up long ago memories of sweet smelling Puerto Rican coffee shops and 'Comidas Chinas y Criollas' storefronts in the various NYC neighborhoods I haunted and that haunt me. La Caridad on the Upper West Side comes to mind, only because I remember the name-when I worked nights for Manhattan Cable, my dinner hour would usually be spent here, sometimes followed by a short 'nap' at the 71st St SRO I shared with my pet and my paraphernalia. It was my home for wonton soup, ropa vieja, and beans and rice. It took a couple of visits before I understood that the 'chino' was asking me if I wanted red or black beans, white or yellow rice. Up to that point I always responded, “Si.” Now I could get the red and the yellow I wanted.
I think 'El Deportivo' on the West Side was my first introduction to Mofongo, mashed plantains with garlic and shrimp (or pork bits, etc.). Maybe my first guanabana, too. And the Puerto Rican girls, their brown eyes could tear you down, their open faces daring you to meet the challenge or move along, pendejo.
When I lived on Rivington St., at the nearest intersection, three of the four corners were Spanish joints-one even had several different kinds of flan every day. My favorite was strawberry cheesecake flan. With a large cafe con, at four in the afternoon, it was the perfect junkie's wake-up. If you asked for no sugar in your coffee, that meant you got only two soup spoons worth, and a roll of the eyes. If you didn't stop her, the counter lady would rapidly shovel in 6, 7, sometimes eight spoons worth. Years later, the sign still there, I walked into Alias, pronounced in Spanish, ah-lee-ahs, and surprised a couple of well-fed yuppie types folding white napkins in preparation for the dinner rush. Gone were the coffee machines and the sheets of flan, the place smelled of nothing at all. “Is this still ah-lee-ahs?” I asked, and got a rather pitying look from the two, as they exchanged glances, as though confronting a crazy, or perhaps, retarded boy. “No,” the girl replied, “it's AYLEEYUS. Like the sign says, AYLEEYUS.” I guess, at that moment, I should have been an object of pity, maybe even derision, because my neighborhood-where you had to throw down the keys from the third floor window to let in your friends; and where a half-pint of cheap DeVille 'VSOP' Brandy was always tucked into the back pocket of your jeans for fortification against those acts which you were about to commit-had disappeared, and I was the last to know.
Now fast forward a decade or two to Miami. I don't know whose 'papa' Papa Rudy is, but he's my daddy now. In Puerto Rican neighborhoods, while the neon sign in the window blinking 'Cuchifritos' means PR Soul Food, it can also mean a specific dish; one a grandmother might make to remind her family of their Borinquen heritage. Here, the order of cuchifritos, which in this case is a light stew of pig parts (I'm pretty sure I inhaled some semi-crunchy strips of ears, maws, and stomach, and maybe some tongue, too), surrounded by two baked green bananas (con guineo), was perfect for a hot late summer day. I like to sit outside on a stool at Papa Rudy's, and sweat profusely, thus replicating the tropical weather of Old San Juan, or Summer on 115th St, for that matter, and, multitasking Miami-style, I work on my tan. I also order a pastel, which is not a sweet, but is like a Mexican tamal, although I believe the pastel is made with mashed plantains and maybe malanga, or another root vegetable, instead of corn meal. There are pieces of pork and chicken inside, and some red peppers. The pastel is starchy and substantial, yet also moist and not overly filling. After the first few forkfuls I ping-ed on some hot sauce and squeezed out a lime wedge.
I felt that the cuchifritos was cooked to perfection. Why add anything? The ingredients list for this dish might seem forbidding, and the impression one might get is of a heavy wintry bowl of 'mystery meats', but, honestly, it reminded me of the most delicate French haute preparations of tripe or other 'variety cuts' I have ever eaten, and I have eaten a lot of innards, my friend, a lot of innards. It's a homey, country-style dish, but urbane and welcoming, not heavy at all, a little wistful, even. And then as I asked for the check, sipping from my Styrofoam container, the five spoons of sugar the waitress had jackhammered into my large cafe con leche woke me out of my reverie.

OPEN 24/7

photos by Danny Brody

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fat Man's BBQ Tutorial Part Two: The Hotbox...

Every different kind of wood creates its own particular, smoky flavor. And the key, of course, is indirect heat...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tenderoni-Fat Man's BBQ Smoke and Mirrors...

When Ben puts his jacket on, you know he means business.
He's won awards in two states for his BBQ Ribs...

Many of you know that I have been writing guides to BBQ and Rib Guys, as well as trucks, stands, and out-of-the-way joints with authentic food, or excellent takes on some great food that lesser mortals just can't seem to get right (like fried shrimp), for about a year, ever since my wife Alex and I closed our Wine and Tapas Bar, Stop Miami. Here's a link to the Herald's beta site where I wrote about Roscoe's fried pork chop sandwich, available outside a strip club. Well the other night, I finally got to try Fat Man's BBQ outside the Take One 'Lounge', 333 NE 79th St. He has a major hickory smoker going on, and when I arrived he had just taken everything off the grill and slapped it into the warmer. He marinates, he smokes, and he makes something called Tenderoni, that I'm going to let him explain to you. Tomorrow I'll play part two, where he explains how to smoke a rib. I suggest you pay attention...

Wine. Italians. Amore.

Chef Sandra Stefani of Casa Toscana, and Ysee Gaudel,
formerly of Les Halles in Coral Gables, now a wine importer

Chefs Speak

Designer Holly Brennan (River Oyster Bar),
and Power Studios' Ross Power (his real name)

Graziano Sbroglio, Lincoln Road Major Domo

The Killers...

There are so many immigrants in Miami, that sometimes we forget that many of them don't come here from way down south, but from over there, across the big ocean, Europe. There are lots of French people from France, Spanish people from Spain, and, Italian people, oddly enough, not just from Argentina, but from Italy. Sunday I met some Italians, speaking Italian, in of all places, Homestead.

And tonight I had the pleasure of accompanying some Italian friends to Vinitaly's wine event at the Art Center/South Florida on Lincoln Road, in Miami Beach. The highlight of the evening, other than meeting the gracious Ross Power, of the Design District's Power Studios (coming soon...), and designer Holly Brennan, who created the River Oyster Bar, had to be the amazing Italian hospitality, which is inherent in those crazy Italian genes. The wines were magnificent. From the 'Aries', a white 'Pecorino', which is a grape that grows in Northern Abruzzo, as well as the Southern Marches, which would be beautiful with some Stone Crab claws; to an astounding 2004 Amarone presented by Signore Roland Marcandino, of Sartori Wines, which is in the Veronese style, a “wine to dine with”, as he so eloquently put it, where the grapes are air-dried, “withered”, if you will, for three months or more, to a very grape-y 14.5 % alcohol. 50% Corvina, 40% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara. Not too 'big', as they say, but still pretty damn large, in my opinion.

There was young winemaker Vincenzo Protti, just 33 years old, whose enthusiasm was contagious; and who has been working with esteemed winemaker Franco Bernabei, making Paladin Chianti. This 80% Sangiovese, blended with other grapes including Merlot, is a thyme-scented, herbaceous exemplar of the future of Chianti, a great food wine, now rediscovering its roots. The boysenberry and cherry notes made me understand why this wine has been garnering so many awards in Italy.

And then there were the Liqiores. Squisitezze d'Antore ( gotta love the name), presented a liqueur made from Artichokes. This killer tasted like tobacco, licorice, bitter artichoke leaves, bark, celery tops, and at 17% alcohol, felt almost light on the tongue. The special carciofi are grown in fields that once produced tobacco; apparently giving them a sense memory of the sot-weed that gives one the sensation of smoking a fat cigar without ever lighting up. It seemed to be the hit of the evening.

With the likes of the lanky, bearded, ginger-haired Graziano Sbroglio, owner of Spris, Tiamisu, Le Bon, Van Dyke Cafe, etc., as well the brilliantly orange-topped Ysee Gaudel, formerly of Les Halles, now with Market Wine Importers; and chefs from Quattro and Casa Toscana (both nominated by Bar/Restaurant magazine for Best Regional Italian Cooking, along with Escopazzo, Tiramisu, and others), in attendance, the expectations were high, and the Italians did not disappoint.

Stay tuned for info on Friday's FREE WINE TASTING, to be held at a soon-to-be-disclosed location. That's right. All of the great Italian bottles that have not been drained at this week's trade and press tastings, will be left here in Miami for your drinking and thinking pleasure. Stay tuned...

...and if you're good, Tinkerbell, and these lovely ladies, will come to you when you sleep, and turn all your frightful nightmares into sweet dreams...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mayor, Commissioners, and Chefs Agree...Shop Local...

Judith's Sasaki Wasabi Spice, one of her hand-crafted creations

Valentina Tea-Black China Tea and Pink Sugar Hearts from World Flavour (They are scheduled to be at the Lincoln Road Market TODAY, Sunday, so stop by for a unique Valentine's Day gift...)

Crostata di Strawberry, Walnuts, and Apples ($3), from Vito, who also had fresh, creamy, burrata ($4), handmade on Friday

Hate to keep mentioning these claws-when I arrived at noon they were selling a little TOO fast...

Be Organic's Strawberry/Banana and Mango Organic Mousse...Homey codfish fritters (more like mini-pancakes), $3 for five. 'Be Organic' head chef, Chad, went organic just a year ago after he found out he had diabetes, then lost many excess pounds while gaining an enormous amount of energy. Here he dresses an organic lunch of baked avocado and blue cheese-topped pear, organic green salad, served with crackers ($5!)
Big Sweet Onion
Come in close for a whiff of hand-crafted 'Florida Fruits' Tea- an aromatic blend of hibiscus flowers with papaya, orange, apple, cornflowers, and rose petals

Judith Williams (right), discussing spices with my constant companion over $8/lb Stone Crab Claws

Still life with grapes, blogger, and Commissioner Sanchez

Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, Chef Sandra Stefani from Casa Toscana,
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and Miami Commissioner Joe Sanchez

Be Organic, baby

Pork sandwich, the two sweetest words in the English language

Tomatoes from Immokalee

If you have not stopped by the Upper East Side Green Market, you have missed some great food from the likes of the upcoming Yi-Ya on NE 79th Street, seving pan con lechon (roast pork sandwiches), plenty of locally grown produce, handmade mozzarella and burrata from Vito, and my new favorites, Judith the 'Etnnic Chic' Spice Lady (maybe you saw her on 'Check, Please' with Michelle Bernstein?), and World Flavours, from Pierre and Francois, an avalanche of hand-crafted spice mixes and teas. My favorite is the Valentina, which is Black Tea and pink sugar hearts, just in time for Valentine's Day. The Tchai mix will brew up the freshest Chai you can imagine, perfect for a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and there's a decent kick to it, as well.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and City of Miami Commissioners Joe Sanchez and Marc Sarnoff made their commitment to the Green Market known, by shopping locally, with Commissioner Sanchez sipping from his can of Malta to keep cool. There's more, especially the Be Organic people, with baked pears topped with melted baby blue cheese, and the stuffed baked avocado, in addition to their organic strawberry/banana and mango mousses. Still haven't tried the escargot. But I promise next week...

Speaking of commitments, Chef Kris Wessel and family rode their bicycles to the Green Market, a big commitment on such a hot day. (He's still 2-3 weeks away from opening 'red light'.)

+++++Bonus+++++ Stone Crab Claws $8/lb.++++++++++++++