Saturday, December 05, 2009

"A bird with a buzz..."

"I've been on the job for more than two years here, and this is the first time I've seen a chicken stuffed with cocaine," he added.
"Turkey? Sure. Duck? Of course. Even squab once on this flight from Peru. But never a chicken..."
A little recipe I call 'Pollo Loco'

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lazy Saturday in Miami

I start every Saturday volunteering for a kids art program, and every week it just seems to get better and better. I follow these great mornings with a small lunch, where I enjoy my solitude and the quietude of dining alone. In this case, on sweltering N. Miami Ave at PizzaVolante. I wanted to try something other than the pizza, so I got some 'local' mozzarella they have from 'Boca Raton'. Is Vito still driving that stuff in? They serve it with tomatoes and spinach, and a little overdressed, to my taste, with oil and vinegar. Maybe a dash of balsamic, tops, a squirt of that good olive oil-some crunchy sea salt maybe? Too much vinegar cuts the subtle taste and creaminess of the cheese, and makes it bitter. Then it defeats its own purpose, Vickie. But the ball itself is great, $7-and you can add accompaniments at $2/ea.

Great---thin fried zucchini strips-light and fresh-but again with the balsamic-what's the point of a crunchy dish if you're going to limp it up with more vinegar and oil? Looks adorable, I know, but maybe better on the side? Caponata---a little bland. Try it for yourself. Olives---two dollars for half a handful of olives? They should give you five instead of ten and make them gratis. Or give you a decent portion. The 'trofie macaronie'? Still not sure what that was supposed to be-but it tasted okay. The tomatoes were amazing-they had heirlooms as well as cherries, and I think I would have liked more. In fact, I'm not sure something more interesting than spinach might have made a big difference. Arugula? Just throwing it out there. Four dollar glasses of that delicious and cold Rosé de Provence; it retails for $10/bottle. And is sold here for $15. That is why I'm here. Because I support a good, inexpensive list, and they got the goods here. And the food's damn good, too. Although next time, just bring me some bread for my mozz and that good extra virgin. Or do I have to order a pizza to get some bread? (Did I mention I hate breadsticks? They combine the worst qualities of bread, and of sticks. Stale, tasteless, and pointless. Just saying.)

Later that night, after the premier of Death Print at the Colony on Lincoln Road (hilarious), I went over to the Eden Roc for the wrap party of 'Work of Genius'-an arts reality show coming to Fox that I've written about here. Had a few bottles of Grolsch, the art beer (isn't that their slogan now?),

and hung with the inimitable Steve Bauer.

Home by 12:30. No craziness, no eight-balls, no after-parties. Still, a productive, seductive, Miami summer day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

Anise Waterfront, or Danny gets his bechamel, Part II

Probably should have taken these photos before the 'birthday toast'

Anise sits on a side street on the Upper Eastside, across from the ass-end of several fast-food restaurants, in a building that long housed various Indian restaurants. Now that may not sound very promising to you, but the secret is that once you get inside the renovated space, you will forget all of that, and feel like you are in one of those Miami places that have been around forever, but have only lately been discovered. Of course the Greek/Med paint job on the facade, and the complete Indian-food-aroma removal, which I am told took more than six months (there is still a hint of asafetida somewhere), have greatly enhanced the potential of this waterfront dining spot. And the fact that the Little River is now pretty clean and flowing freely (the 'locals' are even back fishing from the bridge-for mullet, maybe?), adds a new dimension to what once was a somewhat rickety outdoor patio. It always felt like it was about to tumble into the murky water.

But the owners, who ran 'Ouzo' on Normandy Isle, and then the ill-fated location on South Beach, know how to make people feel at home, and well-fed. At a big birthday party recently for a friend on the waterfront deck, we started with some mezze of hummus, and other dips, and everything was tasty. When I looked at the menu, I knew immediately that I would be ordering the mousaka, as I had been jones-ing for a fat bechamel-covered mousaka since February. And my patience was rewarded with this giant portion that was simply blanketed with the cheesy topping I so longed for. The eggplant was sliced very thin and cooked just enough to maintain its silky texture, and the meat and sauce were hearty under the great good white stuff. I can honestly now say that the Little River may be the New Restaurant Row (on water), with Red Light just fifty feet upstream from Anise. And speaking of fishing, the sardines were pretty damn good, too.

We finished up with a coconut cake soaked in a brandy simple syrup. I don't usually stay for dessert, but it's bad luck to skip cake at a birthday party. And this one was sweet and lush. Anise has added a great vibe to the neighborhood; and I will jones no more.

Anise Taverna
620 NE 78th St
Miami 33138

Friday, August 07, 2009

Okra season at Chez Rosie

Chez Rosie used to be one of my stalwarts for lunch when they were located on Biscayne Blvd. Solid, inexpensive Haitian food cooked by a professionally trained chef who knows how to cook. Sitting outside in the scorching heat with my constant companion, who insisted on calling the chef 'Rosie'; and also loved to pronounce 'Chez' as CHEZZ, the hookers and crack heads would fight us for valuable sidewalk space. Oddly, although Chez Rosie moved to NW 2nd Ave. a while ago, during the great Biscayne Blvd. gentrification of 2005(?), the hookers have remained. In fact we lost several pretty good restaurants/take out joints in that time, and gained some dubious 'improvements', like Dogma, Karma (now Metro), UVA, Starbucks. There was a nice watering hole where Michy's is now, although most of their customers can be found two doors down at Jamboree. There was a restaurant called Citronelle a couple of blocks away, too (no relation to Michel Richard's L.A. restaurant of the same name). But Chez Rosie was the king, and I paid a visit the other day because it is okra season, and even though we are in the south, you don't necessarily see a lot of attention paid to one of our signature local vegetables. Probably because most people think okra is slimy and disgusting. And it is, especially if it is not prepared properly. If you can get it fresh from a farmer (Glaser's organic market in Coconut Grove, fyi), you can actually eat it raw-it's pretty amazing. But for the most part, that's only for crunchy organic types, and definitely not for everyone. But when you can say you've eaten raw okra, that is indeed a badge of honor in the south.

Here it is stewed, alongside some chicken, and a big mound of rice and beans. I think it was around $7, and I got two meals out of it. If you go, don't expect any glam surroundings. But the food is fresh, and you may even get a smile out of the chef if you ask how Chez Rosie got its name. (Hint-his name is NOT Rosie...)

Chez Rosie
5961 NW 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33127

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Homage or Thievery? You be the judge...

Look I'm just running a poll here. I used to write 'Culinary Cage Match' for the Miami Herald's website, In it I compared the same dish at two different restaurants, dishes using the same ingredients, and even events like afternoon tea at two different restaurants. So I see that Short Order, the Miami New Times food blog, now has a column called 'Plato Royal', where they do exactly the same thing. For example, me on Philly Cheesesteak them on Po' Boys

My poll today is, Am I being paranoid? or is this just an incredible ripoff, right down to the wrestling metaphor (Cage Match/Battle Royal)? As a writer all you have is the ideas you create; and when you feel someone's appropriated them, it's not a great feeling. It's like someone coming into your house and stealing your stereo. The thieves may be very nice people, and have their reasons for stealing, but still, you wouldn't want them to get away with it, would you? So I'm asking. Am I right to be angry? Thank you for your thoughtful comments...

The full story, and more, is at PressChops.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

crispy pig ear 6

The Hurricane that hit me...Rum on top, rum on the bottom, fresh passionfruit, orange, lime, and agave syrup in the middle...

The myth, the legend, the best bar food to come along since...crispy hominy? Feel your ear right now. That's what this feels like when you bite into it. Except crispy.

Homemade organic ricotta & apricot thyme jam crostini-that's what it says in the yearbook, Jim..


SOMBRA. Great drinking mezcal. Succulent, indeed.
Now that's what I call a satisfying 'meal'.
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
130 NE 40th Street
Miami, FL 33137

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Most Fan-Friendly Wine List in Miami...

The wine list at Pizza Volante is the best inexpensive wine list in Miami. So not only can you sit outside on glorious North Miami Avenue and take in the urban grit, you can drink an entire bottle of rosé for $15 (or $4/glass). The perfect wine list for pizza, too, of course. It is nice that Chef/Owner Jonathan Eismann gets it, in this town full of restaurants with overpriced, underperforming bottles. (Although other Design District restaurants have some nice bottles, too, but nothing this cheapo.) He could easily charge $25 and up for most of these and he would still be cheaper than anyone in town. FYI-I'm a big fan of the Snoqualmie-used to carry it back in the day. Salud.

You won't be needing these...

Oddly, Pizza Volante is right across the street from a penitentiary. Man that is some brutal architecture...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Speaking of cheap dates...

Huevas:Mahi-Mahi Roe Part Two

In Part One, I rejoiced at my find-Mahi Roe! The cat and I got down to business. I caramelized some onions, and added some garlic, in one pan; and fried up chunks of bacon in another pan to prep for the roe. I reduced some clam juice and white wine in the onions and scraped up the tidbits. I added the crunchy bacon to the pan, and cooked the roe sets in the bacon fat. I sauced some linguine with the mixture. The results speak for themselves.

Just used a VERY small amount of roe in this dish, because it was extremely overpowering---both fishy AND liver-y

Just fishy enough for the girl, however.

Her plaintive meow-ing for more roe has gotten out of hand....[shakes fist Colbert-style] FOOD GIANT!!!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Huevas:Mahi-Mahi Roe Part One

Shad roe is a great delicacy, and because it is seasonal, both celebrated and legendary. Cute story from the early nineties, when I was first earning enough money to take a date to a fancy restaurant (that's what we called joints back then). At the Washington, DC, organic Restaurant Nora (Al and Tipper Gore were regulars), I sat passively while my then-girlfriend ordered it as a special-she had a notion that the eggs of a shad were similar to caviar. I did not disabuse her of this notion. I was in a heavily passive-aggressive stage back then, and saw this simply as two appetizers for me, none for her. Yes, I was a prick. (FYI-'Appetizers' is what we called 'small plates' back then. FWIW the term FYI was also just coming into vogue.) She took one look and passed it to me with disgust. It was delicious and I ate it all with no guilt. C'mon-I'm an American artist. I have no guilt. Just ask Patti Smith.

I would occasionally cook fresh shad roe in season, in a little bacon fat, as is the tradition. Well not really 'a little'. If you've never eaten it, shad roe comes in a 'set' or sack, and tastes a lot more like a delicate fish liver with a subtly nutty flavor (as opposed to caviar, which it does not resemble at all), and has a texture that is not to everyone's taste. When I popped into Food Giant on the Kennedy Causeway yesterday, I had no intention of buying anything other than a lemon for a simple linguine and bottarga dish. Passing by the meat/fish counter, I saw a sign that read "Mahi Row". I had an inkling, then a suspicion, and when I asked in Spanish I was told 'huevas'. Jackpot. I took the frozen 'row', bought a pound of cheapo bacon, and dashed home to tell the cat. She was, not unexpectedly, rather unemotional about the whole thing. But how should I cook this stuff? And how much would end up in the cat's bowl? Here the girl had no response. Stay tuned for the answers...

Is this right?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eggs is Art:The Collabo Show

The filmmakers...

The outhouse...

O squiggly lines...


T-Shirts 4 sale...

Artist/Cook Jason Hedges' Spanish Tortilla, made with with bagged potato chips a la Adria. I have tried to do this many times, but you really can't replace the taste and texture of real fried potatoes. Then again, it was pretty tasty, and no one was complaining...

That wheel of huevos was fresh...with a little help from someone with major whisk skills...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Roast Pig, Organic Chicken Tacos, and one Meatball

Meatball and his girl, who I shall refer to as Utah-wey (Mexican slang for a Utahn), left me feeling that I haven't been doing my job as a food writer. Why aren't there any good tacos in Miami? they asked. Utah-wey says they have better tacos in Utah. Embarrassing. I mentioned the Orale! taco truck. Two dollars for a taco! That's too expensive! Don't even mention Ver-Daddy's unless you are looking for a fight. Do I have to go MAKE the tacos myself? Maybe not, as soon as the spot that was host to the second-biggest must-go of last Saturday's Wynwood/Design District artwalk, on NE 2nd Ave, um, opens. Could be a while, but let's hope they sail through the permitting process and get licensed real quick. I don't want to disappoint Meatball (a collaborator on 'The Youth Fair, bro!') and Utah-wey. And seriously, are '70's porno-style 'staches back in style, bro'? How did I miss that?

The kids were out...

The pots on the stove...

Jesse Jackson sat in...and the Downhome Southernaires also played sounding like a cross between Television and The Dead Milkmen. Squeaky and abrupt. Next up...

What's left of a conceptual art piece by Jason Hedges that started out as a roast pig in a caja china, which is used mainly by Cubans instead of a pit to roast a whole pig (means chinese box).
[at Locust Projects]

The piece, Untitled (Judd Caja China), was a salute to an iconic Donald Judd piece that is basically a big metal box (feel free to google Untitled 1968). The pork was excellent, served by the furiously sweating artist himself (see below). And then we all stumbled through the back door to Oliver Sanchez' studio/gallery for some Swamp Punch. I recommend a flask for these excursions, by the way, due to the shitty wine you are usually served, but the Grolsch was cold all night, so I didn't have to pull out my sake too much. Sake is the perfect flask beverage as it goes with everything, won't knock you on your ass, and no one likes it, so you'll never have to share. And you will be asked to share.


In between these two events, spent some time at a guerrilla installation in the empty lot at NW 2nd Ave and 25th St, projections on wavering balloons, by buddy Luis Valle and his friends, whom I had met at the World Erotic Art Museum for Gregory de la Haba's closing party last month. Apparently a lot of plans get hatched over the fiberglass cock-and-balls sculpture from Clockwork Orange that is displayed at WEAM. Who knew?