Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Dishes 2010

2010 was a fantastic food year for me thanks to the opening of some new local spots, several Cobaya dinners, continued excellence from local favorites plus trips to Charleston, Boston and San Francisco.

The following are the 20 30 35 best  things I ate in 2010.  I told you it was a good year...

35. Salumi cone at Boccalone (SF)
34. Stone crabs (to go) at Mr. Lobster (Islamorada)
33. Quail bao at Chow Down Grill
32. Fish dish tie- line caught wild Alaskan halibut, baby purple artichokes, meyer lemon, taggiasca olive at Bourbon Steak Miami (Cobaya) & triggerfish tempura, shaved fennel and buddha hand salad at Altamare (Cobaya)
31. Short rib meatloaf at Gigi
30. Shack Burger at Shake Shack
29. Crawfish Bread "French Dip" with Gumbo Consommé (featuring sausage and quail confit) at Chef K & Chadzilla, Sol Kicthen (Cobaya Gras)
28. Coq au vin at Chanticleer South (Islamorada)
27. Croque madame at Bouchon (Yountville)
26. Tie octopus a la plancha (green olives, crispy chorizo & smoked paprika aioli) at Cafe Boulud (PB) and octopus with warm farro and chorizo at Altamare (Cobaya dinner)
25. Red beans and rice & fried chicken- Chef Mike Marshall (a/k/a Big Basco) Cobaya Gras
24. 3 way tie- Oysters at Zuni Cafe (SF), Neptune Oyster & B & G Oyster (Boston)
23. Korean fried sweetbreads & spicy frog legs at Sakaya Kitchen (Cobaya in the night)
22. Burger at Zuni Cafe (SF)
21. Kimchi Benedict (with pork belly) at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
20. Cracklin duck herb sandwich at Dim ssam a go go (Sakaya Kitchen truck)
19. Veal cheeks with mushroom polenta at Casa Tua (prior chef)
18. Xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Yank Sing (SF)
17. Pork Belly with spicy melons at American Noodle
16.Tie Charcuterie plates at McCrady's (Charleston) & Perbacco (SF)
15. Lobster roll at B&G Oyster (Boston)
14. Pork belly and geoduck clam salad at Michael Mina (SF)
13. "fruits de mer", octopus, uni and bay scallops at French Laundry 
12. Warm lobster roll at Neptune Oyster (Boston)
11. Pork buns at Sakaya Kitchen
10. "Five Seas" a tasting of five fish with five preparations at Michael Mina (SF)
9. Veal sweetbread ravioli with porcini mushrooms at Fig (Charleston)
8. Hudson Valley foie gras terrine w/ strawberry, grains of paradise, pistachio, blue basil at  Bourbon Steak Miami (Cobaya dinner)
7. Neptunes on Piggyback (crispy oysters & Berkshire pig) at Neptune Oyster (Boston)
6. Uni (sea urchin) nigiri at Naoe
5. Nantucket Bay scallops & pumpkin risotto at Bourbon Steak Miami
4. "Oysters and Pearls" sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar at French Laundry
3. Porchetta sandwich at Roli Roti Truck (SF)
2. Crispy caw caw pork trotters with a sunny side up farm egg and field pea succotash at Fig (Charleston)
1. Risotto, sea urchin, butternut squash, celery, black truffle at Benu (SF)

I'm really looking forward to 2011!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Favorite Spots 2010

The following is a list of my favorite restaurants for 2010, in no particular order.  These are places I enjoy frequenting on a regular basis because they consistently serve great food and are the best in class.  I highly recommend each place on this list with some of my favorite things at each.  I'm sure I've neglected to mention some, sorry.

Mauro's Pizza-an authentic and great NY slice of Pizza. (Downtown Hollywood)
Sage Bagel and Deli-for the best bagel in South Florida. (Hallandale Beach)
Bourbon Steak- burgers, truffle fries and an old fashioned. Wagyu flat iron and strip rock too.  
Naoe-outstanding Nigiri plus a great bento box to start. (Sunny Isles)
Sakaya Kitchen - Just order everything-to go go and pig out. Make sure you double up on the pork buns.
Epicure Market-tuna fish salad sandwich. None better. 
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink- Brunch, lunch and dinner.  It's all good.
Shake Shack-burgers but don't forget to try the dogs.
Chow Down Grill-fresh Chinese inspired cuisine. Squid ink dumplings.Special board filled with winners.
Gigi-short rib meatloaf & pork belly BLT.
American Noodle-pork belly with spicy melons.
Yakko-San-crispy bok choy, manila clams, kimchee buta, black pork belly.
Sugarcane Raw Bar-tripe w/ kimchi, duck egg & beef tongue stew, bacon wrapped dates, kobe sliders.
gastroPod-banh mi tacos, mo better burger and an old dirt dog.
Sol Kitchen-word on the street is hot regarding the sol roll and banh mi burgers. Crack dip doesn't stink.
El Goyo Pollo- chicken draws crowds but I go for the ceviche mixto, tripe and beef hearts. (Hollywood)
El Tamarindo- great bang for your buck. (Hallandale Beach)
Nakorn- reliable sushi and thai take out.(Hollywood)
Lola's on harrison- gnocchi and short ribs.
Le Tub- don't overlook the gumbo.
Pho 79-banh mi (Pembroke Pines)
Tark's- gator bites and clam bellies.
Timo-oyster salad, pastas.
Altamare- octopus with warm farro & chorizo, housemade wild mushroom ravioli.
Bulldog BBQ-cornmeal crusted oysters, shrimp n grits, beef brisket.
Gourmet Diner-popular caesar salad w/ chicken, vegetable souffles, tenderloin tips and beef burgundy
Southport Raw Bar-steamed old bay shrimp and raw bar.
La Petit Prince (le sandwicherie on Hollywood Beach) salami provolone or pate.
Pizzavolante-cacciatorini and some burrata.
The Cheese Course- applewood bacon sandwich.
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza-solid pizza and even better wings.

RIP- Talula

Places I like that I just didn't get to enough in 2010 to include-

Red Light
Bond St.
BLT Steak
Meat Market

Places I look forward to trying in 2011-

db Bistro Moderne
Pucci's Pizza (long time fan of the prior incarnation)
Royal @ The Raleigh
Area 31 (new chef)

Monday, December 27, 2010

All Cried Out- Last Tiers of a Burger for 2010

I've been on a burger bender again recently so the timing is right for the last Tiers of a Burger for 2010.  

The following burgers are my favorites for 2010 ranked by tiers.


Bourbon Steak (bar/lounge menu)
Burger & Beer Joint 
Shake Shack


Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Charm City
Le Tub
Red Light *have not had in >9 months
Kingdom  *have not had in >9 months


Five Guys
Jack's Old Fashion
Elevation (Coral Springs)

A TIER of Their Own (great non-traditional burgers that are tier one worthy but deserve their own tier)

GastroPod's Mo Better Burger, short rib, brisket and sirloin topped with poached egg, slaw and gPod sauce.
Sakaya Kitchen's Angus beef bulgogi sliders with spicy goat cheese, pickles, roasted pork & kimchi. 
Sugarcane Raw Bar's Kobe sliders with tonkatsu sauce and fried quail egg.

THE WORD UP TIER a/ka The Cameo Tier

Zuni Cafe- SF (easily would be in tier one if local)

Busts (recent disappointments)

Heavy Burger (Aventura) not bad but not tier worthy.

2011 Burger to eat list

The original db Burger @ db Bistro Moderne- sirloin burger filled with short ribs, foie gras and black truffles
Banh Mi Burger from the Sol Kitchen
Boardwalk Burgers (Boca)
Return to Kingdom and Red Light soon

Thursday, December 16, 2010

podBrunch III 12/26/10

I  unfortunately missed the first two podBrunches hosted by Chef Jeremiah and his gastroPod Miami but will hopefully make it to numero tres.

Hey guys & gals, the pod is at it again! We are excited to announce the 3rd installment of the podBrunch series which first took place back in August and then again in October! These are some of the goodies we served at both brunches:
  • Kahlua Iced latte
  • Smoked Trout
  • Sweetbread Sliders with Pickled Peaches and Watercress
  • Cheddar Grits, Poached Egg & House Bacon
  • Sunday Gravy Over Orrechiette
  • Orange Crush Float
  • Trotter Cakes
  • Huevos Rancheros
  • Ricotta Gnocchi
  • Roast Chicken
  • Iced Hazelnut Coffee + Madelines
Our next brunch will take place on Sunday December 26th at 12:30pm. at GAB Studios in Wynwood.
Individual tickets are $28 and are available using the link below:
Buy Now on PayPal
OR you can get 4 tickets for $100 using the link below:
Buy Now on PayPal

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A San Francisco Treat - Day 3

How do you top the one-two punch of Zuni Cafe and Benu from day two? With a combination of Yank Sing, Roli Roti Truck, Boccalone and Michael Mina.

Before I discuss the food of the day, I need to comment on the outstanding coffee that is prevalent throughout the city. Day three started with a solid cup of coffee from the conveniently located Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  We also had a great cup of coffee on day four from Peet's coffee. Okay, no more coffee talk.

Eating dim sum was very high on my SF must do list since it is a specialty plus it's hard to find in my area without making a special trip. I anticipated having to finagle my way to Yank Sing since Chow P is not a huge dim sum fan but I strategically made a reservation for 10:00 a.m. on my birthday.

We were the first to arrive at the Rincon Center location and had to wait a few minutes for the doors to open.  Once seated and tea ordered, the food wasn't far behind.  First up were unbelievable soup dumplings (xiao long bao). We used our chopsticks to carefully transfer the dumplings onto our soup spoons. The dumplings were nice but the real treat was the broth and kurobuta pork inside.  We could have easily ordered several rounds of just these and left very happy.  But dim sum was flying out of the kitchen and there were more treats to try. A dim sum favorite of mine, stuffed lotus leaf with sticky rice, Chinese sausage, mushrooms and sun-dried shrimp arrived next followed by turnip cakes, another favorite.  Both were fantastic.  We were already slowing down but couldn't resist the steamed pork buns filled with bbq pork that were delivered to our table next. The buns were really fluffy and the bbq pork inside was plentiful and delicious.  Up next was our least favorite dish of the day, shrimp dumplings.  They featured a generous portion of shrimp inside a light dumpling but were nothing special.  We wisely elected to stop at that point knowing that we had more great food waiting for us down the block.

Yank Sing on Urbanspoon

101 Spear St
San Francisco, CA 94105

We were only a couple of blocks from the Ferry Building. (surprise surprise)  It was Saturday morning which meant that the famous Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market was in full swing.  Upon arrival we took a lap around the periphery of the market in order to walk off  "sum" of our breakfast.  Once inside, we immediately passed Acme Bread Company, Cowgirl Creamery's Artisan Cheese Shop, and new favorite,  Blue Bottle Coffee.  I was ready for some Blue Bottle but the line was ridiculously long so we passed.  As we continued to walk around Chow P looked at me and said "you really need to live here."  I started to laugh because we were standing in front of Boccalone.  I was still full at this point but there was no way I was going to skip Boccalone especially after bypassing Incanto. (They're related)  I behaved and only ordered a meat cone which is a cone filled with various cuts of excellent meats. I felt and probably looked like a child holding his first ice cream cone as I walked around the Ferry Building licking picking at my meat cone.  Snacks don't get better than the $3.50 Boccalone Salumi Cone.

As I stumbled outside intoxicated on awesome dim sum and salted pig parts all before noon I ran into another target of mine, the Roli Roti truck.  The Roli Roti truck is a mobile gourmet rotisserie, serving only sustainable farmed meats and organic produce.  Working the grill is Rotisseur Thomas Odermatt.  The Roli Roti tip was courtesy of Chowfatherinlaw who was at the Market a few weeks before our visit.  While there, he noticed the hour long line at the truck and inquired about the draw.  He learned that people were clamoring for their porchetta sandwich.

Fortunately for me, the line was rather short thanks to the on and off rain.  My game plan was to order one and bring it back to the hotel  for an afternoon snack.  Yeahhh riiiiight. The out of this world porchetta sandwich is made from pork loin rolled into the pork belly with crispy skin and spiced with organic herbs and garnished with onions and arugula.  Enough said.

After watching them make and wrap our pork, Chow P said "we need to sit down and take a bite of that now." Good, no great call.  I would have dropped to my knees and proposed right there in front of the rotisserie meats with the Bay Bridge in the background if we weren't already married.  We plopped down on a nearby bench and unwrapped the swine delight.

Phenomenal is the only way to describe this sandwich.  It's easily the best pork/porchetta sandwich you will ever find.  The flavorful combination of pork and seasonings is impossible to describe so I won't bother trying.  If you live in SF and have not had this sandwich, you must go and try it. Tourists should make this a must stop when visiting the market.

Roli Roti on Urbanspoon

We spent the rest of the day playing tourist around the wharf area.  I actually passed my first In n Out Burger but was too full to stop and walked on by.  As the day went on we both started to feel sluggish so we made a mid afternoon pit stop at Blue Bottle Coffee.  This time I ordered an off menu item called the Gibraltar which is a double espresso with steamed milk. It was a great tasting coffee packed with a nice punch.

When we were planning our visit to SF, eating at a Michael Mina run establishment was a priority for several reasons.  First, we were very familiar with Chef Mina's accomplishments in the kitchen as well as the business side of the restaurant world. We are fans of Bourbon Steak (Mia) and wanted to experience a Mina restaurant in SF.  Rajat Parr's enticing wine lists was also a draw.  We were also confident that service would be first class.

RN74 was our initial call but as we got closer to the trip we learned that Michael Mina was moving to the old Aqua space and that they were going to be open in time for our visit.  Thus, we changed our reservation to the new Mina.  I must admit that the menu and wine options sounded great at RN74 and we would have easily paid a visit if we had more time in the city.

What to Eat at Michael Mina 2.0, Opening Tuesday
The new Micheal Mina is a sophisticated and inviting space.  The dimly lit room contributes to its sexy appeal.  Upon arrival, my favorite sommelier and one of the best around, Matthew Turner, immediately served us  two glasses of champagne. Chow P has a very good palate and is always happy with Matt's recommendations whether it is a glass of champagne, rose or a new white. Matt also excels at selecting great wines at good price points that pair well with your meal.  He's down to earth and always aims to please. I wish more restaurants had sommeliers like Matt working the floor. 

Chow P was happy with her bubbles and didn't feel like drinking much more so I was on my own.  She also wasn't interested in the delicious sounding tasting menu since we had French Laundry scheduled for the following night.  When I informed Matt that I was drinking solo and still unsure about my food selections, he immediately recommended going with a half bottle of Calera "Reed" pinot noir which was a good call.    

Chef de cuisine, Jeremy Ravetz was formerly executive sous chef at the "old" Michael Mina and a sous chef at Per Se in New York.

We were started with an amuse-bouche consisting of a small cup of  tomato soup served with a miniature grilled cheese sandwich.  I enjoyed this simple gourmet twist on a childhood favorite.

Instead of the traditional side of butter, bread is served with a tasty combination of ricotta and honey sea salt.

I started with the pork belly & geoduck clam.  Whenever you have geoduck and pork belly on the same plate you are bound to have a winner and this delivered.  The flavors and textures of the accompanying squash and chicharrones rounded out a fantastic dish.

This was followed by a shared kabocha squash souffle with black-truffle cream.  This was a delicious combination. 

For my main course I opted for the "five seas" which was a tasting of five Japanese fish. If I recall correctly, I had braised tuna cheek, miso-glazed cod, poached salmon belly, scallop and an unidentified tempura fish. The fish was very fresh, nicely prepared and a perfect portion size.  I really enjoyed the variety of  fish and preparations and wouldn't hesitate to order it again.  I also tried Chow P's dungeness crab pasta pyramids paired with artichoke and Meyer lemon.  She didn't love the dish and I wasn't crazy about it either.  

Along the way, Matt surprised me with two unbelievable pours, a 1961 Petrus followed by a 1969 Cheval-Blanc. I savored each and every drop of this special treat.  We also met Chef Mina which was a pleasure.
Dessert (no menu) was a tasting of various sweets.  Dessert's not my thing but I made a nice dent in the generous sample of treats. It was an enjoyable way to end a great meal and a great day.

Restaurant Michael Mina on Urbanspoon
252 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sol Kitchen Scores on Sol Sunday

A new concept started last week for football and food fans too called Sol Sunday. Cooking in the Sol Kitchen are two chefs from Paradigm fame, Kurtis Jantz and Chad "zilla" Galiano.

In a nutshell, the Sol Kitchen delivers a tailgate party to your front door on NFL Sundays.

The menu is released on Monday night @  and @ along with ordering info. You can also follow them on twitter @solkitchen.

$150 feeds six and currently includes Gello shots, two snacks, two sides, two "touchdowns" (mains) and dessert. The food is delivered to your door in easy to heat and serve trays along with  plates, utensils and a roll of paper towels. It also comes with a play book and menu to help you move the chains. (That's a football term food lovers)

We placed our first order this week and it was delicious.  It was a generous amount of food and a good value. It's perfect for a group watching the games at home or heading to the stadium to tailgate.

This week's menu:

Dark & Stormy gello shot- this featured dark rum and pop rocks.  Now this is my kind of amuse-bouche. 

Kettle chips and charred scallion dip.
Cracka' jax- soy caramel kettle korn with wasabi peas and ginger.

Huancaina Country Potato Salad
Brussels Sprouts with grilled chorizo

Deep South Brisket Po-Boys with gravy and dressing.
Peruvian Wings- aji panca wild black berry bbq sauce
Crawfish griddled cheese with fontina.

Smokin' Oat Cookies- smoked cranberry, white chocolate chunks and pumpkin seeds.

The food arrived at 12:30 (as scheduled) but they will accommodate your delivery time requests.

The food was very impressive and much better than I expected. Two snacks, sides and mains plus dessert resulted in a generous amount of food. The inclusion of plates and utensils was an added bonus and a very nice and convenient touch.

The brisket po-boy and the Brussels sprouts with chorizo were my favorite dishes followed closely by the crawfish griddled cheese and wings. The scallion dip was hard to put down and cracka jax was a perfect snack during the game.

The brisket was really tender and packed with flavorful gravy that reminded me of the debris from Mother's in NO. The dressing was also excellent and a perfect combination. The chorizo and Brussels were perfectly grilled and very tasty. The meat of the wings fell off the bone and the bbq sauce was great. I'm always excited to see crawfish on a menu and their crawfish grilled cheese didn't disappoint.

I'm looking forward to ordering again in the near future as well as the playoffs and Super Bowl.
It could be a good call for holiday office parties too. (not sure if that is going to be an option but may be worth inquiring about)


Thursday, November 11, 2010

A San Francisco Treat - Day 2

Day Two

Chow P likes to shop more than I like to eat.  That's actually debatable but you get the point. 

Chow P is very happy when she gets to shop. I am very happy when I get to eat.

Chow P is even happier when we go on vacation to shopping meccas.  I am even happier when we go on vacation to food meccas.
We were both very happy on day two in San Francisco...

Our hotel was intentionally conveniently located on Market St. just steps away from  the best shopping in San Francisco and probably some of the best shopping in the world. (not that I would know) Thus, we started day two drum roll please SHOPPING.  I'm cool with it and I'm a sport because I know that when Chow P gets to shop I get to eat. Win win baby.  That's how we roll.  Besides she gets hungry when she shops, wink wink.  Okay,  I will not bore you with any more shop talk.

After a draining morning we were both ready for some caffeine.  Ed a/k/a lax2mia, a trusted Miami food source who hails from the west coast told me that a visit to Blue Bottle Coffee was a must do.  There was one located close to out hotel and Union Square (Mint Plaza) so that's where we went.  Chow P and I both attended college in New Orleans so their New Orleans iced coffee was a no-brainer.  The coffees were awesome and reminded us of the beloved chicory coffee served at cafe du monde.

It should be noted that Ed also recommended getting a maple glazed bacon apple donut @ but we were unfortunately (sigh) never in the vicinity because that sounds insanely good.
Blue Bottle Cafe on Urbanspoon
66 Mint St
San Francisco, CA 94103

After additional  mannequin watching we were finally ready for lunch.  The legendary  Zuni Cafe was on our must do list and it appeared to be the perfect spot for lunch.  It also opened up another dinner slot.
Let me start off by saying that I could eat lunch and dinner at Zuni every day for the rest of my life.    I loved the space, I loved the menu and I loved the food. 

Upon arrival, I was feeling good thanks to the lingering chicory buzz compliments of Blue Bottle.  Fortunately, our table wasn't ready when we arrived so we got to spend some appreciated time at the bar.  After perusing the cocktail menu I immediately ordered a Balsamic Bloody Mary.  I've had my share of drinks thanks to spending several years in New Orleans and South Beach but I must admit that I've never had a Balsamic Bloody Mary.  Zuni's version (are there any others?) was topped with a spicy pepper-onion relish.  This was so surprisingly good that I finished it in three sips.  What a start!!

While being escorted to our table we walked right past the oyster bar.  Hello!! I quickly ordered a round of oysters, Kusshis from British Columbia, Pacific Hog Islands from Tomales Bay and Beau Soleils from New Brunswick.  I intended on sticking to the Pacific but the Soleils were highly recommended by our server.  I paired the very fresh and tasty oysters with a Pierre Moncuit Brut Blanc de Blanc grand cru champagne. This was a perfect combination and the way lunch should always be.

Ahh but appetizers are appetizers and there was a famous house-ground hamburger on the way.  The Zuni burger is only served during lunch and late night thus adding to its appeal.  The Zuni burger is served on a grilled rosemary focaccia bun with lettuce, garlic aioli, and pickles.  Juicy but not overly, flavorful and perfectly cooked.    This was an outstanding burger and easily one of the best I've ever had.

Chow P predictably ordered the classic caesar salad (okay, she's a caesar expert) which she enjoyed but didn't love. I lobbied for the house-made anchovies but she vetoed the order knowing we had dinner at Benu. 

Again, Zuni is my kind of place and I'd love to go back to try their famous roast chicken with bread salad.

ZUNI Café on Urbanspoon

1658 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

In a nutshell, our dinner at Benu was fantastic.  It was easily one of the best meals I've had all year, if not the best and that includes visits to Alinea and French Laundry.

Benu wasn't initially on my radar since  it only opened in mid August and I started planning our trip in July. I had local favorite, Frances, penciled in for our night two dinner from the onset and was luckily able to obtain a Friday night reservation.  True to form, I continued to follow the SF dining scene post reservation and Benu was off to a promising start.  As the positive reviews flowed in I knew I needed to incorporate Benu into our itinerary. The decision became a no-brainer following sommelier Matt T's rave review.  With the new Michael Mina being locked in for night three, Frances became an unexpected casualty.       

Benu is owned and operated by James Beard award winning chef, Corey Lee who spent several years as chef de cuisine at The French Laundry.  It should be noted that Thomas Keller is a partner of Benu.  He is obviously a shrewd investor...  

The tasting menu sounded great amazing on our visit but Chow P wisely pre-negotiated going a la carte knowing that we still had Mina and FL upcoming so I reluctantly (and looking back sadly) obliged.

I'm unable to recall what the amuse-bouche consisted of but I do recall an explosion of flavor.

Although we bypassed the tasting menu, Chow P and each ordered several items in order to sample a wide spectrum of Benu's menu.

I started with the risotto comprised of butternut squash, celery, black truffles and topped with several pieces of phenomenal sea urchin.  Holy shit!!!! Best dish ever caliber.  

I followed that up with a big fin squid and pork belly dish that was served with eggplant, broccolini, onion and fermented pepper.  The squid and pork belly were both of high quality and the supporting ingredients solidified the dish.  

My last course was a beef rib cap paired with daikon, chestnut, and mustard green.  I'm a big fan of rib cap and have had very good versions at Talula and Bourbon Steak. Benu's was cooked to a perfect medium rare and was packed with juicy flavor.  The steak was very tender and the mustard green was a nice compliment.

  Chow P started with parsnip soup combined with vanilla, dates, black truffle and celery.  She raved about this soup all weekend and still does.  I was able to steal a spoonful and it was delicious.  It was easily one of the best soups we've ever had.  She followed that up with an al dente cooked rigatoni with sea cucumber, oxtail, wood ear mushroom, star anise and red wine. Chow P really enjoyed this dish as well.  She's a light eater so there was ample left for me to try.  I  really liked the combination of flavors and textures Chef  Lee incorporated in this dish.  The casual observer may regrettably pass on this dish because it's a "rigatoni" but there is so much more going on here.

Chow P impressively followed the rigatoni  up with deer wrapped in bacon.  "I'm no wimp" was proudly heard from across the table.  I was tempted to counter with an "I love Chanel" but opted for the more subtle nod of approval.

I had my eye on this dish but happily switched to the rib cap after hearing Chow P utter the words bacon and deer.  She's no wimp but she also doesn't have my belly.  Thus, there was plenty left for me and it was equally as good as the rib cap.   

Sommelier Yoon Ha was very friendly and helpful.  He paired each dish with great wine (sake for the risotto/uni dish) and spent a lot of time explaining his selections.  You could really feel his passion for wine.  This is a sommelier who gets "it" and is most likely one of the best in the Country.

Benu is a very special place and a restaurant that should be on the top of everyone's must do list when visiting San Francisco. It's creative, cutting edge and Chef Lee's precise techniques shine through.

I suspect that Benu will be mentioned in the same conversation as French Laundry and Alinea in the very near future.

22 Hawthorne Ln (at Howard St)
San Francisco, CA 94105

Benu on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A San Francisco Treat - Day 1

I was celebrating a big birthday this year and Chow P thought San Francisco would be the perfect spot because of my love of food and wine plus I had never been there before.

After booking our flights I eagerly started researching restaurants.  We initially had only four nights so I knew it was going to be a difficult task narrowing down our selections.  This became even harder when we excitedly decided to spend the last day in Napa.   With just three nights, I had my work cut out for me.  

The first reservation I made was at Incanto.  I'd heard great things about the Italian food being served in San Francisco and wanted to make that a priority one night.  I was also very familiar with Chef Cosentino's passion for working with offal.  His dishes always sound interesting and the combination of pasta and offal was something I knew I would really enjoy.

However, I reluctantly ended up canceling the reservation and substituting in Perbacco.  We made the change primarily because Perbacco was closer to the hotel and we knew we would be tired after the long flight coupled with the time change.  I also wanted to set the proper eating tone for the rest of the trip. I couldn't afford to lose Chow P on night one with a long cab ride coupled with an adventurous menu.  I wasn't overly concerned about the swap because I had also heard very good things about Perbacco and knew that we weren't stepping down in class. 

Our reservation was early for us (6:30) on a Thursday night.  I expected it to be crowded at that time since it is located in the Financial District and it was packed.  It was lively and had the buzz of a big city.  Our waiter was friendly and helpful.

I started with a small order of the house cured salumi (salumi misti).  This featured approximately seven to eight different meat selections and was a very generous portion size.  I knew going in that I wasn't going to get much help from across the table and this really needed to be shared.  I tried everything but intentionally did not finish it all because I wanted to save room for an appetizer and pasta.  I did not know exactly what was on the plate  but I can tell you that this was some of the best salumi I've had anywhere and I will leave it at that.

Up next was a dish I couldn't wait to try after seeing it on the menu.  It was roasted octopus and poached wagyu beef tongue served with golden potatoes, celery heart and salsa verde were equally as impressive.  The octopus was fresh, cooked perfectly and tender.  The beef tongue was sliced very thin (carpaccio) and was also very tender.  The celery heart, salsa verde and potatoes were extremely flavorful and really brought the dish together.  It was a delicious combination.  Chow P proved that the switch was a good call by starting with a salad that was well, a salad.

We were both looking forward to taking advantage of Perbacco's numerous housemade pastas since we have a hard time finding fresh pasta in Miami.  Thus, we ordered the Tris, three tastings of pastas to be shared by the table.  The selections were the diners choice and I believe there were approximately ten dishes on our visit. They all sounded fantastic so it took us some time narrowing down our choices.  Our first choice was the Robaton, a truffle herbed ricotta gnocchi with wild mushroom sugo.  Our second selection was pappardelle with black belly lamb ragu, peas and mint.  Our last selection was the Tajarin, tagliatelle served with 5 hour pork sugo and porcini mushrooms.

We enjoyed all three pasta dishes but felt that they were on the heavy side. This was probably our fault since we ordered the lamb ragu and pork sugo.  The pasta was very fresh and cooked perfectly.  The meats and sauces were flavorful and hearty.  We both really enjoyed the soft gnocchi along the wild mushroom sugo.  It  was probably my favorite pasta dish of the night although the lamb ragu with mint were a flavorful combination.

As usual, I knowingly over ordered.  Thus, no dessert for me.  

The atmosphere was perfect for our first night in town after a long flight.  Perbacco was very good but I wouldn't put it in the "special" category especially by San Francisco standards.  That said, if I lived there you would find me sitting at the bar eating the salumi misti on a regular basis.

The new Michael Mina (in the old Aqua location) was just  three doors down so we popped in to say hello to John Riccardo, GM @ Bourbon Steak Miami who was in town assisting with the opening week. Sommelier Matthew Turner (formerly of Bourbon Steak Miami) was working the floor and poured us a great glass of champagne.  It's a great looking space and I really enjoyed my birthday dinner there on day 3.  Stay tuned.

Perbacco on Urbanspoon

230 California St
San Francisco, CA 94111

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Charity Table for Pediatric Hospitals @ The Grill on the Alley

Now through November 12, The Grill on the Alley at Aventura Mall will be accepting reservations for the Rally for Kids with Cancer Rally Table. When guests dine at The Grill’s Rally Table, 65 percent of their bill will directly benefit Jackson Memorial Foundation, IKF Wonderfund and Holtz Children’s Hospital. The Rally Table is part of the annual nationwide fundraiser the Rally for Kids with Cancer Scavenger Hunt, which has raised more than $5 million in funds for foundations focused on children’s cancer research, treatment and care since it’s inception in 2008.

The Grill on the Alley is open daily at 11 a.m. and reservations are available for the Rally Table for both lunch and dinner by calling 305.466.7195.  To learn more about Rally for Kids with Cancer visit

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sol Full Sundays

South Florida's newest food truck, Sol Kitchen, is getting ready to roll this week to your front door.  
Chef K and Chadzilla from Paradigm fame will be in the Sol Kitchen preparing Sol Food for your football Sunday.

The 1st menu (NFL Week 9)
'Jock'tail- Bloody "Hail Mary" gello shots
Cracka-Jax- SK's home-made version with brown sugar kettle corn, Mexican japones, and pumpkin spice
Chips & Dip- charred scallion & kettle chips

Touchdown!!! (or some more substantial grub)
Grid-Iron Wings- root beer marinated, grilled with onions and poblanos
Sol Roll- chilled shrimp salad, buttered potato roll, Maine-influence (that means lobstah roll-style)
Korean BBQ Pork- on a bun, kimchee slaw

2 Minute Warning ~ 1 Timeout Remaining...
Bourbon Brownies- smoked pecans, dulce de leche

$150 feeds 6 with a choice of 2 touchdowns (wings, sol roll, or pork)... or Man Up! and get all 3 touchdowns for $180 (again for 6, but more chance of having left-overs for the Monday night game at home after work).

To order email SK at  All orders must be in by Thursday afternoon.
You will receive the food packed up on Sunday late morning (Miami and surrounding area only) along with a Play Book (just a set of instructions on how to set your oven and hold the grub throughout the game).

Mention the J-E-T-S when you order and receive a free brownie and shot of Bourbon.  KIDDING.
These guys can cook so check them out.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010 NFL Survivor Pool Pick Week 8

Another 40% of my remaining pool was eliminated last week primarily due to the Browns win over the Saints.  The Ravens barely came through for us.

Tennessee, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, Indianapolis, NY Giants and Baltimore are of the board.

Week 8 is going to be another difficult week.  I was leaning toward Dallas before the injury to Romo. Kitna steps in for a Dallas team that has to win this one.  
Another option is Kansas City at home against the win less Bills.  I suspect that a lot of people will go with the Chiefs this week.  This one scares me.

My J-E-T-S are coming off a bye week and are at home against the injury plagued Packers.  The Jets are a good play but I want to hold onto them for a better matchup.

Tough week

Official Pick is...

Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders :: Getty Images

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kids, Cupcakes and Halloween

Macy’s Home Store at Aventura Mall:

WHO:        Macy’s Home Store at Aventura Mall will host Alisa Romano, Founder and Chef of Alisa’s Painted Bistro. Chef Alisa Romano will demonstrate how to make pumpkin and vanilla cupcakes and teach you how to decorate your sweets like a pro.  Kids will get the opportunity to use their creativity to decorate their own cupcakes with different Halloween icings and toppings, all with the help of Alisa’s Painted Bistro Cupcake Masters!  Samples of mini pumpkin and vanilla cupcakes will be served while supplies last.
        The first 50 kids who come in costume will be able to participate in our Halloween Costume Contest.  
WHERE:                The Kitchen at The Cellar
                        Aventura Macy’s Home Store- Second Floor
Aventura Mall
                        19535 Biscayne Boulevard
                        Miami, Fl 33180

WHEN:                Saturday, October 30th, 2010

TIME:                        1:00 p.m.

Macy’s Home Store at Dadeland Mall:

WHO:        Macy’s Home Store at Dadeland Mall will host Chef Mischa of Mischa’s Cupcakes for a festive cooking demonstration and tasting. Chef Mischa will prepare ghoulishly good desserts and a spooky hot mocktail!  Samples will be served while supplies last.

        The first 50 kids in costume will receive a Macy’s trick or treat bag!
WHERE:                The Kitchen at The Cellar
                        Dadeland Macy’s Home Store- Second Floor
                        Dadeland Mall
                        7675 SW 88th Street
                        Miami, Fl 33156

WHEN:                Saturday, October 30th, 2010

TIME:                        1:00 p.m.

CONTACT:        Please contact Dori Robau  at (305) 577-1973 or via email at to schedule media interviews in advance.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 NFL Survivor pool Pick Week 7

Back to back wins by the Manning boys for us.

Tennessee, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, Indianapolis and the Giants have been used and are off the board.

Baltimore returns home after a tough loss in OT against the Patriots to face the Bills.  Need I say more??

Official pick is...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cocktail Therapy @ Lola's on harrison 10/19/10

cocktail therapy
Sit back, unwind, and leave the day's stress behind.....

October : "Fall Flavors" 
Tuesday October 19th - Cocktail Tasting

$ 20 Per Person- 2 Person Minimum

Designed by guest request- we have created a cocktail sampling party.  Join our mixologist Jennifer Lancaster as she serves up tastings of her hand crafted artisanal cocktails.  Price includes a three cocktail sampler that our chef/owner Michael Wagner has paired with some great appetizers.  Tax and Gratuity not included.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 NFL Survivor Pool Pick Week 6

It's always nice having Peyton on your side.  The Chiefs are on the rise and should contend for a playoff spot but didn't have enough to beat the Colts at home. 

40% of my pool was eliminated last week thanks to the Bengals, Cowboys, Chargers and Saints.

Tennessee, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans and Indianapolis are off the board.

Two options for us in week 6.  The Steelers are home against the Mangina led quarterback less Browns.  The Steelers are coming off a bye and Big Ben returns.  The only way this game is close is if Ben is really rusty. 

The surging Giants return home to face the 1-4 Lions.  The Lions are an awful road team.  They may keep this close early but Eli should be able to take advantage of their suspect secondary.  Giants roll.

As you know, I advocate taking the best game every week and avoid looking ahead.  However, I'm going to change it up this week and make a strategic move.  A significant amount of people used the Giants in week 1 in my pool.  Thus, I anticipate a lot of play on the Steelers.  The Steelers have some strong home games down the road and the Giants have none.  If the Giants win and the Steelers lose you will be in great shape.

Official pick is....


Art of Cigar & Bourbon Pairing @ Bourbon Steak 11/1/10

Art of Cigar & Bourbon Pairing at BOURBON STEAK Miami

To celebrate the launch of its new cigar menu, BOURBON STEAK invites the public to become connoisseurs during the first chapter of a monthly interactive series to be held at Celebrity Chef Michael Mina’s popular Miami restaurant on Monday, November 1 starting at 6 p.m. Participants will be immersed in the same extensive training the restaurant team. During the educational class, attendees will learn everything from the history of cigars, etiquette, selecting, cutting and handling cigars to lighting and smoking them, as well as accompaniments and flavor profiles.

The cost to participate is $20 per person and includes a cigar, a complimentary cocktail and a 10 percent savings on any cigars purchased that evening. Participants will also be entered into a contest to win a 150ct lacquered ebony humidor valued at $250.

Stay for dinner and enjoy half-priced bottles of wine and complimentary valet parking. Space is limited and reservations are required by calling (786) 279-6600. BOURBON STEAK Miami is located off the main lobby of the legendary Fairmont Turnberry Isle. Outdoor seating with full menu is now available.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Charity + Food x 2 = 10/17/10

I would recommend skipping breakfast and lunch this Sunday in order to take advantage of two local food events for charity.
Proceeds benefit Friends of the Fisherman
Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door
Book online at

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill
3250 NE 1 Ave, Miami

Save some room and head North for a family style Sunday dinner at Timo.  The dinner is being hosted by Next Food Network Star contestants Aria Kagan and Herb Mesa from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.. The three-course Italian-style Sunday dinner costs $50 for adults and $25 for children 10 and under. Kids 3 and under are free. There will also be a silent auction.

Proceeds benefit Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Call 305-936-1008 for reservations

Timo Restaurant & Bar
17624 Collins Ave
Sunny Isles, FL 33160

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2010 NFL Survivor Pool Pick Week 5

We were due for a close game after three easy wins to start the season and boy did we get one.  One is enough for me...

Tennessee, Green Bay, New England, and New Orleans have been used and are off the board. 

There are not a lot of great home team options in week 5.  I think a lot of people will give serious consideration to Cincinnati this week.  They are home against Tampa Bay and will most likely win that game but I think Tampa's defense keeps it close enough to have a shot at the win.  I'm staying away.

Baltimore may be the best team in the league and should beat a Denver team traveling East again.  However, Baltimore is coming off a tough road game against their division rival and could come out flat.

The Kansas City Chiefs head to Indianapolis looking to remain undefeated.  The Chiefs are on the rise and coming off a bye week. The Colts are not playing great so this game may be closer than initially anticipated.  That being said, I'll take my chances with Peyton at home coming off a loss. 

Official pick is....

Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010 NFL Survivor Pool Pick Week 4

The Patriots made it interesting during the first half before pulling away for the comfortable win in week 3. 
Tennessee, Green Bay and New England are off the board. 
I'm starting to have a better feel for the league with three weeks complete.  There are three potential plays this week.  Green Bay returns home after a tough Monday night loss against the Bears to face the 0-3 Lions. They are a big favorite and I would be shocked if they lost this game despite the short week.  They are not available to us so I will move on. 

San Diego returns home after losing to Seattle last week.  Philip Rivers should be able to put the Chargers in position to score a few TD's against Arizona.  Very tempted to use the Chargers this week but I'm not sure I want to take a chance on Norv...

The Saints suffered a tough loss to the Falcons last week.  Their offense hasn't clicked this year yet but Carolina's rookie QB Clausen will have his hands full with the Saints defense and the rockin dome.  I'd love to save the Saints for later in the season but this one is too good to pass up.

Official pick is

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shmaltz Brewing Company Tasting @ Hollywood Vine 10/1

Shmaltz Brewing Company  

He'brew Beer logo

Friday October 1st , 2010
7:00-9:00 pm
No charge for tastings

Conney Island Lager

American Amber, Red Ale.
This is a hybrid mashup of European tradition boasts an unusual malt bill (eight), hops (six), a Czech Pils yeast, and dry-hopping with Cascades. Copper in color, bright, clear, and topped with an off-white foamy lace. Aroma is clean, beery, lagery, with some faint DMS, spicy herbal hop and some steeliness. Smooth and silky consistency, fluffy with a medium body and a crisp carbonation. Toasty malts up front with a moderate sweetness, some caramel, orange note, and dusting of herbal hop character

Retail $8.75 (22 oz)


He'Brew Genesis Ale 

American Brown Ale.

The color is a light brown that's more of a dark red brown with amber-brown highlights, A small off-white head forms and dissipates somewhat quickly, laving some spotty lacing on the glass.
There's a malt and hops balance offering aromas of caramel and light pine with just a touch of citrus and a nutty note.

Retail $2.75 (12 oz)

He'Brew Lenny’s RIPA on Rye

Rye Double India Pale Ale Agen on Rye whiskey barrels.
Brewed with heavy amounts of malts and hops. The whiskey barrel smooths out the double IPA bitterness.  An amazingly complex beer. 

Retail $4.50 (12oz)

He'Brew Rejewvenator (Year Of The Date) 2010

Half Dopplebock Half Belgian Style Dunkel brewed with natural concord grape juice.
Pours a murky walnut brown. Very sweet aroma, at times almost vinous, but primarily reflecting sweet fruit and nuts, but also offering some generous yeast aromas. The palate is similar with immediate malty sweetness including caramel, fruit, and nuts.

Retail $8.75 (22 oz)

Coney Island Freaktoberfest

Pours blood orange red  with a two finger off-pink head. The aroma is comprised Light grains, herbal, and a faint suggestion of sweetness in the nose. Very smooth and creamy up front, with a fluffy medium body. Carbonation is crisp and refreshing. Malty sweet, but not overbearing.

 Retail $4.50 (12 oz)

20% off  on 1-5 bottle take out
35% off on a six-pack mix and match take out
Hollywood Vine
2035 Harrison Street
Hollywood, FL 33020
954-922-7660 fax

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

2010 NFL Survivor Pick Week 3

 Another easy win in week 2 thanks to Green Bay (Bills too).  I hope no one got caught in that Dallas trap.  That is why you take the best game and move on.  On to week 3.  Tennessee and Green Bay are off the board.   There are two strong plays this week but one is a no-brainer.  Baltimore is at home against Cleveland and should have no problem shutting them down.  They've dominated the series recently and that trend should continue here.  New England returns home after a tough loss to the rival Jets to face the offensively challenged Bills. The Bills are making a QB change which should help but it will not be enough. I normally shy away from division rivalries but  the Patriots will come out swinging and will roll.

The official pick is....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

THE Ballot ... 2010 Short Order Awards

As some of you may be aware, the Miami New Times food blog, Short Order is currently conducting a poll in order to determine the winners of their first ever Short Order awards.  Voting is open to everyone and winners will be revealed at the Iron Fork event on October 21.

My nomination ballot looked like this:

Best Chef - Tough call as there are many deserving chefs in the area.  I went with Chef Kevin Cory @ NAOE because what he is doing over in Sunny Isles is unique, special and extraordinary.

Best Up & Coming Chef- Hales, Bullfrog, Gorenstein, Balloo, & Stojanovic are all on the rise and nomination worthy but my nomination went to Chef Gabriel Fenton @ Bourbon Steak.  From the addictive duck fat fries to the areas best burgers and steaks, Chef Fenton consistently shines.  His soups, sides, appetizers and entrees never disappoint.  Write in Chef Fenton!!! 

Best Pastry Chef- They should have called this category ABH, anyone but Hedy.(compliment) The Stevie Nick's award goes to....

Best Restaurant- Another difficult call.  My 2010 favorites included Bourbon Steak, Michael's Genuine, Sugarcane Raw Bar & Sakaya Kitchen.  My nomination went to NAOE.

Best Plate- I thought about nominating the burgers at Shake Shack and Bourbon Steak but didn't think they qualified as "plates".  Thus, I went with the Bento Box @ NAOE and the Pork Buns @ Sakaya Kitchen.  Sooo good!!!

Other categories I'd like to see included in the 2011 awards are best food truck, new restaurant, wine/beer list, hostess, valet (kidding, I want my sunglasses back bitch!!), waiter, sommelier and gm. Fernan I got you!!!!!!!!!!

You can vote for YOUR favorites here

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cafe Boulud (Palm Beach) 9/10

I recently had the opportunity to make a return visit to Cafe Boulud located at the Brazilian Court hotel in Palm Beach.  The restaurant was packed with a very diverse crowd on a Friday night.  Executive chef Zach Bell is a 2010 James Beard finalist. (won by Miami's Michael Schwartz)        

Cafe Boulud's menu is comprised of  four sections.  La Tradition highlights classic French dishes, Le Plus Simple features simply prepared dishes, La Saison features courses in harmony with the season and Le Voyage is Daniel Boulud's (& Bell) interpretation of various world cuisines.

I unintentionally ended up ordering an appetizer and entree from the same section, Le Voyage.  First up was the knockout dish, octopus a la plancha.  Chef Bell's version featured perfectly cooked octopus with
green olives, crispy chorizo, red onions, piquillo peppers and smoked paprika aioli.  The combination of ingredients and flavors were so delicious I almost ordered another one.  

For my entree I opted for the yellowtail snapper alla griglia which was a twitter recommended dish by @ PetronArbiter. This was another winner.  The yellowtail was served with meaty and tasty sautéed bluefoot mushrooms, baby carrots, delicious warm fregola salad and Italian salsa verde. 
I was also fortunate to sample the tomato tartine which featured heirloom tomatoes, grilled sourdough
chevre, purple mustard vinaigrette and basil as well as the risotto primavera accompanied by summer vegetables, pea shoots and a saffron emulsion.  Both were great.

Dessert was a surprisingly tasty raspberry vacherin served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet.

Cafe Boulud features an interesting and diverse menu that is executed to perfection by Chef Bell.  I wish I lived closer. 

Café Boulud

Cafe Boulud on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 NFL Suicide Pick Week 2

Sorry for the late posting this week.  My modem died on Monday and AT&T didn't ship it overnight as I requested.  Tennessee  came through with an easy win over the Raiders in week one.

There are two games that I really like this week.

The Bears travel to Dallas for their home opener.  Chicago should have lost last week to Detroit while Dallas lost a tough one on the road to Washington.  I expect Dallas to come out strong and win by double digits.

Green Bay heads home to face the Buffalo Bills.  The Bills offense was unimpressive last week against the Dolphins.   Green Bay is better on both sides of the ball and much better at QB.  They win this one easily.

I considered holding Green Bay until later in the year but I hate to look ahead.

Official pick is

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 NFL Survivor Pick Week One

NFL eve is here and I'm ready to roll.  Week one features a lot of evenly matched teams making this a difficult week.  Additionally, most of the teams I like this week are on the road and I rarely pick a road team especially early in the season.   Nevertheless, I've isolated a couple of games that I believe are strong week one plays.

The Giants are looking to bounce back this year and open the season in their new stadium against the Carolina Panthers.  John Fox usually has his teams prepared to play but the Giants have revamped their defense (Rolle) and Eli will be ready to go on opening day.  The Giants are the better team, at home and opening a new stadium.  Giants win this one.

One of my favorite strategies is picking against a West coast team traveling east for an early kickoff.  The Raiders are doing just that in week one when they travel to Tennessee. Although they aren't on the East coast it's still a long trip and an early start.  I expect the Raiders to be an improved team this year but Tennessee is a better team all around and their defense should be able to shut down the Raiders offense.  Chris Johnson will have another big game and lead Tennessee to the win.

Week one official pick is