Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Free Bourbon Tasting 4/5

Bourbon Tasting at Morton's Aventura with NFL players as guest bartenders. All tips will go to charity. There is NO COVER, complimentary Bourbon tasting, free appetizers, and $5 bar bites all night.

Tiers of Excellence (Miami)

Tier 1- Best of the Best

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
Bourbon Steak
Casa Tua

Tier 2

BLT Steak
Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill

Tier 3

Red Light
Meat Market

Tier 4

Hakkasan (dim sum)
Bond St
Sra Martinez
Joe's Stone Crab

Casual Side Tier

Sakaya Kitchen
Burger Bar at Bourbon Steak
Burger & Beer Joint

Notes- I removed prior favorites, Nobu, Prime 112 and Macaluso's from consideration because I have not been back in a while.  Notables that I have not been to include Palm d'Or, Osteria del Teatro, Matsuri, Gastropod.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cobaya @ Altamare

Claudio Giordano's new and improved Altamare recently hosted the latest and very enjoyable Cobaya dinner.  You can find more information on Cobaya here http://cobayamiami.blogspot.com/

Claudio was a great host as usual.  He was responsible for the perfect wine pairings and generous pours. A class act.

New Chef Simon Stojanovic (formerly of Michael's Genuine) treated us to five delightful dishes and a perfect progression.  He started the evening with a thin and generous portion of really fresh sheepshead carpaccio.  It was nicely seasoned with some sea salt and a touch of citrus.  It was paired with a delicious Charles Lafitte Brut Champagne.

Next up was a perfectly cooked triggerfish tempura. The beer tempura was light and properly complimented the moist and tasty triggerfish. It was served with a fennel and buddha hand salad.  This was a simple looking presentation but it really delivered. I had a difficult time putting my fork down on this one.  This was one of the best fish dishes I've had in a long time including the numerous ones we sampled at Cobaya Fin. I would look for this dish if it's on the regular menu.  Claudio paired this well with a very nice Sauvignon Blanc from Joel Gott.      

Chef Simon followed this up with one of my favorite things, grilled octopus.  His version had a very nice char to it without sacrificing any tenderness or flavor. It also featured some chorizo.  This was paired with a nice Sardinian red whose name escapes me.

Next up was a house made pappardelle with tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella plus the dish stealing, braised short ribs.  The pappardelle was good but the short rib was the star, very tender and tasty.  Another winner that I would look out for on the menu.  Claudio simply stated that the sauce required a Chianti which I enjoyed as well. 

Chef Simon finished aggressively and strongly with a nice Deep Creek Ranch grilled lamb heart dish. I would assume that this is a difficult item to prepare.  No worries because he nailed it!!  Even the less adventurous at the table enjoyed it.  This was clearly a Cobayaesque type dish and I hope Chef S enjoyed preparing it for us.  I'm sure it will be hard to find on their regular menu but a cameo or two would be nice.  This was paired with a Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat.

New pastry chef (impressive that they have one) Crystal Cullison ended the evening with a very nice chocolate and fennel sponge cake dessert.

I didn't take any notes during the dinner so I know I'm missing some details that others can help fill in.

In a nutshell, this was a very enjoyable evening.  It was a fun group with a great host.   His staff continues to provide some of the best service on South Beach.  The new space looked great and the loyal local following should continue.  I'm looking forward to going back soon and working my way through the new menu items.  They are also open for lunch now and I'm craving that rock shrimp po'boy. 

Altamare on Urbanspoon


altamare cocktail bar.jpga

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Slow Food Brunch @ Lola's on harrison 3/21/10

Slow Sunday Brunch
Honoring Special Guest Poppy Tooker

                                                 poppy tooker


Datil Pepper Bloody Mary

Strawberry - Swank Farms Mint Sangria

Varrigreen Farm Carrot, Orange-Ginger Saketini


Plantain Muffins
Spiced Local Honey Butter

Hani's Mediterranean Organics Goat Cheese Blintzes
Local Florida Strawberry Sauce

Wild Ocean Rock Shrimp Burgers
Swank Farms Bibb Lettuce, Florida Tomatoes. Swank Farms Micro Purple Basil, Amarillo Pepper Mayonnaise

Banana Stuffed French Toast
With a Cinnamon- Oat Streusal Topping

Rock Lobster Frittata
Deep Creek Ranch Shortrib Benedict,
Swank Farms Spinach, Cheddar Cheese Biscuits, Lake Meadow Naturals Poached Egg,
Swank Farms Mixed Herb BĂ©arnaise Sauce


Spiced Local Honey Bacon
Swank Farms Spring Onion- Potato Hash
Palmetto Creek Farms Sausage

Come join Slow Food Glades to Coast as Guest of Honor, Poppy Tooker, creates one of her famous New Orleans dishes and speaks about her work saving local food traditions, her TV series Eat It to Save It & Edible Schoolyard. http://www.poppytooker.com/Home.html

Chef Michael Wagner has sourced some amazing local products to create a Florida grown family style brunch.  Lola's Mixologist Jennifer Lancaster has also created some local libations to help us toast the morning and celebrate the wonderful bounty our region has to offer.  Proceeds from the brunch will be benefitting the Slow Foods Glades to Coast convivium.
A limited number of Poppy's new cookbook, 
Crescent ty Farmers Market Cookbook will be on sale and available for signing during the event. For re information visit http://www.poppytooker.com/Cookbook.html

Sunday March 21st, 2010 10:30 am - 1:00pm

$35.95 Slow Food members
$39.95 non members



Friday, March 5, 2010

Boulud & Bernstein

I recently spent 24 hours in Palm Beach and was fortunate to have exceptional meals at Cafe Boulud and Michelle Bernstein's.  Obviously, neither chef was in either kitchen at the time but their influence was clearly seen all over the menu and in the execution of the food. 

Our first stop was at Cafe Boulud which is located at the Brazilian Court hotel a couple of block north of Worth Avenue. We stopped by for lunch on a rainy Saturday so we were unable to take advantage of the outside courtyard area.  Prior to opening the menu we did not know that they only served brunch on the weekends.  I was initially disappointed because I didn't come to a Boulud establishment looking for eggs or French toast although I'm sure they would be awesome.  A quick glance of the menu and lunch type offerings allayed my fears.

The brunch features a $28.00 three course meal.  You are provided a few options for each course.  It should be noted that you can order any item a la carte if you are not in the mood for a three course lunch.  The prix fixe is the way to go from a value standpoint.

I started with the country pate which was served with homemade pickles and artisan mustards alongside toasted bread.  The pate had a nice texture and range of flavors.  The bread, pate, and mustard combo was delightful.  I would go back for this dish alone.

My second course choice was not an easy one thanks to the presence of moules frites, Mediterranean grilled quail and roasted monkfish.  The spiced lentils, roasted eggplant and fennel emulsion that accompanied the monkfish sealed the deal for me.  The monkfish was cooked perfectly and every bite was enjoyable.  The lentils were even better and I really liked they way they roasted the eggplant.  I finished my meal with a flowerless chocolate cake with soft caramel and dark chocolate ice cream.  Again, I am not a dessert person and generally only order it on birthdays or as part of a prix fixe.  Anyway, this was a winner.  The cake was really moist and subtlety sweet.

The executive chef is Zach Bell who is a 2010 James Beard award semifinalist for best chef in the South and he deserves a lot of the credit.  I wish I lived closer so I could go back for dinner(s).  Boulud and Bell have a good thing going up there.

Cafe Boulud on Urbanspoon

Palm Beach
301 Australian Ave
Palm Beach, FL 33480

The next stop on the Palm Beach food tour had us at Michelle Bernstein's located at the new Omphoy hotel.  The Omphoy is located next door to the Four Seasons and is unique for Palm Beach since it attempts to resemble a South Beach boutique type hotel.  It should be noted that the hotel also houses MB Terrace which offers breakfast and lunch featuring more creations from Chef Michy.

Michelle Bernstein's was packed with a diverse crowd during our visit.  The restaurant itself was larger than I anticipated.  It was on the dark side and had a modern South Beach vibe to it.  It appeared group friendly and perfect for special occasions too. 

The restaurant menu features several of Michy's signature dishes including her beloved croquetas, white gazpacho, crispy sweetbreads, fried chicken and short ribs.  There were several fish and steak options on menu the night we were there including a branzino, dorado and ribeye. None of the entrees were exciting me plus I was having a difficult time narrowing down the starters.  Thus, I opted to create my own tasting menu which excited the waiter. I deferred to him regarding the progression and it was perfect.

The first dish served was seared foie gras which was accompanied by a chocolate mole and dark cherries. Wow.  What more can I say? 

How do you follow that up? With some kick ass crispy sweetbreads, that's how.  This was served with braised fennel, lardons and orange gastrique.  The outsides were perfectly crisp with a nice flavor and the inside melted in your mouth.   Another winner.

The last dish was the pork belly special.  There was no way I was passing on a Michy pork belly special.  This version was prepared BBQ style. The taste reminded me of the spare ribs you get at Chinese restaurants expect we were dealing with amazing pork belly.  It was a dream combination that was executed perfectly.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that I sampled Chowmother's meal and it was not even close to being as good as my meal.  In fact, the shrimp lasagnette was borderline inedible and certainly not up to Michy standards.  For starters, it was served in a weird shaped bowl that made it impossible to eat the large noodles, which were the only part worth eating.  There was no goat cheese as promised and the mini shrimp were bathing in some sort of brown sauce that reminded me of hamburger helper.  I'm not sure how this dish made it onto the menu but I highly doubt the version we were served would have made it past Michy if she was in the house.  The burrata starter was off as well most likely due to freshness issues.

It should be noted that the service was great.  After raving to the waiter about my dishes I also mentioned the lasagnette issue.  He thanked me for the feedback and surprisingly removed the item from our bill.  Unnecessary but classy.

I'm not certain who was responsible for my outstanding meal.  I believe Timon Balloo was the initial executive chef but he is garnering rave reviews at Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill now.  I don't know who replaced him but I'm sure he/she were trained by  Chef Michy.

If you ordered any of the three dishes I had you would leave thinking this was one of the best restaurants in Palm Beach.  On the other hand, if you ordered the burrata and shrimp lasagnette, you would leave very disappointed.  

My meal was a home run.

Michelle Bernstein's at The Omphoy on Urbanspoon

2842 S Ocean Blvd
Palm Beach, FL 33480

photos from A Tasteful Pursuit Palm BeachLucien Capehart Photography

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Burger & Beer Joint

You had me at Burger & Beer....

Now this is my kind of place.  Burgers, burgers and more burgers plus great beer.  Sold!!!!  Oh yeah, the burger was outstanding.

Burger & Beer has been on the top of my to-do list of places to hit since it opened. I finally made it over for lunch.  Unfortunately I was on a lunch break so I was unable to take advantage of their beer selection including the Brooklyn Lager on tap.  The lunch menu has nine burger options but only one viable option for me, the Thunder Road.  This is a 10oz. prime angus with hickory smoked bacon, American cheese, onion bun and bourbon bbq sauce.  Similar to pizza, I'm not a big fan of too many toppings or sauces on my burgers. It gets in the way.  That said,  I knew going in, thanks to Blind Mind that the bbq sauce was served on the side.  I'm glad it was because this burger needed  no help.  The burger was cooked perfectly (medium rare) was juicy and seasoned perfectly. The cheese, bun and bacon formed a nice overall combination.  I knew after one bite that this was an outstanding burger. This delivered the punch I keep waiting for from Charm City.  It will debut very high in my "tiers of a burger".  

Burger and Beer Joint on Urbanspoon

1766 Bay Rd
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Burger and Beer Joint - South Beach

Monday, March 1, 2010

Midtown Winners

I'm frequently in the downtown Miami area for work.  Over the years I normally hated being down there around lunch time because of the limited and/or inconvenient dining options. ($$$ too)  Times are changing though thanks to the Design District and now the Midtown area.

The first stop is Morgans Restaurant.  It's technically considered in Wynwood but it's only a block south of Midtown so it qualifies.  It's located in a renovated 1930's house and has a nice outside patio plus a convenient parking lot.  Morgans has been open for breakfast and lunch for a couple of months now and recently started serving dinner.  Their website describes it as modern home style comfort food and that is exactly right.  My initial visit was in mid-January and I left very impressed. I started with lentil soup which tasted fresh and well, homemade. It was a generous portion size too.  I followed that with the slow roasted and twice marinated pulled pork sandwich.  The pork was very tender, tasty and I left happy.

I returned for a second visit a couple of weeks ago and had another nice meal.  This time I opted for the "voluptuous" grilled cheese.  It contains white cheddar, gruyere and brie served on sourdough.  Name makes sense...

Morgans is a refreshing new addition to the Miami dining scene and a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown.  The staff is very friendly and the service is good.  I've heard good reports about their brunch so it may become a destination spot on the weekends especially while the weather is nice and you can take advantage of the patio.

Morgans Restaurant on Urbanspoon

28 NE 29th Street
Miami, FL 33137

Stop #2 on the midtown tour is Sakaya Kitchen.  Sakaya IS located in the midtown shops next door to Five Guys.  Sakaya is a very casual spot specializing in Korean type fare. Richard Hales is chef/owner who spent time as chef over at The Mandarin Oriental in Miami.. The menu is written on the wall (chalkboard) and orders are placed at the counter. Service was efficient and food arrived quickly making it a perfect lunch spot for the business crowd.

On my visit I tried the Ika Geso Age (calamari) which was nicely fried and served in ssamjang sauce.  It was a good sized portion and reasonably priced at $6.95.  It featured nice pieces of calamari and a great tasting sauce.  This was a nice start.  I followed that up with 2 solid pork buns.  These aren't the closed Chinese dim sum style pork buns you may be familiar with.  These are served on a clamshell style bun with pickles and ssamjang sauce.  These were delicious.  I'm looking forward to heading back soon and trying the Korean style chicken wings, the short ribs, fresh egg noodles with ginger and more of those pork buns. This place looks like a real winner.  Check it out.

Sakaya Kitchen on Urbanspoon
3401 N Miami Ave
Miami, FL 33127

Sakaya Kitchen

 The last on our "midtown" is Mandolin Aegean Bistro.  Mandolin is a new spot just north of the Design District in Buena Vista.  Like Morgans, it is located in a renovated house and features an outdoor patio that I'm sure some would call charming.  I was there for lunch and I did not feel transported back to Mykonos or Santorini. I felt transported to a small backyard patio in Buena Vista.  The inside area is very small and I suspect weekend crowds result in an uncomfortable wait.  That said, there was only one other table the day I stopped by for lunch so that could be the way to go.  It appears that there is one menu for lunch and dinner.  It features several mezes (small plates) as well as salads, sandwiches, mains and some sides.  

The sandwiches/entrees didn't excite me so I opted to go the small plate route. I ordered the grilled octopus, Turkish chorizo and  kopoglu.  The grilled octopus was excellent. One of the best I've had in the area and will give Michael's a run for the money.  The chorizo was okay but nothing special.  The kopoglu contains potato, eggplant and zucchini, with tomato garlic yogurt.  Okay, I'm not sure what I was thinking on this one.  It was as described, yogurt with potato, zucchini and eggplant.  Pass. 

This place was more expensive than Morgans and Sakaya and too much for a weekday lunch. My meal was close to $30.00 and I really needed a third dish because the octopus and chorizo were on the small side and not very filling.  

This may fall into the over hype trap primarily because locals are yearning for neighborhood type spots.  Nothing wrong with that... I get it.  I'll go back for lunch when I'm craving octopus but doubt I will make it to dinner anytime soon. 

Mandolin Aegean Bistro on Urbanspoon
4312 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33137