Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mangia Mondays @ Quattro Gastronomia Italiana




        Twin Chefs Fabrizio and Nicola Carro Introduce Italian Regional Tasting Menus


Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, Lincoln Road’s sophisticated Italian dining destination, is rolling out a new series of regional Italian tasting menus.  Each month, twin chefs Nicola and Fabrizio Carro will introduce a $39 three-course dinner prix-fixe menu, available on Mondays, spotlighting the

various cuisines of Italy. The series kicks off on Monday, June 3rd with Piemonte, the twins’ native homeland.   In addition to the regular a la carte menu, the Piedmont tasting menu features the following dishes:


    Battuta di Fassone all’albese
Original Classic Beef Filet Tartare with Parmesan Cheese and Celery


Insalata Russa Del Contadino
Flavorful Salad of Italian Imported Tuna, Pickle, Cucumber, Legumes and Quail eggs


Risotto alla Marengo
Carnaroli Risotto with Castelmagno Cheese in Veal Sauce or


Rabaton Alessandrini e chiodini
Sheep Ricotta Gnocchi with Spinach Beech Mushroom Parmesan Fondueor


 Brasato di Guancia al Barbera con Polentina Morbida 
Braised Beef Cheek in Barbera Wine with Creamy Polenta



Bunet di Amaretti
Amaretti Flan with Caramel Sauce and Cream Gelato


 Focaccia Dolce e Gianduia
Sweet Focaccia and Gianduia Chocolate Salsa

Diners can accompany these sumptuous dishes with an array of wines by the bottle from Piemonte, available at a 20% discount.

Piemonte fare will be showcased at Quattro each Monday during June (dinner only)

July Regional Tasting Menu Highlights Cuisine of Campania


Rotolini di Mozzarella Farciti

 Wrapped Mozzarella with Eggplant, Prosciutto and Arugula

Frittura Amalfitana di Pesce e Verdure 

Crispy Baby Calamari with Shrimp and Zucchini


Paccheri di Gragnano con Spada e Zucchine
Paccheri Pasta with Swordfish and Zucchini 

Manfredi con Ricotta di Bufala e Pomodoro
Big Tagliatelle Pasta with Buffalo Ricotta and Tomato 

Scaloppina alla Pizzaiola
Veal scaloppini with Tomato, Capers and Oregano

Orata all’Acqua Pazza
Sea Brim Beaked with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic and White Wine  


Torta Caprese 
Flourless White Chocolate Tart with Almond and Lemon Zest

Babba al Limoncello
Babba Sponge Cake with Rum




Arancini di Messina

Crispy rice ball stuffed with beef ragu, mozzarella and green peas

Caponata di Melanzane e Polpo

Vegetable stew with pine nuts and grilled octopus


Anelletti al Forno

Traditional Sunday pasta with beef sauce, caciocavallo cheese

Pasta alla Norma

Rigatoni with eggplant and ricotta salata

Falsomagro di manzo e pomodoro

Braised stuffed beef with mortadella and Ragusano Cheese

Involtini di pesce spada

Swordfish skewers with aromatic bread crumbs, capers and cherry tomatoes


Cannoli alla Ricotta

Crispy shell almond crust with sweet ricotta

Gelo di Anguria e Pistacchio

Watermelon semifreddo with pistachio candy

Diners can accompany dinner with selection of wines by the bottle from Sicily, available at a 20% discount.

Sicilian fare will be showcased at Quattro each Monday during August (dinner only); additional regions including Tuscany, Liguria and Veneto will be showcased in subsequent months.

Quattro Gastronomia Italiana is located at 1014 Lincoln Road on South Beach. Reservations required. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily. Telephone: (305) 531-4833;

Late Night Menu @ Blue Collar Friday & Saturday Nights



Blue Collar located at 67th and Biscayne in the Upper Eastside of Miami recently started a late night, after hours menu. Chef Danny Serfer is wisely filling a culinary void during that time. It's also a great opportunity for people in the industry to kick back after a long weekend shift and eat some great food and meet some new friends in the intimate dining room or out on the patio.


The special late night menu is available every Friday and Saturday night from 11:00 p.m. until 2 a.m.  It features several unique items that are not available on the normal dinner menu as well as a couple of his great staples. And don't forget to take advantage of  two for one $4 Narragansett Lagers.  Chef Serfer excels at comfort food and the late night menu is no exception.

It took me a couple of weeks but I finally skipped dinner and stayed awake last Saturday night in order to pay a visit to Blue Collar after dark. Once comfortably seated at the counter, I participated in a an awesome late night tasting menu.

First up were a trio terrific French Kiss oysters from the waters of Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick. Daniel has been sourcing great oysters and rumor has it that the rare and beloved Belons may make an appearance in the near future. 

Up next was a nicely fried smoked gouda cheese featuring a tasty panko crust and topped with a dollop of dijon mustard.

Out next, plump cornmeal dusted popcorn shrimp and tartar sauce.

Danny unloaded a generous portion of jammin' jambalaya on me next.  Chef Aaron's awesome version of jambalaya consisted of a combination of flavorful, spicy and fresh wild Florida shrimp, proper sausage and chicken. After devouring the dish, Danny looked at me and said  "you can eat."

It should be noted that this is currently only available on the late night menu so plan accordingly. However, I suspect that this dish has a shot to make an occasional appearance on the dinner menu thanks to its popularity.

Despite being full and approximately 12:30 a.m., there was no way I was leaving without tasting Danny's fried chicken. Danny humbly claims that his fried chicken is second best in town behind his beloved Publix.  I disagree. This is possibly be the best fried chicken in town.

Here, Danny brines his bird with a delicious combination of buttermilk and Texas Pete Hot Sauce and then fries it in a cast-iron skillet. This results in a nice crispy outside and really moist meat.  Unfortunately, the process is too time consuming for him to offer during regular service so you are only going to find this gem late night.

The crew obviously had some fun playing around with chocolate, peanuts, caramel and oh some pork belly.

Also making an appearance on the late night menu is Danny's daily braise.  This is either brisket, pot roast, oxtail or pork shoulder and always accompanied by mashed potatoes.  Danny excels at braises and one of my favorites is his spicy oxtail.  A perfect braise and nice heat make this a dish to look out for either late night or on the daily specials board.

Have no fear, Danny's killer burger is here. Yes, that "real juicy" cheeseburger made from prime dry aged NY Strip and placed on a Portuguese bun is available late night.  It is one of the top burgers in town.

"Corben" fans are covered too.  You know who you are!

Danny is the comfort king with a little bling. He takes pride in delivering great, solid, straightforward food that is without pretense. And he does that well. But don't be fooled, he can go fancy on you too.

Bottom line, late night at Blue Collar is a laid back, fun time with a neighborhood vibe. So skip dinner and stay awake this weekend and pay Blue Collar a late night visit.

Upper East Side 
6730 Biscayne Blvd 
Miami, FL 33138 
(305) 756-0366

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Meat Market Cocktails & Cuisine 5.22.13

                            Meat Market Pantone B-W Large

Meat Market launched its Cocktails and Cuisine Summer Dinner Series last week and chef Sean Brasel along with award winning bartender Ezra Pattek delivered a fantastic meal.  More importantly, a portion of the proceeds were donated to the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy via The One Fund.Stay tuned for the next dinner in the series.

The evening started with a set of outstanding canapés around the bustling bar area.  First out were fresh Kumamoto oysters topped with Fresno yuzu sorbet.

A delicious white truffle "Kobe" tartare served on Parmesan crostini followed.

A wood-grilled chili caramel lamb tenderloin on sugarcane was a tasty treat.

The last bite at the bar was a nice combination of Prime Angus short rib and smoked corn empanadas.

The first cocktail pairing from Ezra was A Smokey “Aperitivo” Cocktail.  It featured several ingredients that worked really well together. Talisker 10yr, Campari, Pear Puree, Mandarine Napolêon Liqueur, Oloroso Sherry and Fresh Lemon Juice, Bacon Smoked Sea Salt Rim.  This was probably my favorite cocktail of the night.

Once the group was seated we were treated to wonderful combination of fresh tuna carpaccio with a vodka tuna olive aioli, wood-grilled sourdough and fried capers.

Ezra paired the tuna with a smooth "Honey Mountain Bloom" featuring Double Cross vodka, fresh honeydew melon juice, tarragon infused honey, Swedish herb bitters, fresh lemon juice. 

The second course was a tasty Vegetarian Choclo “crab” cake with  king crab salad and tequila yogurt remoulade.

It was paired with another balanced and tasty drink, Mercado. This featured Avion Reposado tequila, passion fruit juice, mint, fresh lime, habanero yucateca infused agave, salt & pepper rim

The home run dish of night for me was the Certified Angus wood-grilled Deckle which is the second cut of brisket.  It was a dynamite cut of meat and seasoned perfectly.  It was accompanied by a delicious truffle ricotta potato ravioli, gin fennel cream spinach and fried chili onion rings.

Holland Rhubarb Fizz was another multiple ingredient drink that worked.  Here, Ezra paired Nolet’s gin, fennel, rhubarb, ginger, fresh lemon, Mandarine Napolêon Liqueur, Dutch colonial bitters and a splash of bitter lemon soda.

For dessert, we were treated to a George Dickel chocolate bourbon walnut pie with brown sugar bourbon ice cream and sour whipped cream.  They had me at George Dickel and slayed me with bourbon ice cream.  A great ending to a great meal.

Ezra went out in a blaze of bourbon glory with The Waltz comprised of George Dickel 12yr bourbon, Pierde Almas Mezcal, cold coffee and walnut liqueur, topped with vanilla & praline whipped cream. 

Sean did a fantastic job incorporating Ezra's cocktail pairings into each dish and took some creative chances that all worked.

Ezra's cocktails featured a tremendous amount of ingredients all of which resulted in surprisingly balanced and tasty drinks that most importantly avoiding being overly sweet. 
It was a very impressive job by both. 

Fun, creative and delicious collaborations are what great dinners are all about. And at $75.00 it is a good deal.  I'm looking forward to attending the next in the series. See you there.

Meat Market is located at 915 Lincoln Road on South Beach. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Miami's Top Sommelier- Daniel Toral

This post was originally slated to be a three way interview with the top two sommeliers in town.  I figured that their cross examination of each other would be more informative and interesting than my direct examination. Unfortunately, the second sommelier, whose name will remain anonymous in order to protect him from the plethora of Chowfather groupies that may be so inclined to toss wine bottles, empty of course, at him on the streets.  Off the record, his name sounds like Biz Markie.  In all seriousness, he has been extremely busy opening new restaurants all over town and on the Atlantic.

Daniel is currently the chef sommelier for The Setai Miami Beach, overseeing its wine program for The Restaurant, offering authentic Asian cuisine; The Setai Grill  an American steakhouse with French flare and The Pool & Beach Bar with Mediterranean fare.  His wine list contains a selection of over 700 wine varieties and a bottle count of 4,000 plus.

Previously, he was the beverage director for Sustain restaurant, where he had a blank canvas and created his dream beverage program. He was very sad to see it close.  Prior to Sustain, he was at Fratelli Lyon, where he created an Italian spirit-driven bar program and later took over the wine program with an all-Italian wine list, focused on regional wines.

Daniel's wine pairing expertise can partly be attributed to his culinary skills.  He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and worked for Thomas Keller at Per Se.

Miami is fortunate to have wine experts like Daniel Toral and Biz Markie at our disposal.

My interview of Daniel-

Your long shift is done, what are you drinking?

Depends on my mood, but more than likely it is Scotch or Irish whiskey neat.
It's your day off, what are you eating and drinking?

On my dream day off, a bowl of Pho for lunch with a cold brew, followed with oysters and Champagne.

What is your current "house" wine?

Bodegas Grant, Amontillado. It’s the only thing that doesn’t go bad in my fridge, and I can swirl it around for hours. Under $10.

What is your current "house" champagne?

I don’t like to drink the same champagne over and over again, and when I buy champagne I make sure the dosage is low and acid is up the roof. Some of my favorites include Vilmart, Larmandier-Bernier, Laherte Freres, Camille Saves.

Favorite cocktail?

Tough to pick just one; if the night is starting, it’s the Bees Knees. If it’s ending, then it’s a Stinger.

Favorite bottle on your current list?

I’m going to be very sad when I see the last bottle of Antoine Jobard, Meursault-Genevrieres ’07 go away.

Best value bottle on your current list?

Kiralyudvar, Sparkling Furmint, from Tokaji, Hungary. A very expressive, floral, high acid style of sparkling wine that delivers.

Favorite BTG option on your list?

I’m in love with the Barbera d’alba from Cordero di Montezemolo, bright and juicy, it works perfectly with our menu at The Restaurant.

Least appreciated bottle on your current list?

Domaine Abbatucci “Faustine Blanc” from Corsica. It’s more difficult to get people to spend $90 on Corsican Vermentino.

Favorite dish at your current restaurant?

Our Peking Duck, served at The Restaurant, is ridiculous. Our chef that prepares this dish is from China and prepares it perfectly.  

And what are you pairing it with?

Ar.Pe.Pe, Sassella, Roche Rosso Riserva, Valtellina ’99. It’s such an elegant expression of Nebbiolo, and it really compliments the duck.

Best pour you've ever had?

I once poured a Montefalco Rosso by Paolo Bea for under $15. He is the most amazing winemaker in Umbria, making very compelling wines.

Most prized bottle in your home cellar?

’99 Giacomo Conterno Barolo, which I hid, so not to touch if for another 10 years.

Parker or Tanzer?

Neither! I dance to my own beat.

Your favorite wine resource?

Wolfe’s and Wine Watch.

Favorite wine region?

I love Burgundy, Loire, Piedmont.

Sleeper region(s) (value, unkown etc)?

I think the cat is out of the bag already, but the wines of Sicily represent amazing values.

How did you get into wine?

When I was in culinary school, I realized there might be something more than just cooking for me. But, working at Per Se pushed me to pursue wine management; working with Paul Roberts was a real inspiration.

Favorite part of your job?

Persuading guests to taste something out of their comfort zone. I also enjoy talking to and tasting with the winemakers, as I hear their stories.

Least favorite part?


What is your approach to creating a wine list?

I look for wholesome wines that are true to their characters. I look for winemakers that are passionate and follow tradition.  

Any tips for people who are inexperienced and/or intimidated by wine lists?

Ask to talk to the wine buyer. Tell them what you enjoy drinking – and the price point you are most comfortable with.  

How many legitimate corked bottles do you open during a typical week? 

Surprisingly not that many; only about 1 or 2 a week.

Thoughts on BYOWine?

I enjoy when guests bring their own bottles, but only if they are of relevance or importance, like really old or hard-to-find bottles.

Boxed wine yay or nay?

I've tried it, but I just can’t get excited with what’s inside.

Favorite Boone's Farm Flavor?

I had to Google Boone’s Farm Flavor. (I didn’t grow up in the U.S.)

Your last supper, what are you eating and drinking?

My grandma’s cooking; she is Hungarian, and there’s no food like hers. I would accompany it with white burgundy.

Wine lovers should definitely pay a visit to the Setai and enjoy Daniel's expertly curated wine list(s). He has an amazing palate and a keen eye for value. He is approachable and a wealth of wine knowledge. His expertise will elevate your meal and overall dining experience.

The Miami food and wine scene need more people like Daniel.  He is a fine wine-sommelier.

Daniel Toral
Chef Sommelier

The Setai
Miami Beach
2001 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139