Friday, January 31, 2014

The Offal Dinner @ Macchialina with Nina Compton & Josh Gripper

This was the perfect food storm for me.  I'm a fan of offal especially when it is prepared by very creative and talented chefs. So an eight course offal dinner with two of the best chefs in town, Michael Pirolo and Nina Compton made my toes tingle. Add one of the best pastry chefs into the equation, Josh Gripper, and you know you are in for a real treat and a special night.

The talented trio exceeded my lofty expectations.  It was a fun night featuring delicious offal treats as well as some very nice wine thanks to Jenny Chaefsky. 

It's early in the year but the terrific trio set the bar very high for best meal of 2014.

I highly recommend paying each chef a visit at their respective restaurants, MacchialinaScarpetta and The Dutch.  They are three of the best spots in town.
Mike, Nina's arm & Josh

I was too busy eating dessert and missed a great shot of all three.

Chicken Liver Mousse with figs, black garlic and cilantro. I enjoyed the strong flavor of the chicken liver. It was paired with a nice Moscato d'Asti from Elio Perrone.

Veal Tongue Tonnato with Bottarga, sea beans and capers.  This dish featured a great balance of unique flavors and textures that formed a delicious overall dish. This was paired with a very nice Kerner from Abbazzia di Novacella.

I love Testa and their house-made version was dynamite in every way.  It was served with celery, lovage and green apples.

Tripe, gigante beans, escarole and tomato. They had the tough task of following the testa but they rose to the occasion. The chefs did another great job blending textures and flavors together. The tomato sauce elevated this to another level. It was paired with Tenuta L'Illuminata Barbera d'Alba Colbertina.  

Two of the best pasta dishes I had in 2013 were served by Michael and Nina. Obviously I was looking forward to their pasta courses. And boy did they deliver.  First out,  Tagliolini Blood and Bone.  Yes, you read that right.  As usual, the pasta was cooked perfectly and was incredibly tasty thanks to the blood, bone marrow, lemon and capers. My left sock is somewhere on the east side of Alton and 12th street.

Another look at the Tagliolini Blood and Bone.

Raviolini al Cervello, chicory and truffles was another home-run for me. Great pasta, insane brains and delicious sauce. The pasta dishes were served with a nice Szepsy Furmint.

Veal Kidney with cracked faro and marsala was good but I was still thinking about the prior two pasta dishes and my missing sock.

Pancetta Spiced Sweetbreads?! Yes, please. It was paired with radichio al' agro dolce and cauliflower.  It paired nicely with a Barberesco "Ca Venin" from Rivetto. 

Course nine was Gripper time.  Lemon Custard with macerated strawberries and thyme cream.

The last dish of the night was a wonderful Chocolate Bundino with Amarena cherries and pistachio granita.  Desserts were paired with a Franciacorta from Antica Fratta.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cobaya Anaya at OTC Restaurant

The first Cobaya Dinner of the year was hosted by OTC Restaurant located in the Brickell area of Miami.  In the kitchen was chef Jacob Anaya.  This was Jacob's first solo Cobaya but he had one under his belt already.  He was in the kitchen for the Cobaya at Azul that was attended by Andrew Zimmern and featured on Bizarre Foods.

Jacob has spent the majority of his career cooking in fine dining establishments around the world.  He started his culinary career at Campton Place in San Francisco where he trained under Michelin starred chef Laurent Manrique. Subsequent to that, he moved to Australia and worked at a couple of top spots. Prior to moving to Miami he was chef de cuisine at Pahu i’a at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Big Island. Prior to that he was in the kitchen at the Ritz Carlton, San Francisco and  Silks at The Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco.

Prior to joining OTC he was chef de cuisine at Azul restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel.  While there, they received the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award for 2013 and the only one in Miami.

OTC opened last year as a fast causal spot specializing in craft beers.  When Azul temporarily closed last summer owner Michael Sullivan wisely jumped at the opportunity to bring in a talented chef like Jacob.  He started in August and gradually started working on menu changes which were fully implemented in November.  The counter service concept was ditched and they upgraded to a full service establishment while continuing their strong emphasis on craft beer. They currently feature 12 beers on tap that they constantly rotate while focusing on trying to keep most of the beers local.

They recently debuted a daily happy hour featuring 50% off six of their craft beers, all wines by the glass plus select $5.00 food items.   They also started serving weekend brunch from 10:30-3:00 highlighted by Jacob's  chilaquiles and Hong Kong duck n waffles.  They also offer bottomless mimosas for $20.

At OTC, Jacob is using his lengthy fine dining experience along with his modern skills to cook fun and  reasonably priced fare without sacrificing quality or flavor.

For Cobaya, Jacob got to flex his fine dining muscles once again.  He had a plan and a theme which was to feature the heads of several animals.  He came up with a very creative menu that was fun, tasty and in the Cobaya spirit.

His dishes were interesting and packed with a lot of flavor combinations that worked well together.  There were at least two dishes that I scooped up as much of the remaining sauce as I could in order to savor one last taste.  I found his flavors to be well balanced and thought his overall execution was solid.

There is an open kitchen at OTC and I popped over a couple of times during the meal to check in on him and he was always smiling, never sweating and he looked like he was genuinely having fun.  That makes me smile because that's what Cobaya is really all about.

If you haven't been to OTC yet I would recommend paying Jacob a visit.  It's a great opportunity to enjoy the food of an accomplished fine dining chef in a casual setting and at affordable prices.

Jacob and OTC should be neighborhood gems for years to come.

A big thank you to Jacob, Michael and the entire team for a great night.  And thanks to the guinea pigs in attendance and all of you who continue to support us.

This was taken during the middle of  service. Like I said,  no sweat and all smiles.

Upon arrival guests were welcomed by an unidentified elephant and a Brown Bag.  Cobaya Eyes Wide Shut!? Inside the bag was a Crispy Fried Pig's Ear with smoke salt, citrus dust and chili powder. 

Bag number two featured sous vide giraffe ears.  It was actually a Rice Cracker that was microwaved and shaken with cheese dust tapioca malt.  Unfortunately, I neglected to take a shot of the goods inside the bags. 

The pre dinner snacks continued.  Out next was a tasty Spaghetti Squash with dried kabocha chips, housemade goat cheese ricotta espelette. 

Another nice bite featured a forkful of Grilled Squid Head with anchovy mousse, garlic dust, and greens. 

The quiet before the Cobaya storm. 

The invasion of the Guinea Pigs gone wild. 

Course one, Hard-Headed was a Local Lobster Crudo paired with a delicious combination of green olive purée, dried olives, burnt ruby grapefruit lobster head dressing and baby shrimp. 

Two Heads are Better than One was another all around delicious dish.  Pictured above is a pre fish head broth shot of pork head cheese, a 1000 year old egg, squid noodles, malto green chive oil and chive tips. 

Cheeky Guys & Gals paid a visit for course three.  Here, Jacob served a very flavorful dish featuring an EVO poached grouper cheek and a braised veal cheek with red pepper glaze. They were paired with  flavors of celery; puréed, pickled, shaved and picked.    

The Ice Man! Pacing was perfect all night and he never broke a sweat. He's a machine. 

Silence of the Roasted Lambs Head.

The last savory course of the night was easily my favorite. And it was a salad!  Jacob served slices of very nice lamb tongue paired with shaved rainbow carrot, carrot curry purée, golden raisins, toasted nuts and white balsamic dressing.  This was another wonderful and balanced flavor combination.

The meal ended on a surgical note via It's Not Brain Surgery.  Jacob's brain included white chocolate, red velvet cake, raspberries purée, drunken cherries and cherry smoke.

OTC on Urbanspoon

1250 S Miami Ave
Miami, FL 33130

(305) 357-4612

Friday, January 17, 2014

Charity Wire- Eats & Beats 2.22.14


****USE PROMO CODE CHOWFATHER for $20.00 discount*****
Food, Music and Charity fans, I have a brand new event for you Eats & Beats.  The inaugural event takes place on February 22, 2014 and benefits the DJ Irie Foundation which seeks to improve the lives of South Florida youth.  They generously offered my followers a $20.00 discount on tickets by using promo code CHOWFATHER.  See you there!

From Eats and Beats:

Imagine a perfect showcase of local culinary artistry paired with premium wines and spirits, minus the velvet rope. Comprised of some of the most renowned restaurants in South Florida, to some of the most mouthwatering dessert artists, Eats N Beats will satisfy the local food enthusiast as well as the sophisticated “foodie” expecting to delight in some of the best dishes and libations our city has to offer. Not to worry, keeping true to our City known for beauty and some flash, the event will touch on all of the senses. Complete with dynamic production, local VIPS and Celebs Eats N Beats will also be outfitted with the comforts one has come to expect from an event in Miami. The showcase will attract those looking for an alternative type of food event, one that brings the best of three worlds: food, music and wines/spirits together seamlessly.

This new addition to the culinary scene in Miami will pair an array of our most frequented and popular eateries with local music, by some of the most celebrated talent to hit our local stages. As opposed to creating separate events, this inaugural fete was designed to create a progressive experience for attendees. Guests will enjoy four floors of palate-pleasing food, sweets and delicious cocktails while dancing to the beats of live music curated by DJ Irie. The world renowned has hand selected an impressive and diverse ensemble of bands and DJ’s while slated to hit the booth for a DJ spot himself. Eats N Beats will benefit the Irie Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization based in South Florida with a mission to aid youth and improve graduation rate.

This new event is a very personal invitation for locals by locals to come out, ready to eat and ready to dance, as Eats N Beats will hit the pulse of Miamians and visiting guests with only our best, -Miami’s best. 
****USE PROMO CODE CHOWFATHER for $20.00 discount*****

-Includes Admission to Eats & Beats from 830pm til Midnight
-Includes Complimentary Food Samplings from Each of the Restaurants
-Includes Unlimited Complimentary Samplings of all Spirits & Wines
-Includes Complimentary Samplings from all Dessert Vendors
-Limited Amount of Tickets Available* 


-Includes EARLY Admission to the Press & VIP Eats & Beats Tastings beginning at 7:30pm
-Separate Door for Prompt Entry and Re-entry.
-Includes Admission to the 4th Floor VIP Lounge with Unlimited Spirits and Wine Samplings
-Includes Complimentary Food Samplings from Each of the Restaurants
-Includes Unlimited Complimentary Samplings of all Spirits & Wines
includes Complimentary Samplings from all Dessert Vendors
-Very Limited Amount of Tickets Available* 

-Includes Admission to Eats & Beats from 830pm til Midnight
-Includes Complimentary Food Samplings from Each of the Restaurants
-Includes Unlimited Complimentary Samplings of all Spirits & Wines
-Includes Complimentary Samplings from all Dessert Vendors
VIP TICKET - $250.00

 -Includes EARLY Admission to the Press & VIP Eats & Beats Tastings beginning at 7:30pm
-Separate Door for Prompt Entry and Re-entry.
-Includes Admission to the 4th Floor VIP Lounge with Unlimited Spirits and Wine Samplings
-Includes Complimentary Food Samplings from Each of the Restaurants
-Includes Unlimited Complimentary Samplings of all Spirits & Wines
-includes Complimentary Samplings from all Dessert Vendors

****USE PROMO CODE CHOWFATHER for $20.00 discount*****

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

First Date-Michael Mina 74


I'm a big Michael Mina fan. He runs first class establishments all over the country and clearly takes pride in them.  He doesn't just slap his name on a place and then disappear.  He cares about them and it is evident in every aspect of his restaurants. He clearly empowers the right people to carry out his vision.  He's a winner and he has another winner on his hands in Miami.

Michael Mina 74, borrows the 74-Route Nationale 74 in Burgundy- from his wine-centric spot RN74 in San Francisco.  They opened rather quietly a couple of weeks ago in the basement of the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel.  The chef de cuisine is Thomas Griese who was previously chef de cuisine at the Setai. Prior to that he was working in Las Vegas at Bouchon and Alize.

MM74 will be a game changer to the Miami food scene. Why? Because in a city packed with tourists looking to party, we have no "clubby" food destinations. When my friends come to town they always want to hit Prime 112.  And I'm always hard pressed to come up with an alternative place that combines good food with a lively scene plus some eye candy for the single folk.  Enter MM74.  The ceiling is low, lights are dim and a DJ booth hovers over the room. The staff is professionally friendly and the energy level in the room is high. They offer a late night menu until 4 a.m. on weekends and they happen to be neighbors with LIV.  This will be bachelor and bachelorette party central for sure.

People will go for the scene but they will stay and eat and drink and return because the food and beverage program is legitimate.

It's inevitable that locals will want to compare MM74 to its sister in Aventura, Bourbon Steak. But they are unique and trying to compare them is unnecessary.  The food at Bourbon Steak will always be some of the best in town while Gabriel Fenton is in the kitchen.

Michael Mina 74 is perfect for groups looking to have fun and eat well and also perfect for local food fans that enjoy eating great food with a side of good vibe.

74 takes their beverage program seriously.  They offer several barrel aged cocktails along with punches that are on tap.  They also serve bottled "fizzy" drinks along with eight draft craft beers.  Wine always plays an important role at Mina's restaurants because of sommelier and Mina Group wine director Rajat Parr and MM74 follows suit.  They offer several by the glass and half bottle options in addition to the impressive wine list.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a good shot of the impressive shellfish cart that makes its way to each table.  I did get a shot of the monster African prawn pictured above.  As you may be aware, the hotel recently purchased a fishing boat, The Bleaufish and supplies all of the hotel restaurants with their daily haul.  Stone crabs are as fresh as they get in town.

I'm a huge burger fan and their dry aged steak burger is easily one of the best burgers in town. It's a blend of their in house dry aged meats and is paired with double smoked bacon, romaine and a secret sauce that reminded me of a big mac on steroids.

74's Japanese Wagyu Shabu-Shabu is $28.00 an ounce.  So don't choke with your cooking technique. Fifteen seconds is all you need for a Japanese treat.  It's paired with dashi, miso and watermelon radish. Make sure you finish the tasty broth.

Octopus 'a la plancha' includes ruby crescent potatoes, romesco, parsley, and Marcona Almonds.

The Grilled Quail and Foie gras is another dish that I highly recommend.  The delicious duo were proper;y cooked and enhanced by the addition of jerk spice, glazed mango and quail jus.

Another standout dish and probably my favorite of the night was the Red Snapper and Scallop.  Here, chef Griese paired a perfectly seared scallop with a tasty red snapper that featured a nice crispy skin plus shrimp.  But the highlight was the ridiculously good red curry.

I couldn't resist ordering the Locker 28 Beef Tenderloin which is hay-smoked table side and provides some entertainment plus a nice aroma.

I'm not sure why, gimmicky perhaps, but I was apprehensive about trying the Berkshire 'caja china' offering. I'm glad I did because it's a fantastic dish featuring a trio of very tasty pork along with pigeon peas, annatto rice, kumquat and chile relish, cilantro and mojo.

A Japanese table side whisky presentation is offered and something I recommend especially if you are unfamiliar with Japanese whisky.

More Japanese whisky options.

Michael Mina 74 on Urbanspoon

Fontainebleau Miami Beach
4441 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33140
Tel: 305.674.4636


Sunday & Monday
6:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.
Tuesday - Thursday
6:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.
Friday & Saturday
6:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.
Late Night Menu:
Tuesday - Thursday
12:00 a.m.-Close
Friday & Saturday
12:00 a.m.-4:00 a.m.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Offal Dinner @ Macchialina 1.21.14

Pirolo + Compton + Gripper + Offal = DYNAMITE NIGHT

Bourbon Steak Update

                               BOURBON STEAK Miami Logo

Yes, I went home for the holidays this year.  No, not to New York to see my parents and siblings but to my restaurant home, Bourbon Steak. I realized that I had inadvertently been neglecting my favorite restaurant in town for a while. But that joyfully came to an end on Christmas. I'm happy to report that they are still cranking on all cylinders. Service remains as good as it gets thanks to new General Manager Anibal Macias and his assistant Rafael Vazquez.  

Drinks also continue to excel thanks to a veteran group behind the bar that know how to make proper drinks. Plus they are stocked with an impressive lineup of bourbons and offer a table side whiskey presentation that I recommend trying.

The wine list continues to be one of the best in town because of its depth and diversity along with approachable price points plus several great by the glass options. The program is handled by sommelier Craig Teriaca.

Oh and Chef Gabriel Fenton continues to knock dishes out of the park. Way out of the park.  Will 2014 be the year he gets the much deserved James Beard Nomination? I certainly hope so.  

If you've never been to Bourbon Steak I would highly recommend paying them a visit. This is a first class operation serving some of the best food and drinks in town. If you haven't been back recently, do yourself a culinary favor and go.

Below are some pictures from my Christmas day meal.

View of the well stocked bar.  .

The perfect start to a Bourbon Steak meal. A barrel aged Vieux Carré and truffle popcorn. 

The first dish out was a dynamite one. Gabe's version of a ceviche featured tender Nantucket Scallops paired with aji rocoto pepper, Okinawan wweet potatoes and avocado.  Really nice flavors popped out on this dish. 

I've said it 100 times in the past and I'm going to say it again. Gabe is the foie man period. And his foie special on this visit was spectacular.  Here, Gabe seared the foie and added some texture via crushed pistachios and quinoa. It was plated on a roasted apple. 

If you order a steak at Bourbon Steak you are guaranteed to be served a great piece of meat that was properly seasoned and properly cooked.  If you order a Wagyu rib cap you are guaranteed to be blown away.  I did and I was.  Tender, juicy and flavorful. It melted in my mouth.  You want this.  Trust me. 

Gabe takes his sides seriously and his Brussels Sprouts are no exception.  These were paired with piquillo peppers and spicy chorizo. 

The table side whiskey tasting is a must do for whiskey fans.  I was fortunate to be there on a night when Angel's Envy was featured. The three I sampled were Angels Envy with mesquite wood, Angels Envy Rye with burnt orange rind and Angels Envy Cask Strength with charred vanilla.  All three were great and the subtle tweaks enhanced the spirit. 

Bourbon and rye flight paired with a burgundy and port.  yes, it was a good Christmas night.

Bourbon Steak on Urbanspoon

Turnberry Isle Miami
19999 West Country Club Drive
Miami, FL 33180
Tel: 786.279.6600
Get Directions


6:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
Friday & Saturday
6:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m.

Bar & Lounge:
5:00 p.m.-close