Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

I love food.  I love fine dining.  I love tasting menus. I love omakase sushi. I love modern cooking skills.  I love pasta. I love burgers.  But what I really love is a kick ass slice of pizza.

And I spend an enormous amount of time and energy hunting for quality pizza in South Florida.    Unfortunately, almost every spot turns out to be a bust.  There are only a handful of spots from Palm Beach to Miami that are worthy of your time and money.  And Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza remains one that should be on the top of your list. My current pizza rankings can be reviewed here.

I've enjoyed Anthony's pizza since they opened their flagship spot in 2002. Owner Anthony Bruno and I not only share a love of pizza but we both grew up on Long Island and are Jets fans. That's a winning combination.

Anthony combines traditional New York style pizza flavors with the high heat of a coal fired oven. This results in a uniquely charred thin crust pizza with a proper ratio of ingredients that is packed with great flavor. And they are consistently great. 

After years of aggressive expansion all over South Florida and the East Coast, I am happy to report that they are still at the top of their game.  We've seen a lot of imitators pop up over the years but most don't compare in quality or consistency.

I've neglected Anthony's over the years primarily because of my quest to find more great spots.  But I'm making an effort to get back to the spots that are doing things right and Anthony's qualifies for sure.

It should be noted that Anthony's has done an impressive job of incorporating craft beers into the mix with a strong local presence as well.  The Aventura location features “Coal Fired & Craft Beer” Mondays and Tuesdays featuring half off craft beers from local brewers. They recently teamed up with Ft. Lauderdale brewery Funky Buddha to create an Italian-American ale, Fuhgeddaboudit Red that is available exclusively at Anthony's. 

And make sure you order their wings.  They are fantastic and easily the best in town.

Anthony’s traditional pie consists of the fresh mozzarella, Italian plum tomatoes, Romano cheese, basil and olive oil. The sauce, cheese and dough always taste great and I really enjoy the char on the dough and upper crust.

One of my favorite pies is their Broccoli Rabe & Sausage featuring Italian greens sauteed in garlic and olive oil served with their great Italian sausage and served over a traditional pie.  Other favorites include the Eggplant Marino, Paul and Young Ron (meatballs, sausage, hot or sweet peppers & ricotta cheese) and the Philly Cheesesteak (thinly sliced top round marinated and served with caramelized onions).

The pizza is great but the wings are even better.  They are easily the best in town. They are coal oven roasted and served with caramelized onions and focaccia bread.

The aforementioned Fuhgeddaboudit Red from Funky Buddha Brewery.  This "Italian-American" ale is crafted with a blend of European barley and English hops. Their goal was to be flavorful enough to balance out the intense crunch of a coal fired crust and be refined enough to pair with delicate San Marzano tomato sauce.  They nailed it.  For the beer snobs out there, it's described as an English Red Ale with 5.4% ABV and 20 IBUs.

Sausage fans will enjoy their Broccoli Rabe & Sausage.

Eggplant Marino will please the eggplant lover.  It's thinly sliced and served with fresh tomato sauce and Romano cheese.

Meatballs with Ricotta Cheese.  Anthony's serves large hand rolled meatballs that are slowly cooked in their tomato sauce.  I like the sauce and the balls are good but not the best in town. 

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Check for locations HERE.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Loring Wine Dinner @ OTC 2.27.14

Bottle Wines Pinot

Great wine, great food and a great deal at $55.00.

OTC Restaurant - Loring Winemaker Tasting/Pairing
Thursday, February 27th 7:30PM-9:30PM: Chardonnay and Several Pinot Noirs from Loring Wine Company
Call 305-374-4612 for reservations.  
Loring Pinots have 77 times scored 90 points or above in the Wine Spectator. Brian Loring is not only known for the high quality of his wines, but also for his personality. He is as outgoing and charming as his wines! Joining him at this dinner will be Loring's asst. winemaker, Rachel Silowski.

With this dinner, OTC begins a push to be Brickell's hot spot for wine as it has established for craft beer.

Calamari and variations of citrus salad
Loring Durell Chardonnay 2012

Duck prosciutto salad with apricots, frisee, warm croutons
Loring Central Coast Pinot Noir 2012

Seared duck with red beet speatzle and golden raisin reduction
Loring Russian River Pinot Noir 2012

Salmon served with fingerling potatoes, caramelized fennel and blistered tomato salad
Loring Cargasacchi Pinot Noir 2011   

Hanger steak and smashed potatoes served with green olive tapenade
Loring Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir 2012
(Some adjustments to the wine and food may still be made.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kitchen Collab Luncheon @ Tongue & Cheek with Robert Irvine 2.21.14

 First Course – Choice of:

Heirloom Tomato Salad with whipped ricotta, rye crackers, basil and olive oil

Turks and Caicos Conch Salad with hearts of palm, aji Amarillo and coconut sorbet

Key West Pink Shrimp n’ Grits with pickled peppers, chorizo and soft cooked egg

Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese, hazelnuts citrus and shallot vinaigrette

Greek Salad with cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, feta, grilled bread and dill yoghurt dressing

Second Course – Choice of:

Cuban Sandwich with pork, Gruyère cheese and pickles

Benedict of Braised Brisket with braised greens, Tabasco hollandaise with English Muffins

BLTA Sandwich – bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado on olive bread

Cauliflower Soup with Key West pink shrimp, chorizo aioli, fennel and apple

Beef Cheek Burger with cheddar Pimento cheese, sweet onions on house-made brioche

Third Course – Choice of:

Cracker Jack Milkshake & Almond Joy Bar

Banana Coconut Cream Pie with Italian meringue

Carrot & Zucchini Cake with salted pecan butter ice cream

Key Lime Pie – almond graham cracker crust and meringue

A beverage pairing will also be available for an additional $25 per person. A limited a la carte lunch menu will also be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; in fact, Tongue & Cheek will be open for lunch, with a la carte service only, on Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20. Reservations are highly suggested and can be made in advance by calling (305) 704-2900.

With more than 25 years in the culinary profession, there aren’t many places Chef Robert Irvine hasn’t cooked or challenges he hasn’t had to cook his way out of. During his time in the British Royal Navy and in the years that followed, Robert has cooked his way through Europe, the Far East, the Caribbean and the Americas, in hotels, on the high seas and even for the Academy Awards; and that was before his career in TV. As the host of one of the Food Network’s highest rated shows, Restaurant: Impossible, Robert is best known for saving struggling restaurants across America by assessing and overhauling the restaurant’s weakest spots. Recently, Robert added a new challenge to his resume as he mentored and challenged aspiring chefs as the host of Food Network’s new show, Restaurant Express. Going on its third year, Robert continues to tour his live show, Robert Irvine LIVE, across the US. Robert also operates Robert Irvine’s Nosh, a restaurant in Hilton Head South Carolina, and is the author of two cookbooks, Mission: Cook! and Impossible to Easy. Robert was previously the host of Food Network’s Dinner: Impossible and Worst Cooks in America.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cobaya Divino with Chef Julian Baker

When I explained to Julian Baker, executive chef at Toscana Divino that Cobaya was about providing chefs a platform to take the restaurant handcuffs off and have some fun cooking for an adventurous group, he immediately showed an interest. We discussed doing one several times over the past year but only recently locked in a date. But his mind was working from the moment we spoke.

Julian has a diverse culinary background. He was born in Northern England and attended culinary school there. After graduating he moved to London where he trained under Chef Anton Edelmen at the Savoy Hotel. He returned to Northern England and worked at a Michelin rated restaurant before returning to London and the Savoy. He subsequently moved to the United States to work at The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. He returned to Europe and his culinary career took an Italian turn following stops in Milan, Trentino and Tuscany. He returned to the United States to work for Bice Restaurants in Manhattan. He subsequently opened Bice's in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Luxembourg. He then returned to the States to open additional Bice restaurants.

Julian thoroughly embraced the spirit of Cobaya and delivered a creative, interesting and fun meal from start to finish. The meal was nothing like you would get on a normal visit to Toscana Divino but cleary showcased his modern skills.

A skeleton menu kept each course a mystery. There were plenty of twists ad turns along with some riffs on classic Italian dishes as well as local restaurants. Toscana generously included a thoughtful wine and beverage pairing.
Julian and his sous chef, Jeff Maxfield clearly had fun planning and executing the menu. As you will see, they took a lot of chances with every dish and that's what Cobaya is all about.

Big thanks to Julian and his crew along with General Manager Mauro Bortignon who made sure service was top notch.
And thank you to the guinea pigs for your continued interest and support. I'm looking forward to the next 40.

Guests were welcomed with a very nice aged Gentlemen Jack "Negroni."

Julian was all smiles before service.

The Book of Baker made a cameo appearance.

Inside were very tasty and still crackling Beef Tendon "Frazzles" 

The kitchen crew hard at work finalizing the creative and delicious Foie Roll-Ups. Yes, foie gras meets fruit roll-ups. 

Who knew Toscana Divino had in-house foie vendors? "Foie HEEEERE! Get your FOIE roll-ups HERE!" 

The super snacks continued via Smoked Sweet Potato Cigars Croquettes.

The modern and sharp looking dining room along with views of the open kitchen provided a great setting. 

Course one titled "Blue Collar" was a twist on the popular local spot. Here, Julian paired a perfectly cooked Hamachi Collar with Blue Crab Dashi, Bok Choy and Thai Basil. The hamachi collar on its own was delicious and the additional components resulted in a really flavorful and balanced dish. It was paired with Gewürztraminer, Adrian. This was my favorite dish of the night. 

Course two was another standout. "Unagi" Tokyo Firenze was inspired by an Unagi (eel) Sushi Roll featuring a very nice piece of eel along with Celery Root Risotto, Seaweed Salsa Verde and Watercress. It was paired with Daku, Nigori Junmai Unfiltered Sake. 

Julian's take on "Carbonara" did not include any pasta. He opted for a delicious Black Cod topped with Pancetta and served with Squid Ink Pil Pil, Yuca Coal, Ink Dust and "Zabaglione." Once again, the main component was wonderful on its own and enhanced by the supporting ingredients to form a unique overall dish. This was paired with Franciacorta Brut, Ferghettina. 

Cool Aid, a Cardamon Spiced Watermelon Sorbet served as a refreshing palate cleanser.    

The meal transitioned from sea to land via Pan Dulce. It featured Honey Beer Marinated Sweetbreads with a Pine Nut and Cauliflower Purée, Perigord Truffle and Hazelnuts. It was paired with Menabrea, Blonde. 

Julian's tasty riff on "Alfredo" actually included pasta. Here he served house-made Tagliolini with Parmesan and Fontina "Fonduta" along with Hearts, Livers and Crispy Skin. It was paired with Pinot Nero Buchart, Klaus Lentch. 

Julian's next course was also inspired by a popular local restaurant, Tongue & Cheek. Here, he paired a Veal Cheek and Lardo with Pickled Beef Tongue. Sweet and Sour Pepper rounded out the dish and helped to cut the richness of the tongue and cheek. This was another overall enjoyable dish. It was paired with Amarone, Farina. 

Tea and Coffee for dessert. It included Smoked Tea Cream, Chocolate Espresso Cake, Yogurt and Sesame. A perfect ending to unique and creative meal. It was paired with a Riesling Eiswein, Dr. Loosen.  

The kitchen crew following service. Hope there were some leftover snacks for them.

Go pay Toscana a visit.

Toscana Divino on Urbanspoon

Mary Brickell Village
900 S Miami Ave
Miami, FL 33130  
(305) 371-2767

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Best Restaurants Miami - Tiers of Excellence


The Miami food scene continues to grow and improve which is great news for food fanatics like me.  But it's making my job ranking them even harder.  I put a lot of time, effort and money into doing reEatsearch in order to make sure this list is accurate and reliable.  There is no dart throwing here.   

With so many worthy spots, I've decided to continue ranking the Top Thirty instead of twenty.  

As always, they are broken down into Tiers in order to provide a more accurate picture and to provide further guidance when you are making those tough dinner bell decisions.

Food is obviously the primary factor in the rankings but service, ambiance, wine/beverage programs and value all play a significant role.  They can bump a restaurant up or down the rankings and even a tier.

The following are THE THIRTY BEST restaurants in Miami right now.  Again, EVERY restaurant ranked is recommended.  I went with a straight list without any editorial content in order to have a quick and clean reference.  If you have any questions on any restaurants or recommended dishes, please do not hesitate to email me

Thank you for reading.


Naoe - (Miami)

TIER 1.5

Bourbon Steak - (Aventura)
Makoto - (Bal Harbour)


Macchialina- (South Beach) 
Scarpetta - (Miami Beach)
The Dutch - (South Beach)
J&G Grill - (Bal Harbour)
Edge Steak & Bar- - (Miami)
The Bazaar - (South Beach)
db Bistro Moderne - (Miami)
Hakkasan - (Miami Beach)
The Cypress Room - (Design District)

TIER 2.5

Michy's - (Upper Eastside)
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink - (Design District)
Joe's Stone Crab - (South Beach)


Pubbelly - (South Beach)
Michael Mina 74 - (Miami Beach)
neMesis Urban Bistro - (Miami)
Yakko-San - (North Miami Beach)
Sushi Deli - (North Bay Village)


Salumeria 104 - (Midtown)
Black Brick - (Midtown)
Blue Collar - (Upper Eastside)
Tongue and Cheek- (South Beach)
Toscano Divino - (Miami)
Restaurant Michael Schwartz - (South Beach)
PB Steak - (South Beach)
Oak Tavern  - (Design District)
Mandolin - (Design District)
MC Kitchen - (Design District)


South Beach     8
Downtown       6                  
Design District  5 
Miami Beach    3
Upper Eastside 2
Bal Harbour      2
Aventura/NMB 2
Midtown           2
NBV                1

CASUAL TIER but non fast food - Lucali, My Ceviche, OTC, Kings County Pizza, Etzel Itzik, Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, Momi, Sakaya,  Harry's Pizza and Lutong Pinoy.

TO DO TIER - Bocce, Lure, The District, Il Gabbiano, Zuma, Lipi, Palm d 'or, Sumi, Catch and Red The Steakhouse, Lido Restaurant and Subatomic Subs.

RETURN TO TIER - Khong (minus Bee), Sugarcane Raw Bar, Eating House, Petit Rouge, Sardinia. 

Coming Soon-  1826 Collins, L'Echon, Morimoto, La Mar.