Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cobaya OG's - Conor Hanlon & Josh Gripper - The Dutch

Josh & Conor

Cobaya experiment #42 was conducted at one of the best restaurants in Miami and one of my favorite spots, The Dutch. The menu correctly stated that the dinner was "brought to you by Cobaya OG's: Chef Conor Hanlon and Chef Josh Gripper" Cobaya OG's they are indeed. Conor, Josh and Andrew Carmellini aren't just friends of Cobaya they're great friends of Cobaya. We've collaborated with them on a few dinners over the past couple of years that were truly special. Cobaya Carmellini & The Dutch Boys was Best Meal of Year for 2012. A few months later we teamed up again for an amazing night in order to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. And last November, Chef Carmellini brought his legendary Trufflepalooza to South Beach and it was fantastic. But this time The Dutch Boys wanted to have some fun in the Cobaya Kitchen on their own. It was the Conor and Gripper show and it was a hit.

Classic technique, respect for ingredients, finesse, balance, execution. Words I associate with the work of Conor. Josh too. Traits learned and honed while working in the stellar kitchens of heavyweight chefs Daniel Boulud and Andrew Carmellini.

Prior to becoming the opening chef de cuisine at The Dutch and now executive chef of the W, Conor was executive sous chef at db Bistro Moderne in Miami as well as db Brasserie in Las Vegas. He also spent time on the line at Cafe Boulud. Josh initially started on the savory side of the line under AC at Cafe Boulud in Manhattan before becoming pastry chef at db Bistro Moderne in Manhattan. He worked under AC again at A Voce before moving on to Daniel.

Obviously, expectations were extremely high and they delivered a flawless meal that was first class all the way.

This was a meal of the year caliber performance.

Big thanks to the Dutch Boys, their kitchen crew, the sommelier, general manager and servers for a very special and classy night. And to all of the guinea pigs for your continued interest and support.

The outside patio at The Dutch is one of my favorite spots in town.

Ravenous guinea pigs.

The Sommelier did a very nice job pairing eight wines with the diverse dishes.

Stellar Bay - nasturtium granite, meyer lemon, roasted tomato oil, celery. Conor's riff on a bloody mary was a wonderful start. The oyster was pristine and the flavors of the accompaniments really enhanced it.

Eggs on Eggs - deviled farce, black bowfin. A generous amount of caviar paired with a smooth egg resulted in a balanced and tasty dish.

Asparagus - white, green, spring peas, pickled ramps, buttermilk panna cotta, smoked trout roe, crispy quinoa. There were a lot of good things going on with this dish from the flavors and textures to the freshness and plating.

Chokes - roast and poached artichoke, sunchoke, hearts of palm, green almond, goats milk yogurt, chive blossom, leek ash. I like artichokes. I liked this dish. A lot.

Porcini - roast porcini and morel, sautéed ramp greens, charred corn, popcorn grits, pecorino ginepro. I didn't want to finish this dish because I was enjoying it too much. The popcorn grits were really special and the pairings really worked well together. Great flavors and textures here too.

A Dish From the Sea - New Zealand langoustine, king crab, uni, scallop, golden paddlefish, Chinese osetra, dashi, variations of seaweed, sea foam. This dish gets the hype of the night award because my buddy Steve and I we were really looking forward to it as soon as we saw the menu. It contained all of my favorites from the sea. Conor respected the freshness and quality and served them raw.   

Foie - creamy custard, truffle, sauterne gelee, pickled shallot, fresh summer truffle. I love foie and truffles and brioche. So I smiled widely when the personal jar full of creamy foie was placed in front of me. Perfect. Fantastic.

Lamb (Australian) - roast saddle, crispy lamb brik, runny yolk, olive, peppers, tomato, sweet harissa glaze. This duo of lamb was cooked perfectly and had some great overall flavors.

Cheese - taleggio soufflé, port reduction, local strawberries, black peppercorn. Josh transitioned us from savory to sweet with a very nice cheese soufflé.

Semifredo - lemon thyme, caramel bacon glaze, blueberry compote. I'm a big fan of Josh's desserts and this one didn't disappoint. Caramel bacon glaze!!!

And a tasty Bon Bon to end a wonderful night.

White Chocolate a la Gripper to go.

2201 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 938-3111

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pit Stops - La Mar, Taperia Raca, Zak the Baker & Basil Park

  File:Pitstop ii-c64.png

I've been cruising around town with my windows down and made some nice pit stops along the way. The following four spots are new and my initial experiences were good enough to warrant return visits and were also worth sharing with you.

La Mar is located in the former Cafe Sambal space at the Mandarin Oriental hotel located on Brickell Key in Miami. It features the Peruvian cuisine of chef Gaston Acurio who has owns additional spots in Bogota, Lima, San Francisco and Sao Paulo. The Miami kitchen is run by Diego Oka and the menu consists of numerous cebiches, tiraditos, causas, anticuchos along with other takes on traditional Peruvian dishes. They are open daily for lunch and dinner.

The ceviche was easily the highlight of my initial visit. It featured really nice pieces of fresh tuna along with very flavorful leche de tigre. The strong and enjoyable flavors of the ceviche rendered the other dishes bland in comparison. That being said, I'm looking forward to returning and trying more dishes unless the location and valet fees slow me down.

Cangrejo - beet causa, crab, avocado, huancaina sauce, fried kale, cherry tomatoes, quail egg. 

Nikei Cebiche - tuna, red onions, nori, avocado, daikon, cucumber, nikei tamarind leche de tigre. 

Plancha Anticuchera - octopus & calamari a la plancha crushed potatoes, anticuchera, chimichurri, choclo.

500 Brickell Key Dr, Miami, FL 33131
Phone:(305) 913-8358
La Mar by Gaston Acurio on Urbanspoon

Taperia Raca is a new Cap'n Crunch-Pancakeria tapas spot from chef Giorgio Rapicavoli and the Eating House crew located on Biscayne Boulvard in the MiMo area of Miami. Chef de Cuisine is Ryan Harrison who was previously at the short lived but promising kitchen at Preservation in Sunny Isles. At Preservation, Ryan was curing his own meat, baking his own bread and pickling everything and anything. Raca is a departure from that style but the fairly large menu allows Ryan to be creative and put his culinary stamp on dishes. The dishes pictured below were all good to great with the grilled short ribs and grilled calamari being real standouts.

It's a small casual place with a majority of the tables located outside. It's open daily for lunch and dinner plus Sunday brunch.

Boquerones with lemon and Florida Citrus.

Camarones al Ajillo - shrimp, fried garlic, sherry vinegar. 

Cachets de Cerdo- braised pork cheeks, potatoes, truffle, eggs.

Tiras de Asado - grilled short ribs, romesco, scallion, garlic. 

Grilled Calamari with Chorizo Ratatouille.
7010 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33138
(305) 751-8756 
Taperia Raca on Urbanspoon

Most of my hardcore audience already know who Zak Stern aka Zak the Baker is by now. But the casual food fans out there may be unfamiliar with Zak and the outstanding bread he bakes. I suspect that his popularity will rise rapidly with the recent opening of his new bakery and cafe in Wynwood. The new spot will allow him to increase production and the cafe will provide the community with a spot to grab some great fresh bread along with the tasty creations of chef Sasha Ariel. I look forward to popping in on a regular basis.

Fresh Pea, Roasted Garlic and Ricotta.

Hummus with Tahini, Hariff and Kohlrabi Salad.

Zak the Baker on Urbanspoon

405 NW 26TH ST
MIAMI FL, 33127 

Basil Park is a new spot in Sunny Isles from chef Tim Andiola and Rodrigo Martinez of Timo. Timo's healthy neighbor is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have partnered with Harpke's Family Farm in Hollywood who will be providing all of their organic produce and micro greens.
The menu features a cold pressed juice bar, smoothies, raw items, pasture raised rotisserie chicken, grass fed meats and sustainable seafood cooked on a plancha grill plus salads and other healthy fare. The dishes I ate were fresh, clean, allegedly healthy and enjoyable.

Eat to live is the slogan and one I'm willing to embrace. A welcome addition to the Miami food scene.

The Filipina - coconut water, banana, pineapple, young coconut, coconut butter, lime. 

Close up of Scottish House Cured Salmon, crisp potato cake, "creme fraiche" 

Spicy Salmon Nori Wraps, red quinoa, avocado, pea tendrils, cucumber, daikon, carrot, Fresno chiles. 

Vegetable Spaghetti "Alfredo" black truffle cream, squash blossom, cashew cheese. 

Royal Red Shrimp a la plancha.

Ahi Tuna Tiradito - Aji amarillo, sweet potato & choclo. 

Mushrooms and Snow Peas.    

Basil Park on Urbanspoon

17608 Collins Ave
Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160
(305) 705-0004

Friday, May 23, 2014