Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cobaya Thomas Griese @ MM74 3.26.15


Cobaya Miami Experiment Number 51 took place on March 26, 2015.  It was our first actual "underground" dinner as we dined beneath the legendary Fontainebleau Hotel at Michael Mina 74 which is owned and operated by one of the best restaurateurs in the nation, Michael Mina.  When you walk into a Michael Mina establishment you know you are going to receive first class service and a great experience. And Cobaya 51 was no exception.  But Cobya 51 wasn't about Michael, it was all about his young and talented Chef de Cuisine, Thomas Griese.

Thomas is only 28 but has an impressive resume which includes working for Thomas Keller at Bouchon in Las Vegas and at The French Laundry where he trained under Corey Lee who recently received three Michelin Stars and is a James Beard finalist for best chef  at his restaurant Benu.  He also spent time in the kitchen at André Rochat’s Andre’s, Alizé at The Palms Hotel, and Le Cirque Las Vegas at the Bellagio. Prior to being the opening Chef de Cuisine at MM74 he was the Chef de Cuisine at The Setai.


I was excited when  I heard that Michael Mina was opening a second restaurant in Miami.  Bourbon Steak is one of the best restaurants in town and also my favorite.  I thoroughly enjoyed my first dining experience at MM74 and raved about it in my First Date post. I was very impressed with the overall experience especially the food prepared by Thomas.  Yes, the Cobaya bell went off in my head. But for some reason, location primarily, Thomas fell off my Cobaya radar and so did the restaurant.  A recent phone call from Larry Carrino of Brustman Carrino Public Relations changed all of that.  Larry said he had a great young chef who was interested in doing a Cobaya and who he thought would be perfect, Thomas Griese.  Being familiar with Thomas I abruptly cut Larry off and told him to connect me so we could get it done.  Big thanks to Larry.

Planning this dinner with Thomas was a lot of fun and energizing.  He's as passionate about food as they come.  The initial conversation and subsequent texts and emails leading up to the dinner oozed genuine excitement. They made me smile and made my days. His enthusiasm is the reason why I love spending my free time organizing these dinners.

He embraced the concept and wanted to deliver a Michelin star caliber meal.

I must admit that I was a bit concerned that his excitement was going to hamstring his execution.  But he's a super talented pro and he delivered a knockout meal from start to finish.  His progression, flavor combinations and execution were spot on all night.

This meal was a winner in every way.  Service was "Mina" proper, pacing was perfect and the sommelier, Stankovik Zarko (who joins the second Cobaya club following Cobaya Compton at Scarpetta) did a fantastic job all night with great selections and great pairings.

Huge thanks to Thomas and his entire kitchen crew. General Manager, Rogelio Flores and his front of the house squad and to all the guinea pigs in attendance and those who tried to attend.  Your continued support and interest keeps these going strong.

Don't make the same mistake I made. MM74 should be on your radar.  It's one of the best restaurants in town with a talented rising star in the kitchen.  

Amuse Bouche: Kusshi Oyster, Truffled Yuzu Sabayon, Ossetra Caviar, Blue Sea Salt Bed

Delamotte Brut, Mesnil Sur Oger, Champagne , France NV

Thomas' tribute to the classic oysters and pearls dish at The French Laundry was an amazing start to the meal. Each great flavor came together for a wonderful first bite.  The Delamotte was a delicious and perfect start as well.

Foie Gras and White Miso Brulee, Port Wine Reduction, Toasted Brioche

Château Coutet, Sauternes Barsac, France 2009

I'm a big fan of foie gras and this version did not disappoint.  The creaminess of the foie combined with the white miso and port wine reduction were a delicious combination.

Escargot en Surprise, White Asparagus, Fresh Golden Morels, Cinco Jotas Jamon Iberico, Jamon Whipped Oil

Domaine Weinbach ‘Schlossberg’ Grand Cru Riesling, Alsace, France 2012

This dish included several great flavor and texture combinations. Escargot butter, earthy golden morels, tender white asparagus and incredible Jamon Iberico.

Hand cut Tagliatelle Pasta, Nantucket Bay Scallops, Nebrodini and Abalone Mushroom, Santa Monica Uni, Shellfish Nage

Thierry & Pascale Matrot Meursault ‘Les Chevalieres’ Burgundy, France 2013

This was probably my favorite dish of the night.  Perfectly cooked pasta paired with flavorful scallops and topped with creamy and fresh uni. Toss in tasty mushrooms and a flavorful shellfish nage.

Snake River Farms, Wagyu Ribeye Cap, Shallot Snow, Truffled Pomme Puree, Naststrium Leaves, Sauce Perigourdine

Long Shadows ‘The Sequel’, Columbia Valley, Washington State 2012

The last savory course of the night was another dynamite dish.  I love wagyu and I love the ribeye cap. Thomas' wagyu ribeye cap was on steroids. I can't recall exactly what he did to this super steak but I know it was cooked sous vide with butter, thyme and aromatics then grilled and rested in buerre monte.  I suspect this was a technique learned during his time at The French Laundry.  That's irrelevant.  All you need to know is that it was melt in your mouth tender and full of great beefy flavor.

Dessert Fantasy

Mango Custard, Candied Violet, Raspberry Gelee, Aerated Vanilla Ice Cream

Dr. Loosen Estate Riesling, Beerenauslese Mosel, Germany, NV.

Dessert was a fun table side presentation and a refreshing end to a wonderful Cobaya night.

4441 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33140
Tel: 305.674.4636

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cobaya Fifty with Jeremiah Bullfrog, Ideas in Food & Friends 3.16.15

Wow Cobaya Experiment Fifty recently went down. There are no words to properly convey the pride and joy that I have felt while organizing these amazing dinners with my co-conspirators over the past five plus years. It's been a great ride and an awesome hobby. I've enjoyed the creations of 50 plus talented chefs along the way, a plethora of outstanding dishes and most importantly I've been able to share my passion with like minded food lovers, the gourmet guinea pigs. Okay, there were a couple of clunkers and the chefs probably know who they are but I will never say.

I've also met some great people along the way, many of whom I now consider friends.

Prior to starting Cobaya, I knew David and Steve from our online exchanges over the years on Chowhound, which continues to be the most reliable online source for dining advice. If I recall correctly, David had attended a special birthday dinner at the Trump Hotel in Sunny Isles which was curated and executed by two of the most underrated and unknown chefs in Miami, Kurtis Jantz and Chad "Zilla" Galiano. Chad is no longer in town but Kurtis continues to run the show at the Trump. They were into "molecular gastronomy" and subsequently started doing small ten seat creative dinners one night a week at the hotel called "Paradigm." Unfortunately, they were having trouble filling the restaurant seats (My wife and I were the only people there on a Saturday night) and looking to put together a focus group to help take the now defunct hotel restaurant, Neomi's to the next level. The food was good but Neomi's was a tough challenge based on several factors and struggling to find a fan base. Nevertheless, David contacted a few Chowhounders/Bloggers to participate. Prior to the invitation I wrote a post about starting an underground food group in Miami. The scene was growing and on the rise and I thought my fellow food lovers on Chowhound along with my followers would embrace and support it. As it turned out, David had similar thoughts and visions which we discussed during one of the tastings. The valet was slow that night and David, Steve and I discussed it further while waiting for our cars. While departing, we collectively said "let's do it." David took the ball and ran with it all the way to Talula. He got Number One properly done and it was a tremendous meal which I still have vivid and fond memories of. I also vividly recall David walking over to me at the end of the night with a huge grin asking "what's next"……..

After Cobaya 49 was in the books, the King of Cobaya, Chef Jeremiah, with hat tips to Andrew Zimmern, Andrew Carmellini, Conor Hanlon and Joshua Gripper, reached out and said "I got 50." BOOM. No other chef has embraced and supported the concept more than Jeremiah. He's the type of chef we started these for and he's been an inspiration to move forward with them. He is passionate about food, a hustler, a food gangster, creative, talented and most importantly a great guy and great chef.


As you know, timing plays an important role in life. Fortunately, chef Alex Talbot from Ideas in Food
was planning to pay a visit to Miami to cook with Jeremiah. Ideas in Food has played a huge role in the culinary lives of numerous chefs around the world. Alex collaborated with Jermiah on Cobaya 10 and was the perfect pairing for Cobaya 50. Jeremiah invited Kurtis along who delivered some great snacks to start the night. Jermeiah also invited his web designer turned gastropod chauffeur turned sous chef turned restaurant owner Steve "masa" Santana of Taquiza along too. It should be noted that Steve is a unique guinea pig turned Cobaya chef. Also in attendance was pastry chef Ricardo Torres who was previously at Tongue and Cheek. His desserts were some of the best bites of the night.

The dinner took place at Jeremiah's gastroPod 2.0 which is a pimped out shipping container located in Wynwood.

Oy! I did not intend on writing a post this long and actually loathe them. I know no one wants to read this much these days. My bad. So, I will let the pictures and descriptions speak for themselves the rest of the way. But I will add, that it was the perfect way to celebrate #50. Great chefs who are friends of Cobaya who brought their A games and did Cobaya right. The food was amazing, the scene was right and it was a fantastic night. THANK YOU.

Chef Kurtis was in charge of snacks and as usual delivered some tasty bites. Cajun kale crisps with pecan aioli; chicken liver preparada; pickled shrimp; pork pop w charred piña salsa (pictured); hogfish crudo with sour orange, aji oil, black lava salt and cilantro; orange gel, goat cheese, oregano ancient grain granola creamsicle push pop)

Chicken fried shrimp, schmaltz mayo, lemon.

Dry aged beef chuck tartare, sea truffles, garlic chives.

Blistered snow peas, salsa verde, Woodlands Pork Coppa.

Beef tendon, coca cola, tamarind, green papaya. 

Olive Pickle Octopus, date palms, endive, powdered coconut.

Gochujang paccheri, aged cheddar, luchito n'duja.

Roasted Pig Head Pupusas, kimchi curtido, El Santana's Masa.

This dish took two days to prepare. Day one consisted of a visit to la caja china para tres little pig heads. Once they were en fuego, they paid a visit to the grinder before being delivered to the king of masa for stuffing.

Dia Dos was la dia de Cobaya y Jeremiah roasted three more cabezas de piggy y served them table side.

Taleggio, watermelon, radish.

Soursop mousse, caramelized cashew milk, sorrel.

Purple corn pudding, roasted corn ice cream, Fresno relish.

Parting gifts a la Jeremiah…

You can now enjoy the culinary street creations of Jeremiah in Wynwood and at the Aventura Mall Food Court.  More info gastropod.

Huge thanks to all the guinea pigs out there who have supported us.  And thanks to all the chefs and their entire teams for 50 great experiments.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Cobaya SOBEWFF with Andrew Zimmern 2.20.15

What a night!! On February 20, 2015, 50 gourmet guinea pigs raided the Perez Art Museum Miami for a fantastic event.
The Cobaya Crew

Cobaya Miami experiment #49 may not have been as "underground" as the prior 48 but it was a wonderful night with a great group of chefs and guinea pigs.

Huge thanks to Lee Schrager and his South Beach Wine and Food Festival team for inviting us to be a part of the best wine and food festival in the world. And for delivering a first class event in every way. It was truly an honor to participate.

Huge thanks to Andrew Zimmern for agreeing to host, curate and cook for us.  Andrew attended Cobaya 21 and featured us on his popular show Bizarre Foods America.  Ever since that night we've wanted to get him in the Cobaya kitchen to cook a killer Cobaya style meal.  It almost happened a couple of years ago but it unfortunately did not materialize.  But Lee reached out to us again this year and made sure it got done. And it got done right. 

Andrew invited some of his incredibly talented national and local chef-friends to join in the fun.  Chris Cosentino of San Francisco's Cockscomb and Boccalone, local hero Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine, Makoto Okuwa of Makoto in Bal Harbour, and Kaytlin Brakefield of Verde at PAMM. 

It was a diverse group of chefs and each one delivered delicious dishes that showcased their styles and remained in the spirit of Cobaya. 

Additional thanks to  Perez Art Museum Miami for hosting us in their amazing venue.  And thank you to all the guinea pigs in attendance including the new SOBEWFF guinea pigs. 

Hopefully, Lee will invite us back again and Andrew will host, curate and cook another outstanding meal.  Or we can gas up the Cobaya bus and have the guinea pigs invade NYC for the NYCWFF....
Andrew Zimmern


Foie Gras Hakata Shime with Shiso Cake, Yamamomo Berry and Kurozu Black Vinegar.

Local Tuna, Green Juice, Puffed Wild Rice, Pickled Kohlrabi

Hamachi Crudo, Tomato, Cucumber, Basil

Carciofi alla Giudia

Island Creek Oysters and Nduja Mignonette
Michael & Makoto


Teuchi Shin Soba, Hokkaido Amaebi, Kabu Turnip Surinagashi, Fresh Wasabi


2013 Kim Crawford S.mall Parcels Pinot Gris

Marinated Baby Beets, Shaved Vegetables, Beet-Ginger Kombucha, Hemp Seed, Sprouts


2014 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay

Vitello Tonnato-braised Veal Cheeks and Tuna Tonnato with Parsley, Red Onion and Caper Salad


2013 Kim Crawford Sm.all Parcels Chardonnay

Grilled Abalone with Black Bean Sauce, Crispy Shallots, Charred Scallions and Hot Chile Oil


2013 Kim Crawford S.outh Island Pinot Noir
Pork Belly and Clams


2012 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Central Otago Pinot Noir

Chocolate Pots de Creme, Coconut Streusel and Whipped Cream