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Everything posted by Ari

  1. Ari


    Faboo and Redglass, I just want to tell you how much I'm enjoying this thread. You've inspired me to join a CSA next year!
  2. That sounds fantastic. I'll definitely give it a try. And on the VQ front, I went back there this afternoon for lunch. I thought I'd ask for the manager I talked with over the phone, and if he wasn't there I'd come back another time. He wasn't there, but the manager who was on duty knew who I was--he said he'd been filled in on the conversation--and he insisted on "taking care of me." He brought out bellinis from the bar, recommended a sandwich (which was as good as those I've had at VQ in New York), and checked in on me repeatedly throughout the meal. He said he'd just been hired to take care of what seem to be endemic service problems at the restaurant. He was wonderful, though, and gave me his card at the end of the meal, telling me to call him any time I planned on coming back. One odd thing, though. When the bill came (he charged me for the sandwich, but not for the cocktails, appetizer, dessert, or espresso), in addition to a blank for "Tip," there was a blank for "Captain's tip." When I asked a waiter what that meant, he said they were the same thing and I should ignore it. Has anyone else ever heard of this?
  3. Ari

    Really Fast Dinners

    Couscous is so quick - I boil the appropriate amount of stock, stir in whatever vegetables I have on hand until they're tender-crisp, then pour in the couscous, give it a stir, put the lid on the pot, and set it aside for 5 minutes while the couscous absorbs the water. You could also add meat or seafood. Sometimes I saute garlic, onions, ginger, or whatever else sounds good before I add the stock. It ain't pretty, but it's quick and does the job. Variations on miso soup (with vegetables, tofu, pasta, or whatever else you want to add) are another standard meal-in-a-bowl for rushed evenings at my house.
  4. In a visit to Savannah last year, I went to a place called The Crab Shack that was between Savannah and Tybee Island. I was afraid it was going to be a tourist trap, but instead it produced one of the best, most memorable meals I've ever had. The tables are all outside, on the edge of the marsh, under enormous live oak trees. You get a roll of paper towels, and then the waiter brings out a gargantuan platter of all kinds of amazing things so fresh they taste like they were just pulled out of the swamp. Crawfish, shrimp, crab claws, corn on the cob (okay, the corn wasn't just pulled out of the swamp). You dip it in melted butter, eat it, and drop the shells in the trash can under the table. It's hot, messy, and excessive in the best possible way.
  5. This flourless chocolate cake recipe is my favorite pareve Pesach dessert. I substitute margarine for the butter in the cake, and I've compensated for the whipped cream in the glaze a couple of different ways - either by using a pareve substitute, or by eliminating the glaze altogether and making a raspberry sauce instead.
  6. This is a story with a happy ending: Via Quadronno is a panini institution in New York, and the owners opened a branch in Coral Gables last fall. I just got around to visiting last week. The sandwiches of theirs that I've tried in New York are justifiably famous, and priced accordingly. I went to their Miami outpost by myself as sort of a private celebration and ordered the Pan Bagnat, which the menu describes as "soft bread filled w/ Nicoise salad." At $14, it's one of the more expensive sandwiches on their menu, but not by much. When it arrived, it was not a pan bagnat at all. It was essentially a mayonnaise-y American tuna sandwich, with tomato, red onion, and iceberg lettuce. I'd built up this lunch in my mind so much that this sandwich was an incredible letdown. When the waiter saw that I'd taken a few bites and let it sit, he asked if everything was okay. I told him that this didn't seem like a typical pan bagnat to me, and I asked whether the restaurant generally made it this way. He said, "Yes, sorry," and walked away. I didn't have the guts to call him back again and complain more explicitly, so I ate the sandwich, ordered an espresso (one of the best I've had in Miami), and left unhappy. I was still thinking about it a few days later, so I called the restaurant's manager. I started to tell him my story, and when I got to the phrase "pan bagnat," he interrupted--"I know exactly what you're going to say," he said, "and I am terribly sorry. We shouldn't have it on the menu if we can't make it correctly. It's a problem that we're going to fix immediately, and I hope you'll come back to the restaurant and ask for me by name. I would love to make sure that all of your needs are attended to the next time you're here." Then he joked that if I wanted to know how he was going to deal with the waiter, I should check the obituary page of the newspaper the next day. I haven't been back to VQ yet, but I plan to go soon. I just wanted to report an example of good restaurant management and encourage Miami residents to give this place a try. If their sandwiches are anything like the ones in New York, they ARE worth a special trip -- just not for the pan bagnat.
  7. Versailles is THE classic Miami place for cheap Cuban food, but IMHO there are other hole-in-the-wall Cuban places where the food is much better. One is a market/restaurant called El Palacio De Los Jugos, at 57th and Flagler. It's not a sit-down restaurant; the style is more like a cafeteria with big outdoor tables. Another is Havana Harry's in Coral Gables. I heard (don't know whether this is true) that it's owned by a married couple--one Cuban, one Anglo--that wanted an authentic Cuban place where both of their families would feel comfortable dining. David's on South Beach is also good for authentic, hole-in-the-wall food. They have one restaurant on Lincoln Road and another on Washington. At least the Lincoln Road one is open 24 hours a day. Speaking of Lincoln Road, the Lincoln Road Cafe is around the corner from David's. They serve Cuban food that is good (not great) but has the best people-watching in town. And a slightly trendier version of classic Latin cuisine is in Coral Gables at Chispa. None of these are landmarks in the way Versailles is, but I think Versailles sometimes coasts on the fact that it's a landmark. On a separate note, the other night I ate for the first time at a place called Shoji Sushi. It's on Collins Ave. between 1st and 2nd. Innovative food, high-quality fish, and not so expensive that it has to be postponed for a special occasion. They had these lychee cocktails that were just fabulous. The restaurant is next door to Nemo, which is another high-end South Beach favorite.
  8. I stuff a whole fish with fennel and cook it on the grill. And a salad of mandoline-sliced fennel, orange, and oil-cured black olives is perfection on a plate, if you ask me.
  9. Ari


    While I can't speak to that product specifically, I want to toss out an idea that I got from epicurious a while back - a cold farro salad. It's like any other grain-based salad, but chewier. The recipe I tried included parmesan, favas, cherry tomatoes, arugula, EVOO, and red wine vinegar. It was delicious and has become a summer picnic standard for me.
  10. I attended on Saturday and had a great time at the cooking demonstrations. I thought the grand tasting was less successful. The venue felt a little like a state fair, while the cuisine strove for fine dining. There was a good deal of elbowing to get to the scallops (or the gazpacho, or filet, or what have you). The chefs' demos, on the other hand, were fabulous. Chatty, fun, and a good dose of celebrity for all. I took the opportunity to do a story about the phenomenon of celebrity chefs (for which I chatted with Steve Klc, who was very helpful). Unfortunately, it was one of the rare weekends when the weather in SoBe was not perfect. Rainclouds threatened for most of the weekend, and apparently some of the outdoor VIP dinners were actually rained on.
  11. Great reports, thanks for highlighting them!
  12. Yes, I've just been to Ola for appetizers and cocktails - never full dinner - but I was very impressed with the food, service, and friendliness. (The servers paid no less attention than the rest of the crowd, despite the fact that we weren't ordering a full meal.)
  13. I've never been to Talula, but it does look good. The good news for your search is that nearly every quality upscale restaurant in Miami has at least some Florida/Latino/Caribbean influences, if not an overt mission statement as such. There's a chef in Brickell preparing exciting Spanish cuisine in an old firehouse at a restaurant called Mosaico. I've heard that the place isn't doing well (location might be a problem), so more business for them would be a good thing. A chic place that's perhaps less upscale than what you're looking for but more explicit in its latin influences, is Chispa in Coral Gables. On South Beach, Wish and Nemo are both elegant and have outdoor seating so you can enjoy the breeze. Blue Door at the Delano Hotel is a South Beach classic, and the food is pretty good if over-the-top expensive. I'd say this food is more french than Latino/Floribbean, though. I think the best meal I've had in Miami was at Azul, although it, too, is as French/Asian as it is Latino/Floribbean. Good luck! Let us know where you eat and how you enjoy it.
  14. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival is coming up at the end of February. Has anybody been before? Anybody planning on going this year? They've increased the ticket prices, apparently because too many people came last year. The ads make it look like a convergence of FoodTV celebrities. I'm wondering whether it's worth attending and if so, what one should expect to find there. Here's the festival website.
  15. I'm just visiting Detroit from Miami for a couple of days. (I know, I know... don't ask.) Anyway, I've had two very good inexpensive meals here since I arrived. The first was at La-Shish. Mideastern food. There are a few of these around the Detroit Metro area. I went to one in Dearborn and was heartbroken not to be able to take home the leftovers. (No refrigerator in the hotel room.) The 2nd great meal was lunch at Agave, near the Symphony Hall on Woodward. Fresh, novel interpretation of Mexican food. As a side note, if you're thinking of staying at the Ramada in downtown Detroit, please, please, please do not. It's the closest thing to a flophouse I've ever stayed at. I know Ramada's not supposed to be top-of-the-line, but I can't believe the company lets this place bear its name.
  16. Ari

    Starbucks Chantico

    I have to agree. In fact, the company website calls chantico "a drinkable dessert." Even though I won't drink it often, I think it's a good thing to be able to find a small, dark, intense cup of chocolate on any streetcorner in America. (Starbucks is on every streetcorner in America by now, isn't it?)
  17. Ari

    Starbucks Chantico

    I'm drinking one right now, and I approve. This is the kind of hot chocolate that, until now, I'd only been able to find in Europe or at places like La Maison du Chocolat. Though given that the online nutritional profile pegs the drink with 21 grams of fat, I'm thinking this may only be a "sometimes" indulgence. (I also question how much of this they're going to be able to sell down here in Miami, where it's currently January and 81 degrees.)
  18. Ari


    I love their ginger-limeade. Mmmm...
  19. Another South Beach discovery: Ice Box Cafe. This place is less than half a block off of Lincoln Road on Michigan, but it's not at all touristy. I went there for the first time two weeks ago, and since then I've been back another two times, for brunch and dinner. (It helps that I live 2 blocks away.) The owner is a guy named Robert who's run the place for seven years, changing the menu daily. It's very casual, very small, friendly service, excellent food. Here's one tiny detail that to me, indicates the kind of care that sets this place apart from other small, casual restaurants: When you order iced tea, they bring it to the table with a little pot of simple syrup so you can sweeten to taste. So much smarter than crystalized sugar that doesn't dissolve in the bottom of the glass, so much tastier than over-sweetened sweet tea (sorry, die hard Southerners). There are lots of those kinds of simple, elegant details that make this place a pleasure to eat at. And none of the Lincoln Road tourists seem to know about it!
  20. I haven't gotten smacked yet when doing this and have gotten interesting explanations. ← I think the DFM owners found this to be a common trend, so they created something called the Cooking Arts Network. They encourage their customers to sign up as either "teachers" who are well-versed in a particular cuisine, or as "students," who want to learn. On the appointed day, the teachers all get free access to the DFM products and cook for the benefit of the students. Then everyone eats all the foods that everyone's made. I wasn't able to attend one of these, but they sound like a great idea.
  21. Thanks! And I have to give a special shout out to Tryska, who joined me on my first ever pilgrimage to the DFM.
  22. I recently did a piece about the DFM, too. It's here.
  23. I've been living in South Beach for just a few months, and last weekend my partner's parents came to visit. We took that as an opportunity to eat at four high-end restaurants that we wouldn't have visited otherwise: Mosaico, Azul, Normans, and Baleen. None of these are actually IN South Beach, but they're all easily accessible if you have a car. Mosaico is the new kid on the block, and it was my favorite of the lot. The exec. chef trained with Adria at El Bulli, and he takes some of the El Bulli tricks to a level that may be more accessible for less adventuresome diners. My in-laws, who don't generally get wowed by "tricks" with food, loved it. The restaurant is in a gorgeous old firehouse from the 1920s. Our 2nd night was Azul, which was much more elegant than Mosaico. In my opinion, the food was flawless if not terribly surprising. I was concerned, because the restaurant's much-acclaimed chef left a few weeks ago. (Her name escapes me at the moment.) They haven't yet chosen someone to replace her, but I can't find anything to criticize about the operation they have going in the interim. Christmas Eve we made the sacreligious step of eating at Norman's, rather than at a Chinese restaurant as my people have done on Christmas Eve for thousands of years. This is Norman Van Aken's high-profile Miami institution. The highlight of this meal was a conch chowder with the perfect balance of spiciness, creaminess, crunch, and ooze. The conch were panko-breaded... just flawless. Entrees were good but not amazing, desserts a bit more of a let-down. And our last night was Baleen. Skip it. Bad service, mediocre food, high prices. The waiter didn't even show us the bottle of wine before bringing out the glasses for the wine pairings. I can't tell you how disappointed I was in this place after having heard such good things about it. So if money is no object, I think it's hard to go wrong with Mosaico, Azul, or Norman's. For more creative diners, I'd choose Mosaico even if the food at Azul was a bit better. Hope this helps! Ari
  24. Ah, the two fat ladies.... God I miss them. Does anyone still show reruns?
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