One of the interesting things about the holidays is that the traditions surrounding them can be so enjoyable, and oftentimes so delicious, that even the most staunch atheist can feel hesitant to completely abandon them. Even those who still identify with a particular religion can often forgo the rituals, services, and prayers associated with certain holidays but will definitely embrace the gift exchanges, parties, and most definitely the food. I’m certain that not everyone has been making sacrifices for Lent. Many Catholics have probably forgotten that Palm Sunday was this past weekend, many more will be observing Holy Week as just another week, and there are probably quite a few who don’t plan on going to church this coming Sunday. Nevertheless, many self-identifying Christians will probably be making plans to enjoy an Easter meal this weekend. Along with the warmer weather our northern compatriots hope to experience, our recent “spring forward” to which many of us are still adjusting also marks an unofficial start to “the brunch season.” Sure, we enjoy leisurely al fresco brunches all the time in South Florida, but brunch never seems as mandatory as it does during one of the Spring’s most brunch-friendly holidays, Easter. In case you have yet to make plans for this weekend, here are a few of Joonbug’s suggestions for restaurants serving up Easter brunch in South Florida:
February is filled with so much to do in South Florida for a foodie. As if our minds aren’t already constantly occupied with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, we have Valentine’s Day to think about next week. If you’re lucky enough to have someone with whom to celebrate it, you probably know that a romantic dinner can truly take this day of love from simply romantic to truly memorable. While attempting to make a gourmet, multi course meal at home is an honorable feat, sometimes it’s best to let some our best chefs work at the food while you enjoy each other’s company. In case you haven't already made plans, here are some of Joonbug’s picks in Miami for Valentine’s Day dinner:
It might not be the same for everyone, but in my experience, Thanksgiving is that very special holiday when some of the worst cooks consider themselves to be award-winning chefs. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been a victim of such atrocities as a coleslaw-ambrosia salad combination, an unnaturally colored cool whip and graham cracker crumb dessert, or a casserole so replete with cream, butter, cheese, and bacon that it constitutes one’s allowable fat intake for the entire year. Trying to dissuade these mad scientists turned amateur cooks from contributing to your Thanksgiving feast can quickly become an ugly scene with all the crying, fighting, and emotion of a 90’s talk show. Trying to trick yourself into making your relative’s multicolored congealed salad into a suitable side dish for your chestnut and morel stuffed bird has proven futile...and quite ridiculous. The only solution to make everyone happy is to leave the cooking to the professionals this Thanksgiving and going to a restaurant. If your ideal Turkey Day is one in which there are no dishes to wash and you’re not stuck with a week’s worth of leftovers, then you should definitely check out Joonbug’s recommendations for restaurants offering some of the best Thanksgiving dinners in South Florida this year.
If you live in Miami and love to eat, you're probably well aware that Miami Spice is in our midst right now and will be so until the end of September. The two month restaurant promotion that began on August 1st has been a yearly tradition in Miami for over a decade now and is perhaps one of the most anticipated dining events in South Florida after the South Beach Wine & Food Festival...at least to the bargain hunting gourmand. Nevertheless, perusing each and every menu of the well over one hundred restaurants that are participating this year is a daunting task. There are restaurants that choose the cheapest things from their regular menu to offer on their Miami Spice menus, making the prix fixe dinner barely a bargain, and there are those normally spectacular restaurants that create a special Miami Spice menu featuring dirt-cheap and boring options like Caesar salad and grilled chicken breast with steamed asparagus. Furthermore, this year there are two categories of dining instead of just one, and the prices for lunch and dinner are reflective of which category a restaurant thinks it's part of - luxury dining ($39 dinner, $23 lunch) or fine dining ($33 dinner, $19 lunch). As one can imagine, some of Miami's restaurants are suffering from delusions of grandeur, and while they might be offering a good Miami Spice menu, it is hardly worth the luxury dining price tag.
There is perhaps no other instituion on Collins avenue more symbolic of the South Beach renaissance that occurred in the 90's than The Delano. Ahead of the game back then, the iconic Philippe Starck-designed hotel continues to be ahead of the curve by periodically reinventing itself, which usually includes changing up some of the restaurants. One of the newer additions to the hotel's dining options is Bianca, an Italian restaurant that opened with a typical SoBe bang this past January and seems to continue to do well.
The fare at Bianca consists of that brand of Italian cuisine that become to be a trademark of Miami Beach dining - closer to the Italian cuisine eaten in Italy than to the red sauce, spaghetti and meatballs Italian-American cuisine that the rest of the country is probably more familiar with - which translates into homemade pastas, fresh seafood, and light antipasti. Starting on Mother's Day, Bianca will be "putting the B in brunch" with a spread that includes Italian delicacies alongside much-loved brunch staples. Menu offerings will include a selection of sushi and rolls from Umi Sushi & Sake Bar, which took the place of Blue Sea, as well as a selection of chilled shellfish, Bloody Mary Oyster Shooters, and caviar. The buffet will also include an array of charcuterie, prosciutto, and artisan salumi alongside signature homemade Bianca pastas. Of course, no brunch buffet is complete without the requisite omelet and Belgian waffle stations, and in true brunch buffet form, Bianca will also be offering a carving station featuring rosemary prime rib. The restaurant's head pastry chef will also be offering his dessert and pastry creations.
Going out to an expensive, fancy meal is special, but sometimes we crave amazing food when we don't have the budget. Steal Vs. Splurge is an article that can recommend that perfect expensive restaurant, versus a comparable restaurant to go to when you just don't have the extra cash. This week focuses on basic Italian.
Splurge: Scarpetta 355 W. 14th St., New York, NY 10014
A great chef knows how to take classic dishes and make them exceptional. When it comes to basic comfort cuisine, Scott Conant knows how to satisfy with style. This restaurant's specialty? Creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms ($1500) and homemade Spaghetti with tomato sauce ($24.00). Order both of these dishes, and you'll leave singing "That's amore."
Incorporating the Mediterranean dish inspirations of her well-respected Taim restaurant, Israeli chef-owner Einat Admony adds Middle Eastern cuisine to her resume in her newly-opened Nolita sit-down spot, Balaboosta.
Balaboosta - meaning, in Yiddish, "the perfect housewife" - is an altar, of sorts, to the domestic goddesses that have inspired thought and creativity in kitchens throughout history. Admony, for example, has a portrait of her aunt Hana hanging on one of the walls, watching over diners and bestowing her approval on her niece's success. According to Admony, Hana "always had ten pots on the stove." Other domiciliary accents to expect: a bookshelf stacked with cookbooks written by women, picture frames of notable females, and other kitchen-y knick knacks.