If you’re the type of person whose eyes light up at the sight or sound of the word “Michelin,” then next week is made for you, and it’s all happening in Miami! United Way Miami’s annual Wine & Food Festival, April 17th-20th, is celebrating its 18th year by undergoing a very upscale, very haute cuisine makeover that is sure to draw in South Florida’s serious gourmands. Eschewing its old moniker, the festival is now going by the name VERITAGEMIAMI, and to show the South Florida food scene that it means business, they are having none other than the legendary Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud to headline the four day event.
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:
If you’re a gin drinker and love tennis, then there is little reason for you not to attend tomorrow’s Bombay Sapphire Happy Hour at perhaps Miami’s best and most elegant restaurant, db Bistro Moderne. Celebrating the start of this year’s Sony Open Tennis Tournament, Chef Daniel Boulud’s outpost of his famed NYC restaurant will be offering half priced cocktails and exquisite bar bites. Gin lovers will also sample and learn how to make perfect gin cocktails from Bombay Sapphire’s mixologists, and DJ Michael Sarysz will be present to add a little rhythm to the ambience. Tennis fans will also get the chance to win a pair of tickets to the Sony Open as they are raffled out every half hour.
There is that moment in every gourmand’s life when he or she has that first great meal - that meal that demonstrates not only just how good food can be but how cuisine truly is art. For me, that happened on my first trip to New York City when I was in high school with a dinner at Chef Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne. For a Miami boy, that meal was far better than anything I’d had in my hometown, and the experience raised my standards when it came to fine dining. Miami’s food scene has grown up considerably in the last 10 years, and while we have yet to see any local chefs receive a Michelin star, it is comforting to know that Michelin-starred chefs consider Miami a fitting locale to open a restaurant as they expand their empires. Ten years after that first taste of haute cuisine in NYC, I was ready to revisit db Bistro Moderne, but this time it would be on my own turf.
For some reason, it seems as if time really flew between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, which means that most of us have been scrambling to get our greeting cards and presents in order, as well as trying to keep track of the various holiday functions we feel obliged to attend. When your main preoccupation is trying to find just one good gift for your mom and realizing that you haven’t sent anything to your in-laws while they sent you a box of presents, the last thing on your mind is planning a Christmas (or Noche Buena) feast. Sure, you can do what I do and round up a selection of charcuterie and cheeses from Graziano’s and Epicure to nibble at throughout the holiday - or visit a Blue Sky for your lechón - but with so many fabulous restaurants offering such wonderful Christmas and Christmas Eve dinners, it’s hard not to take the easy way out and leave the preparations to the gourmet chefs. If you’re finding yourself in Miami without dinner plans this Christmas, let Joonbug outline a few suggestions for you:
Every year, autumn brings foodies of all manner wonderful things from persimmons and Asian pears to Beaujolais Nouveau and Thanksgiving Day. Not least among them, of course, is the beginning of white truffle season. The rare specialty from the Alba region of Italy is perhaps one of the most coveted ingredients in fine dining this time of the year, and db Bistro Moderne is not only marking the start of the glorious season but also celebrating it in full force. On November 28th, diners can experience the incomparable magic that this fungus evokes with a multicourse white truffle dinner hosted by none other than the celebrated Michelin starred chef, Daniel Boulud.
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.
Pairing wine with dinner is a classic combination, and beer pairings are becoming more and more popular as we see an increase in microbreweries specializing in craft beers that are produced to offer unique and nuanced flavors instead of just a cheap buzz. However, if you are like me and love a well made cocktail that is not only tasty but unique and interesting, then you should make a date with Chef Matthieu Godard and Sommelier Christopher Lindemann at DB Bistro Moderne tomorrow evening for their luxury spirits dinner. Along with a luscious French-inspired four course dinner by Chef Godard, diners and cocktail enthusiasts will be able to savor some creative concoctions utilizing spirits that aren't generally well-known in South Florida, such as Noelet gin and Kappa pisco. The evening's menu is as follows:
On July 25th, I had the pleasure of attending the Fourth Annual To Live & Dine in Miami event benefitting the Chapman Partnership, which has aided homeless South Floridians in employment, housing, and job training thus getting their lives back in order and helping them to support themselves. The event is presented by MIAMI Magazine each year, and this year it was hosted by Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud of DB Bistro Moderne. I had the chance to meet him in person, and while I'd like to think that I'm not prone to being starstruck, I'm slightly embarassed to say that I found myself stumbling over syllables and gushing to the acclaimed chef about how much I love him and his cuisine, and how it was the first haute cuisine restaurant I had been to, and it changed my life, and how great of an honor it was to meet him. I guess when in the presence of a great chef like Daniel Boulud, any foodie's decorum will simply dissolve.