Being of Cuban descent and having eaten varieties of Latin American food throughout my entire life, there isn’t much that can surprise me within this genre of cuisine. My understanding of most Latin American food is greasy, usually fried, comfortable, and predictable. When I was asked to visit Bernie’s LA Café, my expectations were not very high. Boy, was I mistaken! Named after proprietor Bernie Matz, also known for Lincoln Road’s café at Books & Books, Bernie’s LA Café has been considered the Best Organic Latin American Cuisine and the owner of the Best Cuban Sandwich by the Miami New Times. Bernie’s is the kind of restaurant that offers something for everyone with its array of vegan, vegetarian, and straight up meat-loving options.
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 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.
Contrary to popular belief, foodies aren’t always eating all the time. Sometimes we like to go out just to hang out, maybe listen to some good music, and maybe just move around the dance floor a little...you know...to burn off some of that incredible dinner we just had that is sure to appear on our blogs the next day. Nevertheless, it does go much appreciated when a nightlife venue offers a little something for foodies and makes a “one-stop shop” out of what would otherwise have been a night around town. I’m sure most night owls in Miami have seen delicious examples of this trend: the lounge offering non-afterthought small plates, or the food truck parked just outside the bar. To add to the ever-increasing roster of bars, clubs, and lounges catering to foodies is Blackbird Ordinary in Brickell.
For a truly cosmopolitan foodie, choosing the right venue for a dinner out can be a daunting task. Okay. Daunting might come across as drastic, but when someone’s palate follows a culinary trajectory that mirrors that of Magellan, it can be a little tough to find a restaurant that caters to every gastronomic desire. There is that great Korean joint, but you feel like having German, too. Gnocchi would be perfect, but could the kitchen top it off with some ropa vieja and maybe rustle up a mango lassi? Granted, most diners are content with just one cuisine at a time, but for those who like it all at once, Fort Lauderdale seems to offer just the place. A local favorite that has been almost secretly talked about and shared among Broward foodies since 2009, The Grateful Palate takes influences from across culinary traditions to bring diners a truly global dining experience. With a new cocktail list and new dishes that branch out further into the far reaches of the world’s kitchens, The Grateful Palate offers a delicious solution to the culinarily cosmopolitan.
One of the interesting things about 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 few of Joonbug’s suggestions for restaurants serving up Easter brunch in South Florida:
Allen Susser is one of Miami’s most celebrated chefs who helped put the 305 on the culinary map before anyone ever thought of calling Miami by its area code. Part of the original “Mango Gang” that included Chef Michelle Bernstein and Chef Norman Van Aken, the James Beard Award-winning Chef Susser was known for pioneering the use of tropical and Caribbean ingredientsthings that grew plentifully in South Florida—into fine dining, creating a cuisine that was known for a while as “Floribbean”. His namesake restaurant in Aventura was a favorite for years until it finally closed its doors, and fans have been wondering what this local gastronomic icon will be doing next. Well, it seems as if Chef Allen Susser is taking a departure from the mango-centric cuisine he has been known for to bring us a more casual, more comforting, and less tropical concept: grilled cheese sandwiches. Tomorrow, March 8th, sees the opening of Chef Susser’s Midtown Miami eatery, Daily Melt. If you’re skeptical about Chef Allen’s new approach, then Daily Melt is willing to win you over with a free sandwich tomorrow!
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.
Most serious foodies have most likely heard about the Slow Food Movement...if not already members in good standing. The movement, which started in Italy, came about as a response to the ubiquitous fast food culture of our era and the threat it continues to pose towards good food, good health, and eating well. Slow Food continues to be one of the most prominent organizations in supporting good, natural food that is environmentally and socially responsible with chapters throughout the world, including one in Miami. On Friday, March 15th, South Florida locals can take part in Slow Food Miami’s 2nd Annual Snail of Approval Tasting Party, which will be hosted by Chef Norman Van Aken and Deco Drive’s Louis Aguirre and honors chefs, restaurants, mixologists, and others in the food industry who consistently support local, seasonal, organic, and fair agriculture in the food and drinks that they serve.
Bal Harbour is as recognizable for anyone in Miami as Lincoln Road or Calle Ocho. The highly affluent stretch of Collins Avenue is home to some of the most luxurious residences and also to one of the most luxurious malls in the country, Bal Harbour Shops. While more renowned for it’s designer clothing and jewelry boutiques that include Chanel and Harry Winston, as well as its Neiman Marcus and Saks anchors, the mall is also a destination for the truly savvy gourmand with restaurants like Makoto. Named after Chef Makoto Okuwa who mans the kitchen, this Japanese restaurant has been offering shoppers and culinary connoisseurs inventive fare since it opened its doors a few years ago. Chef Okuwa seems to be in a constant state of creation, and his unique interpretations of Japanese dishes inspire diners to look at one of the world’s most elegant cuisines in an entirely new light.