Chef Paula da Silva of 1500º in the Eden Roc has been one South Florida chef who has been on the forefront of the farm-to-table concept since the restaurant opened a few years ago. Bringing diners the freshest and most local products available, Chef Paula also has a way of blending these ingredients in ways that can sometimes surprise and at other times conjure memories of enjoying grandma’s (or abuela’s) comfort food. There always seems to be an innovative twist to everything she puts on the menu, and this innovation has garnered the attention of Esquire magazine in 2011, which named 1500º one of the best new restaurants in America that year. Ever since then, we have been enjoying some of her menu staples like a perfectly roasted half chicken, meltingly tender pork belly tacos, and perhaps one of the silkiest octopus tentacles to be had in Miami. Last month, Chef Paula introduced some new seasonal items to the menu that continue to demonstrate her ability to expertly source and prepare local produce, as well as showing off some new techniques and new ingredients.
I love this DIY craze that’s been hitting the American food scene! With all the attention that consumers are placing on where things come from and how they’re made, it seems as if many individuals have resorted to the notion that the best way to know the exact what, where, and how of a product is to make it yourself. In addition to controlling such things as the quality and sustainability of the food, making it yourself gives you full reign over the flavor and appearance of a finished product, as well as enabling you to add your own unique flourishes. The DIY revolution doesn’t seem to be merely confined to the home, however, as many chefs are finding more and more items that they can make from scratch, attempting everything from jams, pickles, condiments, and even cured meats...and they don’t seem to be turning back. I am so glad to see that, along with sourcing local products, the trend of making things in house is on the rise in South Florida and can be found a lot closer than I had previously thought. Big City Tavern, on the bustling Las Olas Boulevard, has always been a popular spot for good, informal meals and a convivial vibe, but I have often overlooked this restaurant as a mere purveyor of standard pub fare until a recent meal led me to discover otherwise. Local meat and produce coupled with excellently cured house-made charcuterie, along with a delicious array of homey desserts make Big City Tavern perhaps one of Fort Lauderdale’s best “right-under-our-noses” culinary secrets.
I had once written an article for my college newspaper about how dim sum would replace sushi as the new trendy Asian thing to eat, and how sushi had become so played out that it has become pedestrian and unexciting. While dim sum has become increasingly popular and better known than it was nearly a decade ago, it has yet to catch up with sushi in the trendy department, which is why we have yet to see “dim sum bars” dotting every block of South Beach. Dim sum is delicious and sophisticated in its own right, but whereas sushi seems to be in a constant state of innovative reinvention, dim sum selections manage to remain pretty consistent to what they have been for decades...if not centuries. Furthermore, some of the best places to enjoy this Cantonese breakfast/brunch tradition can offer very little in terms of ambiance, and even the nicer ones are not what one would consider to be “design forward”. Such factors have never been deterrents for serious foodies, but a recent dim sum brunch at BLOOM in Wynwood is showing that dim sum is starting to break the mold in Miami, becoming sleek, modern, and quite cosmopolitan.
When I went to Paris for the first time, I was most looking forward to eating, and people warned me that the portions would be a lot smaller than they were in the United States. I wasn’t terribly concerned about that detail, and what I found out after dining in Paris was that despite the smaller portions, the food was so flavorful that I left each restaurant satisfied but not stuffed. French cuisine has a reputation for being rich, but French people have a reputation for being thin...at least thinner than Americans. The reason being, I discovered, is that they eat good food in moderation, and trying to find good food in moderation stateside can prove to be a challenge in a country that loves overabundance and has industrialized food to the point that it has lost much of its original flavor. Meals that have the same effect as those I enjoyed in Paris are usually reserved almost exclusively to haute cuisine, but that seems to be changing as eateries like OTC in Brickell make a very European concept of dining something that can be enjoyed at least once a week, if not every day. While the menu is very American in character, a meal at OTC ended with the same afterglow I experienced while dining in Paris.
As you walk down the stairs from the N train platform that runs above 31st Street in Astoria, you feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of the busy Manhattan streets. Everywhere you turn there are people running errands, returning from work, or meeting friends for coffee sitting at an outdoor section of a Greek café to better enjoy the summer weather. Off the beaten path, on a mainly residential section of 23rd Avenue is Christos Steakhouse. Ideal for special occasions, or whenever your inner carnivore needs a fix, Christos is the perfect blend of high-end steak house with a Mediterranean Greek flare not found in other steakhouses on the opposite of the East River.
As our good old friends from Cheers would say, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. At Luca Bella, a newly-opened Italian restaurant in Aventura, if they don’t know your name, they sure will get to know it.
As any family owned restaurant worth its salt would, the folks at Luca Bella do an incredible job of making you feel like part of the family. With more than 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry, owner Michael Maltese is brining Aventura some of the most delicious and authentic Italian food in South Florida. You can find Maltese front and center greeting patrons, engaging in conversation, serving food and speaking passionately about what they do. The restaurant, named after his son, Marcelo Luca and his daughter, Isabella, just recently opened in February, but it’s clear that these people are no noobs in the kitchen, as was evident the moment I walked in.