Leave it to the Four Seasons to take Miami’s culinary scene by storm! Ever since the Brickell hotel giant decided to revamp its dining options and bring Chef Aaron Brooks up from down under, it seems that the talented Australian chef is winning awards everwhich way you look. He is also turning the attention of savvy foodies’ toward Edge, Steak & Bar, where he mans the kitchen. Few local chefs have been able to more astutely capture Miami’s food culture than chef Brooks, whose offerings showcase a love and understanding of many Latin American cuisines, as well as a respect for local products.
Long gone are the days in which Americans believed that all Italian food consists of some variation of dry pasta with a tomato sauce. Besides learning that there is a great difference between the red sauce fare in the States and the Italian food eaten in Italy, we have come to understand that the concept of Italian cuisine is far more diverse and even ethereal than we thought. For an Italian, referring to Italian cuisine can seem as generalizing as talking about Asian, African, or Latin American cuisine. Regionality is key when discussing the cuisines of Italy, and savvy foodies have tapped into that concept. Throughout the summer, Miami aficionados can experience the various regional styles of Italian cuisine at Quattro’s Mangia Mondays.
Call me a snob if you must, but when you can buy a dish at your local gas station, it kind of loses its luster in my eyes. There is probably no better example of this than sushi. Once deemed something exotic and only for the adventurous eater, now it seems like sushi has become as exciting as a ham and cheese sandwich. Now, just like there are some pretty orgasmic ham and cheese sandwiches out there, there continue to be otherworldly sushi experiences in the world, and even some in Miami. Nevertheless, the majority of sushi experiences can be likened to getting a media noche at a cafeteria. Give it whatever value you’d like. There doesn’t seem to be much in terms of innovation when it comes to sushi. The best sushi chefs stick to tradition and minimalism, and the midrange guys (and gals) can only pile so much onto a roll before it starts to resemble a Colombian hot dog. Sushi, it seems, has become old news...or so I thought. It turns out that the maki, temaki, and nigiri that we’re used to are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to presentations of seasoned rice and seafood. With all that being said, it is high time that we are introduced to the temari.
Some of the chefs took inspiration from traditional dishes and made them into something completely unique, sometimes infusing pork where it’s never traditionally been. Chef Aaron Brooks, in a nod to Miami’s Cuban culture, made a head cheese-stuff pastelito, while Chef Balloo presented pig blood wrapped soup dumplings that were apparently so good that they ran out by the middle of the competition. Chef Jeff McInnis of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar took to reinventing some of the more low-brow guilty pleasures of American cuisine, such as the Handy Snacks of our youth, with homemade Slim Jim, bacon grissini, and a pimento cheese/deviled ham dip. His corn dogs offered a pleasant surprise I hope to experience again sometime soon: the fluffy cornmeal batter revealed not a hotdog but tender head cheese and unctuous guanciale.
I am one of those who likes to let my palate travel the gastronomic globe. If asked, I will always gravitate towards dishes from far away lands, even for breakfast. I am sure I’m not alone in my tastes, especially living in the United States, a country that has stereotypically been down there with the British Isles when it comes to being known for good food. A conversation with any foreigner about American cuisine usually includes a variation on the statement “But Americans don’t really have a cuisine...I mean, you can’t really call hotdogs a cuisine.”
Not terribly recently, meaning quite a few years ago, it was already starting to become known among native Miamians that locals don’t really go to South Beach anymore. Sobe had started to become a big, bland, overly commercialized tourist trap, and it was starting to attract the type of tourists who like that. Of course, over the past few years we’ve seen businesses stop the downwards spiral dead in its tracks with sophisticated hotels, restaurants, and bars that seem to cater to savvy tourists and locals, alike. It can now be said that while South Beach still has a lot of style, it no longer seems to tower over substance as it seemed to have done in the past. The best part is that a lot of venues have finally come to terms with the economic situation we’re in and now seem to cater to a wider range of patrons, which means more places are more accessible to more of us, and yet they still maintain that glamour for which we continue to go to South Beach. If there is one place in South Beach that can be held as an example of this refreshingly accessible SoBe, it’s WD 555, an expansive wine bar and shop that is worlds away from the stereotypes of the beach and affordable enough to make it a weekly habit.
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.
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 culinary cosmopolitan.
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: