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.
Next Saturday, March 9th, South Florida has the opportunity to help put an end to diabetes by participating in JDRF’s First Annual Casino Night. Known formerly as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, JDRF is leads the pack when it comes to funding type 1 diabetes research, including finding better treatment and prevention along the path to finding a cure. Taking place at Palm Beach Lamborghini Showroom, the Greater Palm Beach County Chapter of JDRF plans to put on a great party to benefit their cause with an open bar by Mission Capital and great nibbles from Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar and Grease Burger Bar. Those attending will also be able to participate in exciting casino games and bid on some items at a live auction hosted by Palm Beach County Sheriff, Ric Bradshaw.
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.
This year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival ended with a fun, homegrown party that honored Miami’s growing mobile food culture with a selection of over 20 of South Florida’s most popular food trucks in an event hosted by Andrew Zimmern in Midtown Miami. February 24th’s Trucks on Midtown’s Tracks event, presented by Diet Pepsi, offered the chance for locals to reacquaint themselves with some of Miami’s delicious street food and provided visitors the opportunity to savor some very tasty Miami traditions. The food trucks were pitted against each other as to which truck offered the best dish in a competition judged by everyone in attendance, and with a selection as varied and delicious as what was available this past Sunday, the choice wasn’t easy to make.
Anyone who has been paying close attention to the culinary trends of right now is very much aware that the next “it” cuisine is that of Peru, a cuisine that has been slowly and quietly trying to break into the American palate for at least a decade. A handful of chefs and food writers had heralded the advent of Peruvian cuisine in this country years ago, but it had been premature, and many food enthusiasts were left waiting for a wave of Peruvian restaurants - both haute and humble - that never seemed to arrive. This country wasn’t ready yet. Not only did we lack the food culture that we have today with all its foodie bloggers and gourmet food trucks, it was almost as if gringos had yet to resolve their issues with Latin American cuisine. Although many Latin Americans were already fans of the varied and sophisticated cuisine of Peru, the general American population still thought that Latino cuisines were either confined inside a tortilla or served with a heap of rice, beans, and plantains. Peruvian cuisine did not fit neatly into any of those compartments. With the rise in Latino chefs and the spread of Nuevo Latino cuisine, Americans began to understand that Latin American cuisines could be elegant and sophisticated and complex. We began enjoying spicier, bolder flavors. We started to become huge fans of ceviche to the point that almost every menu now features it. We were also about to be introduced to a chef who was steadily building momentum in Peru and who would introduce the rest of the world to Peruvian cuisine.
Just like the other big cultural festival in Miami, Art Basel, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival consists of a variety of different events simultaneously occurring over a period of several days. The main event every year at SOBEWFF occurs at the Grand Tasting Village right on the sands of Miami Beach with the rolling surf and hot bodies working on their tans only steps away. Hosted this year by Whole Foods Market, the Grand Tasting Village was a sensory overload for any lover of food, wine, and spirits. Besides sampling food from over 35 local restaurants, there were also representatives from vacation destinations, new food and cooking products to try out, cocktails made with some well-known and not-so-well-known liquors, and lot’s of wine. In between getting tipsy and nibbling on tasty morsels, attendees were able to watch cooking demonstrations from some of the most popular TV cooking personalities like Anne Burrell, Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri, Paula Deen, and many others. Occurring over a two day period, here are some highlights from the first day of the Grand Tasting Village on Saturday, February 23rd.
This year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival kicked off with a bang on February 21st at Moët Hennessy’s The Q, presented by Omaha Steaks and sponsored by Miami Magazine. Previously known as the BUBBLEQ, the shortening of the name has in no way diminished the the grandiosity of this event, the importance of the chefs and cooks participating, nor the quantity of fantastic dishes available to sample. A happy marriage of champagne and barbecue, this year’s The Q was hosted by that queen of indulgent Southern cooking, Paula Deen, along with her sons Jamie and Bobby. The Deen family, however, were not the only celebrities present as foodies were able to meet some of their culinary heroes, like Todd English and Geoffrey Zakarian, as well as sample some of the cuisine that has made them famous. With over 40 of the nation’s top chefs, including many local favorites, it was a delicious challenge trying to sample everything, and while most things were pleasant, there were a few dishes that really stood out.