Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Top 10 Restaurants in Miami.. In my not so humble, yet honest opinion

May I just say, this was a very hard task... I have friends that are chefs, there are a lot of good places out there, I tend to differ on views between friends about what is considered good food (I went to culinary school, I have cooked for a living, I have been very cultured in the culinary world, traveled abroad, so sorry, I’m not sorry, I’m right J) I also struggle thinking, how can you put a 5 star restaurant next to a burger joint down the street? Service, quality and price can only skew results, but I tried to be as reasonable as possible.   So I wove my way in and out of most of the restaurants in Miami and compiled a list of places that I would recommend to friends, family or anyone that need a quick dinner recommendation.

So here we go, I will give you a few rules that I gave for myself:

#1 cannot be a chain (More than 1 of the same restaurant) 
#2 I would have had to eat at least 3 items from their regular menu
#3 I would be true to my rules for a great restaurant (Killer Food, Great Service, Cool Concept, the "Need to go back for" item)
#4 I cannot be working there currently (Sorry Tudor House! and yes it would have definitely been included otherwise)

BTW these are in no particular order...

1.       Edge Steak + Bar: Since arriving on the scene only a couple months ago Edge has taken the Miami culinary community by storm. Chef Aaron Brooks is wickedly good with Steak and in my personal opinion better with seafood, that guy can make a killer tartare ( Tuna, Corvina, Scallop, Steak you name it) and I still think back to some of the dishes he has made me, like the razor clam tasting, the most wicked Bahn Mi I've ever come across and a lobstah roll that has been approved by even the Boston boys...  Edge has become my go to suggestion for almost anyone going out for a night in the Brickell area and every single one have come back overjoyed. Did I mention best Happy Hour I've come across??

2.       River Oyster Bar: Ahh River Oyster, you are so awesome yet you are never put on any of the greats list, why is that? I personally don't understand because your Oyster selection is worth a trip alone, although some of your servers are douchey (my only qualm, sorry I’m not sorry). When I know I am going, I prepare myself to always try one of each or at least the ones I’ve never had. The beer list is ever changing and you won’t find a bar stool past 4pm, it must mean they are doing something right. I literally crave the Seafood Cioppino (extra spicy!) and the Blue Crab & Gnocchi, if you want to dedicate yourself to full use of my suggestions spill a little Cioppino into the Crab dish, its possibly orgasmic. Their daily menu changes keep the sparks flying and the consistency of food is worth its weight in gold.

3.       Federal Drinks and Provisions: Another spot that has almost a cult classic feel to it was an immediately well received restaurant with a quirky name. The master minds behind Miami’s 1st Pop up Phuc Yea, Aniece and Cesar are the King and Queen of real food, no frills, no bullshit. The couple are some of the coolest people you can get to know and their space reflects it. The Bizkits n gravy as well as the short rib pot pie wellington are both some serious eats. It’s a true neighborhood joint.

4.       Mandolin Aegean Bistro: A hidden gem located on the outskirts of the Design District has to be one of the coolest spaces to hang out in. The outside dining room has been transformed to look like a little bistro in the countryside of Greece. The blue umbrellas with comfy chairs and the servers, mostly women with old world aprons, and a genuine smile makes you leave here saying Opa! The menu is simple with clean flavors and always consistently good; I could drink their Sangria all day and eat their pulled lamb sandwich all night

5.       Eating House: Is there really anything I need to say? Mostly everyone agrees with me that this pop up by Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli is a ridiculous success, people wait hours to eat here and the ever changing menu makes them come back wanting more. The chill vibe and the excellent food brought by two friends shows that Miami is ready for real chef driven food. Some of his mainstays like the Homestead Tomatoes with frozen coconut and the chicken and waffles are huge hits with me and many others. Catch it while you can.

6.       Pub Belly Empire: I could not possibly choose between just one, pub belly as a whole is greater than all of its parts. Pub belly was a hit on its own, but when sushi and Barceloneta opened the pub belly block was unstoppable. They might as well buy the liquor shop in between them and call it pub belly mixology (I want credit) Bloggers have notoriously done the Pub belly crawl; having a small meal at each location and I recommend you do the same.

7.       NAOE: This is my guilty pleasure, a special occasion restaurant, but that is exactly how you should approach Chef Kevin Cory’s cuisine. Considered one of the Top Japanese restaurants in the country, NAOE is at the top of its game and no one can tell me different. Each of the nigiri that he serves for the Omakase portion is heavenly and the secret ingredient ice cream is a truly delicious end to an over the top meal that is never forgotten

8.       Nemesis Urban Bistro: Chef Micah Edelstein is in a league of her own, she does things her way, and her unconventional ways personify what her restaurant is all about. I can say there is no other restaurant like hers, the food is different, the feel is different, hey even the bathroom is a world of its own, if you have been you would know.  Her South African background and her gypsy like ways have culminated to a totally different cuisine than anyone else has in Miami at this time. The Veal Bobotie and Tuscan sushi are just plain awesome!

9.       The Dining Room: Although I have only been here once it does not stop me from craving the sweet potato gnocchi I had when I was there. The service was excellent, the food came out within an acceptable time and I have nothing but good memories that make me want to go back every time I drive by. It also helps that everyone I talk to loves what they do.

10.   Haven Gastro Lounge: Haven has to be one of the coolest places on the beach; not only do they have some award winning mixologists that get to play with Liquid Nitrogen every day, they have one of the most influential people in Miami as their Executive Chef. Todd Erickson has probably the most eclectic and visually appealing menu on this list. His use of color, textures and flavors are far beyond a lot of other Miami Chefs. Mixed with the $$$$$ (that’s a dollar figure) A/V system as their back drop there is nothing artistically they can’t do. My favorites are the Day Boat slider (when its Mahi Mahi) the Waldorf Salad, the Duck Duck Quail Slider, the Maki Peru roll and the tater tots. Although I’ve never come across an item I haven’t liked on the menu.

PS I would have totally included Bourbon Steak had they only had one location, John the GM is the master of the FOH and my meal is exceptional every time. It is the one true place I struggled with not including so I had to make a side note.

PSS I also would have loved to include Sushi Deli, but frankly people cant appreciate what they are doing there... if you are a serious sushi fan, check it out.

Hope you agree with my decisions, and even try out some that you haven't tried before. 

To Great Food & Great Company
~Lady of the Knife~

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ChatChow TV... Behind the Scenes

Giovanny & Lauren

If you are a die hard food lover, are in the industry or just a roaming tech-ie, you have probably heard of or seen ChatChow TV; the online TV series dedicated to show the food world from the Back Of House view. Debuted less than a year ago, Chat Chow has already had some big name South Florida industry folk including Michael Schwartz, Jonathan Lazar and Jeff McInnis, not to mention a nationally recognized Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian on their 6-8 minute clips. The power team behind this rapidly growing series is none other than Lauren Bernat & Giovanny Gutierrez. While she gets in front of the camera he watches behind it producing this great little snippet into South Florida's blossoming culinary industry. After meeting Gio and Lauren (who are both great BTW) I wanted to really get to know them and I’m sure you would like to get to know them too, so here's the deal. I gave them the same questions, told them to sit as far apart from each other as possible and answer away and then we would compare/contrast. This is what I got...

1. Favorite Genre of Food (Mexican, Italian, etc…):
LB: Italian
GG: I know this is a lame answer but I don't really prefer one over another. Although I will tell you that I always stop at La Carreta on my way home after flying from wherever for some rice and beans. I always crave that the minute I land in Miami.

2. Favorite Protein to Eat:
LB: Fish
GG: Definitely seafood. Love a fresh caught, well seasoned filet of mahi, grouper or black cod.

3. Most loathed ingredient (ingredient you can’t stand):
LB: Anise
GG: Nothing's worse than something fried in dirty, old oil. 

4. Favorite Restaurants (Miami and World)
LB: Tudor House / Yardbird / Pubbelly and French Laundry (just for the orchestrated experience)
GG: So hard to pick a favorite but I still reminisce on our French Laundry dinner ever so often. Just a truly unique experience.

5. Favorite Interview (of Chat Chow and why)
LB: Geoffrey Zakarian (we brought him lotions from Sephora per an inside tip)
GG: That's a tough one... Jouvens Jean had amazing chemistry with Lauren, the flirting was quite funny, very sharp and quite charming. Albert Cabrera of The Local was great off camera because he was so nervous, it was so early in the day and we just kept drinking beer after beer – a lot of silly laughing indeed.  And of course, surprising Geoffrey Zakarian with a lotion kit was a highlight. 

6. Gio: Which interview made you flat out just shake your head…
Lauren was interviewing Bond (with the 10 inch hairdo) of 2B Asian Bistro and she's just trashed from taking Sake Bombs. So Lauren is outside doing the intro for the episode and all these tourists in Little Havana think she's famous and she's so tipsy she rolls with it and ends up on a Double Decker Bus. Ha!

7. Foodie activity you want to get into (cooking classes, secret society dinners etc…)
LB: Secret Society Dinners
GG: We did social dinners and we've done cooking classes in the past but my personal favorite is hosting live foodie events which we've been doing. Just hanging out with people that enjoy food, glossy eyes smiling back at ya, interacting with chefs and doing live Chat Chow with people asking questionnaires is a great way to bringing our show to a live audience. 

8. How did you come to ChatChow TV?
LB: All started with a love of food and an initial idea Gio had. The team just fit perfectly.
GG: I attended a Michael Schwartz Q&A at Books and Books and the room was packed with people listening to what he had to say. From recipe techniques to where to get some local produce and I'm sitting there the whole time thinking "Why can't this be online.... with different personalities... like a series". And just like that, Chat Chow TV was born.

9. Something mainstream people don’t know about you:
LB: I get really silly sometimes. Really, really silly. I'll sing a response to a question, speak with accents...Oh, and I just had LASIK, but I guess that's now been written as my Facebook status and doesn't count. LOL. Maybe the biggest secret of all was that up until not too long ago I didn't eat meat ;) ChatChow clearly changed that.
GG: I've been a vegetarian since 1995 and now I pretty much eat everything and anything.  
10. Single/Taken/Married:
LB: Engaged
GG: Lauren and I are actually engaged :P

11. If you could travel anywhere where would it be and what would you do?
LB: Right now, I'd love to take a month or two to travel Asia. Hong Kong, Japan, China, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam)…I could go on and on. Of course this is just a dream. A girl has to make a living.
GG: I would go back in time and visit El Bulli. I feel like I missed out on a lifetime experience. 

12. What are you looking forward to right now?
LB: Making ChatChow bigger and better.
GG: I can't disclose that yet but we are doing something new and interesting this year for Chat Chow TV which I'm sure fans are going to love. And it doesn't involve a camera... hint hint. 

13. What is one thing you want people to know about ChatChow TV?
LB: That it's made with love and focuses on the perspective of the industry people; a side most people don't get to hear. In this day and age (with the YELP's and Urbanspoon's) most of the information we receive is from the perspective of the consumer. It's refreshing to hear the industry's take on things.
GG: We really appreciate all the feedback we're getting from both foodies and industry people. Means a lot to us and validates what we do so keep spreading the love!

14. Where will you be in 5 years?
LB: Hopefully just enjoying life ;)
GG: Would love to see Chat Chow TV go national! We launched a few months ago with a great team in the West Coast so we'll see

15. Who would you love to interview? 
LB: The only local person we've been trying to get since day one has been Michelle Bernstein. We haven't been able to coordinate an episode because she's such a busy bee.
GG: I would love to have a couple of cocktails and talk shit with Anthony Bourdain. Just love his raw attitude.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I swear I didnt forget about you!!

So.... my life has been so hectic and so busy, running around seeing friends trying to conquer the kitchen, working on new projects that are very interesting to me; I will be the first to tell you I get distracted very easily (Squirrel) but the blog has stayed with me in the back of my mind. Ive been wanting to come back with a smashing review, a post on the last cobaya or some fascinating story that will captivate audience members into giving me some prestigious award for my writing abilities (yeah right). But after every event and every place I eat I turn up exhausted with a writers block and after time wanes I feel like everything that I would talk about would be old news. So, I'm starting small, writing an apology letter almost to myself because lets face it I've got great friends and supporters who I care for dearly and all they wanted was for me to get back in there; and this little hiatus was a breath of fresh air. so sorry I'm not sorry but I'm back! I have worked for some great people out there Geoffrey Zakarian, Jamie DeRosa, Micah Edelstein, Aniece Meinhold, Caesar Zapata-Diaz, and Daniel Treiman in the past couple months. These people are extraordinary in each their own rights.

Geoffrey.. well do I even need to go there? I feel like I'm seeing someone like Tim Tebow (yes i used him get over it) right before he got that spotlight role of 1st string quarterback. Geoffrey has been so well respected for his food, but now that he has won next iron chef and is a staple in the food network line up he made that touchdown and is now in the big leagues being whisked off to all these fancy events and loved by thousands, its cool to think this guy is gonna be really famous.

Jamie... Jamie... Jamie, he has a special place in my heart, he beat me down in the kitchen, absolutely the way a young chef should be treated in order to make them realize what it takes to have perfection. He does not accept anything less in his kitchen and I respect him so much for that. I can say he has been a true mentor to me and from the looks of it the entire kitchen. His hipster like attitude and style makes him fun to be around yet when he gets in the kitchen he means business. I see him getting James Beard Awards and the spotlight that a great chef should receive. He comes up with so many ideas for new dishes that my head spins thinking about it. If only I could be so creative.

Now when creativity is needed Chef Micah is the person to go to. When you walk into her restaurant you just know you are in for a completely different dining experience. She has traveled all over the world and seen so many things that it would be a waste if she made food any other way. Her unique style has caught wind in Miami and by the looks of last night they are on their way. Helping her in her kitchen gives another complete experience to what food can be, quality over quantity, extreme detail and a light hearted whimsical feeling that I haven't seen in Miami.

The Phuc Yea team of Ani, Caesar and Daniel have become good friends of mine and after seeing their comradery and customer appeal no wonder these guys are respected in their own right. I love Ani and I's talks after service and the pep talk she always gives me. That is one strong woman right there! Caesar's unwavering loyalty to the kitchen and his food is brilliant to watch and Daniel is my partner in crime for wacky adventures and food related activities (random trips to homestead for tacos and such) All of these people have a cool little special place in my heart and my life has been changed working with them. So now that you have been caught up I can tell you I've got some cool ideas for blogs coming up.. Enjoy!

To Great Food and Great Friends,
~Lady of the Knife~