Showing posts with label South Beach. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Beach. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

South Florida Dining and Art

When the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival ended, my eating and drinking did not. The only thing that changed was the company and I’m always happy when that my companions are family.

I was picked up at The National Hotel after the end of the festival by my mom and cousin Gayle. We were off to check out one of the most talked about restaurants to hit South Beach in a long time. Juvia had it all – location, décor, food and drinks.

The location may have looked a bit strange from the outside (a private elevator taking you to the roof of the garage), but once upstairs there was no doubt this place was special. I have never seen such beautiful views of Miami and I loved the combination of elegance and comfort.

Juvia is a great place for cocktails and I was smitten with the Pear Sangria, while Gayle enjoyed a Purple Rain we started with. I have to admit I was a bit concerned with the menu when I first saw it as it was mostly filled with seafood, but I found plenty to safely eat. In the meantime, mom and cousin feasted on the Ceviche, Rock Shrimp (in a spicy curry sauce), Lobster Salad and Sea Bass, which Gayle called “outrageous.”

I had an excellent Foie Gras that was rather sweet, followed by the Iceberg, Pancetta, Fig & Gorgonzola Salad, a nice mixture of flavors. The Pork Confit made a wonderful main course, with a complex mix of flavors. Side dishes, such as Vegetable Casolet and Couscous are great, but leave some room for dessert. The Chocolate Croissolant and the Candy Bar were worth the calories!

Mom and I continued the fun as we headed a bit north the next day for an afternoon at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. I make trips to this area a few times a year and I can’t believe I had never been there before. I was really impressed and we really enjoyed walking through the Contemporary Art Varied Collection, the American Modernist Masters and the Camera Work Photography Exhibit.

My favorite stop at the art museum was Martin Schoeller: Close Up, a collection of portraits of famous politicians and entertainers that were brutally honest. I also loved the placement (Sarah Palin next to Bill Clinton?).  Though that exhibition is no longer showing at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, there is something similar through May – Portraits from the Permanent Collection – which includes famous portraits by Georgia O’Keefe.

We had a few hours to do some shopping before another special dinner. I had heard nothing but good things about Max’s Harvest in Delray Beach and they turned out to all be true. This “farm to fork” restaurant takes sustainability seriously. Local, organic ingredients are used and the only freezer here is a small one for the ice cream. I was highly impressed with what Executive Chef Chris Miracolo could do on a moment’s notice, all depending on what was available in the market that day.

We started off with a refreshing Heritage Mojito (Bacardi, fresh mint and soda water) and the Smoked Gouda & Pancetta Mac N Cheese with spinach and onion straws. It was excellent and I remarked that the macaroni and cheese movement in restaurants is one I hope continues. We then had a light and tomato salad with watermelon (great idea), arugula and feta cheese, as well as Goat Cheese Croquettes that were melt in your mouth.

I had missed Chef Miracolo’s dish at SOBEWFF, but he made some of the Gnocchi with Hedgehog Mushrooms for me and it was spectacular. I love gnocchi, but I’ve never had any quite this good. That’s pretty much what my mom said about the Salmon with Stir Fry. The ultimate salmon eater, she said this was the best she has ever had anywhere.

For dessert we satisfied all cravings with a Chocolate Flourless Cake, which was dense and dark, filled with the best cocoa, and an Apple Torte with homemade Maple Ice Cream.  The only downside to the “farm to fork” is that menu items change according to the market, but I can’t imagine you could go wrong with anything on the Max’s Harvest menu. As for me, I’ve already put in a request for some of that gnocchi on my birthday in July.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nothing Like Whole Foods Grand Market at South Beach

For those who have not been to the Whole Foods Grand Market at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, it is hard to describe. The “market” consists of three blocks (on the beach) of food, wine and spirits. There are three rows in each block offering more than anyone could ingest in one day. Still, we all try our best.

The food seminars on the Kitchen Aid states continued throughout the day and I got to catch some of the ones by Rocco Dispirito, Bobby Deen (mom Paula was also on the stage Sunday) and Countess Luann de Lesseps. They were all pretty full and the participants seemed to enjoy both the food and the cooking tips.

The Whole Foods booth was actually a group of booths, from which the samples added up to an entire meal on its own. I really enjoyed the Spinach Feta Pinwheel. It went down perfectly with a Pom Pomegrante Bellini. Speaking of the Bellini, The Wilson Creek Peach Bellini sparkling wine was just great.

It was pretty hot outside, but luckily there were also lots of cool drinks. One of the fan favorites (OK, mine too) was the Cruzan Rum Raspberry Mojito Ice Bar. For those who prefer tequila, Jose Cuervo had some cold samples of their new pre-made margarita. There was also sampling of Harmonie Liqueur, the new offering from Hipnotiq which is a cross between floral and fruity.

Just in time for Passover, L’Chaim is a new vodka brand with a Kosher for Passover wine made from beets. I didn’t get to taste it, but heard from a few that it was pretty good. I did try kosher (but not for Passover) vodka and I liked it, though it’s hard to beat Voli’s Vanilla Espresso, a favorite brand of mine which is low calorie, electrolyte-induced and just bought into by Fergie.

Ginger is finding its way into many cocktails this year and the Domaine de Canton French Ginger Liqueur is a great way to keep up that trend.

Bobby Flay was one of the network stars who were signing (and selling) copies of his book . Among others on hand with their books were Robert Irvine, Anthony Bourdain and Anne Burrell. Former Top Chef Michael Isabella was promoting his Washington, DC restaurant Graffiato, which I’ll have the pleasure of visiting in a few weeks.

After I left the market and I checked out of my perfectly located room at The National, I realized it was another great four days at the South Beach Food Network Wine & Food Festival. I’m sure I will be back next year. 

In the meantime, I will see some of my favorite chefs at the Food & Wine Classicin Aspen. Of course, that’s after my time in Delray Beach & Boca Raton… New York City… Arizona… Virginia & Washington… the Hamptons… and England!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Zealand Wine, Girls Go Wild & Michael Symon BBQ in South Beach

Day three of the Food Network South Beach Wine & FoodFestival was filled to the brim with some wonderful New Zealand wine, some foodie girls going wild, and a thrilling barbecue by a man who knows the chew.

I was back down at the Perry Hotel bright and early in the morning for the Wine Spectator Seminar: Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Noir Style Diversity.  The leader of the seminar was New Zealand wine expert and winemaker Patrick Materman, who filled in the blanks on the region and led a tasting of wines from Brancott Estate and Stoneleigh Marlborough.

Since I am currently planning a trip to New Zealand, I was especially interested – and impressed with the offerings. I’m always a fan of NZ sauvignon blanc and was happy to discover the ones from these brands, which were full of tropical and grassy notes. I also tasted New Zealand Pinot Noir for the first time and found the 2010 Brancott Estate Letter Series “T” to be more fruit forward and richer than many of the California ones.

From the seminar I headed over to the Hotel Victor where I was excited to have been invited to the Girls Gone Wild event.  This event was probably the most fun two hours of the entire festival and I give kudos to Bullfrog and Baum for putting this group together.

The moderator for Girls Gone Wild was Travel Channel star (Bizarre Foods) Andrew Zimmern and he had his work cut out for him while an amazing group of women “went wild.” Actress Debi Mazur, who co-hosts the Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin with her husband Gabrielle and also blogs at Under The Tuscan Gun, was the most outspoken, but Bitchin Kitchen’s Nadia G. was not far behind in  “R” rated honesty.

Rounding out the Girls Gone Wild Panel was Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli and Prune Restaurant owner/chef Gabrielle Hamilton, who is also the author of bestseller Blood, Bones & Butter.  The conversation ranged from favorite dishes to dishing on their male counterparts and it was always entertaining.
I had just enough time to shower and change before meeting with winemaker Patrick Materman and Pernod Ricard PR Director Krista Drew for a glass of Perrier Jouet Champagne and some more New Zealand conversation.

Then it was off to the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach for Thrillist's BBQ & The Blues hosted by Michael Symon. Celebrity chef Symon is best known to many these days as one of the hosts of ABC’s The Chew, but foodie insiders also call him one of the nicest guys in the business.

Next year, I probably won’t pick three days in a row of barbecue at SOBEWFF (The Q, Burger Bash and Thrillist), but I’m glad I did get to experience this event. The music by Diablo Times & The Bloodhounds was great, the drinks were flowing (including cocktails made with Michael Collins Whiskey and Entice Wine), and the barbecue was a bit different than I had previously.

The food offerings came from around the area and from Symon himself and included a delicious Korean beef brisket from Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill and a Smoked Tongue Pastrami (with bone marrow brioche) from Gastropod Miami. I also really loved the short ribs from Jacksonville’s Cabana Beach Club, served on a cheese polenta.

When I couldn’t possibly sample any more, I headed back to The National Hotel to get some rest for my final day of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. It was going to be a big one as I was going to try to tackle all of the Whole Foods Grand Market. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Burgers, Cocktails, Wine and Banderas in South Beach

I have been known to schedule some pretty busy days, but I think I outdid myself for the first full day of the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival (and I got the blisters to prove it).

I started bright and early at The National Hotel, where I ordered a fruit and yogurt plate from room service to get me going for the day. It gave me a sense that the day would have at least something low cal and healthy in it!

First on my schedule for the day was an interview with David Burke. I had loved everything about my visit to David Burke Primehouse at The James in Chicago and have been looking forward to trying his new restaurant in Chicago. We had a fun talk about his Dining In the Dark event (look for my story at Cocktails & Joints for more) before I took off to the beach for the Food Festival’s Trade Tasting.

Originally, this tasting was a chance for the trade and the press to check out the booths before the big crowds arrived on the weekend. Unfortunately, the number of tickets increased and it seemed to be as crowded as the regular tastings got. Still, armed with my welcome glass of Simply Naked Unoaked Chardonnay (light and fruity), I headed into the Barilla tent for some great pasta before grabbing a Skinny Girl White Cranberry Cosmo (a new low cal go to for me).

The Cosmopolitan of Vegas once again created a modern building to give out treats, drinks and even a stay at their hotel, which I really need to get to in the near future.  From there, I made a stop taste taste Diageo’s new Q Dream, a deliciously creamy liqueur that is also low in calories, but I gained them all back at the Fiji Water booth where they were making fresh donuts and giving out water  with fortunes.

I put my aching feet into a cab to the Perry Hotel (formerly the Gansevoort) where the event to sell out the quickest was located --- Matador! An Introduction to Anta Banderas Winery with Antonio Banderas. I have to admit it was probably the thing I was most excited for and an assignment for Los Angeles Confidential Magazine enabled me to stay as one of the few members of the press in the room. Banderas was as charming offscreen as he is on and was quite candid when talking about his career and his wine.

The Anta Banderas Chardonnay is not yet available in the U.S., but I urge you to check it out if you do make it to the winery in Spain. In the meantime, you can purchase the Anta Banderas a10, a fruit-filled blend of temparillo, merlot and cabernet sauvignon as well as some of his other reds.

I didn’t have long to change for the evening and get to the Amstel Light Burger Bash presented by Allen Brothers Steaks and Diet Pepsi hosted by Rachael Ray. It’s hard to describe this event to anyone who hasn’t been there, but it’s a fine line between comfort food heaven and gluttony! I tried to tackle as many as possible by eliminating burgers that were too rare or on bacon overload and going for a few special ones. Even then, I couldn’t take more than a bite of each.

A few of my favorites stops were…

Good Stuff Eatery Blue Cheese Burger with French Fries and Bernaise sauce, served with a Crème de Casis Milk Shake;

The Meatball Shop Chili Flavored Meat Patty smothered in Grafton cheddar cheese sauce and topped with caramelized onions with a sweet and sour taste;

NoMI Kitchen '800' Burger made of  Ground waygu mixed with Nueske bacon and onion,  topped with smoked tomato aioli, comte cheese, watercress, pickled shallots and garlic, and tomato confit on a rosemary ciabatta bun and served with VodkaNInfused Watermellon (my favorite overall);
Rachael Ray’s BBQ Burger with Sweet 'n Spicy Pickles And Smokey barbeque sauce, a simple, but appealing combo;

And the fairly healthy and tasty South Beach Diet Feta Stuffed Sirloin Burger with Smokey SunNDried Tomato Aioli served on pita.

I also loved the Jack Daniels Milkshake served by Guy’s Burger Joint and the Truffle French Fries Abe and Arthurs was giving out.

Michael Symon, whose B Spot served a Pork and bacon burger topped with pulled pork and slaw (I was not really a fan), won the contest for the third year in a row. It should also be noted that all the burgers tasted fantastic when eaten with the Frozen Hot Chocolate Serendipity 3 was pouring!

After the Burger Bash, I went to 1111 Lincoln Avenue for Robert Irvine’s Party Impossible. This rooftop soiree and a ton of food, from seafood to meat to decadent desserts. I was starting to regret the burgers as I couldn’t get more than a few bites of an out of this world Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar from Ready, Set, Cupcake! with a few crumbs of scrumptious cookies.
I walked back to The National Hotel at about 1:00 am, I walked back to hoping to do some digesting before catching some much needed sleep. There was still a lot more of the South Beach Food Network Wine and Food Festival to come. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Starting South Beach with The Q

February is one of my favorite months because it is the time of one of my favorite events. There is nothing that quite compares with the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival for bringing together chefs and industry insiders.  This was my third year in a row attending and I was especially excited that I would also be covering for Ocean Drive Magazine.

My flight was running a bit late, but I arrived in time to get changed for The Q. I was staying at The National Hotel for the first time and was happily surprised at the locale – right in the center of all the events. I had a very nice room with a view and best of all it was just a quick walk out the back door to the beach. It happened to be the same beach The Q was set up on, at the Delano.

The Bubble Q had been my favorite event that previous years.  I had been disappointed to hear it would be cancelled, but happy to find out the new event, hosted by Moet Hennessy and called simply “The Q” would be very similar. I found that was certainly the case.

Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri hosted The Q, which served as the festival’s kickoff party. It was an eating frenzy, with some of the country’s best chefs serving a special barbecue dish of their choice. In addition, Moet Hennessy’s sponsorship of the event meant plenty of Belvedere Vodka, Moet Champagne and Hennessy Cognac.

As much as I hate to waste food, I did really want to take at least a bite out of as many items as possible. Here’s a sampling of some of the most memorable…

Chris Lilly passed out Big Bob Gibson barbecue, which was delicious, but was very rich so it was easy to leave it behind;

Dean Fearing of Fearings in Dallas had a superb BBQ Beef Taco that was a combination of sweet and savory;

Chef Yoshi Katsumura made Barbecue Wagyu Spareribs with Yuzyu sauce and candied skin, served with a Scallion Pancake and Watermelon Salad. It was terrific;

I really enjoyed my conversation with Nadja G. (check out my story at Cocktails and Joints). She is just so much fun and the pork belly she made was excellent;

The Hill Country Barbecue of New York offered some tender and tasty meat;

Chef Michael White prepared a yummy Grilled Pancetta with glazed figs and roasted pistachios;

Celebrity Cruises brought out a most delicious Spring Roll with white truffle barbecue sauce;

And, co-host Guy Fieri wowed all with food from his Tex Wasabi restaurant -- a Banh Mi Taco, served with barbecue chicken fried rice. 

For dessert, Godiva Chocolate had sweet treats for all, from drinks to mousse, to samples of their Belgium chocolate. Also there all the way from New York was the Big Gay Ice Cream truck, a big hit on a hot night.

Since the party was also the first night of SOBEWFF, many of the festival’s stars stopped by to visit the participating chefs. Andrew Zimmern, Robert Irvine and Rachael Ray were just a few who chowed down with their friends.

I stayed until the end and then headed back to The National Hotel for some rest. Day two at the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival was going to be a big one for me that included lots of interviews, some time with Antonio Banderas, and more food, wine and spirits than you could ever imagine.