Sunday, October 19, 2014

Michelle Bernstein Brings The Holidays Closer at Macy's in Aventura Mall

It isn't just the cooler weather in Miami that's bringing the holidays closer.  Macy's Culinary Council Chef Michelle Bernstein is pairing up holiday cooking with the ever-popular brunch, by sharing her award-winning holiday brunch recipes at Macy's in Aventura Mall this coming Saturday, October 25th at noon.

Michelle Bernstein

Miami's own Bernstein is well known not only for her incredible talent in the kitchen, and charismatic presence in her show, Check Please,  but also for her popular Design District restaurant Crumb on Parchment. Her latest ventures include an outpost at the Sun Life Stadium that will feature Bernstein's healthy yet flavorful dishes and a new South Beach restaurant slated to open this Fall: Seagrape. The "Floridian Brasserie" will be located at the Thompson Hotel and will offer fresh veggie plates, premium steaks and a raw bar.

Availabilty for this fabulous cooking demo at Macy's is going fast. What better way can you think of for a foodie to spend an afternoon than interacting with a James Beard Award Winning chef, while sampling delicious food and learning some tips to impress the family at home over the holidays? I bet you we both agree on the answer. And as if the good time alone isn't enough, if you purchase $35 or more in the Home Department at Macy's on the day of the event, you will receive a $10 gift card and a copy of Bernstein's cookbook Cuisine A Latina, which she will sign for you.

For more information on Macy's Culinary Council and their chefs, visit their website.




I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere Society has provided me with compensation for the post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mojito Madness at TK's at the Villa Mayfair

I'm sure many of you feel the same way when Fridays come around; that need to shed the stress and unwind the tightness from at least 40 hours of the usual grind. For me, the process usually starts with alcohol, enticing food and live music. Add good company to the ritual and I start destressing in minutes. 

Pineapple Mojito and Wild Berry Mojito

Well I discovered the perfect place to get rid of the madness. Have you been to TK's at the Villa Mayfair lately? I had heard about the place located at 2901 Florida Avenue in Coconut Grove for a while, even followed them on Twitter, but it wasn't until I heard they were kicking off Mojito Madness on Friday nights that I actually visited the restaurant. It was great.

Add caption
Close your eyes and imagine this: It's Friday night, you've been closing some deals and getting some hell all week and you're ready to bring on the weekend. You don your guayabera, grab your date and head over to the Grove where a Cigar Roller hands you a freshly rolled cigar, and then you step into TK's and start drumming your fingers to therapeutic, live Cuban music. Within minutes, you sit and your server brings you not only a food menu that gets you salivating instantly but a selection of over 20 mojitos to soothe your soul. The only problem? Which ones do you choose? The solution? They're only $10 each so why restrict yourself? Taxis are abundant in Miami and there's always Uber.

Beef Carpaccio
I sampled several myself when I was there and I love that there is enough variety to satisfy just about every preference. Personally,  I tend to like my mojitos fruity while my date stuck to the more to traditional kind. The ingredients were fresh and they were quite addicting; the perfect cocktail pairing to the sultry ambiance. Of course, the evening would not have been a complete success for me without equally spectacular food, and TK's hit it on the money there too. We started off with their Beef Carpaccio, made with thinly sliced prime beef, creamy blue cheese, capers, onions and arugula. Next, we ordered their signature TK's Tuna Tartare (are your surprised?). Refreshingly flavorful diced tuna, came together in a spherical delight of avocado, sesame oil and soy lime dressing, and was then crowned with crispy shallots. Oh, I had to have another mojito in celebration of this dish.

TK's Tuna Tartare

Sweet Potato Fries
Scallops Gratin
For entrees, we ordered the Grilled Pork Chops and the Scallops Gratin. The Grilled Pork Chops consisted of a double-cut grilled pork chop served with baby carrots, sweet peas and potatoes, all atop a mushroom demi glace. The Scallops Gratin were tender bites of baked scallops topped with prosciutto pernod gratin in white wine butter sauce, with slices of crispy toasts in between. As side dishes, we tried the Sweet Potato Fries served with homemade ranch that were insane and the Bacon And Brie Tater Tots.

Grilled Pork Chops

Bacon and Brie Tater Tots

Happy and relaxed, after some luscious mojitos, dancing and great food, we ordered the sweet finale: an amazing Guava Cheesecake that sealed the deal for us. That's it...my weekend started right there and I couldn't wait to return for more. For additional information on TK's Villa at the Mayfair and Mojito Madness, visit their website.

Cheesecake


TK's at the Villa Mayfair on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Tuesday Rendezvous With Jack At TGI Fridays

I used to spend my Tuesdays with my boyfriend. Now I spend them with Jack. Sometimes my boyfriend joins us and it becomes a luscious party, but other times I go at it alone. Before you start thinking that my blog has gone from PG-13 to Rated R, let me elaborate.  I'm talking about Tuesdays with Jack at TGI Fridays.

Jack Daniel's Peach Honey Smash

I'm sure you know that everyday of the week brings a different special at TGI Fridays but Tuesdays are one of my favorites. Especially because the work week is only into its second day and I'm usually struggling to climb the hump. Enter Jack… that smooth, relaxing Tennessee whiskey that not only quenches our thirst but also flavors food. It turns out Tuesdays you can drink a variety of Jack cocktails at TGI Fridays for only $5 each. And I'm talking some carefully crafted concoctions. One of my favorites is the new Peach Honey Smash. This refreshing libation is made with Jack Daniels whiskey, of course, with a drizzle of Jack Daniels Tennessee honey, fresh mint, peach puree, and citrus juices, then garnished with a peach slice for a colorful finish.


Jack Daniel's Ribs

Since when I'm in, I'm in all the way, I like to pair my Tuesday Jack drinks with Jack Daniel's Grill items. This time around I chose the Jack Daniel's Ribs, a rack of slow cooked, fall-off-the-bone tender baby pork ribs, basted in their signature sauce, with some Jack Daniel's BBQ sauce on the side. I had them with a side of their finger licking good sweet potato fries and Tomato Mozzarella Salad.  I didn't look very lady-like or dainty as I chewed the meat with deep satisfaction, but who cares? Jack and I are already comfortable enough with each other where we don't have to pretend.


Tennessee Whiskey Cake

Since there's plenty of Jack to go around at TGI Fridays, I ended my meal with their Tennessee Whiskey Cake. I reserve this delight specifically for Tuesdays (it's always a struggle not to sink my teeth into their Oreo Madness).  Luke, the awesome waiter that took care of us, seemed to read my mind and brought it right out when I finished gnawing the last bone.

The moist, warm toffee cake was topped with some chopped, glazed pecans and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. It was then served with a pool of butterscotch Jack Daniels whiskey sauce that made me lick my lips more than once in a most provocative way.

That's it. That was my Tuesday with Jack. I'm a pretty possessive girl, but Jack is so good at TGI Friday's,  I'm willing to share him with you (just a little bit).

For more information on their daily specials, visit TGI Friday's website at http://www.tgifridays.com.




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chatting With Chef Fabio Viviani

You know that saying All Roads Lead to Rome? Well, if you're in Miami Beach, all roads lead to the corner of Wahington and 5th, and that's exactly where talented, charming (and stunningly handsome) award winning Chef Fabio Viviani is bringing his boldest venture yet: Siena Tavern.

Chef Fabio Viviani

Slated to open this Fall, Siena Tavern will feature Fabio's crowd-pleasing, made from scratch menu, prepared especially for the Miami crowd. As you know, Fabio Viviani is a household name, best known for his appearance on Season 5 of Bravo's hit reality series Top Chef in 2008, where he won the title of "Fan Favorite." He later returned in 2010 to compete in their To Chef All Stars Edition and a spinoff culinary reality show Life After Top Chef. Fabio has since been a recurring guest on shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, The Chew, Ellen and Access Hollywood, and has authored two successful cookbooks. Now he is bringing new life to the old China Grill location and has plans to make it a refined yet welcoming Italy meets the Magic City spot, where locals and tourists alike will come for the pasta of a lifetime, along with other creations he has put together to complement our Miami heat.

I recently had lunch with Fabio and we talked about his upcoming plans and how excited he is to be a part of the Miami dining scene. With his usual charm and down-to-earth demeanor, he described what we can expect when Siena Tavern opens this coming November and how he plans to win our hearts and appetites.


With Chef Fabio Viviani

The Foodaholic: You have several restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles. What made you decide to come to Miami and what do you envision Siena Tavern to become?

Fabio Viviani: For us, it is all about creating a good concept that appeals to locals. Five or six years ago, I probably wouldn't have come to Miami for business because it is very seasonal. Lately though, Miami has changed and more people live here and stay here year round. There are enough people to justify a business like the one we have planned. While we have restaurants in Chicago and in L.A., this is our biggest and boldest project. It has taken a lot of time to put it together and that is why I have now moved here. Of course, I will still have to go back and forth, but Siena Tavern is going to be our main focus for the next several months. We are trying to create a spot that is good for everyday. It is going to be a series of things all at once: puzzling, happening, refined but casual too. It is going to be approachable but exclusive as well. We are going to deliver a nice ambiance with an impressive decor, coupled with good service and excellent food, all the while keeping it to an accessible price point. There are plenty of restaurants in Miami where if you want to spend two or three hundred dollars per person, you can. But people that live here and justify a business year round don't go there everyday. If you come and eat with us, and you want to have a pizza and a beer, you're going to spend only $20. So for us it is important to create a sense of community and to create a venue that allows people to come 2, 3, or 4 times a week. That is why we are so busy in Chicago. The quality is amazing but we are also very affordable.

T.F.: What's going to be the average price for dishes in Siena Tavern?

F.V.:  Appetizers will range from $10-$16, pastas for $12-14 to $20 for truffles. It will be very reasonable and very similar to the prices in Chicago. Thirty-five to forty-five dollars per person for a dinner. You can go with your girlfriend or boyfriend and have a good time without spending one hundred dollars per person.

T.F.: The culture is different here than in Chicago. What are you going to do to appeal to this market?

F.V.: Here's my thinking, the culture is very different but so is Chicago compared to L.A. and New York compared to Miami. Culture is culture. You can't change them but you can change the way you adapt your food and service to the culture. Of course if we have heavier hand pizzas in Chicago, we are not going to have those here in Miami. Certain pasta we make in Chicago, we are going to work in a way that is a bit lighter. We don't have to serve food here that we serve to people living in 10 degrees below zero. It is really hot in Miami, so our food will focus more on fish, seasonal ingredients, and local farms. For us, however, the entertainment component is the same. People love to have fun in Chicago the way they have fun in Miami . But the way you approach food and drink changes so that's what we need to adapt. For everything else, we will just be ourselves.

T.F.: Who's going to be leading your kitchen here in Miami?

F.V.:  Our number one chef here in Siena Tavern in Miami is Paolo Del Papa, the former chef at renowned Casa Tua.  We also have a really good chef coming out from New York and a strong local sous chef as well. Paolo will drive the operations day in and day out. He's one of the guys that made the Miami dining scene what it is today and now I have him. He's the best.

T.F.: Do you have your menu ready?

F.V.: We are planning to serve a lot of crudos and lighter versions of our pastas. Our pizza is great, super thin, crisp yet a little bit crunchy. We have been measuring the humidity in the air for the past two months just to create the perfect dough. The problem I have with a lot of pizzas in Miami is that they are very chewy because there is a lot moisture. The same thing that happens with hair, happens with pizzas. When there is too much humidity, the pizza becomes chewy, gummy, and it feels heavy. So we have to compensate for that and that is how particular we are going to be.

T.F.: Are you going to source ingredients locally?

F.V.: Yes, as much as I can. There are ingredients I have to have from Italy. For example, we mill our own flour in Italy, the tomatoes have to be a certain way. But besides those few ingredients that I need specifically from the region, I will source the rest locally because I like to support the economy and I like to support the community. You can't use everything local because of seasonality, so maybe 30-40 percent of the menu usually has to come from elsewhere, but anything that we can use from here, we definitely will.  Imagine, Burrata from Miami doesn't sound so right, just like Plantains from Italy wouldn't work. You have to stick with what's best where it's best.

T.F.: Sometimes people complain about the service in Miami. How do you plan to approach that?

F.V.: I feel part of the reason Miami service is sometimes described as not very good is because the seasonality does not allow for continuity. There are a lot of good servers in Miami, but they are just in a few of the restaurants. Everybody else gets what's in season. What we do is that we pay well, we take care of our employees very well and we train them for a month and a half before we put them on the floor. If you don't convince me, you are not going to serve my customers. And trust me, I'm a hard one to convince.

T.F: Have you done a lot of changes to the space?

F.V.: You can't even imagine.  It is completely different. We have our private areas along with our dining room.  Completely crazy! It is the biggest restaurant in Miami with over 14,000 square feet. We have a 200 seat patio outside and there is seating for 400 guests inside. The location is great. Anybody who comes to the beach from Miami will drive by there. You know how they say "Every road leads to Rome? Well, every street leads to Siena.

T.F.: What hours are you going to be open?

F.V.: We are only going to serve dinner when we open in November, and then right after the holidays, we are going to do brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

T.F.: On a different note, I heard you were coming out with a new book soon. Tell us about it.

F.V.: Yes, on October 21st. It's Fabio's American Home Kitchen. And you know why I decided to do it? Because it was time for me. I am Italian and you can't take that away, but I have been living, dreaming and cooking in this country for the past decade, so American food is something I know very well now. And while I still keep my own little twist, like when I make Chicken Pot Pie and put fresh basil on top, for me it's all about simplicity. In this new book, I share all the loved and favorite American dishes, but with my own little tweak. The dishes are very simple to make. Dishes like Shrimp & Grits and Pot Pie are simple to execute. I don't like complicated recipes so this book is going to make it very easy for people to fall back in love with traditional American food. My recipes have short descriptions, to the point and are easy to read. You can't take two pages to write a recipe. It doesn't work that way.

T.F.: What about T.V.? Any plans coming up?

F.V.:  I have a show on the Food Network coming up, a few episodes of Cut Throat Kitchen in October I will be competing in. I also have a couple of other projects in the works that are not released yet, But you know, while T.V. is good, and I'll do it, it is not my passion. Last year alone I did over one hundred television appearances, so I'm on the television all the time.  But I am a restaurateur. If I have to take time away from the restaurant to be on T.V., things become a little different. I don't want to be a celebrity chef. I want to be a restaurant chef. I am a chef, not a celebrity.

T.F.: What do you want our readers to walk away with after they visit Siena Tavern?

F.V.: We want to be the kind of restaurant people will tell everyone about. The service and the quality of food are the most important things for us at Siena Tavern. If you give us $50 to have dinner with us, it has to be the best $50 you ever spent in your life. You are going to finish the meal and be like, "Oh my God, oh…I have to come back!" We are not big on advertisement and we are not big on promotion. We just make people happy. You hear sometimes that some restaurants become very popular and have a lot of business, and it almost gets to the point that they feel you owe them instead of the other way around. We do not operate like that. We are very fortunate and grateful for our customers and always treat them that way. Once a restaurant feels they have arrived and everybody owes them something, that's when they start to decline. Not us. We will always make Siena Tavern a place everyone will call home.

Siena Tavern is located at 404 Washington Avenue. For more information, visit their website at http://sienatavern.com/miami.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Miami Spice Mash-Up Grand Finale at Lure Fishbar

What is better than going to a restaurant and pigging out on a Miami Spice meal? How about going to a restaurant and pigging out on 3 Miami Spice meals at the same time? That is what the Miami Spice Mash-Up Series was all about this year. Presented by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), the popular series brought together some of the most well known chefs in Miami to one location, where together they would cook up dishes from their own restaurants' Miami Spice menus.

Chefs John Iatrellis of Lure Fishbar, Wolfgang Birk of Area 31
and David Bracha of Oak Tavern describing their Miami Spice Menus

The last installment of the series took place on September 4th at Lure Fishbar in the Lowes Miami Beach Hotel, and my taste buds had the pleasure of being a part of it. Chefs Jon Iatrellis of Lure, Wolgang Birk of Area 31 and David Bracha of Oak Tavern, teamed up to deliver a memorable evening to the happy foodies in attendance. Guests enjoyed a parade of seafood dishes prepared by each chef, along with desserts crafted by the trio for only $75 per person. The night included a cocktail reception that featured one complimentary Botran Rum Deluxe Mojito (which was insane), a Stella Artois and a glass of wine from Wines of Chile.

Botran Rum Deluxe Mojito

While this was the Inaugural year of the Miami Spice Mash-Up, it became quite the talk of the town, giving Miami Spice fans the opportunity to preview the menus of the Magic City's most talented chefs in just one sitting, while also interacting with them on a more personal basis. Below is a photographic recap of the event, along with descriptions of the amazing dishes. Miami Spice season is coming to a close on September 30th, but you still have time to check out some of these menus. Bon Appetit!


Deviled Egg Compliments of the Chef
Raw Bar Platter - East Coast Oysters, Middle Neck Clams
and Shrimp Cocktail from Lure Fishbar

Ruby Red Shrimp - Tiradito, Ginger, Togarashi from Area 31

Tuna Poke - Tamari, Ogo Seaweed, and Avocado from Oak Tavern

Shrimp Risotto - Plancha Seared Shrimp, Confit of Tomato, Scallions,
Chorizo, Micro Cilantro, and Brandy Cream from Lure Fishbar

Fried Hogfish - Garlicky Black Bean Sauce, and Seabean Salad
from Area 31

Wood Grilled Cobia - Sumac, Eggplant, and Pea Salad
from Oak Tavern

Chef David Bracha of Oak Taven Interacting
With The Guests

Trio of  Desserts - Pistachio Ice Cream with Spice
Bread Crumble from Lure Fishbar, Cuatro Leches Made
With Dulce de Leche and Zacapa Rum from Area 31, and
Pot de Creme, with Creme Fraiche and Maldon Sea Salt
from Oak Tavern

Lure Fishbar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Miami Dolphins Score A Foodie Touchdown At Sun Life Stadium

Tom Garfinkel
It looks like there is going to be a lot more stirring up my appetite at the Miami Dolphins games this season than Ryan Tannehill. The Fins have introduced a slew of new food options at Sun Life Stadium for the 2014 season that are going to keep the Dolfans happy. Miami Dolphins & Sun Life Stadium President & DEO Tom Garfinkel asked fans this summer through social media which food options they would like to see on game day. Season Ticket Holders and the public in general responded with their foodie favorites and their voices (and tummies) were heard.




Now we can watch the Dolphins score their touchdowns while munching on favorites like Bokampers, Sushi Maki, Burger Fi and Cuban Guys. Even Michelle Bernstein is bringing her culinary talent to Sun Life Stadium, with delicious fare from her famous restaurant, Crumb on Parchment. Other additions include Bru's Room Sports Grill and since there's always room for dessert: Cold Stone Creamery..



Of course, we will still be able to buy that traditional hot dog (and depending on who we're playing, the fixings are going to vary), and their regular concession stands will be available, as well as some finger licking good nachos and wings from Everglades BBQ Company right outside the stadium.  If you're in the mood for Mexican, the Chicken and Steak Nachos are amazing, and there's nothing like a good ol' Lobster Roll to get you in the mood for some action.


 

It's going to be Cool & Easy moving forward this season, and there will be a whole lot more reasons to make it a game day at Sun Life Stadium. Scroll down for more photographs of the first bite we had of these winning new options, but watch the drooling. Oh.. and don't say I didn't warn you.