Wednesday, April 16, 2014

SOBEWFF Lunch with Bertolli Olive Oil and Celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani

Bertolli Olive Oil Products
Chef Fabio Viviani
The number one olive oil brand in the world, Bertolli Olive Oil, hosted an intimate media lunch during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival at Casa Tua in Miami Beach, featuring celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani. Italian Chef Viviani, who is well known for appearing on Season 5 of Bravo's reality series Top Chef in 2008 and earning the "Fan Favorite" title, is as charismatic in person as he is talented in the kitchen. After his appearance on the show, Viviani returned in 2010 to compete in the Top Chef All Stars Edition as well as the spinoff culinary reality show, Life After Top Chef. Other T.V. appearances include Good Morning America, The Talk, The Chew, Ellen and Access Hollywood.

With Chef Fabio Viviani

Viviani's world famous meatballs
Orachitte with Amatriciana Sauce
After spending an afternoon indulging in Viviani's dishes and listening to his humoristic take on cooking, it is easy to see why he is such a popular chef. He has a natural talent in the kitchen and a gift for creating both flavorful and healthy dishes. We got the opportunity to bite into his world famous Meatballs (they have their own Twitter account) and the chance to sample a Whole Wheat Pasta Orachitte with Amatriciana Sauce that was unbelievable. Viviani was clear in why he thought his meaty treats were so popular. "Italians have the key to meatballs". I agree. Throughout his culinary demonstration, he provided tips for us to take home to our kitchens. For example, according to Viviani, a good "pinch" is 3 fingers' worth. Then he added, "Italians like to pinch." Did I mention I plan to move to Italy someday?

Viviani likes to use Bertolli Olive Oil in his creations. Bertolli produces a wide selection of olive oils and cooking sprays that can be used in any recipe. It is currently being sold in more than 40 countries and has been around for more than 150 years. The consistent quality of the oils, and the variety of flavor intensities available, gave Viviani's dishes a distinct touch. Personally, I loved the Classico the most.

As the afternoon came to a close, and we got ready to head out to more SOBEWFF events, we couldn't help but be wowed by Viviani's impressive story. By the time he was 27, he owned and operated five restaurants in Italy. After feeling a need for change, he moved to California and opened Cafe Firenze in Moonpark and soon after, Firenze Osteria in North Hollywood. Just last year in February, Viviani opened a third restaurant called Siena Taverna in Chicago, which has been very well received in the foodie city. So much so, that he is currently planning to open another Siena Taverna at the end of the year, right here in Miami Beach in the old China Grill space on 5th and Washington Avenue. Woo Hoo. I can't wait. In the meantime, we can try to duplicate some of these Italian and Mediterranean flavors at home by using Bertolli Olive Oil. Remember to pinch.  For more information, visit their website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Johnny Rockets New BYOB Menu

Will Diet Coke really make
a difference now?
Decisions Decisions
Ever thought if you could create your own burger, you'd knock the socks off of any burger aficionado? Well, starting now, you can. Legendary burger giant Johnny Rockets is giving you the opportunity to B.Y.O.B. (and I'm not talking about Bring Your Own Beer) by launching its new concept of Build-Your-Own-Burger; adding an extra helping of fun to their already exciting ambiance. In addition to indulging in one of their signature burgers, guests can now make their own by choosing from a selection of menu options which includes choosing the preferred type of protein, (turkey, chicken breast, soy boca burger or their mouthwatering 1/3 lb. world famous never frozen All-American beef burger), a variety of fresh toppings, add-ons such as a fried egg, bacon and onion rings (my personal favorites) and original  sauces for every taste.'s not a mirage... it's a Johnny Rockets Burger

Dancing to the oldies at the shoot
Signature old school jukebox 
Restaurant chain Johnny Rockets has been around since 1986.  It has about 300 corporate and franchise-owned restaurants in 30 states and 16 countries and are known not only for their fresh burgers, but also for their decadent shakes. Using only the freshest, high-quality ingredients, their burgers are never frozen and grilled-to-order. While there are many new other burger franchises and brands that have opened up in recent years, few have acquired the reputation and success Johnny Rockets has. The 50's themed diner keeps bringing loyal customers back through its great food, energetic staff and jukebox-filled ambiance that takes us back to a simpler era.

The cast on the set

The crew filming another scene
The "Top Chef" contestants
You can learn more about their new B.Y.O.B. launch by visiting their website or by catching their fun commercial set to air soon. I had the opportunity to attend the taping and get a behind-the-scenes preview of what the burger-making fun is all about. It was quite an experience not only in video production but also in learning how passionate the Johnny Rockets team is about their product.

We know what we'll be eating later

Sweet Potato Fries
Trademark Ketchup Happy Face
But of course, nothing beats getting a taste of the action for myself, so I stopped into my local Johnny Rockets and had a hand at building my own burger. Take a look at my self-proclaimed "Foodaholic" creation in all of itsvmeaty glory. Paired with their sweet potato fries and a Chocolate Madness Shake, I won't even begin to guess how many calories I consumed. But you know what? It was so worth it!

My very own Foodaholic Creation with:
1/3 lb. fresh All-American beef, lettuce, tomatoes,
chopped onions, mayo, bacon, a fried egg
and onion rings. Yum!

Chocolate Madness Shake
Feel like singing Happy Days
After Mr. Sandman, brought us our dream (in the form of some insanely good food and drink) we were ready to grab a balloon and head on home. On the way out, we had to Stop In The Name of Love and dance with the servers to some oldies. Fun time for sure! Oh, and since we were planning to go watch a movie, we purchased our tickets right there at the Johnny Rockets location for just $8. That was definitely another plus for the night. So burger lovers, if you're looking for a nice time out with your family or friends, and you know your burger is the bomb, head on over to your nearest Johnny Rockets and build it.

Here's another incentive. From April 21-May 11, customers can take a photo of their Johnny Rockets BYOB creation and upload it to the Johnny Rockets Facebook page. All images will be open to the public from the page, so guests can vote for the best one. The image with the most votes at the end of the campaign will win one free Johnny Rockets meal each week for a year. Time for some stretchy pants...

This post was sponsored by Johnny Rockets. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

This Little Piggy Went to Cochon 555 2014 And Loved It

Cochon 555, the nation's most anticipated pork fest, came to Miami for its 6th run on Sunday, February 9th at the Four Seasons Hotel in Brickell. In its usual tradition of five chefs competing for the coveted prize, featuring creative preparations of a total of five heritage breed pigs, the event was a huge success.

Taking the Prince of Porc distinction was Pubbelly's Jose Mendin, whose take on cholesterol raising delights such as pig sushi nigiri, Neapolitan terrine and bacon bottom cookies was a mouthwatering affair. The other competitors: last year's reigning champ Aaron Brooks from Edge Steak & Bar, Dena Marino from MC Kitchen, Conor Hanlon from The Dutch, and Bradley Herron from Michael's Genuine Food had us drooling as well with their pulsating pork creations.

The eating continued throughout the evening with a special Tartare Bar featuring Creekstone Farms, headed by Timon Balloo from Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill and Bocce Bar, as well as with a table of tantalizing desserts prepared by St. Regis Bal Harbour's Anthony Bachour. There was no holding back possible and guests were part of a decadent  ritual of drink, eat, repeat, where the endless pork was paired with Goose Island beer, Breckenridge Bourbon and fine wine. As in tradition, five mixologists also competed to win the title of Punch King and this year's prize went to Joshua Holiday from the Khong River House.

Chef Mendin will now represent Miami in the Grand Cochon at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen to be held on June 22, 2014. Wouldn't that be awesome if our very own could be named the King of Porc? Check out the pictures below and be sure to grab a bib while you're at it.

Event Gallery

Roaming around in a pork-filled haze

Doesn't it just bring a smile to your face?

Chef Conor Hanlon from The Dutch had a few tricks
up his sleeve

I'll take the tray please

Now imagine a night of this

Grabbing prosciutto slices became a vice

Chef Jose Mendin from Pubbelly talking about his creations

The Tartare Bar brought some more pig fun to the mix

Now can you tell me where this flag is from?

Cheese..or rather Pig..says Chef Dena Marino from MC Kitchen

Marino's treats had me grunting in satisfaction

Loving the Bourbon Punch

The Tartare Bar is in action

The cocktails were delicious and fun

There you have the special tartare from Chef Timon Balloo

No it's not a mirage

Up close and personal

Who says desserts can't have pig in them?

The Butcher Shop in the middle of the action

Can you tell these people have collectively consumed over
1,000 pounds of pork in one night?

The people cast their vote

Chef Aaron Brooks, last year's reigning champ, and his
team wowed the crowd with their pork dishes

The winning menu

The Punch King Champ

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunday Brunch With The Yankees - NYY Steak at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek

If you're a New York Yankees fan (which is a good number of the population) and want a piece of that "Yanks" vibe along with a helping of tender, juicy steak, then have I got the place for you. Just think of eating Sunday brunch surrounded by Yankees memorabilia, including a wall of autographed pictures and diamond-shaped dishes sporting retired numbers of some of the legendary greats. That's what you'll find at NYY Steak, located inside the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek at 5550 NW 40th Street.

I had never been to NYY Steak before and was excited when I heard they were revamping their Sunday Brunch (one of the meals I look forward to all week). I had heard of the famous steakhouse partly owned by the New York Yankees empire, with locations near the Rockefeller Center and the iconic Yankee Stadium, and I trekked on over to the casino on a sunny afternoon to enjoy some good eating. NYY Steak believes that "Like the Yankees, they never bring anything but the best to the plate." After my experience, I agree. The lavish buffet offered an assortment of traditional brunch dishes, as well as some creative originals that piqued my interest from the moment I saw them. The ingredients were fresh and the presentation hit it out of the park (pun intended). 

I figured I'd scurry on over to first base with either a Mimosa, Bellini or Bloody Mary. Eeny Meeny Miny Moe...Mimosa it was. After a few sips, I decided to start my feast in the Fresh Seafood Station. A tantalizing mirage (only real) of large Cocktail Shrimp awaited us, along with ocean favorites like Freshly Shucked Atlantic and Pacific Oysters, Crabs, and Smoked Fish. Not bad. A homerun with my first at bat.

Next up, I saw two words I love - Eggs Benedict. Only these were preceded by Philly Cheesesteak. It turns out that NYY Steak changes their brunch offerings on a weekly basis, and their creative Egg Benedict dishes vary as well. They may be made with lobster, sausage, steak or any other Yankee flavor. These were one of my top favorites of the afternoon. Topped with a perfectly poached egg and drizzled with warm, classic hollandaise sauce, it was a total hit. Needless to say, I filled my plate with a lot more goodies I totally loved. The Bacon Wrapped Scallops were divine and the Aged Prime Rib made me take a second trip to the Carving Station while nobody was looking. Other stations included Salad, (for the healthy eaters), Eggs and Omelet, Pancake, (a.k.a. heaven) and the ever-decadent Dessert Station, which featured mouthwatering Crepes filled with just about anything you could think of. (Did I mention I chose Nutella?)


After brunch, we were given a tour of the casino as well as some 411 on the future plans of the restaurant. We also got an upclose and personal look at their butcher shop, where the first class steaks are dry-aged and prepared into the delicious, juicy delights we indulged in. You can come here, buy them raw and cook them at home for your friends. I'm thinking my poolside summer BBQs are looking so much sweeter right now.

As I walked around, I noticed a casing with steak knives on the wall, and curious me needed to know what they were. I learned that NYY Steak gives this honor to frequent guests and players, and actually etches their name on the knife. I think I saw an empty space on the wall where a new knife etched with "The Foodaholic" might fit nicely. Hint Hint.

After a fabulous meal, I waved good-bye to Babe Ruth as I exited the restaurant, with a smile on my face and "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" playing in my mind. If you want to enjoy a delectable brunch, in an elegant, yet inviting atmosphere with live music and a friendly staff, check out NYY Steak. For more information, you can visit them online at

NYY Steak on Urbanspoon