To whoever took my camera at the SoBe Food and Wine Festival on Saturday, please return it. There is a reward.
Everyone should make his or her plans now for next year’s SoBe FWF. It is an awesome event, and this was my first year working the fest. Michael Bloise (Wish Restaurant) and I took on Rocco DiSpirito and Clay Conley (Azul) in an Iron Chef contest live on the Target Stage, and we destroyed them. The Target folks did an amazing job down there, and those lime Popsicle bars are addictive in the extreme. Come down next year and hang with all of us, you will love it.
I think it is one of the top food fests in the country, and I got to hang with lots of old and new friends: Matt and Ted Lee are working on a new book proposal; Tim Love was taking his fans “to the mountain top” thanks to a never empty bottle of Patron; Michael Schwartz; Adam Perry Lang, who is the Daisy May BBQ honcho and the nicest man in the business; Emeril (he looks more exhausted than any human being I know; Rachel (cute dress); Paula (went through the motions); Geoff Zakarian from Town and Country in NYC (congrats on getting married and the new baby, my man); Jimmy Boyce, Giada, Jonathan Barnett (who reminded me of all the obnoxious crap I used to tell him back in NYC when we worked together); Jimmy Bradley from Red Cat and The Harrison, and loads of other great folks all cooked up a storm all weekend long.
My only regret is that I can’t post all my great behind the scenes pics because some a**hole lifted my camera along with my cool new shades.
The best thing I ate all weekend was the foie with black pepper marshmallow at Wish on Friday evening, second best was the carpaccio with white truffles and roasted coconut at Wish, third best thing was the cinnamon cured salmon that Bloise made during our demo. He is a talented young man.
I shot a commercial all night in the Everglades and got back in town hours late. I had planned on hitting the Bubble Q with Cat Cora but ended up missing it, and the folks at Wish blew me away with an awesome meal. South Beach also offers the best people watching in North America, not even close.
To those of you who read the posts to this blog, here is some explanation to all the questions posed by readers on last Thursday’s blog:
NO, you do not have to advertise in the magazine to win awards at our Best Of event, especially not for Restaurateur of the Year.
YES, there were several other deserving candidates this year.
The Town Talk lads would have been a reasonable choice, and I was partial to the Solera/LBV crew simply because of all the accolades they earned this past year for their exceptional work. You also could have made a case for Alex Roberts and his two restaurants (Alma and Brasa), but because of the launch of Flame, the perseverance of Atlas, the re-energizing of Mission with the hiring of Doug Flicker, and the hugely successful opening of Via, the choice that the editors at the magazine made was Anoush, Hadi, and the folks at Hemisphere.
It is a group choice to suggest candidates for a pool that is ultimately decided on by our editor-in-chief, Brian Anderson. Some of us have Brian’s ear more than others, and lots of thought goes into the decision—and not every reader will agree on who is chosen. Of course, we are all aware of the ridiculousness of some of the choices over the years given the turn of events after the selections. Aqauvit wins and closes, and we gave them the award for changing the nature of dining in the city. Sam Ernst and his boys won for T of C and Red Fish Blue at a time when they seemed poised to do something big, and then they fizzled, and I could go on and on.
The confusion for our readers, I am thinking, is that there is no consistent criteria for picking winners from year to year, so some of the choices are made one year for food excellence (112 Eatery or Aquavit) and the next year for business acumen (Rick Webb), and some years there are some truly deserving candidates who are not selected. I do agree with several of the e-mailers and post-a-holics that the Solera/LBV team is sorely overdue an award from us, considering they have yet to win one, and they have twice created a restaurant that changes the culinary landscape in this town and have twice hit home runs.
I was also being somewhat rhetorical when I posited my ‘shock and outrage’ over the Readers Poll results. I get it, and I have said for years that to me, the Readers Poll is a conundrum, wrapped in a riddle, inside a puzzle . . . or is that Russia? Who cares about a Readers Poll? Any thoughts?
Before it becomes an issue du jour, the critics’ picks list was divided among four of us. We picked fifty restaurants, and then Adam Platt divvied them up—otherwise, we would all have too much repetition with our selections.
Zander is no more from what I gather. I returned from Thailand the other week, and several people told me the doors were shut. Is it true? If it is, I am not surprised in the least, despite the very nice meals I ate there throughout the years. The restaurant never recovered from the lunacy of the sale of the breakfast joint and the remodeling of the room next to the restaurant into a wine bar, all of which happened at the height of the popularity of the eatery—both created a confusion for the customer. It makes me sad that a restaurant that existed solely because of a talented man’s passion for good food (Alexander Dixon) failed to sustain a customer base, and passionless restaurants with mediocre food, such as Kincaid’s, keep winning our Reader’s Poll
Speaking of mediocre, I have had several folks tell me that r.Norman’s is disappointing in the extreme. True or false?
I had a delightful lunch last week at Red Stag with Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. Our server seemed puzzled when two people ordered enough food for five. But hey, we were hungry. This place shows promise but lacks some attention to detail. As with many restaurants, with a little more effort and expertise, they could really be doing some cool stuff.
The room is comfy, and the map of the USA from the mid-eighteenth century is one that I have been looking to add to my collection for years; I was jealous. The chili was average, the food all needed salt, the lobster-studded mac and cheese was pretty good, the grits were good, the garlic-kissed Jo-Jo-style potato bats were killer, the egg-salad sandwich was fair and poorly constructed, and the bangers and mash could have been great had the sausages not been overcooked and made with too little fat to begin with. The red-velvet-style beetroot cake was inedible as was the grainy (frozen too slowly) ice cream that came with it. Someone needs to crack the whip in that place. How can you serve inedible cake that tastes like the fridge and ice cream that is made improperly? Crazy.
I am dining at Porter & Frye this week, and all the early money says this will be a thrilling restaurant from a food standpoint; I am looking forward to it.