Archive for June, 2005

South beach, Miami

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

The Beach at Dawn

The Beach at Dawn

South Beach, the art deco beach haven of the 1930’s, has reinvented itself into a chic, happening getaway. Although South Beach offers beautiful white sandy beaches and plenty of sunshine, its major attraction is the nightlife. Party time starts at happy hour and runs straight through till dawn. If you enjoy the beach, and want to listen to some music and dance till the rooster crows, then South Beach will be just what you are looking for.

I found South Beach unique and amazing at the same time. Usually when you think of warm weather beach resorts, you think of people visiting for a week to get a tan and catch some R&R, but South Beach is a destination where many visitors will go for a long weekend and return several times in the same year. South Beach is a community in Miami about 2 miles long that stretches along the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is perhaps a quarter mile deep and goes on as far as the eye can see. The white sand is a startling contrast to the light green ocean, almost like a granny smith apple with vanilla ice cream. The sand is interesting because halfway towards the ocean there is a path where the sand has been compressed making it a nice medium for riding your bike or taking a jog. This path is filled with a steady stream of exercise enthusiasts, although it is less busy during midday when the sun is hottest.

The beach is very colorful because it is lined with cabanas stands where the

Beach Cabanas

Beach Cabanas

different hotels distribute towels, beach chairs, and umbrellas to their guests. Each of these beach huts is a different color to correspond with the hotel colors. Early in the morning the beach is empty except for these cabanas that look like bright tents on an abandon desert, but by noon the beach is filled with bright umbrellas nicely contrasting with the tan bodies. While most sun gods and goddesses lay back and pay homage to the sun, a few more energetic souls rent wave runners or ride a parasail, which is a parachute that floats fifty feet above the ocean while being pulled by a boat. Even though there are a few boats, the beach is generally pretty tranquil. You can hear the waves crashing against the sand, and you almost get mesmerized by rows upon rows of colorful beach chairs impeccably set up by the hotels.

Collins Avenue is the main street in northern South Beach that runs along the ocean, and it’s lined with hotels. While this area of town was slums during the early 1980’s, it has gone through a rapid resurrection. These older art deco hotels have been totally refurbished, and the area is now booming. The Delano was probably the best known of the hotels along Collins that was transformed into a new ultra chic oasis. The pool, the bar, and the restaurant are all very

Pool Chaise at the Ritz

Pool Chaise at the Ritz

cool. But all the hotels along this stretch have a similar layout, the entry is on Collins Avenue, and behind the hotel is a pool and a bar area that looks out onto the ocean. The Ritz Carlton just finished a massive renovation, and it has a huge pool area, with a hot tub, couches poolside, and even some pool chaise lounges that look more like a bed fit for a king than a simple pool chair. But welcome to South Beach where excess is the norm.

Ocean Drive is the other main strip in South Beach. Probably the best known property on this street is the Versace mansion, called Casa Casuarina, which is now rented out for private functions. This fortress is right on the main street along side all the other hotels, but it’s a massive villa that looks like it was transported from Italy, very over-the-top, but interesting to see. The hotels on Ocean Drive are actually across the street from the beach. The Victor is the newest hotel to open just a few months ago, and it successfully transformed itself into a chic destination spot. The Cleveland is another hotel here that is rather unique in that it has a huge pool and is known for live bands playing nightly by the pool.

Ocean Drive reminds me of ” la passeggiata” in Italy, that tradition in the smaller towns of Italy where everyone walks back and forth along the main street, typically after dinner. On Ocean Drive once the clock strikes five, people leave the beach and descend on the bars to begin happy hour. All the hotels and restaurants are offering reduced price drinks, and there is a procession of people up and down Ocean Drive trying to decide which will be the best place to begin their evening. The other section of South Beach that is filled with bars is Lincoln Road. People go from the bars to dinner and then to the night clubs. I was in the Delano one evening having a drink and overheard two girls from Dallas discussing their escapades for the night before. After a late dinner at Nobu (one of the better restaurants), they went to Mansion and danced all night and got home at 7am. It was at that moment I knew I would not be qualified to give first hand feedback on the nightclub scene since I wake up before they even go to bed. But since this was their seventh trip to South Beach in the last three years, I feel comfortable in saying that Mansion seems like a hot club. Their other favorite club was Pearl.

South Beach has a huge restaurant scene, but I think it is based more on glitz than good food. Jeffrey Chodorow is a restaurateur from New York that owns over 20 restaurants where a quirky theme seems to be the number one priority, and he opened a couple offshoots of his New York restaurants here: China Grill and Tuscan Steak. Emeril’s is another example of this trend. Ocean Drive must have a dozen restaurants, but they all look the same. The menus are posted on the sidewalk, plates of food are displayed to illustrate their special of the day, and the owners are on the sidewalk hawking passersby to try their food. Is this a circus or a culinary destination? So although places like Talula, Nobu and Prime 112 are known for good food, I wouldn’t get my expectations too high.

South Beach should be commended for the way it’s transformed itself into such a popular destination. It’s certainly one of the “hottest” vacation spots in the United States. So, if you like plenty of sunshine, a pretty beach, and love to party, then South Beach is for you!

Time to Grill

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Summer is my favorite season because you can enjoy the entire day outdoors. And what better way to enjoy a beautiful evening than to start up the grill and eat under the stars. Although everyone has their own grilling favorites, I though I would share a couple dishes I enjoy hopefully stimulating new menu ideas. I have also included recipes for a couple common side dishes, but with some unique twists.

Spicy Hanger Steak
Hanger Steak (from a good butcher)
1 tbs. adobe seasoning
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne chili powder
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 limes, juiced
1 tsp. honey
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil

Rub the steak with the top 4 powders and place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients and marinade for 4 – 24 hours. An hour before grilling, remove the meat from the marinade, scrape off the excess cilantro, season with salt, and let rest till it reaches room temperature. Grill over high heat for 3 minutes (for rare) per side. Actually the meat is a little undercooked when it is removed from the grill, but let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Stuffed Turkey Breast
Grilled chicken is a crowd favorite, so why not try something new and stuff a chicken or turkey breast. The presentation is beautiful and the stuffing adds some interesting new flavors. I prefer turkey because it is larger, making it easier to roll.

Stuffed Turkey Breast

Stuffed Turkey Breast

1 small turkey breast (5 lbs.), deboned and butterflied
1 box frozen spinach
1/2 small onion, chopped
7 tbs. olive oil
60 pine nuts
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano
10 sage leaves
salt and pepper

Debone and butterfly a small turkey breast keeping the skin intact, or ask you butcher to do this for you. To make the stuffing, add 3 tbs. olive oil to a frying pan, once heated add the onions and cook over medium heat till translucent. Squeeze all the liquid out of the defrosted spinach, chop coarsely then add to the frying pan with another 2 tbs. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. While the spinach warms, toast the pine nuts in a separate pan till light brown, approximately 10 minutes. Add both crumbs to the spinach with an additional 2 tbs. of olive oil to keep the mixture moist. Season again with salt and pepper. Remove the frying pan from the heat. Chop 5 sage leaves and add to the spinach mixture with the grated parmigiano and the pine nuts. Add the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate till it has cooled. Lay the butterflied turkey breast on a cutting board skin side down, spread the stuffing mixture evenly over the turkey, then roll the turkey and tie with butchers twine. Season the rolled turkey breast with olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper. To grill the turkey, initially place it directly over the heat on your grill, and roll the breast so that you brown the outside, being careful not to burn the skin. Once brown, move the turkey off the direct heat, cover the grill, and roast for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 160° F. Remove from the grill, cover lightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.

SIDE DISHES…

Potato Salad
3 lbs. round yukon gold potatoes (size of golf ball)
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 cup fresh chives, chopped
1 tbs. dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Place potatoes (unpeeled) in a large pot of cold water, then boil for about 15 minutes till cooked. Drain in colander, and let cool for about 10 minutes. Cut potatoes in half and place into a bowl. Toss in scallions, chives, and parsley. Mix vinaigrette using oil, vinegar, mustard, and ample amounts of salt and pepper. Pour dressing over potatoes and gently mix. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm, or chill and serve cold.

Cole Slaw
1/2 head green cabbage, cut into thin strips
1/2 head red cabbage, cut into thin strips
2 carrots, peeled into strips
7 tbs. apple cider vinegar
5 tbs. grape seed oil
1 tbs. dijon mustard
1 pinch dried dill
salt and pepper to taste

Shred red and green cabbage into thin strips and add to a bowl. Using a potato peeler, add long strips of carrot to the bowl. Make the dressing using the vinegar, oil, mustard, and dill, then taste to assure the acidity level is to your liking. Add liberal amounts of salt and pepper to the vinaigrette and then add to the cabbage. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld together.

Worth Seeking Out…

Friday, June 24th, 2005
  • I have a new favorite cheese shop, Cavaniola’s Gourmet. They have a great selection of local artisanal producers as well as some extraordinary international cheeses. But it’s not just the cheese, it’s the people – they are constantly cutting wedges of cheese to try making the visit fun and educational. In addition to cheese, they carry a nice selection of olive oils, crackers, teas and other gourmet items. Plus at lunchtime, they make awesome panini. The store is located at 89B Division St, Sag Harbor, N.Y.
  • Do you like lamb chops? Then you must try the Tandoor – grilled lamb chops at Devi, the upscale Indian restaurant in New York City. These chops explode with flavor. Chefs Hemant Mathur and Suvir Saran have a menu that will knock your socks off. Devi is located at 8 East 18th St, NYC. Their website is www.devinyc.com
  • Great meals start with great ingredients, and in my mind there is no place more important than than a good butcher shop. Keep in mind that in addition to providing good meat, they should cut your steaks to your desired thickness, freshly grind meat, and butterfly a turkey or a leg of lamb upon request. I am lucky, I have a great butcher, L. Simchick at 944 First Ave at 52 St in NYC.

Wine Of The Month: Perrin & Fils Vinsobres “Les Cornuds” ’03 ($13)

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

Vinsobres is a tiny appellation in the southern Cotes du Rhone. This Vinsobres is composed of 65% Syrah and 35% Grenache, with 35% aged in French oak. This is a young, vibrant wine that is delicious for summer. It’s a reasonably simple wine with flavors of ripe blackberries and raspberries layered with spices, especially black pepper. It is made in an old world style, exhibiting a rustic earthiness. Les Cornuds is a well constructed wine with good balance, plenty of flavor, and an elegance that makes it a terrific value. I think it will be a perfect wine for the summer.