During our last dinner for Mitolo wines, I (sort of) spontaneously tweeted twitpic's of the day's prep and also the action throughout the meal. This gave rise to an idea of a live twitter-themed dinner. It's just a thought at the moment, but what if we booked an entire table of twitter folk, set up an account for live twitter cast, and allowed the diners to follow 'play by play' action of the BOH happenings? It may be the first case of restaurants actually encouraging their guests to use their cell phones in the dining room.
The only problems that must be overcome for us to put on such a dinner would be finding a TC (tweeter of ceremonies). It's difficult to get nice plate shots during a dinner let alone tweet and text out descriptions. Having someone in the kitchen for this job is necessary in my mind. Also, this person must have a pretty decent cell phone. My Motorola Z9 doesn't quite get the nice shots I'd like it to. I also haven't overcome the limitation of having attached text from the subject line alone (which limits me to 30 character spaces or so) from my phone.
Here's an impromptu shot of Chef K and I doing a quick latex gloved skal with red wine mid-meal (all apologies to Dave & Nils).
... also probably not a good idea to tweet yourself drinking on the job when your boss follows you on twitter (note we are not actually drinking in the photo, Steven).
We've really been into chicken confit lately. Chicken is the tilapia of poultry (or is tilapia the chicken of fish?). It's lowly, humble... usually what people order when they don't know what to eat. On the flip side, along with pork it is truly representative of American southern cuisine. To confit it simultaneously increases it's comforting deliciousness while elevating its status.
So what could be better than chicken confit? Chicken confit that has a additional layer of crispy ham fused onto its skin... chicken skin, ham, and juicy bacon fat-poached confit flesh all together in a glorious symphonious bite of slap yo' momma tastebud bombing goodness.
... with pea salad, fig jam, roaring 40's, shiraz chip, pancetta powder, crispy smoked chicken skin (did it really need the extra skin? Maybe not, but no one complained)
Getting ahead (or staying ahead) means cross utilizing whatever is possible. We currently did cherry cola chicken for a demo after having it used as a component for a Shiraz dinner this coming Tuesday. I've (or I should say 'We' have) always been big users of sodas in recipes. My first experience with this was many years ago when I added a Dr. Pepper reduction to a fig gastrique for duck confit. We learned how to add a dash of Sprite to traditional nuoc cham from the 'mommas' in the kitchen. Sodas are a great way to utilize a local flavor into your dishes... in New Orleans we did a Big Shot creme soda vinaigrette for lobster salad. We've also done a Peruvian Inca cola can chicken here in Miami.
This chicken below was brined with a cherry cola brine and cooked on a charcoal grill via 'beer can chicken' style (with the brine in the can instead of cola). It's always nice when we can take a minor break in the day to fire up the lil' Weber on the terrace. ... or maybe this was all just an excuse to link an Eagles of Death Metal video.
We've spent quite a bit of time lately pushing our ideas in different ways. Our restaurant has long been in desparate need of... an identity. It's interesting to see how things pan out. It's also interesting to look at things through the eyes of fresh perspective with the added clarity of retrospect. Take a brief look at the history of our building...
Our 3 building complex was built (more than 5, but less than 10) years ago by a local contractor who forged a partnership with Trump and was to be managed by a 3rd entity. The entire complex consists of a hotel condo and 2 larger condos lined up right on the beach on Florida's beautiful Atlantic coast. To this day, the 3rd building is still being constructed. Their were obviously many hands in the design of this beginning project and each set may or may not have had a vision of what was to finally be. In the time that followed, a brand was developed by the outside management company.
During those years of change, many key management positions saw new faces... one of those being our executive chef, Chef K. Later on I came on the scene, then later the management company backed out and a new company was formed by our current GM (another new face) and the building's contractor. We also ended up with a new F&B. In the span of this time, many ideas were thrown on tables, there were multitudes of flips and flops. Our restaurant (one of several f&b outlets within our jurisdiction) was named after the owner's daughter. It unfortunately has the word 'grill' in the title which is very misleading. The restaurant serves as a 3 meal a day service to our guests. We have also (many times) tried to woo the local crowd into our establishment. This is difficult for many reasons including the fact that many locals do not know we exist... the restaurant is located on the 2nd floor, has no enticing entranceway, and has no exterior signage to alert passerby's.
A lot of times we must question whether it is easier to begin a brand from scratch or recreate one in an existing operation?
In the span of the last 3 or so years (my time here), all ideas from contemporary Floribbean, to steak house, to Italian, to whatever-you-name-it have been thrown around. In order for any of these to work, both the passion to push it plus the hard-core diligence involved with actually making it a reality are required. As a side note, we started doing Paradigm dinners as a venue to keep us learning and playing as well as to generate buzz for our property. This has worked out quite well, but it does not help out the actual restaurant. Perhaps the big attraction to it initially was to create something new without having to re-create what was already there.
Today, we have an assembled team of very food-focused locals who have been asked to help us regenerate (or generate) a restaurant theme. The areas looked at include menu, ambiance, service, space, marketing, etc. The ideas already thrown on the table are very interesting. Looking at things through the eyes of others is refreshing. Part of the idea behind this is that we get a group of locals to help us redesign our vision, they also in turn feel ownership of this new vision, and we make some readjustments, people start to flock in, and (in our F&B director, Steven's words) we are busy thereafter. Our restaurant cannot be Paradigm. That will not work. (Many people assume that's our identity because it generates buzz and that's what they see represented on this blog, but our positions entail so so much more...) It must appeal to the flow of people that chance upon it... the group business, the families with children, the local savy food lovers, the drunk guy who lured his friends in from the pool bar. We must be able to deliver what we agree to with consistency and quality. There are many restrictions built in to our framework. This is where I give a lot of credit to Steven. He is constantly demanding of ideas. No matter how crazy or out there, everyone needs to bring something to the table... it's a mental pot luck dinner.
So... how does this really work. How do you build a brand where there is none? How do you do it in existing space? How do you make it work over a large demographic? This has been a huge part of our excitement lately. Some would see this challenge as a nightmare, but a nightmare is still a dream, a dream is an opportunity. Change must be physical and mental to have real effect.
My internet has been out. Posting from an alternate source.
Although my blog has been inactive, we've definitely been busy with a few things planned for the coming days...
Saturday, 25 July- food demo at Aventura Mall Macy's. Theme is loosley based on indoor bbq. Summertime foods you can make in your own kitchen (so far we are working on braised shortrib, ivory salmon burgers, rhubarb sriracha, stone fruit mostarda, and more to come). Around noonish.
Sunday, 26 July- Brunch on the Beach. Join us for brunch inside and out in Neomi's. Price is set at $39 and includes all day access to our pool and beach afterwards. Mini omelet station, cupcake bar, sushi, caipirhinas made to order, etc. A great deal.
Tuesday, 28 July- Mitolo Wine Dinner. Shiraz lovers do not want to miss this. We've paired some interesting courses with these great Australian wines. Reception plus dinner in Neomi's.
Saturday, 1 August- Miami Spice begins again. We've put together an interesting menu that fits into the dine around price of thirty something dollars. 1st course choices, 2 taco trucks (fish tacos or kogi); 2nd course option of Gaucho meatballs (Italian with Argentinian flare) or Taste of Lobster (potato skins, St. Andre cheese), Dessert... Fabian's white chocolate lava cake!!!
In case you've missed me posting everyday, I've been on Twitter for quite some time now. Follow me here. Random BS and occasional quick pic's from our kitchen.
Hiro and May of Yakko-san graciously invited us to eat at Gabose (gah-boh-say) which is their favorite local Korean restaurant. That recommendation alone had me excited to experience it. We are not as fortunate as other US cities to have a Chinatown or Koreatown (we're more like Cuban town, etc.), so finding a place like this is like gold. I know that restaurant dinner 'recaps' are not the focus of this blog, but I just wanted to share some photos from our experience. The restaurant is a bit of a trek for the Miami crowd (all the way out to 4991 N. University in Lauderhill), but it's a great excursion for a group... besides, food at this volume is best enjoyed with a small crowd. The tables in back are equipped with inserts and exhaust systems for coal burning bbq grills. This was just great traditional food with an interactive element.
Gabose does not advertise (yet the place was packed). There are no take-out menus or websites, so I will refrain from attempting to give the Korean names of these dishes. (I would recommend calling ahead of time if you wish to get a 'grill' table.)
a starter salad of pork shank and lettuces
a seafood pancake packed with squid, oyster, and green onion
lightly fried oysters
clear sweet potato noodles with beef
we were told this was Korean scrambled eggs (obviously diluted with broth or other liquid because the texture was silky soft and came out bubbling at the sides)
crispy fried fish packed with roe
Susan (the owner's daughter and a very creative chef in her own right... her most popular dessert creation is a popcorn ice cream which unfortunately we were too full to sample afterwards)... here she is cutting up some black pork belly which we cooked on a table top flat grill.
May Shigetomi flips the black pork while Hiro-san flakes off pieces of fish with his most excellent chopstick master skills.
sliced beef tongue and shrimp over the charcoals
eating the bbq'd shortrib in Hiro-san's recommended method... wrapped up in fresh sesame leaves with miso and kimchee
Thanks to our generous hosts for the great food and company and the free-flowing 32oz Hite's. We will be returning. Susan did mention that they are aiming to open another restaurant in South Beach, but there is no set location yet... this may be quite far off in the future. However, we did coax her into a possible Paradigm dinner in the near future... that could be a great learning experience for all of us, but don't expect us to set a white hot pot of flaming charcoals in the middle of our dining room. I don't think the Donald's insurance covers that.
One of our produce reps showed up yesterday with some interesting items to try...
yellow plum- tart, fairly firm texture, hints of citrus but not mouth puckering astringent
black apricot- also closer to a plum, uber sweet flesh, astringently tart skin, soft supple texture
iceplant- funny I had just seen these for the first time the day before on StudioKitchen... refreshingly soft and spongy with a delicate ghostly crispness (more of a textural element than anything else)... can these be soaked in an ice bath of flavorful water to soak up nuances of flavor?
oca- also known as New Zealand yam (found in NZ and parts of South America along the Andes), very much like a crisp potato with hints of sweetness and tanginess, an extremely interesting starch for any dish. It's tolerant of high altitudes and was first introduced to Europe as a food source during the potato famine.
Bailey Barash of Barash Productions emailed me a video link to a 21 minute video on Edna Lewis. Maybe it was because I had spent the evening before frying chicken at home, or that I had pulled Donald Link's recipe for buttermilk biscuits beforehand to mix this morning, but I was mentally groovin' for a Southern Food pep-rally. Watching this reminded me of her importance in American food culture. Arguably just as important as Julia Child and definitely moreso than Alice Waters when it comes to fresh ingredients. (I actually knew close to nothing about Mrs. Child growing up, but I had heard of Edna Lewis.)
Miss Lewis defined Southern cuisine in America. She represents this cuisine when it was all about coaxing the beautiful natural flavors in common ingredients. It's too bad that many of these foods are so lacking in flavor today. In the same way that poor cooks learned to take the lesser cuts of animals and turn them into tasty dishes, we are faced with trying to add flavor to bland mass produced meats and vegetables today. I have made it a point of pride to use naturally raised free range chicken for frying (from Whole Foods, since sadly these are the best available to me... for home cooking, not as a chef). Hearing Miss Lewis talk about frying chickens being available for a short time out of the year, that they were selected chickens raised separately and fed a special diet to insure maximum flavor and juiciness when fried... well, that's humbling. I feel fortunate to have experienced just a small portion of this food culture in my life. It's too bad that our food systems, while protecting us against going hungry have also alienated us from our food roots. Maybe that's part of the sadness that Michael Ruhlman feels at the end of his recent post.