So happy to find another excellent stop on the pre-conceived culinary wasteland of Orlando. A great salad and one of the best steak frites I have had in recent memory.
The Rusty Spoon
Going to Orlando for a convention may be my worst nightmare. While there are chains that are passable in a pinch near the convention center, I just couldn’t do it for more than just lunch. While downtown Orlando is a bit young and clubby at night, there are great finds such as the Rusty Spoon. I did have to chuckle when our server asked if we knew the carpaccio was raw. Perhaps a bit ahead of its time for the Orlando market!
carpaccio – pepper crusted tenderloin of beef, prezzemolo, crispy capers, pickled things & greens
charred squid and octopus – hammock hollow romanesco, sweet potato, arugula, preserved lemon, oil-cured olives & crispy chorizo
handcutt fettuccine nero – charred squid steak alla diavola with local fresno chili, sweet peppers, broccolini & light tomato ragu
Hanson’s Shoe Repair
I am a sucker for a bar with a hidden entrance and a password is even better. We may have walked the block a time or two looking for the address then finally ducked into a bar to ask where Hanson’s was. We were in the right place and after heading upstairs and giving the password to the doorman went back to the downstairs bar to await entry. Drinks at both bars were fantastic and I only regretted not taking Uber there!
I started with more than 60 and have narrowed it down as much as possible. In no particular order here are my top dishes of 2016, whatever ‘top’ means on any such lists. Largely these dishes are not representative of my favorite meals of 2016 and many are from what I would consider casual restaurants. They may not all be the best dishes technically but are the dishes that I could eat every day and often have cravings for. In the interest of fairness of I have disqualified the Au Cheval burger, the Humm Dog, Black Truffle Explosion, and Oysters & Pearls as well as all bread courses.
balsamic, truffle, artichoke
Luskus with Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs
osetra – plantain, papaya, rum
farm egg baked in celery cream
foie gras and truffle macaroon
sheep’s milk gnocchi
Contra @ Gramercy Tavern
carolina gold rice
Xiao Bao Biscuit
snap pea sushi
nam tok beans
spicy tuna toast
general tso fried chicken
Such an unexpectedly great dinner at Pomona Bistro in downtown Sarasota. I certainly see why some of my family visits regularly. In certain cities I just don’t expect to find excellent food or service but this meal certainly had both. And of course the added bonus of my first time having antelope. I’m not sure why it is not more popular and I don’t think I’ve even seen it on a menu before or I would have ordered it. A definite treat!
Sea Scallops – Tatsoi-Mizuna salad, blood oranges, avocado
Romaine lettuce, caesar dressing, sunny side up quail eggs surrounded by brioche
Broken Arrow Ranch sous vide antelope, sherry-date sauce, local vegetables
If only brunch everywhere could be this good. The elvis tartine was spectacular and I have to wonder why everybody isn’t doing this? Great ceviche, how can you go wrong with candied bacon and even the quiche, which isn’t typically my thing, was really really good. And there were quite a few other things on the menu I wish I had the room to order. I was looking forward to a return trip for dinner, but then I would miss the tartine so maybe I will stick to brunch!
ceviche – poached shrimp, coconut milk leche de tigre, cucumber, red onion, jalapeño, cilantro
candied applewood smoked bacon, brown sugar
‘elvis’ tartine – nut & seed butter, bananas, pepitas, whole wheat bread, vanilla bean salt
vegetable quiche – caramelized onions, poblano peppers, cotija, creme fraiche, green lettuces
‘calentado’ – braised pork shoulder, rice & beans, sweet plantains, chimmi churri, sunny up eggs
I loved this place so much on my first visit and couldn’t wait to come back. For once I did not have to do any of the ordering which was completely amazing as it is always my role. Because of that I have no idea really what any of these dishes are. Perhaps I knew a month ago but now I haven’t a clue (well except for the beans which I insisted upon and which I could eat every single day).
Alinea Miami at the Faena Hotel
Perhaps it has taken me so long to complete this post because I haven’t been able to sort out what to even write. I was prepared to be completely disappointed by this dinner as when Alinea popped up at EMP in NYC I was completely thrown by having Alinea food in a different space. Until then I had not realized how much the physical space was a part of the experience. Also looking at some pictures from the pop up a month prior in Madrid many of the dishes were ones I had already had. But I do often say that its best to have low expectations so that you can only be pleasantly surprised. Then of course there is the Faena hotel which is completely over-the-top in every way. And I must digress for a second to note that the service is truly fantastic. Before beginning dinner I visited the hotel ladies room which had a multitude of stalls and every garbage can was empty and all toilet paper folded into perfect points. Alinea standards and suddenly it somehow all made sense. I love how the dining room light fixture reflects in the majority of my photos as it perfectly sums up the experience and in a way was good preparation for Alinea 2.0. I was completely surprised by how local parts of this menu felt as I simply didn’t think there was time to reinvent too much. Of particular note, of the many versions of this menu’s beef dish that I have had, this was far and away my favorite. I truly hope this wasn’t my last BTE or hot potato/cold potato, but if so they went out in style. Very much looking forward to the next chapter.
Hot Dog – welcome to Chicago
Osetra – plantain, papaya, rum
Guiso De Maiz – chorizo, tomato, pumpkin seed
Snapper – bouillabaisse, miro june 2, 1973
Moqueca – tiger’s milk, coconut, citrus vapor
Crab – cucumber, vanilla, green curry
Pig Ear – tamarind, watermelon, szechuan
Siam Sunray – lemongrass, chili, soda
Hot Potato – cold potato, black truffle, butter
Duck – ginger, yogurt, gold
Rose – on roses
Beef – chimichurri, lettuce cores, red onion
Black Truffle – explosion, parmesan, cabbage
Bacon – butterscotch, apple, thyme
Balloon – helium, green apple
Chocolate – banana, fernet branca, dulce de leche (Photo truly not representative of how this looked when plated but we got to talking and parts started to melt before I was able to take a picture)
Michaels Genuine Food & Drink
I don’t think I have ever visited Miami and not dined at Michael’s Genuine. I’m not quite sure how it became my go-to place but I suppose that years ago it completely stood out as one of the best places in the city. Every time I come back its just crazy to see how much the Design District has changed. Consistently solid and I always love their off the street outdoor dining.
falafel – tahini sauce & pickled red onions
golden tilefish ceviche – tangerine, crispy hominy, cucumber, red onion, avocado, cilantro
yellowfin tuna tartare – green tomato, shallots, smoked olive oil, mete lemon aioli, potato chips
roasted broccoli salad – shaved vegetables, quinoa, preserved meyer lemon, tahini dressing
caramelized onion pizza – cave aged gruyere, mozzarella, tomato sauce, thyme, chili flakes
Perhaps its just because I prefer to be drinking and dining outdoors, but I love the original Broken Shaker much more than its Chicago version even though they did manage to achieve a similar vibe in completely different settings. However when I tried to order off menu, I ended up with the drink I was debating just minus one ingredient. It was one of those times that an actual conversation with the bartender would have been useful as I really just wanted something ‘like’ one of the drinks on the menu.
First a congratulations to Chef Kilgore on being one of this year’s Food & Wine Best New Chefs, an honor which has prompted me to finally finish this post. Overall this was a really great dinner and I think Alter has an immense amount of promise. It was too bad that we visited just before the outdoor bar opened as this is a very small space and there was nowhere to wait but on the sidewalk when earlier reservations ran late. This visit was also slightly after the James Beard semi-finalist nominations came out so perhaps it was busier than usual. But after being seated very late we waited quite a while for a server to appear at all. It was very dark so unfortunately these are not the best photographs. The soft egg was absolutely fantastic and I think on a return visit I would absolutely order two. I’m missing a description of the strawberry dessert but loved it (and the first course as well). I’m looking forward to seeing how this place evolves over the next year.
shaved cobia – vetrano olive snow, rice masago, green mustard oil, garlic dashi
soft egg – sea scallop espuma, chive, truffle pearls, gruyere, caviar
udon noodle – porcini sabayon, rabbit confit, blistered scallion, shiitake
grouper cheeks – black rice, shoyu hollandaise, sea lettuces
glazed short rib – grits, red onion caramel, wild garlic oil, smoked peanuts
Our last meal before embarking on a 5 day cruise had to be a good one and BlackBrick Chinese was a fantastic choice. While not traditional, it is this type of spin on tradition that when done right makes dishes so much more exciting than those they were influenced by. It turned out that the food we had on the cruise was so terrible that we probably relived this meal at least once a day. I can’t wait to return and will particularly think of those green beans fondly until then.
Starter…some sort of fried goodness
Breakfast fried rice – eggs, breakfast sausage, country potato, cheddar
Spicy dry wok heirloom green beans
Hunan ma la chicken, sichuan peppers & peanuts
Pork cheek dumpling
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
This has been my go-to Miami destination for quite a while. Aside from the food, I love the outdoor space and the non South Beach location. I decided to forego it this trip to get to some new places. But after an Uber disaster and not having enough time to get to my planned pre-dinner cocktail location, we decided to stop here. The renovations look fantastic and it is such an improvement over the previous awkwardly split space.
The Fiddler – Rittenhouse rye, Ferrand Dry Curaçao, grapefruit, basil
Cabarete – aperol, St. Germain, sparkling wine, fresh watermelon, orange bitters
The Cypress Room
Such eclectic decor that somehow all works together. Loved this space (and I wonder if it had anything to do with the small size and close tables making me feel like I was at home). Beautiful cocktails, lighting, and fantastic service. And of course lamb tartare wins me over every time.
Before & After- the Botanist gin, avera amaro, salers apertif, lemon, luxardo maraschino
Go Lightly – Cocchi americano, St. Germain, sparkling wine, lemon peel
I will be honest, after arriving from the arctic of the northeast US, my first al fresco meal in Miami could have been anything and I would have been thrilled. Lovely salads and a very tasty and light pizza (and I am exceedingly picky about pizza!).
The Broken Shaker
Such an incredibly cute outdoor space and you would never know that you were in the backyard of a hostel. I loved the small touches like the rosemary infused water. This is a place I could easily hang out in all night if I lived in Miami or was in town for longer.
Long distance call – Bombay gin shaken with strawberry cucumber shrub, allspice infused martini bianco and fresh lemon
Al Pastor AKA Mitchell Rizzo – Olmeca Altos Tequila shaken with spicy chorizo cordial, pineapple, fresh lime and a hint of mezcal
Khong River House
My only regret of this meal is that we didn’t take the leftovers back to the hotel for breakfast the next day. We absolutely loved everything and I don’t think I have had a crab rangoon in 15+ years!
Thai 75 – Nolet’s gin, lemongrass, lychee puree, sparkling wine
Thai Garden – lavender infused Beefeater gin, yellow chartreuse, fresh lime, fresh pressed cucumber juice
Oddly our hotel bar was not open past 10pm on weeknights so I walked the 3 blocks to Blackbird Ordinary which I had wanted to check out anyway. This would be a cool spot for a concert in the back room or with a group. But I unfortunately made a bad menu choice and this drink was incredibly sweet. I tried to order a second to redeem myself but after 20 minutes or so of trying to get the bartender’s attention I asked for my check and left.
Pink Flamingo – Beefeater gin infused with raw pistachios, house raspberry syrup, fresh raspberries, egg white and lemon