Side Dish

"If you can imagine it," Nahum Frenkel says, "I can make it out of chocolate." The new owner of Confection Connection, a specialty chocolate shop in North Miami, already possesses a thousand molds from which he and his staff can make anything from baby rattles to bunches of grapes, and he's ready and willing to add more to the collection. Although this is Frenkel's first foray into culinary retail after a lifetime of employment on behalf of others -- he calls the shop his "retirement plan, starting a little earlier than I'd expected" -- he seems to have gotten the golden rule down. "The customer is everything," he notes. Indeed he has already provided patrons with items ranging from a sheet cake-size racecar for a bar mitzvah cake-topper to miniature six-packs of Coca-Cola for a corporate party favor. The word "no" is simply not in his vocabulary. Which is an especially refreshing attitude for those of us who only have one word in our vocabularies: chocolate.

It's a first -- or a second, depending on how you look at it. For the Ritz-Carlton, the opening of a Norman's restaurant in its under-construction Orlando location this August is unprecedented; it'll mark the debut of an independently owned-and-operated restaurant on R-C grounds. For Norman Van Aken, it'll be slightly familiar ground: Same name, same fare, but he swears he's leaving his Coral Gables crew in place and hiring fresh. Van Aken also recently convinced the Merrick Park landlords of his forthcoming Mundo to give him even more market space, as if two new eateries weren't enough on his plate. But diligence does pay off: Van Aken has just been inducted into the James Beard Foundation/D'Artagnan Cervena Venison Who's Who of Food & Beveragein America. I think I should get an award just for spelling it right.

Speaking of (potential) awards, congratulations to Miami resident and wine writer Lyn Farmer, who has been nominated for a James Beard award for work published in The Wine News, a national magazine based in Coral Gables. Speaking of congratulations, kudos to Susan Brustmanand company -- the recently published list of Nation's Restaurant News "What's Hot in Miami" comprises La Broche, Elia, Mark's South Beach, SushiSamba Dromo,and Wish, all of whom are clients of Brustman's PR firm. Given that track record, I'd bet Brustman could sell a causeway or two if she put her mind to it. And speaking of Susan Brustman clients, is the Prime Grilla restaurant or a marriage mart? I couldn't decide after witnessing a very ambitious mama corner the prettiest girl at the opening, shouting questions like "How old are you? Are you married?" above the din. Fortunately for the girl, she was. Executive chef David Kolotkinmight want to practice a little caution, though. I noticed quite a few glances being cast his way as well. Apparently nothing says "available" quite so much as a chef's jacket.

 
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