Dog Day Chronicles

A term synonymous with the heat and stagnation that defines Miami in August

During the sultry stretch of summer between early July and early September, Siruis, the Dog Star (and brightest in the sky), rises and sets in sync with the sun. The Latin term for this is dies caniculares, or dog star days, which has since been modulated to dog days, or more commonly dog days of summer. In a broader sense, dog days is synonymous with a period of heat and stagnation that pretty much defines Miami in August. Concerning the reviewing of new restaurants, it is a relatively uneventful time.

Although it is advantageous for dining establishments to iron out operating kinks before the busy season begins, not many of them debut during these lazy, hazy days; lofty rents make spending a few months tinkering with niceties too pricey a proposition. There are exceptions, of course: the most noteworthy this year being Jeffrey and Anna Brana's Restaurant Brana, which premiered July 14 in Coral Gables. During Jeffrey's tenure as executive chef at Norman's, the famed Gables establishment was nominated for the prestigious James Beard Foundation's Best Restaurant in America. Anna formerly served as Norman's marketing director and is promoting the cuisine at their new digs as "modern with influences of Old Florida." This means menu items such as Port- and orange-marinated shrimp with avocados, hazelnuts, and smoked trout roe, and Jamison Farm's lamb saddle with Indian River honey, charred onions, and black raspberries. Chef Brana describes his cooking style as "a quest for purity and clarity ... with a focus on sustainability and a forward-thinking approach to technique."

One type of food business that is perfect for summer is the ice-cream shop. Rob Goldberg and Jorge Garcia shrewdly got their South Miami operation, Soli Organic, up and running this past spring, offering creatively flavored (and of course organic) ice creams and sorbets, gluten-free desserts, and a selection of coffees and teas. Soli has also recently unveiled the ultimate dog day treat: canine ice cream.

JOE ROCCO

Location Info

Map

Chispa

225 Altara Ave.
Coral Gables, FL 33146-1422

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Coral Gables/South Miami

Christabelle's Quarter

3157 Commodore Plaza
Miami, FL 33133

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Coconut Grove

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

130 NE 40th St.
Miami, FL 33137

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: Central Dade

Table 8

1458 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139-4162

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: South Beach

Chispa, 11500 NW 41st St, Doral; 305-591-7166
Christabelle’s Quarter, 3157 Commodore Plz, Coconut Grove; 786-517-5299
David Bouley Evolution, 1669 Collins Ave, Miami Beach
Karu & Y, 71 NW 14th St, Miami; 305-403-7850
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, 130 NE 40th St, Miami; 305-573-5550
Restaurant Brana, 276 Alhambra Cir, Coral Gables; 305-444-4595
Soli Organic Ice Cream, 7209 SW 59th Ave, South Miami; 305-663-9399
Table 8, 1501 Collins Ave, Miami Beach; 305-695-4114

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Though restaurant openings are few, summertime is not solely a down time for the industry. New chefs are hired, the fall lineup of upstart ventures is unveiled, and, as if to make room, some establishments inevitably bite the dust. Plus there is Miami Spice Restaurant Month (really two months: August and September), a program that offers specially priced lunches and dinners at more than 70 participating restaurants. Lunches run a flat $20.06, and three-course meals are $30.06 (excluding tax and gratuities), which is a great deal for patrons dining at the many finer eateries on the list. At other places, it means for a limited time only, flagrantly overinflated prices are brought into line. Which is still a good thing.

So is the appointment of Patrick Duff to replace Marco Bax as executive chef at Acqua, the signature restaurant of the Four Seasons Hotel Miami. Duff comes to town by way of Bangkok's Sukhothai Hotel, and has added an alluring Asian influence to what was formerly mostly Mediterranean cuisine. New items include summer tomato gazpacho with cherry tomato and basil sorbet; sesame-crusted sea scallops with wok-fried snap peas and wasabi foam; and mirin-glazed grouper, cipollini onions, and caramelized root vegetable ragout.

Barton G. Weiss of Barton G. The Restaurant is South Florida's most ambitious restaurateur, constantly working with his chefs to develop outrageously clever menus and eye-popping presentations, only to revamp and start again the next season with newly brilliant concepts and concoctions. So it doesn't surprise that this master events coordinator has pulled off the most intriguing hire of the summer: Richard Blais took over as his culinary creative director on July 24. Blais has the enviable background of having worked at two of the best restaurants in America — Daniel Boulud's Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan and Thomas Keller's The French Laundry in California. He emerged as a nationally recognized talent while helming Atlanta's One Midtown Kitchen and will team with executive chef Ted Mendez to bring a fun, push-the-envelope, 21st-century aesthetic to our local food world (his specialty is — ahem — a foie gras milkshake). At long last, Miami will be privy to molecular gastronomy dabblings in liquid nitrogen, and the slow, old-time technique of cooking known as sous vide. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you will soon enough.

There are plenty of other innovative chefs heading into town for the coming season, none bigger than David Bouley, who premieres his eagerly awaited David Bouley Evolution at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. When his first restaurant, Bouley, opened in New York in 1987, it instantly became the most critically acclaimed dining establishment in the land. Other Bouley successes include Danube and Bouley Bakery & Market, but this is the chef's first foray outside Manhattan. "Evolution," he says, "will be a celebration of what I've experienced and learned throughout my career and travels." The menu will specifically showcase influences from Spain, France, Asia, and the chef's New England background.

Another culinary talent creating a substantial national buzz is Govind Armstrong, who brings his Table 8 restaurant here via L.A.'s trendy Melrose Avenue, where for the past three years he has wowed diners with brilliant, market-driven, seasonal cuisine. Govind and chef de cuisine Andrew Kirschner plan to go the same route in South Beach, featuring an innovative, weekly changing menu of California-style cooking spiked with unique, organic ingredients. Look for dishes such as white corn soup with English peas, morels, and bacon vinaigrette; duck breast with figs and Marcona almonds; and American kurobuta pork sided by collard greens and mushroom grit cake.

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