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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Rob Boone
Personal Best
Photo by Steve Satterwhite

ROB BOONE

METRO KITCHEN & BAR, 956 Washington Avenue (Hotel Astor), Miami Beach, 305-672-7217

At an early age this Midwesterner had a hunch there was more to life than meat and potatoes. Those instincts drew him to culinary school in Madison, Wisconsin, which led him to the respected Steven Wade's Café in Milwaukee. Then a big break -- working under celebrated chef Charlie Trotter in Chicago. That, in turn, led to several years in Coral Gables with Trotter's former employer, Norman Van Aken. By the time he left Norman's, Boone was the restaurant's chef de cuisine. Next stop: South Beach, where he became executive chef of the extravagantly ambitious pan-Asian experiment called Bambú. Cameron Diaz may have been its celebrity proprietor, but Hotel Astor owner Karim Masri was the main man. Bambú's life was short but intense, and after it closed, Masri installed Boone at the helm of Metro Kitchen & Bar, the instantly popular new restaurant downstairs at the Astor.

BEST PLACE FOR FRESH FRUIT

Tropical Delights in Homestead hands down grows the best and most amazing certified organic fruit. Lots of different and rare things among the crops.

BEST CHEAP THRILL

Jumping the fence really late at night to take a swim in the pool that's next to my Uncle Harold's pad in the Gables. (That would be the Venetian Pool.)

BEST NOT-SO-CHEAP THRILL

Getting caught while attempting the cheap thrill.

BEST PLACE TO SAVOR THE FLAVOR OF MIAMI

Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, for everything from great food, fashion, and a really fine wine store -- Wolfe's Wine Shoppe.

BEST LOCAL LANDMARK

Joe's Stone Crab.

BEST REASON TO LIVE IN MIAMI

My wife and I love it in Miami. We're planning on raising our soon-to-arrive child here. We love that Miami is so diversified, a place for everybody to live and mix with tons of different cultures and people. This city helps keep me creative.

RECIPE

CHOCOLATE AND CARAMEL KYANDE WITH PISTACHIO DIPPING SAUCE

Yields: About 36 pieces

Ingredients for the kyande:

20 ounces milk chocolate

5 ounces dark chocolate

14 ounces whipping cream

7.2 ounces ground hazelnut powder

7 ounces ground pistachios

3.5 ounces clarified butter

1 can of dulce de leche (made from sweetened condensed milk)

10 sheets of phyllo dough

Clarified butter for brushing phyllo dough (approximately H cup)

Powdered sugar for caramelizing

A blowtorch

Kyande preparation:

Toast the hazelnut powder and ground pistachios in a 250-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted. Reserve. Melt the chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl over a double boiler. Remove and add the toasted and reserved ingredients. Slowly drizzle and whisk in the cream and clarified butter and allow mixture to cool to a firm yet pliable room temperature. Then pipe the mixture into quarter-inch-diameter pieces using a pastry bag and pastry tip. Top with a thin line of the dulce de leche. Freeze overnight, then cut into 1-inch pieces. Freeze again.

Cut the phyllo into individual squares (about 4-by-2 inches). Put a piece of the chocolate mixture in the middle of a piece of phyllo, brush phyllo with clarified butter, and wrap and twist the ends to form a piece of candy (kyande). Continue with the rest of the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate for a half-hour when rolled. Dust generously with powdered sugar, caramelize with a blowtorch, and serve accompanied by the dipping sauce.

Ingredients for the pistachio dipping sauce:

2 cups of high-quality pistachio purée

2 cups crème anglaise

Blend above ingredients thoroughly.

BEST BREAD

Restaurants rarely make their own bread (so much easier to source it from a good bakery), and those that do frequently limit their production to one or two specialties. Not so Bizcaya Grill. Maybe it's because, given its location in the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, it has the space and resources to do it. No doubt having an overnight baker helps as well. But whatever the reason, the results are what you can count on, or depending on your mood, count calories on: fresh-baked Danish pastries and muffins for breakfast. Pain du chocolate and croissants at Sunday brunch. Parmesan buns and lemon brioche to partner burgers and fish sandwiches, respectively, for the midday meal. And at dinner the piéce de resistance -- pretzel bread dotted with coarse salt or pumpkin seeds. The object, of course, is not to eat so much of the bread that you have no appetite for the foie gras served with a shot of vinegar or the black-and-white rabbit cannelloni. But then, we were never ones to shy away from a challenge.

Readers Choice: Don Pan

BEST BREAKFAST SPECIAL

Sit in a booth, or sidle up to the counter and enjoy a massive repast with any and all combinations of the breakfast staples that make you want to go right back to bed: ham, bacon, sausage, waffles, pancakes, eggs, biscuits, gravy, grits. Chuck Wagon breakfasts provide the caloric intake you would need for ploughing your fields or rounding up cattle (rather than sitting at your terminal, wondering if co-workers can hear your stomach gurgle through the cubicle walls). Breakfast is available all day, and specials last from 6:00 to 10:00 a.m. Daily specials include a two eggs, grits, and bacon breakfast for $2, and omelet and breakfast combos that change every day, but hover around the $4-$5 price range.

BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

A perennial favorite in the dim sum category, Tropical -- surprise -- also serves a great din-din. Traditional dishes include Hong Kong-style roast pork flavored with five-spice and then roasted; seafood-spinach soup; and always crisp, always succulent Peking duck. But innovative items are equally reliable, if unusual -- flounder pan-fried with peppercorns and jalapeños and served with bananas marinated in rice wine, for example, offers interesting counterpoints of textures, as does cherry-plum chicken wrapped with diced water chestnuts and fresh bamboo in egg-white crêpes. A healthy wine list replete with floral Rieslings adds to the fine-dining effect, giving aficionados of all kinds reason to make Tropical an evening as well as morning destination.

BEST CHOCOLATE

To borrow a line from the old ad campaign for Arnold's rye bread, you don't have to be Jewish to eat kosher chocolate. Indeed whether you follow those dietary rules or not, the ultimate issue is taste, for which Krön is an ecumenical experience of the heavenly culinary variety. Its tantalizing array of candies, truffles, and dipped fruits are all made by hand with top-notch ingredients (and prices to match). Coffee and baked goods like brownies and cookies are also for sale, though the tables set out in the middle of the mall are decidedly unatmospheric. Recent ink on the store has hinted at expansion plans. Let's hope any new outlets include a proper café.

BEST COFFEEHOUSE

This charming crêperie replicates the design of a classic French café: the tile floors, the long wooden benches along the walls, lots of reading material lying about, and good, strong java. If the weather were cooler, one could easily picture a professorial type in corduroys perusing Le Monde over his afternoon espresso. Locals and tourists alike flock for the delicious savory and sweet crêpes, along with other simple fare like croque monsieur (the Gallic version of grilled cheese with ham), at prices that will make you wonder whether you are really still in South Beach. To avoid a wait, come earlyish on a weekend morning with a newspaper or a book, and ease into the day over a steaming bowl of café au lait.

Readers Choice: Starbucks

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Rob Boone: Personal Best

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