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Fruit Nuts

Just after 6:00 on a Wednesday, chef Dewey LoSasso is getting ready for a bustling evening at North 110, the new Biscayne Boulevard eatery he recently opened with his restaurant-manager wife Dale. Nevertheless he happily answers his cell phone, eager to discuss the merits of the mango. Perhaps the sweet scent of the apple-mango cobbler wafting through his kitchen has something to do with his buoyant mood? "We just took it out of the oven," LoSasso proudly reports.

But that particular dessert isn't what LoSasso has up his sleeve this weekend for Sunday afternoon's mango brunch, a signature event at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden's twelfth annual International Mango Festival. No, the Culinary Institute of America graduate and chef of twenty years is creating something more cool and bracing than warm and comforting: a mango gazpacho brimming with tomato, cucumber, and scotch bonnet pepper, garnished with pieces of pepper-crusted mango and lobster. The dish displays exactly what he loves about the exotic fruit -- its amazing versatility. "They have savory and sweet elements," LoSasso notes, remembering that his first mango encounter took place on a hot day after emerging from a dive in the ocean off Islamorada.

Those who don't make it to the brunch, boasting other mango delights by local culinary stars including Allen Susser and Pascal Oudin, will still have plenty of opportunities to make great memories with the mango. This year's star will be the Thai mango, and tree sales, displays of more than 170 types of mangoes, workshops, samplings of new cultivars, a chutney cook-off, and even a pie-eating contest will fill the days.

With such abundance, anyone is bound to get sick of juicy, sticky mangoes pretty quickly -- or even be intimidated by the more than 500 varieties that exist -- but not chef LoSasso. "I'm a pretty adventurous eater, except for the Steven Spielberg stuff," he says, laughing. "I'm not into the bug thing." Especially if they're in your mangoes. -- Nina Korman


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