Bits and Bites
Congratulations to Claude Troisgros on his latest baby. "Baby Blue," a prix-fixe bistro menu conceived as an alternative to the more illustrious Blue Door, is available in the "Brasserie" section of the Delano. Don't know where that is? Well don't look at me, I'm not too handy with directions either. Don't know when it's available? Don't ask Troisgros, who couldn't quite recall during the media dinner he hosted to launch items like the duck confit salad with tropical fruit, pancetta, and cashews, or the entrecôte with jalapeño-wasabi-peppercorn butter. But hey, that's what PR people are for, to fill in the details like 1) the Brasserie is located between the Rose Bar and the Blue Door, and 2) the menu is served from 5:30 p.m. till midnight ...
Unfortunately this one's nothing to celebrate: Condolences to Kris Wessel on the closure of his wonderful restaurant Liaison. One of our only new-generation chefs to open his own place, Wessel valiantly struggled with location, landlord, and "look, I am not a Creole/Cajun joint" issues before finally submitting to the inevitable. But while this particular version of Liaison may not have worked out, Wessel isn't giving up; indeed he's been actively looking for both buyers and another location for his French-influenced Southeastern cuisine for the past six months. "It's hard for me to say what went wrong for me to want to sell or relocate, because the fact is the restaurant has been doing well in the past four to five months and we continue to receive critical praise from all over," he admits. "I guess it's a culmination of two years of throwing an underfinanced restaurant on my shoulders and carrying it to the finish line." I acknowledge a spot in my appetite for Wessel's fare as soft as any banana carries. But I'm more impressed by his determination to stay in the area. In fact, though he'd closed Liaison the Wednesday before, he insisted on making his appearance at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. He notes: "I'm not hightailing it back to New Orleans. I like this community (sans pockets of South Beach) and have been a part of it for ten years now. I did the event ... as a graduate of FIU, bringing three enormous, local mutton snappers and serving them up right there on the same beach my daughter and I were enjoying just last week." Nor is his concern, he says, only for himself and his family. "I am even more remiss over the dozens of locals who frequented on a weekly and even daily basis." Kris, until you reopen, we'll remiss you, too.
If it's any consolation, though, Liaison isn't the only economic victim. South Florida Gourmet will not be starting up again as founder/publisher Simone Diament had previously hoped. And despite rumors that the Miami Herald would soon be reinstating its Thursday food section, the paper instead cut its "Hot Stove" column in the Sunday "Tropical Life" section. Local food coverage last Sunday amounted to two printed pages, and that included establishments from Broward County. I've also been told that reviewers' budgets have been cut and that critics are limited to writing three times a month, which could explain why the Miami-Dade version of the Herald frequently includes reviews from Broward critics Rochelle Koff and C.B. Marino.
Other organizations, media or otherwise, are adding on, however. As of next week, the Coral Gables Gazette will be featuring a new wine column written by new wine shop owner Jeffrey Wolfe. He's also penning an e-mail newsletter called "Wet Noses," which quite honestly makes me think of a child with a nasty cold; sign up to receive info about Wolfe's wine classes, seminars, and tastings at email@example.com.
Another newsletter I receive all too regularly in my "new mail" box is the Titanic "Brewmail," the so-called (and self-dubbed) "too damn often Brewsletter." This week's edition was particularly enlightening, as it seems that those darn fools are looking to bleed some green stuff (hey, St. Patty's Day was in the middle of March) on April 1. To celebrate the third anniversary of one of our only authentic brewpubs (and yes, Abbey Brewing Company, that means they serve a full menu), they're spinning out free draughts of Titanic Ale during three separate happy hours: 5:00 till 6:00 p.m.; 9:00 till 10:00 p.m.; and midnight till 1:00 a.m. If you need to find me, I'll be sitting at the end of the bar with my face in a plate of drunken chicken, as opposed to sitting at the end of the bar being one drunk chick.
Speaking of chicken and drunkenness, I finally found an item that the Smith & Wollensky steak house does seriously well. You guessed it -- poultry. I found the lemon-herb chicken, presented on the bone, to be fat with flavor and slick with juice, an ideal buffer for the seventeen wines I was sampling at the time. Sound indulgent? No, it was just the usual goings-on during S&W's bi-annual Wine Week, when customers can sample any number of wines at lunch for an additional ten bucks. Or maybe it was my birthday. Funny, I just can't quite remember.
Other steak houses looking to drum up business include the South Florida quartet of Morton's of Chicago, which has added four new menu items to a list that hasn't been changed since something like 1978. Could this move have anything to do with the fact that Pompano Beach-based BMFA Holding Corporation, a shareholder group that runs just over 60 Morton's, could be attempting for the second year in a row to topple Morton's Restaurant Group management in a proxy fight? Are BMFA's top guys, including chairman and chief executive Barry Florescue, trying to demonstrate that change is good for business in order to convince shareholders to vote reps onto the board at the annual meeting? Only if those shareholders are partial to sirloin steak au poivre and "filet Diane," two of the debuting items. The official word from BMFA? Of course: No comment. But may I recommend that Morton's current chairman Allen Bernstein, one year into his three-year term, invest in, oh, I don't know, Ruth's Chris?
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