Sef Gonzalez isn't just the Burger Beast of food blog fame. He's the sultan of stick-to-your-ribs food, the powerhouse of pastelitos, and Miami's all-seeing, all-eating king of comfort food. Last night, at Sakaya Kitchen Downtown, the king himself mingled with his loyal foodie followers at his five-year Blogiversary party, a tribute to his half-decade of survival and a toast to his continued gastronomic reign.
Dessert was the first course, with key lime pie from Miss Pieami making rounds among the six seated guests. Gonzalez told a vivid story about playing a prank on a friend with none other than Hellboy's Guillermo del Toro.
Briefly pausing to take a phone call, he soon dove back into his raucous tale -- and the next round of food. A palm-sized white and milk chocolate chip cookie barely skimmed the surface of the table before he snatched it up, broke off a piece for a preliminary sniff, smiled for the camera, and popped it into his mouth. The cookie passed the boss' taste test and continued down the table.
Right about the time I got my own bite of the freshly made treat, my Sakaya Kitchen entrée arrived: a double "Beast" bulgogi burger with tater tots, piled high with pork, cucumbers, and plenty of rich, melted cheese. Then Gonzalez mentioned his next big event, Croquetapalooza.
On March 1, 2014, Croquetapalooza will feature ten restaurants competing for the title of "Best Croqueta in Miami." Gonzalez described the croqueta preparation station -- sure to be a fan favorite -- with gusto.
"You'll pick two of your favorite croquetas," he said animatedly. "And they'll make them into a sandwich!"
Not more than a week before Croquetapalooza, Gonzalez will also lend his talents to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, where he'll host Medianoches & Martinis, a section of the event dedicated to churros, hot chocolate, café con leche, and accompanying alcoholic treats.
After scooping up an amuse-bouche of pork rind dipped in chili chimichurri (courtesy of guest chef George Pattil of M.E.A.T. Eatery & Tap Room), I was offered a mini bottle of Santa Julia Malbec to wash down my next course: a chorizo slider with roasted jalapeño, cilantro aioli, and the word "meat" stamped across the top.
Gonzalez pushed the sampling board in my direction, urging me to indulge. OK, OK, if you insist.
"Carbonara" bao buns with cured pork belly, black truffle, and Parmesan were gone before I was lucky enough to snatch one. These were the spur-of-the-moment specialty of guest chef Giorgio Rapicavoli of Eating House, who mingled with the ever-growing assortment of guests throughout the night.
When the pig's head hit the table, I lost my mind. Not usually the squeamish type, I was surprised by my own horrified reaction. Made by Sakaya Kitchen's Richard Hales, it was the Instagram-worthy hit of the night.
Five minutes and a lot of pre-anticipated FOMO later, I cut the charred skin from the pig's cheek and stuck it in my bao steamed bun and garnished it with green onions. If this was a sneak peek of what's to come at Hales' upcoming restaurant, Blackbrick, I'll be first in line.
Then came the Mojo Donuts, boxes upon boxes of piping-hot ones, including the "Munchies": a chocolate-frosted beauty with Snickers candy pieces and fried potato sticks.
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Note to Mr. Gonzalez: If you need another excuse to throw a never-ending foodie party, my dog's half-birthday is next week. I'm thinking roast pig.
Follow Morgan on Twitter @youcancallme_MO