Meaty Reflections on Taste of the Nation: Carnitas, Pork Belly and BBQ, Oh My!
Home team advantage
In a whirlwind of BBQ, BBQ, raw fish and more BBQ, Taste of the Nation was over, as it always is, too soon. Tons of money was raised for a good cause, so we can all go home feeling satisfied.
Stand out dishes included the hosting Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne's last minute switch from Tacos al Pastor to pork carnitas, which Chef Andres Parlange derived from an old family recipe passed down for many
generations. Those are usually the best anyway, no? Me thinks we need to delve deeper into this topic soon on Short Order, with both chefs and local home cooks. The carnitas were sweet and smokey, fall off the bone tender from slow braising, and delivered to the pie hole with a soft corn tortilla. Cactus salad (nopales,) red salsa and salsa verde accompanied. To set off and balance the flavors, a squeeze of fresh lime juice to finish.
The four chefs from the Fontainebleau were a hoot and equal props go to their slow roasted pork belly with pineapple BBQ sauce and curried potatoes.
Micro shiso. Money.
A definite winner in the surf corner was Sushi Samba's thick slices of Kampachi (teenage yellowtail) tiradito with cherry tomato confit, truffle oil, yuzu, micro shiso, and sea salt. The Blue Door's salmon tartare with tapioca caviar had people going back for seconds, and it was easy on the eyes, too.
What we'd love to see more of next year (specifically speaking of the food)?
> Chefs that stick around for the whole event, before booking it when their samples are tapped.
> Fast-cooked meat. Slow-cooked is getting monotonous.
> More variety of fishies, and why not cook them using heat? Bourbon Steak offered Australian Kingfish, but most surf was of the snapper or salmon family in raw crudo, tartare or ceviche form.
> Florida spiny lobster. How was there none, and it was the season a few days back?
> One has to wonder if vegetarians feel slightly jilted in this
affair, left to fend for themselves at the Whole Foods table. There is such a thing as creative, satisfying vegetarian food, but this apparently isn't the venue for it.
> It would be nice to also see a stronger presence for local farmers themselves at the event, to showcase their bounty in-person. Perhaps several could be paired up with restaurants to feature a particular ingredient in each sample dish?
> If you're presenting at a booth, know what's in the dish. And if you don't know, just find someone who does. There was an amusing encounter where a presenter insisted for a few minutes that a particular raw fish dish had a guacamole made of pure cucumber when there was clearly avocado, and that it also contained cilantro when there was only dill.
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