Thanks to the mad cow disease outbreak, restaurants in France have stopped serving beef, and there are reports that incinerators in England can't keep up with the disposal of infected animals. Not the best climate to open a steak house, eh? Still, Jeffrey Chodorow of China Grill Management debuted Tuscan Steak at Ian Schrager's St. Martins Lane in London on January 12. This is the third Tuscan Steak to open, patterned after the successful eatery in South Beach. Obviously the company hopes the Italian concept and American pedigree will convince customers the stakes aren't too high: These steaks are safe.
•So you think Miami's got no history to speak of. Well, it has enough to write about. To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the Biltmore Hotel is releasing a coffee-table book detailing the resort's bizarre history (among other things, it was a popular place to commit suicide during the Great Depression). The hotel also is hosting, along with the Junior League of Miami, the Venetian Diamond Ball on February 2. The black-tie gala, which will feature Venetian Carnevale décor and a swanky five-course meal, is a little pricey at $175 per person, but at least you'll have the comfort that proceeds will go to at-risk families in Miami-Dade County. But unless they have fairy godmothers, don't look for them at the ball. Call 305-661-3096 for reservations.
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•Still feeling flush? Grab your wallets -- and your Lactaid. Paula Lambert, cheesemaker and author of the newly released The Cheese Lover's Cookbook and Guide, will be signing copies of her book at a seven-course cheese-influenced dinner at Mark's South Beach on February 5. (Think "homemade goat's milk ravioli in game bird jus with fresh chestnut.") Hosted by Les Dames des Escoffier and the American Institute of Food & Wine, it's only $110 per person for non-AIWF members! (Plus $35 for the book, natch.) After you call your accountant, dial 305-663-9641 for reservations.
•He's got the cojones but not the cerebros: Gabriel Padraza, an employee at Casita Tejas in Homestead, reportedly chased down two customers who exited the restaurant without paying the bill. He tackled one and put him in a headlock until the police arrived, at which time the men were taken back to the Mexican eatery where they agreed to tally up. I admire his loyalty to restaurant owner Cesar Berrones, but the price Padraza put on his life? A mere $42.25 (without tip). That's mucho cheapo, my friend.
•Kvetch: It's been so long since I've complained I've almost forgotten how. Not really, of course, but this week I thought I'd let two irate readers do the talking for me. Jeffrey Claman of Key Biscayne wants us to be warned of Canton II in Coral Gables, where he took ten people to dine. Among the delicacies they allegedly sampled? A "metal bottle top mixed in with the food." Bill Adams of Plantation also took ten folks to dine at Yesterday's in Fort Lauderdale, where he and his friends spent three hours lingering over "the most unsavory experience any of us could remember." He points to service requests that were met with "deer-in-the-headlights reaction" and dishes that arrived "in staggered times or not at all, or wrong." Moral of the stories: Apparently, ten is not the magic dining number.
On a more personal note, I encountered an interesting advertisement in New Times several weeks ago. The headline of the ad for The Big Tomato read: "Jen is a Snob!" I can only assume the derogation refers to me, the only critic in South Florida who has the name Jen. I doubt the lay public understands the ad, so allow me to elucidate. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I've never reviewed The Big Tomato, positively or negatively, or in recent years awarded them anything in the Best of Miami issue -- despite repeated and rather aggressive entreaties from the owners. It's probably the first time that being passive has earned me such enmity, but no doubt the proprietors of The Big Tomato think this tactic will finally stir me to action. Obviously the owners of The Big Tomato have failed to notice that I have not reviewed restaurants on a regular basis since the inception of my "Dish" column sixteen months ago. And really, if you're going to insult someone, do it right -- I may have a poison pen, but I'm hardly snooty (I just wrote about the food in strip joints, for chrissakes). Still I'm happy to give them the reaction they deserve: As of now, the restaurant -- what was it called? -- has been expunged from my database.