I'd like to offer a big warm welcome to all you frigid foodies flying in from afar for the second annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival this weekend, and at the same time ask that you please remove your galoshes at the door. Congratulations to those who've managed to secure tickets for the Tribute Brunch at the Loews Hotel, which will be prepared by the host hotel's executive chef Marc Ehrler, local legend Allen Susser, and Tom Colicchio, chef/owner of New York's Gramercy Tavern and mushroom-mad Craft, as well as CraftSteak, Craftbar, Craftsuitsforlargesizemen, and so on. Alice Waters, the only food god to whom I bow, and an inspiration to any culinarian worth his or her weight in mesclun greens, will be one of the honorees at what promises to be quite an extravaganza.
To the rest of you: Rather than grumble in envy, raise your own champagne toast at one of these three heralded hotel brunches:
BLUE DOOR at the DELANO HOTEL
Sunday, Bloody Mary Sunday
1685 Collins Ave, Miami Beach; 305-674-6400. Sunday brunch 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Price: $42 includes one bloody mary, mimosa, or glass of champagne (Dom Perignon).
Pristine delicacies from the Delano's Blue Sea sushi bar, including nigiri and maki rolls; tamari-glazed shiitake mushrooms with spiced miso paste; fried soft-shell crabs; bright green wakame salad; cocktail glasses of ceviche, spicy lobster, and ginger-tinged oysters; and tamari, ponzu, kimchee, and peanut sauces to mix and match.
By far the hippest venue. People-watching is first rate, and the outdoor veranda overlooks an exquisitely eclectic garden.
Carving station features a zesty jalapeño-marinated beef tenderloin with Bernaise sauce.
Lovely live harp music.
Tasting portions of "Chef Claude Troisgros Specialties" were for the most part dry and overcooked from their extended stay in chafing dishes. The filet mignon and tuna were especially desiccated. Tasty, stewlike servings of chicken and peppered beef stood the heat more effectively (the most obvious way around this is to arrive early or choose those items that have been recently refilled).
Same problem with the eggs Benedict.
Salads such as basil-flecked orzo with feta cheese, Greek salad, and a grilled-vegetable platter satisfied, though not in a particularly impressive manner.
Is Dannon yogurt the best they can do?
At this price, you'd think they'd offer more than one complimentary bloody mary, mimosa, or glass of champagne.
RECAP FOR LAZY READERS
Smashing sushi, sensational setting, and if wisely navigated, a rewarding brunch.
1220 at the TIDES HOTEL
1220 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach; 305-604-5130. Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Price: $45 includes unlimited mimosas and champagne (Roederer Estates).
Sterling service. Plates removed, flatware replaced, and liquids replenished in quietly deft fashion.
Plump, juicy apple-and-chicken sausages.
Only a couple of hot entrées but grilled salmon on wasabi mashed potatoes sparkled with flavor.
Carving station offers choice of leg of lamb or turkey breast.
Excellent baked goods, including a densely delicious banana bread, sumptuous fruit tarts, and tall, hollowed meringue tartlets with lemon custard and fresh raspberries tucked inside.
Strong pot o'joe left on the table.
Intimate dining room, picturesque outdoor terrace, and a breezy pianist.
Insipid grilled-vegetable platter.
What, no bagels and cream cheese with the smoked salmon?
RECAP FOR LAZY READERS
Small in scale, big in flavor, and a dining experience as smoothly luxurious as hollandaise sauce.
BIZCAYA GRILL at the RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL
3300 SW 27th Ave, Coconut Grove; 305-644-4670. Sunday brunch 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Price: $45 includes unlimited mimosas and champagne (Gloria Ferrer).
The lavishly decorated buffet, which runs through three dining rooms and an outdoor terrace, is so absurdly extensive it makes more sense to enumerate those brunch items that aren't available: Cocoa Puffs, Swedish meatballs, herring in cream sauce, grits.
Seafood station awash in lobster tails, stone crabs, oysters, and jumbo shrimp.
Superb risotto station with rice dish finished in hollowed round of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Steamed dumplings at the Asian station, lamb and grilled fish at the carving station.
Eggs Benedict with lobster hollandaise made to order.
Innumerable topnotch desserts include miniversions of key lime pie, tres leches, and Bizcaya's signature Grand Marnier soufflés.
That trademark Ritz sophistication.
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If I had more time, I'm pretty sure I could come up with one.
RECAP FOR LAZY READERS
The best brunch in Miami-Dade County.