ORTANIQUE ON THE MILE, 278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, 305-446-7710
Remember when Lincoln Road wasn't so crowded? When there were no chain stores and several really good restaurants? If you do, then you have fond memories of Norma's on the Beach, which opened there in 1994 and thrived for nearly five glorious years. As Norma's chef, Cindy Hutson created what some referred to as nouvelle Jamaican, which proved there are far more possibilities to Caribbean cuisine than jerk seasoning and Scotch bonnet peppers. After she and partner Delius Shirley moved the operation to classier digs in Coral Gables and renamed it Ortanique, it didn't take long for the world to notice. Accolades came flying through the door: Esquire and Bon Appetit and Wine Spectator magazines, Mobil Travel Guide's Four Star award, and more. The place has been a huge success, so much so that Hutson has expanded, opening Ortanique branches in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas.
BEST DINING TREND
Comfort food is my personal best dining trend, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, nightclub fires, stock-market crashes, anthrax, war in Iraq, and numerous other disasters. When I go out I want to feel good. Comfort food does that. It doesn't just taste good, it also conjures up memories of youth, family gatherings and barbecues.
BEST NATURAL HIGH
Hooking a 150-pound white marlin. Food, beer, friends, and a decked-out sportfishing yacht. You see a bill tip come out of the water. Your heart beats fast. Grab the reel, get ready, hit the pole, and yell Strike! Captain drops into idle. Adrenaline rushes. The fish hauls ass, then performs a ballet on the waves. You're sweating. It's just you and a very large sea creature. It seems to go on forever. Finally the fish is alongside the boat, where he's tagged and released. What a rush!
BEST LOCAL LANDMARK
The Captain's Tavern has been my favorite local landmark for more than twenty years. Owners Bill (the captain) and Audrey Bowers, though, have been at it for 27 years. The captain always delivers a laugh with his pirate tales. And he delivers on the wine, too, with an extensive and fairly priced list. There's also Audrey's homegrown Scotch bonnet pepper sauce (not for the faint-hearted), and chef Paul's awesome specials. Don't forget Dale -- you'll want to start at the bar as you wait for a table. Bravo to the waitstaff, who rarely jump ship.
BEST PLACE TO SAVOR THE FLAVOR OF MIAMI
What comes to mind when tourists think of Miami? Sun, fun, breezy warmth, music, fish, colorful fruits and vegetables, with lovely people of diverse nationalities. So walk through the doors at 278 Miracle Mile. Ortanique on the Mile is the best place to savor the flavors of Miami under one roof. Call me biased, but it happens to be true.
BEST REASON TO LIVE IN MIAMI
Many obvious reasons come to mind -- the location, weather, and people. But my personal reason is the ethnic diversity Miami offers. With diversity comes knowledge and awareness of different cultures, and the ability to apply that successfully to your life and work. For me, a global "menu" of cuisine, culture, and traditions keeps my creativity flowing, and creativity is what keeps me content.
WEST INDIAN CURRIED CRAB CAKES
Yields: 20 pieces
2 pounds crabmeat, jumbo lump (canned)
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1 small Scotch bonnet (optional)
1/4 red onion
1/4 cup curry powder (Madras brand)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 3/4 cup panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)
Salt and pepper to taste
Seed and dice the peppers. Chop scallions, finely dice red onion and place in a large bowl. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper, and toss with red, yellow, and Scotch bonnet peppers. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the peppers along with mustard, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to let curries bloom. Add crab and toss. Then add panko crumbs and toss gently. Form crab mix into 3-ounce rounds. Sauté in small amount of butter until golden brown, then place in 350-degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.