Apple a Day Cafe
There are two types of health food stores in this world: Giant chains with lots and lots and lots of goods, and small, privately owned places with much less stuff. So why choose the latter? For the personal touch. For the laser-beam focus on truly nutritional foods, not hamburgers and Häagen-Dazs masquerading as such. For integrity, goddammit. Apple-a-Day Natural Food Market has been serving the South Beach community for fifteen years. Their soups, salads, smoothies, and vegetable juices can go mano a mano with those of the big guys, and nobody can top the signature marinated tofu sandwich with hummus and vegetables — $6.95 with a cup of soup. But it takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away — the aisles of vitamin and supplement products here comprise the most extensive selection in town. So raise a glass of soy milk to the little health food store that could.
Ten Incredibly Interesting (and of Course Pristinely Fresh and Delicious) Presentations of Raw Fish in Various Guises That Su-Shin Izakaya Serves but the Wimpy Sushi Joint That You Make a Habit of Going to Does Not:1. Maguro Yamakake: Tuna atop sliced mountain potato ($10)2. Roscoe Roll: Eel, cream cheese, and asparagus, wrapped in rice and seaweed and fried ($6.50)3. Blue Island: Crab, avocado, lettuce, and masago splashed with tosazu vinegar and rolled in cucumber ($6.50)4. Kurage Su: Marinated jelly fish and cabbage ($6)5. Karashi Conch: Raw and spicy ($6)6. Uzukuri: A selection of raw, thinly sliced fish with ponzu or cilantro vinaigrette ($10-$18)7. Tako Butsa: Thick cuts of octopus sashimi ($9)8. Myoto Roll: Japanese mint and pickled plum ($3.50)9. Teppo Roll: With a cooked Japnese squash called kampyo ($3)10. China Dog: Hand roll with raw spicy beef, daikon sprouts, and sesame seeds ($3.50 — and yes, we know this doesn't have raw fish in it, but we like the name)Amazingly the nonsushi Japanese menu here is even more intriguing.
The Fresh Market
This is the prettiest food market at which to shop — like an old-time general store, but bigger and with better lighting. Serene classical music and dazzling produce grab attention as you first enter, but the island in the center of the store is where the finest array of prepared foods is displayed and dispersed to grateful patrons. The extensive collection includes quiches, meat loaves, pulled pork barbecue, stuffed cabbage, carrot soufflé, sushi (rolled before your eyes), salads, and sandwiches (reubens to Cubans to Mediterranean-style panini piled up as if auditioning for some food shop in Milan). But what puts the Fresh Market into a league of its own is the stunning lineup of peerless roasted meats: glazed crown ribs of pork roast; plump rolls of herbed turkey breast; chipotle barbecue baby-back ribs so succulent that Shorty's is shaking in its cowboy boots; and five types of darkly bronzed rotisserie chicken — our faves being honey bourbon and whiskey sage. This is by no means an inexpensive shop, but many of the prepared foods are less extravagantly priced than you might think — chickens are $3.69 per pound, the aforementioned roasts $4.99 to $8.99 per pound. If all this isn't enough to put some pep in your step, grab a cup of some freshly roasted coffee at the complimentary dispenser up front.
Siam Palace
Siam Palace serves wonderful food in an elegant, relaxed setting. The dining room's rich golden tones and exotic flower arrangements make for a warm and friendly dining experience. Anything off the menu is more than likely to delight.Appetizers like vegetable-filled curry puffs ($5) or Thai spring rolls ($3) are light and aromatic. There's also the chicken ($7) or beef ($8) satay that you can warm over a small hibachi before enjoying with either a cucumber or peanut dipping sauce. Soups and salads are delicious and bursting with the bold flavors of Thailand — curry, coconut milk, and various spices.For the main course choose from vegetable, seafood, or poultry dishes. Beef panang curry ($15 for dinner) is sweet with coconut milk and ground peanuts, but spicy from its peppery sauce. Siam chicken ($14.50 dinner) is lightly breaded and quickly fried. It burns with chili but you won't want to stop the heat. Chef's specials are always a good choice; if you're lucky they'll have the shrimp in tamarind sauce ($17.50 for dinner).Don't get too stuffed, though, because desserts are amazing as well. Various exotic ice cream flavors are available, as are Thai donuts and fried ice cream. If you like fruit after dinner, make sure to sample the fried banana. It's lightly wrapped like a spring roll and served in small morsels covered in condensed milk with a side of ice cream.Readers' Choice: Moon Thai
This is a lifetime achievement award that you can win only once: our hall of fame of great local chefs, so to speak. Exclusive membership in this relatively new category is thus far comprised of just Norman, Mark, and Allen, each iconic enough to go by first name only. This year's inductees, Philippe Ruiz and Pascal Oudin, have been Miami's two finest French culinarians for many seasons now. Mr. Ruiz, from Saint Julien en Genevois, took over the helm of Palme d'Or in the Biltmore Hotel in 1999. Mr. Oudin, born and raised in Moulin, France, was executive chef at Dominique's Restaurant at the Alexander Hotel in 1984, served in the same capacity at Grand Café at the Grand Bay Hotel, and cemented his stardom when he started his own Pascal's on Ponce in 2000. Palme d'Or is the finest high-end French restaurant in town, and Pascal's on Ponce is the finest neighborhood French restaurant. Both chefs trained under Michelin-star legends in France, and approach their craft in old-world, no-nonsense fashion. Both are highly inventive, but adhere rigorously to classic French technique. Both possess peerless gastronomic knowledge, and a knack for consistently producing fresh, natural, intriguing, intensely flavored, sublimely delicious cuisine ... so elegantly! That's why both of them — Pascal and Philippe — are our two top chefs.
Norman Brothers Produce
Alex Broadwell
Norman Brothers Produce is like a candy store for gourmands. Oh, you can actually get candy here too — the display cases along the store's left wall are filled with fancy chocolates, cookies, and jimmy-covered pretzels in all shades of brown and cream. But for people who love to cook and eat quality, beautifully presented fruits, veggies, meats, and baked goods, Norman's can't be beat. The store adheres to the textbook definition of a gourmet grocery — high-end products, a range of precooked dishes, and a well-earned rep for quality. Near the cash registers at the front, a cooler is filled with prepackaged dips that sound delicious — creamy sundried tomato, guacamole, and Mexican caviar made with olives, tomatoes, onions, garlic, red wine vinegar, and pepper. Yum. The produce is photo shoot quality. The fruit selection includes everything from Thai guava and tangelos to Homestead's first mameys of the season. Eggplants range from deepest purple-black to translucent white. Potatoes, too, come in all shapes and colors, including red creamers and purple taters. Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) will cost ya $4.99 a pound, while loose kohlrabi costs 99 cents. The bakery sells incredible-looking cakes (we'd get the "mudd cake" for $19.99), alongside bagels and muffins and rugelach and breakfast pastries. If you're looking for dinner to go, Norman's is the place for healthy choices like apple-stuffed acorn squash ($5.99 a pound) and stuffed cabbage with picadillo — a healthy and filling delight at $11.29 a pound. Grab some lunch — there are excellent sandwiches, and you can get a small cup of the most amazing mushroom and brie bisque for $1.79. Venture over to the meat aisle, past enough spices, pastes, sprouts, and exotic herbs to rival an Asian mart. The meat looks fresh and is expensive for a reason — but even though those gorgeous veal cutlets cost $23.99 a pound, you know they're worth it.
Farm-fresh sno cones, anybodyç Not really, but at most of South Florida's so-called farmers markets, even imported South American produce generally takes a back seat to booths offering processed fast foods, incense, jewelry, sunglasses, even massages. Where to go if you are seeking locally grown fresh produce that's never seen the inside of a cross-country refrigerated truckç When pioneering regional foods booster Alice Waters flew in to be honored at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival several years ago, she went straight from the airport to the South Florida Farmers Market, which takes over the Gardner's Market parking lot (off US 1) on Sunday mornings from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. And the sparkling, watermelon-size head of local frisée that she displayed at a seminar that afternoon was alone ample proof that at least one farmers market here is, if not Union Square, more than a flea market. Booths sell a full range of just-picked seasonal fruits and veggies — corn so sweet and tender you'll think you're in New Jersey on the Fourth of July; tomatoes that are genuinely vine-ripe rather than supermarket-ripe; exotica like mini veggies and edible flowers— plus local wildflower honey ($3 for eight ounces) and other farm products from Homestead/Redlands growers. Prices vary (three ears of corn for $1 at one booth, five ears for $3 at another), but there are some real bargains, like a four-pound basket of falling-off-the-vine-ripe tomatoes for $2.50. While the market runs only from January through April, one of its objectives is "creating a dialogue between consumers and growers." So dialogue, already, about where your favorite growers' goodies are available during the rest of the year.
North One 10
When VIPs such as Tony Blair and his entourage dine at North One 10, chef/proprietor Dewey LoSasso comes out from the kitchen to greet them and accept kudos for his luscious New American cuisine. Sous chefs Christopher Woodard and Paul Malonson will meanwhile be sweating away, keeping the rest of the restaurant's dinners flowing out as LoSasso takes his bows. It is understood that while the executive chef's responsibilities require all manner of promotional/managerial work, the sous chef must take command of minute-by-minute food production and supervision of the kitchen staff. Think of it as an executive chef being the coach, a sous chef the quarterback. And think of Dewey LoSasso as one of the bigger pains in the ass to have to serve under as sous chef. One week he'll put out a Godfather dinner with "Sonny Corleone's Bullet-Ridden Swordfish" (gremolata and tomato-caper ragout); the next week he'll have a Passover dinner with chopped liver toast and three colors of potato kugel; the week after that a "Wines from Washington" event. "I change the menu so often, they tell me it's like Iron Chef when they walk in the kitchen," says LoSasso. "It is a testament to their talent that they can adapt and collaborate with me on these constantly changing themes." It helps that Woodard and Malonson have professional schooling behind them (the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson & Wales)."Customers should never know when the chef is off. Rather, the cuisine should even be better. That is the sign of a great sous chef," LoSasso says. While Dewey was expounding upon this subject with us, no doubt Woodard and Malonson were somewhere in the kitchen, busily chopping away.
Hotel Astor
He gained fame in the mid-Nineties as a cutting-edge American chef with a fondness for big, bold, barbecue-ish flavors brightened by tropical island accents. Back then Johnny Vinczencz (aka "the Caribbean Cowboy") ruled the roost at the Hotel Astor. One day the irrepressible chef packed his knife kit, picked up his South Beach stakes, and rode off to Delray Beach and De La Tierra at the Sundy House. Laid low, you might say. After some years he ambled down to Fort Lauderdale and opened a place of his own, Johnny V Las Olas, which was, and still is, successful enough that folks in Miami Beach just assumed that they'd never see V in these parts again. Old cowboys never die, though, they just become a little less Caribbean and a little more Latin as they grow older. Or at least that's the case with Vinczencz, who after seven years away has come full circle with a return to the Astor, where this time he is proprietor as well as chef — and is calling his cuisine "nuevo American." Can he reclaim his spot on top from all the new kids in townç Stay tuned.
Home Grown U-Pick
"Strawberry fields are not forever, at least not in Kendall, anyway," chuckles Bill Taylor, as he points to the Publix across the street with his large, calloused hand. "Those chain stores pick the tomatoes when they're green, and they sit in a cooler somewhere to ripen. If you pick them out here they're juicier, they taste fresher, sweeter; and it's fun to pick your own."Behind Bill and his little white shed is a large green field with rows of sweet luscious strawberries, big red juicy tomatoes, plump green peppers, and tall yellow sunflowers waiting to be picked. The scene resembles a Van Gogh painting.Bill has been working at U-pick stands in Kendall for more than fifteen years now. "The last U-pick where I worked was 42 acres," he says, "and now it is another Costco shopping center." He takes a handful of delicious-looking red tomatoes from the scale. "Kids do not even know what a tomato plant looks like anymore." Carol, who has been working at this stand with Bill for more than five years, adds, "People need to come out and pick their own flowers and vegetables at least once in their life."There is no electricity or telephone at this U-pick stand. The cash register runs on 4C batteries. Sweet peppers and tomatoes are 65 cents a pound and strawberries are $2.50 a pound. Sunflowers are $1 each, and snap dragons are $3 a dozen to pick. There is also cilantro, basil, dill, and flat-leaf parsley, all $1 a bundle. The stand is open every day from December through May, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®