Closed Doors

"Spin? There's no spin. Things were not working out and it was a mutual, agreed-upon departure." That's the answer I got from China Grill Management reps when I asked about the replacement of Blue Door chef Elizabeth Barlow with chef Damon Gordon, who opened Saint Martins Lane in London for CGM and most recently handled the kitchens at the Royalton for the company. About eighteen months ago Gordon spent a year working as executive sous-chef at the Delano, so this move can certainly be considered a homecoming. Which may explain the lack, so far, of a welcome wagon by way of press release.

Speaking of info for the ever-hungry media (that'd be me), there has been no formal announcement -- I repeat, there has been no formal announcement. Got it? That means no one has gone on record, at least not in this town, to confirm that the Gaucho Room in the Loews Hotel will soon be no more. Instead celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse will be taking over the space. What to expect? A lot of puns using the word bam, a near-moratorium on television sitcom mentions, and an unavoidable redubbing of the Magic City as something irredeemably gross like "Little Las Vegas." All we need now is Bobby Flay to join the fray and we'll have as much television-friendly fare as we can eat with our eyes.

The new champagne bar Flûte had a pianissimo opening on Valentine's Day, an event that doubled as a Miami City Ballet benefit. Frankly I don't care where the money goes as long as it garners me the "Magic Flute" flight, the equivalent of a German opera performed in the vineyards of Reims and Epernay. To wit: an opening act of Krug, followed by an inspired aria of Dom Perignon, and a curtain-closing rendition of Cristal. Intermission, of course, was sevruga. Prior to Flûte's debut recital, the PR folks handling the account asked me why I thought similar ventures like Petrossian and Caviarteria never brought down the house in this city. I didn't have an answer until I visited the new venue, which is the English muffin of champagne bars -- full of nooks and crannies for caviar-conscious lovers. When you're talking about a significant outlay of cash for a night of romance, you'd better have somewhere to snuggle. And while Flûte is still working on its wine list, it has seduction potential aplenty.

As if this weekend's South Beach gastronomic gluttony isn't going to be enough to keep us satisfied for months, the following week promises some serious opportunities -- starting with the launch of chef Carmen Gonzalez's new restaurant, Carmen's. The erstwhile dynamo behind Clowns and Tamarind, who has been catering for the past several years, has signed the lease for the ex-Donna's Bistro in the David Williams Hotel, sibling to the Biltmore. "As you can imagine, I am super excited," Gonzalez says. Sister, that's nothing compared to the way we feel. We're also getting that lost feeling too. The only time I ever manage to find the David Williams is when I take a wrong turn on the way to the Biltmore, which now that I think about it means I'll be dining at Carmen's frequently.... Then there's SushiSamba Dromo's Carnaval parties, March 2 to 4, which will be channeling chaos straight from Rio. Ribbons and flags representing every spoke on the color wheel will dominate the décor, and new chef Shahar Dan, in addition to his signature entrée -- Crescent Farm duck breast with Brazilian coffee sauce, duck confit, and crispy yuca (that he created for SushiSamba's recent James Beard dinner) -- will be serving the Carnaval classic abacaxi com lagosta capim santo, a baked pineapple stuffed with lobster, shrimp, and scallops flavored with coconut milk and dendê (palm) oil. Given that Dan is a former chemical-weapons expert for the Israeli army and that the celebration will culminate with a blast of rhythm courtesy of batucada drummers, you can bet that the festivities will be, er, explosive.... A quieter but no less hangover-inducing alternative is available at the Wave Hotel. On March 4, for $20 per, we can partake of a lesson in jewelry-making from designer Miriam Possenti, a dessert buffet featuring chef Michael Fleming's specialty cheesecakes and chocolates, and a generous pour of dessert wines. All this after the Bubble Q, the dinner series, the seminars, and the Grand Tasting that highlight our second annual culinary fair? Easy to say I already feel the need for my signature cure -- an Imitrex, a nap, and twelve easy steps -- coming on.

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Jen Karetnick is an award-winning dining critic, food-travel writer, and author of the books Ice Cube Tray Recipes, Mango, and The 500 Hidden Secrets of Miami.
Contact: Jen Karetnick

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