Gables Gang

Was it the Brady Bunch who sang something like, "When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange?" Well, it might as well have been the Mango Gang. Joining Norman Van Aken in sourcing new Coral Gables gastronomic projects, Robbin Haas has left Baleen. He's going it on his own with a venture called Chispa. The details are still in the works, but the location is a sure thing: The Collection Building -- think really expensive cars that really rich people buy and nobody really drives because the other drivers in Miami are like really really bad and could do a really harsh job on such an investment -- at the corner of Ponce de Leon Boulevard and Altara Corner. Haas is promising me the "down & dirty," so keep your engines revved for more.

Another monthly event joins the Shrimp & Chardonnay Festival at the Inter-Continental and the last-Thursday-of-the-month wine parties at China Grill. While two out of three ain't bad, three out of, well, infinity makes monthly events an official trend. And at SushiSamba, "It Takes Three to Tango." Okay, I'm closing down the bad puns now and giving it to you straight: On the third Wednesday of every month, the South Beach outpost of this Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian eatery will present an interactive seminar, pairing the distinctive Nuevo Japano cuisine with both wine and sake. For $40 per person, beverage director Paul Tanguay will lead a 90-minute tasting/sampling and -- an unheard-of bonus -- actually answer people's questions about what the hell to drink with this somewhat outlandish stuff. Reservations for the Tango are required.

Wine pairing will most likely require little forethought at month-old Nuevo Latino Americano restaurant Cacao 1737 in Coral Gables. Chef-owner Edgar Leal, erstwhile of Zur, has teamed with Bodegas Pomar, a Venezuelan winery. Guess what'll be on the list? I'll give you a hint -- about 120 vintages. But PMS-ers and twelve-steppers need not feel neglected. The third partner in the establishment, which offers dishes ranging from Gouda cheese stuffed with diced pork to the Peruvian Arequipa salad comprising fava beans, fresh corn, olives, and white cheese, is Chocolates El Rey. Cranky people from City Beautiful and its outskirts will no doubt rejoice in the "pearls and rubies" dessert, a white chocolate dome bursting with raspberry, blackberry, and chocolate mousse. Personally I feel a cure coming on.

If chocolate doesn't do the trick and my husband still wants to throw me out, then all I need to do to improve my (and his) mood is wait 'til December. That's when Pao, a self-described vintage Cantonese Chinese food restaurant, will open in the refurbished Clinton Hotel. Egg rolls? Of course. Spare ribs? Youbetcha. Lobster Cantonese? Obviously. I call this comfort food, capable of curing every ailment and providing take-out meals for every non-Jewish holiday (read: Christmas Eve) when all the other restaurants in town are closed for carols. But if you can't identify with that particular culture, try this one on for size: The classic Fifties Mai-Tai, served in a glass the relative diameter of a hot tub. Personally I feel a hangover coming on.

Kvetch: Not mine this time around, but others, all regarding Jerry's Famous Deli, which just opened on the Beach. One e-mailer wrote me a book regarding the bad service and lack of honesty regarding the available fare -- the eatery apparently couldn't provide cooked foods on Sunday morning because they were too backed up. But the bagels were good, they reported. Another correspondent wants to know where the 80-year-old waitresses are, 'cause it just doesn't say "deli" without blue hair patted into place. As for me, I have a problem with the story the Sun-Sentinel put out about Jerry's, in which it compared the potential of this debuting deli to existing Beach ones such as Arnie & Richie's. In the article, the writer implied, citing a quote from the wife of the original owner, that Arnie & Richie's was better under its first proprietor -- who sold the restaurant in 1973. People, that was 30 years ago. Repeat after me: It's time to let go. Personally I feel a little bias 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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