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Intercontinental Hotel West Miami's Chef Darren Lee's Experimental Locally Sourced Menu

If locally sourced agricultural products don't immediately come to mind when you hear Intercontinental Hotel West Miami it's no surprise to Executive Chef Darren Lee. That's why he's working on an experimental menu to integrate locally grown products into the Doral hotel's repertoire.

The hotel recently invited Short Order to their Armillary Grill restaurant to guinea pig the beta phase of the menu. Here's what we learned and what we think...

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The meal started with a dragon fruit and Flor De Caña rum drink. As a rule, I almost never drink on the job, but I took a sip of this drink and I thought it sucked. However, I don't like sweet alcoholic beverages, so those who do would probably enjoy it.

The dragon fruit came from Robert Is Here fruit stand in South Dade. Robert was the agricultural expert the hotel consulted for the menu, and the guy they bought from. Chef Darren Lee explained that when they move out of the experimental phase they'll need to develop relationships with wholesalers as opposed to retailers. Organic dealers, put your bids in.

Round 1 of food was "locally smoked marlin with cilantro drizzle mixed greens and homestead bee pollen." I love smoked fish. This was good. The Pacific marlin was shipped to Pompano where it was smoked by a local company and sold to the hotel. However, according to web research, marlin, and billfish in general are severely overfished and possibly unhealthy.

Next up was a "Kendall grown stringy mango sorbet." No complaints here.

Chef Darren Lee is third generation Chinese-Jamaican. He says "One thing I learned from living in Jamaica, when you start with something good, a little salt and pepper and it's perfect. A lot of the things we get in Florida come from South America 3 weeks ago. In Jamaica it was in the ground three days ago." So he has an appreciation for what locally sourced products offer in terms off flavor.

Main course was "jerk spiced petit filet mignon with a guava reduction and twisted shrimp with a Miami passion fruit glaze accompanied by a roasted garlic, thyme and red bliss potato mash." The menu doesn't mention the Homestead green beans. The description is just a fancy way of saying shrimp, steak, and potatoes. Simple and good, I mopped the plate, but nothin' extraordinary.

Dessert was called "backyard grown lychee cake." It tasted like cake. I like cake. It was alright.

The hotel asked my opinion so here goes. Find a cost effective means to get your local products. Spend the money and do it right. Convince your corporate overlords that the business traveler client base of the Doral hotel want and appreciate locally grown flavor as opposed to just locally influenced. Once you get it going, keep it moving with the seasons, work hard, and make it taste good. Basically, you already know. Thanks for the free meal.

More interestingly, Chef Darren Lee used to cook for Strawberry Hill resort outside of Kingston, Jamaica. Chris Blackwell, ther guy who started Island Records, is the owner. Lee says "If you saw this man on the road, this multi millionaire, he'd be in flip flops, shorts and a t- shirt, a real cool guy. I cooked for him a couple times. He loves his spicy food."

Click here for more info on the Armillary Grill restaurant.

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