Shameless plug alert: The Botran Rum, Chilean wine, and Stella Artois were flowing freely last night at Miami New Times' Iron Fork kicking off two months of Miami Spice.
Now that the bills have been paid let's move on to the real action: the food. Among the endless array of options were a few standouts that had us returning again and again. Truth be told we spent a solid half of the night-long fête posted up in front of Lure Fishbar's all you can eat oyster station crushing Blue Points with a pineapple-cucumber mignonette and Kushis with jalapeños and soy.
There also was some far-right brainwashing on hand, where new MiMo gastropub Loba proudly displayed a copy of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead alongside cubes of watermelon compressed with sweet tea and topped with candied lime peel, sliced radish, and tomatillo. The girl working the stand said it was the owner's favorite book and "that she only likes to refer to parts of it."
The Westboro Baptist Church also cherry picks from a seminal ideological handbook, so nothing to worry about...
At some point, it was time to head downstairs for a cook off between Haven and Huahua's Todd Erickson and Edge Steak & Bar's Aaron Brooks. The Hyatt Regency's wall of windows offered a supreme view of Brickell high rises and an occasional shipping barge making its way down the channel as the two faced off in a three-round battle each with its own secret ingredient. Mango ganger Allen Susser was on hand to MC, and to pepper in sexual innuendos every so often.
Starting off was smoked salmon, that Aventura icon, which Erickson paired with an herb crème fraiche, radish, and cucumber atop a crisped slice of bread he called "torrejas." Brooks took the round with a smoked salmon manchego melt with pommes frites and a chive salad.
Next up were clementines, which Brooks coaxed into a citrus chimichurri to be spooned atop clams, shrimp, and coconut milk. Erickson took the round, creating a similar interpretation of the Argentine sauce, but lathered grilled shrimp and chorizo skewers with it.
The final piece of the puzzle was breadfruit, a tropical harvest related to the mulberry and perplexing for both chefs. Brooks put out creamed breadfruit with bananas foster and sesame. However Erickson's South Florida caramelized fruit salad with plantains, breadfruit, ginger whipped cream and pistachio took the round, and the championship.
If the absence of original Iron Chef judge Takeshi Kaga turned you away from the competition, there was plenty of eating and drinking to keep you entertained.
One of the most under-appreciated dishes of the night was Uvaggio's pork rillete terrine with jalapeño jam and garlic mustard, and there was plenty of the glossy, meaty stuff to go around.
Chef Creole brought the heat and meat. Fried goat chunks, a kind of gamey ropa vieja, came with a slice of fried green plantain and a spicy cabbage slaw that set many eyes watering.
Still the man of night was the dude working his A+ game on some girl while waiting in line for a mojito.
"I just want to move to Italy and become a butcher," he says. Swoon.
Yet that wasn't the end, and there seemed to be no limit to this guy's suave lines and fanciful dreams.
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"Lets make a deal," he says. "You and I, in ten years if we're still single and miserable with our jobs, we'll drop everything and move to Greece and become, like, bartenders... and get married."
Your, sir, have earned your place atop Olympus. Opa.