Miami Spice Kickoff: Pros and Cons

Click here to view the photos from the Miami Spice Kickoff event.

The first annual Miami Spice Kickoff Event & Fundraiser, with proceeds benefiting Share Our Strength and Madison's Wish, was held Saturday night at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Miami New Times was the media sponsor. Two Short Order bloggers -- John Zur and Riki Altman -- attended. Here are their opposing takes.

John Zur: The event was the right way to draw attention to the Miami restaurant promotion. August 1 through September 30, the vast majority of Miami's top restaurants will be offer three-meal menus featuring their signature dishes (lunch $22, dinner $35).

The kickoff attracted a door-busting crowd of foodies looking for a first glimpse and first taste. Young and old, casual and dapper, they snaked in a line around the columns in the hall. Guests eagerly anticipated the hors d'oeuvres-size samples from the likes of chef Michelle Bernstein's Michy's and Sra. Martinez. There were also eats from Chophouse Miami,  Mercadito Midtown, and China Grill.

Among the unanimously favorite tastings were Asia de Cuba's char sui beef short ribs, on congri tostones with chili-orange mojo, and Blue Door at Delano's "crabavocat": a tower of smooth guacamole and blue crab set on spiced tomato coulis. Michy's watermelon salad, with feta cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes, was a refreshing delight and a worthy sneak peek of a Spice menu also featuring chilled corn and crab soup and salmon poached in lemony olive oil. Bourbon Steak's Florida sweet corn soup, with Alaskan king crab and gypsy pepper relish, was an exciting tease on a Spice menu that also features tempura squash blossoms (lobster stuffed, with summer truffle vinaigrette) and American Wagyu flatiron.

Each participating restaurant put its best foot forward, with lively and smiling representatives lavishing tasty bits on the food-craving faithful. If the kickoff was any indication, Miami Spice will once again bring eager foodies out to the diverse and talented restaurants of our city.

Riki Altman:
We got there at 7:35 p.m. and waited in the valet line until 8:15. Then we walked inside the VIP room, where all that was left were bowls of potato chips and one tray of greasy shrimp (all tables were picked clean). Next, it was on to the main room, where maybe 25 percent of the restaurants were still serving food (Area 31 was one of them). We walked right up to the chef at Sofitel, who bravely stood outside his empty booth apologizing to patrons. He admitted he had run out of food around 8 p.m. and wasn't told how many people to expect.

We walked around to see if anyone else had food left and then decided standing in line for a spoonful of ceviche wasn't worth our time. So we bolted and waited -- along with a mob of angry people -- another 30 minutes for our car, until we slipped a valet $20 and he fetched our vehicle.

This is a first-time event. Let's just hope they are better prepared next year. And this was so-called VIP treatment! Hardly a success and surely not a great one. This event was an embarrassment at best.

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