Side Dish

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ... a small world: Although he'd initially been hired by Dennis Max as the executive chef of Max's Place in Bal Harbour Shops, Mark's Place and Mark's in the Grove alumnus Doug Riess never made it as far as opening day. Instead this past November he landed at Fort Lauderdale's River House, which is owned by two other Militello veterans, Tim Petrillo and Peter Boulukos. Riess replaced Arthur Jones, a Dennis Max protégé who now cooks at Prezzo Affair in Boca Raton under yet another Max-factored chef, Mennen Tekeli; Prezzo Affair is the fourth installment of the Prezzo chain, a former tricounty Max-owned property. Getting lost in the leaves of this hairy family tree? Don't wait for a fireman to rescue you but do visit River House. Riess's expertise with local and Caribbean ingredients may be just the thing to bring that troubled restaurant to ground -- or lift it to new heights.

•In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ... a new chef: Barry Gutin, a Philadelphia restaurateur, currently is trawling Miami waters for an executive chef with a Cuban bent or background. Gutin owns Cuba Libre, a 130-seat restaurant and rum bar in Philly's Old City. The décor includes a spectacular multistory re-creation of a Forties Havana street scene, definitely a nostalgic sight for a lot of Miamians. Gutin says, "As Philadelphia's first authentic upscale Cuban restaurant, we opened on December 12, 2000, to tremendous popular success and fantastic media coverage. Business is very strong during our seven dinner periods and late night at the two bars.... It is a very exciting time that requires a very seasoned [no pun intended] and skilled chef." Gutin also mentions that the job will pay "quite well, commensurate with experience." Much as I'd hate to lose a local talent to the north, I'd love for Cuban food to be recognized by gastronomes ignorant of the island nation's contribution to the global culinary climate. So if you're interested, contact Gutin at US Hospitality Investments, Inc., Philadelphia, PA, 215-922-6137 ext 106; fax 215-922-7429; or e-mail [email protected].

•In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ... awards and honors: The 2001 James Beard Foundation/KitchenAid Book Awards have been announced, and hey, by now it should be no big surprise that Steven Raichlen's cookbook Healthy Jewish Cooking was nominated in the "Healthy Focus" category. Raichlen has been nominated (and won) so many times I think there's a bylaw that says the James Beard Awards can't be held without him. Perhaps a bit more surprising is where South Florida figured in the "Entertaining and Special Occasions" category; Savor the Moment, the cookbook put together by the Junior League in Boca Raton, also has been nominated. Winners will be announced April 29, and the lucky -- er, hard-working -- recipients will be honored at the eleventh annual James Beard Foundation Awards Gala Reception at the New York Marriott Marquis. Just in case you wanted to know where Raichlen will be on April 30 -- check the podium. In other award news, Norman's won the 31st annual Restaurateur of Distinction Award, a.k.a. the Ivy Award, given out by Restaurants and Institutions. Just in case you wanted to know where Norman Van Aken will be on May 20 -- don't check in front of his stove. Norman's is the first freestanding Florida restaurant to be inducted into the prestigious and enviable Ivy Society since 1988. Quite the honor, though of course it doesn't compare to Norman's New Times Best of Miami distinctions.

•The Samba Room, a four-outlet burgeoning national chain that has two significant South Florida locations, took 2001 Hot Concepts! Award, handed out by Nation's Restaurant News. The trade weekly also honored Michelle Bernstein, executive chef of Azul, by featuring her recipe for "Florida snapper with spicy tomato stew and provençale nage," in a recent "Dish of the Week" column. In the same issue NRN also lists "What's Hot in Miami," concluding that, along with Azul, Bambú, Mark's South Beach, Pascal's on Ponce, and Wish all rate as sizzling. The magazine, however, implies that Bambú is owned solely by Cameron Diaz, neglecting to mention the significant operating partner, Karim Masri. And that ain't so hot.

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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