Mother Nature relented just in time yesterday; rain came down as guests of the Brunch at Sea arrived, but then it stopped moments before boarding. Immediately upon entering the ship, diners buzzed around, moving from station-to-station in an effort to try one of everything being offered while being blasted by the sounds of a salsa band.
Downstairs, Aaron Sanchez worked with Doug Rodriguez (of De Rodriquez Cuba on Ocean) to pump out huevos rancheros and sopes filled with truffled eggs, and sweet corn cachapas with pork belly, tuna loin, and arepas, while across the room Goya's executive chef, Fernando Desa, also served tiny arepas topped with Mexican-style pork. Upstairs, Pinchet Ong threw out all the stops, serving seven different desserts. We tried the liquid Valrhona chocolate cup with tapioca and cocoa pearls and almost passed out from ecstasy. Ong, you're welcome in Miami anytime.
But the station that was near impossible to reach was that manned by Sugarcane's Timon Balloo and a bevy of ladies (PR reps Alexis Knapp Torjman and Joanna Cisowska were behind the line, as well as Balloo's wife). "I got my ass handed to me," the chef said, once the smoke had cleared. The rush was his fault: Balloo's selections were arguably the most inspired, beautiful, and delicious. He brought not only braised oxtail with organic eggs and hash browns but also foie gras "McGriddles," which were stuffed pancakes topped with foie gras, berry compote, smoked bacon butter, and powdered sugar.
Passed snacks were also offered, including Rodriguez's smoked fish tacos and croquettes stuffed with short rib or chicken and plantain. Locals John Pitlosh and Lana Jouver weren't fans of the latter. They chose to spend their time chowing on Rodriguez's tuna and watermelon ceviche. (We much preferred Balloo's cobia with seaweed, but all the offerings were nice.) They said this was the only South Beach Wine & Food Festival event they were attending this year. "It was different and it was across the street," said Pitlosh, a resident of Marina Blue. "And the tickets were $150. They're pricey, but it goes to FIU."
Between stations, Montecristo cigars were handed out and cocktails were being poured generously. Our favorite sipper was Rum Diplomatico's Bloody Diplomacy: Diplomatico Blanco, cinnamon syrup, blood orange juice, lime juice, Bitter Truth grapefruit bitters, and club soda. While it's true the combination of rich foods, crowds, cigar smoke outside, a venue in motion, and alcohol may not sound like an appealing way to spend a Sunday, we'd say Brunch at Sea was a fun way to cap off SoBeWFF.
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