Best of the Best is always a grand affair. Overwhelmingly so at times with the plethora of top flight wines and foods from some of America's(and Miami's) finest chefs. Riki Altman was covering the local angle of this feast, so I went about chatting with a few of the toques who traveled in from other cities.
Gabrielle Hamilton, chef/owner of New York City's acclaimed Prune Restaurant, not only put out the tastiest plate of food that I got to sample all evening but was also incredibly friendly and open. Her Florida rock shrimp with buttered brown rice and duck cracklings was the talk of the room. "This is the one dish I make at the restaurant that has Florida rock shrimp," she explained when I asked how she chose it. "We also have brown rice in it, so it looks healthy," she continued, "but it's not."
I told Gabrielle that a rumor was circulating that she was opening a restaurant down here, even though I have heard no such talk. "No, I'm a one-restaurant girl staying in my home town," she said a little proudly. Would she open a second venue in New York? Again, no: "It took me twelve years to figure out that I don't want to open a second restaurant." She is, however, working on a second book -- a cookbook, which she calls "a refreshing departure from a probing memoir."
Tim Cushman of Boston's O Ya admitted that "we don't hold back" when I reminded him of how complex his awe-inspiring dishes were at the 2010 SoBeWFF. This year he went a bit simpler but the result was, again, delectable. Except the hamachi listed above is not from Tim Cushman, but from chef Dan Silverman of The Standard Grill in New York.
Most decadent treat of the night came compliments of the ever-engaging David Burke of David Burke's Townhouse: Sea urchin custard with uni and lobster foam. Very rich, very delicious.
Another personal favorite of mine -- and, according to the lengthy lines it was popular among many -- was the porchetta being sliced by executive chef Nick Anderer of Maialino in New York (part of the Danny Meyer group).
"We're a Roman-style trattoria, so we make pastas and pizzas and other things, but I love porchetta." I asked Anderer where he'd be dining while in town. "I'm a big fan of Michelle Bernstein, so I'm definitely going to eat at her restaurant. We ate at Scarpetta with Scott Conant last night and I had a great meal there. I'm going to try to get some Cuban food too."
Dan Kluger, executive chef of Jean Georges Vongerichten's farm-to-table ABC Kitchen in New York, cooked up some mighty tasty rib eyes on the bone, and served juicy red slices with mashed potatoes and a hot sauce butter. Fantastic.
Tony Maws of Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts, put out the most daring of dishes: House made rye flour casarecce pasta with pork hearts sausage and Florida rock shrimp ragoût. "This is a dish we do back at the restaurant," said Tony. "It raises a few eyebrows because of the pork hearts, but it's very popular. It has a really good taste." It did indeed -- except it was one of the last dishes I tasted, after having finished one of the last wines, which means the photo of the pasta came out worse than even the one above of Tony and Michael.
I should note that there were many worthy wines on hand. A 2008 SRV Cabernet from Stag's Leap, with dark fruit flavors, was one of the best I sipped.
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