The various satellite events that orbit the South Beach Wine & Food Festival increase each year. By "satellite event" I mean relatively small gatherings sponsored by food-and-beverage related companies that sometimes invitation only for media and sponsors, and other times open to the public. These happenings are not directly related to the SoBeWFF, but rather provide a little extra food, drink, and fun for Festival-goers -- and a chance for companies to promote and network. Yesterday morning, at Bâoli Vita in South Beach, notable Boston chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette put out a "Mexican Hangover Brunch" that, so far in this early going, has been the festival highlight for me.
Firstly, Bâoli's patio setting is tough to beat for a relaxed and breezy brunch. There were quite a few chefs on hand as well -- David Burke seemed to be enjoying his food quite a bit, and Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop was digging in too. "We invited a lot of our friends," said Oringer. "Luckily they didn't wander in too late."
Secondly, the Vida Tequila-based cocktails were peerless, from a grapefruit margarita to a goji berry margarita to a tequila bloody mary to a tasty Tecate michelada. They were so delicious and were so effective in putting my mind at ease that I neglected to take photos of any of them. Anyway, they looked all right, but they tasted better.
But what made this a really great shindig was the food -- best Mexican brunch I've ever had in America. Or maybe anywhere.
Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette each manned their stations and cooked the food. Oringer is a James Beard Award winning chef with six Boston restaurants (including Clio, Uni, and -- relevant to this brunch -- the heralded Mexican La Verdad, which was tabbed "Best Mexican Food in the U.S." by Bon Apetit magazine); plus a new eatery in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bissonnette is partner with Oringer in Boston's Coppa and Toro restaurants, is a recent winner of Food Network's "Chopped" series, and also nabbed Food & Wine magazine's first ever "Best New Chef: People's Choice" award in 2011. Plus he could give RIchard Hales a run for his money for most tattooed chef.
Bissonnette was cooking up and plating huevos rancheros and amazingly good chilaquiles. "This is too easy," said Jamie, who seemed to be enjoying his time in the sun. When I asked what else he'd be doing this weekend, he replied "jet skiing."
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About 20 feet away, Oringer was putting out chorizo, potato, and scrambled eggs in soft tortillas. He told me about his Mexican place "right next to Fenway Park," and noted that "Mexican food is like my favorite food in the world." I didn't bug him much because he was busy cooking.
Hot bowls of menudo were scrumptious, as were maiz asado con queso (roasted corn on the cob with cheese). Every single dish was cooked to order, hot, fresh, and really delectable. The Bâoli wait staff did a great job serving drinks, clearing dishes and so forth. It was a purely pleasurable affair, which these sorts of things don't always turn out to be.
Thanks to Bâoli, Vida Tequila, and those two damn good Boston chefs. Hey guys: when it comes to opening a place down here, we're ready whenever you are.