Every once in a while, we come across new eateries that wow us to the point where we can't wait to go again -- so we sneak in a mere two days after our first visit. That's what happened at the Federal Miami.
Described by opening-night patron Nina Stack as "friendly decadence," this could be the neighborhood's gotta-have-it-once-a-week place. With reasonable prices; fast, friendly service; and an array of delectable comfort-food dishes to choose from, we can only hope the Fed gets the love and nurturing from Miami that it deserves.
I attended the soft opening, and to give you a better idea of what the food was like, I went equipped with my camera. Makes sense, right? Then the Jar-o-Duck happened. Accompanied by delightfully candied sweet potatoes and charred marshmallow fluff, the slow-cooked duck on crostini was but the beginning of what was in store for my dining experience. From that point forward, it was as if only the food and I existed, and having been so consumed in what I was consuming, I took not a single photo.
The roasted beets were a complete surprise (of goodness, that is). You don't typically find roasted beets on most menus, and with valid reason -- the usual extent of root vegetables Miamians use is cassava. But beets are so underappreciated here. Thankfully, the Fed goes against the grain with this notion. A tangy vinaigrette tied in the flavors of the beets, fresh purple watercress, crunchy buttered pecans, and light goat cheese. Oddly enough, it was refreshing to have roasted beets instead of fresh beets on a menu.
My dinner partner and I fought over the next babies. Buffalo-style pig "wings," as it was clear, flew down from the heavens to grace the quaint, living room-like eatery with tangy, slightly spicy, porky deliciousness. Can you hear angels singing? The blue cheese mousse is not overpowering (a relief), and the pickled carrots and celery add a fresh, lovely crunch factor to the dish as a whole. The pork effortlessly slips off the bone -- a beautiful sight when all but the bones are left behind.
I have not had the best experience with sweetbreads. My first time having them, (I'll leave the name of the place out), I was mortified and secretly vowed to never eat them again. There was something, though, about the thought of peas, carrots, pickled pearl onions and country sausage gravy that made these particular sweet breads appealing. Fast forward perhaps ten minutes and my portion of the dish was safe in my tummy. Slightly fried, the sweet breads we unreal (I even figured there might have been a little parmesan or Peccorino Romano in the light batter that gave it a lovely bite). I made it a point to have the sweet, buttery biscuit, gravy, veggies and sweet bread in each bite. Please try this one (coming from the ultimate born-again sweet bread lover).
Roasted Cornish hen was juicy and flavorful -- almost like the little bird was running around with the flavors inside her before ... well, you know ... Chef Cesar grabbed hold of her. Anyway, it came with a cornbread fennel sausage stuffing (very Thanksgiving-esque, no complaints) and the seasonal compote was stewed strawberries. There's an outright homeyness about this dish -- it gives you the warm 'n fuzzies.
We must note a disclaimer for these desserts: if you like very sweet treats, perhaps the Fed's cobblers and apple-pear pie are not for you. That said, I was over the moon with them. Under the direction of partner and CIA grad, Alejandro Ortiz, the desserts were unbelievably scrumptious and focused on the ingredients themselves, versus adding pounds of sugar to mask them. Our plum cobbler was made fresh and came hot, with fresh vanilla clotted cream (I was too shy to lick the mini gravy boat that it came in clean, but now I regret not doing so). Our pie was big, and flaky, and with light notes of lemon juice and a bit of cinnamon, the pears and apples shone right through -- divine.
It's a BYOB joint for the next few days until they secure their liquor license, but don't let that deter you or anyone else from going in and eating your life away.
We asked partner, Aniece Meinhold of her expectations for the new endeavor, "I don't have any... it that bad? I'm just hoping for the best. At the end of the day, you know, it's an awesome experience to touch people with food."
We must note that she told us her favorite dish, "I'm a huge fan of the sweet breads, and the bone marrow and crispy omassum [tripe]... like, oh my God. If you don't get excited about the food, then what's the point?"
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.