The Five Most Spicetastic Bites From The Kick-Off Party (Photos)

Last night, the 10th annual Miami Spice program celebrated with a kickoff party at the Miami Beach Convention Center. VIPs were treated to extreme entertainment including contortionists and aerial performers from Cirque Eloize, but even the laypeople got to watch jazz flautist Nestor Torres belt out a tune center stage. Culinary demonstrations by Chefs Michael Schwartz (Michael's Genuine Food & Drink) and Tom Azar (City Hall) made the crowd hungry for more.

Now, we must note that cooking for thousands is certainly no easy task, but some chefs fared remarkably well, while a few plates were just a tad above edible. Here we pay homage to the top five who went all out to provide attendees with a special bite that was most reflective of the culinary talent they are truly capable of. This was a really difficult decision, but in the end, we chose between a balance of beautiful and tasty.

Now on to the winners of the night.

5. Executive Chef Paula DaSilva of 1500º at Eden Roc used a very

cool contraption to fill each little cup, which was sort of like a mango

soup meets delectable puree. It tasted very fresh from the farm, and

just like in a Cracker jack box, there was a surprise at the bottom.

Plump shrimp with skinny slices of pepper for heat; this was a sublime

food shooter for adults only.

4. Executive Chef Jamie DeRosa of the recently opened Tudor House, offered the only sustainable

serving style of the evening (each presented on wooden spoons that some

poor person is going to spend all day cleaning) and also wins big for

his tender lamb belly topped with baby carrots, summer perfect English

peas and a fresh salsa verde. It was a tiny bite that packed a really

big punch.

3. Newcomer Kane Steakhouse won fans with Executive Chef Daniel Ganem's roasted Berkshire bacon, a thick slice of smoky goodness that kept us coming back for more. A creamy fennel and apple

slaw complemented the fatty pork well, with a slight textural crunch.

Plus, he wins for the best booth display, a big slab of bacon with a

visual tutorial of where that bacon comes from; thanks to the pig

who sacrificed so much to be our snack.

2. We literally could

not stop eating Executive Chef Peter Vauthy's Kobe meatballs, which we

had a first taste of at Red The Steakhouse last week. It's obviously a

labor of love because these babies tasted exactly the same as when

served in the restaurant, shocking really considering the scale. Covered

in tomato sauce and mascarpone made in-house, if we were stranded on a

desert island...well, you know. Winner of Miss Congeniality, hands down,

these are not your mamas meatballs.

1. And the culinary spirit

stick gets passed to... Azul's new Executive Chef Joel Huff, who truly

"brought it" to the table. His Japanese corn custard was made in the

traditional style, sans dairy, and crowned with a thin slice of Jamón

Ibérico ham. Unfortunately, we are not confident that everyone

understood how lucky we were to be eating this delicacy native only to

Spain, but the luscious flavor of this particular pork product is really

remarkable (at Laurenzo's Market, it costs $155 a pound at retail,

seriously). In addition to the beautiful plating details like edible

flowers and a sliver of actual gold leaf, parmesan water added a subtle

salty aftertaste that highlighted the fresh corn perfectly. This was a

dish that required thought and dedication. "Gimme a J!"

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