As Miami Spice begins Aug. 1, culinary talk in South Florida will center around “food as art.’’ Nowhere will that concept be more on display than at Canvas, the outstanding restaurant at The Sagamore Hotel on South Beach.
Already acclaimed for the art collection that adorns its walls, The Sagamore should earn equal notoriety during Miami Spice, which runs through Sept. 30, as famed international Chef Michael Smerda brings his progressive cooking style to Canvas.
Set within the hotel’s lobby and its art adorned walls, Smerda’s newly launched menu of multicultural dishes – full of bold and balanced flavors – will be on full display during Miami Spice, which is the ideal time for The Sagamore to show off the renovated Canvas restaurant.
“A large part of my vision was to bring the topic of ‘art’ to the plate, in the way we plate the dishes, the use of colorful ingredients, add fragrance with spices, all interacting with the dish,’’ Smerda told me.
That interaction begins immediately on his four-course Miami Spice menu with a first course of Heirloom Carrots with White Balsamic Ice Cream. That’s correct. Ice cream as a first course. The combination of roasted carrots, carrot gel, sour dough soil, fennel greens, frisee salad and white balsamic ice cream is a piece of art on the plate and a masterpiece of flavors in your mouth.
Undoubtedly it will be one of the more talked-about (and unique) dishes – appetizer or entrée – during Miami Spice. Smerda got the inspiration for the dish from Chef Christian Hümbs, the renowned pastry chef at La Mer, in the Grand Spa Resort A-ROSA in Sylt, Germany.
“He is known for using vegetables as the dessert,’’ Smerda said. “He goes so far that he’ll create the whole meal with his desserts.
“I wanted to create something similar. Call it an ‘Appetizer / Salad / Dessert.’ In a dessert, we are always looking for the perfect combination using different textures, temperatures and a balance between sweet and acidity. Why not in the beginning of a meal? With this dish, I want the guest to experience a carrot salad like they never have before.’’
Smerda’s second course is a tender Atlantic Cod with red and gold beets and caraway oil; the third course is a terrific Wine and Honey Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek, with the fourth course being a chocolate tart surrounded by a banana rum mousse,
“In a perfect scenario, I would hope the guest leaves remembering the entire meal and experience, but I am sure each guest will have their own favorite dish,’’ Smerda said. “It’s just important they leave entertained with a satisfied palette and the urge to return.
“I have the feeling that (Miami Spice) it is a great opportunity for the restaurant to get even more recognition. I don’t want to create a fine dining restaurant or casual dining. Let’s just call it ‘Wellness Dining.’’’
I just call it “delicious.’’
Steve Pike (www.myspiketravel.com) is an award-winning travel and food writer. He lives in Delray Beach, Fla.
By Steve PikePerhaps the best way to describe Vic & Angelo’s Italian restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is to begin at the end. That is, with the eatery’s seemingly lighter than air tiramisu. After all, what serious foodie doesn’t want to start a meal with dessert?But more important, Vic & Angelo’s tiramisu is a great example of the attention to detail Executive Chef Kelley Randall and his staff give every dish.
“There is a lot of love that goes into everything,’’ Randall said.
The tiramisu, for example, is made with 50 percent mascarpone cheese, instead of the 10 to 15 percent most other Italian restaurants use.
“It makes all the difference,’’ Randall said. “And the Bellino Lady Fingers are flown in from Italy. We don’t use the cheap stuff.’’
The same holds true for the entire menu at Vic & Angelo’s, located in PGA Commons. The pastas and sauces each are made fresh in-house, and each pizza is handcrafted with dough from water delivered from Brooklyn and baked in a 900-degree pizza oven.
“I don’t want to discount anything, but the pizza here is unreal,’’ Randall said. “Our pizza chef has been making it the same way since we opened 10 years ago. He’ll never compromise quality.’’
That last sentence could serve as Vic & Angelo’s motto. There is a quality in every dish on the menu, from the incredible Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Burrata, and Linguini Fine con Vongole.
My favorites? The Gigante Meatball with Ricotta, Bell Pepper, Garden Basil, San Marzano Gravy; the Burrata made with local burrata cheese; and the Four Cheese Pear Tortelloni with White Truffle Zabaglione and shaved truffles.
Oh yes, the tiramisu.
Regardless of your dish selections, it all adds up to the restaurant’s commitment to quality.
“I think a lot of people have the idea that we are just a pizza joint or a restaurant higher on the spectrum,’’ said Assistant General Manager Kevin McSweeney. “I think we cater to a clientele that’s casual and elegant. This is a neighborhood gem.’’
Steve Pike (www.myspiketravel.com) is an award-winning travel and food writer. He lives in Delray Beach, Fla.
David Valencia has been in restaurant kitchens for the past 14 years – a relatively short time by executive chef standards – but the 33-year native of Colombia has experience far beyond those years. Valencia, executive chef at Costa Palm Beach, has cut his teeth at such fabled restaurants as The Modern in New York City and trained under Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse.
He later joined renowned hospitality group EMM Group to open Catch with Top Chef Winner Hung Huynh in New York and Miami and was Chef de Cuisine at Meat Market Palm Beach before opening Costa (with owner and veteran Palm Beach restaurateur Sascha Bennemann) earlier this year.
All of Valencia’s high-powered training and learning is paying off at Costa, located on the second floor of The Esplanade on Palm Beach’s trendy Worth Avenue.
“Modern Mediterranean’’ is how Valencia describes Costa’s menus, which feature several of what might be considered Valencia’s “signature’’ dishes. Among them is the amazing Salt Baked Branzino, a three-pound Crispy Pork Shank (for two) and for lunch, an off-the-chain Lamb Burger.
“I wanted to bring something different with a lot of different flavor profiles – big bold flavors,’’ Valencia said.
Those bold flavors certainly come out in dishes such as the Salt Baked Branzino served with arugula emulsion, grilled lemon, olive caper tomato relish. It’s a terrific explosion of flavors that has many guests telling friends, “Get the Branzino,’’ when they go to Costa.
“I’ve been doing something similar (in terms of preparing the Branzino) for the past seven or eight years,’’ Valencia said. “For whatever reason, this is the dish people come back for. I didn’t expect it to be like that.’’
And don’t fret. The full fish is for presentation purposes only.
The Crispy Pork Shank goes back to Valencia’s childhood days in Colombia.
“Pig was my thing,’’ Valencia said with a smile. “We had a big farm and we had a pig for every big holiday.’’
Valencia’s Crispy Pork Shank is cured in salt, garlic and spices for 24 hours and cooked for three to four days to allow the meat to tenderize. When customers order it, Valencia flash fries the pork shank to get the skin extra crispy. It’s then presented to the guests table side and returned to the kitchen where in the inside meat is prepared for serving.
“You’ll never have a better piece of pork,’’ Valencia said.
I’m certainly not going to disagree. If you’re into pork, the Crispy Pork Shank is a “must have’’ on the Costa menu. Same with the Branzino if you’re into fish.
Some of my other favorites? The Hamachi (served with finger lime, avocado, sumac and cilantro) as an appetizer. The Moroccan Lamb Stew is outstanding. And you can’t leave without having the House Hummus served with house made Naan Bread.
A good way to get to know the Costa menu is to take advantage of its Summer Menu (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), which features items such as the Hamachi and House Hummus, as well as Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and Chicken Escalope (grilled chicken breast, zucchini, eggplant, herb puree, arugula, lemon), each for 50 percent off the regular menu prices.
“I don’t change the quality or the sizings,’’ Valencia said. “That menu is a real treat for somebody to try something that’s not as expensive and to try something maybe they haven’t had before.’’
One taste of Valencia’s big, bold flavors, however, and they’ll be back.
Steve Pike (www.myspiketravel.com) is an award-winning food and travel writer. He lives in Delray Beach, Fla.
Every neighborhood should have its favorite bar. Preferably an Irish bar. On Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, I nominate Dorrian’s Red Hand. It filled with comfort food, comfort music (Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Creedence) and big screen TVs.
It’s also filled with locals who come to watch favorite teams, listen to live music and just chill with a brew and burger. It’s an Irish-American bar without the leprechauns and shamrocks. A place you’re likely to see in the Irish countryside, except that there is music at Dorrian’s. Most pubs in the Irish countryside chase musicians out the door. The story goes that even the Rolling Stones were once banned from playing in an Irish countryside bar.
That aside, “We started building up a nice, local clientele,’’ said co-owner Danny Dorrian, a veteran New York City restaurateur who opened the eatery and pub in April 2016. “Probably one of the more difficult places I’ve done business. People here are from all over the country. Everyone wants certain things.’’
Dorrian’s menu obliges. For example, the New York City House Burger features Bush Brothers beef and is served on an English muffin, so you’re getting more beef than bread. It’s one of the better burgers in South Florida.
The thick Shepherd’s Pie is a “must have, and even if you don’t like calamari, the Amata Calamari (flash fried or sautéed) with spinach, cherry peppers and mushrooms is outstanding. If you just want to pig out, go for the loaded nachos with turkey chili.
Dorrian’s menu also has some steak and seafood items, perhaps the best French fries in South Florida, as well as year-round Thanksgiving dinner complete with slow roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, sausage stuffing, cranberry and gravy.
“Good food and good environment,’’ Dorrian said.
That’s all you want in a neighborhood pub. And Dorrian’s delivers.
Steve Pike is an award-winning food and travel writer (www.myspiketravel.com). He lives in Delray Beach, Fla.
Come for the mojitos, stay for the food. That’s my advice for guests at the new Mojito Bar restaurant at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Fla. Renowned Chef Douglas Rodriguez has fused his signature Nuevo Latin Cuisine with the classic Cuban cocktail for a terrific indoor and outdoor dining experience.
Located on the edge of some of Sawgrass Mills’ more popular store, the vibrant and colorful Mojito Bar is an ideal spot for people watching, as well as lunch and dinner.
The experience begins, of course, with the mojitos. Mojito Bar has a deep selection of mojitos, led by the Classic served with DonQ Cristal rum; the robust Coconut mojito features DonQ. Try them each in Mojito Bar’s 24-ounce glass and you might never want to leave. If you’re looking to take the experience up another notch, Mojito Bar serves its namesake cocktails in a souvenir 32-ounce light-up tower glass.
Now on to the food. Start with the Smoked Pineapple Guacamole that has unbelievable flavor thanks mostly to the pineapple that’s smoked for up to eight hours before being served.
“Not your typical guacamole,’’ said Mojito Bar Manager Bar Jose Reigosa.
The Smoked Pineapple Guacamole is just one example of Rodriguez’s menu that also features dishes such as Cuban Sandwich on a Stick, Short Rib Soft Tacos (my favorite), Mojito Shrimp Ceviche and Brazilian Coconut Seafood Casserole.
“Douglas brought us a menu to match who we are,’’ Reigosa said.
It’s a perfect match.
Steve Pike is an award-winning food and travel writer at Spike’s Peek’s: The Art of Travel (www.myspiketravel.com). He lives in Delray Beach, Fla.