Comfort in Food
Reported by Sofia Santana
the brink of Fall, traditionally the beginning
of the season in South Florida a time when
new restaurants open, when established restaurants
spruce up their menu, and invitations to splashy
parties are crisscrossing town expectations
have been sapped by reality.
aftermath of the September 11 attack on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon has left
a trail of sorrow that has affected the economy
and every aspect of life.
September, as the numbers of tourists waned,
and tourist-dollars were in short supply, those
hurting the most in South Florida from the crisis
brought about by the September 11 tragedy were
hotels and restaurants. With more beds than
ever, hotels are still offering local residents
special getaway prices, and restaurants are
touting prix-fixe menus and specials.
A time of crisis such as this, which imperils
security and life itself, drives people to seek
reassurance and comfort in family, friendly
faces, close by neighborhood places, food and,
not surprisingly, wine.
together around the table for warmth and security
is a phenomenon that led Barry Alberts,
wine consultant at Crown Liquors and
wine instructor at Berries to Wine, to report
a hike in wine sales at the South Miami wine
store in the period immediately following September
11: “The store went up forty percent in sales
from last year at the same time,” he noted.
“With this crisis, restaurants are getting hammered
over the head, more people are staying home,
and wine and specialty food sales are going
Ed Furlong, wine buyer and director at
Gardner’s Markets, confirmed the hike
in wine sales during the same period of time:
“Sales are up 30% from last year.”
Gourmet markets offering prepared food and ready-to-eat
deli items, from The Farmer’s Market in Key
Biscayne to Bay Harbor Fine Foods in Bay
Harbor Island, have all reported steady sales,
even on September 11. “We were very surprised,
so many people came that day. Probably no one
wanted to cook,” remarked Farmer’s Market co/owner,
With a solid customer base, Gardner’s Markets
have not experienced a slowdown in sales. Owners
Maurice and Elizabeth Adams say
that it seems that people seek comfort food,
like the food that Gardner’s provides. “People
aren’t going out to eat, but are coming in and
buying the things they love and taking them
home,” claims Elizabeth.
Gathering around a table is now gradually extending
back to restaurants. While South Beach restaurants
usually mobbed at this time of year are
slowly coming back to life, lines were seen
forming on the sidewalks of reasonably priced
neighborhood eateries such as Trattoria Sole
in South Miami, Prima Pasta in North Miami Beach,
and Le Pastis, a little French bistro in South
Comfort is found in friendly crowds and in good
food. And when it comes to comfort foods, South
Floridians have come a long way from eating
spaghetti and meatballs and mac and cheese.
Even at local markets comfort food has an increasingly
edgy slant, from the ethnic to the glorified
version of grandmother’s meatloaf.
Bagel Deli (6546 Collins Ave., Miami Beach.
Although the thirteen large Miami Beach
Hotels Evan Steinman caters to have considerably
reduced their daily orders “because they are
no longer packed,” says the owner of NYBD, morning
and lunch bagel take-out has increased.
At NYBD, bagels, that staple of American
breakfast and brunch, come in astonishing varieties
such as chocolate chip, sun-dried-tomato, rye-caraway,
and coconut, with spreads ranging from traditional
cream cheese and Mediterranean hummus, to artichoke,
pesto, and the very popular cinnamon-raisin-walnut
and Donna Steinman say that all bagels
are made in-house, as well as 99 percent of
everything else on the menu, including the made-to-order
salad platters, like oriental chicken topped
with sesame seeds, fresh cilantro and oriental
noodles; and vegan salads and sandwiches.
The Steinmans hope that the holiday season will
mark an increase in the catering business.
Gourmet Market (2301 Galiano St., Coral Gables.
brisk lunch business at Amici’s has not slacked.
Owner Carlo Casagrande says that not
only hasn’t he noticed a significant change
in business, but the lunch crowd has grown so
much that he’s planning to expand both salad
bar and hot food station. “We’ve always stuck
to the same concept,’’ says Casagrande. “Now
we want to make it easier for our customers
who sometimes have to wait in line for the salad
Thus, lunch crowds can buy by the pound, order
in, take home, or sit down at the restaurant
next door to the market, for a lunch of hot
dishes like penne with arugula in a black olive-sundried
tomato sauce; cannelloni with veal, spinach
and ricotta; antipasti with Italian cold cuts
and fresh seafood; veal and peppers simmered
in tomato sauce; and poached salmon with cucumber
Shopping for the finest produce, deli meats,
imported cheeses and wine is made easy on the
way out. And for dessert or a simple treat,
you could indulge in some of the gourmet candies
and chocolates… They’re by the front registers.
Estate Wines & Gourmet Foods
(Euro Table, 92 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.
Hans Viertl, business hasn’t changed
much at the cozy Estate Wine and Gourmet
Foods, a market and store lined with racks
of fine wines, and The Fountain Bistro,
a charming daytime restaurant, both in Coral
Gables. “We have a lot of regulars, and they
know what they want before they even get here,”
said Viertl, referring to the popular menu of
sandwiches, salads and soups.
Hot and cold sandwiches on freshly-baked ciabatta,
French ficelle, and croissants like grilled
chicken breast, roasted tomatoes and balsamic
dressing; or prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella
and tomato-basil dressing; salads such as goat
cheese, black olives, peppers, cucumbers and
marinated tomatoes over mixed greens; and the
unforgettable apple strudel, are always big
However, at La Ficelle, on Blue Lagoon
Drive near the Airport, catering to offices
and businesses has gone down eighty percent,
he says. “It’s certainly a challenge, because
a lot of companies have cancelled events we
Viertl hopes that business will pick up before
and during the holiday season when the market
is filled with the warm aroma of cinnamon from
the hot apple cider served to customers, on
(Italian Restaurant and Marketplace, 12665 S.
Dixie Hwy, Pinecrest,
Pinecrest, Anacapri’s Little Italy is the only
gourmet market of its kind. Specializing in
fine imported Italian items foods, from several
varieties of olives, hard-to-find olive oils
and balsamic vinegars, to fine Italian and “Italian-American”
wines, the activity in the market, next door
to Giuseppe Zuozo’s long-standing restaurant,
Anacapri, indicates that life is coming back
to normal. Zuozo reported that while the restaurant
business was down about fifteen percent, the
take-out business was almost as usual. “And
it starts getting busier just before the holidays,”
he said, with orders for chicken scarpariello
with sausage, white wine, garlic and roasted
peppers; and roasted seabass.
What could be more comforting than “braciole,”
beef stuffed with cheese, garlic, pine nuts,
raisins and spices cooked in tomato sauce; or
baked ziti with ricotta, mozzarella and tomato,
piping hot with bubbling cheese and browned
to perfection? Maybe the traditional ricotta
Harbor Fine Foods (1077 95th St., Bay Harbor
Island, North Miami. 305-865-0331)
a steady clientele taking advantage of the market’s
delivery service, it’s no wonder this small,
old-fashioned grocery store market is bustling.
For co-owner David Bockner, business
in the market hasn’t changed much. However,
since the September 11 tragedy, he is getting
more delivery orders than usual, not only for
the hot prepared foods and special dietary requests
which are offered six days a week, but the stores
quality meats, seafood, produce, and even grocery
not just a specialty market,” said Bockner,
who owns the market with childhood friend Art
Bergen. “People appreciate it that we carry
both standard items from toilet paper to Saran
wrap and hand-selected produce.” For the holidays,
the market will offer, as usual, fresh caviar,
pâtés and a wider selection of imported cheeses.
Market (91 Harbor Dr., Key Biscayne. 305-361-1300)
hard-to-find specialty produce, Farmer’s Market
is the place where to find ingredients for that
special recipe, from fresh guanabana and Japanese
eggplant, to 20 varieties of peaches, and freshly-picked
apples from Washington and Oregon. “We have
almost everything you’re not able to find in
a supermarket, including a large selection of
cheeses from around the world,” says one of
the co-owners, Carlos Castellanos. But,
here too, says Castellanos, “while our market
sales have gone down about five percent, our
take-out business remains steady with our homemade
mozzarella cheese, pastries and food tarts on
top of the list.”
To attract more locals, Farmer’s Market is now
conducting a series of ethnic cooking classes
starting with Thai cuisine.
Gardner’s Markets (Pinecrest, 305-255-2468;
South Miami, 305-661-2054; Brickell Key, 305-371-3701;
Ocean Reef, 305-367-2121.)
oldest supplier of upscale foods and produce,
Gardner’s has catered to South Florida’s yens
since 1912. Traditionally a provider of fine
foods through wars and hurricanes, from the
Crash of ’29 and the Great Depression until
today, the markets headed by Maurice Adams and
Elizabeth Gardner Adams, make a point of carrying
the best products. There is a broad selection
of wines arranged according to food pairing
and origin, and the cheese department abounds
with choices, from creamy mozzarella bocconcini
and French soft cheeses, to aged Holland Gouda
and Sonoma County Dry Jack.
But at times of crisis, rather than buying premium
naturally raised Bradley beef B3R, or hormone-free
Bell & Evans chickens and turkeys, people are
buying more wine, and taking home cooked meals,
comfort foods such as Gardner’s turkey meat
loaf, and ready-made salads. “I guess no one
really has the time to cook, with all the news
to watch on TV, and all the newspapers to read,”
explains Elizabeth Adams.
Market Turkey Meatloaf
Serves 6 - 8
lbs. ground turkey
2 celery stalks
1/4 bag (4 oz.) Pepperidge Farm stuffing
1 large egg
1/8 cup horseradish
1/2 cup ketchup
1 lb. frozen spinach
3 tsp. salt and pepper (each)
carrot, onion and celery together. Beat
egg. Mix remaining ingredients together
(don’t over mix). Coat pan with spray.
Bake at 325º for 45 minutes. Cool before
Hot Meals at Gourmet Markets
Brothers, 7260 SW 87 Ave., Pinecrest,
Anacapri, 12669 S Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest,
305-255-2521 or 305-232-8001.
Gardner’s Market, 8287 SW 124 St.,
Pinecrest, 305-255-2468, 7301 SW 57 Ave.,
South Miami, 305-661-2054, 651 Brickell
Key Dr., Brickell Key, 305-371-3701, 26
Dockside Lane, N. Key Largo, 305-367-2121
Joanna’s Marketplace, 8247 S Dixie
Hwy., Pinecrest, 305-661-5777.
Gables, Coconut Grove:
Amici’s Gourmet Market, 2301 Galiano
St., Coral Gables, 305-461-4343.
Euro Gourmet Estate Wines, 92 Miracle
Mile, Coral Gables, 305-442-9915.
Scotty’s Grocery, 3117 Bird Ave.,
Coconut Grove, 305-443-5257.
Milam’s, 2969 SW 32 Ave., Coconut
Grove, 305-446-4909, 5767 Bird Road, 305-662-1510.
Farmer’s Market Key Biscayne, 91
Harbor Dr., Key Biscayne, 305-361-1900
Perricone’s Marketplace, 15 SE
10 St., Miami, 305-374-9449. Hoeflinger
& Chiarini, 1777 SW 3 Ave., Miami,
Bay Harbor Fine Food, 1077 95 St.,
Bay Harbour Island, 305-865-0331.
Marky’s Caviar, 667 NE 79 St.,
Miami, 305-758-9288. Cookworks Bal
Harbour, Bal Harbour Shops.
Laurenzo’s Italian Market, 16385
W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami Beach, 305-945-6381.
Zarmati Diament is Editor of The South Florida