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After an extensive international search, Mandarin Oriental, Miami has found a new Chef de Cuisine for its famed Azul Restaurant. Chef Clay Conley officially becomes Chef de Cuisine at Azul on January 15, 2005, and is working on a new menu to debut in early February, thus replacing chef Michelle Bernstein's creations at the only AAA five diamond hotel and restaurant in Miami.

Chef Conley, who attended Tulane University in New Orleans before going on to study at Florida State University, comes from extensive travels in Europe and Asia and eight years at Todd English's acclaimed Olives restaurants, as executive chef and culinary director overseeing 17 restaurants including the opening of Olives in Tokyo. "Clay has been the no. 2 within Todd English's organization," said Tom Parlo, executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, who was very pleased by the selection. "He's opened restaurant Olives in the Bellagio in Las Vegas and in Tokyo. He's traveled extensively throughout Japan, and has stayed at many of The Mandarin Oriental properties in Asia so he knows our philosophy and we feel it's a perfect match. We have a big agenda for him. We know the city is really excited about the new chef, and he will surely set a new standard for fine cuisine in Miami," continued Chef Parlo.

According to Mandarin Oriental, Miami Director of Communications Alexandra Wensley, Chef Conley brings his sophisticated cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influences to the menu at Azul with dishes like Grilled Chop and Loin of Colorado Lamb with harrisa, charred eggplant, braised shank bastila and feta, and A study in tuna roll: seared, rare, and tartare with King crab, Osetra caviar, avocado tempura and Asian sauces.

"With Chef Conley's creative flair and innovative style Azul will continue providing unparalleled dining experiences and cutting-edge cuisine," said Jorge Gonzalez, general manager of Mandarin Oriental, Miami.

Azul, Lunch is open for lunch from noon to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and dinner from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., daily. Mandarin Oriental, Miami, 500 Brickell Key Drive. Reservations: (305) 913-8254.

If anyone had been wandering where wunder pastry chef Michel Chiche - aka Chichou - had disappeared, they can now rest reassured. Chiche who had dazzled many a palate first as the pastry chef at La Palme d'Or at The Biltmore Hotel and then at the Loew's Miami Beach, has opened his own business, Scoop. Restaurants and fans can now order petits fours, canapés, cocktail sandwiches, brioches, madeleines, breakfast and tea time pastries, as well as macarons by the dozen ($20), and his inimitable tarts and desserts, including the peerless chocolate Mikado, nougatine with hazenult crunch and blackberry mousse, Opera filled with ganache and moca cream (from $5 to $7 per person). The list of fresh homemade ice creams ($15 to $18 for 87 oz. buckets) runs from Gahara vanilla made with Tahitian vanilla beans and crème brûlée classic to chocolate dark bittersweet and dulce de leche. Mixed sorbets ($15 for 87 oz.) include custom-made flavors such as lemon basil, orange and rosemary, lime and rosemary, Bloody Mary, tomato and red pepper and strawberry. For orders and information: 305-610-7318, or 305-867-9525.

The trendy indoor/outdoor restaurant spilling over the sidewalk of Miracle Mile in a laid back atmosphere more typical of Islamorada than Coral Gables, is already busy with lunch and dinner crowds. Chef Lucian Weivel's menu ranges from seafood, steaks and burgers, chicken and pork chops with the specials of the day listed on the blackboard, such as oysters, seafood sampler ($44.50) ceviche, and stone crabs (1 lb/$29.95). The huge menu offers from hamburgers ($8.25) and a vast variety of salads, sandwiches and pastas, to horseradish-crab encrusted dolphin ($19.95), Sizzling seafood kettle - a stew of clams, shrimp, calamari, mahi-mahi simmered in a garlic tomato broth with grilled vegetables and boiled potatoes, fried seafood platter or New Orleans shrimp. Tarpon Bend is open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and till 11 p.m. on weekends. The bar opens till 11 p.m. and stays open till 2 a.m. on weekends. 65 Miracle Mile Call 305-444-3210..

Partners Angelo Aquilino and Louis Terminello have opened a second location of Tula Ristorante, where Toscana used to be, at the Omni Colonnade. Chef Vittorio Amari, from Treviso, Italy - who had opened the old Tula in Coconut Grove, is back at the newly opened 150/70 indoor/outdoor restaurant. The menu lists fish imported from Europe like Fresh tuna with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes & basalmic vinegar; Mediterranean bass with a gratinee of portobello mushrooms; mixed fish grill and seafood. The typically Italian menu includes salads and cold and hot appetizers ($5.45 to $12.95) like veal and tuna carpaccio; thinly sliced fresh fish with olive oil and lemon; warm seafood salad; baked codfish mousse with artichokes in a bagna cauda sauce; Grilled squid and baby shrimp served on a bed of Mediterranean salad. Pizzas ($9.95 to $14) range from the Margherita to the Capricciosa with Italian ham, mushrooms, black olives, artichokes & fresh basil. The pasta menu ($10 to $18) offers risotto, homemade pasta as well as pasta asciutta with different sauces and seafood. The menu also lists meat and chicken dishes ($14 to $25) Sautéed breast of chicken in a pesto sauce; Veal with artichokes in a lemon butter sauce; Grilled NY Strip with herbs on a bed of arrugola; and filet mignon with Porcini mushrooms in a demi glace.. Open Sunday through Friday for lunch and dinner from 12 p.m. till 11 p.m. and till 12 a.m. on weekends. Tula Ristorante, 181 Aragon Ave (corner of Ponce one block north of Miracle Mile), 305-569-6511.

  • The South Florida Farmer's Market located at Gardner's Market in Pinecrest (8287 SW 124th Street) - voted the best farmer's market in South Florida, beginning Sunday, January 9th, and every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. till April 10th, is a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables, all from local farmers. Cooking demos will take place each Sunday at 11 a.m. with local and celebrity chefs; with food and fun for the entire family.
  • The famous Farmer's Market on Lincoln Road in South Beach, every Sunday.
  • Key Biscayne's residents also have their Farmers' Market. Starting January, every last Saturday of the4 mointh, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., over 20 vendors will sell their farm productgs on Village Green Way, in front of Key Biscayne's new recreation center.
  • Coral Gables 14th Annual Farmer's Market, runs every Saturday from January 15 through March 26 in front of City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way. Tai Chi in the Park at 8 a.m. ; gardening workshops at 9 a.m., cooking demonstrations at 10 a.m., and kids' activities at 11 a.m. For more information, call 305-460-5311.

Harald Neuweg, the owner of Fritz & Franz Bierhaus is hosting the First Annual Latin Music Fest in Coral Gables from Friday, January 14 to Sunday January 16 with live music from local and national bands. 10% of all food and beverage sales will go to Disaster Relief in Southeast Asia. Admission is free. Fritz & Franz Bierhaus, 60 Merrick Way, Coral Gables. For information: 305 774-1883.

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