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LOS ANGELES TRANSPLANT, CAFÉ MAURICE, OPENS IN MIAMI BEACH
After 11 years in Los Angeles, California, Café Maurice has relocated to South Beach, where L’ Entrecôte used to be. Executive Chef Maurice Azoulay partnered with restaurateurs David Meunier and Jean Michel Collet to create a French bistro where patrons can have a drink and tapas at the bar, and traditional French cuisine entrees under $20.00. That’s reason enough to dance after dinner to the sounds of gypsy music. The menu lists filet mignon with Cognac pepper sauce, l’entrecôte Bordelaise, pâté with cornichons and salad, and chicken almondine, and promises French desserts. Café Maurice is open daily for dinner and early breakfast from 5pm to 5am. 419 Washington Avenue, South Beach. For more information: 305-532-3467

THE OGGI GROUP NOW DISTRIBUTES SEAWEED SPAGHETTI
When Alex Portela and Eloy Roy opened their first 8-table restaurant, Oggi, in Miami Beach, over 15 years ago, their success stemmed in great part from the delicious handmade pasta they served there. Soon they started making pasta for restaurants all over Miami, before they enlarged their own Oggi and opened Café Da Vinci and Blue Oyster Grill. Today, with new partner and long time Oggi Executive Chef, Riccardo Tognozzi, they have announced the exclusive distribution of seaweed spaghetti in South Florida. Natural sea kelp is traditionally low in calories, contains many minerals, and is rich in iodine. The seaweed used to create the pasta is kombu and can be served hot or cold and is prepared without additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors or colors. The item contains no flour, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 10 calories and is made without eggs; making it suitable for special diets including those with gluten-free needs. The spaghetti will be sold by the box of 20 for $60 plus shipping costs, and in individual packages ($6) at each restaurant: Oggi Caffe, Caffe Da Vinci and Blue Oyster Grill where it is served with sea scallops or baby shrimp - mixed with shitake mushroom, tomato and basil sauce ($16). For more information contact Executive Chef Riccardo Tognozzi at The Oggi Group offices: 305.984.7744. www.oggicaffe.com / www.caffedavinci.com / coming soon www.blueoystergrill.com.

CLOSED: RESTAURANT BRANA IN CORAL GABLES, PALLADIO ITALIAN GOURMET MARKET IN NORTH MIAMI BEACH, AND OLA STEAK & TAPAS IN CORAL GABLES...
The phone no. 305-444-4595 at Restaurant Brana , 276 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, has been “temporarily disconnected.” Chef Jeffrey Brana, former Executive Chef of Norman’s Restaurant and wife Anna E. Pedron Brana, formerly Norman Van Aken’s personal assistant and marketing manager, who opened the restaurant in July, 2006, are not answering.
Chef Doug Rodriguez has closed Ola Steak & Tapas at Village at Merrick Park in Coral Gables. His restaurant OLA at the Sanctuary in Miami Beach remains in operation. 1745 James Ave., South Beach, 305-695-9125.
Daniele Podini, owner of Palladio Italian Gourmet Market at the Avanti Shopping Center, 15947 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach, (305) 949-2374, has closed the store and is not picking up calls. This was Palladio’s second location in South Florida - he opened the first in Boca Raton

MANDARIN ORIENTAL, MIAMI’S SPECIAL WATERFRONT CHINESE NEW YEAR DINNER
Chinese New Year comes to Mandarin Oriental, Miami with a culinary affair to usher in the Year of the Pig. From February 18-24, 2007, the waterfront restaurant Café Sambal offers a special three-course menu and a ‘red packet’ present filled with wishes of good health and good fortune. The menu starts with a first course of Sharks fin and lobster soup or Loh Mai Gai - Sticky rice stuffed with Kobe beef, Kobe sausage, wild mushrooms wrapped in Savoy cabbage; followed by entrees of Barramundi with black bean ginger sauce and spring bamboo shoots or Chinese Peking Style Duck served two ways; and for desserts: Pandan Cream, Jasmine-Mango Timbale, Crunchy Macadamia. Cost for the Chinese New Year dinner is $60 per person (plus tax and gratuity). An a la carte menu is also available. Café Sambal, Mandarin Oriental, Miami, 500 Brickell Key Drive. RSVP (305) 913-8358.

CORAL GABLES CELEBRATES THE YEAR OF THE PIG ON THE CHINESE NEW YEAR
Merrick Park across from City Hall will be transformed into a mystical Chinese village to welcome the Chinese New Year on Sunday, February 18 from noon to 5 p.m. Colorful lanterns, a Chinese dragon boat exhibition, Chinese food delicacies, martial arts demonstration and much more will be some of the exciting activities taking place. The Chinese New Year will be the Year of the Pig and is good for people born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983 and 1995. Observed by the Chinese around the world, this is the first time that the celebration comes to the City of Coral Gables, thanks to the sponsoring of Master Agon of Perfect Balance Martial Arts and Fitness, located in Coral Gables. For more information contact Socorro Villa or Iris Ratcliffe at Perfect Balance Martial Arts at 305-445-4900 or by e-mail at masteragon@aol.com

CENTER FOR WINE ORIGINS CONTEST DRAWS 13,000 ENTRIES
More than 13,000 Americans demonstrated their knowledge of the importance of wine origins by participating in the Center for Wine Origin’s “Celebrate the Grape” Sweepstakes. The three randomly-selected winners were awarded trips to some of the world’s most famous winemaking regions — Champagne, Porto and Jerez. “We are thrilled that so many American consumers understand that when it comes to wine, there is no ingredient more important than location,” said Shannon Hunt, director of the Center for Wine Origins. “As Americans become more and more interested in wine, they are discovering that names like Champagne, Port and Sherry are more than just styles of wine. They are specific places where unique soil, climate, terrain and winemaking traditions combine to produce wines that simply cannot be replicated. As the winners travel to the regions, they will get to see first-hand what a difference location makes.” The three winners: Jaime Benrey of San Diego, CA, Melinda Rosenberg of Rocky Hill, Conn, Zipporah Sandler of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The Center for Wine Origins was founded by the regions of Champagne, Porto and Jerez in 2005 to promote the importance of location when it comes to wine and help protect the names of these famous wines, which are misused on wine labels in the U.S. For more information: www.wineorgins.com

THE OCEANAIRE SEAFOOD ROOM OPENS IN MARIE BRICKELL VILLAGE, DOWNTOWN MIAMI
A newcomer to the Downtown, across from Perricone’s and Provençal Grill is the 290-seats The Oceanaire Seafood Room, the 12th restaurant of Minneapolis-based The Oceanaire, Inc., and the first to open in Florida – the second will be in Orlando. Proprietors/partners are GM Kevin Amiott and Executive Chef Sean Bernal -- who worked with Chef Robbin Hass at Baleen on Grove Isle, before being chef de cuisine at the J.W. Marriott in Downtown Miami, Executive Chef at Tambo Restaurant in South Beach and lately Executive Chef at Pescado Restaurant in Coral Gables where he made a mark with his creative Latin-Asian styled cuisine.
In the gleaming kitchen, the culinary team headed by executive chef Sean Bernal includes Sous Chef Kareem Anguin and Sous Chef Anthony Hoff, all graduates of Johnson & Wales University.
The ocean liner décor with polished woods, a wine wall, a cocktail lounge and a well-furbished raw bar is an appropriate setting for a fish-driven menu, with fresh seafood and fish flown daily from all over the world as well as from local waters.
“We’re at the mercy of the oceans,” says Chef Bernal whose sizeable menu will change daily- in some cases, even by the hour, according the day’s catch. In addition to an Oyster Bar selection ($1.95 per unit), and a grand shellfish platter ($69 for the table), the long list of appetizers includes Peruvian ceviches and tiraditos ($12 to $18), steamed mussels with chorizo ($14.95); escargots Bourgogne-style ($8.95); jumbo shrimp cocktail and crab cakes ($14). Soups and salads ($4.50 to $9.95) list New England clam chowder, cream of boniato; watercress and avocado salad and BLT salad.
Fish is served either simply grilled, broiled, sauteed, steamed or fried when it is not in the Specialties Section ($18 to $32) like Dungeness Crab Louis; seafood stew a la Cubana; spear-caught hogfish “a la Chorillana;” Churrasco and crab “salmorejo;” or Hawaiian yellowfin tuna. Steakhouse items ($29 to $36) list 24 oz. cowboy steak ribeye; 24 oz. Colorado lamb chops; 10 oz. filet mignon; pork chops and grilled Bell & Evans Farms chicken. Desserts (4.95 to $7.95) are all huge portions of steakhouse dessert fare. The extensive wine list offers over 30 wines by the glass.
The Oceanaire Seafood Room is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11 a.m to 5 p.m.; and dinner Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m.., Friday and Saturday till 11 p.m., and on Sunday till 9 p.m. 900 South Miami Avenue, 305-372-8862

GEMMA, NEW LOUNGE ON LINCOLN ROAD, SOUTH BEACH
Gemma, gem in Italian, has recently opened on the second floor above the Italian restaurant Rosinella, one of the first restaurants opening on Lincoln Road in 1995 that is still in business. It is the brainchild of Miami Beach restaurateurs Tonino Donio and his brothers Paolo, Roberto and Luciano. The Donios, who opened the Sport Café on Washington Avenue in 1993, Rosinella on Lincoln Road in 1995 and a second Rosinella in downtown Miami in 1998 have gone one notch up with Gemma. The 128-seat lounge, accessible by staircase or elevator, glows with romantic chandeliers and subdued candlelight as contemporary jazz music plays and old black and white movies flicker on a screen, while the 48-seat outdoor terrace enables guests to people watch on busy Lincoln Road below. The Donios spared no effect: wooden floors, dark wood columns, artwork, intimate areas with ottomans and one-of-a-kind coffee tables are a warm setting for a mahogany bar serving liquors, wine and Champagne by the glass or by the bottle. Gemma is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 4 p.m. till closing. 529 Lincoln Road, second floor (above Rosinella Ristorante). 305-53-GEMMA (43662).


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