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The glamorous OLA Steak, in the space formerly occupied by Pescado, has brought some pizzazz to the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables. The 260 seat indoor/outdoor restaurant with a champagne bar and a charming terrace -- completely designed by Patrician Rothman and Gary Thomas Kelley of Distinctive Designs -- is Doug Rodriguez's second in Miami (the first is Ola Miami in the Biscayne Corridor) in partnership with Ed and Bryan Lieberman.
The upscale Latin steakhouse signals Chef Rodriguez's comeback to Coral Gables, where he first made waves at the original Yuca restaurant then owned by Efrain Veiga.
The menu focuses on steaks: from certified natural grass-fed Uruguayan wet-aged beef ($24 for a 12oz. sirloin, $32 for churrasco and a 14 oz. filet mignon) to 21-day aged Black Angus beef (two-pound porterhouse for sharing: $64; 12 oz rib eye: $29). All steaks are served with three house sauces: chimichurri, tamarind panka pepper and spicy Peruvian Huacatay, as well as side sauces including Black Truffle Chimichurri ($7) and Foie Gras Escabeche ($12); and sides such as Fondue Malanga Purée ($5) and Mofongo green plantain in garlic mash ($5).
To please everyone, there are chicken and Latin-flavored fish entrées like sugar cane tuna with three bean gratin ($29); Sudado de Corvina in Coconut Milk with hearts of palm fries ($26); a 14 oz veal rib chop with sweetbread sauce ($24) and a vegetarian mushroom morcilla (traditionally a blood-sausage) with black truffle chimichurri ($19) . For starters empanaditas ($5 to $16) vie for attention with tart ceviches ($13 to $24). Hearty peasant soups, served with a delicious Colombia-style pan de bono, are typical to different Latin American countries ($9 to $13); salads include prosciutto-wrapped date-stuffed endives, avocado tempura and jumbo lump crab salad ($14); appetizers and side dishes ($6 to $9) run the gamut from yucca hash browns to mampostiado red beans and papas criolla with truffle butter. Desserts, inventive and irresistible range from the beguiling Texturas de Coco ($9) and the mango glazed cheese cake Pastel de Queso ($9); to the Chocolate Soufflé topped with a deep chocolate sauce ($11).
OLA Steak is open daily for dinner from 5:30 p.m. till closing and is slated to open for lunch on May 2. 320 San Lorenzo Ave., Village of Merrick Park, Coral Gables. Reservations: (305) 461-4442.

Literature's always been considered food for the mind and books have been yummy enough to sink your teeth in… Now at The Café @ Books & Books you can do even better than that: you can buy your book and read it while you're having a tasty meal. The popular Miami Beach bookstore has expanded to a 30 seats indoor/ 50 seat outdoor Café with a full kitchen in the adjacent space on Lincoln Road, first opened by Jonathan Eismann of Pacific Time. "It's the first time we have a real kitchen. It's exciting," said Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan. "What we're trying to do is provide good food and a good environment in a part of the bookstore," he stressed.
Sheer poetic justice: Kaplan picked chef Bernard "Bernie" Matz, who co-founded Wet Paint Cafe in '86 in the space that is now Pacific Time! Matz is also the author of the cookbook "Bernie's Kitchen: New South Florida Cuisine," thanks to which he caught Mitch Kaplan's attention. "The last thing on my mind was to open a restaurant," said Bernie Matz, who gave chef Doug Rodriguez his first job at the Wet Paint Café 20 years ago, "before he went to work at Yuca and made history… But when Mitch asked me, I jumped on the offer," admitted Matz -- who has also designed the menu at the Coral Gables store with Martin Bates as manager.
"The menu at Café at Books & Books is casual, non-pretentious but high-quality fusion cuisine from the recipes from Bernie's Vegetarian-style and low-carb recipes and my other books,"explained Matz. Healthy sandwiches ($5.95 to $7.95), freshly made salads ($9.95 to $13.95), panini ($8), and an after-five menu with plates such as "The vegetarian"($8.95); Tropical ceviche ($9.95); Burgers ($8 to $11); Chichen fajita wrap ($8.95) or grilled vegetable platter ($8.95) are served family-size portions for 2 to 4 people by a well-trained staff headed by Joe, the former head-waiter at The Forge. There is an espresso bar, and a good list of wines and beers. The Café at Books & Books is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and till 12 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 933 Lincoln Rd., South Beach . 305-695-8898.
The Café at Books & Books is open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. 265 Aragon, Coral Gables, 305-443-4408

When Cuban-born Corina Mascaro and Celeste de Armas met in college - both hold an MBA from Indiana University - they became fast friends around food and the dining room table. Little did they know that they would one day create Nueva Cocina, a line of Latin dried food products that is now sold in Publix, Whole Foods and Fresh Markets in South Florida, and is slated to be in
store shelves in Chicago and the North East soon . After graduating, Ms. De Armas held several key positions at Carnation, General Mills and Nestlé USA, and before embarking on Nueva Cocina she was COO of FBP Inc., a Miami-based multi-million dollar chilled food company. Ms. Mascaro has a vast background in commercial banking and is a passionate cook. "As demand for authentic and new Latin food continues to grow, our 100% natural products - with no additives or artificial colorings -- aim to provide healthy and nutritious solutions," claims Ms. Mascaro. Together, they've developed products with all the Latino ingredients: vegetables, spices and herbs needed to create authentic homemade dishes "with real sofrito, real Valencia rice and Spanish saffron,"says Mascaro . Nueva Cocina's products include beef and chicken seasonings (approximately $1.29) also suited to meat substitutes; five different types of rice dishes and paellas (approximately $3.65), and is planning a line of prepared frozen dishes. Nueva Concina Inc., 2124 NE 123 St., Suite 213. Miami. 305-891-9909.

Scott Uehlein, the corporate chef for Canyon Ranch Health Resorts and SpaClubs will open Canyon Ranch Café on the 6-acre oceanfront site of The Carillon Hotel, a late 50s MiMo historic hotel (purchased at $120,000,000 in 1996)which has been closed since 1987.
In collaboration with Canyon Ranch Living and WSG Development Company, The Carillon Hotel will be restored by the Rockwell Group and Arquitectonica to become home to 151 guest rooms and suites as well as to the oceanfront Canyon Ranch Café, Living Essentials boutique, and the illustrious Canyon Ranch SpaClub. The Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa is planning the construction of a building to the south including 146 condomium units, and a building to the north including 237 condominium units with a total of 136 hotel rooms and 479 condominium units.
A CIA graduate, chef Uehlein has been touted by the national and international press as the " best Spa Chef in North America and the Caribbean" according to a readers'poll in Conde Nast Traveler, 2005. A cookbook author, he has made numerous appearances on Food Network, E! Entertainment and other TV shows. Canyon Ranch's cuisine will focus on nutritious gourmet food in a lush oceanfront setting. The Canyon Ranch Conservatory, surrounded by white wood slats, glass and live greenery, will offer quick meals or late-night snack. Canyon Ranch Café overlooks a reflecting pool and faces the ocean. 6801 Collins Avenue, 305-993-0030.

According to The Guardian The Fat Duck, Chef Heston Blumenthal's restaurant in the Berkshire village of Bray topped a list of the world's 50 best restaurants which was unveiled in London this past April 18. The restaurants on theTop 50 list are chosen by a panel of more than 600 chefs, food critics and restaurateurs, who considered culinary excellence, service and the overall dining experience.
The Fat Duck displaced last year's top restaurant: The French Laundry in California, into third position behind Spain's legendary El Bulli. Only six New York restaurants made the Top 50 including Thomas Keller's Per Se in seventh place and Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Jean Georges in ninth. Of the fourteen British restaurants -- including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Tom Aikens, St John, The Gallery at Sketch, Hakkasan and Nobu -- eleven of them are in London, and two - The Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn - are in Bray and Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons is in Oxford. Chef Blumenthal, whose scientific approach to creating new flavors has seen him dubbed the guru of "molecular gastronomy", creates food that is both delicious and fun, such as items figuring on Fat Duck Tasting Menu (£97.50) such as Nitro-green tea and lime mousse; Snail porridge; Sardine on toast sorbet; Salmon poached with liquorice; Pastilla of pigeon leg, pistachio, cocoa and quatre épices; White chocolate and caviar; Smoked bacon and egg ice cream; Pain perdu (French toast in the US) with tea jelly; and Leather, oak and tobacco chocolates and Praline rose tartlet.

Top 50 places to eat in 2005

1 The Fat Duck Bray, Berkshire
2 El Bulli Montjoi, Spain
3 The French Laundry Yountville, California
4 Tetsuya's, Sydney
5 Gordon Ramsay, London
6 Pierre Gagnaire, Paris
7 Per Se, New York
8 Tom Aikens, London
9 Jean Georges, New York
10 St John, London
11 Michel Bras Laguiole, France
12 Le Louis XV, Monte Carlo
13 Chez Panisse Berkeley, California
14 Charlie Trotter, Chicago
15 Gramercy Tavern, New York
16 Guy Savoy, Paris
17 Restaurant Alain Ducasse, Paris
18 The Gallery at Sketch, London
19 The Waterside Inn Bray, Berkshire
20 Nobu, London
21 Restaurante Arzak San Sebastián, Spain
22 El Raco de Can Fabes San Celoni, Spain
23 Checcino dal 1887, Rome
24 Le Meurice, Paris
25 L'Hotel de Ville Crissier, Switzerland
26 L'Arpège, Paris
27 Angela Hartnett at the Connaught, London
28 Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Oxford
29 Le Cinq, Paris
30 Hakkasan, London
31 Cal Pep, Barcelona
32 Masa, New York
33 Flower Drum, Melbourne
34 WD50, New York
35 Le Quartier Francais Franschhoek, South Africa
36 Spice Market, New York
37 Auberge de l'Ill Illhaeusern, Alsace
38 Manresa, California
39 Restaurant Dieter Muller Begisch Gladbach, Germany
40 La Maison Troisgros Roanne, France
41 The Wolseley, London
42 Rockpool, Sydney
43 Yauatcha, London
44 The Ivy, London
45 Gambero Rosso San Vincenzo, Italy
46 The Cliff St James, Barbados
47 Le Gavroche, London
48 Enoteca Pinchiorri, Florence
49 Felix, Hong Kong
50 La Tupina, Bordeaux

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