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On December 11, after eight and a half exciting years, Marc Ehrler, the Executive Chef who opened the Loews Hotel Miami Beach, will be moving to The Loews Vantana Canyon in Tucson Arizona. As the Executive Chef there, he will be overlooking the Vantana Room, a 5 AAA diamond restaurant. It is a corporate office transfer to which Chef Ehrler responded with pleasure: “It’s the first time in my life I’ve stayed anywhere more than 8 years. I will miss all the relationships I have here in Miami, but, it’s what chefs do: we kind of have to move once in a while.” Chef Ehrler will return to Miami for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, February 22 to 25, especially for the Saturday February 24 Tribute Dinner to Michelin three-star chef Eric Ripert and partner Maguy Le Coze of Le Bernardin, a prepared by Daniel Boulud (Daniel, New York), Laurent Gras (Formerly of Fifth Floor, San Francisco), Elena Arzak (Restaurante Arzak), Marc Ehrler (Loews Miami Beach), Tony Esnault (Alain Ducasse at the Essex House), and Le Bernardin’s own pastry chef Michael Laiskonis.

Lalo Durazo the owner of the popular Jaguar Latam Grill in Coconut Grove, has opened Mari Nalli Gourmet Quesadillas, a 50-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant where Café Buon Giorno used to be. The Chef is Robert Schwartz, formerly of The Palm, and the house manager is Rodrigo Hernandez, of Jaguar.
The concept for a self service restaurant “similar to Starbucks’”, is Mr. Durazo’s who came up with the idea “ to create an flavorful and healthy fast-food option for people who don’t have a lot of time and money but want to have an enjoyable meal in a comfortable and cozy environment.” Quesadillas come in 24 different options from the flavors of the world with prices ranging from $4.60 to $8.25 for meals such as Chicken Beijing Quesadilla, with garlic, ginger, soy, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro and jack cheese with chopped roasted peanuts; Italian-style lemon rosemary chicken with grilled zucchini, mozzarella and parmesan cheese; or Shrimp and portobello mushroom, mozzarella, spinach, sundried tomatoes and fresh basil. There’s a Parisian Quesadilla with brie cheese, asparagus, tomatoes and basil, and, of course Mexican quesadillas with chicken breast and roasted poblano peppers, tomatillo salsa and jack and manchego cheeses. All quesadillas are made from homemade flour tortillas, freshly backed on the premise.
Mari Nalli serves wines and beers by the bottle and glass, and throughout December will offer a free glass of wine with dinner. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 2271 Ponce Leon, (corner of Giralda), 305-648-0688.

Karma, an Asian cuisine and Far East inspired décor 130-seat restaurant with Asian lanterns, dark red textured walls painted with Chinese symbols, and a multitude of Indonesian and Chinese Buddha statues, has recently opened in Coral Gables, as a partnership between nightlife impresario Shawn Shahnazi, and Executive chef/co-owner Michael Schukar.
The cuisine is a blend of traditional Chinese cuisine and classic sushi incorporating French and Asian influences that Chef Shukar, who first honed his skills at Café TuTuTango, brings from his former training in Beijing, China, at PF Chang’s restaurants, and as executive chef at Tatu at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. "We prepare our dishes using classic Chinese and Japanese cooking techniques and fresh seasonal ingredients that are flown-in from all over the world," explained Schukar.
The menu with dishes meant-to-be-shared begins with appetizers ($6-$14) such as traditional botan ebi – a jumbo sweet shrimp served with black caviar and tempura shrimp heads as well as exotic wild mushroom gyoza with soy citrus sauce. Sushi ($8-$14) includes Karma roll, Hawaiian big eye tuna, crab, shrimp tempura and avocado drizzled with sweet soy. Schukar’s specialty are wok creations ($14-$25) like udon cashew chicken with Chinese vegetables and Japanese udon noodles, and Hong Kong pan-fried noodles with chicken, shrimp and Chinese vegetables served over a crispy noodle pancake.
Pan Asian dishes list a wok-seared New York stripfinished with Champagne kimchee sauce and tempura vegetables; charred rare Hawaiian Big Eye tuna sashimi with goat cheese sushi, soy mustard and classic beurre blanc. Desserts ($4-$12) include decadent banana caramel egg rolls, fresh ginger ice cream and Thai doughnuts. Among Karma’s exotic cocktails ($9-$14) the fiery Scorpion Bowl – a large fish bowl cocktail for two with rum and fruit juices, topped with a dose of blazing Bacardi 151; a Polynesian martini with kiwi, strawberries, papaya and mango-infused vodka; and Yuzu margarita. The bar offers a selection of chilled sakes, an assortment of Asian beers and an extensive wine list with selections available by the bottle and glass.
Karma is open for lunch and dinner Monday - Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Friday till midnight; for dinner only on Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to midnight; and is closed on Sunday. 2325 Galiano Street, Coral Gables. (305) 445-2293.

After almost a century as a family-owned business which witnessed and contributed to the development of Miami, Gardner’s Markets has closed a deal selling out all its stores to Farm Stores who will take over gradually. “It is a good thing for the company,” according to co-owner Elizabeth Adams. Two of her children will continue running the stores for Farm Stores, who, according to Ms. Adams, “will keep all the traditions that we started and will add business smarts and funding."

Alejandro Ortiz, the young cellarmaster who opened the wine cellars at the multi-million dollar hotel Setai in Miami Beach, is leaving the job to start his own wine exporting and consulting company I.O. Concepts LLC based in Miami: “We are already exporting American wines to Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Hong Kong,” he said. . The position of Cellarmaster at the Setai South Beach goes to longtime sommelier Sergio Caceres. The Heritage House wine program will pass over to the hotel’s general manager; Mr. Marco Perry. Mr. Ortiz reveled in innovation; “ thinking outside the box,” educating the consumers by serving wines from boutique, and unknown wineries. The Setai, South Beach, 2001 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach (305) 520-6000


After a stint at Casa Casuarina in South Beach and several months of absence, Sebastien Verrier is back as restaurant manager and head sommelier at Palme d’Or at the Biltmore Hotel. Best of all, he is working again with chef Philippe Ruiz on menus paired with wines. “We’ve known each other and have been working together for over eight years, so I’m happy he’s back. So are our clients. With Sebastien, there’s a better coordination between wines and menus at Palme d’Or,” said Chef Ruiz.
The menu, sold in “ three plates” ($42); “four plates” ($56) and “ five plates” ($70), lists soups and mousselines such as Pumpkin soup with smoked Maine lobster fricassee; greens, beignets – green asparagus beignets with remoulade foam - and terrines such as the Hudson Valley foie gras terrine with tropical fruit chutney on brioche toast; tropical dishes including a trio of ceviches; Crustaceans, mollusks and fin fish like the goujonette or fingerlings of pine nut crusted turbot fillet with roasted asparagus and saffron mussel beurre blanc; and Grilled, braised and seared like venison; stuffed guinea fowl supreme; grilled rack of lamb or stuffed rabbit saddle with wild mushroom and potato mousseline.
Chef Ruiz is to be honored as Chevalier du Merite Agricole, one of the highest awards bestowed by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, for excellence in representing French culture and gastronomy in the US. The award ceremony will be held December 27, from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Palme d’Or Restaurant, Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. For more information call Gaby: 305-445-8066, ext. 2090

Ideas, a 60-seat restaurant where Il Tulipano briefly bloomed, decorated in light beiges and warm yellows, with a Chef’s table and an open kitchen, is the creation of Jose Luis Esteve. The menu is traditional and contemporary Spanish. The chef, Alvaro Beade, a native of Valladolid, Spain, is keen on using modern culinary techniques and technology with fine, fresh ingredients to achieve a style of food with unique and intense flavors. The menu will list specialties such as “Cochinillo Confitado,” “Judiones de la Granja,” “Chuletón a la Brasa,” traditional ‘tapas’ to be shared at the table, as well as an assortment of fresh Mediterranean fish and shellfish imported from Spain daily. In addition to an a la carte menu, there is a three course executive menu ($19.95 per person -- does not include tax or gratuity) that changes daily.
Ideas is open for lunch from Monday through Friday from 12pm – 3pm, and dinner from Monday through Thursday from 7pm – 10:30pm and Friday through Saturday from 7pm – 11:30pm. Ideas Restaurant, 2833 Bird Rd., Coconut Grove. 305. 567. 9074

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