One of the interesting things about the holidays is that the traditions surrounding them can be so enjoyable, and oftentimes so delicious, that even the most staunch atheist can feel hesitant to completely abandon them. Even those who still identify with a particular religion can often forgo the rituals, services, and prayers associated with certain holidays but will definitely embrace the gift exchanges, parties, and most definitely the food. I’m certain that not everyone has been making sacrifices for Lent. Many Catholics have probably forgotten that Palm Sunday was this past weekend, many more will be observing Holy Week as just another week, and there are probably quite a few who don’t plan on going to church this coming Sunday. Nevertheless, many self-identifying Christians will probably be making plans to enjoy an Easter meal this weekend. Along with the warmer weather our northern compatriots hope to experience, our recent “spring forward” to which many of us are still adjusting also marks an unofficial start to “the brunch season.” Sure, we enjoy leisurely al fresco brunches all the time in South Florida, but brunch never seems as mandatory as it does during one of the Spring’s most brunch-friendly holidays, Easter. In case you have yet to make plans for this weekend, here are a few of Joonbug’s suggestions for restaurants serving up Easter brunch in South Florida:
Being a Miami native but a Fort Lauderdale resident can be tough. For a long time I found myself traveling down to the 305 every chance I got to hang out, attend cultural events, and most importantly, eat. After a while I started to discover that while not quite the cultural hot pot that is Miami, Broward county does have its fair share of cool places, especially authentic Asian restaurants. What Fort Lauderdale seems to have been lacking until recently is the “cool” factor that Miami has been swimming in for as long as I can remember, although that seems to be changing, especially in the restaurant scene. Face it: for as awesome as Miami is, if you don’t live there it can be a hassle driving down (or up) every single weekend...take it from someone with experience. In the case of Fort Lauderdale, it seems as if the 954’s sophisticated gourmands are wanting to stay a little close to home, and restaurant’s like d.b.a./cafe are catering to that crowd - as well as the curious visitor - with a chic ambiance, a passion for great food, and unique events like a brown bag wine tasting where diners bring their favorite bottle of wine for a blind tasting with other diners’ favorites and picks from sommelier Michael Lynch.
Each participant is expected to bring a bottle of wine in a concealed bag, which they leave at the bar for the staff to pour. The event is free and there is no corkage fee, with the bottle of wine serving as each guest’s “cover charge” to the tasting. The larger and more diverse the crowd, the more interesting the selection goes, and it’s a sure fire way to get an exciting and eclectic selection of wines rather than just have a single sommelier curate a tasting. For foodies, perhaps the best part of d.b.a./cafe’s brown bag wine tasting is the opportunity to savor Chef Steve Zobel’s globally-inspired menu showcasing his classical French background. Dishes reflect Chef Zobel’s diverse culinary imagination with dishes like an small plate of oyster stew with vermouth cream and bacon, fresh pastas, and a unique take on chicken and waffles that replaces the waffle with a funnel cake.
The brown bag wine tasting begins tonight, January 9th, at 6:30 PM and will occur every Wednesday evening promising to make this a Fort Lauderdale tradition for wine lovers and foodies, alike.
2364 North Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305
Outside of Mexico, there are probably fewer people in the world who are as in love with Mexican cuisine (or an interpretation of it) as Americans. One never quite realizes just how good we have it in the States when it comes to finding tasty Mexican or Tex-Mex food until one travels to Europe where the difference between a wrap and a burrito isn’t quite as understood as it is here. Our approach to Mexican cuisine has also changed considerably as our culture has begun to embrace bolder flavors, and today’s foodies demand authenticity. While we still love our cheesy, sour cream-laden, Tex-Mex #3 combo specials, a lot of restaurants - even those owned and operated by gringos - are incorporating more and more authentic Mexican flavors and techniques into their menus, and even more restaurants are elevating Mexican cuisine to a level of sophistication previously unseen. Dennis Max’s new Boca Raton restaurant, The Mexican Cocina & Tequila Bar, has managed to bring diners a unique combination of bold, authentic flavors paired with creative innovation and the familiar flavors that we, as Americans, know and love from Mexican cuisine. The result is a restaurant that offers a fun, uninhibited ambiance with great food that teases and plays with your palate in very exciting ways.
The Local House is a new restaurant located inside the Sense Hotel on Ocean Drive. Upon entering the restaurant, patrons are greeted with warm, welcoming colors and a modern décor, reminiscent of local Miami culture and design. When we visited, we opted for outside seating to enjoy the gorgeous South Beach weather and ambiance. This delightful restaurant was abuzz with lively patrons enjoying brunch with unlimited mimosas and culinary treats prepared by their exceptional chef, Guily Booth. The menu offers a variety of delicious, affordable tapas-style plates, making it very difficult to decide. We sampled a variety of small plates that included the Local Ceviche, Melon Citrus Salad, Bacon-wrapped Dates, Goat Cheese Croquettes, and Octopus Carpaccio. The Local Ceviche is made with grouper, red onion, cilantro, and choclo, a starchy variety of corn from South America. The grouper offered a meaty bite and was perfectly flavored with fresh ingredients, making it a great take on traditional ceviche. The Melon Citrus Salad offered more mellow flavors and was composed of assorted melon balls with feta, limejuice, and mint. The Bacon-wrapped dates were a sweet and salty treat, although a delectable spicy guava sauce and a topping ofpea shoots that accompanied the Goat Cheese Croquettes made a bold statement. These little bites of heaven proved to us that goat cheese and guava should always go together. The Octopus Carpaccio was topped with a creamy sauce, crunchy capers, diced tomatoes, a chorizo “dust”, arugula, and orange slices. The chorizo dust gave this dish a salty flavor without the overpowring heaviness that is usually associated with eating sliced chorizo. The orange slices brought a welcome bit of freshness.
This week is all about Art Basel, and Joonbug Miami is making sure that all you foodie “Baselers” are well fed and well hydrated. Between a long day of day of gazing at modern art and hitting up the countless parties and events that the evening has to offer, be sure to stop by Meat Market on Lincoln Road for some specially crafted Art Basel cocktails made with Dom Ruinart, the official champagne of Art Basel. Only short walk from the main exhibit at the Miami Beach Convention center, the ever-chic and bustling steakhouse is the perfect place to refresh yourself and possibly meet some the art world’s hottest names.
Lest we forget about art of the culinary kind during Art Basel week, Sushi Samba will be manning a popup version of their Lincoln Road hotspot in the heart of some of the most exciting satellite fairs. Occupying the former Sustain space in the shops of Midtown, SUSHISAMBA’s SAMBAPOP will be only steps away from such fairs as Art Asia, Art Miami, and Context, as well as a short distance from many others. From now until Sunday, December 9th, SAMBAPOP will be serving “Baselers” their unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian flavors that have made the SUSHISAMBA brand a mainstay on South Beach. With the announcement of its new chef, Brian Nasajon, SAMBAPOP will be the perfect opportunity for both local and visiting art aficionados to sample the new chef’s creative offerings, as well as many favorites.
Three new restaurants are debuting in South Beach this December, and two of them not only carry pedigrees to get excited over but are also suggesting that perhaps Miami Beach is becoming America’s newest - and most stylish - Little Italy. SoBe has been attracting models, artists, and entrepreneurs from Italy ever since their paesano, Gianni Versace, put the southernmost part of Miami Beach on the map, and the resulting migration is making South Beach a veritable mecca for Italian-from-Italy cuisine representing everywhere from Sicily and Sardinia to Piedmont and Venezia. The other restaurant, while Italian by way of its designer from Bologna, is a departure from the pizzas and pastas of the other two and promises to offer a farm-to-table concept with an international flair. Just in time for Art Basel!
Every year, autumn brings foodies of all manner wonderful things from persimmons and Asian pears to Beaujolais Nouveau and Thanksgiving Day. Not least among them, of course, is the beginning of white truffle season. The rare specialty from the Alba region of Italy is perhaps one of the most coveted ingredients in fine dining this time of the year, and db Bistro Moderne is not only marking the start of the glorious season but also celebrating it in full force. On November 28th, diners can experience the incomparable magic that this fungus evokes with a multicourse white truffle dinner hosted by none other than the celebrated Michelin starred chef, Daniel Boulud.
As a child, the requisite Fourth of July excursion to Bayfront Park any Miami youngster makes was always highlighted by glimpses of the massive tower of the Intercontinental hotel glowing against the lights of the fireworks display. It was the place where important people stayed, important conferences took place, and when I turned fifteen, it became the place where important, adult lunches occurred. The Intercontinental Hotel is still all of that, and it continues to be a landmark part of Miami’s skyline. However, time had brought change to Miami’s lodging landscape in the shape of new luxury hotels bearing the signatures of important designers like Philippe Starck and Kelly Wearstler, and while the monolith building is still impressive on the outside, it was time for the Intercontinental to go through a bit of a makeover to remain relevant the increasingly discerning travelers who come to Miami. The travertine floors and columns, as well as the lobby’s abstract sculpture centerpiece, remain intact, but new high-tech design accents that play on light and color have given the Intercontinental a brand new vitality. As many hotels are now returning to the idea of the hotel restaurant being a formidable dining destination and not just a convenience to hotel guests, the Intercontinental has also replaced its former restaurant with a pan-Latin restaurant concept from Chef Richard Sandoval called Toro Toro, and the new restaurant can be seen as the defining touch of the Intercontinental’s new vibe.
It might not be the same for everyone, but in my experience, Thanksgiving is that very special holiday when some of the worst cooks consider themselves to be award-winning chefs. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been a victim of such atrocities as a coleslaw-ambrosia salad combination, an unnaturally colored cool whip and graham cracker crumb dessert, or a casserole so replete with cream, butter, cheese, and bacon that it constitutes one’s allowable fat intake for the entire year. Trying to dissuade these mad scientists turned amateur cooks from contributing to your Thanksgiving feast can quickly become an ugly scene with all the crying, fighting, and emotion of a 90’s talk show. Trying to trick yourself into making your relative’s multicolored congealed salad into a suitable side dish for your chestnut and morel stuffed bird has proven futile...and quite ridiculous. The only solution to make everyone happy is to leave the cooking to the professionals this Thanksgiving and going to a restaurant. If your ideal Turkey Day is one in which there are no dishes to wash and you’re not stuck with a week’s worth of leftovers, then you should definitely check out Joonbug’s recommendations for restaurants offering some of the best Thanksgiving dinners in South Florida this year.