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.
Food trucks appear to be a hot item these days. I am a fan of the concept of the food trucks, if not the execution. I’ve been to several of them, starting with one of the pioneers, Latin Burger, which was a major disappointment in taste (or, more correctly, lack thereof) and price (which seemed exorbitant for somewhere with significantly lower overhead costs). I thought that the over-hyped, mediocre food and hefty price were just characteristic fo Latin Burger until I went to a couple of food truck roundups - one of them being BTTR held every Tuesday - and discovered that rather than being the exception, this was pretty much the rule amongst many if not most of the food trucks in South Florida. On first visiting BTTR with a friend, I was shocked at how at the end of the evening we had spent almost $80 between both of us, which was more than we would spend going to a restaurant to eat. Correct me if I have the wrong idea, but isn’t the whole point of a food truck to conveniently provide good food for cheap? Food trucks basically fall into the category of street food, and street food throughout the world is known and loved for being cheap, tasty, and offering certain specialties not found in restaurants. With a few exceptions, my food truck experiences in South Florida have found that most food trucks are lacking in at least two of these factors, which explains why many individuals from cultures with rich street food traditions scoff at this food truck fad of ours.
Many people will emphasize that the majority of these food trucks are “gourmet” food trucks, so the prices run in correlation to the quality. Tell that to the person paying $8 for just one slider. Sure, it contains duck, but considering that for the same price I’ve had a platter of duck at a Chinese restaurant just down the street that was much more flavorful, I hardly think that some duck meat inside a commercially made bun is worth that price tag. Enthusiasts also state that you’re given an opportunity to sample a chef’s cuisine at a fraction of the cost of going to a restaurant. However, these enthusiasts seem to be blind to the idea that, considering what you get, these “gourmet” food trucks seem to be earning a much larger profit margin than many restaurants. The overhead is significantly lower, but the markup seems to stay roughly the same. What makes this realization particularly unsettling is that the food seldom justifies the price. Only a couple of the food trucks that I’ve sampled warrant a second visit, and hardly any would have me checking tweets for their next location.
The other issue I take with many of the food trucks is the lack of individuality or novelty. Go to any food truck gathering, and you’ll get dizzy from the redundancy: gringos selling bland tacos, burger trucks, grilled cheese sandwiches, sliders, and artificially-flavored shaved ice. When I know authentic Mexican restaurants that sell real tacos for a fraction of what the gringos charge and am aware of the fact that I can go to a gourmet burger joint and sit down to a burger and fries for the same price I’d pay to stand outside in the heat, I hardly see the point in frequenting some of these food trucks. Isn’t street food supposed to be something other than what you could find at any restaurant? Unfortunately, too many of the food trucks that do try something innovative seem to fail in the execution of such innovations, leading me to believe that food trucks can be seen as the blogs of the gastronomic world - democratic in that they grant both talented individuals and the utterly clueless low-cost exposure and recognition. Even when the innovations are well-executed, rendering a satisfyingly tasty dish, the prices are still much too high for what is offered. Likewise, food trucks that have decided to serve up tried-and-true street foods charge more than what would be considered reasonable for what is served, especially considering that the same thing could be had at a nearby ethnic neighborhood for a fraction of the cost in an establishment that has a higher overhead, thus bringing us back to the issue of feeling cheated and getting less than what you paid for.
That being said, are these “gourmet” food trucks missing the point of what a food truck should be? From my experiences, I would say yes...at least many of them. There are still a handful of food trucks that, although not necessarily offering what you’d pay in Mexico City or Bangkok, are still worth the money for both the quality and quantity you get. Maybe many of the other food trucks need to take some lessons from the real pioneers of mobile food in South Florida: the Colombian perro carts, the traveling barbecue smokers and jerk trucks along 79th street, the roadside sugarcane juice vendor in Little Haiti, the downtown hot dog carts, the legendary Filipino food truck at the Port of Miami, the old man selling Cuban tamales in Southwest Miami, the produce trucks in many Latin neighborhoods, and others that seem to be left out South Florida’s contemporary food truck consciousness.
Every year, over a billion Muslims throughout the world take part in a fast during the month of Ramadan, in which they are prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking,having sexual intercourse with their partners, or even brushing their teeth during daylight hours. Besides the observance a strict 30-day fast, Ramadan is also a time of charity and meditation, and it is customary for devout Muslims to recite the entire Qur’an, the Islamic holy book, during this month. In Muslim countries, all restaurants and many businesses are closed during daylight hours, and since the entire nation is taking part in the same fast, it is a collective effort. Muslims in the United States, however, have the added challenge of living in a society where life carries on as normal during Ramadan. The hard work has finally paid off as today is Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan and is celebrated with great occasion and, of course, fantastic food.
Considering that Islam has been spread throughout much of the world, the foods that Muslims would be partaking in could be as varied as Middle Eastern shawarma, a Moroccan tajine, Indonesian rijstafels, or even Southern fried chicken. One region, in particular, where the Muslim community has developed a mouth-watering cuisine all there own is in the Indian Subcontinent. Unlike the majority Hindu population, which is vegetarian and considers the cow to be holy, Muslims in India and South Asia are avid meat-eaters and had developed some of the finest curries, stews, and rice dishes containing goat, lamb, and beef. Most of these dishes are traditional eaten in Pakistan and Hyderabad, a city in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, which was a historical Muslim stronghold.
On Sunday, September 4th, Bombay Grill, one of the best India buffets in South Florida, will be offering a Grand Eid Buffet featuring many Pakistani/Hyderabadi specialties. Not to be missed is the Nihari, consisting in a beef shank slowly cooked overnight in a rich and spicy sauce described to me by a Pakistani friend as being the one dish in which you keep ordering more naan (flatbread) to soak up every last drop. Additionally, Bombay Grill will be offering varied biryanis, halal Indo-Chinese dishes (try the chicken manchurian!), a live kebab station, and a live chaat (snacks) corner serving up favorites such as pani puris and bhel puri. Live entertainment will also be provided, making Bombay Grill’s Grand Eid Buffet a not-to-be-missed experience for Pakistani food aficionados.
Old-world Havana, churned with leather-cushioned speakeasy and a dash of contemporary chic. This is the recipe Chef Michelle Bernstein conjures for the decor of Sra. Martinez in Miami - her take on tapas. The restaurant is housed within the historic walls of a 1920’s post office, already tipping its hat off to the Design District in which it resides. Passing the umbrella-d patio seating and stepping into the dim bi-level, lofty space, you are ready to nestle into one of
When any Miami native thinks of Cuban cuisine, the first thing that typically comes to mind is your abuela’s cooking: salty, hearty, yet comforting and familiar. OYE Cuban grill is a small family-run Cuban-American hybrid with a big personality. They aim to serve family-inspired recipes tailored to the American lifestyle. American capitalism lends itself to hundreds of variations of Cuban restaurants, and we are happy to report that in the saturated Cuban restaurant market of Miami, OYE Cuban Grill is a cut above the rest. Our evening began when we entered the establishment. Immediately your eyes are drawn to the large sign at the entrance directing you to the full service tables on the left or to the “express-lane” on the right, a welcomed service in our fast-paced world. Their bright red shirts easily identify OYE’s enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, as they warmly greet you at the door and ask you about your choice in dining experience. We opted for outdoor, pet-friendly table seating. For those wary of the famous Miami heat, never fear, they are well equipped with enough fans to provide for comfort. Our wonderful waiter, Luciano, enthusiastically informed us about all of the drink selections. Given the casual dining ambiance, both of us opted for selections from their exciting craft beer menu. Don’t be fooled by the name, the Sweaty Betty is incredibly refreshing!
Sushi is a Japanese dish of cooked vinegar flavored rice lined with seaweed and stuffed with an array of ingredients from vegetables to seafood that is then rolled into a log and sliced into several pieces. In the last decade sushi has rapidly become an American favorite. What could be better than going out to eat sushi? How about learning how to make sushi at home?
Beginning August 13, 2011, China Grill Fort Lauderdale Marina will offer a Sake, Maki, and Roll sushi school on the second Saturday of each month. Students will participate in a class that combines tasting, teaching, and preparation. Instruction will given on the art of sushi making accompanied by a tasting of five Ty-Ku sakes and liqueurs paired with signature selections from the restaurant. Students will also learn the basics for at-home sushi preparation with hands-on sushi rolling instruction given by Executive Sushi Chef Songphon Rawangphan. As an added treat, guests will receive a take-home gift. Attending Sake, Maki, and Roll sushi school is a fun alternative to a typical Saturday afternoon, and the variety of activities and interactive lessons make the class an impressive event to attend with your friends and/or love interest.