Food + Drink / Insights

Q&A: The Cypress Room's Cricket Nelson

Meet the first woman Bombay Sapphire crowned "The Most Imaginative Bartender All-Stars" winner.

August 14, 2013

Cricket Nelson won Bombay Sapphire's "Most Imaginative Bartender All-Stars" competition.

The Cypress Room’s Cricket Nelson made history at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail as the first woman to win Bombay Sapphire’s “Most Imaginative Bartender All-Stars” competition. The Miami resident’s interactive “Love Game” concoction features Bombay Sapphire East, Earl Grey tea, lemon juice, citrus bitters, Thai basil, roses, rose water, and lemon oil. Served in fine china and made for two, guests can adjust their pours with complementing lemon slices and rosebud syrup. We caught up with Nelson to about her victory and the celebrated libation.

How does it feel to be the first woman to win Bombay’s competition?
CRICKET NELSON: Amazing! While there are many women in the business, it is still very male-dominated. I love gin; I think the flavor profiles lend themselves well to feminine expression, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to represent this.

What inspired “Love Game?”
CN: When I lived in Boston, my friends and I used to go to a restaurant in Chinatown after the clubs closed. They offered “cold tea,” which was cold beer served in a stainless steel teapot. It was not on the menu, you had to be “in the know.” I always loved the secretive, speakeasy nature of this, and thought it would be great to offer a cocktail served in a similar fashion.

How has mixology evolved over time?
CN: Bartending is no longer something done while “figuring out what to be when you grow up.” It’s a profession, a lifestyle choice. There is greater respect and value for [it]; this creates an environment that encourages growth, education, creative expression, and achievement.

Favorite ingredients and why?
CN: Fresh. Local. Organic. I grew up on a farm. Growing and preparing food were an important part of my childhood, and this is definitely reflected in my craft.

By Liana Lozada


Sommelier Chat: Christopher Birnie-Visscher

What does db Bistro Moderne's newly appointed somm suggest for summer?

July 30, 2013

db Bistro Moderne sommelier Christopher Birnie-Visscher   
Christopher Birnie-Visscher  

Rising through the Daniel Boulud empire ranks from Palm Beach's Café Daniel to Miami's db Bistro Moderne, sommelier Christopher Birnie-Visscher seeks to curate a wine list "full of variety, with room for exploration." We stole time with him at a recent rosé dinner to learn a little more about him and get his wine picks for summer. 

Finding His Niche: "I ended up picking up Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly, casually reading it while I would have a glass of wine. After about two weeks, I had to put the book down—there was so much information that I wanted to research . . . I haven't stopped since."

Perfect Wines for Summer: "If you'd like something old world, you can look at a great sauvignon blanc from northern France's Loire Valley. Alsace, in eastern France near the German border, makes some great dry rieslings. Rosé is also a perfect way to go, from southern France or the Mediterranean. The torrontés grapes from Argentina are great for summertime. It is perfect as an apéritif."

Up and Coming Regions: "Southern Australia is known for their full-bodied red wines, but they are getting a lot of attention for making more cooler-climate wines. These include Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula within Victoria, which make fantastic chardonnay, pinot noir, and cool-climate shiraz. I think Brazil is creating a flow of steady, quality of wine; they have a lot of vines per acreage and a lot of foreigners are visiting to help provide quality wine."



Mangoes on Our Mind

Summer’s the time to taste this tropical fruit.

July 02, 2013

mango with stem

The orange may be the official state fruit, but Miami’s love for mango goes way back. From the annual King Mango Strut parade in Coconut Grove to Ocean Drive tourist staple Mango’s Tropical Cafe, this green-and-sunset-hued fruit has become the mascot for Miami’s idiosyncrasies.

Commemorating the mango in all its iterations, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will hold its 21st annual International Mango Festival on July 13 and 14. The weekend event is a whirlwind of mango tastings featuring more than 30 varieties from Fairchild’s own groves. Altogether, some 300 kinds of mango from around the world will be on display, all grown in the botanic garden.

The Miami-mango relationship began in the early 18th century, when pirates planted Florida’s first mango seeds (from turpentine mangoes) along the Miami River. Over time, the local environment engineered Florida’s unique brand, the Haden, discovered in Coconut Grove. Fairchild’s curator of tropical fruit, Noris Ledesma, has journeyed to Indonesia and the South Pacific examining the fruit in depth. “Florida’s mangoes are explosions of red and orange,” Ledesma says. “[The Haden] is not too sweet; it’s not too tart. It’s the mango for everybody.”

The fruit has even helped define Miami cuisine through its use in a fusion of Latin American and Southern comfort food. Today you see it expressed in items such as Florida Cookery’s Grandma Esther’s Mango Pie, and Jaguar’s Mahi-Mahi Mango-Verde and Mambo-Mango Salad. You go, mango. July 13 and 14, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, 10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, 305-667-1651

by jess swanson
photography by shutterstock


New Menu at The Setai Grill

Inspired by chef Mathias Gervais' childhood in southern France.

April 01, 2013

When Mathias Gervais was appointed to be executive chef of The Setai Miami Beach last year, it was the perfect opportunity to revamp the hotel’s restaurant to compete at the top of the city’s culinary boom. French-born Gervais—who at age 34 has already worked with some of the world’s top culinary talents, including chefs Joël Robuchon and Christophe Cussac—sought to offer a steakhouse menu closer to the fare he grew up with in Taradeau, a small town in Provence. This led him and chef de cuisine Thomas Griese to focus their new menu on top-quality meats, a broader incorporation of organically sourced ingredients, and the creation of more in-house sauces to enrich the dishes.

Gervais sources meats from some of the finest butchers in the country, including Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors; the restaurant is the only establishment in Miami to carry exclusive cuts from this famed New York supplier. For the ultimate dining experience, try the 60-day dry-aged 32-ounce bone-in tomahawk steak, accompanied by the Perigueux sauce made with fresh black Périgord truffles and a port wine reduction. Sides include steamed Hudson River asparagus and organic potatoes Diamant with Bretagne butter and fresh parsley.

Chef sommelier Daniel Toral, also a recent arrival at The Setai Grill, does his part to raise the bar, with an expanded global wine selection of more than 700 varieties and over 4,000 bottles. He’s also acquired an improbable rarity: a Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Gout Americaine 1907 recovered from the shipwreck of the Jönköping, a Swedish freighter that sank in the Baltic Sea in 1916, preserving the Champagne in near-perfect condition. That’s what’s known as stepping up. 2001 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-520-6400

—ken rivadeneira
photography by gary james


Sake Reaches New Heights at Zuma

A more nuanced take on sake is emerging in Miami.

March 07, 2013

The ultra-rare Kakurei Hidehiro Shinbo Daiginjo sake ($1,900).

If the only question you’ve ever asked about sake is “hot or cold,” then Sayoko Ieto would like to have a word with you. At Zuma, the hit contemporary Japanese restaurant at the Epic Hotel, she meticulously curates an ever-evolving menu of nearly 100 sakes. The dizzying selection reflects the fact that more and more Americans are being swept away by the allure of the Japanese libation, a fermented brew every bit as intricate and exhaustive in its craftsmanship and gastronomic possibilities as any wine.

“It used to be that people only cared about sake bombs,” Ieto says. “Now customers want to learn everything about it.” Indeed, Japan has seen exports of the spirit double in the last decade, with America becoming the third-largest importer worldwide. According to Ieto, what’s most impressive is our rapidly growing appreciation for tokutei meishoshu—premium sake brewed from rice that’s been polished down to less than 70 percent of its original size. It offers a purer taste than the utilitarian futsushu table sake and presents several sub-designations such as junmai (which tends to be more vigorous), honjozo (often smoother), and ginjo (which is more delicate).

And there’s some real upper-echelon stuff starting to hit our shores. There are only 300 bottles of ultra-rare Kakurei Hidehiro Shinbo Daiginjo in existence, 18 of which are in the US. Zuma is currently home to six. “I have been lucky to taste it, and I can only describe it as deeply complex yet exceptionally pure,” Ieto says. “Elegant.”

The new sake horizon can be daunting, but it’s also enticing. Ieto recommends sake flights, a tasting platter of different varieties—an experience that has become all the rage at Japanese izakaya restaurants like Zuma all over the country, and even in Japan, where younger drinkers are themselves just as new to the mysterious intricacies of sake as we are. Have fun exploring.



Small Batch Miami Club Rum

Miami Club Rum, our town’s first local liquor, hits the shelves.

January 14, 2013

Produced locally, Miami
Club Rum offers distinct
Florida flavor

You’d think with all the drinking that goes on in Miami, we would have had a distillery here long ago. Stepping up is Miami Club Rum, a relatively small-batch operation housed in Wynwood, which started production this year and is now providing 305-based white rum to establishments such as nearby Sugarcane, The Electric Pickle Company, and Wood Tavern, as well as Zuma and Abbracci. Founder and master distiller Matt Malone was inspired by his wife’s family, fifth-generation rum producers based in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. Malone’s rum is made with molasses produced with Florida sugarcane, and he adds a Miami touch: Each batch contains French oak curls and is showered with loud salsa music for 90 days—he claims the vibration releases flavor from the curls, enhancing the natural chemistry of the aging process. Tours and tastings by appointment, 2320 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-438-9994


Sushi Mikasa Flies South

Kim Kardashian’s guy pal Jonathan Cheban brings New York’s famed Sushi Mikasa south this winter.

January 07, 2013

Fluke with poached quail egg topped with truffle oil.

A family friend of the Kardashians and owner of Command PR, Jonathan Cheban adds restaurateur to his résumé with the opening of Sushi Mikasa’s Miami outpost at the Shelborne South Beach. Designed to reflect South Beach’s Art Deco past, the eatery is decked with dark teak tables and peacock-blue velvet walls. With Cheban’s glitterati connections, the restaurant is expected to lure celebs, but the true draw is sushi chef Kevin Chun, founder of Brooklyn’s original Sushi Mikasa. Chun has created a menu with both exotic flourishes and novel takes on raw fish, with specialties such as monkfish liver sautéed with butter and soy sauce; torched toro with ginger garlic sauce; and Chun’s signature Tuna Pizza (wafer topped with tuna slices and truffle sauce); as well as a bevy of raw fish, much of it flown in daily from Japan. The eatery also touts omakase-style dining, where diners sit back and let Chun orchestrate an unexpected narrative of food. Sushi Mikasa, with its New York reputation, and cast of characters, may well turn into an epicenter of Miami VIPs. And you know what they say: It’s easier to keep up than catch up. 1801 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-535-3500.

photography courtesy of Sushi Mikasa


Broken Shaker Returns

Bar Lab's Broken Shaker returns to the beach to stay.

December 17, 2012

Roy Alpert of Freehand Miami with Bar Lab’s Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta

It was with great sadness that Miamians watched the Broken Shaker, the beloved pop-up bar from Bar Lab’s Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi, close last June. Now it’s back, and for good this time, with a permanent space in the recently renovated Freehand Miami (previously Indian Creek Hotel). Opening just in time for Art Basel, Broken Shaker has kept its artisanal bar concept, with Orta and Zvi sourcing herbs from the venue’s onsite vegetable garden, created with the help of Farmer Jay Pure Organics. Beyond drinks, Broken Shaker will also offer a full-service restaurant helmed by GastroPod and Pickle People’s Jeremiah Bullfrog, slated to open in early 2013. The menu will feature modern small dishes purposely paired with handcrafted, seasonal cocktails. Other drink highlights include a variety of homemade fresh tonics, vermouth, and ginger craft beers. With these rich boozy offerings, you can celebrate a resurrection that has nothing to do with church. Freehand Miami, 2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach, 305-531-2727



Miami's Best Milkshakes

Miami’s most alluring milkshakes.

December 17, 2012

The bar at Burger & Beer Joint

Burger & Beer Joint
Part hedonistic burger house, part chic sports lounge, B&B offers an “Adult Shakes” menu frothing with liquor and decadent ice cream. Top choices include the One Minute Man with Godiva white liqueur, Kahlua, and cookies ’n’ cream ice cream; and the Spank the Monkey with rocky road ice cream, UV Cake vodka, fresh banana, and crème de banana. 1766 Bay Road, Miami Beach, 305-672-3287

The Diner at Allen’s Drugstore
Wander past the full-fledged pharmacy and watch-repair counter to a hidden 1950s diner that has maintained its old-school roots. The servers whip up rich, creamy shakes, offered in all the traditional flavors and fittingly served with whipped cream and a red Maraschino cherry on top. 4000 S. Red Road, Miami, 305-668-6556;

Glaser Organic Farms Hosting the Coconut Grove
Farmer’s Market every Saturday, Glaser Organic Farms provides guilt-free “milk” shakes for the calorie-conscious by using local coconut water and coconut meat as a dairy substitute. The vegan shakes are available in chocolate or vanilla with a choice of cashew, almond, or Brazil nuts mixed in. 3300 Grand Ave., Miami, 305-238-7747

Los Pinareños Frutería
Made of sweetened condensed milk and ice instead of ice cream, the batido is the American milkshake’s Latin cousin. This Cuban open food market on Calle Ocho offers tropical flavors such as mamey, mango, papaya, avocado, banana, and wheat. Guayaberas and free-range chickens deliver a Caribbean ambiance. 1334 Eighth St., Miami, 305-285-1135

Norman Brothers Produce
A produce market with plenty of locally grown ammo for fantastic shakes, Norman’s offers versions made with ice cream or frozen yogurt, plus a fat-free, no-sugar option. Staple menu items include strawberry, banana, and a Key lime pie milkshake twist on the old Florida classic; seasonal choices feature mango, mamey, peach, and pumpkin for those cooler days. 7621 SW 87th Ave., Miami, 305-274-9363;

Robert Is Here
What began as a roadside cucumber stand opened by the 6-year-old Robert in 1960 has grown into a farm market with a riotous array of tropical fruits used in its renowned shakes. Try the passion or dragon fruit milkshakes, while petting the emus and goats out back. Ask the now 59-year-old Robert about the story behind that audaciously printed sign on the roof. 19200 SW 344th St., Homestead, 305-246-1592;

Romanicos Chocolate
Romanicos uses only the richest ingredients, such as chocolate that’s imported directly from Venezuela. While truffles and confections are its most popular menu items, this chocolatier also offers a decadent, creamy chocolate milkshake, made by mixing pure chocolate and cream with chocolate ice cream for a glass full of cocoa perfection. 1801 Coral Way, Miami, 305-854-9936

Wayside Market
A throwback to simpler times, Wayside Market’s weathered wooden sign boasts that it’s “home of the famous strawberry shake since 1948.” This Pinecrest staple hand-spins shakes in flavors such as mango, Key lime, and coconut banana. Clerks even note regulars’ preferences on handwritten index cards in a Rolodex near the cashier. 10070 SW 57th Ave., Miami, 305-661-6717

Whip n’ Dip
Around since 1985, this old-fashioned ice cream parlor is known for its unusual hand-made small-batch ice cream flavors that change daily. Any flavor can be whipped into a shake, with recent highlights including pumpkin pie, Midnight Mint Oreo, Mocha Mudpie, and Fluffernutter with peanut butter. 1407 Sunset Dr., Coral Gables, 305-665-2565;

—jess swanson


Comfort Classics at New Oak Tavern

The Design District's new Oak Tavern eatery cooks up modern home-style fare.

December 10, 2012

Baked mussels with toasted fregola and salsa verde

Chef and restaurateur David Bracha of River Seafood & Oyster Bar fame has planted his roots in the Design District. Oak Tavern is one of the latest eateries to crop up in the oh-so-hot neighborhood, and, true to its name, it has an approximately 28-foot-tall oak tree shading the outdoor courtyard, as well as reclaimed-wood tables inside. Chef Bracha prioritizes sourcing seasonal ingredients from such South Florida growers as Borek Farms and Paradise Farms, and says of the cuisine, “The food is simple. I like to let the ingredients speak for themselves.” In addition to house-curing charcuterie such as coppa di testa and spicy soppressata, Oak has an outdoor spit for roasting pigs, and a wood-burning oven and grill for plating hearty dishes such as “grown-up mac and cheese” (gnocchi with rabbit sausage, truffles, and buttery Taleggio cheese). Bracha hopes guests view Oak as “a home away from home.” Any place that serves grown-up mac and cheese is home in our book. 35 NE 40th St., Miami, 786-391-1818


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