Food + Drink / Insights

Tosca Elevates Fine Dining

Recently opened Tosca plays a bit of one-upmanship with quality ingredients.

December 03, 2012

Tosca, owned by Stephan Fortier, the man behind the now-defunct, swoon-inducing Maison d’Azur in the Angler’s Hotel, is a restaurant that one can’t help but think has something to prove. Before opening recently in the former Eden locale on 23rd Street, Tosca management didn’t merely remodel; instead they gutted the space (to the astonishment of the landlord), exchanging the entire seating area for an open kitchen buttressed by a lavish seafood display, a case full of Parma and pata negra ham hocks, and quite rare 100-year-old balsamic vinegar. Seating is now in the rear; stroll along a brick walkway under leafy bowers to a garden with a film nook, wishing fountain, and an enclosable indoor/outdoor dining room heavy on leather. The mostly European staff is proud of the fact that there are only 20 tables—and apparently no rush to turn them over. But really, it’s the menu that gets showy. Smaller plates include a toro just barely flamed, then treated gingerly with Mediterranean herbs, oil, and sea salt; A5 grade Kobe beef with level 12 marbling used for both tartare with caviar and for a rib-eye entrée; and a salumeria boasting acorn-fed pata negra de bellota aged 36 months. If it’s panache you want, order the fettuccine; servers torch the inside of a Parmesan wheel, toss the pasta within, then plate it at the table with shaved white Alba truffles—its flavor is a thing of fleeting beauty best devoured quickly, which means you won’t have a chance to one-up anyone on Instagram. But maybe it’s better that way. 210 23rd St., Miami Beach, 786-216-7230

—bill kearney


Truffle Season at Toscana Divino

The truffle menu at Mary Brickell Village’s Toscana Divino is the pinnacle of gourmet.

November 13, 2012

An ode to the region of Tuscany, Toscana Divino is an epicurean gem in the heart of Brickell. Patrons dine at tables adorned with fresh wildflowers while admiring designer handbags, glassware, artwork, and other items on built-in shelves lining the walls, as part of a partnership the restaurant has with businesses in Florence. Executive chef Julian Baker, who has previously worked in Milan, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Tuscany, deftly alternates between tradition (such as a hearty Fiorentina porterhouse steak for two) and modern interpretations (Chianti-braised veal cheeks with a tomato-ginger mostarda). Beginning November 1, Baker is offering a four-course menu that flaunts both the black burgundy and the much more coveted, Alba-imported white truffles to celebrate the fall/winter truffle season. The prix-fixe dinner ($150) includes a truffle-infused tofu and crispy potato salad; a black and white truffle risotto with truffle marshmallows; and a squab cooked two ways: roasted and as a confit with truffle caviar, squab consommé, and a truffle poached egg. Each plate comes with two grams of truffle shavings to satiate cravings for these rare edibles. And make sure to leave room for dessert—an elegant gianduja (chocolate with hazelnut paste) made with truffle-infused milk. 900 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-371-2767


—jess swanson


New Organic Fine Dining in North Miami

The new Green House Organic Restaurant gives Miami a fresh look at blending purism and gourmet.

November 06, 2012

Green House Organic Restaurant

At North Miami’s recently opened Green House Organic Restaurant, nature comes together with French and Continental cuisine through the establishment’s dedication to using only organic, sustainable ingredients from around the globe. Produce is handpicked in the morning from The Chef’s Garden farm in Ohio, shipped at noon, and served by dinnertime, and octopus straight from Portugal is cooked sous vide for approximately four hours. Award-winning chef (and former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami) Marcelo J. Marino follows a purist philosophy of extracting “the most natural flavors possible from the ingredients while cooking with the least amount of fat,” he says, offering diners “discoveries in each dish.” This can include homemade breads and cheeses, old-world-style coated halibut with lobster sauce and Russian kale, and even ostrich carpaccio paired with brandy rosemary-infused cantaloupe and honeydew melon. This month, seasonal dishes include merguez sausages, crab salad, and cod en papillote. 3207 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach, 305-949-6787


The Dome Gets LEED Luxe Certified

The Dome earns serious green cred.

November 01, 2012

The Dome

The Dome received the LEED Silver certification in August, making it Coral Gables’ first restaurant with that recognition—a testament to founder Rachel Dominguez’s personal commitment to the environment. The restaurant is designed to reduce its carbon footprint wherever possible, from its usage of recycled materials in the décor to offering iPad menus in order to go paperless. Further highlighting this sustainability is the eclectic locavore menu featuring Latin American, Cuban, and Caribbean influences. House favorites include Abuela’s Yuca Croquettas, featuring crispy yuca fingers dressed in a chive cream sauce and topped with caviar, as well as masa frito, a dish of fried pork bites in a homemade citrus garlic mojito sauce. 271 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, 305-648-4999



Q&A: Chef Julie Frans on Miami vs. California

Arriving in the kitchen of Essensia by way of San Diego, Frans sees room to grow in Miami’s farm-to-table movement.

September 24, 2012

Julie Frans  

San Diego import Julie Frans has a passion for cooking food with integrity. She’s a pioneer in ingredient sourcing, carefully crafting each dish with über-sustainable produce and meats hailing from local and environmentally conscious purveyors. In the kitchen at Essensia at The Palms Hotel & Spa—where she holds the title of “signature chef”—Frans fuses her west coast roots with Miami’s tropical inspiration to create truly original flavors.

What culinary trends are you seeing in Miami right now?
JULIE FRANS: I think that the farm-to-table trend is really gaining momentum in Florida. Local, seasonal sourcing really makes so much sense on so many levels. As customers are becoming more knowledgeable about ingredients, chefs will have to focus on their sourcing and seasonality more than ever.

Coming from California, where farm-to-table was born, how does Miami stack up in terms of access to high quality ingredients?
JF: In San Diego I was spoiled. There are so many farms, and attaining farm-grown food is so easily accessible. I had no idea how hard it would be to source local food and organize product deliveries. I am always surprised that more farms don't deliver to the beach regularly, but I suppose they have never had enough demand. The difference in seasonality is always a learning process as well. It’s still hard for me to get used to the void of local farm products during the summer.  

What do you miss most about cooking in San Diego?
SF: Something that I miss about the San Diego food scene is the camaraderie between chefs. I feel like the chefs collaborated on projects a lot more than they do here, but then again I am still pretty new to the area.

Which chefs do you see leading the farm-to-table trend in Miami?
JF: There are the more known names like Michelle Bernstein, Michael Schwartz, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten that are making a big impact. But there are a lot of passionate chefs making a difference in their restaurants just by bringing focus to where their food comes from. I am more likely to frequent a restaurant where the chef sources locally and provides that info in their menu. It makes me confident that the food is high quality.

The farm-to-table movement is rife with buzzwords: sustainable, local, organic, ethically sourced, free range, the list goes on. How do you distill it all down?
SF: I try to avoid making too many generalizations about my food. I never claim that we are ‘all organic’ or ‘all local.’ That would be unrealistic and also limit us from some really incredible products. My overall basis of selecting products is quality. It is more important to me that something is grown with care and integrity, and is good for my guest and on the global scale, than it is to have an organic stamp on it. We source some seafood locally, but support distant farms that are making a positive global impact. I use some products from Europe that are just really high quality and need to be shared. The ingredients are the focus first and foremost at Essensia; quality and integrity is what I am after.

What are your three favorite ingredients to cook with and why?
JF: Chili peppers, especially Serrano chilies. They add a nice heat and can round out a sweet flavor to make it work as a savory food. Fennel adds a complexity to food and can create more levels to flavor. Coconut milk can be sweet or savory, depending how it's seasoned. I love combining it with miso, saffron, curry, and ginger-lemongrass.

What is the one kitchen tool you can’t live without?
JF: Vitamix blender. It’s so versatile. I use it to make creamy soups and puréed sauces, breadcrumbs, pestos, dressings, and vinaigrettes.  

For your “last meal,” what would be on the table?
JF: Thai food for sure. Something super spicy like green papaya salad, Penang curry, and drunken noodles, especially if they could make it with delicious local organic ingredients and serve it with red rice or quinoa. For dessert, sweet sticky rice and local mango.

Essensia, The Palms Hotel & Spa, 3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-908-5458



After Work: Bourbon Tippling at Meat Market

Mixologist Gloria Pope mixes a new cocktail in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month.

September 12, 2012

Meat Market mixologist Gloria Pope

In honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month (September), Meat Market mixologist Gloria Pope has crafted a sweet and savory cocktail for lovers of the Kentucky classic. Made with muddled strawberries, citrus, and Maker’s Mark, the whisky cocktail gets a savory singed rosemary garnish. Stop by Meat Market this month to try it out, or whip one up at home.

Southern Strawberry

2 fresh strawberries
1 1/2 ounces Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon Whisky
1/2 ounce orange juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Singed rosemary

In a mixing glass, muddle the strawberries. Add Maker’s Mark, orange juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Add ice and shake for 10 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a stalk of rosemary that’s been slightly singed.

915 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-532-0088



Openings: Lee & Marie’s Cakery

Stop by for maple bacon muffins, cakes galore, and pork belly BLTs with a side of soul.

September 07, 2012

Hummingbird cake at Lee & Marie's Cakery

As the sun rises over South of Fifth, so too does the smell of freshly brewed Panther Coffee and warm maple bacon and corn muffins from Lee & Marie’s Cakery, which opens today in the Continuum Building. Part patisserie and part breakfast and lunch counter, Lee & Marie’s serves locally sourced baked goods, soups, sandwiches, and salads. Specialties include espresso coffee pudding, salty caramel apple pie, a variety of éclairs, a pork belly BLT with avocado and kimchi aioli, and of course, a rotating selection of artful cakes.  

The quaint 50-seat café channels southern charm with textured woods, interesting antiques, and playful bric-a-brac. Diners can take their meal at a communal table, counter, or outdoor café. At the helm of it all is social entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrea “Andy” Travaglia, who partnered with pastry chef wunderkind Yannis Janssens to make her vision a reality.

The pair’s main focus is to offer delicious sweets and savories using homegrown Miami ingredients from Myakka’s Dakin Farms, Wynwood's Panther Coffee, and Paradise Farms. For a personal touch, Travaglia named the shop after her daughters’ grandmothers. The duo has also partnered with the University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities to provide employment opportunities for autistic adults. 40 S. Pointe Dr., Miami Beach, 305- 672-5167



Drink This: A Skinny Mojito

Whip up a mango, coconut, and mint mojito that’s less than 100 calories.

August 09, 2012


Recently added to the Voli Light Vodkas stable of calorie-conscious flavored vodkas is the new Mango Coconut Fusion. (You may be familiar with Voli on account of its famous spokespeople: Pitbull and Fergie.) With a multi-distilled wheat base, the new flavor hits the palate with notes of coconut, mango, and pineapple. Voli has created a series of Mango Coconut Fusion recipes, but our favorite is the Miami Mojito—which packs a svelte 85 calories.   

Miami Mojito

1 1/2 ounces Voli Mango Coconut Fusion Vodka

6 mint leaves
3 lime wedges

1 pack Stevia  

mango chunks 
soda water  

Muddle mint leaves, lime wedges, and Stevia in a highball glass. Add ice, vodka, and top off with soda water. Garnish with mango chunks and extra mint leaves. 



Dinner Plans: Estiatorio Milos

Montreal’s Estiatorio Milos brings its vibrant Greek fare to South Beach.

July 02, 2012

More than 30 years ago, Costas Spiliadis opened his first restaurant in Montreal with a mission to reintroduce Greece’s gastronomy to Canadian epicureans. Now, his fifth outpost (other locations include New York, Athens, and Las Vegas) has launched in the refined culinary environs of South Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood.

Forget the greasy moussaka platters synonymous with classic Greek diners; Estiatorio Milos by Costas Spiliadis stays true to healthy, authentic fare by using simple, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. Hook-caught fish are shipped straight from the Mediterranean or supplied by independent fishermen in the Florida Keys, and are cooked on an oak-burning grill with olive oil and lemon juice. Milos’s collection of Greek wines is carefully selected and imported by Spiliadis’s son, George, complementing signature dishes such as the charcoal-broiled octopus with wild Santorini capers.

Milos feels like a rustic-chic Aegean taverna thanks to Pentelic marble floors, giant clay urns, and chunky wood rafters. The restaurant’s focal point, however, is the 13,000-pound marble art installation: two massive slates handcut from the same quarry used to build the Parthenon, and suspended from the rafters by industrial chains. The open kitchen offsets an in-house “fish market” where guests can choose the fish they’ll eat, just as they would on a summer afternoon at a Greek marina.

Adjacent to the main dining room, the Marketa market offers a selection of Greek spoon sweets (fruit preserves), the exclusive My Sister’s Olive Oil (produced by Spiliadis’s sister, Vivi Manolakos), as well as cured meats, fishes, and fine cheeses from around the world, such as the Spanish Idiazabal and the Greek Manouri. If Milos has its way, you’ll soon be raising a glass of Metaxa and saying, “Stin ygeia sas!” (“Cheers” in Greek). 730 First St., Miami Beach, 305-604-6800.

—Maria delis


Guide: Miami's Best Sandwiches

Miami’s best sandwich spots offer creations that burst with fresh, creative contents.

April 09, 2012

Joe’s Take-Away

The Alibi
This is not where you go for a modest sandwich. It’s in the back of a bar (Lost Weekend), and the menu is tailor-made to satisfy uninhibited late-night munchies. Among the best is the South Philadelphia cheesesteak, a two-hander big enough to share, featuring piquant strips of grilled rib eye and onion, smothered in cheese. Just go for broke—we’ve heard they help prevent hangovers. 218 Espanola Way, Miami Beach, 305-674-3448;

Blue Collar
As the name of this bright, casual Upper Eastside spot implies, this fare could fuel a day in the mines. Draw sustenance from the Big Ragout sandwich, a dripping behemoth filled with tomato sauce-braised brisket, veal, pork shoulder, and fresh mozzarella. The chef is so serious about packing in as much meat as possible that the hollows of the sesame roll are scooped out to fit in more. 6730 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-756-0366;

Crumb on Parchment
Michelle Bernstein’s casual spot in the Design District specializes in comfort food. Come hungry and opt for the signature offering, a hot take on a messy Southern favorite gone upscale: a heap of pulled chicken that comes with caramelized onions, goat cheese, arugula, and—for an unexpected tang—apple, all served on crunchy, freshly baked ciabatta. 3930 NE Second Ave., Miami, 305-572-9444

Joe’s Take-Away
Braving the crowds at the classic sit-down restaurant is worth it during stone crab season or on special occasions. But anytime is good for Joe’s Take-Away—especially lunch. The classic mahi-mahi and grouper sandwiches here—grilled, blackened, or fried (grouper only)—hit the spot with melt-away fish that tastes like it was just caught. As such, there’s no need for fancy sauces; just lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle suffice. 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-4611

Panizza Bistro
This Argentine-Italian bistro serves three meals daily, plus beer and wine, but the lunch sandwiches are the sleeper hit. These four-inchhigh creations come on warm, fresh bread, piled with either Latin-style stuffings (such as the lomito steak) or classic Italian favorites (like prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, and roasted red peppers). If you’re feeling more peckish, go for the super-Argentine miga sandwiches, filled with ham, hard-boiled egg, roasted red peppers, and green olives. 1229 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, 305-695-8800;

Papo Llega y Pon
Despite its location in Allapattah, beyond the usual Miami Cuban stomping grounds, this cash-only shop serves arguably some of the best pan con lechon in town. The massive sandwich feeds four and comes with juicy roast pork (with or without fried skin), adobo-spiced mojo sauce, and, if you want, hot sauce and onions. It’s all stuffed in a loaf of Cuban bread, crackling and crusty on the outside but pillowy inside. 2928 NW 17th Ave., Miami, 305-635-0137

Sakaya Kitchen
True banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches made with various meats and pickled vegetables on a baguette) are thin on the ground in Miami. Sakaya Kitchen’s multicultifusion twist on this street-food favorite does the job. Chef/owner Richard Hales puts common banh mi fillings—pork belly, kimchi-style carrots and cucumbers, and spicy mayo—on Cantonese steamed bao buns for a soft snack with bite. 3401 N. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-576-8096; 125 SE Third Ave., Miami, 305-371-2511

La Sandwicherie
Nearly any selection will do at this long-lasting locals’ late-night favorite. But the counter service offers the best wee-hour options for the meat-free. The vegetarian sandwich comes on a baguette filled with as much lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, olives, onions, cucumbers, and cornichons as you can handle. Get it all slathered with the restaurant’s signature French mustard vinaigrette, a slightly acidic sauce with addictive properties. 229 14th St., Miami Beach, 305-532-8934; 34 SW Eighth St., Miami, 305-374-9852;

—arielle castillo

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