Saturday, May 28, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for Estrella Damm's Chefs Choice 2016

May seriously kicked our butts. The month slipped by as we were trying to simultaneously juggle traveling, working, several major freelance projects (that we can't wait to share!!), and not losing our sanity. Alas you've experienced severe radio silence on here since our Cinco de Mayo how-to. In an effort to make it up to you, we're doing you a solid and clueing you in on Miami time about the dope restaurant promo that ends tomorrow: Estrella Damm Chef's Choice 2016.

The restaurant experience, which is back in Miami for its second year, is kinda like Miami Spice in that 46 restaurants from Miami Beach to Kendall are offering three-course prix fixe menus. However, unlike Miami Spice each menu includes a complimentary Estrella Damm and varies in price from $30 to $70 depending on the venue. Also, all the participating chefs were challenged in creatively incorporating rice as a feature ingredient as a nod to the fact that Estrella Damm is brewed with rice.

Earlier this month we joined Estrella Damm in taste testing a handful of participating menus in Brickell and Downtown. Our tour included a sneak peek at the Chef's Choice entrées from Coya, Toro Toro, Tuyo, and 1111 Peruvian Bistro, photos of which we have graciously provided below. Each spot caught our attention for a different reason. The Arroz Nikei with Chilean sea bass from Coya was our seafood favorite for the night with its citrus and spice, followed in a close second by the Arroz con Mariscos from Toro Toro and the Parihuela from 1111 Peruvian Bistro. At Tuyo, we were mesmerized by the stunning views, the attentive service, and the Estrella Damm-braised duck breast which was coincidentally the only non-seafood entrée on our tour (four for you, Chef Victor Santos, way to be innovative!).

In town for Memorial Day Weekend? Take advantage of Chef's Choice to re-connect with your favorite chefs around Miami as they test their culinary cunning in a new way. For us, that means revisiting Apeiro Kitchen + Bar, Bulla Gastrobar, The Lido Bayside + Grill, Pinch Kitchen, Sugarcane and/or Wynwood Kitchen and Bar. If instead you're looking to try something new, Chef's Choice is your perfect excuse to check out the restos you've had on your must-try list. Participating restaurants from ours include Byblos, Cena by Michy, Chef Adrianne's, Finka Table & Tap, La Mar, Pisco y Nazca, and Vagabond Restaurant. (And, no, we can't believe we haven't tried them yet either...) We've got less than 36 hours so allez, allez, allez!

Arroz Nikei from Coya

Arroz con Mariscos from Toro Toro

Parhuela from 1111 Peruvian Bistro

Estrella Damm-seared Duck Breast from Tuyo Miami

The stunning view of Downtown Miami from Tuyo

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Celebrating Cinco de Mayo Like A Mexican

Cinco de Mayo—the American-devised holiday to taco and tequila like there's no tomorrow—is this Thursday. And, while it is about as Mexican as a cheeseburger, this year we decided to take it extremely seriously. On the Friday before we left for Boston we coordinated a Cinco de Mayo warm-up happy hour wherein, as the token Mexican in our group, we promised to teach our friends how to properly celebrate this "holiday". We are proud to report we left behind a trail of empty salsa bowls and marg glasses, as well as a destroyed taco piñata. So, how exactly does one execute a successful celebration like a true Mexican?

It all starts with quality tequila—we're talking Don Julio (BlancoReposado and Añejo or, if you're super fancy, the small-batch 1942) or Maestro Dobel. 99-percent of people go crazy when you give them tequila because they don't have the tequila-drinking superpowers characteristic of Mexicans. Alas, it makes for loosened inhibitions and hilarious times. And, if you imbibe high quality tequila, you're more likely to survive and live to tell the tale sans hangover the following morning.

Tequila also makes a formidable party theme because, in addition to spicing up your friends, there's a lot of great food and drink recipes that put its unique flavors to good use. We've included four great ones below for inspiration that we taste-tested on your behalf at last month's Don Julio Farm to Shaker Dinner. (The two food recipes were created by Mexico City-born Chef Santiago Gomez of Miami's very own Cantina La Veinte, while the two cocktails are concoctions from Miami cocktail geniuses Eddie Fuentes and Hector Acevedo of the Cocktail Cartel Co.) We also included one idea from our friends at Maestro Dobel because they always come up with delicious drinks.

Lastly, to Cinco de Mayo like a consummate professional, stock up on funny party goodies like mini piñata invites, sombreros (mini or otherwise), stick-on mustaches, and taco piñatas filled with candy, like those in the photo above and you're ready to go! If despite our best efforts, you can't or don't want to put forth the effort of coordinating the fiesta, our friends at Miami Food Pug put together this clutch list of where to celebrate Cinco de Mayo 2016 in Miami.

Drink: Mexican Sun

Combine the following ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice then pour over rocks into a rocks glass:
1 1/2 oz Tequila Don Julio Añejo 
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz pink peppercorn syrup*
1/2 oz carrot juice with fresh turmeric
Marigold petals, fresh pink peppercorn & lemon verbena for garnish

*To make pink peppercorn syrup:
1. Grind 2 1/2 oz pink peppercorn to fine powder and add to medium saucepan over high heat until lightly roasted.
2. Add 16 oz ginger root juice and bring to a boil.
3. Turn off heat and add 32 oz sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
4. Let cool and double-strain through cheesecloth and fine strainer.
5. Bottle and store in refrigerator for 30 minutes before using.

Eat: Don Julio Reposado Demi Glace & Braised Short Rib

1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp canola oil. Season 6 Flanken-style short ribs (bones, cut 2 inches thick) with salt and pepper. Add short ribs to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until browned and crusty (about 18 minutes). Transfer the short ribs to a shallow baking dish in a single layer.  
2. Add 1 large onion (chopped), 2 carrots (sliced), 3 celery sticks (sliced) and 3 garlic cloves (thickly sliced) to the skillet and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft and lightly browned (about 20 minutes). 
3. Add 500 ml Tequila Don Julio Reposado and 200 ml agave syrup to the skillet and bring to a boil over high heat.  
4. Pour the hot marinade over the ribs and let cool. Cover and refrigerate over night, turning the ribs once.  
5. Preheat the oven to 350°. Transfer the ribs and marinade to a large, enameled cast-iron casserole dish. Add 3 cups beef stock and bring to a boil. 
6. Cover the casserole dish and cook in the lower third of the oven for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender but not falling apart.  
7. Uncover and braise for 45 minutes, turning the ribs once or twice until the sauce is reduced by half and the meat is very tender. 
8. Transfer the meat to a clean shallow baking dish, discarding the bones as they fall off.  
9. Strain the sauce into a heatproof measuring cup and skim off as much fat as possible.  
10. Pour the sauce over the meat (there should be about 2 cups).  
11.  Preheat the broiler. Broil the meat, turning once or twice, until glazed and sizzling (about 10 minutes).
12. Transfer the meat to plates. Spoon the sauce on top and serve.

Drink: La Bandera

Combine the following ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice then pour into a collins glass with a large ice cube:
1 1/2 oz Tequila Don Julio Reposado 
1 oz lime juice 
3/4 oz cilantro & grapefruit marmalade syrup* 
1/4 oz red bell pepper juice 
1 1/2 oz sparkling water for top expressed grapefruit peel 
Dehydrated grapefruit wheel, white viola flower & micro cilantro for garnish 

*To make cilantro & grapefruit marmalade syrup:
1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil and add 1 bunch cilantro. Let boil for 1 minute.
2. Strain cilantro and shock in 3 cups of ice cold water for 2 minutes.
3. Add 2 cups of fresh squeezed red grapefruit juice to a separate pot and heat at 220 degrees. Add 3 cups of sugar and stir until dissolved.
4. Combine 1 cup of crushed ice, cold-shocked cilantro and red grapefruit syrup into a blender and blend until smooth.

Eat: Key Lime Pie

1. Heat oven to 375°. Combine 1 1/2 cups of graham- cracker crumbs, 6 tbsp unsalted butter (melted & cooled) and 3 tbsp of sugar in a medium bowl. Mix well.  
2. Press the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Bake until lightly browned (about 12 minutes).  
3. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled. Lower oven temperature to 325°.  
4. In a medium bowl, gently whisk together 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 4 large egg yolks, 200 ml of Tequila Don Julio Blanco, 1/2 cup fresh key lime juice and 1 tbsp grated key lime zest. Pour into the prepared, cooled crust. 
5. Return pie to oven and bake until the center is set but still quivers when the pan is nudged (about 15-17 minutes).  
6. Let cool completely on a wire rack.  
7. Shortly before serving, combine 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream and 2 tbsp of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until soft peaks form (about 2-3 minutes).
8. Spoon cream mixture over cooled pie. Garnish with key lime zest.

Drink: Maestro Dobel Silver Margarita

Combine the following ingredients into a margarita glass then stir:
1 oz Tequila Maestro Dobel Silver
1/2 oz Agavero Orange Liqueur
4-6 oz orange juice
1 splash lime juice

What are you tips for celebrating Cinco de Mayo? What are your favorite food recipes to serve? Cocktails to serve? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Middle four images via Miami Food Pug
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