Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I love Miami. I hate Miami.


Miami is awesome, but it also sucks. I don't know how it is possible—it just is. Watch this video of a Miami car accident and tell me you don't both love and hate Miami at the same time. That video perfectly captures how this city makes me feel ALL THE TIME. Miami's motto should be, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Miami's duality is why I named this blog #ThankYouMiami. The phrase can express unadulterated gratitude when the situation is deserving, i.e. "#ThankYouMiami for stunning sunsets." It can also be used to call out frustrating or perplexing moments, i.e. "#ThankYouMiami for having the world's worst drivers." See? Both work.

As locals, we ride Miami's ups and downs like professional bull riders. (Think Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride.) Unfortunately, the past few weeks have been a glass case of emotions too hard for some of us to handle. I mean, enough with this emotional rollercoaster already. I'm getting dizzy.

For most of us, the latest volatile cycle centers on Miami's unforgiving restaurant scene. It all started about 10 days ago when the Miami New Times released their February 2018 Miami Restaurant Openings and Closings list. These were happy times. Although always sad to see any restaurant close, the two closings were accompanied by an incredibly long list of exciting restaurant openings. Among my favorite announcements were the three new Icebox locations, the long-awaited arrival of Wawa, Pincho Factory's expansion, a new and improved Tobacco Road, and the arrival of Stephen Starr's El Vez to Fort Lauderdale. (El Vez is one of my favorite Stephen Starr concepts and one of my must-visits every time I'm in Philly.)

Stiltsville Fish Bar's fish dip. This will all make sense if you keep reading.
Stiltsville Fish Bar's "The Mermaid Formerly Known As Janine" Absolut Elyx Cocktail. Ditto.
My happiness was short lived. Four days later Federal Donuts and Dizengoff abruptly closed their doors, shocking everyone. "Things will get better," I told myself. "It will most certainly not get better," said the narrator. Then, Proof Pizza and Pasta announced that they will be closing on March 25, followed shortly by an announcement that JugoFresh will be closing all of their stores. Both were small, local businesses that I highly recommended in my Miami guide, The HUNT Miami. Bad things come in threes though. So, like, that's it, right?

I'd be remiss to say that there hasn't been good news amidst our woes, because Miami... Most notably, today I was fortunate enough to enjoy a delicious four-course meal at Stiltsville Fish Bar prepared by four South Florida James Beard Award semi-finalists: Chef Janine Booth (Rising Star Chef of the Year), Chef Clay Conley (Best Chef: South), Chef Lindsay Autry (Best Chef: South), and Chef Brad Kilgore (Best Chef: South). Their mouthwatering dishes were just what I needed to eat my feelings and they were well-worth every calorie. Their overflowing talent was the light at the end of the tunnel I needed after the last few days.

We're going to make it through this. We always do. After all, alternating between ups and downs is what Miami does best. In the interim, while we work our way out of this dip, I sprinkled the photos I took of today's culinary celebration at Stiltsville throughout this post to comfort you during these trying times.

Chef Janine Booth's cobia tiradito in aji amarillo topped with avocado, crispy hominy, popped corn, and fresh basil, which they have growing on and pick it from a living wall inside the restaurant.
Chef Clay Conley's octopus tabouleh. I wish I was a better photographer so I could do this amazing dish justice. I could eat this every day.
Chef Lindsay Autry's cold fried chicken with early spring vegetables—those snap peas, doe—and lemon pecorino dressing.
Chef Booth's sweet corn spoon bread topped with lobster, buttermilk cream and scallions. P.S. I don't like corn bread and I didn't want to share this with anyone so you know it's amazing.
Chef Brad Kilgore's pressed bacon miso-butterscotch topped with moroccan olive and served with smoked banana. (Full disclosure: This looked so good I ate all of mine, suddenly remembered I forgot to take a photo and had to ask someone for their plate.)
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