Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joy to the World - Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog featured at Cobaya Dinner #2

Back in July, I became a part of the Cobaya Miami group, a group of adventurous diners acting as guinea pigs for local South Florida chefs. The group provides an opportunity for chefs to really get creative and cook what they want without restrictions or fear that diners may not enjoy their creations. In other words, this group will eat anything plated in front of us no matter what it is or how it is cooked. For me, the best part is that there is no menu, therefore no decision making. It's putting yourself in the hands of the chef, with the understanding that they love their craft and not only want to fill your belly but also open your mind to a new way of looking at food and the way it is prepared.

After a successful first dinner at Talula, courtesy of Chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo and Sous Chef Kyle Foster, I was eager to see what dinner #2 had in store for the Cobaya group. With both the Miami New Times' Short Order blog and UrbanDaddy broadcasting the formation of the Cobaya group and its mission, interest in our second dinner had peaked to the point where two separate nights were opened up to allow for 36 members of the group (24 night one, 12 night two) to partake. The chef for Cobaya Dinner #2 was none other than Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, formerly of Bullfrog Eatz and currently personal chef to "The Boss" Rick Ross. I had been following Chef Jeremiah on Twitter, so I knew we were in the hands of a chef who was not afraid to experiment. His tweets leading up to the dinner sang of low n' slow shortribs and making his own cheese from scratch. Sweet.

Sick view, huh?  Thanks to Jason at The Factory Interactive for providing the host location for this dinner.  A genuinely cool guy too.  I forget how many floors we were up but I think it was about 35.  A nice balcony that wrapped around the penthouse provided views of the Miami Beach and downtown Miami skylines as well as the prairies of residential flatland to the west.  At one point, you could see it was pouring rain over Miami International Airport and only the airport.  Gotta love the weather in South Florida but boy was I glad to not be flying out as I can guarantee there were delays.  I also got a kick out of this poster that graced the walls of our dining room...

Another thing I learned about Chef Jeremiah thru his tweets was that he was a bourbon fan, so I wasnt surprised when he treated us all to a pre-dinner Old Fashioned made with Basil Hayden which happens to be my favorite everyday bourbon.  Good times!

This is the part where I apologize for not being great at this blogging thing and forgetting to take pictures of the majority of the dishes.  The pics I did get were taken with my iPhone, so its probably best that I only took a few anyways.  To see killer pics of the meal, check out Food For Thought where Mr. Frodnesor has also done a nice writeup of our meal as well as night #2. 

The meal got off to a great start when we were presented with an interesting take on a Greek Salad.  Compressed cucumbers and homemade feta stuffed olives sitting in a bath of tomato water and Hendrick's gin provided a nice, fresh flavor with the textures of the still crunchy cukes and the feta stuffed olives playing well together.  This was one of my favorite dishes of the night.

The second dish was a bite of local stone crab paired with a mustard emulsion, crab consomme, and Meyer lemon oil.  It was an ok dish that I thought couldve used a bit more of the mustard and a bit less of the lemon.

The third dish was an Ode to Autumn in the form of a pumpkin dumpling stuffed with homemade burrata.  Unfortunately, the burrata lacked the creaminess it is known for but I appreciated the effort as I'm sure making burrata is no easy task.  I also thought the truffle oil used overpowered the dish.  This one just didnt work for me.


If this meal were a boxing match, Chef Jeremiah spent the first 3 rounds taking a few jabs at us and toying with our taste buds.  In round 4, he really started working the body, wearing us down while still putting on a nice show for the crowd.  This dish was simply titled, "Bacon" (aka "Awesome"), and featured a hunk of pork belly paired with an egg cooked sous vide at 63 degrees.  A little maple syrup really made me want to take one of these puppies home for breakfast the following morning.  Being a huge fan of runny eggs and all things bacon-related, this dish was a home run for me.  My only regret was having used my spoon for the Greek Salad which left me using my fork to pile the few remains of my egg onto my knife in order to get every last drop in my mouth.  I have issues.

In round 5, Bullfrog threw a punch that I never saw coming with a dish that I found to be the most creative of the night..  I will admit that the name of this dish, "Halibut like a Reuben", frightened me a bit as the only component of a Reuben that I really like is the pastrami while I really dislike sauerkraut.  Lucky for me there was no sauerkraut to be found in this dish.  The halibut was cooked sous vide and topped with a rye streussel.  Once plates were set in front of us Cobaya diners, Chef Jeremiah came around with a pitcher of hot pastrami dashi which he poured into each bowl.  The end result was a piece of fish that was light in texture and tasted exactly like a hunk of pastrami.  This was another one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Round 6 gave us some quality time with our corner-man, icing down our palates with an interesting combination of red curry and white chocolate liquid in a shot glass filled with crushed ice.  I wish someone had answered when I asked what was floating in the liquid because I shot the whole thing back only to end up with a freezing mouthful of ice haha.  The red curry flavor hit me first as I worked on crunching all the ice in my mouth.  This was followed by an earthy mushroom-like flavor which a few Cobaya buds also noticed.  The finish was all chocolate though.  Surprisingly yummy.

Round 7 - 72 hour Shorties - the knockout punch.  Braised short ribs cooked sous vide for 72 hours, parsnip puree, and a big Zin redux.  Notice how I didnt remember to take a picture of this one before I began annihilating it?  As soon as I saw the size of this gargantuan short rib, I got excited and began my assault.  Actually, I'm kinda glad that I chose to do this because it really shows off the texture of the short rib.  I've had many a braised short rib but most tend to be so "fall off the bone" that they lose a lot of their composition and end up on the mushy side of things.  Not this bad boy.  This short rib was nearly fork tender while maintaining a meaty texture.  The parsnip puree was light and creamy and contained a slight celery flavor to it that I really enjoyed though I didn't follow up to determine where that came from.  Another huge winner of a dish for me.

Dessert was an experiment that involved turning Krispy Kreme donuts into flan.  Unfortunately, the flan didn't take form but the flavor was there.  Being the juvenile that I am, I dubbed this one "The Money Shot".  Of course that would be easier to understand if I had a picture...  Jean-Marc has one, as well as other pics of the dinner so be sure to check out his site as well.

The night ended with discussions of all things food in Miami out on the deck, sipping a scotch while some enjoyed cigars.  In the end, Cobaya Dinner #2 was another huge success.  I got to chat with new and old Cobaya buddies, meet Chef Jeremiah who is not only a great chef but a really personable guy, and have a delicious meal in a killer setting.  I also got to experience many dishes that featured the awesomeness that is sous vide cooking.  I mean, at this point I'm ready to name my firstborn daughter Sue Vide.  For more comments on the meal itself, check out the Cobaya blog where you can also read more about our first dinner and find out how to become part of the group.

Now a little Three Dog Night along with some candid animation from some Canadians to take us home...

Friday, October 16, 2009

No More Forkin Around - Iron Fork Miami Returns Better Than Ever

Last night, I met up with some good friends at the New Times Iron Fork event at the Bank of America building in Downtown Miami. It was the 2nd year in a row that Id decided to check out this event. Last year, was kind of a buzzkill. The event was held at the Miami Science Museum and everything was crammed. The stage for the competition was nearly impossible to get to and the event was vastly oversold so it took forever to get a taste from any of the booths. I met Paula (of Mango & Lime fame) along with her husband D at this event last year, so we teamed up again to dominate the event again this year. You can check out her blog at the link I just provided for pics since I slacked on the pic taking front.

Having the event at the Bank of America building was an AWESOME move. Limiting ticket sales also proved to be a huge win. We arrived at around 6pm and, after some awkward "we're not ready to open the ropes at 5:55pm" moments, were free to roam about and sample the various wares of the 40+ restaurants that participated in the event. Naturally, I spotted the Presidente booth outside on the deck and we made a b-line over there to get the night started. The outside deck was a huge hype. Nothing beats an outdoor event in Miami. It was there, after sucking down a cool Presidente, that I stumbled upon the Whisk Gourmet Food & Catering booth and all of its BBQ Pork awesomeness. Their sauce is the boss! Its a play on the South Carolina mustard-based BBQ that I love with enough vinegar to pack a little punch. This would be my first dish of the night and one that only one other dish would overcome.

After making our way around the various booths at the event, I was full. Many dishes were mediocre but generously portioned. Nothing was bad which is more than I can say for the event last year. The dish of the night for me was the goat bits with spicy dressing from Tap Tap. A healthy portion of goat doused with some habanero/vinegar sauce rocked my world. I couldve eaten 4 portions of this easily but I managed to keep control of myself. Another dish that I thought kicked major ass was the macaroon with duck mousse and cured duck breast offered up by Au Pied de Cochon. Im not a fan of sweet dishes but the savoriness of the duck mousse and the saltiness of the cured duck breast was a nice counterbalance to the sweetness of the macaroon. I had 2 of these puppies.

The actual Iron Fork competition was kinda cool but once again it was an afterthought. The stage was located in an awkward area where it was tough to see what was going on though it was easy to smell what was going on. In the end, Chef Critchley of Area 31 took down Giancarla Bodoni of Escopazzo and was awarded with a cruise as a prize.

Overall, I thought the Iron Fork event was a vast improvement from last years event due to the location and limited ticket sales. Everyone seemed to have a great time and every participant got great exposure. The only downfall was the band who played the event that sounded like kareoke gone wrong and the jazz band whose instruments played well but whose lame dj scratchin records made the sound awkward as hell. Hats off to New Times though for putting on a nice event that was well thought out and planned properly to allow maximum enjoyment by all.