It was a busy week, and it's good to be back; it's so clear, mild, and perfect here after the tropical heat and humidity. Despite the hard work, there were some good meals (and not a little time in the pool at my gallerists/hosts' house). Initially, it was just me staying there; the other artists arrived later in the week. I had one evening to myself, so I rummaged around in the fridge to construct a dinner. Finding fingerling potatoes, half a fennel bulb, some onion, shallots, cream, and a bit of old sparkling wine, I assembled it all into a decent gratin, seasoned with herbs from their back yard, making a salt-rubbed cucumber salad as well.
The next day, we (now numbering four) went to Hiro's Yakko-San in North Miami. It's a wonderfully authentic and unpretentious place, serving a wide variety of izakaya-style small plates. We had fried shishito peppers, triggerfish skin jerky, seaweed salad, spicy clams (with an insanely good sauce, which we refused to let them take away; we asked for rice to soak up the last of it) fried udon, kimchi, broiled mackerel, and a few other things that I'm forgetting, washed down with Kirin Ichiban and a good Daiginjo sake. Fantastic, and a welcome alternative to ubiquitous sushi-joint fare. As an example, take a look at the lovely seaweed salad:
The following night I offered to cook for them, since they had opened their home to me for a week and I wanted to reciprocate a little bit. So after closing up the gallery, we headed off to the WhoFo in South Beach to stock up on things. Hot, muggy weather notwithstanding, I was in an autumnal kind of mood, so I incongruously grabbed a bunch of the vegetables that we have in the garden now. It's a pity, really, that the big national chain is now precluded by its size from dealing with local suppliers in different regions; the produce looked exactly the way it would in any other branch. Had I not been there to work, I would have sought out the great local fish market and tried to find some produce as well. But such is life.
We ended up with some beautiful wild coho salmon, a flank steak, a turnip, a head of radicchio, brussels sprouts, and some sweet potatoes. Positively screams tropical, right? The one nod to locality was a bag of key limes. When we got back, I minced the salmon super-fine with their two cleavers (it's so much easier that way) and folded grated ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, and a little Bragg's into it and let it sit. I served it plain, with lime, and it was good. What it really needed, though, was soy sauce thickened with raw egg yolk and pooled around it like a little moat of awesome, but I didn't think of that until my now-normal bout of insomnia around 4 AM. Which, obviously, is the most useful time of night to have these thoughts. Since Tyler is pregnant, I cooked hers up like a little burger.
I cubed and caramelized the turnip in a pan, adding a few drops of vanilla when done, then chopped the radicchio and tossed it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and set it aside to marinate. The brussels sprouts got a simple sautée with a strip of minced bacon, and then a quick steam with a splash of wine to soften them up. The sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into discs, went in the oven to bake with a good glug of cream and herbes de Provence. I once again raided their garden bed for arugula, basil, and oregano, which I made into a pesto along with a little key lime juice and some habañero mustard I found in the fridge and then rubbed all over the steak after I pounded it nice and flat. Then I rolled it up tight, pinned it with a wooden skewer, and put it on the grill with a cedar plank (not on the plank, but next to it; the wood caught fire and smoked the chamber up pretty nicely).
Once the roulade was done, I sliced it up and set a piece on top of a sweet potato round, then scattered sprouts, turnips, and radicchio, finishing with a little pan-deglazement action involving wine, cream, and minced herbs. It turned out pretty well, despite the geographical/seasonal inappropriateness.
Friday night we went to a BBQ at some big collectors' house; it's an annual event and they invite the entire Miami art world. Last, on Saturday night, after the opening we went up to Red Light, a hip café in a semi-dicey neighborhood where the food is playful, heavy on local ingredients, and well-executed. I, being in the mood, had both mussels steamed with wine, garlic, and herbs AND shrimp in a thick, sweet, tamarind-inflected coconut curry that I could have just eaten by itself with a baguette and called it a night. It's the kind of place- along with Hiro's- at which I would surely become an instant regular if I lived down there, and it's another reason why I love to stay with people rather than at hotels; it's the quickest way to find all the cool places that tourists don't go to. It's also particularly nice when one's hosts are kind enough to treat at both venues.
For dessert I ordered a scoop of carambola (star fruit) sorbet for us all to try, and it opened up a whole bunch of interesting ideas; there's a slight smokiness to it that got me excited, and it did some pretty special things with- of all things- the Bandol rosé I was drinking. I've done some fancy eating in Miami before- Nobu, and a few of the schmancy "fusion" joints that are all over the place- but these two are so much more satisfying for their humility, conviviality, quality, and affordability. I like the city even more now than before, and hope to get back there soon- but next time with the family. A week- even a busy and exciting one- can feel like a long time to be away.