The Whet Palette premiered it’s first post on January 13th. That same night, I attended Pomegranates and Roses: A taste of Persia! What a perfect way to kick off the new year!
The event was held by the Saffron Supper Club at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Cooking for us would be Maude Eaton, Sara Liss and Chef Shikany. The backdrop at the garden was just magical. The weather cooperated and instead of the usual hot and muggy Miami weather we had a picture perfect cooler than usual, crisp night. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Chef Shikany’s Sea Bass Dumplings and already I was in love. They melted perfectly in my mouth with a dried apricot, dates, eggplant puree and lime syrup combination that was just perfect. I mean, why even continue? Just serve a half dozen of those and color me happy! We then moved on to the pulled duck confit with a vanilla aioli that surely was laced with opiates. It was just dreamy. You know when you close your eyes and just thoroughly enjoy each bite? That was me. We were allowed to BYOB and the staff was ready to take on everyone’s different choices for the night. We chose to bring a couple of bottles of Darioush’s Cabernet and it turned out to be the best choice.
From there we moved on to the Persian soul food portion which was served family style and cooked byMaude and Sara. We had Khoresh Bademjoon (which is a savory stew with eggplant, yellow split peas and dried lime), Mahi Saffron, Pollo ba Tadig (fluffy basmati rice with a golden crust) and a Salad Shirazi (tomato, cucumber, red onion and parsley in fresh squeezed lemon juice and evoo). By now I was feeling right at home. I think that was the intention all along: to present food made from the heart. I half expected a grandma to come out of the kitchen in a dirty apron and waving spatula nagging everyone to finish their meal or else! It was THAT soulful. Dessert by Chef Shikany was a heaven trio: Rosewater Creme Brulee, Charred Pickled Peaches and Honey Almond Toffee. It was served in a progression ending with the Creme Brulee. Absolutely fab! The DJ successfully played the right kind of music to move you and take you somewhere else for the night. We were not in South Beach anymore that’s for sure.
A couple of weeks later I was fortunate enough to experience what was quickly dubbed “White Collar Odd Couple Dinner” at Blue Collar. The concept was a fun take on both chefs particular styles. Give two amazing but different chefs the same protein and let them prepare it any way they liked. The result? Some REALLY spoiled diners! Danny Serfer, Chef/Owner of Blue Collar and Brad Kilgore (formerly of Azul) were the headlining chefs. We were the lucky ones on the other end ready to eat, knife and fork at hand. Bring it on! I was ready.
First up? Stone Crab. Sure, why not come out guns blazing? Brad prepared his with braised bacon (um, everything IS better with bacon!), Uni-ricotta emulsion and bottarga. (Side note: I had it but I did not know what “bottarga” was until I started writing this. Turns out it’s a very interesting ingredient with equally interesting origins. In a nut shell, it’s a cured tuna or mullet roe delicacy. There’s much more to it though. Go ahead, look it up!). Danny went with a po boy. Not JUST a po boy. Oh no. What fun would that be? Instead he added smoked trout caviar tartar sauce and placed it inside a Brazilian bun. Much more fun indeed.
The rest of the night was just the same. An amazing concert of dishes hitting the right notes one after the other. I barely finished. The other proteins were: rabbit, shrimp, duck and lamb. Each one unique and with it’s own spin.
The rabbit courses were the only ones I found hard to eat. Once I read Danny calling it “Chicken friend THUMPER” I was out. I know, I admit it, I wimped out. I did have one bite to try it but that was it. It had a macaroni salad and tossed watermelon accompnaying it and for the record, it was really good! Brad’s version was a cinnamon smoked, gingerbread gnocchi and porcini. This one was easier to try because it was not as meaty but I also had to pass. There were some happy people at my table who took them all so nothing went to waste. But no worries, I made up the eating with the shrimp course next. Brad presented his shrimp chorizo and Danny gave us a scampy style shrimp with garlic and grilled bread. They were completely different but both great. I am a big chorizo fan and the scampy style shrimp over the bread just screamed “comfort food”.
Up next was the duck. Luckly no one called their dish Daffy or Donald so I was just fine devouring these. Can you believe I was a vegetarian once for FOUR YEARS? But I digress. Cured duck tartare with a mayo gelee and a duck yolk sabayon by Brad. Frisee with added duck fat vinaigrette, duck lardons, beemster and a quail egg by Danny. That’s all. Wow. I did not know which way to go first and went against all rules and took bites from each back to back. No judging OK? They did not clash at all. It was a perfect combo of crunch, hot, cold, sweet, decadent and melt in your mouth bites.
My favorites though were the last courses: the lamb. Unlike the others, these were plated and served separately instead of side by side. I won’t reveal my winners of all the ones listed above but I will reveal this one. Danny stole my heart. Great closer. Brad’s yogurt braised lamb belly, olive fruit oil and Grand Marnier was excellent. However, one bite into Danny’s lamb version: red wine braised neck, parsnip puree, mustard greens and feta did me over. In fact, I was just so full by then that I asked them almost immediately to please pack it for me to take home. Guess who had the best lunch ever the next day at home? Oh yes, yours truly!
Dessert was a combination of a cayenne chocolate lollipop with toasted sesame and kumquat jam and a citrus soaked white cake with an orange froth, foie gras crumbs (yes, really), sea salt and caramel ice cream. I could not eat anymore. I always think I am this invincible eating machine when I am hungry and then this happens. Sigh.
My year was now off to an adventurous, brilliant culinary start. Those two events alone set the tone for the rest of the year. The South Florida Wine and Food Festival was a couple of weeks later (and I will be blogging about it next hint, hint) and I was more than ready. Chef Shikany will be opening his namesake restaurant in Wynwood later on this year and I simply CANNOT WAIT! I have been to a couple of Shikany’s events and I am telling you, you do not want to miss this opening. He is just genius! I can guarantee that there will be no stone left unturned. Every detail will be thought about, designed and executed because that’s just how he is. As for Saffron Supper Club, you can find them on their Facebook page where they announce all of their events. It’s pretty new and I think there has only been one more event after the one I attended.
If you have not been to Blue Collar well then I guess you must live under a rock. Seriously! Get out there! Just make sure you wear stretchy pants so that you can eat in peace. This is not pinky up, fine dining. This is what dining at Danny’s house must be like. He will greet you as such and serve you an unforgettable plate of food or two. Please make sure to end with the bread pudding. Even if you don’t like bread pudding, just do it! You won’t find Chef Kilgore there but you can follow him on his Twitter account and attend any of the many events he has been involved with.That is all. You can thank me later.