I find it interesting that ever since moving to New York at the beginning of the month, I have seen more Miami chefs in town than I did when I was still working back home. It’s no surprise, considering our talents are making big strides internationally, showcasing the skills that have finally put us in the culinary map of the country, along the more seasoned metropoli that usually lead on the matter.
However, if there is one thing where New York supersedes Miami, it is with the now multi-city Food Network sponsored Wine and Food Fest, which has been Miami’s gastronomical staple destination event for the past decade. It’s "younger" sister, the NYCWFF, has taken roots in the big city, and, very much like our own, showcases a week filled with celebrity-chef star studded events, including grand tastings, seminars and private dinners with top chefs.
It was during one of these dinners, on Saturday Oct. 15th in Brooklyn’s Oleanders, that the New York City Wine & Food Festival brought a little bit of the Miami Sazon to the boroughs. The I Love Miami Spice dinner featured two of our beloved culinary superstars, Aaron Brooks of EDGE Steak & Bar and Michael Pirolo of Macchialina, whom along with the The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau introduced Miami Spice to Brooklynites.
“We’ve been getting recognized at many of the places we’ve visited on our trip” says Pirolo, “I feel like what they say is true: Miami is the sixth borough of New York.” Brooks agrees, “To get recognition outside of Miami blows my mind, cause if anything all I was trying to do is have fun in what is now my hometown, and really spread the good work and have a good time. I think it’s awesome! If we are doing a good job and the word is spreading all the way out here, and around the US.”
After enjoying some Miami-centric hors d'oeuvres including a fluke ceviche and a pickled mango salsa served atop a tostone chip, the four course dinner was split in half with Pirolo leading the way with an appetizer and first course, followed by Brooks’ main entree and dessert. The meal was paired with Southern Wine and Spirit’s Prisoner Wines.
The appetizer was a strong start to the meal, and had the crowds in a frenzy of oohhs and aahhs with the bright and crisp flavors of a composed butternut squash salad, with the main ingredient being elevated by a multitude of savory and sweet textures including roasted cauliflower, hazelnuts, grapes and shavings of Parmigiano. The plate was topped with a sultry ribbon of prosciutto, a signature component in Pirolo’s modern Italian fare.
The palate teaser was followed by a simpler, yet robust wild boar ragu risotto, topped with bitter cacao and shaved porcini. Like many of the staple Macchialina dishes, it was a straightforward comforting dish elevated by the subtlety of the quality of the ingredients, without being overindulgent. “I wanted to bring something from the menu [Macchialina] and then do something that represented South Florida ingredients, which is why I used the wild boar in the risotto” says Pirolo of the dishes he crafted.
Tough act to follow, but Brooks didn’t fall short of rising to the occasion and, with his protein of choice in tow, brought the dinner to its climax with a roasted saddle of lamb, wrapped in lamb chorizo, nested on a bed of garbanzo bean puree and gravy. What made this meat-centric dish spruce up with flavors and textures was the mélange of charred rapini tossed with tomatoes, garbanzo beans, capers, and olives that accompanied the perfectly braised cut of the often fickle-strong flavored animal.
“It might have been somewhat cliche that I went with the lamb, but it was a dish that I had been thinking about for a while and it really added a touch of that charcuterie angle, that meat fabrication and the butchery that we really pride ourselves with at Edge” explains Brooks, “and these are some flavors I really enjoy and I knew they would work harmoniously with Mike’s courses, because they’re an homage to the Mediterranean.”
It is usually the case that after such grandiose offering of signature flavors and dishes, desserts tend to fall flat and are often overlooked as diners throw their napkins and unbuckle their belts, ready to cave to the food coma that will surely follow. But Brooks wasn’t about to let us give in just yet, and his second and final dish of the evening, the sticky guava pudding was the Miami version of a childhood favorite his mother used to make him. “It was me being 50/50 with Australia and Miami. Sticky toffee date pudding is what I grew up with, my mom used to make it throughout my apprenticeship as a cook. It just came to me to throw guava in there and put some cream-cheese ice cream and do a play on pastelito.”
All and all the chefs wowed the crowds down to the last bite, and truly showed a glimpse of what Miami Spice is all about, proudly taking on the honor of being this year’s NYCWFF Miami ambassadors.