A Few Days in Florida 🌴

Reading in a browser? Click to get this in your inbox every week!

Hey there,

Well there it is! My Thanksgiving plate 2018. No, I didn't cook anything on it: I haven't cooked Thanksgiving dinner since 2007 and it was such an ordeal that my family is always relieved when I say that I'm not cooking it again. So we go to my parents' golf club in Boca Raton, Florida, and there are ice sculptures surrounded by shrimp and oysters, a keyboardist playing smooth jazz, and a carving station where you can get your turkey hand-carved by someone who's not related to you. It's all much easier and, frankly, I'm not such a big fan of Thanksgiving food anyway; I find it all kind of beige and bland. Anyway, here's my family gathered around the table:

On the bottom row, from the left, you'll see my Uncle Mark (mom's brother), Aunt Ellen, my dad, my mom, my grandma Ronnie (mom's mom), my Uncle Jerry (famous on Instagram) who flew in all the way from L.A. for the occasion, my sister-in-law Tali's parents Craig and Gila and my niece Ella. On the top row, from the left, my cousin Matt, his girlfriend Emily, Craig, me, my brother Michael, and Tali.

It was a fine family gathering--Uncle Jerry even did a little set in our living room--and some of my favorite rituals remained the same. For example, the morning of Thanksgiving, I always wake up and watch the parade and my mom puts out bagels and lox spread and whitefish salad and lots of Jewish cookies that she gets from Way Beyond Bagels in Boca.

Nothing tastes more like home.

And if you don't follow me on Instagram, you probably missed out on this year's snippet from my parents' celebrity wall (their living room walls are covered with pictures of them with celebrities that they accost, I mean, approach for a picture). Here's a duo of my mom with Beyonce (she saw her sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" on a cruise ship at a fundraiser) and Barbara Walters who she also, funny enough, she met on a cruise ship.

On Friday, Craig and I Ubered on down to Miami and checked into the Nautilus Hotel for the weekend (more on that in a bit). That night my parents met us for dinner so now I'll tell you about that (I'm reversing sections this week: the WHERE I'VE BEEN EATING is coming before the WHAT I'VE BEEN COOKING so this is a trigger warning).

Where I've Been Eating:

1. Bazaar Mar (Miami, Florida).

If you've been following the food media recently, you may have seen that Chef José Andrés has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in Puerto Rico. I was lucky enough to have cooked with him for my cookbook years ago, and I remember at the time he had just brought solar ovens to Haiti after the earthquake there. The man is genuinely a superhero: not only does he run a steadily-expanding restaurant empire, he also manages to find the time to save the world.

But how's his food? I've actually only eaten in one of his restaurants; it was a quick trip to Minibar when I was in DC for the book, though it wasn't a full meal there. So when my mom suggested that we go to Bazaar Mar for dinner on Friday night, I was fully on board.

When Craig and I got there first, we were delighted to see that the art was by Sergio Mora.

When Craig and I went to Barcelona years ago, we fell in love with Sergio Mora's work at a restaurant called Santa Maria there. Then for Christmas, a few years ago, I reached out to Sergio himself through his website to see if he had any paintings for sale that I could get for Craig. He sent a portfolio, Craig looked it over, and we selected the one and only painting that we have in our apartment: it's a picture of a penis holding an umbrella in a rainstorm. It's a real conversation piece!

Anyway, we loved the look and feel of Bazaar Mar. There's a great vibe inside that feels very modern, very Miami, with a hint of Spain.

The menu was a bit overwhelming so we decided to opt for the chef's tasting menu which wasn't by any means cheap (hey, saving the world is expensive) but seemed the best way to experience the restaurant's highlights. And it was a great choice. Here's a little photo spread that I made on Instagram.

My mom's cocktail (which you can see on the top left) was a margarita topped with salted foam which was incredible, such a good idea. The food is heavily influenced by Andres's time at El Bulli, where Craig and I were lucky enough to go in 2009. Everything had an interesting, exciting texture. Our favorite bite of the night, which I'll show you up close here, was his riff on "Bagels and Lox": air bread, filled with cream cheese, and topped with Russ & Daughters' smoked salmon.

(I guess there's a theme here: I like bagels and lox.)

And the key lime pie was deconstructed, but it really worked. It was topped with the same salt foam that my mom had on her margarita.

All in all, Bazaar Mar is a special place for a special occasion. We had a blast.

2. Restaurant 27 (Miami, Florida).

Our friend Andrew, whose family also lives in Boca, went to South Beach recently and recommended this restaurant called Restaurant 27 that Craig and I walked to from our hotel.

Outside, it looks like a house; but inside is entire complex featuring the restaurant, another hotel (with a pool), and one of the best bars in America.

Let's start with the restaurant: Craig and I absolutely adored it. The place was cozy and comfortable and the waiter was super friendly and helpful. The menu is basically a tribute to the various cultures that reside in Miami; so there's some Jewish stuff, some Latin stuff, some Asian stuff. The cocktails were insane; I had the Jefferson Airplane which had tequila shaken with a toasted cashew tamarind shrub, toasted coconut-marigold tinctures, and fresh lime juice. Craig had the Kiki's Margarita with Mezcal shaken with a serrano pepper shrub, orange juice, and finished with citrus blend bitters.

For our appetizers, we took the waiter's suggestion and had the Malawah (Yemenite bread), the oyster mushrooms with tahini, and the shrimp shumai. (The picture's bright because I had Craig hold his flashlight over the table.)

All of it was pretty damn delicious. Then, for our entree, we shared Gabe's Arepa Platter with house-made arepas, ropa vieja, queso de mano, hogado, and aji.

The best part, though, was the dessert: a guava bread pudding with a side of vanilla mascarpone ice cream.

Craig doesn't even like dessert and I had to battle him for every bite. Seriously, if anyone from Restaurant 27 is reading this, please send me the recipe!

After dinner, we wandered out back and discovered one of the best bars in America, The Broken Shaker, which was filled with a very young, attractive crowd. I was pretty much done for after two Jefferson Airplanes, so I sipped an Amaro on ice and helped Craig deduce if the two men sitting next to us were gay (they weren't, but their friends were).

3. The Nautilus Hotel (Miami, Florida).

If you're headed to Miami and looking for a place to stay, we really enjoyed the Nautilus Hotel which was right on the beach. Here's a turkey club that I ate by the pool: it was good!

4. Konbi.

Back here in L.A., I finally made it to Konbi in Echo Park. People have been raving about the Japanese-inspired egg salad sandwiches, but I was there because Brooks Headley, of New York's Superiority Burger, was there making dessert.

First the egg salad sandwich.

It was fine. Very Instagrammable. Frankly, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about: it tasted like well-made egg salad on white bread. Maybe it's because I really like to doctor my own egg salad with cornichons, capers, lemon zest, lots of chopped dill. This one was just clean-tasting and good.

But then there was the dessert.

I have no idea what uncooked kaki jam is, but man oh man was this insanely delicious.

Like: I will think about this dessert for a long time, it was so good. The combination of the griddled cake, the pine nut gelato, and the tart fruit was out of this world. Wish Brooks was still there so I could have it again for breakfast. And lunch. And maybe dinner.

What I've Been Cooking:

1. Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

After a trip away, I almost always make pasta on the first night back (just because I can use pantry ingredients and don't have to go food shopping). As it happened, Craig requested his favorite thing that I make--Cavatappi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes (click the words for the recipe)--and had to go get his car from a friend's, so I sent him to the store, he came with the ingredients, and I got to work.

It's really as easy as what you see in this picture. Toast garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and chili flakes in olive oil and some of the oil from the tomato jar; when everything's good and fragrant, you drop your pasta into salted water and ladle some of that water into the pan to stop the garlic/tomatoes from toasting. That brothy mixture becomes your sauce. You add your drained beans to that mixture, add some more pasta water if necessary, and when the cavatappi's just al dente, you lift it into the pan with the garlic, tomatoes, and beans, let it all cook together, and when it's all combined, you take it off the heat, add tons of Parmesan cheese, and lots of chopped parsley. It's a pretty flawless dinner.

2. Roast Jidori Chicken with Root Vegetables.

This is just my usual roast chicken with root vegetables (see here) but at Gelson's the other day, I saw they had Jidori chickens.

Whats a Jidori chicken? According to Google, it's like the Kobe beef of chickens, with more flavor.

Indeed, it was very flavorful. But, as always, the vegetables were the star because they get so coated with all of the butter from the chicken and the chicken fat.

Links & Things:

[My Barefoot Contessa pin arrived from Etsy! You can find it by looking for PCPoolSide on there.]

* Real People Eat Quiche (Gabrielle Hamilton), The New York Times Magazine
* Poached Pears Three Ways (Felicity Cloake), The Guardian
* The Sisters Who Gave Back a Michelin Star, The Guardian
* Boeuf Bourguignon Showdown: Dutch Oven vs Instant Pot vs Slow Cooker, Extra Crispy
* Ruth Reichl’s Gift Guide 2018, Ruth Reichl
* Brownies for Those Who Love to Lick the Bowl (so, everyone?), The New York Times
* Nigel Slater’s Perfect Christmas Recipes, The Guardian
* The easy way to make potato latkes starts in the freezer aisle (kind of lost me at turkey pepperoni), The Washington Post
* The Classic Steakhouses of New York, Eater NY

Last night we watched The Ballad of Buster Scruggs on Netflix. I love the Cohen brothers but, at first, this movie rubbed me the wrong way. The whole opening segment (the movie is told in parts) is kind of a cutesy musical about a gunslinger who gleefully goes about shooting people who mean him harm. It seemed to revel in its violence, which I don't normally mind in a Cohen brothers movie, but usually there's a larger story afoot; here it felt like a beautifully made SNL sketch, and one I wasn't particularly enjoying in the wake of all the real shootings going on here in America. But then the movie continued on and it just got better and better. The James Franco section was fine. But the one with Liam Neeson is incredible and may be the best parable about show business I've ever seen. And the one with Zoe Kazan is absolutely wonderful storytelling; it's pretty much a masterpiece. And Tom Waits's segment is gorgeous. Then there's Tyne Daly in the finale, and how can you argue with that? So I definitely recommend The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

That's all for this week folks!

Until next time....

Your friend,