TWO PERFECT DAYS IN MIAMI When Doug asked what I wanted to do for our 40th wedding anniversary, it took me two minutes to know I wanted to go to Miami and have dinner at Red Rooster Over town to see my Chef friend, Triston Epps. We have a lot of travel plans the next few months, so I just wanted two perfect days and that is exactly what I had. We flew from New Orleans and landed around three. One of my best friends Julia Johnson (kitchen designer extraordinaire and overall just a fun friend) and sweet husband Steve drove in from Bocca to join us for the night. It was a Monday and we were fortunate that Mamey Miami in Coral Gables was open. I knew Julia would find the perfect place… and it was fantastic. Chef Niven Patel embodies the definition of farm-to-table philosophy and brings this to his restaurants by way of his two-acre farm located about an hour south of Coral Gables in Homestead, Florida. The sprawling farm, Rancho Patel, was started in 2014 and now supplies his restaurants with freshly harvested produce — including mangoes, eggplant, avocados, beets, and many other various fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The stand out dishes were his White truffle and brie grilled cheese with Homestead Mango Jam, Sullivan Street Pullman Bread. The Ceviche with Coconut Leche de Tigre, Cachucha Peppers, Cilantro, Red Onion, Avocado had to be eaten with a spoon to get every drop of one of the best Leche de Tigre I had ever had. It a beautiful restaurant and should be a stop anytime in Miami. Tuesday was saved to spend the day with my longtime friend Mike Hicks and one of my all-time two favorite people, Mike and his wife Michelle. Mike and I met when the American Queen first sailed, and I was helping with the menus. He was the PR contact with Lou Hammond, and we bonded over food and stories right away. He now works with the American Queen Steamboat Company and is marketing their fleet! We have shared so many meals and laughs. We all gathered at Bachour in Coral Gables for brunch. My bar for pastries was always set high by Payard in NY. I could not believe how incredibly beautiful the pastries at Bachour were. Stunning! I have never seen more beautiful pastries and desserts in Paris, New York or San Francisco. Then brunch entrees were just as amazing. The Salmon Benedict with perfectly soft-boiled eggs with a hollandaise that covered them, my Seafood Causa Salad with yellow potato causa, poached shrimp, salmon ceviche, tuna salad and perfectly dressed greens and crispy quinoa. The Pan Con Lechon, a roasted pork with cilantro aioli and crispy prosciutto was so well prepared.
It rained pretty much all day, but Mike and Michelle gave us the best driving tour of Miami and it was just great to spend a day with friends and catch up. Surprising there was no day drinking involved! They dropped us off at our hotel around four and came back at six with another great friend, Tim Rubacky (who is with the amazing Oceana Cruise line) Destination, Red Rooster Over Town. I met Chef Triston Epps several years ago when I prepared biscuits for a Film Festival Brunch and several chefs prepared toppings and fillings for my biscuits. He endeared himself to me immediately with his blueberry compote and sweet corn foam and a crunchy sweet corn topping. It was the most creative of all participating. I have worked with so many chefs over the past 40 years and two stand out young chefs were Nate Appleman who I met at the Cooking for Solutions at the Monterey Aquarium ten years ago. Nate just had that touch that put him above everyone in his class, I saw that same talent with Triston.
Chef Tristen Epps combines his classic training and international travel experiences to cultivate a unique and nuanced globally influenced palate. Born of Trinidadian heritage and the child of an active-duty military mom, whose stations included Guam, Japan, and the Philippines, Tristen’s passion for unique cuisine began at a young age. With a degree in Culinary Arts and Food & Beverage Industry Management from Johnson & Wales University and a three-year culinary apprenticeship at the renowned Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. Tristen has worked in kitchens across the United States and three continents, cooking alongside celebrated chefs such as Richard Rosendale, Thomas Keller, and Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson first became Tristen’s mentor on ABC’s The Taste, where he came in second. On the show, Samuelsson called him the best chef of the competition, offered him a ticket to New York and a job at his restaurant. Tristen’s subsequent three years with Samuelsson were the most pivotal of his career, working alongside Samuelsson at his restaurants in New York, Washington D.C., Bermuda and Sweden and now Miami. Tristen’s skills have been widely recognized including being crowned champion on Food Network’s popular show, Chopped. One of his signature dishes was featured on the Cooking Channel’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, and he was highlighted in Bon Appetit Magazine as the creator of one of the best five meals of Carla Hall’s life. Now as Chef De Cuisine at Red Rooster Over town he has immersed himself in the history and culture of the neighborhood. The meal was everything and more than I expected.
Fresh radishes from the garden with whipped butter and sea salt was perfect with cocktails.
One funny note of the evening they were offering a special biscuit that night and Triston told me he told the staff “Do not bring a biscuit near her table”. I’m glad my biscuits impressed him as much as he impressed me with what he topped them with. We had the house corn bread which was some of the best corn bread I have ever had, and biscuits were not missed!!! The meal began with Fresh East Coast Oysters and West Coast Oysters with Caviar so a great start! But honestly each dish was perfection and continued to be topped by the next! Tasmanian Sea Trout Crudo with passion fruit mojo, cauliflower, hammock greens, spicy arugula Amberjack Tiradito coconut leche de tigre, sorrel, cilantro Charred Suya Octopus ( I think my favorite next to the Oxtail) black foie gras BBQ , asparagus, dukkah, zhug
Whole Grilled Fish fermented crab rice, shado beni, curtido slaw, charred lemon Fire Roasted Wagyu Oxtail "As seen on 'best thing I ever ate'" served whole, maduros, local bibb, truffle and yes, it is the best thing I ever ate!!!! I got up from the table before dessert to have a walk and visit with Triston. He showed me the upstairs and the Creamery where we tasted the Cornbread Ice Cream. Dessert was consumed and raved about by the ones left at the table. The high light was #Sundae AF Neapolitan ice cream, Rooster doughnuts, cookie dough globs, berbere caramel corn, dulce de leche, fluffy cream, Florida orange, rainbow chocolate confetti, filthy cherries, fudge sauce, 24k magic in the air An honorable mention by the table on the
Tropical Roots - carrot cake, passion fruit, coconut, pineapple, buttermilk sorbet I am so glad we took the time to go see Triston. I am so proud of him and for him. I have to give a shout out to the staff there as well. All were top notch and so personable. Just a great feel over all from the time you walk in until the time you reluctantly leave to go home.
The next day we walked in the heat but found a Chinese restaurant, something I never get in Natchez. Tim had recommended it the night before. Hu Tong beautifully decorated, lovely, elegant service and authentic Northern Chinese cuisine meets artisanal dim sum and exotic signature cocktails in Hong Kong, London and New York and lucky for us Miami. It was a lovely send off and yes there was day drinking there and amazing Peking Duck and Me La Chilli Prawns. Made it to the airport by 3 for an easy flight back to New Orleans and inspired by all the beautiful food and two nights in Miami.