Nightlife at the Fontainebleau

A typical Saturday night in South Beach rarely extends beyond 20th Street.  The area that starts at 1st Street is packed with restaurants, lounges, chic hotels and nightclubs, all within walking distance of each other or a short cab ride away if you’re wearing heels.

The Fontainebleau is giving people a reason to head north — all the way to 44th Street and Collins.  The resort is a one stop shop for dining, drinking and dancing.

For a pre-dinner drink or a cocktail before you hit the nightclub, check out Bleau Bar.  You can’t miss this bright, glowing space off the lobby in Chateau.  If Stanley Kubrick designed a bar for the space station in “2001: A Space Odyssey” it would look like this.  The floor and ceiling glow blue while a large column in the center changes color every few minutes.  The furniture is sleek and modern.  The open, circular layout allows you to scope out the crowd.  Bleau Bar offers a mix of classic and contemporary cocktails and wines by the glass.  The bar opens at 10am and fills up at night, especially on the weekends.

If Bleau Bar is too crowded or you’re looking for a more intimate spot to get a drink, head downstairs to Blade Sushi Bar.  If none of the tables are available, grab one of the comfy chairs at the bar.  Gotham Steak and Scarpetta also have nice lounges for enjoying a drink or light bite.  If you want to have a conversation without having to shout, check out one of these two lounges.

It’s hard to dispute that LIV is the “it” club in Miami Beach right now.  On Saturday nights there’s a crowd of people gathered by the velvet rope inside the Chateau lobby and even more people waiting outside the hotel.  The name LIV, Roman numerals for 54, evokes memories of the club’s heyday when Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley performed.

Getting into LIV can be a challenge.  It helps to know someone, arrive early, or have a table reservation.  I’d recommend getting a group together and reserving a table.  It’s a three bottle minimum for tables on the dance floor and more for the VIP section and skyboxes.

LIV is the nightclub for those who want to see and be seen.  The layout is described as a “voyeuristic design” that allows you to check out other clubgoers from nearly anywhere in the room.  Though you may not have a skybox overlooking the dance floor you can hang out right next to it.  And you’ll want to — the upstairs bar is usually less crowded than the two downstairs.  Bring a credit card or lots of cash and prepare to spend a lot on drinks.  The Grey Goose and soda I got cost $16 (and that’s a single, not a double).

The music is a mix of hip-hop, house and rock.  Music videos are shown on TVs at the bar and projected on a large screen at one end of the club.  Lights illuminate the ceiling and pulse with different colors along with the beat.

If you like European club music you’ll want to be at LIV on Saturday night (technically Sunday morning), when DJ Tito takes over at 1:30am.  He mixes heart pumping house with the base turned up in a way that creates an electric energy that gets the crowd dancing.  This is the kind of music I like, so you’ll find me at LIV on Saturday nights.

When your night of partying comes to a close there are plenty of taxis waiting to take you home.

For more information on clubs and nightlife at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach click here.

Related Articles:
Dining at the Fontainebleau: Gotham Steak
Dining at the Fontainebleau: Scarpetta

Dining at the Fontainebleau: Gotham Steak

The Fontainebleau Miami Beach has a restaurant for every taste.

My pick for best all-around restaurant is Gotham Steak, located in the Chateau section of the resort.  It’s by Alfred Portale, chef and owner of Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City. I was a bit hesitant to try it — one thing Miami doesn’t need is another steak house (though there are more coming this year).  As I found out, the “steak” in the restaurant’s name may be a bit misleading because a lot on the menu will appeal to non red meat eaters.

Wine is a big part of the experience.  Wine lovers will like peering into the two-level glass-enclosed wine tower that makes up an entire wall of the restaurant and perusing the long wine list.  If you’re intimidated by the 500 plus selections, a friendly sommelier is ready to offer a suggestion.  A gentleman named David was very helpful in selecting a great Napa Cabernet Sauvignon I had not previously tried.

If you love foie gras, you’ll want to order Gotham’s foie gras as an appetizer.  It’s served with roasted pineapple in a ginger reduction.  The foie gras is perfectly prepared and melts in your mouth.  The portion size is on par with other SoBe restaurants but you’ll definitely wish there was more.  Another standout appetizer is the charcoal grilled octopus served with grilled fingerling potatoes, leeks and caperberries.

For the main course, the miso marinated black cod is delicious.  It’s buttery and light and served in a soy lemongrass ginger sauce that’s so tasty you’ll wish you had a spoon.  Fortunately there’s sticky rice to absorb it.  Besides Nobu (which is in a league of its own) and Go Fish (one of my favorite restaurants in the Napa Valley), this is the best black cod I’ve eaten at a restaurant.

Of course you can’t forget about the steaks.  The wide selection of cuts are cooked exactly to your liking and served with three different sauces.  The 50 day dry aged filet is something else.  Our server, a charming man from New Jersey, proudly told us that Gotham is the only restaurant in Florida that serves this steak.  At $110 it’s very expensive but worth trying on a special occasion.  The aging gives it a tangy and creamy taste, almost like blue cheese.  The flavors are so unique you won’t want to change them with the steak sauces.

What’s a steak restaurant without side dishes?  I recommend the wild mushrooms.  They’re lightly sauteed to preserve a nice woodsy taste and aren’t oily or mixed in with onions and garlic like in other steak restaurants.

If you have room for dessert, try the peanut butter coupe.  It’s like a big ice cream sundae, without all the whipped cream to take away from the peanut butter ice cream and chocolate fudge.  It’s a tasty and satisfying end to a nice meal.

Gotham Steak is open for dinner.  When you make a reservation, request the lower level of the restaurant.  It has a more intimate feel than the upstairs area and gives you a nice view of the open kitchen.

For more information on Gotham Steak click here.

Related Articles:
Dining at the Fontainebleau: Scarpetta
Nightlife at the Fontainebleau: Bleau Bar and LIV

Dining at the Fontainebleau: Scarpetta

Scarpetta is Fontainebleau’s Italian restaurant, located in the lobby level of Sorrento.  It’s by Scott Conant who recently opened a restaurant of the same name in New York City.

Peering in through the entrance, the restaurant gives off a very hip nautical vibe.  The color scheme is a soothing light blue, gray and light brown.  A mosaic with a circular pattern runs across the wall and behind the bar.  A large outdoor seating area overlooks the resort’s pools and is great for dining alfresco on nice evenings.

My experience at Scarpetta didn’t start off so great.  I had to wait 30 minutes for a table, even though I had a reservation.  The good thing was the bartenders were very friendly.  The manager was apologetic and once we were seated the staff was very attentive.

As Scarpetta is an Italian restaurant, the majority of the wine is Italian.  Fortunately there’s a sommelier on hand to help you choose among the many bottles.  What’s surprising is there are no American wines.  If you want something outside of Italy, your only option is a French wine.

The servers were a bit aggressive when it came to refilling our wine glasses.  I’d take a sip and someone would come by and refill the glass.  It seemed there were several servers who roamed around refilling glasses.  One would pour in a little, then another would pour a little more — even if you hadn’t taken a sip in between.  It felt like they were pushing us along so we would order another bottle.  We didn’t.

Our server was extremely well versed on the menu.  He went over it before we ordered, explaining what each Italian term meant and going into detail if we asked about a specific dish.

At his recommendation we ordered the homemade duck and foie gras ravioli to start.  The pasta was light and the creamy center oozed out when you took a bite.  The flavor was rich and delicious.  It was a generous portion and very filling — you could order it as a main course.

One appetizer I really liked was the grilled octopus.  It was served with black lentils and celery salad.  The octopus had a great fresh taste and was cooked just right so it was still very moist.  I preferred Scarpetta’s grilled octopus to Gotham Steak’s version.

The main courses were a bit disappointing.  The black cod, served with concentrated tomatoes and roasted fennel, was overcooked and didn’t have much taste (Gotham Steak wins on black cod).  The Branzino ‘Acqua Pazza’ (meaning crazy water) was slightly better.  It’s served in a tomato broth with cous cous and lobster.  The branzino was light and delicate but the lobster was very chewy.  Both the fish and the tomato broth seemed to be lacking in seasoning.

My favorite Italian dessert is tiramisu so I had to order it when I saw it on the dessert menu.  Scarpetta offers a deconstructed version called “tira mis su.”  It came out looking like an open-faced unmelted s’more — a small espresso-soaked cookie underneath a log of mascarpone cream covered in what tasted like ground up chocolate-covered espresso beans.  Unless you love mascarpone cream, it’s way too much of it.  I prefer it in smaller doses, like when it’s spread between lady fingers in traditional tiramisu.

The highlight of the dessert was the chocolate olive oil mousse that was served with small chunks of espresso granita.  The granita melts in your mouth, filling it with a refreshing burst of chilled espresso.  It balances out the heavier mousse nicely.  I couldn’t get enough of the combination.  The mousse and granita deserve their own spot on the dessert menu.

My verdict after dining at Scarpetta: stick with appetizers in the lounge at the bar and order the chocolate olive oil mousse on its own.

Scarpetta is open for dinner and Sunday brunch.  For more information click here.

Related Articles:
Dining at the Fontainebleau: Gotham Steak
Nightlife at the Fontainebleau: Bleau Bar and LIV

Dining at the Fontainebleau: Blade Sushi Bar

This article is part of a series on dining and nightlife at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.

If you prefer Asian fare, there are a couple of dining options at the Fontainebleau.

blade sushi barBlade Sushi Bar is located on the ground floor of the Chateau.  You can access it from the pool area (where there’s also outdoor seating), or by walking down a staircase near the entrance to LIV.  The dimly lit lounge is a great spot to cozy up to a date or have drinks and a bite to eat with friends before heading to the nightclub.

Besides the seating at the bar and sushi bar, the tables are low to the ground (about knee-level when you’re sitting down), which can make eating sushi difficult.  You’ll have to do a lot of leaning over the table so you don’t drip soy sauce on your lap.

If you’re looking for a nice glass of sake, prepare to spend a lot.  The sake list is pretty limited and a single glass costs between $20 and $30.  I’d recommend sticking to standard cocktails.

Blade’s menu features upscale Japanese fare and sushi that’s caught daily.  It’s fairly more expensive than most sushi restaurants in Miami Beach so you may not want to go there on an empty stomach.

Whatever you do, stay away from the seared toro sashimi.  I ordered this and couldn’t eat more than a couple of bites.  I don’t know if the chef sliced the fish wrong or if it wasn’t actually toro, but I bit into the fish and it felt like I was biting into gristle.  I didn’t know it was possible for fish to have this kind of texture.  It was so unpleasant that it made me nauseated and I couldn’t eat any more of the dish.  Toro, the fatty part of the tuna, has a great texture that melts in your mouth if it’s fresh and of high quality.  If this dish can’t be prepared properly it shouldn’t be on the menu.

blade sushi barBlade does get bonus points for its cool menus, which automatically light up when you open them so you can actually read them in the dark.  It seems like a no-brainer idea that more dimly lit restaurants should use.

For upscale Chinese fare, Hakkasan will be opening in mid to late February.  It’s the U.S. debut of Alan Yau’s London restaurant and Britain’s only Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant.  I’m really looking forward to Hakkasan and have high hopes for the restaurant.  I had a delicious meal at Yau’s other restaurant in London, Yauatcha.  I highly recommend it if you’re visiting there.

For more information on Blade Sushi Bar click here.

For more information on Hakkasan click here.

Cool Kitchen Gadgets: Chef'sChoice Egg Cooker

Okay I admit it, making hard boiled eggs isn’t too complicated — as long as you have the right water temperature and cook the eggs the right amount of time.  But wouldn’t you love to be able to just press a button and have perfectly cooked eggs less than 20 minutes later?

That’s how the Chef’sChoice Egg Cooker works.  It’s an idiot-proof gadget that takes the guesswork out of cooking eggs.  Add water to the base, put up to seven eggs in the tray, cover with the lid and hit the power switch.  The cooker beeps when the eggs are ready.  You can cook the eggs just the way you like them, from soft boiled to hard boiled.  The cooker also comes with a poaching tray that fits three eggs.  Cleanup is quick and easy — just dump out the water and give the tray a light wash.

I’ve cooked eggs many times with the Chef’sChoice Egg Cooker and each time they’ve come out just right.  It’s great to be able to hit a switch and walk away.  No more boiling and poaching eggs on the stove for me!

The Chef’sChoice Egg Cooker costs $39.99.  It’s sold online at Amazon.com, WilliamsSonoma.com and other websites that sell gadgets for cooks.

AG Pick Under $15: 2006 Anakena Ona Red Blend

If you like bold, complex and spicy reds you’ll want to try Anakena’s 2006 Ona Red Blend.  For a winery that’s only been around since 1999, it produces some great quality wines.  This one just made the $15 cutoff at $14.99, but the taste is so big and sophisticated you’ll think it is a more expensive wine.

Anakena Winery is located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, in the Rapel Valley in central Chile.  The name of the winery and symbols on the wine bottles evoke the region’s roots in the Rapa Nui culture.

Anakena Ona is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Carmenère.  It’s aged in French oak barrels for 16 months.

The smell is spicy and earthy, rounded out by black fruit.  The taste is a satisfying blend of cassis, dried fig, cloves and pepper.  The finish is warm and long lasting.  This is a multilayered wine that’s fun to drink.  It’s really well balanced, with the flavors, alcohol and tannins in harmony.  It’s a great example of the delicious and great value wines being produced in Chile.

This wine pairs nicely with lamb and beef dishes, rich chicken dishes and mild to medium spiced Indian and other Asian cuisines.

This was the first wine I’ve tried from Anakena and I will definitely be trying their other wines to see how they compare.

For more information on Anakena wines visit www.anakenawines.cl.

Wok the New Year

Love Asian food?  You can become a Wok Star!

South Florida resident and Wok Star Eleanor Hoh makes stir frying easy, fun and healthy in her Wok Star cooking classes.  Her goal: to show how you can create big flavors with just a few fresh ingredients.

My husband and I attended a Wok Star cooking class where we learned Eleanor’s easy style of cooking.

She created her method of stir-fry by adapting her mother’s traditional methods to a modern lifestyle. Eleanor cooks the way I like to cook — without recipes and without having to measure ingredients.

You start your stir-fry using oil, ginger and garlic.  Then add your vegetables or protein, and in minutes you have a delicious and healthy meal.  It’s fun for people who love cooking at home and easy enough that those with little cooking experience can create great dishes.

The class is high energy and interactive, with everyone getting a chance to get comfortable using a wok. You learn the techniques of stir-frying so you can create your own dishes at home. And best of all, you get to taste what you’ve made!

Eleanor has Wok Star kits available to purchase at her classes and on her website.  The kit contains a pre-seasoned lightweight cast iron wok with a lid and spatula, as well as seasonings and DVDs in case you want to review your technique.

Eleanor’s next class is the evening of January 21st at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Miami’s Design District.  For more information about becoming a Wok Star visit www.eleanorhoh.com.

Add These to Your Diet

The New York Times has a great article on the 11 best foods you aren’t eating. The post, originally published last June, has a list of healthful foods recommended by nutritionist and author Dr. Jonny Bowden.

Dr. Bowden recommends adding these 11 foods to your grocery list:

Beets — a good source of folate and have natural red pigments that may help fight cancer

Cabbage — has lots of nutrients including one that may boost cancer-fighting enzymes

Swiss Chard — protects aging eyes

Cinnamon — may help control blood sugar and cholesterol

Pomegranate Juice — packed with antioxidants and may help lower blood pressure

Prunes — also packed with antioxidants

Pumpkin Seeds — contain magnesium which in high levels may lower your risk for early death

Sardines — contain omega-3 fatty acids and a variety of vitamins and nutrients

Turmeric — may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties

Frozen Blueberries — linked with better memory in animal studies

Canned Pumpkin — high in fiber and vitamin A

I’m glad beets and pumpkin made the list, I’m a big fan of both. I’ll definitely be including more of these foods into my diet!

Click here to see the New York Times post which includes more on the health benefits and ways to prepare and eat each food.

Dr. Bowden is the author of “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.”

Area 31: Fresh Seafood in Downtown Miami

The latest in haute hotel dining is sure to lure seafood fans to downtown Miami. Area 31, located on the 16th floor of the new Epic Hotel, is a great addition to the downtown dining scene.

The restaurant is named for the region where most of its menu is from. Area 31 is the marine area that surrounds Miami, as designated by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. It expands from the Western Central Atlantic down to parts of South America.

Area 31’s décor is a mix of soothing light brown and cream colors that create a Zen-like atmosphere. Tables outdoors and by the windows offer great views of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, and make Brickell Avenue look like Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. The outdoor lounge, decked out in South Beach style, is sure to be packed on nice evenings.

The location and design of Area 31 make the restaurant such an appealing place to be that you really hope the food is just as good. Fortunately, Chef John Critchley doesn’t disappoint. The Mediterranean-influenced menu lets the fish take center stage. Chef Critchley uses ingredients like olives, tomatoes and mushrooms to enhance, not overpower the essence of the fish. The flavors are light and elegant. At the end of the meal you feel full but healthy, not heavy.

The wine list created by Master Sommelier Emily Wines includes a variety of organic and biodynamic wines. There is a large half-bottle list and a good selection of wines by the glass, great for matching wines with each course.

For starters, the Crudo section of the menu offers a selection of raw fish. The oysters, which our server said were harvested by Chef Critchley in Massachusetts, are served in a light vinaigrette and have a great creamy taste. My only complaint is the cost – for $9 you only get three oysters. Another appetizer with grilled octopus could have had a larger portion. Besides these two, the menu is fairly priced.

Pasta fans will enjoy the fresh pastas in the Primi Piatti section.

For the main course, there are several selections of fish in the Secondi Piatti selection. Or you can choose among the daily catches that can be prepared in a variety of ways. From the Secondi Piatti section, the red snapper served in a light red pepper sauce is delicious. If you prefer meatier fish try the wahoo, served with foraged mushrooms and cured olives.

Non-fish eaters can find chicken, beef and lamb dishes among the Secondi Piatti selections.

Be sure to order a couple of side dishes to share. The mushroom risotto is creamy but not too heavy. My favorite is the Swiss chard which has a great texture and even better taste.

For dessert you can’t go wrong with the key lime tart. My pick though is the chèvre panna cotta. The tangy goat cheese mixes nicely with the sweet rose gelee on top. It’s like having both a cheese course and a dessert. I was full at the end of the meal but the panna cotta was so good I could have eaten a second.

Area 31 is located at 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way in downtown Miami. For more information visit www.area31restaurant.com.

AG Pick Under $10: Alamos Malbec

I’m in a South American wine phase right now. Argentina and Chile are producing many great wines that cost much less than wines made here in the United States. Many of the red wines have an earthy taste characteristic of Old World wines, a quality I really like when pairing wine with beef or lamb.

The 2006 Alamos Malbec, made by Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, packs a big taste into a small price. For around $10, this is a wine you can buy and drink on any day of the week and not feel guilty.

The wine is a deep purple color. The smell is intense, with spicy black pepper and ripe black fruits. The taste is a lip-smacking combination of black cherries, cassis, cocoa and a hint of leather. The mouthfeel is full and soft with a smooth, lingering finish.

Alamos Malbec pairs nicely with Argentine style beef dishes as well as lamb, hamburgers, chili and hearty stews.

For more information on Bodega Catena Zapata wines visit www.catenawines.com.