Philip McDaniel / St. Augustine Distiller

Florida is having a spirits renaissance thanks in part to the St. Augustine Distillery. Chat Chow TV sat down the distillery’s president and founding partner Philip McDaniel to found out more about the new craft distillery, its historic location and how it is stepping up St. Augustine’s “cool” factor.

The distillery is the brain child of McDaniel and his fellow founding partner Ryan Dettra who were looking for new projects to take on in their adopted hometown of St. Augustine. They were intrigued by the idea of bringing a distillery to the area and went around the country researching and discovering the best practices on how to do so.

They partnered up with Master Distiller David Pickerell, who has more than 30 years of experience in the distillery industry under his belt with brands like Maker’s Mark, and used some of Florida’s abundant produce like sugarcane, corn and wheat, to create their spirits. The first one created was vodka, followed by the recently released gin along with rum that will be coming in early 2015. Bourbon is also in production and once released will be Florida’s first bourbon.

The distillery is housed in the historic FP&L Ice Plant right

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Common Threads

A New Kitchen for Jeffrey Brana

Few South Florida chefs command more respect and outright foodie love than Jeffrey Brana. His credentials include working with Norman Van Aken in various capacities, including chef de cuisine, at the award-winning Norman’s; opening Restaurant Brana in Coral Gables with his wife, Anna; operating the Brana Food Group, a series of underground pop-up dinners; and reuniting with Van Aken at Tuyo at the Miami Culinary Institute. Most recently, Brana opened a restaurant for a group outside of Florida.

Now, he’s back in town, sharing tips with tinier toques as a program manager for Common Threads, the national organization that teaches children living in underserved communities how to cook wholesome, healthy meals in after-school programs.

If you’re thinking pigs in blankets and canned pear salad, think again. “Visit a class and see 8-year-olds with knives and open flames,” says Brana. “A scary proposition, it may seem, but it is transformative.”

Brana’s responsibilities include overseeing the Small Bites curriculum, managing after-school cooking classes and family classes and engaging the business community. Their in-school program, mapped to Common Core and meeting state standards for reading and math, teaches lessons that go beyond basic life skills, says Brana – they’re aimed at tackling the

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Josh Capon / Lure Fishbar

With ocean views, a celebrity chef and the freshest seafood available, Lure Fishbar inside the Loews Miami Beach Hotel has quickly gained a large following since its opening in December 2013. Chat Chow TV sat down with Josh Capon, the Executive Chef and partner, to learn more about Lure, how it stacks up to the NYC outpost and what he has in store for Miami.

Lure Fishbar has been an institution in NYC for more than 10 years — it’s so popular, in fact, that there was a social media outcry when rumors circulated that it may be closing. While the original outpost is still very much in business, the owner of the Loews had been a big fan of the restaurant and convinced Capon and his team to come down to Miami.

“We thought the space, the timing and location was perfect,” notes Capon. “And I think we’ve created something really special here.”

While the restaurant’s menu has many similarities to its NYC sister location, such as fresh seafood towers, sushi and its famous Bash Burger, the menu also features unique dishes that showcase European and Latin flavors like Seared Diver Sea Scallops with Steamed Clams and Chorizo and

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Doctor Pickle’s Dilemma

“Which shoes should I wear?”

Harold Pitts, aka Doctor Pickle, is pondering cuke-colored footwear choices for his upcoming audition in New York for Shark Tank, a national television show that could bring his business an infusion of cash.

“And what pickles should I bring? The honey-mustard? The Jack Daniel’s?” He is putting these questions to his followers on social media, even creating a video to solicit fan suggestions.

Pitts, the featured artisan in our spring issue, has reason to make sure his pickle presentation is as polished as possible. Recently, a rabbi representing a supermarket chain was eyeing his products for a new kosher section. That potential business would require a big boost in production, starting with a new facility with loading docks. It’s a hefty investment, but it could lead to a big payoff for Pitts, whose pickles are now sold at farmers markets, local retailers and some South Florida grocery stores.

Today, there are more places for entrepreneurs to find money to fund expansion than traditional banks or well-heeled friends. Crowdfunding sources, like Kickstarter, are one choice. Another is reality television like ABC’s Shark Tank, where a panel of successful entrepreneurs, including cable and sports mogul

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Local produce hits the streets

It’s taken some doing, but the Mobile Farmstand has finally hit the road in Miami-Dade, bringing fresh, local produce to urban areas where it’s needed most. Art Friedrich of Urban Oasis Project says the group’s refrigerated truck has started delivering produce on Wednesdays to three areas in Liberty City: the Jessie Trice Community Health Center from noon-2pm; Liberty Square from 2-4pm; and the Jolivette housing community near the MLK Metrorail station from 4-6.

“It’s been good at Jessie Trice because people are more familiar with the items,” Friedrich says. Recent visits brought green beans, kale, collards, beets, turnips, mamey, cherry tomatoes, grapefruit and sweet pepper to residents, who can use SNAP (food stamp) benefits and take advantage of Veggie Bucks, which double the benefits when used to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, up to $20 a week.

Funded by grant money, the mobile farmstand idea is unique in South Florida, he says, and has gotten a lot of attention. “We’re hoping to reach the folks who need it most,” Friedrich says. He says they used to do these markets in “really hard areas” where residents, many of them seniors, had no transportation. “We would drive over and sell out of

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Cooking with Cactus

Nopales – bright green cactus pads also known as prickly pear cactus – are turning up more frequently at South Florida farmers markets, and they’re getting plenty of attention for their health benefits. Studies showed that prickly pear pectin decreased cholesterol levels and reduced blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. They’re also rich in antioxidants.

Surprisingly, edible cactuses, found in the Opuntia and Nopalea genera, are native to nearly all of the states in the United States, and grow easily in South Florida. Find out how here.

And they’re a frequent addition on the tables of Mexican families, says Jerry Sanchez of Jerry’s Here, a second-generation farmer who grows nopales and sells them at the Saturday farmers market at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. They’re harvested from plants, so you can find them year-round. He says nopales are popular diced in omelets and scrambled eggs, added to salads, steamed or sauteed. “They have a liquid inside like okra,” he adds. The cooking methods below show how to eliminate the liquid.

Cleaning Nopales

To prepare the cactus pads or paddles, wear gloves and use a sharp knife to cut off all the thorns – look for the tiny bumps.

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Heath Porter / Uvaggio

Tucked away on Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile is the new wine bar and restaurant Uvaggio. The cozy spot has garnered a lot of buzz because of its unique approach to wine and dining. Chat Chow TV sat down with Uvaggio’s Head Wine-O Heath Porter to learn more about the restaurant and its interesting take on the wine scene.

Uvaggio is part dining experience and part wine bar, carrying around 700 different bottles of wine, by 120 different labels, and prides itself on carrying uncommon wine varieties.

“Seems like everybody else wants to carry a lot of the same things, and that’s awesome if people want to go there and drink that,” Porter notes. “But I’d rather come here and try something I don’t drink sitting on my couch every night.”

The extensive wine program also features high-end bottles poured by the glass using a Coravin, a members only wine club, and wine tastings for people of all different levels.

As for the cuisine, Executive Chef and Top Chef alum, Bret Pelaggi, goes the untraditional approach and pairs the food with the wine — not the other way around. Creating interesting dishes like Braised Beef Short Rib with black licorice

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BlogHer Comes to Miami

Coming to town this week from all over the country: 500 of the most influential online food writers, authors, photographers and more. They’re here for BlogHer Food, a national conference that – despite its name – is open to both men and women. Held May 16-17 at the Miami Hilton Downtown, the gathering is bringing its delegates to Miami for the first time, says co-founder Elisa Camahort Page.

“Miami has a vibrant food culture, with a heavy Latin influence,” she says. “We hadn’t yet been to that part of the country and taken advantage of that part of the greater American culture of food.”

Make no mistake about the power of food blogging, Page says. “Food blogging is a massive influence on not only food culture, but on day-to-day behavior. Food is one of the top traffic drivers on the Internet today. It’s BlogHer’s number-one vertical, but food’s universal appeal also explains why you see such things as Meredith buying AllRecipes, CNN launching a food site, and the massive rapid growth of new social services like Pinterest and Instagram. Blogs have pushed themselves, via dynamic content and savvy SEO, to the top of search rankings.”

Food also defines us in

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Master Fruit, Herb Flavors in Cocktails with Amy Stewart

You just can’t beat tropical fruit flavors in cocktails, says Amy Stewart, author of four New York Times bestsellers, including The Drunken Botanist and Flower Confidential. Mango, pineapple, citrus – “whatever is great and in season” pairs so well with spirits. Stewart is coming to South Florida Tues., May 6, to spend the day at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden talking about the business of flowers, signing her book, and teaching a master class on making infused vodkas in liqueurs. Tickets are still available here.

Stewart mentions herbs like “mint, basil, geranium – almost all of these Mediterranean herbs” as powerful flavor enhancers for cocktails. ” A great example is lemon verbena, which adds citrusy flavor without the acidity of the juice itself,” she says. She recommends making a simple syrup with equal parts of water and sugar, heating to melt the sugar. “Then throw in some lemon verbena for a really delightful simple syrup with lemony notes.”

A Day with Amy Stewart includes a spirited lecture on what has been gained and lost in the quest for the perfect flower followed by Q&A; lunch; and a presentation on The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s

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Fill ‘er up! Growlers + gas at modern C-store

At the Mobil gas station on the busy corner of Coral Way and SW 32 Ave., you can’t miss the car wash painted in tropical brights by artist Alexander Mijares. Drive in for a fill-up, but please don’t pay at the pump – go inside. Amid the typical fare of rows of gum, pickled sausages and Colt 45, you’ll  find vegan health bars, Panther Coffee cold brew and lunch sandwiches, like a Reuben and a “Good Morning Vietnam.” The taps on the wall include Wynwood Brewery’s La Rubia. Oh, and there are growlers.

Mendez Fuel is the pioneering face of the new convenience store in 2014.

“We’re changing the perspective of the gas station,” says Michael Mendez, who’s owned this Mobil in the Coral Gate neighborhood for five years, as well as three others in Miami-Dade, all managed by his brother Andrew. “Beer and health – everyone wants healthier options today,” says Michael. The convenience store has to adapt.”

The Beer …
There’s no question this station, with the new Fuel Juice and Deli inside, is successfully innovating by bringing in new products to appeal to different audiences. Customers have been making the drive from Kendall and Homestead to

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