Streetscapes Make Downtowns Sparkle

It’s a whole new landscape in urban South Florida – one that recalls earlier days, when folks walked, biked and took trolleys and streetcars to get around. Streetscapes – wider, pedestrian-friendly downtown areas, with room for sidewalk cafes, lush landscaping, welcoming benches and street lighting – are business boosters and enhance neighborhood downtowns in fresh, new ways. They’re in the works in a number of busy urban areas: Coconut Grove’s Commodore Plaza is currently in the midst of a streetscape design, expanding the brick sidewalk area and adding new trees, while in downtown Miami, historic Flagler Street will soon be getting a major makeover with new trees, drainage repair and other elements to create a more inviting atmosphere for both tourists and residents. And in Coral Gables, an ambitious facelift for Miracle Mile and Giralda in the heart of the downtown business district aims to enhance this lively dining and shopping destination.

“To me, this is transformational,” says Marina Foglia, executive director of the Business Improvement District (BID) of Coral Gables. “Now we have the Design District, Wynwood, Downtown Miami, Brickell, Flagler, South Miami and Coconut Grove,” she says. “We need to make sure we are viable.”

For Coral Gables, … Read More

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Cheers! That cocktail’s gluten, sugar-free

Living that gluten-free, sugar-free, no-allergen lifestyle? Then you may be interested in Devotion Vodka, an American vodka made with 100 percent corn.

“Most vodka is made from a combination of mixed grains, wheat, potatoes or corn,” says Mike Calleja, partner and COO, Devotion Vodka. “The big role gluten plays in vodka is the source in which it originates. Devotion Spirits uses only 100 percent corn, leaving no room for mixed grains or wheat as some of our competitors do.

The corn is non-GMO and sugar is not added, Calleja says. For flavor, they teamed up with Allen Flavors, maker of Arizona Iced Tea, to develop a way to eliminate sugars as a flavoring agent in vodka. In place of sugar, they use a proprietary essence process and natural flavors to create desired components of taste, he says. The result is a vodka that is not watered down. “Today, most flavored vodkas on the shelves have been diluted by sugary flavoring agents, giving them the candy effect, and watering them down to 70 proof,” says Calleja. “Devotion’s proprietary flavoring process was created to ensure its flavored vodkas maintain all sugar-free attributes and remain 80 proof.”

“We are the first vodka family … Read More

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Recap / June’s Miami Spice Mash-Up

The 13th Annual Miami Spice Restaurant program kicks off in just a few weeks on August 1. This year to celebrate, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) launched a series of special of monthly Miami Spice Mash-Ups, where chefs collaborate for a one-night only dinner and prepare dishes from their upcoming Spice menus.

On Wednesday, June 25, J&G Grill at St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort kicked off the series with its Chef de Cusine Brad Kilgore and pastry chef Antonio Bachour creating a six-course menu with visiting Chef Jose Mendin of the Pubbelly family of restaurants.

The intimate dinner showcased the creativity of these chefs with dishes such as Local Poussin, “Saucisson de Lyon,” Five Spice, Chard Walnut Emulsion from Kilgore, Pork Cheeks, Asparagus, Mushroom Dirt, Parmesan Cheese and Pickled Mushrooms from Mendin; and Salted Honey Yogurt, Candied Tomatoes, Greek Yogurt Custard, Strawberries, and Yogurt Sponge Cake from Bachour. Guests also enjoyed cocktails from Botran Rum and beers from Stella Artois.

Check out more highlights from the video above and make sure not to miss the next Miami Spice Mash-Up on Thursday, July 24 at 8 p.m., when chef Clayton Miller of 50 Eggs and Todd Erickson of … Read More

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Signs of Times: Jumbo’s Closes for now

Jumbo’s owner Bobby Flam plans to take some time off.

For more than five decades, Jumbo’s Restaurant on NW 7th Avenue has weathered literal and figurative storms – social change, economic turmoil, hurricanes, a community in flux. You need only look at the cobbled-up building for snapshots into the past and present: the back door, where until 1966 black diners were only allowed to order takeout. A sign hung under the order counter for the Obama Deal (two cheeseburgers, ketchup, sliced pickle, fries, 16-oz drink, $5.99). Years of local best-of awards and national recognition in 2008 as an American Classic by the James Beard Foundation. A proclamation overlooking the gritty parking lot: Jumbo’s Stands the Test of Time. Invisible scars are there too, like the memory of the tragic deaths of two men standing outside of the restaurant, mowed down by an out-of-control driver two summers ago.

Jumbo’s has been through all of it. This week, its doors will close.

“Wednesday’s the last day,” says owner Bobby Flam, with a shrug of patient resignation, looking around at barely a handful of customers. The business just isn’t there anymore. He’s selling the property, though not the name, to a developer.… Read More

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Enter family recipes in Jewish Museum contest

From the JMOF-FIU Collection: Kitchen in Home of Henri and Rose Levy at 1030 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, c.1927.

Got a great family recipe for pickles, rugelach, gefilte fish? Enter the Jewish Museum of Florida–FIU’s recipe contest celebrating the closing of their fun exhibition, Growers, Grocers, & Gefilte Fish. They’re looking for the best homemade pickles, gefilte fish and rugelach in Florida.

Celebrity judges chef Alan Susser, Danny Serfer of Blue Collar, Josh Marcus of Josh’s Deli, NBC 6 Anchor Adam Kuperstein, Linda Gassenheimer of WLRN and The Miami Herald and Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally A. Heyman will select the winner Sunday, Sept. 21 at 3pm. The event is hosted by documentary director Billy Corben.

Entries are open to home cooks (no caterers or professional chefs) over the age of 18 with a great, original recipe for homemade pickles, gefilte fish or rugelach.

To enter, fill out the official Jewish Museum of Florida–FIU Recipe Contest Entry Form. Include your contact information, list of ingredients and recipe instructions, and a short story about your recipe. Email your entry form with the Recipe Contest and Category in the subject line (ex: Recipe Contest-Pickles) to marketing@jewishmuseum.com or fax … Read More

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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 … Read More

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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 … Read More

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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 … Read More

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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 … Read More

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Local produce hits the streets

Urban Oasis Project’s Carl Templer and colleague sell fresh, local produce from Verde Farms

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 … Read More

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