By COLLEEN LEDDY
I love food. I really enjoy the flavors, the diversity, the imagination involved in creating lip-smacking goodness. I appreciate my mother’s hand in my love for food. As poor as we were, she always managed to make delicious meals and to treat us to special meals—visits to Chinese, Italian, German restaurants were part of our upbringing. She encouraged us to be adventurous in our food choices. I read somewhere that some people eat merely for survival and others for the sheer enjoyment of it. I definitely fall in the latter category.
Yes, I really love food. And there’s no better place to eat it than Miami where we dined high on the hog last week while visiting Ben’s family. From the yellowtail snapper Ben caught in the Keys a week before and prepared for us with butter and chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Redfish Magic Seasoning, to the burrito bowl at a trendy Mexican restaurant in the Wynwood section, Miami offers up some of the finest fresh dining experiences. Simple fare like the tuna melt at The Last Carrot to the luscious Key Lime Pie at Lokal Burger in Coconut Grove makes Miami one of my favorite food towns; it’s not the time to diet if you’re in Miami.
But it wasn’t until we were heading home that I realized what we’d “missed”—dining at Alter. I read about it in a short article (10 Restaurants for Modernist Dining) in the April edition of Delta Sky magazine six miles up and hundreds of miles away from Miami.
“Located in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, chef Bradley Kilgore’s Alter opened just last year to great acclaim. The décor may be casual, but don’t let that fool you. The food is creative yet disciplined, challenging and beautiful. Snag a seat at the four-person chef’s counter and prepare to be mesmerized by the artistry. The five-course chef’s tasting menu is a steal at $65 and includes dishes such as soft egg with scallop foam and a base of truffle ‘pearls.’”
We’d spent some time in Wynwood looking at just a fraction of the amazing graffiti-based murals painted on the sides of neighborhood buildings and inside an elaborate complex of warehouse buildings...the Wynwood Walls project. It was pretty amazing—the scope and breadth of all that art on walls, especially when thinking about what will become of the Observer’s south wall—the possibilities are endless.
But, we didn’t eat at Alter; we ate at Coyo Taco. Coyo wasn’t mentioned in the Delta magazine article and it didn’t make zagat.com’s “10 Best Things We Ate in Miami in 2015” list, but with its bright, fresh ingredients and flavors, it made my “Best Mexican Restaurant Ever” list. I don’t think I’d like any kind of egg with scallop foam, whatever the heck that is.
I like to eat, but I’m not inclined to dine on foods with really esoteric ingredients. Spherified olives, cod cracklings with aerated brandade and jamon lbérico paired with smoked and salted honeydew juice from Chicago’s Next don’t cut the culinary mustard for me. Neither am I likely to eat a sphere of celery root braised in a pig’s bladder at Eleven Madison Park in New York City.
It was an interesting little article, but rather than a dessert of an edible balloon made of green apple and helium (at Chicago’s Alinea), I’m perfectly happy with a strawberry lime milkshake at Robert Is Here. Robert Is Here isn’t a restaurant and it isn’t in Miami, but it exemplifies the kind of dining experience I’m after. We stopped there after a visit to Everglades National Park, and while it might not have been the best idea to drink a milkshake right before dinner, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the opportunity to enjoy such a delicious one.
Plus, Robert, the proprietor of the iconic Robert Is Here fruit stand, really was there, selling an incredible array of exotic tropical fruits along with a mishmash of boiled peanuts, fried peanuts, candies, and jars of honey, hot sauce, and jam, and a wild assortment of other stuff. Consulting his website after returning to Michigan, I kicked myself. Those jams! How could I have missed Bluegoose Jam, Florida Fuzzy Navel Jam, FROG Jam, and Traffic Jam?!
Any of those on bread would surpass the likes of Schwa’s braised beef s’more with green cardamom marshmallows.