As all vacation hot-spots know, there’s a peak and an off-season. For Miami, this is no different. The crazy summer heat deters tourists leaving the hospitality industry twiddling their thumbs patiently awaiting the next surge of visitors.
In response, The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau introduced Miami Spice: A “restaurant week” of sorts offering prix fixe lunch and dinners menus in an effort to not only showcase local talent but to also get patrons in seats during the August and September months.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the New York City Wine & Food Festival brought a little of that Miami Spice to New York, towing along chefs Aaron Brooks of EDGE Steak & Bar and Michael Pirolo of Macchialina and BaZi to the McCarren Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for an exclusive dinner in conjunction with Prisoner Wines.
The dinner started with a reception with passed hors d'oeuvres paired with an oaky white California blend. Prosciutto and melon skewers drizzled with white balsamic and sea salt were passed around along with other notable bites like pickled mango salad served on a fried plantain chip, and a saffron risotto arancini filled with gooey Parmesan.
For the main show, Pirolo, who specializes in Italian fare, started on a very high note (quite possibly the best dish of the night) with a composed salad dish incorporating tender butternut squash, roasted cauliflower, hazelnuts, and prosciutto, which was all deliciously contrasted by sharp and salty shavings of Parmigiano. Pirolo followed up with a perfectly al dente risotto topped with wild boar ragu, bitter cacao, and shaved porcini; it was simple, yet the flavors of quality ingredients tasted pure and not at all overindulgent as one might expect of a risotto and gamey red meat ragu combination.
For Brooks’ part, he began with lamb wrapped around an intensely flavorful lamb chorizo set upon a lightly citrusy garbanzo bean purée. Even though the Aussie chef is known as Miami’s “lambassador,” it was the accompanying charred rapini tossed with tomatoes, garbanzo beans, capers, and olives that was most memorable; it provided the most delectable bitterness that rounded out the richness and intensity of the lamb chorizo.
Lastly, for dessert, Brooks offered a sweet sticky guava cake paired with a lightly tangy cream cheese ice cream and crumbled cookies, which was all elegantly topped with a golden toasted coconut wafer hat.
The most important takeaway of the night— and a point made by The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau as well as many of the locals attending — was that the city of Miami encompasses more than just South Beach or Miami Beach, and the restaurant scene is diverse, passionate, and ever-growing.