Pairings 2011: How Was It?

Categories: Musings
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Chef Franco Filippone from Sette Bello.
This morning started with a red eye after a decadent night of eating and drinking at last night's fourth-annual New Times Pairings. It was my first South Florida gastronomic event, and I was impressed at how smoothly things ran, the absence of lines, and plenty of food to the end. I think I managed to try 22 dishes and countless drinks, or so it seems this morning.

Scenes from the night included a lass with a whip wearing thigh-highs for photo ops at one corner, while hunks of raw meat over at the K&G Brothers table served as a deliciously disturbing "before" reminder of many of the dishes we were about to consume. In the courtyard, the posse eating lobster corn dogs was nonplussed -- hair flying and dresses going all Marilyn -- by the wind tunnel next to the Rok:Brgr table. By the night's end, women traipsed around barefoot, heels in hand. On to the food after the jump.


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Haven's cocktail with dry ice garnish.
Honest bites were my favorites. Tarpon Bend's crawfish gumbo was a delightful surprise: a well-seasoned balance of rice, veggies, herbs, and fresh crawfish. I was also enamored of Sette Bello's escarole, white beans, and cervelatta. Sure it's a simple dish I could whip up at home, if I had the motivation to source terrific sausage, make my own stock, soak white beans overnight, and hit the farmers' market for escarole. I also liked the dish chef Franco Filippone used as a stand-in for the stove.

Seafood dominated the lower levels of the venue with (overfished, gussied-up) tuna as the most represented. Trying to eat SAIA's scallop and tuna sushi bite was a show. Ignoring the chef's chopstick suggestion, I popped the whole thing in my mouth -- it barely fit -- just as I saw former New Times food critic John Linn. He watched mildly horrified as I doused myself in orange and green roe: a fun mess, albeit embarrassing.

Later in the evening, I asked executive chef Jason Smith from Steak 954 why he opted for wahoo crudo on a plantain chip rather than steak. "We want people to know what else we have to offer," he said. Dressed with poblano, it was the cleanest and most elegant bite of the evening for me.

Upstairs on the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Waste Management Mezzanine (Who thought that's a good idea for a name?), my friends and colleagues liked the pumpkin soup from 3030 Ocean -- served as a shot -- garnished with rock shrimp. I thought it was a tad sweet and did not love the texture contrast of shooting a purée and solid combo. My friends also loved Alibi's decadent coffee-braised lamb cheek, served with a big, hot Bookmaker Parlay from 2009. Dude food, indeed.

Project Paso Sauvignon Blanc with seafood stew from Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House was my favorite pairing: delicate white fish, tomato and shellfish broth, and fresh vegetables were complemented by citrus and flint notes from the Paso Robles wine.

El Jefe Luchador's crispy pork taco with bright cilantro, creamy quesa, a tumble of corn, and a kick of salsa was my favorite bite of the night. It was the only plate that my four dining pals all blissed out over. I found the carnitas pairing with Twisted Pine's Billy's Chile spicy beer compelling, though I liked it more for the novelty than to swill.

Of the drinks I remember: Cha Cha Cha was cheesy but delightful (and local!) as were the cherry red vodka infusions from West Palm Beach Marriott. (I'm trying to make myself like vodka lately). I returned for several rounds of the unlikely placement of Graville Lacoste from Kermit Lynch at Brick House Tavern + Tap's table. My colleague Reed Fisher was especially pleased with gluten-free beer from New Planet. By the time I was drunk enough, I let myself become enthralled with Issac Grillo's cocktail from Haven in Miami. Dry ice in a glass is a guilty pleasure, though I wasn't quite as enthusiastic when the effects were over, as pellets resembled cottage cheese in a cocktail.

I do wish desserts were housed in one room, since I failed to make my way back for much besides a Guinness gelato from the Gelato Shoppe.

What were your favorite bites of the night? Tell us in the comments. And don't forget to check out last night's slide show.


Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter. Follow me @melissamccart

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9 comments
El jefe
El jefe

Thx for checking out el jefe Luchadors Booth! It was an honor to be ther with all the great restaurants in attendance. We are psyched that u enjoyed our taco:) come check us out at the restaurant! Hope to see u soon, Mike sap chef/owner el jefe luchador

ted anthony inserra
ted anthony inserra

the city of fort lauderdale needs more events like this, New Times Mag. did a great job planning, executing, and judging this fun evening. Since i was working the event with the new and exciting innovative O.B.House i did not get to try all the food.  But, this event is also something us "in the bizz" people look forward to, seeing old friends, workmates, and former bosses, to me that is what makes it special for our group of hard working , hard playing Restaurant Workers. These events are hard work, planning your dish, prepping, butchering, setting it all up, lots of heavy carrying, then the breakdown==BUT I LOVE THIS, Congradulations to all who were participating, putting there best work on the table for people to taste.  See you all at The O.B.House for the best "from the farm to your plate" experience you can have, GET OUT AND EAT, NOT THE CORPORATE GIANTS, but the local independently owned and operated establishments, WE DO IT FOR YOu!!

Dawn
Dawn

Thanks to New Times! We had the best time at the event. Over 800 cups of gelato served! Thanks to Dan for seeing our passion for what we do and thanks Fort Lauderdale for giving us a memorable evening. Pandora, if you see this, we will pair with you anyday and anywhere!

michaelinmiami
michaelinmiami

Thanks New Times for voting my dish of Incan spice rubbed Escolar " BEST OVERAL"in last night's Pairings event.

John L.
John L.

Ate some el Jefe today... you guys are rocking it!

ted anthony inserra
ted anthony inserra

really enjoyed your food, great job, see you at your great restaurant!

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