From Plaza to Bullpen, Toro’s Menu at Harry’s Pizzeria is Live & Kickin’

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ERIZOS CON CAVIAR: Layers of caviar, sea urchin, quail egg, and Jamon Iberico consumed in three seconds flat linger long and luscious on the lengua at TORO NYC. Uni makes an appearance on its pizzeria menu next Tuesday at Harry’s.

It was around 10:00 p.m. on a mild October night when we walked west through Chelsea toward its perimeter highway on the Hudson.  The sun had long set into Manhattan’s stalagmite forest, and we were full of good food and great wine after a dinner with friends on Lemon: NYC eve.  Word on the wind was a newly-opened restaurant had the perfect remedy for restlessness in the tradition of Spain, Boston-bred and throwing its hat into the ring due south.  Two chefs were ready to dance that delicate, precise number necessary to entrance the king of bulls, and we were there to greet them.  Backward it may seem, but the call made perfect sense.  It was time for tapas.

To their credit, Mr. Oringer and Mr. Bissonnette do not cook as if they are in a huge restaurant. Toro’s food isn’t stagy or gimmicky; it’s honest and thoughtful, and it can feel a bit lost in this space. There are times when eating tapas here is like watching card tricks at Yankee Stadium.

As The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells concluded his two star review of Toro in New York City on December 31, this coliseum to a supercharged Catalan cuisine is vast and formidable, unlike its sibling to the north.  An arena perhaps where only this pair could command the presence, focus and certain no sé lo que needed to orchestrate the crowd in their favor, not get lost in it. That’s exactly what we encountered on our first visit.  Ken was behind Toro’s food bar in the back, and we found Jamie on the hotline in its underbelly down the hall, a passageway of winding guts the likes of a grand hotel’s commissary kitchen. The chefs were having fun, the dining room was electric and wanted more of where it all was coming from. So did we.

Édouard Manet (1832–1883) "Stierkampf" 1865-1866, oil on canvas, Musée d'Orsay Paris

Édouard Manet (1832–1883) “Stierkampf” 1865-1866, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay

On Tuesday, January 21, one week from today, we offer our bullpen in Miami’s Design District for a Toro spectacle, concentrated, up close and personal.  So here is what’s for dinner, food finalized this past weekend with the chefs and drink, yesterday, with Eric Larkee and the kind folks at Vibrant Rioja. The wines they chose are perfect examples of both old school and modern winemaking that characterize the region today.

Safe travels to the Ken and Jamie, salute to us, and see you next week! Tickets include it all (Jamie got new tees banged out just for us!) and can be purchased here.

Toro Pizzeria
Harry’s Welcomes Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette
Tuesday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m.

Welcome Cocktail
Florida Kumquat Gimlet

Beef Heart Bruschetta  chives, lemon, romesco, sourdough 
Chicken Liver Stuffed Sage Leaves  tempura
Maize Asado con Cotija Pizza  roasted corn, Spanish aioli, espelette 
Oysters Escabeche  cranberry verjus and horseradish 

Bocadillo di Uni  uni, miso butter, pickled mustard seeds
Tomato Salad  mint green goddess, crab, purple basil

Wood Oven Octopus  charred onion vinaigrette
Roasted Romanesco Catalan  raisins and pine nuts

Wood Oven New York Strip  onion marmalade
Florida Shrimp Paella  sun chokes and black garlic

Churros con Chocolate  smoked maple and bee pollen sugar

To Drink
Lopez de Haro Rosado 2012
Marques de Caceres Blanco 2012
Vina Herminia Crianza 2010
Contino Reserva 2007

[VIDEO] Cayman Cookout Countdown: Taming the Lion of the Sea!

One week from today, Thomas Tennant’s fins will be parting the crystalline waters of Grand Cayman island with spear in hand.   As the shirt he appropriately wore to work today indicates, our The Genuine Hospitality Group special ops chef is a natural born killer of lionfish.  Not only is Thomas a certified SCUBA diver, he’s a licensed lionfish hunter, culling this invasive species from the marine ecosystems they threaten, one Big Gulp at a time.  As we like to say, eat them to beat them!

Image-2The 2014 Cayman Cookout descends on our second home in the Caribbean next week from Thursday, January 16 to Sunday, January 19 with Michael, Eric, Mr. Special Ops and I representing Miami headquarters on-island.  Presented the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman and FOOD & WINE magazine, this annual culinary extravaganza will bring some of the best known and most respected chefs in the world to the island for myriad events.

For our part, the town of Camana Bay will transform into an Ultimate Dinner Party on Saturday, January 18.  During the Thursday dive, fellow diving chef José Andrés will experience a lionfish hunt for the first time since his original SCUBA certification in the Cayman Islands during the 2012 festival.

MGFD_GCM_Cayman Cookout menu_FinalWe’re banking on these two bringing back a haul, as Saturday depends on it!  The evening will begin at 6:00 p.m. with a special cocktail hour presentation “Taming the Lionfish,” which will celebrate the success of the divers, fishermen, scientists and chefs who have banded together to protect Cayman’s reefs from these ravenous invaders.  José and Michael will accompany Thomas as he demonstrates a recipe like the lionfish ceviche shared with Miss Cayman Islands in the PSA above, after which guests can elect dine at one of Camana Bay’s participating signature restaurants each collaborating with a Cayman Cookout headline chef on a dinner menu.  José will be our special guest at Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink; Quebec’s “wild chef” Martin Picard will appear at Abacus; Daniel Boulud will bring French flair to Mizu; and Rick Bayless will unite with Cindy Hutson at Ortanique. Our dinner as you may have guessed will feature the lionfish catch and many other house specialties done fresh, simple and pure. Tickets are $299 for it all, available here through the Cayman Cookout website.

Perennial Favorite: Farmer Michael Borek and The Cypress Room Tackle the Raring-to-Go Everglades Tomato

Everglades Tomato_Borek

IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE: Everglades tomatoes on the vine at Teena’s Pride, Homestead, FL.

Slow Food Miami’s Ark of Taste Benefit Dinner nominates a new ingredient each year to the organization’s national catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction – threatened by industrial standardization, the regulations of large-scale distribution and environmental damage. This year The Cypress Room is representing The Genuine Hospitality Group to celebrate a fruit close to our hearts.  Just when we thought we’d seen every tomato possible, enter one that grows wild in our own backyard — the Everglades tomato — ripe for the picking thanks to the efforts of Teena’s Pride in Homestead to grow them.  The farm raised the seminole pumpkin of 2011’s Ark of Taste dinner.

“Deciding to do the event in January this year was key so we could embrace our main growing season down here, especially since tomatoes are at their peak.” Michael says.  “Tomatoes have always been really important and special to us at the restaurants. As a chef it’s fun to have a new heirloom variety to work with, and I think, like usual, Michael Borek was happy for the challenge of growing something new, as well!” Continue reading

A Friday List: The Beverage Book’s Cocktail Charms

Sometimes you just need A Friday List to get the weekend started off right — a few things to do or duly noted oft overlooked but worth looking at. Ellie first posted one on the Harry’s Pizzeria Tumblr. Now you can find it minted as a category here.

The Beverage Book is one such treasure trove of list-worthy charms at The Cypress Room, in its focused collection of cocktails and spirits, craft beer, as well as wines with attention to regional, old world varietals from TGHG wine director Eric Larkee.  With adventures in Chablis, Nebbiolo and Madeira on the horizon, today is all about the classic, barrel-aged, and house specialty cocktails concocted by TGHG Beverage Director Ryan Goodspeed.  Like an Old Pal, opening up from a barrel’s winter slumber, this catalog of drinks draws you in, its mysteries continuing to reveal themselves as you dive deeper into its pages.  Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the preface to our Beverage Book story.

1. Glassware was meticulously chosen after trips to NYC, hours spent pouring over magazines and types of cocktails being served.

2. Many items, cut crystal and trinkets were sourced locally at thrift stores and online at eBay, Etsy and others.

3. Two tastings were held in Ryan’s home kitchen before finalizing the menu.

4. It was discovered that we all shared an appreciation for Pistachios during the first tasting when we had no food and only cocktails… They later became the bar snack at Cypress.

5. Pistachios are shaved on top of the Count Basie cocktail.

6. Count Basie was a jazz musician, bandleader and composer who got started in the 1930s, and whose career spanned fifty years.

7. Barrels are new American oak charred medium plus plus. Cocktails are Aged 3-5 months, tasted weekly and noted. Most ambitious barrel program in Miami – 16 full five gallon barrels, 4 filled each month for four months.

8. Egg white is found in many cocktails to enhance body and flavor.

9. Sarsaparilla is made from sassafras bark, sarsaparilla bark, burdock root, licorice root, ginger and white and brown sugar

10. House made bitters include hibiscus, orange, root beer.

11. Thunder ball is a different take on the Mai Tai. But using only 3 main ingredients — Full bodied Rum, fresh OJ, and Cardamaro (a wine-based cordial infused with Cardamom)

12. 6 brands of raspberry preserves were tried before picking one (Bon Maman)  for the Clover Club cocktail

13. Nasturtium is a plant with edible flowers that grace many of The Beverage Book cocktails including aperitifs Go Lightly and The Sippy Cup.

14. Agricole rums (Floradita Daiquiri) are distilled from “fresh pressed sugarcane juice” as opposed to Molasses.

15. Vieux Carré, or French Quarter, is a classic cocktail originated in New Orleans.