The 13th Tour of Kitchens took place on Saturday, March 5th, 2022.
The Tour is over, but the taste lingers on. The tour, which is a fundraiser for the Coral Gables Community Foundation, isn’t about the food “per se”, but if you’re a foodie like moi, it is a highlight of the tour. I was on the Tour of Kitchens Committee for ten years. The first year I joined I volunteered to get Coral Gables restaurants to serve “bites” at each house.
That year, I wrote a list of restaurants I wanted to secure. The first six I listed were ones I really wanted to get, the second six were ones that would suffice, the last six were acceptable restaurants, if I was desperate. I guess it’s true that setting goals helps you reach them, because I was able to get commitments from my six “dream” restaurants. Getting these green lights was harder back then, as the Tour of Kitchens wasn’t as well known as it is now. I bounced around on different committees after that first year, and was even Co-Chair of the Tour, but nothing beat the excitement of reaching my goal that first year.
This year I went entirely as a “tourist”, not part of the committee. Zeke and I went with Emma and Guillermo, who had never been and were excited to see what all the fuss was about. They served coffee, O.J. and Mimosas at the Opening Event at Merrick Park, as well as croissants and pastries. I wanted to save my appetite for the delicious bites at the houses.
It was a very Meat-Forward Tour, with plenty of delectable Beef Proteins served. In fact, all of our top picks involved some part of the cow. But our first “bite” was actually conch fritters from “R” Catering & Events. The R stands for Rita, as in Rita Tennyson who was the cook and business partner at now-shuttered and much beloved Burger Bobs on the Granada Golf Course. She recently won the very competitive South Beach Food Festival’s Burger Bash! Congrats Rita!
Honorable Mention for Best Bite goes to Josh’s Premium Meats who served delicious Sandwiches with Wagyu Strip Steak, caramelized onions, Provolone cheese, truffle aioli and arugula on soft bread. Yummy! They also served Wagyu Steak Tacos with Mango Salsa and Cotija Cheese and Yucca Fries with cilantro sauce.
My sister had told me Josh was a Christopher Columbus graduate, where, I was a cheerleader MANY moons ago so I went up to Josh:
Did you go to Columbus?I asked.
He had and also confirmed it is his mother who works the front of the store in their South Miami location. I asked Josh, who’s been very successful, how he got started and he was nice enough to tell me his story.
He started by cooking food out of his house for friends. This led him to order the best meat- Wagyu Beef from Japan and Australia- to cook and his friends liked it so much, they wanted to get in on the orders. He had a full-time job at a hospital, so he did this on the side and sold to a lot of people, including members of the Miami Police Department. When neighbors started wondering why the police cars, and other cars, were stopping by his home at all hours of the day, he decided to branch out and opened Josh’s Premium Meats in the Red-Bird warehouse district.
This proved to be a huge success, so much so that his landlord eventually asked him to leave the location, because the traffic he generated was not what she’d bargained for. This led him to his present location, in South Miami, where Gardener’s Market used to be. He said being asked to leave was actually a blessing in disguise, as he rented during Covid, when the rents were a lot cheaper. He is now looking to expand into Doral and Aventura, but, so far, the cost of rent is prohibitive.
As we both were talking out in the hot sun, sweating, I thanked Josh for taking the time to talk to me and we took a selfie. I have already talked about Josh’s Premium Meats before, but if you haven’t tried them, what are you waiting for? We love the Wagyu skirt steak; it’s so tender and flavorful. They also have poultry, sausages, cheeses, sauces and seasonings. It is expensive but worth it!
Second Place for Best Bite of the Tour goes to Clutch Burger. I’d heard so much about the delicious burgers at Clutch Burger from Gloria Burns, who has been urging me to attend Gringo Bingo there (held 1st Tuesday of the month) for a long time. At Gringo Bingo, half the proceeds get donated to a local charity. This month it went to The Villagers, a Historic Preservation Group I recently joined. I couldn’t make it, but was dying to try the burger, so when we went to the house where Clutch Burger was and they were out, we came back later just to taste it.
It was worth waiting for! The owner, Steve Bradley was grilling the burgers and had cut the burgers, which had a nice crust on the outside and juicy interior, into fourths. It was a medium-rare Wagyu beef, burger with melted American cheese, on a tender, brioche bun. Heavenly!
These burgers are medium-rare. If you want well-done, go to Burger King.Steven Bradley
Two in our party voted Ruth Chris’s bite- Blackened Tenderloin Skewers served with Spring Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette and toasted almonds- their Top Pick for Best Bite. The beef tenderloin was delicious and tender and the salad, with Raspberry dressing, added a welcome lightness, the almonds added a needed crunch.
My number one bite had to be Orno’s Picanha Steak served over an Heirloom Tomato slice with sundried tomato tapenade and pine nuts. Fun Fact: Picanha is a very popular steak in Brazil, known for its flavor and affordability; it is taken from the top of the rump of the cow.
First of all this dish was delicious, beautiful and Orno’s presentation of service- with firewood stacked up, orange nasturtiams and a basketful of cherry tomatoes was lovely. And, best of all, Orno Chef and Food and Wine Best Chef winner Niven Patel, was at this house, in person, manning the grill and overseeing the bites he was putting out. As a total Foodie Groupie, I was quite impressed and took so many photos, he probably thought he was being hounded by the paparazzi.
I was impressed because Patel, a James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef this year, took time out of his busy schedule with his three restaurants- Orno, Mamey and Ghee– to be there at the Tour of Kitchens. He has his own 2-acre farm in Homestead where he grows many of the vegetables and fruits used in his dishes. Talk about Farm-to-Table! Can’t get any fresher than this; and extra points for using compostable plates.
After the Tour, the Closing Party was back at Merrick Park. There we enjoyed a live band, Villagio’s Meatballs in Red Sauce, and a delicious ice cream from La Glace. La Glace, an ice cream chop on Giralda, was recently voted Best Ice Cream by Miami Times Readers. I got the Guava which had a subtle flavor, but really loved Zeke’s Italian Cheesecake with Raspberry ice cream scoop. I definitely need to check this place out!
Which is what the Bites on the Tour of Kitchens are all about- introducing people to restaurants they may not be familiar with, or reminding them about old favorites. All the restaurants that participate on the tour, donate their time, food, staff and energy to help raise money for the Coral Gables Community Foundation, so please try to support them with your patronage.
Up Next: An Asian Food Kind of Week