Table 8 South Beach

06 Aug 2007, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in chefs & restaurants

Well, now that Chef Mark and I are back from Miami, I thought it might be nice if I shared a little bit of our Miami Spice tasting tour with you. When we received our itinerary, I was ecstatic to discover that we would be dining at Govind Armstrong’s Table 8 in South Beach. Govind is on a very short list of chefs who inspire me with their food philosophy, as he is what I like to call a master of simplicity: His mission is to highlight the beauty of locally-sourced ingredients in their finest state, coaxing them to a state of sublime flavor. This dinner did not disappoint.

I was also encouraged to discover that despite his quickly developing rock-star-chef status, he remains as normal and accessible as he was when I met him two years ago at the James Beard House. I had just launched Gastronomic Meditations, the first incarnation of The Gilded Fork, and had a chance to talk a little bit of philosophy with him in the kitchen. He was one of those people who instantly got where I was coming from — and he still does. We had a chance to sit down after dinner last week for a chat, so look for that on an upcoming Food Philosophy Videocast.

First, however, let’s dig into the tasting menu we sampled. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what part of my work life is like, here’s a glimpse:

Yes, it’s a good life. Now, on to the menu. Mind you, I had initially planned (for once) to just enjoy my meal as a gastronome — without recording it. I wanted to selfishly enjoy this series of moments without the presence of a microphone. After taking the first sip, then the first bite, I realized this was not to be — I simply couldn’t resist sharing the moment (which you will hear on an upcoming podcast). You see, I am a freak for two ingredients in particular: basil and tomatoes. They send me to a very special, private place where the rest of the world becomes somewhat fuzzy as I lose myself in rapture.

From the cocktail menu I chose the Basil 8, an elixir of muddled basil and grapes served mojito style. It made me veritably tingly. Then, to heighten my state of sensory bliss, the first course arrived: a GORGEOUS salad of heirloom tomatoes — one slice of which was golden yellow and nearly the size of my palm — served with wild arugula and burrata cheese, which is like mozzarella, but with a creamy, buttery center. Yes. It was dressed with aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil fried croutons. My movements went like this: Sip. Bite. Jump out of chair. Dive into bag. Pull out microphone. Press record.

The salad was served with a Louis Latour 2005 “La Chanfleure” Chardonnay Chablis.

The second course (which I am eating in the photo above) was a combination of calamari, Florida clams, Borlotti beans, chorizo and salsa verde, with which we continued the Chardonnay. The calamari was beautifully tender, and the chorizo/salsa verde combination gave the dish a feisty kick. I do like feisty.

Next was a dish of local snapper with sweet pea puree, marinated tomatoes (sweet as candy), creamed corn and parmesan aioli, served with a Wattle Creek Sauvignon Blanc from Mendocino County. This dish was a study in textures and flavor contrasts, as the snapper had a somewhat crisp outside — a perfect foil for the pea puree and creamed corn. The sweetness of the tomatoes (yes, more tomatoes!) was perfectly complemented by the parmesan aoili.

M’kay, then the show-stopper: A salt roasted porterhouse steak that had the subtlest hint of thyme infused into every…last…bite. It was cooked to perfection, and the salt crust was cracked open table-side to reveal (tease us with?) the aroma of herbs and roasted meat. Heaven. The steak slices were accented by further studies in simplicity: A single roasted baby carrot, a roasted sunchoke, escarole, and Yukon Gold potato puree. Mom never made steak and potatoes like this, my friends. She also didn’t serve it with a Wente Reserve Reliz Creek Pinot Noir.

Last, but not least (though I am a savory girl when it comes down to it), we finished with what Govind calls a little “sweetness”. An array of desserts was presented for tasting, but I’d like to highlight my favorites: Caramelized banana bread pudding with butterscotch sauce, chocolate toffee and banana ice cream, and a vanilla panna cotta with raspberry coulis. I also loved the presentation of the mascarpone peanut brownie with dark chocolate sauce and honeyed peanuts. These were all served with an incredible Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Ice Wine, the first time I’ve tasted such a variation, which was resplendent with the taste of tart cherries.

What a memorable evening, for which I’m grateful to everyone at the Miami CVB and Table 8. It won’t soon be forgotten.

P.S. Rumor has it that Govind and team will soon be heading for New York, so get the scoop on my upcoming Food Philosophy interview with him. I might have to be first in line for that opening.

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