Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bread is not evil

Tear. Smear. Crunch. That’s how you enjoy your baguette. Slicing is for dilettantes. Slicing is for folks who don’t know the joy of tearing through bread in the open air. While I strolled through Paris, I watched women bite the tops of loaves the way Bugs Bunny chomped on carrots. It was culture shock. It was breathtaking. There were no carb-cocked renegades peering through South Beach Diet boxes judging them as the baguette crumbs threaded their lips. Fast forward: I went to the South Beach version of a Farmers Market on Lincoln Road and stumbled upon a bread chorus line—sourdough, raisin walnut, baguettes, and more. I couldn’t resist. The only thing more exciting than eating a freshly made baguette is shopping for one. I heard of Zak the Baker while lamenting the loss of ACME Bakery to a colleague, but this was my first time seeing his work. It reminded me of the patisseries I saw in Paris. Tear. Smear. Crunch. Plugrá salted butter. Perfection. The baguette was a $3 stroll to a gastronomical season of my life that was so ecstatic, I felt guilty. But I got over it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Señor Paco, Persecuted for Smoked Salmon Sake

“I was arrested like 20 times,” said Señor Paco, a silver-slick, Cuban fish merchant. “This was in Kendall in the 80s. I was just trying to make a living.” Back in the days, vendors were often arrested for selling the streetside goodies you and I have come to love. But Señor Paco Fernando still stands. His Blue Runner Seafood truck is a deep sea treasure on land. From fresh corvina and stone crabs to ceviche and my favorite, the hickory smoked salmon, a sweet slice of omega fatty goodness, I’m an official groupie. And then there’s Señor Paco in his crisp white shirt and slacks. “My wife, Barbara, makes an amazing salmon spread,” he said endearingly. Señor Paco’s clients enjoy sopping up his one on oneness. It’s hard to imagine him in an icky jail. But sometimes good men get cells, and bad men get badges. “Finally, the judge was just tired of seeing me,” he said.  

Blue Runner Seafood, North Miami, 786-499-9334.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cheese Heals All Wounds

My beloved Gourmet Squatters, it’s been a long time. Reality has crept into my bounty like a mouse seizing a baguette in the hollow of night, and for the past few months, a thoughtful meal has meant more than it ever has. I am caring for a loved one who is sick, a fellow Gourmet Squatter, a champion, a friend, a leader, and an amazing woman of God. Each day, she fights with loss of appetite, an anguishing symptom for someone who lived for the perfume of jerk pork and the bite of savory, aged Cheddars. It breaks my heart. But every once in a while, she has an urge for her favorites: smoked Salmon, Prosciutto di Parma, and stinky cheeses, and I am happy to oblige. I really love shopping for cheese and experimenting with simple recipes. I love the opposites attract experience of taking a soft, stinky cheese, marrying it with a complex, sweet preserve and smearing it on toast. It’s breakfast. It’s dessert. It’s divine. Here’s a simple, yummy dish that dimmed the noise of sickness, so we could be present in the sweet gift of breath.


Bufala Blackberry Toast

Tip: Make sure the cheese is at least room temperature, so it’s easy to smear

Slab of quadrello di bufala (or your favorite musty fromage)

Tablespoon of marion blackberry preserves

Chunk of your favorite baguette


Toast baguette

Smear cheese

Top with preserves