Fabulous @ The Regent

Last night, while waiting for the valet to return my car at The Regent Bal Harbour, I was chatting with a hotel staff member.  A minute or two into our conversation, he asked if he could get me something to drink.  When I requested water, he returned with a chilled bottle of Voss, one of my favorite still waters.  It was such a lovely gesture, and made me feel that their guests are truly cared for every moment of every day.  Congratulations to GM Guenter Richter for assembling a staff that never misses an opportunity to make guests feel genuinely at home.  I look forward to experiencing an overnight stay at this newly-opened property.  And I was thrilled to hear that Chef Mark Militello will be in the kitchen at the hotel’s 1 Bleu, starting this weekend.

Hot dinner date

It’s a food lover’s dream: Indulge in all your favorites and never gain an ounce. That’s just one of the reasons why foodies are going to flip over the fabulously slim T700 Sony camera announced this week.

Only 5/8 of an inch wide, it’ll store up to 40,000 images in its 4 GB internal memory. At ten shots per meal, that’s enough to cover you for ten years of dinners.

I don’t mind toting a full-sized camera and lenses around while I’m traveling, but pulling it out of a bag to shoot pictures of the food isn’t exactly discreet. So I’ve been looking for a little sliver of a camera, one that will be equally at home riding to a trattoria in the pocket of my black jeans, or slipped into an evening bag for an apres-opera soiree. I’m pinning my hopes on the svelte T700.

Doing double duty as a photo album, the T700 sports a 3.5-inch touch screen for dazzling display, and allows you to search and organize shots by event or date. And once you’ve uploaded the high-res shots to your computer, it will offer to keep low-res versions in memory, so you can use the camera’s display to share images in slideshow or scrapbook format, complete with music if you wish. You can even import photos taken by fellow revelers, incorporating them into your mix. For those who want to upload photos or videos to social networking sites, the T700 includes pre-programmed sites like YouTube, and a USB cable for ease of transfer.

I’ve tried to coax the ship date out of my Sony Style store in Boca, but they aren’t talking. Until then, I’m eagerly anticipating my first dinner date with this hot little number. But like securing a coveted reservation for a top table, we’re going to have to wait another month or so to get a taste of what promises to be the best little dinner camera yet.

Gnocchi nirvana

Crackers and a Coca-Cola.

That’s all I really wanted. Something to settle my stomach. Hugging the occasional guardrail, crawling along the exceedingly narrow roller-coasterlike roads that twist through the tiny towns dotting the shore of Lake Como had left me feeling lightheaded and somewhat queasy. But it’s Sunday, and essentially everything is shuttered: groceries, gelaterias, even gas stations.

As fate would have it, the torturous ride was worth the wait. My reward: the most memorable gnocchi I have ever wrapped my lips around. A sumptuous sauce of Camembert, studded with walnuts and enriched with truffle. That dish will haunt me for years to come. Eventually, I will succumb to its siren song, returning to Nuova Capannina for yet another taste of the plate that rescued me from the drive that almost put me over the edge.

Scotch pairings

Here’s the menu from last week’s Rare Malts Dinner at Fort Lauderdale’s St. Regis Resort, as prepared by James Beard Award-winning executive chef Toby Joseph.

The St. Regis Resort Aficionado Scotch Pairing Dinner

Passed Amuse served in the Wine Room:
Farm Cheeses and honeycomb
Fresh berries with lavender cream
Glenkinchie Distillers Edition 1991

North American Hackleback Caviar
Talisker 175th Anniversary

Dinner served at Cero Restaurant

Beginnings:
Taste of land and sea Oyster with marinated Watermelon
Talisker 30 Yr cask strength
Smoked trout and sour apple
Caol Ila 25 yr cask strength
Prosciutto-wrapped Stilton on crostini
Lagavulin 21 yr cask strength

Second:
Smoked Buffalo Carpaccio, Leaves of Frisee hearts and Mache lettuce, candied Pecan, pomegranate vinaigrette
Oban Distiller’s Edition 1992

Third:
Caramelized Veal loin, roasted artichokes white anchovy, lemon caper berry demi glaze
Clynelish 14 yr

Main:
Slow braised scotch scented beef short ribs, Melted beets and leek confit, Mustard cream
Cragganmore Distillers Edition 1992

Dessert:
Warm carrot cake with kumquat compote and creme fraiche ice cream drizzled with a Dalwhinnie Distiller’s Edition 1990 reduction
Dalwhinnie 29 Yr Cask Strength

Finale:
Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V edition

Daily double

caviar.jpgCaviar. Again.

At lunch, it was an unremarkable wisp of caviar atop the sour cream that adorned a starter of Norwegian smoked salmon. Nice. Classic. But totally expected, and nothing to get excited about.

But at dinner it was a decadently different story. Even without caviar service, the sight of men in kilts makes me go weak at the knees. So when I entered the bar at the St. Regis Resort and saw a kilted Scotsman, I knew it was going to be quite the evening. And indeed it was.

In the brief moment before a white-gloved waiter appeared bearing politically-correct North American Hackleback caviar, I found myself shimmying up to the Scotsman. Evan was his name and whisky was his game. Beckoning me to follow his lead, Evan extended his arm, allowing the waiter to deposit a dollop of inky-black eggs on the back of his hand at the base of the V formed by his thumb and index finger. I watched as he ate it from his skin, rolling the roe in his mouth, gently cradling them with his tongue.

According to caviar connoisseurs, eating caviar off your skin is unadulterated bliss.

I agree. You don’t really eat caviar as much as you caress it with your tongue, causing the eggs to literally pop, which creates an extraordinary, sensual mouth feel. With nothing between you and those jet-black jewels, you can use the tip of your tongue to burst the eggs against your palate, releasing the entirety of their essence in your mouth. Big, complicated, and changing from the instant they made contact, it was hard to say which was headier, the caviar itself or the Talisker 175th anniversary Single Malt that accompanied it. Both brought the taste of the sea to the fore, and sent me swooning for the nearest seat.

Then again, maybe it was the sight of a man in a kilt.

Instant kitchen

cia.jpgCan an instant gratification junkie happily coexist in the kitchen with a partner who embraces the Slow Food movement?

Absolutely. If the CIA has anything to do with it.

At next month’s auction benefit for the Vintners Hall of Fame Dinner in Napa, the high bidder will walk away with an Instant Gourmet Kitchen, comprised of 80 essential items of cookware, bakeware, cutlery and tools. Makeover and Make a Difference will assist the winning bidder, at no charge, in donating their old unwanted kitchen items to a deserving charity, creating a second wonderful donation as part of their winning bid.

Those who like it slow will adore the rondeau, suitable for sultry braises, while the digital instant read thermometer will quickly satisfy those in a hurry.

If you can’t bid, you can still click to get your own Instant Gourmet Kitchen. What a fabulous way to outfit the kitchen at a vacation home. $5000.

Icing fight

german_chocolate_cake.jpgEveryone has a childhood favorite.  Cake, that is.  Mine’s German Chocolate.

When I went home this weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday, I wanted to present her with one.  Trouble is, her recipe is so fabulous, I was a bit hesitant to bring someone else’s to the table for fear that it might not measure up to the memories.  But when a friend tipped me off to Jean-Jacques Bakery, and I discovered they do a German Chocolate, I rolled the dice.  Good roll.  We literally fought over the extra dabs of icing.

The bakery’s on a fabulous strip of Richmond’s Cary Street, a stylish swathof one-off shops known as Carytown.  I picked up a reverse-painted Robert M. Weiss Shih Tzu coaster at Janet Brown, oogled a Rebecca Minkoff bag at Que Bella, and lunched at Can Can Brasserie. — Hats off Skirts up to their Parsnip Soup with Apple Butter, Hazelnut, and Rosemary Oil.

Sniff this

giant-truffle.jpgThe uncontested title of Top Dog goes to Rocco, who unearthed a tuberous treasure near Pisa, Italy. The record-breaking 3.3-pound white truffle fetched $100,000 per pound at a charity auction, selling to Macau billionaire Stanley Ho, who paid $330,000, outbidding British artist Damien Hirst. Bidders from three sites linked by satellite in Macau, Florence, and London competed for the magnatum pico prize.

Ironically, it takes less than a sliver of this magnificent mushroom to elevate a humble dish like risotto to celestial heights. Fresh white truffles will turn moldy within three weeks, so Ho must have thrown one heck of a party.

Truffle lovers will want to ferret out one of these fabulous presentation sets from Gump’s. Made in Italy, the wenge-wood serving tray is designed with a recess for mortal-sized truffles and includes a delicate brush to dust off sediment, as well as a horn-handled shaver and glass display dome.

White truffle season is fleeting, but Black Diamonds will be coming to market later this month. Scrambled eggs, anyone?

Take the cake

zebra-cake.jpg Every party deserves a fabulous bag. Here’s one that’s sure to claim center stage at your next soiree. Once you open up the handles of this delicious little number, everyone will be digging in to see what all the fuss is about.Lipstick and liner pale in comparison to the contents of this zebra-striped beauty. Layers of chocolate decadence, caramel toffee buttercream, and silky chocolate buttercream come together to create an accessory that will be the talk of the town long after the party platters have been whisked away.

Mussel up

mussels-at-gigis.jpgSix more months. That’s how much longer the mussels will be really good. Until next September, that is, when mussel lovers will once again embrace the nine consecutive months that contain the letter “R,” an easy way to remember the best time to order mussels.

Mussels are like the nursery rhyme: “When they’re good, they’re very, very good, and when they’re bad, they’re horrid. Well tonight, I had the very, very good ones. Chef George Telles’ Prince Edward Island mussels with tomato, onion, garlic, and chourizo, in a white wine sauce. With plenty of crusty bread to mop up every bit of that fabulous sauce.

The occasion: Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivee! Yes, another wine dinner, this one at GiGi’s in Boca Raton. Actually, the mussels were paired with a Macon-Villages from Mommessin, a producer that also does a Beaujolais Nouveau. And yes, we did have plenty of Beaujolais as well. But thankfully, we didn’t have the Nouveau with all five courses.

After two Beaujolais Nouveau wine events today, I’ve had enough to last me a while. But those mussels! Next time I have a craving for mussels, I’ll go back to GiGi’s. And hopefully they’ll serve them with pommes frites, so I can pretend I’m in France. Or at least Belgium.

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