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Friday, June 30, 2017

Wynwood Art Walk and Dinner at Cake Thai in Miami

Abandoned warehouse, Wynwood, Miami

Wynwood is an area in Miami, FL that has seen an amazing transformation. The Wynwood area was originally a prominently lower income Latin neighborhood. It was also home to a Florida East Coast Railway yard having many abandoned warehouses adorned with street graffiti.

Wynwood Walls, Miami, FL

In a play on the street art that was initially in the area, a developer had the vision to expand the pedestrian traffic and business entry into the area. The walls of many of the abandoned buildings here were viewed as canvases, and some of the world's best street and graffiti artists were brought to the area to contribute. The initial effort resulted in a remarkable mural exhibition space, Wynwood Walls, which has spilled onto the surrounding area, but more on that later.

Every second Saturday of the month, Wynwood opens up for an art walk. The many galleries in the area are open late, and other entertainment abounds. For a definitive listing of the art scene here and in other areas of Miami, please get on the e-mail blast of Art Circuits. You will not be disappointed.

Greg Shienbaum Fine Art

The real scene for art walk mostly happens on NW 2nd Avenue between NW 22nd and NW 29th Street.  Here you will find a number of art galleries. A few of note on NW 2nd Avenue were the Greg Shienbaum, Robert Fontaine, Alberto Linero and Harold Golen galleries. All of these had a very nice selection of both local and international artists.

There was also a nice collection of food trucks on NW 22nd Lane eponymously named Food Truck Wynwood that incorporated a Tent/DJ set up and a number of merchants in booths selling their wares.

Park, Wynwood Doors

The murals at Wynwood Walls were incredible and attracted quite a crowd for art walk, both young and old. As you wander around, you come to an adjacent area, Wynwood Doors, formerly a garbage dump. The 100 feet of wall space here has been turned into smaller canvases with addition of rolling pull down metal gates. The idea here was to create smaller canvases for street art which is set in a small urban park area.

Mural, Wynwood

Things like these tend to be infectious, and murals have popped up all over Wynwood, turning this area into one of the more interesting public art projects in the country.

After looking at all this art, my dining companion and I worked up a bit of an appetite. Hearing good things about a local restaurant, Cake Thai, we decided to check it out.

Cake Thai, Wynwood

Wynwood is the restaurant's second location, and opened in December of 2016. Cake is the moniker of chef Phuket Thongsodchareondee, whose initial restaurant was voted best Thai restaurant by a local news source.

Not thinking to make reservations on a Saturday night, we were relegated to the outside seating which was basically children's outdoor furniture. No matter, it was a nice evening out, the outdoor seating was completely adequate and we were anxious to try some of the restaurant's cooking.

The first thing sampled was the Som Tam salad. This was a papaya salad with green papaya, long beans, tomato, peanuts,dried shrimp and Romaine leaves should you want Thai tacos. We also opted for the optional addition of salted crab and pla raa,  the latter a spice of fermented fish mixed with rice bran or rice powder. Salted crabs are small fresh water crabs marinated in salt water, then cut up, shell and all and added as a seasoning to salads and other dishes. This was hands down the best papaya salad I have ever eaten, but it was about to get better. 

Kway Teow Ped

We also sampled the Kway Teow Ped, a Teochew style duck soup with an incredibly rich shangtang like broth. Shangtang is a dark broth made from chicken, pork and ham that has been slowly cooked for long periods. It contains a tsunami of unmami. The dish was served with duck legs, Chinese celery and broccoli, scallions, cilantro and five spice powder. Incredible and beyond delicious. We both left very happy that night.

A few days later I was called to Miami for business which was great as I really wanted to try more of the restaurant's menu items. It was a Wednesday night, and unexpectedly, Wednesday at Cake Thai is Bangkok Night, a prix fixe menu for $35.00. I hesitated as prix fixe menus seldom reflect the actual cuisine served on a restaurant's menu and often corners are cut to have food costs in line with the cost of the meal. If a diner wants to try the day to day offerings of a restaurant, this is not, in my opinion, a good way to do it. Nonetheless, based on my previous dining experience, I decided to try it out.

Bangkok Night prix fixe menu, Cake Thai

As a starter, I ordered the Miang Kana Platoo. These were Chinese broccoli leaf wraps filled with grilled mackerel, lime, peanuts, dried shrimp, toasted coconut and caramelized palm sugar (sticky palm). The flavor was there, but the serving was very small, almost fleeting.

I then moved onto the Bak Tuk Teh, A Hokkien-styled stewed pork rib dish. In the Hokkien Chinese dialect, this translated into pork rib tea, as it incorporated a number of Chinese medicinal herbs. Goji berries (a traditional Chinese medicinal plant), dark soy sauce and tofu completed the dish. When first entering the restaurant, I was early and got a glimpse of some of the menu items in advance that were plated for the servers to try and learn about to describe to diners. The server plating of this dish looked great, but after ordering it I found it much too heavy on the tofu which really diluted the flavor out of this dish. Unfortunately, the Bak Tuk Teh was a disappointment.

Poo Pad Prik Leung

For the main dish I was curious as to what the restaurant could do with crab, so I ordered the Poo Pad Prik Leung. This was a stir fried dish of lump crab, yellow chili peppers, long beans and Makrut lime leaves. Cooking crab can be tricky as the flavor is so delicate it can easily be overpowered. This was not the case here. This stir fry was excellent and the highlight of the meal.

Dessert was limited to a single choice, the Tub Tim Krob. This was a small dessert made from water chestnuts coated in tapioca flour, coconut water granita, coconut milk and coconut. I thought the dish at best ok, nothing to really rave about here.

Against my better judgement I stayed for the prix fixe. Only one course out of four was of the caliber of food eaten during my previous visit. I think if I would have ordered this first time out, I would have wondered what all the fuss was about and probably not have returned to the restaurant. When back in Miami I will know better next time and stick to the regular menu, which was incredible.

If you have never been or even if you have, Art Walk in Wynwood is a must do. The murals in this area are a remarkable collection of public art which approaches a national treasure. The food at Cake Thai can be, at times, brilliant. I would definitely return to sample more of their wonderful regular menu items.

As I write this, I am 35,000 feet in the air on the way to visit friends over the July 4th holiday in Northern California. Happily, Amazon has partnered with Jet Blue to offer free WI-fi service on all of their flights. I find it remarkable that I can still publish blog posts 6.5 miles up in the air, but then again it is 2017.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Wynwood Walls 
2520 NW 2nd Ave.
Miami, FL 33127

Admission free;  Monday – Thursday:10:30 AM – 11:30 PM
Friday – Saturday:10:30 AM – Midnight, Sunday: 10:30 AM – 8PM

Cake Thai
180 NW 29th St.
Miami, FL 33127

All major credit cards accepted; Monday-Wednesday: 6–11PM, Thursday-Saturday: 12PM-12 AM, Sunday: 12-11 PM; Kid's meals available; On site parking.


Shops in Wynwood
Wynwood mural

Wynwood mural
Greg Shienbaum Fine Art
Robert Fontaine Gallery

Alberto Linero Gallery
Food Truck Wynwood
Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls
Wynwood Walls
Interior seating, Cake Thai
Outdoor seating, Cake Thai
Som Tam salad
Miang Kana Platoo
Bak Kut Keh
Tub Tim Krob

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Lunch at Doce Provisions in Miami

Doce Provisions indoor seating

Little Havana is a neighborhood in Miami, FL that is home to many Cuban, Central and South American immigrants. Little Havana was the name given to this area after a marked increase in immigration from Cuba during the political changes there in the 1960s. In 2017, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a member supported group created by congressional charter in 1949, declared Little Havana a national treasure.

During a recent trip to Miami, my dining companion suggested we get a bite in Little Havana and take a look around the area. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and most of the restaurants were closed. After much inquiry, we came upon Doce Provisions (Doce) located on the 500 block of SW 12th Ave. in Little Havana. Doce bills themselves as serving locally-sourced, artisanal foods most of which is Cuban- and Miami-inspired. After reading good online reviews, we decided Doce was worth a look.

Outdoor seating area, Doce Provisions

The restaurant is homey and accommodating, with indoor seating in addition to a very pleasant outside dining area in the back of the restaurant. The restaurant also has an open air kitchen. I really believe kitchens such as these where diners can watch their food being prepared help better connect restaurant patrons to their food.

After surveying a number of menus including food and beverage, my dining companion and I tried a number of items from Doce's Lunch Menu.

Farm greens, Doce Provisions

We started with the Farm greens, an absolutely beautiful dish both in presentation and taste. Assorted greens were served with radish, pomegranate seeds, chickpeas, roasted corn and a lemon vinaigrette. Outstanding!

We then moved on to trying Doce's tacos, an order each of bbq short rib and shrimp po' boy tacos. Two tacos came with each order. The shrimp po' boy tacos, paying homage to those delicious sandwiches from Louisiana, started with fried shrimp. They were topped with radish, micro green cliantro, pickled onion and Cuban sriracha mayo. Cuban sriracha mayo is a locally produced condiment made Cuban with the incorporation of mojo flavors.  The shrimp tacos were very good. Even better were the bbq short rib tacos. Short ribs, first beer-braised then barbecued, were topped with chipotle crema, corn salsa, pickled onion and fresno chili relish. This was another outstanding dish.

El Cubano, Doce Provisions

Wanting to try everything at this point, but knowing that there was no way that would be possible, we settled on Doce's El Cubano. Doce's version of this Cuban standard was made with smoked pork loin, salami instead of the traditional ham, homemade pickles, mustard and swiss. It was also outstanding, a great Cuban sandwich with a subtle twist.

Domino players, Maximo Gomez (Domino) Park, Miami, FL

After our lunch we wanted to walk off a bit of our food and went to look at Calle Ocho. Calle Ocho (SW 8th St.) is ground central in Little Havana. We stopped for a bit at Maximo Gomez Park, or better know as Domino Park, just off of 8th St. This is a historic landmark in Little Havana and was established in 1961. Dominos are not really my thing. Watching these people though, I realized I was probably surrounded by some of the world's best domino players, which was pretty impressive. This was a perfect end to our lunch in Little Havana.

Doce Provisions serves some really good food, a great mix of new and traditional flavors. I think saying you would come back to a restaurant in a place like Miami is significant as there are tens of thousands of restaurants there. As far as Doce is concerned, I will definitely be back.

That's that for another post on Forks.

Doce Provisions
541 SW 12th Ave.
Miami, FL 33130
Doce Provisions Web Site 

Monday-Thursday 12-3:30 PM/5-10 PM, Friday  12-3:30 PM/5-11 PM, Saturday 12-11 PM, Sunday 11 AM-9 PM; All major credit cards accepted.

Doce Provisions

Menus, Doce Provisions
Shrimp tacos, Doce Provisions

BBQ short rib tacos, Doce provisions

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Rubell Family Collection and The Wynwood Yard in Miami

The Wynwood Yard, Miami, FL

Wynwood is an area in Miami, FL that has seen a marked development since the beginning of the 21st Century as a center for the visual and culinary arts. With the fairly recent residential development in the area, Wynwood is well on it's way to become a major venue in the Southeastern United States for art, fashion and food.

Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL

One of the groundbreakers of the art and fashion scene in Wynwood is the Rubell Family Collection (RFC). Started in an abandoned Drug Enforcement Agency evidence collection facility in 1993, this 40,000 square foot space is one of the largest privately owned modern art collections that is publicly accessible. In 2018, RFC will be moving to a 2.5 acre campus with a lecture hall, tropical sculpture garden, a restaurant and 100,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The Rubells are an interesting family and are pioneers of the Miami art scene. Don and Mera Rubell, a physician and teacher, respectively, have been collectors of art since the mid-1960's in New York City. In the 1980's the Rubells began acquiring many artworks of a then unknown artist, Keith Harring. Partially through their relationship with Harring, the couple has branched out to become one of the more influential art collectors in the world.

Don's brother Steve was a co-founder of the infamous late 1970's disco, Studio 54. After Steve Rubell and his business partner Ian Schrager were jailed for tax evasion, they poured their energy and resources into hotels. After Steve's death in 1989, Schrager continued to develop very high profile hotels both in Miami and worldwide, some of them in partnership with the Rubell family which has also aided their acquisition of art. 

The Rubells have also been instrumental in the development of Art Basel in Miami. Art Basel is an international art fair held and started in Geneva, Switzerland in 1970 expanding to Miami, Florida in 2002 and Hong Kong in 2013.

The day we were there, my dining companion and I were treated to some very engaging art to work up an appetite for sampling the area's culinary offerings later that day.

Paulo Nimer Pjota, New Shamans exhibit, Rubell Family Collection

Assume Vivid Astro Focus, New Shamans exhibit, Rubell Family Collection

Paul Holmqvist and Paul Kneale, High Anxiety exhibit,  Rubell Family Collection

John Willams, High Anxiety exhibit, Rubell Family Collection

There were two separate exhibitions that day, New Shamans, a compilation of contemporary Brazilian artists, and High Anxiety, a collection of social and political concerns expressed through art. There were also some interesting exhibits in their permanent collection including Cady Noland's This Piece has no Title. This was an art installation of hundreds of Budweiser beer cans in an industrial setting which was a commentary on cultural excess.

There were many more interesting pieces shown throughout both exhibitions but after a time traversing the collections, my dining companion and I were up for a snack.

Marquee, The Wynwood Yard, Miami, FL

We ventured across the street to The Wynwood Yard (WY).  WY is about a half-square block outdoor area that has been open since the Fall of 2015. WY hosts a number of food startups, and promotes cultural, musical and ancillary fitness events.

Bar area, The Wynwood Yard

Dining area, The Wynwood Yard

There are a number of places for patrons to enjoy the fruits of WY. These include a bar with a number of interesting beverages and a dining area surrounded by planters full of flowers and fresh herbs donated by Whole Foods.

Food trucks are a part of the culinary scene at WY, and included a number of interesting purveyors. House of Mac featured 13 different mac 'n' cheese offerings, Kuenko, a collection of Spanish and Japanese fusion rice bowls, Brazilian Fire, serving grilled kebabs and other Brazilian fare and Mr. Bing, an imported Taiwanese hybrid of ice cream and shaved ice with a variety of toppings. We sampled a menu item from Yoko Matcha, a cafe incorporating Matcha, a finely ground green tea into a variety of foods and beverages. We tried the matcha chia pudding. This dessert incorporated chia seeds, matcha, coconut milk, agave and was topped with fresh fruit. Although it looked intriguing, I was not a big fan of this dessert nor of matcha.    

Charcoal Garden Bar and Grill, served a number of grilled fare and had a good wine selection. They did not open until later which unfortunately didn't fit into our schedule. Perhaps next time.

Chicken tacos, The Lone Wolf Truck, The Wynwood Yard

Enfrijoladas, The Lone Wolf Truck, The Wynwood Yard

My dining companion and I, not wanting to spoil out appetite for later, finished with just a couple of items from The Lone Wolf Truck. They specialize in Mexican and Asian-Mexican fusion cuisine. We sampled the chicken tacos which were very good. Even better were the enfrijoladas, which were served with a base of corn tortillas, black bean sauce, sour cream, shredded cheese, chicken and pico de gallo. A bargain at $4 and $10.00, respectively.

After a snack and a bit of a rest, we were ready to check out Wynwood Art Walk later that evening, but more on that later.

The Rubell Family Collection is a very engaging art gallery with many unique and eclectic items of art. It is a crown jewel of the Miami art scene. The Wynwood Yard is a nice place to visit, eat, relax and regroup when visiting the area. Both of these spots are most highly recommended.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

The Wynwood Yard

Rubell Family Collection
95 NW 29 St.
Miami, FL 33127
Rubell Family Collection Website 

Open Wednesday-Saturday 10 AM-530 PM
Admission $10.00, Students and seniors $5.00

The Wynwood Yard
56-82 NW 29 St.
Miami, FL 33127
General Hours and Vendor Hours; The Wynwood Yard

Frank Benson, High Anxiety exhibit, Rubell Family Collection

Natja Novistkova and Calvin Marcus, High Anxiety exhibit, Rubell Family Collection

Josh Kline, High Anxiety exhibit, Rubell Family Collection
Secundio Hernandez, High Anxiety exhibit, Rubell Family Collection

Cady Noland, Permanent Collection, Rubell Family Collection

Charcoal Garden Bar and Grill, The Wynwood Yard

House of Mac, The Wynwood Yard

Kuenko, The Wynwood Yard
Mr. Bing, The Wynwood Yard

Yoko Matcha, The Wynwood Yard
The Lone Wolfe, The Wynwood Yard
Matcha chia pudding, Yoko Matcha, The Wynwood Yard