Mar 3, 2010

Miami Food Fun

As you can see from the mobile posts below, it was a food-filled vacation to Miami, a place where Elizabeth lived for a little over a year, in more ways than one.

It all started when Elizabeth and I were laid over in Memphis. I made a crude remark to her to “remind me to bludgeon the Neelys" if our paths crossed while we were in their city. In an incredible moment of irony, they turned out to be sitting two rows ahead of us on the plane, and on the other side of the aisle, directly in my view. They were headed down to the Food & Wine/Food Network South Beach food festival. A man sitting behind them chatted with them for a bit. They seemed very nice, but probably had to be since they were basically on the Food Network clock. They had special Food Network greeters waiting for them just outside the jetway. We got our bags before theirs and went off to start our vacay. Random acts of violence suppressed.

Then Saturday night, as we walked out the front doors of our hotel, we passed Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto! I was beyond thrilled because he’s not just one of the hack American chefs from the hacked American version of the show, but one of the true Iron Chefs from the original series filmed in Japan (actually, I think the American Iron Chefs are all pretty good except Cat Cora). I believe he’s part owner of Nobu, the Japanese restaurant at our hotel, so probably not a shocker that he would swing by while in town on Festival weekend, but still cool as far as I was concerned.

Then Sunday, we were walking on the sidewalk that runs along the beach, behind the hotels, and as I glanced at the outdoor seating area at the Ritz in passing, I saw Jeff McInnis who I immediately recognized as a past contestant on Top Chef (funny interview with him here, talking about being exploited as a sex object on the show. In my opinion, he has a point. They didn't seem to take him very seriously, though as a straight married guy, I couldn't comment as to whether it's feasible he was a viable "sex object"). I was a little surprised to see him still working there but I’d imagine working at a Ritz is actually a pretty darn good job for a chef.

Needless to say, I’m pretty content with all these food-celeb sightings. I always hope to see celebs when in Miami. Let's face it... the only celebs you see in KC are athletes or anchorpeople from the news. Not quite the same thing (though I do love me some Katie Horner).

Food and drink prices in Miami are outrageous. Food and drink prices at the Shore Club are, shockingly, even worse. Here’s a sampling of items from the room/pool/beach service menu to prove my point:

Glass of juice: $9
Mineral water: $11
A single can of Red Bull: $6
Bagel/cream cheese: $9
Bowl of oatmeal: $13
Simple breakfast plate of two eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes and choice of coffee or juice - $24. Add a side of breakfast meat? $8 more.
“Antipasti” of sliced fruit - $20
Caesar salad w/ shrimp: $25
Under the “finger foods” section of the menu: beef skewers served w/ blue cheese: $32
Paninis are $20 - $24
Pizzas are a bargain at $18
Giant chocolate chip cookie w/ milk: $8

A little disclaimer at the bottom of the room service menu states “Applicable sales tax, a $4.00 delivery charge and 20% service charge will be added to each check.” That’s something that they do everywhere on SoBe – at least 18% gratuity is always slyly included in  your check. I’m sure tons of tourists unwittingly tip another 20% on top of that. I made the mistake a few times before I learned, back when I first lived there.

Alcohol is even more laughable:
A bottle of Chandon Brut Classic is "just" $50
Veuve Cliquot: $200
Cristal: $725
All domestic beers – we’re talking bud light in a can here – are $7
We paid $8 each for a single can of Presidente and Heineken once. Those were our only poolside purchases.
Brace yourself now - bottle of Grey Goose: $325 dollars!!!
Bottle of Jack - $230.  Just snap your fingers and one of the white sweat suit-clad servers will be happy to bring it over… 30 minutes later or so. And if you don’t tip, you can and should expect the worst service ever displayed by a waitstaff the rest of your time there, if you continue to be served at all.

Having experienced issues with patrons smuggling in their own alcohol to avoid these ghastly prices, the alcohol pages of the menu note “The Shore Club is the only licensed vendor of alcoholic beverages on the premises. The Shore Club reserves the right to assess a corkage fee of $60 per bottle of liquor, champagne, wine or case of beer if it’s purchased from anyone other than the hotel." Here's my question: if a bottle of Goose is $325 when you buy it from The Shore Club, plus tax and gratuity, but only $45 at the liquor store plus $60 corkage fee (a total of $105), why would you purchase their bottle as opposed to bringing your own?

Avoiding the scornful scowl of the server who knows his/her tip will be much smaller is hardly an incentive. Chances are they're giving you terrible service anyway (service in Miami is often ungodly bad). For me it's a moot point either way because I'm perfectly fine lounging around the pool sans beverage and enjoying the sun in a blissful state of sobriety. But I'm absolutely stupefied at the idea of anyone paying these prices.

One of the reasons we chose to go back to Miami was because we figured it would be a great place to visit now that we know our way around and have favorite establishments picked out. Every meal we ended up having met or exceeded our expectations. Specific posts on those meals to follow. Stay tuned...

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