Friday, September 17, 2010 at 8:38 a.m.
Cupcakes. Pork belly. Lamb chops. Burgers. Ravioli. Rice balls. Red curry. There was a symphony of good eats at New Times' Pairings, held last night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The more than three dozen local restaurants that showed up and threw down pulled off a fantastic lineup of up- and downscale dishes paired with an equally kick-ass selection of beer, wine, and liquor. Everywhere you looked, there were happy people, drinking, eating, and dancing to the clubby tunes on tap in front of the New River Room.
The diversity of dishes this year was really topnotch -- I honestly don't think there's another food tasting event of this kind in South Florida. A big thank you needs to go to the entire marketing team that put this event together. And, of course, the chefs. You folks outdid yourselves.
And thank you as well to the many hungry food and wine enthusiasts who showed up and got down with us. It's inspiring to see so many people in the community coming to an event like this, showing an interest in good food and drink and supporting the paper. We all really appreciate it, and it makes me proud to be covering a scene that you guys are a part of.
So now that it's over, tell us: What did you like about Pairings? What did you love? What can we improve upon for next year? Tell us your memorable moments from the event in the comments field below. We'd love to hear from you guys on how we did.
As for me, I've put together a short list of my favorite dishes from Pairings. See it after the cut.
Himmarshee Bar & Grill
Butternut squash risotto with duck confit and English peas
The Amaturo Lobby on the South side of the Broward Center housed some of the best food of the whole night. Himmarshee's Chris Miracolo put together a stunning risotto, creamy with butternut squash and hiding rich strands of duck confit and sunny English peas. Risotto is tough to serve at an event like this, but the restaurant pulled it off.
Roasted corn soup with blue crab and ancho chile drizzle
Also in the Amaturo Lobby was Sea Level, whose corn soup with blue crab was really special. The crab was fresh and clean and wasn't overpowered by the homey soup. What was billed as ancho chili tasted more like adobo-style chipotle sauce to me, but the spicy kick worked great nonetheless. Even better was the wine pairing -- a bright, crisp Riesling that showcased the sweetness of the corn and cut the spiciness of the chili.
Sweeter Days Bake Shop
Carrot cake cupcakes
Sweeter Days had about a dozen different mini cupcakes on display, from white chocolate raspberry to coconut Key lime pie. I tried only a few of them (I'm not that gluttonous), but all were great versions of the cutesy dessert. But the carrot cake: Oh. My. God. Just wonderful. The cream-cheese frosting on top was way better than Grandma ever made.
Hong Kong City BBQ
Sweet plum-roasted pork
The flavor coaxed out of the pork loin by Hong Kong City BBQ was intense. It reminded me of all the best things about Chinese takeout with the family as a kid. The supple, red-tinged pork was sweet, buttery, and meaty. It could've used a sticky bun or some rice to go with it, but the flavor was right on.
Braised pork belly with mushroom-barley risotto
I've not always had the best things to say about Taste, but goddamn, did its Pairings dish deliver! The pork belly, crisp underneath, unctuously fatty on top, was set above a beautifully seasoned barley risotto enhanced with pungent mushrooms. Easily one of the best dishes of the show.
Potato leek soup with curried rock shrimp
The chilled cucumber soup promised by 3030 Ocean was replaced instead by a potato leek soup with crystaline pieces of fresh Florida rock shrimp. Had I not been so full by the end of the night, I would've gone back for seconds, thirds... shit, maybe fourths. The soup had a velvety mouthfeel that balanced acid, salt, and sweet perfectly. The rock shrimp could not have been fresher. New chef de cuisine Jeremy Ford manned the booth with the kind of charm I'm sure the Marriott would be proud of.