Last year we told you all about Chef’s Choice, a very cool foodie initiative that Spanish beer, Estrella Damm, was hosting in our city, giving culinary programs like Miami Spice a run for their money. The Chef’s Choice program is back for its second run in Miami and is stronger than ever. With curated menus by some of Miami’s most highly regarded chefs, the program offers a Mediterranean-inspired 3-course meal paired with an Estrella Damm beer at 46 of Miami’s top restaurants. Each menu is unique, but all include an appetizer, an entrée featuring rice (this year’s theme), and a dessert.
The Estrella Damm team was ever-so-kind to give us, along with a few of our foodie friends, a sneak peak of this year’s menus with tours across Midtown and Brickell. I indulged many times over in the Midtown tour and its FIVE stops, and I’m still not sure how I managed to eat all five meals and survive. Below is a really quick recap of what you can expect at some of our favorite Midtown spots as part of the 2016 Chef’s Choice Menu.
Brasserie Azur | Cost: $35pp
Chef: Oscar Garcia
What We Ate: Crispy Duck Leg Confit with Mixed Herb Risotto (Chef’s Choice Entrée)
Brasserie Azur was the perfect start to this tour de force. The dish was as bold as it looks, a perfect herb risotto with a duck leg confit that really just tasted like delicious chicharrón. Not sure how that happened, but the texture was tender perfection. The herb risotto was one of my favorite renditions of the night. This dish was also quite easy with the light, crisp beer. It was definitely a highlight and a perfect way to kick-off the evening.
Sugarcane | Cost: $38pp
Chef: Timon Balloo
What We Ate: Creamy Bone Marrow Duck Rice Served with Ripped Herbs and Melted Bone Marrow Butter (Chef’s Choice Entrée)
Undoubtedly one of the most daring dishes I tried on the Midtown tour. I was definitely outside my comfort zone since I’m not a huge fan of bone marrow, but this rendition was flavorful and the butter gave it a hint of sweetness that left everyone’s plate empty. As Chef Balloo mentioned, “I wanted to give the diner an experience from every spectrum of this ingredient [rice]: from airy to creamy to crunchy to sweet.”
Pinch Miami | Cost: $45pp
Chefs: John Gallo and Rene Reyes
What We Ate: Arroz con Gambas Calçot y Chorizo aka Bomba Rice with Seared Tiger Shrimp, Spanish Chorizo and Roasted Calçots (Chef’s Choice Entrée)
At Pinch you’ll have a Spanish-inspired dish that perfectly complements the Mediterranean roots of the Estrella Damm beer. The flavors all gave you hints of the strong Spanish staples like gambas and chorizo. We’re big fans of what the guys over at Pinch are doing with seasonal ingredients and this was no exception.
Vagabond | Cost: $55pp
Chef: Alex Chang
What We Ate: ½ Roasted Peruvian Chicken with Jasmine Rice (Chef’s Choice Entrée)
The Peruvian chicken was inspired by pollo a la brasa from one of Chef Chang’s favorite Peruvian restaurants in L.A. This dish was a bit traditional compared to the usual suspects on the Vagabond menu, which tend to be a bit out of the box. Needless to say, it was an absolutely delicious chicken and the concept of “less is more” played out beautifully here. With an ode to Vagabond’s globally inspired menu, this dish was an all around home run.
Cena by Michy | Cost: $55pp
Chef: Michelle Bernstein
What We Ate: Creamy Arroz Negro with Shrimp and Chorizo Aioli (Appetizer)
Unlike the other restaurants where we enjoyed the main course, at Cena by Michy, we indulged in an appetizer of black rice, royal red shrimp, shrimp nage, and chorizo aioli. Inspired by the rice as a backdrop, Chef Michy’s team created a dish that has a prevalent seafood component with great texture and bold flavors.
Mel’s take: Mitch and I are marketers by trade and we’ve been trained to indulge in the power of branding. So when a brand executes a program with such precision, as was the case with Estrella Damm and its Chef’s Choice culinary program, we become instant converts. We’re pretty sure you’re next. The program kicked off this Saturday and runs through May 29th. Prices vary per restaurant and range from $30 to $70, which I think is pretty extraordinary for the caliber of restaurants. For a full list of participating restaurants and their menus check out the program’s website.
Standout dish: I really loved everything about the herb risotto and crispy duck leg at Brasserie Azur. I’m not sure if it had something to do with the fact that it was the first meal, but the risotto was by far my favorite rice rendition of all the tour stops and the duck was a perfect combination of crispy and tender. Honorable mention to all the other dishes; they were honestly equally as unique and impressive.
If we didn’t entice you enough to check out this amazing foodie initiative, stay tuned this Wednesday for a glimpse into the Brickell tour that Mitch embarked on. Most importantly, be on high alert this week… We have a giveaway this Friday that you will not want to miss. A teaser? We’ll be sure your next dining experience is as phenomenal as our media Estrella Tour!