Brazil Comes to Tuyo for this week’s Miami Spice

Yesterday I forgot to take something out of the freezer to prepare for dinner last night. What to do?

How about Tuyo, a fusion restaurant on the top floor of the Miami Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute just a few steps from our downtown condo? I have wanted to treat my daughter to dinner here ever since my first visit last month.

Sasha cheerfully took our last minute reservations, and we arrived in time to meet Chef John Roberts on the front steps. After being escorted to the eighth floor dining room, we looked over the current menu which changes seasonally. As much as possible, Tuyo uses organically grown and/or locally sourced ingredients in all of its dishes. We could not resist the Miami Spice menu, though. I also decided to include the optional wine pairing. In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, which is exactly why I like the wine pairing feature at Tuyo.

After ordering our selections, we were served warm crusty rolls and the amuse-bouche – a delicate lobster croquette topped with a key lime sauce. Next, we both had the African adobo rubbed tuna and avocado salsita served over thinly sliced cucumbers. At first, I was disappointed that the tuna seemed a bit bland… then the after-bite kicked in. The spice rub was not at all over-powering but it had just enough kick to make it a good complement to the avocado salsita. The appetizer was served with an Italian wine – “Firriato, Grillo Altavilla Della Corte, 2009.” Not only was the selection a nice accompaniment for the dish, it was a perfect wine for me, a light white wine that was slightly fruity without being too sweet.

For the main course, my daughter ordered the “Coconut Milk Stew ‘Vatapá’ with Shrimp, Grouper, Cashews, Citrus and Cilantro” which was served over rice. Not being very talkative, she did not give me much of a description other than “yum.” She was clearly too busy eating every last bite.

I ordered the Churrasco de São Paulo a la Parilla with Chimichurri Rojo and oh my goodness was it ever delicious! It was cooked to perfection and for a cut of beef that is often on the tough side, it practically melted in my mouth. The flavor was fabulous, too. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I asked our waiter and he confirmed that I was enjoying organic grass-fed beef. Without a doubt, healthier tastes better!

The wine accompanying this course was “Owen Roe, Sinister Hand, Grenache, Washington State, 2009.” As I warned earlier, I wouldn’t know a Merlot from a Cabernet, but I can tell you that the Grenache was delish. We also had a good giggle over the label, which naturally includes a drawing of a creepy-looking hand. (I know what wine I will be serving at my October party.)

One of my daughter’s favorite sweets in flan; mine is anything with dark chocolate. Needless to say the desserts were perfection: a simple flan on a caramel sauce garnished with a bit of crisp coconut, served with two Brazilian coconut “Kisses” on a side plate.

Tuyo is not an inexpensive restaurant. Even with the reduced prices for the Miami Spice menu, it was a bit over $120 for the two of us. But given the impeccable service, the lovely atmosphere and the quality organic ingredients, I think it was well worth it. In fact, I may even “forget” to defrost something for dinner again next week so we can see what Executive Chef Norman Van Aken has cooked up for the last two weeks of Miami Spice!

Miami Culinary Institute – great food, great fun and green!

Wednesday night’s monthly meeting of the US Green Building Council Miami branch combined virtually all of my passions – urban Miami, real estate, green building, sustainability & environmental consciousness, great food, and bubbly champagne. We met at the Miami Culinary Institute, located at 415 NE 2 AV in downtown Miami, for a short presentation by Chef John Richards, director of MCI. While we sipped our champagne, Chef John talked about the history and purpose of the Miami Culinary Institute.

MCI is part of Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus and was designed by Atkins North America. “A model of sustainability and urban stewardship, Miami Dade College’s eight-story Miami Culinary Institute has achieved LEED Gold certification. Atkins’ environmentally conscious approach to the building’s design included unique features such as rainwater harvesting, greywater harvesting from dishwashers, recycled solid composting for the institute’s vegetable gardens, low-consumption plumbing fixtures, and numerous recycled-content material selections—including high-end finishes.”

In addition to programs for degree-seeking MDC students and professional development courses for those in the industry, MCI also offers a wide variety of classes for anyone interested in improving their culinary skills, and that is what we did last night. Breaking into groups of four, each group prepared one course of the dinner that we ultimately enjoyed eating. With much laughter , my group learned how to prepare poached pear with champagne sabayon. Between separating the egg yolks with our hands and having a whisking race to finish the sauce, hilarity was the prime ingredient. (Did I mention we were sipping on champagne?)

With lessons and supervision provided by the ever-patient Chef Travis Jameson Starwalt, we also learned how MCI sources much of their food locally (within 350 miles), as well as minimizing, recycling and/or composting the waste. Many of the greens are grown in MCI’s on-site garden, while the delicious pork tenderloins came from Niman Ranch – described by Chef Travis as “a farm co-op that is raising and treating their animals with the utmost care and respect!”

The Miami Culinary Institute is also home to Tuyo, an award winning fusion restaurant on the top floor overlooking downtown Miami and the bay. Tuyo’ vision statement includes “embracing farm-to-table and sustainability practices that safeguard the health of the people and the planet.”

From the design of the structure to its on-going operation; from the Tuyo restaurant to the chefs teaching classes – the passion driving those involved with the Miami Culinary Institute was neatly expressed by Chef Travis when he told me, “It’s up to our generation to lead the charge in the war against commercialization and convenience.”