The first time I discovered what it feels like to convey love through food was 15 years ago. I was cooking a birthday dinner for the woman who would eventually become my wife. We were college seniors. The cramped kitchen she shared with roommates had no frills or fancy gadgets. They wouldn’t have mattered — I didn’t know the difference between a slow cooker and sous vide.
But I knew that when we would go on dates, she liked to order salmon, and I never saw her turn down a dish with feta cheese. So I bought some ingredients, followed a recipe for roasted salmon, and winged it on a homemade tomato-feta sauce and a side of couscous.
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When we sat to eat it on disposable plates paired with a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, Teri’s reaction told me that she knew what I was trying to say, which was: happy birthday and I love you and I want to pay attention to you forever, all wrapped in one basil-garnished package.
Throughout this special Food & Wine issue of INDULGE, you’ll find stories of local people who are expressing themselves through food. Chefs like Francisco Antón of Cardón y el Tirano on Calle Ocho. When I interviewed him for our Recipe feature, I asked who taught him to cook. His answer — a beautiful story of the aromas and flavors and lessons of his grandmother’s kitchen in Venezuela — was so moving, so full of emotion, that we printed it in its entirety, in his own words.
Threads of cooking from the heart also run through The INDULGE 25, our definitive list of the people, places, dishes and drinks firing up South Florida’s food scene right now. One of them is Val Chang, a Miami cook of Peruvian-Chinese descent who runs the kitchen at Dizengoff, an Israeli restaurant in Wynwood. During a recent Shabbat dinner at Dizengoff, I was floored at the seamless way Val fused her own heritage with the restaurant’s cuisine, working things like roasted plantains and Peruvian potatoes into the menu.
All of us can remember specific moments based on flavor memories. When I first started as a reporter at the Miami Herald — just a few months after cooking that salmon dinner for Teri — I lived close to Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Infrequently but indulgently, I would camp out at a sidewalk table at Johnny V restaurant and devour a tricked-out cheese plate. The cheeses always came with a ramekin of pickled grapes, a mind-bending combination of sweet and sour, and I’d savor them while watching the world walk by.
While Johnny V ended its longtime run in 2016, that vivid flavor memory will stay with me forever. Now Las Olas has a litany of new restaurants primed to create new memories for the next generation of voracious eaters. Stroll through the Boulevard’s latest hits with our Neighborhood feature. Or let our culinary map point you to the best restaurants in the year’s most exciting dining neighborhood: Sunset Harbour.
As you page through this issue, I bet you’ll find a dish or restaurant that reminds you of someone you love. My challenge to you: Make them that dish. Take them to that restaurant. Tell them, through food, that you’re paying attention.
Where Evan’s Eating
Five places I’m loving right now — and what to order at each:
1. Threefold Cafe: Green & Gold Omelet with goat cheese and local herbs, buttered Zak the Baker toast on the side. threefoldcafe.com.
2. Upland Miami: Coal-Roasted Short Rib with walnuts and fresh horseradish. To share. uplandmiami.com.
3. Stanzione 87: Chopped Salad and a Red Smoke Pizza with guanciale and hand-pulled mozzarella. stanzione87.com.
4. Lung Yai Thai Tapas: Lump Crab and Roasted Pork with fresh egg noodles. 786-334-6262.
5. Mandolin Miami: Taramasalata, Tzatziki and Smoky Eggplant with garden vegetables. mandolinmiami.com.