When I wake in Miami lately, I look out the big windows of the cottage and see mangoes reddening, preparing for their earthly descent.
Outside, I look up–how many mangoes do you count here? (Hint: there are more than five. Click on the picture to see the bigger version.)
Some of them are in clusters, like this small bundle the homeowners are up on ladders twisting off the branches as I write this.
And it’s also the season for meeting friends for dinner on patios–I had a wonderful time last night with Jean Marc, Jay, and Daniel at Bueno Vista Bistro a little past the Design District (Jay’s a great date, and Jean Marc simply glows with cleansed energy and dinner prep ideas),
oh, and for red cars and accelerated driving (adore the way Jay narrated the story behind reclaiming his car here):
Nearby on the warm Miami night, I met Jess for a moment at Sweat Records where the air conditioning was out, but enthused local musicians and artists were in and around—one comparing my dress to a Stereolab album;
for a certain set, Sweat Records is a community space model unique in Miami that connects through poetry readings, music, ironic shirts, shared pie, and Peeps on the craft table for peeps of all sorts—
Note: that’s Sweat Records owner Lolo smiling at the end of the above video.
It’s been a week, and I’ve missed writing here, so this is a longer post below. I hope that all of you are having wonderful days—
Last Wednesday, my friend Dianna showed me the community garden in South Beach. With retro signs (community gardens are quietly beginning to be called Victory Gardens again across the United States) and a convenient location in the South of Fifth section, the garden boasts a waiting list years long and acts as a quiet hub for energetic locals.
An ideal way to find people who share your concern for thoughtful food,
in a way that Dianna’s Mr. Cecil approves.
Thursday night I flew toward another community garden in Portland, Oregon.
After Friday morning pastries from Boulangerie in the Northwest section (skip the croissants and tend toward the more complicated offerings), I unwrapped a pork belly banh mi off the Bunk Sandwiches board—
with perfectly toasted bread, melting pork belly, the right sort of red sauce, cilantro, and julienned carrots, perhaps the best sandwich of my life.
And so I fell silent for part of the Friday drive with my beautiful sister Kat to the Erath and Ponzi vineyards near to Portland,
where even Erath’s Pinot flight (the Reserve Pinot Gris that is only sold at the winery is lovely) was no match for Kat’s homemade cherry kombucha, and we headed out the next morning for other healthful local food at the Portland Farmers’ Market with Reid and their friend Nathania,
Full of families visiting, eating, laughing, the Pickelopolis stand awed younger market shoppers,
baskets of rhubarb waited to be stewed, roasted, and baked into crumbles and pies, jams,
and Ranoculus and purple flowers carried the day.
Close to purple flowers, bundles of purple asparagus waited,
though we opted for local fried asparagus from Burgerville, the In-n-Out chain of the Pacific Northwest, (pick off the batter and dip the spears in the included aioli,)
and crossing the St. John bridge, we picked lettuces and onions from Kat and Reid’s plot in the community garden (I resisted picking dandelions).
The two explain what they’ve planted:
and we peered closer at the potato plants,
peas on a trellis Reid has devised,
soft lettuces glowing in the sun that hits parts of their plot,
and then Reid appreciated the smell of the freshly-dug onions in the backseat all the way to the Oregon coast, where even toddlers skate,
and the trees stand tall,
covered with moss,
and we waded over to the side where smaller waves washed into the shore,
and held forth with a picnic of crusty market bread, herbed chevre, wine, olives, and strawberries,
before returning to Kat and Reid’s apartment in Portland to simmer those morels in cream, sauté fiddlehead ferns and nettles with their onions, and roast parsnips, delighting in the way foods from this moment in the season play off each other.
Sunday, I visited Kat working at Cacao (where she introduced me to a fabulous new chocolate bar that tastes of blood oranges) and sipped drinking chocolate,
and after she closed the shop, we shared a spicy avocado sandwich with bread that did taste alive along with a bowl of beans, quinoa, and kale at Blossoming Lotus.
As yoga practitioners emerged from class in the adjoining studio, we joined them in breathing deeply as sisters and even closer friends…
Yesterday began in a freezer. Well, really a Bikram yoga studio of 105 degrees, but after that a freezer full of farm eggs and tropical fruit at Bee Heaven Farms in South Florida, where I picked up my order:
Another red custard apple for the road—to eat in a few days, as these become very soft when they ripen (the beautiful inside):
and I looked up at the branch above my car at these fruit-like objects of interest.
Driving quickly, lest tree roots grow over my wheels as they had overtaken fences,
white flowers on parts of the stretch made me pull over,
and then my friend Jess and her friend Maya arrived at the cottage with cupcakes. Influenced by icing, we took Jean Marc’s good advice and headed over to Cinco de MiMo, a celebration of that area of Miami.
Recognizing him by his twirling umbrella, we greeted Gene Kelly,
toasted with Tiki punch to local designers in the Upper Eastside Garden:
I was very happy to learn a few weeks ago that Dennis Scholl was joining Knight Foundation’s permanent staff as the Miami program director, not least because he cares very much about the food and wine communities and is a wine importer (half of the Betts & Scholl powerhouse that I first read about in this Food & Wine article last January).
At lunch at Michael’s Genuine today, the fried egg on top of crumbled duck terrine and toasted bread spread liberally with homemade Dijon was a good order (it’s next to impossible to order badly here);
Dennis ordered what reminded me of a warm Andalusian gazpacho,
and we were both happy to be at this restaurant run by Michael Schwartz,
who stopped by the table and is up for the James Beard award for Best Southern Chef (the nominee list) next week (as Michael mentions, this is an example Dennis’ work with Plum TV as a culture correspondent).
Before we left, Michael confirmed when Dennis asked if he was celebrating Grilled Cheese Month (as we have here on kthread) that every month at Michael’s Genuine is Grilled Cheese Month. Fellow Miamians, rejoice! (And everyone else, come visit. More grilled cheese in just a bit…)
And while we were in the Design District, we stopped by the Wynwood gallery Dennis owns with his wife Debra, World Class Boxing, where the current Mitzi Pederson exhibit, “I Think I Was Looking at That Before” has thin, shaped wood sculptures like bows of painted silver leaf that are strung not for arrows, but hang high on walls and around blocks on the gallery floor reminding me of simplified Aeolian harps.
And in the untitled piece Pederson refers to as a “ground drawing,” cinder blocks glitter playfully as you move about them, winking back as you accept a clever invitation to circle the piece, subtly engaged in this gallery in a city of unironic sequins…
SFM Leader Donna Reno introduced her daughter Hunter Reno, who explained the edible herb arrangement made for the occasion (the word ‘GROW’ formed the middle).
Then, the group moved toward the Compost Treasure Map (I love this),
and Hunter explained that compost needs a balance of brown (leaves, etc.) and green, moisture, and turning:
Moving from the wasabi microgreens to edible pansies, savory, and lemon verbena, with irresistible enthusiasm, Hunter encouraged us to pull off leaves of chocolate mint and reminded us to take a small pot of herbs with us after dinner.
The tiny kitchen charged through the first three courses with volunteer chefs helping to plate the shrimp with avocado ice cream (with La Spinetta Langhe Bianco) and tempura capers that I found hard not to pick up,
and capers continued in the livornese sauce around the yellowtail snapper with fingerlings and my favorite part of the menu, the E. Pira Barbera d’Alba (all the wines were donated by Indigenous Selections).
With the third course of this meal led by meat (wherefore beautiful vegetables? I know they are still growing in South Florida), I gave myself over to the veal ossobuco and crisped chips of artichokes, on soft homemade fettucine (La Spinetta II Nero di Casanova),
before more cheese on this appreciation week, Parmigiano Reggiano fonduta with beef filet that Donna explained we spent some food miles on (with Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Classico Riserva 2000),
and two sweet courses to finish with the balanced La Spinetta Moscato Bricco Quaglia: strawberry goat milk ice cream over a lavender infusion near (I think) pepper flecks,
and last, pistachio-vanilla filling inside what I’ve always thought a cannoli should be—a wrapper that shatters like a real croissant in contrast to the smooth inside.
I always find food experiences more intense when I experience them alone, and I sat quietly at a table near the kitchen thinking of all of you last night.
Laura, we will have to make a lavender infusion; David, the pistachio cannoli is the dessert of your dreams. Jean Marc, I missed your company! Holly, I simply couldn’t take out the big camera (the ossobuco claimed me), but I did my best to document as the plates whisked by.
This morning, I slowly stretched and stepped down the spiral staircase at the cottage, smiling at the cheerful little potted herbs,
a good reminder of the event, the SFM group, and my life in the kitchen where I try, like my thoughtful friend Matt, who is on a meditation retreat this week, to move closer to mindful actions. Even though mine might involve magenta sprouts.