says. “Some dishes require saffron. Not only
does it enhance the flavor, but it gives value.
We use it in seafood paella as one of the key
flavors. It’s king.” At Bongos, Paella Grande
($64, serves two) takes about 30 minutes to
prepare from generous amounts of Caribbean
lobster, clams, mussels, medium-size shrimp,
calamari, chorizo sausage and chicken.
Flores is also a master of all things
dessert. In fact, he was the pastry chef
behind creations at Douglas Rodriguez
venues, and is author of Dulce: Desserts in
the Latin-American Tradition (Rizzoli, 2010).
Because chocolate is both a flavor and
an ingredient that knows no season—and
because summertime is fun time—Flores’
recipe, Croquetas de Chocolate (five bitesize pieces, $9), is a perfect fit. Indeed, some
guests may want it as the main course.
Michelle Bernstein’s rabo encendido
with trofie pasta and mascarpone wows
diners at Sra. Martinez.
Incorporating 58% Venezuelan semisweet
chocolate, Flores forms croquetas and
coats with cornflakes and shredded
coconut. “It’s like ganache,” he says.
“They’re deep-fried to order in vegetable
oil, so the chocolate inside gets molten.
We serve them hot with Cuban-style
coffee sauce for the best experience.”
SRA.’S PRODUCT-PURITY STAND
Both Plotczyk and Flores deal with local
farmers, growers and fishermen, not only
to get the freshest products and, therefore,
the best flavors, but also to support
sustainable efforts. Michelle Bernstein,
chef/owner of South Miami’s 62-seat
Michy’s and 90-seat Sra. Martinez in
Miami’s Design District, adds to that locally
grown mandate one for purity of product.
Bernstein wants to know what’s in—or has been added to—the fish, beef, etc., that she
Joseluis Flores’ Croquetas de Chocolate
dessert, made with Venezuelan semisweet
chocolate, is served hot with Cuban-style
coffee at Bongos Cuban Café.
purchases. “We as chefs have to go back
to our purveyors and question them. Why
was that protein so salty? I’m out of the
picture—I won’t buy from them—if they
add chemical agents,” she says. “Today,
people are more concerned with what
they’re ingesting. I can help guests make
the right menu decisions for their diet,
whether it’s gluten-free, diabetic, avoiding
food allergens or whatever they need,
since everything is prepared à la minute.”
Bernstein, author of Cuisine à Latina: Fresh
Tastes and a World of Flavors from Michy’s
Miami Kitchen (Houghton Mifflin, 2008),
is all about Latin-inspired flavors. Aiming
to have everything constantly changing on
the menu, she brings her Latina and Jewish
sensibilities to the endeavor. Her mother
is a fifth-generation Argentinian Jew, and
Bernstein’s roots are firmly planted in Miami
soil; the multiple influences are subtly
evident in her kitchen.
The National Culinary Review | May 2011
“A local fisherman recently brought us
Florida octopus—the most amazing we’ve
ever tasted,” she says. For the spring and
summer menu, she’ll do a simple grill of
fresh octopus with fresh English peas,
mint and toasted garlic salad, with a shave
of homegrown French breakfast radishes
($12-$14, dinner, tapas-size portions).