Ortanique On the Mile, A Mini Review by Steven Pinkert

Shanai, Ian, Dad and I had lunch today at Ortanique.  Ortanique is located at 278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134.  I have been to Ortanique many times over the years and wanted to give you all an update.  The food is still GREAT.  I had their famous pork chop with sticky rice and a great tangy fruity sauce.  We also shared the salmon, Mahi Mahi, eggplant lasagna and the daily ceviche.  All was very good.

It is remarkable that Ortanique has continued to serve such great food all these years!

Steven Pinkert Loves Chu’s Chinese Restaurant in Coral Gables

Friday night, November 15th, 2013, Steven Pinkert, his wife and two friends had dinner at Chu’s Restautant.  Chu’s has great Chinese food.  It is Taiwanese style Chinese food.  You might be wondering why I can judge Chinese food (aside from the fact that I have been to Beijing over fifty times)!  My friend, the Beijing Jazz Singer, Autumn Q, was visiting Miami a few weeks ago, and we went to Chu’s.  She said it was fantastic…so there you go.  If you happen to go to Chu’s, I recommend the soup dumplings (Xiaolongbao) and the tofu which is a cold dish served cut into thin tofu noodles.  Enjoy!

Steven Pinkert’s Fried Calamari Recipe

Draining Buttermilk from Calamari - Copyright 2012 Steven Pinkert

Draining Buttermilk from Calamari - Copyright 2012 Steven Pinkert

Steven Pinkert has been working on perfecting fried calamari and after a number of attempts it turns out to be very simple to prepare and a delicious appetizer.

Steven Pinkert buys most of his fish from Whole Foods as they are reliable and the quality is usually very good.  Whole foods has fresh frozen calamari both tubes and tentacles, and it is usually available by the pound defrosted on ice at the fresh fish counter.  The price is about $10 per pound these days and a pound is enough more than enough for an appetizer for 5-6 people.

Ingredients:

1 pound Calamari mixture of tubes and tentacles
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
4 T onion powder
4 T garlic powder
4 T ground black pepper
3 T Seasoning Salt
3 T Cayenne Pepper Powder
2 T chili powder
2 lemons quartered
Tabasco or other hot sauce

Steven Pinkert cooks using a Deep Frier with fresh vegetable oil but if you are careful you can probably fry the calamari in a frying pan. Although Steven Pinkert recommends the ingredients listed above the spices should be varied according to taste.

First cut up the calamari tubes into about 1/2 inch wide rings.

Calamari Cut into Rings  Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Calamari Cut into Rings Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Then place the Cut up Calamari into the buttermilk and allow to soak for about 20 minutes.

Calamari Soaking in Buttermilk  - Copyright 2012 by Steven Pinkert

Calamari Soaking in Buttermilk - Copyright 2012 by Steven Pinkert

After soaking drain the calamari.

Now mix all the dry ingredients together and bread the wet but drained calamari with the dry mixture. Allow the breading mixture to sit for about 10 minutes.

Fry the Calamari in oil for about 3-4 minutes at 325 degrees.

Calamari frying at 325 degrees - Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Calamari frying at 325 degrees - Copyright 2012 - Steven Pinkert

Now plate, drizzle with fresh lemon juice and serve.

Plated Fried Calamari - Copyright 2012  by Steven Pinkert

Plated Fried Calamari - Copyright 2012 by Steven Pinkert

Dinner at Yardbird – Miami Beach

Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

Last night eight of us had dinner at Yardbird, located at 16th and Lenox on South Beach. It was Helene’s birthday and some of our closest friends attended. Parking, often a challenge on the beach was easy as they have valet right in front. In fact Joe, who hates to valet park because he hates to wait for his car, surprised me and immediately took advantage of the valet.

I think the best description of the food at Yardbird is gourmet Southern Style cooking by Top Chef Jeff McInnis. Think of the food as gourmet comfort food and it is fair to say that if you are concerned with your cholesterol or triglycerides this eatery will not be your regular venue.

The Good. The fried chicken is as good as I have ever had. It has a slightly spicy crusty breading with a subtle fruity flavor just between the breading and the meat. Accompanying the fried chicken was a great balsamic watermelon. If you could just eat the accompanying watermelon you would spare your arteries.  But only eating the balsamic watermelon would be impossible. Other great items are the grits and cheese, baked pumpkin, and do not miss the mac and cheese which was nearly perfect. I say nearly as it was a smidgen either creamier or less well done than I prefer. But honestly I am splitting hairs.

The Bad. Other than the fact that this is not healthy eating, the noise level made conversation at our large table impossible. The noise was so bad that we stood outside in front of Yardbird and talked for almost half an hour after dinner.

I know that the music and noise level in a restaurant creates a kind of energy that many restaurateurs desire. And admittedly our group probably has an average age of 55 (I am a dead man). However, strategically placed sound absorbing materials near a few of the tables would be great for the crowd that actually likes to talk together while they enjoy great food.

To be fair there is a lively bar area and many more young people than elderly at this happening place on the beach. I suspect that my complaint about the noise level reveals that I am now an official altacocker (for the definition, click here on altacocker!)

Now a word about my reference to the elderly.  Sherma and I just turned 60 in September.  Last month, our son Keith casually referred to us as elderly, in a context that I cannot recall, and I have been obsessed ever since.  Maybe I think that by repeating it over and over the reader will respond – “Steve you look so young  – don’t be silly.”

Here is a recent photo of me, do I look elderly (aside from the puffy eyes)?

 

Steven Pinkert - Do I Look Elderly?

Steven Pinkert’s Homemade French Fries

I make the best french fries. Really. Now I know you are going to have doubts but I swear that Steven Pinkert’s fries are better than Five Guys. And in my opinion Five Guys Fries are great. I have been working on my french fry techniques for over a year and I have decided to share it with all 5 of my readers. (Actually I am exaggerating about the number of readers.)

Equipment
1) French Fry Cutter
2) Deep Fryer

Lets discuss the equipment. The french fry cutters come in several varieties and I will discuss the types that I am familiar with. I have owned a cheap plastic cutter and also a fairly heavy duty metal device. Both use a plunger action that forces the potatoes into and through square cut blades. The blades come in different widths; 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch.  I recommend 3/8  inch. The cheap plastic cutter is ok but the excursion of the plunger is short so you frequently have to cut off the end to shorten a potato to fit. Also in the plastic device the handle is short and without the extra leverage of a long handle it can be difficult to force the potatoes through the blades.  The metal variety is much more durable. Amazon sells an excellent reasonably priced metal unit that takes a little assembly.  Here is the link: Restaurant French Fry Cutter. I recommend the plastic unit if you are only going to make french fries occasionally.  If you plan on feeding a crowd of 5 or more say monthly, then the metal unit is worth the extra investment of about $50.00. (By the way, the Amazon metal cutter comes with the suction cup legs.)

The deep fryer is also critical to successfully making great fries.  There are several issues to consider.  The size of the fryer, the ability of the fryer to reach and maintain temperature (watts), and the accuracy of the thermostat.  I have owned many fryers and most recently an inexpensive commercial unit. How often you plan on using the fryer determines how much you should spend. The better the fryer the faster and more consistent your french fries will turn out. At a minimum I would suggest the 12 cup Presto Profry.  It is reasonable at Amazon and is okay if not a little slow to work with because of the limited wattage.  I currently use a larger 1800 watt unit that is quasi-commercial.  If I had my drothers I would purchase a 220 volt unit and install a dedicated 220 volt outlet for the unit.  But this can be expensive and I elected not to take this step.

Ingredients:
Potatoes (Russet preferred but I buy whatever are available at Publix)
Salt
Vegetable Oil, or Canola

I am not too particular about the type of oil or the type of potatoes, but make sure the oil is fresh. Wash the potatoes and cut with the cutter. Place the cut potatoes into ice water for at least an hour. Drain a portion of the cut potatoes in a colander so that the water has run off.

You must cook the fries twice. Yes twice! Place a few handfuls in the fryer basket and make sure the fryer is heated to no more than 325 degrees.  Cook the fries for about 3 minutes but do not let them get brown – even a bit. Remove the fries from the oil and let cool for at least 30 minutes but no more than 90 minutes.  Now set the heat to 375-400 degrees and wait until the unit comes up to temperature. Now re-cook the fries until they are golden brown or the desired amount. Drain on parper towel, salt, serve, enjoy.

This recipe for making awesome homemade french fries is from Steven Pinkert, Miami Florida.

Copyright 2011 Steven Pinkert

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

I have always loved Chicago Hot Dogs. When I was young we lived on the South Side of Chicago and we frequently visited a little hot dog stand that was named Carl’s Hot Dogs. I just called them and unbelievably they are still in business after 54 years! (I am 60 and went to Carls when I was 6).  The new name is: Carl’s Red Hots, located at the original Carls’s location at 1957 E. 83rd St. Chicago, IL 60617. Their phone number is 773-721-8300.

When we were very young my cousin Phil Graff and I used to play Carls  Hot Dogs.  We would have bowls with pretend condiments and slop on each condiment. We even had a jingle: Carls makes hot dogs with loving care, Carls makes hotdogs with loving care, Carls makes hot dogs with loving care, especially for you…

For anyone that knows Chicago well, Phil is now the president of the Old Town Triangle Association.  He is one of the smartest and kindest people in the Universe. He has worked tirelessly as a board member for years.  He is going to run for re-election as president and if you happen to be among the 350 eligible voting members – trust me – you can’t go wrong.

 

Phil Graff

Well anyway, my father,who is now 84 and I still love Chicago Style Hot dogs and living in Miami I have perfected making the Chicago Style Hot Dog. Today, again, I made Hot Dogs and in case you love them as much as I do you might be interested in how I prepare them.

So you need the following ingredients:

-Poppy seed hot dog buns
-Half dill pickles cut in thin spears – you can use full dill but I think half dill is better
-Sport peppers – hard to find check the internet or buy from Vienna
-Sweet relish
-Yellow mustard
-chopped yellow onion
-celery salt
-Tomato – thin sliced wedges
-Beef hot dogs – skinless

Now their are a few potential problems. Obtaining the hot dogs can be an issue.  We would prefer to use Vienna, but unfortunately they are not available from retail sources in many areas.  Hebrew National, our second choice, is also good quality.

Now, there is a trick to cook the hot dogs. You definitely want to boil the hot dogs. But if you boil in plain water the flavor of the hot dogs is diluted. So here is the secret.  Finely chop up 6 hot dogs in a blender.  Add these hot dogs to a quart of water and simmer for at least 2 hours.  Add water as necessary  Then, when you are ready, boil your hot dogs in the flavored water for 10 minutes or so before serving.

Buns are also a big problem. You MUST have poppy seed hot dog buns. If you live in the Chicago area you can get buns from Vienna or Rosens – no problem. But in other areas finding the right buns can be a problem.  In Miami, I call Publix, our largest supermarket chain, the day before and they bake the buns for me. They are excellent quality, fresh, and reasonable. You must briefly steam the buns just before serving.  If you look on the internet there is a small company that sells a little steamer rack that hangs from the top of a pot of water.  This seems to work fine – if you aren’t serving more than 4-6 people.

So add all the condiments on the dogs with a generous shake of celery salt and you have it.

Chicago Style Hot Dog by Steven Pinkert

By Steven Pinkert, a Miami lawyer, that loves Chicago Style Hot Dogs, home made french fries and home made Cole Slaw using Joes Stone Crab recipe.  I will post on these soon.