Welcome as always sunny readers, to the splurge of ramblings that is the Pot and Pan Handler’s blog. Today we are in sunny Miami, Florida on a mission to get new silicone for our pork butt, however that’s a different post. On this fateful day, we’re talking smut, biscuits, pork shank and duck in a jar. Miami’s Federal thought outside the box and became a finalist for America’s best new restaurant in 2015, we went to check it out, keep reading so you can too.
The cab ride was fairly long and the destination surprising. We had originally heard of the Federal via Food Networks Triple D and it was soon forgotten. However before we left for Miami we saw the Federal again on Tom Colicchio’s America’s Best New Restaurant. When we saw Colicchio’s reaction to the Federal’s answer to a biscuit, we knew we’d be going. Our favorite biscuit thus far was at Paula Deen’s restaurant Lady & Sons in Savannah, Georgia, could The Federal have a better one?
Surprise, this trendy new hot spot is smack dab in the middle of a little strip mall next to a laundry and a liquor store. The vacant lot next to the mall is littered with broken glass and cigarette butts. After 6 days of total immersion in touristy sections of Miami, the Federal’s location brings a refreshing feeling of reality. http://www.thefederalmiami.com/
We step inside and are surprised by how small it is. Industrial chic, black metal and wood make this space feel modern and old fashioned at the same time. Our server is a lifer. Usually a good sign, when older people work in restaurants it’s either because they need the job or because they genuinely like it. You’ll rarely find this in a Denny’s.
The server’s menu and drink knowledge seems infinite. No surprise as he used to work for Mario Batali in New York. He used his share of Batali’s $5.25 million settlement for tip skimming to move to Miami, well played bro, well played. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/07/mario-batali-lawsuit_n_1325304.html
We sip on beers and order the first course: Huitlacoche & eggs. Huitlacoche or corn smut as it’s called in the US is a fungus that infects corn. It’s mushroom like in texture, and I suppose taste too, sort of. In this case it tasted like mushrooms and corn lay down in a bed of onions and chilies and made a love baby that surprisingly enough looked like a chicken egg. Luxurious, silky, flavor was heightened by the unctuous, creamy, egg yolk when stirred into the huitlacoche into a crescendo of taste and texture.
Biscuits & Crayfish
The biscuits, we’ve heard so much about these, they grate and freeze the butter for optimal dough manipulation. These cold grated butter chunks don’t melt as much with hand contact, which allegedly results in a tender, luxurious biscuit texture. How do they rate? Pretty damn good. These biscuits are light & airy and would be #1 on our list of fave biscuits except for seven words. Lady and sons cheddar biscuits are FREE!
Although they’re bigger than Lady and Son’s biscuits the Federal’s biscuits cost $6, coming in at 100% more expensive. Furthermore at Lady and Son’s they’ve also added CHEESE, you know because, CHEESE or perhaps because CHEESE tastes fuckin’ good. So although we agree the Federal’s got great freakin’ biscuits they’re not the best in the nation. Close though. We definitely plan to go back next time we’re there.
The cray fish was flash fried perfection. Exemplary in its simplicity, crispy, golden, brown, exterior and proficiently, juicy, interior, these crayfish are textbook. Served with a mildly spicy remoulade, otherwise this dish takes me back to the fried seafood shacks found all over New England. Not that they serve crayfish, but I’ve never been to NOLA, don’t judge.
Duck in a jar & pork shanks
Next up was the duck in a jar. Essentially duck rillettes: chopped duck, slow cooked in its own fat until easily shredded, served in a jar. Along with the jar of duck there was sweet potatoes and SURPRISE, marshmallow fluff. Bet you didn’t see that coming, we didn’t either.
Salty, unctuous, juicy, duck, so tender, the texture is similar to a pate and pairs well with the earthy sweet potatoes. The sweetness of the marshmallow fluff helps cut through the inherent fattiness of this dish, helping it to feel lighter. This dish is a true example of a Chef created dish, that forces you to step outside your comfort zone and keep you there, comfortably. Marshmallow fluff, whodathunk?
Soon the server brought us the pork shank. Pork shanks are always an impressive foray into the primal and this one is no exception. Towering above the rest of the plates, glorious bone cloaked in pork so tender it threatens to fall away with little prompting. The pork is succulent, and served fittingly atop a bed of spicy, porklicious, collard greens and wears a crown of herbs. This dish like the ones previous is delectable; I just wish that I could eat more.
Don’t F* it up
The Federal’s motto is Don’t F* it up, and if our visit is any indicator, they are true to their business model. They definitely didn’t F* it up. Their food was so good we took our leftover duck and spread it on the pork shank wrapped it in tinfoil, kept it overnight in the hotel fridge and flew home with it. You’ll be happy to know when we reheated it, we didn’t F* it up either.
Coming soon: we’re off to the City of Brotherly Love where we continue our cheese steak education, we’ll see ya’ where it’s always sunny. –The Pot and Pan Handler