Archive for September, 2010
Melissa Conway, 27
Hostess at: The Forge, Miami Beach
ESQUIRE: Do you have a history of winning contests or awards like this? Win any superlatives in high school?
MELISSA CONWAY: No! I didn’t. I was so nerdy. That’s probably why this is so cool. I feel like I finally hit the big time.
ESQ: Hostess of the Week is kind of the big time. What makes you such a good hostess?
MC: I approach hostessing and life in the same way: always treat everyone with kindness. Everyone who walks through my front door — at the restaurant, I call it “my front door” — is important to me. I want everybody to just feel happy and enjoy their time while they’re there. I’ve got to be there, you might as well enjoy yourself. Give it all you’ve got.
ESQ: How do you deal with people who are waiting forever?
MC: You know what the secret is? I actually work with a couple models who can pretty much smooth over anyone’s bad mood.
ESQ: That must help. Any horror stories while working?
MC: Oh my god, I’ve had people, literally, get in my face. Like, “Give me my table.” Listen, if you can find a table in the restaurant, I promise, you can have it. I’m not trying to make you wait. Just bear with me. People tend to get aggressive in Miami, very aggressive. It’s an aggressive city, you know. It’s a power town.
ESQ: That’s crazy.
MC: Literally, people lean over my hostess stand, get in my face, like, “Listen to me, I want my table right now.”
ESQ: A Hostess of the Week deserves much better than that.
MC: I work with a great team of people — they handled it. At the end of the night, that person actually left and gave me a big hug.
ESQ: Talk about weird. And slightly bipolar.
MC: If you can walk up in my face, and leave liking me, then fine…
ESQ: It’s a testament to how good of a hostess you are. Anything non-bipolar and fun that’s happened while working? People have a tendency to get engaged in restaurants.
MC: Engagements actually are not, for me, as exciting as say, Dennis Rodman walking into the front door — he is wild, you know. You never know who’s going to walk in at the Forge. You’re going to meet Sharon Stone. You’re going to meet Rick Ross. “Oh, hey, Rick Ross! How are ya? I was born in Miami, I adore you.”
ESQ: What’s the one celebrity you’ve been most star-struck by?
MC: Her name is Gabrielle Anwar. She’s an actress from Burn Notice, and she’s phenomenal. She comes in all the time, and she’s this little pistol, but she’s just so cool. I watch her on TV all the time, and she blows shit up, and she’s so bad. In real life, she’s so sweet and cool.
ESQ: I’ve never met anyone who actually watches Burn Notice. I’m glad you can vouch for it.
MC: You know, I like anything filmed in Miami. I just like seeing my hometown.
ESQ: Are the celebrities you run into generally taller or shorter in person?
MC: Shorter. Always. Oh my god, way shorter.
THE FORGE RESTAURANT | WINE BAR LAUNCHES “OCTOBER WINE MONTH”
First annual Forge Wine Dinner Series offers prix fixe pairings on Wednesday and Thursday
MIAMI BEACH, FL (September 24, 2010) – Beginning October 1, 2010, The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar is proud to launch its inaugural “October Wine Month,” continuing the celebration of dining in Miami that comes with the summer’s popular menu promotions.
“We like to keep The Forge experience fresh and exciting for our foodies and wine lovers,” said proprietor Shareef Malnik. “I see this as an opportunity for people, both novices and oenophiles, to experience an inspired pairing of food with wines carefully selected for our new, weekly menus.”
Every Wednesday and Thursday in October, Chef Dewey LoSasso will create a three-course dinner, each course to be paired with three-ounce wine samplings selected by Executive Sommelier Gino Santangelo price of $55.00 (tax and gratuity not included). Menus will change weekly in order to showcase The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar’s signature dishes, as well as seasonal chef creations prepared for the program.
The October Wine Month dinners will also host complimentary wine samplings to introduce new winemakers and varietals. The tastings will take place at The Forge Wine Bar which already offers an array of vintages via the 80-bottle Enomatic Wine System.
About The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar
A 1920s blacksmith’s forge turned culinary landmark, the iconic Forge restaurant — the second oldest restaurant in Miami Beach — has been in the family of proprietor Shareef Malnik since 1969. After nearly a year and $10 million of extreme renovations, Malnik revealed a completely updated manifestation with an inspired farm- and ocean-to-table menu and a new lifestyle approach to dining for the restaurant’s rebirth in April 2010. Exotic light woods, smoked antique mirrors and oversized crystal chandeliers help define The Forge’s four separate dining spaces. The new Wine Bar offers guests the opportunity to be their own sommelier through an advanced Enomatic wine system featuring 80 different wines available in one-, three- or five-ounce pours. The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar is located at 432 41st Street, Miami Beach, FL. For reservations, call 305.538.8533 or visit www.theforge.com for more information.
THE FORGE DINNER at the JAMES BEARD HOUSE
SATURDAY OCTOBER 30, 2010
NEW YORK CITY
The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar makes a New York Debut at the historic
James Beard House with Chef Dewey Losasso
7pm coctails & Hors D’Oeuvres in the Greenhouse
8pm Five Course Dinner paired with wines by Joseph Phelps
Tickets: 212.627.2090 or www.JamesBeard.org
Top 20 Restaurants For Right Now
Remember how, just a few years ago, it looked like restaurants were getting bigger and grander and far more expensive than ever? Funny how that now seems like dated decadence. Posh has yielded to a new style of dining that’s more casual and inventive – through still luxurious, but in an accessible and affordable way. There’s never been a better time to dine out, as these 20 new restaurants prove.
Forty years ago The Forge was Miami’s grandest restaurant, with acres of Tiffany glass and polished brass. It closed last year for a $10 million renovation, toning down much of the glitz. Today The Forge attracts a younger crowd that loves pouring their wine from a state-of-the-art Enomatic wine wall. Chef Dewey LoSasso impresses with his generous portions, culinary imagination, and wit, evident in dishes like his lobster PB&J, made with big chunks of lobster, chopped peanuts, onion marmalade, and toasted brioche ( but don’t worry – the famous 16-ounce prime ” super steak” is back on the menu). If you want to live large in Miami Beach right now, The Forge is the one place you cannot miss. 432 41st Street; 305538-8533; www.theforge.com.
This was also featured in:
Chicago Tribune – Taking Off
20 Must Try Restaurants
Posted by: Ross Werland
For those who travel on their stomachs, and that’s probably most of us, Virtuoso Life’s September/October edition lists 20 must-try restaurants around the world that is says are casual and inventive but in an accessible and affordable way.
1. Culina in Beverly Hills — “An amalgam of the best that is served in Italy, but with a So-Cal twist …”
2. Sage in Las Vegas — “A well-focused contemporary American menu …”
3. Sinatra in Las Vegas — “Features many of Sinatra’s favorite dishes from his Rat Pack days…”
4. St. Francis in Phoenix — “Affordable wood-fired cuisine.”
5. Eight K Restaurant in Snowmass Village, Colo. — “The best Colorado rack of lamb you’ll ever have …”
6. The Mansion Restaurant in Dallas — “Texas flavors with French precision …”
7. Brennan’s of Houston in Houston —“Louisiana-inflected hospitality and grand tradition of fine dining …”
8. Le Foret in New Orleans — “Modern French and American cuisine with New Orleans traditions …”
9. Elate in Chicago — “Bar-centered, chef-driven …”
10. Maialino in New York — “As close an approximation to a true Roman trattoria as any outside Trastevere.”
11. Le Caprice in New York — “An international menu of impeccably wrought, simple dishes …”
12. Sampan in Philadelphia —“A wide array of inexpensive dishes that jump off the table with spice, zest and sizzle …”
13. Bourbon Steak in Washington —“The traditions of steakhouse fare … but there’s also lobster pot pie …”
14. Miller Union in Atlanta — “One of the city’s smartest new dining venues …”
15. The Forge in Miami — “Generous portions, culinary imagination and wit …”
16. Ame in Toronto — “Inventive pan-Asian cuisine …”
17. Tempo in London — “Specialties are small-plate antipasti like seared octopus and pomegranate salad …”
18. Frederic Simonin in Paris — “comfort level, prices and ingenuity of a young chef are the appeal.”
19. La Moraga Iberica in Marbella, Spain — “The food comes fast, and it’s all very quick-footed and fun.”
20. The Chairman in Hong Kong — “The classic cooking of historic Canton …”
By: Mary Jo Almeida-Shore, August 27, 2010, Miami Socialholic
When it comes to the restaurant business, Shareef Malnik could teach a Master class, after all, Malnik began working at his beloved Forge (now Forge | Wine Bar) at the tender age of thirteen. So when he decided to close down South Beach’s oldest restaurant and most storied landmark to give it a $10 million extreme makeover, transforming the look, feel, philosophy, and menu, there was no doubt that the result would be “a good thing,” to quote Martha Stewart. And, in fact, it is a very good thing.
Upon entering the Forge | Wine Bar, the most striking difference is the radical change in décor, from dark Gothic to light, airy, ethereal and almost whimsical. Eclectic furnishings, a glass enclosed VIP dining room with an enormous Balinese table flanked by throne-like chairs, surrounded by floating glass bubbles and a state-of-the art Enomatic wine machine are just a few of the factors that have transformed the Forge into a great space, vs. merely a restaurant. Inspired by hotel lobbies all over the world, Malnik envisions the Forge | Wine Bar to be the place where guests can go for a variety of reasons: from enjoying an elaborate, decadent meal- for which this institution is well-known, to a light bite, wine and cocktails at the bar or a book at the cherished library, complete with working fireplace, stocked with a wide assortment of books curated by Mitchell Kaplan. Another modern touch is the addition of WiFi and Apple-technologies, which redefine the Forge into “Power Lunch” central (don’t pack that briefcase yet, the lunch menu is still in its final stages).
The center bar, which used to command the restaurant, has been moved over to one side and Glass the nightclub, is long gone, in keeping with Malnik’s vision for the restaurant’s new direction. Sidebar: despite’s Malnik’s efforts at de-emphasizing the Forge’s notorious party reputation, the place continues to get packed to the rafters on Wednesday nights, even though there is no longer the “official Wednesday night dinner party.” Think of this as the Party Effect.
The most unique addition to the Forge | Wine Bar is the high-tech Enomatic wine system featuring 80 bottles available in self-service pours of 1.5, 3 and 5 ounces (starting price: $6). Buy a wine card ($15 minimum) and roam around the bar and dining room, as if you are Trick or Treating for wine!
Beyond the physical changes, the transformation includes a menu overhaul that now includes 65 items, in which Chef Dewey LoSasso (who Malnik selected from 172 candidates) incorporates local and seasonal produce and artisanal purveyors such as Niman Ranch and Paradise Farms. Forge classics like the chopped salad and 16-ounce “Super Steak” remain intact. Why mess with perfection? Despite the many creative “Savory Snacks,” which include a bizarre-sounding-yet-tasty, lobster “peanut butter and jelly” sandwich, it’s the caramelized onion Focaccia, a Forge staple, that’s worth the price of admission and is so worth blowing off your personal trainer for a day or two. Also remaining intact, is the wood-paneled wine cellar, boasting the owner’s private collection and large communal table for private dining. For the most part, menu items are reasonably priced, ranging from $8-$15 for starters and $19-$52 for main courses. The best value is the “Burger and Bordeaux,” think of it as a foodie’s “Happy Meal:” a hefty grilled sirloin patty topped with braised short ribs and lobster marmalade and served with addictive truffle fries, pomegranate ketchup and a small chalice of red wine for only 20 bucks! Johnny V’s dessert maven, Malka Espinel, prepares an array of sinful treats.
If the walls (now blonde) could talk they may tell stories about the many colorful Forge patrons throughout the years, including: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Sir Paul McCartney, Lauren Bacall, Andy Warhol, Michael Jackson, Mickey Rourke, Matt Damon, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Lance Armstrong and Adrian Grenier to name a few.
Malnik’s focus is on access vs. excess (despite the price tag of the revamp and several decadent, pricey menu items). When asked about the Forge’s new vision, Malnik says, “I knew I wanted to make changes that mirrored how Miami and I have evolved over the years. Everything from a new generation of sophisticated interior to the technology and interactive nature of the new wine bar reflects a new era in the way guests can experience The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar. I am proud to have created a “space” as opposed to a restaurant by assembling a design team that included interior designer Francois Frossard, Project Manager Allegra Parisi and Capponi Construction. We wanted guests to feel as though they are part of a community. The evolution of The Forge is less intimidating and more comfortable and allows for use of the five senses on a whole new level.”
The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar is located at 432 41st St., Miami Beach. Hours of operation are Sunday-Thursday, 6 p.m.-midnight; Friday-Saturday, 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Valet parking is still $5. For reservations, call 305-538-8533 or visit www.theforge.com for more information.
Cocktail of the week by mixologist Andres Aleman
For our first cocktail featured in this blog I wanted to start with a libation that is been around for quite some time. A time when Britain was an empire and among all the colonies they had Burma (Union of Mayanmar ) was one of them. One of the private clubs that the British colonial rulers and administrators favored was located in the city of Rangoon and it was called The Pegu Club and of course they had their signature cocktail that carried the same name of the Club:
“The Pegu Club Cocktail”
2 oz. Beefeater gin
¾ oz. Cointreau
¾ oz. Fresh pressed lime juice
1 dash of angostura bitters
1 dash of orange bitters
A delightful and refreshing combination of botanicals, citrus and sweetness.
By Lee Klein Thursday, Aug 26 2010, Miami NewTimes
The Forge is as famous as any South Florida restaurant not named Joe’s Stone Crab. It debuted in 1969, and as the fortunes of Miami Beach have shifted like sand over the decades, so too has the reputation of this iconic steak house. By the time it closed its doors for a multi-million renovation last year, the Forge’s museum-like mahogany interior seemed antiquated — and its clientele wasn’t getting any younger either.
The new Forge looks quite different. The library room, for instance, appears as though it’s been soaked in a gargantuan vat of bleach; it still has the same book-lined shelves and stained-glass windows, but now they jump out from a white palette rather than melt into a musty, old brown one. The remaining dining rooms have been reconfigured, and while some bricks, wood, and chandeliers remain, the entire space is lightened and brightened to invigorating effect.
If the revamped décor doesn’t convince you that things have changed, maybe the menu’s quinoa pancake with fig marmalade will. Or a grilled shrimp waffle with caviar and basil butter sauce. Or perhaps the lack of creamed spinach and pommes Lyonnaise will snap you out of your nostalgic steak-house reverie. In place of those classics are sautéed spinach salad with a fried egg and pancetta, and moist cubes of duck-fat home fries delectably flecked with sautéed onions and meaty bits of duck confit. (And as an aside on sides, don’t miss the fava beans sautéed with wasabi caviar and Plugrá butter.)
Owner Shareef Malnik made it clear the Forge would forgo steak-house status when he hired Dewey LoSasso as reopening executive chef. LoSasso has long been on the shortlist of top local toques, from helming Lincoln Road’s Foundlings Club way back when, to Tuscan Steak, to more recently his own North One 10 restaurant. He has always been a highly creative chef with a penchant for cleanly layering numerous ingredients and tastes onto each plate.
Take, for example, a salad composed of local tomatoes stacked with Bermuda Triangle goat cheese brûlée, two thin onion rings, meaty slices of prosciutto di Parma, and a vinaigrette made from Château Margaux wine. That’s a mouthful of complementary flavors (and one delicious dressing), although the components would have melded better if the tomatoes, cheese, and onion rings had not been chilled. Crisply refreshing standards, such as the chopped salad and iceberg wedge, are still crowd pleasers.
The aforementioned shrimp waffle is one of a dozen “starts,” as opposed to that quinoa stack, which is listed under “savory snacks.” It’s not clear why chilled roasted beets are a snack while a cheese plate for two is deemed a start, but the overall notion is that items such as an oyster po’boy or lobster peanut butter and jelly are more suitable as something to munch with your drink, as opposed to an introductory course to a substantial entrée.
Or at least I’m guessing that’s the case based on the hefty nature of those two sandwiches. The po’boy was plump with crisply fried oysters plunked into a mini hoagie roll spread with potent roast garlic mayonnaise. A crunchy clump of lemony jícama salad was a sassy side. The lobster peanut butter and jelly sandwich jolted to signature status right from the beginning; curiosity no doubt plays a role in the large number of diners ordering it (that was certainly my impetus). Four triangular sandwich quarters of toasted, crustless brioche are filled with pieces of poached lobster between a thin veneer of sweet, caramelized onion marmalade and a fairly thick spread of coarsely ground, chili-spiced peanut butter. If this dish works at all, it would be as a stand-alone bite to down with a drink, but for my money, it does not work at all (and that money, incidentally, is $17); peanut butter obliterates the delicate crustacean. LoSasso is a chef who rarely errs on the side of too little flavor.
Steak house or not, the six cuts of proffered beef remain the most sought-after entrées. None is more renowned than the Super Steak: a 16-ounce, 21-day-aged, oak-grilled Prime New York strip. None is more expensive either, although an 18-ounce bone-in filet mignon matches the $55 price.
I went instead with the cheapskate steak (my term, not theirs): a modest 12-ounce Angus New York strip for $29. The slender slab of meat, cooked to a proper medium-rare, touted a tender texture and beefy taste barely bold enough to compete with an intensely smoky infusion of oak flavor. Five petite white porcelain cubes alongside the steak were filled respectively with tangy béarnaise; thick, house-made Worcestershire; sweet, grainy mustard sauce; coarse black pepper; and smoked salt. Applying the last to up the smoke ante would be like tossing a match into a fire to fuel the flame.
If you don’t care much for oak notes, the coffee-crusted rib eye (another Forge standard) is pan-seared and comes with a goat cheese frittata (thus called “coffee and eggs”). And two delectable, double-cut Colorado lamb chops proved a lot less smoky than the steak, probably because each was twice as thick. One chop, cooked to the requested medium-rare, came topped with a mildly piquant pear chutney tinged with ginger and vanilla; the other, overcooked to medium, was capped with mandarin orange segments and fresh mint leaves. Two quinoa blinis and a scattering of smoky plum salt completed the dish.
A whole spice-rubbed duck all but burst with juicy flavor, and shallot-spotted sangria sauce on the side only enhanced the pleasure — so luscious that even extremely disappointing accompaniments couldn’t quite sabotage it. Alongside the bird were supposed to be “warm grits and grilled apple.” The latter was half of a thin, dried slice sporting dark black grill marks. The grits were overpowered by unadvertised cheddar cheese and coagulated into a solid mass.
Local mutton snapper stood out as the most tantalizing of the half-dozen seafood offerings. Prepared papillote-style, it is presented in a steamy plastic bag and scissored open at the table. Although slightly overcooked, the fish flaunted a deeply herbed aroma and sweet crown of roasted peppers. Alongside, a gooseneck of assertively smoky tomato sauce contained two peeled white grapes and a filleted white anchovy. Other selections from the sea are Maine lobster, crab/lobster salad, fish du jour, grilled salmon, and black-and-white sesame-crusted tuna.
The Forge’s Enomatic wine-by-the-glass system consists of ten self-service machines that allow customers to purchase one-, three-, or five-ounce pours from a choice of 80 bottles from the restaurant’s vaunted cellar collection. Information about each wine can be gleaned via a touchscreen, and if you still can’t decide, I assume you can just call over a holographic sommelier.
Malnik has always provided strong service, and the veritable army of staff here gets the job done well. Yet on one visit, things were sloppy, from the table not getting wiped between courses to our being presented, with some fanfare, a bottle of wine we didn’t order.
Desserts are designed by Malka Espinel, who for years excelled as Johnny Vinczencz’s pastry chef. We loved a tart of creamy lemon curd with a mild fennel infusion paired with toasted almond gelato and fresh biscotti. On the other end of the scale, there’s a Fluffernutter dessert — which arguably makes the Forge the only posh restaurant in the world where one can both begin and end a meal with a course based on the peanut butter sandwich.
We skipped the ‘nutter but not the fluff by sampling a s’more soufflé that arrived sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs; the waiter then poked a hole in the center and spooned in marshmallow sauce. The deep, high-quality chocolate taste delighted, but the center was overbaked. This dessert is a blend of something old (soufflé), something new (marshmallow sauce poured in), something borrowed (concept of s’more), and something blue (how we felt upon discovering the lack of moistness). The restaurant likewise features some things old, new, borrowed (a couple of tricks from North One 10), and — well — let’s say still shaky on execution. Yet there is no denying the Forge is back, and it matters once again.
432 Arthur Godfrey Rd
Dinner Sunday through Thursday 6 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.