While coincidence may have played a role in Andrew Carmellini’s opening a second edition eatery in a hotspot whose very name comes from two u’s (The W, natch), only kismet could ensure how he and the South Beach branch of The Dutch doubled-up the action at this year’s Wine & Food Fest. Then again, any top shelf chef whose resume includes cooking for two who epitomize New York royalty (then Governor Mario Cuomo and Robert De Niro), in addition to openings at both the new Le Cirque and Cafe Boulud, has gotta be twice as good.
Carmellini’s first order for 2013 will be teaming with British food sensation Nigella Lawson for the Friday night dinner dubbed Nigellissima. Lawson, who currently stars in The Food Network’s Nigella Kitchen and ABC’s The Taste (with Anthony Bourdain), also happens to have just released a new book entitled Nigellissima (Clarkson Potter $35). And Carmellini didn’t need kismet to know the time was right for the pairing.
“I’ve been a fan of Nigella’s for years,” said Carmellini. “Of all the high profile food personalities, I think she’s one of the most honest. My wife [Gwen Hyman] sometimes uses her cookbook, and the recipes are consistently delicious. We’d wanted to do something around the release of her new book; now that we have this gorgeous property at our disposal and Food Fest basically in our backyard, this was the perfect occasion.”
On Saturday night, Carmellini will bring the feast in from the great outdoors in order to lead an onslaught of top chefs in a whole ‘nother kinda pairing -- this time pitting fried chicken with champagne. The event’s called Chicken Coupe, and no, it won’t be like taking a $1.5 million (mi Bugatti Veyron 16.4 through the drive-through at KFC. It will, however, be a Wine and Food Fest first.
“I wanted to pair something down home with something high end,” said Carmellini, “and I found champagne really brings out the taste of fried chicken. It’s almost like lemon juice in its effect. I figured if we got a lot of chef friends and a lot of champagne and took over the W’s beautiful ballroom, well, it’d be a great occasion.”
Apparently a lotta other folks figured so too. Carmellini told NBC 6 South Florida the debut of Chicken Coupe “sold out within two or three days,” and that the Wine and Food Fest folks said “it was one of the hottest tickets this year.” Considering the white hot heat already generated by Wine and Food Fest, that’s saying something indeed. The quickness with which foodies picked up their tix also might mean the renowned New Yorker is becoming increasingly known for the second home he’s long made for himself here in Miami.
“I’ve spent about half my life in Miami, and I was originally looking for a place to open a restaurant in the city itself. But when The W became available, I put that notion on hold. I’ve always thought the property was one of the most remarkable on the Beach anyway. And I’m proud to be able to showcase both inside and out for Food Fest. Don’t worry though, I haven’t forgotten about Miami.”
Good thing too; this way once the fairy dust settles on Carmellini’s Wine & Food Fest double-up and The W Dutch simmers back down to a fast bustle, Miami’s half-native son won’t need to be reminded to finish scouring our town for yet another perfect place. Why? Because Miamians like to love what they love twice as much, and Carmellini is now among the fully beloved.