When you’re the owner of a popular South Beach restaurant group that opens, on average, a new establishment every eight months, what to cook for a Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE (SOBEWFF) event may not be foremost in your mind. Add to this the fact that your latest concept, L’echon Brasserie, is set to launch within weeks or, depending on Miami’s infamously slow-moving permits department, even days of the festival.
Still, when I asked Jose Mendín, chef-partner (with Andreas Schreiner and Sergio Navarro) of the eclectic neighborhood gastropubs Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, PB Steak, and Barceloneta what he was planning to cook for the Goya Foods’ Swine & Wine walk-around tasting hosted by Michelle Bernstein at the Biltmore Hotel on February 23 at 5:30 p.m., he didn’t hesitate. "Cochinillo,” he said. “Definitely, I’m doing something cochinillo.”
Mendín, whose recipes such as “Kimchee Fried Rice with Pork Belly, Peas, Pineapple and Poached Egg” and “PB Steak’s Housemade Bacon Confit” feature his beloved pork, has free reign at this second annual pig-themed fete. Last year, he served an impressive pork belly with butterscotch miso partnered with a tomato-tofu salad. This year, while hadn’t decided at press time on the details yet – he’s even toying with keeping it a surprise for Swine & Wine guests – his suckling pig will likely have elements borrowed from the Pubbelly menu, including a celery root remoulade and pickled onions as garnish.
It's no surprise that Swine & Wine is a concept close to Mendín’s heart. “I love it,” he says, “all the caja chinas, everybody serving pork, and people enjoying themselves.” But while you’ll see his dish, it’s not likely you’ll find Mendin himself plating the pig at the Biltmore. He’ll be stationed at the original Pubbelly (“my personal favorite,” he says) taking care of his regular customers. So if you can’t get a ticket to Swine & Wine, you’ll know that the best pork belly and cochinillo – not to mention Brussels sprouts and kimchee fried rice – in town will be as consistent during SOBEWFF as they are on any other weekend.
But just in case you can't make it to South Beach, you can always try out Chef Mendin's Kimchee Fried Rice at home!