SUP Eating around South Florida with John Tanasychuk
South Florida chefs edged out of James Beard nominations

While two South Florida chefs were among the semifinalists for the prestigious Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation, both were edged out when nominees were announced in New York.

Last month, Jose Mendin, chef and owner of the Pubbelly Restaurant Group, and Giorgio Rapicavoli, chef and owner at Eating House in Coral Gables, were among 20 semifinalists nominated in the best chef South category, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Puerto Rico.

Not a single Florida chef made the final list of nominees.

Winners of the 25th annual awards will be announced May 4 in Chicago. For the complete list of nominees, visit

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Kathie Lee Gifford to pitch wine in Boca

Kathie Lee Gifford, the wine guzzling co-host of the fourth hour of the "Today" show, is coming to Whole Foods Market in Boca Raton March 28 to sign bottles of her newly launched wine brand.

Gifford partnered with California's Scheid Family Wines to craft a 2011 Red Blend and a 2012 Chardonnay. They're called Gifft wines and cost $19.99 per bottle at Whole Foods.

Gifford calls the blend an "easy-drinking red," with a core of red fruit and structure that carries through from beginning to end. The Chardonnay "exhibits richness, depth and complexity which is balanced by a lively acidity and an essential freshness."

From noon to 2:30 p.m. on march 28, Whole Foods customers can purchase up to two signed bottles and the meet the always walking Gifford. Whole Foods is at 1400 Glades Road, in Boca Raton. Call 561-447-0000.

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National Meatball Day eating contest at Fork and Balls

Fork and Balls, the downtown Fort Lauderdale meatball emporium, will celebrate National Meatball Day Monday, March 9, with its first meatball-eating contest.

The Balls to the Wall Ball Eating Contest is open to anyone who pays the $10 entry fee. The winner will take home $500 and the title of 2015 Ball Master.

Serious competitors are being asked to register in advance by sending an email to Be sure to include your full name, age and current city of residence. The email subject line should read, “BALLS TO THE WALL MEATBALL MADNESS.”

If there’s still room on the day of the contest, onsite registration will begin at 6 p.m., with the eating getting underway at 6:30 p.m.

The 9-month-old Fork and Balls, open since June, offers nine meatball varieties on its menu, including pork, turkey and a new creation made with quinoa and kale.

“For the contest, we’re doing the classic beef balls and some of our roasted-tomato sauce for dipping,” says Peter Boulukos, co-owner and...

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James Beard recognizes two local chefs

Two South Florida chefs are among the semifinalists announced for Best Chef in the South by the James Beard Foundation.

This is the fourth semifinalist nomination for Jose Mendin, chef and owner of the Pubbelly Restaurant Group. He has been been a semifinalist for four years. This past year, Mendin and partners Andreas Schreiner and Sergio Navarro, opened L’echon Brasserie, a French-style restaurant that joins their original Pubbelly gastropub, Pubbelly Sushi and Barceloneta.

Giorgio Rapicavoli, chef and owner at Eating House in Coral Gables, received his second career semifinalist nomination. His previous nomination in 2013 was for Rising Star Chef of the Year.

"It doesn’t get any bigger than this for us," says Rapicavoli. "It's awesome."

Philadelphia-based restauranteur Stephen Starr is also a semifinalist in the Outstanding Restaurateur category. He owns restaurants across the country, including Steak 954 in Fort Lauderdale, Makato in Bal Harbour, and Verde at the Perez Art Museum,...

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Take home a bottle of ROK:BRGR's bourbon barbecue sauce

Four years after opening its first location downtown Fort Lauderdale, ROK:BRGR is now bottling and selling its own bourbon barbecue sauce.

It’s an essential ingredient in the restaurant’s signature best-selling burger, the ROK:BRGR, the 2011 Riverwalk Burger Battle fan favorite, which is topped with Vermont cheddar, smoked pepper bacon and the now bottled sauce.

“We were getting a lot of requests,” says Matthew Walsh, spokesman for ROK:BRGR’s owner, JEY Hospitality. “We finally sat down and talked to the chef and decided to do a small batch. Once that’s gone, we’re going to revisit it next year and see if we want to do it again.”

Getting the sauce in bottles took give months, start to finish, since Robbyns Martinez, JEY’s corporate executive chef, wanted to make sure that each 12-ounce bottle tasted just like the sauce diners find in the restaurant. Walsh will only that the sauce is made by a company located “north of West Palm Beach” because he doesn’t want other restaurants to get...

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Starbucks to offer coconut milk

Three bits of restaurant chain news.

Starbucks: Starting Feb. 17, Starbucks will offer coconut milk along with traditional dairy and soy. It seems like a small thing, but some folks are lactose-intolerant. Many people stay away from soy milk for reasons of health and nutrition, chief among them that most of it’s made from genetically modified soybeans. Starbucks’ coconut milk comes from single-origin coconuts from the Indonesian island of Sumatra. After a trial run last October, more than 84,000 customers responded to a Starbucks blog post asking that coconut milk be offered chainwide.

McDonald’s: Mickey D’s is in the pits. Its CEO is stepping down. Its stock price is flat. The chain is trying all kinds of new things, including mozzarella cheese sticks for a limited time at participating South Florida restaurants. Three sticks cost $1.

Dunkin Donuts: As usual, the chain is doing heart-shaped doughnuts for Valentine’s Day. But this year, South Florida locations are also giving away two...

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