Whether you're talking ceviche, guacamole, or rum-glazed pork shoulder, Nuevo Latino cuisine -- a sassy twist of tropical flavors, top-shelf ingredients, and modern American technique -- remains one of the food world's favorite trends. "The big, bold flavors and the Latin American ingredients just really appeal to me," says Andy Himmel, owner of Boulevard Blue (12718 Larchmere Boulevard). "I thought they would be great to share."
And that's what Himmel plans to do -- with Paladar, his lively, Latin-inspired cantina, slated to open in Woodmere's Eton-Chagrin shopping center in late July. Tucked into part of the former Bossa Nova space, the 130-seat restaurant will serve lunch and dinner from a menu that focuses on contemporary Nuevo Latino creations (rife with exotic fruits, chiles, and tubers) and on more traditional Latin American comfort foods (like slow-roasted chicken and pork). Also in the plans: a comfy bar, stocked with specialty rums and tequilas, a guacamole bar where cooks will make the dip to order, and an assortment of pressed, Cubano-style sandwiches. Entrée prices will range from $15 to $24.
In preparation, executive chef Matt Mytro plans to stage at some of Chicago's top Nuevo Latino restaurants, including Douglas Rodriguez's De La Costa. Best known for Patria, his N.Y.C. spot, Rodriguez is generally credited with launching America's love affair with modern Latin American cuisine.
Beard's blessing . . . A perpetual puzzle for local foodies has been how the prestigious James Beard Foundation could consistently overlook Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita) -- not just for its annual top-chef awards, but for even a stinkin' nomination. They rectified that last week: Symon is one of five nominees for Best Chef in the Great Lakes, a category he shares with Chicagoans Grant Achatz (Alinea), Carrie Nahabedian (Naha), Bruce Sherman (North Pond), and Alex Young from Ann Arbor's Zingerman's Roadhouse.
"We're ecstatic," says Symon. "No Cleveland chef has ever been nominated before, and we're thrilled -- not just for us, but for the entire region; it helps put Cleveland on the map." Winners will be announced on May 7.
The foundation, which also honors food-related journalism, has given a nod to this rag too: I've been tapped for "Soul Kitchen" (February 1, 2006), which profiled Cleveland author, chef, and culinary authority Michael Ruhlman.