Cesar Zapata and Aniece Meinhold Talk Fall Eats

By Carissa Chesanek  |  November 5, 2013
Credit: Gary James

Cesar Zapata and Aniece Meinhold are the founders of the Miami-based Pious Pig Restaurant Group, masterminds of Miami’s first pop-up venue, Phuc Yea!, and The Federal Food, Drink & Provisions. We got a chance to sit down with the twosome to chat about success, fall feasts and weird eats. 

Zagat: Tell us a little bit about the new fall menu. What was the thought process behind that?

Cesar Zapata: The fall menu is a nod to basics for me. It's based on memories - things I learned, things I messed up - and other stuff I went through during my time in Houston (studying at the Art Institute of Houston and working at the Four Seasons Hotel). The menu definitely has a cowboy, Western feel to it with a 1930s decadent steakhouse thing. I love smoke and chiles. I also spent a lot of time in Galveston eating crawfish and oysters. I figured making food that I enjoyed eating was more important to me this time around; it also has more personal relevance.

Zagat: What's the menu item you're most excited about and why?

Aniece Meinhold: I'm eating a lot of scallops Rockefeller and Caesar salad these days. I love Caesar salad. Steak tartare is awesome too. We pump hickory smoke into the jar so that it permeates the meat and we have both a venison chili and a vegan pumpkin chili that I'm happy about. Cesar can't seem to escape the fried chicken on a nightly basis.

Zagat: What's your favorite thing to make for fall time?

CZ: Barbecue, but I enjoy making that all of the time. Right now we're doing a smoked turkey leg with a pumpkin chorizo stuffing, chestnuts and cranberries. We're definitely using a lot of smoke everywhere but getting into the holiday spirit as well.

AM: I love roasting: whole chicken, whole fish and vegetables. It's comforting and cozy. Plus it's always so much food so it brings a lot of people to the table.  

Zagat: When you hear "pumpkin," you think of...?

CZ: Pie. I love pumpkin pie. Reminds me of my childhood memories. 

Zagat: What are the must-have ingredients for fall dishes?

CZ: Pumpkin, mushrooms, chestnuts and sage.

Zagat: Aniece, how is it to be such a powerful woman in the food industry?

AM: I've never heard anyone ever say that. Thank you. It's pretty flattering to hear someone say that about you - borderline surreal. The thing is, the day-to-day of running your business is so topsy-turvy, you don't ever really think about things that way. You just do what you have to do to get to the next day; the amount of curveballs that get thrown at you on a daily basis make it a grueling job. In any case, I wouldn't call having a restaurant hard per se - it's just long hours and it's dedication. This is just what I'm meant to do and I'm running with it. 

Zagat: What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten? 

AM: Do you know what "ika no shiokara" is? Salted squid intestines. They taste like super pungent, fishy, fat rubber bands. Once was enough. Both Ceez and I gagged. 

Zagat: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve served in your restaurant?

AM: Between the Federal and Phuc Yea!, we've always been into offal. Snout-to-tail is nothing crazy for us, but it's far from mainstream, so we don't serve a whole bunch of it. I think the strangest thing Cesar ever made was a pig ear terrine with aspic. Flavor wise, it was cool but texturally it was soft and gelatinous in a not-so-good-way.