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Fall 2006 | Hot Dish: South Beach

Fall 2006 | Hot Dish: South Beach

Chef Sandee Birdsong stirs up sex appeal at two South Beach, Fla., restaurants

The effervescent dining scene in sizzling South Beach, Fla., has gotten a major flavor injection from lesbian self-taught chef Sandee Birdsong. "Part Cherokee, part pirate," as she describes herself, the 38-year-old from St. Simons Island, Ga., this year became executive chef at two innovative much-hailed eateries. Nine-year-old Tantra (1445 Pennsylvania Ave., 305-672-4765) is known for its buzzing lounge scene, hookah pipes, hip India-inspired decor, and "aphrodisiac" cuisine that sounds like a gimmick but definitely hits your gustatory G-spot with creations such as filet mignon with Cuban espresso sauce and a "Tantra Plate" featuring oysters, shrimp, orchids, caviar, ceviche, and more. Meanwhile, the victuals at the similarly trendy year-old Afterglo (1200 Washington Ave., 305-695-1717) are designed with just-so balances of minerals, enzymes, and so forth to be "beauty-enhancing." Raw food is, of course, in the mix, but most of it is cooked, and divinely. Faves include grilled bison rib eye with arugula pesto and wild Chilean sea bass glazed with a habanero-lemon verbena reduction. With her crew cut crowned by a blond-dyed minimohawk, Birdsong brings an unusually funky-punky-dykey look to the top of the food chain--a spot that is just the latest in a series of incarnations, most recently including being owner of the South Florida lesbian monthly She. Birdsong finds South Beach can be "cliquish" but still digs its diversity. Count her and her cuisine as exhibit A.
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