South Florida, South Pacific: The Kampong's Bali Ha'i Production

Image via Bali Ha'i
Leave it to The Kampong, local botanical treasure and historic home of the late David Fairchild, to throw one of Miami's most anticipated events of the season this weekend. This Sunday, April 5,  will mark the 15th annual Bali Ha'i event, an outdoor soiree of culinary delights from restaurants around Miami to celebrate The National Tropical Botanic Garden's 93-year legacy and raise funds to maintain its living laboratory of tropical horticulture.

Familiar faces this year include chefs Jonathan Eismann of Pacific Time (onion tart with foie gras),  Cindy Hutson of Ortanique on the Mile (jerk pork), and Michelle Bernstein of Michy's  and Sra. Martinez (rabbit risotto). Also look for newcomers Red Fish Grill (poached shrimp) and Sushi SoBe (eel roll + sake-yuzu lemonade). Pretty-in-pastel French macaroons by Chef Patisserie Angela Garcia of Lovely Daze Desserts, and sorbet and ice cream from Gaby's Farm will satisfy the sweet tooth.

"The chefs spend a lot of time talking to the 500 people that attend every year," explains Lynne Dell Gibson, regional development officer of the property. "The one thing that's nice about this event is that you will not find long lines.

It ain't cheap. Tickets go for $125 per person. A VIP preview party costs even more: $200. But the setting and food will be well worth it. Bali Ha'i is actually a fictional island from the score of the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, intended to evoke a mystical and dreamy quality. "Kampong means a cluster of dwellings, like a village," Gibson explains. "It's something Fairchild encountered in his travels to Malaysia. When he bought the property in 1916, he envisioned a place where he could eventually retire and also have extended friends and family to stay during the winter months."

"It's a very casual atmosphere," Gibson adds. "The garden is so big, and the chefs are around the perimeter, so guests don't have to wait to get their food, and they can socialize in groups and talk with the chefs."

The American Institute of Wine and Food's South Florida Chapter is a founding partner, and Co-Chair Daniel Richeal is spearheading the nonprofit's involvement this year, working closely with Gibson, and their catering production and design team from A Joy Wallace.  

Later today, I'll preview several of the dishes.

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