Second Helpings

Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport: Not too many years ago, Valley wine merchants used a simple system to display their inventory: On one set of shelves sat the wines with corks; on another sat the wines with screw caps.

Well, the town's become a lot more sophisticated, but apparently I hadn't realized just how sophisticated. I recently learned a new wine shop is opening up that's going to specialize in Australian wines.

Red Kangaroo Wines is coming to the sprawling shopping complex at the northeast corner of Tatum and Shea boulevards. It's scheduled to open early in May.

The proprietor, Graham Duffield, is an Australian entrepreneur who's convinced that the Valley is a "brilliant wine market" that hasn't been fully exploited. He believes our all-year-round wine-drinking weather, cosmopolitan mix and disposable-income demographics present a wonderful business opportunity.

He may be on to something, especially with his down under focus. I think Australian wines offer some of the best taste-to-price ratios in the market. There's great value here, especially in the $7 to $10 range. Try a shiraz (it's the same grape the French call "syrah," the foundation of noble Rhone wines) or the popular cabernet-shiraz blends. Australian Chardonnay can hold its own with most anything out of California in the same price range. Affordable botrytized Riesling and Semillon, nectarlike dessert wines, are perfect to sip poolside or after dinner.

The shop will stock wines from other wine-growing regions--France, California, South Africa. But Red Kangaroo Wines is hoping its Australian theme will give it a unique niche in what's becoming a highly competitive Valley wine market. If enough consumers can be educated to the product (a big "if"), the concept may flourish.

Taste of Miami: For years I've been begging someone to open Indonesian and North African restaurants in the Valley. Now, my wish list has gotten even longer: Who will be first to bring New Florida cuisine to the desert Southwest?

My longings were inspired by a cookbook that just crossed my desk: Miami Spice by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, $12.95).

New Florida cuisine starts with local bounty. The variety is staggering, particularly seafood and fruit. Florida's waters offer up stone crabs, grouper, rock shrimp, mullet, wahoo and pompano; markets offer exotic produce like carambola, black sapote, longans, passion fruit and jackfruit, along with traditional tropical favorites like mangoes, guavas, plantains and Key limes.

When raw materials like these are fused with Latin and Caribbean cooking techniques and flavors, the results sound breathtaking. Are we ready for coconut-curried wahoo, grouper creole, rum-and-mint shrimp and macadamia-crusted pompano? I am.

Actually, there is one restaurant in town that offers a taste of New Florida cuisine. It's Lantana Grille, at Pointe Hilton at Squaw Peak, whose "foods of the sun" theme touches on the region. Try the grouper poached in coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and teamed with a smoked pineapple relish.

--Howard Seftel


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