Wednesday September 26, 2012
If you should find yourself down in Kendall, there’s a nifty little produce market that you should check out. Norman Brothers is sort of a cross between a Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s (coming to Miami!), but it’s a one-off, family owned place, so it’s got a unique and funky flavor. Right at the entrance there’s a bunch of green ceramic grills for sale. I just snapped a few pictures as I checked it out a few weeks ago:
Friday July 6, 2012
I do not know of any good Colombian restaurants in Miami. Which is a real shame. I’ve been to Bogota, and the food is outrageously good and absurdly meat heavy. It’s typical to get a plate with three kinds of meat. A particular delicacy is Ajiaco, a rustic chicken and potato soup that comes with sides of sour cream and huge capers, all of which get mixed in. So how does Tienda Vieja, out west in Hollywood, stack up?
Monday June 25, 2012
Brooklyn Water Bagel Company was opening in the hideous shopping complex at 5th and Alton just as I was moving off South Beach last year. It looked interesting. It turns out that Brooklyn Water Bagel’s marketing gimmick is not that they operate tanker trucks that ship municipal New York water down to Florida to make bagels in. This would have been an impressive endeavor, and would have allowed us to test whether, as is often stated, the unique mineral composition and pH of the municipal source up there truly makes it impossible to replicate their bagels down here. It turns out, instead, that Brookly Water Bagel’s marketing gimmick is a large contraption called a Brooklynizer, which uses a complicated process to do something or other to our water to make it more like their water. This will make more sense when you hear that BWBC is franchise operation with a fairly short history and origins in Delray Beach. If you’re working on a franchise model, lots of proprietary equipment that you can sell to your franchisees is exactly what the doctor ordered.
I stopped by the South Beach BWBC. (There’s also one in Broward, on Stirling Road.) The Brooklynizer is on display in its own glassed-in room, right by the front door. Also visible from the dining room is the “Bagel Staging Area” with a bagel forming machine and lots of other impressive stuff. It would be fun to sit there and watch them make bagels, and if I were the franchisee I would install high tables to accomodate this. (The Brooklinized water also goes into the soda fountain, so you can try a Brooklynized Coke.)
This is an “order at the counter and we’ll bring the food out to you when it’s ready” type-place, and most of the food is Einstein Bros-style bagel sandwiches. I had egg and sausage, and the fillings were extremely unimpressive: the whole thing came in one pre-made lump that was considerably smaller in diameter than the bagel. In face, most of the sausage patty was actually in the hole area of the bagel. In my non-New-Yorker and therefore extremely uninformed and irrelevant opinion, the bagel itself was actually pretty good. Not too big, but a nice chewy texture, a pleasant ryeness, and a not completely tangible texture that made it pretty satisfying. Not by any stretch the best bagel in Miami, but also not ignominious after the herculean hype. (There was a minor ordering fiasco when Hillary got a turkey egg and cheese bagel and they asked her what kind of cheese she wanted. Note the wording: “Can I have cream cheese?” “What kind?” “Umm, veggie?” The bill arrived, and under her bagel it said “- No cheese” “+ Veggie Cream Cheese” with an extra $2.99 charge on a $4.99 sandwich. To my mind, you’d warn people when they’re about to nearly-double the cost of their order with a modification that one could reasonably assume would be free. That said, it was an extremely generous schmear.)
The coffee situation is the multiple-roast self-serve system you’ve seen, again, at Einstein’s et. al., and the dark roast will satisfy all but true coffee aficionados. The iced coffee is also self-service, but the cup you get comes filled with frozen coffee cubes, which is a nice touch. On each table are napkin holders with Water Facts printed on them. One is “Anything that you cannot see through in an ice cube is sediment,” which I am pretty sure is profligate nonsense — the parts of an ice cube you can’t see through is trapped air bubbles. After all the water fetishization you’d think that BWBC would prioritize facts over aquatic fear-mongering.
But the bagel is good. I would try it again, especially if I were picking up a dozen bagels to bring somewhere for brunch, and I would recommend it with reservations to a friend.
Thursday June 21, 2012
Marando Farms is an intimate little farmer’s market and garden in Ft. Lauderdale with an extra hardcore homesteading edge. I was first told about it a few months ago when I was on the hunt for raw milk (for home cheesemaking, more later on that), and sure enough, they’ve got it, both in cow and goat varieties, along with homemade yogurt and other milk products. But there’s a lot more — Marando is equal parts grocery store, farm, community center, food activism project, and attraction. And there are farm animals.
Tuesday May 20, 2008
Beef tongue, heart, and intestine. I’m not kidding, and it was great (although it did not a tripe convert make of me; if you don’t like chewy meats, stay away from the white bits). Again, order from the traditional menu and the dry-erase boards posted in the restaurant. You may also to check out LG’s website, charmingly devoid of a menu or any other useful information, or any actual photos of any actual dishes served at the restaurant.
Monday May 19, 2008
Haha — Rick Ross’ new album gets a 2.4 on Pitchfork. Update: Ross’ fried seafood joint, Hip Hop Grub Spot, was highly praised in the New Times’ best-of. It’s on 441, a couple of blocks north of Ives Dairy Road. (thanks, CB)
Tuesday May 6, 2008
So, as I was pulling into Key West a few weeks ago, I called up our friend, and Key West authority, Squathole to figure out where to have a big post-100-mile dinner. “Pepe’s,” he says, “hold on, let me see if their address is printed on the bottle of hot sauce I bought there.” Well, it was, but whether through my bad hearing or S’s bad vision, I ended up with the wrong address: 506 Caroline, right off Duval. After looking for it, giving up, looking for someplace else to eat, not finding anything promising, I ended up finding Pepe’s up the street at 806 Caroline.
From first glance you can tell it’s going to be perfect: Pepe’s opened in 1909 and looks it. It looks a little shacky from the outside, but inside is surprisingly cozy, blending indoor and outdoor spaces with equal parts Key West shamble and fine dining. It looks empty from the outside but is actually packed — mostly with locals as it turns out, this being one of the places on the island they cherish.
The parrot guy holds court, and expounds on the joy and life-long commitment that is parrot ownership (tip: never buy a parrot at a pet store). The parrot doesn’t talk, but instead likes to imitate other animals. He does a pretty good pig. I made pals with seasoned locals Ollie, his wife, and the parrot guy, who could totally get babes if he tried.
So the food. Well, first beer: there is exactly one beer on tap. It’s Yuengling, and it’s $1 per glass, and it tastes absolutely perfect when it’s on tap and you’ve got no choice. (I strongly advocate the 1-beer concept to other restaurants, btw. It’s got charm, and so long as it’s a half-way decent beer it will make people happy.) I think I drank about 6 over the next couple of hours. The food is surprisingly gourmet. Pepe’s style fish comes with melted cheese, but I opted for the blackened. It came prefectly cooked, generously portioned, and with fancy presentation, vegetable, and mashed potato. The rule of thumb in the Keys seems to be that the seafood is fresher and better, but not really any cheaper, than Miami, and so it was. Apparently Pepe’s has a master pie baker, so leaving without pie is considered self-in-foot-shooting. There’s a daily pie special(!), Ollie ordered a slice to go, and I followed suit, which meant killer macadamia nut and chocolate chip pie for breakfast next morning. Need I say more?
Monday May 5, 2008
Hey kids, it’s non-Dade week here at CM, bringing you a random sampler of attractions from “the greater South Florida area.” You know, I’ve always had a feeling about the expression “South Florida” — it’s an expression that you hear in Broward much more often than in Dade. It’s the Miami Herald, but the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and I’ve always had the impression that it was an expression used by people who don’t live in Miami to make it sound like there’s no real distinction.
Anyway, on to Crabby Jack’s. Let me make clear that this is not a place to make a trip from Miami to visit. BUT should you find yourself hungry and driving down US-1 in the northernmost reaches of Broward County, I’d implore you to stop in for one of their Dolphin sandwiches.
CJ’s oozes old-Florida charm. The building looks like it was designed by the owner on the back of a napkin and build by his college buddies over spring break many decades ago. Exposed beams, brightly painted, hold the roof on, and big home made skylight let dramatic pools of light into the cavern-like room. Slats outside the winddows that circle the building let in a little more, but the feeling is not unlike a fort. “Stuff” covers the walls, but not in that charming-but-clean TGIFriday’s kind of way — this stuff is decades old. The menus stick together. Buckets on the tables hold flyers advertising 3-for-1 beers and bingo night. Most of the people in here on an early afternoon are sitting at the bar. A sign proclaims that smoking is permitted after 10 pm, and I think that’s an essential aspect of the atmosphere; it doesn’t reek of cigarettes during the day, but it has that “people smoke here at night” vibe. The waitresses wear tiny shorts and stockings, just one step above Hooter’s uniforms (one of them spent a good solid 10 minutes adjusting her boobs in her tank top in plain view of me, not that I’m complaining or anything).
But oh, that fish sandwich. Unbelievably moist, tasty, and generously sized. It comes plain or blackened, big slice of lemon, tomato and lettuce on a good roll, with near-perfect fries and that tartar sauce that makes you realize what tartar sauce is supposed to be — more creamy than mayonnaisy. Perfecto.
1015 S. Federal Highway
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
Thursday April 17, 2008
Wednesday April 16, 2008
So, we were just talking about the North Miami bagel/deli circuit, and I thought I’d mention my favorite. A little less cramped and hectic then the Bagel Cove and not overpriced like Sage Bagels, Mo’s has that old-school, family-run atmosphere you’re looking for. (There’s a new place up the street at Miami Gardens Drive and 18th Street that’s distinctly not what I’m talking about here.) The food is what you’d expect from a diner, but with massive portions and skewed towards your Kosher stuff. Delicious breakfast specials, massive sandwiches, homemade soup. You get the picture. By 10 am on weekends every table is full, and there’s a line out the door. Service is usually pretty good.
Lox lox lox, and fish, smoked fish.
So, does somebody really want to tell me this isn’t a “real” deli? True, it’s not from the 60s, but cut them some slack. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with any of this stuff. I sort of just admire it while waiting in the checkout line. Note the back of the take-out menu for a list of stuff available to go by the pound: 8 different types of smoked fish, 8 different soups, potato pancakes, knishes, and something called Israeli Health Salad. (Actually, the “Salads” section is a hoot, and features turkey, shrimp, and egg salad, in addition to the ominously titled “Vegetarian Chopped Liver.”)
And of course pastries. And yes, you get a little plate of sweet nibblies when you sit down. Yum! Oh, thanks again to Susan for letting me use her camera!!
Mo’s Bagel & Deli
2780 N.E. 187th St
North Miami Beach, FL 33180 (they say they’re in Aventura, I say no)
Thursday April 10, 2008
Yes, there are still Jewish delis in Miami.
Wednesday April 9, 2008
Sometime in the distant foggy past (ok, 1889), Paul really was a single bakery in Croix, France. Over the last couple of decades, it’s expanded to a worldwide empire, with shops all over the world. Their foray into the US began in 2005, and currently consists of five shops all in our little neck of the woods. The North Miami Beach location is the center of the hub, where all the baking is done, and that’s where these pictures are taken.
Paul messes with my head a little bit. On the one hand it’s got a faux-rustic corporate sheen, with the fingerprints of expensive consultants visible everywhere (note, for example, the faux-mismatched chairs in the dining room). Walking in there feels more like walking into a theme-shifted Friday’s (or Starbucks, for that matter) then A La Folie. On the other hand, there’s the genuine French heritage, the decent food, and the wait staff with French accents. If you’ve ever been to Panera, it’s sort of like that, with maybe another notch up in quality and price, and the eurotrash theme.
So, the food. Above are my eggs benedict from a recent excursion. The goal was to spend as much as possible on brunch for two sans alcohol (and yes, you can get your brunch combo with Champagne or Mimosa), and mission accomplished at over $30 for what is, essentially, fast food. Mind you, the eggs benedict was delicious, as was every sandwich, pastry, and coffee I’ve tasted there. You line up, order your food, and they bring it to your table. All the bread is baked by Paul’s staff, as are the pastries (I believe?), and it’s served in that French style, where the portions are not overly large and everything has a small field-green salad on the side.
All the same, I’m inclined to give it the thumbs-down. The corporate stench that lingers in the air sort of ruins the experience for me. I can go to any diner and get food that’s almost as good and a lot more honest, and if I want faux-rustic corporate food I’ll go to Panera, Crackel Barrel, or some such, where it comes without the Epcot-planet overtones. Your mileage may vary.
14861 Biscayne Blvd. and other locations
N. Miami Beach, FL 33181
Update: In the comments, Kathie reports that Paul in Miami “doesn’t even compare” to Paul in Paris. Over at Flickr, BeanBlossom reports that service at Paul on Lincoln Road is terrible. (N. Miami Beach location always has gushingly good service. I sort of prefer medium snooty service with my French food, another reason I like Folie.)
Monday March 31, 2008
Delicious-looking freshly baked pita and Middle Eastern pastries, the only catch is that it’s in Ft. Laduerdale
Wednesday March 5, 2008
“I will NEVER patronize Taverna Opa South Beach for as long as I live, because I actually like to EAT food and not have napkins strewn all over the table while I am nibbling, much less have some skanky ho from Baltimore purloining a Mediterranean ethnicity while shaking her ass over my tzatziki.” — Manola, who was charged $3 more for a drink when a woman bartender served it to her then when a man did.
Monday February 25, 2008
This tamarind juice was delicious, about the consistency of peach nectar. Very sweet, as it should have been — it contains high fructose corn syrup, which, along with the fact that it contains mostly water (30% actual tamarind juice) should have disqualified it from the “Juice” label. Oh well. I bought mine at Fruit and Spice Park, but it’s probably also available at Caribbean markets all over town.
Thursday February 14, 2008
Late dinner at Canela Cafe yesterday, primarily because it was the only thing open at 10:30 pm on a weekday; and a very pleasant surprise. Great crusty sandwiches, yummy tapas, and just about the perfect atmosphere. You know places like Lime — chain restaurants where they take the Starbucks aesthetic and attempt to apply it to a homey restaurant setting? Well, Canela is no chain, and it splits the difference between that a genuine comforting/dive type mood.
The only real problem was that out of a list of about 10 beers only 4 were in stock (the restaurant also turned to be out of ketchup?!). This was for the best, though because the star of the evening was the Sangria — a humongous 15-glass (orange glazed ceramic) pitcher full of sweet delicious redness plus tall glasses with fruit and a small pail of ice. Yes, technically this is not how you do Sangria but trust me it works.
The food was all neo-rustic, with fresh quality ingredients. Came out fast, too, which is always nice. And the service was great. Oh: Cholula hot sauce right there on the table, which is not something you see every day. And the menu turned out to be a real treat — the entire first page is charming preamble and background explanation on the various foods. It’s obviously lovingly typed by the owner, and obviously subject to frequent revision, because the online PDF version is quite different, and ends with a 24-point note: “Please excuse me with Spanglish menu.” (The prices have substantially risen since the online version, but what can you do?)
Oh, and did I mention the live music? When we arrived a Gibson SG and amp were set up outside, and shortly arrived a dude, back to us, who proceeded to noodle casually for awhile and finally sang a few songs in a hushed mumbly voice. It was perfect near-empty-restaurant music, and I didn’t realize until later that it was none other then Jesse Jackson. There you are then — a perfect meal.
Update: An unfortunate habit of closing before the regularly scheduled 11:30 pm kind of sours me on the place.
Monday February 11, 2008
Ultra-fancy coffee/tea/snacks at Sweat Records. “Numi Organic Flowering Tea Service which is a hand-sewn rosette of tea leaves, served in a clear pot with clear teacups, that blossoms as it seeps.” (Free WiFi, too!)
Wednesday February 6, 2008
Monday February 4, 2008
Tuesday January 29, 2008
Got some Black Sapote with my CSA share last week. They’re green when they arrive, and took about a week to ripen. Ripe in this case means looking really rough. When they get all black and ultra-soft — in other words, like they’re ready to be thrown out — that’s when they’re good to eat. You slice it open and eat it with a spoon.
The taste and flavor is indeed uncannily like chocolate pudding, but make no mistake, this is fruit, and there are way too many unhealthy things in actual pudding that give it an unfair edge. Sapote tastes like fruit that tastes like chocolate pudding, delicious and just a little strange.
Not sure what I’m going to do with the second one. The webernets recommend using it in baking, but that’s a non-starter with me. It would be improved basically by adding sugar and some sort of fat to it, maybe mixed with cream in a blender, but that sort of recommends getting some sort of alcohol involved in the mix, right? Some sort of Black Sapote rum drink? Suggestions?
Monday January 28, 2008
Check, Please! South Florida, a show about dining, premieres tonight at 7:30 pm. No idea what channel it’s on, or if it’s web-only.
Tuesday January 15, 2008
We don’t need to keep talking about the lamentable closing of Eidelweiss, now going on two years ago, but the fact is that authentic German food is hard to find in Miami. You would not expect a Lincoln Road joint to be much more then a stopgap to this problem, and in fact when it first opened Hofbräu München had a Latin section on its menu, some vestige of the Cuban restaurant that previously occupied the premises. Well, a year on, Hofbräu has established itself as a perfectly wonderful spot. It’s much more casual then Eidelweiss, and in fact is sometimes listed as Hofbräu Beerhall. A few niggles aside, is a great place for food and beer.
Ah, the beer. Three varieties of Hofbräu (plus two seasonal), all of course imported from Germany, are on tap: a lager, a wheat ale, and a dark. The lager is the default choice, as good as anything you’ll find on tap anywhere in town. I like my beer a little more bitter, but it should be just right for an American palette. The wheat beer is for the adventurous, unfiltered (cloudy) and with a distinct hint of citrus. The dark beer is rich and delicious, and unexpectedly easy to drink for anyone expecting a stout. All the beers come in half and full-liter mugs, the latter of which is recommended: if you’ve ever had two pints of beer with dinner, a liter is not much more, and it will make you stronger.1
The food so far has been exceptional. You really want to start with the Hofbräu Wurstplatte, four big grilled sausages of various styles, each more succulent then the last. It’s served with the obligatory sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. And while this is some of the least healthy food you’re likely to find on Lincoln, it’s a necessary occasional cardiovascular-health splurge for any carnivore. For an adventurous snack, split a Münchner Wurstsalat among a few friends over beer — it’s cold sausage and swiss cheese with vinegar, which, well, it’s a thing, anyway. I do have to agree with complaints about the mustard. While Hofbräu has a tasty sweet mustard that accompanies the wurst, I couldn’t really do a whole plate with it, and honest to goodness, the only other alternative is packets of Gulden’s. This actually is not a terrible alternative taste-wise, but it kills the vibe, man, and I hope it gets addressed soon. No excuse, as decent German restaurant is available at Publix, and especially so since they’re already flying in the beer…
Speaking of killing the vibe, let’s talk about the prices. Those liters of beer? $12 a pop. The Wurstplatte? $19. (And so it goes, almost all the prices having been raised from those listed at MenuPages.) Pricey, yes, but not so terrible when you consider (1) the imported goodies, in light of the weak US dollar, (2) exorbitant Lincoln Rd. rents, and (3) that it’s obviously not that easy to run a German restaurant in Miami. Be grateful, and eat your wurst. Less tangible is the relaxed atmosphere of the place, which is also sort of rare on Lincoln Rd. The booths inside have been replaced with real beer-hall style tables and benches, and the wood tables and chairs outside are comfortable and right-minded to the experience at hand, and yet none of this seems fussy or contrived. Well, ok, the waiters’ leather lederhosen pants are a little contrived, but we’ll let that slide.
943 Lincoln Rd. (between Michigan and Jefferson)
 I predict that one-liter mugs of beer are going to be the next big thing. In Bogota there are trendy new places, sort of Starbucks-equivalent beer halls, which have been serving them, and the practice has spread to some of the other restaurants. This is a trend that is ripe for introduction to America — you heard it here first!
Monday January 14, 2008
Gridskipper’s rundown on the Miami dining scene: mostly a best-of in various upper-crust dining categories.
Wednesday January 9, 2008
Monday January 7, 2008
We stumbled on a completely amazing farmers’ market down in Homestead this weekend. It’s just off the intersection of US-1 and SW 244 Street. The market is in this big building with open sides, and an adjacent swapshop-type area is adjacent, where you can get your share of discount car audio and designer knockoffs. There are also junk food vendors and pony rides, but the farmers market is the main attraction.
Ultra-plump produce reigns large and small, everyday and exotic. To example the latter, how about green garbanzo beans still in their husks? Everything was bristling with flavor, and of course it was amazingly cheap.
Florida plum tomatoes. Not pictured: the biggest mountain of bananas I’ve seen in my life.
This being homestead, Mexican-oriented stuff was abundant. Here are some half-dozen+ different dried peppers. Also — did I mention there was a little nursery section? Chad bought an Epazote plant, which apparently is extremely difficult to find.
Mysterious powders and dried plants hang from the rafters. Note the cartwheel pasta, available freshly fried elsewhere on the premises. No idea what the orange stuff is.
Oh, and if you’re ever in need of a 50 pound bag of carrots, they’ve like totally got you covered.
Thursday January 3, 2008
“a pork is roasted at tom’s barbecue on eighth street…not a BBQ place at all, more like a super cuban dive”
Here’s the scoop for anyone, like me, who’s passed by Pit Bar-B-Q in the last few months and been dismayed to find it closed: the original owner, Tommy Little, died. The good news is that it’s re-opened: under new ownership, but supposedly with the same cooks and same recipes. This is going to require some investigation.
Monday December 17, 2007
Can’t say I’ve ever given a thought to the plastic-wrapped plates of food that most restaurants on Lincoln Road display for would-be diners. Looks like the Miami Beach Commission has noticed, though, and decided to outlaw the practice on the grounds that it’s déclassé.
Wednesday December 12, 2007
I didn’t post anything about CSA last week because I was too busy. The haul was similar to the first week, with a few variations and one very nice surprise: a small jar of wildflower honey! Who knew they have bee farms down here?
This week brought more surprises — oranges! And: the first tomatoes of the season. Oversized organic cherry tomatoes. Also a big avocado, more green beans, scarlet turnips, parsley, and an overabundance of greens, (collards!), including Mizuna. Everything has been crazy delicious, but it has required a few adjustments. Most importantly, I had to set aside my kitchen-contraption aversion and buy a salad spinner. It’s not so much for the spinning itself, but you just need a easy way to very seriously rinse vegetables, because they sometimes come from the farm with more dirt then you’re used to seeing on vegetables. (Grit in your food = no fun.) A good colander in a big pot would have worked, but my colander is too big, and actually the spinner option is useful when stir-frying.
Here’s the gist of the cooking strategy: I cook up a great big pot of brown rice at the beginning of the week. It sits in the fridge. When I want to whip something up, I’ll dump the following into my cast-iron skillet over a little olive oil: some of the rice (sometimes I’ll substitute a hash-browns*), whatever rinsed and chopped vegetables seem like a good idea, and one or more of a) garbanzo beans, b) tofu, c) egg. The only trick here is the order that things go in. Some greens are delicate and ready-to-eat, and those go in at the very end, while others need a bit of cooking. Tofu benefits from a little browning, so if it goes it goes in first, while the garbanzo beans pretty much just need to warm through. So on.
One decent variation: throw some of the hash browns (see below) and green beans into the pan (wok works good, too) with a bit of chopped onion (note CSA: some delicious local onions would be nice, as would potatoes). Stir around until the potatoes brown a little and the onion turns clear. Chop some dill while this happens. When it’s looking good, add some garbanzo beans (oh sorry: “chick peas”). Now!: pour some white wine into the pan. This will sizzle and steam dramatically and make you feel like you’re doing some serious cooking. When the wine starts to boil a bit, sprinkle in some flour (this works nicely) and stir. That’ll thicken the wine into a sauce. Add the dill, some salt and pepper, and cook for 30 or 60 seconds more and BAM! Ready to go.
My mission for this week: catch up on eating as much of this stuff as possible, and get that fridge empty for Saturday. Meanwhile, two other bloggers doing much more interesting things with their CSA shares: Tinkering With Dinner and Miami Dish. And while I’m dropping links, everyone should go read Michael Poland’s article on how to eat, which I’m pretty sure I’ve linked before.
* Works like this: You take a potato, skin and all, wash it a bit, and coarse-grate it. Grab a handful, squeeze it over the sink to drain out as much water as possible, and fling it in a pan. Let brown. Sprinkle with salt and flip. Amazing hash browns.
Update: For those confused about what’s going on here, see the Redland Organics CSA page.
Tuesday November 27, 2007
Well, I did it: I signed up for the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program run by Redland Organics. My first batch of food came the weekend before Thanksgiving, and it was an impressive haul — two squashes, two turbocharged avocados, some crazy Komatsuna greens (seen at left in photo), green beans,
turnips watermelon beets (the incredible flavor of which I can never convey, but the eye-poping color the inside of which I will reveal in a later photo) with greens on, plus fresh dill, garlic chives, and basil. Wow… and they start light in the early season?
I wasn’t really ready for this, and so a lot of it got consumed in a big stir-fry, with sauces probably overpowering the freshness which is the point of the whole thing. By next time (this Saturday!), I am will to have a salad spinner (as advertised, these veggies come with soil very well attached, straight from the farm style, and washing is necessary), an empty fridge, and a mind ready to eat whatever vegetables are put to my usage. Prepare for more reports of where this came.
Monday November 19, 2007
A few places you can get Thanksgiving dinner, but there’s gotta be lots more, right? Anyone have any recommendations from years past?
Thursday October 25, 2007
Bill Citara’s hilariously negative review of Cancun Grill in Miami Lakes. “Chicken mole is a disaster — a thin slab of rock-hard breast immersed in a sauce so insipid and one-dimensional it strips the olé from mole with a single bite.” Related: The best Mexican in Miami (hint: not a restaurant).
Thursday October 18, 2007
Monday October 8, 2007
Tuesday September 25, 2007
Sushi Samba is obnoxious; if you can deal with that, you’ll probably love it. Exquisitely designed by Scott Kester, its shanty-space-pod interior, immaculate black-clad waitstaff, and perfect futuristic-Brazilian music give it a singular retro-modern atmosphere that would be right at home on TV.
Despite living no more than a few blocks of away since it opened years ago, I’d never been; this weekend a friend and I decided to give it a shot. It was Saturday afternoon and SS was fairly empty. We arrived, and . . . immediately had a problem with the hostess. You see, SS has two types of tables — 5 and 6-person booths, and outrageously uncomfortable tables for two. We didn’t like the first table we were offered, and even the second one was less then ideal. There were parties of two seated at booths, but it seems that we’d arrived after some sort of cut-off time after which this was no longer possible, in anticipation of the evening rush. A bit of tension ensued, and we ended up acquiescing to the cramped but not uncomfortable little table.
After that, though, the evening went rather remarkably well. Our waitress (the record will note that she was tall, beautiful, and really, really good at her job) eased our lingering irritation with an introduction the the restaurant’s aesthetic (“Japanese-Brazilian”), and got our waters. So I’ll cut to the chase: the food was great. We had beer, sake, several sushi rolls, edamame, and dessert, and every single thing was spectacular. The secret of their success is that all the portions are a little smaller, and a little more expensive, then you’d expect. Still, after tax and tip, we barely cracked $100 for two people.
The sushi rolls are a cut above. Try the Green Envy (wasabi pea crust, tuna, salmon, asparagus, and aji amarillo-key lime mayo) or the Neo Tokyo (yellowfin tuna, tempura flake, and aji panca), and you may wonder why you’re paying twice what you’d pay for the same amount of food in a regular sushi joint, but only until the first taste. There is substance to this here style.
When the kitchen was out of spoons for our dessert, they apologetically brought out two sets of huge soup-spoons and tiny spoons (then our waitress rushed out with the correct spoons, still warm from the dishwasher), which pretty well sums up how good the service was (but not everyone seems to have had quite this good an experience). I left feeling like quite the elegant slouch — Sushi Samba is style over substance, but only just barely.
Monday September 24, 2007
The Big Squeeze, North Miami.
Tuesday September 18, 2007
Monday September 17, 2007
Cuchifritos in Miami at Daily Cocaine (his photo, and a huge screen-filling version is available over there). What is it? Well, “a light stew of pig parts (I’m pretty sure I inhaled some semi-crunchy strips of ears, maws, and stomach, and maybe some tongue, too), surrounded by two baked(?) green bananas (con guineo), was perfect for a hot late summer day.”
Thursday September 13, 2007
Irène says: “We’re coming in to visit and are wondering if Miami or Miami Beach has a fantastic independent espresso cafe specializing in in-house or local roasts and crafted Italian espresso drinks. Love the Cafe Cubano, but living in FL, I miss the Italianos coffee.” Anyone?
Thursday August 30, 2007
Chef Mauro is just about the friendliest guy you’ll come across in Mary Brickell Village. He’s a recent transplant from Italia, here to make it big! Everything in his store is 100% organic, including the gelato (available by the kilogram!), sorbet, pastries, and soon espresso. He’ll shower you with tastes of all the flavors the minute you walk in, and tell you all about his little shop. The lights are clouds, and the toy airplanes and balloons are from Italy. “I have a zeppelin on the way!”
I suspect that all gelato is equally delicious (hence the often extravagant decor in these places), but this stuff is organic, so you can tell yourself it’s healthier. As always, I recommend getting a little cup with half of two different flavors. I also recommend setting some time aside to explore this neighborhood, between the Brickell high-rises and the slightly more seedy Tobacco Road neighborhood. There are some great little restaurants around, and the whole area is going to soon be built over, so check it out. Tell Mauro ‘hi’ for me.
Monday August 20, 2007
Thursday August 16, 2007
10 good cheap restaurants at Daily Candy. I’m concerned that lots of stuff on DC is paid advetorial, but this list looks pretty good to me.
Monday August 6, 2007
Miami Spice: let the bullshit begin. Fuck you, Sushi Samba. Update: Lukewarm review of another MS experience, at $83/person. Enough to make a person long for good cheap food any day. Update: I was about to link to another review but I see that Rick is rounding these up. I’ve talked to a few people and read a few of these online reviews and have yet to hear a single MS report that’s more then “good.” And as Blind Mind says, “good doesn’t really cut it anymore.” Duh — especially when you’re spending $50 – 100 per person.
Thursday August 2, 2007
Miami Spice gets way more gushing then it deserves. For $35, you get an appetizer, a main course, and dessert. Drinks and tip (“Base the gratuity on what full price would have been, not on the actual check.”) are extra. It runs August and September. Basically, this is a great deal if you’re a Fat American who (1) always orders appetizer and dessert, (2) likes going to posh restaurants, and (3) doesn’t much care what you eat there.
If you’re the coupon-clipping type, this means that you’ll probably eat out more in the next two months then you do the rest of the year. More power to you, but this is not the approach to life that I’m advocating. Part of the fun of eating out is reading the menu, and eating exactly what you’re in the mood for. That’s out the window. Restaurant portions are generous, and if you’re not full after a regular meal, you need to evaluate your appetite (and probably your waist size). Dessert should be split with a date. Also: you’re not saving money. Even if you drink nothing but tap water, you’ll be spending close to $50 per person (if you followed the tipping rule above). For just a few bucks more, you can eat like a normal person — a menu, a plate of food, and a glass of wine, and not have to check the scheduled days and meals when “the deal” applies.
Basically, this is a cheap (where “cheap = “inexpensive”) stunt by the restaurants to drum up publicity. Take the slowest months of the year, throw together a fancy website, send out some PR, and wham — you get “an event” that gets some traffic. A whole mess of sponsors kick in money and advertising help. Everybody wins.
Sure, some of these restaurants are outrageously expensive, and you could potentially get a great deal. Just weigh that against the possibility that Miami Spice customers have been snubbed in years past. I recommend you to go out and eat at nice places throughout the year, as the mood strikes you. Dress well, order what you want (the more expensive things on the menu are usually worth it), splurge on wine and coffee, tip generously, and generally live large for a night. Put it all on a credit card. When it’s paid off, repeat. You’ll be happier in the long run.
Update: The Herald article hilariously gives the [non-clickable] website as “ilove miamispice.com” — you guys are just messing with me now, right?
Update: Of the great minds please us to be thinking similarly.
Tuesday July 31, 2007
I just came across this glowing review of French Kiss Terrasse at something called “Blind Mind.” Guy sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, and very impressed. Checked it with Consumable Joy, who had a good first impression there. Sounds like a place worth checking out, right? Here it is.
Monday July 23, 2007
It’s odd that out of the three Graziano’s, the one on Bird Road is the only one that’s considered a pizzeria, because I took the whole thing to be a pizza joint, albeit a somewhat fancy one. I guess the other ones are “just” Italian restaurants. But the great thing about this place is how they do their wine. There’s a regular wine shop in the front where you peruse a very respectable selection. When you’ve figured things out, you hand your bottle(s) to your waiter or waitress, and they take care of everything else. Not only is it like getting to browse through a restaurant’s wine cellar before eating, but the prices are in line with what they’d be in a shop, not on a menu. Cheers to that.
The other thing is the wonderful staff. I’m not normally a stickler for service, but when drinking wine by the bottle, it’s important to have an unhurried evening, and out waitress struck just the right mix of attentiveness and distance. She brought out a fresh set of wine glasses for each new bottle. And while, this being Bird Road, not everyone was absolutely bilingual, I don’t get the sense that this is ever a real problem. And the pizza was sensational. Delivered variously on ceramic trays and cast-aluminum platters, each had its own personality and charm. The four-cheese + green and black olive was particularly formidable.
Prices on the wine started in the $10-15 range and topped out around $100 (they probably keep the good stuff tucked away a little), while the pie was around $10 for a single-person dose and $20 for a two-person. Parking was a bitch; the other Italian restaurant next door (same owner?) had most of the parking lot blocked off for their valet service.
Graziano’s Pizzeria, 9227 SW 40th St., (305) 225-0008.
Tuesday July 17, 2007
Major controversy surrounds the so-called ugly tomato. A man-made hybrid of some heirloom varieties, supposedly they taste much more “like a tomato” then anything else you can get. I’m not sure where the legal situation sits right now. They used to be illegal to export from Florida because of their unusual shape, though I believe the ban was recently lifted.
I spotted some at Publix the other day, and decided to try one out. Mine came individually protected in a little stretchy styrofoam net, and at $2.99/lb (I believe that’s actually a bargain for them), it set me back about a buck fifty. It came with a sticker linking to the official Ugly Ripe website, which confirms the legal status:
The new USDA rule, published in today’s [January 17, 2007] Federal Register, amends the Florida Tomato Marketing Order to exempt the UglyRipe from the shape portion of the USDA grade standards as long as the UglyRipe is grown, packed, and distributed under USDA’s Identity Preservation Program (IPP). The IPP uses the unique genetic fingerprint of a produce variety to assure that it is in fact the product claimed by its grower. The UglyRipe will still have to meet all of the other grade standards imposed under the marketing order.
This is all suitably absurd, but what about the taste? Well, I chopped up half of one into my salad, and saved the other half, which I’m munching on as I type. No worries here: it’s delicious. The skin is a little thicker then a regular tomato, and gives it a hint of leaves, and (seriously) earthy notes. I have to admit that the differences was much less dramatic in the salad. And cooked, I’d bet it disapears for all but the most discriminating marinara palate. I’d recommend picking one up and eating it sliced into wedges, sprinkled with a little salt.
Oh, and get this: the Ugly Ripe has a blog.
Thursday July 5, 2007
Miami Memories has a great post up about Royal Castle.
Wednesday June 27, 2007
Thursday June 14, 2007
Ceviche on the beach.
Tuesday June 5, 2007
How do I love this? Let me count the ways:
- It’s so true: every time I convince myself I need to splurge and try Karu & Y just to see for myself, I hear another horror story about it.
- Fucking hilarious: I can’t verify the 25-24=1 math, but even if remotely true it’s one for the record books.
- Just plain good: I read most of the best-of issue, and while it’s full of solid, sometime unexpected, choices and good writing, this stands out as particularly insightful. Yet . . .
- Manages to insult the entire city: see, we just don’t have enough “foodie enthusiasts” to enjoy this place’s “cutting-edge cooking style.”
- Exposes a certain meta-ness of the “best of” issue: you know some of their categories are custom-made for someone they just want to shout-out to. This is the best of all possible examples of that phenomena.
- It’s written in a style I can relate to: lots of punctuation, lots of linguistic asides, and lots of numbers.
- Exposes discrepancies between the print edition and the online edition: it’s right there on page 137. But online? No está aquí. Numerous discrepancies between the online and print editions have been spotted, but an entire missing category takes the cake.
Bonus reason: I love the way we get a partial line right before the column break where a weird box juts part of the way into the column (between “cooking” and “style”). Whazzup to my crack New Times layout department, slapping it together and getting it out there! Previously on “Let me count the ways:” What’s up with the Art Miami ad? and What’s up with the Sunguide ads? Also, let me point out that the entire text of the above listing is in the scan’s alt-tag, just to make this legit and accessible.
Monday June 4, 2007
South Florida Menu Pages: easy to use, comprehensive menus for damn-near all restaurants, with virginal ratings. This has been tried before, and now somebody did it right. Get in there and write some reviews, people! Update: A number of the menus seem to be old information. Good for getting an idea of what the restaurant serves and how expensive it is, but not necessarily accurate for calculating exact pricing.
Tuesday May 29, 2007
A bunch of new restaurant reviews are up at Meatless Miami
Tuesday April 24, 2007
“The big mama who takes your order is a bit sassy and doesn’t know the meaning of multi-tasking but what can you say, it’s Biscayne blvd, what do you expect!? In the future I’ll order it to go!”
Monday April 16, 2007
Manola runs down healthy food spots on the Beach.
Saturday March 17, 2007
Monday March 12, 2007
The Café at Books & Books gets four green hearts on Meatless Miami.
Friday March 9, 2007
Monday February 26, 2007
Thursday February 15, 2007
How to eat on South Beach For $10 a day. A hilarious and surprisingly comprehensive guide by Matt Meltzer on Miami Beach 411.
Tuesday February 13, 2007
You’ve heard about the “secret menu” that some Chinese restaurants have, with real Chinese food that most Americans wouldn’t even dream of ordering? Welcome to Long Gong, a cozy little place tucked into a strip mall on Tamiami Trail just west of FIU. The staff is absurdly friendly, and the authentic menu isn’t that intimidating: it’s in English, and includes a mix of the comforting and intimidating. Go with a big group, order some of both, and prepare to be amazed.
It’s difficult to get a good picture of the food, because we ordered probably about a dozen different things, and they bring out each dish as it’s prepared, just like in China, so that the meal becomes this very time-based experience of overlapping courses. Here we have (counterclockwise from left) chicken with chestnuts, broccoli, a spicy fish stew, duck (head chopped in half for easy brain consumption), more broccoli, and some soup. We also had steamed dumplings, fried whole little octopi, garlic cucumber, and a couple of fried-dough based things, both sweet and savory. Copious quantities of beer and sake were also consumed.
This was a grand feast celebrating a couple of friends’ departure to China to teach English for a year+. Here is a photostitch of everyone at the table, with the secret menu at far right. (Please to note the Miami Chinese restaurant roundup in c305, which also features Kon Chau.)
11929 SW 8th Street
Thursday February 1, 2007
Spotty food and spotty service at Sushi Siam. I agree, and the Miami location is pretty much the same deal: occasionally great, often frustrating. Update: That link sure did break quickly. Basically, an out-of-town
guy gal had a just-so experience having lunch by himself herself at SS. His Her least favorite was the steak teriyaki. [forgive my latent chauvinism.]
Monday January 29, 2007
In the discussion about Sokya I said something about how it was the only restaurant of its kind in the neighborhood. Actually, just a few blocks south there’s Luna Cafe (not to be confused with Luna Star Cafe). Located in the bottom floor of a nondescript office building (and currently behind a serious construction barrier), Luna Cafe is in some ways the exact opposite of Soyka — less stylish, but with excellent service and spectacular food.
I think valet is the only parking offered; in any case it’s free so we gave it a shot. From that point on everything was easy. We were welcomed, sat down, and presented menus. Everything about Luna is a little old-fashioned, by the way; it’s got a sort of old-Miami vibe. It’s got style, but it’s not stylish.
The menu’s got a big seafood section, lots of pasta dishes, and a few risottos. The shrimp risotto was delicious, and so was the tuna (you’d think that blackened on the outside and rare on the inside would be difficult to do, but it came out perfect). We even tried the little chocolate soufflé, which came with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Amazing. Most of the dishes cost between $15 and $20.
And yes, the service was great. Whenever we needed anything our waiter seemed like magic to appear, water glasses got refilled promptly (no wine tonight, though it would have gone wonderfully with the meal), and we were even warned that the soufflé would take a little longer then the other desserts.
They’re a little difficult to find with the never-ending Biscayne Blvd. construction, but it’s worth the effort. (Hint: it’s just a little south of the Publix.) Next time you’re in the neighborhood, well, you know what to do.
4770 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33137
Tuesday January 23, 2007
Friday January 19, 2007
“Considering Miami’s predominance of Cuban immigrants, it’s astonishing that truly wonderful, home-style, traditional Cuban meals are rare here.” But Pamela Robin Brandt found Las Delicias Restaurant to be to her satisfaction.
Thursday January 18, 2007
The bad news: Lincoln Road Cafe, a Cuban restaurant that I always enjoyed, is closed. The good news: it’s now a German restaurant! Hofbräu München, which sounds great. This is very good, since Edelweiss is apparently permanently closed. (via Rick)
Wednesday January 17, 2007
If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma (and you should; it’s a great book), you know that eating locally grown food is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your community, and your environment (see also 100 Mile Diet). The bummer is that Miami is not an easy city to eat locally in. One of the less-then-perfect options is the Redland Organics CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) food subscription.
Rebecca at Greener Miami and Tere at the mom blog have gone in together on a one-month trial, and have posts up on their initial reactions. The pros: you get super-delicious food, and you’re very legitimately eating locally. The cons: not for the faint of heart —
- You have no idea what you’re getting from one week to the next.
- You get lots of food. Better suited to big families with flexible pallets and hippie communes.
- You sign up before the growing season, then you get food for about 20 weeks; November to April. The rest of the year you’re back on your own.
- You need to pick up your stuff from one of the “convenient locations” every Saturday morning.
- Pretty expensive: a “half-share” for the year is $350. That’s $18 per week. (The full share works out to about $30 per week, the trial about $38 per week.)
- Rebecca reports that the vegetables need serious washing: dirt, plus “a spider, a little worm, and a snail.”
- The shared-risk aspect: you’re paying for the farming, not the food. If there’s a drought, you agree that you’ll get less stuff (or nothin’).
Wow, that’s a lot of downside. Everybody should still do this, though. Send ‘em an e-mail and get on their waiting list for the 07/08 season. The thing about it is that each of those downsides makes a lot of sense. The stuff is dirty because it comes out of the ground. It’s expensive because it’s grown by (relatively) well paid Americans. You get whatever they’ve grown because, well . . . you get the picture. Local food is good food. Can’t wait to see how the rest of the month goes for Rebecca and Tere.
Tuesday January 9, 2007
Fly on the Wall, a South Florida restaurant review site. An overproduced and bizarre one, that — the top rating is five flies? I’ll spare you the torture of their navigation system with some direct links: Soyka (two flies), Duo (four flies), and Touch (“The style of cooking is over made-up pretentious and condescending”).
Thursday January 4, 2007
“You could spend hours drinking Prosecco and talking smack:” a couple (literally) of promising new writers at Metroblogging.
Wednesday January 3, 2007
How to cook Cuban Black Beans and Rice. Skip the post, and head straight for Firefly’s comment. “Who’s ever heard of ‘draining’ a can of black beans?” Agree there, though beans, rice, and cheese on a tortilla sounds pretty good to me, delusions of Cuban cuisine aside.
Tuesday December 26, 2006
Lolo has been rocking the restaurant reviews over at Meatless Miami. She’s squeezed a lot of functionality out of Blogger, allowing you to browse restaurants by neighborhood or search for the top-rated ones. Vegan-centric resource par excellence.
Tuesday December 19, 2006
We’ve all heard or been in a million “best pizza in Miami” arguments, right? Forget it. Usually those are talking about New York style pizza, a thin-crust round piece of dough with a little tomato sauce, cheese, and maybe pepperoni. The not-so-secret is that pizza like this is so easy to get right that hundreds of places make it really, really well, which can be shocking if you’re only used to Hut/Domino/Caesar crap. Everyone’s attached to some little joint somewhere (in Miami they’re usually called “Steve’s,” for some reason), all of which make great pizza, I’m sure.
Pizza Rustica is something else. Big rectangular pieces (they slice them into six pieces so you can pick it up!) of Roman-style pizza smothered with any of a dozen+ very specific combination of toppings. They use a particular type of oven. They import their flour from Italy, for chrissakes. Cute girls will pop your slice into the oven for a few minutes and set you up with a coke or a beer (on tap, but nothing good) if you’re eating there. I think all the “slices” are $4, but all it takes is one and you’re stuffed. I don’t normally tip when I’m ordering from a counter like this, but here I always do; come on, they’re running around that hot oven all day, right? Plus, it rounds it up to $5 (no messing around with tax), and so the best $5 meal in town.
Here’s a slice of the eponymous Rustica (bad photo, sorry). Prosciutto, tomatoes regular and sun-dried, black olives, artichoke hearts, and whole basil leaves. Serious business. On a second visit, or for vegetarians, might I recommend the potato pizza — it sounds weird but trust me; the potato is sliced very thin, and paired with a few other specific ingredients, and it works. All the varieties are like this — very specific combinations of a bunch of ingredients. Caprese salad pizza? Chicken Fiorentina pizza? You get the idea. They’ll also custom make (round) pizzas with any combination of 35(!) ingredients. Forget the silly arguments: this is the best pizza in town by a long shot.
There are three locations on the Beach: the one on the corner of 9th and Washington is the original, though the other two have a little more seating inside. There’s also one in Ft. Lauderdale which I’ve never eaten at. Google maps does a good job of finding them.
Wednesday December 13, 2006
Soyka is owned by the same guy who brings us News Café and the Van Dyke. It gets respect for being the first restaurant along a pretty sorry stretch of Biscayne Blvd., but too often this translates directly into bloviating about how amazing and unique it is. Sorry, but Soyka is one of the most consistently overrated restaurants in town.
The food is inconsistent at best. I’ve eaten there a couple of times, and everything seems to be prepared and conceived very well, but a lot of the dishes come out bland or otherwise unremarkable. I get the feeling that if they tightened up the menu it would be a lot better. I wouldn’t criticize it for being overpriced if the food was always spectacular, because it’s obvious they’re using quality ingredients and employing a degree of craftsmanship, but as it currently stands it qualifies as moderately overpriced.
The service has been described elsewhere as being very good. I have no idea what they’re talking about. On a recent visit, and random request to our waitress had about a 50% chance of being correctly and timely fulfilled. There was a bit of attitude at least once when we corrected her. As I recall, the service wasn’t so great on past visits, either.
The layout is nice. It sort of an industrial warehouse with a select few posh restaurant touches. The ceilings are high, with exposed concrete and steel, and are offset with nice wood, leather, and wicker furniture; it’s a very nice space to be in. Enough to overcome the other shortcomings? Actually, it might be. If you’re frequently in the neighborhood, you don’t have many nicer dining options, so you may return often enough to learn what’s really great on the menu. After that, it might be a decent place to pop in for a business lunch. The rest of us will stick with the fancy pizza place next door.
5556 NE 4th Ct
Update: Everybody but me seems to love Soyka, so maybe I need to give it another chance. See the comments.
Wednesday November 22, 2006
Tere catches some shit at Oneburger. You might could find their menu on their website (oneburger – dot – com) but make a sandwich, because it takes at least that long to load this flash monstrosity. I once again extend my sympathy to Coral Gables residence, as they continue a search for one — just one — competent restaurant in their fair city.
Thursday November 2, 2006
In lieu of posting something real, a riddle: How many Cuban guys does it take to make a sandwich?
Tuesday October 31, 2006
Los Tres Amigos (here) will be familiar to anyone who frequents the area near the Jackson Memorial Hospital or the Allapattah grocery district (where I took a lot of these photos) has driven by it. Brook recommends the crap out of it, and we stopped by last week for beers and food.
In retrospect, some of those are actually Halloween decorations, but I’m sure the inside passes for perfectly overdecorated even on the worst of days. This is one shot, but really every nook and cranny is tricked out.
The eponymous Tres Amigos Enchilada. Two types of mole, three types of meat, beans, rice, queso cheese, and sliced radishes (wannabe Mexican gourmets take note!) — yum! Also note: two types of salsa, plus sliced jalapeños, plus beans served with the tortilla chips. Also note: Negra Modelo served in a salt-rimmed mug with a slice of lime (I was skeptical, but it works).
Brook swills one. Meanwhile, two guys by the door were super cool. They were blasting the jukebox (f’realz Mexican music with a little Reggae thrown in) and drinking beer, and occasionally taking cell phone calls and reaching behind the machine to turn it way down, then back up.
Also worth a visit: a little shop attached to the side of the restaurant. We have sombreros, candy, t-shirts (religious and soccer), clay jugs, hemp bags, keychains (religious and soccer), a shelf of hot sauces and salsas, pork rinds, toy torros, and chotckes that may or may not have been for sale. Worth it.
Monday October 30, 2006
You want Miami restaurant reviews blog-style? Check out Consumable Joy, dedicated to exactly that. Actually, the site gets into restaurants all over, but is based in Miami.
Wednesday October 25, 2006
Our litigious, intellectual property-obsessed, too-much-time-on-its-goddamned-hands society is running amok again. Our own local heroes, Dogma Grill (I will not link them in a house . . . you know the drill) has successfully sued another fancy hot-dog restaurant into submission.
We expect this crap from big stupid corporations, but a small local business? For shame. Oh, wait. But just you wait for the details: the name of the business, which would have caused confusion in the consumer’s minds? “Hot Dogma.” That’s right: the only similarity is the stupid pun. Turns out our local heroes p0wn that pun. More confusion: the offending restaurant is in Pittsburgh. I suppose Miami residents on vacation up there would have somehow associated the restaurants, and somehow . . . done harm to something, is what Dogma Grill, or rather it’s owner (a former MTV executive) was thinking. Good job, guys. Way to stick it to the man.
Pittsburgh residents are rightly pissed, but there’s not much they can do. But there’s something we can do, allright: get our hot dogs somewhere else. Anyone know a good place that serves fancy schmancy dogs?
Friday September 29, 2006
Sometimes a comment really hits home, and provokes a lot of reflection, as this one, suggesting “wow, alesh why don’t you tell us what you ate last night.” Not a bad idea, and so here pleased to be presenting: i eat food, my new blog. Updated probably maybe twice a week or so, and sporting a design which I consider to be an homage to Preshrunk, though with more red.
Wednesday September 27, 2006
Huh? Did someone say gentrification?
Tuesday September 19, 2006
First thing is, the Captain’s Tavern is easy to miss. It’s been around forever—more than 25 years, and that’s more than forever in the South Florida restaurant business. Even so, plenty of people who’ve lived here for years have never noticed what may be the area’s top fish restaurant, located at 9621 S Dixie Hwy in Kendall. Here’s why: You’re driving south on US 1, it’s dark or it’s raining, and you’re concentrating on the nuts passing on the right, or swerving on the left. You pass Dadeland on the right and cross Kendall Drive, you go under the 826 entrance ramp overpass, there’s Evening’s Delight (no, not what you’re thinking—they sell fancy fancy gas grills and hoods) and—whoops!—you’ve missed the turn. The Captain’s tavern is on the left, plunked at a funny angle in the middle of a large parking lot. Here’s a map. You may need it.
That large parking lot is a good thing. By the time you get there it’s almost full. The Captain’s Tavern is bigger than it looks, and it’s probably full too. You’ll have to put your name down on the list—no phone reservations accepted unless you have a really big group—and hang around in the crowded but well-stocked bar, or the tiny overcrowded waiting area, or even outside if it’s not too wet or too hot. Get there early—before 7:00, and you’ll probably waltz in. By 7:30 on a Friday or Saturday night, it’s a 30 minute wait. Get there around 8:30, and it’s often much longer. Hang on. It’s worth it. And if it’s not too late and you have half an hour or more, tell them you’re going for a walk (if you ask nicely they’ll hold your table if you miss your turn), then pop over to the original Kendall Bookshelf, still the best used book shop south of Miami Beach and only three doors northwards, and load up on paperbacks while you wait.
Eventually, you get a table. Be sure to notice the specials board on the way in—it won’t be visible from anywhere else, and it tells you which dozen or so fish are fresh today. If you’re very lucky, you might get seated near one of the colorful fish tanks; that will keep your eyes off the pretty tacky nautical decor, which looks likes it hasn’t been changed much since they opened.
The decor doesn’t matter. It’s a full room of happy people tucking into large portions of great food. They’re not the people who make the South Beach scene. They range from UM student young to grandparent slow; many are families with two or three generations round a big table. If you have little kids, hope especially hard for a fish tank—keeps them happy all night. There are probably more Anglos than Hispanics in the mix, but who can tell for sure given the general hubub. Not a see and be seen scene, just lots of happy people.
You’ll have to ask for the wine list. You must ask for the wine list.
For despite having probably the best priced wine list in town, they won’t give you a wine list unless you ask for one. Let me say it again: this is a great wine list. The Captain’s Tavern has probably a couple of hundred wines on its list, from good to very good (and maybe better – I haven’t tried the top end) all priced at about the same as you would pay if you bought it at Crown. None of this 200%-300% markup that infects the fancy places in Coral Gables or on the Beach. The Captain’s is making a different sort of statement. There isn’t much need to get past the first couple of pages, which list the bin ends and specials. There’s always something very nice for under $20, and if you are lucky there may be some fairly exotic choices at very reasonable prices.
Starters are a problem. There are so many good ones. There’s the Lobster Bisque, which is delicious although it’s not so refined as to threaten a Michelin chef. There’s also a great, but very peppery, Conch Chowder that is more unusual, and comes with a plastic thimblefull of sherry that you pour in and cuts the pepper very effectively. Or maybe the stuffed mushrooms. Or the huge plate of spicy Thai calamari salad. Or the super-fresh and generously portioned sushi.
Every dinner gets a little salad with a choice of dressings (I like the creamy garlic, the kids divide between oil & vinegar and blue cheese).
Then the main course. So often in Miami the main course is a
disappointment after the appetizers. That’s not true here. You can get any of the fresh fish of the day (you did check the board on the way in, right?) cooked how you wish: blackened, stuffed with crab, “island style”, grilled, fried, and I’ve probably left some out. Or you could try the crab cakes. Or a selection of large and slightly pricey oysters. Or maybe, topping the regular price chart in the high twenties (market price lobster might be more), one of the house specials such as the Cataplana Seafood, a large bowl of fish and seafood swimming in a tomato-based sauce. The Admiral’s Platter is great selection of grilled fish and steamed shellfish, with a good-sized piece of lobster, plus some scallops and shrimp. A hungry person could finish the Admiral’s Platter—I’ve managed it. Sometimes. You’d have to have amazing capacity to eat a whole Cataplana; it’s suitable for splitting between two diners, which the Captain’s Tavern will do for a small extra charge.
I’m told there are great deserts—especially the brownies, available until they run out, sometimes even on days when they’re not on the menu. I wouldn’t know. By that stage I’ve always been too full to even think of desert.
The Captain’s Tavern is a great place to go with friends. The staff are friendly, helpful, but don’t hover over you or rush you, and you walk out happy. By the time you add it up, it’s not a cheap date, but it’s a nice one.
Oh yes. They serve meat too. But who would be silly enough to order it?
Thursday September 7, 2006
Tuesday September 5, 2006
Sweet mother of God: hey, so how did you spend Labor day? If you live in Davie, maybe the answer is attending a mealworm eating contest. “Prezant, 37, even has recipes for bug dishes on his company’s website. He was selling tasty bug treats such as scorpion and cricket lollipops, ant candy, and salt-and-vinegar flavored crickets. But he had never eaten live bugs before, which proved to be his downfall against the mealworm-munching high school student.”
Monday August 21, 2006
In the total and complete heart of Little Havana sits Yambo, a 24-hour Nicaraguan joint that has to be seen to be believed. We ended up there around 4 am Sunday morning, after visits to Seven Seas and PS14. Like Le Tub, this is an establishment where the decor and the food fight fiercely to be the most unforgettable, surreal experience.
Stuff like this is everywhere, and though the inside seating was closed, I am given to understand that it makes the outside look somewhat half-assed and drab.
This is the awesome lady who took our order. I doubt Yambo has ever employed anyone who spoke more then a few words of English, but (even though I was under South American supervision) the food is ordered from a deli-style counter, possibly by just pointing, so non-Spanish speakers could probably do just fine here. Cash only, natch.
Carlos Rigau (AKA Kenneth Cohen) and Jeroen Nelemans (visiting from Chicago, where he’s working on a fine-arts masters degree at the Art Institute) model the crazy perimiter wall, lined with old-school concrete and mosaic patio tables and chairs.
A close up of the food. The French-toast-looking thing in the foreground is fried cheese. To the left of that is some blood/rice sausage. The egg-foo-young looking things are fried pastries filled with ground meat. Pretty much everything gets fried, and involves lots and lots of ground meat. It’s a good thing I don’t live across the street from this place.
1643 SW 1st St.
Thursday July 20, 2006
Le Tub, on A1A in Hollywood, is more Key West then Key West, a truly bizarre half-restaurant, half-maze which calls into question the sanity of the city’s code enforcement while laughing in the face of false indoor/outdoor dichotomies. Signs posted every few steps throughout the unairconditioned restaurant say “multi-level,” and they are not joking. The entire palace looks like it was built out of an old pier, and no single piece of floor goes more then a few feet without some steps in a random direction leading to another platform. Oh, and did I mention that the key decorating motif are painted toilets and bathtubs? Wow. (To get the most out of the surrealness, try arriving after dark and completely drunk and/or high.)
Now, on top of all that, Le Tub has recently had their hamburger declared the best hamburger in the country by GQ magazine. As a result, bozos from all over flock there. As a result of that, waiting times on the $10 burger ($10.50 with cheese) fluctuate from one to two and a half hours. No problem there, right? Dress lightly, and come prepared to drink a lot of beer. Bring cash, because they don’t take credit cards, and the jukebox is overpriced (but after a couple of those beers you won’t care).
Oh, right, the burger! Yes, it’s good. And yes, it’s worth the ten bucks. It’s gloriously huge, made with delicious sirloin, and served outdoor-stand style on a disposable plate. Fries are extra; get exactly one serving for up to four people – they’re amazing and the order is huge. We were in a hurry and had to rush after eating; for the more leisurely I suggest a stroll on the beach after your meal.
Tuesday July 11, 2006
Uniquely tropical, mangoes come in a multitude of varieties; a Bahamian woman I used to know told me about varieties of mangoes that are completely different from the fruit we think of; some that are small and soft, some that are green even when ripe, and a multitude of flavors (the wikipedia article lists 35 species). There’s the unbelievably fleshy texture. The intoxicating smell. The fact that the skin is poisonous. Mangoes are amazing, and they elicit a different type of affection then most other fruit. Most supermarkets only seem to sell the one “regular” variety, so maybe I should have checked out the mango festival, after all.
Thursday July 6, 2006
Sunday July 2, 2006
The Kiwanos are here!
Friday June 30, 2006
Down in Florida City, on the way to the Keys, Card Sound Road splits off from US-1, providing an alternate route for one leg of the trip. Card Sound Road takes a straight two-lane shot through some classic Florida brush. There’s very little to see, and the lack of any particular place for a speed trap makes the posted speed limit a moot point for many drivers. The Village of Card Sound Road is a couple of shacks and houseboats clustered around the one little curve in the road. At the very end there is a toll bridge ($1) which officially takes you to the first of the keys and begins the stretch back towards US-1. Just before the toll sits Alabama Jack’s.
Built on stilts over the water channel next to the road (you can see water between the slats of the floor) with no air conditioning, Alabama Jack’s is an airy place. The menu is all about seafood beer, and various types of fries: everything a grown boy needs. (Respectively, I’m going to recommend the crab cakes, Key West Sunset Ale, and sweet-potato fries.)
Hell yes: the Cardsound Machine Band plays country music (with the occasionally obligatory Jimmy Buffet tune thrown in) Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If you’re expecting The Gambler, you’ll not be disappointed. The hours are a bit funky: the band quits at 5 pm, and I believe the whole place shuts down an hour or two after that. Odd for an open-air place that you’d think could do good business with folks coming back from the Keys late on a Sunday night, but there it is.
Just past the restaurant, the grand gateway to Monroe County. See the bridge in the background?
We climbed to the top; this is an idea of what you’re way into the middle of. Pure Florida loveliness.
On the way back to the car, the restaurant was empty except for a few bikers, the band having long packed up and left. And so it goes. I think I would have liked Key West more in the old days, before air conditioning. There’s something about resigning yourself to being hot and sweaty all the time that beats darting in and out of air conditioned little buildings that seems to be right for that place. Almost every restaurant and bar on the island has AC now, so maybe Alabama Jack’s is more Key West then Key West?
Pie: the State of Florida legislative session is 60 days per year, which is too much fucking time.
Sunday June 18, 2006
Manola makes Paella. Let’s have more Miami cooking!
Friday June 16, 2006
Thursday June 1, 2006
The Coconut Guys: it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a more quintessentially Miami story. Oh, and I so want a coconut for a quarter right now. You have no idea.
Thursday May 11, 2006
My friends and I have been to China, and we can confirm that what you’ve heard about American Chinese restaurants is almost always true: the food they serve — indeed, the whole dining experience — is very different from the real thing. However, we (really them; I sort of just tag along) have discovered a couple of places that come close; today, a dim sum place (next to Lucky’s, actually) called Kon Chau. The menu is a single piece of paper with check boxes; you generally order about two items per person and everyone shares the whole lot. Part of the fun is that it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re getting from the english translations on the menu, which include “Pan fried turnip cake,” “Pork paste roll with oyster sauce,” and of course “Fish porridge.”
Four of us ate a veritable feast (which included three Tsing Tao’s) for something around $35. We had some duck soup, some fried dough shrimp thing or other, the aforementioned turnip cake (which is actually delicious), a plethora of various steamed dumplings, and a few other things, acompanied by wonderful green tea. We skipped the beef organ meat items (though I’m assured many of them are wonderful, too).
It may sound like a place for the gastronomically adventurous1, but considering that not eating one or two ordered items is no big deal, it really isn’t. Highly recommended.
Kon Chau Restaurant
8376 S.W. 40 St.
Miami, FL 33155
 Yeah, I said it: gastronomically adventurous.
Wednesday April 26, 2006
Ever since Maggie’s, I’ve been wanting to get down to Lucky’s (as everyone seems to call it). Tucked in a humdrum South Miami strip mall, it looks like nothing special from the outside.
Right by the entrance, a big refrigerator of Chinese bottled iced tea (this ain’t Arizona, kid), soft drinks, and beer. Refreshing.
A row of mysterious oriental snacks is obligatory. We bought some cola-flavored gum, black sessame seed crackers, and “cakes of green peas” (the later unopened so far).
On another asile, variety of freeze-dried and canned fish and seafood.
The promised land: a generous produce section. Everything looked fresh and delicious. Bought some bok choy.
Durian, the king of fruit.
Rootin’ for roots . . .
Quail eggs and, yes, “Coconut Jell.”
A wall of soy. There’s also a butcher (my photo was out of focus) with all the requisite squid and other stuff, and a section of oriental cookware and serving dishes.
By the entrance, another display of toys, trinkets, aromatherapy oils, a tennis-racket style mosquito killer, bonsai, swords, and doggie folding stools. Irresistible.
Lucky Oriental Mart
8356 SW 40 Street #D-I
Miami, FL 33155
Update: See also Maggie’s Oriental Mart.
Friday April 14, 2006
The South Beach Fry-It Diet. Ouch!
Thursday April 13, 2006
Ok, I’ll be honest – I stumbled onto this place, which is a couple of blocks from my apartment, semi-randomly, not even really knowing what tapas were. So yes, tapas are a Spanish dining thing: imagine ordering a bunch of scrumptious appetizers for your table instead of regular dinner and you’ve sort of got it. It’s all about sharing, trying new tastes, and a more relaxed, social approach to eating. You can see why it’s big in Miami, yes?
So anyway, Tapas y Tintos [but don’t click – you’ll only cause yourself unneeded Flash-loading stress] has a reputation (I find out subsequent) as the best tapas joint in the county, so it’s no surprise I was impressed. We ordered a “Popeye y Olivia” (garbanzo beans + spinich), a shrimp thing in olive oil with prodigious amounts of garlic-clove-halves, and a goat cheese with marinara sauce, a great bottle of wine (all the bread you can eat is part of the deal) and paid about $75, even after bumping the obligatory 15% tip up a bit. The garbanzo beans were eh, the shrimp was tasty, the goat cheese was an unexpected star, and the wine made everything drift by slowly and with a relaxed ease.
Now, we’d gotten there early, but by the time we left it was obvious what a scene this place is. Outside, the seats are comfy wicker, suitable for relaxing and Española people-watching. Inside, the atmosphere is more intense, and a lot of the seating seemed to be stool-style around a coffee-table type thing – maybe fun, but maybe also less comfortable. Apparently Tapas y Tintos has live music, and is semi-clubby on weekend nights, so this is obviously all part of the fun.
Friday March 3, 2006
Ever since Laurenzo’s, the hunt has been on for a perfect Chinese market. Maggie’s Oriental Mart, nestled between two Chinese restaurants across the street from 163 Street mall, is not bad, but not quite up to the challenge.
The usual suspects are in effect: numerous variations of clear and regular noodles, a thrilling selection of sauces in jars, cans, and bottles, exotic candy, and almost a whole aisle of single-serving ramen. Yum!
Dried fish. We ate something like this in China, and they were delicious. I’m actually sort of regretting not getting some of these.
Fermented beans, pickled vegetables.
Maggie’s looses serious points for the almost complete lack of a produce section. There was fresh garlic, ginger, and one other mystery item (all in bags, without english labels), everything else prepackaged. Bummer. There was, however, a massive selection of medicines on the shelf behind the front counter. A pharmacy? We had an experience with Chinese medicine on our trip, too, and this might be worth investigating further.
Maggie’s Oriental Groceries
1234 NE 163rd St.
North Miami Beach, FL 33162
Update: See also Lucky Oriental Mart.
Sunday April 17, 2005
We all love Tap-Tap. But there’s a nagging doubt about . . . well, its authenticity; it just seems a little too westernized. La Vraie Difference, in Little Haiti, leaves little room for such doubt. No menus; we were told that “Fish, spinach, and fish-kebabs,” were the choices of the day. We ordered the fish-kebabs, and (due to some glitch of communication,)
were served a suculent goat and cabbage stew, fried rice, and an entire plantain each. Tasty stuff, though (and vivid). Would have been even better if we’d though to order beer. A wall-mounted television played a video of a . . . actually, I’m not sure I can describe the video. Chad remarked, “I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life now.”
They do take-out, but believe me, that is not the way to go. Also, the guy at the next table had the fish, and it looked amazing.
La Vraie Difference
5912 NE 2nd Ave, Miami
305 758 1062