Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Brunch @ Route 9

I've been here before for both brunch and lunch. Lunch didn't really do it for me but brunch was incredible. When Voice Daily Deals posted their $25 for $50 deal I jumped on it like a stripper on a pole.

The place is really cute - clean and modern with a cozy feel. They have a couch in the back in front of big screen TV which is nice if you're on a solo mission and just want to have a quiet meal while catching up on CNN. Service is OK - our waitress was a bit neglectful this time (we've had her before and she was on top of her game) but apologized due to the sudden brunch rush so we decided to forgive her.
Their brunch menu is awesome - small, but lots of of variety. We started with the breakfast pastry basket which we remembered fondly. Their basket comes with an assortment of baked goodies but always includes their bacon and maple sticky bun. If there was one thing and one thing alone that. Keeps this place at the top of my list it's this little guy. Sweet buttery phyllo dough rolled in chunks of bacon and sweet maple syrup. The basket also came with a blueberry muffin and two cookies made of coconut of macadamias... I think. Truth is nothing matters when compared with the sticky bun.

I ordered their black bean, egg and chorizo taco, which I've had before and it's so damn good it's worth a repeat. This dish is awesome - the chorizo is spicy, beans add a cooling component to the spice and the yolks on the sunny side up eggs just make everything come together. The house potatoes on the side were quite yum also.

My hubs ordered the smoked salmon scrambled eggs with the green onion pancake. I was also eyeing this on the menu and was glad he ordered it so I could steal some. This dish was something surprisingly special and incredibly delicious. I would never think of putting pungent seafood with eggs but there's something about smoked salmon and it's link to brunch that gave it a hall pass into this dish. The salmon and the cream cheese melting into the pancake was a great combo. The pancake itself was fluffy and mild in flavor which let the salmon and the fresh green onion garnish shine. This was a winner.

We needed something sweet after all the savory goodness so after much deliberation - banana walnut pancakes lost the battle - we went for the brioche French touch with baked apples and spiced whipped cream. Great choice! The brioche was moist but not saturated, the batter was spicy and rich. The whipped cream had a nice hint of something to it - whatever it was it was awesome. The apples were tender and sweet. This just rocked, period.

Despite the mediocre service on this visit this place remains a top choice for brunch in my book.

1915 Ponce De Leon
Coral Gables, FL 33134
(305) 569-9009

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Key Largo Fisheries - the return!

I've been here before and reviewed it on Yelp, however, today I took lots of pics with my new cam and just want to share them. We took a nice drive down with the in-laws to celebrate my MIL's birthday. As expected, we ordered like gluttons and ate every last morsel. This place didn't disappoint. Everything was fresh, delicious, and spot on. Once again, the wait was crazy, but the ocean breeze and the cold beers made the wait bearable, enjoyable even. This is the perfect little hideaway to disconnect from the insanity that is Miami and appreciate the beauty that is the Florida Keys. Yes, you're just sitting at a picnic table in a marina, but the scenery is nice. The drive alone is relaxing - really makes you appreciate that we get to live where people vacation.

Smoked Fish Dip
Stone Crab Chowder - awesome.

Lobster Sliders

Conch Fritters

All Aboard Appetizer - dolphin fingers, conch fritters, coconut shrimp

Coconut Shrimp

Fried Combo Basket - shrimp, dolphin fingers, and clam strips. Fries were awesome too.

Blackened Hog Sandwich

Tropical Shrimp Salad

Key Lime Pie... I ate an entire slice by myself. Shameful.

In addition to the outside dining area, this place also has a little shop indoors. In here you can find anything from fresh seafood, to frozen items including their amazing key lime pie, to seasonings, etc.

Yelp's Jet Set Fete Event

One of the best parts of being a member of the Yelp Elite Squad is the opportunity to attend exclusive parties and events revolving around my 2 favorite activites: eating and drinking. As part of the Elite Squad, we get access to fun happy hours, beer tastings and such through the year - just for Yelping our little hearts out with enthusiasm and committment to Yelp's mission. Yelp throws a few small gatherings here and there, however, a couple of times a year they throw a massive bash like the one I attended this past week, Yelp's Jet Set Fete Event.

The event was held at the lovely National Hotel, a very art deco-ish property in the heart of Miami Beach. The event was held in a small room in the lobby (possibly a meeting room) and spilled into the outside terrace, the cabanas alongside the pool and finally taking over the entire outdoor area. The theme was Mad Men-ish, which made for some interesting attire, mostly very cute and tasteful. Hats off to Monica, our amazing community manager, who looked fab in her 60's pinup meets stewardess getup.

Picture stolen from Yelp

We enjoyed brews courtesy of Sam Adams & Cupcake Vineyards and bites from several local spots. Here's a quick run down of some of our favorites:

Yummy meatballs, spanakopita and baklava from Taverna Opa

Phenomenal fondue - The Cheese Course

Photo op w/ the sweet and talented Chef Adrianne Calvo and her yummy tamalito

ooey gooey creamy mac n' cheese w/ bacon from Melt

Salumeria 104's ham - paper thin and so delicious

Yummy meatball from Bin 18

Graziano's grilling it up

Graziano's empanada, chorizo, potato salad and steak

Sweetness Bakery's yummy treats

My new favorite ice cream - Todo Frio's Guava Cheesecake. Best guava ice cream ever!

As I mentioned, plenty of Sam Adams brews to go around. I stuck with the Blackberry Witbier and Cherry Wheat. Both were awesome. The Blackberry reminded me of my favorite, Abita's Purple Haze. It has a sweet & subtle berry undertone that was very refreshing. The Cherry was a bit strong, kind of reminded me of Cherry Coke. Not my favorite but a fun beer to try. I also tried Cupcake Vineyard's Red Velvet, which was sweet and smooth.

Double fisting - Cherry Wheat and Blackberry Witbier

The party was a hit - great music by DJ's rocking pilot costumes, burlesque performances, nice crowd, live art work, blowdrys and makeovers, etc... Thank you Yelp for another amazing evening!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Grind: Miami's Burger Battle - a HOT MESS!

One massive warehouse, 30 indoor grills, poor ventilation, broken AC, and masses of hungry & angry Miamians = big problems! But, before I get to that, let me give credit where credit is due. The idea behind this event is pretty damn genius and truly a fat girl's dream. 30 South Florida restaurants line the perimeter of the massive Miami Entertainment Complex offering unlimited portions of juicy, delicious, creative burgers while Blue Moon and Miami Club Rum drinks flow endlessly to wash down your burger binge. Because endless burgers and beer isn't enough, several local dessert companies - from ice cream to homemade jams - also offer endless servings of sinfully sweet concoctions to add some sweetness to the indulgence.

We were lucky enough to have received VIP tickets from my awesome mom (thanks Mom!) as an anniversary gift. We made it to the venue at 6:15pm, VIP's were granted entry an hour before General Admission, so that was a big perk as we didn't have to make any lines to get food or beer. Again, yay Mom!
Mom & Sis
with my sis,

That's how we roll...

 As we walked up we saw the smoke and the overwhelming stench hit us like a pimp slap. We decided to go with the flow and figured we would weather the storm if the burgers were good and the beer was cold. We received a plate and a wooden chip to cast our vote for our favorite burger at the end of the night for the "Fan Favorite" portion of the event. Let the gluttony begin...
Still looking fresh as I step into the meat sauna...
Meat sauna
Straight to the hydration - Blue Moon's Belgian White

We were a bit overwhelmed by the amount of restaurants in the place, so we came up with a game plan: no chain restaurants, no burgers we've had before and if it's not amazing after 2 bites, it's not worth the calories or stomach space. Done deal!

First stop...

Latin House Burger & Taco Bar, Miami
30/30/40 Brisket Chuck, Sirloin blend with aged Cheddar, Swiss, Applewood smoked maple glazed bacon, grilled onions, mushrooms, butter lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, Hass avocado, avocado lime, crema Mexicana, mango Habanero sauce.

This burger was so good we broke one of the rules and didn't share. They were that good - the meat was juicy and flavorful, the maple glazed bacon was out of control, and the rest of the ingredients just played nice with eachother making for an amazing first bite at the event. In all my food truck following escapades I have never had a bite from this place, which is bizarre since they are one of the original trucks in Miami.  I can't wait for their restaurant to open up.

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Seriously good

Next up -
Bernie’s L.A. CafĂ©, Miami Beach
100% Certified Black Angus ground beef, caramelized onions, grilled sliced Chorizo, potato sticks, chopped lettuce w/garlic & cumin aioli, all served on grilled Challah buns.

I've never heard of this place. Their burger was really, really good. The chorizo gave it a nice kick, the garlic and cumin aioli was also a nice spunky surprise, and the Challah bun - how can you go wrong?

Next up - one of my favorites...
Giraffas, North Miami
Lean nuggets of ground sirloin seasoned Brazilian style, grilled, and served with Chipotle sauce, egg, bacon, ham, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and super delicious Gouda cheese. SIDE: Quinoa Salad.

If there's one thing I like on my burger it's a nice fried egg. Their egg was perfect because it wasnt' runny and get all over my clothes (I'm a mess) but still soft.  The bacon, Chipotle sauce and delicous Gouda made a good flavor combo. The quinoa salad was outstanding - had a very unique taste and complimented the burger well.

Flip Burger Bar, North Miami
10 oz chef's choice of freshly ground steak, topped with pepper jack cheese, homemade chipotle bbq sauce, homemade onion strings, and fresh jalapeno peppers. SIDE: Homemade Mac & Cheese.

This was also very good - nice and spicy but not harmful. The onion strings were my favorite. The mac and cheese was the perfect creamy side dish to alleviate the heat from the burger.

Another one of my favorites -
Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard, Kendall
Short rib burger topped with cippolini, onion and goat cheese. SIDE: Maximum Flavor Potatoes

Chef Adrianne hit this one out of the park - what a better way to stand out, way out, in a burger competition than by having one foot out of the mat and serving short rib vs. ground chuck. This burger rocked - period. The cippolini onions, the goat cheese - wow. The way it melted amongst everything just made it bind together beautifully. And last but not least, the potatoes. Are you kidding me? They were sweet and savory and all sorts of decadent in their own way. Loved!

Fritaman, Miami
Pork, Chorizo, Angus Ground Beef with a steak onion ring and julienne fries on it and topped with Roundhouse Kick zesty sauce.

Great stuff. The meat was flavorful and the crispy julienne fries added some serious texture and great crunch.

8 Oz. Burger Bar, Miami Beach
PETE ROSE (Head First Slider)
3oz beef blend, organic arugula, tomato confit, 'slow' onions, Beecher's flagship, Benton's bacon, black sesame mayo on toasted Challah.

This burger did nothing for me... despite all it's fancy schmancy components I found it very bland and lackluster. This was my "one bite burger"... Husband agreed. But they had a nice setup at their table.

Burger & Beer Joint, Brickell
  Short rib burger with red onion marmalade, goat cheese, and Duroc pork belly bacon on a brioche bun. SIDE: Duck Fat Fries

Another broken rule: chain restaurant, but how could I resist duck fat fries and their red onion marmalade? Another winner in my book - loved the red onion marmalade with the goat cheese and bacon. Killer combination. The duck fat fries were awesome! Greasy, but tasty.

Charm City Burger Company, Deerfield Beach
3 oz slider with bacon infused cheddar, onion bacon jam, confit, tomato, and baconaisse. SIDE: Pork belly tater tots with piquillo pepper.

By this time we were suffering from anoxia and were pretty much inhaling food while trying to gasp for air. I didn't care for the pork belly tater tots as I found them fatty but dry at the same time. The burger itself was pretty and if I recall correctly it was OK. Nothing memorable.

Shake Shack, Miami Beach
Our signature all-natural, hormone and anti-biotic free, fresh-ground Angus hamburger topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and ShackSauce on a buttered, toasted bun.

It takes alot for such a simple dish to stand out so profusely against such colorful competition. This burger was amazing! Perfect meat, perfect bread, perfect cheese. Everything tasted fresh. The meat was super flavorful but not with strong seasinings but with a very pure meaty flavor. Good bun too. This place was also serving cold lemonade, which was a nice antithesis to the hell we were standing in. They got our coins for the Fan Favorite Vote.

They got our votes - and WON!

The Local Craft Food & Drink, Coral Gables
Kobe beef slider, Gruyere cheese, fried egg, caramelized onions, and demi- glace.

Again, I am sucker for egg on a burger. This was mighty delicious - you cant ever go wrong with Kobe, Gruyere, or fried eggs - so put them all together and its a dream team.

The Office, Delray
A custom "OFFICE" blend of prime brisket and chuck beef served on a toasted brioche bun topped with tomato-onion confit, Nueske's bacon, Gruyere cheese, Maytag blue cheese, baby organic arugula, and our secret "OFFICE" sauce! SIDE: Loaded “Grown Up Tater Tots”

There is no picture of this burger because it was brutally inhaled before being photographed and by this time my mind wasn't working right due to smoke inhalation. I know I liked the combo of Gruyere and blue cheese along with the arugula and bacon. Great choice.

Brews - Enjoyed Blue Moons through the night. Fell in love with the Pale Ale, haven't had it before.

Even though we were dying and our eyes were burning with tears by this point, my inner fat girl would rather die in this incinerator than leave without having something sweet.
Fireman Derek's World-Famous Pies - delish! I had all 3. Flan was my favorite. The caramel at the bottom was such a nice surprise. The key lime pie was also good - very tart and sweet, great flavor, good crust. The peanut butter chocolate was also good but a little heavy.

Peanut Butter Chocolate, Flan (top) & Key Lime Pie

Sweet & Tipsy - cute concept and logo, but cupcakes weren't anything phenomenal. I couldn't taste the booze, but again, by this time it was just a marathon to taste stuff and maybe my inability to breathe didn't let my tastebuds work. The Dulce Diosa was good, loved the frosting with the drizzle of dulce de leche. The Irish Hug was a bit dry and didn't ring my bell.

Mandarin Gourmet Donuts - These little things were just pure heartbreak. I've had my eye on Mandarin Gourment Donuts for a while and have been meaning to make the drive south to check them out. Trying these little guys made me realize I haven't been missing much. They were stale and very dry. Guava is on the left, flan on the right. The glaze was great on both but the cake was super stale, flaky almost. Not good.

Azucar Ice Cream Company - Truly a great last bite of the night. Cream cheese, guava, and Galleta Maria ice cream. Delicious. Cold and creamy and you can taste all 3 classic latin flavors in every bite. This place is definitely in our must-do's real soon.

Melting from the heat, but still very yummy!

So here's the bad news... turns out grilling inside isn't a great idea. I guess that's why everyone does that whole BBQing thing outdoors. This event would've been a hit if they would've just done things the way things are supposed to be done. Grilling is not an indoor sport, it never was and unless you're a restaurant with the Cadillac of ventilation systems, it never will be. As much as I tried to ignore the inferno around me, the burning in my eyes, and the sweat dripping down every inch of my body, by the 5th or 6th burger I can honestly say I was scarfing things down just to get a taste and get the eff out of there as quickly as possible before the crowd grew and things got worse. It is incredibly unpleasant to mix up your burger grease napkin with the napkin you're dabbing beads of sweats off your face with. 

Sweating bullets, but still chowing down... my mom is the original bottomless pit

By 7:30pm, we were making our way to the car sniffing our clothes and cursing like hell. Turns out the Fire Marshall shut the place down at 8:00pm (media reported 9:00pm but I go by the people's word) which really sucks for those folks who don't have cool mom or ran on Cuban time. I was pissed because I wan't able to try several things and truly wasn't able to enjoy my food due to the smoke and heat. My biggest regrets:

Georgie’s Alibi, Wilton Manors
Jack Daniels salted caramel milk shake with bacon bits

Burger Bar by Chef Allen, Fort Lauderdale
Ground brisket blend beef topped with crispy, braised Korobuta pork belly, spiced mango chutney, citrus aioli, baby arugula and Manchego cheese.

Chow Down Grill, Miami Beach
Half lb burger topped with shaved smoked pork, cucumber, cilantro onions, pate aioli and pickled radishes, all in a house made bao burger bun, with dashi ketchup.

Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach
Burger with all dat' saucemelt, white cheddar and Blue Moon foam, dusted applewood bacon powder, on a toasted bun. SIDE: Honey Mustard Chips

Burger inferno

I checked Twitter and Facebook through the night to find people complaining like mad and demanding a refund. People were (and still are) pissed! The event's director offered an apology stating the AC broke and blah blah blah... but people aren't having it because the reality is this was a fantastic idea with poor execution and terrible planning. I wonder why the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's annual Burger Bash is held outdoors.... just sayin'. Luckily I was able to contact the fabulous people at Living Social who graciously offered to refund the money for the tickets. Score!

I hope The Grind gets the stuff together and makes a comeback next year. Hopefully the director spoke truth in his apology and they truly learned from their mistakes.