Monday, June 25, 2012

The Local

I came to The Local last year for a quick bite and some beers with my sister. We thought the place was pretty cool, enjoyed their food (had their burger/frita sandwich, fries, and cuban crackers), and indulged in their beers. The bartender was awesome and very genereous with tastings. You can read about that experience on my Yelp review

So I dragged my husband for date night since we were in a beer and bar food kinda mood. We started out with tastings, again, and decided on a Palm and Reissdorf. Both were ice cold on tap and served in their respective glasses, which is a detail I always appreciate.

Remembering them quite fondly, I ordered the truffle and parmesan fries yet again. They were a little greasier than I remebered but still crispy, thick, and smothered in cheese, scallions and plenty of truffle. These are the best truffle fries I think I've ever had, hands down.

Following that act - the jar of beef jerky. This. Was. Amazing. The beef was very flavorful - tasted very sweet and sour like it was made with Hoisin sauce or some other Asian flavoring. This was my favorite thing all night.

Next up - the fried brie. Don't get excited, it wasnt' amazing, which is a shame because how can brie be anything but. But yes, it's possible. This was their play on mozarella sticks, but with panko, and very, very deep fried. The brie's natural creaminess made it extra greasy, goopy and sloppy to eat. I felt this was a bit sacrilegious and a complete disservice to the brie, but whatevs. It would've been nicer if the brie was a bit firmer and one could dip it into the berry sauce drizzled on the plate.

Next up - mussels with pork belly. I don't know why but this didn't do it for me. It was bland. I need some kick to my mussels. The pork belly was yummy and added a nice fatty touch to the dish. I typically enjoy dipping my bread in the broth but again, the broth was bland.

Lastly - their bread pudding, which I also didn't like. It was super greasy - almost as if they soaked the bread in butter vs. custard. I took 2 obligatory bites and threw in the towel. The flavor was OK, but the greasiness is something I cannot forgive or look past.

Husband was also not a fan, he mentioned something abut having the grease sweats or a coronary obstruction after having this meal. I will be back because I do beleive they have potential and this may have been an off night.

The Local Craft Food & Drink
150 Giralda Ave
Coral Gables, FL 33134
(305) 648-5687

Tropical Chinese

The moral of this story is don't judge a book by it's cover. This little gem is located in an unglamourous strip mall on Bird Road and the unsexy slums of whatever this place is. Step inside to find a tastefully decorated, dimly lit little place with a full bar, an elegant wine cellar and incredibly friendly staff.

Never in my wildest most judgmental dreams would I have thought this place was this cute inside. And the open kitchen? Never have my paranoid eyes seen that in a Chinese establishment (in the back)

We had several items from their famous dim sum menu: steamed pork buns (didn't love, but OK), crispy shrimp ball (fire!), steamed shumai and a kickass wonton soup.

Steamed Shumai

Wonton Sou

Crispy Shrimp Balls
Steamed Pork Buns

We ordered the Peking Duck and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

This dish rocked my world. After Igot over the sight of a duck necropsy table side - a pretty graphic and unappetizing sight - I focused on the assembly of little "pancakes" with crispy duck skin and scallions, with the tangy sauce for dipping, being put together. This was the highlight of my meal. The duck skin was so tasty, so crispy, with the perfect amount of fat. Yum.

The rest of the duck was taken back for proper and private dismemberment (thank God) and brought back stir fried with veggies which was tasty but not as magical as the pancakes.

Steaming hot

I hear the day for dim sum is Sunday so we plan to go back for just dim sum. Hopefully the pancakes are on the menu. This is a nice place for a quiet evening with your lover or a big feast with the fam. Dress it up or dress it down, the place is casual but you won't feel overdressed if you've dolled up for a hot date.

Tropical Chinese
7991 SW 40th St
Miami, FL 33155
(305) 262-1552

Cibo Wine Bar

After looking through several menus we decided on this place for Gables Restaurant Week. I called ahead a spoke to the hostess who confirmed both lunch and dinner menus were being served at that time. Score!

The place is gorgeous inside. Old Chicago brick, rustic wood tables, an opulent floor to ceiling wine cellar, dim lighting all surrounding a full bar with TV's. Very cozy and a great spot for a date, girls night, or a large group in one of their backrooms. They also offer outside seating which wouldve been lovely if it wasn't sweltering and steamy as a foreign prison on Locked Up Abroad.
We sat in a large comfy booth and looked over both Gables Week and the regular menu. We ordered ice cold draft UFO's and decided to go with the CGRW menu. Once I tried to order, the waiter said they weren't serving dinner. I told him I called ahead and confirmed and he said no, and continued to argue with me as I made good points to which he kept arguing and arguing - silly man. He then sent the sweet teenage hostess girl to reiterate what he said to which I responded "I talked to you and you said so so and so" she then apologized and 2 seconds later, our savior, the lovely and hospitable Mauricio came with 2 beers on the house and a desire to problem solve which lead to my victory in ordering what I wanted. Mauricio went back and forth between the front and the kitchen and returned with an explanation and an apology... Super nice guy. Score again!

We ordered polenta fries with gorgonzola dipping sauce and pasta e faggiole soup. From the CGRW menu we started w/ the shrimp diavola and prosciutto and arugula salad. The polenta fries were amazing! Crispy outside, soft inside, with the tangibles of the Gorgonzola it was a perfect combo.

 The soup was Ok, my husband liked it, I found it too hearty and creamy.

The shrimp was good - each piece was thick & meaty. The spiciness was a nice contrast to the natural sweetness of the shrimp.

The salad was awesome. The arugula was plentiful, fresh, crisp, and dressed in light olive oil. The prosciutto was thin and lean. The cheese shaved on top was also very good.... I wish it had more cheese & prosciutto.

For our main course we ordered the chianti braised short ribs and the lobster ravioli. The short ribs came on top of a bed of perfect polenta (these people know their polenta) and topped with thin, crispy fried onions. The beef was tender, juicy and full of flavor.

The ravioli was terrible - way, way too salty, and the filling tasted like someone had a field day with lemon zest. It was inedible but we didn't send it back since I was already feisty to start.

For dessert we had the cannoli and the chocolate baci bomb. The cannoli was perfection - 4 small, crispy little cannolis, filled with sweet rich cream and a berry syrup that added a perfect little kick. I inhaled 2.

The baci bomb was just that - the bomb! A big, beautiful ball of rich chocolate on a top of a delicately crispy hazelnut crust sitting on a drizzle of rich caramel sauce. That thing is amazing. Get it. Don't think about it twice.

Besides the ravioli and the confusion (and the argumentative waiter) this meal was one of the best ones we've had in a while.
I must add a special note and give credit where it is due. Mauricio, our server, went above and beyond to make sure we got what we wanted. I wanted to leave due to fear I would get nastiness in return but Mauricio was incredibly hospitable, polite and accommodating. He made our dining experience an absolute pleasure and when we come back we will ask for him again.

Cibo Wine Bar
45 Miracle Mile
Coral Gables, FL 33134
(305) 442-4925

Burger King Summer BBQ Menu

Home sick from work and not feeling so fantastic. I am watching TV with one eye open and the BK commercial with the sweet potato fries and Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich catch my eye. No less that 5 minutes later I am in the BK drive-thru, PJ's and all, excited and hoping this impulsive fat food adventure make me feel a little bit better.

I ordered just what I saw on the telly, along with a Cinnabon because, why not? If I'm going to be a piggy I am going to go all out. (The portion of fries looks skimpy b/c I couldn't resist the whole 2 block drive back to my house. And I caught a red light...)

The Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich was ridic! Bun was warm, soft, fresh. Pork was tender, saucy and tangy. There was another sauce on there that tasted like a honey mustard of sorts... I didn't care for it and will opt out next time. Yes, there will be a next time. This exceeded my (incredibly low) expectations for a fast food joint sandwich.

The fries were perfection. Pure crispy perfection. Seriously, some of the best sweet potato fries ever, and I know my sweet potato fries.

The Cinnabon was smushed and ugly, so I didn't bother to snap a pic. But I did devour it in about 2 bites, so it was pretty good. A little stale, but not too terrible.

Check out the menu below.

Also on the new summer menu but not on this flyer is their Bacon Sundae, which has a lot to live up to in this girl's book after coming face to face with the ultimate bacon sundae during my trip to NOLA. Nice job BK! Way to live on the edge. You got me to break one of my rules (no fast food joints!) and actually enjoy it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Federal: Brews & Bellies Event

I fell head over heels in love with The Federal on my first visit. As we closed on that amazing meal the stars of the beer loving universe aligned and I was handed a menu for an event just 5 days later. What? Brews & Bellies? I was sold.

An old pal and fellow beer wench joined me on this adventure. Again, I broke my healthy eating during the week rule but I am all about breaking rules lately... I even have a small muffin top as proof. FML. Anyways, here goes the story of our yummy escapade.

For $45 per person, you get a this four course meal with beer pairings.

We started off with a complimentary sample of their new house beer, The Federale, which was awesome. Very fruity and refreshing... my friend said "this is a breakfast beer," which as boozy as that sounds, was all true. First course was the Potted Wabbit, which is a a jar of rabbit accompanied by whipped brie, candied guava and crusty bread. We also went ahead and ordered the Jar O Duck, which I had on my last visit and my friend also loves. Unbeknownst to us, the duck and rabbit are presented the same way. Did we care? Heck no! It was awesome. The rabbit was delicious, I don't think I have ever had rabbit, and it was nice surprise. The whipped brie was rich as brie should be, and the candied guava was outrageously delicious. It was like tiny chunks of candy, but rich in guava flavor. We massacred both dishes without shame.
Jar O' Duck
Potted Wabbit

This course came with Cigar City Table Saison & Tequesta Brewery Gnarley Barley Pale Ale. Both beers were yummy. If memory serves me correctly, we preferred the Cigar City over the Barley Ale.

Next up, the Crispy Beefy Bits. I was a little apprehensive about this dish since I am not a fan of mondongo and these beefy bits are made of tripe. Yikes. However, what they say is true, anything fried tastes amazing and these little bits of fried beef were pretty damn delicious. The kinda looked like Fritos, but tasted much more sophisticated. This dish came with "Miami's Own" Gravity Brewery Dubble Trouble, which was dark and handsome and all sorts of yummy.

Following that was a dish that made The Flintstones' theme song play in my head over and over like a broken record. The Smoked Pork Shank with black eyed pead and crispy sweet plantains was probable the best dish of the night. The meat was super, duper, uber tender. It just fell off the bone as soon as you touched it. It was seasoned so well... you can tell this beast was cooking for hours. The salad was fresh and added a touch of earthiness to this cornivorous wet dream. It was paired with Ligero Brown Lager and Vanilla Maduro Brown Ale, which we were told was used to braise the meat. The Vanilla Maduro was awesome. Sweet and caramely, loved it. 

And to seal the deal - Triple Chocolate Bread Pudding... a red velvet bread pudding with peanut butter sauce and charred marshmallow fluff. This thing was seriously good. The folks at The Federal do not f*ck around when it comes to their desserts. Amazing. It was paired with a "Miami's Own" Gravity Brewery Black Sapote Dubble Trouble which didn't get a photo and I can't even remember because the bread pudding stole all the well deserved thunder.

I love this place. If it wasn't so far I would be here weekly. Next up will be their brunch. I cannot wait for another foodie adventure at The Federal.

Taste Of The Gables 2012

Hooray for another food festival. Along with one of my dearest friends, another serious food festival lover and fellow fat girl inside, we decided to live dangerously on a school night and attend kickoff event for Coral Gables Restaurant Week 2012. The event was held at the lovely Westin Colonnade in the heart of The City Beautiful. Much like other events I attended, this event had a competition going - guests were to place a card given to us at the entrance to vote for their favorites. Needless to say, the competition was fierce (for the most part.).

The event was well organized and there was plenty of food to go around. The drinks - not so much. Our ticket only granted us one free drink, which was pretty lame, but then again it was a school night so we kept it responsible. My friend was lucky enough to have a generous pour of Cab into her plastic Bacardi cup (classy, huh?) while my server must have known I am prone to migraines and did me a favor.

Quite the generous pouring

The layout was beautiful - food stations of some of Coral Gables' yummiest restaurants circled the large venue and the fountain in the middle.

The big screen in the picture was scrolling live tweets from foodie bloggers and other Tweeps in attendance, here's a shot of my tweet.

 I will guide you through our indulgence via pics, since my friend was an exceptionally good assistant and quite tolerant of my incessant photographic documentation.

Anacapri's Pumpkin Tortellini in Pink Sauce was a great way to start the indulgence. The pasta was fresh, the filling was fluffy and tasty. I had 2 servings. OK, 3. Whatever.

Pardo's Cilantro Rice & Rotisserie Chicken were also very good. We had this same dish at Coral Gables Food Fest in 2011 and remembered it fondly. The Cilantro Rice is super flavorful, the unmistakeable taste of cilantro is powerful and refreshing. The little side of ceviche was also very good - Peruvians know their ceviche! It was fresh & tangy.

Talavera's Shrimp Ceviche Tostada was amazing. The shrimp was plump and sweet, and the guac it sat on was fire. The tostada was perfectly crispy. I also had more than one serving of this dish because it was that good.

Holy. Moses. Fleming's Sliced Filet Mignon. I don't think words can do justice to this amazing dish. This meat was so tender, now I know why people say "it was like butter" when describing steak. Well, this was like butter! It melted in your mouth. The sauce was tangy and went perfectly with the perfectly cooked beef. The gentle charring on the outside added a nice texture to the softness of this dish.

John Martin's Sheppard's Pie was meaty, the mashed potatoes were yummy. But quite frankly I took one bite and called it quits. It was nice to try it, but it's not something I want to eat while prancing around a food festival. This is more like something I want to eat when in need of comfort food.

BGR's Wellington Sliders with Sweet Potatoes were yum. The cheese and onion topping on the slider were on point. The bun was really good. Soft but not mushy. And the beef was cooked perfectly and seasoned just as nicely. I am adding this place to list of bookmarks on Yelp.

The Local Craft Food & Drink's Kobe Beef Carpaccio with Ginger Scallion Vinagrette got my vote for best dish of the night. Everything about this dish rocked my senses. The beef was tender, the vinagrette was out of control, and the cilantro on top just enhanced everything on the dish. 

Randazzo's Little Italy's Meat Lasagna was good. Not the best lasagna on the planet but it wasn't terrible either. I would've preferred their original plan, Meatballs & Mozzarella Bites. And white out. Or a new sign. That scribble scrabble is just. not. happening.

If there was an award for biggest dissapointment of the night, Ruth's Chris Beef Sliders would take the cake. If you're a product of the Miami-Dade County Public School system like I am, you will remember the cafeteria hamburgers we all enjoyed through our 12 years of fine schooling. Well, if you're ever in the mood to travel down memory lane, here's your chance. These things were awful. In fact, they were inedible. The "beef" was gray, tasteless (unless you like the taste of thawed out frost-bite on your food) and just gross. Ruth's Chris - I was expecting the juiciest, most decadent piece of burger meat ever. But no, you served us something that looked like an Old Navy chancleta on top of a bun. Shame. Shame, shame, shame on you!

Cibo's Chianti Braised Short Ribs on top of Gorgonzola Polenta with Crispy Onions were out of control. In fact, I went back to Cibo the following week for a full serving of this dish. The combo was awesome - tender beef, crispy onions, smooth & creamy polenta. A marriage of all things wonderful.

I took 2 bites of Angelique's Cochon du Lait and that's all I have to say. Dry. Very dry.

Gables Aragon Cuisine's Aztec Mangu was interesting but lacked something in the seasoning. My Puerto Rican companion compared it to her homeland's mofongo, and she was right, no comparison.

Caffe Vialetto's Pear Ravioli got my friend's vote and almost made me regret giving my vote to The Local. Almost. This was the perfect last savory bite of the evening. Homemade pasta housed a sweet and savory concoction of pears and cheese, drenched in more cheesy creamy sauce. This dish was the bomb. My friend gave them her vote.

Lastly, to end the night, we indulged in Mini Indulgences from the portion controlling geniuses at Seasons 52. As usual, their little desserts were amazing and hit the spot perfectly.

In true foodie diva, innner fatty status we jumped at the opportunity to look both goofy and fabulous at the photobooth. You can't tell from the pic but we were stuffed and definitely rocking some muffin tops under our clothes.