Thursday, July 19, 2012

Le Boudoir

The moral of this sad story is that I need to learn to read my Groupons. With that said, this will be brief as the experience was not tres magnifique but it wasn't a total merde either. I purchased a deal through Groupon so we decided to venture out for lunch on a rainy Sunday.

Le Boudoir is a cute little French spot on Miracle Mile. The place is adorable - pinks and blacks and really beautiful tall French doors. It really did remind me of my very brief stay in Paris last year. They offer an extensive menu offering French specialities as well as other not so Frenchy items for those picky eaters.

I started with the French Onion Soup. Oh mon Dieu! This soup was out of control. Super duper cheesy, super tasty, onions were perfect, broth was rich... drool. An incredible way to start off our meal. Really and truly the best FOS I've ever had.  

Next up - escargot and brie. Ugh. Sounded so nice on paper but once I saw this I knew I made a mistake in not ordering it in buttery garlic sauce instead. The brie did nothing for this dish. The escargot itself wasn't very flavorful. Best part of this dish, a massive ball of sandy dirt in one of my snails. It was so bad I had to excuse myself to the ladies' room to spit it out and rinse my mouth out several times. I let our waitress know. She seemed to care. No, she didn't.

We ordered a Quiche Lorraine. INice sized portion, very fluffy and cheesy with chunks of bacon. This came served with a salad with no pizzaz.

Husband ordered Mahi-Mahi Grille with fennel salad and avocado. The fish was uber salty. He barely touched it.

I ordered a Croque Madame which came with fries. Fries were not amazing. Sandwich was bland. Oh boy.

Lastly we ordered macaroons because they are supposed to be amazing here. Thankfully, they were quite yummy.

Husband also wanted to try their tiramisu. It was stale like cardboard so back it went. The nice man now taking care of us said "they just got it today." And I'm sure they did, from the depths of freezer hell.

As we waited for what seemed like forever for our check, the careless waitress finally stopped by with it. I handed her my phone with my Groupon and she informed me that my voucher was for dinner only. Yep, it sure was. When I asked for the manager in an attempt to talk my way out of this one, he cheerfully turned down my request and suggested I come back for dinner. I told him I didn't think I would be coming back and voiced my complaints. When I mentioned the sandy snails incident he looked as if he had bit into one of them himself. Apparently the careless waitress failed to mention this minute detail. He was very accomodating and made several adjustments to our check resulting in a generous discount for our less than stellar meal. He handed us our new bill with a sincere apology and made me want to give them another shot. I will be returing to Le Boudoir and hope to give them a better review next time.

Le Boudoir - Coral Gables
169 Miracle Mile
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
T: 305.442.0801

Michy's: #grapes luncheon

Don't ask me why or how, but I (well, my blog) was invited to attend a media luncheon at Michy's Restaurant, owned by the incredibly talented and charming, celebrity chef, Michelle Bernstein's. If you're one of the very few people who live under a rock and are asking yourselves who this person is (I forgive you), Michelle Bernstein is a Miami based chef and TV personality. Chef Bernstein has appeared on shows such as Chopped, The Next Food Network Star, and Top Chef. Also, set your DVR's and check her out as the host of our very own Check Please: South Florida.

Hosted by the California Table Grape Commission as they promote California table grapes as "The Original Super Snack," our luncheon consisted of a grape-based menu developed and presented by Michelle Bernstein herself. This event was geared towards foodie bloggers, which was awesome as we were all able to mingle with eachother and chat about the one thing we all love: damn good food. I met fun new people, such as Caroline of Smarty Pants Mama & Lynn of Web City Girls and was able to get to know my Twitter bud and fellow foodie Maria The Foodaholic. And of course, spend time some QT with my sis, The Fit Cook herself.

The Fat Girl Inside & The Foodaholic

Foodie Sisters
Photo by Anthony Jordon, Jr.

Michy's is a intimate, tiny little place amidst the madness that is Biscayne Boulevard. I went to Michy's last year for Miami Spice and loved their food. The "shabby-chic" decor and large open counter/bar area give it a homely feel, almost as if you're at Michelle Bernstein's house for a ladies' lunch.

Photo by Anthony Jordon, Jr. 

I arrived a few minutes late (thank you FHP) so I did not have the opportunity to take a picture with Chef Bernstein. Upon arrival I was handed a fresh and fruity beverage, a mojito of sorts, which was cool and refreshing.

Photo by Anthony Jordon, Jr.
The last of the hors d'oeuvres were being passed around and we were fortunate enough to enjoy them before we sat for our meal.
Watemelon Greek Salad was tangy and refreshing - I normally don't eat fresh fruits but I stuck the whole thing in my mouth without thinking about it twice. I love the combo of the feta, watermelon and whatever herbs were in this mix. It was very light but very flavorful.

Watermelon Greek Salad
Photo by Anthony Jordon, Jr.

The pork tendeloin on toast we delish. The meat itself was juicy and well seasoned, the sauce (a berry sauce?) was sweet and went well with the greens.

Next up - Jamon Serrano Burrata. I love Jamon Serrano, and cheese, and everything else that was on this spoon was meant to be there and it all made beatiful, perfect sense.

Picture stolen from Maria - Adventures of the Foodaholic

After being summoned to our chairs we received a warm welcome from a lady representing California Table Grape Commission. This very informative woman educated us hungry bloggy people on the difference betwen table grapes and wine grapes, which answered my boozy fat girl's confusion as to why there was no wine being served at this event. Informative lady then introduced Chef Bernstein who was so charming and so funny yet incredibly informative when talking about table grapes and their versatility.

Per Chef Bernstein, grapes go with anything. She talked about how to incorporate grapes into meals and snacks, which I will officially start doing come tomorrow's dinner. She also talked about her own experiences cooking with grapes, and even shared a story about her first dish with grapes which was a sea bass in grape sauce she cooked at Tantra. She then went on to explain how she no longer uses sea bass as it is not sustainable. Talented and environmentally responsible, this woman is a gem. Chef Bernstein went on to discuss the menu... here we go!

First Course: White Gazpacho, grapes, cucumbers, jerez and olive oil. This dish was interesting. I can never get used to gazpacho and it's cool temp.

No matter how hard I try to train my brain that gazpacho is cold, my tastebuds always expect warmth and confusion. This gazpacho was very rich. The crunchiness of the cucumber and the bread along with the acidity of the grape cut the richness of this dish. The presentation was lovely - we were handed a bowl of grapes, bread and cucumbers and the cream was poured in. Lovely.

Photo by Anthony Jordon, Jr.

Second Course: Pancetta wrapped snapper braised with red and green grapes, pressed juice, roast fennel puree.

This dish was amazing. The fish was cooked beautifully - it was flaky and flavorful, the pancetta was savory and hearty and really enhanced the grapes, which were warm and cooked so that they were a bit mushy inside. The fennel puree was very earthy and added another layer of  rich flavor to the dish.

Third Course: Peanut Butter panna cotta, dark grape gelee, jus and dried crispies.

In pure inner fat girl fashion,  almost fell out of my chair when I heard peanut butter was included in this package. I love PB! This PB was unlke anything I've ever had - seriously, PB panna cotta? To die. I forgot to mention the PB was ground on site.The dark grape gelee, made by Chef Bernstein, was firm and sweet. And the crispies - oh the crispies! - also made by Chef Bernstein in what she claims is the little kid inside of her - added the perfect crunch to this dish.

As we closed on the meal, the nice lady from the California Table Grape Commission raffled off the beautiful centerpieces. Luckily all the Hispanic women kept their composure and refrained from a Hialeah banquet hall brawl over these beautiful monsters. It is evident this nice lady is not from 'round these parts, Centerpieces and Latinas don't mix. As we exited we were handed a very nice media kit including a very cool cookbook, a flashdrive, and more info on table grapes.

It was a great time to say the least. Beautiful setting, nice crowd and of course, ridiculously good food. I hate to admit that up until that day I had never had a grape - not even on New Year's Eve as part of our extensive NYE rituals. I was a little apprehensive sitting for a grape-based meal due to my fresh fruit aversion, however, I was blown away by the versatility of the grape.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

El Gran Inka - Brickell

Mom invited my sis and I for dinner since her Groupon was about to expire. In my efforts to keep my fat girl inside I try to keep it healthy during the week so I accepted the invite since ceviche is carb free & figure friendly.

El Gran Inka is a posh little spot right on Brickell Avenue. It has modern decor, sexy lighting, and friendly staff.

We started off with the Mixed Seafood Ceviche. This fresh and citrusy dish came paired with the traditional fixings - giant kernels of corn and soft sweet potato slices. The fish was fresh, the ocotpus was plump and sweet, and the calamary was thick and chewy. It was a smaller serving than we anticipated but then again things always seem smaller when shared by 3 hungry beasts.

Next up - the Shrimp and Calamari skillet. When I saw it coming I got a bit freaked out since it reminded me of the sizzling fajita mess from Chili's. My post traumatic stress was relieved when I saw the beautiful shrimp and calamari rings tossed in fresh peppers, onions and cilantro.

 We then ordered the Tenderloin Grank Inka. I didn't care much for the meat. It wasn't very tasty. The pasta underneath, however, was quite yummy. The sauce - a traditional Peruvian sauce made of basil, cilatro and other aromatics - was extremely flavorful. This dish also had small chunks of white cheese which didn't do much for the dish but didn't ruin it either. They looked like an afterthought and I wasn't very impressed.

This dish was so bland I don't remember the name. I do remember the teeny weenie scallops on a skewer were cold inside. Pretty, but not yummy.

Thankfully dessert was amazing. We ordered the Suspiro Limeno which was out of control. My attempt to keep it healthy during the week failed miserably when I put what was supposed to be "just a bite" in my mouth. The creaminess and tanginess and overpowering sweetness of this dish made it sinfully delicious. The merengue on top was so fluffy and sweet.

I don't remember the name of this dish but I do remember it fondly. Picture an arroz con leche croquette in a bed of sweet berry sauce drizzled in dulce de leche... yep. That's it. I love fried sweet stuff. I am envisioning all of my favorite Hispanic desserts fried and I think I may have the next million dollar idea. And the next great contribution to the obesity crisis in the US.

I wasn't thrilled with the heavier dishes in this meal but I am not ruling out El Gran Inka completely. I would definitely return for their ceviche and the desserts. The place was a tad pricy (it's Brickell, people) and you can get better quality food for a better price at any mom & pop Peruvian place in your area.

El Gran Inka - Brickell (check site for their other locations.)
947 Brickell Avenue
Miami, FL 33131
(786) 220-7930

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Eating House

I try to stay chronological with my reviews to keep myself organized; however, since Eating House will be closing it's doors (temporarily until they find a new home) on July 31st I feel compelled to share this review STAT to encourage others to go go go! I am ashamed to admit it took me until last night to check the place out. Shameful! I kept hearing amazing things about it but somehow forgot about it when trying to pick a place to eat a meal over the past 5 months. Inexcusable.

Every once in a while I have the privilege of having a meal filled with "a-ha!" moments. However, it is incredibly rare to have nothing but "a-ha!" moments. Something is always off - the service, the food, the coffee, the temperature of the room, the noise, something. This meal was nothing but "a-ha!" moments from start to finish. It was almost surreal. This trulywas the perfect meal.

Eating House is a pop-up restaurant located inside the Cafe Ponce spot. What's a pop-up, you say? Well, a pop-up restaurant is a restaurant concept taking over the facilites of another restaurant spot during non-business hours. For example, Cafe Ponce runs an Argentinian bakery for breakfast and lunch. Eating House takes over the place in the evening and for Sunday brunch. Wiki says they "are an ideal way to gain exposure of young professionals' skills in the field of hospitality in order to get investors and attention to open a restaurant or another culinary concept." Genius! Speaking of exposure, the chef/owner/mastermind, Giogio Rapicavoli, was a winner on Food Network's Chopped in January 2012.

The place is teeny-tiny and has a cuban cafeteria kinda feel to it. Do not let the appearance fool you - once the daily menu (changes daily) and bowl of popcorn hits your table and you notice the very cool graffiti art hanging on the walls you know you won't be getting stale, day-old croquetas or pan con bistek. No sir, not here.

They offer a sweet selection of craft beers. I asked our server (Julia, who was AMAZING!) for a recommendation based on what I typically drink and she really knew her stuff. We started with Blue Point Toasted Lager and Shipyard Summer Ale. Both were new beers for both of us and we really liked them. The Toasted Lager had a nice kick after a sip.I later had a Woody Creek White Flying Dog, which was also awesome. What wasn't so awesome was me spilling it when the waffles came. At the sight of the waffles I clapped like a retarded seal in excitement and hit the bottle. Luckily I only spilled a small puddle on the floor (whoops!)

Julia stated portions are bigger than tapas and meant to be shared, so we went for the Crispy Brussel Sprouts, Fried Chicken Thighs, Pasta Carbonara & Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast.

My dearly beloved loves brussel sprouts. I hate them. I think they are ugly and taste like fart. However, I was not about to turn these down since I am becoming more adventurous these days. These little green monsters were presented beautifully with a perfect fried egg on top. I popped one in my mouth and marveled at the amazingness upon me. Holy crap. They were really, really, really good! They still had their funky taste but the texture, caramelized outside and combo with the egg yolk and korean BBQ sauce made me forget their flatulent nature and dig in. "You're eating brussel sprouts..." my husand said. Yep. And they were really damn good.

Fried Chicken Thighs were all that and more. The chicken was tender, meaty, tasty, and fried beautifully. The perfect amount of batter and golden crisp without the reminder that you're eating something so dangerous. Dangerous I said? No... add the sweetest candied bacon to fluffy buttermilk waffles and hot-sauce ranch with maple syrup and that's real danger. So dangerous I spilled my beer.
This dish was ridiculous. The picture is horrible and does it no justice. I am going to have to go back for another pic.

Following that amazingness was the Maple Leaf Farm Duck Breast which came along with whipped sweet potato, crispy kale and georgia peaches. The meat was super tender and super juicy. Duck is such a fabulous meat. The flavor is so different in such an awesome way. I also enjoyed the crispy kale. Kale is so simple yet so delicious. The texture adds a really slight texture to the softness of the duck and peaches. This dish was a really nice surprise for a new duck lover like myself.

Next - hello, pasta carbonara! Where have you been all my life? This. Is. The. Bomb. This dish was fantastic. Really. Applewood bacon, black truffle, double egg yolk and parm. You know how people say something is "flavorgasmic" or "my mouth had an orgasm.?" Well, I think I had my first real mouthgasm and this pasta popped my cherry. The minute I put this is my mouth there was a physical reaction - my tounge started going into spams, no joke. I don't remember reading there was truffle in it, so that was a complete surprise for me. The truffle was strong and played very well with thick chunks of bacon and the egg yolk just brought everything together. The noodles, cooked perfectly, were the perfect vessel for the masterpiece that is this combo of strong flavors. Simply amazing.

For dessert we went for "breakfast"& "smores". Both desserts were awesome. The Breakfast consists of Reese's puffs mousse, whole milk panna cotta, housemade coffee salts topped with candied pieces of Reese's Puffs. I love peanut butter so this was awesome for me. The Mouse was super light but still flavorful, the panna cotta had a perfect texture. The candied Reese's were really yummy and added a nice crunchiness to everything.

The "smores" is a sinful combor of hearty and rich dark chocolate brownie, charred housemade marshmallow fluff, graham cracker mousse & sea salt caramel. Yum. The brownie was plenty and really fudgy, just how I like it. The mouse and marshmallow were sweet and smooth and the caramel added a nice salty touch. Madness, pure madness.

Not photographed but worthy of a mention is their cappuccino. It was out of control as well.

As I said before, this meal was truly the perfect meal. Do yourself a serious favor and go to Eating House. NOW!

Eating House (at Cafe Ponce)
804 Ponce de Leon Blvd

Coral Gables, FL 33134
(305) 448-6524