A Taste & A Cause

I have always kept a place in my heart for philanthropy. Evidently food holds a piece of my heart as well, thus when I was informed of a way to combine both passions, I jumped on the opportunity.

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Loews Miami Beach

 

Taste of the Nation is a yearly event, where restaurants and food shops join forces to raise money, to feed hungry children. Chefs Allen Susser and Timon Balloo, led the South Florida portion, hosted at the Loews Miami Beach hotel.  Well-known restaurants in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, showcased items from their menu and guests were able to taste, for a flat rate entry fee, all in support of the cause. General admission was priced at $125; however, I obtained a discounted ticket from Gilt City Miami at $75. Go Gilt!

 

The event was well organized and the venue was ideal. Loews offered a large banquet room where over 50 restaurants were set up in a circular format around the room, with a few islands at the center, primarily with drinks and desserts. There was also a stage at the front of the room, with live music, and space for speakers as well.  J’avais l’embarras du choix!  With so many tasty treats to sample, and a glass of wine in hand, constantly being refilled, I felt as if I needed an assistant or a second pair of hands to help juggle it all. But no complaints, being overwhelmed by fine foods is a good problem to have.

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Onli Soda

 

A memorable drink stand was Madeira, showcasing Sangria and Moscato, served with fruits. I found the Moscato evidently sweet, but not overpowering, and perfect for a girl’s night in.  In addition, I fell in love with the fruit sodas from Onli, particularly the pomegranate & strawberry. The drinks are light and Onli also offers the option of unsweetened flavors. I also enjoyed the Sancol Prosecco from 7 Import & Export. It was easy on the palate, but not too airy, yet affordable enough for casual day drinking.

 

I will begin with some of my favorite dishes.  I must first warn you that with so many flavors, my descriptions may be short, which only reinforces how much I enjoyed the event and supported the cause. Also, my stomach did not allow me to visit all stands, but again, it was a pleasure.

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Northern Thai Sausage
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Pork Shoulder & Buttermilk Biscuit

 

The 50 Eggs Inc. stand, showcased Yardbird and Swine, Southern cuisine, as well as Khong River House with a focus on Northern Thai cuisine. I sampled a spicy Northern Thai sausage topped with housemade crispy pork skin. The sausage was oh so juicy and the pork skin was like a chip with pork flavor. It was not overly fattening and despite the amount I ate that evening, it will forever be remembered.  Meanwhile, Yardbird presented a country fried pork shoulder, over a buttermilk biscuit, with picked red onions served on the side. The shoulder was perfectly toasted and the biscuit, as one of the best in South Florida. Yardbird has successfully presented quality Southern food and portrayed it as fine dining, as it deserves; something unaccomplished in Miami in the past.

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Grilled Cheese

 

In reference to comfort foods, the Daily Melt stand was a pleasant surprise. I tasted a grilled cheese sandwich, with truffle oil, butter, provolone and cheddar, accompanied by a slice of pickle. It was grilled cheese done right! Now I know how to satiate my melted cheese cravings.

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Cavatelli

 

On the truffle note, Dolce Italian dressed a creamy parmesan cavatelli with truffle shavings. The dish was also accompanied by asparagus and the portion was surprisingly large, provided the setting. Again, no complaints. I finished the plate and made a note to visit the restaurant soon. As simple as it may have been, the pasta was fresh, comforting and creamy to the perfect extent.

 

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Poached Shrimp

 

My next stand was Little Palm Island from the Keys. They served a poached shrimp with boniato mash, sweet corn salad and a roasted red onion vinaigrette. I cleared the plate quickly, especially as it was served warm. The potatoes were very smooth and the sweet corn effectively balanced the dish. It definitely encouraged a trip to the Keys.

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Bacon Marmalade Crostini

 

Oak Tavern made me love bacon again! The bacon marmalade crostini, with hints of rogue blue, immediately woke up my taste buds. It was juicy, yet sweet and salty. This is where bar food and fine dining join forces!

 

On a lighter note, sushi lovers rejoice! Zuma served a seared salmon shashimi with caviar, which blew my socks off. The salmon was outrageously smooth and naturally sweet if I dare say.

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Shrimp Ceviche

 

Speaking of sweet, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar offered shrimp ceviche with a pineapple coconut sauce, yielding to a refreshing and sweet kick. It was the perfect transition to dessert.

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Chocolate Cheesecake

 

Susie’s Scrumptious Sweets was one of my favorites stands in general, not particularly in the dessert category. They artistically crafted a key lime cheesecake and a chocolate cheesecake in mini popsicles. The chocolate was decadent, but the key lime was sublime. The surrounding icing complimented it very well and the filling’s acidity was perfectly achieved, as key lime pie often runs the risk of an overly sour taste. I was pleased. Susie’s also showcased a larger red velvet cake popsicle; however, it was not as moist as the cheesecakes.

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Key Lime Cheesecake (White) & Red Velvet Cake (Orange)

 

Although I enjoyed all visited stands, some items were less favorable. The Federal shared crawfish and grits with corn. The grits were very creamy, but unfortunately, the corn overpowered the dish and the presentation took away from the fine dining experience.

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Veal Ravioli

 

Bianca at Delano, offered veal ravioli, artfully plated for the event and sprinkled with breadcrumbs. Despite the presentation, the sauce was highly acidic, which reduced the dish’s enjoyment.

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Meatball & Crostini

 

In addition, The Palate Party served Angus beef meatballs with whipped ricotta, picked garlic and a crostini.  I find that the dish was not fit for transport, thus the meat and crostini’s texture were negatively affected. In short, it was mushy, and the sauce was quite mild.

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Guest Stealing A Treat

 

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the event quite a bit and only left due to the limited capacity of my belly. I was proud to be apart of a soiree, raising money to feed the hungry, while satisfying my palate and curiosity alike. I applaud ALL participants for their efforts and generosity and look forward to next year’s Taste of the Nation South Florida. In the meantime, I will be planning visits to some of the aforementioned restaurants.

 

Kris

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Decadent & Unpretentious

Dining and drinking lavishly in the evening is expected. Doing so in broad daylight is borderline delinquent, and that much more pleasurable. I had the luxury to experience a decadent lunch with a friend at The Foxy Brown in Fort Lauderdale, which set the stage for the rest of my week.

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Patio

I was drawn in at the sound of half priced wine bottles. We made our way to the Broward Boulevard niche, and called so because one is not quite sure of the purpose of the locale, with a drive by. Although the title was clearly stated and the restaurant sat on a highly trafficked road, it did not scream fine dining at first glance. There was also a sign on the sidewalk, reminding passer byes that it was open for lunch or dinner, but again, the facade was perplexing. In any case, upon arrival, we chose to sit outdoors, in a patio adorned with plants, yet facing the parking lot. The humble décor and intimate setting were fitting for lunch, but lacked personality. There was ample opportunity to liven the ambiance in an individual manner. However, the interior softened the look, by playing with oranges and browns, providing warmth. Overall, the décor emitted comfort and simplicity, which translated to the menu.

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Mussels

The choices were not extensive, but I wanted to order almost every item. We began with the mussels, cooked in a garlic curry sauce, topped with sautéed spinach and served with fresh garlic bread. Again the simplicity shined through, but as did the succulence. The garlic was used with rage, yet the flavor came through subtly. The sauce was not described on the menu, therefore it was a pleasant surprise, as I anticipated a traditional tomato broth. If it had been served with a spoon, we would have turned the sauce into a soup. Woops!

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Med. Dry Riesling

In the meantime, we had the opportunity to order a bottle of Riesling to share, at an unreasonably low price. The wine list in total was not extensive either, and the choices listed were not to please a connoisseur. I am no acclaimed sommelier, but most diners would find a wine to appropriately pair their meal with. Again, the beauty lied in its modesty.

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Lump Crab Cakes

Pour la piece de resistance, we shared the lump crab cakes with a five grain mustard sauce, and served with more sautéed spinach. The cakes were generous in size, in quality, and in decadence. The breadcrumbs were minimal, yet the cakes held together nicely. In addition, the buttery sauce further softened them, and rose the bar for lunches served everywhere in South Florida. Such a velvety dish typically emerges after sundown, but the boldness was much appreciated. As for the spinach, it was dressed with salt and pepper mostly, and lightly sautéed. Frankly, I was unimpressed by the side dish, but in a world of such rich foods, it felt right to eat my vegetables.

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Mac & Cheese

Speaking of richness, we also ordered a side of mac & cheese. It was baked and served in the baking dish, while toped with breadcrumbs. The yellow cheddar was distributed evenly and the use of elbow macaroni was appropriate. I had hoped for a white cheddar dish instead, but the mac & cheese complimented the crab cakes perfectly. The combination of these creamy dishes emphasized The Foxy Brown’s role as a comfort food kitchen, and at that, they had succeeded. I was comforted, if you will.

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White Chocolate Bread Pudding

To end things on a good note, dessert was a must. Our server recommended the white chocolate bread pudding, served warm. I am normally not a fanatic of bread pudding due to the texture, but to my surprise, this pudding was firm enough, yet tender enough. It was also topped with vanilla bean ice cream, caramel and crunchy pecans. The ice cream’s grade needed improvement; however the dessert as a whole was a perfect ending to our comfort meal. The white chocolate did not overpower, and the contrast in temperatures stressed the opulence. Lying on a hammock, following our meal, would have made it ideal!

In reference to endings, the check was absurdly low and the service had been delightfully attentive, which may serve as encouragement in becoming a regular patron. After the experience, I was able to connect the dots, in terms of the restaurant’s image. Perhaps the unassuming facade was deliberate, as were the color scheme and simplistic menu. Perhaps the unpretentious atmosphere was apart of the adventure, as were the balance in rich and healthy items. Definitely. Our meal had been so enjoyable that it came close to some of life’s dearest pleasures. It had brought joy to our hearts and a perpetual smile to our lips. It transformed our notion of lunch, emotionally and gastronomically.

Cocktail Library 

Cocktail Library

In college, many of us headed to the library, at times not only to study, but to do our work around a certain group of people, perhaps meet new ones during coffee breaks.  We go for the ambiance. Well, imagine a library strictly reserved for those coffee break moments, while replacing coffee with cocktails. That place is The Corner.

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The Corner is a neighborhood bar in downtown Miami, and a gem if I may. So much so, that it deserves an issue of its own, dedicated to one cocktail.  Although The Corner does serve an assortment of salads, sandwiches and snacks, the bar in particular, deserves homage. Despite its small size, every corner of the location is crafted with care. The bar back resembles a library out of Harry Potter, especially due to the sliding ladder. Not to fear, the books have all been exchanged for liquor. The staff also uses fresh fruits and herbs to amplify their original drinks. A small kitchen hides on the left, sitting across from a communal bar with stools, where guests can savor snacks and drinks of course; while the walls are adorned with original cloth wallpaper with a blue tint. Despite the dark look, the dimming lights definitely set a welcoming scene, and the live band adds to it. To clarify, the band only played for a short period. The Corner is a place where you can have a true conversation, with bartenders, friends and strangers alike. The pretension goes out the window, in spite of its location at the core of Miami. Speaking of windows, a small frame hides behind the bar, to easily serve guests sitting outdoors. It is so convenient and laid back, that I felt as if my heels did not belong.

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The crowd mixes various age groups effortlessly, along with different styles: trendy, hipster, fratty etc… But most guests have one thing in common: they came to have a good time without the bullshit. I was surprised by how comfortable I felt with strangers. For those who know me personally, I typically speak to strangers on the regular, but at a bar, one must be a little more careful, no? At The Corner, that wall breaks down, not only for me, but for most. In short, gentlemen of Miami, go meet girls there! They should not give you a hard time.

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Now let us discuss taste and service. The bartenders are bartenders in the true sense of the word. They understand flavors and know their product well. They make thoughtful recommendations based on your preferences, from the extensive beer list to the colorful cocktail menu.  They do not stir up a concoction and add a leaf to it, asking you to choke it down. Rather, they slowly mix ingredients with love, strain any pulp from the fruit, taste each glass they produce, before handing it to you with a smile. This much love in each cup does take a little time, so your patience is appreciated, but you will not be disappointed. Be sure to ask for Desiree; she was not only talented but also pleasant.

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Cham- Wow

Cham- Wow! That was the drink of the hour. It is a mixture of fresh raspberries, citrus, Ketel One and sparkling wine, served in a flute. Again, anyone can mix these ingredients, but remember, the care used at The Corner makes the difference. Watching the preparation is half the fun. The freshness and passion are evident. What blew me away, was that the bartender would triple strain and double taste, until the drink was perfect. Of course, she did so in a sanitary manner. But treating the cocktail so well, turned the bartender into a chef, which is why I was inspired. I enjoyed it so, that I was compelled to order another, but at each occasion, I did not remember to photograph it, before bringing it to my lips. I am sorry but the anticipation was killing me. However, I am sure you will have an idea of the Cham- Wow from the photo provided.

From a cost perspective, the drinks were reasonably priced, considering the taste and care, but I would have paid more if they had asked, in light of my satisfaction. Again, the downside is the wait time required before enjoying each drink; but as I converted the bartender, consider that we wait for gourmet foods, why not also wait a bit for gourmet drinks?

Kris

Obsession

Obsession

I constantly look forward to my next meal. As mentioned in my introductory article, my goal is to share the reasons behind my obsession and perhaps turn you over to the dark side, if you will. Michy’s is one of these reasons.

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I had heard quite a few positive reviews on the North Miami restaurant, but I decided to experience it for myself, in order to share a candid opinion. I was blown away! The executive chef, Michelle Bernstein, uses inspirations from South America and France, to craft original and amazingly satisfying dishes. Speaking of originality, the décor deserves the utmost respect. The chairs take you back to the 1950’s, using flowered cushions, adorned in plastic. Further, the soft chandeliers add to the elegance of the locale, signaling a cross with 1920’s design, which encourages guests to dress up for dinner. The ceiling pulls the look together. The textured royal blue reflects on the similarly colored floors, transforming the restaurant into an outer world location. Whereas the intimacy, makes you feel as if you were one of the few to grab a ticket to this escape.

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Our journey began with the fresh oysters. Michy’s offers the choice of Atlantic or Pacific oysters, with the possibility to combine them if you so desire. They are served on the half shell with daily mignonette, cocktail sauce and horseradish. The shellfish were so fresh, that it felt as if it were my first time enjoying oysters. The horseradish immediately woke up my taste buds, and I was ready for more. We followed with the ceviche, livened with lime and avocado, with tortilla chips to add to the fun.  The company at my table was lovely, but the food had grabbed my attention once and for all.

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Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Lamb Meatballs

I ordered the goat cheese gnocchi with lamb meatballs and I am certain it was placed on the menu for my sole enjoyment. I have a soft spot for all three ingredients; however, all three can easily be unsuccessful due to quality and freshness.  The gnocchi was evidently fresh, yet tender and oozing with potato, rather than boiled dough as I have had in the past. Perhaps its cylinder shape attributed to it, but either way I was impressed. Second, the harissa tomato sauce brought just enough spice, acidity and sweetness, to do it justice. Now meatballs are quite difficult to master. I often say that they are more of an “at-home” dish. The lamb reduced the traditional toughness beef brings along, and elevated its flavor. Of course the harissa sauce again complimented them. The dish was also topped with Greek cucumber yogurt, which softened the cheese and balanced the tomatoes.  In short, I was in heaven and had difficulty sharing it with my guests.

Typically I more than taste my guests’ meals, but due to my connection with my dish, I refrained from overindulging in theirs. I must say however, that the steak frites were simple yet well made. The steak melted in my mouth, but again I rushed backed to the gnocchi, paired with my glass of Pinot Noir. Needless to say, I cleared the plate, as you can see below.

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Even if I did not have room for desert, I had to make it, considering that Michy’s had passed the first two courses with flying colors. I opted for the deep fried peach pie. I was a bit skeptical with the peach, but they had me at deep fried! The sealed, fried, fruity piece of goodness, sat in apple cider caramel and topped with vanilla ice cream. As simple and traditional as this desert may sound, it does not compare to any old apple pie. It was incrusted with sugar and fried to the perfect level of crispiness. Again, I had trouble sharing. I did however, dabble into the baked Alaska. It consisted of pistachio cake, topped with dulce de leche ice cream and covered in an Italian meringue. So decadent! The quality of their ice cream very much contributed to the deserts’ success, due to the balance in sweetness and creaminess. All in the all, the meal was exquisite.

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Deep Fried Peach Pie

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Baked Alaska

As I am known for my honest opinion, it may come to a surprise that my review was overwhelmingly positive. I must then admit that I also tasted the nutella cake, which I found a bit dry; however, that did not take away from my pleasant experience. Michy’s is where to take your taste buds out for a ride, your eyes out for a remake in history,  and your friends and family (or date) out to be apart of the experience. As it is an experience, you may need to open up your wallet a little wider, but not too wide. In any case, it is one worth every penny. Michy’s reminded me of the reason behind my love for food, and my inspiration for writing. It reminded me of  the reason behind my obsession.

Garden Party

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Girls love brunch! Or so they say. My girlfriends and I certainly do, but last Sunday, we decided to take a detour from our usual spot to celebrate a birthday. The Eater Miami recently put together a list of top brunch places in Miami, with The Morgan Restaurant in Wynwood at the top of the list, due to their French toast @eatermiami.  Thus we decided to give it a whirl and took a drive down the artistic district.

To our surprise, we realized that we had already visited the restaurant separately, without taking note of the name, but it was a pleasant surprise. The setting, although small, was delightful. The majority of their seats are located outdoors, on a terrace, as well as in a garden below the main deck. Indoor seating is also available, but we found the exterior to be the most charming. We requested the garden and were fortunate to sit in a covered area as it was a sunny Miami day out. The location was dressed in tropical trees and plants from the parking lot to the garden, and the clientele outfitted in shorts and sunglasses, which reinforced the comfortable Miami vibe and called for brunch cocktails of course.

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Bellini

Naturally, we ordered a pitcher of bellini. Morgan’s offers a different take on the classic drink, by using peach syrup, rather than peach juice, which makes all the difference. The syrup emits the peach flavors clearly, without overwhelming the champagne or prosecco. In consequence, this change encourages a higher quality of bubbles , which avoids headaches after a couple pitchers (mysteriously) make their way to our table. Thus do girls love brunch, or do they love brunch cocktails?

Since we came for a meal, we began with the beet tacos, to start brunch off on a whimsical note, or perhaps we already had. The beets were dressed with goat cheese, cabbage, mayonnaise, cilantro and barbecue sauce, served on double layered, whole grain, soft shell tacos. It reminded me of a take on the Russian/Olivier salad, with an emphasis on the beets. The cheese was virtually nonexistent, and the tacos’ texture did not compliment the beets off very well, maybe due to the thickness of the shell. The drinks had left us famished thus we finished our appetizers, although without a smile.

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Traditional French Toast at Morgan’s

While the French toasts made their way from the kitchen to our table, we nearly salivated due to the excitement, and our hunger. We ordered the mascarpone and raspberry stuffed French toasts.  Morgan’s uses brioche, which heightens the quality and thickness of the dish. The stuffed toasts were folded in half, to capture the filling appropriately. Although syrup was offered once asked, the stuffed French toasts came off a bit dry. Perhaps it required more filling and certainly more mascarpone. The traditional French toasts were served with a scoop of cinnamon butter, which we saw on other tables, but a scoop of mascarpone on the stuffed toasts would have softened the dish quite a bit. Using brioche leads to the possibility of dry or overly moist French toasts and sadly, the battle was not won at Morgan’s.

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Freshly Baked Cookies

Our dishes were not what we had hoped for; however, the cocktails, the setting and the (spectacular) service were responsible for our pleasant experience. Our server also provided complimentary, freshly baked cookies, and I dug into the chocolate chocolate chip quickly. The freshness was evident and I appreciated the moist consistency, provided our earlier incident. Additional cookies are available by the dozen and are baked to order. I have to admit, it was a nice touch. The prices were also very reasonable at $14 for the stuffed French toasts, but the bellini was priceless. Morgan’s serves lunch and dinner as well, and perhaps we need another visit before casting our ballot.

To revisit my comment on girls’ preferences, I believe I noticed nearly as many guys as I did ladies at brunch. Therefore, the saying may need to be corrected…

Best,

Kris

Again, please feel free to leave your comments below. Also, going forward, I will share more photographs to make your experience more palpable.

Cool and Fresh

 

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Soya e Pomodoro: Italian for soy and tomato. I am not sure if I am necessarily a fan of the combination but am certainly a fanatic of the restaurant in Downtown Miami.  While apartment hunting, I was introduced to the location to enjoy just a cup of coffee. I may not have found a place to live, but found something much better. What a gem! Thus I planned to return for dinner, just days later.

 

I must discuss the décor first and foremost. The restaurant consists of two small rooms, one adjacent to the kitchen with a more casual feel. There are also two miniscule tables on the sidewalk where you may enjoy coffee or something light. I fell in love. It brought memories of Caribbean backyards, particularly due to the open layout and the nonmatching chairs throughout the restaurant. I felt at home. The next room is a cross between a church, an old library, and a corridor between two buildings in Italy. Football  (soccer) jerseys and lingerie are left hanging to dry on a line above us. How charming! The lighting, or lack thereof, adds to the romance and would be ideal for a date. Due to the hidden location and original style, you would score major points! I felt as if I had discovered a secret venue where only the cool foodies hang out. Artistic pictures of the staff adorn the walls, which I found ironic once I recognized the characters. They are accompanied by atypical cartoon-like paintings, as well as the restaurant’ s newspaper honors and Zagat ratings. After all, good food is what you came for, right?

 

We began with an antipasto plate, which was a special for the night: arugula and goat cheese with dried meats. Although quite simple it was also quite enjoyable. Soya e Pomodoro’s charm is its simplicity and humility, which is also reflected in its dishes. For the main course, we ordered the leg of lamb, the cavatelli pancetta as well as the mushroom ravioli. My eyes were shut at every bite of the ravioli, I kid you not. Unfortunately, there were few bites of the ravioli, in general, in addition to the fact that the dish was not mine; thus my happiness was short-lived, but lived nonetheless. The ravioli rested in a walnut and tomato cream sauce, although it was so much more than that. I paired it with a glass of Chianti and was beyond pleased. The pasta is freshly made and you can taste it. That is their signature. By that I mean that they did they not pick up a box from the corner super market, which had been sitting on shelves for months, if not years. If the ravioli was the only item on the menu, I would still be in love.  Speaking of fresh pasta, this characteristic is even more evident in the cavatelli, which is what brings the dish to life. It also contains zucchini in a saffron based sauce; however, at first glance, it resembles a mere pesto sauce with pancetta pieces. Although the meal was simple and fresh, I expected much more out of it. On a positive note, the braised lamb shank was very tender and served with mashed potatoes. After some reflection, a glass of Shiraz would have been the perfect accompaniment. It is cooked in a red wine sauce and surpasses the criteria for comfort food. Again, this was not the dish I had ordered but I was more than happy to help my guest clear his plate.

 

For desert, we shared the cannolis, which was perfect as they served four bite-sized cannolis, stuffed to order. Although the mascarpone filling was ordinary, the crispy exterior and fresh content redeemed the dish. Please do not leave the premises without a cup of espresso. It was so well made that I dreamt of my days in Italy for a moment, not to mention that it brings the entire meal together. Thus when you receive the check, you will welcome it with a smile. Not to fear, the dishes are very reasonably priced and for the original ambience, it is a steal! Be sure to look up the hours or call before visiting, as the schedule is a bit unique; however, the experience will be well worth it.

 

Kris

 

 

Oh, and please feel free to post some comments on the blog after your visit.

 

Bienvenue

Some aspire to be heroes; others look forward to life’s milestones. Ambitious ones look forward to promotions and financial turning points. I look forward to my next delicious meal. As respectable as these achievements can be, food forever occupies my mind, from meats to vegetables, soufflés, pastas and wines; I am at my happiest at meal time, or snack time, and I intend to share my passion with you. Welcome to my journey.

Friends and family ask me what I enjoy the most and hope that I discuss a hobby or lifelong goal, which surely exist in my life, but without hesitation, I always exclaim “food!” This usually triggers a laugh, followed by confirmation for my passion. The why? Great moments in life revolve around food: holidays, celebrations, dinners, picnics, weddings, cooking, dates etc. Enjoying delectable food and drink with those you love, are apart of some of your fondest memories. Think about it. I always remember enjoying fresh snapper, grilled, well marinated, spicy, and served with fried plantains, at the beach on the southern coast of Haiti, with my dad. Again, food was there, but the moment is what truly matters. Revisiting these foods allows me to relive these moments.

The purpose of this blog is to share my food experiences with you, particularly in the Fort Lauderdale/ Miami area. It is a chance to honor great food, but also comment on where there may be room for improvement. It is an opportunity to convert those who merely look at food for fuel, without enjoying its simple pleasures. It is the possibility to turn you into a fanatic like me. Welcome to my journey!

Best,

Kris