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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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.