Friday, October 10, 2008

A Great (and Green) Way to Kick off the Weekend!

You may have seen Green Gables Cafe on my blog before (featured in my list of favorite healthy, fresh & fast lunch spots), and in case you have not been, I encourage you to go now! Why the urgency? Well, they are celebrating their one-year anniversary this month, and are offering all kinds of fantastic specials.

Sometimes I meet friends there, but most often I order delivery. Their sandwiches, soups and salads are perfect for a midday pick-me-up. Not only is the food absolutely delicious, but it's never heavy, leaving you energized and satisfied. As if it couldn't get any better, all of the to-go packaging (plastic bowls, brown and plastic bags, silverware etc.) is made from recycled and biodegradable materials. It's an ultimate guilt-free experience.

Another great concept implemented by Green Gables is that if you order online, you receive a 10% discount. By taking advantage of that offer, and the anniversary specials, I got a really exciting treat today! I ordered the Tropical Salad Special and was honestly, blown away! It consists of herb roasted Mahi-Mahi with organic mixed greens, avocado, mango and coconut crusted eggplant bites with a light orange drizzle. Sounds enticing? It tasted even better!

I ate every bite, so as not to miss a minute of all of the flavors that worked together so harmoniously. The herbs from the fish, the sweetness of the mango, richness from the avocado and tang from the orange drizzle, provided a perfect balance. However, the best (and most unexpected) element of the salad was the coconut crusted eggplant bites. I would never have thought that those flavors would work so well together. But, after being so convinced this afternoon, I am going to try and create new dishes in my own kitchen based on them.

Check out the menu online and order today! I promise you will not be disappointed. While I love everything that they offer, I definitely encourage you to try their carrot soup and pumpkin soup. They are so filling, incredibly delicious, and really good for you. (Most of their soups are vegan!)

Green Gables Cafe
166 Alhambra Circle
Coral Gables, FL 33134
(305) 445-7015

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

French Revolution!

In case you haven't noticed, the Grove is being taken over by the Frenchies, which makes my favorite pastime so much more exciting! First there was the lone Le Bouchon. But, after selling it and moving back to France, George could not resist the lure of the Al Fresco culture of Coconut Grove, and came back to open the appropriately named, "George's." George's offers more than just great French Bistro fare, it serves up a fun time too. The filet & potato gratin is perfect and seriously recommended. But besides the food and free-flowing champagne, George serves up a healthy dose of entertainment. As you enjoy a glass of rose, you may find yourself dancing to a techno version of the Beverly Hills Cop theme song, without even realizing it. Don't be embarrassed. You will also notice everyone around you, doing the same, and George egging you on over the microphone.

Just around the corner, is Le Petit Paris. I ate there with my sister Danni last night, and had a great meal. Although I have eaten there for dinner more than once, I have only ever sampled their moules et frites. I should take my job more seriously, and order different dishes in order to have a better sense of the menu, but frankly, they are just too tempting to resist. I will try my hardest to order something different next time, but can make no promises. Besides dinner, they offer breakfast and lunch, all of which is fantastic. I only wish that they did not do away with their macaroons, which are my favorite French treat. However, they did totally redeem themselves with their chocolate mousse. Order it. Thank me later.

Besides Le Petit Paris and George's, there are also the staples -- Greenstreet Cafe and Le Bouchon. I have not been to Le Bouchon in a while, but always loved it. I should return again to see what they are up to. While Greenstreet's food is more American than French, the owner is French and the food is always great. I also heard that they have made several additions to the menu. Since I pretty much love everything on it already, I should also try out these new offerings. I know that I am sure to like them. Finally, there is Le Moulin across the street, and I have to say, I have never eaten anything there besides a chocolate croissant. I think I just gave myself another homework assignment. - one that I am glad to take on.

Get out there, and get your French on! (Food, I mean.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

California Done Right

With the modest apperance of the Coral Way/ Roads area, it is easy to not realize how many great restaurants there are, hiding behind inconspicuous signs and lurking within delapidated facades. I began to open the treasure chest of great restaurants in this area, when I first began working at a former job there. If I wanted a fresh and delicious cuban coffee and pastelito, I just had to cross the street to Karlo Bakery. A quick and healthy lunch - Salad & Co. Fresh pasta and sauces made on site, for a quick-fix dinner - Il Mundo di Pasta. The list goes on and on...

In particular, Fresco California Bistro was always a hot spot for lunch among the Coral Way and Brickell crowd, and I went there often with friends and coworkers. I usually got a salad - and never got bored of my options. I also sampled the pasta a few times, and found the plates to be light yet, completely satisfying. Like its neighbors, it also is obscure in its surrpoundings, and can be difficult to find. It is easy to pass by without so much a glance, and never realize that it is even there.

I had always wanted to try Fresco for dinner, but never got around to it. However, that changed when Marcela and I headed there last Thursday. We got what we were expecting -- and then some. Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of the restaurant is that they bake their bread daily, and serve it with a fantastic olive tapenade. Some people think of the bread that a restaurant serves, as just a basket full of carbs. Not me. I like to think of the bread as a refelction of the restaurant itself. It is the first offering that is presented to a diner and should have the intention to impress. Fresco definitely delivers in that department.

The menu is somewhat large, and offers mainly Italian, American and Mexican fare, with a Californian twist at an affordable price. I have almost always gotten a salad while having lunch, so I decided to mix things up a bit. I orederd chicken picatta. With my main course, I was offered a choice of pasta (olive oil & garlic, marinara or a la vodka sauces) or french fries. I chose the pasta with olive oil and garlic. I didn't want anything to over-power the picatta sauce. This proved to be a smart decision, as it was a perfect verison of the classic. It was salty and tangy, while not being overly so. I tasted the lemon, capers and white wine seperately and together, as a perfectly balanced blend. The three or four cutlets that swam in the sauce were thin, and as a result, very tender.

Marcela ordered a quesadilla, that I have to ashamedly admit, I did not sample. But her reviews were equally as kind. She also mentioned that she liked the unexpected and welcomed "spicy kick" from the quesadilla's filling. Although our dishes were quite different, we both agreed that it is a rarity to order plates of different ethnicities in one restaurant, and be equally impressed.

My Dad often teases my Mom for "ordering the Chinese dish in the Italian restaurant," or never ordering the house specialty, like chicken in a seafood joint. For this, she is often disappointed, or at least underwhelmed. In this case, however, it would have been a more-than-safe choice. At Freco California Bistro, you can expect a good meal, no matter what cuisine it belongs to, in a laid back and relaxed setting.

Fresco California Bistro

744 SW 3rd Ave
Miami, FL 33129
(305) 858-0608

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Jessica! (Mid-Week Must Try: September 17, 2008)

In honor of Jessica's upcoming birthday, Brittany has contributed the following recipe. Enjoy!



1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup self-rising cornmeal, or from a mix (recommended: Aunt Jemima's)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup vegetable oil or bacon grease
Oil, butter, or clarified margarine, for frying


Mix all ingredients together, except for the frying oil, in a bowl until well combined. Heat the frying oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter into the hot skillet. Use about 2 tablespoons of batter per hoecake. Fry each hoecake until brown and crisp; turn each hoecake with a spatula, and then brown the other side. With a slotted spoon, remove each hoecake to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Chef's Note: Leftover batter will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days.

We love you Jess!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chili's in the Grove: Low on my Scoville Scale

While this post could be considered more of a rant than a review, I thought it was only fair that I shared my experience of dining at Chili's in the Grove last night. Although I am normally not even a fan of Chili's to begin with, I was open to the idea of having some cheap food and drinks in a fun atmosphere, where Jacques could catch some (more) Sunday football.

The football game was pretty much the only thing that the restaurant did deliver. First, it took about 15 minutes before we got noticed by a server. Upon ordering our drinks, we were pretty much guilted in to making a donation to St. Jude's by purchasing a coloring project. Of course, I have no problem giving to St. Jude's - or most any charity for that matter - (after all, I am in the business), but before we have even ordered our food? I found it to be pretty invasive, not to mention tacky.

The menu is of course, a standard chain restaurant menu, offering fajitas, dips, ribs etc., with a little bit of southwest "flair". I actually looked forward to my tequila chicken and shrimp fajitas. Jacques was excited for his original and habanero baby backs. We were excited...and excited...and excited...and finally, our food arrived at the table. However, they had run out of shrimp, so I was given plain chicken fajitas (no tequila & lime flavor) and Jacques was given a rack of cold ribs and a lukewarm mound of potatoes. We had waited so long at this point, we dared not complain - let alone ask a third time for a side of sour cream.

Besides the food and service being completely disappointing, the ambiance was a let down as well. I mean I don't mind listening to Lil' Wayne at a club or a bar, but for it to be blaring throughout the entirety of my meal? It was rude. And if I was one of the parents that was there with their family, I would have found the explicit lyrics enough to pack up my kids and leave.

As if that weren't enough, it took about 45 minutes for us to get our check and have it processed. We waited so long, that I had to give the check to the bartender myself, which I think just made the whole situation worse. When our server did come back from what seemed like an hour, he explained that he was in the back having a fight with the chef. Lovely. Just to top it off, they charged us in full for the chicken and shrimp (there was no shrimp), two St. Jude's donations instead of one, and even a spoonful of guacamole. Yes, all very trivial things, but when the entire experience has been trivial at best, those little things can push you over the edge.

Maybe their management will snap out of it, maybe they will get more staff (and hopefully better staff) and maybe they will get the whole system working properly, but as of right now -- I wouldn't go to Chili's. If it's cheap food and laid back fun you are after, at least you know there's a Cheesecake Factory right underneath. My suggestion - go to Flannigan's; it is just down the road and worlds better than what you'll get at either.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Headed South (By Way of the North)

I am so excited to say that I will be off to Gainesville this weekend to watch the University of Florida Gators battle the University of Miami Hurricanes in the Swamp. I am not posting to talk sports, rivalries or predicted scores. I am here to talk about what else - food!

I had four great years at UF, and some of my fondest memories were food related. That is not a joke. Gainesville - packed with students, scholars and professors from around the world - has an incredible restaurant and food scene. Not to mention, that it is very affordable, attracting young, hip chefs from all over the country to set up shop there. Living downtown for my last two college years was great because I had access to the local farmer's market, several boutique coffee shops, and more importantly, some really memorable restaurants.

There are fantastic restaurants for whatever cuisine or meal you are in the mood for. Want a killer brunch? Go to Ivey's for their banana bread french toast and house spiced coffee. If you are in the mood for some thoroughly modern American cuisine, you can always ensure a great meal at Mildred's as well as their more casual, less expensive outpost, New Deal Cafe. If you want pizza, there are obviously an abundance of great places, but home-grown institutions like Leonardo's and Satchel's make it a truly rewarding experience. I could go on and on about the many fantastic restaurants that Gainesville has to offer, but I will simply end by mentioning what I consider the best (non-traditional) sushi restaurant that I have ever been to: Dragonfly.

To locals, Dragonfly is an institution of it's own. The words roll of your tongue as it wags thinking about the Crispy Crunch Roll or Dragonfly short ribs. I went there all four years while I was in Gainesville and have gone back every time that I have returned. It has expanded to multiple locations and trendier decor, but the food has always remained impeccable. I encourage, rather insist, that the next time you are in Gainesville you try Dragonfly. Oh, and you can thank me later.

That being said, it has been a while since I was there last, and I am sure that a number of great restaurants have popped up since. If you have any suggestions or "must try's," I would love to hear about them. With so much to do in such a short while, restaurant exploring may be limited. However, I can't wait to head back to my very favorite southern (northern) town.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

RAh, RAh, RAh!

Three cheers for the opening of RA Sushi in South Miami! Despite its chain restaurant and corporate roots (it is located next to, and owned by Outback and Carraba's), you can expect a great time - including funky sushi and inventive cocktails - all at an affordable price.

Marcela and I met up for dinner and drinks, expecting the standard sushi and sake. What we got, was a lot more than what we expected. The food was fresh, the atmosphere was fun, and the price was right. We shared four plates -- all of which came out in random order from different kitchens. We shared blue-claw crab cakes with a ginger mayo dipping sauce, thinly sliced ponzu chili yellowtail with crushed pine nuts and radish, a spicy tuna roll, and and awesome spicy lobster roll that was stuffed with cilantro, jalapeno, avocado and cucumber. We cleared our plates without a pause.

While we went non-traditional with our food, we stuck to traditional drinks like hot sake and Sapporro. However, I tried the Cucumber Martini that was refreshingly dangerous. Made with a blend of vodka and sake and mixed with lychee syrup and cucumbers, it complemented everything that we ordered almost too perfectly.

As I mentioned before, perhaps the best part of this experience was the fact that our bill very pleasantly surprised us. The trendy decor and dim lights give the effect of a pricey restaurant, while the menu told a different story. I would recommend RA to anyone looking for a fun night out and good food, without having to break the bank. And with a happy hour that offers $1 sake and beer for $2.75, I doubt you will need little convincing. Even better -- they offer several sushi rolls and appetizers at discounted prices as well.

I look forward to going back and taking advantage of the happy hour prices and exploring the menu in greater depth. Dishes like Yuzu Halibut and Mango Ceviche will likely make it happen sooner than later.

RA Sushi
5829 SW 73rd Street
South Miami, FL

(305) 341-0092

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ladies Night!

Do you relish any excuse to have the girls (or guys) over for a little mid-week entertainment? It is so nice to diminish the stresses of the week with a couple of cocktails and tasty treats, all in the company of great friends. Last night, I did just that -- hosting a little soiree for my girls as we toasted the upcoming weekend.

Everyone brought a little something special, and the result was a delicious one! I prepared a creamy lemon risotto served in lemon cups, bruschetta and olive tapenade. I also bought cupcakes (chocolate and vanilla oreo, chocolate and vanilla peanut butter, double chocolate and vanilla) from my favorite bake shop, "Buttercream Cupcakes and Coffee." Lucienne brought tangy goat cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes. Anne Laure brought a delectable artichoke and spinach dip. Jessica treated us with homemade guacamole and a fantastic spinach and feta pie. Katie helped round out the meal with strawberry shortcake -- and even whipped up fresh cream on the spot! We washed all of this down with a rose sangria, filled with blackberries, lemon and orange slices.

Whether it's stag night, poker night, or (in our case) Project Runway night, get together with your friends and spice it up with more than just chips and salsa. It's so much fun to be a little bit decadent when the middle of the week brings you down or wears you out. Plus, it is even more affordable when everyone brings a dish (and better yet, a bottle of wine).

Buttercream Cupcakes & Coffee

1411 Sunset Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33143
(305) 669-8181

If you would like any of these recipes, please feel free to email me at: Check out the pictures below. Happy entertaining!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ricotta & Goat Cheese Dip

I have been making this recipe for years. It's delicious and a crowd pleaser -- not to mention, ridiculously easy. Serve with toasted baguette, breadsticks and fresh veggies.


3 tablespoons olive oil (first cold pressed)
4 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup whole milk, or part skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
Salt and pepper to taste


Stir the goat cheese, ricotta cheese, basil, lemon peel, and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve with desired bread and vegetables. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Little Underwhelmed by Fratelli Lyon

Perhaps I had over-hyped Fratelli Lyon in my head, had heard so much about it or just expected too much, but whatever the reason, I was seriously underwhelmed. I joined my friends and former co-workers, Cristian and Rachael last Friday for a Miami Spice lunch at the trendy Design District spot. Located on the front porch of The Driade design store, the unique location and artful accessories provided a very cool setting for our lunch. (Although, Cristian wasn't too fond of the chic, but uncomfortable chairs).

This is not to say that we had a horrible time, however. We started off the meal on a great note, ordering an antipasti plate of sopressata, prosciutto and capicola that was also dressed with perfectly briny olives and fragrant and floral olive oil. Our waiter was very friendly and informative as well, so we thought we were in for a fantastic meal.

Cristian and I both ordered off of the Miami Spice menu, while Rachael kept it light with a shredded chicken salad. While, I didn't get around to trying her plate, Cristian and I sampled bites from all three courses of our meals. My gemelli with pesto, potatoes and asparagus was a nice combination of ingredients and textures, but was very under seasoned. This was the case with Cristian's pasta e fagioli, macherroni bolognese and my layered eggplant, ricotta and basil tort. Nothing was terrible, it just all seemed to lack salt, which was surprising to me for an Italian restaurant -- especially an acclaimed one.

Our meals ended with Cristian's selection of grapefruit sorbet that seriously outshone my coffee gelato, which lacked the creaminess that I have come to expect from the Italian treat. The best part of the meal, might have been the prosecco, but that's not exactly a shocker considering that it was the three of us.

All in all, I didn't have a bad time, or a great time. I just sort of had a bland time. I don't think that it would be fair to totally discredit it without trying it again, although I am not exactly rushing to do so any time soon.

Fratelli Lyon
4141 NE 2nd Ave.
Miami, FL 33137
Phone: (305) 572-2901