Friday, November 11, 2011

Mmmmm Miami

It is now “Fall” in Miami. By “Fall” I mean that it is no longer blazing hot and the threat of hurricanes have subsided. I still don’t consider it to be truly Fall because the leaves don’t change colors and any décor of Halloween or Thanksgiving looks simply ridiculous down here when it reaches 80 degrees on a regular basis. One of the things I liked most about the changing seasons back home is the pseudo hibernation you go into- layer on thick knits and eat massive amounts of yummy food. I hear it has been snowing back home. =)

I’ve been keeping busy with work. At the end of the summer we had to gear up for the upcoming season. I’ve had some technical and slightly difficult tasks added to my job description. This doesn’t bode well for a perfectionist like myself because I constantly stress. There are a lot of people relying on me to do the data entry correctly. It could have major consequences for them if I don’t. When I was in college, I worked well under pressure, because I was the person applying the pressure. I don’t work well under pressure when a whole department or organization has high expectations. It gives me knots in my shoulders and searing pain behind my eyes.

Therefore, I’ve been laying low on the evenings. I read, I craft, I watch television- I avoid being on the computer as much as possible at home since I’m on it all day at work. I’ve also started volunteering at a local botanical garden that I’ve been taking some crafting classes at. I’ll be volunteering more this weekend for an Art Fair. I was asked to submit some crafts for the Art Fair since I took some of their classes. I worked pretty hard on dying about a dozen silk scarves and I submitted a couple pieces of jewelry. We’ll see if anyone wants what I make! If so, I might consider quitting my day job and open a crafting business. I’m only half kidding.

The biggest reason I work is to have money to enjoy myself (second to paying bills of course). So I’ve been exploring more of the dining options down here. I know I’m a very picky eater. I’m probably worse than a toddler. But, for all of my pickiness, I love food and I enjoy going out to dine and try things I like prepared in different ways. (I still will never like cooked veggies or avocado.)

The first restaurant I tried was actually a whim. I love buffalo sauce, but I hate eating wings off of the bone. I had been at a Halloween party with some acquaintances and I was really hungry after I left (first one to go, I’m so boring, I know). I had been dying for wings and BW3s boneless wings have not been cutting it. I had gone to the party as a hipster. No one got it. It was meta-hipster. Part of the costume was Pabst Blue Ribbon. To stay in character, I had a couple, and when I drink- even the slightest amount- I get super hungry. So, I was hungry and craving buffalo sauce. I decided now was the time to try real wings at a local place that I’ve been hearing of called The Sports Bar. It’s an original name, I know. I ordered wings, and cheese fries. It was the best decision I’ve made in awhile. The wings were amazing! The perfect amount of spicy for the slight burn you feel in your mouth that only blue cheese can cool. The fries were seasoned really well and they came with two cups of nacho cheese. It was a truly gluttonous experience.

I’ve never eaten a large amount of wings off of the bone (I’ve tried one here and there), and it was good I had a couple of beers in me because I basked in the glow of the flavor with wing sauce giving me a “Joker” smile. Why so serious? For those of you who know me well- mostly my dad- you know this is a huge step for me because I’m not that crazy about chicken, and I’m even less crazy about bones. For the entire time I lived at home, I daintily cut my meat and handed my dad the bones (with plenty of meat still on them, and YES- I know, the best flavored meat) but I cannot help it. I don’t do caveman well.

Shortly before that, I was given an amazing empanada at work. I’ve never had one before, and from what I understand, they are usually fried, but this one was baked. It’s like a mini-calzone without sauce. Something with a bready covering? Yes. I’m there. Cheese? Hells yeah, I’m double there. You don’t even have to ask. Melted cheese runs sluggishly through my veins. I had half of one of those babies and I was addicted. I held my colleague up to the wall by the lapels of his shirt and demanded where he got such goods. (Actually, I asked him nicely and he gave me a business card for the restaurant.) It was an Argentinian place called Puerto Maedero. And the next day I went. I’m so very glad I did. The interior was very cute and it was a bakery, a butcher shop, a deli, and a restaurant all rolled into one. There wasn’t a lot of seating and the tables were a little close, but I didn’t care, I was staring directly at a case of the most delicious looking tarts, pastries, and cakes. I went with the daily special- tiny potatoes in a cream sauce complete with bits of bacon and the most delicious filet mignon. For $15!!! I started the meal with an empanada, of course, for around $1.50. I left the restaurant a very happy camper. When my dad called to see if I was still alive- he hadn’t heard from me in awhile, I gushed about the meal. My dad and I have a lot in common, but one of the big things is a love of red meat. I cannot wait to get back to this restaurant!

On my way in to the Argentinian place, I noticed a Mexican restaurant. In Milwaukee, these are a dime a dozen. Down here, Cuban cuisine reigns supreme. (I stole that line from Iron Chef, I know.) So, my interest was piqued. The next week, I went to El Rancho Grande. It was, again, amazing. I felt lucky to have found three great restaurants in a month. I ordered the flautas. There were three and they came with refried beans, rice, and sour cream –hold the guacamole- picky eater over here. The servers were very sweet and attentive. The food was to die for, but the horchata was probably the best discovery of the night. I’ve never had it before. I’m a chai junkie, so it was a nice find.

Last weekend, I tried the Yard House. I’ve been told it has an amazing selection of beer. Contrary to what you might believe, given my Wisconsin heritage and previous mentions of PBR, I am not a big drinker- and not a big beer drinker at that. But, when I hear beer, I think of burgers, fries, and comfort food in general. The Yard House was the closest restaurant to my apartment of the four, and in the most “fancy schmancy” locale. Unfortunately, it broke my winning streak. It was crowded and noisy. I’ve been having some hearing problems lately, and it really bothered me that I couldn’t hear my waiter or my companion above the din. I was also frustrated at the amount of TVs. I’m here to eat, not to watch CSPAN. After a lot of deliberating, we got the spinach artichoke dip to start. It was lack-luster. I ordered the menu item that spoke to me the most- macaroni and cheese with bacon bits and sautéed mushrooms. I love mushrooms! I love cheese! I love bacon! So I ordered and what got delivered to me made no sense. I’m not a pasta expert, but it seems to me that mac’n’cheese should be made with tubular pasta that will hold the sauce. This one was made with flat, twisted noodles. Most of the sauce was left on the plate. I did not see any of the bacon that they advertised. I also learned an important lesson: mushrooms and mac’n’cheese don’t go together. The portion was decent, but the price- $15 for only pasta- was ridiculous. I left a bunch of it on my plate and stared despondently at NASCAR blaring on the fifteen televisions- unable to communicate how much this whole experience sucked. The Yard House is actually a chain, which disappointed me, because I like to find “gems.”

It was living in Madison that made me a foodie. (I probably cannot call myself that if I refuse to eat half of the things on the menu.) The few times I went out with a group of girl friends, we usually dined at a chain restaurant like, Chili’s or Olive Garden because that is what a whole bunch of broke college kids can agree on. Those times were about the friends, not the food. But when it was my chance to dine with family I usually picked Bluephies for their Ooey Gooey Pasta and Sweet-Tarts Tini. Or if it was a date I would beg to go to Harvest, L’Etoile, The Old Fashioned, or Dotty Dumplings Dowry- just to name a few. There were amazing dining options, and most of them were at really reasonable prices. If you asked for pizza, I could give you several options for the East Side, Downtown, and the West Side. Same goes for Italian, Burgers, or Chinese Food.

There is a plethora of dining in Miami. The problem is that it is often so damn expensive! If I could afford to drive to, park on, and dine at South Beach, there area whole load of options. But I can barely afford to eat a couple of blocks from my apartment. If I do, I should probably walk, because there is no free parking unless you are in the suburbs. So that’s where I’ve been looking for food. A lot of these places are tiny and hidden, but they are the “gems” I seek. Now, I just need to move to Portland, so I can dine at a great restaurant with my little Ruby. THAT would be the life.

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