Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Miami Meals

(Consider yourself warned!  This is probably my longest post yet.  Don't worry, I broke up the text with some pictures.  Make yourself comfortable and get ready to get hungry...)

If you've only skimmed this blog once or twice, you know what a foodie I am.  I don't consider myself to be an epicurean, though.  To me, those are the food adventurers who love to try new, odd, and exotic eats.  I will occasionally try something a little out of the ordinary (like my latest Persian dish), but I'm very particular (yes, you can read this as picky) about food.  I'd like to think it's because I'm a super taster, but until scientific testing labels me as such, I'll have to remain with the term particular.

I have implemented some dietary regulations on myself (such as eating ethically raised meat), so I can't chow down with abandon like I have in the past.  J and I eat meat that is rated 4 or higher from Whole Foods about once a week and for the most part, I don't miss eating regular meat.  (J doesn't adhere to the exact guidelines I do, but we're pretty close.)  I think this kind of meat tastes better, but I have a clear conscious which allows me to enjoy the meal more.  Having less meat means that it is more of a treat.  The only complaint I have about it is the lack of ease.  There are few vegetarian options on the go and even fewer vegan ones.  (One day I would love to get my food from farmers markets, but it is a hard in Miami and J and I have financial constraints.)

That being said, I still love going out to eat.  There is something about sitting down at a cleared table, having food made for you, and not having to do the dishes.  Going out for a meal also allows for conversation.  When we're home, J and I will eat at the table once or twice a week.  Otherwise we take our meals to opposite ends of the apartment, or both sitting on the couch watching The Colbert Report.  It is nice to catch up and daydream together while exploring a new facet of our city.

A great way to get to know a place is to go on a food tour.  When J's family was here in April, we went on our first food tour with Miami Culinary Tours.  I don't have my own camera and I don't think J brought his, so I don't have pictures to share, but I can still remember the food.  At Bolivar, a fusion restaurant, we had the most amazing patacones.  They are usually served with beef or shrimp, but J and I had vegetarian ones.  Patacones are deep fried green plantains that are served with a scotch bonnet and tomato sofrita (spicy, but pleasantly so).  I would never have tried them on my own because I dislike plantains in general, but I still dream about that dish.  J and I talk about going back.  If we do, we'll have to snap a picture for you.  Another great stop on that food tour was the Tudor House.  There we got gourmet grilled cheeses and homemade Oreo cookies.  I promised to take J there after he defends his thesis.  My favorite drink on the entire tour was at Chevichery on Espanola Way.  It was a pisco sour drink (I don't know if that is the proper name) and it was refreshing and tart.  It was also the first alcoholic drink I've ever had made with egg whites (sounds gross, but it was good).  There were so many other stops on that trip, but those are the highlights.  I'm sorry I don't have pictures.

The second food tour we went on was with Miami Tour Des Forks.  I loved it.  The first tour we got to learn a lot about the history and interesting facts.  The second tour focused more on the development of Miami as we know it today and the amazing architectural history.

The first stop was The Cafe at Books and Books.  Books and Books is a great bookstore chain down here.  It's a little pricey and I usually get books from my library or on my Kindle, but it is still a neat place.  The Cafe specializes in Miami Nouveau Cuisine (read as fresh, French-style fare that is friendly for your waist).  There we had Bernie's Starter for 2 which included ceviche, humus, corn salad, and avacado salsa.

From there we stopped at David's Cafe, a Miami institution for Cuban cuisine.  I learned about the various types of Cuban coffees.  Colada is the strongest type and it is served in thimble sized cups;  drink anymore and your tummy is going to be tied in knots while also having heart palpitations.  Cortadito isn't as strong and it's fairly sweet.  I'm not much of a coffee person, but if I had to drink coffee, this would be it.

At A La Folie on Espanola Way we had an amazing plateau de fromages that consisted of Brie, Cantal, Goat cheese with herbs de provence, Swiss, Roquefort, apple slices, walnuts, and grapes.  As a Wisconsonite I love my mainstream Cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses, but I also love branching out and trying new cheeses.  The flavor combinations when cheese is paired with fruit and bread is something that I would like to learn more about.  This was my favorite dish on the whole food tour.

While on Espanola Way we stopped at Boteco Copacabana.  There we had really awesome limeades (a whole lime for each serving).  They serve traditional Brazilian fare, like coxinha, a type of "chicken nugget."

Me, with my limeade, taking copious notes so I could share with you guys.  

The plates at this restaurant were absolutely adorable and I made J take a picture of his.  I think I'm going to buy them later!

I loved going on the food tours.  It was such a great way to experience our new city and it was an even better way to share it with guests.  I wish I had taken my parents on one when they were down here.  They would have liked it.  Before going on the food tours I had always avoided South Beach because it intimidated me.  I'm not a beach bunny and I'm not a club kid.  I didn't think there was anything there for me to enjoy.  Boy, was I wrong and I'm glad I was.  The dining there is great (a lot of it is pricey, but there are reasonable gems).  Shortly after the food tour we went back to South Beach to have brunch at The Ice Box.  I saw it on the Cooking Channel.  Oprah had declared it as the best place to get cakes in the U.S.  I listen to Oprah.  I had a red velvet cake there and it was divine.  I cannot wait to go back.  (Another mental note- take pictures here too!)

J and I found another little place closer to us called Del Sur.  We had read about it in a local paper and we wanted to give it a try.  The prices were really reasonable, the wait staff was awesome (on par with my favorites at El Racho Grande), and the chef was so nice.  He came out to greet all of the customers as if we were some snobbity-snobs at a Michelin rated restaurant.  My favorite thing there was the Mozzarella Tasting plate (again with the cheese!).  It had Burrata cheese on it which I have been dying to try.  Burrata is fresh cheese that has a Mozzarella outer layer, but when you cut into it it's creamy.  Amazing.  The other thing I loved about this cheese plate was that it came with sauces.  My favorite was a spicy marmalade.  The others were honey and a cranberry-esque jam.

Ignore J's soup.  Focus on that amazing cheese plate.  I need to work with J on what to focus on at dinner.  :)

Here's the sandwich that I had.  I wasn't as fond of the chips, but the Diet Coke was oh so cute!

Last, but certainly not least, are some pictures from Ms. Cheezious, our favorite food truck.  I gush about it all of the time, but trust me, it's worth it.  If you are ever in Southeastern Florida, make a pilgrimage to a food truck rally.  You will not be disappointed.  I try new things from trucks each time I go, but I always make Ms. Cheezious my main stop.  These pictures are horrible, so I apologize in advance...

Grilled Harvest (Havarti Cheese, Apple Slices, and Spices)

 Goat Cheese and Prosciutto with Arugula and Tomato

Crabby Cheese Melt

The best cheese fries in the state.  There is just something about them that is amazing.  They are never soggy, always crisp, and perfectly salty.  These are meant to be shared though.  Unless you mean business. 

J pleased with himself for scoring some awesome food.  This was the trip where we were called out on being regulars.  If it is wrong, though, I don't want to be right.  (This is technically in Hollywood, not Miami.)

Whew!  What a post.  I've been working on this for the better part of the evening.  It's probably really bad blogging etiquette to post something so long.  I've been meaning to break it up into a couple of little posts, but I figured I'd throw caution to the wind.  (Please note, that these events were during the course of four months.  I like my food, but I'm not that big of a piggie!)

Miami doesn't really feel like home, but it is where we find ourselves.  Living here is an eye-opening experience.  There are wonderful things we have discovered and other things that make us disgruntled.  But it is nice to know that even though we are far from Milwaukee, there are still little things that keep us tied to our hometown.  While walking down Lincoln Road on South Beach I came across a PBR sticker on a sign post.

I know PBR has a reputation for being a very "hipster beer."  See my "hipster" Halloween costume below.  (If you don't get what a "hipster" is, that is good, because my costume was "meta-hipster" because "hipsters" don't like anything that is mainstream.  But if you are still curious, you can look it up on Google for a better definition.)

But, seriously, PBR is sentimental for me.  It is one of the few beers that I actually enjoy and it was my grandfather's favorite beer.  His dad worked at Pabst.  Seeing that PBR sticker was a connection to home and it made my heart happy.  And if we know one thing about Becca's heart, it is that you get to it through her stomach. 

Bon Appetit!

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