Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vacation part 2 - South Beach (Miami)

Bienvenido a Miami! I will cram a lot of things + pictures into this post so forgive me but we ate a TON in Miami and I photographed a lot.

Hot, humid and minty. Why minty? I drank mojitos every day; multiple ones. We ate way too much food there over the course of three days (thankfully we rented a car so we could go out of South Beach). 

Word of advise - never eat on Ocean Drive. They lure you in with two-for-one drink specials which is totally false advertising. Unfortunately, we got caught and ended up paying $80 for a non-spicy spicy chicken wrap and a "tropical mango" salad. 

Mango? Where is the mango? And it was supposed to have a carrot ginger dressing but it didn't and when I told the waitress my salad wasn't dressed she brought me a bottle of olive oil and vinegar. WTS. Our drinks were actually 40oz and $22 each. After one of those you don't even want a second drink. RIDICULOUS. If you absolutely must must must eat on Ocean Drive, I suggest The Pelican, which has normally priced (and sized) two-for-one drinks. Just don't get any flavored mojitos - they put syrup in them. JP's arugula pizza was good and my porchetta panini with mushrooms was pretty tasty, although I was expecting chunks of roasted pork, not sliced pork.

I have learned my lesson a second time and will not let JP pick our first restaurant of the trip on a whim anymore. Thankfully, we redeemed ourselves in the evening with dinner at:

Yes! Sra Martinez. It was a choice between this and Michy's, Michelle Bernstein's other restaurants but this menu sounded better and more varied. They did seat us about 30 minutes after our reservation but we passed the time drinking sangria at the bar. Once seated the waitress wisely told us to not pick more than 3 tapas per person. Smart lady. JP and I always have eyes bigger than our stomachs at tapas restaurants and this could have ended in disaster.

The first dish was a seasonal veggie salad with a gazpacho dressing. It was ok, lacked some flavor and I got the blame since I picked this dish. 

Out next were the patatas bravas. There were unlike any that I had eaten before and I thoroughly enjoyed popping those little things into my mouth - so addictive! Of course, someone took the credit for ordering these and it was not me.

I took credit for this though - catch of the day (I forget what fish it was but it was one I hadn't tried before) with israeli cous cous. Apparently, JP loved it and thinks israeli cous cous is awesome (whereas he thinks actual cous cous is not so awesome) so now I have one more grain that he will eat if I cook it (along with lentils but only if cooked with bacon, and maybe polenta). But this was definitely a highlight dish.

I was a huge fan of how they were staggering the dishes so you didn't have 10 plates on your table at once. And then this came - garbanzo stew. 

It had a quail egg on top, which was obviously the first thing to go because I don't eat eggs and demand they be taken off. This chickpea stew had a slightly creamy sauce, with chorizo (woohoo!), some spinach, and tetilla cheese. This was ridiculously good and one of the highlights of my entire trip in terms of food. And by now we were feeling stuffed but halfway through finishing this, the corn came.

I am such a sucker for sweet corn in the summer. I can eat corn and heirloom tomatoes all day every day in August and be content. This corn was great but I was saving room in my tummy for dessert. But, we had one more course to go - Galbi. 

Personally, I think they should take these off the menu. They're fine, but nothing spectacular and I'm not really sure why they have Korean-inspired ribs on the menu at a Latin restaurant. Maybe is the whole korean taco craze they're trying to go with? Don't know. Just take it off.

And finally. FLAN.

I think it was too eggy for me but JP liked it a lot. I didn't mind - I was so stuffed. And so, our first day in Miami came too a successful conclusion.

Wake up in the morning! Brunch at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink which is coincidentally on the same street as we had dinner the night before. This is purportedly a fantastic place with market cooking and local ingredients and blah blah blah all that good stuff we like. Their brunch is tapas-style and I wanted to go here for the home-made pop tarts.

One peach, one lemon. These were the best things we are there and I wasn't that huge of a fan. JP had a breakfast sandwich (don't know how one shares that) and I got the braised brisket hash where the meat was overly fatty and the potatoes too mushy. 

We also ordered a side of heirloom tomatoes which were presented as two huge slices and were, unfortunately, flavorless save for the olive oil and salt on them. Michael, you disappointed me. At least the pop tarts and our brunch drinks were good!

But again, we redeemed ourselves at Versailles. No, not the french palace but an ode to cuban cuisine on the real Calle Ocho (although I think Little Havana was actually further west of the restaurant). The restaurant was packed at 7pm when we went, the waiter spoke no English (yay, JP is helpful with his spanish) and the majority of clientele was older people (like 50s and older...). There was one Asian couple there who did not seem to like it too much as they left their food pretty much untouched it seemed. Oh well...onto ordering food after a basket of toasted garlic bread and our mojitos (with sugarcane!) were set down on our table.

Since like I said we are gluttons (or maybe just me? It's ok, I'm not religious), I wanted to order a sampler platter as an appetizer on top of our two main courses. Luckily, the waiter knew better, looked at me, and strongly advised against it in Spanish. Que? Yo no se! No hablo espaƱol! With the bf as interpreter I reluctantly backed down and ordered only the fried pork. A small (1 pork chop) or large (2 pork chop) portion I was asked? Que? It's not even a choice on the menu! Thinking the waiter was probably hinting and something (no, not that I'm a fattie, but that its a lot of food) I went with the small.

While they were preparing our food I saw a little card on the table for yuca fries. What?! I must eat you! And so we called the waiter back over and also ordered that. There, I fulfilled my wish of an appetizer.

I'm a fan of yuca. It's starchy but not overly so that you can't eat it and its an interesting change from potatoes. Plus brazilian cheese bread, which I love, is made from yuca flour. So we munched on these until our main courses came.

Like I said, the waiter knew better. SO MUCH FOOD. Perfectly succulent and crispy pork chop with sauteed onions (I'm a huge fan of sauteed onions), rice and beans that weren't dried out (amazing!) and fried plantains (getinmahbellyyyyy!). I ate pretty much the whole plate (left a tiny bit of rice and beans and some onions), and then proceeded to steal bites of JP's arroz con pollo

Juicy chicken? Tender flavorful yellow rice? I couldn't stop bringing my fork over the table to his plate. Honestly, we were stuffed. At the beginning of the meal we were contemplating getting two kinds of flan and now we decided we should just stick to one. And here it is, the flan cubano (not sure what makes it cuban flan as opposed to other flan)

Now this one, this one wasn't eggy and I probably ate more than my half. Cheap, satisfying cooking (apparently JP loved the meal because it tasted like something his mama might make...). Lesson learned: listen to your waiter and if you read that the portions are huge, they really are and you don't need a prelude to the main course - only perhaps a sweet ending.

We also went to a Haitian restaurant but I don't even want to write or put pictures up because it was an utter disappointment from what the reviews we read online said. My favorite thing there was the rice and beans. Everything else was too starchy, lacking flavor, or super dry (like the upside-down pineapple cake which was dry to the point of being inedible). We tried to eat as much of the food as we could because the service was really friendly but it was just...blah. Maybe I just don't like Haitian food since there were a lot of favorable reviews. But you can't have every place be a home run, can you?

It sounds like all we did in Miami was eat. This is true. We ate, we drank (mainly mojitos), we relaxed, we went to the beach (not as many fake boobies as I thought I'd see and a lot less in-shape people than I thought there would be...), we stumbled upon the Jersey Shore gelato shop (which is blah by the way), we went to a Paul Mooney comedy show (obviously not my idea), we drove around looking at the ridiculously gorgeous and expensive houses with yachts and we even did some walking in the ridiculous humidity and heat. But not as ridiculous as Vegas would be...
Hope to see you again Miami and eat some more Cuban food!

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