Swine – Coral Gables, Florida

brisket

Swine: the name says it all ! Once you pass through its door, you’ll feel like you’re somewhere in the deep south like Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia. Tall wooden shelves stacked with chopped lumber and  jars of pickled “everything”, a warm lit long communal table in the center surrounded by  individual ones upstairs and downstairs, somewhat reminiscent of an old southern beer hall.

lightspickled

An extensive menu of mostly swine in its various barbecued forms.  I picked the 1/2 lb  14-hour smoked brisket that was melt in your mouth delicious, served with South Carolina stoneground  grits for $28.  Side dishes such as mac and cheese, made with 5 different types of cheese, bacon and a crusty herb  top for $10, were still that: mac and cheese .Alternatives for those who don’t eat meat are just a few but well worth a try like the shrimp with grits.  When first served, the Florida pink were overcooked but  quickly replaced with a delicious fresh batch that made this dish a very comforting one, in spite of the Virginia ham bit overload.

shrimp&gritsStarters such as the fried green tomatoes and the kale salad were spot on.  Four slices of crunchy fried green tomatoes served with arugula and shavings of Manchego cheese for $13.   Seasoned with a cider vinaigrette, the kale salad came with apples and raisins and delicious, of course, cornbread croutons for $13.fried green tomatoes

The dessert was a refreshing bite called slice of heaven, a homemade pie made with rich raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice-cream dusted with chopped hazelnuts on a sweet crust for $9.

All in all, Swine is a great take on the very best in southern cuisine we desperately need down in Florida. Whenever foreigners criticize American food, I always respond: You haven’t tried southern!

pie

 

Swine

2415 Ponce de Leon Boulevard

Coral Gables, FL 331

786 360-6433

http://www.runpigrun.com

 

 

 

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Tasquinha do Oliveira – Évora, Portugal

coentrosX

The Alentejo region is known for its beautiful scenery but more importantly for its wonderful food.  It’s no coincidence that many of its famous dishes have become mainstream across the country.  Robust flavors of land and sea combined in marvelous choices like the carne de porco a alentejana, an aromatic  braised pork dish served  with fresh clams,  and hearty soups like the   açorda alentejana made with bread, garlic and cilantro to name a few.

So when in Alentejo, one must eat like the Alentejans and that’s exactly what I did.  I searched for one of  the most authentic  restaurants I could find  and was lucky enough to get a table at  the Tasquinha do Oliveira, a highly regarded landmark in the town of Evora.

This tiny space on rua Candido Reis, not far from the castle walls, is run by husband and wife Manuel andwineX Carolina.  A family business holding only five  tables and an infinite number  of handcrafted ceramic plates that hang from its walls, turns this dimly lit “tasquinha” into a  quaint and cozy place to eat. Manuel, who was very friendly but also very to the point, suggested I try  the cação com molho de coentros, tender dogfish cooked in a delicious garlic and coriander sauce that compelled me to soak it all up with endless pieces of crusty Alentejan bread. Not a drop  was left!

arrozpatoxI also had to try some of the famous duck rice dish known as arroz de pato that, although  claimed to have originated elsewhere in Portugal,  is rumored to be outstanding in the Alentejo.  This one was an absolutely delicious baked version  with a crusty top garnished with slices of  Portuguese sausage known as chouriço. Crunchy on top, fluffy and meaty in the middle and incredibly flavorful all over!  To drink,  I had to try some local wine so I chose the Joaquim Madeira , a full bodied yet smooth red  with a hint of blackberries that paired nicely with my amazing Alentejan feast.

 IMG_1091Tasquinha do Oliveira

Rua Cándido dos Reis 45-A,

Évora, 7000-582

Alentejo

Phone: 266/744841

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

bruss

As a kid, I  could not stand the sight of Brussels sprouts. Don’t ask me what happened but somehow they’ve become my favorite side dish!  They’re high in  vitamin C and have fair amounts of vitamin A and  B-6. They also contain iron, calcium and magnesium. Here’s a simple and delicious recipe I hope you enjoy.

1 lb small Brussels sprouts cut in half

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup of diced pancetta

1/2 tsp sea salt 

1/4 tsp pepper 

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 400 .  Place the Brussels sprouts in a bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to cover evenly and place in a baking sheet on a lower rack of the oven. Roast for 10-15 minutes and toss. Roast for another 10-15 minutes until done.  As soon as you take them out of the oven, pour in the balsamic vinegar , mix well and serve.

 

 

Azenhas Do Mar – Sintra, Portugal

clamsretouchedRight outside one of Portugal’s most enchanting towns – Sintra-  stands Azenhas Do Mar  on the rocky Atlantic coast. A big fish sign welcomes you into what feels almost like a boathouse hanging from a cliff. Wooden ceilings and enormous windows surround you with a breathtaking spectacle of   waves that  gently beat against the rocks.  This, combined with the  soothing nautical atmosphere of whitewashed wooden chairs and white linens, makes for  the perfect setting to relax and enjoy a good “seafarer’s ” meal.

azbreadA menu consisting of mostly fish and seafood, as well as a few meat choices, was no surprise but the attention to detail in the presentation and the service certainly was. As we sat down, the waiter kindly placed on our table a small platter with olives and local cheese, as well as  a basket of warm crusty bread. Soon after, we were poured some lovely chilled Alvarinho wine as we were offered to look at  the menu.

From a cornucopia of  fresh oysters, barnacles, octopus, shrimp, lobster and, of course, cod fish, I gave into my weakness for clams. These  famous  amêijoas á Bulhão Pato did not disappoint. The name is a tribute to a 19th century Portuguese poet named Raimundo António Bulhão Pato who was very much a gourmand.

azsignThese perfectly  cooked small  clams are served in a succulent broth made with white wine, garlic, fresh coriander and lemon. Some of the most flavorful ones I have ever tried and it’s  certainly no coincidence that this dish is considered one of the seven wonders of  Portuguese gastronomy. 

The hilly trip along the coast was worth every minute, not just for the sights, but for the chance to taste this fantastic dish.                        azocean

 

azenhasdomarRestaurante Piscina Azenhas do Mar
Azenhas do Mar 2705-104
Colares – Sintra

P (+351) 219 280 739
azenhas-do-mar@sapo.pt