Southern Succulence – The Federal, Miami

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Buffalo Style Pig Wing

My first impression when I came for brunch was great. Everything about it: food, service and ambience. But when I came back for dinner, I was even more impressed. What makes a great restaurant? Ask the guys at the Federal!

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Jumbo Buttermilk Biscuit
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Heirloom Florida Tomato Salad

Nothing more inviting than good lighting and I don’t mean bright lighting.  It’s an essential element in the ambience of a restaurant and while you don’t want to be squinting to read the menu by a tiny candle light, you don’t want to feel like your dining in a dental office either. Lovely outdoor string lights and indoor soft table ones invite you to explore one of the most exciting menus in Miami.

This time, I had some friends visiting from Spain whom I did not want to disappoint.  I didn’t want them to badmouth American cuisine as Europeans usually do ” oh you guys eat mostly burgers and fries! Blah, blah, blah….I had to prove them wrong  which is exactly why I chose Southern.

We started with the Federal classics: a Jumbo Buttermilk Biscuit  glazed with apple honey  and sea salt for $6.00, the amazing Jar O’duck made with duck confit rillette( a variation of pâté), charred marshmallow fluff and candied sweet potato for $12.00. This one was a real treat served with  delicious homemade bread. The Buffalo Style Pig Wing for $7.00 was interesting: made of pork instead of chicken in a tangy sauce accompanied by a creamy blue cheese dressing…a little spicy for some but delicious nonetheless. That was just the beginning!

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Jar O’duc
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Country Corn Cake

We followed with the  Surf and Turf Jambalaya  for $22.00. According to the Paella connoisseurs at the table, it was outstanding! Chock full of gulf seafood, smoked chicken and Andouille sausage, this dish was an impressive southern treat for this group of Valencianos. For a light touch, we added the Heirloom Florida Tomato Salad for $12.00. A lovely bowl of garden goodness: avocado, shallots, hearts of palm, puff amaranth and Harpke family farm sprouts sprinkled with a good dose of queso fresco. Along came some Country Corn Cakes dotted with plenty of salmon caviar, herb crème fraiche and lemon zest for $14.00.

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Pannacotta Shortcake

To top off this southern feast, we had to have desert.  The Bourbon Bread Pudding made with Krispy cream doughnuts were pretty good. In spite of its rich ingredients,  it turned out to be quite light and the Panacotta Shortcake was a cloud of  fluffy deliciousness topped with fresh strawberries  and a good sprinkle of crunchy biscuit crumbs.

No complaints here, not one! I was sure my mission to impress my friends was successful as I heard my  friend Pilar say : “They’ve got to  open one of these in Madrid!”

The Federal

5132 Biscayne Blvd.

Miami, FL 33137 -Tel. 305 758 9559

http://www.thefederalmiami.com

 

Red Chile Linguine with Mussels and Saffron Crema Il Piatto – Santa Fe, New Mexico

SFpiatto1Ok, I know you’re probably wondering what on earth is she doing blogging about an Italian restaurant in a  town like Santa Fe. Well, you would be as surprised as I was when I found some interesting dishes at this charming eatery where  Italian and New SFpiatto5Mexican cuisine are married and rather happily!

This is not just any restaurant, it’s a farm to table one. Food comes from  organic farms to ensure the freshest and most wholesome experience, a  dining luxury at a very reasonable price…a true gem in the Santa Fe dining scene.

The atmosphere was perfect, low lighting and tables busy with happy patrons who filled the quaint dining room with lively chatter. Lovely waitress Zina was eager to recommend some very tempting choices but I must say that the star on the menu was the homemade red chile linguine with Prince Edward Island mussels in a light yet velvety saffron cream sauce for $13.79….unbelievable!  Spicy and creamy,  plump meaty musles and perfectly cooked spicy pasta…what else do you want? Of course, a nice bottle of Domaine Brunel Côte du Rhône 2011 for $35!

Also, on this creative menu was the grilled duck breast with mushrooms, marsala and creamy polenta for $27.79… pricey? Yes, maybe! But well worth it, it is duck after all.  Also delicious was the spicy homemade Keyser pork meatballs and spaghetti for $12.79. For desert, the Anjou pear over phyllo dough drizzled with caramel and fresh whipped cream was the perfect way to end our New Mexican-Italian meal! New Mexican Italian, what a concept!

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*You have the option of ordering appetizer or entree portions on some of the menu items.

 

SFpiatto6Il Piatto

95 W Marcy Street
Santa Fé, New Mexico
(505) 984 1091
http://www.ilpiattosantafe.com

Atchafalaya – New Orleans, Louisiana

 

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I’ve always been a  big fan of Anthony Bourdain, I just love the guy! So, of course, before I got to New Orleans, I did some research on some of his local favorites and found Atchafalaya.The name, long river in choctaw, sounded interesting and his comments were quite favorable. So, I left the French Quarter behind and took a ten minute cab drive to the charming Garden district neighborhood.atchafalayafish

In 2005, right after hurricane Katrina, owners Tony Tocco and Rachel Jaffe Tocco turned this historic locale into a chic neighborhood eatery refurbishing it inside with reclaimed materials left from the storm. It seemed like the perfect place to go for an authentic New Orleans meal, away from tourists and crowds.

On the corner of   beautiful tree-lined Louisiana avenue and Laurel street, stands this lovely wooden structure that, from the outside, looked more like a small cafe. Little did we know that inside, a charming and intimate space of dim lights and comfortable seating would welcome us into what would be one of the best dining experiences we ever had.

We were happy to see a menu full of great seafood choices like the amazing Maine diver seared scallops served with sweet corn, mushrooms and roasted cherry tomatoes with a drizzle of sherry caramel for $16.  For the main course, I ordered some of the local fish  know as Drum: two fillets of a tender and flaky white fish sautéed with smoked turnips, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, totsoi (Asian spinach), grapes and an orange basil gastrique (caramelized vinegar sauce) for $30.

The pecan smoked New York strip steak was quite interesting: perfectly grilled Louisiana grass fed beef, french fry “poutine” ( gravy) and a delectable foie gras-red wine sauce served with sautéed baby spinach  for $36. Dessert was a nice surprise: a trio  of homemade sorbets of strawberry, peach and  the delicious satsuma, a  mild  citric fruit native to the area that offered the perfect balance of sweet and sour for $8.

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Don’t ever be intimidated by a long name like Atchafalaya, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what hides behind it! Definitely the best food I had in New Orleans.

 

 

 

atchafalaya1Atchafalaya

92 Louisiana Avenue

New Orleans, LA 70115

505 891 9626

http://www.atchafalayarestaurant.com

Nola Restaurant – New Orleans, Louisiana

nola6I couldn’t leave New Orleans without trying one of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s popular restaurants so I  gave Nola a try for lunch. Located in the heart of the French district, this rustic eatery which is named as the acronym for the big easy,  offered an interesting menu of mostly creole  cuisine.  Brick walls, high ceilings and an ample open kitchen give it a lofty appeal straying  from some of  the rococo joints  in the area.

To start, I ordered the bacon cauliflower soup for $8 that although lovely in texture and flavor, could’ve used less salt. Along came some  delicious homemade brioche and some  jalapeño corn bread from Nola’s in-house bakery, giving the place a fine Portuguese touch of Lagasse’s  roots!  nola1

After walking around for days and seeing po’boys advertised in every corner, I made it a mission to try Lagasse’s. A French bread sandwich made with whatever is in offer. Here it was the braised pork cheek po’boy with Provolone cheese and a side of house cut  fries for $15. All served along  some creole mustard aioli and giardiniera ( pickled peppers). Although very tasty, I must say that the cheese was unnecessary. The cheeks are flavorful and  fatty enough, no need to add anything!

nola4One of my  creole favorites has always been the shrimp and grits so I had to give Emeril’s a try; sautéed gulf shrimp, grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, applewood  smoked bacon, cremini mushrooms in a red chili abita butter sauce for $19. Perfectly cooked shrimp over tender and  smooth ground corn in an absolutely delicious sauce that gave it a nice little  kick, heavenly! All in all, it was a really enjoyable experience to try a menu created by Emeril  Lagasse, a Portuguese -French-Canadian who’s become the quintessential New Orleanian!

 

Nola Restaurantnola5

534 Saint Louis Street

New Orleans, LA 70130

504 522 6652

http://www.emerilsrestaurants.com

 

* You can find the recipe for the shrimp and grits at www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/nolas-shrimp-and-smoked-cheddar-grits-recipe

Cindi’s New York Style Delicatessen – Dallas, Texas

cindieggsWhat do you get when you mix a little bit of New York with a little bit of Texas? You get Cindi’s New York Style Delicatessen! A sensational diner owned by renowned Vietnamese restauranteur Anh Vo who’s been serving hungry Dallasites for well over twenty years.cindibagel

We were off to a good start  when the lovely hostess asked us to wait for twenty minutes but really meant ten. As we were seated in a comfy booth, a friendly waitress handed us a huge menu that required a couple of minutes to go through. There’s no denying the Mexican influence in the local cuisine wherever you go in Texas and Dallas is no different. Even though there is some Yankee influence here with the grand assortment of bagels , huge pastrami sandwiches and the fine lox, the breakfast menu offers a nice selection of Tex-Mex.cindisteak

I chose the scrambled eggs with chorizo for $ 9.99. Three large eggs scrambled with the insides of what Mexicans call chorizo, a similar blend to its Spanish counterpart  but with a little more kick. As a side came a scrumptious, crunchy on the outside and moist in the inside, order of hashbrowns that I couldn’t finish, three warm corn tortillas, and some mild salsa. I also ordered a side of sour cream to tame the devilish spice in the sausage. It was just a little too early for so much heat!

My sidekick had the perfectly grilled ribeye steak and fried eggs, a true protein packed Texan breakfast that seemed to satisfy. I justcindigerman wished I had come here with more appetite so I could try many other tempting items on the menu like one of their great sandwiches or lovely looking German chocolate cake. Oh and that lemon meringue pie! Next time I return to Dallas, I will starve myself for three or four days before I come back to Cindi’s to devour everything in sight.

Cindi’s New York Style Delicatessen

11111 North Central Expressway suite G

Dallas, TX 75243 214 739 0918

http://www.cindisnydeli.com

Dim Sum at Hakkasan, Miami Beach

hakvegThe last time I dined at Hakkasan was in 2009, the year it first opened at the ritzy Fountainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach. I remember the wonderful ambience and the courteous service, and yes the food was a delicious cornucopia of Cantonese cuisine.

This time, Dim Sum brought me in on a cool sunday afternoon. I couldn’t resist a tempting price fix menu of $28 that included a sample of three steamed dumplings, three pan fried dumplings, one entrée, a choice of  vegetables and a choice of *char sui cheung fun (bbq pork rice noodle roll), wild mushroom *cheung fung (rice noodle roll), spring onion egg fried rice, steamed jasmine rice or wonton noodle soup.

Pork *shui mai (dumpling), a snap pea and shrimp dumpling and a Chinese chive prawn dumpling were the steamed offerings.While the chive and prawn dumpling was tender and flavorful, the pork one was chewy and tasteless.  As a matter of fact, none of the meat dumplings were worth biting into, neither steamed nor pan fried, not even the deep fried  chicken puff.hakdumplings

For the main course you could choose from the BBQ platter, the smoked ribs and char sui (bbq pork) and the stir fried chicken.  We all had to choose the same entrée so we picked the stir fry which was absolutely delicious; tender morsels of breast meat with mushrooms, crispy snap peas,  and crunchy bits of Chinese yam.

hakchickenThe only problem with this dish was its size. It was  too small, more like an appetizer for three people. When asked if it was the right portion, the waitress replied ” that’s what the chef consider’s the right amount to be”. Ok, jut don’t call it an entrée!

The scallion fried rice was light and fluffy. The vegetable side was a lovely medley of perfectly cooked asparagus and thin strips of fried tofu in a sweet Szechuan sauce, the best dish on this Dim Sum menu. Aside from the steep prices and the somewhat snooty staff, Hakassan’s ambience and decor are worth peeking into. Just make sure you order from the regular menu and hope the entrées will really be what they claim to be!

 

hakbarHakkasan

4441 Collins Avenue

Miami Beach, FL 33149

(786)276 1388

http://www.hakkasan.com

 

Chestnut stuffing

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1 lb of chopped roasted chestnuts

2tbsp of butter

3 slices of bacon

2 cups chopped celery

2 chopped leeks

2 chopped apples

1/4 chopped parsley

4 cups of day old crusty Italian bread cut in 1/2 inch pieces

1 teaspoon of fresh thyme or 1/2 of dry thyme

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups of cream

Place the bread in a 350° oven to dry for 15 minutes. Cook bacon until crispy and set aside. Add two tablespoons of butter to remaining fat to cook leeks with  the celery until soft, about 10 minutes. Add apples, chestnuts, parsley and thyme to  cook for an extra 5 minutes.  Toss in bread,  chopped bacon and cream. Add salt and pepper and mix well to make sure bread soaks in the cream.  Place on a shallow baking dish and bake for 30 minutes at 350°.

 

 

 

Ticety – A French treat in Coral Gables, Florida

ticetysandwichWith tea being the second most popular drink after water, it’s no surprise a tea bar should pop up in Coral Gables. But this is no ordinary one. Ticety is a very chic and charming little bit of France on Miracle Mile where a great selection of organic teas are served, hot and cold, as well as gourmet sandwiches, salads and pastries that will have you coming back for more.ticetybeetroot

Beautiful decor nicely combined with an ever so relaxing atmosphere is truly inviting: a lush walled garden lined with comfy wicker swivel chairs and low tables with an open view to  the mile will, no doubt,  entice you take a break and savor some of the finest  teas ever concocted. From delightful green blends like raspberry or mint, to the wild rose white  blend or the island vanilla black blend, every brew is uniquely delicious..

There are many tempting  items on the menu like the Asian shrimp salad made with orange, lemongrass and spinach or the goat cheese foccacia made with tomato, basil and honey. I treated myself to the Copa bun:  small bites of a grilled  brioche-like roll with prosciutto, fresh burrata, avocado and basil served with  a side of greens and cherry tomatoes.  Exquisite!

Another great treat was the smoked salmon salad: a colorful serving of chioggia beetroot, asparagus and granny smith apple with a crunchy citrus dressing. An ever so light croque monsieur was made with Serrano ham, Parmesan cheese and a  touch of truffle oil.ticetycroque

To wash it down, nothing like the caffeine-free berry ice tea served in a lovely pitcher along with some agave syrup for sweetening. Not for me – it was perfect! For those with a  sweet tooth, nothing like the a nice  selection of fine pastries that includes chocolate and almond croissants, fruit scones, danishes and muffins.

ticety1As I enjoyed my lovely lunch, I noticed a particular attention to detail in every way: prompt and courteous service, eye catching dish presentation and a great atmosphere; very French in deed and a  true luxury in these days of coffee shop  chains and pre-packaged food. Whether for  breakfast, lunch or dinner, Ticety  is, by far, the most interesting place on the mile!  


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TICETY

206 Miracle Mile

Coral Gables, Florida 33149

(786) 280-2713

http://www.ticety.com

 

Josh’s Deli – Surfside, Miami, Florida

joshchickensaladcloseupDo not be fooled by the understated façade at Josh’s Deli. Take a step inside and you’ll find yourself in what looks like a really hip hidden garden: soft lighting, rustic wood tables, hanging vines and walls lined with photographs. It’s  like a bit of Brooklyn in Miami with all the great trimmings of a chic New York eatery offering a wholesome deli menu with an ingenious twist.

I have always been a fan of a good all American chicken salad sandwich. This  was even better than anything I had tried before: juicy shredded chicken mixed with plump raisins, smoked chopped onions and a touch of a delicate foie gras reduction —-what a touch! This delicious concoction was generously served on rustic rye bread with some mustard, fresh kale and a slice of tomato along a side of tangy coleslaw and a pickle, all for $10.95. Of course, there was some secret ingredient  in the light and creamy dressing that I couldn’t put my finger on but  I’ll be back for more until I figure it out!

My friend Tamara was equally delighted with the Tricky Ricky sandwich: turkey, prosciutto, duck and brie cheese on toasted rye for $13.95.  This delicious alternative to the classic Croque-Monsieur was made with a slightly spicy chipotle and truffle dressing – exquisite! 

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Along with the great food come great drinks like  the  refreshing veggie juice  made with kale, cucumber, beet and carrot for $6.95. For those more adventurous,  there’s  a Sake Bloody Mary and a Mimosa for $7.95 each.  Of course, there are more classic items on the menu like wine, beer,coffee and cappuccino and Josh’s also offers a more extensive menu for brunch on weekends.  Starting October 23rd, dinner will also be served and every thursday will be pizza night  featuring a variety of pies made Josh’s way.  I can’t wait to get a taste!joshhimself

 

 

 

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Josh’s Deli

9517 Harding Avenue

Surfside, FL 33149

(305) 397 8494

http://www.joshdeli.com