Mignonette

mignonett4Mignonette, named after the famous oyster sauce, this raw bar and seafood eatery is full of creative surprises. A genuinely good place to eat fresh fish in Miami.

A cool combination of a diner and a European café, this charming, yet understated, restaurant caught my eye as I drove down quiet and mostly deserted 2nd avenue. I loved the sound of it – Mignonette, and I’m always in the mood for seafood so I stopped in to give it a try.

As I took a look at the menu, I wondered why would they offer croissants as an appetizer? Well, because they’re homemade and served warm with a chunky lobster butter and a scrumptious serving of mango jam for $ 8. These are real buttery and flaky croissants that melt in your mouth with nothing on them, imagine adding bits of lobster? Delicious! I could’ve had ten of them but I wanted to save room for some other interesting items on the menu. There was a long list of fish choices like red fish, grouper, snapper as well as shrimp, scallops, oysters and clams. They’re sandwich selection includes the traditional Louisiana Po Boy made with chicken, conch or shrimp, as well as other old time favorites like the lobster roll. A nice assortment of salads and veggies make for great sides .mignonoett5

Chowing down the croissant got me in the mood for more lobster, and nothing could satisfy my craving as much as their soup of the day – lobster bisque served with a garnish of Spain’s famous Pata Negra ham which added a light touch of saltiness to this silky bowl of seafood goodness.

I then ordered some fantastic crispy skin snapper served with sweet potato fries seasoned with ancho chile for $23, a rather large fillet crispy on the outside and tender and flaky on the inside. I also tried the fried clam Po’ Boy on a Portuguese roll that came with a nice portion of sautéed rainbow chard, a healthy and delicious side. The clams were juicy and tender, just like the ones I use to have back in Rhode Island. So glad to find another great place for seafood in Miami! You’d think we’d have plenty, but not really.

Mignonettemignonette6

210 NE 18th Street

Miami, FL

305 374-4635

Miami, FL 33132

http://www.mignonettemiami.com

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Proof – Midtown-Miami

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A tiny little spot tucked away behind the corner of 34th street and North Miami avenue would be hard to find if not for the colorful creature painted on the wall.  A tiny space, maybe, but huge as far as quality and service! What else matters?

This place was recommended by a friend who has a good eye for restaurants. So, following her advice, one sunday afternoon I dragged my husband, daughter and two dogs out of the house to sample Proof for a late lunch.

As soon as we walked into the lovely patio, we were greeted and so were our dogs.  As we sat down at a table, both Fiji and Sarah were served  a huge bowl of fresh water without even asking. Thoughtful to say the least.

Although the menu was small, which can sometimes be a good thing, it had some tempting items  like the shaved Brussels sprout salad with apple cider,  Gorgonzola, pecans and dried cranberries for $11. Deliciously crunchy, sweet, savory and mildly tangy with just the right amount of Gorgonzola that gives it a kick without overpowering the dish, something that often happens in the  US.  No need for that. In this case, less is more!

The grilled octopus was another winner, tender and generously served with celery root and a squid ink sauce that was perfectly seasoned for $15. proofpulpo

And although I am not a big fan of pizza, when it’s done right I cannot resist a bite. My daughter’s Margherita  for $12 was baked in a 900 degree wood burning oven. I could see on her face that she had no intention of sharing it with anyone, but I was hoping to get a taste of the edges she usually leaves on her plate. This time, this was not going to happen so I begged for a piece until she begrudgingly obliged. Both homemade sauce and mozzarella were divine, and the dough was uniquely soft and airy. It’s no wonder she ate it all. proofpizza

I can’t wait to come back to try their oxtail pizza, their chestnut agnolotti or their snickerdoodle cookie dough macaron sandwich made with toasted cinnamon ice-cream.  How more creative can you get? This place is certainly Proof that good food and great service are still  standing in Miami.

Proof  Pizza & Pasta

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3328 North Miami Avenue 

Miami, FL 33127

Tel (786) 536 9562

http://www.proofpizza.com

 

 

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

 

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

Azul – Mandarin Oriental – Miami, Florida

vichisoisseAfter an extensive renovation in 2013, Azul has re-emerged as a sophisticated and undeniably interesting restaurant that serves an innovative fusion of French and Asian cuisine. With Executive chef William R. Crandall at the helm, eating at Azul has become a truly exciting experience, leaving any of the old hype about pretentious hotel restaurants behind.

When I first visited Azul back in 2004, the only memory I took with me was that of a great cocktail and an astronomical bill. I honestly cannot remember what I ate, and I can assure you, I only had one drink. The meal just wasn’t anything to write home about.

This time the experience was rather different. Not just because I opted for the Miami Spice menu for $39, offered every year in August and September to promote local restaurants, but because what I ate was truly delicious and different. And I honestly wouldn’t mind paying more!

I often stay away from special menus because I don’t like to be told what to eat….got enough of that while growing up. But, I was pleasantly surprised by the great options on this particular one with beginners such as vichyssoise, steak tartare and tomato salad. A great variety of entrees like salmon, risotto or pork belly were very tempting and so were desserts like the passion fruit crème brûlée, the Meyer lemon sable and the chocolate pecan financier.

On this balmy September night, the vichyssoise was in order. This one, was made with beetroot dotted with bits of lobster meat, a creative touch that added a salty contrast to the sweet creamy chilled soup garnished with thin tangy green apple sticks.azulrisotto

For the main course, I opted for the celeriac and pink shrimp risotto made with tiny bits of diced celeriac that gave it a nice bite. Velvety and light, a perfect alternative to the sometimes heavy arborio rice! azuldessert

This time, I must say that dessert was welcome. I don’t usually order any but who could turn down a passion fruit creme brûlée garnished with white chocolate sorbet and fresh chunks of pineapple? An ever so light custard combined with just the right amount of creamy sorbet to take you to heaven for a moment. Maybe, that’s why it’s called Azul – blue – like the sky, because you could say that the food has been elevated to new heights. What can I say? I really enjoyed this meal and can’t wait to go back!

azulrestaurantAzul

Mandarin Oriental Hotel

500 Brickell Key Drive 33131

Tel: (305) 913-8358

 

Mandolin Aegean Bistro – Miami’s Design District

doorOnce you pass all the fashionable shops through the ever so trendy Design District, you’ll find  one of the most rustic restaurants in Miami. A true Greek patio filled with feisty eaters who drink, eat and, unfortunately smoke…just like in Greece. If you can get pass that small inconvenience,which by the way is almost unnoticeable thanks to the electric fan system set up to keep patrons cool, you’ll fall in love with this place!

As soon as I walked through the blue wooden door, I new it was my kind of restaurant. Relaxing, fun, casual  and quaint with soft lantern lit tables, lovely grapevines and  blooming bouganvillias every where.  Right away,we got a table and were taken care of by a lovely waitress named Freddie. Even though there is a great selection of wines, including Greek, Italian, German, Spanish and Argentinian, on this warm june night we opted for a glass of  white sangria made with rosewater and  stone ipa beer, citrusy and refreshing for $10.salad2

For starters, I  ordered the Greek salad….the best one I’ve ever tasted! Chunks of locally grown tomatoes and cucumbers, julienned green peppers and red onion wit lovely olives, mild feta cheese, capers and  fresh oregano.  All dressed in a light red wine vinaigrette for $14

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As my main course, I ordered the  grilled octopus for $18. Two large and tender servings marinated in red wine, olive oil, Turkish spices and oregano. Great choice! Along with it, I had to try the french fries dressed with  garlic yogurt with a sprinkle of hot paprika,  a fantastic  combination for $9! They should bottle the dressing!

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I also tried the grilled lamb chops for $32 . Four robust chops cooked medium rare, served  over fluffly orzo pilaflamb

Of course for a sweet ending to my meal, I reluctantly  chose the Baklava, I just didn’t want anything too sweet or too rich late at night. Surprisingly it was neither.  Fresh thin sheets of phyllo dough drizzled  with a light syrup sprinkled with pistachios, sweet and buttery but by no means cloying. An absolutely delicious ending to a great Greek meal!

 

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Mandolin Aegean Bistro

 4312 2nd Avenue

 Miami, FL 33137

 305 7499140

 Open:

 Mon-Sat 12-11

 Sun 12-10