Pardon The Punctuation…watching the Lakers lose on an empty stomach is not an easy thing to pull off. That’s why I recommend this CorkBar in DTLA for pre game food and drink. They’ve got a great happy hour that runs from tuesday to saturday. Great food paired with an eclectic wine list make CorkBar my #1 place before any event at Staples Center.
Pardon The Punctuation…South Beach is the kind of place that can overwhelm you. Loaded with tourists and overpriced crappy food, it’s easy to get lost and frustrated. Rule number one: if the only way a restaurant can lure people in is by having some hot looking European or Brazilian hostess waving menus in peoples faces as they walk by..chances are you’ll find better food in a Cambodian slum. With so many options in Miami I’ve taken the liberty of setting up a little itinerary to follow if you want to do it just right. Foodie style!
First you need a place to rest your head. My vote is for the Surfcomber Hotel. Just close enough to the crazyness and just far enough away that you can get a goods night rest. Great comfortable rooms and probably the most attentive staff in the beach. The staff is so good you’d swear you’re not in Miami. The free coffee in the morning doesn’t hurt either.
Breakfast: Panther Coffee’s Miami Beach location is the way to go for coffee made with a little TLC in Miami. Also They’ve got killer locally sourced food also. Try a pour over coffee and then grab an almond croissant from True Loaf bakery just next door. Perfect breakfast.
Lunch: Pizza Rustica is a South Beach staple and a must for any pizza lover visiting Miami. The orignal location on 9th and Washington ave is the best of the best for me. Check the four cheese and BBQ chicken slices if you want to cure an afternoon hunger.
Dinner: Pubbelly is a relatively new place to Miami Beach. Only open for three years and with several restaurants under their belt, Pub Belly the flagship gastro pub of the brand. I’d hit up the pork belly dumplings and the short rib tartare. Some wonderfully presented flavors at this place. I need to give it another try. Sat at the bar and my server was so pretentious and douchy that it left a slightly bad taste in my mouth. I get that he was proud of the food they serve but he needs to realize that just because your restaurant is a big fish in little pond doesn’t mean you’re not a dime a dozen in New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. I’m not knocking the food at all. It was delicious..sometimes people just need know their place. I really hope that this guy is not a reflection of the chef.
Dessert: For dessert make your way just around the corner from Pubbelly to IceBox Cafe. Great ambiance with some delicious cakes and pies. My top pics are the key lime pie and the deep dish apple pie. The key lime pie was refreshing with just the right amount of tartness and the deep dish apple pie tasted home made.
Cocktails: After your food settles it’s cocktail time. Lets keep it in the neighborhood and walk over to Purdy Lounge. Open til 5am and full of the local crowd, Purdy Lounge has been serving up great beer and cocktails for over 10 years. You have to check out room that looks like the set of “Scarface” vomited on a wall. Cool stuff
Breakfast: Day two we’re going with the latin theme. Star the day with some Cuban coffee and toast at David’s Cafe. To do the authentic Cuban experience walk up to the outside window, order a cafe con leche with leche evaporada, a croqueta, and a tostada Cubana. Then to keep it real make sure to argue about politics as you eat standing outside. That’s the true Miami Cuban way.
Lunch: After catching some sun on the beach hit up Abuela’s Kitchen for a huge portion of Vaca Frita. That’s shredded flank steak that’s pan fried with onions and garlic. This is by far my favorite Cuban dish. One you’re done pound some Lipitor and take a nap.
Dinner: Right around the corner from Pub Belly and from the same owners sits Barceloneta. What a great tapas place in Miami. They do it right. You must do the croquetas with jamon serrano and the patatas bravas. Remember these are tapas so don’t get too full. After those two appetizers have a bottle of wine and enjoy it with some manchego cheese and paleta Iberica de bellota….trust me.
Cocktails: For cocktails on your last night start at The Room. It’s pretty much a dimly lit room with an eclectic list of beer and wine. The perfect place to star your night. After tipping back a few save the best for last. Hop in a cab up to the Delano hotel which is about a 30 second walk from the entrance of the Surfcomber. Walking in will transport you to the Miami that you’ve seen in movies. Sheik decor and probably the coolest infinity pool in Miami. Make your way to the back of the hotel and ask to have a cocktail on the pool. Literally on the pool. There’s a portion of the pool that is about one inch deep and is equipped with a table and chairs giving you the feeling of sitting above the water. Once of my favorite experiences in Miami Beach.
I’ve created a Foursquare list here to help you remember where to go. Just save it to your foursquare account and all these places will be waiting for you when you get to Miami. I hope this helps you enjoy the city of my birth.
Pardon The Punctuation…I was blessed to be invited to a wonderful food event for “No Kid Hungry” an organization that has the goal of ensuring that every child in America has access to healthy food every day. It was at CB2 in West Hollywood and had Top Chef Master Neal Fraser serving the food. This was a win win win across the board.
Lets get to the food.
Thai Lobster Soup: No description needed…TheBomb.com
Chive Blinis: house cured salmon, chives, and creme fraiche. The salmon was aromatic and the blini was just the right texture. I need to learn to make these at home.
Kale Caesar Salad: A wonderful interpretation of this classic dish with enough anchovy to tease the palate.
Wild King Salmon: with leek fondue, spinach croutons, and red wine sauce. One of the most perfectly cooked pieces of salmon I’ve ever had. The spinach croutons were a nice gelatinous surprise and full of flavor. Could have eaten twenty of them.
Prime Hanger Steak: with white carrot puree, roasted baby root vegetables, and yuzu kosho Chimichurri. Not since my days living in Miami have I had Chimichurri this good. Medium rare and the carrot puree was a nice touch.
Pumpkin Panna Cotta: with tea infused ice cream and warm hickory syrup. Wow Wow Wow! The flavor of that pumpkin with the sweet smokiness of the hickory syrup was to die for. The fat kid in me was ready to scarf eighty-five of them but I held back and just had one.
CB2 and Neal Fraser put together a stellar table set up and presentation. It made the perfect location for this intimate dinner to support such an important cause. Thanks to them for inviting me to partake in such a wonderful evening.
Pardon The Punctuation…Miami..my home town..the place known for pastel suits and half naked ladies, wasn’t exactly the kind of place that had a lot of variety of food while growing up in the 80′s. As the the son of of Cuban immigrants I had my fare share of rice, beans, plantains, meat, pork, shrimp, and espresso growing up. Unfortunately Little else was on the menu. Yeah sure there were Miami staples like Frankie’s Pizza and Tropical Chinese, but Miami food lacked an identity. Besides food from Latin America we had nothing that made it special. After moving to Los Angeles 8 years ago a whole new food world opened up to me. Miami always seems playing catch up. I’m proud to say that after spending some time in the 305 last week, I’m pleasantly surprised in where my town is heading. A new trendy neighborhood “Wynwood” which is basically a fancy name they gave to a formerly dangerous part of town to try to get people to venture into it…has got some great spots that would have stuck out like a sore thumb in the Miami I knew as a teenager. A place like “Panther Coffee” put a smile on my face. We all know that Miami has the best Cuban coffee in huge USA but that was about it. Panther coffee brings things like in house roasting and the Chemex to a town where hipsters had practically no refuge. Alright I’m done making fun of hipsters. I loved Panther Coffee. It’s the kind of coffee house you’ll find walking down the street in San Francisco except your not in chilly SF, your in humid muggy MIA and let me tell you SoFla needed a place like this. The menu is also riddled with single origin coffees that rock.
The food truck phenomenon has also made its way into town. Ms. Cheezious truck is one that kicks ass in my book. Fresh ingredients grilled with cheese between two pieces of bread can put a smile on your face. I inhaled the prosciutto with goat cheese and it was spectacular. They weren’t stingy with the ham either. It was falling out of the bread. Follow them on twitter so you know where they’re setting up shop for the day. I’d say wait for them to park in front of Panther coffee like I did and you can knock out two birds with one stone.
This trip home gave me hope for the Miami’s future. A peek into the realm of what’s possible for my hometown. I’m heading back in home next couple of weeks with a rejuvenated sense of excitement to taste something creative and new. If you’re into not living in the past and want to see the evolution of one of the most amazing cities in the U.S. Give these two spots a try.
Pardon the Punctuation…During my recent time in San Francisco I stumbled upon an amazing German restaurant called Suppenküche. Located in the Hayes Valley section of town this quaint spot is host to amazing german beers and authentic cuisine. I was a bit skeptical but orderer the wiener schnitzel with roasted potatoes and spätzle. “Blown away” is the best way to describe the flavors. Not since my last time in Germany have I had such amazing schnitzel. If you dig German food and are in SF give them a try. Just awesome. Sorry for being short with this post but I’m jet lagged and my mind is fried.
Pardon the Punctuation…Seattle needs to to start looking over its shoulder as San Francisco is quickly becoming the new coffee Mecca. One of my favorite San Fran coffee companies is Sightglass Coffee. Right in the heart of SOMA you’ll find one of the most beautiful coffee shops I’ve ever seen. It’s like a little Willy Wonka coffee factory with all of the roasting and packaging going on around you. If you’re not in a hurry you can head up to their second floor and try some of the single origin coffees and Aeropress brews. These guys are masters at making amazing coffee and the baristas love taking time to guide you through what you’re tasting and where it comes from. Talk about having a knowledgable staff. If you’re in SF and love coffee you have to check them out. Trust me you’ll be blown away.
Pardon The Punctuation…We all have “Guilty Pleasure” foods that we crave from time to time. One of mine happens to be cotton candy. I’ve been off the stuff for a while considering how many chemicals make up the cotton candy that’s readily available and lets be honest..who the hell wants to make their own cotton candy? On a recent trip to the Fountainebleu hotel in Miami I was surprised to see “Organic” on a package of cotton candy sold there. It was by a little mom and pop company called “Cotton Cravings.” By then I’d already had a couple of bourbon cocktails and was jonesing something sweet. The “Dulce De Leche” flavor caught my attention so I grabbed a pack and made my way to the pool. After ripping the package open I was blown away by what was in there. Fluffy, delicious, melt in your mouth cotton candy like I’d never had before. The pillowy clouds of rich dulce de leche transported me in a time warp to being a kid again. Mind you and slightly intoxicated kid by a pool in Miami but a kid none the less. Needless to say I went back and bought every flavor they had. My Favorites were dulce de leche, chic chocolate raspberry, and happy happy birthday cake. Yes I know cotton candy is not known for it’s nutritional content but when it comes down to our guilty pleasures who cares? Whether your vice is burgers, ice cream, fries, pizza or anything that requires a pile of Lipitor after you eat it, why not go for the “better for you” version. If we’re gonna do it anyway lets put stuff in our bodies that’s made out of the best possible organic ingredients on the planet.
Pardon The Punctuation…Nothing will get me to try a restaurant sooner than when they have a “half off” all the food on the menu special. That’s what Lazy Ox Canteen had as a promotion last tuesday night. They’re also dog friendly which was another bonus as my dog “Indie” was able to make the trip too. It’s in the little Tokyo neighborhood close to downtown LA and is one of the few non-Japanese food options in the area. The only problem with the %50 discount promo is that I gorged myself into a food coma and had trouble sleeping that night because I was sooooooooo full. Alrighty then, lets get to the grub.
Pig Ear Chicharrones: with escabeche, tomatillo salsa, and harissa. Like yummy little pig ear french fries. Full of flavor and just a wonderful bite to have a with an ice cold beer.
Albacore Ratatouille: with red onion, cucumber, and dill. This was a beautiful, refreshing, and well balanced dish. The dill was a nice touch with the fresh albacore.
Moules Marinieres: Mussels and clams with fennel, sundried tomato, and a white wine sauce. This was one of the stars of the show. I have a thing for fennel and for some reason this combination of flavors works for my palate. A perfectly executed dish.
Rosemary Beef Ragu: Hand-cut pappardelle with a soft egg and parmigiano reggiano. A little on the heavy side with good flavor. I’m a sucker for ragu and this didn’t disappoint.
Laxy Ox Burger: with White Cheddar and whole grain mustard. This is a solid burger. Not the best I ever had but still a good choice. Juicy and made with some high quality moo moo.
Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie: with hazelnuts and caramel ice cream. Each one of these bad boys are made to order and delicious. Definitely a dessert you can share.
House Made Donuts: with chocolate custard and caramelized apple. Fresh, warm, and amazing. This kicks the crap out of your every day donut.
Butterscotch Budino: with caramel and vanilla cookie crumb. This is one of those dishes I’d never think to order but the waitress insisted and brought one out. What a great surprise. Just sinfully good. I’ll be back this will be my go to dessert.
All in all Lazy Ox Canteen has a lot to offer. Great ingredients paired with great spot on preparation. The prices are a little hight for this place. I kept saying to myself “I love this dish but I can get something similar at blah blah blah for $4 less. Times are tough and money is tight out there so every little thing helps. Would I go back? Yes. I’ll just keep my eye out for another night when menu items are discounted. Also guys remember that even when you have a discount like this at a place be sure to tip your server as if you were being charged the full amount for food. So if you got this same discount and your bill was $50 make sure to tip as if it was $100. Enjoy some happy eating!
Pardon The Punctuation…I know that for my fellow guys out there “Date Night” can also mean please empty my wallet night. Finding a reasonably priced restaurant for these special occasions has been a goal of mine recently. Mission accomplished! Cafe Bizou in Sherman Oaks has got a great prix fix menu for under $30 and corkage fee of $2. These prices are relative to the quality of food you’re getting. I know you can have a date night for under $50 but I’m talking about a fine dining french restaurant experience for $30 a person. Oh and part of that prix fix menu was a lobster and filet mignon course…oh yeah…the good stuff!
Escargot Persillade: Burgundy snails with garlic butter and parsley. If you love snails as much as I do this is a great example of escargot in the traditional french style. Butter, butter, butter!
Steak and Maine Lobster: with a Burgundy wine sauce, baked potato, and grilled tomato. Perfectly rare and sliced filet with a grilled half Maine Lobster. I couldn’t believe the dish I was eating compared to what I payed for it. Of course the sauce was rich and everything that I love about authentic French food.
Flourless Chocolate Cake: Winner winner steak and lobster dinner. A great finish to a romantic dinner experience.
If you’re not into making the drive into Sherman Oaks don’t sweat it. They have two other locations on Santa Monica and Pasadena. You have no excuse to take your significant other on a fine dining value date. So guys get your ass in gear and take your lady to Cafe Bizou.
Pardon The Punctuation…Anyone who’s read my blog before knows that I’m a slut for ham from Spain. The Village in Studio City has Jamon Iberico on the menu so of course I had to check it out for dinner this week. What a pleasant surprise. They have a huge covered patio with a great view of their massive wood fire pizza oven. Just a gorgeous space. Great place to go for a bite or just for some cocktails as their mixology menu is extensive and has some innovative cocktails on it. I wasn’t vibing cocktails so I went with a glass of Rioja to accompany my meal. Our server Sarah was sweet, prompt, and made sure everything was tip top with our night. Here is what we had.
Antipasto for Two: with oven roasted peppers, burrata, jamon iberico, and asparagus. If you’ve never had Iberic had ham get your ass over there now. So amazing you just wanna rub it around your lips to taste the natural oils in the meat and every bite is an explosion of flavor on your tongue. The peppers were nice and the burrata was fresh on the palate and worked well with the roasted peppers. That ham is so good you could eat it with ice cream.
Brussels Sprouts: they’re oven roasted and sauteed with a sweet cider glaze. I’ve never had sprouts like this before. I’m so used to eating brussels sprouts cooked with some kind of bacon or pancetta. It’s a nice departure to have this sweet salty version. These guys are a definite must.
Black Mussels: with coconut milk, fennel, Thai chiles, cilantro, and a pinch of Pernod. I expected the portion to be a little bigger but that aside this was a tasty dish. The fennel with the hint of licorice from the Pernod was a nice combination. You’ll want to soak up the sauce with some toasted bread. Yummy.
Churros Con Chocolate: A spin on a traditional dish from Spain. Traditionally this would be a viscous hot chocolate with freshly fried churros to dip in the chocolate. Here the churros come laid across the plate and covered with a generous dollop of hot chocolate poured over them. A sweet stuffing of vanilla sauce balances out this dessert perfectly.
I’m definitely heading back to The Village ASAP. Can’t wait to try their fresh pizza with Iberico and one of those creative cocktails. Also their patio taking up a nice chunk of real estate on Ventura Blvd can’t be beat.