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Thursday, March 20, 2014

A La Folie Café Francais

     A bit of Paris right here in Miami Beach! Quaint, authentic, delicious! Lately I'd been fearing that I was becoming too demanding when visiting new places because none were giving me that sense of satisfaction in discovery that I seek in my foodie adventures. A La Folie refreshed my outlook. What a delightful little place!

     Let's begin with the space itself. The whole thing measures roughly 30 by 15 feet plus a small kitchen in the back. The moment I walked in, I was transported back to Paris. Small, rustic tables with french phrases painted on them, rusty objects strewn strategically about, even in the restroom, where one of the tiny walls is a black and white panoramic of the 'city of lights'. The dishes are boldly and intentionally chipped which made me squeal with amusement. The 'cerise' on top had to be our server, Arnaud - a little flirty, a little brooding, very competent and very French!
     Now for the food. It all began with the most splendid over-sized cups, minus handles, of café au lait. These whimsical cups force you to make a commitment to the contents and dive into the creamy sea of coffee, holding on tight with both hands.
     My friend DJ ordered the Totale, one of many crepe menu items, the house specialty. The portion was generous, the crepe sublimely delicate and full of the flavors of ham, cheese and mushrooms.
     I had the 'Croque Madame'. Not long ago, I blogged about another establishment where I ordered the 'Croque Monsieur', a slightly less decadent version of the Madame. When I ordered on this day, I wondered if I would have the same lukewarm response. I decided that if I wasn't impressed this time either, I would have to resign myself to the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Croque are just not for me.
    This Croque delivers what it promises: a toasted french baguette doused in melted Swiss cheese that also greets you from inside the sandwich, along with savory ham and a sinfully silky bechamel that escapes from the sides of the bread when you take a bite. Madame wears a crown that Monsieur does not: a perfect egg, sunny side up, that breaks and flows deliciously when punctured by the baguette. This is why I explore eateries. This is why this blog was born.
     Both dishes came with the freshest arugula and tomato salad.  Even these elements seemed lovingly chosen and gently sprinkled with a light dressing.
   Then came dessert, and this time we both had crepes: DJ ordered the 'Bourdaloue', filled with a magical mix of crushed caramelized pears and almond filling. I ordered the 'Chocolat', only because I couldn't read past the word 'Nutella'. My search was over. Both selections were presented with a dusting of powdered sugar, but DJ's came sprinkled with toasted almonds and mine was topped with chocolate cream graffiti. Both were light and yet packed a punch of flavor. A lip-smacking end to a sensational brunch.
     I have to give a shoutout to DJ. I can't remember ever going somewhere that she recommended and not being blown away. This time was no exception. I marvel to watch her weave her way around every twist and turn of her realm (Miami Beach) and always arrive at the most enchanting places. She is my Epicurean Superhero!

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

2014 Kitchen Experiment #3 - Baked Brie en Croute

     Ok, so it seems that everyone I know can make this crowd favorite except me. Something about baking cheese to that exact point so that it oozes silky onto the plate when you cut into it was very intimidating, but I'm in a phase in my life where any challenge is an invitation to expand my horizons. So, before the phase passes, I decided to go big or go home.
     The prep was easy enough, and the recipe I used as a guide had some embellishments that definitely enhanced the finished product. I spread orange jam over the cheese round before covering it with the dough. Once I wrapped it, I brushed black walnut syrup over the dough and sprinkled it lightly with brown sugar.
     The result was a crispy, glistening crust with a hint of sweetness that amusingly complemented the sharpness of the cheese.
     The cheese didn't quite ooze as I wanted it to, but I suspect that in waiting for the crust to brown to my satisfaction, I may have overcooked it slightly.
     Also, going back to the sharpness of the cheese, I think I got a little presumptuous. I bought an expensive Brie that was extremely pungent and turned off my lab assistant (John) from the outcome of the experiment. Even I found it almost too sharp. I never thought this cheese lover would utter (write) these words. Thank goodness for the sweet embellishments!

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