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Friday, June 12, 2015

Yard House

      130 different varieties of beer course through gargantuan metal veins hanging from the roof. They all lead to a beer estuary, a  keg room at the far wall of the space, dimly lit with foggy red lights and barely visible through opaque glass. These are the most distinctive elements of the decor at Yard House in Coral Gables, Florida.
     The rest consists of over sized wood booths with severe black seating that dramatically contrasts the metal on the roof  and the nebulous keg room. I asked if I could take a picture inside the mysterious chamber, and suddenly, troops of servers seemed to mobilize as if I had given a secret code. The manager, a friendly man by the name of Shane, knelt beside me and in furtive tones explained why he couldn't let me in this impenetrable room. He talked about little black boxes with blinking blue strobe lights, all part of a 'proprietary' system to keep the beer pure and sanitary. It all sounded very clandestine, as if I needed security clearance just to hear it all. Basically, I understood "we invented this system, it's classified and if we tell you anymore, we'll have to kill you." And I don't even drink beer!
     John, however, does like experimenting with hop juice, and this time he chose the Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat which they served with two orange wedges on the side. I guess they're supposed to enhance the tangerine flavor. After squeezing the juice of both wedges, I asked him if he detected the citrus and he said there was "something there." Hmm... I don't know what that means.
     I ordered the sweetest cocktail on the menu, the Malibu Peach, a mixture of rum, vodka and island punch. I wondered where the 'peach' would come from, but there it was mixed in the punch, the delicate nectar to complete my confection in a martini glass.
     Besides the covert mission adventure, other things made this meal enjoyable. The menu is extensive and varied. John and I picked items from the Snacks and Appetizers sections and the portions were the most generous I've ever seen for starter dishes.We even had enough to take home! John ordered the sliders, and four chubby sandwiches came with a hill of shoestring fries. This is an appetizer? I ordered the crispy Brussels sprouts and the chicken strips. Now, everyone would eat their veggies if they were always served like this- crispy, tangy, served with roasted potatoes over a malt vinegar aioli. The chicken strips were standard issue and also arrived in the company of a mound of shoestring fries. However, they also came with a captivating maple mustard dipping sauce. Without a doubt, mustard's romance with maple syrup is sweeter and happier than its traditional relationship with honey.
     You can't help feeling contented when you're fed so generously, even if the dishes aren't spectacular, and contentment leads to dessert. I love when I see a dessert sampler option on the menu because it means I can get a real taste for what that particular kitchen does with sweets. The Mini Trio Sampler included a chocolate soufflé cake, a peach apple cobbler and a lemon soufflé cake. The lemon cake was the only disappointment. Lemon desserts should go "Bam!" in your mouth with the perfect balance of sweet and citrus.You really had to search deep for any hint of lemon in this version.The chocolate was rich and pillowy. Surprisingly, I thought the headliner was the peach apple cobbler. I don't care much for apple desserts, but this one was luscious in its sweetness, the peach adding an extra layer of flavor, the crunchy sugar of the crumble topping remaining in your mouth as a souvenir.
     Maybe not every dish wows, but the menu contains a little bit of everything, and many offerings, although commonplace in most American fare menus, have whimsical elements that set them apart. No matter what you order, though, you won't go hungry at Yard House.

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