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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Crazy About You

     Every server at this restaurant wears a name tag that reads "My name is ____. I'm crazy about you." I believe them. From the moment I walked in, through the meal, while paying the bill, and as I walked out, every staff member I interacted with seemed to be genuinely happy to see me.
   
     This place in the trendy business area of Brickell is not expansive in size, but it is one of the most popular venues right now for special events. On this particular Sunday, while I began the month-long birthday celebration, a soccer league awards party, a bachelorette lunch, and a bridal shower (for a different bride) were happening simultaneously. It's elegantly eclectic with shabby chic pieces mixed with modern furniture in neutrals and metallics.
Pops of color are provided by Warhol-like posters of iconic figures, and a rustic chandelier made of wood branches contrasts sharply against elegant wallpaper. Outside seating is arranged on a balcony that looks upon Brickell Bay.

     The table settings include the cutest little paper bags full of toasted strips of buttered bread and dishes of olive oil and balsamic- the perfect companions for my Passion Mule, a fresh and punchy mixture of orange vodka, lime juice and ginger beer.
 
   
   
     The menu is generous. Every entree comes with an appetizer, so I had quite a variety of samples at the table. John ordered the Serrano Ham Croquettes and the Chicken and Waffles. I ordered the Tostones and Bruschetta with Roma Tomatoes and Strawberries, and the Grilled Short Rib Benedict. The croquettes were perfectly fried, but the Serrano ham taste was hard to find. Serrano is no ordinary ham, and a croquette made with it should be no ordinary croquette. This one was.
   
     John found his chicken dry although I didn't, and he actually said Waffle House makes better waffles. Ouch! The tostones were unremarkable, the combination of Roma tomatoes and strawberries sounded interesting, but should've been enhanced by a bolder dressing. The eggs Benedict were poached perfectly, and the short rib was savory enough, but it was nothing more than a thin, leathery strip of meat on each side of the English muffin. C-plus at best.
     By this time, I was quite unimpressed with the execution of the dishes even though I found them conceptually interesting when I read the menu. I hesitated to ask for dessert, but curiosity got the best of me.
   
     The dessert menu comes in the form of a table top Eiffel Tower with three small slates advertising the selections: Cappuccino flan is self-explanatory, Message in a Bottle was described as a brownie with ice cream, and the third option is called Not a x$%# Cheesecake, which apparently is something in the neighborhood of a cheesecake-flavored custard served in a tumbler with the traditional strawberry embellishment, a deconstructed cheesecake, if you will. At first glance, none of these choices caught my attention, so we thought it best not to investigate further.
     I came to find out later that the Message in a Bottle involved much more than was represented by the server's quick description. The brownie and ice cream are served in a large plate, and come with a dessert basket of ingredients such as strawberries, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream to embellish your plate as you wish. You are encouraged to share pictures of your delicious art on social media. You can also enter to win a dinner for two by writing a message and placing it in a bottle provided for you. All this theater was not even suggested at any time. Were they too busy? Was it not available? Apparently we were on a need-to-know basis. That saddened me.
     The problem with hype is that it creates expectations that are sometimes difficult to meet. I really liked this place, and would like to go back because of the atmosphere, not because the food matched the buzz. I have to learn to put recommendations in the proper perspective. One person's 'excellent', more often than not, is this person's 'just ok.'

BB Free ©2016
 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Lots of Lox

     Why are there so many places in my city that have been around for eons yet I know nothing about? Apparently this lox emporium has been in existence at the same location for 30 years, nearly as long as I've lived in Miami, and I never heard of it. It has 'lox' in its name, for Pete's sake! How could I have missed it? No matter. I'm here now.
    As a norm, I don't advertise my intention to blog about a place, but the Lots of Lox staff got a little nervous when I began to take pictures since I arrived earlier than my book club buddies, Michele and Pam. Jimmy, the gruff and lovable manager, swooped in on me, and I was forced to tell him my secret. He was surprised and amused that I would want to write about his little hole in the wall.
     In anticipation of my date with a bagel stuffed with Nova Scotia lox, I had starved myself all day, and at this point the hunger was real, y'all, so I placed an order for potato latkes while I waited for the rest of my party. They were crunchy on the outside and the perfect combination of creamy and lumpy on the inside, but they were on the bland side. They came with the traditional sour cream and apple sauce on the side, which is always fun, and I enjoy the choice to use additions. However, a well-flavored latke invites you to eat it au naturel.
     When the ladies arrived, so did a bowl piled with thick slices of Bread and Butter pickles that made me giddy with delight. Pam ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, Michele a sesame bagel with lox spread, and I ached for my multi-grain bagel with cream cheese and Nova. Pam's sandwich looked classic, gooey and comforting. Michele had pleasure in her countenance while schmearing her bagel.
     And my platter came as expected- a warm toasted bagel, a large scoop of cream cheese, thick tomato and onion slices, and abundant cuts of velvety, savory, superior quality lox. It was time to worship.
     Pam and I shared a coconut cream pie for dessert that came highly recommended by Michele and our server. They were right to be so confident. It was a loose mess of cream, graham crust and shaved coconut with the definitive flavor I expect from coconut.
     I judge a deli by how nostalgic for New York it makes me feel. If you look around, you can tell every patron here is a regular. The place has a familiar atmosphere, and the food is generally solid. Indeed, for a moment or two, I was in a New York state of mind.

BB Free ©2016
   

Monday, June 6, 2016

Low Carb Lemon Sour Cream Pie Recipe | All Day I Dream About Food

Low Carb Lemon Sour Cream Pie Recipe | All Day I Dream About Food

     It takes a lot for me to consider reblogging someone's recipe. I must take it into my lab (kitchen), carefully scrutinize the complexity of each ingredient, the ease of preparation, and of course, the final outcome. This dessert is made with ingredients I always have in my pantry, it requires no baking, and it was easy as... well, pie, to make. Not only did I find it satisfactory, but my discerning lab partner (husband) qualified it as "a keeper". Thanks, Carolyn at "All Day I Dream About Food".

     Click on the link above for the recipe. Enjoy!