Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Michael's Genuine Food and Drink: A Genuinely Awesome Experience

I know I'm a bit late coming to the table on this, but just because I may be the last food blogger in the state of Florida to write about this restaurant doesn't mean I'm going to skip over it. Now that I've had a taste of James Beard award winning Chef Michael Schwartz's talent I cannot keep it to myself. In short, Michael's Genuine Food and Drink is one of the most completely satisfying dining experiences I've had in quite some time. From the ambiance to the unique menu to the delectable food to the well rounded creative cocktails, this restaurant is truly the whole package.

Alright, now that I've told you everything you probably already knew about this restaurant, let me dive right in on why I am so enamored with the entire concept that is Michael's Genuine. Located in the uber trendy up and coming Design District, this restaurant has prime location and is only going to see increased foot traffic in the upcoming months. If you are looking for a drab menu with traditional "fine dining", this restaurant is not for you. If you are looking for creative menu items that are guaranteed to initially challenge you but ultimately reward your tastebuds then this restaurant is the way to go. Everything on the menu is sourced locally, which means the flavors are constantly changing according to what is in season and what is available.

The menu is divided into "small", "medium", "large" and "extra large" categories which means we got to try several different dishes without overdoing ourselves.  Without further adieu, I will delight you in some highlights from our culinary journey at Michael's Genuine Food and Drink.

We started with a serving of pork belly with a side of kimchee. The pork belly was appropriately fatty and full of flavor, just as a nice pork belly should be. The outside was slightly crispy and the sharp flavors of the kimchee were a surprisingly wonderful accompaniment to the pork belly. Needless to say, the pork belly didn't stand a chance and the plate was licked clean in record time.

Up next, we bravely ordered the pig tails, which we were told were new to the menu and would likely only be available for a limited time. Of course, our interest was piqued and we knew we had to take advantage. Unlike the pork belly, the pig tails had a more cartilaginous texture which seemed to melt instantly the moment it hit the mouth. The skin was delightfully crispy and the Piri Piri sauce that topped the dish was a wonderful spicy compliment to these pig tails.  Overall, the flavors were spot on, and this seemingly unusual dish was something that we are now dreaming about several days after our dining experience. Michael, please keep this one on the menu!

 We had to order the Crispy Rice Cake because it is, apparently, a very popular dish at this restaurant, as we were told by every yelper and food blogger who has previously dined here. We are glad we did, because this dish was definitely the highlight of the evening. The rice cake consists of chorizo sausage, rock shrimp, manchego cheese and chili aioli topped with a farm egg. It seems a rather unusual list of ingredients, but it went together extraordinarily well. The egg was cooked over well and although it appears "yolky" in this picture, it was not runny at all. The rice cake, which is hiding under the egg, was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I want to describe the inside texture as similar to that of grits. It was packed full of flavor, and I kept trying to describe to Carl what it tasted like with no success. Unfortunately, beyond the fact that it was incredibly delicious, I am still unable to put into words exactly how this dish tasted. 

Finally, we ended the evening with a delicious grilled Mahi Mahi. It came out topped with a delightful olive tapenade that had just enough flavor to add some complexity to the dish but not too much flavor to outshine the incredibly fresh fish. Unfortunately, we really wanted the oven roasted whole local snapper, but we were told that the table dining beside us ordered the last one of the evening. They assured us that we were missing out after they had picked their fish clean! Fortunately for us though, the Mahi was not a poor choice! We cleaned our plate, and felt quite content! 

The unique menu at this restaurant is just one of the many reasons I love Michael's Genuine. The wait staff is down to earth and incredibly knowledgeable, their cocktail list is creative, and they have a pretty impressive wine list as well. Eating here is truly an experience. Come prepared to taste something you normally wouldn't imagine ordering, and I know you'll be thankful you ordered outside of your comfort zone. As I briefly mentioned before, Chef Michael Schwartz is a James Beard award winner for "Best Chef: South" in 2010 and for good reason! I know we'll be coming back sooner than later to try more delicious creations off the outstanding menu! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nacho Bizness should be all up in your Bizness

Holy guacamole! I just devoured three of this fantastic food truck's tacos, and all I've gotta say is "yum"! Nacho Bizness is a small, silver, mobile food truck that serves up tacos, burritos, salads, quesadillas and nachos and more.

For fear of "small" tacos, I ordered three of their little guys, and I'm glad I did. They are served atop corn tortillas and are pretty small. However, they pack a powerful punch! I probably could have thrived off two, but I'll definitely survive having eaten three!

I tasted their "Yum Yum" taco which is a spicy Korean pulled pork taco stuffed with chilled cucumbers, their "Marley" taco which is a Jamaican jerk chicken taco stuffed with tropical slaw, and their special "Grouper" taco of the day. All three tacos were impressive.

The Korean pulled pork taco had a delicious heat that gently tingled the tastebuds with each bite. The Marley taco had a complete different type of heat, slightly hotter to the bite with a longer after burn. They were both topped with the most delicious mixture of sauce and slaw. Anybody who knows me, knows that the sauces and slaws on top of the taco are equally, if not more important, than the main ingredient. Nacho Bizness' sauces and condiments did not disappoint. The grouper taco was also delicious, but it was most definitely the least favorite of the three. I'm glad I opted for trying three because I'll most definitely order more of the pulled pork and jerk chicken tacos! I washed the tacos down with their signature "Ginger Lemonade" which is surprisingly refreshing. The lemonade is teaming with fresh ginger that gives it a nice refreshing bite. If you aren't fond of fresh ginger, it's worth a taste anyways!

The two men who operate the food truck are absolutely adorable. I'm pretty sure they could have a conversation with a brick wall! I happened to be a lone straggler waiting for my food after the initial lunch rush, and they were happy to chat with me, throw around some banter, and comment on the weather a few times while we waited. I found out that they park near my apartment building several days a week which could be potentially dangerous. I may have to kick my "Sushi One" habit to make room for more little tacos!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Calling all Female Chefs in South Florida

I'm currently devouring Chef Gabrielle Hamilton's book "Blood, Bones, and Butter". Her writing is simply delicious, and she is extraordinarily inspiring as an author, chef, and restaurateur. Inspired by her writing, cooking, and philosophy, I am embarking on a month-long search for the best female chefs, cooks, and restaurant owners in South Florida. Even in 2012, it appears that cooking in restaurants is still a predominately "male" role. I'm determined to help break that mindset, and get things cooking for the talented and determined females representing in South Florida! Feel free to give me your suggestions and recommendations! I'm willing to travel for food, and I'll be hitting up Dade, Broward and Palm counties in an attempt to scratch the surface of the ever talented female chefs out there! Stay tuned as I explore the female talent in South Florida. For those of you unaware of who Gabrielle Hamilton is, here is the link to her New York City eatery called "Prune".  If you have some free time this summer for some poolside reading, I highly recommend her book. I have every intention of trying out Prune when I make it up to NYC to visit my fabbie friends in the upcoming months!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cobaya Experiment 25 with Chef Aaron Brooks

Last night C and I finally got to experience our first Cobaya experiment dinner. Before I delve into the amazing experience, I'll briefly explain to you all what Cobaya is. A few hardcore foodies decided to create a "secret dinner club". Every so often they hook up with some of the most notorious chefs at the most delicious restaurants in South Florida, and the participants act as "guinea pigs". The chef has carte blanche to prepare anything he or she wants. As a guinea pig there is no "ew this is gross" or "I can't eat this"- this is the big leagues boys and girls! This "dinner club" is not for the faint of stomach! You can read more about the concept here.  

Last night's "experiment" was at The Four Season's in downtown Miami and was hosted by Edge Steak and Grill's signature chef Aaron Brooks. Not only were we psyched that we made the cut to attend this dinner, but we absolutely love Edge and think Chef Brooks is a very talented chef, so we were thrilled when we found out yesterday morning we'd be eating his creations.

We indulged in a 7 course meal with fabulous Riesling wine pairings that complimented each course nicely. The most fabulous part of the entire evening was that Chef Brooks decided to use his love for Southeast Asian cuisine as his inspiration for the dinner. In case you are unaware, I go absolutely gaga over any Asian food (especially Thai inspired food). Needless to say, this meal blew my mind. Below, for your foodie porn pleasure, is a visual feast of what we dined on last night.

Sandwiched between floor to ceiling windowed corridors we sat with a delicious view of downtown Miami which was enhanced by the magnificent lightning show we got to witness in between courses. 

The menu for the evening. 

Course 1 was inspired by the chef's Boston experience. Chef Brooks decided to begin with something not Southeast Asian at all- Fried Clams! These little guys were unbelievable and the tangy sauce that complimented them was a true star. I could have lifted those little shells and drank the leftover sauce- it was that good. 

Course 2 was George's Bank Scallops with soft tofu, fried egg, pickled shallots and baby cucumber. The scallops were slightly different than the scallops I love, with more of a squid like texture, but the tofu was fluffy and light. The baby cucumbers were fresh and crispy, and the sauce was a bit acidic with a slow heat that remained in the mouth for a few moments after eating each bite. 

Course 3 continued to blow my mind. This Chilled Mussel Salad had young lotus root, fire roasted peanuts, mint, cured pig's face (yes, you read that correctly) and chili jam. Oh Em Gee...the sweet chili jam was nothing short of blow-your-mind good. The cured pig's face had a consistency of Jamon Serrano with a very light pork flavor which was not overpowering at all and complimented the freshness of the mussels to a tee. 

Course 4 was a Hot and Sour Soup with squid noodles, fragrant herbs and Thai sausage. I absolutely love myself a noodle soup, and the noodles are made with squid, the soup becomes even better! A novice would never even know that the noodles inside were squid, they were that light and fluffy. The broth was zesty and full of flavor. The Thai sausage was the only component of the soup that I felt didn't quite fit. It was overpowering and tainted the delicious brother by making it taste more porky than anything. 

Course 5 was a Short Rib Cooked in Coconut.  I could not contain my excitement when I read about this course on the menu. I love anything cooked in coconut, and I find it rare to see beef cooked with the coconut so I was excited to taste it. The coconut sauce was enticing, and once again I could have licked the plate clean. The short rib was most definitely an interesting ingredient to add to the dish, but I think it worked well. The sweet potato puree that the short rib was served on added an extra sweet touch to balance out the complex flavors. Overall, I was pretty impressed. I thought this was going to be the best course of the night. That was before the final entree came out...

Ladies and gentlemen...Course 6 literally changed my life. I wish that I had unlimited funds so that I could hire Chef Brooks to prepare this dish for me every week of my life. Course 6  was Grilled Duck with foie gras curry, heirloom potatoes, lychee and radishes. This dish was nothing short of mind-blowing. The such was prepared to absolute perfection and the foie gras curry was out of this world. Thankfully for me there were small potatoes to prolong my obsession with this sauce long after the duck was gone. The lychee provided a nice sweet note after the duck was long gone. I can honestly say, I didn't simply want to lick my plate clean, I did! At this point after 6 glasses of wine, I had no shame. This sauce was not going to waste!

We ended our delicious experiment with a lovely Orange Almond Cake that was zesty and delicious. 

This was an experience I will not soon forget, and I will quite literally beg the Chowfather to pick C and I for the next experiment. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pubbelly Goes Nice in Anyone's Belly

If you don't live in South Florida, you have no reason to know about Pubbelly. However, if for some reason you do live in South Florida and haven't heard about Pubbelly, I'd like to know what rock you're living under! It's all I have been reading about on blogs and hearing about from co workers and friends for the last three months, so I finally made the trek to South Beach to try it out.

A cozy gastropub with minimal seating, Pubbelly has food that even James Beard would award worthy of repeat dining! It's at the cutting edge of Miami's burgeoning gastropub scene, playing off of the tasty delights of Asian cuisine. They serve up creative menu items with Asian themes that are relatable to Americans. If you are looking for classic bar fare, you are in the wrong place. However, if you're looking for a stellar eating experience with extremely knowledgable and friendly service and food that is knock-your-tastebuds-off good, Pubbelly is the place to go! Just get there early or else you will be waiting...for a very long time.

Pubbelly's dishes are small, and meant to be shared with friends, so we dove right in and ordered several different dishes. A few of the highlights:

We started with the McSliders, which I was told are a Pubbelly must! These little guys were absolutely delicious. The bread was soft and chewy and the Kimchee BBQ and pickles stuffed inside were marinated to perfection.  The meat was succulent and tender, falling to pieces the moment it reached the mouth. Unfortunately, with only three on the plate I was limited to just one but I very easily could have polished off the entire plate on my own. As a matter of fact, for dessert, we opted for a second order of these little guys (yes, they are that good)!

Next up was a round of dumplings. We ordered two different plates of dumplings and the dumplings pictured here are the pork belly dumplings. A popular theme at this restaurant is the creative usage of pork belly (an ingredient that I have found to be making a huge comeback over the last several years). A huge fan of pork belly's silky texture and explosive flavor, these dumplings did not disappoint. The sauce they were served with complimented the rich flavor of the pork belly but did not overpower the simplicity of the dumpling. 

We also ordered some short ribs with a side of coleslaw. I thought the presentation of these was adorable, with a small accompaniment of zesty barbecue sauce. As per the theme of this restaurant, the short ribs alone were perfect and did not need the addition of the barbecue sauce. Yet, I felt that the sauce added to the presentation.

We ordered several other dishes that were all better than their successors, and we of course fawned over the delights they were delivering to our neighboring tables. I cannot wait to come back to Pubbelly to try even more gastronomic delights. I have also heard phenomenal reviews of the neighboring restaurant, Pubbelly Sushi. A huge sushi fan, I'm ready to go check out what they are serving up raw next door! The next time you are in South Beach looking for a stellar meal, I highly recommend pulling out Siri and asking her to give you the directions to Pubbelly. I personally guarantee it's a decision you will not soon forget!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Edge Steak and Grill Got my Tastebuds Brimming Over the Edge

I first learned about Edge at the Brickell wine and food festival, and then I was wowed by Edge again at Cochon 555 where my husband and I were blown away by chef Aaron Brooks' pork creations. So it was a no brainer when a group of friends wanted to try a new restaurant in Miami- Edge Steak and Bar! We made a reservation for 8, which they happily accommodated. When my husband called up, he made sure to tell the reservations line how much he loved the chef's blood sausage at Cochon, which will later play into to our fabulous experience.

The restaurant is located on the lobby level of the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Miami. The ambiance is far from that of a classic steakhouse- no dark wood, low lighting or leather. Instead, the restaurant is warm and inviting with a modern design. It fits perfectly into the trendy Brickell area of downtown Miami.

While waiting for our friends to arrive, we ordered a few drinks at the bar. Feeling rather indecisive that evening, the bartender was quick to suggest a delicious Passion Fruit Martini that was not as tough to stomach as a pure vodka martini, but was wonderfully delicious and less sugary than other signature cocktails. When the rest of our group arrived, we were promptly seated and our server greeted us with a wonderful surprise "The chef heard you enjoyed his blood sausage from Cochon 555 so he went ahead and prepared a few plates of them special for the table". We were automatically in love. I thought my husband was crazy for dropping the "Cochon" reference, but the chef really wowed us and made us feel special with that one. The sausage was, to be brutally honest, to die for. Even better than we remembered. The majority of our friends were initially worried about tasting "Blood" sausage. When they saw Carl and I going berserk over how incredible these sausages were, they all tried them. Much to their surprise they all loved them! One more reason we love chef Aaron Brooks (besides his adorable accent that makes an American woman swoon) and his restaurant so much was the surprise Manhattan jello shots they served us! Apparently the chef was so excited that we specially requested his blood sausage that he unloaded a serving of specialty Manhattan Jello Shots they had leftover from a special event the day before! These were not ordinary spiked Jello shots you find at a frat party, these tasted like an authentic classic Manhattan. We were thrilled and felt extremely VIP!

Now onto the meal. The ceviche appetizer plate was wonderfully fresh and authentic, with four different types of ceviche to go around. Next came the Lobster Corn Chowder Soup. Large chunks of lobster blended well with the sweetness of the chowder, and it was a "creamless" creamed corn, so it wasn't too heavy. I'm averse to too much cream, so I appreciated the preparation of this chowder sans cream!

As you all know, I'm from Texas so I have a pretty high threshold when it comes to rating steaks. I ordered the filet and it came out nice and medium rare. I have to admit, it wasn't as phenomenal as most steakhouses in Texas, but few steaks can compete. For a Florida steak, it was pretty stellar. The side of mashed potatoes was creamy and a hit around the table. We also ordered the quinoa which was a nice side item to see on the menu. I happen to love this grain and was extremely excited to see it on the menu. It's as fun to eat as it is to pronounce (keen-wah)!  It had a perfect citrus flavor, and a lot of fresh crunchy corn to compliment the tart citrus. The French fries were also a big hit. They were nice and thick with a wonderful homemade flavor.

We were all too stuffed to really think about dessert. However, we had been eyeing these adorable green cotton candy puffs being delivered to the tables around us, and we were pleasantly taken back to  fond childhood memories of fresh cotton candy when the server brought us several clouds of lemon lime flavored sugar! It was a perfect end note to a delicious dinner.

Overall, Edge is far from the stuffy restaurant one would expect in a Four Seasons hotel. The chef is truly talented and his menu reflects today's want for a creative farm to table menu while still remaining true to the classic steakhouse model.

*As a side note: something I have learned in the last year is the sheer perception of what one will mentally deem delicious and gross. Once able to move past the initial "ew that sounds gross" mentality, I've discovered some incredible delicacies that I never otherwise thought I would have enjoyed, hence my newfound love for blood sausage (I even enjoy head cheese believe it or not)! As a note to fellow foodies- if the chef has prepared it on his menu, or if he has eaten it and gone crazy over it on television, or if they sell it in any gourmet supermarket with a high price tag, it's likely not as "gross" as it sounds. After all, the chefs and owners of the gourmet markets are the people who know the really great stuff. Instead of immediately turning your nose up, give it a second thought and try it. You'll likely be rewarded!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Grateful Palate Leaves my Appetite Grateful!

Everything about Grateful Palate, from the fabulously cozy overstuffed seats to the dim-lit ambiance to the incredible food left me wanting more. My husband and I snagged a last minute reservation at Grateful Palate in Ft. Lauderdale last Saturday evening and couldn't wait to hear if all of the hype around this place was really worth it, and we found out that it absolutely was. Besides the fact that we became best friends with our over the top friendly server, we will most definitely be coming back for more.

After we had been sitting for a few moments, we were greeted by the sommelier. He was a down to earth guy with a real knowledge of the wine list. Yes, we enjoy a nice glass or two of wine with our meal, but we don't wish to spend more than $30-40 for it. Along with our server, the two of them came up with a fabulous French bottle of white wine called  Roche du Lune that not only fit the bill perfectly, but complimented our meal spectacularly.

When it came time to order, we were sure we were going to have the SeaBass and the Truffle Mac n Cheese special of the evening, and after we chatted with our server we ended up ordering the Scallops and the Duck Breast as our main courses with a small side of the Mac N Cheese as well as the Thai Beef and Conch Slider appetizers.

 The Thai Beef appetizer, served with cold marinated vegetables and Udon Noodles, was nothing spectacular but it quenched my taste for medium rare beef and tangy Udon Noodles. There was little to no heat in the dish, but the flavors were still enticing.

The Conch Sliders, served between two plantain cakes, were a highlight. The conch inside was prepared with a sweet and tangy sauce that made the flavors pop. The plantain chips were soft, and maintained in tact with each bite, making the slider extremely easy to eat.

  One of my frequent critiques when I order scallops at any restaurant is the "chewiness" of the scallops. Yes, a scallop is inherently chewy because that's the way nature made scallops, but a good chef can limit the "chewiness" of scallops, leaving their natural flavor to really shine through. At Grateful Palate, the chef did just that. These scallops were prepared to perfection. They tasted incredibly fresh, minimally chewy, and extremely large. When it comes to scallops I very rarely leave behind any, because they are such small portions. However, at Grateful Palate, these scallops were so big that I left almost half of an entire scallop for Carl to finish off. They were delectable in every sense of the word. I highly recommend these to any scallop enthusiast.

 Carl ordered the duck  breast. Let me first state, I am hit or miss when it comes to enjoying duck. I have had duck several times and it has gone 50/50 as far as my like for it. Let's just say that when Carl ordered the duck I was a little bit upset because I didn't think I would like it. Boy was I wrong! This duck was prepared impeccably. Each taste had a consistency more reminiscent of a filet than of poultry. The true flavor of the duck was a highlight, although the way in which the duck was prepared left a sweet aftertaste. It almost tasted like a breakfast sausage suited up for dinner. It was served atop a mixture of squash and zucchini. I had to apologize to Carl for taking so much of his dinner, as it was irresistible.

Our server, as I mentioned before, was fabulous. We heard her mention the truffle Mac 'n Cheese with shrimp special of the evening and our mouths immediately began watering. However, Mac'n Cheese is always a tough main course. It's so rich, especially once truffle is thrown in, and we worried it would simply be too rich for a main course. Our server told us she'd be happy to bring a side portion of the Mac 'n Cheese so we could at least taste it. We happily agreed, and both laughed about how the side of macaroni and cheese would likely set us back $12. When we got the bill, the server had charged us less than $5.00 for the side dish. We were thrilled, because not only was the price right but the creamy Mascarpone cheese mixed with the truffle flavor made this Mac 'N Cheese some of the best "fancy" macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted. I wish I could contract The Grateful Palate to make me Truffle Mac 'N Cheese every week to eat alongside my dinners at home!

Anyone looking for a wonderfully prepared meal at a middle of the road price should definitely make a reservation at the Grateful Palate located on 17th street just east of the 17th street bridge. It's perfect for a romantic date night, but it's also perfect for a night with the girls to enjoy some wonderful dining.