Wednesday, February 25, 2015

SOBEWFF and Goya Foods' Swine and Wine Event

This past Sunday, I literally and without shame "pigged" out to my gluttonous heart's desire. As you know, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival had foodies from all over the world in a food coma for the past few days, and one of the events I attended, Goya Foods' Swine & Wine, presented by the National Pork Board (those pork gurus who have rightfully earned the title of  #SabiosDelSabor) was a porkalicious affair.
With Celebrity Chef Marc Forgione
I could smell the aroma of roasted pig from the moment I parked my car at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Suffice it to say, my mouth was watering with the anticipation of spending the next three hours putting those meaty morsels in my mouth. Being Cuban, pork is right at the top of our food pyramid as one of the most essential food groups. In other words, I was eating healthy tonight. Once we entered, we were escorted to the second floor ballroom area, where a selection of top restaurants and celebrity chefs were preparing creative tapas made with pork. On the way up, we could see, smell and feel deep in our soul, the gorgeous pigs being cooked in the Cajas Chinas to our left and right. Once we got upstairs, I got to see favorites like Paula Da Silva (formerly at 1500 Degrees in the historic Eden Roc and now at 3030 Ocean in Fort Laurderdale) and award winning chef and restaurateur Marc Forgione.
Porchetta Toast with Seasonal Veggies by Paula De Silva

With a glass of red wine in one hand, and my plastic tray in the other, I set out to do what everyone else in the room was doing: Eat lots of pork. And the choices were so tempting and delicious, I couldn't pass up any.  Let me show you what I mean with a few of the delights.
2015 National Pork BoardCritic's Choice Award Winner:
Gilligan's Swineland By Piripi Miami
Pulled Pork Tacos
Crispy and Taste Bud Pleasing Pork
Crispy Pork Shank Confit with a Glorious Chicharron Texture
and Apple Mustard
Bang Bang Pork with a Zesty Egg on Top by Marc Forgione
One of my faves of the night: Fried Pork Rilletes. So good!
Jamaican Jerk Bacon with Tropical Salsa
The judges (lucky folk including Raul de Molina from Univision and Chef and TV Personality Doreen Colondres) took their time to methodically choose the Critic's Choice Award winner, which was announced at the end of the night along with the recipient of the People's Choice Award.
Doreen Colondres, TV Personality and Spokesperson
for the National Pork Board

You'd think that's enough pork for one night but seriously... do you not know me by now? Downstairs there was a whole other pig feast going on with the roasted whole pigs in the Caja Chinas. And besides wine, wine and more wine, there was also refreshing mojitos being mixed with Zafra Rum. Goya Foods Executive Chef Fernando Desa prepared some flavorful sides including, Mac & Cheese, Fried Yuca and Beans, and a decadent array of desserts were calling out to us as the grand finale of a grand evening. The whole time, there was music and golden men on stilts, (turns out they weren't a mirage from an overdose of pig) and the ambiance was fun and exciting. Here's a look at what went on downstairs.



Cindy Hutson and her team
Piripi Miami Team
And the winners were... Chef Najat Kaanache of Piripi Miami (Opening Soon in the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables) for the 2015 National Pork Board Critics' Choice Award and Chef Cindy Hutson of Ortanique on the Mile for the People's Choice Award. Congratulations to the winners. It was well deserved!

Swine and Wine was an amazing event that is definitely one not to miss during SOBEWFF. For more information on the National Pork Board and for some fabulous recipes and information about pork visit their website at

Monday, February 16, 2015

Celebrate Pork at SOBEWFF's Swine & Wine with the #SabiosDelSabor

Like me, I bet you're counting down the days until you start heading east to all the decadent events of the 2015 Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, also known as SOBEWFF. Perhaps you started juicing this weekend or bought some clothes a couple of sizes bigger than you normally wear to be sure to fit in as much food as you can, but regardless of how you're handling your preparations for the country's biggest gastronomical affair, the fact remains that you are probably starting your week with a little anticipation and a lot of hunger.

While there are a bunch of events that sound both appetizing and foodgasmic in the SOBEWFF line up this year, there is one that has become a hit, both because of its focus on an addicting dish we can't help but go piggishly crazy over and because of the talent that uses its arsenal of creativity to take our taste buds (and waist circumference) to new heights.

I'm talking about Goya Foods' Swine & Wine, presented by the National Pork Board and hosted by celebrity, award-winning Iron Chef Marc Forgione. The event is taking place Sunday, February 21st, from 5:30-8:30 at the historical and beautiful Biltmore Hotel Country Club in Coral Gables.

The evening will be filled with amazing Pork-Centric Tapas dishes prepared by top chefs that will compete to win the first ever National Pork Board Critics' Choice Award. Is your heart racing already? Imagine an array of acclaimed pig roasters coming together in one place, shaking and dabbing, brushing and rubbing their special spice blends on all-natural, farm-raised, exceptionally tender pork, that guests will have the opportunity to bite into. It's Miami, baby and the National Pork Board is helping to make it happen as the event's presenting sponsor.

Judges include National Pork Board Ambassadors Chef Doreen Colondres of "La Cocina No Muerde" (The Kitchen Doesn't Bite) and Chef Jose Mendin of Pubbelly; Juan Mari Arzak (acclaimed pioneer of Basque cuisine and this year's tribute dinner honoree); Fernando Desa (Goya Foods' Executive Chef); Raul de Molina (host of Univision's "El Gordo y La Flaca"); Chef James Tahhan (co-presenter and in house chef for Telemundo's "Un Nuevo Dia"); and Michelin star-rated Chef Marc Forgione. 

Chef James of Telemundo will also serve as the MC of the event, as the best of the pork-centric tapas dishes are selected to receive top honors. Three of the porkalicious honorees will receive 1st, 2nd and 3rd place recognition.

But these little piggies will be wowing guests in other ways as well. While the tasting and the tapas competition takes place inside the ballroom area, chefs Colondres and Desa will be slow roasting whole pigs outdoors, which will be served straight from "La Caja China" to each guest's plate. You know I'll be the first in line asking for "el pellejito". I just love that crispy skin.  But in case I get out of control, remember… lo que sucede en Miami, se queda en Miami.

You didn't think you were just going to be pigging out on meat alone, did you? There will be plenty of finger-licking side dishes to indulge in, along with a slew of luscious libations that includes wine, whisky and mojitos, and just like during Nochebuena, party goers will be sent home after un cafecito and some home made desserts.

To make the Swine experience complete, The National Pork Board will host an entertainment and social media lounge where celebrity chefs Colondres and Mendin will be on hand to interact with guests and give devoted foodies something extra to look forward to. Once you're home in your bed, and getting ready to drift off to sleep with a full tummy and a happy heart, you might want to favorite on your laptops where you can find the Sabios Del Sabor (Pork Guru) campaign featuring a wealth of pork recipes and information, to make your kitchen even more flavorful and enticing. While you're on the site, don't miss a recipe developed by Chef Mendin for Braised Pork Pastelon that will be a part of the restaurant's menu during the week of SOBEWFF.

You can purchase tickets for SOBEWFF's Swine and Wine event here and be sure to stay tuned to my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds on February 22nd during the event, where I will be posting the delicious happenings taking place for your foodgasmic pleasure.  Hope to see you there!

I am going to be compensated by Republica on behalf of the National Pork Board for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Flourish at The Palms Hotel & Spa With Healthy Fare From Essensia

We all know how stressful the daily grind of life can be. Wouldn't it be perfect to have a picturesque, relaxing place to go, if only once a month, that would provide comfort and healing to our bodies and our minds at an affordable price? I found just the place. And of course, it involves delicious food, which makes the adventure completely well balanced.

The Palms Hotel and Spa in Miami Beach has been holding a monthly yoga experience called Flourish, which takes place on the second Wednesday of every month from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Instructors from Green Monkey lead a one hour yoga class, that is both invigorating and relaxing, in a beautiful setting overlooking the lush gardens of the hotel. You can bring your own mat, or they can provide one for you, as you unwind and release all your stress on the veranda terrace.

Executive Chef Julie Frans

I had the opportunity to attend one of the sessions and I felt renewed by the time I was done. You see, it isn't just the yoga that is fabulous. After the one hour session, the staff sets up tables with healthy, delicious food and juices prepared by Essensia's Executive Chef Julie Frans. Essensia is the gourmet dining restaurant located at the resort. The selection they provide at Flourish varies every month, but the taste and freshness of it does not. This was my first bite of the cuisine at Essensia, and I was very impressed with the quality of the food and Chef Frans' preparation. I would never have imagined that food this good for me, would be so incredibly flavorful. 

After we had our healthy fill, they provided chair massages that soothed the tired muscles and washed away any remnants of tension that may have survived the wonderful experience. It was a well needed treat I've decided I'm going  to make time for more often. And the price is right. If you book Flourish online, it is $35 and if you pay at the door, it costs $45. You can't beat that.

For more information, or to book the next Flourish session, visit The Palms Hotel & Spa online.

Casa Mofongo - Win a Free Dinner For Two

**** Giveaway Alert ****

So you're driving down Miracle Mile and have the urge for some Puerto Rican food. Bet you didn't know there's a great little gem a bit hidden from view that serves some amazing mofongo and traditional alcapurrias.  It's Casa Mofongo Latin Grill and it's located in the heart of the Gables at 130 Miracle Mile.

Passion Fruit Sangria

I recently visited the cozy spot to sample a Multi Course Tasting Menu and was totally enamored with the service, flavors and libations. The encanto started with their refreshing welcome Sangrias served in fun mason jars.  Casa Mofongo offers a selection of the fruity concoctions (Passion Fruit, Mango and Tamarind) and I have to say after trying a couple, it was tough to pick a favorite.  Light and sweet, it was the perfect preamble to the forthcoming feast.

Mini Alcapurria Duet

Our first course was a Mini Alcapurria Duet with a Pink Brandy Aioli. The bite sized starters were deliciously authentic, providing a comforting taste of La Isla. One was made with artisanal fried yuca  and the other with sweet plantains.  While they both had their own tantalizing charm and the ground beef stuffing was equally tasty, my favorite was the plantain alcapurria.

Queso Frito Lollipops

Next up, they brought out their Queso Frito Lollipops, topped with a guava glaze. A signature Puerto Rican favorite, the mild flavored cheese was excellent and I enjoyed the sweet and salty touch of the glaze.

Pork Confit and Green Mofongo Timbal

From here, things got even more exciting. Our first entree was the Pork Confit on a Bed of Green Mofongo Timbal. The onion mojo on the pork was increible, elevating the flavor of the juicy, tender meat to new heights. And the mofongo, that Puerto Rican green plantain mash we all know and love, was smooth and starchy. It is definitely a dish to try when you come to Casa Mofongo. I can still taste that pork confit….

Coconut Ginger Shrimp and Pork Belly Yellow Rice

The next entree they served us blew me away. It was my hit of the night. Coconut Ginger Shrimp crowned a mountain of Pork Belly Yellow Rice, similar to arroz con gandules. The best words I can think of to describe this dish is wow! There was an amazing combination of flavors and textures in each  bite that left an unforgettable impression on the palate. The seasoning was superb.

Coconut Flan

After all this, could there be more? Wepa! There was! We ended la cena with a Creamy Coconut Flan, that hit the spot. It was beautifully presented with crystallized caramel on top and berries on the side. Que rico!

Whether for lunch or dinner, you should definitely check out Casa Mofongo, Coral Gables' newest Puerto Rican spot.  Need a little more convincing? I'm giving away a dinner for two to one lucky winner. Here's all you have to do. Tweet your favorite Puerto Rican dish using the hashtag #FoodaholicGiveaway and handles @mariasgoodtaste and @CasaMofongoMiami. You must be following us both on Twitter to win. You can also enter through Facebook, by following Adventures of the Foodaholic and leaving a comment underneath the Casa Mofongo post. Contest ends on Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 at noon and winners will be announced via Facebook, Twitter and this post at 4:00 pm that day.

For more information or to make reservations, you can contact Casa Mofongo Latin Grill at 786-616-8886.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chef Johnny Iuzzini Whips Up Delicious Desserts At Macy's For Valentine's Day

You know how they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach? Well besides diamonds and and a Prada purse, the way to a woman's heart is through her sweet tooth - especially when the man making desserts is a bit of eye candy as well. This coming Saturday, January 31st, at 1 p.m., #MacysCulinary Council Celebrity Chef Johnny Iuzzini is going to help spice up your Valentine's Day sharing some of his award-wining desserts. The best part? There will be plenty to go around.

Chef Johnny Iuzzini Whipping Up Some Goodies

Join me at Macy's Aventura Home Store at the Third Floor Culinary Kitchen as we learn some of the secrets that have made Chef Iuzzini an award winning household name. He has made his mouthwatering creations in famous places like The River Cafe, Daniel, Payard Cafe Boulous and Restaurant Jean Georges in New York. While Chef Iuzzini was Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Jean Georges, it earned its most prestigious award to date, three Michelin stars. It was one of only four restaurants in New York City to receive this honor. Because of his incredible talent, he was awarded the prestigious title of "Pastry Chef of the Year" by the James Beard Foundation in 2006 and has been recognized as one of the "10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America" by Forbes. Perhaps you will remember him most though, as head judge of Bravo's culinary competition series Top Chef: Just Desserts, and for his popular cookbook Dessert Fourplay: Sweet Quartets From A Four-Star Pastry Chef.  

Chef Iuzzini has recently published his latest book, Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking, and it can be yours to impress that certain someone on Cupid's Day by purchasing $35 or more in the Macy's Home Department on the day of the event. They'll also give you a $10 Macy's gift card to use for a limited time. My favorite part of the deal is getting to chat with Chef Iuzzini and having him autograph my book. Sweet!

Seating is limited and on a first come, first served basis, so be sure to RSVP here to ensure your spot. If you want to learn more about the Macy's Culinary Council and its fabulous chefs, or find out about other upcoming events, log on to

Bon Apetit and see you there!

I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Calle Dao in New York City

Have you ever heard of Chinatown in Havana? They won't sell you knockoff purses there or whisper "Michael Kors" "Rolex" or "Louis Vuitton" in your ear as you turn the corners, but once upon a time, this thriving neighborhood was known as the largest such community in Latin America and occupied over 44 blocks of real estate. We're talking a blast to the past dating back to the late 1800s, but while the neighborhood has visibly reduced in modern times to just a small section on narrow Cuchillo Street, there's a spot in New York City that pays homage to this marked moment in time where the Cuban and Chinese cultures came together in a unique fusion of flavors. It is called Calle Dao and it is located on 38 W 39th Street. This was one of the most delicious experiences I had in the Big Apple on my recent trip.

Calle Dao

Walking into Calle Dao instantly transported me back to an era gone by. The decor was simple yet authentic, reminiscent of the old Havana times that while gone, continue to live in the hearts of many. The white-washed walls, distressed wood and softly whirring ceiling fans served as a stage for the Chinese artwork and Cuban trinkets that accentuated the walls. I looked at the cocktail menu and loved the way mixologist Joy Daniel gave historic names to the drinks, mixing signature recipes with modern ingredients. Always going for a sweet concoction, I ordered the Hai Chi cocktail, expertly prepared with Hangar 1, Mandarin Blossom Vodka, plum sake, Patron Citronge, lemongrass and pomegranate. If that doesn't scream Barrio Chino, I don't know what does. 

Hai Chi

As I sipped my libation, the Chef''s Tasting began. We started with a light and fresh Fluke Ceviche, made in a grapefruit, habanero-passionfruit pomme vinaigrette, mixed with small pieces of Youtiao. For those of you that are wondering, fluke (or summer flounder) is a type of flatfish, mildly flavored and somewhat lean. The Youtiao, a deep fried dough eaten in China, also known as the Chinese doughnut, added a crispy texture to the dish which intermingled with the tender fish. I enjoyed the sweetness of the fruit, that mixed with the other tastes, ultimately giving each bite a slightly acidic finish.

Fluke Ceviche
Next up, Executive Chef Humberto Guallpa sent out a mouthwatering sampler of Calle Dao's appetizers, which included a vegetarian Spring Roll, Oxtail Croquette, and Duck Empanada. The spring roll, filled with mushrooms and other vegetables, was drizzled with a garlicky, signature mojo sauce that was heightened with flavor. The Duck Empanada, generously filled with chunks of duck, had a ginger-scallion glaze and came atop a sweet dipping sauce. Finally, the Oxtail Croquette was a cultural fusion of oxtail, chili, mango chutney and achiote aioli. Experiencing some of each ingredient together made for the perfect bite. Of the three, my favorite was the Duck Empanada, but the others didn't fall far behind.

Appetizer Sampler consisting of a Vegetarian
Spring Roll, Duck Empanada and Oxtail Croquette 

The next dish to be brought to our table was the Grilled White Striped Bass, served with cherry stone clams, mussels, and taro, and spiced with chinese cinammon. It was slightly sweet and had a good combination of flavors. We also tried the Lechon Asado, Chef Humberto's take on the Cuban staple but with a Chinese twist. The juicy roasted pig, was served over a fried-rice style quinoa that was unbelievable and drizzled with a ginger-cilantro sauce. This was my winning dish of the night. I would have loved to bring a bag back to Miami for my mom to try.

Grilled White Striped Bass

Lechon Asado

We were getting quite stuffed but there's always room for dessert and I was curious what original fusion Calle Dao would offer. We indulged in their Five Spice Tres Leches, a traditional version served over a caramel sauce prepared with five different spices that balanced the sweet and tangy flavors. The decadent finale was topped with a scoop of ice-cream.

Tres Leches
I have to say our adventure at Calle Dao was spectacular and I highly recommend a visit when you're in New York. The service was top notch throughout the meal, and every dish was carefully executed using the freshest of ingredients. The great thing is you can enjoy this very same experience because you can order your favorite items from the menu or choose what I did - their Chef's Tasting. So whether you choose to believe La Caja China originated in Cuba when the Chinese laborers brought it with them or not, one thing we will all agree on is that Calle Dao sure knows how to bring a piece of the Chinese-Cuban fusion cuisine remembered by many to the Big Apple. For more information, you can visit their website.

Calle Dão on Urbanspoon

Carnival Cruise Lines and Kathie Lee Gifford - Ain't We Got Fun

The Fun Ships just became a little funner. Former spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines and Today Show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford just announced that she has partnered with the cruise line to feature her newest passion: Gifft Wines.

Kathie Lee Gifford Unveiling Her New Wines Aboard the
Carnival Breeze

Carnival Executives Are
Excited About The
If My Friends Could See
Me Now..
It was an emotional and exciting return to Carnival for Gifford, who more than 30 years ago began her journey with the cruise line, singing in memorable commercials and pumping up the passengers in the morning... in the evening with her iconic "Ain't We Got Fun".  Although she hasn't worked with Carnival in years, instead moving on to other projects such as co-hosting Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee alongside Regis Philbin from 1985-2000, and being a special correspondent on The Insider until 2008, Gifford always remained in contact with the executives. Once she reached out to them with her wines and they took a sip, it didn't take them long to decide to feature them in all 24 ships in Carnival's fleet.

The Media Announcement was held at Fahrenheit 555,
one of Carnival Breeze's Specialty Restaurants

During a recent media announcement aboard the Carnival Breeze, I asked Gifford why she had this passion for wine and she took me back to her childhood in France, and the way drinking wine was a tradition and a way of life for her family. "My happiest and most unforgettable family memories always include wine." For this reason, she decided to embark on this venture, and in April, partnered with Scheid Vineyards of Monterey, California to launch the line.

Chatting With Kathie Lee Gifford

Gifford insisted the wines had to be something she could put her name to and wanted to make them affordable for everyone. It seems she did. The Red Blend (pictured below) scored 91 out of 100 rating in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and the very light and refreshing Chardonnay scored 88 out of 100. The wines are currently priced under $20.

Very smooth with a subtle finish

Steamed Duck from Fahrenheit 555…can't help sharing
this with's the Foodaholic in me.

In her signature magnetic personality, Gifford introduced the wines to guests aboard the ship this past weekend, and let them get a taste of yet another great reason to sail away on the Fun Ship. When asked what she couldn't do without when boarding on a cruise, Gifford responded, "Sunscreen and imagination… You need to let it take you wherever your ship goes." And Gifford lives by her words.  Be sure to sip on one of her vinos next time you go cruising.

Artwork or Dessert…you decide

Click on the following for more information on Kathie Lee Gifford's Gifft Wines or Carnival Cruise Lines.