Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove Is Putting On the Brunch

The Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, located at 3300 SW 27th Avenue, is putting on the brunch with the return of the hotel's traditional Sunday Brunch, and a very special love and art special for Valentine's Day

Farmer's Market Brunch

On the last Sunday of each month, Executive Chef Craig MacAvoy invites guests to his Farmer's Market with a mix of fresh produce and local artisan crafts.  Incorporating ingredients from local purveyors, the Sunday Brunch features traditional items such as carving stations, fresh seafood, breakfast favorites, and of course, dessert. The brunch is priced at $49 per adult and $24 per child, plus tax and 18% gratuity. Guests can indulge in a Bloody Mary, Bubbles and Mimosa Bar for an additional $18 per adult. Complimentary valet parking is available with validation. *

*Farmer's Market Brunch will not be available on February 14th or March 27th.

Executive Chef Craig MacAvoy

Art of Love Brunch

On Sunday, February 14th, from 9 am to 3 pm, Cupid will be taking over the hotel, to help guests celebrate the holiday of love and the arts with a casual, yet fun Art of Love Brunch. Locals and guests alike can create an entire day surrounded by the arts, beginning with the art of culinary. A locally-sourced, love-themed brunch offers chef's carving stations, fresh seafood, breakfast favorites and of course, desserts. The brunch includes bottomless Mimosas, Bloody Mary's and Bubbly. Complimentary valet parking and tickets to the 53rd Annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival, just outside of the hotel's doorsteps, are also part of this special event. The brunch is priced at $85 per adult and $35 per child, plus tax and gratuity.*

*One ticket per person purchasing the brunch. No cash value for the tickets. No additional discounts or promotions may be combined with the Art of Love Brunch.

Reservations are highly recommend and space is limited. Reservations can be made by calling 305-644-4680.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Key Largo & Islamorada Uncorked Food & Wine Festival

"….Off the Florida Keys.. There's a place called Kokomo. That's where you want to go to get away from it all." A couple of weeks ago, we were invited by the Islamorada Resort Company to attend the Grand Tasting of the Key Largo & Islamorada Uncorked Food & Wine Festival taking place in the Florida Keys. I grabbed a date, my flip flops and a pair of sunglasses and headed over to our meeting place, where a nice, comfortable bus was waiting for us, playing some pretty cool tunes on the radio. It wasn't Kokomo, but after a day of good food, great spirits, and incredible surroundings, we didn't want to be anywhere else. 

The ride was great, and I was excited to get to Pelican Cove Resort & Marina in Islamorada (MM84.5), where the Food & Wine event was taking place. Now I happen to love the Florida Keys, and enjoy driving out there for the day or a long weekend. And every time we go and pass the Pelican Cove, I always wonder what it is like inside. Well, now I know. And it's a pretty cool, relaxing place - not only for events but also for a romantic getaway. The festival was held in the Grand Lawn of the resort, where numerous area restaurants and caterers featured their gourmet specialty tastings (both land and sea) and wineries from across the United States offered selections of their fine wines. We grabbed our souvenir glass of wine and dashed into the space, not sure where to start. There were food tables, wine tastings, Bloody Marys and Mimosas, and a culinary demonstration tent with continuous interactive seminars going on. 

The Pelicans welcomed us as we entered the property, and kept a watchful eye as we all pointed our cameras in their direction. The resort is beautiful, embodying the true relaxed essence of the Florida Keys, with 63 rooms and suites on the water, a tennis court, pool, saltwater lagoon, cabana bar, cafe, marina, water sports, and fishing charters. The best part? All of the amenities are included in the $25 resort fee and they will transport you back and forth between their other Islamorada Resort Properties in a complimentary shuttle bus, at no extra cost.

The backdrop to this extravaganza was none other than the Atlantic Ocean, and we were able to experience the eclectic cuisine of the Florida Keys all in one spot. From the tantalizing seafood dishes to the flavorful ways the meat was prepared, it was one gastronomical explosion after the other. The feast continued as we headed towards the water, with more cocktails, a gigantic seafood paella being prepared right before our very eyes and more samples to try.

There was an amazing Ajo Blanco Gazpacho with Lump Crabmeat served at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa table which totally rocked my world. I think I must've had five or six tastings. I gazed at my date intently each time he grabbed one until he knew he had no choice but to let me have it. I even took a recipe card to try and replicate the sensation at home. I also loved Oltremare Ristorante's Grilled Octopus, served with Swiss Chard Kabocha Squash Puree and Sun Chips. It was a piece of heaven in one bite. 

Spirits included the legendary and iconic Hatfield and Mccoy Whiskey, which was very smooth with a light, sweet flavor and Disaronno Italian Liqueur.  Barrits Ginger Beer was preparing some pretty memorable cocktails using Jose Cuervo Tequila and Papa's Pilar. The wine flowed endlessly and by mid-afternoon, we knew why folks in the Keys are always chillin'.

Our day trip didn't end there. We took part in the Islamorada's Art Under the Oaks event, where we got to interact with locals selling their crafts to the tune of some good music and we visited some of other properties that are part of the Islamorada Resort Company.  First we donned our virtual hard hats and stopped at the Postcard Inn at Holiday Isle where there are some extensive renovations going on. You know where I'm talking about. This is the home of the world famous Tiki Bar we all love and share more than one embarrassing memory about. It's getting a facelift and if the future renditions are any indication, it is going to be amazing. I can't wait to come back in a few months and sip on a Rumrunner while enjoying the beachside fun.

And last but most certainly not least, we visited the group's more upscale property Amara Cay Resort in the Fishing Capital of the World. With breezy hammocks, an elegant laid-back ambiance, and a shimmering oceanfront pool, the resort is the perfect balance of relaxed atmosphere and luxurious style. And it boasts the Oltremare Ristorante,  Islamorada's favorite culinary spot for a fusion of traditional Italian cuisine with a tropical twist. The bar offers an extensive wine list alongside a menu of classic cocktails and signature drinks.

It is here where we had our dinner and I was enamored with the place. We started with a nice Antipasto featuring cured meats, artisanal cheeses, marinated olives, almonds and local honey. We also shared the Frito Misto, a tasty plate of rock shrimp, calamari, cubanelles, fennel, green beans and romesco, and a fresh Burrata Salad topped with pancetta. I accompanied the appetizers with a refreshing and sweet Monkey Punch.

As entrees, we had the Short Rib, served over coarse ground polenta and my favorite, the Grilled Cobia. Both dishes were fantastic but I loved the taste of the fish with the melted leeks. As a finale, we shared a chef's selection of desserts, which included an original Tiramisu that left me licking my lips in admiration. 

Needless to say we had an amazing day at the Florida Keys and I personally cannot wait to return. Stay tuned as I bring you more about Amara Cay Resort and Oltremare, where I will be staying very soon for a weekend getaway.  You know what they say… it's "always 5 o'clock somewhere" and I'll have "my toes in the water…" We'll stop here. For more information, visit their website here.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Marion Miami - A Brickell Gem

Whether you're in the mood for fresh oysters, tiraditos, gourmet cheese or a variety of original desserts, Marion Miami, the newest gem in the Brickell area, has something for you. Located at 1111 SW 1st Avenue, Marion offers locally sourced cuisine from artisan cheesemakers, farmers and fishermen.

I recently stopped by for a taste of their Three Course Power Lunch priced at just $24 and I was pretty impressed. Let's start by saying their Chef, Jean Paul Lourdes, brings the perfect balance of natural talent and refined sophistication to the table, having worked at two Michelin starred restaurants in the past. I can tell you the decor is the first thing you'll notice. From elegant chic to relaxed European, the ambiance will transport your senses to a Mediterranean market, complete with  breezy surroundings, open kitchens and eclectic furnishings,

Service will be your next clue that you're in the right place. For me, it was spectacular from beginning to end. From the extensive knowledge of the menu demonstrated by the staff, to the obvious attention to detail, the experience was elevated right from the start. I commented to my server that I wanted to spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying their power lunch options, and he knew exactly how I should start my adventure. So I perused the menu while sipping on a glass of refreshing white wine.

I figured I'd add a little pizzazz to the moment by starting off with some Oysters. These are not a part of the three courses but are available at an additional price from the Raw Bar. The minute I slurped on the first one, I noticed the buttery, intense taste which immediately carried my taste buds to the sea. From there, I continued satisfying my raw cravings and ordered a  Sea Bream Crudo as a starter. I had never tried Sea Bream before and its fresh, bold taste bathed in seville orange and cumin reminded me of a breezy summer day. I loved the subtle kick it offered at first bite.

Selection of Fresh Oysters

Fluke Crudo

For an entree, I chose their Bomba Rice Squid dish featuring a flavorful combination of chicken and king prawn mixed together in a moist, saffron rice. While the portions are not huge, they are filling and won't leave you ready for a nap in the middle of the day. I finished off my power lunch with a medley of sweet and salty endings. First I ordered the Fine Chocolate Tarte, which was silky smooth and rich, and then I ordered a sampling from their artisanal cheese cart. The selection of imported cheese was served with local fruits stewed in cognac and pain au noix.

Bomba Rice Squid

Lots of delicious desserts to choose from
in their bakery

If you're anywhere near the Downtown/Brickell area at lunchtime and are in the mood for a refined experience you will remember, go check out Marion and take a virtual culinary trip to Europe. You'll be glad you treated yourself to some delicious peace and quiet when you return to your office and your.... boss.

Artisanal Cheese Cart

Have a little...or have a lot

For more information on Marion Miami, visit their website or call them at 786-717-7512.

Marion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

World of Beer - Now Bringing You Tavern Food With Your Beer

If you live in the Miami area and love beer, chances are you've chugged back a few brewskis over at World of Beer. There are a few locations in the 305, including the closest one to me in the Kendall area. However, if you've been there you know you can usually only get some liquid satisfaction since most locations don't have a kitchen. Well, that's all about to change and I got a sneak peek of some of their menu items over at the Coconut Creek location at 4437 Lyons Road.

World of Beer Coconut Creek

This spot here is all about American fun. From the local bands, to the over 50 beers on tap and hundreds in the cooler, you just don't want to leave when you pull up a chair. Better yet, they're serving some delicious tavern food that takes things up a notch. It's already in Coconut Creek, but they plan to add the food concept to the other locations as well. I had a chance to visit this World of Beer and sample their seasonal menu items, expertly paired with some of their special beer. I gotta tell you. I'm loving it.

German Pretzel

The first bite out was their German Pretzel served with a side of their house-made stone ground mustard.. This is a WOB original, (and you won't find it anywhere else) that makes chugging even funner. The giant Bavarian pretzel is soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and will make your lips pucker with its delicious salty, taste. We made it disappear with a couple of Pale Lagers.


They are also offering another selection of carb delights on the menu that will go great with your side of beer. Behold their Flatbread, prepared with fresh ingredients that will have you licking your fork. You can choose from a variety topped with either steak, mozarella or chicken. Depending on which one you bite into, you can choose the best beer pairing to bring out the taste. Don't worry... the menu includes recommendations for you.

Turkey Club
Next up we tried their Turkey Club, served with a refreshing apple and kale coleslaw. Just think of triple stacked layers of oven-roasted turkey and crispy bacon, brushed with mayo and topped with lettuce and tomato inside a toasted marble-rye bread.  It was fantastic. We clicked our glasses and washed it down with some very smooth lagers.

Chimay Burger

Get a load of the Chimay Burger we bit into next. My date was forecasting how many miles he'd have to run the next day to burn off the calories and all I kept thinking was "keep it coming". The tasty angus beef burger was piled high with Chimay Classique cheese, sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions, then served on a toasted brioche bun. The thick tavern fries sharing the plate with the burger were flavorful and bold. The combination made the Belgian Tripel pairing all the more appropriate.

S'mores anyone? Yes please. That's how we ended our World of Beer experience: by sharing a generous portion of Belgian Waffle S'mores. Light and crispy, these decadent, fresh-baked Belgian beer-infused waffles were topped with toasted marshmallows and then drizzled with a Kahlua fudge sauce. The whole creation was then sprinkled with graham cracker crumbles and powdered sugar. Did I sleep that night? Like a baby. Of course, I'm sure the hearty Stout helped.


I know you've already been to World of Beer for their beer, now check them out for their tavern food. For more information, visit their website at

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Habit Burger in the Westchester Neighborhood of Miami

Burger fans... there's a new place in town over on the Fontainebleau area of Miami serving up some delicious bundles of meat. It's the Habit Burger Grill, located at 9971 West Flagler Street, and it's making eating burgers a habit we can't shake. 

Double Charburger

Established in 1969, this location is the first one in South Florida, with the closest ones being in Delray Beach and Royal Palm Florida. With its juicy, fresh meat, and daily-baked buns, Habit Burger brings the 305 an affordable taste of coastal Southern California (where the restaurant was born).  But it isn't just the Charburgers that are rocking the place, with their char-grilled over an open flame taste. The made-to-order salads are just as California good. I tried a couple myself, but my favorite hands down is the Santa Barbara Cobb. A generous mix of crisp shredded iceberg and romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, chunky and creamy avocado, blue cheese crumbles, crisp bacon, egg and grilled chicken breast are tossed in a flavorful red wine vinaigrette dressing. It's that good and fresh. I've already been to the place a few times and I'm quickly becoming a fan.

Other great choices are the BBQChicken Salad or the
Grilled Albacore Tuna

Santa Barbara Cobb

Sides include french fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, tempura green beans and side salads. There are also a variety of sandwiches you can choose from, including the Pastrami, with melted cheese and caramelized onions. Don't forget to end your meal with one of their Shakes and Malts. They will take the experience over the edge.

I Wish They All Could Be California Burgers...

For more information on Habit Burger, visit their website , and remember: some habits you just don't want to break.

Chef Mendin Takes Grapes From California To A New Level at Pubbelly

Cheers with a Holiday
Sake Sangria
Exciting Night Ahead
Now that the holidays are over, it's time to start redeeming ourselves from all the culinary sins we committed through the month-long stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Having said that, I have to admit I don't think twice about enjoying myself and worrying about those few extra pounds later. I started my foodie celebration with an invitation to a Holiday Soiree at the PUBBELLY Miami Beach, located at 1418 20th Street. Hosted by Grapes From California and featuring dishes especially prepared by popular Chef Jose Mendin, the intimate dinner was a gastronomical sensation, showcasing the goodness and versatility of grapes in the kitchen.

Grapes from California

We started the evening with a refreshing Holiday Sake Sangria, prepared with California Grapes. The cocktail was sweet and mild and had a holiday flair to it. As we sipped, Chef Mendin came out to our table and chatted with us about how he likes to incorporate grapes into many of his creations and explained how he prepared the dishes we would be enjoying that evening.

With Chef Jose Mendin

The first course was the Seared Sea Scallops, a sweet and salty textural delight made with tender scallops, cauliflower puree, a delicate vintage beurre rouge, and pine nuts, then topped with a raw California grapes salad. It was fantastic. I had to ask Chef Mendin if he'd be so kind as to share the recipe with me because I can see myself scoring brownie points with the family if I whip up this dish at home.

Seared Sea Scallops

Figuring the first course would be the highlight of the meal, I was ecstatic when the second course topped the first. It was the Duck "A la Grape" and it was insanely delicious. I would have never thought of incorporating grapes with duck, but Chef Mendin hit it out of the ball park with this course once again. The roasted breast was cured with California grapes and served with leg confit, a bold grape gastrique, grilled cabbage and saba, that deliciously thick syrup made from grape must. All the flavors came together in sweet harmony and I couldn't help but notice how the combination of grape textures and preparations elevated the dish to a whole new level.

Duck "A la Grape"

The last course was dessert and this was a sight for all the senses. Beautiful in its presentation and playful in its taste, the Texture of Grape consisted of a berry sponge, served with meringue made with California Grapes and red wine reduction. The plating was so appealing, it took all of us a while to stop admiring it and dig right in. They couldn't stop me though after I started spooning with the bowl.

Texture of Grape

Besides the incredible experience I had enjoying the special treats prepared by Chef Mendin using Grapes from California, another great plus I got out of the evening was a selection of new dishes to try at home using these plump, healthy grapes. And the best part is, the recipes are very easy to follow. So much so, I am sharing the recipe for the Seared Sea Scallops with you in my Recipes page. Go check it out, and let me know how much praise your family gives you when you serve them this foodgasmic dish.

For more information on the nutritional value of grapes and other ways you can incorporate them in your cooking, visit their website at Grapes From California.