Monday, October 5, 2015

La Ruota - A Cozy Italian Spot in Doral

Doral has been starting to make its way into the foodie scene lately, and one sure sign of that is the latest Italian spot to open in the area. La Ruota is a fine dining restaurant that brings a modern, trendy feel to an otherwise cozy space. Located at 10802 NW 58th Street, it serves authentic Italian cuisine, with an emphasis on good service and Miami-style entertainment. There is a small stage on one end of the place that showcases talent scouted by Grammy-Award winner Archie Pena on Friday nights. That's right, I am giving you yet another spectacular date spot to seal the deal in.


Burrata e Prosciutto 
Fried Calamari
The menu at La Ruota includes appetizers such as Arancini, Burrata and Prosciutto, Fried Calamari and Bacon-Wrapped Sweet Potato. Of these, my favorites were the Burrata and the Fried Calamari. The Burrata consists of creamy, homemade mozzarella sitting atop a bed of fresh prosciutto, greens, and tomatoes, then drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. The Fried Calamaris were crsipy and flavorful, and made it quite difficult to eat just a couple.

Bacon-Wrapped Sweet Potato

A very exciting part of the evening that you want to make sure to experience happens when you order their signature Fettuccine Alla Ruota. The chef comes over to your table and prepares it right in front of your eyes, in a very entertaining fashion. In case you didn't know it, ruota means wheel in Italian, and to prepare this dish, the chef brings out a huge Grana Padano Parmesan Cheese Wheel, and makes the creamy and delicious fetuccine tableside for you, complete with flaming liquor and all.

Grana Padano Parmesan Cheese Wheel

The chef preparing the Fetuccine using a
traditional Italian process

Salmone Zafferano
Piccata di Pollo
After the fun culinary performance, we sampled several menu items for the next course. These were the Rollatini di Vitello,  the Salmone Zafferano, and the Piccata di Pollo. While they were all good, I absolutely loved the Rollatini di Vitello. It was a flavor explosion of a fine veal steak roll, filled with prosciutto di parma, smoked mozzarella cheese and vegetables. The dish is served with linguini aioli.

Rollatini di Vitello

Last but certainly not least, we finished our meal with a traditional Italian dessert very near and dear to my heart. La Ruota has created their own version of the sweet staple, using a  family recipe, and named it Sofi's Tiramisu. I immediately noticed the difference in the combination of textures and subtle tastes that filled every spoonful. It was a perfect way to end the fantastic meal.

Sofi's Tiramisu

For more information on La Ruota, or to make reservations, you can call them at 305-477-8804. Ciao.

La Ruota Italian Cuisine & Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A 24K Gold Experience at The Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach

In the infamous words of Chicago, "Everybody needs a little time away".  I found my personal sanctuary at The Betsy South Beach Wellness Garden & Spa, located at 1440 Ocean Drive, in Miami Beach. I had been wanting to get a facial done for quite a while and when I took a look at Miami's only fully outdoor spa at The Betsy Hotel, I knew it was time.

Stepping onto the rooftop tropical oasis, I instinctively felt a sense of tranquility and ease. The Zen-inspired K'ALMA Spa, uses earth-born elements to soothe the senses and renew the soul.  Perusing their Spa Menu, you momentarily forget you are reading a brochure of spa services and get enthralled in the relaxing and inspirational quotes instead.  They focus on a sense of well being that transcends all luxuries and indulgences, offering guests treatments that balance the body's many energy centers in order to embrace life's daily challenges with a positive mind.

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads" (Thoreau).  I didn't quite grasp the intensity of this quote until I received the signature welcome at The Betsy Spa.  Incorporating an ancient tradition shared by many cultures, they honor their guests by giving them a raw earth foot-bath upon arrival, using minerals and natural antiseptics that soften the soles and soothe aches. Both humbled and relaxed, the experience set the mood for the relaxation to come.

I decided to try the 24K Collagen Mask Facial, a pampering ode to the Egyptian custom traced all the way back to Cleopatra, which utilizes the anti-aging benefits of gold. Cleopatra was said to have slept in a gold face mask every night to enhance the suppleness of her skin. Although I would not be spending the night with a gold mask on, I was definitely looking forward to covering my face with some of nature's AU. "If speech is silver, silence is gold." (Egyptian Proverb)  All I have to say to The Betsy is… you are so right.

The whole experience was unforgettable. The facial wasn't just a facial, but a deep penetrating massage, combined with the natural revitalizing benefits of Miami's cool breeze.  I could feel the quality of the ingredients as they were placed on my skin, and felt an immediate taut on my face feeling that lingered. By the end of the luxurious facial, I could see a more youthful and glowing appearance and I felt completely in tune with my senses. Wow… I need to do this more often.

After I was done, I drank a glass of champagne, lounging in the relaxation area, overlooking the water. It was a priceless afternoon, in the beautiful city of Miami, where the service was perfect and the surroundings unparalleled.

If you haven't visited The Betsy for either a meal at their signature BLT Steak restaurant or a spa treatment, I highly recommend you indulge and reward yourself as soon as possible.  The hotel has a deep commitment to the arts, supporting their very essence through art, music and literature. They offer writers the opportunity to stay at their inspirational Writer's Room to finish novels and memoirs, and they also host a Breakfast Arts Salon for literature fans, where writers share breakfast and ideas with guests. I recently attended a Breakfast Arts Salon event, featuring writer and editor Francesca Cruz, who shared a very powerful and interactive message with us. I pretty much walked out with a new focus on life and a renewed empowerment to continue to achieve my goals.

For more information on The Betsy Hotel, and all it has to offer, visit them online at or call them at 305-531-6100.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

American Pie Pizzeria at The Village at Gulfstream Park

You guys remember that hilarious movie from the 80's, American Pie? Well this post is not about that. It's actually about this casual, family-friendly spot at The Village at Gulsftream Park called American Pie Pizzeria, located at 801 Silks Run Road.

I came across this place after a very good friend of mine recommended it to me. Since I was heading in that direction to see a horse about a man, I decided to make it a pizza night. American Pie is one of those places you visit when you want to relax, eat some wholesome brick-oven pizza, and enjoy a comfortable night out. There is usually always something going on at The Village at Gulfstream Park (in addition to the horse races), so it makes for a great night out with family or friends.

American Pie Italian Salad

Brick Oven Roasted Chicken Wings

The great thing about it is that American Pie Pizzeria offers a lot more than just pizza.  We decided to throw the calorie-counting out the window and gave ourselves the green light to splurge.  To ease the conscience a bit though, we started the fun with the American Pie Italian Salad, a generously portioned, healthy bowl of romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, garbanzo beans, onions, olives, and hard boiled eggs, all tossed in a vinaigrette dressing. Once we had gotten our veggies in, we brought on the protein with a nice batch of their Brick Oven Roasted Chicken Wings. These were delicious, topped with a heaping mound of cooked onions.


Next up we had one of their brick oven Pizzas. We were feeling quite adventurous so we designed our own. We added sausage, ham, pepperoni and black olives to the cheesy pie and it tasted like heaven. It was huge, by the way, and the ingredients were very fresh. They have a bunch of specialty pizzas to choose from, if you don't want to experiment, so either way you can't go wrong. I had also heard their Meatballs were excellent so we ordered some on the side. All I can say is "Who needs spaghetti?" The balls were good all on their own.  I spooned up that marinara sauce after we finished the meatballs, like I was eating a bowl of cereal. Mmmmm.

Say Cheese
Homemade Brownie

I didn't think I could fit anything else in my belly but I was tempted to try their homemade Brownie and I just couldn't say no. Come to think of it, I hardly ever say no... And I'm talking about food by the way. But anyway, even if you have to walk around like Al Bundy with an open pair of pants, you have to close the deal at American Pie Pizzeria with their Brownie. It's amazing. Soft, moist, chocolaty, and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream

Grab the kids and head over to American Pie Pizzeria at The Village at Gulfstream Park this weekend. You never know... you may or may not make a buck or two on the horses... but you'll definitely walk out happy with the food. For more information, you can visit their website or call them at 954-454-5205.

American Pie Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Coca-Cola Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month With A Tribute To Our Last Names. #OrgullosoDeSer

This is part of a sponsored campaign with DiMe Media and Coca-Cola. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

As a Latina and an only child, I have always felt the deep love and responsibility that comes with continuing the legacy of pride behind one of the biggest storytellers of my heritage - my last name.  My last name means more to me than just five letters, that are actually a palindrome. Salas is the last name I received from my father, the man I have always been able to count on unconditionally throughout my entire life. It is my connection to my Cuban roots, the land I never got to experience first hand, and whose air I haven't been able to breathe; but the very same culture that pulsates through my veins, and through the memories instilled there by my parents and grandparents.

My last name tells a story. It tells a story of a family who lived in Cuba and who started a new life in the United States in the early 1960s. It encases the values, morals and convictions of a hard-working man named Miguel, who met the love of his life, Martha, while in exile, married her and together they gave birth to a curly haired little girl they named Maria. Salas also holds decades of memories for me of a happy childhood surrounded by family that supported my endeavors and always made me feel that my Latina roots were a major force that shaped the person I am. I embraced that truth every time I saw my parents working hard to bring me a future of hope, despite not speaking the language and basically having to start over from scratch. If that wasn't enough, my last name brings me comfort and security, because I know that no matter what, my parents will always be with me every time somebody calls my name.

During Hispanic Heritage Month, Coca-Cola is celebrating Latino culture by highlighting this very same source of pride, our last name. Through their #OrgullosoDeSer campaign, Coca-Cola invites all of us to share a story of why our family name makes us unique and #OrgullosoDeSer #[InsertLastName].  It makes a lot of sense that Coca-Cola would be a part of this special time of year with us, since they have been present throughout so many of the important moments in Hispanics families' lives. I know for us they were even a part of my daughter's Quince pictures, when she insisted on taking a photograph during her shoot, sipping her favorite soda.

To kick-off this campaign, Coca-Cola created a unique film that embraces the feelings of pride our last names bring us. Families in the the film share their individual stories and history, and display their pride by applying a temporary tattoo of their last name using the Coca-Cola Heritage Tattoo can. It's a touching tribute to all Latinos that brings to life the passion we feel about who we are.

I always vowed I'd never give up my last name - and I didn't.  Even during my marriage, my last name continued to be a part of me I could never let go of.  I am Maria Salas, the proud daughter of Miguel and Martha Salas, a family with its own unique story, that despite adversity, remains united and proud in a land that is not their own. And while I was born here in America, the power of my last name reminds me that I am a Latina down to the core. I remind my daughter everyday that she too should be proud of her culture and her last name, because it is in its essence that we share the history of our lives. I am #OrgullosoDeSer #Salas. Take a look at a video of my story….

I know many of you would enjoy a similar nostalgic experience and Coca-Cola is offering you the opportunity to live it. You can purchase your very own personalized bottle by visiting Coca-Cola's website at   I absolutely love displaying my Share a Coke contour bottle personalized with my last name and I know you will too. Bottom line - I'm proud of who I am and I want the world to know it.  Oh and don't forget to join Coca-Cola and I, in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by sharing your #OrgullosodeSer #[InsertLastName] with your family and friends on your social media platforms. Hasta pronto...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Memorable Night With Norman Love And His Chocolates

I was recently invited to a chocolate and wine pairing with one of the most celebrated chocolatiers: Norman Love. The memorable evening took place at the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store in the Design District and began with specially prepared hors d'oeuvres from Ni.Do. Caffe & Mozzarella Bar, who kicked off the intimate affair with a special touch that helped prepare our palates for the sweet feast about to occur.


Norman Love always had a passion for chocolate, and thus began to learn the craft of pastry-making in France.  Shortly thereafter, Love served as executive pastry chef for many luxury resorts, including The Beverly Hills Hotel and The Ritz-Carlton. He told us stories of his time at The Ritz and how he opened 30 hotel and resort pastry kitchens during his 13 years in the position, in both international and domestic locales such as Boston, Dubai and Bali.

Norman Love

However, the passion for creating handcrafted chocolates continued to grow in Love's heart - even as he appeared on the 39-part series "Baking with Julia" and authored four books.  After receiving numerous awards and recognitions, including being named one of the country's top 10 pastry chefs by Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazine in 1996 and 1997, and leading the U.S. team to a bronze medal in the biennial Coup du Monde de la Patisserie (World Cup of Pastry) competition in Lyons, France, he decided to leave the corporate world and began a new chapter in his life. The celebrated pastry chef founded Norman Love Confections in Fort Myers, Florida in 2001, blending a master's appreciation of the sensuous with the art of the chef to create unbelievable chocolates reserved for those who expect nothing less than perfection.

The setup for the affair at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

I was in awe as I sampled each and every bite of the 15 chocolate delights Love presented to us.  As I listened to his memories of his time in Washington D.C., when he was selected as one of 18 chefs who made a birthday cake at the 150th Smithsonian Anniversary Celebration, my mind wandered to the decadent and luxurious experience my taste buds were embarking on, savoring only the freshest and finest ingredients in each piece of chocolate.

The anticipation is always so exciting...

Love guided us through this journey, advising us to close our eyes and taste each piece of pure chocolate first, then take a sip of the exceptionally paired wine from Hundred Acre Wine Group. The first pairing consisted of  34% White Chocolate and a fresh and vibrant Layer Cake Chardonnay.  After the pure beginning, we went on to indulge in a White Chocolate Lemon Bar, a buttery baked streusel wrapped in tart lemon cream with 34% white chocolate and vanilla. We finished the pairing with a Lemon Pound Cake, prepared with the same chocolate, and topped with fresh lemon icing.

34% White Chocolate

Temporarily transfixed in utter joy, the next pairing was just as sensual and satisfying as the last, filling our senses with pleasure as we followed the same ritual, allowing each texture and intense taste of the 70% Dominican Black to coat our palate before putting the glass to our lips for a sip of Cherry Pie Pinot Noir. The smooth and silky dark chocolate complemented the deep and concentrated richness of the pinot noir, balancing the ripe red fruit aromas in perfect harmony.  I couldn't help but wonder if there was a correlation between chocolate and ecstasy after experiencing Love's St. Domingue Chocolate Mousse.

70% Dominican Black

Course Three continued toying with our senses, this time exposing them to the 74% Peru Black, tasting of black tea, licorice, pepper, vanilla and woody notes.  Chris Radomski, the Co-Proprietor of Hundred Acre Wine Group who presented the wine pairings to us, explained how the Layer Cake Malbec from Argentina was the ideal partner for this Peruvian gem. I found its rich earth notes and brooding black fruit stood its ground with the cocoa creation, allowing us to taste its splendor in elegant abandon. The end result? A marriage made in heaven in each bite and sip of the Peru Chocolate Mousse Love made for us and the wine.

74% Peru Black

Chris Radomski

While our heads were reeling and our hearts were beating in anticipation, the next plate was served with the beautifully presented fourth course of chocolate and wine pairings. This time, in front of us sat a 61% Espresso Truffle, enticing us with its alluring aroma and addicting qualities. The bittersweet, dark roasted expresso beans were steeped into sweet cream, capturing the true essence of this masterpiece. Its flavor was enhanced by the blend that graced our glasses: Layer Cake Sea of Stones. This Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petit Verdot blend was extremely dense and concentrated, dark in color, and its aromas and flavors lingered in our mouths long after it was gone, taunting us to sip some more.  The seduction wouldn't end there though. It was followed by an Espresso Crunch, another Love creation made with milk chocolate cake, vanilla cream, coffee mousse and espresso crumbs.

61% Espresso Truffle

The final pairing, the climax if you will, came in the form of 88% Venezuelan Black; deep cacao notes tickling our tongue with coffee, licorice and black tea notes. It only seemed right that it would be paired with If You See Kay, another versatile blend, dominated by a mocha flavor and a powerful finish. Their chemistry wouldn't stop at just a mere bite so we completed the multiple happy endings with a Chocolate Almond Cake, made with a decadent 88% Venezuelan ganache.

88% Venezuelan Black

That was the end. I had to take a deep breath and replay this memorable affair for a few moments in my mind before getting up from the table. I knew it wouldn't happen again, not quite to this extent, but that was OK. I had lived the Norman Love experience for one evening, and that would carry me for a lifetime.

Till we meet again...

For more information on Norman Love Confections, and to learn about all of their products and seasonal holiday flavors, visit their website.

Miami Spice 2015- Bulla Gastrobar

I didn't want the weekend to start without pointing you in another Miami Spice direction. My next adventure happened at a popular Spanish Coral Gables spot that gets packed not just for dinner but for happy hour as well. I'm talking about Bulla Gastrobar, located at 2500 Ponce de Leon Blvd.

The Sangrias at Bulla never disappoint

I looked at Bulla's Miami Spice menu online and it was a go for me right away. First of all, their appetizer choices sounded very good (especially the tuna tartare) and they featured an interesting mix of entrees as well. So, off I went and started the night with one of their famous Sangrias. I'm sure you've experienced one or two of these in your lifetime.  From there, my dining companion and I decided to share our courses so we started off with the Tartar de Atun (Tuna Tartare) and the Albondigas de Cordero (Lamb Meatballs). What can I tell you about the tartare? It was enthralling… the fresh ahi tuna was mixed with mango and avocado, then drizzled with soy sesame vinaigrette. It was served with a Sriracha Aioli that gave it an exciting kick, and a side of crispy taco shells. I found this variation added a layer of fun to the dish because you could enjoy making little tacos over conversation, as you savored the sweet and salty appetizer. The lamb meatballs were winners too. They were tender and flavorful, and served together with mushrooms, potatoes and onion marmalade. We didn't try the other two appetizer options but they sounded interesting as well. They were the Gambas Al Ajillo (Sauteed Garlic Shrimp) and Montados de Chistorra (Spicy Spanish Sausage with Bread).

Tartar de Atun

Albondigas de Cordero

Bulla offers five Main Course choices for their Miami Spice menu and I can promise it will be difficult to choose. The options include Arroz Caldoso (Paella-style dish), New York Strip Steak, Seared Swordfish, Braised Oxtail and Grilled Octopus. See what I mean? After much thought and deliberation, we went for the Arroz Caldoso and the Pulpo A La Plancha (Grilled Octopus). When the server brought out our entrees, I was floored with my rice. It was a huge portion served in a skillet-like pot, whose aroma was practically making me drool.  The Bomba rice was swimming in delicious broth along with clams, shrimp, and chicken, all seasoned in a red sofrito and saffron. Amazing. I immediately knew I would be reliving this portion of my adventure for next day's lunch as well. The octopus was perfectly grilled, tender not chewy, and served over a semi-sweet corn puree, mojo picon and a splash of paprika oil. 

Arroz Caldoso

Pulpo A La Plancha

Last but certainly not least, it was time for dessert. We picked one of each of the two choices on the menu: Torrejas (Caramelized Brioche) and Arroz Con Leche (Spanish-style Rice Pudding). The caramelized brioche had an incredible sweet texture and was bathed in local honey, alongside a scoop of turron ice-cream. The Arroz Con Leche was topped with a golden raisin coulis and sprinkles of cinnamon that brought the whole experience to a perfect ending.


Arroz Con Leche

You have less than a month to take advantage of this fabulous menu for the $39 price. For more information on Bulla Gastrobar and their Miami Spice Menu, visit them online or call them at 305 441-0107.