Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Join the Milk Life - Why Croquetas Are Nutritious For You!

I am working with The National Hispanic Milk Life Campaign and this is part of a sponsored Milk Life Somos Fuertes Hispanic Heritage campaign. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

If you're Cuban and/or live in Miami, there is a particular dish that has worked its way into becoming one of your basic food groups, and that is Croquetas. Croquetas or croquettes are small log-shaped, fried rolls filled with different stuffings. There is something magical and comforting about the little fried morsels of love that transcends countries, politics and diets. While there are many different preparations for croquettes, and the stuffing may vary, there is one basic constant to preparing the perfect crispy bite - and that is Béchamel Sauce.

Béchamel Sauce

Let me tell you, in my family's kitchen, Béchamel Sauce (a creamy milk-based sauce considered one of the "Mother Sauces" in many countries) was a staple. My grandmother would spend hours in the kitchen making croquetas for the week, and we would fight to see who would be the one to lick the béchamel sauce off the spoons once she was done. It became such a favorite, that we eventually began eating the "Salsa Béchamel" from a bowl. The delicious, creamy taste of milk in the sauce, with the hints of onion and butter, became synonymous with comfort and good memories. Of course, my abuelita was happy. She knew we were getting our fair share of nutrients from the sauce because it was made with milk. So thinking back now, I really believe she left those extra spoonfuls laying around because it would help her nietos get the high-quality protein we needed from the milk, which would ensure we were growing up strong and healthy. Plus, since regular milk has no added sugar, but only the one from naturally occurring lactose, we were getting all the good stuff without the added ones that could have negative effects.

My grandmother

But back to our croquetas. I still remember getting in trouble at school and knowing I'd be coming home to a "talk" with my parents (you know what I mean). The only thing that made the tension drop as I was walking through the door, was the smell of those croquetas sitting on the dining room table. Even then, my abuelita was supporting me. I'd munch and chew right through my parents' lectures and she'd wink from the kitchen. She was a smart lady.


 Today, croquetas are still a part of our everyday lives. While we can stop at a ventanita or a cafeteria and pick up a few... there is nothing like making them at home, and saving a bowl of Béchamel Sauce for later. My daughter is addicted to them and she loves to hear the stories of her great grandmother and how she got the recipe from her own mom, who was from Spain. She enjoys hearing how croquetas have always been on the table during many of our lives' pivotal moments, and still remain a family tradition today. Tell you what.... when my family and I found out my daughter was accepted into the university of her choice, we celebrated with homemade croquetas and café con leches.

For me, croquetas are a comfort food, a trigger for childhood memories, and a delicious way to start the day or bring it to a close. Most importantly, it's also a great way to add nutrition and protein to our diet, because milk is one of its ingredients. And we  all know an 8 oz. glass of milk contains 9 essential nutrients, including B vitamins for energy, protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and bone-building nutrients, including calcium and Vitamin D.

Nutritious Milk

So go ahead... eat your croquetas and save a bowl of Béchamel Sauce for later. You will be creating your own tasty memories for your family and giving them a nutritious moment to remember.  In the meantime, let me share my grandmother's croquetas recipe so you could try it at home.

My Abuelita's Croquetas Recipe
1 lb of ham, ground
5 tablespoons  butter
1 cup onion, minced fine
1/3 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1 and 1/2 cups of whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
1) In a large pan, melt the butter, add the onions and saute until translucent.

2) Stir in the flour until it becomes thick. Add more butter if necessary to smoothen it.  Gradually, whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce. Continue cooking at medium heat until the sauce thickens. Once it's thick, add the parsley. Stir for a couple of minutes and then fold in the ground ham and the bread crumbs.

3) Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes on low heat. Spoon the mixture into a baking pan and refrigerate until it is well chilled (at least one hour). In order to form the mixture into rolls, it needs to be very firm.

4) Shape the mixture into logs about three inches long.

5) Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat until frothy.  Combine the salt and the bread crumbs in a second bowl.

6) Dip the logs into the eggs and roll the logs in the seasoned bread crumbs.  Dip a second time into the eggs and re-roll in the bread crumbs.

7) Cover the logs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about three hours. (If you are going to freeze the croquettes to eat them later, you can do it now).

8) Heat the oil to 350F.  Fry the croquetas in the oil, a few at a time, for three to four minutes. Turn them occasionally until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Serve and enjoy.

For more information on the benefits of drinking milk and including it in your recipes, visit

Friday, September 23, 2016

Miami Spice - Canvas at The Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach

Attention foodies... Miami Spice is about to come to a close this year and I have another place you might want to check out. Have you been to Canvas at The Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach? This Art Deco hotel located at 1671 Collins Avenue, is a cultural centerpiece which epitomizes the artistic soul of Miami Beach. Canvas, its restaurant is no different. Flowing from the interior gallery to the outdoor patio overlooking the pool, the ambiance at Canvas is both sophisticated yet comfortable - bringing to the table a carefully prepared selection of dishes showcasing contemporary cuisine.

Shrimp Avocado Sliders
Thai Fish Tacos

I recently visited to try their Miami Spice menu and both the service and the food were fantastic. Their menu offers a four course dinner with a good variety of selections.  For starters, we had their Shrimp Avocado Sliders and their Thai Fish Tacos. Both gave our palettes a little awakening with a spicy kick that caught our attention. The shrimp sliders were prepared with grilled pineapples and jalapeno, providing a sweet and salty oasis of flavors; while the fish tacos were glazed with sriracha and mango salsa- a true tropical combination.

Tuna Crudo
Wild Mushroom Pizza

For our second course, we decided on the Tuna Crudo and the Wild Mushroom Pizza. You know if there's tuna on the menu, I am going to have it so that decision took no time at all to make. The preparation of the tuna crudo was unique and different from what I was expecting.  It was comprised of chopped pieces of ahi tuna mixed with avocado, pineapple, and basil lemon vinaigrette. It was very flavorful and refreshing and served with thinly sliced bread.  The mushroom pizza was absolutely delicious, topped with fontina cheese and truffle oil. The truffle taste was very distinct and the ingredients combined very well together.

8 oz. Wagyu Steak Frites
Seared Salmon
The feast continued with our third course.  We decided we would share some land and sea so we ordered the 8 oz.Wagyu Steak Frites and the Seared Salmon. The steak was very tender and was served with a nice Chimichurri Compound Butter. The salmon was seared with a very flavorful seasoning and served with a grilled sundried tomato pesto arepa.

Brownie Sundae
Homemade Tiramisu

Last but certainly not least, it was time for dessert. Being the chocolate lover I am, my eyes stopped immediately on the Brownie Sundae. It turned out to be a sweet concoction of marshmallows, chocolate fudge and amoretti cherries.  My dinner date opted for the Homemade Tiramisu, of which I enjoyed several spoonfuls. This was my favorite... It was creamy, light and had a unique texture.
If you haven't checked out Canvas at The Sagamore, take a drive out to Miami Beach and pay them a visit before Miami Spice says its final goodbye. For more information, visit their website here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bahama Breeze Rumtoberfest - Party Like the Locals


Summer’s Over, But This Caribbean Party Will Soon Turn Up the Heat


In the Caribbean, the party never ends. The offseason just means it’s time for islanders to let loose and have some real fun. This fall, party like the locals during Bahama Breeze’s Rumtoberfest, a celebration of all things rum that kicks off Sept. 19 and runs through Nov. 6.  

“Rumtoberfest at Bahama Breeze allows guests to enjoy a true Caribbean experience,” said John Wilkerson, Senior Vice President of Bahama Breeze. “And this year, we’re excited to introduce new promotions to make the celebration even more memorable.”

 Coconut Express
If you ask us, Rumtoberfest is best celebrated with friends. Trying to find the perfect way to invite yours? Bahama Breeze is making it easy – and fun – to share the hype. Surprise your friends with a special delivery – courtesy of Bahama Breeze. Visit to ship them a coconut, complete with personalized message. Visit the website for more details – but hurry, this offer is only available while supplies last. Purchaser only pays $5.45 shipping to anywhere in the continental U.S.

 Uber Escape
Bahama Breeze is partnering with Uber for the first Rumbash Friday of the season on Sept. 23 to give guests a safe, fun and interactive experience when they head to the restaurants. Between 4 and 9 p.m., Miami-area guests visiting the Kendall location can arrive in style – in one of three limited-edition Bahama Breeze vehicles. Simply open your Uber app and select “UberEscapeMIA” for a chance to experience the ultimate Bahamas party to-go, complete with tropical “mocktails,” Caribbean jams, prizes and a free ride. Upon arrival, guests will be treated to an exclusive Rumtoberfest Tasting. 

 Guests nationwide can also get in on the fun. Between 4 and 9 p.m., use Uber to visit any of Bahama Breeze’s 36 locations nationwide to receive a free appetizer. Offer redeemable with Uber email receipt; one per table; Island Hopper Combo excluded from free appetizer promo.

 Rumbash Fridays
We’re keeping the fun going throughout Rumtoberfest, with games, prizes, specials, live music, fortune tellers and other activities at all 36 Bahama Breeze locations every Friday until Nov. 4.

 Limited Edition Menu
The Rumtoberfest menu features new cocktails crafted in the spirit of those served at islanders’ favorite neighborhood bars. This year’s selections include:

  • Pirate’s Paradise – This cocktail gets its name from Port Royal, Jamaica’s infamous pirate city. Served in an exclusive take-home glass, this drink features lime, passion fruit, ginger, vanilla and bitters, with an upside-down 50-ml bottle of Captain Morgan.

  • Rum Thyme – This drink was created in the spirit of Prohibition-era rum runners who brought ships of whiskey and rum into the U.S. from the Caribbean. It features Zaya Rum, Old Overholt Rye, orange juice, lime juice and thyme syrup.

  • High Tide Swizzle – The swizzle pre-dates the cocktail and is one of the Caribbean’s original rum drinks. The word “swizzle” comes from the stick (literally a stick from a tree) that was once used to mix the cocktail and add bittering flavors.     
  • Rum Cocktail Flights – Can’t decide which rum cocktail to try? Choose between three options that highlight the most popular Bahama Breeze selections, including:
    • Mama’s Hooch and Holler, featuring Bahamian Sunset, Bahama Mama and the Goombay Smash.
    • Shark Attack Shack, featuring Yaka Hula Hickey Dula, Zombie and Painkiller cocktails.
    • Float My Boat Bar, which includes the Curly Tail, Painkiller and Zombie cocktails.

  • Pick Your Own Rum Flight served with a side of Coke, or treat yourself to three world-renowned Caribbean rums, like Barbancourt 15 Year Estate Reserve, Flor de Cana 18, and Don Q Gran Anejo.

 Guests might get hungry with all those drinks, so Bahama Breeze is also offering Rum & Coke Ribs, which features tender baby back ribs tossed in the restaurant’s signature rum and coke glaze.

 Visit for more information, as well as rum tips, recipes, videos, interactive games and to be eligible for our sweepstakes.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Bulla Gastrobar Takes Doral By Storm

If you know anything about the dining scene in Miami, I don't have to tell you too much about Bulla Gastrobar because you are probably very familiar with the trendy Spanish place in the Gables, serving amazing sangrias and tasty tapas in a hip ambiance. But did you know they have opened another location in Doral? They've taken their Embutidos and Cheese Platters further west and given the area some Huevos Bulla they can't resist.

Huevos Bulla
One of the main things I've noticed about Bulla, is the consistency in the quality of their food. There hasn't been a single time I've visited the gastrobar that haven't walked out happy.  Whether I've met some friends for happy hour after work, or taken family for a complete dinner of tapas and main dishes, the experience at Bulla is always similar to an outing in Spain. Having been to the Madre Patria many times, I can certainly taste the authenticity of the dishes, and I can experience the care taken into creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the "bulla" you hear when you go "tapeando" en Espana.

Now there's a second place in Miami to enjoy this culinary sensation. Located at 5335 NW 87th Avenue, in the heart of Doral, the newest location features the same great food in a welcoming yet lively setting. From the tapas and raciones, to Platos Fuertes such as the Paella and their Rice Caldoso, if you haven't paid them a visit to delight your palate, you must. And pronto.... 

Desserts won't be overlooked at Bulla so whether you go for their signature Torrejas, or try a dabble of more creative options such as their Cremoso de Chocolate or Flan de Coco, you'll have a sweet ending to a fantastic meal. For more information on Bulla Gastrobar and their newest location in Doral, visit their website or call them at 305-260-6543.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Watr Brings A Bit of Polynesia to South Beach

Something new just swam onto the dining scene on South Beach and that something is watr 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach's newest permanent restaurant located at 2341 Collins Avenue.  Set in a picture-perfect scene, 18 stories above the bright lights of the city, watr embodies a tropical divinity only possible in an unforgettable venue that floats over the sea.
Welcoming guests through an entry illuminated by a canopy of stringed lights and adorned with ambient greenery, the space transforms into a Polynesian paradise with décor meant to echo the ocean's waves breaking along the shore.  Embracing spirituality and wealth of the element that pronounces life, watr, is inspired by the islands of Polynesia and Japan with notes of fresh seafood and tropical undertones.
Guests will be delighted to experience inspired Sushi and Poke paired with hand-crafted cocktails that elevate the unforgettable adventure to transcendental heights. Bringing the first-ever Cocktail Pairing Connoisseur to 1 Hotel & Homes, watr's innovative Hawaiian-Japanese cuisine will be enhanced with the vibrant libations created to compliment the concept's unique culinary creations.
Golden watr
Guess who...

I had the opportunity to attend a magical opening where we got to taste the amazing menu items that are being offered at watr, along with the refreshing, unique cocktails that will be paired with the dishes. Between the serene setting, the flavors of the locally-sourced seafood, and the playful cocktails, I momentarily forgot I was in the 305 and felt I had journeyed to a tropical paradise for the night.  From the sweet undertones of their signature drink, the Golden Watr, to the playful kicks of ginger of the Dancing Geisha, each hand crafted cocktail made its own bold statement and awakened all the senses.

Dancing Geisha
Some of the flavor-filled dishes I loved were the Crispy Rock Shrimp, served with spicy yuzu aioli and the Seaweed Salad Trio, a healthy, light starter consisting of red seaweed, red tosaka which is an invasive species, and wakame. They were each served with their own vinaigrette dressing of sesame, ginger or lime, complimenting their unique tastes.
Crispy Rock Shrimp
Seaweed Salad Trio

The second wave was just as spectacular, featuring an assortment of pokes that had me dancing a bit of hula. They were the Tako, a flavorful mix of octopus, edamame, daikon, hijiki, smoked chili and vinaigrette, the Kabayaki, prepared with sockeye salmon, cucumber, pickled red onions and radish, and my personal favorite, the Kimchi. Yellowfin tuna, avocado and crispy garlic danced in my tongue with each bite and made me moan in Polynesian pleasure.
Poke Selection

The next course was phenomenal. The presentation of the sushi rolls was breathtaking and not only did I thoroughly enjoy the flavor, but I was very impressed with the care and detail that went into its presentation. It fit the entire mood of the evening. Our platter included their California Roll, made with snow crab, avocado, Japanese cucumber and sesame. It also featured their Dragon Roll, which was a tasty combination of shrimp tempura, Japanese  cucumber, asparagus, avocado, eel sauce and spicy mayo, and their Happy Veg Roll. This is a great choice for those that may not want a traditional sushi roll. It was made with cashew cream cheese, bean sprouts, alfalfa, avocado and burdock. 
Sushi Rolls
The main entrees we tasted at watr were created with just as much originality and expertise. We sampled the Salmon Teriyaki, served with a warm sprout salad and a sweet teriyaki sauce, and the Wagyu Skirt Steak; a tender and mouthwatering steak that gave our palates a pleasing kick with shiitake, kimchi, and yuzu kosho beef jus.
Salmon Teriyaki
Wagyu Skirt Steak
After enjoying some of the Polynesian dancers and the Fire Eating performers, we ended our evening with some sweet bites.  The Ginger Bread Pudding was outstanding and I highly recommend it, and the Compressed Pineapple was a different kind of dessert that definitely got my attention.
Ginger Bread Pudding and Compressed Pineapple Desserts
watr is open daily from 11am to 6pm for lunch and from 6pm to 11pm for dinner. Reservations are available by calling 305-604-6580, emailing or visiting opentable. For more information, please visit their website here.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Red the Steakhouse takes Miami Spice to a Whole New Level

Red the Steakhouse does it again this year with their rotating Miami Spice menus.  When Chef Peter Vauthy puts together a menu, he goes all out... and this year is no exception. I had the opportunity of getting a preview of several of the dishes they are offering as part of their Miami Spice promotion this year and they were outstanding.  Of course, in typical RED fashion, we didn't just eat, but we prepared some cocktails and we cooked. Chef Peter spiced things up for us by teaching us how to make his very famous Tuna Tartare. I gotta tell you, I'm going to use his recipe to work my way into some unsuspecting dude's heart.
Chef Peter Vauthy
But back to Miami Spice... every week RED will be presenting a new themed menu with some upgrade options to consider. The menus will be the Week 1: Classic Steakhouse, Week 2: Seafood, Week 3: Italian and Week 4: Greatest Hits. The great thing about this concept? You can visit multiple times during the promotion and have a fresh, foodgasmic experience every time. Oh and by the way, you bring five people or more to RED for Miami Spice and they will bring the Tomahawk to your table as your entrée. Say what?

Spinach Salad
Heirloom Tomato and
 Aged Balsamic (Upgrade)

So let me give you a little glimpse of what to expect. For starters... you must check out their Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots; absolutely delightful bites of potatoes wrapped in bacon and served with a tomato bacon aioli. Another favorite of mine is their JB's Steak Tartare, prepared with Certified Angus Beef Prime Hand Cut Tenderloin, Shallots and Capers. It is unbelievable. If you're in the mood for a salad instead, you can't go wrong with their 4 oz Burrata, served with Heirloom Tomatoes and drizzled with Aged Balsamic Vinegar or their Spinach Salad, a fresh and light opener of baby spinach, hard-boiled egg and bacon vinaigrette.

Bacon Wrapped "Tater Tots"
JB's Steak Tartare

Flash Fried Snapper
Lobster Fra Diavlo
Like seafood? Be sure to check out their Lobster Fra Diavlo, where Chef Peter rocks linguini in a spicy tomato sauce with some sweet and delicious pieces of lobster. The Flash Fried Snapper is a winner too in my book. I loved the tender taste of the fish, with the coconut curry and vegetable slaw.  My two top contenders of the evening, however, were the Flash Fried Lobster Tail and the Tomahawk.  You can find the Lobster Tail during the Greatest Hits week and I'm telling you, you will remember me when you bite into each piece. As for the steaks, feel free to choose from any cut on the menu. They're all that good.
Flash Fried Lobster Tail (Upgrade)

Tomahawk Ribeye Steak

Italian Black Truffle Risotto
Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese (Upgrade)
There are several sides you can choose for an upgrade price, but it's so reasonable, you won't want to miss out. The Four Cheese Macaroni and Cheese is a staple at RED and it never disappoints. And I immediately fell in love with the Italian Black Truffle Risotto. If you like the taste of truffle as much as I do, you will definitely find yourself in culinary ecstasy with this dish.
Decisions Decisions
To finish up your Miami Spice experience at RED, there are a variety of desserts to choose from. My favorites were the Bacon Pecan Monkey Bread (upgrade) and the Peanut Butter Pie. I'd tell you more about them, but (a) I really think you should go check it out for yourself, and (b) I just got very hungry after writing this post.

For more information on Red the Steakhouse and their Miami Spice menus or to make reservations, visit their website or call them at 305-534-3688.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Havana 1957 Brings Some Old Style Cuban Elegance to Ocean Drive

Are you dying to spend a day in Havana but rather wait until all the hoopla simmers down? There's a new Cuban hot spot that just landed on Ocean Drive and it's Havana 1957. If you haven't heard of the place, there are four other locations around South Florida, including one on Espanola Way in Miami Beach. Known for its authentic and eye-catching decor, the newest locale just opened on 1410 Ocean Drive.  It's a large space, featuring luscious Cuban libations, timeless dishes and a glimpse into what old Havana used to be like during the island's age of glory and glamour.

Havana 1957 offers over 120 different varieties of rum from around the world and you will definitely have a hard time selecting whether to have a Mojito or a Cuba Libre. We started our visit with a pair of refreshing Mojitos prepared with Zacapa aged 18 years and sporting a nice piece of sugar cane.  They were amazing.
From there we chose one of my favorite Cuban appetizers of all time: the Tostones Rellenos. We had the sampler which included four crispy, plantain cups stuffed with Habanero-styel ground beef, shrimp enchilado, ropa vieja and shredded chicken. The seasoning reminded me of my grandmother's cooking and it was difficult to pick a favorite.
Tostones Rellenos
After tasting the shredded flanked steak (Ropa Vieja) in the stuffed tostones, I knew I wanted some more of that. So as an entrée I ordered the Ropa Vieja, served with white rice and black beans, and just closed my eyes to enjoy the tantalizing creole sauce the meat was bathed in. I can honestly tell you it was one of the best Ropa Viejas I've ever had (after my mom's of course).  I highly recommend you try it.

Ropa Vieja
My date ordered the Churrasco a La Cubana, which consisted of a well seasoned certified black angus skirt steak, grilled and topped with mojo onion. The dish was served with white rice and black beans. Stealing a bite or two from this dish, what I found was that the steak was deliciously tender, and the spices gave it a very Cuban flavor not usually found in churrasco.
Churrasco a La Cubana
So now comes the postrecito we can never miss at a Cuban dinner, followed by a cortadito (which if you know me at all, you know I must have light and sweet with evaporated milk). We ordered the Flan, a Cuban staple, which was creamy and was drizzled with the sweetest caramel that had me licking my lips for the rest of the evening. My date didn't seem to mind.
For more information on Havana 1957, visit their website or for reservations at their newest Ocean Drive location, call 305-763-8671.