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Mandolin Aegean Bistro

29 Jan

Mandolin Aegaen Bistro Mandolin Aegean Bistro is the closest thing you’ll get to Greece in Miami. I was more than excited to go when a friend suggested we meet there for a catch-up dinner. Tucked away in Miami’s Design District, Mandolin’s cozy nature offers the greatest backdrop for the best Greek & Turkish food in town.

Before having gone to the restaurant, I read up on it and I didn’t realize that they actually grew their own produce in an adjacent organic garden. In an interview I read from Miami New Times, owner Ahmet Erkaya stated, “We aren’t a chef-driven restaurant. We’re an ingredient-driven restaurant.” The open plot boasts tomatoes, peppers, greens, and herbs. This fact made me love them even more.

Mandolin Aegaen Bistro Walking in, I fell in love with the outdoor area. While my night was meant for catching up over some fabulous sangria, this place is the epitome of a perfect date night spot. Hear that boys? I mean, if you’re looking to impress a fine young lady, look no further. The night lights up with magic here: sparks will fly over candles in tall lanterns that give off a warm golden glow.

Mandolin Aegaen Bistro As if I needed more reason to love the place, then, there was the food. To start, we had the grilled artichoke. This was by far the tastiest artichoke I’ve ever had. The  fusion of flavors incorporated into this dish made my palate scream for joy.

Artichockes at Mandolin Aegaen Bistro

The food was just fresh. Everything felt so authentic (speculating, as I have never been to Turkey or Greece. This needs to change.)

Chicken Kebab at Mandolin Aegaen Bistro

I had the chicken kebab with orzo pilaf and maroulosalata. Upon ordering, I was like what’s this maroulosalata? This new take on romaine lettuce was so simple, yet so fabulous. Want to pair it with your next chicken dish? You should! Here’s a recipe I found that I definitely intend on trying:

Ingredients

  • 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 romaine lettuce, shredded very finely
  • 1 bunch spring onion, finely chopped, including the green parts
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill weed
  • sea salt, to taste
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix the oil and vinegar together in a bowl, add the salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Combine the ingredients and toss with the dressing, and serve immediately. This salad should be crunchy, not soggy.

Mandolin truly touches all of the senses from the beautifully laid out ambiance to the exuberance of Mediterranean flavor coming out of their uniquely fused dishes. I wish I had had room for dessert. Guess that just means I need to go back!

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

4312 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33137
305) 576-6066
Mandolin Aegean Bistro on Urbanspoon

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill

22 Jan

There is no better way to catch up with a group of friends than over an array of tapas. It allows for constant engagement, as every person is sharing the same mini plates and one has to be aware of the amount of food present at the table, if you want to eat anything, as opposed to what can commonly occur at dinner: putting your head down and devouring your entree.

One of my favorite places to frequent when I am in Miami for this fare is Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. One of the reasons this place is so unique is that it ties in three types of tapas:  robata, hot and raw bar, which unite for a fresh take on tradition and a unique culmination of flavor.

While I would recommend this spot for tapas in a heartbeat, they are also quite a differentiator for cocktails. I indulged in the Strawberry Balsamic. My love for sweet and savory was complemented in this drink, incorporating fresh strawberries, aged balsamic, premium vodka, and fresh lime juice.

Sugarcane

Another thing I really like about tapas is that they come to the table as they are ready. Our first dish was the Scallop crudo. It was so fresh, including apple, black truffle, lime, and jalapeño. Scallops have a tendency to be on the sweeter side, so it was nice to have the contrasting flavor of black truffle and jalapeño.Sugarcane

My favorite plate of the night was the Brussel sprouts, cooked with orange and sweet soy. Sugarcane

The beef short ribs were made in aKorean fashion. The meat was very tender and delicious.SugarcaneFinally, we had the octopus with aji panca.

SugarcaneAs if we could eat more, we decided dessert was necessary. The best dish on the menu, hands down, is the torrejas with maple caramelized apples.

Sugarcane

The thought that goes into the marriages of flavor in the above dishes is truly spectacular. It is always a treat to come in and have this “shared experience”; the connections between food and people here are just magical. Next time, share that moment over tapas at Sugarcane Raw Bar & Grill. You won’t regret it.

And, as if you need any more reasons to stop by, their Happy Hour selection is just FABULOUS. Check out the deals below:

Monday – Friday
4pm – 7pm
*happy hour menu available at the bar only

SNACKS / 3
marinated olives orange, thyme
edamame fresh soy beans, salt
shishito peppers lemon, sea salt

TAPAS / 5
american wagyu sliders tonkatsu, quail egg
brussels sprouts orange, sweet soy

RAW BAR
half 12 / dozen 24
east & west coast oysters

SUSHI ROLLS / 6
salmon avocado
yellowtail jalapeño
shrimp tempura
spicy tuna

ROBATA / 7
octopus aji panca
chicken tokyo scallion, yakitori sauce

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill on Urbanspoon

Aroma Espresso Bar

17 Jan

It started with a sip, which slowly grew into an obsession. Growing up, I was always around coffee, thank you Mom. She always seemed to be drinking it, whether or not that was the case. Young and naive, I swore that I would never drink coffee as the taste completely disgusted me. I can still remember my disdain and declaration against it when I first tried my mom’s coffee in my early double digits.

Low and behold, I could not stay away and around three or four years ago, my love affair with coffee began. At first, it was coffee to keep me going during my days of studying and grew into a love for the taste and the experience around it; talk about ironic right? Then, every time I ventured out to explore Boston or Miami, I was excited to look for and try a new spot, have a new story. This idea permeated into my travel adventures.

The summer of 2011, while in Israel, I had to spend a few unexpected extra days in Jerusalem. This meant one thing: shopping malls. I saw them all and dined at some fabulous restaurants, but the thing I remember most about these days was my experience at Aroma Espresso Bar in the Mamilla Mall.

Aroma Mamilla Mall

I needed some coffee and ventured into this distinct coffee shop. The colors it was branded with really called out the store. In addition, the service was great, the coffee divine, and you even got a chocolate to top off your coffee. Talk about the little things that make you happy!

I was pleasantly surprised when a good friend of mine, knowing I was a coffee aficionado, recommended I try out a new spot at Dadeland Mall. As I walked in, I was transported back to somewhere, and I truly couldn’t put my finger on it. I asked the cashier about the background to the store and doing some digging back into my photos from my trip through Israel, I realized it was the same chain from my good ol’ shopping days in Jerusalem.

Aroma Espresso Bar at Dadeland Mall

Aroma Espresso Bar at Dadeland MallThey still kept up the tradition of giving you a chocolate with your coffee. My favorite thing is to take a bite of the chocolate, have a sip of coffee, and let the chocolate melt in your mouth. It is just fabulous.

Cappuccino at Aroma Espresso Bar at Dadeland Mall

Me at Aroma Espresso Bar at Dadeland Mall

Aroma Espresso Bar at Dadeland MallIf you haven’t been, I definitely recommend it; it really is a perfect cup.

What are some of your favorite coffee shops out there??

Aroma Espresso Bar

Dadeland Mall, 7535 N Kendall Dr,
New Wing 1st floor, next to Wing Main Entrance
Miami, FL 33156
(305) 667-5008
Aroma Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Just Grand at J&G Grill

14 Jan

Ever since I had the opportunity to experience the brilliance of Jean Georges in my first encounter with his work at ABC Kitchen in NYC, I was hooked. Having been to some of his concepts in Shanghai this past October, I perused his website to see where there were other locations, as I could not get enough. Realizing that there was one in Florida, I KNEW my family and I had to venture there. J&G Grill takes the impeccable tastes of Jean Georges Vongeriten and presents it through the talented work off on-site chef Bradley Kilgore.

I took the opportunity to begin the New Year with the right foot and I made a reservation and told my parents they didn’t have a choice but to take me. After reading through the post and viewing what we experienced this night, I think you could tell they were quite pleased with my decision.

The Atmosphere:

J&G Grill is located in the St. Regis Bal Harbour. Once you hit Bal Harbour, you can tell it embodies two words: chic sophistication.

St. Regis Bal Harbour

Walking into the St. Regis was just incredible. The decadent mirror halls really blew my mind. Arriving into J&G, I was impressed with the comfortable, yet elegant ambiance. The floor to ceiling windows were just stunning. From the dining tables to the painting selection, and lighting, no thing in the restaurant was unthought. This sleek design was paired with some fabulous background jazzy, sexy, and chic jazz sounds.

J&G Grill

J&G Grill

J&G Grill

Even before arriving, I was able to connect with Executive pastry chef Antonio Bachour via my friend Estrellita. I seriously love social media. Through a few tweets, he knew I was to come in and set up a night of pure magnificence for my family and I.

The Food:

At first we weren’t sure if we were getting appetizers; however, knowing how much we liked Jean Georges in the past and given that we probably wouldn’t be back in a while, we couldn’t say no. We started off with the Prawns.

Prawns at J&G Grill

Bacon wrapped prawns,
Papaya mustard,
Avocado

The second you put the took a bite, the fusion of flavors that embodied all things sweet and savory came to life. Antonio then sent us out a signature dish, the Black Truffle Pizza with Fontina Cheese. I do not eat cheese regularly, but made an exception and boy oh boy was I happy. The truffles were so fresh and delectable. I could have eaten the whole thing myself! (But then how would I have had room for the remaining dishes??)

Truffle Pizza at J&G Grill

Then there was the main dish…

Local Red Snapper at J&G Grill

Local Red Snapper
Crusted with Nuts and Seeds
Sweet and Sour Broth

Never have I had such a fabulous fish. At first, the sweet and sour broth made me question how much I wanted the plate, but John, our waiter, insisted it was not what one would imagine for “sweet and sour”. I’m so happy I took his advice.

And then there were the BRUSSEL SPROUTS. HOLY BEJESUS, these bad boys were to die for. Want to experience them yourself? Make your own homemade version with this Jean George recipe.

Brussel Sprouts at J&G Grill

The Desserts:

Everything about the night during the main course was fantastic. We could only expect the same for dessert, but boy were we blown off our feet. The desserts were really top notch. While we had had a lot of food, there was no way to stop now! I was so excited to try the desserts by Antonio Bachour, who was named of of 2011 “Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America”.  Antonio’s Assistant Pastry Chef, Guillermo Perez, came up and explained each of the beautiful pastries we received in the night:

Coconut rice pudding, mango curd, tropical fruit, and vanilla whipped panna cotta.Coconut rice pudding, mango curd, tropical fruit, and vanilla whipped panna cotta.

Key lime tart, passion fruit foam, organic tropical flowers, and passion fruit sorbet.Key lime tart, passion fruit foam, organic tropical flowers, and passion fruit sorbet.

reme Brûlée with Apple Cider foam, Poached Apples and Apple gel with Cinnamon icecream. Creme Brûlée with Apple Cider foam, Poached Apples and Apple gel with Cinnamon icecream.

Chocolate caramel cremux with olive oil jelly, sea salt and toasted bread.  My favorite new dessert: Chocolate caramel cremux with olive oil jelly, sea salt and toasted bread.

Macaroons and bon bonsThe best way to end a night: macaroons and bon bons.

Go big or go home here, my friends. We went BIG.

Review: Loved every minute of this meal. I would say it was the best one I had in 2013, leaving quite the high bar for 2014.

J&G Grill
9703 Collins Avenue, Bal Harbour
305.993.3333

Do yourself a solid for 2014 and book a night now. When you go, ask for John; he was a real pro of a waiter.

J&G Grill on Urbanspoon

Drinks With a View: Area 31

8 Jan

Epic Hotel

What’s better than an after work drink? An after work drink with a view! 16 floors up, I caught up with my best friend over drinks at Area 31 in the Epic hotel.

Area 31 Drink MenuI chose the Hummingbird. The basil, strawberries, and honey really caught my eye.

Hummingbird at the Epic HotelBut seriously, how fabulous is this backdrop? I wish I’d brought a cute bather to take a dip.

Epic Hotel Miami

While we went at night, I must highlight Area 31’s Happy Hour. It is just fabulous.

Monday and Tuesday 5pm – 7pm

Wednesday thru Friday 5pm-10pm

Drink Specials

BEER ————————————-6

PREMIUM WELL DRINKS—————6

HOUSE WINE—————————-6

BUBBLES———————————-6

Happy Hour Snacks $6

  • Parmesan & Black Pepper Fries
  • Crispy Coffee Spiced Chicken Thighs with Tamarind BBQ sauce
  • Herbed Goat Cheese Croquettes with Paradise Farms Honey
  • Shrimp Ceviche with Citrus, Cilantro and Red Onion

The best part of the day is the night

Area 31

270 Biscayne Blvd Way
Miami, FL 33131
Ph (305) 424-5234

Area 31 on Urbanspoon

Wish I Could Brunch More at Morgans

5 Jan

Morgan's Brunch One of my favorite ways to catch up with friends is brunch. While living in Miami and going out in Midtown, I frequently passed Morgans Restaurant. Morgans Restaurant is a little purple house on 29th st. Looking into the restuarant, they came up with their name in quite a funny way: winning 5 straight matches of rock, paper, scissors, Morgan, the oldest daughter, beat out the family to have her name coin the restaurant.

Their menu had something for everyone. I love when brunch spots really hone in on dishes for both the sweet and savory palates. This one in particular had so many amazing options. I did not know which to choose, at first.

Morgans Brunch Menu

Morgans Brunch - OutsideAt Morgans Restaurant, they went ahead and selected to press pause and enjoy the moment, to cherish companionship. “I guess what we’re getting at is there just aren’t a whole lot of anxieties here, just good company and fresh, Florida grown and bred, all-natural ingredients. The kind directly from the community, served to the community.” This is what really drew me in.

Caitlin and I started with a house made sticky buns. I couldn’t not try this badboy before heading back to Boston.

House made Sticky Buns

But boy was my chocolate dipped waffle good. I don’t eat too many breakfast items, thank you no eggs or cheese in my life (by choice, I’m weird). So, I tend to stick with the sweet and a side of home fries, if I’m reallyyyy hungrayyy.

The waffle melted in my mouth with hot fudge, icecream, whipped cream and fresh strawberries. What could be better for brunch? I mean ALL OF THAT, you can’t go wrong.

Chocolate Dipped Waffle at Morgans Midtown

Morgans MidtownSome of their lunch at brunch items also caught my eye, I’m talking about their turkey burger. Whether its sweet or salty, “come on in; sit at their table and Find Your Roots.”

Morgans Restaurant
28 NE 29th Street, Miami FL 33132
(305)573-9678
Morgans Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Celebrate Everylove

14 Feb

Mahatma Gandi once said, “Where there is love there is life.”  Today, being Valentine’s Day, this quote really resonated with me. The love one shares with others is just as powerful as the one that is expressed between two companions. Starbucks also got this memo and is looking to celebrate “everylove” with a BOGO special this afternoon:

Starbucks BOGO Valentine's Day

 

{Photo via Starbucks}