Dirty words can be good sometimes...that is, when they have another meaning. To most who grew up speaking Spanish (myself included), one hears the word “carajo” (meaning crap or hell) used as a cursing exclamation, as in the phrase popular among my Cuban breed “Vete pa’l carajo!” (Go to hell). It's a risk when a business, moreover a restaurant where the last thing you want to taste is crap, appropriates the word as its own. But in this instance El Carajo, a Miami Spanish tapas and wine spot, the word grabs our off-put attention and then wafts it under our noses so we can wake up and smell the roses - the roses of meaning. The restaurant’s “carajo” refers to the lookout basket at the top of a Spanish ship's mast.
There are few places as exciting to be right now than Miami, which seems to finally be coming of age as a respectable city with a vibrant cultural scene and an identity that, while still not fully developed, is without a doubt one of a kind. Miami seems to be an almost blank canvas of creative possibilities, and the enthusiasm of its native sons and daughters can be witnessed in its art galleries, bars, clubs, boutiques, and eateries. Nearly every week there seems to be new construction or a repurposing of an old site, and this ever-changing Miami that we live in now can sometimes make one yearn for a sense of tradition and history, which can sometimes be hard to find amidst all that is so gleamingly new. Nevertheless, there has always been that tower of opulence in Coral Gables that has always represented a much more elegant time in our city’s history better known as The Biltmore.
Miami's most anticipated event of the year has arrived for South Florida's bargain-hunting foodies. From August through the end of September, Miami Spice presents a bounty of Dade County's best restaurants offering specially priced prix-fixe dinners at usually a fraction of what it usually costs to dine at some of these restaurants. I'm sure that most of you already have your Miami Spice to-do lists. Beginning this evening, however, a handful of the chefs participating in Miami Spice will be offering free cooking demonstrations of their creations to aid you in making your final selections. After all, seeing a chef in the process of creating a dish is a much better deciding factor than a mere menu description when it comes to choosing a restaurant to visit this August and September. If you're Miami Spice itinerary is already fixed, then the cooking demonstrations will be an excellent opportunity to meet some of your favorite local chefs and perhaps get some tips on how to create your favorite dishes at home. Culinary demonstrations will be taking place throughout August and September at Whole Foods Market in Coral Gables and Bloomingdale's and Macy's in Aventura Mall and will occur on the following dates and times:
Back again this summer is Whole Foods' $20/20 Minute Fill The Grill Challenge. Last year's battle featured some of Miami's top fine dining chef, but this year the competition pays homage to The 305's most popular food truck chefs. The same rules apply this year as they did last summer: each chef has twenty dollars and twenty minutes to shop for ingredients within Whole Foods Market, and then an additional twenty minutes to prepare a meal using only a grill. Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges who will award points on taste, creativity, and affordability - the dishes, after all, need to be something that can be recreated on someone's home grill.
Fans of Shake Shack in the Miami area are in for a really BIG treat. On Sunday at 11am, the world’s largest Shake Shack will open in Coral Gables.
Perfectly situated on Dixie Highway across from the University of Miami, the location will undoubtedly attract herds of college students in addition to local burger fans. According to UrbanDaddy, the restaurant will feature eight flat screen TV’s, as well as specials suited for the southern location. One that sounds extra delicious is the Cookie Cabana, a frozen treat consisting of vanilla custard and Cuban-style sugar cookies.
The United Way, in partnership with The Business Improvement District of Coral Gables, will be putting on its 18th annual Wine Walk & Shop on the Mile event tomorrow, July 10th from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. For $35, attendees will participate in a sort of chic "wine crawl" with 8 Coral Gables retailers offering light, refreshing wines and small bites, as well as discounts on merchandise. The event sarts off at Seasons 52, where guests will be given wine-tasting glasses, a detailed program of the event's participating businesses, and a gift bag with goodies and discounts from local vendors. The evening culminates at Wolfe's Wine Shoppe, known for carrying only exclusive European small-production wines, where "Wine Walk & Shoppers" will receive a special 15-20% discount on bottles of wine.
Of course, there are small things that we can all do each day to combat childhood obesity, especially if we have our own children. Because the issue has become so large (again, no pun intended), many organizations are either being founded or changing their focus to bring about more awareness and help combat this preventable epidemic that is plaguing our nation’s children. One such local organization is the Florida Heart Research Institute (FHRI), which will be hosting a healthy food festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden on Sunday, April 29th called Heart of a Chef. Presented by Florida Blue and Whole Foods Market, this family friendly festival will showcase healthy cooking demos, seminars, and tastings that prove that families can eat tasty, gourmet food and still live a heart healthy lifestyle.
Besides enjoying the natural wonders of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden with its collection of rare tropical plants and beautifully manicured displays of diverse ecosystems, families will be able to witness as two acclaimed local chefs go head to head in a culinary battle utilizing a basket of surprise ingredients. Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli, a winner from the Food Network’s Chopped with a hot new pop-up restaurant called Eating House in Coral Gables, will challenge Chef Joshua Wahler, a “survivor” from Hell’s Kitchen and executive chef at CRAVE Restaurant. The younger gourmands will also be entertained with a special cooking demonstration by Short Chef, who has spent the last ten years closely working with South Florida children to develop healthy eating habits.
Overall, Heart of a Chef promises to be an unforgettable event for the whole family and a great way to introduce the little ones to good eating and foods that don’t include chicken nuggets and instant mac n’ cheese.
Heart of a Chef
Sunday, April 29th, 2012
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables 33158
Tickets are $30 per adult and include two complimentary children’s admissions
For more information, please visit www.heartofachef.org
It’s a testament to our melting pot culture that one of the most popular holidays in the United States is in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. While St. Patrick’s day is celebrated with religious observance in Eire, March 17th is set aside as a day in which everyone can celebrate Irish (or Irish-American) culture. While South Florida is better known for its Latino flavor, we do have our fair share of Irish culture here, too...and in a part of the world best known for its partying, it goes without saying that South Florida will have its fair share of unforgettable St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Just to name a few:
The Village at Gulfstream Park
501 S Federal Highway
Hallandale Beach, Florida
Hallandale’s famous race track, casino, and shopping mecca will be hosting a St. Patty’s day shindig on the second floor with Martini Bar and Playwright Irish Pub. The former will be offering drink specials from 2-5 PM, including Irish Car Bombs, Kiss Me I’m Irish Green Apple Martinis, and Irish Select whiskey. Then Playwright Irish Pub will take the reins with $4 drink specials on pints of Guinness, Harp, and Smithwicks. There will also be a “Party at the Park” featuring live music, traditional Irish foods, and a $1,000 bar tab giveaway.
The Lucky Clover Irish Pub
1111 SW 1st Avenue
Miami, FL 33130
One of Brickell’s newest additions, and a veritable embassy of Irish Culture in the greater Downtown area, The Lucky Clover will be host a massive street party with a slew of musical acts, including a U2 tribute band. The music and beer will flow in Brickell this coming Saturday from 1:00 PM til 11:00.
The Field Irish Pub & Eatery
3281 Griffin Road
Dania Beach, FL 33312
Perhaps one of the most authentic Irish establishments in South Florida, the Field is known for its impeccable renditions of Irish staples like bangers and mash, corned beef, and shepherd’s pie, as well as its unique ambiance sheltered by the canopy of enormous banyan trees. For a typically Irish evening, be sure to head on over to this Irish institution for a pint, a shot of good whiskey, and some traditional Irish music and dancing.
John Martin’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
253 Miracle Mile
Coral Gables, FL 33134
A yearly SW Dade tradition, John Martin’s St Patrick’s Day street party in Coral Gables will be as big (and as crazy) as ever this year with live musical acts that will include yet another U2 tribute band. Starting at 5:00 PM on the 17th, revelers will be able to drink to their hearts’ content while chowing down on some of John Martin’s famous pub fare between Salzedo street and Aragon avenue.
We’re all pretty familiar by now of the concept of the pop-up store: a business that opens with the knowledge that it will close after possibly a few months...and the owners are totally okay with it. In Miami, we have seen this concept brought to life with fashion and interior design, but have yet to see it applied to the culinary arts until now. Chef Giorgio Rapacavoli, who was a winning contestant on Food Network’s Chopped, has used his winnings to make his dream of opening a pop-up concept restaurant into a reality this February. Cafe Ponce, a breakfast and lunch spot in Coral Gables will be hosting Chef Rapacavoli’s Eating House from Tuesday to Sunday after the last patron finishes with lunch. Cafe Ponce’s diner-like vibe will be transformed at night into an edgy, urban eatery featuring portable graffiti art and soundtracks from Chef Rapacavoli’s own collection.
The vibe is set to be no-frills and will feature daily-changing menus that highlight whatever is available that day at the market. Chef Rapacavoli plans to include only twenty dishes per evening, including desserts. To compliment the cuisine, Fontainebleau veteran, Eddie Fuentes, will be offering creative cocktails featuring unique sodas, craft beers, sherries, ports, and sakes. True to his word, Chef Rapacavoli will only plan to stay in business from February until August of this year, so foodies be sure to make a note in your busy dining schedules and check out Eating House before it’s too late.
@ Cafe Ponce
804 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables
No reservations; first come, first serve www.eatinghousemiami.com
In a world where Mexican food is associated with a big purple bell and 99 cent value meals, how do you change the perception of what truly authentic Mexican food and culture is all about? At Coral Gables restaurant, Talavera, they’re doing just that and adding in a little bit of ambiance, a pinch of good lighting and a whole lot of tequila to set us all straight.
From the folks who brought us Jaguar just a couple of miles away in Coconut Grove, is an establishment that is taking authentic Mexican food and combining it with a refined and lively atmosphere. The name “Talavera” comes from a unique and fine pottery art, which began in 16th century Mexico. You can find the exotic blue and white plates on display right in front of you on your table. It is clear that these beautifully crafted pieces are what set the inspiration for the décor. The bright colored walls with accents of orange and blue contrast well with the Talavera pottery and silver woven place mats. Look above the bar for portraits of Mexican legends from Salma Hayek to Carlos Santana. The atmosphere at Talavera is loud and busy. Expect to walk into a restaurant full of small groups of people at the bar sipping margaritas and snacking on guacamole, drinking an ice cold Corona while watching the game, or deeply engaged in conversation over dinner in one of their signature half moon-shaped booths.
On this particular Saturday night, the place was packed. However, to our surprise, we were seated after only 15 minutes and immediately started off with complimentary chips and salsa. Both salsas (red and green) were exceptionally tasty and paired with red and blue corn tortilla chips. They both had a nice kick (especially the green), which I didn’t take issue with, though you just might have to order another margarita (or two).
While looking for something to start off with, my eyes were automatically drawn to a section of the menu titled “Los Quesos Fundidos”. What’s that, you say? Melted cheese? My decision was made. We decided on El Clasico which is melted gouda and Oaxaca cheeses topped with Mexican chorizo. The hot skillet of still bubbling cheese arrived to our table with a side of warm flour tortillas. The sharpness of the cheese paired with the spiciness of the chorizo was spot-on in flavor. Scoop a generous amount into one of the tortillas, drizzle with a squeeze of lime and devour. Repeat for best results.
For my entrée, I decided to go with Quesadillas Doña Elvira. Four hand crafted corn tortillas are folded over julienned and sautéed poblano peppers, epazote (a native Mexican herb), melted cheese and sliced chicken, and served with sides of pico de gallo, crema fresca and guacamole for a complex combination of textures and flavors. The authenticity of the corn tortillas are what made this dish so special. As you initially bite into the quesadilla, the crunch and graininess of the tortilla come through and make a perfect vessel for the melted and spicy goodness underneath.
Additionally, we ordered Cochinita Pibil under the section of the menu titled “Las Carnes”. This dish, inspired from the region of Yucatán, is pork rubbed with achiote and sour orange juice baked inside banana leaves until fork tender and served with handmade flour tortillas, pico de gallo, crema fresca, guacamole and a little bowl of rice and beans. This plate is a build-your-own deal. The idea is to fill the tortilla with pork and the toppings of your choice for the combination you desire. For me, a healthy helping of pork topped with pico de gallo and guacamole was all I needed. The side of rice and beans was perfectly delicious on its own.
As a nice variation from your usual questionable meat mixture and nacho cheese, visit Talavera the next time you’re craving Mexican, where traditional meets contemporary, and the food is as real as it gets.
2299 Ponce De Leon & Giralda
Coral Gables, FL 33134