Category: Food

Shiraz Bistro and Market

This weekend I attended a fun blogger event at Shiraz Bistro and Market, located in the Pinecrest area of Miami.  I always enjoy blogger events, meeting other bloggers, and learning about their blogs.  I’m usually very shy, but everyone is always so nice, it’s fun.

Shiraz has a cute little market set aside in the restaurant so you can purchase delicacies and cooking ingredients from the Mediterranean and Middle East. The owners were gracious enough to provide us with a full course meal, and oh boy, was it good!Shiraz Bistro

Pastries
JuicesTo start off our feast we were severed a variety of appetizers.  We had slices of pita beard and the option to dip them with subtly flavored humus, walnut chicken salad or a delicate and cool yogurt dip. In addition to the dips and pita, we were served stuffed grape leaves.  They looked like mini green leaf burritos and tasted great with the yogurt dip. I’m not a big fan of vegetarian dishes, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.  Hummus and chicken salad

Just when I thought we were done with appetizers, we were served a second round. This time we had a choice of falafel, phyllo scrolls filled with feta cheese, and pan-fried Turkish sausage.  The yogurt sauce also ended up making a good dip for the falafel.  Along with our appetizers we were served a large salad to share, covered with feta cheese.

Turkish sausage and Baklava

Salad

Once we were done with appetizers we were promptly served our main course.  I ordered a chicken kebab.  I was pleasantly surprised to be served a deliciously tender chicken, less the skewers they were cooked on.  The chicken was mildly sauced with a hint of curry served with a long white rice.  I actually wished it was a bit more spicy, but it was still savory and moist, I would highly recommend it.Some of the other bloggers ordered some incredibly tasty looking dishes as well; lamb shank, lamb kebab, fillet mignon kebabs, etc..

Chicken Khebab

Lamb kebab

Well, about this time I was pretty full, but there was still dessert.  For dessert we had the option of baklava, kunefe and rice pudding.  Being that I love Nicaraguan style rice pudding, I wanted to try Persian style rice pudding. It was very different compared to the more liquid Nicaraguan rice pudding I was used to.  It was thick, maybe I’ll compare it to the consistency of bread pudding with just the right amount of sweetness, not over powered with sugar.  I was also able to try the kunefe, a Turkish desert.  It was a round pastry made from shredded phyllo dough with warm cheese in the center.  It was delicious, with a subtle hint of honey.  I would love to go back and have one again.

Rice pudding

We finished off our event with Turkish coffee.  If you are a fan of coffee like me, I would highly recommend you try it.  The coffee had to be made one-by-one for all the bloggers since it is slightly thicker than regular coffee or espresso.  They even served it in the cutest, most elegant little cups.  The coffee was thick and frothy, but not bitter and perfectly sweet.  No extra sugar needed for mine.

Turkish Coffee

Sugar Cubes
I didn’t add any sugar cubes, but they were so cute I had to take a picture 🙂

If you are in the Kendall/Pinecrest area, stop by Shiraz for a casual meal.  I can’t wait to go back and try other entrees.  As usual, feel free to comment.  Do you have other restaurants to recommend? Let me know.

Thanks for reading! – Gio

Shiraz Bistro & Market:
9630 SW 77th Ave
Kendall, FL 33156

Brew at the Zoo 2016

Sample Mug
My Sample Mug

Last Saturday I finally got to go to the New Times & Zoo Miami Brew.  I have been very curious about these type of beer tasting events.  Overall I had a good time, but It was a bit different than what I had imagined.

So this event is referred to as Brew at the Zoo, but it should really be called ‘Brew Adjacent to the Zoo’.  I’m sorry to say we did not see any zoo animals that night 🙁

My friend had invited me along with some of her friends that had purchased the tickets as a group discount for $25 each.  We ended up meeting up at the Zoo Miami parking lot. We saw people tail gating and pre-drinking before the event and were giggling and thinking that was redundant.  Later, we found out exactly why people were pre-drinking. Once the event started, we followed the crowd to an entrance along the right side of the Zoo.  We also received sample mugs as we walked in (they were adorable). The event was on an open lot adjacent to the zoo parking lot.  It reminded me of going to a food truck event.  Instead of food trucks on an empty lot, there were beer vendors.  There was a ton of people, and each little stand had a big line.

We sampled several beers from Magic Hat, Ballast Point, Wood Chuck, MIA Brewery and a few others.  Some tasted pretty good and some were pretty bad.  Around 9 or so, Arrested Development took the stage and some of the people went to see the show.  Someone in line told us that they came to the Brew just to see them.  They sounded great from a distance, but I honestly missed it all.  We ended up standing in line for some arepas and pinchos (pork kabobs).  The food was delicious, but basically those were the only food options.  By the end of the night we had really only sampled about 7 beers due to the long lines.

Overall,  I had a pretty good time.  I went with cool people, and the food was also good.  But of course food is not included in the ticket price.  But I guess I’m not too big on the beers we sampled.  Also, it would have been cool to get admission to the Zoo and walk around. The musical guest was a bonus to me.  I didn’t even know there was going to be one.  So in the end, I am not sure if I would pay for a full ticket price of $40 and up.  It would seem more economical to try a new bar and order a few pitchers.  But if you are curious like I was, getting the group discount (I believe it was a Groupon) would be your best bet for the next Brew at the Zoo.

Thanks for reading, and as always leave a comment – Gio

Swensen’s Beer Party

Swensens Glass Window

Last week, me and a few other bloggers were invited to a special tasting event at Swensen’s. Swensen’s has been located in Coral Gables by US 1 since 1971.  They have revamped their menu, adding fresh new items and ideas, including craft beers and gourmet burgers for a more gastro-pub type menu as opposed to a diner.  The owners along with their dedicated staff have been busy coming up with delicious new combinations of Adult Shakes as well, pairing some of them with their latest selection of craft beers.

Our first tasty treat was a truffle oil mac and cheese.  We had a few options of beer to try, Brooklyn Blast from Brooklyn Brewery, La Rubia from local Wynwood Brewery, Pineapple Sculpin from Ballast Point Brewery just to name a few. But I decided on a cider, Kopperberg Premium Cider. This is definitely, the best cider I have tried so far.  It taste and looks similar to pink champagne. Bubbly, and sweet, with a light fruity flavor.  I think it was a good contrast to the mac and cheese since it is heavier and bit more salty.

Truffle Mac and Cheese
Truffle Mac and Cheese
Kopparberg Cider
Kopparberg Cider

Our next menu item to try was dolphin fingers.  They were battered and fried, but very tender and light to eat. They were served along with a lemon garlic aoili sauce. The sauce was a delicious flavor boost to the dolphin fingers.

Dolphin-Fingers
Dolphin Fingers

Next, the awesome staff from Swensen’s brought out duck confit sliders.  They were deliciously made with their in house Asian BBQ sauce and ranch sauce.  The meat was super tender and juicy.  I guess I can describe the consistency as similar to pulled pork.

Duck-Confit
Duck Confit

So you think I would be full by now.  Yes, I was getting there.  But then they brought out their Nica Burger.  Guess who is Nica?  Me!  These sliders were made with Angus beef patties, slice of Nicaraguan style fried cheese (queso blanco), crema (yogurt type sauce), a sweet plantain, and Nicaraguan style cabbage salad (repollo).

Nica-Burger
Nica Burger

In between all this food tasting, I tried another beer.  This time a Monk in the Trunk.  According to our very nice server Riky, it is comparable to maybe an AmberBock.  It was not too hoppy or dark, but not as light as a bud light or similar beers.  So I liked it.

Monk-in-the-Trunk
Monk in the Trunk

Our final food sample, was a mac burger.  It consisted of fried mac and cheese of course, a hamburger patty, bacon, and was topped with a pepper-jack cheese sauce. I think the cheese sauce was my favorite part of the burger.

Mac-Burger
Mac Burger

For desert we sampled their new Adult Shakes:  Cafe Con Leche and Bananas Foster shake.  The Cafe Con Leche Shake was made with Cigar City’s Maduro Brown Ale and their delicious coffee ice cream. The Bananas Foster shake consisted of bananas, warm caramel, and Due Soft’s Caramel Cream Ale.  They were both delicious.  I can’t wait to go try more flavors.

Cafe-Con-Leche
Cafe Con Leche Shake
Banana Fosters Shake
Banana Fosters Shake

I had a great time and left very full and satisfied.  I would definitely recommend anyone to stop by and check out their new menu items, shakes and selection of craft beers.   The owner would like to keep adding more in the future as well.  Not only is their food good, but their staff is very polite and friendly.  This includes Chef Carlos Laherra, who came out to greet us, and our awesome server Riky who came up with many of the shake combinations.  They have even updated the music selection that plays while you eat.  Alternative bands like Pearl Jam, and other indie bands were playing while we ate.  It was a nice atmosphere and as always, it was nice to meet other bloggers and try new things.

Swesen’s is located:  1586 South Dixie Highway, Coral Gables, FL 33146

South Beach Food Tour

Statue by bar Bolivar
This past weekend I was lucky enough to find myself at South Beach for another culinary tour by Miami Culinary Tours.  I had a great time on the Wynwood Tour, and the South Beach Tour did not let me down either.
Our first stop and meet up location was at Bolivar Restaurant on Washington Avenue.  Our tour guide Elizabeth was waiting outside to greet everyone with energy and a big smile.
As we waited for the rest of the tour participants to arrive, we were quickly served a delicious drink called Refajo.  It is made from a combination of Aguila beer and a cream Colombian soda.  It was so tasty! I can probably compare the flavor to pink champagne.  It was bubbly and sweet with a tiny taste of alcohol.

Once everyone arrived, we were seated and served our first meal.  It was plate with a beef and potato empanada, a spicy jalapeno dip, and Peruvian passion fruit ceviche.  Although, I’m a local and Hispanic, I have never actually tried ceviche.  Oh my god!  It was so flavorful.  How have I been living in Miami with out ever trying it?  Well this one in particular was great.  It had fresh red onions, cilantro, lime, passion fruit juice and sway fish.  The spiciness of the empanada, dip, and the ceviche was delightful.  To top things off, we were given a shot of Colombian aguardiente.  I thought it was similar in flavor to maybe a shot of Jager since it always reminds me of black licorice.

 

 

The restaurant itself was very nice, with a large bar area, lounge area and restaurant style tables.  At the far end there was even a small stage for a band to play.  Bolivar has a nice lounge feel during the day, but I bet has a cool playful feel at night with live music.

Once we were done with our first meal, we took a short walk to Ocean Drive to our next stop, Lario’s On The Beach, a Cuban cuisine restaurant. Elizabeth let us know some background on the restaurant.  It is own by the famous singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio.  It was recently renovated, and much of the details were decided by Emilio.  It is truly a unique and elegantly designed restaurant.

Once we were seated we were served our main dish of Ropa Vieja and Mariquitas with a mojo dipping sauce.  Ropa Vieja literally translates to old clothes.  It is a shredded beef in a marinade and mariquitas are fried green plantains, or plantain chips.  Being a local, I have had this dish many times.  But I have to say it was very delicious, probably the best I have yet to try.  It may have been the mojo dip which added an extra flavor to the Ropa Vieja and plantain chips.  As a side dish we were given chicken croquetas and Sangria to compliment our meal.

 

 

 

This sculpture was made from instruments donated by other celebrity musicians.
Our group waiting to be served. Check out that picture of Emilio.

 

 

After our meal, we took a walk further down Ocean Drive and we stopped to talk and admire all the great Art Deco architecture South Beach is known for.  Elizabeth gave us some more history behind the architecture and South Beach in general.

 

After a brisk walk we were at our next stop, The Tides.  The Tides has a restaurant and bar located at the lobby of the hotel.  The decor in the hotel was beautiful.  It had huge art deco lamps, fancy leather chairs with canopy’s, it even had large art pieces temporarily on display.  Once we were all seated, Elizabeth detailed some of the ingredients we were about to sample in our next meal.  She even passed around some of the spices to smell.  We were eventually served a bright dish of delicious curry chicken and Israeli couscous. The couscous tasted very similar to pasta and the sauce had an almost cheesy flavor.  It was a unique dish made especially for our tour and it was delectable.  We were offered a choice of Italian Ponot Grigio or Chilean Malbec for our beverage.  I chose the Ponot Grigio and it was nice and light.  It balanced the spices of the meal.

 

 

Hi!  This is me and the cool turtle shell molds above the bar.

 

We took a short stroll to our next destination and passed through ZOcean Hotel.  This Hotel had the coolest decor in it’s lounge area.  The ceiling had peekaboo panels looking straight through the pool above and there was a large chess game and dominos to play with.  It looked like a nice spot to hang out night by their bar.

ZOcean Hotel’s lounge seemed like a nice chill spot.
After we cut through the hotel we reached our destination at Block’s Pizza Deli.  They served us a vegetarian dish this time, it was a pita sanwich called a Panouzzo with spinach, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese and homemade pesto.  I’m not usually into eating vegetable dishes, but this was such a flavorful sandwich.  I thought it was a great choice instead of one of their pizza’s. Although their pizzas looked yummy and ready to be popped into the oven.  I can’t wait to come back and try them.

 

Mmm…pizza…
For our final stop we walked just a few more feet to Espaniola Way.  It is a small block of Spanish style buildings and store fronts.  It is such a cute section of town.  We went to Miami Gelateria for some delicious gelato.  We had our choice of several flavors displayed on a spinning carousel of ice cream.  I chose Tiramisu.  It was excellent, not to sweet, smooth, and chunks of tiramisu with a light coffee flavor.  The Gelateria had the cutest ice cream shaped tables and chairs outside.  It was a nice way to end the tour.  What a lovely day.

 

 

I would recommend the tour to anyone being local or not.  As a local, I have never actually been to any of these places.  It is always a treat to do something new and learn new things about a place you have lived in for years.  I can imagine it being even more of a treat as a tourist.  Not to mention how nice everyone you meet on the tour is.  So check out the South Beach food tour. Miami Culinary Tours has several tours, so I can’t wait to go on the Little Havana tour next.

 

Miami Culinary Tours: Wynwood Food Tour

If there is one thing I love, it’s eating.  So this past weekend I had the opportunity to do something a little different, I went on a food and art tour in Wynwood.  As some of you may know, Wynwood is our local art district here in Miami.  It’s full of galleries, restaurants, bars and other local businesses.Although I do frequent it, I never really visit it during the day.  As vibrant and energetic as this area is at night, there are many things I had missed out on. Many restaurants and businesses are open that otherwise would be closed by the time my friends and I show up to bar hop at night.

Luckily it was bright and sunny on the day of the tour. The buildings and countless murals seemed to pop with so much color that day.

Wynwood Kitchen and Bar

The art tour in Wynwood was organized by Miami Culinary Tours. And our tour group met up at Wynwood Walls.  This is where we were greeted by our very nice and energetic guide.

She lead us to our first stop, Wynwood Kitchen and Bar, which is adjacent to the Walls. Although I have been to the Walls before, it was my first time dinning at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar.

Our group and guide at Wynwood Kitchen and Bar.

We were served a chicken empanada, cheese tequeno, and sweet plantains with queso frito.  In addition, we sampled a Rubia beer from Wynwood Brewery.  I am actually not a big beer person, but it was a nice pale ale.  Not only was the food great but the restaurant was also decorated with more paintings and another mural by Shepard Fairey.
Our delicious first meal.
Shepard Fairey’s mural behind the bar.

After our meal, our guide took us around the Wynwood Walls.  She was very knowledgeable and gave us some background information on the artists and their murals.  This portion of the tour is well worth it.  It gave me a different perspective on some of the murals I have seen before.

Shepard Fairey’s mural.
This is probably my favorite mural in this area.
This mural was made only using red, black and white paint.
Oh hey, it’s me.  The wall behind me is by Aiko.
This piece is interesting. The details were actually chiseled out of the wall.

 

This artist is called Retna.

 

Afterwards, we hopped over to a nearby gallery to look at more art.  They had a very nice sculpture exhibit and other works showing.

O.  Ascanio Gallery.

 

 

After visiting the gallery it was another quick walk and we were at Mmmm.  I have never been there before and can’t wait to go back to try their ice cream.  We had an Artichoke Tartine there, which is not something I usually eat, but it was delicious.  I also learned Tartine means open face sandwich.  So there you go, learn something new everyday.

French inspired artichoke tartine.  Who knew vegetables were tasty?

 

This is the outside area at Mmmm. Very cute.

Our next stop on the tour was R House which is a combination restaurant and gallery.  They even had a curator talk to us about their current exhibit before we sat down for our meal.  The modern design of the place and the art work that hung on the walls just added to the ambiance.

We were promptly served pulled pork sliders with tuna tartare.  The tartare was the highlight of the two. It was very flavorful with a touch of avocado and tomatoes, served on an airy crispy nacho.

 

The gallery inspired architecture and art work at R House.

 

The outdoor area at R House.
Some more art work hanging by the bar.
Short rib slider, and tuna tartare served at R House. The tuna tartare was especially tasty.
Work in progress.

For the next portion of the tour we walked just a little further through the neighborhood to Pride and Joy.  I have been there a few times and enjoyed the food. They serve bbq style dishes. We were treated to pulled pork on texas toast topped with cold slaw.  It was delicious, but it was also fun experimenting with their sauces.

 

Pulled pork Texas toast from Pride and Joy.

Last but not least, we went just a few doors down to Fireman Derek’s World Famous Pies for some key lime pie.  This is a tiny bakery, so we basically had to eat outside, but the pie was scrumptious just like the rest of the dishes.

Fireman Dererk’s World Famous Pies,  love the wall.

 

Delicious!
Overall it was a really fun experience.  I got to walk around, look and learn about art, meet some really nice people and of course ate some tasty food.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone, whether you are a local or just visiting.  It is a good experience and I am hoping to do it again.
Miami Culinary Tours actually offers two other tours for South Beach and Little Havana.  So if you get a chance check them out.
-Gio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Montaditos

This weekend I had the chance to go to 100 Montaditos for the first time. I had no clue what it was or anything, so I was pleasantly pleased that it was a good place to eat.  Basically, they sell petite sandwiches.  As the name implies, you have about 100 sandwiches to choose from.
I chose a mozzarella and pesto sandwich,  a chorizo with spanish tortilla sandwich, and a desert sandwich made out of chocolate bread and a Hershey’s cookies and cream bar in the center. And lets not forget an order of cheese fries.
I ended up liking 2 out of 3 of my sandwiches. Mainly because I thought the chorizo sandwich should have been served as a hot sandwich instead of a cold one.  Also, I was not too fond of the cold Spanish tortilla either. It has the consistency of cheese but it didn’t taste like cheese.  Everything else was delicious though. Especially their sangria.  I tried the cola and the lemon sangria. Both were pretty tasty combinations.
Well if your in the Kendall area I would recommend checking it out.  They also have a happy hour on Wednesday where the sandwiches are a $1.

Marhaba at Sunset Place

If there is one thing I like doing is recommending a place with good customer service.  This past weekend I dined at Marhaba by Sunset Place Mall.  This establishment serves Mediterranean cuisine and it’s quiet tasty to say the least.  Their staff is very polite and attentive and sitting at their outside table on a cool night was nice.

Hookahs are available in a variety of flavors for $20 for two persons and $2 each additional person.  It is a bit pricey for a hookah, but hey it was a good time.  The main reason I’m praising their customer service is mostly because I’m a klutz and broke the hookah we were smoking.  Nice one!  But the waiter came over, apologized although it was in no way any fault of his own, and cleaned up the mess.  After eating our hearts away and having a pretty fun dinner,  we asked for the check and they didn’t even charge us for breaking the hookah.

 

So I highly recommend checking Marhaba out.  They have a variety of dishes from kabob’s, humus appetizers, Greek salads, lamb, meat and chicken platters, etc.  Enjoy!