Searching for Normalcy

"And finally, above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art…" – Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Rickenbacker Fish Company November 9, 2011

Filed under: Food,Life,Personal,Photography — Lulu @ 12:11 pm

(Warning: Photo heavy post.)

 

The boy and I had another great dining experience, thanks to Groupon. I love that these coupon sites, like Groupon and Living Social, give us the opportunity to try out restaurants and activities that we may not have known about otherwise.

 

This time we got to try out Rickenbacker Fish Company, located right on the water on the Rickenbacker Causeway. We arrived at around 5PM and, because the weather was so nice and it was not hot or humid, opted to sit outside on the patio. We had a really nice view from our table.

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This year I am participating in the “Shades of Summer” project on Liz K.’s blog. (Info on the project: Liz purchases a few pairs of the same sunglasses every summer and mails them out to participants who signed up ahead of time. The participants then take a photo of themselves wearing the glasses, email the picture to Elizabeth, then mail the glasses to the next person on the list, and so on. Once she receives all the photos from participants, Liz will post them on her blog.)  These were the glasses I received in the mail and, really, what better backdrop for a photo, right?

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We arrived during Happy Hour so we got to take advantage of the 2-for-1 drink specials. They didn’t have Blue Moon, but Key West Sunset Ale was a pretty nice substitute.

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I really can’t get enough of this view. This is what’s known as a “Chamber of Commerce photo.” Perfect weather, perfect setting, perfect ambiance.

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Let me point out that this appetizer is not chicken wings. They are huge, bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp, with a BBQ glaze. And they were DELICIOUS!  We could’ve eaten about 20 each, they were that good. We also ordered a really yummy tomato and basil bruschetta, but I forgot to take a picture. Trust me, it was great.

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I ordered a blackened Mahi sandwich, which was nicely prepared, albeit a little too spicy for me. And typically I don’t really go for french fries but, holy crap, were these good . They were perfectly crispy but not overcooked and had some kind of seasoning we couldn’t figure out. Maybe garlic and crack?? I don’t know but we couldn’t stop eating them.

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The boy ordered the Southern Style Pecan Trout. It was mouth-wateringly delicious. Perfectly prepared, flaky but not dry, flavorful but not overly seasoned. The mashed potatoes were creamy and had a light garlicky flavor. He almost licked the plate, his meal was that fantastic.

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We were way too stuffed to enjoy dessert, but maybe next time. (Oh, yes; there will definitely be a next time.)

 

Thanks to our Groupon we enjoyed a meal that would typically have cost around $70 for about $25 plus tip (we always tip on the full amount sans coupon). But we both agreed that even without the Groupon, the overall experience – the setting, the food, the service – is definitely worth the full price and we wouldn’t mind paying such.

 

This was a ‘just because’ shot I took when we were leaving.

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And just some fun trivia to end this post… When the manager came over to the table to scan our Groupon, we got to talking and he mentioned that “The Glades” – one of our favorite TV shows – had actually filmed a scene in almost exactly the same spot where we were sitting. I actually checked when I got home and found the clip online. Here’s a screen shot:

The Glades RFC

 

So if you happen to find yourself in the Brickell/Rickenbacker/Key Biscayne area, I definitely recommend you check out Rickenbacker Fish Company. It’s so worth it.

 

That’s it for now. Peace out, yo!

 

Long Weekend Eats September 7, 2011

Filed under: Food — Lulu @ 8:45 pm

(My camera battery died so all pics were taken with a cellphone; hence, the low quality.)

 

The boy and I had a really mellow Labor Day weekend, mostly spent catching up on Season 5 of Dexter (since Season 6 is just around the corner). However, we did get to eat out at two places neither of us had been to previously and both ended up being really good.

 

On Sunday we had lunch at Otentic Fresh Food Café on Washington Avenue in South Beach. This place is literally around the corner from the boy’s place and I had purchased a Groupon for it almost a year ago. In fact, it was set to expire this coming weekend, so we finally got around to using it.

 

We didn’t really know what to expect from Otentic, and were thinking it might be too “frou-frou” of a place for us since all we really knew was that the cuisine is French, and we are definitely more burgers-and-Blue Moon type of folk than filet mignon and Pinot Noir. We were pleasantly surprised to find that this cute, little café was more like “French-lite,” very unassuming and casual in ambiance. It appeared to be entirely staffed by one waiter/bartender and one chef (I’d guess both are French, based on their conversations). Their menu consisted of sandwiches, crepes and a few other entrees and desserts.

 

Upon taking our order, our waiter brought over complimentary champagne (in the cutest little champagne flutes; they were like shot glasses with a stem) and baguette slices with sweet cream butter.

 

I had the bacon crepe, which contained a filling of sliced bacon, sautéed potatoes, brie and cream, and was complemented with a fresh, spring mix salad topped with tomato and corn, and lightly drizzled with vinaigrette. (Okay, confession time: I had never eaten a crepe in my entire life before this moment. I believe I have now found my new favorite food.) It was sooo delicious. The crepe was light and fluffy and literally melted in my mouth. The bacon and brie made it savory, while the potatoes and cream helped mellow out the stronger flavors and allowed everything to mesh together nicely.

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The boy ordered the Farmer’s Steak with a side of ratatouille. This was also complemented with a small salad. His steak was thick and juicy and quite generous for the price. It was a little too pink in the middle for my taste, but he enjoyed it immensely. The blue cheese sauce was really good, too. The ratatouille had a tangy, tomato-ey base and definitely tasted fresh and homemade, like it was prepared by somebody’s mom.

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Otentic was definitely a nice experience and I think we will be back. Even without a Groupon!

 

On Monday, we headed towards Aventura to run a few errands. On the way back to the beach we stopped at Roxy Burger, Wings & Beer on Biscayne Blvd and 126th Street. This place is kind of hard to describe. It kind of looks like the Hell’s Angels opened a sports bar and hired a rap group to install the sound system. It’s a little crazy.

 

The menu is basic bar food: hot dogs, wings, burgers and sides. The burgers are like something you’d find on an episode of “Man v. Food,” with names like Cha Cha Cha Chili Burger and Super Stack Heart Attack. I played it safe and went with the Just the Cattle burger (regular burger with bacon, cheese, lettuce and tomato). It was accompanied by a Tornado. Or as our server described it, “potato chips on a stick.” (Wait, what?) It turned out to be one of those spiral cut potato thingies fried on a skewer.

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It’s hard to tell from the picture above but my burger was really thick. Like, REEEALLY thick. I asked for it well done and, miraculously, not only was it cooked all the way through, but it was still juicy. I really liked that it was served on a ciabatta roll instead of a regular bun, as a bun would have fallen apart after one bite of this monster burger. (Okay, this next picture is kind of gross because I had already eaten half of the burger, but it will give you an idea of how thick it was.)

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See? I told you. Monster burger. That half was my lunch the following day.

 

The boy ordered wings and a side of chili cheese fries. I think Roxy needs to reconsider their definition of “side.” The serving of chili cheese fries was ginormous! The good thing is they weren’t skimpy with the chili and cheese toppings. The fries had some kind of crispy coating on them (maybe a batter?) that prevented them from getting all soggy under the toppings. They were really good.

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The only thing we didn’t like too much were the wings. The boy ordered them grilled (similar to Shuckers’ wings) and they were kind of overcooked and under-seasoned. They were really dry and bland, even by my standards and I don’t like anything spicy.

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The only other negative – aside from the wings – was that the food took a little too long to come out. I could understand if the place had been busy, but at the time we ordered there were only two other occupied tables. Still, the burger and chili cheese fries were good enough to make that a minor point.

 

I think we’d definitely eat at Roxy again next time we’re in that area. But we’d try different wings. =)

 

That’s it for now. Peace out, yo!

 

8 Oz burger Bar March 9, 2011

Filed under: Food — Lulu @ 1:45 am

Okay, I admit it… I was late to the “8 Oz Burger Bar” party. This place opened, what, 2 years ago? It’s literally 5 minutes from Fanless’ place, yet we had never been too interested in eating there. And in the interest of full disclosure, it’s because we – and I’m quoting Fanless here – “thought it would be douchier.” Yes, we assumed that it was a buttoned-up, richy-rich joint. I can only blame this on the fact that Novecento once existed in its location and we’d been to the Novecento in the Gables. Buttoned-up, richy-rich.

 

But thanks to the overabundance of group discount sites popping up all over the ‘net, we came across a $20-for-$10 deal for 8 Oz. I figured this was as good a chance as any to try the place out, so I purchased the coupon. It sat, unused, in my wallet for several months. I finally pulled it out the other day and noticed that it would be expiring within a couple of weeks so we finally used it this past weekend.

 

Right off the bat, we realized that our assumptions of 8 Oz Burger Bar were waaaaay off. It is not, at all, a douchey, buttoned-up place. It’s actually super-casual and relaxed. Kind of like Dewey’s. But with more lighting. And less smoke.

 

(Disclaimer: Pictures are crappy as my camera’s memory card broke – literally; a piece of it snapped off –  and I had to take pics with my phone.)

We got there at an odd time – not quite lunch, not quite dinner – so they weren’t busy and we were seated right away. They have a pretty decent selection of different beers (not sure if they are considered craft beers or not, but they had a nice variety), but I just ordered a Coke. Fanless had an IPA Dogfish Head beer (I think it was this one). I tried it but it was a little bitter for me.

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He actually got a little buzz off the one beer, but I think that’s because he hadn’t eaten.

 

They have several flat screen TVs that go all the way around the main dining area, and were showing a variety of different sports programming. Football highlights, the Heat game, even college cheerleading and gymnastics competitions. (Oh, and there’s our server, Sarah. The redhead. She was very sweet. Hi, Sarah!)

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The bar is located just behind the main dining area and, as you can see, it looks pretty well-stocked.

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I had the “8 Oz Burger”, which is one of their “house blends” (per their website, “house blend consists of sirloin, tri-tip, short rib and chuck cured in our Himalayan salt-tiled locker").  The burger was delicious. I asked for it well done, and it was still tender and juicy; not at all burnt or dried-out. I didn’t even add any condiments to it, just the vegetable toppings included, and it still had a good flavor to it. I also substituted the french fries for the stout-battered onion rings. So good! They were huge, super-crispy, and the batter had a slight sweetness to it that was just perfect.

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Fanless ordered the Bison Burger with Kennebec french fries. I tried his burger and it was AWESOME! Oh my… The meat was so tender it practically melted in your mouth. The burger was topped with roasted garlic tomato, fried onions, and bacon crumble blue cheese dressing. It sounds like a lot of flavors, but trust me, the blend was just perfect. All of the toppings worked together to enhance the flavor of the meat without overwhelming it. The fries were really good, too. Really crispy and light, with just a light dusting of seasonings. Think “Five Guys” Lite.

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We were both really happy with our meals and even had leftovers to take home (the burgers are piled high) for later. I would definitely recommend checking out 8 Oz Burger Bar at least once. We even agreed that we were adding it our local favorites list. And to think… we’d never have gone had it not been for Living Social!

 

Thanksgiving Weekend November 29, 2010

Filed under: Food,Life,Miscellany,Photography,Sports — Lulu @ 3:29 pm

We had a busy Thanksgiving weekend, starting with:

 

1) A hockey game on Wednesday. We went to the Panthers v. Bruins game with our friend, Eric, who is a huge Bruins fan. We got a great deal, paying $50 for seats that are regularly $90. And that included access to the Coach’s Club, which had an all-you-can-eat buffet and open bar!

 

My handsome dates, Fanless and Eric (blue cap).

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This time I managed to get a picture when the Panthers scored a goal. (They lost 1-3.)

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The Coach’s Club has access to a rooftop terrace, which makes for a nice night time photo.

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2) On Thursday, we had a yummy Thanksgiving lunch at my sister’s house, with way too many carb-y side dishes.

 

My sister and my niece.

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Turkey, honey-baked ham, and a whole lotta carbs!

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3) Later that night, Fanless and I met up with Eric for our Thanksgiving tradition of having dinner at the 11th Street Diner on South Beach.

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Took this pic with Fanless’ iPhone using the Instagram app. That is totally my new favorite app!

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4) On Black Friday, we hit up Target and Best Buy, but decided to wait until later in the evening to avoid all the mass hysteria in the morning. That was pretty smart of us, if I do says so. Fanless managed to get all the following items for $200, and we never dealt with crazy crowds or ridiculously long lines.

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(He ended up getting two more of the WD 2TB HDs at Target on Saturday morning. So four 2TB HDs for $70 each. Sweet!)

 

After leaving Target on Saturday, we picked up some Subway sandwiches for lunch, then headed home and chilled out the rest of the weekend.

 

I have the day off today (trying to use up all my vacation days before the end of the year), so I ran a couple of quick errands in the morning, then treated myself to some Starbucks coffee. I think I might try to squeeze in some scrapbooking now.

 

Hope everyone had a safe and happy weekend! Peace out, yo!

 

Goodbye, you old rascal April 1, 2008

Filed under: Food,Life — Lulu @ 6:59 pm

Sunday morning, and MKH and I were on a mission: visit landmark Miami restaurant, Rascal House, on its last day in business. Admittedly, it had not been our exact mission to visit ON the last day. In fact, we didn’t even know that Sunday was the last day until Tere confirmed it over dinner the previous night. Nor had we known that the Miami Herald had run a story about the historic restaurant’s closing. But boy did we know it that morning!

We arrived at 10:30AM and were welcomed with a line. A l-o-o-o-ng line that went right out the door. But we were determined to have their Corned Beef Hash one last time. Okay, well, one last time for him; first time for me. Yes, I admit, although I knew of the Rascal House my entire life, I had never visited prior to Sunday morning. Come on, I’m a Cuban girl, Miami-born and bred. We don’t drive to North Miami Beach to have lox and bagels, or corned beef and cabbage. We go to La Carreta or Versailles for café con leche and pastelitos, or croquetas and papas rellena. But I wanted to visit the Rascal House yesterday because I didn’t want it to be like what happened to my friend, Su, when she was 16.

Su had lived in New Jersey, across the bridge from New York, her entire life. She had never visited the Statue of Liberty because she figured she had the rest of her life to see it. In the summer before her junior year of high school, her parents announced they were moving to Miami in a few weeks. She never got to visit the Statue. I didn’t want Rascal House to become my Statue of Liberty (which I haven’t seen either, but that’s neither here nor there).

The stanchions at the restaurant’s entrance reminded me of the Space Mountain line at Disney world. There were separate lines for singles, parties of 2, 4 or more, etc. We decided to stand in the line for Counter Seating for two, as it was shorter. It was a good 20 minutes before we were able to sit down, and another ten to place our order. MKH joked that had the place been this busy all the time, they probably wouldn’t have needed to close.
Rascal House was established in 1954, and was perfectly situated between all the tiny, 24-hour beach motels along the north end of Collins Avenue. Unfortunately, the corporate greed and view-blocking high-rise condos that dominate the beach now, managed to drive away the restaurant’s colorful, storied clientele. The same clientele that had probably been going there for the past fifty or so years.
We were finally able to score two seats at the counter alongside an older Jewish couple. The woman reminded me of Magda in “There’s Something About Mary,” albeit more statuesque and not AS leathery. The gentleman, in all his Guayabera-ed salt and pepper glory, asked where we were from and when I said Miami, we entered into a brief conversation about his daughter, who had lived in Kendall at one time (holla!) and is now residing in Pinecrest (my former ‘hood). They were pure Long Island, the accent held strongly despite a retirement thus far spent in the sun and surf of Miami. They received their breakfast and I couldn’t help giggling at their exchange (they WERE right next to me, after all). It was a Neil Simon play come to life.

Her: “Oh my God (gawd), this is a lot of food.” (She had ordered the french toast.)

Him: “Have my egg.” (Places it on her plate.)

Her: “You don’t want your egg?”

Him: “No, I’m giving it to you.”

Her: “You should eat your egg.”
Him: “I don’t want you to be hungry; that’s why I’m giving you my egg.”

Then he turned to me, winked and flashed his 1,000-kilowatt Dentugrip smile. Ahh-dorable! (Have I ever mentioned that I love old people? I do. I love them. And country folk.)

When the waitress (these are not new-fangled, corporate food, Chili’s sizzling fajitas, servers. These were true-blue bonafide waitresses. Think Flo from Mel’s Diner, with less Aqua Net and more Coppertone) finally came to take our order we were disheartened to find out that they were out of Corned Beef Hash. Horrors! In a panic I ordered the same French Toast as Magda, and a side of breakfast potatoes. MKH ordered a stack of pancakes and a side of ham. Add to that two coffees and we were good to go. The service was painfully slow as they were short-staffed. They had begun laying people off a few weeks prior, in anticipation of the restaurant’s closing.

We sat and chatted and took it all in. The red vinyl booths and wood-paneled walls; the smell of the fresh baked rugalach and brewing coffee; the sight of the Golden Girls brigade coming in the door, all tightly curled coifs and over-the-top jewelry. It was pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself!

Our food came and I gasped at the size of my serving of french toast (as if I hadn’t already caught a glimpse of Magda’s). It was thick and sweet, still hot from the grill and melted in my mouth. The potatoes were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. A sprinkle of salt made them perfect. I literally ate one triangle of my toast (huge, people; HUGE!), a spoonful of potatoes, and packed up the rest to go. Guess what MKH had for dinner??

We finished eating, paid for our food and exited the glass door. Yes, it was my one and only time at the Rascal House. Truthfully? I kind of wish I had discovered it sooner.

(NYTimes wrote about it, too: Check it out.)

 

“dies croquetas, ocho pastelitos…” March 5, 2008

Filed under: Blogging,Food,Personal — Lulu @ 7:05 pm

On Saturday morning, MKH and I met up with Tere at Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho in Miami. For those not familiar with Versailles, it is considered the "Plymouth Rock" of the exile community in Miami. This is where political debates about the current state of "la isla" merge seamlessly with the lip-smacking yumminess of chickencroquetas and empanadas de carne.

The reason for our early morning tête-à-tête? The guys from Freshbooksextended an invitation to Tere to be a part of their Roadburn 2008 RV Tour. Saul and Eammon are one half of the four man Canadian crew traveling from FOWA in Miami, to SXSW in Austin. They decided they wanted to meet bloggers along the way and document the meetings on their site. Tere extended the invitation to MKH and myself, and we loved the idea.

We settled in at a long table in the back of the restaurant. The size of the table is relevant as it was quickly filled with baskets of tostada Cubana, pastelitos, croquetas, papas rellena, café con leche, and watermelon and sugarcane ("guarapo") juice. The look on the waiters face as he read the order back to us (in Spanish, no less) was priceless.

After a round of quick introductions, we settled into a conversation about the intricacies of Cuban cuisine, the state of current Cuban politics, and what it’s like to grow up as children of the exile. We also analyzed why Fidel Castro would find it necessary to have his name embroidered on his Adidas track suit. I reasoned that it could be the same idea behind microchipping your dog. You know – "If found, please return to…"

It was a great morning, with delicious food and lively conversation. And thank you, T., for inviting us to join you.

You can read more HERE and HERE.

(Photo courtesy of MKH.)

 

Sum Yung Gai? January 29, 2008

Filed under: Food — Lulu @ 7:23 pm

I’m a Pad Thai junkie. So imagine my delight at finding yet another great Thai restaurant in Miami! Read my review of Oishi Thai here.