MiX [2,] Las Vegas NV

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MiX

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Double Espresso over Ice

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XXL Rum Baba – Monte-Carlo style

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Profiteroles – Vanilla Ice Cream, Warm Homemade Chocolate Sauce

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Chocolate Souffle – Pistachio Ice Cream

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Warm Madeline – Warm Nutella

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Unable to resist the allure of a three-foot-long Baba Au Rhum, no matter how full from a several course feast at Veranda, it was up the exterior facing glass elevator that myself and two friends ascended to Alain Ducasse’s soon to reboot MiX and meeting two more at a ten-top table in the center of a cascade of glass bubbles it was in conversation and desserts that we partook, another double espresso over ice at half the price of the Four Seasons Lavazza proving a perfect accompaniment to the four-plate proceedings.

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Truly one of the most stunning rooms in Las Vegas, with nearly panoramic reviews of the Strip and beyond, it was entry that we saw the object of our desire and admittedly having experienced the dessert several times in the past in locations from New York to London the tableside preparation was slightly less dramatic than that at the others while the choice of rum was a well-culled trio, myself opting for the lightest option while others veered spicy – all with stellar results over the apricot glazed cake with plenty of cream.

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Deciding to also invest in a shared soufflé that proved an impeccable display of rich dark chocolate amidst an ethereal base that found much needed levity in a quenelle of pistachio ice cream, it was next in six sliced balls of crispy pate a choux surrounding smooth vanilla that we indulged and topping each one with thick chocolate fudge the third Ducasse classic was perhaps the best version of the dessert I’ve tasted to date – a compliment of questionably equal applicability to the hot-from-the-pan Madeline, a lightly crisp edge over delicate sponge that was delicious on its own and all the better when dipped in a sidecar of warm hazelnut spread.

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FOUR STARS: Advertising, to some degree, that the whole three-foot baba would be served at a cost of $12 one rationally assumed that deal was too good to be true, and instead charging $12 per person for what would amount to perhaps a two inch slice the portion was still quite generous considering the version in London goes for about $26 per person – though with far more pomp and circumstance. Truly a beautiful space it will be interesting to see where the Delano takes Ducasse and “Rivea,” but as long as they keep the signatures there is no doubt it is a space worth visiting, even if only for dessert with a view.

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RECOMMENDED: Baba Au Rhum, Profiteroles, Souffle.

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AVOID: N/A.

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TIP: Shuttering to redecorate after the New Year’s Eve festivities but offering the XXL Baba through the end of the year those looking for this particular presentation should head over to the Delano soon.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://www.delanolasvegas.com/dining/mix-at-delano.aspx

Mix on Urbanspoon

Posted in Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Madeline, MiX, Nevada, Souffle

Veranda [2,] Las Vegas NV

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Veranda

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Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

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Pera – Bartlet Poached Pear, Spiced Goat Cheese, Endive, Pecans, Porto Dressing

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Sicilian Meatballs – San Marzano Tomatoes Sauce, Pecorino Romano

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Melenzana – Breaded Eggplant, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Smoked Mozzarella ‘Guazzetto’

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Margherita – Roma Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Micro Basil

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La Pasta Cotta Nel Vaso – Hand Cut Artichoke Pasta Cooked in a Jar, Scallops, Calamari, Shrimp, Tomatoes Basil, Caciucco Sauce

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Tortelloni Zucca e Manzo – Homemade Tortollini, Braised Short Rib, Pumpkin, Smoked Brown Butter, Sage, Winter Truffle

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Paccheri Napoletani – Napoleon Style Paccheri Pasta, 24 Hours Cooked Baby Pork Ribs Ragu, Italian Sausage, San Marzano Tomatoes

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Tagliolini Ai Gamberi – House Made Saffron Tagliolini, Prawn, Sea Beans

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Pollo Cacciatora – Half Chicken Stew Cacciatora Style, Roman Tomatoes, Red Bell Pepper, Organic Creamy Polenta

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Patate e Funghi – Petite Potatoes, Wild Mixed Mushrooms, Marsala / Carota- Rainbow Baby Carrots, Black Olives Powder

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Apple & Fig Crostada – Burnt Orange and Vanilla Bean Reduction, Panna Cotta Gelato

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Meyer Lemon Zeppole – Passion Fruit, Honey, Blackberry Syrup

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Amaretto Tiramisu – Crispy Basket of Hazelnut, White Chocolate, Espresso Gelato, Orange Flavored Cotton Candy

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Double Espresso and Ice with biscotti

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Visited just weeks ago for brunch as a guest of the Four Seasons there was little doubt that a return to Veranda was in order, and when the recently renovated restaurant decided to open its doors at 50% off to any diner making a December reservation on Black Friday the deal proved too hard to resist – the discount proving most fortuitous in the setting of a restaurant that has the gall to charge $14 for two tiny eggplant rolls and $12 for double espresso of less-than-ideal Lavazza served alongside, not over, ice as if defying one to make a mess in trying to do it themself.

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Acknowledging the fact that the first experience at Veranda was coordinated by PR with superlative service from start to finish, suffice it to say that a second meal booked under the name of two friends offered less impressive timing and having ordered substantially with requests for items to be sent out in a rather specific manner the start of the meal was almost inexplicably rushed – the delicious and soft focaccia hitting the table before menus were even opened and both fourteen dollar meatballs and the aforementioned eggplant arriving before a few small bites of brilliantly balanced salad were fully consumed.

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Treated next to a pizza that featured a surprisingly buttery crust with little char and rather flavorless tomatoes that thankfully received an upgrade from thickly applied Mozzarella and light accents of basil it would not be long before an onslaught of primi arrived and with the four-top table as well as meager sharing plates obviously overburdened despite our server personally suggesting he would “space out the pastas” two of the dishes were immediately sent back to the kitchen – Chef Minichiello obviously taking the gesture seriously by not only coming out to personally apologize, but also individually plating each subsequent course in tasting-menu fashion.

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Speaking specifically to the quality of the noodles, aside from the signature “jar” with pasta that logically becomes a bit soft due to the cooking technique, it can only be said that most of Minichiello’s housemade creations are served with textbook consistency and with the two meaty courses more ‘up front’ with the flavors of slow-cooked proteins allowed to shine the flavors of the Pasta Cotta Nel Vaso and Tagliolini were far more restrained, the first melding shellfish and herbs with light cream while the later was an aromatic masterpiece, the saffron and sea beans each offering their unmistakable flavors in balance to sweet, snappy prawns.

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Pairing a half-chicken cooked Cacciatora-style, with far better results than that at Giada according to my two friends, to two sides that were simple yet impeccably prepared to maximize the flavor of every ingredient it was at this point that each in our party noted that we were becoming quite full and yet with a half-off dessert menu featuring no less than seven items I’d have liked to try it was with some restraint that only three were ordered – the doughnuts a but underwhelming when compared to the buttery seasonal Crostada, but neither even in the same ballpark as the ‘signature’ in terms of taste or presentation, the cotton-candy topped pedestal featuring soft lady fingers and mascarpone soaked in Amaretto with boozy blueberries and three balls of ice cream making for one heck of a ‘sundae.’

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THREE AND A HALF STARS: Tipping on the pre-discount total to the tune of just over $200 for the table it must be said that considering the cost of the meal Veranda presented one of the best dining values on the Strip in this particular circumstance, but taking into account the service gaffs and truly laughable coffee upcharge the question becomes whether yet another visit could be justified at double the price – something I cannot say I’m certain about at this point, though with selective ordering one could undoubtedly put together an excellent meal under $100 per person, including a glass of wine, for a special occasion.

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RECOMMENDED: Tortelloni Zucca e Manzo, Carota, Amaretto Tiramisu.

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AVOID: Melenzana, Margherita Pizza, Zeppole, Coffee.

TIP: Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner those looking to dine at Veranda are well advised to either call the restaurant or contact them via e-mail for current menus, the Four Season’s antiquated website still infrequently updated and refusing to offer prices.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://www.fourseasons.com/lasvegas/dining/restaurants/veranda/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Italian, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pizza, Pork, Tiramisu, Truffle, Veranda

3940 Coffee and Tea, Las Vegas NV

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3940 Coffee and Tea

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Pecan Sticky Bun

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Red Velvet Cupcake

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Chocolate Chip Cookie

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Peanut Butter Cookie

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Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

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Campfire ‘Smores Cookie

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Located off the lobby of the recently rebranded Delano, with a trendy wooden décor “inspired by desert shade’” and several styles of seating juxtaposing a small bar flanking a marble hearth, 3940 ups the ante in the world of casino coffee shops not only in terms of styling but also in offerings, a variety of overpriced artisan sandwiches served alongside an impressive lineup of pastries, lattes, juices, and teas.

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Legalistically named and across the way from Franklin it was just after 3pm that I arrived at the brightly lit bar and with folks from an ongoing tech conference occupying several tables as well as the leather recliners in the corner a quick chat with friendly baristas yielded a double espresso over ice and a six-part sampling of the day’s pastries, the total just under twenty-seven dollars.

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Noting that $5 for a double over ice is more-or-less the going price at every Strip-side Starbucks suffice it to say that the Grand Avenue Roasted shots from 3940 are a significant upgrade over the competition, and with similar praise lavished on a warm sticky bun that somehow maintains crunchy layers of lamination beneath a mountain of candied pecans and butter one only wishes the rest of the wares could have been so good, the cupcake far better to look at than to eat given the substantially sweet and paste-thick icing while each of the cookies, save for graham-cracker caramel studded ‘Smores, was almost brownie-dense and entirely one note.

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TWO AND A HALF STARS: Offering better coffee than almost any coffee bar on the strip, along with several interesting lattes and fresh squeezed juices, but exceedingly expensive for sandwiches that look no more interesting than Panera it seems the best bet for a visit to 3940 is for beverages alone and although the sticky bun is quite excellent, an even better version can be had fresh to order from Della’s Kitchen just down the hall.

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RECOMMENDED: Espresso, Sticky Bun, Campfire ‘Smores Cookie.

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AVOID: Cupcake, Cookies in general – particularly the overly sweet chocolate chip.

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TIP: Open 6a-4p daily, and check out the complimentary flavored water from the hotel lobby while viewing the exploding rock art just across from check-in.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://delanolasvegas.com/dining/3940-coffee-and-tea.aspx

Posted in 3940, 3940 Coffee and Tea, Breakfast, Coffee, cupcakes, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Nevada

Layers Bakery Cafe Westside, Las Vegas NV

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Layers Bakery

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Grizzle Nickel Bar

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Chocolate Chip Cookie / Molasses Cookie

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Chocolate Whoopie Pie

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Apple Coffee Cake

Promoting a natural and organic approach to all of their products Layers Bakery is the sort of place anyone with a substantial sweet tooth should really want to like, but with a first visit to the flagship proving rather underwhelming it was almost a year later that a trip to the smaller storefront on Medical Center Street finally took place – the results equally unimpressive as a stripped down selection due to “lack of demand” yielded only one memorable item out of an order of five.

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Perhaps one third the size of the original, tucked away next to the Hospital just off the 215, it was admittedly a trip to the nearby FedEx that took me to the smaller Layers and although service first chastised me for taking pictures, the young woman eventually lightened up and filled the order, all items wrapped in paper and placed in a pair of bags at a total of $17 as the rest of the staff stood in the kitchen without a single person to serve in the café.

Opting to take goods elsewhere to enjoy alongside coffee it was in the bakeless “Grizzle Nickel” bar that I first partook and although interestingly textured with graham, coconut, chocolate chips, and peanuts all competing for palate space the flavor was largely that of the bittersweet chocolate that dominated, a flavor I’d find far more subdued in a chocolate chip cookie that was quite decent, though nothing the average baker couldn’t make just as well at home.

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More impressed by a molasses cookie that featured a far bolder spice profile than most restaurants or bakeries would be willing trot out while the coffee cake proved too dry in areas not in direct contact with the admittedly delicious apples, it was after more coffee that the refrigerated whoopie pie was explored but despite having allowed it about an hour to warm up the now room-temperature palm-sized disc still proved far too ‘cakey’ while the filling was pasty and thick, not smooth and creamy like several experienced in the past.

TWO AND A HALF STARS: Giving them credit for trying to do what is right it can only be said that Layers simply does not execute as well as other bakeries speckled across the valley and with none of their cakes offered at this location while only one is cut daily at the Henderson flagship I simply cannot justify recommending them to anyone, there are simply better options to be had.

RECOMMENDED: Molasses Cookie.

AVOID: Whoopie Pie. Also, the Coffee Cake, though the sour cherry version was much better at the Henderson location, so perhaps this one…or that…was an anomaly.

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TIP: Closed on Sunday and Monday, open 8a-3p Tues-Friday, 9a-2p Saturday.

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

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http://www.layersbakery.com/

Layers Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Las Vegas, Layers, Layers Bakery Cafe, Layers Bakery Cafe Westside, Nevada

Bite Breakfast & Lunch, Las Vegas NV

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Bite Breakfast & Lunch

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Bottomless Coffee

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BEER CAKES – Guinness beer batter with crispy smoked Applewood bacon pieces

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BITE’S ULTIMATE PANCAKES – Fresh egg surrounded by our buttermilk pancake batter filled with bacon and sausage pieces

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MONTE CRISTO FRENCH TOAST – Turkey, ham fried egg & Swiss cheese

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FUNFETTI PANCAKES – Cake batter with rainbow sprinkles and topped with yogurt (…or not, bro)

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CHOCOLATE MOCHA WAFFLE – Whipped cream and chocolate fudge

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MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP PANCAKE – Minty green pancake batter, loaded with chocolate chips and topped with whipped cream and chocolate fudge

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BANANA NUT FRENCH TOAST – Homemade banana nut bread dipped into our French toast egg batter, grilled and topped with sliced bananas

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Replacing the shuttered Sun City Café, Bite quickly garnered attention when I discovered it was less than ten minutes from home and giving the restaurant a few weeks to get its footing before paying a visit with three friends the simple conclusion is that either they still haven’t figured it out, or perhaps that they never will.

Located in a strip mall, pretty standard for Las Vegas, Bite is the invention of Chef Andrey Ariza and having personally contacted the restaurant weeks prior to find the website and menu (and subsequently linking it to their urbanspoon, yelp, and foursquare accounts) the first tip-off regarding customer service occurred when their online question form went unanswered and finding similarly disinterested staff located in store suffice it to say that those who drink their coffee quickly should sit close enough to the back of the restaurant to fill their own – the bottomless cup of $2.85 brew admittedly good, though the temperature could have stood to be turned up a few degrees.

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Pleasantly decorated for Christmas, with a small kitchen and at least three line cooks manning the fryers and grills, it was with football in the background that an order was placed and requesting the food in two rounds the items rolled out at a good pace – the mistaken substitution of pancakes for French Toast one flaw, while the ‘funfetti’ stack was served without yogurt as though no one would notice – a later excuse of “we just replaced it with butter, sorry ‘bout that bro” apparently felt to be service-recovery enough.

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Speaking to the quality of the food, much like the rest of Bite it was a bit of a mixed bag, the first round of savories honestly proving superior to the second set of sweets with the Monte Cristo fairly well constructed despite being unfried while the “Ultimate” was interesting if only for the runny eggs at the center, though this also contributed to a substantial degree of sogginess when taking into account the somewhat greasy sausage, the Beer Cakes surprisingly my favorite plate with light hoppiness and a crispy griddled layer overlying a fluffy center that paired nicely with smoky bacon.

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Transitioning to more childish delicacies after a bit of respite, and a couple of trips to the coffee machine as the restaurant began to fill, 09:10:11 on 12/13/14 arrived just after unordered banana pancakes and funfetti pancakes lacking the menu-promised yogurt arrived and returning the first while settling for flavors no different than average white bread in the other it was in the crispy chocolate waffle and a single $3 mint flapjack that we indulged, both decent but nothing to write home about, while the late arriving Banana Nut French Toast was admittedly quite good, a crispy topcoat overlying a pudding like center with plenty of bananas made all the better by a drizzle of warm maple syrup.

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TWO STARS: Stunningly unapologetic for serving items without the toppings promised on the menu and mostly underwhelming in their execution of plates that sound far more interesting than they taste one of my dining companions summed Bite up best when she said that it seemed they were trying to capitalize on the success of BabyStacks, but with four of them already populating a valley with plenty of competition from EggWorks, The Cracked Egg, Blueberry Hill, Hash House, and so many others that offer a better overall experience I’m not really sure Bite offers any good reason to go back.

RECOMMENDED: Beer Cakes, Banana Nut French Toast.

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AVOID: Funfetti Pancakes (particularly without the yogurt,) and letting the Ultimate sit for too long as the rim around the egg became congealed and quite unpleasant.

TIP: Currently offering a Buy-One-Get-One Entrée deal, those interested in checking out Bite at a bargain are advised to watch the Review-Journal or community delivered “View” with the caveat that the deal is only available M-F (just like deal offered at The Cracked Egg.)

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WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://thebitelv.com

Bite on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bite, Bite Breakfast & Lunch, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Food, French Toast, Las Vegas, Nevada, Pancakes, Pork, The Bite LV, Waffles

FIX, Las Vegas NV

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FIX

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Iced Tea

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Prosciutto Wrapped Dates – Chorizo, Roasted Piquillo & San Marzano Sauce

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Lobster Tacos – Grilled Mango, Cilantro

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Duck Prosciutto Flat Bread – Fromage Blanc, Onions, Pecorino Cheese, Rocket

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Wood Grilled Bruschetta – Greek Yogurt, Citrus, Blackberry Jam

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Duck & Waffles – Confit, Fried Egg, Maple Bourbon Syrup

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Ultimate Very Adult Mac & Cheese – Truffle Oil, Prosciutto

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100-Day Dry Aged Bone-In Tomahawk Ribeye with Lobster Whipped Potatoes and Sweet Corn Spoon Bread

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Warm Doughnuts – Apple Pie Filled, Rum Raisin and Cinnamon Apple Dipping Sauce

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Warm Banana Bread – Coconut Ice Cream, Malibu Anglaise

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Chocolate S’mores – Flourless Chocolate Cake, Graham Crunch, Milk Chocolate Pudding, Burnt Fluff

Noting up front that our table was spared the Las Vegas Boulevard upcharge, present at nearly every restaurant stretching from Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere as we were dining as the guests of Brian Massie, it was just prior to 8pm that myself and a friend sat down at Bellagio’s FIX and with a warm welcome from hostesses up front, and superlative service throughout, the menu selected by Executive Chef Renieri Caceres proved every bit the innovative expression of American comfort foods that it is billed to be.

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Unabashedly trendy, with a low-lit space that spans a long stretch of the gaming floor next to the Via Bellagio shops, FIX is the oldest of Chef Massie’s Light Group ventures and although a bit more ‘clubby’ than some might prefer as music bumps overhead the noise never once inhibited conversation, though the $20 cocktails fueling surrounding tables at times did incite the occasional loud moment as we dined on ten plates from which only the tiny lobster tacos proved underwhelming in any way.

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Served in four courses, from a trio of servers who kept water and iced tea flowing while providing ample descriptions of each course throughout the night, it was with the aforementioned tacos alongside three additional appetizers that the evening began and although impressively plump dates stuffed with spicy chorizo were delicious atop smoky tomatoes while delicate cured duck dazzled atop a cracker-crisp crust it was the bruschetta and emulsified balls of Greek yogurt that proved the undeniable stunner of the opening act, a light citrus note melding the sour spread with lightly charred toast while a sidecar of jam and flakes of sea-salt were available to be added according to taste.

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Progressing next to an intermezzo, not originally offered as part of the menu but provided on request, round two arrived on piping hot cast iron and with crispy waffles, a fried egg, and maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels offering a breakfast-y backdrop the confit duck starred at the center, an intensely crisp skin overlying supple flesh with gaminess that rivaled the best renditions of the classic French dish that I’ve tasted to date…on either side of the Atlantic.

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Not especially a ‘steakhouse,’ but offering both wet and dry-aged steaks, it was with round three of the evening that Chef Caceres really went all-out and eschewing otherwise excellent sounding cuts it was to a 100-day-dry-aged Tomahawk that we were treated, each medium-rare bite imbued with a bleu-cheese funk far more impressive than that of Tampa’s famous Berns just one week prior and easily on par with the aged product offered at Carnevino, though not quite approaching that of their inimitable Riserva (in texture, flavor, or price.)

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Quite sated by the richness of proceeding courses, not to mention lobster mashed potatoes, batons of flash-fried grilled cheese with truffle imbued fondue, or reference standard spoonbread traditionally offered with a crispy pork shank I’d very much like to try next time around, it was with a trio of desserts that the evening would end and although both the hot donuts with a duo of rich sauces and the tender, tropically themed bread pudding were quite delicious it was the server-recommended S’mores that shined brightest, each bite reinventing the campfire classic with textures ranging creamy to crunchy as smokiness and light salinity prevented the composition from trending too sweet.

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FOUR STARS: A ‘mid-range’ option in the ever-swanky Bellagio, with prices expectedly trending a bit higher than one would likely pay elsewhere, FIX has been doing “upscale comfort food” for longer than most and although Chef Massie’s duties have now expanded beyond the Strip to Hearthstone the kitchen still seems to be firing on all cylinders while service and setting are energetic without being annoying, a rarity at similar restaurants…particularly here in Las Vegas.

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RECOMMENDED: Wood Grilled Bruschetta, Duck & Waffles, Warm Banana Bread, Chocolate S’mores, Dry Aged Beef (ours was the ‘nightly special’ detailed on the menu and may not be available at all times)

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AVOID: At $24 the Lobster Tacos simply did not offer enough lobster or flavor to justify the cost. $20 cocktails spiked with all sorts of oddities such as Red Bull and Gum Drops also seemed a bit excessive, though neither of us opted to imbibe.

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TIP: Open until 1am and offering a prix-fixe deal for those checking in on social media those looking to dine at FIX on a budget are advised to check it out, a 3+ course affair with several options available for just $60.

WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor

http://fixlasvegas.com/

Fix on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, FIX, Food, Ice Cream, Las Vegas, Lobster, Nevada, Pork, Truffle, Waffles

Star Fish Co. Seafood Market and Restaurant, Cortez FL

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Star Fish Co.

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Stone Crab and Corn Chowder

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Conch Fritters

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The Star Combination Platter – Shrimp, Oysters, Scallops, Grouper fried Golden Brown with Fries, Hush Puppies, and Slaw

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Crab Cakes with Slaw, Cheese Grits, Hush Puppies

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Captain Kathe’s Key Lime Pie

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Quaintly located dockside in the small town of Cortez with a cash-only counter serving up ocean fresh seafood from A.P. Bell Fish Company next door the Star Fish Company could just as easily be a local gem for residents of the small fishing village and onlooking pelicans but having garnered national attention for both the cuisine and the ambiance the sizable garage-cum-kitchen overlooking the water proved an unbeatable stop on a cross-state trip from Miami to Tampa.

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Visited once by my mother and aunt during a previous vacation with their cousins I have to admit I was surprised that the two of them had accidentally discovered such a gem, yet arriving mid-day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving the crowd was apparently par for the course, a twenty minute wait in line followed by another twenty at the table for fried fish and seafood casting aside any semblance to the frozen stuff served at chains or places far removed from the coast.

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Starting first with key lime pie and a cup of rich chowder as both items were ready in wait suffice it to say that the former was the best we experienced on the trip and although some would claim the cream unauthentic the pie itself was so tangy it actually benefitted from the accoutrement, the addition of crackers to the chowder almost equally necessary as the potage was extremely thick and so chock-a-block full of crab and cream corn that it was almost too rich.

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Next treated to a trio of two white containers and a cardboard white basket it was all sorts of indulgence that waited and thankfully offering several combination plates at prices far less than would be assumed not a single items save for the slightly limp fries was less than exemplary, the breading on oysters, scallops, and grouper extremely light while the crabcakes and fritters were probably 90% meat, just enough breadcrumbs in place to hold each together without detracting at all from the naturally sweet shellfish.

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www.starfishcompany.com

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Star Fish Company on Urbanspoon

Posted in Cortez, Crab, Dessert, Florida, Food, St. Petersburg, Star Fish Co., Star Fish Co. Seafood Market and Restaurant, Star Fish Company, Tampa, Tampa Bay, Vacation

Moises Bakery, Miami FL

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Moises Bakery

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Tres Leches Cake

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Ham and Cheese Empanada

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Almond and Dulce de Leche Alfajor

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Egg Custard Danish

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Dulce de Leche Croissant

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Taking a short walk from the expansive space that houses Buenos Aires Bakery to the far more cozy confines of Moises Bakery it should probably come as no surprise that the later features a far more frenetic atmosphere than the first and although regulars completely packed the small dining area an English-friendly staff still made me feel like a friend of the house, a request for recommendations met mostly with items I’d already targeted yielding a five-part order from which only a slightly doughy croissant would prove less than exceedingly well made.

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Assuredly a ‘locals only’ sort of spot, and a place where everyone seemed to know one another by name, it was mere moments after placing my $7.75 order that items were placed in plastic baskets and although seats were entirely full a standing-room only table at the door was recently abandoned, the steaming hot empanada carefully cut with a fork and knife to liberate ham and Swiss from a crisp and thin pocket decidedly different from that at Buenos Aires and nearly twice the size but equally delicious and devoid of grease just the same.

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Progressing from savory ham and cheese to creamy egg-custard at the center of a flaky butter danish before moving to the sweeter parts of the quintet it was here that the uninspired croissant was sampled and returning the rest of it to the bag we were left with the two best items of the entire three-stop morning, a powdered sugar coated Alfajor the definition of sweet decadence while a cup of Tres Leches upped the ante with a swirl of caramel – a ‘Quatro Leches,’ if you will and a reason in and of itself to make the trip from South Beach up north.

http://moisesbakery.com

Moises Bakery on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Croissant, Dessert, Florida, Food, Miami, Moises Bakery, Pork, Vacation

Buenos Aires Bakery & Cafe, Miami FL

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Buenos Aires Bakery & Café

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Ham and Cheese Empanada

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Entremets – Tres Leches Cake, Dulce de Leche Horn, Chocolate Caramel Square, Caramel Peanut Butter Cake

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Dulce de Leche Croissant

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Dulce de Leche Cream Puff

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Egg Custard Danish

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Guava Danish / Cream Cheese Danish

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The second stop on a morning trek towards Tampa Bay, Buenos Aires Bakery proved to be a destination sort of place for someone with an intense interest in traditional ethnic pastry and whether Argentinean, African-American, Caucasian, Cuban, or otherwise the vast selection and friendly service seemed to put a smile on everyone’s face while festive decorations and televised futbol pleased the eye.

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Far larger in size than one would expect from the street it is to a selection of nearly one hundred items that those entering the Miami Beach bakery are tempted and although ordering can prove to be a difficult process given the lack of signage and English-as-a-second-language nature of the staff those willing to take a chance are likely to be rewarded – the prices a veritable bargain for treats running the gamut from sweet to savory with several sizes offered to allow for substantial tasting regardless of appetite or party size.

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Focusing largely on items considered signatures by those ‘in the know’ it was with one piping hot fried empanada that our tasting began and with the pastry nearly choux-like in texture the fillings were creamy and smooth with nary a bit of oiliness to be found, a similar experience offered by the crispy caramel creampuff – essentially a profiterole packed with dulce de leche without suffering from sogginess at all.

Moving next to a plate of petit-fours, each offering a single bite of one of Buenos Aires Bakery’s well regarded cakes, suffice it to say that any event celebrated with the milky Tres Leches is bound to be a success and while the others were also quite tasty in their own rights none of them could rival a quartet of laminated pastries to follow – the soft buttery layers less crispy than French counterparts but the fillings each reference standard, the housemade guava jam and still-warm egg custard my personal favorites while my mother and aunt swooned over a cream cheese danish that walked a fine line between sweet and savory that the powdered sugar dusted croissant happily ignored.

http://www.buenosairesbakeryandcafe.com/

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Posted in Breakfast, Buenos Aires Bakery, Buenos Aires Bakery & Cafe, Buenos Aires Bakery And Cafe, Croissant, Dessert, Florida, Food, Miami, Pork, Vacation

11th Street Diner, Miami FL

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11th Street Diner

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Coffee

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French Fried French Toast with Strawberries and Condensed Milk Syrup

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Belgian Waffle with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

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Kentucky Bread Pudding with bourbon glaze and French Vanilla Ice Cream

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Old Fashioned Carrot Cake

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Targeting a trio of stops before heading northeast to Tampa, Wednesday morning began as one of only two occupied tables at 24/7 Eleventh Street Diner and seated in a cornerpocket booth amidst the shiny silver space breakfast was a carbohydrate heavy feast of questionable value considering the quality of the food, though the service and setting were a whole lot of fun.

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Unabashedly ‘old-school’ with an all-day menu of diner favorites, breakfasts, pastry case desserts, and the sort of coffee that has been sitting on the burner for far too long, it was with menus in hand and a caricature laden placemat in place that the experience on the corner of Washington and 11th began and although several interesting appetizers and desserts called out the eventual order entailed a quartet of plates, all arriving simultaneously despite the fact that two were pre-made – an understandable decision, it seems, as those two were technically ‘desserts.’

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Rapid fire from the kitchen and quick to refill water as acrid coffee caused regret for a wasted $2.50 it was only fifteen minutes after seating that plates arrived and setting aside an exceedingly small slice of Carrot Cake that proved underwhelming to focus on more temperature-sensitive options both the crispy malted waffle and the block of dense, lukewarm bread pudding proved run-of-the-mill – good but nothing to write home about, particularly given the price.

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Moving next to the reason Eleventh Street had originally been targeted for breakfast, suffice it to say that the “French Fried” French Toast was exactly as decadent as it would seem and with soft, eggy bread standing up well to lightly sweetened custard followed by a dip in the deep fryer the only thing holding back the plate was the small packs of Kraft “Pancake Syrup” – the worst of the worst artificial maple products entirely eschewed making me wish the application of condensed milk syrup had been a bit more liberal, though the sliced seasonal strawberries admittedly complimented the golden, crisp Challah quite well.

http://eleventhstreetdiner.com/

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Posted in 11th Street Diner, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Eleventh Street Diner, Florida, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Miami, Vacation, Waffles

La Esquina del Lechon, Doral FL

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La Esquina del Lechon

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Bread and Chicharron Basket

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Quesadilla a su Gusto – Chicken, Monterrey Cheese, Guacamole, Sour Cream

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El Famoso pan con Lechon – Slow Roasted Pork, Tropical House Sauce on Cuban Bread with Sauteed Onion, Crushed Pork Rinds

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Sandwich “Especial” Cubano – Ham, Turkey, Roast Pork, Swiss, Pickles, Mustard, Mayonnaise

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Café con Leche

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Tres Leches Cake

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Rice Pudding

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Progressing north from Lucali for a slightly more downscale finish to four nights of eating in Miami it was just prior to 8:30pm that our trio entered La Esquina del Lechon and although the kitchen was due to close at nine o’clock no less than a half-dozen parties would follow, the dining room nearly half full when the friendly front of house staff began turning folks away, instead focusing on proving a truly excellent experience to those fortunate enough to already be eating some of the best roast pork I’ve been fortunate enough to taste.

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Every bit an off-the-map space, all the way up in Doral, with most options featuring roast meats and items spanning from Cuba to Latin America as a décor heavy with pigs smiles from around the room it was mere moments after taking a seat that menus were presented and before an order was even placed water was filled and a bread basket loaded with warm rolls and crispy pork rinds arrived, the later a generous portion of greaseless fried nuggets that were delicious on their own but all the better with La Esquina’s Mango Hot Sauce drizzled on top.

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Eventually making tough decisions given limited stomach capacity despite a menu from which nearly every plate sounded quite good it was a mere fifteen minutes after placing our orders that a trio of plates arrived, the quesadillas chock-a-block full of smoky chicken and cheese with creamy avocado in a sidecar while a duo of ‘small’ sandwiches proved to be anything but, the toasty housemade bread lightly sweet around a trio of meats and melted Swiss for the Cubano while the signature pan con Lechon was an umami-laden masterpiece of tender roast pork juxtaposing caramelized onions and crispy pork skin with sweet notes of citrus perfuming the palate with each bite.

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At this point happily sated but unable and unwilling to pass on a case of desserts from which I only wish I could have sampled more it was alongside a creamy refresher of Café con Leche that sweets were enjoyed and although the stick-a-spoon-up-straight rice pudding was reference standard stuff with cinnamon added to taste the Tres Leches was undoubtedly the best I’ve tasted to date, each saturated bite of buttercake impressively rich beneath heavy cream frosting as a pool of condensed milk added additional sweetness at the bottom of the plate.

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http://esquinalechon.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Coffee, Dessert, Doral, Florida, Food, La Esquina del Lechon, Miami, Pork, Vacation

Lucali, Miami FL

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Lucali

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Plain Pie – Hand Crushed Tomatoes, Bufala Mozzarella, Basil, Olive Oil

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Lucali Special Imported Italian Artichokes baked in sauce, Bufala Mozzarella, and Peccorino

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Dessert Calzone – Honey Ricotta, Nutella

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Fortunate to have snagged one of the limited seats at Mark Iacono’s Brooklyn original, where I experienced the best pizza I’ve tasted to date, it was with almost inappropriately high expectations that we entered Lucali’s new Miami location on Tuesday evening at 5:00pm but finding the dining room almost identical in décor despite its slightly larger size I’m happy to say that the product emerging from the hand-built oven is a nearly spot-on iteration of the original while service may as well have been imported direct from Carroll Gardens.

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At first a bit apprehensive that the expansion experience could not possibly live up to the legend lingering in my head from the March 2011 Pizza-Trek it was just as the restaurant opened its patio doors that our trio entered the romantically lit space and with wood tones dominating as Frank, Dean, and Sammy crooned overhead it was at a four-top large enough for six that we sat, a brief menu of appetizers expanding on New York’s Pizza and Calzone-only options and leading to a three-part order, each item cooked to order in the wood burning oven stoked by a team of two in back.

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Unable to decide between a trio of starters it was at the advice of our server that the meal began with a duo of tender marinated artichokes baked in Lucali’s signature sauce and draped simply with fresh Mozzarella and a dusting of briny Peccorino both the flavors and textures were brilliant, the light smokiness of the oven giving me hope for the “Plain Pie” to come – a $24 masterpiece of lightly charred crust with smoky blisters surrounding a center that was not quite ‘wet’ and as such more than capable of being eaten by hand with a simple fold, the flavor indistinguishable from the Lucali of my memories and equally wowing to tablemates taking their first taste of Iacono’s legendary pie.

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Unable to resist dessert, something not offered amidst the cozy New York confines, it was between cannoli, Nutella pizza, and calzone that we were left to decide and again deferring to the front of house with an eye toward more dining to follow it was in the creamy calzone that we invested our faith, the oven’s smoke this time serving to accentuate lightly sweetened ricotta as a drizzle of hazelnut and cocoa added richness making the sizeable pocket a dish best shared.

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http://www.lucali.com/

Lucali on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Florida, Food, Lucali, Miami, Pizza, Vacation

Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami FL

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Joe’s Stone Crab

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Bread Basket – Crisps, Pretzel, Butter Knot, Onion Pumpernickel

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Coleslaw

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Clam and Lobster Fritters – Bacon, Corn, Spicy Cocktail Sauce

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Coconut Shrimp – Holler Back Sauce

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Three Select Stone Crab Claws with Warm Mustard Sauce, Creamed Spinach, Smashed Squash

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Lobster Macaroni and Cheese – Vermont White Cheddar, Asiago Crumbs

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Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes with Green Tomato and Caper Remoulade

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Skinny Fried Sweets Dusted with Cinnamon Sugar

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Half-Slice Key Lime Pie

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Chocolate Pecan Pie a la Mode

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Bread Pudding with Maple Bourbon Caramel Sauce and a scoop of Graeter’s Vanilla Ice Cream

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No longer located only in Miami it was still with much intrigue that I entered Joe’s Stone Crab and having intentionally avoided the Vegas location at Caesars’ Forum Shoppes in order to preserve the integrity of a first visit to the original the decision proved to be a good one, the 1913 dining room at 11 Washington Ave offering a stellar lunch during the peak of stone crab season with service on par with that of several Michelin starred restaurants in Europe.

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Obviously offering an upscale experience compared to locations elsewhere, to the point that shorts and t-shirts are frowned upon in the main dining area, arrival at Joe’s begins at the Valet and with a young man holding the doors it was not long before we stood before a suited man at the podium, a walk-in for three not a problem at noon on a weekday with a choice of tables offered, the group electing to sit indoors on the left side of the expansive space – away from the din of the business lunch crowd.

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Obviously local and seasonal simply by the nature of a restaurant that actually closes during off-season it was to a menu of signatures and fresh seafood specials that we were greeted on seating and although happy to splurge when necessary a lunch special of three select claws, sides, and a half-slice of key lime pie for $42.95 was simply impossible to ignore – each claw plum and fresh, perfect on its own as I eschewed the mustard sauce and instead focused on the sweet protein alongside naturally sweet squash and creamy spinach, both as good as it gets for traditional steakhouse sides.

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Getting a bit ahead of myself, it should be noted that the meal actually began with Joe’s signature bread basket and although attempting some semblance of restraint it was illogical to refuse a second round based entirely on the strength of the salty warm pretzel as well as the unctuous pumpernickel, both enjoyed alongside butterflied shrimp coated in coconut that made my mother swoon while I focused on fritters nearly half lobster and half creamed corn with just enough filler to hold it all together beneath a golden, crisp shell.

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Slightly underwhelmed by sweet potato fries that were served in plethora yet a bit to limp for personal tastes it was in lobster-loaded mac n’ cheese and a duo of crab cakes shaped like Cuban croquettes that my dining partners indulged and although both were quite nice it seemed the consensus that the eponymous claws were the best choice, a similar statement befitting a large cube of steamy bread pudding absolutely drenched in boozy caramel…though the key lime pie and buttery toasted pecan pie studded with dark chocolate chips would easily be the highlights of dessert menus in several equally well regarded spots…or perhaps as a decadent shopping mall snack when back home in the 702.

http://www.joesstonecrab.com/

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Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Crab, Dessert, Florida, Food, Ice Cream, Joe's Stone Crab, Lobster, Miami, Vacation

Front Porch Cafe, Miami FL

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Front Porch Café

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Coffee

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Crispy Bacon

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Blueberry Scone

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House Ricotta and Orange Marmalade on Toasted Pumpernickel

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Fresh Fruit Bowl with Yogurt and Granola

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Granola Pancakes with Seasonal Berries, Whole Wheat Flour, Oatmeal, Almonds, and Honey

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Challah French Toast with Orange Zest, Cinnamon, Powdered Sugar

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Selected largely based on its location at the far end of Ocean Drive a Tuesday morning breakfast at The Front Porch Café was undoubtedly the most ‘touristy’ spot on a recent Miami dining agenda and with construction delaying arrival to the point where I entered the humid space famished after a long morning run the experience was a mixed one at best, service strained and disinterested as beverages languished for refills while the majority of the cuisine was merely decent considering the cost – an issue thankfully mitigated by a gift certificate from restaurant.com.

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In reality a hotel restaurant with an outdoor patio for those opting to see and be seen in the salty ocean air, it was just after 9:30 that our trio finally arrived at the sizable restaurant and finding the inside slightly more pleasant than the warm and wet ‘porch’ it would not be long before menus were delivered – the eventual order unfortunately delayed by quite some time but eventually delivered by back-servers as the young woman presumably captaining our table split duties between inside and out.

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Notably needing to spend $50 amongst three people in order to receive $25 off it was with bacon and a blackberry scone that the meal began and although the fried pork was relatively standard stuff the scone was fluffy and dense, a hefty helping of berries packing the interior just as mixed fruits filled an enormous bowl of unsweetened yogurt and housemade granola, the addition of overwhelming melon a bit of a bummer though the pineapple, strawberries, and blackberries made for a better than average breakfast parfait.

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Moving on to entrees it was in a duo of wholegrain pancakes studded with granola alongside chunks of orange-tinged challah that we invested the majority of our appetites and although the artificial maple syrup seemed somewhat out of place given the café’s ‘fresh’ focus the flavors and textures were pleasant enough, the flapjacks hefty and toothsome while the French Toast was lightly sweetened with a soft center and pan-griddled edges, a direct contrast to the meal’s best plate of crispy pumpernickel smeared in rich ricotta with housemade marmalade, the later plentiful enough to be scraped atop the French Toast thus negating the need for any Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima…something the kitchen should consider offering, even if at a further elevated cost.

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http://www.frontporchoceandrive.com/

Front Porch Café on Urbanspoon

Posted in Breakfast, Coffee, Florida, Food, French Toast, Front Porch Cafe, Miami, Pancakes, Pork, Vacation

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami FL

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Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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Blackberry Lemonade and Bourbon Blackberry Lemonade

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Deviled Eggs – Fresh Dill, Smoked Trout Roe ‘redneck caviar’

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Fried Green Tomato BLT – Pork Belly, Tomato Jam, Greens, House-made Pimento Cheese

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Warm Farmer’s Cheese – Watermelon, Olive Oil, Sea Salt

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Florida Heirloom Tomatoes – Toasted Peanut Hummus, Basil, Smoked Tomato Sorbet, Field Shoots, Crunchy Puffed Carolina Rice

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Pork Croquette – Black Eyed Pea Succotash, Parsley, Fried Egg

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Chicken n’ Watermelon n’ Waffles with Chow-chow, Honey Hot Sauce, Chilled Spiced Watermelon, Cheddar Cheese Waffle, Bourbon Maple Syrup

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Adluh South Carolina Stone Ground Cheesy Grits

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Banana Cream Pie – White Chocolate Rice Krispies, Boozy Toffee, Roasted White Chocolate Ice Cream

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Red Velvet Trifle – Buttermilk Custard, Blackberries, Meringue Kisses, Cream Cheese Frosting

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Ice Cream Sandwich- Nutella Ice Cream Shortbread Sandwich, Fudge, Strawberries and Cream

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Crunch n’ Munch Bread Pudding – M&M’s bread pudding, popcorn ice cream, candied pretzel

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Having already dined at 50 Eggs sister restaurant “Swine Southern Table & Bar” and admitting the fact that I was treated as a ‘friend of the house’ by Chef Todd Harrington of the upcoming Yardbird Las Vegas it is perhaps with some degree of bias that I say Miami’s Yardbird was amongst the best meals experienced during a nine day trip to Florida and yet setting aside comped plates, genuine Southern Hospitality, and a personal affinity for comfort food in general it can only be said that the cuisine emerging from this kitchen is upscale-rustic at its very best.

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Located just steps from the fanciful Lincoln Road Mall and featuring blond woods as well as leather banquettes amidst high ceilings and chalkboard quips about chicken, pork, and bourbon it was at a large four-top that our party was seated for a 4:30pm early dinner reservation and treated to stellar service by one of the team-members soon to be relocating to Vegas it was mere moments after receiving the menu that a duo of gifted appetizers arrived, the deviled eggs creamy with a touch of spice and brine while the BLT presented an explosive juxtaposition of textures and flavors, the soft belly atop crispy fried tomatoes bright with acid as spicy cheese spread melded it all together – a particularly exemplary dish when taken with the restaurant’s signature Lemonade – Bourbon infused or virgin, depending on taste.

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At this point placing a proper order it would not be long before Todd and the GM stopped by and after brief chat about the upcoming Venetian venue a trio of additional plates arrived, the Heirloom Tomato Salad well conceptualized with bright flavors amidst bold aromatics and the creamy croquette draped in a runny egg purely indulgent while the simple pairing of lightly salted warm cheese atop chilled watermelon proved far better than humble ingredients would lead one to guess – each component highlighting the others with a explosive flavor far greater than the sum of its parts.

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Unable to pass on Yardbird’s signature plate of Fried Chicken atop a crispy cheese waffle identical to that at Swine suffice it to say that every bite of the juicy bird was as good as the first and utilizing a sidecar of chow-chow as well as chilled watermelon to occasionally refresh the palate the only thing preventing us from devouring the substantial portion was a cup of toothsome grits…and a warning from our waiter that the kitchen was preparing to send out “several” desserts.

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At this point already quite full from a long day of eating and somewhat dreading the 45 minute drive to and from BB&T Center for the Florida Panthers 7:00pm start it was as promised that three gifted desserts were presented to the table and although the Banana Cream Pie as well as Red Velvet Cake constructed as an impressively light trifle were exceedingly delicious while the Cookies wrapped around Nutella Ice Cream were merely ‘okay’ I simply could not help but order the whimsical bread pudding, a steamy crock of Americana amidst rich cocoa pudding that was entirely over-the-top and all the better for it – a must order in for those visiting Miami and one of several dishes I cannot wait to see reinvented back home in Vegas where I’ll undoubtedly be one of the first in line to see Chef Harrington and his team reinvent Southern cuisine for both locals and visitors to Sin City.

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http://www.runchickenrun.com/

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Pudding, Dessert, Florida, Food, Ice Cream, Miami, Pork, Vacation, Waffles, Yardbird, Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Yardbird Southern Table and Bar

Prime One Twelve, Miami FL

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Prime One Twelve

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Bread Basket – Cheese Roll, Onion Pumpernickle, Raisin Walnut

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Fried Chicken and Waffles

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Maine Lobster Roll with Kettle Chips

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Sweet Potato Mash

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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10oz Burger with Cheddar, Fries

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Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Key Lime Pie

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Warm Dulce de Leche Bread Pudding with Candied Walnuts, Roasted Apples, Vanilla Ice Cream

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Double Espresso on Ice

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Amongst the swankiest spots on South Beach and the sort of place where celebrities are known to dine it was just after noon on Monday that parking was secured just down the block from Prime One Twelve and entering the doors of Miami’s most storied steakhouse to the smiles of hostesses and waiters both the only thing more bountiful than the quality of the service was the portions of the plates presented, an order of three mains, two sides, and a trio of desserts easily enough to feed a party double the size of ours.

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Located at 112 Ocean Drive, and as such obviously named, a visit to Prime One Twelve begins with perusal of the extensive menu and with best-in-class Bread Basket soon to arrive the mindful diner is smart to not overindulge, though a roll literally overflowing with soft cheddar as well as savory onion stuffed pumpernickel and sweet raisin walnut bread are apt to tempt, each great even without the addition of overly hard butter.

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Largely eschewing enormous steaks while fully acknowledging that these items are indeed Prime’s “signatures” suffice it to say that even though prices trend high each sizable dish selected was nothing short of exemplary, an enormous burger intense and juicy with a light crust overlying a pink center while the substantial lobster roll was nearly all crustacean and no filler, the chicken and waffles perhaps an unlikely choice but on par with that at Yardbird for best in the city with a pounded breast brined and juicy beneath crispy breading atop a supple waffle more than capable of soaking up pure maple syrup as well as bold, bright hot sauce.

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Underwhelmed by flavorless fried green tomatoes but more than impressed by fries, chips, and a veritable punch-bowl of creamy sweet potatoes that could have just as well been mistaken as maple-tinged frosting on a blind tasting it was onward to desserts that the meal progressed and with Key Lime Pie plenty tart beneath a heap of schlag the portions of both the Carrot Cake and Bread Pudding were almost comically immense, the former a pineapple studded masterpiece with thick ribbons of surprisingly light cream cheese while the later featured a nearly one pound block of caramel soaked brioche resting in a pool of sticky sauce and roasted apples, the slowly melting housemade ice cream and toasted walnuts adding variance in texture and temperature while helping to temper the intense sweetness…if only just enough to see me eat every last bite before spending the next few hours in a well earned food coma.

http://www.prime112.com/

Prime One Twelve on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Coffee, Dessert, Food, Ice Cream, Lobster, Prime 112, Prime One Twelve, Vacation, Waffles

La Camaronera, Miami FL

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La Camaronera

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Grouper Sandwich

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Tostones – Fried Green Plantains

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Conch Fritters

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Key Lime Pie

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Considered by some to be the best Mexican Seafood joint in town it was a pre-lunch snack that saw our trio seated at La Camaronera and although the quality of the fish sandwich was unquestionably high the price-to-portion ratio was far skewed to the left while fritters were more starch than shellfish and tostones were oily at best. Obviously a downscale spot compared to others on a substantial dining agenda suffice it to say that a later stop at Star Fish Co. in Cortez proved a far superior experience at a lower cost per person and although Joe’s Stone Crab is obviously more expensive and ‘touristy,’ it too proved a superior experience, the extra dollars not only providing substantially better seafood but an arguably better ‘bang for the buck,’ a fact not just obvious in the signature savories but also in sweets where La Camaronera’s Key Lime Pie was far sweeter than it was sour, a situation further exacerbated by a substantial topping of canned whipped cream.

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http://lacamaronera.com/

La Camaronera Seafood Joint & Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Posted in Dessert, Florida, Food, La Camaronera, Miami, Vacation

Versailles Restaurant, Miami FL

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Versailles

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Café con Leche

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Guava Cheese Pastry

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Croquettas

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Chicken and Ham/Cheese Empanada

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Cuban Sandwich

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Midnight Sandwich

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Tres Leches Cake

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Dulce de Leche Flan

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Dulce de Leche Shortbread

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Rice Pudding

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Torrejas

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Self described as “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant” and housed in an expansive palace well adorned with mirror’s Miami’s Versailles and next-door Versailles Bakery played host to Monday morning breakfast and with a surprisingly large crowd present as early as 7:30am the morning menu alongside two ‘signature’ sandwiches served notice of exactly why the restaurant is so well regarded, all eleven items as well as the Café con Leche exemplary in preparation and rife with the sort of flavors uncommonly found elsewhere in the United States, regardless of time of day.

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Truly a dramatic space, with some branding serving to lighten the mood of white tablecloths in back and café style seating up front, it was to a brief menu that we were introduced on seating and with servers buzzing around with plates, refills, and wide smiles the mood was jovial – a few questions quickly answered with orders placed and appetizers arriving no less than ten minutes later, the basket of piping hot fried empanadas and a guava-cheese pastry each proving crisp, delicious, and virtually oilless with fillings literally bursting forth the moment each golden pocket was cut to taste.

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Eschewing more “American” options like French Toast and Pancakes to focus on creamy pork croquettas alongside a pair of sandwiches each selection was delivered fully dressed and as much as the Medianoche was prone to wow with a hefty accoutrement of meats and cheese it was the famous toasted Cuban Sandwich that immediately stole the show – each bite brazen in its porky sapor with melting cheese, pickles, and mustard all indispensible in creating a flavor profile that was at once salty, sweet, and entirely worthy of its substantial acclaim.

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At this point settling an almost criminally underpriced $25 tab and making way to the bakery it was to a brief line managed by deli-style numbers that our party was greeted and with no less than forty options prime to tempt the sweet tooth a quintet of options were selected, the flavors of caramel and condensed milk figuring prominently in all but the syrup soaked Torrejas with every single pastry exemplary in its execution, the saturated tres leches cake and toothsome rice pudding particularly impressive while eggy flan could only be called textbook beneath a light layer of dulce de leche equally well utilized as filling to a shortbread cookie sandwich.

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http://www.versaillesrestaurant.com/

Versailles Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Posted in Bread Basket, Bread Pudding, Breakfast, Coffee, Dessert, Florida, Food, French Toast, Miami, Pork, Vacation, Versailles, Versailles Restaurant

pubbelly, Miami FL

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pubbelly

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Dates Avec Chorizo – Goat Cream, Spicy Tomato, Bacon

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McBelly – Kimchee, Yakiniku BBQ, House Bun

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Duck & Pumpkin Dumplings – Orange, Almonds, Cinnamon, Soy Brown Butter

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Soft Polenta Bramata – Truffle, Short Rib, Poached Hen Egg

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Sea Urchin and Salmon Rillettes – House Pickles, Toast, Bacon Jam

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Duroc Pork Belly Confit – Kabocha Squash, Butterscotch Miso, Corn Powder

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Florida Stone Crab – House Made Fettuccine, Jalapeno, Ginger, Bok Choy, Miso Citrus Butter

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Spiced Milk Tempura – PumpKing French Toast, Squash Milk Tempura, Bruleed Marshmallow Meringue, Roasted Sesame Ice Cream

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Granny Smith’s Bread Pudding – Caramelized Apples, Cinnamon Custard, Streusel, Roasted Sesame Ice Cream

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The Mason Jar – Strawberry Marmalade, Crème Brulee Foam, Caramel Mousse

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Cap’n Corny – Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding, Whipped Popcorn Panna Cotta, Corn Cake, Nutty Caramel Corn, Roasted Sesame Ice Cream

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Having celebrated their fourth anniversary with a whimsical brunch earlier that day it was with some surprise that pubbelly was only a quarter full when my family entered the celebrated space at 7pm but with reggae playing overhead as the Dolphins suffered a tough loss to Denver it was perhaps good fortune that saw the space so sparsely populated as both the kitchen and front of house executed beyond reproach, an eleven part order delivered with superlative timing, spot-on descriptions, and flavors that left no part of the palate untouched…or un-wowed.

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Considered by some to represent gastropub ‘fusion’ while others would suggest the technique driven Asian cuisine to be Miami’s answer to David Chang it should come as no surprise that Chef Jose Mendin’s daily menu featured no less than thirty items rooted in concepts of local sourcing as well as sustainability with an eye towards umami and starting with a trio of signatures the evening began with a bold slap to the tastebuds as spicy chorizo stuffed inside large dates found levity in foamy fromage, the followup “McBelly” pairing tender pork with a sweet bun and funky kimchee while a quartet of light noodles arrived packed with duck as notes of citrus and cinnamon tickled the palate on a slick of brown butter.

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Expanding an empire without compromising quality at the flagship a second flight of plates stared with creamy polenta studded with tender beef beneath topnotes of truffle carried by a soft-poached egg and although the bread served alongside silky rillettes teaming with flavors of smoke and sea could have stood to be cut slightly thinner that most certainly did not stop us from wiping the mason jar clean, each bite almost equal parts uni and fish with bacon jam, crispy strands of nori, and pickled vegetables each adding their own style of nuance in a choose-your-own-adventure experience in which not a single flavor was out of place.

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Treated next to the longtime signature of confit porkbelly beneath sweet-meets-savory glaze suffice it to say that those uninterested in fatty cuts of meat should not apply and rounding out savories with seasonal stonecrab tossed with hand-cut pasta the flavors of pickled peppers, ginger, and miso served to further enliven the freshly picked crustacean, a flavor profile far more complicated but every bit as delicious as the simple perfection offered at Joe’s in the following days.

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Unable to settle on a ‘reasonable’ number of desserts and as such investing in all but the two sundaes on offer it was with a quartet of sweets that the meal would end and although the pronounced flavors of popcorn unfortunately overwhelmed the butterscotch pudding of Cap ‘n Corny it would be difficult to determine a ‘best of’ amongst the rest, the Mason Jar harkening the flavors of strawberry shortcake carried by a cloud while the tempura and bread pudding both channeled the flavors of fall to great effect, the former intricately spiced with smoke and boozy notes balanced by light sweetness while the later was fruity and aromatic with each piping hot bite a textural exploration of creamy base and crunchy strudel beneath slowly melting soft-serve that added a subtle hint of salt.

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http://www.pubbellyboys.com/miami/pubbelly/

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Posted in Bread Pudding, Cornbread, Crab, Dessert, Florida, Food, French Toast, Ice Cream, Miami, Pork, pubbelly, Truffle, Vacation

Eating House, Miami FL

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Eating House

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“bk” Hash Browns – Oven Roasted Ketchup, Dry Rub

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Cap n’ Crunch Pancakes – Condensed Milk Syrup, Candied Cap n’ Crunch, Whipped Vanilla Butter

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Chicken & Waffles – Fried Chicken Thigh, Foie Gras Waffles, Candied Bacon, Maple, Hot-Ranch

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Cuban Bread Torrejas – Guava/Iron Beer Syrup, Whipped Cream Cheese, Maria Cookie Sugar

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Selected as a late-lunch based entirely on positive word of mouth from folks worthy of trust a 2:30 reservation at Eating House found the small, hip space filled to capacity and although the crowd seems to trend towards the post-club “Ali G” sect the food proved well worthy of the substantial praise – the current brunch menu only slightly less innovative than the options offered at dinner, though that certainly did not prevent our four-part order from allowing the rapid-fire kitchen to show its strengths.

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Eventually seated at a cozy four-top with a full view of the kitchen as well as televisions displaying the NFL alongside a whimsical bookcase of Miami paraphernalia it was not long before a waiter greeted our trio and with menus distributed it was mere moments before the order was decided, items coming out as they are readied with ‘hash browns’ harkening tater tots soon to arrive, the golden fried exterior intensely crunchy with a bit of spice while the interior was not dissimilar from mashed potatoes, the overall effect truly alluring particularly when paired with smoky tomato puree bright with acid and only minimally sweet.

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Unfortunately forced to shout at one another over the mimosa and cocktail energized din it was perhaps twenty minutes before the second round of food appeared tableside and although the waffles were a touch soft with no discernible sapor from the liver to be found nearly every other aspect of both dishes were divine, the well-brined bird intensely juicy and well complimented by both maple and spice while the cereal studded pancakes were an onslaught of sweetness atop fluffy clouds of golden batter, the textural contrasts and flavors both on par with the best flapjacks tasted to date.

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Rounding out the afternoon with thick bread lightly soaked in syrup suffice it to say that the crispy exterior was as unexpected as it was delicious and although light hoppiness proved an admirable foil to crumbled sugar cookies and pronounced sweetness from amply drizzled guava it was the airy cream cheese, presumably from an ISI Container, that truly brought the plate to new heights – each bite utterly indulgent yet surprisingly light, a perfect conclusion to an already heavy day of eating leaving plenty of room for more conspicuous consumption later that night.

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http://www.eatinghousemiami.com

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Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, Eating House, Florida, Foie, Food, French Toast, Miami, Pancakes, Vacation, Waffles