Tag Archives: Tapas

{ Brushetta with Prosciutto, Ricotta, Apples, & Olives }

Before almost every meal at my house, I find that there are a few moments where everyone gathers around the kitchen center island, anxiously waiting for dinner to finish cooking. The table has already been set, but the meat may need to rest another minute before carving, or the sauce may have to reduce a bit more before serving. It is during this time that I like to “pre-game” for dinner (confessions of a fat girl) with an appetizer–and bruschetta is always at the top of my list! I steal a few slices of baguette from the bread basket, toast ‘em in the oven or on the grill, and then top them off with any and every thing that I can find in the fridge.

This week, my little sister Ella, turned me onto a new layering of ingredients and flavors, which included; sliced granny smith apples, creamy ricotta cheese, chopped kalamata olives, and thinly sliced prosciutto.  Not going to lie, I had some reservations about these particular food combinations at first, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the sweet and salty contrast of the prosciutto and ricotta. The slightly tart bite of apple also added another unexpected dimension to the plate, and was a refreshing palate cleanser in-between toasts.

If I were to serve this at a party (which I certainly will in the future!), I would allow the guests to create their own toasts by serving the ingredients separately, this way everyone can have exactly the toppings they want. The dish is so simple and relatively inexpensive (cost of ingredients averaging $10 for 6 servings), but it very important that you use quality ingredients–high grade (or homemade) ricotta is a  MUST! (I suggest Wegman’s brand for $3.00). I also suggest that you season the ricotta with a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper before serving it…it adds more umph–and looks pretty!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 baguette, sliced on diagonal, 1″ thickness
  • 2 cups high quality (or homemade) ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 granny smith apples, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto

{ To Make the Bruschetta Toasts } Use a silicon brush to coat the sliced baguettes with extra virgin olive oil. Place them on the grill, turning until well toasted on each side (about 3 minutes per side). NOTE: You can also toast the bread in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees, which takes about 5 minutes.

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{ Tapas y Patatas – Barcelona, Spain Pt. I }

Wandering the streets of Barcelona is absolutely amazing. You can stroll up and down the ever-crowded Las Ramblas (guarding your side bag for dear life, of course), or you can people watch in the artsy Barri Gotic, as you hop from café to café. Ariana and I enjoyed the street life so much that we ended up postponing the bulk of our “touristy” sightseeing for the last day. This became a problem when we realized that there were only 30 days in June though. You see, we had planned our time in Barcelona with the assumption that there were 31 days in the month. Needless to say, we never saw Parc Guell, or the magic fountain, or Casa Mila. We did, however, get to try some absolutely amazing restaurants:

Taller de Tapas (http://www.tallerdetapas.com/)

Placa de Sant Josep Oriol, 9 
08002 Barcelona
{In Barri Gotic} 
 

Grilled Prawns on Skewer with Garlic Mayonnaise

Assorted Tapas on the Bar

Chorizos

Red Sangria

Slow Roasted Pryenees Lamb with Rosemary and Thyme

Pan con Tomate

Taller de Tapas is a small plate restaurant with a pronounced Argentinian influence, and after trying just a few of their dishes I have concluded that although the Spanish may have invented the tapas concept, the Argentinians have perfected it! Ariana and I got started with a pitcher of Red Sangria, which was undeniably the best that I have ever tried. Finally, a sangria that tasted like alcohol and not straight fruit juice! We had a buzz after just one glass. Next they brought out the signature Spanish tapa, Pan con Tomate. This is made by rubbing a ripened tomato on baguette and then drizzling a little but of olive oil and kosher salt. The Chorizos were nice and spicy, and the left over oil was great for dipping our bread in. But the highlight of the meal was really the Pyrenees Lamb with Rosemary and Thyme. The meat was fall off the bone and melt in your mouth tender, and the seasoning was spot on. Ariana orders lamb just about everywhere we go, and even she said this was the best lamb that she has ever had. It was served with a couple of crunchy roasted potatoes and some green chilies…perfection, a must try!

Siete Portes (http://www.7portes.com/)

Passeig d’Isabel II, 14
o8003 Barcelona, Spain
{Subway: Barceloneta Stop}
 

"Rich Man's Paella"

Mussels Marinera

Red Sangria

"Rich Man's Paella"

When I googled the “best Paella in Barcelona,” Siete Portes returned the most hits. I was still a little leery after the whole Les Coloniales incident in Seville though, so I stopped to poll a few people on the streets (I take my food seriously). Everyone agreed that Siete Portes’ Rich Man’s Paella was in fact the best–one man even said that the President frequents the restaurant for it–and so Ariana and I headed there for a seafood feast. It’s a good thing that we got there early because we didn’t have a reservation and we got the last table (the only table) without a reserved sign on it. We got our usual pitcher of Sangria, which was good (but not nearly as delicious or strong as Taller de Tapas) and I had an order of Mussels Marinera as an appetizer. The mussels were very fresh and meaty and the sauce had great flavor, although it was a little sweet. Then the paella came out. The server presents the dish to the table in the large cast iron pan and then he serves each individual person their plate. Ariana and I got the Rich Man’s Paella, which means that everything is cleaned and de-boned so you don’t have to get messy while you eat. It’s so nice to have someone do all the work for you! The paella had just about everything but the kitchen sink in it. There was chicken, pork, chorizo, prawns, calamari, mussels, cuttlefish, and small shrimp all mixed into a tomato and saffron flavored rice. We cleaned every scrap of food off of our plates, and then walked back home in the silence of our food-coma.

Bo de B

At the Corner of Fusteria 14 and Merce 35
{right by the post office, Subway: Barceloneta Stop}

 My friends Sam and Carly both studied abroad in Barcelona and told us that we had to check out the Bo de B Sandwich shop while we were there. We had a hard time finding the little place, until we noticed a long line of people wrapped around a building corner. Sure enough, they were waiting for their custom crafted sandwiches at Bo de B. The sandwiches take quite some time to make because the meat (choice of chicken, steak, or seasoned tofu) is cooked to order. Once the meat is ready, you then choose from an exhaustive selection of sauces and toppings to create your own unique sandwich, which will only set you back about 3 euro (a steal as far as Europe is concerned!). I made a Greek styled sandwich (first one pictured) with chicken, feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, red onion, hot sauce, and tzatziki. Ariana’s sandwich (second one pictured) had chicken, avocado, tomato, mayo, and italian dressing. The best part of the sandwich was definitely the crusty bread though. I normally eat my sandwiches open-face to save myself the carbs, but I made an exception for this delicious roll. Just make sure that you have a good supply of napkins on hand because they are not shy with the sauces! I thought this was a fabulous and filling lunch at a budget price point. Thanks Carly and Sam!

Rosa Negra (http://www.rosanegrabcn.com/rn/es/index.html)

Via Laietana, 46
Barcelona, Spain
 
 
 
Rosa Negra is a very modern and trendy Mexican restaurant located on one of the side streets off of Las Ramblas. Ariana and I ate here for our very first meal in Barcelona, again by the suggestion of Carly and Sam. We didn’t feel like playing the restaurant game so we just played it safe and stuck to the list of recommendations. Our flight got in at a weird time and happened to be adjusting to a time change still, so we were eating at the early hour 5 O’Clock, but the place was packed because it was Happy Hour for everyone else! Rosa Negra is definitely a popular happy hour spot with 3.50 euro margaritas and mojitos. The only thing that I didn’t like was that the margaritas had to be the frozen kind in order to be sold at the happy hour price, and so it was a lot more sugar than alcohol. I bit the bullet and paid the price to have my margarita on the rocks, and it was good and strong. For dinner we ordered the Chicken Flautas with sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, and salsa verde. They were pretty average, but the salsa had a nice flavor. We also split an order of the Chicken Nachos with refried beans, jalapenos, sour cream, and guacamole. The cheese was a weird white pump cheese that I have never seen before and it freaked me out a little, but we was starving and so we ate them all. The best thing we had was the Chicken Fajita Salad with sliced avocado, tomato, and balsamic dressing. The salad was really beautiful with all the fresh produce and the dressing was a nice dijon balsamic with lots of garlic flavor. I probably wouldn’t recommend Rosa Negra for food, but the place has a very cool interior design and the scene at Happy Hour is a good time, if frozen margaritas are your thing!
 

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“Death By Prosciutto” – Madrid, Spain

Iberico Ham from Spain

Before my trip to Spain, mention of the word ham conjured up strong images of Christmas dinner—a honey-glazed, suckling pig in the center of a large table, surrounded by side dishes piled high with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, and rye bread. However. I must admit that this traditional Christmas feast never tickled my fancy because I don’t like the actual taste (or texture) of cooked ham. And judging by the number of condiments that people use in combination with their boiled and broiled pig, I don’t think that I am the only person sharing in this sentiment. I mean you rarely see someone just nibbling on a piece of ham…unless of course, it’s slathered in mayo between two slices of Wonderbread, or served next to a heap of cheesy scrambled eggs, or covered in gobs of mustard. But in Spain, ham is like a second religion (soccer being the first), and it is delicious because it is NOT cooked. Instead, it undergoes a delicate process of curing and drying, which can take up to 48 months! After the ham has aged to perfection, it is dubbed “Jamon Iberico,” which is then sliced down into thin cuts of meat that sell at a very lofty price point. I once heard a comedian say, “I wouldn’t mind being treated like a piece of meat, as long as it was Serrano ham…because that means you think I’m fancy and thin!” I would have to agree with this statement after spending time in Spain.

Serrano ham is truly incredible—an explosion of flavor in your mouth. Unfortunately, it is also an explosion of sodium. Your fingers and feet will attest to that after just 2 short days in Catalan country. You will struggle to take off your rings and your ankles will transform into cankles as they rapidly loose bone definition from all of the salt-swelling. However, you will accept these side effects as minor troubles, and continue to eat Serrano ham, as you begin to realize that it is one of the best foods available in Spain. And unlike ham in the US, it doesn’t require a slew of condiments to taste good. It is perfection when eaten alone, but also delicious when paired with melon, Manchego cheese (a real sodium-assault), or sliced baguette for a simple sandwich. It is an ingredient so delicious, that you honestly can’t ruin it if you try, which brings me to my next point: do yourself a favor, and order simple in Spain. They have a lot of high quality produce and ingredients available, but they struggle developing the right flavors in complex dishes at many restaurants. After several disappointing meals, I learned that the best foods in Spain are the simplest; i.e. Serrano ham platters, chorizo, stuffed olives, and patatas bravas (potatoes with hot sauce). Therefore, a good place to grab lunch is in a food market (this is NOT to be confused with a supermarket). The food markets are very gourmet and have a variety of different vendors, each with a specific and unique culinary offering. You can create yourself a fantasy meal as you go from station to station, and select the items that call out to your belly…a true tapas experience. My favorite food market in Spain was located in Madrid, and it is called the Mercado de San Miguel (situated right outside the Plaza Mayor—http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/).  This covered market is over 100 years old and boasts 33 different food shops; selling anything from fruit to meat, cheese, and baked goods.

Mercado de San Miguel

Me, standing in front of the Mercado….itching to get inside

I got the best Iberico ham that I have ever tasted there, in addition to olives stuffed with mussels, croquettes, a mini tuna bocadilla (sandwich), and an assortment of Spanish cheeses with sliced baguette.

Is it a fruit display or is it art?…ask for assistance getting those cherries!

Our Jamon Iberico getting sliced to order….talk about fresh

Our Jamon y Queso Platter

Assorted Croquettes Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Spinach, and Chorizo

Manchego Cheese, Sliced Baguette, and Spanish Olives Stuffed with Mussels and Chilies

Tunafish Bocadillo with Manchego Cheese

Prices at the market were very reasonable, and I enjoyed eating my lunch at a window-counter where I was able to people watch passerbys outside. Just try not to make eye contact with the bands of roaming gypsys that are begging outside the market. It is like feeding the birds at the beach…you give a crumb to one seagull and soon the whole flock is swarming.

If you manage to resist the mouth-watering desserts offered in the Mercado (a serious testament to your self-control), you can walk across the street to CH&CH Chocolate & Churros (Calle Mayor, 54 in Barrio Palacio) for a sweet bite.

CH&CH Menu

CH&CH serves up fabulous cappuccinos and Spanish fried pastries (known as churros). Personally, I prefer Mexican/Cuban churros, which are topped with cinnamon and sugar (too much time in Miami), but this place served up some delicious fried-to-order churros that came with an incredible thick and rich chocolate dipping sauce. Ohh and just a heads up, the dipping sauce comes in a mug so you might mistake it as hot drinking chocolate, but don’t drink it unless you want the belly-ache of all belly-aches (I speak from experience). You will also be all sorts of hyped up, like the episode of Friends where Ross drinks all of the maple syrup.

Frothy Cappuccino

Freshly Made Churros with Chocolate DIpping Sauce

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Honey ****

Spring Chicken Flatbread with Asparagus, Melted Leeks, Preserved Lemon, Goat Cheese, Fresh Mozzarella, and Black Truffle Oil

215.489.4200
42 Shewell Avenue
Doylestown, Pa 18901

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To say that fine dining options are fairly limited in Doylesytown, Pennsylvania–my hometown consisting of about 9,000 people–is an understatement. And as I routinely complain in my blog, the only fine dining is Italian food, so you’re shit-out-of-luck if you aren’t in the mood for pasta. When my parents told me to pick a restaurant to celebrate my 22nd birthday this week, I found myself completely stumped on places to go. In fact, I ended up just eating at home to avoid the inevitable restaurant disappointment! But my parents didn’t think that the backyard BBQ was celebratory enough, so they surprised me and took me to Honey restaurant the following night.Although Honey isn’t new to Doylestown, it is new to me. Obviously, I wasn’t been able to keep up with the food scene in Philly while at school in Miami, and when I was home on holidays and breaks, I was too busy eating my mom’s cooking to get out to restaurants.

Honey is a modern and trendy little spot located right off of main street in Doylestown. It’s actually so elegant and chic that I completely forgot I was in Doylestown once inside (which was nice!). We got started with some drinks from their eclectic and creative cocktail menu, including their Black Cherry Mojito ($13) and the Alma Calma ($12). The mojito was made with Black Seal Dark Rum, Spiced Cherry Puree, Mint, Lime, and Wishniak Cherry Soda. I was nervous about ordering a mojito in hickville Pennslyvania after spending the past four years living in Miami (the mojito capital), but I was very pleasantly surprised after trying the drink, which even included a nice stick of raw sugarcane in the glass. The Alma Calma includes Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whiskey, Ginger Infused Brandy, Fresh Lime, and Elderflower Essence…also delicious!

Before we even placed our order, the server brought out a complementary Tuna Melt Bite for everyone at the table, as a “gift” from the kitchen. It was Tuna, Melted Manchego Cheese, Kalamata Olives, and Cherry Tomato backed on top of a Petite Toast. I would have ordered this delicious sampler as a meal if I could of but sadly, it wasn’t on the menu. This salty started certainly got my appetite going though!

Complimentary Tuna Melt with Manchego Cheese, Kalamata Olives, and Cherry Tomato

Next the server brought out some Popcorn with 15 Spices as a snack while we waited for our food. 15 spices sounds very flavorful, but I was unimpressed by the popcorn and oddly, thought it was bland (especially for having 15 spices!!)

Popcorn with 15 Spices

Since Honey is a tapas styled restaurant featuring small plates, my family and I decided to order 3 different dishes and share them equally. We started with an order of Fried Catfish served with Remoulada Sauce and Crab Meat Succotash ($18). The Succotash was ridiculously good (as well as abundant) and I loved the spicy remoulada sauce on the fried fish. The fish was a nice portion with two large pieces on the plate, and it was cooked to perfection.

Fried Catfish with Remoulada Sauce and Crab Meat and Corn Succotash

Next came the order of Spring Chicken Flatbread with Smoked Amish Chicken, Asparagus, Melted Leeks, Preserved Lemon, Goat Cheese, Fresh Mozzarella and Black Truffle Oil ($14 – photographed at top). It was more like a pizza than a flatbread in my opinion, because the crust was pretty doughy and thick, however, it was tasty. I just don’t think that I would order it again though since the other two dishes were more inspired and delicious. Also, I don’t think that the flavors of the truffle oil came through in the dish, which was a little disappointing.

The last plate to come out was the Tuna Ceviche made with Sushi Grade Yellowfin Tuna, Breakfast Radish, Ruby Grapefruit, Cashews, and Chilled Green Tea Noodles ($18). I really liked the combination of the acidic grapefruit with the tuna, and thought that the green tea noodles were a very fun accompaniment to the dish.  They had a nice soy flavor and the cashews added a great little crunch to each bite! This is something I would order again, but I didn’t think that portion size qualified an $18 price tag, which was my only complaint with the restaurant.

Tuna Ceviche with Ruby Grapefruit, Cashews, Radish, and Chilled Green Tea Noodles

Overall, I thought that the food was very good, but that there wasn’t any dish in particular that I would specifically crave again–besides the Tuna Melt Starter perhaps! My parents did warn me that the best thing that they have tried on the menu was the Black Tea Glazed Spare Ribs with Pine Nuts, Toasted Sesame, and Spicy Ginger Ice Cream (yes, ice cream and pork….together!), but we didn’t order it because they wanted to try some new things. I regret not ordering this dish, because had I liked it as much as they do, it would have been a dish that would call me back in the future. I mean how many places do you know serving meat and ice cream in one dish?! It is a very unique and specific menu item like this that keeps a crowd returning because they can’t satisfy their craving elsewhere. Tonight, I didn’t have anything that was extraordinary or unavailable elsewhere…so I suggest ordering the most unique menu items here rather than playing it safe like we did!

Black Tea Glazed Spare Ribs with Spicy Ginger Ice Cream – Taken from Honey Facebook Site

This being said, I must now say that I have never EVER had better restaurant service in my life. The service and the atmosphere at Honey was absolutely impeccable from beginning to end. Our server knew the menu by heart and was able to talk about the food at length, and he was just a genuinely nice guy. Although I only gave Honey 4 stars for food, the service gets at least 15 stars!!

The Front of Honey Restaurant – Taken from Honey Facebook Site

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Gigi ****

Steak Chow Fun with Mushrooms and Eggplant Served Over Thick Egg Noodles

305.573.1520
3470 North Miami Ave
Miami, Fl 33127

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When I go to a restaurant for the first time, I usually disclose the fact that I have a food blog and then ask the waiter what the top three menu items are, based on both their personal opinion and customer popularity. I do this for a few reasons; (1) I am hoping that they will try to “buy” a good review from me in exchange for some samples of free food and preferential service (but don’t worry, I am completely honest in my reviews and won’t be bought by a free appetizer!), (2) I really do like to try the signature dishes that a place is best known for, and (3) it narrows down the menu substantially and takes the guess work out of ordering!

When I arrived at Gigi in Midtown for the first time, I went through my usual routine and was happy and surprised to find that the waiter was equally as obsessed with food as I was (keep in mind that this is very unusual). I asked for some suggestions and he lit up, listing off his personal favorites and customer’s top picks. The limited menu is divided into sections labeled: basics, buns, raw, noodles, snacks, and rice bowls (the place is clearly Pan-Asian and Pacific Rim cuisine!).

To start, he recommended the Tuna Roll from the raw menu, which was similar to sushi (minus the rice) with Tuna, Avocado, Cucumber, and Citrus. The ingredients seem so simple, but the flavors are very full and clean. The citrus compliments the tuna, and the thin cucumber casing adds a nice crunch to the soft texture of the tuna and avocado.

Raw Tuna Roll with Avocado, Cucumber, and Citrus

Next we got an order of the Grilled Butternut Squash off the snack menu, served with yogurt sauce, spicy vinegar, and scallions. The squash was cooked to perfect with a nice black char from the grill on the edges, yet it was still super sweet. The yogurt sauce was nice and light, so it complimented the dish without over powering it. After polishing off our first round of squash, we went ahead and ordered a second….yes, it is that good!

Grilled Butternut Squash served with yogurt sauce, spicy vinegar, and scallions

We also placed an order for the Grilled Sweet Potato, served with Shiso hollandaise sauce, citrus, and scallions. This dish—also off the snack menu—looked very similar to the butternut squash, but it wasn’t nearly as good! Everyone’s forks attacked the butternut squash until it was gone, and then we slowly picked at the sweet potato….until the second order of squash arrived, of course! There was nothing wrong with the potatoes; they just looked too similar to the better tasting squash dish.

Grilled Sweet Potato, served with Shiso hollandaise sauce, citrus, and scallions

Next the waiter surprised us and brought out an order of Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower for the table to sample. The vegetables were roasted and then tossed with fresh bacon and soy. The reason that I didn’t order them myself, is because I knew that I would compare them to the brussel sprouts served at Sugarcane, which are out of this freaking world! After trying Sugarcane’s version of brussel sprouts, I can no longer enjoy them prepared any other way, and even though the waiter tried to convert me to Gigis, they still didn’t hold a candle to Sugarcanes. They were tasty, but Sugarcane’s are simply incredible. Success on getting some free food though, right?!?

Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower with Bacon and Soy

For my main dish, I ordered the Steak Chow Fun, which is sliced steak, mushroom, and eggplant, served over thick egg noodles (photographed at top of blog). I was a little surprised by the density and size of the noodles, which were like Italian paparedelle noodles. Most Asian noodles are very thin and delicate, and so this was unusual for me, but the dish was absolutely incredible! The meat was cooked just to my liking; it was very juicy and tender. The sauce that everything was tossed in had a great garlic-soy flavor, and it had the rich consistency of an eel sauce so it adhered nicely to the pasta. The mushrooms were little bites of heaven, it was like finding gold whenever I came across one with my chopsticks!

And finally, just when I thought the meal was over, the waiter brought out a miniature soft ice cream cone for everyone at the table (more free food, yay!) And of course, once the sweetness hit my lips, I wanted more. So, I walked myself over to the bar area and ordered up some cookies: Peanut Butter Chunk and Classic Chocolate Chip. These cookies are enormous and only $2!!!! It’s one of the best food deals that I have seen yet, especially since the cookies are amazingly delicious! I rarely want more than a couple bites of a cookie and I had no problem devouring the entire peanut butter monstrosity. I think my friend’s face captures just how delicious they were!

Miniature Soft-Serve Ice Cream Cones

Peanut Butter Cookie

The Amazingness of the Gigi Chocolate Chip Cookie

Overall, Gigi is an amazing place to grab a bite at any time, and especially late night. They are revolutionizing and redefining drunk-eating by staying open till 5 am on Friday and Saturday nights, and 3 am on week nights. I love everything about this place, and make sure you save room for one of the cookies!!

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Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill *****

Strawberry Balsamic Cocktail with Vodka and Lime Juice (Right)  and Fresh Mojito (Left)

786.369.0353
3250 NE 1st Ave
Miami, Fl 33137

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Be careful what you wish for. It’s an age-old phrase that we have all heard a million times, myself included. All throughout my childhood, in fact, my mom was uttering these words to me. Warning me that one day, I just might get what I asked for and it might not turn out quite the way I had expected. However, being young and arrogantly confident (aka nieve and ignorant), I would dismiss my mothers advice with a roll of the eyes and shrug of the shoulders, telling myself that there was no way I would ever wake up a millionaire or regret it if I did become so lucky, for that matter! But tonight, 15 years later, I have finally come to heed my mother’s word of advice. Unfortunately though, I had to learn my lesson the hard way…through personal experience.

Now I assume that you are starting to wonder what it is that I wished for, and for those of you who routinely follow my blog (if you are one of these people, I thank you!) then you know what I wished for because I asked for it in one of my most recent posts. Scroll on down, if you please, and you will read:

“The more time I spend in Colombia, the more I fall in love with the country, the people, the food, and the way of life. Colombians aren’t chatting via their blackberrys, I-phones, facebooks, twitters, or any of the other million ways Americans have found to talk without being in each other’s physical company. Instead, they are gathering at cafes, neighbor’s houses, street corners, tiendas, and parks to enjoy the simple aspects of life that American’s so frequently overlook.”

I envied Colombian lifestyle and repeatedly told my friends and family, how I wished that I could live so disconnected from technology, without my facebook and blackberry. Now, of course a magic genie didn’t appear and grant me my wish this evening, but a hoodlum robber from Coconut Grove did!

This guy stole my phone, my I-pod, my wallet, my ID’s and credit cards, my car keys, my house keys, my textbooks, my entire 21st century life essentially. This weekend, I lived like a Colombian and learned the hard way that what works in Colombia, doesn’t really work in America. You can’t do anything without technology here.

To comfort myself during this time of loss and anger, I resorted to my usual coping mechanism….FOOD! I cooked a lot in my apartment and also found friends to dine out with. Last night I had the chance to get to Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Midtown, which I have wanted to try for quite some time now. It is a rawbar and tapas style restaurant, with everything from sushi and crudos, to desserts and specialty mojitos. This is a great place if you are going out with a large group of people, because everyone can try a bite of each thing, but caution: little plates do start to add up expense wise.

My first order of business upon arriving at Sugarcane, was getting a large alcohol beverage into my system. I certainly deserved it after my rough weekend!! I ordered the Basil Quencher, which had muddled Kiwi, crushed basil leaves, rum, and sugar. It came over ice in a tall glass and was a refreshing and unique spin on a traditional mojito. I enjoyed the pulp from the fresh kiwi and clean flavor of the basil, but I did prefer my second cocktail choice more, which was the Strawberry Balsamic with Vodka, muddled fresh strawberries, aged balsamic vinegar, and fresh lime juice. This was probably the second my delicious drink that I have ever tasted, right behind the Chili Passion Martini from The Setai Hotel in South Beach. The balsamic vinegar was aged to a perfect sweetness and it complimented the strawberry beautifully. Again, the pulp from the fresh fruit added a nice texture to the drink, and the lime juice was just the right amount of citrus tang to round out the flavors.

Basil Quencher with Muddled Kiwi, Fresh Basil Leaves, Rum, and Sugar

As far as food goes, we ordered a bunch of small plates to share, starting with the Goat Cheese Croquettes served atop a drizzle of Membrillo Marmalade. Given my love for anything goat cheese, I expected to enjoy these, but I didn’t think that they would be anything special since they are just fried balls of cheese. I was wrong though, because the membrillo marmalade added a really interesting a sweet flavor to the dish that took it from basic to inventive and unique.

Goat Cheese Croquettes with Membrillo Marmalade

Next we ordered the Kobe Beef Sliders with Tonkatsu and Fried Quail Egg. I love kobe beef and sliders, but I had no idea what tonkatsu was and I was a little scared of the quail egg, which I have never tried before. I see them in the supermarket sometimes and they freak me out, so I was apprehensive, but this little slider packed a ton of mouth-watering flavor and the quail egg was a perfect addition. I sank my teeth into this burger, allowing that delicate yolk to break and dribble right down my chin. It was divine and the tonkatsu (which I assume to be the sauce) was incredible and had a slightly peppery and spicy flavor. I asked for an extra side, which I proceeded to dunk my slider in with each bite!

Kobe Beef Sliders with Tonkatsu and Quail Egg

Next to arrive at the table was the Tuna Crudo Special with Black Sesame Oil, Marinated Mushroom, and Garlic Chip. The waitress highly recommended this dish, but I was rather unimpressed. I didn’t feel like it had enough flavor, unless you got a bite with the garlic chip, which were far and few between. The mushroom and herb garnish didn’t really enhance the flavor of the dish, although they helped with presentation. I regretted not going with my gut instinct and ordering the tuna tartar, but you can’t always win!

Tuna Crudo Special with Black Sesame Oil, Mushroom, and Garlic Chip

The last small plate we shared was the Korean Style Beef Short Ribs, which were really good. The plate came with six ribs total, but they were very small. I wasn’t really wowed by them, but the sauce they were in was tasty. Unfortunately, we got stuck ordering these primarily because they sold out of the Brussels Sprouts infused with Orange and Soy. I have heard that these are one of the best items on the menu, and a must try. I figure that they must be pretty incredible since they were sold out!

Korean Style Short Ribs

My favorite part of the meal though was hands down dessert! We ordered two different ones to share, including the Ricotta Cheesecake with Pink Peppercorn Nougat as well as the Torreja with Maple Carmel Apples and Cinnamon Ice Cream. The torreja, which is almost like a french toast, was by far the best. It was hot, soft, and gooey in the center yet crispy and well-done (but not burnt!) on the edges. The cinnamon ice cream was served with piecrust crumble all around it, and the maple carmel apple slices were just divine. The ricotta cheesecake was also very good, but I am Italian and like my mom’s traditional version better. This one was served with a carmelized sugar top, almost like a crème brulee, accompanied by vanilla ice cream and piecrust crumbles. The cake was very rich and creamy, but again, I prefer my mom’s homemade citrus version better.

Ricotta Cheese Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Pie Crust Crumbles

Torreja with Maple Carmel Apple and Cinnamon Ice Cream with Piecrust Crumbles

Overall, fabulous meal and I will definitely be going back. I could go back just for the strawberry balsamic drink and torrejas alone! Great place, and reasonably priced. They don’t use a lot of ingredients on each plate, but the food has a lot of unique flavor (with the exception of the tuna crudo special tonight). Also, don’t be afraid or overwhelmed by some of the culinary terms that they use. It sounds fancy, but in most cases it is just another way of saying sauce or garnish! Go to Sugarcane!!

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