Tag Archives: South American

Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill *****

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

3250 NE 1st Ave
Miami, Fl 33137


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!!


Filed under Miami Restaurants

Arepas, Arepas, y Mas Arepas…con Carne, con Pollo, con Queso, y Huevoss

Arepa with Steak and Avocado

It’s a good thing that I came off of my no-carb diet for this vacation, because the staple of almost every Colombian meal is a flattened corn cake known as an arepa (definitely not allowed on the diet!). Prior to going on this trip, I knew that arepas were popular in Colombia, but I now realize that they account for about 50% of all meals. Seriously, if you’re being served a plate of food in Colombia, chances are that there is an arepa hiding somewhere on your plate. It could be hiding under your eggs, or buried under your meat, but it’s there…trust me!

I haven’t been in Colombia for more than 12 hours now, and I have already consumed more than three different varieties of these delicious corn cakes. I had my first one last night with Carne Machada (shredded beef), after a long night at the “Chupteria” (aka shot bar…I don’t know why these don’t exist in America!). And I must admit that guys sport the mullet hairstyle here as abundantly as arepas appear in the Colombian diet. I could not get over the number of rat-tails that I saw when I looked around the bar last night. I felt like I was trapped in a horrible 80’s film or something. And it wasn’t even a traditional mullet, it was more like a sea-horse hairstyle, where the hair gradually gets longer as it nears the center of the skull and the nape of the neck. I don’t know if this was their attempt at bringing the mullet into the 21st century or what, but it was still God awful. In fact, I would have almost preferred the traditional mullet, as like a vintage homage to the 80’s.

Anyways, let me end this tangent and get back to the food. My first arepa was actually disappointing, granted it was from a really budget-looking food window and only cost like $2 American dollars. It was far too overcooked and kind of charred on the bottom. The meat was the polar opposite of tender, in fact it had the stiff and sharp texture of hay. But did this stop me from drowning that bad boy in hot sauce and scarfing down the whole thing?

Most certainly not! Nothing a little hot sauce can’t remedy!

My second arepa was for breakfast this following morning at the hotel (pictured above), and that redeemed my experience from last night. It was fresh, tender, and delicious. Again, I ordered beef (this time skirt steak), and also avocado. The beef was seasoned just right and the avocado added a delicious creamy texture that mimicked cheese. The highlight of my breakfast though was my coffee and my Coconut Lemonade Smoothie. The coffee was divine, served with steamed milk and chocolate shavings. And the Coconut Lemonade was out of this world. It reminded me of a Pina Colada without the overbearing sweetness, and a lemonade without the mouth-puckering tartness. In fact, I want to start using Bacardi Limon in my Pina Coladas, because I think that will imitate the flavor of this drink. Incredible.

Coconut Lemonade Smoothie

Coffee with Steamed Milk and Chocolate Shavings

Also very good were the Fried Plantain Chips with Avocado Crème Fraise, which came out as a starter to the meal. They were not too oily and the dipping sauce was a perfect compliment to the salty flavor of the chip.

Plantain Chips with Avocado Creme Fraise


My third arepa, and so far the best of the entire trip, was enjoyed once we got to my friend’s Uncle’s house in the mountains. It was served with shredded chicken, stewed tomatoes, onions, and salsa picante. Unfortunately, I ate this one so fast that I forgot to even take a photo, but the reality is that no photo would have even done it justice. All of the food during our stay at the ranch this weekend (formerly owned by Pablo Escobar….how cool?), is being cooked Colombian natives named Marta y Maria. I only wish I could whip up the kind of things that they have been putting out for us to eat.

For those of you looking to get a delicious arepa in Miami, I suggest going over to European Corner in Sunset Place. Although it is a Venezuelan restaurant/market (don’t ask me why it’s called European Corner, when Venezuela is in South America…still beats me), they serve incredible arepas that I actually prefer over Colombian ones. My favorite is the Arepa con Carne Machada. They stew their meat until it is perfectly tender, and the flavor is ridiculous. The arepa itself is also delicious, and it’s never burnt! I usually get two because they are small, and make sure that you try some of the hot sauce (or creamy sauce, if spice isn’t your thing) because it adds another layer of flavor to the dish. To start, I recommend the Taquenos, which is queso blanco wrapped in bread dough and fried. They are perfect as an appetizer or even snack to go. And you must—I repeat, MUST—try the Passion Fruit Juice (parchita). It is the most delicious juice that I have ever tasted and I literally go out of my way to get it here at least 4 times a week.

The only downside to European Corner is that you need to be proficient in Spanish to avoid the “Gringo Tax” and ensure that you get what you want. Abuelito (the elderly man that owns the place) doesn’t exactly speak the best English and he will tack on a fee to your bill if you make him. I paid my dues all last year, and now I try to speak Spanish as best I can with him. I like to think I’m getting better because he now lights up with a smile and calls me “mi nina” when I walk into the store. Of course, the reality is that he is probably just happy because he knows I’m a “Gringa gorda” that will spend about $20 on my extravagant breakfast/lunch there. But hey, at least I pay what the Venezuelan’s pay now!


Leave a comment

Filed under International Restaurants, Markets, Miami Restaurants

Patagonia ****

Assorted Empanadas at Patagonia

260 Crandon Blvd
Key Biscayne, Fl 33149
(Other Locations Available)


Today I ran my first 5 k. It’s been on my bucket list for a couple of years now, and tonight I got to cross it off…go me! I must confess that it wasn’t actually as difficult as I thought it was going to be, but I sure was scared as hell when my roommate and I first pulled into the parking lot where the race was to begin. We pull up and notice that there are people who have literally run to the race, instead of driving to it. They have showed up to the 5 k and it looks like they have already run a 10 k. They are at the registration stand huffing and puffing and all red in the face, and they haven’t even received their number tag yet. God damn over achievers. Then as my roommate and I are registering, we are surrounded by those token die-hard athletes who are stretching in crazy Yoga-like positions and psyching themselves up for the run. I just kept thinking 5 k only means 3 miles right? I mean these people just looked too serious for whatever I was about to do; we were clearly not the same caliber of athlete.

At this point I am attempting to pin my little number paper to the front of my shirt (aka sticking myself in the belly with the pin several times), when I hear a horn go off and notice about 200 people running towards me. I turn to Ariana and we agree that yes, the race has started without us and we need to move before we are stampeded. We are told that we have to start at the beginning of the line and so we start running towards the runners who are running towards us. They must have thought we missed the memo or something. We are the last people to start the race, but we pass about half of the runners before the first mile. We finished the race in under 30 min and as soon as I crossed the finish line I turned to Ariana and said, “Foooooood….I want an empanada!”

So we headed back to the car (I felt so bad for all the people who ran here and now had to run home) and we drove to Patagonia, which is a little Argentinean café slash market. Bottom line is that it has the best empanadas that I have ever tasted. I ordered my three favorites; The Chorizo, The Spicy Beef, and the Capresealong with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. The reason that I love these empanadas so much is because of the pastry dough that they wrap the meat in. It is so buttery and flaky, and a beautiful shade of golden brown. The spicy beef is my favorite, but spice haters beware, because it is actually spicy. Ariana thought it was too spicy and gave me hers (jackpot!) but she loved the chorizo one (unfortunately for her, I didn’t reciprocate and give her one of my empanadas, I took the spicy one as a gift!). It was an incredible meal to celebrate our accomplishment…wejust sat there outside all sweaty and limp, chowing down our South American breakfast together at 8 am—perfect way to start a day!

***Note: The 4 star rating applies to the empanadas only. I ahve tried some of the other entree-type foods here such as the Chicken Milanesa and the Skirt Steak with Chimichurri, but I would rate those as very basic and average…probably about 3 stars.


Leave a comment

Filed under Miami Restaurants

Talavera ****

Grilled Chicken Huarache

2299 Ponce De Leon Blvd
Coral Gables, Fl 33133


I woke up this morning…starving, as usual! And I am a ticking time bomb when once I’m up. Anyone and everyone knows that there is about a one hour grace period after my eyes open for me to eat before I start “fee-fi-fo-fumming,” as my boyfriend calls it. When my sugar levels get low, NO ONE is happy. So when I woke up with my belly literally burning in hunger pains, you can imagine how anxious I was to get out of the house for some lunch. I threw my hair back into a ponytail and put on a more acceptable pair of pajama pants to wear in public and headed out with my boyfriend to get some eats. We drove to the Miracle Mile area in Coral Gables, intending to go to the Coral Gables Diner. But I’m from the Northeast, where diner is synonymous with cheap and after glancing at the menu I quickly realized that this was no diner by my standards. They had lunch salads for $17!!! (Prime 112 has entrée salads for less than that!) Although my boyfriend assured me that he didn’t mind the price, it just went against my notion of all that diners stood for and I couldn’t do it. So we walked down the street a little further until we came upon a Vietnamese place. I now had about 30 minutes till “fee-fi-fo-fumm” and so I decided I could eat a Bun, but my boyfriend wanted a more filling lunch and so our walk down the street continued. We stopped to look at all the menus posted outside of the restaurants (on both sides of the street) and finally decided on a Mexican restaurant at the end named Talavera (15 minutes till “fee-fi-fo-fum”). Talavera has the same owner as Jaguar in the grove, but Talavera is Mexican while Jaguar focuses on ceviche. However, there are many similarities on the menu and the atmospheres of the two restaurants resemble one another.

To start, they brought out a basket of tortilla chips and 2 different homemade salsas—one tomato sauce and one salsa verde. The waiter told us to be careful because the salsa verde was muy picante, but being the spice lover that I am, I dismissed his warning and without caution and piled that green stuff onto my chip. Well…he should have said muy, muy picante because this sauce packed some serious heat. I found its mouth numbing quality addictive though, and by the time we finished the basket of chips I had probably downed about 3 to 4 glasses of agua.

For lunch I ordered the Grilled Chicken Huarache, which I was very apprehensive about since it was my first time having a Huarache dish. I couldn’t understand how it would be served based on the menu’s description but for those of you who don’t know either, it is a piece of meat (in my case chicken) on top of an oval shaped corn massa with layers of black bean puree, salsa verde, lettuce, and crumbles of goat cheese. The corn massa is not crunchy like a corn chip, but rather firm and about a ¼ thick. This dish was delicious and I ate everything! The flavos of the black beans with the salsa verde and the delicate corn massa—yumm it all worked together perfectly! My boyfriend ordered the Quesadilla La Marquesa, which were large corn tortillas filled wit Oaxaca cheese, chicken, poblano chiles, fresh corn, zucchini and epazote, served with guacamole. Although the flavors were very good, the quesadillas were untraditional and served deep-fried. The shape of the 3 quesadillas resembled Venezuelan empanadas, if you have ever seen one. I thought they were very greasy and did not like them because of that, but my boyfriend loved them.

Overall, I thought that Talavera was excellent and agreat value. Both of our dishes were only $12 each, and the portions were not your typical stingy lunch portions. I was so satisfied and would definitely go back again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Miami Restaurants