Florida Dining: Versailles

May 10, 2013

Versailles Restaurant
3555 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33135
(305) 444-0240

Web Site: http://www.versaillesrestaurant.com

Full-size photo gallery available on Flickr

If there’s one iconic Cuban restaurant in Miami, and if you ask anyone where the center of activity is for food on Calle Ocho past 9PM, then that place is Versailles.

Like the French palace from which it gets its name, Versailles is a HUGE restaurant. On weekends and in prime dining hours the place gets absolutely packed with people, including large number of out of towners looking for authentic Cuban food.

This is where Cuban food gets real in Miami. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Florida Dining: El Rey De Las Fritas

May 8, 2013

El Rey De Las Fritas
Multiple locations in Miami

Web Site (Google+)

Twitter: @reydelasfritas

El Rey De Las Fritas has been a Miami favorite of mine ever since I started this blog back in early 2006. The Cuban-style  family owned and operated burger micro-chain (they have 4 locations in the Miami-area) has recently been profiled on George Motz’s Burger Land on the Travel Channel, and business has been a boomin’.

I recently visited the Calle Ocho location, and brought along my iPhone 5 to take some new photos. Here’s a consolidation of all my visits since 2006. Enjoy.

Miami Calle Ocho Storefront, late at night.

Calle Ocho dining room

The Bird Street location of El Rey De Las Fritas. Note that it has a walk up window, where you can get all kinds of empanadas and croquetas, plus cortaditos and cafecitos, Cuban coffee. Forget Starbucks when you are in Little Havana!

Prepare for burgers, Cuban-style. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Florida Dining: Yardbird

March 16, 2013

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
1600 Lenox Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida

Web Site: http://runchickenrun.com

Since moving to South Florida in July of 2012, I haven’t really done much with investigating the local fine dining scene. My food blogging activities have been more or less curtailed by my new job, and also by focusing more on technology writing.

But now that things have become a bit less crazy, I’m easing myself back into the food blogger seat again.

There was no better opportunity to do this than with a recent business lunch I had with two like-minded foodie colleagues, who suggested we meet at Yardbird, a modern Southern restaurant in South Beach.

Yardbird, which was a 2012 James Beard Award Semi-Finalist for Best New Restaurant, and was named one of the 50 Best New Restaurants in 2012 at Bon Appetit Magazine, is definitely a destination for anyone looking to indulge in updated, classic Southern American fare.

I would compare Yardbird favorably to places like the very excellent JCT Kitchen in Atlanta, as well as any number of well-known “New South” type places in New Orleans, such as Luke.

The main dining room at Yardbird is bright and warm, mixing southern hospitality with Miami chic.

It’s time to head to South Beach for the winter. Be sure to check out Yardbird. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Broward County Dining: Bagels & Whole Lot More

August 1, 2012

Bagels & Whole Lot More
10281 West Sample Road, Coral Springs FL 33065

Web Site:  http://www.bagelsandawholelotmore.com

If you’ve been watching my Twitter feed, you probably know by now that Rachel and I have arrived in the Sunshine State.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks — not just because we decided to move to our new home during the brutal South Florida summer heat and humidity, but also because a number of logistical issues have prevented us from unpacking most of our belongings. We’ve been sleeping on a mattress on a floor in our family room and our bedrooms are currently being tiled. And all our new bedroom furniture is on order.

I have only one of my computers working, which is propped up precariously on a folding table in the living room. And my Mac with my photo editing suite isn’t unpacked yet, so I’ve been doing all my food photography with Instagram on my Android phone.

This and a pending swimming pool construction project is enough to drive you completely crazy. We’re roughing it, and we’re doing the best we can. At least I have my new Weber Genesis S-330 LP gas grill set up and running on the patio and we have cable TV and Internet.

And oh yeah, the air conditioning is working flawlessly.

Priorities, you know.

Speaking of priorities, I have already begun the task of seeking out the things that are essential to the survival of a native New York/New Jersey expatriate: Decent Asian food, Pizza… and Bagels.

Now, there’s no lack of bagels in South Florida. In fact, there’s probably a bagel store a five minute drive (or less) from everywhere in the town where we’ve settled, Coral Springs.

Coral Springs is a huge sprawling town of over 120,000 people. If I were to compare it to a town in New Jersey, I’d say it was demographically similar to Paramus, but it’s laid out in a grid form, with six times the population, with all of the commercial and residential zoning laid out in distinct squares, and none of the two mix.

It’s like someone who was a fan of the original SimCity computer game decided to apply its simplistic urban planning methodology to reality, and stuff it full of strip malls and gated communities and landscape it with palm trees and lush tropical plants.

I’m not complaining, I love my new environs. But clearly Toto, we’re not in Jersey anymore.

Anyway, back to the bagels. There’s lots of bagels to be found, but none of them are legit. The problem with South Florida bagels is that because of the huge elderly and retiree population, they’ve been adapted to local tastes. That means making them softer in consistency. To do that, virtually every bagel store steams rather than boils the bagels before baking them. This makes the resulting product more like a roll than a bagel.

Others have attributed the problem to the quality and mineral content of NYC water versus Florida water. I say horseshit. It’s all in the boiling and traditional preparation methods, especially once you put in a good water filter system. The difference in mineral content is going to slightly change the “terroir” of the bagel, but it will still end up a legit bagel.

After doing a bit of research, I have found a legit bagel bakery in Coral Springs. It’s called Bagels & Whole Lot More, and it’s only a few months old. The owner is from New York, has imported his bagel making equipment from Long Island and filters his water with a reverse osmosis system. And he’s doing everything the right way.

Bagels & Whole Lot More in Coral Springs, FL. 

Ready for real New York-style bagels in South Florida? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry link below” for more.

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An Iced Coffee Primer

August 1, 2012

Here’s a classic OTB post that I thought you would all enjoy — Jason

The summer, now entering  full swing, brings us into the seasonal consumption of cold caffeinated beverages.

have recently been asked about the proper method for making Iced Coffee, as with the current economy being what it is, people now have the desire to drink and make Megabucks-style iced coffee creations in their own homes and workplaces, rather than spend $2.60-$3 per 16 ounce glass in a store surrounded by trendy jackasses using Macbooks and sipping their green tea lattes.

There are a number of ways you can produce very good iced coffee in your very own home, some involving Scientological devices such as “Cold brewing” requiring 8-hour preparation methods, snobbish apparatus such as “Toddys” as well as diluting espresso shots with iced water in order to produce “Iced Americanos’ and the like.

To this, I say, phooey.

Iced Coffee Tutorial by you.

To make really good iced coffee, you will need an inexpensive can of Latino-style “Espresso Coffee” such as Cafe Bustelo, El Pico or Pilon, or an inexpensive Italian-style brand such as Medaglio d’Oro (these are all made by the same company, Rowland Coffee Roasters out of Miami).

These all go for about $2.50-$3.50 for a 10 ounce can or $2.50 for a 10oz brick. If these brands are unavailable in your area, try either Community Coffee Dark Roast (With or without Chicory, this depends on your taste) or Cafe du Monde.

coffee-latino by you.

Latino-Style Espresso Coffees. Cafe Bustelo, Pilon, and El Pico are all  made by Rowland Coffee Roasters in Miami, Florida.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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New Jersey: So long, but not goodbye.

June 11, 2012

Some of you may or may not already be aware that Rachel and I have sold our home here in Bergen County. We are closing at the end of the month and are moving to South Florida.

This is a bit of a bittersweet ending since moving from New York State to New Jersey in 1992 and calling the greater NYC metro area home for over 40 years.

My job will not change — I’ll still be doing a lot of travel for my primary employer and will continue my computer industry writing at ZDNet.

While I am sure it will bring me back to the area fairly often, it will no longer be possible for me to continue my food and restaurant coverage in Northern New Jersey on a reliable basis.

I’m going to continue food writing on the site, but it will have a Florida focus on the restaurant side and more emphasis on the cooking (outdoor grilling, etc.) and the other restaurant coverage will be travel-related depending on where I go.

However, I have no intention of leaving New Jersey in the lurch. You’ve probably already noticed that there has been a significant amount of new restaurant coverage being supplied by Melody Kettle and her writers from the Montclair-based Hot From the Kettle blog.

Melody and I are now the best of friends and I can assure you that she will be covering all the major centers of Northern New Jersey restaurant activity on Off The Broiler, including Bergen, Morris, Passaic and Essex counties.  She has an incredible passion for food and an unbridled amount of energy, and I know she will do a fine job.

What I hope to accomplish is to allow OTB to have a mix of New Jersey and Florida coverage. Many people who live in New Jersey travel to Florida frequently, live there part time or are even considering moving there permanently, so I think it will be a good mix.

There are other changes which I am planning for the blog later in the year which will greatly increase the scope of what we do, and I will keep you updated as they occur.

To everyone who has been following me here since February 2006 — and to all the New Jersey restaurants that have enriched my life (and my stomach) for the past five and half years, I bid you so long, but not goodbye.

And to South Florida: Prepare for a wild ride.

Florida Dining: Verdea

January 4, 2011

4530 PGA Boulevard (In Embassy Suites Hotel)
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Web Site: http://www.verdearestaurant.com

The Embassy Suites Hotel in the commercial district of Palm Beach Gardens is not where you’d expect to find a high-end, destination dining experience in Palm Beach County — you’d expect this sort of restaurant near Royal Palm Way or Worth Avenue on Palm Beach Island, South Florida’s equivalent to Rodeo Drive and where Florida’s wealthiest citizens and visitors still strut their stuff and buy Gucci bags and Patek Philippe watches on their Amex Centurion cards.

Nevertheless, there it is. Verdea, which is owned and managed by the Remington Hotels Group which manages and operates dozens of luxury hotels across the country, has opened to little fanfare in early December of 2010 in a space that used to be the hotel’s nightclub.

The restaurant, which serves New American cuisine with Mediterranean flavors with a seasonal, focused menu and sources much of its produce from Florida, has brought in the talents of Chef James King, a veteran of the Remington group’s various hotel restaurants including the One Ocean Resort in Jacksonville, and who earned his toque locally as a sous chef at the famous Breakers Hotel and then banquet chef at the Four Seasons resort in Palm Beach.  Later, he went on to participate in the opening of the hotel restaurant Quattro at the Four Seasons Silcon Valley, where he was exposed to California-style Mediterranean/Italian cuisine.

I got a chance to dine at Verdea while visiting family in Florida during the 2010 holiday season, only two weeks after its opening. I was skeptical that such a high-end, locavore-oriented, “Farm to Table” restaurant would open in such a medium-range business hotel, which would normally be reserved for a more upscale property such as a flagship Hilton or a resort hotel, but I was glad to have been proven wrong.

Unfortunately my photos in this post don’t live up to my usual standards as I was carrying my point and shoot G7 and not my DSLR. The restaurant also has very muted mood lighting and so it made for a challenging environment to photograph. However, I can assure you, the place is absolutely stunning looking inside, and the plating is gorgeous and the food is fantastic. I can’t wait to return here with my 50mm f1.4 and the 50D.

Verdea is surely destined to become one of Palm Beach County’s premier destination restaurants. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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NJ Dining: Cheeburger Cheeburger

January 2, 2011

Cheeburger Cheeburger
49 Route 17 South, East Rutherford NJ

Web Site: http://www.cheeburger.com

It seems that during the last months of 2010, when it came to restaurant openings in Northern New Jersey, it was all about the upscale hamburger chains — Elevation Burger in Montclair, Bobby’s Burger Palace, multiple locations of Smashburger, Zinburger in Clifton, and now Cheeburger Cheeburger, a 50’s-style hamburger chain that originated on the Gulf Coast of Florida, on Sanibel Island.

Cheeburger Cheeburger is now a pretty big chain, with locations in 20 other states, but it’s never been able to take hold in the Northern part of New Jersey. Indeed, I’ve been to their locations before, but the last attempt to open a location in sleepy New Providence burned out like a candle in the wind in 2007.

The current franchisee owner, Steve, who owns the rights to open locations in all of Northern New Jersey, has decided to start out in East Rutherford, a very high-traffic area with many retail businesses, so it should do quite well.

Can we have our very own Cheeburger in Paradise in New Jersey? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below” for more.

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That’s a Lot of Crawfish, Eric.

May 31, 2010

My friend Eric Eisenbud is indeed an amazing character. His hunger for all things culinary rivals mine, but his body keeps shrinking. So far, he’s lost 50 pounds over the last several months, and he looks great. But that doesn’t mean the man still doesn’t know how to overdo it like a professional.

Eric, who is former President of New Jersey Les Marmitons, has held a Louisiana Crawfish Boil at his house for the last few years and this year I was one of the lucky friends to be invited. To say that the eating was massive is an understatement. I keep telling myself “not to worry, they’re mostly protein“, but it only goes so far.

Eric Eisenbud. A man who loves his crawfish.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Blogroll: Spoon & Shutter

February 28, 2010

I’d like to welcome Spoon & Shutter to the New Jersey food blogging community.

While the paint is still drying on this new blog, which only started in February of 2010, its got some serious talent behind it, so you’ll want to pay attention — it’s run by Susan Leigh Sherrill and Ted Axelrod, the husband and wife team whose works you’ve seen in 201 Magazine. Sherrill works as Food and Entertainment Editor of 201, and Axelrod is a professional photographer who has freelanced a number of food spreads in 201 magazine and elsewhere.

Check it out at http://spoonandshutter.wordpress.com