Wednesday, November 30, 2016

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Immersing Yourself in Miami Art Week/Art Basel 2016 Like A Local

Happy first day of Art Basel! Yes, Miami Art Week events have been happening for what seems like days but Art Basel, the raison d'être of the season, didn't kick off until today. Plus, as 9-to-5ers, we haven't even had the chance to start thinking about the parties, art shows, and other events until today. That said, now that Basel opening day is here, its time to buckle down and start solidifying our social calendars because this is late planning, even for Miami standards.

As always, we've got your back. This morning we updated our brand spanking new Miami Events page with a full list of all of our favorite events that are open to the public—not those frou-frou events that you have to pull favors from a friend of a friend to get into–so you have no excuses if you really want to immerse yourself in the hubbub anytime from now until Sunday. We've also included a list of our favorite Basel guides in case you need more inspo from our go-to Miami resources. We hope our day-by-day itinerary of what to do during Miami Art Week 2016 is helpful and, if it is, show us some love by voting us for Best Local Blogger in the 2016 South Florida Blogger Awards. Happy Basel-ing!

Monday, November 28, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds - OLLA Opens in Miami Beach

Happy Monday of Mondays! This week high season (which has creeped on us in the past few weeks, noticeable only in the terrible driving, the increased crowds, and the insufferable traffic) officially kicks off with Miami Art Week. If you're having as hard a time as us in dealing with all the hubbub, worry not—this is the best time of the year to eat your feelings because a thousand restaurants are opening their doors for the first time. Starting today we're taking our Mexican tuckuses to Lincoln Road, where Chef Scott Linquist's highly anticipated "regional, rootsy Mexican" concept OLLA is finally open! Our contributor Belen Baquerizo, the blogger behind A Hint of Life, recalls their grand opening party so you know what to expect.

The grand opening party for OLLA, the authentic Mexican restaurant by COYO Taco's Chef Linquist, was held on November 12 at its new location on Lincoln Road, culminating into a fun fiesta. Per usual, we joined our foodie friends (and A-listers like Chef Marcus Samuelsson of the Food Network's Chopped and Red Rooster Harlem fame) in the celebrations. Upon arrival, we made our way to the bar for a drink and to admire the stunning mural that lies behind it. Although the mural wasn't fully finished—an artist was on-site painting during the party—the exposed terracota fit in with the restaurant's authentic Mexican vibes.

The bar served classic sangria among signature drinks with cheeky names like the Olla Rita, Pájaro Sucio, Pinche Flor, Frambuesa and Chica Picosa. The cocktails were tequila based but easy to drink thanks to the deliciously fruity mixtures (trust me on that one!). My favorite drink was the Frambuesa because it tasted like fresh juice and my boyfriend's favorite drink was the Pájaro Sucio. In addition to the bar's signature cocktails, there were two stands serving Modelo beer and Jarritos (Mexican soda) infused with...tequila, obviously! One of the best parts about OLLA's grand opening party was the diversity of drinks available—there was a little Mexican something for every taste and mood.

The appetizers offered throughout the night were super tasty. The food ranged from mini tacos to mini tortas to ceviche, intermingled with a vast array of meats and even octopus. I managed to track down all the servers as they made their way from the kitchen to the dance floor so I could get a piece every time! Chips and guac were strategically placed at any section of the restaurant that remotely resembled a table and we also posted up there. You could say we were pretty much eating all night long (which helped with the amount of drinks we were having because we just HAD to try them know, for blogging purposes).

I think of OLLA as a more sophisticated version of COYO Taco. The menu expands beyond the tacos, tortas and other street food we know and love from Chef Linquist to include top-notch entrées common to traditional Mexican cuisine. Between the electric atmosphere, the delicious drinks, the quality food, and good company OLLA's grand opening party made our Saturday night a great one. We can't wait to come back once it opens for good.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for Mexican Thanksgiving

Most people associate Thanksgiving with turkey, stuffing, gravy and warm childhood memories. I, on the other hand, have only truly celebrated Thanksgiving—at least in the traditional sense—for the last five years so it doesn't evoke the same feelings for me. I am still adjusting to its flavors and vibes, building those classic American memories I hope to associate with the holiday maybe 20 years from now.

In the interim, Thanksgiving for me is somewhat of a hybrid between my Mexican traditions and the American traditions I have picked up since we left Mexico. It is a "Mexican Thanksgiving" perfectly manifested in the delicious Latin American-inspired Thanksgiving menu that Chef Richard Sandoval of Toro Toro has in store for tomorrow's dinner and of which I got a sneak peek a few weeks back. From his unabashed use of pomegranate seeds (an ingredient common to Mexican holiday dishes) to his creative incorporation of Oaxaca cheese and chipotle in mashed potatoes and turkey, Chef Sandoval's 2016 Thanksgiving menu perfectly represents what I associate with the holiday at this stage in my life. It bridges the flavors of my past as a niña in Mexico City with those of my future as an American woman.

Motivated by nostalgia brought upon by the menu's nod to Mexico, I decided to unearth my diary today and read the entry describing my very first Thanksgiving—a harrowing experience which makes me appreciate what amazing and "normal" food I have access to nowadays. I have copied my dairy entry word for word (spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, annoying abbreviations and all) for your reading pleasure below, followed by photos of Chef Sandoval's exquisite spread. But, before I let you peek into my 14-year-old mind and indulge in food porn, I would like to give thanks for all of the blessings I have in my life, including but not limited to you and your support for this blog and the fact that my writing and spelling abilities have vastly improved in the last 15 years. Happy Thanksgiving, Miami!
"Thursday, November 22, 2001
Happy Thanksgiving! 
It's the 3rd Thursday of November and this is no school! Since we are from Mexico, we celebrate Thanksgiving differently, however my sister Carla (8 yrs. old) ended up baking a pumpkin pie. I've been working on an essay 4 ww (writing workshop) all day, that is until my sisters let out Nugget, a hamster they brought home from school, to play with. Apart from the cute lil' hamster home, they also brought Creeps. At first I thought Creeps would be a lil' lizard, but when I saw the contents of the cage, I refused to let my sisters even step in the car with it. So neway, they ended up bringin the disgusting TARANTULA home yesterday w/the hamster. 
After playing with the hamster a lil', my mom called my sisters n me to the kitchen. N eww! 2 but we found... As we stood near the kitchen sink, there was a strong smell of something decaying, as if Creeps had been dying (which we found later to be true), but the smell of Creeps' decay was not even as strong as the smell coming from the 'thing' my mom was holding in her hands. She announced joyously that what she was holding was going to be for lunch and that the 'thing' she was holding was... honeycomb tripe, in other words: COW STOMACH. 
@ that moment both my sisters and me went back to what we were doing b4, and that was the first time me and Carla had ever been scared of food in our lives. The minutes seemed to go by very slowly and my stomach was making noises, yet I didn't want to try the food my mom claimed one of her favorites. Neway I told my mom I had a stomachache so I wouldn't have to eat, but she just gave me 'polvitos' (a Mexican homeopathic digestive aid) and went back to finishing lunch. 
At the table, there was delicious soup (pasta) to be followed by that huge piece of stomach. When it was time 4 the tripe to come 2 the table, I used my stomach technique, but failed. I had no choice. I was going to have to eat it. Lucy, my other sister, at the first piece. My mom had cut the white looking bag of muscles into lil' pieces that only have one word 2 describe them: DISGUSTING. She cooked it of course and put tomato sauce all over the pieces, but when I took my first piece (which was very chewy) I almost threw up, yet I didn't who that on the outside. 
I chewed on it 4 a couple seconds, then I tried swallowing it whole since I couldn't stand the taste any longer. 2nd piece...swallow....stuck...chew...chew...eww...little pieces now so I could swallow the piece whole since it was softer and smaller. I still hesitated to eat the 3rd piece, but my parents gave me the 'you have to eat it look' so I stuffed in my mouth and followed the same procedure like int he other three two pieces. To this moment the TRIPE! still gurgles in my stomach. 
Until next time,

Sunday, November 13, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for Brunch - Our Passion at the Trio

It's Sunday funday so we're coming at ya with a new brunch find: Our Passion at the Trio in Fort Lauderdale. Believe it or not, I grew up in Fort Lauderdale. Yes, my parents' house was in Boca but my high school, my friends and, therefore, my social life revolved around Fort Lauderdale. My memories from that time consist of beach days at Sea Ranch Lakes, beach volleyball tournaments at the Yankee Clipper, awkward movie dates at the Galleria Mall, and eating Vito's pizza, Jacks burgers, Laspadas subs and, on special occasions, Chez Porky's everything. When Our Passion invited me to try their new brunch menu, I was psyched to visit my old stomping grounds and find new reasons to come back. After all, brunch wasn't a "thing" in high school so I have a brunch filled hole in my repertoire of Lauderdale food venues. Excitedly, I put on an EW's BINGE Harry Potter podcast and headed north on I-95.

Like many businesses along this corridor, Our Passion is nestled in a strip mall. The space it occupies is cozy, with only a dozen or so tables between the entrance and the bar in the back. During my visit, I was greeted by the very friendly Chef Paul Lobeck and his wife, both of whom won major points by offering me a glass of mimosa or sangria as I walked through the door. (I award them bonus points for offering unlimited quantities of both mimosas and sangria at only $15 per person because, if there's one thing I love more than brunch, it's brunch with unlimited drink offers.) After delivering my mimosa, they walked me through the nine eclectic dishes on their brunch menu, stopping only to recommend the "South of the Border" and the "That's All Folks" as their two favorites. I ordered and devoured both.

What struck me most about Our Passion are its strong family ties. Chef Paul was inspired to cook by his grandfather, a passion that he passed on to his son Joseph. At only 11 years old, Joseph loves to spend time with his dad in the kitchen helping out with his catering orders—Chef Paul also owns and operates a successful catering business—and at his restaurant. Young Joseph even invented Our Passion's most popular dessert: JoJo's Smile (two peach cobbler empanadas à la mode). I had the chance to meet Joseph when I stopped by and asked him if he was nervous about cooking for 200+ people at an upcoming event with his dad. Not surprisingly, he was completely unfazed.

Chef Paul's wife and daughter are also integral to Our Passion, handling the front of house with a smile while the men are busy in the kitchen. It was only because the whole Lobeck clan was on board that Chef Paul pursued his lifelong dream of running his own restaurant and opened Our Passion. It is the family's unity, as well as their passion for food and friendly service that make this spot worth visiting. Plus, Chef Paul really let his creativity shine through in the brunch menu. (For example, he made the quesadilla breakfast appropriate in the "South of the Border" by stuffing it with bacon and topping it with an egg, chipotle crema, and pico de gallo.) Their family-owned restaurant brings a rare warmth and personal flare that has been lacking on Commercial Boulevard since my high school days.

We were invited to try the brunch menu by Our Passion at the Trio. However, all opinions expressed regarding our experience are our own.

Friday, November 11, 2016

#ThankYouMiami Launches "Events" Page

We have very exciting news! Earlier this week we launched a new page on our blog dedicated solely to Miami events. We're talking about all of the amazing restaurant openings, concerts, celebrations, collaborations, fashion shows, and other fun happenings around Miami that we're clued into and want to make sure you don't miss.

Previously we were bringing you the low-down on upcoming local events in the form of periodic round-up posts that were not on a regular schedule and did not happen frequently. These nuggets of event info were exciting when they happened but did not provide you a dependent resource with which to plan your social calendar. Our new "Events" page is here to solve all of those problems. This permanent #ThankYouMiami feature includes a list of can't-miss Miami events that we will be updating regularly starting this week.

Whenever you're looking for something to do or to keep tabs on what is happening around town, our new "Events" page can be your go-to resource. Just place your cursor over the "Miami" section of the menu up top and click on "Events"—it's that easy. You're welcome, Miami! (P.S. If you love what we do, please vote us Best Local Blogger in the 2016 South Florida Blogger Awards.)

What do you think about our recently launched "Events" page? Have any feedback on what you like or what we could do to make it better? Excited for an event that is not on our list? Have an upcoming event that you would like us to consider for inclusion? Send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami or e-mail us at info [at] thankyoumiami [dot] com!
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