Monday, September 2, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Miami Spice – August 2013

Jury’s still out in our household on whether Miami Spice is as good a value as it was intended to be. Regardless, as the resident glutton and spender in our household, I am a huge proponent of going out to enjoy Miami Spice – good value or not. As long as the food and atmosphere is promising, I’m there…and, by association, so are my husband and friends.

This year our strategy was to visit our regular haunts during August and to put off the more exclusive venues for September because it is my birthday month. So how is it going so far? Although our pace has been slower than usual this year, we almost managed to average 1 Miami Spice outing per week in August, particularly thanks to the early Miami Spice previews in July. And, of the restaurants we've visited, so far we have no complaints

660 at the Angler’s (660 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach)
I fell in love with 660 the first time I walked in – which is frustrating because I had a culinary haven a block away for almost a year before I even realized it was there. And, if you’ve ever been to South Beach and you’ve never heard of 660, I bet my piggy bank savings that you, like me, have either been too distracted by the lush wall of vegetation surrounding the Angler Hotel property or by the traffic on Washington Avenue to notice 660 is there. So next time you're in the area, stop by. The service is excellent, the food is delicious, and the ambiance is much more serene than what you'd expect in the heart of South Beach.
This year for Miami Spice Chef Carlos Torres is featuring the restaurant’s most consistently delicious dishes in a 3-course prix fixe menu, as well as a 3-mojitos-for-$10 special. My husband and I tried everything but the Cuban Wrapped Pork. I know, Miami sacrilege. Our favorites were the Crispy Gulf Shrimp, the 8-hour Braised Short Rib, and the 3 cilantro mojitos that I downed with my dinner.

If you've ever had 660's Jalea, their Crispy Gulf Shrimp is just as crunchy, just as sweet, and every bit as exquisite.

The 8-hour Braised Short Rib was the perfect entree served with a sweet potato mash, scallions, roasted garlic, gremolata, and demi glaze.

Seasons 52 (321 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables)
I inherited my love for Seasons 52 from my parents, who are huge fans of “chain restaurants” (a taboo phrase with my self-proclaimed foodie husband and friends). Growing up, my family lived, breathed, and ate nothing but Sysco-based food from chain restaurants. Then, one day, my parents discovered the one national chain I am proud to frequent: Seasons 52.

Seasons 52’s claim-to-fame is that their menu is seasonally-inspired and that all of their dishes are under 475 calories. The former makes me excited to visit year-round, the latter offers little dietary comfort because I eat at least 3 dishes every time I visit. The benefit of choosing Miami Spice this time of year is that it gives me an excuse to explore their menu beyond my usual choice of shrimp chipotle flatbread and tuna roll. During my visit, I opted for the Roasted Shrimp, Spinach, and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, the Vegetarian Tasting, and the Blueberry Cheesecake Mini Indulgence. While they were all satisfying, they did not compare to my normal selections.

The Roasted Shrimp, Spinach, and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms tasted like your run-of-the-mill stuffed mushrooms. Nothing to call home about, but good nonetheless.
If you like tofu and veggies, everything but the grain salad is worth choosing The Vegetarian Tasting.

Essensia at the Palms Hotel and Spa (3025 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach)
I have yet to try a single food item that I do not like from Essensia. Even worse, I suffer food envy every time I visit regardless of how much I am enjoying my meal. I love Essensia because they not only highlight fresh, seasonal food, but also focus on eco-friendly practices like using locally sourced ingredients. And, the result has thus far been consistent deliciousness.

Our entire party opted for the Miami Spice menu so I had the opportunity to try all of the menu items, except for the Fettuccini with Shrimp and Summer Vegetables. The Kale Caesar was my absolute favorite, but I love all things kale so I consider myself biased. The group favorite was the Thai Lemongrass Soup. I only had one spoonful, but I have craved that soup every rainy day since our dinner because the hot coconut milk and Thai spices made it the ideal comfort food. Our advice: skip the dessert, in my opinion, it was not worth the extra calories.

Whether I'm biased or not, this Kale Caesar was excellent. It was the perfect mixture of crunchy, creamy, and nourishing.
The Thai Lemongrass Soup is the perfect comfort food for a rainy day.

One month down. One to go. Which have been your favorite Miami Spice menus thus far? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

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