Sunday, August 28, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds: Kona Grill

Many cafecitos ago we used to work in Doral. For lunch, the limited food options in the area meant daily $5 foot-longs from Subway—except on Fridays and other special occasions when we would treat ourselves to the Royal Thai lunch menu. (Dipping the complimentary spring roll into the sweet chili sauce was the highlight of our week.) The scarcity of acceptable food and beverage options was so severe our office would never do happy hour because we would have to drive too far to find anything worth our time. Seriously, that's how lame the Doral scene was back in those days.

These days high rents in Miami's urban core are driving drool-worthy restaurant concepts into suburban areas like Doral, giving the neighborhood a much overdue upgrade. Two weeks ago we decided to pay the area a visit to survey all the changes first hand. While we were there we stopped to check out Kona Grill at the Dolphin Mall because we'd heard a lot of great feedback from our friends and wanted to take advantage of their limited time summer menu. We were pleasantly surprised with our findings, particularly with the digs (they have a dope fish tank at the entrance!!), the stellar service, and the ample menu of Asian/American options. We were most surprised to find one of our old co-workers enjoying post-work drinks with his wife at the bar area—a testament to the fact that locals, whose choices we trust, actually frequent the spot. We're psyched our old co-workers finally have formidable options for lunch and post-work drinks/dinner (with happy hour bevs and bites for $3-$8.5).

The attentive and friendly staff were by far the highlight of our visit. While we're glad to see the migration of deliciousness from the metro areas to Doral, we're happy that our infamous subpar hospitality didn't tag along for the ride across the Dolphin. When it comes to the menu, we picked from both the regular and summer menus, sticking primarily to Japanese inspired dishes like the sushi rolls. The standouts were the picasso roll from the regular menu and the tuna mango roll from the summer menu. If you're looking for a cocktail, we recommend the Sun Kissed from the summer menu which has 1800 coconut tequila, Grand Marnier, coconut water, Monin agave nectar, and pineapple with a coconut rim. We were worried it was going to be too sweet, but it was just right.

Check out our photos from the night below, then stop by Kona Grill to taste all the goodness for yourself. The seasonal menu ends on Sunday, September 4 so you better move quickly!

Sun Kissed cocktail from the seasonal summer menu ending on September 4
Potstickers from the regular menu
Seven spice tuna over cucumber salad from the regular menu
Mango tuna sushi roll from the seasonal summer menu ending on September 4
Picasso sushi roll from the regular menu

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#ThankYouMiami For New Food Finds - OCIO

Deep in the industrial, strip mall-laden outskirts of Miami International Airport hides OCIO, an Italian restaurant founded on such well-executed simplicity that it even impressed the discerning tastebuds of our friend Jamison. (You may remember Jamison and his "Yelp-vouched good taste" from our 2014 "Lunch Like A Local: Coral Gables" feature.) In fact, the entire 20 minute car ride to Doral he didn't stop amping about the menu saying, "I don't care how much it costs. We're getting the lobster ravioli and the chicken parm and the braised short rib and a bottle of wine and..." To be honest, we stopped listening after the third "and", primarily because we were amping ourselves about the spaghetti pomodoro we'd spotted on food writer Amber Bond's Instagram page earlier in the week.

Jamison's dreams were quickly crushed when he discovered our introduction to OCIO consisted of a pre-selected chef's tasting menu (featuring few of his wish list items) with little room for off roading into the full menu. He wistfully admired the menu's offerings while resolving himself to the notion that he would have to come back soon to try everything else. Meanwhile, across the table, we were in absolute awe at the captivatingly beautiful and colorful pages of the menus, which look like art that got lost on its way to Art Basel and made its surrogate home in the restaurant's dining room. (Seriously though, we wanted to take one of them home with us to perch on our coffee table.)

The first course was a citrusy octopus carpaccio that was so good Jamison had eaten half the plate by the time we finished taking photos. The second was a charcuterie plate surrounding a mound of artichoke hearts. If you know anything about us, you know we LOOOOVE charcuterie and we LOOOOVE artichokes so it comes as no surprise that we licked the second plate clean as well. The third and fourth courses were pasta dishes: the spaghetti pomodoro whose reputation preceded its arrival on our table and a three cheese tortellini in amaretto sauce that Jamison dubbed "pockets of heaven". Like the champs that we are, we ate every single bite of both and powered next through a tender ossobucco and a flaky corvina, straight into a cube of tiramisu.

We've seen other food writers talk about falling in love with a delicious dish or meal. And, while our Instagram page is practically an ode to how much we love food, we have never thought about our eating experiences as romantic—until we visited OCIO. (It sounds bizarre, we know. In fact, everyone we've verbally recapped the meal to thinks we're referring to Jamison when we talk about our romantic meal.) Jamison put it best when he raved about our experience and expressly referenced the chef's focus on perfecting classic recipes using fresh ingredients as the primary reason. In a city that tends to have a flare for the excessive and complex—which, to be clear, we love under the right circumstances—OCIO is an absolute breath of fresh air. We can't wait to follow its journey as it grows into the Miami staple we know it deserves to become.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

#ThankYouMiamiStaysInMiami: Staycation at the Langford Hotel in Downtown

As we shared in our recent interview with AlphaCurrent, this blog—and our commitment to keeping you in the know about what's going on around Miami—has been a huge driving force in getting us to leave our Miami Beach comfort zone. Blogging has encouraged us to get to know Miami's other communities, as well as thrust upon us unique opportunities to get to know the people and businesses that make them special. Most recently, we've been spending a lot of time in Downtown Miami which we've come to discover has a very NYC feel. In fact, throughout our "sleepover" at the Langford Hotel earlier this month, we had to constantly remind ourselves we were still in Miami.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for These Four Beach Day Essentials

Almost one year ago to the day we imparted upon you our expert-level know-how on how to pack for the beach by breaking down the contents of our beach bag for an Atlantic Coast beach, a Gulf Coast beach, and a visit to the beach club. Well, in the nearly 365 days that have passed since, we have worked seriously on perfecting our beach bumming technique and felt it was an appropriate time to update you on four other essentials that have vastly improved our beach days this summer:

1. The Beach Tent
During a surf trip upcoast a few months ago, we went on a late night Walmart shopping spree—as we usually do when we spend the night in Melbourne Beach—and we found a lonely RIO portable sun shelter sitting on the shelf. Naturally we HAD to buy it (and Apples to Apples and a new purse and a new pair of flip flops and a new cooler and a new water bottle and every health magazine because Walmart). It has turned out to be one of our best impulse buys because it provides the shade we need to beat this heat without giving us anxiety that it is going to fly away any minute like the beach umbrella. Pro tip: if you're "set up" challenged, buy an easy to build option like the Cool Cabana. Either way make sure you're buying a tent made for the beach (unlike that one time we forgot our beach shelter and tried to replace it with a kid's camping tent which literally greenhoused us into near death).

2. The Melt-proof Cup
If you follow us on Instagram, you've probably seen that we don't go anywhere without our YETI 10 oz. and/or our 20 oz. Rambler. They are the most magical piece of drinkware we have ever owned and we only bought them because our friend Betsy raved about how hers would keep ice overnight. (Apparently keeping ice overnight is an impressive feat one must experience firsthand.) Now that we own two, we alternate them to keep our iced Panther Coffee latte cold all day during the work week and our tequila sodas iced for up to five hours during the hot weekend beach days. You need one, trust. And while you're at it splurge for the cover and the metal straws on Amazon, they make the YETI rambler experience substantially better.

3. The Waterproof BlueTooth Speaker
At the end of last year we won a huge beach day care package from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor's Bureau that included some really neat gear. We've given some away to our readers—we're even giving away the Coleman waterproof camera to non-profit Comunidad Connect—but we kept and have grown to love the waterproof and BlueTooth enabled ECOXGEAR EcoStone speaker. It is the best for jamming out to Pandora or our playlists at the beach. More surprisingly, it's made the post-beach de-sanding process particularly fun by letting us sing/dance for the hour we are forced to stay in the shower. (Why sand is so hard to get off from our skin we will never understand.)

4. The Beach-Inspired Scent
Particularly during this hot, hot summer we don't smell particularly delicious after we leave the beach pero sometimes we want to grab some food or hang out with friends. That said, we want to work with the beach look the warm sun and salty air have given us. What better way to complement them than a perfume that smells like the perfect Miami beach day? Akscent Perfumes' Crandon scent is our favorite because its coconut-meets-sandalwood-meets-citrus smell reminds us of the deliciously beachy odor reminiscent of the One Hotel and Standard Miami lobbies. Yes, we carry it in our beach bag but we've got a companion in our purse that we spray when the work week is bringing us down and we want to be temporarily transported to our happy place. Pro tip: With code SUMMERESCAPE16, you get a 10% discount!

What are some of your beach day essentials this summer? Are any of the items on our list on your must-have list? Which and why? Leave a comment or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

#ThankYouMiami Talks August Food News

August is one of our favorite months as Miami-ans thanks to Miami Spice Month. There's something magical (and, okay, a bit bougie) about two months dedicated to eating your way through prix-fixe menus. And while we have a post planned for you later this month where we will be sharing the menus from this year that are the best bang for your buck, today we're talking about four other amazing food happenings Miami has in store for us that are completely unrelated. We've got some highly anticipated restaurant openings, the return of a supper club, and other fun facts so we give you full permission to let out all your excitement as you count down with us!

1. The First Summer Wok Star Supper Club is Here
Sunday, August 14 from 5p.m. to 7 p.m.
Drunken Dragon (1425 Alton Road)

Our favorite Wok Star and Miami cooking teacher, Eleanor Hoh, is bringing back her Wok Star Supper Club on August 14 in memory of her mom's birthday (from whom she inherited her love of cooking and entertaining). For this gathering, she takes her appreciation of Asian culture and cuisine to Druken Dragon where she and Chef Xavier Torres have put together an amazing three-course menu for only $45 including tax and tip. Plus, she's secured one free drink for everyone at Foxhole following dinner. For full details, visit the event site.

2. STK Miami Opens Second Outpost at ME Miami
1100 Biscayne Boulevard

STK has been dazzling Miami in South Beach for years with its electrifying ambiance and its decadent steakhouse fare. Now downtown can also get in on the action without having to drive onto the beach by making reservations at its second outpost in the ME Miami. The new location brings all our STK go-tos like their lil' BRGs and cheesy tater tots plus a few new features such as lunch service and outdoor seating.

3. Vagabond Restaurant and Bar Re-Opens as Vagabond Kitchen and Bar
7301 Biscayne Boulevard

We were very upset when the Vagabond Restaurant and Bar announced it would be closing because we never go to MiMo and it was one of the few beams of light drawing us there. Then, late last month it re-opened with a new concept. The premise since the re-opening is much more approachable thanks to French café inspired selections like mini gruyère croque madames and steak frites. The décor is fresh, new and adorably modern to match the ambiance and the sophisticated cocktail program. The vibe? It is that oasis of vibrancy we felt we lost with its initial closing, but that we quickly regained with its re-opening.

4. Barley Preps to Re-Open
8945 SW 72nd Place

Earlier this year beloved American brasserie Barley was forced to temporarily close the restaurant following a serious dispute with their landlord for issues with the space. While they worked hard on outfitting their new Downtown Dadeland venue, the Barley teamed opened Italian gastropub pop-up Faith down the block, the proceeds of which benefitted local charities for the first six months. Our visit to Faith was our introduction to the team's passion for delicious food and great hospitality (and our sneak peek at the awesome new Barley location). And while the exact date of their August grand re-opening has yet to be announced, we're waiting with bated breath and keeping tabs on their Instagram for updates.

Which are you most excited for? What other notable Miami food news are you excited about this month? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Simple and Refreshing Summer Cocktails

Kelly of Kelly's Kloset said it best: "It's too hot for clothes. Help." Pero it's more than too hot for clothes in Miami right now. It's too hot to do anything but lounge around with a cold bev in hand—and, toward that end, we're here to help with today's post. Specifically, we're here to share the simple and refreshing cocktail that is filling and re-filling our reusable cups this summer: skinny vodka lemonade.

The recipe is genius in its simplicity. (We had a serious "Duh!" moment when we saw all four ingredients sitting pretty at our friend Rebecca's wet bar this past weekend for their annual lobster fest.) Nevertheless, there they were—a cooler stocked with ice, Stoli vodka, limeade, and sparkling water—and there we were. It just felt right, you know? So, we filled our cup to the top with ice, slow poured some Stoli, added a splash of limeade, and topped it off with sparkling water. The combination was the perfect balance of boozy, sweet, and hydrating—the ideal drink for an afternoon of gorging on the spoils of mini season and lounging in a giant party float.

Let the record show that from this day forward the skinny vodka lemonade is our official summer cocktail. It's going to keep us cool while we lounge at the beach, by the pool, on the water, and on our balcony because, honestly, it's too hot to move, bro. As you go about making your own, keep these three tips in mind:
  1. Keep your cups plastic-free and reusable. There's too much damn plastic floating in the ocean already. Plus, all that BPA is seeping into your drink and that just can't be good for you. Instead snag your very own tin cup from Surfrider Miami  at one of their upcoming events or invest in a Yeti tumbler, which keeps drinks cold for 5 hours in the hot summer sun.
  2. Keep your Stoli vodka gluten free—yes, they make one of those now—so you don't have to waste energy on arguing with your friends about the merits of "going gluten free" (or, if you have gluten intolerant friends like we do, you don't accidentally poison them).
  3. Keep hydrated. It is seriously hot out there so remember to alternate alcohol with water so you don't dehydrate or suffer a heat stroke.
And, most importantly, HAGS you guys! P.S. What is your favorite summer cocktail? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

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