Monday, October 31, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for Seasonal Seafood Specials - Dine and Discover at Bonefish Grill

I LOOOOVE seafood. Shrimp, crab, lobster, grilled fish—I will eat it all and I will have seconds, thank you very much. I look for any occasion to eat it so, when I was looking to celebrate my parents 31st wedding anniversary, seafood was the obvious choice. October is National Seafood Month so there was no shortage of options, but I decided to take them out to Bonefish Grill for two reasons: (1) they have locations all over South Florida including one near my parents house in Boca; and, (2) they are offering a seasonal Dine and Discover menu for two that I just had to check out.

There were four of us at dinner: my mom (A/K/A "mamá"), my dad (A/K/A "faja"), Brad and I. Brad and my mom decided to go rogue and order off the regular menu so I played my "favorite daughter" card and convinced faja to share the Dine and Discover meal with me. For $50, we got a Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer to share, an entrée each, and a dessert to share, which I accompanied with a glass of 90 point Charles & Charles Cabernet blend for only $9.

I like to try as many dishes as possible so I waited for faja to pick his entrée first so I could pick from the remaining three options. Following some serious negotiations, he agreed to get the Cedar Plank Bourbon Salllmon and I the local special of Wild Oscar Mahi Mahi. Across the table, mamá went decadent with the Pecan Parmesan Crusted Rainbow Trout and, ever the contrarian, Brad came out of left field with an order of lamb chops. We rounded out the meal with a not too sweet, not too tart slice of key lime pie, which according to faja is "the best key lime pie I have ever tried...come to think of it, I don't remember the last time I had key lime pie." (He needs his own food blog, amirite?)

All of our dishes were perfectly cooked and the service was on point—a testament to Bonefish Grill's commitment to fresh seafood and great hospitality. A huge thanks to Rebecca for being such a rockstar and putting up with all the food blogging madness that was my family. We look forward to joining her and the Bonefish Grill family again at the Boca location, after checking out the three Miami Bonefish Grill locations of course!

We were invited to try the Dine and Discover Menu by Bonefish Grill. However, all opinions expressed regarding our experience are our own.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

#ThankYouMiami For Brunch - Il Mulino New York

Brunch is the Miami-an's weekly ritual. It's basically our raison d'être. When a new brunch rolls around—an all-you-can-eat buffet with all the Sunday morning essentials—it's a cause worthy of celebration (with unlimited mimosas, of course). The Il Mulino New York Sunny Isles brunch is not new. However, as of a few weeks ago it includes unlimited mimosas, bloodys, mojitos and prosecco, meaning its new and improved and equally worthy of our undivided excitement. Today we're sharing with you the five reasons why it's watcha want:

1. It's the perfect excuse to visit Sunny Isles Beach.
Every Miami-an has their 'hood—their little Miami nook where they work, play, eat and sleep. It is commonly known that ours is Miami Beach. And, while we enjoy everything it has to offer, we aren't mad to find worthwhile reasons to explore beyond its action-packed seven-miles, like Il Mulino's quieter, equally scenic digs on the first floor of the Sunny Isles' Acqualina Resort and Spa. (That said, if you get trapped in high season traffic or you get the sweats leaving the Beach, Il Mulino South Beach has a daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with $4 to $9 drink specials and $10 bar bites.)

2. It's one of a few waterfront dining restaurant options in Miami. 
We love the water but waterfront dining is surprisingly scarce in Miami. Il Mulino New York isn't just waterfront—it's oceanfront and it has killer views of Sunny Isles' white, sandy beaches and azure waters. If, like us, you want to bask in the scenery and in South Florida's gorgeous weather, snag a table outdoors. If A/C and live music are more your jam, the indoor tables are your best bet for enjoying the beautiful ocean vista.

3. Its menu includes everything you need, everything you want, and more.
At first glance, the buffet area seems small...until you start piling food on your plate. For the conscientious eaters, there's an omelet station and fruits, yogurts and granolas for parfaits. For the rest of us, there's everything from charcuterie and lox bagels to lobster tails and shrimp to steak and pasta to waffles, croissants and every kind of bread imaginable. During our visit last Sunday, we did two savory runs: one for appetizer-like fare (cheeses, prosciutto, crackers, etc.) and another for surf and turf and pasta. The must-have item of both plates was the tortellini alla panna off Il Mulino's dinner menu.

4. It includes all-you-can-eat ice cream.
We have been to many brunches in our young lives pero we have never, ever been to one that includes an ice cream bar like Il Mulino's. As hardcore ice cream aficionados we were pleasantly surprised to find a legit ice cream shop hidden on the way to our outdoor table. And, while we opted for a cappuccino and some macarons for our dessert, it did not escape us that having access to infinite ice cream means waffles à la mode, macaron ice cream sandwiches, and decadent ice cream cones. So much yes.

5. It increases your special occasion brunch options.
We've been pretty devoted to the Biltmore's brunch for Mothers Day, Easter Sunday, and other special occasions. While we'll never stop going there, we're excited to have a qualified brunch alternative to add to the rotation. After all, variety is the spice of life. Plus, the $65 per person price tag makes it a more affordable option overall. And have we mentioned its oceanfront?

In conclusion, you need Il Mulino's brunch. You're welcome, Miami.

We were invited to try the brunch menu by Il Mulino New York. However, all opinions expressed regarding our experience are our own.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds - STK Miami Opens in Downtown

This is a short and sweet post to announce Belen Baquerizo, the rockstar life and style blogger behind A Hint of Life, will be joining us as a guest contributor. For her first mission, we sent Belen to the grand opening of the STK Miami in Downtown and asked her to share her experience with us. You already know we love the STK Miami in South Beach for its ambiance and its delicious crispy, cheesy tater tots from our review of their Lip Service Happy Hour, but we were interested to get the scoop on the new location and how it compares to the STK experience we've known to grow and love. Take it away, Belen!

On Wednesday the 12th after work, I made my way to  downtown with my favorite +1 (the boyfriend) for the grand-opening of the sophisticated “Not Your Daddy’s Steakhouse”. The rainy afternoon started our party with a bit of a delay which worked out perfectly since the music was pounding by the time we arrived. As we stood outside in line waiting to get in, our excitement levels rose.

Once we made our way inside, the ambiance was eclectic as expected, featuring STK Miami's signature dark look with red, white and gold highlights. The place was packed with Miami’s A-listers who were swooned by golden balloons on the ceiling, the insanely good cocktails and hors d’oeuvres,  and a neon sign encouraging us to "Dare To Be"! The downtown menu is consistent with the menu at other STK locations. We indulged in their mini burgers which taste just as good across the Bay and which we washed down with a drink or two. (Let the record show STK's drinks were designed to not leave anyone unsatisfied with white and red wine, Cucumber Stiletto for our Miami girls, Not Your Daddy’s Manhattan for our boys and Basil ‘Rita for a twist of fun!)

A happy surprise we had during the event was the music! Since STK is mostly known for their sophistication, my ears were reaaallly happy when DJ Irie (and special guest Mase!) turned up the Latin music from behind the DJ booth! Lounge music kicked off the night but as the guests relaxed a bit and got more “in the mood”, our beloved reguetton songs made their debut, allowing the crowd to bust out their best dance moves and keep the party going strong past 10 p.m. STK Miami's Downtown location delivered waaay above our expectations so much so we tried staying for a sit-down dinner. All the tables were booked that night but we will be back soon—that’s for sure!

P.S. We've been nominated for Best Local Blogger in the 2016 South Florida Blogger Awards. If you love our blog, vote for us! There's no limit to how many times you can vote. Thank you, Miami!


Saturday, October 22, 2016

#ThankYouMiamiStaysInMiami: Staycation At Hotel Colonnade in Coral Gables

While South Beach is a no brainer for tourists and even locals looking for a “So Miami” getaway, there are so many other cool, overlooked parts of Miami. We’re Miami OGs so we know our city goes further than regattas, bongos and palm trees. But we sometimes forget that its various neighborhoods transcend their stereotypical reputations. Yes, the City of Coral Gables is low-key but it is so much more than that too. Last week we kicked off our weekend with a little staycation at the Hotel Colonnade in Coral Gables and it made us see the neighborhood in a totally different light.

We’ve recently found ourselves crossing over to the Gables more and more for amazing brunches, happy hours and inescapable Miami Spice menus, but our time at the Hotel Colonnade showed us there is much more to love hiding in its quiet streets. For starters, we were lucky enough to experience the hotel’s newly renovated…everything, starting with the Bridal Ballroom where we enjoyed an intimate bridal themed dinner. Dinner was a delectable meal of chicken, lamb and sea bass accompanied by good friends (and endless wine), which ended with relaxing live music and a photo booth fully stocked with whimsical props. We kept the vibes (and champagne) flowing into the game room where we enjoyed delicate dessert bites, girl talk, and a very uncompetitive game of jenga. The end of the night was a blur - just as any successful bridal shenanigans should be.

We learned for certain that hangovers aren’t a “thing” at Hotel Colonnade, no matter how much you enjoyed yourself the night before, because waking up in their beds was like resurrecting on a cloud. So much so that our “5 more minutes in bed” led us to missing out on the rooftop pilates class. (Oops!) Luckily we made it in time to catch the end of the class and get a lowdown on their free rooftop yoga and pilates classes—keep an eye on our "Events" page for upcoming dates. (Enjoying delicious eats and bubbly is our number one hobby so we’ve got to work off the calories somehow.)

All in all our stay reminded us what we love the most about Miami. Every time think we’ve got it all figured out we venture somewhere new and end up in awe all over again. Next time you find yourself in Coral Gables’ take the moment to admire the beautiful Beaux Arts architecture and european influence of its romantic streets. (The Hotel Colonnade has some spiffy cruisers that are great for venturing.) On our end, our stay revealed to us that Miracle Miles’ year-long glistening tree lights and sophisticated ambiance undeniably make it the most romantic place anywhere near us. We are in love.

P.S. We've been nominated for Best Local Blogger in the 2016 South Florida Blogger Awards. If you love our blog, vote for us! There's no limit to how many times you can vote.  Thank you, Miami!


Thursday, October 20, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for Hidden Gems - @LekokeWines

Little Havana is a mecca of hidden gems, most of which have been effectively discovered thanks to how quickly word of mouth spreads around here. Alas we were surprised when we were invited to discover a hidden gem of which we'd never heard. In fact, without said invitation we never would have seen Lekoke Wine and Bites sitting pretty on Calle Ocho, just west of NW 12th Ave. But now we know—and now YOU know—and our life is all the better for it.

There are three reasons why you need to visit Lekoke: stellar wine, stellar food and stellar prices. During our visit we savored a delicious red without abandon, comforted by the knowledge that Lekoke has a huge selection lining the walls among which we spotted some of our go-to wines. (There's something super therapeutic about being surrounded by good wines, no?) For dinner, we enjoyed a prix fixe menu that they offered exclusively for $45 with wine pairings during the Miami Spice months and which we're officially petitioning they bring back.

While we get our petition going, you can order most of our favorite Lekoke items straight off their regular menu. You can't go wrong ordering any of the cold bites but don't neglect the light and delicious caprese salad in your excitement over charcuterie. That would be a rookie mistake. The hot bites are also a win-win scenario, with the empanadillas (in their warm croissant dough), the bruschetta and the kokito toston as the stand-outs in our book. Pro tip: If you ever spy a seafood pasta on their specials, get it. No questions asked. It was our all-time favorite from our visit and the primary motivator behind our aforementioned petition to bring back their prix fixe.

As far as prices go, their regular menu is reasonably priced at a range of $8 to $18 per appetizer dish—a steal from Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. when you can accompany them with 2-for-1 beer and wine. They also launched a boozy Sunday brunch last weekend with all you can eat and drink for $35 that we hope they will continue to repeat. Whether you're looking to shake up your Little Havana routine or drown your sorrows with vino and food, Lekoke's got you. And, since it's still one of Miami's best kept secrets there are no waits, no crowds, just unadulterated goodness.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

#ThankYouMiami Talks Upcoming Events (Updated November 3)

Miami's social life is back in full swing so we're coming at ya with a list of upcoming local events that caught our eye because they're too good not to share. Our selection encompasses the next few weeks of the best in music, shopping and (an overwhelming amount of) food. Which event are you most excited about? Why?

P.S. We're considering starting an event calendar feature where we can upload events more regularly on our site. What do you think? Would you find it useful? What kind of events would you like to see us include? Oh, and if you enjoy reading our blog, don't forget to support us by voting us for Best Local Blogger in the 2016 South Florida Blogger Awards.

1. SEED Food and Wine Festival
Thursday, November 3 through Sunday, November 6
Throughout Miami, including events in Miami Beach and Wynwood
Our favorite plant-based food and wine festival is back with a series of events old and new. If you want to know what to expect, read about our delicious experience at last year's Tasting Village.
See a full list of events and purchase your tickets here.

2. Soledad "La Sole" Pastorutti Meet and Greet at El Churrasco
Sunday, November 6 at 11:30 p.m.
801 Brickell Bay Drive, Brickell
The legendary Argentine folk singer, who is performing in Miami on Sunday, will be having her post-concert nightcap and meal at El Churrasco in Brickell (how Argentine of her, right?) and is welcoming her fans for a meet and greet!
Reserve your table on OpenTable or by calling 786.558.5511.

3. Presidential Bar-B-Q & Bubbles at Vagabond Kitchen and Bar
Tuesday, November 8 at 6 p.m.
7301 Biscayne Boulevard, MiMo
This election season has been an absolute train wreck that you can't help but watch and nothing accompanies it better than some comfort food and booze. You will find both in droves on election day at the Vagabond where you'll be able to watch the results roll in while drowning your anxiety over $50 bottles of Perrier Jouet and eating your feelings in the form of $15 burgers, chicken wings, ribs, and mac n' cheese.
RSVP for this free event here.

4. Fooq's & Friends Unveils OLLA by Chef Linquist
Wednesday, November 9 starting at 6 p.m.
1035 N. Miami Avenue, Downtown
In the latest rendition of the acclaimed Fooq's & Friends dinner collar, Chef Linquist of COYO Taco fame will give us a taste of what we can expect from his new traditional Mexican cuisine concept that will open in Miami Beach this November. There will be mole, sangrita verde and café de olla all of which as your token Mexicans we can vouch are legit. We especially recommend this event for all of our friends who constantly ask us where we can get the good Mexican stuff—this is it, folks.
For reservations email reservations [at] fooqsmiami [dot] com or call 786.536.2749.

5. Thrifter Market
Saturday, November 12 at 6 p.m.
2250 NW 2nd Avenue, Wynwood
Discover and support local vendors while enjoying music and delicious food. Plus, you may spy yours truly in the crowd!
RSVP for this free event here.

6. Make-A-Wish Ball Starring John Legend
Saturday, November 12 at 8:30 p.m.
100 Chopin Plaza, Downtown
Make-A-Wish Southern Florida and Intercontinental Miami are joining forces to put together one of the year's most star-studded fundraisers: the 22nd Annual Intercontinental Miami Make-A-Wish-Ball. Reasons why we're excited for this year, in addition to the fact that it generates millions in in-kind donations toward a worthy cause every year, is the fact that John Legend will be headlining the evening. Also, Gabrielle Anwar of Burn Notice fame returns as the emcee and she is one badass chick.
See the event details and ticket/sponsorship information here.

7. Miami Book Fair International
November 13 through 20
300 NE 2nd Avenue, Downtown
The Miami Book Fair is back with  events all over the city, celebrity appearances (did we mention Trevor Noah is coming?) and fun new activities hosted by locals like the Wynwood Coloring Book. We can't wait!
Check out the calendar of events here.

8. Wynwood Yard One-Year Kick-Off Party
Thursday, November 17 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
59 NW 28th Street, Wynwood
We can't believe the Wynwood Yard is already turning one! Besides the fact that we are excited to celebrate all of the creativity, love, and fun this beautiful space has brought to Miami over the last year, the performances of the night include Jahzel Music and the Magic City Hippies—two local artist that we've watched grow from the very beginning and that we always love seeing live. See you there!
RSVP for this free event here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#ThankYouMiami Shares A Red, The Steakhouse Story

Last month when we went to Red, The Steakhouse for my birthday dinner, my friend Jamison—yes, the same Jamison who had the unfortunate fate as leading man in our hilarious Ocio story—showed up dressed like a Ivy-League-college-professor-slash-food-critic. He had previously shown food blogging promise thanks to his (almost snobby) obsession with great food, his bizarrely spot-on observations during past meals, and his ability to point out food trends before anyone else.

On the night of my birthday, however, he was on another level. It's like he took on the food critic persona that we all attributed to him because of his outfit choice to the point that, when we left, our server turned to him and said, "I hope you enjoyed your meal. We look forward to your review." You already got a brief review of Red in our Best of Miami Spice 2016 post, but I asked him to put together a post with his take of the night as a birthday favor. I hope you enjoy reading his unique perspective as much as we enjoyed hearing about it throughout dinner!

Per usual, I was early. Per usual, Margarita was second to show. Per usual, we waited for the rest of our party... Fortunately, this gave us some time to enjoy a drink at the bar and begin our usual banter. In typical fashion, Margarita walked in looking as if she had just come from an appointment at the "blow dry bar". (Editor's note: I'm pretty sure my hair was in an up-do. Men.) I, on the other hand, was out of contacts and came straight from work wearing my spectacles—a look which rarely leaves the house. Margarita was quick to point out I looked like a professor. This point was not quickly let down.

The rest of our party "soon" arrived, and we were "quickly" seated. (Editor's note: Yes, the rest of our party arrived on Miami time to our reservation. Yes, the hostess did make a big deal about it and made us wait an unusually long time to be seated even though a thousand tables were open.) The dinner coincided with Miami Spice so the default theme of the night became affordability. To my MASSIVE surprise, Red has a bring your own wine corkage fee. An even bigger surprise? One of our guests had the wherewithal to bring two bottles (Editor's note: It wasn't just any red. It was Caymus. My friend Roy brought two bottles of Caymus.) Naturally, "the professor" was asked to taste and approve the wine to which I obliged. While I would love to provide more details on which red wine we paired with our red meats, keep in mind it was provided by another guest in our party (read, free). Thus, I didn't care and I don't know.

After some great conversation with friends old and new, its was time to peruse the menu options and order. The preferred Miami Spice menu was typically structured ($39 for three-courses prix fixe) with a caveat. Each section had add-on options that came at an up-charge. One such option—a quite popular one at our table—was the burrata. Another appetizer option was calamari. Going with either these choices increased the Miami Spice dinner cost to $49. If memory serves me correctly, 8 of 9 guests had ordered off the Miami Spice menu and 7 of 8 had ordered the petite filet entrée by the time the server arrived to take my order.

Now, burrata is a dish that I hold dear to my heart and I had recently been on a burrata kick. Under any other circumstances, the standard order of burrata followed by filet would have been my go-to. However, this steakhouse has a distinctly Italian flare so the veal chop parmesan caught my eye. Naturally, I had important questions for our server, such as "Is it good?" He informed me that it is one of their mostly highly rated dishes on the menu and, with a wink, added, "It is huge." SOLD!

After countless glasses of wine (and a stolen bite of burrata for me), everyone else's empty appetizers plates were cleared to make room for the main course. The table quickly filled with petite filets, followed by my dish. The petite filets were, well, petite. On the other hand, my veal chop parmesan was enormous and looked all the larger surrounded by the rest of the table's 6 oz. mini steaks. My plate could have fed the whole table! After eating about 1/3 of it—it was delicious!—and sharing a bit more, I tapped out deeply satisfied. From the smiling faces around the table, I could tell everyone else also enjoyed their meals.

By this time, it was getting quite late and the evening was starting to wrap up. Dessert was dessert. (I really don't know many people who get overtly excited at this point in a meal.) The most noteworthy moment at this point was Margarita's reaction to the birthday song. While most people would be embarrassed and bear the singing with their heads bowed, our fearless birthday girl chose instead to reprimand us. "I can't hear you! Louder!" she exclaimed while motioning her hands up and down like a conductor. Thanks to the food, the ambiance, and the company our evening at Red was truly a one-of-a-kind and spectacular night.

Jamison waiting at Red's bar.
The famous and well-worth-it burrata at an up-charge. 
"Mine is bigger than yours."
Jamison and at least a week's worth of veal chop parmesan.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

#ThankYouMiami for Seafood, Seafood & More Seafood - @SobeSeafoodFest 2016

First and foremost, thanks to the old gods and the new for sparing Miami from Hurricane Matthew's path. We're extremely grateful our beaches, our roads, our homes and our people look like they did before the storm skipped past us, allowing us to return to business as usual. In fact, III Points successfully kicked off its first day yesterday. (Yes, due to the storm, the festival lost one headliner but none of its killer vibes were damped by the news and tonight Thievery Corporation is going to bring it!) Today the 'Canes are playing against FSU and we're going to be right in the thick of it, eating a bajillion hot dogs and yelling our orange and green hearts out. Last but not least, Miami Beach's Ciclovía is still go for tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Washington Avenue. The entire street will be closed from 5 to 16 Street for biking, skating, jogging or walking and is a great way to soak up the outdoors after the 48 hour storm quarantine.

The last event that we attended pre-storm was the SoBe Seafood Festival's Chef Showdown Preview on the Dream Hotel's rooftop. (You may recall that we attended the chef competition preview last year and loved it.) Unlike previous years, 2016 was all about tequila because Herradura is one of the title sponsors and new to this year's Chef Showdown is a Herradura bartender competition. In addition to the delicious shrimp, tuna, surf n' turf, taco, lobster and other food competitions, you'll also get to sample and vote for the delicious cocktails that come out of the competition! Plus, you'll also get access to the Casa Herradura Experience which is coming to Miami especially for this event. (Here's a post describing what you can expect at a Casa Herradura Experience.)

At the preview, there were ample Herradura samples (read, shots) and delicious margs to go around, which we enjoyed with our #foodiefriends as we collectively fought each other for the passed Naked Taco bites. Seriously, whenever a tray of food came out, it was like the "Mine. Mine. Mine." seagull battle from Finding Nemo. In fact, thanks to our #foodiefriend Amber Bond we expertly positioned ourselves under a tree right where the food was coming out so we could have first dibs. The food went so quickly so our food photos from the night are the worst but take our word for it, you want it all. Every. Last. Bite. Grab your tickets ("thankyou20" for 20% off) before it's too late. After all, the SoBe Seafood Festival is only two weeks away!

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