Friday, July 25, 2014

TGI Friday's Endless Appetizers

Well as you guys know, I'm a Brand Ambassador for TGI Friday's and I promised to keep you up-to-date with the latest happenings and promotions. Last month I told you about the popular eatery's Summer of Fridays Road Tour, where food trucks have been driving around the country handing out complimentary samples of their new handcrafted menu items (which by the way are awesome).  Has anybody gotten the opportunity to check it out? If you haven't, and there's a truck hitting your town soon, don't miss it. You're going to be impressed with all the new stuff.

Cotton Candy Cosmo

But let me tell you what's going on now. TGI Friday's has recently launched their Endless Appetizers promotion, and it's an appetizer lover's dream. For just $10, you can keep your favorite starter coming to your table over and over again. About a week ago, I was up in the Weston Area and started to crave some comfort food. We drove by a local TGI Friday's and decided to stop for some bites and a couple of their creative cocktails (I needed a Cotton Candy Cosmo - Guess I was having a SATC kind of day.). There's always something going on at Fridays, whether it's their happy hour, or a special promotion, so I figured I'd ask the server. He told us about their Endless Appetizers offer and that's all we needed to hear. By the way, he was awesome. We were starving (and I guess it showed) and he  brought out some complimentary chips and salsa for us to nibble on while we waited. That was cool!


Garlic & Basil Bruschetta

Mozzarella Sticks
Loaded Potato Skins
So here's how it works. You buy one appetizer for $10 each per person, and you get free refills for that appetizer for as long as you can eat.  Bring it on! And it isn't just one or two appetizers that the offer applies to. It's most of the favorites: Loaded Potato Skins (one of my personal faves), Pan Seared Pot Stickers, Mozzarella Sticks (you have got to try these - they are totally different from all others), Garlic & Basil Bruschetta (boy I had a torrid affair of endless proportions with this baby), Tuscan Spinach Dip, Boneless Buffalo Wings and Crispy Green Bean Fries.

Needless to say after some luscious libations and a whole lot of endless appetizers, we walked out of TGI Friday's with a smile on our face and a little more of us to love. Remember though, the offer won't last forever so hurry before it's gone.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Brunch at Love is Blind

You know how they say love is blind? Well at The Passion Restaurant Group's newest venture, Love is Blind, all you need are your taste buds and a cool, refreshing Mimosa to stimulate your senses. From the makers of Brickell's Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita and Crazy About You, the newest catchy-named eatery is located in the heart of Coral Gables at 225 Altara Avenue.



Bloody Mary and Mimosa
  


Huevos Rotos
Serrano Ham Croquettes
The first thing that will catch your eye when you arrive at Love is Blind is their romantic and inviting decor. The wooden furniture, iron work, beautiful lighting fixtures and colorful tiles come together to create an enchanting setting, fit for a memorable rendezvous. I recently visited the restaurant to taste their new brunch, and I felt right at home from the moment I walked in. To start off our Sunday Funday, we ordered a Mimosa and a Bloody Mary. Both were refreshing and addicting. Sipping my cares away, I looked at the brunch menu. (And I sipped for a while)  I'll tell you I had a hard time deciding what to choose. There were several dishes that caught my eye and made me salivate slightly. Part of the reason is that Chef Jose Liriano has prepared a menu of "world cuisine" where guests can take a culinary journey throughout the globe without ever leaving their seats. We decided to break the ice with their ever popular croquetas, appropriately named Maybe The Best Serrano Ham Croquettes. Creamy and smooth inside, with a hint of crispiness outside, our palates were awakened with a flavorful Good Morning. It had been a long night so these babies hit the spot. I noticed they offered Huevos Rotos as part of their appetizers and I knew I had to have them. This is a Spanish dish I absolutely love and their version didn't disappoint. The perfectly poached eggs were served over Confit Potatoes and topped with Iberico Ham. Delicious.


Grilled Short Rib Benedict

Chicken and Waffles

Steak and Eggs
It was time for our entrees. Now remember that Love Is Blind follows the same concept as its Brickell predecessors. You pay one price and you choose an appetizer and an entree. It happens to be that the price for brunch is 17.99, which is not only reasonable but great for the wallet of a single girl like me. I chose the Grilled Short Rib Benedict. Can I pick them or what? Just imagine toasted English Muffins topped with juicy, tasty short rib, a poached egg and creamy hollandaise sauce. I was in love and declared my passion with every bite. My partner in crime ordered the Steak and Eggs, which consisted of 3 eggs cooked to order and served with a tender slab of grilled veal churrasco. All entrees include their zesty patatas bravas as a side. I can tell you that he didn't talk much and just chewed (which is quite rare) so I know it was good. Because I'm addicted to sweet and savory and really because I can eat like the world is ending, we also sampled their Chicken and Waffles. I closed my eyes and inserted that fork without hesitation. That was a love-filled, hopelessly devoted experience. Four Belgian waffles were topped with chicken tenderloins AND Applewood bacon. Yes, I said bacon. The maple syrup was gingerly placed on the side. Of course, mine were bathed in it in an instant. What else can I tell you? Love is blind.

This Sunday, you want to drive to the Gables and check them out. For more information, you can visit their website.


Love Is Blind on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wynwood Kitchen & Bar's Summer Dining Series Is Back

It's back! Wynwood Kitchen & Bar, the cool, artsy eatery located at 2550 N.W. 2nd Avenue in Wynwood Miami, has launched their Summer Dining Series again this year, featuring small plates from Europe. Every Wednesday during the months of June, July and August, the restaurant will showcase a variety of a la carte dishes and drinks, from a particular country in the Old Continent. In addition to these items, diners can also order from their regular a la carte menu of Global-Latino small plates as well.





Meat & Cheese Plate
White Sangria
For the month of June, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar is showcasing Spain, so I went to get a taste of what Chef Aguilar was putting together to represent La Madre Patria. It turned out he had some pretty interesting combinations I was excited to try. The first was the Meat & Cheese Plate, a nice tasting plate consisting of Duck Prosciutto, San Simon and Tetilla Cheeses and a sweet paste to give the dish an extra umph. It was simple and light and a perfect way to start the experience. I decided I wanted to pair the tapas with their White Sangria, another Spain favorite for the month of June, and that was delicious. Fruity and refreshing, I was starting to get in the mood for some Flamenco dancing. (Too bad there wasn't a cute Spaniard around.)


Chorizo Croquettes

Next up, we tried the finger-licking good Chorizo Croquettes.  These flavorful, meaty balls were made with potatoes and bechamel, then stuffed with chorizo and served over a chive cream. Ole! I could easily have bought a dozen. Finally, the last showcase of the month was the Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. These were tasty but spicy fellas, stuffed with crab meat and manchego cheese then generously drizzled with aji amarillo. They gave my tongue a run for its money, but no worries though. Nothing another White Sangria couldn't take care of. Bring it on...

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers


Gazpacho
Maduros
After indulging in WKB's special menu items for June, I thought I'd try some more dishes from their regular menu. I love the spin the chef puts on Latin cuisine and the way he combines spices and flavors from different places to create something completely new. In keeping with the Spanish theme, I ordered a Gazpacho. It had a burst of flavor and an interesting kick coming from the spiced croutons. I accompanied it with one of my favorites from WKB, their Maduros, or fried plantains smothered in queso fresco and nata. Never disappoints. Finally, I noticed they had Gambas al Ajillo, that while not part of the special Spanish menu, is quite a popular dish in Spain. I gave it a whirl and totally loved the taste of  parsley and olive oil with the garlic sauteed shrimp.

Gambas al Ajillo

You should definitely get out to Wynwood Kitchen & Bar this summer and not only try the special dishes on their Summer Dining Series, but the globally-infused regular menu items as well. They will be featuring Germany in July and Portugal in August. With the FIFA World Cup going on, I have to say, I can't wait to see what Chef Aguilar's creativity will produce. For more information on WKB, visit their website.


Wynwood Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Kicking Back With Chef Marcus Samuelsson - A Macy's Culinary Council Great

Having the opportunity to meet great chefs and sit down to talk to them is always an exciting experience. I always wonder how they are away from the kitchen and the culinary spotlight. This past Saturday, June 14th, I sat down with Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson, most widely known for being a judge on ABC's The Taste, winning Top Chef Masters in 2010 and for his popular restaurant Red Rooster in Harlem, right before he engaged in a Macy's Culinary Council cooking demo at Dadeland Mall. I walked away totally smitten with his personality and laid-back demeanor, and looking forward to a trip to NYC in the near future to visit Red Rooster for myself.


With Chef, Author and Restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson's life is a fascinating celebration of overcoming adversity. Born in Ethiopia, he contracted tuberculosis at the age of three, along with his mother and elder sister, and sadly, lost his mother to the disease. Both he and his sister were adopted by a Swedish couple, Lennar and Anne-Marie Samuelsson, and his life into a multi-cultural, supportive and love-filled new family began. It only takes a second to talk to Marcus and feel like you've known him all your life. He is in tune with people, compassionate in his demeanor, and humble to the core.


Marcus Samuelsson getting ready to start his demo
 
Shortly after Marcus arrived to the interview room, he walked outside where a couple of us were waiting for our scheduled time to chat, and invited us in to share some food and beverages that had been provided for him. As he poured our drinks into a glass, he engaged in everyday conversation with us and made us feel comfortable and at ease. It was refreshing to see his step-away-from-the-norm personality up close and personal and catch a preview into the compelling story of the man who became the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times.




By the time I sat down with Marcus to talk, I was excited. I had so many questions I wanted to ask him before the cooking demo began, and judging from his laid back persona, I knew it was going to be fun. We comfortably sat opposite from each other on the couches and just chatted.


The Foodaholic:  I know your passion for cooking began with your grandmother in Sweden and developed even further with your father in Ethiopia. How do you combine these two very different uses of ingredients and spices to make your own flavors and style?

Marcus Samuelsson: We ate natural foods in Sweden, and preserved them for upcoming seasons. I experienced fresh blueberries and apples in the Fall, and my grandmother would prepare mackerel, cod and salmon often. They were real flavors I identified with. Then, I began incorporating the spices I tasted in Ethiopia through my father, and it added a layer of heat to my dishes. I listened to and observed my audience in the restaurants and what they liked, and this is how I developed my style.


T.F.: With such an interesting combination of flavors, what does a typical dinner at home look like for your family?

M.S.: If I was making dinner at home, I'd probably cook Ethiopian food. To me, elevated comfort food is a staple. There would definitely be roasted fried chicken and greens, and perhaps some cured salmon.


T.F.: You come from two very different worlds. How would you say that has shaped you into who you are today - both in life as well as in the kitchen?

M.S.: I identify very closely with three places: Harlem, Ethiopia and Sweden. They are like the north star for me. My African roots give me a love for spicy food. My Swedish upbringing has given me an appreciation for seafood and pickling. Harlem brings a lively element to my life. The three together create warmth and passion, which is what cooking is all about. It is about aa mixture of ingredients and traditions.


T.F.: You've written three cookbooks, you have an app, and you're now promoting your memoir, "Yes, Chef". What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

M.S.: Because of the things I have experienced in my life, I have always been approached about complex issues such as adoption, interracial relationships, and growing up as a black child with a white family. Although I wanted to share my story, I felt I wasn't ready to when I was 25 or 26 years old. However, now was the time. "Yes Chef" is a celebration of life and overcoming obstacles, through my passion for cooking.  


T.F.: Your journey so far includes cooking for President Barrack Obama's first state dinner, and winning numerous recognitions, including multiple James Beard awards. What is the single most important piece of advice you would give someone just starting out as a chef in their culinary career?

M.S.: I would tell them that they must always remain passionate and curious. Cooking is about evolving. You get the opportunity to be invited into the community, to people's hearts, through your food, and that is a big deal. If you stop growing and changing, then your time is up.


T.F.: You currently own restaurants in New York City, Sweden, Costa Mesa and Chicago. They all have their distinct personalities. Which one would you say personifies you and your life the most?

M.S.:  While all of them personify me in some way, I would have to say the Red Rooster in Harlem resembles my life the most. There is a certain magic in that neighborhood that makes it unique from anywhere else. I feel proud of representing Harlem in my restaurant.


T.F.: What are your upcoming plans? Anything new on the horizon you'd like to share with my readers?

M.S.: I have a new cookbook coming out soon entitled "Off Duty", where I share over 150 of the recipes I cook at home. I also have a new show I will be cohosting starting in July, called The Feed. It will feature an adventurous look into the food culture in America. Of course, we have a new season of The Taste coming up, and I look forward to continuing to be a part of it.




I've been to several of Macy's cooking demos, and always enjoy them. As usual, everyone got a taste of Marcus' delicious recipes to sample, but some guests got to try them straight from his skillet. He was extremely engaging with the audience, with an honest wit and entertaining personality.


His natural affinity with kids lit up the room. Marcus called up the daughter of a fellow blogger to the kitchen and had her help him with the first dish. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the demonstration, and the time honestly just flew by.




He prepared three of his favorite comfort foods for us. The first was the Roof - Garden Tacos with Salmon. It was delicious, topped with a mildly spicy salsa verde that elevated the dish to new heights. As he cooked, he explained how comfort food changes with the decades, always meaning something different for everyone. He also gave the crowd some tips on transforming leftovers into something special by adding new ingredients and talked about the importance this has on the environment.


Roof - Garden Tacos with Salmon

Next up, we sampled his Peanut Noodles, mixed with fresh vegetables and drizzled with a tangy Peanut Vinaigrette. It was a light, refreshing dish, perfect for summer. Marcus stressed how the key is to slightly undercook the vegetables so that they retain a crunchy texture. This is a great meal when on the go since vegetables give us a boost of energy.


Peanut Noodles

The last dish we tried was the Coconut - Lime Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice. The seasoning on the chicken was fantastic, and the hint of coconut did not overwhelm the dish but rather complemented it. I can't wait to try it at home.


Coconut - Lime Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice

The cooking demo was a lot of fun. Marcus wowed us with details from when he cooked for the President at his first state dinner with the Prime Minister of India and described the courses he made and the inspiration behind them. We could also sense his pride and passion for Red Rooster, his Harlem restaurant, and the gratification he gets from interacting with his guests.



Want to know more about Marcus Samuelsson? Pick up a copy of his memoir,  "Yes Chef", and curl up for the summer reading about his amazing life. In the meantime, stay tuned for details on the next cooking demo taking place at a local Macy's so that you can savor the fun too.



I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post about Macy's Culinary Council and Marcus Samuelsson. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

Monday, June 16, 2014

El'Eat

PEI Mussels
You know the saying "good things come in small packages"? It doesn't apply here. Meet El'Eat Restaurant and Lounge, the flashy new restaurant that just opened in North Miami Beach at 3207 N.E. 163 Street. You wouldn't know from standing outside just how spacious it is, but wait until you get inside. Decorated with chandeliers, white flowy curtains and an eclectic mix of furniture, the place is huge, sporting enough room for dinner, drinking, dancing and any other "d" you may want to do.




I had the opportunity to come in and check out a large portion (is everything here large?) of El'Eat's menu and I was impressed. Executive Chef Will Biscoe, who brings El'Eat a combination of talent, experience and innovation, puts together a diverse menu that features everything from caviar to burgers.


Kale Salad

Grilled Asparagus Salad
Avocado Fritters
Our evening began with a sampling of the Garden and Apps section of the menu.. The Kale Salad was delicious, served with a braised and crispy smoked pork belly, while the Grilled Asparagus Salad had a fun twist. It was crowned with a fried egg and sprinkled with Manchego Cheese and parsley crumbs. Being a fan of the ever popular avocado, I enjoyed El'Eats' preparation of the green goddess. Their Avocado Fritters were a flavor and texture festival of crispy-breaded and cumin-seasoned avocado wedges, topped with sweet and spicy dynamite sauce.


Jumbo Lump Crab Cake

Crispy Calamari
Oysters
Next up, we sampled the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, a tasty and tender treat of Maryland Crab seasoned with Old Bay and served with a grainy mustard sauce, followed by their Crispy Calamari, flash fried and drizzled with Thai Peanut Sauce, and a plate of scrumptious Oysters.


Sauteed Garlic Shrimp

Grilled Red Snapper
Crispy Pork Shank
My favorite appetizer of the night was the Sauteed Garlic Shrimp. It reminded me of an old southern favorite, a mix of biscuits and gravy, with white wine, tomatoes, lemon butter sauce and corn butter. Delicious.



Their entrees include a variety of steaks cooked on the grill, fish and chicken. I particularly enjoyed the Grilled Red Snapper, served with braised leeks and cabbage, pink grapefruit and kalamata olives, as well as the flavorful Crispy Pork Shank, served over a bed of Feijoada style black bean stew and oranges. If you are a fan of creamy mac & cheese, you'll love their Lobster version, a creamy, decadent tease for the palate.


Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

Chocolate Crunch Bar with
Pistachio Ice Cream
Chef Will's Famous Valrhona
Chocolate Chunk Cookies
All good things must come to an end, but the end can be so sweet. There are plenty of delectable desserts to choose from on El'Eat's menu. Two of my guilty pleasures were the Chocolate Crunch Bar with Pistachio Ice Cream (enough said) and Chef Will's Famous Valrhona Chocolate Chunk Cookies. These are definitely a must-have, even if you doggie-bag them.

For more information on El'Eat or to make reservations, visit their website or call them at 786-440-7104.


El'Eat on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Windridge Yacht Charters and Toscana Divino Bring Miami The Ultimate Pop-Up Dining Experience

You know how you turn the pages of People Magazine ( I know you skim through it at the grocery store check out just like I do) and feel a tinge of envy at all the celebrities cruising around on luxurious, chic yachts? Well, guess what? You can put on your nautical outfits too and live out the lifestyle (minus the paparazzi) for an enchanted, mouthwatering evening.




Windridge Yacht Charters has joined the Entertainment Cruises family to bring a unique and upscale dining experience to Miami, featuring talented chefs from popular local restaurants who provide the ultimate pop-up on the water. Entertainment Cruises operates 30 boats in nearly a dozen U.S. cities, and is now adding the trending pop-up restaurant concept to its options in order to give individual cruisers the opportunity to enjoy a memorable meal out on the ocean without having to charter the entire yacht. (Which can be done for corporate events and other parties).




To launch the concept, Windridge Yacht Charters hosted two private events for the media, one in Fort Lauderdale and another in Miami, where members of the press got the chance to experience what local cruisers will enjoy when they book an evening aboard. We boarded the Lady Windridge (I bid adieu to land across from the Fontainebleau Miami Beach), and stepped into an oasis of detail, indulgence and pure pleasure. From the welcome cocktails to the passed hors-d'oeuvres, no stone was left unturned and the night set off to a magical start.




The first thing that took my breath away was the beauty of the yacht. Lady Windridge has four long decks that can accomodate up to 430 people as well as quite an impressive kitchen. It is elegantly decorated, with ample room to make any event special. However,  it still provides an intimate setting for those love birds that board with a romantic evening in mind.




Dinner was prepared by much-loved Executive Chef Julian Baker from Toscana Divino, who wowed guests with a lavish buffet consisting of Italian favorites. Guests enjoyed the meal in the spacious dining room, beautifully set up for the occasion, while sipping endless glasses of wine. After dinner, we indulged in a variety of desserts and coffee (my favorite was the Tiramisu, of course) and then went upstairs to get our dancing groove on as we enjoyed the ocean breeze and view of the coast. It was a perfectly romantic and enchanting evening that left a lasting impression.




For more information on Windridge Yacht Charters and their upcoming events, visit their website.