Sunday, March 1, 2015

Earl's Kitchen & Bar at Dadeland Mall

I don't have to tell you that Dadeland Mall has stepped things up a notch with their dining options. Whenever you start feeling the hunger pangs between credit card swipes and retail therapy sessions, you can just walk over to their newest wing and delight your taste buds with one of the many options they now offer. I've told you about a couple of my favorites and here's another one that is rocking the mall and busting out with happy diners: Earl's Kitchen & Bar.

Cam making his Cabin Fevers 

One of the first things you'll notice when you walk towards Earl's is that it is completely packed at all hours. Whether it's happy hour, lunch or dinner, this place has become a popular spot in this part of town. It's really no wonder. It's got it all - a sleek, contemporary decor, excellent cocktails, amazing food and an energetic ambiance. I don't know if something was written in the stars, or if it was sheer coincidence, but during a media dine, I was greeted at the door with this fabulous cocktail. A subliminal message perhaps? Hmmm....

I promise I won't

I wasn't driving that night so I decided to sacrifice myself and sample several of the drinks on their cocktail menu to bring you, my loyal readers, the most thorough information possible. I know.. I know... somebody had to do it. My verdict after this ummm..research... was that Cam, their mixologist rocks and that another cocktail I was absolutely bonkers over was the Cabin Fever, Earl's fun spin on the Penicillin.

Felt like I was heading to the mountains with this Cabin Fever

After chatting a bit at the bar and learning about what makes this popular chain tick, we headed over to the tables and tried some of their creative dishes. The feast was quite memorable and as you can see below, there was something to satisfy everybody's preferences: from healthy salads, to flavorful pork buns, to decadent desserts.

Field Greens: Mixed Greens with Pecans and Champagne Vinaigrette

What can I say? I love soft, hot steamy buns like these.

Try to say this ten times...Vietnamese Spatchcock Style Chicken

The steak was tender, full of flavor and calling out: Eat me!

Sampler of the Chocolate Hazelnut Bar, Warm Chocolate
Sticky Toffee Pudding and Pumpkin Pie

Chocolate Hazelnut Bar: I snuck a piece of this baby into my purse for later

I've been to Earl's a couple of times after this adventure, and I can tell you I've tried something new each time and walked out happy. Oh and I even had an Earl Sandwich during the media dine...but not the eating kind.

Earl Sandwich

For more information, visit their website at

Earls Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Oak Tavern in the Design District

You know how sometimes you're in the mood for a relaxing night in a casual place yet you still want to indulge in fabulous, quality food that lingers in your memory for days? I think I found that place. It's perfect for a date night yet unpretentious and laid-back. I'm talking about Oak Tavern,  located at 35 N.E. 40th Street. in the heart of the Design District.

You might be familiar with its owner/chef, David Bracha, the two-decade veteran restaurateur behind the well known Downtown staple, The River Seafood & Oyster Bar, and a series of other successful eateries throughout Miami, including South Beach, South Miami and Coral Gables. Bracha envisioned creating a neighborhood spot with Oak Tavern, that would offer a contemporary take on American cuisine with a selection of delicious small and large plates, daily specials, pizzas and house-made charcuterie. All of this with a side of original, refreshing cocktails. I was looking forward to the adventure from the moment I sat down in their charming, picturesque patio, enthralled by the gigantic oak tree that served as one impressive conversation piece.

My palate was ready to begin after this beautiful cocktail

After sipping on one of their sweet, luscious libations, we started off our meal with their Deviled Eggs topped with paddlefish caviar. The eggs were creamy and we enjoyed the delicate textures brought on by the salty fish eggs. Definitely a nice opener. Intrigued by the selection of raw fish on the menu, we also ordered the Snapper Crudo,  crowned with crushed cerignole olives and mint, then drizzled with lemon. The fish was fresh and refreshing, and we actually fought for the last piece.


We asked our server for suggestions on the entrees, and she recommended we share their signature Charcuterie Plate and Oak Tavern's version of Roasted Suckling Pig in La Caja China, served with maque choux and cheddar grits. My first thought for both was "Wow", immediately followed by "Wow" again. Let me start with the charcuterie. On a generously sized platter, came an assortment of Virginia ham aged 400 days, soppressata, calabrese salami, duck prosciutto and foie gras mousse. The quality meats were flavorful and delicious, their taste accentuated by the accompaniments they were served with: pickled vegetables, olives and apple mustard. We indulged with a healthy dose of crispy, rustic bread.

And now for the pig....oh the pig! Bracha outdid himself with this dish. A combination of flavors danced on the plate, alternating our senses betwen  NOLA and the Caribbean. An obviously detailed process went into the preparation of this impressive dish that lingered in our taste buds for hours. The meat sat on a bed of cheesy grits and a southern staple of maque choux, consisting of a tantalizing mix of tomatoes, corn, and hot chili pepper. Each bite carried an unforgettable experience of flavors, textures and comforting goodness. 

Although our tummies were satisfied and happy, there's always room for chocolate! We decided on the Chocolate Truffle Cake served with a caramel and cardamom ice-cream that sealed the deal and made this a definite go-to place. If you haven't been to Oak Tavern yet, don't wait another day.

For more information on Oak Tavern, visit their website at or call them at 786-391-1818.

Oak Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

SOBEWFF and Goya Foods' Swine and Wine Event

This past Sunday, I literally and without shame "pigged" out to my gluttonous heart's desire. As you know, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival had foodies from all over the world in a food coma for the past few days, and one of the events I attended, Goya Foods' Swine & Wine, presented by the National Pork Board (those pork gurus who have rightfully earned the title of  #SabiosDelSabor) was a porkalicious affair.
With Celebrity Chef Marc Forgione
I could smell the aroma of roasted pig from the moment I parked my car at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Suffice it to say, my mouth was watering with the anticipation of spending the next three hours putting those meaty morsels in my mouth. Being Cuban, pork is right at the top of our food pyramid as one of the most essential food groups. In other words, I was eating healthy tonight. Once we entered, we were escorted to the second floor ballroom area, where a selection of top restaurants and celebrity chefs were preparing creative tapas made with pork. On the way up, we could see, smell and feel deep in our soul, the gorgeous pigs being cooked in the Cajas Chinas to our left and right. Once we got upstairs, I got to see favorites like Paula Da Silva (formerly at 1500 Degrees in the historic Eden Roc and now at 3030 Ocean in Fort Laurderdale) and award winning chef and restaurateur Marc Forgione.
Porchetta Toast with Seasonal Veggies by Paula De Silva

With a glass of red wine in one hand, and my plastic tray in the other, I set out to do what everyone else in the room was doing: Eat lots of pork. And the choices were so tempting and delicious, I couldn't pass up any.  Let me show you what I mean with a few of the delights.
2015 National Pork BoardCritic's Choice Award Winner:
Gilligan's Swineland By Piripi Miami
Pulled Pork Tacos
Crispy and Taste Bud Pleasing Pork
Crispy Pork Shank Confit with a Glorious Chicharron Texture
and Apple Mustard
Bang Bang Pork with a Zesty Egg on Top by Marc Forgione
One of my faves of the night: Fried Pork Rilletes. So good!
Jamaican Jerk Bacon with Tropical Salsa
The judges (lucky folk including Raul de Molina from Univision and Chef and TV Personality Doreen Colondres) took their time to methodically choose the Critic's Choice Award winner, which was announced at the end of the night along with the recipient of the People's Choice Award.
Doreen Colondres, TV Personality and Spokesperson
for the National Pork Board

You'd think that's enough pork for one night but seriously... do you not know me by now? Downstairs there was a whole other pig feast going on with the roasted whole pigs in the Caja Chinas. And besides wine, wine and more wine, there was also refreshing mojitos being mixed with Zafra Rum. Goya Foods Executive Chef Fernando Desa prepared some flavorful sides including, Mac & Cheese, Fried Yuca and Beans, and a decadent array of desserts were calling out to us as the grand finale of a grand evening. The whole time, there was music and golden men on stilts, (turns out they weren't a mirage from an overdose of pig) and the ambiance was fun and exciting. Here's a look at what went on downstairs.



Cindy Hutson and her team
Piripi Miami Team
And the winners were... Chef Najat Kaanache of Piripi Miami (Opening Soon in the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables) for the 2015 National Pork Board Critics' Choice Award and Chef Cindy Hutson of Ortanique on the Mile for the People's Choice Award. Congratulations to the winners. It was well deserved!

Swine and Wine was an amazing event that is definitely one not to miss during SOBEWFF. For more information on the National Pork Board and for some fabulous recipes and information about pork visit their website at

Monday, February 16, 2015

Celebrate Pork at SOBEWFF's Swine & Wine with the #SabiosDelSabor

Like me, I bet you're counting down the days until you start heading east to all the decadent events of the 2015 Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, also known as SOBEWFF. Perhaps you started juicing this weekend or bought some clothes a couple of sizes bigger than you normally wear to be sure to fit in as much food as you can, but regardless of how you're handling your preparations for the country's biggest gastronomical affair, the fact remains that you are probably starting your week with a little anticipation and a lot of hunger.

While there are a bunch of events that sound both appetizing and foodgasmic in the SOBEWFF line up this year, there is one that has become a hit, both because of its focus on an addicting dish we can't help but go piggishly crazy over and because of the talent that uses its arsenal of creativity to take our taste buds (and waist circumference) to new heights.

I'm talking about Goya Foods' Swine & Wine, presented by the National Pork Board and hosted by celebrity, award-winning Iron Chef Marc Forgione. The event is taking place Sunday, February 21st, from 5:30-8:30 at the historical and beautiful Biltmore Hotel Country Club in Coral Gables.

The evening will be filled with amazing Pork-Centric Tapas dishes prepared by top chefs that will compete to win the first ever National Pork Board Critics' Choice Award. Is your heart racing already? Imagine an array of acclaimed pig roasters coming together in one place, shaking and dabbing, brushing and rubbing their special spice blends on all-natural, farm-raised, exceptionally tender pork, that guests will have the opportunity to bite into. It's Miami, baby and the National Pork Board is helping to make it happen as the event's presenting sponsor.

Judges include National Pork Board Ambassadors Chef Doreen Colondres of "La Cocina No Muerde" (The Kitchen Doesn't Bite) and Chef Jose Mendin of Pubbelly; Juan Mari Arzak (acclaimed pioneer of Basque cuisine and this year's tribute dinner honoree); Fernando Desa (Goya Foods' Executive Chef); Raul de Molina (host of Univision's "El Gordo y La Flaca"); Chef James Tahhan (co-presenter and in house chef for Telemundo's "Un Nuevo Dia"); and Michelin star-rated Chef Marc Forgione. 

Chef James of Telemundo will also serve as the MC of the event, as the best of the pork-centric tapas dishes are selected to receive top honors. Three of the porkalicious honorees will receive 1st, 2nd and 3rd place recognition.

But these little piggies will be wowing guests in other ways as well. While the tasting and the tapas competition takes place inside the ballroom area, chefs Colondres and Desa will be slow roasting whole pigs outdoors, which will be served straight from "La Caja China" to each guest's plate. You know I'll be the first in line asking for "el pellejito". I just love that crispy skin.  But in case I get out of control, remember… lo que sucede en Miami, se queda en Miami.

You didn't think you were just going to be pigging out on meat alone, did you? There will be plenty of finger-licking side dishes to indulge in, along with a slew of luscious libations that includes wine, whisky and mojitos, and just like during Nochebuena, party goers will be sent home after un cafecito and some home made desserts.

To make the Swine experience complete, The National Pork Board will host an entertainment and social media lounge where celebrity chefs Colondres and Mendin will be on hand to interact with guests and give devoted foodies something extra to look forward to. Once you're home in your bed, and getting ready to drift off to sleep with a full tummy and a happy heart, you might want to favorite on your laptops where you can find the Sabios Del Sabor (Pork Guru) campaign featuring a wealth of pork recipes and information, to make your kitchen even more flavorful and enticing. While you're on the site, don't miss a recipe developed by Chef Mendin for Braised Pork Pastelon that will be a part of the restaurant's menu during the week of SOBEWFF.

You can purchase tickets for SOBEWFF's Swine and Wine event here and be sure to stay tuned to my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds on February 22nd during the event, where I will be posting the delicious happenings taking place for your foodgasmic pleasure.  Hope to see you there!

I am going to be compensated by Republica on behalf of the National Pork Board for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Flourish at The Palms Hotel & Spa With Healthy Fare From Essensia

We all know how stressful the daily grind of life can be. Wouldn't it be perfect to have a picturesque, relaxing place to go, if only once a month, that would provide comfort and healing to our bodies and our minds at an affordable price? I found just the place. And of course, it involves delicious food, which makes the adventure completely well balanced.

The Palms Hotel and Spa in Miami Beach has been holding a monthly yoga experience called Flourish, which takes place on the second Wednesday of every month from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Instructors from Green Monkey lead a one hour yoga class, that is both invigorating and relaxing, in a beautiful setting overlooking the lush gardens of the hotel. You can bring your own mat, or they can provide one for you, as you unwind and release all your stress on the veranda terrace.

Executive Chef Julie Frans

I had the opportunity to attend one of the sessions and I felt renewed by the time I was done. You see, it isn't just the yoga that is fabulous. After the one hour session, the staff sets up tables with healthy, delicious food and juices prepared by Essensia's Executive Chef Julie Frans. Essensia is the gourmet dining restaurant located at the resort. The selection they provide at Flourish varies every month, but the taste and freshness of it does not. This was my first bite of the cuisine at Essensia, and I was very impressed with the quality of the food and Chef Frans' preparation. I would never have imagined that food this good for me, would be so incredibly flavorful. 

After we had our healthy fill, they provided chair massages that soothed the tired muscles and washed away any remnants of tension that may have survived the wonderful experience. It was a well needed treat I've decided I'm going  to make time for more often. And the price is right. If you book Flourish online, it is $35 and if you pay at the door, it costs $45. You can't beat that.

For more information, or to book the next Flourish session, visit The Palms Hotel & Spa online.