I just returned from a picturesque walk through the FDR drive to Houston Street on the East river park and the snow is already turning into black slush. Thankfully, this season I decided to invest in a pair of Tretorn knee high boots, keeping my feet and legs warm and dry. One thing I have in common with Sting, yeah Sting the former lead singer of the Police is we both love Winter! He loves it so much he wrote an entire album dedicated to winter, disclaimer: I am not trying to promote his winter album but I agree with what Sting said in the interview in CBS Sunday morning that Winter is a season to reflect on the past and to anticipate what is ahead.
December started with my very first business trip to Miami Beach, Florida for the annual Art Basel Miami Beach art fair. For some reason all my co-workers would groan and moan when Art Basel Miami Beach season is near and somehow that same feeling had spread to me. For someone like me who hates the humidity and claims Winter as a favorite climate of the year but to be reminiscing Miami Beach 3 weeks later, definitely says something special is in Miami…sunshine perhaps? Geographically located on the southern tip on the map of United States where daily weather forecast reports on the neighboring country Cuba. Food options are definitely somewhat limited compared to the diversity in New York City, though if you enjoy Latin American, Puerto Rican, or Cuban cuisine or simply have an appetite and adventurous taste palette like myself, you’re in for a Miami treat.
My colleagues Ashley, Jesse and I stayed at the Days Inn hotel. The hotel is living standard but with a million dollar view overlooking Miami Beach. Our hotel was located on a strip of more hotels and with very limited food options other than conveniently in walking distance is the Walgreens where I bought awful sushi one night only because I was craving for rice and a Middle Eastern Falafel restaurant Sultan with main ingredient used onions! With wifi at the speed of a slug, I did not imagine having to use the yellowpages but it really saved us! Jesse and I ordered from a Puerto Rican/ Cuban restaurant, Jimmy Z’s Kitchen —awful name but awesome good quality food! I ordered their Ahi Special which is a seared tuna with basmati rice and an avocado salad. Jesse had ordered the mofongo (pronunciation: “mo-fon-go”) since it had the best reviewed mofongo in town! A mofongo is a mashed fried plantain and it is usually shaped as a patty over a sauce. Jesse and I had this dish before at an Upper East Side Cuban restaurant and Jimmy Z’s Kitchen Mofongo is hands down, pretty damn good! The sauce in the mofongo resembles a bit of Indian spices with bay leaves. My Ahi Special with seared tuna was nicely medium rare grilled with the aromatic basmati rice and compliment perfectly with fresh avocado salad with a light olive oil dressing. Both dishes are comfort and hearty and it was exactly what I needed after 3 days of carbohydrates: bread, pita, burrito, bagel,etc.
I think the most shocking find was an amazing French cafe chain and I demand them to have one in New York City soon, PAUL . I saw a few on my trip in Paris, France in Fall 2008 but it looked really upscale. PAUL in Miami resembled the one in Paris but the prices on the menu is surprisingly very reasonable that my colleagues and I visit twice for lunch and on our last day brunch. The menu ranges from bake goods to crepes to sandwiches to egg benedicts. For lunch, I tried the soups of the day which was chicken noodle, squash, and french onion soup. It is very rare I see French onion soup for take out, so I had to have it. Along with the soup, we each order a crepe from the menu, Crepe Picarde which is black forest ham, cheese & creme fraiche with a salad on the side. So satisfying Jesse and I went back to have our last day in Miami brunch at PAUL. Where else can you dine at an outdoor seating in December under the sun? Not New York City. I ordered the Smoked Salmon Benedict with toasted brioche, poached egg, salmon and hollandaise sauce with a side salad for only $8.95! With a large fresh squeezed orange juice $3.25 ..ok a little bit of a splurge but it’s Florida oranges! My favorite meal is weekend brunch but it is so crowded and piggy bank broke in New York City that I do not experience weekend brunch too often. So bring PAUL to New York City! Though I highly doubt if there was a PAUL in New York City would maintain such an affordable price for high quality food.
So the year is wrapping up and at the rate that I update my blog, I mind as well make this my end of the year entry and reflect on all the good eats. Here is a list of my top ten best eats of 2009: (documented/ undocumented)
10. Amy’s Ruth. Homey and friendly staff.
9. Grand Sichuan for those who do not like hot pot
7. Caracas Arepa Bar Goody stuffed
6. Kaffe 1668 better than Joe’s because the pot of tea rules!
5. Zerza Mediterranean/ Morrocan Retaurant. Amazing Prix Fixe Menu! Master in the art of slow cooked dishes.
4. Jimmy Z’s Kitchen. Best Mofongo! (read above)
3. PAUL come to NYC! (read above)
2. Sundaes & Cones you scream, we scream, we all scream for black sesame ice cream!
1. Di Fara Pizzeria. Worth the 2+ hours wait! Long live Domenico De Marco!!!
Thank you all for reading this year! Merry Eating! – julie