Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eat It - Phillipe Chow, 2305 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL (305)674-0250 (and drive a Chevy)

www.philippechow.com

Phillipe Chow, located in the Gansevoort Hotel on South Beach, is the restaurant equivalent of a night club. What's a night club, exactly? It's a cool, hip place with interesting, often trendy architecture. They play sweet tunes that make you want to shake your booty, money-maker, badonkadonk, or whatever it is back there that your momma may or may not have given you. I'm talkin' about dat ass. You hope there are lots of attractive people to look at and maybe hit on (if you're single, sinverguenza [that means "shameless one" in Spanish]).

The nightclub's main source of revenue is alcoholic beverages. The bottles of Grey Goose and Patron they're pushing are bought at wholesale prices just like the ones they have behind the bar at Ted's (the best bar in Miami, by the way). The difference is that the nightclub charges you probably 15 to 20 bucks for a cocktail while Ted's charges you 6 or 7. It's probably not a better cocktail, but you're paying for ambiance and exclusivity. And also lots and lots of plastic surgery.

This seems to be the idea behind restaurants like Mr. Chow and Phillipe Chow (who used to work for Mr. Chow, by the way, and now has thanked his former employer by opening up a block away from his Miami outpost). The food they have is perfectly good, but it's just Chinese food. It's kind of like if you served McDonald's in a fancy setting with tablecloths and waiters. You know what? That idea's not half-bad...

Maybe certain restaurants will become so exclusive that they only let you in if you order chafing dish service. You get a great table in the corner and they bring big buffet-style trays of food and you just serve yourself. There just might be enough douchey people in the Magic City to pull it off. It'd go something like this in line -

Bouncer (wearing fitted black suit, hair slicked back, has one of those nondescript foreign accents): Yes, may I help you?

Four Dudes In Line (still wearing shirts with big collars and diagonal checks even though they went out 5 years ago, hair blown out): Bro, it's just us four dudes.

Bouncer: Gentlemen. We have a very full club, I mean, restaurant. And four guys, I don't think this is possible.

Four Dudes In Line: Bro, we come here all the time, bro.

Bouncer: I will need you to buy one tray for each of you. Maybe fried rice, spring rolls, large pot of wonton, and several orders of our overrated, neon orange chicken satay.

Four Dudes In Line: Bro, why's your chicken satay neon orange, bro? That doesn't sound even remotely appetizing.

Bouncer: Yeah, I don't get it either.

And so on...

That's the deal at Phillipe Chow. The interior is sort of a Delano lobby-looking place. Billowy white curtains. White tables and chairs. All very clean and modern. The customers are mostly Russian. The staff is polite and attentive. Service is excellent. And the music is amazing. Who ever comes up with their playlists is a genius. Queen, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, not Katy Perry, etc. The music was so good that it was actually distracting me from eating a little. Well worth it.

I alluded earlier to the chicken satay with its bizarre orange colored breading. They should do away with that. I have no idea why they ruin a perfectly simple dish like chicken satay that way. Chicken with peanut sauce does not need breading. The orange color they make it is totally unappetizing. Yet this is like it's "signature dish" or something. I don't get it. You may not know this, but I also hate Barton G and most people think it's the greatest thing to happen to food since salt.

The other stuff we ate was great. Not much better than PF Chang's, but better than Miss Yip's, which has been pretty mediocre since changing owners.We dined on beef wraps, a bit pricey at $19 for the appetizer. Wait a minute. That's really expensive. Velvet Chicken was a solid entree. Again pretty expensive at $44 per order (serves two). We also shared some Crispy Beef ($56) and some Vegetarian Spring Rolls. There was a bunch of delicious looking seafood that I couldn't eat, poor me.

Luckily, all of this was paid for by Chevy, who also picked my girlfriend and me up at home and chauffeured us to and from the restaurant in a brand new Tahoe. My girlfriend loved that because she's from Tahoe. What are the odds that we'd be picked up in a car named after her hometown? They've gotta be pretty slim.

Best part of the night? They printed up place cards for all of the food writers in attendance. This was a couple of months ago, by the way.  One of my 2011 resolutions is to get back to posting frequently once again. And also to stop hogging all of the weights at the gym. That's selfish of me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BT's

No, not the strip club, silly. Barry's Tickets (our sweet, sweet sponsor)! I ordered a bunch of tickets for the Bills-Dolphins game yesterday and they have already arrived. Contrast this with my awful experience with Tickets Now (Ticketmaster's reseller site), during which they claimed that FedEx had delivered them, but on their own website said they had not, followed by an offer to sell me more tickets rather than doing anything to actually resolve my problem, and I am a happy person. Now I just have to make sure not to forget them on the way to the game. Go Bills!

Almost forgot that our "EatIt305" promotional code saved like 15 bucks off the order. Don't forget that part.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Review Style/Self-Psychoanalysis

I realized recently that I've been putting a lot more pressure on myself since attending two writers workshops over the summer. I think that's why it's taking me so much longer to finish my reviews. I seriously have like 10-15 of them that I have simply not published. And one of the main reasons is the reaction that my classmates had to a few of my Eat It, Miami reviews that I had polished up and submitted for review and critique. I try to pretend that nothing anyone says hurts my feelings but I'm actually hyper-sensitive and remember everything critical that anyone's ever said to me since I was five.

The instructor asked for a show of hands from the class if anyone would take restaurant recommendations from "the author" and almost no one raised his or her hand. And the reason was that my fellow writers thought that I didn't do enough to describe the food itself. They said I used the words "awesome," "amazing," and "perfect" too much. That those words don't really mean anything. Some of them seemed genuinely surprised that I might get paid to write as I told them I had by UrbanDaddy.

And I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am not a trained gourmet or chef or even a journalist, and my reviews are simply the thoughts of some dude who's telling you about his experience at a restaurant.

The reviews read like a conversation I might have with my friends or family (and I talk a lot, so I might just go on for 20 minutes while everyone just waits for me to stop). I talk about movies and grammar a lot and also boarding school and country clubs. Because I'm a snob who "picked the right parents," as my father likes to say in describing the circumstances that led to my privileged upbringing for which I am genuinely grateful. I regularly thank my parents for paying for me to have straight teeth, for example. And I thank God/the Universe every time I lie down in my comfy bed and with a roof over my head.

So, if you want to hear about velvety, granular, sumptuous vittles and about how the chef did something something something that you would learn how to do in the CIA, like for instance water-boarding, wait a minute, wrong CIA, I meant the Culinary Institute of America, then you've come to the wrong place.

One of the coolest people I've ever met in my life, my classmate Isaac Anderson, who awesomely has the same name as an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler, told me to forget all that and continue to use the words "awesome" and "amazing." Because that's how I would describe a steak to my friends. I'm not Frank Bruni. And I don't want to be.

Awesome.

Monday, November 8, 2010

MAD

The Miss Albany Diner, or MAD, as it is affectionately known, has lost its owner of the past 22 years.

If you are ever in the Albany area, my home town, like to take the New York Bar, which is the only reason that most people would ever go there, make a trip to this place. You order MAD Eggs (covered in curry sauce and chopped scallions, served on a buttered english muffin) and your date orders Mad Irish Toast (french toast slathered in walnut cream cheese and whiskey syrup sauce). Then you share. Or go there twice so you can have both of them.

Unfortunately, the family has decided to put it up for sale, so you should go there soon, lest you miss out forever. But I think Ed McNamara is probably putting together a team of investors at the Fort Orange Club, so we probably don't have to fret.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Support the Troops!

I really don't think we can ever do enough to show our appreciation to the people who risk their lives to defend our rights.

Now that I'm a member of the Media, though it doesn't mean my politics have shifted leftward, I do get invited to stuff where they give me free food and a name tag and I get press releases sent to me on an almost daily basis. I ignore most of them because they're usually totally uninteresting.

But not today. Oh no. Today's was a good one.

Applebee's is giving away free meals to all veterans and active duty military personnel on Veterans Day, Thursday, November 11th from 11am to midnight. Here's a link to their Facebook page. And here's where you may find the one closest to you.

If you're a veteran or active duty serviceman or woman, thank you!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Make Money Money, Make Money Money Mon-EY!

Google Adsense actually pays? I'm incredulous. Unfortunately, I don't have a paper check to show you, my faithful readers. But this is what the direct deposit transaction looks like -

Oct 28, 2010Electronic Deposit from GOOGLE ADSENSE REVENUE SH101.85

 Muchas gracias.











Monday, October 25, 2010

Cheeseme's Back!

cheeseme.com

And now with more E's! (It used to be spelled "Cheesme"). Maybe it wasn't showing up in Google searches or something and their search engine optimizer told them to change it. After weird somethings shut the place down when it was located behind a sketchy club on Washington Ave, the owners have relaunched in a food truck. I guess that's the new big thing. It makes sense since the overhead is way lower, and a grilled cheese is the kind of thing one can eat without a table and utensils. In case you didn't read my review of the original "Cheesme" from last year, here it is.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy National Pasta Week?

I guess it makes sense that it begins during Columbus Day Weekend. Check out Prima Pasta's deals for, uh, National Pasta Week. 7 bucks.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Till Next Year, Miami Spice!

I only tried one Miami Spice meal this year, which I haven't even posted yet. Been a pretty busy 2 months.

Upon checking the Miami Spice website, I saw an announcement for a somewhat interesting sounding event, "Lights Out Miami Beach." It's happening on October 20th. Apparently the diners and wait staff will be blindfolded. Sounds messy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tickets, Miami

Do you think that the guys at Ticketmaster are a bunch of d**ks? Me too. Check out our sweet new sponsor, Barry's Tickets. Unless you have 5 grand to spend on a table at LIV, you're going to have to go through a ticket broker to have any chance of seeing Lebron in person, in which case you should use Barry's Tickets. They're the handsomest ticket brokers and they've got a discount code just for Eat It, Miami readers (you must ask me for it  nicely, though).

Also, I finally figured out how to change my favicon. It's the little thingy next to the URL that looks like a bunch of tiny Cuban sandwiches.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Last Supper

I posted this almost 3 years ago on my generally awesome stuff blog "This Is Pretty Awesome." I stumbled once again upon the fascinating topic of the final meals that death row inmates request on Gawker, and it is similarly titled ("Last Suppers: How Do You Choose a Final Meal on Death Row"), but mine is 3 years old, remember.

So here's what I wrote. Hopefully all of the links still work. Mmmm, links -

I guess chefs' equivalent of the Aristocrats joke is to tell each other what their last meal would be, if they had to choose it. There's an article in the October 29th issue of Time about it. Of course, you don't have to buy the magazine, you can just read it here.

I was amused to find that, if a chef says his last meal would be an elaborate one, then everyone says he's a liar. One of the most famous chefs of all time, Jacques Pepin, would opt for a hot dog.

Here's an interesting blog to check out - the morbid "Dead Man Eating", which shows what death row inmates choose as their actual last meals. Some of them have pretty good taste.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

EAT IT - EXCITING SPICY LATIN CHICKEN HISPANIC HERITAGE!

Wow, dear faithful readers of mine, do I have some exciting news for you!

Campero Chicken, yes, THE Campero Chicken, only the world's largest Latin Chicken (?) chain, is giving away a free piece of fried chicken, yes a whole piece(!), to customers on Thursday, October 7th, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month!

I know, it's exciting, right? A company I've never heard of has such a delicious product that they have to give it away for free during a commemorative month I didn't even know existed!

Why these people email me to encourage me to make fun of them is beyond me. They must be masochists.

Can we all assimilate already, by the way? Jesus Christ. You don't see the millions of German immigrants in this county getting all fat eating hamburgers and sausages and drinking beer. Oh wait. Well, they don't wear lederhosen, at least. They do sunbathe naked in Haulover Park.

I'm a quarter Cuban but you don't see me wearing my Hispanic heritage on my sleeve (Actually basically every friend of mine knows of it because I talk about it all the time. Maybe what I mean is that I don't drive 15 mph in the fast lane and I actually use my turn signal, so you'd never know I was Hispanic unless I told you.) And I'm Irish, duh, but you don't see me going out and getting drunk all the time. Oh wait. Well, I'm English, too and I don't eat candy for breakfast. And my Italian blood doesn't necessitate that I act all creepy around American girls.

My point is that I think you can celebrate your heritage without being divisive. Like the way I'm all pushy in arguing that Medianoches are far superior to Cuban Sandwiches. Or how Jeff Boden makes egg drop soup for his Filipina girlfriend. We should all be Americans first and foremost (she really likes the Fugees). We can share bits of our traditions with our friends, but let's remember that we're supposed to be a melting pot. That means we all melt together into one thing. And the best way to do that is to GO TO CAMPERO CHICKEN FOR A FREE PIECE OF LATIN CHICKEN. "It's the Latinest!" - this is my new slogan for the company since the existing one is so freaking terrible - "Flavor You Can't Campero." They're kidding me, right? That's worse than "It's Time to Pollo." Oh wait, now I get what Latin chicken is!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Newer New Look for Eat It, Miami

OMG, how sexy is this. I just want to stare at it. Blogger is stepping up its game on the reals, yo. Now I feel like jamming to some Usher -


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eat it - The Forge

Hi.

I'm SuperBee. Some of you may know me by my non-blogger name; some of you see me out at events where I'm slouching around, wearing a beard, fretting about why I can't shed that pesky 20 pounds, while subsisting on a diet of bacon, McDonald's, and Maker's Mark, and thereafter passing out in front of the Below42 Vodka gratis Vodka bar in a pool of my own sweat. Some of you know me because you're British, and I impress you with my disturbing familiarity with BBC programming. Some of you WISH you knew me - Suckazzzzzzzzzz!

Colin happens to be one of the lucky persons who knows me in real, real life. As does All Purpose Dark, and EAT. I should be at a party with EAT right now, celebrating our mutual friend's birthday, but I ate a lot at Break-Fast this evening, and have swollen sausage fingers, and tried to go to Churchill's with the Brit, but got annoyed by having to pay a meth-head not to smear her own feces on my car's door handles... and she couldn't break a $20, so I gave up and came home.

And now that I'm here, what better use of my time, than to whip off a lil' blog about The Forge? Colin wants me to. I don't know why I haven't exacted some sort of toll from him, as he never gave me my fuzzy birthday kisses (as he promised) nor has he taken me out to dinner for my birthday (or even offered) but I suppose I owe him this much for all the times he let me come to his house post Buck-15 and drink off his booze table.

Gael, however, did take me out to dinner for my birthday. And that's why I like her better than Colin.

She took me to the Forge. I had never been to the Forge before last Thursday. The Forge is on 41st Street on Miami Beach, and it is a Miami landmark. You should go.

I enjoy the Forge.

I will be back to the Forge.

I'm gonna start off this blog (400 words in...) with a conversation Colin and I had.

J: (on getting an email alert I had been added to a blogger on EatIt) "Spanks, yo!"

C: Yo, write up that Forge review! I have to assume there was something about which to complain. Don't work too hard. The invitation expires I guess, so I'll just keep inviting you.

J: My hamburger topped with short ribs needed mustard.

C: Those bastards.

J: And not lobster marmalade. Also...not enough free bread.

C: Sounds a bit excessive. Tacky.

J: The French fries in truffle oil were... Superb.

C: That text message conversation should be in the review.

J: It'll be featured. :)

C: Nice I jotted it down in a draft just in case.

Well, Colin, I couldn't access the draft, so I had to retype conversation. And it really took a lot out of me.

Asshat.

Just kidding.

I love you.

Call me.

So, Gael and I went to the Forge on Thursday night. It's fancy. It's actually one of the most visually stunning restaurants I've been to in Miami. Overblown? Yes. Will it survive the test of time without looking completely outdated in 5 years? No (with the exception of the Library). Is it still awesome for right now? Abso-freakin-lutely.

We got a couple delicious cocktails at the bar, before being seated in the Library. The Library is a room that looks like... wait for it... A church. With Empire/Louis XVI furniture. Ok, fine. I guess it sort of looks like a library. Really, they should call it the Art Noveuau Stained Glass room, because it's decorated with books. Kidding! Well, sort of. Books and stained glass.

New paragraph.

We got Miami Spice, because... it's Miami Spice, and after having been to the Forge once, I'll be back (with my parents) and I'll make them buy me expensive meats there. With Gael, I just wanted to have a leisurely meal...with three courses. So we got Spice.

She got Salmon Croquettes, Chicken, and the Torron cheesecake.

I got Yin-Yang Gazpacho (it was actually a bowl of gazpacho with half of the bowl red gazpacho, and the other half yellow gazpacho, but... I made it Yin-Yang. It was amazing to have bi-colored soup.) Then, because I'm a klassy broad, I got... the hamburger. It was topped with short rib meat, and lobster marmalade, which I asked for on the side, because I don't eat anything that lives in water or sand. It also came with like... pomegranite ketchup and a little glass of red wine... and truffle French Fries. The burger was good, but it needed something. Probably mustard. Maybe it would have been better with the lobster marmalade, but... we'll just never know.

The burger also came out with a MOUNTAIN OF THE MOST DELICIOUS CRISPY LONG, AMAZING, HOT, SALTY, TRUFFLE-Y FRENCH FRIES, EVAR.

Afterward, the waiter brought out my torron cheesecake with a strawberry beside it, with a candle in it. And it said "Happy Birthday!" on my dessert plate.

Gael and I sang me Happy Birthday (the waiter awkwardly stood there, but didn't sing to me... and after I had made such funny jokes to him about a wide variety of hilarious topics!) and then I left the candle burning as I ate my cheesecake, because I liked the warm glow it shed on my plate.

Eventually, I blew it out, before it burned the strawberry. Which I then ate.

I have to say, the setting was fantastic. The library was gorgeous, and Gael and I sat in throne-like chairs, and I learned a very valuable lesson: One day, when I become King of the World, and have to sit on a throne, if my throne has sharp, carved wooden decals behind where my head may go, when I throw it back, while letting forth peals of laughter, my crown should have a helmet-y shape in the back so I don't bust it open on my throne's ornamental woodwork.

The service was great, and the food was solid. The French fries were orgasmic.

I had to unbutton my pants at the table after I was finished. (I'm Klassy, with a Kapital K.)

And someday, when I have a mansion, I'm going to construct a room in it like the Library (but I'll also include a TV, a fridge and a microwave, and a bathroom) because I think, quite possibly, the Library Room may be the greatest hangover recovery room ever built. Cozy, while airy, dim but not dark... just... perfect.

I'm not really sure what the protocol is for ending these blogs...

But I think it goes something like The Forge - Eat it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Burger King Is Getting a Brazilian

From the Herald -

"He's 40, has no restaurant experience and made his name keeping trains running on time in Brazil. Bernardo Hees may seem an unlikely new CEO for Burger King, but he's on his way to Miami to launch a new campaign in the global fast-food wars."

In case you haven't heard, Burger King is being acquired by 3G Capital, the company responsible for turning Budweiser into a Belgian beer. Start brushing up on your Portuguese, Miami. They're taking over. And they love it here because, though most Americans consider Miami to be a crazy, dangerous place, it's like Singapore compared to Rio or Sao Paolo.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Eat It - Etzel Itzik, 18757 West Dixie Highway, Miami, FL (305) 937-1546

www.theydon'thaveawebsite.omg

I was meeting a friend for lunch last week, and he wanted Etzel Itzik to be a surprise, so he just sent me the address and name at the last minute. I didn't look it up on line and had no idea what to expect. He did tell me it was something of a "hidden gem" and was excited to share the experience with me.

Driving up West Dixie Highway in North Miami, one is accustomed to the usual FedEx location, strip club, auto repair shop, empty lot, etc. You also cross train tracks a bunch of times, for some reason. Just back and forth, over and back.

Well, on a normal Wednesday afternoon, Etzel Itzik, a modest restaurant in an equally modest strip mall that was built before I was born, was teeming with activity. Though the surrounding neighborhood is poor and industrial, the parking lot and adjacent street were packed with luxury cars. I was fortunate to get a spot only because a BMW 750 was pulling out of one of the improvised diagonal lawn spots on NE 187th St., but parking is clearly an issue when dining at this establishment.

Since it's Rosh Hashanah, I thought today would be a good one on which to write my review for Etzel Itzik, though my Jewish readers are probably not supposed to be using their computers until at least sundown. In case you haven't figured it out by now, Etzel Itzik is an Israeli restaurant.

And oh boy, is it Israeli. I've never even been to Israel, but if you've done a lot of traveling, you know that Mediterranean countries and people all have a lot of common qualities. Some are good, like fun-loving attitudes, pounding techno beats!, warm weather, great tans, dancing on tables, garlic on everything. And some are bad, like unshaven armpits, bad driving, and a propensity for starting fights.
 
Etzel Itzik is so foreign-feeling that I bet if you call the phone number, it does that international ring. Like this. It feels like you are in a different country. The decor, the smells, the plates. There are photos plastered all over the walls that give the place a mosaic look. If you were far away you might think the walls were tiled. The tables are small and crowded so that there's barely room to put the food down, in a charming way.

The only giveaway that you're still in the U.S. is that the paper napkins are good-quality, unlike the waxy, translucent ones you get in other countries. Those things just don't do the job. The bathroom probably has terrible one-ply t.p., but I didn't check it out. It might have those toilets you just squat over. Ah, we Americans are a delicate, pampered people.

I would get to this place early, if you're planning on lunch. Probably between 1230 and 1. Otherwise, you'll be standing around waiting for a table, and there's no good place to wait. You'll just be hovering. And since it's still 90 degrees with 80% percent humidity outside, you don't want to be sitting out there.

Once you do get a seat, a pretty young waitress with dark hair and olive skin will come over with a stern look on her face and start slamming little plates down on your table. Olives, pickled carrots, cole slaw, chick peas, pita. She looks like she just got out of the Israeli army and she doesn't take any crap.

The menu is probably impossible to read if you don't know Hebrew. And even though there are English translations, they don't really tell you what you're getting. The friend who took me there is a bad Jew and just described things by saying that we wanted "the tomato and egg thing" and "the hamburger thing" and "the lemonade thing." He eats there regularly, but always with an Israeli who orders for both of them. You can probably just look around and point at stuff that looks good to you. I don't think that will offend anyone there. The badass ex-Israeli military chick waitresses might look at you like you have a checked keffiyeh on your head, but they'll go and get you what you ordered.

So, the things that I just mentioned are the things we ate. They were all tasty. Very fresh. You know when you can taste each of the components since they're really fresh and flavorful? That's what all of the food is like. The hummus is so uncorrupted that it tastes like a bunch of ground chick peas. It's a little on the sandy side, but you know it's the real deal because of this. The lemonade thing comes in a carafe with a straw stuck in it, and once I started drinking it I realized that it was just a mojito without the rum. I haven't decided what I think of that concept. Nope, I've decided. Better with rum.

The pita bread is fresh, doughy, warm. You need to order extra because you want to dip it in everything. We did order an extra one that they didn't bring until we were too full to eat anymore. No big deal. You will probably feel that you should go easy on the waitresses because the place is so full. Plus, they look really tough, and you won't want to push them around.

Though delicious, the food all had parsley and onion and garlic, so I was reminded of my meal by garlicky burps for roughly 18 hours after the meal. It's worth it, like when you get Indian food.

Itzik, the owner, is always there and makes sure everyone is hustling, but I do have a small bit of advice. I don't think it would kill them to have a modest website with the hours and menu and prices (speaking of, the prices are excellent, like a few bucks for each dish). Maybe a little "About" section that tells the story of how the whole thing got started. Maybe he's just old fashioned. I can respect that.

Happy 5771 everybody!!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tweet It, Miami

I still don't really get Twitter as a concept, but I'm trying to be "with it." 

As wise, old Abe Simpson once said, "I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.  Now what I’m ‘with’ isn’t ‘it,’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you…" 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eat It - Deals Post

I have many, many reviews to post. It's just that I'm such a perfectionist that I don't publish them until they are so funny that I fall out of my chair upon reading them.

Today I am going to share some of my favorite deals. First, I learned recently that McDonald's has 99-cent 6-piece Chicken McNuggets on Mondays now. Amazing. All I need is for them to start a 99-cent Big Mac day, also on Monday, and I can have my "usual" for 2 bucks.

Speaking of bucks, Starbucks (which I've recently heard cleverly nicknamed "Five Bucks") has a breakfast sandwich and coffee deal that rivals Dunkin' Donuts prices. You get a small American coffee (I refuse to use their idiotic terminology, just like when I go to Cold Stone Creamery. We have sizes and language so that we can communicate with one another efficiently. Can you imagine the chaos if every business decided to be so presumptuous as to create their own names for all of the sizes they sell? It's so stupid that I don't want to talk about it anymore.) So, you get a small American coffee and a delicious breakfast sandwich for $3.95. Since the coffee is obviously a bazillion times better at Starbucks than at Dunkin' Donuts, where it often tastes like the pot was brewed 2 weeks ago or diluted with toilet water, this makes for one helluva deal.

Speaking of Dunkin' Donuts, which I like, just not for the coffee, they closed the one on Collins Ave in North Beach for some strange reason, so now the closest one to my office is on 41st Street. Something you may not know about that particular location is that it is kosher. So, you can't get good breakfast sandwiches there because everyone knows that the most delicious food combines meat and dairy. Steak and cheese, ham and cheese, chicken Cordon Bleu, saltimbocca, chicken parm, Hawaiian pizza, Hot Pockets, etc. etc. etc.

My favoritestest deal in town is probably Epicure's Epi-Lunch.  I know it sounds like something you would eat after getting stung by a bee, but Epi-Lunch is available on weekdays from 11am - 2pm, and includes one of their delicious, made-to-order sandwiches along with a side and drink for $9.95. Their sandwiches already cost that much on their own, so add in a side and drink and you're easily at 15 bucks for those 3 components. Plus, you should support local businesses lest everything be undercut by Wal-Mart and that becomes the only place to buy anything.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Don't Eat It - Shake Shack, 1111 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach, FL (305)434-7787

www.shakeshack.com

Dare I be so bold? But Shake Shack is supposed to be the best thing since sliced hamburger buns!

It's just ok. It's only worth going there if you think you have to try it because you're an extremely handsome food blogger and you've read about it for years and even saw Danny Meyer interviewed on Plum TV by Jonathan Tisch (a fellow Jumbo, btw). He seems like a lovely fellow. Danny, not Jonathan. Jonathan is probably kind of a dick. I just get that impression.

Anyway, I must admit to having an aversion to the whole idea of "the critic." This guy, Danny Meyer, is a doer, and I feel bad criticizing him. He makes stuff and he does stuff. People who consider the product valuable can spend their hard earned dollars on it. I'm just typing away, no sweat involved, no capital investment, no risk. It's easy to criticize. It's a lot harder to start a restaurant, hire lots of people, deal with payroll, slip and fall lawsuits, contractors, inventory, etc. Seriously, why does anyone get into that business?

On the other hand, I do think that it makes sense to have trustworthy people to give you advice about the things on which you spend those dollars. It's just that I have a hard time being too critical of a restaurant unless I have had a really lousy experience.

That's why I give practically every restaurant I review an "Eat It" designation. And since those aren't particularly interesting to read, I tend to throw in a silly statement about a certain restaurant located on West Avenue on South Beach that likes to put dry ice in a martini glass and consider that justification for a $30 price tag. Excuse me, I just checked on line and their martinis cost $32 (plus tax and tip). I was waaay off.

So, as I was saying earlier, Shake Shack is just ok. It's not as good as 8 oz. or Burger and Beer Joint. And I don't think it's even as good as Steak n Shake or Johnny Rockets. Someone who tells you otherwise is probably pretentious and thinks that the Shake Shack burger is better because other people that they think are really cool told them that Shake Shack is, like, the bomb, yo!

I will hand it to them that the place is fairly well run. The food takes a little longer to prepare than I expected, but the restaurant is tidy and the employees are conscientious and polite. That's a luxury in South Florida, as we all know. They hand you a buzzer after you place your order and you can go and find your seats until they alert you. The seats are just stools, though. Pretty uncomfortable, Shake Shack!

This part is going to sound a little weird. I went to Shake Shack twice last week. That might seem contradictory to my review, were you not privy to the fact that, before my first visit, someone lit a plant on fire in my vicinity that may have had an effect on me when I breathed in. That effect made evaluating the dining experience something of a challenge, and I felt the need to return to have a more lucid night.

In case you've never watched Kat Stevens, please enjoy this clip -


 
Oops, that was Cat Stevens, and I actually meant to say Kat Williams -



So, I didn't think I had a proper frame of reference from which to review Shake Shack the first time. When a friend of mine, whose name sort of rhymes with "Tall Umbrella," asked me if I wanted to meet him there for a bite 3 days after my first foray, I agreed to give the place another shot.

Let's talk about ambiance. This is one of the coolest-looking fast food spots in which you will ever eat. The tables are made out of re-purposed bowling alley wood, which is actually kind of gross, come to think of it, but it looks cool. I hope they heat it up really hot so all of the germs from people's hands and bowling balls are killed. I'm all for finding new uses for old stuff, since I hate waste and think recycling should be done in spite of its cost (I'm looking at you, Mayor Bloomberg). We can't keep throwing everything out and turning the entire planet into a garbage dump. Do you know about the Pacific Gyre? It's a mass of plastic the size of Texas and it just swirls around in a huge, expanding mass, like something evil you'd see in a Star Trek movie that grows when you shoot photon torpedoes at it. They did that in one of them, didn't they? Maybe I'm thinking of the Fifth Element. That's probably the best movie of all time that's not actually very good.

The walls have a similar look as the eating surfaces. Darkened bowling alley wood, kind of zigzagging along the walls. There are some hanging plants up near the ceiling. It's laid out so the line doesn't get in the way of the diners. There's some outdoor seating that'll be nice when it cools down in November. I didn't check out the bathrooms, come to think of it...

The food. Shake Shack is supposed to have great burgers and shakes. People in NYC line up around the block to taste them. Well, I don't get why they do. The Shack Burger is just a normal burger. It's like 5 bucks, which isn't bad, but the Double is 8 bucks. I got the double the first time, because I knew that the single wouldn't be enough food, but it costs so much more than the single that it's a better deal to just buy two singles. The second time I ate there, I decided to try the Shack Stack, which is a single burger with a portobello mushroom stacked on top of the beef patty. It's a combination of their classic burger and their veggie option. It would probably be pretty good, but for the fact that it's a deep-fried portobello. And it was too greasy and overwhelmed the taste of the meat. I'd pass on that one.

The fries. Oh my, the fries. They are terrible.

At first I thought that their potato man must have broken down on the way from Brooklyn, or something. That reminds me of a clip from the Simpsons when Homer had to sneak into a U2 concert -



So, back to the potato man. I assumed that he must not have delivered his special Shake Shack french fry potatoes because they seemed to be serving crinkly McCain french fries that you could buy in the freezer section at the supermarket. Well, it turns out that those are their fries. It offends me as a food snob to have them served to me at a place that claims to be serving exceptional food.

The milkshake just tasted like melted vanilla ice cream, which isn't bad, per se, but it's nothing about which to get excited (like a shake at Steak n Shake!). And it was too expensive. A rather small one costs $5.25.

The location is great. No doubt about that. It's just off Lincoln Road, a block from the movie theater.

With all of these things in mind, I've come up with an idea for a kind of "super fast food restaurant." It's a little like Voltron or those Ocean's Eleven movies. You take the decor and location of Shake Shack, serve In n Out burgers, Steak n Shake shakes, McDonald's fries, and staff the place with waitresses from Lucky Strike. It'll make billions (assuming we end up with hyperinflation after this second round of quantitative easing by the Fed, this is almost a certainty).

In closing, it'll cost you about 20 bucks if you're a decent eater, and it's not good enough to justify that kind of price. My advice is to go somewhere else for your burger.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eat It - Hattie's, 45 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, NY‎, 518-584-4790‎

www.hattiesrestaurant.com

Some of my readers might get annoyed by my posting from the Empire State, but that should be a small percentage, since everyone's from New York. My girlfriend is no longer surprised to hear of people's New York and Upstate New York roots that are so common in South Florida.

You might think that this says something negative about New York, like the people want to get out of there and that makes it a bad place, but I think it's mostly the weather that causes New Yorkers to flee the state. That and taxes. It's different in, say, Boston, where people like the place itself, but dislike the miserable people. You don't hear of Bostonians going to places en masse and meeting all of the other lovely people from Boston. They tend to spread out to L.A. or Chicago or South Carolina, hoping to be the lone Bostonian who really "deserves" to wear a Red Sox hat. Not like all of those bandwagoners. Come to think of it, most of them talk about moving to those places, but never actually do it. I hope I don't hurt the feelings of any of my Beantown buddies. I love you guys. You know that. But you're miserable bastards.

Now, New Yorkers, on the other hand, are quite happy to be around New Yorkers. It's just that the winter is really long, and the state government insists on squeezing every penny out of its residents. I could be wrong, but I'm just gonna go with it. I'm sure the fact that I'm from New York and hate all Boston sports teams with a passion has absolutely nothing to do with it. But I do genuinely think that people in New York state are easier going and just plain nicer than those just east of us on I-90.

Moving along. Last summer, I became obsessed with watching the Food Network, and this was detrimental to my sleep patterns because I was constantly staying up really late to watch reruns of Iron Chef and Bobby Flay's show, "Throwdown." Both of these programs have a winner and a loser at the conclusion of the show, so you really want to see them through to the end for some closure. Yes, I just used the word "closure."

Anyway, I bring it up because Bobby Flay visited a restaurant called Hattie's in Saratoga Springs, NY in one of those episodes, and, as I mentioned in the last post,  I happen to be taking some courses at Skidmore College right now. On Monday, I visited PJ's BBQ, which I'll review in the next couple of days, and today I ran over to Hattie's after class. Hattie's is famous for its fried chicken, and that's what Bobby Flay challenged them on.

I thought I'd never been there, but as soon as I walked through the front door, I realized that I had. I think maybe 2 or 3 summers ago, I went there with my oldest brother and a bunch of his friends. The reason I had sort of forgotten about the episode was that we got really drunk while we were eating dinner. I don't know if you've done that lately, but a rich dinner with fried chicken, along with lots of cocktails (I believe we were drinking mojitos long before I instituted my "don't order mojitos outside of Miami" rule), can lead to a rather uncomfortable type of fullness/sleepiness/nausea. *My brother has confirmed that we ate there in 2007. We asked the waitress if we could substitute mojitos for salad in our dinner orders. I think we both threw up that night. He definitely did. I probably did. Anyway, that is not meant as an indictment of the food at Hattie's. It was caused by excessive drinking that Irish brothers do when they're together. We're only a quarter Irish, but the drinking gene is a strong one, like pale skin.

As usual, you are probably wondering when I'm going to write about the food. Have you not figured out that the ostensible subject of this blog is simply a delivery system for my sardonic rants? You fools! AHAHAHAHAHAAAA. So let's get it over with.

Hattie's has been in business since 1938. You should read the "About" section of the website to learn some more about its interesting history. It could be more well-written, but the content is decent. Some white people bought it at some point, since Hattie was born in Louisiana around 1900 and is probably dead by now. I assume it was those same white people who have trademarked her name.

It was funny to eat in a sit-down restaurant all by myself. I could have just sat at the bar, but I was given a table on the patio out back. I haven't done that in a while and the reactions that people have to it are funny. The waitress seemed like she felt really sorry for me to be eating alone. I just wanted to eat and go back to Skidmore to work out, since class is from 1-4, just early enough that I have not eaten lunch before class, and late enough to screw up my timing of lunch, gym and dinner. It was around 5 and I was sort of appalled by the fact that people were coming in for dinner at the time. I was eating lunch, goddammit.

So, I had the fried chicken, of course. Not the best thing to eat before a work out. But it sure was good going down. Crispy, peppery, juicy. Everything you want in a piece of fried chicken, and they give you half a chicken, which for most people should be enough for a meal and a little leftover for a late night snack.

As I sat there, eating in solitude, I was struck by how nice it was to focus on the flavors and not be chit-chatting about some stupid gossip. I've been hearing a lot of that lately, having forgotten that the official hobby of every resident of the Capital District is gossip. It's petty and annoying and people shouldn't do it. I might be a critical son-of-a-gun, but I am not a gossip. Why do I want to hear all of that negative stuff about a friend of mine just so you can make yourself feel better about how screwed up YOU are? So, as I was saying, I was sitting there taking in the delicious flavors set out before me, when I was reminded of a phrase that they use in the Middle East. The grease from the chicken was all over my fingers and I thought "I could eat my fingers right now." In the Middle East, they'll say that food is so good that you want to eat your fingers. I think that's a great saying.


There are a few sides to choose from, and the ones I ordered were cranberry coleslaw and mashed potatoes. The coleslaw was amazing. Best I've ever had. Perfectly balanced between tartness and freshness. I find that coleslaw tends to be either too vinegary or too dry, and in the latter case, it just tastes like cabbage. That's no fun. The mashed potatoes were creamy but had some character in the chunks of potato that remained. I like that. They also give you a piece of cornbread AND a biscuit. Man, that meal must have been soooo unhealthy. But it was so good. Everything came out piping hot. Except the coleslaw, of course.


If you're ever in town, it's a great place to stop. I got all of that food for like 20 bucks, by the way.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Oh, Albany!

I'm an Albany native. People think it sucks, but it's actually a great town. A couple of years ago, my mother, my brothers and I had a good chuckle over a couple of lists published in Forbes (I think) on the "Least and Most Stressful Cities in the U.S.," after my father moved the family business from Loudonville (Albany suburb where Siena College is located) to Miami Beach. Most stressful: Miami-Dade. 2nd Least Stressful: Albany-Schenectady. My mother has complained pretty consistently about the move over the years, but I think she's got it pretty good now, spending winters down here and summers up there.

Albany has low crime, practically no traffic. Low divorce and suicide rates. Relatively low unemployment because everyone works for the state and can't get fired (it's the capital). But the chicks are kind of fat and people still perm their hair and wear acid wash jeans. This reminds me that I wrote an email once with a list of ways that you "might be from Albany," à la Jeff Foxworthy, after reading one that I thought was completely inaccurate to my upbringing. Of course, I grew up overlooking the first green of my country club and went to private school, but, uh, that's what I had to work with. This comes from an email that I wrote in December of 2005, just one month after moving to Miami full-time -

Given, all of us identify closely with the jokes in the attached email, especially those gems about ice fishing and camouflage, but I think a slightly more accurate version of this would go as follows-


Blah blah blah, Upstate New York:


If you’ve been in a car accident with Donna O’Higgins.


If you hate the fact that no one knows that Albany is the capital of New York.


If you went to St. Gregory’s and are now an alcoholic.


If your dad swims naked at the FOC.


If you get irritated when people assume that when you say "New York" you mean the City.


If your mother thinks driving to Crossgates Mall is really far.


If your father owns winter golf gloves.


If you own a pair of those itchy LL Bean wool socks. I hate those things.


If you have a mud room. I mean, you come in contact with so much mud that you have an entire room dedicated to it? That’s crazy.


If you think the Albany skyline is really beautiful.


If your town has one country club for every 100 residents.


If you think that El Loco is the greatest [Mexican] restaurant in the world.


If you’re a member of the LBL. (that’s just for Loudonvillians)


If you know what "all whites on Sunday" means.


If you’ve ever played paddle tennis.


If you’ve ever even heard of "paddle tennis."


If you’ve worked at Saratoga race track.


If you get all excited at the mention of ‘Albany’ during episodes of Law & Order.


If you get excited about Albany for any reason.

Yup, I'm a regular William Kennedy.

So anyway, when I saw the headline "Bar owner charged in food critic's beating" on Drudge, I immediately clicked. Once I saw that the article began "ALBANY, New York (AP)," my interest piqued. Peaked? No, piqued.

Beware, all you cantankerous critics of comestibles. And also you would-be-criminals who might consider counteracting criticism with crowbars to the cranium. Man, how do I do it? It's a gift.

Albany's most well-known food critic and blogger, the Times Union's Steve Barnes (I actually have no idea if he's really the most well-known, but I have a hunch that he is. I did meet the guy once when I was out on Lark Street with my brother and friend who owns McGuire's, and he is kind of a douche bag,), was assaulted after leaving a restaurant in Stuyvesant Plaza. He had told his readers that he would be dining at the establishment that night, and he was allegedly ambushed by some alleged thugs who were allegedly from Troy, allegedly hired by allegedly Timothy "Allegedly" Rankins. This all allegedly happened back in 2008. I think we can remove "allegedly" from Troy. They're from Troy. That's where you go to find thugs to beat people up in the Albany area.

What a great story. I feel bad for the guy who got punched in the face, but that's what happens to jerks sometimes. Other people want to punch them in their faces. That's why I never tell anyone where I'm eating in advance. Did I just call myself a jerk? Man, what a jerk. I also carry several communication devices to throw off powerful enemies that might be tracking me through email and telephonic communications. Am I texting you from Surfside, confined by the Eruv (in which case I'm probably not supposed to be using my mobile phone)? Or do I only look Jewish and am actually down on Lincoln Road rollerskating in my fuchsia speedo, sending witty BBMs to my boys? Or maybe I'm tagging a wall in Overtown with my homies, listening to Pandora on my iPhone...you'll never know, Barton G. Weiss.

I thought of a new dish you can serve at one of your stupid restaurants, by the way. "Summer Steamers." They would be littleneck clams from New England, but you eat them in a steam room. Get it? Then you'd be in a steamy place, eating steamers, and people would think "my oh my, that Barton G. is such a clever restaurateur. I hope his restaurants don't all go out of business at the same time." Of course I don't really want him to go out of business. That would be like Red Sox fans saying that they wished there were no Yankees fans or that the sun would come out once in a while so they weren't so miserable all the time. I love to hate that restaurant the way I like that most people speak English as if they never passed 2nd grade. It makes me feel intellectually superior and better about my insecure self.

In closing, I'm flying up to Albany tomorrow evening to attend the New York State Writers Institute at Skidmore. I'm taking two non-fiction workshops to hone my skillz. So, I guess what I'm saying is that all of you restaurants are totally f*****d. When I'm done I'm going to glow like Leroy from The Last Dragon-

Friday, June 11, 2010

Eat It - Steak n Shake, 8701 S.W. 157th Ave, Miami, FL (305)752-2060



I might be stepping on some toes, but I am going to do a burger restaurant review, which I have done before, I think. I at least have a bunch of unfinished drafts of reviews of burger places. Oh, I remember, I definitely did one for Burger and Beer Joint.

I suppose that specialization is the key to an efficient economy, but I think it's kind of a cop-out to say you're just going to review burgers. Of course, now those guys do review other things (that they should probably not be eating, like fried chicken). Um, I don't want to be unchristian, but would it kill those guys to eat a salad once in a while? I know that the staff over at that blog looks like the kind of people whose opinions you would trust when it comes to food, and I was just told by a friend that she wanted to sponsor me like one of those children in Africa (She happens to be a huge b*tch, by the way, I mean, who would say that? She clearly has no sympathy for those poor kids. I'm not going to mention any names, though. I'll just call her Erika Blank, wait, no, Blank Estrada.), but there should be some moderation practiced every once in a while.

So, let's stop causing trouble and talk about the restaurant. I have been meaning to try Steak n Shake since college, when my buddy, Nick Brown, who grew up in Zionsville, Indiana, expressed his shock at the fact that I had never been to one. I always found the name of the place amusing, for some reason. So, I do this thing on my Blackberry where I have lists of movies to see, t-shirt ideas, restaurants to try, etc. Steak n Shake has been there for a while, and I recently was running some errands with my girlfriend, when we decided to go on a little adventure looking for one, which was much more difficult than it should have been.
 
According to the internet, there's one in the Hialeah Walmart, but it seems to have left. The phone number was disconnected and there was some other restaurant on the Walmart sign. I don't like to get out of my car in Hialeah, so that was as thorough an investigation as I was willing to conduct. We also didn't know that it turns out there's a new one in Hallendale, just north of Aventura Mall, and we ended up at the one in Kendall. It's actually kind of nice out there. If you look at a map, it's seriously the end of Miami. If you keep driving west, roads just start ending. Maybe in 50 years when the economy recovers and people need more homes again, they'll start building out there.

We were greeted by an extremely friendly staff. This must have something to do with the distance of the restaurant from Miami proper. It's like Publix. The further from Miami you drive, the nicer the Publix. Have you been to one in like, Sunrise? Amazing. Naples? You'd think you were living in the Truman Show. By contrast, if you go to the one in Surfside, it's like the customers have never been to a store before. They block the aisles. They take 20 items into the "10 Items or Fewer" aisle. Cars back up at the entrance to the parking lot while someone waits for an 80-year-old woman to pull out of her spot even though there's tons of parking further in. The cashier doesn't know what a credit card is. There are puddles that no one knows how to mop up (hint: use a mop). They're out of ketchup. You know, that kind of stuff. 

Well, the Steak n Shake in Kendall is awesome. The waiters are super polite and speedy. They take your drink order as soon as you sit down. They check to make sure everything is ok, but not in an annoying way. The place is clean. Bathrooms are spotless. The men's room is, at least. I didn't use the ladies room.
 
I ordered the Double n Cheese, which was delicious, but not quite enough food for me. The patties are pretty thin, but that doesn't mean it's not a good product. So, then I ordered another one.

My girlfriend is a health nut and gets all low-fat, fake stuff like butter that's made out of yogurt (which makes it not butter, by the way) and drinks skim milk and all of that, while I prefer to eat the real deal. She was kind of horrified by the amount of food I consumed during my meal. Afterward, I looked up the nutritional information on Steak n Shake's website, and these are the numbers:

Double n Cheese: 440 calories, 25 g fat, 22 g protein (Ate 2 of those)
Reg fries: 440 calories, 21 g fat, 5 g protein (Ate 2 of those)
Mint Cookies and Cream shake: 1000 calories, 34 g fat, 22 g protein (Only had 1 of those)

The milkshake was amazing. One of the best I've had in my life, and I know milkshakes. I went to boarding school in Rhode Island, home of the Newport Creamery's Awful Awful.

So, I ate about 2500 calories or so, given that she had some of the fries. 126 grams of fat. Good news is that I had 76 grams of protein, give or take, so I had that going for me, which was good. Plus, since it was Mother's Day, they asked if my girlfriend was a mother, which she wasn't the last I checked, but they gave us a free bowl of ice cream anyway, which was nice. I didn’t see info for plain old ice cream. 

Prices are great. The bill came to 22 bucks for the two of us, with gratuity included. And it's open 24 hours. It's a great country.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Site News (oodles of it)

It seems like only 2 months and 3 days ago that we were celebrating our 5,000th visit. By the way, does anyone know how that differs from "page views?" I guess I can go look that up on the Internet. Good old Internet. Beep boop bop beep, 100110001111000. Sorry, that was a little something for Netty, as I like to call her.

Well, yippy (!), someone from the "Live Free or Die" state is now number 6,000. [for my South Florida readers, that's New Hampshire. It's up north. Don't worry about it.] Anyway, keep those visits coming/clicking on my banner ads. I don't expect to actually make money from this blog, even though I have gotten some freelance writing gigs from it, so I already have made money from it, but I really want to hit the $100 mark so I can get a check from Google. I think I'm at like 50 bucks, but this site has only been up for like 3 years, so that's pretty good. That works out to about 5 cents a day. Better than schlepping a soda can to the grocery store, eh? Eh? Anyway, once I receive said check, I will take a photo of it and post it on this site. I promise not to photoshop it so that it looks like $30,000, while I post ads that I can teach people how to make thousands of dollars from blogging. I promise.

What else? I recently dined at Zuma, the new contemporary Japanese restaurant in the Epic building downtown, during its soft opening. I once again must note a conflict of interest in that I am now friends with Zuma's sommelier, and that I cannot give a full, unbiased review. All I will say is that the place is amazing. The service is professional, the decor is super cool, the view is a nice one of the Miami river (not being sarcastic), the cocktails are creative and delicious, and the food's basically perfect. It was so good that I insisted on trying a few bites of seafood and then had to deal with a hive/acne breakout for 2 days since I am still allergic, it seems. It was totally worth it since I didn't die. It was hilarious that only the women at the table were worried. The guys were all just like "dude, if you want to kill yourself eating seafood, that's your decision." Guys are so awesome.

I will note that Zuma is in the higher price range of restaurants in Miami. Of course, since it started in London (hint: one reviewer there called prices "stratospheric"), they probably snicker to themselves about how cheap it is. "Twenty quid fer a tuner and wasabi roll, ya say? You 'ave got to be kiddin', mate!" I don't remember what any of the actual prices were, since I didn't open the menu before the waiter took them away to order for the table, but I do remember the total on the practice bill they presented to us, which we would have been responsible to pay, had the restaurant been officially open. That would have been about 160 or 170 per person, drinks and tip included. So, that's about as expensive a dining experience as you will encounter in Miami. I guess I said that already. It's hard to stress how awesome it was that we didn't have to pay. We left a large tip, though, so it wasn't, like, free free.

I can confidently say that Zuma will be the hot spot in Miami for a while. VIP/celeb stuff will be going on for the next couple of weeks. I'm not expecting the Jersey Shoreans to be there, though. They're more "Barton G" people. Maybe those guys can even name a dish in their honor. Oh, this is just too easy. It could be called "Snooki," and it would obviously be snook, duh, blackened (tanned) and sprinkled with imitation gold leaf. It might be served in, oh, let's say a toy dump truck, in honor of New Jersey's proud reputation as New York's dump. And served with a six-pack of beer. And the six pack would be wearing sunglasses. How clever would that be? I think Barton G should probably hire me as a consultant what with all of these amazing dishes I keep coming up with for them. I am kidding about all of that, by the way. Totally kidding. Ha ha. Jokes are funny. And also, fun times are fun. Don't forget that.

Last thing for now - I'm going to be judging a cooking competition in Boca this weekend, sponsored by Cadillac. I don't know if I can just start inviting people, but check the event out here. Ok, just read the event description and anyone can go. I will be dining at the Capital Grille beforehand and test-driving cars afterward. Is it just me, or does this seem like prime tummy ache potential? And by the way, how awesome is it that stuff like this goes on while we're in the midst of the Great Recession/Not-So-Great Depression (your choice)? It's a great country. This event could only be improved if there were a shooting range where one could test out a machine gun or bazooka or tank or predator drone. And maybe my girlfriend cheering me on in a USA bikini.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Eat It - The Palm, 9650 East Bay Harbor Drive, Bay Harbor Islands, FL 305-868-7256

www.thepalm.com

The Palm is a classic, old fashioned steakhouse. That's all it is. It's not Joe's. It's not Michael's. It's just a boring old steakhouse. You know what, though? It's still pretty awesome.

So, as friends and family know, I have sort of a punctuality problem. A chronic condition is more like it. "Colin," you're saying to yourself, "nice alliteration." Thank you, I agree.

Moo-ving along, my typical tardiness (thank you, again) led my angry dad to call while I was still en route to the restaurant and ask what I wanted to order. I replied that he should just order me whatever it was that he was having. Our friend and business associate, he and I all had the Prime Aged New York Strip. The Empire Steak, if you will. Man, I'm good.

You might be asking yourself "Colin, I mean, uh, whatever my names is, I forget, what makes a steak 'prime' and what's the big deal?"

Well, obviously, any time you have a question that relates to how the USDA designates grades of beef, you go to www.beefgrading.org. Moo, I mean, duh. Prime is the best because it's the most tender steak. It has the highest amount of marbeling (Kobe beef is the most extreme version of this delicious phenomenon, but it's not American. Lots of restaurants will lie to you when they tell you that they are serving it, by the way. True story.) and it is the youngest. These factors combine to create the most enjoyable eating experience. That's awesome assonance, right there. Enough grammatical snobbery.

The steak was perfect. Perfect. No other way to put it. Perfectly cooked to medium rare. Full of flavor. Great texture. We ordered broccoli and french fries as our sides. Also perfect.

Ah, but there is usually something wrong with the dining experience. And here it is. The waiter, the most tan gentleman I have ever seen in my life, like, tanner than Vijay Singh (and kudos to him if he manages to die of old age rather than skin cancer, the waiter, not Vijay) started pushing their stupid loyalty club, and after grabbing the pamphlet, he sat down at the table with us. I don't know if I'm out of line in feeling this way, but I think that that is just about the most obnoxious thing that a waiter can do. If a Hooters girl wants to sit on my lap, who am I to stop her? But that's different. Because of the boobs involved. I think that makes sense. But in general, I think that sitting at the table with us, especially without even asking if we mind, is akin to my getting up and walking into the restaurant kitchen to grab something out of the fridge. Maybe I'm just being a jerk.

I'd like to end on a high note, though. LAAAAAAAAAA. That was corny, sorry. Really, here goes the high note -

The restaurant...

is walking distance...

from Dexter's apartment.

*Awesome photo courtesy of Jeffrey P. Boden, as usual.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eat It - Chacarero, 101 Arch St., Boston, MA (617) 542-0392

I know, I know, this place is wicked fah from Miami, but I'm going there for a wedding this weekend and I'm excited to have an opportunity to eat the delicious sandwich these crazy Chileans concoct. Check out the description-
Green beans and munster cheese give it that "authentic Chilean touch?" I find that hard to believe but it's certainly delicious. If you're ever in Beantown, make sure you check out this sandwich.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tax Relief

I saw an ad in the New Times that McDonald's is bringing back its most awesome promotion ever, just in time for Tax Day -

On April 15th, buy a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder With Cheese, and get an additional one for 1 cent. I think we all know where Jeff Boden is eating lunch on Thursday...

In case you're one of "those people" who believes what they write on Wikipedia, here is a list of alternate versions of the classic American sandwich, many of which are totally awesome -

Variants

  • The Mega Mac or Double Big Mac - four 1.6 oz (45.4 g) beef patties and an extra slice of cheese. Available in China, Ireland, Serbia, Japan, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand (known as the Double Big Mac).[6] Discontinued in Australia and New Zealand; limited availability in the United States and Canada (where it is commonly marketed under the name Double Big Mac). It is still available in one restaurant in the United Kingdom, in Manchester.
  • Monster Mac - eight 1.6 oz (45.4 g) beef patties and extra cheese. Discontinued in Germany.
  • the Mckinley-Mac - made with two quarter pound patties. Named after Mt. McKinley in Alaska, and sold only in that state.[8][9][10][11] Also known as the Bigger Big Mac as a limited-time offer product to celebrate the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
  • In India, where the high Hindu population means that beef is not common, the Big Mac was renamed the Maharaja Mac and was originally made with lamb instead of beef; however, along with the company's other items it is now made from chicken.[12][13]
  • Son of Mac - Also known as the Mini Mac or Baby Mac, a version with only one patty and no centre roll piece. It sold as a Baby Mac in New Zealand, Was sold in Australia, now discontinued. Served by some stores in the United States under the moniker "Mac Jr".
  • In Israel, a special Kosher version of the Big Mac is served without cheese.
  • In Japan, there was a variant with egg, called the Mega Tamago, as well as a variant with tomato (called the Mega Tomato). Both versions dropped one patty and replaced it with the respective ingredient. Now discontinued.
  • In France there is a now a whole wheat bread version of the Big Mac. All other ingredients remain unchanged.
  • The MacSnack Wrap, introduced in the US in 2010, is one hamburger patty with the sandwich's other standard ingredients in a tortilla wrapper.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eat It - Tony Chan's Water Club, 1717 N. Bayshore Drive, Miami, FL 305-374-8888

http://www.tonychans.com/

You know how there are like no Asians in Miami? Sounds like the start of a joke.

-Why aren't there any Asians in Miami?
-Cause they can't pronounce Florida!

That's not terrible, for something I just came up with right on the spot. It's certainly offensive enough to be a joke. How about "they can't say Atlanta, Louisiana or Carolina, so they avoid the South all together."

Sorry, got a little carried away. Anyway, if you spend your time in the Northeast or fly over the plains to the other civilized part of our great nation, the Left Coast, then you are used to seeing lots of Asians. There are Koreans and Chinese and Vietnamese and Thais all over the place. The Japanese used to come over here but after 20 years of deflation, they don't seem to travel as much. Remember when Michael Crighton wrote "Rising Sun" and we thought the Japanese were going to buy the entire state of California? Good times. Anyway, I've said it before, but it's strange for those of us accustomed to having many Asian friends to only see them sporadically here in Miami.

Restaurant review time. You know the opening scene in "Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom" in the restaurant with the Chinese version of "Anything Goes?" That's what Tony Chan's looks like. The walls are red and there's gold and black all over the place. I don't remember seeing any, but I have to assume there are some dragons in there somewhere. The larger tables even have giant lazy susans that you could wheel diamonds and poison and antidote around on. Sorry to end a sentence with not one, but two prepositions. That is something up with which I normally do not put.

And "Tony Chan" could really be the name of a movie villain, couldn't it? Especially one that came out in the 80s. He would have a big, fake smile, and a thin mustache. He laughs maniacally, of course. You know, like the bad guy in the opening scene of The Temple of Doom.

This is the best I could do for a video clip.


This whole Indiana Jones thing got me thinking about the following topic. Is Indiana Jones as cool as James Bond? Of course not, but it made me then think that maybe Batman is a comparable American character that actors really want to play. American actors don't get to be James Bond. Oh no. Not once has an American gotten to play James Bond. (I think an American actually did play James Bond in a TV show a long time ago, but that doesn't count. That was even before that dude from Around the World in 80 Days played James Bond in the original Casino Royale, a comedy.) But at least we have Batman. But now Batman AND the Joker, and wait a minute, Commissioner Gordon, all played by non-Americans. WTF! (that stands for "what the fudge," this is a food blog, after all)

I hate to admit it, but that has very little to do with reviewing a Chinese restaurant. Oh, one more thing.
You know who did the awesome Indian Jones theme song? John Williams, of course. He's only the most awesome movie composer of all time. Star Wars, Superman, Jurassic Park, all John Williams. Basically any time you've seen a movie that has really awesome music, John Williams composed it. You know the really great theme song from Meet the Press? You guessed it. John Williams. I like to say that Michael Jordan was the John Williams of basketball.

So, I'll segue smoothly to the food at Tony Chan's. You might say that Tony Chan is the John Williams of Chinese restaurants in Miami. It really is quite good. Their specialty is Peking Duck. I feel like that's a good thing to be good at if you're a Chinese restaurant. When you order it, they remove the crispy skin right at the table and make you little duck skin pancake thingies. I'm not describing it well. You know the pancakes they give you when you order mushu pork? Those. They give you those with duck skin inside and you put plum sauce on it and it's delicious.

Once you've stuffed yourself with those, then your main course comes to finish you off. Delicious. Succulent, moist. Are those the same word? Man, if you read this you must think I'm totally insane. But this is seriously how my brain races around. I think I'm going to hit golf balls after work today, btw. Need to work on my short game like Tiger Woods needs to work on the sincerity of his apologies. Any proof you need that celebrity totally screws people up and drains them of their ability to relate to normal people is right there in that dude's blank stare.

We also ordered some chicken thing and it was great. Can't remember and I've used up my allotment of time on the Temple of Doom and Batman and James Bond and John Williams stuff. You know what, that's one theme Williams didn't come up with. James Bond theme. Not John Williams. That kind of bums me out dude.

So, wrapping things up. If you want Chinese food, go to Tony Chan's, because John Williams is an awesome composer.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Eat It - Pizza!

Everybody likes pizza. EVERYBODY. To not like pizza is basically the same as saying that you don't like sunsets or laughing or hot chicks wearing leggings out in public. I seriously cannot stress how awesome it is to live in an age in which this is considered socially acceptable. For the record, it is totally awesome.

Back to pizza. I love pizza. All kinds of pizza. I like really fancy pizza that comes out of a brick oven and has pine nuts and arugula on it. I love crappy plain old cheese pizza with canned sauce that you get at a bowling alley. I even love fake pizzas like the ones at California Pizza Kitchen with toppings that are meant to go in a sandwich, like mayonnaise.

You have to wonder about a pizza that cannot be saved and put in the fridge. That's why you should eat the whole thing. And I never leave the crust. I consider that a sin. If you leave the crust, you clearly were never given the "children starving in Africa" speech when you were a kid. Do parents still do that? I know that a lot has changed over the years. When I was a kid, we made a lot of Ethiopian jokes. I don't think they're considered as poor as they used to be.

But back then, when Reagan was president, it was de rigueur for rock band members to perm their hair, station wagons had wood paneling on the sides, sneakers had velcro straps, and kids made jokes about people starving in Africa. That seems wrong now that I look back on it. But we were so young then. We didn't know any better. And history seems doomed to repeat itself as the colors become more neon with each passing day. Thanks a lot, Kanye.

I believe we were talking about pizza(!). I recently dined with my good friend Andreas at Sosta on Lincoln Road. We have known each other for a long time, so we are comfortable enough to share food. We shared the oddly named Batman salad, which is what-I-thought-to-be-arugula-but-is-actually-baby-spinach with walnuts, deliciously soft goat cheese, tomatoes and a light dressing. Holy stupid name for a delicious salad!

We then split a Sosta pizza which has "sundried tomato spreads" (which is I think a tomato sauce made of sundried tomatoes), mozzarella, burrata, and prosciutto. It's really good. They wouldn't put the restaurant's name on this pizza if they didn't have full confidence in it.

So, pretty good meal for a good price on Lincoln Road (25 bucks each with tip and one drink). Can't complain about that. Plus, we always need more pizza places! Attention restaurateurs of the world: Miami also needs more burger places, more expensive steak houses and more tourist-trap Italian restaurants.

Other pizza places I love are basically everywhere you look, but I'll point out that I really like Piola, Spris, Carpaccio (Bal Harbour) and Casola's in the Grove. Or maybe it's technically in the Gables. It's off of US-1 and you can eat free pizza there while you're waiting for your pizza. Is that as American as apple pie or what?

http://www.sostapizzeria.com/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

5K

I know that Matt Drudge gets 5,000 visits every nanosecond, but I'm mildly excited to announce that whoever was looking for a review of Tokyo Bowl on Washington Ave is my 5,000th visitor. Apparently they've opened on South Beach somehow. The Yakuza is presumably providing the start-up yen.

Congratulations, bellsouth.net so-and-so. You win a lifetime free membership to Eat It, Miami, which is free.*

Please stay tuned for an actual restaurant review. I'm eating at a new place tonight and I'm hoping the experience is noteworthy. Sometimes there just isn't much interesting to write, so I don't bother. I guess I really should review every place that I eat, but hey, I'm kind of lazy.

*Please note that I am just being my usual hilarious self and that there is no actual prize. 94% of my college-educated friends have law degrees and several of them also have MBAs, so don't test my ability to obtain free counsel, which I would prefer not to obtain. I'm already expecting to be sued by a couple of places of which I tend to be quite critical. I'll give you a hint. One rhymes with Fart 'n Pee and the other with Gassy O'...whatever. You know about whom I speak.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

As I've said before, my readership is vast, and so I wield a mighty pen whose inkwell is literally filled with influence from which powerful prose flows like the beer that flows like wine in Aspen. Except that I type my reviews with a keyboard, so that's just a metaphor.

And so it is with great fanfare that I announce to you that some production company I've never heard of wrote to me to announce a new reality show that sounds like a very narrow version of The Apprentice, and whose title is fortunately categorized as "working." Because it needs a lot of work.

United Plates of America sounds like, uh...huh? What do you think of when you hear that title? Stare off in the distance for like 10 seconds and picture it. Now I'll tell you what it is -

Do you have an idea for America’s next great restaurant? Are you sitting on a billion dollar concept? If you think your restaurant idea has what it takes to go national and bring in millions of hungry Americans, read on...

From NBC and Magical Elves, the Emmy Award-nominated producers of "Project Runway" and "Top Chef," comes a big-event competition that will award one contestant the opportunity to see their idea turned into reality with a new restaurant chain opened in four cities across America! The contestants' fate will be decided by a panel of some of the most important names in both the dining and business worlds that will invest their own money in the final restaurant chain and have a huge stake in the ongoing success of the game's winner.

The show sounds pretty cool, as a matter of fact. Hey yous guys who started cheesme, I'm looking at you. You should, like, totally apply, though the application is 20 pages and cheesme's chef told me that anyone who ends up on a reality show is not a real chef and is more concerned with fame than preparing delicious food. Hey, that's America, baby!

More info can be found here.

On a side note, I typed the show's working title into Google News and this article popped up in the search results. It's obnoxious, condescending, witty and accurate, all at the same time, and written by the editor of GQ, a Brit.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Eat It - Lost & Found Saloon, 185 NW 36th St, Miami, FL (305)576-1008

http://www.thelostandfoundsaloon-miami.com/

Hmm, where are my notes from my dinner at Lost & Found? I could swear they were somewhere on my desk, but it's cluttered with paperwork. I seem to have LOST them. Oh wait, here they are. I FOUND them.

That's seriously how I'm starting this review? Yes. Yes it is.

I didn't know this place existed until recently, probably because I usually spend about half a block on 36th Street before I turn onto Biscayne. When I do venture further, it's to get to Target and I don't really look around. I didn't think there was anything worth looking for and that's not the spot where I go for prostitutes. I prefer NoBe hos. I'd like to think that's what they call 'em around 79th Street.

L&F is pretty popular, it seems to me. We had to wait for a table and there were some regulars next to us at the bar who ordered the most beautiful nachos I've ever seen, and were eager to talk about what seems to be their favorite place. They told me that they go to L&F every Sunday...and it was Friday.

Said nachos cost $8.25, and much the way there are add-ons at ice cream shops, L&F has those for their menu items, but instead of Heath Bars and Reece's Pieces, they have Pulled Pork and Grilled Marinated "Portabello" Mushrooms. I think it's supposed to be "Portobello" or "Portabella." Whatever. I like seeing typos and grammar mistakes because they make me feel smart. Anyway, add-ons for the nachos are $4 and holy cow, it would be plenty of food for an entire meal, I assure you. The add-on price varies depending on the dish.

While waiting for our table we ordered a half rack of ribs. Truly excellent and we wished we had ordered a full one, though we would then not be as hungry for/satisfied by our main courses. We all ordered various versions of the tacos, which are delicious.

They carry some good, interesting beers. There's a blueberry one that reminds me of one of my favorites in Boston, Boston Beer Works' blueberry beer that has floating blueberries in it. They're both delish. The one at Lost & Found is called Sea Dog and they just love it when you order by squinting one eye and going "Yar, Serving Wench! I'll have me a Sea Dog." If you actually did that, they would probably just stare at you. I think the people who work there smoke tons of pot. You can tell because they wear flannel shirts and dark rimmed glasses. And also because the service is awful.

So, we come to the imperfect nature of Lost & Found Saloon. The food and beers are excellent, but it took a really long time for someone to take our drink order at the bar and then our main dishes came out over the course of 45 minutes. Seriously. The first of the three diners was finished eating (we insisted that he start) before the third and final one of us was even served.  Plus, even though our server assured us that she would remember our varying meat and tortilla choices and didn't write our order down, she messed them up. That's just stupid and unprofessional.

That is some seriously abysmal service. I don't know what the excuse is, but that's something they need to rectify if they expect to be a successful restaurant. I'll have to go back and FIND out if they've LOST that nasty aspect of the dining experience. Now that I've written this down, I'm actually feeling irritated about it. Maybe I don't want to go back. No, yes I do.

Sweet.

Friday, February 5, 2010

50 McNuggets for $9.99

Oh boy, from 2/5 to 2/7, noon to midnight, you can get 50 McDonald's McNuggets for $9.99. That is one hell of a deal. I'm expecting families to be eating nothing but, all weekend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jaxson's Root Beer Redux

My good buddy, Nicky R, flew into Ft. Lauderdale from Beantown on Saturday, so I says to myself, I says, "we should swing by Dania Jai Alai and then grab a light snack at Jaxson's Ice Cream, just down the road.

Well, since I'm obviously a glutton and a buffoon, I decided that a root beer float would not be enough to sate my appetite, even though I felt as if I was going to die the last time I tried to finish one. Anyhoo, on top of the root beer floats we each ordered, Nick got a side of garlic fries, which I'm certain he can still taste, and I ordered some chili fries. I'm a sucker for chili fries.

Well, I might have had a chance at finishing my float, since I decided to consume as much of it as possible before the fries arrived, but lo and behold, the powers that be (Satan, obviously runs the place) decided that the root beer float, so large it is served in a pitcher, needs a side of root beer. I don't really know what else to say. Here's a photo (in which you can glimpse my freaky hitchhiker thumbs and snazzy new purple pin stripe shirt from Brooks Brothers. Purple is such a hot color these days. Also note the size of a "side" of fries at Jaxson's. Ha!) -


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Le Big Mac et Royal Cheese

Big Macs and Quarter Pounders are "buy one, get one for a penny" today. I think. I saw it somewhere and put it in my Blackberry and that thing would never lie to me. Would you, BB? No, you wouldn't. That's why I love you so. Please, never leave me.

I'm not quite sure why they don't just make them "buy one, get one free." Is it a legal thing? Maybe it's a way they can avoid getting berated for causing the obesity epidemic because people can't use their brains and exercise some self-control when they eat and 2-for-1 Big Macs is too tempting for a corpulent customer to pass up. Thanks, Morgan Spurlock or Sperlock, or whatever your name is. Thanks for the brilliant insight that eating McDonald's every meal is bad for you. Why doesn't someone do that with Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pizza Hut or Taco Bell or Dunkin Donuts...could it be that "Super Size Me" was a clever title? I'm sorry it worked and now he's (kind of a little bit) famous. Hey America, let's keep rewarding people for unnoteworthy (yes, that's a word) achievements by turning them into celebrities and paying them to host New Year's Eve parties and start their own clothing lines. Agreed? Super.

Here's that clip from Pulp Fiction -

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eat It - Salsa Fiesta, 2929 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL (305)400-8245

www.salsafiestagrill.com

Wow, Salsa Fiesta is probably the worst name you could give a (Mexican) restaurant. As Bart Simpson replied to Lisa after she said "a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet."-

"Not if they were called stink blossoms."

Plus, if you say it in English, it sounds ridiculous. Sauce Party. That's a pretty strange name for a restaurant.

The subtitle or description or whatever is "Urban Mexican Grill." Where did the restaurant originate, you'd like to know? Venezuela. Only the staff told me that it's described as a "Fresh Mexican Grill" in Chavez country. I guess that's probably like Fresho Mexicano Grillo in Spanish or something.

It's basically the same thing as Lime, but there's only one Miami/U.S. location so far. The food is good and the prices are very good. You can stuff yourself for about $10. Presentation is great. Service is quick and cheerful and the restaurant is spotless. Even the bathroom is nice and the restaurant's decor is kind of like a cool loft apartment. Perfect for the up and coming Biscayne corridor. The last time I went there were several gay couples there, so you know it's cool. Those guys are so hip.