Healthy choice for the win!

Sometimes, finding something healthy when you’re out to eat can be a real pain in the ass. You’re at a pub and the closest thing to healthy is a cobb salad. A friggin’ cobb salad for Christ’s sake! Everyone else gets bacon cheeseburgers and there you are, with your depressing cobb salad, dressing on the side, burning with food envy.

But then other times you get lucky, like I did in Miami recently, and the healthy choice ends up being the envy of the other choices.  With that afternoon’s memory of me in a two piece still fresh in my head, I decided to go for something healthy while out at dinner with my sister at The Standard Miami’s Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill.

My sister, a 7-month pregasaurus rex, looked at me like I was crazy when I told the waitress I’d be having the living “lasagna” raw vegan vegetable terrine.

sdfsdfksdf

No pasta, meat or cheese in this “lasagna”

“I mean, I don’t even get what that is. Is it cooked? I’m getting a turkey cheeseburger.”

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what it was either.

When it later came out, at first glance, it kinda looked like lasagna. It had the squarish, multi layer look of it, but upon closer inspection, there were way too many veggies and no sheets of pasta for this to be the real deal. My first forkful confirmed that there was, in fact, no pasta, no cheese, and lots of vegetables. But that first bite also revealed that this so-called lasagna was delicious! Thin layers of zucchini and squash were layered with eggplant, shredded carrots, lots of chunky, tomatoey goodness and what I later found out was a nut-vegetable “sausage” and cashew nut cheese to make this whole dish deliciously rich and saucy, and best of all, guilt free.

No sad salads here. This time, the healthy option was absolutely the best one.

Pancakes in paradise

Bliss

Breakfast bliss.

Man, do I loooove me some pancakes in the morning. Wait, better than that:  I loooove me some blueberry pancakes eaten poolside in the morning, while the sun is still climbing the sky and the breeze from the bay is rolling in and I’m on vacation. Man, do I love those pancakes.

Those were precisely the ones I had last Friday when I woke up at The Standard Hotel in Miami, threw on a bathing suit and sauntered over to the pool to enjoy a deliciously lazy morning.

Sure, my fluffy buttermilk pancakes oozing with juicy, fat blueberries were delicious (especially after my thick, generous pour of maple syrup) but really it was the view across the water, the quiet of the early morning, and the wonderful and rare feeling of not having a single other thing to worry about at the moment that made them so wonderful.

Oh to be back in that moment with those pancakes and that view.

Sibling recommendations: Colombian fast food edition

As someone who spends a large chunk of her time— both at work and outside of it— researching restaurants, reading up on what’s new on the dining scene, and telling people what they should eat and where they should eat it, I really love it when someone else takes over and does the work for me.

During last week’s pre-holidays trip to Miami, my sister took over the reins and suggested Los Verdes, a place in Broward county specializing in Colombian hot dogs and other fast food.

So here’s what I learned: Colombian food, while delicious, gets very few points for being aesthetically pleasing. But I’m ok with that. Sometimes it’s ok for things to be a messy jumble. That’s life, no?

A Colombian hot dog: apparently not for neat, dainty eaters

A Colombian hot dog: apparently not for neat, dainty eaters

Being the hot dog fan (examples 1, 2 and 3) that I am, it only seemed right to try one of the much-hyped (by my sister) Colombian hot dogs. When it came out, I wasn’t quite sure there was a hot dog involved because what was placed before us looked like a splayed out hot dog bun under a small mountain of crushed potato chips and sauce, a round, little quail egg plopped on top. The two sauces, a sweet pink sauce (probably a mayo-ketchup combo) and the sweet pineapple sauce, were no ketchup and mustard but they were good and put a whole new spin on the dog. Biting into this monster, stuff went every and got smeared on everything, but all of it was good. The different textures were fun and the different flavors were interesting when eaten with the buried hot dog. Sure, I probably should’ve worn a poncho to eat this thing, but I enjoyed it all the same.

A mess of a burger

All this mess and I hadn’t even touched it yet.

Next on the tour of wildly messy but tasty Colombian foods was the chicken burger, which was more of a chicken sandwich than a burger (breast not patty) and included more of the same ingredients from the hot dog. The towering “burger” seemed to spill out from underneath its bun, sauces oozing, melted cheese dripping down, lettuce, tomato and bacon jutting out from everywhere, on top of the seeming explosion of crushed potato chips. Again, not exactly date food (at least not first date, if you ask me) but since I was there with family, I might as well have been invisible for all I cared.

Maicito

Maicito, Colombian for mountain of food involving corn… or something like that

Last and probably my favorite of the three, was a Colombian maicito with chicken, basically a bed of loose corn kernels topped with— yup, more of the same— mozzarella, sauces (pink and pineapple), chopped chicken, and the by now ubiquitous crushed potato chips. Ok, so Los Verdes is kind of repetitive with their toppings, but there’s good reason for it: mixed all together into a sloppy, mushy mess, they’re delicious! This plate, with the sweetness of the loose corn, was oh so tasty.

Points to my sister for an interesting, ridiculously filling, messy but delicious recommendation, even if she did leave out the fact that I would need protective gear to eat it.

Sunshine state of mind

Fresh-squeezed orange juice

It’s been almost eight years since I last lived in Miami and almost four since I lived in Florida in general. And for the most part, I haven’t ever wanted it any different. No homesickness for this girl. But every once in a while when I’m back there, something, whether it’s a 70 degree day in early January or a plate piled high with Cuban food, makes me kind of miss the ol’ Sunshine State.

A couple of weekends ago, while the boyfriend and I spent the weekend in Lakeland, Florida with his family, that something was a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice made from fat, ripe oranges plucked from trees out in the backyard.

Even slightly warm from spending the early morning hours in the sun, the juice from those oranges was sweet and tart with just the right amount of pulp (i.e. not chunky but not so slick and smooth either that it brings back nightmares of Sunny Delight). Is there anything more simple, more quintessential, more reminiscent of everything good about home than fresh squeezed OJ on a warm February morning? Nope. Not on most days. Good thing they bottle it.

Island living and eating

Right before catching a plane back to New York we decided to eat one last meal in Florida, and what better place to wrap up a a relaxing beach weekend than at Tommy Bahama.

Didn’t know Tommy Bahama sold food? Yea well, me either. I thought they only sold linen shirts, swim trunks and other I’m-on-vacation clothing but apparently the “Purveyor of Island Lifestyles” also has a chain of restaurants. We made a pit stop in Sarasota and checked it out.

I have to say, I was somewhat skeptical. In my head I was ready to write the whole place off. Beachwear and food shouldn’t necessarily come from the same place, right? I mean, I don’t pick up bikinis at the supermarket. Just because Tommy could make nice casual island getups didn’t mean he come make nice food,  I reasoned. But I’m happy to report, I was wrong.

Fish tacos

Going with the recommendation of someone who’d already been there, I went with the fish tacos. One, because it seemed fitting to eat seafood in a beach town and two, because I’d never actually had fish tacos before. (I’m usually a beef or chicken kind of girl.) The three soft, white corn tortillas full of blackened fish (no, I actually don’t know exactly what fish), pico de gallo and a spicy chipotle aioli sauce were colorful in appearance and taste. The fish was tender and soft with that slightly burnt spiciness I love from the blackened outside. The other ingredients gave it a zesty, peppery savoriness that was refreshingly unlike most tacos I’ve eaten. With the tacos came a kind of weird side: three fried plantains in a crispy tortilla shell filled with a pineapple and coconut  sauce. I love plantains so I of course ate this up quickly, but I didn’t get why they were cold, almost like they’d been pulled out of the fridge. Maybe it was to play off the warmer flavors of the tacos, but this could of been much better if they were heated up.

Key Lime Pie

My last wish while in my ol’ home state was that I get a slice of my favorite Florida dessert: Key lime pie. Tommy’s was good, and as the waiter had put it, was “not too sweet, not too tart.” It had a nice thick, creamy consistency and a subtle citrus after taste. My only suggestion for improvement would’ve been to top it with a little less whip cream.  All that fluffy white cream took the spotlight off the tangy key lime flavor. Aside from that, it was a sweet adieu to Florida. I had another island to get back to and Tommy Bahama wasn’t exactly the purveyor of that one’s lifestyle.

“If you like piña coladas…”

It's not a beach vacation without one.

I’m not the Sunshine State’s biggest fan, but seriously, nothing tops the feeling of lounging on a quiet stretch of beach with a piña colada in hand, toes in the sand, breeze through your hair and nothing but turquoise water clear to the horizon, all a thousand miles away from work and the hubbub of New York. Eighty percent humidity never felt so good.