Saturday, January 1, 2011
For the 27th of December, my wife wanted to head to South Beach for her big birthday. It's a snappy drive from Lauderdale by the Sea, so we all said, "Shoot, why not", hopped in the rental and drove down.
Couldn't have been a better day to go...not too crowded at 10am, a cinch in parking, and quite the pleasant walk through Ocean Drive (which is "The Strip"). Biggest gripe were the countless restaurants hocking their wares, begging for you to come in....ugh... But big in culture, panache, and soul.
I myself had a great time poaching a few local hand rolled Dominican cigars. We absolutely fell in love walking through Espanola way and I ducked into a great little french cafe named "A La Folie" for a "Snack". The girls were shopping and Meghan kept asking me to look at all the things she was about to try on...low blood sugar and all, I said, "Look, I need a coffee, I'll be right back". 5 Minutes later sitting down, I called her and said, "Dood, gotta come in here for a treat". She was totally annoyed I didn't wait up...I laughed.
The Cafe Au Lait was served in a huge soup bowl...I looked around, bemused and bewildered, and saw people just picking up their bowls and drinking. Reminded me of a time at the dinner table with my Uncle Paul eating soup...I went to drink the last of the broth from the bowl and he interjected, "Matty, gotta ask the chef if you can pick up and slurp"...
I intended to walk in for a quick cafe au lait and pastry, but the pastries were in the oven...so I settled for a Crepe Normande. Known for their apples and Calvados in Normandy, this crepe gets it's chops from the tart sauteed apples and Calvados creme sauce. Honestly I had two or three bites and savored. The girls came in from shopping and were delighted to share this delightful bite.
With snacky hunger sated and lunch hunger closing in, we checked out a couple of quaint art deco hotels for future stays and debated where to eat.
BLT Steak by Laurent Tourondel, at Hotel Betsy caught our eye. You might recognize this chef from such shows as "No Reservations" as "One of the Best Burgers in America". Guilty from not venturing to his establishment sooner (we live 40 minutes from his place in DC) we settled for a go.
Beautiful setting...a little too chilly to sit out despite the glass heaters outside. We settled on a few morsels that plain out rocked our worlds.
Heirloom Local Tomatoes with Bermuda Onions, Russian Tarragon Dressing, Gorganzola, and Charred Onion Compote with Micro Basil....a superb combo...try a silky Goat cheese if you don't like Gorgonzola...but I insist you try it first.
Gruyere Popovers...they actually hand you the recipe when they bring out the treats...that could be our next holiday bread for the table.
Potatoes Au Gratin...really good with three cheeses, but nothing to really get excited about.
BLT Burger...no Wagyu, no Kobe...straight up Angus cooked Medium Rare (the way God wants your meat to be). Perfect bun to burger ratio...and by far one of the best burgers I have ever laid hands on.
Sure, we should have gone to a down home dirty old local joint...but have you ever had those days where you just don't want to plan all that hard to find the "hard to find out of the way place?" I have an App on my iPhone called "Best New Chefs" from Food and Wine Magazine. Literally, I let the phone use my location, and I clicked on the button, "Locate Near Me"..... And 0.2 miles away popped up BLT Steak.
Call South Beach what you will....flashy, showy, pompous, shallow. There is not ENOUGH money to have down there. You make 100 million dollars on a 5 year basketball contract? You aren't wealthy my friend...you are doing okay, and you could be poor if you don't watch yourself. Great place to play and visit, and I would go back for a day or two anytime. It's honestly a wonder of culture, people, and food. My senses were just vibing off the energy and I felt hip. Where's all the sooped up Guido's from "Jersey Shore"?...lemme at em'!...on second thought, leave me alone, I'm a prepster for life.
We got out in the nick of time around 4pm, just as the traffic heated up...we dodged it all, and I smoked a great Torpedo Cigar on Lauderdale Beach to celebrate. Ah, a freshy, rolled on the thighs of a beautiful Cuban virgin...at least that's what I think they said...