Saturday, January 30, 2010

Last Weekend in Miami

This is the last weekend I am here in Miami before joining my next ship for about a month. I will be on two Caribbean cruises, but more about them another time.

This weekend I take it easy, I have explored the city center a little bit, just to see what there is. Of course all the well known hotels like the Conrad, Shangri La and many more, but I just ignored them this time, maybe next time I will explore them a bit. Today I chilled at Bayside, a nice park and shopping area with many restaurants. The ones like Bubba Gump, great for Seafood, Hard Rock Cafe or Hooters, great for the boys! I just enjoyed a lovely Salmon Burger at Ham Bur Gue Sa or hamburguesa, a lovely small joint a bit on the side of Bayside. I didn't have to wait long at all and the hamburger was nice and juicy topped with caramelized Onions, yummy.

During the week I went with Mike and Marilynn to a joint called Tobacco Road. They were the first ones in Florida to get a liquor licence, so it is Licence Nr. 1, quite a thing I think. They have great specials during the week, Lobster the one night and T Bone the other night. We had some really great Hamburgers that night, with a fried egg, mushroom sauce everything nice and juicy. Don't ask me how I ate it, I think one has to be born here to be able to eat a Hamburger without messing.....I can't!

So now as I am back online I thought I treat you will a really nice Hamburger Recipe, at lest the patty, the most important part of the burger, then just top it with whatever you feel like and put it in a Bun and Voila!

The recipe serves 4 generous portions

900 g (2 lb) Ground Beef
90 g (3 oz) Onions, chopped
15 g (0.5 oz) Worcestershire Sauce
30 g (1 oz) Mango chutney
30 g (1 oz) Sweet Mustard
Salt, Pepper

Fry the finely chopped onions in a bit oil on low heat till translucent, cool down and add to the ground beef. Mix all the other ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Add a bit Tabasco sauce to give it a bit spiciness.
Form 250 g (0.5 lb)patties and fry them in oil.
Make sure you get really fresh and lean mince and use it the same day, like you can under cook the patty.

Then go wild, try the burger topped with blue cheese and poached pears(change the salad to rocket!)

Oh, before I forget, I have added the photos for the past couple of blogs, it is worth looking at them!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What else to do? More places in Miami!

Good, the weekend is nearly over, but there is more I have done here in Miami, there is just so much. I haven't actually been in South Beach since I arrived here, but will do that in due course. First we explored some more hidden gems here in Miami with my personal "tour guides" Mike and Marilynn. Marilynn is born and bread here in Miami, so she really knows her way around and Mike has been here for a very long time too, so they really know the hidden gems of this city!

This time we went to see one of the better known tourist attractions, the Coral Castle. First when one enters the grounds one immediately thinks "Is that it?' but then when one finds out that everything has been done by just one single man in the 1930ties and 40ties, moving coral stone block up to 30 tons on its own, without the help of modern cranes, it is actually incredible. Take your time and look what he did, it is maybe a bit crazy, but fantastic!

I just had to to add this gentleman with his old dog, travelling around in his own little trolley!
Then we had a drive through the agricultural lands of Miami, yes you hear me right, agricultural lands, and there is a lot, believe me. It is called Redlands and everything is grown there, from Oranges, Papayas, Palms, Tomatoes, you name it is is there, I was very impressed. We stopped at a place called Robert is here, you just have to go there. The main attraction are the smoothies, delicious concoctions of fresh fruit ice and ice cream, wow! I had a key lime shake, mike and Marilynn opted for the cherry one, plenty of fresh cherries in the shake, so beautiful! But there are plenty of other flavours, Orange, Banana, Berries, Coconut and of course seasonal flavours like black zapote. But that is not all you can get there, it is as well a great farm store with fresh fruit and vegetables, tree ripened oranges, so sweet it is unreal!, Baby bananas, Avocados, berries and a range of different honeys like I have never seen before, a wonderful place to chill out, there was live music, so sit down and enjoy your smoothie. Careful, I have been told that the place is only open in winter.

Then we went back to the Everglades National Park, this time much further south. Again it was an amazing trip and it is actually very close to "Robert is here". The bird life was incredible, of course plenty of Alligators and even some snakes. There was a little brise, so it was not too hot and no Mosquitoes, thy can be very bad here when the rains are starting again.

After that we had a wonderful drive down to Key Largo. Wow, what a difference to Miami, everything is so much more relaxed, it is like one is on holiday. We went to a place called Sundowners, what a perfect name. So we had sun downers and something to eat, starting with Lobster Bisque, Clam Chowder and Conch Soup, all served in a bread roll. Then we went on to have some mains, Mike with a blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich with lovely caramelized onions in it, Marilynn had the Snapper poached in Coconut Milk, just delicious and I had Snapper fried with Mango and Capsicum Chutney, served with Sweet Potato Fries. The fish was tender and juicy and I just love Sweet Potato Fries which are really easy to make, just replace potatoes with sweet potatoes and deep-fry them, the result is fantastic!
It is quite a drive down to Key Largo, but worth it, there is a fair amount of traffic, so by the time we came back to Miami it was nearly 11 PM, but that is just the right time to go out again, I guess! ( I went to bed, lol!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nice Eateries and Places in Miami

OK, now let's go a bit more in depth with what one can do here in Miami, and believe me it is a lot.

I am staying at the Epic Hotel, something brand new and nice, yes nice. I have no idea why I have been booked in here as the company usually uses other hotels to book us in, but I am not complaining, nice room, nice view, nice everything. I had one dinner at the restaurant on the 16th floor, just something small and quick. The menu is Mediterranean inspired so I opted for the Fettuccine Carbonara. Absolutely lovely home made pasta, tender and creamy with prosciutto giving a lovely saltiness to it. Topped with the perfect poached egg, the whole dish was just amazing, that is how pasta should be.

Then I was invited by my good friends Mike and Marilynn to Garcia's Seafood Grill and Fish Market for a superb lunch. Garcia's is in the middle of town, right by the water. Friendly service, good and simple food, just what the doctor ordered. We had a couple of starters, Conch Fritters (a snail living in the sea), fried fish roe, not for everybody, but really nice to eat and a great Ceviche (raw marinated fish). Then we went on to "Dolphin" Sandwiches which is actually Mahi Mahi. The fish was so juicy and tender it was unreal. The juices were running out of the sandwich and I ate every single bit to the end. Garcia's is usually very full over lunch time, but weekends are actually quite ok.

We went to visit Fairchild Botanical Gardens. What a treat, the grounds are huge, beautiful and tranquil. The perfect spot to relax, walk a bit or just sit down and read a book. It is winter at the moment and there is so much to see, imagine how wonderful it must be in spring and summer! The drive there is already fantastic, take a drive through Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Take your time, it is beautiful, the gardens, the houses, really worth a slow drive.

Thank you so much Mike and Marilynn for showing me the beautiful spots here in Miami, it is a real treat!

By the way, there are soon loads of recipe again, just that I am not in the galley at the moment, but tied down at a desk writing recipes, having meeting and finding my feet in a new job......soon they will be coming again, hang in there! The same with the photos, I can't upload any at the moment, but soon they will be coming again.

Eating in Miami

I am getting into the sandwich culture here in Miami, there is plenty and something for everybody. From the rich, cheese topped, toasted foot long Sub with everything in it, to the healthy turkey and avocado sandwich....anything goes.
My favourite are the stands where you choose your own ingredients, I think the ultimate of freedom (Welcome to the US). First one chooses the bread, rye, whole wheat, baguette or soft rolls. Then the topping, turkey, beef, pastrami, cheese, chicken salad, tuna mayonnaise, salami, ham and many more, often one chooses single serving or double serving, to make the sandwich nice and thick. Then the toppings, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and to end it off extra mayonnaise, butter, mustard or ketchup.....would you like it toasted? Ohhhhhhh Yes please.
Then there are all the special ones, the Reubens with Pastrami and Sourkraut, then grilled with cheese, or the Cuban Pork which is marinated pork neck roasted in the oven, then sliced, fried again, loads of lettuce and tomato on the bottom, then generously topped with the pork, then cheese, in the oven and yummy, go wild!!!!
Of course being at the sea here there are plenty of fish sandwiches, often Mahi Mahi, grilled, fried or blackened with the usual suspects of tomato and plenty of lettuce. The fish is so fresh and juicy, just a dream.
So one can live off sandwiches very well, some of them are heavy but many are lovely and light and actually very healthy.
I am off for the weekend, so lets see what else is out there, will let you know what is happening here in Miami!!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

About an old Swartland Food Tradition Baaaaah

Happy New Year

I hope all of you had a good Festive Season and is ready to put all the New Year’s resolution into practice! It was a busy time, at least from an eating side and being “off line” for a couple of weeks, there is a lot to catch up on!

Now, in the New Year I will have some small changes on the Blog, (my New Year’s resolution) but it will evolve only slowly. I want to start giving the recipes not just in Kilos and Liters, but always in Cups as well. I never thought about that before, being a chef, I only work in Grams and Liters, but many people don’t, so it should make it easier for the recipes.

Of course there will be plenty of recipes, but as well travel experiences and, new, some wine stories, as food and wine go hand in hand.

So, what happened here in the West Coast of South Africa? A lot, that’s for sure but here some of the highlights…….

I always liked the lamb here in the West Coast as well known as Swartland Lamb. I know one says that the Karoo (a huge high plateau, quite arid and full of flavorful scrubs and grasses) is the place for the best lamb, but I like to disagree on that point. Yes I had some wonderful lamb from the Karoo but as well some; let’s say rather strong tasting lamb. The Swartland lamb I always like to compare with the highly priced Pré Salé from the French Atlantic coast. Beautiful tasting lambs as the animals eat the grass close to the coast with traces of sea salt on it which makes the meat really nice and flavorful.

So Lamb is big in the West Coast and in a small town called Yzerfontein, 25 km away from where we live, there is every year the traditional Sheep’s Head eating. There is even a club organizing it every year and, wow, it is popular. Taanya, my wife, found out about it last year already and organized us some tickets for this years feast. They serve as well curried offal and fried Snoek, a fish caught locally for the less adventurous, but we were there for the sheep’s head, the real deal. I felt a bit like Andrew Zimmern from the food show “Strange Foods” and yes I was a bit nervous about the whole lot… is a rather strange thing to eat. But it is a long standing pre-Christmas Tradition and Taanya saying it was a great opportunity not to be missed, I said why not!!!! My main worry was of course how would it be cooked, will it be nice and roasted or just plain boiled in water and be all glibberish? Then of course how does one eat a whole head???? We will need some expert advice!!!

Firstly I have to say, the heads were cooked absolutely beautifully, simply wrapped in tin foil and then roasted in the oven in its own juices. The taste was mild, but definitely lamb, just wonderful and I have to agree, unexpected. So I started straight with some meat at the neck, mmmmmm, so juicy, then the tongue, I know not everybody’s favored, then an old fox showed me how to get to the brain. We had sharp knives, like a Swiss army knife and we were cutting and lifting the back of the head, then pulling out the brain…..I know it sounds terrible but it was nice. With the head we had stunning, crusty home baked bread, assorted jams and preserves, all one really needs. Taanya too got stuck in, enjoying it tremendously. She first made sure that she has all the meat from the head, especially the cheeks, before going to the other parts. The cheeks were just melting on the tongue, they were so tender.

I did not think that the head would be so filling, I could hardly finish everything. Yes it is not everybody’s taste, but it was a real experience, not to be forgotten. We had a lovely wine from the region, a Cloof Inkspot which went perfectly well with the meat, we met some lovely people from Pretoria, on holiday in the Cape (they all did not eat the head) but we had wonderful conversation and a great time.

Loads of people just popped in to get some take away, the sheep’s heads were sold out within no time and mountains of food went into the cars of local residents. We had a coffee to finish off a lovely lunch and brought some take away (curried offal) to Taanya’s folks who were looking after the kids as a thank you that we could enjoy lunch “peacefully”. They just loved their take away and will join us next year for the whole event.
As you can see Taanya is very methodical with her sheep's head eating!
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