Oh, me so hungry!

So you’re coming to our wedding in Miami from out-of-town and you want to know where you can go to get yourself fed for all of your meals that don’t involve our reception…   Here is a list of places that we recommend.  I’ll list the neighborhoods they’re in, just in case you haven’t rented a car and need to go somewhere close – or at least a taxi-able distance away.  If you’re staying on Miami Beach, most of the places I list below should be a walkable distance away. Also, cabs are easier to find on Miami Beach than any other part of Miami.

Garcia’s

Located: Near downtown Miami, on the Miami River at 398 NW North River Drive, Miami, FL

Good for families? Yes!

What do I order? Anything. The ceviche is good.

Safety issues: You might have to drive through the hood to get there depending on where you’re coming from.

Good for: Lunch or Dinner

BTW: This restaurant is located on the Miami River. They have tables both inside and outside. I recommend sitting outside unless the temperature is intolerable.  The fish they serve at Garcia’s is super fresh. In fact I think the restaurant people catch some of it themselves the night before. This restaurant is on the casual side.

Joe’s Stone Crabs

Located: On the south end of Miami Beach at 11 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL

Good for families? Yes, but a little pricey.

What do I order? Stone crabs!

Safety issues: Just don’t leave your purse/bag in the car where any one can see it. This goes for everywhere in Miami.

Good for: Lunch or Dinner

BTW: Fancy shmancy seafood place on Miami Beach. Although, there IS a story about Charlie’s brother showing up in a t-shirt that I can’t quite remember. You’ll have to ask him. Anywho, the dress is a little more on the nice side and try to make reservations well before you go.

Puerto Sagua

Located: A few blocks from the ocean on Miami Beach at 700 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach

Good for families? Sure!

What do I order? Cuban Sandwich! Or anything else, I’ve never ordered anything other than the Cuban Sandwich, sorry….When in Rome!

Safety issues: None that I can think of.

Good for: Lunch

BTW: I have eaten at this place in a wet bathing suit and beach clothes, so the standards aren’t too high for dress, but their food is fantastic.  There is a parking garage on 7th street off of Washington you can park at if you aren’t staying at any of the hotels on South Beach.

Versailles

Located: In Little Havana at 3555 SW 8th Street

Good for families? Yes.

What do I order? Bistec Empanizado (breaded flank steak), Picadillo (rice with Cuban style meat sauce) or a Cuban Sandwich. Also, croquetas are good and don’t forget your “cafe cubano.”

Safety Issues: Don’t leave anything visible in the car that someone might want to steal.

Good for: Lunch, Dinner

BTW: You might know “Calle Ocho (8th Street)” from a Pit Bull song, or maybe from news reports of Cubans celebrating Castro’s death in the streets. (Or not) Versailles is the place to go for cheap textbook Cuban food.

La Carretta

Located: There are a ton of these all over Miami. There is even one in Terminal A (American Airlines) of the Miami International Airport.

Good for families? Yes.

What do I order? If breakfast – cafe con leche (cuban espresso shot with whole milk) and pan tostado (cuban bread toast[heaven] with butter [manna from heaven]) or a croqueta preparada (a croquette sandwich – I love a sandwich!). If lunch or dinner – Cuban sandwich, Picadillo, Bistec Empanizado, Shrimp Enchilado, anything really. It’s all good.

Safety Issues: None that I can think of.

Good for: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

BTW: This is another place you can go for cheap textbook Cuban food. Their breakfast in particular is super cheap considering what you get.  If you want a real Miami experience, just go to any La Carreta store front window and order a cafe con leche and a croqueta to-go. If you want to practice your spanish you can say, “Un cafe con leche y una croqueta para llevarrr porrr favorrrr.”

News Cafe

Located: On Miami Beach’s famous Ocean Drive at 800 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach.

Good for families? Yes

What do I order? Whatever you like, it’s all good.

Safety Issues: None that I can think of. Although Gianni Versace was shot on his way home from News Cafe, but that was because he had a crazy stalker, not because News Cafe is unsafe. 🙂

Good for: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Fourth Meal.

BTW: It’s open 24 hours.

Shorty’s BBQ

Located: in Kendall near Dadeland Mall at 9200 South Dixie Hwy, Miami, FL

Good for families? Yes.

What do I order? Ribs!

Safety Issues: Over-stuffing your stomach and popping a button on your pants.

Good for: Dinner

BTW: If you’re craving the type of restaurant that has paper towel rolls on the tables this is your joint.

Big Pink

Located: On Miami Beach at 157 Collins Avenue

Good for families? Yes during the day

What do I order? It’s typical diner food, pick your own poison.

Safety Issues: None.

Good for: Breakfast, Fourth Meal

BTW: It’s open until 5am Fri & Sat. They serve breakfast all day, what’s not to love about that?

George’s Coconut Grove

Located: in Coconut Grove (walking distance for those of you staying at the Mayfair Hotel) at 3145 Commodore Plaza.

Good for families? Maybe if the kids are okay with disco balls and loud music occasionally.

What do I order? Brie and Prosciutto Burger is good but the whole menu is fantastic.

Safety Issues: None.

Good for: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner.

BTW: George’s has nice outdoor seating which is great for people watching. A free glass of champagne is served with brunch.  Also, if you tell them it’s your birthday they will turn the disco balls on for you. Woo woo! Make a reservation, just in case.

Sugarcane

 Located: in the newly gentrified “Midtown Miami” at 3250 NE 1st Ave.

Good for families? I have no idea.

What do I order? I don’t know, I have never been there but it comes highly recommended from every one in Miami that I asked for recommendations.

Safety Issues: You will probably have to drive through the hood to get there. You’ll need a car or taxi to get to this place.

Good for: Dinner, Happy Hour

BTW: The restaurant supports local farmers, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, make a reservation just in case.

In general any of the restaurants and bars on Lincoln Road on Miami Beach will be good, safe, options as well.

That’s all I’ve got for now! See you all soon!

 

What’s the exact opposite of luxury German engineering?

Swedish Crapcan

This. A 1994 Swedish Volvo Crapcan station wagon with the roof cut off.

 

A few weeks ago while I was in Miami doing girly things like bacheloretting and bridal dressing, Charlie was in Ohio doing equally masculine things at the ChumpCar Longer Longest Day race which takes place over a 25 hour, 25 minute, 25 seconds period of time.  It all seems to boil down to an all night race interrupted only by pouring fuel into the car every two hours.  Judging by the smell of Charlie’s belongings there is also a lot of fuel spilling and sweating involved.  Woof.

I know what you’re thinking, did Charlie bring a pig and a caja china? No, not this time.  One would assume the typical meals consumed at these races involve barbeque protein.  That isn’t too far off.  But since Charlie isn’t a man of averages, he takes his smoker (the size of a large mini-fridge) and a brisket and cooks that all day while they race. Once it’s time to eat, they indulge the way their paleolithic brethren would, except for with what appears to be plastic utensils and paper plates (cavemen didn’t have gasoline on their hands and under their nails).

 

Chef in racing gear

The chef dons his racing gear.

 

The way Charlie describes the race it’s an adrenaline-filled fantasy, but once you see all of the safety gear they wear you realize they aren’t racing fluffy clouds.  I choose to focus on the fact that the cars in the race sometimes don’t even finish the race let alone go very fast, and also the fact that their car is an antique Volvo station wagon – a tank for all intents and purposes.

 

Notice all of the gear?

 

In the end they finished in 13th place out of 74 cars that managed to finish the race, which is great.  Congratulations, gentlemen!

Major 'tude

The whole team with appropriate amounts of 'tude.

 

All pictures courtesy of Drew.

 

Fall Collectanea

 That summer went by fast!  Reflecting on the past few months I realize I didn’t use my warm weather wisely.  This is evidenced by the fact that this is the first summer of my entire life that I didn’t suffer a single sunburn.  How the heck did that happen?

On the bright side, we have managed to cram fun miscellany into our days before the weather gets dreadful.  For starters, we took a trip to San Francisco.  Charlie was traveling to SF for work and Facebook’s F8 conference, so I tagged along for the latter part of the trip since I had never been to the city free love and rice-a-roni built.  Love in SF isn’t always free, as it turns out, judging by the person in the hotel room next to us – but that is a story for another time!  The past few months’ events can best be described by the resulting pictures:

Almostweds

Nearlyweds

Full House

"What ever happened to predictability, the milk man, the paperboy, the evening TV, you miss your old familiar friends, but waiting just around the bend..."

Antique Sewing Machines
Not the best picture, but hundreds of antique sewing machines line the windows of this SF fabric store.
Cheesecake and Guava

Cheesecake and guava ice cream with a shot of espresso, yayyy!

Then there was that weekend we had a hurricane and we were stuck inside.  So we had a “humanization of dog” photo shoot which resulted in some pictures we used in some wedding-related propaganda.

Professor Coco Loco
Will do anything for treats.

A Coco photo shoot can best be described by one of us hollering commands at Coco with treats while the other tries to take the perfectly timed picture.  We had another photo shoot in an effort to get some images for the table numbers at our wedding.

Okay Coco... staaaaay, staaaaaaay

Speaking of humanizing dogs, we also attended a “puppy pool party” which was sponsored by The Wag Pack. Coco swam and ran so much she was a zombie for the two days following the party.

Going...

Going...

 

Going...

Going...

 

yep

And... we're wet!

Then there was the weekend I celebrated a birthday, had a bachelorette party weekend in the Keys, and picked up my wedding dress at Rex Fabrics, whew!
It was a happy birthday

It was a happy birthday!

Charlie brought me the most paleo-friendly birthday cake!

Primas and Pals

Rex Fabrics is haute

I wish Rex Fabrics had an adult summer camp.

 

And last, but best of all… my family welcomed a new human at the end of September!!

Lily!

Our new cousin Lily!

Caja China? Caja Charlie!

Legend has it, it is physically impossible for a person of Cuban decent to say “no” to a pig roast.  Charlie must have known this when he invited Chuchito Valdes, who was in town for another jazz show at HR-57, to come to our pig party. But let me start at the beginning.

The summer brought along with it the (now) annual “Carlos Classic,” a pig roast party (which we held at the house) sponsored by the nice folks at Clearspring, Charlie’s employer.  The pig roast, in addition to a car racing team, are just two examples of why it’s great to work for Clearspring.

The party would be different this year for a few reasons.  This year, there was a bounce-house/bouncy castle/inflatable lawsuit magnet.  This year there were TWO margarita machines.  This year the weather was nice.  This year, Charlie built his own “caja china.”

A caja china is a cheap wood box you can buy online to cook your pig that is what the average person uses to scorch their pigs.  Average will not do for Charlie.  This is one of the many reasons we love him.

What may have seemed to many like an unnoticeable detail, the “caja Charlie” was a big deal that required no less than 30 trips to Home Depot, and countless hours outside with safety goggles and power tools. Charlie was a pig roaster in shit.

Boy Stuff

pig roaster in shit

Not to be confused with the organic farm-raised pig he chose for the roast. Randomly throughout the week I got updates about the pig, like, “the pig is on its way to the butcher.”  Insert your own mental picture. Charlie’s pig roast box even had a grill on top, so he could cook us lunch while the pig roasted below… like a double oven, but constructed by Charlie.

for lunch: chicken and corn

for lunch: chicken and corn

So it was almost time for the pig roast, Charlie’s dad and cousins came into town to help setup and cook the pig. Being that they’ve all logged hundreds of hours roasting their own pigs-in-a-box, they were welcomed to join the fun.

Counsins

Cousins!

pig in a box

That's just my pig in a box!

The night before the party, we took Charlie’s dad and cousin to see Chuchito Valdes, that I wrote about before, who happened to be back in town.  Before the show started we chatted up Chuchito who was walking around greeting people. In conversation Charlie sneaks in that we are cooking a “lechon” the next day, and invited him (the son and grandson of grammy-winning jazz legends) to come. So Chuchito responds with the only answer that seemed to be applicable, “How are you going to invite me to a lechon and expect me to say no? Of course!”

the setup

The Chuchito Quintet (hidden drummer)

I got his numba how bout them apples

Charlie and Chuchito exchange numbers

The “artists studio” in the back ended up being perfect for the tables of side items. No one broke their neck on the bouncey house.

bounce, bounce

bounce, bounce

Chuchito came and enjoyed some pig.

Chuchito, quieres un muffin?

Chuchito in the house!

Cubans in Virginia

Chuchito meets Charlie's Pop

A beer pong table appeared out of nowhere.  And our last guests left at midnight.

Stragglers

Mosquito-repelling tiki torches for the win

Carlos Classic 2.0 was a complete success.

Happy Coco-versary!

This week we celebrated the Coco-versary.  A year ago, the Coco-bomb dropped and we had no idea what we were in for.

So happy. So naive.

So happy. So naive.

Even better than the Coco-versary, the weather was suddenly above 70 degrees!  There really is only one way to celebrate temperatures so high: BBQ and beer.  So that’s exactly what we did on the day before the first day of spring.

Smiling on Charlie's shoulder.

My tulips are coming up (roses) tulips!

There's something about going from 40 to 80 degrees overnight that calls for the smell of charred protein.

My feelings on spring being here can best be described by the following pictures:

 

Consumption Reports: Saturday Morning Joe

Last week, when we were flying out of LAX at 7am, all we wanted was some coffee.  Our choices were Starbucks, that had a line 20 people deep, or Burger King, that had 3 people in line.  Scoffing, I jumped in the BK line and thought, “oh hell no, Sbux” and also, “bonus crossanwich!”  Is Starbucks coffee really worth a 10 or 20 minute line, when your plane is boarding in 25?  On Saturday morning (noon) we decided to find out!  Were those people standing in line for Starbucks victims of a good marketing department, or just running-through-an-airport-terminally-dedicated to their superior java.

We picked up a cup of coffee from Starbucks, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts.   And since we were conducting a serious scientific study, we required a control group that we knew we would like: Cuban coffee in the form of Caffe Americano (hot water and espresso).

I know what you’re thinking, “Jennie, it’s 40 degrees outside, how are you going to keep the coffee warm while you drive around from location to location without the coffee getting cold?”  Don’t worry, Charlie is a man of many solutions.  He  decided to boil water in a pressure cooker and then bring the pressure cooker along for the ride to pick up the different coffees.

Pressure Cooker in a Blanket

The pressure cooker would then be wrapped in a blanket and seat belted.

Safety First

Then the plan was to pour the different coffees into plastic water bottles, and place those in the pressure cooker. My only contribution to the conservation of heat effort, with my two graduate degrees, was to crank the seat warmer.

Charlie Carefully Pours

Coco, always the micromanager

You can see how the coffees varied in colors.  It seems obvious in hindsight, but it turned out they tasted (and smelled) better the darker they were:

Starbucks, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts

Before we could taste the street-bought coffees, we had to make our cafe con agua.

Too bad this picture isn't scratch-n-sniff

The only Cuban espresso sold in Virginia grocery stores.

So we poured the coffees into tiny thimbles and proceeded to taste.

Chinese character for "You are going to need a mint for that dragon breath after you drink all of this coffee"

Artsy Fartsy

In the end, the Caffe Americano that we made at home tasted best.  Part of me was sincerely hoping that somehow the McDonald’s coffee would stun me by being the best tasting, but Starbucks won out over the other store-made coffees. McDonald’s coffee did taste good in comparison to the cup of Dunkin’ Donuts, which didn’t even smell good.   The best part of the whole exercise was pouring the remaining Caffe Americano into a mug with warm milk, the left over espresso and sugar… then crashing for a nap.

Big bad Starbucks wins.

¡Que Viva España!

When we were in Miami for Christmas Charlie picked up a 2 lbs chorizo.  At first I was all, “yess!” But then I realized I had to do something with all of that chorizo because if we just ate it all with the wheel of manchego cheese he picked up, we would never poop again it wouldn’t be that healthy.  So I decided to make two spanish-style tortas (omelets) with it.

The first one would be a tasty one, with chorizo and potatoes.

Prep included cutting two red potatoes and about 1/2 cup of chorizo into cubes.  I also whisked 7 eggs with a couple pinches of paprika, salt and freshly ground pepper.  First, on the stove-top I simmered (on medium heat) the potato cubes in olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of cumin, and garlic powder until they were about half-cooked.  Then I added the chorizo to the simmering taters and watched the chorizo cubes ooze grease.  Looked gross, but the ambrosial smell tickled all the cave-person parts of my brain that detect calorie-rich foods that are perfect for storing fat for the winter, also known as “the french fries spot.”  Anywho, after the chorizo simmered for a couple minutes I added the whisked eggs on top of the already simmering chorizo/potato mix.

Chorizo-grease ambrosia

I stirred it a bit, and then set the oven’s broiler, so that once the bottom side of the torta cooked, I could pop the pan in the oven to cook the top of it for a few minutes until it turned golden brown.  So easy, so delish!

Coco is totally down to try some!

Overcome by guilt, I wanted to try the recipe again, but try to make it at least a little healthier.  So I took a chance and used just egg whites and chorizo (we ran out of potato, so I didn’t include any).  I wasn’t sure how this was going to go.  Chorizo is tasty, but tasty enough to just hang out with egg whites… we’ll see.  I cooked it the same way.  I’m not going to lie, it didn’t smell that good, and I contemplated just eating the simmered chorizo, but it ended up working out in the end, and was pretty good.

Egg-white Torta

Consumption Reports: Northern Virginia Grocery Stores

I found another excuse to put together a spreadsheet! We just moved to a new area, and there are several grocery stores within 5 miles of the house.  In an effort to decide which grocery store to go to, I started keeping track of different basic items we were buying (spreadsheet below).  This is hard to keep track of because sometimes the grocery stores had specials on particular items, which made comparing more difficult.  I’ll keep adding to this list as I go, but I figured this may help all three of you anyone who may be reading this who lives nearby.

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies and Donuts

If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what to do with the gallons of leftover eggnog you purchased before the grocery store took the heavenly manna off the shelves.  This weekend I made eggnog cookies that came out ridiculously good.   The recipe came from combining the sugar cookie recipe from here and the eggnog cookie recipe from here.  As far as the spices, I included ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a tea bag of black chai tea leaves.  The dough was very thick, so I filled up one cookie sheet, and put the leftover dough in a donut mold pan.  The donuts came out better than the cookies!  Sounds good right?  Do it!