Showing posts with label Colombian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colombian. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2016

30 Great Things to Eat in Miami for Less than $11

A disproportionate amount of my time and energy writing here is devoted to higher end dining (leading some people to think I actually eat that way all the time!). Yes, there's a lot more glamour in a fancy tasting menu than in the average daily meal. But not necessarily more satisfaction.

And as Miami rapidly becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, there's a particular joy when that satisfaction comes cheap. As we enter the season of Miami Spice, when everyone goes scrambling to sample all the $39, 3-course dinners, this year I decided to do something different.

So forgive me for the click-bait title, but here are thirty great things to eat in Miami[1] all of them under $11.[2] A few of these come from Miami's most celebrated chefs and restaurants. Others come from places with no websites or social media managers, made by cooks whose names I will never know. Many are not terribly Instagram-friendly. What they all have in common is that they make me very happy when I eat them.

Though it was not my original purpose, and though it's obviously skewed somewhat by my own personal predilections,[3] I suspect this list might just give a more complete picture of our city than the latest restaurant "hot list" – not just the million dollar dining rooms in the South Beach and Brickell towers, but the many Latin American and Caribbean and other flavors that give Miami its – well, flavor. I'm always gratified to see exciting things happening in the Miami dining stratosphere; but there are good things closer to the ground too. Here are some of them.

1. Pan con Croqueta ($10)

I wrote recently about All Day, and won't repeat myself here. Instead, I'll mention something that only occurred to me in retrospect: how comfortably it traverses the territory between new school coffee house and old school Cuban cafecito shop. Sure, the coffee beans are a lot better than the regulation-issue Bustelo or Pilon, and they don't need to put an avalanche of sugar into an espresso to make it taste good, but there's not as much space as you might think between a fancy Gibraltar and a humble cortadito. All Day even has a ventanita where you can order from the sidewalk. And, they've got an excellent version of a pan con croqueta, with warm, creamy ham croquetas and a runny, herb-flecked egg spread, squeezed into classic crusty pan cubano.

(More pictures in this All Day - Miami flickr set).

All Day
1035 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida

2. Croqueta Sandwich ($5.90)

If All Day offers a new-school version of a pan con croqueta, the prototype can be found at Al's Coffee Shop, hidden away inside a Coral Gables office building. Despite the obscure location, it's usually full of police officers and municipal workers, who know where to find a good deal. The croqueta sandwich here starts at $4.65; you can add eggs for an extra $1.25. Bonus points: on Tuesdays, those excellent croquetas are only 25¢ apiece all day.

Al's Coffee Shop
2121 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, Florida

3. Curry Goat ($10; $7 on Thursday)

For as long as I've been in Miami – which is a long time – B&M Market has been open along a dodgy stretch of NE 79th Street. Run by a sweet, friendly Guyanese couple, this Caribbean market with a kitchen and small seating area in back turns out fresh rotis, staples like braised oxtails, jerk chicken, cow foot stew, and my favorite – the tender, deeply-flavored curry goat. A small portion, with rice and peas and a fresh salad, is plenty, and will set you back $10 – or go on Thursday when it's the daily lunch special, and it's only $7.

(More pictures in this B&M Market - Miami flickr set).

B&M Market
219 NE 79th Street, Miami, Florida

(continued ...)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

travelogue: a weekend of eating in Cartagena

Let me just betray my own ignorance immediately: when a good friend said he was getting married in Cartagena, I had absolutely no expectations of the city whatsoever. I was going for the wedding, and didn't really give much thought to what else the destination might hold. I booked a flight (direct out of Fort Lauderdale on JetBlue, and quite cheap, I should note) and started looking for a hotel near the church where the ceremony would be. And as I was searching on Google Maps, those little pictures of the spots you're clicking started popping up – and like a dummy, I realized, "Oh. This place actually looks really nice!"

The heart of Cartagena, the Old Town, is a walled city overlooking the Caribbean coast which has long been attractive to empire builders, tomb raiders, slave traders and pirates. Its winding streets are lined with Spanish colonial buildings and dotted with plazas and churches that date back to the 16th century. About half of those buildings are beautifully preserved; the other half are in a state of often remarkable decay, the kind of ruin porn that draws people to Cuba and Detroit. (With its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all the facades must be kept intact, though owners will often adapt and re-purpose the interiors).

It is about as picturesque a place as I have ever seen, yet still has the feel of a lived-in city and not some sort of Potemkin village. I was completely charmed by it.

We only had a weekend to explore, and a wedding to celebrate and related events to attend, but in between the festivities, here's what we did while in Cartagena:

(All the places we visited, and many more, are bookmarked in this Cartagena Google Map; you can also see all my pictures from around the city in this Cartagena, Colombia flickr set).

Our home base was the Hotel Quadrifolio, which was two blocks from the chapel in the heart of the Old Town. It's an eight-room boutique hotel in a beautifully restored old 17th century residence. As we checked in – while sitting in what was more of a living room than a lobby, and sipping on delightfully cold, slushy mojitos – we flipped through a picture book with before-and-after shots of the restoration. The transformation is remarkable.

The rooms are all situated around a central courtyard lined with arched passageways. A small indigo-tiled pool is nestled in back. Despite the tropical heat, the A/C in our room blasted at arctic levels, while the bathroom was open-air, with a small garden next to the shower. The decor throughout the property seamlessly merges the contemporary and the pre-Columbian. It was a glorious place.[1]

(There are more pictures of the hotel in this Hotel Quadrifolio flickr set.)

Hotel Quadrifolio
Calle del Cuartel (Cra. 5) No. 36-118, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
+575 664 6053

We dropped our bags and went exploring the town, running into several other wedding attendees along the way. Though it's less than a mile from one side of the Old Town to the other, we would see something new every time we wandered the criss-crossing streets: an impeccably preserved church here, a beautiful but crumbling facade a block away.

And everywhere there were fruit vendors, with carts stacked with mangoes, papayas, coconuts, pineapples, and other more exotic specimens: maracuya (passionfruit), lulo, tomate de arbol, guava, granadilla and more.

Though we knew there would be food at a reception for the wedding guests that night, I was feeling peckish around mid-afternoon, and we stopped off for our first bite at La Cevicheria. We chose it primarily because it was open in mid-afternoon, and most places in town close at 3pm until dinner service (I get the sense that siesta is still taken pretty seriously here). I learned later that this is on the W.W.B.D. ("What Would Bourdain Do?") list for Cartagena, and I can see why.

Maybe I was especially hungry. Maybe the charm of the town makes everything taste better. Maybe it was their good A/C or their cold beer.[2] But this octopus ceviche, was, in the moment, one of the best ceviches I'd ever had. The octopus hit that satisfying equilibrium between tender and chewy, speckled with diced onions and peppers, all awash in a citrusy marinade stained dark brown by the octopus' pigment. You can also adjust the heat level yourself with a bottle of a really outstanding orange-hued hot sauce that our server was good enough to clue us in on.

La Cevicheria's ceviches are served with saltines for scooping, but for a worthwhile upgrade, get an order of their tostones, the plantains flattened wafer-thin and fried until shattering crisp.

(There are a few more pictures in this La Cevicheria flickr set.)

La Cevicheria
Calle Stuart 714, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
+57 5 660 1492

(continued ...)