Dinner with Friends – Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love To Eat

Mmmmmm....... Lots of tasty, tasty things in here

Recently, I had the opportunity to cook another in our series of ‘foodies with cameras’ dinners for my DH and our good foodie and photographer friend, Kevin. Check out the awesome time-lapse Kevin did that evening on Vimeo.

On the menu this evening was a series of recipes from Chris’s and my favorite local chef’s first cookbook, Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love To Eat.

What can I say about Chef Michael Schwartz and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink- his monument to local, sustainable and simply good food- that I haven’t said already? Chef Schwartz’s passion; his driving force as a Chef, is to showcase seasonal ingredients and promote local farms. He works tirelessly to support small growers and city green space projects; sometimes serving as the only voice small urban gardens have against a city that is at best indifferent to, and at worst hostile regarding, their very existence. I admire Chef Schwartz’s ethos and his commitment to a healthy and balanced way of approaching food. If you buy ingredients that come from down the block and treat them without unnecessary fuss, your dishes will not only taste better, they will be better for your family and community at large.

Even when this James Beard Award winning Chef’s dishes are deceptively simple, like the egg dish below, it is clear that a lot of thought and planning have gone into their creation. It is obvious why Chef Schwartz is highly-awarded; he walks the walk. The book, I was happy to see, also talks the talk and serves as a handy primer for anyone that thinks about the food they eat and where that food comes from. Note: although this may sound preachy, it doesn’t come off as such in the book. Chef manages to give the information needed, food for thought as it were, without ramming a holier-than-thou attitude down one’s throat. He’s much too laid back for that. This is Miami, after all.

In the book, we were happy to see the familiar setup of small plates, large entrees and huge family-style dishes from the restaurant, as well as some of our much loved favorites from MGFD. If you’re familiar with the restaurant, you will recognize a fair amount of the offerings, with quite a few new dishes thrown in the mix for good measure. These are things that Chef likes to make–what he feeds his family with, and what he chooses to serve guests on his rare days off.

We were also overjoyed to see a dessert section featuring desserts from Chef’s Beard Award winning pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith. Goldsmith is a master of her craft, elevating the simplest of concepts (like popcorn and chocolate peanuts or pop tarts) to high art. Rumor has it that Chef Goldsmith will be releasing her own cookbook this year, and I just might have to snap it up when she does–she’s just that good. She also has a way of making recipes that are easy enough for a baking novice to master, but good enough to wow the most discriminating palate. The dessert I made this evening was simple, classic, and an instant hit.

Aside from a great selection of complete dishes, the book features a truly great section of basics (like fresh bacon and mayonnaise) that can be borrowed and tweaked to elevate even your most simple and treasured recipes to something new.

The Spread

For our ‘foodies with cameras’ dinner, I chose a selection of four dishes: one each from the Small Plates; Pizza, Pasta and Sandwiches;  Large Plates; and Desserts sections. Each recipe I made featured uncomplicated cooking methods that gave an amazing clarity of flavor to simple ingredients cooked to the best of their ability.

Eggs in prep
Eggy Perfection

Roasted “Double Yolk” Eggs with Tomato and Asiago

We all know by now that I am a sucker for anything with an egg in it And this dish is certainly no exception. I think it was universally the favorite of the evening, even though I managed to slightly-to-really overcook the egg yolks. Good quality tomato sauce with rich egg yolk and salty cheese combines perfectly with stout crusty bread in a dish with the perfect balance of richness, bright taste and satisfying crunch.

Fregola just starting its risott-ing
Yummy nutty creaminess

Fregola Risotto with Shrimp, Roasted Corn and Melted Leeks

I’m glad I took the time to find Fregola for this recipe. Fregola is a deeply nutty cous cous-like little hand-rubbed pasta–kind of like Israeli cous, but much nuttier and with more of a toothsome quality. Chef Schwartz talks in the book about how great and underutilized an ingredient it is, and although a bit more expensive than Israeli cous, I’m glad I sprung for it. The dish was rich, nutty, creamy, complex and would be wholly satisfying on it’s own. As part of the dinner, it was a satisfying and hearty cornerstone.

*Homer drool* Amazing chicken

Whole Roasted Chicken with Plumped Raisins, Toasted Pine Nuts and Arugula

I have a confession to make. This is the first time in my life I have made a whole roast chicken, and I liked it. Maybe liked isn’t the right word. Let’s go with loved it. This chicken was simply put, amazing. Not quite the heaven-on-a-plate that Chef Schwartz’s is at the restaurant, but damn close. The chicken was juicy, with perfectly crisp skin, and was accompanied by an amazing pan sauce, peppery arugula, toasted pine nuts and sweet raisins. Even though touching the chicken ribs from the inside freaked me right out, I think I’ve been converted.

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake just out of the oven
Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake topped with Chantilly Cream and blueberries

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake with Chantilly Cream and Fresh Blueberries

Everyone keeps talking about Meyer lemons, and I’m jealous. For some reason, even though I live in the same town as Chef Schwartz, I can never find them. Probably because I shop at a local market and not the wealth of farmer’s markets he does. Even though I did not have the famed lemons, this recipe (made with a blend of fresh regular lemon and orange juices instead of Meyer lemons) made a light-as-air cake with delicate pudding and silky, sexy cream. A huge hit, to say the very least. Even for bellies stretched with chicken and risotto.

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

A series of HDRs my DH took while at Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas.

Red Rock Canyon 2

These images are actually made up of 3-7 separate images taken in rapid succession of the same thing with different exposures. The images are then combined in Photoshop and then tweaked to make sure the colors come out right.

Red Rock Canyon 3

Vegas, Baby: Part the 3rd

Ok, so these are from Day 2….

The Vegas sign.

Just (re)Married at the Vegas sign
Just (re)marrieds at the Vegas sign
Brothers
The Boys

Now on to Days 3 & 4

Since the brother hadn’t been sleeping that well and was at his limit of tiredness at this point, he opted for a relaxing hotel day and we headed for the desert.

After a massive breakfast, that is.

Fried Chicken n Waffles

Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken & Bacon Waffle Tower: 2 breasts of the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted with 4 impossibly fluffy bacon-studded waffles, a hot maple reduction syrup, the tiniest amount of diced red peppers ever and fried leeks.

S'mores Cappuccino

Oh yeah, you heard me right. S’mores Cappuccino. As big as my frickin head.

These monstrosities were had at Hash House A Go-Go south of the main strip at the M hotel & casino. This dish was featured on Man vs. Food, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I saw it on the show. It didn’t disappoint. I abhor chicken skin. I take a bite, and my entire body convulses to eject the offending skin and fat from my mouth without fail, every time. Every time but this one. I actually had an argument with my DH that evening about whether or not the chicken actually had skin–it was so good and cooked so properly that I didn’t even notice it. Even though a little nubbin of bone was left in the handle part of the leg which I picked around without thinking. That’s some powerful fried chicken.

After the feast and 2 days of schlepping our tired East Coast butts all over the strip, we weren’t feeling up for hiking, so we decided to take the 13 mile scenic route at Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon
Awe inspiring vista
Red Rock Canyon
I didn't even take this picture... my DH took it in my style
Red Rock Canyon
We have nothing like this in Miami
Red Rock Canyon
Next time, we're taking a week or so, and doing nothing but photographing nature
Red Rock Canyon
I love the framing the cut rocks create here
Red Rock Canyon
Look! I managed to stay covered up enough with sunscreen & a scarf that I didn't get sunburned. Even with the top down all afternoon. Go, me!

We were both in awe of just how amazing the rocky desert landscape looked and just how different it is from home. No palm trees and tropical flowers here. We have much more desert pictures to come. My DH took a ton of HDR setups and I’m willing to be more than not are going to turn out really, really well.

Then we hit up Fremont Street to check out the huge LED canopy and vintage Vegas signs.

Fremont Street
Aladdin's Lamp
Fremont Street
The horse
Fremont Street
What's more "Vegas" than a martini?
Fremont Street
Ruby Slipper
Fremont Street
Finally, the wide-angle lens did us some good!
Fremont Street
Golden Nugget
Fremont Street
I'm fairly sure this isn't the original cowboy. I think he waved.
Fremont Street
Love him
Fremont Street
I had a time getting this shot
Fremont Street
Fremont Street with the LED canopy just starting up
Fremont Street
The Fremont Street LED canopy--pretty impressive

To see what the screen is really capable of, check out our whole blastoff sequence on Flickr.

After the desert and Fremont Street, we weren’t up for much more than a little blackjack at Excalibur and then off to a somewhat early bedtime.

Day 4

Our last afternoon in Vegas was spent jamming in last-minute sight seeing, including a trip to the top of the Stratosphere.

Stratosphere - if you look close, you'll see a jumper
If you look really close, you can see someone jumping off on wires
Stratosphere
This ride looked awesome - at the very top of the Stratosphere
Stratosphere
Awwwwwwwwww

And then it was back to the airport for the flight home. Back to life. Back to reality (or as much reality as one can experience while living in Miami).

More pics

Vegas, Baby: Part 2

Vegas Day 2 started off waaaayyy too early. For some reason, my body thought it would be a great idea to wake up at 5:00 a.m. raring to go.

This is what just before dawn looked like from our hotel room:

Rising dawn from our window
Rising dawn 2

Since it was ridiculously early, we decided not to bother the brother. We went on a little picture taking exploration walk instead.

City Center
The Cs at City Center
City Center
City Center, Mandarin & Aria

City Center is a pretty cool high-end mall, with spectacular versions of pretty much every luxury store you could want.

Planet Hollywood
Planet Hollywood - the sexiest of the hotel/casinos
Planet Hollywood's aptly named halo bar

With its sparkle and hot pink decor scheme, Planet Hollywood was definitely the sexiest hotel/casino/shopping complex we visited. It’s a pretty nice venue as well, with a connected Miracle Mile high-end mall.

Paris

Paris had an interesting feel. Not for us, but worth the visit.

Bellagio

The Bellagio was not our favorite. Kinda boring inside, but with pretty skylight adornments. Also, not our favorite smell–kind of like old men.

Perhaps our favorite-looking hotel--Cosmopolitan
The 3-story crystal bar @ Cosmopolitan
4th floor ceiling @ Cosmopolitan
Soon-to-be-opened sushi bar @ Cosmopolitan
Light reflection on a foosball table outside Jose Andres' place, Jaleo
I am completely in love with the classic styling in the seating nooks @ Cosmopolitan
*hee hee

The Cosmopolitan was our favorite hotel/casino on the strip and where we definitely want to stay during our next visit. Not only is it freakin gorgeous inside, the floor security was super friendly and helped point out different vantage points for picture taking.

After coming back to the hotel and taking a little nap, it was time for our vow renewal at A Little White Chapel. We opted for the drive-through ceremony, no Elvis (we just couldn’t go that tacky) and on-site picture taking. The woman that married us this time was great. (our first wedding was fraught with drama and the officiant read the wrong wedding ceremony–our first ceremony was spent talking to each other quietly and calming me down). This ceremony was relaxing and perfect.

This is my favorite picture of the wedding, taken by the brother
I so love this face
Not half bad. I'd say good enough to re-again-some more-marry
Matching Chucks, 'cause we're just that cute
My zippy little hair piece
Goin' to the drive-through. And we're. Gonna' get married...
I'm still short
Only slightly creepy intense eyes 🙂

The photographer wasn’t half bad, either. My DH has creepy eyes in most of the pics, but that’s not the photographer’s fault entirely. That’s just what happens when Chris is forced to smile.

After the ceremony, it was back to the Cosmopolitan for lunch at Holsteins, a totally kick-ass burger & boozy shake joint.

Truffle Popcorn!
Tenderloin Rossini Mini Buns

Tenderloin Rossini: Tiny little perfectly-cooked and super tender beef medallions with foie gras, wild mushroom duxelle, baby arugula and truffle mayo on adorable little buns. This was my DH’s favorite dish of the entire trip. And it has mushrooms. I see a glimmer of hope in my future! Not only did he like the pear on the Fleur burger, he liked the mushrooms on this one. So, what have we learned about vacation, class? That it’s the perfect time to spring foods my DH doesn’t think he likes on him in the guise of gourmet. Bwa-ha-ha.

Brats

Bratwurst: Baby braised brats with bacon and potato on pillowy little rolls.

I didn’t get a picture of the Black Cow Bam-Boozled Shake my DH had, but it was awesome and if I could eat that much ice cream without expiring, I would have had 2. Black Cow: Coca-Cola, vanilla ice cream, chocolate-covered Pop Rocks and Three Olives cherry vodka.

After lunch, it was just about time to make our way to Caesar’s Palace for dinner reservations at MESA.

The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace

Getting semi-lost in the massive Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops complex. Luckily, I was able to pull up a map on my phone.

Bobby Flay's MESA

What we had:

Dry and fairly tasteless cornbread
Venison with sweet sauce, basil oil drizzle and joyless tamale
Perfectly-cooked spice rubbed NY strip with sickly sweet BBQ and nice chipotle sauces and basil oil trickle
Tender lamb stew with decent if sweet flavor

I hate to admit it, but MESA was underwhelming. Maybe it’s because we are fans of Bobby Flay and love watching him battle it out on Iron Chef, but the meal just wasn’t that great. This should serve as a good object lesson, just like Paula Deen’s restaurant: just because they’re on TV and you like their recipes at home doesn’t mean their restaurants are going to be any good. Go by accolades, not air time. Chef Keller’s place was amazing, and he doesn’t spend near as much time in front of the camera (at least not on big budget networks).

What a pair!

My DH (now sporting my garter for luck and still trying to wrap his head around being a "little brother")
And his long lost-now-found older brother sporting an amount of facial hair my DH wishes he could sprout

And then, the time I’d been waiting for. The show. Both the boys were excited about the show we were going to, and I’m happy to say Circ didn’t disappoint. The show was pretty awesome. Unfortunately (or not), no pictures at all whatsoever were allowed. You’ll just have to go check it out for yourself ;p

Beatles Love
The Love Hallway

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to watch the Bellagio fountain show, which was every bit as amazing in person as it is on TV.

Bellagio Fountain
Bellagio Fountain

Upon returning to the casino, I crashed and the boys played a little blackjack.

More Vegas vacay pics

Vegas, Baby: Part 1

You may have noticed my excitement last week about going to Vegas. No? You missed that? Well, here’s a peek. This past Thursday, my DH and I left for a much-needed and well-deserved vacation/second wedding and/or honeymoon. And, if that wasn’t enough, a brother meeting-stravaganza.

Sound like a lot? It felt like it by yesterday morning, I can tell you. Many stories short, we had a great vacation, an awesome brother meeting, and a decent second wedding. The vacation turned out so well, my previous dislike of/being freaked out by Vegas has been changed and we’ve decided we want to visit for at least a long weekend every year or so. And we’d like to see the brother more than never, so that’s a plus 🙂

Vegas, Day 1

Up way too early at the crack before dawn to catch the first flight out to Vegas. The flight went fine; we landed and headed over to the huge rental car parking deck. They of course didn’t have the car we reserved available immediately, but everyone there really bent over backward to get the convertible we ordered or upgrade us to a muscle car. If we didn’t need the convertible for the drive-thru wedding we were doing the next day, we would have jumped on a Mustang or Camero. I forgot just how nice customer service people in Vegas are. Like go out of their way nice. Comparatively, Miami sucks in this department.

Got the car, a POS silver Chrysler Sebring, and headed out to scope the layout of the land before picking the long lost brother up. I’d seen the strip before, but not terribly well, and my DH has never been to Vegas. It’s surreal and impressive and has only gotten bigger since the last time I was there.

After swinging back to collect the brother, we hit up our first hotel/casino/shopping complex and meal- ‘Wichcraft at the MGM Grand.

It's 'Wichcraft

I’d heard buzz about this being a great sandwich place and a good way to experience Tom Collichio’s food in a non-threatening, low-key setting, and boy was the buzz dead-on. The sandwiches we got were freakin fantastic.

Steak n Egg Sandwich @ 'Wichcraft

I had the Skirt steak sandwich with a fried egg and oyster mushrooms on a roll.

Meatloaf

My DH had the Meatloaf with cheddar, bacon and tomato relish on a roll. It was also excellent.

I don’t remember what Mr. Brother had and I didn’t want to inflict my obsessive food picture taking on him right after meeting him. Suffice it to say, we all enjoyed our meals and left stuffed after our bags of chips and bananas.

It’s always nice to eat a meal at a chef you admires’ restaurant and have it be as good as you imagined. I doubt Collichio is stopping by on even a monthly basis, but I’m sure he would be happy to know the guys at his Vegas sandwich counter are holding down the fort properly.

Rawr

We explored the MGM a bit, but were mostly happy to finally eat (Southwest no longer feeds you more than really light snacks on flights) and check into our hotels so I could visit the concierge to make dinner reservations and reserve tickets for the surprise show I had been planning on taking my DH to since it opened 5 years ago. For those of you that know me, you will know that it’s almost impossible for me to keep something I’m planning a secret, let alone for 5 long years. I’m quite proud I pulled it off. It took a lot of misdirecting, tongue biting and not thinking about it really hard, but I managed.

After regrouping at our respective hotels, we headed out for dinner at Hubert Keller’s Fleur and to see what Mandalay Bay had to offer.

For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to wear cute heels. I was wrong and ended up limping and being in pain shortly after leaving the hotel. Pain be damned, we still had a good time.

Jellyfish Attack!

We checked out the Shark Reef, where we marveled at the jellyfish and watched the sharks do laps with the other fish in the sunken reef tank. Pretty cool stuff. I could have watched the jellyfish for hours.

Dinner was fantabulous and my favorite of the whole trip. And, wonder of all wonders, Chef Keller was actually there in the dining room filming some sort of something and greeting customers. Regrettably, I was too shy to go say hi because I was pretty sure I’d do nothing but giggle and drool, so I geeked out from afar.

Fleur’s menu is tapas-style, and we split a variety of dishes between the three of us. I also had the best pear martini I’ve ever had.

What we had:

Tarte Flambee

Tarte Flambee – A thin and delicate crispy flat bread with onion, bacon, truffle, asparagus, creme fraiche and mache salad

"In the Shower" Mac & Cheese

“In the Shower” Mac & Cheese – Possibly my favorite dish of the night and the one must-have on my list. A light cheesy pasta with brunoise vegetables and perfectly-cooked lobster chunks. Why “in the shower”? When Chef Keller was on Top Chef Masters, he made this dish during a challenge–cooking in a dorm–and the only place large enough to drain his macaroni was the shower. Hence the name.

Sliders
Sliders 2

Angus Sliders – Perfect little burgers with blue cheese, onion, bacon and pear. Surprise of all surprises, my DH actually liked the pear in the sandwich. Open door for experimentation 🙂

Artichoke Barigoule

Artichoke Barigoule – Tender artichoke hearts with slivers of asparagus and baby carrots in a delicate stocky sauce, topped with basil slivers

Creme Brulee Trio – Earl Grey (interesting), honey lavender (my favorite) and cookie dough (the boys’ favorite) dense but not too sweet shots of creamy, custardy goodness

After dinner, none of us were up for much more than sacking out, so we crashed early.

Aria - From the front doors looking out

Aria - The Lobby
Aria - Elvis Show Lobby
Aria - Elvis (& Circ de Soleil) are in the building

Greens with Eggs

Ignore the pork

When James Oseland names a dish his favorite over the past year, I tend to sit up and take notice. I don’t know about being my favorite, but this dish was a pleaser. Ignore the ham in the photo above. This shot was taken with the leftovers, which I foolishly added home-cured Canadian Bacon to. I shouldn’t have. This dish was absolutely great without it, and the smokiness ruined it the second time around. The original version also didn’t call for heirloom tomatoes, but I had a bunch on hand with no plans so I threw them in. I happen to love tomatoes cooked like this, so I liked them. If you do not, or if you don’t have any on hand, feel free to omit.

Greens with Eggs
Adapted from Wild Greens with Fried Eggs (Horta me Avga Tiganita) from Saveur

Extra virgin olive oil
5 scallions, minced
8 oz. cut n clean seasonal cooking greens
1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 c. mint leaves, chopped
1/4 c. fennel fronds, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs per person
Double handful heirloom cherry tomatoes
Crusty bread, sliced on a bias and toasted (optional)

Heat 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and cook for 4 minutes, until soft. add the greens, parsley, mint, fennel, garlic, tomatoes and 1/2 c. water; salt & pepper to taste. Cook, stirring as needed, until the greens are tender and tomatoes have softened and split, 10-15 mins.

In a medium pan, heat a turn and a half around the pan of olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Crack your eggs (1 person’s at a time) into the skillet and fry by constantly spooning hot oil over the yolks until the yolks are just set, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to de-grease and then onto your greens to serve. Serve with crusty bread.

My first batch of eggs I cooked a little longer than the second, and I actually enjoyed that more. The eggs were still a little runny, and the whites were nice and fried. Cook as you like.

Serves 2

Playing with Portraits 3

Just so my home page doesn’t look like a stalker page (and I needed a change of scenery), I decided to switch things up a bit with today’s Photoshopped portrait post.

This should be the last one for awhile–I’ve managed to work my way through most of the pile of portrait tutorials I have found interesting over the past few months but have been too lazy to try out.

Original Shot

This is the original shot I started out with today.

High Key Black & White

This is the final version–a high key black & white shot. Not bad, if I do say so myself, though the effect might be more interesting in a shot with less contrast.

Enter one of my beautiful sisters in law, Kim. We took a bunch of pictures of family this Thanksgiving, and this has to be one of my favorites. Not only is my sister in law a looker, she’s also a talented photographer (among other things like mom, planetary do-gooder, super smart and a professor to boot) and very easy to take pictures of.

Original

This is the original shot.

High Key

I blew this shot out making it high key and I kind of like the effect. I might keep that in mind for the future and do a really blown out set.

Metallic

This effect increases the grunge, making the picture almost metallic looking. This I will definitely keep in mind, since this is just about the effect I was after when looking for tutorials in the first place. What I was initially looking for before getting waylaid was how to make photos look like the History Channel’s new shows, specifically the deep blacks and interesting contrast on American Pickers. So, maybe the effect is just on the show’s main title sequence and hasn’t made the transition to stills. A quick Google search pulled up plenty of great pics of Danielle (and her tatts), but not exactly what I was looking for. If you haven’t seen the show, you’ll just have to imagine.

Old Hollywood Glamor

This is the old Hollywood glamor shot effect and I rather like the results, especially for portraits of women Soft focus hides a multitude of sins, and I just may go back and dig up a few shots of myself to apply this technique to.

The Takeaway

What has this little exercise taught me? I need to take more pictures of people! Macro is great, and food is endlessly fascinating and all, but people. I need more people. That, and that Photoshop is a really useful tool for creating interesting, artistic portraits. I already knew that, only now I won’t be quite so lost with a few helpful processes under my belt.

Playing with Portraits Of My Dearest Part 2

Original

Original shot.

Light fixing

Light photo correction, mainly exposure and levels.

Warm Version

Warmed up a bit.

Vintage Wash

Curves adjusted for a vintage wash.

Vamped Out

In this version, I used a mask to make his skin lighter for a washed-out (sloppy) vamp effect.

Depth

This version looks a lot like the warm version, just achieved a different way.

Dinner with Friends: Sra. Martinez

Fresh Tapas

This is a pictorial from our recent dinner/impromptu photo shoot at Sra. Martinez.

Pig logo in frosted glass

We decided to have another in our continuing ‘foodies with cameras’ quest with our good friend Kevin and man, we weren’t disappointed. Some of the pictures I took turned out like crap, but the food didn’t and that is what counts.

Table bread with a light, fruity olive oil

Egg Yolk Carpaccio with Sweet Shrimp and Crispy Potatoes

*Homer drool* Runny yolks....

This dish had me at egg yolk. I’m in an admitted lifelong torrid love affair with eggs, but this dish is good even if you are not.

What looks simple (almost like Mee Krob at first glance) turns into a rich, velvety sweet/salty/soft/crunchy flavor riot after gently scooping the egg yolk up from the bottom of the dish and ladling it over the mound of crispy potato and soft sweet shrimp. The salty sweetness of the shrimp balances perfectly with the crunch of the potatoes and the deeply satisfying richness of the yolks. A winner in our book.

Roasted Bone Marrow with Schwarma Spice, Sumac Pickled Onions, Apple Butter and Toast

All I can say is... cow butter. That's what bone marrow tastes like.

This dish elicited more than a few spontaneous exclamations of “holy shit!” it was so good. If you haven’t had the wonder that is bone marrow, the nearest thing I can liken it to would be cow butter. I’ve stayed far away from bone marrow until now, slightly frightened by the consistency I imagined and horrified by the fat content. No more. This was fabulous. I didn’t get much of the spice, but I think that was the point. The onions lent a nice texture change, and combined with a light schmear of the apple butter… forget about it. This is not Amish country apple butter. It’s velvety, has a hint of apple freshness and gives a nice little counterpoint to the richness of the marrow.

Croquetas with Jamon, Manchego and Fig Marmalade

The fig marmalade is what really made these beauties sing

This is perhaps the best representation of a perennial Miami favorite–the croquetta. Tender nuggets of soft potato protect salty Jamon and creamy Manchego cheese. What really did it for us with this dish was the fig marmalade. The sweet, slightly sour tang gave the ham a nice punch.

Cauliflower Steak with Marcona Almonds and Golden Raisins

So good it made even my sweet-with-savory hating DH love it

The chef had even my sweet-with-savory-hating husband singing this dish’s praises. The nuttiness of the cauliflower really balanced the plump sweetness of the raisins, and the simply treated almonds gave their all for a really nice, well-balanced (and very needed) vegetable component to our feast.

Garbanzo Stew with Chorizo, Kale, Tetilla Cheese and Quail Egg

This picture sucks, but I just couldn't leave it off. This dish was just too good.

Possibly my favorite of the night, this dish’s dead simple looks hide it’s complex flavors and wholly satisfying comfort. This is Spanish comfort food at its finest, with the best chorizo I’ve had in town. This isn’t the under-seasoned or mealy stuff–this is the good stuff. All richness, complex flavors and nice meaty texture–what all chorizo aspires to be. I need to learn how to make a passable version of this dish, and pronto.

Lamb Pinchos with Romesco and Grilled Scallions

The picture isn't the best, but you just can't go wrong with lamb chops

Perfectly cooked lamb lollipops with just enough sear to be interesting, and a velvety romesco sauce. Although I almost missed the deeply seared fat cap I only barely trim off when I cook lamb, this was a great rendition, and a little better for you as well.

Bacon Wrapped Rabbit with Carrot Risotto, Glazed Carrot Pearls and Pork Jus

The risotto and carrot pearls are what did it for me in this dish. The rabbit was great, but I wanted to curl up with a tub of the risotto Oh yeah, you heard me right. Carrot pearls and pork jus. A lot of love went into this dish. What is a carrot pearl, you might ask? It’s a tiny perfect sphere of crunchy carrot scooped out by hand by a poor sous chef. Love.

You can certainly taste the love in this dish. The rabbit is most, if a bit on the overwhelmed side by the bacon, the risotto with pork jus is so good I wanted a huge bowl of it, and the pearls? They give just the right amount of crunch to give you something to ponder.

Pastelito de Membrillo y Queso with Quince, …..

Long name that should translate to frickin awesome

I didn’t get the whole name of the dessert, but it was nothing short of amazing. Vanilla and possibly rum? ice cream topped with a flag of salty, crispy Jamon ham and deeply toasted nuts on one side with a fried pastry hiding a surprising pocket of soft cheese and sweet quince at the other. This dish walks the line between sweet and savory beautifully, serving as a great reminder that cheese can make one hell of a dessert dish.

There was another dessert–churros so good I had no idea they were supposed to taste like that. But, the sun went down, the lighting failed, and I just wasn’t able to get a usable shot. Guess we’ll just have to go back 🙂

Table light

Decor Shots

Back wall near the bar

Sra. Martinez is located in a 1920s old Post Office, and is decked out in rich black wood and gorgeous patterned tile with hits of reds, yellows and citrus. The decor supports the playful colors of the dishes perfectly and serves to give a sense of lightness and air.

Water bottles lined up and ready for service
Lighting over the bar. I ❤ Edison style filaments!
Bright punches of citrus are not only pretty, they're also practical at the bar
Heading Upstairs
Upstairs lighting

Service

Hands down the best service I have had to date in Miami; possibly ever. Everyone we spoke to was knowledgeable and gracious, attentive without being overbearing, and more than willing to talk about dishes you could tell they were very proud of. We left feeling not only well taken care of, but like we had a better picture of what the Chef had intended. That’s rare and something very worthwhile indeed. Food is a topic I never tire of, and it’s nice to get background on something I spend so much of my time thinking (and writing) about.

Overall Impressions

I’m looking for something less than stellar to say about Sra. Martinez. A little qualm; something I would change about the dishes we had, and I can’t. The only things I can say even remotely negative are nitpicky. And you know what? I’m no where near this level of chef, so that is ok. I’m great at home, but for an audience? I think not. I’ve been trying for a day now to see if my amazement will dim with time, and so far it’s not happening. This place is amazing.

I think I enjoyed it more than Michy’s and even though it really, really pains me to say it… more even than Michael’s Genuine. Granted, they’re two different kinds of food (both tapas style, but from two different cultural backgrounds), so there is definitely room for both in the pantheon of kickass food in Miami. I still think Michael’s is where I will take out of town not necessarily foodie friends, but those foodie visitors? watch out, you’re in for a treat.

With Sra. Martinez, you can tell each dish has been thought about and thought about and tested and loved long before it gets to your plate. Think of it as a love letter from Chef Bernstein to Miami. She is at the top of her game with this place, and I can’t wait to go back for brunch. Not to detract from Michy’s, which is also stellar, but at Sra. Martinez you can relax more–maybe it’s the dark woods and high ceilings, maybe not. I guess this will just give me a good excuse to go back soon so I can tell for sure 🙂

Read the full review on Foodie In Miami

View all the shots we took that night on Flickr

Follow Kevin (@Fuji27) on Twitter and maybe get an invite to view his shots from the night (if you’re very lucky)