Tag Archives: florida

Apologies from a vegetarian professional jet-setter…

24 Jun

I want to apologize if you feel I have not been able to share as many recipes as I usually do… I just have been very busy traveling the world in the first half of 2013. I have told you before… be careful what you wish for. I have wished to become a professional jet-setter and the Universe has heard me loud and clear. And even when I may have been inspired to cook and create recipes for you, sometimes the schedule of a traveler, without having a kitchen of my own presents its own set of challenges.

Travel 2013 Collage

This is why in many upcoming posts you’ll get to see the result of some of the traveling I’ve done in the last few months… As you already know a little bit, I went to India in February/March. I’ve been to Florida a few times as well…. For the birth of my little niece, the Miami ½ Marathon and my brother’s in law birthday. Now, I just returned from a trip in Panama and Peru, where I got the chance to fulfill a life-long dream to visit Machu Picchu.

Now that I am planted at home for the next few weeks, you’ll get the chance to do a little virtual travel thru my pictures and posts. A big part of my travels is the flavors of the places I visit. So you’ll get to see some of what I got to enjoy and some recipes I’ve developed inspired by those wonderful dishes. I also will be sharing some of what I brought back with me to remember the trip and to recreate those flavors I enjoyed while visiting.

I hope you get to enjoy it as much as I did… and inspire you to travel the world as well.

Bon voyage and Bon appétit…

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The Spice and Tea Exchange in Boca Ratón

2 Nov

Gotta love social networks… many people complain that FaceBook is the tattle-book, or as we would say in Puerto Rican, the “chota-book” because it informs people everything you’re doing. I guess that’s true if you are one of those that like to share your stuff with your friends.

I try to use FaceBook judiciously, but I’ll admit I like to check-in to places sometimes to “brag” a little about where I am and what am I doing. Sometimes it’s just because I know (or would like to know) the reaction I’ll get from people knowing what I am doing. This is exactly what happened last week when I was in Boca Raton…

I mentioned I was in Boca Raton training for a ½ marathon and I was running 13 miles… the longest distance I have ever done ever. That was my point – to share with my running mates that I was running with them from a distance. But FaceBook does not discriminate who sees your posts, so my friend Jill in NYC saw the post and, being the foodie she is, her comment to me was not “Go Madelyn” or “OMG 13 miles!!!”, it was more, “Hey you need to go over to Mizner Park and visit the Tea and Spice Store”. It was a very refreshing comment amongst the sea of cheerleading comments beneath my post.

I believe all things happen for a reason… so after my 13 mile run, I went out with my sister to do some shopping and, where do we end up??? At Mizner Park indeed… no plans for it whatsoever. We went looking for another store which actually has closed and moved a few years ago. And to not let the trip be a complete waste of time, we went into The Spice and Tea Exchange to see what Jill was so excited to recommend…

OMG!!! This store is AMAZING!!!! The smells are intoxicating in the best way possible…

They have sections of Herbs and Spices, Salts, Sugars and Teas.

The manager, Mary Lou, helped me navigate the store. It’s not difficult, but she opened up her favorite condiments and would tell me what they’re good with. I could not help myself and did a little retail therapy. I bought:

Brown and Yellow Mustard Seeds

to try and make my own grain mustard

Chardonnay Smoked Salt

to roast vegetables or mushrooms with a smoky flavor

Black Truffle Salt

to season mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, popcorn and just about anything…

Raspberry Sugar

Recommended with plain yogurt, over cookies, over oatmeal, to decorate the rim of a glass à la margarita, but with champagne or sparkling wine.

Sweet Onion Sugar

to be used to caramelize with roasted vegetables

Florida Citrus Salt Blend

a  blend of rock salt and citrus peels that comes in a grinder. I was told it’s great to season asparagus and spinach.

My sister also got into the action… she bought a tea assortment and tea steeper.

If you live in Boca Raton or near the area, you should visit this store. They have a website so you can peruse all their products and if you want, Mary Lou will ship whatever you want your way.

I know that I will make it a point to visit the The Spice and Tea Exchange more often during my travels to Florida. Thanks Jill for the recommendation and thanks FaceBook for connecting me and my friends in real time. This is a wonderful world we live in…

Lunch @ Panera Bread

15 Oct

I am sandwich lover… I could live off sandwiches my whole life. That should be no secret to you guys…

My sister is always raving about . Florida is full of them. She’s always bragging about how good the bread is, how delicious the sandwiches are. But I am a picky person… picky in the sense that if I do not see exactly what I like or crave that moment on the menu, I think places should make an effort to please me as best they can.

I have become a master of navigating thru a restaurant’s menu and identifying what is it exactly that I can and want to eat. And my former experiences with Panera Bread were not positive. I can’t pin point now what it was… but I remember looking at the menu over and over and over again trying to figure out how to build a sandwich that would hit the spot. Because of that impression, I would drive past Panera Bread places without thinking too much into them.

But recently I was driving from Orlando to Miami and we needed to eat something before we left on our 4 hour drive south. I tried several places I was more interested in eating but fate would have it that the best place suitable was Panera Bread, so we decided to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised to find on their menus these Sandwich and Salad combos. They also have soups, but I never trust soups at restaurants, even if they say they’re vegetarian. Besides, it was hot outside and my stomach preferred the cold bit of a salad to the warmth of a soup. Besides I always feel I am not being that naughty when I eat lots of bread and cheese if somehow it’s paired with a large and abundant salad.

I was pleasantly surprised to see they had 2 vegetarian sandwich options on their menu… This is what we ordered:

 Caprese Panini with Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil pressed in a baguette with a Greek Salad

Veggie Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread with a Garden Salad

The salads were extremely generous and the ½ sandwiches were just enough to fill us up. The lunches tasted fresh and hearty at the same time. I liked it so much to the point of starting to crave the same thing the next day and the next day. That to me is the sign of a good meal… when you are willing to have the same thing every day for a few days straight.

So to my vegetarian friends… if you’re ever in a pinch to select something for lunch, give Panera Bread a try. I may not have been blown away the first time I tried them, but it paid off to give them another try. People and places always deserve second chances… no??

Sublime Vegan Restaurant Review

18 May

I have a thing with vegetarian and vegan restaurants…  the fact that their food usually is filled with so many substitutes or tries to use so many “exotic” ingredients that the flavor is not there.  That’s why I sometimes prefer to just go to traditional restaurants and navigate through their menus to find something delicious yet still suitable for me to eat.  Funny… but sometimes I’ve found a great meal in a steakhouse…  the best baked potatoes and salad you’ve ever tasted!!!  But that’s another subject…

Last month I was in Miami with my mom visiting my sister and coincided with my mom’s 67th birthday.  My sister decided we should celebrate her by going to dinner at a vegan restaurant in Ft Lauderdale called Sublime.  I have heard of this restaurant before, but hadn’t had a chance to go up there.  And from my feelings above, I was a bit wary of what we would find there…

The ambiance at Sublime is really nice… low lights, nice décor, small tables for 2 or 4…  like any fine dining restaurant should be.  The music was nice and the bar area looked really nice.  Sorry I do not have pictures because the low lighting does not allow for nice pictures with or without flash.  Sublime is a vegan restaurant… so even though they do not serve any animal products or any eggs or dairy, they do serve alcohol and chocolate, which are not included in the line of vegetarianism I usually follow.  Just wanted to clarify…

It’s so refreshing to go to a fine dining restaurant that you know that you can eat EVERYTHING on the menu… it’s now a matter of what you like and what you’re in the mood for… not a matter of what can I have, what questions should I ask the waitress, will it have bacon?  But still, I was careful to check out if the food will taste good…

The menu is large… but not unmanageable.  They had appetizers, a “sushi” menu, salads, pizzas and main entrees.  I ordered a “Sublim-ade” which was their featured non-alcoholic drink – really delicious limeade.  I can’t remember if I had one or two.  We were in the sharing mood, which was wonderful for this article – I had a chance to taste what Vanessa (my sister), Wichi (my bro in law), my mom and I ordered… and this is what we had:

 For appetizers:

Crispy Eggplant Rollatini

We ordered this to share for all 4.  This was really good even though the cheeses in the filling were not made from milk.  The eggplant seemed it was fried in panko breadcrumbs.  It was not hot in temperature, but it was really delicious.  I would have ordered another one just for myself had I known what you’ll learn later on…

 

Soup of the Day – lentil vegetable soup with chickpeas

This is the only thing I did not taste. Wichi liked it a lot; so did Vanessa.  The taste was very authentic according to them.

 

Florasian Sushi Roll – made from rice, tempura avocado, vegenaise, mango and toasted coconut.

My sister ordered this for herself because she’s “eating for two”. She wasn’t planning to share, but she was in for a surprise. 

I do eat often regular vegetable/vegetarian sushi made at traditional Japanese sushi restaurants, so I have a good comparison point…  this tasted interesting, to say the least.  My sister tasted the coconut, I did not.  Nor did I taste the mango.  The avocado was good, but I never knew if it was tempura or not.  What difference could it make???  To me these sushi pieces were too chewy for my taste…  I would not order them again.  Sorry…

For main entrees, we had:

Pizza Margherita Classico

My brother-in-law ordered this… I was also considering it too.  The taste was good – the tomato sauce was a bit sweet, the basil super fresh and the “mozzarella cheese” did not taste plasticky.  Now, the crust left a lot to be desired… and to me, the best torture test of a great pizza is the crust.  It was kind of soggy and burned.  So it was OK, but we’ve had better.

 

Portobello Stack – a Portobello mushroom cap filled with sautéed spinach and topped with slices of red potato.  It was served with gravy and a side of “smashed” cauliflower.

My mom ordered this…  and this was very delicious.  I really enjoyed the few bites I had.  I am not a fan of gravies, so I found the taste a bit bland.  The spinach and mushroom had enough moisture that the dish didn’t feel it needed a sauce.  Now, the cauliflower did need a bit of help.  It was dry and bland.  It felt as it was raw cauliflower shredded and put on the plate.  It did not taste as if it was cooked, mixed with something liquid to soften – like “milk”, “butter”, “sour cream”, or stock at least.  Maybe that’s the purpose of the gravy on that plate.

 

Sublime Loaf a mock “meatloaf” made of lentils, brown rice, water chestnut, accompanied by Israeli couscous and grilled asparagus

My sister ordered this…  I was never a fan of meatloaf when I ate meat, so I have no real point of original comparison here.  To me it was no show-stopper…  it tasted OK with the not-so-interesting gravy mentioned before, definitely not something I would order the next time around.  The Israeli couscous tasted just like plain boiled pasta without any seasonings or flavorings – a missed opportunity in my opinion. And the grilled asparagus, to me, were the best thing on the plate.

By process of elimination, what did I order???  You might be asking yourselves…  Well, I originally ordered the Ravioli – house-made pasta, spinach “ricotta”, slow-roasted tomatoes, garlic confit, herbs…  doesn’t it sound good???  I was soooooo looking forward to the roasted tomatoes and garlic confit…  Well, something happened in the kitchen that they could not bring me the ravioli.   They had me order anything else I wanted from the menu, compliments of the chef.  When I was perusing the menu, two things jumped at me…  the side dishes, so I ordered the mac and “cheese” with the olive oil mashed potatoes.  I figured if I ordered side dishes, the plates of the other people would not get too delayed.

     

NOT!!!  I have a master’s degree in whipped potatoes with olive oil…  I make these for myself all the time.  These mashed potatoes tasted NOTHING like the ones I make.  They looked old, mushy, and were bland.  I had to sprinkle salt from the salt shaker and I never do that in a restaurant.  But these were REALLY bland.  And at some points it seemed as if these were left to dry for a while in a kitchen corner, because they tasted dry, dry, dry.  Apparently the olive oil they use there is neither Spanish nor Italian… because I could not taste it at all.

And the macaroni was a complete mistake… it was bland and you could taste the “cheese” was not real cheese at all.  And I have made vegan pastas before, I know they’re a challenge, but you can achieve success if the right ingredients are used.  Not here… we all tried it and no one liked it at all. 

 

Now for the desserts… this was a celebratory birthday after all, so we needed some sweets to finish off the night.

Strawberry Cheesecake  

My mom ordered this one because she is a strawberry fan.  It tasted really delicious and we enjoyed the strawberries were mixed in with the cheesecake and not just something on top.  The almond crust was also delicious.

 

Chocolate Nirvana Cake

Like I said, the restaurant and some of my dinner companions are chocolate lovers.  And me, being a choco-holic in a “12-step separation program”, we ordered this chocolate cake.  It had a coffee-flavored Kahlua “butter creme” and dark chocolate ganache…  I only had a few bites because it is not often I can taste cakes without eggs in any restaurant… so a little chocolate was not going to stop me.  This cake was awesome…  one of the best things we had all night. 

Our compliments to the pastry chef… certainly.

So, after all this review, what’s the VEREDICT:

Sublime is OK, just not awesome.  I will go back again and try some of the other dishes on the menu… but now knowing what to stay away from.  I would like to try those ravioli the next time, certainly… and maybe some of the other appetizers.  The frito mixto certainly was calling me a bit. 

But if you’re in the Ft Lauderdale area or just visiting like we were, give Sublime a try.  Just stay away from the mac and mashed potatoes, OK??  Deal…

 

1431 N. Federal Hwy., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304
954-615-1431
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