Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dining out more often

Now that I'm finally getting into a bit of a routine with school, pay and free time, Renee and I have been able to go out to eat a bit more often. Last Wednesday night we went to Beef Eater, an Argentinean steakhouse right around the corner from our apartment. I've passed by the place practically every day since we've lived in Hollywood, so it was about time that we got it together to check it out. I'd also heard several good things about it via Chowhound. They all proved true. As promised, the steaks were inexpensive ($11.50 each for a rather large skirt steak and a vacio, which is akin to a flank steak) both served with a side. We also split a huge salad of beets, artichoke hearts, iceberg lettuce and fat red slabs of tomato with blue cheese dressing. The Argentinean Malbec (Lopez, I believe) was the least expensive red on their list, aside from the house wine. It was unimpressive, but the excellent steak more than made up for it. The meal began with a few crispy dinner rolls and a large bowl of chimichurri, a thin paste of garlic, parsley and oil that's an excellent foil for the richness of the beef.

Yesterday, on our drive down to Key West, we took another Chowhound suggestion and stopped at El Puerto de Vallarta, a small Mexican restaurant in Homestead. Just a minute or two from the turnpike exit, El Puerto de Vallarta sits on a corner of US1/Dixie Highway, surrounded by autobody shops and other Mexican restaurants that, from the outside, could pass as autobody shops. Inside, EPdV's 10-or-so tables were dimly lit by the several muted televisions all showing MTV Tres. The music, from what I recall, was Spanish-language covers of old American radio hits. I distinctly recall hearing covers of "My Way" and Bobby Darin's "Dream Lover."

EPdV specializes in seafood, so that's what we went for, starting with jaiba rellena, stuffed crabs. The palm-sized blue crab shells were stuffed with a seasoned mixture of crab meat and perhaps some fish and topped with melted cheese and a drizzle of crema, a thinner version of sour cream. Next came my ceviche Vallarta, a helmet-sized plastic clam shell brimming with fat chunks of shrimp and thin slices of fish marinated in lemon juice, cilantro and slivers of red onion. It was truly amazing, both in its freshness and size. Renee went for the caldo de pescado, an equally enormous bowl of fish soup. The brick-red broth was light, slightly briney and full of large tender pieces of fish and thick rounds of carrot. Another high point of the meal was a michelada–an icy, salt-rimmed mug of beer (Dos Equis) spiked with lime juice, chilis,Worcestershiree sauce and pepper. Renee found it repulsive, but I thought it was great–spicy, bracing and ice cold. I think EPdV might become our standard lunch spot for trips to or from Key West. Hopefully next time we wont' have such a bitch of a time getting back on the turnpike.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bee Heaven Brunch

For Renee's birthday last weekend we had brunch at Bee Heaven Farms in the Redlands, a farming community near Homestead and Florida City. I'd originally heard about the event through an email from the local Miami Slow Food convivium. The brunch was part of several events held in the area that day, including a tour of the Fruit and Spice Park, a tour of Schnebly winery and then a potluck for local slow foodies. As Renee had to work later that day, and it was about 50 miles away, we only made it to the brunch.

Bee Heaven farms operates a CSA program that serves Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, as well as the Keys. I've been trying to convince my dad to get a share this season, but I"m not sure if he'll go for it.

Brunch consisted of fresh corn tortillas topped with scrambled Bee Heaven eggs, guacamole from their avocados and what I assumed were their homegrown black eyed peas cooked with carrots and potatoes. There were also lots of fresh herbs like shiso and oregano, as well as garlic chives (I think). To drink we had iced teas of lemongrass and limeade and allspice, both sweetened with the farm's honey. For dessert, there were preserved guava shells and cubes of firm, salty farmers cheese.

After eating, we got a tour of the farm, which included their avocado groves, bee hives, mobile chicken hutches (which I'd recently read about in The Omnivore's Dilemma), tropical fruit trees and the storage are for all the CSA deliveries. We tasted some coco plums and I even managed to come home with some curry leaves, which I've yet to find in stores here in Hollywood. I probably wouldn't have even noticed the enormous curry bush had it not smelled so strongly.

Although you can't see it here, there are wheels on the corners of this chicken pen so that it can be moved around the property, allowing the chickens to forage and fertilize in different areas.