There are exactly three more days- until this Sunday, June 29th- to enjoy Coral Gables Restaurant Week at participating restaurants. Prix fix menus for lunch and dinner are offered at savings, letting diners sample an appetizer, entrée and dessert and save a little cash.
The Miami Dining Examiner was lucky enough to join a food blogger's crawl through Coral Gables last Tuesday, in order to sample some of the special dishes available during Coral Gables Restaurant Week 2014.
The event began at Swine, the smokey older brother in the 50 eggs group restaurant collection. The Miami Dining Examiner tried the Old Cuban- Swine's take on the mojito. It was made with rum, champagne, and bitters, made in house; served in a champagne glass, it was garnished with a mint leaf. It was light and refreshing- a perfect summer cocktail.
The appetizer served was a hush puppy, topped with deviled crab, pickled celery and smoked trout roe. The golden hush puppy, sliced in half, was sweet and tender, the deviled crab, creamy and a little smokey. It was an enjoyable bite and is the appetizer served on the dinner menu for Coral Gables Restaurant Week.
The entrée, served family style, was smoked brisket with a molasses glaze, stone ground grits and a pickled corn relish. It was amazing. The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a sweet glaze and served atop creamy grits, topped with the acidic pop and crunch of the corn relish. These little touches (the relish) are what makes dining at Swine such a special experience.
"I love this place," said one of the food bloggers in attendance. "I love the smell (the smoker), the music (the blues) and just the whole atmosphere." Other food bloggers nodded in agreement.
Dessert for restaurant week at Swine is vanilla bean cheesecake, but this wasn't served because the food bloggers had to make room for the rest of the evening's samplings.
First up was Angelique Eurocafe. One of the owners, Carlos, greeted the group and explained the concept behind the French, Italian, Spanish influenced restaurant.
"We came here from New York and wanted to open up a neighborhood spot like we were used to there- a place where people would come and celebrate their big and small events," said Carlos.
Since it was recently chosen Neighborhood Gem by Open Table's diners, they must be succeeding at their goal. Angelique offers 100 wines, mostly boutique wines not found in other restaurants, as well as 100 beers. They also do beer blendings.
The food blogger's group was served two appetizers, two entrees, a dessert and truffle fries.
The truffle fries were skinny, crunchy, salty and, as one participant put it, "addictive". The garbanzo bean dish, Angelique's take on the Spanish classic, weren't cooked into a mushy mess, but instead sautéed lightly, leaving meaty golden nubs al dente and served in a white wine sauce. A tangle of baby spinach added some color to the dish.
The Miami Dining Examiner's favorite appetizer here was the chirizo en vino. The Spanish Pepino chirizo was sliced into nickel sized medallions and served in a sauce of sautéed shallots, butter and red wine. It was tender, buttery, a bit spicy and packed with flavor. It's one of the appetizer options for Coral Gables Restaurant Week.
According to Yolanda (Carlos's wife and co-owner) Angelique uses a lot of beer and wine in their dishes. Angelique is a great choice for Coral Gables Restaurant Week, offering a choice of four starters, five entrees and three desserts for just $19.
Dessert was another winner with the food bloggers, who were served bread pudding in little white ramekins. The creamy and crunchy bread pudding was made with white chocolate and garnished with raspberries; it was rich and indulgent.
As Carlos was reiterating how Angelique has turned into a spot to enjoy life's celebrations, a neighboring party broke out into singing "Happy Birthday".
"We didn't plan that," he said, smiling.
But no time to linger, the food blogger's crawl was off to its next destination- La Tagliatella.
This relative newcomer on Miracle Mile offers Italian cuisine in an over-the-top setting of carved wooden chairs and candelabras. The food bloggers sat at the bar and were offered Rossi Prosecco- the official wine of Coral Gables Restaurant Week.
Two pizzas were served- La Tagliatella and Margarita. Both had thin, crunchy crusts. The Tagliatella is one of the restaurant's signature dishes and offered on the lunch menu of Coral Gables Restaurant Week. It featured thinly sliced fried eggplant, tomatoes, cheeses and a balsamic and honey glaze drizzled over the top, that gave it a sweet and savory taste that was delicious.
Meatballs in two versions were served next. One version came in a thin, creamy sauce. The other version, the Miami Dining Examiner's favorite, had a spicy Napoletano sauce. The meatballs are offered as an appetizer option during Coral Gables Restaurant Week.
After viewing the back room at La Tagliatella, where private functions or celebrations can be held, it was time to head to the healthy Season's 52, for some wine, a huge array of flatbreads and the ever-popular mini indulgences.
The food bloggers sat near the bar and agreed that the atmosphere at Season's, with the piano music playing and the open air seating, is a welcome addition to the Coral Gables dining scene. Favorite flatbreads among the group were: artichoke and goat cheese, steak and blue cheese and grilled pesto chicken. While the Miami Dining Examiner's favorite mini indulgence is the peanut butter mousse, this time she tried the key lime pie, topped with meringue. It was quite nice and a perfect summer treat.
Season's 52's menu for Coral Gables Restaurant Week is $34 for lunch or dinner for a five course meal. Diners can upgrade with a white or red wine flight for an additional $10.
The last stop on the food blogger's crawl was Randazzo's Little Italy, where the group was greeted by ex-prize fighter Mark Randazzo himself, as well as his beautiful wife. Mark explained that the food at Randazzos is Southern Italian "soul food", the way grandma used to make it in Little Italy.
"Most days, it me back there cooking the kind of food I grew up on," the self-effacing boxer said.
More Prosecco was poured at the bar, as the food bloggers waited for the dishes to come out. As the food bloggers discussed their favorite Randazzo dishes, the dishes were presented on the red checkered tablecloth. Chicago calamari and spaghetti and meatballs with Sunday gravy were served.
"This dish was an attempt to get my daughter to eat Italian food," Mark explained about the calamari dish. "It's a take-off on buffalo wings."
The lightly fried calamari rings were tossed in a tomato and hot pepper sauce and topped with a creamy plop of gorganzola sauce. It's a deliciously rich dish, available as an appetizer during Coral Gables Restaurant Week.
The normally softball-size meatballs were scaled down to a more dainty portion and served with pasta and Sunday gravy- a must try if dining at Randazzos. It's available for lunch and dinner during Coral Gables Restaurant Week. Lunch is $22, dinner is $33.
There was also mini cannoli served but- holy cannoli- the Miami Dining Examiner was too stuffed to try them. The food blogger's crawl had come to a happy and full ending.
The moral of this story is- get out there and try one of these restaurants before Coral Gables Restaurant Week comes to an end on June 29th.