Editor's Note: Recently, one of our beloved CL Tampa Food and Drink contributors, Gretchen Cothron, moved off to Miami. Luckily, she'll still be checking in, keeping us abreast on the foodie scene down south. Check out her posts if you're ever making a trip to Miami for some great dining ideas!
Everything is changing around here. And, I am not just talking about CL Tampa's new look, either. For those who do not know, I moved to South Florida a few months ago to attend law school at University of Miami, and entered into a sometimes scary, sometimes exciting, all the time interesting, new world of culture, cuisine, exotic fruits and food lovers.
I can now say that I have been initiated into the South Florida foodie scene.
In preparation to moving to Miami, I began following fellow food bloggers and adventurers on Twitter. After some follow-backs and back and forth tweet banter, I found myself receiving an invitation by the grand diva of Miami foodies herself, Maude Eaton, a South Florida food lover and writer. I was invited to a tweetup of the South Florida Foodies, a private facebook group of food lovers and tweeters. The secret tweetup would be a $35 prix fix menu brunch at Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill in Midtown Miami. And, it just happened to take place the weekend after my move south.
I could not have had a more welcome diversion from a week spent getting lost and running into language barriers in a town where I had not one friend, and everyone drives crazy. Not crazy like Tampa, crazy like, well, let's just say that I have never seen driving like this outside of San Juan or Manhattan. It's really an unexplainable mix of North Easterners and foreigners. A word of caution: When you come down to Miami, pause before advancing when the light turns green; it's almost guaranteed that someone will run the red light. It was a bit of a traumatic first week for me. I had only explored a five mile radius around my condo and was already overwhelmed and feeling alone.
I didn't expect very much from the tweetup aside from finally meeting some people while snacking on hors d' oeuvres. I was even at one point contemplating canceling due to the drive I'd have to make. US 1 and I-95? Oh geez! But things were about to look up.
I was in for a surprise. Our brunch turned out to be a full sit down tasting, with free flowing specialty cocktails. We trekked the menu starting with a luscious and light lobster bisque served with mini beignets on the side.
We moved on to bacalao, which I had never had before; comprised of dried salt cod, a unique flavor that I'll have again some day. Following that were salads featuring beets and crispy poached eggs. I was amazed at how they managed to bread and fry an egg while maintaining a runny yolk.
We were then surprised by a course not on our tasting menu: duck fried in confit, with whole wheat waffles and maple syrup, served with a pickled watermelon salad; incredibly rich and interesting. A whole roasted chicken was next, served family style with corn and truffled fingerling potatoes — I could have eaten this all day.
The meal ended with a delightful almond milk blanc-manger with drunken cherries. As we sat excitedly discussing the meal we just enjoyed, we were surprised by a visit from both the restaurant's chef, Timon Balloo, and manager, Joshua Rubenstein, who were just as excited to treat food tweeters and bloggers, as we were to eat their food. Those two are smart social marketers.
I left Sugarcane feeling welcome into my new city. I met fellow foodies who are destined to become friends and fellow culinary travelers. There was Olee, a sweetheart who helped me with the parking station before we even discovered that we'd be sharing a table; Jason, an advertising executive, and long distance runner; Jean Marc, a world traveler on his way to Cape Cod; and, of course, Maude, who was a darling diva and host, sprightly introducing everyone, and dashing around like the fairy godmother of Miami's foodie kingdom. They not only made some of my jitters disburse, they made me eager to begin my next excursion into the culinary canvas of Miami.
To leave you with a taste of Miami, SugarCane Raw Bar was kind enough to send me the recipe for my new favorite cocktail, the Spice of Love.