Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Food Field Trip Miami: My Favorite Crab

Joe's Stone Crab
My new year's resolution--such that I have one--is to finally clear out my backlog of draft blog entries, which is chock-full of a number of fantastic food finds, both near and far, discovered in late 2011.  I have been incredibly delinquent, but ideally that blogging procrastination stops now. So let's start with a blast of warm air and head south.

On the way back north after our incredible journey to Havana in early November, B and I soaked in two days of fun and sun in South Beach.  Lucky for us, the timing coincided with the beginning of stone crab season.  These over-sized clawed crustaceans rival the tender delicacy of a Maine lobster claw.  As a New Englander I did not think anything could compare to lobstah, but it's cousin claws awfully close!

Joe's Stone Crab is one of only a few truly historic Miami institutions, whether culinary or otherwise.  It opened its doors in 1913 and every year since, during stone crab season (October 15 - May 15), Joe's continues to bring old-school elegance and yesteryear glamour to South Florida.  Joe's pays homage to the sustainable harvesting of the crab--only serving it in-season--and its tuxedo'd waiters work tirelessly to serve the crowds.  But despite the formality of this restaurant, reservations are not accepted, so waiting is part of the deal. 

B and I managed to snag a patio seat (open seating with no wait) and enjoyed the traditional stone crab dinner platter, which was comprised of three lush tender claws accompanied by a tangy, citrus remoulade.  The claws are served pre-cracked, which is key, because like their name implies, their shells are quite hard; unlike Cheseapeake crabs, a (pre-cracked) stone crab claw requires very little effort for maximum return.  A hockey-puck sized hashbrown, spinach, and a sweet and sour coleslaw (smothered in plenty of relish) rounded out the plate. 

To complete this quintessential South Florida experience, the meal was capped with a sour yet sweet slice of absolutely delicious key lime custard pie that even Dexter would appreciate.

I highly recommend this experience if you find yourself in Miami during stone crab season.  For approximately $50 a person you too can fall in love with this most perfect of crustaceans.

Joe's Stone Crab on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Food Field Trip NYC: The Big Cheese

Cheese is generally a versatile, shareable, and affordable indulgence.  So how about a breakfast, lunch, and dinner cheese itinerary for NYC?  You got it!

To start, head to Viva la Crepe! on Bleecker Street in the West Village, these days also known as Marc Jacobs Land.  The casual, counter-service restaurant has crepe-making down; they are most worthy of the gratuitous exclamation point in their name.  Plus watching crepe creation is always transfixing.  My delightful yet portable crepe provided the protein I needed for the day in a hand-held package oozing with nutty gruyere and salty ham enrobed in the sweet casing.  At $8.50 this is a Parisian-inspired breakfast at a pauper's price.
Vive la Crêpe! on Urbanspoon

NYC has not one, but (at least?) two restaurants dedicated to macaroni and cheese. A few years back I was won over by my personnel skillet of bubbly buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese at S'Mac in the East Village.  This year, Macbar was located not far from our hotel in Soho, so I just had to give it a try.  Macbar is quite gimmicky in appearance -- the elbow-shaped interior is glaringly yellow and the dishes served in the same shape -- but despite the over-the-top aesthetics, the food is the real deal.  The macaroni and cheese is made to order.  Puncture the crispy topping and a world of gooey, indulgent elbow macaroni swimming in a variety of cheeses await.  And the soundtrack, carried over from the adjacent bar/restaurant is really fun, maybe even hip.
MacBar on Urbanspoon

Swizz Restaurant and Wine Bar, within walking distance of Broadway, boasts that "two Swiss owners will offer you culinary delights  at affordable prices." This claim holds true in the surprisingly understated setting that, though near Times Square, conveys a neighborhood feel.  Upon entering the street level restaurant or basement dining room and wine bar, you quickly surrender to the wonder and beauty of fondue.  While a pre-theatre menu is available, B and I opted to share the classic cheese fondue, adding sausage and apple dippers to the traditional crusty bread.  This authentic pot of bubbling sweet, salty, and savory communal goodness was the perfect pre-theatre meal, which was satisfying but did not risk putting us to sleep before curtain call.  And the service was so warm and friendly that we decided to have another drink and stick around.  For dessert, our server offered to make the Jacques Torres chocolate fondue for one (even though it was only listed on the menu for two).  The for-one portion proved the perfect size for sharing; the chocolate was impossibly dark, rich, and addictive.  The service was beyond friendly and efficient, and the prices are affordable -- with two drinks each, cheese fondue, and a shared dessert our bill with tax and tip was under $100 -- a rarity for an intimate sit-down dinner for two in NYC.
Swizz Restaurant & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon