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Posts Tagged ‘critic’

F, F, Food; Joey’s, Wynwood, Miami Fla.

Wynwood in Miami is a full fledged arts district. It’s referred to still as up and coming, but if you visit Wynwood on the weekends you will find nothing up and coming about it. You’ll find fully established, up and running, and the monster of gentrification cackling with laughter behind every corner- ducking just out of sight- like any good monster does, just as you turn your head to see where that sound is coming from.

I’d been there a couple times having arrived in South Florida. There’s a central area you can call a strip, from The Wynwood Diner, south to The Meat Market. There are venues off to the sides of course, but generally speaking the main path will be on that street where the entrance to The Wynwood Walls are, 2nd Avenue.

I really wanted to take my date to The Wynwood Diner that Sunday. I’m a Diner guy. The word Diner attracts me. It’s not always an actual Diner that dons that title, but I’ll be the one finding that out since I can’t resist the lure. We weren’t up to waiting half an hour to be seated though, so we went down the block past The Walls entrance to the little corner white building with the quaint black script sign painted onto it’s 2nd avenue wall, Joey’s Italian Cuisine.

I’m from New York, and the words “Italian Cuisine” couldn’t bore me more. Nothing against the cuisine! I love Italian food! Who doesn’t? But like the words “Chinese Food”, in New York it’s so common to read and hear, and hear about… My eyes glaze over as you tell me about anything from the greatest pizza you ever had to the lasagna, or the fettuccine, even if it is Alfredo, my favorite. So don’t count me excited to walk into this very friendly little place tonight, if not for the lovely lady I’m with and enjoying her company so much.

When is a nice Italian restaurant not perfect for a date I ask you. Despite my unfair jaded attitude I know enough to admit this of course. We ordered a small pizza, the Salsiccia, the ravioli for myself that are not on the menu at this time, but I think I recall they were either lobster or crab filled, and she had the salmon, Carpacio Di Salmone.

The food, every morsel, was ABSOLUTELY delicious. I would like to thank The Wynwood Diner, who holds it’s own I found out a few weeks later, for being overbooked that night, because I wouldn’t have changed a thing that night, and Joey’s, where we ended up instead, was to credit for a big part of that perfection.

You could tell the clientele love their Joey’s when you’re in there. Now I am one of those who appreciate it just as much. I can’t wait for the opportunity to go back and make up for what we left behind. It was our first date, so we both didn’t feel like being complete-pigs in front of each other yet- but we both agree everything was absolutely delicious.

If you’re in Wynwood and you’re not out to just get fucked up, like unfortunately I see some are- or if you’re in the mood for some near-home style Italian cooking in a comfortable and unassuming setting, with a friendly staff to serve you… go find Joey’s.

If you have to wait, you’re better off waiting there than anywhere else on the block.

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F, F, Food; 360 @ The CN Tower, Toronto Ca.

I’m moving to Miami soon. This is March, 2016. But before I go south, I don’t want to leave visiting Toronto off the list, since I’m going to be much further than I am here in New York, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back this far north in the future… My thing is this… I’d like to scratch as many world wonders off my list as possible, whenever possible. When I hosted my brother’s bachelor party in Vegas, I was pleasantly surprised when his gang of friends were up for visiting Hoover Dam one morning, as I was set to just make the 45 minute drive alone. Then when the gang broke up, I traded in the SUV rental and drove 5 hours to see the Grand Canyon, and why not- 9 hours back west to see L.A. again before flying home. You don’t know how long you’ve got in this life, and if you can, I say do it, whatever it is that you can do.

So I jump in my car a few days before moving to South Florida and I drive the8-9 hours to Toronto. On the way, see Niagra Falls too. Why not!?

It’ll be a short stay. The world wonder we’re in search of isn’t Niagra Falls, though it’s great to kill two birds with one stone. If you’re into killing birds with stones that’s a good analogy. The wonder we want is The CN Tower. As you would read on their site, they were distinguished a World Wonder in 1995 as a marvel of Civil Engineering. I won’t go too much into these details because this is F, F, Food, not C, C, Civil Engineering or W, W, World W, W, Wonders…

This is about the equally marvelous restaurant they have near the top of the structure, that just happens to ever-so-slowly revolve round and round as you have your meal, earning it the name 360, and giving you stunning views of the city and landscape for as far as you can see to the horizon.

Oh, you know I’m having a meal there.

360 has won awards for their wine and food. They carry themselves in a distinguished manner that cannot be begrudged them. they have a prime location with an incredible view to offer. the experience alone it enough to hold their head high, but they have the generosity and grace to equal that experience with their cuisine and selection of wines.

They are all these things, and you could suit up to dine there, sure- but you don’t have to. It’s a great date spot, as I witnessed when I was there. But it’s just as great if you’re alone or with a group. The seating has been set up to accommodate all. If you’re worried about casual, there’s also a Lunch menu.

You will not fall out of your seat when the bill arrives. They are your friends and they let you know by offering a prix fixe both in two courses, and three. What more could you want!?

Right now as I write this,  a couple months have passed. I opened with the House Smoked Atlantic Salmon and it was scrumptious. The capers were perfect. If I knew what was in store for me in the main course I might have appreciated the freshness less, and I’m glad I didn’t, because it was absolutely perfect.

The Summer menu changes to Winter in May, so you won’t see the Osso Bucco I had when I was there. Most of the menu remains the same, and I’m sure its ALL delicious, but at least for myself- if I were going back, I’d check that the Osso Bucco is on that menu before I plan my trip. It’s THAT good.

It’s so good I didn’t care I was alone.

It’s so good I purposely slowed down half way through the meal.

It’s so good I shoo’d away the very polite and friendly server more than once, because I was taking my time so well, he thought I was finished, twice.

It’s so good… It’s just, so good!

The preparation was sublime. The meat, falling off the bone. The marrow, absolutely delicious, and the way it was served, I will not reveal for if they change it, I have full confidence in the chef’s choices, because… it was THAT good.

I paired against the recommendation, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and it went perfectly well. I might have had a second glass if I recall. You will have absolutely limitless varieties to choose from, so you may want to experiment as well.

360 gets my absolute highest recommendation for anyone visiting Toronto for a day like myself, or longer. If I had more time I’d have definitely returned for another meal, and another look at at that amazing view.

You get complimentary access to the glass floor and the viewing deck with your dinner, but if that were not the case it would not be reason to pass up this experience.

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F, F, Food; Swine. Coral Gables, Fla.

I’m new here… So I’m still learning what the happs are in Miami. None the less, this doesn’t change the fact I interpret advertising and display, media image and the sort, just like anyone else- I think. The reason I say this is because when I happened to park near Swine in Coral Gables on a completely different track, I took notice of the effort in seeming like a down to earth eatery, and I said to myself- “Self, mental note… Swine, next chance we get.”

See I happen to like down to earth eateries with clever names that elude to things barbecue and things pork. It’s a natural for me, to remember a place offering me that image and equally natural of me to follow through and attain the experience.

Well, when I made that mental note, I imagined it to be with friends, of the male sort that I happen to have a couple of in Miami… but in short order, from that moment I had noticed Swine’s front space, I was lucky enough to acquire the company of a lovely young lady that to my surprise shares a lot of my same tastes and interests… so when I was in need of a spot to take the date- guess what came to mind? Yep… Swine.

I had checked them out online and found they’re truly a BBQ joint, offering a southern comfort feel, discerned not just by their outward appearance but now their web presence. Their website is designed to look like a brown BBQ paper flyer, giving me the impression I’m going to get what I want. Their official name as stated on the site is Swine Southern Table and Bar. #yum, #lookingforwardtothis.

My date was elated at the mention of this place! She’d been there before- but YEARS ago she said. I have a thing about not wanting to repeat other people’s experiences. I like to be credited with being somewhere first, or discovering places with significant others, but she seems to have loved it and it’s been years, so I set that aside.

Here we go…

We had a 9:45 reservation, which should have lit a bulb in my head already, in retrospect, but I was a little taken by my date so I probably wasn’t as on-point aware as I usually am… If I were I might have thought Reservation? But anyway…

We’re on our way, I’m on time picking her up, and about 9:14 was it? I get a call…

It’s the hostess from Swine… confirming my reservation? A 1/2 hour early? We were actually looking for parking at that time, way early, and I thanked the hostess, saying so.

Again… Down to earth, Southern Comfort, is out the window by now, but I haven’t noticed because I can be pretty charming with my now girlfriend, and I get all wrapped up in making her giggle at this or that.

We get there, and we’re greeted at the door with a formality I quickly notice, because it’s rather unexpected. The decor is perfect, a rustic new age charm is all over the place. You can’t say it doesn’t look the part you’re expecting it to play – at least. They’ve put some effort into this level of consistency. Points.

The server greets us and leads us to the table, but as I walk past the host station I say thank you and I’m hit with a “Sir” in the response. I get to the table and the server, a very well mannered young man is just as stiff with his “Sir” and “Miss”.

Now my antennae are up.

I expected the familiarity and Southern Hospitality I enjoyed at the restaurant of the same name I once visited in New York. An establishment popularized for it’s association to Mister Southern Hospitality himself, Justin Timberlake, as an investor or something.

But despite the allure of Swine’s image and media presence communicating as much, I’m already feeling the opposite. Now I’m thinking I’m under dressed. I look around, and I’m OK… plenty T-shirt’s and Jeans. Some button downs, but more than half are plaid, so we’re OK.

The food smells good, so I joke with my date about the attempts at formality. We talk about how it may be the rent in this area? Like I said I’m new, but I don’t have new eyes. I can see what Coral Gables is trying to be… I saw the Village in New York, Greenwich Village, go from Boho to wanna-be chic, to now full gentrified exclusivity. There’s money here in Coral Gables, you can see the establishments on Miracle Mile trying hard to cater to an elite customer that unfortunately I only see sprinkles of yet. I don’t know if it ever was Bohemian here, but I’ve spoken to some that hint there was a stronger artistic current here in the past… so that’s a clue. The occasional Ferrari and Rolls Royce doesn’t justify the effort in my opinion, but hey, I’m not the business owner here. And yes, it may be the rent is skyrocketing, and they’re trying to justify what I see on the menu… prices that do reflect a Miss, and Sir, formality.

But it still doesn’t match for me. I came here for at most, a Ma’am for my date, and good food. Price has nothing to do with that- if the food is good. Scratch one expectation, let’s see about the other…

I couldn’t decide on any of the appetizers, so having some familiarity with the place, she ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes, 1855 Black Angus Burnt Ends, and I think we had the Hush Puppies too.

I’ll be honest, I liked it all… But I wasn’t impressed with any particular one.

For the main course she ordered the Pork Belly- It wasn’t on the menu, so points for that.

I ordered the 12 Hour Slow Braised Pork Shoulder…

When the food arrived we dug in. It smelled great, but unfortunately, it seemed a little over cooked. Her Pork Belly… I thought they’d made a mistake… It looked like thick strips of bacon, not Pork Belly. She said as much. And well, though she is gracious, that’s not boding well for the establishment when your date is displeased. My Pork Shoulder, again, was OK… but nothing spectacular. Definitely not a Sir or Madam $20 Pork Shoulder, for sure.

My date caught dessert envy and we had something with Ice Cream… Which if not for that, the meal would have been completely disappointing. Thank goodness for our level of familiarity with the server, because we got him to relax a bit and joke with us, which would have been a much more friendly atmosphere to walk into from the beginning.

I don’t want to spend my time in a restaurant, or my time with a lovely companion- or even if I did end up going there with friends- which would have been SUCH a MISTAKE- talking about what a place can do to get it right. I don’t think I’m alone in the consensus that if you need to pad your pricing a bit, it won’t matter to a consumer, if the experience is friendly and welcoming. Though Coral Gables might want to be Beverly Hills, and may one day be that- it’s not that yet. And even if it was- people would be utter assholes to go to a place like Swine, the way it’s advertising itself, and be content, or even pleased to be treated as if they were going to Tavern On The Green, or it’s Miami equivalent.

I’m not coming to a place advertising itself as a jeans and t-shirt eatery to be treated like I should be wearing a jacket and tie! It’s off putting, awkward, and on the other side, doesn’t justify the lackluster cuisine.

Had I been greeted with a “hey there! Welcome to Swine! Let’s get you to your table!” and that Southern Comfort/ Hospitality been followed through with, I might not have been distracted by it, and thus not overly focused on scrutinizing what else could be wrong here. It’s basic psychology- You’re kind to those who are kind to you. But if you make me feel like I did something wrong- I’m going to notice everything that’s off with you. The food might have actually been better- but I wasn’t inclined to see that, since things were off beat from before I got there.

Don’t ask for reservations if you’re down to earth. If you must- please don’t call them a half hour early?! Call them when they’re 5-10 minutes late!

Overall I wouldn’t’ recommend anyone bother with Swine in Coral Gables till they get their shit together. At least not for dinner, unless you’re satisfied with overpriced, mediocre food that’s packaged to build an expectation that’s not lived up to.

Twice on the home page I see a “50 Eggs” claiming ownership and management… I can’t say I’m impressed. If I see that on another website, I can’t say I’ll be inspired to go there.

If you’re in the area and want a drink- sure, drop in. I don’t recall being displeased with whatever I drank. The bar didn’t look too big, but take a table, at least that way you’ll be saving someone the experience of being disappointed by the food.

Swine Coral Gables gets;  👎🏼👎🏼