Sunday, July 22, 2012

Brunch Alert - Chocolate Fashion

Today El Hombre and I woke up to very little food in our kitchen, a stormy morning and hungry.  We are in the finish stages of remodeling our kitchen and are getting a new fridge tomorrow, so we didn't want to risk losing groceries.  Plus we have both been fighting colds and the concept of fighting crowds at Publix is frankly not that enticing.

So I hopped online to try to find a new spot for breakfast or brunch, and the Chocolate Fashion popped up in the search results. It was new, it was close and it's called Chocolate Fashion, so you know we couldn't go wrong.

The Chocolate Fashion is a small French deli-like restaurant, tucked away on a back street in downtown Coral Gables. They recently opened a second location on 72nd in South Miami, which El Hombre and I visited for coffee a few months back.  

I had heard of this place before, but always assumed it was just a patisserie. I was wrong.  We ran through the rain into Chocolate Fashion to wait in line - every seat was taken and more people kept crowding in. Today was a horrible rainy day, with a tropical low sitting over all of South Florida, so I wasn't expecting so many people to be headed out. 

Rather than waiting for a table, we grabbed seats at the bar. We chatted over random things while cupping delicious coffee and staring at the crazy tropical downpour going on outside. The coffee was delicious. I had my doubts because of the old-school glass coffee pot, but it was rich, warming and flavorful. 

Coffee at Chocolate fashion

For breakfast, I ordered the eggs florentine - poached eggs with creamy spinach, parmesan cheese, paprika and hollandaise sauce over an english muffin.  I actually ordered the hollandaise on the side because while I like it, usually eggs florentine and eggs benedict is smothered in sauce and loses the flavor.

I was not disappointed.  The spinach was cooked perfectly - it didn't have that bitter flavor of non-blanched spinach. The eggs were perfectly poached and the paprika and parmesan rounded out the savory flavor.  The hollandaise sauce was perfect and not too heavy - one of my chief complaints.  And when I cracked the yolk over it all - pure bliss!

By the time I was done eating, I was truly disappointed that my meal ended.  El Hombre took a bite and  loved it, and he typically hates all things spinach.  I will be back and I will have a hard time trying to order something new... But there are definitely crab cakes benedict with my name on it.

Eggs Florentine

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday night collection

It's Friday people!!!! This past week has been crazy - it's been busy at work, we have been finishing up on some home remodeling and El Hombre and I are battling colds. So we are keeping it local, eating soup from Don Burritos, trying to get our house in order and in general lazing around like a couple of sloths.

This review of 50 Shades of Gray cracked me up. I have refused to read it because I don't waste my time with steaming piles of crap.

A pretty comprehensive list of things to see in the Florida Keys.

Speaking of the keys, El Hombre found this and now I need to go.

I've been getting emails about Canes season's tickets. It makes me miss the Orange Bowl.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Escapism... Key West

Over the last four years Key West has become a well-travelled escape for El Hombre and I.  Our love affair with Key West specifically began with our first trip there as a couple for Thanksgiving, and we have gone back over and over again throughout the years. When we both are stressed out and life gets hectic, there's nothing like heading south to spend a weekend biking, boating, swimming and watching the sunset on the porches and roofs of friends houses. It's paradise.

I love everything about Key West -- the quirkiness of random roosters, conchs and live-aboards and people who have just plain lived on an island for way too long.  Over the past few years the recession has hit the keys especially hard, and we have seen shops and restaurants come and go as business slowed to a grinding halt. After all, not many people have had the cash to fly into the keys for fishing charters and vacations.

This past weekend as El Hombre and I biked through familiar streets, I was excited to find new, local businesses popping up. Our friend told us the business at his store these past few months has already blown last year's numbers out of the waters, and we heard this same story echoed from others.  

Tourists were definitely walking around -- not a common sight for summer -- and these were overnight tourists, which bring much more money into the local economy. It seems that things are finally starting to look up for those of us down here in South Florida! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday roundup

Another work week come and gone. I'm ready to spend my weekend curling up with my kindle on a porch, riding bikes and swimming with el hombre and unwinding.  I'm also going to try to get a new memory card (still smarting over that one) and maybe taking some photos.  Who knows?

This Wynwood exhibit looks pretty awesome.

I find Miami's breed specific legislation short-sided and wrong.


Don't forget, it's Miami Spa Month(s)

Want to learn about the history of Coral Gables?

I need to find someone to split this CSA one day.

Original South Floridians

And as always, you can follow me on Pinterest.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Florida Keys Bird Sanctuary

Last Sunday, El Hombre and I rambled halfway down the keys for a short getaway. We've both been busy with home renovations, work, car issues, etc. so a mini day trip was long overdue.

If you have followed us for awhile, you probably have figured out that the Keys, specifically Key West, is our go-to when we need to relax and unwind.  Normally we head straight down Overseas Highway and don't stop 'til we hit mile marker 0.

Since we didn't have that kind of time, we stopped into several places along the way and explored. One such place was the Florida Keys Bird Sanctuary.  This is a pathway that started and still operates as a wild bird rehabilitation center.  It's located at 93600 Overseas Highway in Tavernier, and can be hard to miss if you aren't looking for it.  It's on the gulf side and has a faded, painted sign. 

There are a few paths that lead you past several large cages that house all sorts of native wild birds, including hawks, penguins and owls (my favorite because they have a perpetual alarmed/angry face.)  One of the paths will lead you out onto a beach where you can observe different types of ibis, pelicans and more. You may also cross paths with a few cats or the "attack rooster."

I had several pictures, but of course my memory card failed (never buying a Panasonic memory card again.)  I did snap this photo on Instagram, which ended up getting reposted on the Sun-Sentinal site.

While it's an interesting stop, I don't recommend walking around in the middle of the afternoon as we were dying of heat by the time we got back in the car.

PS, if you want to follow me on Instagram, my username is @xtinakm

The Thirsty Turtle

What an adorable and appropriate name for a restaurant/sports bar!  I'm in love with the cuteness of it all.  And with their wings.  But I especially adore their turtle logo:

If you're up in Palm Beach County and in the Juno Beach area, or up in Port St. Lucie (They have a second location there. I know. You're saying way up there???  It's really not that far but feels like a million miles away compared to where we live in the 305) stop at The Thirsty Turtle and try their wings.  Sweet AND spicy and 100% delicious.  My husband hasn't stopped talking about them and it's been nearly a week since we ate there.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Islander Resort in Islamorada

The Islander Resort had been recommended to me by a friend who said his "I do's" on its sandy backyard, as a great place to stay in the Keys.  It's got a laid back, relaxing pool area to hang out in and water sports and other activities out back.  It's pretty cool if that's all you are looking for.  But, if you are looking for a quiet night's sleep, then this "resort" may not be for you.

Tucked back off of US-1 around mile marker 82 in Islamorada is the Islander Resort.  You can't miss the sign along the road.  It's large and looks like it's been there since at least the 1960's.  In fact, the "resort" is so 1960's and retro that it's the first motel I had been to in a very long time where you park your car right outside of your hotel room.  You can literally almost drive right in.  The room was clean and very spacious with a full kitchen, but with the bathroom sink practically in the kitchen, it felt more like a large studio apartment.  And I would keep in mind that "resort" is what they call themselves.  It's not to be confused with a real resort like Cheeca Lodge and Spa down the road.

The view from our room was very nice.  Being on the first floor, I could walk right out the door and to an awaiting hammock.

It took a couple of minutes to find the pool area - this place is a sprawling sea of one-story hotel buildings - but we finally found it.  We had to wind and weave our way past other buildings and lots of parking spaces marked with fish like the one below.

There are two pools and on the day we were there, one closed early due to a wedding reception that was taking place next door.  I have to say, the pools were very, very nice and the landscaping was gorgeous.  I could have stayed out there for hours!

Behind the pools is a small sandy beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  The sand is the typical Keys coral sand.  It's not super soft and isn't that much fun to walk on without shoes.

Laying out on the beach chairs was very nice.  All you could hear were the sound of the palms rustling in the wind, the clanging of the sail boats just offshore and laughs of the sea birds as they scour the water for dinner before the sun goes down.

Out in the water were a couple of boats that were part of the hotel's water sports collection.  The Islander has a little hut out back where they offer snorkeling excursions, kayak and jet ski rentals and a bunch of more fun water things to do.

There is a fishing pier out back too.  I'm not sure if it's part of the resort or if it's just there, but there's a place on it to clean all of the fish caught during the day and a few spots where you can fish from.  It's a nice walking pier and a great place to watch a wedding at sunset.  

As a place for just kickin' it and enjoying the daylight hours, the Islander Resort is a great place to be.  My only real complaint is that the hotel walls were way, WAY too thin.  The night we stayed there, we were unfortunately staying right next door to a group of guys were drank all day and night and then wanted to fight all night, till the early morning.  You could hear EVERYTHING going on which is not okay for the price of a night's stay (it's pricey).  Maybe they'll remodel their rooms soon and we might go back.  Otherwise, just enjoy the place for the outdoor recreation it provides.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Night Roundup

Happy actual Friday everyone! What's going on with everyone this weekend?  El Hombre and I are hoping to wrap up some much-needed home renovations, and I plan to designate some time to curling up with my Kindle.

Thinking of stopping by the Pinecrest Farmers Market to pick up locally-grown green beans to try making this.

Speaking of food, I have been ranting for awhile about the many benefits of eating local.

One of my favorite local bands, Suenalo, is at the Green Parrot this weekend.

Speaking of which, I miss riding bikes and eating seafood in Key West.

This exhibit is right up my alley. A history of South Florida tourism (and settlement.) I'm a nerd, I like this museum.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

In honor of July 4th... Musical Interlude

Since tomorrow is Independence Day here in the states, I thought it only appropriate to share one of my favorite songs by an American classic

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hog Heaven - Not a Drive-By Anymore

While driving down to the Keys over the past few years I've noticed a particular restaurant sign. Every time I see it, I make a mental note that next time I'm heading down to Islamorada, I should stop there.  A place that advertises with giant, bubble gum pink pigs wearing shades and drinking beer has to be a good time, right?

Just past a bridge and nestled in between a mangrove hammock and a boat slip is Hog Heaven.  At first sight, I don't know what to make of the joint.  Is it a BBQ restaurant or a biker bar?  I still can't tell.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find a laid back oasis out back.

I walk through the restaurant, where you seat yourself, of course, past a dimly lit sports bar and friendly bartender, with pool tables and the normal bikini-clad sports bar ads that you find in such an establishment, through the back door to a seating area surrounded by mangroves facing the Atlantic Ocean.

It's a calm day and the ocean is a deep blue-green.  After being cooped up in the car for two hours, it feels great sitting outside, looking out at the water.  The restaurant has tables lining a small dock area and even has a small beach with picnic tables and palms further out back.  You could spend a good couple of hours hanging out here.

Besides the relaxing atmosphere, did I mention there's a very large, mechanical pink pig?  No?

And kooky Keys-esque signs?

And part of an old 1960's cherry red caddy inside the front door?

The food was surprisingly really good - their fish dip, garden salad (with real bacon and cheese) and fish tacos were all good for sports bar fare.  There is karaoke Thursday nights and pretty awesome happy hour during the week.  It's definitely a place I'd like to check out again.