Review: Emeril's Miami Beach

In the heart of South Beach, Miami, Emeril Lagasse has made a home for his originally named annex, Emeril's...Miami Beach.

While visiting the sunny state, one of my eager and hungry accomplices decided that this was the place for our extravagant evening out. My initial reaction-another over-hyped chain, offering over-priced fare with an over-abundance of fluff and an understate of quality. Being in an affluently relaxed frame of mind, I gave into the collaborative efforts of my entourage and, while admiring my newly acquired tan, went to get dressed.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by an exceptionally friendly sommelier who [at the time] was doubling as host, and escorted us to our table. We were seated in a simple dining room, which had uncomfortably bare walls, and bland coloring throughout. To get the important things out of the way, a bottle of Pinot Gris for the table please! As I grazed the leather bound menu, my eyes' reflex is to initially inspect the dessert list-an abundant tabulation of banana cream, key lime, and various other pies. The Southern Style Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, however, was the one which had me at first glance.

As we finalized our choices (being with 2 other women, you can imagine that this only took about... ~forever and a day), we happily placed our order with...no, not him, he's the bread guy...not him either, he pours the wine...no, this guy places the napkin on your lap...him! Our waiter!

After the first toast, and a few bites of an incredibly moist and not overly sweet corn bread, our appetizer made its way to our table...Emeril's Muffalada Salad. I've only experienced the marvel of the aforementioned in sandwich form, in New Orleans, and this low carb alternative was just as amazing. Fresh mixed greens, the perfect ratio of salami, and mozzarella, a light and flavorful red wine vinaigrette and an overabundance of olives and garlic (good thing I wasnt looking for romance that evening). This was just a tease of what awaited, as our entrees werent too far behind. Andouille Crusted Redfish with Roasted Pecan-Grilled Vegetable Relish, Brabant Potatoes and Creole Meunière Sauce, in which the marriage between the gentle, moist redfish and the crunchy, salty andouille (bonded with a savory, smooth sauce) proved to be a match made in heaven. Sweet Potatoes, which melted in our mouths. Miso Glazed Atlantic Salmon with Bamboo Rice, Pickled Ginger-Daikon Salad and Spicy Mustard that was cooked to perfection and dissolved with a gentle touch of your tongue, leaving a salty, tangy sensation. Pan Seared Tanglewood Chicken Breast that, again, was tender in entirety, with a kick of spice and accompanied by bitter, savory greens.

The portions were just right, not overbearing with a complete balance of accompanying vegetables and starches to last throughout the entirety of the protein, leaving us with just enough room for dessert. As we savored our last bites, not wanting the taste-gazms to end, we breathed a sigh of complete indulgence and satisfaction, with the last sip of wine.

After recovering and reentering reality, the focus was geared on dessert. Can our taste buds [once more] be so aroused by Emeril's flavorful creations in a sweet arrangement? The Southern Style Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream did the trick. A warm tart, with the sweetness of brown sugar and crunch of pecans and chocolate chips, was supporting a scoop of rich, vanilla ice cream-a perfect combination of cool and warm. The New Orleans Style Bread Pudding with Brown Butter Bourbon Sauce and Praline Crumbles, however, was the sole under performer of the evening-offering more of a bland muffin appearance [and taste] than a moist bread pudding. The Bourbon sauce was its only savior [and moisturizer].
This small blunder, in comparison with our main feast, did not damper our experience one bit. Well done Emeril, well done! An almost perfect, distinctive meal left our senses overexcited, didn't push our budgets over the top, and sent our taste buds head over heels for Emeril's Miami Beach.
Emeril's Miami Beach-1601 Collins Ave-Miami, FL


Great Grandma's Pancakes-aka, Blinchiki

When my mother told me about her childhood favorite, my face cringed at the time commitment...however, once I tried these (with some adjustments), I developed a routine around them, as the taste is incredible! These are by far the most light and moist pancakes you'll ever taste. As for the routine: the first time you have to allow the yeast and flour to rise, go for a run, bike ride, or jog. Come back, finish adding the ingredients, do some sit ups, butt lifts, and leg lifts, shower, and the 2nd rising is done! Now you've certainly earned the deliciousness that awaits you-enjoy! (serves 2):
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1 egg-separated
1 tablespoon butter-melted
1/4 cup milk
butter for pan cooking
1 tablespoon apricot jam
syrup, yogurt, fruit, nuts, honey-optional
1. Activate the yeast by combining it with water in a bowl; allow to sit in a warm place for about 10 minutes, until bubbly.
2. Add 1/2 cup flour to the yeast and incorporate well-there should be no clumps. Put the bowl in a warm place, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise (for an hour)...go for a run =)
3. After risen, add salt, sugar, egg yolk, and butter and mix well. Add the other 1/2 cup of flour and incorporate-there should be no clumps. Slowly add milk and mix well. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and put in a warm place to rice again (for an hour)...do sit ups and leg lifts =)
4. After risen, beat the egg white to medium peaks and mix into dough.
5. Heat and butter a pan, ladle dough into pan with a spoon (dough will be sticky, but do your best). Cook on each side until brown. Enjoy with apricot jam or any of the other options!


Cranberry with a Kick-Thanksgiving Sauce

Makes: 1 cup of sauce
1 t butter
zest-from one orange
zest-from one lemon
1 t zested ginger
1.5 cups water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 T dark rum
1/2 t lemon juice
3 T orange juice
1 cup fresh cranberries (can use frozen, just thaw)
1/4 t apricot jam preserves
1/4 t honey
1 small pinch salt
1/4 t butter

1. Lightly butter the pan and toss the orange, lemon, and ginger zest for a few minutes, just until the sugar begins to extract (on low heat).
2. Add water, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, rum, lemon and orange juice, and cranberries; bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.
3. Add jam, honey, and salt and continue to simmer, on low heat, until the sauce reduces to a coating consistency (~20-25 minutes).
4. Turn off the heat and mix in the butter; serve warm.


Stuffed Plum Tomatoes

Even the non-tomato eaters gobble this one down (serves 4):
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup multi-grain bread crumbs
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 T parsley-chopped
4 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt-to taste
pepper-to taste
1. In a bowl, mix ricotta and mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, cayenne pepper, parsley, salt, and pepper.
2. Cut each tomato in half, length wise, and remove seeds and core (which can be used for tomato salad, sandwich garnish, or tomato sauce).
3. Fill each tomato half with cheese mixture; top with Parmesan cheese.
4. Place stuffed tomatoes onto a baking sheet, sprayed with cooking spray, and bake at 400F until tomatoes are soft and the tops have browned (approximately 15-18 minutes).

Warm Swiss Chard Salad in Brown Butter, with Sauteed Vegetables, Walnuts, and Goat Cheese

Having extremely enjoyed chard directly from a garden, I decided to make this yummy and healthy green more versatile by basing a salad on it. Although, my garden is non existent, living in NYC, the local veggie market has a great selection of greens. The nuttiness of the brown butter along with the veggies really brings out all the fall flavors; while the walnuts give a nice crunch and tie in with the brown butter. As an addition, cube some multi-grain bread and toast-to make multi-grain croutons, and top the salad. Yum! (serves 2):
1 lb Swiss Chard
4 T butter
1 shallot-minced
1.5 cups yellow squash-cut into finger size rectangles
1.5 cups zucchini- cut into finger size rectangles
2 cups eggplant-cut into small dice
1 oz olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup grape tomatoes-halved
1/2 cup pear-cut into small dice
1/2 cup goat cheese
salt-to taste
pepper-to taste
1. Cut the ends off of the bottom of the stems of the chard, and dice them into very small pieces; reserve.
2. Cut the chard into ribbons; reserve.
3. In a pan, heat the butter until it's lightly boiling (on medium heat) and continuously stir until it nicely browns and the aroma is nutty. Remove from heat, transfer to another container, and reserve (if you leave it in the same pot, which is hot, it will burn).
4. In a saute pan, sear the shallot in brown butter, add chard and turn continuously with tongs until it just begins to wilt; season with salt and pepper, remove immediately, and allow to cool.
5. In a saute pan, cook the squash and zucchini, in the brown butter, until soft and light brown; season, remove, and allow to cool.
6. In a saute pan, cook the eggplant in olive oil until soft and light brown; season, remove, and allow to cool.
7. To serve, toss the chard with walnuts and place on a plate; top with squash, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, and pear; dot small spoonfuls of goat cheese on top of salad.
8. Enjoy!


Marinated Brussels Sprouts with a Dark Chocolate Cayenne Sauce

This recipe gives a new image to brussels sprouts. Even the biggest cynics of this much criticized veg were converted! (serves 2):
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 T olive oil-divided
1.5 cups brussels sprouts-quartered, with ends trimmed

1 T shallot-minced
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1.5 cups chicken stock
2 t dark chocolate-chopped
salt-to taste
pepper-to taste
1. Combine balsamic vinegar with 2 T olive oil and add burssels sprouts; marinate for 10 minutes.
2. Add 2 T olive oil to a hot saute pan and sweat shallots.
3. Add marinated brussels sprouts to pan and saute on high heat for ~3 min.
4. Add cayenne and chicken stock to the halfway point of brussels sprouts.
5. As soon as the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer (covered) until brussels sprouts are just tender (~15 min); remove brussels sprouts.
6. Add the rest of the chicken stock to the pan and reduce the liquid by half; season.
7. Take the pan off the heat and add chocolate, until melted.
8. Serve the chocolate pan sauce over brussels sprouts.