Friday, September 14, 2012

Bacon, pickles, and beer (My Apartment)

This post is going to be short, but very important, so all you non-vegetarians pay attention: Bacon, dill pickles, and beer is the greatest snack combo ever. Really. I'm actually dead serious (and sober) as I write this; I ate dill pickles topped with strips of bacon earlier, washed down with beer, and it was perfect, truly perfect. All of it was local, too, which is a nice little benefit, harkening back to my appearance on a soap box, coming from:
Bacon:  Bostrom Farm
Dill Pickles:  Real Pickles
Beer:  High and Mighty Beer Company Pas de Dieux Saison

Bostrom Farm and Real Pickles are located in Greenfield, MA, and High and Mighty is from Holyoke/Easthampton, MA (I'm not actually sure which one), I heard they moved recently out of Holyoke.  All are fantastic, and Bostrom has a great meat CSA (community supported agriculture) share program, which I have a share in.  At $300 for a total of 40 pounds of meat, 10 pounds a month for four months of mixed pork and beef, it's a good deal, since the meat is so much better than I'd typically get in the supermarket, even a decent one like Big Y.

I bought the pickles at Pekarski's in South Deerfield, MA, a polish sausage company that is so damn good and popular they don't even have a website; they simply don't need one.  I also picked up some linguica and kielbasa, both of which are house made, while there, and both were incredible.  I have recently made a few meals that were entirely local, from local lamb bought at a farm stand in South Deerfield to potatoes, corn, and tomatoes in both Sunderland and South Deerfield.


While I'm at it, a quick recommendation for the King Arthur Flour education center; for this most recent Mother's Day, my brother and I bought our mom a pass to a class there, and being the awesome son I am I agreed to go with her.  We took the "Yeast Bread Basics" course, making our own white bread loaves and shaping a loaf of semolina flour bread prepared ahead of time by the course instructor in about three hours.  The course was informative, and the instructor, Irene, was absolutely fantastic.  She was friendly, informative, and best of all, she was supportive of her students.  Instead of saying that things must be done her way, she told us to take what she taught us and then do what works for us; this was refreshing, as so often you get people teaching courses, whether it be baking or college class, or even trainings in emergency communications (my profession) who think their way is the only way.  At only $65 each, this was well worth the trip, and both of us had a lot of fun.


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Versailles (Miami, FL)

In the final installment of my Miami trip recollection, I will review the best restaurant I went to of the four, just beating out Sugarcane due to the fact that it's just such authentic Cuban and, thus, authentic Miami.  I'm not a fan of Florida as a general rule; it's too damn hot, too damn humid, and full of old people...not a good combo.  But, in my mind, Cuban food is enough of a reason to sweat like a whore in church and deal with the geriatrics.

Versailles is, according to my uncle and the internet, the most famous Cuban restaurant in the most Cuban place on Earth outside of Cuba itself, Miami.  When politicians come to Miami to woo the Cuban population (a necessity to win either the Miami-Dade County or statewide vote), Versailles, pronounced "vare-sigh-ace," is the place they go.  I don't blame them; Spanish was the primary language being spoken in the restaurant, including by my bilingual uncle (my aunt is from Honduras), and there was a distinct feeling of being in a community unfamiliar from my own, even at 6pm, much earlier than many of the Cuban families will come out on a Friday night.

As I said, I love Cuban food, so when my uncle asked if there was anything in particular I wanted I told him that's the only thing.  He immediately suggested Versailles, and I wasn't going to argue; it was the perfect end to a great, albeit short, trip.  When it came time to order I again left it up to him to decide, figuring he knew better than I, and he did not disappoint, ordering the pollo (chicken) versailles and, if I recall correctly, the fish filet with shrimps in creole sauce, which is among the "Chef's Specials," and both came with rice (seasoned in the case of the pollo versailles and white for the fish) and sweet plantains.  The platanos were probably my favorite thing of the day, perfectly cooked so they were sticky and sweet but without being cloying, almost glazed over but really retaining that powerful flavor you can only get from platanos maduros.  Just absolutely perfect.  The chicken was next, perfectly cooked, tender, almost falling apart but not at all dry, which is a difficult medium to find.  The rice was delicious, also perfectly cooked and really delicate, with a beautiful yellow color that I'm assuming was from saffron.  The fish and shrimp were both good, although they were slightly overcooked I'd say, but not so much that made it unpleasant.  The rice was, again, perfect, but a little boring in the way white rice is, though it worked really well with the creole sauce, which had lots of vegetables in it, primarily based around tomatoes, and which I spiced up a bit (at my uncles urging) with some Tobasco Sauce.

I can't write as much about Versailles as I'd like because it's been a few weeks and my memory has started to fade, but I cannot recommend it enough.  I'd fly to Miami just to eat their platanos maduros, and the rest would be one hell of a bonus.  Oh, and, ya know, seeing my family would be good too.  But mostly it'd be about the platanos!


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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Garcia's Seafood Grill and Fish Market (Miami, FL)

This is a bit late in coming, but here is the third of the four places I went during my 36 hour trip to Miami a few weeks ago; my uncle, cousin and I stopped in here for a quick drink and ended up having a snack as well.

Garcia's Seafood Grill and Fish Market is located along a river leading to the Atlantic Ocean, allowing their customers sitting outside to experience a working commercial river while enjoying the bounty of the same.  Having a few hours to burn before catching my flight home, and being full from the meal I had just eaten at Sugarcane, my uncle suggested that we grab a drink, and since Garcia's is close to his office and offers a nice view, he figured it would be a good place to go. 

My cousin and I ordered mojitos, while my uncle went simple with white wine (nothing to really comment on there), and I think I made a good choice.  I love mojitos in general, whether it's the real thing like this or the mixes like you'll find where I'm from.  This was a truly great mojito, with just the right amount of rum and sugar, and with a strong mint flavor.  Instead of a straw, there was a stalk of sugarcane, which over the course of the time I was drinking absorbed the flavor of the rum, so at the end I ended up just chewing on it for a while, which was delicious. 

Even though we weren't particularly hungry, we ended up ordering some oysters (supposed to be half a dozen, but we ended up with 18 because our waitress screwed up...a happy mistake).  I'm used to oysters from Maine and Cape Cod, so these were disappointing in their size and sweetness, but still delicious.  The real issue was that Garcia's doesn't hand shuck the oysters, instead using a mechanical shucker, which opens the oyster but does not separate the meat, so you can't just slurp them the way you're supposed to, and instead have to use a fork to eat them.  I don't know why they bother with this, as quite honestly it's not faster to use the mechanical shucker compared to a well trained person, and it's a less satisfying experience.  Maybe that's how things are done in Florida, but as a New Englander, it was not what I was hoping for. 

With our drinks we were served some multi-colored corn chips with tuna salad that was quite simply tuna and a little mayo, and was actually really delicious.  We ended up having two orders of this, which was complimentary.  Kudos to Garcia's for that.


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