Tuesday, April 10, 2012

South Florida Dining and Art

When the Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival ended, my eating and drinking did not. The only thing that changed was the company and I’m always happy when that my companions are family.

I was picked up at The National Hotel after the end of the festival by my mom and cousin Gayle. We were off to check out one of the most talked about restaurants to hit South Beach in a long time. Juvia had it all – location, d├ęcor, food and drinks.

The location may have looked a bit strange from the outside (a private elevator taking you to the roof of the garage), but once upstairs there was no doubt this place was special. I have never seen such beautiful views of Miami and I loved the combination of elegance and comfort.

Juvia is a great place for cocktails and I was smitten with the Pear Sangria, while Gayle enjoyed a Purple Rain we started with. I have to admit I was a bit concerned with the menu when I first saw it as it was mostly filled with seafood, but I found plenty to safely eat. In the meantime, mom and cousin feasted on the Ceviche, Rock Shrimp (in a spicy curry sauce), Lobster Salad and Sea Bass, which Gayle called “outrageous.”

I had an excellent Foie Gras that was rather sweet, followed by the Iceberg, Pancetta, Fig & Gorgonzola Salad, a nice mixture of flavors. The Pork Confit made a wonderful main course, with a complex mix of flavors. Side dishes, such as Vegetable Casolet and Couscous are great, but leave some room for dessert. The Chocolate Croissolant and the Candy Bar were worth the calories!

Mom and I continued the fun as we headed a bit north the next day for an afternoon at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. I make trips to this area a few times a year and I can’t believe I had never been there before. I was really impressed and we really enjoyed walking through the Contemporary Art Varied Collection, the American Modernist Masters and the Camera Work Photography Exhibit.

My favorite stop at the art museum was Martin Schoeller: Close Up, a collection of portraits of famous politicians and entertainers that were brutally honest. I also loved the placement (Sarah Palin next to Bill Clinton?).  Though that exhibition is no longer showing at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, there is something similar through May – Portraits from the Permanent Collection – which includes famous portraits by Georgia O’Keefe.

We had a few hours to do some shopping before another special dinner. I had heard nothing but good things about Max’s Harvest in Delray Beach and they turned out to all be true. This “farm to fork” restaurant takes sustainability seriously. Local, organic ingredients are used and the only freezer here is a small one for the ice cream. I was highly impressed with what Executive Chef Chris Miracolo could do on a moment’s notice, all depending on what was available in the market that day.

We started off with a refreshing Heritage Mojito (Bacardi, fresh mint and soda water) and the Smoked Gouda & Pancetta Mac N Cheese with spinach and onion straws. It was excellent and I remarked that the macaroni and cheese movement in restaurants is one I hope continues. We then had a light and tomato salad with watermelon (great idea), arugula and feta cheese, as well as Goat Cheese Croquettes that were melt in your mouth.

I had missed Chef Miracolo’s dish at SOBEWFF, but he made some of the Gnocchi with Hedgehog Mushrooms for me and it was spectacular. I love gnocchi, but I’ve never had any quite this good. That’s pretty much what my mom said about the Salmon with Stir Fry. The ultimate salmon eater, she said this was the best she has ever had anywhere.

For dessert we satisfied all cravings with a Chocolate Flourless Cake, which was dense and dark, filled with the best cocoa, and an Apple Torte with homemade Maple Ice Cream.  The only downside to the “farm to fork” is that menu items change according to the market, but I can’t imagine you could go wrong with anything on the Max’s Harvest menu. As for me, I’ve already put in a request for some of that gnocchi on my birthday in July.

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