Sunday, August 30, 2009

Miami Nice

"Party in the city where the heat is on
All night on the beach till the break of dawn
Welcome to Miami
Buenvenidos a Miami"
(Will Smith--"Miami")

I know--2 posts in a month! Hold your collectives selves back!

Spent the last week in the sauna known as Miami...seriously, we bitch about the heat here in the South, but Miami takes it to a whole new level. On Friday morning, at 5:45 a.m., as we leave for the airport, it was like walking into a sauna. I fully expected some fat balding dudes in gold chains and towels to be sitting in the parking lot of the Coconut Grove Hampton Inn, ladling water on rocks to create more steam and humidity.

I was all psyched to see beautiful people and the CSI Miami crime lab...which we know is not really in Miami, but one can always hope...there's way too much parking for it to be in Miami. According to Wikipedia, it's actually the Federal Aviation Administration Federal Credit Union headquarters in Long Beach, CA. I practiced my "Horatio Caine Stare of Justice (tm)" and standing around with my hands on my hips, looking pensive.

Of course, I was there for work, so no hanging out on SoBe, but we did a drive-by of the area and looked at the cool Art Deco historic district. Walked on the beach for a few minutes, and then hopped back in the car as fast as we could, because it was too darn hot!

Y'all know that I usually try to avoid chain restaurants if at all possible, but sometimes, the first night you are in a place, you just go for the familiar. We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, they of the 1,000-page menu, and did opt for dessert, because they had Red Velvet Cheesecake. And, since there is a donation to the national foodbank network for each slice sold, I felt that I had to do my part. And, I thought it was pretty could it not be? Layers of red velvet cake alternating with layers of cheesecake and covered with cream cheese frosting? (No lectures on the obesity of America, please! I'm not eating it every day...although, I am glad that there's not a CF anywhere in my vicinity. Temptation, thy name is Velvet, Red Velvet!)

And, when thou art in Miami, thou must partake of Cuban food. Sometimes, when I travel with other co-workers, I'm not sure if s/he will want to be far, I haven't had anyone keel over from eating in a strange place, but I guess there is always the first time. But, I think Cuban is a safe bet--it's rice, beans, pork...all familiar foods, and sooooo delicioso!

We ate lunch at a place in downtown Miami, El Cacique Lunch Restaurant Cafe. It was like a diner/coffee shop, with some daily specials and a regular menu of sandwiches, salads, and entrees. We ate there twice, because it was convenient and most tasty. I had a wonderful roast pork with moros y cristianos (black beans and rice mixed together) and a couple of large hunks of yucca. Normally, I shy away from yucca, because it tastes like library paste to me...not that I really know what library paste tastes like, but it's how I imagine it to be...never understood that paste eating thing. Why would you eat that stuff? There was a kid in my kindergarten that could not get enough of that stuff, and he had to be watched every time we used it for arts and crafts time.

This time, I add a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper, and it was really like eating a boiled potato. The next day for lunch, one of the specials was stewed oxtails with rice, black beans, and maduros, which are caramelize sweet plantains. (Tostones are the savory version of plantains; use greener plantains, slice, smash, and pan fry, then sprinkle with a little salt.)

Moros y cristianos is a popular dish in many Latin American refers to the black Muslims (black beans) and white (rice) Christians who lived in Spain, side-by-side on the Iberian Pennisula...probably before Columbus discovered America...before the Inquisition...according to the Internets. There's other versions with rice and pink or red beans, or pigeon peas, usually called congri, which may have its roots in Haiti.

Most of the Cuban places that I saw were like El Cacique, and they had walk-up windows for coffee and sandwiches. There were usually several folks hanging around the window area, chatting, smoking cigarettes, and drinking cafe con leche (coffee with milk). I was getting rather fond of my afternoon cafe con leche with evaporated milk by the time we left.

A business trip to Miami is not the way to spend time there, especially not in August. I would dearly love to go back in say, February, when it's kind of cold and rainy, and explore more of the area. We did drive down Calle Ocho (8th Street), which is the heart of Little Havana, but we didn't have time to do any real exploration.

However, we did get a little up close and personal Miami Vice action when we were walking to lunch on the 3rd day of the visit...went to an Italian place that was very good. There were 6 of us standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change so we could cross the street. A guy on a bike, with a girl walking beside him, rides up to the corner and starts to cross the street. This was a one-way street, and a car just slides over the curb in front of us, another pulls up crossway in the crosswalk and sort of blocks the guy, and several powerful looking guys in T-shirts with "Gang Unit" across the back hop out of the cars and "assist" the bicycle guy across the street, patting him down as the moved him. It was very slick and quick, with a minimum of fuss. We were all in a bit of shock about what just happened, but that's how they roll in Miami...when pedestrians are not walking out in front of your car at random places on the street...but that's a whole 'nother story.

While I was living it up in Miami, The Man took the Fat Dog to the vet for a dental cleaning. While the vet was prepping him for the procedure, because you have to knock them out to do this, he found a mass in the Fat Dog's mouth. It was "about the size of a cocktail meatball," according to The Man, which means I will never be able to eat another cocktail meatball, and the doctor thinks that he got it all. He sent it off to a pathologist, and we should know more about it this coming week. X-rays and bloodwork were performed to see if anything was unusual and possibly spread into other poodle nooks and crannies, and those tests all came back okay. Pound for pound, the Fat Dog has now become the Most Expensive Poodle on the Planet...or at least in my neighborhood.

Oh, and in smoker news, I am continuing my experimentation. (For the record, The Man's experimentation was last weekend, while I was at brunch with some former co-workers. He had read something somewhere about smoking hotdogs and had been itching to try it. He put some brats and some hot dogs on while I was gone. The brats were okay, but the hotdogs had the consistency of Slim Jims...dried out old Reagan-era Slim Jims...I believe they were on a little too long.) (Oh, and that link to the Slim Jim website has music and some whack-a-doo graphics...really strange stuff. And, please do not try to figure out what exactly goes into a Slim Jim. If you ate them in your larval youth stage, before you knew better than to eat stuff like that, you may not ever want to eat again...just my .02)

This weekend, I smoked some pork ribs and some chicken pieces. Used the hickory chips again, and for the liquid, I used a 2-liter of Publix black cherry soda and some water. (The smoker recipe booklet mentioned using orange soda, so why not black cherry?) I rubbed the chicken pieces with the Israeli Spice Rub that I mentioned in my last post, because I really like that on chicken. I rubbed the ribs with this rub, which was on a sticky note on my fridge and I more than likely got it from the Internet, but I can't find the source, so please forgive me, anonymous Dave out there.

Dave's Rub

2 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs sweet paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
4-5 pinches of salt
15 grinds of black pepper

I oiled up the chicken pieces and put the Israeli rub on, and then just rubbed the Dave's Rub on the ribs. The chicken turned out really well--moist and delicious, with a hint of cherry. The ribs were a little dry, so I think I may have to experiment with marinating pork. The chicken pieces were bone-in and skin-on, so that helped keep them moist and tasty. I think the ribs just needed a little something extra--be it marinade or a wet glaze on them before smoking. The Man mentioned brining the pork to see how that would work, and that sounds intriguing. Maybe, I could use apple juice in the water pan to bring out the apple left from brining in cider vinegar. Hmm...this bears a little more forensic investigation...let me get my sunglasses!

UPDATE: This morning (8/31), we heard back from the veterinarian about the pathology report. The tumor from the Fat Dog's mouth is a malignant melanoma. Not exactly what you want to hear early in the morning, or at any time for that matter. The vet thinks that he got it all, but laid out the facts that it could re-occur, and that it could spread to other parts of the body. He did do the X-rays to check for spread, and those came back negative at the moment. I guess the "good" news is that it could reform in the same place, so we might have a fighting chance to see it and remove it. We talked other options of chemo and radiation, but given the Fat Dog's guestimated age ( which could be anywhere from 10 to 15) and how devastating the possible cure can be on a system, we're going to opt for the "wait and see if it comes back" approach. Cross your paws that we got it all this time...

1 comment:

LinC said...

Wow, great trip!

Moros y cristianos -- what a great name for black beans and rice. When Columbus went to ask Ferdinand and Isabella for help in putting together his first expedition to America, he met them in an audience hall in the Alhambra. That was a Moorish palace, and in 1492, the Spanish had just barely finished kicking the last of the Moors out of Spain that very year. [/history lesson]

When I was working in the Miami area, we liked to go to Fort Lauderdale for dinner. There are a whole assortment of restaurants with outdoor patios right across the street from the beach. The beach is separated from the main drag by a low undulating wall with a sidewalk that is a favorite of roller bladers. Eating out in the evening is the way to go in South Florida.

Sorry to hear about the Fat Dog. Hope he does okay.