Another year gone by and, yet again, when the 18th of May rolls around, I get that nagging suspicion I’ve forgotten something…which, of course, I inevitably have. The 18th marked my third year of blogging. When I looked back at year two, I thought there was no way I would top it, but just now looking back at my third year, I realize I have so much to be grateful for – and things are only getting better. Here’s a look back at my favorites (click on each pic to see more). Hope you enjoy. And THANK YOU SO MUCH for reading. <3
I won’t pretend I didn’t have an overwhelming love affair with food prior to my expectant status. But I will say that what champagne used to do for me pre-baby, cuisine has temporarily filled in for quite nicely. And without any of the guilt, which is essentially priceless. Hence, the Great Pregnancy Craving Tour of Miami.
I have shamelessly paraded this bump around town and (mostly unknowingly) dripped all sorts of toppings upon it to put together a list of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) crave-inducing establishments. I’m starting with my longest-running obsession, burgers. Check out my picks. Did I miss any? What should I try next? Let me know your favorites.
Elevation Burger – Simple, sustainable, organic, grass-fed, and free-range. If you’re a carnivore with a conscience (and a budget), there’s nothing better. Add a healthy list of toppings and a soda machine to blend any concoction to your whim and you’ve got the kind of place that’s made me go through a slew of frequent visitor cards. Slew!
Blue Collar – There isn’t enough I can tell you about this burger. I was newly pregnant at the time and discovering I’d developed the kind of appetite that would impress a wrestler. Enter the Real Juicy Cheeseburger – Prime dry-aged New York strip on a Portuguese muffin with your choice of lettuce, tomato, and onions. I don’t think I spoke two words during that meal.
Crave – This is the kind of refined establishment where most (non-pregnant) people would enjoy a nice sushi lunch or a delicately balanced salad. But I had absolutely no shame in devouring their Crave Burger and licking my fingers while doing so. I’m happy to do it again, even in the finest company. With smoked cheddar, onion, and house-made pickles, this is definitely a winner.
Lokal – I’ve never strayed from the 50/50 (Fidy Fidy) burger. And I don’t think I’ll ever want to. Equal parts Florida ground beef and Florida ground bacon combine to make super amazing burger babies in your mouth. Served with mayo, Monterrey jack cheese, and a sweet onion marmalade, you also get a side of 50% sweet potato fries, 50% french fries with honey mustard dipping sauce that gives you quite possibly the most beautiful combination of ingredients a belly could want.
Latin House Grill – This little gem on Sunset has a menu full of crave-able items (Sneaky Nachos!). But if you’re having one of those days when you can’t really figure out what flavor you’re after, I recommend the Intl Muffin Tops. Two of those little guys have a big fill factor.
Red Robin – I had no idea what to expect from Red Robin. And then I learned about their Bottomless Steak Fries (that I, of course, dipped in ranch dressing). It was absolute kismet. I paired that with the Whiskey River BBQ Burger and happily groaned my full belly out the door.
Shake Shack – While I genuinely enjoyed their Angus burger (I had the SmokeShack), my heart was really much more set on their Flat-Top Dogs. I made a mess of that Shack-cago Dog and enjoyed every last bit of relish. Bring your pooch along to dine on the terrace and buy him his own treats for a small price.
NOT WORTH THE WADDLE:
Le Tub Saloon – This waterfront joint has a serious following thanks to being voted best hamburger by GQ Magazine as well as being placed on Oprah’s radar as one of her favorites. The burger itself was simple, tasty, and juicy but the downside for any preggo is that there will likely be a minimum wait time of 1.5 hours before you see any meat on your plate. My vote? Try it when you’re not as likely to dig into the person next to you with a fork & knife. Or sit at a safe distance from others and bring a snack for the wait.
CG Burgers – You only get one shot at dinner. You can deal with “ok” food for lunch because you still have a chance to make it up throughout the rest of the day. But when you have the kind of dinner that leaves you wondering what was missing, you just end up with a grouchy preggo that’s likely suffering from heartburn and an unfulfilled appetite. In this case, what was missing was a decent brioche and some basic seasoning. I wanted so much to like this place but two strikes is enough for me to know not to go for the third.
SmashBurger – This place just made me angry. I first take issue with their logo, a blatant rip-off of GameStop’s font and coloring. But bad branding aside, with a name like SmashBurger, you should really be making a sensational impression. Rather, the result of quite literally smashing your burger patties into submission before squeezing all the juice out of the poor things is what my Cuban grandmother often refers to as “suela de zapato”, or the leathery bottom of one’s shoe, for those not fluent in Cuban slang. But I retain that it’s more accurately articulated in Spanish. No need to stop here.
Note: Rok Brgr didn’t make the list because I only visited once and wasn’t too impressed but felt that maybe it was an off night. I think it deserves another shot before I pass judgement.
The thing about living in Florida is that, despite all the complaining I do about the weather and lack of seasons when the holidays hit, there’s still something remarkable about being able to jump in your car and settle into a last-minute road trip to the beach in December.
Tony and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary recently, which led to a bit of an early “babymoon” we both seriously needed. One iPod and five hours later, we arrived in Clearwater, 26 square miles of beautiful beaches, breathtaking sunsets, and really nice people. (Not gonna lie – that’s probably what took the most getting used to.)
We stayed at the Sheraton Sand Key, a newly renovated resort which overlooks the quiet little beach town in all its unassuming splendor. And though this city girl would usually be crawling out of her skin in a place with nary a sound after dark, pregnancy has given me a new kind of appreciation for peace and simplicity – things I probably should have appreciated way earlier in my adult life. But above all, Clearwater and Sand Key have the luxury of choice with Tampa and St. Petersburg only a few minutes away. And that’s something I’m still missing down here.
Here are a few of our favorites in St. Pete, Dunedin, and Sand Key. If you’ve never been, the drive itself will do you wonders. But those unfiltered sunsets have all the makings of a cheesy romantic comedy. And it seems my hormones have made me a sucker for those as well. Enjoy.
You know, I almost didn’t post this but then I realized there was no way I could omit a Sinbad photo op. I mean, come on – it’s Sinbad! Though this post is a bit of a mish-mash of random (but honestly, very fun) things we did over the course of our Miami staycation, these moments reminded us why we are pretty fortunate to live in this city (now and then and only when there’s decent parking involved).
We rediscovered Monty’s South Beach, a location that not only has spectacular views but also boasts a bar-side pool, so as not to interfere with simultaneous oyster-shooting and tanning. We also discovered that Chili’s is no place for anyone over 30 (that black light pic is the only good thing that came out of that venture – our stomachs are still very upset at us). And we made a pit-stop at some generic Chinese restaurant where we were comfortingly addressed in broken English by a woman who actually had perfectly coherent language skills when addressing her staff.
But let’s get back to Sinbad. I mean, what really needs to be said? If you grew up in the 90’s (and I hope I’m not one of the few), then you can probably share in my Different World inspired glee (I was always rooting for him and Jaleesa). But even now, the guy is still really funny and just plain nice. It was one of those adolescent tv-dreams-come-true — good enough to round out one heck of a staycation and justifying that two-drink minimum at the Improv.
P.S. I wonder where he gets his wardrobe…
The last time I visited The Forge, I could barely afford a glass of champagne and was really only there because a friend dragged me out. The WMC was going on and there were a lot of people whom I suspect were not only sipping champagne. Five years later, it’s probably still a stretch to make it a regular spot, but I’m a savvier shopper thanks to resources like Gilt City.
Thanks to my coupon-clipping ways I was able to surprise my husband during our staycation (yep – still debating that one) with a romantic dinner at the renovated Forge, one that looks nothing at all like that dark little eatery with the speakeasy that led to the club next door (you know the one). It’s polished, sexy, and refreshed, which can also be said for its food, prepared by Chef Dewey LoSasso. But what really made an impression was the enomatic wine bar, a new, interactive wine-by-the-glass self-serve feature truly designed for oenophiles and novices alike. Think of it as a soda fountain for grown-ups.
And if that doesn’t float your flute, then check out the 80’s inspired nudie wall mural in the ladies room. Or the mirror-backed chairs outside. Or even the sultry red lighting that’s more than adequately suitable for all sorts of Michael Jackson stage presence impressions (see MJ-impersonating husband below). You can try it all out for yourself during Miami Spice, beginning August 1st.
P.S. Please feel free to send in any MJ-impersonating husband pics. I like to think that I’m not alone.
Though the weather hasn’t been particularly beach-friendly over the past couple of weeks (particularly for MBFWS), Tony and I were lucky enough to enjoy some time in the sunshine during a mid-week staycation (I still question the validity of that word), which, in my opinion, is the best of its kind because there never seems to be better weather than when it’s Tuesday and you’re locked indoors.
This gloriously sunny day fell upon us by chance as we decided to leave our far-too-westward apartment on a gloomy morning and found that, indeed, there is always better weather upon entering Miami Beach.
And though you know I’m usually offensive to the point of snarky about Miami’s less-than-desirable traits (traffic on the 836, anyone?), days like this make me eat my words – this time at Big Pink, a sanguine corner diner everyone should visit after a dip in the ocean (if you can find parking within a three-mile radius).
More staycation (I know) updates coming up this week, complete with a trip to The Forge‘s enomatic wine bar for your voyeuristic pleasure. And be sure to hover over the pics for more info. You won’t want to skip that “jargarita” recipe. That’s one little mason jar full of sip-able bliss. Cheers!