Blog Page 3

Bulla Gastrobar by Ray Raposo

0

We had wanted to try Bulla Gastrobar for a while and finally visited in July. They specialize in Tapas (small dishes) which are a staple in Spain. If you ever visited Cafe Tu Tu Tango in Coconut Grove’s Cocowalk back in the 90’s, you get the idea. We had early evening reservations and the place was starting to fill up. Later on it was quite packed with people.

A long table and the bar area

We had a table for 4 in the left corner as you enter the restaurant. It was one of those high bar type small round table,  2 seats were booth style and the other 2 were tall bar stool types. Although we enjoyed ourselves, it made for a very tight space, specially getting in and out from the table. Those similar stools are all around the large square bar with a light marble top, right as you enter the restaurant. The whole decor is retro-modern, with hanging lightbulbs, wooden floors and table tops. Wooden planks with writing also decorate the walls. There are lots of large windows on both street sides of the corner restaurant.

Sitting at our corner table, writer Ray and Peg
Enjoying the intimate corner space

Most all the Tapas small dishes cost $6.50, others run between $8. and $16. The Seasonal items cost in the teens and Larger Plates, like the Paella cost $39. There’s a separate Dessert Menu that offers most for $8. We ordered several Tapas, the Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelette) was pretty good, the Gambas All Ajillo (Shrimp) as well, the Chorizo (Sausage) with Olives, the Patatas Bravas (Potato cubes) had a bit too much “Brava” sauce on top, the Red Snapper on Quinoa soy salad was very good. We ordered a couple of the Croquetas de Jamon (Ham Croquetes) with fig jelly which were small but good.

 

Afterwards we tried a couple of Dessert dishes, the Torrija with ice cream (Brioche) and Copa Bulla ( Dulce Leche and Strawberries and Apples) both were very good. Several alcohol drinks including a Mojito, a Coke and 2 Cosmos rounded out the night’s order. So while most dishes are quite inexpensive since the Tapas are small, it does add up. The total bill was $200., or $100 per couple… which for Coral Gables dining is on the lower side.

Bulla Gastrobar in Coral Gables is located at 2500 Ponce de Leon Blvd. For Reservations call 305-441-0107 or via opentable.com

You can check out their website for their whole menu at bullagastrobar.com

Crust Italian Restaurant by Ray Raposo

0
Peg standing by the front doors of Crust Restaurant
Ray (front center) and L to R: Alex, Daisy, Jack, Gisela, Violet, Carlos and Peg… our round table of eight longtime friends.

Our group of eight good friends enjoyed a nice dinner at Crust on a recent Saturday for the first time. 

Crust Restaurant serves unparalleled pizza and modern Italian cuisine in the scenic and trendy area by the Miami River.  The restaurant has been in business for 3 years. 
The high ceiling and the bar area
The restaurant is located in what was once a stand-alone private home built in an Art Deco design in the 1950s. It’s all quite open with lofty 14 foot ceilings and a long bar near the right side. There’s seating for 72 patrons. The decor is mostly black and white, from the tables and chairs, to the ceiling and the bar. Our table was a large round one, they also have seating outside. Acclaimed veteran Chef/Owner Kline Kovaceski and his lovely Australian wife Anita are the couple behind this establishment. Anita took the time to check on our table to make sure all was going well during our visit.
Part of the large Menu at Crust
The Menu is extensive, from appetizers to pizzas, to pastas to signature entrees. I had the Mahi-Mahi “Francese Style” with lemon capers in a white wine-butter sauce served with Angel Hair pasta and it was perfect. Everyone ordered something different. From the Lasagna to the Linguini with Meatballs, to the Shrimp Parmesan, to the small BBQ chicken Pizza, all were quite tasty. Let me first say that the food was not only delicious, the portions were so very large that we all had to get take home bags. Remember that!
 
You can easily split an entree with a spouse, specially if you get a soup or appetizer. Maybe part of it was saving room for dessert, all of which we ordered were just as good. The Bourbon Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream was outstanding. All this plus an excellent waitress named Alex made for a terrific overall experience during our visit to Crust. 
The outdoor seating area in front of restaurant

Most dishes cost from the high tens to the low to mid twenties. One small note, while they serve wine and beer, they don’t have a full bar service, so no mixed drinks are available. Our group did fine with some white wine. Also make sure you valet park for $6.00, it’s located by the left side of this fine corner establishment. 

Crust is located at 668 NW 5th St, Miami, FL 33128
Call for Reservations at 305-371-7065
Or check their website: www.crust-usa.com

Andalusia: The Marvelous Southern Spain by Ray Raposo

0
The Moorish Real Alcázar Palace in Sevilla

Andalusia is an autonomous community that covers most of southern Spain. It has quite a diverse landscape, a long Mediterranean coastline and its own mountain chain, and possibly the hottest average temperatures in Europe. Andalusia is a rough translation of an Arabic word who’s meaning is up for discussion. The area has a series of cities and towns with a very multicultural architecture, cuisine, and history. The area was at different times ruled by the Roman and by the Moors. The greatest of Spain’s Moorish monuments are in Granada, Córdoba and Sevilla. They are home to a celebratory culture full of festivals and flamenco dancing, tapas and for years, bullfighting.

A large modern park with fountains by our hotel in Córdaba

After flying to Madrid and spending a couple days sightseeing, we took a fast train from Madrid to Cordoba. We stayed right near the train station where we could walk to the center of old town and where later we would rent a car to drive during the rest of our trip. Here’s a small description of what you shouldn’t miss in each of the impressive four cities we visited and three others to try not to miss in Andalusia.

Our visits to Córdoba, Málaga, Marbella and Sevilla…

Walking towards the old walled town in Córdoba

Córdoba: The architectural splendor of Córdoba is legendary, and features a multitude of cultures. We visited the worldwide renown Mezquita, or great Mosque-cathedral of Córdoba.

The lovely flower filled exteriors of homes surrounding the walled old town in Córdoba

Surrounding is the Patio de Los Naranjos, a courtyard with orange trees. With exceptional design as well as the combined religious histories it is a must see for all visitors.

By the Mezquita, the Mosque-cathedral of Córdoba, in the Patio de Los Naranjos
An Andalusian horse by the Museo Alcazar Reyes Cristianos

Nearby is another impressive fortress building, the Museo Alcazar Reyes Cristianos. The middle-aged architecture that comprises the Jewish Quarter stretches out from this area, and offers a lovely stroll through the past.

The old Jewish Quarter near the bell tower
The large Puerta del Puente

By the river you’ll find the large Puerta del Puente (Bridge Door), once an entrance to the walled city.  Facing it is the ancient Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir River.

The ancient Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir River

Málaga: We drove south towards the Mediterranean Sea to Málaga, a coastal city with modern areas surrounded by ancient Roman and Moor architecture.

By the Roman theater in Málaga

 The quite ancient and Gothic heart of town is another world completely.

Across the park by the port and marina in Málaga

Málaga is in fact the birthplace of artist Pablo Picasso, and there’s a large museum of just his works. There are other museums like the Centre Pompidou Málaga to enjoy as well.

Inside a courtyard in the Picasso Museum, they don’t allow photos of the artwork

If you’re seeking older historic sites you’ll enjoy the Roman theater, and Azcalba, the Moorish castle. It is an incredible sight to behold from below and climbing it’s steps.

The grand 11th Century Gibralfaro castle is connected to the Azcalba and they are located on a sloping hill in the city. You really have to be in goos shape to venture the climb.

One of the courtyards in Azcalba, the Moorish castle

As you climb up through the many connecting parts of the Azcalba structure you’ll be able to see marvelous views of the city and the Mediterranean Seaport.

From the Gibralfaro castle with incredible views of the port

You’ll also want to visit the soaring Renaissance cathedral, nicknamed La Manquita for its one bell tower. Around it there are some nice sidewalk cafes by a lovely plaza.

Outside the Málaga Cathedral
Part of the cathedral in Málaga

Málaga is well-known for its tapas bars and there are many outdoor cafes all around where you’ll find a terrific taste of all types of cuisine.

The modern pedestrian streets with storefronts
Málaga has some lovely modern plazas with shops and cafes

The modern store fronts and restaurants with pedestrian only tiled streets in the center of old town are filled with people during the day and at night. You’ll see some large cruise ships in the city’s nearby marina.

The center of old town Málaga is filled with people during the day and at night.

Marbella: We took a short drive west to Marbella, a once small fisherman’s village.

Driving by the coastline to Marbella you’ll see many developments on the hillsides

Marbella is now one of the most cosmopolitan beach resorts on the Costa del Sol. You’ll see many new communities dotting the hills overlooking the sea before reaching Marbella.

On Avenida del Mar featuring Dali sculptures

Many historic attractions are well worth exploring too. Once we found a parking garage with opened spots, we walked from the Alameda park down the Avenida del Mar, a sloping walk towards the beach featuring numerous sculptures by Salvador Dali.

Also in Avenida del Mar

In the city, the beaches with its fine sand and the Mediterranean with its clean blue water are the main attractions. There are numerous tall condominium apartment buildings with shops and restaurants nearby and surrounding the beach.

The buildings of the Marbella beachfront

When not sunning on Marbella’s palm-tree-lined beaches, visitors can walk west to the Golden Mile to view some luxurious homes and resorts.

Some of the many condos lining the beachfront filled with umbrellas and beach chairs

You’ll find many sun worshipers in Marbella’s palm-tree-lined beaches, some topless.

Wooden walkways help you walk to the sandy beach
One of Marbella’s lovely blue water beaches

The area around the yacht-filled marina Puerto Banus boasts some of city’s best boutiques, restaurants and bars. Marbella is a perfect place to spend a day or more just relaxing.

Marbella features some lovely decorated park benches

Sevilla: From Málaga we drove west to the marvelous Sevilla (Seville). It is the largest tourist destination in southern Spain, and features many historic attractions.

Sevilla’s Plaza de España central fountain

The huge Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, or Sevilla Cathedral with a Moorish bell-tower is the third largest church in the world by some measurements, though some say it is the world’s largest by volume. It is the largest Gothic style church in the world.

The Giralda Tower and Sevilla Cathedral
Inside the Sevilla cathedral with its massive columns

It is incredible inside with massive columns and many altars to worship. Perhaps only the Vatican in Rome surpasses it in scope and luxury in my travelled opinion.

The tomb of Christopher Columbus inside the cathedral

Both Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are buried in the Sevilla Cathedral.

From the top of the bell tower with great views of the whole city

We climbed the many steps to reach the top of the square shaped Giralda bell tower for incredible views below and some panoramic ones of the whole city.

The Torre del Oro is a military watchtower, erected by the Almohad Caliphate in order to control access to Sevilla via the Guadalquivir river.

A bevy of museums, ancient architecture, palaces and churches are in Sevilla, along with the usual big-city pleasures of great food and cultural activities.

Outside The Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, the bull fighting stadium
By the entrance to the Real Alcázar Palace
An interior courtyard in the Moorish Real Alcázar Palace

You’ll not want to miss the Real Alcázar Palace. It is a large Moorish castle with very decorated rooms and tremendously large and lush gardens surrounding the palace.

One of the bridges in the Plaza de España

We were most impressed visiting the large Plaza de España featuring a large semi-circular building housing some government offices, all around a big fountain in this huge plaza.

The Plaza features colorful mosaic artworks depicting the regions of Spain

The Plaza de España also features numerous colorful mosaic artworks depicting scenery and history of the different regions of Spain with a map showing the location.

One of the Entrances to the walled city of Sevilla
One of the many monuments around Sevilla

More Andalusia: Granada, Ronda and Cadiz.

While we weren’t able to spend time in all the major cities of Andalusia, you might want to visit these three as they all have something unique to offer.

Granada from the distance

Granada: This city east of Málaga is at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Founded as a Celtic settlement it has been inhabited for over 2500 years. Its breathtaking location near mountains is one of the loveliest in Andalusia. Granada’s most famous attraction is the Alhambra, a fortress/palace complex which was a Moorish palace for the emirs when the city was under Islamic rule. The adjacent Muslim neighborhood and many other cathedrals and castles are also worth visiting. Flamenco and food lovers will find that both are easy to find and quite excellent.

Ronda by the El Tajo gorge

Ronda: Not far west of Marbella, Ronda is one of the oldest cities in Spain. It’s located in and around the deep El Tajo gorge making for some incredible views. It’s nearly impregnable position made it a stronghold against Catholic troops in the 1400s. Completed in 1793, the Puente Nuevo bridge spanning the 30-story high gorge is one of the city’s most impressive features. The city’s architecture received its influence from the Romans and Moors who once ruled the area. Ronda is also home to the Plaza de Toros, the oldest bullring in Spain. This arena that has attracted writers ranging from Ernest Hemingway to Alexandre Dumas.

The near empty expressways in Southern Spain driving towards Cadiz

Cadiz: On the extreme western side of the small peninsula, Cadiz is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited city in all of Western Europe. It was founded over three thousand years ago by Phoenician sailors. Here you’ll see long coastlines of sandy public beaches, waves on crashing seawalls, and examples of thousands of years of architecture. It features over a hundred watchtowers, and a large baroque styled cathedral. The must-see time to visit is during Carnival, which is the third-biggest celebration of this kind in the world. During the rest of the year, guests visit here for delicious seafood, terrific surfing and flamenco dancing.

We left Andalusia and continued our trip west and into Portugal.

Near waterfront in Lisbon, Portugal

There we visited the capital, Lisbon, and the Catholic pilgrimage site of Fátima.

Ray and Peg standing in the huge plaza in Fátima

Later we stayed in the northern port city of Porto before driving east to Spain.

The central city square in Porto, Portugal

After leaving Portugal, we had a visit in lovely Salamanca, Spain. Afterwards, finally returning to Madrid, where out trip had started two weeks earlier. Quite a lovely and enlightening experience all around that we really enjoyed. Except for Madrid all these cities and towns were new locations for both of us.

During our visit to Salamanca on way back to Madrid

You can read about the Lisbon and Fátima part of that trip here: http://swthemag.com/home/2018/03/28/visiting-memorable-lisbon-portugal-by-ray-raposo/

Back in Madrid visiting the Parque del Buen Retiro

4th of July Freedom Festival at Miccosukee Resort

0

Join us on the 4th of July for Freedom Fest at Miccosukee Resort.

Live Music performances by country music artist and record producer Aaron Tippin, gifted singer Tony Jackson, and singer-songwriter Luke Pell… yes he of ABC’s The Bachelorette‘s 12th season fame.

Free Admission from 10AM to 10PM.

Fun for the entire family! Featuring Live Music, Carnival and Airboat Rides, Water Slides, Alligator Wrestling Shows, Food Vendors, Fireworks & Much More!

Please Donate an Unwrapped Toy for Aaron Tippin’s Toys For Tots Military Drive.

If you want to visit or stay at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Hotel, and for more information, please call 305-925-2555 or visit them online.

Miccosukee Resort Main Website: http://www.miccosukee.com/

Miccosukee Gaming information: http://www.miccosukee.com/gaming/

For Dining options at Miccosukee Resort: http://www.miccosukee.com/dining/

Miccosukee Resort Lounges and Bars: http://www.miccosukee.com/nightlife/

El Chamán Peruvian Cuisine in West Kendall by Ray Raposo

0
El Chamán Peruvian Cuisine is located way inside a West Kendall Shopping Center and you could drive by it for years and not know that it’s there. However those that have found this restaurant gem keep coming back for more.
Our group at our round table: Violet, Carlos, Peg, Ray, Jack and Gisela
Six good friends recently met for dinner, some of us have been to El Chamán a few times over the years. “El Chamán” in the Incas history was one of the most powerful men in the entire empire with many powers, specially those related to the Earth and Bounty.
The restaurant is owned and operated by Chef Walter Kopp and his Peruvian wife Marianella. While born, raised and culinary trained in Austria, Walter has experience working at numerous high-end establishments, including both the Fontainebleau and Airport Hiltons. He was Executive Sous Chef at the renowned El Conquistador Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico and it’s 16 restaurants. He also worked his Executive Chef magic at Las Casitas Resorts as well as Wyndam Resort on Miami Beach. After another 5 years at the Luxury Resorts umbrella, he opened El Chamán in 2008, fusing his creative skills and 25 years of Chef experience with his passion for Peruvian culture and food. The restaurant’s decor offers some of that Peruvian art and culture on the walls.
Their Dinner Menu Offerings are as follow: Under Cold Appetizers they offer a few items including Octopus with whipped potatoes; Lime treated Shrimp, Tuna or Chicken; Fried Yuca; and Mussels stuffed with tomatoes, corn and onions. Hot Appetizers include Skewers of Marinated Veal Heart; Calamari Rings, Baked Scallops and Mini Gallina Empanadas.
Of course they offer many types of Ceviches. Fish, Shrimp and Seafood are marinated in fine lime juice, red onions, ahi limo and served with sweet potato, corn and cancha. They also offer combination Ceviches with choices of Scallops, Lobster, Shrimp, Crab, Calamari, Octopus and Fish.
Peg and writer Ray with their meals.
Soups, in a Cup or Bowl include a Lobster Bisque, a Peruvian Shrimp Bisque with White Cheese and Rice; and a Main Dish Seafood Casserole.
 
Jack and Gisela and their dishes
Under the Fish and Seafood Menu they have some delicious entrees. Pan Fried Fish Fillet prepared in a variety of ways; Salmon Steak with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach; Shrimp in Creamy Garlic Sauce with Rice or Fried Yuca; Whole Snapper; and Mahi & Jumbo Shrimp. Prices range from the teens to mid twenties.
 
Some delicious Risotto dishes include Calamari & Shrimp; Fish, Crab and Shrimp; Beef Tenderloins; and Fillet Mignon with Lobster tail.
Violet and Carlos and their dishes
But don’t think they only offer Seafood dishes… They have Beef and Chicken dishes as well on the Menu. Different Filet Mignon dishes, Tips fried with Onions, Tomatoes, Steamed Rice and Fries; plus Medallions with Fried Rice and Crispy Plantains. Pan Seared Chicken Breast in a Quinoa Souffle & Portobello Mushrooms; and a Linguini with Churrasco Steak & Golden Potatoes.
 
They also offer several Rice Bowls, all Peruvian style with either Chicken, Beef, Shellfish or Shrimp with prices in the teens.
 
There’s a smaller Lunch Menu also with choices of Seafood or Chicken Salads, smaller dishes and Sandwiches, all priced in the low teens. And special meal deals are offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
 
The restaurant’s entertainment, singer and musician
The locale is intimate, and while not tiny, it’s not large by any means. They offer Live Music, which while very entertaining, can be a bit loud. Try not sitting too close to the musician’s speakers, specially if you’re trying to have a conversation with others in your party. The talented Musician sits and plays by the front next to a small bar area to the right upon entering.
 
While there has been a tremendous growth in Peruvian restaurants popping up all over Miami and the Kendall area, don’t miss trying this one, you’ll be sure to keep coming back for more.
Some of the Peruvian inspired wall decor
For Special Events, like Mother’s Day, they offer a set price Menu with everything included.
El Chamán also offers catering which you can check out on their website at: http://www.elchaman.com
 
El Chamán Peruvian Cuisine is located at 14241 SW 42 Street, Miami, FL 33175
Call for Reservations at: 305-229-5133