• Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Big Easy Wine Bar & Grill

    What:

    An adventurous Friday night dinner at the best South African restaurant in Miami —”Big Easy” — inside Brickell City Centre, downtown Miami.

    Why:

    If you think “Big Easy” is a New Orleans type of eatery, think again.

    It’s SOUTH AFRICAN…

    And named after professional golfer, Ernie Els, who was bequeathed the nickname, “Big Easy,” because of his smooth golf swing, but that’s not all…

    Somewhere during his massive rise to fame and fortune, the world-prominent golfer developed an unadulterated love affair with wine and food.

    Which is why his creative partnership with “Big Easy” (located on the third floor of Brickell City Centre) is a total no-brainer or as the kids say, a “Hole in One” — sorry, couldn’t resist a good golf pun. 😀

    The menu, which is authentic South African cuisine, is chock-full of unique and interesting choices, easily reflecting the heart and soul of the “Rainbow Nation.”

    With romantic lighting, rustic decor and a beautiful bar, you’ll feel transported to an earthier place like, say, Johannesburg, where Ernie happens to be from.

    Because of the restaurant’s eclectic backdrop, it was hard picking the perfect place to start my Spotlight experience. I settled on their moody lounge, featuring exposed brick walls, comfy low-sitting sofas and bright green throw pillows.

    My first drink of the night, a “White Lightning” — was something I’d heard of but never tasted. In England, it’s more of a cider/moonshine thing; in South Africa, it’s called firewater (made with Leblon Cachaca rum, ginger, cucumber and mint.) This drink definitely packs a powerful yet refreshing punch. If you’re adventurous, try it, you’ll like it.

    Next, I swigged on a “Smoking Barrel” — which was thick, bawdy and (of course) smokey. I loved its presentation (made with Big Easy Red, Jura whiskey, Clove and Sandeman Ruby Port.) I’m still trying to figure out how they catch smoke in a glass and serve it. It’s definitely keen bartending chemistry. I also tried the mysterious and sultry, “Black Magic” (with vodka and blackberry.) It’s one of those drinks that makes you feel like you’re in on a secret when you’re partaking.

    Instead of another cocktail, the staff suggested I try something from their extensive wine list and why not? Mr. Els, who makes his own adult grape juice at his vineyards east of Cape Town in Stellenbosch, has a lot to choose from.

    I sipped on a spicy bold red blend, which easily complemented my first appetizer, “Cowboy Candy” A.K.A Pork Belly ‘Lollipops”.

    What’s not to love about braai (roasted meat) smothered in barbecue sauce with a rich bacon flavor? Hello, lovah. This was my favorite of the night.

    The “Mini Crab Cakes” were tasty, too (served with apple, slaw and curry aioli.) I’m a sucker for “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “Big Easy” does em’ just right, topped with goat cheese and a sweet tomato chutney.

    If you prefer something healthier, the “Caesar Salad” is excellent (made with baby romaine, blistered tomatoes and white anchovies.) I’m a snob when it comes to this kind of salad because it’s easy to do wrong and hard to do RIGHT. This Caesar was fresh, well-balanced dressing-wise and beautiful.

    I love being a food explorer and the “Angry Duck Curry” was something I’d never tried before. It was spicy and welcoming, with tender duck breast, red madras curry and yummy basmati rice.

    If you enjoy white fish, the African spice-crusted “Corvina” is a great choice. Light and sweet, it’ll leave you wanting more. It’s served on a bountiful bed of risotto verde, which I loved.

    Despite doing the food blog for some time now, I’ve never had the privilege of tasting Tomahawk
    steak. At “Big Easy” they serve “Dry-Aged Tomahawk Chop” (the mother of all steaks!) When they wheeled it out (yes, I said wheeled it out,) I squealed like a kid in a candy store. MAN!! It was BIG and smelled ridiculously amazing.

    Because of its gi-normous-ness, it’s perfect for sharing, plus it comes with two sides (I recommend the Brussel sprouts and roasted cauliflower.) I really enjoyed how they serve the steak with a personal table presentation, slicing it right in front of you. The meat itself was freaking fantastic: tender, juicy and one of the best thing’s I’ve ever tasted. Definitely, one of my new “Favorite Things”.

    If you know anything about South African culture, you know how important a good barbecue, which they call Braai, truly is. The “Big Easy Braai” encompasses all the flavors of the popular custom, served with South African farmer’s sausage, a 12-ounce Top Sirloin, double lamb chops and Nigerian prawns (plus two sides.) Be still my beating heart. This is another shareable plate.

    The Nigerian Prawns, btw, were the bomb-dot-com. I like the diversity of the Braai because it has a little bit of everything: there’s something to keep everyone at the table happy and who doesn’t like that?

    After what seemed like a feast fit for a KING, I tasted two decadent desserts: “Nutella Bread Pudding” and “Apple Strudel” both excellent and served with vanilla ice cream.

    I’d love to give you all the juicy ingredients, but the desserts weren’t on the menu and it’s worth throwing caution to the wind and going with your server’s suggestion.

    If you long for a different kind of experience, with creative/high quality food and great drinks,”Big Easy,” isn’t just “par for the course”, it’s ready to serve you the South African way and that’s why it’s one of my Favorite Things.

    When:

    Sunday-Thursday: 11:30am-11:00pm
    Friday-Saturday: 11:30pm-Midnight

    Where:

    Big Easy
    Brickell City Centre
    701 S. Miami Avenue, Suite 339A
    Miami, Florida 33131

    www.bigeasy.miami

    Be Social:
    IG: @bigeasymiami
    FB: @BigEasyMiami

    If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.African Proverb
    James Woodley Photography
    Styling: Jackie Kay
    Wardrobe & Accessories: www.Vchicstore.com
    Hair & Make-up: Odett Hernandez
    Digital Editor: Jessie Neft-Swinger
    Editor: Matthew “BasMatty” Auerbach
  • Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    Life is Beautiful

    What:

    A day of shopping and playing dress-up at the beautiful bohemian lifestyle boutique, “Polished Coconut,” where I was reminded that “Life is Beautiful” even when it doesn’t feel that way.

    Why:

    Sometimes, I feel like I’m losing my mind and I don’t say that lightly.

    With the confusing state of our government, the aggressive nature of living in a big city and how, last Wednesday night, my entire world was almost ripped apart after 3 aggressive UNLEASHED Rottweilers attacked my loving boyfriend, James and sweet dog, Rigby.

    It was 24 hours of pure terror and chaos. There was blood everywhere, I was hysterical (which is not good in an emergency situation) and I felt very much alone…

    Making my way to the ER, getting to the doggie hospital, coping with their injuries and figuring out the best line of treatment for both James and Rigby.

    I’m good at being a sick person (most of you know my fight with GBS) but trauma like this, it’s different. It’s raw, frightening and rips you apart in an instant.

    After the initial attack, there’s the aftermath: the medicine, the bandages, the emotional wounds and then there’s that “thing” waiting on you. It’s lingering in the back of your mind, but you can’t seem to wrap your head around it — normal, everyday life.

    Work was waiting for me. The blog was waiting for me. Television doesn’t stop, social media doesn’t stop and the internet doesn’t stop. Yet sometimes, you HAVE to stop because life gives you NO OTHER CHOICE.

    Even though I wasn’t the one attacked, even though it wasn’t my flesh ripped apart, my body thrashed about; it felt that way. I knew I had to get myself together.

    After a few days, despite feeling liking a zombie, there I was, getting my hair and make-up done for work, making sure my life – our life – wasn’t in jeopardy of really going off the deep end.

    I showed up at Polished Coconut in Coconut Grove on time and ready for the day. That’s when “Life is Beautiful” happened…

    When you walk into the boutique, it’s this intoxicating mix of earthy glamour and decadent designs. Every corner is curated with something undeniably eye-catching and different, but that’s not what makes it beautiful…

    It’s Alicia Kossick, the store’s owner, who’s taken her love of fashion and turned it into a socially responsible lifestyle brand.

    She doesn’t just go around the world shopping to bring you the unique and unusual; she works with about 200 artisans, who all happen to be WOMEN. And…

    Those artisans don’t just handcraft clothing, jewelry and home accessories to preserve their culture, they’re helping sustain a viable local economy, allowing South Floridians to shop small and in turn, strengthening our own community (all while supporting women.)

    “Polished Coconut” is warm, welcoming and you’ll get lost in discovery, only to be brought back to reality by Scarlett, the store’s official doggie mascot, who is more than happy to accompany you during your eclectic treasure hunt.

    During a time when our country seems a bit lost, our city is riddled with crime and less compassion and three Rottweilers can roam unleashed, it’s good to know there are people out there like Alicia, who are consciously making the world a better place by caring, creating jobs and giving back to the community.

    Don’t miss Deco Drive tonight at 7:30/11:30pm as we go inside “Polished Coconut” to show you how visually amazing it is; you’ll meet Alicia, too. I’m sure you’ll fall in love just like I did, because “Life is Beautiful” should be everyone’s favorite thing.

    PS-James and Rigby are feeling better. The healing is slow, but we’re all recovering, one day at a time.

    Where:

    Polished Coconut
    3444 Main Highway
    Coconut Grove 33133

    When:

    Monday-Saturday: 11am-6pm
    Sunday: 12-5pm

    Be social:
    IG: @PolishedCoconut
    FB: @PolishedCoconut
    Twitter: @PolishedCoconut

    www.PolishedCoconut.com

    A strong woman looks a challenge in the eye and gives it a wink.Gina Carey
    Photographer: James Woodley Photography
    Jewelry, Clothing & Styling: Polished Coconut
    Blue pom-pom heels by #BCBGSouthBeach, wrap gladiator sandal by #ViaCapri34 and sparkly sneakers by #PolishedCoconut
    Hair & Make-up: Odett Hernandez
    Digital Editor: Jessie Neft-Swinger
    Editor: Matthew “James/Rigby” Auerbach
  • Shireen’s Spotlight: Café Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    Shireen’s Spotlight: Cafe Roval

    What:

    Sunday brunch at Café Roval, one of the most enchanting restaurants in South Florida — and perfect for a Mother’s Day celebration.

    Why:

    Captivating & beautiful: Café Roval is one of the most magical and romantic restaurants I’ve seen in a long time.

    When I first walked into its beautiful back garden (which is how you enter the eatery,) I was completely blown away.

    Was I really still in Miami and what did this beguiling building used to be? I’ll get to that in a minute, but first…

    Café Roval’s outside patio easily spills into a massive ode to Mother Nature with a pretty pond, a wide scenic pathway and eye-popping palm trees lining the property.

    I especially love the dining tables speckled throughout the garden, offering up a real sense of intimacy (which is hard to find in a big city restaurant.)

    Inside, the greenery gives way to dark wood, moody lighting and interesting artwork. Even the bar has its own awe-inspiring personality, suggesting its just stepped out of the pages of a fancy magazine like, say, Architectural Digest.

    The walls, which are made out of a blanched coral-rock, hint at the building’s rustic beginnings. Originally built in the 20’s, it served as a pump house, providing fresh water to what’s now known as MIMO.

    Over the years, it’s been turned into a bit of everything: a private home, a vagabond hang-out and a beauty salon.

    Now, thanks to the keen eye of prominent restaurateur, Mark Soyka (yes, of Soyka Restaurant fame, which is in the same area,) Café Roval is one of Miami’s newest hot spots; one I’ve been dying to try. With that said…

    I started Spotlight with a gorgeous craft of crisp & delicious “White Sangria” made with a medley of fresh fruit. It was the perfect accoutrement to go along with the sparkling weather.

    BTW…Café Roval doesn’t serve hard liquor, but you’d never know it by their craft cocktails, which are wine-based.

    The “Shrub Fizz” is the perfect example, made with house-made shrub, Mionetto Prosecco and your choice of one of the following: fig cinnamon, strawberry balsamic, celery, raspberry, blueberry or blackberry.

    I went with the raspberry (which came with the slightest speckling of brown sugar.) This drink is definitely garden-party worthy and the fizziness was fabulous.

    I was also curious about…”It Became Bloody Mary” without the vodka (with cilantro, radish, lime, tabasco, smoke agave reduction, house-made tomato juice,) it gets an A+ for originality (they also serve beer and sake.)

    If you’re a sucker for a good “Eggs Benedict”, the “Lobster” will NOT disappoint (made with local eggs, watercress, asparagus and lemon hollandaise.) This plate wasn’t just pretty, it was beyond pleasing to the palette and hands-down my favorite. Until I tasted the “Short Rib Grilled Cheese”…. Yum!

    My photographer, James, fawned over it, too. A generous helping of short rib is served on thick country toast with smoked cheddar, field greens and balsamic fig dressing.

    Just writing about it makes me wanna run back to the restaurant to order one for the memory and another for the road. Lol. Yeah, it’s THAT good.

    My stylist, Jackie, was smitten with the deliciously decadent “Tres Leches Pancakes” (garnished with pecans, caramel and tres leches sauce.) Also on the sweet side, “Roval French Toast” (made with Brioche, fresh berries, caramel, sea salt butter and pure maple syrup.) You can add applewood bacon or artisanal breakfast sausage.

    Although I didn’t taste the “Heirloom Tomato” salad (made with feta, basil and fig balsamic vinaigrette,) it was too gorgeous to not take a photo. In fact, everything about Café Roval is gorgeous. It’s all photo-worthy so, if you have good social media game, you’re gonna go crazy with your camera.

    Brunching at Café Roval is such a special experience, from the breathtaking scenery to the incredible food, you won’t be disappointed and that’s why it’s one of my favorite things.

    Where:

    Café Roval
    5808 NE 4th Ct.
    Miami, FL. 33137

    (There’s Valet on property and street parking, too.)

    When:

    Monday & Tuesday: 5pm-10pm
    Wednesday-Saturday: 5pm-12am
    Sunday Brunch: 11am-3pm & Dinner: 5-10pm

    Be Social:
    IG: @caferoval
    FB: @caferoval
    Twitter: @caferoval

    Make a reservation:
    www.caferoval.com
    786-953-7850

    Wine is sunlight, held together by water.Galileo Galilei
    James Woodley Photography
    Styling & Producer Assist: Jackie Kay
    Wardrobe & Accessories: www.Vchicstore.com
    Hair & Make-up: Odett Hernandez
    Digital Editor: Jessie Neft-Swinger
    Editor: Matthew “Gorgeous” Auerbach