Tuesday, April 6, 2010

seasons 52, florida room & primanti brothers. top night.

what's better than good food? that's easy. enjoying it with good company. this past saturday night's adventure is better told with my two friends who accompanied me.

the unusual suspects:
jessica brager - foodie/fashionista/friend-to-the-end

michael hidalgo - foodie/dj/way too literal for his own good/superstar

the night started off at seasons 52 in ft. lauderdale. you know you're excited for dinner when the entire car ride to the restaurant consists of bantering about what to order when you get there. hidalgo is on a mission to eat something different on the menu everytime he visits and brager can't stop talking about the reuben flatbread. i'm just hungry.

first order: classic reuben. i've already blogged about seasons 52 and how every item on their menu is less than 475 calories. the reuben is on their seasonal menu, with about 12-14 items that change per season. it was pretty thrilling to read that the reuben flatbread was topped with sauerkraut, caraway, lean corn beef + melted swiss cheese and i didn't have to feel an ounce of guilt (they don't list thousand island dressing- but my tastebuds don't lie.) the corn beef is perfectly seasoned and the combination of sauerkraut and cheese is divine. so light yet so, so good. we also ordered the caramelized crab and shrimp stuffed mushrooms. this was my second go at the appetizer and after trying it again, i decided that as much as i love the idea of a dish like this - it's not my favorite flavor profile.

second order: tuna crunch salad for brager, grouper fresh from the gulf coast over roasted spring vegetables and shrimp rissoto for hidalgo and the tamarind-glazed salmon salad for me. please do not let our sophisticated palates intimidate you. (joking) everything was incredibly light. still on the under than 475 calories page. i really enjoyed my salmon with the tamarind glaze and brager's salad had both seared tuna and tuna tartare with bits of pineapple and almonds. both topped with a complimentary vinaigrette and equally satisfying. mr. superstar's grouper over risotto was a stellar duet and i just kept wishing i stole some more off his plate. probably because it had more carbs. we managed to hit up five plates and still feel pretty good about ourselves.

third order: dessert. besides the fact that seasons 52 uses ingredients that follow each season (hence the name with the added 52 weeks in a year) their mini-dessert indulgences are quite popular and emulated by several other dining establishments. they are tiny but packed with all the goodness one can imagine in their dessert. our superb waiter brought out 9 choices- ranging from key lime pie, mocha macchiato, belgian chocolate rocky road and fresh fruit cheesecake. brager's eyes were zoned in on the pecan pie with vanilla mousse (heart pounding and all) but i jumped for the banana cream pie and she trusted my instincts and tried it too. hidalgo jumped on the banana wagon as well. i absolutely loved all 3.5 bites i got out of it but i think brager regretted not going pecan.

no loosening of belts and unbuttoning of pants. just happy conversations over simple, refined and delicious food.

I must say Saturday night was quite exceptional. Between the company of two of my closest friends, great food, fabulous drinks, music and dancing, it was a delicious treat after a long week.

First stop of the night: Seasons 52
 If you have never been to this place before, do yourself a giant favor and GO! If you would like to leave without spending a fortune, skip the alcohol. The meal becomes a little pricey, but can be managed if you have good people to share with. The menu is seasonal, hence the name. So, of course we like to try whatever the latest and greatest special options are. One of my fav appetizers to start off with is one of the flatbreads. The current special is the Reuben Flatbread. It is seriously heaven on earth. I love a good reuben sandwich on rye from a deli, but what I love even more, is reuben pizza on a very thin and crispy flatbread! YUM!!!

We also tried the crab and shrimp stuffed mushrooms appetizer. I rate this a 5 out of 10. I am pretty sure Mike will disagree with me on this, but I know Cheema is totally on my page, and if you ask me, girls know best.

For our main dishes, Cheems and I decided to go splitsies on a couple salads. Tuna Crunch Salad: seared tuna and tuna tartar with mixed greens, roasted peppers, and pineapple. Also, the Tamarind Glazed Salmon Salad: Salmon, other stuff that I can't remember...cause I don't think it was too memorable...maybe some nuts or something and lettuce. Very good for salads, but hey, they're still salads!

What was the grand finale to this amazing dinner you ask? Shot glass desserts of course!! All three of us got banana cream pie. BIG MISTAKE! I should've known better. Once a pecan pie addict, always a pecan pie addict. I swear I will never cheat on my pecan pie again!

recently had the chance to catch up with my good friends Jessica & Cheemama this passed Saturday night. We met up at one of my favorite restaurants in SoFla, Seasons 52. Although they are known for their infamous low-cal meals, do not let this deter you from their amazing selection.
 First course was their new special, a Reuban Flatbread that had such an authentic taste, I had to go back for seconds. Pastrami, sauerkraut , and russian dressing sat upon this thin crisp pizza that didn’t stand a chance surviving the remainder of our dinner.
 Next course was their crab and shrimp stuffed mushroom appetizer, which is served in a tray similar to an escargot presentation. I know your probably thinking how could it get any better, well they bake it in cheese. Garnished with a slice of soft bread made it perfect for dipping. This is personally one of my favorite starters, definitely recommended.

For my main entrée I had the grouper special, which was served over a shrimp risotto, and fresh seasonal vegetables. The fish was cooked perfect and the risotto was a delicious compliment to the dish. And because Seasons 52 follows one main rule at their establishments (No dish is above 475 calories), there is no need to feel guilty or to become overstuffed.

Although I could have stopped there, whenever you visit Seasons 52, you are almost forced to submit to their amazing indulgence desserts. A shot glass filled to the brim of your guiltiest pleasures. This time around, I went with a new selection, the Banana Cream Pie. The best part about this was that they actually use real banana bread. What a difference this made to stand out over its competitors. I’m sure I already pulled you in to sit down at this outstanding dine-in, but the fact that we were able to enjoy all this for simply thirty-five dollars per person made it all worthwhile.

next stop was the florida room at the delano hotel. after a little convincing, we managed to make it to south beach in short time and hidalgo scored the master of all parking spots just a few blocks away and all without touching the wallet (this does not happen often in sobe.) while waiting to get a drink by the bar we decided to skim through their cocktail menu and stumbled onto the multitude of concoctions and the little kids in us came out to play. there was no way we were going to do anything standard after reading some of those items. bartenders don't work at the florida room. these are master mixologists who approach the art of cocktail making to a whole other level.

i ordered the beach bison - bison grass vodka, apple cider, aperol, lemon juice and topped with orange zest. apparently while talking to another friend i missed the fire presentation that came along the hefty $16 drink. hidalgo ordered the moscow mule - a simple combo of vodka, lime juice, honey + ginger beer and all served in a copper mug. somebody needed to feel like the man in the group. i really wish i remembered the name and most of the ingredients in bragers drink because it was refreshing and completely different for a drink on a night out. the star player was cucumber and very little vodka - but i'm clueless else wise. my drink was mostly sweet and a tad bit sour and hildalgo's was well - manly.

after one too many dance offs with european tourists, dance offs with one another and maybe one or two more cocktails... we were in high spirits.

So, after dinner, Cheema convinced Hidalgo and I that it would be a fab idea to go down to Miami and hit up Florida room for a couple drinks. Great idea indeed. The master mixologist bartenders at this joint are impressive. They use every ingredient you could imagine to create masterful, creative, beautiful cocktails. The "Moscow Mule" in the special copper mug was the coolest. Hidalgo definitely won the category for best drink order. I got a cucumber/lime/vodka concoction that was $16 and tasted like a delicious little morning beverage, NOT an alcoholic drink. So, of course I being money conscious thought hey, let's try a vodka soda. That was $15. Slowly but surely, my dinner/drinks are turning into a $100 night :( " Small price to pay to the party gods!" (20 bucks for whoever knows who said that and in what movie)

The DJ at florida room was a girl and she was pretty effing awesome. Don't know her name, but I kind of decided I'd like to be her when I grow up. Also, always a blast to watch the "out-of-towners" tearing up the dancefloor in a Napolean Dynamite-esq sort of way.

After dinner we decided to hit one of Miami’s hottest hipster spots, The Florida Room at the Delano hotel. The coolest thing about this place is probably their awesome selection of mixology beverages. The first thing you notice when you approach the bar would be the large supply of fresh fruits that sit atop the counter. My selection was the Moscow Mule, an awesome concoction of vodka, muddled mint, lime, honey, topped off with ginger beer. Something that makes this refreshing drink shine (literally) was the custom copper mug it was served in. At sixteen bucks per drink, you definitely get to taste some of the finest blends of alcohol and fresh fruit Miami can offer.

really didn't think the night could get any better. but i often speak too soon. they both went on and on about primanti brothers in ft. lauderdale (sublocation to the original in pittsburgh) and how they couldn't believe i've never been. and if there's one thing i revel in the most - is a "i can't believe you've never been there" opportunity. so the three of us made it back to ft. lauderdale beach where i allowed dj dutch to direct me through the menu. brages already knew she wanted pizza (she's actually the most decisive libra i've ever met.)

although the pitts burger is highly recommended for first timegoers, i wasn't too ready for that kind of lashing. hidalgo and i went back and forth over the double egg and cheese sandwich and the pastrami sandwich. pastrami won - and i'm glad it did. albeit that the time was near 3am, i'm pretty sure i would have loved this bad boy around 8am for breakfast. the pastrami was flavored just right and toppled with cole slaw, provolone cheese, french fries sandwiched with sweet italian bread. high five hidalgo. we split the sandwich and he ordered his own pizza. so manly.brager feasted on her pepperoni pizza and i'm pretty sure the lack of guilt we all felt earlier at dinner slowly faded away during our final minutes at the 24 hour joint.

look forward to another adventure with these culprits. thank you for a wonderful night.

So, we left Florida Room around 3am and decided we must take Cheema to Primanti Brothers in Ft Lauderdale to pop her Primanti cherry, so to speak. Imagine your favorite sandwich, whether its pastrami, corned beef, cheeseburger, egg and cheese, ham and cheese, or whatever strikes your fancy, with cole slaw, tomato, and french fries in the middle, all piled high on top of beautiful, fresh, perfectly sliced italian bread! These Pittsburgh style sandwiches are AMAZING!

The best thing to do at Primanti is to go in pairs. One person order a slice (the size of a small infant) and one person order a sandwich and share the delciousness of a slice of pizza and a french fry sandwich. If there is an odd number, pick the person you like the least and make them order for two even if they say they can only handle one food item.

Not only are the sandwiches and pizza amazing, it is one of the cheapest places to find great entertainment! This place brings in some of south florida's finest creatures. For example, man in fishnet shirt, black jacket and black pants tucked in combat boots, with a very long pony tail coming from his head and another coming out of his ass. The man literally had a long, black, bushy tail. I am hoping it was fake, but you never can tell sometimes. Primanti Brothers is the perfect ending to any night out in south FL.
The end.
-Friend and supporter to the master food blogger and Mario Lopez lover, S Cheems Cheemama

Finishing up the night wasn’t easy but we were able to make it back to one of my favorite late-night eateries, Primanti Bros.Pizza. This place has been featured all over the Food Network and first got its start in Pittsburgh, PA. The pizza is the ish but what makes this place raise heads are their giant sandwiches piled in coleslaw and french fries. Everything from pastrami to eggs, you can get your favorite deli meats packed with everything. Overall the night was incredible, good food, good drinks, and good people. Definitely a night to be remembered…literally.

Till next time. Your man,

disclaimer: in order to maintian the integrity of the saturday night's overall experience, i did not change anything from both jb's and mh's stories. but it must be said - i am not a mario lopez lover... ppsssh.