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Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Taste of Italy and France in Florida

As an addendum to the previous post on Florida, I wanted to add some non-Latin American options in case one has had one too many goat stews, plantains, frijoles or arroz con mariscos.

We stumbled into La Gastronomia in Coral Gables near a trendy area with expensive restaurants that were highly rated such as Cacao and Ortanique on the Mile. We didn't want to pay up to $44 for a steak entree, so headed into this Italian joint that was modestly priced.

I liked the pizza at La Gastronomia that was light and thin, without a blob of cheese dripping all over it. Pizza is its specialty and the brick oven by the entrance greets visitors with the comforting aromas of baking crust, cheese, tomatoes and basil. The artichoke pizza was simple and tasty. The pastas were less impressive. Neither the pancetta bits nor the egg and cream-based sauce added anything special to the carbonara.

Sticking to the Italian theme, we ventured a few days later to South Florida's Hollywood near Ft. Lauderdale and found a decent gelato place. La Paciugo serves an array of gelatos and sorbets, perfect following a heavy meal. It wasn't as good as Mondo Gelato in Vancouver, but it certainly hit the spot in Florida's tropical weather.

I had the raspberry, papaya and mango sorbet combination, which was refreshing to the palate. The papaya had the weakest flavor and raspberry had the strongest. Other creamier gelato flavors were ok but not to die for. More importantly, it didn't carry my favorite flavors such as gianduja(chocolate hazelnut) or hazelnut.

Next stop: South Beach. I really liked the art-deco buildings peppered throughout the bustling corridors of South Beach. I thought they added a unique touch to the otherwise fairly generic beach-front walkway (Third Street Promenade, anyone?).

While walking around EspaƱola Way, a pedestrian street near the main strip, we came across something resembling a Parisian oasis. A La Folie (being crazy about something) is a charming, quaint French cafe with outdoor seating at the end of the street that looked oblivious to the throngs of people and shops only a few blocks away. It was a perfect little haven for a break from the crowds.

The menu offered everything from crepes and quiche to croque-monsieur sandwiches. The pate sandwich on fresh baguette was very good. It came with a small salad and cornichon (baby pickles), which complemented the potentially heavy sandwich had it stood on its own. The pea soup was a bit too creamy and heavy, and I'm usually not one to shy away from any of those traits. The creaminess was simply overpowering any hint of pea flavor, which is not a good thing.

The service was decidedly French, complete with waiters responding in French regardless of the language in which the question was posed. "I'd like the pea soup." "Tres bien!" "The check please." "Bien sur!" Allez Les Bleus!

The quiche lorraine was a disappointment. The crust was too hard and didn't have a soft texture inside. It was more like a pecan pie gone wrong.

Note: this isn't the best place to call a cab from if you have a flight to catch. A woman adjacent to us waited for over an hour for a cab to find the hideaway and was probably late for her flight.

La Gastronomia
127 Giralda Avenue (near Miracle Mile)
Coral Gables, FL 33134-5208
(305) 448-8599

2001 Harrison Street
Hollywood, FL 33020-5019
(954) 616-1664

A La Folie
526 EspaƱola Way
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 538-4484


JOY said...

Gosh everything looks SOOO tasty! I LOVE sorbet! It's my favourite!

omurice said...

I also recommend La Gastronomia for an affordable Coral Gables option. The carbonara sauce is decent.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Florida sounds like gastronomic heaven! Wanted to make one correction for the future: it's a dint on the jade as we would say in konglish.
I think we say allez les Bleus (rationale being there are many players in the team...)

persimmongirl said...

in my lactose-intolerant old age, i cannot eat gelato anymore but i will have to try the sorbetto if i make my way to miami...