People tell me it’s my fault, but I swear to you she was born that way. How else does one explain an 18-month old pushing away the apple juice, the milk, heck, the chocolate milk, and insisting, sorry, demanding, the Perrier?
“No puede ser,” stunned friends visiting our Florida home from Venezuela would comment as they watched my daughter’s plump fingers clasp the bottle and chug chug chug the fizzy imported content in one gulp.
“Why not a jugo de guayaba or a merengada de cambur?“worried relatives would suggest, reminding me of all the fresh guava juices and banana milkshakes I grew up on in Caracas.
My daughter would have none of that. She’d only have Perrier. Which meant Husband and I would make many visits to Costco, where one could most affordably buy it by the caseload.
I’ll admit, there was a distorted sense of pride in this newly-forming upscale palate. But of course, as things that are newly-forming tend to do, it grew stronger and, hmmm, more upscale.
Soon she discovered prosciutto. And not just any prosciutto, prosciutto di Parma. Because what’s a mother to do but only give her daughter the best? After that, it was foie gras. Foie gras in any shape or form: pan seared, torchon, terrine. As long as there was an endless supply, our toddler was happy.
“Remember the foie gras we served at our wedding,” Husband beamed, nudging me at a dimly light, quiet restaurant where even seasoned waiters were in awe of their young guest’s sophisticated taste. Our daughter sat focused and content, gobbling her serving and then mine before waiting eagerly for the grilled octopus that came next.
So…maybe we are a bit to blame. Some may call us enablers. We managed, oh heck, okay, bragged about it at playdates (“no, she hates peanut butter and jelly, but, by golly, give her quail eggs and she won’t stop eating!”)
It was only a matter of time before my daughter discovered caviar. She loved the whole prep work involved: mincing up hard boiled eggs and onion and serving them in separate bowls with tiny mother of pearl spoons. The baby toasts bowled her over as did the blini, Russian pancakes with which the delicacy is traditionally served. But after trying out all the accompaniments, she did what she always does, went straight for the good stuff, quietly pulling the tin of caviar closer to her and double-timing the scoops, working rather proficiently to snag the last roe.
She’s eighteen now and those habits haven’t changed a bit. If anything, she’s developed a keener radar to the more expensive tastes in life, something her father and I can’t help but glow with pride over, even if our wallets may keep getting skinnier.
National Caviar Day is this Tuesday, July 18th, and as a tribute some of Miami’s hotspots are celebrating the day with specials for those with fancy tastes. Seaspice will be offering Hokkaido Scallop Tartare on a bed of crispy bamboo rice topped with Ossetra caviar ($24), LaMuse Café , housed inside the chic Avant Gallery, is upping an American comfort classic with their Dora’s Deviled Eggs with Caviar ($18). If you want to people-watch and eat like a celeb, head over to Villa Azur for modestly-priced caviar specials such as lobster rolls: scallions, shallots, chives, dice radish, mayonnaise, yuzu sauce and finished with Kaluga caviar ($25).
I should have known the evening could not go wrong just from the waiter’s smile. It held a certain sparkle, a certain warmth, and a certain familiarity that instantly made me feel understood and well taken care of. And once the waiter greeted my husband and I with a gentle hello I knew instantly why I felt so happy:
“Are you from Morocco?” I pounced, throwing him slightly off guard.
“Why, yes,” he offered, his eyes beaming with joy. “You know Morocco?”
“I was just there last month,” I offered excitedly, binding us in an unspoken camaraderie of a country whose breath-taking landscape and warm-spirited people has a lifelong impact on those lucky enough to experience it.
Now I know this had absolutely nothing to do with the meal I was about to savor at The Blue Door Restaurant in the Delano Hotel, but as Hafid (for I insisted we go by first names now) offered up some sparkling water, delightful assortment of rolls, and the wine list, I chose to rest upon my superstitious Latin roots and decided this meant something magical was bound to happen. Fate and Hafid did not steer me wrong. My dinner at Blue Door Restaurant in the Delano Hotel was indeed a memorable one.
The experience began at the entrance of the über chic Delano Hotel when my husband and I entered a different dimension through a sweeping corridor filled with billowing white drapes on either side. Beautiful people lounged in an eclectic array of furniture, sipping drinks, eating sushi or just staring at each other. Whatever they were doing, they seemed worry-free and I liked their attitude. We reached our coveted destination at the end of the corridor and were greeted by a friendly hostess who offered us the choice of sitting inside or out. Given that it was an uncomfortably muggy February evening (sorry Nebraskans!) we opted to eat indoors. That was the first of many choices that paid off. The room was a combination of modern, clean lines with a hint of vintage. Celeste drapes hung from ceiling to floor framing the dining area that showcased a fabulous glass table as its centerpiece. The floor was covered in the same blue carpet, making the whole place feel, well, blue, but in a cool, calm, and collected way.
Blue Door has too many tempting dishes to offer so we put ourselves in the hands of our trusted Hafid and were not disappointed. The Caramelized Octopus appetizer presented itself tenderly grilled and resting gingerly on a vinaigrette-based potato salad speckled with parsley and plump black olives, giving it a sophisticated Mediterranean twist. The octopus was perfectly prepared: slightly charred on the outside and melt-in-your mouth tender on the inside. If anyone has had the misfortune of partaking in an improperly cooked octopus, your taste buds will surely celebrate this dish, as it was just right!
As exquisite as it was, it had serious competition with the appetizer my husband chose: Scallops a la Plancha. Believe me, I was keeping score as to who got the better dish, and this was a close one. Two plump scallops drizzled in brown butter with a touch of garlic, lemon, parsley and pine nuts is already a winning combination. Now match it up with a butternut puree and you’ve got sheer heaven. Believe me, folks, my husband is a talker, a real talker, and when Hafid placed this dish in front of him and he began to eat he became real, real quiet. I think his eyes almost rolled to the back of his head. And then I got nervous because I knew, if I didn’t act fast there would not be any scallops left to sample. Chef Claude Troisgros is a clever man pairing scallops, butternut, and brown butter. Even more clever to know how to quiet a talker.
For our main dishes we ordered the chef’s recommendations: Homard Banana and Loup Cajou. We argued quietly as to who would have Homard and who would have Loup, merely because we were several glasses of wine down and enjoyed the way the words rolled off our tongues. I offered myself as guinea pig for the Homard Banana, a sleek combo of roasted Maine lobster, caramelized banana, brown butter, and cilantro-lime sauce (I know, I know, I am such a good sport!) and Husband went for the Loup Cajou: pan-seared Chilean seabass, heart of palm, soy glazed cashew nuts, garlic, lime and fresh herbs. For those of you hesitating to order a highly overfished choice, be happy to learn that the menu responsibly states they are proud to serve sustainable Chilean seabass. Another reason to love Blue Door.
Blue Door offers a generous array of side dishes: on our visit we counted ten! All sounded enticing so narrowing it down to three was a tough call, but we managed, requesting the warm asparagus, truffled potato puree and the truffled potato gaufrettes. (And no, there is no such thing as truffle overkill in my book.)
The lobster was served out of its shell resting on the caramelized bananas and drizzled with a tangy sorrel sauce. Now I love bananas. I eat them all the time. I cook with them all the time, make a killer banana cake, actually. I’ve never paired them with lobster and admit to being intrigued at the combination. Will it work? Will it be too much? Husband was skeptical. He is an adventurer in life: jumps out of planes, travels the world and speaks numerous languages, but somehow, the idea of lobster and banana made him nervous. So I did him the favor and had the first bite. And the second. And the third. Quite frankly, I did not want to share this dish, it was too good. It worked perfectly, marvelously.
“This dude is a genius!” I shouted mid-chew, catching the curious eye of several fellow diners.
Husband was very quiet again and I knew it could only mean one thing: he was too engrossed in his own dish to even acknowledge me. If this would have been a first date it would have been a fiasco. We were paying far too much attention to our food than to each other.
“How’s yours?” I inquired, getting a glare from across the table. Apparently I was interrupting something.
“Amazing,” he mustered, sending a forkful my way. When I tasted it I forgave him for rudely ignoring me. The seabass was so plump and moist it felt ethereal. It rested upon grilled heart of palms that brushed with cashew nuts sautéd in soy sauce. The yin yang was all over the place on this dish: sweet and salty, buttery and crunchy: my mouth exploded with opposites as my very protective husband slowly dragged his plate closer to him. And closer. Well we know where his loyalty lies.
By dessert we made up.
“Let’s share,” we voiced in unison when presented with the dessert menu.
Desserts are really too good to narrow down to one, so we decided on three. Wanting to cover a wide spectrum of sweetness, we opted for something tangy (CrêpesPassion), something classic (Floating Island) and, of course, something sinfully chocolate (Chocopistachio.)
The Crêpes Passion consisted of a passion fruit pancake/crêpe, and as any Venezuelan can tell you, we are serious about our passion fruit desserts: from the street vendor’s parchita slush to the most elaborate passion fruit mousse cake. Blue Door gets the passion fruit sauce just the right balance of tart and sweet, however I struggled with its pancake/crêpe: not quite one or the other.
Floating Islands was my mother’s masterpiece dessert when I was growing up, so I am always a tough judge when it comes to that one. The vanilla custard and meringue were delicious: a lovely dance of velvety cream and beautifully airy poached egg whites. The top was drizzled with sliced almonds and a sweet caramel sauce, which was good, but I longed for my mother’s candied caramel version whose added texture works marvels with this dessert.
Our chocolate dessert (melted bitter sweet chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream) offered up a refreshing contrast between the nutty green ice cream and the warm cake but a notch up on the bitter sweet chocolate would have brought no complaints from our table.
Our evening didn’t end with our three desserts. We felt the need to linger and become one with the hip crowd, which by this hour was going full throttle. As we sipped the last bit of our wine, Hafid presented us with the house coffee, which proved to be the right balance of aromatic and strong. For more of a punch we could have picked some after dinner shots with promising names of Pick-Me-Up and Red Dragon, but, we are wimps when it comes to balancing Red Bull floaters with sake, so we stuck to our brew and good conversation to keep us stimulated.
The truth is I didn’t want to leave. And even when the bill came, I wasn’t that spooked. Sure, it was not cheap, but the whole evening, from the dramatic entrance to the smooth service to the daring food was upscale and worth every penny.