The Cypress Room in Midtown Miami

The Cypress Burger

I had been itching to go to the Cypress Room in Midtown Miami, a new restaurant concept of local favorite and celeb chef Michael Schwartz for some time now. I finally made it for lunch today- the much more affordable alternative to their pricey dinner menu. Lunch was still expensive in my opinion, but it was a lovely relaxed dining experience in an impeccable and elegant small dining room. The Cypress Room is a nice sophisticated addition to the restaurants owned by Chef Michael Schwartz in Miami like Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, Harry’s Pizzeria, and Restaurant Michael Schwartz at the Raleigh in South Beach. The Cypress Room’s service is better than at any of his other restaurants, Michael’s Genuine is especially lacking.

Cypress Room Decor from miamieater.com

 The décor and vibe is a throwback to the roaring 1920s with polished classic American favorites well-executed and beautifully plated. The cool feminine mint green button-tufted booths contrast nicely with the mounted deer heads and glimmering crystal chandeliers. The opposite wall is covered in era black and white photographs each in a straight black frame with white matting. The look is classic yet whimsical with a light red French colonial wall paper marrying the room together.

     Table Setting at The Cypress Room              Bread with Salted Butter

Our server was quiet and barely there with the GM stepping in to offer more bread, do wine service, and pour water in our glasses. Everything was served on dainty mismatching china plates with soft floral patterns. My friend and I both ordered the Lunch Prix Fixe Menu which was totally worth it at $31 for 3 courses. I ordered the Beef Tartare with Truffle Vinaigrette, Pickled Mushroom and Parmesan Crisp (normally listed at $18 under the ‘Appetizers’). She had the crudo of the day with trout roe, radishes, and a green broth that tasted like the color green itself- refreshing and bright. The 2012 Foxen Chenin Blanc from California ($16/glass) was the perfect wine for this dish, bright and crisp, it perfumed out of the glass.

   Beef Tartare at Cypress Room              Daily Crudo at Cypress Room

For the main course I chose The Cypress Burger (listed at $16 and served a la carte) which I read had rave reviews, made of their ground dry-aged Rib Eye (I’m a seriously lover of aged meat so I couldn’t pass this up). The buns are apparently made from dough from Harry’s Pizzeria; they are chewy and soft and hold up well under the hefty juicy patty. The bun was slathered generously with a sweet warm caramelized onion jam and Jasper Hill Landaff cheese melted down the sides pooling on the toasted bun. It was truly delicious and worth every bite. I loved furthermore that the burger was simply dressed letting the flavors of the beef shine. My only complaint is that we didn’t actually order the fries, but their ‘Thrice Cooked Fries’ listed at $8 were brought to the table and we were charged for them. Regardless, they were crispy and thick, and although the portion was not large, everything was very filling.

  Daily Catch with Shrimp and Chorizo Thrice Cooked Fries photo 4 (4)

Wow I can’t believe I got this far without mentioning the delicious bread brought to our table while we waited for our food! It was fresh and warm served with home salted butter. The butter was fabulously salty, like grainy, and spread softly on the loaf. *Sigh* If only I didn’t have such a dear love for carbs- for that I blame my Cuban heritage, Cubans LOVE carbs.

     Sugar in the Raw              Complimentary Macaroons

Although there were two desserts from local talent and master dessert maker and James Beard award finalist Chef Hedy Goldsmith listed on the lunch menu we both chose the chocolate tart with toasted meringue, blackberries and strawberries, pistachio, and a strawberry rhubarb gelato or sorbet. The petit portion was plenty for one person, and I felt myself wanting more meringue! The flavors were subtle and rich. My lunch date loosened her belt as she ordered a macchiato. Sugar came in raw brown and white clumpy balls in a delicate silver serving bowl to the table along with complimentary lemon macaroons. The lemon flavor was more of just a scent, and the creamy filling crept out from underneath the soft puffy meringue crisps. When we polished off these two, the server brought some more despite our protest. We ate them of course and reveled in their delicate flavor.

     Chocolate Tart at Cypress Room

The Cypress Room was refined but maybe even a bit stuffy. It is not an everyday restaurant and it certainly does not have everyday prices, but it was a treat to enjoy the flavors and creations from the chefs. The décor and service charmed, and the burger was damn good. I’d come back just for that next time.

 The Cypress Room

3620 NE 2nd Ave • Miami, FL • 33137 • (305) 520-5197

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Bern’s Steakhouse

When in Tampa go to Bern’s Steakhouse for a classic dining experience. Bern’s is an old-school tried and true Tampa favorite  that is famous for their in-house aged steaks, spectacular desserts, and their massive wine cellar- the largest private wine collection in the United States. Supposedly it takes 2 years of training and paying your dues to become a server here. As you can imagine, the servers are mostly older white men (as in most pricey restaurants) wearing suits looking clean and unhurried. The dining pace is relaxed and refined. Although Bern’s seats around 900 covers on a Friday night (400-500 during weeknights) the ambiance is pleasant and the experience is memorable despite their high volume.

 Dirty Ketel 1 Martini  Menu at Berns  French Onion Soup At Berns

The inside of this windowless massive building looks like an old-fashioned bordello with crushed red velvet, dimmed lighting, and portraits of so-and-so and whatshisname on the long walls. This restaurant is busy, so expect to wait in the large lounge area for 20 to 30 minutes and enjoy a cocktail while waiting for your table. We were celebrating my boyfriend’s graduation and visiting good friends so we went all out: before dinner drinks, a bottle of wine, and a massive steak! My boyfriend and I shared a 30 ounce dry-aged Porterhouse steak for two priced at $100.78. Their menu is lengthy and makes for an informational read if you’re interested (like I am) in learning about cuts of meat. We pored over their incomparable steak menu at home (we were really excited) which lists meat by the cut, aging, and thickness.

        Onion Soup and Spelt Toast       Fresh Chef Salad At Berns

        Sliced Porterhouse       Rib Eye For One

One of the best parts about this place is that it is pretty well-priced for what you get. I wouldn’t recommend ordering appetizers here- although I am sure they are delicious- but an incredible amount of food is included with your entrée price. Each entrée (per person) includes a really small but super delicious homemade French onion soup (no more than 4 ounces) served in small tins with toast and spelt bread. Next up was a fresh chef’s salad with your choice of dressing -I highly recommend the bleu cheese or buttermilk garlic- the citrus vinaigrette did nothing for me. THEN the entrée itself is paired with their vegetable selection of the night which was carrots and cooked greens (I think Swiss chard) AND a loaded baked potato!!! This was a crazy amount of food per person!

  Rows of bottles at Berns Foyer at Bern's  A Dining Room at Berns

The steak was melt-in-your-mouth good. Wonderfully aged and bone-in- a perfectly prepared porterhouse is a real treat, and what I like best about dry-aged steaks is you can order it rare or medium rare and there is absolutely no blood. Regardless- blood doesn’t ick me out, but this might be a selling point for others that are fearful of ordering a steak less than medium or medium-well. After a really lovely dinner with great service, we took a tour of their enormous kitchen. Their kitchen was clean, the staff was professional, and it was neat to see how they organized their various stations.

The wine ‘cellar’ felt as though it was underground although you really just go down a step slightly to a very dim, faintly musty room lined with dark bottles in high rows. Their finest wines under lock and key are nestled in bubble wrap that glowed in the low light. The wine cages had opened boxes and wooden wine crates strewn on the floor. A small percentage of Bern’s giant wine collection is on site, they also own a private wine cellar located across the street from their compound where the trove is stored. Our server popped open a bottle of port from the late 1800s and let us get a whiff of the rare after-dinner that cost a hefty price for a one ounce pour- I believe he said $70- it might’ve been more.

Cozy Dessert Room Table Dessert Menu Phone in Dessert Booth

After your tour of the kitchen and wine cellar they will drop you off at the wide staircase leading to the intimate Harry Waugh Dessert Room. The dessert room is a maze of old wine barrels repurposed into romantic booths each equipped with personalized sound systems and even a telephone that you can pick up to request a song be played by the pianist nearby. I ordered the Baked Alaska- mainly because this a classic dish you don’t really see anymore. I had actually never tried one- I’ve only heard about them in older movies or from older diners. It was a cold ball of macadamia ice cream atop a vanilla lush cake enclosed in homemade fluffy meringue and then doused tableside in Italian liqueurs before being set on fire. The spiraled meringue browned and bubbled letting off a wonderful aroma and triggered memories of making s’mores. The sweet liqueurs were spectacular and the entire combination of flavors reminded me of marzipan or those little chocolates filled with alcohol that your mom used to let you eat when visiting your great aunt (clearly I mean me- and I totally thought I could get drunk off those haha!).

        Grand Mariner and Espressp       Baked Alaska

After the dessert room we left in a warm haze, a little drunk and definitely full with leftovers in tow. I think it’s fun to get dressed up for a nice dinner and celebrate, and this is just the place to do it. So remember for your visit: reservations are highly recommended, wear something nice, ask the server for a tour of the kitchen and wine cellar, and make a reservation for the dessert room!

Bern’s Steakhouse

1208 S. Howard Avenue • Tampa, Florida • 33606 • (813) 251-2421

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Best of Tampa: Wright’s Gourmet

Yummy Desserts at Wright's

Wright’s Gourmet House in Tampa, FL makes the best sandwiches and homemade cakes in the state of Florida. I only wish we had this perfect neighborhood spot in Miami instead of 4 hours away, but it is always such a treat to come here when visiting friends on Florida’s west coast. Wright’s is a local staple that is second to none. Located on busy S. Dale Mabry, you can always count on a line and a busy dining room bustling with families, regulars, and out-of-towners.  I feel like generations of locals have loved this place, which is evident by their high-volume of business and the slew of large take-out orders we saw employees preparing. Wright’s serves up gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads, yummy desserts, and has a large freezer at the front jam-packed with frozen dinners to pop in the oven like homemade chicken pot pie.

 Wright's Sign Indoor Line Golden Gate View

Wright’s is worth the wait, and the line.* We came at 12:30 pm on a warm Saturday afternoon and it was slammed with the line snaking out the door past the sidewalk.** We waited eagerly and unfazed- I only get to come here once a year after all! The wait is even endurable because employees are always friendly, well-groomed, and seem to be happy as they prepare sandwiches on the line. I only point this out because it is so easy for employees to look disgruntled and tired especially in the face of such a busy lunch rush. After about 30 minutes we were finally sitting down before a veritable array of sandwich mastery and thick-slices of cake big enough to share.

Reuben Grilled

This visit we ordered the Beef Martini (so good its trademarked) $8.75, Reuben $9.50, Turkey Club $9, Bahama Baby $8.50, and Golden Gate $8.50 sandwiches. My friend ordered their enormous Chicken Caesar Salad and added bacon and black olives. The salad was enormous, fresh, and delectable with tender grilled chicken and melt-in-your-mouth bacon. The Cuban sandwich $8.25 here is a “6 time winner of the Tampa Tribune’s All-Tampa Cuban Sandwich Contest”- I’m sure it’s amazing, but I grew up on Cuban sandwiches here in Miami- so I’d rather enjoy different deli treats. The deli salads are not to be forgotten- the Broccoli & Peanut Salad and Couscous Salad are delicious. Everything here is fresh, high-quality, and homemade.

          Reuben Up Close     Golden Fate

          Beef Martini     Bahama Baby

The Golden Gate is a popular choice with roasted pork, crispy bacon, Jarlsberg cheese, German dill pickle slices, lettuce, and their famous homemade mustard sauce. To top it off they add chunky rich homemade peach chutney that goes great with the soft, subtle pumpernickel bread it’s served on. The Bahama Baby served hot was my favorite of the day; I even ordered one to go for later. The pressed sandwich is served on an onion roll with roasted pork, ham, cucumber slices that tasted faintly pickled to me, bacon, Jarlsberg cheese, and their mustard sauce. This is kind of like a smaller pseudo-Cuban sandwich– and I can’t wait to make one like it at home.

          Chicken Caesar     Grilled Chicken Caesar

You MUST end your meal with a slice of their moist cakes or smaller cupcake versions. My absolute favorite is the classic Alpine- a soft yellow cake with chocolate frosting and white chocolate shavings $5 (cupcakes are $3). When you master yellow cake and chocolate frosting- together they are mind-blowing. I swear by the cake slices over the cupcakes because they are first off- bigger- and secondly moister with the added bonus of extra frosting between the three layers. Other good choices are the carrot, chocolate and red velvet with the twist of almond cream cheese frosting sprinkled with toasted almonds. The Hawaiian Princess is just too sweet for me, sometimes I find pineapple overwhelming- either too sour or sweet.

Alpine Cake

Next time you are visiting the Tampa Bay Area I highly recommend you come to Wright’s- you’ll be wishing someone ordered you one of their cakes for your birthday. There are just too many good things to order here and I’ve only scratched the surface- but I’m sure one day I’ll try it all.

Wright’s Gourmet House

1200 S Dale Mabry • Tampa, FL • 33629 • (813) 253-3838

 

*Don’t come here on a Sunday, they’re closed for worship, family, and rest- according to their sign

** You can always call-ahead your order- if you’d like to avoid waiting

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