Everything for You

Two of us stayed with Spanish cuisine for the entree, sharing paella Allioli, also known as paella Valenciana. This usually enormous pan of rice, shellfish, chicken, sausage or bacon, and spices, such as saffron and garlic, is my favorite dish; I order it every chance I get, despite the time it takes to prepare (usually 35 to 40 minutes). Allioli's version was one of the best I've had in Miami (the only one to top it was an innovative lobster paella at the original a Mano), and certainly better than most attempts I tried when I visited Spain. The rice, traditionally dotted with artichokes and beans, was finely flavored and not sticky with its own starch; the seafood, particularly the calamari, was tender and rich. Chorizo, a spicy sausage, added the necessary salty, smoky depths. A problem I find inherent in paella, overdone shrimp and chicken, was also a difficulty here, but not enough to detract from the dish as a whole.

The rest of my party, like the menu, ranged the continent for their main courses. A very conservative roast duck a l'orange was given a contemporary flair with a lovely fresh fig and walnut sauce. Boneless, the poultry fell apart so moistly it tasted almost stewed. On the side, a nut-flavored wild rice was molded into a diamond; pretty red cabbage braised with raspberry vinegar complemented the burgundy shades of the duck.

The chargrilled veal chop was another royally colored dish, due to the port wine, pearl onion, and mushroom sauce that topped the medium-rare wonder. The tender meat was a hearty counterpoint to the rich and sweet wine sauce. The red cabbage made another appearance here, and a large mushroom, stuffed with garlic and bread crumbs, completed the plate.

The Estefans think big. Servings were so large -- particularly the paella -- they seemed to grow as we ate them. And the couple is planning to expand beyond Ocean Drive, too. They just purchased property on the ever-improving Lincoln Road, which already features Pacific Time, one of the top restaurants in Miami. If the Estefans run true to form, that restaurant should be open in time for my next anniversary celebration.

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