You're scanning a menu, and a word jumps out at you. One specific food item in one specific dish that you now can't help but order. It's like a trigger. The thought of that ingredient has turned on a switch in your brain. The phrase "Pick me" plays over and over in your head for no apparent reason.
Sometimes it's seasonal. You say pumpkin during fall and there's no stopping us. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin loaf, and then that one time
at band camp when we tried pumpkin Pop Tarts. Other times it's more irrational -- just some food trend that we have no control over. Take truffle oil, for instance. No, we can't taste it on our pizza over the heavy marinara sauce, and we're not even going to pretend we understand what it really is, but it sounds fancy and expensive, so why not? Or gold flakes, 'cause like, they're not actually food but they're pretty.
Miami is full of restaurants that play mind games with us, so Short Order has come up with a list of the top ten ingredients that make us tick and the eateries that use them best.
10. Caramelized onions
Onions aren't for everyone. Eaten raw they can be too strong, even though we love crisp sliced red onion in a salad or on a burger. But when they're caramelized, their sweet flavor can appeal to even the pickiest of onion haters. The BBQ pulled pork sandwich at The Daily Melt would be nothing without its caramelized onions. With Swiss cheese and jalapeño potato chips, it's a great, buttery specialty grilled cheese for $5.95.
Kale is the new quinoa. Have you seen how many restaurants are serving Kale Caesar salads these days? Kale is the "it" veggie of superfoods, and the garlicky kale at Whole Foods Market is simple but surprisingly delicious. (We know it's a grocery store, not a restaurant, but you can sit and eat there, so calm down.) It can be purchased from the cold food bar by the pound, and you can enjoy it straight away while sitting in the cafe.
8. Sundried tomato
Say sundried tomato and we're picturing glistening sunshine bringing out that concentrated flavor. Our pick for this one is not from a restaurant either (get off our backs!), but it'll do just as well. Zak the Baker's goat cheese and sundried tomato sandwiches are meant to be appreciated for his fresh multigrain bread -- and it's certainly all it's cracked up to be -- but the sundried tomatoes are what make us want to order them in the first place. They're made to order at the University of Miami's weekly farmers market on Wednesdays and sold for $6 throughout the semester.
We live in a city where mangoes grow right in our backyard, but our mouths still start to water whenever we see it as an ingredent on the menu. Maybe because we know it means the fruit is that much fresher. The avocado-mango salad at El Rancho Grande ($8.75) is topped with a unique pumpkin seed dressing, queso fresco and bacon bits. Take out the mango and you've got yourself a decent savory salad, but our eyes might gloss right over this option on the menu without it.
Duck is one of those ingredients you don't even know you're in the mood for until you see it on the menu. Walk into Doraku thinking you're craving sushi, but walk out of there with a happy stomach full of crispy duck salad ($12). In addition to the slow-roasted duck, the salad has mandarin oranges, grape tomatoes, fried wontons, and spicy miso dressing.
5. Brie cheese
Brie cheese is a great go-to on a cheese platter with fruit, but it works just as well when it's eaten warm with something savory. Try the fries with Brie cheese sauce at OTC ($6). You don't order these because you're in the mood for fries. You order them because you're craving some melted French cheesy goodness. Plus they've got shaved Parmesan. Order up.
Prosciutto beats out bacon or ham any day. Offer us a sandwich with prosciutto and we're there. The prosciutto wrap at Lemoni Cafe is our favorite. It's the Wednesday special and comes chock-full of some of our other top ingredients (goat cheese and avocado), plus red onion, olives, red pepper, and paprika mayo -- all on a wheat wrap. At less than $10 and hearty enough to be shared by two, it's a very affordable lunch option.
Avocado is arguably God's greatest gift to mankind. It's cool and refreshing and you can throw it on just about anything to make it better. The Bistro Club at Nordstrom Cafe Bistro has sliced chicken breast, baby greens, bacon, tomato, avocado, and french green beans with garlic aioli on rustic bread. Blanched green beans inside of a sandwich are a pleasant surprise, but it's the creamy avocado that pulls together all of the ingredients perfectly. For $10.95, it comes with their seasoned bistro fries and a kalamata olive dip.
2. Goat cheese
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Some people say goat cheese tastes like sock. Those people are wrong. Even if they're right, there's just something empowering about eating a funky tart cheese that comes from an animal that doesn't moo. While goat cheese in cold sandwiches or salads is usually the way to go, the warm goat cheese salad at Nexxt Cafe is one of our favorites. For $5.95, you get a small green salad with apple and crispy goat cheese -- all lightly drizzled in honey.
1. Quail egg
We like quail eggs and we cannot lie. Even though we're not sure why. Maybe it's because they're so tiny and cute. Perhaps it's because their egg shells are speckled and intriguing. Either way, the American wagyu slider at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill is a must-try when it comes to quail eggs. A fried egg tops the beef patty, each bringing out the best flavors in the other. It's $7 per slider, or $5 during happy hour -- our favorite time to eat them.