The swankiest meal I've ever had

Hello all,

One of my good friends just got out of the military and is leaving in a few days for Thailand, where he plans to become an English teacher and have adventures. I drove down to Miami over the weekend, to hang out with him and most of my old gang of friends, since most of us go back to high school (if not earlier) and are still quite close. Part of the plan was to do a fancy brunch together on Sunday. They warned us it would be quite expensive, but well worth it.

Well, Sunday (yesterday) was the day of the brunch at the swanky Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. This is a four-star hotel, one of Miami’s oldest and fanciest, that has entertained heads of state, movie stars, gangsters, diplomats, and the stupidly wealthy since the 1920s; a gigantic pink spire that you can see throughout most of the city. What was originally supposed to be a family affair turned into something for all the friends, and even though I balked originally at the price, I knew that if the whole gang was going, I couldn’t possibly refuse. (At this point, with so many of my friends back in school in their mid-20s, for the first time ever I probably make more money than a lot of them.) Well, even though it was the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten, not only do I feel like I got my money’s worth for the food, good company, and incredible atmosphere, it was a real glimpse of “how the other half truly lives,” and a fine time was had by all.

The brunch was held OUTSIDE in this large patio surrounded by the Spanish-style arcs of the hotel, surrounded by palm trees with a gorgeous fountain in the middle. There were large umbrellas to shield diners from the hot May sun, but I seemed to end up in a small no-shade nexus and soaked through my clothes pretty quickly. We all made sure to dress nicely, but were surprised to see so many people in T-shirts, shorts, etc. Amusingly, we made note of SEVERAL people being rude to the staff and generally obnoxious. One guy, I kid you not, even pulled the “Do you know who I AM?” routine when the brunch area was too full to seat his party! That cracked us up. Since it is a fixed-price all-you-can-eat buffet, the manager is in the rare position to turn people away and not have to play favorites because everyone is paying the same amount… plus we had a party of 18. We felt like the elite, and were better-behaved than the actual elite (although I tend to think that is not uncommon in itself).

So what did they have? Oh boy, this was really something:
A wide variety of sushi rolls, although I had very few because I didn’t want to fill up on rice.
Fresh cheese-filled tortellini pasta that a chef would cook and toss with a variety of sauces–I didn’t want to fill up on pasta, but I tried someone’s pesto tortellini, and it was rad.
Prime rib and rack of lamb at a carving station.
An outdoor grill where another chef was preparing chicken, red snapper, sausages (great), shrimp kebabs (amazing), marinated portobello mushrooms, and pineapple slices. They also had the best tropical pico de gallo salsa I’ve ever had, with lots of mango and pineapple in it.
Fresh, moist mozzarella cheese, sliced on a platter with slices of rich, yellow-golden tomatoes. They had a lot of pico de gallo (fresh, uncooked salsa) made with these beautiful tomatoes as well.
One chef making omelettes, another preparing mini-Belgian waffles, and a third making crepes. I had a crepe that was steeping in a hot pan in some sort of orange juice and liqueur mixture, and covered it with hot mixed berry compote. Whoa.
My favorite table, however, had a variety of antipasto salads, so I had something that was like baby octopus and squid in red wine vinegar (seemed very Portuguese). Even better, they had a huge platter of the most amazing thin-sliced smoked salmon, flaky whitefish, tuna tataki (thin-sliced tuna that was seared on the outside but dark, rich purply-red on the inside–SO GOOD), two kinds of caviar (little black eggs and bigger orange eggs) with toast points and sour cream with dill, and foie gras, that fatty goose liver that only rich people can eat! I totally loaded up on all that stuff, because I can make my own omelettes at home, but not have caviar and smoked salmon just any day.
Then the dessert table would have brought you to your knees, I swear. After about three heaping plates, I ended up having a very small dessert–a sliver of white chocolate cheesecake and a small creme brulee (my first time having that stuff too!). They had key lime pie, fruit tarts, flan, and all kinds of other goodies, though.

Then they had fresh-squeezed orange juice, champagne, and mimosas, which is a drink where you mix those two together (and in my opinion, ruin them both). Everyone made loud, drunken, heartfelt toasts to our Asia-bound boy, and I ended up taking a lot of pictures over the entire time. I knew I couldn’t get smashed because I had to drive back to Orlando that evening, so even though I rode over there with other people, I ended up having to drive another friend’s mom’s Lexus back to the house–once more I felt like a rich man! Lemme tell you, a Lexus drives really smooth. :slight_smile: It must be nice to have money, to be able to treat yourself to things like fancy brunches every once in a while, and not worry about what non-essential plans you have to cut out of your budget for the rest of the month. But it was incredibly nice, and I’m so glad I didn’t bail out because of the price. We saw our friend off in style, that’s for sure.

Thanks. That just totally ruined my BK breakfast croissant… :wink:

Sounds great. Of course, good company makes any meal better and you had that as well.

What was the per person cost? $40 or $50?

It was $50 a head, but closer to $65 after tax and tip. Like I said, that hurt the budget, but I’m going to sell a couple beloved Transformers on eBay this month to help break even.

I feel like I need a cigarette after reading that amazingly hot OP.
Dear Gourmet magazine,

I never thought this would happen to me, but…

I agree that atmosphere can make or break a great meal, although some of the best Cajun and Mexican food I’ve ever eaten was found in gas stations. That said, my best meal was breakfast served on the terrace of my Maui hotel room. Seventy degrees, a light breeze, palm trees, the ocean, and hardly a soul to see.

The food was pretty good, too. :slight_smile:

My gf loves to cook and is very accomplished as well. A few weeks ago we spent all weekend making a meal. We made our own pasta (rigattoni) and from-scratch bolognese sauce which slowly simmered all day. There was a magnificent salad with 5 or 6 different types of mushrooms. She made creme brulee` complete with the little flame thrower and using real vanilla beans.

SDMB rules forbid me discussing dessert. :smiley:

Going back a bit, (almost 15 years), it was the weekend before my brother got married. Our family and her family all got together for a meet the new family brunch.

A lot of the same sorts of things you describe, including a seafood table with crab legs, and shirmp of various sorts. That’s what I remember the most.