Sunday, November 6, 2011

MIAMI- The Food

I love experiencing and trying new things!  While I was in Miami I decided that I wanted to try some new food!  Here are the things I can now check off my list:

Frog Legs- (the first picture is of me holding a frog leg) I have always heard that frog legs tasted like chicken.  Well, they do in fact.  They were good, until I got down to the bone.  After I ate the meat off enough that I could actually grasp the bone I noticed that the bone was EXTREMELY sticky.  I don't even know how to explain the stickiness of these bones.  It was worse then any glue that I have spilt on my fingers.  It was so sticky that I couldn't even wash it off with an ice cube.  It kind of grossed me out enough that I didn't want to eat very many.  All-in-all, frog legs get an "eh" rating

Stone Crab- I have had crab before and love crab but have never had stone crab or heard of it, that I know of.  I'm not sure if it is endemic to the florida area but it supposedly is only in season for a few months.  We got there the week the season started!  You crab connoisseurs may know this but when you order stone crab they only bring out the front claws.  However, those front claws are enormous!  The shell is also the thickest shell I have ever seen and is probably why the claws came pre-cracked.  They also served it cold which was a new crab experience, one that I liked!  All-in-all, I loved stone crab!  Probably my favorite crab now!

Cuban Food- There are a ton of Cubans in florida and thus a ton of Cuban food places.  The Cuban food was REALLY good, however, I made the mistake of ordering french fries instead of the rice.  After ordering the fries my waitress (probably a pure cuban) paused, looked at me, and with attitude said "you want fries?"  It kind of caught me off guard but said yyyyees.  "Your at a cuban restaurant and you want fries instead of rice?"  I wanted to bring up the point that they WERE on the menu.  Perhaps she knew that we were trying to get the "cuban experience" and was just trying to encourage me to get the rice.  Either way I stayed with my fries but feared that my waitress was going to put in an order of "special fries", if you catch my drift =}  When the fries came out I gave them a careful look over, and for the record, they were probably some of the best fries that I have ever had!!

Alligator- Being in florida, gator land, I figured I HAD to try some alligator!  Another item you always hear tastes like chicken.  Again, I would agree that it does taste like chicken, however a chewy chicken.  It came as deep fried gator nuggets.  They were good though!  Perhaps McDonalds should look into switching over =)  And no, this is not a picture of the gator I ate.  It wasn't like red lobster where you can go pick out the lobster you want from the tank.

Don Shula's- This last one was not an exotic place but more of the experience.  My friend who I went down there with, as I mentioned before, is a big miami dolphins fan.  WEll, Don Shula is a famous coach in dolphins history.  He apparently has a steak house in miami built around his dolphins.  Jeff really wanted to go and since I love steak I agreed.  Since it was built around a football team we were thinking that it was going to be like a sports bar type of thing.  Oh man were we wrong.  My first clue came when we were driving to find the place and we realized that it was located inside of a hotel.  Locations inside of hotels are never good, price-wise that is.  My second clue came when were trying to find a place to park.  There were NO parking places anywhere.  It wasn't really that all of the spots were full, there just weren't any.  We noticed that there was a valet so we asked them where the parking was and they informed us that the valet was the only way to park.  But they insured us not to worry because the valet parking for Shula's was complementary.  Oh yeah right, don't worry!  I started sweating bullets.  When we finally made our way into the restaurant the lights were dimly lit and everyone inside of the restaurant were dressed all fancy sipping wine.  We were wearing jeans, however, with somewhat nice button down shirts.  Nonetheless I still felt WAY under dressed.  The menu was then handed to us on an autographed, handpainted football.  There were no prices and my next big clue was when they brought around a cart with the differing meats on them.  They explained each of the meats and then we picked which we wanted.  Everything was a la cart which meant things started adding up if we wanted anything beside the meat.  The place looked so fancy and I felt so out of place that I was afraid to order "pop" thinking that they might correct me and say "do you mean a chilled, treacle, carbonated beverage?"  I honestly, for the first time in my life, felt like white trash.  It didn't help that after the waiter brought us bread, I looked up and Jeff had butter hanging off of his nose =]  Yeah, we fit right in!!  I guess I thought the first time that I would go to a fancy restaurant like that it would be on a date and not with Jeff.  Oh well, it was still quite the experience!!

I was reminded by Kelly and Mom that I did not include what the Shula experience cost me.  I was planning on doing that, I just forgot.  What we ordered: 2 steaks, 1 side of mashed potatoes, and jeff got a caesars salad.  Take a guess what you think the price would be... It actually did turn out to be less than I thought it was going to be.... Oh, as you are taking a guess on the price, I forgot to mention that almost every time that someone (waiter, hostess, manager, whoever) came by the table they keep asking us if we wanted any wine.  The first time that they asked we explained that we don't drink but they kept asking, and asking, and asking.  As we kept refusing they actually seemed like they were getting upset that we wouldn't order any.  Oh well.
Perhaps it doesn't sound like much to you guys but the total came out to be about $150.  I thought it was insane, but I was expecting around $200.  It was probably the water that we ordered that sent it over the top...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

MIAMI- The Adventure

The first thing that I want you guys to know from this blog post is that I am trying to singlehandedly (with your help =) put out of business.  If you take ANYTHING away from this post, please NEVER use Priceline again.  I want to destroy them!!!  Yes, this may sound a little sadistic but I have had enough of them.  Yes, I am angry and yes, I apparently hold grudges so I am going to get this off of my chest and complain in this post!  Let me begin by going back a few months...

When I was in North Dakota this summer I had to book hotels several times as I traveled across the state.  I often had to book them on my own credit card and get reimbursed later, which didn't bother me.  I tried my best to find the cheapest hotels so I could save grant money for continued use later (like I just did to go back out to ND this past weekend.  But anyways, I digress).  I have always seen these obnoxious commercials on TV with William Shatner for priceline.  For some reason I thought I would give them a try.  So I booked a hotel and priceline took the money right out of my account.  When I checked out of the hotel I noticed that the hotel charged me for the stay as well.  After SEVERAL phone calls, to both the hotel and priceline, I discovered that priceline never sent the hotel the money after I booked my stay.  My bank filed a credit dispute with priceline and were able to refund my account but it took a while.  
Around the same time that I booked that hotel stay I also booked my Miami trip.  I used priceline because at the time I did not realize the headache that was ahead of me.  I booked a hotel, flight, and rental car all through priceline.  Let the adventure of my Miami trip begin...

I booked my flight out to Miami for a thursday night after my last class.  I planed my flight to be at the airport about an hour and a half before the flight left.  I was going to hit the road right after my comparative anatomy lab.  Of course, that day happened to be the longest lab of the entire semester so I got started a little late.  After I made it onto the road I of course hit some of the worst traffic ever and the weather was horrible.  My hour and a half window quickly was fading away.  By the time I got to the airport and found a place to park I had about 40 minutes before my flight left.  I parked in the extended lot and so I tried waiting for a shuttle to come get me and take to to the terminal.  As I was trying to find a parking spot I saw 3-4 shuttles driving around the lot but as I was waiting there were none in sight.  After about 10 minutes of not seeing a shuttle I decided that I just needed to run for it so I booked it!  I made it to the ticket check in with about 10 to spare, obviously not enough time.  Apparently the ticket agent people had just left and they stop checking people in 20 minutes before the flight.  I MISSED MY FLIGHT!!  So with no agent to talk to about getting on the next available flight I had to call the airline.  They said that since I booked the flight through pricleline they were not allowed to put me on the next flight =[  So after many more phone calls I realized that I had to buy a one way ticket on the next flight to miami.  So in the end I had to buy 2 tickets.  The one-way ticket cost as much as my round trip.  Oh well, it was my fault for not giving myself enough time to get to the airport.  That was the flight.

My friend Jeff made his flight so as I was sitting in Pittsburgh waiting for my flight the next morning, he was in Miami trying to pick up our rental car.  Well, the rental car company that priceline used to book our car apparently ran out of cars...  Even with a confirmation number ...  True, part of the blame rests with Payless (the rental car company) but priceline guaranteed us a car and they need to be responsible for the companies that they do business with.  Since we had no car, Jeff had to take a cab to the hotel and the next morning the concierge helped him actually get a car.  Again, since priceline guaranteed us a car, I called them and asked if they would cover any extra charges that we had to pay that was more than what we had originally agreed with priceline for.  They said, "oh no, we can't do that.  The best we can do is cancel your reservation."  Are you kidding me?  I think my reservation was canceled when they ran out of cars!!  So the bottom line, the policy that priceline obviously stands for is "If you, the costumer, screws up, you get screwed.  If we, priceline, screw up, the costumer still gets screwed!"

The most recent incident with priceline is with a receipt.  As mentioned earlier I booked a flight to go out to ND through priceline (again, before I realized how horrible they are).  I did it on my own card again and am planning to submit my receipt to get refunded.  After booking my flight priceline sent me several emails with my itinerary and a summary of the charges they made.  However, they only sent me a "summary" of charges.  None of the emails were an actual receipt, proof that my card was charged.  The school obviously needs that proof that it was my card that they charged before they refund me the money.  So I called priceline and explained what I was looking for.  They said they would send me an email with a receipt.  The email came and it was the same thing I already had, the summary.  I tried emailing the costumer service department and explained that I needed an ACTUAL receipt and they emailed me the stupid summary again.  I called back and finally got a hold of someone who said that they can not give me an actual receipt, they can only provide the "summary".  I asked if they had a record/document of them taking the money out of my account, they said yes, of course.  So I said, great!  Send me a copy of that document.  Oh, no, they can't do that.  AAAHHHHHHH......

Anyways, here are a few pictures of the hotel we stayed at in Miami.  It had a great view and was right by the beach!  The hotel was really nice, 4 stars I believe, but as it turns out I prefer the not super nice hotels.  Something like Hampton Inn.  Really nice hotels rip you off.  They charge you for internet, they charge you $12 for a belgium waffle that you can make for free at other hotels, and as it turns out, they charge you $20 a night to park.  But again, the view was really nice!

Ok, I believe that my complaining is out of the way.  My next posts will be about the activities and food of Miami!