How bizarre that the best meals I had on a recent business trip to Miami were in the airport and at a low-budget joint called Pig Corner …
Props to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. I had planned to eat in my cube before leaving for Florida, but when someone “borrowed” my lunch from the breakroom fridge I found myself faced with having to dine on airport food. Ugh. That’s usually just a rung above hospital fare.
But what a nice surprise I encountered strolling through the new part of terminal 2. I nearly walked past Carolina Vintages, assuming it was just a wine shop or bar. Open just four weeks now, Carolina Vintages serves a varied, reasonably priced (unusual, for an airport) menu of salads, sandwiches, burgers and entrees, plus a wide assortment of North Carolina wines.
Not that long ago NC’s wines were pretty horrible, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement. But they’ve come an awful long way. I had a very nice 2008 Shelton Riesling with my lunch.
I ordered a Caesar salad with a crabcake add-on. The Caesar was great (except for the croutons, which I typically eschew unless they’re homemade) — whole ribs of romaine lettuce sliced lengthwise and a nice tangy dressing. Barkeep David kindly grated fresh parmesan on top. The made-in-house crabcake was excellent. The panko-crusted exterior was perfectly crisp, and the inside was lovely and moist and full of big chunks of lump crabmeat.
David — and the menu — told me that Carolina Vintages uses local produce and buys other goods from North Carolina food purveyors such as goat cheese from Celebrity Dairy and barbecue from Brookwood Farms.
The restaurant invited lingering, which I did, strolling to my gate just in time to board.
So you Triangle residents, the next time you’re dreading going to the airport to catch a flight, don’t. Just head for Carolina Vintages.
Once my conference was underway in Miami, a tight schedule forced me to dine at the resort. Though incredibly expensive, the food was just okay. However, the night I arrived I snuck to a place down the street that I’d research beforehand.
La Esquina del Lechon — which translates roughly to Pig Corner! — came highly recommended on Yelp.
Part of a small strip shopping center beside a gas station, the restaurant wasn’t much on atmosphere. But I was’t really expecting any, based on the reviews. Just good food. And friendly, minimal-English-spoken service.
There was seafood and other fare that I typically find more palatable on the menu, but it seemed foolish not to try the famoso Pan con Lechon — pork sandwich — voted best in Miami.
It wasn’t a spicy sandwich. But it was a big dose of easy-to-eat comfort food. Thinly sliced, ultra-tender, slow-roasted pork served on soft Cuban bread with “tropical sauce,” lettuce, tomatoes and sauteed onions. By the time I’d taken a few bites the bottom piece of bread was starting to get soaked through with the pork juices. Messy. Yummy. Thank goodness I ordered the small one (for the bargain price of $6.50) — I couldn’t even finish it, and it frightens me to think of how big the large must be.
But that’s not all. It was served with an equally huge portion of plantain chips.
And of course, don’t forget the chicharrones starter — the thickest, most unusual pork rinds I’ve ever had. Nothing like those air-bubble-filled, dry, crunchy ones I’ve tasted at barbecue joints or out of plastic packets. These were big, crispy-chewy, toothsome cubes. I was wary of eating too many before my sandwich arrived. After all, a most-of-the-time pescatarian can only swallow so much pork at one sitting without expecting dire consequences.
Thank goodness for my cast iron stomach.