The Cecil

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I’m not always uptown, so, I sometimes slack on all the great places that are there. But, this past weekend, I was in Harlem and got to experience dinner at The Cecil. This Afro-Asian-American brasserie (yes, it’s quite the combo) opens into a cocktail bar, with some seating in a cozy environment. Then, through the passageway, it opens up into the main dining room, chic, with large, beautiful paintings around the space. 

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To drink, I ordered the Blood and Fire (Olmeca Altos Blanco Tequila, Jamaican Sorrel, Fresh Lemon Juice). Now, I was a little confused when the drink wasn’t spicy, as its namesake would infer. Where’s the fire? Luckily, our bartender was quick to recommend the addition of some chili peppers to make all that happen. So, I usually love spicy tequila drinks, but, perhaps adding this chili into the drink may have altered its intended taste. Next time, I might try it as is, or, go for the Thai 75, which sounded really great. 

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To start, we had their Spicy Crispy Ginger Squid (Okra, Sweet Chili Peanut Sauce). This was awesome. I love squid, spice, peanut sauce, well, ok, all of these ingredients, so it wasn’t hard to decide on this one. It was really delicious, the squid was fried just right, not too much breading, but just enough to hold the drizzles of sweet chili peanut sauce, which gave it a little kick and smoothed out the flavor at the same time. 

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For my entree, I ordered Citrus Jerk Wild Striped Bass (African Fonio, Okra, Burst Tomatoes, Parsnip Purée). I really enjoyed this dish as well. The bass was tender and delicate, absorbing the savory, yet subtle flavors from the other components. It was my first time having fonio, a grain, which to me was a bit similar to small grain couscous. Set atop the creamy parsnip puree, the textures of all the ingredients went really well together.  

The Shorts:
Name: The Cecil
Location: 210 West 118 Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Yes, the vibe here is really great and the service was excellent.
Would I recommend it? I mean, how many places have you gone to that are serving Afro-Asian-American fare? Exactly. So, yes, I would recommend checking it out. Lots of options and flavors to choose from. 

 

4 Rivers Smokehouse

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I was in Central Florida for a few days, and had to make my rounds to see what places I could discover during my time here. I was actually in Austin not too long ago, but didn’t have time to make it to a BBQ joint (I know, I know…but I did have some awesome Mexican food and desserts. Happy now?). So, I figured, let’s make up for that and visit 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Winter Park, Central Florida. 

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This quick-serve BBQ restaurant has every base covered from their pulled pork, to brisket, and loads of sides. And the friendly, casual environment really makes it a welcoming place to be in too. Open space and lots of natural light really brighten up the room full of extra large wooden benches and southern style decor on the walls (such as the cattle above). 

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The homestyle sides were where it was at for me, and I went for their Smokehouse Corn, Mac and Cheese, Fried Okra and Collards. These were all really great. The corn had a really nice spiced and buttery flavor with crisp kernels. The mac and cheese was creamy, light and the noodles were perfectly tender. I really liked the fried okra, the batter wasn’t super greasy like most fried foods, it was a thicker corn coating, giving it a really nice texture. The collards were awesome too with great flavor, mixed in with thick chunks of ham. 

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And you have to go for a sweet homestyle side like their Bread Pudding. It had a great consistency, creamy, but not excessively, and a really nice, rich cinnamon flavor and raisins for a little mix of texture and sweetness. 

The Shorts:
Name: 4 Rivers Smokehouse
Location: 1600 West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park, FL
The Long and Short: Would I go back? For sure, I was pretty obsessed with the side. I only got five and they have sixteen there…sixteen! 
Would I recommend it? Definitely. It’s great for a quick bite, or, just a low-key, casual sit down with plenty of options to choose from.