Every now and then I make it a point to go far beyond my comfort zone and discover something new about our city. Believe it or not, even after living in Miami most of my life, I find that there’s always something I haven’t yet done and jump at the chance to go out and explore. On a shiny warm Sunday, Mitch and I decided to venture to Gulfstream Park and check out the all-you-can-eat brunch. Other than the fact that brunch is my favorite part of Sunday, we were told that we could enjoy horse races, which I’ve never seen before. Intrigued and truth be told, slightly hesitant, I’m always sold on brunch so off we went in hopes of also catching some entertainment.
First things first; this post is not about a lemonade stand. The title is a metaphor for what happened to me the other night when I was met with a change of dinner plans that turned into a great, unexpected dining experience. So, let’s start at the beginning…
When one thinks of Cuban food in Miami, Ocean Drive doesn’t not immediately come to mind as a go-to destination for an authentic meal. Ocean Drive may actually be the antithesis of anything authentic in Miami as it’s better known for tacky establishments that target the throngs of tourists that visit our fair city every day. As the Miami culinary scene continues to grow, the gap is widening between trendy and quality cuisine, with focus returning to the classic Cuban joints of Little Havana (e.g. El Exquisito, El Rey de las Fritas) as well as a new crop of modern takes on Cuban restaurants (e.g. Finka Table and Tap, Bread + Butter) that are popping up all over Dade County. Well, Larios on the Beach, an Ocean Drive mainstay since opening in 1992, is working hard to bridge that gap by recently debuting a new menu and new look to attract tourists and locals alike to its beach-front digs.
In Miami we don’t do anything half-assed. We go big, or we go home. For instance… We don’t have one measly restaurant week; we have Miami Spice, a two-month promotion showcasing the very best of Miami cuisine! We don’t limit ourselves to one spa month; Miami Spa Month lasts for two months, despite its name! We don’t host just any old food or art festivals; we host the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and Art Basel Miami Beach! We don’t have normal economic downturns; we launch all-out fiscal crises, especially when it comes to real estate booms and busts! (OK, so maybe that last one wasn’t the best example.) And finally, we don’t just do your run-of-the-mill pub or restaurant crawls; we do tapas journeys!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…! Wait, maybe that’s Christmas. Anyway, although the song may be referring to something else, for us Miami foodies, Miami Spice is most definitely one of the most anticipated occurrences on our calendars. It’s a magical time when Miami’s best restaurants offer up mouth-watering promotions consisting of three-course meals at reduced prices ($23 for lunch; $39 for dinner) that showcase the very best of Miami cuisine.
If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, and even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard the famous 7th Inning Stretch song, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, in which there’s a line that says “Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks…” Back in the day – the song was written in 1908 – that was the food of baseball, but in more recent times attending a baseball game has become much more of a full-blown experience and, of course, food plays a major role in that. From specific concessions like Boog’s Barbecue at Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards (home to the Orioles, and my personal favorite) and Ben’s Chili Bowl at Nationals Park in DC, to classic items like the Fenway Frank at Boston’s Fenway Park and the Dodger Dog at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, most Major League stadiums now have their own food identity. Here at home, in its third year of existence (and under the skilled management of sports and entertainment restaurateur juggernauts, Levy Restaurants), Marlins Park’s culinary line up is knocking hits out of the park and, as an avid baseball fan and food lover, when I got the invite to visit for a tasting tour of the stadium my response was a no-brainer.
As we mentioned during our last Foodie Friday post, one of our other loves, apart from food, is film. When we can indulge in both simultaneously, we find ourselves giddy with joy. That was the case with The Hundred-Foot Journey, the new Walt Disney and DreamWorks film by a few producers you may have heard of; do Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey ring a bell?
On paper, the Miami New Times Iron Fork Miami Spice Kick Off is one of the elite culinary events on Miami’s social calendar. It combines the opportunity to taste signature dishes from dozens of local eateries, a cooking competition that features some of our city’s top chefs, a philanthropic partnership that brings awareness to child hunger, and, best of all, offers a sneak peek at some of the finest menus to be featured during the Miami Spice program. As foodies, we’ve attended the event in the past with differing experiences and relative mixed feelings, but were looking forward to attending this year’s bash – our first as food bloggers – with an open mind and new point of view.
I think one of the true signs of adulthood is cooking for yourself. The process starts in college and consists of slapping a chicken breast on a George Foreman Grill and serving it up with some instant couscous (and that’s only when you actually muster up the willpower to take a night off from your favorite burrito joint, pizza place, or fast food spot). The next step, in your 20’s in your first apartment, is mastering the art of frozen ingredients that you buy in a cloud of excitement and awe while eating free samples for lunch shopping at Costco. Well, now that I’m making my way towards 30-something (32, to be exact), I strive to follow real recipes, make full meals from scratch, and use fresh ingredients from the local farmer’s market. So, when I heard about a cooking class at La Bottega Sociale Enoteca in Coconut Grove, I threw caution to the wind and set out to tackle the art of la cucina italiana.