By Mitchell Nover
One of the (many) reasons I love the Miami Spice program is that it gives Miami foodies permission to step out of their comfort zones and experience restaurants that they might not visit on a regular basis. Once you break down the wall of price obstacles, suddenly other taboos fall by the wayside as well. Such is the case with my recent trip to Villa Azur (309 23rd St, Miami Beach). The chic French-Mediterranean restaurant and lounge is a place where people go to see and be seen, and that, in general, is not my regular scene. However, emboldened by my new Spice season sensibilities, I decided to give Villa Azur a shot, even if only for the people-watching.
As we all know by now, Miami has been really coming into its own over the past few years, with a community that is coming together more and more over a collective love and desire for cultural and culinary creativity. On the food front we’ve seen a new crop of restaurants opening up, concepts are highlighting local ingredients and flavors, and our food festivals are focusing less on celebrity and more on local talent. Leading that charge for years now, has been Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog, chef/owner of gastroPod Miami and creator of the popular PIG (Pork is Good) events that for the past six years has brought together some of Miami’s most exciting chefs to showcase the power of the mighty pig. But now, he’s set his sights on a different protein: fowl. And, this past Saturday this group of hungry gourmands gathered together for a delicious game of Duck Duck Goose in Wynwood.
The Grove seems to be going through a small resurgence that’s being encouraged by a myriad of construction and culinary endeavors in the works. Ariete is a new, refreshing addition to the booming culinary scene located on Main Highway that seems to fit in perfectly, although once upon a time it was meant to call Little Havana home. The old sage saying, “everything happens for a reason” rings true to Michael Beltran, part owner of Ariete and former sous chef at the Cyrpus Room (the second owner is the mastermind behind one of our favorite watering holes in Brickell, Sidebar) since now we can’t imagine this restaurant anywhere but the lush Grove location.