|(Walking through Espanola Way)|
We ate a small breakfast, preparing ourselves for the noon tour that would last two and a half hours and take us to five restaurants in South Beach. At our meeting point we were greeted by a smiling blond hair, blue eyed Russian tour guide, Svetlana. Laughing she told us we must be very confused as to why we have a Russian taking us around Miami. Her story was that she used to work for a Russian airline helping chefs create dishes for the airline. During one of her travels to Cuba she met a man, fell in love, got married and moved to Miami, where she dances salsa, cooks Cuban food and speaks Spanish.
Our meeting point was at Manolos Restaurant where a large plate of Dulce de Leche Churros was waiting for us. These churros are a classic Argentinean snack that can be eaten any hour of the day and what better way to start a food tour than with such a sweet indulgence. Biting into the crunchy caramelized churro I knew that this I would not regret what I ate on this tour.
At Bolivar Restaurant, our second stop, we were served a glass of chilled aguila beer and cream colombiana refajo. This Colombian drink is a mix of local Columbian beer with a citrusy lemonade. Along with our drinks, plates of passion fruit ceviche and beef and potato empanadas were passed around. Colombian empanadas differ from other Latin American empanadas because the dough is made with yellow cornmeal, giving it that golden color. Leaving the Colombian cuisine behind we began to make our way east to Ocean drive to try Cuban cooking.
|(Sorry for the blurry photo, this was the delicious drink combination)|
For those of you familiar with Gloria Estefan, you will know that her husband Emilio Estefan is a world renowned chef and owns a restaurant on Ocean Drive, Larios on the Beach. Inside the underwater theme invites those looking for an exceptional time enjoying some of the most delicious Cuban comfort foods. As we walked in we were served beef picadillo, Malanga chips and mojo dipping sauce, a trio that paired together very well. The mojo sauce had a garlicy kick to it that I didn’t expect but so delicious when I dipped the Malanga chips in it.
|(Larios on the Beach)|
|(Interior of Larios on the Beach)|
In my previous post (read here) I had briefly mentioned Ocean Drive and what a cultural experience it was to people watch and walk the historic art deco district of South Beach. Svetlana guided us through the crowds of people and open air restaurants and bars. After a few blocks we came up to the steps of Casa Casuarina, also known as Versace Mansion, where the famous Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace lived and sadly, was murdered. The property has been turned into a boutique hotel with incredible rooms where no attention to detail is overlooked. The design was influenced by the Mediterranean revival style and built in 1930 by architect Alden Freeman. Throughout the years the mansion has passed on to different owners but Gianni Versace, who purchased the residence in 1992 ,made it famous. During the time he lived in the mansion, Gianni did many restorations to the property, expanded the south wing and added a pool. Mediterranean style has been a favorite of mine through my years of studying architecture. A mixture of Spanish renaissance, Beaux-arts and Italian renaissance, this style is can be found mainly along coastal resorts in Florida and California (where I grew up).
|(Casa Casuarina - Versace Mansion)|
After more than fifteen minutes of walking our group started to get hungry so we stepped into the Tudor House Naked Taco by Ralph Pagano. This restaurant served us Mexican style empanadas, different from the Colombian ones we had earlier because flour is used to make the dough. These savory empanadas were filled with chicken chipotle and we could add a little extra spice to it with locally made sauce. After this tour I can see myself learning to make empanadas because they are such a delicious snack.
|(Outdoor seating in front of Tudor House Naked Taco)|
Ocean Drive has a blend of Mediterranean revival and art deco buildings. The Tides Hotel is an example of one of the preserved art deco hotels from the 1930s in South Beach. Inside is an open lobby with an adjacent bar and secret room that was used for drinking alcohol during the Prohibition Era. During those times, drinking alcohol was prohibited throughout the US. Hotels around the country had secret rooms that could be used to enjoy alcoholic beverages or gambling. The way to know if a hotel had one of these rooms was based on the geometric pattern on the lobby floor design. A rectangular shape indicated that drinking was allowed and a circular pattern meant that gambling was allowed. Frank Sinatra would come to the Tides Hotel and rent the secret room so he could enjoy his favorite drink, a martini. Thankfully those times are over and you can freely sip your cocktail at one of bars along Ocean Drive.
|(Lobby of the Tides Hotel, the secret room is to the left, behind the palm tree)|
Along with the large Latino influence in Miami cuisine there is also Italian inspired foods that have made an impact. To taste the Italian influence we stopped at Blocks Pizza Deli, an Italian deli that uses the freshest sourdough made on site. Each of us received a freshly baked pesto and sundried tomato sandwich with feta cheese. The crunch of the sourdough mixed with the variety of Italian flavors brought me back to Italy.
Our tour started with a creamy sweet Churro and ended with a scoop of authentic Italian gelato. Tucked away along Espanola Way is Milani Gelateria where we each choose our favorite flavor and enjoyed it under the shade of the trees. Nothing beats a cool and refreshing cup of gelato after walking for two and half hours.
|(Our last stop with our tour guide, Svetlana)|
This tour was a great way to explore and see Miami from a different perspective and learn how the different cultures from Latin America and Italy have influenced Miami Cuisine. I highly recommend taking this tour next time you are in Miami. The tour had an impressive variety of food and interesting architectural stops along the way, you will not be disappointed.
(I went on the South Beach tour and next time I am in Miami I hope to enjoy one of the other tours offered)
x the Adventurer