Two years ago I told you about a foodie adventure my blog partner Cris and I enjoyed - the Miami Culinary Tours' Little Havana Food Tour. Well, last week Miami Culinary Tours' founder Grace Della invited us on their South Beach Food Tour. Since one cannot live on Cuban food alone, we happily accepted!
As is the norm for Miami Culinary Tours outings, it's not ALL about food - you get some history and culture too. So, being that we were in South Beach, which has a large collection of Art Deco buildings with some 30 blocks of hotels and apartment houses dating from the 1920s to the 1940s, we learned all about Art Deco as well.
Our tour guide Elizabeth was fantastic! A "professional foodie", with both vast experience and professional training in all things food, she not only told us what we were eating, she explained it from both a culinary and cultural perspective. She made the experience fun and informative.
Our adventure started at Bolivar Resto Lounge, a sort of Pan-South American restaurant and bar.
Upon arrival we were presented with a "Refajo", consisting of Beer (they used Colombian Cerveza Aguila) and Colombian cream soda Colombiana. Now, I'm neither a beer nor cream soda person, but somehow this totally worked for me! It was refreshing and delicious.
Next came a beautiful plate with a Colombian-style empanada and some Peruvian-style ceviche. Colombian empanadas are made with yellow corn dough and filled with a variety of ingredients, ours was filled with spiced ground beef and smoked potatoes and accompanied by a very spicy jalapeño dipping sauce. The ceviche consisted of the fish sway, marinated in lime and passion fruit juice, raw onions, cilantro and cancha (popped Peruvian corn - similar to Corn Nuts). Both paired beautifully with the Refajo.
And then, they "finished us off" with a shot of Colombian aguardiente, an anise-flavored liqueur derived from sugar cane. A perfect ending! ¡Salud!
We then took a short walk to Ocean Drive and stopped at Larios on the Beach, the acclaimed Cuban restaurant owned by Miami's own Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
The interior is gorgeous with all sorts of interesting accents and art, including this hanging sculpture made up of musical instruments that were actually played by Latin musicians including Gloria, Shakira, etc.
Upon being seated, we were served a delicious sangria which the server told us is made with red wine, rum (I know!), peach schnapps and triple sec! Needless to say it was delicious. The sangria accompanied a delicious ropa vieja (shredded seasoned beef) and mariquitas (fried green plantain chips) with a mojo dipping sauce.
They followed that up with a delicious Cuban snack - chicken croquettes! Comfort food at its best.
After all that food it was time for a nice walk and some sight-seeing. It was a gorgeous South Beach day as we walked along a bustling Ocean Drive.
We stopped across from the iconic Breakwater Hotel and Elizabeth talked about Art Deco's history in Miami Beach and pointed out its defining architectural features. Isn't it a gorgeous building?
We continued down Ocean Drive, along diners enjoying all kinds of food and drink, until we reached our next destination at The Tides, a perfect example of the Art Deco aesthetic, both inside and out.
We learned that these chairs date back to the hotel's hey-day when they were used as beach chairs! On the sand! Can you imagine? Now they're in the bar area - makes more sense, right?
And this is the bar, where we were seated. Don't worry - the turtle shells aren't real, they are made from molds. They look so cool though, and look at the beautiful lamp!
As to the food, it was amazing. We were served chicken curry over Israeli couscous - a dish they made especially for our tour group, accompanied by our choice of an Italian Pinot Grigio or Chilean Malbec. Elizabeth explained what spices made up our curry - the girl knows her food!
We followed that up with a walk to Blocks Pizza Deli a small and fabulous smelling spot!
There we had their specialty called Panuozzo which is like a pizza dough sandwich with different fillings, our fillings were sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, feta cheese and kalamata olives - so delicious!
Next we walked over to Española Way, a picturesque pedestrian mall with Spanish Colonial style buildings housing restaurants, bars, galleries, etc. If you've never been there, you should definitely check it out.
Our food adventure came to an end there on Española Way at the Italian Milani Gelateria.
Oh my goodness! They have a wheel of flavors from which to pick!
My friend and I chose Pistachio and "Tropical" which is a combination of pineapple, mango, passion fruit and banana. It was a perfect ending to an incredibly generous sampling of foods.
Everyone in our group of 12 or so enjoyed the tour and left full, happy, and a little more knowledgeable about both the food we enjoyed and the beautiful area of South Beach, What more can you ask for?
So, if you have guests from out of town and you've already fed them Cuban food, take them on the Miami Culinary Tours' South Beach Food Tour. It's offered twice a day rain or shine, takes about 2.5 hours, and you'll walk about a mile with plenty of stops where you can sit down to enjoy the food and the company of your guide and tour mates. Or heck, don't wait for visitors and treat yourself - the weather is getting walking-friendly!