Sunday, February 2, 2014

SoBe - My Miami Culinary Tour Tale

A few months ago I received an email inviting me to the Miami Culinary tour. I had heard of these tours before and always wanted to go on the SoBe (south beach) tour but never had a chance. Living in Montreal, I only get to Miami for a couple of weeks a year so planning a culinary tour always takes a back seat – not anymore!

I graciously accepted the invitation and informed them that I would be in Sobe for the holidays. We set a date and on December 31, 2013.  I met Grace and the rest of my tour on 7th and Washington. Geared up for a fun day filled with food, we set out down the block to our first stop.


The Angler hotel is on Washington between 6th and 7th, set behind some trees and a beautiful garden. Grace my tour guide, informed us that Hemmingway used to frequent the bar at this boutique Sobe hotel. We all sat in the lounge/bar area and introduced ourselves. Before setting off on our tour, we all enjoyed a simple amuse-bouche of dates stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.


 I like dates, I love blue cheese and I adore prosciutto but this bite had no flavour except for sweet. The sweetness of the date over powered the blue cheese and prosciutto completely, even the balsamic reduction was too sweet. I really was not impressed.   
660 at The Angler's on Urbanspoon




We left The Angler and crossed Washington to enter Bolivar, an authentic Columbian-inspired Latin restaurant. Latin flavours are one of my favourites, so many to choose from in Sobe, but Bolivar turns it up another notch by harmonizing so many different Latin flavours. From authentic ingredients, Bolivar brings Columbian, Peruvian and Venezuelan flare to life. The first item served was an authentic Refajo, Columbian beer similar in taste to Heineken, poured with a delicious cream soda. This deep orange drink was not overly sweet nor did it taste like beer, I really loved this drink. I liked it so much that I had two refills – delicious and refreshing.




As I sipped my Refajo, out came a plate of three items. The first I recognized immediately as an empanada, the second was a spicy green sauce called Aji and the third item left me stumped. Thanks to Grace I quickly learnt that the third item was called a Patacone de pollo which is mashed green plantain deep fried and topped with shredded spicy chicken and Parmesan cheese.



The empanada was filled with beef and smoked mashed potato – incredible. This empanada was served Columbian style and deep fried rather than baked as some other Latin cultures tend to do. The filling was bursting with flavour and the dough was crispy yet not greasy at all. Grace informed us that the Aji sauce is very spicy and is to be poured on top of the empanada. Spicy and flavourful the Aji is enough to blow anyone’s socks off, but it was really delicious and added more depth and flavour to the empanada.

I love fried plantains, sweet or green there is something so comforting about them. As I bit into the Patacone de Pollo I instantly fell in love. Crispy not greasy the base of fried green plantains is the perfect complement to the shredded spicy chicken and salty Parmesan cheese. The Patacone embodied what Latin food is all about, fun fresh and spicy ingredients that blend beautifully together creating the perfect balance of flavours in one dish. I really enjoyed that about the food we sampled at Bolivar, everything was fresh and very flavourful all complimenting each other and not over-powering – delicious!  
Bolivar on Urbanspoon




The group seemed to really enjoy the food at Bolivar and soon we had finished it all. I left full and completely satisfied, the only thing missing was something sweet. This brings us to our next stop just next door to Bolivar, Manolo. Manolo is an authentic Argentinean restaurant and bakery serving up some delicious smelling food. We stopped here quickly just to grab a dulce de leche Churro to go. A churro is a latin version of a doughnut, well not quite, but that’s the easiest way to explain it.


Fried sticks of dough sprinkled with sugar that can be plain or stuffed with a filling. At Monolo’s, they make their Churros stuffed with Dulce de Leche. I had never had a churro before and was extremely excited to try one – boy was I surprised. To be honest I was not a fan at all. The dough was crispy on the outside and undercooked on the inside, I really did not enjoy the filling either. I found the Dulce de Leche to have absolutely no flavour, not even sweet. I guess a churro is not for me as everyone else seemed to enjoy it.        
Manolo on Urbanspoon



We walked eating our churros while Grace took us on a small tour of Sobe. She explained the importance of Art Deco and the history of Sobe. Even though I don’t consider myself to be a tourist in Sobe, I learned a lot from Grace and really enjoyed her passion for it’s history. We walked down to Ocean drive and up again towards Collins and 11th where we stopped for a traditional Cuban coffee. I myself am a huge lover of Cuban coffee and frequent Las Olas cafe every single morning when I am in Sobe, but had never had one at David’s cafe. Grace took us to the walk up counter, a sure sign that this is an authentic Cuban cafe, and ordered up some cafe Cubano. Cafe Cubano is a Cuban version of an espresso but in my opinion way more delicious. Served in a small espresso cup with several smaller “shot” glasses to share, Cuban coffee time is meant to be shared and enjoyed with all. If you have never had a cafe Cubano or a cortadito (espresso with some steamed milk) or a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) then you really are missing out! The coffee is never bitter and always served sweet, Cubans love their sugar. This coffee is not suggested for those who normally enjoy decaf or that brown water that some call “coffee” from Tim Hortons, only true coffee lovers will enjoy this coffee!
David's Café on Urbanspoon







After our boost of java, it was onto bigger and better things, a stop at Jerry’s deli for some authentic and delicious Jewish Rugelach. Rugelach is a cream cheese dough cookie that traditionally is stuffed with chocolate or cinnamon, very similar in shape to a very mini croissant. 



At Jerry’s Deli, we sampled their apricot raisin Rugelach. The Rugelach was one of the best commercially made ones I have ever had, still it does not compare to my Father’s Rugelach, but good enough that I brought my Father back there a few days later to sample them for himself.
Jerry's Famous Deli on Urbanspoon




Pizza is no stranger to Sobe. Every second or third restaurant on Washington is a pizza place or serves pizza. I have been a fan of a few pizza spots, however none compare to the next stop on my Culinary Tour. Blocks Pizza Deli is a family owned and operated dine-in or take-out resto that serves up authentic Roman style pizzas and sandwiches or pockets as they call them. 



As we entered this little pizzeria, I knew immediately that we were in for a real treat. Using 300 year old starter for their dough, the pizza at Blocks is different from anything I have ever tasted before. Fresh never frozen ingredients, they even have a sign stating they have no freezer, really makes their pizza, calzones and sandwiches stand out amongst others. 



The dough is crispy and full of flavour, really something special. Grace passed around their sun-dried tomato hippie pocket which is made on their pizza dough and filled with pesto, feta cheese, kalamata olives and fresh spinach – out of this world amazing! So good that a few days after the Miami Culinary Tour, I brought my family back with me and we enjoyed more of their delicious food. OK so we came back 2 days in a row, but isn't that what you do when the food is really good?
Blocks Pizza Deli on Urbanspoon





As soon as we left Blocks Pizza deli, I was so full that I thought I couldn’t eat another bite – oh was I wrong. Our next stop was a Venezuelan bakery named Charlotte’s Bakery. We entered the small bakery and were immediately served chicken empanadas. Different from Argentinean or Columbian empanadas that we had at Bolivar, this version was baked not fried and served with a delicious fresh avocado and cilantro sauce. That’s what I love about Latin food; each culture has their own individual spin on the same dish. 


I loved this version of an empanada even more than the fried version. The baked dough was crispy on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside – pure goodness. The chicken filling was spiced just right and was perfectly complimented by the delicious avocado cilantro sauce. The more sauce I put, the better the empanada was – my favourite of the day. The sauce was truly simple but managed to elevate the flavours of the empanada to a whole new taste level. I also re-visited this bakery with my family and they all agreed that these empanadas were scrumptious.
Charlotte Bakery on Urbanspoon





I finished my empanada and was offered another one, I would have loved to but I was so full I could barely even stand – food coma. I felt my body begin to fall into a deep food coma and the tour wasn’t even finished yet, we still had one last stop – Milani Gelateria. As authentic as you can get in Sobe, Milani Gelateria serves up some of the most delicious gelato I have ever sampled. Milani’s has a beautiful gelato rotating freezer that showcases all the flavours they offer each day. I would love one of those freezers in my kitchen! After all the food I sampled that day, a tiny bite of gelato was a must, even if I thought I was going to explode. I ordered up a sample of their Bacio flavour and was blown away. The creaminess and bold flavours was perfect and truly delicious.






We gathered outside and finished off our samples of gelato. I had a few minutes to chat with Grace and thank her for the amazing tour. I also took this opportunity to ask for more restaurant recommendations and boy did she have a few amazing ones. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who loves to eat – be sure to bring your appetites!

Milani Gelateria on Urbanspoon






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