When in Miami we obviously had to add to our long list of food tours that we’ve participated in across the world. Having lost count of European encounters, we brought our love of learning about what we eat stateside and whilst they may have been slightly bias, locals led us to believe that we’re in the best state of the USA to do this. Reflecting on the Miami Culinary Tour of South Beach, we have to agree.
With only 90 miles separating the most southern point of Florida and Cuba, plus a wide array of South American influences and Mexican restaurants on every street corner, it was far from the stereotypical view that burgers, pizzas and corn dogs entirely make up the American palette (although we had all of those at least once during our time there too).
Starting proceedings off at Columbian restaurant, Bolivar, we moved through to Italian and Cuban spots around South Beach’s famous Washington Avenue, Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive. The wealth of knowledge by our incredible food tour guide, Ela, left us with too much to put into this post. At every stop and also in-between, we were brought everything South Florida’s culinary communities have to offer as well as the culture and tradition behind those doing the cooking.
At Bolivar we tried our first ever Columbian empanada with smoked beef potatoes, jabanero and ceviche – a delicious combination of crunch and softness, the yellow turnovers full of seasoned pork and beef perfectly added to by the hot spice from the habanero sauce.
On to the bustling Ocean Drive and having been toured through the beautiful Art Deco district, it was time to settle in for course two. It doesn’t take a food expert to see that the majority of the restaurants on this strip are tourist traps. Pictured menus, staff out on the street attempting to lure you in with a happy hour deal and exaggerated Cuban decor – it’s got all the usual signs but yet everywhere seems so, so busy. However, amongst the indifference is Larios on the Beach, where we’d try the Cuban comfort food of malanga chips with beef stew, potatoes, onions, peppers, white wine, tomato sauce, raisins and olives.
The next two stops on the food tour were influenced by somewhere a little closer to home – Italy. Having Inter-railed through our favourite European country in the summer of 2018, we were lucky enough to learn all about the history of their world famous foods, which made us impressed with our first stop at Rosetta Bakery, but not so with the second at Mammamia Gelato.
Quoting our Roman Food Tour post… “if you ever have gelato in Italy, or in fact anywhere in the world there two are golden rules…
1. Do not go for the places that have the “gelato” whipped up and piling high over the containers. Instead, look out the metal tins which keep the gelato at the right temperatures and are not made with un-natural ingredients and preservatives which gives the fake stuff its look.
2. Only choose gelato which has natural tones, not bright, vibrant and shiny colour. This is again down to the quality of the ingredients that are used to make it.”
Unfortunately, Mammamia was clearly not authentic but it was guilt-trippingly enjoyed.
We ended our two and a half food tour at Abuela’s Kitchen, a walk by window Cuban coffee outlet. It was getting pretty late on in the evening so we were lucky that caffeine doesn’t majorly affect our ability to climb walls – we were about to try the strongest of Cuban espressos, albeit it in very small amounts. Always served with a healthy (or not so healthy) dose of demerara sugar, it is extremely popular in Miami and the Florida Keys, often shared whilst socialising out on the street or with a newspaper in hand. We definitely should’ve tried it in the morning but it gave us the energy needed to get back home and send our step count over 27,000 for the day.
Thanks so much to Miami Culinary Tour’s for having us – it was a wonderful evening mixing with a a small group of people from all corners of the world basking in the glory of some wonderful food. Highly recommended.