It’s a gorgeous day. I’m sitting at a beach side cafe overlooking a pretty stretch of beach and a calm ocean. My heart’s full of longing for foreign lands and shores. “One day, I’m going to see Miami,” I tell my partner. He makes a hissing sound through his teeth: “You and your stupid dreams. Come back to earth already!” I’m 19 at the time and although the USA is as inaccessible and unthinkable to me as it is to him, I feel deflated by his attitude. Dreaming never hurts.
In the now: Here I am in Miami for the 3rd time. My soul city. It is 27 years later. That dream did come true. We’re with our good friends Joanne and David on a culinary tour in Calle Ocho, Little Havana, Miami. The day before we spent walking around Ocean Drive in South Beach. We did a little shopping before going to our lunch venue on the beach at the Ritz Carlton. The outdoor restaurant was closed due to rain and we felt disappointed, but since we are spoiled for choice, it wasn’t really a big deal. There are rows and rows of restaurants in Ocean Drive and we found another beautiful location at Il Bolognese overlooking the palm trees and beach. Life’s good. We eat lobster ravioli with large chunks of lobster enveloped in soft pasta pockets that melt in the mouth. The sauce is creamy with the acidity from added tomato cutting a little through the richness. Freshly ground pepper rounds it off beautifully and a crisp white wine makes the day a little lighter. There is shrimp quesadilla served on tile and a basket of juicy cheese burger & fries with beer for the more traditional North American palate. We linger and take to the streets where we land in an ESPN bar to drink a pitcher of cocktails & test tube shooters. We take to the streets again and the sound of Despacito suddenly blares at us. Joanne loves the song. I pull her into the bar and for a few seconds we dance a little and feel like we’re a part of the rich and famous of Miami beach. After a quick dip in the warm ocean it’s already dinner time and we stroll over to Stone Crab Joe’s restaurant for…you guessed it…stone crab. It’s not in season at the moment in Florida so they import it from the Bahamas. The claws are enormous and contain a lot of sweet meat. We shared the food. It was lamb lollipops grilled to perfection, a potato dish that knocked the socks off, oysters and decadent desserts to the likes of lava cake in a cup, key lime martinis & key lime pie, also known as crack pie, due to its addiction factor. Strangely enough, tonight the key lime pie pales in comparison to the decadence of the lava cake.
Walking Culinary Tour in Little Havana, Miami
We were exhausted after our busy day and went to bed at a reasonable time before getting up to go and explore little Havana the following day. Here we did a walking culinary tour and had an incredible cultural experience made all the more amazing because of the passion of our tour guide, Jennifer. Before we started the tour we had a typical Cuban coffee called Cafe Con Leche. I do not like sugar in my coffee and was surprised by the deliciousness of very strong coffee combined with sugar and cream to make a decadent latte. The tour started and we visited El Pub Restaurant for beef empanadas. I love empanadas and these were spectacular. It is a beef hand pie with ground beef slow cooked to absorb the various spice flavors and then rolled into a crusty savory pastry with edges crimped shut and served with copious amounts of hot sauce. Here we had another shot of coffee, just like an espresso, called Cafe Cubano. Another sweet, strong coffee I enjoyed. My favorite place for the day was an enormous bar with cathedral ceilings called the Ball and Chain: Here we drank Mojitos and listened to a Cuban Jazz band. One of the members was grandfatherly-like and wore bright red shoes. He didn’t dance like a grandfather though. Those red shoes set the floor on fire! We visited Old Havana Restaurant for a Cubano sandwich and walked on to Yisell Bakery where we had guava pastelitos. This is a sweet pastry with flavor and color that represents rhubarb. We stopped at Los Pinarenos Fruteria. It is an open air fruit market and also the location where a part of the movie Chef was filmed. We tried a very refreshing Guarapo (cane) juice before walking to our final destination for the day: Azucar Ice Cream. There was a very traditional and delicious guava ice cream, but I couldn’t resist my favorite: Dulce de Leche.
We were bursting and Joanne suggested a walking tour at the Wynwood Walls to walk off some of the food. This was an incredible experience. The graffiti here turned a bad neighborhood into a work of art and I longed to have seen more. The day was done and it was time to head back for our final dinner. We headed to Jimbo’s Sandbar for reggae and simple, down to earth Floridian food. We shared smoked fish, crab cakes and more. Our time together came to an end. I wish that it didn’t have to and I hope there will be more trips in the future.
All photos taken by me, except the ones I’m in
For more photos of our experience, follow these links to my Facebook page.
Little Havana Culinary walking tour: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1569329786475474&type=1&l=781beadfe2
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