The snow is piling up on my patio and the pine trees are covered in white. While beautiful to look at, my mind, body and spirit keep saying "take me back to warm Miami." Since I don't have any plans to visit soon, all I can do is drink hot cocoa and reminisce about the wonderful vacation that my boyfriend L and I took to South Beach this past November. For those who are visiting Miami this winter, here are my favorite spots and things to do:
The Sunny Savoy Hotel
This is the second time L and I stayed at The Savoy Hotel in South Beach. It is a small hotel on Ocean Drive near 5th Street. We like the location because it is far enough away from the main drag, yet close enough to walk everywhere. You don't need a car. We stayed in a suite with a partial ocean view. You can easily access the beach and they have a lovely pool. Prices go up after around November 15, that's why we always go earlier in the month.
Biking and Walking
Miami is a great place to ride a bike. There are Deco Bike stations around the city. I rented a bicycle each morning, adjusted the seat and off I went. Rentals are inexpensive, you'll need your credit card, and bring a bottle of water that you can pop into the bike's basket. I recommend paying for an hour minimum so you don't have to rush. You can return the bicycle at any stand.
While L and I are very compatible, he is not a biker. He does like to walk and we walked several miles each day to Lincoln Road. There are many nice shops and good restaurants for alfresco dining. We like PAUL French bistro for breakfast - the best iced coffee, croissants and baguettes - and Books & Books cafe for tasty luncheon salads.
Food: Glorious Miami Food
Some days it felt like we literally ate our way around Miami. It's amazing we didn't gain weight (thankfully we did a lot of exercise.) Between L's friend M, his son G, and my cousin R, who all live in Miami, delectable dining was on the daily menu:
Monday's supper was at SUGARCANE raw bar grill in Miami's emerging Midtown district with a menu that is "inspired by international influences and South American spirit," as its website says. Not a fan of oysters or sushi - which looked fab - we shared several tapas including roasted brussels sprouts with sweet soy and orange - which I am determined to replicate at home. Our main dish was a perfectly cooked whole branzino - which I will never be able to replicate at home.
Tuesday's dinner was traditional Italian at Cafe Prima Pasta, located further from downtown, but well worth a cab ride to 71st Street. The portions are huge at this Ristorante Italiano. My cohorts enjoyed big bowls of pasta and I savored another branzino - this time baked with tomatoes, capers, onions and Kalamata olives.
Wednesday night we went to Espanola Way, an historic area in South Beach. Unfortunately, the popular Tapas & Tintos was closed for renovation so we went across the street. Our meal was not on par, so I will not share the restaurant. Let's just say that when on Espanola Way go to a Mexican restaurant or wait for Tapas & Tintos to hopefully reopen.
Thursday evening was the best night of all. "I'm taking you to El Carajo, a Spanish restaurant that is behind a gas station" said L's friend M. "Yep, we're going to a gas station," said L. I was a bit leery until we passed through the front of the convenience store to find an incredible wine shop and bar that serves some of the most authentic tapas I have ever eaten outside of Spain. You must go there - it is worth the experience. Buen provecho!
Friday, our last evening in Miami, was spent at Michael's Genuine, in the new Miami Design District, which is being transformed from a rundown area to a vibrant neighborhood. The food was fresh with local ingredients on the menu. My comrades slurped oysters on the half-shell. I preferred the char-grilled octopus appetizer and the tasty roasted fish entree from the wood-oven.
Saturday Was Little Havana Day
I could not leave Miami without going to Little Havana for a Cuban sandwich. Ever since seeing the movie Chef, I've wanted to go to Little Havana and eat a Cuban sandwich at Versailles - The World's Most Famous Cuban Restaurant. "That's where we are taking you for breakfast before you leave for the airport," said my cousin R. We packed our bags and were ready to go. Breakfast was fair. Cuban sandwich was fair - but maybe not as good because I ate it for breakfast. The desserts looked luscious and when I go back I'm definitely going for lunch.
I can see why Miami was ranked by The New York Times as one of its "52 Places To Go In 2015."
Hoping I can visit again next November.