Tasting Miami

Article originally published in TravelHost Magazine, Jan 2014

Miami is a multicultural city with a unique flavor. The many immigrants, mostly Latin, have brought their traditions and customs with them, including their food and recipes. Food here has zest and condiment. A delicious way to explore the diversity and flavors of the city is visiting the many family owned restaurants in the various neighborhoods.

“Food in Miami is not just about flavor. Behind each dish there is a story, a culture” explains Grace Della founder of Miami Culinary Tours, a small local company passionate about food and culture. Their tours highlight the Latin culture of Miami and exalt the diversity and history of the city. Grace had the idea of the tour when she saw the success her mom’s cooking exhibitions had in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Miami Culinary Tours conduct expertly guided tours in the two most iconic districts of the city; Little Havana and South Beach. During each tour guests visit 7 or 8 different restaurants to eat and learn about traditional dishes, ingredients, and cooking styles typical of countries like Cuba, Colombia, and Italy. Guests stroll from restaurant to restaurant enjoying the sights and energy of these two vibrant neighborhoods while the guide explains everything from Art Deco architecture and the local contemporary history.

The South Beach tour begins in a Colombian restaurant where guests can taste corn empanadas, plantains stuffed with well condimented chicken, and a refreshing refajo, an interesting mix of local cola and beer. The stops also include a visit to the Angler Hotel where Chef Carlos Torres prepares very delicate Peruvian influenced fish tiraditos with Caribbean ingredients. From there the group walks on world famous Ocean Drive while enjoying Jewish treats at Jerry’s Deli and flavorful Italian gelatos, communities whom also have a history in the region.

In Little Havana the music blares in the street among the smells of well crafted cigars. The group enjoys the sweet but very strong Cuban coffee and well seasoned beef empanadas at El Pub restaurant. A perfectly confectioned medianoche sandwich layered with ham, pernil (seasoned pork), Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard in a sweet Cuban bread is also on the menu at Exquisito, as well as a variety of nontraditional ice cream flavors at Azúcar a Cuban style ice cream shop. A visit to Domino Park where locals take their domino games very seriously and the urban art and the many art galleries give this district its eclectic character.

Grace and her small group of guides at Miami Culinary Tours are passionate about food and their city. They provide a great option for visitors to get to know the essence of Miami. It is easy to taste the history and culture behind each dish, flavor, and place visited. Since they are not sponsored by any restaurant they can revise the places they visit to follow fresh new flavors and ingredients. So should you.

Following is the current list of places visited by Miami Culinary Tours:

South Beach
Artesian Colombia (Restaurante Bolívar): corn empanadas, plantains stuffed with well condimented chicken, and a refreshing refajo.
Flori-bbean flavor (660 at the Angler Hotel): Delicate Peruvian influenced fish tiraditos with Caribbean ingredients
Old Havana (Casa Larios): Elegant restaurant where you try Cuban classics like ropa vieja, rice and black beans and sweet ripe plantains.
Mediterranean cuisine (Blocks): Fetah cheese, olive oil and delicious pesto stuffed in a crust made from live yeast brought from Italy.
Cuban coffee (David’s Café): Ordered from the restaurant’s to-go window for a quick pick-me-up like locals do.
Jewish treat (Jerry’s Famous Deli): Rugula is a delicate and rich pastry stuffed with sweet cream cheese and raspberry.
Authentic Italian (Gelateria Milani): A wheel of flavors makes it difficult to choose one. Made from scratch with delicious ingredients imported from Italy like the hazelnuts and pistachios.

Little Havana
Gaiza Gallery: Local multifaceted artist. Introduction to the artistic influence of the area.
Welcome to Cuba (El Pub): A very delicious empanada stuffed with savory picadillo meat made like tradition dictates, stuffed plantain, and a cold beer.
Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co.: Learn from the most Cuban of all traditions, to work the tobacco and roll perfect aromatic cigars.
Everything exquisite (Restaurante Exquisito): The best medianoche sandwich and home made mariquitas (thinly sliced fried plantain).
Máximo Gomez Park: Old school Cubans gather for domino and to reminisce of the good old days.
The town’s bakery (Yisel Bakery): Delicious guava pastry that goes perfectly with a Cuban coffee.
The country (Frutería Los Pinareños): A country style fruit and vegetable market where guests try juice from freshly squeezed sugar cane.
Art and history lessons: A walk around this iconic neighborhood to appreciate the urban art and traditions of the area’s residents.
Desert (Azúcar Ice Cream Shop): Try to choose from the curious list of flavors such as corn, mamey, and dulce de leche.

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