It began on a breezy summer day. We gathered around the famous Wynwood Walls to being the Wynwood Food Tour by Miami Culinary Tours.
Though most of us had never met before, conversation came easy. It was understood we were among friends based on common interest; we liked to eat. That's when our tour guide, Mirka, arrived. She smiled and immediately had everyone’s attention. This is it! You could feel everyone's excitement as the same thought crossed our minds. We’re about to get our grub on.
We introduced ourselves and Mirka told the story of a land called Wynwood. She versed us on the history of its founders, the art and meaning behind the walls surrounding us and the artist sanctuary it has now become. We realized there was so much more to take from this than a full belly.
It was time to get to business. We journied towards the first stop, Wynwood Kitchen & Bar. Mirka briefed us on Chef Miguel Aguilar’s background and creativity combined with his love for latin food. We were quickly received by cheerful servers and a very large pour of Wynwood Brewery’s award winning blonde ale, “La Rubia" -- perfectly chilled, of course.
As we toasted, sipped and made merry, the food arrived. Three dishes, based off of traditional latin bites, with a twist: flaky empanadas filled with savory ropa vieja, maduros that melted in your mouth with queso fresco + nata (nata is the cream that thickens and congeals from boiling raw milk), and tequeños, a Venezuelan favorite with a tangy garlic aioli sauce.
Clearly, we were ravenously hungry. Clean plates all around, and as I looked up, I found a deeply satisfied and exuberant group of people. The energy was magical. It felt like we were transported to a vacation destination, and I overheard one woman utter, "I'm waiting for Anthony Bourdain to pop out any minute."
We trotted across the street towards Mmmm, a modernly chic and inviting French bistro. I was eager to try this spot because the name itself was so enticing. We were guided towards the back of the cafe, and as we approached, we entered into a secret garden of bountiful bougainvilleas bursting through visions of white lattice and wicker. We took our seats as they passed around bubbling trays of Rosé. Excitement filled the air as we caught a glimpse of their French Tartines. We had a choice between chicken or artichoke (one time for my vegetarians!), prepared on authentic poilane bread. As we ate and drank, we relaxed into the experience a bit more. Conversation and laughter filled the humble veranda, and I could hear new friendships in bloom.
"Time's up!", Mirka shouted. Everyone rose swiftly, adopting their own happy prance as we said goodbye to another satisfying experience. To give our stomachs a break and our minds a little extra stimulation, Mirka led us to an art gallery close by. It featured interactive playground favorites and you better believe we all took turns. It was a room full of smiles on the merry go round, see saw, and swing set.
The route to R House allowed extra time on foot. We strolled passed vivid and colorful walls of art and listened to stories about the artists who painted them. Finally, we arrived and entered an upscale eatery with an integrated art gallery. Each section of this "galle-rant", is dedicated to a different artist and makes for great eye candy while you dine or casually explore. Never failing to top you off, we took our seats and poured up some vino rojo; cheers! We enjoyed small plates of tuna tartare piled on a crunchy tortilla chip and short rib sliders hit the spot after the warm and sweaty walk.
"... at Jimmy's, at Jimmy's!" I've come to Jimmy'z Kitchen many times myself. However, I never got around to ordering their famous mofongo everyone talks about. Today was the day! I'd finally get to try it and join the many satisfied foodies before me.
Though you can usually find Jimmy there, it was a privilege to have him come out and greet us. He gave us a short background on Puerto Rico, where the dish originates and requested pinot grigio for everyone! We lifted our glasses and Jimmy toasted to a great meal. All I can tell you is that after one bite, I was hooked. Did I mention there were tostones involved? You don't have to tell me twice.
It was at this point I concluded, there was no way any more food was going to fit.
(A glass or two of more bubbly, perhaps...) That is, until we came to Made In Italy and I saw the mouthwatering spread of taleggio cheese, prosciutto and pieces of toasted Italian bread.
At first I felt cheated by my own city. How did I not know this place existed? I stepped out of Miami and into an authentic Italian bistro, market and wine bar. I was immediately enamoured by the brilliance of this concept and Euro vibe.
"Prosecco!", someone shouted. It may have been me. Yes, never a drought. They kept us pretty hydrated. After all, South Florida heat can be brutal. With that said, I need to take a moment and discuss just how mind blowing the cheese was. Have you ever felt your tongue cry tears of happiness?
I think it's safe to say we're all feeling pretty good right about now.
A nice stroll to another gallery seems in order. We browsed through artist merchandise, caught our breath and gabbed about the fun we were having.
Then, finally, we made it and this wouldn't be complete without dessert. Our last stop on the Wynwood Food Tour, Fireman Derek's World Famous Pies. Our eyes widened at the sight of rows and rows of mini key lime pies made for us. Everyone was so eager, hands forward, just waiting for a taste. It was like walking up to communion. And in case we thought that a bare key lime pie would suffice, Fireman Derek brought out homemade whipped cream to generously plop on top.
Everyone looked serene and joyful. We knew the tour would eventually end and we would have to go back to reality. But maybe if we stayed around long enough, Mirka would take us to another magical place.
We said our goodbyes, some exchanged information and hugged as if we had been on a week long trip together. It was an experience I'll never forget, and I can't wait to do it again. If you're a foodie who enjoys a taste of something in your cup, travel and learning about art and culture, this is your disney world!