January 31, 2012

Savoring South Beach

Miami to do list; Spend time in the sun, sip on a tropical cocktail or three while watching locals and globe-trotters stroll past with accessory pooches, neon Brazilian bikinis and (in the case of dolled-up she-males) glittering six-inch heels–and that’s just the matinee. If you really want to get a taste of Miami’s melting-pot with its predominate Latin and European influences, you must uncover the hotspots for ceviche, empanadas, the cuban sandwich, and sangria.

As a loyal local epicurean I have been navigating my way around town for professional assignments and personal pleasure for years. Amongst the deluge of overpriced and underwhelming choices, I can confidently report the hidden treasures inside the beating heart of the beach.

Goyo El Pollo - Ceviche

Ceviche is the flagship dish of Peruvian coastal cuisine; the entire country takes a day off work each year to celebrate this National Heritage. Lured by tradition, I found a quaint family owned and operated Peruvian restaurant called Goyo el Poyo with ten years of success founded on their heirloom recipes. The aromatic and refreshing ceviche combines mixed seafood, diced fish, celery hearts, red onion, choclo, and canchita all marinated in a pool of key lime juice, and further elevated with exotic Peruvian spices. These flavours culminate a clean, colorful, and texturally impressive dish balancing tender delicate fish with crunchy fried corn.

The Tudor House - Cuban Sandwich

Cuba is a mere two-hundred and twenty-eight miles away, consequently Miami is home to a large exile community. The Cuban sandwich is another Miami must-try. The spot for a decadent, stylish, spin-off of this Miami-Cuban staple is the newly transformed Tudor House, now under the watchful eye and palate of Food Network’s Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarin. His dreamy version overflows with pulled pork, crispy bacon, sweet pickled cucumbers, tangy mustard and earthy gruyere cheese. The same ingredients are pressed into sweet yellow egg bread (similar to challah) to make the medianoche sandwich. This comforting take on a classic has a sweet buttery aroma and elevates sidewalk take-out fare to another level. The elegantly presented homemade Oreo is a cake-like cookie with a intense dark chocolate flavor complemented by a velvety vanilla cream interior.

Empanadas are as ubiquitous as palm trees here, yet the best ones are not imported; they’re made and baked in-house every morning at Charlottes Bakery. Charlottes is a third-generation bakery specializing in Central and South American pastries since the 1960s. The Argentinean chicken empanada is a small pillow of buttery, flaky dough stuffed with shredded chicken, cumin, and a dash of hot and sweet paprika. Variations include fish, chorizo, or plantain empanadas.

Miamians adore a cool summery sangria. Theirs is a sensual take on the beloved Spanish refreshment that adds rum, peach schnapps, vodka, triple sec and tequila to the requisite red wine, orange juice and tropical fruit. This delectable concoction is well worth sacrificing work for the rest of the day and nursing a hangover the following morning. The recipe comes from Cevicery Restobar, a Peruvian restaurant which shares ownership with a Spanish tapas restaurant next door on the idyllic Española Way.

After completing the above assignment, you can head back to your home town, with a couple of well earned pounds, a golden tan, and a lingering hangover. Best of all you’ll have the sensation of having not only having vacated in Miami but also tasting Peru, Cuba, and Spain.


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