I’ve never liked foodies. I feel food is a weird thing to judge. At the end of the day an apple has already been ripped from its mother, kidnapped and forced into a slavery working in a factory where it is beaten to a pulp, given enough sugar to give it diabetes, trapped in a prison of pastry before being burnt and then sold off to line the pockets of rich people like Mr Kipling.
The fact that at the end of this journey someone has the gall to tell it that it would be better with a pinch of cinnamon or a nutmeg glaze is adding insult to injury. It’s not the apples fault man, he’s doing the best he can.
However, I have noticed that my attitude towards food and restaurants is changing. It’s increasingly common for me to go into a restaurant, sit down, look at the menu, and then leave because there’s nothing on the menu that grabs my fancy. When the food comes I actively enjoy listening to the waiters talk me through my meal as opposed to the younger version of myself who would want the waiter to leave him alone so that he get down to the business of shoving the food into the face.
I’ve also noticed that I’m increasingly grumpy when friends suggest going to a restaurant that isn’t highly recommended on Tripadvisor, or when they ask for the bread and I reply “Actually, I think you’ll find it’s actually Focaccia”.
A quick inspection of my fridge reveals an abundance of chorizo and Venison. I see that my DVD of ‘Chef’ has been played 5 times now, which is weird because that film has literally no plot. It’s at this point I realise…. I might be a foodie? Or possibly just a snob. Either way, I’ve changed.
With 24 hours to burn in Miami (and the movie ‘Chef’ still showing in the cinema of my soul) what better way to explore the city than a food tour. This would be my first ever food tour and would serve as the Iowa Caucus on my road to Culinary Nirvana.
Miami is a unique blend of America, Cuban and Central and South American influences.
The “South Beach Tour des Forks Food Tour”, through Miami Food Tours took place on Miami’s famed South beach. Our guide Gabriel, a Miami native was smart, entertaining and surprisingly slender and in shape for a man who had led so many food tours.
The tour started outside a book shop called Books & Books who started a café and offered “Nouveau Miami” cuisine. Gabrielle explained that Nouveau Cuisine was a French culinary movement which rejected the heavy sauces of Haute or Classique Cuisine and instead focused on lighter and more delicate dishes. Nouveau Miami was Nouveau Cuisine’s principles applied to Mexican and Eastern Dishes.
The meal included yuca fries, hummus with tahini, sweetcorn esquite and light guacamole. The meal was very light and fresh and nicely eased us into our morning of gluttony. This meal was also the best presented with the brilliant yellows of the sweet corn and the deep green of the guacamole brightening the small plates.
We headed out of Books and Books onto Lincoln Road. The first surprise of the day was that the tour wasn’t really about food, but about Miami and South Beach in particular. Gabriel’s story of Miami started in the roaring 20s with the connection of South Beach to the mainland, segwayed onto building and the evolution of the area through the 50s, leading us through its cocaine and immigrant problems in the 70s and 80s, explaining its artistic rebirth in the 90s and finishing with its chic new identity that we walked through today. Gabriel came prepared with pictures of the city through the last century and as we walked from street to street, the name Collins Avenue began to make sense and helped to build a sense of perspective to the food.
Next stop on the tour was to a small rustic little Cuban bakery called Bells Cuba for morning pastries. Gabriel taught us how to ID a Cuban Pastry as the shape of the pastry tells you what’s inside. We had rectangles which meant Guava and Cheese. These pastries were fresh out of the oven. The first bite surprised me as the pastry was light on the cheese and big on the molten guava. Fruity but not so sweet as to be sickly, the pastry slid down my oesophagus smoother than James Bond entering a casino.
The pastry came with a coffee served from a Colada. Not usually a coffee drinker, I wasn’t massively excited for this. Gabriel explained the Colada is a Cuban custom where a small pot is made of very strong coffee and you can help yourself to a shot. We each took a shot from what looked like a thimble.
The coffee was very strong but oh so smooth, dark and almost caramel like. Identical to the pastry, it slipped down easily and you could immediately feel the caffeine go to work. All in all, Bells Cuba Restaurant was my standout from the tour.
From its intimate and homely atmosphere to the perfectly cooked food and the social side of the coffee, it would be first on my list for a return visit.
Next up was a Peruvian restaurant called “Chalan on the Beach”. This restaurant was, from the outside, incredibly underwhelming and somewhere where I, as a newly realised food snob, would have passed on the minute I saw the plastic laminated menus with bland, amateur like photos of the food.
The first samples of food also underwhelmed: standard chips and rice and then an OK but unspectacular Ceviche.
However, underwhelming and unspectacular is not something that can be said about the lamb. Wonderfully tender and in a sweet sauce that was beautifully complemented by onions, the lamb was ruthlessly attacked by our tour group and stole the show.
As our bellies began to swell and gravity tightened its grip on us, we slowly made our way to the next stop. The walking was a big help in order to give us time to digest and make room between meals.
We made a stop on the famous beach front to be educated about the architecture of the city and learn about the conservation work that has led to the preservation of The Beach.
As we walked through the Z Ocean Hotel for a restroom break, we found this gem of an Instagram frame and couldn’t resist a quick photo, naturally.
Our penultimate stop was another “blink and you’ll miss it” establishment: the Charlotte Bakery which we were surprised to find out was actually a Venezuelan Bakery. To ensure the food was as authentic as possible, the owners have imported all the cooking equipment from Venezuela to make sure customers get the real deal.
We were treated to a tequeno: a white cheese in a light pastry crust.
The tequeno was warm but not hot meaning the cheese wasn’t molten but was rubbery enough to let you know it was slipping down you into your stomach.
This was simple but effective baking and felt a lot more like comfort food. I think it would have made the perfect hangover cure if necessary, but after our international pallet assault some people (Rachel) at this point were starting to fill up and sharing the portions.
Soon we were in the Frieze Ice Cream Factory which was our final stop. The Frieze is a very cool ice cream shop with bespoke artwork and a wild range of flavours including champagne, lychee, guava, tamarind, smores and a dangerously large selection of sorbets.
After making full use of the free samples, we both settled on a tub of champagne sorbet which was everything that you could possibly hope for when ordering a tub of champagne sorbet: light, sweet, with a brutish kick and a rich, smooth aftertaste.
The full tour lasted around 3 hours and if you would like to follow in our footsteps then you can book a place here www.miamifoodtours.com . The tour costs $58 (adults) but you should also set aside some cash to tip your guide. If you have transport and want a bespoke tour then they can do different tours taking you across Miami and into other areas such as little Havana.
We really enjoyed the tour. There was not only a great and varied selection of food that to sample, but I have no doubt that we would have walked straight past half of the restaurants on the tour and would have missed out on some great discoveries and experiences.
We also learned a lot about the city of South Beach and Miami itself: why there is such a variety of people there and how and why the demographic has changed to give us the vibrant and intriguing city that we see today.
We’d like to thank Gabriel, our very knowledgable guide and would strongly recommend taking a Miami Food Tour: to sample great food and to get to know Miami in a fun and interactive way.
Thank you to Miami Food Tours for sponsoring our first food tour. However, this was an amazing experience and all opinions in this article are honest and our own.
Last modified: 31st May 2016