If you read my work or know me at all you are well aware of my somewhat unhealthy obsession with all things food related. I wouldn’t say that I am a food addict but I am most definitely addicted to good food. I could see that Eli Manning like, confused yet oddly intrigued, look on your face as you read that last sentence and thought, wait, what the what, being a food addict and being addicted to good food are two different things. Let me explain. A food addict does not care what they shovel into their Honey Boo Boo sized mouth hole, because they love the sheer act of eating, I however love the act of eating good, no great, food.
Now that we have established that in the, “hierarchy of my love”, which by the way would have made a banging title for an 80’s love ballad, the order is as follows; my wife, my family (furry and not so furry), and my food. Fulfilling, this constant need for a foodie fare fix is about as hard as finding crack in Camden, in the Northeast, but when I am planning to go on vacation, a skinny, sad voice in the back of my head whispers scary thoughts like, “What if you eat at the wrong Taco stand.” Once this kernel of doubt is implanted in my skull, I immediately begin to panic. OMG! WTF! And several other silly ass acronyms that my older readers will have to google. What if I really do eat at the wrong Taco Stand? I will lose all sorts of Foodie Street Cred! I will no longer be able to call myself a Gastronaut or an Epicurean! As I take the brown paper bag out, that once held my Cronut, and breathe deeply into it to stop my hyperventilating, I remember that I am okay. I got a system, and that system works!
My system is foolproof guys and it not only helps you find the best food available in the area it also puts a big fat smile on the faces of food bloggers everywhere. Next time you decide to go on vacation, contact the Top 20 or so food bloggers on Urbanspoon.com for the region that you are headed. Write a very simple e-mail that includes a little bit about yourself and what type of food you are looking for, then sit back and wait. Unless you contacted the world’s worst food bloggers most of these food bards will be glad to help you in your time of need.
This system has never failed me so as Kat and I prepared to visit Miami for one night before boarding our cruise ship, I followed the BCF way. Spoiler Alert! I was not disappointed with the sage advice that was hurled at me from my fellow blogosphere citizens. Damn near every one of them that I contacted suggested a few restaurants to try, but most of them then added that if I truly wanted the Miami Food Experience of a lifetime, I should check out Miami Culinary Tours. I let my fingers do some walking and researched this foodie friendly tour before I devised my pitch to the wonderful little lady. After a few short minutes of checking out their website, my pitch was pretty much sending a link via G-Chat and writing the ever poignant comment, WE NEED TO DO THIS!!! Note the three exclamation points for added pitchiness.
For those of you who are too lazy to click the link above and read about this amazing foodie phenomenon, I will give you the basic idea. Miami Culinary Tours combines the educational experience of learning about the architecture, history, and culture of the beautiful South Beach area with the flare of the tremendous local foodie scene to create a close to three hour eating orgy that leaves you full from your belly to your brain.
After Kat perused the website for all of about two minutes and saw the scrumptious photos of some of the food that we may be able to try on this tour, it was just a matter of booking our tour. The tour itself costs $59.00 per person and at first sounds steep. But as you will soon discover this tour is well worth the price of admission.
After we booked our epicurean excursion we were informed of the clandestine meeting place where the tour would begin. Nothing for nothing but the fact that this rally point was kept secret until I purchased the tickets made me feel like I was some sort of foodie spy, and only added to the allure of this tour.
When we arrived in Miami we were so excited about the Miami Culinary Tour that we actually arrived at the rendezvous spot early. That is right, I said early, and not us early, but actual human being early, and if you know my wife and I you know that is about as commonplace as Charlie Sheen turning down nose candy.
We followed the directions in the e-mail that we received and found our tour guide, Richy Marchosky, who was extremely warm and inviting right off the bat. He checked us in swiftly, reminded us to grab a bottle of water for the tour and then gave us the very simple directions to the first stop on the tour, where we could comfortably wait for the tour to commence.
Our Miami Culinary expedition started outside the first venue of our tour with our guide Richy, introducing himself and having us introduce ourselves as well. Richy’s background in performing was immediately apparent; he was inviting, funny, and informative within the first sixty seconds of the tour. This brief prologue seemed to melt away any anxiousness that was in the group and thanks to Richy’s charismatic and professional approach everyone in the group was instantly ready for a good time.
Our first stop was a charming boutique hotel from the 1930’s, The Angler’s that we were informed Earnest Hemingway frequented. Not sure what to expect on this tour, I slowly walked into the hotel half expecting a half assed blurb about the food that we were going to eat and then a napkin full of food. I was very happy to be all sorts of wrong. We were escorted into a private area where we were all offered comfy seats and then the show really started. Richy began to talk to us not only about the food that we were going to eat but about the history and architecture of Miami and this building. While we were all busy soaking up as much Miami knowledge as we could, our food arrived.
Our first dish could not have been more beautiful, we were served a gorgeous plate of Sea Bass Ceviche served with Leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk. This Peruvian concoction contains lime juice, sliced onion, chiles, salt, pepper, and just a bit of fish juice. Leche De Tigre is believed to not only cure a hangover, which in Miami, the party capital of the world, is a necessity, it is also said to be an aphrodisiac. I am pretty sure the medicinal claims of this fare are not F.D.A. approved but as for the taste I assure you it is B.C.F. approved. The best part was as we ate each bite of yummy, Richy continued to serve us mini morsels of Miami factoids.
Once our plates were clean, we were out the door and on the street in no time and on our way to our next foodie approved establishment. On the way Richy continued to point our famous buildings, celebrity hot spots, and the wonderful architecture that has become symbolic of the Miami area. We soon arrived our destination and entered into Bolivar, a modern lounge like eatery that was described as Colombian-Peruvian-Venezuelan gastronomical fusion; try to say that 10 times fast.
Once again we were whisked inside where place settings were already prepared for us and a cocktail was waiting. The refreshing cocktail that was awaiting our arrival was none other than a traditional Colombian Refajo, or beer mixed with soda. After walking in the still humid and hot Miami November, this mélange hit the spot flawlessly. While Miami cultural facts were flung around the room, our group began to loosen up, partially thanks to Richy’s personality and somewhat thanks to beer that was being sipped as our next sampling arrived.
The smell of this dish was as intoxicating as the beverage that was being served. The Patacones, Fried Green Plantain Chips, were crispity, crunchity, and delicious. Sharing a plate with the banana’s sexier Latin cousin was an empanada that could literally put Pfizer out of business. The Columbian Chicken and Potato empanada was more stimulating than Sofía Vergara doing the Tango by itself, but when combined with the spicy savory sauce that it was served with there is not a blue pill in the world that is more potent.
Richy once again expertly gathered us all together, and ushered to the next establishment spouting tidbits of information all the way to our next stop. As we passed some of the most famous sights of the South Beach area I realized that I must truly be a foodie because instead of being excited that I just walked past a building that was filmed in Scar Face, I was anticipating our next nosh.
After enjoying the scenery of South Beach and walking off a few of the calories we just ingested we arrived at David’s Cafe, a South Beach institution which has been serving delicious authentic Cuban Food for over 35 years. David’s Café offered a walk up take out window for those in a rush, or a quite familiar diner like sit down area if you prefer to stay a while. David’s Café presented us a fried stuffed Yucca dish that I can only describe as a Meat Twinkie, which of course I do with the utmost compliments to David’s Café, considering that I love meat, TWSS, and my love for Twinkies makes Tallahassee’s obsession look like a summer fling. If these gorgeous deep fried log of tastiness was not enough, David Café’ and Miami Culinary Tours had one more thing in store for us, Columbian Freaking Coffee. The combination of walking and eating had depleted most of our batteries by this point, but as if Richy was Jesus and this nectar of the gods was communion, we partook and we were revitalized.
Chock full of nuts, TWSS, and buzzing down the street all hopped up on Meat Twinkies and caffeine we were on our way to yet another stop, Charlotte’s Bakery. When we arrived, I can’t lie I was somewhat sad that we were going to eat another empanada, considering we had just eaten one at Bolivar. I soon learned that A., there can never be too many Empanadas, and B., no two empanadas are the same. Thanks to Miami Culinary Tours, I was about to eat my very first Argentinian Empanada and by the aroma that was wafting throughout this fine establishment I had a feeling I was going to like it. At first glance you can easily see that this was not your grandmother’s empanada, well at least not the grandmother of the owner of Empanada Mania, who usually cooks my empanadas, you get my point, it was different people, work with me. The dough appeared to be a pastry type dough and the green sauce that was served with it was unlike any empanada dipping sauce I had ever seen. As I took my first bite, I could almost hear the Argentine National Anthem playing in my brain, as every taste bud in my mouth stood at attention saluting their flag with honor and integrity. Okay so I had google the Anthem, but you catch my drift, this fried doughy masterpiece was remarkable!
At this point you could see some of the newbie gastronomers hitting the wall, so Richy explained to them that they could get a doggie bag if need be because the next few stops were just as important as the first few. After a short walk we found ourselves in front of a Pizzeria and Deli named Blocks. What is so special about a Pizzeria you ask, well that is a great question. The answer is simple, Blocks is Home to The Mother Dough. The process for the Mother Dough was started 300 years ago, and is continued to this day in this small Pizza Shop in Miami. The yeast for the dough is kept alive by adding water and ﬂour on a daily basis, never missing a single day. This process was lost during the industrial era because this process took too much time and effort, but Blocks is attempting to bring it back one square block of pizza at a time.
We were given the opportunity to try the Sun Dried Hippie, which consisted of Sun Dried Tomatoes, Feta, baby spinach, basil pesto, and kalamato olives all in a pocket of Mother Dough. I can see why 300 years ago people were kind of into this dough, it was scrumptious. Not to mention the fresh ingredients that were combined within it, married perfectly to create a wonderful and not to be forgotten sandwich.
Even though I am a glutton, I have to admit I was slowly reaching my limit, but Richy assured us that the last two stops on this culinary carousel were desserts, and as everyone knows there is always room for dessert. As we approached our destination my internal New Yorker, that all Tri-Staters have, smiled from within and I could hear him whisper, which is louder than most other states inner voices scream, “forgetaboutit.” We arrived at Jerry’s Famous Deli, which appeared to be a traditional Jewish Deli with a little Miami Flare and as Richy spoke about this Miami staple, he passed out Raspberry Rugala. This Rugala would have made my Grandmother sob longer and harder than she did when my Grandfather finally got home from Korea. In fact, if you know her don’t mention that I boasted about having amazing Rugala, because I will be guilted into going back to Miami just to get her some. Wait, on second thought tell her immediately, not even my wife can stand up to the power of Jewish Guilt, and that means I can take this tour again.
Last but not least we made our way to Milani Gelateria where we were offered a sample of Gelato which honestly tasted like it was flown to Miami in the Pope’s personal Pope Jet. The texture was smooth yet creamy and the flavor selection was better than most Gelato places I found in Italy. This was the perfect ending to this amazing tour considering that after all the food we just consumed and all the blocks we walked in the Miami heat, nothing could have tasted better than a little Gelato.
A quote from the founder of this food centric tour Grace Della can be found on the website and I feel that it embodies the passion and objective of the Miami Culinary Tour quite well, “We offer a different perspective on Miami because we are food people, we like to experience other cultures and learn about new places through food, we find comfort in such.” This philosophy is exactly what drew me to this tour and ultimately is why I would recommend this tour to any foodie that finds themselves in Miami.
The restaurants, eateries, and cafés that Kat and I visited on this tour were absolutely amazing and we would have never found them without Richy and Miami Culinary Tours. If you are serious about food and want to find out what Miami has to offer, this tour is a must to find out how full of awesome sauce that Miami Culinary scene truly is.