Our 2022 travels included a short stop in Miami to meet my brother. We usually try to get to Florida when’s it’s not a million degrees outside, but we had a unique opportunity to see my brother who lives in Europe and who was traveling to the U.S. for business. So we braved the heat and the Spring break crowds and made it to the ocean.
We chose a quiet Air BnB which promised a lot of wild life and palm trees. And it delivered: from the enclosed sunroom which also served as a bedroom, we witnessed iguanas frolicking in the fronds, turtles popping up between lily pads, ducks picking through the grass, and song birds proclaiming another sunny day from palm and mango trees.
During our first evening in Miami, we wanted to experience an authentic Cuban restaurant, so we headed to Little Havana Restaurant. We had more than our fair share of fried plantains (platanos maduros), plus a sampling of other traditional food like vaca frita (grilled shredded beef with Mojo sauce).
When you find yourself in Florida, you should see the Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. We took a hot walk through the park, spying on the wild life (and I’m sure some of it was watching us right back!). We got to see some baby gators (aww, how cute—not!), turtles, and plenty of birds.
On our way out of the park, we stopped by a Miccosukee Native American tribe store featuring beautiful handicrafts by tribe artists, then we headed to Kendall Village Center to Bahama Breeze. We relaxed and had a chilled glass of wine alongside a light lunch (complete with coconut shrimp and empanadas—yum!).
Our next stop was Biscayne National Park for a quick visit, as we ran out of time to catch the tour boats. This is another park that should be on Florida visitors’ “to do” list. Fortunately, I had visited the park in my college days with a photography class and witnessed its amazing sunrises, leaping dolphins, majestic turtles, and peaceful pelicans. This time around, we only encountered a lonely lizard.
Back to civilization (if you can define it as such during Spring break), we dug our toes into the hot sand of South Beach, and relished in the blue-green bath-water warm ocean waves for a minute.
Next, we walked over to Lincoln Road, a popular street lined with cafes. We followed our noses instead of Google’s recommendations and settled on the terrace of Napule É Trattoria, an Italian place promising authentic fare. And authentic it was! Some of the staff, including the chef were actually from Italy (and some only spoke Italian).
We started our meal with calamari fritti, and octopus and arugula salad, paired with a lovely crisp white wine. The octopus was out of this world! I have had octopus in Greece, Spain, and Portugal (my favorite so far), but the Italian version I tasted in Miami might just have taken the prize. The slices were thin, and the balance of flavors was just as amazing and its ingredients were simple: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, complemented by the fresh herbiness (I know, not a word) and pepper of the arugula—delizioso! We followed up with finger-licking leg of lamb with potatoes and primavera pizza (Italian cherry tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella, prosciutto di parma, shredded parmigiano reggiano, EVOO). For dessert, we went with the classic choice, tiramisu.
On our final day in Miami, we chose to explore a part of town I hadn’t seen before: Wynwood art district. This North Miami neighborhood is famous for its murals and chic eateries. We strolled through the streets admiring the artwork surrounding us with social statements in bold colors. In this neighborhood, even the law enforcement is participating in the art: we saw two police cars that served as canvases for local artists.
We cooled off at the Oasis, and sipped on coffee and juice at Novela Café Social, a hip yet casual joint. The owner was very friendly and beamed with pride when we noticed his new neon sign which read in bright pink “I licked it, so it’s mine.” If you grew up with siblings, you know what it means.
After so much artwork, we decided to be tourists and head to Brickell City Centre mall, where my brother could pick up a few gifts for his family. Of course, afterwards, we had to stop for another little bite of seafood, as we knew we’d miss it soon. The calamari and sushi at Toscana Divino didn’t disappoint. We toasted to another good visit to Miami and to our long-overdue reunion with chilled Josh cellars rosé.