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Easter Brunch in South Florida

One of the interesting things about the holidays is that the traditions surrounding them can be so enjoyable, and oftentimes so delicious, that even the most staunch atheist can feel hesitant to completely abandon them. Even those who still identify with a particular religion can often forgo the rituals, services, and prayers associated with certain holidays but will definitely embrace the gift exchanges, parties, and most definitely the food. I’m certain that not everyone has been making sacrifices for Lent. Many Catholics have probably forgotten that Palm Sunday was this past weekend, many more will be observing Holy Week as just another week, and there are probably quite a few who don’t plan on going to church this coming Sunday. Nevertheless, many self-identifying Christians will probably be making plans to enjoy an Easter meal this weekend. Along with the warmer weather our northern compatriots hope to experience, our recent “spring forward” to which many of us are still adjusting also marks an unofficial start to “the brunch season.” Sure, we enjoy leisurely al fresco brunches all the time in South Florida, but brunch never seems as mandatory as it does during one of the Spring’s most brunch-friendly holidays, Easter. In case you have yet to make plans for this weekend, here are a few of Joonbug’s suggestions for restaurants serving up Easter brunch in South Florida:

CULINARY OCCASIONS
Slow Food Miami's Snail of Approval Tasting Party

Most serious foodies have most likely heard about the Slow Food Movement...if not already members in good standing. The movement, which started in Italy, came about as a response to the ubiquitous fast food culture of our era and the threat it continues to pose towards good food, good health, and eating well. Slow Food continues to be one of the most prominent organizations in supporting good, natural food that is environmentally and socially responsible with chapters throughout the world, including one in Miami. On Friday, March 15th, South Florida locals can take part in Slow Food Miami’s 2nd Annual Snail of Approval Tasting Party, which will be hosted by Chef Norman Van Aken and Deco Drive’s Louis Aguirre and honors chefs, restaurants, mixologists, and others in the food industry who consistently support local, seasonal, organic, and fair agriculture in the food and drinks that they serve.

CULINARY OCCASIONS
Ceviche & Pisco Sours with Chef Gaston Acurio

Anyone who has been paying close attention to the culinary trends of right now is very much aware that the next “it” cuisine is that of Peru, a cuisine that has been slowly and quietly trying to break into the American palate for at least a decade. A handful of chefs and food writers had heralded the advent of Peruvian cuisine in this country years ago, but it had been premature, and many food enthusiasts were left waiting for a wave of Peruvian restaurants - both haute and humble - that never seemed to arrive. This country wasn’t ready yet. Not only did we lack the food culture that we have today with all its foodie bloggers and gourmet food trucks, it was almost as if gringos had yet to resolve their issues with Latin American cuisine. Although many Latin Americans were already fans of the varied and sophisticated cuisine of Peru, the general American population still thought that Latino cuisines were either confined inside a tortilla or served with a heap of rice, beans, and plantains. Peruvian cuisine did not fit neatly into any of those compartments. With the rise in Latino chefs and the spread of Nuevo Latino cuisine, Americans began to understand that Latin American cuisines could be elegant and sophisticated and complex. We began enjoying spicier, bolder flavors. We started to become huge fans of ceviche to the point that almost every menu now features it. We were also about to be introduced to a chef who was steadily building momentum in Peru and who would introduce the rest of the world to Peruvian cuisine.

CULINARY OCCASIONS
SOBEWFF Recap: Grand Tasting Village

Just like the other big cultural festival in Miami, Art Basel, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival consists of a variety of different events simultaneously occurring over a period of several days. The main event every year at SOBEWFF occurs at the Grand Tasting Village right on the sands of Miami Beach with the rolling surf and hot bodies working on their tans only steps away. Hosted this year by Whole Foods Market, the Grand Tasting Village was a sensory overload for any lover of food, wine, and spirits. Besides sampling food from over 35 local restaurants, there were also representatives from vacation destinations, new food and cooking products to try out, cocktails made with some well-known and not-so-well-known liquors, and lot’s of wine. In between getting tipsy and nibbling on tasty morsels, attendees were able to watch cooking demonstrations from some of the most popular TV cooking personalities like Anne Burrell, Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri, Paula Deen, and many others. Occurring over a two day period, here are some highlights from the first day of the Grand Tasting Village on Saturday, February 23rd.

DAILY BITES
Chef Paula da Silva Offers New Seasonal Dishes at 1500º

Chef Paula da Silva of 1500º in the Eden Roc has been one South Florida chef who has been on the forefront of the farm-to-table concept since the restaurant opened a few years ago. Bringing diners the freshest and most local products available, Chef Paula also has a way of blending these ingredients in ways that can sometimes surprise and at other times conjure memories of enjoying grandma’s (or abuela’s) comfort food. There always seems to be an innovative twist to everything she puts on the menu, and this innovation has garnered the attention of Esquire magazine in 2011, which named 1500º one of the best new restaurants in America that year. Ever since then, we have been enjoying some of her menu staples like a perfectly roasted half chicken, meltingly tender pork belly tacos, and perhaps one of the silkiest octopus tentacles to be had in Miami. Last month, Chef Paula introduced some new seasonal items to the menu that continue to demonstrate her ability to expertly source and prepare local produce, as well as showing off some new techniques and new ingredients.

CULINARY OCCASIONS
Carnaval Celebração at SUSHISAMBA

There is something else besides Valentine's Day to celebrate this week, and you don't need a significant other to participate. For Catholics, Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a time of year in which it is customary to abstain from pleasurable excesses. For many, that means the time leading up to Lent is the time to get in as much debauchery as possible before the fasting and piety begin, and this time is usually called carnaval. While the parades, drinking, dancing, and street food have been going on for weeks in Brazil, the culmination of the festivities happens tomorrow, February 12th, which is when SUSHISAMBA is hosting its yearly Carnaval Celebração.

CULINARY OCCASIONS
South Beach Wine & Food Festival tickets still available

February is upon us, and it’s only a few weeks until the year’s most important food event, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, begins. Tickets to the nearly countless events have been on sale since before 2013 even started, and while some of the more coveted events are sold out, there are still tickets available to some very exciting dinners, tastings, and parties that are sure to be the highlight of your year. A list of all available events for this year’s Wine & Food Festival can be seen at www.sobefest.com, but here are some highlights that any foodie should definitely not miss:

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Where to dine in Miami this Valentine's Day

February is filled with so much to do in South Florida for a foodie. As if our minds aren’t already constantly occupied with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, we have Valentine’s Day to think about next week. If you’re lucky enough to have someone with whom to celebrate it, you probably know that a romantic dinner can truly take this day of love from simply romantic to truly memorable. While attempting to make a gourmet, multi course meal at home is an honorable feat, sometimes it’s best to let some our best chefs work at the food while you enjoy each other’s company. In case you haven't already made plans, here are some of Joonbug’s picks in Miami for Valentine’s Day dinner: