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:
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:
For some reason, it seems as if time really flew between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, which means that most of us have been scrambling to get our greeting cards and presents in order, as well as trying to keep track of the various holiday functions we feel obliged to attend. When your main preoccupation is trying to find just one good gift for your mom and realizing that you haven’t sent anything to your in-laws while they sent you a box of presents, the last thing on your mind is planning a Christmas (or Noche Buena) feast. Sure, you can do what I do and round up a selection of charcuterie and cheeses from Graziano’s and Epicure to nibble at throughout the holiday - or visit a Blue Sky for your lechón - but with so many fabulous restaurants offering such wonderful Christmas and Christmas Eve dinners, it’s hard not to take the easy way out and leave the preparations to the gourmet chefs. If you’re finding yourself in Miami without dinner plans this Christmas, let Joonbug outline a few suggestions for you:
Three new restaurants are debuting in South Beach this December, and two of them not only carry pedigrees to get excited over but are also suggesting that perhaps Miami Beach is becoming America’s newest - and most stylish - Little Italy. SoBe has been attracting models, artists, and entrepreneurs from Italy ever since their paesano, Gianni Versace, put the southernmost part of Miami Beach on the map, and the resulting migration is making South Beach a veritable mecca for Italian-from-Italy cuisine representing everywhere from Sicily and Sardinia to Piedmont and Venezia. The other restaurant, while Italian by way of its designer from Bologna, is a departure from the pizzas and pastas of the other two and promises to offer a farm-to-table concept with an international flair. Just in time for Art Basel!
It might not be the same for everyone, but in my experience, Thanksgiving is that very special holiday when some of the worst cooks consider themselves to be award-winning chefs. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been a victim of such atrocities as a coleslaw-ambrosia salad combination, an unnaturally colored cool whip and graham cracker crumb dessert, or a casserole so replete with cream, butter, cheese, and bacon that it constitutes one’s allowable fat intake for the entire year. Trying to dissuade these mad scientists turned amateur cooks from contributing to your Thanksgiving feast can quickly become an ugly scene with all the crying, fighting, and emotion of a 90’s talk show. Trying to trick yourself into making your relative’s multicolored congealed salad into a suitable side dish for your chestnut and morel stuffed bird has proven futile...and quite ridiculous. The only solution to make everyone happy is to leave the cooking to the professionals this Thanksgiving and going to a restaurant. If your ideal Turkey Day is one in which there are no dishes to wash and you’re not stuck with a week’s worth of leftovers, then you should definitely check out Joonbug’s recommendations for restaurants offering some of the best Thanksgiving dinners in South Florida this year.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and all throughout the country organizations and businesses are doing their part to raise awareness of the disease, as well as to raise funds for finding a cure. Pink has become the color of the fight to end breast cancer, and many of South Florida’s businesses are going pink this month in support of breast cancer awareness and research. Not least among them are some of our most popular dining destinations that are offering deals, special dinners, and other promotions during the month of October.
Returning for the fourth year in a row is “Bleau Goes Pink” at the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach. The resort’s three AAA four diamond restaurants - Hakkasan, Gotham Steak, and Scarpetta - will each be offering “Dine for the Cure” menus featuring three courses for $45. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, which has consistently fought to end breast cancer through awareness and early diagnosis, as well as research. “Dine for the Cure” dinner menus are available Sunday through Thursday, and diners will receive a discounted valet rate of $12. For more information, please visit www.fontainebleau.com. For reservations, please call (877) 326 - 7412. Menus are as follows:
If you live in Miami and love to eat, you're probably well aware that Miami Spice is in our midst right now and will be so until the end of September. The two month restaurant promotion that began on August 1st has been a yearly tradition in Miami for over a decade now and is perhaps one of the most anticipated dining events in South Florida after the South Beach Wine & Food Festival...at least to the bargain hunting gourmand. Nevertheless, perusing each and every menu of the well over one hundred restaurants that are participating this year is a daunting task. There are restaurants that choose the cheapest things from their regular menu to offer on their Miami Spice menus, making the prix fixe dinner barely a bargain, and there are those normally spectacular restaurants that create a special Miami Spice menu featuring dirt-cheap and boring options like Caesar salad and grilled chicken breast with steamed asparagus. Furthermore, this year there are two categories of dining instead of just one, and the prices for lunch and dinner are reflective of which category a restaurant thinks it's part of - luxury dining ($39 dinner, $23 lunch) or fine dining ($33 dinner, $19 lunch). As one can imagine, some of Miami's restaurants are suffering from delusions of grandeur, and while they might be offering a good Miami Spice menu, it is hardly worth the luxury dining price tag.
I really love summers in South Florida! Many of the obnoxious tourists have gone back home, there are no major festivals going on that make some of my favorite neighborhoods virtually impenetrable human fortresses, the beaches are full of sexy locals, and there is almost always some sort of deal on some of South Florida's most luxurious leisure activities. Whether you crave a spa day during Miami Spa Month, discounted rates on chic hotels, or all-you-can eat fried chicken, there always seems to be something for the sophisticated local on a budget during our balmy summer months. Of course, for any local foodie (myself included), the most anticipated event of the summer is Miami Spice during the months of August and September, when locals and visitors alike can dine at some of Miami's finest restaurants for a fraction of what it would normally cost. I'm sure I don't speak for myself when I mention that I am already planning out my Miami Spice itinerary, and no serious attempt at tackling Miami Spice is complete without a visit to at least one of the Fontainebleau's award-winning restaurants.
Whether you love or hate the Vegas-style monolith of a resort on Miami Beach, any self-respecting foodie has to admit that the Fontainebleau complex offers one of the best concentrations of fine dining to be had anywhere in South Florida. While it would be a dream-come-true to one day get a Michelin-starred restaurant in Miami, such a thing won't realistically happen for quite some time. Fortunately, there are some other awards that an exceptionally good restaurant with a lot of financial backing can aspire to that aren't as unattainable and are much less "francocentric". The much-coveted AAA Four Diamond award has already been awarded to two of the Fontainebleau Resort's restaurants. Scarpetta, perhaps the best Italian restaurant in South Florida, was the well-deserving recipient of one, and Hakkasan, the resort's gourmet Cantonese restaurant, was the recipient of the other. The Fontainebleau can now add Gotham Steak to its list of award-winning restaurants, for it too has caught the attention of critics and has scored the resort its third AAA Four Diamond award, making The Fontainebleau the only resort in Florida to have three restaurants with such an distinction.