Coral Gables, The City Beautiful

A Fashionable walk on the City of Dreams

The city of Coral Gables was developed by George Merrick with the conception of “The Beautiful City” an architectural movement from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that includes the “Beaux-Arts” style characteristic to many buildings not only in Coral Gables but also can be seen in Downtown Miami.

Merrick a visioner himself created unique villages in to the City, on a plan that only Walt Disney could conceive; Merrick was determined to make this town beautiful.

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One of the typical scenes in Coral Gables, a fountain built on the coral rock (limestone) bringing reminiscences of an ancient Spanish village.

The Villages

I invite you to take a closer look to the villages and admire the architecture, the gardens, the arched gates and feel like you have travelled around the globe in less than a day.

The Italian Village: Stroll on Montserrat, Palmarito and Altara Avenues, the homes here will transport you to the Villas of the 17th century in Italy. Frank Wyatt Woods designed them in 1926.

The French Villages: Conceived after 18th century French country farm houses and chateaux; these villages are located on the 500 to 1000 block of Hardee Road.

French Normandy Village: Did you notice when driving on traffic on LeJeune Road the particular houses by the 400 block of Vizcaya Ave? These are the 15th century homes found in England and France; constructed here in the 1930’s.

Pioneer Village: When driving or walking around Santa Maria Street by the Golf Course of The Biltmore Hotel; take a look at the Colonial Village with tall pillars, white picket fences, two story porticoes.

Chinese Village: The colorful Chinese compound style residences were designed in 1926 and you can see them on the 5100 blocks of Riviera Drive, Menendez, Castania, Maggiore and Sansovino Avenues.

Dutch South African Village: Designed by Palm Beach Architect Marion Syms Wyeth, these L and U shaped farmhouses resemble the homes of the wealthy Dutch colonists and you can see them on LeJeune Road and Riviera Drive, Maya Street.

The predominant architectural lines in Coral Gables are the 1920’s Mediterranean Revival Style and The Spanish Renaissance often confused with the 1930’s Art Deco because of the timeline between styles.

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Montserrat Franco in Coral Gables, wearing a dress from the Dolce Gabbana Teatro dei Pupi (Theatre of marionettes) collection 

The Gates of Coral Gables

George Merrick also envisioned eight different entrances to Coral Gables inspired in Spanish hill towns; only four were completed. You may drive by almost everyday around these gates but take a pause and look around a piece of history on your very own town.

The Douglas entrance (on Douglas and 8th Street) also called “La Puerta del Sol” is one of the most elaborated built between 1925 and 1927. It is registered on the National Registry of Historic Places.

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A view of the building connected to the gate “Puerta del Sol”
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Montserrat Franco in Coral Gables (Puerta del Sol entrance) wearing a Dolce Gabbana dress and sunglasses from the Sicilian Baroque collection 

The Granada Entrance: Located at Granada Blvd and SW 8th st built on coral rock (limestone). The arch spans Granada Blvd which is a historic roadway.

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The Granada entrance 
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Montserrat Franco at the Granada walls in a Dolce Gabbana dress from the Byzantine collection 

The Prado entrance: Located at the NW corner of the City of Coral Gables at S.W. 8th Street and S.W. 57th Avenue (Red Road). For years the Country Club Prado Arch has been a setting for photography, specially wedding, engagement, etc.

The Alhambra Entrance: Located at S.W. 37 Avenue (Douglas Road), Majorca Avenue and Alhambra Circle.  The Alhambra entry arch is also known as the commercial entry to Coral Gables, as Alhambra Circle leads to the central business district and Miracle Mile.

So much to explore in Coral Gables that you may want to come back for more, a long walk around charming homes with clustered buganvilias on limestone walls; unexpected fountains; spanish coats of arms on pillars and immense banyan trees to get the feeling of that Mediterranean getaway not so far away from home.

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All outfits by Dolce & Gabbana

Bal Harbour Shops

9700 Collins Ave. Miami Beach, FL 33154

Phone # 305 866 0503

As seen on SFL Style Magazine

http://www.sflstyle.com

Beauty and Fashion Faves at The Shops at Merrick Park

Montserrat’s favorite picks

Christian Dior Beauté: 
Located at Level 1 inside Neiman Marcus; Christian Dior is the timeless French House of Beauty; choosing the right foundation, brushes and highlighters to enhance is not an easy task so we got expert advice from Yolanda Ayala who kindly guided us in the search for the perfect tones; loved the Dior Show in 2 steps: maximizer and dramatic mascara.  Another favorite is the Forever foundation with 35 SPF and shine control;  this makeup feels great on the skin leaving a sun kissed look.
For the perfect eyebrows I recommend the Dior Show brow styler, with a few touches following the arch of the eye brows to create a natural and filled look.

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Christian Dior’s picks from Neiman Marcus Merrick Park

Dolce & Gabbana : The Sicilian Bronzer – Limited Edition 

When I first saw this beautiful bronzer I said: “I must have it” and I did, thanks again to Yolanda who made it happen.  The limited edition “Sicilian carretto” designs on this beautiful coffret will make envy any other ladies at the powder room.
The Sicilian bronzer will give you that natural glow needed to complete your makeup.  I tried the Dolce Matte lipstick in Flirt; a long lasting color that can stay intact for hours.

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The Dolce Gabbana Sicilian Carretto Bronzer Limited Edition is inspired on the vivid and colorful art of the carriages in Sicily

L’Occitane en Provence: 

Located on Level 2 of the Shops at Merrick Park;   I became a big fan of L’Occitane and the Divine Collection; creams and serums made with essential oils extracted from the “Immortelle flowers” that grow in the wild island of Corsica and can live forever.
Try also the restorative hand creams and lotions made with original resources from the South of France; almond, lavender, roses and get all the steps to make your own spa indulgence at home.
Did I mention L’Occitane gives back? Not only a promise to the environment, all organic made, never tested on animals but also a support to charities all over the world.

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L’Occitane en Provence selections to make your own spa at home

Island Girl: 
Always on the second level and next door to L’Occitane we are at Island Girl and Sandra (Sandy) Saavedra gives us some insights on resort style.  Fashion that is eco friendly and supports fair trade.  Just take a quick look at this boutique and you will find everything you need for that weekend or exotic getaway; from limited edition handmade espadrilles to pom pom greek sandals to charms and ethnic bijoux by Indieluu. Sandy is the designer behind Indieluu, her own brand.
I can’t get enough of the very unique pieces found on this store; Indian accessories and Colombian guayuu bags; there is something for everyone.
Indian bajaraas; native American beaded jewelry and mini Wajuu bags made by the Wajuu people of Colombia at Island Girl in Merrick Park.

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Some resort selections from Island Girl Miami

Lilly Pulitzer:
When entering the Lilly Pulitzer store at Merrick Park we can’t be more happy; because Lilly’s designs are just all about a Floridian dream lifestyle, a scape to the tropics.
The iconic prints on the shift dress that made it to our first ladies and socialites closets are here to stay; find one for every occasion at Shops of Merrick Park’s first level.
Bright neons, turquoise hippocamps, pink flamingos, green palm leaves, yellow pineapples and all in between mosaics combined with tassels and charms; Lilly’s artistry is still alive on every dress.
The native of NY who settled in Palm Beach and opened a lemonade stand with her husband never thought how brilliant could be to start her own shift dress business after everyone loved the designs, sooner she sold more dressed than lemonade cups.
When packing for a vacation never miss a statement piece and a Lilly dress, after all… life is better at the beach.

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The Town of Coral Gables and City Hall depicted on a hand painted wall at the dressing room of the Lilly Pulitzer boutique at Merrick Park

Directory:

Neiman Marcus:

390 San Lorenzo Ave. Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 786 999 1000

L’Occitane en Provence:

330 San Lorenzo Ave. #2325 Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 305 445 1040

Island Girl Miami:

330 San Lorenzo Ave. Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 305 648 3333

Lilly Pulitzer:

358 San Lorenzo Ave. #1525 Coral Gables, FL 33146

Phone: 305 4419837

El Portal: An Encounter with Nature, the Sacred and our Past

 

Also known as the Birdland sanctuary; El Portal (from the Spanish “The Gate”; named this way because of the two main wooden gates that were placed at the entrance of the village) is one of the very first archeological sites registered in Miami Dade County.

Because El Portal isn’t a touristic attraction opened to the public; please be cautious if decide to visit, respect the nature, the silence and the neighbors. El Portal is a residential village were peacocks walk free; an almost enchanted forest with hundreds of year old trees guiding the path to a Tequesta Indian Burial site.

The Tequesta Indians; one of the first people of today’s South Florida lived in the areas known as the Biscayne Bay and the South bank of the Miami River including what is today the Village of El Portal. In 1560 Admiral Pedro Mendendez de Aviles took contact with the Tequesta Indians who were later transferred to Cuba, converted to the new faith and later vanished.

One of the ancient trees at the Village of El Portal, a sacred habitat.
One of the ancient trees at the Village of El Portal, a sacred habitat.

Once at El Portal; I had my first encounter with that exuberant vegetation and the endless variety of botanical species; because of my Native American origins I felt the need to visit the site and respectfully give back to the earth what is from the mother earth: I had kept for the longest time a few ritual instruments I received from the Mbya Guarani Indians back in Paraguay which I deposited on to the sacred mound. I prayed in silence and felt in whole harmony with the nature.

This tablet marks the habitation mound of the Tequesta Indian
This tablet marks the habitation mound of the Tequesta Indian
One of the typical scenes at El Portal: Peacocks crossing the road
One of the typical scenes at El Portal: Peacocks crossing the road
I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing
I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing

In addition El Portal is a certified Wildlife Habitat, as a source of the Four Basic elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover and places to raise the young spices. I discovered signs marking the pathways while numerous butterflies revealed their beautiful colors. This site provides also the necessary milkweed, nectar sources and shelter to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate though North America.

As seen on SFL Style Magazine http://www.sflstyle.com

El Portal an encounter with our past

El Portal

Faena: More than a Hotel; Art, Culture, Gastronomy and its creative master mind

 

When entering the opulent Faena Hotel is like submerging in to a Cathedral of art; murals and mosaics by renowned Argentinian artist Juan Gatti called the Coined Utopia (Faena + Utopia) a depict of the Journey of Life and a vision of Alan Faena’s magical world.

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The author in front of Juan Gatti’s “Coined Utopia” at Faena Miami Beach wearing Dolce & Gabbana

Alan Faena; the orchestrator of this Hotel Universe; has always been the utopian businessman; when believing in areas that no one will give credit to; decades ago back in Argentina, transforming and making its own empire from marginal to chic; like a Midas touch; everything turned in to gold.

When understanding the Faena’s “cosmovision”; his own style that has been evolving as the Urban Alchemist; dressing in pristine white and a dandy hat but with a humble accessory to complete the outfit: an Indian wayuu crossbody bag. We want to show you more about his fantastic world and here we are for the experience.

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Alan Faena

Golden columns and red carpet guide us to the Living room, the tropical lounge retreat with a curated live music set nightly; elaborated mixology and that feeling of being on your best friend’s living room.

Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann: A few steps right after we are at Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann; crowned the Ambassador of Fire; Francis Mallmann brings his own South American “Gaucho” mastery for “asado” as the traditional way on his custom designed wood fired grill.

One of the distinctive points at the Faena is the golden mammoth installation by Damien Hirst; “Gone but not forgotten” is an example of the unexpected bringing us back to reality and what is here to stay. The path will take us to the beach on a dreamy oasis of white sands flanked by the characteristic red and white stripped umbrellas with endless tassels; in the Middle East tassels were worn as amulets for protection; tassels can be seen on the decor around the Faena complex.

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Damien Hirst: “Gone but not forgotten” Montserrat Franco wearing a Pitusa Sevillana dress

Pao by Paul Qui:  Coming back to the dining areas; we are ready to contemplate the stunning views from the terrace at PAO by celebrity Chef Paul Qui; a James Beard winner brings his Pan Asian flair to Faena’s fine dining arena; from stylish presentations to harmonious flavors; the crudos, kinilaw, ceviche, sashimi or tiradito are once again a delectable sharing experience all paired with a cult and collectible wine list under the tutelage of the sommelier team at La Cava. Another Damien Hirst sculpture of The Unicorn; half gold, half alive in the middle of the dining room is a true expression of the dichotomy myth + reality in Faena’s universe.

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Damien Hirst: The Unicorn at Pao by Paul Qui
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The Unicorn is the name of this creative dish composed of Uni + Corn on a sea urchin shell

Tierra Santa: The Spa

White for the floors and walls, at “Tierra Santa Healing House” spa but full of vibrant colors of Latin American embroidery and handcrafted objects by Eco Fair Trade designer Carolina K who has been working with different ethnic groups from Mexico to Peru and India with successful collaborations such as Anthropology and Urban Outfitters.

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Otomi cushion covers and ethnic objects at the Bazar by Carolina K inside Tierra Santa spa. Otomi cushions are also part of Tierra Santa’s decor.

Tierra Santa is America’s first South American inspired spa, combining ancient healing techniques and treatments; hand blended plant oils, rose stones and vibrating singing bowls. Sustainable in so many different levels Tierra Santa’s holistic treatments have been developed respecting the mysticism and rituals of these cultures with their own in-house Shaman.

Tierra Santa Healing House is so different from any other Spa experiences; a unique collection of seven “Moringa” seed base oils representing the 7 chakras to elevate, calm, restore and heal are used on each specific treatment; Amazonian white clay collected from the Marajo shores and Guarana-maca blend scrubs to purify mind and body; a welcoming scent of Palo Santo and their own custom made soap tower are just examples of the attention to every detail. Once at the Wet Spa; guests can experience the journey of the senses; the hammam, centered by heated gobek tasi stone and incrusted with Faena’s signature South American Rose mosaic.

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Inside the Hammam the gobek tasi stone incrusted with Faena’s signature South American Rose mosaic.
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Signature 7 chakra oils made of moringa seeds and Himalayan singing bowls at Tierra Santa Spa
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A treatment suite at Tierra Santa spa

Back to the spa suites; a rainbow stripped rug representing the 7 chakras and comfy sofas adorned with otomi embroidered cushions make the perfect spot for sipping on blended teas and healing stone infused water while contemplating views of the tropical oasis.

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A gracious spa hostess dressed on Huaxacan styled dress by Carolina K guide us to the gorgeous suites covered with Juan Gatti’s murals. There, a choice of therapeutic power oils, healing stones and custom massages are used in conjunction with singing bowls to elevate the spirit.

Now, we don’t want to go back to reality but we can always dream of that fantastic world and yet have it all; right here in Miami Beach at the Faena District.

For reservations:

Faena Hotel Miami Beach
3201 Collins Ave.
Faena District, Miami Beach, FL 33140
Phone # 305 535 4697
http://www.faena.com

Tierra Santa Healing House
Phone # 1 844 798 9716

Pao by Paul Qui
Phone # 786 655 5600

Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann
Phone # 786 655 5600

St Barths: An island like no other

 

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make the place beautiful”

St Barth; an almost unreachable destination in the French West Indies is the perfect hideaway for the jet setter. Surrounded by pristine white sand beaches, unspoiled nature; mountains and the turquoise clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean this associated Island of France had a long history before becoming the top destination for celebrities in search for privacy.

I thought this was also one of the cutest signs: Caution: Duck crossing
The airport in St Jean – St Barth is actually one of the most difficult landings in the history of aviation

The Beginnings: In 1493 Columbus landed in St Barth and named the Island after his brother Bartolomeo; the first inhabitants of the Island were the Arawak Indians; hostile conditions and the lack of gold were crucial for the Spanish Crown and St Barth remained forgotten for centuries; later ruled by the French; then sold to the Dutch to be returned to the French; St Barth started to be noticed by luxury resort developers just in the 1950’s when Rockefeller built his private home in the top of the mountains in Colombier; West side of the Island.

The discovery of St Barthelemy.  Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
The discovery of St Barthelemy. Columbus gave to the Island the name of his brother Bartolomeo.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.
A view from the cliff at Colombier.

Today; the most expensive yachts in the world are no strangers to St Barth and every day is almost a competition on size and style.

The Eclipse
The Eclipse mega yacht owned by Russian Billionaire Roman Abramovich, I spotted from my balcony at the Beach House in Corossol.
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach
Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH Flamandes Beach

Shopping: For luxury shopping the Quai de la Republique; Le Carre D’Or; a Caribbean version of Beverly Hills with the most desirable designers and limited edition collections made exclusively for St Barth. I spent many hours at the Dolce & Gabanna flagship store opened just a few months ago with its own Martini Bar for D & G collaboration. The colorful collection reflects the spirit of the Island; floral scarfs; bejeweled mules, oversized sunglasses, embellished straw baskets and wedges and the 1950’s inspired cocktail dresses just makes us want to wear them all and go for a stroll in a Moke (the ultimate transportation in the Island) around Gustavia.

The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
The Dolce & Gabanna loves St Barth collection at the DG flagship store in Gustavia
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The Moke is the best transportation in St Barth. Wearing a hand embroidered dress and Mayan necklace.

St Barth is the culinary capital of the Caribbean; suddenly we see people walking with baguettes on the streets and freshly made pastries can be found at any of the Boulangeries and Patisseries; at supermarkets all of them carry French brands and is like going to Paris in the middle of a tropical setting.

Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach
Desserts served at Cheval Blanc. Flamandes Beach

Flamandes: The lifestyle of the Island is resort chic with impeccable service and attention to details, the French touch is notorious; For lunch I truly enjoyed The Cheval Blanc in Flamandes; it was also the best beach for swim and great cuisine by Chef Yann Vinsont. The Cheval Blanc is part of the LVMH Luxury Resort collection.

Flamandes Beach
Flamandes Beach

 

Lunch at Case de L'Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH
Lunch at Case de L’Isle Hotel Cheval Blanc LVMH

Grand Cul de Sac: Lunch at Le Sereno in Grand Cul de Sac is another must on my list; from its sister 5 star hotel “Il Sereno” in Laco di Cuomo; Le Sereno exudes style; designed by renowned Parisian designer Christian Liaigre.

The lagoon at Sereno Beach is also perfect for paddle boarding or canoeing in the afternoon. Great place to spot the turtles swimming on the water or picking up giant conch between the rocks.

Next to Le Sereno; Le Guanahani is another impressive luxury resort with a Spa by Clarins and its distinctive tiki bars by the beach; Le Guanahani offers true island feeling.

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Wearing an embroidered vintage Manila shawl at the beach of Le Guanahani – Grand Cul de Sac, St Barth

St Jean: Dining in St Barth: a must is the Eden Rock at the “In” Beach of St Jean just next to the airport; with two signature restaurants: “On the Rocks” at the top of the cliff or “The Sand Bar” both headed by Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges.

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Eden Rock St Barth by night

St Barth preserve its Colonial charm from the Dutch era; the Creole and the French; signs on the streets are both in Dutch and French.

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At the Comca-Comca Creole Village in St Jean wearing a custom embroidered Otomi dress

Shell Beach: Walking distance from the lively port of Gustavia and just steps from divine dining spots like Bagatelle and Bonito; we are in Shell Beach; a small portion of the Island covered with shells of all types and colors; you never know when you’ll find a unique one in the middle of all these shells.

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Shell Beach and Flamingo espadrilles by Soludos @soludos weaved basket with Oaxacan accesories

St Barth has it all; from hiking thru the mountains and spotting baby turtles on the way to incredible views of the secluded Island in Colombier to infinite white sandy beaches in Saline or the freshest catch of the day to your table.

Shell Beach St Barts
Shell Beach

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous.

Until the next destination.

Miami’s top patisseries

 

Feeling nostalgic about that trip to Paris when you visited Angelina or Laduree or maybe even the calissons in Aix-en-Provence? Well fear no more, in Miami you can certainly have some options for French specialties.  I updated this post from years ago with the newest additions in patisseries around town so this one is the updated version as of May 2017.  Enjoy!

Here are some of my picks:

Atelier Monnier (848 Brickell Ave.)

Macaroons anyone? Photo by Montserrat Franco
The Macaroons at Atelier Monnier, you can customize boxes with your favorite flavors, my recommendations: lavender, pistachio and rose petals

Laduree ( 1118 Lincoln Road)

Maison Ladurée Lincoln Road
The display at Laduree in Lincoln Road where you can find limited edition gift boxes or the signature Maison Laduree boxes.
But first coffee and macaroons
But first coffee and macaroons?  If you can resist Miami’s outdoors seating; take a pause from shopping at Laduree in Lincoln Road

Bachour (600 Brickell Ave.)

The interior design at Bachour in Brickell just a block away from the newly Brickell City Center
The interior design at Bachour in Brickell just a block away from the newly Brickell City Center
Creations by Bachour
Creations by Bachour

Le Roy Rene (701 South Miami Ave. 35B – Brickell City Center)

Le Calissons at Brickell City centre
And here is the very first calisson boutique in Miami at Brickell City Centre.  You can also customize boxes in different designs.  Calissons are originally from Medieval Italy and were introduced to the French court for the second wedding of King Rene of Anjou.

Enjoy !!!

@MontserratFranco

 

Miami’s Romantic Dining Guide

We hear all the time that Miami isn’t a romantic city just because is considered mostly a party destination but in the magic city you can still find the perfect spot to dine at candlelight while overlooking at the Biscayne Bay with Miami’s fantastic skyline or maybe just that intimate and charming atmosphere.  I updated this post from years ago as of May 2017.  Restaurants have changed or closed and I wanted to keep my most recent picks up to date.  Enjoy!

The Lido Bayside Grill @ The Standard (40 Island Ave. Miami Beach)

Dining with a view at Thei Lido The Standard
Glorious views from The Lido @ The Standard Hotel & Spa.  Tip: arrive by boat (dock on site) sip on Rose all Day (preferably day because the view is just the best) Photo credit @stefmeriaux

Casa Tua (1700 James Ave. Miami Beach)

Casa Tua private dining room
Casa Tua Lifestyle, more than a charming restaurant located in a historic Miami Beach Spanish Renaissance cottage is also a members-only club on the second floor.  Enjoy superior service, Italian cuisine and great wine selection.  Reservations highly recommended.

Juvia (1111 Lincoln Road. Miami Beach)

Juvia Miami Beach
Loving rooftop dining or cocktails at sunset? Juvia in Lincoln Road is “the place” for a date night.  Tip: Make reservations in advance for an inside or outside seating with the perfect view of Miami Beach.  Photo: @JuviaMiami

Crazy about you (1155 Brickell Bay Dr. Brickell)

If you are looking for that place with a view which is affordable: “Crazy about you” maybe the answer.   Located on 1155 Brickell Bay Dr. at The Mark building with convenient valet parking on location.

Crazy about you Brickell
Romantic dining at “Crazy about You” restaurant overlooking the Biscayne Bay and Miami’s skyline.

Rusty Pelican (3201 Rickenbacker Cswy. Key Biscayne)

 

Decoy at Rusty Pelican
The romantic dining at Rusty Pelican has stunning views of Miami and fireplaces. Photo credit: David Franco

Red Fish Grill (9610 Old Cutler Rd. Coral Gables)

Lost in paradise but in your own town, that’s how you feel when you arrive to the Red Fish Grill, a romantic waterside restaurant inside Hammock Park that you will be thrilled to discover.

Matheson Hammock Park
The quiet beach at Matheson Hammock Park in Old Cutler Road is the perfect setting for a romantic walk before dining at the Red Fish Grill.
Red Fish Grill
The Red Fish Grill is a great hide away restaurant located on a historic coral construction that used to be a beach pavilion. Once you know this place it will be your best kept secret.

 

Enjoy !!!

@MontserratFranco

Miami’s cultural and gastronomic tours

With so much to do in Miami it is hard to decide where to start your day but if you are in the Downtown area, need a great cup of coffee and at the same time support your local roasters stop by Eternity Coffee Roasters on 117 SE 2nd Ave.  They have a roasterie and tasting room where you can choose your grains, make your own blends and they will roast it and brew for you on site.  I took my European friends to the tiny shop and they all agreed the coffee was superb, the espressos made just right, the aromas and the blends fantastic.

Just like in the wine world, the coffee can be tasted and appreciated, today there are more coffee connoisseurs who are showing interest in the “art of the barista” (coffee barman) So now you know, when you need your Java dose try Eternity Coffee and get the whole experience of coffee tasting.

The roaster at Eternity Coffee shop and tasting room.  Their single origin grains are mainly from Colombia from Farm direct trades.
The roaster at Eternity Coffee shop and tasting room. Their single origin grains are mainly from Colombia from Farm direct trades.
Choose, smell and taste the finest grains at Eternity Coffee roasters coming directly from the Farms in Colombia, Guatemala and other plantations in the world.
Choose, smell and taste the finest grains at Eternity Coffee roasters coming directly from the Farms in Colombia, Guatemala and other plantations in the world.
The flavor profile of each coffee is indigenous from the grain itself some of them with wild flower honey hints and herbal notes, hazelnut, milk chocolate, vainilla or tangy cranberry
The flavor profile of each coffee is indigenous from the grain itself some of them with wild flower honey hints and herbal notes, hazelnut, milk chocolate, vainilla or tangy cranberry

If you didn’t make a trip yet to Miami’s newest Museum the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) there’s no better time to do it then now and there are no excuses to be immersed in the contemporary art world with all this Museum has to offer. Arrive to the Museum by car, foot or take the Metro Mover stopping at the Museum station and you will be right there on 1103 Biscayne Blvd. Each second Saturday of the month there’s a free admission for everyone, a program sponsored by Target.

Most of the Latin American Art collection including Botero, Diego Rivera and Wilfredo Lam comes from Colombian-born developer Jorge Perez who donated $40 million in cash and art to earn naming rights.  Perez, the son of Cuban exiles, has been a major force in Miami’s urban redevelopment.

A visit to the PAMM will definitely open new ways to look at art and think twice when labeling Miami as a less cultural town.

Ai Weiwei "According to what?" retrospective at PAMM on display through mid March
Ai Weiwei “According to what?” retrospective at PAMM on display through mid March
The Museum is open from Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm.  Tickets are $12 for Adults and $8 for Seniors and Children 7-18 years old
The Museum is open from Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm. Tickets are $12 for Adults and $8 for Seniors and Children 7-18 years old
Piles of crabs installation by Chinese Master Ai Weiwei during the Opening reception of the PAMM
Piles of crabs installation by Chinese Master Ai Weiwei during the Opening reception of the PAMM

Time for lunch? Visit the Historic Miami River neighborhood, one of the oldest in Miami.  At a settlement from the early 1840’s is where you will find Garcia’s Seafood and Grill Fish Market located on 398 NW North River Dr. you will find fresh fish and seafood from the boats to your plate served with the traditional Caribbean seasonings and flavors.  For over 40 years The Garcia’s (a Cuban-born family of 11 kids) have been offering affordable dining with fresh catch grilled to order on a casual riverside setting.

Grilled Yellowtail, stone crabs sides of fried plantains (tostones), yellow rice and fried sweet plantains (maduros)
Grilled Yellowtail, stone crabs, sides of fried plantains (tostones), yellow rice and fried sweet plantains (maduros) with grilled shrimp. These side dishes are perhaps part of Miami’s Cuban traditional gastronomy
Garcia's fresh stone crab
Garcia’s fresh stone crab

Now is time to visit another great unconventional Gallery on a Historic site in Downtown Miami, CU1 Gallery at the Security Building on 117 NE 1st Ave.

The Security Building in Downtown Miami was the most imposing building at time of construction.  Constructed in the Beaux Arts architectural style,  is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
The Security Building in Downtown Miami was the most imposing building at time of construction in 1926. Constructed in the Beaux Arts architectural style, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
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CU1 Gallery is a photo space located inside the iconic Security Building. You can visit the gallery Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1 to 6 pm. Free admission
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“Look at Me” was the first opening exhibition at CU1 Gallery where you can take a look through the photographer’s lens inside the vault at The Security Building
"Look at Me" showcased works by European photographers, most of them with extensive backgrounds in editorial and fashion advertising.
“Look at Me” showcased works by European photographers, most of them with extensive backgrounds in editorial and fashion advertising.
For the European partners of CU1 Goettlicher, Weber, Schmidt and Mueller, Downtown Miami will be facing an incredible art renaissance, it's going to happen.
For the European partners of CU1 Goettlicher, Weber, Schmidt and Mueller who believed in Miami’s art life, Downtown Miami will be facing an incredible art renaissance and it’s going to happen.

“Eye to Eye” is the current exhibition at CU1 Gallery on view until February 14 2014.  What are you waiting for? take a look at one of the newest innovative galleries in Miami.

Now get ready for the next art exhibitions on board of the SeaFair docked at the Chopin Plaza next to the Intercontinetal Hotel from January 16th to the 20th of 2014.  it is a unique experience to appreciate works of local and international artists showcasing installations, paintings, photography and sculptures.  See you on board Miami !!!

The Miami International Art Fair (MIA) is coming on board of the mega yacht SeaFair on January 16th to the 20th
The Miami International Art Fair (MIA) is coming on board of the mega yacht SeaFair on January 16th to the 20th

(C) 2014 Montserrat Franco

Best kept secrets in Downtown Miami

Take a stroll in Downtown Miami like a local and if you live in Miami discover or revisit these great spots once again. Start with a good coffee at The Urban Öxy proudly brewing Panther coffee , a local roaster located on 101 NE 2nd Ave. I really love this coffee shop where everything is made from scratch so you can have your coffee the way you want it.
Prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, try some of the grill sandwiches made to order with roasted artichoke, sun-dried tomato, goat cheese, provolone, Swiss or for the sweet tooth the mini cupcake selection or the homemade oatmeal cookies with pecan, dark and white chocolate chips, cranberry or macadamia nuts, absolutely delicious.

The Urban Oxy serves Panther coffee, a Miami based specialty coffee roaster
The Urban Oxy serves Panther coffee, a Miami based specialty coffee roaster
Black chalkboards on the walls of the Urban Oxy, a coffee house with a soul of its own
Black chalkboards on the walls of the Urban Oxy, a coffee house with a soul of its own
Homemade sweets like vainilla and red velvet mini cupcakes, brigadeiros (a brazilian chocolate delight) and coconut sweets at the Urban Oxy
Homemade sweets like vainilla and red velvet mini cupcakes, brigadeiros (a brazilian chocolate delight) and coconut sweets at the Urban Oxy

Now that you’ve got your coffee and read your newspaper why not taking a visit to the Freedom Tower, just at walking distance located on 600 Biscayne Blvd. across the American Airlines Arena, the Freedom Tower is one of Miami’s magnificent landmarks constructed in 1924 on the Spanish Colonial revival architectural style, conceived originally for the Miami News, serving later as center for Cuban refugees during 1962 to 1964. Today is home of the Miami Dade College Museum of Art and Design and you can enjoy the contemporary art and photography exhibits as they are free and open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays until 5 pm.

The Freedom Tower was modeled after the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville
The Freedom Tower was modeled after the bell tower of the Cathedral of Seville, the alligators climbing on the tower were part of the “ForeverGlades” exhibition in 2013 in collaboration with Galleria Ca D’Oro Rome-Miami
Detail of the roof and chandelier Inside the majestic main lobby of the Freedom Tower
Detail of the roof and chandelier Inside the majestic main lobby of the Freedom Tower. Photo credit: David Franco
"Rituals in Haiti" the newest photography exhibition taking place at the Freedom Tower
“Rituals in Haiti” the newest photography exhibition taking place at the Freedom Tower. Photo credit: David Franco
The Mural at the Lobby on the Freedom Tower.  The Freedom Tower is an icon of faith, democracy and the generosity of the American people
The Mural at the Lobby on the Freedom Tower. The Freedom Tower is an icon of faith, democracy and the generosity of the American people

And for those who are craving of cultural things to do in Miami there are no excuses, this is exactly what we will do if we were in NYC going from one Art Gallery to another and then stopping for some coffee and cupcakes, really? At least I will.

Now having fulfilled your cultural appetite why not going for lunch just a few blocks away on another historical building of Downtown Miami, yes I am talking about ‘Soya & Pomodoro” a truly hidden gem, a place were you can seat and relax like in NYC’s SOHO while enjoying comfort Italian food on a very particular setting.

Soya & Pomodoro located on 120 NE First St. inside another historical landmark The Shoreland Arcade Building built on 1925
Soya & Pomodoro located on 120 NE First St. inside another historical landmark The Shoreland Arcade Building built on 1925
Detail on the entrance of Soya & Pomodoro restaurant.  The Shoreland Arcade Building is part of the National Register of Historic Places
Detail on the entrance of Soya & Pomodoro restaurant. The Shoreland Arcade Building is part of the National Register of Historic Places
The casual dining at Soya & Pomodoro located on the building that is the last remaining intact arcade in Downtown Miami featuring large arches and pilasters with masonry medallions exhibiting symbols of Florida's history.
The casual dining at Soya & Pomodoro located on the building that is the last remaining intact arcade in Downtown Miami featuring large arches and pilasters with masonry medallions exhibiting symbols of Florida’s history.
Absolutely amazing the "Fazzoletti di pere e formaggio" fresh pasta filled  with Taleggio cheese and fresh pears on a bed of creamy ricotta and shrimp sauce
Absolutely amazing the “Fazzoletti di pere e formaggio” fresh pasta filled with Taleggio cheese and fresh pears on a bed of creamy ricotta and shrimp sauce
The Shoreland Arcade Building constructed on the Beaux Arts architectural style,  very present in the heart of Downtown Miami
The Shoreland Arcade Building constructed on the Beaux Arts architectural style, very present in the heart of Downtown Miami

Soya & Pomodoro is also great to visit on the evenings for dinner, Thursdays
or Fridays when they have live jazz and… talking about live Jazz another
great place to visit in Downtown Miami is “Le Chat Noir” this intimate suburban spot next door to Soya & Pomodoro has anEpicurean market section were you can get your selection of cheeses and charcuterie and a bottle of French wine, then go downstairs to listen to jazz and blues truly soulful musicians.  If you are looking for
an alternative atmosphere, this is the place to be.

Le Chat Noir features live jazz and blues in the cellar on  Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:30
Le Chat Noir features live jazz and blues in the cellar on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:30
Vintage pictures and postcards on the wall going downstairs to the cellar at Le Chat Noir for live jazz.  You can order also appetizers and wine at the Bar while listening to the finest jazz music.
Vintage pictures and postcards on the wall going downstairs to the cellar at Le Chat Noir for live jazz. You can order also appetizers and wine at the Bar while listening to the finest jazz music.
Hope you enjoy this short Downtown   Miami tour for a day, keep coming to the blog for new places   to dine, shop and live a cultural life in Miami.  See you soon   !!!
(C) 2014 Montserrat Franco.  All   pictures by me, except for the ones with credits.

 

 

 

 

Brickell’s Little Italy dining destinations

There’s no doubt one can live the “Dolce Vita style” in Miami and if you don’t think so, just try some of these suggestions when coming to Downtown and Brickell areas.
With so many options in Italian dining because of the new wave of Italians coming to the magic city for fun, for business and for a change like everybody else who is part of this big melting pot.
Miami can’t be more blessed than now starting with the big Brickell development boom less than a decade ago when Trattoria Rosinella and Perricone’s Restaurant and Marketplace opened followed by Segafredo and more recently Toscana Divino and world acclaimed Cipriani.

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I love the “Cioppino” served at Perricone’s. This is a traditional Italian American dish originated in the San Francisco Bay area, it was originally the fishermen’s stew made with left overs from fish and seafood dishes.

At Perricone’s you will find the same ambiance you may encounter in New York’s Little Italy district; friendly staff, reasonable prices and generous portions, typical of Italian American eateries, the market with a very good wine selection, artisan chocolates and everything you need for take away when on a rush for a quick home fixed up, just try the “antipasti” (appetizers) like stuffed peppers with rice or porcini mushrooms or the stuffed tomatoes with mozzarella cheese.

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The home made fresh pasta at Perricone’s served with Gradma Jennie’s signature pomodoro ragu sauce topped with fresh basil and ricotta cheese

They have their own extra virgin olive oil and table wine, Perricone’s is definitely a place for a business lunch in the quiet and lush gazebo surrounded by tropical plants so characteristic of our territory.
For a more intimate dining with candle lights you can opt for the charming “al fresco” garden or one of the cozy rooms in the wooden cottage.
At Perricone’s they are so cool they will even pick you up from your hotel or office on their own Eco friendly cart service.
Perricone’s features a generous and affordable Sunday brunch, live music weekly and hosts the monthly Brickell Art walk like the other restaurants around to mention a few : Baru Urbano, Dolores but you can call me Lolita, the Red Bar (why not? Brickell should have it’s own art walk too)

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Delicious homemade meatballs at Trattoria Rosinella topped with their own tomato sauce, fresh basil and parmesan cheese

Trattoria Rosinella is the perfect spot to start your day “alla Italiana” before going to work (if you have time of course) Italians take their time to stop by the local coffee shop for a Capuccino and “cornetto” (a pastry filled with Nutella, fruit jam or plain) you can get yours freshly made at Rosinella’s bakery.
This family owned restaurant and bakery has always a lunch special menu of the day with home made pastas and fresh sauces made from scratch and aromatized with garden herbs.

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The crab and lobster stuffed ravioli over a 3 cheese sauce

Coming myself from a home cooking tradition I can tell when mamma is cooking in the kitchen and that’s exactly the same feeling you’ll get at this mom and pop eatery where fresh ingredients are the key to their success, simple dishes made to order and a culinary knowledge passed from generation to generation making the soul of a true trattoria and guess where? In the heart of Brickell just across from the newest Italian ultra modern and design development “Millecento” by Pininfarina.

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The bakery has always something to take home or to taste right there. I love their fresh bread selection and pastries.

Now I am going to brag about this place and is one of my favorites spots after work, it will be yours too once you try it.  Just stop for an aperitif by the bar inside Toscana Divino and get some “antipasti” with it, go for one of the classic Italian drinks or a glass of Italian wine (and their wine list is pretty extensive) well selected from the Tuscan region with some cold cuts and cheeses.  I love their burrata plate with arugula and pomodorini (cherry tomatoes) always served with a small dish of sea salt and their aromatic extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany over some warm home made bread.

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The salmon tartare at Toscana Divino

Toscana Divino is the highest expression of modern Italian Fusion cuisine with the talented and creative executive Chef Julian Baker who gets inspired blending Tuscan flavors adding old world touches.   Toscana Divino is also a one stop restaurant and fashionable place where you can find the finest handmade goods from Florence like those oversized Italian leather purses or the stylish Tuscan glassware that is used at the Restaurant.

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Brunch at Toscana Divino is delicious paired with a Bellini o Mimosa cocktail

The brunch is superb and for those who love wine, good news, they also host monthly wine tasting and classes. So if you shop around Mary Brickell Village and decide to take a coffee pause and a decadent pistachio cake; an aperitif with friends after work, a business lunch or a quality dinner with that special one, Toscana Divino is the place.

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Why not some caviar too at Toscana Divino, I can’t get enough of the pairings with the tartare and mixed greens, capers, chives and sour cream but here my recommendation is with some oak mature Chardonnay

Segafredo is definitely the meeting point in Brickell, a casual and modern baroque seating outdoors and indoors with trendy lounge music spinned by local DJ’s has been for years the choice destination for young professionals.  I like to go to Segafredo at sunset for an aperitif or to chat with friends I haven’t seen in centuries. The music might get too loud after 9 pm when the drinks and cocktails are the best option.  Their cocktail menu is fantastic, try their specialty coffee drinks like Espresso Margarita or Coffee Martini made with a double shot of Segafredo Zanetti coffee.

Start with some brick oven pizza served at Segafredo topped with prosciutto and aragula with fresh mozzarella slices and a dash of extra virgin olive oil
Start with some brick oven pizza served at Segafredo topped with prosciutto and arugula with fresh mozzarella slices and a dash of extra virgin olive oil

From Thursdays trough Saturdays Segafredo’s  night club Spazio Nero is open with bottle service or drinks at the bar.  The mini club gets packed with the local crowd, the resident and guests DJ’s spinning to the latest progressive house music.  Very soon with the opening of the new SLS Hotel and Residences, Brickell’s nightlife will take an entire new spin and we can’t wait for it to happen.

The frappe at Segafredo Zanetti in Brickell
The frappe at Segafredo Zanetti in Brickell, a great option in our hot Miami days

For more than 80 years the Cipriani family witnessed film stars, socialites and paparazzi at their landmark Harry’s Bar in Venice; from Sophia Loren to Greta Garbo, Fellini and Marcello Mastroiani, they all came to dine and be seen at the legendary Harry’s Bar.  In 1948 the Bellini cocktail was created there and now you can get yours at Cipriani in Brickell/Downton Miami location.

The impeccable service at Cipriani restaurant inside the Viceroy Hotel and Residences in Brickell.  Cipriani is a symbol of Italian fine dining around the world.
The impeccable service at Cipriani restaurant inside the Viceroy Hotel and Residences in Brickell. Cipriani is a symbol of Italian fine dining around the world.

Cipriani is all about “who is there” and “who has been there” Can’t get enough of Sobe’s glamorous dining at top restaurants in 5 star hotels?  Well then you come to Cipriani for more and you never know who is going to show.  The celebrity approved restaurant is finally here in Miami.  Reservations a must and dress to impress attire is suggested, after all, don’t you want to show off those new Giuseppe Zanotti design shoes?

The Carpaccio was invented in the 1950's at Harry's Bar in Venice founded by Giuseppe Cipriani.  Today you can taste the Carpaccio at Cipriani Brickell and be part of years of culinary history.
The Carpaccio was invented in the 1950’s at Harry’s Bar in Venice founded by Giuseppe Cipriani. Today you can taste the Carpaccio at Cipriani Brickell and be part of years of culinary history.