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

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.

Pompeii and Herculaneum, a walk on the roads of ash and wine

The Goddess of Love.  Is one of my favorite frescoes inside the many houses of Pompeii.  This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.
“The Goddess of Love” is one of my favorite frescoes inside the House of Venus. This fresco was discovered in 1952 located on the back wall of the garden, it portrays Venus with 2 cherubs in a pink seashell.

The remains of Pompeii were discovered by accident in the 1590’s when architect Domenico Fontana was excavating the canal to bring the waters from river Sarno to Torre Anunziata but it was not until the 1750’s that the site was seen as an archaeological treasure and one of the most important and well preserved examples of Roman civilization.  Follow me on this amazing trip around the streets, houses and wineries of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Vesuvius National Park.

The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people.  The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.
The Amphitheatre, the oldest of its kind in existence, was used for gladiatorial combat and could hold 20,000 people. The stone tiers were separated in to different sections for the various social classes.

In 90-89 BC the people of Campania became Roman citizens.  Naples (Neapolis) or the new city came in to contact with the growing power of Rome.  In AD 79 the erupting Vesuvius buried a number of ancient Roman cities including Pompeii.

Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud.  People tried to scape but didn't make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.
Ash and debris covered Pompeii and bodies were buried by a landslide of thick mud. People tried to scape but didn’t make it, many were killed by the toxic fumes while engaged in everyday tasks.

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Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Wealthy residents in Pompeii had often well decorated walls like this one found in the House of The Vettii.
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Statues found in the streets of Pompeii
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also  preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
Many sculptures from Pompeii and Herculaneum were removed from the original site and placed at the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Pompeiian mosaics and frescoes are also preserved in the Museum and date from the 2nd century BC to AD 79.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.
The owners of the House of the Vettii were freedman who become rich merchants.

Thanks to the many discoveries we can have an idea of the life in the Roman houses of Pompeii, constructed generally around two open courts; the atrium; an Italic feature and the colonnaded garden of Greek origin.  But not only the architecture and the art in their walls, Pompeii reveals much more in the bodies of people unearthed along with their everyday objects.

A public fountain in Via dell'Abbondanza.   The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
A public fountain in Via dell’Abbondanza. The excavations for this street lined with homes and shops ends just to the left of the Amphitheatre.
One of the horse barns in Pompeii still shows utensils for horse riding and the remains of a horse placed on display
At the House of the Chaste Lovers is possible to see the fossilized bodies of the mules that used to drive the millstone for grinding wheat.
Medusa's head (Sec. IX BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii.  On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Medusa’s head (Mosaic IX Century BC) House of the Centaur. Pompeii. On display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii's many brothels.  The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in this houses.
The Lunapare was the best organized of Pompeii’s many brothels. The walls were decorated with erotic paintings and sculptures symbolizing fertility or describing the many services offered in these houses.

Lacryma Christi and the ancient wine making in the Vesuvius

A Paleo Christian legend says that Christ cried over the Vesuvius and His Holy tears blessed the vineyards giving name to this excellent wine.  Other legend distorted from the pagan mythology says that Jesus visited a hermit converting his bad beverage in to amazing wine.  Today we can see many frescoes with wine rituals from the houses in Pompeii that have survived the ashes after the eruption of the Volcano.

The Wine Offering.  Fresco found in Pompeii (Sec. VII BC)   Many of these well preserved frescoes can be seen at the Archeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale)
The Wine Offering. Fresco found in Pompeii (VII Century BC) on display at The Archaeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) Wine making and consumption was very important in Greek and Roman cultures, just like drinking water.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD.  Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines including the Lacryma Christi.
An example of ancient viniculture techniques in Pompeii 79 AD. Today these vineyards are curated by Mastroberardino wineries producing limited vintages of Greek origin vines.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
Ancient Caprettone vines facing the now dormant volcano.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile.  Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The land around volcanoes are rich in alkali and phosphorus and is extremely fertile. Lacryma Christi is a great wine produced in the slopes of the Vesuvius.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico made the perfect blend for Lacryma Christy reds.
The mineral soil of the Vesuvius where the Piedirosso and Aglianico grapes are used to make the Lacryma Christy reds.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture  the organic "Pienolo tomatoes" just like the wines;  obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
In this volcanic land so rich for the agriculture the organic “Pienolo tomatoes” just like the wines; obtained the DOP category (Denomination of Protected Origin) The Pienolo tomatoes are promoted by the Slow Food Commission Vesuvian Chapter and are another example of sustainability in bio-agriculture.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
Pienolo DOP tomatoes on display on a local Vesuvian trattoria; it shows the way the tomatoes are placed on stalks for their cultivation and after harvest they need to be maintained on the same way for better conservation, this is according to an ancient tradition in Campania.
The Vesuvius National Park it's a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
The Vesuvius National Park it’s a protected area where generations of family owned wineries make distinctive wines like Casa Setaro, a small wine producer that I had the pleasure to visit on my trip to the Vesuvius.
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
Aglianico vines in Pompeii
I had the pleasure to visit Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter.  Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
Visiting Vigna Pironti with the Italian Association of Sommeliers (AIS) Vesuvian Chapter. Vigna Pironti produces great red and wine varieties of Lacryma Christi, some of them named after the houses in Pompeii.
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti's fields
An ancient barn at Vigna Pironti’s fields

 

Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of wall decoration. Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii
Detail of a mosaic found in Pompeii

Herculaneum

The town’s quiet existence was brought to an abrupt halt in AD 79 during the eruption of the Vesuvius that buried Pompeii with deep lava and mud.  The site of ancient Herculaneum is well below the level of the modern town.  The area is still being excavated.

In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
In 89 BC the town became part of the Roman Empire, a residential municipium and resort.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan.  Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
Excavations in Herculaneum began in the 18th century and uncovered Roman houses built around a rectangular plan. Perhaps the best known is the Villa dei Papiri.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
The Trellis House, a characteristic example of an inexpensive Roman multi-family dwelling and is made of wood and reed laths in crude tufa and lime masonry.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting.  Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.
Many thanks to AIS Comune Vesuviane, Vigna Pironti and Casa Setaro Wineries for the fantastic tasting. Cheers!!! Thanks for reading.

(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco.  All pictures by me taken with IPhone 4, 4S and Sony Cybershot.  You are more than welcome to share them mentioning the font.