Miami. The city that conjures wonderful sun soaked images of high priced sports cars cruising up and down Ocean Blvd., private yachts swimming through canals that lead to luxury waterfront properties, palm trees swaying in the breeze, women wearing teeny bikinis walking hand in hand with shirtless men strolling the boardwalk, and beautifully restored art deco buildings in every pastel shade imaginable.
You can enjoy this and SO much more if you plan a trip to Miami!
Sean and I did just that! We had a companion certificate that had to be used before the end of February, so we figured, might as well get out of the crummy end-of-winter Utah weather and go somewhere warm! And, BONUS…turns out the Pittsburgh Penguins were playing the Florida Panthers so….that made our decision to visit Miami easy-peasy!
We arrived early on Friday morning after taking a red-eye flight, then bummed around most of the day until we could get into our hotel room (More about our awful experience at Strands on Ocean later). We did redeem some of the time by popping into the CVS to pick up some champagne and OJ. <<TIP: there are a lot of liquor stores near Ocean Drive, but the farther away from the beach, the better the deals you’ll find! And, if you’re just looking for wine, beer or champagne - hit the CVS for the very best deals!>>
Staying right on Ocean Drive may not have been our best decision but the upside was that many of our choice destinations were walkable!
8am - Breakfast from Bettant Bakery & Cafe
I decide to let Sean stay in bed this morning so I throw on some yoga pants, and venture out. South Beach stays up pretty late, so no surprise that there’s only a handful of people out at this time of morning. I wonder a couple blocks and discover an incredible little ma and pa shop!
This 4th generation French bakery owned by Miriam & Matthieu, on Washington between 10th and 11th Street is called Bettant Bakery and Cafe. There are a handful of small tables inside and a sign that boldly claims, “No Wi-Fi” standing in the entrance. They are clearly used to a packed house and are setup to handle the flow of foot traffic smoothly. The smell of fresh bread, pastries and brewing coffee gripped my senses immediately! I ordered more than I should have but really couldn’t help myself…it all looked so delicious. Two cappuccinos, two empanadas (one beef and one ham and cheese), one croque monsieur, and one pain au chocolate.
I proudly carry my glorious baked treasure back to the hotel room to be devoured. Sean's still in bed so I setup the little table in our living room, throw back the curtains on the balcony to let the fresh sea breeze drift in and pop a bottle of bubbly while I wait for him!
You can find Bettant Bakery on Facebook HERE.
10am - A Stroll Around the Art Deco District
After breakfast we decide to burn off a few of those calories and take a stroll around the art deco district of South Beach. Miami’s Art Deco District has one of the world’s greatest concentrations of 1930’s architecture, with over 800 buildings in the square mile bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, 23rd Street, Lenox Court and 6th Street. In 1926, just as Art Deco was coming into fashion nearly all construction in Miami halted because of the economic bust. But in 1936, a building revival took place in South Beach which quickly lined the streets with whimsically designed structures in a style now known as Tropical Art Deco.
The streets are now starting to fill up with tourists, bars are starting to open and the colorful umbrellas that line the sidewalks at the cafes are beginning to spring open! The tables aren’t the only thing that line the sidewalks….every cafe and restaurant has a number of hostesses that stand outside, menus in hand trying to lure you in. They remind me of the mall kiosk workers — and, we dodged them just the same! Promptly crossing the street to exchange the noise of the Blvd. for crash of the Atlantic waves.
Noon - Lunch at Sandwicherie
We walked the beach for several blocks then start to make our way over to a little oasis….a sandwich oasis. A small walk-up and order sandwich joint with outdoor seating at the counter that extends up an alley off 14th Street between Washington and Collins Avenues. We wait patiently in line at the window then order one sandwich to share (they are pretty big!)….The Terminator on baguette. The sandwich is loaded with ham, turkey, salami, provolone and all the fixins’. The counter is packed but we’re lucky….two seats open up right before they call our order. The lingering crowds are laughing, enjoying the excellent food, and refreshing milkshakes. The prep line is open to view and they are slinging sandwiches behind the counter like freaking cold-cut magicians! Oh, and I would be committing a total sin if I failed to mention the deliciously famous vinaigrette that lines the counter in large squeeze bottles. This house-made concoction is the nectar of the gods and takes our sandwich to the next level….I could not get enough!
You can find La Sandwicherie HERE.
2pm - Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
We grab an Uber and set off to explore the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Locals know this sprawling luxury estate and gardens as Villa Vizcaya, a go-to for wedding photos and formal events.
Originally commissioned in 1912, by John Deering the Villa was a massive undertaking, costing $15 million. The property originally consisted of 180 acres on Biscayne Bay and included the villa, formal gardens, recreational amenities, expansive lagoon gardens with new islets, potager and grazing fields, and a village services compound.
After John’s passing, his family maintained and supported the estate for years before having to begin selling off parcels of surrounding land and outer gardens. The estate, turned museum, now rests on 50 acres and is owned by Miami-Dade County.
Before beginning our self-guided tour of the mansion and formal gardens, we drop in to the small cafe for a warm coffee where we are surrounded by other tourists from all around the world. We share a small umbrella covered table in the garden, with a lovely couple from Colombia while we sip our coffee and take in the beauty of the lush foliage and roman colonnades surrounding us. (As you can see, Sean is already dreaming of getting home to his new “baby’.)
The estate has more than seventy rooms (not all of which are accessible to the public), each with distinctive architectural interiors. If you love Europe, classic Italian style and grace with a bit of whimsy, you’ll love Vizcaya inside and out.
The extensive 10-acre garden labyrinth is absolutely fascinating and worthy of losing yourself in. Mingling historical European aesthetic traditions to South Florida’s subtropical ecoregion, the garden layout fancies French and Italian influences. Walkways made of low, trimmed shrubs come together in an eye-pleasing geometric pattern, thick columns overlook the gallery, lush mazes, rare orchids and palm trees can be found at every turn. I can imagine kids would find this a magical setting for game of hide and seek!
Touring the sophisticated Villa Vizcaya was time well spent and a nice break from the bustling activity in South Beach. Now we head back to the hotel to rest before getting ready to head out to dinner!
You can find additional information on The Villa Vizcaya HERE.
8pm - Dinner at Intimo
From our hotel, we decide to walk to our dinner destination in SoFi (South of Fifth), the heart of the hottest food scene in South Beach. Intimo can be found here, nestled in a lovely neighborhood lined with luxury condominiums and sexy restaurants. Yelp has Intimo rated as a 4.5 star restaurant (which I totally agree with) but only two “$$”, (I think Yelp and I have different ideas of what that means). No problem though, this was one of our “splurge” dinners - and 100% worth it!
Intimo is self-labled as a “Japanese-Peruvian gastronomic venture”. We weren’t quite sure what that meant but decided to go for it….sounded like an adventurer, and it certainly was!
We are greeted by a very friendly, and beautiful young host outside and lead to a romantic corner table by the front window. The space is beautiful and intimate ("Intimo" is a play on words: the indigenous “Inti”, sun god in Peru, and the Spanish word for intimate). So, it’s only appropriate that the entire restaurant is decorated with touches of gold throughout!
The first course is brought out from the kitchen before we even have a chance to order. A cup is placed in front of each of us (similar to ones used for serving saki) and our server proceeds to pour a small amount of potent fish broth in each cup. The salty elixir is meant to cleanse the palette.
We proceed to order and enjoy one of the most incredibly delicious meals! Intimo does not skimp on exotic ingredients and the presentation of every dish was first class.
The appetizer round includes ceviche nikkei (classic ceviche tuna dices, glazed sweet potato brûlée, onions in leech de tigre with chancaca honey and hints of yuzu), Bun De Panceta De Cerdo (pork netsuke accompanied with fried sweet potato, tamale and peppermint criollo), and the Acevichado sushi roll (panko shrimp, avocado, tuna and acevichada sauce).
At this point we probably could’ve stopped right there and we DEFINITELY could’ve split an entree, but we didn’t! Our curiosity and delight had gotten the best of us!
Sean decided on the Short Ribs Pappardelle (boneless beef short ribs marinated in ragu sauce and cooked for 50 hours at a low temperature and accompanied with truffle pappardelle huancaina) and I went with the Lomo Saltado (soft pieces of steak, bright tomatoes, Peruvian yellow peppers, cilantro and onions sautéed wok style. Served with crunchy French fries and sticky rice).
If we could go back and do it over again, we would have skipped the short ribs (although delicious, the sauce was extremely rich and we couldn’t finish the dish), split the lomo saltado and enjoyed dessert.
So, no dessert for us here. Instead we enjoy each others sweet company over candlelight before walking back along the beach towards our hotel. We did make one last stop… for gelato along the way!
You can find Intimo HERE.
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