Living the highlife in Downtown Miami Part 1
By Ann Mealor
Downtown is now the vibrant heart of Miami with a fast growing resident population of young, affluent, professions.
A whole host of artistic, dining and entertainment opportunities have been attracted as a result and it all makes for a memorable city break.
South Beach and a string of historic neighbourhoods and districts are also within very easy reach of Downtown.
A short break in Miami’s downtown, as part of a fly-drive Florida vacation will not disappoint.
Particularly as there are many fine dining, entertainment and cultural options within Downtown and the chance to get to the beach or historic districts if time and inclination permits.
Places to dine in Downtown Miami
The Seaspice Bar and Grille
It was a hot Miami afternoon when we arrived at Seaspice.
Yet, situated on the Miami River, we found this chic restaurant cool in every way.
From the outside, it looked very much like one of the old waterside warehouses, but once inside it was a different story.
The reception area was minimalist, with a high ceiling, concrete floors, white walls and strangely enough, a playground swing – just waiting for a diner to put it to good use!
The hostess on reception, welcoming and elegantly dressed, took us to our table on the outside deck overlooking the river.
Although the day was hot, I preferred to eat outside and enjoy the sun, sitting in the shade in front of lots of cooling fans
It was a real pleasure to relax, sip a chilled Mangolini (prosecco and mango juice), watch the small boats go by and take in the views of Downtown Miami.
However, if dining inside is preferred, the modern garden restaurant, furnished floor to ceiling with wooden trees with palm like leaves provides a superb setting for the restaurants fine cuisine.
The Miami Spice lunch
We chose the Miami Spice Lunch, a special $23 three course menu that runs at a number of the city’s fine restaurants throughout August and September.
This provides food lovers with a great opportunity to sample the local fine dining at a very reasonable price.
After tucking into some delicious, hot, garlic pitta style bread sprinkled with parmesan, I eagerly started on my first course, Coconut Thai Ceviche with Faroe Island salmon, lemon grass, cilantro and crispy garlic.
The salmon was juicy and went beautifully with the cubes of sweet, colourful mango.
The dish was very refreshing and beautifully presented in a large, black bowl. Ashley’s cauliflower soup was delightfully light and frothy, with a subtle, delicate flavour.
Yellowtail Snapper with Florida avocado
For the main course, we both chose the Yellowtail Snapper with Florida avocado, ala huancaina sauce and cilantro.
The delicate snapper was fried in a light tempura batter, which complemented the spicy, creamy huancaina sauce and the crisp, fresh cilantro.
The flavours and textures blended together seamlessly. We enjoyed a chilled glass of Californian Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc with the fish, the wine recommended on the menu, and it paired really well with the meal.
Fortunately the portions were just the right size to leave room for a mouth-watering dessert each: Tres Leches with strawberry and blueberry and goat’s cheese mousse with honey glazed black mission figs and champagne sorbet.
My goat’s cheese mousse looked glorious, presented between two, round thin crispy wafers with the figs and ice, white sorbet balanced on top with a brightly coloured pansy.
The Tres Leches (sponge soaked in whole, condensed and almond milk) was fabulous, rich but still light, working really well with the succulent fresh fruit.
Eating at the Seaspice was a truly memorable waterside dining experience which I look forward to repeating on my next Miami visit.
By Ann Mealor
As we made our way to Fooq’s for our first meal in Miami, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
We seemed to be heading away from where I thought all the good restaurants should be into a dimly lit part of Miami’s Arts and Entertainment District, where I thought none of the good restaurants could be.
However, I was proved wrong.
Tucked away in this ‘up and coming’ part of Miami is a gem of a restaurant, that lots of discerning diners already know about because on our arrival, Fooq’s was buzzing.
Bijou and homely with an eclectic urban/rustic décor, we sat and enjoyed a glass of prosecco, on the house
Taking in the restaurant
This was enjoyed in the small library style seating area, while we waited for our table, and this gave us a chance to take in the restaurant.
Large, old warehouse style air vent pipes across the ceiling; a concrete floor; fifties style plastic chairs with colourful, comfy cushions; oak wooden tables and stylish bare light bulbs hanging down from long wires.
There was a huge wine rack the height of one of the cream painted walls; the menu written in white across a large mirror; flickering candles and the bright and busy open kitchen where Chef, Nicole Votano was hard at work.
It wasn’t long before we were seated and eagerly scanning the menu.
Lina, our waitress for the evening, was extremely knowledgeable about the food on offer and told us the owner, David Foulquier was half French, half Persian, which had a big influence on the restaurant’s cuisine.
A passion for local produce
She also said he was passionate about using locally grown, fresh produce.
First to arrive at our table were two delicious pieces of rustic bread from Zac’s Bakery, topped with lavender spice goat’s cheese, sea salt and a ripe fig. The lavender added a subtle sweetness to the dish.We then tried the Crispy Honey Glazed Brussels Sprouts, served over a shaved vegetable and a green garlic yogurt sauce and Octopus a la Plancha, with olive oil poached potatoes, cherry tomatoes, grilled lemon, olive oil and zataar (middle eastern herbs).
The sprouts were absolutely delicious and were really enhanced by the mix of flavours- the crispiness of the sprouts contrasted nicely with the smooth yogurt.
The octopus was given a mouth tingling spicy kick by the zataar.
Next came the Trio of Jars – three individual glass kiln pots each filled with something tasty: dates, walnuts and sundried tomatoes; cheddar rubbed with espresso and lavender and spiced prosciutto and salami with fingers of lightly toasted bread.
The contents of these jars change daily so there is always something new for the diner to try.
I tucked into a house favourite, the Votano Meatballs (the Chef’s speciality), ground brisket and Berkshire pork meatballs, San Marzano tomato sauce, Parmesan, basil and garlic toast to mop delicious juices.
The meat balls were large and succulent and the contents of the Trio of Jars unusual and taste bud tingling.
The appetisers at Fooq’s make a great ‘tapas’ selection giving diners the opportunity to try a variety of different dishes.
However, we did keep enough room to sample two main courses.
I enjoyed the Duroc Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, on Yukon gold mashed potatoes, served with broccolini, crispy shallots and red wine reduction and Ashley had the Crisp Summer Salad, with radish, squash and courgette.
My pork was succulent and tender and the red wine reduction gave the dish an added richness. Ashley’s salad was refreshing and crispy, leaving him ready for the final course.
I do not usually have enough room for dessert, but Ashley and I managed to share the Persian Sundae in a rose patterned, English china tea cup and saucer.
I had never tasted a Sundae like this one – saffron and rosewater gelato, shredded halva, roasted salted pistachios, pomegranate molasses, medjool dates and Valrhona chocolate pearls.
A culinary surprise in every spoonful
We were served two glasses of French white wine during the meal, expertly chosen by Lina – Trimbach, a Pinot Blanc from Alsace and Domaine Fourniere, a Sauvignon Blanc, from Sancerre.
Fooq’s is an exciting dining experience for those who enjoy good food and want to try something edgy in eclectic surroundings.
The Golden Fig
By Ann Mealor
Situated in an uassuming part of downtown Miami, close to the quaint Mary Brickell Village is the Golden Fig.
We went for an early lunch before heading off to the Gulf Coast, so arrived there at 12 noon.
The restaurant was quiet, but by the time we left, an hour and a half later, there was not a table to be had – a testament to the quality of the place and the food it serves.
The restaurant gets its name from a native Florida tree, which provides valuable habitat and food for other species.
It is also a symbol of prosperity and sophistication which the restaurant reflects in its food and service.
A casual urban feel
The Golden Fig has a casual, urban warehouse feel with open pipework and bare stylish light bulbs suspended from the ceiling.
However, the dried herbs hanging in small bushels from the walls, the wooden tables and bar give it a rustic edge.
The restaurant prides itself on fresh, farmhouse cuisine.
All produce is bought as locally as possible and its origin stated on the menu:- Oyster Mushrooms from Signature Farms; Foie Gras Parfait from the Hudson Valley and Pork Belly from Cox Farms.
Farm to fork
The ‘farm to fork’ ethos is important here and our waitress was extremely knowledgeable about all the dishes available, explaining where the meat came from and how the animals were reared.
As I sipped a deliciously refreshing fermented tea leaf and ginger juice, and nibbled on complimentary homemade tortilla chips with an eggplant dip, I studied the menu.
I ordered the Florida Rock Shrimp (from Cape Canaveral) with grapefruit, avocado, hearts of palm and basil aioli.
Ashley went for the Tomato Gazpacho with bread from the local baker, Zac.
I loved the seafood/grapefruit combination with the fresh basil and Ashley’s soup had a delicious, light creamy texture.
For mains, I chose the Flat-iron steak from Joyce Farms served with a béarnaise butter and a crisp side salad.
The steak was juicy, tender and cooked perfectly for me.
Ashley went for the Black Grouper from Florida Keys, served on a saffron couscous with vegetables and caper chimichurri which he thoroughly enjoyed.
We finished by sharing a Peach Cobbler with oat crumble and cinnamon ice cream, served piping hot in a small, cast iron pan. We both tucked in, and it was so tasty, we probably could have managed one each.
The menu changes on a seasonal basis and the food is prepared simply and to a high standard.
The relationship between chef and farmer is highly valued and that is shown in the quality of the Golden Fig’s well crafted, regional cuisine.
August and September (annually)
The hugely successful Miami Spice offers specially discounted three-course lunch and dinner menus in luxury and fine dining restaurants throughout the Greater Miami area.
All Miami Spice menus include an appetizer, entrée and dessert as part of the fixed price.