This is my friend Lara.
She’s a south Florida wedding photographer and getting married herself this summer.
As her Maid of Honor, I knew I had to plan something special for her Miami bachelorette party — this is a girl who has pursued higher education in England, explored democracy in Botswana during an election, spent a summer in Ecuador, and has traveled many corners of our beautiful world and shared it with others through her photographer’s eye.
I needed to plan a bachelorette activity that blended culture and history and local flavors… something that allowed us friends to enjoy each other’s company and conversation while giving us Michiganders a taste of Miami… and maybe a few adult beverages too.
So I planned a private Miami food tour.
After researching the options, I selected Miami Culinary Tours’ South Beach Food Tour, for a few reasons:
- Miami Culinary Tours offered 10 bites, more than some of the other tours I looked into.
- The tour included commentary and history about South Beach between the different restaurants.
- Booking a private tour was only a small jump in price and included two drinks.
- The South Beach Food Tour included a variety of tastes – from Bolivian to Cuban to Italian. It truly captured the ethnic flavors of Miami.
This Miami food tour was my big bachelorette party surprise for Lara. She had no idea what was planned. We ambled into the first restaurant, Lara completely unaware, and took our seats. Our Miami food tour guide, Lana, stood at the head of the table as she shared her personal narrative of how she ended up in Miami from Russia.
It took a few minutes, but these were the three stages of Lara realizing that we were on a food tour:
(I think they’re tears of joy and surprise)
Yes, friends, a Miami food tour brought the bride-to-be to tears.
And why wouldn’t it? Plenty of published research has asserted the emotional and physical benefits of sharing meals with friends. Holidays and celebrations situate food at the center of the festivity. If we all have to eat anyway, why not do it with purpose and panache?
Miami is a place where you can travel the world with your tastebuds. And so we did.
Some highlights of the South Beach food tour:
The food tour commenced with a refreshing toast of refajo – a traditional Colombian drink that blends a lager, Colombiana soda (like a cream soda), and aguardiente (some sort of alcohol).
Then a history of empanadas and how they vary across cultures. At Bolivar’s, we were served up a crispy, golden corn shell folded around tender beef. A different style empanada was promised to make an appearance later during the tour.
Ever eat something that you’re SURE was crafted by a chef that cooks miracles? Enter the ceviche from Bolivar’s. Perfectly textured, it has a seamless balance of sweet and sour with a hinting taste of grapefruit. My god, I desperately need to get back to South Beach just so I can eat this ceviche again. I can’t stop thinking about it.
Larios on the Beach
Besides turning the beat around, Gloria Estefan can also turn around some delicious Cuban cuisine. Yes, this musical artist is also a culinary artist. With an upbringing in her grandmother’s kitchen, Gloria and her husband Emilio opened Larios to serve traditional Cuban food in a gourmet setting. If The Little Mermaid opened a restaurant, it would look like Larios – shiny and splashy, glistening with some hidden under the sea treasures.
Here’s something I’d never tried before: picadillo with taro root chips and mojo sauce. Imagine a thin cut crisp chip dipped in a thick garlic sauce scooping up a sweetened minced beef with olives and raisins. So unexpected and so wonderful.
Between restaurants you’ll get a much-desired digestion break to learn about the architecture and history of South Beach. For example, did you know that a large collection of Art Deco structures in South Beach are on the National Register of Historic Places?
The Tides South Beach
The Tides exudes luxury with its clean designs, secret symbols created in the floor, and polished turtle shells decorating the wall of the bar like artwork on a refrigerator. Here was our introduction to a different kind of empanada – spicy shredded chicken stuffed inside a thick flour dough with a side of garlic dipping sauce.
It’s at this stage of the tour when you start unbuttoning your pants and questioning your ability to consume any more empanadas.
Just when you thought your stomach was about to burst, you somehow stretch your body to make space to enjoy an authentic Cuban sandwich. Besides the classic ingredients – ham, pork, swiss, pickle, mustard – what truly makes a Cuban a Cuban is the bread. It has no preservatives which means it needs to be used that day. I thought I’d had a Cuban sandwich before until I tried this one ON Cuban bread. It really makes the difference. Enjoy this with their homemade sangria (so fresh, so fruity) and you’ll wonder if you’re still stateside.
If you’re hoping to get a massive scoop of gelato you’ll be disappointed. The small cup is simply a taste, but it’s the cherry on top to give a sweet ending to the food tour. It’s moreso a palate cleanser, which feels SO good after feeding yourself to the brim.
At the conclusion of the tour, stuffed and satisfied, I watched my friends indulge in gelato. The rays of sun streamed between the tree branches and yellow umbrellas. The street was quiet, like we were the only people around. I smiled. All of us scattered around the country, together in Miami, sharing a meal and tasting new foods. This is friendship.
Looking forward to the next meal with all of us together, at Lara’s wedding.
Thank you for the delicious memories, Miami Culinary Tours.
Oh, and here’s some Miami food tour advice:
- Don’t wear spanks. Or waist trainers. Or a belt. Or any constricting clothing. Trust me – you want enough stomach space to be able to expand at least 5 inches. The food baby was at 40 weeks. Come hungry because you won’t need to eat anything substantial for the rest of the day.
- Bring a mint or 5. I didn’t realize that garlic was such a common ingredient in the Miami culinary scene!
- Don’t forget to tip your guide! I highly recommend requesting Lana!