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Drive I-95


Much Munching in Miami


Canadian Journeywoman Alyssa Schwartz is a freelance news and features writer at She visits Miami regularly and can't decide whether it's the warm temperatures, the ocean or the amazing food that keeps her coming back. Alyssa writes...

If you haven't been to Miami lately, you might think it's the place that fans of the early-bird special, bingo halls and flea markets go on their vacations. On the other hand, readers of fashion and style magazines might be under the impression Miami is an inaccessible hipster haven, where only those in the barest of outfits with abbreviated J. Lo or P. Diddy names to match make it past the velvet ropes of the hot spots du jour.

Please put those generalities aside, ladies! Over the past few years, Miami has carved its niche as a hot spot of a different kind -- a foodie's paradise, where food lovers of all ages congregate and enjoy. In fact, this South Florida destination has become the best place to go to sample innovative cuisine with restaurants as unique and stylish as any you'll find in New York or San Francisco.

Today's weather...


The Mango Gang...

A pioneering group of chefs, who dubbed themselves the "Mango Gang," have placed South Florida on the food map by blending influences from Central America to those of the southern USA and then added a twist of Asian flavour. The year-round availability of the freshest of produce as well as fish and seafood right off the hook have all come together to surpass Florida's reputation as the land of the early bird. Add the openings of outposts of New York City hot spots Nobu and China Grill to the mix and Journeywoman foodies have all the ingredients for an epicurean experience.

Big, big splurge...

Among the most notable restaurants is Mark's South Beach (1120 Collins Ave. 305-604-9050). True to the "Mango" credo, much of the menu draws from local flavours and fresh seafood -- appetizers like scallops with preserved lemon, asparagus and clam risotto or a soup featuring grilled shrimp and mussels with kafir lime, chilies, coconut milk and shiitake mushrooms are unique. Mains take a similar approach: Salmon is slow roasted in horseradish and served with a beet vinaigrette and lobster is complemented by roasted corn and conch Creole sauce. Salad lovers will appreciate their Belgian endive Caesar salad with Roquefort; pasta aficionados savour the chestnut pasta lasagnette with homemade ricotta and wild mushrooms. Save this spot for a special treat. Appetizers start at $8 and mains from $24.

SushiSamba Dromo (600 Lincoln Rd. 305-673-5337) also draws from different regions to form a unique hybrid menu. Inspired by the Samba Dromo in Rio de Janeiro, this food brings together elements of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cooking while the decor is a fusion of Latin American colours, sleek lines and Japanese earth tones. Surprisingly, both the design and the food strike a wonderful balance between elements of the two vastly different cultures.

Choose from Japanese standbys such as miso soup, tempura and sushi, or try some of SushiSamba's signature dishes. Sashimi Seviche and Samba rolls are among those that fuse together the South American and Japanese styles. The El Topo roll, for example, is raw salmon, crispy onion, jalapeno, shiso leaf and melted fresh mozzarella. Their spicy tuna handrolls are the best I've tasted (and I consider myself a spicy tuna aficionado). Other sushi rolls feature lobster tempura and spicy coconut curry sauce and another that combines eel, red pepper, mango and avocado. Certainly not options you'd find at most sushi bars. Visit their website to find out more.

Much more affordable...

Paninoteca (809 Lincoln Rd. 305-538-0058) features a variety of sandwiches, from the Caprese, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to grilled vegetable or chicken fillings. The ingredients and choice of fresh-baked breads aside, Paninoteca is a great place for a light lunch or dinner because of its location. A tiny outlet with a handful of umbrella-shaded tables, Paninoteca is smack dab in the middle of Miami's trendiest pedestrian area -- a perfect perch for people watching.

Seafood lovers should be prepared for long waits at Joe's Stone Crab (11 Washington Ave. 305-673-0365). Tourists and locals alike brave the two-hour-plus lineups for large portions of fresh seafood. If you're too hungry to dawdle, try Joe's takeout, and eat your goodies on the beach. Just make sure to bring an order of their signature key lime pie with you. And if you absolutely love it, and want to bake one when you're back home, check out the recipe at:

Building your appetite and more...





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