Monday, April 21, 2014

#ThankYouMiami for Local Haunts - South Pointe Park

Have you ever wondered how to seize the day like a Miami Beach local? Then my latest Miami Insider guide on South Pointe Park is for you. Check it out below and click any of the photos to find out how you too can enter to win one of 90 $50 gift cards or one $1,000 grand prize in the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau It's So Miami Insider contest.

Which is your favorite park in Miami? What is your favorite activity to enjoy there? Have you ever visited South Pointe Park? What did you think? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

#ThankYouMiami for Dinner in Paradise (A Photo Diary)

Miami life is hectic. It has its moments of peace and quiet, but they are few and far between. Peacefulness is like the 1% of the Miami state of being and, two weeks ago, I achieved this ephemeral dream.

When I was invited to spend an evening at Paradise Farms for the March 23rd Dinner in Paradise, I was excited because they have an impeccable reputation in the Miami dining scene. They cater local and fresh organic produce to some of my favorite restaurants, including Essensia at The Palms Hotel, The River Seafood and Oyster Bar, and The Federal. After my visit, I am also psyched about their ambiance. Owner Gabriele Mariewski and her staff have cultivated an incredibly peaceful sanctuary in Homestead, a true refuge for those of us who live in Miami's more common hustle and bustle.

The farm's tranquil setting has been strategically curated by Gabriele who, in collaboration with a local architect, a local artist, and a local chef, designed the layout in accordance with the principles of sacred geometry and the ancient art of feng sui. Gabriele ensures the continued integrity of Paradise Farms by kindly requesting that no meat or cigarettes be brought on-site. Escape the insanity of Miami life for a moment and join me in reliving a moment of serenity and decadence at this Miami sanctuary:

"Enjoy and Respect" are two sensible sacrifices you are asked to make before entering Paradise and part of the secret behind the property's great vibes.
The farm is only open to the public during special events like the Dinner In Paradise series, when guests are invited to socialize in the garden and to enjoy passed hors d'oeuvres prepared by the featured chefs.
Before dinner, I had the chance to enjoy a glass of Sparkling Tropical Fruit Wine from nearby Schnebly's Redland Winery while watching the sun set over the farm's signature baby greens. The baby greens, which grow around the center of the property, made an appearance in the dishes served later that evening.
Before dinner, owner Gabriele (in pink) treated us to a guided tour of the five-acre property. The highlight of the tour was hearing the story first-hand of how she successfully grew the farm from an abandoned avocado grove and has, through "decision-making by synchronicity", continued to expand the farm's operations.
One example of how she has capitalized on good fortune is the mushroom greenhouse or "lab" where she currently grows only oyster mushrooms. The greenhouse was constructed out of materials which were nearly disposed by the University of Florida, but were discovered by and ultimately donated to her during an impromptu visit to the area.
Throughout the tour, Gabriele encouraged us to pick and eat some of the 52 varieties of edible flowers that she grows around the property. We were all hesitant at first, but were much more comfortable doing so by the end. My personal favorite was the hibiscus we enjoyed early in the tour.
We were all anxious to see what dinner held for us by the time we finished the tour. I took but a few moments to enjoy the beautifully decorated gazebo before sitting down for dinner with some new friends.
The five-course dinner for the night featured Chef Julie Frans from Essensia at The Palms Hotel and Spa, Chef Michael Reidt from soon-to-open Pilgrim, and Chef Giorgio Rapicavoli from Eating House and recently opened Taperia Raca. Each course was paired with a wine from Strategic Importers at the direction of Shari Gherman, President of the American Fine Wine Competition and Gold Medal Wine Tour.
Prior to each course, we had the opportunity to observe each chef, like Chef Rapicavoli above, as they put the finishing touches on their dish. It was an absolute honor to witness renown local culinary talent work their magic first-hand.
The first dish of the night was an exquisite watermelon tartare, which was vacuum sealed with olive oil and citrus to create a texture I had never previously experienced from watermelon. This vibrant and satisfying dish from Chef Rapicavoli was finished off with a garnish of herbs and edible flowers from the farm.
The fourth and main course, which was prepared by Chef Michael Reidt, was perfectly cooked salmon with freekah, purple kohl rabi, carrots, and smoked avocado. Chef Reidt explained that the salmon, which was imported by Stavis Seafoods, is delicious because it dies swimming upstream where it is happy.
The final course was a flour-less chipotle and chocolate cake with a hint of clove prepared by the incredible women from The Palms: Chef Julie Frans and Pastry Chef Sam Frei. The cake was served with a tamarind creme anglaise, roasted strawberries with thyme, and edible flowers.

There are only two Dinner in Paradise dates left this season, which may be Gabriele's last (yes, Paradise Farms is up for sale). Do not miss your opportunity to enjoy this unique Miami experience that should be on everyone's to-do list. Claim your seat now.

Have you been lucky enough to visit Paradise Farms? What was your favorite part? Who were the chefs that prepared your Dinner In Paradise? What was your favorite moment from my visit? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!
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