“There are three things I honestly could not live without … And those are: Oxygen. Food. And women!”, Faruk laughs, giving me his brightest grin & best introduction to the start of our South Beach Food Tour with Miami Food Tours. Faruk has a great sense of humour, ambition, and knowledge. I immediately warm to his passionate storytelling about the history of Miami, its greatest local patrons as well as his insights into the South Beach food scene, of course. “On our tour, we will take you to places that each have a distinctive story to tell. Many of them are small-scale, the type of ‘Mom & Pop shops’ you’d expect to be family-run and with a lot of attention to detail.” Excellent. This is exactly what I like:
Searching & presenting local people stories that serve to inspire the international travelling community. Including great local food stories, of course. Naturally, as befits the travel motto of #CreativElenaRTW!
I beam at Faruk, having found a foodie soul mate in less than 24 hours of arriving in Miami and already sharing with him my knowledge of other great food tour places around the world, such as Porto, London, New York or Santa Fe. I can tell he has a yearning to go, but equally admits that “for now, my place is here developing Miami Food Tours. Next year, we would like to add several tours to the mix, including a ‘Swoop Ride’ with those pimped-up golf carts. They are just so cool!”
For a glimpse / sneak-preview of what Faruk is trying to develop for Miami Food Tours, check out these “cute little fellas”. 😉
On my way to meeting Faruk for our scheduled Miami Food Tours on Lincoln Ave …
… I am met with two types of religion: First, your rather “classic Miami Beach Community church” …
… second, your “capitalist community church” – the Apple Megastore on a Monday Morning in South Beach Miami! Shopping most certainly is a religion here – such is the feeling I get in “glitz & glamour”-type Miami.!
Faruk and I meet at the Café at Books & Books, one of the very first bookstores in the neighbourhood to open a restaurant / cafe business and put tables on the streets!
I learn that many years ago, this place looked nothing like it does today – safe, welcoming & warm. Besides sharing his own personal story of arriving in Miami all the way from Macedonia, and how he has ended up becoming a business partner & tour guide in Miami Food Tours, Faruk also informs me that less than 100 years ago, Miami was still a far cry from being the glitzy glamour metropolis it is today. “It took local patron Carl Fisher, lovingly referred to as ‘The Father of Miami’, great vision, money & influence to develop Miami into what it is today. He had many of the roads and buildings that you see around South Beach Miami designed and established. To this day, people cherish his work and vision for Miami. Let’s say Texas is the engine of the United States, and New York City is the brain. Miami here is the playground: Work hard, play hard, and certainly LOOK GOOD in doing so!”
Faruk’s unfaltering enthusiasm, and natural laid-back attitude, have me tune into Miami rhythm in almost no time. “Boob jobs, fitness craze, designer clothes, expensive cars, you name it. But there is also a different side to Miami (South Beach). Let’s talk food, then!”
By now, and after listening to many of Faruk’s interesting stories, I have been getting quite hungry. Local Peruvian-inspired ceviche served with hummus and corn chips …
… complete with “juicy, sweet Florida avocado creme – avocados are big and tasty here you know” – as well as roasted corn are being served here at the Café at Books & Books.
We take a quick look inside to see the actual bookstore’s ample selection of books of all genres and types …
… before heading out past one of the oldest houses on Lincoln Avenue, Carl Fisher’s first residence building dating back to over 100 years ago. Pretty historic around here, that is!
And would you guess that our next foodie stop is just around the corner? The second out of a tasteful selection of five different food stops altogether, we stop at a place called “Abuela’s Cuban Kitchen”.
Here, Faruk explains to me that we are served a Cuban speciality, small triangular-shaped pastries filled with Cuban guava jelly and cream cheese …
… simply delightful, a tangy pastry with a sweet little twist! Eating guava reminds me of my own visit of Cuba together with my family all those years ago, the island being not even 200 kilometres from where we stand right now!
After waking up to our delicious Cuban pastry, and notably the strong sweetened Cuban coffee to go with it (!), my eyes pop over this explanation “of a sausage tree from Africa”. SAUSAGE TREE FROM AFRICA?!
“You see, Miami essentially is a transitory place. It always has been throughout history, and still continues to be. When first landscaping Lincoln Avenue with exotic trees such as this African sausage tree, gardeners from as far as Japan were brought in to do so. Miami once was a place much like the Everglades right beside it, the name of the city deriving from a local Indian tribe and their designation of the local Miami river. It took extensive work, vision and investment such as the one provided by Carl Fisher & his benevolent friends, to turn Miami into the flourishing city it is today. Now here are some more interesting facts for you to remember: The average age here is 29. The average duration of people living here is seven years.” – “Seven years?!”, I gasp in wonder. “So what about your old granny living across the street, who’s been here for sixty years or more …?” – “Nope … non of that here. But for making money and for the lifestyle, Miami is definitely the place to be!”
Let us recap: It is December 1st. We are wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I brought my jacket, completely in vain. By mid-afternoon, I am sweating (!). Wind pulls at my hair, light drizzle for five minutes throughout the 25°C sunshine, “a bad day as it is considered here”, Faruk smiles.
A bad (winter’s!) day in Miami … Just sayin’ !!!
We continue our way through the Art Deco district just off Lincoln Avenue in South Beach Miami …
… to a wonderful “local mom & pop shop restaurant”, El Chalán!
Love the meat they serve here, too. “All just tasting sizes”, Faruk muses. 😉 Of course! Miami Food Tours does look after you, let me tell you.!
Luis Rubio, the general manager, takes great personal care of us here and upon hearing me speak Spanish, launches into a wonderful sermon of how the profits earned by “Chalán On The Beach” actually serve to build homes & schools back home in northern Peru, where the local family is from. Beautiful story (and food!), that is!
We continue our way down “Española Way” …
… with Faruk expertly leading the way: “It took me a couple of months to learn Spanish”, he shrugs casually. “It is the first language spoken here, and you certainly need it to work in Miami!”
The warmth and hospitality of people here makes for my Spanish to come back in no time, chatting to waiters & locals on the tour. Here, Faruk explains what type of juice I am drinking on our next foodie stop … cashew nut fruit juice !!! A life’s first.
And so is this delightful “bola” croquet filled with chicken, cream cheese & seasonings to match, served at Boteco Copacabana Brazilian Food & Tapas. Portuguese banter it is, then!
Love how Boteco Copacabana have actually recreated the Copacabana floor tiling to match that of the real Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro.
By now, Miami and its South Beach #foodlover district have really started to grow on me. Could I imagine living here, in one of those nice little flats as we pass them by … ?
I love this storytelling food tour with Miami Food Tours and my dear guide Faruk. Once again, the only measure of the actual time passing is the satisfactory feeling of a full stomach. Not once am I tempted to check the actual time of the day! When I do, I am almost sad it is over … “This ice cream parlour is our last stop on the tour”, Faruk smiles and finishes by telling me: “Last summer, I went to Vegas, but I did not feel the same connection as I do here in Miami. The people, the places, the city … I really care about them, you know. And it is here that I want to develop things further!”
Love the vision Faruk has for his business and those of his partners. Here, he points at a fascinating painting by local artist, hinting at a “meltdown” of Miami town hall and its famous Art Deco style as being the downfall of Miami.
At the local ice cream parlour, I am once again spoilt for choice but do settle for as exotic a variety as this tangy sweet’n’sour “Key Lime Pie” … what a delight! Another FIRST on this tasteful Miami Food Tours! 😀
Thanks for such a nice welcome & farewell, dear team at Miami Food Tours!
As the tour unwinds, I am taken to South Beach Ocean Drive for another peek at the …
… BEACH. Yip. No glitzy glamour fashion mile for me. Just music, light, wind in my hair, and comparative solitude at what I deem to be, a most magnificent SOUTH BEACH here in Miami …
… slowly making my way back to the Grand Beach Hotel Miami Beach, my perfect address for a few days of art & food lover luxury in Miami about which I shall tell you more soon …
… Creativelena at her very happy best. 🙂
Want more? So do I! Enjoy these photos of my creative food lover stay here in Miami, serving you even more tips and ideas to inspire and enjoy … Buen provecho – Bon appetit everyone!
Disclaimer: I have been invited by Miami Food Tours on this South Beach Food Tour exploration of Miami. All opinions are my own.
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