Miami must-eats

The annual South Beach Wine & Food Fes­ti­val took place this year from Feb­ru­ary 19–22 in Miami.
As usual and even in tough eco­nomic times, this glitzy, pricey, never-dull four-day event spon­sored by, among oth­ers, the Food Net­work and Food & Wine mag­a­zine, was sold out.
Attended by more than 30,000 peo­ple and founded by a fel­low called Lee Schrager in 2001, it is the biggest culi­nary cel­e­bra­tion of its kind in North Amer­ica.
Watch this space for news on my inter­view with Martha Stew­art at this annual fest — an event I’ve attended for the past five years.
She and famous New Orleans celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who are friends and busi­ness part­ners, were front and cen­tre this year.
Martha hosted a trib­ute din­ner hon­our­ing Emeril who has been on hia­tus for a while. My the­ory is that his health hasn’t been too good. I say this judg­ing by his bloated appear­ance. How­ever, he was in fine form at a lively cook­ing demo dur­ing which he wow’d the crowd with his clever antics.
Here are a few spots you should def­i­nitely try for spe­cial­ties I’ve sleuthed when in South Beach:
Devito, 150 Ocean Drive: Yes, you guessed, this is Danny Devito’s restau­rant and one of the newer spots on the Ocean Drive strip. I rec­om­mend lunch — it’s extremely rea­son­able — and try­ing the lob­ster bisque and/or one of their amaz­ing main-course sal­ads. They serve you deli­cious, free antipasti and por­tions are large. The com­fort­able arm­chairs on the on the cov­ered patio are a plus.
Joe’s Stone Crab Take-Away, 11 Wash­ing­ton Ave., is a casual cafe and take-out empo­rium adja­cent to the vet­eran and always-packed restau­rant of the same name. This is the per­fect place to sam­ple a slice of the best Key Lime Pie I’ve found in the Miami area.
Mar­tinez, 4000 NE 2nd Ave. Located in the Design Dis­trict — about 20 min­utes from by car from South Beach — this is the newer of two Miami restau­rants owned by tal­ented chef Michelle Bern­stein. I found the wel­come warm and ambi­ence extremely pleas­ant. The tapas dishes fea­tured here were uneven but I would def­i­nitely return for the beans with duck sausage and divinely creamy flan (the Latino ver­sion of creme caramel) made from her mother’s recipe.
News Cafe, 800 Ocean Dr., is a 24-hour land­mark on the South Beach restau­rant strip known for its hearty break­fasts, excel­lent Chur­rasco Steak and deli­cious bread pud­ding. It’s the best place I know to people-watch from a side­walk or patio table as the friendly staff wait on you. This is where Gianni Ver­sace had his last morn­ing cof­fee on the day he was mur­dered — a rather grim claim to fame.
Puerto Sagua, 700 Collins Ave. A cou­ple of blocks from the News Cafe is this cheap-and-cheerful, bustling Cuban eatery. Always busy, it’s a great place for grilled fish, a sand­wich or — my favourite — the roast chicken spe­cial ($7.95 as I write). This fill­ing meal is a large piece of suc­cu­lent chicken accom­pa­nied by a large mound of white rice, sticky fried plan­tains and a bowl of black beans. The staff are friendly and efficient.

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