Miami Spice is a two-month long dining extravaganza, featuring three-course lunch and dinner menus at hundreds of restaurants throughout Miami-Dade County. The kickoff for the event, Iron Fork, was at the American Airlines Arena in downtown Miami last week. It featured loads of food, drinks, a cooking competition, and even more food.
After being greeted warmly at the VIP check in my mom and I headed to the lounge for a beverage. From the club level, we could see the arena floor and the many restaurant booths setting up. Additional restaurants set up around the perimeter of the venue, so there was a lot of food available. My goal: to try as much of it as possible. We enjoyed more food than is possible to recap in one post, but I will share the highlights with you, in no particular order.
Rosa Mexicano was serving chips and guacamole, as well as salsa. While that might not sound so exciting, their guacamole is amazing. I was thinking about going back for seconds until I saw Il Mulino’s booth, complete with porcini ravioli in a cream sauce. Wow.
I enjoyed the tuna tiradito from Toro Toro, but unfortunately for them, they were right next to Area 31, also serving a raw tuna dish. The tuna ribbons from Area 31 were, in fact, the best bite I had all night. Delish. Bonus: their Miami Spice menu is lovely. I will have to give it a try.
We tried cocoa crusted brisket from Zest (splendid). Arancini rice balls, filled with cheese, from Via Verde, were tasty if a bit heavy. (There was a lot to eat. We had to pace ourselves.)
Outside the arena floor, along the hallways were many more booths, all serving up tasty bites. While I didn’t get to try them all, one standout was the cacio e pepe from Plant Food + Wine. This is a raw, vegan restaurant that my parents tried recently, and enjoyed. As a carnivore, I was skeptical. I’ll say this: the kelp noodles and non-cheese tasted absolutely nothing like an actual cacio e pepe, which is one of my favorites. However, it did taste delicious, and I admit, I was impressed.
Many restaurants offered thoughtful and creative presentations, as well as excellent food. Now, there are numerous restaurants in Miami I am going to have to try.
We arrived just before 6 PM, and the VIP lounge was empty along with the rest of the arena. Once the doors opened at 7 PM to the masses, however, lines started to get very, very long. It seemed to me that there needs to be a better way to manage the crowds. The booths that had everything set up in a grab-and-go format were east to try out, as there was no waiting. But the ones that were slicing meat on the spot, or could not keep up with the demand, had very long lines. I don’t ever think waiting for fifteen minutes or more in line for a bite or two is acceptable.
Bottom line: It was a fantastic event, and I am thrilled I was able to attend. Hopefully, by next year they can work on the lines a bit. Meanwhile, go check out some of the fantastic Miami Spice restaurants.