Keeping It Fresh And Local

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By: Gretchen Schmidt & Shayne Benowitz

The best places to explore Miami’s one-of-a-kind farm-to-table cuisine.

Is your breakfast table filled with colorful papaya and starfruit, toast with red mangrove honey, eggs from chickens that roost amid palm trees, and tea flavored with backyard lemongrass and decorated with hibiscus?

Welcome to Miami, where farm-to-table cuisine means juicy heirloom tomatoes in the middle of winter, mangos and jackfruit in the summer and fresh greens year-round. Here, chefs embrace the bounty of fruits and vegetables that flourish in South Miami-Dade’s agricultural district.

Paradise Farms was established roughly 18 years ago specializing in organic produce and edible flowers sold to restaurants. Located in the heart of Homestead, about 45 minutes south of Downtown Miami, the farm supplies many chefs and farmers markets with local fruits and vegetables, herbs, eggs, mushrooms and other produce.

The rules are different here. Because of South Florida’s subtropical climate, the growing season is the opposite of what it is in the north and midwest. In the summer and early fall, farmers market offerings are more sparse than their northern counterparts, showcasing tropical produce like mango, avocado, dragonfruit, yuca and okra. But from November through April, markets are overflowing with local tomatoes, beans, eggplant, peppers, strawberries and greens. This is also the season for long lines for fruit shakes and other treats from farmstands like Knaus Berry Farm and Robert Is Here.

In Homestead, you can sample authentic tropical farm-to-table dining – and drinking – any time of the year at Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery and its RedLander Restaurant helmed by Chef Dewey LoSasso, a lush, palmy outpost in South Dade. Your meal might include mahi-mahi ceviche and salad made with Malabar spinach or guava-basted chicken wings. Accompany your meal with avocado or passion fruit wine or a Big Rod coconut ale, all made on site at the winery.

Bringing the Farm to Your Plate

James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz is credited with making fresh, local ingredients the star of the show when he opened Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami’s Design District in 2007. Since then, he has added Harry’s Pizzeria in the Design District and Coconut Grove and Downtown Dadeland, Ella in the Design District and Fi’lia at SLS Brickell. Sources for produce include organic Verde Community Farm in Homestead and the urban Little River Cooperative in Little Haiti.

Elsewhere in Miami and Miami Beach, many chefs count on area farms to supply their seasonal produce and get them from harvest to plate as quickly as possible, preserving freshness and maximum flavor.

Chef Laurent Tourondel finds tasty ways to incorporate local ingredients at LT Steak & Seafood at The Betsy – South Beach, concocting a dragonfruit “salpicon” with lemon ricotta gelato and lime honey.

Backyard Gardens

The pioneering farm-to-table restaurant, Essensia at The Palms Hotel & Spa, takes local love a step further. While they’ve relied on farmers like Teena’s Pride for heirloom tomatoes and other produce, they also grow their own herbs and vegetables in an organic garden behind their tiki bar. Thai basil, lemongrass, lemon balm, Cuban oregano, edible flowers and vegetables all find their way into recipes and cocktails on the menu.

Backyard garden herbs and produce from Little River Cooperative are featured prominently at 27 Restaurant and The Broken Shaker cocktail bar at the Freehand Miami, where the constantly changing menu includes items like the super-local Starship Radio cocktail, made with Remy VSOP cognac, Fabuloso Spanish brandy, Florida lime, pineapple, a loquat-tangerine reduction and a hibiscus sugared rim.

Happy Hens

For pasture-raised eggs from hens that happily forage and feast on fresh fruits and vegetables, many chefs rely on the local Sun Fresh Farm and Ranch. At Wynwood’s Alter, 2018 James Beard Award Best Chef South finalist Chef Bradley Kilgore uses them in his signature Soft Egg, a barely poached egg with Italian truffle pearls, scallop and Gruyere foam with a caviar topping optional.

At EDGE, Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, chef Aaron Brooks – a big proponent of putting fresh, local food on the menu – farm-fresh eggs are essential in his Caesar salad and as part of morcilla a la plancha, grilled blood sausage. And for British chef Andrew Gilbert, only local eggs will do for his tikka-sausage Scotch eggs served at The Seven Dials in Coral Gables.

Plant Power

When fruits and veggies are the showstoppers, nothing but freshly harvested produce, hours from the fields or groves, will do. At Plant Miami, an upscale vegan restaurant at the Sacred Space in Wynwood, the team tracks down the best of the farmers markets and Homestead farms, turning their discoveries into delights like a starfruit tart with macadamia mascarpone and coconut ceviche tacos. Other vegan restaurants with a similar approach include Plnthouse by Matthew Kenney at 1 Hotel South Beach, Glam in midtown and the newly opened Planta in South Beach.

Artisan Love

For a true taste of authentic Miami, look for local artisans who’ve made a name for themselves and whose products appear on menus and at farmers markets. These include rustic bread maker Zak the Baker, bacon heroes Miami Smokers, encased-meat gurus Proper Sausages, bean-to-bar crafter Cao Chocolates and Little Havana favorite Azucar Ice Cream. Local breweries J. Wakefield Brewing, Wynwood Brewing Company, Concrete Beach Brewery and M.I.A. Beer Company often use local fruits in their beers.

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