The holidays are over, but the party never stops in South Beach, Miami, even though the temperature went below freezing as an unusual cold spell hit South Florida.
I checked in to the one hotel that has reigned supreme ever since it's opening, the Delano at 1685 Collins Ave in South Beach. Other hotels may have bigger and more luxurious rooms, but nothing has the sex appeal of the hotel that really started it all. The hotel absolutely reeks of sex; in fact, there are condoms and vibrators for sale in each room, so if you don't get laid when you stay at The Delano, you can always come back to your vibrator! (The X rating doesn't keep the families away because, as one couple said to me, "when the kids go to sleep, we can go downstairs and find all the fun we need, yet still be close by if our kids need us.")
The hotel was originally built in 1947, but did not become the Delano the world knows today until hotelier Ian Schrager decided to take on South Beach in the 1990s. He turned to the one and only Phillip Starck to design the landmark hotel, and Starck worked his magic.
Dark wood floors, billowing white curtains, and the first communal dining table to grace a hotel or restaurant, greet guests when entering the glamorous hotel. A mix of furniture and objects found in European flea markets alongside works from artists such as Antonio Gaudi, Man Ray, Charles and Ray Eames, Salvador Dali and Mark Newson are found inside and outside.
The pool is more a place for lounging than swimming. You can actually sunbathe from your own chaise placed permanently in the water as part of the design. If you dive beneath the surface you can swim to the sounds of Mozart, Bach or Shubert, giving you a break from the pounding bass of the disco sounds that fill the hotel, and for that matter just about everywhere in South Beach! Frankly, nobody really hangs at the pool to swim. Who wants chlorine in your eyes to spoil the sight of the beautiful men and women strutting their hot bodies.
If exercise is your thing, then either step outside the hotel grounds and take a run down the boardwalk, or, if your calve muscles are strong enough, on the soft white sand bordering the turquoise ocean. The hotel has a very nice gym and it has its regulars who come to sweat it all out.
When the late nights and partying get to you, head to the rooftop spa and book a massage with Curtis or anyone of the spa's fabulous massage therapists. After a good workout and a great massage and steam bath, I felt completely renewed and ready for another night out on the town. The spa also offers delightful manicures and pedicures, facials and just about any other spa treatment in the book.
The young and friendly hotel staff is eager to please and remedy any problems that may come up. The concierge desk has an extremely knowledgeable group of employees who can make just about anything happen. Even the housekeeping staff made me feel right at home remembering all my requests from my last stay. I won't say that little problems never came up, but when they did, somebody addressed them immediately. I guess that is why the hotel has one of the most loyal list of return guests from here and abroad, especially abroad. At times I felt like I was in France, Italy or Spain because English was barely spoken!
Breakfast was my favorite meal to have at the hotel. I am addicted to their pecan waffles with mango and bananas, an unfortunate discovery when one wants to be in a bikini! I also loved the Cuban mojitos made in the Florida Room by the fastest bartender in South Beach, Gloria Pope, a tall, blond, and beautiful Dutch girl.
A block away from the Delano is a little jewel called Casa Tua, where I spent New Year's this year and last for their Brazilian themed white party. Casa Tua is an exquisite house turned into a restaurant, club, disco and small hotel. I wrote about it in my book about the world's legendary restaurants, Everybody Eats There. You have to visit it once, if for nothing else then to see the fabulous flower arrangements. If you sleep at Casa Tua, they have an arrangement with the Delano so their guests may use the pool, beach and other facilities at the Delano.
Across from Casa Tua on James Avenue is a wonderful Latin fusion restaurant, Ola in the Sanctuary Hotel. The creator and chef, Douglas Rodriguez, won the James Beard Award. The food was some of the best we had in Miami. After you drink one of their house Cuban mojitos, dive into one of the plates of ceviche prepared in the Japanese style. We loved the hamachi (yellowtail) marinated in yuzu, Thai basil, togarashi peppers, cilantro, sweet soy glaze, crushed seaweed and sesame seeds. Sounds like a lot, but the flavors were amazing. The most popular dishes are the smoked marlin tacos, mystery meat balls (there is definitely kobi in the secret recipe) and the foie gras and fig empanada. You have to try the hearts of palm salad with watercress and bacon vinegrette and smoked date puree, as well as the raspado de pato, which is a hudson valley duck breast served over crispy rice mixed with edamame, raisins, and pine nuts.
I am forever blown away by the success of Myles Chefetz, who owns, among other restaurants, the little gold mine Prime 112. It is a steak house par excellence. Come hungry, but not too hungry, because there will definitely be a wait for a table no matter what time you garner a reservation. Once you sit down, get your waiter to bring some of the terrific appetizers. (While you wait, ask for a menu so you know what you want when seated). My recommendations are the kobe beef sliders, deviled eggs with white truffle and caviar, jumbo shrimp cocktail (they are huge), the hearts of romaine Caesar salad (big enough for a table to share), and, though it is on the "sides" section of the menu, go for the five cheese truffle mac, which is the best mac and cheese anywhere!
Prime is for steaks, but there are other things on the menu, and frankly, after the wonderful appetizers, who needs more. Alas, this little piggy and her friends do! We always order the porterhouse for two, which at this point can be for four. There are all types of sauces and butters to choose from when ordering the steak, as well as just about any veggie you can think of, prepared in the tastiest manners. My faves are the slow roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy pancetta, and the creamed spinach with crispy shallots.
Save room for dessert, because Prime 112 has the very best key lime pie in South Florida. Trust me, my co-tasters and I have tried them all, and truly, this one is the best.
After a dinner like this, I strongly recommend a long walk! (And a workout, and a swim the next day as well!)
If you like to shop till you drop, drop in at one of the most wonderful Cuban diners in Miami, Puerto Sagua at 700 Collins Ave. They are known for their huge Cuban sandwiches, the shredded beef and rice, crispy roast chicken and rice and the fried grouper. Sit at the counter and watch them squeeze your sweet Florida orange juice while you wait for some of their specialties.
Many NY restaurants have opened outlets in Miami. Scott Conant's Scarpetta, one of my favorite NY restaurants, in the Fontainbleu hotel, Nobu at the Shore Club, where I am forever astonished by the way they are able to handle the crowds and still turn out such high quality food, and Mr Chow at the W. Although the sprawling restaurant has to be the most glamorous in South Beach with its star studded clientele and fabulous contemporary art, the night we were there it seemed that there were more captains and no waiters. It was utter chaos. They ran out of everything from ginger, which in a Chinese restaurant is very odd, and spoons. I would recommend it for the fun and great people watching. We had Jamie Foxx and his fellow actors from a film he was shooting in Florida at a table near us, and in the front of the restaurant was a long table of Victoria's Secret models.
No trip to Miami would be complete without a stop at Joe's Stone Crab, but since I wrote about Joe's in my book, and this blog has dragged on too long, I will say one thing and one thing only... go! You can also order from Joe's online at www.joesstonecrab.com. If you aren't fortunate to be in Miami and don't have to get into a bathing suit, then get some of their key lime pie to go along with your stone crab!
Miami is just a short plane ride away from New York, but it feels like a world away from the stresses of everyday life. I can't wait to return!