I had just returned from three weeks in Havana when I landed in Miami. My friend and guide, the restaurateur Javier Ramirez, picked me up from my hotel and drove us through Little Havana, to visit the largest community of Cuban expats. Coffee passed through iron-fenced counters, and reggaeton pumped through pawn-shop windows. But our first stop wasn't Cuban. It was a small family-run Mexican restaurant called Mi Rinconcito, where we enjoyed early morning carnitas and some Negra Modelos, a refreshing start to the day.
Javier, a tall skinny guy with an endless appetite, warned me save room for the next stop, one of his favorites: My Ceviche. We drove from Little Havana southwest to Coral Gables, where fast food meets fresh with this casual, no-frills but absolutely delicious Peruvian-style ceviche. The ordering process at My Ceviche is simple: choose a fish, select the seasoning, and add accompanying toppings. It was in the low 90s outside, so I grabbed an ice-cold Negra Modelo just before paying. Try finding wild-caught fish of this quality served anywhere else in the US. The Negra Modelo matched nicely with the bright, citrus-based aji amarillo seasoning, tempering the heat from the chile. Under Miami's hot sun, this is a pairing I could eat daily.
The next day started with a visit to South Beach's Taquiza, where Masienda corn is used as the foundation for exceptional blue corn tacos. Customers cross Collins Avenue from beach — bathing suits and towels in hand — to grab a taco or two from this stand, before heading back to the ocean. We ordered one of each taco to eat with our Negra Modelo, but the combination that really stood out was the chapulines (that's grasshoppers!) atop a bed of guacamole. The salty, crunchy grasshoppers contrasted with the refreshing Negra Modelo. I loved this place.
We continued with a visit to Cake, an understated, bare-bones Thai restaurant on Miami's MiMo that seats no more than 12 people. While the restaurant was simple, the flavors were anything but. Chef Phuket Thongsodchareondee sent us a green papaya salad burying a half-dozen fermented crabs. The sour lime and spicy chiles sat alongside a salty, savory fish sauce. I paired this with a Negra Modelo, which has a very subtle sweetness that helped bring out the sweetness of the dish's palm sugar. This salad hit all flavor notes.
Finally, that night, Javier took me to his restaurant, Alter. It's the reason I chose Miami for this Negra Modelo adventure. Javier partnered with 29-year-old Bradley Kilgore to open this restaurant, combining Asian-inspired American food with local Floridian ingredients. Chef Kilgore braised short ribs in Negra Modelo, where the lager's caramel malts were a perfect complement to the ribs. Kilgore is obsessed with flavor and hyper-aware of texture, each dish having an element of crunch to contrast against his deeply-flavored sauces. Alter was very good, and I can't wait to see how its cooking continues to develop over the coming years.
The following day, on our way to the airport, we stopped by to visit pastry chef Antonio Bachour at his home. Bachour is currently the pastry chef at the St. Regis Bal Harbour, and will be opening his own storefront in a few weeks. Bachour's desserts are technically perfect, stunning, and delicious. He prepared a gingerbread using Negra Modelo as an ingredient. The subtle sweetness of the Negra Modelo, coupled with its fine hops and yeast varieties, brought out the ginger to really made this bread pop.
From simple snacks to multi-course tasting menus, both high and low end, Miami has an exploding dining scene. It's another excellent excuse to visit sunny Florida.