Well, I did it - I finally took 3 days off , I closed the store and spent some time in Miami.
This was my first time there, and I must say that I thought it was a really beautiful place. I stayed in South Beach and had the chance to get some sun and swim the ocean before it got crazily cold... as a matter of fact, the low temperature on January 3rd was 38 degrees (does it get that cold regularly in Miami?). I had 3 priorities the first was to relax at the beach, which I did extensively on my first day (and briefly on the second one, as well). The third day, unfortunately, was too cold to even think about getting half naked, much less going outside and laying around.
The second priority was a visit to El Rey de la Guayaberas in the Little Havana district; the Guayabera, a style of shirt, was originally from Cuba but is widely used in the Caribbean islands, especially on "Spanish" ones.
I completed that task on the last day, but it was 47 degrees and, like I said, definitely too cold to lay on the beach anyway. I didn't meet "El Rey" Ramon Puig, but there were two lovely Cuban ladies that adopted me and chose the perfect size and shape of Guayabera, and in my favorite colors!
The third priority was a dinner at Joe Stone Crab!
The story of this famous joint started in 1913 when Joe Weiss moved to Miami and opened up a small restaurant when Miami was still an insignificant and quiet backwater town. After running a lunch stand at Smith's Bathing Casino, he and his wife bought a small bungalow on Biscayne Street and set up eight tables on the front porch; that was the year 1918.
Joe was in the kitchen while Jessie, his wife, tended to the eight tables, their specialties were Pompano, Mackerel, Snapper and some meat dishes. Things got busy quickly for them, partially because they had no competition, but mostly because of the tremendous fish sandwiches Joe's diligently made. They started to use their living room to put more tables up and they opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The famous Stone Crabs came around few years later, in 1921 when James Allison opened an aquarium near Joe's restaurant. Jessie, Joe's son, used to go for fun, and check out their research on the local crabs, called Stone Crab. One day James brought 4 crabs to the restaurant and asked Joe to cook them, and after few arguments on how they should be prepared, grilled, broiled and so on Joe just took and threw them in boiling water and that was it. They were exquisite and Joe, who hadn't believed that the crabs could sell, hit the jackpot... because Biscayne Bay was full of them.
Today fishing Stone Crabs is regulated in order to keep a healthy number of them around. I had Joe's Stone Crabs several times in New York. They actually ship it next-day air, and very well packed, so they're always fresh. But the experience of being there is another story. The place was packed and the wait was up to 2 hours; my good friend Luciano, thank god, knew somebody that knew somebody else that had a table ready for the 4 of us. We got the infamous crabs paired with some Alaskan king crabs and some hash browns, Joe's style, deliziosi!!!
The claws were juicy and filled with meat, they were sweet and yet you could taste the sea, creamy and slightly salty, delicate and persisting. They were a real treat, and in fact, I'm salivating just thinking about it.
To drink, Luciano played it safe ordering Laurent Perrier Rose`. Pale orange reflections with very small and light bubbles, scents of berries and citrus with a lingering finish went great with the crustacea and also with the mayonnaise and mustard-based dipping sauce. The dinner finished with a tray of dessert, the highlight of which was the Key Lime Pie made with limes coming from the keys, hence the name, that had unique sweet citrus flavors.
It was so good that the next day I went to their take-away side and got a box with 5 pounds of claws, and proceeded to fight them through the almost ridiculously tight airport security and Continental Airline rules and regulations about transporting ice, just to have them again back in NYC.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti