Summer is no longer the slow season in South Florida. With the creation of Miami Spa Month through August 31st and Miami Spice running now through 30th, business is bustling practically all year long at South Florida's finest resorts and hotels. Many of these properties are the best in the country and Miami Spice provides an extraordinary opportunity to indulge and enlighten your palate with world class cuisine at a fraction of the cost. During Miami Spice, restaurants offer three-course meals featuring signature dishes created by world-renowned chefs at reduced prices: Lunch $23 and Dinner $39. Many hotel properties have combined the Spice promotion with room night packages specifically geared to locals and affectionately called Staycations so you can get away without going away.
In my continuing Live like a Tourist series, I enjoyed the Miami Spice Stately Staycation package at the legendary Biltmore hotel. Opened in 1927 this regal property is part of the Leading Hotels of the World Group and offers unsurpassed luxury, sweeping landscapes and exceptional fine dining. You will be hard pressed to run out of things to do here, from simply basking in the luxury of the property, its world renowned pool, and golf club, however one of my favorite things about the Biltmore is how knowledgeable many staffers are of the history, legacy and scandalous tales of the property. Amparo, hostess of the afternoon tea kept us entertained with lively stories and folklore dating back to Al Capone and Johnny Weissmuller days at the Biltmore.
In addition photographs and historic memorabilia line the walls all over the property and one would be well served to take time to wander the halls and soak it all in. The things that set the Biltmore apart from other hotels in South Florida are its history and the stunning Mediterranean architecture. The grounds are lush and everywhere there's an air of opulence and a view to match, such was our view at Fontana restaurant, my first stop for lunch. An Italian restaurant led by Chef Giuseppe “Beppe” Galazzi with a decidedly European charm, Chef Galazzi uses local, farm fresh organic ingredients and still manages to have well priced selections like the Executive Lunch menu at $19.99 along with the Miami Spice menu.
After checking in to my lovely junior suite overlooking the property's golf course it was time for afternoon tea in the Biltmore’s magnificent lobby. Tea and refreshments are served daily alongside live harp music weekdays and classical guitar on weekends. Seating’s are at 2:00 and 3:30 and reservations are recommended. Afternoon tea is $29 person but the experience is really priceless. Tradition tea sandwiches, macaroons, madeleine’s, scones and many pastries with South Florida influences like the guava and cheese pastries and pound cake with tropical fruits.
We were fortunate to have a tour of the property which included the Al Capone suite, and if it is empty, you can request a tour as well, check with the property's marketing to be sure.
After a quick change it was time for dinner at Palme d’Or. Dining here is more than a meal. It is being a part of a truly authentic culinary experience prepared by Michelin starred Chef Gregory Pugin. Using fresh, local and sustainable ingredients, Pugin gives each guest the feeling of being transported to France for an evening of fine French cuisine and ambiance. Pugin has a unique style of cooking that he attributes to his extensive and eclectic background. “I like to prepare classic French dishes and add a slight twist of modernity to them. I am looking for that perfect balance and to give each guest a unique and amazing meal.” And indeed that would be the proper description for his Miami Spice menu.
My dear friend Debra Duster Owens joined me for what turned into a three hour gastronomic tour of the most unbelievable French cuisine ever. From the amuse bouche of foie gras foam with shaved leeks to L’Hamachi - Hamachi Marinated with Avocado, Mango, Garbanzo Beans and Lemon Gelee for me and the Marinated Squid Ink Risotto, Chorizo and Artichoke Ms. Owens started the meal with. I could quite possibly run out of adjectives to appropriately describe my enjoyment of this meal.
For our second course we segued into Le filet de boeuf Prime – a melt away near perfect cut of Beef Tenderloin, Green Pepper Sauce, Potato, with Seasonal Mushrooms, Chilean Sea Bass with Onion, Tomato, Pepper and a touch of Seared Tuna with Seared Foie Gras, Potatoes, Asparagus and Sauce Perigourdine. Could there be more? Yes another amuse bouche, this time Le Vacherin -traditional Vacherin - red fruit, to cleanse the palate before the dessert tray from heaven featuring a cognac ice cream with mocha macaroons I won’t soon forget.
This is traditional French cooking with Chef Pugin’s modern twist that explains why he was the youngest chef to be awarded the title Compagnon du Tour de France, and has held such rarified positions from working at the side of France’s Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon opening eight restaurants worldwide to winning the Michelin Star in 2009 and a Rising Star Chef of the Year nomination from the James Beard Foundation as Executive chef at NY’s famed Veritas restaurant.
Chef Pugin’s noteworthy pedigree is stellar. And his attention to detail unsurpassed. Pugin says “I’m always thinking about the experience. I want this to be the best meal anyone has ever had.” Mission accomplished here. It is not in the quantity one consumes but the superb quality of the food that enhances your senses making gluttony absolutely unnecessary – yes indeed, I learn a lot about the French – and myself with this dining experience.
Later I retired to my lovely suite complete with sweet dreams and spent the following morning relaxing at the pool , a brisk workout and steam in the Biltmore’s well equipped fitness facility and after checkout a stroll on Miracle Mile and shopping at Merrick Park. I highly recommend taking this Stately Staycation and allowing yourself to seep into a less hectic pace and the world class tastes of Miami Spice at the Biltmore hotel.
The Stately Staycation is available for bookings now through October 31. With this offer, Florida resident receive 20% off the best available rate, as well as complimentary valet parking at the hotel. Certain restrictions apply, based on availability, a limited number of rooms can be reserved, not valid on packages, can’t be combined with other offers, proof of Florida residency is required at check-in. For Reservations: (855) 454-0196. www.BiltmoreHotel.com.