No Passport Necessary

BY ANGELA CARAWAY-CARLTON | PHOTO: CARLOS HIDALGO

Want to enjoy the traditional experiences, foods and shopping found in Europe, Asia or the Middle East? You can do it right here in Miami. Here’s how.

Bollywood Dreams
Ever dream of dancing like the Indian celebrities in a Bollywood movie? Geeta Dias, who’s from Bombay (now called Mumbai, the home of Bollywood movies) and has a strong background in the traditional classical styles of Bharatnatyam and Kathak dance, will teach you classical and folk Indian dance steps. “All the dances are taught to Bollywood songs, so the dancers pick up some key words in Hindi,” says Dias of the experience. “Most of the songs have a story behind them and the students learn the meaning behind each song and they also learn about the culture and traditions of India.” Students have the option of dressing in Indian costumes and jewelry, and there’s even the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. Group classes are $20 per student and a private class is $75. Geeta’s Bollywood Dance Company, 305.527.2658; geetadance.com.

 

PHOTOS: JAMES WOODLEY PHOTOGRAPHY AND SHIREEN SANDOVAL-WSVN

The Italian Job
If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know shoemaking is an art, and on the island of Capri, it’s a tradition to buy custom-made sandals when visiting. A quick trip to West Palm Beach offers you that very experience at Via Capri, 34, which is tucked inside a via off posh Worth Avenue. Italian owner Francesco Pasta (yes, that’s his real last name) learned the craft from his grandfather while living in Capri and has more than 15 years of experience making custom sandals. After you’ve chosen your style, which can include anything from genuine Italian leather, snakeskin and Swarovski crystals and even real gold, Pasta places your feet on a leather sole to properly fit both your left and right feet (usually our two feet are slightly different), measures the distance of your toes from the top of the shoe for a thong or triangle design, and then gets to work with a hammer and tools to create your personalized shoe. “It’s exciting. People want to stay and watch, and in the end, the sandals fit you perfectly,” says Pasta. The best part: it only takes minutes to complete.
Via Capri, 34, 323 Worth Avenue (Via DeMario), Palm Beach, 312.720.8635, viacapri34.com.

 

London Calling
You don’t have to hop across the pond to sip a proper English tea or eat a real-deal British meal—just cozy up at Vienna Café and Bistro, situated in an unassuming shopping center in Cooper City. Hailing from outside Birmingham, England, co-owner Sandra Guerra offers “high tea” all day, featuring a three-tier tower topped with finger sandwiches and homemade scones, accompanied by the quintessential Devonshire clotted cream and nine different types of teas, and everything is served on her family’s fine bone china from England. Guerra also brought her family’s authentic recipes to the U.S. and offers U.K. favorites like bangers and mash, a full English breakfast of bacon, eggs, bangers, mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans, and a traditional Sunday roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding. “You can’t get that anywhere here. I would long for it, so we decided I had to do it,” says Guerra. “The roast is cooked for ten hours and we make our own gravy and homemade mashed potatoes.” Vienna Café & Bistro, 5724 S. Flamingo Rd., Cooper City, 954.680.6599, viennacafeandbistro.com.

 

Taste of France
If you’re searching for that buttery, flaky croissant that you still dream about from your last trip to Paris, you’ll find it at the French-inspired lounge called La Gourmandise, located inside the swanky St. Regis Bal Harbour. Miami’s “pastry king,” Antonio Bachour, is a graduate of baking and pastry arts from the French Culinary Institute and his croissants are the real deal. His secret: Bachour flies in the butter from France. “France has the best cows and therefore the best milk, yielding the best butter. Croissants are all about the butter you make them with,” explains the executive pastry chef. “Chefs that have been to the bakery in recent months include chef/pastry icons Massimo Bottura and Dominique Crenn, both of whom noted the croissant as their favorite.” Of course, you can also find handpainted bons-bons and macarons. La Gourmandise, 9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305.993.3300, stregisbalharbour.com.

 

Moroccan Beauty
If you want to feel like you’re wandering the exotic souks of Marrakech or Fes, stroll through Berber Trading Company in North Miami. The owner, Lissan Eddine, who was born in Casablanca, Morocco, has filled 95 percent of his store on Biscayne Boulevard with treasures from his homeland. You’ll discover authentic furniture, rugs, tagines, tea glasses, lanterns, fabrics, mirrors and more. If you desire gorgeous skin like the beautiful women of Morocco, head over to Le Beau Maroc in Surfside, where Moroccan-born Asmaa Benkirane has curated a collection of argan oils for the face, hair and body, sourced from the argan tree in Southern Morocco. “The line, Marokissime, is made of argan oil, prickly pear oil, Moroccan minerals and orange blossom. The products are the secret of many Moroccan women to keep their youthful looks,” says Benkirane. You likely won’t be able to resist her incredible caftans, either, many of which are made in Morocco of the finest silks and embellished with semi-precious stones. Berber Trading Company, 7101 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305.759.8849, berbertrading.com; Le Beau Maroc, 9507 Harding Ave., Surfside, 305.763.8847, lebeaumaroc.com.

 

Viva Mexico!
If you want to be transported to the lively markets of Mexico, then head south of the border—or better yet, south to Homestead for the Redland Market Village. At this weekend-only market, you’ll find a vast selection of fruits and veggies, meats, spices and delicious Mexican food from restaurants like Taqueria Aztlan, a 25-year staple down here. 24420 S. Dixie Hwy., Homestead, 305.257.4335, redlandmarketvillage.com.

 

Dim Sum Delights
While it’s not fancy and you won’t find the typical push-cart service here, Toa Toa in Sunrise offers as close to authentic Hong Kong-style dim sum as you’ll find in South Florida. The restaurant is run by Chef To Wong, who was born and raised in Hong Kong where he started learning the art of making dim sum at just 11 years old. Everything from the shrimp, chive and pork shumai dumplings to the noodles is made-to-order, so dishes come out piping hot. Toa Toa, 4145 N.W. 88th Avenue, Sunrise, 954.746.8833, toatoachineserestaurant.com.

 

House of Brazil
Hidden away in a historic neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, Regina’s Farm is a place where chickens run free, kids swing from rope swings, and you’ll find a customary Brazilian country feast. This is more than a meal—it’s an experience. Set in Regina’s backyard, you’ll start with soups and her famous cheese bread, and then head to the wood stoves where she’ll uncover copious simmering pots of Brazilian goodness. Dinner is served every Saturday and reservations are a must (and you may not get a spot for months). reginasfarm.com.

 

America the Beautiful (Burger)
Of course, we can’t forget the good old U.S.A. There’s nothing more all-American than a juicy burger and a thick milkshake, and you’ll find both in Coconut Grove at Lokal restaurant and its adjoining new milkshake bar, Vicky’s House (which is modeled after owner Matt Kuscher’s mom’s house in the ‘80s). At Lokal, order the Classic Burger made with Florida grass-fed beef that’s ground in-house and loaded with American staples like mayo, mustard, onions, tomatoes, pickles, shredded lettuce and sharp Wisconsin cheddar sliced to order. “Everything Lokal offers is Florida-based, from our beers, beef, produce and honey,” says Kuscher. He recommends heading next door to Vicky’s House to see what an American house looked like in the 80s and to slurp down a milkshake or float. If that doesn’t have you chanting “USA,” then you apparently don’t understand the indulgent American culture at all. LoKal, 3190 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove, 305.442.3377, www.lokalmiami.com.

 

Sup in the Middle East
Started by Miami food writers Maude Eaton and Sara Liss, who share a Persian background and a penchant for Middle Eastern food, Saffron Supper Club is a roving dinner series that takes place once a month at venues such as Byblos, Cleo and Paradise Farms. It all started when the ladies couldn’t find a genuine Persian experience in Miami, so they decided to create the supper club to expose diners to the exotic dishes and ingredients of their heritage—think jeweled rice, hearty stews and aromatic spices. Each pop-up dinner features a completely new menu created by the duo and the collaborating chef and weaves in authentic Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cuisine. “We always bring in some sort of cultural component, whether it’s reading poetry that relates to the dinner—Rumi and Hafiz are favorites of ours—or delving into the history and food scholarship of a dish,” says Liss. Guests indulge in a cocktail reception with passed bites and a three-course meal with paired wines. Prices start at $65. For reservations, email saffronsupper@gmail.com.

 

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