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Ten Miami Chefs Take on the Biggest Burn Challenge

By Laine Doss | Originally appeared in Miami New Times

A chef's life isn't easy. Long days on their feet in the kitchen, along with the stressful running of a business, can take its toll. Many of Miami's chefs spend far too little time staying healthy as a tradeoff for keeping a steady eye on their restaurant.

Julie Frans thought the mindset of putting oneself last was counter intuitive to operating a successful establishment.

The chef and culinary director of the annual Seed Food & Wine Festival joined Orangetheory Fitness about a year ago. She, in turn, recommended the workout studio to Dirt's Nicole Votano about a month ago. Together, they decided to challenge some of their peers to participate in the Biggest Burn, a 12-week weight-loss and fitness challenge.

"We needed to get chefs into this, and now is a good time of year for us to do it," Frans says. She decided to incorporate chefs who participate in Seed to tie in all aspects of a healthful life. "I wanted us to look at the whole body. These chefs all do different styles of cuisine and have different fitness levels, but they are all committed to being more healthful."

Ten chefs have accepted the challenge, which consists of working out at Orangetheory at least three days a week and eating cleaner. They've agreed to also motivate one another to lose weight and get fit. In addition, they will post weekly "meatless Monday" recipes on their social media accounts to share their healthier ways with their followers.

Yesterday, chefs Brad Kilgore (Alter), Soraya Kilgore (Alter), Darren "Paco" Laszlo (Jugofresh), Jimmy Lebron (27 Restaurant & Bar), Jeff Maxfield (Toscana Divino), Steve Santana (Taquiza), Venoy Rogers (Essensia), and Rose Flynn (Choices Cafe), along with Frans and Votano, met at 10 a.m. at Orangetheory's South Beach studio for their first weigh-in and class.

Miami’s SoFi neighborhood grows but keeps its charm

By Necee Regis | Originally appeared in The Boston Globe



MIAMI BEACH — In the mid-1990s, when I first began wintering here, there wasn’t much to discover in the neighborhood referred to by locals as South of Fifth, a.k.a. SoFi, a narrowing triangle of streets from Fifth to the end of the island at 17-acre South Pointe Park. There was one high-rise condo building at the southernmost point (now dwarfed by half a dozen towers), Art Deco hotels in varying states of disrepair, one beach bar, bodegas, Joe’s Stone Crab, and two-story apartment buildings that might best be described as neglected. It was a big deal when Big Pink, serving diner-like food in a retro-pink building, opened for biz. (Happily, it’s still open.)

Fast forward to 2016, and this booming area is fast becoming a destination for new restaurants, galleries, bars, and hot hangouts. New height restrictions have quashed mega-tower development, so the area — so far — retains its old-beach neighborhood vibe.

“Fifteen years ago, you wouldn’t walk here at night,” said Francesco Cavalletti, restaurateur who opened the stylish Italian trattoria La Locanda in 2003. “We knew that Washington Avenue was scheduled for a facelift. Now there are crowds walking by and there are choices for everything. The neighborhood has grown so much. It’s residential and not trendy.”

Indeed, on the first block south of Fifth along Washington you can enjoy house-made pasta dishes, wood-fired pizza, and veal scallopine (La Locanda); grilled octopus, Halloumi cheese, and lamb souvlaki (Meze Aegean Bistro); gourmet schnitzel sandwiches, salads, and crepes (Europa Delicatessen & Gourmet Market); and lobster rolls, chowder, and oysters (Izzy’s Fish and Oyster).

“For years, South of Fifth was only known for Joe’s Stone Crab. Slowly but surely more restaurants moved in and became local favorites,” said Jamie DeRosa, chef-owner of the newest-kid-on-the-block, Izzy’s Fish and Oyster.

On a recent Wednesday night, this small seafood house — with its hip maritime decor — was packed with diners enjoying fried clam bellies, New England crab cakes, Parker House rolls, and a decadent lobster poutine.

“SoFi is a melting pot of tourists and locals. It’s less hotel-driven. More personal and intimate,” said DeRosa.

Around the corner, DIRT recently debuted, elevating fast food dining to a cleaner, greener level by serving seasonal, local, and organic products in salads, smoothies, sandwiches, and more for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Necee Regis for The Boston Globe

The Jewish Museum of South Florida designed by Art Deco architect Henry Hohauser.

Heading south, five and six story structures are sprouting up, housing contemporary condos on the upper levels, and Pilates studios, realty offices, skincare clinics, juice bars, wine bars, and art galleries in street-front digs. On tree-shaded residential side streets, spiffed up Art Deco apartment buildings are reminders of a quieter era. It’s here you’ll also find the Jewish Museum of South Florida, a 1936 structure designed by Art Deco architect Henry Hohauser — featuring 77 stained glass windows and Moorish copper dome — that for 50 years served as a synagogue for Miami Beach’s first Jewish congregation.

Gail Williams and her partner Dawn McCall first visited SoFi about 17 years ago. “We fell in love with the area and saw its promise. It was more neighborhood-y than the rest of South Beach,” said Williams. In 2012, the couple opened the Williams-McCall Gallery in a chic modern space where they exhibit contemporary paintings, works on paper, fine art photography, encaustic collage, and sculpture by a roster of local and international artists.

“When I think of this area, I think of the interior — along Meridian and Jefferson avenues. That’s still like old South Beach,” said Williams, adding, “There’s been a lot of recent development. High-rise luxury towers. We’ve witnessed transformation, but it’s a good one. It’s still a culturally diverse neighborhood.”

Accommodations have also improved since I first arrived 20 years ago. Art Deco hotels have gone boutique (Hotel St. Augustine, The Savoy Hotel, The Century Hotel) though some are renovated more than others. For those who want a kitchenette, the Mercury Hotel has reinvented itself as an all-suite condo hotel. Oceanside, fans of international brands can stay at the Marriott Stanton South Beach and the Hilton Bentley Miami. Travelers with limited budgets — and a sense of adventure — book at SoBe Hostel and Bar, conveniently located next to the take-out window of My Ceviche.

With new construction on what seems like every block, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long this neighborhood avoids the glam-theatrics and trend-seeking tourists who clog the heart of South Beach. Upscale white-tablecloth dining spots run by corporate-owned restaurant groups have already crept southward. On one block of First Street you’ll find high-concept Greek restaurant Milos Miami, up-market Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse, Southesast Asian-hybrid concept Red Ginger, sleek white-on-white clone of NYC’s upscale Italian Il Mulino, and soon-to-open French-inspired café and market, Bake House Brasserie.

As SoFi continues to grow, hopefully it keeps its neighborhood charm. Stay tuned.

Miami New Times: Seed Food and Wine Festival 2015 at Mana Wynwood

Written by Karli Evans | Originally appeared in Miami New Times

Seed returned November 18 through 22 for a second year of highlighting the area's best in vegan dining. On Saturday, November 21, more than 80 restaurants and lifestyle brands descended upon Mana Wynwood to showcase the best in plant-based and cruelty-free living. Check out the healthy smiles from this year's Tasting Village.

Photography by Karli Evans

Ft Lauderdale Daily: Seed Food & Wine Festival Returns To South Florida This Month To Show That Plant-Based Eating Can Be Delicious

Written by Lyssa Goldberg | Originally appeared in Gold Coast's Ft. Lauderdale Daily

Vegans, vegetarians and open-minded eaters, there's a plant-based food and wine festival coming to South Florida, and it begins next week.

Seed Food and Wine Festival will take place in Miami Beach and Miami's Wynwood Arts District from Nov. 18 to Nov. 22. Launched last year, the event is designed to "showcase the delicious side of plant-based living, helping to fuel mainstream acceptance of sustainability and prompting a major change going forward."

The 2015 edition of the festival will feature local culinary talent, leaders in the vegan community and health food celebrities, such as former NBA star and vegan wine owner John Salley and wellness advocate Rich Roll.

“Some of the biggest names in the plant-based world will be joining us and helping to make history…," SEED co-founder Alison Burgos said in a release.

During the five-day festival, Miami Beach and Wynwood will play host to a yoga brunch, a Movies & Munchies film screening amid botanical gardens, a 5K run through mural-painted streets and more. In addition, South Florida blogger Burger Beast will guest judge the first-ever Plant Based Burger Battle to crown America's Best Veggie Burger.

Participating chefs from top Miami restaurants include Jonathan Seningen of DIRT, Brad Kilgore of Alter, Jamie DeRosa of Tongue & Cheek, Chef Taco of Jugofresh, Todd Erickson of Haven and Amber Antonelli of The Naked Bite.

The main attraction is the Seed Festival Day and Tasting Village in Wynwood (for which we have a pair of tickets up for grabs!), where guests can sample plant-based eats from over 80 restaurants and bakeries, as well as vegan juices, wines and spirits. Attendees will also enjoy chef demonstrations, a beer garden, fitness zone, yoga lounge, crafts, edible gardening demos and a cruelty-free beauty bar.


Schedule of Events:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Movies & Munchies Screening of "May I Be Frank" ($25 early, $30 regular, $40 door)
  • Thursday, Nov. 19, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.: First Annual Plant Based Burger Battle at the Eden Roc Hotel ($50 early bird, $55 regular, $60 door)
  • Friday, Nov. 20, noon to 5 p.m.: Food Forward Industry Conference in Miami Beach ($50 regular)
  • Friday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: Future of Food Dining Experience at the Raleigh Hotel Miami Beach ($125 early bird, $130 regular)
  • Friday, Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: An Evening with Chef Chad Sarno in Miami Beach ($125 early bird, $130 regular)
  • Saturday, Nov. 21, 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Seed Wynwood 5K Run, Yoga, Meditation and Festival Day Package ($60 early bird, $65 regular)
  • Saturday, Nov. 21, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Seed Festival Day and Tasting Village at MANA Wynwood ($45 early bird, $50 regular, $55 door)
  • Saturday, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: Made In Miami Farm to Table Dinner, Tongue & Cheek ($135 early bird, $140 regular)
  • Sunday, Nov. 22, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: Mantra Yoga + Brunch with Dawn B at Thompson Miami Beach Hotel ($50 early bird, $55 regular, $60 door)
  • Sunday, Nov. 22, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Sprouts Kids Day at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens ($15 early bird, $20 regular, $25 door)

Want to make a weekend of it? 

Miami Beach boutique hotel Circa 39, which completed a multi-million dollar renovation last year, offers a Would You Wynwood package for destination vacationers looking to explore the culture of Miami's arts district.

Along with 10 percent off best available rates, guests who reserve a two-night stay at Circa 39 can enjoy a daily breakfast buffet at the hotel's Jules Kitchen, a complimentary craft cocktail at WunderBar, bike rental for the day in Wynwood, and a tour and tasting at Wynwood Brewery (promo code: PKGWYNWOOD).

For more information about the festival or to purchase tickets, visit seedfoodandwine.com. To enter our ticket giveaway to Seed Food and Wine's Tasting Village, click here.

Miami New Times: Health in the Hood Brings Fresh Food to Neighborhoods in Need

Written by Julie Harans |  This originally appeared in Miami New Times

It’s no secret there's poverty in Miami.

Just blocks away from multi-million dollar condos are underprivileged communities struggling to survive. Our city is disjointed – a puzzle of pieces that just won’t snap into place. As skyscrapers grow and businesses boom, the wealth gap is widening and the less fortunate are getting shut out. So what do we do?

Behind a block of concrete housing in Liberty City, a solution is growing. Colorful murals declare, “This is your community,” bright green leaves emerge from long beds of soil and salsa music blares from a stereo.

The garden is part of Health in the Hood, an organization founded in 2012 that encourages healthy lifestyles in underprivileged communities. Leading the organization is founder and president Asha Loring, who’s no stranger to this line of work. After several years of involvement with AmeriCorps and Public Allies, Loring decided to follow father Marvin Dunn’s footsteps and unite urban farming and community service.

She wrote a few grants, gathered some seeds and revived two of her father’s plant beds to begin her own project. Now, three years later, Health in the Hood is not only providing fresh produce to families who have no access to grocery stores, but it’s also educating the community on healthy lifestyles through incentive-based classes and hands-on involvement.

It may seem like a small garden can’t make a big impact, but providing these services is the first step to breaking down socio-economic walls between communities. The organization is even looking to expand to a large plot of farmland and open a branch in Los Angeles.

The task seems daunting, but according to Loring, the process is an “organic” one.

“Once you start planting things, people will come out and want to know what’s going on, how can they get involved and can I get hired, and it just becomes a learning experience,” Loring said.

Most Miamians probably can’t imagine life without access to a basic grocery store. We can head to Publix, buy our ingredients of choice and compose a healthy meal. But for the people in these communities, it’s not that simple. Transportation, finances and lack of knowledge can all become barriers between low-income families and fresh food. Health in the Hood’s goal is to break those boundaries and make wellness attainable without being overwhelming.

“It’s easier to go to the mom-and-pop grocery store where they’ve got 99 cent cans of Chef Boyardee that are gonna fill up your kids, where a $4 bag of spinach that cooks down to the size of your fist isn’t gonna fill anybody up,” Loring said. “But if you’ve got a couple heads of it growing in your backyard, you’re much more likely to circumvent some of the choices you would make at a grocery store.”

For a child who’s barely exposed to fresh produce, making that hands-on connection with their food is a magical experience.

Loring says one of the most rewarding moments has been watching the children’s eyes light up and fill with excitement as they bite into a freshly picked cucumber for the first time. “It just lifts your soul,” she said.

Aside from free produce, Health in the Hood offers fitness classes, nutrition education and job opportunities for local residents. As Loring explained, you can’t just slap a garden in the middle of a neighborhood and expect change. The success of the mission relies on community involvement and a comprehensive model that encompasses all aspects of healthy living.

The garden is the basis; from there, Health in the Hood collaborates with local foundations like the Miami Children’s Initiative to listen to the community and meet their needs.

The next time you’re perusing the produce options at Publix, you may feel a small sting of guilt. But Loring isn’t pointing fingers – shedescribes the issue as a shared responsibility.

“It’s on both sides,” she said. “There’s a lack of knowledge coming from the community and a lack of empowerment and that want to be empowered, and there’s not enough people breaking in to provide the services needed.”

Protesting harmful agricultural techniques and boycotting food industry moguls is important, but according to Loring, change needs to start on the opposite end, with teaching uneducated consumers how to navigate around the obstacles.

“You just don’t have to eat all the processed things that are being put in your face because it’s easy and convenient and it’s cheap,” she said. “We have to break that mold. And I think that programs like Health in the Hood are how we do that.”

To get involved, visit healthinthehood.org or email Asha Loring at a.loring@healthinthehood.org.

Miami Herald: Seeds of change: Verde Community Farm in Homestead is helping to grow South Miami-Dade’s foodie appeal

Written by Caitlin Granfield | Orginally appeared in The Miami Herald

Farm manager: ‘We grow a lot of specialty items. We’re not just growing green leaf lettuce,’ says Chuck Lyons of Verde Farm.

Parts of the former Homestead Air Force Base, left vacant for more than two decades after Hurricane Andrew’s fury, have been reborn as a 22-acre organic farm and farmers market, an eco-friendly housing complex for the formerly homeless, and a recently added open-air café that serves a true farm-to-table experience.

Verde Community Farm and Market, managed by Urban Oasis Project and Carrfour Supportive Housing, is positioning itself as an agro-tourism hub while providing work opportunities to people transitioning out of homelessness.

Sweet treats: Chef Adri Garcia, right, and a Verde Community employee work on desserts. Caitlin Granfield For the Miami Herald

“If you want to know where your food comes from and get connected to it,” said Chuck Lyons, Verde Farm’s manager, “you can come here, go see the farm, you can see where we grow something that you’re going to have in your salad.”

Produce grown on the two-year-old farm is available for purchase onsite at Verde Market and at Urban Oasis Project’s farmers markets throughout Miami-Dade County and is on the menu at restaurants from chefs like Michael Schwartz and baker Zak Stern.

Fruits and vegetables grown on the farm also are used to make sandwiches, salads and smoothies at Verde Kitchen Café, which had a soft opening in July. Verde Kitchen, coupled with the farm and “green” townhouses, gives residents of the community a sustainable work-life model.

Gresia “Geo” Gomez, 33, who lives in one of the affordable residences, called Verde Gardens, combines creamy mamey fruit with milk and chia seeds into a blender — a smoothie for a new customer.

Feels more alive

She and nine other residents work at the café and in the kitchen, while five others transitioning out of homelessness work on the organic farm, learning job skills as part of the housing development’s mission to promote self-sufficiency and camaraderie among residents.

“I’m learning more about plants, especially fruits and vegetables and what they’re good for,” Gomez said, noting that she has shed 60 pounds and has picked up better eating habits by living and working at Verde. “There’s no GMOs or additives — it’s natural. I actually feel more alive by eating healthier.”

As operations expand, Verde will bring on more formerly homeless people as workers and residents.

“Everything that you spend here goes back to the community,” said Francesca Steele, Verde Gardens’ program director. “So it’s not only that you’re having this experience and you’re having yummy food, it’s that you’re putting back into a community that’s going to benefit from all of it.”

This sustainable community model, believed to be the first of its kind in South Florida, generates revenue from the café and market, and uses it to pay for employees and cost of goods. Grant money goes toward health, financial and psychological services for residents.

Learning skills

Eventually, the hope is that the formerly homeless staffers, many of whom have little or no prior work experience, will have learned enough skills through working there to prepare them for “real-world” jobs outside of the Verde community.

“The idea was to create a holistic and healthy environment so that health permeates all aspects of someone’s life, be it quality affordable housing, to where they work, eat, to what their children are learning in after-school programming,” said Stephanie Berman-Eisenberg, president and CEO of Carrfour Supportive Housing. The agency developed the $14 million, LEED-certified Verde residences that have front porches and lush yards and provide access to a community center and playground.

Carrfour, a nonprofit founded by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce to develop and manage affordable housing, receives funds from Miami-Dade County’s Homeless Trust. After Hurricane Andrew reduced the former Air Force base to rubble, the federal government deeded land to Miami-Dade County, which then endowed it to the Homeless Trust. The Trust contracted Carrfour Supportive Housing, which collaborated with The Chapman Partnership, a homeless services support program, to build and manage housing.

Verde Café’s menu items feature the likes of umami sliders, made with grass-fed beef from Ocala, to baked goods and leafy choices like the farmhouse salad, made with red dragon fruit, sunflower shoots and microgreens. Local food vendors often rent the kitchen after-hours, so they can make and prepare food items, like jam or fruit preserves, to sell at local farmers markets and at Verde.

Eco-tourism experience

Chef Adri Garcia, co-owner and executive chef for a healthy school-lunch catering service, is in charge of creating new, rotating menu options for the café.

“What we’re doing here is trying to get the whole community in on the same level,” she said.

“It’s not like going to Burger King; we don’t have a Value Meal. But if you think about it, we do, because everything is coming from the ground up, and it’s good for you.”

As part of a national program, Verde Market and Café allows SNAP-eligible customers to receive up to $40 worth of produce for $20, and the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program matches EBT or SNAP dollars.

“We grow a lot of specialty items,” Lyons said. “We’re not just growing green leaf lettuce. We have like eight different varieties that you’re not going to find at Publix. And more popular crops like kale, spinach, carrots and beets.”

Bill Squire, who is in charge of hiring staff for Verde Market and Café, said he believes Verde will soon bring in the swarms of locals and tourists that currently go to Robert Is Here, Knaus Berry Farm and Schnebly Redland’s Winery in search of local foodie experiences in South Miami-Dade.

“You get a whole eco-tourism experience here,” Squire said.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/food-drink/article33741687.html#storylink=cpy

The Great Grove Bed Race

The Great Grove Bed Race

The Great Grove Bed Race, held annually in November, is a way for speed seekers to hit the streets on four wheels at full speed, only they’ll have to trade in their hot rods for a different mode of transportation – beds. Stop thinking of a bed as a sleepy place and let your inner racer take over.

South Beach Wine & Food Festival

South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Sponsored by everybody's favorite cooking show channel and presented by the top food magazine in the country, the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival is one of the most highly regarded of its kind. The event is returning to Miami Beach Feb. 25-28, 2016.

Miami Marathon and Half Marathon

Miami Marathon and Half Marathon

The Lifetime Miami Marathon and Half Marathon, formerly the ING Marathon and Half Marathon, is Miami’s premiere race, and has successfully brought Miami into the conversation of great running cities. Taking place annually in late January or early February, the marathon and half-marathon play host to over 25,000 participants each year, beginning at 601 Biscayne Boulevard, right in between the American Airlines Arena and The Freedom Tower.