One week ago, I tagged along with my husband, Dan, on his business trip to Miami Beach, Florida. After 3 months and counting of Minnesota winter, this adults-only mini getaway was much needed. And it turned out to be the perfect mix of relaxation, fitness, and FOOD, which I’ll touch on in a sec.
But first, fitness. Jogging the Miami Beach boardwalk was our first priority because we’re training for a half marathon and this Minnesotan will jump at the chance to run by the ocean versus trotting along the dirty, slushy streets of St. Paul, MN. Prior to the trip, I had also scoped out some area gyms and found a place called Barry’s Bootcamp. The hip-hop music, HIIT-based classes, and claims that you’ll burn up to 1300 calories per class had me intrigued so I immediately signed up much Dan’s dismay. He was a little nervous. And I have to say, I too was a bit intimidated at the thought of us sort-of-fit, pasty Minnesotans taking a class at a chic gym filled with ripped and beautiful people. The below photo says it all.
So how did it go? It was an intense workout, but there was really nothing to worry about. The class was completely choreographed, alternating between sprints on the treadmill and strength training with hand weights and a bench. Each day targets a different set of muscles. We were there on Arms and Abs day. I could handle the strength part, but the sprinting was a beast. I was running so fast at one point, it felt as if my legs were independent from my body and with one blink of the eye or twitch of a muscle, I’d be on my butt shooting off the back of the belt. Thankfully, that didn’t happen! What helped me to focus and stay in the zone during these seconds from hell were the low lighting and the hip-hop blasting from the speakers. When it was time to sprint, like clockwork, the lights dimmed, the volume and tempo of the music shot up, and all you could think to do in that moment was run as if your life depended on it. This type of workout may sound out-of-the-question for even experienced runners, but, believe or not, Barry’s encourages novice and non runners to give their classes a try. Some participants in our class chose to walk during the treadmill portion, and the instructor was very accommodating, giving different speed suggestions to suit all fitness levels.
We were sweaty messes walking out of there, but man, we felt like we could conquer the world. Dan, aka the guy I had to drag into class, said it was the highlight of the trip. If we ever make it back, we’re definitely taking advantage of their specialty protein shake/smoothie bar where you can place your order before class and have the smoothie waiting for you when finished. If you’re in the Miami area, I highly recommend you check out Barry’s Bootcamp! They also have a handful of other locations throughout the US (sadly, none in the Midwest), Norway, and London.
In other news, we ate well on this trip. Our first night, I was on a mission to find a good Cuban restaurant. With Little Havana in the heart of Miami, I knew authentic Cuban food was well within reach. We dined at Larios on the Beach, which, fun fact, is owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Our dishes were heavy on the plantains and I was totally, 100% okay with that. My love for plantains knows no bounds (proof: this lasagna, these veggie bowls, and these nachos)! We started off with a couple appetizers, including crispy, fried plantain cups filled with tender, shredded beef and three baked empanadas each filled with slow-cooked and tender chicken, beef, or pork and accompanied by a tangy, citrus dipping sauce.
For the main dishes, Dan ordered a wrap stuffed with grilled chicken, black beans, rice, and sweet plantains from their lighter option menu called the CCC (Calorie Conscious Cuban) menu, and it came with a side of, you guessed it, crispy plantain chips. What I loved most about the wrap were the tiny chunks of plantain that added lovely pops of sweetness amid the otherwise savory filling. It was a huge wrap, so he ended up taking the rest back to the hotel, and we enjoyed it as a light, poolside lunch the following day. I ordered the slow roasted pork, which was basically a mound of the most amazingly tender pork, topped with sweet, pickled onions and served with rice and tostones (fried, smashed plantains) on the side. I ended up topping my tostones with the pork and rice and eating them like little tostadas. The downsides of the meal were the slow service and my passion fruit mojito that I’m pretty sure was made with canned fruit cocktail as evidenced by the syrupy peaches, pears, and cherries pooling at the bottom of the glass. Despite these shortcomings, I would happily dine at Lario’s again. You seriously can’t go wrong with Cuban food!
We enjoyed breakfast after our Barry’s Bootcamp workout at Dirt, a new restaurant in Miami Beach serving up clean, wholesome, and nutritious dishes, many of which are gluten-free, vegan, and/or paleo-friendly. I ordered the Acai smoothie bowl, which consisted of acai, chia seeds, blueberries, and goji berries blended with Brazil nut milk and topped with fresh fruit and crunchy granola. It was filling, refreshing, and just what I needed after our workout! My husband had scrambled eggs with grilled bread and turkey sausage, but he’s kicking himself for not trying the breakfast special that day, which was sweet potato and apple oatmeal! I really wanted to try their veggie bowls (I spotted a curry cauliflower and quinoa bowl on the menu!), but lunch service hadn’t started yet. Next time…
The meal on our last night brought us to Cleo South Beach tucked inside a cozy boutique hotel. We chose to dine on their outdoor patio where we noshed on Greek-inspired tapas (small plates). I loved the small plate setup because it allowed us to try a little bit of everything. We started out with Lebaneh, a tangy Greek yogurt and feta dip, served with this fresh-out-of-the-oven, pillowy, crusty-on-the-outside bread, which reminded me a lot of focaccia. From there (are you ready?), we ordered crispy, roasted Brussels sprouts with capers, the meatball tagine with a soft egg in the middle, the kale citrus salad with hazelnuts and grilled halloumi (Greek cheese), and the artichoke and potato flatbread pizza. I washed all of this food down with the most sweet and spicy ginger mojito. By far, it was the best mojito I’ve ever had and with the eclectic mix of Greek appetizers to pair it with, this was definitely the best meal of the trip.
Sprinkled into our adventures were late night drinks at the Bleau Bar at the Fontainebleau hotel, a couple after dinner stops at this darling bakery/cafe, Rosetta Bakery, for out-of-this-world Nutella pastries, and buying a coconut from the guy on the boardwalk selling them out of his Rubbermaid cooler. In a few swift cuts with his Swiss army knife, he popped off the coconut top, stuck a straw in the middle, and I was on my way happily sipping fresh coconut water straight from the coconut!
Sigh. It hasn’t even been a week and I’m already itching to go back to Miami Beach. I absolutely fell in love with the city’s diverse food scene, dedication to fitness, and, of course, the beautiful beach. And, as if I didn’t have enough reasons to return, here’s another: I missed the South Beach Food and Wine Festival by one day. Guess I’ll have to wait until next year to wine and dine with the Food Network stars (#UnrealisticFoodieGoals).