I’M IN A MI­AMI STATE OF MIND

DINE and Destinations - - SARA SAYS: WHERE TO DINE NOW - By Sara Wax­man

Sun and sea, surf and turf—the stuff that dreams are made of. As the first feath­ery snowflakes hit the ground, more than four mil­lion Cana­di­ans be­gin their an­nual win­ter mi­gra­tion to Florida and, ac­cord­ing to Sta­tis­tics Canada, we spend more than $5 bil­lion a year. This is our sybaritic play­ground. It is in our DNA. “We love you Canada,” they beckon, “come on down.” Ocean-front beaches have been combed free of win­ter’s de­bris; golf cour­ses are metic­u­lously cod­dled and groomed into plush grass car­pets, ho­tels ad­ver­tise multi-mil­lion dol­lar ren­o­va­tions; chefs have per­fected new menus in­cor­po­rat­ing eth­nic trends with lo­cal ven­dors. Some things change, some stay the same and some stand the test of time.

South Florida is golfers heaven, in no small part due to the Do­ral, orig­i­nally built in the 1960s and home of the PGA for 55 years.

Long be­fore Don­ald Trump was a Pres­i­dent, he was a hote­lier. Trump Na­tional Do­ral Mi­ami sprawls over an 800acre man­i­cured prop­erty. Ac­quired by Trump Ho­tels in 2012, a $250 mil­lion trans­for­ma­tion was be­gun im­me­di­ately, suc­ceed­ing ad­mirably in mak­ing the Do­ral great again. Home to four uniquely de­signed cour­ses, the most chal­leng­ing and iconic is the Blue Mon­ster Course. Prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice. The state-of-the-art LED prac­tice fa­cil­ity, the cut­ting-edge True Spec Golf club fit­ting lab and the No. 1 ranked Jim Mclean Golf School make this a mecca for se­ri­ous golfers. In homage to golf greats, each villa is named for a cham­pion—i am in the Ben Ho­gan—and the walls are hung with his mem­o­ra­bilia and pho­tos.

Com­fort is key in th­ese ac­com­mo­da­tions. The dé­cor is a calm­ing col­lage of yel­low, cream, grey and mauve, noth­ing to in­ter­fere with re­lax­ing thoughts. Lux­u­ri­ous mar­ble bath­rooms, white, plushy tow­els and robes, in room and at the adults-only swim­ming pool, with just the sounds of wa­ter, an oc­ca­sional bird and dis­tant mu­sic to dis­turb our reverie.

The renowned Pri­tikin Longevity Cen­ter and Spa is on the prop­erty and, since I’ve been a fre­quent guest over the years, I took a tour of the ren­o­vated fa­cil­ity. Th­ese lux­ury spa suites in pale blue with gold leaf de­tails, crys­tal chan­de­liers, Ital­ian bed linens and onyx tables are a far cry from the mun­dane ’60s-era guest rooms of the past. My first thought is of Cin­derella’s pump­kin be­ing trans­formed into a golden coach.

The in­ner man (and woman) is not ne­glected. B.L.T. Prime Steak­house has an out­post here: a men’s club am­bi­ence with iconic leather and wood dé­cor. I’ll have what Pres­i­dent Trump eats when he vis­its, and am de­lighted with a de­lec­ta­ble 16-oz USDA Prime New York Strip Steak, 28-day dry-aged, with a side or­der of unique hen-of-the-woods mush­rooms.

At lunch in the Cham­pi­ons Bar and Grill, a high­light is the choco­late dessert, aptly named Blue Mon­ster. The Ex­ec­u­tive Chef stops by for a chat. Newly ar­rived from Bordeaux, he has been on the job nine days. Bon chance, Di­dier Lail­huegue.

Loews Mi­ami Ho­tel, built in 1998, has been re-imag­ined to even more fab­u­lous­ness than the orig­i­nal, with its $50 mil­lion, full-body makeover. Many fac­tors make a ho­tel great, and first and fore­most is the wel­come. There is an abun­dance of staff who greet us with en­thu­si­asm, re­mem­ber our name, and an­swer ev­ery ques­tion, from help to or­der an Uber or tell us where to go shoe-shop­ping. We feel cared for.

I am mes­mer­ized by the fan­tas­tic mu­ral in the lobby by New York artist Sarah Raskey that pays homage to the elements, with its in­trigu­ing de­sign re­flected in the hall car­pets. It is just one of the many cu­rated art pieces that fill the pub­lic spa­ces and rooms.

The ameni­ties are cap­ti­vat­ing in this re­sort. Loung­ing on a day bed, en­joy­ing lunch and cock­tails in a St. Tropez-in­spired, adults-only SOAK Ca­bana with but­ler ser­vice, in­ter­net, ipad with Net­flix—i don’t ever want to leave. Else­where, there is Lowes Loves Kids fam­ily pro­gram­ming. My sce­nario for to­mor­row is the ocean­front poolscape with pri­vate beach ac­cess. Af­ter a tough day of catch­ing sun­shine, a mas­sage at the Ex­hale Spa is in or­der. My worka­holic per­sona is be­wil­dered by all this re­lax­ation, but I’m han­dling it.

That evening, we cross a sculp­ture-filled court­yard to Lure Fish­bar, a si­b­ling of the pop­u­lar Soho, New York res­tau­rant. The set­ting is lux­ury-yacht-din­ing-room and the menu is a com­pen­dium of ev­ery fish and seafood we love. The sushi chef has re­cently ar­rived from Ja­pan and pre­pares his morsels Tokyo-style, to be eaten with fin­gers. Grilled fish is metic­u­lously boned, glissed with olive oil, show­ered with herbs and served whole, clearly cooked by some­one who speaks to fish. And yet, at neigh­bour­ing tables, they’re dig­ging into gor­geous steaks with sides of pasta.

While the heart of a ho­tel may be in its rooms, surely the soul is its kitchen. Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Fred­eric De­laire be­gan his ca­reer as a teenager at a Miche­lin star res­tau­rant in his na­tive France, be­fore dis­cov­er­ing Florida in 1999. “I fell in love with trop­i­cal fruits, colour­ful fish and foods that I had never worked with be­fore in my life,” he said, re­sult­ing in his Made in Mi­ami cui­sine for the 65,000-square-foot meet­ing and func­tion space. Guests are thrilled with fish from the Florida Keys, and ex­otic trop­i­cal fruits rarely seen in New Eng­land or the Mid­west. Lo­cal prod­ucts have splashed over into the break­fast menu at Pre­ston’s, but it is in the vast Bar Collins, in an ex­pan­sive arm of the lobby, where there is an ex­plo­sion of De­laire’s Made in Mi­ami cui­sine. The suc­cu­lent Cuban sand­wich be­comes made-be­fore-your-eyes thin crust Cuban Pizza; chipo­tle-rubbed chicken wings are roasted in the pizza oven, as is Ar­gen­tine Pro­v­o­leta. “This is one of the beau­ties of Mi­ami,” he says. “Ev­ery­thing is al­ways in sea­son. Peo­ple come here in the win­ter and come out of the air­port smil­ing, so it’s why we need to make sure we have food that is colour­ful, ex­cit­ing, ex­otic.”

Af­ter a few days of quiet well­be­ing, I am ready to ex­pe­ri­ence a new kind of ho­tel, clearly built for the un­con­ven­tional trav­eler. EAST is the Swire Group’s first foray out­side of Asia into the U.S. and it’s part of the new Brick­ell City Cen­ter mall, which is des­tined to give Bal Har­bour stiff com­pe­ti­tion. This is a “smart” ho­tel with key­less en­try, pa­per­less check in and out, and ex­otic din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. Dis­creetly de­signed with Zen-like min­i­mal­ism, it takes a few min­utes to find the bath­room and fig­ure out the app-driven room con­trols. Ah, here’s the cof­fee maker—hid­den by a se­cret panel. Yet, the room is gor­geous, hang­ing in the sky within glass walls look­ing at the city spread below is a de­par­ture from re­al­ity.

Watch­ing the sun­set from Su­gar, the 40th floor rooftop bar that serves out­stand­ing Asian in­spired tapas and ex­otic cock­tails in a jun­gle-like set­ting is an ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in­deed. And Quinto La Huella, the Uruguayan res­tau­rant of­fers steaks and dishes with Latin sea­son­ings that are a de­li­cious chal­lenge to a foodie like me. Mil­len­ni­als will love this ho­tel. Pre­dictabil­ity be damned.

This is the new Mi­ami.

Trump Na­tional Do­ral Mi­ami Loews Above, the Blue Mon­ster golf course at Trump Na­tional Do­ral Mi­ami. www. trumphotel­col­lec­tion.com/ Mi­ami. Below, sashimi at Lure Fish­bar, Loews Mi­ami Ho­tel. www.loew­sho­tels.com/m/ mi­ami-beach

East

Above, Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Fred­eric De­laire, of Lure Fish­bar at Loews Mi­ami Ho­tel. Below, Uruguayanin­spired cock­tails at Quinto La Huella res­tau­rant, EAST Ho­tel. www.east-mi­ami.com

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