Just a few short years ago, Miami's food scene wasn't exactly known as a thriving mecca of locavore cuisine.
Even with its proximity to oceans teeming with fish and farms that raised everything from tropical fruit to cattle, South Florida establishments ordered more from Sysco than farmer Joe.
Things changed when, in 2010, chef Michael Schwartz was named the first recipient of the Slow Food Miami "Snail of Approval" award. When the chef/owner of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink opened his Design District restaurant in 2007, he was committed to providing his guests with as much locally sourced product as possible and his approach to cooking -- use the freshest ingredients and allow them to shine -- paved the way for other Miami restaurateurs to follow.
Now, in 2014, the South Florida dining scene is filled with restaurants, shops, and bars that support our local growers and honor their customers with clean food sourced by our neighbors.
Slow Food Miami has also grown into a formidable movement. Each year, the all-volunteer non-profit organization accepts nominations for its Snail of Approval awards that appreciate the establishments that honor the land and sea. Nominations are solicited from restaurateurs, farmers, and the general public who want to acknowledge chefs, bartenders, and food artisans who act locally and responsibly.
This past year, nearly two dozen restaurants, caterers, and shops were lauded including Restaurant Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh; Ortanique on the Mile; Tongue & Cheek; Huahua's Taqueria; Proper Sausages; and Jugo Fresh.
Slow Food is currently accepting nominations for the 2014-15 season. A restaurant, shop, or purveyor must meet the Slow Food Miami standards, which include quality (food must taste food and be good for us); authenticity (the food must be true to its source); and sustainability (attention must be paid to the consequences of the production and distribution of food).
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To nominate your favorite restaurant, fill out an online ballot at slowfoodmiami.org . You'll also be asked to tell, in 200 words or less, why you're nominating that particular restaurant or purveyor.
The 2014-15 winners will be part of an annual tasting event in the spring -- and will receive the right to display the "snail of approval" logo at their establishment.