Burr's Berry Farm

The other stuff this produce stand sells is also awesome. Its milkshakes look pretty otherworldly. But we don't trek to the Redland that often. And when we do, our brain fixates on only one thing: the ridiculous glory of the strawberry sundaes of Burr's Berry Farm. Priced at $5.35, they are roughly the size of your head, but to share one is sacrilege. Smooth vanilla ice cream comes covered in freshly picked strawberries in a concentrated syrup. How to describe the flavor and potency of this syrup? If Mike Tyson were a strawberry, this is what his punches would feel like. You'll get several brain freezes. There will be a moment when you envision the disapproving frown of your cardiologist. But in the end, you will scrape your plastic bowl clean. And then you'll think about this sundae for weeks, until the next time you swerve into the dirt parking lot of Burr's Berry Farm. (Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily from December to early May.)

Amore Gelato

Anybody can scoop good gelato from a tub, but it takes a master to produce the stuff. Ritchie Espejo has more than 20 years of experience making fine ice cream, and for a good deal of that time he has been supplying Perricone's Marketplace & Café. At Amore Gelato, his storefront operation next door to the legendary restaurant, he tests new flavors and makes daily batches of proven hits. Though many of his varieties are listed on the menus of other shops, the gelato's boldness of flavor and texture is all Ritchie's own. Not long ago, he created a passionfruit and rose-hip version for a wedding. Area chefs regularly ask him to come up with something special; they even go so far as to build dishes around his olive oil gelato. Waffle cones start at $4.50, a dollar more than cups, but it's worth it to do your part for the environment and to have a hand free for gelato-inspired gesticulation. Of the daily flavors, it's tough to beat the dulce de leche, but a combination of the salted caramel and fior de latte has a nice interplay of savory and sweet and will make you feel more like a gourmand than anyone licking something in public ought to have the right to.

LA Sweets

If you want a way to satisfy your sweet tooth, look no further. LA Sweets' owners, Letty Alvarez and Eddie Dominguez, have just the thing to send you over the edge. This isn't your average cupcake shop. The pair bakes every type of cupcake imaginable. There are 114 flavors, so you'll find what you're craving — at a price of just $1.25 each. And they can custom-make everything from regular mini-cupcakes to cupcake towers. Two of the more popular ones are the Southern red velvet — which is finished off with delicious cream-cheese buttercream frosting — and the guava, also topped with cream-cheese buttercream frosting. And if there's something you'd like to see on the menu, they're open to suggestions.

Cafe Bonjour

First you start with that bread, all fresh and soft. Doesn't matter if it's Italian or ciabatta. Then you get that deli meat — big, generous piles. Yeah, that's the stuff. Now, just a bit of cheese. Uh-huh. OK, now it's time for the vegetables. Everything you could imagine. Pile 'em on. You know, I like those ruby-red tomatoes. Fantastic. Go ahead and put the sauces on too. A little creamy mayo, mustard. Sure, squirt some oil and vinegar on there. Now grill it. Make it all hot and panini-like for me. Yeah, Café Bonjour, that's a sandwich. Here's your $8.95 and a tip. No, I don't think I'll need chips on the side. This sandwich is all I desire. Where are the napkins?

Casa Larios

At the table next to yours, the men are talking about the perfect salsa dance partner. Your friend knows Cuban slang, so he translates: "She's cool without being cold; firm with just a little bit of —" and he searches for the word before coming up with "jiggle." The men dance alone to their cars without getting dessert; if they had, they might have found what they were looking for in the flan. Casa Larios makes five types of it: flan de leche, flan de queso, flan de mamey, flan de coco, and flan de calabaza ($4.25 each, and the last two are made only at the South Miami location). All are drizzled with a house-made caramel sauce that pools on the flan's flat top and about its round base, just enough for a kick of sweetness. She's not saucy, the flan, because she doesn't need to be. The queso version has a savory earthiness that contrasts well with the caramel, and the mamey variety shifts on the tongue along with the complexities of the fruit. But the standard-bearing flan de leche deserves special mention for its mellow, yolky color and pliancy against the edge of a spoon without the shiny wobble that dooms many renditions. The flan at Casa Larios isn't much for dancing, but it's about as good a time as possible while sitting.

Michy's

Michelle Bernstein's original baby in MiMo has established the chef as one of Florida's finest and most famous. Her "luxurious comfort food" appeals to hungry locals and Food Network fans alike with amazing savories such as sweetbreads, short ribs, and those Serrano ham and blue cheese croquetas with fig marmalade that have become almost as well-known as Bernstein. Although pastry chefs have come and gone at the restaurant, the sweetest surprise is that the desserts are always consistent and incredible — worth the calories no matter who is wearing the toque. For years we've been having a love affair with the fluffy bread pudding and baked Alaska, which have reached iconic status. The bread pudding is soaked in cognac and loaded with raisins and chunks of chocolate. A little orange rind cuts through the richness, and vanilla ice cream becomes a slowly melting puddle on top. Chocolate croquetas with a spicy pot de crème for dipping are long, thin, crisp cylinders, more refined than their counterpart churros at Bernstein's Sra. Martinez. Whether it's deep-fried fruit pie or coconut hibiscus panna cotta with citrus salad and shaved coconut, Michy's desserts ($9 apiece) are a sweet success. The pièce de résistance is the baked Alaska, a layered symphony of flavors beneath a fluffy canopy of lightly browned meringue. This treat's dense pistachio cake is not unlike banana bread, and dollops of tart passionfruit and mango salsa in the corners of the plate add color and tang. Dulce de leche ice cream surpasses any Neapolitan or vanilla filler we've come across, so expect a happy ending every time (the dessert-fairy-tale kind, not the other kind).

The Bar
A drinking establishment is the last place you would expect to find delicious key lime pie, but the Bar in Coral Gables has just that. For $6.50 (tax included) per slice, or $25 for a whole pie, the chef in back will whip up one with fresh ingredients. The result is a tangy, sweet, delicious, and fluffy confection that pairs well with an array of tasty appetizers, sandwiches, salads, burgers, and chicken wings. In true dive-bar fashion, shove a whole wedge in your mouth and wash it down with a beer from the Bar's good craft brew selection.
The Frieze Ice Cream Factory

It's a small shop just off Lincoln Road. In fact, it's very easy to miss the Frieze. But that would be a real shame, because it makes the best ice cream in town. Everything is homemade using 16 percent buttercream. The Frieze produces it all without any artificial colors or preservatives, so there's no misleading sugar mischief; the sorbets are made with real fruit and purified water. What makes this "ice cream factory" our winner is the creative range of its inventions. Consider the Nuttiest Buddy (peanut butter ice cream loaded with chocolate chips, fudge, and nuts) or the Banana Wafer (a banana base with vanilla wafer cookies, inspired by Elvis's preferred snack). They also offer the basics such as vanilla, strawberry, and pistachio, but we usually go for more interesting options like green tea, key lime pie, and Jamaican Blue Mountain chip, a heady coffee ice cream. If you can resist the smell of fresh waffle cones, let one of the friendly employees make you a sundae topped with hot fudge, caramel, butterscotch, or cherry syrup. The Frieze also churns out fantastic malts, floats, and milkshakes. And if it's your birthday, there are specially designed ice-cream cakes to go.

House of India

It may be cruel to say, but we didn't lose as many nostalgic favorites during the past year as usual. Chef Allen's Seafood Grill and Joe Allen called it quits before the last "Best of Miami" issue came out, so they don't count. Naoe's closure would normally have left us inconsolable, but Kevin Cory is reopening his omakase oasis on Brickell Key. The loss of Charlotte Bistro would hurt more too if we didn't know that Elida Villarroel was coming back with a new name in the same space. China Grill is also rising again in another location. Corporate-driven hotel restaurants such as Ago, Soleà, Emeril's, and Norman's 180 went down for the count, but, quite frankly, nobody was counting. Nor did the subtraction of Eden, Mai Tardi, and the Water Club from our restaurant roster have much impact. But we sure miss House of India. It debuted in Coral Gables in 1975 — that's seven years before the movie Gandhi was released. But this past March, owner Darshan Singh, faced with rising rent, threw in the towel. The restaurant's large band of loyal fans will lament the loss of the fresh, authentic Indian and Pakistani cuisine — and we'll really miss the $12 lunch buffet, one of the best deals around. Singh lives in Fort Lauderdale and is said to be exploring the possibility of opening a House of India there. If so, we'll surely make the drive, but it won't fill the gastronomic gap left in the Gables.

LouLou Le Petit Bistro

Things were looking up for Jacques Ardisson and his daughter Carla Lou. They had decided to close their longtime downtown restaurant Indochine and replace it with LouLou, a French bistro. But the head chef of the new venture left shortly after the conversion, and things went downhill from there. Rather than sit around wringing their hands, they brought in Victor Passalacqua, who trained with guys named Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse, and who played a key role in some of Miami's best restaurants (Le Festival, La Dorada, etc.). The menu was rewritten to include alluring lunchtime specials (sandwich with soup or salad, $9.50; soup, salad, or appetizer with entrée and dessert, $15). The turnaround in cuisine is dramatic. Take the eight-ounce filet mignon with homemade foie gras and haricots verts ($32). It and other dishes — such as mussels in white wine with creamed shallots and herbs, served with house-made pommes frites ($16) — prove LouLou is a whole newnew bistro.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®