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Brown tries the 30-layer lasagna at Ember, which will have to hold us over via TV until we can have the real thing again.EXPAND
Brown tries the 30-layer lasagna at Ember, which will have to hold us over via TV until we can have the real thing again.
Photo courtesy of Samantha Brown

Experience Miami Restaurants and Culture Through Samantha Brown's Places to Love

Chances are your Saturday plans are open at the moment. If you've already finished watching Tiger King and are looking for something else on TV, check out PBS for the season finale of Samantha Brown's Places to Love.

The Emmy Award-winning series heads to Miami for the finale of its third season, which has traveled everywhere from New Zealand to Austria. Since the quarantine, people have been turning to virtual fitness classes, cooking demonstrations, art gallery tours, and happy hours to fill the void left by closed local establishments. The 30-minute episode, in which Brown shows why the Magic City is one of her "places to love," will give you a dose of much-needed Miami food and culture from the comfort of your couch. Asked why the 305 was chosen for the finale, she says, "You always want to go out with a bang after a full season, and Miami is an exclamation point."

The episode offers in-person interviews with the chefs of Bon Gout BBQ in Little Haiti and Ember Miami in the Design District, as well as stops to explore Wynwood Walls, Little Havana, the Everglades, Overtown, and other points of interest. "What I love about our episode is that we don't go to the beach," Brown says. "We wanted to focus on the amazing neighborhoods that Miami is an amalgam of."

Brown and her husband/coproducer, Kevin J. O'Leary, visited Miami to scout locations with help from the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau before filming began. She says that kind of assistance is a luxury they didn't always have when filming other series in the past. For this show, they set aside a budget for their trips so they could better prepare themselves and the establishments featured in each episode. They were cognizant of everyone's time and the challenges of running a restaurant while a crew films onsite.

Brown with Jean "BJ" Lucel, one of the partners of Bon Gout BBQEXPAND
Brown with Jean "BJ" Lucel, one of the partners of Bon Gout BBQ
Photo courtesy of Samantha Brown

During the Miami episode, Brown experiences two disparate restaurants. She tries Haitian barbecue at the small casual spot Bon Gout BBQ and shares the story of partner Jean "BJ" Lucel and how his family is an important part of the community. Brown also catches up with award-winning chef Brad Kilgore at Ember, where she tries his signature fire-roasted 30-layer lasagna in an upscale dining room. In Little Havana, she sips mojitos with Robert Ramos at the rum inside his Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, where she listens to stories of Cuba as told through his art collection. She even ventures down to the Redland to visit the Fruit & Spice Park, which boasts more than 500 kinds of fruit, spices, vegetables, and herbs from around the world, including what she says is "the most unusual thing I ever tasted: the miracle fruit."

Sheltering at home in New York with her husband and twins, Brown says travel shows allow people to experience new cultures and places without leaving their living rooms. "Since we are all homebound and we can't even see our loved ones or hug those we want to hug, travel goes so far beyond being just a great destination or a beautiful beach; it's about the people. Places to Love reinforces great conversation. In Miami, you see people who live their fullest, most colorful lives."

Now more than ever, travel is a state of mind, and Samantha Brown hopes we can take a mental vacation to enjoy these Miami experiences vicariously through her until the time comes when we're able to venture out on our own again.

Samantha Brown's Places to Love: Miami. Find the episode at pbs.org.

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