On a recent weekend trip to Grand Cayman, I was pleasantly surprised to notice how many restaurants participate in the slow food movement. Even on an island that's not known for its lush, rainforest environment, farmers are successfully growing everything from eggplant to guava. During the island's recent Slow Food Day at Camana Bay, Alan Markoff, president of Slow Food South Sound, noted the island's farmers got a significant push when local restaurants, including the outpost of Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, served fresh, clean foods on their menus.
It comes as no surprise that Michael Schwartz's reach extends to the Caribbean. After all, his flagship Miami restaurant has embraced the farm-to-table movement since its inception, and Schwartz was the first chef to be given Slow Food Miami's Snail of Approval award, back in 2010.
Now, Slow Food Miami is celebrating another "crop" of chefs and restaurants dedicated to supporting local food sources with its Snail of Approval Tasting Party this Friday, April 25, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Raleigh Hotel, which happens to be home to Restaurant Michael Schwartz. The chef/restaurateur will also act as ambassador for the evening.
At the event, guests can sample bites from 18 of Miami's freshest restaurants, all embracing the farm-to-table movement. The restaurants include current 2014 and past Snail of Approval winners: 3030 Ocean, Chef Adrianne's, the Cypress Room, Edge Steak & Bar, Essensia, Huahua's Taqueria, Lido Restaurant, LoKal, Restaurant Michael Schwartz, the Naked Bite, Oak Tavern, Pilgrim, Proper Sausages, and Sakaya Kitchen.
In addition, 2012 Snail of Approval winner Grey Goose vodka will offer hand-crafted cocktails, Stellar Wines will provide specialty offerings, and Royal Caribbean and its new Michael's Genuine Pub will serve Michael's Genuine Home Brew for beer lovers.
After the tasting party at the Raleigh, a VIP afterparty will take place a few doors down at the Bazaar by José Andrés and Katsuya. From 9:30 p.m. to midnight, VIPs will enjoy food by the 2014-15 Snail of Approval nominees and music by a surprise guest (hint: think Grammy-winning pianist).
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The Slow Food Miami Snail of Approval, by the way, is a designation given to restaurants, bars, and food and beverage artisans that contribute to the quality, authenticity, and sustainability of Miami's food supply. All nominations come from the general public and are vetted by the Slow Food Miami Snail of Approval Committee. In addition, this year's event will feature a people's choice award for the evening's best bite.
Tickets for the Snail of Approval tasting party at the Raleigh cost $85, and VIP tickets cost $165 (includes admission to the tasting party and afterparty at the Bazaar). Tickets can be purchased at brownpapertickets.com. Event proceeds will benefit Slow Food Miami's Edible Garden Program, which helps schools and local communities start and maintain edible gardens. Discounted valet parking will be available for $20.