Dining trends come and go. Only bacon seems sacred. In recent years, we've seen small plates, foams, and cupcakes all marginalized. But in their place came a succession of oyster bars and the wholesale scapegoating of gluten. Doughnuts seem to be finally making their way to Miami, even as they've enjoyed a prolonged popularity in the rest of the country — even as close as Broward County. Meanwhile, in 2015 cooks and restaurants seized on the latest trends and made them their own. Here's who did them best.
Best Toast: The Vagabond Restaurant & Bar
Toast was everywhere this year. It was in your home. It was the amuse-bouche at some restaurants. It drew huge crowds at Zak Stern's Wynwood bakery, Zak the Baker, perhaps the dish's spiritual home in Miami. But at the Vagabond, the lovable dish took on the form of crisped bread topped with velvety stracciatella cheese, a drizzling of saffron honey, and Maldon sea salt. It was impossible not to love, because this simple yet multilayered dish had it all.
Best Cauliflower Steak: Cena by Michy
If a restaurant didn't have a cauliflower steak on the menu this year, it probably deserved the ire of vegetarians, vegans, flexetarians, and everyone in between. The brassica slabs were all the rage, and with good cause. The meaty texture and earthy flavor were satisfying, even if cauliflower didn't quite double for a dry-aged steak. At her reopened flagship restaurant, Cena by Michy, Michelle Bernstein rested one ($12) atop a smooth, piquant bed of pickled garlic aioli and beneath a smattering of Marcona almonds. It was an addictive fork-and-knife version of Spain's sopa de ajo, accented by sugary raisins and salted with capers.
Best Tiki Drinks: The Rum Line
Why are tiki drinks amazing? One: They make you feel like you're on a chintzy Polynesian vacation, even if you're drinking one inside a musty, cigarette-smoke-dampened bowling alley. Two: The copious amounts of sugar get you much drunker, much faster. Three: When drunken, you lose any fear of stealing the amazing, totem-like glassware. It's all about the memories and party favors. So when the Rum Line opened on a patio of the Loews Miami Beach, we couldn't wait to start guzzling. There were bamboo chairs, string lights, and, during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, every manner of drunken celebrity chef could be found hiding within this bar's warm bosom. They came for Robert Ferrara's creations like the Donkey Kong ($15), made with Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Banane du Bresil, orgeat, and lime. There's also the Tug Boat ($14), with Mt. Gay Black Barrel, allspice Dram, honey, ginger, and Wray & Nephew Overproof (basically the lighter fluid of the Caribbean). It also comes in a skull mug that'll look great on your home bar.
Best "Middleterranean" Cuisine: Cleo
This style of restaurant that blends the intensely fragrant spices and dishes of the Middle East with the flavorful yet healthful fare of the Mediterranean rim is enjoying its time in the spotlight for good reason. It's pleasure with little guilt. Cleo at the Redbury Hotel did it with the supple flatbread called laffa, fluffy falafel ($9), and Brussels sprouts ($10) with leaves are removed one by one, fried, and then bathed in a vinaigrette of capers, anchovies, chili, parsley, almonds, and red-wine vinegar. When you go don't forget to load up on mezze like the cheese dip called labaneh ($7) or the spicy cigars ($7) of ground beef rolled in feuilles de brick, a pastry of Tunisian origin.
Best Delivery Service: Postmates
I dream of a day when I don't need to get off the couch, for anything. In 2015, San Francisco-based delivery app Postmates brought me closer to that unicorn-filled utopia. For a $5 delivery fee, I had a guy bring me a lobster roll from Joe's Takeaway, a whole hog snapper from Casablanca's fish market, and my MacBook charger after I left it at a friend's. But Postmates also seized on Miami culture unlike anyone else. It happened earlier this year when their roving deliverymen could be tapped to bring you a spicy juicy frita for only $5.
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Best Vegan Meal: La Mar by Gastón Acurio
If you've ever caught an unsightly glance of yourself naked in front of a mirror you've probably considered going vegan. The quinoa burger ($14) at the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key can help make that throwaway dream a reality. The toothsome, trendy grain has been a staple for thousands of years in South America's highlands. Executive Chef Diego Oka blends the little red flecks with kabocha squash purée, garlic, shredded carrots, and portobello mushrooms. Beet juice stains the patty bright red, and ají amarillo offers a fading perfume of spice. More flavor comes from the rose-colored rocoto aioli that's slicked onto soft buns with alfalfa sprouts and a sweet onion confit. You won't miss the meat at all.