Slow Food Miami Snail of Approval Tasting Party: Clean Bites on the Beach

Hannah Sentenac
Chef Todd Erickson embraces the slow food movement.
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.

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Peace A' Cake: Miami-Made, Gluten-Free Vegan Muffins

Courtesy of Peace A' Cake
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Healthful food doesn't have to be boring, tasteless, or raw. A good chef can make anything delicious -- including baked goods made with prune juice, brown rice flour, and coconut palm nectar. We promise.

Miami-based bakery Peace A' Cake makes sweet treats that are almost too delectable to be believed once you take a gander at the ingredients. Run by health-conscious Miamians Veronica Menin and Vanessa Hentz, this muffin-making endeavor is slowly but surely making its way into stores such as Whole Foods, Milam's Market, and beyond.

See also: Miami's Ten Best Vegan Desserts

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Superfood Bars: Goji, Spirulina, Cacao Snacks Made by Hand in Miami

Courtesy of Eat4Life
Think packaged food prep, and you'll likely envision a sterile assembly line manned by dead-eyed factory workers. Or not manned at all. Such is the general reality of our tech-heavy, mass-produced food system. But Eat4Life, a Miami-based company and creator of the Superfood bar, is just the opposite.

Even with distribution at more than 100 locations, co-owner and founder Ashanty Williams still makes the bars herself. Then, she and her team package the tasty bars to send all over South Florida (and to a couple of locations in other states). The growing company is all about vegan, gluten-free, raw treats that are good for the taste buds and the bod.

See also: Ginnybakes, Superfood, Pale-o-la, Good Future, and Bad Ass: Top Five Miami-Made Packaged Snacks

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Mandolin Aegean Bistro's Harvest Lunch: Spring Is in the Air (Pictures)

Photos by Laine Doss
Mandolin's garden is in full bloom.
It seemed like a coincidence that New Times was invited to lunch at Mandolin Aegean Bistro to celebrate the anniversary of its garden. After all, it was only a few days earlier at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival that celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian confessed his love for the intimate Design District spot, calling it a "chef's restaurant."

The lunch was hosted by Anastasia Koutsioukis and Ahmet Erkaya, restaurant and life partners who will soon welcome a child. In fact, the couple joked before the harvest lunch began that "spring was certainly in the air," as Koutsioukis pointed to her growing belly. That set the tone for the lunch, which was clearly a celebration of new beginnings as well as good food. As friends sat at two large communal tables, the food started coming out fast and furious. Hummus, feta, olives, prawns, and lamb -- all served family-style and garnished with fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers just plucked from the garden. Here are the highlights.

See also: Mandolin Aegean Bistro Owners Launch Organic Garden and Announce Plans for New Eatery, Poor Man's Lobster

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Recipes From Whole Foods' Go for the Green Cooking Competition

Photo by Hannah Sentenac
Whole Foods is on a mission. In addition to wresting control of Americans' grocery shopping from the likes of uncouth competitors like Publix and Ralph's, it is also all about healthful eats. And the Health Starts Here (HSH) program is designed to promote just that.

HSH is the chain's in-store labeling system that identifies foods as having the following four elements: they're whole foods (pure and unprocessed), they're plant-strong (self-explanatory), they have healthful fats (no extracted oils or processed fats), and they're nutrient dense. To push the HSH agenda in the prepared-foods section, Whole Foods hosted a Go for the Green cooking contest among staff members from a variety of Florida stores. The winner would score $500, and all the best recipes would snag a spot in the prepared-foods case.

See also: Florida Man Proposes to Girlfriend at Whole Foods Coral Gables

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Ali Lauria and Chris Padin: Miami's Professional Foragers

Emily Codik
Chris Padin of Farm To Kitchen
Ali Lauria thought everything would arrive unscathed. It was not long before rush hour on a sunny January evening when she stacked 30 dozen eggs on the passenger seat of a silver Dodge Ram and drove north from Homestead on Florida's Turnpike. Filled with strawberries and tomatoes, the pickup truck's bed glowed red.

By dinnertime, those tomatoes were supposed to be in the hands of a chef.

They didn't make it.

A car cut Lauria off. She lost control, spun across four lanes, and stopped with a cracking thud. Yolks dripped from her hair, her chin, her eyelashes. This was her first day as a full-time forager, and it would be months before she saw the inside of an egg again.

"I'll never forget that smell," she says.

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Screw Monsanto, Grow Your Own Veggies on the Patio With Earthbox

Courtesy of Earthbox
Hard as we try, it's tough to avoid Big Ag. Even if we stick to whole foods (the actual eats, not the store), most of the produce aisle is GMO-ridden. And living in this densely populated paradise, it's unlikely most of us have access to garden plots.

Enter Earthbox, the most genius invention for anyone looking to eat clean. This handy-dandy DIY garden box is designed to let you grow your own stuff anytime, anywhere. And it's basically foolproof.

See also: Enough With the Pork, Miami: Here's a Case for Vegetables

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Rip Esselstyn in the Gables Tomorrow: "If You're a Real Man with Big Cojones, You're Going to Eat a Plant-Strong Diet"

For anyone who thinks veganism is for pansies, Rip Esselstyn is the manly man you need to meet.

This former professional athlete and Austin firefighter got his fire station hooked on plant-based eats several years back in order to help a fellow ladderman's health. Known as the Engine 2 Diet (after their firehouse), his plan has revolutionized eating for lots of folks who might have otherwise overlooked an herbivorous lifestyle.

More recently he's penned another book, My Beef With Meat, and you have a chance to meet the dude behind the food at Whole Foods Coral Gables tomorrow, February 18.

See also: Top Five Vegan Cheeses

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Locall's Organic Growth Sells Only Florida-Grown Produce (Photos)

Guava at Locall's Organic Growth
Locall's Organic Growth, a fruit and vegetable shop in South Beach, is tiny. Owner Kirsten Hartburg prefers it that way. "It's a small space because we keep our produce fresh. Everything here is picked in the morning," she says.

See also: Hogfish Might Be Your New Favorite Local Fish

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Hogfish Might Be Your New Favorite Local Fish

Courtesy Hogfish Bar & Grill
Fresh seafood -- including hogfish -- at Hogfish Bar & Grill on Stock Island
Have you tried hogfish? The local catch tastes sweeter than grouper, is flakier than dolphin, and is as rich as scallops.

"It's the perfect fish -- not firm or tough. It just melts in your mouth," says Rebecca Franks,
owner of Fish Fish Restaurant Bar & Market in North Miami and an Islamorada resident.

Indeed, hogfish would be perfect -- if only catching it were easier. On clear days, divers spear Lachnolaimus maximus off coral reefs. But during bad weather, spearing becomes impossible.

See also: Key West: Where to Score the Best Hogfish, Doughnuts, and Shrimp

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