Permaculture classes, urban farming, green hotel renovations, free monorails, vegan restaurants, more and more bike lanes: Miami is buffer than ever. And I’m talking about the metropolis, not South Beach (which I’ll cover in a future post).
Here’s random evidence I found on foot and bike:
Bicycle mania: Traversing neighborhoods from Little Haiti to Omni to Coral Gables, I was impressed with the bike-friendly inroads, such as the growing number of bike lanes and stenciled sharrows (share-the-road arrows). That’s progress in a city in which only the hardcore pedaled three years ago.
Check MiamiBikeScene.blogspot.com, EmergeMiami.com and local bike rental shops for events, rides and maps. For Emerge Miami second-Saturday-morning outings, police stop traffic to help riders roll in leisure. On the last Friday of the month, evening Critical Mass rides typically start downtown at Government Center and finish with brews and munchies. Also, Oppenheim Architecture + Design organizes free Up-Lab (Urban Projects Collaborative) Sketch & Ride meetups of artists, architects and everyday people who like to put their urban landmark-spotting on paper.
Urban farming: There’s a small farm tucked in Little Haiti called the Earth ‘n Us, where residents raise vegetables, fruits and animals (though not to eat). Some of those residents learned of the farm through WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
When I visited the farm, Marcus Thomson of Miami Permaculture was presenting an introductory class; full sessions take place this month and in January. Permaculture provides food independence by integrating people and place in what Marcus describes as ecologically harmonious systems to provide a good portion of the needs of the residents.
Rebuilt environment: Bayfront buildings that have undergone not only facelifts but head-to-toe renovations include the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay.
Park renaissance: Public parks citywide are being cleaned up and beautified. The Margaret Pace waterside park, just north of the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, now has outdoor workout stations (the kind normally found in indoor gyms), green expanses for playing with kids and dogs, and funky tiled religion-themed chair sculptures.
Smart public transit: Many downtown attractions can be reached on the free Metromover monorail running 5 a.m. to midnight. It augments the city’s broader bus/rail system. Bikes are allowed on board the Metromover. Stops include Mary Brickell Village, museums, markets – and Bayfront Park, site of the best mind-body deal in town: free 75-minute outdoor yoga classes. Free weekly self-defense classes are offered in the same pavilion.
Great farmer’s markets: “Pie” and “healthy” coexist a scenic bike-ride south at Coconut Grove’s Saturday Organic Market. Long before “sustainable” became a buzzword, Glaser Organic Farms began harvesting veggies and fruits for health- and flavor-conscious locals. Now the market includes handcrafted breads, pesto, salads of wild rice, corn, fruits, avocado. At the raw deli: tostadas, pizzas, nori rolls, tiramisu…and pies, with crusts of nuts, dates and spices.
Ecovore eats: Many choices, including:
Choices Cafe. This new vegan restaurant in the Brickell district is getting. Choices Cafe serves a seductive range, from a wrap filled with quinoa, black bean, plantain and vegan chorizo to vegan pizza to vegan sushi. Miamians – try it and tell us about it!
Garden of Eatin’. Humble, inexpensive, delicious in Little Haiti. In the Rastafarian “Ital” vital life-energy tradition, the chef creates globally inspired veggie, couscous and faux-meat dishes that have won over mock-haters and meat-eaters alike.
The Honey Tree. This Morningside market and deli serves fresh vegan dishes weekdays starting at noon until the ingredients run out, thus explaining the lines. The flavors span Asian, Indian, Greek, Mexican and Caribbean. Curried lentils, roasted veggies, vegan desserts and more.
Catch Grill + Bar. It’s just north of the lovely Venetian Causeway, overlooking the Port of Miami, in the recently renovated Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay. The sleekly designed indoor/outdoor bayfront restaurant touts sustainably sourced fare. The chef can veganize some dishes or whip up a seasonal veggie platter. Or you can do tapas with plant-based teasers such as zesty hummus, eggplant-rich baba ganoush, edamame and lightly fried plantain with yummy guac. Try a handcrafted mocktail; I refreshed with pineapple juice splashed with agave and pink peppercorns.
Mac’n Food Truck. This newcomer serves mac ‘n cheese with portobello and plant-based mozzarella, fresh-cut sweet potato fries, fried green tomatoes and just-picked watermelon with fresh basil and sea salt.
Lifefood Gourmet. This Coral Gables cafe focuses on raw vegan, from the “wild milk” (Brazil nut-based) and goji shakes to the pumpkin nut-meat plus nut-cheese burrito, veggie-flaxseed pizza and lasagna layered with alt-Alfredo macadamia pine nut sauce, spinach and Irish moss-erella. Seeking chlorella, spirulina and blue green algae? Craving mamey or carob? Got it. In the throes of ecstasy, you might miss the mission statement, which outlines goals of cellular nourishment and rejuvenation, tapping self-healing powers and “spreading a sense of well-being, sanity and happiness.”
La Vie En Raw Cafe. Run by a vibrant integrative nutritionist and certified raw chef, this totally vegan, mostly organic cafe in Coral Gables starts working its magic with the revitalizing local art gracing the walls. The menu changes with the seasons, but pounce on the Beet “Raw-violi,” ground walnut-and-carrot faux tuna with creamy avocado, any sea vegetable or nut-cheese dish – and the chocolate pie.
Sweat Records Cafe. At this all-vegan coffeeshop in Little Haiti, great tunes pair well with Unicorn Love Bomb Espresso, Dirty South Chai and mouth-tingling cupcakes – coconut lemon-iced, anyone? They also serve vegan empanadas: spinach/sun-dried tomato and curry.
Ecovore sleeps: The Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay underwent a massive renovation involving green initiatives. Now it’s a cool yet zen-ful, affordable and centrally located place to lodge. The hotel is steps from the free Metromover and even has a free shuttle to South Beach. So even if you don’t have a bicycle, there’s no need for a car or cab.