Finding Comfort in Miami’s Paella

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Landing in Miami was as much of a shock to my body as it was a cultural shock.  Just a few days prior, I spent several chilly winter weeks backpacking through Europe only to be greeted by the blazing Miami heat.

In the span of one month I bounced from Berlin to Paris to Barcelona to Lisbon to New York and, finally, to Miami.  The transition caused my body to develop a vicious cold – certainly a shock to my physical body.  The cultural shock, however, struck hard when I arrived to South Beach where I quickly discovered that I had inadvertently traveled to Miami during the height of Spring Break.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy party culture.  In fact, the last week of my Europe stay I had celebrated Karneval in both Barcelona and Lisbon (probably the main contributing factor to my cold).  However, in Miami I was hoping for relaxing evenings by the beach, fancy drinks and peaceful dining.  Luckily, considering the circumstance, Miami was still able to deliver.

Even though the town was crawling with college students bar hoping and partying until the wee morning hours, I was able to find comfortable places to nurse my cold.  One of my favorite spots to relax was dining poolside at the Ritz-Carlton’s Bistro One LR, a Spanish inspired, contemporary bistro by the ocean that serves up local seafood.

Poolside at the Ritz-Carlton's Bistro One LR

I was on a mission for a familiar and comforting dish – a dish that would bring me back to one of my favorite places on my previous adventure.  The place was Barcelona and the dish, paella.  After a quick chat with the concierge, they validated my decision that the Bistro One LR was a good choice for this Spanish delight.

Even though the Ritz-Carlton’s Bistro One LR in South Beach is near Ocean Drive, a street bustling with nightlife, the hotel is removed from the sounds of late night partying.  Seated poolside, I indulged in a thick strawberry daiquiri, reminiscent of milk shake, and awaited my comfort food.

Grouper Cevice

Being in Miami, I was feeling a very Latin vibe so I decided to start my dinner with the Grouper Ceviche, a Cuban styled seafood dish incorporating soy, avocado, lime, cilantro and plantain crisps. The grouper paired with the zest of the citrusy lime and the crunch of the plantains was fresh and light, and cleaned my palate in preparation for the richness of my main course; the Spanish paella.

My love for traditional Spanish paella is more than just for the eclectic mix of flavors from the sea.  I love the romantic notion that the dish is composed of a fisherman’s entire catch for the day, as if they threw their nets into the Mediterranean and cooked everything they caught – muscles, clams, octopus, squid and whole prawns.  I also love the communal fashion in which it was served – a large metal skillet from which many people can share a meal together.

Spanish Paella

When the paella was served, I was pleased to see that this hotel bistro kept with the Spanish tradition, all the way from the bomba rice to the hodgepodge of seafood.  Though the spirit of paella is inclusiveness and sharing, I was greedy and hungry from my travels and very happily devoured this meal all by myself.

Appropriately spiced, this accurate rendition of this seafood centric meal allowed the stress of traveling between continents and my cold to melt away.  Regardless of the mass of college students partying until the break of dawn, I was brought back to a peaceful time in Barcelona, and found rest and relaxation in Miami in the form of paella by the sea.