Thanks to Cloud9Living for providing me with a free food tour experience, for purposes of this review!
So, not too long ago I contacted a company that I had really only dreamed of working with. One day, to my surprise, I actually had a reply email - It was from Cloud9Living.
Cloud9Living is a really unique company that helps you find and plan experiences based on personal interests - For instance, if you're a thrill seeker, then you can set up a time to go Rally Driving, or if you're a more laid back person, you could pick something like a massage.
Those are just a couple of different things you can choose from though. They have different experiences for different areas. There are experiences in mostly big cities, like Miami, Las Vegas, Nashville, and quite a few other places as well - Just be sure to check out the region tab on there website to see if they have experiences in locations near you.
Now, when it came time to pick an experience, it was so hard! There were so many great things to choose from. I had initially thought about picking an experience for myself to go on, but then I thought, this is the perfect gift giving company, so why not give my experience to Aaron? So, I let him pick the one he wanted. His first choice was to get a deep tissue massage - We had it all picked, but then when we went to the final booking, we found out Aaron couldn't have a male masseuse. Aaron had wanted one because he didn't feel comfortable being so exposed in front of some random female.
Thankfully one of the Cloud9Living employees contacted me, and asked me if it was still okay with a female, and offered to get us booked on a new experience instead, if not. I thought that was so nice of them - She was so professional, and she made picking a new experience really easy to do.
This time she even told us that if we picked one of the lower-priced experiences, then we could both go.
I was so happy when I read that, because it would be amazing to get to experience something like that with Aaron! We had gone over all of the choices that we could both go on, and we narrowed it down to a peaceful kayak trip, or a food tour of South Beach. In the end, we ended up choosing the food tour, which was provided by Miami Culinary Tours.
We were so excited! We knew a little bit over a week in advanc,e that we were going to the food tour, and we both had so much anticipation! Even though I live in Florida, and don't live that far from Miami, we just had never made it up there. So not only was this my first food tour, but it was also my first Miami visit.
We weren't sure how traffic would be, so we left pretty early, and ended up arriving about an hour early. So we walked the streets a little bit, until we saw the tour guide. As soon as we saw her, she asked if we were part of the tour. We said yes, and she introduced us to one other girl who was taking the tour with us. We felt extremely lucky, because sometimes there tours can get pretty full, with up to 15 people, but our group only consisted of the tour guide (whose name was Mirka), me, Aaron, and one other girl named Kekla.
We had a quick introduction, and since we were all a little early, we were able to leave a bit early. One thing I really loved was that right off the bat, Mirka asked us a bit about ourselves, and was even kind enough to ask us if we were able to find good parking spots, and asked what time we were paid up until, to make sure we would be okay.
We started off walking, and made our way to our first stop, at a great little place called "The Anglers." The first thing you noticed when you walk in, is the great atmosphere. (Sorry I didn't get a picture) but it was like really big lounge, with beautiful booth type seats all around, and cute accents, and tables - It really was beautiful.
During this first stop, we were trying something completely new to me. I personally, do not like seafood - I never have, and honestly, I probably never will. However, since I wanted to experience the full thing - I gave our first dish; A scallop ceviche, a try.
As you can see, the dish was just really beautifully displayed:
Like I said, I wanted to give it a try. The first thing I noticed was the seafood smell, but still, I put a scallop on my fork, and gave it a go. I can honestly say, it was not that bad. I did not finish my whole dish, but not because it was not good tasting, but just because I couldn't get past the smell, or the thought of it being seafood. The ceviche was also in a really refreshing (lemon-lime I think it was) juice, that really added something to the dish.
Right after our visit to The Anglers, we set off to our next destination, which was a nice little colorful place called Bolivar. The reason I say it was colorful, was because the outside was painted with beautiful colors on the windows, and the inside was just really hip looking.
This was Aaron's personal favorite place.
As soon as we arrived at Bolivar, we had a table already for us, with a really nice, beer cocktail waiting for each of us.
I actually don't drink beer. I'm only 21, and I've tried like 1 sip of a beer previously. From what I had remembered, it wasn't pleasant. However, this "beer cocktail" was a mixture of a beer, and a favorite Colombian drink, called Colombiana. The drink had a bit of a beer taste, but was surprisingly refreshing. Even Aaron, who despises beer, loved the drink.
When we first sat down, Mirka had us raise our glasses, and do a little toast - She then sent the photo out to the Miami Culinary Tour team, and they put our picture on their Facebook page :)
We sat at Bolivar for a few minutes, and waited for our food sample to arrive, and while we did so, the 4 of us got to talking about where we had all previously lived. This had to be one of my favorite conversations throughout the food tour, because believe it or not, we were all originally from Indiana! What a coincidence, right?! And that's not all - Our tour guide, Mirka happened to mention she was from a small area - We asked where, and she actually said Marion, which is a small city in Indiana, where Aaron was also born. While Aaron and Mirka were talking a bit about living in Marion, I started speaking to Kekla about where she had lived. I mentioned that I was born in Ft.Wayne, and can you believe that she said she was from Ft.Wayne as well?! What a small world! We sat there enjoying each others company, and were even able to reminisce about places we had all known in Indiana. I just couldn't believe how we all came together like that.
After talking for a bit, our next tasting arrived. Like I said, this one was Aaron's favorite. Who knew Aaron liked Colombian food? I sure didn't! I don't think he even knew (lol.)
The food looked really delicious, and trust me, it was!
My personal favorite parts were the shredded chicken which topped the plantain, while Aaron enjoyed the entire dish (minus the sauce, because it was very spicy!)
The newest thing for us in this dish, was definitely the patacone. Neither I, nor Aaron had ever tried plantain before, and we weren't sure what to expect. I had expected something sweet, but tasted no sweetness at all. It was just like a crunchy little patty, that just paired perfectly with the topped shredded chicken.
I was sad to be leaving Bolivar, but was excited to get to the next location. We had a bit of a walk to the next destination, but it was fun, because we got to see a bit of the town (and even got to walk by the "Dash" store!) The next destination was at a place called "Tudor House" which was actually a restaurant of Geoffrey Zakarian, who was a winner of "Iron Chef" and is also a judge on one of my favorite shows, "Chopped."
It's safe to say that after I heard who the chef was, I was really excited to be eating there!
As soon as we got in the restaurant, I was just blown away by the atmosphere. There was a side room, which was all orange - The accents, the couches, everything! It was so different, and definitely had a cultural look to it.
The other room had more of a beachy feel to it, and it was just really cute (I absolutely loved the salt and pepper shakers - I had to get a picture for you all to see how different they were ^.^)
We waited at our table for just a minute, and then our food arrived.
Our tasting featured home-made chips, a bit of Cuban sandwich, and Geoffrey's take on a Kit-Kat bar.
There was not one thing I did not like on this plate.
The sandwich featured flavors that I don't think I've ever even tasted. It's like, when you took a bite, the different flavors just melted in your mouth, and combined into an overwhelming taste. The chips, were the perfect side, and the "Kit-Kat" which was sprinkled with sea salt, was just a perfect ending.
I was definitely not ready to leave the Tudor House. I felt like I could have comfortably sat in there all day. Sadly, the Tudor House is closing, but I am so thankful that I was given the chance to try it! Time was moving fast, and we had to get to our next destination.
Our next stop wasn't too far away, and it was actually a little coffee shop, called "David's Cafe"
I'm not 100% sure what the drink we had was called, but it was a small drink, and we each got a little shot of, what I think was like an espresso.
Our trip to David's Cafe only lasted for a quick minute, and then we were already off to our next stop. On the way to our next stop, we also got to see the Versace Mansion. It was beautiful, and really cool getting to know about it's history. Apparently Versace was murdered right on the steps to the mansion, and apparently all sorts of really famous people had been there in the past, including Princess Diana, and many many others.
After our last little stroll, we arrived at a really trendy place called Miami Beach Caffe and Restaurant. I have to say right of the bat, it was amazing. As soon as you walked in, you were just blown away by it's appearance. Almost everything is white - Lots of white, and lots of mirrors. It was like a really modern looking place. The atmosphere just made me want to stay all day.
We were served another ceviche - This time with salmon.
Again, like I said, I am not a seafood fan. I was really skeptical about trying it, but when I did, I was really happy! The chilled sauce it was in was really delicious, and kind-of tasted like a type of cold tomato basil soup to me. The salmon, I could hardlu taste in my first bite. I was so surprised when I couldn't taste it - So with my next bite, I slowly broke the salmon up in my mouth, and that was my mistake. I then had that fishy taste, but after eating more of the sauce, the fish taste dissipated. Aaron, who also doesn't care much for seafood, really enjoyed the dish - He thought it was really different, and stated that he couldn't taste any fishy taste at all.
Then, while we were still at the Miami Beach Caffe and Restaurant, we were given the chance to try some strawberry ice cream, that was actually made with liquid nitrogen. When I heard we were going to be served ice cream made from liquid nitrogen, I was so excited! I instantly thought of Richard Blais (My all time favorite chef) and how awesome the technique was.
One of the chefs came, out, and he had this bowl of liquid cream.
He poured in the liquid nitrogen, and about 20 seconds later, we had ice cream!
It was so cool getting to see this done in person; It's actually something that I'd always wanted to see, and wanted to try!
I can't believe how much more fresh this tasted. It literally tasted like I was eating chopped berries in ice cream - I loved it! I would highly recommend trying any product of liquid nitrogen if you ever get the chance. It's fun to watch, and really cool seeing the final product after the process.
Right after our stop at Miami Beach Caffe and Restaurant, we headed off to a small little bakery, called Charlotte Bakery. Charlotte Bakery is a small bakery, but don't let that fool you - They've been featured on Food Network more than once, for there delectable treats. We were able to try (what I think was) a type of empanada.
The Charlotte Bakery was actually one of the first real bakeries I've been in. They had all of there delicious pastries sitting in bakery displays, and it was just awesome being able to see everything right there. While we were there, we even caught one of the chefs from a local successful restaurant, grabbing lunch (I'd say that says a lot!)
And then finally, we headed to our final destination, which was a small little store, that sells gelato, called Milani Gelateria. The first thing you noticed when you walked up was the really cute scenery. As soon as you walked up, you saw the cute tables and chairs, which were all shaped like ice cream cones (sorry, I forgot to take a picture of those!) and then when you walked inside, you noticed the revolutionary gelato equipment. I'm sorry, I don't know the name, but I know it's the best type of equipment you can get (please see photo)
The gelato itself was AMAZING. It was so fresh tasting - Creamy, and delicious. They had several great flavors - I had really wanted to try them all, but we were able to choose just one. Aaron and Kekla both tried the "Stracciatella" which was a mixture of Fiordilatte and Piemonte Chocolate - And then I decided to go with the "Bacio" which was a mixture of Piedmonte Hazelnut and Piemonte Dark Chocolate. The Stracciatella was really good (yes, of course I tried Aaron's :p) but the Bacio.. It almost leaves me speechless. It tasted like the frozen ice cream version of those little straw wafers. Absolutely delicious! If I'm ever in the area again, I will DEFINITELY be stopping in to try another flavor.
Overall, I had an amazing time on the food tour, and I would highly, highly, recommend checking it out if you're ever in the area. The culture down there is really fun, and friendly, and it's a beautiful place to walk around, while trying some of the best food of South Beach.
If you do decide to check out the food tour, be sure to book via Cloud9Living. They make the experience really fun, and easy!
Cloud9Living is an amazing idea for gift giving. I mean honestly, there are a lot of people out there who are hard to shop for. Not everyone likes material items - So that's where this becomes a great idea. Think of it like this; It's time for another birthday. They're expecting something, probably a gift card, or maybe a check - Instead, they open up there card, and there's a gift pack with information to go on a hot air balloon ride. Nobody would be disappointed with that!
I highly suggest Cloud9Living - Be sure to check out there website to see if they have any bookings available in an area near you.
You can connect with Cloud9Living on Facebook ,Twitter @Cloud9Living and Pinterest.
Disclosure: I received the food tour experience from Cloud9Living in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed are my own, and were not influenced in any way.