A few years back, the art world was shaken to its core when Italian absurdist artist Maurizio Cattelan duct taped a ripe banana to a wall of a gallery at Art Basel in Miami Beach, attaching only the work’s title, Comedian.
He sold three bananas for $120k a pop before, at the height of the Saturday crowds, performance artist David Datuna very casually strolled up to the installation, removed the tape, and ate the banana.
When asked what it tasted like, Datuna responded, “It tasted like $120,000. It was delicious.”
Every December, an international cast of artists, gallery owners, curators, collectors, and enthusiasts descend on Miami for Art Week–– it’s one of the most important annual events in the city, itself a hotbed of art, design, and architecture. And besides very expensive bananas, there are many delicious things on offer during Art Week in this already delicious metropolis that don’t require earth-shattering artistic statements to enjoy.
The Maestro made his first trip to Art Week this year and is happy to offer up to you several non-banana culinary delights that might be had during a visit to the Magic City’s most magical week.
There are boundless popups and food-art fusion events to enjoy during Art Week, but before you hit the sprawling party scene, for a stalwart brunch to fuel your day, don’t miss B Bistro + Bakery in Brickell.
Enjoy the mild Florida winter temperatures and sea breezes on their patio surrounded by glittering high rises and palm trees decorated for the holidays, and indulge in a sweet breakfast treat that is a true homage to Miami’s unique cultural intersection of Latin America and North America––the pastelito pancakes with cream cheese mousse, brown butter maple syrup, vanilla crumble, and guava compote. The truffle bun is also a killer and appropriately extravagant choice.
Many food-art fusion popups and parties start late, and if you’re like the Maestro (elderly), you’ll need to get something in your stomach. Those with a taste for the finer things can’t go wrong with a visit to the decadent Surf Club. A standby in Miami for the Maestro, the Surf Club offer’s the incomparable Thomas Keller’s take on old-school “country club” fare, a concept that, however WASP-y, somehow works magnificently in Miami Beach.
Grab a seat in their lounge or at their gorgeous midcentury bar and enjoy some live jazz while sipping on their signature añejo rum old fashioned, or stay classic with an expertly-crafted martini prepared to your exact specifications––or, as they might say in Miami, ¿por qué no los dos?
Raw seafood is always a good choice at the Surf Club. Order a half dozen east coast oysters and whatever crudo they might have on special (bay scallops tonight) and if you’re feeling extravagant, and why wouldn’t you feel extravagant in the Magic City during Art Week, have the kitchen add some generous dollops of caviar to your bivalves––with a glass of Champagne, of course!
The beauty of Art Week for food lovers is it always coincides with white truffle season, and the Surf Club not only reliably has them on hand, but they also are particularly generous with their helpings! This year, a handmade and buttery tagliatelle was the vehicle for the intensely aromatic tubers, which, while being shaved over your pasta and releasing their intoxicating phenols, might make noses and heads turn. And don’t forget that what grows together pairs together, and there is no pairing with your Piedmontese truffles like a Piedmontese nebbiolo––the Surf Club’s by-the-glass Barbaresco offering did just the trick.
Keep an eye out for newcomers to the Miami food scene doing splashy, grand opening–style events during Art Week. Casa Ya’ax, a brand new high-end Mexican concept from Chef Omar Montero, teamed up some of the most formidable names in Mexican spirits and mixology to offer a theatrical exploration of agave-based spirits in a five-course dinner experience called “Agave Conspiracy.”
Megs Miller, one of the world’s foremost experts on agave, curated seven different spirits to pair with Chef’s superlative Mexican fare, from tequila to mezcal to lesser-known gems like sotol and raicilla.
If this meal is any indication, Chef has something special with his new hip spot in Wynwood. Particularly notable were the impossibly savory octopus zarandeado tacos with kalamata olives and chorizo.
Run, don’t walk, to Casa Ya’ax, and if you’re lucky enough to attend a similar popup, stick around for an afterparty, like this one featuring the mixology of Sabina Sabe from Oaxaca, one of the best bars in North America.
All that food and alcohol from your first Art Week evening might leave you feeling a little overloaded when it’s time for breakfast the next day, but this is Miami, after all, and healthy options are all the rage––sit down for a bowl of overnight oats, an avocado toast, or an açai bowl at any of Miami Beach’s breezy streetside patios, like local favorite Ocean Enoteca just outside the beating heart of South Beach.
And this is Florida, after all, so the fresh-squeezed OJ cannot be missed at breakfast. Drool.
The cornerstone of Miami Art Week is the massive Art Basel exhibition at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Get an early ticket to Art Basel and plan your visit to the sprawling maze of some of the most important modern art in the world over a glass of Ruinart and some oysters at the Ruinart Bar––a perfect (and tasty) way to draw up your battle plans on the imposing map of the event floor. Need a break from the dizzying amount of art and bustling crowds? Settle in at one of stands on the convention floor operated by local favorites like Pura Vida.
While the big names in art might dominate your planning, it’s worth digging a little deeper to participate in the hyper-local, niche art scene that saturates Miami. Michelin-starred Boia De, long on the Maestro’s list in the Magic City, teamed up with the folks at Glass2Grass to offer a VIP dinner and mind-blowing display from local glass artists.
Cocktails were flowing, of course, and a few passionfruit 75s went down super easily while perusing the works on display and meeting artists and enthusiasts in this tight-knit little world.
Of course, this is Boia De, and the food is just as exquisite as the glass. A bluefin tartare topped with caviar graced squares of crispy polenta, and a magnificent reduction of duck broth bathed hand-crafted tortellini stuffed with duck and foie gras were highlights.
The main course, however, of Florida grouper with crispy artichokes and Miami pomelo beurre blanc, was the rockstar of the meal.
Boia De should be on everyone’s list in Miami––and bonus! There’s ample free parking, a rarity in this town! Stick around to mingle with artists, take a hit off their handcrafted glass paraphernalia, and enjoy the open bar and Boia De buffet.
Cocktail bars from all over the world bring their mixology talents to Miami during Art Week, and one of my favorite bars in Europe, Locale Firenze, deployed a list of five of their most beloved cocktails at the brand-new downtown industrial watering hole The Roystone.
The space itself is fantastic, and while I didn't get to sample any of the host bar's own creations, Locale Firenze's tipples, like their "Oliva," a martini made with a house-made spirit distilled from olives, or their "Foglia," dressing up Botanist gin with hemp, mint, basil, and lemon, were a perfect nightcap for a sleepy Maestro after a whirlwind few days at Art Week.
If you've not had the chance to check out Miami Art Week, you really should. There's so much to do and see, and eat and drink, and it's always different every year! I personally will look forward to attending many times hence in the years that follow now that I've gotten my first taste!