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Miami Spice 2016: A Virtual Tasting Menu of the City's Buzzing Restaurant Scene
KLIMA's fennel carpaccio with burrata, olives, and sundried tomatoes
Photo courtesy of KLIMA Miami
Miami Spice 2016: A Virtual Tasting Menu of the City's Buzzing Restaurant Scene
We go behind the scenes to find out why Miami Spice 2016 is one of the hottest foodie events of the year.

If you love exploring new neighborhoods and discovering the eclectic flavors of Miami's dynamic restaurant scene, there's no better time than during Miami Spice.

I usually enjoy eight to 10 lunches and dinners each time!

The culinary promotion, running from August 1 through September 30, features prix fixe meals at many of the city's top restaurants – and this year's event has more than 250 outlets taking part. "It's the biggest Miami Spice in the program's 15-year history," says Madeleine Paredes, of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau – the organization behind Miami Spice. "We've kept the prices the same – $23 for lunch and $39 for dinner – but added many more restaurants to give diners greater choice than ever before."

Short rib cannelloni from KLIMA at Miami Spice

Originally only one month long, the event now lasts for 61 days – and is timed to coincide with Miami's seasonal dip in tourism. The idea is simple: Offer three-course meals featuring signature dishes from the city's top chefs at reduced prices. Pablo Fernández-Valdés of KLIMA Restaurant and Bar in Miami Beach says the low-season timing provides his restaurant a chance to showcase its Western Mediterranean and Catalan concept to residents at competitive prices. "Locals are our most important customers," he says. "This event gives us an amazing opportunity to show them our space and our food."

Short rib buns from BLT Prime Miami

In an effort to inspire return visits, some restaurants, such as BLT Prime, are offering guests extra perks for free. "As a token of our appreciation, our guests will be treated to our chicken liver pâté, Gruyère cheese popovers, and chocolate espresso bean petit fours with every meal," says BLT Prime Chef Dustin Ward. This is in addition to his signature rock shrimp risotto and flatiron steak in a maple bourbon demi – just two of the dishes on BLT's Miami Spice menu. At newcomer Beaker & Gray, chef Brian Nasajon has selected fresh Florida grouper crudo with a red bell pepper cream, crispy sweet potato, and beer sorbet as one of his Miami Spice dishes, as well as a noodle salad with charred shrimp, pickled peach, coconut, mint, fish sauce, and a sprinkling of fried couscous.

Miami newcomer Beaker & Gray's rice noodles

Other restaurateurs, such as Fernández-Valdés, plan to change their Miami Spice menu every two weeks. "We're starting with a fennel carpaccio with burrata, kalamata olives, and sundried tomatoes, and a short rib cannelloni – both top sellers – but we also will be trying new dishes, including those we're considering for a future tapas menu," Fernández-Valdés says.

And herein lies the magic ingredient that makes Miami Spice so popular: The event appeals to foodies eager to enjoy top restaurants at lower price points, while giving restaurants a chance to experiment with new flavors and earn honest customer feedback. The opportunity to try new dishes and venture into new spaces is perfect for anyone who loves to wine and dine, and that's exactly why locals like Theresa Tanthem look forward to it year after year. "I've been participating since the first Miami Spice [which launched in 2001]," says the elementary school teacher. "I usually enjoy eight to 10 lunches and dinners each time." (Making her the perfect person to ask for recommendations.) "Some of my favorites over the years include Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau, Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina at Turnberry Isle, and J&G Grill at the St. Regis Bal Harbour." Her advice for first-timers? "Lunch is my secret insider tip. You spend less yet still get a full meal."

BLT Prime's light and delicious Pan Seared Skate

This year, diners will have more choices than ever: there are 99 new participants, a record for Miami Spice. Some – such as Beaker & Gray; casual Asian-American Talde; modern Asian Pao by Paul Qui at Faena Hotel Miami Beach; and Ariete, with its wood-fired grill and shareable entrées – are newly open. Others have been welcoming diners for a while but are taking part in Miami Spice for the first time, including La Côte (also at the Fontainebleau), Bal Harbour's modern Japanese Makoto, jazz-and-cocktails joint Soyka, and acclaimed Rosa Mexicano. Adds Madeleine Paredes, of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, "It's an incredibly diverse list providing something for every palate."

Miami Spice deals are even better for Citi® cardmembers! Every Tuesday during Miami Spice when cardmembers dine and use their Citi card to pay, they will receive a special 15% discount dining offer on the total bill excluding taxes at participating restaurants. For a list of restaurants, menus, hours, and more at Miami Spice 2016, visit iLoveMiamiSpice.com. To learn more about exclusive dining offers for Citi cardmembers, visit https://www.citiprivatepass.com/dining.html.