When in South Beach, land of the beautiful and flauntworthy, its no wonder that I snuggled into a shell of a precarious diet in order to merit lazing on Nikki Beach and at my luxury hotels where I speckled a multitude of stays: Raleigh, SLS and Shore Club. For after a day of bathing in the glamorous sun, I felt the need to fuel my gym tired self with the gourmet, but unlike my luxe daytime Delano endeavor, I opted for a less haute and more earthy setting.
Referred to the ordinarily named but enchantingly conceptualized place, The Cafe at Books and Books lived up to the promise of smart books and absolutely finger-licking food.
Books and Books is owned by Mitchell Kaplan who founded the South Florida book scene, and his collection includes some quaint and some classical works, as well as some that evoke a tongue-in-cheek humor. Chef Bernie Matz provides the culinary fare of fresh, contemporary and healthy hotspot on Lincoln Road. And perched under blue umbrellas, it is nothing short of perfect for people-watching, my previously acclaimed favorite sport.
I started off with a black bean spread with freshly pickled carrots and lightly salted matzoh. Quite the healthy departure from recent dips into pools of chocolate, but much needed to play lucky in Miami. The seasoning was fresh, and the crunch delectable. I paired it with a pineapple mango sangria, which arrived topped with fresh chunks of raw mango and pineapple! The refreshing jolt added to the raw freshness of the day.
The entree was a delectable, unique combination of vegan options that I’d usually opt away from: an organic tofu and wild mushroom stir fry, with green beans, a salad with peanut dressing, and couscous.
Freshness would be too mild a term to describe the effect of this flavorful plate. The couscous, while ordinary, was a perfect match with the peanutty dressed salad. But the wild mushrooms and tofu, almost indecipherable from each other, battered in a flavorful ginger garlic rub, were the best bite I’d had in a while as a salad accompaniment. Tenderly chewy, it was literally swimming in more flavors that I deduced with each bite. The texture of the plate, from spongy tofu to tender mushroom to sharp salad to luscious couscous, tied the entire meal together impeccably.
To think that I opted to not get dessert, owing to a luxury lineup of events: a pool party at the acclaimed, iconic Raleigh pool with its accolades in architecture, and a meet-up with modelicious glitterati on the beach.
Which however, did not stop me from strolling down Lincoln Ave, all the way to Ocean Ave, and being sucked into a kitsch but dramatic world of frozen daquiris served in oldschool slushie machines, cheekily named Wet Willies! Deceivingly looking kid-friendly, it was an obvious adult bar with more mischief up its pipes with a crafty drink namer.
Despite being a southern eastern chain, I found the concept hilarious, and needless to say plunged into the world of innuendo with stronger drinks like Attitude Improvement and Call a Cab … ending with a milder one embarrassingly called Weak Willie, to ensure that my lack of photos due to a surge of hysteria would allow me to gracefully make it back to my luxury hotel.
To all South Beach frequenters, put The Cafe at Books and Books on your must eat… and must read spot! (And if you happen to be lured into Wet Willies on a stroll, make sure to wear good shoes in case you can’t seem to re-illusion into finding a cab back!)
Ah, the South Beach lifestyle.