Tips for planning a Southern Florida party menu for tastes of Miami and the Keys
Miami is world all its own. This sunny city seamlessly blends the best of the old Florida, the Islands and South America, with a dash of European sophistication tossed in. You experience it in the mix of languages and cultures, the architecture and music, and of course, in the food.
And food is one of the things this tropical region does best, especially for when a party is at hand. A Southern Florida party menu takes that fusion of culture and lifestyle and translates it into a mouthwatering array of flavors.
But even if you can’t make it to the palm tree-lined beaches, you can bring the look and feel of South Florida to your party table. Here are some ideas to get the look and taste of the tropics no matter where you are.
Start with the tang
Everywhere you look in South Florida, tropical fruit trees abound. Even backyards are blessed with crops of oranges, mangos, tangelos, bananas and of course, a local favorite, the Key Lime. So is it any wonder that local recipes rely heavily on the flavors of fruit?
Bring the taste to your party table with a salad dressed with Key Lime Oil, a tart filled with juicy mangos or a refreshing orange and banana smoothie. Skip the heavy pastries and stack up luscious chilled blood orange and grapefruit sections between sugared layers of puff pastry. Let the tang of the fruit shine from appetizers to dessert.
Tap into the culture
Florida might look like it’s attached to the the rest of the country, but when you reach the southern shores, it’s a lot closer to Cuba, South America, Jamaica and Haiti in taste and style. Make sure your party choices show off the spice and variety, too.
Offer the salty, crisp richness of a Cuban Sandwich. Serve sweet and rich Chilian dulce de leche with crunchy cookies for dipping. Offer a taste of Haita with Accra Fritters. And of course, work in the heat of Jamacian Jerk. Give a nod to old Florida with conch fritters. Don’t worry about picking one county or regions’ cuisine. People in the Miami area are used to mixing and matching their tastes. It’s one of the things we love most about the place!
Look to the sea
Floridians take fresh seafood for granted. When you live on a peninsula, all kinds of fish and shellfish are close at hand. So if you want to be authentic, make sure the best of the sea shines in your Southern Florida party menu.
Look for recipes that combine fresh, local fish with regional produce, like shrimp skewered and grilled with chunks of papaya or Cuban pressed talapia with fried plantains. Set out bowls of fresh shucked oysters on the half shell, with piles of lime sections and bottles of hot sauce.
Finish it up sweet
Heavy desserts might not be the first choice in the Miami area, but that doesn’t mean you can skip the dessert table. It wouldn’t be a complete South Florida meal with an authentic Key Lime Pie or two (hint, it is NEVER green!) Include a sweet and creamy flan, an island favorite rum cake and some melt-in-your-mouth Tres Leches cake, too.
Add music and serve
Yes, I know it’s not officially a part of a menu, but it is a part of South Florida so I have to mention it. Make it authentic and set the tropical mood with the right music. Or some of the right music, because like the food, the music is nothing if not fusion. Toss in some Cuban jazz and Haitian compas, mix in some island steel drums, add a bit of Parrot Head Jimmy buffet and stir well.