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The latest sizzle in Miami? Food halls

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The Miami food scene is exploding with food halls, collections of vendors and restaurant stalls in one space, usually vast. In 2017, there were none; now there are four and counting, offering alternatives to more formal restaurants as well as to casual street food. And you will discover these food halls in the sleek precincts of Brickell, among luxury boutiques in the Design District, and camouflaged by graffiti in Wynwood, an arts district just north of downtown Miami. Miami Beach is poised to be home to a couple more in the next few months.

“Miami has matured from fast food and fried to quality-driven. It is no coincidence that food halls are popping up in every major neighbourhood,” said Jessica Goldman Srebnick, chief executive of Goldman Properties, a pioneering Miami developer, and Goldman Global Arts.

Taiyaki, an ice cream stand at 1-800-Lucky.
Taiyaki, an ice cream stand at 1-800-Lucky.  (Saul Martinez / The New York Times)

What all the food halls accomplish is generally well-prepared fare at reasonable prices attracting families, shoppers, tourists and business people, especially at lunch.

The burgeoning highrise Brickell City Center development downtown has not one but two food halls, both Italian and both somewhat along the lines of the global Eataly chain offering an array of departments and restaurants mostly under single ownership rather than a collection of independent vendors.

1. La Centrale

La Centrale, a multistory affair with 14 stations for shopping and eating, includes an elaborate Venchi store for Italian chocolates and shares the second floor with full-service restaurants featuring seafood (Pesce), meat (Carne) and seasonal vegetable menus (Stagionale). On the ground floor, where the action is, you can buy a sandwich layered on fresh ciabatta, a plate-size pizza, an assortment of cheeses, Italian condiments like high-end preserved oranges, a pound of prosciutto sliced to order, some wine, gelato and more to take home or eat at rows of tables and counters indoors and out.

2. Casa Tua Cucina

About a block away in Brickell, open from the street and through the Saks Fifth Avenue store and actually occupying some of its ground floor real estate, is a satellite of Casa Tua, an exclusive five-suite boutique hotel and restaurant in South Beach. Casa Tua Cucina, the food hall, is a joint venture with the store.

Here the scene is bright and bustling with 10 food counters, each focused on a different category like pizza, dolci for desserts, pane selling breads, and gastronomia with prepared foods and, for cooks shopping, raw ingredients. Some 300 seats are clustered in several areas. Order that copious, well-made bowl of cacio e pepe at the pasta counter, grab a chair, post your numbered flag on the table and within minutes the waiter will find you. There is also a central wine bar with counter stools where you can order from any of the stations.

3. 1-800-Lucky

In the trendy Wynwood district splashed with curated graffiti covering former warehouses, more exotic tastes will be happy at 1-800-Lucky, a funky Asian collection of independent stands with groups of communal tables indoors and out. The team behind the nearby Coyo Taco, restaurateurs Sven Vogtland and Alan Drummond, gathered under one roof an assortment of vendors that includes Lotus + Cleaver with Chinese barbecue and Peking duck under a carnival-lit display, Banh Mi for seared Vietnamese sandwiches, Hayato Miami dishing ramen, Myumi for sushi, Poke OG filling poke bowls, Yip dispensing savory and sweet dim sum from a steamer the size of a kiddie pool, and Taiyaki for Japanese fish-shaped ice cream cones.

4. St. Roch Market

Not far away, among the international labels of the high-end Design District, is the St. Roch Market. Situated on an upper level just steps from Bulgari, Dior and Valentino and done in chic black-and-white, it is a branch of a bigger, historic food hall in New Orleans. And despite its uniformly high-fashion surroundings, it offers the most eclectic mix of food choices yet to be had under one roof in Miami. The offerings include vegan savories and desserts, homestyle Southern, Mexican tacos and ceviche, delicate Italian pasta, an oyster bar, Israeli-Mediterranean fare, a station called Itame for Peruvian-style sushi, Vietnamese noodles, smoothies and a coffee counter. Seating is indoors and out.

5. And more to come

Planned in coming months is a massive 60,000-square-foot food hall called the Citadel in Little River, also known as Little Haiti, a Caribbean-accented quarter just north of the Design District. In downtown Miami, sandwiched between Brickell and Wynwood, Central Fare, in a new development alongside the Brightline Miami railway station, is to open soon with 20 food vendors and three restaurants.

Across the bay in Miami Beach, The Lincoln Eatery just off Lincoln Road is scheduled to open by December with a collection of food stalls. And by early next year and just steps from the Lincoln Road shopping and dining artery will be the highly-anticipated Time Out Market, a branch of a group that started in Lisbon, Portugal, and is soon to open an outpost in New York. (It is owned by Time Out, the 50-year-old London-based publisher of magazines and guides.)

There, some well-known local chefs, including Jeremy Ford of Stubborn Seed in South Beach and Michael Beltran of Ariete in Coconut Grove will be dishing up specialties from 17 various chefs’ kitchens installed around the perimeter of the 17,500-square-foot space filled with rows of communal tables.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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