Piazza Gourmet

Epicure Sunny Isles Beach Goes Social

Marilyn Seltzer and June at the bar

A brisk breeze off of the Atlantic was refreshing on the 72 degree evening. The moon was in full glow against a clear Miami sky as a constant sound of the multi-layered waterfall across Collins Avenue at Jade Ocean provided a peaceful ambiance. It’s a scene for which I am increasingly familiar, having the fortune of living walking distance away.

Of course those from the old school remember fondly and with great affection waiting in lines that went around the building to get a table at Rascal House – a simpler time in Sunny Isles. The motels are pretty much gone, replaced instead with luxury high-rises (still mostly empty), and our iconic Rascal House has seen its time come to an end.

Yet rather than being replaced with something that had no association to the past, Rascal House’s successor rivals the former landmark with tradition and ambiance. Epicure, a South Beach gourmet supermarket with a storied bakery and 65 years of tradition stepped into the space; but unlike the South Beach location, the Sunny Isles Beach spot had the area to create a social setting and a grandfathered liquor license to facilitate it.

Rugula from the Bakery

And on this early November twilight, social was exactly the scene. Seated in the piazza were an array of personalities and languages: a couple speaking French while sharing a bottle of wine; a Russian group of men; varied Spanish dialects; Swedes; a few from Israel; two men with Nordic features.

Several dog owners were out and about. A family with a greyhound walked through the square and took a seat at an empty table; a woman’s poodle whoofed fervently to captivated children – a bark certainly louder than the bite.

Dinner for me came from the hot food area located adjacent to the deli: meat loaf, macaroni and cheese, a Boylan’s seltzer. The tables were full of people eating what they had just purchased.

A Bentley sedan rolled to a stop in the semi-circular driveway. The driver walked quickly to the rear passenger side door and held an older, Hispanic woman’s hand as she exited carrying a Chanel bag and wearing couture. She joined a woman who looked to be her same age and social status who had laid out several pastries in anticipation of her friend’s arrival.

This was my second go around – I was there earlier in the day. Sat at the bar and watched the Fins on the high-def monitor. The sax player from the weekly Sunday Jazz Brunch had just rapped and was sitting next to me with his girlfriend enjoying cocktails.

Kelly Gold came in toward the end of the fourth quarter with Grant, her six-year-old son, who joined me for a moment as she quickly picked up dinner from the hot food section. Her son promptly enlightened me as to all of the left handed players in the World Series.

Marilyn Seltzer was seated a few chairs down drinking her usual Paris tea and flipping through the Thoroughbred Times – Marilyn sells thoroughbreds and was scheduled for a trip to Kentucky the following weekend. We had discussed having some sort of thoroughbred affair on the beach, perhaps behind her Golden Beach estate – a work in progress.

Kelly returned and we chatted briefly about her upcoming shopping event at Saks Bal Harbour with Israeli designer Yigal Azrouël. I thought that the Greater Miami Jewish Federation would have been a good partner – too late.

June refilled my hazelnut coffee and we brought the game home. Several others had gathered around, including the chef who carves the roast beef and turkey for the jazz brunch, as the Fins got a final sack on Mark Sanchez to secure the victory. Rose Marie came over from the bakery with some fresh rugulah – heaven.

Living walking distance from the Sunny Isles Beach Epicure has created a culture of dependency – and it ain’t cheap. Meal after meal, day after day. In the end, I’m a creature of habit. But is too much of a good thing wasted?

Maybe not.

Great place for business meetings. Not bad for a date – gourmet food, a bottle of wine, peaceful setting. Coffee in the morning, chicken salad on a chalah roll for lunch, or perhaps some braised ox tail or a skirt steak in the evening. The chicken wings aren’t bad either.

On this splendid fall evening, my dining choice was simple. I was alone and a quick bite at Epicure was certainly a better choice than fast food. And for someone who enjoys watching people, the international mix of “epicureans” mingling in the re-purposed environment was infinitely better than sitting in front of the television – although television is certainly an alternative with three high-def TVs inside.

It’s difficult to imagine that a supermarket with an adjoining bar can be this cool, but indeed it is. The gourmet establishment is the centerpiece of a growing Sunny Isles Beach, an area that has been branded Florida’s Riviera. Perhaps the continued success of high quality businesses like Epicure will make this Riviera vision a reality – and I’ll do my part – one black and white cookie at a time.

See the video of SocialMiami’s 10 Year Anniversary Bash hosted by Epicure Sunny Isles Beach.
See the video of Epicure’s VIP Reception at their famed South Beach location.

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