Restaurant News & Reviews

Stop arguing and start eating: 3 ways food can bridge a gap

You know things have gotten out of hand when people are so divided they won’t even argue on Facebook anymore.

Leaders from several South Florida institutions recognized that the divisions raised by the presidential election have pushed people apart. They want to bring them together with a new initiative, Connect Miami. And what better bridge than food.

The five institutions — United Way, The Miami Foundation, Children’s Trust, the Miami Conference of Christians and Jews and the Miami Herald — want to inspire 10 Days of Connection, a challenge to Miamians and Miami-Dade institutions to find ways to connect with people who “are not like them, in whatever way they are ready,” according to their website mission statement. The initiative begins Monday and runs through May 31.

“We are asking people, and institutions, to somehow or another, reach across a border or a division to invite someone who is not like you to lunch or coffee and to tell them your story and hear their story. It’s harder to dislike someone once you’ve heard their story,” said Nancy Ancrum, editor of the Miami Herald’s editorial page and an organizer of the project.

The website,, offers everything from 250 conversation starters to neighborhood guides for exploring new parts of town. The goal is to get out of your comfort zone, Ancrum said, and dare to make a new connection.

“It could be as simple as inviting a neighbor you don’t know to coffee,” she said.

Since food is the place where everyone quite literally can have a seat at the table, here are three easy ways to keep it local and connect with someone.

1. Invite someone to coffee

A steamy cuppa Joe (or tea) will force you to sit long enough to start to get to know another person — while still giving you an out at the bottom of those 12 ounces. Tinta y Cafe, which recently opened a new location in Coral Gables, has been a longtime discussion and gathering place for writers, authors and thinkers. They don’t even allow laptops and have no Wi-Fi. It’s the perfect place to focus on the other person on an analog level.

Tinta y Cafe

1315 Ponce De Leon Blvd., Coral Gables


2. Break bread

It’s hard to keep your teeth clenched when you’re trying to chew. Meeting over a meal is a good time to reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while or invite that new co-worker for a bite. The MCCJ is encouraging folks to #LetsDoLunch on May 24 and post a pic of your lunch party with the hash tag #ConnectMiami305.

With the good weather fading, take advantage of the last breath of spring over brunch at a spot like Coconut Grove’s Glass and Vine, which earned a 3.5 star (Excellent) Miami Herald dining review and overlooks Peacock Park.

Glass and Vine

2820 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove


3. Organize a neighborhood pot luck

We barely know our neighbors anymore. Cost of living and rising rents are forcing families to move around, adding a new layer of stress. There’s nothing quite as old-school as knocking on your neighbor’s door — maybe the apartments on either side, above and below; or the houses surrounding yours — and asking them to come over for a pot luck. It doesn’t have to be formal. Everybody bring a dish, sit down — and eat. Or, raise it a notch and sign up for the Syrian Supper Club of South Florida, where recently arrived Syrian refugees in South Florida cook a traditional meal and tell their stories in the homes of local neighbors who host them.

Here are three easy recipes to give you a head start. Double, triple or quadruple them as needed depending on the size of the crowd.

Turkey Picadillo

Yield: 4 servings

1 pound ground turkey breast or lean ground beef (or mixture of both)

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon capers, drained

1 teaspoon olive oil

3/4 cup sofrito (see note)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large nonstick skillet, cook turkey or beef over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir in raisins, oregano and cumin; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in water, vinegar, capers, olive oil and sofrito; cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley and serve.

Note: Sofrito is a sauce made from a variety of cooked ingredients, such as oil, chopped onions, green bell peppers, garlic and various herbs, and is used as flavoring.

Per serving: 163 calories, 28 g protein, 3 g fat (12 percent calories from fat), 0.2 g saturated fat, 17 g carbohydrate, 45 mg cholesterol, 494 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Beef Burgundy

Yield: 8 servings

1 (8-ounce) package baby carrots

3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into 1½-inch pieces

1 cup no-salt-added beef broth

1 cup burgundy or other dry red wine

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (8-ounce) package halved fresh mushrooms

1/4 cup quick-mixing flour, such as Wondra

Place carrots in a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Sprinkle marjoram and pepper over beef. Add to slow cooker. Add broth, burgundy, garlic and mushrooms. Cover and cook on low 6 hours. Remove about 1/2 cup liquid from cooker; mix with flour. Pour back into cooker and continue cooking on low about 30 more minutes or until thickened and beef and carrots are tender. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Per serving: 216 calories, 24 g protein, 8 g fat (34 percent calories from fat), 3 g saturated fat, 7 g carbohydrate, 71 mg cholesterol, 75 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

Vegetarian Chili

Yield: 8 servings

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped

4 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped

2 15-ounce cans pinto or kidney beans, slightly drained

1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder, depending on your taste

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 28-ounce can tomatoes, crushed and slightly drained

4 tablespoons water or beef broth

1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1-inch thick

4 ounces low-cat cheddar cheese, shredded

In a 2- to 3-quart microwave container, combine onion, carrots, oil, garlic, bell peppers and jalapeño pepper and cover. Cook on high for 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Stir once or twice. Add beans, chili powder, cumin, salt tomatoes and water. Mix well, cover and cook on high for 10 minutes, then on medium for 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes on high. If desired, top with shredded low-fat cheddar cheese.