Chef and amateur pilot Jonathan Eismann shares a fantasy weekend with his valentine
Sitting on a white-sand beach, watching a lavender-and-indigo sunset, eating lobster and drinking Champagne with the person you love: this is the stuff of romantic fantasy. But not for Jonathan Eismann, the 35-year-old chef and co-owner of Pacific Time in Miami Beach and Pacific Heights in Coral Gables. Because for Jonathan and his wife, Antonia (nicknamed Nia), it's not fantasy--it's real.
Flash back to 1988, the year Jonathan and Nia met at China Grill in New York City. Jonathan worked in the kitchen; Nia checked coats. "I didn't ask her out for a few months," Jonathan says. "I thought she might turn me down." When he finally worked up the nerve, they "hit it off deeply" on their first date--even though Nia was so excited and nervous that she got off at the wrong subway stop on her way to meet him and was over an hour late.
Jonathan moved to Florida to open Pacific Time three years ago; Nia followed. Soon after he popped the question--on Valentine's Day, no less. "Nia and I always dress casually, but I didn't want to propose with me in shorts and her in sweatpants," he says. "So I told her that Ocean Drive Magazine needed a photo of us. We got dressed up and went down to the local surfer beach. Nia was looking for the crew from Ocean Drive and saying, 'There's no photographer here.' Then when she turned around I was down on one knee with the ring."
Last year, Jonathan and Nia celebrated their first anniversary in a similarly romantic fashion. They flew to Cat Island in the Bahamas in a single-engine plane, with Jonathan--an amateur pilot--at the controls. "It's a remote island, where some people say Columbus first landed in the New World," Jonathan explains. "Nia and I sat on this completely untouched beach at sunset, with a bottle of Krystal Rosé, and wondered if we were seeing what Columbus saw."
These photos of the Eismanns on a recent jaunt to the Florida Keys highlight another aspect of their island idyll: the food. Turkey sandwiches with an apricot and cranberry relish and Mexican wedding cookies get packed for the plane ride from Miami. Then Jonathan prepares a fabulous dinner that showcases his Pacific Rim-inspired cooking: a lobster salad in a curry-spiked vinaigrette, followed by sea bass that's been gently marinated in rice wine to glaze the fish and add a delicate sweet-tartness. Individual chocolate bombes with molten centers hint at more decadent pleasures. And, for breakfast the next day, there's Honeymoon French Toast with fresh mango. Clearly for this happy couple, the honeymoon is far from over.