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From a world-class baker who brought his globe-trotting experiences back to Miami, to beer brewers who design their wares with the city’s Latin community in mind, Southern Florida is packed with artisans who call the region home. Here are a few favorites from local chef Michelle Bernstein of Cena by Michy.
Zak the Baker
Zak Stern’s backstory reads a bit like the unearthed diary of some 1930s rail-hopping vagabond. He dropped out of pharmacy school to travel among European and Israeli farms, unlocking the secrets of wild yeast in Sweden, sweeping the floors of ancient Tuscan villas and milking goats in the Galilee before he returned to his native Miami. Michelle first tasted his wares when he was selling loaves to a local Italian market, and swiftly hired him to bake bread for Michy’s. Today he runs his own retail bakery in Wynwood, along with an Israel-inspired kosher cafe where his breads are piled with herring, smeared with honey butter or stuffed with eggplant and hardboiled eggs. “Good luck getting in, but if you do consider yourself lucky,” says Michelle. “Zak makes the best babka and challah in town. At the cafe, order anything on the daily menu and you will be happy. Zak is a true original and his food shows it.”
Zak the Baker: 405 NW 26th St, Miami; 786-347-7100; zakthebaker.com
Ramón Puig: La Casa De Las Guayaberas
The preferred uniform of Ernest Hemingway during his years in Cuba, the iconic linen guayabera shirt is characterized by its ornamental pleats—alforzas—and four large pockets across the chest and waist. Cuban immigrant and tailor Ramón Puig took the tradition with him when he fled Castro in the 1960s and landed in Miami. “For 50 years Ramon hand cut guayaberas at his shop on 8th street,” says Michelle. “His style was classic, with long- and short-sleeved shirts, and even guayabera dresses. Craftsmanship like that is one of a kind in Miami.” Ramon died in 2011, but his son Louis carries on his legacy in Little Havana today.
Ramon Puig: La Casa De Las Guayaberas: 5840 SW 8th St #4, Miami; 305-266-9683; ramonpuig.com
John Lermayer at Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company
New York native John Lermayer didn’t arrive in Miami until 2002, but in the years since he’s become nearly synonymous with the city’s cocktail scene, designing beverage programs at spots like the Florida Room (now closed) and the opulent Regent Cocktail Club at the Gale Hotel. Most recently, he opened Sweet Liberty in Collins Park, where his knack for incorporating unexpected and handmade ingredients comes through in sous-vide banana rum, matcha-topped sours and drinks seasoned with black salt. “John makes every part of the cocktail from house bitters to infused spirits. He has a gentle hand with flavors and a strong arm to shake a cocktail,” says Michelle. “I happen to be married to one of the partners at Sweet Liberty, but it doesn’t cloud my judgment; the cocktails are really that good.”
Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company: 237 20th St, Miami Beach; 305-763-8217; mysweetliberty.com
Wynwood and Funky Buddha breweries
Luis G. Brignoni Sr. had been enjoying a quiet retirement from the pharmaceutical industry when his boy, Luis G. Brignoni Jr. enlisted him to help get Wynwood Brewing off the ground. The father-and-son team work with brewmaster Nik Mebane to produce a line of idiosyncratic beers, like the crisp, easy-drinking La Rubia, right in the heart of Miami’s arts district. “The Latin community in Miami tends to drink rum, rather than beer, but I love that Wynwood really tries to speak to the Latin market with their flavor profiles,” says Michelle, who serves Wynwood products at her restaurant. She also loves the quirky seasonal offerings—infused with ingredients like blood orange or the flavors of sweet potato casserole—from Funky Buddha, a brewery just north of Miami in Oakland Park. “The flavors sound like they would be sickly sweet but they are wonderfully delicate,” she says.
Wynwood Brewing Company: 565 NW 24th St, Miami; 305-982-8732; wynwoodbrewing.com
Funky Buddha Brewery: 1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park; 954-440-0046; funkybuddhabrewery.com