The farm-to-table movement is blossoming in Miami Beach, thanks to the talents of Venoy Rogers, executive chef at the Essensia Restaurant + Lounge in The Palms Hotel & Spa. Recruited from San Diego, Chef Rogers lovingly tends a small organic garden on-site and has designed an inventive, globally-inspired menu using locally sourced ingredients and proteins. “New England has a chowder, Manhattan has a chowder—why shouldn’t Miami have a chowder?” he asks. His answer is Essensia’s yummy Miami Conch Chowder, a perfectly balanced tomato-based, dairy-free soup loaded with conch and seasoned with coconut, Cuban oregano from the garden, and purple potato.
What this means for groups at the 251-room hotel is an opportunity to wow attendees with food and drink. Chef Rogers oversees all of the food service here and will work with planners to ensure a memorable culinary experience. The hotel’s sustainable food philosophy extends to signature cocktails, infused with fresh fruit and garnished with garden herbs, and to craft beers and organic wines. My favorite drink was Grass Clippings: Maestro Dobel tequila, chipotle liqueur, fresh lime, muddled cucumber, and culantro from the chef’s garden.
The hotel itself is a remarkable oasis of greenery and relative calm in the trending neighborhood of South Beach known as mid-beach—removed from the noise and craziness of Ocean Drive but within walking distance to Lincoln Road and other South Beach attractions. Recognition for ongoing environmental practices includes a 4 Green Key eco-rating. The immaculately maintained property is well equipped for small-to-medium sized meetings and incentive programs, with more than 8,000 sf of indoor meeting space that includes two windowed ballrooms for receptions of up to 350, and seven smaller breakout rooms. There are also several outdoor function areas including a large covered terrace for al fresco gatherings of up to 180 and a garden lawn that can be set up to accommodate events of up to 200. Small groups of 40 people or fewer can enjoy cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres in a whimsically designed terrace next to the Chef’s garden, fragrant with the scents of lemongrass and basil.
A serene vibe informs all the spaces, from the luxurious Aveda spa to the neutral-hued guest rooms. It’s easy for planners to integrate a spa component into programs at the Palms, including a shorter version of the Sanctuary Retreat which brings in excellent instructors for a day of yoga, guided meditation, and lunch in a thatched-roof pavilion surrounded by greenery.
There’s so much to do and see in Miami that groups could return year after year and enjoy different activities each time. Active options run the gamut from bicycle tours to paddle boarding; cultural options include visits to the Wynwood Arts district, where street art has transformed a derelict neighborhood into a trendy destination; and dining options are endless, as highly-rated new restaurants with cuisine from Asian fusion to modern Peruvian are opening at a fast clip. Insiders tip: A few minutes walk from the Palms, the Wunderbar lounge at Circa 39 Hotel is a quirky and colorful spot for craft cocktails and light bites.
As for Miami’s famous beach, attendees need only to walk out the Palm’s back doors to find an oceanfront boardwalk for strolling and serene sandy beachfront for sunning.