I hadn’t planned on going to Miami, but I’m also not one to turn down an invitation, last minute or not.
My frequent travel partner, Mrs. O Around the World, offered up an unbelievably tempting offer: an ocean-front suite, dinner at a AAA Four-Diamond Rated steakhouse, spa treatments, and beach time. And with Mr. O having a Saturday flight to Orlando for business, Mrs. O would be on her own. Now, I couldn’t have my friend come all the way from England and leave her to her own devices. That would be down-right rude and un-American of me. Thus, miles were used and flights were booked. In less than a week’s time, I found myself on a United flight bound for Miami.
Hello, sunny Florida!
I landed mid-afternoon in Miami after an hour’s delay in Houston. I emerged from the surprisingly drab airport only to find Mrs. O waiting patiently. After a quick hug hello, I threw my luggage in the Jeep, and we were off to the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood.
This was my first time in the city and I was searching for things to do in Miami, but through movies and TV, I felt like I had a good idea what to expect. The drive to the hotel did nothing to change my previous conception of South Florida. The palm trees, beach culture, and architecture were all what I expected, but it’s always surreal for me to see a place for the first time with such a unique identity.
We pulled up to the Diplomat and were immediately greeted with warm smiles. “Hello, Mrs. O’Reilly. Welcome back.” It seemed as if everyone was genuinely happy to see us. We headed into the massive light-filled lobby, found the bank of elevators, and quickly were delivered to the 30th floor.
Behind the door to room 3071 were giant floor-to-ceiling windows that opened up to a balcony and unspoiled view Atlantic. I didn’t even bother to look at the beautiful suite. Instead, I headed straight for the sliding-glass door. I’m normally scared of heights, but the brilliant blue of the sky and sea distracted me from any fear I may have felt
The salty breeze invigorated me as I slowly breathed it in. Feeling brave, I leaned over the glass balcony only to be quickly brought back to reality. Before vertigo set in, I pulled myself back to safety, but not before taking note of the large number of hot tubs, lounge chairs, cabanas, and pools below.
Daylight was burning, and Mrs. O was eager to get back to the beach and Mr. O. I wanted to settle in, and honestly, I needed to publish a post I’d written on the plane. Such is the life of a travel blogger, right? I knew wouldn’t have much beach time as the three of us had spa appointments. I managed to slip on my suit and join Mr. and Mrs. O.
As I made my way down to the beach, I noticed that the afternoon sun had lost it’s strength, which was perfect for my English/Scottish complexion. The soft, smooth sand was warm on my feet, and the breeze was just enough to make the 85-degree temperature comfortable. For my arrival, South Florida had given me picture-perfect weather.
After hugs and kisses hello to Mr. O, I nestled into my lounger beneath the large, blue umbrella. Remembering my tendency to burn from Palm Springs, Mr. O had my lair ready. Far removed from the hustle and bustle of South Beach, our spot at the Diplomat was exactly what I desired for a few leisurely hours in the sun.
But as quickly as I arrived, it was time to depart; the spa was calling.
Waiting for us in front was a car that would carry us the few miles to the Diplomat’s golf and spa facilities. After a quick check in, Mrs. O and I departed to the female locker room as Mr. O went to the men’s. Robes, slippers, and lockers were provided, and we were given a tour of the facilities. Being that it was 6:00 pm, Mrs. O and I had the place to ourselves. The environment was peaceful and calming, exactly what I expect in a spa. It wasn’t long before my name was called for my fifty-minute Swedish massage.
There isn’t much that I enjoy more than a massage, and I was in the capable hands of Anthony. He led me into the dimly-lit room and told me to remove my robe and lay face down on the table. I knew the drill, but the instructions sounded so much nicer delivered with a Caribbean accent. With a request to focus on my neck, shoulders, and upper back, Anthony went to work with his magical hands. The fifty minutes flew by faster than usual, and the stress from a week’s work was gone.
The sun had set by the time the three of us were finished with our treatments. Dinner awaited us back at the Diplomat. With a quick shower and change of clothes, Mr. O escorted us downstairs to Hollywood Prime. Given a Four-Diamond rating by AAA, I knew I was in for a special meal. We were led through the bar by the hostess into the long, narrow dining room. Like all the best American steak houses, Hollywood Prime featured dark wood, rich tones, and plush fabrics.
We were greeted by one of the hand-full of people who would serve us that night. Lychee martinis were ordered to start and an inch-thick wine list was left for review. With over 600 wines available, Hollywood Prime was awarded Wine Spectator’s 2011 Best of Award of Excellence. It wasn’t long before the sommelier, Laura, arrived to answer questions. I inexplicably trust Mr. O with any wine decisions, but this night he left it to Laura to choose. After narrowing down the choices by color (red, of course), Mrs. O mentioned she might like a Zin. Apparently that was the magic word our sommelier wanted to hear. She departed as quickly as she’d arrived, but this time with a slight spring in her step.
A few minutes later, Laura emerged with a dusty bottle of wine and a gorgeous Riedel decanter. She was excited to present this 2001 Alder Brook Zinfadel from Dry Creek Valley in Northern California to us. And after the decanting show she put on, we were just as thrilled to try it. Mr. O got the first taste. The look on his face said it all. Delicious. Much to his dismay, glasses were then filled for the rest of the table. I think the meal could have ended with the wine and Mr. O would have been satisfied.
Appetizers of oysters on the half shell and a seafood trio were brought to the table with a variety of sauces. Half of a lobster tail, crab claws, and a jumbo shrimp looked as if they were begging for me to eat them. After a squeeze of lemon, I happily obliged. Spectacular would be an understatement in describing the taste.
In looking at the menu at the main course options, beef dominated. This Texas girl couldn’t have been happier. With 21-day, dry aged beef, I was pretty sure we could close our eyes and point at something and be happy. We decided on the Kobe-style beef, prime striploin, and the rack of lamb for the table to share.
Convinced that Americans serve up the best spuds, Mrs. O was adamant that we order the white cheddar mashed potatoes. Rounding out our family-style sides, Mr. O and I chose the roasted mushrooms and jumbo green and white asparagus with hollandaise.
There was easily enough food for three more people, but we tried our best to make it all disappear. The Kobe-style beef was the unanimous choice for best in show. The bite-sized cubes of beef packed a powerful punch. The seasoning combined with the choice cut of meat left us awe struck.
I’ve always been a big fan of lamb and found myself in heaven last year while in New Zealand. I’ve ordered it several times since returning, but have yet to find anything that compares, that is until Hollywood Prime’s version. Cooked medium rare with a Parmesan crust, this lamb sat in it’s own au jus. No mint sauce was needed as it was perfect on its own.
The sides were certainly tasty, but let’s be serious. The real star was the meat. With the lychee martinis guzzled, the wine gone, and the three of us drunk on protein, you’d think we’d call it a night. Gluttons for punishment, we asked for the dessert and after-dinner drink menus. Without hesitation, we ordered more wine, espresso, a French press pot of coffee, creme brulee, and Key lime pie. After all, who can visit Southern Florida and not order Key lime pie?
After nearly three hours at the table, I was exhausted and we were all completely satisfied. There was nothing more we could possibly want. Served a spectacular wine, the freshest seafood, the choicest cuts of meat, and the tastiest desserts, Hollywood Prime left little doubt in my mind that it more than deserved its AAA Four-Diamond rating.
Having only been in Miami a mere eight hours, I felt as if my weekend was already made. Everything else would simply be icing on the cake. The next thirty-six hours had a lot to live up to, and I was eager to give Miami the chance to try.
The massage and massive meal were both compliments of the Westin Diplomat. I was in no way swayed by the tender touch of Anthony or meat orgy at Hollywood Prime to write a favorable review. As always, these opinions are my own.