Sun shines at Miami Beach hotels

Tue. May 24, 2016 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

Hotel representatives visit Chicago to pitch their high-end, luxurious properties

The tables were meticulously set for lunch, in a u-shape design for about 12 people, with the names of each attendee written on a white card that was attached to a mason jar, which was filled with a plant of herbs or spices. Truly a clever place card – and mine had purple sage.

There was a video screen in the middle of the tables, which showed a few sun-filled photos, including a pool, tanning chairs and more.

It was a media get-together on a cloudy, dreary, rainy Tuesday afternoon, May 10, at The Kitchen (316 N. Clark St.) in Chicago. That was the weather outside and umbrellas were ever-present. But the talk in this private luncheon was all sun, sand, surf ... and flip-flops. More specifically, two sister properties in Miami Beach: The Palms Hotel & Spa and Circa 39 Hotel.

The sunny disposition of South Florida and two extravagant hotels overshadowed the deluge of rain Mother Nature dumped on the Windy City that May day, not to mention the night before.

PR representatives from the hotels, or that region's Chamber of Commerce, couldn't have planned a better day to pitch their properties. Think sun when the weather is cool and rainy in Chicago.

The Palms Hotel & Spa is located minutes away from the heart of South Beach, and The Palms actually sits on an exclusive stretch of reserved beach, just 12 miles from Miami International Airport and nine miles from the downtown Miami business district. Nearby, you can find high-end shopping, art galleries, museums, cafés, and design houses. And the wildness that often is the nightlife of Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road, Collins and Washington is oh-so-close.

The Palms Hotel & Spa features 251 guest rooms, including 155 city-view rooms, 79 oceanfront rooms and 13 superior oceanfront rooms.

Circa 39 carries a historic boutique hotel setting, with a new feel – and is located just across the street from Miami Beach's white sandy beach. Circa 39 was fully renovated in 2014 and is Florida Green Lodging Certified. The hotel has 97 guest rooms between two buildings.

Both The Palms Hotel & Spa and Circa 39 are part of the exclusive collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, which showcases some of the world's finest independent hotels, resorts, and residences.

When representatives from the Miami Beach hotels came to Chicago in May, the luncheon featured a fun game of Windy City Jeopardy – with questions and answers based on the properties and/or the South Florida region.

No Alex Trebek, but Tanja Morariu was more than willing to share her knowledge of the properties as she is the Director of Brand Development for both properties. Take, for instance, the Windy City Jeopardy question that told of The Palm's Wellness Ambassadors, which lead guests on runs through the area. They offer prescheduled runs on Tuesday nights and Friday mornings. "We cater the run to what the guests want to do," said Morariu, who has completed two half marathons, among other running races.

The Palms Hotel & Spa promotes green initiatives through a comprehensive "Inspired by

Nature" program that includes programs for reducing, re-using and recycling, as well as quarterly beach clean-ups.

And those beach clean-ups were promoted through Windy City Jeopardy. (I'll admit, I got that questions correct, but also wouldn't be too fond of cleaning up the beach during a vacation in South Florida.) The Palms has an in-house Green Team, participates in the Sustainable Hospitality Council and has a 4 Green Key eco-rating.

The beach clean-ups are a Saturday morning chore, Morariu said, and The Palms has been doing it for six years, most recently on Earth Day in April – and about 120 participated.

"It is very rewarding to see people come out, come together and build consciousness to care for the earth," said Morariu, who is the head of the Green Team.

The afternoon meet-and-greet in Chicago featured a farm-to-table menu at The Kitchen, which Morariu said aligns perfectly with their approach. "We have a farm-to-table philosophy, obtaining items from around South Florida, which isn't just (for) citrus fruits. Rather, we grow herbs, mushrooms, and so much more," she said. "As much as we can, we try to source from our own organic garden on the property, where kale, lettuce and more is grown."

The hotel's chef leads garden tours on Saturdays.

"We chose The Kitchen because it shared a very similar philosophy, an emphasis of good, locally-sourced seasonal food, which is very similar to Essensia," which is The Palms signature eatery, she said. "The Kitchen seemed like a good fit."

And it certainly was good food, too.

The Kitchen offered a surprisingly good Roasted Organic Beet Salad. Tasty Kilgus Farm Braised BBQ Pork Sandwiches, and oh-so-rich Chocolate Nemesis bits, among other treats, and the wine offerings included Domaine De Moncy (Sauvignon Blanc)

- For more information about The Palms Hotel & Spa, go to www.thepalmshotel.com or call 305-534-0505.

- For more information about the Circa 39 Hotel, go to www.Circa39.com or call 305-538-4900.

Ross Forman has flown more than 3 million miles, including 2 million on United Airlines. He has been to 49 of the 50 States, yet still doesn't know yet when he'll finally hit Alaska. Ross prefers aisle seats when flying, hotel rooms that are close to the elevator, SUVs when he rents cars, and local restaurants as opposed to high-dollar chains. Ross' Travel Column, On The Go, appears at least once-a-month on the GoPride.com Network.