Essensia- Mid-Beach with Chef Julie Frans

NOTE:  Detox this 2015 with a special Yoga and Supper series featuring fresh juices, light supper from Chef Julie Frans, mini-massages and Yoga led by Green Monkey Yoga. Reserve your spot or for more Info:

Mid-Beach, the unofficially named area north of South Beach and ending around 63rd street is a buzz with new construction.  The former Gansevoort/Perry is being reborn as The One,  the Seville is under major renovation to open this year as Ian Schrager’s Edition, and the impressive Faena complex, encompassing over 3+ blocks along Collins occupies what used to be the Saxony.  Further north, The Crown is becoming The Thompson and due to open this year at 40th, and the Croydon boutique hotel just hosted their Grand Opening.

Yet, somehow in the midst of all this hustle and bustle, The Palms Hotel at 30th and Collins offers a calming respite and the farm-to-table restaurant, Essensia.  I liken it to “ an oasis in the mid-beach chaos ”.

The hotel grounds are lush with mature palms and plantings and when you enter the restaurant you feel completely removed from the surrounding cranes and scaffolding. .

It was a breezy late summer day, that I visited Essensia to meet with their Executive Chef, Julie Frans and talk about her food, her commitment to the organic Slow Food Movement in Miami and her experiences as a Southern Californian transplant working in Miami.

Chef Julie and her husband relocated to Miami 3 years ago with two small children in tow and a wealth of culinary experience between them as former private chefs, successful caterers and estate managers.  Coming from San Diego, Chef Julie had at her fingertips the freshest produce, fruits, vegetables and herbs imaginable every month of the year and she brought with her that respect for organic and sustainable preparation and an innate talent for using what was available and how to enhance any dish with the right ingredients.   She and her husband even met while shopping for their respective clients at Chino Farms, a popular local SoCal farms.

Now, let me explain that I am not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, and recognize that Miami can be very “ meat-centric ”. I think there are more steak restaurants per square foot than even NYC,  but in addition to Essensia’s wonderfully prepared meat, fish and steak dishes, Chef Julie offers many delicious and surprising options for vegetarians, vegans, and those in search of gluten-free choices or just lighter eating.

And not the typically bland tempeh/tofu/brown rice options that seem to be synonymous with vegetarianism, but colorful and flavorful dishes like an Israeli Quinoa Salad, a Florida Snapper Ceviche full of yellow and red grape tomatoes and a Tuna Poke, lightly dressed with sesame vinaigrette over bib lettuce.  A crispy pizzette was chock full of ripe figs, goat cheese and duck confit over an arugula pesto and tops my list of favorite lunch dishes in Miami.  Dinner options include a lightly spiced Tandoori spiced chicken  and the signature snapper which is moist and not overpowered by sauces. 

Chef Julie has even carved out a sunny spot just off the hotel pool for her own organic garden, full of herbs like thyme, sage, micro greens, oregano, basil, cilantro and even okra, which she uses in her kitchen and also in preparing her special supper buffet during the monthly Wednesday Yoga Series co-hosted by Green Monkey Yoga and featuring an outdoor Yoga class followed by a delicious and a garden-to-table organic supper and fresh juice bar.

This series, priced at $35 for both the class and supper, which ran every Wednesday during the summer continues on the second Wednesday of each month into the Fall and Winter.

Chef Julie, when I asked about her passion for organic dining and how challenging it must be in Miami, wistfully talked about the future Miami food scene embracing the clean and fresh dining encouraged by the Slow Food Movement, and was pleased to report in the 3 years she has been in Miami, that what started as a handful of chefs creating organic menu options has grown to over 30 restaurants offering dishes that meet the Slow Food criteria.

Essensia is a rare jewel on Miami Beach, with a menu that will leave you feeling satisfied yet healthy without compromising taste or flavor.  Before the month is out, go and check out their Miami Spice menu for a snapshot into Chef Julie’s talents…and you may become a convert to a lighter and healthier way of dining.

Essensia in The Palms Hotel 

3025 Collins Ave.

Miami Beach, FL 33140

305 904 5458