Spotlight on Travel – Mike Cohen

SUNNY ISLES, Fla – While I focused on Sunny Isles Beach, Florida in a recent column, I do so again, this time with a focus on a spot where I bumped into many Montrealers.

With panoramic vistas of the sea and Miami’s glittering skyline, The Acqualina Spa and Resort on the Beach (www.acqualina.com), a Rosewood Resort, is a grand 51-storey Mediterranean-inspired tower on Collins Avenue featuring a 97-room ultra-luxury boutique resort and 188 lavish residences.
Guests of Acqualina enjoy world-class services and amenities; including three restaurants – famed Il Mulino, Aaria and Costa Grill – a two-storey oceanfront ESPA, three swimming pools, tropical garden areas and a private beach club. My family and I had the opportunity to spend the day recently at this gorgeous three year old facility.

When we arrived a pool attendant prepared three comfortable deck chairs for us right by a nice cabana and at the entry of a zero-depth pool – ideal for young children. The water was warm as a bath. As my visit coincided with the Christmas winter break, there were many familiar faces seated at poolside. They included my namesake, Michael Cohen. Michael attended the same high school as me (Wagar). I had lost touch with him, but quickly learned that he and his wife Bonnie Altrow moved to South Florida 20 years ago. They now reside in Aspen, Colorado where he is a European institutional stock broker. Bram Naimer, a prominent Montreal businessman from Union Lighting was there too with his family. So was Bert Dana, wife Lori and kids Kyle and Ashley. Bert works for Positron 9-1-1 Systems.

The feeling of being on a plush Caribbean island, only steps away from the sandy beach, was enhanced by the amazing lunches served up by the Costa Grill. You can order at the bar, be seated beachside or order a meal to your poolside chair. The Costa Grill serves an array of gourmet cuisine including sandwiches, burgers, wraps and salads from 11 am to 6 pm. Kids will love the Hebrew National kosher hotdogs. And do not leave without drinking one of their quenching smoothies. They come in an array of flavors such as Pina colada and lemonade.

For dinner stay at the Acqualina, where the acclaimed Italian restaurant Il Mulino New York (www.ilmulinonewyork.com) has become a favorite spot. Renowned for its bustling and energetic atmosphere, market fresh daily specials, extensive selection of fine Italian wines and an impeccably polished wait staff, this is one of more than a dozen (and counting) Il Mulino locations. It has already become a much sought-after establishment, frequented by both locals and visitors in the know. Regional Director of Operations Susan Buckley shared with me the possibility of a Montreal locale one day.
The 110-seat indoor restaurant spreads onto a 24-seat veranda overlooking the ocean. Service here is absolutely spectacular. Experienced Maitre ‘D Roberto is there to greet you while regional director of operations Susan Buckley is often on site and she is your contact to book private functions.

The menu draws upon the rustic and hearty Abruzzi region in Italy with complimentary antipasto tastings of soppresatta, bruschetta, reggiano parmesan, fried zucchini and garlic/cheese bread sticks, and dishes like spaghettini bolognese, rack of lamb (a half rack will probably be sufficient), scampi oreganta, veal picata and langoustines, with old-world service and tableside cooking provided by the staff. Ask for the fish specials, such as Mediterranean sea bass. The wine list includes over 200 selections of Italian varieties and guests are offered a complimentary glass of signature house Grappa prepared by Roberto himself. Also on the dessert menu, the flourless chocolate cake, the cheesecake and the tiramisu are to die for. If there are kids in your party ask for the waiter who performs magic tricks.

Mike Cohen’s email address is info@mikecohen.ca. Log on to his travel advice column at www.sandboxworld.com/travel .

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