Thursday, November 30, 2006

To Do This Weekend: Dinner in Paradise

Besides shopping shopping shopping, what else you gonna do this weekend?
Come on down to Homestead and support organic farming by having dinner at Paradise Farms. This Sunday marks the first night in a series of dinners hosted by top Florida chefs.
Sunday's dinner will feature Allen Susser (Chef Allen's) , Tom Azar (Emeril's) and Marc Ehrler (Loews Hotel).
Proceeds from these multi-course dinners (including wine!) go to Earth Learning, dedicated to earth literacy and sustainability in the Everglades bio-region. Whole Foods is a sponsor and Le Cordon Bleu will participate and receive a portion of the proceeds. More info here. Reservations can be made by calling (305) 573-5550.

Stay Tuned for Genuine Food

Miami is booming and the gargantuan construction projects dotting the horizon testify to that. Fringe benefits of all this development are the new fantastic restaurants on the Miami dining horizon. One to watch is Michael's Genuine Food & Drink which will be located in the Design District at 130 N.E. 40th Street.

There's no official opening date yet, but I hear January is the launch.
With an emphasis on foods sourced from local farmers, some dishes to look forward to:
pan roasted yellowjack served with sweet corn cake, yellow curry sauce and a stir fry of mushrooms, carrots and pearl onions, grilled 20 oz. porterhouse steak accompanied by whole roasted garlic, homemade French fries and porcini Worcestershire, Indian style almond braised lamb shank with braised greens and pan seared coriander dusted tuna.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Miami Restaurant Review: Michy's

Michy's, 6927 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL 33138. (305) 759-2001

Michy’s makes the case for fine dining on Biscayne Boulevard. And from the looks of the dining room on recent weeknight – filling up steadily before 7 pm, there is definite demand for high end cuisine on Miami’s ever-gentrifying strip of hourly-rate motels and funky antique stores.

The restaurant’s décor is at once playful and sophisticated, making use of mismatched white chairs, cheerful wallpaper and orange suede banquettes. But the food is the reason those tables fill up quickly. They’ve come because of the buzz, because she might be in the kitchen tonight, the namesake, the chef with the golden whisk. Michelle Bernstein has certainly proved her mettle as a chef helming The Mandarin Oriental’s Azul and winning against male competitors on TV’s Iron Chef.

The proof is on the plate, or half plate as the case may be with this eatery. Each selection can be ordered either as a full or half portion allowing diners to graze among a sea of carefully crafted salad, seafood, and pasta dishes, never quite forcing you to commit to traditional appetizer/entree dining paradigms. There’s a nice selection of wines available by the glass adding to the casual choose-as-you go dining odyssey. The white gazpacho ($7/$11) was hearty and smooth composed mainly of pureed almonds, cucumbers, grapes, and topped with herbed croutons for a welcome textural distraction. Those grapes showed up again in a fresh watercress salad ($8/$12) with goat cheese and tarragon, clean and crisp as English morning. The truffle infused polenta ($7/$11) topped with a poached egg (sans bacon for us, to the dismay of our server, but hey, that’s how we roll) was rich and decadent, the egg adding layers of creamy goodness to every satiating spoonful. The miso glazed cod ($16/$25, pictured above) though not the most creative selection (an homage to Nobu, perhaps ) was delicate and piquant, with flash fried bok choy and mushrooms providing appropriate heft to the dish.

Our server was extremely knowledgeable about the menu (and the recipes which he easily shared) and incredibly attentive but seemed to take offense when we ordered only half portions or passed on his suggestions, but it appeared to stem more from a love of the food than a desire to pad the bill. And Michy’s certainly is pricey but well worth it. Just make sure you go before Art Basel when the hordes will be sure to descend.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Art Basel Map

If you find the preponderance of "alternative" art fairs overwhelming(there are 13 as of today), have no fear, Artnet mag has composed a helpful map to get you through the contemporary art bonanza. By the looks of it, there's plenty happening on both sides of the bay. If only there were pedicabs on the beach, like the iCAS sponsored rickshaws in Wynwood!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Beijing Day 1: Check Back After 2008 Olympics

If you happen to visit Beijing in the next year and a half you will observe that the ENTIRE city is under construction. Bamboo scaffolding covers everything from the temples in the Forbidden City to Rem Koolhaas's fascinating CCTV building. Streets are torn up and muddy ditches left in their wake. The city is in a mad dash to get ready for the masses that will descend come Winter 2008. In all fairness, Beijing is already quite built up with sufficient infrastructure and skyscrapers galore but I guess it's par for the course of any city blessed with the Olympics. Memo to Beijing Tourism Bureau: Teach your taxi drivers to read English. Speaking English I know is too big a request, but at least have them recognize English-written locations on a map. The only way we managed to get around the city was by showing the cabbies our destination written in Chinese. Sometimes our city maps had the Chinese characters, and other times we had Chinese friends write things out in Chinese so we could show people where we needed to go. As a result I had a pocket full of paper scraps saying things like "We want to go to the Great Wall," or "Silk Market," etc. Something tells me patrons of the Olympics are not going to fare much better....
7:15 Arrival from the Shanghai train.
7:45 Beijing Subway to Llama Temple. The differences between Shanghai and Beijing are glaring. Beijing seems very staid and conservative, not sleek and new like other Asian cities. At the subway there are no electronic ticket machines or fast-action ticket zapping turnstiles like in Hong Kong or Shanghai. In Beijing everyone waits on line to buy a ticket from the clerk and then people stand by the turnstiles to check tickets. Very old school. Beijing has a lot of work to do before the 2008 Olympics. A lot.
8:30 From Llama temple we head to our host's - friends of a friends and the nicest, sweetest couple in all of China. Their spacious loft-style apartment is warm and inviting (and large even by Western standards).
10:00 Traditional Beijing-style breakfast of fried dough dipped in a foul-smelling fermented bean soup. The veggie gyoza (dumplings) are a lot more palatable. Dessert is bean paste cubes, apparently the cuisine of the Imperial Palace.
12:00 Walk through the hutongs, old one-story neighborhoods with courtyards that have now become trendy areas with cafes, boutiques and bars. There's a definite hippie vibe to Beijing, lots of knitted scarves and Indian batik fabrics on display. The No Name Bar (below) is the oldest in the now trendy neighborhood.

2:00 Walk through Behai Park, a sprawling campus of shrines, temples and a calm placid lake.

In one of the park's temples is a sculpture of Buddha (below) carved entirely out of white Jade.

There's also a puzzling photoshoot taking place. Or maybe it was a photography class. The "bride and groom" look pretty groovy.

This type of thing occurred throughout our stay in Beijing - we happened upon students photographing things on every corner - in the streets, at tourists sites, all over. Perhaps Beijing schools have great photography programs.
3:30 After the park we swing through the Forbidden City, the massive complex of royal residences, temples and shrines that once held the activity of the Imperial Dynasty. Scorcese shot The Last Emporer here. I hope they broke out the feather dusters for that shoot because most of the Jade sculptures could use a little gussying.

And of course, a majority of the buildings are being renovated. The older, weathered buildings are actually more charming than these new repainted digs. The air of history and centuries transpired comes through stronger with the neglected facades. Would it look so bad for the Olympics if the Forbidden City walls were cracked and fading?

FriendsWithYou Reception @ Savoy Hotel

Toyota's Scion is sponsoring the FriendsWithYou parade and a post-walk reception at the Savoy Hotel. Read on:

On Thursday, December 7th Scion presents Skywalkers by FriendsWithYou, a parade featuring 12 blimps designed by FriendsWithYou, David Choe, Ara Peterson, Misaki Kawai, PaperRad, Devil Robots and Mumble Boy. Embarking at 3 PM, the parade route will move along the Miami Beach shoreline beginning at 21st Street and proceeding to The Savoy Hotel located at 455 Ocean Drive.

Directly following Skywalkers, enjoy a catered reception (until 8pm), a viewing of Scion INSTALLATION 3 at The Savoy Hotel, and live DJs. Return to The Savoy Hotel on Friday, December 8 to be a part of the official Scion INSTALLATION 3 Art Auction for charity and meet the artists themselves. The art will be on display beginning at 12 PM EST with bidding beginning at 3 PM EST. In addition to bidding on-site, buyers can bid via absentee bidding, telephone, eBay and can access on-line bidding through an online auction link at

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fellini's Amarcord @ Books & Books

Saturday, December 2, Gables
Films in the Books & Books Courtyard: Federico Fellini's Amarcord, the 1974 fantasy-memoir of life in his hometown during the Fascist era is his most personal film, offering a full palette of experience--sex, families, politics--with his surreal twist. The film satirizes his youth and turns daily life into a circus of social rituals, adolescent desires, male fantasies, and political subterfuge, all set to Nina Rota’s classic, nostalgia-tinged score. The Academy Award-winning Amarcord remains one of cinema's enduring treasures. The ironic title translates into, "I remember," but here memory is more a matter of loving vision than actuality. The Café at Books & Books will be serving an Italian menu a la Fellini. The screening begins at 7:30pm.

Chinese Contemporary Art Week During Art Basel

Mandarin Oriental, Miami will play host to CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK, December 6-10, 2006, coinciding with Art Basel Miami. An exhibition, The Young Mandarins 2006, curated by Michael Goedhuis, will feature work from some of China’s most exciting young artists.
The Young Mandarins, 2006 is an exhibition of the best artists of Chinese origin providing a spectrum of the most creative work currently being done both in mainland China and outside her borders. Styles range from political pop and hyperrealism to modernist ink painting and calligraphy as well as sculpture. The artists who will be represented are Xu Bing, Feng Zhengjie, Guo Wei, Li Chen, Li Shurui, Qin Feng, Shao Yinong & Mu Chen, Wei Dong and Yu Hong.
On Thursday, Dec. 7, Christie’s will present a breakfast/panel discussion entitled “New Directions in Collecting” focusing on Chinese Contemporary Art, moderated by Amy Cappellazzo, International Head of Contemporary Art, Christie’s. Collectors, curators and specialists in Chinese Contemporary Art will share their insights and discuss their experiences navigating this new terrain and where the most compelling new directions are emerging. Panelists will include curator Hou Hanru, collector Eloisa Haudenschild, journalist Barbara Pollock, and Christie’s specialist in Chinese Contemporary Art Ingrid Dudek. Seating is limited and advance registration is required. Interested parties may call 212-799-7821.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Krelwear Spring Collection@the Dupont Building

Last night's Krelwear show was a classy affair, or about as classy as Miami gets after the J.Lo and Heatherette madness of Funkshion Fashion shows. The crowd of rag-tag Miami fashionistas and their skinny male friends made nice before the show started by drinking Peroni beer and Finlandia cocktails in the cavernous Dupont auditorium. Indeed, the Dupont building proved a magnificent setting for Karelle Levy’s deconstructed "toobular" knits. The pieces were literally seamless with a body hugging quality that was both futuristic and feminine. The soundtrack to the show was a booming montage of French hits from the 60's (who doesn't enjoy a little Yves Montand and Edith Piaf every now and again?) and a slowed-down version of Fiona Apple's remake of John Lenon's "Across the Universe." Several outfits received a smattering of applause including a halter-fishnet dress and a suspendered frock that swallowed the model who listlessly walked it down the runway. All in all, a nice indication of where fashion is headed.

Shanghai Day 3

10:30 Breakfast is had by walking through Nanjing Road and patronizing the various bakeries and sweetshops that Shanghai is famous for. Apparently the Shanghaiese have a penchant for sweet things.
11:00 Refill our SIM Card at China Mobile. For some reason, this requires we speak with no less than 4 representatives and relocate to an office next door to process the transaction. Bureaucracy is lifestyle here.

12:00 Walk to Shanghai's Children's Palace,

an opulent mansion originally owned by the Khadouri family, Sephardic Jews from Baghdad. Now it is repurposed as a children's facility but it look liked nothing was happening there.
Many old mansions in Shanghai including the Peace Hotel, Victor Sassoon's gothic gem, were owned and built by Shanghai's wealthy Jewish businessmen in the 1930's.
1:00 Taxi (there's a TV screen in the front passenger seat, below)

to Xintiandi, an impressive residential and retail restoration project designed by architecture firm Wood + Zapata. Xintiandi proved to the city of Shanghai that their classic colonial structures were worth saving, and that tourists love to wander around alleyways of manufactured nostalgia.

Like Faneuil Hall in Boston, it works and though it lacks the feeling of a neighborhood that developed organically, it's still a fine place to shop and eat.
1:30 Lunch at Simply Thai, not as good as Cow and Bridge Thai in Guangzhou (possibly the best Thai food in China - according to the guidebook and our bellies) but a worthy effort.
2:00 Walk through Shanghai's antique market, lots of knick knacks and an old Menorah, possibly a remnant of the Shanghai ghetto?

3:00 Everyone says you gotta a massage in China, so we opt for the trendy, Western-friendly Dragonfly. At 120 RMB ($15) for an hour (that's right an hour) of shiatsu massage, Dragonfly is a bargain. Plus, you get to wear regal black pajamas during the treatment.
4:30 Walk from Fuxing Park back to Nanjing Road - pick up some bootleg DVD's on the way: Nacho Libre, Da Vinci Code, Lost Season One. Each is 5 RMB (60 cents) and great quality. Is there anything they can't copy in China?
5:30 Shop at Muji, a Japanese department store on Nanjing Road. Minimalist, logo-free and selling both clothing and housewares, it's like a Japanese Ikea.
6:30 Gather our bags and head to the train station for the Z6 to Beijing.
7:15 All aboard! We have stocked up on plenty of provisions for the 12-hour journey including lots of beer, just in case we make friends. Turns out, the soft sleeper is really comfortable with 4 bunk beds complete with fluffy down comforter and plush pillows. A little table with a flower bud for decoration serves as a place to read and look out the window. Walking through the train is an exercise in keeping your balance while also being a looky-loo; each car is a little world of activity. People are watching movies on their laptops, charging their phones in the hallways, and padding around in the train-issued disposable slippers.
The dining car is quaint and full of chatty travelers. At one table a Chinese and Russian man converse animatedly in Russian. Another table seats a family of four, contently eating their dinner of marinated peanuts and rice. Our fellow sleeper car roommates are a Chinese man and woman who are both traveling alone and very shy about speaking English. That's ok, because after drinking 2 beers I am ridiculously tired. At about 9:45 we each take our bunks and curl up for the coziest night's sleep thus far. The slow rumble of the train lulls us through the night. When we wake it is Beijing.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Free Yoga!

Scope Miami Presents the Flamingo Sculpture Garden

Scope, partnering with its platinum sponsor, Flamingo South Beach, is proud to present the launch of its new program, The Scope Sculpture Garden, which is devoted to showing large-scale sculpture that explores humanitarian, political and environmental issues. Located at Flamingo South Beach 1504 Bay Road in South Beach, serviced daily by a shuttle.

Featured Project:
Marie Lorenz--Let Me Go My Own Free Way
Lorenz's Let Me Go My Own Free Way is a culmination of a two year-long proejct. In the summer of 2005, she began operating The Tide and Current Taxi, where she transported people around New York using the tides and currents in the harbor, taking people along familiar routes--to work or places that they went every day. The second year, she concentrated on taking people to places that they could not go unless they went by boat, such as islands or unreachable spots along the coast. After each trip, Lorenz records the events online, which can be seen at

For Scope Miami, Lorenz will perform a version of the Tide and Current Taxi in Miami called, The Waters Let Me Go My Own Free Way, where she will ferry people across the Bay of Biscayne from the Flamingo South Beach Sculpture Garden.
More Info: Scope Art Fair

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Housing Developments in China - We're not in Kansas Anymore

Gated communities are a well known phenomenon of the American landscape. Now China has caught onto the cookie-cutter home development boom as well. China's middle class is growing exponentially and once it fully explodes (probably within the next 20 years) there will be major demand for these meticulously planned communities. This picture was taken at the Guangzhou airport, the epicenter of Chinese foreign manufacturing and trade. Aside from the Chinese characters, this could be a poster for any suburban subdivision in America. It's even on a waterfront (can't tell if that's man made or a natural lake). Whatever the environmental impact will be of developing single-family housing for a population of China's scale, it certainly won't add to China's already strained eco-status.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

To Do on Wednesday: Free Drinks, Free Food, Free Movie or Ariana Huffington

There's lots going on Wednesday. Here's a quick list:
Arianna Huffington does her thing at the Miami Book Fair
8pm-10pm Cieolo Garden & Supper Club hosts cocktails and bites in honor of their grand opening. 3390 Mary Street, Coconut Grove.
8:30pm Free Screening of Shadya
9pm - 12am Flirt With Flavor hosts an Absolut-sponsored soiree at Karma, 2325 Galiano Street, Coral Gables. You can also meet the authors of Bar Code, a book that I am sure goes well with a martini.

Who Wants a Free T-Shirt?

In Praise of Lawson's

I'm on a Pico Iyer kick, probably because he's so damn good. In this essay he lauds Lawson's (above), a convenience store chain in Japan. These stores are remarkable; incredibly functional with a variety of fresh, strange food and daily use items available all day. One morning there we joined the parade of uniformed schoolboys buying their morning sushi and black bean pop tarts and for a few moments we were part of that quaint Tokyo suburb. Iyer sums it up very well:

The convenience store is a model of Japan in miniature: the triumph of function over fuss and of ease over embarrassment. Just as you can buy whiskey, eggs, pornography and even (it is said) women's underwear in vending machines, so you can all but live in convenience stores. I pay my phone bills and send my packages through the local branch of the national Lawson chain (named after the defunct American Lawson); I buy my bus cards there and tickets for Neil Young concerts. I make the convenience store my de facto office, lingering by the photocopier for hours on end and then faxing an article, say, to New York. Yet the first law of Japan, even in Lawson, is that nothing is what it seems, and that you can find all the cultures of the world here, made Japanese and strange. Here, in the four thin aisles of my local store, are the McVitie's digestives of my youth -- turned into bite-size afterthoughts. Here are Milky Bar chocolates, converted into bullet-size pellets. Here are Mentos in shades of lime and grape, cans of ''Strawberry Milk Tea'' and the Smarties I used to collect as a boy, refashioned as ''Marble Chocolate.'' Were Marcel Proust to come to Lawson, he would find his madeleines daily but made smaller, sweeter and mnemonically new.

It's common to hear that Japan has created a promiscuous anthology of the world's best styles. And the convenience store is the center of this. Tubs of Earl Grey ice cream, sticks of mangosteen chewing gum, green-tea-flavored KitKat bars: they're all here in abundance (though, in fashion-victimized Japan, no sooner have I developed a fondness for KissMint chewing gum ''for Etiquette'' than it has been supplanted by ice creams in the shape of watermelon slices). And even the smallest chocolate bar comes with an English-language inscription that, in the Japanese way, makes no sense whatsoever, yet confers on everything the perfume of an enigmatic fairy tale: ''A lovely and tiny twig,'' says my box of Koeda chocolates, ''is a heroine's treasured chocolate born in the forest.''

In modern Japan, the convenience store is taken to be the spiritual home of the boys in hip-hop shorts and the girls with shocking yellow hair and artificial tans, who try with their every move -- eating in the street, squatting on the sidewalk -- to show that they take their cues from 50 Cent and not Mrs. Suzuki. The door of my local Lawson has badges to denote police surveillance, and where the great 20th-century novelist Junichiro Tanizaki praised shadows (nuance, ambiguity, the lure of the half-seen) as the essence of the Japan he loved, Lawson speaks for a new fluorescent, posthuman -- even anti-Japanese -- future. And yet, in the 12 years I've lived on and off in my mock-California suburb, the one person who has come to embody for me all the care for detail and solicitude I love in Japan is, in fact, the lady at the cash register in Lawson. Small, short-haired and perpetually harried, Hirata-san races to the back of the store to fetch coupons for me that will give me 10 cents off my ''Moisture Dessert.'' She bows to the local gangster who leaves his Bentley running and comes in the store with his high-heeled moll to claim some litchi-flavored strangeness. When occasionally I don't show up for six or seven hours, she sends, through my housemates, a bag of French fries to revive me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shanghai Day 2: The Love Affair Continues

11:00 Shopping bonanza at Shanghai’s knockoff market – in addition to the usual designer fakes like watches, sneakers, and bags there are silk purses, linen tissue box covers, and other Chinese souvenirs like chopsticks and slippers. You got to haggle hard here. The calculator becomes a fantastic bargaining intermediary as buyers and sellers of all nationalities emphatically punch numbers onto the keyboard and argue in the only language common to both – numbers.
2:30 Buy train tickets for next day’s 12-hour overnight trip to Beijing. The “soft sleeper” in a 4-bed car costs about $60 each. Only con is having to share the car with two mystery travelers. The area outside Shanghai train station indicates that not everyone enjoys prosperity in Shanghai; crowds of Chinese laborers and travelers from rural areas are camped out either waiting for trains or with nowhere to go.
3:30 Metro to People’s Park, a peaceful gem on Shanghai’s urban landscape. Inside the park there’s the Museum of Contemporary Art (below) and the Shanghai Art Museum.

4:00 Peruse the collection at the MOCA (admission is 20RMB or $2.50).

Outside event managers are constructing a display for the dance party that will kick off the Fringe Shanghai Festival that night.

4:45 Late lunch at MOCA's rooftop café. Fantastic views of the park and surrounding skyscrapers. Nice gourmet pizza and coffee for 68RMB ($8).

6:00 After leaving the museum we walk through the park and don’t get too far before we happen upon Barbarossa, a soothing Moroccan lounge perched on a lake in the park. Happy Hour from 5-8 means we are in time for half-price drinks.

7:00 Walk to Houaihai Road, a shopping thoroughfare in the French Concession. The winter lights lend a magical touch to this busy shopping district.

9:00 Dinner at South Beauty 881, a high-concept restaurant complex featuring well-executed Sichuan Fusion cuisine and uber-stylish décor.

The setting is a converted banker’s mansion reconfigured by Japanese design firm Super Potato for a $7.5 million price tag. The space includes cozy colonial private dining rooms inside the mansion, a soothing outdoor patio with an Infiniti pool-style pond and a detached dining room outside whose wooden brick walls are reminiscent of a Jenga set.

The food is superb with plenty of spicy Sichuan dishes including marinated wood ear mushrooms (28 RMB, $4.50), braised green beans in ginger sauce (16 RMB, $2), individual servings of Dan-Dan noodles (8RMB, $1 each) and a fried fish platter (58 RMB, $7) that was prepared by shredding the fish, battering and frying it and covering it in a delicious sweet sauce. The artful presentations and surroundings are interesting enough to keep you entertained. The prices at South Beauty were incredibly affordable given that it is such a shmancy place. Dinner for three people including multiple beers came to about $50 (probably because we shied away from the pricier menu options including shark's fin and bird's nest). The love affair with Shanghai just became a torrid infatuation!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The State of Jet Lag: No Guidebook to Help You Now

Being jet lagged is like taking a bunch of drugs and then not really getting high, but sort of altering your consciousness a bit, and feeling like an omelet at 3 in the morning is totally normal. The past week has seen my body rebelling against any measure to acclimate to Eastern Standard Time. I know I shouldn't, but I have given in to napping in the middle of the day and then sleeping from say, 9pm to 2am. This has resulted in a hazy semi-reality during the day - I try to accomplish tasks but I am completely useless. Pico Iyer has a great essay about this nether-world of the jet lag state. In it he talks about the emotional and mental strangeness brought on by switching time zones:

Under jet lag...something deeper is dissolved. I get off a plane, 17 hours out of joint, and tell naked secrets to a person I know I don't trust. A friend starts talking about her days -- her plans, her friends, the things she wants to do -- and tears start welling in my eyes, in a restaurant. I can't sleep at night (because I've been sleeping in the day), and so I try to go through my routine, as I might in the normal world. But I write the wrong name on the uncharacteristically emotional letter. I shower the stranger with endearments. When the lady at the bank offers to credit my account with $3,000 in exchange for the $30,000 check I have given her (a large part of my yearly income), I smile and say, ''Have a nice day.''

I often think that I have traveled into a deeply foreign country under jet lag, somewhere more mysterious in its way than India or Morocco. A place that no human had ever been until 40 or so years ago and yet, now, a place where more and more of us spend more and more of our lives. It's not quite a dream state, but it's certainly not wakefulness, and though it seems as if we're visiting another continent, there are no maps or guidebooks to this other world. There are not even any clocks.

But under jet lag, of course, you lose all sense of where or who you are. You get up and walk toward the bathroom and bang into a chair. You reach toward the figure next to you and then remember that she's 7,000 miles away, at work. You get up for lunch, and then remember that you have eaten lunch six times already. You feel almost like an exile, a fugitive of sorts, as you walk along the hotel corridor at 4 a.m., while all good souls are in their beds, and then begin to yawn as everyone around you goes to work. The day is stretched and stretched, in this foreign world of displacement, till it snaps.

Iyer notes that the jet lag phenomenon is a product of the last 40 years of advances in air travel. It seems that all the time we save by flying to our far-off destinations we ultimately waste when we return home and it takes about a week to normalize. Makes me crave the old days of 3-week long ship voyages to the Far East, except then you're dealing with acquiring your "sea legs." Perhaps humans are not built for long distance travel....

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Shanghai Day 1: You Had Me at the Bund

It may be a hackneyed phrase, but Shanghai is the Paris of China. If the Maglev train that whisks visitors from the Pudong airport to the city center represents anything about this city, it is the incredible speed and elegance with which Shanghai is hurtling into the future. Though our time there was too short, we were able to scratch the surface of this cosmopolitan metropolis, a beacon of development and urban planning in an otherwise traffic-choked country. From the historical restoration project/shopping mecca called Xintiandi, to the neoclassical monoliths on the Bund that now host global restaurants, to the "six-star" hotels in Pudong, Shanghai is one of the most fascinating and romantic cities in China.
Obligatory Rundown:
10:30 Arrival
11:15 Lunch at Godly Vegetarian Restaurant ( 445 Nanjing Xi Lu; West of People's Square and close to the Art Museum) for a sumptuous fake-meat feast. Highly recommended for its soothing temple decor, incredibly low prices and high quality vegetarian food. The smoked duck, crab salad, and stir-fried beef were faux-tastic. Judging by the crowded ladies lunching that day, it's a popular spot in the city.
2:00 Walk through the French Concession, a neighborhood filled with charming brick row houses and colonial era mansions.
4:00 Make it to Shanghai's Old City where alleyways are filled with Asian tourists and cute souvenir shops. Of course, there is the mandatory Starbucks, this time nestled in ye olde pagoda (below).

We attempt to enter the tea house in YuYuan Garden, where Bill Clinton has enjoyed tea but alas, the gardens are closed for the day.
5:00 Ferry (25 cents) to Pudong, a section of Shanghai that is home to the Jin Mao Tower, the tallest building in China at 88 floors and will soon be home to the World Financial Center surpassing Jin Mao at 101 floors. To answer your question, yes, the world really does need these tall buildings. Pictured below is the Jin Mao with the construction of the WFC in the foreground.

Oh, and the WFC will only be the tallest building in the world until it is surpassed by the gigantour Burj Tower in Dubai which will rise to the heavens at 160 floors. It's like Dubai and Asia are in a race for the most retarded buildings ever.
6:00 Drinks at Cloud 9 located at the Grand Hyatt in the Jin Mao building. The highest bar in the world, this lounge is located at the 87th floor. I actually preferred the view in the hotel's lobby at the 54th floor, but that's just me.
The atrium of the Grand Hyatt spans the 56th-87th floors. Standing at the bottom feels like being in an oversized conch shell.

The Grand Hyatt also boasts the highest swimming pool in the world at the 57th floor. We took a few moments to admire a man enjoying a swim in a speedo, and the view.

7:30 Satiated with Pudong skyscraper madness we take the metro back to Shanghai and check out the Bund, a picturesque neighborhood on the Huangpo River. The colonial buildings on the Bund have recently undergone massive restorations and become home to many high-end boutiques, resturants (Jean Georges and Jacques and Laurent Pourcel have outposts here) and rooftop bars with magnificent views of Pudong.
8:00 Eighteen on the Bund features Bar Rouge, a new Shanghai gliteratti magnet. The rooftop cabanas offer both views of Pudong and the pretty people who can afford the minimum 1600 RMB ($200) bed fee.

Also at 18 is the Pourcel-run Sens & Bund (French cuisine) which was willing to seat us despite the lack of a reservation, though we declined since we already had dinner plans. A refreshing aspect of all these Western upscale restaurants and hotels is their complete lack of snootiness. They were always willing to give us a table without reservation even we looked quite travel-worn. That rarely happens in cities like New York or Miami.
8:45 Three on the Bund. Redesigned by Michael Graves it hosts the Evian Spa, an Armani store and three reputable restaurants. We peek into Jean Georges (French) which has the best views of the building, Laris (Australian) is warm and stylish and Whampoa Club (Shanghai cuisine) sports playful Asian decor. The food is all very top notch, but it is ultimately the Blade Runner-esque views of Pudong that draw the crowds.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Free Screening of "Shadya" on Wednesday November 15

15 WED 8:30pm: Independent LENS 2006-2007 Florida Premiere!
Shadya, a 17-year-old Muslim girl, Israeli citizen and World Karate Champion fights to win her independence from the traditional life expected by her community. She does not want to be like other girls in her village. Her father is the only one who supports her, the only one who prepares her for the fight of her life. SHADYA is a compassionate and painfully honest exploration of the evolution of a young Israeli-Arab woman with feminist ideas in a male-dominated culture set against the backdrop of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Miami Beach Cinematheque
512 Espanola Way
Miami Beach, FL 33139
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To Do This Weekend: Iranian Festival @ Bayfront Park

Featuring food, music, dance, arts, crafts and storytelling the Iraninan Festival rides its magical carpet into town this weekend.
Date: Saturday November 11, 11:00 am-9:00pm
Location: Bayfront Park
Maybe they'll have tahdig on a stick!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Asia Fun Fact: Bamboo Scaffolding

A sign of the melding of both the old and new that is constantly manifesting itself in Asia is the quirky and unexpected use of Bamboo scaffolding in construction projects. Cranes are a ubiquitous site in cities across China, and from Hong Kong to Shanghai gargantuan buildings rise daily with the use of this beautifully simple material. At first you think, that can't possibly be safe, but when you see it up close and observe construction workers acrobatically maneuvering through the wooden latticework you realize it's just as stable as metal and lot more poetic. Seeing a building completely clad in Bamboo rivals any public art project. Eat your heart out, Christo.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Back in the USA

Wasn't able to blog the last few days in Beijing, probably because BJ is the capitol city and thus the epicenter of the "filters." I couldn't even access blogger publisher. So there's lots to update from the rest of our time in Shanghai and the last few days in Beijing including raucous jaunts to "eyeglass city" and the Great Wall.
We are back in NYC for a screening of our film (above) at the Makor Film Festival on Tuesday at 7 pm. Come on out if you're up for a Jewish archaeological thriller.
Details here

Hong Kong Day 3

8:00 Breakfast at MX Cafe (above) in North Point, a section of Hong Kong that is like Chinatown times a thousand. We attempt a congee breakfast special but to our dismay pork abounds in the thick corn soup. We settle for the coffee and tea and people watching. Did I mention that in Asia there are TV screens everywhere? In the elevators, taxis, even at breakfast counters.
9:00 Temporarily lose appetite walking through North Point after encountering a sidewalk butcher shop and what appears to be a horse's tail on a hook.

Did I mention that Cantonese cusine (the primary cooking style of Southern China and Hong Kong)comprises everything that walks, flies, or swims? Every. Thing. More about this later.
10:15 Attempt a Dim Sum breakfast at Luk Yu Teahouse, the oldest and most famous teahouse in Hong Kong. Dating from the 1930's it features original wooden booths, ceiling fans, and spittoons. It also features an unfriendly and surly staff. After being ignored and chuckled at for about 45 minutes, we pay $4 for tepid tea and decide that Dim Sum is too mysterious a food to attempt without a Chinese-speaking friend.

1:30 Lunch at the Roof Garden at the Fringe Club, a lovely lunch spot. The vegetarian buffet (75 HKD) is super fresh and tasty with plenty of Asian and Thai options. The rooftop tables are a nice break from the hectic Hong Kong alleyways.
2:30 Star Ferry back to Kowloon for some shopping. The IT Store has all kinds of designer goods at big discounts but we're looking for the fake stuff. Head to Mung Kok "Ladies Market" for the replica handbags, sneakers, and watches. Despite the plethora of options we don't buy much, maybe beause the sellers are so agressive, maybe because the place seems so unsavory.
5:00 Ferry back to HK Island
Dinner at Veggie XP, a supposedly good vegetarian restuarant with faux versions of seafood and meat. We order the fake shark-fin soup, fried snails (below), and a chicken thing.

All of it except for the chicken is strange and not appetizing. And the service was not very good. Overpriced too. I don't reccommend if you're looking for vegetarian food in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Day 2

8:00 Breakfast at Pacific Coffee, a Starbucks-like chain in Hong Kong, with British colonial flavor.
9:30 Check out the Hong Kong Convention Center where the KenFair is taking place, lots of Chinese companies exhibiting their products (a drop in the bucket compared to Canton Fair).
2:30 Visit the HSBC building, designed by Norman Foster, the building is raised on pillars to allow for foot traffic to pass underneath and a glass bottom allows pedestrians to look up into the back activity above. It is admired in Hong Kong for its perfect Feng Shui.

3:00 Peak Tram up the 45-degree Victoria Peak. Amazing views of the Hong Kong syline (above). Very touristy mall at the top. The best place to have a beer is at the Lookout Point Restaurant (below) across from the new mall built on the peak. The restaurant is old-school British patio-style dining with Indian selections on the menu. Dining there feels a bit like the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

4:15 Walk down the steep peak. Very quiet and a bit treacherous.
5:30 Reach the "Mid-Levels," an escalator city whereby people commute on a mile-long escalator that runs through cafe areas, stores, and apartment buildings. In the morning the escalators only run down and in the evening, up.

We grab a happy-hour beer and watch the commuters slowly ascend to their apartments buildings perched precariously on the side of the mountain. The crowd here is very Western with lots of British finance-types and young attractive anglos who seem ambitious and hard party-ers.

7:00 IFC Mall in the building (above) designed by I.M. Pei (not so admired by the locals for its bad Feng Shui). On the roof there's a party going on at Isola, an Italian restaurant. Also on the roof is Red Bar (below) with an unexciting menu of California Fusion cuisine and cocktails, but the view across to Kowloon is spectacular. Both the decor and food and drink offerings at Red highlight the fact that at a certain point, all these nightlife "hotspots" around the world are becoming alarmingly homogeneous. Aside from the view, this bar could be in Tel Aviv, Miami or Barcelona. The same furniture, appetizers and martinis can be had in every cosmopolitan city.

9:30 Dinner at Xi Yan Sweets, the brainchild of foodie Jacky Yu. Amazing food, wonderful service, great decor, a great place to dine if you are in Hong Kong.

The fried fish in apple curry sauce (above) alone is worth a colonial conquest of the Orient. And it's so cheap! Dinner for 2 with drinks came to about $40.