Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jewish Music from India @ New World Symphony

New World Symphony gets spicy with a concert featuring the songs of Indian and Iraqi Jewish communities.
Time: Saturday, February 3rd at 8:00 PM in Temple Emanu-El’s sanctuary located at 1701 Washington Ave. in South Beach (across from the Jackie Gleason Theatre). The event, presented by Temple Emanu-El and the FIU Center for the Study of Spirituality will feature Cantor George Mordecai and a talented ensemble of Middle Eastern and Indian musicians as well as a gallery talk by author.
General admission tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Complimentary valet parking provided. To purchase tickets over the phone call Temple Emanu-El at 305-538-2503.

NWS will also be sponsoring a FREE concert on Tuesday February 6 at 7:00pm at the Lincoln Theater (541 Lincoln Rd).
More info here.

Amadana: The Cadillac of Calculators

As seen in my article in InsideOut magazine.
Architect Shuwa Tei’s sculptural calculators are cult items in well-heeled Japanese circles. He has designed Tokyo’s first boutique hotel (the Claska Hotel) in addition to a kitchen appliance line for Toshiba. At the Amadana flagship store in Omotosando Hills, well-dressed couples pore over glass display cases of those sleek calculators ($60-$85), angular phones with bamboo casings ($220), and retro-styled electronic housewares like a mini-baking ovens ($150). I haven’t used a calculate in years, but Tei’s classy number cruncher proved an enticing tool for calculating how much I’d been spending on this shopping outing.

Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Omotesando Station Exit A2

Monday, January 29, 2007

New York Chefs Spill the Beans

American Express sponsored this site that features video clips of New York chefs and food writers recommending great brunch places, late night restaurants and other foodie secrets.
Quick revelations:
Daniel Boulud recommends Sushi Seki, a late-night sushi haunt of famous New York chefs, for a spicy tuna roll at 1am.
Food writer Andrea Strong says Public restaurant is good both for food and atmosphere (also because the lighting in there makes everyone look great).
Momofuku Noodle Bar owner David Chang likes to eat at Sakegura, a subterranean Japanese spot known for high-quality sake and izakaya-style (Japanese bar) food.

S and O Tokyo: Cute Happy Clean!

S and O: Sweet and Objects is one of three stores of a chain of shops from the Mori Art Center, the private museum funded by wealthy developer Minoru Mori. This is definitely the place to get your cute on as they feature lots of precious cartoony items. The store is located on an outer floor of Tadao Ando's brilliant Ommotesando Hills Mall.
3F Ommotesando Hills

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mahou Beer Launch @ Casa Casuarina

A fitting celebration for the North American launch of the most popular (and quite drinkable) beer in Spain. There was lots of aforementioned beer, waitstaff dressed in conquistador costumes, flamenco dancers and tapas to taste. All of it was nestled in the opluent confines of Casa Casuarina, formerly known (and sometimes still referred to) as the Versace Mansion. This venue knows no limits when it comes to excess; the toilets are marble, the grounds are sprawling and there are lots of courtyards and archways. The only downside to Casa C is that all those cobblestones are tough on high heels - it's like trying to wand your way through a Mediterranean city. Below is the mosaic tiling in the ladies powder room.

Estaban Cortazar hosted the lavish event, thus the crowd was uber-trendy and fashionably daring - I spied a pair of leopard-print knee-boots - totally appropriate footwear for the chilly Miami night. The tapas provided by Barton G included mini-paella cups, skewers of seared tuna with gherkin pickles, and crackers topped with anchovies. For a moment, it did feel a bit like Madrid with so many "grathias's" flitting about. But that was in the cozy confines of the mansion. As soon as you stepped through the wrought iron gates, you were back on Ocean Drive, a world away.

Snake Massages in Israel

Hmm. I'll add this to my next "to do" list when in Israel. It's one spa treatment Indiana Jones would never try - six snakes? How is that even possible?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Food Gang Grand Opening

Surfside is not necessarily on the culinary radar of Miami foodies. Sure there's crowd-pleasing Cafe Ragazzi with its packed tables and waitlist of hungry diners chatting amicably on the sidewalk with glasses of wine on a nightly basis, and Moroccan Nights seems to have resurrected itself with thumping belly-dancing parties now that the SEASON has kicked in, and of course there's Cine Citta, a stylish kosher eatery, but on the whole, the strip of Harding Avenue south of the Bal Harbour Shops has yet to prove itself as a dining destination. Lo and behold - the Food Gang - savior of discerning palates in the neighborhood. Part restaurant, part gourmet food shop, Food Gang sells a variety of epicurean delights - from Petrossian caviar to tea from French retailer Fauchon to $7 boxes of pasta from Cipriani's of Venice.

There's also an astounding variety of wine and champagne available. It's surprising that the neighborhood waited this long for a substantial wine shop (Big Daddy's not withstanding).

The grand opening party Wednesday drew a mixed crowd - it may be on the beach, but Surfside still has its share of bouffants and guyaberras. But it seemed like the town commissioners and grandmas were having a capitol time tasting all that expensive caviar, cheese and assorted charcuterie and making those bartenders work for their dollar tip (overheard: "You've got to muddle the maraschino cherries when you make a sidecar!"). That said, this ain't your grannie's restaurant: the decor is fresh and clean with lots of orange, white and wood. There's a substantial bar and when the lights dim, a downright sexy loungey feel to the spot. Helming the kitchen is Miami chef Howard Kleinberg (formerly of Ivy Aventura) and he's more than capable of churning out inspired creations with exquisite ingredients.

On display for tasting were platters of exceptionally crisp potato pancakes topped with tuna tartare - a mini-meal itself. Spoons of wild mushroom risotto yielded deep and chewy goodness.

Dessert platters included delicate mini-chocolate chip cookies with chasers of milkshakes or kahlua and hazelnut cream.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Johnny V Grand Opening

Johnny V is back in South Beach and my, what a wonderful homecoming it is! His eponymous restaurant, housed in the chic Hotel Astor, is a stylish showcase for Johnny's upscale bb-q cuisine with Caribbean flare. There were a plethora of food stations, a vodka fountain, trays of champagne, and a dessert table that would make Jenny Craig blush. The food is finger-licking-tastic, a nice combination of naughty and sublime - example: fried yam cakes serve as a base for sauteed collared greens and seared tuna - a nice spin on a party standard.

And the truffle fries (below) are just about the most addictive potato incarnation available on the beach.

The crowd mingled and danced to the live band in the courtyard, Johnny was out and about greeting guests, chatting and generally being a great host. All in all, it was a lovely gut-busting evening and a nice indication of where this restaurant is headed. If Johnny can keep dolling out the savory and imaginative creations, then it's going to get much harder to land a table at this buzz-worthy eatery. Did I mention the desserts? The banana cream pie-lets were scrumptious.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mosaic Tiles = Romance

I am a mosaic tile junkie. It must be something about the geometric shapes and the way they make any floor seem as majestic and complicated as the ceiling of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Or maybe they hearken back to the Ottoman era of Palestine, a time when colonial soldiers drank tea in overgrown gardens and people went on archaeological expeditions. So whenever I'm in Israel I pay special attention to faded, musty tile designs that still pepper many old apartments and courtyards. I'm waiting for an Israeli textile designer to start incorporating these colors and patterns into an awesome bedspread. Any takers?

A Whole Lotta Cranes

I managed to do some bird watching while in Israel and I will admit, it's quite mesmerizing. The shot above is of the Hula Valley Nature Reserve, a valley that once was a swamp, was drained by the Israeli government only to become an ecological mistake, and then was promptly reflooded to return to its happy swampy state. There are still lots of farms in the Hula Valley and, turns out, cranes love to eat all the tasty crops, hence Israel is now home to over 20,000 cranes that pass the winter hanging in the Hula en route from Europe to Africa. To solve this problem, the farmers have teemed up with JNF and the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel for a crane-feeding project whereby they distribute 200 tons of corn over areas where the cranes congregate. It's a good deal - the cranes get fed, the farmers are happy, and tourists flock to the nature reserve to observe these graceful creatures.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Pausa: Slow Food in Israel

In a country where things move too fast, too hectically, and no one has time, it would seem that a movement to put the slow back into food preparation would never catch on. So it's suprising to learn that the slow food movement is gaining momentum in Israel. Based on the principle that one's food should not originate too far from the plate, slow food emphasizes fresh, seasonal ingredients, a slow cooking process, and in some cases, organic farming methods. On the forefront of slow food in Israel is Pausa Inn, a charming bed and breakfast (but really dinner is where the action is) in northern Israel. I had heard about Pausa this summer when an article appeared during the war with Hizbolla that said how this quiet little inn was staying open and serving their long attentive meals while Katusha rockets were falling all around them. Turns out they had a lot of journalists staying with them this summer and that's how they managed to stay afloat when so many other hotels and businesses in the north lost income during the war. When I visited Pausa last week, owners Avigdor and Reinat treated me to a delectable chocolate mousse. Flavored with fresh mint from Avigdor's garden and dusted with coconut shavings it was deep and soulful, a richly decadent testament to the wonders of slow cooking. Accompanied by a strong espresso in Avigdor's originally-designed metallic-ceramic cups, the dessert won me over. If this is what slow food is like bring on the dilly-dallying.

Adventures in Sabra-Land

Apologies for the radio silence. Been in Israel hopping all around the country - from the northern most city Metulla (which borders Lebanon) to sunny beachy Eilat in the south, this is what I've been doing: painting bomb shelters in the North, filming young people visiting Israel for the first time, getting to know some interesting Israeli restaurants, catching a bad head cold, recovering from aforementioned bad head cold, researching design stores in Tel Aviv, and you know, just plain enjoying this wonderful little pocket of fun in Middle East. Pics on the way.