Monday, April 30, 2007

Shecky's @ The Moore Building

Oh Shecky's. You tried really hard. And I suppose you meant well. Shopping + cocktails should equal an awesome event, right? But maybe Miami is looking for something more than jeans called "Little in the Middle" (you know, for ladies with small waists, and more down below), or little wallets shaped like girly panties.

Maybe when you say "designer boutiques" Miami women assume there will be actual fashion designers in attendance. You did tout an "overstuffed" goodie bag and every girl made sure to get hers before venturing into the Moore Building's 4 floors of flea market goods. It would be nice if the contents of said gift bag was not weighed down by an 8oz. bottle of "Sea Breeze" and a magazine of dubious origin called New Beauty (approx. 4 pounds). Who is Shecky anyway, and why does he/she insist on charging people to shop? The best feature of the event was the Moore Building itself, a visual wonder made more intriguing by Zaha Hadid's elastic Art Basel 2005 installation.

There was one gal with pretty embroidered purses and Asian robes called Perfume River.

The different liquor sponsors on each floor certainly made things more interesting. But the Designer showcase next door, at the new Damon Japonais space was the place to go for real local designer duds. Krelwear was selling her tubular knits at 70% off and the Cardiac boys were showing some distinctive mohair and tassel embellished frocks. Plus, champagne!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Somebody Call for a Taxi?

Danny Devito's restaurant on Ocean Drive looks not quite open yet. Delayed, of course. Word on the street is that it will be mid-May. Is this poster an indication of the interior decor? I hope so!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

EarthFest, EcoSpectacular

Earthfest festivities last Sunday were ecotastic. All the movers and shakers in the Green world came out to show off their projects and bond as a community. The shoe arch composed of old shoes and decorated by schoolchildren was a fantastic "found-art" way to welcome people to the festival.

Tons of people attended, Stephanie from Rag Trade held a FreeSwap that was so popular that items were coming and going before you could even take stock. Nick Gunia from Alterna Corp was on hand to explain about the recycled building materials his company makes (denim transforms into insulation, recycled glass becomes terazzo flooring).

And Jonathan Marcoschamer from Ecoist had a great booth filled with his eco-fashionable handbags made from recycled candy wrappers and luna bars. Supposedly Paris Hilton has donned these purses at some point in her wacky nightlife.

It was inspiring to see so many young creative people incorporating green principles into their businesses and projects. And all these folks have been working on this stuff before it was trendy to be Green.

I leave you now with my favorite image from the FreeSwap, a Dolphins helmet table lamp. Love it!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Pelican Hotel Cafe

The Pelican Hotel exudes cool to a higher degree than its Art Deco counterparts on Ocean Drive. This is due to the fact that it is the only hotel in the world owned and operated by Diesel, the apparel company. The brand's quirky vintage aesthetic combined with a refined trend radar make it a welcome attraction to the relaxed South Beach hipsters that feel at home at the Hotel's casual cafe. Interesting door handles are one thing, quality food is another. While there are a plethora of restaurants to choose from on the Ocean Drive strip, the Pelican distinguishes itself with earnestly good food, purity of ingredients and a penchant for bold flavors.
There's plenty to choose from on the extensive menu from salads and pastas to substantial fish and seafood entrees. The kitchen is helmed by Chef Stefano Zen, who mingles Mediterranean cuisine with Italian gestures in an effort to highlight the best of both worlds. A normally pedestrian Caprese salad (left) is given upscale treatment with creamy mozzarella and perfectly ripe tomatoes. The seared tuna salad (top) is a melange of moist fish, crisp endives , kalamata olives and hearts of palm. Several of the Pelican's pasta dishes are homemade including the standout spinach-ricotta ravioli nestled in a parmesan cream sauce flecked with mint.
I am a bit obsessed with french fries of late and the Pelican's rustic wedges did not disappoint. With the just right amount of salt and crunch, they were refreshing change form the usual shoestrings so ubiquitous these days. The Pelican's outdoor porch is nestled comfortably above the fray of Ocean Drive, though the indoor dining room features much of the hotel's inventive decor. One thing is certain, the chocolate cake at the Pelican goes best with a view of the beach and the scoop of the vanilla ice cream that accompanies it.

The Cafe at the Pelican Hotel
826 Ocean Drive, South Beach

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"This American Life" Backlash

It was bound to happen...
The New Yorker on why Ira Glass thinks he's a preacher.
The Onion magnificently skewers the entire enterprise. A quote:
This American Life host and producer Ira Glass began work on the project in 1995 in Chicago, where he found himself inspired by and catering to an audience of professionals who dine out frequently and have a hard time getting angry. Glass and his team of producers, writers, and interns set about the exhausting task of gathering all available information on a range of subjects from minor skirmishes with the law to the rewards of occasionally talking to poor people. The raw data was then analyzed, deconstructed, reconstructed, re-deconstructed, organized under a broad philosophical title, and interspliced with musical interludes by rock duo They Might Be Giants.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dreaming of Wagamamas

Wagamama opens its first USA-based outlet in Boston. When I tried them in London 5 years ago I was hooked. Super-fast, high-quality noodle dishes. Could a Miami Wagamama be in the future?

Cafe Emunah, Nectar of the Gods

I stopped by Cafe Emunah in Ft. Lauderdale the other night and I had one of the best meals of my life. The place bills itself a "Kabbalah Cafe" and that comes through in its use of organic ingredients and it's oasis-like atmosphere. The place just feels healthy when you walk in. Yet the food is actually gluttonously good. And for a kosher place it is fantastically better staffed and better designed than any kosher eatery in South Florida. The servers there actually enjoy working there and pay attention to you. And the Scandinavian-Zen decor is nice and soothing. We tried a sushi platter, which included a "Moses Roll" and an "East Meets West Roll" with white tuna and shitake mushrooms.

A salad of hydroponic garden greens, avocado and candied ginger.

A halibut with swiss chard and tasty little organic tomatoes.

And a meaty hunk of Chilean Sea Bass with bonita mash and passion fruit vinaigrette.

Desserts were "Kabbalah Carrot Cake," chocolate cheese cake and "Chai Tea Brulee," all of them superb.

The best thing about eating organic is that you feel so much better afterwards. I don't get that crazy heavy-listless-Jabba-the-Hut feeling I usually get after big meals. And the place is also vegan-friendly, a rarity in South Florida.
Cafe Emunah is located at 3558 North Ocean Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Palm Beach Film Festival Awards Gala @ Boca Raton Resort

Couldn't help posting these pics I took at the Palm Beach Film Fest Gala Saturday night. Damn, people in Palm Beach are old! Every time I venture to Boca or Palm Beach I am SO thankful that I live in Miami, home of diversity and tanned people. I think this woman is almost as pickled as those olives in her martini...

I managed to snag a picture of Malcom McDowell, he of Clockwork Orange fame. The festival awarded him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Could he be any whiter?

Monterey Wine Country Tour @ Nikki Beach

Oenophiles had their day in the sun at Thursday's Monterey Wine Country tasting at Nikki Beach's St. Tropez-like backyard. There were over 20 wineries represented at the tasting, with smaller boutique operations in attendance. I discovered some new favorites like Michaud Vineyard's 2001 Chardonay and J. Lohr Vineyard's Arroyo Vista Chardonay.

Nikki Beach was a great setting for this kind of relaxed browsing with white canvas chairs and outdoor beds positioned on the sand for lounging. There was also plenty of decadent treats to stem the tipsiness. Student chefs from hospitality school Hialeah concocted chocolate covered strawberries and other appetizers.

The venue prepared platters of desserts like mini-tarts and key lime pies. There was also some hearty beef but I was too busy trying all the sweet stuff. Overall, it was a great culinary experience and made me feel a little closer to the characters in Sideways.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Miami Beach Polo World Cup

Watching the FedEx Polo World Cup competition on the sand behind the Setai Hotel in Miami Beach was a fantastic way to spend last weekend. Despite the cloudy weather on Sunday (the rest of the weekend was blazing hot sun) Polo enthusiasts gathered on the beach to watch the games and to bask in the smell of horses, the ocean and champagne. The spectator tent was teeming with polo players taking a break, fashionistas in their best party dresses and lots of people wearing white BEFORE Memorial Day, mind you. Miami channeled a little bit of the Hamptons that weekend, and if that means wearing stilettos and gold to the beach, than so be it.

Uri Grossman, et al

Today is Memorial Day in Israel, a time to remember the 22,305 soldiers who have died in combat or in Arab attacks since 1860. There is an ambient sadness in Israel on Memorial Day. The radio stations play sad music all day long, the TV channels run documentaries and shows about the wars and soldiers that have died. Like Holocaust Remembrance Day there is a 2-minute siren of silence where everything, everyone stops and stands silent to remember the dead. This Memorial Day is particularly raw since it commemorates the soldiers who died in Lebanon this summer, including Uri Grossman, who died at age 20 along with 34 other soldiers in the last weekend of the war. Uri was the son of Israeli author David Grossman, a noted leftist peacenik and the author of Someone to Run With, a book that every Israeli teenager reads and loves, much like Catcher in the Rye. I recommend picking up a David Grossman book if you're interested, as his writing is powerful. Here is an excerpt from the eulogy he wrote for Uri:

At twenty to three on Saturday night, there was a ring at our door. Over the intercom, they announced themselves as army officers. We had already been through three days when almost every thought that entered our minds began with a negative. He won't come. We won't speak. We won't laugh. There will be no more of that boy with the ironic grin and the crazy sense of humor. No more of that young man with wisdom beyond his years. No more warm smile and no more healthy appetite. No more rare combination of determination and delicateness, no more shrewd common sense and wise-heartedness. No more the infinite gentleness of Uri, and no more silence in which he could calm the stormy atmosphere. No more watching The Simpsons and Seinfeld together, and no more listening to Johnny Cash. No more of your strong hugs, and no more seeing you walking with [your brother] Yonatan, gesticulating wildly as you speak. No more hugs for your beloved [sister] Ruti. No more. No.

Uri, my love, throughout all your short life, we have all learned from you. We learned from your strength and your determination to go about things your own way. To follow your own path even if there was no chance that you'd succeed. We observed in astonishment as you fought to be accepted to a tank officers' course. You were not prepared to be satisfied with giving any less than you knew you were capable of giving. And when you succeeded, I thought, here is someone who knows his abilities so simply and so soberly. Someone with no pretenses and no pride. Who is not influenced by what others say to him. Someone whose source of strength is lodged firmly within himself.

Full text here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Literary Connections between China and Israel

Haaretz has an interesting article on Dr. Zhiqing Zhong, the foremost scholar of Hebrew literature in China today. In her work Zhong draws connections between post-WWII Hebrew and Chinese literature. She examines how Israeli literature responded to the Holocaust and how Chinese literature responded to the Japanese occupation of China.
"Israeli authors of the 1950s were influenced by heroic concepts of the Holocaust," she says. "In response to memories of suffering and humiliation, they sought to glorify the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the partisans. They were influenced by the Zionist ideology of David Ben-Gurion and attempted to provide an example for Israeli youth by fostering a myth of rebellion and power. A good example of this is Aharon Megged's play, 'Hannah Senesh.' That literature also contained elements of negation of the Diaspora."

And what about Chinese literature of that period?

"China, following the establishment of the republic, was also influenced by heroic myths," she says. "Writers then tried to educate the young generation by means of heroes. Most of the heroes in books of that period were strong and they fought foreign invaders. That literature ignored the daily suffering of simple people." Zhiqing points to Li Yang-Ru's "City," "Old Spring Flower," and "Wild Fair," and Feng Deying's "The Bitter Flower," as examples of that genre.

The hero narrative plays a significant role in the act of nation-building. It's fascinating to think about in the context of the Massada story and how it is being dealt with in contemporary Israeli society.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Recent Articles

Been doin' some writin':
A cover story I wrote about the Jews of Florida for February Hadassah Magazine. And another piece in Hadassah about the Jewish builders exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Florida.
My Gen Art fashion show coverage in Biz Bash.
My Forward article about the Florida condo mezuzah scandal. Who knew a 5-inch scroll would cause such a ruckus?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Caffe Da Vinci: Italian Splendor

The word “homemade” is bandied about too easily on Italian menus. At Caffe Da Vinci you can really taste the difference. Fresh pasta has a certain snap to it, a bite that signals perfect al-dente execution and freshness that can not be faked. All pasta at Oggi restaurants are made daily at the restaurant's resident pasta factory, and it shows. From the minute you enter the cozy Bay Harbor Isles outpost of the famed Oggi restaurant empire you know you are in good hands.
Caffe Da Vinci's d├ęcor is striking in that it makes use of more wood and brick than typical restaurants in Miami. It gives the dining room a Northeast feel, a welcome change to the ubiquitous travertine and pastels. A regal old-school walnut bar flanks the left side of the restaurant where one wouldn't feel out of place ordering a Macallan single-malt scotch before dinner, along with the locals that pack the restaurant on any given night.

The fettuccine with salmon cream sauce (above) was chewy and hearty, the meaty chunks of salmon providing heft to the dish. Heavenly pillows of ricotta ravioli were delicate yet held their own beneath a chunky tomato sauce. The restaurant also offers a treat for carb-conscious diners in the form of seaweed spagettini from Korea, with less than 10 carbs per serving. It was fine enough, made much better with the shitake basil sauce, but it's no contest compared with the real thing.
Service is staggering in its efficiency. Plates are promptly cleared, water filled, pepper freshly ground, wine poured with an orchestral rhythm rarely observed this side of the Atlantic. Food arrives just when you wish it would, everything is timed right, the servers trade barbs with regulars with a genuine attentiveness. The wine selection is wide-ranging with plenty of choices from Chile and Argentina in addition to Italian varieties.

Caffe Da Vinci also excels at steaks and seafood, with a mahi entree that comes topped with capers and tomatoes and a side of whipped mashed potatoes. Appetizers also provide adequate company to the spotlight-stealing pasta. A handsome eggplant rollatini (above) came wrapped around warm mozzarella and topped with fresh basil. A portobello starter was a generous portion of marinated strips of mushroom. The “maestro” salad is a nice pairing of apples, Gorgonzola cheese, fennel and mixed greens. Portions are bountiful so there may not be room for dessert but one should not miss the indulgent Tiramisu (below), its mascarpone cheese whipped to an airy lightness.

Italian restaurants are not hard to find in South Florida. Spaghetti joints dot our coast like lifeguard shacks, each displaying little more individuality than the neighborhood Olive Garden. An Italian restaurant that does things well and does those things consistently and with the kind of grace and charm rarely seen in dining circles hard to find. Caffe Da Vinci is one of those places.
Caffe Da Vinci
1009 Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Isles

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

EarthFest this Sunday

Rebbecca of Greener Miami and Stephanie at Rag Trade are helping organize an Eco extravangza this weekend.
EarthFest 2007
Crandon Park Visitor’s & Biscayne Nature Center
Sunday, April 22nd, from Noon to Sundown
Crandon Park on Key Biscayne North Beach Entrance (map)

Free Admission; $5 parking fee per car

Eco Village inlcludes:
  • “Green” film screenings throughout the day
  • Rain Barrel Workshops
  • Exhibitors of sustainable technologies & eco-friendly products and services
  • Environmental education organizations
  • Water Conservation Displays & Activities
  • Free Swap
    • Bring things to give away to a new home like clothes, books, toys, and more!
    • Take what you want for FREE
  • Computer Recycle Shack
    • Bring cell phones, computers, printers, PDAs, and other electronics for recycling FREE of charge!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Design Crib, Wynwood

On Saturday night's Art walk we stopped by the 2020 Gallery (a new hush-hush space) located in a converted loft on North Miami Court and 20th and happened upon the cavernous Design Crib on the ground floor. The place sells independently manufactured furniture and clothing and has a funky vibe. There was a chandelier composed of wine glasses and a modular bar set with retractable storage. The table set below seemed adequately quirky, but not as whimsical as....

this Naugahyde bench with rickshaw wheels and an impressive stereo system at its base. It was wheeled into the store booming its musical abundance and held court at the front of the store the rest of the night.

Post Secret @ Nexus Pavilion

The Post Secret event at the Nexus 4 sales center was a highlight of this weekend's Art and Design Night in the Design District. We stopped by at around 9pm and the place was packed with everyone from young hipsters to retirees enjoying the free drinks and tasty bites from Pasha's (their spinach cakes are deelish). The postcards were displayed along one wall and there were consistently people perusing the cards at any given moment. I was struck by the card that said something like "I sell cosmetics and lie to women all day." I knew it!
Frank Warren (below, in the white shirt), the man behind the project, was on hand to sign books, chat and be his congenial self.

The Nexus group, the company building the eco-friendly COR building by Chad Oppenheim, has been putting together some innovative events the last few weeks, including the performance by the Krane theatrical troupe at last month's Design Night. I will be working with them on a Green event for next month, so stay tuned, t'will be very exciting!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dinner Plates Take Flight

Adi Fainer's Birds Eye View ceramic dinner pieces have the potential to be objects of obsession. They are simultaneously delicate and rigid yet they express movement in a very palpable way. And I lurve the little "feet" at the bottom. When I called Fainer to see where I could buy these babies he told me they're not yet manufactured for sale. That's the case with a lot of Israeli designers. They create fabulous pieces for furniture shows and then most ends up not getting produced for consumption. Shame. They'd be a lovely addition to anyone's dinner table.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Plastic Persian Carpets

I am really digging Israeli designer Yair Amishay's plastic pegged Persian rugs. Conceptually they're not that exciting (the relationship between old and new, technology meets tradition, etc.), but the execution is fun and texturally pleasing. I also love that these pieces are functional and can be hosed down very easily. In my world, all things should be hosed down easily.

This Weekend: Polo, Fashion, Dance and Post Secret

Channel your inner Anna Wintour with Miami Fashion Week.
"Anna Karenina on Film" @ The Wolfsonian Friday 7pm.
The Polo World Cup gallops into town this weekend with FREE matches behind the Setai.
Miami Beach Dance Festival gives everyone a reason to get out and move.
Post Secret comes to the Design District Arts Walk for a Charlee House fundraiser.
Sunday is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Come hear Daniel Pearl's father speak at the Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial.

Monday, April 09, 2007

GenArt Fresh Faces in Fashion @ Flamingo South Beach

The setting: Flamingo South Beach's massive outdoor courtyard. An 80-foot runway is positioned over the pool. Over 1,000 young and fabulous people.
Everything overlooks the bay.
The details: 7 emerging fashion designers will tout their wares to a trendy crowd.

3 beverage sponsors - Belvedere vodka, some energy drink and smartwater.
1 small dessert station in the VIP lounge and one Sticky Fingers cupcake table = lots of tipsy skinny people. The cupcake trend has fully descended upon the Magic City.

The pre-reception is rife with product placement. Trays of Biore samples. Keratase shampoo tables. Girls with some new beauty accoutrement called Tweezerman hype its heretofore unexplained potential - it's a lotion that helps you tweeze!

A Moet & Chandon VIP lounge includes gift bags (weighed down by an issue of Ocean Drive) and a fun photo booth - everyone is ready for their close-up.

The show starts at 9 - the crowd vies for the rows of white plastic chairs flanking the runway. If your name is not Tinsley, Sandi or Belkys you best watch out. The VIP's chill on their balcony overlooking the pool. Finally, finally, they can get to the champagne bar. Flamingo residents relax on their balconies, a perk of condo living.

The designers are young and fun, the clothes not ground-breaking but not ho-hum either. Afterwards everyone seems more at ease, more likely to try that wacky energy drink going around. Some head out to the after-party at Cameo, others sip espressos from the coffee bars. The models and designers now venture into the crowd, accepting free products and compliments from attendees. Eventually the sprawling Flamingo grounds empty out, the line at the valet swells and everyone makes their way into the Miami night, another glitzy event under the belt.