Category Archives: Cool Places

A night of jazz reverie

By mimorg33


Branford Marsalis

Three-time Grammy winner saxophonist Branford Marsalis, a member of one of America’s most distinguished musical families, will play on March 17th at the Arsht Center’s Knight Hall for the next-to-last concert of 2016-17 Jazz Root Series season. It is not customary for Marsalis along with Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass, and Justin Faulkner on drums, to invite other musicians to play with them. Yet the tight-knit group welcomed superb jazz vocalist Kurt Elling to collaborate on the Upward Spiral project. Together they not only earned a Grammy but also were recently nominated for the 2017 Echo Jazz Awards. On Friday, the ensemble will bring their original, intense jazz sound to the Miami stage.


Kurt Elling

And if that weren’t enough, our own Carmen Lundy, who is celebrating the release of the Code Noir album, will be opening for the quartet. Lundy, a jazz vocalist and a Miami native, will be accompanied by Patrice Rushen on piano and keyboards, James Genus on bass, Kendrick Scott on drums and Andrew Renfroe on guitar.
Don’t miss what promises to be a memorable night of jazz.

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

Knight Hall
March 17th, 8 p.m.


A Business Gathering with a Spanish Accent

By mimorg33


Under a waxing moon with a lovely breeze swaying the palm branches, the Miami skyline shone picture perfect as the backdrop for the second year of Next Destination, Málaga: Gateway to Andalusia, where members of the cruise and shipping industry from Málaga got together with their Miami counterparts along with tour operators, travel agents and other professionals.
The air was perfumed with amontillado wine, tapas and paella; flamenco music played in the background welcoming guests to the Island Gardens on Watson Island for a night of Spanish-style business : with joie de vivre. The Consulate General of Spain in Miami, Don Cándido Creis Estrada, and his charming wife, Carla, presided over the event with typical relaxed style. Despite its laid back demeanor, Málaga is positioning itself to increase its traffic from the North America cruise traveler who in 2015 made up 48% of the total 23 million passengers in that category.

Monteajaque, one of the many White Towns.

Monteajaque, one of the many White Towns.

The area emphasized the many alluring possibilities available to visitors arriving to the port of Málaga that may be easily scheduled as excursions for cruise ship travelers: from the enchantment of the city itself with its many cultural and culinary offerings, to attractions such as the astonishing White Towns, the vibrancy of the Costa del Sol, as well as other cities in that area with the same lovely, easygoing Andalusian poise.

Algatocin, one of the White Towns

Algatocin, one of the White Towns

Chapeau to the organizers of Next Destination, Malaga: Gateway to Andalusia: the Málaga Port Authority, the City of Málaga Tourism and Marketing Department, the Costa del Sol Tourism and Planning Department, the Tourism Department, the Andalusia Advisory Tourism and Sport Board, and Málaga Cruises. In Miami, the effort was supported by the Consulate General of Spain, the Board of Andalusia Foreign Promotion Agency, the Spanish Tourism Office (OET), and the Business Office of the Spanish Embassy. Also several businesses contributed to the success of the evening: Málaga Virgen, Mahou-San Miguel, COVAP, Inés Rosales, Cardenal Mendoza, La Gitana, Hidalgo Imports, Montecristo y La Española.


Union Beer Store: the New Kids in Little Havana


Following an exhausting day comprised of guiding our future voters, as Betsy DeVos, who is less prepared than Oscar the Grouch, was confirmed as Secretary of Education, I followed a friend/colleague to a new place she was raving about, telling me this would be our new hangout spot: the Union Beer Store.  Hanging underneath an old I Love Calle Ocho sign, the storefront is quite humble. The tinted windows were a little confusing making us think maybe it was closed, but to our good fortune, it was not.

We were greeted by Jake, the bartender, a representative from Doral’s M.I.A Brewery and Tony from North Coast Brewing, located in Fort Bragg, California, just a little drive outside of the Napa/Sonoma area.  Union has an intimate feel, detailed with wood, a huge whale, and cool signs such as “Don’t be a Dick” that hovers near the snack area. We tried some of the North Coast brews one of which I simply adore: Old Rasputin, a dark Russian Imperial Stout style beer while my friend had the Old Stock Ale 2016, a wonderful brown ale with some interesting caramel notes.  Both beers are meant to be sipped, which we most certainly did as we chatted with Jake and Tony, while nibbling on Sriracha popcorn that was amazing.

img_0724 img_0727

Shortly after we met the owners, Cici and David…both who may look familiar when you meet them:  while CiCi started the Miami Brew Bus that takes interested folks to nearby breweries. David was part of the founding staff at Lokal in the Grove and later went on as a partner to manage Kush, Lokal’s sister restaurant in Wynwood.

As a huge fan of all the aforementioned spots, particularly Lokal, I immediately felt right at home. This would be our new hangout: wonderful ambiance, an awesome staff and music set at a perfect level to engage in conversation which we enjoyed for quite a while before going home with an assortment of sensational brews.  Go check out Union soon! Here’s their info:

1547 Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), Miami, Fl 33135

and hey, follow them on FB while you’re at it…

Union Beer Store’s Facebook page




Holiday spirit at the Arsht

By mimorg33



Smooth jazz saxophonist David Koz’ second stop on the 19th edition of his annual Christmas Tour will take him to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on November 26 for the Jazz Roots program 10th season second show. The always-engaging Koz, whose multi-faceted career as a recording artist, humanitarian, radio host, entrepreneur and instrumental music advocate is a shining example to the young students participating in the Sound Check educational program. During each season 1,000 aspiring jazz musicians from different high schools in the Miami-Dade Public Schools system are invited to the sound check at the Knight Concert Hall, talk to internationally renowned musicians and attend a Jazz Roots concert free of charge.

Dave Koz, Summer Horns photo shoot, Studio 1444, Hollywood, California. 10 February 2013.

Dave Koz, Summer Horns photo shoot, Studio 1444, Hollywood, California. 10 February 2013.

The lineup ushering the holiday spirit to one of the Magic City’s warmest concert venues includes well-known performers: jazzy R&B crooner Jonathan Butler and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Kenny Lattimore.

Jonathan Butler

Jonathan Butler

Kenny Lattimore

Kenny Lattimore


Typical of the season there will a tinge of nostalgia when it welcomes acclaimed vocalist Valerie Simpson whose album Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again marked her solo comeback after a long songwriting/performing/producing career with Nick Ashford before his passing in 2011. During their years as collaborators she co-wrote such classic hits as Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, You’re All I Need to Get By, Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand and Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing. Get ready to get into the spirit with classics that make you reminisce and inspire your to plan ahead.

Valerie Simpson

Valerie Simpson

Saturday, November 26, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets:  $45 – $125*
John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall

We’ll be looking forward to Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra next on the Jazz Roots schedule January 20. But more on that concert closer to the date.



Fritas with style


By mimorg33

Even though the days when black tie, haute jewelry and frequent Frank Sinatra sightings are gone, the glitzy quality infused in Morris Lapidus’ signature style can still be appreciated when one crosses the glass doors of his landmark design. The Fontainebleau Hotel, built in 1953, continues to reflect the glamour of Miami Beach’s past in the details that were carefully kept during the 2008 renovations such as the original bow tie stamped marble floor and the perforated outer walls of the sickle-shaped original building now called the Chalet Tower to which Miami architect John Nichols added two residential towers visible from the raised oceanfront walkway that overlooks the property.
Down the marble stairs at the Chateau Tower’s lobby where the dramatic chandeliers by internationally recognized Chinese dissident artist AiWeiWei reign one finds a welcome contrast to the other more formal dining spaces. Pizza and Burger by Michael Mina, a concept inspired in the chef’s own backyard kitchen by his two sons love for each item. It debuted during the summer as a pop up but its consistent popularity made it a permanent fixture among the property’s restaurants. Helming the family style fun eatery is Chef de Cuisine Timothy Elmore who comes to Pizza and Burger from Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura. He is not only gracious but reflects great pride in the delectable made from scratch menu he has put together with farm-fresh products. It is comprised of tried and true favorites: a variety of pizzas and burgers with salads and side dishes loved by most.


Among the tempting appetizers I was sent to gustatory heaven with The Meatball ($12) on a thick marinara sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; the sumptuous blue crab stuffing filling The Mushrooms ($14) was topped with garlic butter and parmesan breadcrumbs. My pizza of choice The Parmigiano ($21) combines perfectly fried chunks of eggplant and halved meatballs balanced with an unforgettable Sunday sauce, basil and whole milk mozzarella. Although The MM74 $22) is quite a delicious dry-aged steak burger with double-smoked bacon, American cheese sauce, lettuce and secret sauce when it comes to burgers the winner for me was The Cuban Frita ($22): the perfect balance of beef, chorizo and smoked paprika with an unexpected touch of aïoli sauce and incredibly crispy potato wisps sent me into a journey back to one my childhood myths, not letting down one bit all the sublimation one injects into them. The yummy coconut cream frosting made the Carrot Cake (11) the perfect end. Add to it the charming, attentive and well-informed service provided by Marvin.

Put together it means repeat business for this Miami Beach secluded spot: a perfect after work refuge where to enjoy excellent drinks from an endless selection of locally beer brewers, daily wine specials as well as new versions of mixed cocktails such as Hair Trigger ($13) a sexy combination of Bulleit Bourbon, Drambuie, mint, ginger beer served over ice in a copper mug.
Pizza and Burger is also a place where the kids feel quite welcome and comfortable with different games to keep busy. The music is easy enough that you can hold a conversation without straining your vocal chords.

Pizza & Burger by Michael Mina
Mon. – Thurs. / 5 pm – late
Fri. – Sun. | 12 pm – late
Social hour: daily 5 – 7
Fontainebleau Hotel
4441 Collins Avenue Miami Beach
Miami, FL 33140


KYU: gastronomy with social conscience


By mimorg33

The rhythms of Wynwood with its graffiti-covered façades, kids moving in and out on their skate boards or bikes and art spaces popping up, express an urban language about this area of Miami that speaks of possibilities no other community in the county does. In the midst of this hipster environment one arrives to an open concrete area flanked by a “green wall” covered with ferns and other plants across another with a mural by artists Andrew Antonaccio and Filio Galvez. The minimalist mix of concrete, wood and metal interior is the setting for the Asian fusion food space with a wood-burning grill open kitchen.

A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA), chef Michael Lewis trained with chefs David Bouley at Bouley Bakery and Market and Eric Ripert of Le Bernadin to later work under Jean-Georges at the Michelin three star Central Park West. Together with general manager Steven Haigh culinary excitement is infused at Kyu for local and visiting foodies. With affability Haigh balances his many duties keeping an overall view from the inviting bar with its tempting offerings such as the lovely Smoke & Mirrors ($16): Gracias a Dios mezcal combined with Aperol, Campari and fresh grapefruit juice. Like a missing piece of a puzzle Kyu fits perfectly in this area of urban possibilities.


The term Kyu has multiple meanings given the rich diversity of the Asian world most of us are not versed in. It mainly refers to the ranking system in modern martial arts where you are awarded another kyu for each level achieved. The accuracy with which karate movements are performed can be associated with the way each dish is carefully conceived, crafted and executed. Starting with the simple snacks: the elegant and crunchy kale siting on nam prik
 sauce ($7), crispy pork belly steamed bun
 ($12), fun to eat crispy-spicy hamachi tartare ($18) and the refreshing and delicate tuna tartare sitting on bib lettuce with a touch of yuzu sabayon ($16); one of the most popular veggie dishes is the roasted cauliflower and goat cheese with a shishito-herb vinaigrette ($14). Pairing the appetizers with the delicate Junmai Ginjo’s Rihaku Wandering Poet sake ($11) was a perfect decision. El Niño del Campilo, a 2013 tempranillo ($14) was the choice for an addictive, mouthwatering and flawlessly cooked butter braised chicory Korean fried chicken ($18) and the unforgettably melt-in-you-mouth black shichimi pepper wagyu beef brisket ($36).

Aside from their insistence on sustainable products, I appreciate how Lewis and Haigh live their social consciousness “for every tree we burn we replant 5”. Before opening in February, the restaurant partnered with Trees for the Future to donate 10,000 trees to be planted in Senegal, this was their way of compensating for the wood they would be burning; they also use an Orca composter to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and diminishing Co2 emissions.


KYU Miami in Wynwood Chef Michael Lewis Steven Haigh

I enjoyed Kyu so much that I returned the following Sunday for brunch and tried the yummy soft shell crab on a steamed bun ($12) and the gorgeously stacked beef short rib cooked with a perfectly delectable sweet soy and garlic sauce ($38). On both occasions the ideal complement for me was the Thai fried rice ($20) finished table side on a heated stone pot so that a crust that balances the glutinous short grained rice regularly associated with sushi. On Sunday we tried it with crab meat ($24) but either ways this fragrant dish is worth coming back for time and time again. Yet the grand finale was mom’s scrumptious not-to-be-missed KYU coconut cake ($8).

KYU by Lucky Frog Studios

As I walked out into the blazing hot Miami afternoon I immediately reminisced about the Raging Geisha ($17) I had enjoyed earlier. For a moment I felt inclined to run back for the coolness of the cucumber-basil topped concoction with IWAI Japanese whisky, St. Germain and yuzu. But in a zen-like moment I breathed deeply: one has to be patient and wait for future visits.

Kyu is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sundays; closed on Mondays. For reservations: 786-577-0150 or
251 Northwest 25th Street
Miami, Florida 33127


Ceviche to the Rescue!

Waffles, potatoes, sausages...

Waffles, potatoes, sausages…

By mimorg33

Ah, on a hot September midday the coolness and delicious musky fragrance that one is enveloped with upon crossing the threshold of the 1 Hotel and Homes South Beach is the equivalent of stepping into an oasis after a long trek in the desert. And that was just from getting off the car and waiting for the valet. The heat and I do not get along. Walk across the lobby, past the elevators that transport you up to either the hotel or residence side of the complex and you arrive at Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft. His sustainable style is ideally suited to the high-tech back-to-nature vibe of the property. The restaurant’s executive chef Michael Fiorello is introducing a new brunch menu. After nestling at our table and sipping from a thick, foamy, strong and delicious cappuccino we took a peak at the buffet spread. A well-orchestrated display of proteins and carbohydrates, color and sensuality representative of Colicchio’s penchant for farm-to-table freshness by working with South Florida purveyors Swank Farms, Florida Fresh Meat Co., Local Roots and Cods & Capers.

There were tempting-looking waffles with several accompaniments, potatoes, bacon and sausages. The bread station displayed the typical array from bagels to croissants made by Zak the Baker, another of their all-natural suppliers. The salad bar offered different options that would benefit from better lighting.

Although Sunday brunch begins at 12:30 and we arrived at 1:00 neither the creamy polenta nor the chef’s gumbo was at an acceptable temperature. Could it be that the team needs to iron out the kinks? If you like ceviche, the Snapper Ceviche ($8 supplement) made it worth the trip. Fresh cubes of fish were table-side marinated in a perfect blend of passion fruit, lemon and onion juice with thinly sliced jalapeño and red peppers. This was a simple, elegant and delicious combination with just the right kick.

Snapper Ceviche

Snapper Ceviche

It merits mentioning the excellent service by Douglas and Luis, Venezuelan and Peruvian imports that enriched our Sunday with their graceful and expedient manner. The dessert offerings left us blasé in particular the blueberry peach cobbler; if I had to select a winner it would be the Bananas Fosters Bread Pudding but if you are a doughnut lover the Maple Bacon Donuts with a hint of Chantilly cream hidden might be the final sweet morsel of your choice.

Maple Bacon Donuts

Maple Bacon Donuts


Lillet Me Down ($14) is a lovely option for a refreshing drink. And by the way, if your are allergic to the heat like me, stay away from sitting by the back door where there is a constant heat draft as folks going in and out forget to close it.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience that will entice my return for their scrumptious ceviche and delicious handcrafted cocktails among other specialties. Beachcraft offers a Miami Spice prixe fixe $39 dinner menu nightly through September 30.


Watr on the Heights

By mimorg33SALADS

Whether you are welcomed with a directly flown-from-Hawaii lei, a glass of bubbly and perfectly seasoned crispy rock shrimp or not, the mix of one of South Beach’s coolest rooftops and sushi-poke cuisine makes Akûa or Watr on the 1 Rooftop a uniquely seductive destination for locals and tourists alike. Nonetheless, the food alone is enough to beckon you back and again to the invitingly open-air Watr Restaurant at 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach.


I was particularly impressed by the Tako ($18) salad: the smoked chili vinaigrette added a fiery edge to the octopus and edamame but for those of more traditional palates, the Kimchi ($17) with just a touch of crispy garlic to give a kick to the tuna and avocado, is the way to go. The Dragon Roll ($19) from the Sushi Maki sampling was especially flavorful with a delightful crunchiness from the cucumber, asparagus and shrimp while the cashew cream cheese and avocado added a rich layer to the Happy Vegetable Roll that made it quite appetizing. The Salmon Teriyaki $26) was delectably cooked while for the carnivores, the Wagyu Skirt Steak ($36) would be the ideal choice.-1

Our taste buds were sent to ecstasy upon encountering the alluringly mouth-watering Ginger Bread Pudding with coconut chips ($12).


Just thinking about it makes me want to dress up, run out to the car and drive across town to try my luck at getting in without a reservation. Did I forget to mention that you should make one? It is recommended as the seating is limited and if the weather turns ugly as it has today, they need to call you to cancel because Watr is an outdoor restaurant. Everything in life has its pros and cons but trying to experience this gem is well worth it. Listening to the distant sounds of the waves rushing in and out while watching the sunset, slowly sipping one of Watrcocktails and trying a savory starter is one of the finer ways to begin a South Florida evening.

The chef 10-course tasting for $95 is an excellent option to get to know the Polynesian-Japanese menu. A well-thought-out wine, sake and cocktails list is available. However, don’t miss the opportunity to take advantage of the great $39 prixe fixe offer for a three-course dinner: Monday – Thursday and Sunday nights under Miami Spice through September 30. Watr at 1 Rooftop is for 21 and older. Aloha!


It’s Christmas in summer…it’s Miami Spice!

The sun is shining, daylight lasts longer, and Miami Spice returns… it’s like Christmas for foodies (on budgets like me) to rejoice! What kicks off the season? Not eggnog and candy canes, but rather Fontainebleau’s Miami Spice Preview, hosted by the lovely Karen and Larry from BCPR and Ana Lanzas and Stephanie Giner from the Fontainebleau, showcasing: Scarpetta, Hakkasan, and StripSteak by Michael Mina, and their own patisserie, Chez Bon Bon.  This year we were greeted by Scarpetta’s limoncello cocktail that was delicious, followed by a lovely roasted branzino, and then the angels began to sing, the sky opened up and rays of light unveiled the dish before me… my favorite food perfected by this glorious place… spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce (pasta pomodoro e basilico)… it was and always is outstanding. It’s tough to follow that, but Hakkasan always can and they did it by greeting us with a Chinese mule (their version of the Moscow mule, which is my preferred summertime cocktail) which I had to pace myself with… and yes, they serve both lunch and dinner Miami Spice menus and yes, either will prove amazing, but my recommendation will always be to head for lunch because they serve their… dim sum basket which includes lotus root with mushroom chicken shumai that is heavenly alongside their baby bok choy with garlic that is scrumptious. We then headed to StripSteak, which greeted us with a “Sugar n Spice, whiskey is nice” cocktail that was my favorite of the evening (and that is not an easy feat especially since I’m not a huge whiskey fan). It was perfect.  The kale salad with pickled tomatoes was incredible, and so was their filet mignon that was served with a yummy carrot ginger purée and broccoli… and I had stayed away from bread all night, but their garlic bread was one that I wanted to cuddle with while nibbling on. The night ended with a goodie bag from Chez Bon Bon, which is always the goodie bag of all goodie bags (and whose macaroons make me sing), included their amazing flavored marshmallows, madeleines, and chocolate bon bons…by the end of the night my inner child was twirling with delight!



The Magic of the Alpes Maritime

Oranges under the morning light.

One is first seduced by the light and immediately understands why so many artists flock to this sun-kissed area of the Mediterranean. Overlooking St. Paul de Vence from the terrace at Auberge Les Orangers, a lovely B&B my friend and travel sleuth Marilyn discovered online while she organized our trip to an area nearby Nice, I could only thank Mother Earth for her many blessings. Nestled among the hills, surrounded by trees and flowers, it was like stepping into a magic space: an oasis of calm that speaks of life in direct touch with nature. Awakening at dawn, I sat in the small terrace to bask at the panorama. The oranges shone under the early morning rays while birds chirped; the air was pregnant with the fragrance of rosemary, thyme and roses. Brewing coffee and freshly baked croissants from Thomas’ kitchen alerted my senses that breakfast was beckoning; my friends joined one by one to the rhythm of classical music in the background. I felt right at home.Les Orangers

Soon thereafter we left for our first day exploring the area: the Matisse Chapel I had tried to visit on two earlier occasions but had been closed. Hours are tricky but this time Marilyn was in charge. The chapel was an experience worth the wait particularly after having seen the sensational cutouts at a Tate Modern show in London. From there we headed to the exquisite Chagall Museum with the biblical themed paintings; there we caught an exhibition of his monumental tapestries but also saw the mosaic by the basin and, of course, the stained-glass windows surrounding the auditorium. Before entering the museum we had lunch at a small restaurant located in the Mediterranean style garden adjacent to it where I opted for a simple salade niçoise. In the early afternoon we strolled around Vence, stopped for gas and then discovered a huge Monoprix where we shopped for herbes de Provence, calissons (those heavenly morsels typical to the area) and other goodies. We got to Les Orangers in time to take a nap and get ready for an early dinner at L’Olivier Rouge were we had walked in the first night to a closed kitchen but they had provided us with a lovely repast. That second night we were warmly welcomed and I sampled a memorable ratatouille: so simple and difficult to make with this perfect balance. The house wine was clean and crisp and the desserts were also delightful including homemade calissons as macchiato accompaniment.

Matisse's home

Our final day took us to the Maeght Foundation, the modern art museum and sculpture garden with several strong pieces by Joan Miró and Giacometti among others. It’s located on Colline de Gardettes overlooking

Saint Paul de Vence, the walled town with cobblestone streets that we visited later; it’s a fun artsy town packed with tourists, galleries and boutiques. If you take the time to locate its tiny cemetery, look for Marc Chagall’s tomb with its simple white structure where many leave their message of love written in simple stones. Time after and again I pay my respects.

Les Alpes Maritimes is an area of the French Provence I never tire to return.