Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Goodbye North Beach, Hello South Beach

After seven years of living in Normandy Isle, in North Beach, I’m moving down to South Beach.

I’m trading this

For this

What, you thought I’d put a pic of neon-drenched Ocean Dr? I live next to Flamingo Park, and that’s more the South Beach I’m interested in, the quiet village that lies almost inexplicably between Alton and Washington, where I can bike everywhere and little is more than 8 blocks away, 10 at most.

North Beach is the forgotten and neglected child of Miami Beach and frankly I’m glad to be out of there. I wish luck to Commissioner Jerry Libbin in continuing to represent North Beach’s interest. Me, seven years were enough. I’m ready for a change.

Miami #1 in Attractiveness, #29 in Intelligence

MiamiJust saw this come through the @CityofMiami Twitter account:

A new gimmicky list released by Travel & Leisure ranks America’s Favorite Cities, including Miami. The verdict? Miami has the #1 spot in Attractive People. That’s our best score, our top draw, we have beautiful people. Of course, we also scored #29 in Intelligence, making it our worse feature.

Basically, according to the T&L poll, we have a city full of beautiful and vapid people.

And before anyone whines, remember this is the image we ourselves put out to the world. Need I remind folks of Bravo’s very short-lived “Miami Social?”

To be a bit fair, the poll says “Miami,” which means that it really includes all of the Greater Miami area, including Miami Beach, Coral Gables, and who knows what other Miami-Dade micro-city as well.

Is this something to be proud of, really?

Autumn Sky

As I rode my bike to synagogue this morning, I thought I felt a slight, very slight, coolness in the air. As I got to top of the drawbridge and looked at the sky, I knew it wasn’t a tactile hallucination: there’s a cold front going through!

That is a bonafide Autumn sky right there! In Miami, where every season is just a variation of Summer, any glimpse of an actual difference is greatly welcomed, especially by me as Autumn is my favorite season and I just don’t get to experience it practically at all.

The Sun Sentinel reported on the “cold” front, during which temps will go down to — get ready — 88 degrees in Miami! *sigh*

Oh well, at least the sky looked beautiful during my bike commute this morning, and I always appreciate that.

Miami An Overpriced City? Nah!

Aerial View of Miami, via, has just released their list of “America’s Most Overpriced Cities” and our dearly beloved hometown has ranked #3, right behind Los Angeles, California and Chicago, Illinois. The article explains that “the cities are ranked by average salary for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher, annual unemployment statistics, cost of living and the Housing Opportunity Index.”

I’m sure this comes as a complete surprise to each and every resident of the Magic City (I’m still wondering who named it thus).

Florida should feel especially proud, since it has four spots in the Top 20: Miami (#3), Tampa (#13), Orlando (#15) and Jacksonville (#17). So pretty much every major urban center in the state is there (I don’t want to see you get smarmy, Fort Lauderdale, cause I’m sure you’re not that far behind). Are you proud enough yet?

I have to agree with the Forbes article, though: at least we have beaches and sunny weather (and heat, oh the heat) year-round; sucks for #2, Chicago, with their Siberian-like winters.

The Blessing of the Sun

sunriseYou might miss it if you blink or look the other way, but this Wednesday morning, April 8, will be a very special day for Jews all over the world, not only because it is the morning before Passover, but because it will be the time to celebrate one of the rarest mitzvahs (commandments), the blessing of the sun. As explains:

Every 28 years the sun returns to the same position, at the same time of the week, that it occupied at the time of its creation—at the beginning of the fourth day of creation. A special blessing – called Birkat Hachamah, “the sun blessing” – is recited to mark this event.

The last time this happened it was 1981, the next will be in 2037, so this is a pretty big deal. Wednesday morning (up until noon, at th every latest), if you see Jews standing outside, praying towards the morning sun, remember they are blessing the sun and thanking G-d for giving us that magnificent engine of life here on Earth. If you are a Jew, perhaps you could find a local synagogue where to take part of this momentous ocassion; if you are not Jewish, perhaps you can take a moment to reflect on creation as well.

Pass Over the Passover Coke

Consider this a Jewish PSA, if you will.

When you go to local supermarkets and see the yellow-capped bottles of Coke and Diet Coke, if you are not Jewish, please don’t buy them. Those yellow-capped sodas are Kosher for Passover, so leave them for those that need them. My local Publix just put up the display sign above stating this info, but most places don’t have anything telling consumers what the heck is up with the yellow-capped bottles.

On behalf of hundreds of Jews in the area who will then be able to have Coke/Diet Coke for the week of Passover, I say thank you.

Whatever Happened to Lincoln Road?

So call me an old-timer, but whatever happened to Lincoln Road Mall?

Last week my wife and I went to see a 3D movie down at the Regal South Beach Cinema, and afterward I asked to take a stroll down the mall, just for old-time’s sake. It had been quite a while since our last time at Lincoln Road and I wanted to experience it again. It wasn’t ten minutes into our walk that we remembered why we stayed away from it in the first place! The mall was just disgustingly overcrowded. It was like a wall of people moving in front and behind you, barely giving you space enough to breathe, let alone enjoy the stroll. The restaurants and cafes have multiplied and they all spill out onto the walk way, barely giving you space to pass by, and never without being harassed by the eatery’s host/hostess (here’s a hint for all Lincoln Rd. restaurants: none of you are Kosher, so if you see a Jew with a kippah walk by, don’t waste your breath trying to get them to eat at your store).

I remember a Lincoln Road Mall that was busy but not overcrowded, that offered options but did not assault you every few steps, full of small stores dripping with personality and charm, not with endless branches of the brands of consumerism. And I’m not even going to talk about the monster that is the Regal Cinema. I miss that more bohemian Lincoln Road Mall. The current one makes me want to stay home and never visit it. I fully realize I am in the minority here, but I wear that badge proudly.

About the only cool thing I saw at the mall was the new location of Books & Books, back where the Cinematheque used to be years ago. Maybe I’ll talk about that next time.

Miami’s Public Market, Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about the Public Fish Market building by the Miami River and how it got my wife and I thinking of a possible new Miami Public Market. In Part 2, I share that daydream with you. I should tell developers that if you use any of these ideas, I fully expect to be compensated!

Imagine this:

Click to View Larger Map

A new Miami Public Market space centered around the old Public Fish Market, only seconds from Downtown Miami, in the middle of this historic neighborhood. The old fish market building restored, it now serves as a welcoming area to the new market, showcasing an information kiosk and visitor’s center, a short visual history of the Miami River and the public fish market, and selling branded Miami Public Market merchandise, all this alongside space for other Miami entities to promote themselves to locals and tourists alike: Bike Miami, Miami River Commission, local galleries and festivals, etc.

Across the street and down NW N River Dr. there are three areas for the new buildings of the Miami Public Market. Across the old fish market/Visitor Center, Market Area 1 sits in a small island surrounded by SW 1st Street. The new building constructed here, perhaps a two-story structure, would be the new fish market building, housing vendors selling fresh fish and seafood, highlighting local and seasonal options when available, frozen as a second option to carry the vendors through the lean times. Ideally caught by local fishermen and brought to the market via the Miami River, the merchandise is unloaded at the landing right next to the Visitor Center.

Take a short walk down N River Dr. and on the other side of the SW 1st St. overpass, on the narrow strip that is Market Area 2, envision a canopied open air bazaar for local artists. It would be two rows of tables with enough space in between them for foot traffic to flow in both directions, the canopies allowing the breeze to flow through yet keeping the harsh sun or the rain out. Table space would be available to artisans for a very cheap fee, offset by private funding, grants or as unobtrusive advertising as possible; a membership fee might be another way to go on this. The idea is to give local artists a prime space outlet to sell their wares for as nominal a fee as it can be managed. In this way we nurture the local art scene and draw foot traffic, especially the touristy type. (Did I mention I’d want non-stop shuttle service to/from the Port of Miami?)

Across the street, on the other side of SW 2nd St, is Market Area 3, the location for the multi-story (at least three) main building of the new Miami Public Market. Here are housed the produce vendors, especially the local farmers and CSAs, which would receive an incentive for their presence, selling fresh and seasonal fruits and veggies. Include here (perhaps in a different floor) space for meat vendors selling non-mass-farmed (and ideally grass-fed) meats. Rounding out the selection would be locally-made foods, such as honey or jams or whatever as long as they are local and do not need to be cooked on-premise, as well as flower vendors.

I’d open up some space for non-local vendors as well, but my main objective would be to get as much support going for local farms as possible (I roughly define “local” as being within a 250-mile radius, but considering our particular geography in Florida, I’d be happy to include the entire state, giving us the widest variety possible). I know this may sound a bit punctilious, but I cannot stress enough how important promoting and supporting local farmers is to the mission of the Miami Public Market.

You might’ve been wondering about parking space for all the visitors the market would get. The wonderful thing is that, the parking space is already there. Wisely using the space under I-95, there are a number of large parking lots, currently closed for the most part (frankly, in 14+ years in the city I have never seen them used, though I’m not a constant presence Downtown by any stretch of the imagination).

So there it is, our idea for a new Miami Public Market in the Downtown area. Would it ever get made? I don’t think so. I’m trying not to be as cynical about progress in Miami as in years past, so I’d like to think that perhaps part of the idea could be implemented at some point in the near future (and if we take the report from the Miami River Commission at face value, it seems they want to do something along those lines in this area). So, here’s hoping.

Kosher for the Publi(c)x

Anny's ChallahYesterday afternoon I was running a bit late for preparations for Shabbat, so I decided I’d just got to Publix (Collins Ave. and 65th Street, Miami Beach) only, instead of my usual Friday afternoon trip which also includes going down to 41st Street where there are a couple of Kosher stores. I wouldn’t be able to get challah, but I could live with that, since I could at least get some Kosher bread (frozen baguettes in this case). Imagine my surprise when I enter the supermarket and right around the corner I almost run into a tall display of Anny’s Bread Shoppe challah and breads.

This Publix had once carried Anny’s products, but they stopped after only a couple of months and I was never sure why, since the breads actually sold all the time. Naturally I grabbed two challahs (one regular, one chocolate chip [great for French toasts]) before it all disappeared like a mirage. Needless to say, this made my day, as I was able to do my Shabbat shopping AND get the most exquisite challah in Miami (seriously, if you see this display, grab some and be taken to bread paradise).

Kosher Sushi at QFCUltimately, however, you might be wondering why I was so excited to see Anny’s challah at the store. It has something to do with my recent trip to Seattle. The Jewish community in the greater Seattle area is smaller than that of Miami, especially the Orthodox segment, yet they enjoy an amazing availability of Kosher food in regular markets in the heavily-Jewish neighborhoods. I visited an Albertson’s that has a Kosher Deli & Sushi Chef, Bakery and Butcher, not to mention a whole Kosher mini-market rivaling the ones in Miami. I later visited a QFC (think their version of Publix) that had also just in the last 3 months expanded their Kosher section to include a Deli and Sushi Chef. Why is it that I, living in one of the largest Jewish communities in the US, arguably the largest outside of New York, have to go clear across the country to Seattle to visit a supermarket that gives me my choice of about 15 to 20 different breads, including artisan varieties, all Kosher? And I’m not even going to get into the topic of prices, which are way cheaper in Seattle than here, where there is a lot more availability.

Frankly, it’s our own fault. We, the Kosher-keeping Jewish community, have settled for whatever we can get from the local merchants, be they gentile or Jewish. We need to demand better products in our markets, and then purchase them to show our support and encourage thier continued presence. I realize that this means that many Kosher-keeping Jews will have to break out of their (IMO bland) comfort food zones, but it will be worth it, I assure you.

Now, to be fair, there are some supermarkets in the greater South Florida area that do feature Kosher departments inside their stores, usually a Butcher and/or Deli. Most of these are Winn Dixie (I know of one in Aventura [at 204th St and Biscayne Blvd.] and one in Hollywood that seems to also have a bakery) plus a couple of Albertson’s in Palm Beach County. What happened to you, Publix? Catch up. Let me suggest starting with one of your stores in Miami Beach (maybe the one on Collins and 65th). And if you already have such a store, how about promoting that fact to the Jewish community? Actually, that goes for all of the markets: promote yourself to us, so we can then support you.

I long for the day that I will be able to walk into my local Publix and buy Anny’s challah (or some other artisan bread) and some freshly-made Kosher sushi to take home. I just won’t be holding my breath.

Locally-Grown Irony

I went to Norman Brothers Produce today to see if I could get some local produce to take on my trip to Seattle as a gift for my friend Patricia Eddy, who aside from being a fellow Metblogger is also the creator of Cook Local, a website dedicated to championing local foods in the Seattle area. Normally she wouldn’t order anything from South Florida, but since we’re traveling there anyway, and it is local to us, we can share our bounty without her breaking the 250-miles-radius rule she’s established as her guideline. I used to shop a lot at Norman Brothers when I lived in Kendall, so I knew they were a great place to get local produce without short of taking a trip to Homestead. Boy, how have times changed.

That sign was placed hovering above a selection of beans from (somewhere in) Florida and produce from California, Guatemala, Colombia, Peru and just a few bins down even some eggplants from Holland. I’ll let you savor the irony for a moment.

I understand some thing are not in season, but it just seemed that more than 70% of their produce stock was not local at all (unless you also count “USA” as local, but I’m not at this moment), with a fairly disconcerting sub-percentage being from Latin America. I mean, plantains from Colombia? Mangoes from Brazil? Seriously?

For the record, I did at least get two giant avocados from “Dade County,” a pound of Cubanelle peppers and a dragonfruit, these last two from Homestead. I wish I could have gotten a couple pounds of stone crabs to take to my friends, but I needed those packaged for a plane trip and this was not something they could do at the seafood counter, nor I at home since I cannot bring stone crabs into my kosher kitchen. Oh well.

Norman Brothers, if you’re gonna have this phrase as your official slogan (as featured on the front page of the website), you gotta do better than this. I’ll have to return to the store later on to see if this was a one-time fluke, so expect a follow-up post sometime down the road.

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