Miami is one of those places that I have always had a love/hate relationship with. I love to go there because it is a quick, cheap trip from New York that most often guarantees you great sunny weather, particularly during the cold months on the East coast. The hate part comes in because after about 4-5 days max, I am ready to get the hell out of dodge. I guess it’s because I often stay in the small area of South Beach which has become extremely commercialized with mega events, conventions & raucous spring breakers, so you must choose the time of year you go carefully & decide what it is you are really going for.
I escape to Miami for relaxation from the hustle, bustle & cold of New York City. The club scene in Miami is not for me because I am not into the ecstasy infused, smoke filled, techno/latin/hip-hop/euro house mash up of confusion that is often found in many of the clubs. I prefer the lounge atmosphere that you can find at many of the hotels like the Delano & some hot spots on Lincoln road or Alton.
Best Time To Go:
The annual Winter Music Conference (WMC) in Miami is what many of us lovers of global, other worldly, not your usual radio play list type of music will be fleeing to Miami in droves for from March 23 – 27, 2010. If you are a global music lover or someone who loves to dance & meet other people who love global music & dance then you need to be in Miami during the Winter Music Conference.
Established in 1985, WMC is the largest music industry gathering of its kind in the world. Winter Music Conference, in its 25th consecutive year, is one of the most publicized annual music gatherings in the world. A pivotal platform for advancement of the industry, WMC 2009 attracted 1,910 artists and DJs, 3,228 industry delegates from 62 countries and over 70,000 event attendees for a concentrated schedule of more than 500 events presented across 5 days. Music, as one of the world’s most accessible cultural art forms, gives WMC the unique ability to cross economic, geographic and social boundaries. Over 1.3 million visitors from 183 countries log on to the WMC website each year. Find Out More .
When I think of the days when I went religiously to Miami for the WMC debauchery, the song “Make a Baby” by Vikter Duplaix comes to mind. It is just a feel good type of song that makes you want to follow thru with the title of the song-LOL. This song just brings back so many wonderful, sweaty, hot & intense moments in dance under the blistering Miami heat amongst a global crowd of music lovers. WMC is coming up & I am sure many are ready to rip off the layers & let the brutal winter be nothing but a past memory as we embrace spring & call upon the heat of summer with sweaty hardcore music lovers & dancers converging on the beach & pool parties throughout South Beach. As I reminisce of WMC past, another one of my WMC evoking songs come to mind, Bra by Cymande, to remind me that “it’s alright we can still go on & home” to gather with friends & family in Miami at anytime without ever missing a beat. You must check out the Giant Step line up with globally superb DJ’s who are guaranteed to bring the hotness like, Bobitto Garcia, Nicodemus & Questlove of the legendary Roots crew, who will all be at the Delano + I hear Estelle will be in Miami performing at this year’s WMC as well. Also check out my fellow NYU alum, Jew with a chocolate soul & all around superb DJ Herbert Holler & global music maestro DJ Scribe. If you attend just the events with the aforementioned DJ’s your WMC music experience will be more than filled with great stories to tell of how you felt like you did not stop dancing the entire time you were in Miami. You can Thank Me later!
The Week of Art Basel in December is also a great time to be in Miami. It’s similar in events & parties like the WMC just with a global art lovers crowd which often overlap into the same WMC crowd & vice versa.
Where To Eat:
The food in Miami can be devine from Argentinean influenced Novencento 900 to authentic Cuban at Larios on the Beach, owned by Miami’s pride & authentic Miami Cubanita, Gloria Estefan & her husband Emilio. You can even find deliciously authentic Haitian cuisine at Tap Tap Restaurant & yummy sushi at Sushi Samba on Lincoln Road & Nobu located inside the Shore Club. I can’t say enough about perhaps the best & most delicious variety of pizza I have ever had, found at Pizza Rustica -coming from a native New Yorker who has had pizza in the home of Pizza- Naples , Italy -that’s a pretty big compliment. The great variety of toppings on delicious thin crust squared pizza is decadence in your mouth at a price you can easily afford off or on a budget, but it comes with an addiction that your bikini body will pay a hefty price for if you eat it everyday while you are in Miami like I like to do. The irony or maybe just a testament to how delicious Pizza Rustica is , is that I am not really a big pizza fan & I rarely eat pizza in New York, Italy or anywhere else.
The battle with the bikini body & temptations continue as you get to the beach & get tempted by the Love Food Cafe trucks strategically located on the beach so you can spend your entire day at the beach without having to leave to get food, for those of us who love food & refuse to starve ourselves. Do not miss out on the delicious frozen lemonade from the Love Food Cafe -it is the perfect cool down drink as you escape into the intoxicating daze of Miami sunshine! You can’t go to Miami without indulging in Miami mainstay, Big Pink on Collins. The type of portions of salads, burgers, yummy sweet potato fries & wraps at Big Pink is why there’s an obesity problem in America. There is no need to eat that much food in one sitting for 1 person- especially in SOBE heat- so go with a hearty appetite or share with a friend, otherwise be ready to waste a lot of food or take home leftovers! You can’t miss Big Pink, just look for the super cute Pink Beetle that sits in front of the restaurant. Dessert & wine at the Delano Hotel’s Plat Bleu restaurant is a must. Try the sickening decadence of their take on churros Y chocolate & Spring rolls-chocolate filled spring rolls that you dip in dulce de leche cream -Stop the presses ! I am not a chocolate lover but this was absolutely divine & the Russian River Valley , CA Syrah(Shiraz) was delicious! Syrah may have been birthed in France, but it has ben perfected in the USA,who knew that you can get a great Syrah right here in California wine country. I must say it is not something that is commonly found at any wine store because I have been having a difficult time finding a bottle, but if you are into on-line wine shopping, you can definitely find it online. Last but not least, you are in Miami so you will find some delicious Cuban style empanadas & the yummiest cafe con leche at local convenience/grocery stores- have a taste & a sip for your morning inexpensive pick me up or afternoon quick snack on your way to the beach or to party.
Tipping in Miami :
Here’s a tip about tipping in Miami- many restaurants add the gratuity to your check particularly if you are in a group of 4 or more-so read carefully because the wait staff will often conveniently forget to tell you so they can get double the gratuity. This also makes for not so great service in some places because the wait staff have no real incentive to work toward, since they know the gratuity is automatically charged.
Miami is filled with a blend or gumbo of Cubans, Haitians & Jews with Italians, French & South Americans from Argentina coming in to stake their claim in the sexy Latin Caribbean beach vibe of Miami; however the designated culturally specific areas are dominated & separated into Cubans, Haitians & Jews. Unfortunately so much has changed in SOBE that my favorite place for crepes on Espanola Way is no longer there & one of my favorite Argentinean restaurants, Gaucho Room Restaurant at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel has also disappeared, but Loews has some new good eateries to make up for it. Espanola Way is by far my favorite little tranquil street in South Beach-there’s just something about the bohemian, quaint European yet authentically ethnic feel about such a small little street that makes it the direct opposite of my least favorite chaotic street, Ocean drive. This time around I manged to completley stay off of Ocean Drive even though I kind of miss News Cafe, the once ubiquitous O.J. spottings & crazy times at Wet Willies & the always entertaining Mangos. If you have never had a wacky drink like “attitude adjustment” at Wet Willies, rolled up into 24 hr. News Cafe before or after a hangover, or been to Mangos Tropical Cafe & got drunk enough to dance on top of the bar, then you must do it at least once because they are South Beach staples & you are guaranteed to have stories to tell -good, bad, indifferent, scary, or exciting!
Where to Shop:
The fashion in Miami is very stripper style specific unless you find great native designers like Karelle Levy of Krelwear, who will blow your mimd with her beautiful knit creations that are perfect for Miami weather or any resort customer from Capri to St. Barts. There are many high-end retailers & designer stores found further up in the 20′s toward Aventura, if you have some cash to burn & a special occasion to attend where you need that special outfit or maybe you just snatched up one of the many sugar daddies & sugar mommies looking for an upgrade of their eye candy to flaunt around town. Since stripper chic is in this season with cut-out dresses, super mini minis, super tight Hervé Léger style bandage dresses & the highest Pamela Anderson style stilettos-you will be in luck in South Beach for some cheap finds because it has never gone out of style there, so they have plenty to spare. Oh by the way, the “Karfashians” AKA Khloe & Kourtney Kardashian have come to town with their retail store “Dash” as well & since they are doing yet another reality show season based on their Miami store, you may even end up getting a walk on role just by walking in. If you are in need of a swimsuit – you are in swimsuit mecca from your local convenience store to designer shops -you will find a swimsuit to suit you at any price & style. You can also find some great cheap vintage fashion & rare vinyl at some of the thrift stores on Alton & Lincoln Road so be on the look out if that’s your speed.
Where to Stay:
Miami can be done luxuriously or on a budget if you stay at a moderately priced hotel like the Richmond Hotel & have drinks, breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert while utilizing the pool & other amenities at celebrity hot spots & luxury style places like the Shore Club, the Delano, The Raleigh , The Standard & the Gansevoort -which will all run you in upwards of over 150/200 (USD) per night. If you are into luxuriating in the perfect spa experience that is off the beaten path from the SOBE madness, you should definitely book a night or some spa time at the Standard, located at the old Miami landmark, The Lido Spa hotel . Spend some beach time at Nikki Beach as well because even though it’s so overplayed , over-Euroed & every wannabe model or cool kid’s favorite hangout spot, it’s still chic & great for people watching. Somethings that never change in SOBE are that the pot heads still hang out between 1-5 street side of the beach & the gay boys still hang out on the beach directly parallel to Versace’s mansion -which is now The Villa by Barton G. ,catering to your every decadent pleasure if you have deep pockets to match the indulgent lifestyle worthy of fashion’s Liberace, the late great fabulous Gianni Versace!
Enjoy, Exhale, Relax & Go Crazy -It’s Miami Baby!
& then for nostalgia sake 2 the present, the one song that will guarantee TRUE house heads go into Orbit