Dine by Your Sign

Hints for dining under the stars

Having a hard time deciding where to dine? Not sure what you want to eat tonight? Try turning to your sign. It gives dining under the stars a whole new meaning. Astrologer and columnist Sydney Omarr, along with deceased chef Mike Roy, put together a cookbook of culinary constellations, Cooking with Astrology. Using Omarr's tips on food to fit the heavens, here's a horoscope for your next meal.

Aries (March 21-April 19): Aries is associated with Mars, the planet that represents action, leadership, aggression -- and the color red. Fire-sign eaters enjoy blood-hued food, including tomatoes, beets, and red wine. The Aries diner likes to choose the restaurant and order for the table. Quality Quirk: Good decision-making skills. Give Aries the menu, and the check. Fatal Flaw: Becomes impatient and has difficulty tolerating incompetence, from a waitstaff or dining companion. Ultimate Eatery: Say it with me -- steak house, steak house, steak house. The Capital Grille (444 Brickell Ave.; 305-374-4500) fits the (rather pricey) bill to a T-bone, with service that includes plenty of satisfying pandering and beef that muscles out the competition.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): Taurus is associated with the planet Venus. Born under an earth sign, Taureans are direct, practical, and blunt. They appreciate beauty as long as it serves its purpose. The basic bull considers eating a necessary business and likes to get his money's worth. Themselves generous, Taureans are also "substance abusers" -- skimpy portions piss them off. Quality Quirk: More versatile than you might think. Fatal Flaw: Insatiable appetite. Ultimate Eatery: Big plates, low prices. El Bodegon Gallego (3174 Northwest Seventh Street; 305-649-0801), and may I add how delicious the fried garbanzo beans and the seafood soup are at this little Spanish joint?

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Talkative and energetic, Gemini-born diners have a good sense of humor and a healthy dose of curiosity. They don't enjoy eating repetitively -- Gemini customers make poor "regulars." Something of a nosher, the peckish Gemini is sustained by variety and small portions, is sporadic in tastes, and unpredictable in appetite. Omarr notes that Geminians have "an affinity with buttermilk ... [and] coleslaw is a specific Gemini dish." Quality Quirk: knowledgeable about food and drink without being pretentious. Fatal Flaw: The aftereffects of consuming a lot of buttermilk and coleslaw aren't always appetizing. Ultimate Eatery: Tapa Tapa (804 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-443-3132), where Geminis can pick, pick, pick at cold and hot tapas.

Cancer (June 21-July 22): Cancer is the gourmet's sign. Those fortunate enough to be born under this sign savor the crab that symbolizes it, as well as just about any other foodstuff cultivated by man. Cancers live to eat and entertain; they are nurturers, the Jewish mothers and Cuban grandmothers of gastronomes everywhere. Quality Quirk: Generosity of spirit translates into "eat, bubbelah, eat." Fatal Flaw: Cancer is also the gourmand's sign; some crabs use food as consolation, and many have weight problems. Ultimate Eatery: Hello, Mozart Stube (325 Alcazar Ave., Coral Gables; 305-446- 1600), goodbye, Cancer blues. From bread to bread pudding -- or this German-Austrian restaurant's signature soufflé -- the restaurant fills diner to the brim.

Leo (July 23-August 22): The showman of the zodiac, Leo takes creativity to new levels. Extravagant, flamboyant, exuberant, the lion shines brightly and may be demanding, requiring foods to be served at temperatures as hot as the sun the sign represents. Leos love herbs and spices, particularly dill; and flambéed dishes, grilled fish, and meats. Quality Quirk: Food is passion. Fatal Flaw: Leos can be so sensually sated by a good meal that a lusty after-dinner romp is a nonstarter. Ultimate Eatery: Nemo (100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-532-4550), where current executive chef Frank Jeanetti's erotic creations and zesty fusion cuisine are sure to take Leos to new heights.

Virgo (August 23-September 22): Practical, intelligent, and health-conscious, the Virgo diner can be, well, virtuous when it comes to restaurants. Virgos follow rules and appreciate patterns; table settings in restaurants must be in order. They observe proprieties as well as niceties, which can render them exquisitely polite or boringly predictable. For all their perfectionism, they're versatile and adore foreign flavors. Quality Quirk: Displaying an in-depth understanding of nutrition, cooking, and health, Virgos are the most successful at maintaining diets. Fatal Flaw: Virgos can be pedantic and didactic. Ultimate Eatery: Ristorante La Bussola (264 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables; 305-445-8783), with superb service and fabulous Italian fare.

Libra (September 23-October 22): To many, Libras, symbolized by the scales of justice, are born contradictions. They appreciate subtlety (delicate sauces, thinly sliced meats, artistically arranged portions) but detest pretense. While French fare may suit them just fine, fussy nouvelle cuisine may seem unduly pseudo-sophisticated. The well-balanced Libra prefers the classic dishes of haute cuisine. Quality Quirk: Libras are often wine connoisseurs, but they despise excess -- all the more for the dining companion. Fatal Flaw: Vegetables must show their true colors to these justice-seekers -- green asparagus, white cauliflower, yellow corn -- which can lead to plain and undercooked veggies. Ultimate Eatery: The sophisticated French restaurant Le Festival (2120 Salzedo St., Coral Gables; 305-442-8545) is the only eatery in South Florida to receive the Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences five years in a row. Perfect enough for you, Libra?

Scorpio (October 23-November 21): Let's be blunt: Food is sex, and vice-versa. Passionate, intense, and fascinated with fare that induces desire, this water sign can be obsessed with oysters, Tuaca (an Italian liqueur said to be an aphrodisiac), and the like. Scorpios are what many folks interested in the occult call "old souls"; they appreciate aged beef and cheeses, dark bread, red wine, and twenty-year-old Scotch. They are mysterious and secretive individuals who like their food to be complexly flavored. Quality Quirk: Scorpios prize authenticity and usually know the best places for regional/ethnic specialties. Fatal Flaw: Scorpio has a black-and-white mind, and will never return to a restaurant (or a dining companion) he considers inferior in any way. Ultimate Eatery: Anokha (3195 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove; 786-552-1030), the Indian escape from CocoWalkian teenybopperdom, where the samosas are sumptuous, the biryani breathtaking, and the curries simply sublime.

Sagittarius (November 22-December 21): Sagittarians are insatiably curious when it comes to food. They are the first to experiment with strange and wonderful ingredients, but work with them very precisely before presenting them to others, which is almost always done in the manner of teaching a lesson. With fun-loving Jupiter as its mentor, the Sagittarian also takes great delight in hosting parties, mixing drinks, and eating rich, cream-filled desserts. Quality Quirk: The exotic has appeal; Sagittarians are the first to swallow goldfish, crunch down on grasshoppers, or tackle raw meat. They make excellent taste-testers for cautious royalty. Fatal Flaw: They can't help but endlessly explain dishes and pontificate on food history. Ultimate Eatery: A nightly party is in progress at Red Square (411 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-0200), where vodkas from around the world flow freely, the Russian-fusion menu is whimsical enough to inspire Sagittarians, and the atmosphere is loud enough to drown 'em out.

Capricorn (December 22-January 19): Earthy and basic, Capricorns prefer fare that comes from the ground (mushrooms, root vegetables). They're also big fans of texture, and enjoy foods that need to be worked on, like nuts and crunchy vegetables. Capricorn diners are disciplined, even restrictive, and want items served on time and at their proper temperatures, ranging from vichyssoise to baked potatoes. Quality Quirk: Capricorns appreciate meals that make memories, and are frequently inspired to celebrate special occasions with fine fare. Fatal Flaw: Ruled by the planet Saturn, Capricorns are often dry and thirsty, which can make them irritable. Ultimate Eatery: The chupe de camarones at El Chalan (7971 Bird Rd.; 305-266-0212; also 1580 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-532-8880), which features shrimp, rice, eggs, and of course, potatoes. And the Peruvian hospitality is as proficient as it is warm.

Aquarius (January 20-February 18): Those born under this air sign make light meals out of salads, enjoy cold foods like yogurt, and get kicks out of packaged convenience foods eaten on the run. Ruled by Uranus, Aquarians are often perceived as eccentric and avant-garde, and have a particular fondness for anything made with lemons, oranges, tomatoes, or avocados. They tend to snack frequently and particularly like to munch on cheese. Quality Quirk: The water-bearer? Nonsense. The favorite Aquarian drink is champagne. Fatal Flaw: These highly verbal folks may be more interested in dinner conversation than dinner. Ultimate Eatery: Orchids Champagne and Wine Bar (in the Mayfair House Hotel, 3000 Florida Ave., Coconut Grove; 305-441-0000), natch. Yeah, the upscale bar menu is tempting, but Aquarians will zero in on the dozen or so champagnes by the glass.

Pisces (February 19-March 20): Pisces are born under Neptune, which Omarr labels "the planet of illusion." Sensitive, perceptive, and dreamy, Pisceans appreciate fare that has been veiled when cooked: fish steamed in parchment paper, or veal pounded and laced with a transparent lemon-butter sauce. The subtle flavors of shellfish are irresistible to the average Pisces, as are delicate broths, stocks, and dishes that focus on one particular ingredient. Quality Quirk: They put their emotions into every meal; watching a pleased Pisces is as satisfying as reading a good book. Fatal Flaw: The Piscean longing for simplicity can come across as picky. Ultimate Eatery: The revamped The FishBone Grille (650 South Miami Ave.; 305-530-1915) has a clean new look. Executive chef David Bracha's terrific seafood menu continues to please with light Asian flavors predominating. As for the homemade salad dressings and jalapeño cornbread, well, even a Pisces can't find fault.

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