Best Of :: People & Places
Miami is poor, poor, poor. Miami is so poor it's not even funny. Almost one-third of city residents live in poverty, according to the 2000 Census. More than eleven percent are unemployed, and per capita income overall is less than the cost of an economy car. Almost half our residents never graduated from high school. Don't even get us started on the lack of home-ownership. The reasons for all this are many and varied and stretch back in time for decades. But in 2002 a glimmer of hope shined through when Miami Mayor Manny Diaz (pressured by the good folks at the Human Services Coalition of Miami-Dade County, among others) announced his intention to make fighting poverty a priority of his administration. To this end the mayor said he would funnel city funds into existing anti-poverty initiatives, encourage residents to take advantage of tax credits and save money, promote small businesses, and attempt to adopt a living-wage ordinance. Not overly ambitious, but certainly a refreshing change from the city's usual strategy of frittering away federal funds for years while the inner cities rot. The mettle of Mayor Diaz has yet to be tested, and the results of this initiative (coordinated by HSC, the United Way, and others) measured, but at least now our people's pain is out in the open. That's something of a victory.
ANDREA CURTO-RANDAZZO & FRANK RANDAZZO
TALULA, 210 23rd Street, Miami Beach,305-672-0778
They could be Best Power Couple. Andrea Curto-Randazzo and husband Frank Randazzo individually have made big waves in the culinary world. But now they're teaming up for a new venture, Talula Restaurant & Bar, and their combined talents might well unleash a tsunami. While zooming up the culinary ladder, Andrea and Frank twice worked together before tying the knot -- at the famed Tribeca Grill in New York and at The Heights (formerly Pacific Heights) in Coral Gables. Frank then launched the Gaucho Room at the Loews Miami Beach while Andrea took over at Wish, both in South Beach and both of which brought them international acclaim. Love changes everything, of course. They married, quit their jobs, had a baby girl, and now are ready to unveil Talula by the end of this month. The name? It's a simplified version of Andrea's childhood nickname, after actress Tallulah Bankhead -- an early indication of her dramatic flair.
BEST LOCAL LANDMARK
Jimbo's on Virginia Key. A real hidden treasure and so much more than a bait shop. Pulling up by boat through Shrimper's Lagoon is the only way to arrive. It's such a cool place, the opposite of Miami's polished side. Jim Luznar opened this landmark in 1954 and it remains the best place in Miami for fresh smoked fish and cheap cold beer.
BEST CHEAP THRILL
Tourists and newcomers are always told that Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road are the best places to people-watch, but those of us who live here know that the Publix on Twentieth Street is really the place. Stroll up and down the aisles and you will see everyone you know, even those you didn't think knew how to cook. Most men don't like to go grocery shopping, but Frank doesn't mind it because the scenery is so good.
BEST NATURAL HIGH
Each time we drive back to Miami Beach we remember how pretty it is here. I grew up here and sometimes take the place for granted but Frank reminds me by talking about the beauty. From our balcony we get to see the cruise ships leave. It's the perfect view and it is so cool.
BEST PLACE TO SAVOR THE FLAVOR OF MIAMI
When we think of local flavor we think of Cuban food, and we are fortunate that Nelson DeLeon, architect for Talula and a local of Cuban heritage, took us to a place we really like -- La Casita Restaurant in Coral Gables. La Casita has a casual, friendly atmosphere where everyone is comfortable.
BEST REASON TO LIVE IN MIAMI
We were tired of the snow up north and enjoy simplicity. Miami Beach seemed like the right place at the right time. Everything is within walking distance, just around the corner. We are simple people who want a simple, laid-back lifestyle. We found it here.
CALABAZA AND MUSHROOM RISOTTO
1 1/2 pounds sautéed mushrooms (shiitake, portobello, oyster, and/or crimini)
2 cups calabaza, diced and cooked (approximately a quarter of 1 calabaza)
1/2 pound butter
1 large onion (diced small)
1 pound arborio rice
2 bay leaves
2 cups white wine
1 gallon vegetable or chicken stock (hot)
2 tablespoons lime zest
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated)
2 tablespoons truffle oil (white or black)
To sauté mushrooms:
Preheat large sauté pan over medium heat. Slice mushrooms lengthwise (be sure to trim down oversize portobellos). Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to sauté pan. When butter melts, add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes stirring often. Season with salt and white pepper. Reserve.
To cook calabaza:
Remove skin from calabaza and dice into quarter-inch cubes, removing seeds and pulp. Place in salted boiling water and simmer until tender (about 5 minutes). Strain and cool immediately.
To prepare risotto:
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and melt 3 tablespoons butter in a preheated rondeau. Add diced onion and sauté on medium heat until onions are tender and translucent. Add arborio and bay leaf and stir with wooden spoon until coated with butter. Add 2 cups white wine and stir, simmer until wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup hot stock at a time, stirring until absorbed. Continue adding stock slowly, 1 cup at a time, stirring very often until rice is tender and creamy. Stir in mushrooms, calabaza, herbs, lime zest, cheese, and remaining butter. Season with salt and white pepper. Drizzle in truffle oil. Serve immediately.
Ahh, the impersonal nature of banking. Sure, that ATM perennially spouting cash is convenient, and that check card can be pretty handy too (even though your account's been drained three times by retail-sector thieves). And yes, online banking means you can monitor funds and pay bills right at your desk -- just like your boss does when he isn't watching his stocks! But admit it, you yearn for the days when banks would dole out toasters and clock radios as a reward for opening a new account, when lots of smiling tellers would utter their names and mean it when they said: "May I help you," and when the darned places were open on Saturday. Because who has the time to sneak away from the job and deal with money matters during the week? Well, a number of banks have begun throwing their doors open on Saturdays. But only Beach Bank can boast Sunday hours. The official day of rest for many is a day of work for them. Located in mid-Miami Beach, home to a heavily Orthodox Jewish population, the financial institution caters to those who don't do squat on Saturdays -- by religious mandate or not. But come Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, anybody can take care of his financial business.
Or should we say "bus benches" -- because who are we trying to fool? We all know these new contraptions are lucrative mini-billboards disguised by Sarmiento Advertising Group as seating units for the bus-riding masses. And as bus-riders themselves will tell you, the proof is in the scorching heat that radiates from the benches' metal bars after a few hours absorbing solar radiation in 95-degree heat. In some locations Sarmiento didn't even bother with the bench decoy; only the sign. City of Miami planning directors, former Manager Carlos Gimenez, and all five city commissioners fell for the company's crafty sales pitch, in which the billboards were described as "street furniture." Apparently Sarmiento's metallic sofas looked so cool in photos that city officials agreed to let the company place some right next to those old advertising-delivery devices known as "bus shelters," and even alongside the old wooden "bus benches" the new ones were to replace. But they turned out to be so uncool that Sarmiento executives were soon scrambling to apply a heat-repellant coating to protect the tax-paying public's backsides, as well as their own.
At the Eden Roc it's always the Fifties, baby. Just like it oughta be. You walk into the lobby, with its staircase floating down from the mezzanine, fluted rosewood columns, and ornate terrazzo floors. Spin in a circle. So much open space it's breathtaking. You can almost see Sammy Davis, Jr., tapping across the floor toward Harry's bar, where Frank Sinatra is ordering a martini and chatting up Liz Taylor. The Roc opened in the mid-Fifties, a creation of purest swank from the mind of daffy architectural genius Morris Lapidus. After Hollywood left, though, the 349-room hotel was sold and renovated many times, resulting in a creeping horror of Seventies and Eighties-era notions of style covering the old splendor. In 1999 new owners pumped millions into a makeover that essentially restored the grand dame to her original self. And we like her, yes we do.