The crowds, the traffic, the parking. %#$%&*!!! These days even the most dedicated hipsters can find South Beach a tad stressful. A visit to Touch Studio, Gigi Noriega's Lincoln Road sanctuary, is the cure for frazzled nerves. A licensed facialist, manicurist, and aromatherapist, Noriega offers treatments for the face, body, and soul, including a variety of aromatherapy facials, seaweed body wraps, and hand and foot care. Located in a massage- therapy office, Noriega's tiny salon is as peaceful as a Buddhist temple. It's a place where stress seems simply innapropriate. Noriega uses all-natural products from Germany, France, and Australia and essential oils for her spirit-cleansing facial. Her healing hands lull you to sleep in minutes, and everyday aggravations float away amidst meditative music and calming herbal scents. After an hour on the table at Touch, you'll feel calm, refreshed, and ready to face the world.
To avoid again detailing all the virtues of this category's perennial winner, Crown Wine & Spirits, we'll give a quick report on champagne. After all the new millennium approaches. For those who don't know this Coral Gables oenophile mecca, suffice it to say thousands of bottles from the mundane to the impossible are well organized, reasonably priced, and articulately described by the knowledgeable sales staff. When asked about the alleged shortage of bubbly for 2000, Chip Cassidy replies, "Well the frogs want you to believe that on New Year's Eve they're gonna drink red wine. If anyone is nervous, they should just come in and buy a bottle today." Hey, it never hurts to have a few magnums beside the canned beans and drinking water. Current recommendations include a selection of nonvintages from Charles Heidsieck for $38 to $42; this year's hottest seller, Veuve Clicquot's Yellow Label Brut, which goes for about $32; a Montaudon from Riems for about $20; and the all-time favorite among those who adore great wines and good values, the stellar Billecart Salmon Brut, which goes for a measly 25 bucks. Billecart's Brut Rosé, for $46, could make any reasonable person believe Y2K is a small matter. Crown even stocks a remarkably good nonalcoholic sparkling wine from Ariel. And no party would be complete without a stock of great cheeses, patés, caviar, crackers, and cigars from Crown's gourmet department.
Once you recover from the shock that a gas station/convenience store could contain such a comprehensive beer selection, the possibilities are positively intoxicating. You can buy individual bottles here, so perhaps one night you decide to sample every variety manufactured by the English brewery Samuel Smith. The next day your tastes lead you to Southern-style beer like Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager or Cave Creek Chili. Next, after discovering you can't afford the fare to Holland, you settle for a weekend quaffing the tasty suds from four or five Dutch breweries. But maybe the best thing about this place is that it truly is convenient, open 24 hours a day.

It may look like just another place to brown-bag it, but this Sunny Isles liquor store isn't average. Lining the walls are hundreds of unusual decanters, new and old Zippo lighters, thousands of airplane-size minibottles, and a stash of beers from around the world. Whiskeys, ports, grappas, rums, liqueurs, gold-speckled apéritifs, fruit cordials, and hard-to-find imported wines make this storefront a welcome alternative. The variety could make your head spin even before a drink. For example Sunny Isles stocks more than 150 types of single malt scotch. Vodkas? There are nearly 100, including gourmet brands like Absolut, Arctic, Ketel One, Belvedere, Chopin, Grey Goose, Stolichnaya, and Keglevich. Next question: What flavor do you fancy? Chocolate, lemon, vanilla, citron, hot pepper, banana, melon, or strawberry? Manager Fernando Rodriguez and his staff make choosing as easy as falling off a stool.
Moon Dance glitters with the world's treasures. Jewelry from Nepal, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria is laid out in glass cases as majestically as ancient artifacts in a museum display. Many of these pieces have spiritual significance. There are Buddhist medallions stamped with sacred images and African silver totems hanging from leather cords. This exotic jewelry may not bring good luck, but there's no doubt it will draw compliments. Elaborate silver rings set with a rainbow of stones, dangling earrings, chunky silver bracelets, and intricately worked chains are arranged according to color and material. There are so many beautiful things here, it's bewitching. Best of all, prices range from twenty to two hundred dollars. So if you can't travel the world, you can at least wear a little piece of a far-off place.
Margarita Gonzalez possesses the two requisite qualities of a supreme manicurist: a steady hand and a sympathetic ear. But there are other reasons why she's been in business for thirty years, namely her cleanliness, attention to detail, and efficiency. Appointments start and end on time. At her small, second-floor salon, nails are not an afterthought. There's no racket here from blow dryers and screeching stylists; Margarita and her daughter Jesse give full attention to manicures and pedicures. The family atmosphere is relaxing and the well-stocked supply of the latest nail polish shades guarantees you'll leave loving yourself. So whether you like your talons loud and pointy or subdued and square, the Gonzalez family will do wonders for both your hands and your peace of mind.
Most body waxing is performed in beauty salons where the employees give facials, shampoos, sweep the floor, and do manicures. Here the waxers wax. When you're talking about a stranger slathering hot, sticky gunk on your most private parts and then tearing out hundreds of hairs with one yank, it's nice to have confidence. "It's really hard to find good employees," manager Shirley Sanchez comments. "They have to be nice and clean, they have to have a license, and they have to have a good pull. I'm usually the guinea pig and believe me, it hurts when they don't know what they are doing." A gentle touch can help, but wax-type is also important; South Beach uses a recipe that generally allows one-piece removal. Workers at this storefront also stay open relatively late seven days per week, keep the facilities clean, and even go places most others won't. Especially popular are butt waxes, termed "butt strips," by Janet, a slight and cheery Peruvian. The cost is fourteen dollars for the cheeks and twelve more if you want to remove the hair that grows between them. Other hot spots include nostrils, toes, backs, bellies, bikini area, and lips (the pair beneath your nose or, for women, the set further down).

You can find these so-called salons all over our, ahem, fair city. At least five have opened within the past three years, so business appears to be sizzling. Some reasons for taking sun in a box: It's quicker, less damaging, and good for some skin diseases. Still, what's the old saw about selling ice to Eskimos?
Copper sinks from France. German cast-iron bathtubs. Hand-painted bathroom tiles. Classic ceramic bidets and water closets. (The staff prefers this term to toilets.) All the plumbing fixtures in this store are designed in England or France with simplicity and elegance. No gold-leaf, dragon-head faucets. No toilet-seat replicas of a Medici throne. This is a place for people who don't need to show off and are willing to pay to prove it. That French copper sink? $5000. Those German tubs? $1500 to $2500. Wastewater was never treated so well.
For the better part of this decade, Steve Rhodes has scoured the countrysides of India and Indonesia for traditional and ceremonial furniture, instruments, and artwork. He's carted back teak jodang boxes that are used to carry offerings to Indonesian temples and village chiefs' ceremonial drums. He's bartered for Indian tables and cabinets made from the mahogany doors of abandoned mansions located on remote stretches of the opium road. And he's obtained intricately carved opium beds, where aristocrats of yore spent entire days on their backs smoking drugs. But you'll have to pay to indulge in such exotic fare. Prices range from about $500 for a jodang box to $5000 for an opium bed. Rhodes stumbled into his livelihood in 1988 as a way to make his travel bug pay. "It was a simple plan at first: Bring back some things from a trip and sell them," the 36-year-old entrepreneur says. But simplicity has eluded him. He now has two showrooms in Miami's Design District, a Lincoln Road restaurant, a Biscayne Boulevard club, and a warehouse stocked with artifacts. He makes two trips per year. "I love discovering the traditions of other cultures," he says. "I'm very interested in how other people around the world get through life."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®