BEST THEATER FOR DRAMA Coconut Grove Playhouse 3500 Main Highway

Coconut Grove

305-442-4000 What's going on over at the Playhouse? The venerable theater has had its troubles in years past, but this season just about everything worked in its favor. Arnold Mittleman's slate of shows was challenging, a mix of classics and new scripts serving up drama, high comedy, and musical delight. This was backed with superior staffing -- a range of abundantly talented directors and designers, and a welcome blend of locally based and visiting actors. There's no telling how long this good run will continue, but for now the Playhouse sets the standard for top-quality theater in South Florida.

BEST THEATRICAL PRODUCTION The Loman Family Picnic Caldwell Theatre Company

7873 N. Federal Highway

Boca Raton

561-241-7432 Donald Margulies's funny, sad play about one unhappy Jewish family in 1965 Brooklyn received a startling, dynamic production from the Caldwell team, a noted departure from that troupe's usual safe fare. Visually striking staging was matched with an engaging cast and outstanding work from the resident design team. It all added up to an unusual, and memorable, production that played like a strange dream -- fascinating, sometimes illogical, always compelling.

BEST TOUR Redland Riot 305-443-7973

www.redlandriot.com Sunday morning. Rapidly approaching afternoon. Check list. Grind sticky green; twist Chonger for road. Print booklet from Website, crank up music, head down for Redland Riot. Cruise through area's fruity, tropical history in purple haze -- past quaint, funky Cauley Square. Hold joint low when rolling through downtown Homestead. Turn tunes up louder; sing joyfully. Visit Knaus Berry Farm; feast on delicious, oven-fresh, sticky-sweet buns. Profusely thank German Baptist farmers -- praise their heavenly munchables. Stop, stretch, stock up on fruit jelly and fresh veggies at Burr's Berry Farm. Satisfy ganja-related dry mouth at Robert Is Here. Stare goofily at animals while slurping fresh-fruit milkshake. E-mail friends about bus being spacious and comfortable. No loud, rickety airboats. No shady tour guides grasping; no money-grubbing at all. Just sweet relaxation. Down-home treats. Amazing key lime milkshake. A clear view of the glory found in South Miami-Dade. From list check off having blast.

BEST TOURIST TRAP Little Havana Little Havana is perfect for the tourist who wants to soak up local culture the way Cuban bread soaks up lechon juice. Maximo Gomez (Domino) Park is the main axis point of the neighborhood and a gathering spot for old-timers to play dominoes while arguing the finer points of exile politics. Visitors will be blown away by the guayaberas, the cigars, and the colorful expressions of the players. Everyone can pick up a set of dominoes and some kitschy souvenirs at nearby stores such as Little Havana to Go or grab a box of perfectly rolled cigars at one of the tiny factories such as El Credito Cigars. Lily's Records is packed with rump-shaking Cuban classics, and for full effect, there's Viernes Culturales, a street party offered on the last Friday night of each month. On other evenings Hoy Como Ayer provides a mix of classics and modern favorites for Havana-style clubbing. Almost no vacation to Miami is complete without a visit to Versailles for a little coffee and some authentic island food. There are plenty of Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival buildings in the area, including the Tower Theater. For out-of-towners it's an exotic international trip. For Miamians it's -- well, you know.

BEST TRADE (SPORTS TEAM) A.J. Feeley from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Miami Dolphins Forget Shaq. The Miami Heat's signing of the Big Diesel over the summer was a no-brainer. The deal that really turned things around for a South Florida sports team was the Dolphins' decision to give up a second-round pick in this year's college draft for quarterback A.J. Feeley, who could never really distance or distinguish himself from the Fins' other QB, Jay Fiedler. Where the heck is the positive in this? Feeley led the NFL in interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by opposing teams. And when Feeley wasn't throwing interceptions, he was getting knocked out of the game. Feeley's performance on the field obviously underscored the multitude of problems that wrecked the gridiron franchise last season. Here's the positive: The Feeley acquisition was one of many factors that played into team owner Wayne Huizenga's decision to replace head coach Dave Wannstedt with Nick Saban, the most coveted football guru available. Saban is a disciple of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, whose team has won three of the past four Super Bowls. Saban was so hot he was turning down offers from NFL teams until Huizenga took him for a ride on his helicopter. With Saban around, Feeley may still have a shot at becoming a winning QB.

BEST TV NEWS ANCHOR Dwight Lauderdale WPLG-TV (Channel 10) With or without the mustache, and even sans Ann Bishop, no local TV journalist is more trusted and respected than the man behind the news desk at Channel 10. Since 1976 Lauderdale has been disseminating the grimy nonfiction of our sinful streets to an adoring public. Why is it that fans line up whenever he makes a public appearance? Maybe it's because, unlike some of his contemporaries (Shepard Smith), he's never punched out anyone over a parking space or announced the death of a pope 26 hours before the man actually passed away and then publicly blamed the mistake on a producer. When the big-time cable networks come calling, he, unlike Smith or Rick Sanchez, doesn't abandon the populace he's served for so many years. His longevity in a world of ten-second clips and a rotating cast of talking heads has made him a human institution in this town. Now he has earned an overdue spot in our winner's circle.

Readers´ Choice: Matt Lorch, WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

BEST TV NEWS REPORTER Carmel Cafiero WSVN-TV (Channel 7) In the quick-cut and flash-fast world of television news, the thing that sells, aside from hurricanes, is sensationalism. (Sensationalism about hurricanes really sells.) And while it is the same notion that creates a disproportionate distrust of the species known as the media, in TV land the gotcha style of journalism can create images akin to the money shot. There is something grabbing and even compelling about watching some jerk get a comeuppance on the air. No one has mastered this particular niche better than Cafiero. When Carmel is on the case, she jumps in front of her subject and latches on with the tenacity of a ferocious pit bull. The bad guys can't help but to instantly realize the jig is up, though it is sometimes fun to watch them attempt to squirm their way out of the spotlight. Her in-your-face style -- coupled with hard-hitting, often poignant questions -- makes her a TV muckraker of the highest order.

BEST TV STATION WSVN-TV (Channel 7) Anyone with half a brain hates Channel 7. The sensationalized approach, whether in over-the-top news coverage or outlandish reality programming like Trading Spouses or The Simple Life, carries all the intellectual weight of a bran muffin. Is this the sort of stuff you want to enter into conversation at the water cooler? But when alone, carving an ass-groove into a comfy sofa, you know you find a guilty pleasure from the hyperbolic station's hours of mindless entertainment. Exactly what TV is supposed to do. This year the leading purveyor of infotainment reached a class of its own. The Bill Kamal scandal (in which the station's prime weathercaster was busted on child molestation charges) coupled with daily doses of toothy pretty-boy Louis Aguirre heralded a new era of outrageousness. The use of bright, flashy colors in graphics mesmerizes. And thanks to network owner Fox, the station has a strong Sunday-night lineup: animated classics King of the Hill and The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, the too-smart-for-TV Arrested Development, and the Seth MacFarlane comedic masterpieces Family Guy and American Dad. That beats anything on the other networks or cable.

Readers´ Choice: WPLG-TV (Channel 10)

Olympia Theater
Jessica Gibbs
BEST UNSUNG ROCK VENUE Gusman Center for the Performing Arts 174 E. Flagler Street

Miami

305-372-0925 The packed show by Bright Eyes this past January displayed what both Miami International Film Festival and Philharmonic attendees have long known -- the Gusman is one of this town's jewels. Great acoustics, a plush environment, and that otherworldly twinkling ceiling all add up to a venue that makes any concert seem like a bona fide event. In fact, as Bright Eyes bore down on their galloping pop, the band members seemed just as impressed by their surroundings as the audience did, putting that much more effort into their performance as they praised the night's promoter for booking the room. All of which raises the question: Why don't more rock shows take place at this classic setting? It seems downright criminal to keep the Gusman dark for so many nights of the year.

BEST WEATHERCASTER National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center Some people get the weather by sticking their heads out the window. Everybody else gets their weather -- at least partially -- from the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center. Even the major news outlets rely on information from the NWS and NHC before putting an entertaining spin on "partly cloudy with a chance of rain." Why not just go to the source? At the NWS Website (www.srh.noaa.gov/mfl) you'll find straightforward weather forecasting plus various satellite and radar images, historical facts, and safety information. The marine forecast, current weather, and developing situations are also available in a computer-generated monotone on short wave at 162.550 mhz and at 1670-AM. Go towww.srh.noaa.gov/mfl/wireless/index.wml, or contact your provider for wireless technology access. The National Hurricane Center's Website provides comprehensive hurricane information and wireless access, links, an extensive e-mail service, and other ways to obtain forecasts.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®