BEST PLACE TO MEET SINGLE WOMEN www.eHarmony.com What's the hardest part about meeting women? They're pretty much always on the defensive. Internet match sites may not eliminate feminine defensiveness, but the good ones can reduce it significantly by giving women (and men) power to accept or reject at will. eHarmony.com is among the good ones, mainly because of extensive screening at the front end. More than 400 questions in almost 30 categories helps build a detailed profile that increases the chances you'll hook up with someone compatible. It's not the cheapest match site ($50 for one month; $250 for a year), but eHarmony boasts it has put together more engagements and marriages than any similar operation. (But who's keeping track?) The site is the brainchild of relationship guru Neil Clark Warren, a psychologist who has also written many books on the subject.

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH Chili's 19905 Biscayne Boulevard

Aventura

305-682-9898 When you've had enough of the fake tits and tans on South Beach, head north on a Saturday night to indulge yourself in a cross section of real people to watch. This joint is jumping -- there's always a crowd outside waiting for tables -- but head to the bar area for the first-come, first-served seating and an ideal view of the entrance. From high school kids heading to the prom (yes, their dates really did take them to Chili's), to twentysomething partiers getting loaded up on reasonably priced two-for-one cocktails before heading to the clubs, to European tourists and senior citizens, there is a never-ending supply of characters from central casting to watch, admire, or make up crazy stories about.

Readers´ Choice: Lincoln Road

BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWNERS Hoy Como Ayer 2212 SW Eighth Street

Miami

305-541-2631

www.hoycomoayer.net Your visitors can spend the day basking on Miami's beaches, spending cash in its shops, trekking through the Everglades, catching boat rides from Bayside, or feeding the birds at Parrot Jungle. However, the quintessential Miami experience awaits as you take them through the doors of this magical Little Havana club on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night. The nostalgia of old Cuba permeates the air as locals imbibe rum drinks, smoke fine cigars, order platters of Cuban tapas, and dance to live music by some of Cuba's best (exiled) musicians: Albita Rodriguez, Malena Burke, Luis Bofill, Cristina Rebul, Esencia, Sarabanda, Leslie Cartaya, and special guests. Photos of artists from Cuba's cultural past and present decorate the walls, reminding us that today, like yesterday, the island's music is irresistible.

Readers´ Choice: South Beach

BEST POLITICAL COMEBACK Justice Leslie Rothenberg Third District Court of Appeal Talk about comebacks! Rothenberg keeps popping up in the most influential places, defying all expectations and, some would say, reason. First she quit her job as a circuit court judge to run for state attorney. (Her tenure on the circuit court had its fair share of controversies; she had to recuse herself several times for displaying bias against defendants.) While campaigning for state attorney, she snuggled up to the Christian Family Coalition by publicly vowing to oppose while in office most anything that aided or abetted homosexuality. But alas, she was trounced in the Republican primary and limped off to the private sector. But wait! Gov. Jeb Bush himself plucked her from her ignoble fate as a private lawyer and whisked her up to even greater heights by appointing her to fill a vacancy on the Third District Court of Appeal. Her openly anti-gay position could prove troublesome as issues related to sexual orientation make their way through the court system, a prospect that apparently didn't faze the guv.

BEST POLITICAL CONVICTIONS OF THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS Jacques Evens Thermilus and Richard Caride It didn't start out as a political case. It began as an inquiry into a simple heist -- albeit a long-running one. For years employees of private companies that work at Miami International Airport were stealing the valuable jet fuel by the truckload. When a multiagency team of investigators cracked the case, though, they uncovered a hive of politically connected companies and individuals fraudulently billing the airport for work that was either never done or vastly overpriced. As a result, several defendants pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the State Attorney's Office. Jacques Evens Thermilus took a plea and led investigators to a similar scheme he was working with Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele, who was then arrested. Another MIA defendant, Richard Caride, pleaded guilty and told investigators about scheming with businessman Antonio Junior to defraud the airport, and also about Junior's close ties to county Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler. Consequently authorities have opened another investigation.

BEST POLITICAL COUP Carlos Alvarez In late July 2003, when the director of Miami-Dade's police department entered the race to become the county's second executive mayor, no one gave him a chance against the other political war dogs in the contest. Many saw Alvarez as a fifth-place finisher behind José Cancela, Maurice Ferré, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, and Jimmy Morales. Yet Alvarez's grassroots campaign, supported by the state's largest police union and enabled by public campaign funds, inflicted serious damage on the well-oiled electoral machines operating in 2004. He obliterated Cancela, Ferré, and Diaz de la Portilla in the August primary. November 4 he clobbered Morales with a margin of nine points. His success could encourage other outsiders to take aim at one of the most entrenched political institutions the world has ever seen -- the Miami-Dade County Commission.

BEST POLITICAL MISCALCULATION José Cancela Despite a rave endorsement from the Miami Herald touting his candidacy for Miami-Dade County mayor, Cancela tanked in the August 31 first round of voting. But on the way down he pumped a lot of good money into the local political economy. The former head of Radio Unica (a Spanish-language radio network that also tanked) and darling of the chamber-of-commerce crowd came in fifth place, about 9000 votes behind fourth-place finisher Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and just 45,000 votes behind the victor, Carlos Alvarez. Cancela, however, ended up at the top of the heap in fundraising and campaign spending -- nearly two million dollars. The political pork helped sustain a host of needy pollsters, strategists, composers of radio jingles, creators of political advertisements, media outlets, and many more. Cancela also showed heart and loyalty by sending a big chunk of his campaign change to the Herald -- even before the endorsement -- for a barrage of very well-placed ads. In the proud tradition of also-rans, he also infused the campaign discourse with radical, even noble, ideas other candidates dared not raise, such as his solemn pledge to synchronize traffic lights. Conspiracy theorists imagined that Cancela's ill-conceived bid served a hidden agenda: siphoning enough votes from contenders Diaz de la Portilla and Maurice Ferré to keep them out of the runoff. If so, it was one very expensive agenda.

BEST POWER FAMILY Los Valdes-Fauli When Raul Ernesto Valdes-Fauli died in 2003 at age 84, evidence of success in this life wasn't measured by the prominence and prosperity he had achieved as a former lawyer who represented banking and sugar interests in pre-Castro Cuba. (He was very prominent and prosperous.) No, it was the prominence and prosperity his children had gone on to achieve. The siblings didn't just sit on their trust funds; they clambered to the top of a variety of fields, mainly leaning toward endeavors connected to money and power. Son Raul J. is the former mayor of Coral Gables and now an attorney at Steel Hector & Davis. Another son, José, is Colonial Bank's South Florida regional president. A third son, Gonzalo, is a director at Knight Ridder who formerly headed Latin American operations for the Barclays banking organization. Daughter Teresa Weintraub is president of Fiduciary Trust International of the South.

BEST PROMOTER OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY Mary Luft Tigertail Productions

842 NW Ninth Court

Miami

305-324-4337

www.tigertail.org Mary Luft is Tigertail Productions, and this year Tigertail is celebrating 25 years of continuous operation. In this town, that's epochal. As if mere survival weren't enough, Luft has led the way in presenting the contemporary arts to a town that even today barely appreciates them. But for her success has never been a function of mass appeal. Her own mission statement says it best: "Founded in Miami in 1979, Tigertail Productions is Florida's pioneer of innovative art. Tigertail is a catalyst and connector, putting in motion dynamic people and provocative projects in the performing, literary, and visual arts. Tigertail projects reflect the socio-economic range, diversity, and profile of Miami-Dade. Our focus is on the new -- art of our time that reflects current directions and thinking." From the ten-year-old FLA/BRA festival (which brings to Miami the best of Brazil's performance artists) to dance companies from all over the globe to unique musical collaborations (like the recent Nervous City Orchestra led by sound artist Livio Tragtenberg) to anthologies of Miami poets to programs that introduce inner-city kids to artistic expression and others that subsidize the work of Miami artists -- Mary Luft has achieved icon status for her unflagging efforts to bring us aesthetic endeavors of the highest caliber.

BEST PUBLIC MELTDOWN Miami City Commissioner Jeffery Allen Public service is not rocket science. Once in office, you meet with constituents, declaim on their behalf, avoid prostitutes and smoking crack with undercover cops, and chances are you'll do okay. It's also not a bad idea to speak cordially with the press and to avoid brawls. So what does Commissioner Jeffery Allen do after about three months in office? He has a chest-butting match with his chief of staff right in front of city hall, in plain view of several observers. The aide, Milton Vickers, warned he would press charges if Allen touched him, and taking the high road, the commissioner threatened to do the same, according to witnesses. At a community meeting the next morning, Allen moved quickly to modify his hothead image. When a reporter asked about him the fracas, the commissioner spun around and called her "libelous" and "slanderous," loudly announced that his entire staff was now banned from speaking with her, and then stomped off.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®