Sunday, March 27, 2011

Miami Mojito March

Mojito March
If you are a mojito virgin, you must have one at Versailles. But don't expect a bar. You'll have to order food in order to enjoy an adult beverage at this iconic Cuban restaurant in the heart of Miami.

I have great friends. On some days, they just wake up and say, "hey, wonder who makes the best mojito? Let's spend the afternoon finding out!"

And so the first Mojito March was born, during which some friends and I boarded Jim Winter's "Special Ed Short Bus" (you may know Jim of Nikon Miami Blog) for an afternoon of cocktail shenanigans at Tarpon Bend, Versailles, Catch of the Day and Ortanique.

We started around 3ish and didn't end until 9ish. A true mojito olympics indeed, requiring savvy pacing and endurance. Our goal: to see which one of the four establishments served the best version of a mojito, which is basically light rum served over muddled mint, lime and sugar (or simple syrup), topped with a spritz of club soda.

TARPON BEND

Mojito March
Drinks were fruitier and rather light at Tarpon Bend. One of our attendees said "I could spend a whole afternoon here, but not at Versailles." The sell: less crowds and noise.

Tarpon Bend was a great place to start. With a daily happy hour (2 for 1) starting at 3 PM, their drinks were rather fruity and light, reminding me of the kind of beverage you might enjoy at a ritzy spa, with mojito combinations featuring fresh muddled watermelon, for example. To be honest, their traditional mojitos paled in comparison to the ones we would have later, so I would call Tarpon Bend the right kind of place to go when you want mickey mouse refreshment -- a lush's retreat for hydration during a hangover -- which would be just right on a Saturday afternoon with no crowds on Miracle Mile.

A rather sweet coconut mojito held the imagination of my socia @lizawalton, who quickly declared it tasted like "ladies lying out in the sun." I asked her: "Should we call it the Coppertone, complete with a tanning butler spreading oil on my ass?" And thus, I think, we have a new favorite drink for Sex and the Beach, though I'm no fan of flavored rums. (I can't believe they even brought out the Dragonberry. Sorry Bacardi, but I'm a rum purist.)

VERSAILLES

Mojito March
The waitresses at Versailles wear awesome polyester retro uniforms.

Versailles, the iconic, world-famous Cuban restaurant on 8th street, passed muster with a stiff cocktail that would put hair in even in the chest of Tony Montana. And you should expect "stiff" around here -- the soft curves of women who have indulged way too much in flan are flanked by hard-line politics and protests just outdoors, all washed down with rum and strong coffee. This is a bustling place, full of locals and tourists, ready to ignite at a moment's notice while digging into your rice and beans like you would at your Cuban abuela's house.

Versailles gets bonus points for garnishing the drink with a chunk of sugar cane, too, which is always fun to suck on. This was better than Tarpon Bend's drinks, which were so pulpy, it was impossible to suck anything through the straw unless you were a porn star equipped with a Dyson vacuum. And besides, every cocktail should come with something phallic other than a plastic straw to put in one's mouth. Remember, drinking isn't just about taste, it's about sensual things like sucking and swallowing, right?

Not to mention that sugar cane itself evokes the raw history of rum, slavery, wealth and blood-sucking greed that was the sugar industry in the evolution of the Caribbean, the United States and the rest of the New World. Yeah, suck on that, baby. You're tasting a little bit of history when you have a mojito at Versailles.

Order mojitos with the "fried combination" platter -- fried tuber roots of every kind, including yuca, as well as meat-filled empanadas and croquetas, served with a garlicky cilantro aioli -- and you have the perfect Cuba Carbs 101 for your friends who fly in from Iowa.

While you're there, don't forget to spread rumors about Castro being dead:

twitter screenshotCATCH OF THE DAY

Catch of the Day, a casual sports bar and seafood restaurant near the airport, served mojitos in tall glasses. While tasty and refreshing, the use of sugar actually made some sips rather granular, which made me think I had ordered rum with muddled sheet rock. Simple syrup is always better. Not that it was bad, mind you. I just don't like grainy stuff in my drinks -- you know, kind of like how tapioca reminds you of sperm. If you go to Catch of the Day, try their special mango mojito, which was fruity but not heavy like nectar.

Mojito March
Of course, great company is the most important ingredient of any cocktail! The Mojito March crew toasting at Catch of the Day.


Mojito March
We even attempted to scientifically register our mojito research.

Here we enjoyed some delicious filled tostones with shrimp creole, which are usually not on the menu. This unpretentious place, like a Cubanaso version of Tarpon Bend (see, there's taxidermy art, stuffed fish on the wall, too) is worth its weight in happy hour though, which runs from 3 - 7 PM everyday on the lord's calendar.

ORTANIQUE

Mojito March
Ortanique got it down. And it's not just because it was our last stop of the evening.

Our day ended at Ortanique, probably the fanciest place where we imbibed cane spirits, and not surprisingly, as they served the best and most expensive mojito at about $10 a glass, which is still cheaper than a thimble full of whore spit in South Beach. Ortanique's secret? They skip muddling and rip their mint leaves, letting the natural botanical oils seep into the cocktail without turning the leaves black. (I've never seen mint turn black though ... have you?) They also have the right amount of fizz from club soda, which I found lacking in the other mojitos.

All in all, each location had something great to offer, though if you're going to judge the proverbial cocktail itself, Ortanique takes the cake.

SPECIAL ED SHORT BUS

Our adventure was possible in part thanks to Jim Winters, the creative brain behind Nikon Miami Blog and Bulldog Neon Signs, as well as denizen of one of Miami's most unique art bunkers -- that's the only name I can come up with to describe his studio. Our fearless driver made it safe for us to indulge.

Mojito March
A gentle giant, Jim Winters stands his ground next to the short bus. @lizawalton peeks through the window.

I could not, of course, finish this blog post without paying tribute to Ines, Miami's original mojito expert, whom unfortunately could not grace us with her presence on this day. As a result, I felt obligated to do a Miamism-style review, out of deep reverence to the mojito queen herself!



More pictures from our mojito adventures on Flickr.



And speaking of mojitos, don't forget the Rum Renaissance Festival coming up this April.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Saturday on South Beach

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
By the grace of God, what am I supposed to do with this yumminess? Serve it up on a platter with a side of coleslaw?

It has been about two years since I moved from South Beach to South Miami. I don't miss the beach at all, but sometimes I have to go back to experience a dose of non-reality.

Yesterday, traffic was more backed up on the causeway than the bowels of a constipated goat. And forget about finding parking. Oh and I refuse to pay ass-rape prices for taxis.

As a result, I walked up and down Ocean Drive in wedge heels for a total of four miles just to take advantage of my super secret free parking spot. (You could kill me and I still wouldn't tell you where it is.)

And heck, all that walking burns vodka calories, right?

The main occasion was a pre Ultra Music Festival gathering for Cirque du Pool on March 26th, which promises to be a classic South Beach bash.

Yes, a party to celebrate another party a week before ... that's how we roll in the 305, which was completely acceptable to the friendly tourists I met from Iowa.

The Terrace Bar and Cigar Lounge affords an excellent view of 5th street and Lummus Park from a wrap-around terrace, where you can while away the hours watching bumper-to-bumper traffic below. The $25 all-you-can-drink-all-day bar featuring premium liquor was probably the best deal on the beach yesterday, and if they keep that up, this casual lounge could easily become a local's favorite.

But not so cool: how repugnantly touristy Ocean Drive has become north of 5th street. Is it just me, or has it gotten worse over the years? This is what I observed as I walked from 5th street all the way to The Delano.

Tourists, why are you ordering those mega cocktails the size of a football field? What a waste of booze and offense to the art of mixology!

And what's up with the tacky food displays? Didn't the City of Miami Beach outlaw them a few years ago?

The City of Miami Beach was certainly on duty yesterday when code enforcement showed up and forced us to take the music inside, which made me wonder: who in their right mind lives on Ocean Drive not expecting noise?

Seriously, if noise offends, so should those visual displays at restaurants.

In any case, the beach was buzzing yesterday in all its urban glory, and if you blinked, you might have missed the fact that it's a barrier island on the Atlantic Ocean. I had a blast. And today I need a foot massage.

Behold the photo dump below.


Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
Lummus Park at South Beach's busiest intersection.

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
I don't know why, but I kept thinking strap-on dildo when I saw this babe drumming.

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
Dude, you can wear a hoodie, but you can't hide the fact that you are filling in that speedo quite well.

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
The human slinky was really cool. Travel Channel was in the house shooting B-roll for some show ... not sure which one.

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
The dancer on the left looks a lot like Amy Winehouse, doesn't she? Lovely girl, but someone please take her to La Carreta for dinner.

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
This redheaded cutie had been pouring cocktails in a bikini and heels earlier in the day. She went ultra beach preppy after a while.

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
Dancing and texting at the same time! And what's up with the school bus in the background? Kids going out on a Saturday?

Pre Ultra Music Festival Party at Terrace Bar on Ocean Drive and Fifth Street
Pals from Web City Girls stopped by for a bit.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Silicone Bitch: Not SXSW March Madness

News and notes about the South Florida social media and blogging scene, with a little tech thrown in for good measure. And maybe some other random events, too.


Wordcamp Miami 2011
Eager hands at WordCamp Miami. Photo by Alexdesigns via Flickr.

It's a long story on why I didn't go to SXSW earlier this month, and it's a story I'm not particularly happy about, so we shall have no coverage for you of the biggest social media circle jerk of the year. However, Silicone Bitch kept a watchful eye on the local social media and blogging scene, as usual. Somebody had to stay home and take care of the chickens. April will be the one-year anniversary of this column!

STARTUP BUS MIAMI

Yet we must mention this: what happens when you put a bunch of geeks on a bus, forced to brainstorm great ideas in a span of 48 hours? This, my friends, is what a bunch of geeks did on their way to SXSW this year. Spearheaded in part by West Palm Beach-based Marc Kaplan (@sflsocialgeeks), Startup Bus Miami was one of six buses vying to win a national competition.

Other buses made their way to Austin from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York, Cleveland and Chicago. Ironically, though, the bus itself wasn't filled exclusively with Floridian passengers -- only a handful from Southeast Florida and Tampa, with others joining in from Louisiana and Atlanta.

Thirty five geeks worked hard to come up with seven pitches. The one that made it to the finals -- mynewman.com, an "anti-social" network -- didn't win the competition, unfortunately.

Startup Bus Miami will have another incarnation next year. "I'd like to see more local people participating next year," said Kaplan over a phone interview. "Let's show them that Florida is a force to contend with."

Yes. We're Silicon Beach, after all.


NEWS AND NOTES

  • WordCamp Miami was a smashing success this year. Over 300 people showed up to learn everything from blogging basics to developer tricks. Anyone interested in blogging should attend this event in 2012. If you couldn't make it this year, there's still much to learn from the videos and presentations page. You'll find my Blogging 101 slide there, too.
  • Never doubt the power of social media and online communities. Over at Miami Beach 411, we helped nab an alleged craigslist scammer (aka Monica Brown) just by doing some basic gumshoe work inspired by a forum thread warning would-be South Beach residents about roommate and rental shenanigans.
  • The second annual Sun Sentinel "Best of Blogs" Award is currently accepting nominations. I wish they would curate this competition so it doesn't become one big social media popularity contest. We already learned that lesson over at South Florida Daily Blog, where a panel of of devoted bloggers and readers oversees the process now.

RANDOM GOOD STUFF

  • My friend @kimcelenza is helping organize an ULTRA music event called Cirque du Pool for March 26. That's not normally my scene, but it seems like a good deal, so I'm giving them a little love here. $100 VIP tickets get you in with bottomless champagne on the rooftop, corner of 5th and Ocean Drive. South Beach's wildest "seen and be seen" corner will be buzzing with the sounds of groovy DJs like Ralph Falcon. Soul of Miami has all the details and links.
  • Save the date for sometime in the doldrums of summer -- possibly July, maybe August. SxSe (South By Southeast), Southeast Florida's best and brightest old-school tweetup, will take place somewhere in the Florida Keys. We're courting several properties down there to see who will have us and give us the best deals.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Real Housewives of Miami: A Disgrace to Real Latina Women

elsa patton, velia martinez, estelle gettyWhatever happened to aging gracefully? Elsa Patton (left), Velia Martinez (middle) and Estelle Getty, (right). Real Housewives of Miami, Que Pasa, USA? and The Golden Girls, respectively.

Remember when Bravo TV used to be cultural and not a flatulent, bloated channel devoted to rich bitches with hair extensions? You know, when you would actually flip through the channels and watch something on that network that didn't make you say: "Please, God, can I have that hour of my life back?"

Well, such are the emotions I experience when I watch segments of The Real Housewives of Miami, yet another show that epitomizes every ridiculous stereotype about the Magic City, but perhaps a notch better than the broadcast diarrhea that was Miami Social. And I emphasize "segments," because I would rather skin a live alligator in the Everglades during a category five hurricane than put up with a full hour of this crap.

And you know I have to watch it in order to keep up with all the bullshit people say about my hometown. I can't not blog about it. Keep your enemies closer than your friends, right?

Seriously, housewives, if all you have to worry about is where to find a good nanny, or packing for your trip to Disney with a walk-in closet that's bigger than the average South Beach studio, or getting annoyed at some ornery artist at your gallery opening, I think you should be serving crack to the homeless sleeping on North Miami Avenue at night just to teach you a lesson. Worst yet, I want to give you a $100 Amex gift card and force you to shop at Valsan for punishment, just for kvetching about stupid shit.

Good lord, rich people are so abominably boring.

At least, fortunately, the homeless are real people with real problems. You, on the other hand, are a blight to our city, bringing fluff and puff to the table in so-called reality TV. If you want to be a real housewife of Miami, go to La Carreta on 8th street and stuff your face with a bistec palomilla. Then at least I might respect you.

Bitches, you are not real housewives of Miami. For that, you need to go to Hialeah and interview some factory worker. Your white-woman-first-world-problems get no sympathy from me. You make all hard working Latinas look like bimbos. You bring shame to the estrogen brigade. And please stop plumping up your lips. Your mouths look like irritated vulvas after a gang bang.

That being said, I am impressed with the whacko Cuban grandmother, Elsa Patton, in this show. She is such an unabashed caricature of herself, she comes off as completely sincere. No one can fake trying to look like the Cat Woman or Mickey Rourke. Elsa claims to be a "witch" (pronounced "gweeeesh") and a "seer" ... yeah, Elsa, after a few glasses of Pinot Noir I can see into everyone's future, too. At least you own it. I think you should start your own talk show with Charytin ... or at the very least, you should consult with her plastic surgeon.

THE BEST MIAMI TV SHOW EVER ...

But all this gives me the opportunity to praise Adela, the world famous Cuban grandmother played brilliantly by the Velia Martinez in the only actual authentic and fabulous TV show this city has ever produced: Que Pasa, USA?, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary last month at the Miami-Dade Public Library downtown. Sorry, Sofia Petrillo of The Golden Girls, I madly love you too, but Adela was the real Miami Cubanasa thing.

If I could weave magic and do a TV show, I would put Adela and Elsa in the same room. And you know what Adela would say: "Coño, que le pasa a esta mujer? She has so much plastic surgery, parece un adefecio."

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Explore Florida's Art Without Leaving Miami

Dance of the Whooping Cranes by N. C. WyethDance of the Whooping Cranes by N. C. Wyeth. Just one of many paintings on exhibit at History Miami through May 15.

I've been taking a Florida history class once a week since January with Dr. Paul George at Miami-Dade College. Only this week did we begin to get into the 19th century, when Spain sold Florida to the United States for a cool $5 million in 1819. (Compare that to today's luxury real estate prices.)

Coincidentally, History Miami launched an art exhibit about two weeks ago highlighting the periods we're going to be studying for the rest of the course.

Reflections: Paintings of Florida 1865-1965 displays 69 paintings from the collection of Cici and Hyatt Brown, collectors who are passionate about Florida art. The collection focuses on Florida's natural beauty and rural life before the post-World War II construction booms and is the largest private collection of its kind in the world today.

My favorite paintings were the one depicting natural landscapes -- the kind you might see today if you go off the beaten path into the forests, swamps, lakes and rivers of the state -- any place untouched by development. St. Augustine was also well represented with street and maritime scenes. Portraits of native Floridians and pioneering African-Americans hung among the depictions of the land.

What's important about this collection is that it captures the Florida School of Art and features many renown painters who lived in the state and were inspired by its culture and beauty. Today, it's so easy to get caught up in everything that's wrong about Florida and find no inspiration here. Exhibits like this put things into perspective, keeping track of the rich cultural history of the state.

The exhibit was organized by the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach and is on display until May 15. For more information, visit History Miami.

NOT A STUFFY MUSEUM

History Miami is one of my favorite local institutions and now they've made it even more cool and groovy with Wine Down Wednesday, which take place the first Wednesday of every month, 5 to 8 PM. So if you happen to go to Reflections on April 6 or May 4 from 5 to 8 PM, you'll get free admission, free parking, live music, $15 open wine bar with light snacks or $5 by the glass. Members and county employees get a complimentary glass. Surely, this has to be one of, if not the best, Miami cultural happy hours.

For more details and to rsvp, call 305-375-1614.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Stone Crabs in Everglades City

Stone Crabs in Everglades City triad seafood
It doesn't get better than this. So worth the drive.
On my way back to Miami from Tampa recently, I decided to take Tamiami Trail instead of I-75 for a stop at Everglades City, a small town in the middle of the wilderness on the gulf coast. Founded in 1924, the town is where the stone crab craze started back in the 1940's when commercial fisherman and Everglades granddaddy Loren "Totch" Brown saw not a cow, but a cash claw in what was once a nuisance critter.

It was Brown who first introduced Miami Beach sandwich shop owner Joe Weiss to stone crabs, a fateful day in the island's history, as the much coveted delicacy would become synonymous with South Beach culinary indulgence at the ever-popular Joe's Stone Crabs.

Each year, from October to May, local fisherman in Everglades City set their traps to catch the stone crabs, remove their claws and ship the seafood product worldwide. Small and unassuming, but brimming with old Florida charm, this capital of stone crab fishing seems overshadowed by the luxury dining establishments where the humble claws arrive at their final destination, Joe's being no exception.

I've never eaten at Joe's, mainly because I have always been turned off by the fact that you can't make reservations, that the waiting times are legendary, that the prices are astronomical and that botox and lamborghinis serve as backdrop for the atmosphere. (I've had drinks at Joe's bar, however; trust me, it's quite a parade when the diners pack in for the cattle call.)

So instead, I couldn't resist this opportunity explore the backcountry. Why not eat where the damn things are caught? Why not savor the delicacy right there, surrounded by the murky waters of the Glades that stone crabs call home? Joe's may be fancy, but there's something special about eating at the source.

TRIAD SEAFOOD

Triad Seafood Café and Market
You won't have to slip the maitre'd a Benjamin to get a seat at Triad Seafood on the Barron River.

For my stone crab lunch, I opted for Triad Seafood Market and Café, a rustic spot right on the Barron River with an outdoor deck and a screened-in dining room. Triad has been selling seafood since 1986 and became a restaurant in 2004. The place is family-owned; some members even live upstairs.

I started with a cup of rich shrimp gumbo, which stuck to my ribs, though I would have preferred more heat. (A bottle of Crystal sauce took care of that.) But the real deal was one pound of medium-sized stone crab claws for a market price of $19.95, which was more than enough for one hungry person and boy, I do like to eat. I didn't even bother with side dishes; it's enough to dig into those claws, which are served with mustard sauce or butter, yet just as good on their own.

Those with even bigger appetites can enjoy all-you-can-eat stone crabs with two sides, which was $42 market price on the day of my visit.

(A recent trip to Joe's Takeaway, a less formal cafe attached to the main restaurant, confirmed that the same portions were more than half the price in South Beach and Joe's doesn't do all-you-can-eat. Oh lawdy, how could they? That would be so frowned upon in such an establishment!)

I washed down the sweet, fleshy crab meat with a couple of cold beers and the whole bill was less than $35, including tip. Would it be worth driving one and a half hours to Everglades City for the same treat again? You bet. I think I'd rather do that than go to South Beach, deal with parking and wait in line for a table. Besides, where else in the world can you drive through Everglades hammocks and witness the glorious sea of grass?

To be fair, there's nothing wrong with Joe's if that's your cup of tea; it's not only a beautiful place, but also an important South Beach landmark. Let's just not forget one little detail: we Miamians don't have to drive far to enjoy stone crab claws simply and with none of the fuss, right there where it all started.

IF YOU GO

Triad Seafood is located at 401 West School Drive and is open seven days a week from 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM. I was told it's popular on the weekends with Miami BMW bikers, but when I went during the week, the only other people I saw were a couple on their way back from their vacation home in the Cayman Islands who had stopped here before heading north, because yes, it's that good.

If stone crabs aren't your thing, there are plenty of other menu items ranging from conch chowder and fried oysters to homemade pies. Go before May 15 -- that's when stone crab season ends. Stone crabs are also for sale in the market.

Make a day trip out of it: stop at Clyde Butcher's Photo Gallery on the way and pay a visit to Smallwood Store in Chokoloskee, about ten minutes south of Everglades City. The museum is on the National Register of Historic Places and was once a post office, general store and Indian trading post founded by pioneer Ted Smallwood in 1906.

Friday, March 04, 2011

In Loving Memory

My old friend, I remember getting mad at you when we were both silly teenagers and traveling through England. You see, me being a dogged writer, I remember the most ridiculous details about life.

Actually, you got mad at me first, because your hair was so long, I sat on it on the bus, and after having traveled several days together, we couldn't stand each other.

You were picky. I was carefree. You went by the rules. I always made an exception.

But we stuck together -- you, me and our other friends, like peas in a pod.

I remember it all like it was yesterday. And it's so ridiculous, isn't it? So ridiculous that I should remember that one moment on the bus between Coventry and London, because today, in the wind, in some unlikely place in Miami, I saw you buried, all 43 years of your life, six feet underground.

When we finally reconnected, years later after the college years, the growing up years, those couple of decades when careers, marriages, kids and all that had gotten the best of us, it was as if no time had passed and all I could remember were the silly times, because truly, none of it was ever actually bad.

Last night, when I got a text message from a friend about your funeral service today, I could barely breathe, but I managed to pull myself together. It's as if all of us crazy friends were back together again, reconnecting and reaching out over a span of time when so much could have separated us and made us indifferent.

But we're not indifferent.

Love among friends is still there. The thread has not completely unraveled; the fabric, though tattered, remains intact.

Now that you are gone, a quarter of a century later, now that I saw you buried today, the box with dirt on it, gosh, you are so much more than that. Your smile, wit and stubborn determination are characteristics I will always admire about you -- everything that was so apparent in our younger years. I always knew you'd be brilliant and I loved you for that, still love you.

As sad as I am, your passing is giving me strength and the inspiration to be something better. You are still making a difference. I was blessed to have crossed your path.

Rest in peace, M.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Pirates: Florida Renaissance Festival

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend busty babe wench beer warsteiner
OK, she's not a pirate, but pirates and wenches go hand in hand. And nothing gets attention like a busty babe serving beer!

Trail of the Pirates, the road trip from Key West to St. Augustine, is expanding in a new series of stories about pirate groups, activities and history in general. I'll focus on Florida first but will eventually move beyond wherever fair winds may take me!

PIRATES OF THE TREASURE COAST

In this installment, I didn't have to travel far -- only 40 miles north to Deerfield Beach where pirates roamed the ground of the Florida Renaissance Festival two weekends ago. Much to my delight, I bumped into two pirates I met in St. Augustine who hail from Palm Beach County and are members of Pirates of the Treasure Coast. They manage a small scale replica of Blackbeard's flagship, The Queen Anne's Revenge, which you can see at the fair. The vessel is fully rigged.

Florida Renaissance Festival
Pirates of the Treasure Coast on the Queen Anne's Revenge.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
My pirate friends, whom I originally met in St. Augustine, crack me up every time.

EAST COAST PRIVATEERS

I also became acquainted with the East Coast Privateers, who are based in Broward. Drake, the Master of Arms, welcomed me to the encampment where I enjoyed home made grog, a behind-the-scenes look at black powder firing, conversations about weaponry and sword fighting and most importantly, great company from Drake and other pirates in the krewe. The East Coast Privateers pride themselves in being the only local krewe with a license to fire black powder at public events and are certified by National Park standards. All members who fire weapons are trained in the art. As well, Drake himself is an accomplished swordsman.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
A lovely lass from the East Coast Privateers.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
Drake in front of his tent, which he shared with his lovely pirate girlfriend. Ladies, the shirt came off because it was a hot day ... a very HOT day, as can clearly be seen in this photo.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
Impressive weaponry!

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
Cleaning and prepping the black powder weapons at the encampment, where some of the pirates spend the night during the festival.

Florida Renaissance Festival
Captain Blackwolfe of the East Coast Privateers.

Florida Renaissance Festival
This privateer is known as Misfire, but he was certainly adept at firing the cannon.

Thinking of pirates in the Renaissance is somewhat anachronistic though sea-faring cultures have been plundering vessels for a long time. But it was easy to suspend my disbelief as the Golden Age of Piracy went back in time to mingle with jousters, falconers and knights.

THE FAIR AT LARGE

Spending time at the Renaissance Fair was the most wholesome fun I've had in a long time even though it wasn't all kiddie stuff. (I actually played a scullery maid at a Renaissance Fair in Crandon Park when in high school and haven't been to such a fair since the late '80s.)

Now in its 19th year, this particular production is worth every penny of the $20 adult admission. Get in, grab a cold brew and walk the grounds to see fantastic costumes, craft work, authentic encampments, reenactments, street performers and amusing acts.

The Duelists, a pair of sexy swashbucklers combining their sword play with raunchy humor, were my favorite act besides the pirates, of course. The closing Pub Sing, where members of courts and musical acts gather with the public to sing and dance, was also great fun. I particularly enjoyed bawdy singers Iris and Rose and The Limey Birds trio.

Some of it was educational, too. I learned how the English made ink in the 16th century and saw some beautiful leather-bound blank journals with paper made from cotton -- the original blogging tools, if you will. Both ink and paper were for sale, in case anyone was inclined to pick up a quill and write like a centuries old scribe.

Florida Renaissance Festival
The Duelists doing their thing. There was a group of young children in the audience so they had to tame their act. Nonetheless, the kids couldn't stop laughing and had a wonderful time heckling the performers.

Florida Renaissance Festival
The turkey leg is a popular food item at the fair. I had a 12" grilled sausage on a stick though. Surprised?

Florida Renaissance Festival
What's not to love about good, clean fun with wet, dirty women? The act is called Washing Well Wenches and involves audience participation.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
You know Sex and the Beach couldn't help but notice the impressive codpiece worn by this axe thrower.

Florida Renaissance Festival
An illuminated manuscript copied from a 1596 century recipe for ink made with oak galls, wine, gum arabic, vitriol and iron sulfate. The calligraphy took about eight hours to complete.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
Getting smiles from the street characters alone is worth the visit.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
Iris and Rose, who describe themselves as "wild and thorny," were part of the Pub Sing.

Florida Renaissance Festival - Pirate Weekend
You won't find this kind of gear at Walmart.

IF YOU GO

You have two more weekends to enjoy the Florida Renaissance Festival, located at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach. The theme for March 5-6 is is "Bodacious Bodices" (ladies, you will simply swoon at the corsets, skirts and other clothing items available for sale here). The following weekend, March 12-13, goes Celtic with a "Kiss the Blarney Stone" theme. Although I went two days in a row, I recommend visiting at least noon till closing time -- there's much to see. Give yourself an extra 30 minutes or so to negotiate parking, which is organized and features a shuttle to the main entrance. Wear closed-toe comfortable shoes.

Although I enjoyed special access to the pirates in order to write this post, you too can stop by and say hello while you're at the fair. You'll find the resident pirates toward the west end of the park by the lake. The Queen Anne's Revenge is on display and The East Coast Privateers fire canons and guns with a reenactment show for kids and adults 12:30 and 3 PM each day.

MORE PHOTOS

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Silicone Bitch: It's All About Entrepreneurship and Education

News and notes about the South Florida social media and blogging scene, with a little tech thrown in for good measure. And maybe some other random events, too.

marcos menendez momaresTech burlesque? Marcos Menendez, founder of Momares.

STARTUP FORUM

The Startup Forum held "Are You Serious?" February 10 at Miami Dade College. This educational event, based on similar events at New York's Hatchery, featured local startup companies who pitched their ideas in five minutes or less to expert investors from New York and South Florida. Miami's inaugural Hatchery had us sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering who would win the most points.

Silicone Bitch favorite CloudShopper presented but it was Momares who won with his text messaging service and on-stage charisma. (Momares stands for "Mobile Marketing for the Rest of Us" and gives businesses the technology to reach customers via mobile.)

One of Startup Forum's goals for 2011 is to connect promising startups with investors in New York and Miami. The next pitch event is March 31. Any startup is welcome to apply for a pitch -- it can even be offline and unrelated to tech. Visit The Startup Forum for more information.

SXSW HIT MIAMI

SXSW Interactive
, the world's biggest gathering of social media types held every March in Austin, was representing last month at Social Media Club South Florida by throwing a party in lovely Overtown among the crackheads. "Bar" as the venue is called, is so low profile, even the bathroom door handles don't work. But that didn't matter, because the crowd was buzzing with South Florida's tried and true twitterati and some new folks as well. The purpose of this "town hall" was to help locals attending the Austin schmooze fest with tips on how to manage the gargantuan convention.

Hashable, a new web and mobile product that lets you keep track of who you're meeting and introducing, was in the house as well. The app will have its official launch at SXSW. I predict Hashable will be helpful when you get home with a stack of business cards and wonder who the hell was who in the first place. No more scratching your head to remember who you had breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks with. (Silicone Bitch is wondering if the tag #sex will be popular, too.)

SMALL BUSINESS EMPOWERMENT

Just as I posted about not being a social media guru in the last column, a last-minute opportunity came up to present on the subject of Facebook at the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce business empowerment series entitled "Social Media Success." My co-presenter, Blanca Stella Mejía and I spoke to an audience of 70 on setting up Facebook pages for business, utilizing several local organizations and companies as successful models -- PALO! and Miamism, to name a few.

While Blanca spoke mostly about technique, I focused more on the intangibles of social interaction and it was completely un-guruish, I assure you, though we did share our best practices and hands-on skills with the eager audience of newbies. The other two speakers, who addressed social media in general and Twitter, were Bill Grunau of Circle of One Marketing and Marvin DeJean.

You can view the full presentation below:

The Business Empowerment Series hosted by the chamber, which encompasses a variety of topics, took place at Jungle Island's convention rooms. At only $15 for non-members and $10 for members, the half-day of lectures, Q & A and networking included continental breakfast and lunch.

WORDCAMP MIAMI 2011

Wordcamp Miami
is taking place March 5 at the University of Miami. In its third year, the sold-out event features a beginner, marketing and design as well as a developer track. Yours truly will open the beginner track with a lecture on blogging basics; there are 19 other speakers covering everything from SEO, monetizing blogs to plugins and more. If you missed Wordcamp this year, keep your eyes peeled for the next edition. At $30, it's a bargain for a day chock-full of information and education, plus networking.

TEDx MIAMI

TEDx MIAMI makes its second round in the Magic City with a live broadcast from the main TED conference in California starting at 5 PM today in the Design District. Yes, somewhere in the land of fluff, the flower of knowledge and ideas will bloom and no one will talk about The Real Housewives of Miami, so help me God. You know that sorta smart and rich guy, Bill Gates? Well, he'll be broadcasting on screen promptly at 5:15 PM. Other speakers will prevail until 10 PM. The thirst for knowledge will be quenched and a cash bar will also be available to soothe the thirst for adult beverages. Sakaya Kitchen's food truck, Dim Ssam a go go, will be on the premises selling food. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP for headcount at Eventbrite.

SUAGM: HEALTH, WEALTH AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Ladies, don't forget this excellent one-day series of inspiring lectures, Q & A and networking takes place next week on March 10. Silicone Bitch highly recommends. Get your early bird ticket at $25 -- only a limited number available. See you there! RSVP at Eventbrite.