Friday, October 16, 2015

Sexo y la Playa: Because Everything Sounds Sexier in Spanish

Hotel Chelsea Miami Beach Florida
Photo by @antjjphotog.

Last Sunday, I gathered with friends at the chic Hotel Chelsea on Washington Avenue to celebrate Sex and the Beach's 10th anniversary. The location couldn't have been more appropriate, right in the heart of South Beach, where it all started.

The art deco boutique hotel serves up drinks in an updated and elegant lobby bar, which was perfect for this intimate gathering. Outside, a cozy patio is set with tables and couches for food service from Alex's Kitchen at Chelsea.

South Beach Hotel Chelsea
The lobby bar at Hotel Chelsea was already decked out for Halloween.

It's here we enjoyed some tasty libations with Martin Miller's Gin, the cocktail I created with Robert V. Burr in 2011 as a "trade up" to the old classic Sex on the Beach.

To this day, I still have to remind people whenever they ask about my blog that it's called Sex and the Beach, not on the beach. There's a big difference between the preposition on and the conjunction and  -- the former is a state of mind; the latter involves sand in the orifices, which can get quite itchy.

Born on the sultry shores of Miami Beach, of course, the cocktail sounds more exotic en Español. Under the Florida sun, beautiful bodies tan in the white-sand beaches of an alluring, glossy town -- never mind the darker, gritty underbelly of this urban beach, which keeps it raw and real: just how I like it.

And so inspired by the blog that was, in turn, inspired by this city, we created a cocktail with unexpected zing: muddled jalapeño and ginger beer offset the sweetness of peach nectar. The botanicals in the gin make for a drink that's as good to smell as it is to sip.

Sex and the Beach Martin Miller Gin cocktails
The bar manager at Hotel Chelsea did a fantastic job of modifying a single-serve highball recipe to self-pour in a glass keg.

Tempted? While in South Beach, ask your bartenders for an elegant Sexo y La Playa. Let them know the soon-to-be-world-famous cocktail garnered rave reviews at its public debut from a distinguished panel of experts hanging out at the fabulous Hotel Chelsea. If they look at you all funny, ask them to tweet @vicequeenmaria for the recipe or send them to the Martin Miller Gin vault.

(Whatever you do, while in South Beach, please drink like a local. I beg you. Kindly refrain from ordering those fish bowl cocktails served in Ocean Drive cafés with two Corona beers standing neck down in some tacky mockery of the classic Margarita. I'm pretty sure a kitten dies somewhere each time one of those monstrosities is consumed.)

But I digress. Back to the party.

As classic 80s music played in the background, we chatted and savored fresh sushi rolls from Fung Ku, which delivered my favorite: spicy tuna. If you've been following my #vicequeenkitchen tag in the social networks, you know how particular -- and particularly bananas -- I am about food. Fung Ku's sushi -- how do I explain this without sounding pervy? -- was tight and crisp in texture as I rolled each morsel in my mouth. We love this, because there's nothing sadder than something limp and soggy in your mouth.

We also licked our lips while devouring two gorgeous cakes from It's A Bundt. The frosting alone gave me dirty thoughts and (shhh!) I stuck a finger in it when no one was looking. The bundt may have a hole in it, but it sure was full of love. Yeah, that's it. Our favorite love hole comes surrounded by something moist and tasty. Dig in!

Fung Ku Sushi, Martin Miller Gin, Itsabundt Cake Miami Beach
The spread.

Sex and the Beach Blog 10th Anniversary Party
Soul of Miami, another long-time Miami website, stopped by to say hello.

Itsabundt Bundt Cake Miami
Clearly, I skipped cake eating etiquette 101 at charm school.

Good grief, I wanted to write about my shindig and all I think about is the food. Because it's always about sex or stuff that's more interesting than sex, namely, food.

Sex and food, folks. That's all she wrote. And then some.

I really didn't want to celebrate anything at all, but I thought, what the heck? A decade is kind of a big deal. I could never have imagined the doors that this blog would open or the joy I would experience from meeting so many amazing folks along the path.

And all this because one day, back in October 2005, I decided to write about how convenient it would be to have a pap smear while getting your vaj waxed. (I still think it's a good idea.)

Damn. I guess that alone was worth a toast. Here's to another ten!

Created with flickr slideshow.

The businesses mentioned in this post happily supported this event by providing goods and services, for which we are very grateful! All opinions my own, as always.

Whatever Tickles My Fancy and Other Parts

The New SoBe Dining Trend Mangoe's South Beach
You can still "eat" at Mangoe's, wink wink. Cartoon by Yours Truly, circa 2006.

Ten years of what? Time flies. As I celebrate a decade of blogging this month, I'm hard pressed to pick which one of 675 posts I would consider top 10, so here are some random pickings, by year.

What a great ride -- everything from wrestling gators to chasing pirates -- and several pen names. We're fresher than ever, because we're always reinventing ourselves. Life's too short to get stale. That's the beauty of it: 10 years ago, I had no idea I'd still be writing this blog, let alone what would fill these pages. Today, I wouldn't have it any other way. Like I say: I write about whatever tickles my fancy and other parts.


2005: Wax and Pap
2006: South Beach Miniskirt Crisis
2007: Dr. Annie Steelclit: Conversation with Bill Gates (VIDEO)
2008: Sex and the Animals (originally written for City Link Magazine as Manola Blablablanik)
2009: Ford Fiesta: Gator Wrastlin' (VIDEO)
2010: Travel: Saucy and Sensual Kahuku Shrimp
2011: Hurricane Season Boyfriend
2012: It's Never Just About the Fish
2013: Familiarity Breeds Gas
2014: These Precious Things
2015: A Mango Milkshake in Hialeah

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

When Baristas Talk About Sex at Starbucks

Will Work for Sex miami beach
Classic Sex and the Beach. Cartoon by Yours Truly, circa 2007.

"She does everything but vaginal when she has her period," said one Starbucks barista to his coffee colleague.

And so begins my tame evening in Miami Beach this Wednesday night with a creamy decaf to keep me company. After a few years of living on the mainland, I've returned to the scene of the crime. The heart of South Beach is my home for a spell.

I've come to the coffee shop to write and I overhear a conversation about sex during menstruation. So when baristas talk about sex, you have mundane epiphanies.

Ten years ago, I was amused by the fact that hunky Argentinians -- blessed with legs molded by soccer, limbs thicker than a juicy churrasco that would make any girl chimi her churri -- populated SoBe like so many cigarette butts in the sand. They were all named Alejandro. Seriously, all of them. Just ask the U.S. census. A massive cloud of chéromones clung to the atmosphere and blew our miniskirts like a warm, breezy douche spray on our stuffed empanadas.

Sex was in the air. Sex was everywhere. Sex and the Beach was born.

I worshipped at the altar of wanton.

Ten years later, it seems like the blog went from Lolita to Luddite over night. Where did the sex go? Did it really get 86'd at Lost Weekend? Did it end up in the bathroom stall at Club Deuce? Where is my futbol Adonis of yore? Having coffee at Manolo's with his wife and rug rats?

Ouch. Lights on, last call. Walk of shame toward this adulting thing. So very dull.

Maybe the sex got wiped out after a hurricane. Maybe it oozes out with the floodwaters in the storm drains. I told you South Beach was shallow. Literally. A barrier island afloat under the weight of luxury condos, silicon boobs and gold digger's pockets.

Cartoonist Hugh Macleod said it, too.

Ten years later, I write at Starbucks with a warm Americano instead of a sizzling Argentino. I worship at the altar of vagrant buddhas. I attend Town Hall meetings about the homeless and hang out with environmental activists who, like me, are witnesses to a paradise trashed. It's everything but shallow. Damn. People who live like they live here. People who care.

Don't let the hookah bars on Lincoln Road, the fishbowl drinks on Ocean Drive and the used condoms strewn on the beach fool you. Toss that glossy tourism brochure in the recycle bin. This is a real city --gritty and grimy, gaudy and glamorous -- all at once.

But yawn. How unbearably prosaic.

And then tonight, a glimmer of hope. The fucking barista is shouting in Spanish about the sexual proclivities of his girlfriend. A young woman walks in for a latte with boy shorts riding so far up her curvy butt cheeks, I'm reminded of the great South Beach sanitation crisis of 2006.

Thank God you didn't get all Kendall on me, South Beach, you crazy-ass island full of contradictions. Oh Beachhattan, I love you in all your decadent glory. Like me, you tell it like it is. You really do.

Except for one thing.

I lied. I know where the sex went ... I'm just not going to tell you.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Breaking News! Jurassic Era Blogger Celebrates Ten Years of Shenanigans

grantwriter cartoon
Manola's Professional Demise. Cartoon by Yours Truly, circa 2006.

This week, this little ole blog celebrates ten years of good laughs, good cries and lots of adventures!

It all started 10 years ago over drinks at Segafredo on Lincoln Road. After one of my usual people-watching quips, a friend, who couldn't contain herself from laughing, said: "Oh my God, Maria, you're hilarious. Why don't you write all this shit down?"

I didn't even know what a blog was back then, let alone writing in the digital sphere. While putzing around in teh Googles, I came across an orange button with a funny looking letter B on it. The rest was history.

My, how far we've come. In ten years, I developed a whole new set of voices, met so many interesting people who've become dear friends, earned followers (yes, because like friends, you have to "earn" them, not "buy" them), worked with amazing brands without becoming a corporate shill and enjoyed the travel industry's support to make my nutty forays a reality. (Who else drives all over Florida looking for pirates?)

I still don't monetize this blog directly and probably never will. Yet, every single job I've gotten since October 2005 has been because of the blog.

One of my favorites was penning a sex and relationships column for City Link Magazine as Manola Blablablbanik. (Sex and the Animals was a hoot!)

But I'm still me, even through several iterations of pen names, while witnessing the lightning-speed evolution of social media over a decade. I count myself as part of a rare, old breed in the blogosphere -- dinosaur wordsmiths still plodding along as writer's writers -- while swimming along with the ever-rising waves of social technology. It's not that we're struggling against the current. We know better. Every surfer has to swim out to calm before catching the wave.

That's the beauty of it. Heck, I'm still sailing on my rickety old blogspot schooner and it has carried me over some stormy waters mighty fine. If it aint broke, don't fix it. I don't write for numbers, fame or glory. I write from the heart and with love. And I still tell it like it is.

And so it goes. Merrily we roll along.

Is this blog really a dinosaur? Nah. The good stuff lasts. Here's to one very sexy and smart adolescent.

This week, I'll be highlighting some of Sex and the Beach's top moments and capping it all with a shindig at the lovely Hotel Chelsea in the heart of South Beach -- right where it all started.

Stay tuned! Thanks for being part of this journey all these years.

In the meantime, visit some other places where I've wandered ...

Who can forget my role as social media and tech columnist at Miami New Times, where I once interviewed a Coral Gables literature nerd who serializes Proust's Search for Lost Time on Twitter? Silicon Beach eventually moved URLs and became Silicone Bitch. For Knight Foundation, I interviewed spunky Reddit founder Alex Ohanian, who should seriously consider bottling his energy.

Over at Miami Beach 411, I penned many stories, including 10 Things To Do in Downtown Miami, which was so good, I guess, that one Russian website decided to translate it lock, stock and barrel. (Eventually, they credited me.) Currently, I'm enjoying my role as contributor to a fresh, new online publication at The New Tropic. (My #miamischlep tweets are legendary.)