Monday, May 31, 2010

Food: Burgerlicious Holiday

This past Memorial Day weekend, I didn't need to search far and wide for the best grilled burgers because despite clear, blue skies, it was raining beef from Dade to Broward and I didn't even get laid.

latin burger truck miamiIf you see this truck parked somewhere in South Florida, let the siren call of burgers and tacos lure you.

On Sunday, I finally tried the Macho Burger from the locally famous Latin Burger truck, thereby ending my Latin Burger virginity. The truck was parked poolside at an Aventura condo where I hung out with host Ergagit and fabulous food bloggers like For the Love of Food, South Florida Food and Wine, Epicurious Chic and Sushi Pro, among other wonderful local foodies I've crossed paths with lately.

Coincidentally, I bumped into Jim Heins, who runs the Latin Burger operation, on Thursday at a separate event. He explained how much work goes into the preparation of the beef, so I was expecting one damn good burger. And a damn good burger it was -- two perfectly grilled tender patties, caramelized onion, Oaxaca cheese and red pepper mayo between two perfectly toasted sesame buns -- all this satisfied my beef lust. Unfortunately, I couldn't really distinguish the the chorizo flavor or the jalapeƱos mentioned in the description, but I'll happily seek out the truck on Twitter (@latinburger) for another bite, for you see, just like a macho, this burger packs a punch and yet will still graciously open a door for you.

I had to pace myself, because not only would I be attending a private barbecue later that evening, I knew I'd be wolfing down some more beef at the Burger Throwdown on Memorial Day, hosted by the culinary creative brother and sister team of Chef George (Chef George Catering) and Vanessa Montes.

The indefatigable Burger Beast has already posted the facts -- so I'm going to offer you some extra juicy drippings here ...

burger throwdown davieI'm glad I skipped breakfast on Memorial Day and even so I couldn't finish them all.

The event was held at Tree Tops Park in Davie, which I found to be an utterly charming nature retreat, complete with expansive lawns and majestic live oak trees shading hiking and equestrian trails that inspired Lady Chatterley fantasies for forest trysts (that is, if you don't mind spiders). For this east of US1 bi-county girl, going anywhere further west than the Turnpike is like Broward Country Safari and I was happy to discover this gem of a recreational area.

burger throwdown chef dennis ortiz, dori zinn, sef gonzalez burger  beast, fat kids clubAn elite trio of judges. Left to right: Chef Dennis Ortiz, Dori Zinn and Sef Gonzalez.

Over 80 people attended and over 500 mini-burgers were served. Side dishes, including crisp and slightly spicy coleslaw, bacon baked beans and fresh grilled garlic corn, among others, accompanied six sample burgers from the competitors, as well as numerous delicious home made desserts. At the judges table sat Chef Dennis Ortiz (Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale), Dori Zinn (Fat Kids Club) and Sef Gonzalez (Burger Beast).

burger throwdownThis was leftover, people. More food here to feed an army and then some.

When I arrived, my buddy and colleague Carlos Miller was making guacamole with a mortar and pestle. I was thoroughly impressed by his vertical piston and thrust hand action. When I asked him how he managed to do it so well, he said: "Years of practice, Maria."

carlos miller guacamoleAmazing! Carlos Miller not holding a camera and not getting arrested!

Except for Chef George, all the competing chefs were amateurs. Yet they all looked like pros, in spite of the sweltering heat from the sun and the coals under two large barbecue grills. They seemed busier than the cast of Iron Chef, prepping their burgers under a tent where they surely must have bumped into each other more than a few times. The rest of us sat our asses down in the main park pavilion nearby, enjoying beer and spiked punch included in the price of admission -- $15 per person.

burger throwdownA young lady named April making Vanessa Montes' spiky punch recipe for the grown-ups, which I dubbed "Pine Island Iced Tea" (you Broward folks will get the joke). Loquacious and funny MC Spencer to the right.

The price also included a raffle ticket (I won a very cute apron) and excellent spinning by DJ Pauly Paul, which was perfect for a club but might have horrified the neighbors nearby, who, living in the pastoral tranquility of Davie, probably thought Hialeah had invaded Broward. The event also featured very lively MC Spencer who kept our spirits up in spite of the stifling summer heat.

chef george montesThird place winner Chef George (left) and first place winner Roly Masferrer (right) vying for a spot on the grill. Each chef had to grill his or her own burgers. "If you can't take the heat, you're not @chefsazon," I tweeted.

The prep and serving team worked frantically to get us samples as soon as they got off the grill. Each burger plate was marked with a colored star so the competition would be anonymous. After waiting an hour or so after my first sample, I got the rest of them all at once. With so many tasty burgers in front of me, several with common ingredients like bacon, it was too much yummy goodness, which overwhelmed even my jaded palette. Also, I'm not sure if I even got to try Chef George's Amstel Light burger. In spite of all this, I must take my hat off to the production line and serving crew -- they worked their butts off.

In the future, it might be better to spread the samples out at regular intervals with the option of a palette cleanser in between, like fresh cool watermelon. Judge Chef Ortiz did mention how timing and temperature was key.

burger throwdown bowlio popperSecond place winner Christina Ramsey early on in the day before she dished out her Bolio Popper Burger. I didn't have the heart to tell her how grateful I was that she didn't call it a Bollo Popper.

My favorites were the blue cheese stuffed burger with spicy mustard, caramelized onion, crisp lettuce and a slice of fresh tomato, as well as Miller's burger, which featured fresh roasted Anaheim peppers and a tangy guacamole that could've stood well all on its own (remember, he put a lot of muscle into it). Unfortunately, my sample of the winning burger, which included chorizo (what isn't good with chorizo?), was so undercooked, the beef tasted like gristle. That was a darn shame, because I'm sure a properly grilled version would've been delicious.

When I say samples, I'm talking Royal Castle size and not some tiny canapƩ meatball. The burgers were so generously portioned, I could only take a few bites of each.

It was quite obvious that it wasn't just about burgers though, but about the camaraderie of the chefs and good times with good friends at a beautiful South Florida location.

I'll quote something Christine Najac once wrote and said to me this weekend at the Latin Burger party -- "Strangers come together for the love of food and leave lifelong friends."

Yep, that's what it's all about.

In addition to chef work and catering, Chef George runs Homemade Chefs, a regular series of classes for home cooks desiring to learn about cuisines and cooking techniques from all over the world.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hurricane Season Boyfriend Nominations '10

amazing boner driftwood miami You just never know what the turbulent Atlantic waters are going to bring to South Florida each year. Yes, this is actual driftwood, photographed at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables.

Ladies, it's that time of the year again! Hurricane season starts June 1st and all us single women are left to fend for ourselves in gale force winds and the aisles of Publix.

If you're a new reader and don't know what a Hurricane Season Boyfriend is, here's a recap:
Since 2006, Sex and the Beach has been searching for the perfect man to accompany us from June 1 to November 30. He should be great in bed, handy with tools, devoted and loving even when both of you have to sleep in a mosquito-infested tent in the backyard after law-enforced curfew, exhausted from walking two miles to buy a price-gouged bag of ice that melted by the time you got home.

If you've experienced a serious hurricane followed by an eternity of power outages, you know there's nothing else to do in the aftermath besides boinking and counting the no-see-ums staging a circus on Wonder Bread slathered with peanut butter. Single women without lovers are cruelly cheated by fate and miss out on this endearing experience!
So here's the thing: you can't nominate your cousin Pepito who works at the Walmart in Hialeah (not that you would know he's great in bed) or the metrosexual valet guy from Yolo's (whom you wish you could find out if he was great in bed). Nope. Preferably, our ideal Hurricane Season Boyfriend is someone well known whom we can all share in our collective imaginations.

Past Hurricane Season Boyfriends have been luminaries in the pantheons of grace and disgrace.

father alberto cutie god bless him
Last year, we featured hunky priest Padre Alberto, a man of the cloth who put the "loin" in "loincloth" if you know what I mean. We don't really care about his fall from grace because he's hawt and honestly, if anyone could put in a good word with the Lord to steer that category five mother fucker out into the Atlantic, it'd be him.

harry connick jr. hurricane katrina
We've also given props to Harry Connick, Jr. because who doesn't want to be rescued in a flood zone by a crooner with great biceps?

chef robert irvine
And speaking of biceps, we never doubted Chef Robert Irvine could command and deliver.

So you get the picture. Put your thinking caps on and think of one famous (or infamous) man you wouldn't mind spending the next six months with. Leave comments below!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Silicone Bitch: Hot French Geek, Big-Ass Tweetup and More

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.

loic lemeurLoic Lemeur. Photo by Joi Ito.


Social Media Club South Florida enjoyed one of its biggest turnouts this month and it's no surprise what with geek and social web rock star Loic Lemeur up on stage at a beautiful Eden Roc hotel conference room.

Loic, who founded Seesmic -- originally a video chat service turned into social desktop application -- also founded LeWeb Conference in Paris and has done other amazing entrepreneurial ventures like getting married and raising three kids. The smart, charismatic French hottie is so popular, there is even a Facebook page called something like "Who Wants to Sleep With Loic?" started by a bunch of gay guys in Paris, according to Loic. Certainly, he had all the ladies in the room going gaga over his smooth French accent.

But all sex appeal aside, the session lasted over an hour, during which time Loic presented an abridged version of his social media strategies talk and discussed the development of Seesmic's social application as it moves forward. Loic also fielded questions from the audience. Afterward, small group enjoyed dinner with him at a private residence. Loic worked on a social media campaign in France with President Sarkosky and you'd think this guy would act like a big shot, but actually he was very approachable and friendly. Thanks Loic for hanging out with us in South Florida!

sxse south florida tweetup

I've been putting this event together since last fall, so I'm thrilled that to have a little staycation in Fort Lauderdale because you know, South Beach was just a little too shallow. Mark your calendar this Saturday for the big-ass tweetup at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale. There will be old friends to catch up with and new friends to make!

Visit SxSe for more information or RSVP at Tweetvite.


Miami resident Irina Patterson is one of 50 ambassadors for the 1M/1M project, which seeks to help 1 million entrepreneurs worldwide to reach 1 million in revenues and beyond. The project also intends to teach Silicon Valley's best practices to entrepreneurs in the global community.

In this post, Irina states why 1M/1M is good for "unemployed but ambitious people" and makes a bold claim about resumes:
Forget broadcasting your resumes, that time is gone. Use the Internet for relationship building. Find a community where you can showcase your skills and go for it by contributing actual work not just talk.
M1/M1 is the brainchild of Sramama Mitra, and M.I.I alumna, Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, strategy consultant and Forbes columnist. Irina covers the southeastern United States as well as Eastern Europe and Russia. If you are an entrepreneur, a start up or a bootstrapping company, contact Irina.


Refresh Miami is tonight but there's plenty more going on this summer that you can find out via Refresh South Florida's nifty newsletter, which you can subscribe to on the website. Refresh Lauderdale is also growing. The next meet up is on June 3.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Miami - See It Like A Native, Enjoy It Like A Tourist

twitter miami city tourOf course, I had to live tweet the tour. This was my favorite observation.

As many of you know, I've been freelancing with Miami Beach 411 since 2006. Last year, several 411 contributors and I helped write and research a tour script for the company's latest endeavor -- Miami Tour Company. All of us who contributed were locals who had been living here for a long time. It was Miami as we saw it, peppered with historical facts and quirky trivia.

But in spite of this and the company's growing success -- they've recently added an additional bus -- I had never taken the tour I helped put together until last week!

You'd think that a jaded old Miamian like myself would be bored with a local tour, but actually I was pleasantly surprised. What separates this tour from others is that it's high-tech: a recording turns on according to specific GPS coordinates. In English, it's the pleasant voice of "Marjorie," who "reads" the script as the driver goes along the route. Also, this is not a kitschy, gimmicky script -- it's well-researched and while entertaining, gives a broad historical overview of the areas covered.

bus driver tour guide miami city tourJim, our affable and funny tour guide.

It's not just a recorded voice; our driver Jim supplemented the recording with his own humorous banter and nuggets of local knowledge. There's also music, which changes depending on the location of the bus and captures the flavor of each neighborhood.

The comfortable bus picked me up in front of Joe's Stone Crab. There were about thirty people and I could overhear voices in Portuguese, German, Japanese and Spanish. The couple sitting next to me had traveled all the way from Australia and I enjoyed conversing with them. One fella who chatted with me was a Londoner here for a geek conference.

We spent about an hour in South Beach, going up Washington Avenue, making a brief stop at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden and then traveling down Ocean Drive before heading out to Coconut Grove on the Macarthur Causeway. We then took I-95 to Bayshore Drive, checked out Vizcaya from the entrance and stopped by Mayfair for a 30 minute lunch break.

After lunch, in front of Miami City Hall, Jim regaled us with some very interesting stories about aviation history involving the former Pan Am Seaplane Terminal. We even caught a shoot of the TV show Burn Notice right in front of the Convention Center, which really thrilled some of the foreign tourists on the bus.

ceiling inside Biltmore Hotel Coral GablesDon't forget to look up when you're at The Biltmore Hotel. It's one of the most beautiful ceilings in South Florida.

From there, we went down Ingraham Highway, passed The Kampong and headed to Old Cutler Road. We drove by the historic Pinewood Cemetery on Erwin Road, followed by additional Coral Gables exploration with some leg-stretching at The Biltmore Hotel. A brief stop at Venetian Pool segued into a Calle Ocho stop at Domino Park, where some of the tourists enjoyed a complimentary cortadito. From here, we concluded the Miami tour at Bayside, although some of the tourists continued on to the Everglades on the same bus.

After three and a half hours, we had covered quite a bit of territory and loads of information.

For me, it was interesting to travel down the same roads I see everyday while imagining what the experience must be like for someone who has never seen Miami. I usually avoid I-95 not because of traffic but because I absolutely love driving down Old Cutler from South Miami to get to Brickell or downtown. I never get tired of the lush, tropical canopy of trees. I hope the tourists on the bus could appreciate it for the first time just as much as I appreciate it every day.

I even learned something new: the location of the "secret" CIA boathouse in Coral Gables. Jim told us about it after giving us a brief history of Castro's takeover in Cuba. I can't tell you how many times I've driven over this bridge, clueless about the boathouse in plain view.

old Cuban guy in Little Havana in front of Domino ParkLittle Havana is a little rough around the edges, but historically, it's a very important part of Miami.

The Miami City Tour is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with many key areas of Miami west of Red Road (SW 57th Avenue) and of course, South Beach. It'll give you the lay of the land, which is practical for tourists and new residents. If you're a tourist, you'll glimpse points of interest that you might want to come back and visit, if you have time; and if you don't have time, at least you'll be able to say you saw some of Miami-Dade's most historic and beautiful areas. If you've recently moved into town, especially if you're beach-centric, the tour affords you a fresh look at the mainland and what's beyond the causeway.

For more information about the tour, pricing and schedule visit Miami Tour Company.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Spoken Word: Dishes

I never thought I'd like doing dishes
But in the thick of the dinner party
It's the one chance to get away
From the incessant chatter

Piles of cups don't talk, don't opine, don't persuade
Piles of plates just sit, waiting to be gently handled
Oh if only people were like dishes
Let me love you, let me clean you, let me touch you
Without saying a damn word

It's in the wiping off of grease with soapy bubbles
That I see a glimpse of immortality
In the pointless effort of cleaning
Only to get dirty again
Just like love, aint it

My hands welcome the warmth of the pliable sponge
The water runs smooth against my fingers
Fingers so used to hammering a living
On a keyboard

Damn words, words, words
So much fucking left brain
So much proving a point
So much making people laugh
So much, so much, so much

No, when doing dishes, there's none of that
It's just flowing water and nothing more
With no other point than cleansing
Feels good to me, speaks to me softly,
Touches that part of me that
Thrives beyond the limits of syllables

That's why I like to do dishes
Because it's a meditation nearly silent
On what we just had and what may come tomorrow
Or nothing at all ... the porcelain is cracked a little, but that's ok

What's for dessert?
There'll be more dishes after that

Friday, May 07, 2010

Breaking News! New Column at The Bachelor Guy!

Following in the footsteps of my former sex and relationships column at Citylink Magazine, I'm starting a new one with The Bachelor Guy. Here's what the editor had to say:
My perspective runs decidedly toward the male view. Which I've never had a problem with. But, admittedly, can skew my answers to some of your questions about women.

So I figured, why not have an actual woman on hand to answer some of your questions about sex, love and relationships? You know, the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a chick, but were afraid to ask. . . .

She’s real. She’s honest. She loves a good martini. (Or three.) And she's a woman you can trust.

Read more . . .
So guys, come on over and ask away! A Real Woman Answers Your Questions About Real Sex

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Silicone Bitch: Sell Stuff, Read Stuff, Go to Stuff

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.


Ted Rubin of Open Sky was in town last month, treating a handful of bloggers to drinks at Monty's South Beach and lots of talk about how to monetize your blog with e-commerce. If you're a blogger who has become a trusted voice to your readers and are passionate about your subject, this is a monetizing strategy you might want to consider. Don't hesitate to contact Ted; he's got boundless energy and enthusiasm about this venture.


Three of our local geeks have published books lately.

Craig Agranoff, along with Herbert Tabin, came out with Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management. It's basically about how to save your ass when people say bad shit about you online.

SATB: What inspired you to write it?

Agranoff: As people become more and more social on the web, their names will eventually come under attack. This book will help you become proactive instead of reactive!

SATB: Can you briefly summarize what it's about?

Agranoff: If you know how to type in a web address, you can learn how to claim, repair, and monitor your online reputation. There is no software to buy, or computer languages to learn. This book teaches you how to get bad stuff about you off Google - and good stuff on.

Buy it here: Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management

Denise Jacobs also published a book, The CSS Detective Guide. This is more of a techie tome but as I know Ms. Jacobs, she is passionate about making things look beautiful on the web.

SATB: What inspired you to write it?

Jacobs: The book came about through delightful serendipity. I ran into my buddy Robert Hoekman, Jr. at a party at SXSWi 2009, and there, he introduced me to his editor Wendy. Wendy mentioned that she had a book that she wanted to have written about troubleshooting CSS, and I volunteered myself, based on my previous experience teaching web design/development and having developed an HTML troubleshooting guide for my students.

Ironically enough, during the time that I was teaching, many of my students suggested that I write a web development book. At the time, I couldn't imagine that I would be able to contribute anything new to what had already been written on web design and development. Looks like they knew something was in the works for me all along.

SATB: Can you briefly summarize what it's about?

Jacobs: One of the toughest challenges novice CSS developers face is when seemingly perfect code doesn’t translate into a perfectly rendered browser page—and with all the different browsers available today, this happens all too often. The CSS Detective Guide aims to help with that, by teaching real-world troubleshooting skills. You’ll learn how to track the trail of clues, analyze the evidence, and get down to the truth behind CSS mysteries. These aren’t pat solutions, but rather creative approaches and solid best practices for how to think about and apply CSS.

Buy it here: The CSS Detective Guide


Social Media Club South Florida this month is featuring Loic Lemeur, founder of Seesmic, LeWeb and overall web, tech and social media vanguard French dude, is presenting tomorrow, May 7 at the Eden Roc. We're really fortunate to have him here. Change whatever plans you have and don't miss it.

Murray Izenwasser, Senior Interactive Strategist at Biztegra, is holding a webinar on May 12th. Murray is brilliant when it comes to helping businesses with social media. This is a reasonably priced session, so take advantage of it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Tarde Em Itapoan

drawing by maria tarde em itapoan

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine from Brazil about the things that mean most to us and it reminded me of a drawing I created in 2004, inspired by the beautiful song by Vinicius, Tarde em Itapoan, which is about the simple pleasure of spending the day on the beach with someone you love. (Itapoan is a beach in Salvador de Bahia.)

This drawing came from a previous romantic relationship, before I had ever started a blog called Sex and the Beach, as he and I had talked about going there, making love on the sand and enjoying some peace -- a plan that never materialized; he was full of empty promises.

Nevertheless, I always held the dream of love on the beach close to my heart and sure enough it did materialize, eventually. There have been beautiful moments on the beaches of South Florida, many passionate kisses under the moonlight and love making wearing nothing but the intoxicating ocean air.

Ironically, as you can see the woman is alone, looking out into the horizon, with a bird flying that represents hope and a sunset that symbolizes a future. Men may come and go, but dreams don't die and love survives.

This drawing is just as important to me now as it was then. And reviving this memory today, I've come to think that "sex and the beach" is really not so much about the beach at all, but whatever means most: a particular beach, a mountain, a city, a bed ... it doesn't matter. It is a state of heart. We all deserve love in the places we love, but love is not a place, it is a state of being -- no matter where you are.

Below, enjoy a lovely acoustic version of Tarde Em Itapoan below with Vinicius and Gilberto Gil.