Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Celebrity Salami Pigs Out at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Well Done Tour at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Miami Lakes
Antonio loved the cauliflower pizza.

Many of you will remember the world's most interesting salami, Antonio Bandeja, from the Chevy Pizza Crawl. Antonio never fails to crash a good party, so yesterday he joined a bunch of bloggers at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Miami Lakes for the Well Done Tour.

Anthony Bruno, founder of his namesake chain of restaurants, recently welcomed bloggers in Central Florida so yesterday was Miami's turn. On the roll call were sexy lady bloggers Jewel's Fab Life, Midtown Chica, Grill Grrrl, Raising Child, Raising Self and of course, yours truly.

Macho blogger Mike La Monica (he's where the beef is) showed up with bromance buddy Social Media Puto. Fit as a fiddle The False Start also attended and barely broke his caveman Paleo diet.

But these stellar South Florida bloggers couldn't hog the spotlight like Antonio Bandeja, who floored us with some shocking news. He's coming out! Yeah, he's tired of hiding and lying about the truth: Antonio used to be a pepperoni before his transgender surgery.

Not that you can really tell ... he's still pretty oily on the bottom and smells just as salty as ever. And it doesn't matter, Antonio, everybody still loves you for your irresistible charisma.

Antonio also confessed that he's become vegetarian in an effort not to eat his own kind, which was just as well, since the salad was scrumptious and dressed perfectly with the right balance of oil and vinegar (a culinary skill he can never seem to master at home). The Eggplant Marino, named after that famous football guy, was delicious and filling and the perfect accompaniment to the rich cauliflower pizza, loaded with yummy cheese.

Well Done Tour at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Miami Lakes
Veggie lover's delights.

Well Done Tour at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Miami Lakes
Antonio wasn't too keen on getting close to that coal-fired oven, but that's what makes Anthony's food stand out above the rest. Everything is cooked in there, even the eggplant dish and the cauliflower pizza.

Donning a gorgeous white bandana, Antonio insisted on getting chummy with handsome Anthony Bruno, who told us about his first memories of Italian food ("my mother's meatballs and pasta fazul"), what he eats at home ("I never get tired of Italian, it's the food of love") and what he would do if he were a salami ("I'd hang out with a nice piece of provolone").

See more in our exclusive Antonio Bandeja interview featuring Anthony Bruno!

We are grateful to Anthony Bruno for keeping his cool while holding a cured meat product in his hand and being subjected to grueling questions.

More photos on Flickr.


Tempted to try this food of love? Here's your chance to win a date with Sex and the Beach! You'll get a $25 gift certificate to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza to use for lunch or dinner. To win, just leave a comment below on why you deserve such an honor. Antonio Bandeja will pick the best one and if you're really lucky, he might make a cameo appearance to break bread with you.

This isn't about romance, but about romancing the pie, so girlfriends, feel free to leave a comment too!

Contest ends July 15.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nature Girl: The Elusive Tarpon

"Fishing is a sport that requires a lot of patience and persistence."

The last time I went fishing, if memory serves me right, was right after September 11, 2001. I was stuck in Spain, not able to return to the states, so an angler friend drove me to Galicia for sea bass.

Hard to believe that was 10 years ago, for so many reasons, obviously. And hard to believe that I went so long without fishing! I could go without sex for years, but fishing? No way!

It was an itch I couldn't scratch but finally relieved last weekend when I got my hands on a rod and tried to catch a tarpon. Thanks to Captain Phil, who happens to be married to one of my best friends from high school, I was treated to the best loss of fishing virginity a girl could desire.

Let's face it, I might as well have been a fishing virgin again.

The three of us set out from a private marina in Pine Island with Captain Greg, Phil's partner in fishing crime. After netting some live bait, we drifted out in Captiva Pass between North Captiva and Cayo Costa, Captain Phil deftly keeping the bait fish out of the floating weeds. Captain Greg stood next to him, letting his bait lie lower in the water.

What more could a girl want? I had two men fishing for me, with the promise of handing over whatever rod got hit first so I could set the hook.

The afternoon could not have been more perfect. We had textbook tarpon fishing conditions. The water was smooth. A few tarpon were rolling. Captain Phil thought most of them were lying in ambush on the deeper edge of the pass.

Tarpon are like a bad-ass gang. I could imagine them hanging out on their turf, grinning slyly, waiting to gulp some wary bait fish swimming out to the gulf.

tarponThe magnificent megalops atlanticus.

Oh and the sunset. Yes, your typical gulf coast sunset was ablaze in all its celestial glory.

And then that line of clouds menacing from the east got closer, blowing hard wind and cold rain, which of course was exactly the moment when Captain Greg's rod squealed. All of a sudden, the water was roiling and after two hours of perfect calm I finally had a fish.

But it wasn't a tarpon.

Instead, I landed a small black tip shark, which I wanted to release, but the captain wanted to eat. (Yeah, it's good eats.)

And then I remembered. I was so obsessed with tarpon that I had forgotten I had always wanted to catch a shark!

Black Tip Shark
I wanted a tarpon, but ended up with a shark. Oh heck, I wanted a shark, too!

My first and only tarpon catch happened long before 2001. The sun was rising at Christian Point down in the Everglades when a school of juvenile tarpon surrounded the canoe. I caught one about 50 pounds on light tackle and golden spoon.

Last weekend, those damn bastards were there but just didn't want to bite. They taunted us by mouthing the bait and then swimming away. Fickle finny creatures ... the day before, Captain Phil's guests had hooked a big tarpon. I guess it just wasn't my day, nature conspiring against me with a storm that pounded my ass and soaked me to the bone on the way back to the marina.

After so many years of not fishing, I certainly earned some sea legs. I loved every minute of it.

And it's not really about the fish, of course. It's about connecting with nature, experiencing the water, the wind, the rain, the sun and the beauty of the gulf coast islands, all while hanging out with great friends.

I may not have a caught a tarpon, but hey, I can scratch shark off my bucket list.

And more importantly, I did catch me a some big happy.

More video: Captain Phil explaining fishing in the weeds.


This trip to the gulf coast was supported in part by GM Southeast. I got there and back on a Hybrid Chevy Tahoe. And of course, many thanks go to Captain Phil and my old friend for treating me to a great afternoon!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Casey Key: No Bullshit Beach Retreat on the Gulf for Weary Miamians

Skeeterville, Casey Key
Improvised waterfront seating by the tiki bar at Skeeterville: the good life is pretty simple out on the gulf coast.

If you love the road as much as I do, you know there's nothing better than having time to kill. Last weekend, on my way to Cape Coral from Orlando, I found myself in that happy place, behind the wheel of a sweet ride, not having to rush anywhere.

A friend recommended I stop by Casey Key, where I ended up spending three hours doing a whole lot of amazing nothing.

All I wanted was to see the gulf, and that I did, but I also found two tucked away spots to kick back with a cold one and meet some locals.


Skeeter and Sully at Skeeterville, Casey Key
Skeeter and co-bartender Sully at Skeeterville. They were both sweet as pie.

Casey Key is just south of Sarasota and accessible from Blackburn Road, about ten minutes from I-75. Right off a swing bridge is Skeeterville, a three-year old tiki bar named after Skeeter, a slim, soft-spoken blonde originally from Ohio. Over the years, Skeeter worked as an actress as well as a bartender and restaurant owner. She served quite a few celebrities in her heyday and if she hadn't been tending to other customers that afternoon, I would've begged her for more time to chat.

Skeeter, so named because she buzzes around busy (I guess mosquitoes are more appropriate than bees for Florida), didn't want me to know her real name, but she did insist on showing me a framed official proclamation declaring her Mayor of Skeeterville. The title is well-deserved: locals recognize her good works in the community since she moved to Florida 35 years ago.

Skeeterville, Casey Key
Skeeterville attracts some nice hogs. These two Harleys belonged to women riders.

Casey Key Grill
Waterfront grill next to Skeeterville.

This unassuming, laid-back tiki bar doesn't exactly match the neighborhood's opulent mansions, visible in the distance among mangroves along the Intracoastal Waterway. "Rich but down to earth people live here," said Skeeter. "Really good people who care."

Skeeterville is technically in Nokomis, a census-designated place on the mainland. Pass another bridge and you're on exclusive Casey Key, a sliver of barrier island much longer than it is wide. A narrow, winding road passes luxury homes to the east with beachfront access to the west. Don't even think of swimming here: "private beach" signs are as abundant as sea oats swaying in the breeze.

It's beautiful, nonetheless, and worth a lazy afternoon drive.

Casey Key
Casey Key aint exactly a shanty town. Talk about skinny real estate: you can spit from that portico to the beach.


Fish Camp at North Jetty, Casey Key, Nokomis
It could get better than this on a hot summer Florida day, but not by much.

At the sound end of Casey Key, us mere middle and lower class plebeians will find quaint motels and plenty of beach access ending at North Jetty Park, a gorgeous beach flanked by tall trees and dunes. A cut offers boat access and a rock jetty is shore casting heaven.

North Jetty Fish Camp is quite possibly the most casual hangout you'll ever find, where loitering ("to idle with no apparent purpose") should be an art form or at least a kind of zen meditation. There's not much here but a few tables and benches under shady trees, and a rickety old bait shop offering beer, wine and snacks.

Perfect for winding down, if you ask me.

Locals were hanging out, their butts stuck to the benches after many long conversations there, surely. A May-December couple was sitting looking out at the water, holding hands. Some swarthy guy was fishing from the back of his truck and blasting rock and roll. The sound annoyed me because it drowned out the swish of the surf, but then I consoled myself: at least it wasn't reggaeton.

Fish Camp, Casey Key, Nokomis
No frills de-stressing, gulf coast style.

A no bullshit zone? You'd never find a sign like that on South Beach!

Fish Camp, Casey Key, Nokomis
Part bait shop, library, beer stand, snack purveyor and lounge. Dress code: bare feet encouraged.

Fish Camp, Casey Key, Nokomis
Any Miamian would be easily shocked by these beer prices.

North Jetty, Casey Key, Nokomis
North Jetty Park beach has everything you need: dunes, sea oats, a jetty, picnic tables, restrooms, showers and free parking. Completely free of bullshit, too.


Make sure to check out the official website for the Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau. More information: Casey Key Fish House and North Jetty Park.


My delightful afternoon on the gulf coast was supported in part by GM Southeast. I explored the area in a Hybrid Chevy Tahoe.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tying the Knot in Florida: How Laid Back Locals Do It

North Captiva Wedding

All you need is love and a little creativity to pull off an utterly simple yet breathtaking wedding ceremony on Florida's gulf coast.

Do it in November, when the weather starts to cool down. Hire a pontoon boat for all your nearest and dearest and head out from Pine Island Marina to the desolate, southernmost point of North Captiva Island at Redfish Pass.

Ask your guests to take their shoes off, disembark on the beach and assemble at your chapel by the sea, built by mother nature.

Have a good friend of yours officiate the ceremony. Say your own vows. Improvise if you need to.

Kiss and don't care about getting the hem of your dress all wet. Collect shells. Soft golden sunlight is making everything look so damn gorgeous. It feels good, like getting married for the second time because you want to not because you have to.

On the way back to the reception, open the cooler for beers. Play Bob Marley. Dance under the full moon, its silver glow lighting the smooth waters of Pine Island Sound.

"One Love."

Yeah, that works.

What else do you need?

This wedding cynic totally dug her friend's beach ceremony. If you're going to get married Florida gulf coast style, less is definitely more.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

FISH ON! Hurricane Season Boyfriend 2011

hurricane season 2011 forecast map Oh great. The nation's dicktip looks like it's inflamed with herpes!

It's June 1, ladies and here we go again ... another six months of grueling anticipation that reminds us of love: "expect the worst, hope for the best." That's hurricane season for ya and if you're single, it's always helpful to have a man around, a real man with true grit who cannot only keep us entertained in those long, sweaty, mosquito-infested nights, but can also do a few things around the house.

In years past, we have showered Harry Connick, Jr. with love because he could sing us sweet lullabies while rescuing people from receding floods. We also admired Chef Robert Irvine's biceps and no-nonsense, wicked talent in the most spartan of kitchens. We even thanked God for bringing us lusty Father Alberto, who left the church to fulfill his carnal needs, but who could at least put in a good word with God about diverting storms to Palm Beach County.

You just never know what's going to happen each hurricane season -- some years can produce fierce storms and others blow no more wind than a hamster fart. The same goes with Hurricane Season Boyfriends -- 2008 and 2010 were duds -- producing no worthy candidates.

But ladies, this year is different! I am so thrilled with this year's Hurricane Season Boyfriend because he fills in a categories we've never covered in this pantheon of tropical demigods! We've already had musical, culinary and spiritual boyfriends, but this fearless man packs a triple punch: he's an explorer, a sportsman and an adventurer who has survived malaria and a plane crash. He doesn't drink Dos XX but he is quite possibly really truly the most interesting man in the world.


jeremy wade hurricane season boyfriend 2011Move over metrosexuals. We don't want any pussies for Hurricane Season Boyfriend. Any man who can catch a Goliath Tiger fish in the Congo and not fuss about a manicure is a friend of mine!

This year's Hurricane Season Boyfriend is none other than extreme angler Jeremy Wade of Animal Planet's River Monsters!

Come on, what's not to love? If we could only get him to stop fishing for a while, Jeremy Wade, with his lean, rugged good looks, would make a great Hurricane Season Boyfriend!

This fisherman has lured us in and here's why:

First of all, he could catch dinner. Vicious snakeheads, which they say are good eatin', have invaded Miami's canals and should be eradicated. See? He'd even be doing the environment a favor by putting a dent on this non-native species.

And besides, River Monsters has featured several kinds of fish from around the world that we also find in South Florida: alligator gar, peacock bass, bull shark, sawfish and catfish. OK, so a slimy, grunting catfish aint no dainty sushi, but when you're in survival mode, you can't bitch about fresh fish.

He always carries his angling tools with him, which put to creative use could come in handy. You can tie up a lot of things with fishing leader, although I wouldn't recommend that for the headboard. And because he's British and not from Miami, you know he'll always do repairs on time.

As a writer, he has a creative side, able to regale you with stories about his adventures around the world with that delicious accent. Oh and he could build you a fire to cuddle around for said storytelling. Because yes, a fire when it's 80% humidity outside and 90 degrees farenheit is still much more romantic than a gas Coleman.

A fishing freak, Jeremy Wade likes weird finny creatures and their myths but he's also a scientist who tries to stay objective. This means that if the chupacabra shows up at your house, he'll probably ask him in, get a couple of beers out of the cooler and prep the sucker for an impromptu interview.

Jeremy Wade has gone deep into the heart of the Amazon, the Congo and India's mountain rivers ... how could an ice collecting trip to Hialeah possibly faze him? He once tossed himself in a pool full of ravenous piranhas in Brazil and fed himself to voracious, chomping eels in New Zealand -- driving in Miami without traffic lights would be a walk in the park for Jeremy Wade!

With his mad shore casting skills, Jeremy Wade could hook you that last bottle of Chardonnay at the Publix shelf all the way from the check out, skipping every desperate Pinecrest housewife who has booze on her hurricane supplies list.

Two weeks without electricity? No big deal -- Jeremy Wade has lived in the wilderness far longer! Bugs? Who cares? Jeremy Wade isn't going to run away from an insect like some wuss. Flooding? Jeremy Wade knows how to paddle a canoe over fallen trees. Feeling unsafe after curfew? Jeremy Wade has stayed up countless nights waiting for the big one -- he's got built-in sentry.

jeremy wade anglingJeremy Wade can fight a fish for hours. Most men don't even last for more than 15 minutes.

But the most important thing, ladies, besides clearly having the cojones and determination to catch humongous, rare and dangerous fish in the most remote places in the world, is the one thing that singles him out from all the rest.


Fishing requires a lot of patience. So much patience, in fact, that you'd think it'd be a woman's sport.

But even a woman loses patience at times. So when you're whining about how you haven't had a hot shower in two weeks and you're sick of moldy peanut butter sandwiches, Jeremy will be patient.

Who doesn't love that in a man?

Who wouldn't want to be his girlfriend during hurricane season?

Congratulations Jeremy Wade for finding your way into this most coveted hall of fame.



Old fishing stories by yours truly: Nature Girl, A Sea Change