Thursday, December 12, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Distinctively Different Neighborhoods – Downtown Miami

Welcome to Part 2 of our series, “#ThankYouMiami for Distinctively Different Neighborhoods", where Miami locals take us on a journey of their respective neighborhoods and tell us what they love about it, what they hate about it, and why their neighborhood makes them say #ThankYouMiami. Access the rest of the series here.

In this feature, Miami style blogger and fashion ambassador Maya King explores her neighborhood of Downtown Miami. Maya moved to Miami six years ago and loves living here. Her blog, ALaModeMaya, features Miami shopping and fashion events, as well as her personal style (think Halle Berry, Olivia Palermo, Sophia Loren). 

1. What distinguishes Downtown Miami from other Miami neighborhoods? 
Downtown Miami is distinctively different because it is minutes away from anywhere you would want to go in Miami and there is a lot to do close by. Bayfront Park, for example, hosts concerts and events almost every week. Best of all, I never have to drive or fight to park to enjoy a Miami Heat game because I live a few blocks from the American Airlines Arena. And, did I mention that my neighborhood has been the backdrop in music videos for artists like Drake, P. Diddy, Rick Ross, and Pitbull?

Life imitating art. Much like in the music videos filmed here, flocks of mirrored Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces frequent Maya's neighborhood. Photo credit: Maya King

2. What makes Downtown Miami "SO Miami"? 
Definitely the skyline! I still get a special feeling every time I come home and see that beautiful skyline in which I live. Whenever I pick up visitors at the airport and they see it, they say in shock: “Wow! You live here?!"

Maya and her visitors love Miami's mesmerizing skyline. Photo credit: RolloFilm, LLC

3. What do you like least about Downtown Miami?

I am blessed to live here so my only gripe is actually a humble brag. Downtown Miami’s main thoroughfare, Biscayne Boulevard, is a popular location for parades, races, and other events. So, when I’m pulling out of my garage in a hurry, street closures and traffic resulting from these events are not my favorite.

Traffic trade-off. Special events, like last year's Miami Heat parade along Biscayne Boulevard, make it difficult for Maya to drive through Downtown Miami. I say "if you can't beat them, join them"!
Photo credit: Maya King

4. What is the strangest thing you've seen in Downtown Miami? 
I think the metro mover is a Petri dish for strangeness. It is not uncommon to find affluent people in haute couture and business professionals sharing a car with a homeless drug addict that is shouting expletives. Later in the evening, a drunk or three are added to that mix. I'm still waiting for a flash mob to make an appearance...

Where does Miami fit among the Metro Mover stereotypes? Maya is that well put-together professional whose style shows her commitment to success and her career. Photo Credit: Jennifer Sotolongo

5. What about Downtown Miami makes you say #ThankYouMiami? 
#ThankYouMiami for allowing me to regularly walk out of my front door to enjoy free yoga at Bayfront Park; quality time with friends at the oasis by the man-made beach nearby; or a good production at the Olympia Theater two blocks away. No cab needed!

An urban oasis. Nearby favorites like Bayfront Park keep Maya entertained, cultured, and overall happy as a Miami resident. Photo credit: Maya King

Are you an expert on your neighborhood? Share with Miami what makes your neighborhood distinctively different! Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami. You could be featured in an upcoming segment of this feature.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for a Unique and Enviable Style

White-on-white, light and airy fabrics - these are the pillars of my Miami style. But what represents Miami's collective style? Miami is so diverse that it depends on who you ask. Pinpointing a specific Miami style has been as difficult for me as answering "Who is Miami?" concisely. However, this much is clear: Miami has a unique style that is freely adopted by residents, visitors, and even those who appreciate our beautiful city from afar.

Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to interact with fashion industry professionals who call Miami their part-time or full-time home, including Noe Cesar, Fashion Editor for Brickell Magazine and Key Biscayne Magazine, and Tara Atsalis, the Designer and Owner of Taradise Miami, a line of Grecian-inspired jewelery and designs. My most recent encounter was with Lubov Azria, the Chief Creative Officer of BCBG Max Azria Group. I had the opportunity to briefly chat with her this week during American Express's By Invitation Only event where she previewed BCBG's Pre-Spring 2014 Runway Collection and hosted a private shopping experience at BCBG's Lincoln Road store.

My conversations with individuals like these talented three, as well as my observations during local fashion events, continuously refine my definition of Miami style. For example, during the BCBG runway event, I was convinced that the Pre-Spring 2014 Runway Collection was especially designed for Miami. The pieces, which consist of light and airy maxi dresses and jumpsuits in all-white or in flower patterns, are bold, sexy, and celebrate the woman's body. 

In my opinion, BCBG's Pre-Spring 2014 Runway Collection fully embodies the Miami style and, per our conversation, Noe agrees that the piece's various components (i.e. fabric, cut, boldness) are key features of the Miami style. As such, I was surprised to hear Lubov Azria state that she did not design the collection for one city, but for the traveling woman. Her comment, which tempered my initial assumption that the collection was Miami inspired, made me question where Miami's style comes from, what it truly consists of, and how it influences fashion beyond our borders.

In Noe's experience, the outside world is increasingly adopting aspects of Miami's style, like the flower-inspired patterns which are prominently featured in BCBG's Pre-Spring 2014 Runway Collection. He thinks of Miami as a port with a style of its own that is adopted by others who want to see what the Miami lifestyle is about. He points out that high-profile visitors who are photographed during their visit are a testament to this phenomenon because they are mostly captured in what he envisions as the Miami style. And, although that often means bikinis on the beach, Noe knows Miami has style beyond just the bikini. After all, Miami cannot live on bikinis alone.

Tara associates Miami style with a luxurious island vibe, which is one reason why she left New York to launch Taradise Miami here. While her hand-crafted designs are Grecian-inspired, Miami, like the Greek islands, captures the beauty of the ocean and island living so her designs translate seamlessly. Taradise's gorgeous bracelets and headpieces with their signature "mati" evil eye are primarily white and scream Miami chic. The kimonos come in vibrant colors and look as at home in Star Island as they would in the Greek island of Chios.

My observations over the past year have confirmed my initial suspicion that Miami's style is variable - variable between individuals and variable over time. The constant remains that Miami has a unique style and an enviable style. Check out some of my favorite displays of Miami style below.

Noe Cesar, Fashion Editor of Brickell Magazine and Key Biscayne Magazine, shows us how the fashionable Miami man looks handsome wearing classic pieces in vibrant colors. Noe says "#ThankYouMiami for the boldness of its people who know that it feels good to look good". Photo courtesy of Noe Cesar.
The BCBG Pre-Spring 2014 Runway Collection featured gorgeous maxi dresses in light fabrics with flower print details. Lubov Azria mentioned before the show that her inspiration was "Kate Moss at Coachella".
My favorite piece from the BCBG Pre-Spring 2014 Runway Collection is this white jump suit with side cut outs. This classic, bold, and sexy piece is a Miami girl's must-have.
This romper from Norka, a local and family-owned boutique, is perfectly equipped to keep you looking fabulous in Miami's warm weather. The piece was part of the boutique's fashion show at the November Fashion Happy Hour.
This white and gold bracelet stack featuring, a Taradise "mati" evil eye bracelet and a wrap leather cuff designed by Noe Cesar, expresses my personal Miami style. Tara Atsalis says "#ThankYouMiami for Miami's fantastic weather and atmosphere".

How do you express your Miami style? What are the staple pieces in your closet? What are some of your go-to local designers and boutiques? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene - Part 4: David Notik

David Notik, Founder of Woven and Creator of #MiamiTech

Welcome to Part 4 of my 4-part series, “#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene", where I recount my conversations with Miami entrepreneurs about what Miami
is doing right for its entrepreneurial movement, where there is room for improvement, and why they each say #ThankYouMiami. Today, I share with you a summary of my interview with David Notik from Woven and #MiamiTech. Access the rest of the series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The Start-Up
David Notik is the Founder of Woven, an online platform that makes it easier for individuals to access and get involved in the communities that interest them. Woven organizes all of a community's news, messages, events, resources, etc. in real-time on one page so users can efficiently find, search for, and filter this information to best meet their needs. Simultaneously, it strategically connects the businesses, organizations, and members in each community to their target audience.

You can see the Woven platform in action at, the page for Miami's tech and start-up community. Additionally, Woven recently debuted its new live event activity support feature at Social Media Club South Florida's 5th Anniversary Meetup event.
Miami entrepreneur David Notik says Miami is "an intimate community that makes it accessible for locals to form relationships that empower them to make an impact".

The Miami Benefits and Challenges
Miami chose David. He met his wife, Rebecca, here while visiting with his family and decided to make the move from New York City 4 years ago.  When he first arrived, David saw Miami as a relative desert for tech and start-up, particularly in contrast to NYC and Seattle where he previously lived. However, he wanted to surround himself with like-minded people so he began attending Refresh Miami meet-ups in hopes of tapping into the local entrepreneurial and tech communities.

In the past two years, David has observed a blossoming of those communities. He is currently working out of The LAB Miami, an "entrepreneurial campus" powered by the Knight Foundation and one of the co-working spaces mentioned in Part 1 of this series.

David mentions that Miami's welcoming nature, as well as its young pioneering community are its greatest strengths. These qualities, combined with a lower cost of living, make Miami an accessible area for growing a business. At the same time, he stresses that the ability to make money, rather than spend less, is critical for drawing talent to the area.

David offers a unique perspective to the funding and talent acquisition question carried throughout this series. Will, featured in Part 2, and Brad, featured in Part 3, started by first thinking about local solutions to these challenges. Conversely, David primarily took a global approach.

For example, Woven's one full-time employee, Kai Sellgren, lives and works from Finland. And, while David is open to hiring local talent, he does not think it is necessary to limit his search to his backyard. He takes full advantage of existing technology, like Skype, which allows him to hire and work with someone who meets his needs anywhere in the world.

David has a similar outlook regarding future investments. He is cultivating relationships with local investors, but will not limit himself to local sources of funding. David is confident in the strength of his business and believes it to be a more important factor in getting funded than the location of his potential investors.

Despite his more global outlook, David's investment in the local community is evident through his involvement in Miami's start-up and tech community. Not only does he regularly participate in community events, but, through #MiamiTech, he has also given this community an innovative tool through which all its members can get on the same page.

The #ThankYouMiami Statement
So what is this hard-working visionary most grateful for? David said "#ThankYouMiami for keeping it real - for being accessible, supporting and  ambitious as a community".

Are you a part of the Miami entrepreneurial movement? What do you think Miami is doing right to support its future growth? Where do you see room for improvement? Which local entrepreneurs would you like to see give their opinion on this subject? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene - Part 3: Brad Liff

Brad Liff, CEO and Founder of Fitting Room Social

Welcome to Part 3 of my 4-part series, “#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene", where I recount my conversations with Miami entrepreneurs about what Miami is doing right for its entrepreneurial movement, where there is room for improvement, and why they each say #ThankYouMiami. Today, I share with you a summary of my interview with Brad Liff from Fitting Room Social. Access the rest of the series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4.

The Start-Up
Brad Liff is the CEO and Founder of Fitting Room Social, a social shopping platform intended to give women the confidence to shop online knowing the item they are purchasing will fit them well. Users begin by creating a profile with their personal information and clothing measurements (don't worry, girls - you can keep your measurements private!). They then upload photos of their personal style and rate each garment photo as a "Great Fit", "Good Fit", "Fair Fit", or "Poor Fit". Fitting Room Social sorts the user-populated information to connect women with garments that match their individual fits and style per their profiles.

Miami entrepreneur Brad Liff calls Miami a city with "a real business community of talented, smart, and dedicated people".

The Miami Benefits and Challenges
Brad came to Miami almost 5 years ago from Long Island, New York for a job in private equity. In Miami, he caught the entrepreneurial bug, decided to put his private equity career on hold, and started Fitting Room Social.

When I asked Brad why he chose to start Fitting Room Social in Miami, he firmly stated that Miami is his home and that it is important for him to build his business in his own community. He would like to see Miami grow as a tech center and wants to show we have all the resources, including capital and talent, to build a company locally.

Acquiring initial funding for Fitting Room Social was not a challenge. Its current operations are funded through capital Brad received from a group of investors last year. When asked about future funding, Brad responds with confidence that the challenge will not be a consequence of building Fitting Room Social in Miami. In his opinion, institutional investors are becoming more comfortable with investing in cities like Miami and are less concerned with relocating business investments closer to them. Additionally, he thinks the community is doing a better job of educating and accessing local sources of capital.

Brad's views on talent acquisition in Miami are just as positive. Unlike the other entrepreneurs featured in this series, Brad has limited technical knowledge so, for him, finding outside technical experts was a critical first step to launching Fitting Room Social. He began building the platform's prototype using off-shore developers, but quickly realized he needed local talent to realize his vision. He found the high-quality development talent he needed in Rokk3r Labs on Lincoln Road. The support he has received from Rokk3r Labs has been instrumental in helping Brad make his entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

The #ThankYouMiami Statement
Brad met and married his wife, Marjorie, in Miami and recently had his first child, daughter Ruby, here. So what is this passionate new father most grateful for? Brad said "#ThankYouMiami for introducing me to my wife".

Check back tomorrow for Part 4 of this 4-part series where I share with you my interview with David Notik, Founder of Woven and Creator of #MiamiTech.

Are you a part of the Miami entrepreneurial movement? What do you think Miami is doing right to support its future growth? Where do you see room for improvement? Which local entrepreneurs would you like to see give their opinion on this subject? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene - Part 2: Will Weinraub

Will Weinraub, CEO and Co-Founder of LiveNinja

Welcome to Part 2 of my 4-part series, “#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene", where I recount my conversations with Miami entrepreneurs about what Miami is doing right for its entrepreneurial movement, where there is room for improvement, and why they each say #ThankYouMiami. Today, I share with you a summary of my interview with Will Weinraub from LiveNinja. Access the rest of the series here: Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.

Miami entrepreneur Will Weinraub calls his hometown "a diverse, quickly-evolving city that keeps me on my toes and keeps me innovative".

The Start-Up
Will Weinraub is the CEO and co-founder of LiveNinja, a video chat marketplace where users can find and book chat sessions with experts ("ninjas") on a variety of subjects ranging from career counseling to video editing to yoga. Simultaneously, the LiveNinja platform gives individuals the necessary online tools to monetize their skills and connects them to potential customers.

LiveNinja has been widely recognized for its successful execution of an innovative concept. In December 2012, LiveNinja closed a seed round of $500,000 in funding through angel investors from Miami, New York, and South America.

The Miami Benefits
Will was born and raised in Miami and, from our conversation, is a big fan of the area. When I asked him why he decided to start LiveNinja in Miami, he quickly responded by asking: "Why not Miami?". He credits the following qualities for making Miami a valuable place for entrepreneurial endeavors:

1. Access to funding - When Will decided to start LiveNinja, he was pleased to find that there was a funding framework to facilitate its creation and growth locally. He saw possibilities for capital from both local angel investors, as well as foreign funding sources.

2. Community diversity - The range of demographics in Miami give start-ups, like LiveNinja, access to different audiences on which to test ideas and from which to get feedback.

3. Geographic location - Miami's proximity to Latin America and its connection to the international community facilitate access to foreign funding sources and to the option of easily expanding outside of the United States for companies like LiveNinja.

4. Industry transformation - Miami is rapidly evolving from a tourist destination to a thriving urban environment that supports locals, like Will, in their entrepreneurial ambitions.

The Miami Challenges
There are two challenges start-ups commonly face regardless of where they are located: acquiring funding and acquiring talent. I was curious to know whether these challenges were amplified or lessened by Miami's unique qualities so I asked Will whether LiveNinja has encountered any obstacles that may be Miami-specific.

In terms of funding, LiveNinja achieved a tremendous milestone when it received seed funding at the end of last year. However, Will believes Miami can attract additional funding opportunities for its early stage businesses through continued support of innovation and entrepreneurship. He stated that the ability to draw capital for local entrepreneurial undertakings is also dependent on the willingness of local entrepreneurs to work hard to bring it here.

Will found that identifying the local technical talent necessary to develop LiveNinja was slightly more challenging. In his eyes, there is technical talent in Miami, but it is much more scarce than marketing, sales, and management talent. He is confident that Miami's low cost of living, lifestyle opportunities, and weather will make it easy for companies to attract technical talent to the area into the future as long as they produce projects worthy of their attention.

The #ThankYouMiami Statement
So what is this talented Miami-native most grateful for? Will said "#ThankYouMiami for being enticing and exciting, for spurring my professional and personal growth, and for giving me both a family and a tech career".

Check back tomorrow for Part 3 of this 4-part series where I share with you my interview with Brad Liff, CEO and Founder of Fitting Room Social.

Are you a part of the Miami entrepreneurial movement? What do you think Miami is doing right to support its future growth? Where do you see room for improvement? Which local entrepreneurs would you like to see give their opinion on this subject? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Monday, November 11, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene - A 4-Part Series

Welcome to Part 1 of my 4-part series, “#ThankYouMiami for Our Growing Start-Up Scene", where I recount my conversations with Miami entrepreneurs about what Miami is doing right for its entrepreneurial movement, where there is room for improvement, and why they each say #ThankYouMiami. Access the rest of the series here: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Miami is buzzing with entrepreneurial activity. In the past few years, I’ve observed more and more incubators and co-working spaces open their doors, including The Launch Pad, Incubate Miami, Rokk3r Labs, the LAB Miami, Pipeline, and most recently Venture Hive. From civic engagement events to hack-a-thons, the local entrepreneurial movement is alive and kicking.

Now, I am only an entrepreneur by marriage so I have as in depth an understanding of entrepreneurship as my husband chooses to give me. But my common sense tells me that the growth of our entrepreneurial community shows Miami is moving in the right direction. How much? I leave it to the members of this growing community to tell you.

Each day this week, I will share with you an interview with a local entrepreneur about what Miami is doing right, where there is room for improvement, and why he says #ThankYouMiami. Check back daily as I recount my conversations with:
Are you a part of the Miami entrepreneurial movement? What do you think Miami is doing right to support its future growth? Where do you see room for improvement? Which local entrepreneurs would you like to see give their opinion on this subject? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Glitz, Glamour & Gorgeous Hair

I recently suffered one of the most traumatic losses a girl can experience: my go-to hair stylist moved out of Miami. Lucky for me (and for you), Miami has had a recent influx of new beauty talent and they’re taking over our favorite neighborhoods. Moreover, the salons they call home are equipped with all the beauty outing essentials: vino, snacks, and the latest gossip.

Last month I studio-hopped in your name to try two newly opened beauty venues: Studio Chroma Inc. and Elle Air Blow Dry + Make Up bar. I am thrilled to report my experiences were nothing short of stellar. Both salons get major brownie points for their fantastic service, their beauty know-how, and their trés chic decor. Because what is a beauty salon if not a female haven?

Studio Chroma Inc.

145 Aragon Ave
Miami, FL 33134
(786) 518-2920

Studio Chroma is located one block north of Miracle Mile and successfully captures the desirable ambiance that draws international retailers to the famous Coral Gables strip. The salon’s interior decorations are simple and modern in a blend of urban style typical to the neighborhood. However, Studio Chroma’s sense of corporate social responsibility, including their use of environmentally-conscious beauty products, is a breath of fresh air in the surrounding commercial monotony.

While the entire Studio Chroma team has received rave reviews on Yelp, I stopped by to visit Emilee for a quick haircut and styling before the Fashion Scene Miami fundraiser. The odds were stacked against her when I walked in because a few months prior, I had my hair cut much shorter and in a different style than I have worn half of my life.  Additionally, I was very hesitant to test a stranger’s abilities a few hours before an important social event.

Without sharing any of this with Emilee, I let her do her thing. Turns out, hair is not only her passion, but also her calling. She did a fantastic job of cleaning up my ends and refreshing my haircut without cutting off too much hair. She listened to all of my recommendations and refined them with her expertise to give me absolutely gorgeous hair that fit my personal style. Best of all, she is extremely friendly and a genuine sweetheart.

Studio Chroma is located in close proximity to Miracle Mile and emits the same air of exclusivity and sophistication for which the area is known.

Emilee (left) is one of a handful of talented stylists on the Studio Chroma team. She is extremely talented, but also humble and charismatic which makes her the perfect person to trust with your beloved locks.

After a quick haircut and styling, I left Studio Chroma with gorgeous hair fit for the glitz and glamour of the Fashion Scene Miami fundraiser.

Elle Air Blow Dry + Make Up bar
9480 Harding Ave
Surfside, FL 33154

(305) 763-8385

Elle Air Blow Dry + Make Up bar is located in the heart of the Surfside business district. While its ambiance draws upon Surfside’s beach town feel to provide a soothing sanctuary, Elle Air delivers the luxury expected in this stylish and modern neighborhood. Owner Arielle’s attention to detail is evident in every aspect of her business, from the fresh look of the venue’s interior to her excellent customer service.

I stopped by Elle Air for a quick blow-dry during their soft opening and was immediately captured by its youthful and welcoming atmosphere. Walking in felt like arriving at a private beauty party with my closest girlfriends. Everyone inside the salon was engaged in excited chitchat and was visibly enjoying their treatments. Before each girl left with their finished styles, they proudly showed off their picture-perfect locks to the others.

I received an excellent scalp massage and left with fabulously smooth and straight hair, but my favorite part of the visit was the spread of wines, refreshments, and snacks that Elle Air makes available to their customers. It is incredible how such a simple detail can really elevate a customer’s experience. I look forward to visiting them again so I can test out their skills with the more complex hairstyles from their menu, as well as the make-up services they offer using Gorgeous Cosmetics. I received a few samples of their products during my visit and have since added the Icicle lip lacquer to my daily beauty must-haves.

The décor at Elle Air is modern and trendy, but calming which is fitting for a beauty refuge in the heart of Surfside's business district.

Ocean Drive Magazine's Michelle Petrillo stopped by Elle Air during the soft opening and left looking radiant with her expertly styled hair.

Miami Beach resident Melissa Henriquez models her elegant up-do next to Elle Air's bar of snacks and refreshments.

Have you visited these two beauty venues? How was your experience? What are some of your other go-to beauty destinations in Miami? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Fashion Happy Hour - October 2013

I have a love/hate relationship with Miami and one reason is the absurd amount of events going on at one time. There is almost TOO much to do in Miami. And, as locals, we are stuck with the burden of choosing between going to that music festival, pool party, business opening, or art event. Let's face it - they all sound really fun, but we can't do them all.

Luckily, some events make the decision-making process easy. Enter, Fashion Happy Hour, a monthly event hosted at different Miami venues that is free and open to the public. Fashion Happy Hour merges all of the elements of your usual happy hour experience (e.g., music, 2x1 drinks, delicious food, and new friends) with art, fashion, and shopping. Best of all, most of the participating vendors are Miami-based or Miami-originated businesses (and #ThankYouMiami for that).

Last month, I grabbed my best friend and checked out the September Fashion Happy Hour at RedBar Gallery in Brickell. Needless to say, I had a cocktail in hand, two shopping bags, and a handful of new friends within 5 minutes of arriving. The highlight of the night was enjoying shopping, cocktails, and the awesome vibe with Miami chicas like Maya from A La Mode Maya, Mariamely from Local Genie Miami, and Yoana from Think Red, Inc.

This Friday, Fashion Happy Hour will be hosting its monthly event again at RedBar Gallery, but with a Halloween twist. I can't wait to get into the Halloween spirit with festive body painting by Miami local Vee Marie of iBrushYou and a manicure from Miami nail salon, Candy Coat Nail Boutique. I'm also excited to check out this month's vendors and to meet more fascinating locals so see you there, Miami!

Check out some of my favorite moments from the September event below:

A social butterfly's dream. Fashion Happy Hour combines shopping, fashion, art, and your typical Friday evening socializing into one convenient monthly event so you don't have to make any social trade-offs.

Unique fashion finds. One of the vendors, Pretty Odd Boutique, had me hooked as soon as I walked in. Check out Thank You, Miami's Instagram for a sneak peek of the gorgeous dress I picked up at the event.

Late night munchies. RedBar Gallery is outfitted with a little cafeteria window that offers latin bar food specials like these ground beef tacos.

I owe how much? RedBar's Happy Hour prices were more than reasonable. So much so, that I took a photo of my receipt at the end of the night.

Have you attended a previous Fashion Happy Hour? What were some of your favorite moments? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami! Also, let me know if you are coming on Friday. I would love to meet you!

Monday, October 7, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Distinctively Different Neighborhoods - SoFi

Welcome to Part 1 of our series, “#ThankYouMiami for Distinctively Different Neighborhoods", where Miami locals take us on a journey of their respective neighborhoods and tell us what they love about it, what they hate about it, and why their neighborhood makes them say #ThankYouMiami. Access the rest of the series here.

Our Miami is different than your Miami and it is this diversity that makes Miami unique. But, as Miami Beach residents, we rarely leave the beach, making it difficult for #ThankYouMiami to fully explore Miami's diversity.

That is why we will be taking you on a journey into the greater, collective concept that we call "Miami" through our new neighborhood feature: #ThankYouMiami for Distinctively Different Neighborhoods. Each month we will be calling on you, our fellow Miamians, to help us explore your neighborhood through the lens of #ThankYouMiami by telling us what you love about it, what you hate about it, and why your neighborhood makes you say #ThankYouMiami. For the first segment of this new feature, our founder Margarita Wells starts by taking us inside her 'hood: South of Fifth A/K/A SoFi.

1. What distinguishes SoFi from other Miami neighborhoods?
SoFi is distinctively different because it provides a stark contrast to the heart of South Beach even though they are within close proximity. Whether its the allure of its historic landmarks or the promise of endless partying at The Clevelander, the majority of Miami Beach's visitors tend to venture north of Fifth Street. Ergo, SoFi is primarily a quiet and less crowded oasis with all the benefits of South Beach living.

An oasis in South Beach. The South of Fifth or SoFi neighborhood offers a retreat that is quieter and less crowded than the areas north of Fifth Street.

2. What makes SoFi "SO Miami"?
Nothing screams Miami like a bodega that sells cheap beer, Cuban food, and cortaditos, particularly when it is around the corner from million dollar condos. In SoFi, our local bodega is La Playa Market and, truth be told, SoFi would not be as Miami without it.

A local staple. La Playa Market, located at 247 Collins Avenue, is the bodega of choice for South of Fifth residents. Best of all? They deliver throughout South Beach!

3. What do you like least about SoFi?
My least favorite aspect of SoFi is that it has been under construction since I moved here. While I understand construction is necessary for progress, I could use a break from the early morning drilling.

Constant construction. Bob's Barricades have become that guest that has overstayed its welcome in SoFi.

4. What is the strangest thing you've seen in SoFi?
I think I have lost sensitivity to strangeness because I cannot recall one single instance that really stuck with me. Among the stranger SoFi sightings are our resident tranny (the one with the U tramp stamp) booty dancing on Anthony Bourdain's The Layover, a rainbow that appeared to make landfall at 3rd Street beach, and the random fireworks that will go off every once in a while.

Small SoFi oddities. Contrary to popular belief, the pot of gold is South of Fifth.

5. What about SoFi makes you say #ThankYouMiami?
#ThankYouMiami that SoFi is growing quickly and beautifully. We had a lot of new businesses open their doors in the past year, including favorites like The Local House, Bar Crudo, The Flat, Tongue & Cheek, and Lee and Marie's Cakery. We also have many new businesses moving in. I am most excited for the opening of Miami Beach's first smoke-free bar, Public House. The variety of local businesses, both new and old, make SoFi a distinctively different Miami neighborhood - one which I look forward to watching grow for years to come.

Miami Beach from a SoFi perspective. Tourist traffic tends to stay north of Fifth Street, so SoFi is a neighborhood that caters primarily to its residents.

Are you an expert on your neighborhood? Share with Miami what makes your neighborhood distinctively different! Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami. You could be featured in an upcoming segment of this feature.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Being The Gateway to the Americas - La Puerca, Panama 2013

Miami is the perfect home-base for people who love to travel by plane, especially to the Americas. We have two international airports in close proximity, including Miami International Airport (MIA) which currently serves 56 domestic destinations and 77 international destinations in Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean (MIA, 2013). While our access elsewhere is much more limited, we make the best of it. Because, why go elsewhere when the universe has handed Miami a skeleton key to the Americas?

Since I arrived in the 305, I have taken full advantage of our easy access to that which lies beyond our borders. My latest travel exploits took me to Panama for the second time this year - this time, as the only female in an all-male surf and exploration quest along the Pacific Coast. Unfortunately for the guys, we arrived during the only week this surf season that didn't have particularly enticing waves so the trip was more exploration, less surfing.

The highlight of our trip was our one-night stay at Reserva Ecológica Privada Cerro Hoya, a privately-owned ecological reserve in the Azuero Peninsula of Panama. Locally known as "La Puerca", this 70 hectare paradise is one of only a handful of private properties inside the limits of Cerro Hoya National Park and is literally in the middle of nowhere.

Redefining remote. "La Puerca" is a private nature reserve located within the limits of Cerro Hoya National Park on the Pacific Coast of Panama and is a 6-hour drive and 2.5-hour boat ride from Panama City. Credit: La Puerca

Our 8-hour journey to "La Puerca" was purely a labor of love, fueled by a moment of insanity. The trip started with us renting a car with four-wheel drive at Tocumen International Airport and ended with a guy named Chichín beaching us in his panga on the shores of "La Puerca" in between sets of head-high waves.

Our adrenaline-fueled arrival at "La Puerca" set the tone for the entirety of our stay. Every moment of our two-day trip was riddled with danger, excitement, and adventure - everything I imagine a National Geographic exploration to be. And, while I don't enjoy fearing for my life so many times in one day, I loved every minute. Check out some of my favorite moments below.

Living with nature. Reserva Ecólogica Privada Cerro Hoya is in the process of reforesting its 70 hectares, which were previously used for grazing and agriculture. The humble accommodations, shown above, are further testament to their commitment to conservation and minimizing their environmental footprint.
Awe-inspiring discoveries. Even though the hikes were rough, every step was worth uncovering the beauty of the Panamanian rainforest and its many waterfalls.
Managing small miracles. Even though we were in the middle of the rainforest during the peak of rainy season, one of the guys managed to build a fire to dry my soaking clothes.
Rainforest necessities. Willy Palm, the manager of "La Puerca" was the only one in our group properly outfitted for the hikes we took around the property.
Bravery or foolishness? Chichín and his panga frequently take on Mother Nature to deliver visitors and supplies at "La Puerca".

Where is your favorite place to travel in the Americas? What was your favorite or most adventurous trip there? Is there somewhere in the Americas you would like to go, but have not had the opportunity to visit? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!

Monday, September 2, 2013

#ThankYouMiami for Miami Spice – August 2013

Jury’s still out in our household on whether Miami Spice is as good a value as it was intended to be. Regardless, as the resident glutton and spender in our household, I am a huge proponent of going out to enjoy Miami Spice – good value or not. As long as the food and atmosphere is promising, I’m there…and, by association, so are my husband and friends.

This year our strategy was to visit our regular haunts during August and to put off the more exclusive venues for September because it is my birthday month. So how is it going so far? Although our pace has been slower than usual this year, we almost managed to average 1 Miami Spice outing per week in August, particularly thanks to the early Miami Spice previews in July. And, of the restaurants we've visited, so far we have no complaints

660 at the Angler’s (660 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach)
I fell in love with 660 the first time I walked in – which is frustrating because I had a culinary haven a block away for almost a year before I even realized it was there. And, if you’ve ever been to South Beach and you’ve never heard of 660, I bet my piggy bank savings that you, like me, have either been too distracted by the lush wall of vegetation surrounding the Angler Hotel property or by the traffic on Washington Avenue to notice 660 is there. So next time you're in the area, stop by. The service is excellent, the food is delicious, and the ambiance is much more serene than what you'd expect in the heart of South Beach.
This year for Miami Spice Chef Carlos Torres is featuring the restaurant’s most consistently delicious dishes in a 3-course prix fixe menu, as well as a 3-mojitos-for-$10 special. My husband and I tried everything but the Cuban Wrapped Pork. I know, Miami sacrilege. Our favorites were the Crispy Gulf Shrimp, the 8-hour Braised Short Rib, and the 3 cilantro mojitos that I downed with my dinner.

If you've ever had 660's Jalea, their Crispy Gulf Shrimp is just as crunchy, just as sweet, and every bit as exquisite.

The 8-hour Braised Short Rib was the perfect entree served with a sweet potato mash, scallions, roasted garlic, gremolata, and demi glaze.

Seasons 52 (321 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables)
I inherited my love for Seasons 52 from my parents, who are huge fans of “chain restaurants” (a taboo phrase with my self-proclaimed foodie husband and friends). Growing up, my family lived, breathed, and ate nothing but Sysco-based food from chain restaurants. Then, one day, my parents discovered the one national chain I am proud to frequent: Seasons 52.

Seasons 52’s claim-to-fame is that their menu is seasonally-inspired and that all of their dishes are under 475 calories. The former makes me excited to visit year-round, the latter offers little dietary comfort because I eat at least 3 dishes every time I visit. The benefit of choosing Miami Spice this time of year is that it gives me an excuse to explore their menu beyond my usual choice of shrimp chipotle flatbread and tuna roll. During my visit, I opted for the Roasted Shrimp, Spinach, and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, the Vegetarian Tasting, and the Blueberry Cheesecake Mini Indulgence. While they were all satisfying, they did not compare to my normal selections.

The Roasted Shrimp, Spinach, and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms tasted like your run-of-the-mill stuffed mushrooms. Nothing to call home about, but good nonetheless.
If you like tofu and veggies, everything but the grain salad is worth choosing The Vegetarian Tasting.

Essensia at the Palms Hotel and Spa (3025 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach)
I have yet to try a single food item that I do not like from Essensia. Even worse, I suffer food envy every time I visit regardless of how much I am enjoying my meal. I love Essensia because they not only highlight fresh, seasonal food, but also focus on eco-friendly practices like using locally sourced ingredients. And, the result has thus far been consistent deliciousness.

Our entire party opted for the Miami Spice menu so I had the opportunity to try all of the menu items, except for the Fettuccini with Shrimp and Summer Vegetables. The Kale Caesar was my absolute favorite, but I love all things kale so I consider myself biased. The group favorite was the Thai Lemongrass Soup. I only had one spoonful, but I have craved that soup every rainy day since our dinner because the hot coconut milk and Thai spices made it the ideal comfort food. Our advice: skip the dessert, in my opinion, it was not worth the extra calories.

Whether I'm biased or not, this Kale Caesar was excellent. It was the perfect mixture of crunchy, creamy, and nourishing.
The Thai Lemongrass Soup is the perfect comfort food for a rainy day.

One month down. One to go. Which have been your favorite Miami Spice menus thus far? Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!
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