Monday, May 22, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds - Meraki Greek Bistro

Last week Celeste ventured to downtown Miami to Meraki Greek Bistro, where co-owner and executive chef Giannis Kotsos introduced her to the restaurant's new menu of one-of-a-kind, authentic Mediterranean dishes. Based on the 400+ likes that her photo from the evening garnered on Instagram, we'll venture to say you're intrigued by this new food find. Read below to hear what Celeste thought of its location, the ambiance and, of course, the food.


Meraki is located in Miami's best kept secret and—believe it or not—it's been there for years. It's tucked away inside a narrow alley on SE 1st Ave between 1st Street and 2nd Street in Downtown Miami. My favorite restaurant as a child was a family-owned Italian spot in that very same, mesmerizing restaurant village. (Think a less crowded Española Way.) I'm pretty sure my eyes lit up when I re-encountered the traditional red roofs on the romantic boutique buildings and brick floors, a true anomaly within the heart of downtown. 
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Friday, May 19, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Making DÔA's Traditional Ceviche

Summer is making an grand entrance like a prima donna on My Super Sweet Sixteen. The bipolar weather the last few days is a testament that we're already settling into the seasonal routine of sweltering, steamy heat followed by apocalyptic downpour.

While there's nothing I can do about the rain, except remind you that true Floridians don't own an umbrella (we just don't), I want to do all I can to help you beat the heat. Today that means sharing a recipe for my favorite boat day/beach day snack: ceviche.

A huge thanks to DÔA's very own Chef Carlos Estarita for sharing his traditional ceviche recipe with us. My mouth is watering just thinking about how perfectly refreshing the citrus juice is and how perfectly light the fish is when it's hot outside. Plus, it's super simple to make!

I recommend using fresh fish from a fish market like Chef Estarita for best results. From experience, the best fish markets in Miami are Don Camaron on NW 37 Ave, Captain Jim's in North Miami, or Miami River staples Casablanca and Garcia's. Enjoy!

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Monday, May 15, 2017

#ThankYouMiami Catches Up Over Coopers' Craft Cocktails


I'm finally feeling better, no thanks to my going out and "day drinking" at Coral Gables' House Kitchen & Bar on Saturday afternoon. Turns out bourbon isn't the best medicine for a sinus infection. Nevertheless, my outing was much needed and well worth it. It gave us a chance to catch up with our South Florida Bloggers friends who we haven't seen in ages. I also learned a ton about Coopers' Craft, a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey (read, bourbon). Here are five fun facts I picked up:
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

#ThankYouMiami Talks Soaking Up The Sun In Miami


I have been in quarantine for the last week. My co-workers gave me the head cold that's been going around and it developed into a sinus/chest infection, sidelining me from going to work, attending the fun events on my calendar, and seeing the beautiful outdoors for 6 whole days. I'm still not 100%, but a full round of z-pack later I'm regaining my appetite and ability to walk without wheezing.

The first order of business as soon as I can leave my apartment? Seeing the sun again. Luckily, my go-to meteorologists on CBS4 Miami announced that the next few days will be in the 80s and sunny (except for afternoon showers on Sunday afternoon). That means its the perfect time to head outdoors and revel in that Miami sunshine.

In my book The HUNT Miami, I shared my five favorite places to soak up the sun in Miami. (You can find the feature on pages 126-128 of your pocket-sized Miami guide.) It was super serendipitous timing that, this week, the list was released on The HUNT Guides blog for your reading pleasure. Want the full list of off-the-beaten path parks, hotels, restaurants, museums, shops and live music venues I recommend in Miami? You can order your very own copy of The HUNT Miami here!

P.S. If you too have fallen victim to this traveling head cold, drinking water, getting lots of sleep, and taking z-pack were the only three things that worked of the 30 things—ginger and wheatgrass shots, tea, NyQuil, gargles, binge-watching 13 Reasons Why—I tried. Get well soon!
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Keeping Summer Hair Healthy


I had "virgin hair" most of my life. ("Virgin hair" is what stylists call hair that has never been colored or chemically-treated.) Then, at 26, I decided to see if blondes really do have more fun and allowed the talented Emilee Coyle, now at Studio Platinum on Merritt Island, to give me a summer hair transformation. I have since gone from blonde, to blonder, to blondest, most recently under the careful care of Erin at IGK Miami.

I am addicted to being blonde. I look at pictures of myself as a brunette and, while my hair looks healthier—glossier, non-frizzy—the brown tresses don't suit me as well as the blonde ones. I don't look like me. So, I keep coloring it even as I watch its texture change, becoming progressively more dull and frayed from the chemicals as the conditioning treatment washes away from my hair in the weeks after my salon visits.

My mom was the one who made me realize how unhealthy my hair has started to look. Concerned that my hair was a warning sign of poor nutrition, she called an emergency mother-daughter meeting where she brought up her concerns. I quickly reassured her the state of my coif was a consequence of missing salon visits, not meals, and made a mental note to book an appointment with Erin immediately.

Erin's expertise comes at a hefty—albeit, well-worth—price tag so I can't always default to paying her a visit when my hair needs it. So, I have started relying on a three-tiered approach that is affordable and I can do at home to keep my summer hair healthy between visits:

1. Monthly: Hair masks for moisture
At least once a month, ideally every other week, I lather on a hair mask when I get out of the shower, braid my hair, watch an episode of The Americans, then rinse or wash it off. I love Palmer's Deep Conditioning Coconut Oil Formula and, when I'm feeling fancy, the Kérastase Résistance Masque Therapiste. They help my hair against dryness.


2. Weekly: Hair oils for shine
I blow-dry my hair—yes, I finally learned how—once a week. When I do, I help it look soft and silky with hair oils, specifically Madam C.J. Walker Beauty Culture's Brassica Seed Oil and Kérastase's Elixir Ultime Versatile Beautifying Oil. They both do the trick aesthetically-speaking, but I'm partial to the brassica seed oil because of its cotton candy-like scent.


3. Daily: Thickening shampoo for damage repair
Color-treated hair requires special shampoo to maintain its integrity. I have found shampoos that make my color last, but none of them seem to have done much to repair color damage. That's why I alternate them with Renpure Professional's Coconut Bamboo Thickening Shampoo. It helps with damage repair and I love that it is made from all-natural ingredients—a bonus considering the chemicals needed to keep my beautiful blonde locks.


How do you keep your summer hair healthy? What other advice do you have for counteracting the effects of coloring treatments? What hair products can you not live without? Leave a message below or send me a tweet @ThankYouMiami!
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Sunday, May 7, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for Miami Museum Month


The long-awaited Frost Museum of Science opens tomorrow in downtown Miami. As a major "science geek"—my Bachelor's and Master's degrees are in marine science—I can't wait to check it out and am amping hardcore about the gulf stream aquarium that is shaped like a martini glass. I'm planning to take advantage of their extended hours during opening weekend to stop by.

Turns out May is the perfect month to do so, not just because the Miami science museum will be brand-spanking new, but also because May is Miami Museum Month. For the occasion, local museums are offering special deals like "join one museum, see them all" and "buy one, get one free admission". Yesterday my mom, dad and I took advantage of the latter for a fun Saturday afternoon at the Pérez Art Museum Miami ("the PAMM"). 
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Friday, May 5, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Making a SpikedSeltzer Paloma for Cinco de Mayo

I feel it is my responsibility, as your token Mexican blogging friend, to be the first to wish you a happy Cinco de Mayo. And, also to remind you that no—today is not Mexican independence day. September 16 is Mexican independence day.

Today's holiday is an American-created excuse to indulge on tacos and tequila without abandon, with "Mexican heritage" at its helm. I can't blame you, I love a good excuse to celebrate and let's be honest, tacos and tequila are two of the greatest things in the world. (Thank you, ancestors.) But before I proceed with today's nugget of knowledge, let the record show what you're really toasting is Mexico's unexpected victory over the French in some random battle and that, in Mexico, it's just a quiet little Friday.

That said, I relish in being everyone's token Mexican friend for this annual occasion. To that end, I have included a little blurb on Cinco de Mayo festivities around Miami I found worthwhile on our Miami Events page. There's all-you-can-eat tacos, bar crawls, larger than life piñatas, and free tequila shots on ice luges, because Miami... On my end, I will be hosting a happy hour for friends in South Beach and retiring home eat tacos and sip palomas.

I listed my favorite new paloma recipe below so you can join me no matter where you are. It's light and super refreshing. Oh, and while you're at it, don't forget to check out these delicious Mexican food and drink recipes I posted last year. ¡Salúd!


Paloma Cocktail Recipe
12 oz. Indian River grapefruit SpikedSeltzer (available at Publix)
2 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice (Natalie's, available at Publix, is my favorite)
1 oz. tequila (I recommend Don Julio blanco)
1/2 slice of fresh grapefruit

Stir ingredients and serve in a cooler glass over ice, with half a grapefruit slice.
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

#ThankYouMiami Talks Spring Menus at the W South Beach

Last week W South Beach extended us an invitation to try their newly launched spring menus at Living Room and The Dutch. I've shared a few evenings over the quirky handcrafted cocktails at Living Room but I have never dined at The Dutch—I know, right?!—so I was super excited for both. Unfortunately, due to a last minute conflict, I wasn't able to go. Thankfully our fearless contributor Celeste stepped in on my behalf to experience the evening and recount it for you below. (For the record, cedeing the opportunity to eat artichoke ravioli was not an easy feat...)

I'm not one to brag but, man that evening was delicious. One word: WOW. I think I whispered that under my breath countless times after sipping on most of the drinks and pretty much after every bite of everything—literally everything. I can guarantee that if I'm ever feeling splurgy, I know the W Hotel is the place for quality comfort food anyone can enjoy.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Cooking Seaspice's Serrano Ham Benedict

The mother of all brunch occasions—Mother's Day—is just around the corner. As the brunch capital of the world, Miami has a thousand different options to choose from to host mom's annual celebratory brunch. Well, this year we're inspired to do things a little bit differently. We're thinking of showing mom just how much we care by whipping up brunch at home, featuring delicious dishes from our favorite Miami restaurants. Sounds a little more special, no?

If, like us, you're inspired and up for the challenge, we share the secret to Seaspice's Serrano ham benedict below to get your menu started. This dish is one of a handful of new brunch dishes the restaurant unveiled for spring and appeals to the charcuterie fanatic in us. Go on—take a look at how easy it is to put together. Worst case scenario, you throw in the towel and head to Seaspice where moms will be fêted by 2 hours of free flowing champagne (from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.), live music, photo booths etc.


Serrano Ham Benedict Recipe
4 oz. Serrano ham
1 Idaho potato
3 shallots
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
8 oz. clarified butter
1/4 tsp. chives
1/4 tsp. sherry wine vinegar
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp white vinegar

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Friday, April 28, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds - Artisan Beach House


Ritz-Carlton has an impeccable reputation because they make great choices. At Ritz-Carlton Vail, great choices include ski valet and a daily s'mores/hot cocoa happy hour. At Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, they include a blissful spa and rum-centric bar, eatery and market ideal for quality mother-daughter time. And, at Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, they include stunning views of Baker's Haulover Inlet and Artisan Beach House, a restaurant by Chef Paula DaSilva with an internationally-inspired menu of the season's freshest local offerings.
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Monday, April 24, 2017

#ThankYouMiami Runs (And Wins) The South Beach Triathlon


It's been almost one month since I participated (and won) the South Beach triathlon. As I prepare to run (and hopefully beat my co-workers in) Thursday's Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run, I am reminiscing about my short journey in the tri world and why this victory absolutely had to happen.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds - Via Emilia 9


Few things are more Americana than a neighbor popping over with food to welcome you to the neighborhood. Ironically, the neighbor that did that for me during my recent move hails from Italy. Via Emilia 9 is a regional Italian restaurant specializing in homemade pastas and dishes traditional to the Emilia region in northern Italy.  Last week, amidst a flurry of boxes, dust, and other moving chaos, they treated me to dinner at their intimate 15th Street digs. The simple yet undeniably delicious meal restored my energy and lifted my spirits during a really tumultuous time, starting my new chapter along West Avenue on a positive note.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

#ThankYouMiami Moves To West Avenue


There's a good reason for my near radio silence the past two weeks: I moved. Turns out, moving is harder and takes a lot longer than you anticipate. (You have WAY more stuff than you think you do. And, that delivery you scheduled? Yea, that's going to be inexplicably delayed.) But, now that I am all moved in, I'm excited to get to know my new neighborhood and get back in the swing of things.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for Random Acts of Genius

 

This is a short and sweet story about a random act of genius I experienced yesterday while shopping at the Ross on Miami Beach.

After waiting more than a half hour in an ultra long line—it wrapped around four times and spilled over next to the shoes section—I was super excited to pack my newly purchased home goods in the car and get home for dinner. I pushed my cart, piled high with fragile and bulky items, with conviction to get it through the door. Aaargh! The wheels on the cart locked. I jerked forward, the new glassware clanging ominously.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Cooking Brasserie Azur's Braised Beef Short Ribs

For the sake of our wallets and our summer bodies, we're hoarding delicious recipes so we can cook and eat at home more frequently. And, while our weekday meals are simple and clean, we're still foodies that enjoy the decadent dishes and bold flavors found at Miami restaurants. Inspired by the success of our DÔA pork belly bun recipe post, we've asked local chefs to share the secret behind some of our favorite Miami recipes.

Today's recipe is a hearty dinner—an elevated version of the traditional American dish of meat, potatoes, and vegetable—from Brasserie Azur: braised beef short ribs with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. How do you know it's going to be good? Red-blooded American and New England Patriot's tight end Rob Gronkowski is a fan.


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Monday, April 3, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for Donuts! Fest 2017


South Florida's only donut festival came back last week for another gathering of the best donut shops, all in the good name of United Way of Miami-Dade. Our contributor Celeste was the lucky duck who, on our behalf, enjoyed a night of gorging on Mojo Doughnuts, YoNutz, and other local and national donut greats at MAPS Backlot in Wynwood.

She had never been to a donut fest and was caught off guard by the amount of people vying for sugary goodness. ("I haven't seen lines that long since the launch of the last iPhone.") Despite the crowds, Celeste had an incredible time trying all of the unique donut flavors, alternating them with savory finds, and washing them down with Concrete Beach Brewery beers. In fact, she started a petition to have Donuts! Fest in Miami more than once per year.

Below we share photos of Celeste's favorite donut finds, including Jupiter Donuts' mango cayenne pepper which received her vote. Did you attend? Which donut shop was your favorite? Which flavor won your vote? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet (with a photo!) @ThankYouMiami.


Images via Celeste Guerra
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Friday, March 31, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds - Dashi


New restaurants popping up on the banks of the Miami River are like the stereotypical Miami girl: beautiful, but lacking substance. Not Dashi. While most of its neighbors deliver on the scene, not the food, Dashi excels at both. This fine-dining newcomer opened its doors inside the River Yacht Club (the old Finnegan's on the River space) last Friday. In anticipation, they held a media preview on Thursday night during which we awed over their waterfront digs, their seductive ambiance, and the high quality, high flavor Japanese menu.
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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Preparing for Summer


Just like you can't lose those last 5lbs overnight, you can't get ready for summer overnight. It requires a lot of preparation—one season's worth, in fact. Last week's arrival of spring kicked my summer preparations into high gear. And, because I'm a good neighbor, I'm sharing how I'm getting a bikini body that is fit, hair-free, and radiant so you can too. You're welcome, Miami.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

#ThankYouMiamiGoesToDC - A Personal Reflection


Earlier tonight, while I was savoring the deliciousness of Miami River newcomer Dashi, a friend asked me about yesterday's Washington D.C. travel diary. Specifically, he wanted to know why I felt such a strong sense of patriotism considering that I only recently became a U.S. citizen and that, thanks to my middle class Mexican upbringing, the U.S. didn't exactly represent salvation from war, famine or drought. As a red-blooded American, he connected with my excitement over visiting the "gathering spaces that have witnessed our government behind the scenes for over a century". And, after reading my post, he was curious to understand how a foreign-born person like me could channel the undying love he has for his country and its history so perfectly.

Fueled by a delicious lychee/raspberry cocktail, my response to his question was mostly stream-of-consciousness—no overthinking, no hesitation, no calculation. Somehow it was spot on. I think it's because for the last 10 years since I received my green card and more so since I applied for citizenship, I have been on an on-going quest to define my identity as it relates to my nationality. I have been struggling to reconcile my decision to surrender my Mexican citizenship in exchange for an American one and trying to define my connection to this country for most of my life. Even now, two years after leading a group of 40 in the Oath of Allegiance during my naturalization ceremony, I still struggle between the desire to preserve my Mexican identity (my chilanga accent, my family's cultural traditions) and the desire to fully embrace my American pride.
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#ThankYouMiamiGoesToDC - Weekend in D.C. Travel Diary


If you have never traveled to Washington D.C., you need to go. Our nation's capital is electrifying—the crisp air, the blooming cherry blossoms, the ever-present policy banter. I love it all.

Maybe its the city's role in the American story. There is a palpabale energy everywhere you go, a faint echo of the decisions that have shaped our country that demands to be heard. I felt it most prominently as I walked through the hallowed basement of the Russell Senate Office building, passing past the Senate Barber Shop, cafeteria, and other gathering spaces that have witnessed our government behind the scenes for over a century.
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for our Natural Resources - Biscayne Bay


"Biscayne Bay is one of Miami's most underrated assets." That's what we boldly proclaimed during our recent story about exploring Miami's top snorkeling spots, and we're sticking to it. In fact, we're of the opinion that we don't just under appreciate Biscayne Bay, but that we also know very little about its fascinating history. It took a California-based fish taco chain, Rubio's Coastal Grill, to make us realize we don't know what we don't know about the beautiful marine asset in our backyard.
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Saturday, March 11, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Exploring Top Miami Snorkeling Spots with AdventureLinks


Two weeks ago, on a beautiful day like today, our contributor Celeste explored one of Miami's top snorkeling spots with AdventureLinks and members of the South Florida Bloggers community. It was an opportunity to kayak and snorkel in Biscayne Bay that, as a marine scientist and adventurer, I had a very difficult time delegating. Nevertheless my work takes precedence and, on that sunny Sunday, duty called. To add insult to injury, as I worked, I received a steady stream of stunning pics from Celeste featuring the bay's crystal blue waters and bright red and yellow kayaks patiently waiting (for me) on its shores.

"It was so much fun!," she texted once she was back on land. "It was the perfect day for a kayak trip, with low tide and clear water—basically the Bahamas in Miami. We saw tons of fish and a huge conch." Celeste used to work for Project Baseline, a grassroots environmental conservation initiative, testing water quality and tracking changes of the fossil reef at Key Biscayne over time. She couldn't contain her excitement that AdventureLinks recognizes it as a great place to snorkel in Miami and is educating people about it. "It's definitely one of my favorite local snorkeling spots," she concluded.


Celeste's photos from that day gave me major FOMO when I received them and are giving me major FOMO as I revisit them to write this post. And don't even get me started on the GoPro video... I mean, look at that warm sunshine, the clarity of the water, and the lush seagrass beds they kayak over.   I seriously can't even. It brings me back to marine biology field trips when I was a student at the University of Miami.

Biscayne Bay is one of Miami's most underrated assets. It is huge; it is teaming with resources; its ripe for exploring; and it is in our very own backyard. You and I have zero excuse not to make the most of it, to go paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling the every time it's 80-degrees with clear skies. AdventureLinks's 20-year insider know-how and their accessible launch location at Crandon Park Marina made Celeste's day on the water easy and fun. (P.S. If you have kids ages 7-17, they have a locally recognized summer camp program with a ton of outdoor activities and environmental education surrounding Biscayne Bay. You get 10% off registration with code "THANKYOU".)

You're welcome, Miami. And see you in the water!

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Friday, March 3, 2017

#ThankYouMiami For A New And Improved Toro Toro Miami


This month we have been traveling like crazy, first to Hutchinson Island, then to Seattle and now to D.C. We've spent more time out of Miami than in Miami, making it particularly hard to keep a pulse on what is going on back home. It's times like these we're extremely grateful for our contributors. In today's post, contributor Belen of A Hint of Life blog talks about the Toro Toro Miami relaunch party she attended on our behalf two weeks ago and their delicious (and spicy!) new signature drink.

On Tuesday night, after the long President's Day weekend, I headed to Toro Toro Miami's re-launch party in Downtown Miami's Intercontinental Hotel. Although I had been to the Intercontinental, Toro Toro had never been a part of my experience and, to my surprise, the restaurant turned out to be a harmonious combination of contrasting concepts. The Intercontinental is gigantic so Toro Toro is cozy by comparison, but its atmosphere is big and loud (à la Latin America). It's fine dining menu and luxurious setting exude an air of exclusivity while remaining approachable.
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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

#ThankYouMiami How-To: Reveling in the Outdoors at 4 Miami Parks


Given Miami's incredible weather—the number one reason people tell me they live here—parks, greenspaces, and other outdoor gathering spots are our most precious asset. I am particularly fond of them because I spend 99-percent of my life indoors, trapped in an office with no windows from sunrise until way past sunset. On a good week, I see the sun at most 10 hours total. For a nature lover like me, the separation from the sun, from the ocean breeze, from the outdoors is absolute torture.

Motivated by the recurring spurts of dry, cool weather, as well as rare openings in my schedule, this past month I hit the road to revel in the beautiful outdoors at four Miami parks. Each of the parks offers a very different vibe and very different amenities. Most importantly—cue the congratulatory applause—they are spread out all over the greater Miami area. I list them below with highlights on why you need to visit each park, starting with the one located closest to my South Beach home and ending with the furthest.

Which one(s) have you been to? Which one(s) do you plan to visit first? Why? Leave a comment below or send us a tweet @ThankYouMiami!
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Monday, February 20, 2017

#ThankYouMiamiGoesToSeattle - Weekend in Seattle Travel Diary


This weekend I traveled nearly 4,000 miles from Miami to Seattle (read, from one polar opposite corner of the country to another). The reason for my trip was an annual professional organization gathering that last year gave me the opportunity to get to know L.A. for a weekend and that this year gave me the opportunity to visit Seattle for the first time. Although this annual gathering is always held at an airport hotel in the middle of nowhere, I always make it my mission to explore the host city, no matter my time and transportation constraints. My mission was particularly important this weekend given the long flight time and all of the excitement with which my Seattle friends talk about their city.
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Friday, February 17, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for Brunch - Beach Bar at Newport Pier


For a city surrounded by water, Miami is really lacking in waterfront eateries. There is a fair selection, ranging from casual (i.e., Monty's, Garcia's, Shuckers, Lido Bayside Grill) to more upscale options (i.e., Zuma, Verde, Rusty Pelican). However, there is a huge disparity between available miles of coastline to restaurants by the water. To be clear, we're not advocating for converting our coastlines into a waterfront food court—after all, they provide critical ecological and real estate value. What we are advocating for is more opportunities to enjoy a meal overlooking the water.

In the last two years, we visited coastal cities in North Carolina, New York, and California. One of the concepts that we really enjoyed and of which we took full advantage during our travels to these locations were pier restaurants. We have piers in Miami-Dade County but, unlike their counterparts elsewhere, they are limited to fishing and passive recreation, not eating or entertainment. Our only exception is the Newport Pier in Sunny Isles Beach, which is home to casual surf n' turf eatery Beach Bar at the Newport Pier. Starved for a good on-water meal, we decided to stop by last Sunday for their newly launched brunch.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

#ThankYouMiami Amps About @SOBEWFF


T-minus 10 days until the international food community descends upon the sands of South Beach for SOBEWFF. This year, unlike every year since its 2002 inauguration, we will be joining the crowds for a week's worth of culinary events, wine tastings, parties, intimate dinners, and demonstrations. We've always been curious about what goes on inside the festival's white oceanside tents. After all, thousands of people pour in year after year. But for one reason or another, we've never made it inside.

Instead of feasting on one-of-a-kind dinners hosted by celebrity chefs, we've feasted on stories of other's SOBEWFF shenanigans. There's the one story of a friend who, after a few too many glasses of wine, became the proud owner of a $1200 specialty knife set thanks to a particularly engaging knife demonstration. There's also the story of the friend who was trying to impress a date by taking her to the Tribute Dinner and scored major points when she was whisked away backstage to meet Bobby Flay. Lastly, there is tale after tale of forays at the Grand Tasting Village where our friends ate until they nearly exploded and drank (lots and lots of) wine.
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

#ThankYouMiami Talks Valentine's Day & Treating Yourself


I am not a fan of Valentine's Day. I see it as 24 hours of gauging how much another person loves you based on how much effort they put into impressing you with over-the-top gestures and expensive things. Maybe I am old fashioned when it comes to love, but I prefer to see it manifested in small, daily gestures (i.e., opening the car door) throughout the year. Similarly, I believe in treating myself regularly to show my mind, body and spirit appreciation for their hard work.

This year I have been kicking my own butt with ambitious career goals, a no-nonsense race training plan, and a hectic schedule. Besides running a bajillion miles a week, my periodic "me time" is what keeps me sane. On a macro scale I'm talking quarterly trips to the spa for massages and meditation, as well as seasonal vacations. But, again, it is the micro scale rituals that really matter in the long run. It's the joy I get from sipping my first cup of coffee of the day while reading the news. It's coming home and changing into comfy sweats. It's unwinding after a long day at the office with a glass of Cab and a bowl of popcorn (as inspired by my spirit animal, Olivia Pope, and as revolutionized by the incredible graphic from SkinnyPop below).

As Miami-ans, we thrive in the fast lane. And, while it's okay that we live there, we need to take short breaks every once in a while for a little TLC. Whether you relate to the happiness we get from our morning coffee or our after-work snack, these seemingly inconsequential rituals are the only way to make our "can't stop, won't stop" lifestyle sustainable—just like we need to keep the love alive with constant gestures year-round. Do you agree?

P.S. I never thought to pair Malbec with dark chocolate popcorn pero I'm really digging the idea. Which of the pairings below would you try?

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

#ThankYouMiami for New Food Finds - Shiraz Bistro & Market


Our new food finds series has focused—as Miami, for better or for worse, usually does—on new restaurant openings and new culinary concepts. Save for the time that we rediscovered a North Miami seafood staple and celebrated the new and improved look of a long-time favorite South Beach steakhouse, we've talked only about new restaurant openings. But "new food finds" don't always have to be recently launched locations. They can also consist of spots that have been around for a while but, for whatever reason, have never made it on our radar or a different kind of cuisine than what we're used to eating. Last Saturday we hit the jackpot on both when we joined the Miami Bloggers Media for a late lunch at Shiraz Bistro & Market in Kendall.

We have driven on US1, past SW 98th Street many times in our Miami career. Somehow we never felt there was anything worth stopping for between Dadeland Mall and the Target that sits just south of the Palmetto. In fact, we were taken aback to discover there are entire strip malls worth of hidden gems behind the buildings along US1, including the Persian and Middle Eastern restaurant and market to which we were invited. It's just that, unless we're summoned to the area or we're faced with an errand, Kendall isn't front of mind as a Miami destination. After last Saturday, we're resolved that needs to change.

As you get further and further away from Downtown Miami, you get closer and closer to a sense of community, of realness, of home. Don't get us wrong—you can find that anywhere in Miami, it's just that the feeling is stronger, more pronounced everywhere else. We were reminded of that the minute we walked into Shiraz, the welcoming smell of spices and home-cooked food warming our senses. As the staff showered us with hot tea, followed by plates of hummus, stuffed grape leaves and falafel, we were reminded of the family gatherings we were privy to growing up thanks to our Persian middle school friends.

The mouthwatering smell from earlier? Those were our entrées—plates of slow-cooked lamb shank and assorted kebabs over beds of rice and veggies. Our adana kebab, which consists of minced lamb seasoned with traditional spices and grilled on skewers, was very spicy (which we liked) and surprisingly not gamey (which we also liked). We've tried lamb dishes a handful of times and have never particularly enjoyed it until we devoured this one. (It's probably why they have such rave reviews on Yelp and elsewhere on the internets.) We topped of our meal with our new blogger friends over Turkish coffee and kunefe, a dessert that our "So Miami" table unanimously agreed is like an arepa but with a higher cheese to dough ratio.

Overall, the experience was incredible: food, company, ambiance, the whole package. If you're ever craving Middle Eastern (i.e., Turkish, Persian) food or products, Shiraz Bistro & Market is a worthwhile reason to venture to Kendall. We honestly cannot believe we'd never heard of it before our visit. And now, for your regular dose of food porn...


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