Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Coconut Grove Art Festival 2011

Paid my yearly visit to the Coconut Grove Art Festival over the weekend. This event is a staple in Miami and definitely one of my favs. Partly because the weather is usually so beautiful; the kind of weather where you just want to be outside all day. And partly because the entire community comes out to eat, drink, dance and be merry. It's also an opportunity to gorge on an enormous gyro and slurp a frozen lemonade. Guilty!

This year we switched it up a bit - we took the metro from Brickell instead of dealing with traffic and parking. The way there was awesome but on the way back our train was having technical difficulties and we were waiting at the station for a good 30 minutes. No worries though, everything worked out. Here are a few shots from the day. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Miami's Bar Scene

Whoever said Miami doesn't have a bar scene is wrong. I'm not talking about the Grove here. While there is lots to love about the Grove, there's only so many times you can deal with the rowdy college kids at Tavern and Sandbar. What I'm talking about are all the fun bars and lounges popping up around downtown, Wynwood and the Design District. Each one has a locals-only/come as you are vibe that you can't really find on South Beach or in the Grove. They each embrace Miami's culture in a different way, from the art to the music to the food, and for that reason they attract a following.

This past Friday we did some bar hopping. Started off at Cafeina, a more upscale lounge/bar in Wynwood, to say hi to a good friend. Little did we know it was their one-year anniversary so the place was packed! We ordered a few things off their tapas menu and everything was delish. I recommend the sliders, tuna tacos, goat cheese croquettes, and of course the truffle fries.

Then we stopped by the DRB - Democratic Republic of Beer, situated right across the street from the Arsht Performing Arts Center. Friends have been telling me for a while now that this place is awesome but I never got around to paying a visit until this weekend. Every seat in the house was taken, inside and out. No surprise, they serve nearly 500 different beers from around the world and also have an eclectic food menu. Definitely a cool spot to hang out and grab a drink. It was dark inside but I managed a snap a few decent pics.

Our last stop was Vagabond to see the Royal Bangs play. I believe Vagabond has been around the longest of the three bars. It's not too far from the DBR, still I wouldn't recommend walking at night. While the neighborhood is up-and-coming, there are definitely some sketchballs hanging around. You never feel crowded at Vagabond because there are two rooms, the main room and the band room, and a huge outside patio area where they fire up the grill from time to time and serve burgers and dogs. Sign up  for their mailing list and go on a night when a good band is playing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Stage

Finally! A sweet music venue nestled in Miami's Design District has arrived. On Saturday night, a group of friends and I went to check out a local band called Suénalo at The Stage. Located in a once warehouse, The Stage is 100% come as you are. No pretentious bouncers or overpriced drinks. Just a place to enjoy talented musicians break it down. Suénalo had the whole place on their feet dancing to sounds of Latin-Funk, Afro-Cuban, Reggae, Salsa and Hip-hop.

I snapped a few pics on my iPhone. The first picture is of Chad Bernstein, the trombone player, playing the conch shells! It was pretty awesome.  

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Essensia at The Palms Hotel

Last night was such a treat. My girlfriend and I were invited to experience Essensia, the gourmet restaurant at The Palms Hotel. This was actually my first visit to the hotel and I fell in love. It has all the bohemian Miami Beach charm, yet still so sophisticated and elegant.

The food at Essensia was nothing short of incredible - from the seafood appetizer special and the Orchid Petal Salad (rumor has it that this salad is a favorite of the Kardashian sisters) to the Cinnamon-Cranberry Braised Beef Short Ribs and Grass-Fed Angus Sirloin. But before we even ordered, our knowledeable waiter Omar gave us the full low down on Executive Chef Frank Jeannetti who crafts his dishes using local, seasonal, sustainable and organic ingredients from places such as Paradise Farms in Homestead. Jeannetti's pedigree includes time at The Biltmore, Pacific Time, and Nemo. At Essensia, he's developed a menu which is populated with a healthful blend of global cuisine.

After indulging in two fine selections from the dessert menu - the Meyer Lemon Tart and the Strawberry Panna Cotta - a walk around the hotel was in order. From the lush tropical gardens to the garden gazebo, The Palms is a little slice of paradise.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Running the ING Miami Marathon

Six months ago I set a goal - to run the full ING Miami Marathon. This would be my first marathon, I ran the half last year. On Sunday, January 30th I crossed the finish line, running 26.2 miles in 4 hours and 43 minutes. It was an amazing, exhilarating, emotional experience which I will never forget.

Starting back in August, I gave up my Friday nights to wake up every Saturday at 4am and sometimes 3am to train with the Footworks group I signed up for. Our trainers Ralph and Jose slowly worked us from running just 30 minutes to running 22 miles. I forced oatmeal down my throat at an ungodly hour for energy. My eyes burned like hell when putting in my contacts after only a few hours of sleep. When my alarm went off, I forced myself out of bed. Tuesdays and Thursdays I ran in the early morning before work and on Mondays and Wednesdays I was in the gym focusing on strength training. I rarely missed a run and when I did, I felt incredibly guilty and found a way to make it up.

The rigorous training and preparation was a huge time commitment but it all paid off. I ran the marathon, and never once did I think I might give up or that I couldn't finish. When my muscles felt fatigued, I pushed through. When I started feeling nauseous, I kept going. I was determined. I had worked too hard. I was going to finish strong.

Along my side the entire way was my amazing friend Eleni. I'm so lucky I had such a motivational, dedicated, resilient running buddy. I fought back tears when we crossed the finish line together.

This post wouldn't be complete without mentioning my incredible support system. A big thank you to...

My mom and dad who woke up extra early to drive to Miami and cheer me on. They took the first photo below at mile 14.
My sister Jaime and her husband Jody who were at mile 18 with the best sign of the whole race.
My sister Britt who was also at mile 18 and was the mastermind behind the gift certificate to the Vicerory spa for a post-marathon massage. It was heaven.
My colleagues Carmen and Chad, as well as his wife Bibi and son Mathias, for being at mile 25.5 - a crucial mile as you can tell from the second photo below.
The Kastrenakes family and Chris who were staggered at various mile markers to keep Eleni and I pumped up.
My boyfriend's mom Judy who was at the finish line screaming my name.
And last but definitely not least my boyfriend Mark for not yelling at me when my alarm went off at 3am  every Saturday for training, for realizing how important this race was to me, and for being so proud.

Here are a few photos that were snapped along the way!