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Category Archives: Florida

Lake Worth Street Painting Festival

I love going to the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival.  It’s amazing to watch the artists creating such beautiful works.  The paintings by themselves are an accomplishment, not to mention the stamina and dedication required to kneel or lie on the asphalt, under the intense Florida sun, painting with little stubs of chalk, for two days.  The artists get all my respect.

lake worth street painting

Artists draw grids on their paper original so they can reproduce the work correctly on the asphalt.

I suppose the sunny weather inspires tropical theme.

manatee

manatee

This sea turtle painting is truly gorgeous!

sea turtle

Classics are popular too.

Not exactly a classic, but rather an impressionist painting of Darth Vader.

Darth
Yay, Harry Potter! Befittingly sponsored by the library.

I am curious. Will the artist’s wife be swooned over this painting, or will she complain that she looks fat/old/whatever in it?

This artist used his dog as the model. Sitting next to the painting, the dog seems quite pleased with the work.

We also saw a booth with palm frond art.

I have to say the camera doesn’t quite capture the beauty of these works. Really you have to see them in person.

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Posted by on April 14, 2012 in Florida, photos

 

Kabobji

Found a great Middle Eastern restaurant in North Miami Beach!

After practice at Oleta Park, two starving people drove over to the strip mall across the street in search for food. Hiro’s and Outback are institutions there, plus a few other options: little restaurants which keep opening and closing ever so often. We chanced upon Kabobji, which is right next to the bubble tea place, and glad we did! Food was excellent, so much better than Pasha or Daily Bread, or any of the Middle Eastern place I’ve tried here. I am not an expert on Middle Eastern food so I can’t claim it as the most authentic, but for me it’s definitely the tastiest.

The atmosphere is casual, though decoration is not spartan, adorned with pictures of Beirut and other curios. Great fo us coming over from Oleta Park, sweaty and dirty.

I got the veggio trio, an amazing value at $5.99. It’s a wrap wth hummus, falafel and tabouleh salad. At most other places I’d have to choose one or the other, but now I have all I want in one wrap! The falafel’s crunchiness and the tabouleh’s fresness elevate this wrap to a heavenly level! Enjoyed every single bite of it and still dreaming of it once in a while. The meat wraps are $6.99 or less and a good price also.

We also got a cezve of turkish coffee for $5, enough for two with refills. The coffee has a hint of cardamom but not sweetened. Nice finish to the satisfying meal. I was tempted to flip the cup of ground onto the saucer to see what my future beholds, but worried that I’d spill the coffee all over the table and become an embarrassment… Well, that much is clear… no fortune teller needed to divine that I will be back!

Kabobji Middle Eastern Restaurant
3055 NE 163 St
North Miami Beach, FL 33160
(305) 354-8484
http://www.eatkabobji.com

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2010 in Florida, Food

 

Turtle Hospital

Back in May, we went to Marathon down in the Keys for a dragon boat race. When our friends ask us about our plans for Sunday, we told them that we would be visiting the Turtle Hospital. My friends found the idea very funny. Do they only admit turtles? There really is a hospital for turtles?

So here you go, a report of my visit, to show that there really is a Turtle Hospital. They have a pretty nice website http://www.turtlehospital.org/ Lots of pics about rescued turtles (even a little oil-covered baby named Exxon…). There are also pictures taken this past winter, when it was unusually cold in Florida. The hospital was crawling with turtles…

Look, they even have a turtle ambulance!

Inside the visitor center, we signed up for the tour. There are some trivia and artifacts of sea turtles, as well as a gift shop. When the tour started, we first watched a slide show, a 101 intro about us about the different species of sea turtles found in Florida and the perilous life of a sea turtle.

Next we visited the emergency room. Using a stuffed toy our guide shows us the procedures when a turtle is delivered to the emergency room. We found out that turtles are conscious breathers? That means that while they are under anaesthesia an assistant has to stand by and pump oxygen into the turtle’s lung at regular intervals so it won’t suffocate.

They have equipment to take digital X Rays of the patients. Digital is useful because the doctors are volunteers so they are not at the hospital all the time. Now they can view the digital image from wherever they are and give diagnosis quickly. These x-rays show that the turtle has a fishing hook in the stomach! Fortunately it’s a round hook rather than a J hook, and can safely pass through the body without damage. (Please, if you read this and you fishes, get the round hooks! It’s safer for the birds and sea turtles who may swallow it.)

Next we walked over to visit the patients. First we went to the ICU where each patient has his own room, er, kiddy pool.

We met Kentucky. She had been biten by a shark but is lucky enough to live to tell the tale! (you can read more of her story at http://www.turtlehospital.org/blog/?m=201004) The shark bites are visible on her shell. She seems excited to see us and regale in her adventure!

This turtle suffers the bubble butt syndrome. This happens when a motor boat hits the turtle so hard that the shell is misshapened. An air bubble forms inside the shell. This is a problem as the turtle can no longer sink below water, meaning that he cannot find food and becomes a easy target for predators. The doctors have not found a cure yet, but they put a weight on the shell so the turtle can sink below the surface. However, as the turtle grow, the old plates on the shell fall off, so the weight is not a permanent solution. The turtles will thus have to spend the rest of their lives in the sanctuary.

This is Romeo. He’s a baby but sadly has lost a flipper already!!

This is Joe. He was born without one flipper then got another one bitten off by a predator. But we are told that Joe is a tough guy and seems to swim around pretty well with just two flippers so they may release him into the wild.

Isn’t he a beautiful turtle?

Besides the individual Intensive Care Units, there are two big pools.  They used to be swimming pools of a hotel but are now donated to the hospital.  The pool gets water from the sea outside.  Here lives the turtles who are soon to be released back to the wild as well as those permanent residents.

You can see the weight affixed to the rear on some of the turtle shells. It help turtles suffering from bubble butt syndrome to sink down.

At the end of the tour we were given some pellets to feed the turtles. 

What an interesting learning experience it was. Even though I’ve visited already, next time I come to the keys, I’d want to drop by to see the new patients and old regulars again!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2010 in Animals, Florida

 

Finally, Naoe

After so many people raved about this new Japanese restaurant in Sunny Isles, we were eager to visit Naoe.   However, as the place is really small, and certainly the recent review in the newspaper didn’t help, we were not able to reserve a table till now.   Or, more specifically, we weren’t able to reserve a table at the first seating of 7:30, which we preferred (and apparently everybody else).

The restaurant is bigger than I imaged, very spacious with dark wood tables and chairs.  There were only three tables, each seating two, four and six people with plenty of elbow room.  The room is dimly illuminatied, most of the light coming from the open kitchen where Chef Cory is at work.   There are additional seats at the counter, popular among those who enjoy watching their food being prepared.  It looks like since the first reviews, the chef has hired help as there is a guy working in the back.

Our waitress brought us the drink menu.   The sake are from Cory’s family, Nakamura Brewery in Japan, and the price starts at $17 for a 250ml bottle of Yukizake to over $100 for the 750ml Nichiei Junmai.   The Sapporo draft beer is a good value , a cold, tall glass for $5.   We ordered the Yukizake (Snow Sake) which came frozen and was scooped out like shorbet.  The freezing intensified the sweetness and aroma of the alcohol. Gotta try this at home.

Kaga no Yukizake

Kaga no Yukizake

Now for the food menu?  Sorry, but there is no such thing at Naoe.  The only thing available is a bento box, omakase style (meaning, you are totally at the mercy of the chef). 

We have been well warned by various sources to expect a long wait for the food, so we were prepared.   (This is likely not a place for a first date unless you know that you two have endless things to talk about and she will not never get tired of you.)  Our boxes finally arrived.  The lid was removed to reveal four compartments.   Apparently the regular waitress was not available and our waitress was there to help out, and while she was flawlessly friendly and pleasant, she was not very familiar with the food and the description was therefore somewhat sketchy.  According to what we were told, and what I tasted, our dinner consisted of (from upper left clockwise): salmon in sake soy sauce with konbu topping; organic tofu with uni paste, aji with green bean, and a fish called sandpiper(?? – I wonder if she meant red snapper but it didn’t look like it); napa cabbage roll with sea beam topped with okra, aoyagi (short-necked clam) sashimi; rice with organic portabello topped with pickle.  We were also served with a bowl of miso with carrot and corn in it.

Naoe dinner

Naoe dinner

The flavor of the miso soup is really nice, though the carrot was a little too firm/crunchy.  The dishes are kaiseki style, and Naoe is the only place in Miami serving them.  I had expected the presentation to be more elegant from earlier reviews, and wonder if some impatient guests may had been told the chef to skip the decorations.  Comparing it to Frodnesor‘s review, our box certainly was missing a few petals and garnishes.  It would be lovely too if the dishes are more representative of the season.  Nonetheless, this is quite a feast for the eyes and for the mouth, and I enjoyed munching a pinch of food here and there.   The majority of our group agreed on the clam and cabbage roll being our favorite.  

Part of Cory’s family in Japan also brews soy sauce.  I am not sure if that’s where our soy sauce is from, but our waitress told us that he brought it from Japan and cooked it with something (konbu?)

The bento likely will not fill you up, unless you subscribe to the healthful advice of Hana Hachi Bun.  This gives you the opportunity to sample some of the fresh sushi. 

We ordered the salmon, which is Scottish salmon that melts in your mouth and a different league from the standard salmon sushi available everywhere.   At $3 a piece, it’s a good value.  We liked the aoyagi clam so much in the box that we ordered it as sushi too. (The check noted it as aori ika but I am pretty sure what we had was clam and not squid.)  There was also Madai, Japanese Red Snapper, which we didn’t order.   All the sushi were excellent in quality and among the best in Miami. 

Aoyagi, Uni and Shiroebi Sushi

Aoyagi, Uni and Shiroebi Sushi

 The kohada is flown in fresh from Japan, and a rare find in South Florida, so we decided to try some.  Like saba mackerel, it’s pickled in vinegar, and while the kohada is much milder in taste and more delicate in texture, and artistically presented, it’s just not my type of fish.   But if you like saba, you’d love this.

Kohada Sushi

Kohada Sushi

I looked up kohada on the Net and this is some interesting tidbit I found on Wikipedia: The fish is called Gizzard shad in English.  In Japan, when the baby fish is around two inches long, it’s called Shinko 新子 (literally, new baby), when it grows to 3-4 inches long, it’s called Kohada 小鰭 (or 小肌, meaning Baby Skin, referring to the soft and shiny skin like a baby!?).  Another inch longer and passes its first birthday, it graduates to a Nakazumi ナカズミ, and upon reaching adulthood, at a length of six inches or more, the fish is called a Konoshiro.  The adult fish has a lot of fine bones and the bigger the fish is, the less valuable it gets. 

The name Konoshiro comes with an interesting, if incredible, legend.  There was once a very beautiful maiden, who had a lover.  When a government official wanted to marry her, the girl’s mother told the official that the girl had died from illness.  To fool the official, the mother burned a coffin at the funeral.  Inside the coffin she put some fish which, when spoilt, smelled like corpse and when burnt, smelled like one too.  The official left with disappointment. From that time on the fish was called Konoshiro(子の代)(in place of the child).    Intriguingly, Konoshiro also means This Castle in Japanese.  As a result, this fish is mostly eaten pickled, as the shoguns and samurais understandably got nervous breakdowns when the peasants kept talking about castle burning.   Or so the legend had it.  Not to mention that the fish stinks when burnt… or so we were told.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2009 in Asia, Florida, Food

 

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Miami Best Pizza Part II

Okay, can I blame it on a pizza-induced stupor? So, this is like a whole week late, but having blogged Part I, life will not be complete without a detailed report of Part II as well.

For the second round of the Best of Miami Pizza Showdown, the chowhounds roamed to the North Miami Beach area. The pack had expanded, not to mention the gluttony was documented by a reporter from NBC.

Our first stop was Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, a local South Florida chain.

Anthonys Pizza

Anthony's Pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we couldn’t all fit in the big table, five of us sat at the bar, and orderd specialty pies:

Fresh Mozzarella w Sliced Tomatoes and Basil (no sauce)

 

Fresh Mozz w Tomato & Basil

Fresh Mozz w Tomato & Basil

Broccoli Rabe (subsituted with Aragula) and Sausage

 

Aragula and Sausage Pizza

Aragula and Sausage Pizza

A few minutes later the waitress came back to let us know that they are out of broccoli rabe. We asked to subsitute with aragula, and was told that woud be charged as an additional topping. Now, if we requested to subsitute one topping for another, I may understand having to pay for being a nuisance, but –  Hello? You run out of some ingredient, and you are telling me that I can either forget it and pay the same price, or I have to choke up extra to get something else?

While many at the big table complained about the pies being soggy, ours were fine. I supposed once the kitchen were done with the big order, they could relax and spend a little bit more attention to our two small pizzas?

We were worried that the sauceless pizza would be too dry, but it turned out quite succulent without being soggy. The tomatoes were flavorful enough and the slightly burnt crust delectable, though the mozzarella was just average . The aragula and sausage pie was sprinkled with parmesan, and the crunchy, burnt cheese really added a lot to the taste. I didn’t like the restaurant being noisy as a bar and any conversation difficult; but overall, the pizza satisfies. Best of Miami? Not quite.

Next stop, about a mile down the street, was Pizza Fusion. I have heard a lot about this local pizza shop since it first opened, mainly for its environmentally friendly approach, “Saving the Earth, One Pizza at A Time.”  They build their stores to LEED standard, recycle a lot, deliver pizzas in a hybrid car, use organic ingredients, offer gluten-free and vegan options, use biodegrable disposable utensils, plus a lot more. Noble mission indeed. However, their first store was rather far from my house, and to drive that far for a pizza is, er, not quite eco-friendly, shall we say? So I was glad to learn that not only has Pizza Fusion expanded to Miami, it is now in 10 states already.

Pizza Fusion

Pizza Fusion. Yes, I know, that's a Smart Car, not a hybrid...

Once we walked in, I liked the clean and comfortable place with its soft yet bright lighting and simplistic, modern decor.

Pizza Fusion

Pizza Fusion Interior

They have quite an extensive selection of pizzas and it took some discussion to settle on six:

Organic Pepperoni: Organic pepperoni, tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan.
Bruschetta: Freshly chopped tomatoes, red onions, basil, balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic with mozzarella, provolone and parmesan.
Four Cheese & Sundried Tomato: Sundried tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic, tomato sauce, goat cheese, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan.

Four Cheese & Sundried Tomato

Four Cheese & Sundried Tomato (?)

 

Organic Eggplant & Fresh Mozzarella: Roasted Italian eggplant, roasted red onion, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and parsley.
Farmers Market: roasted artichoke hearts, red onion, roasted zucchini and roasted Portobello with tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan.
Founders’ Pie: Free range chicken, kalamata olives, roasted red onion, tomato sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, provolone and gorgonzola

How do I like the pies? Well, as we are judging the best as in the tastiest, and not as best for the earth, I have to be frank: I truly wish I like them as much as their mission, but unfortunately, I don’t. While Anthony’s brought their pizza to your table piping hot, here some are barely warm, even those that started their round at our end of the table. The eggplant I had was especially soggy. Another big problem is that all the pies taste pretty similar, and better on the menu. Usually organic ingredients translate to a more robust flavor, but somehow not on these pies.

I wouldn’t call the pizzas bad, but if I visit Pizza Fusion, it’s same reason I sometimes buy soy ice cream. Not because it tastes better but because it makes me feel better.

Wiping the tomato sauce off our lips, we headed north again to our last stop, Racks Italian Bistro and Market.

I had high hopes for Racks, when I noticed the prosciutto slicing machine featured in one of the pictures on its website. My reasoning being that, if they are willing to invest some money in a slicing machine, they are willing to spend on some good prosciutto and oher ingredients. (Near the entrance, their cold case displayed a Prosciutto di San Daniele. There were also some Mozzarita burrata, for appertizers.)

My high hopes continued as the waiter brought our bread – crusty on the outside, big airy hole inside. I reasoned, if they can make some good bread, they probably know how to make some good pizza.

Bread at Racks

Bread at Racks

Time for some good beer. Our waiter recommended an Italian brand Amarcord, a brand only available, in Miami, at Racks. We ordered the “Pale Ale”, though it’s dubious that was what I got, judging from the beer’s color and the whooping 10% alcohol. It does have a very sweet, caramel like taste which I like.

Amarcord

Amarcord

Racks only have eight pizza options, four white, four red, with relatively interesting toppings.  There was also a special truffle pizza for $34, which we decided against. We tried:

Secchi: Sopressata, Provolone, Fiore di Latte & Goat Cheese

Secchi Pizza

Secchi Pizza

 

Spinach – prosciutto, smoked mozzarella & reggiano
Portobello – truffle oil, gorgonzola dolce & speck

Portobello Pizza

Portobello Pizza

 

Sweet sausage – meatballs, onion, ricotta & grana padana

Racks is the easy winner of the night. My favorite was the Portobello, with the aroma of the truffle oil drifting in from four seats away. By using gorgonzola dolce, the blue did not overpower: it’s barely a hint there, a sweet creaminess. However, unless I have a big group, this pizza may be too rich if eaten more than one slice or two. Several people raved about the Secchi. Unfortunately my sample was only got a corner piece with a dab of tomato sauce (the problem with too many attendees, even though by our third stop, the number had drindled from 28 to 17).

Now comes the question: Racks or Volante? Hmm… that’s a tough one.  I would say Volante has better cheese. And I would give another point for the other ingredients, for trying to go local and go organic (with better results than Pizza Fusion). On the other hand, Racks have more choices, and slightly more interesting combinations, though neither as innovative as Joey’s. Push comes to shove, I will likely give my vote to Volante, for it does seem to have more “heart”. It does’t pretend to be a swanky place, no girl in black corset posing to shove pizzas into the oven and slice the ham. Just honest, budget-friendly, good food. It support local food producers and in turn deserves our support.

The next question is: Can Volante keep the vote? I can’t say. Looks like Part III on South Beach has some serious contenders. All I can say is, look forward to it!!

Read other bloggers’ review:
Miami Dish
Frodnesor
Mango and Lime

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2009 in Florida, Food

 

Mystery of a Dead Snake

Digging through my posts, it was back in 2006 that we found a snake in our garage. 
(original post:  https://azuki.wordpress.com/2006/10/03/4/ )

My mom had gone all concerned when I told her over the phone about the snake. 

“It’s too dangerous!!  You need to kill it!”

Honestly, I don’t see ourselves turning over the whole place looking for a snake.  I am sure it would have slithered out of our way long before we could find it.  

Then a few days ago, I went outside the house to put the garbage out.  On my way back I saw… a snake!  A whole length of snake lying there right by our entrance.   My heart skipped a beat.  Then I looked closer as the snake didn’t moved.  And this is what I found:

Our dead snake

Our dead snake

As you can tell (if you dare to look closely) the head is smashed flat.

It appears that our garage door had hit it on its way down.  When I somberly broke the news to my husband, we agreed that it was a most unusal way for the snake to die.  For one thing, our garage door is slow.  My hubby can hit the button at the far end of the garage, then *walk* to the door side, bend slightly and walk out of the garage.  And I can assure that he doesn’t do stunt as a part time job.  No Hollywood style rolling under the narrowing gap as the door thunders down.   We would certainly expect that a little snake would easily make it to safety.

My mom, the disagreeing type, insists that our car had rolled over the snake, though I would say, looking at exhibit A, the evidence doesn’t support the theory.   She did suggest though, that as murderers, we should say some prayers and go on a fast.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2009 in Animals, Florida

 

Pincrest Garden

I went there yesterday for the Pinecrest Arts & Crafts Festival. The festival itself was small but the garden was totally a hidden gem. It is the site of former Parrot Jungle, so it has been around for a while, as evident by the thick growth of trees that gives the place a rainforest feel. I am so glad the city decided to just preserve it and open it for free instead of tearing it down for some condo or house.  With its thick foliage, one gets a feeling of being transported to another time and place.
Entrance of the Pinecrest Garden

Entrance of the Pinecrest Garden

What kind of fern is that?

What kind of fern is that?

And what kind of fruit is this?

And what kind of fruit is this?

Fat Pig

Fat Pig

Then we see this beautiful lake. With swan and other water fowl.

Lake

Lake

 

Then we spot a peacock. I only have a standard digital camera so you can imagine how close he walked up to us.

Peacock

Peacock

There he is, in full display of his glorious beauty. He walked around, facing every direction, showing off his plummage.  A guy said behind me, “Looks like he can’t get any satellite signal!” and we all laughed.

peacock

peacock

 

peacock

peacock

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2009 in Animals, Florida, photos