February 15, 2015:
Waiter No. 1: “Ahhh … Here we are folks, the spicy tuna tartar.”
Phillip [swallowing a bite of his curry]: “No, sorry sir. We’ve got our food already.”
We shrug our shoulders and get back to our plates. Phillip and I are dining at the new Tokyo Blue Asian fusion restaurant a few days into the Strictly Sail Miami show, already well into our third course and beginning the push-back-and-sigh routine. When the first waiter happened by, trying to dump a second entree on us, we thought nothing of it. But, when the second came along, I started to sense a story brewing. While the boats and “sailebrities” and seminars at the Show were all very well and good, as it seems is often the case, adventure tends to find us. During our time in Miami, Phillip and I stumbled upon a number of chance encounters, unlikely occurrences and other note-worthy experiences that I knew you all would enjoy. While they were numerous (believe it or not, I did cull this down), before I left this brightly-lit city to cover our next blog adventure, I had to share the following–some of our more memorable Miami moments. This one I like to call —
Where’s the Beef?
As Waiter No. 1 saunters off in a bit of a perplexed state, Phillip and I continue indulging in our sweet Chilean sea bass skewers, slow-roasted chica duck and an unforgettable Masaman Curry.
It isn’t long before the next server arrives, extending an exquisite looking display of fish towards me.
Waiter No. 2: “Here you are madam, the salmon carpaccio.”
Annie [putting her chopsticks down and wiping her mouth]: “That’s not mine. Sorry.”
Waiter No. 2 [looking confused]: “Isn’t this table 55?”
Annie [looking even more confused]: “Ummm … I couldn’t tell you.”
Having only been open a week or two at the time, we chalk it up to some table numbering kinks Tokyo Blue had yet to work out, shrug it off and get back to our chopping and sticking when a third one comes at us.
Waiter No. 3: “And, here we are folks. The beef tenderloin.”
He sets it down on the table before we can object (assuming we would). It’s a hot juicy slab of filet mignon sizzling on it’s own ceramic, stone coal pit.
Neither Phillip nor I said a word. No, “Sorry sir, that’s not ours,” or “Nope, not here.” It was silence and mesmiry (the Asian fusion version of mesmerize). Phillip didn’t know then–he’ll find out when he reads this–but, I nodded ever-so-slightly at the waiter while Phillip was eyeing that succulent piece of meat. I couldn’t help it. Did you see that sizzling thing? “Mmmh-hmmm” my eyes said. “That’s ours. Leave it.” I figured, twice we’d done the right thing and sent perfectly good food away. Third time’s a charm. The minute Waiter No. 3 pulled his hand away from the stone, Phillip and I both stabbed at the meat and started shoveling mouthfuls of savory red beef in.
It’s ours now. And, it was incredible–both Tokyo Blue and the free beef.
Well, That’s Very Proper of You
Speaking of free food, after our third day at the show, we found ourselves nearing the evening, wandering the docks yet again and poking around all of the fancy boats we couldn’t afford. Inadvertently, we stumbled into the velvet rope cordoned-corner for Leopard Catamarans. Champagne glasses were clinking. Everyone had dainty little plates in their hands heaped with dainty little saucy bites and bits. It looked delicious, and we were hungry. We had no interest in buying a boat at the show, much less buying a catamaran, but that’s the beauty of the boat show–it doesn’t matter! All they want is your name and an email so they can eHound you later and you’re in! “I’ve got plenty of junk emails. You’re welcome to all of them!”
It didn’t take much and we were soon behind the velvet rope, standing in line at the hot bar filling our own little dainty plates with steaming empanadas, croquettes, meat pies, you name it! And, there we were, two stacked plates between us, and a glass and a half of champagne, and guess who we saw standing not five feet away? The one. The only. Nigel Calder. I nudged Phillip hard, pointed in Nigel’s direction and hissed at him, “Look, it’s Mr. Seized-it-up-Solid!” He was right there, eating the free food right along with us. I wanted to find a suitable bush I could nestle in, pick it up and twinkle-toe over so I could spy on him. Phillip had the better idea to actually walk up to the man and talk to him.
Turns out, he was super approachable and easy to talk to. After a few exchanges, Nigel asked Phillip and I what connection we had to Leopard, to which we replied, “None. We just wanted some free food.”
“Well, that’s very proper of you,” Nigel responded in his thick British accent. “Why d’you think I’m here?” he said with a smile and continued nibbling.
Nigel then told us how he and his family, when they were live-aboard, on-the-hook cruisers, would scope out the big boat shows at the marinas and find out when the roped-off sales tents–like the very one we were standing in–would shut down for the day. The whole brood would then plan to motor up in their dinghy about that time and let the good yachties know they were welcome to donate any food that was going to go to the trash to the Calder clan instead. Nigel said they used to rack up on all sorts of free provisions that way.
The man is a total cruiser to the core. Love that guy.
The Lunch Line Nazi
Another fun (not free, but cheap!) food encounter–The Cafeteria. While we certainly enjoyed every meal in Miami, I hate to even think back on some of the pricier ones knowing what each little morsel cost us. But, I am proud to say, one of our favorite dining experiences of the entire trip only put us back $11.94. As I mentioned, the condo we snagged via Airbnb on Biscayne Boulevard offered us an exceptional view of Biscayne Bay and put us right within walking distance of the Strictly Sail show and just about every restaurant and area we wanted to check out.
Often, when we were walking to-and-fro for our morning coffee or dinner or what-not, we would pass by this little corner walk-up-and-order diner called The Cafeteria that usually had a line half-way down the block. The minute their roll-down street bars were raised, folks started to flock. About our third time walking by it, or, more accurately, walking around the line that was flowing out from it, Phillip and I decided we had to eat there just once. We planned it for our last lunch of the trip – Day Five, baby!
We were eyeing the little concession stand-like menu board on the back wall and watching folks as they stepped up, ordered and promptly moved out the way like a factory conveyor belt. You could tell this was a real locals joint. There would be no “dressing on the side,” no “hold the onions on that,” no special orders of any kind. ‘Your way’ was not an option here. The only way you could ‘have it,’ was their way. The beefy lunch-lady looking gal that was running the joint gave me that Soup Nazi vibe.
You walk up. You order a few items from the board. You step to the side. That’s how it was done. Phillip and I planned our attack and, despite a few bobbles with a bit of the Spanish, Phillip did a good job. The lunch-line Nazi seemed to accept our feeble request for some food and we were shuffled along with the rest of the brood to wait for our fried goodness. We ordered a croquette, some type of stuffed yuca roll, an empanada, a beef-filled biscuit thing and a traditional pressed Cuban sandwich. It was all fried or pressed, and it was all delicious.
The croquette, especially. Phillip risked another Nazi attack by getting back in the line to order us up a couple more, but he successfully weathered the storm. Atmosphere, experience and pallet-pleasing combined, The Cafeteria was easily our least expensive, yet one of our favorite meals of the trip.
We Draw the Line at Walgreen’s
So, I don’t go to Miami often. I’ve been maybe three times in all of my adult life. You would think whatever those crazy algorithms credit card companies use to determine which purchases are so uncommon they fall into the category of “suspected fraudulent charges,” would find lavish dinner and drinks in a rare city potentially fall under that purview. Apparently not my credit card company. Lunch at Ceviche 105 off of Biscayne Boulevard? Totally normal for Annie. A big, three-course dinner at Toro Toro in downtown Miami? Happens all the time. Those charges went through just fine. You want to know where they drew the line? Walgreen’s.
I pop over one morning to the Walgreen’s near our condo to pick up some shades and a hat, and the credit card Gods say, “We’ve had it. Enough is enough. We draw the line at Walgreen’s!” Card declined. Makes no sense. But, thankfully I had some dollar bills with me and was able to get my goods and go. The hat was totally worth it.
How the Other Half Lives
Our last night in the lavish, lit-up city we ended up wandering down Biscayne Boulevard toward the new Epic Hotel. The place was a spectacle. High-dollar cars littered the circle drive and mega yachts lined the waterfront access from the Miami River.
I’m sure the “Just J” stands for Jay-Z’s cousin’s or something.
We soon found ourselves sitting at the newly-opened Lilt Lounge in the Hotel craving a few of their signature cocktails. The back-lit tower of colorful liquor selections got patrons in the right “spirits.”
The place was super swank. Excellent jazz vibe, modern decor and a really impressive drink menu. The barkeep was a lot of fun, too. A real soft sell. He let us ease into our chairs and set out some waters while we perused the menu, gently wiping down the bar around us, waiting until we had made the perfect selection. He started chatting us up about where we were from and telling us a little about the hotel. He encouraged us to head up to check out the rooftop pool overlooking the Miami River and the Area 31 restaurant overlooking the pool. It really didn’t take much encouraging. What else were we doing? But, the view topside really knocked our socks off. Let’s just say it was — Epic. Join us, will you, and see how the other half lives …
I guess we got a little delusional in the crisp night air because we sauntered right into Area 31, one of Miami’s premiere ocean-inspired restaurants, like we were some distant relative of Jay Z himself and asked for a table with a view. We were either lucky, or on a slow Sunday night even twice-removed kin make the list, because they sat us and within minutes, Phillip and I were looking out on that gorgeous view from a rose-adorned table for two, settling in for our last swank meal of the trip.
How was the grilled octopus, you ask? Epic, I should say. Every morsel was delicious, and the service was superb. No free beef this time, but we weren’t complaining. We indulged one last time and then decided we were all ‘swanked’ out. It was high time we got this crew home before we could no longer afford a boat!
A breathtaking sunrise stretched over Biscayne Bay as we packed our bags the next morning and got ready to fly back to Pensacola.
In all, we spent five wickedly entertaining days in Miami and thoroughly enjoyed the Strictly Sail Miami show. The wealth of information and contacts we gained made it well worth the trip. We would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about boats, sailing and cruising or who is or might soon be shopping for a boat. Cruisers form such a small, supportive community, and some of the most knowledgeable in the business are all there at the show, readily available and eager to talk to you about just about anything. Once you’re plugged in, you feel there is always somewhere you can turn for help troubleshooting, plotting different passages, and ideas and solutions for rigging gear on the boat. Speaking of which, while I have had a lot of fun jumping right into this Strictly Sail Show after wrapping the epic Keys diaries, we did make some serious upgrades to the boat this past fall after returning from the Keys that we’ll cover in detail soon. We installed some really cool new boat stuff and took our balsa-cored beauty out to witness some of the most breathtaking sunsets yet. Plenty more in store! Next up, we “Go Green.” Stay tuned!
Many thanks to the folks who make these posts a little more possible with PATREON.