Moon over Miami
SONESTA BEACH RESORT
SONESTA BEACH RESORT
The Best Gets Better
In Key Biscayne
OW much better can you get? For a couple of relaxing days in Florida, I stayed at Sonesta Beach Resort, nestled among coconut palms in the secluded tropical island of Key Biscayne, and found it above par. The service was superexcellent. (305 361-2021, email: email@example.com, www.sonesta.com)
While sitting at dinner in the elegant Purple Dolphin restaurant, a waiter swiped my white napkin. He quickly returned with a black one. He explained that as I was wearing black, the white napkin would have left white lint. How thoughtful!
Executive Chef Elizabeth Barlow said that people eat with their eyes first, so the theme here is food is art. "I have a passion for food. The culinary presentations are works of art presented on plates as canvas."
Art is everywhere. You might think you’re standing in a plush museum. You’re in a plush resort glowing with scores of artwork. I found that the collection of art displayed in the lobby and various locations around the resort reflects a long-standing commitment by Sonesta to support the visual arts. The Sonesta collection consists of more than 7,000 contemporary paintings and sculptures which are displayed in their hotels all over the world.
Joan Sonnabend, owner of Obelisk Gallery in Boston, curated this outstanding permanent exhibit. She is the wife of Sonesta executive chairman Roger P. Sonnabend.
The eight-story building with 300 deluxe rooms has a spa, tennis center, fitness center, outdoor pool and a lush landscape down to the talcum-white sand beach. Go for the Amarillo aromatherapy full body massage for an unforgettable experience. You’ll want to come back the next day for another 50 minutes in heaven.
If you need something, no need to worry. Seems they have it all. Call the Personal Service Manager for an air purifier, rollaway bed, exercise bicycle, wheelchair, bed board, scales, Woolite, baby crib, stroller, children’s car seat, high chair, and even baby shampoo. It all translates into family friendly.
So how much better can it get? In a statement issued in January, Sonnabend said the entire Mayan-like structure, opened in 1969, would come down in August. He will replace it with a 5-star luxury condo hotel, which he promises will be spectacular. We hope he’ll invite us to cover the opening in three years.
Kathye Susnjer, executive director of the Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce (www.keybiscaynechamber.org), took us on a tour of this exclusive island, populated by only 11,500 rich people. The scenery is breathtaking. Waterfront houses are valued at $7 million. The least expensive single family home goes for $1.1 million, with taxes at $10,000 a month. Susnjer bought a condo in 1981 for $49,000, which is valued today at $390,000.
President Richard Nixon made Key Biscayne his winter White House 1969-74. His waterfront vacation house, a local landmark, has since been razed to make way for a new residence.
From the tropical seclusion of this special island we drove over the Rickenbacker Causeway into Miami, passing through Little Havana, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables.
We made a pit stop at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (3251 S. Miami Ave., 305 250-9133), formerly the winter home of International Harvester vice president James Deering. This is well worth a visit to marvel over the 16th to 19th century European decorative arts and formal gardens. This was the site of the Summit of the Americas, where President Bill Clinton hosted 34 leaders of the western hemisphere in 1994.
Larry J. Harris has created a dual culinary experience in a former firehouse 1000 S. Miami Ave. in Brickell Village. The second floor is Mosaico, serving New Spanish food. Dinner consists of five or six courses, which is typical in Spain, says owner Larry J. Harris. Salero, on the first floor, is an inviting casual café environment for tapas and sidewalk dining. 305 371-3473, www.mosaicorestaurant.com.
At Sonesta Hotel & Suites Coconut Grove general manager George Cozonis proudly showed us around the property. Only three years old, the hotel offers a bedroom kitchenette at $200; 2-bedroom with full kitchen, dishwasher, clothes washer/dryer, at $500. The view of the sparkling waters of Biscayne Bay from the dining room terrace is magnificent.
In Coral Gables, an affluent Mediterranean style city given to beauty and gracious living, we stopped to shop at the high-end Village of Merrick Park. I asked to meet the mayor of the village, but was informed that the "village" is actually a luxury mall anchored by the flagship stores of Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. This retail destination, which premiered four years ago, is a magnet for local and foreign fashionistas.
Burberry, Faconnable, Hugo Boss, Tiffany, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Godiva, Bang & Olufsen are just a few of the celebrated names in fashion to be found in this charming little "village."
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Chef Todd Aarons
Oxnard Winery Creates
Kosher Gourmet Eatery
By Sally Ogle Davis and Ivor Davis
OURMET KOSHER dining has arrived in Oxnard, the Southern California farming community. Paris, London, New York, of course. But Oxnard—home of big box grocery stores, Mexican cantinas and strawberry fields forever?
Oxnard’s population is more than 70 percent Hispanic so maybe that’s why Tierra Sur, the finest new Kosher restaurant on this—or almost any other coast – has decided to open with a decidedly Mediterranean/ Spanish flavor, with a large dose of Tuscany thrown in for good measure.
Terra Sur is to be found deep in the heart of Oxnard's industrial section 60 miles north of Los Angeles, a mile and a half off Highway 101, nestled in the confines of the Herzog (Kosher) Winery at 3201 Camino Del Sol.
The winery has come a long way. It began making kosher wine in l848 in the small Slovakian village of Vrobove where Philip Herzog crushed grapes for Austro-Hungarian royalty. They moved to upstate New York in the early 20th century, then switched to California where they make good wines in a $13 million state-of-the-art winery. The front of the winery houses a very elegant tasting room and gift shop featuring high end table wear, glasses and gifts.
But the piece de resistance is Tierra Sur, with its high ceiling dining room, flanked by tall windows draped in heavy silks. Soft leather chairs are pulled up to intimate sized tables white table clothes and Reidel crystal stem ware. The lighting is subdued, and the color scheme—earth tones of soft olive, gold and browns—highlight the elegant Mediterranean menu.
The food more than measures up to the ambience.
In an open kitchen, Chef Todd Aarons grills some of his best creations in an outside wood burning fireplace on the patio. He grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from the California Culinary Academy and cut his kitchen teeth at San Francisco’s Zuni Café.
While working for an Italian coffee company in Israel, and developing Italian Mediterranean menus for restaurants in Netanya and Tel Aviv, he rediscovered his Jewish roots, fell in love with an Orthodox young woman and became a Baal Teshuvah. Now the dietary laws of Kashrus have became the most important element of his cooking.
Aarons now commutes to the new restaurant from his home in North Hollywood—where he lives with his wife and three young daughters.
Tierra Sur Restaurant
Before coming to Oxnard he ran his own upscale Glatt Kosher French Mediterranean restaurant Mosaica in New Jersey. The opportunity to create a restaurant from scratch with the kind of financial support that the Herzog brand gives him was impossible to resist.
So with sous chef Chaim Davidz, Tierra Sur opened in late 2005. But if you expect pickles, corned beef on rye, or matzah ball soup—forgetaboutit.
Dinner with five star service—on a par with a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton—changes not just with the seasons but every evening according to the chef’s whim and the availability of the finest and freshest ingredients.
The Mediterranean influence is most visible in the appetizers, many of which come directly from the Spanish tapas or Greek mezes so beloved of the countries bordering that sea.
Platillos were small plates of delicate salt cod beignets, mushrooms a la Greque—cooked in truffle oil—one of the many instances where the absence of butter in the kitchen does nothing but improve the flavors, and a baba ghanoush fire roasted in the patio oven.
A Boudin Blanc was a house-made veal and chicken sausage with roasted pink lady apples and turnips. A corn and salt cod chowder was a warm starter on a foggy Oxnard eve.
The dinner entrees (they also have a more modestly priced lunch menu of soups, salads and sandwiches), which range in price from $25 to $44 for a farm raised venison imported from the Mashgichim farm in Goshen New York, included a delicate pan seared wild pacific King salmon with braised leeks, root vegetable Spanish tortillas and tarragon salsa.
Also a marjoram and honey roasted chicken leg stuffed with porcini mushroom and chick pea ragout, and a Pomegranate marinated roasted lamb with sauteed broccoli rabe and fresh fava beans. Hannibal Lector eat your heart out.
Desserts like an orange almond flan, a warm Mexican chocolate cake with caramel frozen custard, and churros y chocolate are simple, inexpensive and delicious.
And of course the food can be accompanied by a dazzling selection of kosher wines—by the glass or by the bottle—from winemaker Joe Hurliman.
Address: 3201 Camino Del Sol, Oxnard, CA 93030
Phone: 805 983-1560
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