Archive for September, 2012

Cheers for Charity event in Fort Lauderdale

Take a seat at the world's longest dining table! The Cheers for Charity event, hosted by Southern Wine and Spirits benefits:

  • Children's Diagnostic & Treatment Center
  • Children’s Home Society
  • Jack and Jill Children’s Center
  • Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital,
  • Junior Achievement of South Florida
  • Sun-Sentinel Children’s Fund

Cheers For Charity Schedule of Events:

Sunday, Oct. 7th – Sushi and Sake at The Riverside Hotel benefitting the Joe DiMaggio’s Children’s Center. Tickets are $125. Kick-off the week with fresh sushi paired with the world’s finest sake.

Monday, Oct. 8th – Gems Tasting at The Riverside Hotel benefiting Junior Achievement South Florida. Tickets are $125. Enjoy food and wine pairings with such wineries as Beckstoffer, Husic Vineyards, Bodega Rancho, Alexana Family Winery, Sodaro Estate Winery, Gamble Family Vineyards, St Helena Winery and Blue Rock Vineyards.

Tuesday, Oct. 9th – Mixology Madness at The Riverside Hotel benefiting Children's Diagnostic & Treatment Center. Tickets are $125. Learn from the best “Mixologists” as your favorite cocktails (or experiment with a new one) are concocted from Absolut, Avion Tequilla, Chivas Regal, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Malibu Rum.

Wed. Oct. 10th – Bubblicious The Riverside Hotel benefiting Sun Sentinel Children’s Fund. Tickets are $125. Uncork the bubbly and learn how to pair the best champagnes and sparkling wines from around the world with your favorite foods.

Thursday, Oct. 11th – 

  • 5:30 p.m. Wine Tasting in Center Court, Huizenga Park benefiting Children’s Home Society. Tickets are $75. Mix and mingle at the hottest wine tasting party of the year all outdoors in spectacular setting along the water in Huizenga Park.
  • 7:30 p.m. “White Out the Night” Grand Finale at Huizenga Park benefiting Jack and Jill Children’s Center. Tickets are $125. Dress is all white at the world’s largest dining table event. This three course dinner will be served by 20 different Las Olas restaurants and includes wine and cocktails.
  • 10 p.m. Pernod Ricard After Party at Yolo Las Olas. Proceeds to benefit all six charities.

If you go: For additional information contact Cheers for Charity.

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Craft Beers and Breweries Booming in Every Corner of Florida

Tampa — Donna Giambrano traveled to Munich and Brussels this summer for one reason: Beer. “I do beer travel," she says. “Whenever I go to new places, I like to try the local beer.”

Which explains why Giambrano was snaking her way through the looming brew kettles, mash tuns and fermenters at Cigar City Brewing on a recent Saturday afternoon in Tampa. The Long Island resident was visiting friends in Tampa who surprised her with a brewery tour and sampling. Giambrano has several craft breweries to choose from back home and didn’t know about Florida’s booming craft beer scene.

Highly regarded craft breweries and brewpubs are in every corner of Florida, from Pensacola Bay Brewing in Pensacola to Intuition and Bold City in Jacksonville, to Swamphead in Gainesville and the Funky Buddha in Boca Raton.

The craft brewers are still relatively small players in the commercial beer world but are helping to create a different sort of Florida attraction for people like Giambruno, many of whom don’t even care if there’s a tour. For them it’s all about the beer.

Cigar City, which opened three years ago in a humble warehouse behind a Home Depot off busy North Dale Mabry Highway, is the upstart leader of the Florida craft beer scene, in both recognition and volume.

Most breweries offer some kind of tour, from big players like Yuengling (Tampa) or Anheuser Busch (Jacksonville) or boutique operations like St. Somewhere (Tarpon Springs). Cigar City offers tours five days a week while smaller operations like Swamphead hold them weekly. Some, like Peg’s Cantina in Gulfport or Seventh Sun in Dunedin, are so small a tour is decidedly short and often spontaneous.

Giambruno’s tour, which was filled to its 20-person limit, began in the tasting room, a narrow bar built onto the brewery, with two flat-screen TVs showing different views of the brewery (sometimes busy, sometimes not). A typical Saturday mid-afternoon finds the place packed.

Jennifer Harden of San Diego was waiting for the tour with her Lakeland boyfriend, Jeff Page. It was their first stop before heading to Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest craft brewery, founded in 1996. They heard about Seventh Sun while at Cigar City and added it to their list.

“We get a lot of tourists," says Cigar City owner Joey Redner. “That’s why you can come to the tasting room at noon on a Tuesday and the place is packed. They’re all tourists. When you’re a tourist, you can drink beer at noon."

Redner still sees plenty of room for growth in Florida, long dominated by mass-market beers and years behind states like California, Colorado, Oregon and North Carolina. He sees an advantage to breweries clustering within walking distance, such as Intuition and Bold City in the Riverside section of Jacksonville, or Dunedin Brewery and Seventh Sun in downtown Dunedin. Beer enthusiasts, like wine lovers, enjoy the variety that multiple breweries offer, along with the chance of trying something they can’t get anywhere else. Asheville, N.C., has a half-dozen breweries within walking distance.

“We don’t have that critical mass yet," says Redner, “but it’s coming.” Touring Florida breweries is more like touring wineries in Sonoma. It takes a car, some planning and moderation. Which gives Tampa Bay distinct advantages.

The biggest craft beer scene in the state by far is in Tampa Bay, with about a dozen breweries and brewpubs. At least three more are planned, from St. Pete (Green Bench and St. Petersburg Brewing) to Seminole (Rapp Brewing). The region also spawned the World of Beer chain of craft beer taverns, quickly spreading across the state. It’s not uncommon to find craft beer bars with 30 or 40 taps, a rare sight three years ago.

In Florida, breweries are the only place to legally buy draft beer to go, sold in so-called growlers — one-quart or gallon bottles filled and sealed to take home. Tasting rooms like Cigar City’s are common at Florida craft breweries, and a key part of their business. Sales at Cigar City’s tasting room hit $1.5 million last year and helped finance its expansion.

With shoestring budgets and narrow profit margins, Florida’s craft brewers are relying on word of mouth and social media to get the word out. A weekly Tampa Bay radio show on craft beer (11 a.m. Saturdays, WTAN-AM 1340) is hosted by Savino Sterlacci, the World of Beer founder who helped change state law to allow myriad bottle sizes, which helped fuel Florida’s craft beer explosion.

Name a city in Florida and it either has craft breweries and brewpubs or they are in the planning stages. Besides Swamphead, Gainesville also has Alligator Brewing, Tallahassee has Proof and Momo’s Pizza, Boynton Beach has Due South, Melbourne has Florida Brewery, Sarasota has Darwin’s on Fourth, Marco Island has the Marco Brewpub, Hourglass Brewery is opening in Longwood, Winter Park has Shipyard, Brandon has Three Palms Brewery. Miami has lagged behind the rest of the state, though a couple of award-winning home brewers are planning their own small breweries.

Much of the current buzz has been generated by Cigar City, which garnered attention and national awards using local ingredients like guava, Cuban espresso and cedar to flavor their beers. It has grown from a two-person operation to a staff of 60, and is rapidly expanding into the next warehouse to keep up with demand.

Saturday tours at Cigar City are led by an affable bearded beer gnome named Bob Lorber, who wittily walks guests through the basics of beer-making, points out the various tanks and barrels and bottling equipment, and offers samples poured straight from the fermenter. Nothing fresher, he says, and his beaming guests soon ask for more. The tour takes 30-45 minutes and ends back in the tasting room with a souvenir glass and a beer of their choice.

Continue reading Craft Beers and Breweries Booming in Every Corner of Florida »

Destin’s Fantastic Fall Fisheries

Fishing fans, one month is barely enough time to take advantage of all the fishing opportunities, especially that time of year. Whether you like to fish inshore, along the beaches or in the deep blue, fall is arguably the best time to fish in the Gulf.

Marsh Majesty

Creeks and rivers wind through towering oak and cypress hammocks before spilling out into the 3,260-square-mile Choctawhatchee Bay estuary – across deltas dominated by lush marsh grasses, oyster reefs and seagrass meadows. These are prime habitats for speckled trout, redfish, black drum, flounder, sheepshead and striped bass. Cooling waters trigger shrimp hatches and baitfish migrations, when these predators begin fattening up for winter. They will hit about any fly, lure or bait.

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The fall runs of pompano, bluefish, whiting and Spanish mackerel make for stellar surf action. Anglers target these delicious species from beaches, piers, and jetties, with jigs, spoons and plugs. If you’re into a more relaxing fishing experience, sling sandfleas, shrimp or cut mullet out onto the sandbars, stick your rod(s) in a sand spike and have a seat.

Beyond the Breakers

Red drum spawning aggregations form nearshore, offering a rare opportunity to catch multiple redfish from 30 to 50 pounds. On calmer days with high sun, fly and light-tackle anglers sight fish for these giant breeders and chase after the schools of false albacore. There’s not much in fishing that can compete with sight fishing for bull reds and speedy tunas in a few feet of clear water.

Bluewater and Reefs

Gag grouper occur inshore, nearshore and on offshore wrecks and reefs, and the season is open in October. You’ll also catch plenty of powerful amberjacks plus tasty snappers and grunts while targeting the offshore reefs for groupers.

Another species that occurs nearshore and offshore is the Gulf king mackerel, recently declared “fully rebuilt” by scientists and fisheries managers. Veteran captains confirm that they’ve never seen better “kingfishing” in their entire careers. These speedy fish grow to more than 60 pounds.

October is a great month for billfish, tuna, wahoo and mahi. Many offshore fishermen hedge their bets by trolling early, and hitting the reefs for snapper, grouper and amberjack on the way in.

Big Events

The Destin Fishing Rodeo draws anglers from all over the world. Per eligible species, the tournament offers prizes for dozens of fish. Entry is free for anglers fishing aboard a registered boat. Visit
www.destinfishingrodeo.org.

Also in October, Destin celebrates with a Seafood Festival: www.destinseafoodfestival.org. Bring the family and dig in.

This article is brought to you by Northwest Florida's Emerald Coast. To plan your trip to the Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa Island, go to www.emeraldcoastfl.com.

Continue reading Destin’s Fantastic Fall Fisheries »

Fall Fairs and Festivals on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

As if the season weren’t cause enough to celebrate, here it yields a magnificent harvest of festivals and fairs. As diverse as they are sensational, these events showcase everything from pirates to key lime pie. Here are some of the highlights:

Fort Myers Art Walk and Art Fair
Monthly year round, first Friday; also seasonally, third Saturday
From 6 – 10 p.m., art galleries in the downtown Fort Myers River District highlight the cultural side of the city, with local and national artwork on display. Meet the artists and linger for after-party revelry at 10 p.m. The Saturday Juried Art Fair is held October through April along First Street.

Fort Myers Beach Pirate Fest
Oct. 5 – 7
Ahoy there, matey! Get up close and personal with professional pirates at this swashbuckling shindig that goes overboard with roving musicians and performers, costume contests, Pirate’s Ball, pub crawl and more.

First Ever Restaurant Week
Oct. 5 – 14
Foodies will embrace this first-ever culinary extravaganza, featuring a bounty of fresh Florida fare. At this intimate local event, area restaurants will serve up their signature, locally grown dishes at a discount, from almond-crusted snapper to legendary key lime pie.

'Ding' Darling Days
Oct. 14 – 20
It’s only natural that "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge hosts an enlightening week of interaction with creatures great and small. The fun includes kayak, bicycle and tram tours, sea life cruises, birding, Henson nature puppets, face painting and other family-friendly activities. {pullquote}

The Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival
Nov. 1 – 4
One of the fastest growing paddling festivals in North America, this adventure includes evening socials, film festival, photo contest, fishing tournament and the sheer joy of navigating our scenic waters. You want forget this adventure!

30th Annual Taste of the Town
Nov. 4
A savory celebration featuring samplings from more than 40 restaurants, three great bands, a Kids Entertainment Area and a corn toss tournament with cash prizes! Proceeds benefit The Junior League of Fort Myers and its community projects.

American Sandsculpting Championship Festival
Nov. 16 – 25
The Holiday Inn on Estero Boulevard hosts Florida’s largest sandsculpting competition, where you can witness dozens of world-class sand sculptors create spectacular works of art, peruse the markets and pause for lunch. Little ones will delight in special kid-friendly fun.

Captiva Holiday Village
Nov. 25 – Dec. 20
'Tis the season when Captiva becomes aglow in a joyful tribute to the holidays. Thanksgiving kicks off a cornucopia of weekend festivities including street dancers and fireworks, concerts, a lighted boat parade, decorated golf cart parade and the ever-popular “Captiva Mullet March.”

Mark your calendars, because you’ll “fall” for all the fun brewing at The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel this season!

This article was brought to you by The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. To plan your trip, visit http://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com.

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Tranquil Tuesday: Costa d’Este Beach Resort

Hang the Do Not Disturb sign, pop the champagne cork and escape for a romantic getaway with that special someone. My pick for this week's edition of Tranquil Tuesday is the Costa d'Este Beach Resort, owned by the queen of Latin pop, Gloria Estefan, and her husband Emilio.

Nestled on Florida’s east coast on Vero Beach, Costa d'Este is a stylish and luxurious boutique hotel with an infinity pool, custom furnishings and lavish décor.

The "Do Not Disturb" package includes:    

  • Luxurious accommodations
  • A bottle of chilled champagne
  • Free valet parking
  • And my favorite, a welcome Mojito 

Check out this post about Family Insider Jill Martin's oceanfront escape

Want more travel tips about entertainment and luxury in Florida? Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

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Play Football for a Cause at Sun Life Stadium

Have you ever dreamed of playing football in a professional stadium? Now’s your chance! Teams are forming for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s Touch of Football event at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Current and former NFL players will coach the teams. 

How it works: Teams will consist of seven to 15 male and female players, who will compete in a 7-on-7 flag tournament officiated by professional referees. Games will be 25 minutes long. The format is double elimination. Each team will will participate in a rookie mini-camp with passing, kicking and receiving drills in between games.

Teams participating in the tournament will have a fundraising goal of $3,500. All funds raised will support the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Team entries also will include uniforms, tours of the stadium (including the locker room), and prizes for the top fundraising teams. General admission tickets are available for $25 and include lunch. 

Following the tournament, a VIP cocktail reception will be held in the Miami Dolphins locker rooms. For $125, guests will be treated to a cocktail reception with a tour of Sun Life Stadium. 

When: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013

Where: Sun Life Stadium 

Register online or contact Keytia Ortiz at (646) 430-0559 or kortiz@ccfa.org.

Continue reading Play Football for a Cause at Sun Life Stadium »

Play Football with the Pros at Sun Life Stadium

Have you ever dreamed of playing football in a professional stadium? Now’s your chance! Teams are forming for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s Touch of Football event at Sun Life Stadium in Miami. Current and former NFL players will coach the teams. 

How it works: Teams will consist of 7 – 15 male and female players, who will compete in a 7 on 7 flag tournament officiated by professional level referees. Games will be 25 minutes long with double elimination. Each team will be guaranteed at least two games and will participate in a rookie mini camp with passing, kicking and receiving drills in between games.

Teams participating in the tournament will have a fundraising goal of $3,500. All funds raised will support the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Team entries will also include uniforms, tours of the stadium (including the locker room!), and prizes for the first, second, and top fundraising teams. General Admission tickets are available for $25 and include lunch. 

Following the tournament, a VIP cocktail reception will be held in the Miami Dolphin’s player locker rooms. For $125 guests will be treated to a cocktail reception with a behind the scenes tour of Sun Life Stadium. 

When: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013

Where: Sun Life Stadium 

Register online or contact Keytia Ortiz at (646) 430-0559 or kortiz@ccfa.org.

Continue reading Play Football with the Pros at Sun Life Stadium »

Photo: Studios of Key West, Walk on White Third Thursdays

Every third Thursday of the month, visitors can connect with artists inside their workspaces at The Studios of Key West, located at the island’s historic Armory on White Street.

Continue reading Photo: Studios of Key West, Walk on White Third Thursdays »

Photo: Robert Fountaine Gallery, Wynwood Arts District, Miami

One of the most engaging and vibrant galleries along Miami’s Wynwood Art Walk, the Robert Fountaine Gallery exhibits contemporary works from established and emerging artists.

Continue reading Photo: Robert Fountaine Gallery, Wynwood Arts District, Miami »

A Guide to Florida Art Walks

From edgy downtown districts to enclaves in historic towns, Florida is teeming with opportunities to experience original art by local and internationally renowned artists. Each month, cities across the state bring together art lovers and curious visitors for a festive celebration of the best artists, galleries and museums.

Whether it's gazing at the harbor from a grassy hill near the Dali Museum in downtown St. Petersburg, wandering through a maze of graffiti art in Miami's Wynwood Arts District or ambling into galleries on quiet White Street at dusk near Key West's historic Armory, each walk paints its own picture postcard.

Here's a roundup of art walks across the state, starting with the day of the week:

Jacksonville's First Wednesday Art Walk, 5 – 9 p.m.

Downtown Jacksonville's Hemming Plaza, directly across from the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA), functions as the headquarters for the First Wednesday Art Walk, which features live music as well as pop-up shops by local artists that showcase everything from handmade jewelry to paintings.
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Spanning about 15 city blocks, the art walk, founded in 2003, draws about 6,000 attendees per month to roughly 40 cultural venues, according to Liz Grebe, marketing and events assistant for Downtown Vision, the nonprofit group that produces the walk.

In addition to major permanent cultural venues like MOCA, the Jacksonville Main Library, Snyder Memorial Church and Juice – A Jen Jones Gallery, the Off the Grid program works to fill empty downtown storefronts with gallery and studio space, such as the 111 E. Bay Street Studio, which is currently occupied by two artists and a dance studio.

Central Fire Station, which hosts a nonprofit, artist and house DJ every month is an Art Walk hot spot. Popular restaurants and bars nearby include Indochine, Burrito Gallery and Burro Bar.

"You get a very hipster crowd in that area," Grebe says. "But the whole Art Walk crowd is a mix of families, young hipster kids and even an older crowd who likes to come out to see the art."

Key West's Walk on White Third Thursdays, 6 – 9 p.m.

The Studios of Key West, inside the historic Armory on White Street, is the island's bastion for art and culture. Supporting local studio artists as well as an international residency program, the Studios provide 35 artists a year with monthlong stays to work on their own projects or to collaborate with others.

The dynamic calendar of events and workshops includes roughly 24 exhibitions per year, and the Third Thursday Walk on White functions as the opening reception for many of these exhibitions.

"The island's natural beauty, its legacy as an artist's destination and the bohemian lifestyle it supports continues to draw artists to Key West today," says Elena Devers, interim executive director of the Studios.

The Walk on White is an open-door reception where attendees can meet the artists inside their studios and cottages, view the current exhibition and tour the outdoor sculpture garden.

Other nearby galleries, which include the Harrison Gallery and Stone Soup Gallery, also keep their doors open for the evening.

St. Augustine's First Friday Artwalk, 5 – 9 p.m.

Artist Jan Miller's Butterfield Garage Gallery is one of the premier stops during St. Augustine's First Friday Artwalk. The Chicago-born artist opened her gallery as a cooperative space in 1999, which today showcases the work of 29 artists.

"The whole town is up for the Artwalk," Miller says. "It's a small town, it's a treasured town and it's historic. The good news is that it's walkable, and we even have a free shuttle train that will stop at different places along the route."

Run by the Art Galleries of St. Augustine, the art walk includes 15 member galleries in the downtown St. Augustine area. Other must-see venues include the Lightner Museum and the Crisp-Ellert Museum, both of which exhibit work of national and international renown, as well as the Pasta Gallery that features regional artists' work.

A bite to eat outside at Café Cordova in the historic Casa Monica Hotel is a pleasant way to end the evening.

Tallahassee's First Friday Gallery Hop at Railroad Square Art Park, 6 – 9 p.m.

Railroad Square Art Park in downtown Tallahassee is a community of artists and craftspeople who live and work in a 10-acre park close to Florida State University and Florida A&M University. Once a lumberyard and industrial railroad park, Railroad Square began to take shape as an artist's community in the mid-1970s.

Today, the lively First Friday Gallery Hop draws an eclectic crowd of about 8,000 college students, families and young professionals to browse the galleries and shops, listen to live music at three stages and enjoy food truck fare.

Popular stops include the 621 Gallery for contemporary art, The Other Side vintage store and Tasty Eats. The latter is a train's caboose converted into a Vietnamese restaurant that houses a stage and an outdoor biergarten. There's even a belly-dancing studio that performs and encourages audience participation.

Bradenton Village of the Arts First Weekend Artwalk, 6 – 9:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday

The Bradenton Village of the Arts is another quirky enclave where artists live and work together in about 350 homes, 35 of which are galleries, studios, restaurants and shops open to the public.

Artist Linda Bronkema, president of the Artists Guild of Manatee County and owner of the Bits & Pieces gallery, describes the village as "an Easter basket" of pastel-colored cottages. Her gallery features acrylic paintings, quilt art and home decor.

Art walks typically draw an adult crowd shopping for one-of-a-kind creations and browsing galleries such as Hearts Desire, Divine Excess and Cross Stitch Magic.

Even the restaurants, including Charisma Cafe & Art and Sweet's Bakehouse, display colorful local art.

St. Petersburg's Second Saturday Gallery Walk, 5 – 9 p.m.

Named the No. 1 midsized city for art three years in a row by American Style magazine, St. Petersburg is a cultural hub with waterfront institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, the Dali Museum and the Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center.

The arts district spans 30 blocks east to west from the waterfront and includes about 25 galleries. Locals typically digest the walk by picking a few galleries of interest each month and then rotating to others throughout the year. The Central Avenue Trolley traverses this area, offering service for $0.50.

Gallery participants include renowned glass artist Duncan McClellan, local painter Carrie Jadus' Studio and Craftsman House, which is owned by Jeff Schorr, president of the Downtown Arts Association.

"Typically galleries close around 5 or 6 o'clock," Schorr says. "And if people are working, they really can't get there during the week, so (the Gallery Walk) allows people a special time to view the art, and it also turns it into a social event."

The Ale & the Witch is a popular stop during the Gallery Walk for craft beer and live music in its outdoor courtyard.

Miami's Second Saturday Wynwood Art Walk, 7 – 10 p.m.

The colorful vertical lines on the facade of the Robert Fontaine Gallery in the heart of Miami's Wynwood Arts District blend smoothly with the vivid street and graffiti art characteristic of the resurgent neighborhood. Fontaine's gallery exhibits contemporary pop art from the 1960s on and focuses on emerging, established and museum artists, such as Jud Nelson, Ed Ruscha and Roy Lichtenstein.

On any given Second Saturday Art Walk, Fontaine sees about 10,000 people pass through his gallery. The atmosphere is lively with NW 2nd Avenue's sidewalks jammed with revelers, food trucks and gallery parties, often with live music or a DJ.

The Acasco Gallery, the Dorsch Gallery and Gallery Diet stand out among the nearly 70 galleries. Design shops, such as Plant the Future and Elemental, also are must-sees.

The Wynwood Walls and Wynwood Kitchen draw a crowd where people dine and drink in a converted warehouse or outdoor park curated with sweeping graffiti murals by world-renowned street artists, such as Shepard Fairey, Retna and Ryan McGinness.

Shayne Benowitz is a freelance writer based in Miami Beach. Follow her on Twitter @ShayneBenowitz.

Continue reading A Guide to Florida Art Walks »