Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

Wings of Summer

What:

A whimsical morning exploring “Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden” in Coral Gables, with a beautiful butterfly experience inside the “Wings of the Tropics” exhibit at The Clinton Family Conservatory.

Why:

Tears filled my eyes when I walked through the pressure-locked doors at the butterfly exhibit inside “Fairchild Tropical Garden.”

Partly because of the breeze the doorway created, but also because of my emotional vulnerability.

I was still dealing with the trauma of James and Rigby being attacked by three unleashed Rottweilers. I wrote about the horrific event in my last blog (Life is Beautiful).

Even though it happened almost two weeks ago, I still couldn’t shake it. James wasn’t quite himself either and don’t get me started on Rigby; just looking at the poor thing is painful.

So there I was, still feeling unhinged about life, when I walked into one of the most special things I’ve ever experienced — “Wings of the Tropics” — one of “Fairchild Garden’s” most popular exhibits. Simply put, it’s a sea of exotic butterflies. It’s absolutely magical.

The exhibit, which is lush with greenery, has a long path winding its way through an exciting journey of nature. As you walk through, you see hundreds of exotic butterflies dancing, fluttering and sometimes landing right on top of you. They apparently like the taste of human sweat. It’s a salt thing.

I was lucky enough to experience what they call a “release”, where they carefully place butterflies on your arms and shoulders. It was exciting to see them so closely and feel the pitter-patter of their feet against my dewy skin. The conservatory is kept extremely warm and humid, recreating their natural environment. OMG, I had no shortage of salty sweat, meaning the winged ones loved me, hence the blog entitled “Wings of Summer.”

After experiencing the release, I realized I had been completely in the moment. Present. Even if it was brief (and it was), I somehow managed to escape the deep sadness I had been feeling after the dog attack. James and Rigby are my everything and when they got hurt, I felt helpless and for whatever reason, I was angry, too. Nature was comforting me. Extending a healing branch, if you will.

When I left the conservatory, I felt a slight shift in my demeanor and enjoyed touring the garden grounds. There’s so much to see and do: with 83 acres of lush tropical plants, trees and everything in between, it truly is a one-of-a-kind experience and for good reason…

In 1938, the garden was carefully curated by the late Dr. David Fairchild. The famed plant explorer went all over the world to procure what you see in the garden today. Conserving the world of tropical plants isn’t easy, but he built it allowing everyone to enjoy what he loved and man, is it spectacular!

Over the years, I’ve written quite a few blogs on butterflies. One of my more popular ones, “45 Days and Nights of Black Butterflies”, was about healing after being sick with GBS. I repeatedly dreamed of butterflies all around me, coming out of me. I would float, flutter and eventually free myself of illness.

After I became well, I developed a healthy obsession with what the winged ones represent: transformation, resurrection, change, hope and life.

Having a chance to see the butterfly exhibit meant more than I can possibly explain. It’s hard for me to tear-up; as an entertainment reporter/host I’ve see a lot in my life. It was a crescendo of happiness. Also…

The metaphor isn’t lost on me: holding the beauty of life and then releasing it isn’t just about healing, it’s about enduring and becoming a better person in the process.

And that’s why “Wings of Summer” is one of my Favorite Things.

PS. James is getting better, still a bad puncture on his left hand and his knees are finally scabbing up. Rigby? Well, he finally got his stitches out and is playing with a few of his new toys. 👫🐶❤️

Where:

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, Florida 33156
(NORTH ENTRANCE)

When:

Monday-Sunday: 9:30am-4:30pm

Admission: Seniors 65 & over $18, Adults $25, Kids 6-17 $12, Children 5 & under Free
Fairchild Members: Free
(for more information: 305-667-1651)

Be Social:
FB: @FairchildGarden
IG: @fairchildgarden
Twitter: @FairchildGarden

www.fairchildgarden.org

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.Audrey Hepburn
Photographer: James Woodley Photography
Butterfly Dress: ETXART & PANNO, MIAMI — IG: @extartpannous
Butterfly Ring: Jill Zaleski Custom Jewelry — IG: @jillzaleski
Vintage Flower Earrings: A gift from my mother (who was gifted them by her mother)
Hair & Make-up: Odett Hernandez
Digital Editor: Jessie Neft-Swinger
Editor: Matthew “Salt Thing” Auerbach

A Hidden Gem

A Hidden Gem

A Hidden Gem

A Hidden Gem

A Hidden Gem

A Hidden Gem

A Hidden Gem

What:

The Little Farm House — a unique and whimsical event space.

Why:

When I first stepped through the gates of “The Little Farm House,” I was transported into the most amazing tropical oasis. It was so lovely, it was actually hard to believe I was smack-dab in the middle of the Magic City, but I was. (More specifically, on the outskirts of Little Haiti alongside Miami’s Little River.)

The lush greenery, main house, six cabins, boathouse and myriad of farm animals make the place beyond enchanting and one of the most unique EVENT SPACES I’ve ever seen. Social gatherings, weddings, showers, parties, television and movie shoots, they do it all and…

While the place has definitely made a name for itself on a national level (hosting photo shoots for British Vogue, H&M and Urban Outfitters), its owner, Gabriella von Rosen, wants locals to know about “A Hidden Gem,” too.

“The Little Farm House,” which was built back in the 1920’s, is the epitome of Shabby Chic style mixed with a Key West kind of charm. In other words, it’s my kind of place! It’s also used as an animal sanctuary, where furry friends are nursed to health and adopted into loving homes.

Every corner of the property is a new mystery waiting to be discovered: antique furniture, vintage decor, gorgeous chandeliers and the kind of natural peacefulness that relaxes the mind and calms the spirit.

When I was there I spotted a manatee in the river, petted Phoebe the baby goat and was curiously followed around by Becca, a spirited pot-belly pig. Not to mention the ducks, chickens, iguanas, five cats and a sweet rescue dog. The place is so big (almost an acre) the animals wander about virtually undetected.

I also explored the themed cabins (the bar and lounge were my favorite) and imagined what it would be like to live in the Main House (for me, that’s the ultimate compliment). “When can I move in?” I jokingly asked Gabby. She just smiled sweetly – I’m sure she gets that a lot.

Matching the boho, gypsy spirit of “A Hidden Gem” fashion-wise was easy with dresses designed by Tanya Marie. I adore the way she uses bold materials and rich textures; giving her pieces a creative pizazz you just don’t really see anymore. When you wear a dress made by Tanya Marie, you stand-out for all the right reasons.

The special moments in life are so few and far between, enjoying and capturing them at a place like the “Little Farm House” will make your memories all the more rare and unique and that’s why “A Hidden Gem” is one of my favorite things.

Where:

218 NE 84th Street, Miami, Florida 33138

When:

For bookings and inquiries: www.miamifarmhouse.com or email info@miamifarmhouse.com

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.Albert Einstein
Instagram: @thelittlefarmhouse FB: The Little Farm House Twitter: @miamifarmhouse

James Woodley Photography
Styling: Jackie Kay
Boho Dresses provided by www.tanyamariedesign.com
Butterfly Ring: @JillZaleski, Turquoise ring: @JosetteRedwolf, Bug Ring: @HaleyHoleman
Grooming: Odett Hernandez
Editor: Matthew “Animals are your friends” Auerbach

Special thanks to JennyLee Molina

Shireen’s Spotlight: GK Bistronomie

GK Bistronomie

GK Bistronomie

GK Bistronomie

GK Bistronomie

GK Bistronomie

What:

GK Bistronomie, 218 NW 25th Street, Miami, Florida 33127

Why:

When I write my food blog, I always hashtag my social media with #FoodIsLove, but at GK Bistronomie, #FoodIsArt and then some. The Peruvian-style eatery is creative, innovative and frankly, one of the most interesting places I’ve been to in a long time. The food is what Angelina Jolie is to the human race: breathtakingly beautiful, intriguing and sexy.

The restaurant itself has a modern feel mixed with an artsy vibe. Along with an open-air kitchen, there’s also a cool indoor/outdoor bar with an impressive selection of Peruvian Pisco’s (made in house.) Executive Chef Rafael Perez is a true artist, sculpting, mixing and plating food into colorful, decorative, delicious masterpieces. The best part? The restaurant and those who work there aren’t pretentious (no food snobs here.) Instead, they’re friendly, knowledgeable and care about your dining experience.

My “Spotlight” started with my usual drink fest (don’t hate, this is what you guys request when I’m out and about.) “Queen Mayra” (with absolut pear, passion fruit, celery and ylang, ylang,) “Linda Paloma” (pisco infuse with ginger, pear, green tea, orange, fresh squeezed lime, fresh pineapple, indian spices) and “Wynwood Sahumerio” (absolut elyx, star fruit, orange darjeeling and chamomile.)

The Queen was all kinds of fresh yumminess with a very pear-y taste with hints of essential oils. Oh, Linda! was exotic, spicy and smooth; but it was the Sahumerio that I wanted to have a Sunday brunch affair with: along with a cool dry ice presentation and a large square cut ice cube, it had this great fresh, tangy orange taste to it. If I wasn’t working, my play would have been to double down.

I tried three appetizers: “Parmesan” (grouper, parmesano reggiano, lime, chives, aji limo) “Peruvian Seafood” (corvina, octopus, calamari, shrimp, mussels, lime, cilantro, red onion, aji limo, sweet potato and choclo) and “Crab And Avocado” (jumbo lump crab, aji amarillo, papa amarilla, rocoto, caviar.) Each plate was so gorgeous, it was hard to eat; but once I dug in, my guilt wholeheartedly subsided.

The grouper was my favorite. It was smooth, creamy and cheesy (with a nice kick to it.) The Peruvian plate, which was actually a bowl, came with a top: uncapping it gave way to a rich, smokey flavor and who doesn’t love crab mixed with avocado? It was a charming balance of two of my favorite foods.

For my main course, I tried the “Black Grouper” (which is pan seared black grouper, shrimp, octopus, clams, mussels, quinoa and seafood broth.) This plate had amazing texture because of the quinoa, which I think of as more of a health food, but still, it was incredibly yummy with delicate touches of the aforementioned seafood. The broth was magical and not too “soupy.”

Last but not least, the “Nutella Mousse” is what I had for dessert, with the most amazing latte and sugar stick (a spur of-the-moment addition by our wonderful server.) The mousse (made with almonds, dark chocolate, cardamom and coffee meringue,) was decadent and rich. Oh, and that latte!? It was something else! Our waitress told us she had worked at a coffee place (awhile ago) and had mastered her coffee-making skills. Actually, she said: “I was a slave to making lattes.” Whatever she did, she has some mad coffee making skilllz. Hats off to her!

The presentation alone is enough to impress anyone who dines at GK Bistronomie, but mix that with the fact that the food actually tastes amazing and the people who run the place are really cool and you can’t go wrong. At this restaurant, food isn’t just love, #FoodIsArt and that’s why it’s one of my favorite things. Cheers!

Where:

GK Bistronomie is located in the heart of the Wynwood Art District (about a block away from the Wynwood Walls.) The artsy area is slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Magic City. From speciality stores to cutting edge restaurants and bars, it’s definitely one of the most impressive and provocative parts of Miami. Street parking is tricky in this area because of the high volume of traffic (more so on the weekends,) but they have a valet right out in front of the restaurant that’s pretty quick and efficient (at least from my experience.)

When:

Monday-Saturday 11:30am-11:30pm, Sunday 11:30am-10:30pm

www.gkbistronomie.com
786-477-5151
FB: GK Bistronomie Twitter: @GkbWynwood IG: @gkbwynwood

Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all of your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.Ernest Hemingway
Dress: @HotMiamiStyles Duster: @KoreBoutique Shoes: @alepel_byadrianaPhotographer: James Woodley
Stylist: Jackie Kay
Producer/Blogger: Shireen Sandoval

Shireen’s Spotlight: TiramesU

TiramesU

TiramesU

TiramesU

TiramesU

TiramesU

What:

TiramesU, 101 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida, 33139

Why:

Warm, sophisticated and Hampton-esque, TiramesU is the kind of restaurant that looks like the backdrop of a Nancy Myer movie (think the kitchen scenes in “It’s Complicated.”) Not only is it incredibly easy on the eyes, the food is delightful, interesting and provocative. I especially loved the duck; it was succulent and trimmed in a generous portion of chargrilled kale. I’m still dreaming about it. Before I get ahead of myself, though, let’s start from the beginning…

TiramesU is a Miami Beach staple, opening back in the 80’s on the corner of Ocean Drive and 5th. Eventually, the Italian cuisine eatery relocated to famed-Lincoln Road, serving locals and tourists for almost twenty years. Sometimes, though, change is good and in this case, it’s outstanding. TiramesU has revamped and relocated back to its original location: South of Fifth.

I started my Friday night Spotlight in the restaurant’s bustling bar area, perched-up at a hightop right next to a gigantic picturesque window (perfect for SoBe people watching.) I tried three signature cocktails: “MoonShine Mule” (blackberry infused grappa, ginger beer, lime juice and agave,) “Heart Beet” (pineapple infused vodka, beet, orange and lime) and last but not least, “Claudio’s Sour” (rye, raspberries, egg whites, lemon juice, rosemary and balsamic.)

The Mule was major; strong and layered with flavors. The beet drink was earthy; reminding me of something you’d get at a juice bar, with a little extra zing to it (vodka) and the sour? It was my fave. I’m told it’s named after the bartender. He or she must be fresh, sultry and delicious. It tasted like a sophisticated cosmo (with more depth and pizazz.)

I love it when an appetizer rivals a meal in taste and creativity. Case in point, the “Capesante” (scallop carpaccio with strawberries and almonds.) It was fresh, flavorful and extremely photogenic, but it was the “Polpo” that totally blew me away (mediterranean octopus, potatoes, crispy speck and salsa verde.) It was perfectly tenderized; mixed with savory potatoes, it completely stole my heart. The “Burrata” (made from local cheese, tomatoes and yummy balsamic) was an interesting twist on a classic dish.

For dinner; the aforementioned “Anatra” is a must-have (honey glazed duck breast, apple puree and chargrilled kale.) Hmmm…I’ll definitely be back for more! If duck’s not your thing, there’s the beautifully plated “Salmone” (scottish salmon fillet, red beets and sour cream,) sure to satisfy any fish-lover’s pallet.

And the moment we’ve all been waiting for…DESSERT. I bet you can’t guess what I had at a restaurant named TiramesU? Yep, the absolute mind-blowing “TiramesU Trio,” including strawberry, espresso with chocolate and red pepper and finally, mixed berries. Each flavor was smooth, creamy and decadent. I think the espresso with chocolate and red pepper was my favorite. It was so interesting and the flavors unveiled themselves in layers.

The “Semifreddo” (made with semi-frozen cassata, ricotta cheese, candied fruit and blood orange sauce) was amazing, too. I especially loved its presentation. TiramesU is a gorgeous restaurant with a first class kind-of vibe and the food is just as sophisticated; that’s why it’s one of my favorite things.

Where:

TiramesU has taken up residence on Miami Beach’s South of Fifth. The neighborhood is the restaurant’s original home and it fits perfectly snuggled in next store to Red Steakhouse. Street parking is always tough on the beach, but there’s a valet front and center, as well as a public lot catty-corner from the front of the restaurant. Cheers!

When:

Sunday-Thursday 6pm-12am, Friday-Saturday 6pm-1am Bar open until 2am.

Reservations: www.tiramesu.com or 305-532-4538
Twitter: @TiramesuSOFl IG: @tiramesusofi FB: TiramesU

I think every woman should own a blowtorch.Julia Child
Photographer: James Woodley
Producer: Jessie Rosario
wardrobe: www.HotMiamiStyles.com
IG & Twitter: @HotMiamiStyles
necklace: @jillzaleski bracelet & rings: @lalacouturegirl

Shireen’s Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

Shireen's Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

Shireen's Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

Shireen's Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

Shireen's Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

Shireen's Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

Shireen's Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

Shireen's Spotlight: Via Verdi Cucina Rustica

What:

Via Verdi 6900 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida 33138

Why:

I immediately fell in love with this rustically romantic new hot spot, with it’s sprawling outdoor patio, ivy covered trellises and charming indoor seating. Not only does Via Verdi have a really great vibe, it has amazing food, too. Which has everything to do with its owners; twin chef brothers, Nicola and Fabrizio Carro and mixologist extraordinaire, Cristiano Vezzoli.

The three Italian-born, fun-loving guys have years of restaurant experience between them and you can totally tell. Upon my arrival, my wish was their command. They want everyone to be happy and enjoy their dining experience. First, I was served a drink called “Caipiwi 69” and yes, it blew my mind. With fresh kiwi, lime, sugar and champagne, I couldn’t stop sipping. Thankfully, there was an “I wanna taste it, too” intervention. Next, a martini called “Bitter,” but how could you be mad at something with aperol, campari, bitters, orange juice and a splash of gin?

While the drinks were tasty, the food was nothing short of mesmerizing. I started with a yummy assaggi platter with fresh cheese, smoked prosciutto, salami and mascarpone/gorgonzola mousse. I really hit my stride, though, with the “Brazino Al Forno” (roasted sea bass with clams, olives, cherry tomatoes and capers.) It was so succulent, clean and fresh, I became an official Via Verdi convert. As if that didn’t do the trick, they served me up some of their amazing Strozzapreti. The lamb ragu, with fresh peas and pecorino flakes is to DIE FOR (all pictured in the blog.) If it was a boy, I would have asked him to marry me.

If you long for romance, go to Via Verdi at night; the twinkling lights surrounding the restaurant give it a Nancy Myers movie set-like atmosphere. If you wanna dine during the day, the patio (draped with fresh greenery) will give you just the right amount of shade to make your day. Monday is a great night to go; they offer 50% off selected plates from their “All Day Menu.”

Where:

Via Verdi is in what’s considered Miami’s Upper East Side off of Biscayne Boulevard and 69th street (east of Little Haiti.) My crew and I giggled with glee when we saw the restaurant’s free parking sign. There’s a parking lot in the back of the building with plenty of spaces to spare (and I went on a Friday night.)

When:

Sunday-Thursday 11am-11pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-12pm

www.viaverdimiami.com
Twitter: @ViaVerdiMiami
IG: @ViaVerdiMiami
FB: Via Verdi Italian Restaurant
Reservations: 786-615-2870 or online

Age and glasses of wine should never be counted.Italian Proverb

Vintage Dress: Hollen & Jen Vintage Showroom
Shoes: Miu Miu
Jewelry: Jill Zaleski – One of a Kind Jewelry

Editor: Matthew Auerbach
Photographer: James Woodley
Producer: Jessie Rosario
Writer: Shireen Sandoval