How I Spent My Florida Vacation, Part I
[Sorry this is a long post. . . feel free to chop it up into manageable segments, like a honkin' big Florida grapefruit.]
Does this look like a deadly weapon?
Can it really be a week since the HH and I took off for parts unknown in Florida? I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. Still, it’s great to be back–I’ve missed all of you (well, I did manage one peek at the blog while staying at my cousin’s house in the latter part of the trip–thanks for all the well-wishes!). Hope you all had a great week, too (“Mum, we had a great time staying with our friends at Eternal Optimist’s house, too, but time didn’t fly for us. EO is nice, but she doesn’t dole out quite as many treats as you do.”)
And here I am, back just in time for our first pelting snowstorm (about 10 cm or 4 inches, the largest snowfall so far this year). Nope, Toronto when it snows does not a welcoming city make. While I reorient myself to the city and the cold, I thought I’d give you a few highlights from last week’s holiday, in two parts. Part One: We’ll Always Have Miami.
Toronto, Day 1: Ricki and the HH Attempt to Board the Airplane.
Location: Toronto International Airport.
Ricki and the HH are screened by US customs before they board the plane. The HH, bearing no carry on luggage, saunters through the metal detector and waits on the other side for Ricki.
The Security Guard carefully unzips Ricki’s tightly packed carry-on bag and meticulously paws each and every vial, bottle, jar, bag, container, case, or pouch. He comes upon Ricki’s toothpaste and brandishes it aloft.
Security Guard: What is this, please?
Ricki: Holistic toothpaste. I don’t eat aspartame, which is in regular toothpaste.
Does THIS look like a deadly weapon?
Guard: Hmmm. [He turns the tube this way and that, gazing at it like a jeweler examining the facets of the Koh-i-Noor.] Toothpaste. [He sets the tube of toothpaste aside. He turns to Ricki's purse and begins another piece-by-piece examination.]
Guard [holding Ricki's keychain]: What is this, please?
Ricki: A keychain. [beginning to feel a little nervous, angry at self that she forgot to remove it from the purse]. It’s supposed to protect me in case I get mugged.
See? It even says, “DEFENDER” on the end, not “SECRET AGGRESSOR”!
Guard: Does it extend–? [trying to make the molded plastic bar extend.]
Guard: Just a moment, please [speaks furiously on his walkie-talkie].
The Security Manager, a young woman in her late twenties sporting a severe bun, grey fitted suit and practical flats, arrives.
Security Manager [holding the keychain]: May I see your passport, please? [Ricki hands it over.] Does this keychain extend?
Ricki: [beginning to despair]: No.
Manager: Does it contain a blade?
Ricki [panic is on its way]: No.
Manager: Please step aside, Ma’am.
Ricki [fearing she might miss her flight] Are you joking?
Manager: Well, this toothpaste exceeds the carry-on size limit. And we’ll need to check out this keychain more closely.
Ricki [barely holding it together]: You’re going to take my things away from me?! But– [face flushes red]. But that toothpaste costs $10 a tube!
The security manager speaks furiously on her walkie-talkie. Three uniformed police officers arrive. The Security Manager approaches them, Ricki’s keychain in hand.
Manager [to Police Officer #1]: What kind of weapon is this?
Police Officer #1: Well, I guess you could call it a simple club. [he smiles]
Ricki [to Police Officer #1]: Are you going to take it away from me?
PO #1: Well, you know, it could be a deadly weapon [he suppresses a giggle].
Ricki [a bit frantic now]: I’m actually more upset about my toothpaste. It’s $10 a tube!
PO #2: Well, you know, toothpaste might be considered a deadly weapon [he smiles and winks. Winks!]
PO #3: I tell you what. This isn’t, technically, a lethal weapon. So if you give it up voluntarily, you can get through the process much quicker.
Ricki: Well, if it isn’t technically a lethal weapon, what if I decide I don’t want to give it up voluntarily?
PO #3: We’ll take it away anyway.
In the end, the deadly toothpaste and keychain were, indeed, confiscated, though I was permitted to place them in storage until my return. I was then treated to a full body pat-down while the HH stood off to the side smirking and singing under his breath, “Ricki is a TERR-or-ist, Ricki is a TERR-or-ist, nyah nyah.”
To complete the Abbott and Costello air of the event, I realized the guard had retained my passport just as we approached the boarding gate; I asked an airline representative to go check for me. By the time she returned, I had found it in a fold of my purse–but she’d already arranged to have my luggage removed from the plane (since someone without a passport wouldn’t be allowed to transport her luggage, of course).
And so began our first real vacation in ten years. It could only improve from there.
Miami Beach, Day 3: Ricki and the HH meet her father’s new girlfriend.
After the initial shock of settling in South Beach (So much neon! So little green space! So many crowds! So much scalpel-enhanced cleavage!), the HH and I arranged to meet my dad and his new girlfriend for dinner. The Shore Club, where we stayed (courtesy of hotwire.com) was apparently one of the chic spots, renovated by a famous designer and proudly billed as a ”boutique hotel.” The entirely-white lobby, dotted as it was with blocks of sheer white curtains suspended from floor to ceiling at arbitrary locations, floor strewn with white mattress-sized pillows, pristine white couches and a variety of oil lamps, is described on the hotel’s website as “an eclectic mix evocative of global marketplaces.” To me, however, it seemed more evocative of ”latter day opium den.”
In fact, everything about the place (except for the room itself, which featured minimalist geometric furniture (also all white) and a floor and walls covered in–get this–concrete; that’s right: stark, cold, cement-hard concrete. No carpets, no throw rugs) seemed geared toward lethargy and dreamy relaxation. Note the actual bed in the courtyard (it’s right there beside the hammock):
Sadly, with temperatures at their coldest in the last decade, we never took advantage of the outdoor furniture or the hotel pool.
Our dinner took place at the Canyon Ranch Grill, a fortuitous find after I conducted a Google search for “Organic Restaurant Miami.” I couldn’t have been more thrilled with the menu options there–almost everything was organic, with loads of veggie dishes, prepared in a simple yet delectable manner. My own dinner consisted of a grilled vegetable salad (sans cheese or pistachios–they kindly subbed cashews instead); and three of the “Simple Eats”: Steamed Vegetable Basket, Sautéed Spinach and Garlic; and Baked Sweet Potato. Everything was superb–fresh, clean food with pure flavors, cooked to perfection.
And what about my dad’s girlfriend, you may wonder? A tyical Miami snowbird, a cross between Zsa Zsa Gabor and Phyllis Diller, Ms. Friend turned out to be a lovely woman (in fact, a lovely younger woman at 77 years old!), who was clearly besotted with my father. My dad, for his part, lapped up the attention–he’s quite a catch (according to him) at 88 as he still retains all his senses, all his hair, and his ability to play gin rummy–and dance.
Miami Beach, Day 4: Face Time for Ricki and the HH.
The following evening, the HH and I enjoyed an intimate dinner (just the two of us) at Wish, a place recommended by the concierge at our hotel. The dinner there was superb. The menu offers a vegetarian tasting option composed of any four choices from either the side dishes on the menu or the accompaniments to any of the other entrées (for instance, grilled zucchini that would normally be served alongside chicken). I began with the Wish salad, a tart, spicy, crunchy and juicy mix of bitter greens, gingered dressing and toasted cashews; followed by a platter with an Asian stir-fried vegetable salad of carrot, fennel and hijiki (I think) bathed in a chili-sesame vinaigrette; a warm, sweetly glistening butternut-edamame hash; a dainty fingerling potatoes in a red chimichurri sauce, rich and subtly spicy; and simple grilled yellow summer squash and zucchini. Yum!
Left to right, top to bottom: fingerling potatoes with chimichurri; stir-fried vegetable salad; butternut and edamame hash; and simple grilled summer squashes.
As to the ACD, I did my best to consume only “green-light” foods, but decided not to flagellate myself if I ended up eating a few non ACD-friendly items on the trip. This dietary decision led to two surprises: first, the enormous number of dishes I was able to find that easily complied with the diet’s restrictions (with the exception of a couple of salad dressings containing vinegar and the edamame-butternut hash, which I’m certain had a splash of maple syrup). The second surprise, given the volume of food I consumed, was that my weight still remains exactly where it was before the trip (whoo hoo!).
I think all Whole Foods stores should have palm trees beside them, don’t you?.
I was delighted to find a wealth of options at the local Whole Foods (they’re like McDonald’s that way, aren’t they? You can always count on them to be the same wherever you go), such as the tofu-rice salad (to the right in the display case below) which I ate along with roasted brussels sprouts for lunch our first full day in the city.
An abundance of vegan options, from green beans to tofu salad to roasted brussels sprouts. And at the back, there–could it be. . . SEITAN?
The HH and I even had a chance to stroll through the local Lincoln Mall, a series of streets closed to vehicular traffic, boasting a selection of upscale shops. Here’s the HH strolling along the pathway (coy, isn’t he?):
Note the shirt AND sweater required–and we were actually a little underdressed! Of course, it WAS the coldest winter in Miami in the last decade.
It was there I discovered a cute little café called Books and Books. Just take a look at the vegan section on their menu:
Mmmm–so many options! Should I have the Grilled Organic Tofu and Avocado Salad? Perhaps the Black & White Bean Salad? Or how about the Vegan Platter?
Of course, I determined right then that we had to have a meal at the place. We planned our final “goodbye to Miami” brunch there and showed up bright and early (10:30 AM) on the day of our departure. And then–Curses! The vegan menu applied only at lunchtime! They did offer to prepare a breakfast tofu scramble in lieu of eggs, but since I’d ingested soy three times by then, I felt I’d reached my tofu limit. We ended up back at Whole Foods, where I feasted on this:
Dolmades with 2 lentil salads (one with millet and one with quinoa). Gotta love Whole Foods!
Having consumed our final meal in Miami, we were ready to leave the carnival atmosphere and below-60F (15 C) temperatures. We packed up the rental car and bid my dad and the city adieu, heading out toward Highway 75 toward Sarasota, where we were scheduled to stay with my cousin Marketing Guru and his family.
Next Time: Fun in Sarasota. A recipe. And alligators!
Last Year at this Time: PS, I Love You: V-Day Dinner 2009
Two Years Ago: Pudding is a Virtue (raw carob-date pudding)
© 2010 Diet, Dessert and Dogs