Monday, June 4, 2012

Blue Collar

It’s rare you discover a restaurant in Miami where you feel as much love in the environment as you do at Blue Collar, found on Biscayne Boulevard and NE 68th Street. A tiny gourmet diner that makes up for what it lacks in size with food that’s exponentially tastier than any diner fare you’ve ever dabbled in, Blue Collar is the self-actualization of owner/executive chef Daniel Serfer, a bold culinary whiz who took a chance at cooking the cuisine he’s most passionate about to see if the palates of the public feel the same. So far, his investment has proven to be spot-on, with locals flocking to Blue Collar since its opening in mid-January.

Chef Serfer’s menu features elevated interpretations of what a highly-skilled grandmother would cook, utilizing classic techniques and the best ingredients he can get his hands on. He crafts a rib special (baby backs, spares, prime rib, short ribs, etc.) a braise special (brisket, ox tails, pork shoulder...), and a parm special (chicken, veal, eggplant...) everyday, in addition to mouthwatering sandwiches -- like tempura grouper po’ boys and homemade veggie burgers -- salads (like Jen’s zero-anchovy Caesar), and fresh catch, including grilled swordfish and crispy-skin snapper.  There are also globally-influenced “noshes,” an extensive selection of vegetable dishes that will convert haters into absolute fanatics, and wine and craft beer galore -- everything you could possibly want in an affordable chill spot.
First, I sampled some noshes: Cuban sandwich spring rolls with Serrano ham and Manchego, wild mushroom and goat cheese croquettes with tart pomegranate-fig jam, and Chanukah latkes (a.k.a. potato pancakes, served year-round, thank goodness), topped with homemade applesauce -- marvelous offerings, indeed. Next, a plate of pork and beans, blanketed with a fried egg and served with thick triangles of buttered toast -- not like the stuff you’re used to pouring from a can. With a sweet, smoky barbecue flavor and flecked with savory bits of bacon and Berkshire sausage, these simmered white beans are anything but ordinary, and the richness of the egg yolk takes you further to the edge of decadence. 

After non-stop devouring, I took a break to enjoy some IBC root beer and my immediate surroundings:  a packed house, the gray wall to my right adorned with funky old-fashioned lunch boxes, and an open kitchen straight ahead, with two chefs grinding it out in a state of completely-controlled chaos.  Then, one of them sauntered right over to my table with a platter of four different veggies to sample. 
It was Chef Serfer himself, and he was making his rounds throughout the restaurant to see if everything was exceeding his diners’ expectations -- and building solid relationships with his clientele.  It would’ve been impossible for me to choose four things from the 20-plus items on his “Veg Chalkboard,” so Chef Serfer selected his favorites -- caramelized Brussels sprouts, green peas with mint and extra-virgin olive oil, mango chow with citrus and jalapeno, and roasted artichoke hearts with lemon aioli. Each one was top-notch, and you can pick your own favorite four for just $14 to create a vegetable plate for the ages, including grilled asparagus with blue cheese, roasted beets with goat cheese, homemade french fries, and buttered baby bok choy. 

Shrimp and grits came next, and Blue Collar’s version is fantastic. Trugole cheese gives his grits a mashed potato consistency, and the shrimp come swimming in a spicy, New Orleans-style BBQ sauce. The baby back ribs and braised brisket were equally spectacular; both incredibly tender and served with delicious sides like “warm bacony potato salad,” full of buttery fingerlings and heavenly bits of smoky bacon, and curried cauliflower puree, with seductive sweetness and subtle spice. 

With a staff that radiates positive energy and cuisine that makes you feel like you’re back in grandma’s kitchen, Blue Collar has earned a place in my heart (and its food a spot in my stomach).  It’s even worth going to just for dessert -- like the butterscotch heath bar bread pudding, made with challah and dolloped with cayenne-kicked whipped cream.  With wallet-friendly, creative, feel-good food and a welcoming crew, Blue Collar is truly a place where anyone can go for an excellent plate of grub that’s heavy on the love

What a Mom Wants…

To cherish our sunshine, to kiss our cuts & scrapes, to hear all about everything that matters to us…

AroundTown brings you our TOP ideas to give back to the Mom in your life with something meaningful, something relaxing and most of all, a little bit of the ones she loves…
Our busy lives don’t leave much time for really being present in special moments with our families. Taking a class provides for some great quality time to reconnect & just enjoy with your mom. 

A cooking class is a delicious & fun way to spend an evening together as a family or just with mom.  Families that cook together, stay together!  Try Lenore Nolan-Ryan Cooking School’s regular weekly classes that are hands-on, fun and informative. Check out the Spring Schedule for a broad variety of classes to choose from – find the perfect one for your date night with mom! Visit • 954.300.1055

Create a unique & lasting memento by commissioning one of the many artists at Bakehouse Art Complex to create a custom portrait of the kids, the grandkids or mom herself.  The Bakehouse provides portable studio space for artists so that you can choose to do something classic or funky in various media from watercolor, oil, collage, sculpture, etc.  Instructional opportunities are also available.  Visit for more information or email
For nature and history lovers, a unique opportunity to take your mom on a stroll through the lovely green splendor of Coconut Grove in the cool evening with HistoryMiami Eco-historian Frank Schena. Learn about the early residents, the abundant flora and fauna, and the various environmentalists that have called this neighborhood home such as Marjorie Stoneman Douglas. Mother’s Day Coconut Grove Twilight Eco-Walk Tour scheduled for Sunday, May 13 from 7-9 p.m. advanced reservations and payment are required. Email or call • 305.375.1621

Mom’s with little ones are always looking for fun ways to entertain. Miami Science Museum took on the task for Mother’s Day weekend and added some bonuses for mom! Saturday before Mother’s Day, May 12th from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Miami Science Museum will have fun activities for the whole family; Mom’s Quick Fix workshop - hosted by our MiaSci Moms, giveaways, Food Trucks and more! Moms receive a free entry for the day! Children & adults regular museum admission. For more information visit

What Mom doesn’t love a show with her special someone or even the whole family? A unique experience where Classical Music meets Contemporary Dance with the CrossTown String Quartet and Karen Peterson and Dancers are performing at the New World School of the Arts on Mother’s Day, May 13th at 4pm.  All Mothers get ½ price tickets. Tickets are available at the door. For information visit

Jewelry is the quintessential Mother’s Day gift, but here is an option with a twist...  Shantilly jewelry, designed by Shandi Levy, developed from the mastery of childhood crafting where a mother taught her daughter to create artwork and accessories using scraps of fabric. This knowledge evolved into an eclectic & unique line of designer jewelry incorporating vintage scarves and exotic textiles. So if you have access to grandma’s scarf, or a special piece of fabric, you can transform your keepsake into a gorgeous jewelry memento for the mom in your life. For new moms, Shandi’s unique, customized ring collection, S.L., can display the names or initials of their little babes so that they may carry them wherever they go.  Shantilly and S.L. may be found at GUYandGIRL (Shelborne Hotel) or at
The joys of treating your mom to a relaxing day with you... and maybe even some cocktails (if age appropriate). Turnberry Isle Miami Resort offers “Mom Rocks,” which includes a 60-minute Hot Stone massage, an express Facial and Turnberry Pedicure, plus access to the state-of-the-art fitness center and the resort’s tranquil Cascata Pool. Available through May 31, 2011. To reserve the “Mom Rocks” spa package, visit • call (305) 933-6930

Every Mother’s Day needs a brunch so here is our pick for the year.
Deering Estate at Cutler’s annual Mother’s Day Brunch on Sunday, May 13, 2012, from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. You will find a variety of appetizing dishes and desserts provided by Chef David Schwadron. Continue the experience by touring the grand Stone House and historic Richmond Cottage, and take in the natural beauty and grandeur of the Estate. This 444-acre natural and archeological preserve and historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Kids ages 4 and under brunch for free. Advance reservations are required. For more information and to view the menu, please visit • 305-235-1668 ext. 233.

26TH Israel Film Festival Miami

Enriching the American vision of Israeli life and culture through the powerful medium of film, the Israel Film Festival has definitively become the largest showcase of Israeli films in the United States.  Running May 2-10, 2012 in Miami, this 26th anniversary year celebrates the finest of Israeli cinema, encompassing over 25 dynamic titles, including award-winning features, documentaries, and student shorts.

Opening Night Gala Salsa Celebration is a Tribute to the Intercultural Exchange Between the Latino and Israeli Communities Featuring the Florida Premiere of Johanan Weller’s Hebrew/Spanish Language Film, Salsa Tel Aviv.

This exciting red carpet event will kick off with a reception at Rouge Waterfront Dining and then will proceed to the Intracoastal Cinemas for the Awards Presentation and Premiere Screening of Salsa Tel Aviv.

Salsa Tel Aviv is a musical romantic comedy abundant with vibrant humor and sensuality. It centers on Vicky (Angelica Vale), a talented Mexican Salsa dancer and a single mother who journys to Israel in pursuit of her ex-husband in order to reunite her family. On the plane she meets Yoni, a young Israeli scientist, who is on his way back to Israel to marry his rich girlfriend, Dafna. Vicki and Yoni are from completely different worlds – almost everything divides them: religion, culture and social class. Despite everything, they slowly develop a romance filled with passion, jealousy, misunderstandings and comical situations, resulting in a surprise twist ending that no one sees coming. (2011, 100 min.)

In the last two and a half decades, the Israel Film Festival has presented nearly 800 feature films, documentaries, television dramas and short films to over 900,000 filmgoers and brought hundreds of Israeli filmmakers to the U.S. to share their art. 

YAA Celebrates Grand Opening of New Museum & Broward County Library

On Saturday, May 5 and Sunday, May 6 with the grand opening of the spectacular new 55,000 square-foot Young At Art Museum and Broward County Library in Davie, Fla. A weekend of exciting celebrations and festivities is planned for the new Museum, which will be the epicenter of cultural arts education for children and their families.

Young At Art Museum will feature four permanent, themed galleries: GreenScapes, which encourages children and adults to reconnect with nature by discovering the potential of art to call attention to environmental issues; CultureScapes, which celebrates and brings new understanding of our culturally diverse world through the eyes and art of contemporary artists; WonderScapes, a world of imagery dedicated to childhood development through art, literacy and play; and ArtScapes, which provides a thematic journey of art history where art crosses time, place and culture.  All four galleries were designed by the award-winning team of Peter and Sharon Exley of Chicago-based Architecture Is Fun, Inc., whose firm has dedicated its practice to creating family friendly designs meant to stimulate and educate young minds about the world around them. Projects include the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum and the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Visitors also will enjoy the unique YAA Institute, Showcased-Artist Studios/Installations, a National Traveling Exhibition Gallery, a Teen Center and Recording Studio, a Museum Gift Shop, the Tossed Up Salad Café and a 10,000 square-foot Broward County Library. A preschool and early childhood learning center will offer parents an arts-based curriculum for their young children.

“Through the joint development of this facility and its many cooperative programs, this is a groundbreaking partnership and one that we know will be a model for other museums and libraries throughout the country,” said Robert Cannon, Director of Broward County Libraries. “This unique facility will provide cooperative, hands-on computer and reading literacy programs and art education activities for families in South Florida as well as visitors.”

The Young At Art Institute features cutting edge equipment and studios that incorporate natural lighting, the truest form of illumination, especially for painting. The Young At Art Institute’s design allows students space to work outside, adding a nature component to their art education. Age-appropriate classes in painting and drawing, ceramics, mixed media, cartooning, printmaking, digital and darkroom photography and 4-D video design will be offered.

Showcased-Artists Studios/Installations will feature, among others, Kenny Scharf, Pablo Cano, Edouard Duval Carrie, Kenichi Yokono and Leonel Matheu, who collaborated with museum designers and fabricators to infuse their creative spirit and artful voice throughout the exhibition spaces.

The brainchild of artist and Young At Art Museum Executive Director Mindy Shrago, Young At Art had humble beginnings in a donated, 3,200 square-foot storefront in 1989. At a time when school arts programs were being scaled back, her focus was to make a difference in art education for children and their families in South Florida. The Museum’s exhibitions and programs quickly outgrew the space and Young At Art moved to a new expanded location in Davie in 1998.

To carry out the mission of Young At Art, “One child at a time,” Shrago formed collaborations with major corporations such as Target, IKEA, Coventry Health Care of Florida and PNC to create community outreach programs such as Target First Fridays, ArtSTART on the Go and Alice’s Wonderscapes. Under Shrago’s direction, Young At Art also conducts an arts-based program for at-risk girls in conjunction with PACE Center for Girls and ArtREACH, an after-school program dedicated to bringing the arts to children living in homeless family shelters.

“Building on 22 years of creative educational experiences and having served more than1.5 million children during that time, Young At Art has mounted its most important exhibition to date, which is the opening of our fantastic new building,” said Shrago. “By inspiring families to experience art together in meaningful ways, we are developing a new generation of tomorrow’s patrons, advocates and supporters of arts-based education.”

Projected to serve more than 500,000 children and families during its first year, the new Young At Art Museum will be a unique community gathering place and a groundbreaking model that bridges the gap between adult-oriented art museums and those specifically designed to appeal to children.

“The opening of our permanent home is testament to the steadfast support of our community, governmental and corporate partners who understand the importance of art and creative thinking and the positive impact it has on our children and families,” said Shrago.

The Museum, which is under consideration for Gold LEED-certification status by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), was designed by architect Margi Glavovic Nothard of Glavovic Studio, Fort Lauderdale. The new Museum integrates beauty, function and energy efficiency with cantilevered walls, natural woods, maximum use of natural lighting throughout the facility, a cistern for collecting rainwater, water-efficient landscaping and preferred parking for hybrid vehicles. The building itself exemplifies Young At Art’s mission of providing inspiring, interactive experiences in which art is central to shaping young minds and enriching the community, as well as a commitment to conservation and recycling. It is both a work of art and a teaching tool, incorporating the latest environmental-conscious technologies.

“There are so many environmental qualities that are an aesthetic expression of the building,” said Glavovic Nothard. “As we get ready to open, what strikes me the most about the new Young at Art Museum and the Broward County Library is a sense of the universal. Young At Art embraces everyone, yet, evokes a poetic sense of belonging and a provocative point of view.”

Young At Art is the only children’s museum in Florida and one of only six children’s museums in the nation to have achieved accreditation by the American Association of 

LARGEST Israel dance festival in the U.S. celebrates the land of Israel with more than 800 dancers on stage

Israeli Dance Troupes from Mexico, Panama, Brazil & Canada will join 600 dancers from our own Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center at the 16th edition of Festival Yachad - one of the biggest Israeli Dance Festivals around the world.

This year’s theme for Festival Yachad will be “Shir,” or in Hebrew “Music.” It will celebrate, through dance, our rich heritage and connection to the Land of Israel using colorful costumes, unique musical arrangements and choreography, dramatic sound and light effects and beautiful scenery.

“It is our way to bring Israeli Folk Dance to all segments of our community” explains Sofia Ackermann, co-chairperson of this one-of-a-kind event, when asked about why such dynamic performances in such different venues.

And, when asked about the theme - “Music”, Roger Weiger, Artistic Director of Festival Yachad, explains in details, “Each choreography will portray a different rhythm that influences our rich Israeli Folklore. We will pay tribute to decades of beautiful Hebrew songs and will celebrate many incredible Israeli artists and groups that became famous though Music Festivals like the Eurovision or Cochav Nolad. Music, being the common thread of the Festival, allows choreographers and dancers to captivate their audiences with their passion towards Israel.  All performances promise to be educational, artistic and brimming with Jewish content.”

The Bamachol Dance Program is a year-round program at the Michael-Ann Russell JCC and has over 650 dancers, ages 3-35, divided into 25 different Israeli Dance Troupes. They attend Dance Festivals around the world and this year alone their dancers traveled to Panama, Brazil, Orlando, New York, Mexico, Barcelona, Vancouver and Israel.

“It is truly a comprehensive program”, says Esther Fuhrman, co-chairperson of the Bamachol Dance Program and also a teacher and a dancer - “It is a wonderful way to educate our children about their Heritage while they perform our Jewish Traditions, besides, Israeli Dance is one of the few activities that is at the same time physical, artistic, social, educational, fun and Jewish!”  

The European Film Festival Turns Miami into the Capital of Foreign Independent Cinema

The “European Film Festival”, produced by Red Chemistry, Inc., welcomes the community and all film enthusiasts to the debut of 25 foreign independent feature films from 10 different European countries on May 31 through June 7. 

The festival is committed to bring Miami’s attention to European cultural and social issues as well as showcase a completed student feature and short film program at FIU (Florida International University) and local high schools. Students from Ischs Charter School, Miami Beach High, and Hialeah High participated in the competition by analyzing and sorting through the best European short films judged by a panel of international film experts such as directors, script writers, producers, and teachers. The festival’s educational curriculum provides students with the ability to identify tools and methods of filmmaking while exposing them to European culture and social issues. 

The best selected and winners of the European short film competition will be screened at the Key Biscayne Park on Friday, May 4, in celebration of the Festival’s kickoff. The competition is judged by a panel of international film experts such as directors, script writers, producers, and teachers. Also, on opening night, filmmaker Eva Ionesco will attend the opening night of the festival on May 31 to present her film “My Little Princess” at Miami Beach Cinematheque at 7 pm. Screenings of the European feature film program will take place at official venues, Miami Beach Cinematheque, O’Cinema and FIU South campus.