Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jimmy Lucibello-Maine Equality Award

Congrats to Ogunquit's own Jimmy Lucibello for being the recipient of distinguished The Cameron Duncan Equality Maine award. Jimmy came to Ogunquit 10 years ago for the summer and never left. Jimmy works for the Frannie Peabody Center. The Frannie Peabody Center is the largest community-based HIV/AIDS services organization in Maine, providing prevention services for at-risk groups and direct services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Jimmy heads up a men’s group called "Get Out Ogunquit". The group connects and supports gay and bisexual men through education and community activities. The group meets Mondays in Ogunquit. Locals, and tourists alike, attend these safe, non-judgemental weekly meetings. The group is sponsored by the Franny Peabody Center. Lucibello has also been involved with HIV education within the Franny Peabody Center as a peer support person.
I have known Jimmy since he lived in Chelsea, MA over 10 years ago. Jimmy has been an: educator, innkeeper for Black Boar Inn, bartender, and social activist. If there is a worthwhile cause, Jimmy is always there: Special Olympics, animal Welfare, HIV/AIDS support,  Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce, Maine Foster Children’s Christmas; and gay marriage/Vote No on One.  Lucibello has tirelessly worked in various campaigns that involve equal rights, social justice and helping others.

People like Jimmy, are another reason why I call Ogunquit home. His positive outlook on life, and his effervescent personality shines beautifully like the meaning of his name in Italian: beautiful light!

Jimmy was recently visiting Wilton Manors, FL for a much needed vacation.

Again, Congrats to Jimmy Lucibello, this year's winner of the Maine Equality Award!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Primanti Brothers Pizza & Grill

The best thing about south Florida is that there are so many people that have come from different places: Caribbean, South America, Europe, New England and other states. People bring their culinary talents with them, so there is always a reason to go out and try a new restaurant.
In Fort Lauderdale there are two Pizzeria's known as Primanti Brothers. I've heard about the famous Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylavania (yes, that Primanti Brothers as seen on Food Network). Since 1933 Primanti Bros in Pittsburgh features giant hoagies topped with French fries and cold slaw. Food for the workingman! No silverware needed! After visiting Primnati's on Oakland Park Blvd, I soon realized this is the same owner, and the same food.
My Buddy and I were hankering for some Italo-American style Pizza. Not the franchise pizza version, which dots Florida and most of the USA, but rather the good old fashion Pizzeria style pizza. To my surprise this is what Primanti Bros pizza is: the type of pizza I grew up with!
While Growing up in Somerville, MA, and living in Boston's Italian district of the North End, pizzeria pizza was always: available, reasonably priced, and fresh. Yes, I am a bit of a pizza snob, and don’t like most pizza places. So, I gave Primanti Bros a shot. I was pleasantly surprised! We got an 18 inch large pizza with 5 toppings ( $16.95). The crust was thin, the sauce was sweater than most pizzas with fresh tomatoes, and the ingredients were fresh: onions, mushrooms etc ( not canned!).

The Primanti Bros on Oakland Park Blvd is a sports bar-cum-pizzeria. A row of  comfortable seating booths lines the front window; and there are also dining tables. There is a lively bar where you can have a beer and a slice, and watch pizza being made. Live sports or music videos are on numerous TV’s in the pizzeria. The walls are lined with Pittsburgh sports memorabilia. The staff was friendly, and helpful.

The beach location on A1A, is a "must visit" If you are visiting Ft Lauderdale.  If you want to sit down and have a nice dinner with friends and family visit the Okaland Plark Blvd location. The beach location is a bit different. Open 24 hours and it is rumored that there are no keys for the door. Late night party revelers, bikini clad patrons (both male and female), night owls and everything in between can be seen at the beach location. Sometimes after midnight there is a line out the door!

Primanti Brothers menu features many Italo-American style comfort staples: Spaghetti, penne, ravioli, and pizza. Sports bar food, like Buffalo wings, burgers, etc. And the famous sandwiches topped with fries and coleslaw (onions by request!), man-sized of course! These Pittsburgh transplants get it right!

The Details:
Primanti Brothers
516 Oakland Park Blvd
Fort Lauderdale, FL 3334
Food: Good
Style: Italo-American Pizzeria, with Pittsburgh style sandwiches, sports bar food
Price: Very reasonable. Specials during the middle of the week
Attitude: Friendly

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marginal Way Redux

Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce claims "Ogunquit is New England's most walkable resort".  Ogunquit offers three great walking venues: village, beach and Marginal Way.
The Marginal Way is an old Indian trail the meanders from the village centre and hugs the rocky coast to picturesque Perkins Cove. The Marginal Way starts at Shore Road after the Sparhawk Hotel. From the inn, walk to the end of School Street on to Shore Road, and the entrance is just a few feet to the east.
Winter is a great time to hike the Marginal Way. A stroll on the Marginal Way is "must do" while visiting Ogunquit, and an added benefit to partake in the winter! Gone are the throngs of tourists.  During winter the Marginal Way is quiet and serene with beautiful views.
Today, Mike noticed a seal sun bathing on the rocky coast. (notice at the bottom of the picture). During winter seals will periodically luxuriate on the smooth rocks and nap during the winter's day.

The views from Marginal Way are amazing: the long immaculate stretch of sand known as Ogunquit beach to the north; to the south the rocky fragmented coast with small quiet beaches and tidal pools.

The Marginal Way is approximately 1 1/4 mile each way. At the end of the Marginal Way sits Perkins Cove. Perkins Cove is a harbor for lobsterman and fisherman. Boats sit safely in the cove against the headwinds of the Atlantic. The "Cove" features a unique wooden pedestrian drawbridge; harbormaster's shack, fine dining, artist's galleries and shops. During the winter, just a few restaurants are open ( Jackies Too, and MC Perkins). The Cove is a working harbor with lobstermen and fishermen bringing in their catch of the day!

Glacier movements from the last ice age created  the cliff formations along the Marginal Way. The rocky cliffs and rocks jutts out to the Atlantic surf. During winter the air is freash with seasalt. A walk during winter on the Marginal Way is good for the body and the soul. There is always something to see, smell and taste!
Soon the town will awake from its winters nap, snow birds will migrate back, tour buses will truck though the narrow roads, and presidents will be dining at Barnacle Billy's for lunch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter in Ogunquit......2010

Even though I spend winters away (Florida, Costa Rica, south America), I have spent many winters in Ogunquit.  There were many winters that we've kept this craftsman style B&B  open.

There is a quiet beauty with the fresh snowfall.  The air is crisp, and clean. The sky is bluest of blue. Flocks of birds compete with squirrels for food. The tourists are few, and so are the residents. Winter is a time to take stock, reflect, and work on some inside projects. Its also the time go away to warmer environs and recharge for the upcoming season!

My partner, Michael went back to Ogunquit  this week to do some projects in the house. This picture of the front of the house is from today's snowstorm. Typically we get snow in February. This year the weather is quite seasonal for February: freezing at night, and hovering above freezing during the day.

The ocean reflects with the winter sky a kaleidoscope of colors at sunrise and again at sunset. Even during a cold wintry day, the sky is a deep blue.

School Street  toward Shore Road.  To the right the magnificent Marginal Way, to the left the beach. On that thought, I will stay right here in Fort Lauderdale until the snow melts......Soon it will be April, and like many of the migratory birds I will return, and Ogunquit Beach Inn will reopen!

The Marginal Way before the yesterday's storm.......

Its now its time for Mike to relax next to the wood pellet stove for the evening, and watch the sun melt into the snow...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lester's Diner Fort Lauderdale

This classic style diner located moments from Fort Lauderdale's 17th Street seaport area is popular with locals and visitors. This shiny chrome diner has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Greek flare since 1967. Lester's Diner is open 24 hours and has an extensive menu. The waitresses are very friendly and a bit on the kitschy side.

Lester's features a wide chrome counter, booths and a larger dining room. There is plenty of parking, and the diner is large.

I had a vigorous  one and a half hour swim workout this morning, so I needed a hearty breakfast. I invited my buddy Jay, who is always up for a good meal!

I got the omelet with feta cheese and spinach. Home fries and toast accompanied the meal. The omelet was perfect! The home fries were just average.
Jay got chicken friend steak with mashed potatoes, the perfect greasy spoon meal. Both meals were hearty, and service was perfect and prompt. The menu is extensive with: pancakes, French toast, pot roast, soups, huge salads, and Greek gyros. Many of the desserts are homemade, and the baklava  is popular with the patrons. The extensive menu also features Italian and seafood specialties.

 Depending what time of the day you go, the clientele can be interesting and entertaining! ( present company excluded, of course!).

The Details:
Lester's Diner
250 W State Route 84
Ft Lauderdale, FL
Telephone:  954.525.5641
American diner with a Greek flare.
Rating: Good

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Las Colinas Cuban Cuisine

This Cuban diner located in Wilton Manors is a favorite with locals, police officers and gym boys. The decor is Latin American (lime green walls, large mirrors, tile floor and plastic flowers). The food is plentiful and distinctly Cuban/Caribbean. Las Colinas features a wide dining counter, a take-away window for a quick cefecito; and plenty of tables for dining.

While in South Florida for the winter, I go to Las Colinas at least two or three times a week. The food is consistently good, fresh and delicious. It’s the perfect place to bring out of town friends visiting during the winter. I brought my good friends Tony, Mike and Kevin to Las Colinas and they were pleasantly surprised. Surprised not only by the good food, but also at how reasonable the prices were!

The owner Juan greeted us and sat us down. He had us sample the oxtail special. Juan likes to make sure that people are well fed. He supervises the kitchen, servers and all staff. Food is his passion and it shows! The guys liked the oxtail meat, but opted for the pan de ropa vieja (shredded beef sandwich), Sandwich Cubano and I got the sandwich de pollo.

All meals start with of  a basket of tostada Cubana, Cuban bread toasted. Most of the sandwiches are served with fries ( however, the classic Cuban sandwich does not come with fries) We got a side of arroz moros (Cuban black beans and rice), which were more than enough for the four of us!
The sandwiches are made with Cuban bread, stuffed with meat, and veggies. The sandwich I am holding is half of a chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich is whole chicken breast, shreadded lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and topped with potato sticks.  Grilled on a Cuban press by a Sandwichera. After our meal we got cafecitos and flan. The total for the check came to $32 for 4 people.

The Details:
Las Colinas
2724 N Andrews Ave
Wilton Manors 33311
Sandwiches start at $4.99 to 6.99
Side of arroz de moros $2.50
Telephone 954 390 7410
Price: Very reasonable.
Service: Good
Quality: great
Attitude: friendly

Las Colinas is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other specialties are Lechon Asado ( roasted pork), Seafood with rice, Churrasco (house flank steak). Roasted chicken, etc. Atmosphere is casual with a wide range of folks dining. This Cuban diner is located in a funky plaza that also houses a  neighborhood gay bar called Monkey Business.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Running on Fort Lauderdale Beach

I run virtually everyday since 2004. Running is important to me. It keeps me happy and healthy. I've ran during snow storms in Ogunquit Maine.  I have ran through steep mountains in Costa Rica. While running in Buenos Aires, I have fallen on crowded sidewalks. In the summer time, I will run 5 to 7 miles and then go to work on a Mt Bike for 8 hours with 20 pounds of gear on. I guess you could say that: I am a runner!
 One of my favorite runs is Fort Lauderdale Beach. I live in South FL for the winter. Winter time in south Florida is perfect for running. There are so many runners, races and great places to run. I run on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The beach is beautiful: There are long shady stretches with clusters of plam trees and seagrapes. There is a sidewalk that runs parallel to the beach. The sidewalk is marked with mile markers!

Route A1A hugs the ocean. I start at the north side of the beach and run south to Fort Lauderdale's "South Beach Park" and back. If I am motivated, I'll run to 17th street causeway and back. The run is 5 to 6 miles daily. This is also part of the route for the A1A Marathon/Half Marathon. I have done the last four half marathons.  Its truly a pleasure to see the ocean, surfers, runners, swimmers, tourists, locals and cruise ships. There is something interesting to see everyday!

My run takes me past the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Las Olas Drive, Sunrise Boulevard, Bonnet House Museum, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
The only thing that stops me is blinding rain. I am not a treadmill guy. The mechanics of running en plein aire, and on a machine are completely different. I dont feel like I am getting a good workout on a machine. And, with beautiful scenery everyday, why wouldn't I run??

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Swimming with Hammherheads......

Warm up!
300 yards swim
300 yards pull down ( with "Pull/Pool Buoy").

Ok,  first drill 12 x 50 yard 'pull' swims ( with pool buoy) in 1 minute 10 second intervals. Every third 25 yard breathing every fifth stroke!

Now the workout starts! ( 1650 yards or one pool  mile. completed in 26.08 minutes) 66 laps

Swim 500 yards rest 20 seconds,
Swim 400 yards, rest 20 seconds
Swim 300 yards, rest 20 seconds,
Swim 200 yards, rest 20 seconds,
Swim 100 yards, rest 10 seconds,
Swim 50 yards, rest 10 seconds, (Coach yelling "ALL OUT")
Swim 50 yards, rest 10 seconds,
Swim 50 yards, and now your done!

As a child growing up in the city of Somerville MA, my dad took me to swimming lessons in the winter time. In the summer I was sent to overnight camp in New Hampshire or Maine. It was at camp where I had more lessons and my love for swimming grew. One year, the coach at camp was an Olympic swimmer from 1968 Summer games! ( I thought that was really cool!).I played water polo at College for three years, and I played in a summer league in Bermuda in 1982.

Now that I spend winters in Florida, I swim with the Hammerhead Aquatics Masters Swim Club. This internationally recognized club/team has some great members, and a nationally ranked coach, John Grzeszczak. When going to practice,  I never know what to expect for drills or workouts. Coach John will push us in different directions: sometimes we will focus on speed, agility, or stroke. Working out  in a speedo  in south Florida during the winter, too much fun!
I love swimming in Florida. All the pools are outdoors, and heated to at least 81 degrees. Fort Lauderdale is known as the swimming capital of America, its home to the International Swimming Hall of Fame

Part of our prerequisite for buying a house in FL, is that it had to have a  gratuitous pool ( not a dipping pool, which is now de rigueur in south Florida...). Our pool is 30 feet long!

I think mission statements are important. They reflect the philosophy of the organization. This is the Hammerhead mission statement:

Our mission is to promote swimming as a form of exercise and lifelong friendships as a member club of UNITED STATES MASTERS SWIMMING. We accept anyone regardless of race,age,disability, or economic income. We are also active in our community to help the less fortunate through fundraising in the local community and giving of ourselves. We want to create a great life experience for each individual in our program.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana

Most large cities have ethnic enclaves: Chinatown, Little Italy, Korea Town and so-forth.
Miami has "Little Havana". This neighborhood is centered around SW 8th Street ( Calle Ocho). It is the political and cultural center of the Cuban-American community.  Ground zero for the exile community is the Versailles Restaurant (pronounced Ber-Sigh-Es) on Calle Ocho!
Since 1971 this restaurant has been the gathering place for anti-Castro dissidents.
Restaurant is decorated with a variety of etched mirrors, and ornate faux chandeliers.  There are variety of dining rooms with a dessert bar, coffee bar, take-away cafe, and pastry shop. The  Versailles restaurant is large, and seems to maze into several buildings. I have always liked this haunt, because its the place were Cubans go, its  not a tourist trap, but rather good-old-fashioned Cuban cuisine. The menu is extensive, and price points are modest!
My buddy Jay got the "arroz amarillo con pollo. This dish was served with a heaping mound of yellow rice, filled with chicken, peas, hard boiled egg, and served with delicious plantains, and  tostado ( Cuban toasted bread).
No meal would not be complete with a "cafecito" and a "postre". Need I say more! The visit to the bake shop is worth the trip alone!
There is adequate off-street parking for Versailles. Located at 3555 SW 8th St, Miami 33315. Phone 305.444.0240 All major credit cards accepted. Often busy, but the wait is well worth the trip!
Clik here for Map

After leaving Versailles , we headed east on Calle Ocho and took in the sights. The irony of "Little Havana" is that it looks nothing like Havana, Cuba.
Old "Havana" has sections of old decaying buildings, but lacks the vibrant businesses of Little Havana. Havana Cuba was cleaner and there were no homeless people sleeping in the streets. Calle Ocho is littered with debris and the recession has taken its toll, with empty store fronts and dirty sidewalks.

Another place of interest in Little Havana is "Domino Park".
This city park comprises a few thousand feet along SW 8th Street (Calle Ocho), and features a pavilion were older Cuban men play, dominoes, chess and checkers. This city park is staffed with a Park Ranger due to that the old men would fight amongst themselves!
Members from the exile community spend endless hours playing various board games in this "plaza" city park. There are dozens of coffee shops and food stalls on Calle Ocho, its worth a visit if you are visiting south Florida. But remember, its not a replacement for La Habana!
Blogger/Innkeeper Gregorio enjoys Calle Ocho and plaza de la revolucion....