Monday, February 21, 2011


I went to an Indian restaurant this evening called Junoon where Vikas Khanna is the Executive Chef. Having reviewed Purnima a few years back, I got word that Vikas would be heading this one. Rajesh Bhardwaj is the owner who told me that he gave up ownership of others for this one. The restaurant has a great atmosphere of being spacious and a more subtle East Indian decor. Junoon is located in Manhattan at 27 W. 24th Street. My friends Deveka and Ernie Leibovitz went with me to sample some of the menu.

I say, "some of the menu" because there are so many items to choose from there would have been no way for me to taste even a quarter of the offerings.

I'm calling this a preview because I want to comment on what made this place so special aside from the food itself. You know how one describes the service as being "impeccable"? Junoon absolutely defines the dictionary meaning of the word.

When seated, the chair was pulled out for me and assistance was given to help push it back to the table. The first person to come over had hot wet towels to cleanse your hands before eating and later came over after the dinner with hot wet towels. Great for both a cold night and not having to wash up before dinner.

There was one waiter who not only took the drink orders but was able to assist Ernie on which Cognac to choose and what to expect with the Japanese rice beer. He also made it a point to have our water glasses filled at all times.

Our waiter, Michael, was not only able to describe the contents and cooking methods of each item presented, but gave us a tale on why a particular lamb kabob came about.

After each set of sample dishes were eaten, all silverware and plates were immediately removed. The busboy would come over to clean the tablecloth of any food and when the food bit produced a stain, he brought over a cloth napkin to cover it up as the napkin matched the tablecloth.

If any of us got up to go somewhere, a waiter was there to refold the napkin and place it on the table.

Okay, it gets better. Deveka and I needed to use the restroom. Come on, you know that women never go alone if there are any other women at the table. Deveka asked the waiter for its locale and he simply said that he would walk her to the direction of where it is. He then pointed to a manager who would be taking her. However, when I got up the manager noticed that I had a bit of a limp and asked if I preferred to go upstairs or downstairs. Well, just outside of the downstairs bathrooms is the Spice Room, so I opted to take those steps. The manager extended his arm and assisted me down the stairs and then described the Spice Room. Would you believe that he was waiting for us so that he could escort me up the stairs and back to my seat?

Now I'll comment on the food. It appears that the herbs and spices are mixed each day so they can bring out the flavor of the particular menu item. That means that if you are having something with "curry" and you are allergic to cumin, it can be simply eliminated. I had noticed not only the array of spices, but tools such as a pestle and mortar and a few different types of grinders.

Having eaten Indian food, I expected my taste buds to bring back memories. They didn't. Every morsel of food had flavors that were unrecognizable probably due to the way the herbs and spices were mixed. In fact there was not one piece of food that was overpowered by the flavor of one particular spice.

Peppery, spicy, hot...don't give that to me. A few things were a bit like that just due to my palate. I simply tolerated it and concentrated on the other flavors. Deveka and Ernie are used to peppery, spicy, hot and for the first time did not request some type of sauce, etc. to heighten the hot.

Ernie said that he was spoiled and that he would find it difficult to eat at another Indian restaurant. Deveka agreed. I rank the food as being a number 10 out of 10. I had a chat with Rajesh to find that he was a former chef so he designed the menu. I will have him on my radio show this week!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Another sunny day as I walked along E. Las Olas just to stretch my legs. My cousin Dorothy was supposed to meet me at the hotel but somehow we missed each other and she went on to the Pelican Grand Beach Resort Hotel without me. I connected with her and took a taxi. Gee I haven't seen my sister cousins Dorothy Stoloff and Molla Bolnick in years! Dorothy brought her daughter, Jennifer. I'm always confused about the relationship of a cousin's offspring. Is she considered to be my second cousin? How about my father's cousin, for instance? Is that my second cousin? How do you remove a in, "second cousin, once removed"? What does that mean?

The Pelican Grand Beach Resort Hotel is one of only a few hotels that is actually located on the beach. It's a new hotel that has the appearance of one of those old hotels of like Cape May and such with a porch that goes the length of the hotel facing the ocean. It's like having a private beach club.

There are a few indoor restaurants as well as the one that we ate at, located on the porch. I mean the restaurant is inside and they serve you on the porch but not if you are seated in the rocking chairs.

I first met Bob Pallay, the Food and Beverage Manager who led me out to the porch where my cousins were hanging out. As I got seated, Bob and the waitress searched for them and brought them to the table. First conversation focused on who I looked father or my mother.

We all ordered a different lunch. I had announced that I would be taking photos of the food. Molla said, "Why don't you order a Bloody Mary. They make great Bloody Marys. Do you like them spicy? I don't." She then turned to the waitress and requested two Bloody Mary's without tabasco sauce..

I ordered the seafood soup to start. Just as my soup came to the table, Executive Chef Jessica Simon approached to introduce herself. As she was talking with me, Molla took my spoon and began to mix the soup. I heard Dorothy say something about that I was going to take a photo. As the conversation with Jessica continued, Molla then tasted like three spoonfuls of the soup saying how delicious it was and then put the spoon back into the soup.

Jessica left and I turned to Molla and laughed. "You're so Jewish", I said. "I grew up where we sat at the table and nobody cared whose fork or spoon was used". "Sure", she said. "You're family. You could have a cold, doesn't matter as long as you're family!" I went into laughter.

My main dish was a rack of barbecued ribs with corn and french fries. I then asked if I could substitute a salad for the corn and fries as I knew how much starch I would be having after we left. Everyone "tasted" and all loved the food. Robert Keesler, the General Manager came over to introduce himself.

We took some photos around the porch and one at the bar located inside the hotel. Then it was off to Pan'e Dolci's main location on East Oakland Park Blvd. about a half mile from the hotel.

Wow! We sampled some of the pastries. I wanted to try a cannoli and sfogliatelle...the one that looks a crispy seashell and had cheese inside. He uses an orange zest for added flavor and they were perfect. There was also a sample of cheesecake and one other scrumptious morsel. Since there was gelato there, I tasted one of the flavors. Roberto gave me an Olive Bread to take home. Turned out that the bread is stuffed with whole pitted olives. Delicious!

Cousin time over, Dorothy drove me back to my hotel. Relaxed for a bit and then took a taxicab to 15th Street Fisheries for dinner where I met GM Carlos River. The restaurant is located at Lauderdale Marina and just outside is area that tarpons and jack fish hang out.

I then met the Executive Chef Lenny Judice and did a menu tasting beginning with a special mozzarella that was regular on the outside but had a creamy inside as if the inside contained ricotta cheese. It was served with some awesome tomatoes along with a caviar made from balsamic vinegar. Next came a crab cake and shrimp and grits. That was followed by alligator bites and sauteed wild mushrooms. Red Snapper with basmati rice.

The pastry chef came over to explain the various desserts that included a red wine sorbet, creme brulee and apple pie. I love when a restaurant makes their own ice cream and sorbets.

The Water Taxi does a pick up right at their marina so that is the mode of transport to my hotel. Nite-nite and back to New York the next day. I took the share ride shuttle and when I paid the guy he purposely counted the eleven dollars of a ten and one and said, "It doesn't include gratuity". I said, "Am I required to give you one?" He had no answer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I decided not to rent a car in order to experience the various means of transportation starting with a pedicab. Brogan Graham owns a company called Ocean View Rickshaw and although there may be a few actual rickshaws being used, the transportation is what's known as a pedicab where the seating is pulled via someone pedaling a bicycle. Rather than taking a taxi and perhaps dealing with traffic, the bicyclist can always find alternate routes. Most people aren't using the service to get to a place quickly but comfortably and enjoying the outside views. An even better use was Brogan giving me a tour of E. Las Olas and the Riverfront area. Being early we stopped at a coffee shop to find Esther and Eunice sitting outside.

The way the pedicabs operate is that you either call to arrange a pickup or flag one down

Jessica Taylor from the tourism office met with me to take me on a tour of other areas of Fort Lauderdale including the beach strip. One of the areas that we explored was Wilton Manor, known as the gayborhood. Having Esther and Eunice along with me, they were more interested in the hangouts of lesbians rather than the gay guys. Here is the info that she later gave me.

BEACH BETTY'S - 625 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach, 954-921-9893. Tiki hut walls, palm trees, deep ocean blue ceiling, frozen drinks and Jimmy Buffet on the jukebox- this is a classic beach bar. Sit back and relax on the patio with a pina colada, shoot a little pool with your friends or challenge one of the regulars to a game of darts.
CLOUD NINE LOUNGE - 7126 Stirling Rd., Davie, 954-499-3525
Lesbian-friendly nightclub with nightly drink specials such as 2-4-1 everything everyday 12pm-8pm, Fri Ladies Night, Sat Free Drinks 11pm-1am, and Sun Karaoke 9pm-1am.
NEW MOON BAR -2440 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors, 954-563-7660
Whether it’s Martini Monday, Karaoke Thursdays, or Sunday Fun Day, this lesbian-friendly bar is always letting loose. Sit at the inside bar, enjoy the pool table and dancing. Or lounge at the outside bar and enjoy the fresh air. Either way, a good time starts here.
SEA MONSTER - 2 S. New River Dr., Fort Lauderdale, 954-767-2600
High energy gay nightclub playing popular house and dance music. Fri Noche Latina is popular offering free drinks 9pm-11pm. Flirt Saturdays are lesbian-friendly with no cover and half-priced drinks 10pm-12am. Sun T-Dance offers half-price drink specials 4-8pm.
SIDELINES SPORTS BAR - 2031 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, 954-563-8001
Sidelines Sports Bar, with its 16 flat-screen TVs, 3 pool tables, 3 dartboards, foosball table, and other videos games, continues to provide a fun, friendly and comfortable environment for gay men and women who enjoy all kinds of sports. For the third year in a row since its opening, we were voted the winner in two categories of South Florida Blade's "2008 Best of Gay South Florida" annual readership poll. The popular gay sports bar in Wilton Manors, Florida was named "Best Casual Bar" and "Best Place to Go Out by Yourself" in the local gay newspaper's online survey.

We had lunch at Galanga Thai Kitchen and Sushi Bar where I indulged in a lobster roll and fish with Thai spices.

Back to E. Las Olas for another form of transportation, a gondola ride along the waterways. Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America. Although I've never been to Venice, I'm sure that it is much cleaner. The gondola was much different from the one in Long Beach's Naples Island. It was covered and run by a motor. I realize that they can't have row boats in the waterways but having a gondolier turning on a motor and steering the boat doesn't make for the most romantic adventure. The gondolier wasn't talkative unless I asked some questions and he said that he was unable to give me a full tour due to some police action in the area. A woman had jumped from one of the bridgeways into the water so not all areas were open. I personally didn't feel that the ride warranted a gratuity and the gondolier asked for one at the end. Needless to say I do not recommend this rather expensive trip as there are at least three small cruise ships that tour the waterways and for so much less.

This time I walked back to the hotel which was about half a mile. The Water Taxi stops were in between where the gondola was docked. After relaxing and retrieving my email from the Business Center (free internet), I dined at Indigo, the hotel's main restaurant where I met Chef Toby Joseph and did a menu tasting.

It was still early in the evening and decided to take the opportunity to use the Water Taxi. I picked it up just a few blocks from the hotel. The one that first came in was considered to be an "express" meaning that it did not go to all of the stops. I boarded for a tour. Kevin Bray was the captain and although the water taxi is a way of getter around the waterways, he would point out the famous millionaire homes as well as what was at each of the stops. As it turned out, no one got on and I had a private tour. When I got to my original stop, there were people ready to board.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Getting away from the snow of NYC I "Jetblued" to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Due to the weather we were first delayed by their having to plow one of the runways as we waiting in the plane just outside the gate. When we finally got the "go" we then learned that we were number 25 as we got the runway area. I was amused watching the people around me on the plane. Matthew was one of the attendants. It was more as if her were a kindergarten teacher in front of a class. What do you do while waiting at the gate? Go to the bathroom. It's the best excuse to stretch your feet. What do you do while waiting on the tarmac? I guess everyone who didn't go to the bathroom did so then, including myself. We're talking about 45 minutes of delay between the two hanging outs.

Murray and Alice were sitting next to me. Alice was hard of hearing and passing the time doing a Times crossword puzzle. She was also old and frail. At certain points during the flight Alice would say something to Murray. Murray would say, "Alice I can't hear you" and Alice would try again to which Murray would say, "Alice I can't hear what you're saying; don't talk to me."

Arriving in Fort Lauderdale I was able to get a "share a ride" to the Riverside Hotel, where I would be staying for three nights. The cost was $11.

The front of the hotel faced the river and the back was on E. Las Olas Blvd., the place to be. My room has a terrace of which I could see E. Las Olas on the left and the river on the right (as apposed to a in..."there's a bathroom on the right" (There's a bad moon on the rise). I stayed in the portion of the hotel known as the "tower", which was later built onto this old hotel.

The first thing that I wanted to explore were two Italian bakeries on Las Olas. Gran Forno was just down the block to the right of the hotel. Gran Forno's cafe was what I encountered. I met the owners as we talked about the well-known pizzas. They are made with a thin crust and baked in a clay oven for all of two-minutes. Just like I got in Naples, Italy. It's a limited menu and authentically Italian with soups, sandwiches and even lasagne. I got to sample the store made ice cream as well that is more towards a custard than gelato. Cappuccinos are served in a martini glass with a three layer look. Tables and chairs are mostly outside to give it more of a bistro look. If I were to walk a few blocks I would have seen their bakery where I might have sampled some pastries and bread.

Lots of boutique stores in this strip. I stopped into one called Kirwin's that had chocolates and ice cream. Ice cream was okay but not better than the ice cream at Gran Forno.

I was really after gelato and there was Pan'e Dolci directly across the street from the hotel. Now, that was the real thing! I tasted the kiwi gelato! Could have been eating fresh kiwis and the consistency was perfect. I met owner Roberto Pacella and got a tour of the kitchen where the gelato is prepared. I then got to watch them scooping the tiramisu gelato from the machine. It truly tasted as if I had the cake version.

That evening I met up with my friend Linda to see Les Miz at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. There isn't a lousy seat in the house, it's more of stadium seating so that you don't have to ask someone to remove their hair, and enough leg room to allow people to pass without standing. As for the show, it was re-staged for the tour company. Talent was superb and set used background of movie to make it appear that the actors were walking in the town. One of the best touring groups I've seen.