A Cuba Vacation is in Your Future

Legislation passed by the US House could ease travel restrictions, among other things, to Cuba and the Cuban embargo in general. The next hurdle, thanks to our bicameral system, is the Senate.

Don’t put on your guayabera just yet. Even if this bill does pass it would expire on September 30 unless President Obama extends it. But Obama may be on board per his previous statements. According to Reuters, “Obama has made clear he favors relaxing limits on family travel and cash remittances by Cuban Americans to Cuba… [but that the] U.S. trade embargo against [Cuba] should stay in place to press for democratic reforms.” That means travel to Cuba may become easier, but the Kennedy-era embargo may remain in effect.

What does the bill do? Per Reuters, while the embargo is still in place, it does prevent the Treasury Department from upholding “…rules requiring payment of cash in advance for agricultural sales to Cuba”.  Ok, so traveling to Cuba may be difficult but purchasing grain would be less complicated.

Perhaps in the future the embargo will end, Communism in Cuba will be abolished, and we will be free to travel to Cuba which once was a beautiful, thriving country.

Miami Restaurants to Avoid: Jake’s Bar and Grill

I recently had the misfortune of dining at Jake’s Bar and Grill in South Miami.  Jake’s use to be a good restaurant that was worth a visit, but those days have sadly gone the way of the dodo bird.  That’s because the food is sub par as is the service.

My girlfriend and I were off to a decent start when the host of Jake’s gave us gratis vino to compensate for sitting outside in the cold.  Of course, when the check arrived we had been charged for said wine and had to explain the error to our waiter.  But the evening at Jake’s went downhill from that point.

The tapas appetizer was quite scant, not very tasty, and had only a few slices of cheese, bad tasting olives, and three small pieces of cantimpalo chorizo.  My burger was dry and under seasonsed and my girlfriend’s roast chicken was extremely dry.

To add insult to injury, the service moved at snail pace.

Don’t have dinner at Jake’s Bar and Grill.  It would literally be more effective to simply flush your money down the toilet.

Rihanna Police Photo Controversy, Leaked By TMZ

Rihanna

Remember when Chris Brown was accused of brutalizing Rihanna?  Well, not surprisingly TMZ has released a leaked photo of Rihanna on their site.

Now there’s a backlash from the LAPD replete with an internal investigation.  According to GossipGirls.com, the police are not taking this matter lightly, “A violation of this type is considered serious misconduct, with penalties up to and including termination.”  Heads will undoubtedly roll once the perpetrator of this leak is caught.

It is clear from the above photo that if Chris Brown did assault Rihanna, he did so with brute force.  I can’t say definitively that Brown beat up Rihanna, but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.

Needless to say, Chris Brown and Rihanna may require a reconciliation period if that’s still possible.

Top Chef New York, Best Show on Bravo

I love Top Chef New York.  As an amateur chef and foodie, it’s enjoyable to watch these culinary kings battle it out each week.  The food, the drama, the Padma.  Each moment is exciting to watch.

This week on Top Chef New York, Fabio said arivadeci to the show effectively destroying “Team Europe” as Tom Colicchio put it, in part I of the season finae.  But that’s ok, because as much as I liked Fabio, he didn’t rise to the occasion and was often not in the top three.

Top Chef has been a refreshing break from other reality shows as it has a soul and keeps you glued to your seat.

As for next week?  I predict that Stefan or Hosea will win.  Carla is a great chef, but she’s unlikely to overpower her male counterparts.  She needs more time to develop as a chef.

Catch Top Chef New York every Wednesday at 10pm EST on Bravo. Watch what happens!

Confucio Say, Eat Chinese Food

Confucio Express

On the end of SW Third Ave, in Miami, next door to a Farm Store, you might easily miss Confucio Express, a take-out Chinese restaurant with a Spanish-English menu.

Besides three small tables outside, Confucio has no dining area of any substance.  But that’s ok, because most people are buying food-to-go.  And the cuisine is definitely worth the wait.

When  I dined at Confucio about a week ago, I had the Mongolian chicken which is served with a light, fried rice with sprouts, egg, shrimp, and pork, and a flaky egg roll filled with pork and veggies.

What separates Confucio from the countless other Chinese restaurants in Miami is that it is relatively grease free as the food is prepared using vegetable oil.  Also, the portions are enormous!  I literally made about three meals out of the one dish!  Finally, the prices are rock-bottom and a great value at that.

If you have a chance, visit Confucio Express which is located at 1810 SW Third Ave in Miami.

Rihanna, Chris Brown Relationship Woes

According to NY Daily News, Rihanna was unsure if she should cooperate with police regarding alleged abuse by boyfriend Chris Brown.  The 20-year-old hip-hop sensation doesn’t want to involve the police out of loyalty despite sustaining contusions and a black eye.

Chris Brown, 19, allegedly assaulted Rihanna in their rented Lamborghini after a quarrel on February 7 for which he was arrested for battery.

As stated by the NY Daily News, sources claim, “[Rihanna] got out of the car to walk home. [Chris Brown] got out to stop her,” … “Things got physical. He hit her, possibly more than once. She had multiple bruises.”  This comes as a shock to many as Chris Brown has a good, clean-cut reputation.

Fortunately Rihanna’s parents are steering her in the right direction, “Rihanna’s parents are reportedly pleading with her not to worry about how jail time might affect Brown’s career, according to Us. A Daily News source said the Barbados-bred beauty is cooperating with police.”  I applaud this sound advice.

What sort of man feels it necessary to beat his wife, girlfriend to feel important?  Chris Brown writes song about empowered women, yet he is being accused of abusing a woman.  This sort of behavior is repulsive.  Time to grow up, Chris.

Facebook TOS Debacle

Facebook has done it again!  Late last night, Facebook indicated that they could potentially own the rights to content submitted by its users even after their accounts are closed.

Today, Facebook backed down due to the overwhelming backlash from its members.

I can’t help but wonder: Would Facebook have changed its policies if no one complained?  Did Facebook have some ulterior motive?  It seems that Facebook is relatively whipped.  As soon as members get on the bandwagon and make threats, Facebook relents.  I suppose you can’t blame the social networking giant, but it’s ironic that it doesn’t have a finger on the pulse of its community.  Besides, isn’t it obvious users wouldn’t want Facebook to own their photos, videos, information, etc.?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, claims that the new Terms of Service (TOS) will be adjusted based on Facebook users’ comments, and that the current TOS will remain in effect for now:

“We expect to complete [our new TOS] in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we’ve changed the terms back to what existed before the February 4th change, which was what most people asked us for and was the recommendation of the outside experts we consulted.

Zuckerberg is arguably a genius.  He created a social networking site that valued at over $1 billion per a Yahoo! offer, that has over 175 million users.  But yet he still hasn’t figured out that he needs to attempt to, how shall I put this, not piss off Facebook users!

Shame on you, Facebook!

Read more about the Facebook TOS debacle here.

Air Travel: Is it Safe?

Due to the recent airline neglence (thanks autopilot), some of you may be wondering if air travel is safe.  And if not, how can one travel far distances without boarding a 757?  If it is, how often do these airline incidents occur?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, airline fatalities worldwide fell 25% in 2008 as compared to 2007. In fact, last year was actually one of the safest years in airline travel history.  However, that’s still 539 fatalities or about 55 per month.  But worldwide, with over 6 billion people, it’s a relatively small number.

My feeling is this: every time you get behind the wheel of a car, ride a rollercoaster, or even cross the street, there’s a chance something could go terribly wrong.  But we keep on doing those things, because we don’t want to live sheltered, boring lives.

Is there an alternative? What’s the future of air travel?  According to MSNC.com, microjets could be the next innovation of the airline industry.  These air taxis would only be useful for short range travel (less than1,300 miles apart) and would most likely be costly.  But perhaps as time progresses, these microjets could become mainstream.

Overall, air travel is safe.  It’s also the most time efficient way to travel.  And much of the time it’s cost effective.  Besides, do you really want to drive every time you need to travel a long distance?

Islamorada, Florida Keys

Have you been to Islamorada, the “Purple Island”, in the Florida Keys? It’s about 20 miles south of Key Largo around mile marker 80.

A quite, Keys village, Islamorada serves one, singular purpose: relaxation. That’s because besides a handful of restaurants, a movie theater, bowling alley, and fishing, there’s not a plethora of activities. But that’s quite alright because as I said people head to Islamorada to unwind, and that’s exactly the effect the Keys can have on you.

Don’t mistake Islamorada’s demeanor for that of Key West. Gays and booze don’t abound here. This is not a party town. Instead, it’s a laid back key with good hospitality.

I’ve probably visited Islamorada over one hundred times, but it never fails to provide a new experience each time.

Besides R&R, what’s there to do on this particular key? One activity that’s sure to please is dining out. There are not many restaurants, but the places available can be quite good. One such location is the Lorelei.

The Lorelei has great seafood and great view thanks to its bayside location. They have daily specials which will leave your taste buds asking for more.

Another great place to chow down is the Cheeca Lodge. Generally, hotel food is not great (not a restaurant in a hotel, but one run by a hotel), but this restaurant has a great poolside restaurant. Here’s a tip: when you drive up to the security gate, tell the guard your there for lunch. Then grab a table by the pool. Once you’ve finished eating you can slip right into the pool. Our secret.

Ok, so there are a few tasty plates at some random eateries, but what else can I do besides expand my waistline? Well, there’s fishing of course!

If you don’t own a boat which you can run down from Miami, the next best option is to charter a boat. Captains-for-hire are abundant in Islamorada and the Florida Keys, so locating one shouldn’t be a challenge.

A third great option while in the Keys is Holiday Isle. There you can have lunch, rent jet skies, and lay out on their beach.

Needless to say, there are many great activites in Islamorada. Stop by anytime.

Toronto, the New York of Canada

It’s been several years since my last trip to Toronto, Canada, the New York of Canada.  But I remember enjoying my trip and wanted to share some travel advice about Toronto with you, the readers.

Toronto is located in the province of Ontario and has over 2.5 million residents.  An noteworthy fact is that almost 50% of Toronto residents were born outside of Canada making Toronto a truly international city.

So what can you do in Toronto, you wonder?  Here are some sights you may want to visit:

Niagara Falls (it will require a short day trip, but is a breath-taking waterfall which offers a water-soaking boat ride)

CN Tower (the former, world’s tallest building which towers at over 1,800 ft high)

-Royal Ontario Museum (world culture and history of Ontario)

Yorkville neighborhood (one of the most elegant shopping/dining districts in Toronto)

Toronto is very similar to New York or Chicago (if they were in Canada, ay) due to the large, metropolitan area, bountiful attractions, culture, and fine dining.

What about the exchange rate? One USD is worth about $1.24 CAD.  So everything is effectively cheaper.  That means that you may even be able to save some of your hard-earned cash.

If you do travel to Toronto, airfare and accommodations are another consideration.  A good time to travel is in the summer as it may be cold other times of the year.  Also, if you live in the Northeastern US, there are many inexpensive flights you can choose from.  Hotels are also well-priced at as little as $84 per night.  I didn’t check hotel-flight packages, but you can almost always find a better rate that way.

Finally, here are a few restaurants that sparked my interest:

Embrujo Flamenco tapas restaurant (pricey, Danforth/Greektown area, food sounds interesting and there is live flamenco)

Ten-Ichi Japanese (inexpenive, Scarborough area, has all-u-cant-eat dinner menu and cheap lunch specials)

Dos Amigos (moderate, Downtown area, has nice-sounding, authentic Mexican food)

Here’s a good restaurant review site you may want to consult.

If you have a chance, check out Toronto, Canada on your next vacation.