Booze Hound - DiLido Beach Club
After a hard day of filing my nails, receiving deep tissue massages, and ordering Manolo Blahniks from Neiman Marcus's online store (THANK GOD for the plummeting economy - sales are faaaabulous), there's nothing that I like more than grabbing my komodo dragon and baby panda-fur lined purse, driving my Hummer from the New Times parking lot .02 miles to Biscayne Bay, cheek-kissing Jay Z and B hello while jumping into my yacht, tanning, eating sushi, tanning some more, and giggling as I run over manatees on my way to the Ritz Carlton for cocktails and some MUCH needed R&R.
...Alright. Other than gratuitously murdering sea cows, I'm so full of shit.
I don't spend my work-day pampering myself. Or shopping. Rather, as soon as I walk into the office I'm physically forced, with the aid of Tasers, into a storage closet to do 8 hours straight of data-entry. I can't afford designer shoes, expensive cars, fancy boats, or even a canoe.
But thanks to the DiLido Beach Club (1 Lincoln Rd., 786-276-4000, Miami Beach), and their Hookah Happy Hour, I can still afford the Ritz. That's because every Thursday and Friday from 5 - 8 p.m. drinks, that are typically $15, are reduced to $7 and bowls of sweet-smelling, flavored tobacco are on the house.
But don't credit me for this awesome deal, throw your gratitude towards the nights' host, Jeff McInnis, chef de cuisine at DiLido and the blondest remaining contestant on this season of Top Chef.
During a 4 week stint at Fayrouz Restaurant in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Jeff was romanticized by the culture's way of finishing off their meals. After dinner, a local who worked in the restaurant's kitchen would make coffee and teas on charcoals. After the hot beverages were done, he'd use the same coal to burn shisha or maassel (shredded tobacco leaves that have been soaked and sweetened with molasses, semi-dried fruit, or honey) in hookahs. With a little squeeze of lemon or lime into the water in the base, customers sucked on hos(es) and soothed their stomachs while gazing into the starry night.
But free tobacco's not all you'll get at Hookah Happy Hour. Order a tapa and complimentary pita-esque bread complete with hummus and olives arrives at your oceanfront cabana as well. Oh, and Jeff just may pop by your table with a jug of liquid nitrogen and a bowl of pureed, organic mangos and whip you up a natural, delicious and sugar-free sorbet topped with diced watermelon.
But enough about the grub, let's get to what really matters - the booze:
When you go to a bar in Miami and ask the bartender for drink suggestions, the response is almost always a mojito of some sort. And although tasty, they're quickly becoming the bane of my existence. So, needless to say, when my waiter suggested a Cubanized mint, sugar, and lemon libation, I wanted to strangle him with my hookah hose and pummel him with a dozen endangered sea turtle eggs (which is why the patio of the DiLido gets a little dark when the sun goes down - bright lights disturb the turtles' bow-chicka-bow-bow time). Yet, due to my waiter's persistent assurance that it was, indeed, a kick-ass drink, I ordered it and was pleasantly surprised. The cucumber is pureed and blended with frozen mojito mix. Doused with Don Q, the veggie in this drink provides not only an interesting flavor element, but also neutralizes the overt sweetness of a traditional mojito, making it quite refreshing. My only quip is that I drank two and never got a buzz.
Easy on the taste buds, I tried a honey and coconut sorbet concoction, and felt it was a little heavy. And, if these drinks were a dogs (I know, slobbering, flea-ridden mutts are super-appetizing, but go with it), they would come from the very same litter as a pina colada. Not really my thing -- I preferred Jeff's personal sangria recipe, which isn't on the menu, but was made with champagne and watermelon juice -- but hand me one of these drinks during the day in August, and I'll slurp it down faster than a conehead can devour a foot long sub.
All in all, Hookah Happy Hour is pretty fantastic. The crowd is fun and friendly and there's tons of signature drinks, just stick to the lighter cocktails. And do mix flavors of shisha, the more adventurous the better, and mint is good with almost anything. However, MAKE SURE to call The Ritz Carlton before hitting up this place, the DiLido tends to close when there's bad weather and cancels the happy hour whenever a private party books the patio.