Cultural Discoveries in Our Own Backyard
Summer’s the perfect time to be a tourist, with smaller crowds and sometimes discounts, too. I decided to visit some attractions I’d never been to before.
Bonnet House, a 35-acre oasis tucked between high rises and beach traffic off Sunrise Blvd. and A1A in Fort Lauderdale, was first on my list. Hugh Taylor Birch, who donated the property across the street that’s now a state park, gave the land to his daughter and her husband, artist Frederic Bartlett, as a wedding gift in 1919. The couple built a colorful plantation-style home around a lushly landscaped courtyard, bursting with whimsical art and vivid orchids, all overlooking a bonnet lily-filled waterway. Other outer buildings include the Shell Room and fabulous Bamboo Bar, where Evelyn Bartlett’s Rangpur Lime Cocktail recipe is prominently displayed.
Bonnet House hosts events throughout the year, including orchid shows and sales, art workshops and a music series, plus the annual Orchid, Garden and Gourmet Food Festival (Dec. 5-6, 2015). Go on a hot summer day when it’s quieter, and be enchanted by this tropical oasis in the middle of Fort Lauderdale’s beach strip – I know I was. Tour Bonnet House at a discounted rate the first Saturday of the month through October.
My next stop, Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach, was a good excuse to take US 1 south and stop at Tark’s of Dania Beach (find on Facebook) for some steamed clams and a cold beer. It’s a bit of a dive, but the food is perfect for a hot afternoon. I continued south through the highrise canyons of Aventura, eventually arriving at the 1,000-acre park on NE 163rd St. There’s biking, kayaking and canoeing. It’s dog-friendly, although you might want to wait for cooler temperatures.
I finally went to the Lowe Art Museum (lowemuseum.org) at the University of Miami, and was surprised by the diversity of the collections, including fun modern art in the Main Hall. The Myrna and Sheldon Palley Pavilion focuses on glass and studio arts, and the other rooms are devoted to Arts of Asia, the Americas, Egypt, Pacific Islands and Europe. The first Tuesday of every month is Donation Day, free to the public. The Wolfsonian–FIU (wolfsonian.org) on South Beach offers free Friday night curator tours at 6pm, when I found street parking in front of the museum. The collections include anything and everything Mitchell “Mickey” Wolfson has chosen to collect, and while the focus is on design from the Industrial Revolution to the end of World War II, you’ll find Irish stained glass, cruise ship murals and a “modern” kitchen. August 1 is Free Family Day: Discovering Design from 1-4.
History Miami’s walks are some of the best ways to explore South Florida. I took the Taste of Little Haiti Culture Walk (historymiami.org/tours) that starts at the Little Haiti Cultural Center with a history of Haiti and Miami’s Haitian community, followed by a walk around the neighborhood. We saw a monument of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution; early Lemon City bungalows; and Villa Paula, built in 1926 as the Cuban Consulate. Now privately owned and designated historic inside and out by the City of Miami, it’s known as the most haunted house in Miami. Tasty stops included Leela’s restaurant for Haitian soda and grilled conch with plantains and spicy slaw (below). Celebrate Little Haiti’s music and food at Big Night Little Haiti the third Friday of every month (rhythmfoundation.com). See new Visitor Center at 212 NE 59 Ter. Upcoming HistoryMiami tours include Moon Over Miami River Boat (July 26); Design District Delights (Aug. 1); La Petite Haiti Culture Walk (Aug. 29); and Mystery, Mayhem & Vice Bus Tour (Aug. 22).
BONNET HOUSE RANGPUR LIME COCKTAIL
Introduced to Florida from India, the Rangpur lime is actually a sour mandarin orange hybrid with orange peel and flesh. Evelyn Barrett used juice from her own tree for these cocktails. Possum Trot Nursery grows these tangy fruits, sold by Bee Heaven Farm at markets in the winter.
4 parts Barbados Eclipse dark rum
1 part fresh Rangpur lime juice
Vermont maple syrup
Combine the rum and lime juice in a pitcher and mix well. Add enough syrup to sweeten to taste. Chill, covered, until ready to serve. Pour over crushed ice in a short glass.
This is the Haitian version of peanut brittle, one of the treats on HistoryMiami’s tour of Little Haiti. Other foods on the tour include Haitian bread (dense, doughy and faintly sweet) and Kremas Mapou, a mixture of condensed, evaporated and coconut milks, spices and rums, from Mapou Bookstore.
MAKES 6 CANDIES
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon star anise extract
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Large nonstick saucepan
Add the water, sugar, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and star anise to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the peanuts and boil for 10-15 minutes or until mixture has thickened. Remove the pan from heat and continue to stir until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is sticky. Using a spoon place 6 large cookie sized amounts on parchment paper. Place the pieces in a cookie jar when cool.