The Coastal Star

By Thom Smith

Chilly temperatures be damned, we’re warming up. I mean, what else are we supposed to do in South Florida? Fortunately, a little chilly weather here is better than most of the weather up north, and the folks who live and work along the beach avenues don’t let a few degrees get in the way of a good time.
There are not too many places this time of year where you’d find John McEnroe playing tennis in the middle of the street. But there he was in Delray Beach on the usually bumper-to-bumper Atlantic Avenue, on Feb. 19, trading shots and banter with Davis Cupper and Top 20 player Ronald Agenor. They were promoting the following week’s Delray International Tennis Championships.
“Do we have to stop when the light turns red,” McEnroe joked to umpire de jour Woodie McDuffie, also known as Delray’s mayor.
“Can we fix the road, mayor? We got a problem here,” McEnroe persisted good-naturedly. Of course, were this the real world and a quarter of century earlier, McDuffie might have longed for the civility of City Hall politics. But this time it was just for fun when hizzoner called a return out and Johnny Mac conjured up the past, tossing his racquet and uttering those famous words, “You cannot be serious!”

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The weekend before, despite rain on Friday and the chilly weather, Delray’s Garlic Fest was a winner, thanks largely to the “no problem, mon” music of The Wailers. A week later, a reported 400 artists at Lake Worth’s 16th annual Street Painting Festival paved the streets with chalk works.
With a crowd estimated near 100,000, perhaps the city needs to look at limiting the crowds, limiting the artists, increasing the space or all of the above. Too bad the art is temporary.

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More art is on the way in Lake Worth, for a cause — Haitian Earthquake relief. Area artists have pledged to craft and decorate at least 500 bowls for the Haitian Empty Bowl project. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 20, purchasers can take the bowls to 16 of the city’s restaurants and food specialty shops for samples of their menu items. The bowls will be sold at Clay Glass Metal Stone Gallery for $25 each (four for $80) in advance, $35 without reservation. All proceeds will benefit orphaned children of Haiti. For information, call 215-205-9441.

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McEnroe was a passing fancy on Atlantic; chefs can be, too! For a year, Delray has been all abuzz about the teaming of restaurateur David Manero with legendary chef Mark Militello at The Office, Manero’s new “gastro-pub” at the corner of Second and Atlantic. Less than three months after The Office opened, however, Militello is gone.
Manero’s Feb. 26 announcement was short and sweet: “Mark Militello was released from his duties by David Manero Restaurants. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
A member of the “Mango Gang” that gave South Florida its culinary identity in the mid-’80s, Militello has practiced his craft at several self-named restaurants — including Mark’s in the Park in Boca and Mark’s City Place in West Palm — all since closed. And as soon as the pairing of the two strong personalities was announced, some skeptics began wondering how long it would last.
Larry LaValley, executive chef at Manero’s Vic & Angelo’s across the street, will run both kitchens. Francy Deskin remains chef d’cuisine. Manero will keep his gastro-pub concept: fish, chops and even burgers with “The Office” branded into the bun, an assortment of craft beers, impressive wines, imaginative cocktails, an indoor/outdoor bar and state-of-the-art sound system.
Manero’s wife, Lynn, has handled the decor — her 15th restaurant — contrasting dark wood paneling in the dining room with glossy chrome-accented panels in the bar. Hundreds of books adorn the walls, from A Year in Architecture to Michael Jackson: The Man in the Mirror to Are You Hungry Tonight? Elvis' Favorite Recipes. Enhancing the office mood: an array of mailboxes from an old post office that serves as a wine rack and, near the front door, a bright red Royal Quiet Deluxe (a strange contraption called a typewriter).
In their quest for green, the Maneros have gone green. They bottle their own water, distilled through a triple filtration system. The fireplace is powered by ethanol. All paper products, from the place mats to restroom towels, are made from recycled paper.
Manero has worked hard to get the word out. Business has been brisk. Ultimately, its success could be determined by a phone call: “Hi, honey. Don’t fix dinner for me. I’m working late at The Office.”

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Before you know it, summer will be here and Florida Stage will be gone … at least from Manalapan. Rehearsals are in full swing for Dr. Radio, the penultimate production at the playhouse in Plaza del Mar, running March 24 through May 2.
That will be followed by When the Sun Shone Brighter, and then the company will move to its new home at the Kravis Center.
The current production, Sins of the Mother, which is sold out, is the most popular non-musical in the 23-year history of Florida Stage.
“I think our fans see this at the beginning of the end and the beginning of the beginning,” marketing director Michael Gepner said. “There is some nostalgia — that there won’t be many more shows here — but ultimately, it’s the quality of the show. If it isn’t a good production, people aren’t gonna come.” Incidentally, Florida Stage recently attracted the attention of The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed Sins of the Mother and offered: “The cast is ideal, the staging ferociously right. This is a show with no weak links, one that in a better-regulated world would now be playing on Broadway.”

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Biologists are citing at least one positive from the recent arctic blasts: They weren’t kind to nuisance non-native reptiles such as pythons and, yuck, iguanas, which apparently died in record numbers. Unfortunately, the cold also hurt manatees and sea turtles, but if awareness can help, several beachfront hotels do their part by protecting nests and offering information to their guests.
Now the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach has gone a flipper further. In cooperation with the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, the Ritz has adopted Gilda, a leatherback that has been fitted with a satellite-tracking device. Guests, staff and children in the resort’s AquaNuts program will be able to follow her movements on the Internet.

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And the Academy Award goes to … Oscar parties on March 7.
Guests at Cafe L’Europe in Palm Beach dress as their favorite movie stars or screen characters. Four-course dinner, plenty of champagne, big-screen TV for $115. Reservations a must at 655-4020. The Fifth Annual Delray Beach Film Festival throws its own Oscar party that night from 7 to midnight at Bluefish Restaurant. Red carpet, live auction, dinner and one cocktail for $30. The festival, running March 22-28, will honor Barry Bostwick (Rocky Horror Picture Show) as its creative chair and Sharon Gless (Cagney & Lacey) and Jessica Walter (Play Misty for Me) with lifetime achievement awards. Tickets online only at www.dbff.us.
The new Omphoy Ocean Resort Palm Beach will host Oscar Night America Live from Hollywood!, a benefit for the Palm Beach International Film Festival (April 22-26), at 7 p.m. Oscar attire. Cocktails and dinner at Michelle Bernstein Restaurant for $250, or cocktails and Oscar party with “an array of heavy hors d’oeuvres,” whatever they are, for $125. Info at pbifilmfest.org.

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Call it a consolidation. Boynton Beach’s green markets have moved east. Formerly at the Boynton Mall and the Schoolhouse Museum, everything now will be held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Green Market Cafe at 400 E. Boynton Beach Blvd. The program now includes a bakery, a deli, produce and an urban farming project with plans to establish a permanent downtown public marketplace. (561-752-8598).

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Afterthought: Channel 5 declares that Steve Weagle is South Florida’s “most trusted” TV weatherman. I want to know, especially after this crazy winter, the source of that appellation. Was it a Gallup Poll? The Palm Beach County Convention and Visitors Bureau? The Nielsen ratings? I suspect Weagle, a product of the Canadian Maritimes — he was born in Nova Scotia — got lonely for the far north and wished this weather upon us.

Thom Smith is a freelance writer. He can be reached at thomsmith@ymail.com

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