A Delectable Experience at Art Basel Miami Beach, Courtesy of Jennifer Rubell

At Art Basel Miami Beach this year, there were many contenders for top culinary attraction. The Dutch’s new Miami outpost was a major draw, booking up well in advance by New Yorkers eager to get their hands on their favorite little oyster sandwiches. Cecconi’s at the Soho Beach House was crammed with brunch-going scenesters sipping bloody mary’s and basking on the olive tree lined terrace. Pubbelly and Yardbird earned the foodies’ attention, while classics such as Mr. Chow and Casa Tua remained packed throughout the event. But the real draw for food-loving art-goers was Jennifer Rubell’s 11th annual breakfast installation at the Rubell Family Collection.

I arrived to find a fascinating two-part installation, each side exploring the creations of life, art, and food. The first was an incubation gallery where yogurt was being made and served by sterile and expressionless women in nurse uniforms. The second was an observation gallery where both gallery-goers and local bees feasted on honey being dripped from the ceiling. Spectators were encouraged to scoop up spoonfuls of the honey to mix with yogurt for a sumptuous breakfast.

Rubell, yet again, created a successful conversation starter that infuses food, art, and social gatherings to create a consumable sensory experience. Beckoning onlookers to participate and engage, Rubell’s large-scale installations form a shared experience, where gallery goers can eat, touch, and deconstruct the piece’s edible goods, breaking the traditional boundaries of art. Rubell’s past projects have included constructing a gargantuan size piñata of Andy Warhol’s head for Icons at the Brooklyn Museum’s 2010 Brooklyn Ball, creating a performance piece called The de Pury Diptych at London’s Saatchi Gallery – which involved thousands of edible props–and producing an installation at the former Dia Center for the Arts called Creation, wherein Rubell pulled from biblical inspirations to create an enthralling installation involving honey being dripped onto a ton of ribs (she must have a thing for honey).

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As with most provocative artists, Rubell’s craft is difficult to define. Performance, installation, and food artist don’t quite suffice in describing her dexterity. In addition to working as a vegetable butcher at Mario Batali’s Eataly, producing wine in Puyloubier, Provence, and raising her daughter, Stevie, the Harvard grad is a seasoned hostess. Her book Real Life Entertaining was published by HarperCollins in 2006. As the niece of Steve Rubell, famed co-owner of Studio 54, Rubell has been surrounded by artful and creative minds from an early age. She learned her love of entertaining from her famous uncle as well as her art-collecting parents, Don and Mera, whose legendary Whitney Biennial parties were frequented by the likes of Liza Minnelli, Ryan O’Neal, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol.

While restaurants in Miami’s dining scene come and go, Rubell’s bona fide expertise in hosting social gatherings has led her breakfast installations to remain a hit for 11 years and counting. Make sure to check out what artful and edible treats she conjures up for 2012.

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Top 10 Spots for a First Date

Variety is key when you are testing the waters of love and lust. To some, love is motivated by how fat one’s pocketbook is. To others, it’s based on where one is able to get a reservation at peak time on a Friday night. Whether your leading lady is a tastemaker with a tiny appetite, or your gent is a sucker for the sauce, there’s a hotspot that’s all the bang for your buck, and a watering hole that may just lead to a bang.

The Little Owl (New York) – Small hotspot where you can view the West Village through rose-colored window panes. A savvy choice for a date in the know, but let your date know you chose it for the greenmarket menu. Swoon. ● Mistral (Los Angeles) – Intimate space, low lighting, the smell of French cuisine, and love is in the air. Couples relish the dark corners. A vast wine list and pared-down menu means easy first date decision-making. Opt for fries over the spinach side; the soft light helps you seem sexy, but it will do nothing for a green tooth.

Nemo (Miami) – Don’t waste this space on someone you’re lukewarm for. Rack up first-impression points with the serious atmosphere at work here. Not too pretentious, but tasty and hip: She just might find a way to thank you after the meal. ● The Bourgeois Pig (New York) – A jump-off point for daters to test the waters before committing to a bite to eat, though perfect as a post-dinner stop when things are going well. Champers, chocolate, cheese make eating sexy as hell. ● Smith & Wollensky (Miami) – Fab first date spot even if your date isn’t a carnivore. For light fare, opt for the cocktail/oyster combo — though the view is the only aphrodisiac needed. Great food, stiff drinks, and unrivaled panoramas of the ocean and the Miami skyline. ● Casa Tua (Miami) -There’s the intimate speakeasy feel that helps to make an impression, especially if your date is young and impressionable. Lamps hang from banyan trees in the garden, inviting atmosphere is conductive to great conversation and even better make-out sessions. Plead your first-date case to the members-only bouncer and see if you can’t stretch out the evening. ● Casa La Femme (New York) – If you’re the dating type that needs a few props, this all-inclusive date spot is loaded with shiny distractions. Tent city flaunts belly-dancing beauties and unbeatable signature cocktails to spice things up. Décor is richly detailed, bearing a genuine elegance to mask the cliché sexiness of it all. ● Little Door (Los Angeles) – Deserving of its reputation as THE place to go on a date — whether you speak fluent or just cinematic French, mais oui. The courtyard will help you fall in love, the sexy candlelight will make you fall in lust, and the extensive drink list will take care of anything in between. ● Mayahuel (New York) – The goddess of agave may be on your side for a modern-day Spanish inquisition. Speakeasy vibe with serious, sexy decor, and food to match. Creative cocktails will impress mixology minors; opt for small, shareable plates and cozy up in a carved-out booth. ● August (New York) – For a date of the handholding variety, turn to this claustrophobic cave restaurant. In the fall, intimate garden and sweater weather inspire premature cuddling, which could lead to other things more mature. ● Bowery Hotel (New York) – Pretend you’re somebody as you whisk your date through the golden doors propped open by smiling bellhops. Good for blind dates, it’s a cozy spot where you can get closer, or direct your attention to Cameron Diaz getting blitzed at the bar. Swill red wine on vintage chairs, surrounded by downtown “it” people. It’s all very very, even if your date is very boring.

Miami: Top 10 Spots to Get Laid

Rose Bar at the Delano (South Beach) – For you more classy folk, find your way to the bar and order a round of bubbly. There’s nothing like champers to attract some female attention. ●Prive (South Beach) – School is back in sesh soon, and this is where the hungry frosh head to get their groove on. All it will cost you is a screwdriver. ●B.E.D. (South Beach) – Because sometimes all it takes is a few cocktails and an accessible BED.

Skybar (South Beach) – Out-of-towners come here for a chance celeb encounter. If you keep the tonic flowing, chances are they won’t be disappointed you aren’t John Mayer or one of the Jonas Bros. ●Casa Tua (South Beach) – Find a pal with entry upstairs, and you pretty much have it in the bag. ●Plunge (South Beach) – This is where the Magic City’s most eligible skirts and shorts find themselves lingering on a Thursday night. ●Club 50 (Downtown/Brickell area) – Rumor has it this is where all the “good ones” have been flocking on Friday nights. Well worth a trip off the beach, even if you don’t get lucky. ●Florida Room (South Beach) – Grab your wingman and get down with SoBe’s 20-something crowd. ●Space (Downtown/Brickell area) – Debauchery ensues at about 6a. ●Mansion (South Beach) – Promiscuous Girl should be the anthem at this fist-pumping club. Throngs of scantily clad chicks wait impatiently for the next round or free entry.

Miami: Top 10 Date Spots

Casa Tua (South Beach) – Friday night ressies are hard to come by, so plan in advance, unless of course you have an in at the uber-private club upstairs. ● Bond St. Lounge (South Beach) – Ideal for a blind date. A dark room, quick service — just in case he/she sucks — and a trendy name are all it takes. ● Nemo (South Beach) – Perfect for a first date with that girl you really like. Not too pretentious, but perf for scoring points early on. Opt for a table outside and romance her under the stars.

Eos (Downtown/Brickell) – Mix things up a bit and take your leading lady off the beach for some outstanding Greek cuisine. ● Prime 112 (South Beach) – Suggest this primo steak joint for a double date with your girl’s best friend. When the convo gets dull, you can turn to your porterhouse. ● Barton G. (South Beach) – Impress your out-of-town gal with “voodoo shrimp” — yes, it smokes — and indulge her sweeter side with the :Chocolate Fun-Do,” which is 4lbs of flowing Belgian chocolate. ● Nobu (South Beach) – Nothing works quite like spicy crispy shrimp. Start the meal off with a lychee martini and keep the good vibe rolling. ● Michael’s Genuine (Wynwood/Design District) – You should seriously keep this number on speed dial. A delish menu that satisfies almost any craving, stellar vibe and easy on the wallet. She just might find a way to thank you after the meal. ● Blue Door (South Beach) – Between the mouth-watering menu options and the bustling Rose Bar, you and your significant other will not be disappointed. A rez here is the perfect excuse for throwing on your party shoes come Friday night. ● Joe Allen (South Beach) – Low key, but never lacking in style or character — come here before catching the summer blockbuster. Plus, great bites.

Miami Itinerary: The Bachelor Party

Oh, ye old time tested and treasured art of the Bachelor Party. A rite of passage. It signifies an end of one era, heralds another, and reveals just how brilliant or sleazy your male counterparts may be (as if you didn’t already know). Some celebrate with strippers, steak, and one-night stands. Others keep it classy, opting for a day of golf, steak, and cigars. Whatever your forte, gentlemen, South Beach on the Ocean Drive home stretch has this male bonding event covered. A little bit cheesy, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Let the male bonding commence.

Stay: The Clevelander. Enough debauchery for your cousin; enough class for your fiancé’s brother.

Friday 9 p.m.: Arrive to Miami International Airport and prepare for a Rock Star host — your Clevelander concierge for the weekend — to pick you up in a fully stocked H2 limousine. 10 p.m.: 1020 Music Boxx. The signature Lynchburg lemonade and margarita pitchers should put you in the right mindset for the evening, or perhaps will render you mindless, which are essentially one and the same condition. 12:30 a.m.: The Florida Room. Suitably tipsy, the Lucite piano and the fact that Lenny Kravitz designed it will all start to make sense.

Saturday 10 a.m.: You may have taken advantage of all that Miami nightlife has to offer into the wee morning hours, but do yourself a favor and unwind on SPF4, The Clevelander’s small open-air deck overlooking the pool and beach for your eating and lounging pleasure. Order up Becca’s Egg Sandwich — a hearty bacon, egg, cheese, and pesto sandwich on San Francisco-style sourdough toast. Down several Bloody Marys and you’ll be back in action. 12 p.m.: Have your Rock Star concierge hook you up with Jet Skis for you and your troupe. Charge it to the room so the best man can pay for it later. 3 p.m.: News Cafe. Spinach dip and sandwiches after water sports. Feel like a local with the other tourists. 4:30 p.m.: Splash Model Showcase. Watch a weekly bathing suit competition from under the Yogurt Bar back at The Clevelander. You can promise your wife-to-be that you never went to a strip club! 8 p.m.: Kobe Club. Shower and after shave on, it’s time to eat, and really eat here; a den of dark leather, steak, and steel weaponry. When the boys get together, these things must be involved. 10 p.m.: Casa Tua. You’re in Miami — may as well try to weasel your way into this clandestine Mediterranean-style beach house for a pre-drink with the boys. Everyone (whether famous or fame-challenged) eventually drops by for a drink. Do as the everyones do. 11 p.m.: LIV. This is why you’ve come to Miami. The ‘Bleau has opened a Vegas-style megaclub for SoBe, the type of place where you could see Brit losing her stuff next to Hilton and Kardashian, and you’ll inevitably find yourself in a long bathroom line. Party like a rock star all the way back to your rock star suite.

Sunday 11 a.m.: Ice Box. You’re feeling like you might want to stick your head in an icebox. Cozy up to the classic comfort food until you and your mates are comfortable once again. Cream cheese French toast should soak up the syrup and everything else you did last night. 1 p.m.: Richard Petty Driving Experience. Sure, you could golf, but judging from last night you’re in the business of making bad decisions, and jumping into a tiny race car sans air-conditioning is a bad idea — until you and your groomsmen are barreling down the Homestead-Miami Speedway at 160mph. Then it’s a great idea. 5 p.m.: One last drink at Plunge. The roof pool promises lots of ladies in bikinis providing one last look at all that South Beach is most known for.

Art Basel: Calmer, Quieter, Didn’t Suck

Word on the street, beach, the fairs and in hotel lobby banter was that Basel 2K8, as a whole, couldn’t hold a candle to last year’s event. Even so, hordes of New Yorkers made the airborne trek on Friday for the weekend wrap-up. As if Basel-goers needed to clock in more time at the Raleigh hotel, the venue hosted the Tommy Hilfiger & Vanity Fair gala to benefit Free Arts NYC. Regrettably, the soiree can be classified a poor man’s version of the Visionaire event of the previous night (no male models, no champagne fountain).

Tommy and Ally Hilfiger, Paul Sevigny, Marc Jacobs, and Katie Lee Joel cozied up in beachside cabanas and took in large projection videos of images from Free Arts NYC and TH artists. The door was as tight as that of the other VF party (Oscar edition), despite the fact that past the metal gates there was little to no mayhem worth reporting. East Village Radio DJs Andrew Andrew noticed that crowd congestion everywhere had decreased in comparison to past years, but claimed that they were partial to a semi-sedated Basel. For pure entertainment purposes, guests flocked to the Mark Van S. Digital Photobooth and headed out solely to snag the TH/Jeremy Blake image tote bag.

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The human-blockaded entrance to Casa Tua was equally as incongruous — once inside, few could understand the curbside hype. Andre Balazs, Naomi Campbell, and industrial designer Yves Behar made appearances for the Bruce Weber & L’Uomo Vogue party. Upon entering, I leapt at a rare opening on the floor next to Mr. Weber.

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The man of the moment revealed that he was thoroughly enjoying the week’s events (also a man of few words) and that the”30 Americans” show at the RFC was a personal highlight. The bar upstairs was bustling with salsa music frenzy, and I sat for a moment to catch up with artist David Foote. Although David is a first-time Basel attendee, he confirmed that popular opinion reveals that Basel has lost the heat.

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The opportunity cost of line-waiting was missing out on the Estelle & Tory Burch festivity at the Fontainebleau. This was the A-B list destination of choice for Lenny Kravitz, Paris Hilton, Venus and Serena Williams, Russell Simmons, Beyonce, and Jay Z. As a consequence, I trudged down Collins Avenue in utter devastation for omitting the Estelle event and flubbing a raging social agenda — when astoundingly, I stumbled across Brooklyn artist Ellis G. in action. This street-based artist outlines shadows with sidewalk chalk at night, making for city ordinance-friendly graffiti. Although mid-bike, he stopped to chat with a group of bystanders and touched upon the fact that Basel nightlife seemed incredibly quiet, especially in his typical nocturnal hour.

As I decided to call it a night, I returned to the age-old did-it-suck-or-didn’t-it question. In general, the vigor and enthusiasm levels had significantly decreased just since Wednesday, and the rumor mill was still brimming with analogies of the present and the Basel of yesteryear. Gallerists weren’t able to adhere to my life theory (cash is king: sell, sell, sell). And every time that I threw this one in cocktail party conversation, it was met with a disapproving stare. But there was lots of champagne nevertheless, and dammit, if enjoying Basel ‘08 was wrong; I just don’t wanna be right.