Where To Eat During Art Basel Miami Beach

When you head down to Miami Beach for Art Basel next week, dine at the spots where food is an art in itself. During those culture-filled four days, stick to our carefully curated list of the top Miami restaurants: Where To Eat During Art Basel Miami Beach. No matter what crowd you’re cruising with, you will find your place at one of these spots.

What to Expect From the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival

The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival reloads this weekend for another year of tropical culinary excess. To understand the festival’s true spring break-like essence and what it has evolved into during the 11 years of its existence, consider this scene from last year’s event: Paula Deen, the living patron saint of butter and diabetes, is standing onstage underneath a giant white tent built on the sugar-sand of Miami Beach as hundreds of her Deeniacs scream and whistle. Wearing a flowing, Pepto Bismol-colored muumuu over black leggings, her eyes shielded by sunglasses so large that she resembles a tree frog, Deen then asks, in her thicker-than-grits Savannah drawl, how many in the audience are there “hoping to see my britches to fall down?” An unlikely roar erupts. Clearly they saw the viral clip of her South Beach appearance from 2010 when the doughy, silver-haired former agoraphobe lost the integrity of her pantaloons.

Prowling the stage in 2011, she promises no such “moon over Miami” would revisit, but then grabs her butterboobs and suggests that perhaps “my falsies might fall out.” Moments later, her Food Network compadre Robert Irvine, walks onstage wearing a sky blue body shirt and cradling a giant dish of butter. Deen suggests he remove his shirt all Chippendales-like. Instead, he dips an index finger into the dairy product, takes a lick and then rubs the remainder all over his ribbed abs. As her husband Michael watches, Deen drops down for a lick off his hairy belly. And then Irvine inexplicably goes down on all fours with the precision of a man who has great experience doing so. Deen proceeds to ride him like a jockey to the delight of the Photoshop geniuses who would go on to create PaulaDeenRidingThings.com.

To borrow a phrase, this festival is no ordinary day at the beach.

Originally conceived by organizer Lee Schrager as a fundraiser for Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the festival last year sold more than 53,000 tickets to more than 40 events and raised $2.2 million. In a decade, SoBe has eclipsed Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic in popularity and prestige. For four days, Miami’s South Beach district turns into a rollicking buffet of strange and glitzy decadence as Food Network personalities and reality TV stars descend on Florida’s nether region to pimp their brands, press the flesh, see their friends, and blow off some steam.

“Its sun and surf and sex and suds,” Miami chef Norman Van Aken told me last year. Van Aken, father of New World cuisine and executive chef at the Miami Culinary Institute’s Tuyo, says the festival is “the big daddy of food festivals like American Idol is the big daddy of American TV.”

If that’s the case, then spiky-haired bro Guy Fieri is South Beach’s Steven Tyler. He and Emeril Lagasse will host the first big shindig of the weekend on Thursday night, Moet Hennessy’s the Q, presented by Allen Brothers Steaks. This is the first year for the event since the retirement in 2011 of the festival’s wildly popular BubbleQ event, which married the venerable pastimes of barbecue and carbonated French beverages. BubbleQ was the festival’s way of keeping it real, inviting the likes of barbecue gods like Myron Mixon and Chris Lilly to pull some pork seaside with Food Network stars like Bobby Flay of Mesa Grill in New York City and such locals as Miami Beach chefs Dewey Losasso of The Forge and Mark Zeitouni of Lido. What has changed for this year? Not much. Different brand of bubbly and different chefs but the same beachside tent behind the Delano Hotel. And the same expensive ticket — $300 a pop. For another hundred bucks, patrons get a 45-minute VIP head-start at the chandeliered hog trough.

This year’s heavy hitters include Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon in New Orleans, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, California (Ben’s dad is some old guy named Harrison.) The local roster includes Michelle Bernstein of SRA. Martinez and Jordi Vallés of J&G Grill.

The big change is that this year’s Q will have a three-hour after-party called The Q After Dark (which is odd, because the Q itself takes place in the dark). One imagines besotted foodies raving barefoot on the beach, reeking of KC Masterpiece parfum as DJ Ruckus spins his trance-hop canon from Phunked Up Records.

If that hasn’t crushed all culinary souls, Friday’s schedule includes Rachael Ray’s Burger Bash, a carne-extravaganza featuring 30 chefs from joints across the country. Meatmeister Michael Symon of B-Spot Burgers in Cleveland is going for a three-peat trophy this year — his fried salami, provolone cheese, shasha sauce and pickled onion burger took the top prize in 2011. But it’s far more impressive that the burger craze — which took over for the bacon craze, which took over for the cupcake craze, which took over for the seasoned salt craze — is still going strong enough to survive 1,000 episodes of Ray’s daytime talk show.

Later that night, Robert Irvine (he of the buttered and lickable British abs) will host the Party Impossible bash at 1111 Lincoln Road. And while that might sound impressive, it helps to know that 1111 Lincoln Road is an open-air parking garage. A very nice parking garage in a very swanky part of South Beach’s shopping district, mind you. A parking garage designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the same Swiss firm that created the ground-breaking, Lifesavers-looking Allianz Arena in Munich. But it’s a parking garage, one with jutting, off-angle concrete pillars and uneven cathedral ceilings that give the impression that, cool or not, it could crumble at any second (which could be a buzz kill).

Saturday’s schedule hits the throttle with a blur of two dozen events, including a farm-to-table brunch at the Miami Beach botanical gardens hosted by Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami. Seminars like those by fromageinatrix Laura Werlin’s grilled cheese and wine-pairing class lend the day an educational aroma. But before things get too esoteric, The Best Thing I Ever Ate Late Night Bites & Sweets party, named unsubtly after Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” series, showcases finger foods and desserts (read: munchies) at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach.

Which brings us back to Paula Deen, who hosts her annual Down Home Cookin’ Sunday Brunch. Last year’s shindig nursed hangovers with fried chicken, pocket pies and the lip-smacking goodness of Fort Worth, Texas, chef Tim Love’s beef short ribs with anasazi bean stew and ricotta cheese. Oh, and Deen making up new lyrics to long-established gospel standards. At a gospel brunch. Halleluiah.

By the time Travel Channel bug chewer Andrew Zimmern hosts the Trucks on the Beach closing food truck party that night, it’s a good bet Deen will be asleep. Unless there’s more butter to lick.

If that happens, all britches are off.

Why Fight City Hall (When You Can Welcome it Instead?)

At first impression, City Hall is the kinda joint Chicago and New York must’ve been chock-a-block with back in the first half of the 20th century. In fact you half expect to see some Ward politicians or Tammany Hall operatives making deals in one of its back booths. Sure the design is primarily Deco, but it’s more evocative of the Chicago Board of Trade or the Chrysler Building than it is the candy-colored hues of South Beach. In other words, the place feels as if it’s already been around a good while, and that it’ll be around a good while still.

Part of the wine-and-dine’s wheeling-and-dealing vibe is helped out by having owner Steve Haas in house to do all the glad-handing. Haas, who boasts eleven years at both The Forge and China Grill Management, knows well the importance of being there. And from what he told me at lunch last Friday, he plans on being there every single day that it’s open. Since City Hall is open every single day, that’s a whole lotta being on hand indeed.

Unlike its municipal counterparts, this City Hall is one you’d rather welcome than fight. As mentioned, the setting evokes a heyday made of snap brims and bespoke suits, fast chatter and even faster friends, nefarious and otherwise. An era when the dealings may have been shady and the intrigue might have cast shadows, but the jobs got done regardless.

According to the ever-sporting artist Andrew Reid, whose (to me) Thomas Hart Benton-esque light box mural spans much of City Hall’s main wall, that can-do feel is no accident. Haas apparently got city hall to green light his restaurant in record time. And he built it up and opened its doors even quicker. In this day of procrastination and delay, obstacles and excuses, that in itself is something worth applauding.

Of course having already cut such a stellar swath through the food biz gave Haas a, er, fork up on the competition. Yet one senses that finally getting out on his very own gave him even more incentive. That Haas chose to do what he does best just north of Downtown (what I call NoDo), on the south end of the Biscayne Corridor, shows he hasn’t lost his knack for location either, nor any of his prescience. Remember the China Grill group includes Asia de Cuba, which has outposts in some of the hottest spots on earth. And while Haas will be the first to admit the group begins and ends with Jeffrey Chodorow, one can’t help thinkin’ that Steve’s stint as China Grill‘s GM didn’t also factor into the equation.

If working with a wonder like Chodorow did teach Haas a thing or three, one of those lessons undoubtedly emphasized how bright is was to work with a wonder. In City Hall’s case, that means Chef Tom Azar, who stinted in New Orleans, Orlando and Miami with none other than Emeril Lagasse. Here though Azar eschews the “Bam!” of his former employer (thank Zeus), and instead let’s his menu do the shouting.

As Miami New Times noted, City Hall’s “[d]ishes run the gamut from Latin-inspired sea scallops from Maine served with jalapeno emulsion and black bean and sweet corn salsa to a timpano de maccheron; a hearty meatball-filled pasta dome authentic to the Neapolitan region of Italy. Diners will also find familiar old-school entrees like country-style meatloaf, oyster po’boy sandwich, and wood-burning oven pizzas.” What my colleagues across town couldn’t mention in their preview, however, was that each dish is as scrumptious as the last — and the next.

To have a hangout that is both a throwback to our better tradition and a boon to the right now surely bodes well for Miami’s culinary future, not to mention to the future of the city as a whole. With the Arsht Center, Villa 221 and the Triple A all within walking distance, it also bodes well for a neighborhood just beginning to come into its own. More importantly perhaps, City Hall is now fully representative of the people. Well, at least one of ’em is anyway.

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Photography by Manny Hernandez.

Midnight Mixologists: John Lermayer’s Toplist

This cocktail connoisseur has spent more time in a bar than your average wino. John Lermayer is now more than a decade deep into an illustrious career that’s seen him presiding over some of the hottest bars in America’s steamiest city, Miami. He currently graces the counter of The Florida Room at the Delano Hotel, tending, mixing, and pouring for an endless stream of VIPs. This dapper, manly mixologist—who Canton names the best bartender of 2010—also has lucrative side gigs, like consulting and designing for bars. Check out John Lermayer’s favorite spots to grab a cocktail in Miami.

The Florida RoomThe Living Room at the WMercadito MidtownSunset LoungeHakkasan Meat MarketSushi Samba DromoSra. Martinez The Forge

See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.

Sipping Champagne with Miami Royalty

‘Twas the kinda wine and dine you’d find in a South Beach storybook – attended by swells, consisting of delicacies, sparkling with chatter, and set in one of our town’s most fabled venues. That the fete was presided over by champagne royalty only added a romantic element to the narrative, which also provided the kinda happy ending all good storybooks rely on. In my line, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of attending more than a good few of these wondrous affairs. But on each occasion, I’ve never failed to be more than a bit pleasantly surprised by the privilege. Lunchoening at The Forge on Saturday afternoon with the scion of the mighty Krug empire was no exception to the rule.

Among the 18 swells in attendance were CBS channel 4 weather anchor Lisette Gonzalez, Morgans Hotel Group Nightlife Director Joshua Wagner, Ferretti Group PR and Communication Director Jianinna Castro, Mondrian Hotel GM Angelo Vierra, and Florida Room VIP Hostess Lauren Andrews, as well as Krug’s Southeast Brand Director Julie Andersson and Krug’s USA Director Carl Heline. All came at the beck and call of Moet-Hennessey USA Trade Development Manager and perennial gentleman Nelson Giacometto, who instinctively knows how to throw a party, of any size. But as swell as these swells were and are, it was the spark and the charm of our esteemed hosts which raised the proverbial bar to that extra-special level.

I speak of Krug’s Global CEO Margareth “Maggie” Henriquez and Olivier Krug himself, who represents the sixth generation to carry on the robust tradition begun by his great-great-great-great grandfather Johann-Joseph Krug back in 1843. As you might suspect Olivier has champagne in his blood, but as royal as his lineage may seem, there’s nothing to-the-manor-borne about his bearing. Sure, he’s impeccably mannered and understatedly elegant – then again, when much of your life consists of dining out with the crème-de-la-crème in the best establishments in the world, you’d better be both. Yet there’s a certain candor which places Olivier among the rare breed of dynasty inheritors you can actually sit down and have a drink with.

Make that a few drinks, all of which came tagged with the lauded family name. I shan’t try to recall all the various vintages we sampled Saturday afternoon (a lot of Grand Cuvee, to be sure), yet I’ll never forget the way Olivier’s eyes lit up when explaining the making and the history of Krug’s vaunted 1998 Clos de Mesnil.

“It’s not a symphony or a sonata,” he explained. “It’s a solo. All played by a single extraordinary grape.”

Paired with Chef Dewey Losasso’s pumpkin cakes with caviar and mint crème fraiche, I’d say extraordinary only began to describe this top-of-the-line vintage. As Maggie chimed in about the painstaking process behind creating such a splendid un-blend, and Olivier echoed the pride the company takes in its making, I actually kept quiet and listened. Yes, it was that delicious.

As the courses continued — jicama and cured salmon salad with dried fig and peppercorn dressing; Florida snapper flavored with truffle and sided by lentil broth — I kept quiet too, opening my mouth only to savor another savory sip or take another exquisite bite. And as I sat captivated by the stories and sated by the richness of it all, I thought to myself ‘This is what people mean when they say “Good Taste.'”

Naturally I wasn’t silent for the duration. Prior to us sitting down to table in the wine cellar, both Maggie and Olivier were kind enough to take some time to sit with me in the Forge’s recently-refurbished (and impeccably-appointed) dining room. It was there that I learned Olivier began his apprenticeship as a child, volunteering to work summers in the family’s fabled Reims facility, and that his appointment was a matter of good course.

“It was perfectly natural,” he said. “Krug is not a royal family so you don’t inherit the job. I probably had a [head start] because I was the eldest in the family, and I was the one who showed some interest.”

Olivier also contended that there is more than mere privilege to being behind one of the most famous names in champagnes.

“People talk about privilege, and that may be some of the image that we convey. But it’s also a big responsibility, because you have to look after the style and the taste of something that was created more than 165 years ago.”

“So far I still believe that Krug is still too much a secret,” he continued. “My great-great-great-great grandfather wanted to create a champagne everyone could understand. You don’t have to be a specialist to enjoy Krug. Have a glass of Grand Cuvee and you will understand what I mean. It doesn’t taste like other champagnes. It fills your mouth with an explosion of flavors and richness and happiness and it calls to your senses and your memories.”

Maggie, anticipating my question about why we were all here, said, “The purpose of this visit is to take people on a journey through Krug, so you really have an experience that takes you into the universe of Krug. In addition, it tells you everything. You don’t have to understand it; you feel Krug, and what the founder intended and what has been perpetrated by six generations of the family.”

As we wrapped our chat they both invited me to swing through Krug headquarters for lunch the next time I’m in France. “It’s only forty minutes from Paris,” they sang. “And we’d love to have you.”

After this scrumptious luncheon, consider me there.

Industry Insiders: Shareef Malnik, Dean of Decadence

When The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar first opened in Miami in 1969, it was the talk of the town. It’s been 42 years and the restaurant’s seen more than a few transformations, from ’70s steak-and-Sinatra standard, to coke-fueled ‘80s club-hub, to South Beach’s reigning celebrity haunt during the gaudy ’90s scene. During this time, one thing’s remained constant: The Forge is hot. And the man behind the heat is Shareef Malnik, owner for 19 years running. He grew up busing the restaurant’s tables, inheriting the space from his father in ’91. Now, he’s responsible for Forge’s most drastic re-incarnation yet; this March, the restaurant re-opened after a $10 million, one-year renovation. Blond wood took the place of brooding mahogany, $700 bottles of Cristal gave way to $8 pours, and Executive Chef Dewey LoSasso was brought in to breathe some much needed life into the classic, albeit intimidating menu. White linen is gone for good. We caught up with Malnik to chat about The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar’s recent changes, his Top Chef-style selection of LoSasso, and the toned-down scene he sees in Miami’s future.

On getting involved in the family business: I was born in Miami Beach and did all my schooling in the area, through to Law School at Miami School of Law. My family’s been in the restaurant business ever since I was about 10 years old, so I’ve always worked in restaurants although I didn’t know I was going to end up a restaurateur. After I finished law school, I left the country and bounced around for a number of years. In 1991, I moved back to Miami because Miami Beach was starting to become something very interesting. There was this great underground buzz happening called South Beach. At the same time, there was an opportunity to take over my father’s restaurant and reinvent it. So, I put my heels in and got to work. I’ve been doing it ever since.

On the history of The Forge: The Forge is 42 years old and it’s seen a lot of changes in the world. In the ’90s, The Forge really fell in line with what was happening here in Miami Beach and it went kind of crazy. The ‘90s were all about excess.There’s 10 years of crazy experiences that make up one giant, crazy experience. I really mean that. The excess was just outrageous. Miami Beach was very celebrity-driven in the ‘90s and everybody was just flocking here. Everybody in the world ended up at The Forge—eating too much, drinking too much, and partying too much.

Well, that must have been fun if not a little bit intense over a long period of time… It was fun while it lasted, but nothing is meant to last forever. Period. That’s just the way of the universe. Those days are gone. That Forge—you don’t cater to a culture that’s not there anymore. The Forge has been modified.

On the iconic restaurant’s recent renovations: When The Forge was originally designed in 1958, it was unique, progressive, and eclectic. Although I pretty much gutted the entire restaurant, I thought it was important to tie in where we come from with where we’re going. You can find the original brick wall line the main dining room next to some beautiful French millwork next to a panel of stainless steel. I wanted my clients to feel at home and that meant more couches and less seating so that it was less rigid, albeit still in an elegant room. It really worked. It was very important for me to break this image that The Forge might be pretentious and stuffy, only for special occasions and grand dinners. The final step was the food and service. We have all kinds of food on the menu. If you want to have a five-course meal or a ten-course tasting menu, you can. Generally, most people are going to come in and try five or six of our snacks and share a couple appetizers and maybe even have a salad for dinner. Those dishes are all over the menu, like the Lobster PB & J. It’s whimsical and fun, but it’s also a seriously great dish. The service is the final brush stroke. You can get as much or as little as you want.

On selecting Chef Dewey LoSasso: The Top Chef thing was that, what I’ve found over the last number of chefs, is that personality is key. There are a lot of great chefs and there are a lot of people who can cook, but that’s only one aspect of it. It’s being able to work with somebody and live with somebody. In the restaurant business, it’s a life commitment and you’re a family. It’s fortunate that in this case you can choose your family. Usually, you can’t. You choose right or you’re going to have a miserable existence. I really feel strongly about Dewey, his skills and his integrity as a person. He truly has become a member of my family. I chose Dewey by having chefs come into my house. They would start prepping the day before so I would be able to see them. The next day, they would actually cook for and serve eight friends in my dining room. It wasn’t so much about what they made as It was to see that this a person we can work with and does he have great skills. Dewey was the standout.

On the new clientele: The crowd is more diverse. It’s so great to see every age, every type. It’s a beautiful thing.

On the future of hospitality in South Beach: I’m seeing a lot more casual, a lot more approachable…[Laughing] Basically, the things we’re doing. I’m seeing a lot more natural ingredients, farm-to-table. Those seem to be the trends happening in the future. Those are the restaurants that I’m eating at.

Go-to spots: I like Michael’s Genuine very much. Michael’s has got a great burger. I like Sra Martinez. I love Michelle Bernstein and she’s got such an assortment of great half-plates. I love them all.

Future plans for The Forge: I’m looking to do another Forge now that I have this new re-branded restaurant. This summer, I’ll spend some time in London looking around, maybe Los Angeles. Of course, ultimately, New York City. I’m looking at an airport concept. I also really love our wine bar. It’s really an interesting thing where you can be served by a sommelier and have that experience, or you can go and grab a wine card and a debit card and load it up and go and try wines by the glass. We have a Forge Wine App as an iApp. You can rate the wines and share on Twitter or Facebook. People don’t always need to be spoon fed everything anymore. You can be your own sommelier if you want to be. I think that’s very important.

Industry Insiders: Antonio Misuraca, Ultimate Host

Miami nightlife baron Antonio Misuraca on recession-proof nightlife, club doormen as neurosurgeons, and revering both Bill Clinton and the Pope.

What is your weekly schedule? I am one of the local promoters here in South Beach. And the nights I do are as follows: Monday night at Bed’s “Secret Society,” which has been going for about seven years. It’s like an R&B and hip-hop party. Wednesday night at The Forge, which is like an international night and has been going for about 15 years; Thursday night at the Gansevoort roof deck, I do a party called “Plunge”; Friday night at Set, which is like a house music night. It has been going for about three years. My latest is “Vanity Night” at LIV in the Fontainebleau Hotel. We just launched that, and— to me— it’s a success.

What is your favorite night? My favorite night is Wednesday night at The Forge. It’s a great mixture of people. You have Europeans. You have high-net-worth people from around the world, and you have the society crowd from Miami— the locals, and a lot of younger people from colleges and universities in the area. So it’s a very eclectic group of people that enjoy it very much on Wednesday nights. We have a variety of music. We have house music. We play rock. We play hip-hop, and we play Latin music. It basically fulfills the need for every sort of age group and different group of people from different societies.

Where do you go when you’re not working? What I do when I’m not working is I usually go to Randazzo’s Little Italy in Coral Gables. It’s like a real homestyle Italian restaurant. The food is brought out in tremendous portions, and I enjoy it with friends. It’s a really laid back, casual spot. I don’t have to be Antonio Misuraca when I walk in there. I go in a T-shirt and blue jeans. I will kick back and enjoy a bottle of wine. I don’t have to entertain. I don’t have to deal with the lines and the aggravation of the nighttime spots in South Beach. And it’s the finest Italian food in Miami. I also spend a lot of time in the Standard Hotel. There’s a spa there. It’s a unisex spa. I will go do a sauna or steam bath and just relax on the hammam, on the hot rock, on the hot marble and just relax near the pool and have lunch.

Who are two of your industry icons? Michael Capponi, because he was the one who actually introduced me to the business, and I guess you could say I was sort of his protégé. Michael and I have had a friendship for 15 years now, and he’s one of the people who showed me the ropes and brought me to where I am today as far as making stuff happen. The other person is Shareef Malnik of The Forge, who is one of my best friends and mentors. He also did the same as Michael and showed me the ropes of promotion and marketing business and how to be a very great host to the wealthy around the world.

What are some positive trends that you’ve seen lately in the nightclub industry? The positive trends are that the nightclubs here in Miami have not really fallen into the hands of recession. What I mean by that is the ultra-rich, although they are affected by the recession — it’s nominal. If you have a guy that’s worth a billion dollars, and he loses $200 million, he’s still going to have $800 million to have his toys and go out enjoy fine wines, spirits, and some of the finest restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs in Miami Beach. So, when you’re dealing with people on the level that I deal with, the economy doesn’t affect them, which is a positive for being in the type of business I am and catering to the kind of people I do. You also have a lot of people who are enjoying the bar scene a lot more, because I guess they are trying to drown their sorrows. While our table service might be down, our bar service has really gone up.

What about negative trends? Well, the negative trends are the lack of customer service at some these entities. By that, I mean the aggression at the door, the non-cohesion of the staff, and the mannerisms of some doormen. Their demeanor is unacceptable. When people go out, they don’t want to be harassed. When I go on vacation, I want to be greeted with open arms. I want to be kissed on both cheeks when I walk in and hugged by the doorman if I’m going to be spending an absurd amount of money. Here is South Florida, you have doormen who act like they are brain surgeons, like they go into an operating room every day and save lives. However, their ego gets involved in the business and it’s a shame, because you have a lot of good people — quality people — that are willing to spend money and create good atmosphere in the venue, but because of the ignorance and the ego by some doormen, it makes it very challenging for these people to go out and have a good time.

What is something people might not know about you? What they might not know about me is that I’m very reserved, and I’m very much into my religion. I’m a devoted Roman Catholic. I go with my little bad boy crew. On Saturday night we’re chugging champagne and spending ten thousand dollars on bottles of Cristal between my friends and myself. But we’re up by 10:30 in the morning with bloodshot eyes and smelling like cigarettes, and by 11 o’clock we’re at St. Patrick’s no matter what. I will share a funny story with you that I shared with my good friend DJ Tiesto. My monsignor saw me one day nodding off during the service, and as he left the mass, he said to me, “Did you enjoy the service today, Antonio? You look a little out of it. Did you have a late night last night?” And so I said to him, “Father, to be quite honest, it was the music. I’m not used to this type of music.” And he laughed and said, “Don’t worry next week we’re going to book Tiesto for you.” So he put me on the floor with that one.

What’s coming up in ’09? I’m doing a big Rolls Royce party in Tampa the Friday night before the Super Bowl at a 40,000 square-foot home, and it will be invitation only. It’s hosted by Rolls Royce Motor Cars of North America and Budweiser Select and, basically, will have a quarter of the billionaires in the US attending, along with about 50 different models from the different agencies and probably 30 different celebrity friends of mine. It always goes off really well. We did one last year in Miami, and people were very pleased with it. It’s a very high-end event. Also, April 4th is my Bay Point School event (www.theblacksannualgala.com) at Canyon Ranch which is my main charity that helps juvenile delinquents learn how to survive in challenging environments and become productive citizens. I sit on the executive board for almost 10 years with Leah & Roy Black, and it is a black tie blow out. Few years ago we raised over $2.25 million in a single night with a super A-List crowd. Celebrities that have performed or attended include Barry Gibb, Alex Rodriguez, Pamela Anderson, Gloria & Emilio Estefan, Lennox Lewis, Bernard Hopkins, and Vince Neil— who got so drunk before his performance he fell off the stage.

Who is your favorite celebrity that frequents your parties that you’ve hung out with? Well, I will tell you, my favorite celebrity, believe it or not, is President Clinton. He is beyond an idol for me. What he has accomplished for this country, and what he has done with his global initiative — I revere him. And he is someone who is very near and dear to my family. Someone that I really care about. The only other person who I hold on the same celebrity level is Pope Benedict.