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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Miami: everything they promised

After an uneventful flight, I landed in Miami yesterday at 12:45 PM. There was an event at that point: we were held on the plane as a "security officer" came on the plane and escorted a young couple off -- no problem, no hassle -- after which we were told to stay on the plane. It was so the Miami-Dade cops could arrive: we were searched on the way off the plane, bags and bodies. Yow.

So then I hiked a ride down into Miami with my luggage -- a nice rollie duffle I got from the Red Cross for donating platelets -- looking at all the high-rises and cranes. Man, this town is growing! I got to the Hyatt Regency, checked in, and registered for the Cheers Conference. The conference is an educational thing, not a trade show, so there was no big vendor room: it's all seminars. I got my badge and went right into a session on up-selling; a statistical marketing info session, on why people did or did not order more expensive drinks. Some interesting insights, but I kept wondering who the people were who'd been surveyed; they came up with some dopey answers.

After that, I went up to my room and practiced my presentation: "Make Every Beer Count: Pleasing the new beer customer." It's about looking at beer as a set of categories, rather than as clumps of brands, how to get more choices into the same cold storage space. Hope they like it when I present it in a couple hours.

At 6:00, they made awards presentations to businesses, and opened the cocktail lounge. I grabbed a quick glass of Stella ("Oh, for a camera; Lew drinking Stella," says Stephen Beaumont when he saw me with it), followed that with a Michelob in a gorgeous thin-walled pilsner glass, and then had a Ward 8, an old classic cocktail, updated with a dollop of pomegranate molasses: quite good. Then it was a healthy-tasting beauty made with the new Rangpur gin, key lime juice, and champagne, topped with mint and cucumber -- at least, I think that's what it was. It's not that I was getting tipsy, it's that there were two very similar cocktails being made, and I'm not sure which one I got: it was very loud and crowded. That's why I stepped outside and sipped this last one while looking at the two big motor yachts tied up at the hotel's quay: hired by Red Bull and Leblon as floating parties. I didn't go on board, just watched the beautiful people and called home.

At 7:30, I joined the Cheers magazine staff and a couple other freelancers for dinner. They took us to VIX, the restaurant at the Victor Hotel in South Beach. Very nice, very interesting, but so dark we were reduced to passing around flashlights to read the menu. Wow, got some good stuff, though. We shared some apps: tuna tartare, lobster ceviche, and foie gras ice cream. Really. It came interleaved with mango syrup, and it was so good I laughed out loud: Wow! Dinner was delish: lobster and Hong Kong duck chow mein, with the freshest damned bean sprouts I ever had. I finished up with a glass of tawny port for dinner. What a great day and night. Cheers, Miami.

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