Brazil Comes to Tuyo for this week’s Miami Spice

Yesterday I forgot to take something out of the freezer to prepare for dinner last night. What to do?

How about Tuyo, a fusion restaurant on the top floor of the Miami Dade College’s Miami Culinary Institute just a few steps from our downtown condo? I have wanted to treat my daughter to dinner here ever since my first visit last month.

Sasha cheerfully took our last minute reservations, and we arrived in time to meet Chef John Roberts on the front steps. After being escorted to the eighth floor dining room, we looked over the current menu which changes seasonally. As much as possible, Tuyo uses organically grown and/or locally sourced ingredients in all of its dishes. We could not resist the Miami Spice menu, though. I also decided to include the optional wine pairing. In the interests of full disclosure, I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, which is exactly why I like the wine pairing feature at Tuyo.

After ordering our selections, we were served warm crusty rolls and the amuse-bouche – a delicate lobster croquette topped with a key lime sauce. Next, we both had the African adobo rubbed tuna and avocado salsita served over thinly sliced cucumbers. At first, I was disappointed that the tuna seemed a bit bland… then the after-bite kicked in. The spice rub was not at all over-powering but it had just enough kick to make it a good complement to the avocado salsita. The appetizer was served with an Italian wine – “Firriato, Grillo Altavilla Della Corte, 2009.” Not only was the selection a nice accompaniment for the dish, it was a perfect wine for me, a light white wine that was slightly fruity without being too sweet.

For the main course, my daughter ordered the “Coconut Milk Stew ‘Vatapá’ with Shrimp, Grouper, Cashews, Citrus and Cilantro” which was served over rice. Not being very talkative, she did not give me much of a description other than “yum.” She was clearly too busy eating every last bite.

I ordered the Churrasco de São Paulo a la Parilla with Chimichurri Rojo and oh my goodness was it ever delicious! It was cooked to perfection and for a cut of beef that is often on the tough side, it practically melted in my mouth. The flavor was fabulous, too. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I asked our waiter and he confirmed that I was enjoying organic grass-fed beef. Without a doubt, healthier tastes better!

The wine accompanying this course was “Owen Roe, Sinister Hand, Grenache, Washington State, 2009.” As I warned earlier, I wouldn’t know a Merlot from a Cabernet, but I can tell you that the Grenache was delish. We also had a good giggle over the label, which naturally includes a drawing of a creepy-looking hand. (I know what wine I will be serving at my October party.)

One of my daughter’s favorite sweets in flan; mine is anything with dark chocolate. Needless to say the desserts were perfection: a simple flan on a caramel sauce garnished with a bit of crisp coconut, served with two Brazilian coconut “Kisses” on a side plate.

Tuyo is not an inexpensive restaurant. Even with the reduced prices for the Miami Spice menu, it was a bit over $120 for the two of us. But given the impeccable service, the lovely atmosphere and the quality organic ingredients, I think it was well worth it. In fact, I may even “forget” to defrost something for dinner again next week so we can see what Executive Chef Norman Van Aken has cooked up for the last two weeks of Miami Spice!

Renewable Electricity Nearly Doubles with Obama in Office

Renewable Electricity Nearly Doubles with Obama in Office (via Clean Technica)

 Non-hydro renewable electricity generation has nearly doubled since President Obama took office, reaching 5.75 percent of net electricity, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration. In 2008, before Obama entered the White House, non-hydro resources like solar, wind, geothermal…

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Financing Sources To Help You Build or Renovate Green

Guest Post: Funding a Greener Home by author Jonah Trenton (via

Melanie Dawn Miami LEED Platinum Coconut Grove
Standing-seam metal roof & solar panels

Improving a home’s energy efficiency or adding alternative green energy sources is a smart way to help the environment, reduce monthly utility expenses and enhance occupant health and comfort. However, the initial cost of “going green” can put a financial strain on the homeowner, especially in a down economy. How can individuals fund their “green” home improvement projects? Consider the following tips.

Apply for a Grant

Homeowners do not directly receive federal assistance for green home improvement projects. However, the United States government allocates grant money through the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Veterans’ Affairs Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development. These organizations make the funds available through grants distributed by state organizations to qualifying homeowners.

Depending on the particular grant, funding may cover all or part of the green project. Qualifications vary depending on the organization. Common parameters include low to moderate income, age, veteran’s status, disability status or family dynamic, such as being a single mother. The Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington maintains a list of all grant opportunities, including government and private resources. is another valuable resource to see what grants you may qualify to receive.

Ask Your Utility Company

On a local level, many utility companies partner with local governments to provide grants that encourage customers to utilize greener resources weatherize their homes or install energy efficient appliances. Power companies may also use grant money to provide energy audits and education for customers. Homeowners can check the website of their local municipality or utility company to see what opportunities are available in their area.

Get Help from Private Organizations

Many foundations and nonprofit organizations give back to the community by offering green grants. The Home Depot Foundation funds nonprofit organizations that provide green assistance to low to moderate income families. United Way also offers funding based on household income. Check with housing organizations in your area to find out what is offered.

Apply for an Energy Efficient Mortgage

Banks have made it easier for borrowers to include the cost of energy efficiency in their mortgage as opposed to having large out-of-pocket expenses after the purchase of a home. Energy Efficient Mortgages are typically used for new homes. The buyer is credited for the home’s energy efficiency, allowing the bank to be flexible regarding the debt-to-income qualifying ratio. Thus, the buyer is able to qualify for a larger loan and purchase a more energy-efficient home. Similarly, Energy Improvement Mortgages are used when purchasing a pre-existing home that needs green improvements. Buyers are able to borrow a larger amount without increasing their down payment.

Utilize Income Tax Credits

Homeowners that install qualifying renewable energy or energy efficient systems in their home are able to deduct a certain amount from their income tax. Tax-payers can claim 30 percent of the cost of labor and installation and up to $1,500 spent on equipment, including energy efficient air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters or construction materials.

Research Local Tax Credits

Many states and municipalities offer incentives to encourage homeowners to upgrade to renewable energy sources. For example, California will allow individuals to deduct the entire cost of installing a solar energy system from their property taxes. Dual-use systems receive a 75 percent deduction.

Making a home greener is an ecologically smart choice. Taking the time to research available funding sources for your demographic can make it a financially smart choice as well.

Other options

If none of the above options work out, there’s still an abundance of home improvement or renovation loans, taking out equity in your house or various other mortgage types that might work for you even if they aren’t directly catered to greener living. Speak with your mortgage professional to find a solution created to fit your particular situation.

Guest Post: Funding a Greener Home by author Jonah Trenton (via reposted with permission

Happy 96th Birthday To The National Park Service!

The National Park Service turns 96 years old today. Their official website invites everyone to visit any of the 397 national parks to help celebrate “the big day” with many locations offering special events.

The National Park Service was signed into existance on August 25, 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson after a successful publicity campaign headed by Stephen Mather.

“Established in 1916, the National Park Service was created to care for all of the national parks throughout the country. Each park represents an important part of our collective identity. Some parks commemorate notable people and achievements, others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders, and all provide a place to have fun and learn.

The extraordinary mission of the National Park Service extends even further than the parks, however. The work of NPS reaches into communities across the country where they work with partners to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities that revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the quality of life.”

We have several National Parks in Florida, including the Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, and the Everglades National Park.


EDIT: Unfortunately, celebrations planned for the South Florida National Parks have been cancelled due to approaching Tropical Storm Isaac.

Would You Live Here? Corn Cob House Wins Design Awards

Would you live here? This award winning project from the Archi<20 competition has been characterized as a “corn cob house” and the description does include mention of a “night space” – presumably for sleeping. It seems to me that the word “pavillion” used by ArchDaily is more appropriate. The structure effectively combines the neccessary space for drying the corn cobs with a useful working and resting space for those working in the fields.

photo courtesy of StAndré-Lang Architectes
photo courtesy of StAndré-Lang Architectes

I did like the concept of designing a living space to follow the sun’s movements:

Characterized by the presence of  a light shaft in its middle, the indoor set-up has consequently been chosen according to the Sun’s position and its daily East-to-West cycle. The furniture, consisting of just one block extending around the entire house, integrates the needs of the different daily activities. To the North – the entrance side- a low-ceiling volume (night space) leads to a working one in the Eastern part of the building and to a more generous space in the Southern part, opening up to the sky. On the facade, the rythm of the openings depends on the Sun’s position as well: as a matter of  fact, the design is closely linked to all the natural elements.

Architects: StAndré-Lang Architectes Location: 67600 , Design Team: Bastien Saint-André, Maxime Lang Project Year: 2012 Project Area: 20 sqm Photographs: Courtesy of StAndré-Lang Architectes

Miami Culinary Institute – great food, great fun and green!

Wednesday night’s monthly meeting of the US Green Building Council Miami branch combined virtually all of my passions – urban Miami, real estate, green building, sustainability & environmental consciousness, great food, and bubbly champagne. We met at the Miami Culinary Institute, located at 415 NE 2 AV in downtown Miami, for a short presentation by Chef John Richards, director of MCI. While we sipped our champagne, Chef John talked about the history and purpose of the Miami Culinary Institute.

MCI is part of Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus and was designed by Atkins North America. “A model of sustainability and urban stewardship, Miami Dade College’s eight-story Miami Culinary Institute has achieved LEED Gold certification. Atkins’ environmentally conscious approach to the building’s design included unique features such as rainwater harvesting, greywater harvesting from dishwashers, recycled solid composting for the institute’s vegetable gardens, low-consumption plumbing fixtures, and numerous recycled-content material selections—including high-end finishes.”

In addition to programs for degree-seeking MDC students and professional development courses for those in the industry, MCI also offers a wide variety of classes for anyone interested in improving their culinary skills, and that is what we did last night. Breaking into groups of four, each group prepared one course of the dinner that we ultimately enjoyed eating. With much laughter , my group learned how to prepare poached pear with champagne sabayon. Between separating the egg yolks with our hands and having a whisking race to finish the sauce, hilarity was the prime ingredient. (Did I mention we were sipping on champagne?)

With lessons and supervision provided by the ever-patient Chef Travis Jameson Starwalt, we also learned how MCI sources much of their food locally (within 350 miles), as well as minimizing, recycling and/or composting the waste. Many of the greens are grown in MCI’s on-site garden, while the delicious pork tenderloins came from Niman Ranch – described by Chef Travis as “a farm co-op that is raising and treating their animals with the utmost care and respect!”

The Miami Culinary Institute is also home to Tuyo, an award winning fusion restaurant on the top floor overlooking downtown Miami and the bay. Tuyo’ vision statement includes “embracing farm-to-table and sustainability practices that safeguard the health of the people and the planet.”

From the design of the structure to its on-going operation; from the Tuyo restaurant to the chefs teaching classes – the passion driving those involved with the Miami Culinary Institute was neatly expressed by Chef Travis when he told me, “It’s up to our generation to lead the charge in the war against commercialization and convenience.”

The Politics of Clean Energy: Conservative South Carolina Republican Going Nationwide with Clean Energy Plan

The political persuasion of a clean energy advocate shouldn’t matter, but former South Carolina Republican Congressman Bob Inglis says it lost him an election. Here is his plan:

Conservative South Carolina Republican Going Nationwide with Clean Energy Plan (via Clean Technica)

  Eliminate subsidies for developing new clean energy technologies while at the same time adding the cost of pollution, global warming, and wars to the price of fossil fuels. It’s a variation on a theme that’s been voiced by energy experts and a variety of others, including politicians — a “…

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The Next Trend in Green Construction: The Net Zero Building

The Next Trend in Green Construction: The Net Zero Building (via

It’s an exciting time to be in the renewable energy or green constriction industries. Year after year, new standards bodies are formed and enable all kinds of exciting new building standards and adoption of eco-friendly materials. In 2012, green building trends are moving solidly in the direction…

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Historic Trees Donated to Future Site of Miami’s Museum Park

Gumbo Limbo tree at DeSoto National Monument in Florida (photo credit: Wiki Commons)
Gumbo Limbo tree at DeSoto National Monument in Florida (photo credit: Wiki Commons)

NBC 6 South Florida reports that Swire Properties has donated forty trees from their Brickell CitiCentre site to the future Pérez Art Museum Miami site. The trees, including historic oaks, gumbo limbos and strangler figs, range from 25 to 150 years old.

Arborist Lisa Hammer is overseeing the excavation and the loading the giant trees onto a barge to transport them through the Miami River to the future location of the museum.

Hammer determined the best ways to excavate the trees without causing them harm or shock, Swire Properties said.

“I was responsible for making sure the trees had enough water, no symptoms of stress, and giving the trees treatments that were deemed necessary, such as fertilizer,” said Hammer, who has been practicing for 25 years and has a master’s degree from Florida International University.
She will continue to monitor the maintenance of the trees for one year.

Element Miami International Airport to be LEED Certified

miami urban green
element Miami, 3525 NW 25th Street · Miami, FL 33142

News Release: February, 21 2012 Element Hotels

Element Miami International Airport Opens

“With its own combination of beautiful natural elements and singular style, Miami is a perfect fit for the Element brand,” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President of Specialty Select Brands for Starwood. “Element offers guests a bright, energizing environment that’s conducive to both work and play, all while affording easy access to the city and to the airport.”

The Element brand made history with its 2008 launch. It is the first major hotel brand to mandate that all properties pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for high-performance buildings. The Element Miami International Airport features all the brand’s signatures, including:

  • Rise, Element’s hearty and healthy complimentary breakfast
  • Motion, a state-of-the-art, 24-hour fitness center
  • Relax, complimentary evening receptions
  • Restore, a gourmet food pantry
  • A 791-square-foot meeting room with modular furnishings, flexible layout and state-of-the-art technology that can be customized to meet and business or social needs
  • ChargePoint electric vehicle charging station
  • Dynamic gathering spaces, from a lobby flooded with natural light to a multi-storied window wall and from an outdoor fire pit, to water features and a barbecue
  • Light filled guest rooms with a fluid design of modular furniture, swiveling flat-screen televisions, large desks with open shelving, and custom-designed closets
  • The signature Heavenly® Bed
  • Spa-inspired bathrooms with an invigorating rain-shower and dual-flush toilet
  • Fully equipped kitchens featuring filtered water, ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and utensils to prepare a gourmet meal

“We’re very excited to bring Element’s fusion of style, personal wellbeing and sustainability to Miami, and we think guests will appreciate having a fresh option so close to MIA,” said Lew Wiens, President of True North Hotel Group, the hotel’s management company. “Our location adjacent to such a key transportation hub makes Element Miami unbeatable for business and leisure travelers alike.”