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Rappers becoming fixtures on food scene

Rapper Snoop Dogg furiously stirred flour into a creamy béchamel sauce, a whisk in one hand and a microphone in the other during a cooking demonstration with chef Guy Fieri.

He tossed herbs into the mac and cheese and spicy wing dishes with the dramatic flair of Emeril Lagasse, raising his hands in the air, spinning around after taste tests and occasionally singing lines from songs like “Drop It Like It’s Hot” as a crowd cheered wildly.

Wearing black shades, his dreads in a ponytail, the pioneering rapper rushed off the cooking stage and emerged 20 minutes later at a nearby beachside DJ booth, also part of the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival, spinning tunes, including many of his own, while a stagehand passed out joints to the sweaty, enthusiastic crowd.

Snoop may seem an unlikely guest for a festival where highbrow foodies come for $500-a-plate dinners to mingle with chefs like Jose Andres and Daniel Boulud, but it’s emblematic of the widening intersection between food and music that Snoop and other rappers and hip-hop stars are capitalizing on, where unlikely pairings form shows like VH1’s “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party” and rappers like 2 Chainz drop cookbooks along with their albums. Mobb Deep rapper Prodigy, who served time in prison, recently came out with the cookbook “commissary kitchen: my infamous prison cookbook,” which includes a recipe that mixes Ramen noodles and Doritos. You can even buy Rap Snacks, honey jalapeño potato chips with Fetty Wap‘s face on the bag.

On a recent episode of Snoop and Martha Stewart‘s VH1 show, she roasted a whole pig, proclaiming the new way to eat pork was “nose to tail.”

“Nah, nah, nah. In the ‘hood we say from the rooter to the tooter,” says Snoop, who helped Stewart make a Cuban mojito, busting out a quippy rhyme before toasting the audience.

Earlier this month, Miami rapper Rick Ross tapped Stewart to announce the debut of his new album on Twitter. The queen of homemaking also included a photo of her holding a cake with Ross’ album cover on top.

Rev Run of the rap group Run-DMC has also become a fixture on the food scene with the Cooking Channel’s “Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers.” The father of six told The Associated Press that cooking is more about family time and less about the creative process for him.

“Music, like food, has no language barriers. When people hear music or eat tasty food, all of a sudden we have something in common,” he said.

Marketing experts say Stewart and the Food Network, which sponsors the South Beach festival, are using the partnerships to stay fresh and relevant.

“Some of the folks in the food industry are trying to appeal to a younger audience and associate their brands with that,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst for the NPD Group.

But it’s not all about inking new business deals. Some artists were busy in the kitchen long before they started making music.

Rapper Flava Flav grew up cooking in his family’s soul food diner. Before bursting onto the music scene with the group Public Enemy, he went to cooking school and says he once was the head chef at the Nassau County Courthouse in New York.

“It’s like music — you’re always creating different tastes, different flavors,” he said in a phone interview.

He’s had several restaurants, mostly centered on his fried chicken, that have closed due to “poor management,” he said. Rockhouse Las Vegas is currently featuring his grub and he said he hopes to another restaurant.

Rapper 2 Chainz, whose hits include “Champions,” dropped a cookbook with one of his albums, featuring recipes for beer-steamed snow crab legs and herb-crusted lamb chops. But he’s struggled in the food business after the Department of Health recently gave his Atlanta tapas restaurant a dismal inspection.

Action Bronson often rhymes in culinary speak. The rapper, whose first album included tracks titled “Jerk Chicken,” ”Shiraz” and “Brunch,” went to culinary school for a year before dropping out and pursuing music.

In an episode of his profanely titled Viceland show, he prepares chicken cutlets with a sesame panko crust that he serves with Mexican chocolate sauce, ice cream, flambéed Hennessey bananas and torched marshmallows, calling it “a fat guy sandwich.”

R&B singer Kelis, whose music intersected with hip-hop and is perhaps best known for “Milkshake,” went to Le Cordon Bleu after hitting the charts, leading to a cookbook, a pop-up restaurant in London and an album titled “Food,” with songs like “Jerk Ribs,” ”Cobbler” and “Biscuits n’ Gravy.”

“I love working with my hands and getting to create something,” said the singer, who is planning to open a restaurant in Los Angeles later this year. “It’s very different than music … you can’t really control what you hear. They have to hear it, whereas food is a choice.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Disney releases dates for Halloween and Christmas parties

Walt Disney World Resort announced the dates for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, stretching nearly four months with a one-day break for Thanksgiving.

The two events expand the holidays to 53 days of special events at the Magic Kingdom.

The hard ticket events will close the park early so a new group of guests can enjoy the private parties. Ticket go on sale next month. Prices have yet to be released.

Entertainment returning this year are: The Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular stage show in front of Cinderella Castle, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade and the Happy HalloWishes fireworks spectacular.

The Halloween party runs for 32 dates:

– August 25, 29

– September 1, 7, 10, 12, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 26, 29

– October 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 29, 31

– November 1

Returning favorites for the Christmas holidays include Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Holiday Wishes, A Frozen Holiday Wish and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration.

The 21 dates for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas are:

  • November 8, 9, 12, 14, 16, 17, 26, 28
  • December 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22

Florida city says ‘game over’ to inflatable Super Mario

A Florida city is saying “game over” to a business owner’s decision to inflate a 9-foot-tall (2.7-meter-tall) Super Mario outside his shop.

Scott Fisher owns a video game store in the city of Orange Park, a suburb of Jacksonville. He says the city is acting like the Super Mario Bros. game villain Bowser. Fisher filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday arguing that the town’s ban violates his free speech.

Lawyers with the conservative law organization Institute for Justice are representing Fisher. They argue that the city is discriminating by allowing inflatables to be displayed as holiday decorations or creative displays, but not to promote businesses.

Fisher says the inflatable Mario helps people find his small store.

Town Manager Jim Hanson says the city has not seen the suit and could not comment.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

‘We Dine Together’ is rare good news from Boca Raton

Boca Raton, the plastic surgery capital of the world and a nice place to be from, is doing something right with its kids.

Located in south Palm Beach County, just minutes away from Ground Zero in Florida’s opioid crisis, Boca Raton is America’s City Most Likely to Be Mispronounced by Late Night Comedians and Out of Town Reporters.  One of them, CBS News’ Steve Hartman, visited Boca Raton High School and introduced the nation to some millennials who just might save the world.

We Dine Together is their effort to reinvent the high school lunch period. Traditionally, lunch is the time when the popular kids cluster together and make themselves feel good by making the newcomers and odd ducks feel bad.  At Boca Raton High, about a hundred of the school’s most attractive, articulate and self-possessed kids fan out during the midday meal on a mission to make sure that no one feels ugly and unwanted. Watch the video to see how they do it, and why they do it. Have some Kleenex handy.

We Dine Together kids are wise beyond their years. They understand that everybody has something interesting to say to someone willing to listen.

Feeling ugly and unwanted is a one-way ticket to depression and despair. Kids can, and do, self-medicate with plastic surgery and pills and other forms of temporary relief, and too many of them will not survive.

History may well record millennials as The Smartest Generation. They know they aren’t going to get a lot of help from a governor, and a governing class, which can’t bring itself to admit that the opioid epidemic is a public health emergency. They may be starved for adult leadership, but they’re trying hard to see to it that none of their numbers are starved for company.

Daphne Campbell’s son back in jail for using fake ID

Gregory Campbell, son of Miami Democratic State Sen. Daphne Campbell, is back in jail.

Campbell, 34, was recently freed from jail while awaiting a new trial on Medicaid fraud.

But that changed, according to the Miami Herald, when he tried to buy a ring for his wife at Aventura Mall, where he allegedly used a fake driver’s license to open an account at Kay Jewelers.

Gregory Campbell faces arraignment on charges of forgery and possession of a fictitious ID. If formally charged, the Herald reports Campbell could be in jail until June, when his Medicaid trial begins.

Originally convicted of Medicaid fraud in 2013, a court sentenced Campbell to seven years in prison before an appeals court reversed the conviction, forcing a retrial.

TRUMP TAJ MAHAL

Guitars oust minarets as Hard Rock redoes Taj Mahal casino

Donald Trump, domes and minarets are out.

Rock ‘n’ roll and guitars — lots of guitars — are in as the Hard Rock chain re-does Atlantic City’s former Trump Taj Mahal casino.

The company owned by Florida’s Seminole Indian tribe on Wednesday unveiled its $375 million plan for the shuttered casino resort, which it bought last month from billionaire investor Carl Icahn, and plans to reopen by summer 2018.

It will draw on the world’s largest collection of music memorabilia to help brand the new resort, with a decided New Jersey slant.

Few things are more New Jersey than the mob and Bruce Springsteen, and Hard Rock rolled out someone who embodies both to help reintroduce the resort. Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen‘s E Street band and “Sopranos” TV fame, said he’ll periodically broadcast his radio show, “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” from there, and will help organize beach concerts.

“It’s a timeless place where you can come, and for the younger generations that feel like they missed the rock ‘n’ roll era when it first came along, we make sure that they get the experience,” said Van Zandt, who plays guitar with Springsteen and portrayed mobster Silvio Dante on the HBO mob series. “The spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is still alive; you didn’t miss it.”

Now-President Trump built the Taj Mahal in 1990, but lost control of it and two other Atlantic City casinos in a series of bankruptcies that happened before Icahn scooped it up last year from yet another bankruptcy.

Icahn shut the casino in October after a crippling strike that sought to restore workers’ health insurance and pension benefits that were eliminated in bankruptcy court.

Its literally over-the-top decor of Indian-inspired domes and minarets soon will be a thing of the past; the purple carpet that Trump loved was ripped out long ago.

“There will not be one — and underscore the word ‘one’ — piece of design, architecture, minaret or anything left over from the Taj Mahal,” Hard Rock CEO Jim Allen said. “We are removing it all.”

In its place will be items from the world’s largest music memorabilia collection. Hotel guests will even be lent Fender electric guitars to play in their rooms.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whose administration seized Atlantic City’s assets and major decision-making power last November, said Hard Rock’s investment in Atlantic City shows that the state’s tough love is working in the cash-strapped city.

“Hard Rock’s willingness to come in and invest in Atlantic City shows you that they appreciate the hard things that have been done to restructure the city and make it a place where investing makes sense,” Christie said.

Since the takeover, Christie’s administration has negotiated a tax settlement with the Borgata casino that will save the city nearly $100 million. It also is seeking drastic cuts to the police and fire departments.

Others feel that recent encouraging developments such as the Hard Rock purchase, the planned reopening of the former Atlantic Club casino as a water park, and the rebirth of the former Showboat casino as a non-gambling hotel, are due more to market forces in a less competitive environment than to anything Christie has done.

Allen resisted getting drawn into a political debate, but he did say that if Atlantic City had declared bankruptcy — something that loomed as a real threat before the state takeover — Hard Rock would not have invested there.

Assemblyman Chris Brown, a fellow Republican, was less reticent.

“Tell me something the governor has done” to make Atlantic City better, he said. “Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything.”

Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press. 

3rd Florida man guilty for burning cross in couple’s yard

A third Florida man has pleaded guilty to setting a wooden cross on fire in an interracial couple’s yard.

Federal prosecutors said in a statement Tuesday that 56-year-old William Dennis of Port Richey pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to threaten, intimidate and interfere with an interracial couple’s enjoyment of their housing rights. Two other men previously pleaded guilty.

Officials say the men were living in a largely white community in Pasco County when an African-American couple moved into a house on his street. On Halloween 2012, Sigler and two others decided to burn a cross in the couple’s yard to intimidate them.

One of the men was sentenced to more than three years in prison. Sentencings for Dennis and the other man are pending.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Court ruling could result in explosion of gambling permits

An appellate court’s ruling promises to further muddy the legal landscape of gambling in Florida.

A 1st District Court of Appeal opinion released Tuesday reversed the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and ordered the reinstatement of a South Florida casino’s application for a new “summer jai alai” permit. The department regulates gambling.

Pari-mutuels, particularly in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, covet such permits because at a minimum they allow a facility to open a cardroom and offer simulcast betting.

The decision promises to result in an wave of new applications, gambling experts say, and comes on the same day the House is scheduled to take up the Senate’s already-passed omnibus gambling legislation for 2017.

The House, which is opposed to allowing more gambling in the state, is expected to amend the Senate bill with its own and go to conference to work out the differences.

The unanimous three-judge panel said the department’s denial of the permit, from West Flagler Associates, “was premised on an insupportable reading” of state law, and reversed.

West Flagler Associates operates Magic City Casino in Miami.

“It’s nice to have a victory, but we’re cautiously optimistic,” said Izzy Havenick, whose family operates the casino and Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Racing & Poker.

He noted that the decision only allows the application to go forward but does not guarantee approval: “Hopefully, they’ll give it to us.”

Havenick said the new facility, which would be in downtown Miami about six miles from Magic City, would employ 300-350 people and offer jai alai, poker, a restaurant and an entertainment venue.

When asked what specific kinds of poker, he threw up his hands. “Whatever’s legal in a given week,” he joked.

He doesn’t yet have a name for the new location or a final development plan: “We stopped planning because we didn’t know what would happen.”

Judges Harvey L. Jay, III, Timothy D. Osterhaus and Allen Winsor concurred in the decision.

“We find that the plain meaning of (state law) creates two separate ways for permittees to obtain a summer jai alai permit and hold that the (DBPR’s) conflation of these two distinct permit opportunities improperly imposed unrelated timing requirements on the ‘new permit’ language,” the opinion said.

“A qualified pari-mutuel permittee ‘may apply to the division to convert its permit to a permit to conduct a summer jai alai fronton’ when its ‘mutuel play from the operation of such parimutuel pools for the (two) consecutive years next prior to filing an application under this section has had the smallest play or total pool within the county,” it added.

Babies Romeo and Juliette make debut in Florida hospital

Two sets of new parents were surprised to learn their babies were part of a Shakespearean connection at a Florida hospital just two weeks after another pair of infants premiered as Romeo and Juliet on the same day at a hospital in South Carolina.

The Orlando Sentinel reports Juliette Crouch was born Friday morning at Leesburg Regional Medical Center, northwest of Orlando. Hours later, Romeo Kidd made his debut down the hallway.

Hospital privacy laws almost kept the drama from playing out. But a nurse asked Carolyn Kidd her baby’s name and said a Juliette was born earlier that day. She just couldn’t tell them which room Juliette’s parents were in.

“I was completely shocked by it,” Marie Crouch said, adding that she’d heard about the babies born March 19 in a Hardeeville, South Carolina, hospital. Baby Juliet in South Carolina is spelled as Shakespeare wrote the name. “I had no clue the same thing was going to happen to us,” Marie Crouch said.

In spite of the hospital rules, the two central Florida families began searching for each other.

“I was going to walk down the hallway and say, ‘Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?'” Justin Crouch, Juliette’s father, said.

The nurses were overjoyed when Romeo’s family met Juliette’s family. Lots of pictures were snapped and later in the day, the newspaper reported, hospital officials dressed Romeo in a tuxedo and Juliette in a dress for more pictures.

The couples promised to meet next year to celebrate their babies’ first birthday. It turns out the families have lots in common. Marie Crouch and Carolyn Kidd are each 32 years old and they both have 2-year-old daughters. The families live near each other as well.

“They may end up all going to the same schools one day,” said Justin Crouch, 30.

They exchanged contact information, unlike in “Romeo & Juliet” where the families were mortal enemies.

“It was a cool coincidence,” said Romeo’s father, Dana Kidd, 35.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Florida consumer sentiment in March hits pre-recession level

Consumer sentiment among Floridians rose last month to the highest level in 15 years, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

The reading of 99 in March was the highest since March 2002 and the second-highest since November 2000. The 5.2-point increase in March followed a dip in February, which ended the month with a revised reading of 93.8.

All five of the components that make up the index increased.

Perception of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago ticked up four-tenths of a point, from 88.1 to 88.5. Perceptions as to whether now is a good time to buy a major household item such as an appliance rose 3.8 points, from 99.7 to 103.5.

“The increase in these two components shows that current economic conditions improved among Floridians in March,” said Hector Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “In particular, women and those under age 60 displayed more optimistic perceptions.”

Expectations of personal finances a year from now rose 7.8 points from 99.5 to 107.3. Opinions of anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next year increased 7.2 points, from 92.0 to 99.2. Similarly, expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years rose 7.2 points, from 89.5 to 96.7.

“Overall, Floridians are far more optimistic in March than the previous month. The gain in March’s index came mainly from consumers’ future expectations about the economy. Importantly, these views are shared by all Floridians, independent of their demographic characteristics and socioeconomic status,” Sandoval said. “These expectations are particularly strong among women and those with an income under $50,000.”

Consumer sentiment at the national level also remained positive in March at 96.9, according to the University of Michigan’s survey of consumers.

In Florida, consumer sentiment may have been lifted by good economic news. The Florida labor market has continued expansion, adding jobs on a monthly basis for more than six years.

The unemployment rate in Florida remained unchanged at 5 percent in February, the most recent figure available. Over the last year, the unemployment rate has remained stable: Between March and December 2016, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, and since January the rate has been 5 percent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Florida ranked third of all states in the country in personal income growth, with a growth rate of 4.9 percent in personal income between 2015 and 2016. The main contributor to this change came from net earnings, which includes wages, salaries and supplements but excluding contributions for government social insurance.

Nationwide, economic activity and the labor market has continued to expand and strengthen, and household spending has risen. As a consequence, last month the Federal Open Market Committee decided to raise the federal funds rate to a target range of 0.75 to 1 percent.

“In general, the economic outlook is very positive and the positive sentiment will aid the economy to expand even further,” Sandoval said.

Conducted March 1-30, the UF study reflects the responses of 507 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross-section of Florida.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

Details of this month’s survey can be found at www.bebr.ufl.edu/csi-data.

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