Arabic-language newspapers. Bulk curry. Cans of ghee. Dates. Falafel, fava beans, and filo dough. Hibiscus drinks, hookahs, and hummus. Jordan almonds. Malt beverages. Orange blossom water. Rose syrups. Sardine tins and sesame candies. Teas from every corner of the tea-drinking world, tobaccos for the hookahs, Turkish delight, and turnips pickled pink in beet juice. Your grocery store is a library of banality compared to this place.
Bedessee East-West Indian Foods
On the floor, a cluster of blue crabs crawl around in a plastic tub. A broken harmonium -- an old Indian pump-organ -- sits waiting to wheeze again. But to notice these details amid Bedessee's cramped aisles, crowded with customers, is far from easy, what with all the action at eye level. True to its name, this large grocery/boutique caters to expatriates from Jamaica, India, and Trinidad, which is something of a Caribbean conglomeration of those two civilizations. In other words, you can find a Bob Marley poster as well as huge wall plaques of Hindu deities. Red, gold, and green Jamaican flags unfurl over a collection of Indian DVDs and CDs straight from the subcontinent. Oddities abound: scotch bonnet pepper sauce from Guyana. Carib Shandy beer from Port-of-Spain. Cases of Guinness, brewed and bottled in Kingston. Goat's feet from... somewhere. What the hell are these? Cricket bats! Jeepers! Clarified ghee! Iron-and-Wine herbal remedy in a jar! And all the while, you're serenaded by a bouncy reggae version of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Hosannah!
Smoke Cafe
On a late weekday afternoon, all is as it should be at the Smoke Café. Several patrons are perched along the black marble-topped bar, where a phalanx of elaborate stainless-steel lighters stands. A retired gentleman is regaling a visitor with tales of a near-death experience, puffing slowly throughout the narrative to build drama. A beefy young man is flirting with Kate, the cigarmaid from Pittsburgh behind the bar, whose blond hair contrasts with the deep auburn wood of the walls. Outside, a cigar store Indian keeps vigil over several tables where customers can breathe in fresh air and a fresh Presidente. The café offers free Internet access with the purchase of wine or beer. A humidor nestled in the back holds plenty of the cigars you're here for in the first place.
You have to love a business small enough that you're dealing with the owner and big enough to be overwhelmed by selection. If you're a novice smoker or buying for a friend, you won't go wrong with the helpful recommendations of owner Moe Sohail, who's been running the place for eight years. But even if you know the difference between a Churchill and a Robusto, it's nice to have Sohail's advice after passing through the door into the sizable walk-in humidor. There's also a fine selection of lighters and cutters, from the workhorse variety to the guy-who-has-everything gift items. And smoke if you've got 'em; there's a small leather-chaired lounge. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and closed on Sunday.
Hollywood Vine
Wine snobbery, or at least wine appreciation, has finally trickled down to the masses: You no longer need 1,600 dusty bottles in the cellar of your baronial manse to enjoy quaffing a decent port. Getting to know good wine is supposed to be fun -- Bacchus is a party god, after all. That wicked cherub reigns supreme at Hollywood Vine, where a handsome, irreverent crowd congregates around the granite counters to sample from a chalkboard listing of 20 or so wines, conducting off-the-cuff mini-tastings before plunking down $20 or $30 a bottle (the prices per glass are about half what you'd pay at a restaurant). This retail wine shop and liquor store has the intimacy and pizzazz of an upscale neighborhood pub, done up in glossy mahogany shelving to showcase wines and spirits from around the globe, plus a handful of artisan cheeses. On Tuesdays, vintners and distributors show up for light lectures and free tastings too. Partners Luciano Armellino, who formerly worked with Kendall Jackson distributors, and Steven Krakow, who managed a retail wine store, tasted 1,600 wines before they opened their doors this year. "We just chose our favorites," Armellino says. "Good wine is good wine."
If there are two things no household should be without in these Republican, family-value-touting times we live in, it's an American flag and a full-sized reproduction of Jesus. For the latter, there's Moroneys', which is jam-packed with Christian symbols, artifacts, clothing, and jewelry. There, standing atop a display table, is the classic representation of the Messiah: long face, flowing hair, sad-yet-caring eyes, arms outstretched wide to the heavens. The fiberglass, bronze-colored statue was made in Italy and costs about $6,500 -- but you can always dicker. If the Son of Man is out of your price range, some four-foot St. Francis sculptures are both tasteful and less expensive at $700 apiece. In several poses, the saint of animals seems to be juggling four white doves above his head. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Nothing says "I earn more in a year than you do in a lifetime" like a good, old-fashioned luxury yacht. Water Fantaseas employee "Arnold" (he's a bit cagey) is ready to help you choose your pimpin' boat ride from the widest selection of locally available luxury boats. They range from a 94-foot Ferranti, complete with salon, wet bar, and wood paneling, to an 84-foot topsail schooner that wouldn't look out of place in a Disney ride. Water Fantaseas isn't shy about its status as supplier of Fort Lauderdale's most outrageous vessels. Arnold will tell you that the company has played host to a roster of A-listers that includes Will Smith. No surprise; in addition to coming equipped with experienced crew, Water Fantaseas can provide the catering and accommodations to satisfy even the most discriminating of celebrity posses.
B.C. Surf & Sport
When New Times Broward-Palm Beach gave BC Surf & Sport this award two years ago, the store was at a different, much smaller location. With BC's move to a new storefront last November -- about a block to the north -- it's like going from a four-foot mini ramp to a vertical 14-footer (but much safer, of course). Now situated in a stand-alone building, the new shop's nearly twice as large. For merch-hungry skate grommets, shopping has gotten much better (or, in skate lingo, sicker). Despite its surf-oriented moniker, BC is heavy on the skate goods. Normal decks average $54.99 (Flip, Girl, Alien Workshop); another ten bucks gets you an old-school reissue (remember freestyle boards?). Speaking of reissues, BC's DVD collection includes oldies but goodies like Powell Peralta's The Search for Animal Chin ($50 for the special edition) as well as newer films like Baker 3 ($31.99). If you're planning a trip to the skatepark but don't have a helmet, pick up a Pro-Tec ($29.99 to $39.99) on your way. And while you're at it, try finding a replacement for those raggedy Vans on your feet -- perhaps Emerica's Andrew Reynolds model ($64.99) or Adio's Jeremy Wray ($61.99). Now you'll have no excuse for not landing 360-switchflips.
Whose idea was it to exclude adults from the joys of things that go vroom? Certainly not the boys at RC Boca, who maintain their own private fiefdom of motor-powered testosterone toys in a tucked-away corner of Boca Raton's Mission Bay Plaza. Inside this remote-control-enthusiast shrine, all customers are expected to worship at the altar of miniature monster trucks, helicopters, speedboats, and their many tiny assorted parts. Heaven help the innocent who utters the term "model cars" in this establishment. Nor can you find any dinky plastic cars that might be sold at Toys ÔR' Us. Instead, RC Boca is all about souped-up mini-muscle cars that are built for speed -- and collision. (One manufacturer the store features rewards operators who total their cars with a free model shell for every dozen they destroy.) And not only does RC Boca sell its remote-controlled miniature power vehicles rip-roaring fast -- it sells them sexy. Just ask one of the "RCBoca Babes," who front the store's website wearing cutoffs, mini-monster trucks, and sultry expressions.
If you drive a Volvo in South Florida, you can expect plenty of jeers and obscene hand gestures from fellow motorists who don't understand the allure of boxy Swedish engineering. You can also expect to be screwed by a nitwit mechanic who's never heard of Sweden, let alone that country's signature brand of hideously safe motor vehicles. Unless you know Leon, who still wears his name on his coveralls in his small Volvo repair shop in Pompano Beach. The tiny shop is a real mom-and-pop, run by Leon and his wife, and it specializes entirely in Volvo maintenance and repair, to the unadulterated joy of beleaguered Volvo owners across Broward County. Offering fair prices and a promise to do all repairs the same day (to prevent customers from being stranded without their ponderous steeds overnight), Leon also won't bullshit you: If your 1989 240DL is a hunk of junk, he'll tell you to scrap it, even though that's a couple of grand less work for him. Of course, he knows you'll be back -- when you buy your next Volvo.

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