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Tony Capecchi

Woodbury, Minn.

Dining in Style in South Beach

South Beach is famous for its nightlife, ocean views, glitz and glamorous. It also happens to be home to one of the finest dining hotspots in the U.S., at the Ritz-Cartlon, South Beach. The five-star hotel has acquired a supremely talented crew of elite chefs, a wonderfully skilled bartender and a hard-working, diverse support staff who collectively succeed in giving foodies one of the best all-around culinary experiences money can buy. 

Speaking of money, it is abundantly clear the hotel spares no expenses to ensure it provides its chefs the absolute best and freshest ingredients on the planet. For example, the hotel’s DiLido Beach Club gets fresh salmon and tuna flown in daily all the way from the Pacific Ocean because the fish in the Atlantic Ocean, 100 yards from the restaurant, don’t taste quite as good. 

The philosophy management has taken (“get cream-of-the-crop talent, then get them whatever they want for materials”) has clearly paid dividends, as my wife and I discovered on a dream vacation to the famous hotel this past summer.

We flew into Miami on a Saturday afternoon and drove straight to the Ritz, only to discover the hotel was upgrading us to a room on the 11th floor. And indeed, it was a room with a view. 

The first evening we dined in the Club Lounge, savoring scrumptious items such as Siracha Chicken, Crab Tartlet, Arugula Melons Feta Cucumber Mint, and Wild Mushroom Volauvont, topped off with a nightcap of desserts and drinks.

On night two, we dined outside at one of the hotel’s signature restaurants, Bistro One LR. The DiLido Beach Club is the restaurant down on the beach––the only restaurant actually on South Beach, in fact––while the Bistro One LR is up in the main part of the hotel and offers indoor and outdoor seating. We had a beautiful evening to sit outside, so we made the obvious choice for a couple from freezing Minnesota.

The setting––mere feet from the infinity pool––was spectacular, the service––with head chef Gina Lopez coming out to explain our dishes to us––could not have been better, and the food––with heirloom tomatoes, fillet mignon and grouper––was unparalleled.

In a word, phenomenal. To elaborate on that, allow me to share course-by-course photos of the amazing dinner.

After dinner, we walked down the staircase to the Ritz-Carlton bar which, as you might expect, is beyond cool. The bar is adjacent to the hotel’s iconic art deco lobby, and is an awesome place to hang out and potentially spot a celebrity. 

We spotted someone who’s not quite famous yet, but ought to be considering his immense talent:  head bartender Danny Zeenberg. The Florida native is truly a wizard behind the bar, with over 15 years of studying drinks and experimenting with all sorts of concoctions. The drinks were first-rate, but Zeenberg himself stole the show. Both my wife and I agreed we would have gladly sat there and listened to him talk all night. 

If you’ve ever spoken with someone who’s truly one of the foremost experts on their particular hobby––but mercifully has the ability to share all the nuanced details of their craft in a way that is fascinating––you know what I mean. Zeenberg’s passion is contagious and his expertise is immense.

While we were visiting, another guest came up to the bar wanting a bourbon and playfully challenged Zeenberg about the quality of the drink he wanted––warning Zeenberg that he was very particular and had become accustomed to the highest standard of excellence around his favorite, go-to drink.
“Where was the best bourbon you’ve ever had?” Zeenberg asked. 

“Dallas,” the guest said. 

“I can beat that,” Zeenberg replied without missing a beat. He was confident, not cocky, and he knew his stuff. The guy came back afterward and admitted Zeenberg’s drink was the best he’d ever had. It was cool to watch such a master at his craft.

Eventually we had to call it a night and, sadly, a trip. But the experience was unforgettable on several levels.

We've been very fortunate to dine at many elite restaurants across the U.S. and internationally––restaurants that top professional food critics' short lists of places you have to try at least once in your life––and I have to say the dining experiences we enjoyed at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach were second to none.

The website for The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is For more information, call (786) 276-4000.

Foodies looking to extend their food-tasting tour can easily head down to the Florida Keys from Miami as well.​ The Keys offers a variety of casual and high-end dining options on the ocean, including gems such as Little Palm Island Resort & Spa and Lorelei Cabana Bar and Restaurant.

For more information on great Florida Keys getaways and dining options, visit

Running to Survive, and to Honor Those Who Didn’t

Maggie Folkestad’s father died of a desmoid tumor when she was 6 months old, but the 21-year-old college senior shares an undeniable connection with him: a desmoid tumor of her own.

Out of a million people, only four are diagnosed with the cancer-like tumor each year, but in her family, Maggie is the fourth consecutive generation to suffer from desmoids.  

“I wonder what it would have been like if my dad had access to the medical care I have today,” said Maggie. Desmoids are identified more effectively today, but there are still no known cures for the cancer-like tumors. The disease receives no research funding from the government because it is so rare.

“To me, desmoids don’t seem that rare because I live with them,” Maggie said. “I actually have three tumors, which are interconnected. The largest is the size of a softball.”

Maggie’s tumors were caused by Gardner syndrome, which is hereditary. The disease is characterized by polyps inside the colon, tumors outside the colon and the tendency to be passed down from one generation to the next.

The disease has taken Maggie’s biological father and her great uncle. It has also caused her to be poked and prodded for medical tests since she was a kid; colonoscopies started at age 10. When Maggie turned 16 and got her driver’s license, she developed pre-cancerous polyps which forced her colon to be removed. But for all the damage the disease has wreaked, it has failed to hinder Maggie’s spirit.

“It doesn’t change who I am, or how I live,” Maggie said. “I don’t let it.”

The Edina native is taking a stand, not only by continuing her education at the College of St. Benedict this fall, but also by putting together a team to run in the Desmoid Dash 5K on Sept. 19 to raise awareness and money for desmoid research. All monies raised at the Desmoid Dash will go directly to the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation and the current study at Duke called “Collaboration for a Cure.”

The third annual fundraiser takes place at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights at 8:30am on the third Saturday of September.

Last fall, Maggie ran in the race along with a handful of other desmoid survivors, including Matt Zechmann, who created the event in 2013 to raise money for research. “When I first had chemo I sat at home and I moped around,” said Zechmann, 31. “Then I realized there’s another level I could go to, and the Desmoid Dash gave me something positive to channel my emotions and energy into. Plus there’s a direct correlation between the money we raise and the research getting done.”

Zechmann and Maggie shared a doctor at the Mayo Clinic and have become friends and supporters of each other.

“You have to look out for each other,” Zechmann said. “It’s not about sharing war stories or comparing scars, it’s about having the knowledge that someone else has dealt with this same type of thing. Maggie is a genuinely nice, good person from a supportive family, and she’s been dealing with this thing since such a young age. I get strength in my fight from hearing about hers.”

As for Maggie, she is captaining a team at this year’s Desmoid Dash to help give back the support she has received since she was a teenager. “It always amazes me how much people are willing to help,” said Maggie, who wants to become a patient advocate at Children’s Hospital after graduating college. “The support I receive blows me away. It’s a weird feeling.”

While Maggie is remarkably comfortable with medical terms and tough realities––she candidly describes why surgery is not a viable option for her if her tumors take a turn for the worse––she struggles at times with the impact her disease has on her family.

“I don’t exactly feel guilty,” she said. “But having to put my parents through this isn’t something I like.”

Maggie’s mother, Sheila, marvels over her daughter’s grace. “I was so sad when Maggie was diagnosed because I knew what that could mean for her,” said Sheila, who buried her husband and her husband’s uncle in a one-month span. “It means so much to us to have the support of our family and friends. They have been so good to us throughout all of Maggie’s health issues.”

Maggie’s grandfather, Dave Ellingson, 80, is a desmoid patient himself. “I am proud of Maggie’s fortitude, and that her disease hasn’t diminished her wonderful personality,” he said. “Maggie is so much like our [late] son. She is so spunky and smiley and outgoing.”

“People always tell me my dad was a very fun and loving person,” Maggie said. “Even though I don’t remember him, I think I have a similar personality to him.”

Ellingson recalls a time when Maggie’s father was still alive and worked in Dublin, Ireland. Ellingson visited him in Ireland and they toured a castle. “My son was ahead of us on the tour and hid behind these big, formal curtains to jump out and surprise us, but he didn’t realize we could all see his shoes sticking out beneath the curtains.”

“Maggie has this fun personality, too, but she’s also a fighter. She’s going to graduate from college and do great things––she’d be a great patient advocate because she’s a good listener,” said Ellingson, who credits Sheila and her second husband, John, for how they’ve supported Maggie.

In Ellingson’s case, the support has gone both ways. “Maggie went to Mayo in 2009 and I held her hand as she laid in the hospital bed,” said Ellingson. “The next year, I had two heart attacks. I was in the hospital and Maggie came and held my hand and I said, ‘Maggie, we’ve changed roles.’”

Grandfather and granddaughter will be supporting each other on Sept. 19, as they participate in the Desmoid Dash.

“I’ve had one tumor removed, but I still have another desmoid tumor they can’t remove, and if that tumor starts to grow again, I don’t think the doctors know what to do,” said Ellingson, who lost his son and his brother to desmoids during a 30-day stretch. “I hope with more research they can eliminate Gardner syndrome and desmoid tumors.”

Maggie hopes the same, and is encouraging others to sign up for the Desmoid Dash 5K, or to donate online to the cause. You can form a team for the event, but most sign up to run or walk as individuals.

Meanwhile, the unusual connection Maggie shares with her late father remains a big part of her life, but she refuses to let it define her. “Our team is doing this run to honor my dad, and we’re also doing it for me, and for others with desmoids.” 

Click here to register for this year's Desmoid Dash. To make a tax-deductible donation to the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation, click here. Please indicate your donation is tied to the Desmoid Dash. For more information on the event, visit  

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