Stephan Mikes (Pronounced My-kes)
Where do you live?
We’re in South Miami.
How long have you lived in the area?
Where are you originally from and what brought you to town?
I moved down here, from Jupiter, in the early 90’s to start out my career in the music business.
Please share about what you do for a livelihood or what keeps you busy during the week?
I am a professional sitar player, in addition to composer, recording engineer and producer. I had the opportunity to train, classically on the sitar, with a master who trained with Ravi Shankar. I’ve been playing for 30 years and play a lot of various kinds of music from traditional to pop-fusion. Traditional sitar music is very healing as a meditative aid, and my teacher taught from that aspect.
What is a Sitar?
A sitar is a 19-string instrument that originates from medieval North India. It is an acoustic instrument that is made from a large gourd (pumpkin). It is four feet long – with a hollow neck and movable frets. It first came to popularity, in the West, with the Beatles and a musician named Ravi Shankar. Sitar has popped up in popular music from time to time. I teach the instrument, but not many people stick with it. It’s harder than a guitar and hurts your fingers.
How often do you come to the market?
I just got back to being in Miami full time. I had been living back and forth between Orlando for the last five years because I had a contract playing at Disney World. Since I’ve been back, we’ve been coming almost every weekend. When I wasn’t in town, my wife came almost every weekend to pick up fresh fruits and turmeric tonic for me to take back to Orlando.
Do you have a market ritual? If so, please describe.
We park, we stroll in and you’re usually the first vendor we stop by. We always hit you up for a bottle of tonic and then continue through the market. We usually buy some fresh fruits and veggies from one of my favorite vendors, Laura, and whatever else catches our eye. It’s a nice market and it only takes us about five minutes to get there from our house.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at LNB Grovestand and why?
I was already familiar with the properties of turmeric because I have made three trips to India. My friends in India explained to me how they use turmeric tonic for virtually everything. They even use it topically, making a poultice, to apply to cuts and bruises – and as a general anti-inflammatory.
When I found out that you had the turmeric tonic, I was immediately interested and started ingesting on a regular basis. It’s been a couple years that I’ve been using your tonic. At my age, we all have different issues like arthritis. I am now a vegetarian, but while I was on the road, eating junk food and meat, I developed some gout. I had a couple fingers that seemed to have substantial damage. Since, I started my regular ingestion of the turmeric – I feel like it has helped repair what I feared was permanent. I have more fluid joint movement than I’ve had in quite some time.
What’s your favorite thing to buy at other stands at the market?
One of my favorite fruit vendors is Laura and another is Keez Beez.
The best deal at the market is:
The Keez Beez honey is $1 cheaper at the market than Winn Dixie. Of course, your turmeric tonic is something you can’t get anywhere else.
I wish the market had:
While strolling around a little ambient music might be nice.
Favorite market story:
One week I had an interesting conversation with a lady who had a table set up and she was giving out copies of the constitution. She did not seem to have any political agenda. It was an interesting thing to have a community discussion about different topics – like working together and making our world a better place.
Most-frequented local restaurants and what dish to order:
Not surprisingly, I’m interested in Indian food. One of my favorites is on South Dixie – called Saffron. I’ve eaten Indian food all over the world, and they have some of the best I’ve ever had. I get the paneer makhani – fried cheese with spicy sauce, malai kofta – dumpling with Indian cheese, chickpea flour and gravy. They adjust the spice level to your taste. There’s also a great appetizer with baby spinach leaves, coated in chickpea flour and fried.
Another recommendation, if you need quick and cheap Indian food, there’s a place called Bollywood Masala – near the quick stop on Red Road. I get the Dal and Sambar soup. Sometimes they have fresh dosas. It’s a good deal. One dosa is really big and my wife and I can split it for a meal. They have some tables, but it’s mostly take out.
For special occasions, I go to:
Usually we’re working on holidays, but our wedding anniversary is on the 3rd of July. We planned it that way, because on that occasion we always manage to find some fireworks somewhere. If we don’t, we make them ourselves.
One of our favorite things to do is get out to the Keys. Way back in the 70's, I used to live in Key West. It was wonderful back then. Before I get busy again, we will take a trip down - to do nothing. 😊
Do you have a family recipe that you would be willing share?
At home, we make mostly vegetarian Indian food. The key to Indian food is the spices. And no matter what recipe you are doing, there’s a combination of spices that you’re using most of the time. When you are making a curry – the key is to always fry all the spices together before adding any of the other ingredients.
Another method I’ll use when making a Dal (kind of the opposite) – is called tempering. I start with coconut oil and lightly fry some chilis, turmeric, asafetida and other spices. After it creates an aroma, I’ll take that oil with all the spices and throw that on top of the Dal. That’s what gives the flavoring you’re expect from Indian food.
Another tip is a spice called asafetida. It’s used in nearly every curry recipe. It’s also called Hing. It’s a digestive aid and adds a lot of flavor.
What’s the area’s best-kept secret?
One of our best kept secrets is Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden.
A worthy splurge:
For me, my life is so much about music. A splurge would be a trip to India. I usually go to several places to visit the instrument makers and stay away from the tourist spots. I’ve had some interesting tours, going places where nobody else goes, and experiencing the Indian village life.
Sitting in the house playing music. Whenever I get a few spare minutes, I’ll meditate and play music at the same time. That keeps me on a nice even keel.
The most romantic spot around:
There are so many spots here in South Florida. I think what’s cool about where we live is you can go anywhere and find a nice romantic spot – like any Banyan tree. For us, the courtyard behind our condo is a romantic spot where we had our wedding.
Do you participate in any community or philanthropic events that you would like to share?
I’ve loved playing at the Feast with the Beast event at the Miami Zoo. It is a fantastic event – it happens at night, after the zoo is closed. It’s a multi ethnic stroll with all kinds of entertainment and food from the cultures you find here in Miami.
Do you own your own business or offer a service? Would you share a pitch about yourself or company with the community?
I have some of the most unique music you will find - it is music with a purpose too. My teacher taught me about the healing aspects of music and that is one of the things I’m focused on. We do a healing meditation, it’s called nada yoga (the yoga of sound), once a month at the Unitarian church. It’s a free one-hour, musical meditation and I’d like to invite people to come experience that. It’s the first Wednesday of every month at 6pm.
Is there a question that you would like to ask the LNBs?
Do you use fresh ground turmeric root when making your tonic?
(A+W) Yes and all our turmeric is grown here on our farm. We blend the whole turmeric root, with ginger and black pepper to make a base. For our tonic, we then add honey and lemongrass tea.
Is there any advice you would like to share with the community?
I think we need to take more time being quiet and meditating. Everybody will be a little bit healthier and wiser.
If you would like readers to be able to contact you, how should they get in touch?
You Tube: Stephan Mikes
Spotify: Stephan Mikes