Monday, January 14, 2008

Fun Playing With Food on the Road

Almost on a whim, Bob and I decided to surprise my mother on her 69th birthday by showing up at her "snow bird" home in Delray Beach Florida last Tuesday. She was indeed very surprised (the Yiddish term is that she plotzed). We did not eat out as much as we do when traveling alone. My brother and his wife sent mom a lovely selection of fruit from Edible Arrangements, which took care of breakfast Weds-Fri. We ate the Hampton Inn's complimentary breakfast our last morning, Saturday, as USAir cancelled one of our flights and our whole itinerary was moved up so we could not meet my folks for a farewell meal.

Our first evening, mom's birthday, we dined at the Glen Eagles Grille Room for "Deli Night" - the food was ok, but not outstanding or photo worthy.

For our second dinner, we sampled the fare at the Paris Bistro, 15280 Jog Road, Delray Beach, FL 33446, 561-865-4447. The atmosphere was indeed Bistro-y, right down to the singer/keyboard player and casual feel of the place. We were told that it was originally owned by some French folks, but they were unable to succeed with it, and sold it to the current French-Haitian owner-operators.

Everyone was very friendly, but not everyone was very knowledgeable about the menu or wines. And service was terribly slow for a place that wasn't doing much business. Still, we had a most enjoyable and affordable meal, prix fix at $29 for three courses.

Crab Cake w/Remoulade Sauce

This was my appetizer - the menu said the cake was made in house. While it had the taste and texture of a house made item - it also smelled and tasted of freezer burn - sadly, though, not too surprising, considering how poorly attended the place was. And it was probably an awesome crab cake before it was frozen. The sauce tasted made-from-scratch, as did the dressing drizzled gently on the salad.

My dad enjoyed his escargot, my mom enjoyed her salad (which was the same salad as above, just bigger and without a crab cake), and Bob's French Onion Soup was superb!

Calve's Liver and Onions

My dad enjoyed this dish and cleaned his plate! His came with mashed potatoes, as well as the two veggies that accompanied all of the entree plates - brightly colored cabbage and a melange of summer squashes and peppers. The veggie sides were terrific!

My husband also opted to be a landlubber and very much enjoyed his entree:

Roast Duck

Mom's Trout Almondine

I tasted this and it was very good.

Red Snapper Filet

When I travel south, I tend to almost exclusively eat fish and/or seafood. This Snapper, while not the best I ever had, was quite good. Unfortunately, the rice was rather old and hard - again, I suspect a symptom of insufficient traffic in the place.

On, to the desserts!

Coconut Custard Pie

Apple Pie

Pecan Pie

All of the desserts were winners (Bob and I both got the Pecan Pie). I hope this place gets its service act together, because the people were so nice, and the food was so close to excellent without quite getting there.

Thursday night, we tried The Cuban Cafe for what I felt was the best meal of the trip. This Cafe was very casual, and amazingly inexpensive for the quality and quantity ordered (though my Mojito was a little too heavy on the simple syrup and light on the rum).

We started with tasty buttered toast, which seems a staple in this neighborhood:

The four of us next shared an appetizer plate for two, which was plenty!

Apertivas Para Dos

Beef Empanadas, Ham & Cheese Croquettes, Pork Tamal and Plantain Chips (Mariquitas). All tasted freshly made from scratch and delicious!

Empanada (Meat Pie)

Croquetas Preparadas - Bolo Ham, Swiss Cheese & Roast Pork

Tamal Prepardado - Pork Filling

The Tamal again - served with caramelized Onions

I LOVE tamales - and they usually taste frozen/re-heated in most restaurants, simply because they don't move fast enough and have to be made in large batches to be practical. This tamale was exquisitely fresh!

The appetizers were served with two dipping sauces that did not photograph well - a yellow sauce infused with rich garlic flavor, and a green Cilantro sauce. These were left on the table through dinner and were quite lovely.

Camerones Al Ajillo (Large Shrimp Sauteed in Spanish White Wine and Garlic Sauce)

This was my dad's dish, and he pronounced it excellent.

Filete De Pargo (Filet of Snapper Seasoned and Grilled)

My mom was the only one of us who did not enjoy her entree - but by the time I sniffed her plate, I was too stuffed to taste it. It certainly looked and smelled good. You can also see the fried plantains and steamed rice served with every entree in this photo.

Boliche (Eye of Round Slowly Roasted in Herbs & Spices and Served with Gravy)

My husband persisted in being a landlubber - this dish was fantastic - like Cuban pot roast. The meat was perfectly tender and the sauce most flavorful.

Pescado Relleno (Snapper Filet Stuffed with Shrimp in Seafood-Cream Sauce)

This was my entree - I still can't believe that it was only $20 (and served with another full plate of plantains and rice, and a dish of black beans). The snapper was exquisitely fresh, as was the shrimp and bay scallops in the dish. This was the best dish I ate this trip, for sure!

Black Beans

Each diner was served a cup of this luscious bean soup with the meal - it could either be eaten as a soup, or spooned over the rice. Yum!

Friday night's dinner was enjoyed at the Legend's Dining Room, the fine dining restaurant at Glen Eagles. I didn't take photos - but once I tasted my dad's Stone Crab Claws, I wished I had brought my camera - they were simply amazing! The grouper was good, and the steak Bob had was even better.

This was a short trip, but we got to play with food at my parents' place, and in a few restaurants in addition to the club where they are members. The Cuban Cafe is highly recommended!! The Cuban Cafe, (561) 495-5999, 14400 Military Trl, Delray Beach, FL 33484.

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