Tuesday, January 27, 2009

More Fun Playing With Food In Delray Beach Florida

My mother shares her January birthday with a number of folks, including Elvis. Last year, we literally caused her to drop her phone book on the floor when we walked into her place and surprised her on her birthday. I blogged about that trip here.

This year, she would turn 70. And, as it happened, my brother and his family would be in the neighborhood over the MLK holiday weekend to attend a wedding. Even better, my sister (who lives in Massachusetts, so I seldom see her) would also be in the neighborhood, teaching Chayayoga workshops and getting away from the northern cold! (She's got an awesome workshop coming up in Costa Rica February 21-28, 2009.)

And so, we were prevailed upon to make arrangements to visit Delray Beach from January 14-20. As always, we managed to have a few fun culinary adventures. However, I must issue my standard travel disclaimer: while I strive to be honest and fair in my reviews, the reader must always remember that professional reviewers give a restaurant multiple visits and we cannot. So take any criticisms with a little salt.

We began with a flight to Fort Lauderdale International Airport that landed a little late. Though we had dinner plans with the family, we were very hungry by the time we checked into our hotel in Boca Raton. I headed for my parents' place, but didn't know that Atlantic Avenue was under construction West of I-95 until I got stuck in it. We got so hungry that we determined to stop at the next strip mall.

That is how we ended up at Delancey Street Deli Restaurant, 14590 S. Military Trail, Delray Beach (no website, 561-495-4422). This place presents itself as a traditional Jewish Deli (not kosher).

And what's not to like about a place with Salami hanging from the ceiling!

We made ourselves comfy and ordered drinks. The iced tea tasted freshly made.

Pickle Bowl

Jewish delis would often leave a bowl of pickles and a bowl of coleslaw on the table all day, for each diner to help themselves. Modern food sanitation practices have put a crimp in the tradition, but Delancey Street, like many, keeps the bowls in the chiller and brings them to the table for each dining party. Bob liked his pickle; I, as usual, passed on pickles (which are, after all, cucumbers).

Cole Slaw Bowl

Cole Slaw

This sure tasted home-made - and it was delicious!

The owner would later tell me that everything here is made from scratch.

I decided to start with a kasha knish, to be followed by a Grilled Kosher Hotdog with Sauerkraut - I just had an insane craving for a hotdog!

Kasha Knish

The knish - which was most certainly NOT out of a Gabila's box, suffered from being microwaved, which ruined the crispy texture of the dough.

But the filling was positively yummy - a mixture of caramelized onions, kasha and potato. The crust tasted very fresh - I just wish they'd heated it in dry heat. A little Hebrew National Spicy Mustard and we were in business!

My hotdog was exquisite - crisp to the bite, with lovely "snap" and juiciness. The sauerkraut was so-so. But what an awesome hotdog.


As I snapped this photo, we both laughed at the irony of a cheeseburger in a Jewish Style deli. It was darn tasty, however, and the fries were also good, though not made from scratch.

Our dinner reservation was at the restaurant we most enjoyed the previous year, the Cuban Cafe in Delray. This year - the place was almost empty - one other 4 top next to our table, and one or two tables in the back and that was all.

I started with a mojito that was less sweet than last year. As per usual, the table was started with a slightly sweet, butter-slathered bread:

We decided to skip the appetizers this year, because they left us too full last time. Also, I switched to the house made sangria after the mojito and it was lovely.

We all opted for the yellow rice this time. It was a poor choice - not hot and kind of hard - without the business to consume it, and with the economy too tight to throw it away, they are kind of stuck.

Arroz con Pollo

My mother enjoyed her classic Chicken with Rice dish; my bite of chicken was tasty.

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

My dad enjoyed the same dinner he'd had last year here.

Grilled Snapper Fillet

My sister enjoyed her dinner.

Snapper Filet with Sauce

Too much time has gone by and I don't remember exactly what this was - but it was very tasty.

Mixed Fish and Seafood in Fresh Tomato Sauce

The title I've chosen says it all - mixed. The fish pieces, clam (there was only 1) and tomato sauce were fabulously fresh and delicious. I tasted one of the mussels - and it was very fresh and nice, except that it was a mussel. The balance of the seafood items, however, probably came off the Sysco truck, and that was a shame. The lobster was tough and tasteless. And, none of the entrees was served very hot (though the plantains were piping - all I can figure is they made up the plates and had to wait for the plantains to come out of the fryer).

Black Beans

Served with every entree and pretty good (I'd have liked more hot temperature.) My sister enjoyed it over the rice.

And now, we come to the upside of skipping the appetizers - we had room to share a dessert!

Tres De Leches

The Three Milks Cake was scrumptious!

It was sad to see that Cuban Cafe had declined - but whether the lack of business caused the decline or the other way around remained a mystery. This is a locally owned place, and the people were so nice - I'd hate to see it go.

Both the day we landed, and the next day, were cloudy - a great bummer to those of us from the sun-deprived Midwest. After shopping for Mom's birthday gift with my sister (and we haven't shopped together in about 25 years), the three of us repaired to the cloudy beach.

We went to Boston's On the Beach, where I had heard great fish sandwiches could be had. Despite the gloomy skies, we made our way upstairs, to the Upper Deck, to sit outside (under an awning). I took this shot of the beach from there:

On to more important things - drink! A Mojito was in order - and it was really, really good.

Yes, that is a stick of sugar cane used as a stirrer - a lovely touch.

We all ordered the fried fish sandwich, at the suggestion of our server.

The sandwich comes with a choice of fries, fruit or "apple" slaw. Chaya and I chose slaw, and Bob chose fries - but all three plates came out with fries. No worries - we kept the fries and got our slaw as well!

The Fried Grouper is too big for the bun!

After nibbling the ends with knife and fork, the sandwich comes together.

Cole Slaw

Very fresh - almost too fresh; the flavors hadn't had a chance to come together, nor the cabbage to wilt. Still - it was very nice.

After we ate, we headed for the beach and Chaya and Bob talked me into going on the sand. We saw the most amazing, and huge, rainbow!

Unfortunately, before long it began to rain, and we all got pretty soaked. Oh well.

Chaya suggested that we check out the Happy Hour spread at the Legends Lounge at Gleneagles. My Mom was determined that we eat dinner at the Grille Room at Gleneagles, so a stop for Happy Hour made some sense.

Pinwheel Sandwiches

Surimi Salad

Chopped Liver

I've never been a huge chopped liver fan - but this was really good!

Tuna Salad

Whitefish Salad

This was the single best thing I ate at Gleneagles all weekend.

After a nosh and a couple of drinks, we met our parents in the Grille Room for a dinner made by Sysco.


This was Bob's starter - but we don't remember what exactly it was.

Dinner Salad

Caesar Salad

Dad's selection - complete with Anchovy Fillets.

Rib Platter

Both Bob and Dad ordered this.

Red Snapper Platter

Mom, Chaya and me had this. The worst travesty of all - frozen fish, gummy sauce, frozen veggies and packaged potatoes. Thank goodness my sister, the Ayurvedist, who makes an awesome Chai Tea, made this to refresh us the next morning:

We ate breakfast with my parents Friday morning, though all I remember is the tea (I had left my camera in the car). It was late enough that we didn't eat anything else until dinner - Traditional Shabbos Dinner at the Legends Dining Room. This meant a great deal to my mother (eating on the premises is often much easier for her than going out to a restaurant due to her disabilities), and it was fun to see my cousins Toby, Cor, and Raffi.

The table was set with candles, Manischewitz Concord Grape, and a fresh Challah Bread. Brochot (blessings) were offered, the candles lit, and the bread cut. And I took a sip and remembered why I never touch Manischewitz Concord Grape (which is loaded with junk; whereas their Blackberry wine is pure fortified Blackberry wine).

Gefilte Fish

Those of you who read this blog know that I make my own fish once to twice a year. This food service product was simply not palatable to me, though the presentation was pretty.

Chicken Matzo Ball Soup

At least this food service product was palatable. Nowhere as good as mine, but palatable.

Cedar Planked Salmon with Honey Mustard Sauce, Potato Latkes (Pancakes), Carrot Tzimmes and [Frozen] Broccoli.

I knew that this would be farm raised, commercial salmon. But it really wasn't all that bad, and the latkes and tzimmes (carrot stew) were tasty. At least the fish tasted fresh.

Three of us ordered this and had lots leftover - it became a tasty salmon salad for breakfast the next morning at my parents' place.

Roast Chicken Entree

Bob's choice - ok, but lacked profundity.

Brisket Plate

Cousin Raffi's plate - he liked it.

Special Desserts for the Birthday Girls

Mom and Cousin Toby (whose birthday also fell right around the dinner) each got a special treat. Looks like I neglected to photograph the "regular" dessert - which wasn't very memorable. But I got to taste these cupcakes and they swam with chocolaty goodness.

The next night, we tried a place highly recommended by the Chowhounds: Taverna Kyma, which promised freshly grilled whole fish, among other things. Though the food was excellent - I cannot recommend this restaurant.

I had tried to make a reservation for 5 people, but the person I spoke to said they don't take reservations for fewer than 6 people. Besides, she said, you won't have a problem getting a table at 6:30pm, even if it's Saturday. Well, we ran a little late and didn't get there until almost 7pm - and there were no tables left in the dining room. We were seated in the outside dining room, which was fully enclosed and had heating elements on. My problem with it wasn't the temperature - it was with the noise - the music was piped out at a hideously loud volume - we could barely hear each other. Not a good start.

The server took our drink orders and brought out some complimentary Hummus to accompany the bread service. It was delicious.


We ordered one appetizer for the table, and everyone ordered fish. Mom, Dad and Chaya ordered whole fish, as I did. Chaya and I got the Key West Snapper, Mom and Dad the Lavraki, an imported white fish.


A very tasty treatment.

Then the entrees came out. I had not been able to hear the other end of the table, but apparently the staff had offered to filet the fishes when they were ordered. I had no need or desire for such assistance, and looked forward to digging into my whole grilled Snapper:

Not Much Cheek Meat on this Baby

But the fish was so good.

Sauteed Greens and Rice Pilaf

Served with all of the whole fish entrees.

Rofos Plaki (Baked Fish of the Day)

Bob enjoyed this grouper dish with fresh tomatoes - it was exquisite.

I guess he got only rice because his entree had vegetables in it.

Now the troubles began as Mom, Dad and Chaya were served. First, their fish was not filleted.


Not a huge problem - servers were called over to filet the fishes. But they had served my dad a Snapper when he had ordered a Lavroki, and no one seemed to understand the problem. When they finally did, they apologized and went off to prepare the correct fish. This took over 15 minutes, during which time my dad sat, picked at his now cold plate of sides, and watched us eat.

Filleted Lavraki

When Dad's new plate finally arrived, the fish was again whole and not filleted. By the time that was accomplished, everyone else was finished.

Now, we all know that kitchen mistakes can happen - it is how the FOH handles them that determines whether the restaurant is worth returning to. Given that my dad had eaten cold sides and lukewarm fish after everyone else had eaten, I would have expected the house to take his entree off of the check. Instead, not only was it on the check - he was charged for the more expensive snapper. He brought this to the server's attention. She said that it was such trouble to adjust the price - could she bring us a dessert instead? No, he wanted the check fixed. She took it and brought it back - and the offending, more expensive entree was still on the check. Dad paid it and left, and I know we won't be back. A shame, too, because the food was very good.

We again breakfasted with the family on Sunday (and I left my camera in the car). For dinner, we were to try another highly touted local restaurant, Vic and Angelos. But before dinner time would come, Bob and I were hungry. What to snack on after an afternoon on the beach?

I turned randomly into a strip mall, thinking we could pick up something at Publix if there was nothing more appealing in the mall. Then, we stumbled on this place: Roberto's Taco Shop. 1530 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach Fl (no website, 561-243-3938). This was exactly the kind of place we love to find - Mom & Pop type operation (though their take out menu lists another location in Hialeah); food cooked from scratch to order with large portions and small prices. Almost everyone eating there was of Spanish extraction (there was one deuce of touristas) and everyone was enjoying their food. The perfect snack stop for us!

Three Tacos: Al Pastore, Carnitas and Beef

Each bite exploded with flavor - two of the tacos had a bit of fresh guacamole on them, which made me regret that we had not gotten some separately. We enjoyed our tacos with a bit of the house-made "extra" hot sauce:

We were still a little hungry after sharing this, but we had the antidote. The day we'd been shopping with Chaya, she took us to this little farmers' market:

There, we acquired some amazingly tasty tomatoes, and some Honeybell Oranges. I've never enjoyed an orange so much in my life!

This snack held us nicely until our dinner reservation, where my brother and his wife and two children would be joining us.

Though described as an enoteca, this place was slick and upscale (with may more flat screen TVs than necessary), and way too loud. According to Wikipedia, the word enoteca is "used to describe a special type of local or regional wine shop that originated in Italy.[1] The concept of an enoteca has also spread to some other countries. A genuine enoteca is primarily directed at giving visitors or tourists the possibility to taste these wines at a reasonable fee and possibly to buy them.[2] An enoteca is often run in collaboration with growers or growers' or tourism organisations in the village or region." Well, the prices weren't absurd, but they sure weren't cheap.

Whether or not this place is truly an enoteca - it certainly creates some beautiful and delicious food.

I loved the side towels used for napkins.

Bread Service Accompaniments

All three options were delicious, as was the bread.

We ordered a couple of appetizers; the two kids (10 and 13) and their mom were at the other end of a rectangular table and kind of on their own.

Baked Clams al Forno: Olio Verde . Garlic Breadcrumbs . Lemon.

Delicious. The sauce was plate licking good.

Mozzarella in Carrozza

The fried mozzarella was terrific - I was glad the kids ordered it and shared!

Burrata: Vine Tomatoes . Basil . Olio Verde

Having just learned about this Mozzarella on Steroids at the Slow Foods Cheese Tasting in December, and knowing how much my folks love mozzarella - I insisted we try it. We were not disappointed.

When the server said they had a Stone Crab special, I thought she meant an entree - like the one I passed on at Legends Dining Room last year and regretted all the way to Destin. It turned out to be an appetizer - but I had to have it.

Words fail me at the perfection of this super fresh and perfectly prepared crab.

Another contribution from the kids' end of the table - Sicilian Chicken Wings with Rosemary, Chilies, Aged Parmesan, Olio Verde, Onions - thank you Daniel, for sharing! He ate this for his entree with some pasta (and when the kitchen accidentally sent out a second order - the server, in contrast to the previous night, said "enjoy it on us").

Mom and Chaya both went vegetarian with this delicious entree:

Tortellini: Butternut Squash . Thyme . Fresh Tomato.

Well, they don't really look like Tortellini that Chef Ramsey would approve of - but the taste and texture were heavenly.

Fusilli: Sausage . Broccoli Rabe . Garlic . Pecorino DOP

Bob's entree was superb. My photographs of it sucked.

My entree was also fantastic:

Whole Wheat Fettuccine: Shrimp . Asparagus . Cherry Tomato . Garlic . Crushed Red Pepper

I had interrogated our poor server to the point where the Chef was getting annoyed with her - asking about where all the fish and seafood came from. She vouched for the freshness of this shrimp (which was not local) - and it passed my sniff test. A delicious, healthy entree.

The only dish that was not a runaway hit was Dad's Veal Cutlet Milanese with Arugula, Tomato, and Red Onion. It looked good from where I sat, but he wasn't crazy about it. I hate when that happens to the same person two nights in a row.

Dad's Cappucino

Since this was the "official" 70th birthday party - a splashy dessert was in order:

This incredibly creative and festive dessert started with real cotton candy on a sparkler-topped cone.

The glass contained marshmellows and gummi bears, which the kids gleefully devoured.

Freshly Fried Zeppoles (Donuts) with Chocolate and Vanilla Dipping Sauces


What can I say? Leave the cotton candy, take this cannoli - it was wonderful!

And so a lovely dinner ended.

We breakfasted with brother Jeff and his family at the hotel the next morning before they took off for home, then tried to get some sun by the pool. But the sun again refused to cooperate. Finally giving in to the munchies, we decided to hit Boston's for another fish sandwich. And dang it, the beach area actually had some sun!

Taken from the Upper Deck again.

This time, we opted for different Grouper preparations for our sandwiches.

Blackened Grouper (Bob's)

Grilled Grouper (mine)

Now that snow is falling outside my window - I am really, really missing the wood kissed taste of this sandwich.

For our final dinner in Delray, we met up with a dear friend of mine from law school, who recently moved to West Palm Beach. She suggested we meet for a drink at The Blue Martini at Cityplace in WBP, then get dinner at a restaurant in the complex.

Bob's drink, the signature cocktail, was photo-worthy:

After our drinks (Happy Hour specialed at Half Price), we repaired to Il Bellagio for dinner.

Burrata again!

Two nights in a row - this was almost too good to be true! I actually liked Bellagio's presentation of the Burrata slightly better.

Charlie's meatball was so big, I had to photograph it from across the table. He barely made a dent in it (though he ate his pasta).

Penne Billante

Barbara's entree featured multigrain penne, eggplant, onions, fresh tomato sauce and ricotta salata.

Rigatoni Catania

Bob loved his pasta with house-made Italian Sausage, Mushrooms and Pomodoro Sauce.

Tonno Livornese

Lightly grilled tuna with onions, capers, calamata olives, and a fresh tomato sauce. Even though the tuna wasn't local (frustratingly, none of the fish or seafood was) - it was delicious and the tomato sauce a breath of sunshine to a tomato-deprived midwesterner.

The next morning, my folks met us for breakfast at the hotel, then we headed for the airport. And now, I'm in Cleveland and it's snowing.

One last culinary note from our trip - a delightful microbrew Bob enjoyed at the hotel bar one evening:

The beer was very fresh, and the spicings really worked.

And now, having played with some wonderful eats and not so wonderful eats in Delray Beach, we suffer the snow in Cleveland . . . until our next trip to Florida. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. I love honeybelle tangelos. Too bad they're not in season in May( when we go to S. Florida). I'll have to remember that taco stand for when we go down. We stay in the Ft. Lauderdale area( where I grew up) and there is really no good Mexican food there.