Monday, January 11, 2016

Fun Playing With Food in South Florida

We did something completely different for Thanksgiving this year. Instead of visiting friends or Bob's family or cooking, we winged it to Highland Beach Florida and spent a long week and the holiday with my parents. My sister and brother also joined us for several days, so it was a nice family reunion. We enjoyed a nondescript Thanksgiving Dinner at my parents' club, then proceeded to do some playing with the local restaurant food. 

The siblings all stayed at Delray Sands Resort Collection in Highland Beach. This was Bob's first trip following cervical spinal surgery, and we were distracted by a few health issues over the first few days. But the weather was mostly delightful, as were the ocean views from the beachfront hotel.

We were even treated to some rainbows!

Our first meal outside the hotel was at the Green Owl Restaurant, a small, cash-only breakfast-and-lunch establishment in downtown Delray Beach.

Bob's Corned Beef Hash & Eggs,
Mine: Cheese Omelet with Grits
We each received a serving of rye toast on the side. Even though Green Owl is owned by Steelers fans, we recommend them for a nice breakfast and the lunch food looked good also.

Our first dinner out together was at City Oyster, also on the Atlantic Avenue strip in Delray Beach. 

Bread Service
We started out with a smoked fish dip for appetizer, which was accompanied by the most lovely house-made crackers.

Whitefish dip with homemade crackers and pickles,
Bob's:  Yellowtail Snapper Hong Kong Style
Bob's fish was pan roasted, and accompanied by Jasmine Rice, Sesame & Ginger Sauce, and Vegetables.


This dinner special of Swordfish over fresh tomato ragu and polenta offered a refreshingly different take on the fish dinner. Both dishes featured fresh fish prepared well. I couldn't finish mine and enjoyed the leftovers at my parents' place the next day. Yeah, City Oyster is a little pretentious and expensive - but the food and service were very good. 

Just a few doors down from City Oyster is a newish place called Tryst, where we had another aquatically themed dinner, this time composed of small plates which we shared. I confess, I missed the house-made crackers with the fish dip, but the dip itself was delicious. 

This dip, rather than relying on whitefish, was made from salmon and yellowtail. Different than the whitefish dip, but very tasty. 

IPA Steamed Florida Clams  with Housemade chorizo, serrano chile, basil, orange, blistered grape tomatoes & ciabatta
Plate-licking good, though they need to serve it with a spoon (or two). The only plate we came close to finishing (we were a little overly generous in ordering).

"Angry Pig" Slider: Sicilian Pulled Pork, Orange Marmalade, Pickled Fresno Chilies, Fennel Slaw, Basil
This sandwich is as small as it looks, but packs a lot of flavor! We split it in half and it was enough, given how much else we'd ordered.

Nueske's Bacon Mac & Cheese
Proving that I am capable of ordering a non-fish/seafood dish when in Florida. It had Neuske's bacon, after all! One of the best mac n cheeses we've sampled.

Tuna "Poke" Lettuce Wraps: Toasted cashews, pineapple sambal
More pristine fish with beautiful accompaniments. Tryst was my favorite culinary find of the trip.

On Sunday, we treated my parents to the Unlimited Champagne Brunch Buffet at Latitudes Restaurant, at the Resort. The Resort was formerly a Holiday Inn, but the entire property (including the food service) has been renovated over the past 2 years. My parents had brunched here before in the old incarnation, and we all looked forward to seeing what the renovations would bring. Given the $50 per person price point, I expected better than average hotel food service, and Latitudes did not disappoint. 

My "first course" plate

Though the sushi rice lacked profundity, the fish and seafood was of very good quality. The smoked salmon and trout, and seared tuna were nice, and yes, those are shrimp at the back of plate - no smell or taste of pyrophosphate on them. The crab gazpacho was mostly gazpacho and a little crab, but the shellfish was pristine. 

My "second course" plate
Staying with the seafood theme, I can endorse both varieties of scallop and shrimp on this plate. The pulled pork (which I put over potato cake rather than tortilla) and guacamole were both good but nothing to write home about. I did not care for the coconut crusted fish, left middle, which didn't taste fresh.

 The buffet included a selection of charcuterie, carved meats and casserole-type dishes.

And a bountiful selection of sweets, many of which were food-service grade. Despite it's likely Sysco origins, I really liked the red velvet doughnut.

The blintz, which is also offered on Latitudes's regular breakfast menu, was also food service and not made from scratch (the cheese filling suffered a little from the freeze-thaw cycle). The key lime parfait was very tasty. And of course, I could never say no to caramel.

Carmel Parfait

The Mimosas (and coffee, for those who care about coffee) kept on coming, and there were many other food options on the buffet that I didn't try or photograph, as well as an egg/omelet "made to order" station. We enjoyed our brunch in a most leisurely fashion and never felt rushed as we enjoyed the food, beverages and the built-in ocean view. We ate at Latitudes several times over the course of the trip, and the service was always exceptional and the food mostly good to very good. Prices were reasonable.

Our next adventure took us to Gary Rack's Fat Rooster, also on the strip in Delray Beach, for brunch. As of Thanksgiving 2015, they've eliminated separate brunch and lunch menus in favor of a single midday menu 7 days a week. Worked for us!

Fat Rooster has a "fun playing with food" feel and an eclectic environment and menu. Our server used to live in Northeast Ohio, near to us!

This "Special" consisted of a housemade biscuit, pulled pork. 2 fried eggs, tomato, hollandaise, potato-sweet potato hash. 

Mine also featured their signature biscuit, topped  with Fried Green Tomato, Avocado Smash, Fried Egg, BBQ Hollandaise and served with the same potato-sweet potato hash. I loved this slightly lighter/smaller take on the typical Eggs Benedict.

For Bob's 65th birthday, my folks took us all out to City Fish in Boca Raton for dinner. And here I hit the culinary motherload: a perfect stone crab claw. I loved the way the fishes and seafood product were displayed where the diner can see them, and the server was expert on everything served.

A thing of beauty, loaded with sweet crab meat

This salad comes with every entree. Pre-plated and a little cold, but very nice.

Bob's: Blackened Black Grouper and Fries 
Mine: Sauteed Black Grouper and sweet potato 

My sister had to leave on Monday, but since Bob's actual birthday was Tuesday, we who remained assembled at Josephine's in Boca Raton for dinner accompanied by a song stylist. We had a great time, though I don't think I'd order fish there again (though the clams were excellent - the taste of the veal I sampled was even better).

You can see that the bread isn't really fresh; toasting saved it.

This clam appetizer was lovely; a shame that the fin fish didn't have the same freshness and skill of preparation. Beautiful shellfish, cooked just right.

The salad was way too cold, and a bit slimy. First fail.

Bob and I both got this; he ate his
Fish "special": Swordfish, olives, capers, tomato sauce, pasta. Fish was overcooked and old, pasta from a box nothing special. Mom gave me a few clams from her dish that she didn't want, and I was good.

For our last meal in Florida, we headed south on the Intracoastal to Prime Catch in Boynton Beach, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch. 

Sweet Thai Chili Sauce, Rice Paper & Scallions - this shrimp passed inspection, though frying does cover a thousand sins! The fried rice paper was a nice touch and deftly sopped up the chili sauce. A very successful dish.

Bob and I both had Yellowtail Snapper: Bob's grilled with the Thai Chili Sauce on the side and fries, mine pan seared with paprika, sweet potato fries. The oil must have been a little too hot when they dropped my fries, because they were a little overcooked. But other than that, a fresh and delightful lunch to see us out of town. We had fun playing with South Florida food!

No comments:

Post a Comment