PBFWF: Five stunning courses celebrate sustainable seafood

Chef Mike Lata's Maine razor clams in a cilantro toss. (LILA PHOTO)
Chef Mike Lata’s Maine razor clams in a cilantro toss. (LILA PHOTO)

You know to expect something special when you have four James Beard Award-winning chefs and one of Palm Beach’s top seafood chefs in the kitchen. But Thursday night’s “Sustain” dinner at PB Catch went well beyond special.

One of the two dinners that kicked off this year’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, Sustain brought together chefs from far-flung American cities in a celebration of sustainable fish and seafood. The resulting five courses proved not only harmonious but spectacular.

Sustain feast at Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest, at PB Catch. (LILA PHOTO)
Sustain feast at Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest, at PB Catch. (LILA PHOTO)

A sold-out crowd traveled to Charleston, New Orleans, Cleveland – all without leaving their white linen-draped tables.

First stop: Charleston, SC. Chef Mike Lata (Fig, The Ordinary) presented a vibrant green toss of Maine razor clams in a zippy, bright cilantro sauce.

Chef Mike Lata of Charleston. (LILA PHOTO)
Chef Mike Lata of Charleston. (LILA PHOTO)

Next stop: New Orleans, where chef Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon, Peche) gave us a robust shrimp and potato stew with fermented black beans, olives and chiles, a dish that combined the flavors of his city in one bowl.

Chef Stephen Stryjewski of New Orleans. (LILA PHOTO)
Chef Stephen Stryjewski of New Orleans. (LILA PHOTO)

Third stop: Palm Beach, where PB Catch’s chef de cuisine, Aaron Black, created a pompano with “BLT” flavors, en croute, with bacon-tomato vinaigrette and romaine fermented with crème fraiche and caraway.

PB Catch chef de cuisine Aaron Black and owner Thierry Beaud. (LILA PHOTO)
PB Catch chef de cuisine Aaron Black and owner Thierry Beaud. (LILA PHOTO)

Next stop: Cleveland, where chef Jonathon Sawyer presented a full clambake in a burlap-lined bowl – clams, cockles, double-smoked kielbasa, guinea hen involtini, marble potatoes, sweet, carved corn and a rich, sippable broth.

Chef Jonathon Sawyer of Cleveland. (LILA PHOTO)
Chef Jonathon Sawyer of Cleveland. (LILA PHOTO)

The final stop was a sweet one: dessert by award-winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini (Cooking Channel “Sugar Showdown”), a beautifully bright duo of Florida citrus, which popped with key lime and caramelized grapefruit flavors.

Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. (LILA PHOTO)
Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. (LILA PHOTO)

The dinner also launched The Palm Beach Post’s new Dinner Series, an occasional series of local, intimate dining events.

The festival continues today with a “Miami Takeover” lunch at Meat Market Palm Beach, a chef welcome party at The Breakers and a late-night karaoke session at the Four Seasons Palm Beach. Most of the weekend events are sold-out, but tickets remain for Sunday’s Grand Tasting ($75) at The Gardens Mall.

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Four-chef Buccan collaboration kicks off Palm Beach food festival

Chefs Gavin Kaysen, George Mendes and Hugh Acheson joined Clay Conley at Buccan for the opening meal at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)
Chefs Gavin Kaysen, George Mendes and Hugh Acheson joined Clay Conley at Buccan for the opening meal at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)

Four key ingredients made for a spectacular opening night to the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival: the chefs.

Buccan, the home turf of the county’s own two-time James Beard Award nominee Clay Conley, hosted a family-style meal with star power: Southern food savant and James Beard cookbook award winner Hugh Acheson, Gavin Kaysen (two-time James Beard finalist) and Michelin-star-rated George Mendes.

Conley slow roasted wagyu short ribs for 24 hours and served it with mushroom and a spicy gochujang sauce in a lettuce wrap. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)
Conley slow roasted wagyu short ribs for 24 hours and served it with mushroom and a spicy gochujang sauce in a lettuce wrap. (Carlos Frías/The Palm Beach Post)

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Each cooked two dishes — actually stood in Conley’s kitchen and prepared the meals — for 140 guests smart enough to snap up the tickets to this event. That intimacy is what sets this festival apart from the South Beach Wine and Food Festival which draws thousands.

“Some of the festivals are so huge, they’re over the top,” said Acheson, a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. “Here, you can really spend time with people.”

Top food trucks and rallies in Palm Beach County

Photo best french fries food truck
The Best French Fries Food truck attracted a large crowd at a Food Truck Rally in Manalapan.
(Photo by Libby Volgyes/Special to the Palm Beach Post)

There are lots of food truck rallies happening throughout Palm Beach County. The ‘restaurant on wheels’ phenomenon has arrived and it is growing! Here we name some of the best and most popular trucks, rallies in our area:

Food Truck Invasion of Palm Beach County

Critic’s pick: best waterfront restaurant this week in Delray

A waterfront view from Deck 84 in Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)
Boaters often bring their fresh catch to Deck 84, Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)

South county pick: DECK 84

Restaurateur Burt Rapoport has created more than a simple waterfront eatery at Deck 84 – he has created a kind of waterway hub, where boaters can dock and drink or bring their fresh catches to be cooked.

Boat or no boat, you’ll find a taste of the ocean at this 5-year-old restaurant in the bar bites (the popcorn shrimp are delicious!), soups, large plates, sandwiches and tacos.

Related: Best waterfront restaurants in Palm Beach County

A waterfront view from Deck 84 in Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)
A waterfront view from Deck 84, Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)

The seafood dishes share the menu with American pub classics in a setting that embraces the water view – the place is among the top 100 al fresco dining restaurants in America, according to OpenTable.com.

Open every day, Deck 84 serves lunch and dinner daily; a weekend brunch is served as well.

Deck 84: 840 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561-665-8484; Deck84.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

Critic’s pick: cozy vibe, scratch-made eats in Northwood

Chef Roberto Villegas opened Table 427, a cozy spot on Northwood's main drag, in 2013. He makes everything from scratch, from the bread to the salad dressings to the gnocchi. (Jennifer Podis/ The Palm Beach Post)
Chef Roberto Villegas opened Table 427 in 2013. (Jennifer Podis/ The Palm Beach Post)

Central county pick: TABLE 427

In Northwood’s primetime bustle, it may be easy to overlook this quiet, cozy eatery.

Located on the historic district’s main drag, Table 427 is the domain of chef/owner Roberto Villegas, a versatile cook who often takes inspiration from his Mexican roots. His dishes are not precious, but they are earnestly prepared and lovingly served.

Villegas is the culinary equivalent of a DJ – he takes requests. And for those who enjoy surprises, he offers a “No Menu” option, a five-course dinner of his own design.

The pace here may be slower than at other neighborhood eateries, as the chef does most of the cooking himself. Consider the lag a chance to have a glass of wine and an invitation to be treated like family.

Table 427: 427 Northwood Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-506-8211; Table427.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

Critic’s pick: a Jupiter spot for kicky enchiladas

White Sangria is served at Cabo Flats restaurants. (Bill Ingram/ Palm Beach Post)
White Sangria is served at Cabo Flats restaurants. (Bill Ingram/ Palm Beach Post)

North county pick: CABO FLATS

This is the Mexican-inspired eatery that originated in the Downtown at the Gardens plaza in Palm Beach Gardens. It has since expanded to three other cities, with three others on deck.

With the original location closed, north county Cabo fans can now find their Pancho Villa quesadillas in this free-standing restaurant on U.S. 1 in Jupiter. This is where I found a lively, but not overwhelming vibe and spot-on service on a recent night.

Avocado fries at Cabo Flats. (Photo: Christina Nicholson)
Avocado fries at Cabo Flats. (Photo: Christina Nicholson)

Also spot-on: the classic enchiladas stuffed with Cabo’s Chicken Tinga. I love it with a side of the kicky ranchero sauce and a Dos Equis lager.

Cabo Flats: 1352 S. U.S. Highway 1, Jupiter; 561-320-9644; CaboFlats.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda