First look: vegan Meraki Juice Kitchen in downtown West Palm Beach

Bright bite: avocado toast at Meraki Juice Kitchen. (Liz Balmaseda/Palm Beach Post)
Bright bite: avocado toast at Meraki Juice Kitchen. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

At first glance, Meraki Juice Kitchen feels like a grab-and-go place. Freshly packaged salads chill in a cooler, as do pressed juices.

The downtown West Palm Beach spot is stylish yet casual, perfect for take-out smoothie orders. But despite its limited menu and space, chef Christopher Slawson’s organic plant-based café also serves as an urban oasis for those who’d like to settle in and enjoy a healthy bite, as I did on a recent Sunday afternoon.

The avocado toast, topped with sunflower sprouts and sprinkled with salt and pepper, made for a delicious mid-afternoon snack ($5.95). I enjoyed it between sips of Meraki’s bottled “Abundance” juice (pressed cucumber, romaine, chard, kale, ginger, pear and lime, $9.50).

The counter attendant offered me a special daily bonus, a 2-ounce bottle of kicky ginger tonic (normally $3.50), made of freshly pressed lemon, ginger and cayenne pepper. Strong stuff, this tonic. Even a nano sip smacked the afternoon haze out of me.

Kicky stuff: freshly pressed ginger-cayenne tonic. (Liz Balmaseda/Palm Beach Post)
Kicky stuff: freshly pressed ginger-cayenne tonic. (Liz Balmaseda/Palm Beach Post)

Perched on Fern Street, Meraki is the sister eatery of Christopher’s Kitchen, Slawson’s popular plant-based restaurant located on the PGA Boulevard dining corridor in Palm Beach Gardens. He opened the place on Aug. 16 with his uncle, Richard Slawson. Like Christopher’s Kitchen, it offers a selection of organic, plant-based desserts, smoothies, salads and a daily soup. Unlike the more established restaurant, which serves a large menu at lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the new spot focuses on daytime-type dishes.

Still, there’s plenty here to keep a fan of Slawson’s fresh, creative cuisine coming back. And when you savor your meal at one of the café tables, you can look out the window into what is presently part of a construction site and envision the green space it will become. Once the current construction is finished, Meraki’s quaint patio dining area is sure to be one of the loveliest spots for a downtown bite.

Meraki Juice Kitchen: 328 Fern St., West Palm Beach; 561-508-6640; MerakiJuiceKitchen.com

 

Two weeks left to snap up Flavor Palm Beach dining deals

Cafe Boulud offers a terrific Flavor Palm Beach menu. (Contributed by Noah Fecks)
Cafe Boulud offers a terrific Flavor Palm Beach lunch menu. (Contributed by Noah Fecks)

Because we are midway through Flavor Palm Beach month, otherwise known as September, it’s a good time to update our dining whim list.

We have just two weeks to take advantage of the month’s discount dining deals, the multi-course lunches and dinners offered at top local restaurants for nice prices.

Cashing in on the promotion is easy. The Flavor website (FlavorPB.com) offers one-stop-shopping in the form of links to the prix fixe menus as well as links for online reservations.

The site also shows which restaurants impose restrictions on the days Flavor menus are offered. Only four restaurants cite exceptions this year. But here’s a tip to avoid a disappointment: Before you reserve, call the restaurant to make sure the special menu is offered at the time/day of your desired visit.

The 52 participating Flavor restaurants are scattered throughout the county and include seven in Boca Raton, one in Delray Beach, 14 in Palm Beach, eight in West Palm Beach, 11 in Palm Beach Gardens, four in North Palm Beach, one in Singer Island, five in Jupiter and one in Tequesta.

Among those restaurants are some fancy chain steakhouses — you know, those special-occasion spots that may be too pricey for a routine weeknight dinner. If you’re a steakhouse fan, Flavor offers an affordable way to dine well at some upscale chain spots.

The Capital Grille, whose Flavor menu extends to both its Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens outposts, is featuring both surf – with the above Seared Citrus-Glazed Salmon – and turf, with the Dry Aged Sirloin with Roasted Pepper, Fresh Mozzarella and Arugula Salad. (Courtesy:
On The Capital Grille’s Flavor menu: Seared Citrus-Glazed Salmon.  (Courtesy: The Capital Grille)

The Capital Grille menu, for instance, is too good to pass up. For $20, you get a three-course lunch that includes a choice of wedge salad or bacon clam chowder, four tempting entrée choices and two dessert options. For $35, dinner is a deal – appetizer, entrée (options like filet mignon and bone-in NY strip), a side dish and a dessert.

Other participating chain steakhouses include Ruth’s Chris, Morton’s and III Forks.

Flavor Palm Beach menus to love

  • Considering the price, some of the special prix fixe menus are particularly inviting. Take Seasons 52, for instance. The Flavor lunch there is $20, dinner $35 – and at dinner, you get four courses, including a starter flatbread, a salad, a choice of five entrée options and dessert. Plus, there’s a wine upgrade option that offers wines normally priced from $10 to $12 for $7 a glass.
  • At $25, a three-course lunch at Café Boulud Palm Beach is a steal. One possible combo: golden tomato gazpacho with chive oil, Boulud’s Piggie Burger (prime beef patty and barbecue pulled pork), and chocolate bread pudding. The café’s lunch deal is offered Monday through Friday.
  • Lunch at the Leopard Lounge in Palm Beach is a hearty affair – for 20 bucks. One possible combo (my favorite) begins with a baby green salad with poached pears, goat cheese, candied pistachios and golden raisins in a lemon vinaigrette. It segues to an outstanding chicken schnitzel in lemon béchamel, haricot vert and French fries. The sweet finale: a knockout double-chocolate Belgian cake. The lounge serves a different prix fixe menu at dinner for $45.

 

 

 

New restaurants joined this year

Flavor founder Briana Beaty counts nine “freshman” restaurants in this year’s promotion. They include Jupiter restaurants Craft Bar Kitchen, Rustic Inn and Nitrogen, Palm Beach Gardens-based Salute Market, West Palm Beach restaurants Burger and Beer Joint and Jardin, Palm Beach-based Al Fresco and Boca Raton restaurants Tanzy and The Little Chalet.

 

FLAVOR PALM BEACH

For info, menus and reservations, visit FlavorPB.com.

National Toasted Marshmallow Day: Celebrate with s’mores Jello shots!

Yes, the Jello shot is inside the marshmallow. Genius! (Photo from That's So Michelle)
Yes, the Jello shot is inside the marshmallow. Genius! (Photo from That’s So Michelle)

Today is National Toasted Marshmallow Day. Let’s toast the day with S’mores Jello Shots. Yummy!

S’mores Jello Shots to the rescue!

How fun is this recipe from That’s So Michelle, who is clearly a Jello shot genius? No campfire required!

S’mores Jello Shots in Real Marshmallows
1 bag giant marshmallows
1 cup chocolate vodka of choice
1 cup water
2 packets Knox gelatin
1 packet hot chocolate
Melted chocolate for coating the marshmallows (i.e. Wilton candy melts, found in the baking aisle)
1 cup crushed graham crackers

1. Using your fingers, pinch out the center of giant marshmallows.

2. Let marshmallows sit out a little while to toughen up.

3. Make alcoholic chocolate Jello. Says That’s So Michelle: “I used 1 cup water and a packet of hot chocolate mix. I sprinkled 2 packets of Knox gelatin on top and let it sit for a minute. Then turn on the heat and whisk until boiling and dissolved. When dissolved, pour into 1 cup cold vodka .”

4. Important: Let chocolate Jello mixture cool. It should be at least room temperature before you pour it into your marshmallows. If it’s hot it will melt the marshmallows.

5. Carefully pour Jello mixture into the marshmallows.

6. Save any leftover Jello in case marshmallows need to be topped off after they set for a few hours.

7. Melt chocolate and spread it around the edges of the marshmallows, then roll them in crushed graham crackers.

Not into s’mores or marshmallows? We don’t understand, but OK.

Maybe these five recipes for Adult Root Beer Floats will float your boat instead?

 

New waterfront restaurant opens in Delray Beach

Che has taken over the former Hudson at Waterway East in Delray Beach. (Contributed)
Che has taken over the former Hudson at Waterway East in Delray Beach. (Contributed)

A rare Argentinian-owned restaurant has landed on the banks of the Intracoastal in Delray Beach. Che Restaurant opened Monday in the sprawling space formerly occupied by Hudson at Waterway East.

Dreamed up in Buenos Aires, the restaurant concept was brought to life in Spain by brother-sister restaurateurs Daniela and Martin Sujoy. On Spanish soil, they built a Che empire of 15 related restaurants in 15 years. (They include Che Pizza & Pasta, Che Asador Argentino and Che American Style).

Related: Best waterfront restaurants in Palm Beach County

Now comes their first U.S. location in Delray Beach’s buzzy dining district: a restaurant that’s described as part modern steakhouse, part casual international eatery. “Che” is a multipurpose expression common in the Rio de la Plata region. It can mean “hey!” or “bro,” among other things.

“For Delray Beach, we wanted to pay homage to our Argentinian roots while highlighting European inspiration,” said Martin Sujoy via news release.

Che offers various types of paellas similar to this one. (Mia Yakel/ Cox Newspapers)
Che offers various types of paellas similar to this one. (Mia Yakel/ Cox Newspapers)

The Sujoy family got its start in the food industry in Argentina, where they managed country club concessions before opening a financial district restaurant that grew into a catering operation.

At Che Delray, expect dishes with Argentine and Spanish accents on the menu. There are Argentinian classics like choripan (chorizo sandwich), Buenos Aires-style pastas and grass-fed South American steaks with chimichurri sauce. Inspired by Spain, there’s Galician-style octopus and paellas. On the side: sparkling waterfront views.

The Sujoys hired Spanish interior design company Paco Pleguezuelos to breathe new life into the 8000-square-foot space. The result is a sprawling restaurant with inside/outside dining areas and two bars, with plenty of room for large parties in between.

Hours: open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Che Delray Beach: 900 E. Atlantic Ave.; 561-562-5200; CheRestaurant.com

 

 

Bolay to spread healthy bowl concept to Gardens, Boca Raton

Bodacious bowls: Bolay offers healthy combos and juices. (Contributed by Bolay)
Bodacious bowls: Bolay offers healthy combos and juices. (Contributed by Bolay)

One local fast-casual restaurant is about to spread its love of healthy bowls far and wide across Palm Beach County.

Bolay, the popular bowl-centric restaurant that opened in Royal Palm Beach nearly seven months ago, is ready to open locations in Palm Beach Gardens and Boca Raton.

First up is Palm Beach Gardens, where a Bolay location is expected to open Oct. 29 on Northlake Boulevard in a 2500-square-foot space across the street from Costco. A slightly larger Boca Raton location will follow when Bolay opens in the former Voodoo BBQ space at the Polo Club Shoppes on Dec. 1.

030216 Bolay Juices nuThe Bolay concept is focused on clean, nutritious eating, offering a selection of grains, vegetables and meats for customizable bowls. Beyond the ordinary range of salads, the restaurant aims to build bowls that are filled with nutrient-rich ingredients, such as Peruvian quinoa, roasted butternut squash, smoky cauliflower and a variety of lean, flavorful meats. Every dish is gluten-free.

For the sipping, there’s fresh-pressed juices and herbal teas.

The restaurant was founded by Jupiter resident Chris Gannon, who owns the concept with his father, Tim Gannon, a co-founder of Outback Steakhouse and a PDQ franchisee.

The younger Gannon is quick to note special dietary preferences “aren’t special requests” at Bolay. “They’re always featured selections. Each bowl carries the perfect balance of tasty and creative zest that our guests love,” he said via news release.

BOLAY

Palm Beach Gardens: scheduled to open Oct. 29 at 3333 Northlake Blvd.

Boca Raton: expected to open Dec. 1 in the Polo Club Shoppes, 5030 Champion Blvd.

Hours: The restaurant locations will open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

 

Openings: Bubble tea shop debuts in West Palm plaza

Art of Boba debuted last week in West Palm Beach doors down from its sister restaurant, Pho 16. (Photo: Samantha Ragland)
Art of Boba debuted last week doors down from its sister eatery, Pho 16. Photo: Samantha Ragland

Drinking bubble tea reminds me of those kitten videos online. There’s always a surprise, a tickle, even if you were halfway expecting it.

As you sip this chilled sweet tea, tapioca pearls (“bubbles”) shoot up your straw and into your mouth. Your tea is suddenly candy. Sip again and there they are, those chewy little orbs.

Such is the magic of Taiwanese-style bubble or “boba” tea – it never fails to lift your mood.

I was reminded of this fact some days ago as I sipped my Cocotaro Milk Tea at Art of Boba, the newest bubble tea shop in West Palm Beach. The tea took on the richness of coconut and the mauve tones of taro, the rough-skinned root vegetable that often encases a light-rose flesh. Plump boba pearls sat at the bottom of the cup, waiting to be stirred and slurped.

Classic: black milk tea with boba and grass jelly. (Photo: Liz Balmaseda)
Black milk tea with boba. Photo: Liz Balmaseda

A mere $3.75 buys any of a dozen or so bubble tea flavors, milk tea or clear tea. Toppings – there’s an eclectic range of them, including grass jelly, a gelatinous sweet made of the mesona chinensis plant – are extra.

Boba tea shops in Taiwan, where the international bubble tea wave began in the 1980s, can have more than ten times the flavor selection, I learned from my Taiwanese colleague Spe Chen, a data reporting intern. And they keep a steady stream of freshly simmered tapioca pearls in stock, as the boba can quickly turn stale and mushy. (Ideally, they should be al dente, she tells me.)

I’m not sure how many boba this new shop moves, but the fact there are boba to be found in this busy, Military Trail strip plaza is a sweet thing. The shop is a sibling of the plaza’s resident Vietnamese restaurant, Pho 16, a popular stop for the enormous, broth-y, blinged-out soup that is Vietnam’s national dish.

Pho 16 chef/owner Andy Truong, who is known to simmer his pho broth for 30 hours, opened Art of Boba some days ago. (The official opening was Saturday.)

Generation bubble tea: Spe Chen was born just a few years after the boba tea craze kicked off in her native Taiwan. (Photo: Liz Balmaseda)
Gen bubble tea: Spe Chen was born a few years after the boba craze began in her native Taiwan. 

The simple yet stylish shop offers a small menu of milk teas (such as black milk tea, Thai green tea and red bean milk tea), coffee drinks (like iced Vietnamese coffee) and other refreshing sips (including a beautifully layered jasmine cream foam that’s topped with a slightly salty cloud of cream foam).

There are silky and chunky smoothies, including one (Avocado Avalanche) that’s made with smashed avocados, sweetened condensed milk, coffee jelly and boba. And for those who’d like a quick bite, there is a variety of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.

Art of Boba

Where: 2905 N. Military Trail, Suite H, West Palm Beach; 561-557-2996; on Facebook

Hours: Open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Who’s coming to PB Food & Wine Fest? Stars revealed, tickets on sale

The Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest celebrates its 10th birthday this year. (LILA PHOTO)
The Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest celebrates its 10th birthday this year. (LILA PHOTO)

Foodie alert: Tickets are now on sale for December’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, the four-day culinary bash featuring some of the top chefs in the country. And Coolio.

More on the Palm Beach/ Gangsta’s Paradise mashup in a bit.

This year’s festival, which runs from Dec. 8-11, welcomes new faces in the food world as well as some returning stars. And the 10-year-old fest welcomes at least one veteran rapper who dubs himself “The Ghetto Gourmet.” Here’s a rundown.

Chef Jose Mendin is shown here after a big win at the Cochon 555 regional fest. (Galdones Photography/COCHON 555)
Miami chef Jose Mendin. (COCHON 555)

New faces include Miami powerhouse chef Jose Mendin, whose Pubbelly Restaurant Group has redefined local-meets-global cuisine in that city and “Top Chef” winner Jeremy Ford. They will be joined by fellow Miami chef Richard Hales, whose Asian-centric restaurants Sakaya Kitchen and Blackbrick Chinese are among Miami’s most popular, and by James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein. Also a newcomer to the festival: Amanda Cohen, chef/owner of New York City’s Dirt Candy vegetarian restaurant.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2015 PB FOOD & WINE FEST SCENES AND FACES

Returning faces include Food Network stars Robert Irvine, Jeff Mauro, Marc Murphy, celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud, Jonathon Sawyer, Elizabeth Falkner, Anita Lo, Johnny Iuzzini, Virginia Willis, Stephen Stryjewski, George Mendes, Mike Lata, Timon Balloo, Giogio Rapicavoli, Ken Oringer and Beau MacMillan.

Local top chefs include Lindsay Autry, Clay Conley, Tim Lipman, Julien Gremaud, Sean Brasel, Zach Bell, Rick Mace, and others.

While the festival returns to The Gardens Mall for its big closing-night finale, it also adds new events and venues to the mix this year.

There will be a plant-based, multi-course dinner at Avocado Grill, a “Southern Revival” lunch at Lindsay Autry’s soon-to-open Regional Kitchen & Public House, a rare lunch at the always-busy Palm Beach Grill and at least one late night party that’s already sold out.

"Ghetto Gourmet" Coolio will be food-festing in Palm Beach. (Cox Newspapers photo)
“Ghetto Gourmet” Coolio will be food-festing in Palm Beach. (Cox Newspapers photo)

Which brings us to Coolio, headliner at that sold-out late-night party.

“But you will see him throughout the whole weekend, enjoying the festivities,” says festival director David Sabin, who suggests he and his staff may have “a couple more surprises up our sleeves.”

What does Coolio bring to a culinary fest?

The recording artist who calls himself “The Ghetto Gourmet” does have a cookbook: “Cookin’ with Coolio.”

Here’s what his website, coolioworld.com, says about his cooking skills:

“His style is brash and in your face, for which he doesn’t apologize.”

It offers this quote from the veteran rapper: “People learn better when they’re entertained. Cooking isn’t just for the starched-stiff elite. Everyone should know how to cook something.”

Boom!

New chef takes over at Grato restaurant in West Palm Beach

Buccan Group cooks: Chef/partner Clay Conley (center), with Buccan's executive chef Jeremy Shelton (left) and Grato's new executive chef Jimmy Strine. (Contributed by LibbyVision.com)
Buccan Group: Chef/partner Clay Conley (center) is shown here with Buccan’s executive chef Jeremy Shelton (left) and Grato’s new executive chef Jimmy Strine. (Contributed by LibbyVision.com)

Café Boulud’s loss is Grato’s gain. Former Boulud executive sous chef Jimmy Strine is the new executive chef of Clay Conley’s Grato, the hot trattoria that’s taking West Palm Beach’s Flamingo Park neighborhood by storm.

“We are thrilled to have Jimmy join our team,” says Conley, Grato’s chef and co-owner. “He is not only a very talented cook, but a mature leader as well. We are lucky to have him.”

Strine and Conley worked three minutes away from one another for years. Conley is also chef/partner at Grato’s big sister restaurant, Buccan, which is located a block east of Café Boulud in Palm Beach.

“I’m feeling great about being a part of the team,” says Strine. “Clay has always been a staple in the community and I am most excited about making this the best restaurant in the county.”

A respected chef who competed against top local chefs to win last year’s Chef vs. Chef summer throwdown series in Delray Beach, Strine has also competed in Cochon 555, the national, invitation-only, snout-to-tail pork competition.

Before coming to work at Café Boulud, Strine was chef at his own restaurant, Mick’s New American Bistro in Frederick, Md.

Strine comes to Grato from a strong, creative kitchen. Most recently at Boulud, Strine worked under the direction of executive chef Rick Mace, who takes a storyteller’s approach to food. Mace’s sense of adventure earned him “Best Chef” status in The Post’s 2015 Critic’s Choice Awards.

Strine joins Grato just days after the restaurant launched daily lunch service.

Click to peek Food on Facebook!
Click to peek Food on Facebook!

Happy National Cuban Sandwich Day: Best Cuban sandwich in Palm Beach County

(Kelly West)
(Kelly West)

Today we celebrate the Cuban sandwich for National Cuban Sandwich Day! A few months back USA Today voted Havana Restaurant in West Palm Beach as having one of the top Cuban sandwiches in Florida! They ranked #6 out of 10!

And Palm Beach Post readers agreed. From the poll we ran with the story, Havana Restaurant was our winner in Palm Beach County with 610 votes out of 966:

 

4 best restaurants right now in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach

photo maxs harvest
“Grilled Jamaican Jerk Octopus, ” at Max’s Harvest in Delray Beach. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Here’s a current snapshot of the restaurants we’re loving best at the moment in Delray and Boynton Beach. Next month, the snapshot might be different. This unranked list includes only restaurants we have visited.

Cut 432

photo cut 432
Pancetta Brussels Sprouts prepared at Cut 432 in Delray Beach. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Delray’s Atlantic Avenue is famous for having a little something for every culinary and nightlife craving. Cut 432 provides an upscale, cozy place to peruse the Avenue’s goings-on toward the eastern end of the block. Sweetly classic touches like shiny crystal chandeliers contrast with the crisp, modern marble bar top and the white leather bar chairs.

Cut 432: 432 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561-272-9898.

Brule Bistro

photo Brule Bistro restaurant
View of Crispy Duroc Pork Belly, rustic sweet potato, fried organic quail egg, lemongrass game reduction and pistachio crumb at Brule Bistro in Delray Beach. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Brule Bistro in Delray is lively in both atmosphere and food. Where some pub chefs might include the obligatory flatbread on the menu, Chef Jason Binder offers a crispy pork cheek “pizza,” a crispy, tostada-sized round crowned with slow-braised pork cheek, Asiago cheese, arugula, pickled red onions and oven-dried tomato, served on a board with droplets of fried rosemary aioli.

Brule Bistro: 200 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach; 561-274-2046.

Max’s Harvest

photo max's harvest
Rock Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Wraps at Max’s Harvest in Delray Beach. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

In every dish, in every bite, at Max’s Harvest you can taste the commitment to using the freshest ingredients available. In keeping with the eatery’s season-driven concept, executive chef Eric Baker uses as his main ingredient one of the fresh ingredients available. The menu changes regularly to keep presenting diners with a dish that is both new and familiar.

Max’s Harvest: 169 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach; 561-381-9970.

Josie’s Ristorante

Josie's heirloom tomato salad with burrata and basil oil. (LibbyVision.com)
Josie’s heirloom tomato salad with burrata and basil oil. (LibbyVision.com)

At first glance, you’ve entered a neighborhood Italian restaurant in Boynton Beach. And the menu – at first glance, it also appears to hit all the expected traditional notes. But then your dishes start to arrive and you get the sense there’s something special happening in the kitchen. Indeed, there is: There’s a master in the kitchen at Josie’s Ristorante. He’s Mark Militello, James Beard Award-winning chef and one of the original Mango Gang-sters, a landmark chef who helped redefine, and refine, South Florida’s tropical-meets-world cuisine.

Your plate here is a work of art for more organic reasons: quality ingredients, a chef’s soul in the cooking, and a high bar in the kitchen. It shines in simplicity and finesse.

Josie’s Ristorante: 1602 S. Federal Highway (at Woolbright), Boynton Beach; 561-364-9601.

Do you agree with our list? Vote for your favorites!