At the risk of slowing down the nation’s snail mail, I present you the most delicious U.S. Postal Service stamps ever issued: Each bears the likeness of a classic Latin dish. Each might make you linger wistfully before dropping that letter in the mailbox.
The USPS’ calls this batch of 2017 Forever stamps the “Delicioso” series. And, let’s be real, what else would you call a series that includes tamales and flan if not delicioso?
If you’re a food-loving stamp geek like me, you may have rejoiced when the USPS issued its “Celebrity Chefs” stamp series featuring masters like Julia Child, James Beard and Edna Lewis.
If you’re not a stamp geek, bear with us as we display the half-dozen featured dishes. You don’t have to love stamps to love empanadas.
The festive, colorful Delicioso stamps were designed by New York artist John Parra under the direction of graphic designer Antonio Alcalá.
“With the release of the new Delicioso Forever stamps, the Postal Service celebrates the influence of Central and South American, Mexican and Caribbean foods on American cuisine,” the USPS says on its website.
What are the 20 best restaurants in Palm Beach County right now?
That’s a tricky question. Every 20-best list not only is subjective and unique, but it’s also constantly in flux. New restaurants open and replace others. It’s the cycle that keeps our local culinary scene fresh and vibrant.
In many ways, Day of the Dead is the opposite of Halloween. It’s not about ghouls and goblins, sexy nurse costumes or Donald Trump masks. It’s about matters of the soul, memory — and delicious sweet bread.
In Mexico and Mexican communities, this day arrives the morning after Halloween and its high-fructose-corn-syrup rushes. It’s celebrated with colorful altars, festive Day of the Dead sugar skulls and, most poignantly, with foods to honor the dearly departed.
According to ancient indigenous belief, the souls of our departed loved ones come to visit once a year. We honor them by baking sweet, iconic Pan de Muertos dessert bread and by making their favorite dishes.
The two-day holiday, which combines All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, starts Tuesday.
Here is a recipe by Mexico City chef Margarita Carrillo Arronte, whose work on Mexican food and culture is reflected in her epic 2014 book, “Mexico: The Cookbook” (Phaidon).
Day of the Dead Bread is one of 700 recipes contained in the book.
Pan de Muertos
RECIPE: Day of the Dead Bread
From “Mexico: The Cookbook,” by Margarita Carrillo Arronte.
1 cup milk
4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry (fast-action) yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 to 2 teaspoons orange blossom water, to taste
3/4 cup melted butter, plus more for greasing and brushing
Make the bread
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of sugar
To prepare the dough, bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, then remove from heat and let cool. Set aside.
Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well. Sprinkle in the sugar and yeast and pour in the milk. Close the well by flicking flour over the milk and let it sit for 1 hour.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the melted butter, and shape into a ball. Transfer to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Add the butter and knead again for 10 minutes.
Return to the bowl and cover. Let rise for 2 hours, until doubled in size.
Grease two baking sheets with butter. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Take two of those pieces and roll them into tight balls and then press them gently to flatten a bit. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
After the dough has rested for 1 hour, take the remaining piece of dough and divide it into 10 little pieces. Roll two of these pieces into small balls and 8 of these pieces into long, thin logs.
To make the glaze, combine all the ingredients and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl and mix well. Brush the loaves gently with the glaze. Take four of the logs and drape them in an X shape over one of the balls. Repeat for the other disk of dough.
Brush these with egg. Take a little ball of dough and place it on the top of one disk of dough, where the X meets. Press down gently so it sticks. Repeat for the other little ball of dough.
Glaze the dough balls and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. While they are still warm, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Makes 3 loaves.
A hop is used to flavor a beer, and the flavor you get depends on when you add the hops. If you add them at the beginning, the beer will be bitter; if you add them toward the end of a boil, they will produce more of an aroma than a taste.
Hops sound pretty great, right? So why are we in a state-of-emergency? Well, the craft beer world is currently suffering from a major hop-shortage. Last year, Europe experienced a serious drought, which didn’t allow farmers to grow the hop-crop, causing this hop-tastrophe.
Our favorite beers all come from hops, even our famous, locally-brewed ‘Chancellor’ fromTequesta Brewing Company, who ironically, just celebrated its yearly, ‘Hop Week’. Tequesta Brewing Company (big sister to Palm Beach Garden’s Twisted Trunk), explains that Europe’s drought has not only made it hard to find European hops, but has also caused the price of American hops to rise.
TBC also says that it is much harder to acquire mosaic, citric and galaxia hops — three of the most popular varieties.
The brewery has a hop-purveyor who gets European hops for them, brew-master Matt Webster explained. The crop was so bad that the purveyor couldn’t complete the order, and the brewery had to turn to American hops.
Not that there is anything wrong with American hops. In fact, other Palm Beach County breweries like Due South in Boynton Beach aren’t affected at all by the hops shortage because they already brew with American hops from places like Yakima, Washington. For TBC, though, German hops is go-to source and they want to stay who they are.
So are we in a hop shortage? Yes. Will our favorite local breweries still produce our favorite drinks? Yes. Is Tequesta Brewing Company still putting out great beers? A for sure, yes.
Aguilera had been working as a baker for the past 25 years in West Palm, but she didn’t want to work at a supermarket forever. Eddy worked in construction since moving to the city in 2008, something he did make a living, not something he wanted to do. When they met in 2010, everything came together.
“We unified our ideas and we were able to open something we both love,” says Eddy.
The Cuban lovebirds — Xiomara from Las Tunas and Eddy from Pinar del Rio — opened their Cuban pizzeria and bakery in West Palm Beach in August. They called it “Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery.”
Aguilera admits that she never liked cooking, hence why she wanted a man who cooks. Her passion is making desserts, namely Cuban pastries and the undeniably-sweet café cubano, something she offers with a smile to every customer who walks in because “that’s just Cuban courtesy.”
Tapia, who’s a bit more timid, has always loved making Cuban pizza for his family. Now, he’s the guy in the back of the kitchen making the seasoned-magic happen for an entire community.
“You must try it,” says Tapia confidently.
That’s exactly how Tapia answered when asked, “What the heck is a Cuban Pizza?”
It goes like this: He makes sure the dough it just right. He says it’s a thicker bread that’s fully cooked, yet it’s chewier and fluffier than a traditional Italian pizza.
“La salsa es divina! (The sauce is divine),” says Aguilera.
Any Italian would tell you that the secret in a great pizza is the sauce. This Cuban twist is no exception. Tapia says the sauce is still tomato-based, but it has all kinds of Cuban seasonings that make it a lot more flavorful. He guarantees you’ll love it. But, like most true chefs, he won’t share more of the secret.
“It’s a recipe we both created. It is intimate,” says the Cuban gentleman.
Any guy that abides by the “don’t-kiss-and-tell” rule must be a keeper.
Both Tapia and Aguilera spent the past year perfecting the taste that would get people coming for more. In December 2015, Tapia traveled to all parts of Cuba to sample native pizzas, different tomatoes, spices and learn different cooking methods. It was Aguilera who would sit at the table and try all of his sauces.
“She is the tasting queen. She hates the kitchen, but loves to eat,” jokes Eddy while serving a Cuban espresso. A few months ago, they locked down a recipe they both love.
The toppings on these pizzas are both Cuban and traditional. You can choose from regular ham, pineapple or pepperoni to more Cuban ingredients such as chorizo, lechon asado(roast pork) or even guayaba con queso(guava with cheese.)
“We have a good balance,” says Aguilera. “He cooks and I make desserts.”
Attention, hungry shoppers: What’s better than a well-stocked supermarket?
A well-stocked supermarket with a sumptuous buffet tucked inside.
This is what one finds at the El Bodegon #5 supermarket on Lake Worth Road in Lake Worth. Beyond the shelves stocked with a diverse mix of Latin American and Caribbean specialty products, there’s a cafeteria-style area at the local chain’s location that sits across from John Prince Park.
Follow the stream of regulars to this flavorful corner where the steam table beckons with various soups, stewed and roasted meats, beans, rice, tamales, plantains and salads.
From Monday through Friday, the buffet runs a $6.49 lunch special: You get the main course, two sides and a soda. And we’re not talking about some skimpy helpings.
We visited on recent Saturday for a late lunch and found an equally terrific deal: a main course with three sides for $7.99. Call it a “meat and three,” Latin-style.
We scanned the buffet table, staffed by various servers ready to spoon out our selections and keep the line moving. We spied: chicken soup, hearty beef soup, creamy seafood stew, beef stew, creamy mushroom chicken, roast pork, two kinds of tamales, among other offerings.
We opted for a freshly roasted pork dish that featured a sprinkling of garbanzos, chunks of sautéed onion, tomato and some raw green onions. Glorious stuff. As our three sides, we chose yellow rice, nicely seasoned red beans (served in a separate dish) and a spicy Mexican chicken tamal that was wrapped and steamed in corn husk. The combo was large enough to feed three people.
Separately, we also sampled a large Guatemalan tamal that has been steamed in a banana leaf. The stewed chicken filling proved delicious.
On weekends, you don’t get a free soda with lunch. A can of soda will set you back $1.49.
The downside of dining here: Ambiance means bottled water displays and Corona promotional streamers.
The upside: You can walk off all those lunch calories by wandering through the chock-a-block aisles.
This new-ish restaurant, located just down the street from our office, became an instant staff favorite, thanks to its tempting, generous lunch buffet.
Owned and operated by a young couple – he’s Dominican, she’s Cuban-American – El Unico serves classics from both Cuba and the Dominican Republic. So, on any given day, you may find the buffet offers fresh, roasted pork (with stellar crackling), stewed chicken, ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in creole sauce), plus your choice of rice, beans (black or red) and plantains.
As in the buffet line at El Bodegon, this is not an all-you-can-eat kind of buffet. You get a choice of meat, plus rice, beans and a side. Depending on the meat, prices range from $4.99 to $9.99.
If you’re not in much of a hurry and you’d rather order your lunch a la carte, there’s a full menu of entrees, sandwiches, salads, sides and plenty of favorites (hello, mofongo!) from which to choose.
Enjoy your lunch in El Unico’s cozy dining room, which often is filled with Dominican bachata rhythms. It’s a hard deal to beat, this bachata buffet. Maybe that’s why the restaurant’s name means “the only one.”
This north county favorite is a true self-serve buffet offering deliciously old-school dishes. It’s not huge, but it’s mighty. The buffet line includes a varied salad station, a small soup station, some chilled offerings (egg salad, rice pudding) and a good selection of hearty meats and sides.
You have two options at lunch: Go the soup and salad route for $7.08 (served Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) or feast on the full buffet for $9.44.
At any given time, you may find baked chicken, Salisbury steak, carved to order meats (turkey, leg of lamb, ham, roast beef), turkey pot pie, chicken Francais, mashed potatoes, mac-and-cheese, baked beans, collards, carrots, corn and rice.
When it comes to brunch spots, this is not the most pizzazzy. There’s no Bloody Mary or Mimosa bar. There’s no ocean view or lush garden.
Still, there’s a line that stretches into the parking lot as the sun glints on passing traffic along U.S. 1. And there’s a sweet guitar weaving Sunday morning tunes, some standards, some bluesy, some folksy.
It wouldn’t be Sunday brunch at the Juno Beach Café without guitarist and singer Jordan Lee, who says he hasn’t missed a Sunday morning gig at this daylight café for the better part of two decades. He’s not a “look at me” type of entertainer, but one who gently enhances the ambiance.
The attention-grabbing stars here are the “UEPs,” the stacks of “Uncle Eddie’s Pancakes,” which are some of the most popular items on the extensive breakfast menu. Last Sunday, I pondered the eight pancake options offered here (from $5.99 to $8.99), from Nutella-slathered UEPs to Banana Nut Loads of Walnuts UEPs, and settled on a stack of plain originals, which fixed my pancake craving just fine.
The pancakes join the heaps of French toast, eggs, meats, breakfast skillets and other morning dishes spirited from the café’s kitchen.
Within that extensive menu are some true gems. The potato pancakes, for instance, are killer. Patted of shredded potatoes and onions, these thick and toasty latkes are offered in a combo ($10.29) with two eggs, bacon or sausage and a choice of applesauce or sour cream.
The toasty finish that elevates these potato pancakes also can be found in any side of hash browns here. Not too long ago, I enjoyed those with a spinach-tomato-cheese omelet, rye toast and bacon. And on another occasion, I had them with Eggs Benedict. (Breakfast joy: crispy potatoes that don’t ooze fat onto your omelet.)
Beyond potatoes and pancakes, menu highlights include migas ($11.19), a Mexican-style scramble with eggs, beans, peppers, avocado, corn chips and several other whims. There’s also chicken and waffles that are served with poached eggs and hollandaise ($11.29), cheese blintzes and apple crepes ($9.99), pecan praline French toast ($6.79, $8.79) and six types of Eggs Benedict ($9.99 to $12.49).
Service is harried and as friendly as one can expect during a Sunday morning bustle. But servers do their best to keep your mug hot and filled with fresh-brewed coffee.
And then there’s Jordan Lee, the gentle guitarist. He fills in the gaps of ambiance and service at brunch time. He provides that thread of a melody you may catch while waiting for a table, the raspy rendition of Johnny Mercer’s “I Remember You,” perhaps.
The regulars here have come to learn Lee’s own songs, like the one he titled “Cruise for Two.” It floats on a light reggae beat and can transport a breakfast patron eastward, across U.S. 1 and toward the sea:
“Hey, there’s a place where I’d like to be/ Sailing the ocean, from sea to sea,
“Jamaica island, Bahamas too/ No crowd of people, just me and you,
“Spending time together, just me and you/ On a cruise for two.”
More specifically, we found it on pages 74 and 75, where Marley’s recipe for a lush, roasted yam tart beckons like a warm fire on a wintry day.
That is, after all, what pops up in the thought bubble this time of year, even if we live in seasonally challenged South Florida: Ah, fall! Chilly temps and gemstone hues. Cider. Soups. Holiday baking. What shall we cook?
Okay, there are no raging autumn leaves or crackling fire on wintry days here, nothing so dramatic that it sparks cravings for appropriately hearty fare.
But we do have seasonal nuance. And we have imaginations. So we will cook for fall with the same brazen attitude we wield each time we zip up our winter boots and strut into our air-conditioned offices.
Perhaps this was the true appeal of that Ziggy Marley fall recipe – it’s a fall recipe wrapped in a familiar island cloak. The Grammy-winning musician, oldest son of legendary Jamaican singer/songwriter Bob Marley, presents lusciously roasted dishes in his newly published “Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook” (Akashic Books, $24.95).
Marley, who also owns a GMO-free product line called Ziggy Marley Organics, did not set out to write a Jamaican cookbook, but one that reflects his life. He took inspiration from the food of his Bull Bay youth, his family’s holistic Rasta culture, his wife Orly’s Israeli and Iranian background as well as his own preference for healthy, natural foods.
Within that diverse mix, we found our fall inspiration. Marley offers wonderfully warming recipes, like a lightly spicy coconut-curry squash soup, a cumin-laced roasted cauliflower dish, a stout gingerbread loaf and, yes, that roasted yam tart.
At a time of the year when it’s hard to think of yams without visions of melted marshmallows, the yams in this tart stand on their own in their natural sweetness. That sweetness finds a buttery backdrop in the baked puff pastry, savory contrast in onions and feta cheese and thyme, plus depth and roundness in coconut oil.
The roasting yams and baking puff pastry will fill your kitchen with those fall baking aromas. And, let’s be real, isn’t that what we crave at this time of the year as we contemplate the sway of palm fronds outside?
ROASTED YAM TART
The sweet yams and creamy-salty feta are a pair made in heaven. Plus, the buttery pastry adds a rich, toasty element.
Recipe adapted from “Ziggy Marley and Family Cookbook,” published Oct. 11 by Akashic Books.
1 puff pastry sheet
½ pound yams, sliced
½ cup onion, sliced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup feta, crumbled
Hempseeds, as desired
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Par-bake the puff pastry sheet on a sheet pan to 80 percent of the package cooking time.
2. At the same time, combine the yams, onions, thyme, ½ tablespoons coconut oil, salt, pepper and 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil on a sheet pan and roast alongside puff pastry.
3. When pastry sheet is par-baked, remove from oven and brush with ½ tablespoon of each oil.
4. Remove vegetable filling from oven, making sure the yams are soft, and spread evenly over pastry.
5. Top with feta cheese and hempseeds, and bake until the cheese somewhat melts and puff pastry cooking time is complete (meaning the final 20 percent of the package cooking time).
6. Garnish with fresh thyme and serve hot.
Serves 2 to 4
Test kitchen notes: After making Marley’s recipe recently, we have the following recommendations to maximize the yams’ flavor and the puff pastry’s toasty texture.
Using a spray bottle, spritz olive oil on the yam slices and roast them on the sheet pan at 375F till tender (about 35 minutes), flipping them over halfway into the roasting time.
For a sweeter touch, caramelize the onions in a skillet before adding to the tart.
Bake the puff pastry separately from the yams to eliminate any excess moisture in the oven.