And while that shouldn’t necessarily give one carte blanche to gorge on sugary, salty, fatty snacks, do we really need an excuse to discuss our favorite treats from the junk aisle?
We asked around the newsroom: What’s your favorite junk food?
Samantha Ragland, digital content strategy manager (things to do):
Grippos potato chips – who doesn’t love a good salty potato chip!
Larry Aydlette, culture editor:
Five words: Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies. My love of this gas-station staple is so well known that office workers once unwrapped a pile of Little Debbies and presented it to me for my birthday. With a candle on top. Better than cake, I can tell you that. You know how the oatmeal pies come in a big rectangular box? About 100 pounds ago, I could down a whole box in one sitting. I’m not even sure Little Debbies should be classified as junk food. Oatmeal is nutritious, right? Fiber, etc. OK, that big sugary mass in the center is not particularly healthy. But it is delicious.
Laura Lordi, digital editor:
Awww…junk food. Can anything be junkier than Twizzlers?! The strawberry kind is the only way to go. I could eat almost the entire 1-pound package in one sitting!
Leslie Gray Streeter, pop culture columnist:
Every region has its own specialty junk food – make that specialty snack item, because even though there is probably little nutritional value in Utz Sour Cream and Onion potato chips, there is nothing junky about their value as primo greasy, salty tummy filler. Based, as many quality snack food is, in Pennsylvania, Utz produces a singularly crunchy, seasoned-just-enough chip with ripples to hold all the sour cream and onionness. Is onionness a word? It should be. I spent many a happy afternoon pairing a bag of these babies with a Diet Dr Pepper, because the “diet” makes it better, or trying not to eat them all at parties where they were poured into a bowl covered with napkins to soak up the grease. And the way the seasoning stuck to your glistening fingers in green specks…to swoon. TO SWOON.
Staci Sturrock, writer:
A Payday bar, which marks the intersection of salty and sweet, and crunchy and chewy. I’m most likely to indulge in one on a road trip when dinner is still miles away but my stomach is already asking, “Are we there yet?”
Liz Balmaseda, food and dining editor:
Fritos! Frito-Lay has been producing these corn chips for as long as I’ve been alive – and they never get old. I tell myself they’re not junk food at all because they are spectacular with decidedly non-junk dishes, like homemade chili. Crush a handful of them over hot bean chili, or ladle some beef chili into a bag of them for Southwestern style Frito pie. And I know Fritos come in some fancy flavors – like Bar-B-Q and Chili Cheese. You can keep those. I’ll take the original kind. No seasoning or dip necessary.
Corvaya Jeffries, entertainment writer:
Trader Joes gluten free chocolate chip cookies – As I changed my eating habits, I went from Drake’s Devil Dogs to Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. they’re big, soft and loaded with flavor. I put them in the microwave then squeeze vanilla bean ice cream in the middle of two! SO SO GOOD…especially in the middle of your bed in front of a movie. P.S. you’d never know they’re gluten free.
The winner was selected from our online poll which was created based on your social comments. Want to know the runners-up? Here are the top three places for ice cream, based on your votes:
Sloan’s Ice Cream, various locations (won with 181 votes)
An excerpt from our original story:
“But for all its bells, whistles and foggy glass, Sloan’s is best loved for its 48 varieties of deliciously rich, chef-made ice cream. The concept founded 17 years ago by Sloan Kamenstein has expanded to include 10 locations (including one in Kuwait) and a newish ice cream factory in West Palm Beach. Business has been booming since the company started franchising three years ago.”
Founded in West Palm Beach, Sloan’s continues to operate two locations in the city (on Clematis Street and at CityPlace), one in Palm Beach Gardens (Downtown at the Gardens), one in downtown Delray Beach, and one in Boca Raton (Mizner Park).
In case you haven’t noticed it’s a rainy day outside today. Which means, it’s a good time to get some coffee.
Here are some of our favorites in Palm Beach County.
This unique Swedish coffee shop, in downtown West Palm Beach, is a spot to sit and enjoy your hot brewed coffee in a proper ceramic cup, in a plush, deep-violet, Alice-In-Wonderland-like chair. You don’t come here for a high-octane, Sharpie-on-paper-cup, American coffee, you come here to relax.
Johan’s Joe: 401 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach, 561-808-5090
C STREET CAFÉ
This cozy coffee shop welcomes you with a laid-back, urban vibe and freshly brewed coffee. Can’t go wrong with an Italian espresso.
C Street: 319 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-469-9959
The cold brew at this Tequesta roaster is clean and sublime. And now you can enjoy it at Oceana’s spiffy new coffee lounge.
Oceana Coffee: 150 N. US Highway 1, #1 (across from the Marshall’s/Homegoods store), Tequesta; roasting house at 221 Old Dixie Highway, Tequesta; 561-401-2453
As you peruse the works of local artists or listen to some live music, treat yourself to a yummy cappuccino made with The Rabbit’s locally roasted Guatemalan beans. It’s so delicious, I could sip it by the gallon.
The new Italian restaurant is the north county outpost of a lively Clematis Street spot. And it seems the owners have brought some of that downtown West Palm Beach verve to northern Jupiter.
Just try to walk in and find a table on any given night, even on a weeknight. More than likely, you’ll find there’s a wait. It’s a smallish restaurant that can accommodate 89 diners scattered throughout its main dining room, indoor bar and al fresco patio.
What’s the draw? Certainly not the location. There’s no water view or people-watching potential on the patio. The restaurant sits in a commercial plaza that faces U.S. Highway 1. Sure, it’s a spiffy-new, Bermudian-style plaza, but the view it offers is parking lot and passing cars.
And yet, Lynora’s possesses that “it” factor restaurateurs crave: vibe. It’s an animated spot. You pick up the chatter as you squeeze past the bar and in between tables, feeling like the dinner party guest of a large, merry family. On Sundays, the restaurant hosts a Clematis Street-style brunch replete with red-sneakered servers in “Legalize Marinara” t-shirts and bottomless Bellinis, mimosas, bloodies and Peroni (for $18).
All this in a neo-Brooklyn setting of warm woods, subway tile and simple furnishings.
The food stands in striking contrast to the hip décor. It’s old-school home cooking, red-sauce specials, comfort grub.
That’s because Lynora’s roots are in a bygone Italian restaurant owned and operated by Ralph and Maria Abbenante, the parents of current owner Angelo Abbenante. That now-closed family restaurant, also named Lynora’s, stood for years on Lake Worth Road. (Lynora’s is named after Maria’s mother.)
Angelo Abbenante wanted to bring back the spirit of that restaurant. He and a partner opened a modernized version of the restaurant, Lynora’s Osteria, in 2014. But that collaboration ended in a lawsuit and the owners went their separate ways. Abbenante and his family remained at Lynora’s, dropping the “Osteria” from the name.
Legal matters aside, the food endured. This is not food that rises to astonishing levels, but it is food that would draw me back again and again. It is simple and well prepared by Lynora’s Italian chef, Mario Mette. The sauces are on-point, the servings abundant. It hits the spot.
On a recent visit, our party of three skipped the varied, classic antipasti offerings (bruschetta crostini, $6, cheese/meat plate, $22, fried rice balls, $8, fried calamari, $14, among other dishes), and started our meal with a shared “piccante” pizza ($14).
Topped with pepperoni, salami, mozzarella and cherry peppers (hence the spicy name), this wood-oven-baked pie popped with flavor. The crust, of medium thickness, puffed up on the edges, sending the toppings toward the middle. Even so, the deliciously chewy dough did not go to waste.
For main course, we sampled Lynora’s homemade pappardelle, wide noodles tossed with duck ragu (pappardelle all’anatra, $26). It’s an earthy dish that’s particularly appetizing on a crisp or chilly night. The pasta is bathed in a brandy-spiked sauce of roasted duck and porcini mushrooms and presents just a hint of truffle essence.
The Pollo Francese (chicken in lemon sauce, $24) did not disappoint. A lightly battered chicken breast was served on a bed of linguine in the bright Francese sauce. Mounded beneath two pounded chicken fillets on a flat plate, the pasta seemed incidental on this dish. The shape of the plate made it difficult to twirl and scoop up the linguine, so much of that delicious sauce remained on the plate.
We also sampled the Braciole con Gnocchi ($24), which is listed as one of Lynora’s classic dishes. This rolled-up meat favorite is made with pork that’s folded with prosciutto, garlic and Parmesan, braised in a light tomato sauce and served with small gnocchi dumplings. This is a homey, rib-sticking dish, but the monotone flavors of the meat and pasta could have used some contrast, perhaps from a pop of bitter greens.
Dessert time brought us a couple of memorable bites: a classic tiramisu stacked high with ladyfingers and mascarpone layers ($10), and a warm and sinful Nutella lava cake ($10) that was served with a tumbler of vanilla ice cream on the side.
Our dishes were delivered promptly, as, despite the bustle, service is brisk and professional. However, I did feel rushed. And our server did that “I’ll take this when you’re ready” thing, dropping off the check before we could request it.
Sometimes, I take the check nudge as an opportunity to ask for something else, say, a cappuccino. But, truth be told, I didn’t want a cappuccino, and I didn’t want a perfectly nice dinner to end on a sour note.
The service slip will not keep me from returning to the restaurant. Untimely check aside, Lynora’s is a fetching spot that brings a little buzz where it’s needed.
ADDRESS: 1548 U.S. Highway 1 (Inlet Plaza), Jupiter
Katie Choy’s crash course in Peruvian cuisine came years ago, when her mother-in-law fell and broke her leg during a visit to her Jupiter home.
Until then, the food of her husband’s homeland seemed almost too complex to master. In her newlywed years, Katie, a Pittsburgh-area native raised on meat and potatoes, would jot notes as she watched her mother-in-law cook. Consuelo Aragon de Choy would create classic Peruvian dishes by fusing earthy Latin American flavors with interesting Asian ingredients, spooning out spicy chile pastes of various hues and intensity.
But it was when Consuelo could not cook that Katie became her surrogate in the kitchen.
“I’ll teach you,” her mother-in-law would say from her chair, directing Katie to grab pots, open spices, raise and lower the flames on the stove.
Ingredient by ingredient, the dishes would come together on Katie’s stove. Today those dishes fill a large cookbook – Katie Choy’s “Family Secrets: Experience the Flavors of Peru” ($29.99, Lydia Inglett Publishing). But well before the book was published months ago, and well before the Choy family came to expect delicious Peruvian feasts at their Jupiter table at holiday time and, later, on random weeknights, there would be a few disasters in Katie’s kitchen.
One incident involved what is perhaps one of Peru’s more iconic dishes. Once Consuelo went back home to Peru, there was a disastrous attempt to make ají de gallina (creamy stewed chicken in Peruvian yellow pepper sauce). Katie recalls she didn’t have the right ingredients on hand and her substitutions didn’t work out as well.
But once she managed to transcribe the recipe in detail from Consuelo and seek out the authentic ingredients at local specialty markets, Katie not only mastered the traditional Peruvian dish, she devised a crockpot shortcut for the stew she likens to chicken chili.
“It became our holiday meal. We’d have it for Christmas. It was that special meal,” says Katie, a former nurse who met her husband, Dr. Rogelio Choy, while on the job at Jupiter Medical Center.
She was cooking that very dish one night when her husband got home from work and stopped by the stove in admiration.
“He just stood there and he smiled at me. And I said, ‘What are you smiling at?’ And he said ‘I think you’re turning into my mother,’” she recalls.
Some might be mystified at such a remark, but Katie knew exactly what he meant – and she took it to be “the biggest compliment ever.”
Her rendition of the dish had conjured a powerful memory of home and childhood for her husband. It was a gift to both the recipient and the cook.
That crockpot shortcut has turned the dish into an anytime meal for the Choys and their younger children, Francesca, 17, and Stefan, 19. (Their son Armand, 20, lives in San Francisco.)
“I’ll make it on a weekday like nothing,” says Katie, who now blends most of the stew ingredients, pours them into the slow-cooker and tops it with chicken breasts. The flavors intensify as the chicken cooks. “The chicken shreds like a dream. It’s just so good.”
More than two decades have passed since she had her first taste of the cuisine that transformed her kitchen. It came in the form of aromatic ocopa sauce, the first thing her mother-in-law cooked on the day she arrived at Katie’s Jupiter home.
“She comes in and she’s unpacking and she’s putting things in the freezer. Then she made this wonderful sauce,” recalls Katie. “I can’t say I remember the exact day that I tasted it, but it was one of those things you don’t forget. We put it over potatoes first. Then, whatever we’d have for dinner, we’d pour it over the top, and it was just so delicious.”
It turns out, her mother-in-law had brought the homemade sauce, frozen, all the way from Peru, and braved a U.S. Customs interrogation before warming up the delicacy on the stove in Jupiter. She had brought it from home because she wasn’t sure she could find the sauce’s key ingredient, a Peruvian herb known as huacatay, in Jupiter.
“At the time, I was unfamiliar with the spice and asked her what it was,” Katie Choy writes in her cookbook. “She leaned over and whispered, ‘It’s similar to marijuana!’ I thought to myself, ‘Hmmm. What is she feeding us?’”
She came to find out, the herb belongs to the marigold, not marijuana, family. And it’s sold locally in a jarred paste.
“We still get a laugh over that one,” she says.
Reprinted with permission from Katie Choy’s “Family Secrets” cookbook.
Ají de Gallina
Imagine your taste buds coming alive as they savor tender chicken bathed in a nutty cream sauce, followed by a hint of heat. I find it even more delicious the next day, or as a filling in empanadas.
Serves 4 to 6
1 whole chicken (3 ½-4 pounds), skin and excess fat removed, and cut into parts
2½ teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup pecans or peanuts (soaked in fresh water for 1 hour or more and drained)
4 slices white bread, crust removed and cubed
1 large yellow onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2-4 tablespoons ají amarillo paste, depending on hot you like it (see NOTE below)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Prepared white rice, for serving
3 hardboiled eggs, halved, for serving
Peruvian olives (purple-black botija olives)
Place chicken and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a gentle boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until no longer pink.
Remove chicken and let cool. Reserve water. Shred or cube chicken and set aside. This step can be done a day ahead and refrigerated.
Blend nuts, bread, and ¾-1 cup reserved chicken water on high until smooth. Remove and set aside. Rinse blender.
Blend onion and ¼-½ cup reserved water until pureed. Remove and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add pureed onion and cook 10 minutes, stirring as necessary to keep from sticking.
Add 1 teaspoon salt, ají paste, garlic, nutmeg, and 2/3 cup reserved water, stir and cook another 10 minutes.
Add nut puree and stir and cook about 8-10 minutes.
Stir in evaporated milk, cheese, and chicken. Cook another 5 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve over hot white rice on warm plate, garnished with eggs and olives.
NOTE: Find ají amarillo, or Peruvian yellow pepper paste, wherever Latin foods are sold. In Palm Beach County, it’s available at Presidente, El Bodegon supermarkets or other Latin specialty markets.
For an easy shortcut, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken and canned broth. Discard skin, remove meat from bones and shred. Follow with recipe beginning at step 3.
Crockpot version: Take 1 teaspoon salt, soaked pecans, bread, oil, onion (quartered), aji paste, garlic and nutmeg, and blend with 2 cups chicken broth until smooth and creamy. Pour ½ into slow-cooker. Lay 4 chicken breasts over sauce and pour remaining sauce over chicken. Cook on medium 4 hours or until chicken is very tender and easily pulls apart. Shred chicken, return to slow-cooker, and stir in evaporated milk and Parmesan cheese. Cook another ½ hour on low. Times may vary according to individual slow-cookers.
Ocopa con Papas
Potatoes with Cheese Sauce
This was the first Peruvian sauce I ever tasted and loved it immediately. We serve it over everything.
Serves 6 to 8
4-5 Yukon gold potatoes
3-4 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup peanuts or walnuts
1 medium onion, diced small
1-2 tablespoons ají amarillo paste, depending on how hot you like it
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup or more of water
1 pound queso blanco or other fresh cheese
2 tablespoons huacatay paste (sometimes called Peruvian black mint)
3-4 lettuce leaves, washed and dried
Peruvian olives (purple-black botija olives)
Sprinkle of paprika
Place potatoes and eggs in a medium sized pot, cover with cold water, and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat to maintain simmer and set timer for 9 minutes.
Remove eggs only and plunge into ice water bath. Continue simmering potatoes another 12-15 minutes or until tender. Remove potatoes and set aside to cool.
In medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Sauté garlic cloves 2-3 minutes until golden and fragrant, stirring frequently. Be careful not to let them burn, lowering heat if necessary. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside to cool.
Add nuts to already hot and oily pan, and roast over medium heat for several minutes until fragrant and golden. Caution, they can burn quickly. Remove with slotted spoon, and let cool with garlic.
Return already hot pan with oil to medium heat, add a little more oil if necessary, and stir in onion, ají amarillo paste, and salt. Cook until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Place garlic, nuts, onion mixture, water, queso blanco, and huacatay paste in blender. Puree until smooth and creamy, adding more water, a little at a time as needed. This sauce becomes very thin when heated, and thickens as it cools.
Pour sauce into medium sauce pan. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Peel eggs and potatoes and slice in halves or quarters. Place atop bed of lettuce along with olives, drizzle with sauce, and sprinkle lightly with paprika.
Serve with additional sauce alongside in serving bowl.
The long-awaited Palm Beach outpost of Sant Ambroeus, the Milanese restaurant and pasticceria with locations in New York City and Southampton, will debut at dinnertime Saturday, according to a publicist for the fashionable spot. Doors open at 6 p.m.
The pretty-in-pink ristorante has slipped into the island’s newly renovated Royal Poinciana Plaza, which is home to Hillstone’s popular Palm Beach Grill. It inhabits part of the space where Del Frisco’s Grille operated from 2013 to 2015.
Beloved for its espresso bar, pastries and gelato selection, Sant Ambroeus brings wide-ranging menu options and extended hours (by Palm Beach standards) to the plaza. The restaurant will open every day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
On the menu: classics including Vitello Tonnato, saffron risotto, Cotoletta alla Milanese, plus dishes inspired by Florida’s coastal ingredients.
“The menu will focus on seafood and will incorporate local citruses and herbs to accentuate the fresh, luminous surroundings that encompass Palm Beach,” said Executive Chef Marco Barbisotti via news release.
Desserts will include Italian pastries as well as homemade pies and cakes. The drink selection is varied as well, thanks to a full bar: regional wines, cocktails, specialty coffees and teas.
All this in a setting inspired by Italy’s vintage caffe culture. The 174-seat restaurant will serve various roles during the day: It’s a fine dining restaurant in the principal dining rooms, but at the bar it transitions into coffee-bar and cocktail mode.
With roots in 1936 Milan, Sant Ambroeus has seven locations: the original Madison Avenue restaurant, locations in SoHo, the West Village and Southampton. The SA Hospitality Group also operates Sant Ambroeus coffee bars at New York’s Loews Regency Hotel and Sotheby’s. Another coffee bar is planned for the Hanley Building in New York’s Upper East Side.
Now there’s Palm Beach. The location made sense, according to restaurateur Dimitri Pauli, a partner at SA Hospitality Group who owns a home in Palm Beach County.
“We had long considered opening out of New York, but nowhere resonated with our brand until we saw this opportunity at The Royal Poinciana Plaza,” he said via news release.
Sant Ambroeus already has something very Palm Beach-y going for it. It’s pink and gold branding. Think flamingo, with sunscreen.
West Palm Beach mimosa-seekers, there’s a hot new brunch in town. The Regional Kitchen quietly expanded its weekend hours recently to include an a la carte, big-city brunch.
Unlike some unruly, dancing-on-tables brunches, this is a civilized, soulful affair. Chef Lindsay Autry has created a menu that’s just large enough and eclectic enough to satisfy most midmorning appetites.
On the savory side, there’s loaded mill grits with cheddar, scallions, bacon and roasted jalapeños ($11; add poached egg for $2, barbecue shrimp for $7), country-style sausage ($11), steak and eggs ($18), fried chicken thighs ($9), and broccoli and cheese frittata ($14).
On the sweet side, there’s cornmeal flapjacks with bourbon-blueberry jam ($12), and buttermilk waffle with spiced apple butter ($12). Rounding out your options, there are smaller bites (roasted tomato pie, $11), salads, sandwiches, entrées (herb roasted Scottish salmon, $22), and homey side dishes (table-side pimento cheese, $11).
Brunch-y drinks include classic mimosas, daily special mimosas ($11 glass, $30 pitcher), Frosé (a spiked, slushy rosé cocktail, $12 each) and The Regional Bloody (a well-garnished Bloody Mary, $11 each).
Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested at 561-557-6460.
James Beard Award-winning chef Mark Militello, who played a pivotal role in South Florida’s culinary rise, cooks a four-course, wine-pairing dinner at Josie’s Ristorante in Boynton Beach. A consulting chef at the restaurant, Militello will be joined in the kitchen by Josie’s chef Sebastiano Setticasi. On the menu: passed hors d’oeuvres, Maine lobster salad, goats milk ravioli, spice rubbed roasted beef tenderloin and buttermilk panna cotta, all paired with wines from family estate vineyards in Italy.
Cost: $85 per person, plus tax and tip. To reserve, call 561-364-9601
A neighborhood favorite on South Dixie Highway, Maison Carloscelebrates its 15th year by offering 15 days of savings. Dine at the restaurant from Dec. 15 through Dec. 30 and receive 15 percent off your entire dinner check. Owners Carlos and Lanie Farias say it’s their way of saying thanks.
“We could not have done this without the loyal support of our clients and friends. We are a family-owned, Mom-and-Pop… We take pride in daily shopping for the freshest ingredients. We love our customers and want to make sure everyone has an optimal experience,” the couple said in an email.
Chef Matthew Byrneis not only the hotshot chef at Kitchen, the popular restaurant on Belvedere Road and South Dixie Highway – he’s also consulting chef at the Hilton West Palm Beach. In that capacity, he’ll team up with the hotel’s chef Miguel Santiago in creating a five-course, wine-pairing dinner that features master sommelier Gordon Sullivan. The dinner takes place at Manor, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant.
Cost: $150 per person, plus tax and tip. Reserve a spot at HiltonWestPalmBeach.EventBrite.com or by calling 561-249-2281.
What a treat it is when Bistro chef Christian Quiñones cooks the dishes of his native Puerto Rico. He’s doing just that on Dec. 18 when Bistro Ten Zero One hosts what has become an annual holiday feast, Boricua-style. On the menu: guinenito (banana) salad with onion escovitch, sancocho stew, orange adobo roasted suckling pig, arroz con gandules (pigeon peas and rice), coconut tembleque and many other dishes.
Cost: $35 per person, plus tax and tip. To reserve a spot, visit the event site or call 561-833-1234 or 305-929-3463.
The popular Swank Farmsupper series kicks off on Dec. 18 with a multicourse feast titled “Big flavors, Open Skies: A Night with Seminole Hard Rock and Coconut Creek.”
Cooking at the Loxahatchee Groves boutique farm that day are Alex Q. Becker, executive chef at Kuro Japanese restaurant at Hard Rock Hollywood and the restaurant’s pastry chef, Ross Evans. Joining them are chefs from Council Oaks Steaks & Seafood and Coconut Creek’s NYY Steak.