PB Food and Wine Fest: Five big food stars you’ve never heard of

If you watch Food Network competition shows or Bravo’s “Top Chef” series, you’ll recognize a lot of the culinary talent at this year’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, which runs from Dec. 8 through 11. There’s Robert Irvine of “Restaurant Impossible” fame. There’s Jeff Mauro of “The Kitchen.” There’s Marc Murphy of “Chopped.”

But some faces are less familiar, except maybe to in-the-know gastronomes. Here are five big food stars you may not know, but should.

George Mendes

Chef George Mendes (center) poses with fellow stars Mike Lata (left) and Daniel Boulud (right). (LILA PHOTO)
Chef George Mendes (center) poses with fellow chefs Mike Lata (left) and Daniel Boulud (right). (LILA PHOTO)

This New York City chef/restaurateur creates dishes that reflect his Portuguese roots. At his restaurant Aldea, Mendes’ refined touch has earned the spot a Michelin star every year since 2010. Last year, he opened Lupulo, a Lisbon-inspired “cervejaria” (brew pub), which houses a daytime takeout window called Bica. Mendes has been a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award for “best chefs in America” four times.

Mendes is scheduled to appear at the “Sustain” dinner at PB Catch in Palm Beach on Dec. 8. That event costs $170 per person.

Mike Lata

Charleston star chef Mike Lata. (LILA PHOTO)
Charleston star chef Mike Lata at last year’s festival. (LILA PHOTO)

If you’ve flocked to Charleston for the great foodie scene, you may have dined at one of Lata’s acclaimed restaurants. A pivotal figure in the city’s culinary renaissance, he’s the star chef behind FIG Restaurant and The Ordinary. FIG is a local favorite, serving farm-inspired Lowcountry food. The Ordinary is Lata’s “fancy seafood” spot. Lata is a James Beard Award winner for best chef in the Southeast. He was a nominee for the prestigious award twice before. Most noteworthy perhaps: Lata is a self-taught chef.

Lata will participate in three festival events, a dinner at Buccan Palm Beach, a street food competition at the Four Seasons and a brunch with Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud. All three events are sold out.

Lee Wolen

Michelin man: Chicago chef Lee Wolen. (Contributed by Lee Wolen)
Michelin man: Chicago chef Lee Wolen. (Contributed by Lee Wolen)

Here’s a cook with a dream resume. Wolen has worked in the company of great chefs throughout a career which has taken him into the kitchens of some of the world’s finest restaurants, the legendary, late El Bulli among them.

The Cleveland native polished his craft at Eleven Madison Park, the famed three-Michelin-starred New York restaurant. More recently, in Chicago, Wolen earned a Michelin star at The Lobby at the Peninsula, where he was chef de cuisine. In 2014, he became executive chef/partner of Boka Restaurant in that city, helping the restaurant maintain its prized Michelin star for three years. Last year, the Chicago Tribune named him Chef of the Year.

Wolen will appear at the festival’s “Rise and Dine” breakfast at the Eau Palm Beach Resort on Dec. 10. Tickets are $75 each.

Anita Lo

Anita Lo at Annisa, Greenwich Village. (Contributed by Annisa)
Anita Lo at Annisa, Greenwich Village. (Contributed by Annisa)

She’s the chef and creative mind behind Annisa restaurant in Greenwich Village, where the refined dishes reveal Lo’s Asian roots and high-end French training. (Her miso marinated sable with crispy silken tofu in bonito broth is simply divine.) Lo is a Michigan-raised, first generation Chinese-American who as a college student plunged herself into French food, language and culture. She honed her French culinary techniques in top restaurants in Paris and New York, coming into her own with the opening of Annisa in 2000. Almost instantly, she amassed accolades. Then, 9 years later, a fire destroyed her restaurant. Lo spent a year traveling and rebuilding, reopening Annisa in 2010. As the chef returned with renewed inspiration, the raves returned as well.

Lo is set to appear at the “Sustain” dinner at PB Catch in Palm Beach on Dec. 8. That event costs $170 per person.

Jose Mendin

Rock star in the 305: Chef Jose Mendin of the Pubbelly Miami. (Galdones Photography)
Rock star in the 305: Chef Jose Mendin of the Pubbelly Miami. (Galdones Photography)

You may know this name if you’re familiar with Miami’s vibe-y dining scene. Mendin is chef and founding partner of the Pubbelly family of hot and happening restaurants, three of them clustered on one South Beach block. As a chef, he fuses global flavors and ideas into “soul” dishes reminiscent of Mendin’s Puerto Rican roots.

Some of this – like the Pubbelly gastro pub cochinillo (sucking pig) with green apples and fennel and chanterelles and soy butter jus – shouldn’t work. But it does. In many ways, Mendin is the chef who best reflects right-now Miami. In the 1980s, that rather fantastic reflection came from the famed Mango Gang of award-winning chefs. Today, it’s Mendin and his “Pubbelly boys” who translate the 305 dialects most exquisitely onto the plate.

Mendin is appearing at the festival’s “Rise and Dine” breakfast at the Eau Palm Beach Resort on Dec. 10. Tickets are $75 each.

 

Diner en Blanc: what to pack in your picnic basket?

You may not know the location of Diner en Blanc yet, but you’ve got your snazzy white outfit and “tablescape” planned for Friday night’s big outdoor feast, to be held somewhere in West Palm Beach.

But here’s the question: What kind of food does one pack for an event that’s part pop-up dinner, part synchronized picnic?

Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during Le Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach on November 10, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Matthew Levi, right, of West Palm Beach, smiles with family and friends after helping decorate during the 2015 Diner en Blanc in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

We attended last year’s secret, massive affair and have few tips to share on the topic.

READ: Nine things to know about Diner en Blanc

First, keep in mind this is an outdoor event, which means it’s vulnerable to the elements. Second, keep in mind you may have to lug your supplies for many yards.

With those two things in mind, here are five ideas on what to tuck into those picnic totes:

1. Cold or room temperature and crispy is fine: think crisp veggies, good crackers, breadsticks, even room-temp fried chicken. Hot and crispy, not so much. Your crispy duck might not survive the schlep, neither will your warm, toasty garlic bread.

2. You can’t go wrong with fancy charcuterie.

A charcuterie and cheese board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)
A charcuterie board is as fancy as its components. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s how: Pack great cheeses – oozy ones, sharp ones, aged ones, even beautifully stinky ones. Tuck in some fine Spanish ham, Italian salumi, hot mustard, elegant jams or honey. Add baggies of fresh fruit and nuts. After you set up your table, you can arrange them on a nice platter with those crispy crackers or hearty bread.

3. Whip up some sophisticated chilled soup, like Chef Michelle Bernstein’s White Gazpacho.

Michelle Bernstein's White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)
White Gazpacho is luxury in a shot glass. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Here’s how to make it: In a high-speed blender, add 1 ½ cup Marcona almonds, ½ teaspoon fresh garlic, ½ tablespoon peeled shallot, 2 cups of peeled and chopped English cucumbers, 2 cups seedless green grapes, 1 tablespoon fresh dish and 1 ½ cups cold veggie broth. Puree until very smooth. With blender running, add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 2 tablespoons dry sherry wine. Slowly drizzle in ½ cup quality extra-virgin olive oil. Blend for at least 4 to 5 minutes, until velvety smooth. Chill until ready to sip. Garnish with sliced grapes, crushed almonds and dill. (Recipe serves 4.)

4. Rice salads (or other grain salads) served room temperature can be luxurious.

Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)
Fancy grain salad: black rice with roasted squash. (Cox Newspapers)

Here’s a variation: Make a pot of your favorite rice. Separately, sauté onions, garlic and celery in olive oil until just tender, adding a sprinkling of curry powder or ground turmeric and ginger. Add the rice to the sauté by the spoonful, tossing to coat the rice in the aromatics. Add a handful of frozen peas and stir. Shut off heat and allow mixture to sit until the peas are tender. When cool, add your choice of raw, chopped veggies, like diced zucchini, seeded tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs. You’ll have a mix of textures and flavors in one hearty bowl.  If you prefer a hot meal, pack soups, stews or chili in Thermoses.

5. The takeout option: Order dinner from your favorite West Palm restaurant and pick it up before you get to the meet-up location. Once the location is announced Friday afternoon, you may have a better idea of nearby restaurants. You’ll only have to bring your dinnerware and table setting.

Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Fancy dinnerware spotted at the 2015 Diner en Blanc. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

It may sound like a mission – and it can be, depending on how you take on the night. But relax. It’s a party. It’s a picnic. Pack what you love to eat in your fancy duds. If that means Fritos in a martini glass, rock on!

Hot tamales: new USPS stamps a Latin feast for the eyes

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.

TAMALES!

stampstamales

The festive, colorful Delicioso stamps were designed by New York artist John Parra under the direction of graphic designer Antonio Alcalá.

Want to sample some local tamales? We found them on the buffet line here.

SANCOCHO!

stampssancocho

“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.

Sancocho, a robust stew popular in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, is like a big bowl of love. Try a local rendition here.

CHILE RELLENO!

stampschilerelleno

The 2017 stamps will be sold by booklet of 20.

Want to make chile relleno? Here’s a classic recipe by chef Rick Bayless.

CEVICHE!

stampsceviche

Each of the six dishes featured reflect “an array of Latin American culinary traditions that have found new life and variations in the United States,” says the USPS site.

So, how do you make a good ceviche in the USA? Chef Clay Conley shows you in this video.

EMPANADAS!

stampsempanadas

Other 2017 Forever stamp tributes include a Chinese “Year of the Rooster” stamp, a shark series and a John F. Kennedy stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of JFK’s birth.

Want an empanada? Here’s a terrific empanada recipe from author Sandra Gutierrez’s “Empanadas” cookbook.

FLAN!

stampsflan

Okay, swooning now. If you’d like to lick a flan-filled spoon instead of stamp, here’s our favorite recipe.

stampslatinall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harbourside Place: Calaveras Cantina hosts ‘Fiesta de los Muertos’

Day of the Dead doesn’t arrive until Tuesday, but Calaveras Cantina is celebrating early. As in Friday night.

The Harbourside Place restaurant is hosting a “Fiesta de los Muertos” bash, offering drink specials, music, dancing and prizes.

Calaveras' watermelon-jalapeno margarita. (Contributed by Calaveras Cantina)
Calaveras’ watermelon-jalapeno margarita. (Contributed by Calaveras)

The party, which runs from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., has a cause beyond margaritas. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of sales to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s fight against breast cancer.

MAKE THIS: Day of the Dead bread

But, yes, there will be margaritas. Calaveras will pour is own rendition cocktail (and other cocktails) for $6. Craft beers on draft are $4.

Calaveras Cantina: 125 Dockside Dr. (at Harbourside Place), Jupiter; 561-320-9661; CalaverasCantinas.com

 

PB Post Dinner Series celebrates flavors of Montreal in Palm Beach

We traveled to Montreal without leaving the island of Palm Beach. Sure, there were palm fronds nearby somewhere as we dined on Québécois flavors, but our imagination was transported during The Post’s Dinner Series feast at Chez l’Epicier Tuesday night.

Montreal munchies: A server offers minced salmon bites.
Montreal munchies: A server offers minced salmon bites. (Liz Balmaseda/The Palm Beach Post)

Chef Laurent Godbout created a lavish, three-course dinner that kicked off with a series of passed bites and sips of a decidedly Canadian welcome cocktail: sparkling apple cider laced with blueberry-maple syrup. Starters continued with a composition of the chef’s favorite appetizer bites: a modernized poutine croquette (filled with a puff of cheese curd and gravy), a rich avocado tartare, a refreshing gazpacho and a boldly flavored baked oyster crowned in maple-Dijon and cheddar.

Related: Full dining review of Chez l’Epicier

For main course, he prepared a traditional Montreal winter dish of fork-tender beef cheek, corn relish and potato foam presented as a Shepherd’s Pie.

A welcome cocktail to kick off our Evening in Montreal. (Liz Balmaseda/The Palm Beach Post)
A welcome cocktail to kick off our Evening in Montreal. (Liz Balmaseda/The Palm Beach Post)

The meal’s sweet finale proved downright decadent, a classic apple and maple chomeur (or “poor man’s pudding”) served oven-warm with house-made vanilla ice cream. The chef chose this most authentic note to end the meal, as maple syrup is part of the Québécois DNA. The flavors bring him back to Montreal’s “sugar shacks,” where maple sap is boiled, transformed into treats and celebrated.

(In fact, he has plans to bring the sugar-shack theme to the restaurant’s brunch menu closer to spring.)

Veronique Deneault, co-owner of Chez l'Epicier, zips through the restaurant as guests begin to arrive. (Julio Poletti/ Thye Palm Beach Post)
Veronique Deneault zips through the restaurant as guests arrive. (Julio Poletti/The Palm Beach Post)

The restaurant’s chic farmhouse look added a layer of chill to the night, as co-owner Veronique Deneault (who is married to Chef Laurent) warmly greeted guests, who departed well-fed and toting goody bags of freshly made vanilla marshmallows.

It was a sweet night, indeed. Our journey yielded no frequent-flier miles, but it did earn us some worth-it Canadian calories.

Goody bags: homemade marshmallows for 'Evening in Montreal' guests. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)
Goody bags: homemade marshmallows for ‘Montreal’ guests. (Julio Poletti/The Palm Beach Post)

Stay tuned for our next installment of The Palm Beach Post’s Dinner Series, coming in early 2017. Follow us on Facebook for updates on foodie events and dining news.  

Chez l’Epicier: 288 S. County Rd., Palm Beach; 561-508-7030; ChezlEpicier.com

Palm Beach Outlets host ‘Chef’s Tailgate Party’ for charity

A batch of local restaurants will pop up Thursday night at the Palm Beach Outlets, when the open-air mall hosts the “Boca Raton Bowl Chef’s Tailgate Party.”

The bash, which benefits the Spirit of Giving Network charity, will feature bites from restaurants including Vic & Angelo’s, Burger Bar, Don Ramon, Longhorn Steakhouse, PGA National Resort, Bolay, Tijuana Flats and Park Avenue BBQ.

Tailgate for a cause at the Palm Beach Outlets. Frito pies may or may not be served. (Cox Newspapers)
Tailgate for a cause at the Palm Beach Outlets. Frito pies may or may not be served. (Cox Newspapers)

The football-themed party, which goes from 5:30 to 8 p.m., costs $30 in advance and at the door. (Members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches pay $25 for advance tickets.)

Party-goers are encouraged to sport their preferred college jersey or colors.

Palm Beach Outlets: 1751 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach; event tickets here.

PB Food & Wine Festival: ticket sales strong, Coolio out, new stars join

Coolio, rapper and unexpected foodie, will not appear at December’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival after all, thanks to his recent arrest in Los Angeles on gun charges, organizers say. The 90s star also known as Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was charged with felony firearm possession after a gun was found in his backpack during a security check at Los Angeles International Airport last month.

But here’s an actual culinary star foodies can get excited about: Chef Lee Wolen of Chicago’s Michelin-starred Boka Restaurant recently joined the festival lineup. The James Beard Award nominee will be cooking at the “Rise and Dine” breakfast Saturday, Dec. 10.

Star chefs Marc Murphy (left) and Jeff Mauro, beneath the Palm Beach sun. (LILA PHOTO)
Star chefs Marc Murphy (left) and Jeff Mauro, beneath the Palm Beach sun. (LILA PHOTO)

Also new to the festival, which runs from Dec. 8-11, is food TV personality Adam Richman, of “Man V. Food” fame, who is scheduled to appear at two prime Saturday events.

Like Coolio, Richman is not without his own controversies. He has now regained status in the food TV world two years after a blistering Instagram rant derailed his Travel Channel “Man Finds Food” series. (The show premiered the following year with a new name.)

Before the Insta-rant: Adam Richman on set in 2008. (Cox Newspapers photo)
Before the Insta-rant: Adam Richman on set in 2008. (Cox Newspapers photo)

Wolen and Richman join a food star lineup that includes nationally acclaimed chefs like Jonathon Sawyer, Daniel Boulud, George Mendes, Ken Oringer, Mike Lata and Anita Lo, TV celebrity chefs like Jeff Mauro and Robert Irvine, and star Miami chefs like Michelle Bernstein, Jose Mendin, Brad Kilgore, Giorgio Rapicavoli and Timon Balloo.

“The festival is continuing to add new and fresh faces and exciting talent,” says festival organizer David Sabin. “We’re now finalizing the participation of other award-winning and notable chefs.”

Add to those Palm Beach stars like Clay Conley, Lindsay Autry, Tim Lipman, Zach Bell, Rick Mace and Julien Gremaud and you have the largest congregation of chefs in Florida in December.

Refined bites at the festival's "Sustain" event in 2015. (LILA PHOTO)
Refined bites at the festival’s “Sustain” event in 2015. (LILA PHOTO)

With two months still to go till its kickoff event, the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival has sold out nearly half of its events.

The four-day festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in December, also has sold out of its four offered ticket packages.

Of its 15 scheduled events, top-sellers include the festival’s “Street Food” competition, the “Kids Kitchen” cooking classes (both at the Four Seasons Resort), and the “Chef Welcome Party” at The Breakers. The fest wraps up with a “Grand Tasting” bash and chefs’ throw-down at The Gardens Mall on the night of Dec. 11, a Sunday.

Ticket sales are exceeding expectation, says Sabin.

“It’s a testimonial to the thriving dining culture in Palm Beach County,” he says. “Year to year, festival-goers are growing more familiar with the venues and our staple events. It’s obvious in the response we’ve received to our signature events.”

Snack + snap: A Four Seasons Resort cook prepares party food at the fest. (LILA PHOTO)
Snack + snap: A Four Seasons Resort cook prepares party food at the fest. (LILA PHOTO)

Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival

The festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary, runs from Dec. 8 through 11. For information and tickets, visit PBFoodWineFest.com.

The Regional Kitchen heats up CityPlace — is it worth the buzz?

The folks behind The Regional Kitchen & Public House in downtown West Palm Beach don’t believe in doomed locations. Some months ago, they invaded the cavernous space that once housed a succession of failed restaurants – from Cuban to American seafood to Brazilian spots – and raised a banner there for worldly Southern cooking.

Chef Lindsay Autry addresses the troops at The Regional Kitchen. (Contributed by The Regional)
Chef Lindsay Autry addresses the troops at The Regional Kitchen. (Contributed by The Regional)

Now, on most nights, The Regional hums with big-city ambiance as the restaurant’s various dining areas are filled with chatter and tables are laden with Executive Chef Lindsay Autry’s jazzed up pimento cheese, country ham carpaccio, fried chicken thighs and pozole verde.

Never mind that the restaurant’s façade is obscured by massive scaffolding as the larger building undergoes renovations. Even the Public House part of the establishment, also known as the bar and lounge, seems to draw its own lively scene.

Why all the buzz – and is it warranted?

Long story, short: Yes.

The Regional's Tomato Pie is a top-seller. (South Moon Photography)
The Regional’s Tomato Pie is a top-seller at the month-old restaurant. (South Moon Photography)

The reasons extend beyond concept, planning and good intention. Of course there’s a solid hospitality entity behind The Regional – restaurateur Thierry Beaud’s TITOU group, which gave us Pistache on Clematis Street and PB Catch in Palm Beach, restaurants with enduring shine.

And there’s timing: The Regional debuts as West Palm Beach rises to prominence as a new hub for indie, chef-driven restaurants. It also opens as the CityPlace area awaits the arrival of a mega Restoration Hardware showroom, which will serve as a formal entrance to downtown West Palm Beach.

But at the core, the month-old Regional runs on soul, excellent food and attention to detail, a trifecta brought to life by Chef Autry, who also serves as the restaurant’s managing partner.

She pulls these elements together with a sense of authority, culled from her eclectic fine dining experiences. Autry is not only a chef on the rise, but a chef coming into her own – and it’s an exciting thing to witness.

Pimento cheese is jazzed up, table-side. (South Moon Photography)
Pimento cheese is jazzed up, table-side. (South Moon Photography)

Her menu is part memoir: Autry borrows flavors from her North Carolina childhood (hello, country-style sausage with field pea cassoulet), her Greek grandmother’s kitchen (as in veggie Greek salad with charred chickpeas), her days working for celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein in Yucatan and Miami (hola, grilled snapper in banana leaf with salsa verde), and her culinary pop-up explorations.

The menu sparkles with flavor combos that might make no sense in the hands of another chef – and she commands it with grace. Her Berkshire pork shank ($26), perched on creamed hominy and pozole verde, is downright statuesque. Her sweet tea-brined fried chicken thighs ($9) cut to the chase of flavor, focusing on the richest part of the bird. Even a dish as seemingly simple as chicken noodle soup ($8) is exalted by a long-simmered broth (deepened in flavor by heaps of bones), chicken that’s cooked gently in its own fat and hand-cut dumplings. It’s exquisite, this soup.

As does the menu, the décor touches reflect certain soul. Autry and her team doted on table setting details, including a caddy handcrafted by a Regional bartender with woodworking skills. It holds the menus and small bottles of The Regional’s special “house sauce.”

The Regional's walls reflect the chef's North Carolina childhood. (LILA PHOTO)
The Regional’s walls reflect the chef’s North Carolina childhood. (LILA PHOTO)

The amber glassware on the table is inspired by Autry’s grandmother’s table. It was “always set with those color glasses and pretty ‘share’ plates that make you feel like you’re dining on something special,” recalls the chef.

The art on the restaurant’s walls reflects Autry’s North Carolina roots in a series of photos she took at her family’s farm, as well as some local farm images. She had a replica of her family’s farm sign made – it hangs above The Regional’s kitchen.

“These personal notes make it really feel like home to me,” says Autry.

Chef on the rise: Lindsay Autry at The Regional's "housewarming" party. (Contributed by The Regional)
Chef on the rise: Lindsay Autry at the “housewarming” party. (Contributed by The Regional)

Interesting thing: The place feels homey even to those of us not born in North Carolina. Then again, “homey” doesn’t fully cover The Regional’s vibe. The place may pay homage to Autry’s countryside roots, but it is firmly metropolitan. Retro funk beats segue to soul on the soundtrack in the bar and main dining room, while soulful jazz flows through The Regional’s private dining room. Autry’s team spent about four months developing the custom playlists with a New York sound company.

The crisp details extend to the servers, their approach and their appearance in uniforms designed by ChefWorks and, for the women, a certain matte shade of coral lipstick.

Country flavors, big-city vibe at The Regional Kitchen. (LILA PHOTO)
Country flavors, big-city vibe at The Regional Kitchen. (LILA PHOTO)

Of course, Autry knows such details can be meaningless without drive.

“It takes a lot of time and energy to open a restaurant, and it’s remarkable to see all of the small details come together to make this establishment what I hoped it could be,” she says.

She says she looks forward to seeing “our little community grow.”

It’s an heirloom seed of a wish, but one that’s sown on fertile, West Palm Beach soil. How could it not grow?

The Regional Kitchen & Public House: 651 Okeechobee Blvd. (CityPlace), West Palm Beach; 561-557-6460

Avocado Grill celebrates 2nd birthday in grand, funky style party

It’s hard to imagine a weekend when there was not a celebration of some kind at Avocado Grill, Chef Julien Gremaud’s popular spot in downtown West Palm Beach. Perhaps that’s because the very air in the lively restaurant, which spills onto the sidewalk and side patio, seems to sway.

But as Avocado Grill turns 2 this weekend, the restaurant is cranking its celebratory mode to full blast.

A local pair enjoy a window seat at Avocado Grill in downtown West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
A local pair enjoy a window seat at Avocado Grill in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

First, there’s a reggae brunch Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., to the live music of Spred the Dub. On the menu: island-y offerings like coconut lobster rolls, jerk shrimp tacos and dirty rice. Five hours later, the vibe turns clubby as DJ Adam Lipson kicks off his set (9 p.m).

Sunday starts with a brunch as well – a ‘70s-style disco brunch. Adding to the mood: music by Mr. Trombone (Wayne Perry), drummer Ryan Anthony and DJ German Garcia. Brunch also features a costume contest. The contestant with the best retro ‘70 attire wins a $200 Avocado Grill gift card.

Julien Gremaud is chef/owner at Avocado Grill. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Julien Gremaud is chef/owner at Avocado Grill. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Chef Gremaud is hoping guests “go all out” on their costume concepts.

“It’s almost Halloween and we want to see what everyone’s got,” he said via news release.

Of course, there are two weeks of potential celebrations to go before Halloween shadows our doors.

And Gremaud admits he “can’t resist a good party.”

Can you tell the chef used to be a DJ?

Avocado Grill's Dulce de Leche Lava Cake. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Avocado Grill’s Dulce de Leche Lava Cake. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

Avocado Grill: 125 Datura St., West Palm Beach; 561-623-0822; AvocadoGrillWPB.com

Openings: Cheesecake lovers, Junior’s is open in Boca Raton

New York cheesecake lovers, your reward is as near as Boca RatonJunior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake is open for business after a wait that surely seemed interminable to fans of its rich, fluffy namesake dessert.

The Brooklyn-based restaurant debuted this week at Mizner Park and is serving lunch and dinner. (Breakfast service starts within a few weeks.)

The debut was short-lived before the threat of Hurricane Matthew came knocking. As most of the restaurants in Palm Beach County’s “cone of concern,” the new restaurant closed Thursday due to the storm. It reopened for business Friday.

Owned by Alan Rosen, grandson of restaurant founder Harry Rosen, Junior’s has breathed retro Deco style into the former Ruby Tuesday’s space, where it can seat 225 diners.

READ: JUNIOR’S BACKSTORY 

juniorscheesecakeOn the menu: deli classics like matzo ball soup, potato pancakes and blintzes, plus charbroiled steak-burgers, sandwiches galore including pastrami, various Reuben renditions, and open-face beef brisket, salads and desserts (hello, red velvet cheesecake!).

Of course, the main attraction is the Famous No. 1 Original Cheesecake.

What makes that cheesecake so good? Glad you asked. Here’s our riff on the guilty pleasure.

Junior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake: 409 Plaza Real (Mizner Park), Boca Raton; 561-672-7301; JuniorsCheesecake.com