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.”
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 feastat Chez l’EpicierTuesday night.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?