On 10th year, 10 reasons to toast the PB Food and Wine Fest

It’s a gem of a little food fest, one that doesn’t subject its guests to hordes or parking nightmares. There are many reasons to celebrate the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival any year, but as the fest turns 10 next month – it runs from Dec. 8 through 11 – here are 10 reasons to raise a glass this year.

It’s an intimate affair.

At the fest, a civilized toast is possible. (LILA PHOTO)
At the fest, a civilized toast is possible. (LILA PHOTO)

As food festivals go, this one works hard to maintain a level of intimacy. Granted, chances are there will be human traffic jams during parts of the fest’s Grand Tasting finale at The Gardens Mall. But that’s one event – and still it’s a fun one. For the most part, the festival’s dinners and tastings are easy to navigate. That’s because the organizers don’t overbook events. This means fest-goers get the civilized, top-notch experiences they expected when they purchased their tickets.

Can’t beat the backdrop.

Yep. December in Palm Beach. (LILA PHOTO)
Yep. December in Palm Beach. (LILA PHOTO)

Palm trees? Check. Crashing waves? Check. The Breakers’ grand, Italian Renaissance archways and loggias? Check.

The setting for festival events is pretty spectacular. It’s December in Palm Beach – any wonder why the festival lures some big names? And in the past few years, the fest has expanded its reach into the mainland, into West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. This year, two of West Palm’s hottest restaurants (Avocado Grill and The Regional) will host festival events. While these may not be oceanfront spots, they possess the funk factor that many food enthusiasts seek in the county’s fastest rising dining destination. 

Southern food goals are strong.

The Regional Kitchen hosts Southern food stars. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)
The Regional Kitchen hosts Southern food stars. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)

This year the festival revels in the region by hosting a “Southern Revival” lunch at The Regional Kitchen. The months-old, CityPlace restaurant is where Chef Lindsay Autry gives her native Southern cuisine a global spin. The farmhouse-inspired restaurant, appointed with mementos of Autry’s North Carolina roots, provides an ideal setting for a meal created by a cast of Southern food stars. Joining Autry in the kitchen will be her acclaimed mentor Michelle Bernstein (Crumb on Parchment, Miami), James Beard Award-winning chef Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon and Peche Seafood Grill, New Orleans) and Southern chef/author Virginia Willis. No surprise: The event is sold out.

There’s an all-out veggie feast this year.

Amanda Cohen, of New York's Dirt Candy. (Cox Newspapers file)
Amanda Cohen, of New York’s Dirt Candy. (Cox Newspapers file)

The festival’s “Rustic Root” dinner will bring some top food stars to Chef Julien Gremaud’s popular Avocado Grill in downtown West Palm Beach. Among them is Amanda Cohen, the pioneering chef/owner of Dirt Candy, a New York hotspot serving plant-based cuisine. Cohen, dubbed the “Veggie Czarina” by Haute Living magazine, will be joined by award-winning chefs Elizabeth Falkner and Dean James Max.

This five-course dinner with wine pairings and open bar costs $150 per person. Tickets were still available at press time.

The best of culinary Miami comes to town.

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

That chaotic metropolis to our south may have some mighty fine cuisine, but one has to brave gridlock traffic and ridiculous parking situations to enjoy it. For a few years now, the festival has been luring some of Miami’s best and brightest. This year, the 305 delegation is simply outstanding. Coming to the fest:

  • Chef/ restaurateur Jose Mendin, whose Pubbelly group of restaurants mirrors Miami’s vibrancy and cultural depth. In many ways, he’s the chef who best reflects his city right now.
  • Timon Balloo, the innovative executive chef/partner at Midtown’s Sugarcane restaurant.
  • Chef/restaurateur Richard Hales, who brought new Asian flavors to Miami with his Sakaya Kitchen and Blackbrick Chinese restaurants.
  • Chef/restaurateur Giorgio Rapicavoli, who turned a vibe-y pop-up into one of Coral Gables’ hottest restaurants, Eating House. More recently, he opened Glass & Vine in Coconut Grove’s iconic Peacock Park.

Palm Beach Grill opens for lunch.

Hillstone haute: Palm Beach Grill. (Palm Beach Post file)
Hillstone haute: Palm Beach Grill. (Palm Beach Post file)

The festival features “Lunch at The Grill” on Saturday, Dec. 10. This is kind of a big deal. Not only is the Palm Beach Grill a tough reservation to score, the place doesn’t serve lunch. The New American-style restaurant may be part of a national chain (Hillstone), but it’s one of the buzziest spots on the island. No surprise there. Hillstone, after all, was named “America’s Favorite Restaurant” this year by Bon Appetit magazine.

“It’s never going to win a James Beard Award. Or try to wow you with its foam experiments or ingredients you’ve never heard of. But it is the best-run, most-loved, relentlessly respected restaurant in America,” went the intro to the March story.

Tickets to the lunch were still available at press time – 99 bucks gets you a seat at lunch. No famous chefs. But you get four courses with wine pairings and open bar.

It loves a good love story.

Chef Lindsay Autry married festival director David Sabin in June. (Kristy Roderick Photography)
Chef Lindsay Autry married festival director David Sabin in June. (Kristy Roderick Photography)

The festival’s “Chef Welcome Party” was the setting of one noteworthy marriage proposal two years ago. In a quiet, oceanfront spot away from the party crowd, festival director David Sabin dropped to one knee and proposed to Chef Lindsay Autry, his longtime girlfriend. The party morphed into an unofficial engagement bash. Earlier this year, Sabin and Autry had a destination wedding in one of America’s hottest food cities: They were married June 4th in Charleston, SC.

There’s a party in the ‘burbs.

Star chef selfie: (from right) Johnny Iuzzini, Robert Irvine and Marc Murphy, at The Gardens Mall. (LILA PHOTO)
Star chef selfie: (from right) Johnny Iuzzini, Robert Irvine and Marc Murphy, at The Gardens Mall. (LILA PHOTO)

The festival’s grand finale event, the 10th Annual Grand Tasting, happens at The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens for the second year in a row. For eight years, the tasting event packed both floors of Palm Beach’s 150 Worth shopping complex. By moving the event to the more spacious Gardens Mall, the festival tapped into an important dining market: north county.

The cachet mingles with the commercial.

The fest brings together TV star chefs and Michelin starred chefs. (LILA PHOTO)
The fest brings together TV star chefs and Michelin starred chefs. (LILA PHOTO)

In the mix of personalities, fest-goers will find familiar faces from Food Network, James Beard Award winners and the occasional Michelin star-decorated. Take Chicago chef Lee Wolen. He’s worked at a succession of Michelin-starred restaurants, first at New York’s venerable Eleven Madison Park, then at Chicago’s Lobby at The Peninsula, where he earned a Michelin star, and most recently at Chicago’s Boka Restaurant, which has won stars three years in a row. He’ll be cooking breakfast at the Eau Dec. 10 with James Beard semifinalists Mendin and Rapicavoli from Miami. That morning, over at the Four Seasons Resort, fest-goers can mingle with Food Network stars Robert Irvine, Marc Murphy, Jeff Mauro and Travel Channel host Adam Richman at the day’s events there.

Tickets were still available for that Eau Resort breakfast. They cost $75 per person.

It’s not South Beach.

SoBe's Grand Tasting Village gets swarmed. (Palm Beach Post file)
SoBe’s Grand Tasting Village gets swarmed. (Palm Beach Post file)

Nothing against that big, bodacious fest to our south. In fact, that fest is like 20 festivals in one. It puts on more events in a day than Palm Beach puts on in its entire four-day duration. But Palm Beach has little interest in becoming South Beach, fest-wise – and that’s a good thing. The 561 festival is manageable and offers a sense of intimacy. A food enthusiast can have a proper conversation with a visiting chef. Eight of the 14 events are sit-down meals. The vibe is more lively dinner party than packed disco.

A Northerner’s guide to dining in Palm Beach County

You come for the sun, the sea and the right to wear shorts in January, dear Northerner. But no amount of South Florida stone crabs can fix your cravings for the foods of “home,” wherever in the frozen tundra that may be.

This one’s for you: our local picks for tastes of New York, New Jersey, New England, Maryland, Philadelphia and Montreal.

Did we leave out your go-to favorite? Let us know in the comments section!

NEW YORK/ NEW JERSEY 

Creamy, dreamy: Cheesecake is Junior's most iconic dish. (Photo: Junior's Restaurant)
Creamy, dreamy cheesecake: Junior’s iconic dish. (Photo: Junior’s Restaurant)

Junior’s Restaurant and Cheesecake

409 Plaza Real (Mizner Park), Boca Raton; 561-672-7301

This “Sixth Borough” outpost of the Brooklyn favorite serves cheesecake that dreams are made of. So, yes, you come to Junior’s Restaurant for the cheesecake. But first you gorge on a Reuben, maybe some potato pancakes and matzo ball soup. The menu is extensive.

New York state of mind at Dorrian's Red Hand. (Meghan McCarthy/ The Palm Beach Post)
New York state of mind at Dorrian’s. (Meghan McCarthy/ The Palm Beach Post)

Dorrian’s Red Hand

215 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-355-1401

The family behind the Upper East Side fixture opened a West Palm Beach rendition in May, setting out to create a New York pub vibe. As an occasional special, Dorrian’s on Clematis Street even brings in Katz’s Delicatessen pastrami from the iconic New York deli.

Slice of Brooklyn at Grimaldi's Pizzeria. (Yuting Jiang/ The Palm Beach Post)
Slice of Brooklyn at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. (Yuting Jiang/ The Palm Beach Post)

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

11701 Lake Victoria Gardens Ave. (Downtown at the Gardens), Palm Beach Gardens; 561-625-4665

This Arizona-based pizza chain has Brooklyn roots serves delicious, thin-crust pies. The menu is simple here – pretty much, pizza, salads and dessert – but it hits the spot.

Coming soon: The deli of Burt Rapoport's dreams. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)
Coming soon: The deli of Burt Rapoport’s dreams. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)

Rappy’s Deli

Coming by mid-December to Park Place plaza, 5560 N. Military Tr., Boca Raton

Granted, the place doesn’t open until December, but already it screams “New York.” Restaurateur Burt Rapoport took inspiration from his grandfather’s lower east Manhattan deli, Rapoport’s, for this long-dreamed spot. Unlike his grandfather’s place, Rappy’s is not a strictly dairy restaurant. The menu puts a modern spin on some of Rapoport’s favorite comfort dishes.

Italian combo, Manzo's style. (Samantha Ragland/ The Palm Beach Post)
Italian combo, Manzo’s style. (Samantha Ragland/ The Palm Beach Post)

Manzo’s Italian Deli

2260 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-697-9411

This popular deli brings Northern soul to Italian favorites. Mike and Mia Manzo operate the 21-year-old, family-owned spot. Mike makes killer red sauce every morning. It jazzes up his homemade lasagna, the meatballs and other dishes. As for sandwiches, Manzo’s big seller is the chicken salad sub – they sell almost 200 pounds of chicken salad a week.

BOSTON/ NEW ENGLAND

Lobster roll at Boston's on the Beach. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)
Lobster roll at Boston’s on the Beach. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)

Boston’s on the Beach

40 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach; 561-278-3364

Consider this your south county, oceanfront spot for New England clam chowder, lobster bisque, Ipswich steamers, New England clambake and Maine lobster. To wash it down, there’s a specialty cocktail named The Patriot, of course. Plus, there are more than 30 TVs to watch the big game.

Chowder Heads: where chowdah is love.
Chowder Heads: where chowdah is love.

Chowder Heads

2123 U.S. Highway 1, Jupiter; 561-203-2903

What began as a green market kiosk selling creamy clam chowder and lobster rolls evolved into a popular Jupiter restaurant. The warm lobster roll stuffed with lobster chunks that have been sautéed in butter and sherry is particularly delicious, as is the chowder. The seafood-centric menu is extensive enough to keep you coming back. Chances are, however, you’ll order your favorites again and again.

That's just the start of it at Spoto's Oyster Bar. (Palm Beach Post file)
That’s just the start of it at Spoto’s Oyster Bar. (Palm Beach Post file)

Spoto’s Oyster Bar

4560 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens; 561-776-9448

This seafood restaurant, consistently good in food and service, serves a mean New England clam chowder and a pretty terrific lobster roll.

PHILLY

Baldino's is cheese steak city. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
It’s cheesesteak city at Baldino’s in Tequesta. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)

Baldino’s Italian Restaurant

791 N. U.S. Highway 1, Tequesta; 561-743-4224

The logline for this restaurant is “A Taste of Philly,” and that’s evident from the menu at Baldino’s, which boasts no fewer than four Philly cheesesteak sandwich varieties.

They root proudly for the Philadelphia Eagles and run game day contests (win a free pizza if you’re the first customer to guess the winner and score).

Pennsylvania Dutch-style pretzels are popular among Philly natives. (Photo: Cox Newspapers)
Pennsylvania Dutch-style pretzels are popular among Philly natives. (Photo: Cox Newspapers)

Phlorida Pretzel

168 NW 51st St. (Boca Teeca Plaza on Yamato Road), Boca Raton; 561-910-1846

This Boca Raton shop bakes a variety of doughy Philly-style pretzels, from twists to pretzel dogs to pretzel sandwiches, including a pork roll and cheese-stuffed sandwich. Phlorida Pretzel also offers a good mix of party trays that are perfect for tailgating. (And, yes, this is Eagles territory.) 

Alfresco dining is offered with an ocean view at Caffe Luna Rosa. (Palm Beach Post file)
Alfresco dining with an ocean view at Caffe Luna Rosa. (Palm Beach Post file)

Caffe Luna Rosa

34 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach; 561-274-9404

At brunch/lunch, this Italian spot by the sea serves Philadelphia-style scrapple, a pan-fried loaf of pork trimmings and flour. (Hey, Jersey folks, Caffe Luna Rosa also serves Taylor Pork Roll as a brunch side.)

BALTIMORE/ MARYLAND

Jumbo lump crab cakes at Kirby's. (Palm Beach Post file)
Jumbo lump crab cakes at Kirby’s. (Palm Beach Post file)

Kirby’s

841 Donald Ross Rd. (La Mer plaza), Juno Beach; 561-627-8000

This sports grill is popular with Baltimore Ravens fans as well as with fans of proper crab cakes. Kirby’s rendition are cakes chockfull of crab, not bready filler.

A Maryland-style crab restaurant in Lantana. (Palm Beach Post file)
A Maryland-style crab restaurant in Lantana. (Palm Beach Post file)

Riggins Crabhouse

607 Ridge Rd., Lantana; 561-586-3000

This restaurant not only bills itself as a Maryland crab house, the menu delivers on that promise with Maryland crab soup, Maryland-style crabs steamed in beer, vinegar and spices and Chesapeake references.

Tapping into Baltimore at True, Boca Raton. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
Tapping into Baltimore at True, Boca. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

True

147 SE 1st Ave. (next to Royal Palm Place), Boca Raton

Pure Baltimore inspiration built this spot, and a love of crabs keeps it going. The cream of crab soup at True carries hints of sherry, shallots and Old Bay. The True Blue sandwich layers a Maryland-style crab cake, lettuce and tomato on a Kaiser roll. There’s a crab dip that’s topped with cheddar and the Homesick Soup with plenty of Old Bay love.

MONTREAL/ QUEBEC

Poutine, a French Canadian street dish, is a heap of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. (Contributed)
Poutine, a French Canadian street dish, is a heap of fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. (Contributed)

Poutine Dog Café

17 S. J Street, Lake Worth; 561-766-2281

What’s so Montreal about fries, gravy and cheese curds? Everything. And this café serves it in abundance and with plenty of bling. There are at least nine ways to top your poutine here.

Poutine gets a fancy touch at Chez l'Epicier, Palm Beach. (Contributed by Chez l'Epicier)
Poutine is served in a stylish setting at Chez l’Epicier, Palm Beach. (Contributed by Chez l’Epicier)

Chez l’Epicier

288 S. County Rd., Palm Beach; 561-508-7030

Set in farmhouse-chic décor, this Palm Beach restaurant offers a most compelling reason for a Montreal fan to visit: The chef is a food star there. Chef Laurent Godbout, who runs Chez l’Epicier with his wife Veronique Deneault, renders artistic yet soulful plates. And, yes, he offers a mean poutine.

Presidential election heartburn: What do the candidates eat?

What fuels the presidential candidates, other than mutual hostilities?

If you’re a certain part-time Palm Beacher, it’s drive-thru cuisine.

If you’re his opponent, it’s hot chiles.

But we already know that. We already know Donald Trump loves Big Macs and fries and Hillary Clinton keeps the hot sauce close.

And like too many of this year’s election-related topics, this one is likely to give us heartburn. But isn’t it better to focus on someone else’s food choices as you fizz up those Alka-Seltzer tablets? It’s no time to think about that pizza you scarfed down last night. With Election Day less than a week away, this may be your final chance to deflect from the junk food guilt you’ve been lugging.

So here’s a glimpse of what may be on the candidates’ plates:

Donald Trump, as he leaves a farmer's round-table event in suburban Boynton Beach last week. (Lannis Waters/ The Palm Beach Post)
Donald Trump, as he leaves a farmer’s round-table event in suburban Boynton Beach, last week. (Lannis Waters/ The Palm Beach Post)

From Trump’s scandalous former Mar-A-Lago butler, Tony Senecal, we know the boss preferred his burgers and steaks severely overcooked, with ketchup. From his former Mar-A-Lago chef, Aaron Fuller, we can surmise the kitchen staff catered to the rock-hard-steak requests. (Bound by a confidentiality agreement, Fuller would not discuss the food choices.)

“The best time I’ve had in my career is when I’ve made the client happy. It really comes down to what the client wants,” Fuller said when asked for his culinary opinion on overcooked meat. “We all have different opinions about how we like our meat. That doesn’t mean mine is one that is better than the other.”

Trump’s fast-food habits have been well documented as he’s been caught on camera ready to devour some KFC aboard his plane, snapped with a questionably timed taco bowl at the office and immortalized with heaping amounts of fries.

Those hard-cooked steaks he so loves? They once had culinary promise. We learned during one of the candidate’s local appearances that Trump steaks were actually steaks purveyed by Bush Brothers, the 91-year-old West Palm Beach provision company known for supplying some of the best beef in the country.

In an interview last year with Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect,” Trump issued this confession: “I love steak and hamburger and pasta and French fries, all of the things that we shouldn’t be eating.”

He also admitted he can’t resist bacon and eggs. “I eat what I like,” he said.

Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Cincinnati this week. (Cox Newspapers)
Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, during an appearance in Cincinnati this week. (Cox Newspapers photo)

As for Clinton, while she was spied holding a pork-chop-on-a-stick at last year’s Iowa State Fair – and, yes, that was Clinton seated before two tempting cheesecakes at Junior’s restaurant in Brooklyn in April – the former secretary of state is more disciplined in her food choices.

She eats like a world traveler, one who has learned to eat well and eat selectively, rather than to simply eat and be done with it. Then again, as the Huffington Post notes, she was the most-traveled secretary of state in history, having visited 112 nations and clocking more than 950,000 miles.

Earlier this year, she played food critic for Thrillist.com, penning a review of “not-to-be-missed dining experiences” across New York state. Her picks included a few references that reveal some foodie tendencies: Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster in Harlem, Fox Run Vineyards boutique winery on Seneca Lake (for riesling and a light lunch), the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse.

Closer to her Chappaqua home, Clinton is loyal to Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant & Inn, where she gathered with locals on the night her nomination was announced in Philadelphia. It’s also where she celebrated Chelsea Clinton’s baby shower.

The place serves farmhouse-fancy food and tempting, Hudson Valley-inspired dishes, including grass-fed Angus beef cheeseburgers and NY strip steak with buttermilk Vidalia onion rings. Of course, Clinton might order them many shades rarer than overdone.

Exclusive: Tiger Woods’ former chef to open new restaurant on Dixie dining corridor

The husband-wife team behind Kitchen, the Belvedere Road hotspot popular with local and visiting celebs, are deep into the planning stages for a neighboring restaurant.

Chef Matthew Byrne and wife/partner Aliza Byrne will open Patina, a Greek and Israeli-inspired restaurant, on West Palm Beach’s happening Dixie Highway dining corridor. They expect to debut in the fall of 2017.

“What’s the best place to open a restaurant? Next to a busy restaurant,” Matthew Byrne told The Post this week. “That’s restaurant 101.”

Growing the business: Kitchen's Aliza and Matthew Byrne. (LILA PHOTO)
Growing the business: Kitchen’s Aliza and Matthew Byrne. (LILA PHOTO)

The busy restaurant next to the Byrnes’ upcoming concept? That would be Grato, the acclaimed trattoria opened by South Florida star chef Clay Conley and his Buccan Palm Beach partners 11 months ago.

The Byrnes hope to infuse a Mediterranean feel into the 2500-square-foot indoor space and courtyard. The building’s vintage floors inspired the name Patina, they say.

Matthew’s experience in the kitchen of a longstanding Greek restaurant in the couple’s native Philadelphia partially inspired the concept, as did Aliza’s Middle Eastern roots. (Her father is Israeli.)

“Think lemon, sea salt, rosemary, whole fishes, tons of squid, charred lamb,” says the chef. “I’m really excited about some vegan items on the menu.”

The vegan plates will come naturally to the concept, as will the fish and meat dishes, he says. And while he admits he’s not a disciple of the “small plate-y” approach, he expects to offer some shareable dishes, hummus, baba ganoush and other classics.

“It’s my version of Greek-American and Israeli food,” says Byrne, a former private chef who worked for golf star Tiger Woods.

The upcoming restaurant will have a full bar, unlike Kitchen, which serves only wine and beer, he says.

New item: salmon carpaccio with hearts of palm and cukes in lemon-dill dressing. (LibbyVision.com)
New item: salmon carpaccio in lemon-dill dressing. (LibbyVision.com)

The chef offers a kind of preview of the Patina cuisine on his revamped Kitchen menu. You’ll find hints of it in his carpaccio of salmon, buttery slices of raw salmon served with hearts of palm and cucumber in a fresh lemon-dill dressing ($16). It’s also in the pan-roasted halibut with artichokes in a heady truffle-clam broth ($32).

The prospect of a new up-market spot in the Flamingo Park area will likely intensify the Dixie dining corridor’s heat as a dining destination.

The Byrnes purchased the 1817 S. Dixie Highway space in January from Palm Beach resident Jeffrey Cole’s Blenheim Holdings for $770,000. (Cole is a loyal Kitchen customer.) Until recently, the property housed Solar Antique Tiles.

The couple is in the permitting stage for renovation of the space.

Matthew Byrne's halibut in truffled clam broth. (LibbyVision.com)
Matthew Byrne’s halibut in truffled clam broth. (LibbyVision.com)

The Patina project is underway as the Byrnes’ Kitchen, which celebrated its third anniversary in October, continues to expand. By December, they expect to spread their presence in the Belvedere plaza to include the space where Shoppe 561 now operates. That space will house a wine bar/retail space they call Prep Kitchen.

The 1600-square-foot space would host visiting winemakers, wine tastings with Chef Matthew and other wine-related events. It also will serve as a spillover space for diners waiting for their table at Kitchen. During the day, the space will serve as a retail shop, selling wines as well as grab-and-go items such as salads and Kitchen’s desserts.

Once Patina opens, the chef says he will likely shuttle between the restaurants, located just blocks apart. He says he’s confident his Kitchen crew will keep his current restaurant on point.

“It’s my original team,” says Byrne. “They’ve been with me for three years, since Day 1.”

Kitchen: 319 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach; 561-249-2281; KitchenPB.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘What is a Cuban pizza?’ New WPB restaurant answers that question

Xiomara Aguilera can’t help but laugh while describing how she met the love of her life.

“The first thing I asked him was: ‘Do you cook? Because if you don’t, you’re disqualified,’” she says.

Luckily, he did. And Eddy Tapia’s intentions were far greater than she expected. Not only was he a great cook, but he was the missing piece she had been looking for.

Related: Readers’ Choice for ‘Best Pizza in PBC’

Eddy Tapia kisses his girlfriend Xiomara Aguilera inside their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. October 2016. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia kisses his girlfriend Xiomara Aguilera inside their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

“It was love at first sight,” says Aguilera. 

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.

Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilar working behind the counter at their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. October 2016. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilar working behind the counter at their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.”

Xiomara Aguilera, the owner of "Mi Isla Cuban Pizzeria and Bakery" makes the desserts at the restaurant.
Xiomara Aguilera, the owner of “Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery” makes the desserts at the restaurant. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.

"Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery" in West Palm Beach
“Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery” in West Palm Beach (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

“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.

Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilera, the owners of "Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery" in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilera, the owners of “Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery” in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.

A Cuban Pizza made by Eddy Tapia. thicker cuban-style dough, secret-recipe sauce a-la-Cuba, mozzarella cheese, ham and pineapple. October 2016 (Julio Poletti/ the Palm Beach Post)
A Cuban Pizza made by Eddy Tapia. thicker Cuban-style dough, secret-recipe sauce a-la-Cuba, mozzarella cheese, ham and pineapple. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.” 

Eddy Tapia makes Cuban Pizzas while Xiomara Aguilera makes the desserts. (Julio Poletti/ the Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia makes Cuban Pizzas while Xiomara Aguilera makes the desserts. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

The Details:

What: “Mi Isla—Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery”

Where: 1209 S Military Trl., West Palm Beach, FL 33415

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Phone: 561-310-7286

Wonder where Mi Isla would rank in our Readers’ Choice for Best Pizza?

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.

Hurricane Matthew: Still boarded up and nowhere to go? Which restaurants are open/closed

Hurricane Matthew gave us a scare, but in the end spared us. In the boarded-up confines of home, that makes us grateful — and a little hungry for some good, hot grub.

So what’s open and what’s closed today, restaurant-wise? Here’s what we’ve got so far:

E.R. Bradley's Saloon bartender Sam Paolillo serves drinks to patrons in West Palm Beach Thursday October 6, 2016. The restaurant will serve food until 3 p.m. and remain open serving only drinks throughout the evening. (Meghan McCarthy / The Palm Beach Post)
Service with a smile: E.R. Bradley’s bartender Sam Paolillo. (Meghan McCarthy/ The Palm Beach Post)

SOUTH

Rapoport Restaurants, south county

All Burt Rapoport-owned restaurants will reopen at 4:30 p.m. for dinner Friday night. This goes for Deck 84, Henry’s and Burt & Max’s in Delray Beach as well as for Bogart’s in Boca Raton.

Max’s Grille, Boca Raton

The popular Mizner Park restaurant reopens at lunchtime Friday.

Beer Trade Co. cafe and beer lounge, Delray Beach and Boca Raton

Are open for business.

The Frog Lounge, Delray Beach

Is open for business.

Josie’s Ristorante, Boynton Beach

Is reopening for lunch and dinner Friday.

Max’s Harvest, Delray Beach

Is reopening for dinner Friday.

Rocco’s Tacos, all locations

They’re reopening at lunchtime.

City Oyster, Delray Beach

Is reopening Friday for regular hours.

Louie Bossi’s, Boca Raton

Is reopening Friday for regular hours.

Caffe Luna Rosa, Delray Beach

Is open for business.

Agliolio Italian Bistro & Bar, Wellington and Boynton Beach

Is open for business at both locations.

Habit Burger, Royal Palm Beach and Delray Beach

Is open for business.

Bud’s Chicken & Seafood, all locations

They are all open for business.

The Living Room, Boynton Beach

Is open for business with live music Friday night.

La Cigale A Taste of the Mediterranean, Delray Beach

Is open for business at 5 p.m. Friday

 

photo bradleys
Things start to return to normal at E.R . Bradley’s in downtown West Palm Beach on Friday, October 7, 2016, the day after Hurricane Matthew brushed the Palm Beach County coast line. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

CENTRAL/WEST

Maison Carlos, West Palm Beach

Opens for dinner at 5:30 p.m. Friday.  For reservations, call 561-659-6524.

Havana, West Palm Beach

The iconic Cuban restaurant has reopened for business.

Avocado Grill, West Palm Beach

Will reopen at 4:30 p.m. Friday for dinner.

City Cellar at CityPlace, West Palm Beach

Is reopening Friday for regular hours.

ER Bradley’s Saloon, West Palm Beach

Is open for business.

Bistro Ten Zero One at Marriott, West Palm Beach

Is open for business.

Table 26, West Palm Beach

Will reopen at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Cholo Soy Cocina, West Palm Beach

Will reopen Saturday at 5 p.m.

Rocco’s Tacos, all locations

They’re reopening at lunchtime.

Grease Burger, West Palm Beach.

Is reopening Friday for regular hours.

Marcello’s La Sirena, West Palm Beach

Will reopen Friday for dinner. Reservations at 561-585-3128.

Cafe Centro in Northwood, West Palm Beach

Cafe Centro is open for lunch, dinner and deliveries. They will have music tonight, featuring Ray Chang.

Eau Palm Beach Resort restaurants, Manalapan

All resort restaurants reopen at noon Saturday, except for Angle, which reopens at 6 p.m. Oct. 13.

Appicella Pizza, Palm Springs

It’s open and making deliveries.

Lupita’s Tex-Mex, Lake Worth

Is open for business.

Cucina Dell’Arte, Palm Beach

Is open for business.

The Regional Kitchen & Public House, West Palm Beach

Will be open for dinner tonight.

Aioli, West Palm Beach

Is open for business.

PB Catch, Palm Beach

Is open for dinner tonight.

Paneterie, West Palm Beach

Is open for business.

Pistache, West Palm Beach

Is open for business.

Nick & Johnnie’s, Palm Beach

Is open for business.

Habit Burger, Royal Palm Beach and Delray Beach

Is open for business.

Kabuki Sushi Thai Tapas, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens

Reopens for dinner at 4 p.m. Friday

Buccan, Palm Beach

Reopens for dinner Friday night.

Imoto, Palm Beach

Buccan’s “little sister” next door reopens for dinner Friday night.

Grato, West Palm Beach

Reopens for dinner Friday night.

Dorrian’s Red Hand Pub, West Palm Beach

Is open for business.

Bud’s Chicken & Seafood, all locations

They are all open for business.

Kitchen, West Palm Beach

Reopens for dinner Friday night.

100616 PBDN Meghan McCarthy Royal Palm Way is nearly deserted as Hurricane Matthew approaches Thursday October 6, 2016.
Royal Palm Way, Palm Beach, as seen before Hurricane Matthew’s expected approach. (Meghan McCarthy/ The Palm Beach Post)

NORTH

Calaveras Cantina, Jupiter

The waterfront Mexican restaurant at Harbourside Place reopens for dinner and drinks at 5 p.m. Friday.

McCarthy’s Pub, Tequesta

Will reopen Friday for dinner.

Rocco’s Tacos, all locations

They’re reopening at lunchtime.

Cod & Capers Seafood Market and Cafe, North Palm Beach

Will reopen Saturday for its regular hours.

Ocean Bleu, Tequesta

Will reopen at 5 p.m. Friday for dinner.

Carmine’s Crab Shack, Palm Beach Gardens

Reopens at 4 p.m. Friday for dinner.

Evo Italian in Tequesta

Reopens Friday for dinner at 4:30 p.m., with Happy Hour served until 7 p.m.

The Cooper, Palm Beach Gardens

Reopens Friday for dinner at 5 p.m.

Kabuki Sushi Thai Tapas, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens

Reopens for dinner at 4 p.m. Friday.

Bud’s Chicken & Seafood, all locations

They are all open for business.

Salute Market, Palm Beach Gardens

Is open for business with a special “Hurricane Matthew” after party Friday

Guanabanas, Jupiter

Reopens for dinner Friday.

NOTE:

Restaurant owners and representatives: Is your restaurant operating on special hours due to Matthew? Let me know at lbalmaseda@pbpost.com.

Hurricane Matthew party: Coniglio restaurants to stay open during storm

Not everyone in Palm Beach County is a freaked-out mess about this hurricane. The folks at E.R. Bradley’s Saloon plan to party right through the storm. In fact, they’re calling the place “The Official Hurricane Landfall Headquarters.”

They’re taking Hurricane Matthew’s approach as a reason to flip into full, old-Florida-watering-hole mode.

The infamous no dancing sign next to the bar at E.R. Bradley's in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Sign at the bar at E.R. Bradley’s in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

“This is how we’ve always done it. We stay open and service the downtown area. We become a hub to commiserate and celebrate and just gather,” says Nick Coniglio, whose family owns Bradley’s.

The popular pub perched on the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront has no generator to kick in during a power outage. But Coniglio is not worried.

“We’ve got lots of bagged ice and gas burners and we’re ready to go. And we have staff members who plan to tough it out during the storm,” he said, adding that he will have a police officer on premises as well. He says the restaurant and bar will offer a special $5 hurricane menu.

E.R. Bradley's faces the waterfront in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
E.R. Bradley’s faces the waterfront in West Palm Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Coniglio’s other restaurant, Cucina Dell’Arte in Palm Beach, will be opened during the storm as well, he says. The windows there are boarded up, but the door will be open for customers who want a nice Italian meal and a cocktail.

 

One of the first short-lived menus from E.R. Bradley's in West Palm Beach on December 11, 2014.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The restaurants will also be preparing food for delivery by Cravy. (Meals can be ordered at GoCravy.com.)

“These situations bring back that local spirit. We can have a cocktail among friends, or just stop in if we need ice or something to eat,” says Coniglio.

He plans to visit both restaurants during Thursday, when the hurricane is expected to impact Palm Beach County.

“The last time I did this, it was a real eerie feeling. It’s isolated out and the winds are coming through – and a couple of people think you’re really nuts for being out,” he says. “But it was kind of a proud Floridian moment, too. This is where we live and what happens here.”

E.R. Bradley’s Saloon: 104 S. Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-833-3520

 

 

 

SEASON PREVIEW: Five local food and drink highlights to enjoy

As season approaches, hungry minds wonder what’s on the horizon for the local food-and-drink scene. Glad you asked.

Here’s what we’re hoping to enjoy this season.

The Regional's fresh-baked Parker House Rolls are served with seasoned butter. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
The Regional’s fresh-baked Parker House Rolls. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

WEST PALM’S BUZZY NEW SPOTS

From The Regional Kitchen to Cholo Soy Cocina, West Palm Beach is shaping up as the county’s foodiest city.

Cholo in chief: Chef Clay Carnes. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)
Cholo in chief: Clay Carnes. (Credit: Alissa Dragun)

Drop into The Regional for some of Chef Lindsay Autry’s Southern-meets-World cooking and you’ll witness a chef rising into her prime. The space may be cavernous, but it still feels cozy, thanks to seating layout and attention to décor detail.

At the other end of the size spectrum, there’s tiny Cholo Soy, an Andean street food-inspired spot where Chef Clay Carnes offers a variety of smoked and roasted meats and hand-made tortillas.

The Regional Kitchen + Public House: 651 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach; 561-557-6460; EatRegional.com

Cholo Soy Cocina: 3715 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; @cholosoycocina on Instagram; www.cholosoycocina.com.

GREEN MARKET MARVELS

Hello, pup: The West Palm Beach GreenMarket loves the pooches. (Greg Lovett/ The Palm Beach Post)
Hello, pup: The West Palm Beach GreenMarket loves the pooches. (Greg Lovett/ The Palm Beach Post)

Forget summer. The sunniest, most delicious time of the year in Palm Beach County is the fall and winter harvest season. Just drop into any of the county’s top green markets and you’ll find a bounty of locally grown produce, freshly harvested ingredients, prepared foods and other items. We love the West Palm Beach GreenMarket (Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) not only for its great variety, but also because it’s super pooch-friendly. But chances are that no matter where you live, there’s a good green market not too far away.

Check out our full green market guide for one near you.

PALM BEACH FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL

The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival runs from Dec. 8-11. (LILA PHOTO)
The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival runs from Dec. 8-11. (Credit: LILA PHOTO)

This festival is a little gem. Each year, it brings a constellation of food stars — and their cooking — to Palm Beach and environs. And unlike far bigger national food fests, this is one in which festival-goers get plenty of opportunity to interact with some of the nation’s top chefs. The four-day fest celebrates its 10th year this December. Tickets are on sale at pbfoodwinefest.com.

FARM-CHIC EVENTS

Swank Farm will host nine farm feasts this season. (Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post)
Swank Farm will host nine farm feasts this season. (Allen Eyestone/ The Palm Beach Post)

The now cliché “farm to table” tag takes on wider dimensions in this agriculture-heavy area. The county, which produces the most sweet corn, sugar cane and bell peppers in the country, boasts some $1.41 billion in total agriculture sales, according to Palm Beach County data. And what better place to soak up the flavors of a local harvest than on a boutique veggie farm?

Swank Farm in Loxahatchee Groves offers a series of harvest feasts throughout the growing season. These barn-chic affairs feature top chefs, locally brewed beer, sommelier-poured wine and live music. See this year’s schedule at SwankSpecialtyProduce.com.

Speaking of farm events, the Jupiter-based OBEO Society is hosting a “Boots, Brews and BBQ” event featuring a lineup of acclaimed local chefs and local beers at Jupiter Farms’ Lucky Old Sun Ranch. The cookout happens Sat., Nov. 12 from 3 to 11 p.m. For more information, visit ObeoSociety.com.

WHAT’S NEW IN BREW

David Bick of Sons and Daughters Farm and Winery pours a glass of Ginger Kombucha. His family opened their business to the public in April, making available their organic crops, wine and beverages. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)
David Bick of Sons and Daughters pours Ginger Kombucha. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)

The local brewery scene continues to expand, from Boca Raton to Tequesta, and the expansion involves more than beer. Accomplice Brewery in West Palm Beach is making some popular ciders. Sons and Daughters Farm & Winery is making fruit and flower-based wines and kombucha. The family-owned farm opened to the public for tastings in April.

And, yes, there’s beer. You’ll find the full run of local breweries.