Devouring December: top food events this month

The barrage of this month’s food and drink events has given us whiplash. So many tastings, wine dinners, chef multicourse events. So much to eat and drink. And that’s not including the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, which kicks off Thursday night.

December, won’t you stay a little longer?

James Beard Award winning chef Mark Militello. (Photo: The Buzz Agency)
James Beard Award winning chef Mark Militello. (Photo: The Buzz Agency)

Tradition, an Italian Wine Dinner

Thursday, Dec. 8, at 6 p.m.

James Beard Award-winning chef Mark Militello, who played a pivotal role in South Florida’s culinary rise, cooks a four-course, wine-pairing dinner at Josie’s Ristorante in Boynton Beach. A consulting chef at the restaurant, Militello will be joined in the kitchen by Josie’s chef Sebastiano Setticasi. On the menu: passed hors d’oeuvres, Maine lobster salad, goats milk ravioli, spice rubbed roasted beef tenderloin and buttermilk panna cotta, all paired with wines from family estate vineyards in Italy.

Cost: $85 per person, plus tax and tip. To reserve, call 561-364-9601

Josie’s Ristorante: 1602 S. Federal Hwy, Boynton Beach

Truffled lobster mac and cheese at Maison Carlos. (Palm Beach Post file)
Truffled lobster mac and cheese at Maison Carlos. (Palm Beach Post file)

Maison Carlos’ 15th anniversary

Thursday, Dec. 15 through Dec. 30

A neighborhood favorite on South Dixie Highway, Maison Carlos celebrates its 15th year by offering 15 days of savings. Dine at the restaurant from Dec. 15 through Dec. 30 and receive 15 percent off your entire dinner check. Owners Carlos and Lanie Farias say it’s their way of saying thanks.

“We could not have done this without the loyal support of our clients and friends. We are a family-owned, Mom-and-Pop… We take pride in daily shopping for the freshest ingredients. We love our customers and want to make sure everyone has an optimal experience,” the couple said in an email.

Reservations are strongly suggested.

Maison Carlos: 3010 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-659-6524

Manor's executive chef, Miguel Santiago, at the grill. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Manor’s executive chef, Miguel Santiago, at the grill. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

Five-course wine dinner at Hilton West Palm Beach

Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Chef Matthew Byrne is not only the hotshot chef at Kitchen, the popular restaurant on Belvedere Road and South Dixie Highway – he’s also consulting chef at the Hilton West Palm Beach. In that capacity, he’ll team up with the hotel’s chef Miguel Santiago in creating a five-course, wine-pairing dinner that features master sommelier Gordon Sullivan. The dinner takes place at Manor, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant.

Cost: $150 per person, plus tax and tip. Reserve a spot at HiltonWestPalmBeach.EventBrite.com or by calling 561-249-2281.

Hilton West Palm Beach: 600 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

Puerto Rican treat: coconut tembleque (panna cotta) by Chef Christian Quinones. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Puerto Rican treat: coconut tembleque (panna cotta) by Chef Christian Quinones. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Puerto Rican garden party at Bistro Ten Zero One

Sunday, Dec. 18, from 5 to 7 p.m.

What a treat it is when Bistro chef Christian Quiñones cooks the dishes of his native Puerto Rico. He’s doing just that on Dec. 18 when Bistro Ten Zero One hosts what has become an annual holiday feast, Boricua-style. On the menu: guinenito (banana) salad with onion escovitch, sancocho stew, orange adobo roasted suckling pig, arroz con gandules (pigeon peas and rice), coconut tembleque and many other dishes.

Cost: $35 per person, plus tax and tip. To reserve a spot, visit the event site or call 561-833-1234 or 305-929-3463.

Bistro Ten Zero One: at the Marriott, 1001 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

Rural meets big city: Swank Farm hosts a series of feasts each harvest season. (Palm Beach Post file) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The table set for lunch prepared by chef Daniel Boulud during a visit to Swank Farm on Monday, October 20, 2014 in Loxahatchee. Swank Farm provides fresh produce to Boulud's restaurants Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach and DB Moderne in Miami. (Madeline Gray / The Palm Beach Post)
Rural meets big city: Swank Farm hosts a series of feasts each harvest season. (Palm Beach Post file)

‘Swank Table’ kicks off

Sunday, Dec. 18, at 4 p.m.

The popular Swank Farm supper series kicks off on Dec. 18 with a multicourse feast titled “Big flavors, Open Skies: A Night with Seminole Hard Rock and Coconut Creek.”

Cooking at the Loxahatchee Groves boutique farm that day are Alex Q. Becker, executive chef at Kuro Japanese restaurant at Hard Rock Hollywood and the restaurant’s pastry chef, Ross Evans. Joining them are chefs from Council Oaks Steaks & Seafood and Coconut Creek’s NYY Steak.

Farmers Darrin and Jodi Swank will host nine “Swank Table” dinners during the 2016-2017 harvest season. To reserve a spot, visit SwankSpecialtyProduce.com.

Cost: $160, which partially benefits a youth charity, FLIPANY.

Swank Farm: 14311 North Road, Loxahatchee Groves

 

 

As the dough rises, so does business at Aioli

The sourdough can be a diva. Sometimes she cooperates, but there are times she refuses to give in to the coaxing.

Chef Michael Hackman of Aioli sandwich shop in West Palm Beach knows them well, the whims of sourdough.

Aioli's basic bread ingredients: 'Water, flour and salt.' Plus patience. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Aioli’s basic bread: ‘Water, flour and salt.’ Plus patience. (LibbyVision.com)

“It’s a lot of work. It’s very temperamental. You mess up one thing and it’s ruined,” says Hackman, who owns the daylight café with wife/partner Melanie.

Aioli's chef/co-owner Michael Hackman. (LibbyVision.com)
Aioli’s chef/co-owner Michael Hackman. (LibbyVision.com)

He bakes bread daily for the shop’s sandwiches as well as for retail sale. He bakes semolina bread and seven-grain loaves. Within the bread-baking rotation, he makes two types of sourdough bread, a plain loaf and an olive-studded one. But they can be tricky.

Chef Michael Hackman kneads sourdough for bread. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Chef Michael Hackman kneads sourdough for bread. (LibbyVision.com)

Part of the reason for the challenge is that Hackman uses no shortcuts.

“I started making sourdough from scratch. We don’t use commercial yeast. We make the ‘mother,’ the culture. We’re making the yeast and watching it grow,” he says. “There was a moment when I literally fell in love with it.”

The handmade loaves sell for $6, $9 and $12.

Preparing bread molds: Hackman at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)
Preparing bread molds: Hackman at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)

Hackman’s love of baking – and his customers’ demand for his breads – sparked expansion plans at Aioli. The couple recently began construction on a separate baking facility that will operate adjacently to the café.

“We will be doing all the bread production there, plus a little wholesale,” says Hackman.

Time for a nap: rising dough at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)
Time for a nap: rising dough at Aioli. (LibbyVision.com)

Also in the works, an Aioli location in downtown West Palm Beach.

“We’re still in the beginning stages,” Hackman says of that spot.

Michael Hackman's olive-studded sourdough beauty. (LibbyVision.com)
Michael Hackman’s olive-studded sourdough beauty. (LibbyVision.com)

Although the business is set to grow, he says it will not change Aioli’s mission to create fresh food using seasonal and many times local ingredients:

“We love to make stuff from scratch here.”

Aioli: 7434 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-366-7741

 

BEST GUIDE: What’s hot on West Palm’s Dixie Dining Corridor?

Move over, Clematis Street. The hottest new thoroughfare near downtown West Palm Beach is South Dixie Highway, from Flamingo Park to just past Antique Row.

This is where a string of chef-driven, indie restaurants have opened in the past three years, adding eclectic notes to the street. They join a few of the city’s iconic restaurants in what is now dubbed the Dixie Dining Corridor.

Here’s a north-to-south guide of The Corridor:

Table 26 is named after the latitude of Palm Beach. (Contributed by Table 26)
Table 26 is named after the latitude of Palm Beach. (Contributed by Table 26)

TABLE 26

1700 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-855-2660

If you wonder why this sophisticated spot has drawn so many regulars to its doors, the answer is simple: They serve simple, delicious food, and they treat you like family.

The power duo behind Table 26, Eddie Schmidt and Ozzie Medeiros, were pioneers of sorts on The Corridor. They opened the nautically themed place in the summer of 2012 and the valet attendants have been busy ever since.

Best reason to go: The place is lovely. It makes any night feel like a special night on the town.

Coming next year:

Patina – The husband-wife duo behind Kitchen plan an upscale spot serving Greek and Israeli dishes. Expected to open in fall 2017 at 1817 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach

Paccheri with herb ricotta, Parmesan and "Sunday gravy" with braised pork shoulder, short rib and Italian sausage. (LibbyVision.com)
Grato’s paccheri with ‘Sunday Gravy’ and herb ricotta. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)

GRATO

1901 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-404-1334

This local trattoria has earned a following by offering outstanding brick-oven pizza, house-smoked meats and homemade pasta in an accessible setting with just the right amount of vibe. Success is not an alien concept to the powerhouse team behind Grato: Chef Clay Conley and his Buccan Palm Beach partners. In August, Conley brought in a new executive chef, a rising star named Jimmy Strine, former executive sous chef at Café Boulud Palm Beach. Strine has notched up Grato’s smoked-meat game and introduced some exquisite seasonal dishes that showcase his balance of refined and rustic.

Best reason to go: There’s handmade pasta for lunch; a late afternoon drink at the bar can easily segue to dinner; Sunday brunch is sublime.

Lodge-y vibe: Jereve at EmKo. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)
Lodge-y vibe: Jereve at EmKo. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)

JEREVE at EmKo

2119 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-227-3511

There’s a restaurant in this hulking structure that presents itself as an artist hub. Restaurant is not the word used here – they call it “culinary studio.” They do serve lunch, dinner and cocktails.

Best reason to go: There’s half-priced wine (by the glass) during social hour, which goes from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Chef Matthew Byrne's fave: Kitchen's chicken schnitzel. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Chef Matthew Byrne’s fave: Kitchen’s chicken schnitzel. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)

KITCHEN

319 Belvedere Rd. (at S. Dixie Hwy), West Palm Beach; 561-249-2281

Chef Matthew Byrne once served as personal chef to golf superstar Tiger Woods. At Kitchen, the restaurant he opened with wife Aliza Byrne in the fall of 2013, he serves as personal chef to a loyal crowd that includes many a visiting celeb. This is how the couple like to describe their intimate and gradually expanding restaurant: It’s like a dinner party.

Best reason to go: Chef Matthew’s simply prepared yet sumptuous dishes.

Not so new, but noteworthy:

  • City Diner – A retro diner that’s always hopping, at 3400 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-659-6776
Mexican street corn at Cholo Soy. (Photo: Alex Celis)
Mexican street corn is on the menu at the new Cholo Soy. (Photo: Alex Celis)

CHOLO SOY COCINA

3715 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-619-7018

Chef Clay Carnes ventured east from a spacious Wellington restaurant to open a tiny, neo-Andean spot. He makes his own tortillas and fresh ceviche, and roasts and smokes his own meats. There’s not much seating, but there is a sweet patio out back.

Best reason to go: Those tortillas, they’re made of organic corn grown in Alachua County.

Not so new, but noteworthy:

  • Belle & Maxwell’s – Quaint café that’s popular at lunch, at 3700 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-832-4449
  • Rhythm Café – Neighborhood favorite, serves eclectic mix of bites and main plates, at 3800 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-833-3406
  • Dixie Grill & Bar – Offers large selection of excellent craft beers and pub fare, at 5101 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-586-3189
  • Howley’s – A diner that burns the wee-hour oil (so to speak), serving comfort grub, at 4700 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-833-5691
Buffet at El Unico: Consider it a Latin 'meat + 3.' (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
El Unico’s Buffet: It’s a Latin ‘meat + 3.’ (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

EL UNICO

6108 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-619-2962

She’s Cuban-American; he’s Dominican. Together, husband-wife duo Monica and Enmanuel Nolasco have created a cozy spot for authentic island cooking and weekend get-downs.

Best reason to go: The lunch buffet is unbeatable. Friday night music and dancing kicks off the weekend with hot rhythms. 

Not so new, but noteworthy:

  • Marcello’s La Sirena – World-class Italian cuisine, a wine lover’s destination restaurant and multiple winner of Wine Spectator’s coveted Grand Award, at 6316 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-585-3128
  • Havana – This authentic Cuban restaurant just got an exterior makeover, at 6801 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-547-9799
  • Don Ramon Restaurante Cubano – Cuban classics served with a smile, at 7101 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-547-8704
Chef Michael Hackman kneads sourdough for bread. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)
Chef Michael Hackman kneads sourdough for bread. (Photo: LibbyVision.com)

AIOLI

7434 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-366-7741

This daylight spot is no ordinary sandwich shop. Chef Michael Hackman and his wife/partner Melanie approach their menu with fresh, seasonal ingredients and a lot of soul. “We love to make stuff from scratch here,” says Chef Michael, who bakes the shop’s breads daily. He uses the fresh loaves – sourdough, seven grain, semolina, and more – in Aioli’s sandwiches. The shop also sells the loaves retail.

Best reason to go: After your scrumptious lunch, you can take one of Chef Michael’s prepared dinners to go. Multitasking!

Openings: Hey, Boca, there’s a new cheesecake in town

Buckle up, Boca. There’s a new cheesecake in town – and we’re not talking about Junior’s.

Amazing as it is, Junior’s fluffy, cake-crust, New York cheesecake will meet its match Tuesday, Dec. 6. That’s when Rappy’s Deli opens at Boca Raton’s new Park Place plaza.

Rappy's vintage New York cheesecake has Swedish roots. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)
Rappy’s New York cheesecake has Swedish roots. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)

We had a taste of the dessert at a recent preview lunch. Restaurateur Burt Rapoport, who created the Rappy’s concept as a tribute to his late grandfather’s New York Jewish deli, offered the cheesecake without much commentary at the end of a multi-dish lunch.

The cheesecake recipe was brought to Rapoport’s, his grandfather’s lower east Manhattan deli, by a Swedish pastry chef. It was the first cheesecake served in New York, says Rapoport, who grew up in an apartment above that long-closed deli.

The cheesecake: a fluffy, cream-cheese intense filling atop a thin cake crust. It’s divine stuff.

Rapoport is not making a big deal of it. “When something’s good, people will find it,” he says.

Brined, smoked + steamed: Rappy's pastrami. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)
Brined, smoked + steamed: Rappy’s pastrami. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)

The rest of the menu is just as rooted in the New York deli concept, but presented with a modern spin.  A Reuben is turned into a spring roll for Rappy’s Pastrami Spring Roll appetizer, which is stuffed with caraway-scented braised cabbage, Gruyere and Thousand Island dressing. Don’t fret, traditionalists, there’s a classic Reuben as well.

As delicious as the cheesecake: Rappy’s classic pastrami, to be made in-house. The meat is brined, smoked over a mix of hardwood, then steamed. The result is layer upon layer of flavor, a stack of pastrami that needs only a couple slices of rye bread and a smear of coarse-grain mustard. There are healthy offerings: chicken soup, health slaw, veggies.

Even the health slaw at Rappy's is sinful. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)
Even the health slaw at Rappy’s is sinful. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)

The menu is extensive, with offerings for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner: caviar, shareable “noshes,” soups, entrée salads, large plates, blintzes and latkes, a mountain of hot/cold sandwich options,  dogs and wursts (hello, pastrami-wrapped dog!), burgers and melts, Reubens and Rachels, “Bubby’s chicken in a pot,” shakes and desserts, plus a full bar.

Well dressed dog: Rappy's pastrami-wrapped frank. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)
Well dressed dog: Rappy’s pastrami-wrapped frank. (Photo: Emiliano Brooks)

Rappy’s will first open for lunch and dinner next Tuesday. Brunch begins on Saturday, Dec. 10. Breakfast will be served starting Monday, Dec. 12.

Rappy’s: Opens Tuesday, Dec. 6 at Park Place plaza, 5560 N. Military Tr., Boca Raton; RappysDeli.com

 

 

 

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.

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!

Feast on five of our favorite juicy local sandwiches

Today we talk about the infinite possibility of fillings than can be stacked between two slices of bread, tucked into a bun, celebrated for its majesty. Today is the day for exploring the contrast of flavors and textures, and the way the fillings in a Vietnamese banh mi teach a baguette how to be spicy, crunchy and rich all at once. Today is for marveling at how a Cuban sandwich made miles away, in Tampa, could possess a certain smoky-spicy layer, thanks to Genoa salami.

We present five of our favorite local and more unique sammies:

The Jibarito

Behold the Jibarito. And, yes, those are tostones in place of bread. (Photo: Samantha Ragland)
Behold the Jibarito. And, yes, those are tostones in place of bread. (Photo: Samantha Ragland)

This is where paleo meets Puerto Rico: a sandwich that swaps out the bread and swaps in two enormous, smashed and crispy-fried green plantains. Tucked between those tostones is a choice of steak or chicken, crisp lettuce, tomato and mayo. It’s a regal idea rooted in peasant life. The name of the sandwich is derived from the word jíbaro, which in Puerto Rico means humble dweller of the countryside. It costs $8.95 and it’s served at Don Café restaurant, 136 N. Military Tr., West Palm Beach; 561-684-0074.

The Gordo Burger

A gordo burger prepared at La Perrada del Gordo. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
A gordo burger prepared at La Perrada del Gordo. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

This Colombian-style colossus is more super-sandwich than burger. It starts with a beef or chicken patty, then layers on the sauces: garlic sauce, pink sauce, pineapple sauce and a Colombian fast-food classic called “showy” sauce, plus ketchup and mustard. Stack some tomato slices, bacon, cheese and a crush of potato chips and you’ve got the Gordo.  It costs $6.75 and it’s offered at La Perrada del Gordo, 2650 S. Military Tr., West Palm Beach; 561-968-6978.

The Chimichurri

El Unico's juicy version of the Dominican "Chimi." (Photo: El Unico)
El Unico’s juicy version of the Dominican “Chimi.” (Photo: El Unico)

Not to be confused with the garlicky Argentinian or Uruguayan sauce. This sandwich hails from the Caribbean. You can call it a Dominican beef sandwich, but that doesn’t begin to do it justice. It starts with toasty bread, then it’s stuffed with either thin-sliced beef or a hand-patted beef patty, sautéed onions and cabbage slaw. The “Chimi” is dressed with a proprietary, mayo-based sauce and sold for $7.95 at El Unico restaurant, 6108 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-619-2962.

The Hullabaloo BLT

All hail Hullabaloo's BLT sandwich. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)
All hail Hullabaloo’s BLT sandwich. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)

This is not your boring, room-service BLT. Chef Fritz Cassel has created a shrine to the BLT concept: It starts with challah bread, then stacks on some thick, house-smoked pork belly, heirloom tomato and arugula and adds a smear of red pepper aioli. It’s served at lunchtime for $11 at Hullabaloo, 517 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-833-1033.

TocToc’s Pork Arepa Sandwich

TocToc's pork-stuffed arepa sandwich. (Contributed by TocToc)
TocToc’s pork-stuffed arepa sandwich. (Contributed by TocToc)

Here’s a guilty pleasure worth diving into at the Saturday West Palm Beach GreenMarket: a Venezuelan/Colombian corncake (arepa) stuffed with shredded pork and a big, juicy tomato slice. You can find this sandwich at the TocToc Arepas booth. Yes, it’s a simple pleasure, but it’s one that resonates with flavor contrasts – the sweet arepa, the rich pork, the fresh tomato. It’s sold by TocToc for $7.50 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the GreenMarket on the downtown West Palm Beach waterfront (eastern end of Clematis Street).

 

First look: New restaurant Newk’s Eatery hits the spot

Each time I passed the prime, long-vacant space at Legacy Place, I would remember a horrible cup of coffee. It was served a decade ago at a café long gone from there. And it was served with a bad attitude.

What a waste of space, I’d think each time I passed the spot. Here’s a lovely, fountain-side space in a busy plaza in Palm Beach Gardens, and it’s empty.

Thanks to Newk’s Eatery, which moved in earlier this month, the space is empty no more. More importantly, it’s well occupied.

Legacy Place: Newk's first southeast Florida location. (Contributed by Newk's)
Legacy Place: Newk’s first SE Florida location. (Contributed by Newk’s)

Newk’s is no fancy joint. It’s a fast-casual chain restaurant, the first of 10 planned locations for southeast Florida. It was brought to the shopping and dining plaza by the local family behind eight Five Guys locations in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

The place offers hearty, generously portioned soups, toasted sandwiches, interesting salads and personal-size pizzas. Just as importantly, it offers excellent service.

Toasty edges: Newk's pepperoni pizza. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Newk’s pepperoni pizza. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

I dropped in for a quick, late lunch recently and enjoyed a bowl of Newk’s Loaded Potato soup (large, 16-ounce, $6.99), a special served on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I was not disappointed: creamy, lots of flavor, smoky bacon hints, filling. The soups, which are rotated daily in selection, are offered in 8-ounce, 16-ounce, and 32-ounce servings. The 16-ounce proved to be entrée sized.

I found the perfect soup accompaniment on Newk’s large round condiment table: thin, Italian-style breadsticks.

Hits the spot: a large (16-ounce) potato soup. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Hits the spot: a large potato soup. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

Days later, we returned to sample other items. Newk’s Club ($8.19), a pretty straightforward rendition of the classic, was stacked with smoked ham, (nitrate-free) turkey, Swiss cheese, thick-cut bacon, romaine and sliced tomato on Newk’s lightly toasted “French Parisian” baguette. As a side, we chose a pimento and bacon mac-and-cheese ($3.79 as a side) – it was tasty, though a touch oily.

Newk's club sandwich is served on a toasted baguette. (Contributed by Newk's)
The club sandwich is served on a toasted baguette. (Contributed by Newk’s)

A half-order of Caesar salad ($4.49) was quite delicious, a toss of fresh romaine with plenty of garlicky dressing, shredded Parmesan and buttered croutons.

We also tried Newk’s pepperoni pizza ($8.19), a 10-inch pie topped with pepperoni, thinly sliced Roma tomatoes, shredded mozzarella and provolone cheeses and fresh basil. The toppings proved quite delicious, but the crust didn’t hold up. While crispy around the edges, the crust sagged in the pie’s middle, forcing us to use a fork and knife.

Well dressed: half Caesar salad at Newk's. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)
Well dressed: Newk’s half Caesar. (Liz Balmaseda/ The Palm Beach Post)

For the sipping, there are plenty of fountain drinks and a small selection of beers, which include Der Chancellor, locally brewed by Tequesta Brewing Company. (Wine is not offered.)

Newk’s is an ideal stop for a filling lunch or casual, fuss free dinner. No item is priced higher than $13. (There’s a kids’ menu priced between $3.75 and $5.50.)

And, yes, there’s coffee. But this one is served with a smile.

Newk’s Eatery: at Legacy Place, 11345 Legacy Ave., #100, Palm Beach Gardens; 561-626-3957; Newks.com

Hours: Open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 

 

Openings: Trump’s former chef debuts Abacoa restaurant

For days now, friends and locals have been shuffling into Aaron’s Table & Wine Bar for a sneak-peek taste of the new Abacoa restaurant by Mar-A-Lago’s food and beverage director.

Aaron Fuller’s restaurant officially opens to the public at 4 p.m. Saturday. That’s four days before the presidential election that pits Fuller’s Mar-A-Lago boss, Donald Trump, against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On the menu at Aaron's: pan-seared branzino with lemongrass-infused butter. (LibbyVision.com)
Aaron’s branzino is pan-seared and served with lemongrass-infused butter. (LibbyVision.com)

But Fuller says he prefers not to talk about whatever happens or doesn’t happen on Tuesday.

“I stay out of those conversations,” says Fuller, who served as executive chef at Trump’s Palm Beach estate and club before his present role as food-beverage chief there. “My big goal here is to do the best I can at my new restaurant.”

That’s not to say he’s secretive about his political loyalties. On his Facebook page, Fuller roots for his boss and posts items consistent with Trump’s more fervent supporters.

Still, he must stay mum on far lighter topics – like the boss’ food preferences.

“I signed a confidentiality agreement here,” he said this week on a call from Mar-A-Lago, where he has worked for seven years.

Aaron's port poached pear salad. (LibbyVision.com)
Aaron’s Table’s port poached pear salad. (LibbyVision.com)

What Fuller is eager to talk about, however, is Abacoa, the newly energized district near his home in Jupiter. This is where he chose to open Aaron’s Table and where he’s hoping to add his flair to the eclectic district.

“We live literally two blocks away, my wife and kids and I,” says Fuller, who hopes to attract a mix that includes families, date-night couples, casual groups and ladies’ night revelers.

He’s hoping the “farmhouse chic kind of feel” of Aaron’s Table will make diners feel welcome and comfortable, despite the menu’s swanky terms.  To drive home this wish, he notes that his braised lamb shanks are simmered in Civil Society IPA – that is, beer brewed directly across the street in Abacoa.

Duck confit flatbread with arugula, fontina, almonds and dried cranberries. (LibbyVision.com)
Duck confit flatbread with arugula, fontina, almonds and dried cranberries. (LibbyVision.com)

Upholding the “wine bar” part of the restaurant’s name, Fuller lists 22 wines by the glass on the menu. And Thursday nights from 6 to 7 p.m., he hosts wine tastings with passed hors d’oeuvres.

“We’re doing some fun things, without being too snobbish,” he says. Fuller says he’s pleased at the early response to the restaurant. “The feedback has been fantastic.”

Man in charge: Aaron Fuller at Aaron's Table in Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)
Man in charge: Aaron Fuller at Aaron’s Table in Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)

Although he has a chef de cuisine at Aaron’s (his Mar-A-Lago protégé Marc Cela), Fuller crafted the menu himself and took inspiration from his own wanderings. So, there’s a little Palm Beach, a little global in it.

“The menu itself, the only reasoning behind it is my experiences at different places in the world. I could call the lumpia ‘spring rolls,’ but my wife is from the Philippines and we know them as lumpia. The items like the langoustine – that’s from the Palm Beach side of me,” says Fuller of his sautéed langoustines in a sweet corn sauce.

Sautéed langoustines in a sweet corn sauce. (LibbyVision.com)
Sautéed langoustines in a sweet corn sauce. (LibbyVision.com)

Of course, inquiring minds want to know: Would his Mar-A-Lago boss order those fancy langoustines? Or would Trump request a well-done burger instead, as other past staffers have reported?

Fuller says only this: “He expects perfection. We do our best to do that for him and for everybody we serve. He’s known for quality and that’s what we try to give him.”

We asked one final question, one not covered by that confidentiality agreement:

What would Fuller serve Hillary Clinton?

“I don’t know,” he says, taking a measured Mar-A-Lago moment. “That one – you’re making me laugh with that one.”

Baked Alaska a la Aaron's Table in Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)
Swanky stuff: Baked Alaska at Aaron’s Table, Abacoa. (LibbyVision.com)

Aaron’s Table & Wine Bar: 1153 Town Center Drive, Jupiter; 561-855-2628; AaronsTable.com; hours are Tuesday through Sundays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., with happy hour offered from 4 to 7 p.m. On Wednesdays and Fridays starting Nov. 11, there will be live music.

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