Jamaican fest at PB Catch: conch souse and reggae in the house

PB Catch's summer "shack" jams to Jamaican flavors and sounds Saturday. (Courtesy: PB Catch)
PB Catch’s summer “shack” jams to Jamaican flavors and sounds Saturday. (Courtesy: PB Catch)

The spirit, sounds and flavors of Jamaica will bounce through the lounge at PB Catch Palm Beach Saturday night. That’s when The Shack, the lounge’s summer pop-up series, turns its focus to spicy bites and laid back island music.

Jamaican style conch is on the menu at PB Catch's "The Shack." (Credit: Cheryl Blackerby)
Conch is on The Shack’s menu. (Credit: Cheryl Blackerby)

On the menu at this “Jamaican Seafood Fest:” conch souse (marinated conch with citrus, chili, cilantro, $16), crispy whole yellowtail snapper (with braised callaloo and spiced sweet potato, $34), Jamaican banana fritters (with Blue Mountain coffee and crème fraiche, $10), among other a la carte items.

In the backdrop: a reggae band playing live tunes.

Each summer, the seafood-centric restaurant turns its lounge into a beach-themed “shack” that serves as a backdrop to island-y sips, bites and tunes.

PB Catch’s Jamaican Seafood Fest

When: Saturday, from 5 p.m. to midnight

Where: “The Shack” lounge at PB Catch, 251 Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-5558; PBCatch.com


New chef takes over at Grato restaurant in West Palm Beach

Buccan Group cooks: Chef/partner Clay Conley (center), with Buccan's executive chef Jeremy Shelton (left) and Grato's new executive chef Jimmy Strine. (Contributed by LibbyVision.com)
Buccan Group: Chef/partner Clay Conley (center) is shown here with Buccan’s executive chef Jeremy Shelton (left) and Grato’s new executive chef Jimmy Strine. (Contributed by LibbyVision.com)

Café Boulud’s loss is Grato’s gain. Former Boulud executive sous chef Jimmy Strine is the new executive chef of Clay Conley’s Grato, the hot trattoria that’s taking West Palm Beach’s Flamingo Park neighborhood by storm.

“We are thrilled to have Jimmy join our team,” says Conley, Grato’s chef and co-owner. “He is not only a very talented cook, but a mature leader as well. We are lucky to have him.”

Strine and Conley worked three minutes away from one another for years. Conley is also chef/partner at Grato’s big sister restaurant, Buccan, which is located a block east of Café Boulud in Palm Beach.

“I’m feeling great about being a part of the team,” says Strine. “Clay has always been a staple in the community and I am most excited about making this the best restaurant in the county.”

A respected chef who competed against top local chefs to win last year’s Chef vs. Chef summer throwdown series in Delray Beach, Strine has also competed in Cochon 555, the national, invitation-only, snout-to-tail pork competition.

Before coming to work at Café Boulud, Strine was chef at his own restaurant, Mick’s New American Bistro in Frederick, Md.

Strine comes to Grato from a strong, creative kitchen. Most recently at Boulud, Strine worked under the direction of executive chef Rick Mace, who takes a storyteller’s approach to food. Mace’s sense of adventure earned him “Best Chef” status in The Post’s 2015 Critic’s Choice Awards.

Strine joins Grato just days after the restaurant launched daily lunch service.

Click to peek Food on Facebook!
Click to peek Food on Facebook!

Which two local bartenders will vie for ‘best mixologist’ title?

This year the Taste of the Nation bash features "The Shake Up," a bartender battle. (Cox Newspapers photo)
The Taste of the Nation bash features “The Shake Up,” a bartender battle. (Cox Newspapers photo)

A month-long battle of the cocktail shakers is coming to a frothy finish this week when two local bartenders compete for “top mixologist” bragging rights during the popular Taste of the Nation foodie event.

The face-off, which happens Thursday night at the Kravis Center, wraps up a fundraising contest by 10 local bars and eateries to benefit the national No Kid Hungry campaign. The participating establishments crafted specialty drinks to raise money for the effort that aims to eradicate childhood hunger in America.

So the final two contenders are those whose creative drinks raised most funds.

They are: Jonathan Silva of Avocado Grill in downtown West Palm Beach and Matt Swig of Max’s Harvest in downtown Delray Beach.

The cocktail contest, dubbed “The Shake Up,” is in its first year at the annual Taste of the Nation food-and-drink bash, which features 45 of the top restaurants and chefs in the county, four local craft beer breweries, two cocktail stations, one local coffee roaster and 12 wine-pouring tables.

TOTNticketIt’s an effort local chefs have been eager to support because 100 percent of funds raised go to the cause. Last year, the local effort raised enough to help provide meals to more than 760,000 children in need, organizers say.

The Shake Up’s throwdown will take place on the main stage of the Kravis’ Cohen Pavilion as “mystery ingredient” baskets are revealed to the two bartender-contenders, who are allowed to bring one secret ingredient of their own into the contest. They will have five minutes to whip up two cocktails for the event judges. (Disclosure: I will be serving as one of those judges. Let’s hope the secret ingredients don’t include anchovies.)

Who will win? Follow hashtag #ShakeUp4NKH on Twitter and Instagram to find out.


Palm Beach’s Taste of the Nation

When: Thursday, 7 to 10 p.m. (VIP access at 6 p.m.)

Where: Kravis Center’s Cohen Pavilion, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

Tickets: General admission tickets cost $125, VIP $200 at TasteOfTheNation.org/palmbeach


Which Palm Beach County city is one of ’15 Best’ food cities in the country?

Buzzy Buccan: Palm Beach's hottest bistro, shown here in full effect, is where Chef Clay Conley creates inspired small plates and raw seafood specialties, while elevating dinner classics. (LILA PHOTO) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Buzzy Buccan: Chef Clay Conley's festival dinner at Buccan bistro, shown here during the 2013 Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, is always a hot ticket. (Contributed by LILA Photo)
Buccan in full effect: inspired small plates, crudos and plenty of buzz factor. (LILA PHOTO)

Conde Nast Traveler just unveiled its readers’ choice list of the “15 Best Food Cities in the U.S.,” and guess what?

Palm Beach skates in as No. 15.

To which Buccan bistro fans everywhere say with an eye roll: “Obviously.”

Panache on PGA: The Cooper's dining room. (LibbyVision.com)
Panache on PGA: The Cooper’s dining room. (LibbyVision.com)

By “Palm Beach,” the magazine means the county at large. One of the three restaurants named in the “15 Best” blurb is The Cooper, which is located at the PGA Commons in Palm Beach Gardens.

Also mentioned was Bistro Chez Jean Pierre (Palm Beach), hailed by Traveler for its “impeccable classics” and extensive wine collection.

Warm baguettes at Chez Jean-Pierre, Palm Beach. (Meghan McCarthy/ Palm Beach Daily News)
Warm baguettes at Chez Jean-Pierre, Palm Beach. (Meghan McCarthy/ Palm Beach Daily News)

And, yes, there’s Buccan, the buzzy bistro where Chef Clay Conley and his partners transformed the dining scene in Palm Beach five years ago.

One other Florida city makes the Traveler list: Sarasota, where the farm-inspired eatery Indigenous and the sidewalk café C’est La Vie are mentioned.

Those dining aficionados stung by the recent James Beard Awards snub of Florida chefs on its list of finalists might find a measure of solace in Traveler’s tidy readers’ choice lineup. It excludes Miami, Tampa, Winter Park and other culinary hot spots.

But it loves Palm Beach.


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Palm Beach makeover: The Colony Hotel updates restaurant, menu, look

New, punchy look: Polo at The Colony Hotel. (Contributed)
New, punchy look: Polo at The Colony Hotel. (Contributed)

The Colony Hotel gave its iconic, centerpiece restaurant a complete makeover, from interiors to menu to its very name.

The freshly unveiled Polo at The Colony Hotel debuts a menu that takes flavor and inspiration from the hotel’s large herb garden, where tarragon, basil, chives, oregano and mint thrive.

“Having fresh ingredients is a true complement to any dish,” the hotel’s Chef de Cuisine, Stephen Darling, said in a news release. “At The Colony, we believe strongly in having sustainable, fresh, locally sourced ingredients in our culinary creations and know that it is something our guests appreciate as well.”

Cocktail pillars at Polo. (Contributed)
Cocktail pillars at Polo. (Contributed)

Those herbs now accent dishes such as Maine lobster salad, Dover sole (which is fileted tableside), Snapper filet meuniére, chicken schnitzel, horseradish and brown sugar-crusted Alaskan salmon, Chateaubriand for two and prime steaks that are dry-aged in-house for at least 28 days and delivered to diners upon a silver cart.

Formerly known as Polo Steaks & Seafood, the restaurant now serves this menu in a refreshed setting, on recently redone by interior designer Carleton Varney.

The look: Pillars that look like cocktails sweep from floor to ceiling. Mural sized polo-themed photos by Harry Benson drape the walls. Shamrock green fabric covers chair cushions at tables dressed in blue-and-white checkered tablecloths.  The restaurant’s renovation is part of a larger $15-million makeover at the hotel, where a decades-long parade of distinguished visitors have included U.S. presidents, European royalty and Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra.

That vintage spirit is ingrained in the hotel’s restaurant and its throwback days (such as Motown Fridays and Sunday Jazz Brunch with pianist Bill Mays), as well as in its Royal Room cabaret.

Polo at The Colony Hotel: 155 Hammon Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-5430; TheColonyPalmBeach.com

Minestrone for the soul: ‘Empty Bowls’ event hopes to curb local hunger

On February 14 & 15 Empty bowls will host a simple communal meal in which participants will dine on a piece of bread and soup in a beautiful handmade bowl. The event is designed to create greater awareness about hunger in Palm Beach County and to raise money for the Palm Beach County Food Bank. Participants get to keep the bowls. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
Photo: Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post

The handmade bowls are almost too pretty to fill, but they are empty to make a point about local hunger.

The folks at the Palm Beach County Food Bank will tell you one in six local residents do not know where their next meal will come from. This is why the annual Empty Bowls Palm Beach charity event has been planned for a third year.

The fundraiser, for which local potters make bowls to be filled with hearty soups made by local chefs, takes place in Palm Beach Friday, Feb. 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Episcopal Church at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, 141 S. County Rd.

Here’s how it works: You purchase a handmade bowl of your choice for $25, then peruse the fresh-made soup offerings for servings of your favorite. After you sample your choice of soups, you get to keep the bowl. All proceeds go to the Food Bank.

You can also order soup for takeout or delivery, choosing from 10 soup options (including The Colony’s mushroom-tarragon with crab, E.R. Bradley’s lobster bisque, Palm Beach Grill’s Firehouse Chili, and Testa’s minestrone). For $25, to-go orders include soup, bread, bottled water, a cookie and a ceramic bowl (optional). Takeout and delivery orders must be placed by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 3. For a takeout form, email EmptyBowlsPB@bbts.org.

Last year, the soup event raised more than $64,000 for the Food Bank, with 49 local restaurants donating soup and 1027 people buying bowls.

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda






Palm Beach panache: Peek Cafe Boulud’s sunny, new look

Relocated and resplendent: Cafe Boulud has a sleek new bar. (Photo: Noah Fecks)
Relocated and resplendent: Cafe Boulud has a sleek new bar. (Photo: Noah Fecks)

Don’t expect uber-chef Daniel Boulud to make too much of the recent revamping of his Café Boulud Palm Beach. He won’t spin it to sound hip or trendy – he has little use for such ephemeral qualities.

“We wanted to refresh the place. We wanted to open the place up, to create a more airy, light, sunny feeling,” he says on a recent day as the early afternoon sunlight picks up the sleek lines of the dining room’s new central focus: an under-lit, U-shaped bar.

Yes, this bar just might attract a younger, more hip crowd of Palm Beach diners. But that doesn’t mean Boulud is hoping to trade the island’s iconic blue blazers for hipster beards.

“We have to be consistent in what we do. We don’t try to be a trendy place. We want to be a quality place,” says Boulud.

The glowy new bar is now the dining room's focal point. (Photo: Noah Fecks)
The glowy new bar is now the dining room’s focal point. (Photo: Noah Fecks)

Those who may believe Boulud might gild the menu to match the new, glowing bar may not grasp the chef/restaurateur’s café concept.

“The food is trying to be very tasty, not very refined,” he says.

Read the full story on the iconic Palm Beach eatery here.