Dining review: Follow the buzz to Brule Bistro, Delray Beach

Brule Bistro's chef de cuisine is Jason Binder. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)
Brule Bistro’s chef de cuisine is Jason Binder. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)

Welcome to the liveliest bistro in Pineapple Grove, a spot where happy hours can easily segue into supper. Clearly it’s a place loved by locals, as they belly up to the stylish bar on weeknights, secure sidewalk tables for alfresco bites and help keep the buzz alive at Brule Bistro.

The buzz factor proved a tad noisy on my first visit to the Delray Beach eatery, which serves a good mix of inspired small plates and heartier American bistro-style fare. As the early evening hum intensified (dramatically so), my tablemates and I had to shout at one another. We loved the food, but couldn’t talk about it until we left the restaurant.

For that reason, I had stayed away from the place. But one can stay away from good grub only for so long.

Brule's braised beef short rib with creamy mascarpone polenta and sauteed spinach in a red wine reduction. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)
Brule’s braised beef short rib with creamy mascarpone polenta and sauteed spinach in a red wine reduction. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)

I returned recently for a weeknight dinner, on a slower, more quiet night. On such a night, the urban charms of the bistro reveal themselves, detail by detail – the warm welcomes, the attentiveness at the bar, the smiling locals, the interesting mingling of flavors.

Those flavors rise from fresh, seasonal ingredients, as the menu shifts and transitions. That means what you may have enjoyed on one visit may be gone the next time you visit. But what remains is Chef Jason Binder’s artful touch on the plate.

Where some pub chefs might include the obligatory flatbread on the menu, Binder offers a crispy pork cheek “pizza” ($13), a crispy, tostada-sized round crowned with slow-braised pork cheek, Asiago cheese, arugula, pickled red onions and oven-dried tomato, served upon a board with droplets of fried rosemary aioli.

Chef Binder's crispy Duroc pork belly is served with rustic sweet potato, a fried organic quail egg in a lemongrass-game reduction with pistachio crumbs. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)
Chef Binder’s crispy Duroc pork belly is served with rustic sweet potato, a fried organic quail egg in a lemongrass-game reduction with pistachio crumbs. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)

His take on the classic Caprese salad, the Fried Cheese Caprese ($14), involves slices of lightly fried mozzarella layered with marinated local tomato slices, organic greens and pesto aioli, all neatly stacked beneath a drizzle of aged balsamic.

His Day Boat Fish Tacos ($12) – recently replaced on the menu by Crispy Shrimp Tacos – are tucked in pickled cabbage slaw, cilantro and Serrano chile aioli for a bite full of flavor and textural contrasts.

On the night of my most recent visit, we enjoyed a nightly special of large, plump Crispy Coconut Shrimp ($14) served atop a ginger-pepper rice pilaf with a touch of soy glaze and chipotle aioli, plus micro cilantro for grassy punctuation.

The heftier dishes are equally delicious here. In fact, Chef Binder’s seared diver scallops ($29) dish, served with roasted local corn and young peas in an arugula fumet (reduction) cream with pasta, is a thing of beauty. But this convivial spot almost begs for the shared plates or small-plates route.

You may find, as we did, that there’s a nicely shareable cheese board on the nightly special menu. Our board ($16) boasted Belton Farm Cheddar, Dolce Gorgonzola, Drunken Goat cheese, Brule Brie and fig jam.

Before the rush: Brule Bistro's bar. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)
Before the happy hour rush: Brule Bistro’s bar. (Bill Ingram/ The Palm Beach Post)

Such a combo invites a glass of wine or beer, both of which Brule Bistro offers well curated selections. The wine list travels from Oregon’s Willamette Valley (Van Duzer pinot noir) to Argentina’s Mendoza region (Tapiz Malbec) to Burgundy, France (Bachelet-Monnot Chassagne-Montrachet). Beers range from the Old World Belgian and Trappist to local craft brews.

There are some menu mainstays worth noting, such as the ginger chicken meatballs ($10), served in a bit of coconut broth with bok choy and chili oil. The seared ahi tuna poke ($15), with pops of cilantro, Serrano chiles, avocado, basil oil and toasted macadamia nuts, is also one of those favorites.

Also worth noting: Brule now offers a “peasant brunch” at lunchtime each day. Highlights include a fried egg and short rib hash with cumin potatoes and roasted tomato salsa ($12), fried eggs and curried lentils with toasted curry oil ($10) and a B.L.T.E. sandwich (apple wood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and farm egg) on multigrain with a smear of tarragon aioli ($10).

If you savor your brunch into the mid-afternoon, you may find yourself tempted to stay for happy hour, which starts at 3 p.m. (great bites, all for under 9 bucks). You can blame this charming little bistro for extra calories incurred.


Brule Bistro



ADDRESS: 200 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach

TELEPHONE: 561-274-2046

WEBSITE: BruleBistro.com


FULL BAR: Yes, with separate bar area.

NOISE LEVEL: Lively, often noisy inside when the bistro is packed.

HOURS: Open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to close (often till 2 a.m.), Sunday from 5 p.m. to close.

CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted

RESERVATIONS: Walk-ins welcome; no reservations taken



A — Excellent

B — Good

C — Average

D — Poor

F — Don’t bother

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda


Is it time to break up with bacon? Meat-loving chefs weigh in.

Branding the buns: Chef George Patti at work at MEAT, Boca. (Damon Higgins/ Palm Beach Post)
Branding the buns: Chef George Patti at work at MEAT, Boca. (Damon Higgins/ Palm Beach Post)

Carnivores, can you imagine a world without bacon?

A study released last week by cancer researchers at the World Health Organization struck fear in the hearts of meat lovers everywhere when it classified processed meat as a carcinogen and concluded red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Does that mean America’s love affair with bacon, burgers and hot dogs is doomed?

Not if you’re looking at life from a burger joint kitchen, like Boca Raton’s MEAT Eatery & Taproom. That’s where chef/ co-owner George Patti makes his own bacon, a process that takes 12 to 14 days as the pork belly is cured in a mix of salt, brown sugar, rosemary and garlic then smoked over cherry wood.

“We don’t use nitrates,” says Patti, referring to the chemicals found in standard commercial curing salts. But he knows his meat-centric menu falls under the scope of the WHO researchers, who reviewed more than 800 studies conducted on the link between meat and cancers in the past 20 years.

BaconThe researchers agreed red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb and goat) may cause colorectal, pancreatic or prostate cancer.

Perhaps most emphatically, those 22 cancer experts from 10 countries concluded that the consumption of processed meats – like ham, hot dogs, corned beef, sausages, canned meat and beef jerky – causes colorectal cancer. This is because the curing and smoking of meats can produce cancer-causing chemicals, they found. And the highest amount of these chemicals are produced when meats are cooked at high temperatures, they said.

To which chef Patti says: “Oh my God. Everything causes cancer.”

A thought echoed by Aaron Merullo, a meat lover who operates the PS561 hot dog truck in Palm Beach County.

“Everything is bad for us and causes cancer,” says the hot dog chef whose retro-inspired creations are topped with everything from crushed potato chips to Fritos, adobo sauce to cucumber slaw. “The FDA and WHO scold us for enjoying red meat once in a while. Meanwhile, our government is polluting our air, water supplies, and soil, and poisoning is with prescription drugs. But that’s another story.”

Food truck PS561's hot dog master, Aaron Merullo, drizzles a special, cream cheese-based cilantro sauce on specialty hot dogs. (Contributed)
PS561’s Aaron Merullo drizzles a cream cheese-based cilantro sauce on specialty hot dogs. (Contributed)

Merullo serves all-beef, New York-style Sabrett hot dogs, smoked turkey franks and veggie dogs. And, sure, he indulges in his food truck’s fare, as well as bacon, burgers and steaks, he says. “I also eat a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies. Everything in moderation, even the unhealthy stuff.”

Another local chef and unabashed carnivore agrees.

“I’m a pretty meaty guy,” says chef Fritz Cassel of Hullabaloo gastro pub in downtown West Palm Beach, “but I eat a ton of vegetables. I’m an omnivore. Humans are omnivores by nature.”

Hullabaloo executive chef and general manager Fritz Cassel takes a BLT break at the downtown West Palm Beach gastro pub. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)
Chef Fritz Cassel takes a BLT break at Hullabaloo, West Palm. (Thomas Cordy/ The Palm Beach Post)

He’s a chef who always has a slab of pork curing in kosher salt and sugar for house-made bacon, a guy who adds a thick slice of pork belly in his BLTs, a chef who regularly adds beefy dishes to his menus. In fact, he just put a Wagyu beef cheek ravioli on the menu, a dish he dresses with veal demi-glaze, roasted artichoke and heirloom tomatoes.

“I’m going to enjoy meat as long as I can,” says the chef, who adds an important caveat: “I try to source all natural products, and make sure no hormones or antibiotics have been administered. Just knowing where your meat comes from makes a big difference, I think.”

Chef Patti agrees. At his eatery, he uses meats raised with no hormones or antibiotics. These details have become increasingly important to his diners, he says.

“People now care about where the meat comes from. People are asking me about this all the time,” he says.

This consumer interest in meat quality is music to the ears of Jupiter holistic physician Ken Grey.

“We know there is a difference between corn-fed meat and grass-fed meat, and a difference between organic and non-organic meats,” says Dr. Grey, an acupuncturist at Jupiter Medical Center and author of holistic cookbooks.

 Ken Grey prepares candied blood orange veal tenderloin with port wine-morel mushroom sauce. (Palm Beach Post file)
Dr. Ken Grey prepares veal tenderloin with port wine-morel mushroom sauce. (Palm Beach Post file)

He urges the public to put the new findings in a much larger context. “We have to stop taking things at face value,” he says. “I’m not going to say that eating red meat is what’s causing the cancer. It’s a higher consumption of acid and poor digestion that’s the problem. It’s not the meat.”

Because cancer thrives in an acidic environment, a healing diet calls for more alkaline elements, such as green, leafy vegetables, he says. Your ideal plate should include two or three vegetables that are not cooked to the point of mush, he says. And your diet should be supplemented with enzymes and probiotics to aid healthy digestion.

A great enemy of meat digestion? Antacids, he says. They interfere with the digestion of proteins and simply mask symptoms, he says.

Grey is a carnivore whose cookbook recipes include meat dishes like oxtail stew. But he will make no case for bacon. “There’s (nitrate-free) bacon that’s less harmful, but is it beneficial? No.”

He points to some Old World cultures and their moderate use of meats, advocating a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern diet over “the old meat-and-potato idea, which is very harmful.”

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda


Critic’s pick: Day of the Dead brunching at Rocco’s Tacos

This large Mexican skull mask, evoking Day of the Dead imagery, hangs on the wall at Rocco's Tacos in Palm Beach Gardens. (J. Gwendolynne Berry/The Palm Beach Post)
Evoking the Day of the Dead at Rocco’s Tacos. (J. Gwendolynne Berry/ The Palm Beach Post)

Central county pick: ROCCO’S TACOS

You can join the costumed masses in their takeover of Clematis Street at Moonfest Saturday night, or you can opt for a different type of other-worldly experience on Sunday. That’s when Rocco’s Tacos celebrates the Day of the Dead, the Mexican-inspired celebration of the dearly departed and their favorite dishes.

Fortunately for the living and the celebrated dead, this Dia de los Muertos falls on a Sunday, when Rocco’s serves one of the best brunches anywhere in Palm Beach County. Brunch kicks off at 11 a.m. and goes to 4 p.m. My favorite bite on the menu: The Benedict Azteca, Rocco’s Mexican take on traditional Eggs Benedict. Earthy masa sopes cradle poached eggs, pork chunks and spinach, are ladled with chipotle cream and served with griddled potatoes.

At Rocco's, Mexican corn and a fancy margarita. (Contributed)
At Rocco’s, Mexican corn and a fancy margarita. (Contributed)

For the pairing at brunch, there are $12 endless Bloody Marys and mimosas, plus there are $3 Corona bottles and $3 Modelos at the bar all day.

Later, from 4 to 8 p.m., the party transitions to night with sugar skull-inspired makeup sessions and DJ-spun music. The full day’s celebration is not limited to Clematis Street – it happens at all six Rocco’s locations in Florida, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.

Rocco’s Tacos: 224 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; 561-650-1001; RoccosTacos.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda


Happy National Chocolate Day! 5 best local sweet treats to try

Death by Chocolate
Death by Chocolate. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

As if anyone needs an excuse to indulge in chocolate, today is National Chocolate Day, according to someone, somewhere — a wise stranger to whom we remain eternally grateful.

In honor of this ersatz holiday, we present five milk chocolate treats that we wish someone, anyone, would deliver to our hot little hands right this minute:

Silver and gold winners at this year's International Chocolate Awards' Americas Competition. (Photos by Liz Balmaseda)
Handcraftedin Stuart: silver and gold winners at the International Chocolate Awards’ Americas Competition.  (Photos by Liz Balmaseda)

1. Castronovo Chocolate’s Colombia Sierra Nevada Dark Milk Chocolate Bar

This tiny Stuart chocolate factory recently captured a gold prize for this bar at the International Chocolate Awards Americas Competition, earning chocolate maker Denise Castronovo a trip to London in October to compete in the world finalsThe gold-winning bar sells for $48 for a four-pack on Castronovo’s site. The factory, meanwhile, is at 555 Colorado Ave., and Castronovo also sells her goods at Fresh Market in Jupiter and Stuart, Oceana Coffee in Tequesta and Shoppe 561 in West Palm Beach.

sloan's ice cream parlor
Every day is like sundae at Sloan’s. (File photo by Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)

2. Sloan’s Dad’s Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

Sloan’s offers so many flavors in its freezers — and so much eye candy — it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes the best approach is the most straightforward one: ordering a classic flavor like Dad’s Milk Chocolate, described as a “smooth and creamy milk chocolate” on the Sloan’s site.

Not enough going on there? Maybe I ♥ RANDI S’MORE is more your speed: s’mores ice cream made with graham crackers, Hershey’s milk chocolate bars and toasted marshmallows.

Sloan’s scoops it all on the regular at its five candy-colored, Palm Beach County stores.

hoffmans snoodles
Use your noodle, try a Snoodle. (Photo from Hoffman’s Chocolates)

3. Hoffman’s Chocolates’ Snoodles

As if its name isn’t fun enough, the very look of Snoodles turns dessert into a party. Caramel and pretzel pieces are wrapped in chocolate and accessorized with festive sprinkles. Fiesta!

A pack of these original Hoffman’s creations is $4.95 and can be purchased online or at one of the Palm Beach County company’s eight South Florida stores.

trader joes mcj
He loves Milk Chocolate Jumbles! (Photo from Trader Joe’s 365)

4. Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Jumbles

The taste tester behind Trader Joe’s 365, who’s reviewing a different TJ product every day in 2015, wasn’t completely crazy about Milk Chocolate Jumbles, but her shopping partner went nuts for them. (“These are not bad at all,” she wrote, “and many people will probably really like them.  It’s just if I am going to eat something chocolate, I want it to be CHOCOLATE.”)

Point taken. Still, we can’t wait to sample the combination of pecans, toasted quinoa and caramel, coated in milk chocolate and sporting a dusting of pink sea salt. A jumble of flavors in a 7.5-ounce tub for $3.99, they can be purchased at Trader Joe’s four Palm Beach County locations.

kilwins heavenly hash
Thanks heavens for Kilwin’s. (Photo from Kilwins)

5. Kilwins’ Heavenly Hash

How do the Kilwins elves make Heavenly Hash? They take homemade marshmallows, hand-coat them in milk chocolate laden with pecans, then set them out to cool. Next stop: the Kilwins cases, and our palates.

A 4-ounce serving of Heavenly Hash is $6.75 online and at Kilwins’ many Florida chocolate shops.


Critic’s pick in Jupiter: Venture into The Woods Halloween weekend


North county pick: THE WOODS

This 2-month-old restaurant and bar, owned by golf superstar Tiger Woods, has been a hit at the Harbourside Place dining and shopping complex in Jupiter. And for good reason: The food is delicious, the service superb.

It’s a steakhouse with the approachability of a sports bar, and the dish that best bridges the two concepts is the rib-eye sandwich. (That melted goodness atop the tender steak is Drunken Goat cheese.)

Halloween revelers, if you hit Harbourside Place Friday night, you may want to pack a picnic blanket or chair – there’s a free viewing of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” at 6:30 p.m. at the waterfront amphitheater, which sits across from The Woods.

If you visit the complex on Halloween night, you may want to see the canine costume contest (6 p.m.) before dinner. That event is hosted by the pooch shop Pucci & Catana.

The Woods: 129 Soundings Ave., at Harbourside Place, Jupiter; 561-320-9627; WoodsJupiter.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda


Happy National American Beer Day! Let’s celebrate local beer

Craft beer
(Left to right) Southend Session, Screamin Reels IPA, Bone-A-Fied Blonde, and Spinytail Pale Ale at the SaltWater Brewery in Delray Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Today is the day to celebrate local beer! It’s National American Beer Day. Take our video tour of local craft breweries and see our complete coverage of all things beer in Palm Beach county:

Palm Beach Post ‘PBTapped’ Craft beer scene

Pie it Forward bake sale enlists local chefs to sell pies for charity

Simple and sumptuous: Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. (Cox Newspapers photo)

Thanksgiving kitchen warriors, you’ve got competition this year. A local army of chefs will be baking classic pies for what promises to be the local bake sale to end all local bake sales.

The effort is titled “Pie It Forward,” and it’s a community-wide fundraising drive to benefit the Meals on Wheels food delivery program for homebound seniors in need.

Here’s the idea:

The six-week campaign, which kicked off Oct. 1, allows locals to order $25 Thanksgiving pies from the Meals on Wheels website for pickup on Tuesday, Nov. 24, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The pie varieties are classic – pumpkin, pecan, and apple.

From there, participating chefs and eateries will bake and donate the pies to fill those online orders. Those participants include bakers at the Four Seasons (baking 100 pies), Testa’s, Table 26 (100 pies), Eau Palm Beach (100 pies), Duffy’s, LongBoards, Howley’s (150 pies), Hullabaloo, Maison Carlos, The Mar-a-Lago Club, Whole Foods Market, The Beach Club and other spots.

“We love what Meals on Wheels does for our elderly community. It’s a charity that we have been giving to on a personal level for many years,” says Lanie Farias, who with her husband, Carlos Farias, owns Maison Carlos in West Palm Beach.

At the Four Seasons Palm Beach resort, executive pastry chef Bashar Shamali will create spiced pumpkin pies with candied pine nuts, rosettes of whipped cream and edible flowers.

“Thanksgiving is not only about being thankful, but it’s also about giving. We are thrilled to be able to give back to the community that we are so thankful to be a part of,” says the chef.

At Duffy’s Sports Grill, executive chef Eric Parker is working on a quintessential apple pie recipe for the cause, says the chain’s president, Jason Emmett.

“It’s great to participate in an event that will make such a difference for the seniors in Palm Beach County,” says Emmett.

At tony Table 26 in West Palm Beach, co-owners Eddie Schmidt and Ozzie Medeiros are donating more than pies for the campaign. “Table 26 has formed a pie-selling team to help raise even more support,” says Schmidt.

Judy Testa of Testa’s Palm Beach joined the pie-baking effort to support a childhood friend – Charlie Ring, founder of Meals on Wheels of the Palm Beaches. “It’s our honor to support their good work,” Testa says.

Even student chefs are contributing confections to the effort. At Lincoln Culinary Institute, culinary students have embraced the cause, says David Pantone, the school’s dean of culinary education.

“It just seemed like a match made in pastry heaven,” says Pantone. The school’s pie-baking team is dubbed The Pie Masters. “That’s just perfect for us since we actually are pie masters, and master bakers, and pastry chefs, and executive chefs.”

But which of the participating bakers will make your particular pie will remain a mystery until you pick up your order, organizers say.

For those who simply want to contribute to cause without packing on the calories, there are virtual pies, also $25. Each pie, virtual or real, raises enough funds to feed a homebound senior for a week, according to Meals on Wheels.

The aim: to sell 2,000 pies. Orders will be taken until Nov. 14. The pie pickup center will be set up at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Those who order 100 pies or more can have their pies delivered.

Palm Beach County has proclaimed the pie pickup date, Nov.24, as Pie It Forward Day.

Critic’s pick: Hudson Delray hosts ‘Nauti Hallow’s Eve’

Halloween inevitably inspires spooky cocktails. (Cox Newspapers)
Halloween inevitably inspires spooky cocktails. (Cox Newspapers)

South county pick: HUDSON DELRAY

Halloween night at this seafood-centric spot in Delray Beach comes with a water view. In addition to its full menu, served in the dining room, Hudson is throwing a “Nauti Hallow’s Eve” bash Saturday night. The party starts at 6 p.m. on the newly revamped outdoor bar.

Related: The best Halloween events in Palm Beach county

For the occasion, the eatery is serving a special “Fangtastic Flatbread” ($8), made with roasted butternut squash, ricotta, sage and sunflower seeds. For the pairing, there will be appropriately spooky sips, like Pumpkin Smashed Martinis ($8), Jack O’Lantern Shots ($3) and Witches Brew ($5).

A view of Hudson at East Waterway in Delray Beach from the Intracoastal. (Contributed)
A view of Hudson at East Waterway in Delray Beach from the Intracoastal. (Contributed)

Diners and revelers are invited to dress up and take part in Hudson’s “mischievous” costume contest.

Hudson, at Waterway East: 900 E. Atlantic Ave., #22, Delray Beach; 561-303-1343; HudsonDelray.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda


Find the best restaurants at Harbourside Place in Jupiter

Deep Blu Seafood Grille.
Deep Blu Seafood Grille.

Dining options at Harbourside Place range from the quick and casual (Coffee Culture) to the clubby and pricey (Deep Blu). Here’s our Food Editor’s guide to the plaza’s eateries, the hits and the misses:

Dining Guide to Harbourside Place

Newsroom favorite: this cheese pizza won our downtown taste test. Which is your favorite?

Which cheese pizza scored most votes? (File photo)
Which cheese pizza scored most votes? (Cox Newspapers file photo)

Who knows more about room-temp pizza than journalists on election night? No one. We proudly claim our expertise. We are to pizza what truffle hogs are to ascomycetes.

And because of this, we snag all available opportunities to devour pizza – by the slice, by the pie, or by the stack of boxes. It’s rib-sticking grub, as we were reminded on a recent day when we gathered at one end of the newsroom to taste-test four downtown West Palm Beach cheese pizzas.

We sampled pies from Pizza Girls, City Pizza, Mellow Mushroom and Nico’s Pizza.

In the end, Nico’s scored the highest percentage of our votes (38 percent).

See? None left. (Photo by Laura Lordi)
See? None left. (Photo by Laura Lordi)

The Clematis Street pizzeria delivered with its thin, foldable crust, hearty sauce and cheese and slightly greasy awesomeness.

Second place went to Mellow Mushroom (34 percent). Next was City Pizza of CityPlace (16 percent). Lastly, Pizza Girls fans were saddened to see the waterfront spot earned a paltry 13 percent of our votes.

Leftovers? Not in this newsroom. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)
Leftovers? Not in this newsroom. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)

Here’s your chance to comment on for your favorite Palm Beach County pizza. Tell us your favorite on our Post on Food & Dining Facebook page.

Next week: vote in our poll (based on your comments) to name the best pizzeria in Palm Beach county.

Click on the photo to cast your vote!