Thursday, January 13, 2011

Restaurants of Palm Beach, Florida

To be frank, Palm Beach Florida has many adequate restaurants, but few that inspire me to return. So when I stay there, I often wind up ordering fresh meats and poultry, from such star purveyors across the U.S. as Lobel's (for their Wyoming burgers and steaks) in New York and Bryan's Fine Foods  (Corta Madera, California) for their exceptional aged lamb and their custom ordered and ground burgers where one may select the burger ingredients from over 20 types of meat for the burger. Also, I have the opportunity of ordering bbq brisket, ribs, and their sauce from some of the great bbq spots in the United States or bacon from some of the best producers who custom smoke their wonderfully different bacon. 

Locally, perhaps one of the best grocers is Carmine's........but, it is no Pusateri's (Toronto) and what Palm Beach lacks is such great specialty purveyors of products that Toronto has in spades such as Harvest Wagon for fruits and veg and such wonderful  specialty butchers as Cumbrae's or Olliffe's.

So, speaking of Palm Beach, where do I like to eat? I have been asked this question many times. For a simple roast beef dinner (yes, I eat that, reflecting on my fond memories of Ed's Warehouse in Toronto), the old standby of Ta-boo Restaurant on Worth Avenue, and that is pretty much all there is for me there.  Then, there is nothing like Michelle Bernstein's resto at the Omphoy Hotel for perhaps the best southern fried chicken in Florida (outside of her flagship resto in Miami). They also do a very good weekend brunch and some of the highlights are:

Pulled pork sliders with a slightly too sweet bbq sauce topped with creamy cole slaw and accompanied by crunchy, house made potato chips.

Poached eggs with creamy grits topped by a bit of tobasco butter and a wonderful stock/sauce made from ham hocks (my fave).

I also ordered, but was disappointed by the chorizo and potato hash. The potatoes were not crispy, there wasn't enough chorizo for flavour and the dish was just too greasy overall for my taste. Also, unfortunately, a bit boring.

Another very good Palm Beach resto, actually, just south of Palm Beach in Lantana, is Pizzeria Oceano. This very small pizza place, for me, vies for being one of the top places to enjoy pizza in North America!! What sets this little pizza joint apart is the thin, tasty and crispy crust made in a wood fired oven and topped with wonderful local produce or specialty meats from some of the finest regional purveyors. The crust is airy at the edge so that the dough has air pockets that exhibit a wonderful crispy flakiness. When one picks up a wedge of pizza, the whole slice stands out flat and stiff, not saggy and soggy. Ahhhh, such a wonderful crispy and tasty mouth feel!

The pizza selection changes daily but the "basic" (house made fresh mozzarella, pecorino, a rich tomato sauce and fresh basil leaves) is available every day. The pizza above has paper thin slices of potato with a rosemary "cream" and thinly sliced red onions. The "basic" also has 8 available "add ons" which vary depending or what is of interest to the chef, at local markets, but today's examples of add ons include sopressata, shallots, red onion, bielliese guancilae, Swanks toscano (black) kale, Swanks totsoi and fresh cut garlic. The pizza below is "the basic" and has fresh sliced garlic, thinly sliced shallots, basil leaves and Biellese's guanciale which is melted into the pizza so not visible in the photo. Just look and salivate when you see this beautiful crust at the edge!

A small selection of other very well executed dishes, which again, vary day to day, depending on the chef's inspiration.

The dish below is a delectably flavoured pasta dish with eggplant, a perfectly cooked, fresh porcini mushroom ragu with smoked buffalo mozzarella and a rich tomato sauce redolent of fresh thyme

The dish below is thinly sliced local country ham with locally farmed black kale, fingerling potatoes and onions in an intense, slightly smokey ham broth. 

They will also, on occasion, do an exceptional stromboli sandwich. What makes this sandwich truly exceptional, besides good ingredients, is the outstanding "bread", which I presume is made in house. The sandwich is baked in the wood burning oven giving the dark brown exterior crust of the bread not only a beautiful crispy quality, but also, an airy flakiness that when one bights down, one experiences an exceptionally satisfying crunch and then a burst of flavours fill the mouth! Love on a bun!!

2842 South Ocean Blvd
Palm Beach, FL

201 East Ocean Ave
Lantana, FL

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