BRIO Tuscan Grille South Florida locations are being introduced to a new “Moderno” Take on Tuscan Dining!
Dear Foodie Friends,
Have you been to a BRIO Tuscan Grille lately? If not, it’s time to go back and check out all their new offerings. BRIO’s lunch and dinner menus include grilled-to-order steaks, chops, seafood, made-to-order pastas, flatbreads, entrée salads and more…similar to what one would find in an authentic ristorante in Tuscany. The new menu evolves Tuscan-style dining with a variety of new items including small plates for sharing, two-course lunch plates and a renewed and innovative wine, spirits and craft beer menu. BRIO also offers an ample dessert menu, full wine list and cocktail book, special children’s menu, family-style pans-to-go for off-site catered special events, and online ordering.
Fusing a creative, culinary-forward attitude with the best of the traditional Tuscan table, BRIO Tuscan Grille locations in South Florida have evolved to launch a new, modern menu of food and drinks. While the menu continues to feature many of BRIO’s time-honored favorites, its ample new additions bring an imaginative twist to Tuscan classics, focusing on fresh, chef-inspired ingredients. Those watching their calories and gluten in take can rejoice as there are an abundant number of low-calorie and gluten-free items on the menu and guests can request customized entrées to ensure that their cuisine of choice perfectly suits their palate.
“By incorporating a creative, modern twist into many of our dishes, continuing to serve our classic favorites, and adding more opportunities for sharing, we are pleased to evolve the guest experience, while staying true to the essence of Tuscan dining,” said BRIO Culinary Director & Chef Alison Peters. “The new menu continues to embody our philosophy: ‘to eat well, is to live well.’”
On a recent visit, I had the opportunity to bring my mom with me and we sampled some of the new menu items and some of their classics. One of the highlights of our evening came not served on a plate but the person serving the plates. His name is Kenny and he happens to be one of the VERY BEST SERVERS I have ever had the pleasure of being served by. Kenny had such a pleasant and patient demeanor and a great “can-do” attitude. We will definitely ask for him the next time we are in, and I suggest you do the same!
The Kale Caesar was terrific and consisted of mixed greens, marinated kale, pancetta, tomatoes, chopped egg, croutons, Caesar dressing & Parmesan.
Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts: Roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with capers, a sticky balsamic-maple sauce, crisp bacon, and crunchy pecans, then finished with Reggiano cheese. Mark my words, you MUST order these! If you do not, I assure you that you will be missing out on some of the very best Brussels that have ever been created!
BRAVO! Cucina Italiana, its sister restaurant in Jupiter, recently launched a new menu as well, featuring a 2-Course Dinner Menu starting at Only $12.99!!!
Be among the first to try their special 2-Course Dinner promotion, showcasing a selection of five entrées paired with one of three salads, available now and running through Friday,Sept. 30, 2016.
The 2-Course Dinner Menu features dishes from fresh, cut-from-the-sheet pasta to premium quality meats, chicken and seafood with three always-fresh, high-quality Italian salads.
About BRAVO! Cucina Italiana at Harbourside Place BRAVO! Cucina Italiana at Harbourside Place is located at 149 Soundings Ave., Jupiter, FL 33477. The beautiful 7,098-square-foot restaurant offers indoor seating for guests (including 28 bar seats), and al fresco dining for up to 36 (including six bar seats) on an Italian-style terrace. A semi-private dining area will accommodate groups up to 20 guests. BRAVO! faces the Intracoastal Waterway, which allows the restaurant to provide dockside carryout service. The restaurant is open Sunday 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Monday–Thursday 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m., and Saturday11 a.m.–11 p.m. Brunch is served on weekends from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. For more information, visit www.BravoItalian.com. For reservations, call the Harbourside Place restaurant at (561) 747-4445.
Banko Cantina, a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar, proudly opened its doors this month at 114 S. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach, FL. Originally home to the American National Bank, this 1921 landmark building was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1997. An era remembered for its unprecedented prosperity, glamour and fanfare, the Roaring 20s were also marked by prohibition, underground speakeasies, notorious gangsters and glorified outlaws – during which time tequila trade became a lucrative business. Banko Cantina and the second floor club, La Terraza, will restore the fervor that once resided inside the very same walls through its delicious food, creative specialty cocktails, hand painted walls and reclaimed wood used throughout the establishment – writing a story for the next generation to tell!
Chicago restaurateur Sam Sanchez co-owns Banko Cantina and is closely involved in its management. Sam moved to Chicago in the mid-1980s and oversees all facets of his restaurant business, including both operations and business development for John Barleycorn, Moe’s Cantina, and Old Crow Smokehouse. Sanchez was recently awarded Restaurateur of the Year 2015 from the Illinois Restaurant Association.
Eddie Estevez is serving as Banko Cantina’s General Manager. Estevez, a Miami native and son of Cuban exiles, joins Banko Cantina after serving for the last eight years as Executive Chef and General Manager of Cantina Laredo in Palm Beach Gardens and Hallandale. As a child Eddie lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Caracas, Venezuela and has also lived in New York and the Bahamas. He has his Associate of Fine Arts degree from Miami-Dade College and an Associate of Science from the Art Institute in Ft. Lauderdale.
I was invited to attend one of the pre-opening events in which we received a grand tour of the place and an awesome tasting of some of their signature dishes and cocktails.
The three level 13,000 square foot restaurant features a 3,000 square foot partially-covered rooftop bar on the third floor, with a 90-foot bar in the center, 14 foot ceiling, seating for 150, along with a kitchen serving lunch and dinner from a select menu. The restaurant’s second floor was designed especially for special events, including corporate events and private parties. A lounge, private dining space and 130 seats can be found in the main dining room. The restaurant also features 14 60-inch televisions throughout for sporting events. Banko Cantina’s interior includes elements of the historical building, including the original wood, used for the tabletops, as well as the chandeliers and tiles. Chicago artist David Bozic, who blends fine art with street-style, has begun hand painting his work onto the walls with further commissions to come where guests will be privy to watching the artist at work.
The restaurant features Northern style Mexican cooking and is inspired by Mr. Sanchez’ childhood in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Mexican cuisine consists of many different regional styles, depending on the climate of the area. Northern Mexico’s desert climate supports a large livestock population that led to the region’s meat-based dishes. The ranching culture’s historical use of wood fire and outdoor cooking is what developed the distinct smoky flavors that are the foundation of Banko Cantina’s extensive list of locally inspired tacos, steak and mesquite-grilled skewers. And speaking of mesquite flavors, the cantina offers an impressive array of handcrafted specialty cocktails created by the restaurant’s corporate mixologist Enrique Cobos, who creatively infuses mesquite and serrano chili peppers into a number of their craft cocktails including two of the signature cocktails that I got to try: the Passion Fruit Sangria and the Adelita.
The beverage menu also features more than 30 varieties of tequila and over a dozen Mexican-themed drinks. Sanchez himself plans to host tequila chef tasting dinners as well as “tequila tasting 101” classes to share his knowledge of his favorite spirit.
Visiting mixologist Enrique Cobos came down from Chicago to implement the craft cocktail program at Banko Cantina
I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I was with the thought that went into the making of Banko Cantina’s interactive cocktail list. (Kudos to Enrique Cobos) Take for instance the Passion Fruit Sangria. Our server delivered the following instructions on how to partake in this cocktail, ” shoot it, lick it & sip it.” In other words, there was a tequila shooter resting on top in the jalapeño boat which we were to first shoot back, followed by the licking of the salt and chili-spiced rim, and then take a quick sip of the habanero-infused tequila and Pinot grigio sangria made with fresh passion fruit puree. It was genius. I could have shot, licked and sipped on these all night long!
The mesquite-grilled skewers were quite impressive and were delivered to the table hanging from specialty metal stands suspended over a plate with a single slice of charred pineapple. Options include carne asada ($14); bacon-wrapped shrimp and chicken ($12); and vegetales ($10).
Another interactive cocktail, the Adelita is made with Herradura Resposado, fresh lime juice, sour mix, Cointreau, Vida Mezcal float, salt and chili pepper rim. By this time, we were all pros on how to “shoot, lick and sip”.
The lobster tacos include a whole Maine lobster tail and were topped with Chef Manual Briseno’s own “secret” sauce. The lobster meat was wrapped in the most delicious char-grilled flour tortillas I have ever tasted in my life, I’m not kidding. I just couldn’t stop eating them! Sam has these tortillas specially imported from his hometown in Salinas Victoria, a municipality located in the state of Nuevo León.
Under the Traditional Plates section of the menu, you will find this seafood paella ($24) made with shrimp, clams, mussels, Andouille sausage, chicken breast, rice,and saffron broth. The flavors came together perfectly and was a lovely and tasty dish.
For dessert I was told we were going to have a corn bread cake. I thought to myself, corn bread for dessert? Oh boy were my taste buds in for a real treat! The Pan de Elote ($10) is made fresh daily in house and is a moist corn cake baked in a scalding hot cast iron pan for charred edges that deliver a smokey-sweet note. It was served with a house made caramel and topped with a little vanilla ice cream. It was really a unique and delicious dessert and one I would definitely recommend you try.
The El Sueno is actually accredited to Sam – something he concocted in his dream one night and hence the inspiration behind this cocktail’s name. Made with pineapple-infused 4 Rebels Premium Vodka, coconut cream, coconut water, lime juice and toasted coconut rim.
Banko Cantina is located at 114 South Olive St., West Palm Beach. Hours are 4 p.m. to close daily. Call 773-348-8899, or visit bankocantina.com.
Some of you who are following me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram know that I have just returned from a trip to Boston; an exploratory trip, that is. I went there to accomplish two things: 1. Get to know Boston, a city that we will soon be operating a series of private group culinary tours and then 2. To share my wonderful FoodFinds with you.
My trip began with a great deal flying Spirit Air thanks to a friend of mine who works for the line who was able to extend a friends/family rate to me. I am thankful that the stand-by status paid off as I don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t since I had my hotel room booked and meetings & interviews and even a food tour lined up. But thankfully, it was seamless. So I arrived at Boston Logan Airport and exited through the bag claim area and proceeded outside to the center area marked ‘Shared Van Service’. I was staying at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, thanks to the Greater Boston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau who helped to make the connection. The hotel did not have a pick up service at the airport, so after reviewing my options of getting from the airport to the hotel (I was only staying in town a couple nights and everything I needed to do was close enough to walk or Uber, so I did not rent a car), I opted to reserve a seat on Go Boston, a shuttle I ended up sharing with just one other gal. When I got to the hotel, I realized I didn’t have any singles on me. When the driver said he didn’t have any change, I asked him to wait for a moment so I could run in and get some. Little did I know that we arrived in the back entrance and after running inside what might have been about 3o feet, I frantically turned my head to the left and to the right and assessed there was no lobby or front desk in sight. Before I had a moment to despair though, I ran into three knights in dapper business suits (Tony, Jonathan & Rob were their names; turns out they were 3 top Execs of the Hotel, lucky me). They asked me what seemed to be the problem and I explained and without an ounce of hesitation, two of them were reaching in their pockets to offer me the tip money. Of course I was super appreciative of these gentlemen being there to not only help out by fronting me the money to tip my driver and watching my bags which I just dropped at their feet, but when I asked the gentleman who laid the money out how I could find him again to repay him, he absolutely refused. Nice, right?!? I really appreciated the gesture and hospitality, which didn’t end there. I made my way to the front desk to check in, and as I was waiting for my room assignment, Rob, one of my new friends (who turned out to be the Hotel Manager), suddenly appeared at the desk and made a point to ensure I was given a nice room, which I had.
Off the Common Restaurant in the main lobby. Guests can keep their phones, iPads and laptops charged with several convenient charging stations tastefully placed down the center of the dining room and throughout the hotel.
Pictured above: Fritz the Bartender
The plan was for me to contact Vanessa, Boston Park Plaza’s Marketing Manager upon my arrival to have her give me a tour of the hotel. Vanessa and I had been corresponding closely prior to my arrival and I already felt like I was meeting a new friend. While I was waiting for Vanessa to take me on my tour, I had a seat at the bar and started chatting with Fritz the bartender. Fritz has been working at the Park Plaza Hotel for 17 years, ever since he was in college. I think that says a lot about the hotel, which incidentally just celebrated its 89th birthday. They must be treating their guests (and employees) right!
We began our tour of the hotel at the library. It was a nice cozy library with plenty of good light for reading. One cool feature they have thought to add here is a “call pod”, a call for service button available from 5pm – midnight, where guests can have food and/or beverages delivered right to them from the comfort of their chair. How convenient is that?!
Pictured above: The Cozy Corner
This gorgeous ballroom is 13,000 square feet and can hold up to 2,200 guests. There are several other options available for various other meeting spaces as well.
Pictured above: The David Barton gym, an ultra sheek, ultra modern 19k sq ft space found one level below the lobby. Here one can get a great work out in the gym, take one of their group classes and even spin. The gym is open to the public and memberships are also available.
Pictured below: My bedroom on the 15th Floor. Nicely appointed with mini fridge, flat screen tv, sitting area, King bed (with the most dreamy pillows I can remember laying my head on in a very long time) and (not pictured: bathroom). The dual head shower was a nice touch as was the hand soaps. The brand they use is Pure and I loved the fragrance of lemongrass.
Pictured below: A special surprise was awaiting me when I returned to my room later that evening. The chocolate ganache cake was to-die-for!
They have a great breakfast buffet at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. Here’s a little sample of what I got.
After completing my wonderful tour with Vanessa, I headed out to explore this unique city. Check back soon for Boston – The Park May Be Common, But The City’s Unique! (Part 2) where I cover my walk from the Boston Park Plaza Hotel to the North End via Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market, my food tour and other fabulous food finds..
On Tuesday, March 15, 2016 Thasos Taverna opened its lovely doors to host local news reporters & bloggers for a tasting of the Island Gems of Greece luncheon and presentation, which I had the distinct pleasure of attending. Special guest Chef Athinagoras Kostakos was flown in for the occasion all the way from the island of Mykonos, Greece where he has worked for the past eight years as the executive chef of Bill & Coo Suites and Lounge.
Before we were formally invited to take a seat for our lunch and presentation on the Island Gems of Greece, guests were treated to some signature cocktails made with Greek FOS Mastiha Liqueur. The Mastiha tree is a small evergreen shrub, also known as “lentisk”, with a lifespan of more than 100 years. Apparently this tree can only be found on the Island of Chios Greece, which controls 100% of the world’s production of Mastiha. FOS Mastiha liqueur is a clear spirit with a sweet taste – a full range of herbal tones and tree essences, which are really enhanced when served in a chilled glass over ice. I had the pleasure of trying “The Detox” cocktail made with cucumber puree, thyme, lime and ginger ale. This tasty cocktail was created by Lef Kraounakis, head bartender at La Mar at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami.
During the four course lunch, guests were able to get a real taste for Chef Kostakos’s passion and flare for authentic Greek food with a twist. Our first course was a delightful cup of Chilean sea bass soup with mussels and rice. I love Chilean sea bass and never had it served in such a way before. My tastebuds were jumping up and down in joy!
Next, Kostakos served what appeared to be a Greek twist on a traditional Italian Caprese salad made with goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, capers, thyme and olive oil. This dish was packed with flavor; one of my favorite courses of the afternoon for sure!
The main course consisted of an herb crusted lamb chop with lamb baklava cooked slowly and presented inside a flaky pastry with yogurt cumin sauce.
For dessert, the chef presented the guests with a strawberry and mastiha soup topped with almond meringue. Having soup for dessert was a definite first for me and I have to give kudos to the Chef for enlightening me to this concept through this perfectly executed dish.
The unique combination of flavors in each course as well as the attention to detail conveyed through each item was impressive. Kostakos’s dishes represent a new breed of Greek cooking that is influenced by old world styles, which has evolved into a hybrid that merges tradition and ingenuity. His culinary creations make food look like an art form. Kostakos prides himself on using only the best ingredients, “The most important thing are the ingredients. They come together to create pleasure in your mouth.”
Although Chef Kostakos has since left Thasos and returned to his home in Greece, co-owner and Executive Chef Sophia Mylona ensures guests will have a special dining experience at Thasos that embodies Greece’s customs of using top quality fresh ingredients, with a menu that emphasizes herbs and spices complemented by simple preparation that lets the flavors stand out.
In addition to their made to order craft cocktails, Thasos offers more than 250 labels of wine from Greece and the rest of the world. The restaurant is a two-time recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.
Thasos is located at 3330 E. Oakland Park Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. The restaurant and bar are open Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 11pm and Friday and Saturday from 5 to midnight. There’s live music nightly. Complimentary valet parking and self parking are available. For reservations or more info, call (954) 200-6006 or visit: http://www.ThasosTaverna.com.