Today’s post will highlight a media dinner I attended last week at Bogart’s Bar & Grille, where we were treated to a lovely 5 course (12 item) tasting menu arranged for us in one of their 4 private banquet rooms and skillfully prepared and presented by Executive Chef Aaron Goldberg. The last time I was here was in May when I came with friend and fellow food blogger Shaina for a Girls Night Out, dinner and a movie. To read about this adventure, check out Shaina’s review. It was then, that me and my taste buds fell in love with Chef Aaron’s cooking.
With training in classical French cuisine and a touch of modern influence, Chef Aaron’s dishes are packed with flavor and are consistently on point. Aaron, originally from New Jersey, got started in the industry at the tender age of 13 and later moved to Florida to attend the Florida Culinary Institute. After receiving his culinary degree he went on to work in various kitchens including the one at The Seagate Hotel & Spa in Delray Beach, Admiral’s Cove Country Club in Jupiter and Cafe du Park in Lake Worth prior to joining the Rapoport Restaurant Group in 2010 as sous chef at Deck 84 also in Delray Beach. Chef Aaron is a consummate professional who takes his craft seriously and embodies what he does whole heartedly. When he’s not in the kitchen, he enjoys working out, going to the beach and all things food-related. Says Aaron, “this isn’t just a job. This is what I live for.”
On this evening’s menu, we were treated to 7 of the 15 new dishes created by Chef Aaron as well as 5 of Bogart’s classics.
The Miso-Maple Glazed Edamame is an example of a classic Bogart dish that Chef Aaron put his spin on. I have to definitely give him kudos on this new rendition. The char on the edamame and the sweet/tangy sauce was a perfect combination. Loved them!
Next up was the Hummus Trio (new starter item, $8). Dollops of roasted garlic, beet and avocado hummus the size of an ice cream scoop were playfully presented and served along with warm pita bread, celery and carrot sticks.
Glad to see Brussels Sprouts are still in. These Crispy Brussels (another new starter, $9) come with smoked bacon, candied pecans (genius) and an apple-pecan vinaigrette. To say they were delicious is an understatement, really.
Our next course started off with Sesame Seared Tuna (new starter, $16). As the name of the dish implies, the tuna was coated in sesame seeds and seared and laid upon a bed of wakame, and garnished with pickled ginger, wasabi, cracked wasabi peas and ponzu for dipping. While this dish definitely had eye appeal, I was more impressed with wasabi tuna salad I had on my previous visit. Perhaps all this one lacked was the miso ginger vinaigrette served with the salad. Well, that’s just my opinion. I heard others oohing and aahing over this dish, so you will just have to try it and let me know what you think.
The Tomato Mozzarella Salad (another new item listed under ‘greens’, $11) consisted of vine ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella, balsamic reduction, basil oil and sea salt. Art on a plate that tasted as good as it looked!
Our third course included their Orange-Miso Glazed Salmon. (Bogart classic, $25) Check out the coloring on the salmon, it’s gorgeous, don’t you think?!? The salmon was placed atop a bed of black forbidden “Chinese-style” rice which I had never heard of before and drizzled with a carrot-ginger emulsion.
Mojo-braised Pork Tacos (new item under large plates, $14) come with 3 tacos filled with deliciously marinated pork and topped with a charred pineapple salsa, pickled red onion and cojita (Mexican) cheese. The tacos were simple, light and tasty and the combination of the various flavor profiles was very well thought out.
The Dijon Crusted Chicken Milano (another Bogart Classic, $20) was one of the dishes I had ordered on my last visit. It definitely deserves to remain on the menu. The chicken was cooked perfectly and the Dijon crust delivers the perfect crunch. The chicken sits atop bed of broccoli florets and sweet potato raviolis in a maple-dijon cream sauce.
The Home-Style Pot Roast came out next (new item under large plates, $22) and was served with truffle whipped potato (truffle: woo hoo, yippee, nom nom, I sure do love me some truffle, lol) and baby carrots. If sandwiches are more your thing, they also have a Pot Roast Dip (new item under handhelds, $16) served on a French roll, creamy horseradish sauce and pan jus.
Moving onto desserts, all the desserts are made in house. The Bread Pudding (new item created by Pastry Chef Kate Neumann $8) is made with roasted apples, salted caramel and creme anglaise.
The Ice Cream Sandwich is made in house with flourless (gluten-free) chocolate cake and filled with mint chocolate chip gelato and a side of whipped cream ($9)
And the final dessert of the night was a New York style Cheesecake made with a graham cracker crust with a strawberry coulis ($9).
cou·lis ko͞oˈlē/ a thin fruit or vegetable puree, used as a sauce.
These cocktails were so festive looking, perfect for the holidays. Strawberry Basil Sangria and Ruby Red Martini.
Bogart’s Bar & Grille is located on the second floor at Cinemark Palace 20 Theatre, 3200 Airport Road in Boca Raton. Guests can dine here with or without seeing a movie. However, guests choosing to take in a show at the Premier Level may bring their food and beverages, including liquor, into the plush theaters. Popcorn and valet are also complimentary to Premier Level guests. As if that weren’t enough, Bogart’s offers an amazing concession stand featuring the full restaurant menu, a gourmet chocolate selection and an array of wines by the half or full bottle.
They are open from 11am until 11pm Sunday to Thursday and Friday & Saturday from 11am to 12am.
Planning a special event? Bogart’s is perfect for…Birthdays, Engagements, Wedding Rehearsals, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Family Reunions, Showers, Holiday Parties, Happy Hour, Networking, Team Meetings, Seminars, Product Launches, Client/Employee Appreciations. For info on booking Bogart’s for any of the above events, you can contact the Meeting & Events department at 561-395-7682 and let them know your foodie friend Denise from Savor Our City sent ya!
For additional info about Bogart’s, please visit their website or call 561-544-3044.
Management: Burt Rapoport, Owner of Rapoport’s Restaurant Group
A third generation restaurant aficionado, Burt started his career in New York City, where his family owned and operated a successful kosher dairy restaurant for 50 years. Known for providing high quality cuisine with a good value, an elegantly welcoming ambiance and impeccable service, Rapoport takes pride in all of his restaurant concepts. The collection includes Bogart’s Bar & Grille in Boca, and Henry’s, Deck 84, Burt & Max’s and Apeiro in Delray and is a partner in Max’s Grille in Mizner Park. Rappy’s Deli in Boca Raton is slated to open in the Fall of 2016.
Let’s face it, many of the restaurants that sit on pristine real estate donning the best ocean views fall a little short on delivering a high quality dining experience. Customers have come to expect this norm of sacrificing one for the other. Well not any more. Oceans 234 in Deerfield Beach has literally and figuratively broken ground and paved the way for a new standard that doesn’t call for sacrificing on quality for the sake of having a spectacular view.
I have been a fan of Oceans 234 for several years now and was super excited when they finally re-opened after undergoing a $1.8 million remodeling. I was also thrilled to receive an invitation to attend a media dinner there to check the new space out and sample some of the new menu items created by Chef Vic.
With 75 percent of the menu items being brand-new, Chef Victor Franco has been busy for the better part of a year creating new dishes, including a separate gluten-free menu. New signature cocktails and a new wine program are also new additions that are sophisticated yet approachable. What you will experience at the 200-seat Oceans 234 is fresh caught seafood varieties, sushi, tender steaks, poultry, entrée salads, a handmade dessert menu, and full liquor bar. “The craft cocktails are unique & playful” boasts server Josh. “We like to play with our food”.
Returning guests as well as new diners are wowed by the new openness and beauty of the views now devoid of any column obstruction and a completely new interior decor which has been outfitted with a sea-inspired theme which is a perfect compliment to it’s environment. There’s a new private dining area that can accommodate up to 50 guests with Nano doors opening up to the patio. Even when the Nano doors are closed, the floor-to-ceiling windows allow the breathtaking oceanfront view to be seen by those dining inside or socializing at the bar. The obstructing columns on the exterior patio were removed to open up the outside to deliver full views of the beach, ocean and the Deerfield pier.
Here’s the awesome tasting menu that was presented to us on this night by server Josh, who did an amazing job describing each and every dish and accompanying beverage to our group:
Tuna Stack & Moet Ice Mojito
Interesting factoid: the Moet Ice Mojito is made with Moet Ice Imperial, the world’s first ever Champagne created to be enjoyed anytime, day or night. Moet is pioneering the way by introducing new and creative uses of champagne as in this Moet Ice Mojito cocktail or simply over ice. Think: it’s not just for celebrations anymore…
Lobster potato skins paired with Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc
Interesting factoid: The lobster potato skins has become the top selling appetizer, taking the lead over calamari which has been the reigning champ since they opened 12 years ago.
Blackened Snapper Reuben paired with Blackberry Smash
Surf and Turf Sushi Roll & Sake, TY-KU
Interesting factoid: the surf & turf sushi roll is a combination of the meat lover’s roll & the tropical shrimp tempura roll
Grilled Skirt Steak paired with Summer Old Fashioned
Nutella French Toast and Mocktail
Everything that was presented was very good but if I had to pick a favorite food item, I’d have to say it was the grilled skirt steak followed by the lobster potato skins and the Nutella French toast. All of the cocktails were very good as well, including and especially the Mocktail.
1. The new WOW Factor South Beach-style décor totally re-imagined,
re-organized and rockin’ with its own edgy brand of BFF (Beach, Food & Fun).
2. Best ‘on the beach’ dining, without getting your feet (or food) sandy.
3. Unobstructed ocean, beach and pier views from inside, private dining space, and on patio. (Previous patio pillars are gone!)
4. 234 is even more social than ever before … dotted with intimate seating areas, raised banquette seating for large groups or several couplings.
5. Its new first-ever private dining room with seating up to 50 for lunch, brunch, dinner for all biz and personal celebrations.
6. More than 75% of the ‘true to Florida’ menu is all new – by Chef Victor Franco; check out the separate and extensive gluten-free and brunch menus, new signature cocktails and desserts.
7. Introduction of new ‘wine lovers’ program featuring 102 select brands; 400 bottles line new wine wall.
8. The ideal spot for memory-making and envious South Florida selfies (especially for sharing during Winter months with those stuck in snow).
9. Romance is afire: place for ‘date night’ or to propose, marry and commemorate milestones.
10. Great place to sports watch televised match ups!
As Josh explained to our group, they strive for the holy trinity of Great Food, Great Price & Great Service. I am proud to report that I think they have nailed all three. I highly suggest that you head over to Oceans 234 and see for yourself why “everything is better at the beach”.
Oceans 234 is located at 234 North Ocean Boulevard, Deerfield Beach, FL. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week and brunch on Sundays. Their hours are as follows: Monday to Thursday, 11:30 am to 10 pm (bar closes at 11 pm) Friday and Saturday, 11:30 am to 11 pm (bar closes at 3 a.m.) and Sunday 10 am to 10 pm (bar closes at 11 pm). For more information on culinary events and private dining for business, holiday and celebratory events, visit http://www.oceans234.com; for reservations call 954-428-2539.
Back in December, my friend Shaina and I reviewed DaVinci’s shortly after they opened. (Click here to read that review.) Well, today I am pleased to share with you my latest review after being invited back to try some brand new items to commemorate their newly revamped menu executed by new Executive Chef, Ardany Rivas. Chef Rivas may be DaVinci’s new Executive Chef, but he is no stranger to the Carvelli Family. He has been working in the family owned restaurants since he joined them in 2005 working in Naples, FL and Wisconsin Dells, WI before coming to Boca to head up the kitchen.
“Ardany has worked with our family for more than ten years now, providing insight and inspiration for this location, as well as our other venues, so it made sense to move him into this role,” said Luigi Carvelli, who launched the restaurant with his family in September 2014. “Ardany shares the Carvelli family’s passion for delivering authentic Italian dishes that are prepared with the best, freshest, ingredients possible. We are thrilled to have him managing the DaVinci’s of Boca kitchen full-time.”
Shortly after we sat down, GM Francesco came to our table and asked us about our wine preferences. Luckily we were able to agree on a bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, a wonderful baby Barolo.
First thing to arrive on our table was their yummy warm bread basket and trio of dipping sauces that I fell in love with the first time around. (The Mascarpone with lemon zest & thyme is my personal favorite). Thank goodness this is one thing that they did not change when they created a new menu, I am pleased to announce.
Francesco informed us that Chef would be preparing a special tasting menu for us highlighting some of the new menu additions. Shaina and I especially love when Chefs do this for us. When Shaina and I dine together, we are kind of like a “Surf and Turf” duo; Shaina only eats seafood and I prefer meat, lol. Fortunately, we both really enjoy vegetarian type dishes. Speaking of which, our first course was a Vegetable Terrine appetizer which consisted of layers of eggplant, roasted red peppers, zucchini, portobello mushroom, goat cheese, arugula and topped with a balsamic glaze drizzle. I really liked this dish. It was a cold dish which didn’t surprise me as much as it seemed to have surprised Shaina. But I do agree with her assessment that it could have just as easily been served and enjoyed warm as well. To read Shaina’s review, click here.
The next dish to arrive was the charred octopus. For those of you who follow my posts, you know that Shaina and I are both huge fans of octopus. Last year when we were first introduced to DaVinci’s we tried their Polipo Grigliato al Salmoriglio, aka Octopus. It was a chilled version and although it was quite tasty, both Shaina and I agreed hands down that this new version was much more to our liking. It was served atop arugula with a lemon dressing, potato confit, drizzled with a pepperoncini aioli and served with a side of the most fantastic squid ink/white bean puree.
The Kale & Beet Salad was next. This colorful salad was visually very appealing and consisted of golden and red beets, pecans, pistachio-crusted goat cheese, kale tossed with a basil citrette dressing, topped with pickled onions and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. The salad was well composed and we both enjoyed it very much.
The next dish that came out was the homemade spinach gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce garnished with strawberries. At first I was like, strawberries? But after trying it, I can definitely see that the sweetness from the fresh berries cuts some of the richness of the Gorgonzola and it works… very well, in fact. This was definitely one of my favorites of the night and I’d have to say that these gnocchi were my absolute favorite that I have ever been served (sorry mom).
When it came time to ordering our entrees, I selected the Veal Porcini, one of the new menu items, while Shaina ordered the seafood special of the night, Shrimp-stuffed Branzino. Both dishes were accompanied by scalloped potatoes in a lemon sauce, asparagus and baby carrots. The veal was cooked with a porcini Marsala wine and cream sauce. I enjoyed this dish, although it was just a tad over salted for my preference. Shaina loved her Branzino, which was presented in quite a unique manner in that it was filleted and stuffed rather than served whole. Pretty, isn’t it?!?
We skipped on dessert this time, since A) we were pretty stuffed and B) there weren’t any new desserts on the revamped menu. We had tried the Salted Caramel Tiramisu and the Lemon Meringue Mascarpone the last time and they were both delicious. Anything that has the words “Salted Caramel” is a must have in my book. So I encourage you all to make your way over to DaVinci’s and try some of these delicious items I’ve described for you here or anything else that catches your eye on the menu. I promise you one thing, you won’t be disappointed. Exceptional food, service and ambiance.
DaVinci’s offers Happy Hour 7 days a week from 11am – 6pm at the bar and patio only, as well as a late night Happy Hour from 9pm – close. They also have live entertainment and an indoor private dining room which can accommodate groups up to 40 guests and an outside patio/lounge area which can accommodate much larger groups. They are located at 6000 Glades Rd. (next to Nordstrom at the Town Center Mall). 561-362-8466. For more info, visit their website.
I was recently invited to dine at the newly opened The Feisty Bull restaurant, located at the Coral Square Mall in Coral Springs, FL. The Feisty Bull is the newest concept by restauranteur Luigi Carvelli and the Carvelli Family. With more than 20 years of combined experience in the restaurant industry, the Carvelli Family currently owns and operates The Feisty Bull, DaVinci’s of Boca, and several Marco Island, Florida venues.
Under the direction of designer Megan Carvelli, The Feisty Bull brings together a variety of personally curated elements to create a warm, fun casual dining atmosphere. The restaurant’s overall design features earthy shades of red and orange, reminiscent of the Mexican and Spanish cultures, complimented with authentic wood accents and hints of lime green. Focal points include vintage-style chandeliers, patina copper bar tops and a large hand-painted logo that adorns the front wall. The Feisty Bull features both indoor seating and al fresco dining, as well as two unique indoor/outdoor bars. A private dining room area featuring large family-style tables is also available for groups. (Perfect for a Denise’s Foodie Event in fact.)
So on this particular visit, I brought my Aunt with me, who has attended several of my foodie events over the years, but this was her first time accompanying me on a food review. We had a blast. Shortly after we were seated, to our surprise, Luigi was in house and stopped by to say hello and chat with us for a bit. With so many wonderful choices on the menu, I was glad to get Luigi’s input on a couple items to try. Our server was Marek and he was terrific. After discovering it was our first visit, he proceeded to let us know the concept of The Feisty Bull and that they were all about tapas, tequila, family and friends and that they offer live music several nights a week. We happened to arrive on Tapas & Tequila Thursday and just prior to the evening’s live performance which began at 7pm. Bonus!
With tequila being a star on the cocktail menu, we both decided to try a Margarita. My Aunt decided on the classic, “The Feisty Margarita” ($8) made with El Jimador Blanco, Cointreau & Lime Grand Marnier Foam. I decided upon the “Raspberry Pineapple” Margarita ($9) made with Jose Cuervo, Cointreau, Lime, Raspberries & Pineapple. Both were very good, but I liked mine better, lol.
A cone filled with mariquitas arrived with a garlic mojo (which is brought out to all guests, compliments of the house). OH MY, were these dangerously addicting. The garlic mojo was really great; I could’ve eaten this combo all night, but I showed a little restraint knowing there was much more to come. While munching on the mariquitas and sipping on our margaritas, we decided a Manchego flambe would be fun to order. Check out the pic of Marek below as he prepared to ignite our cheese tableside. Who thought this whole flaming cheese thing was corned by the Greeks? I for one will admit, I was…until my experience at The Feisty Bull!
The Manchego flambe ($8) was simply delicious; starring Manchego Cheese of course and flambéed with brandy, lemon, and served on toast points. Next, we decided to try the signature mango guacamole ($10), also made tableside. This time Vernon arrived all smiles to our table, setting down a cone of fresh tortilla ships as he began to prepare our guac. I am a fan of both Latin and Mexican cuisines and the fact that I can have both mariquitas and tortilla chips on my table for my dipping pleasure elated me.
Ok, so the next dish we shared was the Lechon Bravo ($11). This was one of Luigi’s suggestions and I’m sure glad he did because we both loved this dish. It was Mojo Pulled Pork, Spicy Cilantro Aioli, Pickled Red Onion, Oaxaca Cheese, and Baguette Bread and served with Patatas (potatoes). You could tell from the first bite that the pork had been slow roasted and it was so flavorful and juicy.
I couldn’t resist ordering the Street Corn ($5) when I saw it on the menu. I’ve had this only one other time, and I just had a hunch it was going to be really good here. My hunch was spot on! The corn was cooked to perfection and topped with Spicy Cilantro Aiolo, Cotija Cheese, Chili, and Lime. If you’ve never tried Mexican street corn before, you must try it here for sure.
We just couldn’t leave without trying one of 11 varieties of tacos they have on their menu, so we decided on the El Pollo Loco ($4) – Flour Tortilla, Adobo Chicken, Cilantro Lime Slaw, Cotija Cheese, and Spicy Cilantro Aioli and the Marino ($5) – Crispy Corn Tortilla, Mahi Mahi, Mango Salsa, Lettuce, Avocado, and Chipotle Ranch. We enjoyed the fresh ingredients of both tacos, but we both favored the El Pollo Loco.
There are a number of sweet endings to choose from, and I’m sure any one of them would have delighted us, but at Marek’s strong suggestion, we went with the Chocolate Taco. A crispy chocolate dipped taco shell filled with the most delicious dolce de leche ice cream and topped with almond slivers. A perfect way to end a perfect meal.
The Feisty Bull is a really fun, unique spot turning out innovative and skillfully prepared dishes appealing to foodies, families and everyone in between. If live entertainment is your thing, than you’re in luck. They have the following nights that are sure to get your head moving, feet tapping and maybe even move you to get off your derriere and dance.
Catering to the family market, The Feisty Bull offers a lively, family-friendly atmosphere for guests of all ages. Bringing forth an interactive dining experience for the little ones, The Feisty Bull provides coloring menus, fun bullhorn souvenir hats and a build-your-own taco kit. Keeping the parents in the mind, the restaurant’s family-friendly Sunday brunch menu also offers bottomless mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.
Looking for a great Happy Hour? Guests can enjoy 2-for-1 specials on a variety of their favorite drinks from Monday-Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Reverse happy hour is offered Thursday – Sunday from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. Choose from an array of handcrafted cocktails such as The Feisty Margarita, Jalisco Mojito or a Strawberry Basil Caipirinha.
The Feisty Bull is open Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Friday – Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
They are located at 9225 W. Atlantic Boulevard Coral Springs, FL 33071 (Coral Square Mall) www.TheFeistyBull.com 954.232.1792
Today I introduce to you Rafina Greek Taverna, the winning recipient of the Open Table 2015 Diner’s Choice Award. This sleek and stylish modern Greek & Mediterranean restaurant strives to serve the highest quality & freshest ingredients at reasonable prices.
Born out of their love of fine wines, craft cocktails and delicious food, the owners of Rafina have created what is fast becoming the premiere location for fine dining in South Central Boca Raton. Rafina’s success can be attributed in part to finding the right, high-quality ingredients and their dedication to serving only the finest and freshest foods. They have also taken great care in assembling a team of great chefs, a master mixologist, and experienced kitchen & dining staff.
I had the opportunity to dine at Rafina’s recently and am excited to share with you my experience. It was a Sunday just before 7pm and the place was nearly full, an impressive sight, especially being in the middle of summer. We were greeted at the hostess stand and shown immediately to our table. Soon after, our server Kristen came over and introduced herself and asked if we’d like to get started with some drinks. I chose a house Greek white wine and my companion chose the Orange Moscow Mule.
Soon followed a plate of warm crispy pita served with a red pepper & feta spread. It was delicious!! This scrumptious appetizer is compliments of the house in lieu of the standard bread basket. Good call. I scanned the menu and of course to my delight, I spotted octopus. Yes, please. My companion ordered the Mediterranean mussels. The octopus was grilled and although the description on the menu read charbroiled and marinated in olive oil it was actually served with a red wine vinaigrette and topped with dill. The dish had layers of flavors and certainly pleased the palate. Although I’m not much of a mussels fan, I did try the broth and thought it also was very flavorful. My companion cleaned his bowl, so I’ll take that as a sign that he enjoyed his dish as well.
For our entrees, I selected the Moussaka which came with a side Greek salad. The salad was bright and beautiful and had so much to offer. The seasoning was spot on as was the dressing. I really enjoyed it. The Moussaka had layers of eggplant & potatoes and was topped with ground beef & béchamel sauce. The aromatics of cinnamon could could be detected as the dish was set down in front of me. By this time, I was already beginning to get full but was able to get a few yummy bites in before calling it quits. My companion ordered one of the specials of the night: the fresh Florida Black Grouper. It was baked & sautéed in an extra virgin olive oil / lemon caper glaze and served a top a bed of sautéed spinach and a side of rice pilaf. The entree came with a Greek soup called avgolemono, which was basically chicken and rice soup. It was very lemony, which is a good thing if you like lemon, a little overwhelming if not.
The General Manager, Evan, ensured we were enjoying our meal and insisted that we at least take home some of their baklava to nibble on later. How thoughtful, right?!? Well, as our night came drawing to a close, we definitely agreed that we’d be back and hopefully you will want to join us. We have a Foodie Event planned there on Monday, August 24th at 6:30 pm. For more info on that, please click here.
Rafina is open 7 days with lunch served from 11am – 3pm followed by happy hour from 3-6pm offering a nice assortment of appetizers and small plates from $4 – $7 and cocktails priced from $4-$7 as well.
Located in Boca Raton at the Wharf (the corner of SW 18th & Powerline Rd) 6877 SW 18th St. (561) 409-3673.
With so many places to dine in Boca, a restaurant’s gotta do what a restaurant’s gotta do to keep their name in the forefront of their fans and do whatever it takes to lure new ones in. This was the case for me and Yard House. I received an invite from the PR firm representing the restaurant to come check out some of their new menu items as well as their new collection of handcrafted cocktails that launched earlier this month. The Yard House nearest me is the one in Mizner Park in Boca Raton. I had been to Yard House in the past, but it had been a while.
Yard House, an award-winning restaurant known for its creative cuisine and vast selection of draft beer, debuted its collection of new handcrafted cocktails using premium spirits and its own house-made citrus agave blend coupled with seasonal fruits and veggies nationwide July 13th.
“The art of cocktailing has returned,” said Gregory Howard, manager of beverage for Yard House. “In recent years shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire have given new life to long forgotten drinks. Just like a good meal, creating a great cocktail also requires using premium ingredients as well as a seasoned bartender who knows his or her craft.” Howard and his team collaborated with Executive Chef Carlito Jocson in creating the new cocktail collection, which includes:
Blood & Smoke – a blood orange and ancho chili spiced margarita made with Del Maguey “Vida” Mezcal, El Jimador Silver Tequila, Ancho Reyes, Monin Blood Orange, house-made citrus agave and aromatic bitters poured into a salt-rimmed glass
Bourbon Berry Sour – made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, house-made citrus agave, Dekuyper Razzmatazz, orange bitters with fresh raspberries for added sweetness
Hibiscus Rose – a refreshing herbal and botanical gin martini featuring Bulldog Gin, St. Germain & Lillet Blanc with orange bitters and Monin Hibiscus
Sidecar – this classic cocktail steps into the 21st century with D’Ussé VSOP Cognac, Cointreau and house-made citrus agave poured into a glass rimmed with sugar
Cucumber Citrus Tonic – a spa-like drink made with Bulldog Gin, Aperol, house-made citrus agave, tonic, freshly-sliced cucumber and orange plus orange bitters
“Just like food and fashion, cocktails are constantly evolving,” added Howard. “Pop culture tends to play a role in what is currently trending. Look what Sex and The City did for the Cosmopolitan a decade ago.”
The moment we stepped inside, I was instantly reminded that they keep the temperature set really cool in there, so if you get cold easily, here’s a tip: bring a sweater or jacket. That said, once we ordered their awesome cocktails, our internal body temperatures began to rise, lol! Soon after being shown to our table by the friendly hostess, our server Cassandra came over to introduce herself and presented us with our menus. Following came Lisa, our head server and Associate GM, Christian. Christian was eager for us to try some of their new menu items and asked if it was okay for him to have a bunch sent out. Uh…let me think about it…heck yeah! I love it when the restaurant takes the initiative and presents us with their own tasting menu.
The first two cocktails that Christian had sent out for us to try were the Bourbon Berry Sour and the Cucumber Citrus Tonic. Admittedly not much of a Bourbon drinker, I was certain that I would end up with the Cucumber Citrus Tonic, which with its fresh bits of orange and cucumber was rather “spa-like”, but I surprised myself by commandeering the Bourbon Berry Sour. The combination of the sour mix, the Razzmatazz and fresh raspberries made it palpable and quite a nice concoction.
Off to a great start, Lisa began to deliver the “House Previews” (the featured new menu items): Nashville Hot Chicken, Crispy Duck Wings, Deviled Eggs and the California Roll.
The Nashville Hot Chicken was Ah-mazing! Be forewarned: it does have a little bit of a kick to it. A self proclaimed wimp when it comes to heat, I still enjoyed it immensely. I have really been working on toughening up my tastebuds in order to build up a better tolerance and I think it has finally paid off, lol! I like the thought that went into the creation of this dish very much. The chicken was seasoned and cooked perfectly and came with a side of sweet potato pancakes (a nice twist from the overplayed chicken & waffles). Sides of buttermilk dressing and honey hot sauce, the consistency of syrup were offered as well as pickles and crispy sage. Every component on the dish played nicely together to create a cohesive and tasty dish.
Another really cool new item was the Crispy Duck Wings. I never heard of such a thing but what a brilliant idea. The wings were topped with a delicious maple glaze and sesame seeds and came with an herb salad.
Another popular item found on many menus these days are Deviled Eggs. Here at Yard House, of course theirs are prepared with a unique twist. Candied bacon (which is always a hit with me on its own or as a topping), spicy tomato sauce (now this is definitely different), sweet chili and chives. Although I applaud them on their creativity, to me the sauce made it a little too runny and was a bit messy in execution.
The star of the night was the California Roll. I have to admit, being an expert sushi eater, I usually pass on California Rolls seeing them as the roll of choice for amateurs. But hold your horses guys…this one will blow your taste buds away, I promise! First of all, they break out of the traditional 8 piece roll. Served atop a disc of crispy rice (yum), are layers of crab, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, serranos, masago, nori, mirin soy and cilantro. It gets two thumbs up on creativity and taste for sure.
Founded in 1981, by Jay Brown and Mark Jay Katzenberg, (the two “Jays” who combined their names to form the brand that has become synonymous with Deli) TooJay’s has become a Florida institution, serving diners traditional delicatessen fare for 35 years. Now in 26 restaurants throughout the state, the original location was established on the island of Palm Beach, where it is still open and flourishing today.
In addition to all your favorites from corned beef piled high on thick slices of freshly baked rye to classic Reubens and chicken noodle soup; TooJay’s offers a host of lighter entrées as well as a diverse catering menu, a famed selection of freshly baked desserts, and homestyle comfort food entrees.
I was recently invited to dine at TooJays to experience their brunch. My friend had never been to a TooJays before and for me, it’s been a while since I’ve had something other than my usual bagel, lox and cream cheese – so this was something that we both were looking forward to. Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by the hostess who, once I informed her we were there for our 10:30am tasting, smiled and acknowledged that Eddie the GM was expecting us. Eddie came by to say hello and after we were seated let us know that we were free to try whatever we wanted from the menu. Our server Macie soon came over and asked if she could get us started with some coffee or Mimosas. We graciously accepted her offer of Mimosas. We were off to a good start. The breakfast menu had lots of interesting items to choose from and was categorized as follows: Omelettes & Eggs, Morning Specials (primarily a variety of French Toasts & Waffles), Breakfast Sandwiches & Wraps, Fish Platters, Baked Goods & finally A la Carte (offering everything from bacon, blintzes, corned beef hash to fruit salad). Although not on the breakfast menu, my friend and I decided we were interested in trying TooJay’s chopped liver, served with a side of veggies.
The chopped liver was presently nicely but the texture was a little too dense in our opinion and seemed to lack a little in flavor that maybe I’m used to in the way my mom has always prepared hers using tons of grated onions and chicken fat.
We decided to create our own omelette next selecting corned beef hash, spinach & provolone cheese which came with a side of home fries. This omelette was delicious. The corned beef added a nice little crunch element inside and provided the right amount of saltiness which played nicely with the spinach and cheese. We really enjoyed this dish. The home fries, although we had asked for them to be cooked well done/crispy didn’t quite live up to our expectations. The potatoes, in my opinion, had a heavy, dense consistency, although the grilled onions and peppers added a nice flavor.
The Nova Salmon Benedict caught my eye. It was made with poached eggs on an English muffin (which did an excellent job mopping up all that wonderful Hollandaise sauce in its nooks & crannies) with smoked Nova salmon, red onion, tomato & capers, topped with Hollandaise sauce. Another outstanding dish. A wonderful cross between a lox, bagel & cream cheese and an eggs benedict!
To get a full range of what this famous deli has to offer, I insisted that my friend try one of their sandwiches. We chose the classic hot pastrami which was seasoned, cured and piled sky high and served on our choice of bread, thickly sliced challah. This dish delivered on all accounts.
Although we were sufficiently satisfied from all that we had eaten, Macie asked us if we’d like to try any of their desserts. We had to try the famous Black & White cookie, how could we not?!?
As we were on our way out, we were each presented with a little surprise, a bag with assorted rugelach to enjoy later that day (or in my case the next morning). What a sweet and thoughtful gesture!
My friend and I had a really great experience at TooJays and I am thankful that I was invited to come in and really take a look at what these guys are doing here. My eyes have been opened and I can now see that they are way more than the bagel, lox & cream cheese and deli sandwiches that I have come to associate them with. Click here to take a look at their menu and see for yourself and you just may become a fan (or bigger fan) as well!
The menu at TooJays is really quite extensive. Beyond the numerous delicious traditional and classic delicatessen breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites, you’ll find a number of classic comfort food items reminiscent of a good ol’ diner. Enjoy a Mimosa like we did to kick start your morning or enjoy a glass of wine or beer with your lunch or dinner. TooJays has it all.
TooJay’s has locations in these areas:
Palm Beach, Jupiter, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Plantation, Coral Spring, Wellington, Stuart, Vero Beach, Melbourne, Orlando, Lake Mary, Ocee, Altamonte Springs, The Villages, Tampa, Lakeland
The TooJays that I visited is in Boca Raton, located at 2240 NW 19th Street #700
Waterstone Resort & Marina, a new, art-deco inspired waterfront resort with sophisticated coastal design and breath taking 180 degree views of Lake Boca and the Intracoastal Waterway (formerly the Boca Raton Bridge Hotel), recently welcomed Executive Chef Matt Mixon, who brings with him a new creative passion, innovative culinary vision and a new menu to Waterstone Resort & Marina and the onsite restaurants, Boca Landing and Waterstone Bar & Grill.
With a French and Italian family background, Chef Matt brings a new direction and creative cultural influences to the cuisine offered at Waterstone Resort & Marina. A graduate of the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France studying advanced culinary arts, Chef Matt went on to become chef de tournot at PGA National Resort & Spa and banquet sous chef at the Boca Raton Resort & Club before joining Waterstone Resort & Marina.
“Mixon has a deep passion for what he does combined with superior education and experience,” says Greg Kaylor, Waterstone’s General Manager. “We are excited for him to join the Waterstone team and add his influences from his French and Italian heritage to our cuisine.” As executive chef, Matt will oversee all food & beverage outlets, including meetings and special events’ catering, weddings, in-room dining and the poolside dining at Waterstone Bar & Grill.
I toured the property when it first opened and had been back once for dinner, but was super excited when I received an invite from Waterstone’s PR firm to come back in and try out some of the new menu items since Chef Matt took over as Executive Chef.
Boca Landing restaurant provides guests with upscale dining in an art-inspired, water-centric atmosphere. Orchestrated with local ingredients, fresh flavors and dynamic textures, the menu features seafood caught off of Florida’s coast which is then prepared with influences from Chef Matt’s French and Italian heritage. The menu showcases creative small plates, a selection of fish and meats, prepared old school and delectable made-to-order side options which are easy-to-share.
Soon after we were shown to our table, Chef Matt came over to say hello and informed us that while we were free to order anything off the menu, if we were up for it, he’d love to present us with a tasting menu. We were definitely up for it, who wouldn’t be?!?
While we waited for Chef Matt to come out with the first course, my companion and I took a look at their Specialty Cocktails menu list. My companion decided on the Rhubarb Whitney, comprised of Grey Goose, cucumber agave, fresh lime and rhubarb bitters. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it because of the bitters, but I tried it and it was surprisingly very light and tasty. I ordered the Marina Champagne Cocktail made with JP Chenet Brut, ginger liqueur, strawberry puree and fresh mint. Not only was this a gorgeous looking drink but it tasted soooooooooo good!!! So much so that instead of switching to my usual beverage choice of wine with dinner, I stuck with this cocktail.
Our server, whose name also happened to be Matt, was very attentive to our needs and brought us out a cone of house made chips with a side of house made smoked fish dip. We were told that this is compliments of the house and is brought out in place of bread. Nice!
Chef Matt soon arrived with our first plate, a trio of some of their most popular apps. House madeBurrata and Arugula Salad with Roasted Pepper, Basil and Balsamic Glaze; Black Kale Caesar made with Parmesan & creamy anchovy-black pepper vinaigrette; Fresh Crab Salad made with blue crab, arugula, hearts of palm, avocado & citrus vinaigrette. I liked each and every item on this plate. The textures and flavors were all incredibly well thought out and worked really cohesively together. The burrata was so fresh and creamy. My companion thought the kale salad was a little overdressed, but I thought it had the perfect amount. My favorite item on this plate might have been the crab salad though. The combination of the hearts of palm, avocado and crab was fantastic and I loved how the citrus gave it that extra punch of brightness really elevating the dish.
Next plate that Chef Matt presented us with was a trio of seafood specialties. Mofongo jerk mahi; Mango glazed salmon; Dijon panko crusted snapper.
Whenever I see the word “jerk” in an entree’s description, I know there’s likely going to be a level of heat that’s going to be a little too intense for my sensitive taste buds. One can never rely on someone else’s take on how hot something is or isn’t, it’s all relative. Case in point: I asked Chef Matt if this dish was going to be hot and he reassuringly nodded his head no. One bite in and I was fanning my mouth and reaching for my water glass. LOL! So, for those of you who like the heat/spiciness of jerk, you will want to give this one a try for sure. Now, I’m a huge fan of mofongo and I really enjoyed this component of the dish. I thought the salmon was season and cooked to perfection; I particularly enjoyed the light char on the top of the fish and the mango glaze. What took me by surprise was the yellowtail snapper. The dijon panko crust was amazing and the fish was so flavorful. I haven’t had snapper very often, preferring instead other fish like Chilean Sea Bass and Salmon, but when given a preparation like I had with this dish, I just may have to give it more plate time. Well at least here at Boca Landing. This snapper was, simply put, “delicious”.
While I had stuck with my Marina Champagne cocktail, my companion decided to switch to a glass of wine. He was in the mood for a Chardonnay and asked our server Matt for his recommendation. We were both impressed by what followed. Matt came back with a glass, told him what it was, where it was from and then proceeded to share with him some of the tasting notes as well.
Our final plate consisted of meats: a grilled filet mignon with a foie gras sauce and a pork belly. When I heard the words “foie gras” my eyes opened up real wide. I love me some foie gras, only I had envisioned a little heartier portion of this delicacy to appear on my plate but that was probably due to my own wishful thinking and not hearing the part about it being incorporated into the sauce. Still, the meat was season and cooked well and the sauce added depth to the flavor. The pork belly was very rich and by that, I mean fatty. But isn’t that what’s expected when one orders pork belly? Of course we weren’t expected to eat the whole thing (thank God), but the little bit we did eat was sooooo sinfully good.
At this point, as you can probably imagine, I am getting extremely full and out walks Chef Matt to see if we left room for dessert. I hesitantly said yes with the condition that he brings us out something small to try.
This is what he brought out. “The Beast”…There is NOTHING small about this dessert! (Thanks Chef Matt, hahaha) The fresh and warm chocolate chip cookie on top is paying homage to the Doubletree cookies that guests are treated to on their pillows each night. Row after row of this ginormous cake layered with chocolate and chocolate fudge, cookie crumbles, strawberries and then two scoops of delicious gelato; I was going to need a wheel chair to roll me out of there, or on second thought, having a room there would come in pretty handy (perhaps next time).
Before finishing dessert we were visited by yet another Matt (can you believe it? Three Matts in one night, all looking after us, what are the odds?) This one was the owner of the hotel. I had met Matt when his company had first purchased the property and I came for the media tour. It was nice to see Matt again, he’s a genuine, down to earth guy and you can tell he really takes an interest in the hotel and the restaurants, his staff and his guests.
My friend Edward, another server there at Boca Landing, offered to take us around the outside for a little tour. My companion hadn’t been to the property before and the first time I came the pool area hadn’t been finished yet so it was really a good idea and quite lovely as the sun was just setting.
Boca Landing has Happy Hour EVERY DAY from 4 – 7pm at the bar with half off Well Drinks, Featured House Wine & Draft Beers with select bar bites such as gourmet flatbreads, guacamole & chips, the half beet salad & hummus from $5-8.
To take a peek at their full menu, click here. For more info on The Waterstone Resort & Marina, click here.
Summer’s here and we all know what that means…time to get the grill ignited! But maybe it’s just too darn hot to stand before the open flames or you just don’t feel like cooking. Not to worry BRIO Tuscan Grille has got your back. BRIO’s South Florida locations have launched a three-course “Art of Grilling” summer menu available from June 1st – June 30th, Sunday – Thursday at 4pm, for just $26.95, including a choice of salad, grilled entrée with Chef- inspired toppings and a Dolchino dessert. In addition, BRIO is concurrently running Facebook & Instagram contests (now through June 30th).
“The Thrill Of The Grille” contest on Facebook: BRIO fans who post their favorite grilling recipe or dish will be entered in a chance to win a chef-inspired “Gather & Grille Dinner Party for 8” at their favorite BRIO location. To enter, guests must visit the official BRIO Facebook page: www.facebook.com/brioitalian.
In addition, BRIO will is hosting an INSTA-GRILLE GIVEAWAY contest on Instagram. To enter, guests will share their favorite photo of a dish they have prepared and grilled: www.instagram.com/briotuscangrille. The winner will receive a box of premium cut filets and strip steaks along with a new grill.
So I was very excited to receive an invite to check out the three-course “Art of Grilling” menu at the Boca BRIO so that I could share this wonderful deal with you all. Shortly after being shown to our table, the GM Sheri Williams came by to say hello. Sheri was fairly new to this location but not to BRIO and she certainly had a warmth and demeanor about her that made you feel like you were talking with an old friend. She was excited to share with us this wine that she recently discovered and was certain that we would enjoy it, so of course we accepted, who am I to turn down a sample of wine?!? I mean I didn’t want to appear to be rude or anything… lol 😉 The wine was called Dreaming Tree Everyday White Blend. It was very crisp with a predominate taste of green apples on the palate. It was light and fruity and very pleasant. We enjoyed that with the basket of crisps that were brought to the table. I don’t know what it is about these things, but they are addicting.
For our first course, we had a choice of salads: BRIO Chopped Salad, with chopped greens, tomatoes, black olives, red onion, cucumber, Feta and red wine vinaigrette; Caesar Salad with Brioche croutons, or Bistecca Insalata, a lettuce wedge with Gorgonzola, bacon, tomatoes and creamy Parmesan dressing. I decided that I was interested in trying out the BRIO Chopped Salad, but instead of the red wine vinaigrette, I asked our server if it would be ok to substitute it for the creamy Parmesan dressing. I also had my eyes on the Brioche croutons that were offered on the Caesar Salad. Our server said no problem and I thanked her for accommodating my requests. My companion chose the lettuce wedge, and enjoyed it just as is!
We had several mouthwatering main course selections to choose from including: Artichoke & Boursin Crusted Pork Chop with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes, which pairs beautifully with Sketchbook Pinot Noir; Grilled Beef Medallions and Black Pepper Shrimp with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes, recommend to pair with the exquisite Sketchbook Cabernet Sauvignon; or Crab & Shrimp Crusted Salmon with roasted vegetables, farro, quinoa and lemon vinaigrette, which is an excellent choice to pair with Paul Dolan Sauvignon Blanc.
I selected the Artichoke & Boursin Crusted Pork Chop. The artichoke & boursin crust was okay, in my opinion, but it didn’t quite hold up to my expectations. The star was definitely the grilled pork chop. It was a beautiful piece of meat, with lovely char marks and seasoned and cooked to perfection. My companion had the Grilled Beef Medallions and Black Pepper Shrimp. The beef was seasoned and cooked to perfection and the sauce complimented the dish very nicely. Both entrées had lovely seasonal veggies and the portions were generous.
For a sweet end to this scrumptious three-course meal, guests can choose one of three Dolchinos (petite favorites): Caramel Mascarpone Cheesecake, featuring anglaise sauce and vanilla whipped cream; Crème Brulee, with vanilla bean and caramelized sugar; or a seasonal selection, offering the finest and freshest ingredients of the season. We chose the Caramel Mascarpone Cheesecake and the Crème Brulee. Both were FANTASTIC!!!
I was thrilled when Chef Brian came over to our table to say hi and pose for a picture with me. The menu was well thought out and really highlighted what the summer grilling season has to offer, with the freshest of ingredients. Kudos to BRIO for bringing this great value to us here in Florida.
Following the meal, GM Sheri offered to take me around to show me their private dining spaces. The Chef’s Table seats 22 guests; The Gallery can hold up to 55 and has A/V capabilities and the Atrium can hold up to 30 guests, also with A/V capabilities. Two out of the three rooms were currently being utilized on this night.
Also at www.BrioItalian.com/theartofgrilling from June 1–30, guests will have the opportunity to bring some of BRIO’s grilling mastery into their own kitchen with various recipes, including a red wine reduction with Sketchbook Pinot Noir – great for topping or marinating steak.
“We take great pride in our grilling expertise, preparing the highest quality beef, pork and seafood is an art form. When combined with freshest ingredients we create timeless, chef-inspired Tuscan cuisine” said Alison Peters, Executive Culinary Director of BRIO Tuscan Grille.
BRIO locations in South Florida are at The Falls in Miami, The Village at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, The Shops at Pembroke Gardens in Pembroke Pines, Westfield Broward Mall in Plantation, The Shops at Boca Center in Boca Raton, CityPlace in West Palm Beach, and The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens.
I hope you enjoyed reading my post about part one of Shaina’s and my adventure in Tampa at the Epicurean Hotel. Click here to read Shaina’s post, if you’d like to see what she had to say.
So, while we truly had an awesome time at the Epicurean Hotel with all their fabulous amenities and could have easily occupied ourselves there for another couple of days, we did want to get out to check out the culinary scene in Tampa. With the help of Yelp and confirmed by our friend Eric at the Epicurean, we decided to head to a place called the Oxford Exchange for a late breakfast. One of the things worth mentioning is that we left our car at our hotel and decided to rely on Uber for transportation around the city. Boy are we glad we did. The service was more than quick (by the time we ordered our ride, left our room, rode down the elevator and entered the lobby, our driver was just pulling up. Now that’s efficient!
The Oxford Exchange opened 2 years ago and was kind of like a book store, a coffee bar, tea bar, restaurant and gift shop all rolled into one. It had lots of “nooks and crannies” as I like to say. We opted to sit in the restaurant and after checking out their long list of teas, both Shaina and I decided to try the Tropical Green Tea with notes of pineapple, mango and papaya. This was a great choice. We were off to a perfect start!
Breakfast was outstanding at the Oxford Exchange. Shaina had the kale scramble with egg whites and I had the best eggs benedict that I have ever had! I had always held this one I had at a small hole in the wall in Vancouver at the top of my list, but it wasn’t until this day, that this coveted top ranking was replaced! Lol! Well, after breakfast, we decided we’d head back to the hotel to go for a swim in the pool and chillax for a bit before heading out to Ybor City for happy hour, dinner and nightlife. Our Uber driver dropped us off at Columbia, which has been around for over 100 years and is a must if you are looking for authentic Spanish cuisine. We sat at the bar as it was happy hour and ordered a couple cocktails to go along with our tapas. We were looking for just a couple lite items to nibble on here as our plan was to move on and hopefully try a few places on this night. We hit a home run with the Tostones (perfect crunch and saltiness to go with our cocktails) and the stuffed mushrooms were packed with flavor and muy delicioso!
As a bonus, we met a nice young man named Eric at the bar who was in town on business who ended up hanging out with us for the night. From Columbia, we just started meandering the streets until we decided it was time to take another cocktail break and ended up at this place called Contro Cantina.
It had a nice view and it was a nice night to be at this outdoor bar. Moving on, we decided we wanted to check out this place called Edison: Food & Drink Lab that we had read about that had received great reviews. This wasn’t in Ybor City, but just a short ride away. So glad we did. It was a cool place. The three of us sat at the bar where we met Ryan, the bartender. To my left was a couple who I found out were from Delray Beach. “Champagne Wayne” became a new friend that night as well.
Well, there you have it. That’s about as much as we could pack in on our two day adventure in Tampa. There are so many more places to discover and I know that Shaina and I can’t wait to go back.