Florida

pistacheoutside.jpgThere used to be wonderful French bistros in my neighborhood in New York City, but one by one they are disappearing, leaving me drowning in pasta sauce and nearly Moules Mariniere deprived! But, in West Palm Beach (of all places) there is a delicious Palm Beach Season alternative – Pistache. And, it has the grace to actually look the part.

The first clue that you are in the land of the French is that there dogs sitting politely by their masters on the terrace as you walk in.  So civilized dining with dogs! And, so cozy; everything is exactly as one would expect from a Bordeaux native managed Bistro – except for the waiters, who insist on being friendly!

The menu has a few surprises such as the Lobster Mac and Cheese – a dish I would normally cherish – but I had an agenda:  Burgundy Escargots in Garlic Butter. They arrived juicy and fine textured. Other appetizers ordered were an elegant and freshly made beet salad with small bits of chevre on arugula and a traditional beef based Onion Soup Gratinee with Gruyere Cheese.  We were off to the perfect culinary memory experience.  

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rhythm009OK... it is better than not coming at all!

There is something rather delicious about “discovering” a restaurant and doing the brag only to find everyone in the room has been eating there for decades. That happened to us last week when we discovered Rhythm Café in the center of West Palm’s Antique Row - a true “café” converted from a 1950’s drugstore which explains the funky exterior window and serpentine counter. Décor is tacky 50’s and the joint is filled with odd 50’s and 60’s adult toys, pink flamingos and vintage prom photos. (If you bring them your prom photo you get free dessert.)

It is even funkier than I can describe but as you check out the menu the first bit of information offered is a check list of stuff not welcomed at their place: Perfume, for example, can be worn but only the person whispering sweet nothings in your ear should be able to smell it (21 gun salute for that!); Complaints are not accepted, nor grumpy behavior. The list goes on, but it is clear Rhythm Cafe chooses its clientele! And, after reading the menu, if you don’t like its’ yummy descriptions, then leave immediately, for Rhythm Café is all about its yummmmmmmmmmm factor!

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westpalmbeach.jpgOur friend, Shiny Sheet Society Editor, Shannon Donnelly, can masticate on purple prose as well as any one I know: we are naught but a chew toy impaled on the incisors of the Cosmic Hellhound of Wall Street (from a "society" editor, no less). She was catching our attention to suggest that bad times should equal better manners – and why not; we can never over-spend on Grace.  Course in this case Grace is the "slightly-hung-over" Doyenne of the Etiquette of Denial. From her delicious SOCIAL GRACE'S GUIDE TO GETTING THROUGH ALL THIS, comes Rule Number One which forbids the use of the word "new" unless it is followed by either the (interchangeable) "grandchild" or "shelter dog." And, forget any conversation that touches on "bling" or "leveraged buyout." That will be a challenge to most Palm Beachers, but not to us as we now "have permission" to cross Worth Lagoon at will and treat the whole experience as just one of life's many broadening experiences. Crossing Southern Bridge leads to West Palm Beach – an exotic land to be sure.
 
West Palm actually has (gasp) sexy, hot young people that mingle at sexy hot spots like Bradley's, Grease, or Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar. (I plan to write about Grease and Rocco's as soon as I take the time to Spa myself to youthful, sexy and hot – well, at least in Bill's eyes).
 
West Palm also has – like all of South Florida – great Cuban Restaurants!  But, when it comes to Cuban food I find myself heading down a yellow brick road. I have no sense of seasoning, how flavors combine or what to order.  I am clueless – a Cuban food ninny, but a smart ninny!  Bill and I are going to Havana, the best authentic Cuban restaurant in Palm Beach County with an aficionado – Grace herself – Shannon Donnelly, who loves this opened-24hrs-a-day storefront kitchen.

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floridagrill.jpg On the second day of our Florida trip, we dined at one of our favorite, always good, “coming home” restaurants in Apalachicola: The Apalachicola Seafood Grill. Located in the heart of “downtown” Apalachicola (within spitting distance of the town’s solitary traffic light) , The Grill offers a simple menu, The World’s Largest Fried Grouper Sandwich, an impressive assortment of beer (you get your own bottle) and the motto “No Whining.” We have been eating at The Grill at least once a trip since Sam was two and threw a sippy cup at the front window. We’ve not been disappointed.  I have had everything on the menu that I want to try, and the Grill is not the kind of restaurant that changes it’s menu. There are fresh shrimp, oysters and fishes fried, baked, broiled, in soups, stews and chowders, in sandwiches and/or in baskets. City folk can have a salad with seafood in it, if they insist. If I arrived at The Grill to discover that they were offering a terrine of langoustine on a bed of microgreens with a Guiness reduction, I would burst into tears.

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surfsidelogo“I love Palm Beach for being the small town it is, and anything I can do to keep that feeling of home, I will do.”

And, do well! Danny Ponton has been affecting the good nature of Palm Beach since 1982 when the charming 22-year-old took control of Club Colette from Aldo Gucci in a daring, smiling, smooth talking act of salesmanship. He spoke of bringing back the nostalgic feel of the intimate nightclub and wed it to Gucci’s Northern Italian Cuisine. Gucci, no fool he, jumped at the opportunity, and Club Colette became the new hot darling of Palm Beach’s nightlife. Danny had been wintering in Palm Beach since he was a child, and from the beginning he intuitively understood not just the culinary needs of Palm Beachers, but what made them happy: Gracious hospitality and the feeling that as guests they are meant to be comfortable – that they are appreciated and wanted.

“There are two thing Palm Beachers love: 1) Dressing up and slow dancing on an intimate dance floor at Club Colette; and 2) going to the beach, watching their kids surf, and ordering a grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of tomato soup on the side.”

Now Ponton’s world of nostalgia sans kitsch has finally gotten to the grilled cheese sandwich with the side of tomato soup. This season he opened SurfSide Diner - which he lovingly refers to as the “joint.”

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