d.b.a./cafe, Fort Lauderdale – Saturday, January 5, 2013

d.b.a./cafe

d.b.a./cafe

Restaurant ownership can be a fly-by-night industry. It’s “Here today, gone today” in many cases, with the most promising of chefs packing their knives and owners counting their losses.

So when we heard about d.b.a./café opening up in the location of two former restaurants, we were hopeful this new venture would work out since it was being helmed by Executive Chef Steve Zobel.

Oyster Stew

Oyster Stew

Formerly of East End Brasserie, located in the Atlantic Resort & Spa, Zobel’s food never disappointed.  His departure was evident the first time we dined at East End under a different chef and menu. Although we didn’t know that was the situation at the time, we all noticed that something was off.  Nothing we had that evening compared to what we had previously from Zobel’s kitchen.

He is doing things a little more down tempo with his all-new d.b.a./café. The restaurant is located between ABC Liquors and Dick’s Sporting Goods in a non-descript shopping center located on North Federal Highway in Ft. Lauderdale. The location was once home to Asahi City, a Thai cuisine and sushi restaurant. Then, when that folded, Café Jamm opened their doors.  We moderately enjoyed both but neither stood out among other restaurants in the area.

Their loss is d.b.a./café’s gain. It’s easy to walk past this non-descript location, but it would be a shame, because the food is outstanding. Inside it looks more Bohemian than five star, with unfinished wood plank tables; napkins that look more like dish towels and a laid-back staff  whose service was more off-the-cuff  than urbane, which we appreciated. There are bookshelves stocked with an odd array of paperbacks, toys (one in particular, a small plastic “device” looked more suited for an adult than a child, no comment)…plus we noticed several guitars hanging on the wall. If you didn’t smell the delicious food being prepared in the back you’d expect to see people with laptop computers hanging out, taking advantage of free Wi Fi and drinking coffee.

Apricot Glazed Duck Confit

Apricot Glazed Duck Confit

The menu is an eclectic blend of comfort food and haute cuisine. There are a number of appetizers and entrees to satisfy most palates: from chicken and seafood to hearty meat and pasta dishes. We decided on a bowl of oyster stew to start that was savory, delicious and most importantly, didn’t lack its star ingredient. The wine menu isn’t lacking either, offering a number of choices—depending on one’s taste and budget—in whites and reds, and even sparkling wine. We ordered the Y3 Red Blend from Napa Valley, which was quite drinkable and would pair well with our dinner choices. Strangely enough our original wine choice was out of stock, so the Y3, at about the same price, turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Carnival Chicken

Carnival Chicken

Our entrees not only sounded delicious as described on the menu, they were nothing short of spectacular (note: entrée items are served half and full sizes; a nice option for those who like to order multiple small dishes to share).  The entrees our table chose included the apricot glazed duck confit served over an acorn squash crepe and brussel sprouts. The duck was cooked and seasoned to perfection. Another stellar choice was the “Carnival Chicken”, buttermilk-battered fried chicken and maple-glazed funnel cake (a whimsical take on fries chicken and waffles) which was flavorful and delicious. Next up were the braised short ribs, which came with a truffle potato puree and sautéed spinach. Our group’s short rib aficionado said it was one of the best he’s ever had. Lastly, but most certainly not least, was the pecan-crusted grouper with a buerre blanc, served over mushroom risotto and sautéed spinach. The grouper was flaky and delicious, and the pecan crust gave it a nice crunch. The risotto was also well prepared.

All in all, d.b.a./café has all the ingredients to be a success. So, ditch the coat and tie, forget all the hard and fast rules regarding fine dining, and just enjoy it for what it should be known for: great food in a comfortable, laid-back setting.

Pecan Crusted GrouperBraised Short Ribs

Lucky Rice Festival November 30, 2012 at Soho Beach House

Lucky Rice Festival

Lucky Rice

According to its website, the LUCKYRICE Festival can be best described as an “Epicurean cocktail feast on the beach” with “a spotlight on Asian-inspired tastings and cocktails from celebrated chefs and buzz-worthy bartenders.”

So, how could we not attend an event with “feast” and “buzz worthy” in the very same paragraph? Superlatives aside, did I mention all of this was taking place in Miami Beach? (FYI: The LUCKYRICE Festival is held in five key U.S. markets – New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and now Miami.)

Poolside Stations

Poolside Stations

We’ll be the first to admit that a food and cocktail event like this can be a pricey, stuffy and pretentious affair, especially in image-conscious place like South Beach – a town where appearances count for everything (and cost a lot to maintain). But much to our surprise, we thoroughly enjoyed LUCKYRICE. The staff, chefs and bartenders were all quite friendly and accommodating. It should be mentioned that The SoHo Beach House, in Miami Beach, made for an ideal event venue. Besides its impressive beauty, the hotel offered ample space and incredible aesthetics. There were several cocktail and food stations located poolside; a tiki bar, as well as a large food and drinking tent beachside in which to sip, sample and savor. It was a bit windy this night, but that didn’t create any issues for the chefs and bartenders.

We’re not ones for the spotlight, but an event like LUCKYRICE is a haven for foodies, bloggers and other media types. At one point as I reached for a food sample I found myself staring like a deer with the glare of a camera’s spotlight less than two feet from me. Turns out it was a local entertainment show. My 15 seconds of fame done with, we meandered from station to station, eating and drinking some truly delightful offerings. Everything was fresh and delicious. By 10:30 we could take no more, so it was time for us to say goodnight. And what a good night it was.

Thank you, LUCKYRICE and SoHo Beach House, for putting on such an amazing event.

Food Favorites:
Wonton  with Mochi Rice, Mushroom Duxelles, Shallots, Umami Sauce by Makoto
Marinated Pork Belly Skewers with Burmese Sticky Rice, Coriander, Fish Sauce by Khong River House
Smoky Mojo Pulled Pork Sandwich with Aji de Chicharron by Suser Lee
Nantucket Bay Scallops Ceviche with Celery Root and Black Garlic by Douglas Rodriguez
Happy Pancake with Smoked Tilefish, Okeechobee Shrimp, Fish Sauce Caramel and Herbs by Norman Van Aken

Drink Favorites:
The East Garden (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Honey, Fresh Yuzu, Herbs) by Elad Zvi of the Broken Shaker
Tequila & Vinegar (Corzo Reposado Tequila, Pineapple Vinegar with Ancho Chilies, Fresh Lime) also by Elad Zvi
The Killer Bee (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Fresh Pressed Lemon Juice, White Pepper Ginger Syrup) by William Rivas of the Khong River House
Butter Me Up Martini (Bombay Sapphire East Gin, Butterscotch, Lemon, Ginger Air) by Ben Carlotto
Szechuan Basil Smash (Bombay London Dry Gin, Fresh Pressed Lemon, Szechuan, Peppercorn Syrup, Thai Basil) by Rick Nani of the Soho Beach House

House Of Walker Event Temple House, Miami Beach 11/10/12

Johnnie Walker

House of Walker

When you’re Johnnie Walker, one of the oldest, most well established whiskies in the world, staying fresh in a rapidly changing world of distilled spirits and marketing your product to the next generation of loyal consumers isn’t always easy – especially to hipsters with their hands clasped firmly around cans of PBR.

Still, with its well-earned reputation for creating fine spirits (and deservedly so) Johnnie Walker is a favorite amongst whiskey drinkers today, and has been since the 1800’s. Now Johnnie Walker has taken its name and reputation on the road with a unique branding campaign called “House Of Walker.” This particular Saturday’s HOW event took place at a beautiful South Beach South Beach residence called The Temple House.Johnnie Walker

The event was gratis, so we Wanderlushes made our way down to South Beach and pulled up to the front of the Temple House where a valet (sporting all black and a heavy Russian/Eastern European accent) gave us directions where to park (strange, but doesn’t valet involve someone parking your car for you?). After a few turns down some side streets we finally found the parking lot, dropped the car off with the next “valet” (who proceeded to drive the car two spaces back) and made our way back the three blocks to the event with trepidation.

Black Label Wild Scot Cocktail

Black Label Wild Scot Cocktail

Upon entering we were greeted by several young women who gave us wristbands and four “tickets for each of the whiskies we would be sampling during the night. We were then seated in a small room and told we would be watching a brief introduction video featuring actor Robert Carlyle (“Johnnie Walker: The Man Who Walked Around The World) focusing on the history of Johnnie Walker. After the video, we were ushered into a small room with about eight bar-height tables containing two small glasses of Johnnie Walker whiskey, ice and water. The host for the evening, Stephen Wilson, Johnnie Walker Ambassador, entered the room and spoke briefly about Johnnie Walker the whiskey brand, how and where it’s made – but most importantly, tasting and appreciating this famous whiskey.

Black Label Tasting

Black Label Tasting

When the tasting was over we were led into a large concrete-floored room with a high ceiling and a loft area on the far end. It was here where we redeemed our tickets for various samples of Johnnie Walker whiskey (Red Label, Black Label and the top-shelf $200 a bottle Blue Label). All were delicious and went down smooth. As for the venue, Temple House (www.thetemplehouse.com) was perfect for this type of event. The residence is chic, tastefully designed and offered more than an ample amount of room for the 75 or so attendees who were there this particular Saturday. There were bottles of Johnnie Walker signature whiskies on display, including a bottle dating from 1808 that was for sale at the budget-friendly price of $30,000. And yes, that price is in dollars, not pesos, in terms of whiskey currency. Ouch.

The event ran until around 11 p.m. The event staff wasn’t shy about letting everyone know it was time to drink up and get out. They weren’t out and out rude about it, but this clearly was a case of being told in no uncertain terms, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” All in all, we Wanderlushes enjoyed the “House Of Walker” experience. I personally am not a huge whiskey drinker, but I do appreciate Johnnie Walker more after learning its history and sampling some of its amazing offerings.

 

 

 

 

The Rebel House, Boca Raton, FL 10/27/12

Rebel House Boca

Rebel House Boca Raton

How would you define the term, “New American Restaurant”? The Rebel House, in Boca Raton, bills itself as such, but this fun, funky place isn’t your typical eatery. We decided to check it out this particular Saturday hoping for an alternative to the more staid restaurants in the area.We called ahead and made reservations for 8:45. Our table wasn’t ready, so we decided to get drinks at the bar. The

Sweet Potato Skins

Sweet Potato Skins

Rebel House’s wine, beer and cocktail menu has something for every taste; eclectic beer selections, modestly priced wine by the bottle and glass – plus, their own spin on cocktails. Sitting at the bar we struck up a lively conversation with a gentleman who was obviously a regular at Rebel House. He told us the food was good and took an active interest in getting us sat at our table. After 25 minutes of waiting, one of the sympathetic bartenders ambled over to our area and bought us all a shot of Jameson whiskey, which was much appreciated.

Pork Belly Tater Tots

Pork Belly Tater Tots

The Rebel House’s vibe is casual and unpretentious. Our waiter brought us a bowl of their signature curry popcorn (delicious) to munch on as we decided on our food. After looking over the menu, we decided on the following:

Appetizers
Sweet potato skins – braised duck, ancho blackberry BBQ/Gorgonzola dolce.
Pork belly tater tots – with smoked tomato ketchup and spicy mayo.

Main courses
Pumpkin gnocchetti – with smoked duck sausage, crispy sage, and vanilla beurre noir.
“OG” recipe fried chicken – with cheddar cornmeal waffle, candied bacon syrup, watermelon relish.
Rebel Fried Rice – with bacon, corn, peas, carrots, crispy onions, sunny side up egg, spicy mayo.
Rib eye – with garlic beurre gascogne, fries.

Pumpkin Gnocchetti

Pumpkin Gnocchetti

All were thoroughly enjoyed. The pork belly tater tots, in particular, could make a meal, yet this appetizer only contained four. The steak was cooked to perfection (rare); the gnocchetti was a nice combination of smoky and slight spice; the table favorite fried chicken and waffle combo brought together sweet and salty in perfect tandem; and the fried rice exploded with flavor profiles – plus the fried egg was a fun touch.

All in all, The Rebel House is a great place to eat, drink and people watch. It is definitely Wanderlush worthy and a place we will go back to.

Note: Rebel House is operated by the same group as Charm City Burgers and El Jefe Luchador

Yellow Green Farmers Market

Yellow Green Farmers Market

Yellow Green Farmers Market

Having grown up in a rather rural environment, a place where it was not uncommon to see a stand in front of someone’s yard bearing fruits and vegetables from their garden (with an honor system for paying), I jump at the chance to check out advertised “farmers markets.”   I usually drag my friend or significant other on these escapades.  The day usually ends with some degree of disappointment at the reality that the “markets” offer nothing unique, but are more glorified flea markets.  I am okay with this, as long as it is billed as such.

Front of Market

Front of Market

This particular Saturday, I convinced my friend that we needed to check out the Yellow Green Farmers Market.  I had seen the advertisements, visited the website and felt fairly confident that it would be as advertised—a little bit of kitsch, vendors selling their wares and farmers market, all built into one.  We finally found the somewhat hidden drive to to the market. As we approached the building with cow statues and wagons in front, I did a little happy dance!

Fruit & Vegetable Stand

Fruit & Vegetable Stand

We parked, headed inside and began walking through the warehouse-size building. As we ventured down the aisles, vendors were happy to share samples with us and information about their offerings.  We encountered everything from speciality teas, breads and olives, to dried and fresh fruits, vegetables, sausages, plants, herbs, pottery, jewelry and clothing.  With so much to see, smell and taste, we ended up doing a circuit of the market, deciding what we were going to buy and picking up a complimentary market bag to hold it all.  Going back through the market we met up with several characters that seemed natural in this quirky market.

After filling our bags and heading back home we vowed that this would not be our last visit to this charming market!

    

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