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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ImageOutside, the roosters crow. I look at the time display on my cell phone within reach. 4:30. A.M. As hard as I try, I cannot fall back to sleep. The continuous crying sounds of the roosters are foreign to me and grate on my nerves.

Finally, I pull myself out of bed, throw on some workout clothes and softly pad down the stairs outside my room.

I sit in the dark, the only light coming from the screen of my laptop computer. As my fingers move quickly across the keys, the light of day appears, surprising me with its sudden takeover of the night.

The sound of cars in the street join the constant noise of roosters calling to one another. My nose picks up the familiar aroma of yeast dough wafting from the kitchen.

Early each morning, an employee of the Angelina Guesthouse, where I'm staying in Key West, Florida, opens the kitchen in the early morning hours of darkness, while most of the guests are still deep in their slumber. On this morning, Nodira, a beautiful woman originally from Uzbekictan, pulls two batches of plump unbaked cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator and slides them into the oven.

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p1030691x1Whenever I find myself in a new town, I always look up a Triple-D (Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives) restaurant. Why not? The places always have rave reviews and you know you are going to get a BIG, hearty meal.

Finding myself in South Florida this week, we had to give 11th Street Diner a try. We showed up at lunch time on a busy Sunday, brunch was in full swing. If you've ever been to Miami (South) Beach, you would also know parking is scarce. All the little bars on the main drag offer valet parking for a cool $30+ bucks just to go in and sip a drink.

Luckily, the diner is about a block or so off the highway but parking is still an issue. With that being said, I don't know how we managed to pull up and park right across the street and score a table for four in about five minutes. The place was PACKED and it looked like everyone was really enjoying their food. You could tell this was a neighborhood and tourist favorite.

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If ever there is a restaurant – cool and hot at the same time – that belongs somewhere wondrous like in LA, buccan is it. Unbelievable beyond adjectives and totally filled with great vibes, buccan is only a plane ticket away...in Palm Beach! OMG A hot spot in Palm Beach?

“buccan is so good I come here on my night off.” Quite a compliment, but also quite remarkable, as the compliment is coming from our friendly and comely buccan waitress! She might have added that this new, nearly unbearably delicious restaurant is also the first true hot spot in Palm Beach! One step across the threshold and anyone can feel the jovial spirit of laughter and merriment.

Started by Palm Beach bachelor, Piper Quinn and Chef Clay Conley, buccan brings not only a new hip-but-gracious aesthetic to Palm Beach; it brings a new way of dining.

The first sight upon entering buccan is the large, casually decorated living room-like lounge with its bar to one side. Its’ cordial ambience brings in customers early to capture a sofa or armchair.

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palmbeachflorida.jpgJust for fun, close your eyes. Picture Zsa Zsa dining at Bistro Garden or Liz at Chasen’s – bejeweled and pleasing to the eyes. Imagine charming George Hamilton tanned and natty in his double- breasted blazer table-hopping his way around the room. Now open your eyes. If the vision remains, then you must be in Palm Beach! And, guess what! You’ll still see charming George tanned and natty in his double-breasted blazer table-hopping his way around the room – along with Jimmy Buffet, Rod Stewart, Donald Trump, Vic Damone, Dina Merrill, Susan Lucci, the indomitable Dame Celia Lipton Ferris, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.

Surely, you understand the delight for a Left Coast Malibu Beach Bum time-warping on the "Right” Shore. For someone who actually remembers the bridal trail down Sunset Blvd and a laid back Rodeo Drive of local businesses, Palm Beach and Worth Avenue is the old Beverly Hills I most cherish.  Here in Palm Beach most of the upscale restaurants recall those old glamour days, and their menus cater to the pre-foodie crowd who like their food simple and well prepared.

Café L'Europe most exemplifies Beverly Hills posh dining from the eighties. The interiors, with décor reminiscent of the Belle Epoch – sparkle like champagne. Gaiety seems part of the menu with its varied list of Iranian, Russian, Italian and domestic caviar, Sliced Scottish Smoked Salmon, Escargot Bourguignonne, (any one who ever lived in the Colony knows an excellent snail when they see one!), and a ninety-eight page wine list.

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