36th Day of Lent

Today our friend Marit had a rare day off of work – I think she’s worked 19 days in a row or something crazy like that.  So we thought it would be a good day for a happy hour on the water somewhere.  We decided upon a new place with a great location, Hudson at Waterway East in  Delray Beach.

While waiting for Marit, Susan and I started off with the portabello fries and the lamb sliders.  Both were pretty good – the fries had a nice breading and the sliders were topped with feta, basic, & mint and served with a tzatziki sauce.

portabello_fries lamb_sliders

After Marit arrived, we ordered the crispy fried calamari and the Tuscan flatbread.  The calamari were topped with cherry peppers and were served with a lemon roumalade.  The girls’ favorite was the flatbread, made with a basil pesto, mozzarella, teardrop tomatoes, arugula, and lemon vinaigrette.

calamari flatbread

The crowd was pretty steady, and actually got busier as the evening went along, which is not bad a for a Tuesday.  Then again, with the great location on the Intracoastal and the perfect South Florida weather, how can you go wrong at Hudson at Waterway East?

Delray Beach Bacon & Bourbon Fest

March 29th was the 6th Sunday of Lent, and it was also the 2nd day of the inaugural Delray Beach Bacon & Bourbon Fest.  I was out-and-about in Delray Beach on Saturday, but since Sundays don’t count during Lent, I waited until the 2nd day of the festival to attend so I could enjoy some yummy bacon.

Since I heard the festival was a sell-out on Saturday and that they may have temporarily run out of bacon, I decided to make some for breakfast before leaving the house.  Of course, I sliced up some of the best bacon in the world, Nueske’s Applewood-Smoked Bacon – sliced it up thick, of course.  Again, thanks to Larry from Salt7 for the Nueske’s bacon!

nueskes nueskes_cooked

The festival gates opened at 1pm on Sunday, so we decided to get there a few minutes before to avoid the crowds.  Good thing we did, because there was already a line to get it – and a longer line at the ticket tables.  What do you wear to such an event?  Well, I went with a Christmas gift from my girlfriend’s brother-in-law Bobby – reminds me of the logo of the AMC television show Breaking Bad:


The first things we saw after walking in are buckets of peanuts at every table (nice touch) and the Fireball Whiskey booth.  We’d be returning to that booth… several times.

peanuts fireball

Because we heard the lines at the bars were long on Saturday, we decided to knock that out first.  Specialty cocktails were $8, and bourbons were $16 and $20.

drinks bar

Next was the food.  The booths reminded me of Delray Beach’s Garlic Fest, but instead of garlic, everything had bacon.

foodbooths_1 foodbooths_2

food_1 food_2

Entrees were all $12 – I started with the bacon-wrapped sausage:


Time for another drink.  Instead of waiting in line at one of the main bars, I went to the Smoke Inn booth where they were serving up maple bacon old fashioneds.  When I got back to our table, I found that Javier just got a bacon parfait – that’s mashed potatoes and pork belly topped with gravy.  Looked good enough to eat!

maple_bacon_old_fashioned bacon_parfait

Now it was time to meet Cheryl from Nueske’s, the title sponsor of the festival.  She was attending with her friends Ann and Marjorie.  We also checked out the pig races – winner gets a small bottle of Fireball!  We decided not to wait in line to play… we just hit the Fireball booth again and paid for shots.

cheryl pig_races

All-in-all, we thought Delray Beach’s first attempt at Bacon & Bourbon Fest was a fun time.  I think all the negative comments I read after the first day came from people who were denied entry because they didn’t purchase tickets online before the event.  Everything I read about the event said to buy tickets early, and that there would be a limited amount of tickets available at the gate.  So next year, buy your tickets online everyone!

Yelp Elite Event at Smoke BBQ

On Monday, March 23rd, my good friend Danielle took me as her “plus one” to my first Yelp Elite event.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Yelp is a company whose site and app features crowd-sourced reviews, and the Elite status is bestowed on active members who are role models on and off the site.  Business Insider likened Yelp Elite to “a secret society” who bears special badges on their site profiles and get invited to private events and up-and-coming restaurants.  So of course I was looking forward to this rare opportunity to see how the Elite get down.

After a couple cocktails down the street, we decided to head to Smoke BBQ a few minutes early to grab a drink at the bar before the event started.  To our surprise, the place was already packed with Yelpers who were already seated, enjoying drinks and Texas Caviar Bean Dip (black-eyed peas, black beans, yellow corn, red pepper, green pepper, red onion, celery, Roma tomatoes, jalapenos, & cilantro) with flavorful seasoned tortilla chips.  We checked in, got our nametags and our picture taken by Colleen & Cassie, and were seated by Blue who was running the event for Yelp Broward/Palm Beach.


First things first… Danielle & I noticed that Smoke BBQ had a special menu for the event including specialty cocktails – we decided to start off the the tequila drink first.  We then met Roseanne and Tim who were enjoying the Applewood-Smoke Chicken Wings, which are making my mouth water just typing the words.

After the wings, our server Brandon started bringing out the sides while we waited for the main reason why you go to barbecue joints – the meat.  The sides on the menu today were BBQ beans (which contain meat… of course), the State Fair Winning Cole Slaw, and the Jalapeno & Cilantro Potato Salad.  And as I was doling out some sides to my plate, I saw the meat platters showing up at other tables – I couldn’t get a clear shot of them since it was going so fast:

IMG_4517 IMG_4516

And then Brandon shows up with our first platter of the night – St. Louis Cut Ribs and Smoke Chicken.  Wow!

IMG_4518 IMG_4519

The wet ribs were fall-off-the-bone scrumptious and the smoky chicken is some of the tastiest I’ve ever had.  After a couple helpings of each, Danielle & I had to take a break before the next platter came.

Oh my – I almost forgot to mention the Sweet Corn Bread served with Cinnamon Butter – the butter is like spreadable crack.  This combination could have been dessert if I didn’t know better.


After we got back to the table, our second platter of meat showed up – 16-Hour Beef Brisket, 12-Hour Pulled Pork, and Smoke Turkey!  I don’t know how I got any more food inside of me, but I did… the smokiness of the turkey was excellent, as was the chicken!


As everyone was enjoying the wonderful food, I noticed people taking off their nametags and sticking them on a particular Yelper.  I eventually found out that this is tradition for Yelp newbies, and this was Sarah’s first event with her aunt Jennifer.  For a split second, I wondered if this happened to Yelp newbies, or Yelp Elite newbies – then I realized I had more food on my plate and got back to work.


Blue then thanked everyone for coming before the co-owner Scott addressed the crowd and gave a little bit of Smoke BBQ’s history.  He told us how he hired Bryan Tyrell, 2-time World Series of Barbecue Champion and pitmaster from Oklahoma Joes in Kansas City, named one of the “Top 13 Places to Eat Before You Die” by Anthony Bourdain.  While Bryan addressed the crowd, the last two surprises of the night came out – Deep Fried Oreos, and gift cards to Smoke BBQ for our next visit.


So, foodwise I was extremely satiated – total food coma going on.  And Scott, Bryan, GM Adrianne, and the entire Smoke BBQ staff put an excellent event on for this Yelp Elite squad – I think they were very satisfied as well, according to the raving I overheard… and the silence while everyone was busy stuffing their faces.  But I also want to thank Blue from Yelp BPB for holding this event and Danielle for inviting me – it seems the Yelp Elite have it good, and it proves there is something to strive for when rating and reviewing on Yelp.

Nueske’s Bacon

This is it, everyone.  What the New York Times called the “beluga of bacon, the Rolls-Royce of rashers”… Nueske’s Bacon.  Nueske’s is a specialty meats supplier out of Wisconsin whose tagline is “The World’s Best Applewood-Smoked Meats” – that alone is enough to make your mouth water.

So, my old friend Larry, the GM at Salt7, knows all about my trials and tribulations of giving up bacon for Lent.   He also knows that Sundays don’t count during Lent (maybe because I told him), so what does he do yesterday?

He gives me a slab of Nueske’s Applewood-Smoked Bacon to take home and enjoy today, that’s what!


This piece of uncut meat smells so sweet and savory, I almost didn’t want to slice it.  But when I did, I made sure to slice it nice and thick – thicker than you’ll ever find in any store-bought bacon.


I noticed the difference while cooking the bacon too – higher-quality bacon does not exhibit a lot of far runoff, and doesn’t shrivel up into nothingness.  The thickness of the cut also deters curling.  What you end up with is nice meaty chunks of bacon goodness.


So what did I do with all these amazing bacon?  I decided to top our dinners with it – that night’s being grilled chicken.  That huge piece of bacon almost covers an entire chicken breast!


And I’ve got a lot of uncooked bacon to spare… what to do for next Sunday….

Oh – just to remind you:  Nueske’s is the title sponsor for this weekend’s Delray Beach Bacon & Bourbon Fest… don’t miss it!

Thanks again Larry and Salt7!

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Nothing says Sunday like brunch at Caffe Luna Rosa.  And every time I go to Luna Rosa, I order a side of bacon with my first drink – and it comes out within minutes.  This morning, I think we started with three orders of bacon:


Caffe Luna Rosa’s famous applewood-smoked bacon

I love this bacon.  I actually drove up from South Beach one morning just for the bacon.  Do you know what else I love at Luna?  Their bloody marys – they come with an antipasto salad on top!


They always have some great bunch specials at Luna Rosa!  This morning, I opted for the Lobster & Filet Mignon Benedict.  I mean, I don’t know how you can say no to that!  (unless you don’t eat meat)


The boys must have enjoyed their bacon appetizers, because they ordered more bacon with their meals!


Thank you Missy for the wonderful brunch!

Twenty-sixth Day of Lent

My good friends Missy & Beaudon – and their sons Alex & Chase – got in town today, visiting from Longwood for the weekend.  They met me, Susan, & Meredith at my favorite happy hour spot – Salt7 – for some cocktails and apps before headed to dinner after Casey, Roger, and Katelynne got there.

Today’s choice for dinner was Racks Fish House & Oyster Bar.  I honestly have never dined there for dinner – only for a stone crab claw at the bar once.  I was impressed by the menu and the extensive bar selection.

I started with the raw bar – in the steam kettles they make a daily preparation of mussels.  Today’s preparation was in a white wine, butter, & garlic sauce with jalepenos and andouille sausage.   Very tasty – I could have used more sausage though.  After all – I gave up bacon for Lent… ha!  (Missy got the same thing but without the sausage… I asked for her sausage)


For our entree, Susan and I split the seared scallops & pork belly – now that’s more like it.  This came in a vanilla puree, mushrooms, and a truffle shallot jus.  The scallops were huge!


I washed it down with a couple IPAs, Susan had a couple glasses of pinot grigio.  Nice evening with some good friends!

St. Patrick’s Day (Twenty-fourth Day of Lent)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Did you know that it’s almost a sin in Ireland to refer to a “Patrick” as “Patty”?  “Patty” is short for “Patricia”… you’re likely to get your block knocked off if you called a Patrick “Patty”.

“Patrick” is English for Padraig, or Paddy for short.  Hence, the proper term is St. Paddy’sNOT St. Patty’s.  

Okay, enough of the English (Irish?) lesson… let’s talk about what we’re eating today instead of bacon.  Well, St. Paddy’s Day might be my favorite day during Lent as far as food is concerned, because I get to eat corned beef & cabbage all day long!  Today, I traveled all over southern Palm Beach County trying salt-cured (or corned) beef.

First, I met Steve at Tilted Kilt.  If you’ve never heard of this chain restaurant, it’s been described as “Hooters with a Scottish twist” – scantily-clad female serves in short kilts.  But I was there for the food.

When Steve suggested the Tilted Kilt, I replied, “But they’re Scottish….”  But upon looking at their website, they claimed that they were “in the tradition of Scottish, Irish, & English pubs”, and that the Boca Raton location we were visiting was holding their Grand Opening party that day, so I went. Their corned beef & cabbage platter was good enough to start the day, but I found the corned beef cut too thinly and it could have been more tender.


Next on the agenda was Dubliner.  They are known for a huge St. Patrick’s Day block party every year – probably the official party of the City of Boca Raton.  They have a buffet every year of salad, Guinness mac ‘n’ cheese, corned beef & cabbage, shepherds pie, and bangers & fries.


If you notice, their corned beef is much thicker and moister – cooked for hours – and falls apart when spooned onto the plate.  And the Guinness-based shepherd’s pie and mac ‘n’ cheese are to die for.  Outstanding.


Finally, I went to home and grabbed Susan and we went downstairs to Banana Boat for their St. Paddy’s celebrations.  It’s not an Irish pub, but they’re always festive and serve food to match the occasion.  Their corned beef was tender and cut thick – they always seem to do a pretty decent job with the food there.

Banana Boat

All in all, it was a great day of food, Guinness, Jameson, Irish music, and green everywhere.  And if you can’t have cured pig, why not some salt-cured (corned) beef??

Twenty-first Day of Lent

Every year, restaurants try to capitalize during Lent by coming up with a fish special for us that don’t eat meat on Lenten Fridays.  The fast-food chains are no exception.  So on this Friday, my girlfriend treated me by dropping off lunch between meetings.  She chose to drive through Burger King and pick up the Big Fish and Spicy Big Fish:


Got both the Big Fish and Spicy Big Fish for five dollars!

The Big Fish is 100% White Alaskan Pollock, breaded with crispy panko breading and topped with sweet tartar sauce, tangy pickles, all on top of a toasted brioche-style bun.  The Spicy Big Fish replaces the sweet tartar sauce with a creamy spicy sauce.  In my opinion, the Spicy Big Fish wasn’t that spicy – simply a bit spicier than the standard Big Fish.   I actually missed the taste of the tartar sauce – I guess I’m just used to it on these kind of sandwiches.

All-in-all, it was a good lunch – as good as it could be without meat.  And get this – the current Burger King promotion is “2 specialty sandwiches for $5″… can’t beat that!

Thanks Susan!