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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

La Palma Ristorante

      John and I are Brunchers. Brunch is a beautiful thing. It is the socially acceptable way to combine breakfast, lunch and dinner foods into one heaping plate without fear of judgment. You may even get some funny looks if you skip dessert.
And it has to be a buffet. A la carte just won't cut it.
     I like to start with some cheeses and deli meats. At La Palma, the selection of cheeses was pretty good, but the meats available were just mortadella, sliced honey ham and salami. It would've been nice to see a good Prosciuto or Serrano and maybe some thin-sliced chorizo. They did have a table-top full of lox garnished by two martini glasses full of red and black caviar. I was deeply grateful for that.
     There was no shortage of cold salads, but the shrimp celery was disappointingly bland. The roast beef was pink and well-seasoned, but the eggs Benedict were overcooked and didn't offer the liquid gold loveliness that flows out of a pierced yolk. I hoped the Hollandaise sauce would provide redemption, but it was missing that distinctive kick of flavor.
     The desserts were perhaps the biggest letdown. Not only were none of them memorable but the selection was scarce for a buffet: a chocolate cake, a key lime pie, an apple strudel and a fruit tarte. That was it.
     The place is attractive enough.  Its Mediterranean-columned structure is cozy and pleasantly decorated with romantic oil paintings. The major draw, though, is the outside courtyard. Small, intimate tables and lighted trees flanked by over-sized concrete planters filled with colorful flowers.
     I'm given to understand that it's a very popular place for events. In fact, a bridal shower was in progress in the courtyard when we were there, but the foodie in me is always searching for that burst of taste, or that new flavor I've never experienced, or that unique dish that will make the place stand out. I didn't find any of those things at La Palma. It was a pleasant afternoon, but not entirely satisfying.
    You see, most places that serve a brunch buffet will be at a disadvantage when John and I try them because we will always measure them against  the restaurant that set the standard for us. It's called La Gloutonnerie, but I will leave this brunch tale for another time.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014 Kitchen Experiment #2 - Matzoh Ball Soup

     I had a dream...
     I had a dream that one day I would be able to duplicate my grandmother Esther's Matzoh Ball soup. I believe a traditional Jewish Matzoh Ball soup has mystical powers. Yes, we know that chicken soup has healing properties, but a rich chicken broth with egg noodles and thick, meaty matzoh balls from the hands of your Bubbeh is pure magic.
     I now believe that my dream has come to pass...  I made my first matzoh ball soup from scratch!   The broth was hearty and laden with chicken meat, vegetables and noodles and the most delectable, chewy matzoh balls.
     I will have to make some adjustments in the future, but my slight miscalculations did not compromise any of the flavor. My proportions for chicken meat and noodles were slightly off and I feel I didn't have enough broth when it was all said and done, which made for some very chunky servings toward the end, but it tasted oh! so good.
     To make my life easier, I decided to use boneless pieces of chicken not realizing that pound for pound of meat, 8 pieces of boneless chicken do not equal 8 pieces with bones. In the future, I need to adjust to fewer pieces if using boneless and more if using the bones.
     But all's well that ends well, and on an unusually cold January evening, the spirit of my Grandma Esther, in the form of my lovely soup, kept us warm. She would be proud... Mazel to me!

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Way Beyond Bagels

     New York Deli meets Wendy's!
     One crisp, bright Sunday, on our way to the Morikami Japanese gardens in Delray Beach, we found the charming little Way Beyond Bagels in a strip mall nearby. It's nothing more than a U-shaped counter displaying an endless array of the freshest deli salads, breads, meats, sweets... all the items that make up a delicatessen menu, and all made in-house.
     You have to stand in a long but fast moving line and place your order quickly. No time to window shop once the attendant is ready to take your order.
     I ordered a multi-grain bagel with cream cheese and Nova lox and a diet Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda, which triggered nostalgic memories of my NYC hangout, Carnegie Deli. The Nova was meaty and as good as you would find anywhere. John ordered a pretzel dog and a Coke. He was somewhat overwhelmed by the massive menu and played it safe.      We shared a four-layer chocolate cake with ganash frosting that was begging for a glass of cold milk. 
It's all served in a fast-food tray and presented to you at the register.
     Seating is scarce and extremely tight inside the tiny place, but there are a few additional tables outside. I prefer my deli experience to be a bit more sophisticated, but it turned out to be a refreshing upgrade on fast-food. You can't help but like this tiny joint!

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