The Coastal Star

Along the Avenues: Tastemasters draws more than 2,000 on soggy Delray evening


By Thom Smith

A few umbrellas popped up as an early evening shower gave the street a steamy luster, but boulevardiers along Atlantic Avenue were oblivious as they sought out queues and listened for that familiar invitation: “Passport, please!”
More than 2,000 hardy souls took part in the first “Tastemakers of Delray,” handing over $20 for a “passport” that entitled them to food- and wine-tastings at 18 of the city’s top restaurants. From the beach to Swinton, they sampled the likes of piña colada conch and lobster salad and Villa Solis wine from Sardinia at Sundy House, grilled sirloin (Brazilian style) and an Argentine Malbec at Gol! and baked shrimp and scallops with saffron and fresh herb butter and a Chilean sauvignon blanc at Boston’s on the Beach.
Those who ventured north into Pineapple Grove were delighted to discover — even if it is 2 years old — Brulé, a gourmet market and bistro that offered zucchini blossoms and Oregon truffle risotto, washed down with Newton Claret from Napa.
Vic & Angelo’s pear tortellini with white truffle cream sauce was so popular that the restaurant ran out just after 9 p.m., almost an hour before closing. Other participants included Ziree, 32 East, Olio Bistro, Cabana El Rey, House of Siam, Tryst, The Blue Fish, Cugini, Crepes by the Sea, Lemongrass Asian Bistro, Boheme Bistro, City Oyster and Cut 432.
Restaurant tastings usually are staged in hotel banquet rooms, and guests stroll leisurely from station to station. “We decided we wanted to get them into the actual restaurants,” Marjorie Ferrer, executive director of Delray’s Downtown Marketing Cooperative, said. “They have so much to offer, but you really can’t see that unless you go in them.
“We were really happy with it.”
Tastemakers took place Aug. 14 and 15, and wrapped up with a “Passport Party” and two-for-one drinks at Boston’s on the Beach. But the party really isn’t over. Throughout September, the passport will entitle the holder’s party to special offers at the participating restaurants: free wine or beer with your meal at Tryst, free dessert and other specials at Blue Fish, $10 off lunch and $15 off dinner at Cut 432.

Among the restaurants not participating were Pineapple Grille and Delray’s two Intracoastal-fronting eateries, Busch’s and Old Calypso.
“Absolutely not,” Old Calypso principal Tom Blum said to address rumors of its demise. He added he doesn’t intend to sell it or his other restaurant, 5th Avenue Grill on South Federal.
Across the bridge, however, Busch’s is history. The original Busch’s was located on A1A in Ocean Ridge and was founded by descendants of the beer family, who still run a century-old seafood house on the Jersey Shore. The building is one of many in Delray Beach and Palm Beach owned by Burt Handelsman, who, Marjorie Ferrer said, has never sold a building. Among those interested in leasing the property is J. Alexander’s, which has restaurants in Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Fort Lauderdale.
Pineapple Grille, a nifty little eatery featuring Caribbean cuisine in the Palm Trail Plaza off George Bush Boulevard, has closed. However, a sign out front offers promise: coming soon, Marley’s Island Time. Stay tuned.

Keep Delray clean — no ifs, ands or BUTTS!
Because they’re ugly, unsanitary, expensive to clean up, harmful to the environment and are the “most littered item in America,” the city will soon implement a program to eliminate cigarette butts. Financed with a grant from Keep America Beautiful, the program includes public service messages and the placement of receptacles where individuals must put out their cigarettes: building entrances, bus stops and gas stations. Some smokers also will be given portable ashtrays to encourage them to get off their butts.
The program apparently works: In 2008, nearly 200 participating communities reported 46 percent fewer butts. For more info, contact Jennifer Buce, Litter Prevention Coordinator, at 243-7138.

First it was the noise, now it’s sidewalk space in Lake Worth. The City Commission will hold a public hearing Sept. 1 to discuss a revised sidewalk cafe ordinance. It doesn’t look like too big a deal, except that cafe owners will have to move their tables and chairs a foot farther from the curb. The existing ordinance requires only five feet, but state standards call for six.

Sleepy Lantana? Not on Ocean Avenue. Not even in summer. The Old Key Lime House is a great evening and after-boating hangout. Sushi lovers can get their kicks at Suite 225. Those who don’t want to raise Helsinki but would like a taste of the old country stop for pastry and a chat, probably in Finnish, at Palm Beach Bakery & Cafe. Recent arrivals, already noted, include Pizzeria Oceana, just east of Walgreens, and now for the latest: Directly across from the pizza shop, in the space formerly occupied by Il Cioppino and Sara’s Kitchen, entrepreneur and building owner Tara Pearl has opened R-Kitchen. That’s R, as in “our,” as in a cooperative effort of Pearl and her staff.
“We have three four-star chefs, and they’ve all helped put it together,” Pearl said. “It’s only going to be top quality. Everyone in the kitchen must have culinary school credentials. We'll serve gourmet food at family prices. Customers can get it simple or with a twist.”
Such as the “Three eggs A.K.A. Boring” breakfast; or international omelettes —Ecuadorean (corn, chorizo, manchego and cilantro), Eastern Europe (imported Italian goat cheese, tomato, chives) and Mediterranean (roasted red peppers, olives, manchego). Lunches run from sandwiches of tuna salad or seared and spiced tuna loin to platters of mahi mahi with jicama orange arugula salad or wild mushroom meatloaf. Aside from $14 for a pitcher of fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice, the most expensive item on the menu is ricotta cheesecake at $12.
Coming soon: dinner.

The mile-wide smile, the robust laugh, the outstretched hand, the twinkle in his eye. It didn’t matter to Wolfgang Baere if he was running one of the nation’s most prestigious resorts or his down-to-earth beachfront hotel and bar — everyone was worth a million bucks and more so was a friend.
Baere, the first general manager at the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach, died Aug. 12 after a brief battle with brain cancer. He was 67.
Born in Hanover, Germany, he came to the United States in 1963 and took a job as a waiter at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. He arrived in Palm Beach in 1991 to oversee the opening of the Ritz-Carlton and built it into one of the nation’s top resorts. Then in 2001, he left the glitz and glamour of Palm Beach for a little bit of old Florida, teaming with his son, Wolfgang, to buy the Island Beach Resort and the adjoining Shuckers Ocean Bar and Grill in Jensen Beach.
“What am I doing here?” Baere joked as he oversaw the conversion of his new venture from 120 rooms to 60 suites. Three years later, his good humor still intact, he again asked the question as he stood in the rubble left by Hurricane Frances. He wasn’t about to quit, and eventually rebuilt, shucking the Shuckers name for High Tide Beach Grill.
“He was the most extraordinary general manager I have ever worked for,” former Ritz public relations director Deb Hurd once told The Palm Beach Post. “He's inspiring.” Baere requested a small, family-only service. In a brief e-mail to friends, son Wolfgang added, “He would also have wanted all of you to raise a glass and say 'Prost!' to celebrate life.”
Prost!

— Thom Smith can be reached at thomsmith@ymail.com

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