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Zen-Tea-at-Shaffers-Teahouse
Zen Tea at Shaffers Teahouse

Lori Durante is a spitfire spunky hostess, our local version of Anthony Bourdain except instead of sitting in front of the TV, Durante takes you on a private air-conditioned 4 hour bus tour to exotic worlds of tastes, sights and historic neighborhoods. Her knowledge, warmth, choice of venues and “let’s go!” attitude make for a delightfully mad cap day of discovering the new that’s right in our own backyard.

The Taste History Culinary Tours is an extension of the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History’s Narrated Bus Tours that began in 2004 and has hosted more than 10,000 people to date.  Durante was initially just doing History Tours but was inspired by Bourdain on the Travel Channel and morphed it into the Taste History Culinary Tours of Historic Palm Beach County.

Food Tour Pairs Up History and Art in Delray Beach – See my Experience!

I took the Delray Beach Tour to see a new slice of a city I thought I knew.
Meeting up at Macy’s at the Boynton Beach Mall, I met up with my gal pal and fellow adventuress Leanne where we boarded the bus and promptly got a goodie bag filled with coupons and fliers. As we started driving, Durante gave us a quick history lesson in the town of Boynton and Delray from its Native American origins to modern day incorporation.

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She told us the theme today would be Floribbean Cuisine, foods that incorporate Florida’s merging with Caribbean flavors and cultures. Our first stop was at Dee Dee’s Conch, Rib and Crab Shack in Delray, a spicy labor of love marvel that owner Dee Dee started as a weekend sideline out of a tent in a parking lot years ago. The recipe is from her native Bahamas for conch in various ways – cracked, conch ladies (fritters), and conch salad. She also dishes up ribs, fried okra, gizzards and rice, and more unusual plates. We had a fritter with a spicy mayo and a rib dripping with sauce as we got a little overview of how these foods originated. A real find and we’ll come back again.

Back on the bus to a drive around the corner, this time stopping at a tropical historic house painted in vibrant colors. Shaffers Tearoom serves over 100 different types of tea, plus Latin foods and sweets. The shop looks and smells wonderful and warm. An artsy mix of African and Caribbean art dots the space along with Buddhas, Native Dreamcatchers and Indian deities. All beliefs welcomed here! We sipped a refreshing pink berry tea and noshed on warm meat and cheese filled empanadas while sitting on the breezy porch and marveling at the rare spiky tree in the garden. Zen/Nirvana heaven.
From the funky quiet of the tearoom, the next stop was a blast of Latin American fusion, neon signs, bongos, and crisp tableclothed booths at Cabana El Rey (House of the Sun). The gracious owner welcomed us all at the door and explained they served a variety of Latin cuisines plus some unusual dishes.

An example of something rare came right away in the form of a drink called a Pisco Sour, made from a liquor called Pisco, a brandy distilled from grape wine in Chile and Peru. The drink adds in lime juice, egg whites, bitters and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Creamy and citrusy, this little cocktail packs a punch and paired great with the roast pork, plaintain and rice we were served.

Time to take a little walking tour down Atlantic Avenue into Le Macaron for some French sweets, flaky, crunchy little bites with various flavored jams in the middle – chocolate, basil, mango, currant, walnut – the flavors are endless. I had a raspberry macaron, while Leanne picked out a hazelnut, sweet yummy little pick me ups in an adorable shop that also sells gelatos. From there we crossed the street and wandered into the lobby of historic 1935 bright yellow and red Colony Hotel, filled with lovely terrazzo floors, flowers, the original telephone switchboard and a mirrored elevator that used to be operated by the staff. Huge music and dining ballrooms run the length of the back with skylights. The hotel has retained a lot of its original character but is now sustainable, green, eco-friendly and pet friendly.

All Photos of Delray Taste/History tour by Janis Bucher

After some more window shopping in the stores around the Colony, we were back on the bus to head to Bamboo Fire Café, an award-winning Caribbean eatery that was just voted best Caribbean restaurant by the Palm Beach New Times. The friendly staff doled out jerk meatballs, baguettes spread with a grilled eggplant dip, roast pork, rice and peas, and a lush little desert made from cream and rum infused strawberries. Sweet green tea washed it all down.

Time for art, as Durante steered us to a district I’ve been meaning to check out in Boynton Beach’s industrial section. A cluster of industrial bay warehouses have been taken over by a pioneering bunch of artists and named, what else, the Boynton Beach Art District (BBAD) where lots of collaborative work goes on and the warehouse doors are painted with murals. Monthly art walks let the public join in. We visited the studio of  Dianett to see some fierce feminine paintings and gorgeous colorful abstracts.

Now the tour is going on close to 4 hours but Durante smiles and says we still have one more stop to make, the grand finale is at Palermo’s Bakery, an old fashioned genuine Italian everything from scratch plus a few things they made up kind of place. A huge tray of pizzas, sausage and cheese bread plus pastries were laid out for us. The custard filled donuts, cream puffs and cookies were out of this world good.

This concluded our tour, a truly special day trip for the group of us with ages that ranged from toddler to retiree, many of whom live in the area and just wanted to see what treasures are just outside the door. Durante really puts her heart into these tours, I can’t recommend them enough.

Cities visited on a rotating basis include Northwood Village/West Palm Beach, Lake Worth & Lantana; and Delray Beach & Boynton Beach, so there are several to choose from.

In for a tour? Check out this website www.tastehistoryculinarytours.org

Sandra-Schulman Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet. Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at sandraslink@gmail.com.

Love Art & Food. Combined is a powerful choice to enjoy the best day in any of the cities Palm Beach County where the Taste History Culinary Tour takes place.