Climb aboard the Taste History Culinary Tour bus, we’re off on a food and fun filled 5-hour adventure. This time the bus is making the rounds of scenic Lake Worth, a little town with some big history, great art and exotic edibles.
Our hostess with the mostess Lori Durante, welcomed a sold out tour last Saturday, meeting us at the Macy’s in Boynton Beach and loading us up right away with coupons, brochures and info about the day ahead.
This time my traveling companion was the wonderful artist Maureen Fulgenzi, creator of the giant ceramic mural in downtown Stuart who has exhibited nationally. Maureen is quite the gourmet cook, so she was excited to try some new places.
First stop was New Age nirvana at Mother Earth Sanctuary Café, off the main drag in Lake Worth but quite a find. Chef and owner Patti Lucia decided years ago to detour off the beaten path and open her own little idea of heaven. At first serving teas and cakes, she grew to accommodate larger crowds and now specializes in what she calls “Cooking with love – it is not just an expression, it is the practice of being conscious of one’s energy in the kitchen.”
Patti pours it on thick, as the platter she prepared for us had two kinds of her specialty veggie burgers – a turkey and beef, along with home made slaw and little frozen chocolate mousse pops to die for. The burgers were mixed with spinach, tomatoes, olives, beans and herbs and topped with a creamy herb dressing. The bread was a Naan roll, house made from scratch of course. Honestly the tastiest, moistest burger I’ve ever had, and the iced mint tea with honey was cool and refreshing. Comfy seating, Patti’s art, and a mural outside the building all add to the welcoming vibe. Maureen and I both agreed this would be a must stop place in Lake Worth from now on.
Art was next on the menu, as the bus dropped us off at The Lake Worth Art League, a nonprofit, educational organization that furthers the studies of the arts to enhance the cultural life of the city, its members and its neighboring communities. A group show had some interesting paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and photos. The back had a nice library of donated art books. It’s a supportive place that encourages the members with group events and critiques.
After a look around, we headed to the sidewalk to sample some tacos from The Taco Lady and yummy strawberry banana smoothies from the Java Juice Bar. The Java Juice Bar is a walk up window joint run by Lake Worth’s City Commissioner Andy Amoroso who proudly informed us that the city had received a grant in 2010 for $23 million from Obama’s Community Redevelopment Agency, to buy and refurbish about 130 homes in a T-shaped target area in the heart of the city. A big boost for this little town, settled in the 1920s and 30s by homesteaders lured by free land if they developed it.
From there we made a really interesting stop to see two murals made more than 70 years apart. Inside the circa 1941 Lake Worth Post Office is an absolute gem of a painting called “Settler Fighting Alligator from Rowboat” painted in 1946 by Joseph Myers as part of the Department of Treasury Section of Fine Art. Reminiscent of Thomas Hart Benton’s elegant Americana style, this action packed painting depicts a huge thrashing gator being harnessed by two men and a ballistic little dog. There’s a great back story here too.
Artists submitted designs anonymously to an advisory panel, comprising a University of Florida architecture teacher and two Florida artists. The panel selected Tampa artist Joseph D. Myers, giving him a first prize of $1,000.
According to materials supplied by Myers’ family, Myers and the federal bureaucrat in charge of the program squabbled for months over the design, with the administrator calling a revised sketch “disappointing” and complaining, among other things, that “the dog is in no way convincing.”
Myers replied that “to question the ability of any artist to get two pair of feet and a hound dog into a rowboat is a little short of insulting.”
Final display of the mural was delayed some six years by moisture condensation problems, an issue that has ruined many of the other murals created across the state. Myers went on to establish a stained-glass art studio in Tampa and did windows at numerous buildings across Florida. He died at 76 in 1989.
Across the street is a more contemporary spray painted mural from 2014 called “Wisdom and Peace in Our Past” by Trek6 of Miami of a large owl, a symbol of wisdom and a Florida native bird. Other symbols in the painting are a tribute to the Black Diamonds referring to the city of Lake Worth’s first settlers, Samuel and Fannie James, former slaves who claimed land in the area.
From street art to more gallery art, we ducked into Artisans on the Ave Gallery to see a wide selection of quality work. The real find was a gathering of creepy ceramic dolls by Victoria Rose Martin, who works as an Art Professor at Palm Beach State College. Exquisitely detailed with both humorous and grotesque elements, this bizarre body of work stayed in my head for days afterward.
A lovely stop at Brogues Down Under is further proof of Lake Worth’s melting pot identity. An Irish bar formerly here was taken over by New Zealanders Emily and Rob Regan, who added some unique dishes to the menu, such as Pavlova Pie – a meringue cream pie with strawberries and chocolate chips built in the shape of a ballerinas tutu and named after famous Russian dancer Anna Pavlova. The Pie is quite the creamy mouthful and was even better washed down by a crisp Australian white wine. The Regan’s are a spry, hospitable couple, married for more than 50 years who have made a roaring success of this landmark eatery with live music, great food and a fun, festive atmosphere.
A visit to Hoffman’s Chocolates was next, the made in Lake Worth 40 year old company that is a national hit, as their product line includes over 70 varieties of confections and has garnered the attention of culinary authorities. Diane demonstrated for us how the chocolates are made and showed us some custom work they do including printed edible business cards and molded chocolate bars with names or logos. We sampled some varieties of dark and milk chocolate that had most of the tour goers lining up at the counter to purchase more to bring home.
We made it into Mama Gizzi’s Pizza and Pasta just before a rainstorm to find a veritable buffet of home made breads, crackers, pastas, eggplant parmesan, and little cream filled cannolis waiting for us. Mama is a real character, animated and covered with flour and tomato sauce. This gourmet specialty shop carries a large variety of pasta, home made desserts, imported products from Italy and meals to go. She opened the store as a compliment to her wholesale food supplier business for restaurants and country clubs.
She invents her own baked breads made from pasta dough and has over 35 years experience starting as a child at her parents catering company. Hand made pasta is rich and chewy, a far cry from dried store bought brands and you can absolutely taste the love she puts into it.
By now we were almost filled to the gills, but Lori had one more stop for us at the Cheese and Wine Café in Lantana for some unusual rice salad made with various cheeses and leafy greens. This jam-packed tour is vastly informative, entertaining and delicious, a whole new way to see a town in our very backyard.
Taste History Culinary Tour: Tastehistoryculinarytours.orgClimb Aboard the Taste History Culinary Tour bus and Experience Murals, Morsels and Climb Aboard the Taste History Culinary Tour bus and Experience Murals, Morsels and More in Lake Worth. Read How This 5-hour Adventure Food and Fun will Be Like