If Taste History Culinary Tours has a Greatest Hits Tour, the Palm Beach tour is at the top of the charts. Boarding the bus in Boynton Beach at the Mall, tour hostess Lori Durante is all smiles but close mouthed about the wonderful places she will be taking us to see, nosh at, and shop.
Cruising across Okeechobee Boulevard, we headed to the bridge across the bay, into the luxurious Streets and Ways of Palm Beach. The bus pulled up to Nick & Johnnies, a landmark eatery in Palm Beach on Royal Palm Way where everyone from Errol Flynn to JFK to Jimmy Buffet has dined. With a casual cool atmosphere the place feels breezy and very comfortable in its own skin, as only landmarks can. Fiilng in past the long wooden bar, we sat on oversized wicker chairs with spring green cushions as large ceiling fans twirled overhead underneath a skylit dining room.
The waiters brought out spiked little deviled eggs to try along with some of the best tuna tacos I have ever had. Made with spicy sauce, avocado, cucumber, onion and brown rice, these crunchy tacos had real character. With lots of seating options, tables, booths, bar, outside, and only a block from The Breakers, Nick & Johnnies is a real Palm Beach classic.
Strolling next door into a shady courtyard with a fountain, the Leidy Gallery is like going on an undersea journey as the art of Chris Leidy floats on the walls. Leidy has some serious heritage – his grandfather was Joseph Pulitzer the journalist, newspaper publisher and Congressman. His grandmother was Lily Pulitzer, she of the kicky pink and green international clothing line that screams Palm Beach tropic. Leidy has found his world underwater, journeying to far flung parts of the earth to dive into strange watery worlds and take unearthly photos of sharks, reefs, seascapes and even sunken planes on the ocean floor. His large scale photos are glossy and surreal.
From the luxe life of Palm Beach island, the bus took us over to the artsy boho hood of Northwood for a stop at Olivia’s Special Teas which serves up a most unusual craft brew of kombucha, a zesty sparkling Tealixir drink that combines herbs, spices, probiotics, nutrients, enzymes and more healthy stuff that helps digestion and energy. Although it’s fermented, it is non-alcoholic, and very low calorie. Olivia’s makes delicious flavors like China Rose and Dr. Marigold and Amrita Chai. They sell it out of a draft lineup, by the bottle, can and growler. We sampled some of the China Rose, which had everyone oohing and ahhing over the flowery, effervescent flavor. The tea house is named after the luminous owner Olivia who runs the business with her husband Daniel in a historic building on Dixie Highway. They also sell loose teas, soaps and flavored honeys, a really sweet business that has taken off with the recent tea craze.
On a kombucha tea high, we strolled over to OSGS Gallery in Northwood, a central meeting place at Northwood and Spruce Avenues for the local art scene that hosts local artists, does framing as part of a complete art service experience and has a freshly painted mural on their outer wall.
Down the street from the gallery at the far end of Northwood is Something Lively Antiques – a large multi-room antique shop with everything from 1960s kitsch Lucite table sets to 1940s grand cabinets and velvet chairs. Next door is another eccentric shop, the ArtHaus Bohemia Gelateria Gallery that sells the art of local artist Anthony Hernandez whose huge scale murals can be seen all over downtown West Palm; along with most unusual gelato flavors the owner conjures up daily, inventing flavors like Turkish Double Brew gelato and their famous Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream. While the art may be bizarre and lean toward heavy metal, the sweets are heavenly. I especially love the dilapidated silver piano outside and the giraffe perched on the upper wall.
Back on the bus we cruised back into downtown West Palm, pulling up at one of my favorite places in town – Wine Scene and Nicole Henry Fine Art on Fern Street. Awaiting us in Wine Scene were plates piled with prosciutto and cheese and generous glasses of red and white wine. After noshing and imbibing, Nicole gave us a gallery tour and discussed the upcoming CANVAS event she is producing – a massive mural project that will turn the city into a walking art museum. The project will bring in world class muralists and will have lots of associated events such as auctions, wine evenings, and fashion shows.
Taking the bus down Dixie Highway, the next stop was the Blue Front Bar & Grill in Lake Worth, a place I suggested be on the tour months ago and am thrilled to see they agreed to take part in. Talk about history, this place is bursting at the outdoor vertical smoker seams with it. The famous sauce is made on the premises as the 40 –year- old Blue Front BBQ Sauce company was purchased by the Paladino Family a few years ago. Manager Rodney Buguglio, formerly of The Ritz, explained how the expanded restaurant/bar/lounge is also factory where the sauce is made in small batches from various secret ingredients, while meats are smoked in a special custom designed vertical stone smoker to make sure the flavorful smoke reaches every shelf of meats. It is smoked for a full 8 hours before being served with the special sauce that comes in mild or hot.
But the proof is in the tasting, so a generous sampler platter was brought out with ribs, chicken and a pork sandwich to the delight of the group which included food critics and bloggers. Finger licking good and fall off the bone tender, Blue Front is a real winner. After eating we explored their large garden with its Easter Island Head stone statues, fountains and ping pong tables. There are plans to take over the rest of the block and create a tiki bar themed restaurant, bar and entertainment complex.
A final stop at Hoffman’s Chocolates in Lake Worth for some more history and sampling and our greatest hits tour with the best food, wine, art and history was complete.
West Palm Beach Serves it Good with Taste History’s Greatest Hit Tour. Review of the Best Tour of Taste History Culinary Tours of Historic Palm Beach County