Taste History Culinary Tours has a new route, taking diners and history buffs on a new adventure to suburban eating adventures and then back to the city. I had taken all of Lori Durante’s various tours last year to Lake Worth, Delray, and Palm Beach so was excited to take a new tour she has mapped out for the new year.
We boarded the big bus at a new place this time, the luxe Stonebridge Country Club in Boca Raton and headed out for Greenacres in the burbs for Paella Grill, an authentic Spanish restaurant in a shopping plaza. There are surprisingly few Spanish eateries in Palm Beach County, a place overrun with Mexican and Cuban cuisines. Gregarious owner Luis Elu came to the US from Spain as a professional Jai-Alai player in 1963. Missing the food of Spain, he learned to cook the traditional Spanish dishes of home — fresh seafood, Chorizo, Tapas, Sangria, Paellas and more. When he semi-retired he decide to open a restaurant to share his love of the food. His Executive Chef Diego Diaz presents a menu of authentic Spanish dishes prepared in the traditional style along with a selection of international favorites.
This was one of the most generous “tastings” as it amounted to more of a meal with four servings of food and a whole pitcher of sangria on our table. Certainly one of the best sangrias I’ve ever had, this red wine has pureed fruit in it, giving it a richer texture and different flavor than if fruit had just been sliced and marinated in it as usual.
We were presented with a fried calamari, light and fluffy batter surrounded the rings giving it a nicer soft crunch. Next came mussels in tomato sauce; then an unusual dish of shrimps, chorizo and mushrooms in a rich saffron broth. I’m not usually a fan of sausage but these small tasty chorizo bites were totally delicious and spiced just right. Three appetizer plates later we were given the eateries namesake dish, a hearty bowl of Paella with yellow rice, peas, red peppers, chicken and shrimp. Lots of sangria – at 11 am no less – helped it all go down. A trip to the kitchen yielded an unusual site – a GIANT paella pan that takes at least 3 people to carry it, used for crowd demonstrations and really large orders!
Back on the bus we left the burbs, almost full already and with a bit of a buzz, and headed to Habatat Galleries on the happening block of Clematis Street in the Historic Commercial District in West Palm Beach. Habatat shows glass art and sells jewelry, some really fine work here, large scale and exquisitely made. Paperweights they ain’t.
Next door to Habatat is one of the best of the CANVAS murals by Kobra of Einstein on the beach rendered in rainbow colors. Lots of selfies taken here. We also ogled the newly unveiled mural across the street by Smog to decorate the under construction Brightline Train Station.
A short walk across Dixie and we hit up The Dispensary, an old fashioned diner/general goods store with a fancy carved wood counter we perched on to have a light leafy salad and creamy potato soup.
Back on the bus we chugged a few blocks away to see the new Bruce Helander exhibit at Nicole Henry Gallery and to have a most delicious glass of white wine at The Wine Scene.
Helander is down right art royalty in these parts, and has whipped up a terrific, intelligent, multi-media show with a real show biz flair. We nibbled on some tasty cheese and prosciutto apps and also took in the new murals outside. This is truly a high class, cutting edge place for sophisticated tastes, one of my favorite places in South Florida and was recently profiled in the New York Post.
Next we traveled to Table 427 in Northwood Village, an award winning restaurant where the Chef Roberto Villegas greeted us with a steaming bowl of hominy, roast pork, herbs and tangy broth made perfecto with a squeeze of lime. Villegas does the smart thing in cooking – he gets inspired by what is fresh and available at the local markets to make his menu rather be forced into staples that may not have the best year round ingredients. He also served us a sweet elixir made of hibiscus sweetened with honey.
Out next stop was a few doors down at Dos Amigos Mexicali Restaurant, a large festive space occupying a former hotel site, where a fresh stack of West Palm Beach Magazines had just been delivered. No I did not plan that, but it was nice to see the tour ladies and gents reading our new glossy Winter issue. Chips and salsa hit the table as well as some tasty soft chicken tacos.
We wandered across the street to Olivia’s Special Teas for a refreshing taste of Kombuca – fermented tea in various flavors like China Rose, and organic loose leaf teas, medicinal herbs, kava kava, kratom, kombucha vinegar, kombucha soaps, as well as fine raw honeys. Kombucha tea a bit of an acquired taste but really grows on you as the herbs reveal themselves on the palate. A surprise customer dropped in – Mickey Thomas of Jefferson Starship – and was mobbed for photo ops. Maybe the kombucha is a secret to his singing success?
Mickey Thomas at Olivia’s Special Teas during the Taste History Culinary Tours