Sea Wine & Dine

Sea Wine & Dine- 235 Commercial Blvd. #105,
Lauderdale By The Sea  http://www.seatherestaurant.com/

I make no excuses about immediately liking Chef owned restaurants. I guess it’s because the Chef preparing the meal has put it all on the line and must produce. Tony Sindaco could have continued to work at fine hotels and restaurants, but he chose the more difficult path.  Sea Wine and Dine is his creation and his work can be tasted there nightly. I often wonder where Chefs like Tony get their inspiration. This Chef is respectful of his past and firmly grounded in the present, unashamed to be his own original classic. When time allows from his duties in the kitchen, he can be seen working the tables, greeting guests and observing how his food is going down. And that food is good.

Having been to Sea several times I noticed that the fish offerings change to keep pace with market availability. Your meal can be ordered from an a la carte menu or one that is prix fixe, which I recommend and gives you a choice of both an appetizer and dessert for the price of your selected entrée. Menu items change often and are posted on two large chalkboard in the dining room, reminiscent of the old-time big city seafood restaurants I used to frequent. For those not into fish there is usually at least one non-fish selection. Now it must be said that ordering fish for me does not come easily, but I totally appreciate this place for the elegant yet not overly fussy preparations that never let you forget, it’s all about the FISH!  So let me walk you through my favorites. Appetizers to look for when available are; Calamari Pomodoro, a light rustic dish with chunks of tomato, shaved garlic and tender Calamari served in a shallow bowl, Cream-less Cream of Tomato Soup, light tomatoey flavor and yes…creamy; a robustly flavored Bahamian Fish Chowder was a real stand-out for me; and finally the Grilled Shrimp which I’ve had on two occasions, each time slightly different and both times delicious. There are about seven entrées on the menu and twice a week these will change. Here are some to look for; Black Grouper Braise with green beans, squash, red potatoes and sliced garlic… great dish for dunking and if you’re like me you’ll leave nothing behind; Broiled Scallops are done perfectly here; Florida Snapper & Herb Crusted Mahi both nicely done. And finally dessert. You really don’t have to twist my arm to get me to eat dessert.  My favorite is the Black & White Creme Brulee with a layer of chocolate covered by classic custard. Sinful, I know, but you’ll eat every bit of it. Check out all the food pictures from Sea at http://on.fb.me/ys9M1b .

If something I’ve said about Sea Wine & Dine has stuck a cord with you I recommend that you call ahead, as seating is limited. And please do say hi to Tony.

© 2012 alanEATS

Timpano Italian Chop House

Timpano Italian Chop House- 450 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale  http://www.timpanochophouse.net/

Where do you go for a good steak in Fort Lauderdale? That has got to be the most frequent question I’m asked and it’s a tough one to answer, as this area has no shortage of fine restaurants producing good steaks. So for me it’s a personal choice based on my tastes.  What I look for is a place that has dry-aged beef and the know-how to grill it. Timpano is one of those places. Although they bill themselves as an “Italian Chop House,” I’ve never had their Italian food. I come here for the steaks! I learned about Timpano a few years ago from a friend who was a Restaurateur, Club Owner/ Bon vivant man about town in New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale. One evening we were discussing local restaurants and he asked if I’d ever been to Timpano. Apparently he and his brother were regulars. When I said no, he grinned and his eyes widened as he began a thorough description of the place and precisely what to order. “You take my advice and you’re going to have an enjoyable meal”, he said.  And with slight variation, I’ve been ordering this meal happily for several years.

For starters try the signature Black Skillet-Roasted Mussels
 tossed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Kosher Salt and spritzed with a shot of fresh lemon before serving.  The mussels are brought to the table on the skillet they were cooked on, steaming & sizzling…a nice show. This dish is so simple and yet so tasty, that I always dip a piece of bread into the pan after. The entrée is always steak and the two cuts I enjoy are the 20 Oz. Bone-In Rib Eye and the 14 Oz. Aged Bone-In Filet.  If you don’t like navigating the bone there is also a 12 Oz. Aged Hand Cut Filet, which is more than enough food for most. The meat is dry aged, which increases tenderness and flavor unique to that process. I order my steaks “Pittsburgh-style” — charred on the outside, medium-rare on the inside. If you’re still ordering steaks well done we need to talk!  The Grill people here know their stuff and consistently produce meat cooked to proper doneness. Side dishes are a must and my favorites are the Sautéed Spinach With Garlic And Chili Flakes (the spice is not over powering) and Baby Portobello Mushrooms With Fresh Herbs.

Sadly my friend Bob, who put me on to Timpano, is no longer with us. I remember his legendary enjoyment of life and his eagerness to share his dining adventures with others as I do now. So, as he wished, when family and friends join me over dinner, I raise my glass and remember…this one’s for you Bob!

© 2011 alanEATS

JoJo’s Tacos – Restaurant/Café

JoJo’s Tacos-Restaurant/Café- 216 E Commercial Blvd, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea  http://www.jojostacos.com/

I’m really not sure how I heard about this place, but I heard enough good buzz to check out their website. One glance at the on-line menu got my mojo going! This is a Taco Restaurant, but if you ask Chef Joseph Parson’s, he might tell you that his place is just a “Taco stand.” I get it, but believe me…this place is more. To me, JoJo’s has an East Village, New York vibe to it…very casual and unpretentious with a nice mix of people. The space has some tables, but the best seats in the house have got to be along the long counter facing the open kitchen. From here you can see your food being freshly prepared as you watch the finely choreographed movements of the kitchen staff as they do multiple things simultaneously. One person puts something in a skillet another steps in and adds some ingredients a third retrieves some tacos shells toasting on the flat top. These folks are real serious about their food. In one respect it is like a taco stand, in that you order at the front counter. If you need plates, napkins or silverware you get up off your keister and pick up what you need from the sideboard in the center of the restaurant. After that it’s just good eating.  For starters I order “the Guac” served with House-made Chips. I could eat this chunky style guacamole all by myself, but my dining guests insisted I share and I figured had to save room for what was coming next anyway. My favorite Taco is the Peachy Pollo; Peach Smoked Chicken with Blistered Corn, Habanero Peach Aioli, Romaine and
 Queso Blanco. It has good flavor and just enough heat to make you smile without looking for a beverage. I also enjoyed the Shrooms & Asp (Asparagus), Cathy’s Catch and Sarge’s Piglet. Try one of the Quesos. These are skillet dishes served with House made chips, perfect for sharing if you’re not dining with me! The Chicken Queso is wonderful and the Chorizo version has more of the spicy kick I look for. There are daily specials and you’ll find them posted up front. On one visit I could not resist the Short Ribs Special. This is tender, fall off the bone and served up JoJo’s style. There are so many things I want to try, but if I don’t improve my sharing skills no one will go with me!

Click the link to see more pictures from JoJo’s with descriptions.  http://on.fb.me/uIGBeh

© 2011 alanEATS

OB-House / Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House

OB-House/Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House- 333 Himmarshee St, Ft Lauderdale-  http://o-bhouse.com/

Occasionally my family is conscripted to be the staff of alanEATS. Therefore, whenever I need to know about new hip places I look to my savvy nephew. Recently he’s been going on about OB-House, a new breakfast place in Himmarshee. Initially, I admit, I was skeptical, but it became clear to me the place had a devoted following so when the name kept turning up I figured it was time to see for myself. OB is a restaurant that specializes mainly in breakfast. I’ve visited there about four or five times so I guess I’m as ready as ever to give you my take. First of all it appears that a lot of time was spent thinking about how to raise-the-bar on the first meal of the day. To accomplish this they use the best quality & freshest ingredients, new interpretations, and some say, a little self-indulgence.  Look…you’re just going to have to dig a little deeper into your pocket for this mornings “feed bag,” but it’s worth it!  So clip on your iPhone and tell the secretary you’ll be a little late to the office. One quick word of advice… according to the menu, peanut oil may be used in the preparation of some items. Ask your server to point them out if you have that allergy.

I usually start with a glass of the pulpy fresh squeezed Orange Juice and a cup of OB Coffee about which the menu states, “ That’s not Folgers in your cup.” I don’t know whose coffee they’re using, but it’s served hot and it’s good. First time in I tried the Standard OB-House Breakfast with two Free-Range Eggs, Thick Sliced Bacon and Yukon Gold Potatoes served with thick cut 6-Grain Toast.  The over easy eggs were perfect and basted, a method of cooking eggs without turning them over. My eyes next went to that thick cut bread. I confess I finished it all. On another visit I decided to take the advice of my nephew and order the popular OB Oven Pancake. This nicely sized pancake is baked in a cast iron skillet and served with a choice of filling; Pineapple Pecan, Banana, Blueberry or Strawberry. The pancake is moist and the light inside reminds me of a soufflé. It’s tasty enough to enjoy even without the portion of real Vermont Maple Syrup that accompanies it. This is so good it deserves to be on everybody’s bucket list. On subsequent visits I’ve enjoyed the OB Batter Toast made with slices of the same thick cut OB-Bread and side dishes of Maple Chicken Link Sausages and the Country Pork Sausage. Meals here are quite good and filling…so in an attempt to be a little less decadent, and keep my waist size stable, I resigned to try the healthy and House-made Granola Parfait with Yogurt and Strawberries. I will admit healthy tastes good too! Also on the healthy side were the two Specials of Poached Eggs on a bed of Spinach with potatoes & bread and Scrambled Eggs served with a cup of Fresh Fruit & Yogurt and a Muffin. No…I did not eat the muffin! I passed it along to my nephew as a reward for finding the place.

Additional pictures can be found at  http://on.fb.me/vlXtJS

© 2011 alanEATSomelets

Betty’s Soul Food Restaurant

Betty’s Soul Food Restaurant- ‪‪601 NW 22nd Rd, Fort Lauderdale

Betty’s is to Fort Lauderdale what Sylvia’s is to Harlem. And like that great New York soul food restaurant, people who know good Southern cooking in Fort Lauderdale must inevitably show up at Betty’s. I’ve heard about this place forever so after further recommendations from Clean Plate Charlie and an article from Jamie Long, both from New Times, I ventured out to try Betty’s with a foodie friend who knows Southern cooking. The place has thirteen tables and seven counter stools, all full when we arrived for lunch. I’m told Betty plays to a full house every day and for many good reasons. One would be for the Fried Chicken and that’s what I came for this day. “Hello there, I hear the chicken is good here” I said to the server. “Best you’ll ever have,” she answered confidently! With our orders placed, I continued to lust over the menu. It was difficult to pass up some of my other Southern favorites like Oxtail, Beef Ribs, Smothered Pork Chops, Chicken Livers and Fried Mullet. And then there was the stuff I always wanted to try like Pigs Tails, Ham Hocks, Neck Bones and Chitterlings. Oh my! …you must never leave me alone in this place or I’ll order it all!  Regaining my composure I stuck to the plan, crispy Fried Chicken, with Candied Yams and Black-eyed Peas. The Chicken here is nothing short of amazing.  Each order is prepared using Betty’s secret wet batter and fried up as needed, served hot and cooked perfectly. After a short while I had done such a good job of striping every morsel of meat off the bones they could have reassembled it as a science project. The sides of Yams and Peas were perfect for me, but next time I need to try the Mac N Cheese, Collards, Pigeon Peas & Rice, and Cabbage.  Sadly I did not get to meet Betty on this trip, but I did chat with our server on the way out to tell her how much we enjoyed lunch, to which she replied with a big smile and a wink, “I told you it was the best you’d ever tasted!”  I’ll be back soon Betty!

Update- March 26, 2012 – And back I did go recently for another helping of that really good Fried Chicken with Collards and Mac & Cheese this time. My dining companion had the same with the Fried Okra. Everyone in the place is genuine and happy to see you, even when we walked in after the normal lunch service. Regards to Connie, our server on this visit, a person who it seemed could be in many places at the same time. And finally, I did get to meet Betty. I thought she might scold me for not coming back sooner, as I had promised. Not so, but I’ll try not to let that happen again, I’ve got far too much to try!

© 2011 alanEATS

Ferdos Grill

Ferdos Grill- 4300 N Federal Highway, 
Fort Lauderdale                        http://www.ferdosgrill.net/

I’m often asked how I get food recommendations. One way I discovered is by checking out where my foursquare friends are eating so I can interrogate them about their meals.  I warn you though; you must be careful with this technique or may get a disagreeable comment or two! Fortunately this was not the case with a good friend who I noticed was eating at Ferdos on a regular basis. I’m sure many of you can remember seeing the yellow & red Ferdos sign with the tag line “home of the kabob” underneath, on rides up Federal Highway and thinking “one day I’ll get there.” After questioning my friend, who as it turns out is of Lebanese descent, he kindly offered to take me there and help with my selections. So how authentic is it? Pretty much, however, don’t expect a whole goat served on a bed of rice, which you might have seen done on the Travel Channel. What you will find is many authentic Lebanese and Middle Eastern dishes. We started with a new one for me, Raw Kibbeh, which is primarily made with raw ground Lamb mixed with burghul and spices. Ferdos serves this with pita wedges, cucumber slices and onions. The flavors are subtler than I would have expected and the meat does not have any hint of gaminess. It did remind me of a pâté in texture. My host suggested I place a small amount in a pita wedge with onion and/or cucumber. The resulting mixture was delicious. The Sfeehas, Meat Pies, came next.  They seemed more familiar to me as almost every culture in the world seems to make a version of these small baked pastries filled with meat, vegetables or cheese. Ours were meat filled and served with a Tzatziki dipping sauce. Next was the very healthy and tasty Fatoosh Salad consisting of small pieces of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, radishes, pita chips, and tossed with a tangy dressing. I ordered the signature dish…Shish Kabob. What arrived was a large plate filled with perfectly cooked chunks of charbroiled beef served with fluffy rice, steamed veggies, onions and a strong garlic dipping sauce. After what I had eaten earlier, it seemed a veritable mountain of food…most of which I took home…had for lunch the next day…and there’s still some left!  So what did I learn from this food adventure? Good friends are priceless and offer unexpected knowledge… and foursquare can be an effective tool to find a good meal! Thank you Matt.

© 2011 alanEATS

Peter Pan Diner

Peter Pan Diner- 1216 E Oakland Park Blvd, Oakland Park  http://www.mypeterpandiner.com/

The American Diner is much maligned for it’s greasy image, which many don’t deserve. They are today still loved and enjoyed by many for their cavernous menus, large portions, late hours and very reasonable prices. If you follow me on Twitter/Facebook you know I frequent many of these places.  I was reminded of this today when my foursquare check-in app awarded me the “Greasy Spoon Badge”, for my check-in at the Peter Pan Diner. This also reminded me that I haven’t paid any attention to Diners on this Blog, despite my numerous visits to them.  An oversight I intend to correct now. The Peter Pan Diner has been around for over 38 years. My memories of the place go back a mere 20+ years. After a night of partying with friends, the 24/7 Pan was always there for a good breakfast. Today it remains virtually unchanged from those days. It’s still 24/7 and able to serve up all the dishes from their huge menu almost any time you wish. Breakfasts are exceptional on the limited early bird menu and very reasonable thereafter on the regular menu, with all manner of omelets, sandwiches and sides. My favorite special is the #4…eggs, tasty link sausages and two fluffy pancakes. The dinners here are very good as well. Try the Rumanian Skirt Steak and the half Chicken. The seafood is excellent for the price with many broiled selections. I tend to order the locally sourced stuff when available like Snapper, Mahi, Sea Bass, etc. The early dining specials include salad, entrées of some of their most popular dishes and dessert. Diners like the Peter Pan are friendly places that serve up honest good food. No greasy spoon!

Click the link for more pix http://on.fb.me/vAuj9Z

© 2011 alanEATS

Hong Kong City BBQ

Hong Kong City BBQ- 5301 N State Road 7, Tamarac               http://www.hkcitybbq.com/

My First Visit- Dim Sum Lunch

I felt like I was the last person on the planet to know about this place and, thanks to my foodie friend Maiko who made the suggestion, I can now inform the last few souls who’ve not been lucky enough to make it here. If you enjoy Chinese food and are ready to experience some new tastes and flavors you must try Hong Kong City BBQ.  You’ll find this ordinary looking restaurant in a small shopping center in Tamarac, but there’s nothing ordinary about the food. The owners say they make genuine NY Chinatown, Hong Kong style cuisine and the place does have that look and feel, from the hanging duck & ribs in the front to the extensive menus. With this being my first trip, I came for one thing…Dim Sum lunch.  Not many restaurants in the area do as many Dim Sum dishes (I counted over 40) as you’ll find here. First timers like myself are handed a card with color pictures of all the selections. Dim Sum is an individual portion of bite size savouries, which can consist of all types and parts of meat, fish and poultry. It’s like “Chinese Tapas.” The prices are very reasonable and you can expect to order 6-8 dishes for lunch.  Yes…I shared…Really!!! Here are a few suggestions from my first adventure. The Crispy Shrimp balls…they were so good we ordered a second portion. They come three to a serving and were crispy as the named implies, with a soft center of minced shrimp, which is wrapped in a thin wonton skin, and then perfectly fried in vegetable oil. Some other dishes we liked were the Pork Siu Mai, the Steamed Shrimp Dumpling, and the Shanghai Dumpling. New for me was the Steamed Pork Ribs with Black Bean Sauce and the Beef Tripe with Ginger and Scallions. I won’t get any awards from Andrew Zimmern for that last dish, but it’s one I’ve always wanted to try. Next time Chicken Feet with Special Sauce!!! Additional pictures of this meal can be found at http://on.fb.me/tM8vB0.

Sage Bagel and Deli

Sage Bagel and Deli- 800 E Hallandale Beach Blvd,
Hallandale Beach http://www.sagebagelanddeli.com/

They call them “appetizing stores.”  The Jews and the Italians and most other immigrants to this country have these types of places where the foods, flavors, smells and tastes of the “old” country and culture can be found.  New York City still has places like Zabar’s, Russ & Daughters, and Barney Greengrass, but 50 years ago these stores were commonly found everywhere in the Big Apple. I can remember my mother taking me into a small appetizing store in the Bronx and being overwhelmed by the sight of large Pickle Barrels (sour, half-sour Pickles & Pickled Tomatoes) and bins of nuts, grains and the smoked and baked fish. OMG…it was sensory overload. Today we have far fewer of these kinds of places. You see, it’s a generational thing, so as those folks who practiced the weekly ritual of sitting around the table with family for a dairy meal pass, so do these stores. The Sage is the closest I’ve found in South Florida that is able to keep those memories alive with an amazing selection of foods. Technically, a deli is a place that specializes cured and pickled meats and an appetizing store is where you’d find fish and dairy items. Even though Sage has “deli” in it’s name, they sell both. Once a month, my brother and I make a pilgrimage to the Sage to pick up our favorites. If you’re an appetizing maven and know what I’m talking about, you can stop reading here and start riding to Hallandale. Otherwise read on.

A trip to Sage has to include a purchase of Smoked Salmon, Lox or Nova Lox (less salty.) The whole Salmon is smoked locally and is sliced to order. The art is in the slicing and these guys are good. Paper thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth Lox, are perfect on a bagel with a schemer or just by itself. Lox can also be found pickled with onions and combined with cream cheese in a spread. The Baked Salmon is wonderful too. Look for the thinner fatty pieces. Herring is an acquired taste. I recommend the Herring in Cream Sauce.  This is NOT to be confused with the stuff you see in a jar at the supermarket.  No jar here…you order by the filet and its cut into pieces and packed with onions and cream sauce. The Chopped Herring Spread is also very good. White Fish and the smaller whole Chubs are available, however, I tend to go with the White Fish spread…could never deal with the small bones.  For hard-core fish enthusiasts they also have Smoked Sable and Sturgeon slices. There is so much more including a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal before or after shopping.  I liked the Rabbi Mann’s Blintzes with Sour Cream and a cup of coffee. Oy!

Memories are made up of all the wonderful times we have with family and friends usually over food.  You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy some of this stuff.  Buy some at Sage…invite over a few friends, have a nosh and make memories!

Click on the link for more pictures: http://on.fb.me/olEo2k

© 2011 alanEATS

Coconuts

Coconuts- 429 Seabreeze Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale    http://www.coconutsfortlauderdale.com/

I admire and appreciate this place for its unpretentious style and good food. Originally recommended by a friend whose food choices are way different from mine…it took me a while to pay them a visit. At first glance you might mistake it for one the places that specializes in quick meals near the beach. Big mistake! Locals and savvy travelers know and love it here and get nervous with just the thought of sharing this gem with vacationers. The food is New American and has several seafood and, to my delight, pork selections. Hints of the Bayou, Caribbean and Southern California can be found all over the menu. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided in advance to have a particular dish only to find that the Special is more intriguing. I rarely talk about staff or ambiance, but I’ll make an exception now.  I found the youngish staff to be competent and knowledgeable about the food.  All servers I’ve come in contact with have told me they’ve tasted most if not all the dishes and can explain how they’re prepared.  And let’s face it…what could be better than dining Al Fresco beside the calm waters of the bay side of Fort Lauderdale Beach? Simply put, the food here is consistent, the portions ample and the specials are always tempting.

So what do I eat here?  Haven’t tried it all yet, but here’s a short summary so far. The Coconut Shrimp can be had as an appetizer or entrée and is prepared with panko then lightly deep-fried with a dipping sauce.  When offered, try the Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes with Blue Cheese. For lunch I’ve had the Mahi sandwich and the fish taco, both good. For something a little different, try the Comfort Bowl and the Jambalaya. There are always one or two fish selections available broiled or blackened. I prefer the blackened. All I can say about the side items is…YES, please. Now, I almost never do desserts, but for lunch the other day they came up with this banana, caramel, granola and rum infused thingy, that was wonderful. On Sundays, Coconuts offers an off-the-menu Brunch that starts at 10am. If you get there early you may be rewarded with Beignets to enjoy while you peruse the menu. As usual I had pre-selected one of the three Egg Benedicts. However, the Special was the Cuban Confit Sandwich.  An open-faced assembly of Pork Loin slices, Swiss cheese, Onions, Mojo sauce topped with a Fried Egg. Somehow this chef knows the inner me!!!  Not to be missed is the French Toast Special, which was decadently delicious. The dictionary defines decadent as unrestrained gratification…yup, I agree!

© 2011 alanEATS