When we travel, Scott and I love to take food tours. Whether with a guide or just suggested walking routes using a phone app – it’s fun to try local foods and get a flavor for the place we’re visiting — it’s also a great way to meet people. Funny, how it never occurred to me to take a food tour in my own city. D’oh!
We rectified that oversight this weekend — while the rest of you were hunkered down in a blizzard.
We hooked up with Denise Righetti of Savor Our City Culinary Tours. Denise conducts several tours in Delray Beach and Boca Raton. This one was at Royal Palm Place, an outdoor shopping and entertaining promenade located in the downtown area. Scott and I joined her and seven other hungry patrons to meander and nibble our way through the heart of town. Incidentally, this is the same locale that hosts our weekly farmers market — and it was in full swing when we arrived at our meeting place.
Our group gathered at the main stage of the market and were promptly ensconced in a cooking demonstration by Chef Dom of Broken Dish Catering. We watched his deft knife skills make short work of fresh from the (farmer’s) market onions, tomatoes and basil. He tossed the chopped veg with feta, olive oil and balsamic — all from market vendors and served it on freshly toasted bruschetta also from a local purveyor. In another pan, he assembled tomatoes, vodka, cream and grated parmesan and tossed it with al dente pasta for a creamy dish of penne alla vodka. It was a delicious start to our tour.
The Biergarten has anchored this plaza for five years (and I’d never been there). We were greeted by the new general manager, Erik Brinkmann, who gave us an overview of the restaurant and explained the history of biergartens in Germany as a destination after church on Sundays –– what??? Erik had been a regular patron of the Biergarten when he was presented with the opportunity to run the place himself. Why not? He was already there.
We started with mini flights of Bier and sampled giant hand rolled Bavarian pretzels with three dipping sauces. A healthy portion of kielbasa, brats, and knackwurst with house made sauerkraut came next. Chef Mike Scimonneli walked us through the preparations and said that while he makes some of his own sausages, they source most of theirs from Emil’s Sausage in Deerfield Beach. The Biergarten has the casual and welcoming atmosphere that you would expect from a neighborhood pub with really authentic German food.
Roots Cafe and Kitchen was our next stop. This eatery fronts Federal Highway, with parking access in the back. The kitchen is open to a bright and airy dining room. Fresh pastas, rice balls and artisan breads lined the display cases. Modern wooden shelves stocked with specialty Italian ingredients including truffle sauces, olive oils and wines were available for purchase. A gelato station beckoned, with no fewer than 10 different varieties of the creamy frozen confection.
Owner, Giancarlo Buonpempo greeted the group as we stepped into the space. Baskets of housemade focaccia and crispy Italian toasts coaxed the crowd to the table. For our sampling, the chef prepared crispy, fried arancini (rice balls), blended with provolone and spring peas nestled on a bed of lightly dressed greens and dabbed with a chunky marinara. The arrancini boasted a crisp crust, but the rice and pea filling inside was oozy, cheesy heaven. I checked their menu and it’s vast, so we’re definitely going to have to go back for more samplings.
Our next stop was True. Just a few steps past our last tasting, True’s slogan is “good, honest food”. That sums it up well. Chef and owner, Frank Hawkins has run numerous successful kitchens in the area, including The Butcher’s Daughter in Boynton Beach and The Twisted Noodle in Key West. His latest venture has a casual, friendly, welcoming vibe.
We tried their crab cake sliders with a trio of sauces and let me say, their crab cakes are the real deal! As a person who grew up in the Chesapeake Bay region and knows a thing or two about crab, I was impressed with the light hand that formed our sliders without the need for extraneous fillers. They were lightly breaded and fried, producing an ultra crispy crust that perfectly encased the sweet delicate crab. I hear they have a great happy hour, so you know I’m going back!
At this point, I was getting a little full – but in the interest of research, I pressed on to our next stop, Pat’s Wine Bar & Grill. Located on the East side of Royal Palm Place, the space is dominated by a sleek, curving bar and a large gathering table, ideal for mingling and communal revelry.
Owner, Pat Hennessey welcomed our group with a healthy pour of sauvignon blanc (I like this guy). While we sipped, he told us how he came to open the restaurant (soft launch was in July) and shared some of his background. Serving from 5pm-2am, Pat says the later crowd tends to be the restaurant crews from other local establishments looking to get a bite to eat after work. In my opinion, if that’s where the cooks and servers are eating – it should be on our hit parade too.
Pat’s spicy sriracha chicken tacos are a popular late night nosh and I can see why. He grills the chicken, then cubes it and tosses it in a spicy blend of sriracha and other spices. He tops it with fresh cilantro and nestles the filling in a lightly charred grilled tortilla – a perfect spicy, fresh bite, inhaled by our group.
Our last stop was the Crepe Cafe for dessert – believe it or not, I saved room. This location has been open for just over a month, but it hums with efficiency. Owner, Alex Kalinic invited our group to sit at the bar and get a first hand look at the preparation of our desserts.
Crepes can easily morph from sweet or savory breakfast fare to a hearty lunch or dinner as well as over-the-top desserts without breaking a sweat. Our diners were given two offerings. An oven-roasted apple crepe with such a deliciously sweet punch, my eyes rolled back in my head while an audible groan escaped my mouth. The second contender was filled with strawberries and a caramel-esque sauce. It was equally yummy, but I only got a few bites as Scott chowed most of it.
If you’re a local, make it a point to explore these local hidden gems — I’ll probably see you there. Better yet, if you’ve got visitors from out of town, take them on one of Denise’s food crawls in Boca or Delray as a delicious alternative to another airboat ride or close encounter with an alligator. Cheers!