A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

Delray Beach: Mushrooms, Monkeys, and Chickens, Oh My!

32 °F

Delray Beach, which bills itself as the "Village by the Sea," is a small town on the southeastern coast of Florida. Though not as well-known as its fancy neighbors -- Palm Beach to the north and Boca Raton to the south -- Delray boasts pristine beaches, a funky shopping and arts district, and a vibrant restaurant scene, which is what first drew us there. Because there is nowhere to eat in New York.

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Delray is also on the cutting edge of modern table design, as you can see.

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Most importantly, Delray has a Mellow Mushroom -- and I'm pretty sure you won't find one of those in Palm Beach.

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We like to stay at the Marriott at the beach for three reasons: Adults. Only. Pool.

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Our first stop was dinner at 32 East, whose menu changes daily. Best described as New American, it's my favorite kind of food: interesting ingredients pulled from a variety of other cuisines, then put together in ways I wouldn't have thought of. I started with the pan-seared risotto cakes with artichoke-parmesan puree, pickled treviso and fava beans, and mushroom vinaigrette. It was crispy, creamy, tangy . . . and way too small! See?

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That was followed by house-made ricotta ravioli in a sauce of short ribs, red wine, English peas, and oak-roasted tomatoes, which was like eating a fabulous boeuf bourgignon that just happened to have some big pillowy ravioli in it. Somebody's been reading my mind.

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Angel had some fish dish, but really, who can remember the details when there is a giant bowl of boeuf-bourgignon-ricotta-ravioli to be had?

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Dessert was simple: Four warm, housemade chocolate-chip cookies the size of frisbees. I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but let's just say that if Angel hadn't agreed to share these, he was headed for a beat-down.

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The next day we made a beeline for the Mellow Mushroom. This pizzeria chain, based mostly in the south, was started by three college students in Georgia back in the early 70s, which means that it is both inexpensive and totally psychedelic, man.

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The Shroom's pizza dough is made with spring water, which makes it a bit chewy, but also thin and floppy, which is how I like it. (Then again, I also like crispy pizza, coal-oven pizza, hand-tossed pizza, pan pizza, Sicilian pizza, grandma pizza, frozen pizza, English-muffin pizza, Chef Boyardee pizza, Domino's pizza, Pizza Hut pizza, Papa John's pizza . . . I am the Bubba Blue of pizza.)

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The best part, though, is that Mellow Mushroom offers 50 different beers, most of which are microbrews, and all of which are half-off on Monday nights. Two Sam Adams' Oktoberfest pints ($1.50 each) + one Funky Q pizza ($8.50) = Can I get some of that beer to go??

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Given that I am something of a human trash compactor when it comes to food, it will come as no surprise that the entire pizza I had for lunch was followed by dinner that night at Cut 432 . . . for a steak. We were undecided among three wines, so the bartender kindly brought us a small pour of each for a blind taste test to determine which was our favorite (winner: the 2006 Duckhorn cab). He also recommended the New York strip, which we both ordered (with house-made steak sauce for Angel and toasted peppercorn for me).

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I will totally cut you.

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After dinner we walked a few blocks down to Johnnie Brown's, a bar and restaurant named for famed Florida architect Addison Mizner's pet spider monkey, who once ran for mayor of Palm Beach (the monkey, not the architect). Mizner reportedly had two other monkeys, Ethel and Deuteronomy, but neither of them ever had a restaurant named for it OR ever ran for public office. Slackers.

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As we skirted the outside for a table on the sidewalk, we ran into this lady.

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This is Robin Fox, who had a trance hit a few years back called "I See Stars," which made it to #13 on the Billboard dance music charts. However, it is hard for me to care about that when you are doing something so fabulous as walking a chicken! On a leash!

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Robin apparently had some socializing to do, so I ended up minding the chicken, Jeb-Jeb, for a while. Go out for a nice steak dinner . . . end up babysitting a pet chicken named Jeb-Jeb. Is Delray a great town or what?!

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A band called Johnny B and the Road Dogs was playing classic rock covers, so the bikers had come out in force that night. While I made friends with this guy by buying him a beer, sharing my pack of candy cigarettes, and belting out the lyrics to some Skynyrd songs with him, Angel took a few photos of the band.

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Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man . . . you're being stalked by a zombie! RUN!!!!

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This move looked suspiciously like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance, which I then proceeded to do, to the tune of "Sweet Home Alabama," after half a bottle of wine and two bottles of beer. Which was right about the time Angel decided to go hide in the bathroom.

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Oddly enough, though, I just couldn't persuade anyone else to join in. This guy, he probably prefers the Macarena.

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Also, among others, Johnnie Brown's flies the ANGUILLIAN flag! We took it as a sign . . . that we are spending way too much money on vacations lately.

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The next day we decided on brunch at the Old Calypso before taking a boat cruise down to Boca Raton along the Intracoastal on the Lady Atlantic.

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Had my stomach not still been punishing me for the New York strip, au gratin potatoes, creamed corn, 1/2 bottle of wine, 3 Corona lights, and 1/2 pack of candy cigarettes I'd sent down the night before, I definitely would have ordered Angel's dish, the blackened mahi topped with crawfish etouffe.

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Instead, I went a little lighter.

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The boat cruise we took was custom-made for me, since the captain spends the entire ride down to Boca telling you about all the fancy houses we pass along the way. See that infinity pool? It cost $450,000! This house? It has 5 stoves! That house? The bathroom is bigger than your entire NYC apartment! It's like an expensive, floating version of House Hunters.

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I hate these people.

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Dinner that night was at Vic & Angelo's, which is proudly committed to ensuring that you leave their restaurant unable to button your pants. This place is boisterous and buzzing, decorated in fire-engine red. Light fixtures consist of clusters of glass bottles filled with what appears to be cherry-red Campari, and the bartenders wear red bustiers with black bras peeking out the top. Bordello-chic, you might say.

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And they run old episodes of Miami Vice on a continuous loop! Just look at that lovely feathered mane.

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But the best part about Vic & Angelo's is that not only is the food fantastic, but there's plenty of it. This is their veal parmigiana, which they call "Veal Telephono." I suspect this is because you will need to telephono your cardiologist shortly after finishing this thing.

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Even the garlic is super-sized.

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And this?

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THIS is what happens at Vic & Angelo's if you ask for some ice for your water.

Yeah, I love this place.

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Posted by TraceyG 19:45 Archived in USA Tagged florida mellow_mushroom 32_east cut_432 delray_beach johnnie_brown's vic_&_angelo's Comments (1)

Anguilla Part 6: The Best 8,000 Calories I Ever Ate

32 °F

Today was the Happiest Day of the Year: The day we go to Ferryboat Inn for cheeseburgers.

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It was about 700 degrees in the shade, and I was planning to carry my burger out to the car to eat in air-conditioned peace if necessary, but at the last minute, the Ground Beef Gods smiled on me, delivering a slight breeze.

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I've spent alot of time thinking about how to adequately describe the incredibly delicious feat of awesomeness that is the Ferryboat Inn burger. There really are no words, but luckily I have pictures.

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Ferryboat's burger is incredibly juicy, sloppy even, and yet somehow all of the juice stays inside the burger, not dripping all over your plate. It is huge and charred on the outside and marinated in something so delicious that it must be illegal. The soft, pillowy bun is slathered with some orange stuff - Thousand Island dressing? A ketchup and mayo mix? – that I fear would disgust me if I knew its true identity, so I never ask (and please don’t tell me if you know).

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It puts all the other players in the “best burger” wars - In-N-Out, Shake Shack, Corner Bistro, Five Guys, you name it – to utter shame. It costs $10, but it could cost $100 and still be worth every penny. It needs absolutely nothing. Ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes - all are just distractions from its marvelous meaty goodness. It is, quite simply, perfection on a plate.

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I once asked Marjorie, Ferryboat's charming English owner, what her secret was to making the burgers so delicious. Was she adding special spices to the ground meat mix, or marinating the burgers in something unusual? Oh no, dear, she assured me. We just use top-quality beef, that’s all.

Which I think is British for, Piss off, you bloody wanker, if you think I’m telling you how I make the world’s best hamburger. Cheerio!

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Obviously I couldn't be seen in a bikini for a few hours after this, so it was time for some shopping.

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Too quickly, our last night on the island arrived. Our last meal was at Oliver’s, where we decided to branch out and order something other than the Seafood Compote, a dish known to make grown men (okay, Angel) cry.

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We also decided that perhaps we should try to get a photograph of us together, before those "Michael and Janet are the same person" type rumors get started.

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For dinner I started with a simple green salad, while Angel decided to try the stingray. Given that I’d swum less than 3 feet away from not one but two different stringrays over the past 10 days, I decided not to disturb our tacit agreement, which is that I won’t eat them if they don’t eat me.

Angel then had the grouper in a lime and balsamic sauce, which was savory and sweet and tart all at the same time - not that I ate half of it or anything.

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I had two grilled Anguillian lobster tails, and I know what you’re thinking: Only two?

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Finally, sadly, it was time to leave -- but not before one last swim at Shoal Bay. Being on time for your flight is so overrated.

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As our plane took off and the island became smaller and smaller in the distance, I began thinking about how much this little rock in the middle of the ocean has meant to me over the years, how it has changed my perceptions of beauty, tranquillity, and happiness. (You didn't think I could do sappy, eh? Read on.)

Anguilla, when we first met twelve years ago, I fell instantly in love with you. You were drop-dead gorgeous, yet unassuming and charming. You were simple yet luxurious; friendly but private. You were sleepy and slow-moving, but with an energy all your own, and you smelled like nowhere else in the world. You were, in a word, perfection, and I desperately hoped that you would never change.

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When I am in your presence, a transformation takes place. Gone is the grown-up with a job, a mortgage, and countless responsibilities. Gone, too, is the woman who wears boots eight months out of the year and owns more winter coats than she has space for in her tiny New York City apartment; the woman who dreads the endless weeks of grey skies and rain. In her place is a happy young girl who fearlessly jumps off boats into crystal-clear water, whose hair is a salty tangle about her suntanned shoulders, who kicks the flip-flops off her browned feet and buries them in soft, sugar-white sand. I am changed because of you.

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Over the past 12 years you have provided me with more happy memories than anyone probably deserves in a lifetime: Bumping along a rocky, unpaved road, nothing but our headlights and a handful of stars in the ink-black sky to guide the way . . . only to stumble upon tiny, candlelit Straw Hat restaurant, balanced on stilts above crystal-clear water, serving 5-star cuisine by the sweetest folks on the island. Making our way down a shady path at La Sirena, passing a tiny, sparkling, secret pool as we go. Pushing aside giant sea grape leaves at the path’s end to reveal a wide expanse of sugar-white sand, vivid blue water, a few wooden umbrellas . . . and not another living soul. Drawing in my breath and shaking my head in amazement at the overwhelming beauty of Shoal Bay, each and every time I see it. Having tiny, gorgeous Little Bay all to ourselves for an afternoon; our boat driver, Calvin, the only person in the world who knows where to find us. Seeing Rendezvous Bay for the first time: Barely registering the rocky yard and spare, squat buildings of Rendezvous Bay Hotel; seeing only brilliant blue water and blinding white sand. Picking up hitchhikers: maids in their white aprons, shy schoolchildren in their pressed uniforms. Breathing in your inimitable scent.

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Indeed, you are so beautiful that I suppose it was inevitable that others, too, would eventually fall under your spell. You’ve been discovered, and over the years you have been changed by all the attention, by the press and praise. Road signs dot your landscape, eliminating the singular pleasure of getting lost on one of your formerly bumpy roads. New hotels and villas squeeze onto your beaches, even as many of us fear that you are becoming too crowded. Diamond stores and duty-free shops – will they edge out our local favorites? Everyone wants a piece of you now, and it’s hard to blame them.

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And yet . . .

And yet, glimmers of the island I first fell in love with still remain. Sand so powdery that I find it clinging to my calves even after I’ve taken a shower. A huge smile and a warm “Welcome back!” at your shops and restaurants – more than two years after our last visit. Wading into one of your pristine bays and looking down to see a handful of curious little fish circling my feet. Water so clear that a snorkeling mask is merely optional.

The obvious pride on the faces of your gracious citizens when we respond that, No, it’s not our first time on the island.

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And it won’t be our last.

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Need more Anguilla? Click here for our Thanksgiving trip report!

Posted by TraceyG 05:37 Archived in Anguilla Comments (7)

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