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Phoning It In From Delray Beach

Over the years, I have come to make peace with the six-month-long season known as winter. November, I can do: There's a more-gigantic-than-usual meal to look forward to, and Angel usually ends up on TV.

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December, I love: Christmas in New York is like nothing else, sparkly and glittery and replete with cozy pop-up ski chalets and boozy rooftop igloos.

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And some other seasonal diversions, too.

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January, February, and even March, I can manage; it's time to hunker down and get hygge, particuarly around VD.

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It might also be time to load up on comfort food, which is why I'm glad I have a Valentine who's legally bound to stick around.

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And then . . . there's April. April is the segue into summer. April is the start of day drinking on sidewalk patios and al fresco dining in ivy-covered gardens. In April, we fling open the doors of our summer cottage, ready for a succession of sunny weekends in the Hamptons. But just when you think it's time to swap out your boots for flip-flops and pour yourself a crisp glass of rosé, winter sometimes comes roaring back with a vengeance, and the only way to save your sanity is to relocate it to points south.

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We'd timed it perfectly: As an April snowstorm approached, we jumped on a plane for a four-night getaway that didn't involve weeks of planning or tons of camera equipment or lots of shoes.

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Well, two out of three, anyway.

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As we've done on prior trips, we booked an oceanview suite at the Delray Beach Marriott, a comfortable hotel that we like for its large pool, loungers on the beach, and easy walks to Delray's beachfront promenade and bustling downtown.

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Oh, and a giant-sized cornhole game played with throw pillows that -- coincidentally for once -- perfectly matched Angel's trunks.

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Having arrived too early to check in, we ordered up two grilled fish sammies on luau bread at the better-than-it-needs-to-be poolside restaurant for lunch, then got down to the serious business of lounging around at the pool.

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Freed from the tyranny of lugging around my heavy Nikon, we took a leisurely stroll around town before dinner.

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As usual, the weather in Delray was spectacular -- warm, sunny, and just humid enough to remind you that you're in Florida without requiring your hair to get its own zip code.

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That evening we had reservations at one of my favorite spots in Delray, Vic & Angelo's.

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Do you see that crazed look in my eyes? That's because I'm about to demolish a veal parm the size of a saucer sled.

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Vic & Angelo's is known for its stylish digs and see-and-be-seen crowd, but I don't care who sees me scarfing down that veal.

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Not quite ready to call it a night, we popped in to Sandbar for mojitos and some old-school hip-hop.

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Of course, it's just not "Rapper's Delight" if it's not accompanied by a laser light show.

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The next morning we awoke to a perfect blue sky, so we laced up our sneaks and took a brisk walk along the oceanfront promenade.

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We'd worked up an appetite, so we set off for bustling Pineapple Grove to get lunch.

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We were in search of a new spot we'd heard good things about, Banyan.

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It wasn't hard to find: Just look for the namesake tree.

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A chic indoor-outdoor space, Banyan is accented with crystal chandeliers, tufted red leather, lucite dining chairs, and a funky mirrored ceiling.

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The weather was perfect, so we decided to dine on the outdoor patio.

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I decided on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and Banyan's "white salad," with endive, button mushrooms, hearts of palm, marinated artichoke hearts, shaved pecorino, and lemon vinaigrette, all topped with a small filet of grilled salmon.

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Angel also had white wine -- Chardonnay for him -- along with a Maryland crab melt topped with sliced tomato and Old Bay remoulade.

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After lunch, we returned to our regularly scheduled program.

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That evening we had dinner reservations at Deck 84 on the Intracoastal.

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We settled in at a waterside table and perused the cocktail and specials lists.

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We decided to share the house-smoked fish dip, but not our drinks: Angel did a Texas Two-Step with Tito's and muddled blueberries, while I went with a tiki-inspired Deck Punch with pineapple rum, dark rum, and not much else.

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For our entrees, we had the Baja fish tacos with cilantro-lime slaw and the Pad Thai with fresh grilled shrimp and tamarind.

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After dinner we decided to check out the happenings on Delray's main drag, Atlantic Avenue, before heading back to the hotel.

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I'd just had a cocktail made from 8oz. of rum and .0003oz. of juice, so when I saw this gigantic Buddha outside of Buddha Sky Bar, I knew I had to go in.

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The restaurant was full but the bar wasn't, so we took our time poring over the creative drink menu before deciding on a liquid dessert called the Samurai Shortcake with vanilla vodka, strawberry vodka, coconut milk, strawberries, and whipped cream for me, and the Dark Buddha Old Fashioned with chocolate bitters -- and a square of Hershey's chocolate! -- for Angel.

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The cocktails were so good that we each decided to try another, this time the Shaolin Purple Haze with grape vodka, chambord, blueberries, and blackberries for me, and the Key Lime in the Sky, a key lime martini with two kinds of vodka and some Coco Lopez, for the mister.

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We were on our way back to the hotel when a large crowd outside of Johnnie Brown's caught our eye.

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They'd come by car, boat, and bike to see a band called 56 Ace and, with the bar and restaurant completely packed, had spilled out onto the sidewalk.

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It didn't take us long to join the crowd.

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That's because 56 Ace was fantastic, playing a mix of classic rock, 90s rock, country rock, 90s rap, and oldies . . . often at the same time.

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Their method of mashups -- achieved not by stringing two or more songs together, but by singing two songs at the exact same time -- turned out to be wildly creative and alot of fun, because you don't realize how much, say, Green Day and Led Zeppelin or Nirvana and Aerosmith have in common until the singer on the right belts out the former, while the guy on the left cuts in with the latter at the same time, all to the same guitar riff.

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The next morning it was time to undo all the damage from the night before . . . with some pepperoni pizza.

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We love the Mellow Mushroom for its psychedlic vibe, friendly service, and fabulous pizza.

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After lunch it was time for some shopping at Delray's funky little boutiques.

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We also popped into the Seagate Hotel to check out their cool jellyfish aquarium.

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It was all fun and games until the skies clouded over and it began to thunder . . . and then the top of that palm tree by the gray car was struck by lightning and caught on fire.

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No, I didn't stick around to photograph it. Everyone knows that flaming palm trees are one of the ten plagues mentioned in the Bible, along with stink bugs and psoriasis.

Instead, rained out from shopping and the pool, we headed to the bar at the hotel for a Blackbird (bourbon, creme de cassis, and blackberries) and a key lime colada.

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The weather cleared up quickly, but once we'd snuggled in at the hotel, there was no getting me back out, so we stayed in and ordered room service.

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The next day was our last full day, so we headed back to Deck 84 for a waterside lunch.

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After a lazy poolside afternoon, it was time to clean up for our last dinner.

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We chose Rocco's Tacos for its convivial vibe, indoor-outdoor seating, and gorgeous Moravian star-lit decor.

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The Black Diamond margarita with Maestro Dobel Diamante and black cherry purée didn't hurt, either.

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Or the plentiful chips and salsa served on a baking sheet.

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We stayed up too late, and had one too many margaritas, for our early-morning flight the next day, but the view from my window seat made it all worth it.

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Shot with my iPhone, of course.
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Where to next? Roughing it in the bush in South Africa (sans ironing board!); pub-crawling around Dublin (with my Dad!); celebrating a birthday in Brooklyn (with my sissy!); and getting by (with some help from my friends!) in Anguilla. Subscribe here and you'll be notified when a new post goes up!

Posted by TraceyG 04:37 Archived in USA Tagged florida sandbar banyan mellow_mushroom delray_beach deck_84 buddha_sky_bar roccos_tacos johnnie_browns Comments (9)

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

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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)

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