Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taste History Culinary Tours | Boynton Beach & Delray Beach, Florida


I'm a proud Florida girl, born and raised. But the last time I really knew my Florida history was back in 4th grade when it was a mandatory class {and then again when I had to teach it during my elementary school teacher years}.

As embarrassing as that is, I'm sure I'm not alone. I mean, how much do you really know about the area where you live? And when would you really take the time to research the facts surrounding your city's history?

I was pleased to find that there is actually an exciting way to do this around here: Taste History Culinary Tours, sponsored by Macy's & an official partner for the State of Florida's "Viva Florida" campaign. When I received an email from Lori, Taste History's Executive Tour Director, asking if I wanted to come check it out, I thought it might be a good way to brush up on my Florida history. Did I mention that this lesson is centered around food? I was in.

Taste History currently offers two different tasting tours: One that covers the Boyton Beach/Delray Beach area, and one around Lake Worth/Lantana. For $40, visitors can experience a taste of the area complete with an air conditioned bus ride to each location, ample tour narration including historical facts and tidbits, and -- most importantly -- generous tastings at a handful of the area's best locally owned spots.

I wasn't sure what to expect exactly, but I was game for a day of nibbling and learning with Steve as my assistant and official camera holder. ;) We boarded the bus and headed down to Delray where we stopped in an area that was first established by black business owners looking to lay a foundation for life and commerce.


After driving through and seeing some of the original homes and businesses, we pulled in for our first food stop: Dee Dee's Conch, Rib & Crab Shack.



A tiny spot with big success, Dee Dee's has become a well-loved place for locals and visitors alike. We got to sample some of Dee Dee's flavorful conch fritters and ribs -- original recipes that have been perfected over time -- as we listened to her incredibly inspiring story of perseverance in transitioning from simple food tent to well-respected local business owner. She said she feels like a celebrity in her own town, and I can certainly see how her food has her propelled her to such fame! I'm not sure what I loved more: The tasty zing of the spicy sauce or her spunk.

The kick of Dee Dee's offerings was only the beginning of the spice yet to come. Our next stop was Sweet's Sensational Jamaican Cuisine & Catering.


Visiting Sweet's proved to me something that I've already known for a long time having grown up in a Cuban family: Island folks not only love food, but love to feed a crowd! While they had some traditional Jamaican Beef Patties ready for us to sample when our group arrived, their enthusiasm for feeding us seemed to grow with each second. Soon, the counter was filled with Jamaican specialties such as Rice & Peas, Curried Goat, Jerk Chicken and Sweet Potato Pudding. All homemade, all delicious! I really loved the welcoming vibe and their passion for sharing their nation's cuisine.

Though we could have stayed and chatted for spell, we soon boarded the bus again and headed to the next location: Shaffer's Tea Room.


I was immediately smitten with the renovated rectory-turned-tea haven. From the vibrant colors to the peaceful {yet energizing} vibe as you walk in the door, entering Shaffer's is like discovering a special secret. Offering more than 75 different tea selections, the staff at Shaffer's can direct you to whatever flavor, experience or healing blend you seek. They also have delightful little bites to eat that are all locally sourced from the best of the best surrounding purveyors -- we got to try some cheesy turnovers, spinach puff pastries and blueberry pound cake. As I sipped on "Heaven" and smelled "Nirvana", I realized it would take some real prompting for me to leave this space!

When I was finally pried away from the tea counter, I was hoping that the next place on the tour would keep spirits high. Cabana el Rey didn't disappoint.


What they provided for us was far beyond just a sample of their Latin American cuisine. It was more like a smorgasbord of color, flavor and style served in chic surroundings with a creative and festive flair. I had heard of Cabana before, having strolled by their location on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, but had never stopped in as I'm pretty picky when it comes to Latin cuisine -- no one can outcook my Abuelita as far as I'm concerned. Learning about the restaurant's success both in New York and South Florida opened my eyes to what I've been missing, especially once I tried their innovative takes on Ropa Vieja in a Tostone cup, Cuban Sandwich Empanadas and Coconut Shrimp over Plantain Mash. They were even kind enough to muddle me up an alcohol-free version of their famous Mojito, which was refreshing and enjoyable even without the booze! Sold!

A stroll down the way led us to our next stop: Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino



The folks here know the real deal when it comes to authentic Neapolitan pizza -- the freshest ingredients, traditional techniques and an old-school {which is actually what "Scuola Vecchia" means!} wood-burning oven directly from Italy. House-made cheese and a seasoned chef only add to the experience of biting into a slice of one of their mouthwatering pies made in just 90 seconds in their blazing volcanic stone oven. We tried two different versions of the Margherita, both delightful.

Starting to get pretty stuffed at this point, we were glad when the next location we visited was not only a stone's throw away, but also a place to get a dainty morsels of dessert: Le Macaron French Pastries.


Oddly enough, I had actually stumbled into this cute little shop the night before not knowing it would be part of the tasting tour, so I had a little sneak preview of the Gianduja and Madagascar Black Vanilla macarons. Boasting over 18 flavors of sweet, gorgeous macarons, Le Macaron has a little something for everyone {including gelato and fine chocolates which they also sell}. Everyone "oohed" and "aahhed" over the pretty bites all lined up in the cases; they're certainly hard to resist.

Believe it or not, there was MORE! Stopping at DIG {Doing it Green} was a nice respite for the sizzling temps.


The restaurant specializes in dishes made with fresh, seasonal organic fruits and veggies as well as locally sourced and ethically produced products. Their tagline, "Big flavor, small footprint." communicates their desire to serve up delicious dishes with as little negative impact to the planet as possible. They gave us their hummus trio to sample, which is one of the most attractive hummus platters I've ever seen! Sadly, I was way too full to have more than just a tiny taste, but I'd love to return and see what else they have to offer.

Most of us were ready to tap out and wave the white napkin flag, but I'm so glad that the next stop was included. We departed from Delray and headed back down to Boynton. The Little House was definitely one of my favorite stops on the tour!


A charming cottage built in 1934 was renovated and relocated to its current location in Boynton Beach, where Chef Chrissy Benoit brings all kinds of dining delights to locals. The place is dripping with adorableness -- from the rustic elements to the vintage decor, to the fact that the house's original owner still frequents the place... I nearly had a tearful moment hearing her story. Speaking of tears, I was sad I didn't get to try the Mango Strawberry Cilantro Sangria, but the sampling of the Parmesan-crusted Fried Green Tomatillos with house made Buttermilk Ranch Dressing made up for it! Very tasty. I'm totally going back for their Pajama Brunch {held on Saturdays and Sundays} to give some more menu items a try.

We needed a short respite from chewing, so stopping at the Boynton Beach City Library was actually quite welcome, though unexpected! What exactly was a food tour doing at the library, you might ask? Stopping in for some culture, of course. This month the library is showcasing pieces from stained glass artist Conrad Pickel, which we were happy to browse in the cool air conditioning. But before we could get too drowsy from the quiet surroundings & full bellies, we were off for our final food stop of the tour.


And what a way to wrap things up! Palermo's Italian Bakery in Boynton was just the sugar rush we needed to liven up.


Wanna see a bunch of grown ups light up like kids in a candy shop? Give them free run of a bakery like Palermo's. Not only does the family-owned bakery serve classic Italian pastries, cookies, cakes and breads, but they also have entertainment weekly on their outdoor patio as well as special monthly dinners. They were so incredibly generous at this spot, loading us up with all kinds of goodies. I was happy to hear that they're planning on opening up a new location up by me in Jupiter!

We simply couldn't eat another crumb, so we headed back to our starting point to end the incredible day of delicacies and dishes. I couldn't believe how much we had covered {and eaten!} in the 4 hours we were gone.

This tour is definitely worth taking whether you are a tourist or a native who wants to brush up on your Florida history and take in some great local fare! A big thank you to my friends at Taste History Culinary Tours for the invitation to participate in this fun food adventure!

Disclosure: I provided with 2 complimentary passes to experience the Taste History Culinary Tour. As always, all the opinions here are my own!

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Inspired by our stop at Cabana del Rey, I recreated their tasty little Cuban Sandwich Empanadas at home! The recipe is so simple and the outcome a perfect appetizer.


What a fun way to get the flavors of a classic Cubano in a handy dandy portable bite.


Mini "Cubano" Empanadas

6 empanada discs {I use these but if you can't find them you can use pie crust}, cut into 12 small rounds
Yellow Mustard
Mayonnaise
2 slices of your favorite ham, chopped
2 slices of deli pork {roast pork is best, if you have it, but deli pork will do in a pinch}, chopped
2 slices Swiss cheese, cut into very small dice
10 dill pickle chips, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil and spray lightly with olive oil. Set aside.

2. Place empanada rounds onto pan and spread a tiny bit of mustard and a tiny bit of mayo on each circle. You may want to dab a little bit around the edges of the circle with your finger to use as "glue".

3. In a medium bowl mix together ham, pork, Swiss and pickles. Take about a tablespoon of mixture and place in the center of each empanada round.

4. Carefully fold over one half of the empanada to the other to form a half circle, pressing lightly around the edges. Using the tines of a fork, press down on edges to crimp closed.

5. Spray or brush tops with olive oil and bake for about 12-15 minutes until they start to get golden and the dough is puffed up and cooked.

Serve while hot & melty, but be careful not to burn your tongue. :)

4 comments:

Joan Nova said...

I was on the same tour and think you did a very nice and complete review of the experience. And, good for you, for trying the 'sandwich Cubano' empanadas -- that was an unexpected filling.

Karis said...

Sounds like a fun tour that I need to check out.

CulinaryToursFlorida said...

The Kitchen Prep did a great job recapturing the Taste History Culinary Tour that traveled to Delray Beach & Boynton Beach. Reading the blog was like re-living the tour all over again!

Leah Yablong said...

Love the detail and the pictures! I've heard about these tours but your recap really makes me want to go now!

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