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Trip Report (very long)

Dan Raffle | Aug 26, 200210:52 PM

I just got back from my trip to Boca/Ft Lauderdale/and points south. I attended a conference at the Boca Resort and Club. The resort was really swanky and nice, probably out of my price range, but my company was footing the bill.

On to the food...

I flew in to Ft Lauderdale and met my sister, her husband and my mom for dinner at Mario the Baker.

MTB wasn't really my style - too much cheese, too much sauce. We shared everything - fried calamari, margerita pizza, veal parm, pasta with tomato and basil, chicken marsala, lasagna. The chicken marsala was the best thing we had, although i have had better versions elsewhere. They get points for using porcini mushrooms in the sauce. The pizza was ok, but nothing I would go out of my way for. It had a bit too much cheese, and the sauce was unexceptional. The crust was crunchy and good.

On the way to my conference in Boca, I stopped at La Spada subs on University near 595. I love their turkey sub - loaded with provelone, tomato, sweet peppers, hot peppers, onions, mayo, mustard, oil, and vinegar. They have a neat way of preparing the sandwich - first the mayo and mustard, then the meat, then the cheese, then the veggies, and finally a few slices of meat to encase all of the fillings.

*To reply to some earlier comments - this is NOT an italian sandwich, hero, grinder, whatever. Different, but excellent. Try it.

I had a late dinner at Flannagan's (the Whale's Rib was closed, but thanks for the recommendation). Despite the recommendations for the dolphin sandwich, I had to relive some memories by having the ribs and beer. Not the best bbq by a long shot, but super tender tasty ribs that hit the spot at 1am. Especially with a large quantity of beer.

There wasn't much going on at the conference on Monday so I drove up to Stuart to have lunch with my grandma. We went to her favorite restaurant - The Prawnbroker. I love the name; unfortunately I can't say I loved the food. I had a mediocre grouper sandwich. Recomendations for a good restaurant in Stuart would be appreciated.

For dinner, I went down to South Beach to have dinner with friends at Nobu. I liked it a lot, but am not sure if it was worth the money. The sushi was definitely fantastic, but I can get very good sushi for less than half the price. That said, the wagyu beef was amazing (seared with ginger and chives) as was the toro sushi. The hamachi with jalapeno was disappointing because the pepper wasn't spicy in the least, which makes it pretty much just hamachi, which is good, but not worthy of the price or the label "signature dish". The server didn't seem to care very much when we informed him of the pepper's blandness.

The conference was going in full swing on Tuesday and we managed to mooch some free grub off of vendors for dinner. They asked where to go, so I suggested Max's Grill. I had the yellow tail snapper in orange beurre blanc, with a sweet potato mash. I liked the combination, but the orange totally overpowered the other flavors. I tasted someone's grilled dolphin, and liked it.

Based on the recommendations on the Chow board, I went to Flakowitz. I got a pound of rugalah (sp?), which kept me in snacks for the rest of the trip. I asked the lady at the counter where I could find good deli food, she sent me to TwoJays (2Jays?), near spanish river high school. I had a decent (i.e. better than SF, but not NYC) sandwich. Nothing special.

For dinner I went to Mark's at the Park (next door to Max's Grill) with my sister and her husband. I had the gazpacho with shrimp (spicy and good); followed by the crab crusted grouper. The food was very good, but I was a little full from the corned beef and rugalah, so I only ate half. And part of the creme brulee with fruit for dessert.

Thursday was pretty much a conference day, until I checked out and headed south. I stopped at Friedman's (now Aunt Mary's Bagels) to check it out. I had an everything bagel with lox and cream cheese. No red onion!? They wanted to make it like a sandwich (cream cheese only on half the bagel), but I stopped her. How goy. The bagel itself was way too light and airy, I was hoping for something more dense and chewy. Oh well.

I stopped at La Casa de las Guyaberas on the way down south and picked up a nice linen guyabera. These are the perfect shirts for chowhounds because they are nice and roomy, so your belly has room to expand.

My friend Spencer, his friends, and I met up in the evening and decided to go to Frankie's Pizza for dinner. Frankie's is on Bird Road past the turnpike. I remembered it as being the best pizza in the world. This visit confirmed it. Their crust is amazing - crunchy, flavorful, and tastes of good olive oil. The sauce is great and more importantly, the sauce to cheese ratio is perfect. I pretty much only get the pepperoni because I like the spicy counterpoint to the sweet/rich sauce/cheese. The pepperoni curls up into cute little pepperoni bowls, probably because 1. the oven is really hot; and 2. they use some good pepperoni with a skin that contracts and curls the slices. I like to eat the pizza in the parking lot while it's really hot; Spencer and his friends were accommodating to my obsessiveness. The half bake is a decent compromise if you don't like eating in a parking lot on Bird Road. The pizza was delicious.

I would trade every pizza parlor in SF for a Frankie's. I'd probably throw in a bunch of Mexican and Chinese restaurants if it would help. Every Chowhound in South Florida should go to Frankie's pizza right now. Really.

Please do not complain that it is not NY pizza. It isn't. It is much better.

I hit the window at La Carretta on Bird Road for some croquetas before golf. They were way too bready and not very good. I've never really liked La Carretta. Stick with Versailles or Casa Larios (at Mall of the Americas not South Beach). *** Note: another Larios is opening in South Miami.

For dinner, my friend George and I went to Tambo on South Beach. Tambo is a Peruvian/Japanese that seems to specialize in ceviche. We had a fantastically great lobster/potato napolean (warm) to start, followed by two kinds of ceviche (cold) 1. thinly sliced grouper in a semi-spicy red sauce (made from a fruit whose name i can't remember); 2. chunks of grouper served in a coconut, with lime juice, toasted coconut, chilis, onions, etc. (ceviche caribena i think was the name). This was followed by crispy skinned yellowtail snapper (warm) in a soy-caramel sauce. Everything was excellent and it was probably the best meal I had on the trip. I would go with a larger group next time because it seems like a good place to share lots of things. I didn't even delve into the sushi menu.

Saturday was a cooking at home day. My sister made buttermilk pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Yum. She makes a good pancake. (speaking of which, i recommend Wagon's West in Pinecrest for their pancakes and breakfasts. hope it still exists. I also like Original House of Pancakes for their Dutch Baby. mmmmm baby.)

For dinner I wanted to show my sister how to make risotto, so we went to Doris' (somewhere in Plantation I think). They have good produce, a very nice fish market, good looking meat counter, a bakery, a prepared foods counter, and some other specialty italian stuff (e.g. arborio rice). I made celery risotto, hickory grilled grouper, and a roasted red pepper. I really liked the hickory smoke on the grouper and it married really well with the risotto, but the smoke worked even better on the pepper. Tasty good. For dessert we had light vanilla ice cream (sorry sis, it was icky) and some wonderful apricot preserves that I brought from california. A very nice last meal. Almost.

Props to my kitchen helpers David and Tracy.

My friend Landen brought back a ton of pasteles (cuban pastries) back from Pricilla's in Cooper City on his last trip. To repay the favor (and for snacks on the plane) I stopped on the way to the airport. I picked up 20 beef pastries, 20 guava and cream cheese pastries, 20 ham croquetas, 2 papas rellenas, and 1 medianoche to bring home. I ate the medianoche and a papa rellena in the ft lauderdale airport (at 9 am no less), and then the other papa and 4 or 5 croquetas in the LA airport while waiting for my connecting flight. I had a couple guava and cream cheese pastries for breakfast this morning.

Now I start my diet.

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