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January 23, 2004

The Gluttony Sessions, Phase One: Cafe Maxx

Yes, I have arrived safely and soundly in South Florida; my plane touching ground at 2 pm, and my parents arriving at the airport slightly late, but--in their defense--the plane landed early.

One brief note about Airtran. For the money you save, Airtran is worth the small discrepancies: the shopworn flight attendants, the buslike wear-and-tear of the seats. My problem is with the terminal. Granted, airports are airports--transitional spaces of little consequence. Yet, whereas Terminal A (the Delta terminal) has a benign, inoffensive quality, Terminal C (the Airtran terminal) is like the bathroom in a McDonalds. The grease in the air--from the bustling Popeye's in the terminal's center--takes on a physical presence. I felt my nostrils saturate with cholesterol and my skin begin to crisp like chicken. As if that weren't enough, there were two Airtran hawkers pushing some sort of promotion to unsuspecting, uninterested passersby. Their annoying routine--"Excuse me, ma'am, but you know you want to save money on your next round trip ticket"--created a circuslike, fleamarket atmosphere in what should have been a quiet place to sit calmly reading my Bon Apetit and talking on my cell phone. Mr. Hartsfield shall be hearing from me shortly.

But, I digress. You're not here for airport talk. You're here for food.

Tonight my parents took me to Cafe Maxx which I incorrectly (in my previous post) declared to be a West Palm Beach establishment. It is, in fact, in Pompano (just North of Ft. Lauderdale).

One thing about eating with my parents is that often my body isn't ready for it. If my calorie intake in Atlanta is a 4 on a scale from 1 to 10, dining with my parents pushes my body to its outer reaches: 9, 10, 11 and counting. I feel so full right now that the prospect of describing my dinner fills me with an existential dread.

Yet, I must press on for you, my vicarious eaters.

I was surprised, when we reached the restaurant, to see that it was across the street from a ramshackle shopping center with a Walgreen's and a discount fashion store. The whole area had a very average, Florida-ish beaten down quality to it. No place, in other words, for a glamorous restaurant. I shot a picture of the awning before we went inside:

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The space was somewhat inviting, with a nice vase of flowers in the front. My dad would later liken the interior to that of a Ruby Tuesday's but my mom smacked his arm and said: "Oh, Brad, shut up."

Our waitress was sunny but intelligent; she guided us through the menu, and only once tried to upsell us. (She tried to push another bottle of wine after we finished our entrees). In terms of wine, my parents chose a bottle of ZD Chardonnay.

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The Chardonnay was nice, properly cool and woodier than some sweeter ones I've had. Admittedly, my wine knowledge is usually limited to "it was white" "it was red" so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

We started with an appetizer of duck ravioli which sounds scarier than it was. In fact, it was really wonderful: a really interesting blend of flavors---notably a peppery olive oil, sundried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.

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Next, my mom and I split a lobster bisque:

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While my dad stared down his unusual caviar pie with toast tips:

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"What's wrong Brad?" my mother beckoned.

"Nothing," he said, scraping some caviar pie on to a toast tip.

"Here dad," I said bravely, "I'll trade with you."

He agreed. The caviar pie was actually good. It was a layer of egg, a layer of onions, a layer of sour cream and a layer of caviar.

"Mmm," I said to show how good deeds have good rewards.

My dad was too busy slurping soup.

Finally, our entrees arrived. I had the signature dish, an onion glazed snapper:

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My mother had lamb chops with a feta crust:

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And dad had a veal chop:

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We chomped away and soon we were done.

"I'm so full," I moaned.

"Ah ah ah," mom chided, "let's not forget dessert."

Dessert menus were brought. I ordered banana coconut crepes:

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I could barely touch them. They rolled me out of the restaurant, into the car, and carried me up to my desk where I write to you now. Only two more days of this and then my body will return to normal. I just hope my plane takes off.

January 24, 2004

The Gluttony Sessions, Phase Two: Carpaccio

Today the Roberts Family decided to get fit, choosing sensible foods and exercise in lieu of heavy and rich concoctions.

We drove down to Bal Harbor in Miami---a scenic trip that provided the following views:

The back of my mom's head:
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Pretty water:
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Once we got there it was exercise, exercise, exercise! We immediately stepped into Gucci for heavy pocketbook lifting:

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After working up a heavy sweat, we made our way over to Carpaccio for a light lunch.

Here's the awning:

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Here's the scene:

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The service at Carpaccio was outstanding. It reminded me of that SNL skit where Kirstie Alley goes to that Italian restaurant with her husband, and the waiters are so attentive they start making out with her. Well, it didn't go quite that far, but it was nice to be doted on.

We told our waiter we were on a Roberts Family health kick and the waiter nodded enthusiastically.

"Yes, yes!" he said. "A light lunch for you all!'

The first course, a light and airy Insalade Inglese with mozarella, smoked salmon, tomatoes and olive oil:

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Then on to our reasonable, and incredibly healthy main courses.

My dad had a lobster pasta:

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Mom had a pasta vongole (with clams and shrimp):

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And I had Harry's Bar pasta, which was noodles with sundried tomatoes, arugala, and olive oil:

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The noodles were actually a little undercooked but a fit person isn't a complainer, so I ate what was on my plate.

Here's the three of us at the table:

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Finally, like any good dieters, we accepted our waiter's offer of dessert. How else can you lose those calories?

Here's our Atkins' friendly, carb-free Tiramasu:

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Boy, it really does feel great to make a positive change in your life. I suggest you all try the Roberts Family diet and lose a few pounds. As a reward, tonight we're going out for steak. Photos and commentary to follow!

January 25, 2004

The Gluttony Sessions, Finale: New York Prime

"Don't write anything bad about New York Prime," my mother warns. "I'm serious, Adam. Don't."

New York Prime is my parents haunt; it is their Cheers, their Casablanca. We go there every time I come home and we are treated like royalty.

"Mrs. Roberts!"

"Dr. Roberts!"

The entire room shifts with excitement. New York Prime is a scene, and my parents are a vital part of the scenery.

Tonight, though, began in our house. Grandma and grandpa came over for drinks and to hear me play the piano.

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After a rousing rendition of "I, Don Quixote" from "Man of La Mancha" we piled into the car and journeyed to that eternal beacon of my parents' gastronomical gratification: New York Prime.

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A young bombshell opened the door for us and eager hosts and hostesses led us to our table.

"Right this way, Mrs. Roberts."

We stopped to chat with the regulars: a judge, a publisher, a supermarket baron.

Here is a look at the scene:

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Finally, we sat, and were treated with one of the many perks of being a regular: a plate of olives and orange slices.

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Mo--my parents' regular waiter--came with their usual drinks. After several minutes of menu perusal, he returned to take our order.

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Several interesting things happened while we waited.

A lobster was wheeled around the restaurant in a wagon:

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A lounge singer sang a Neil Diamond medley:

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Grandma and I traded glasses:

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Soon, the appetizers arrived. I had baked shrimp with garlic, parmesan and breadcrumbs:

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Then, the entrees came. I had a petit filet:

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Grandpa had the sea bass:

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Dad had a stone crab claw:

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We all had sides of mashed sweet potatoes, creamed spinach and onion rings:

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After consuming enough calories for the next several years of my life, I made my way to the bathroom. I thought this sign on the inside door was worth taking a picture of:

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[For those who can't read it, it says: "If you have any problems with our restaurant, ask for our customer service representative: Luca Brasi."] [For those who don't get it, that's Godfather humor.]

Finally, for dessert, the table was treated to a surprise celebration for my grandparents' anniversary. A gigantic chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and berries. Here's Moe lighting the candles:

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And here's the cake itself:

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And that's it. Three gigantic meals consumed in 36 hours. Tomorrow morning I'll be on a plane back to Atlanta, where normal calorie intake will resume. The weekend of gluttony is officially over.

August 30, 2004

Gourmet Family in the Hizzouse: Dinner at Azul

Remember those father-son swapping movies that were so popular in the 80s? "Like Father, Like Son" with Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore? That other one with Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage? And, of course, The Parent Trap. (Which wasn't in the 80s, but was in the 60s and 00s, so it evens out). My relationship to my parents fits into that genre: I'm Dudley Moore in a younger person's body and my parents are Kirk Cameron.

Let me explain.

Saturday night we had a reservation at Azul in Miami. This got me very excited because Azul was written about in Gourmet Magazine and Bon Apetit as one of the best restaurants in Miami, if not the country. Chef Michelle Bernstein made a name for herself with quirky eclectic dishes like her foie gras chocolate sundae. I couldn't wait to give it a go.

My parents, on the other hand, were stoked because the MTV Video Awards were Sunday night which meant many celebrities would be in the restaurant's vicinity. See, Azul is located in the Mandarin Oriental Miami (a gorgeous hotel) and limos and Hummers and all sorts of fancy cars were parked out front, with large hip-hop artists and lots of bling-bling emerging to my parents delight.

"Umm, mom and dad, shouldn't we go eat dinner?" I pleaded, as they stood in the hotel lobby like eager school children, praying for a glimpse at Lindsay Lohan or Ludicrous.

"Shhh," they said, "why you gots to be all up in our bizniss?"

Finally, after much tugging, I removed them to the restaurant with its well designed entryway:

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Once inside, we were face to face with a glass case containing the day's fresh shellfish (sorry for the awful picture):

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The host escorted us to our table and, on the way, I was charmed by the bar with champagne holders built into the counter:

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Soon we were greeted by a droll waiter who, with sarcasm and a touch of wit, asked us if we wanted anything to drink. My mom asked about their specialty drinks. "We make a killer cosmo," he said, "but we have an amazing array of martinis. A watermelon-tini. A blue-tini. A lychee-tini."

"A lycheetini?" I pressed.

"It's made with lychees," he explained. "It's my favorite."

I promptly ordered it and it arrived moments later in a quirky container:

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See, the top of a martini glass rests in a bowl of ice. Kind of clever, no? And the lycheetini was delicious. One part lychee juice, one part raspberry liquer and several other parts vodka--it went down smooth and sweet.

Then we were presented our amuse bouche---a red and yellow corn chowder:

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Tasty and creamy. Corn tastes great in summer.

Soon we were ordering our food. Now, it should be noted that our first waiter (the droll waiter) said the best appetizers were the foie gras and the sweetbreads. "The sweetbreads are amazing," he said. But then he was replaced (or joined) by a second waiter who arrived to take our order. I was going to attempt the sweetbreads (something I'd never had) but he warned me against it. "Unless you've had them before, I wouldn't suggest it," he said. But I thought they were amazing? "Get the foie gras," suggested mom. So I did. And short ribs for an entree.

Because I don't have a copy of the menu to get the elements of the dishes correct, suffice it to say the foie gras appetizer featured peaches and beans cooked in smoky bacon that were, indeed, delicious:

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Mom had soft-shell crab with flavors that I now forget:

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My short-rib entree was wonderful: the meat was wildly tender, no knife necessary. And it was topped with watermelon pieces, a touch I much enjoyed:

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Now for the sad tale of mom's dish. Both waiters suggested the snapper. "Tons of flavor," they both said. The snapper itself is stuffed with pickled ginger. Topped with mangos and coated with a spicy batter, it would be a perfect sweet-spicy mix:

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But, alas, perfect it was not. It honestly had no flavor. I tried it: flavorless. Mom had to ask if there was a sauce. The waiter brought out a sauce. It didn't help much. Mom ate dutifully, but unhappily. The snapper gets no snaps from us.

For dessert, there was a much lauded peach napoleon:

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Pretty presentation but too sugary.

I much prefered the free cookies (petit fors? mignardelles?) that came with the check:

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There also came candied lavendar and mint that hurt my teeth it was so sugary:

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We journeyed back to the lobby where mom and dad secured us a prime people-watching table.

"Aight," said dad, "east coast representin."

Soon, there was a clamor. Shaquille O'Neil walked in. Mom ran up to him, with dad in tow: "Shaq, can I have a picture?"

"Not right now," he said kindly, entering the elevator with his female companion.

"Aww don't be a playa," begged mom as the elevator doors closed.

"Biyotch," agreed dad.

I sat sadly and smoked a pipe. Oh, the follies of youth.

October 14, 2004

The Waiter Who Said "No"

Scene: Da Silvano's Restaurant, Greenwich Village

Action: The waiter sets down the plate of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil that we ordered.

Mom: "Excuse me, but can we get some balsamic vinegar with that please?"

Waiter: "No, madam. This mozzarella is too fresh---it would be a crime to hide that freshness with vinegar."

Stunned silence.

Me: "Mom, let's just eat it this way."

Mom: "Ok, fine."

Dad (after the waiter leaves): "I've never heard a waiter say 'no' before like that."

SCENE.

December 27, 2004

Ghost of Meals Eaten Past: Lunch at Cafe Boulud, West Palm Beach

And then there's the lunch I had with mom last Wednesday at Cafe Boulud in West Palm Beach...

Culturally, West Palm Beach can be hilarious, if a bit disturbing. Take this outfit, for example:

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Hilarious, yes. And a bit disturbing, no? That's West Palm Beach. (I snapped that picture from our table and I'm quite proud of it. I even used Photoshop just now to cut out the man's face, in case he's a site reader. If you are a site reader, orange looks great on you.)

Before we get to the food, there's other hilarious and disturbing phenomena. For example, these two ladies sat at a table with their two giant poodles. They let the poodles roam around the restaurant, as you can see here:

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Hilarious? Maybe. Disturbing? Possibly.

But that's not the end of it. Here's the end of it: these two ladies ordered food for their dogs from the kitchen. Yes, the KITCHEN at Cafe Boulud cooked gourmet dog food for these rich ladies' dogs. You can see it being set down here:

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To quote my law school days, "Res Ipsa Loquitur." (The thing speaks for itself.)

And now for the food. Table settings, please:

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The food at Cafe Boulud is remarkable. It's sophisticated and earthy---two qualities you rarely see in Florida cooking. For example, take this cold fennel soup:

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It was fresh and refreshing and seasonal and captured the mood of the day perfectly. (It was overcast and still a bit chilly.)

That soup was ordered by me, mom ordered pate and quickly regretted it because it scared her. Would this scare you?

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A few years ago, it would have scared me too. But I traded with mom--gave her my soup--and ate the pate cautiously.

WOW.

What a great fusion of flavors. You take bits of brioche toast, put grainy mustard on it (which you can see on the plate) and then cut some pate on to it. The pate had pistachios in at and bacon wrapped around it and tasted rich and savory and utterly decadent. (Yes, I just wrote "utterly decadent"--you can smack me now.) But it was insanely terrific: best thing I ate in Florida the whole week (with the exception of what I cooked.)

And then the entrees (this was a fixed price lunch, by the way, we don't normally order this much food): (Actually, yes we do):

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This was sea bass prepared elegantly. I enjoyed it, but it's not something that will haunt my dreams. (Imagine if sea bass DID haunt your dreams? Freud would say you were craving a return to the womb. Or something like that.)

But then dessert. Ah, dessert. I love dessert. And I LOVED the dessert I had at Cafe Boulud:

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I forget the exact details, but it was yuzu (which I've never had) soup and sorbet with chopped pineapple and it was UH UH UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sorry, I just had an orgasm remembering it. It was THAT good. (And actually it taught me a valuable lesson about food: the pineapple (I think that was pineapple beneath the sorbet) was all uniformly chopped and arranged and that made all the difference. In other words, the texture component matters as much as the flavor component.)

Mom had bread pudding:

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I tried it. It was good. But it was no yuzu.

And that, my friends, was lunch at Cafe Boulud. If you have poodles and an orange sweater set and you live in West Palm Beach, now you know where to eat...

November 25, 2005

Whose Plate Is Whose at the Roberts Family Thanksgiving?

I offered to cook a Thanksgiving feast this year for my family but my offer was kindly rejected by parties who preferred to go to a buffet at Woodfield Country Club, one community over from where we live in Boca Raton, Florida. Since eating at "the club" offered very little in the way of gourmet content, I decided to devise a game where you, the reader, would look at a plate assembled by a family member and then try to determine whose plate it is. To be fair, you should get a look at my family first. I'm not in the picture because I'm taking the picture, but you know who I am, don't you reader?

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From left to right there's my brother, my father, my mother, my grandmother and grandfather. In front of them is a spread purchased by my mother from Publix.

"Don't make fun of my spread on your website!" intoned my mother.

And so I'll remain silent and let you click ahead to play "Whose Plate Is Whose?"

Continue reading "Whose Plate Is Whose at the Roberts Family Thanksgiving?" »

About Eating With The 'Rents

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The Amateur Gourmet in the Eating With The 'Rents category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Eating San Francisco is the previous category.

Etc. is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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