The small group filed onto the air-conditioned coach bus in the heat of the summer. “Welcome to the Taste History Culinary Tour!” With that, Lori J. Durante, executive tour director and guide extraordinaire, is off on another of her popular culinary tours. The tours, which happen the first through fourth Saturdays each month, focus on one or two cities per tour, and include Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth, Lantana and West Palm Beach/Northwood Village. Even if you go on two tours that include Boynton and Delray, Lori promises they will be different each time, with different stops and sights.
As a guest of the tour group, and part of a recent Boca/Delray culinary tour, I visited five restaurants and saw four artists at work in their studios or shops. Durante talked about the art, culture and history of the area, going back to Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513, and kept us up to date on current events, too. We visited historic black and white neighborhoods, and the restaurants also represented a tasting history of the two cities.
My fellow tour-istas included a visitor from Maine and local folks from Miami (fellow food bloggers), Palm Beach Gardens and Lake Worth.
All the tickets are reserved online. The Delray/Boynton (third and fourth Saturdays) and Lake Worth/Lantana tours (second Saturdays) are $45 per person, and the West Palm Beach/Northwood tours (first Saturdays of the month) are $50 per person.
Quick impression: I learned an amazing amount of local history (I grew up in Boca Raton and thought I knew a lot) and ate way too much terrific food. I loved finding new places to shop and eat. In fact, it’s too much for one blog posting, so this is part one. Part two will appear this Friday.
A little more information: The culinary tours started in 2011 and are usually sold out or close to sold out during the season. Reservations for this November have already started, and I can see why. You’re never going to get this kind of personal attention for 3-5 hours, or eat this much quality food for what amounts to a relatively inexpensive ticket price. It’s the real deal.
We started with Sweet’s Sensational Jamaican Cuisine (25 SW 5th Ave., Delray Beach, 561/865-7086), a brightly colored shop just off Atlantic Avenue and home to some authentic Jamaican food. The tantalizing smells from the wide array of dishes hits you the minute you open the door. We tasted rice and peas in coconut milk, roasted oxtail, jerk pork and chicken, curried chicken, beef patties and sweet plantains.
Then we hit Café Bleu (44 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561/455-4041), which after 7-plus years on Atlantic Avenue, was hopping with customers on a Saturday morning. Located in a historic 1924 Masonic Lodge building, this eclectic restaurant sells excellent cold-brewed coffee (brewed for 18 hours!), along with tea, beer, wine and pizza. We tried the pepperoni/sausage and veggie thin-crust pizza, with the dough made from scratch, and freshly made cookies.
Still to come in Friday’s blog: Three remaining restaurants on the tour have us more than full, and a stop at artists’ studios highlight four different, creative souls and their passions.
Photos by: Lynn Kalber
Lynn Kalber wasn’t born in Boca Raton, but she attended elementary through high school there, so she might as well have been. She’s a graduate of the University of Florida and has been in journalism most of her life, including 26 years at The Palm Beach Post. She’s written feature and food stories, and edited food copy among other jobs, including blogging about wine (The Swirl Girls). Her husband is writer and author Scott Eyman. They live in West Palm Beach with an assortment of cats and dogs.