Best Of :: Food & Drink
Down a driveway festooned with flowers, inside this clean, well-lighted place, the deep-red, juicy, sun-ripened tomatoes of your dreams and memories beckon. These are the kind of tomatoes that your mama liked best sliced thick, slightly salted, doused with a couple of drops of vinegar, and sprinkled with chives. The kind of tomatoes that had so much flavor that even that light treatment seemed like dressing up the already divine. The kind of tomatoes that you grouse about not finding in the supermarket anymore 'cause they keep picking 'em before they're really ready. At Batten's, they're choosy about the produce they sell. Forget that awful trepidation you've come to feel when faced with those bright red strawberries or deep orange tangelos that tempt you with their visuals and taste like cardboard once home. Batten's takes care with the produce it trucks in. But, most important, it grows its own -- tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, strawberries -- and has been offering its agricultural bounty for sale for 33 years. The owners know their produce, and they also sell fresh-cut snapdragons and sunflowers from their fields from time to time. Usually in March and April, Batten's offers a section of the strawberry fields for customers to pick their own. Inside the store, employees stationed at a strawberry counter fill quart and pint containers of strawberries all day long. At $1.25 a pint, take two. For real produce bargains, check out the discount table.
For Indian food regulars who want to avoid those awkward moments of ordering beef curry from a Hindu waiter, the simple way is to go vegetarian. Bombay Cafe has powerfully tasty vegetarian dishes that'll make most carnivores forget about the lack of animal flesh. The chick peas in the chole-bhatura are cooked perfectly al dente in a potent tomato-based broth, and the plain uttapam combines the simplicity of a poster-sized rice pancake with aromatic lentil soup. Everything at this simple restaurant is made on-premises, even the yogurt, which flavors the sweet lassi so well, and the roti, an oven-roasted bread. Best of all, your vegetarian feast will set you back only about $5 -- not a bad price for a clear conscience.
Q: Ever watch reality-TV shows?
A: I watch absolutely no TV. I work every night.
A: All right, Monday. My day off. On Monday, I have to watch Fear Factor because my 10-year-old daughter, Margeaux, insists on it. It's kind of fun to watch with her. She's always comparing herself to the girls on the show. She says, "I could do that."
Q: Are there parts of the show you don't like?
A: When they eat slugs and things like that. I'm not crazy about that.
Q: Is that the restaurateur talking?
A: Not really. That whole segment of the show -- I usually walk away from it. It'll definitely kill your appetite.
Q: How about your daughter?
A: She can stomach it a little better than I can.
Q: Is the show in any way real?
A: It's interesting to see what people will do for $50,000. Is that real? I don't know.
Q: Can you learn anything from Fear Factor?
A: Jeez, I don't think so. It's kind of like a strange sports game.
Q: What does your daughter get out of it?
A: Just the sensation of it, I think. She's very competitive, very athletic. A major soccer player and a junior lifeguard. I think the competition is what she enjoys, especially when the girls are competing against the guys. That's Margeaux.
If the name seems like a mouthful, well, the large servings of fresh fish and shellfish justify it. A retail seafood market on one side and an attractive, casual dining spot on the other, Waves isn't all foam and froth like some of its trendy contemporaries. Yet its preparations are still modern -- Asian shrimp-noodle soup, coconut shrimp, lump crab "fingers," shrimp scampi with roasted tomatoes. Feeling traditional? Waves also offers lobster dinners à la beach parties in Cape Cod, with a Maine steamed lobster, mussels, clams, ears of corn, and new red potatoes. Best of all, your belly may make you feel as if you won't be riding any waves too soon lest you get a cramp, and your wallet won't be much lighter -- Waves is as reasonably priced as it is filling.
It's no secret that Chinese takeout isn't always healthful. But there is hope. Wingloon's lengthy menu features all the traditional Chinese-American fare; sweet and sour chicken, moo goo gai pan, beef lo mein, among others. But this drive-through and takeout restaurant is looking out for today's health-conscious consumer. In addition to a vegetarian menu including broccoli and mushrooms with garlic sauce, and sautéed string beans, any of their chicken or beef dishes can be prepared with tofu, and they will omit salt, sugar, or cornstarch. You just have to ask.
Let's be honest. You're cheap, and you always will be. So you might as well put on the plaid pants and baby-blue blazer and go for the early-bird special at Spoto's. Between 5 and 6 p.m., the upscale raw bar in downtown West Palm Beach throws in a salad, dessert, and drink for the price of your entrée. That's a value of about $20, which, you might as well admit, is more than you spent on your mother's last birthday present. The deal includes a spicy tomato, mozzarella, and red onion salad with a well-aged vinaigrette. It's a good complement to the onion-crusted yellowtail snapper at $21.75. Or pair the house salad, with its wheat-beer vinaigrette, with the bouillabaisse, which includes a half-pound lobster, clams, mussels, and nearly still-swimming chunks of fish. Eat quick and you can be in bed by 8.