The New Times' annual Best Of issue debuted this week and Clean Plate Charlie will continue to examine the best of the best in Broward and Palm Beach counties throughout the year. This week's list looks at some of the best places to steer the evening should someone else offer to pick up the check. To find the complete list of the 2012 winners, click here. As always, use the comments to let us know if we missed your top pick.
It may have recently rolled out a menu of small plates better-suited to diners on a budget, but this farm-to-table Fort Lauderdale haunt still provides ample opportunity to take advantage when someone else is footing the bill. With artisanal and organic goods hitting the table, one can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $24 per entrée or more than $30 for a seven-ingredient charcuterie. Ambitious diners can try the dine-in-the-dark option, with a blind tasting menu of four to eight courses starting at $75 per person. The payoff, of course, is the opportunity to sample chef Lauren DeShields' take on local, top-quality ingredients assembled in unexpected ways. Another feather in the restaurant's cap? It took top honors for New TimesBest Broward County Restaurant in 2012.
When the fancy-pants in-laws fly into town with scads of money just burning a hole in their pockets, suggest a family outing to this Palm Beach destination. The palace-like resort sees plenty of well-heeled guests, but that doesn't mean your tennis-shoe-wearing self won't be welcome at the table (particularly if someone else is picking up your tab). Hobnob with movers and shakers while you dine on lobster tail and caviar, or aim for Sunday brunch, where a lavish spread will keep you satiated until midweek.
The offerings here are rich and decadent: Roasted poblano pepper is stuffed with Florida bluecrab and dressed with pickled jalapeño, ancho chili crepes are filled with Serrano chilies and cuitlacoche, and a slow-roasted duckling is matched with a spicy guava syrup and cinnamon poached pear compote. Chef Eduardo Pria's upscale Mexican restaurant offers service that hits the mark, a smart wine list, and an intimate setting. Daily specials are surprising and showcase the kitchen's meticulous attention to detail.
Larger-than-life celeb chef Steve Martorano's Fort Lauderdale restaurant is a glittering, boisterous ode to high-quality Italian dining. Fist-sized meatballs are served with Martorano's legendary Sunday gravy, and gourmet South Philly-style cheese steaks become an item of decadence. Though you may develop daily cravings for the eggplant stack or spaghetti with clams, chilies, and pancetta, this is a place with special-occasion pricing. Can't find someone to pay your way? You could always pick up the chef's book,Yo Cuz! My Life, My Food, My Way, and attempt to replicate some of his most popular recipes in your home kitchen.
Daniel Boulud's restaurant in the Brazilian Court hotel is luxurious but not ostentatious in its posh trappings. The service is starched and traditional, but you won't be made to feel out of place if your typical dining destinations are in more humble surroundings. Executive chef Jim Leiken -- who replaced longtime chef Zach Bell in 2011 -- turns out bold takes on traditional dishes like roasted Amish chicken with crispy leg confit and black truffle chicken jus, or Swiss chard ravioli with heirloom tomatoes and a walnut pesto basil broth. Fusion dishes like lobster bisque Thailandaise or a saffron tagliatelle show off Leiken's well-traveled New York pedigree.