The new chocolate shop on Wilton Drive will raise your blood sugar to lethal levels. If you're a diabetic, stay clear. If not, take the name of the establishment seriously -- you'll find yourself being engulfed by the cozy, foresty environment. The warm darkness makes you feel like you're under a canopy of trees, and the big-cat faux-fur furniture is atmospheric rather than tacky. The ambience is perfect for ingesting cacao and sugar. The caf has managed to put together a creative mix of cakes, candies, and drinks, along with some original treats: cheese cake hand-dipped in Swiss chocolate; chocolate spoons, also hand-dipped, that retail for 75 cents; and the aptly named Chocolate Beast Cake. The Chocolate Forest is also one of the few places outside of Las Olas where you can enjoy sidewalk tables in balmy weather. So what if it's a little humid. You can't get cappuccino truffles in the rain forest.
Chesapeake always smells like bagels. That's how you know you're in the neighborhood of the real thing. Owners Carolyn and Darlene keep a vat of bagels boiling (gives it that shiny crust) and the oven ready for baking all day long. The kneading machine looks like a water chute. Starting at 6 a.m. on weekdays when the doors open, the customers pour in here. Open seven days a week, Chesapeake is there for your fresh-bagel jones. Saturday and Sunday, Chesapeake opens at 6:30 a.m. And it's only 65 cents for a single. The best deal, though, is the day-old. When toasted, the outside becomes crunchy, the inside light and chewy. All this at six-for-$1.
The stars of this upscale French bakery glimmer in the capacious glass pastry cases: fruit and lemon tartelettes, pear and apple amandine, napoleons, croquembouche, baba au rhum, clairs, and fruit pies. Once you've fulfilled the difficult task of selecting one of these delicacies, sit down and enjoy an ambience unusual for a bakery. The store's interior design includes elements of a street in a small French village. As a water fountain gently trickles at one end of the high-ceilinged boulangerie, it's easy to imagine you're eating in the land of the Gauls.
In a world of supermarket-sized health food stores, complete with mergers and corporate takeovers, we love this little individually owned gem tucked away in a tiny shopping plaza in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Nature Boy has a small but specially selected stock, a full menu, a handful of aromatic daily specials, and a long counter staffed by a friendly proprietor. The place screams, "Welcome." The shelves feature vitamins, a focused array of packaged and canned goods, and a refrigerator full of healthful drinks. The Far Out Salad takes us back to the '70s, as does the prominently featured brown rice and the alfalfa sprouts you can add to any of the dishes. A dozen types of smoothies, miso or seasonal soups, salads, sandwiches, nori rolls, and a couple of varieties of tofu round out the menu. The store closes at 5 p.m., which guarantees friendly service -- who wants to buy food guaranteed free of artificial growth hormones from a cranky, overworked proprietor? This woman knows how to take care of herself so she can come back the next day and provide you with some tasty nutrition.
Oh, sure. You can go to one of those other farmers' markets and buy your fresh produce. But when you're done here, can you go to the circus, grab some fast food, and then pick up a knockoff designer dress and some cartridges for the ol' Atari 2600 before returning home? We didn't think so. Of course, the Swap Shop's farmers' market has all the usual apples and oranges, but you can also locate a lot of those hard-to-find fruits and vegetables in the market's stalls. You'll find papayas, mangoes, ginger, cactus, a multicolored rainbow of peppers, malanga, chochos, and even those cute little baby bananas. (OK, OK, they're called platanitos, but baby bananas just sounds so precious.)
Caviar, lobster, truffles, pate, prosciutto ham, excellent wine -- you know, the finer things in life. Some of the price tags will blow your mind. It's all behind a little Las Olas storefront, and if you have to ask the cost, you probably can't afford it. Leave that for the hoity-toity folks who frequent some of the more ridiculous shops in the tourist district. What really makes the Mediterranean special are the gourmet sandwiches and salads at the deli, and at under six bucks each, they can be had by us hoi polloi. We're talking thinly cut seared tuna over a bed of mesclun with fresh tomatoes, a dab of wasabi, and oriental dressing. Try the chicken caesar, which comes with a cup of fresh pasta and deli pickle. Or the outrageously tasty tomato and mozzarella salad. If you're wondering why you never heard of the place, it's because it doesn't advertise. The originality and quality of the stuff sells itself.
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.

On a hot South Florida day, a frosty draw of vitamin-C-packed succulence sure slides down smooth. That's why the shake counter at Bob Roth's stays busy. This is a fruit stand where you can take home a slab of alligator meat or a fresh-baked key lime pie. And when it comes to shakes, you can bet they've got the real thing, none of that gooey strawberry syrup-type flavoring, thank you. Just fresh and frozen fruits, blenderized. You can order a creamy orange mango shake, plain and simple, or have mango complemented with banana, or mango-strawberry-banana, mango-coconut-peach, or mango-coconut-peach-banana. Or mix them all together. If you don't like mangoes, you can order any of those other fruits separate or combined any way you want to suck it. All at the sweet price of $3.50 for a three-fruit combo.
Fourteen years ago, Jeffrey Fisher decided that his future came down to one word: macadamia. So he planted more than 100 trees from a special hybrid that produces easy-to-crack nuts on his two-acre farm in Davie. But it wasn't easy -- Broward County officials told him that macadamia nuts couldn't grow in South Florida and refused to give him the regular agricultural tax exemptions. Out of that frustration was born his rather scandalous slogan, "Let Me Show You My Nuts." He proved them all wrong, and despite numerous setbacks, his vision has come to fruition. When he opens his farm to the public on weekends, he sells trees (from $30 to $75) and, of course, bags of nuts (at six bucks a pound). If you're lucky, Fisher will also have some of his delicious macadamia-nut honey and cookies for sale. The place is more than a real treat -- it's a great testament to a true South Florida visionary, however nutty he might be.
A visit to Penn Dutch is a celebration of Broward County's distinctive polyglot of humanity. The pathway to the cash register is blocked by a Haitian woman. The dairy case is momentarily inaccessible while a French-Canadian couple holds a culinary conference. Before one can grab a hot loaf of freshly baked Cuban bread, one must wait for an African-American family, shopping cart larded with shrink-wrapped rib eyes, pork loins, cold cuts, multiple packages of hog jowls, and several loaves of French bread poking out of the cart like strange cacti, to move. Mondays and Wednesdays are the slow days, according to an employee. But slow is a relative term at Penn Dutch. It's a madhouse on other days, she says. For the seafood consumer, that's exactly the point. Busy is good for seafood. Busy means the product moves. Busy means fresh. Penn Dutch must replenish daily. Plus, buying the quantity it sells, its prices are cheaper than most other markets. In the early spring, for instance, salmon steaks were $3.49 a pound, grouper filets cost $8.99 a pound, and yellowtail tuna filets were $7.99 a pound. At those prices, eating healthy won't give you an ulcer.

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