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.

This special Albertson's has one of the largest and most eclectic selections of prepared foods in South Florida. The hummus with whole chick peas or fresh pinenuts is worth a trip in itself. It's not even in the same family as the pasty spread sold in most supermarket deli cases. Roasted chicken, stuffed derma, cholent, stews, soups, spring rolls, dozens of salads (eggplant, cucumber, vegetarian mock chopped liver), and a rabbi-certified kosher bakery will satisfy even an Orthodox grandmother. But if you want to mix your milk with your meat, they won't throw you out of the store. Two separate deli counters line an entire wall of the emporium. The non-kosher department has a full selection of meats and cheeses along with hot wings, fried chicken, half a dozen kinds of potato salad, cole slaw, and macaroni and cheese. Where else can you get a real knish for your bubbe and a ham and cheese sandwich for your Aunt Teresa?
Now, we know this statement is tantamount to wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt in a Cuban-exile neighborhood, but it needs to be said: The cafe con leche at Tulipan Bakery rivals any cup you'd get in Little Havana. But as a warning to those who think coffeehouse means comfy couches flown in from Seattle, this place is far from the chains. Here, there are no seats; you drink girlie sips of cortadito while leaning on the drab counter, which separates visitors from the team of women frothing milk behind it. Make sure to accompany those potent cups of joe with finger-shaped croquetas bursting with bits of gooey, hammy goodness. Or stuff yourself on flaky cheese pastelitos, with a caramelized coating of sugar and smooth cream cheese on the inside. And even though you're 60 miles from Miami, feel free to order in Spanish.
An outstanding barista possesses all the skills you'd expect in a top-notch bartender: sense of humor, gift of gab, willing ear, and flair for mixology. But a barista does so while manning a scalding espresso machine. Shaven-headed and occasionally goateed, Franklin can quickly turn the first-time patron into a regular by recalling a drink or a name or some other personal minutiae on a follow-up visit. He has a knack for drawing together strangers in line awaiting drinks by handing them a topic to kick around. He can regale you with the tales behind the dozen-or-so concussions he's received in his life, a few of which are certainly worth the price of a cappuccino. Eventually, he might tell you about how he once cajoled a Two Street regular into brewing up a pot of Scandinavian "egg coffee" on the premises. Of course, let's not forget Franklin's commission behind the counter in the first place: to deliver caffeine treats. In this, he's scrupulous, so don't be surprised if he dumps out a shot of espresso that he judges to have come out not quite right.

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