Best Museum Restaurant 2007 | Cornell Café at the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens | Food & Drink | South Florida
We're not alone on this one: The Food Network has anointed the Cornell Café one of the top three museum dining experiences in the country. The open-air terrace restaurant that overlooks the Morikami's expansive lakeside gardens draws museumgoers and local diners alike. After running Chinese restaurants in southern Palm Beach County, owners Christy and Fu Chen settled on a menu of a pan-Asian mix of traditional (sushi, salmon teriyaki) and nontraditional dishes (almond-crusted grouper in a citrus and coconut sauce). Their all-Japanese staff bustles to serve a packed house on weekends with prompt yet not-too-pushy service. And they smartly stock plenty of beat-the-heat fare like chilled sake and cool sushi that goes down perfectly after strolling around the gardens under the hot sun.
The quest for a bona fide New York pickle will take connoisseurs to the Festival Marketplace, but that's not all they'll find in the 30,000-square-foot farmers' market. Bins overflow with fresh artichokes and asparagus. Apples and bananas look freshly picked, their colors brighter even than they appear under the fluorescent lights of Whole Foods. By the time shoppers have finished raiding this treasure-trove of produce, they've worked up a powerful appetite — which makes the nearby international food court a godsend. The Festival Marketplace has one of the few Broward County farmers' markets that's open daily — so when a recipe calls for rare, fresh legumes, this can be a one-stop shopping destination.
American-style tapas seems like an imperialistic usurpation of a Spanish tradition, which involved mostly cold appetizers that accompanied a drink before lunch and dinner. Tapas bars in the States "improved" that tradition and made tapas a meal unto itself. The Falcon House does the standard American thing: You order as you go, the small plates of shrimp mojo and semolina-crusted squid emerging from the kitchen as you order a round of, say, steak Diane and tender scallops. But it's the hip acid techno music and sophisticated blood-orange walls inside and the comfy wrought-iron outside, as well as an excellent wine list, that separates the Falcon from its competition (which is growing as tapas enjoy a second renaissance). Best of all, it's open till 2.a.m., which means you can grab a bite on your way home — or your way to the next destination.
If you can navigate the crush inside these tiny aisles — where cans of Italian tomatoes and olive oil from Sicily and red wine vinegar are balanced acrobat-style, ascending to the ceiling — and if you can get past the cheese counter — with its hundreds of pounds of brie and cheddar and asiago and huntsman and smoked gouda from France, Italy, Switzerland, Vermont, Spain, Denmark, and England — you'll still inevitably have to stop cold at the wall of parmesan. This is Parmegiano Reggiano, about 25 or 30 full-sized wheels of the stuff — arguably the most beautiful and delicious cheese the world has ever produced. The Boys Farmers' Market is like a permanent proposition, standing right there on Military Trail, that thou shalt never go hungry for all that thou most craves. At least if you're craving boxes of panettone, locally made honey, bitter chocolate, 26 kinds of flavored hors d'oeuvre spreads, mozzarella and basil salad, whole sopressatas, grilled vegetables, golden delicious apples, slabs of grouper, piles of shrimp, 12 kinds of sardines, sprats, baby octopi packed in olive oil, bags of bagels, bunches of fresh flowers, olive oil crackers, freshly baked blueberry pies, bulbs of fennel, dried apricots, and loaves of semolina bread. But don't even think about dropping by on a weekend, because you won't get within 300 yards of the place. The Boys is open 8:30 a.m. till 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 to 5 on Sunday. Watch out for the guys hawking daily specials, they're hard sellers — at $3.99 for a wheel of brie, you'll end up carting home half a dozen ("An amazing deal! You can freeze them!")
We Americans, it turns out, aren't really as fat as we thought we were. Apparently, the hysteria over obesity was yet another plot generated by media types to sell books and score interviews on Oprah. Now the news is that we're just pleasingly plump. The best place to celebrate the demise of the blubber brewhaha is over a calorically dense house-made microbrew and a few ha-has at Brewzzi, a locally owned pair of restaurants that has never been accused of skimping on portion sizes. You'd think the guys who own this place had grown up on some distant gravity-free planet, so blissfully ignorant are they of the bad things sour cream and mayo can do to your waistline. With "appetizers" like gorgonzola chips, spinach and artichoke hearts dip, and Brewzzi primo nachos swimming in refried beans, who needs entrées? Well, you do, because few ways of spending an afternoon are as pleasurable as parking your ample butt at the Brewzzi bar under one of the flat screens to work your way with great deliberation through fried fish sandwiches the size of your head and Brewzzi's generous margarita pizzas.
Midmorning on Sundays, you'll find them in clean uniforms (white shirts, red aprons, green hats) brandishing cleavers and shears over hard surfaces — a universe composed of sharp, shining edges and vulnerable flesh. They're the dozen or so men and women of La Reina Carniceria, and they're doing serious work for customers lined four deep at the counters, holding numbered tickets and frowning thoughtfully over racks of ribs. These butchers face reality square and stare it down — no mirrored glass windows slide closed to protect anybody's delicate sensibilities here. If you want your side of beef carved into identical slivers, you're going to find out fast what it looks like to cut up a cow. Or a chicken. Or a pig. They heft dripping cuts above their heads to get a customer's nod of approval. They wrap 20 pounds of muscle in white paper — enough to feed a family of 45. You tuck your haul into a cart and off you go to the refrigerated aisles of more esoteric specialties: pigs' trotters and cow hooves, oxtail and jars of pickled pork skin, tubes of tenderloin and plastic containers in which chicken hearts float in murky broth. There are smoked turkey wings and chinchulines, chorizo and beef tongue. There are nine-pound hens, pork necks, and bulls' testicles. Need some real cock for your coq au vin? Wondering where to score pig liver for a persnickety pate? A rack of beef ribs — on sale for $1.59 a pound — makes an impressive impromptu barbecue (hickory wood charcoal sold here too). Hit the bakery for loaves of hot pan cubano on your way out — it tastes just fine with all of the above.
The idea of what constitutes excellent restaurant service divides neatly along gender lines — a Hooters maid tottering over with a tray of beers and burgers might impress our male colleagues, but this year, we girls are dishing out the laurels to those dishy waiters who've caused us so many sleepless post-prandial nights — the men of Paradiso. It's not that these hunkalicious European studmuffins call us "madam," drawing out lush vowels as if they were licking anisette-flavored lollipops. And it's not that they wear $1,000 suits or that they glide through the luxe rooms at Paradiso like dark leopards bearing little crystal flutes of lemoncello and swoon-inducing Italian pastries. Nor is it that they have consistently made us feel that only ridiculous American custom prevents them from falling to their knees and kissing our toes between courses. That they all look like Roman gods born of a union between Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni is not a factor we would ever consider in our deliberations. But the fact is: These good gentlemen have never spilled so much as a drop of wine, forgotten a detail, or failed to catch our eye when we needed a refill. They have materialized behind us to pull out our chairs, they have patiently advised us on wines, and they have flawlessly recited the specials. And then they have gently placed our wraps on our shoulders before whispering "buona notte," uttering the words with such sincerity that we have never, ever, imagined for a second that in a paradise inhabited by such angels, the night they're sending us out into could be anything less than magnificent.
First of all, don't call it a food court. The 12 food outlets that cover 20,000 square feet in the Galleria Mall are collectively known as the Piazza di Giorgio Café. If it sounds like a mall trying to hide its Orange Julius and Chick-fil-A stands behind a fancy name, you haven't dined on fresh-made sushi and homemade gelato. You can watch your veggies stir-fried or your salads chopped right in front of you, then sneak your tray down the back ramp where there are a couple of rooms usually reserved for private parties. But no one bothers you, and there's even a TV in there. You'll never eat in another noisy food court again without remembering the Piazza di...whatever it's called.
Let's be honest here. Winetastings are not really about tasting wine. They're about getting wasted. In that spirit, New Times would like to take this opportunity to announce a new holiday. It's a sort of Halloween for adults, a little something we like to call Hallowine. We'd like to thank WineStyles, a new and rapidly expanding franchise of wine stores, for making Hallowine possible. Here's the deal. There are 158 WineStyles stores total, and five of them are located in Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Wellington, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach Gardens. The small but elegant stores, which categorize their wines by flavor rather than grape variety or country of origin, all offer tastings geared toward novice wine drinkers on Friday nights (the price varies by location but is usually $10 or $15). So on any given Friday, you can get in a costume, recruit a designated driver, hit as many stores as you dare, and try six wines at each. (For the mathematically impaired, that's up to 30 samples in one night — surely enough for the purposes of our holiday). Screaming "Happy Hallowine!" and holding out an empty glass at each destination is optional. Each WineStyles store has about 100 different bottles of crispy, silky, rich, bubbly, fruity, mellow, bold, and nectar wines, most of which sell for under $25. This truly lowbrow wine experience should be captured on film and submitted to New Times.
Until recently, like the common cold, there was little hope of discovering a cure for "Insufram Chocaladus," known more generally by its street name, "The Sweet Tooth." The infliction is often diagnosed through a bevy of accompanying symptoms: excessive drooling when olfaction detects sugary baked goods in near proximity, deep belly grumbling, and an insatiable desire for lots and lots of yummy chocolate. But since Chocolada opened its doors in Hollywood, the medical disorder has been kept at bay — and an uncanny number of general practitioners have now switched careers to dentistry. Gourmet cakes are saddled up on the racks of half of the shop's pastry cases. Some glisten with freshly whipped meringue, others shine from a caramelized coating of natural sugar shellac, and the rare few take on the shapes of woodland creatures — like the genteel porcupine cake playing opossum on the bottom row. His cocoa powder body has neat lines of almond slivers protruding from the nape of his neck, across his back, and down to his rump; he's dressed to the nines in a swanky top hat and is holding a cane to boot. The other pastry cases tease and tempt with dozens of freshly prepared enticements, all selling for less than $3. Plump chocolate-dipped cherries stand at attention, while thick swirley, Seuss-like purple cones infused with violet and stuffed with mousse sit patiently below. But most adorable of all are the three-inch-tall, dark- and white-chocolate penguins staring at you with their candy eyes — they're so cute actually, that you're going to want to eat 'em all up.

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