Kamzaman

To hunt for the perfect cup of coffee is to separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the NBA from your neighborhood pick-up game. There's a lot of crap out there. Mediocrity, really. But rest assured, at Kamzaman, there's no frou-frou soy, decaf double lattes. Instead, you'll taste the richest, smoothest Turkish coffee of your life for the ridiculously low price of $3. The caffeine elixir is brought to your table in a piping hot vessel, which you then poor into tiny ceramic cups for you and your guests. And what goes as well with good coffee as tobacco? Luckily, Kamzaman is a spacious smoke shop in a strip mall north of Sunrise Boulevard that's become a hotbed of Middle Eastern shops. Its walls are a continuous mural of scenes of Saharan life. For $8, they'll deliver a hookah to your table, and you can choose from among 15 types of tobacco.

A reasonably bright chimpanzee could be taught to make a faultless key lime pie: There's one immutable method, and it allows for no deviation. The recipe involves a can of condensed milk, a couple of eggs, a box of graham crackers, a stick of butter, and a handful of key limes. To see so many reasonably bright human beings in local restaurant kitchens floundering around with meringues and preformed crusts, Persian limes -- or worse -- bottled lime juice, whipping cream, and God-knows-what-all, is to witness the awful human compulsion to fiddle with what ain't broke. That being said, exceptions do exist. The pie-in-the-sky concoction dreamed up by pastry chef Gus Hernandez at River House is certainly one. His "key lime pie baked Alaska" is a delicious joke composed of a Brazil-nut graham cracker crust, a tower of sweet limey mousse, a rakish chapeau of browned Italian meringue, and many decorative swivels and swirls of berry coulis. That you can sit outdoors at a table under the stars to eat this pie between the glittering lights of two august mansions and the lazy New River makes variations like this one seem necessary.

Johnny V Restaurant
Michele Sandberg

Thirty years from now, when you're a full-blown diabetic jabbing your beleaguered index finger to test your blood sugar for the fourth time in a day, bemoaning your descent into infirmity and disease, you will think back. You will remember, with morning-after regret, the diminishing returns of those Pepsi refills, the cheap half-thrill of real sugar in your espresso, a lifetime of licking whole whipped cream off strippers' netherquarters. Then you will remember Johnny V's tiramisu martini, its spiced pumpkin mascarpone steeped in chocolate liqueur and antlered with ladyfingers. You will recall a warm mango tart soaked with the nectar oozing off a dollop of cinnamon sorbet, the sweet burn intertwining with the sugary sour. You will hark back to a mound of soft-centered chocolate cake that guttered an intoxicating syrup-sludge onto the chocolate-covered strawberries of the chocolate sampler plate. It was all worth it, you'll say, even at $8 to $10 per dessert. It was all worth it.

Emack and Bolio's

Brian Miller spent 20 years in Boston selling computers. Sometimes, he stopped in at the Cape Cod Emack and Bolio's for a couple of scoops of Twisted Dee-Light and Deep Purple Cow. Then he moved to Boca to open an ice cream store of his own -- every nerd's fantasy. Emack and Bolio's started out 30 years ago as a late-night hangout for rock 'n' roll types; it was owned by entertainment lawyer Bob Rook (hence the ice creams nostalgically named for '70s and '80s bands). Today, there's plenty to keep the tykes occupied (like 100 flavors), but a new line of milkshakes, glad to say, is for grownups. They're called "frappes" these days, of course -- gotta change with the times -- and five flavors ($5 each) are designed to keep you up all night bangin' head to your old Twisted Sister discs. Choose from Irish Coffee, Italian Coffee, Dirty Monkey, Caramel Thriller, and Nutty Monk, all made with ice cream, a good splash of French roast coffee, a dash of the appropriate flavoring, and a cap of homemade whipped cream. Miller says he's adjusting just fine to the life of an ice cream man -- long "hours of boredom punctuated by moments of panic." Sounds kinda like the way we remember those old Deep Purple records. "Smoke on the Water," anyone?

There must be a lot of folks who were hopping mad to see York's Tropical Ice Cream pack up and move south from Washington, D.C., to Broward County. They've probably spent many a lonely, ice-creamless night wondering how to satisfy their jones for rose-flavored ice cream. And those hooked on grapenut, jacknut, cinnamon, tamarind, and lychee or accustomed to a regular fix of papaya, ginseng, or black walnut, not to mention the mild alcoholic fizz from a scoop of Guinness, are likely out of luck too. Their loss is clearly our gain. What we lack in political culture and great art museums, we now more than make up for in soursop, in decadent high-butterfat chocolate chip, and in R-rated rum raisin ice creams. Jamaican proprietor Cal Headley makes the stuff in a Lauderdale Lakes location, trucks it over to the store daily, and sells it for $2.50 a scoop or $5.70 a pint as he doles out sample spoons of the most luxurious fresh banana ice cream from here to Kingston.

Dolce Vita Gelato Cafe

The perfect meal ends with a good dessert and this small store on Hollywood Boulevard -- the fifth of a small chain founded in Miami Beach -- makes the perfect sweet. This is not an exaggeration. The creamy stuff served by Italian/Argentine/American Julio Bertoni and his partner, Hector Enede, is unforgettable. There are 48 flavors, from chocolate to rum raisin to dulce de leche to super sambayon, a combination of egg yolk, marsala, and cream. Ay, it'll make your head spin. Prices for the stuff are as low as $3.50. Bertoni and Enede are ambitious. They are establishing free delivery at the year-old Hollywood store -- the first in Broward -- and plan to open places in Houston this year. They also serve the stuff at fancy hotels like the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. But don't worry about all that. Just stroll in here after a meal on Hollywood Boulevard, taste to your heart's delight, then enjoy some of the most beautiful, cool flavor you've ever dreamed about.

Moonlite Diner

Sometimes, when it's 3 a.m. and you're half-drunk, you're prone to imagining things. In fact, you might very well think that your mind is playing tricks on you as you stand outside Moonlite Diner. Built to resemble a highway café from the 1950s, the place features stools and bars of the John F. Kennedy-era malt shop style. There's also enough rock 'n' roll memorabilia on the walls to make Buddy Holly proud. Then there's the food. This restaurant serves good, cheap eats 24 hours a day. Highlights include crab cakes ($7.69) served with a fiery Cajun sauce; the Mediterranean omelet ($6.29), an unpredictable egg dish with feta cheese and spinach; and the Meatloaf Blue Plate ($9.29), a hunk of oven-baked beef seasoned and shaped with the same love and care that your mama gave it. Finish everything with one of Moonlite's 24 flavored malts and shakes ($3.99) and you'll be left with the wherewithal to sleep off that nasty hangover.

It doesn't take long for international ex-pats in South Florida to congregate with their own kind: Uruguayans have their clubs, Panamanians their hairdressers, Haitians their takeout restaurants, Poles their Friday-night dances. And the French have their bakeries. At Croissan'Time, you know you're in the right vicinity not just by the unmistakable scent of warm, layered pastry but from the recognizable buzz of French-speaking customers crammed together over tables crowded with beignet and brioche. Owner Bernard Casse opened Croissan'Time in 1986 after a string of apprenticeships and baking gigs in France and New York, including La Grenouille and Regine's. Locally, he wowed the Palm Beach crowd with delectable confections at the Little French Bakery before moving to Lauderdale. Casse and crew are still turning out hundreds of filled and plain croissants daily, hot from the ovens every couple of hours. You'll recognize chocolate or almond paste-filled varieties, but you may never have experienced the guilty pleasure of croissants stuffed with sour apricots and custard, tart raspberries, silky prunes, or walnuts, apples, strawberries, cinnamon, ham and cheese, or guava ($1.25 small, $2.25 large). They're flaky, buttery, each better than the next, and impossible to tire of. But if you're still craving variety, try the coffeecakes, the tourtes, a selection of charcuterie that includes mergez and boudin noir, game meats like pheasant and partridge, homemade ice creams, freshly cut cheeses, paté sandwiches, bacon bread, cream puffs -- a short, delicious tour of French gastronomy for any Lauderdalian who loves Paris.
Le Petit Pain
Christina Mendenhall
Best Bread: An NPR commentator once asked a French chef if he thought the Atkins Diet would ever catch on in France. "Mais non," the chef replied haughtily. "In France, we must eat one pound of bread every day for good health." No doubt for other reasons of vigor and well-being, that pound of bread must also be slathered with sweet cream butter, n'est-ce pas? And washed down with just a cup or two of hot chocolate to aid the digestion? The baguette ($2.50) at Le Petit Pain is the place to start if you're planning to follow the good chef's advice: the long, thin loaves, crunchy and buttery on the outside, pocked with delicate holes when you break them open, come warm from the oven a couple of times a day. The proprietors, a handsome and charming family hailing from Paris, have evidently picked up a few baking skills in their native country that have translated exquisitely to ours. They serve the finest from the baguettes, which have an unsettling tendency to become as necessary to daily existence as air, to their beautiful cakes, pies, butter cookies, fresh croissants, and filled crepes -- also highly nourishing when eaten in quantity.

Best Bakery: It's clean, it's bright, and it serves confections so sweet that your teeth almost rot just looking at them. Gone are the days of Grandma's neighborhood bakery, where only muffins, brownies, and loaves of bread were available. When this company was founded nearly two decades ago during the "Let's Get Physical" '80s, more than 50 flavors of cheesecake and dozens of pies, tortes, and other cakes were delivered to the hungry masses by Celebrity's chefs. Through the no-fat '90s and the "anti-carb" new millennium, this bakery has continued to thrive with loads of options for anyone from the carb-conscious to the reckless. This is your go-to joint for Hello Dollies and brownies ($2.75 each), custom cakes (slices $3.25 to $3.50), platters, and seasonal selections like egg nog and cranberry pumpkin cheesecake ($3.50 to $26). What else makes this a great spot to visit? Lots of little tables, decent cups o' Joe, evening hours, and a personable staff. Cooking classes are held for kids and adults too so you can learn how to make more than just Betty Crocker.

Josh's Organic Garden

This market guarantees that its fruits and vegetables were picked within 48 hours of the time they were laid before your eyes here. And like the shingle says, it's all 100 percent organic. The market is open all day Sunday, and it pays to be early to beat the crowds and swoop up items that grow more scarce toward the end of their season. There's no guarantee you'll find the same items from week to week, because the market relies much on Florida's growing seasons. During winter, the bounty is spectacular, from the routine to the exotic. For $3.99 a pound, pick up crispy red and yellow peppers, fresh garlic, pungent parsley, or exotic dandelion greens. You'll find Josh's on the Broadwalk behind the old Hollywood Beach Hotel, which is just south of Hollywood Boulevard.

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