Any human life passes through certain immutable stages, and the transitions are marked by a corresponding change of preference in semolina. A 7-year-old abandons his infantile dependency on Cream of Wheat in favor of Spaghetti-O's. The adolescent develops her personal recipe for macaroni and cheese. The ever-voracious college freshman finds himself irresistibly drawn to rustic plates of lasagna or tortelloni stuffed with sausage. In later years, as our palates refine and our pocketbooks expand, we crave those very exotics we once spurned in youth: dark roast French coffee, English gin, black squid ink taglioline. This is food for grownups who have embraced their shadow selves and don't mind peering, occasionally, into the void: homemade al dente noodles the color of the sea at midnight, dusky clams still in the shell, grilled shrimp tossed in butter and wine — a dish at once mysterious, aphrodisiacal, and powerful. Il Cioppino, a glittering, seafood-centric Italian café recently opened by Gregorio and Rosa Filipo on Ocean Avenue, puts together a plate of it for those of us in the prime of our pasta-loving lives.
Remember the term CSA. If Florida goes the way of green energy and sustainable agriculture, instead of offshore drilling and corporate pig farms, the sort of Community Supported Agriculture practiced at Green Cay Produce promises a future of better health, a cleaner environment, and most important, less-tortured children. Farmers Charlie and Nancy Roe are developing "sustainable vegetable production appropriate for small, diversified growers in South Florida." The lucky families and local chefs who've managed to get on Green Cay's list of subscribers (they take applications for their waiting list beginning August 1) have learned that if you want your picky kids to eat spinach, chard, beets, turnips, and other normally disgusting things, the best place to get vegetables that don't taste yucky is from Green Cay. The sweetest peppers, the greenest onions, striped tomatoes and purple cauliflower, the smoothest eggplants, the sassiest French breakfast radishes, and the biggest squash blossoms are grown on their Boynton Beach farm, along with corn, lettuce, broccoli, cutting celery, fennel, green beans, and black-eyed peas — then boxed up once a week and delivered to subscribers' doors within a day of being harvested. Much of the produce is experimental: Green Cay partners in research projects with the University of Florida and seed-and-produce companies testing veggies for the Florida climate. What you get each week depends on season, rainfall, temperature, and bugs — but the mystery box that appears on your front porch Monday afternoons is part of the appeal.
Kids sure are growing up fast these days. The Internet, cell phones, and video games are all morphing like Power Rangers into a wall of technology that separates the little ones from their desperately lost 'rents. But there's still hope: Nothing makes a better segue into serious kid-to-parent dish sessions like tossing around the pigskin or shooting some hoops, and dinner at Wilt C's is just the right venue for that. You can teach the kids a little bit of the razzle-dazzle on Wilt's basketball court while you wait for your food to arrive, or head to the game room to tell them how you learned everything you needed to know about life by playing skee-ball. Back at the table, they'll school you on a little thing called convergence and help you surf the NBA league-pass on your tableside LCD screen. You'll also learn something about economics: "Mommy, if you get me a Wilt Chamberlain MVP card, I get free food on Thursdays." Score. Best of all, you'll be getting quality face time with the rugrats — opening the door for serious discussions about homework, boyfriends, and, if they're ready, Wilt's off-court record too.
La Granja
A cheap lunch is almost never a filling lunch; La Granja is the exception. For $5, this Peruvian chain serves a tender, seasoned breast of chicken, hot off the rotisserie, covered by a heap of thick-cut fries. To get authentic South American taste, ask for the ceviche, a seafood salad with hints of lemon and lime. There's even something distinctive about the décor: booths along the sides, with free-standing, rectangular dinner tables in the middle, so there's room for every animal in your cubicle farm. A word to the wise, though: Consider a carpool. The popular prices make for a crowded parking lot on both sides of the noon hour.
"All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast," goes the saying. Fine, but true ecstasy depends on a three-course Sunday brunch, particularly one that ends with an orange pot de crme. The French are masters of the broken fast, knowing that a growling stomach is best soothed with hot apple crepes or shallot-and-French-bean omelets, with champagne cocktails and strong coffee and oeufs brouillés, with boards of cheese, charcuterie, and homemade pâté de campagne. John Suley — a hunky young chef who trained in France, London, and Miami's Ritz-Carlton and has the makings of tomorrow's Food Network celeb chef written all over his handsome mug — has opened a brasserie worthy of the name. The oven is fired up all hours of night and day, and the excellent things that come out of it are priced to feed us all. Gold brocade banquettes and ceiling-high mirrors, gleaming brass, wood floors, and somebody at the door chirping "Bonjour Mesdames!" complete this Francophilic fantasia. A gorgeous duck confit with black lentils and pickled pink onions tastes exactly the way you remember Paris. As does the lovely, slightly sour European butter, crusty bread, steak frites with truffled mayonnaise or béarnaise sauce, pan-fried sea bass paired with spicy chorizo and specials of the day, like Maine shrimp risotto or cool avocado soup topped with an island of smoked salmon. Suley's paté de campagne, handmade from a recipe learned in France and served with little cornichons and grainy mustard, provides the end-of-the-week religious experience you'll be missing by skipping church. UPDATE: This location is now closed.
Undergrounds Coffeehaus
It's not really underground, but this tiny storefront might as well be, it's so damned hard to find. But once you do, owner Aileen Liptak will offer you everything from an iced chocolate cheesecake espresso to Turkish coffee to her own "Aileen Special." The comfy Williamsburg living room has free wi-fi with a purchase, and you can nibble on tater tots, buy the art off the wall, or read from any of the vintage paperbacks Aileen stocks. Every Thursday around 7, it's Board Game Night (with tater tots!). The gals seem to go for Scrabble while the guys crack open Risk. So the place has everything — except a credit-card machine. Sorry, cash only.
Meditating peacefully aside from the bustle of other, more frantic Wilton Manors hot spots sits One Tea Lounge. The owners play into the shotgun warehouse shape of the space by soaking the walls in deep crimson hues and dripping luxuriously colored tapestries from the ceiling, in turn creating a tranquil area where minutes slip by unnoticed. The clean lines of shelving behind the counter hold an apothecary of teas, blossoms, and herbs — each of which can be prescribed for a particular ailment or mood. And the staff of One Tea is more than eager to talk you through the hundreds of possible steeping permutations to correctly address your specific criteria. Do you need a little lift? Or just need to refocus to your task at hand? Let the tea doctors brew you a blend of mate and lavender, plop down onto a squishy couch, and wait for your tray of tea and honey to be delivered. Are you battling a tummy ache? Try something gentle and soothing, like a coupling of lemongrass and ginger to counteract all that chaos. The truly amazing thing sippers take with them as they leave the lounge is the knowledge that One's staff cares enough about them to spend an exorbitant amount of time talking them through to a $3 cup of tea. Who knows? Maybe if you drink enough, you'll reach the same enlightened level of patience. Yeah, right. We've seen you on 95.
Teas, Etc. is a teahouse only in the purest sense of the term. Nobody is going to offer you watercress sammies and petits fours here. There will be no leisurely afternoons tte-à-tte over a pot of Earl Grey. What Teas, Etc. does is sell tea — lots and lots of tea, with the fanatical devotion to regional variation and the rarest finds you'd expect from a wine seller or a gourmet cheese shop. Owner Beth Johnston threw over a lucrative career in mental health a couple of years ago to pursue her tea passions with a wonderful single-mindedness. She scours Asia in search of organic pinhead gunpowder from China and Japanese gen mai cha mixed with puffed rice and popcorn. She has carried back Tung Ting from Taiwan (a sweet jade oolong) and pu'erh tuo-cha (a tiny compressed bird's nest that unravels in your tea glass and lowers your cholesterol while you drink it) along with hundreds of other varieties of white, herbal, black, and rooibos teas, as well as beautiful teapots, Chinese wedding baskets, and drinking accessories. The store on Dixie Highway keeps willfully odd hours: Your chances of catching somebody there are about 50/50, so call ahead before visiting. You can also peruse their website and call in your order for pickup. Teas run anywhere from $15 to $50 per eight ounces and come with exact brewing instructions for a perfect cuppa.
Remember, being broke means never having to go Dumpster diving.A La Turca: Ground lamb kibbe, $6Beefeater Steak House: Empanadas, $1.50 eachThe Boulevard: French fries with cheese and truffle oil, $6Chocolada: Piece of strawberry shortcake, $2.99Delicias Peruanas: Corvina ceviche, $11.50Dolce Vita Gelato: Small dulce de leche gelato, $3.95La Piazza Pasta Cafe: Margarita pizza, $9.95O'Hara's Swing Street Bistro: Crock of onion soup, $4.50Rainbo Cafe: Grilled triple-cheese sandwich, $4.50 Spice Resto-Lounge: Black beans, $3; yellow rice, $3Universe Cafe: Universe meatballs, $6.50
Pizza Mia
Despite changing hands a couple of times over two decades, Pizza Mia has been serving the same menu in its cramped, narrow space — essentially a walk-in closet lined with tables and bad murals of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Coliseum. Nothing except an extra-large pie will cost you much over $10, and whatever you fancy will be served with a fresh, salty tossed salad with green olives and a basket of puffy rolls floating in garlic butter. But get there at lunchtime or before 9 p.m. if you want to dine in and enjoy your lasagna the way God intended it to be eaten: at a little table draped with a red-and-white-checked oil cloth. At these prices, the tasty and generous baked dishes (all $6.88 at lunch, $12.88 at dinner) are one of the few bargains in a town that's rapidly pricing us out. That means the chicken or eggplant parm, ravioli, and ziti — with just the right balance of sour and spice in the tomato sauce and the right proportion of cheese to noodle — will fill you up and out and keep your piggy bank full too.

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