Beverly Jacobs, Chef/Owner of Bamboo Fire Cafe, Dishes on the Six Best Things She Ever Ate

Beverly Jacobs is well-known among South Florida chow hounders as the chef/owner of Bamboo Fire Cafe, a cozy, home-style Caribbean restaurant in downtown Delray Beach. In addition to cooking some of the finest, made-to-order island food you'll find in these parts, Jacobs is an inveterate foodie herself. Eat at her five-table restaurant and Beverly will pop out of the kitchen throughout the meal to chat with you, especially about the food she loves. After my first visit to Jacobs' restaurant, I sat and talked with her for more than an hour, dishing on everything from the cuisine of her native Guyana to her obsession with Japanese takuyaki. 

Seeing as Jacobs has such a wealth of food experience, we invited her to share some of it with Clean Plate Charlie readers. The result is kind of like that Food Network TV show The Best Thing I Ever Ate. She's come up with a list of six of the best dishes she's ever tried. All of them make my mouth water -- and make me want to visit Bamboo Fire again soon too.  

1. Prawns in spicy salt: "This was a few weeks ago," says Jacobs via email, "in a Chinese restaurant in Guyana, South America. The 'prawns' aren't really prawns but large shrimp which are sauteed in the shell with tons of hot peppers, onions, garlic, and the salt. It could have been effects of the few shots of tequila followed by cold Banks beer to quench the heat, but I literally put my husband in a chokehold to wrest the few remaining shri... I mean 'prawns' from his greedy clutches."

2. Corn soup: "This was in a little place in downtown Miami called Martini-28. It's run by a husband-and-wife duo. He cooks, and she works the front of the house. I'm kind of partial to places run by husband-and-wife duos, but the corn soup was delicious, creamy, rich, and studded with fresh kernels of corn. Just the way corn soup should be -- simple, filling, satisfying comfort-food."

3. Red snapper with tostones: "Actually this is one of my best meals ever. It was 8:30 in the morning, and I had just landed on Corn Island, Nicaragua, after having missed my connection the night before." I ended up overnighting in a Best Western in Managua (another story). Anyway, they took me to this glorious oversized beach shack/palapa thingy restaurant. I could not order just pancakes or toast. Instead, I got this huge fried fish with tostones. The rest is history."

4. Fresh shucked oysters from Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, D.C.: "The 'Wharf' is not a fancy place, but there's nothing like it in Florida that I know of. It's a bunch of barges permanently moored in place on the Potomac with vendors offering fresh seafood, including renowned Maryland blue crab cooked to order and bushels of shrimp and fish. Anyway, the oysters are cheap and fresh. A little splash of hot sauce and/or lemon and it's usually a race to eat as much as you can before they're finished. I sauce them depending on my mood. Sometimes they're great plain with just the oyster liquor."

5. Roast pork with crispy skin: "Whenever I'm in the neighborhood, I stop in at Vinh Hung in Cocoplum Plaza in West Palm Beach," says Jacobs. "It's just a little market with Asian and Vietnamese products, but they also do a carryout with great banh mi sandwiches and pho. I don't know if the pork is cooked on the premises, but it is always fresh. I love the clean porky taste, and the crisp skin is chewy but tender. It goes fast, so you have to get there early."

6. Scorched conch: "A meal at Potter's Cay was the perfect end to a weeklong Christmas vacation in Nassau, Bahamas. I had conch pretty much every day in some form or other but waited until the very last day to order the scorched conch. The fresh conch is plucked from its holding place in the water, extracted from the shell, and washed with lime juice. It's then served cut up with onions, lime juice, and hot peppers. No tomatoes or bell peppers to adulterate the taste here. Just pure conch."

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
John Linn