THE GREEN MARKET, voted the #1 farmer’s market in America by the readers of USA Today (largest circulation of any newspaper in the States) is back in downtown West Palm Beach. Wander round the stalls with a cup of coffee from one of the vendors and see who is there and what is new. From experience it’s always a good idea to have some cash with you and take your own bag. It’s a great place to take guests or point them in that direction. For a really well informed visit, including lots of sampling, book the MORNINGS IN THE MARKET FOOD TOUR (book ahead as it sells out frequently) www.westpalmbeachfoodtour.com
Open until November 26th, the FOOD & FASHION EXHIBITION AT THE MUSEUM AT FIT, Manhattan. Am sorry to miss it but may be anyone nearby or who still hasn’t made the journey South to Florida may get the chance to pop in. The premise is the influence of food on fashion and there are over 80 exhibits from the likes of Chanel, Stella McCartney, Moschino and the Delvaux mini French Fries and Burger Handbags (which possibly is an item missing from your wardrobe!) www.fitnyc.edu
I shop sporadically at TRADER JOE’S (TJ’s for the rest of the article). I always enjoy the experience and usually come away with a product I couldn’t have found anywhere else – two that stand out recently are a mocha chocolate bar and zhoug, a spicy cilantro sauce or condiment which originated in Yemen – delicious. TJ’s was founded in 1967 and its owner, Joe Coulombe, made sure he knew every aspect of the business and strove for efficiency in all areas. However, what came over to the customer was a kind of nonchalance, a little hippy surfer atmosphere with happy employees wearing tropical shirts. TJ’s has a loyal following and understands its demographic – a well-educated person who has traveled, is well-informed and curious to try new products. The reasons they shop there are, in no particular order, because the prices are good (TJ’s sells many own brands and there is no middleman), the frozen food section has many interesting products (blends of vegetables as well as ready meals and some very tempting desserts), their novelty, niche and celebratory items – Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. – are much sought after. The selection of wines is both extensive and reasonably priced and, to top it off, you have the cheery staff and the small hometown market appeal. And this seems to have continued after TJ’s became part of Aldi Nord, the German, no frills supermarket chain. TJ’s also ranked No 1 for customer satisfaction in the grocery sector and came a joint Number 2 with Amazon for customer satisfaction in all retail sectors. This is despite the fact that they are not the largest in size or the cheapest, nor the most organic and they don’t have a big selection of the same product (according to a report, less choice can mean greater customer satisfaction) – what they have however is a unique appeal.
Hidden away in a commercial unit on Old Okeechobee Road (close to Grandview Market) is the mouth-watering KEY LIME TO HAPPINESS BAKERY selling home made pies and pie bites (mini pies) in such flavors as Classic Key Lime, Nutty Chocolate Banana Cheesecake, Lemon Blueberry Pie, Dutch Apple Pie and Funfetti Cheesecake. They also do a full range of Thanksgiving pies, Gender Reveal pie bites and some items are gluten free. The full size pies and boxes of pie bites (6 or 12 to a box and they can be assorted) MUST be ordered in advance online only (I can’t stress this too much). The bakery is open on Fridays and Saturdays for walk-in customers and you can purchase whatever is available that day (whatever is available will be delicious, I can attest to that!!). Key Lime to Happiness is a real asset to the area.
Now that I am a grandmother (so exciting!) I will occasionally be writing about food for babies, toddlers and children. It is a market I know little about but am keen to find out more. By pure coincidence, and at the just the right time, I read about ONCE UPON A FARM, a company which produces organic pouches suitable for infants of 6 months and up. Born in 2015 out of a need to provide nutritious, convenient and delicious food for the founder’s daughter, its products are currently sold in some 13,000 stores and Jennifer Garner is now a co-founder. In order to take advantage of the entire range it may be easier to shop online. Examples of flavors for 6 month olds – apple and sweet potato; apple, carrot, beet and ginger; apple, banana, spinach and avocado; strawberry, squash, coconut and vanilla. All the ingredients are carefully sourced from organic suppliers and are USDA Certified Organic and NON GMO Project verified. The company tests for over 400+ environmental and industrial toxins, including heavy metal. Ingredients are minimally processed, picked at peak ripeness and flash frozen. Once Upon a Farm gives back through its ‘A Million Meals Program’ which provides meals for food insecure children in America. Seems like a win win. www.onceuponafarmorganics.
The second best pizza restaurant in the world according to The 50 Top Pizza in the World 2023 listings (2 in Italy tied for first place) is UNA PIZZA NAPOLETANA located at 175 Orchard Street, NYC. Reservations are an absolute must (book through Resy) and the maximum number of people you can book for is 4. Check opening days and times. They make their dough fresh every day and once the dough has run out the restaurant closes. Here in Florida, the 25th best pizza in the world is served at O Munaciello on Biscayne Bay Boulevard, Miami. I am frequently in Miami so this is going on my restaurant list.
I had to order some PLASTIC GLASSES for an event recently and was thrilled with my find. The glasses looked quite like real cut crystal glasses, both the wine glasses and the champagne flutes. I have had issues with other purchases in the past – namely the fact that the stems fell off the bottom of the glass. These ones looked both elegant and sophisticated and fooled a guest or two. They are available from Party City and the brand name is Amscan.
I just tasted the most amazing cake ever at a friend’s house – truthfully, ever – the MOMOFUKU MILK BAR BIRTHDAY CAKE, inspired by the boxed vanilla funfetti cake invented by Pillsbury in 1989. It was shipped from NYC as, of yet, there are no locations in FL, though there are in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Boston, Las Vegas and Bellevue, WA (oh, please, please come to Miami!). It is a multi-layer vanilla cake with funfetti (multi-colored sprinkles) liberally scattered throughout the cake. The icing is really soft and smooth and vanilla-ery. The whole combination is just out of this world – somehow you have to try it once in your life or get an approximation by tasting their birthday cake ice cream which is available at various Whole Foods in Miami (I am taking my freezer bag on the train!).
You will have heard of Welsh Rarebit – it was a favorite of my father’s if he ever saw it on a menu. It is a traditional English ‘Savoury’ dish served at the end of a meal after dessert to cleanse the palate before port was served. However, you may not have heard of SCOTCH WOODCOCKoodcock – nothing to do with the bird of the same name. It is another popular savoury, even today, though I hadn’t heard of it until just now, and is rather delicious sounding – toast spread with anchovy paste or Patum Peperium (virtually the same thing) and topped with rich scrambled eggs made with cream. Alternatively, the scrambled eggs could be topped with anchovies and the toast just buttered. It makes a nice lightish lunch served with a green salad.
One of the most influential cooks of the last decade or so, at least in the UK, is OTTOLENGHI. He has single-handedly introduced cooks to ingredients like labneh, tahini, harissa paste, za’tar, pomegranate molasses, preserved lemons, black garlic (I now, at all times, have harissa paste, tahini and preserved lemon puree in my fridge). These feature frequently in his recipes which, while considered Mediterranean, go far further afield than my concept of Mediterranean, to include North Africa and the Middle East. Ottolenghi has a couple of stand alone restaurants and eat-in deli’s in London. The window displays of the food on offer are simply stunning.
SOUP is one of the easiest things to make, though you might not think so. At its most basic, soup can be made of sauteed onion (medium size), a potato (medium size baking potato), 5 oz. or so of veg. of choice and 3 cups of stock. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then puree. It is easy, quick to make and infallible and the resulting soup will be thick, filling and warming. Once you have the hang of that you can play around with the basics – add garlic or herbs, substitute a sweet potato or omit the potato altogether, add meat, pasta, pulses. The reason I make soup so often other than because it makes a great lunch and is full of goodness is mainly because I refuse to buy canned soups. They have incredible amounts of sodium in them – usually at least 20% and quite commonly over 30%. If you are short of inspiration google my soups.
PRODUCT OF THE MONTH – Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup
These have a real wow factor and can be used in many ways as they are not only attractive but also edible. The taste has been described as a mixture of raspberry and rhubarb and the texture is akin to a lychee. It is quite dramatic to put one in a glass of champagne and watch it unfurl. The flowers can be used as garnish on a dessert or as an addition to a cheese board. The syrup can be drizzled over desserts too or added to champagne or prosecco rather like a Kir Royale (do a taste test first to get the amount right and be aware that the syrup will thicken the drink a little). Makes an unusual hostess gift. Available at Amazon (US) and also at Lakeland if you are in the UK.
RESTAURANT OF THE MONTH – Cafe Via Flora, Palm Beach, FL
It was the perfect setting for dinner, dusk had just arrived and the trees were lit with fairy lights. We sat outside in a courtyard dotted with sculptures (just behind Worth Avenue). It was a very tranquil spot and then it came to me – there was no music – and it was also out of season so not too many other people – just a lovely, peaceful atmosphere and you could have been in Europe. The service was very polished as was the food. Some of the items on the menu were innovative, things I hadn’t tasted before – the stuffed dates wrapped in prosciutto with a little balsamic drizzle. Others were more common but cooked to perfection – I had a very thin chicken paillard (the thinnest I have ever seen) topped with an unusual salad – white and red watermelon salad, tomatoes, red onion and, I think a little greenery with croutons and a light dressing. My friend had salmon paillard topped with another type of salad, the other members of the party had a pasta bolognese with a lovely slow cooked sauce and chicken over ravioli – apparently chicken was very good. Affogato for dessert was a lovely light ending to a memorable meal. www.cafeflorapalmbeach.com
BOOK OF THE MONTH – The Gallery of Regrettable Foods by James Lileks
I chose this book because it is just so laughably awful – at least the photographs are, and they are real taken from 1950’s cook books. I can’t believe anyone could think of serving the recipes – not sure what they would taste like but the photographs are majorly off putting. One chapter is titled ‘Cooking with 7Up! Lots of 1950’s nostalgia and guaranteed to make you laugh or wince. Coffee table book, maybe, or to put on your guest’s bedside table. In the UK it would definitely be a ‘loo’ book. Gift worthy. Available from Amazon and several second hand book sites. P.S. It’s worth a visit to the author’s website – www.lileks.com for more amusing nostalgia from days gone by along the line of Interior Desecrations – bad interior design from the 60’s and 70’s!
MOVIE OF THE MONTH – Uncorked
I read Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker and this movie is a similar – the long and arduous journey of becoming a Master Sommelier, which is a very prestigious achievement and a very hard thing to achieve. The film is clicheed but also quite heart warming – black son whose father wants him to take over the family BBQ restaurant and thinks that his son is trying to go above his station in life. Son is determined and encouraged by his mother who scrapes together the money for him to spend a semester in Paris. Mother gets ill and dies, son returns from Paris. Over time father and son grow closer and respect each other for who they are and then (I won’t spoil the ending for you).
RECIPE OF THE MONTH – Pork with Mushrooms and Peas
Quick and simple. For the pork I used a lean tenderloin which I cut into slices about half an inch thick and then cut each slice into quarters. Use mushroom if you can – Pacific brand sells it in a carton, Kallo makes a gluten free stock cube (easily available in the UK) and Better Than Bouillon does a powder. I served it over polenta.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion – diced
1 large clove of garlic – grated
1 pork tenderloin – sliced into 1/2 inch slices then quartered
8 oz. sliced baby bella mushrooms
6 oz. frozen peas
1 cup of mushroom or chicken broth (add more if needed)
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a Dutch oven/Le Creuset casserole dish. When nice and hot tip in the onion and let soften and brown, then add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Remove and put aside.
Pour in the second tbsp. of oil and when sizzling add the pork pieces and sear on all sides.
Tip the onion mixture back into the pan, pour in the broth, add the mushrooms and peas bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes.