Category Archives: Food

How I Planned a 250-Person Party

Since I started at my job last year, I’ve worn many hats around the office.  My official title, the one printed on my business cards, says that I’m a search marketing specialist, but at times I also do the work of a copywriter, project manager, publicist and event planner.  Planning events for the company has been one of my favorite things to do, and I just recently pulled off my biggest one yet.

On March 1, BMI Elite celebrated its third birthday with a big party and open house of our new Boca Raton office.  I was in charge of making everything happen, from getting invitations created to hiring everyone that we would need to make the party a success.

The first thing I did was make a huge list of everything I needed to plan for. There’s the obvious: i.e. food, drinks, and cake.  But then there’s plates, cups, silverware and serving utensils for the food, drinks and cake.  And then tables to put this stuff on, as well as linens and napkins for the tables.  I tried to think of every little possible thing and write it all down.  Once I made a list of everything that we would need, I called around to local caterers, bar services, party rental companies, florists and more to get estimates so I could compare prices.  I am going to break the rest of this article up into sections based on how many different companies I hired, and I will share my experience with them and everything I learned about party planning.

Food & Drinks

I figured that this was going to be the biggest thing to plan for so I got to it first.  I called around to every local caterer and bar company in the area before my boss told me about Empire Pizza, which had come highly recommended to him by a family member.  I called them up, spoke with Sandy Levy and immediately felt comfortable with her.  Unlike some of the people I spoke with from the other catering companies, Sandy seemed genuine and calm.  She knew her stuff and how to sell it, but she wasn’t pushy or aggressive in any way.  She also informed me that Empire Pizza could handle the open bar as well, which was a huge plus.

Empire Pizza has a restaurant near Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, so I made a reservation for me and my boss to go for a tasting and to meet with Sandy in person.  The food was delicious and her prices were unbeatable.  But best of all, I trusted Sandy to do a great job with our party.  She was so full of ideas and paid so much attention to small details that make a big difference.  I was sold.

As part of the deal that we made with Sandy, we had to provide our own alcohol and soda mixers.  Empire Pizza provided the juice mixers, garnishes, and little bar tools.  For our part, we went to Costco and loaded up on liquor, wine, beer and champagne.  In all, I’d estimate that we spent about $2500 there.

The night of the party couldn’t have gone smoother when it came to the food and drinks.  Sandy and her team of five servers/bartenders did an incredible job and our guests left full, drunk and happy.  If I ever need to hire a caterer again, I’m definitely calling Sandy.

Furniture & Glassware

Figuring out what I needed to order from the party rental company was probably the hardest thing to plan for.  The list changed so many times, but Better Party Rentals was patient and efficient.

After I hired Empire Pizza and figured out what they do not provide, I was to make a list for Better Party Rentals.  In all, we ended up renting high top tables, tables for the bar, linens for all tables, three types of glassware, a red carpet, and coolers.  They delivered the goods the day before the party and picked it up the day after.

Flowers

We didn’t go too crazy with flowers, but we wanted something pretty to put on some of the tables.  Originally we were going to get little arrangements for each of the 12 high tops, but after we increased the high top amount to 20 tables I flowersscratched that idea.  It would be too expensive, and I didn’t want it to look like flower overkill.  We ended up getting six medium-sized flower arrangements to put on the coffee tables throughout the office and one big arrangement for the lobby.

The florist I hired was Field of Flowers of Boca Raton.  They do beautiful work for affordable prices- the smaller arrangements, called the Classic Collection A, were just $36.95 each.  They delivered the flowers on time the morning of the event and I received a lot of compliments about them.

The (major) problem with Field of Flowers is that that almost NEVER answer their phone.  I’ve probably called them about 40 times, and they’ve answered about three.  This is SO frustrating, and I have actually moved on and used other florists because of this on other occasions.  Field of Flowers, if you are reading this, ANSWER YOUR DAMN PHONE!  I guarantee that you are losing a ton of flowers2business (not just mine) as a result of not picking up the phone.

Cake & Balloons

Publix got some extra business as a result of Jeanette, their event planner’s upselling efforts.  After I ordered a cake, she sent an email reminding me that Publix could also provide balloons, cold soda, deli platters, etc. She got to me right as I was contemplating whether to attempt transporting blown-up latex balloons in my car or buying a helium tank and doing it myself in the office.

For about $150 Publix blew up 100 latex balloons in the colors of my choice and delivered them right to the office.  It was perfect.

Backdrop/Step & Repeat

Every big party has one disaster, right?  For me, this is where it happened.

Since we were getting the red carpet, we decided that we needed a backdrop where everyone could be photographed as they entered the party.  I hired CB Signs because they offered me the best deal on an 8’ x 9’ step and repeat, also known as the white banner with the company’s logos all across it.

So I ordered this banner through CB Signs and was told that it would be ready a few days before the party.  Little did I know that they outsourced it from a company in Minneapolis, and that this company would mail the wrong banner to CB Signs just hours before my party.  When Christine called to tell me this, the correct banner was lost in UPS and nowhere to be found.

Christine apologized a million times and swore that they had never had this problem before, and promised to do everything she could to find our backdrop.  The night before the party, our backdrop was located five hours away in Jacksonville.  I told her to call me the minute she received it.

The next morning, I called CB Signs about 15 times before finally just getting in my car and driving to their office.  When I got there, the “Out to lunch” sign was on the door.  Christine returned about 15 minutes later and smiled when I introduced myself.

“You’re going to love this story,” she told me.  I’m glad she said that immediately because I was about to kill her.

Apparently she had spent the whole morning having a new banner hand made for me locally.  Right as that was finished, UPS showed up with the original one. Although she didn’t call me and tell me that any of this was happening, I appreciate her efforts and dedication to getting the job done. I also walked away with two banners that day which was nice.

Me and some of my girls on the red carpet

DJ

The DJ was the one thing I didn’t need to worry about because he was the brother of one of our employees and a good friend of my boss.  One less thing to worry about J

Magician

My boss insisted on hiring a magician to entertain our guests.  I hired a local named Gary Goodman, who I was told was one of the best in the area.  I was running around like a crazy person for most of the party, so I did not get a chance to catch his act, but I heard good things from those who did.

Gary Goodman working his magic

Photographer

The photos were taken by Sam Laskey, a freelance photographer who was a friend of my co-worker.

Jeremy and I having a good time at the party

Jeremy and I having a good time at the party

suzy sasha dan

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My New Food Blog

As you may or may not have noticed from some of my other blog posts in the past, I love food.  I love it so much that I decided to start another blog devoted to giving my recommendations of the best restaurants in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County (and maybe occasionally others when I go on vacation).

On this site, which I’ve named Wine Me, Dine Me, South Florida, I have a list of some of my favorite restaurants in each county for every price range.  I’ve also already got a few articles up about the following topics and I will continue to add more as I grow the site.

Cheap Eats in South Beach

Fish Shack in Pompano Beach

Bash Wine Cafe and Catering in Sunrise

Best Happy Hours in Delray Beach

To check out the articles, just click on the links and if this blog interests you, please like and follow it!

Thanks!

Casey

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The Rebel House

Last Friday night Jeremy and I checked out Rebel House, a gastropub-style restaurant in Boca Raton, and really enjoyed it.  The menu is creative and exciting and the environment is upbeat and fun. Located on the north side of Palmetto Park Road just south of Mizner Park, it’s definitely not your grandma’s Boca restaurant.  Instead, I felt like I was at a very cool party with delicious food and drinks.  The staff of tattooed hipsters played their alternative-rock music loudly, but it was still possible to have a conversation and hear each other.  It’s a good spot to bring a date or get together with a group of friends.

When we arrived around 9:15 p.m., the place was packed.  Luckily we made a reservation for 9:30, so we didn’t have to wait too long.  I strongly recommend making a reservation if you wish to go and actually get a table on a weekend night.

Before I get to the food, I must first rave about the cocktails.  Before being seated at our table, we went to the bar for a drink.  The bartenders were slammed when we got there, but that was fine because it gave us a few minutes to go over the drink menu.  I guess the bartender felt bad about keeping us waiting, because when he did greet us he poured us a sample of the Gonzo Berry, a vodka drink with muddled strawberries, lemon and simple syrup.  It was tasty, but a little too sweet for me.  I ordered the Sweet Revenge, a mix of vodka, fresh watermelon juice, simple syrup and some jalapeno that made it really spicy.  It was so delicious that I ended up ordering another one with dinner.   Jeremy tried the Rebel House’s take on the Old Fashioned- the Bee Sting, which mixes bourbon with honey, a sprig of rosemary and a hint of jalapeno.

The food is just as creative and great as the drinks with the way the ingredients are cleverly mixed.  Something as simple as guacamole had chunks of lump crab added to it and was served with three types of chips.  The beet salad, mixed with arugula, candied pecans and grapes, came with these fried little nuggets of hot brie that oozed out of them.  Drizzled over the salad, it was delicious.

My personal favorite menu item was the Spinach & 4 Onion Dip.  If spinach dip and French onion soup got together and had a baby, this would be it.  Mixed with gruyere and parmesan cheeses, topped with a pipperade and served with garlic toast, it was absolutely delicious.

The service was a bit slow, but our server was very friendly and helpful with food recommendations.  As I mentioned before, the place was packed so I understand that she was busy. Before leaving, I knew that I’d want to come back for more someday, so I asked her about happy hour.  The good news is that they have one on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and it cuts the price of well drinks to $4.  The bad news is that there’s no food included during happy hour.

All in all, I really liked the Rebel House.  Happy hour or not, I will definitely be back for more Sweet Revenges and to try more items off the menu.

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Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed With Blue Cheese

Aside from being able to brew fresh tea and carefully follow each step of extremely simple recipes, I have little to no skills in the kitchen.  I’m great at cleaning up after Jeremy cooks for me, but when it comes to cooking, I am his opposite.  He can spend hours in the kitchen just daydreaming and playing around with ingredients, only to come up with a fantastic meal as a result.  Making it up as I go along never seems to work out for me, which is why I have come up with a few safe guidelines and I stick to them.

Over the years, while making food for others, I’ve found that there are ways to hide the fact that I’m not such a great cook.  My advice is to pick a simple dish that’s hard to mess up, and then throw in a fancy ingredient or two.  A traditional salsa with diced strawberries and kiwi mixed in.  Lobster mac and cheese.  I once added two drops of truffle oil to a bowl of honey on a fruit and cheese plate and it was a huge hit.

When cooking to impress I also often include bacon in the dish, even though I haven’t eaten pork in over 18 years.  People LOVE bacon, and as long as that’s cooked crispy and perfect, they never seem to care or talk about the rest.

Last week for Thanksgiving I made bacon wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese for Jeremy’s family. They came out great and they were extremely easy to make.

To get started, here’s what you need:

  • A container of dates
  • A pack of bacon.  I recommend thick, center-cut style.
  • Crumbled blue cheese (gorgonzola or goat cheese also works if that’s what you prefer)
  • Toothpicks
  • A baking sheet

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Slice the date open a little but don’t cut it in half.

3. Stuff the date with cheese.  I use a small spoon or a cheese knife to do this.

4. Close the date and wrap with about 1/3 of a slice of bacon, enough to go around.

5. Secure it with a toothpick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Put in the oven for about 25-35 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy.  I recommend turning them over about halfway through.

7. After they’re done baking, put them on some sheets of paper towel – that helps soak up some of the bacon grease.

8. Serve hot and enjoy!

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9 People You Become When You’re Drunk

You may not be all of these every time you drink, and you may be some more often than others, but you are guaranteed to be all of these at least once.

1. The Talker

You have so much to talk about, it’s crazy. There are just so many people you want to become best friends with by harassing them with your voice. That random person next to you at the bar — why not tell them all about that crush you have that you’re secretly hoping to sleep with later tonight while you wait for your drinks? Oh, and you know all those humiliating, supposed-to-be-private things you wouldn’t ever dream of letting another human being know? TIME TO TALK ABOUT THEM AT TOP VOLUME. Is there any reason you shouldn’t be talking about these things? No! You’ve got some serious self-loathing and remorse to agonize over in the morning while you replay every conversation in your mind over your bowl of cereal. Why would you deny yourself that privilege?

2. Tears McGee

There is just so much emotion in the world right now and it’s all being crammed, like some metaphysical funnel, through your tear ducts. Your friend is so pretty it makes you want to cry. This music is so good and is cutting through your heart like an infomercial knife through a series of vegetables — time to weep silently as you rock back and forth with your eyes closed. Someone said something innocuous that you misinterpreted as an insult? Why not sob in their general direction in between outbursts of “Why do you hate me though!?!” It’ll be great.

3. Dancing Machine

No matter what comes on next — anything from “Thriller” to “The Beautiful People” to “The Cupid Shuffle” — is going to cause you to yell like a dog that’s just been stepped on about how OH MY GOD THIS IS MY SONG!!! Is this really your song? Come on, no it’s not. It’s just your song right now because you’re ready to hold your glass up above your head and wave it around as it occasionally sloshes over the side, wiggling your body back and forth to the music. You wanna make up steps. You wanna do the Electric Slide to songs that are not “The Electric Slide.” It’s just time to move to the point that your face hurts, until you feel like you’re in the middle of some kind of Pentecostal revival tent, dancing with Jesus himself.

4. The Fighter

“What the fuck did you just say, bitch?” It’s time to misconstrue everything you see/hear as a personal attack until you’re essentially trying to slap everyone within a 15-foot radius in the face for looking at you with bitch eyes. It doesn’t matter what they actually said. It doesn’t matter if it’s not worth arguing over. It doesn’t matter if they could clearly take you in a fair fight. What matters is that someone insulted your honor, or the honor of your ancestors, and you have to defend it. You slap them with your drunk-ass glove, and you demand satisfaction.

5. Sex Wizard

Have you ever noticed how amazing strangers feel? Drunk You has! Drunk You’s favorite hobby is deciding suddenly that they are in the mood to rub up on people and doing just that. You want to kiss your friends — look at how kissable their faces are! You want to make out with that hottie on the dance floor, what’s stopping you? The Sex Wizard has but one mission in life, and it’s to make very special friends with everyone. God forbid someone actually has to go home and have messy Sex Wizard sex with you — try not to break any appendages while you flop incoherently all over each other while making noises Sober You would find nauseating.

6. The Disappearing Act

Get ready to lose things you didn’t previously consider possible to lose, including yourself. Your phone, your wallet, your keys, your jacket, your purse, your pants — everything is fair game. One minute you’re having an awesome time dancing the night away to brostep, the next you’re yelling at people to “get the hell out of the way” while you scour the floor for a credit card that just magically popped out of your back pocket. Hell hath no fury like a drunk person looking for something they lost. On one hand, they have limited coherence as to how they’re actually going to search various areas — on the other, they will essentially tip over a car in their frenzy to get to it. The Disappearing Act is a force to be reckoned with.

7. “Feed Me, Seymour”

At a certain point, everything in the entire world will magically melt away and be reduced to its essential components: your mouth and a box of chicken nuggets. Or pizza. Or a gyro. Essentially anything that Paula Deen would consider an appropriate before-dinner snack is on your menu — all things deep-fried and cheese-smothered is your new best friend. There will even come a moment where you start to run through the increasingly absurd list of things you would do to get to a Taco Bell. “All we have to do is take a 45-minute cab to the 24-hour drive-thru one city over, and we’re golden.” Pro tip: Drunk You would definitely take that cab, and would weep tears of joy whilst inhaling burritos and sipping T. Bell-exclusive Baja Blast Mountain Dew.

8. Mr. Moneybags

Who wants another shot? It’s on you! Someone need help with their down payment on a new car? Mr. Moneybags has you covered! There is nothing that Generous Mr. Moneybags wouldn’t do for friends, for acquaintances, for friends of friends, or for random strangers at the bar. We shouldn’t let something as insignificant as “a budget” come between you and a good time. In fact, how about a round for the whole group? You have the cash! Spoiler alert: You do not have the cash.

9. The Mess

It’s the end of the night. You might not know it yet, but it’s definitely the end. You’re wobbling around and combining every negative quality of the Drunk Characters you could possibly be. You lost your sweater, you have no money left, you’re hungry, you’re crying, you’re yelling at strangers — it’s time for you to pack it up and go home. It doesn’t matter how many times you insist that you’re perfectly fine, we all know you’re not even close to being okay. We all have moments like this, accept that it’s your turn and go curl up in your bed with your shoes and coat still on, like an adult.

I didn’t write this, but I wish I did because it’s well said and pretty true.  It was actually written by Chelsea Fagan, and you can check out her page here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/9-people-you-become-when-youre-drunk/#6OMvDDgxp316fmCA.99

Who do you become after a few cocktails?  Let us know in a comment!

 

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My South Florida Stay-Cation

After spending my last two weekends away in Pittsburgh (one for business, one for fun), it felt good to stay local this weekend.  I didn’t end up sitting on the couch and doing nothing except have a big Dexter marathon like I originally planned; instead I had a good time getting out, eating and enjoying the simple things in my native South Florida.

Friday evening after work, I went to one of my favorite happy hours- a 90-minute vinyasa flow class at Yoga Fox in Delray Beach.  After yoga, Jeremy and I decided to go out for dinner and I was set on trying something new.  We ended up at Fish Shack in Pompano Beach, a restaurant that was recommended to us by a friend.  If she had never checked in and posted an awesome review of it on Facebook, I would’ve never known the place existed.  It’s a little hole in the wall, tucked away in a residential neighborhood in an old, beat-up plaza next door to a convenience store.  If I hadn’t been forewarned about what it looks like on the outside, I’m not sure I would have gone in.

Fish Shack may be a little sketchy on the outside, but I’m really glad we went in because the food was incredible.  The menu mostly consists of local, fresh seafood dishes at extremely reasonable prices.  We ordered buffalo shrimp, fried Ipswich clams and the catch of the day, a red snapper.  At our server’s recommendation, we got it garlic butter-style lightly blackened.  Everything was fresh and delicious, and it only came to about $46.  That same meal would have easily cost $100 in downtown Delray Beach.  I am now a big fan of Fish Shack and I’m looking forward to going back and trying the rest of the items on the menu.

Saturday morning was the kickoff to this season’s Delray Beach Green Market, which is now held in Old School Square each week.  Jeremy came home with two baskets full of fresh local produce, and we had the most incredible brunch- cinnamon buns and Caprese sandwiches of fresh bread, basil, Roma tomatoes and handcrafted burrata mozzarella.

Last Saturday night was also the second Saturday of the month, which means that it was Art Walk in the Wynwood district of Miami.  Each month thousands of people come to Wynwood for a night of art, food, drinks and music in the streets.  The galleries and local businesses stay open later than usual, and dozens of food trucks are parked in a huge lot near NW 21st Street and NW 2nd Avenue. I personally go because I enjoy sampling lots of little snacks from the trucks (unfortunately I have yet to see more than one food truck in Delray at a time) and being inspired by all of the incredible art, both in the galleries and on the streets.  The people-watching is pretty intellectually stimulating as well.

Before heading to Wynwood, Jeremy and I stopped by one of my old stomping grounds, Lincoln Road. I went to “Lincoln” almost daily for the five years that I lived in South Beach and I really miss it sometimes. It felt great to visit one of my favorite book stores/ happy places in the world, Taschen, and to eat the sweet and spicy edamame from Doraku that I always seem to crave.  While I don’t really miss living in Miami, I miss the little things like that.  My friend Nadia, who was my first roommate in Miami, also happened to be in town for the weekend (she now lives in Orlando) and she met us at Doraku.  It was nice to sip lychee martinis just like old times and catch up with her.

Maybe it was the all the food I ate, or maybe it was the lychee martini (most likely the martini), but I did not want to wake up early on Sunday morning at all.  I had originally wanted to so I could join and support Jeremy for part of his long run.  He’s currently training for the New York City marathon, and he wakes up around 4 a.m. every Sunday to do his long run of the week along A1A.  Last week he ran 20 miles!  Instead I slept until 9:30, went to the gym and put the treadmill on the 5k setting.  Once I got warmed up, I ran the 5k with no problem, and kept running until I had gone six miles.  Not too bad for waking up feeling rough.

The rest of my Sunday was spent just taking it easy.  Jer and I went to visit my grandfather and have dinner with him, and then over to visit his grandmother.  When we got home I finally had my Dexter marathon on the couch, went to bed early and started my week off feeling fantastic.  Here’s to a great and productive week!

Jeremy after running 20 miles!

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Miami Spice Kicks Off Tomorrow!

Since it ended last year, I have waited 11 long months for Miami Spice to return.  Restaurant owners and employees and foodies like me are so excited that the big day has almost arrived.

Miami Spice, which kicks off tomorrow, August 1, is arguably the best thing that happens in the city during the long, hot summer and is a win, win for both restaurants and their customers.  It gives food lovers a chance to dine at some of the city’s finest restaurants to enjoy deeply discounted, three-course, pre-fixe lunch and dinner menus for the months of August and September.  In turn, it gives restaurants the opportunity to fill empty seats during their slowest months of the year and make some money.

Due to the culinary celebration’s popularity and success it is now in its 11th year and continues to grow.  Last year a total of more than 158,000 Miami Spice meals were served and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, which organizes the event, expects that number to be greater this year due to an expanded format, a still-growing list of participating restaurants, media and marketing partnerships and other special city-wide summer promotions that overlap Miami Spice.

A record-breaking 166 participating restaurants are on the line-up this year, with over 50 of them being new to the list.  Part of the reason for so many new restaurants is that a second, more affordable pricing option has been added to Miami Spice.  In addition to some of Miami’s fanciest fine dining restaurants featuring $23 lunch menus and $39 dinner menus, there is now more casual, but still great, restaurants offering $19 lunch menus and $33 dinner menus (these prices don’t include tax and gratuities).

No matter where you choose to dine, a Miami Spice meal consists of a choice of an appetizer, entrée and dessert, offering a discount of 30-60 percent off the regular value.  In addition to discounted food menus, the Miami Spice website features some special offers on happy hour, wine and hotel packages.  It’s a great opportunity to experience the city and try out all those restaurants that you’ve been tempted to try.

Last year during Spice I checked out Red The Steakhouse, Hakkasan, Ortanique On The Mile, City Hall, Mercadito, Smith & Wollensky and Phillipe Chow.  All of them are back on the list of participating restaurants this year, and with the exception of Philippe Chow I recommend them all.

The reason I cannot recommend Philippe Chow has nothing to do with the Miami Spice menu specifically.  I have eaten there four times and never been thrilled about anything I have tried there.  Everything is overly salty and greasy, yet still blah, and even with a discounted menu I don’t find the food to be worth the price.

My personal favorite was Red The Steakhouse, who switches up their menu each week in an effort to attract newcomers and reward regulars.  Last year they had a week of the “classic” menu favorites, followed by a seafood, pasta and Wagyu beef week.

Not all of the participating restaurants are open during the day, but Ortanique and City Hall are great lunch spots.

The places that I am most excited to check out this year are Zuma, Scarpetta and newcomers Egg & Dart, The Dining Room and The Dutch.

Where do you plan on eating during Miami Spice?

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Eat like Its $19.99!

IN DOWNTOWN DELRAY BEACH

I am all for trying to save a few bucks here and there.  Downtown Delray Beach offers some really good restaurants, but in order to eat at a majority of them it will cost you.  While I consider myself a true foodie who does not mind spending a pretty penny on a delicious meal, I also realize that it’s still possible to eat well for a better price.  I’ve already shared my favorite happy hour spots in downtown Delray Beach.  Now here are a few of my favorite places where it is possible for two people to fill up for $20 or less during the other hours of the day (this does not include drinks, tax and gratuity).

Mellow Mushroom- A medium pizza, which ranges from $17.79 to $21.49 is more than enough for two people.  We always end up boxing up what we can’t finish and eating it for lunch the next day.  In addition to ridiculously good pizza, Mellow Mushroom also has a great selection of hoagies and salads.  Both come in half or whole size portions for about $6 or $9, which make it easy to mix and match if you choose.

Mellow Mushroom is located at 25 SE 6th Ave.; (561) 330-3040

Senor Burrito- Everything comes in huge, sharing-sized portions here.  My boyfriend and I used to order our own entrees, but there was always so much to box up.  I love the salad but the leftovers turn into a soggy mess before I can finish it.  Now when we go we usually order a side of guacamole ($4.50) to go with the warm tortilla chips and salsa and we split the salad with steak ($8.75) or mahi-mahi ($9.25).  Jeremy is a huge fan of Senor Burrito’s homemade flan ($4.50) so we usually end with that.  It’s the perfect amount of food.

Senor Burrito is located at 142 SE 6th Ave.;(561) 278-5757

Granger’s Bar & Grill- This is my favorite little hole-in-the-wall spot to go for good comfort food.  Granger’s has been around for a long time and has that charming old-diner feel to it.  A majority of the food is homemade and it’s always served fresh and in large portions, making it another great spot to share.  We usually start off with an order of the buffalo-style shrimp (they’re $9 and absolutely addicting) or some chili ($3.75 for a good-sized cup or $7.25 for a huge bowl).  The entrees range from $7 to $14.  My personal favorites are the grilled chicken and shrimp caesar salad and the Cajun chicken Philly.  I have also heard rave reviews about the mile-high meatloaf that is served on Saturdays and the smoked BBQ ribs that are served on Wednesdays.

Granger’s is located at 215 NE 6th Ave.; (561) 276-7881

Green Owl- The patio at The Green Owl is a great place to sit outside on the Ave. for an affordable breakfast, lunch or even dinner when it’s open late during season.  Breakfast can be as cheap as $2.50 for an egg and toast or $6.25 for the “Big Breakfast,” which includes three eggs, two strips of bacon, one sausage link and a choice of home fries or grits and a hotcake or toast.  The lunch plates and sandwiches cost from $4.95 to $6.95 and from the months of December- April the restaurant extends their hours to serve dinner.  They have nightly specials and encourage guests to “BYOB.”  The best part of that is that there’s no cork fee!

The Green Owl is located at 330 E Atlantic Ave.; (561) 272-7766

Vic & Angelo’s- A dinner date here is not going to be cheap if you order from a majority of the menu, but the specialty pizzas are huge, affordable and delicious.  The prices range from $14.95 to $20.95, and for about $2 each you can add on toppings including caramelized onions, meatballs, artichokes and prosciutto di parma.  My personal favorites are the Mulberry Street, Grand Street and Truffle & Wild Mushrooms pizzas.

Vic & Angelo’s is located at 290 East Atlantic Avenue; (561) 278-9570

BurgerFi- All natural burgers range from $6 to $10 and a hotdog will cost you around $4.  My recommendation for two people is to get two burgers or hotdogs (or one of each) and to split a large order of fries with chili and cheese ($6) or parmesan cheese and herbs ($5).  Also worth mentioning is the frozen custard shakes and malts, and sundaes.  They’re about $5 to $7 and are absolutely delicious.

BurgerFi is located at 6 South Ocean Blvd.; (561) 278-9590

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If You’re Going to Jamaica

Jamaica is one of the most beautiful places I have been.  From the beach sunsets to the lush forests to the bright culture, color is everywhere you look.  Add some reggae music and spicy jerk food and it’s sure to be one of the best vacations you’ll ever take.

I went to the northwest coast last May with two of my girlfriends.  It’s only an hour and twenty minute plane ride from Miami, and even the flight is beautiful.  Our plane flew low enough the entire time that we were able to look down and see the beaches of Cuba and the reefs below the crystal clear water.

When we got there, we took a 45-minute shuttle ride to our resort in Lucea, which is located between Montego Bay and Negril.  Our resort was the biggest in the area- it was literally the size of a small town.  We could’ve went the entire trip without even leaving, but after exploring for about an hour I knew I needed to get out of that Americanized resort and experience real Jamaica.  We went to the lobby where the cab drivers hang out and met Locke, a local who seemed to know where all the spots to be were.  He told us that for a total of $75 a day he would drive us around in his cab and show us the island.

It was possibly the best $25 a day I have ever spent.  Locke picked us up each morning around 9 a.m. and would bring us back after we had watched the sun set somewhere.  He took us everywhere we wanted to go, plus some of the best little spots to eat, drink and shop that only the locals know about.  I highly recommend finding a legit local chauffer if you want to do those things.  We loved Locke!

Here are my other thoughts and recommendations on what to do and see in Jamaica.

-Eat at the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants.  They will most likely have the best food.

-I drank tap water the whole time I was there and did not get sick.

-Eat jerk everything

-Eat curried everything

-Eat the rum cake

-If you are driving, be careful.  The roads are narrow, steep and scary.

-As with most second and third world countries, there is a chicken and stray dog problem.  They are everywhere and often end up as road-kill.  Once again, drive carefully.

-Stop and check out some of the little shacks along the roads.  Some are not much bigger than a port-a-potty, but it’s a great way to buy unique souvenirs and meet some locals.  Most also sell coconuts and will crack them open for you.  Fresh coconut water!

-Check out the Rasta shacks.

Negril

-Go to Rick’s.  Jump off the cliffs!

-For a little cash the locals will climb really high and do some pretty awesome jumps/dives.

-Next to Rick’s is also a little underwater cave that you can explore.  It’s not too big and only takes about 15 minutes.  Ask a local.

-Negril is where some of the best nightlife is.  But it’s a little sketchy at night so be careful.

Montego Bay

-Drive about 35 minutes up into the mountains to Jamaica Zipline Adventure Tours.  They have the longest zipline in the Caribbean there.

-If you’re going to go zip lining there, I recommend doing it with a small group (don’t go through the hotel).  We were the only appointment that afternoon, so had the staff’s undivided attention.  They took us on an outside hike to show us some goats and a weed farm and made a pit-stop to pick, cut and eat some fresh mango and pineapple.

-If you want to do the touristy thing, Margaritaville is here and it’s on a street full of souvenir shops.

-At the end of the street is a beautiful place to watch the sunset (see below).

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The Best Happy Hours in Delray Beach

Buddha Sky Bar is my ultimate favorite.  I try to take it in as much as possible during the summer, because in season it’s nearly impossible to get a spot to sit.  Unlike most other spots on the Ave, during the busy winter months happy hour really is only an hour, from 5 to 6 p.m.  It is extended until 7 p.m. during the summer.  Keep in mind though that it’s only open Wednesday-Sunday in the summer.

All of the food is fresh and delicious at Buddha Sky Bar.  I’ve been many times and tried a majority of the menu, and I have yet to have something that wasn’t incredible.  Some of the portions are on the small side and at regular price the food is expensive, but it’s completely reasonable at happy hour.  Half off sushi, appetizers, dim sum and select drinks.  My personal favorites are the Handsome Rob roll (pictured below), miso cod skewers, Wagyu-beef skewers, Peruvian-style ceviche and the Shiso Zen Passion cocktail.  The service is friendly and efficient and the ambiance is great.  I love this place because it never fails to make me happy.

Buddha Sky Bar is located at 217 East Atlantic Avenue; 561-450-7557

Vic & Angelo’s is a great place to see and be seen while enjoying half-priced drinks and appetizers.  The bar is huge, and you have the option of being inside or outside, which is beautiful when the weather is nice.  The only downside to the outside bar is that it’s about 20 feet away from the railroad tracks.  When a train goes by, which they often do, it gets LOUD.

The food is good and the portions are large.  My favorite happy hour appetizers are the grilled octopus, stuffed squash blossoms and the oregenatta trio (lobster, shrimp and calamari sprinkled with Italian breadcrumbs and lemon).  Not listed on the happy hour menu, but still worth mentioning is their pizza.  The Mulberry Street is my favorite pizza on the Ave.

Happy hour runs from 3-7 p.m. and again from 10-close every day.

Vic & Angelos is located at 290 East Atlantic Ave; 561- 278-9570

Cut432’s “social hour” offers $3 wines, $4 well drink and yummy appetizers including truffled mac ($5), mini burgers ($4), pancetta Brussel sprouts ($5) and oysters Rockefeller ($4).  For $4 you can also try their homemade fruit-infused vodka, which is great on the rocks or served up.  This is the best deal in the house- Cut’s bartenders pour quite heavily and I felt fantastic after just one.

Cut432 is located at 432 East Atlantic Avenue; 561-272-9898

 

Union offers some of the best deals around, but they recently made their happy hour even happier.  They were already known for their 3-for-1 drinks and 50% off the entire food menu and you don’t even have to sit at the bar- it’s happy hour throughout the whole restaurant.  They have now extended their normal happy hours (5-7 p.m.) until 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  In order to take advantage of this special pricing you will need to get a Union card. You can get yours by visiting the restaurant in person, visiting Uniondelray.com or facebook.com/uniondelraybeach.

My favorite items on Union’s menu are the Gochujang lollipop chicken wings, shrimp dumplings, Union tuna stack, and make sure not to skip the wok-seared Brussels sprouts (pictured below).  For cocktails, I recommend The Kiwi and Union’s variety of fruity margaritas and mojitos (strawberry, blackberry, mango).

Union Delray is located at 8 East Atlantic Ave; 561-330-4236

The Office has recently expanded their happy hour menu to include more half-priced appetizers and it also now includes 50% off on all drinks (excluding bottles).  Like Vic & Angelo’s, The Office offers both indoor and outdoor bar seating, making it a place for not only people, but also dogs, to socialize.  The bartenders are friendly and will gladly give you water for your pooch.

The Office is one of the few places on the Ave. to actually eat healthy during happy hour, as the half-price menu features five salads.  My personal favorite is the horiatiki, their take on the classic Greek salad.  My other recommendations are the buffalo wings, the tomato and burrata mozzarella salad and the Shu-Mai dumplings.  For cocktails I recommend the Creamsicle and Office Elixir martinis and the Bloody Elixir, which is basically a Bloody Mary with bacon, olive juice and horseradish.

Happy hour runs from 3-7 p.m. and again from 10-close every day.  However, the appetizers are not offered at half price late-night.

The Office is located at 201 East Atlantic Avenue; 561-276-3600

Breathe is a little off the beaten path, but definitely worth checking out.  It offers happy hour Monday- Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., featuring half-priced drinks and $6 appetizers at its beautiful bar.  Some of my favorites were the stuffed portabella, mussels Harissa style (very spicy) and the Mediterranean place.  The bar and lounge area is quite spacious, making it a good place to host a party or event.

Breathe is located at 401 West Atlantic Avenue; 561-330-4526

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