Seafood

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Restaurant Review: III Forks

Published May 23, 2013 by mrsrag

Location:  4645 PGA Boulevard, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. Just west of the Publix plaza, next to Cantina Laredo.  Phone: 561 630-3660. www.iiiforks.com.

III Forks (spoken Three Forks) is an upscale steakhouse chain.  Though the word “chain” is somewhat loose when applied to them.  They have seven total locations, three in Texas (Houston, Dallas, Austin), three in Florida (PBG, Hallandale, Jacksonville) and Chicago.  I would say they are going for quality not quantity at this point.  Maria and I had been to III Forks once before, the one in Hallandale just outside of Gulfstream Park.  We went with friends after a day at the races, and had a wonderful filet mignon and sea bass (our “go to” surf and turf).  The company and the food were superb, but Maria was under the weather that night and we had to leave early.  Last night we were trying to think of something to do.  While perusing through the Palm Beach Post, I came across a mention of a wine tasting at III Forks for $15 per person, appetizers included.  A night out at Forks for peanuts?  Very appealing.  Proprietor/Head Chef Tommy Nevill directed the proceedings himself, pouring our wines while educating us along the way with the history of each.  Dapper and nattily clad in a tuxedo, Tommy along with our bartender Christina, couldn’t have made us feel more comfortable.

We’ve enjoyed both locales that we’ve visited.  At the Hallandale venue they had a young woman, with quite a good voice, crooning soft love songs.  I was so disappointed when my head cold caught up with me during dinner.  The setting is what you’d come to expect from a steakhouse, dark and sleek with bright white linens and ambient light.  We sat at the gorgeous inside bar while dining on the hors d’oeuvres.  Nevill was a gracious host and as he described each wine to us you could feel the passion for his craft emanating from him.  Our first wine was a sparkling Italian Prosecco, which was a bit on the dry side for my palette and honestly forgettable.  Next he served us two Pinot Grigio’s, side by side for a better comparison, along with our first snacks.  A mini caprese of fresh mozzarella wrapped around basil and cherry tomato, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic.  Unfortunately that bite was overshadowed by the highlight of the hors d’oeuvres, IMO, a bite sized chicken parmigiana with a healthy bite of chicken and a generous slathering of marinara sauce.  It was absolutely delicious and was well paired with our favorite of the two Pinot Grigios, a sweeter and fruitier take called Rose’N’Blum.  This white and our first red, which soon followed were the big winners out of the wines for me.  The red was a blend of mostly Zinfandel with some Cab and a few other type of grapes.  I not only loved the taste of this blend, but we also liked the bottle, which featured what looked like a mad scientist donning goggles and a tattered suit.  Fitting depiction considering the name, Stark Raving.

I prefer the Gardens Forks.  The bar is elegant and the atmosphere is more intimate.  Hallandale is okay too, but it has a mall feel.  The food at each is top shelf however.  A few suggestions, beyond the aforementioned filet and sea bass, from my previous visits would be: bacon wrapped scallops, the wedge salad and the rack of lamb for my fellow carnivores.  To die for!  In addition, the wine selection is vast and varied, and Tommy Nevill has his finger on the pulse of everything current.  Subsequently, your palette should have no problem finding something to make it sing.  One final note; I’m generally a white wine guy, but during our tasting the red blend by Stark Raving was my favorite.  I would take the description of the bottle’s label a step further.  I thought the guy looked like Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes.  Yet Downey also plays Tony Stark/Iron Man.  Stark Raving?!  Those clever devils.  III Forks will not disappoint you, I can’t wait for our next visit!

This was an inexpensive, educational and entertaining night out.  I love finding new and exciting things to do…but I have to admit it really is Ross’ special gift.  He scours the paper and unburies these hidden gems.  And please don’t be intimidated by your local ‘wine tasting’ – these events are for everyone not just for connoisseurs.  You don’t have to write down notes, you don’t have to say if the wine has a good ‘nose’ or drop other fancy terms.  You just have to go with an open mind and enjoy yourself.

Ross’ Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses out of 5.

Maria’s Rating: 4 Wine Glasses.

 

Restaurant Review: The River House

Published August 30, 2012 by mrsrag

Location: 2373 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL.  Phone: 561 694-1188.  http://www.riverhouserestaurant.com

 

First I must say that this review is LONG overdue.  We haven’t been to River House in a while, but the night is still vivid in our memories.  Also, as with many of the places we have been and will go to, this was Maria’s first time but not mine.  I’ve been in South Florida a long time and I certainly want to experience new things, but there are many great places that I just must take her to.  The River House was a MUST.  Located on the northwest corner of PGA Blvd and The Intracoastal Waterway, much like another one of our favorites Season’s 52 (which is directly across the waterway), the ambiance is sublime.  They don’t take reservations and there usually is a wait, but the night we went we sat right down.  This was very good, but we did miss out on a pre-dinner drink at their cool waterfront bar.  I highly recommend this course of action if you do run into the inevitable wait.  And by the way, River House is well worth any reasonable wait.

What a wonderful date!  I loved that night so much.  Ross always has the greatest suggestions of places to introduce me to and River House was one of the best.  I remember I hadn’t moved down yet and was just visiting for a long weekend.  Ross said we were going somewhere kind of swanky, so I got decked out in a nice dress and some heels, which I save for special occassions.  Somewhere in our preliminary discussions involving food we had found that we shared a favorite fish, Chilean Sea Bass.  I’ve had some good striped bass and black bass, but the Chilean breed is fantastic.  Blows every other fish out of the water, pun intended.  Ross told me the best sea bass he had ever eaten was at River House.  Naturally he was excited to take me, he also raved about their stacked salad bar.  We thought it’d be a good idea to start there.  On our first trip up, Ross filed in behind me.  I loaded up my plate, because I am NOT one of those girls who doesn’t eat on a date.  I love to eat.  All my faves, chick peas, the standard veggies and a nice helping of beets.  “Beets!?…I’m the only person who ever gets beets,” Ross exclaimed in my ear.

She likes beets, just like me!  When that happens you just know it’s love.  After all, beets are universally know as the “Love Barometer” vegetable.  Seriously though, The River House has a killer salad bar.  Everything you want and bread and cheese too.  The service is beyond compare as well.  Every table gets at least  two waiters and they are at your beck and call.  The wine list is extensive, the food is fabulous and predominantly steak and fish.  For crab lovers I strongly suggest the crab cocktail appetizer.  Jumbo lump blue crabmeat served with a delicious mustard sauce, a fantastic way to begin your meal.  Maria and I almost always get two different dishes at dinner (as I’m guessing many couples do), and we contemplated a filet mignon and Chilean Sea Bass, but ultimately decided we both wanted the bass, bad.  I’ve had the filet there before and it is to die for, however the CSB takes one to a higher plane.  I’m certain Maria will agree with me, there was a tiny hiccup though.

Well, I learned a very valuable lesson.  And something extremely helpful about Ross.  When we were ordering our fish, the waitress asked, “Grilled or Blackened?”  I pondered for a moment, remembered that I had thoroughly enjoyed it grilled and stated it clearly for the server.  Ross let out a strange sound that I have become rather familiar with.  It’s a slight inhale through his teeth coupled with a slanted left eye.  Now I know this sound to be a distinct warning against a certain course of action.  After she took the order he asked, “Really?  Grilled huh?”  The dishes arrived, my sea bass grilled and his blackened.  I took a few bites of my fish and then offered him a taste, and he followed suit.  His sea bass kicked my sea bass’ ass.  I wish I had known at the time what Ross’ warning sound was!  They serve the blackened bass with a remarkable mango salsa that complements the dish so well.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Next time I will be ordering the sea bass blackened, so I don’t experience the same food jealousy I felt that night.

Truth be told, the grilled sea bass is still awesome.  The thing is, the blackened version is one of the best dishes on this planet.  I tried, gently, to steer her in the appropriate direction, even though she didn’t take my advice it all worked out.  We had a wonderful evening.  The River House is fine dining at it’s best.  The prices aren’t cheap, but you get tremendous value for your dollar.  The food, service and setting are about as good as it gets.  My wish for you is that your companion for dinner, whoever he or she might be, is as fucking kick-ass, knockout beautiful, intelligent and sweet as mine was.  Bon appetit.

Maria’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses.

Ross’ Rating:  4.5 Wine Glasses.     

 

 

Restaurant Review: Spoto’s Oyster Bar

Published August 24, 2012 by mrsrag

Location: 4560 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418.  Phone: 561 776-9448.  http://spotosoysterbar.com

Oysters are supposedly an aphrodisiac.  I can’t support or deny that claim.  However, I can tell you that the oysters at Spoto’s are the best I’ve ever had.  Clean and smooth with all my favorite enhancements.  The shooters come dressed with cocktail sauce, tabasco sauce and a dab of horseradish.  If you don’t care for the spice just get them to subtract the horseradish or tabasco, but the heat really completes these little shots of heaven.  Everytime I bring these up to someone they say, “Ooh, those sound good…you get them with the vodka right?”  I absolutely do not.  Adding vodka to the Spoto oyster perfection known as the shooter is sacrilegious in my opinion.  If it’s not broken don’t fix it.  The original booze-free formula is essential.  Plus, I gave up shots after the first and last fraternity party I ever attended.  I walked across some sacred frat mosaic bearing their name, so 8 little minions (aka pledges) picked me up and tried to truck me to the showers.  I guess they knew I meant it when I said if I got one drop of water on me I would come back later and tear each and every last one’s testicles off with my mouth.  Anyhow, I digress.  Shooters are a must.  I know Ross will agree because he is the person who turned me onto them.  Spoto’s was one of the first places we went together.  He raved about these shooters for days and as soon as I had one I understood why.

Trust me, she would’ve messed those frat boys up!  My honey is one tough hombre.  Just saying.  Anyway, I’ve been going to Spoto’s for years, starting with the old place that used to be in downtown West Palm Beach.  The food is great, but I have always been a big advocate of sticking with the theme of the restaurant you’re going to.  You don’t order a burger at a chinese joint, or a pizza at a mexican place etc etc.  Everything at Spoto’s is good, we’ve had filet mignon and several fish dishes, all better than average.  But at Spoto’s Oyster Bar, if you want to have an ultimate experience, one almost otherworldly, you have to get the oysters.  And I cannot recommend more vociferously that you should get them in shooter form.  Preferably bluepoints.  I couldn’t wait to bring Maria there when she first came to visit me, and we’ve been back many times since.  We even met my daughter Rachel there on our second visit, and that was the first time that Maria and I (as a couple) and Rachel all sat down together and hung outThere is a subplot that we haven’t explained to you all just yet, but that’s for another day.  Suffice it to say, you really couldn’t find a more comfortable place to sit and talk.  We each had a nice glass of wine and shared some truly fantastic oysters, and the evening couldn’t have gone better.

In familiar Gallo fashion, Rachel struck up some small talk with a blonde woman seated near us at the bar.  She was flying solo, so we told her to slide on down and join our little party.  Rachel spoke to her for several minutes, immediately launching into hilarious stories about her personal life, which is also a Gallo trait.  We all laughed as she told tales of her boyfriend playing video games all night and she concluded with a, “Well, what do you do!?”  Clearly, judging by her voice inflection she was commenting on her own situation she had just described, but the woman answered, “I work at Publix.”  WOW.  We all had to stop a second and make sure that A.) She was serious & B.) That we didn’t laugh in her face.  Everytime we visit Spoto’s Ross and I recount this comical event and the wonderful evening we spent laughing with Rachel.

The Publix lady!  I’m not sure to this day if she wasn’t listening or is just not firing on all cylinders, either way that shit was FUNNY.  I think Charlie was our bartender that night.  You can’t go wrong with Charlie, Pete or Linda at lunchtime, as you can see we spend most of our time at the bar.  Occasionally we sit at a table, but the bar is so aesthetically pleasing, all the wine bottles perfectly placed and the aforementioned wonderful bartenders, make it our “go to” comfort zone.  I know we’ve lauded the oysters ad nauseum, but I would recommend Spoto’s to anyone who likes good food, great service, clean and comfortable surroundings, a nice wine selection and prices that are in the middle range of fine dining.  If you love oysters, obviously you MUST go.  And if you do find yourself at Spoto’s and enjoying yourself, I would also recommend joining their 45 Sixty Club which is free.  For every $250 you spend you get $25 off your bill.  That’s a decent deal.

Everytime we’re there I see a good deal of people feasting on this giant bowl of linguine and clams.  I always say I’m going to try it, but I never have the appetite.  It’s definitely on my to do list for one of our future visits.  I’ve heard people rave about that dish as well as the Jambalaya.  Ross already told you about their great loyalty program, which we recently cashed in on with our frequency as customers, but there’s also this deal called “Washington Wednesdays”.  It has made Wednesday my favorite day to go to Spoto’s!  And you don’t have to be a member to benefit.  All day Wednesday they offer oyster shooters and/or shrimp cocktail for a dollar a piece.  The shooters are usually $2.50 a piece, so the deal is more than 50% off.  Ross and I joined Linda during lunchtime on a Wednesday.  We had a few beers and a glass of wine along with 6 shrimp and 12 shooters.  The bill came to $46.00 and we ate like kings.  Then I gave her my loyalty card and after scanning it she found that I had $25.00 to redeem.  We ended up with a bill totaling $34.00 bucks – with tip!  I felt like we found money on the ground.

We like found money.  And we love Spoto’s.

Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses out 5.

Ross’ Rating: 4.5 Wine Glasses.