Cheeburger Cheeburger – If it’s Good Enough for SNL, It’s Good Enough for Me

On my trip to Florida, I did that thing where I woke up early for a flight, had a Diet Coke, and then didn’t eat for about 5 hours.

To say I was hungry by the time the plane landed would be an understatement.

To say I needed to eat rather quickly to avoid a meltdown would be the understatement of the century.

By the time we pulled by a Cheeburger Cheeburger, I was hungry enough to eat a nonfat American cheese slice, still in the plastic wrapper.
Luckily, I didn’t have to resort to that.

Cheeburger Cheeburger, named for the famous SNL sketch is a casual 1950s style burger shop that is ideal for a quick  meal with friends or young kids. Burgers, fries, milkshakes and the like all feature prominently on the well priced menu.

Fried Pickles, Mushrooms, and Jalapenos

Why choose fried potatoes when you can have fried jalapenos? This basket was the drunk food of my dreams, even though I was sober. Juicy mushrooms, tangy pickles, and spicy jalapenos were all fried in a crispy, zesty batter. Dragged through some smoky chipotle ranch dressing, the fried basket was indulgent but also well sized – enough to stave off hunger for a few minutes longer without being so huge that it ruined my appetite.

Classic Cheeburger

One of the selling points of this restaurant  is (in stark contrast to the sketch for which it is named) all the free toppings. Unlike many restaurants that add on the toppings for added fees, this restaurant includes most of them. Guacamole, pepperoni, coleslaw, and even peanut butter can all be added to your burger for free. Premium toppings like bacon cost extra, but even one cheese is included in the price of your burger. That is a pretty wonderful thing in this world of the $40 entrée with no sides.

This burger had Jack and Cheddar cheeses, onions, jalapenos, and thousand island dressing on it.Though it was cooked to a rather dry medium and the meat itself lacked flavor and a serious char, the burger was altogether satisfying. The cheese was melty, the dressing was tangy and rich, the onions had a fresh bite, and the jalapenos were delightfully spicy. The bun was sturdy enough to stad up to the many toppings without being cottony.

Clearly, I had no problem finishing it off completely.

Cheeburger Cheeburger will never be a destination restaurant. But the service is excellent, the prices are fair, and the food is just what you expect it to be.

If it’s good enough for SNL, it’s good enough for me.

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Havana Restaurant, Palm Beach

Remember when I said that you could have a nice Palm Beach lunch at Havana?

You didn’t think I was just going to leave it at that, did you?

This 24 hour spot in West Palm beach defines laid back. It is so casual that you can feel comfortable dining in your bathing suit and a cover up, or even just get a to-go order at the 24 hour walk up window.

The line may be long but it moves fast. Chat with locals in line, survey the beautiful fried offerings, and get your cash ready.

Ground Beef Empanada

The weakest of the food we tried. The shell was crisp and bubbly, but the filling was overly bitter, almost tasting of char, or acrid smoke. It overtook the tender texture of the beef and was way too overpowering.

Papa Relleno

Always my favorite Cuban dish. Buttery mashed potatoes wrapped around spicy, garlicky ground beef. The whole thing is fried so it is crisp outside, then soft before you reach the meaty center. It is delicious, inexpensive, and utterly satisfying after a morning spent at the beach.

Cuban Sandwich

I am sure that there are better Cuban sandwiches than this, but this fits the bill. Soft, fresh bread layered with fresh turkey, sweet ham, Swiss cheese, and the salty tang of pickles. Pressed so the cheese melts into the meant but not too toasted, so the bread stays supple and squish, redolent with spicy mustard. This is not a gourmet or unbelievable sandwich, but something about it is so comforting. It is the type of sandwich your mom might have made you, if she was a sassy Cuban mamacita.

All this food was around $8. So cheap! So tasty! So casual and open 24 hours.

And NOW you have the full scoop on Havana

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The Brazilian Court – Palm Beach’s Hidden Oasis

I have stayed in sleek boutique hotels, I have stayed at seaside resorts, and I have stayed at every kind of hotel in between. I have never, however, been lucky enough to stay at my wealthy friend’s home.

Well, until now.

That is how it feels when one stays at The Brazilian Court. This Palm Beach hotel is not so much a resort as it is an oasis. The hotel literally comes out of nowhere –  it is so hidden that the first time I drove up, I missed the entrance. It is in a residential neighborhood that is smack dab between 2 beautiful Moorish homes. It is literally a 4 minute stroll to Worth Avenue, lined with upscale shops and restaurants, and the public beach is only 2 blocks away.

The moment that you enter the hotel, you enter an sanctuary of calm and peace. It is as if the outside world has melted away and you are transported to the 1940s, when stars like Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy would come to Palm Beach for the winter. The hotel is build around 2 sunny courtyards, filled with comfortable white loungers and bubbling fountains.

In the evening, classic jazz music is gently piped through hidden stereos to the courtyards, enhancing the romantic, retro feel of the hotel.

The rooms are done in several themes, but each has the feel of being individually decorated. This is not the modern, minimalistic look that so often makes rooms feel institutional. The feel in each hotel room is dark and sumptuous, filled with saturated jewel tones, deeply colored wood, and deluxe linens. Free wi-fi and a plethora of cable channels are included in each room. Even the smallest room is expertly designed to feel spacious and luxurious,

and the bathrooms come with deep soaking tubs with spa jets and a separate glassed-in shower.

Of course, if you wanted to really make a splash, you could stay in one of the hotel’s signature suites, which feature up to 2 bedrooms,

a  kitchenette,

and a large sitting room.

Some of these suites have direct access to the elegant pool, where hotel guests enjoy loungers and a full pool menu, including entrees, snacks, and cocktails.

You could also choose to dine at Cafe Boulud, the hotel’s restaurant. The breakfasts, lunches, and dinners here are all equally delicious and served with efficiency. The dining room is sunny and casual, a welcome rest from the uptight atmosphere of many Palm Beach eateries.

The homemade sausage with pork, cheddar, and apples is not to be missed.

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Though you could easily spend your afternoons at the pool , you would be remiss to miss the beach club. A hotel luxury car drives you to the beach club at the beautiful Omphoy Hotel and picks you up. When there, rent a lounger and an umbrella, and relax on the stretch of beautiful private beach. The servers are quick with a cocktail menu, and the combination of crystal clear waters, delicious drinks, and hours of relaxation is not to be missed. Don’t worry if you are hungry on the drive back – ask your driver to stop at the window at Havana for a beefy, spicy Papa Relleno.

Once back at the hotel, you may wish to take advantage of the nightly happy hour, offering wine and appetizer specials until 7 pm. Or, you could want to go to your room to prepare for a night out on Worth Avenue. You could even choose to just sit in the courtyard and order some food – the room service fare is as delicious as that in the dining room.

The club sandwich walks the line between comfort food and haute fare, pairing fresh roasted turkey with creamy avocado, sweet tomatoes, and soft multigrain bread. A side of homemade potato chips completes the indulgent meal, available till 11:30 at night.

The service is some of the best I have had in recent memory. Everyone knows your name, yet does not bother you. The staff senses if you need some help or if you want to be left alone. Staff members are quick to offer water bottles when you leave the hotel, and appear from nowhere to open doors for you.  Like a good friend, the staff seems to be able to sense your mood and what you need. Everyone we encountered was  quick to call our car but slow to interrupt us while we were dining. This anticipation of the guests needs is what sets this hotel apart.

Don’t come here if you want a  gigantic full service resort or a business centered hotel that is fast paced. Come here if you want to truly escape.

To unplug, to relax, to sit for hours in a sun drenched courtyard or lounge on a gorgeous private beach. Come if you want to be chauffeured rather than drive, if you want to lay for hours in your lovely room, if you want to truly lose yourself in another time and place.

The Brazilian Court is more than a hotel, it is a friend. A great one.

*Disclaimer: I received a press rate to stay at The Brazilian Court. My opinions are my own and unbiased.*

Cafe Boulud, Palm Beach

While vacationing in Palm Beach, you might expect to eat club sandwiches by the pool. You might expect to eat haute sushi while shopping the incredibly expensive boutiques on Worth Avenue. You might expect to have cocktails on the beach or appetizers at the beach club.

You probably don’t expect to eat the refined cuisine of Daniel Boulud.

The Brazilian Court is home to the Palm Beach outpost of Cafe Boulud. The trick here is transferring Boulud’s flawless service and precise cuisine to the laid back elegance of Palm Beach. Residents here are wealthy and well-traveled – they know good food. But can this outpost deliver?

The dining room is beautiful – an indoor space overlooking the spacious courtyard. Trees and twinkling lights fill the room, giving the illusion of being outdoors with no bugs and where it never goes above 75 degrees. The space is not stuffy, but be sure to wear at least a polo shirt if you are a gentleman, and ladies would not feel out of place in heels. This is Palm Beach, after all.

As a note, I was here during the Boulud Sud pop-up of the restaurant, where for a month, the menu is comprised of dishes inspired by the fabulous version of the NYC restaurant.

Sundried Tomato and Olive Foccacia

The house baked foccacia is yeasty and soft, studded with juicy tomatoes or pungent olives.

Enjoy it dipped into a plate of olive oil flavored with garlic, rosemary, and red peppers.

Sicilian Sardine Escabeche with Pine Nuts and Raisins

In a word: sensational. These bear absolutely no resemblance to the oily, bony specimens that come in tin cans. These are soft enough to cut with a fork, and the bones are so tiny that they dissolve in the mouth undetected. There is no fishy, iodine-y taste that many sardines have. Instead, these are more like smoked trout – extremely mild, taking on the flavors of the tart lemon and herbal fennel. The raisins provide an unexpected note of sweetness, working with the tart, bright flavors in the marinade, and the pine nuts are a pleasant textural contrast. If you don’t like sardines, try these – you may be a convert.

Rabbit and Foie Gras Ballotine with Chestnut Mostarda and Madeira Gelee, with Sauternes

Woodsy, earthy rabbit and heady, smooth foie gras in a smooth, meaty mosaic encased in buttery pastry. The foie gras and rabbit are such a natural pairing, because while they both taste intensely meaty, one is dark and husky and the other is light in texture and almost electric in taste. Though I didn’t care for the very sweet chestnuts, the slight acid of the madeira jelly worked well with the ballotine. The crowning touch was the Sauternes. Sauternes is a desert wine that is notoriously delicious with foie gras. Sip it after taking a bite of foie gras and the liver takes on different flavors – of raisins, of walnuts, of rich rare steak. This is a classic dish done very well.

Lamb Merguez Sausage with Chickpeas and Couscous

As our waiter said “That’s a lot of sausage!” You aren’t cheated on the portions here – the point isnt’ to get the money out of you, it’s to make sure that you leave having a wonderful experience. The lamb, though a bit grainy and coarsely ground, is bursting with flavor. Smoky with cumin, hot with harrisa, with a finishing note of cool mint, it is Morocco on a plate. It sits on a bed of garlicky, peppery couscous next to lightly curried chickpeas and spinach. This plate is a flavor explosion – it isn’t for people who like plain potatoes and boiled beef. The execution is beautiful, and the flavors really pop.

Chocolate Souffle and Pistachio Ice Cream

All the molten chocolate cakes out there, take note. This is your classy grandmother who shops at Bergdorf’s and still wears heels. LIght, moist, and almost impossibly rich, it disappears the moment it touches your tongue, almost too fast. The pistachio ice cream, nutty and creamy, adds a wonderful temperature contrast. This is classic and almost the perfect dessert.

The madeleines that come with the check really make it a perfect dessert. Lemony and still warm from the oven, I ate 4 of them and would have eaten more if I hadn’t been so very stuffed.

This restaurant is excellent. It isn’t inexpensive, but you get what you pay for. Excellent, unobtrusive service that never once bothered my date and I when we were deep in discussion, yet somehow always made sure the water glasses were full. Flavors that are surprising and excellently executed. And atmosphere that is equal parts romantic, laid back, and elegant. It fits Palm Beach to a “T” and is absolutely a must-visit if you are in the area.

*Disclaimer – The restaurant paid for my meal. I was not required to write a review, and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*

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