Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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EatBeat: Spoto’s WPB Closes; Todd English’s Figs Opens, Slow Fish Dinner

January 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Spoto’s Oyster Bar WPB Closes

Sorry to start off the year with a loss, but John Spoto decided to close the downtown West Palm Spoto’s Oyster Bar. Having spent many a lunch hour supping on the clam chowder or one of the fish dishes at the 11-year-old casual spot within eyesight of the water, I’m sad to see this turn of events. John Spoto is even more dismayed.

Spoto said it was all about the economy.  “Economics first (duh)! Our concept was not working for dinner downtown. Fewer people were visiting Spoto’s downtown at night, and, in our business, dinner is the most important meal period. I would be speculating on the reasons– however, the most obvious is our menu did not fit the current market conditions in that location.”

New eateries with lower prices have moved into downtown recently. They’ve torn up the roads again, and the fact is, diners aren’t spending so much or so often eating out.

Still, Spoto’s was one of the ones that took a chance on a downtown rebirth over a decade ago, and became a neighborhood spot that attracted diners from both sides of the bridges. Spoto gets kudos for his run there.

He said they were able to find work for every manager, and most of the hourly staff over the season, though the timing for closing on Christmas Eve was unfortunate. They are selling the lease, which includes a liquor license, he said.

Plans are for him to focus on honing the business at the PGA locations for Spoto’s Oyster Bar and Bluepoint Lounge, and the Oakwood Grill.

He wanted guests of the downtown Spoto’s to know, however, he appreciated their patronage over the last decade. “We appreciate the opportunity you have given us to do what we love — to serve you.”

Figs Opens at Macy’s

Pretty-boy and celeb chef Todd English has opened, Fig’s, a bistro/cafe at the Gardens mall in partnership with Macy’s. He’s one of their Culinary Council members — chefs and other food people who have partnered with the department store to sell name-brand items, or open cafes within their stores.

For those who don’t follow the chef circuit, English is as much known for his good looks (he was on one of People Magazine’s list of 50 Most Beautiful People) as his Mediterranean foods.

He started in the late ’80s with Olives, a Mediterranean-Middle Eastern restaurant in Charlestown, Mass. and won acclaim from the James Beard Awards as first a Rising Star chef, then Best Chef in the Northeast, 1994. He’s opened in Las Vegas, New York City and Orlando (Blue Zoo is his spot at Disney’s The Dolphin hotel); he did TV and has written cookbooks.

Figs here is a nice cafe atmosphere, dim lighting — easy on the eyes after coming from the bright lights of Macy’s. The menu is large with options for meal salads (we liked the warm bacon and spinach with bacon vinaigrette), small-plate appetizers, soups (friends have raved about the tomato soup), entrees, or pasta and pizzas; costs run $8-$10 for salads and starters, $11-$18.75 for entrees and pizzas. Beer and wine is available; there’s a take-out menu, as well. 

Service is friendly and efficient; our take-out order was prepared quickly.

Lunch and dinner is served; enter on the west side of Macy’s after hours, through the patio area where outside dining is available.

Fig’s at Macy’s

  • Gardens mall, 3107 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens
  • 561-775-2384
  • Open: 11-4 daily for lunch; dinner, 4-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Slow Fish at 3030 Ocean

Chef Dean Max with a fresh catch

Chef Dean Max with a fresh catch

Chef Dean Max of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale will be cooking a number of seafood dishes and demonstrating sustainable seafood and ocean ecology for the Glades-to-Coast chapter of Slow Food. A five-course menu is planned for the group’s next Slow Food dinner Jan. 15.

 Slow Food, the organization that supports traditional and artisanal food, farmers, and cooks around the world, began in 1986 in Italy as a protest against a planned McDonald’s on the revered Spanish Steps in Rome. A movement to change food production practices, revive traditional foods and re-educate diners about their food sources began.

Chapters soon spread around the world. The American branch of the organization is working to preserve a number of heritage foods in North America through education, by showcasing them at dinners and encouraging farmers to grow heirloom crops and harvest them responsibly, and to raise animals in ways that protect the integrity of the species, and benefit the earth at the same time.

The Fort Lauderdale seafood event will be the local chapter’s second dinner; a number of other events are planned.

The group’s first dinner was held at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach in November, where chef Zach Bell dazzled diners with a “locavore” menu featuring foods produced mostly in and around South Florida. Indian River grapefruit from Palm Beach Groves in Lantana, tomatoes from Heirloom Tomatoes in Lake Worth, salads made from Swank Farms produce, a Mote Marine aquacultured sturgeon and pasture-raised lamb from Deep Creek Ranch near Daytona were some of the ingredients and farms represented.

The Slow Fish menu will be:

  • White Water Farms clams, Benton’s BLT broth
  • Open-faced ravioli, Key West pink shrimp, eggplant caviar, truffles, mustard greens, Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Roasted local wahoo, parsnip puree, Swank Farms Swiss chard and squash, garlic thyme sauce
  • Deep Creek Ranch grass fed beef, organic black polenta, Swank Farms baby leeks, beets, local herb butter, aged sherry vinegar
  • Sunny Dev warm strawberry compote, crispy Coach Farm goat cheese strudel, aged balsamic

Reservations are necessary for the dinner.

  • What: Slow Fish Dinner with Chef Dean Max
  • Where: 3030 Ocean, 3030 Holiday Dr., Fort Lauderdale
  • When: Jan. 15, 6:30 p.m. reception; 7:30 p.m. dinner
  • Cost: $125 per person; all inclusive with $25 going to Slow Foods Glades to Coast Chapter
  • Contact: For reservations or information, call (954) 765-3030

To submit news items for the EatBeat column, email Jan@JanNorris.com with “EatBeat” in the subject line.

Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News

1 response so far ↓

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