|by SHERMAN M. ROBBINS, PALM BEACH ILLUSTRATED|
After years of eating my way through South Florida, Iím convinced that Boca Raton is the center of the gustatory region, and at the heart of Boca is a 12-ounce filet mignon (not to mention hash browns, Gorgonzola salad and a healthy chunk of cheesecake). If you live in Boca Raton, youíre naturally a business person because the business of Boca is food ó thinking about it, eating it, endlessly talking about it, romancing it, dating and doting over it and hallucinating about it. But Ratonians donít conduct business at home (certainly not the preparation of food). So, if youíre from Boca, you have to carry on your business at one of the hundreds of eateries that make the town the business capital of Palm Beach County.
Since Palm Beach Illustrated is the largest regional magazine circulated in the Town of Palm Beach as well as in Boca Raton (and the rest of Palm Beach County), Iím often asked what the most important difference is between the two communities. After painstaking analysis, Iíve finally reached a conclusion. Itís reservations.
One similarity: The homes in both towns were built with non-functioning (or, because of the potential users, dysfunctional) kitchens. Sure, you might see what looks like a kitchen upon entering a home, but itís just a staging area for caterers or a convenient storage area. Typical example:
Sports announcer and Boca resident Lesley Visser confided in us that sheís never used her oven ó except as a repository to store sweaters. That may come as a surprise to hubby Dick Stockton if he should become hungry, ambitious and throw a piece of fish into the oven, only to end up with it cashmere-encrusted.
In Palm Beach, people will call restaurants weeks in advance to ensure that they have a favorite table (or any table) on a particular evening. In Boca, people stand on lines or crowd five deep at bars awaiting the big opportunity. In fact, itís almost anti-climactic to be seated. Iím convinced that Ratonians are into S&M because they seem to approach standing in queues as a special form of entertainment.
Check out the Cheesecake Factory at almost any hour, and there will be people in line carrying on muted, possibly romantic conversations; some arguing (creating entertainment for those who love to eavesdrop); and others talking into their hands (the sane ones clutching cell phones) for the amusement of bystanders who are forced to participate ó like it or not. By the time theyíre seated, they most likely will have lost their appetites. In fact, some people go out to eat in Boca as a method of losing weight. They go from line to line until theyíre so hungry they can no longer stomach the thought of eating.
Mizner Park used to be the hands-down leader in lines, but the new front-runner is undoubtedly Boca Center.
Car queuing is another popular sport: Getting your car into a valet line within a football fieldís distance of the front door, or aimlessly circling around Boca Center for an hour seeking non-existent spaces are your exciting choices. Once youíre finally seated and exhausted, the main topic of conversation becomes where to wait on line for the next eveningís sustenance.
I recently did a survey at Mizner Park, hanging out in the courtyard between Markís at the Park, Maxís Grille and GiGiís. to discover what place food plays in peopleís lives. ďItís everything to me;í said one man, whose statement was entirely credible as he tried to maneuver his pulchritudinous bulk between tables.
ďI live for dinner. . . once Iím done with lunching each day,Ē responded a woman heading for GiGiís bar.
The final 50 percent of the survey was a couple arriving from the valet stand. She was busy on her cell phone, and he responded gruffly, ďWhatís it to you? How and where we eat is our business.Ē
Just as I thought.