It was in La Ceiba, Honduras, that Mario Flores first began associating food with family. His mother would cook for him and his siblings, and the family meals, which set the groundwork for good conversation, provided both a structure to daily life and a sense of comfort. He now hopes to emulate that same atmosphere at his own establishment, Mario's Catalina Restaurant, where he mans the kitchen.
His dishes harken back to old-world Cuba and Spain with appetizers of yucca, sides of fried plantains, and entrees of roast pork cooked in Jack Daniel's whiskey, which is a far more flavorful marinade than Jack Daniel's lukewarm water. His menu also includes "Mario's favorite": a red snapper fillet breaded in green plantains and accompanied by lobster sauce and jumbo shrimp.
Guests enjoy these dishes and a selection of wines and sangria inside the dining room, which, with its wall-to-wall paintings, softly lit lamps, shimmering chandeliers, and close tables, resembles a warm, cozy home.
At a young age, Laurent Tasic helped his mother run the kitchen at a bed and breakfast, watched his grandmother bake fresh bread over a wood fire, and created white wine from fresh-picked grapes. Yet despite his early start in the culinary arts, Laurent didn’t foresee cooking in his future. In fact, it wasn’t until after earning a degree in industrial architecture and spending a few months on the job, that the future chef would realize his true calling.
Although he spent many years at the helm of swanky restaurants in Paris, Monaco, Monte Carlo, and Fort Lauderdale—preparing elegant and pricey meals for the likes of Prince Albert and film star Michael Caine—Laurent decided to trade in the glitz and glam for reasonable prices and low-key clientele. In 1998, he took over Sage Cafe, where today he continues to run the kitchen and churn out gourmet French feasts, such as coq au vin, steak maurice, and roast duck, all chased by his famously decadent crème brûlée and hand-selected wines. He oversees a brunch as well, during which the chef poaches eggs and folds savory ingredients into fresh-made crepes, also known as the envelopes of food.
After leaving France behind and settling down in Fort Lauderdale in 2007, owners Gerard and Christine became wistful with memories of their homeland. However, with the love for their new city quickly taking root, the duo decided that, instead of returning to France, they could simply add an authentic touch of the French Riviera to Florida’s culinary landscape. Opening in 2009, St. Tropez Bistro didn't take long to win over new friends and neighbors, winning a 2009 Best French Restaurant award from the readers of DiningGuide and a rating from the food critics at Zagat. To foster that authentic French feel, they added Chef Dominique to their team, letting him craft fresh tuna tartare and spicy lamb sausages with ratatouille to complement the restaurant’s wine list. A crew of experienced, knowledgeable wait staff—many from France, as well—bustles among the art-deco advertisements and accordion-playing Eiffel Towers that help complete the French Riviera vibe.