December 10th, 2016 is the day I learned that when you dine with 11 other food bloggers, you better bring your A-game. I was graciously invited by the South Florida Blogger Union to dine at the 3 restaurants featured at The Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida. Over a 4+ hour period, I was wined, dined, beer-ed, pizza-ed, fried, and just about every other food under the sun that you can think of, and what I learned it this: when it comes to these dinners, I literally have no chill, and since I can’t help myself from over-indulging, I’m gonna need 2 stomachs. Especially when restaurants knock it out of the ballpark like these 3 did.
The Diplomat Resort sits right on the ocean in Hollywood, FL, a great tourist spot for those who want to avoid the shallowness and superficiality of Miami and the lazy beach bum town of Fort Lauderdale (no offense, as a superficial lazy fatass, both places are near and dear to my heart). However, you don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy and explore their 3 unique dining options.
Our journey started at Bristol’s Burgers, where we were greeted by their enormous smoker. While I love the smell of smoked meats, I prefer not to smell like dead animal, so the above zoomed in picture was the closest I got. You get the idea.
Our meal started off with a pilsner from the Hollywood Brewing Company, which was perfect because mamma was rockin’ a hot new top from Forever 21 and looking fly AF and ready to get her drink on. I’m a pilsner or wheat beer kinda gal, and this brew certainly didn’t disappoint.
Did you ever think that it couldn’t get any better than the Bloomin’ Onion? Well my friends, let me tell you, it does, and it’s called the Beer Battered Onion Brick. It was actually made by accident, we learned, when the chef left a batch of onion rings cooking for too long. But that’s also how potato chips were invented, and look how that turned out! It’s served with grilled lemon horseradish dip, and it is utterly a force to be reckoned with. Truly the only ring I’ll ever need (and let’s be honest, with the way my love life is going and the way The Eagles are playing, probably the only ring I’ll ever get. No worries, this is enough to satisfy me.)
The calamari dish is good, but I wouldn’t say the calamari itself is the standout – the real stars are the sauces. It’s served with anchovy-tomato and vodka-horseradish sauces, two unique sauces that brought this dish to life. I wouldn’t touch an anchovy with a 10 foot sanitized pole, and I STILL loved this sauce.
A trip to a burger joint without a burger is like going to a strip club with a blindfold on, so of course we HAD to have a burger! We were treated to the Double Bacon, a burger with bacon two times (duh), cheddar, pickles, and ranch dressing. The burger was juicy and the bun was so fresh. Certainly hits the spot for any burger fan!
But the winner to me was the Smoked Boneless Rib Sandwich. Made with chopped Berkshire spare ribs and served with creamy red coleslaw and Carolina BBQ sauce, each bite was so tender and perfectly smoked. It’s like God came down from the heavens and blessed Bristol’s smoker to create this holy piece of moly.
No meal at Bristol’s is complete without one of their Milkshakes, and we were served the Brass Monkey – a blend of peanut butter ice cream, banana, candied bacon and caramel. You heard that right. CANDIED BACON. It was so good that I would literally eat dirt if you sprinkled candied bacon on it. OMG. The restaurant also has a variety of Boozy Shakes for those of you who need to forget how much you just ate.
The next restaurant on our list was Portico, which has a beautiful outdoor view, but unfortunately due to the weather, we were not able to enjoy that day (um, a girl does have to preserve her hair). We stayed seated at Bristol’s (I could barely move more than a waddle at this point anyways) and were served the food inside there, but not before being treated to a presentation by their Chef, who immediately sparked my interest when he said the dish was inspired by his time in PHILLY.
One bite into the Philly Roast Pork Bruschetta, and I was immediately transported to Reading Terminal in South Philly. If you’ve never been lucky enough to experience a roast pork sandwich in Philly, then a) I would book your plane ticket, like, yesterday, and b) you are in for a mouthgasm when you try this. Also topped with grilled broccoli, the most incredible sharp provolone cheese sauce and calabrian chili, this dish is so unique and flavorful and was without a doubt my favorite of all the restaurants.
Another unique bruschetta that we got to try was the Smoked Short Rib Pastrami, topped with pickled cabbage, caraway seed and house mustard. It was better than most Reubens I’ve had, and coming from a Jewish gal, that says a lot!
Two other snacks we sampled were the Meatballs and Fried Local Mozzarella. The meatballs were very tasty but the mozzarella is what stole my heart on this one. These are not your typical bar food mozzarella sticks. The breading is light and perfectly crisp and you can taste the difference in the gourmet cheese. It was hard not to go back for seconds on this one. Okay, you caught me – I did go back for seconds. The blog is called Fashionably French FRIED – it was RESEARCH!!
Next up, BAE-town, first stop: pizza. PIZZA! We got to try all 4 of Portico’s delicious pizzas: The Margherita (San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil), The Salumeria (Pepperoni, fennel salami, aged mozzarella and tomato), The Smoked Prosciutto (arugula, tomato and shaved parmesan) and The Roasted Mushroom (black truffle white sauce, parmesan, scallion). Just like with men, everyone will have a different top choice to put on their naughty list, and of the four, my favorite was the Smoked Prosciutto. On all 4 pizzas, the ingredients were so fresh, and so it just depends on your preference which to order (but I would recommend ordering at least one, sharing optional).
But what really had me begging for more was the Truffle Popcorn. Along with French fries and peanut butter, popcorn is one of my favorite foods. Add truffle and holy F-bombs, I will not stop eating it until my stomach bursts. I’m actually glad I don’t have access to it on a regular basis because I probably wouldn’t ever eat anything else again, just a steady diet of Truffle Popcorn and tequila. MORE PLEASE.
We proceeded to our final stop, Prime, where we marveled at the gorgeous decor and were shown to a beautiful (albeit eerily quiet) private room. Since I can’t stand not one second of silence, I suggested the group play an icebreaker while we sipped on classically made Old Fashioneds and Daiquiris.
But any hope of discussion was immediately thrown out the window when the impressive Shellfish Tower came out. Greeted by Florida Stone Crabs, Oysters on the Half Shell, Colossal Shrimp Cocktail, and Maine Lobster Cocktail, our jaws all dropped at the stunning presentation. I grabbed a shrimp and a claw, and even though the tower is served with different dipping sauces, I found the meat to be so flavorful that I didn’t want to disguise it with anything (this is also my theory of why I only use ketchup on fries that don’t taste great).
No fancy-schmancy meal is complete without a perfectly cooked octopus, and Prime was right on par. Served with edamame hummus, black olive, French feta, and daikon radish, it’s a must-have for diners. Don’t believe me, just try it!
Of course, my fat ass dove headfirst into the Lobster Mac and Cheese. It’s made with Maine lobster, scallion, and my FAVORITE cheese, manchego! Every part of this dish was pure indulgence – from the soft, tender bites of pasta, to the large chunks of lobster meat, to the MANCHEGO, and the crispy topping, I truly thought life could not get any better. Until…
DUCK FAT STEAK FRIES!!! Now, I’ve had duck fat fries before, plenty of times, but I have never – and I mean NEVER – had duck fat fries these good. These babies are actually going in to my top 3 of favorite french fries, which as you can imagine, with the amount of fries that I try, is not an easy accomplishment. The fries were the perfect size, perfect ratio of crisp outside to mushy inside, and are served with a lemon aioli and topped with tarragon and cracked pepper. Proving that soulmates really do exist.
Continuing the trend of incredible potato dishes, we also had the tater tots served with a spicy cheese sauce. These are definitely not your cafeteria tots – this elevated version was a favorite among the crowd, but my one stomach only had room for the duck fat fries (as you see in the picture I’m holding on to them for dear life – do you think I even let them go? Hell no! MINE.)
When a dish this beautiful is served to you, you almost don’t want to destroy it by eating it! Luckily, with 12 bloggers around the table, there are about 200 different pictures of this beauty floating around. The Lobster Risotto is a perfectly poached lobster served over a smooth risotto, and is one of those bites that makes you want to kiss the chef or at the very least, give him a very intimate and maybe slightly awkward hug.
At this point, most people were calling their Ubers but I opted to send for a wheelbarrow. The Diplomat’s three restaurants each have their own distinct flavor profile, decor, and personality, and I highly recommend all three. Just maybe not at the same time, until science finds a way to implant a second stomach. For which you can count on your girl to be the first in line.
***I received complimentary noms in exchange for this post, however, you cannot bribe me with food, so all opinions are my own.