Sunday, March 28, 2010

Going Greek in Greenacres

Your Gluttonous Gourmet’s latest gastronomic conquest has filled his stomach with food and his heart with music. To paraphrase the theme song of a 1960s television series:

If Greenacres is the place for you,

you will love to eat at Skorpios II.

I’m assuming of course, that Skorpios II actually resides in Greenacres, instead of Lake Worth. As any new Florida resident soon discovers, the state has numerous towns within towns. Many of them, like Tamarac, appear to be states of mind, given the lack of visible boundaries.

Although located on Lake Worth Road not far west of the Welcome to Greenacres sign, Skorpios II appears in the Yellow Pages as a Lake Worth restaurant. Without the Greenacres sign or the Yellow Pages listing, one might assume the restaurant’s location is nearby Palm Springs, which, much like its California counterpart, appears to be a state of mind for self-proclaimed celebrities such as this reviewer.

Regardless of its location's name, Skorpios II occupies Suite B of a humble strip mall on Lake Worth Road, not far west of Jog Road. Its modest exterior conceals what constitutes a culinary tribute to the island in the Aegean Sea whose culture shaped Western Civilization. Its tasteful interior, a white and blue nautical decor with a tease of the Aegean painted on its far wall, promises the typical Greek fare: exquisite, abundant and unpretentious.

Arriving shortly ahead of the 6:00 P.M dinner rush, we perused the menu, which featured the fare commonly found in Greek restaurants: Gyros, Moussaka, Baklava and Greek Salads of various sizes, just to name a few.

When Mike, our waiter, arrived, I ordered two Gyros sandwiches and a large Greek salad. Since Mike’s waist resided behind his belt, not over it, I assumed his recommended salad sizes would be half what I needed for gratification and ordered the largest size, despite a lengthy debate. His down-to-earth nature and desire to please made me share my story of winning a free dessert at the Cheesecake Factory with him. He responded with warm laughter

While waiting for the main course, we nibbled from baskets of warmed pita bits tasty enough to fill us before the meal arrived. Although the Gyros sandwiches took time to prepare, given the size the small but efficient kitchen, the crowded tables and the line out the door, they proved to be well worth the wait. The Gyros sandwiches, abundant in every applicable sense of the word, required two large hands to grip and a horse-sized mouth to bite. For those who cannot separate and reconnect their jawbones to devour this substantial sandwich, I suggest eating it with the wrapper on and peeling it just enough for your next bite. Its flavor is well worth the effort.

When the salad arrived in a huge porcelain bowl, your favorite Glutton faced a moment of truth. Abundant beyond words, it would give any serious glutton pause. The bowl would have held a basketball with room to spare. Iceberg lettuce with an ample supply of feta cheese and fresh tomatoes, as well as peppers and black olives piled high enough to make at least two salads of more than satisfactory portions. A second glance at the menu told me it was the family-sized salad. Nevertheless, I had a reputation to live up to or down to, as the case may be.

“You’ve given me a real challenge,” I admitted to Mike. But, if I didn’t finish it, I would claim that I ate too much pita bread before the food arrived. After all, the Gluttonous Gourmet has to maintain his reputation.

The two women sitting next to us announced that they had made a bet on whether I could finish the salad. In a brief but congenial conversation, they told us that they were of Syrian and Lebanese descent. Since my wife, Elaine, and our friend Sharon were Jewish and I am of bland ethnic origins, we proved that peaceful coexistence was possible, at least in the South Florida branch of the Middle East. Only our hunger prevented us from singing “Kumbayah.”

When the ladies announced their surprise at my appetite to Mike, he quipped, “This guy used to be the bantamweight champion of Palm Beach county.”

“Actually, Mike, I was five bantamweight champions of Palm Beach County,” I said, pleased to hear another boxing aficionado’s voice.

Mike’s grin reflected a combination of confusion and fascination . “You mean, you held five titles?”

“No, just one.” The Gourmet may be a glutton, and although he may have moments of hyperbole, he is not a braggart.

Mike looked bewildered. “I thought you just said you were a five-time champion.”

“No. I weighed enough for five bantamweight champions.”

“Enjoy your meal,” Mike said through a perplexed grin.

“Don’t worry, Mike. I always rise to challenges” I answered with the trash-talking brashness of a former--and current---title belt holder. (After eating the Gyros sandwiches, I had to remove my belt to make room for the salad.)

I rose to the challenge of eating the salad, easily a champion's effort. The pause to banter had allowed my food to settle, leaving enough abdominal square footage to meet one of my greatest gastronomic challenges with a lot of gusto and a little salad dressing.

The next time I rose, I raised my hands high over my head and bellowed: “I DID IT! I DID IT!” the way boxing champions do after winning their bouts. When I rose, however, my right hip bumped the adjacent table, spilling a huge and tempting heap of moussaka into the laps of the ladies.

So much for world peace.

When Mike brought the bill, he told me he had been involved in boxing in a variety of capacities. When he asked me what I thought of my meal, his tone reminded me of Howard Cosell, the late boxing announcer.

“Well, Mike,” I said, “It was definitely a challenge. The meal was bigger than I thought. It was a tough opponent to finish off, but tender to eat. I took its best flavors and came right back. Like I told you, I rise to challenges. It had a lot more flavor than I expected, and the salad had great conditioning. Crisp lettuce, fresh feta cheese. . . It took me a while, but I wore it down to size and finished it off, even after eating two plates of pita bread. The meal was a tough opponent, but I’ll give it a rematch any time. I told you, Mike, I RISE TO CHALLENGES. NOTHNG CAN STOP ME! I AM THE GLUTTONOUS GOURMET! I AM THE GREATEST GLUTTONOUS GOURMET OF ALL TIME!

“Would you like some dessert? I recommend our Baklava.”

“You’ll have to talk to my promoter, Mike. If the price is right, I’ll eat anything, anywhere, anytime.”

At Skorpios II, the price is right and the portions please both discerning palates and cavernous abdominal cavities. It won’t take much negotiating for me to take on the baklava. I will eat at Skorpios II anytime.

And so should you.

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