Forced me to confront the reality that Tulane is actually playing in that bastion power center of college football known as Boca Raton, Florida. And we can't blame Katrina or a lack of proper flower beds at Wilson Center neither for this schedule. As Winston Churchill said, "If you are going through hell, Keep Going" and well, Mrs. Hullabaloo is keep on keepin' on. If for nothing else than to make a statement that: No. I Am Not Going Away. I will continue to subject the Tulane community to my cute tablescaping.
Panorama picture of FAU's 30,000 seat stadium.
So FAU is an upstart in the college football world, being one of the youngest teams to make it to a bowl game. FAU football was also birthed by THE Howard Schnellenberger.
Coach Schnellenberger is famous for being a "Program Builder" and save for his one year barnstorming through Oklahoma, he successfully transformed The U (Miami), Louisville and now FAU.
Coincidentally, Coach Schnellenberger had this to say about Conference USA way back in the day.
I'll just let this statement kind of sink in for those titanic aficionados who attached their hips for a decade. I am just sayin'....
So I discuss Coach Schellenberger in a Tulane geeky kind of way, to point out that Coach CJ came up through The U (Miami) and has this whole "State of Tulane" mindset he's been aggressivley pounding the recruiting trail with. And yes indeed, it is within striking distance of paying off.
Oh Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, purveyor of all that is good and true in the world: if once all is said and done and this whole decade of debacle actually leads to something miraculous happening to save one of the most historic programs in the NCAA, it will truly be the sweetest thing. I just wished the route hadn't been so plagued and self-inflicted like a script for Dante's Inferno.
So speaking of traveling to Hades.....Boca Raton. Boca Raton is in South Florida and every guide I seem to read about it all say the same thing: old people + college students + flashy money. Coach Hullabaloo and I love Miami, and this will be our first extended time to spend in the Boca/Palm Beach/Delray area.
Getting to Boca Raton
First things first: If you are traveling to South Florida and want to get there quickly and painlessly: Fly into Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale Airport is 25 miles south of Boca Raton. Fort Lauderdale Airport is actually also like 15 minutes up the road from the Miami area, so it's even convenient if your intended destination is Miami or to drive down to the Keys. Miami International Airport is the biggest clusterf in the history of traveling, so unless you enjoy tossing yourself into a buzz saw, I would almost strongly suggest taking your time and driving 11 hours from New Orleans to avoid Miami Airport. But seriously folks: just take a non-stop Southwest flight from Moisant Field into Fort Lauderdale and call it a day.
Equidistant to Boca Raton, is also Palm Beach Airport. Palm Beach Airport is 25 miles north of Boca Raton. Flights between Nola/MSY and PBI would require a pit stop in Atlanta on either Delta or Southwest/Air Tran. There are also direct flights from Southwest from Houston to Palm Beach Airport.
Driving is actually not as bad as it might seem. Coach Hullabaloo and I have done the drive many times. There are lovely stops along the way and you can make a mini holiday out of traveling to get there. It takes about 11 hours from New Orleans.
Where to Stay
Lawd, this is Florida. So just throw a dart at a map bursting with your average hotel chains and chose your pick.
We will either descend upon one of our many friends and relatives in South Florida, or get hooked up with one of Coach Hullabaloo's juiced in work deals. But if we had to make hotel arrangements, these would be my suggestions:
The Seagate Hotel in Delray Beach would be at the very top of my list. The Seagate is 10 miles north of Campus. Rooms are around $175 a night. This is a true boutique hotel property that provides a relaxing and pampered getaway. Namaste!
Fairfield Inn is directly behind the stadium next to the Boca Raton Airport.
Alternatively, The Boca Raton Resort and Club is a massive hotel complex built around Addison Mizner's historic hotel in downtown Boca. It is a Waldorf-Astoria flagged property and the rates are around $189 a night.
Marriott Renaissance Boca Raton Hotel is located near the Galleria-esque, Town Center Mall. It is convenient to restaurants and stumbling distance to campus and is about $150 a night.
This is Florida, so take advantage and enjoy the closest you can find to authentic Latin American and Caribbean cooking.
For the unadventurous, there are umpteen chains close to FAU: Houston's, California Pizza Kitchen, Capital Grill, Cheesecake Factory and many others yadda yadda yadda... Folks have raved in yelp about the choices in the food court at the Boca's Town Center Mall. Coach and Mrs. Hullabaloo, however, will be making a bee-line to overdose on as much Mofongo as possible.
Mofongo is a dish that is definitive proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. As Coach Hullabaloo sez: it's so good, it's stupid good. Many countries claim the Mofongo, but my only experience with it is from the US state of Puerto Rico. It is apparently African in origin, a version of an African dish called FuFu. So what it is: Mofongo is a heavenly pile of mashed savory plaintains that have been cooked with onions, garlic, chicken broth and pork crackling and then molded into a mound like a sandcastle. And then if that wasn't enough, it is topped with your choice of Ropa Vieja (slow cooked, shredded pork or beef) or my personal favorite: Shrimp Creole. But not just any old shrimps creole y'all - this here shrimp creole has been made with mangoes for an unimaginable savory sweetness that will seriously make you pass out from utter happiness after your first bite. It will make you feel like you had an angelic encounter.
Apparently there is a Mofongo stand in San Antonio, so I'll be getting two Mofongo opportunities this road trip season. Silver Lining!!! Oh Happy Day!
So where I shall be sampling Mofongo: Borinqueya Restaurant in Davie, Florida, La Cocina Puertorriqueña in Pembroke Pines, Old San Juan Restaurant down in Miami.
And of course, we can't forget the ever present Cuban options: Havana Cuban Restaurant in West Palm, the Cuban Café near campus in Boca Raton. Or you can make the drive to the official motherlode of Cuban restaurants: Restaurante Versalles on Calle Ocho in Little Havana in Miami. The café con leche (café au laît) is worth the drive alone.
Between our Mofongo appointments these are some additional suggestions for eating in the Boca Raton area
Taverna Opa in Hollywood, Florida.
Ok Hollywood is actually the Fort Lauderdale area, but it's close enough to suggest you check it out. I highly enjoy Taverna Opa in South Beach in Miami, so I am going out on a limb that their northern outpost in Hollywood would be worth a venture. It's Mediterranean food with table-prepared hummus, fried cheese Saganaki that is amazing, delicious calimari and grilled Mediterranean meats that are also delish. It's almost like a dinner theater with really fun upbeat club-type music playing throughout dinner which usually ends up with dancing on the tables F&M-style and a confetti of napkins littering the revelry.
Those of us who shook our bootys on the F&M pool tables will feel right at home. Good times.
The Rebel House is an eclectic, funky gastropub.
Menu items include eggplant parm "poppers," white asparagus salad with green goddess and truffle oil dressing, duck with sweet potato/brussel sprout hash, bahn mi, tacos and an aggressive charcuterie platter that is de riguer these days on the food scene. Coach Hullabaloo will have to taste test their charcuterie platter to see if it surpasses the ones he loves from Revolution, Café Degas and Toups Meatery.
Ben's Kosher Deli. Because we are talking about Tulane here y'all.
This is a Florida outpost of a New York chain. In addition to the authentic food, there's apparently lots of kitchy Jewish humor on display as well. Including something along the lines of "For 5000 years we were wandering people. At then we found Boca" Oy! Barump, bump!
Brewzzi Microbrewery Looks to be a basic American suds and grille joint with some craft beers on tap that appear to be worth a taste.
Seasons52 is a "fancy casual" restaurant and wine bar with a seasonally-inspired menu. They do lunch and dinner, but the options are things like turkey skewers with hoppin john and zinfandel bbq, garlic shrimp with saffron-chorizo risotto, seared tuna salad with pineapple, almonds and miso vinaigrette. Cheers.
Getting to FAU Stadium
First of all, I just have to point out that the FAU Stadium was to be corporate sponsored by The GEO Group. Ummmmm: Oy! The FAU radio announcer coined the phrase Owl-Catraz, and following an uproar from the FAU community, the naming deal was cancelled.
The FAU Stadium is located on the north side of campus and online reviews say that navigating thru campus to find the stadium area is an undertaking. Adding to the confusion is that FAU shares campus roads and land with Palm Beach State College. Plus the roads on campus are two lanes and there is no signage pointing directions, just the occasional attendant with a bright yellow shirt. I am double praying here that Tulane is not taking instructions from FAU on rolling out gameday for Yulfogelmevlin.
FAU stadium: Take I-95 to exit 45 (Glades Road) and head east to University Drive which is like an outer loop road around the main part of campus. Follow University Drive to FAU Boulevard where the stadium is situated.
Tailgating at FAU
Since this is a new football campus and their stadium is three years old (and their website contains no and/or old information): Your guess on what to expect is as good as mine. Rules and locations seem to be ever changing from season to season.
I did about fall over when I read that they have to get "Food Waivers" for food served at tailgating that is not purveyed through the university catering. WTH with that. I hope and pray that TPTB didn't get any ideas when they toured FAU during the due diligence tour for the new additions to Ex-Cusa.
From what I have read in their online materials: Tailgating activities are authorized in any ground-level open air parking lot; however, they are not permitted in any parking garage on any level, sidewalks or within 20 feet from buildings. FAU is building a parking garage next to the stadium on the northside of campus that will be used for visitor parking on gameday.
As you can see there are several lots surrounding the stadium, so when Tulane announces the 411 on Tulane Tailgating at FAU, I shall promptly share the information herewith.
Alas. There's a whole lot in an area of 5 million people, but not a whole lot of interesting.
Towne Center in Boca Raton and near FAU campus is a Galleria-esque type place with Neimans, Saks, Bloomies, Macy's and a Sears. Mizner Park is more upscale and pretentious. There's a cute shopping district off Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach called Pineapple Grove Arts District that looks like Magazine Street-ish with a cute preppy store called the Snappy Turtle. and then I could outlet shop to my heart's content at Sawgrass Mills which is supposed to be a ginormous outlet mall to out do all other outlet malls of the western hemisphere.
So next up on our tailgating previews will be San Antonio. We all know Houston, so I won't need to profile that for you. So check in soon for our upcoming visit to the Roadrunners.