NU grad is bartender extraordinaire in Boca Raton

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Niagara University grad Alicia Kwiatkowski

It was just a regular Sunday, strolling along at Mizner Park http://www.miznerpark.com/ in Boca Raton, Florida when we decided to stop in for a cool drink and some calamari at Uncle Julio’s.
A very busy bartender served up light homemade tortilla chips with the best salsa I have ever had. She told me the salsa is prepared daily with mesquite grilled vegetables. It has a smoky flavor and was the perfect dip for the great chip.

I enjoyed a Patron Margherita made with fresh lime juice. It was the perfect balance of tart and sweet. We ordered the appetizer of the day, crispy calamari with a dip which reminded me of vodka sauce. We also ordered Quesadillas made with sautéed fresh peppers, mushrooms and onions. They were toasted perfectly on the outside and melty warm on the inside. Both were the ideal compliment with my drink.

The very friendly barkeep asked my husband if he was from Niagara Falls. It seemed like a random question until she pointed out he had a Niagara Falls Country Club logo on his shirt – not so random after all!

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Then, in typical Western New York fashion the dialogue begins:

“OK, where are you from?”

“I grew up in Lancaster.”

“No kidding? Where did you go to school?”

“I went to Niagara University.”

“What brings you down here?”

“I graduated from NU six years ago and headed to South Florida to work for the Four Seasons. As you know, Florida was particularly hard hit during the crash and the tourism industry slowed to a trickle.”

Meet Alicia Kwiatkowski, a Lancaster native who has lived in West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach and now Boca Raton. She says she would leave South Florida kicking and screaming although there are plenty of things she misses from home. She misses the food from home the most naming chicken wings (she chooses Duff’s over Anchor Bar), Picasso’s Pizza and Tim Hortons.

Alicia participated in karate through high school but did not play any sports in college. Her best memory of Niagara is of her friends, many of whom still keep in touch. I’ll just bet they visit as often as possible!

Notebook:

While climbing the stairs to get to our car Friday night in Deerfield Beach, Fla., a guy overheard our conversation and joined in. He had a Detroit t-shirt on and told us he owned A1A Tattoos across the street (of course he did!). One thing led to another and he said he knew someone from Lewiston. Turns out it was one of my husband’s clients. Small world!

I learned about Pisco at Shooter’s in Fort Lauderdale. It is a grape brandy made in Chile and Peru. Look for more information soon…had a Peruvian Lemonade…one of the best drinks I have ever had.

Have a yummy week!

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