Chef Dirk De Cuyper used to cook for the rich and famous aboard elegant cruise ships and private yachts. But now you can serve his fresh, flavorful cuisine in your own home. De Cuyper prepares delicious soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees and desserts for takeout at year-old Eten Food Company, two doors east of The Floridian on Las Olas Boulevard. His partner in life and business, Allison Morgan, runs the front of the European-style shop. The couple met when they worked on the yacht Polar Star, he as the chef and she as a ship's purser. They haven't totally left the sea behind. A part of their business at Eten - Dutch for "to eat" - is yacht provisioning and catering.
Locals will find a limited but appealing menu focused on seasonal ingredients, with many dishes changing daily. On Monday, for example, you'll find vegetable chicken noodle soup or carrot lentil; on Wednesday, it's Thai chicken with vegetables or tomato, lemon and parsley.
Given De Cuyper's background - born in Belgium, classically trained at a culinary institute in Antwerp, cooked in Michelin-star restaurants, wrote a cookbook - we figured Eten would be an expensive place to grab a quick bite. Turns out this small gourmet food store is one of the more reasonably priced spots on the boulevard.
One of the best deals is the $7.50 Lunch Box special: half a sandwich (choices include curry chicken salad, house-roasted turkey and tuna salad), with either a half-cup of soup or a salad and a treat, perhaps a lemon bar or a decadent chocolate truffle. Though not included in the Lunch Box special, hot sandwiches like ciabatta piled high with chicken, mozzarella, roasted peppers, spinach and house-made pesto are also a favorite. Vegetarians will love the roasted, marinated veggies with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. Staples include penne pasta salad with feta, Kalamata olives, peppers and a whisper of coriander.
For the undecided, Morgan, a native of England and a former journalist, is good about making recommendations and pointing out deals. For example, if you spend at least $30 on prepared food, you can take home a free bottle of wine. Eten recently added artisanal cheeses, and there's a tempting array of Valentino chocolates from Belgium. We couldn't resist the house-made berry muffins and ultra-rich chocolate mousse.
There's a grab-and-go case with frozen items like chicken pot pie, lasagna, sauces and stocks. Specialty items include truffles, coffee and caviar, tempting whether you're headed home or out to sea.