Old King Cole by Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966)
Palm Beach, Part Two
by Edward Brivio and John Mariani
New York Corner: What's Not So New Under the NYC Sun
by John Mariani
Man About Town:
by Christopher Mariani
Wine: Great Burgundies Do Not Have to Cost a Fortune
by John Mariani
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PALM BEACH, Part Two
by Edward Brivio
Photos by Robert Pirillo
And the Hottest New Spot in Town
by John Mariani
If The Breakers is a tad too grand for your taste or budget, the Chesterfield Hotel, built in 1925, is a change of pace, yet another excellent example of the Mediterranean Revival style architecture that provides Palm Beach with much of its visual appeal. Now owned by the British, Red Carnation hotel group, which recently finished a major renovation of the property, the Chesterfield brings a bit of merry old England to Florida‘s Gold Coast, from its reception area awash in paisley chintz, and paneled walls to the complementary glass of sherry offered at check-in to our room that appeared to come straight out of a posh English country-house hotel, complete with wainscoting, and white walls covered with framed architectural prints.
With a quite large and comfortable king-sized bed, and good-sized seating area with love seat and coffee table, and a workspace with desk, our mini-suite surrounded one in luxury, and had a window, providing light and air, overlooking the lovely pool area. The building may be a landmarked period piece, but everything about the room felt fresh, bright, and new, especially the marble-clad bathroom, complete with luxury toiletries and the best-looking bathrobes--red-and-white striped--I’ve yet to find in a hotel.
Only two blocks from Worth Street and three from the ocean, with its small courtyard café, vivid British-racing green marquée and deep awnings of crisp canvas and a lovely, palm-fringed, heated pool, the Chesterfield is an oasis of tranquility smack in the middle of town. All too easy it was, then, to while away the sunlight hours stretched out in the shade of a large market-umbrella, on one of the chaises-longues surrounding the pool, lulled by the murmur of the water falling from the small, stone fountain at one end. An affable, eager staff see to it that, even poolside, no guests’ needs are overlooked. The hotel is also pet-friendly. Indeed, as we checked in, the local Animal Rescue League was holding a benefit lunch in the dining room, and the lobby was filled with well-bred, well-mannered dogs with their owners.
Lounge (below), has
from which decade came the inspiration for the vintage
décor, but this
quirky, slightly louche and theatrical look (and
live-music) is what makes the Lounge such a popular supper club.
this out-of-the-past impression was deepened the night we were there by
large birthday party of at least 60 filling a good part of the dining
burgundy fabric on
windows, the leopard-print carpet and fabrics featured throughout
or the hand-painted ceiling of female nudes emerging from what looks
nothing so much as raspberry swirl ice cream. There was nothing stale
or offhand about the
out of the kitchen, all obviously prepared à la minute.
Gerard Coughlin and his équipé know their
business and take
pleasing their diners seriously. And you can dance between courses.
Oysters Rockefeller and Maryland style lump crab cakes were superb, the oysters plump and hot from the oven, with a crusty, browned top, as were the pure crustacean crabcakes, only held together long enough to be conveyable by fork from plate to mouth. A classic Caesar salad preceded the entrees, and here again the kitchen could do no wrong. Gerard’s roast duckling with an orange glaze and almond/fennel stuffing was just about perfect: well-roasted without being dry, deep mahogany in color, with crisp skin, hardly any fat, and delicious juicy flesh. And the enormous grilled veal chop was as good as it gets, and I couldn’t have wished for anything better alongside it than creamy mashed potatoes and a well-dressed, chopped salad.
Somehow, we found room for desserts: Strawberry Eaton Mess, and English sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. Any dessert with both “sticky” and “toffee” in its name is for me, and why pass up fragrant strawberries and whipped cream?
The maître’d, after we’d given him a good idea of our preferences and price-point, suggested a 2008 Dutton Goldfield, Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, Pinot noir ($65). Not only just about perfect with what we were eating, but also a pinot noir more Burgundian than New World, medium-bodied, with lively, fresh fruit, a hint of spice, and the supple tannins and acidic structure to back it up.
Another must on any visit to Palm Beach is Café Boulud , a branch of restaurateur Daniel Boulud's NYC original. For starters there’s its location, right off one of the lush courtyards, in the glorious, beautifully restored Brazilian Court Hotel, another 1920‘s gem, straight out of the LA of a 40’s Hollywood movie, long neglected but recently brought back to glowing good health. Then there’s the dining room itself, a suite of long, low rooms, in serene earth tones, pictures on the walls to interest the eye, warm lighting in the evening, and inviting tables, impeccably set.
There’s dining outdoors on a palm-fringed patio overlooking a large fountain as well, but we’ve never been able to pass-up that comfortable, elegant, contemporary interior. The unruffled, faultless service staff and the warm greeting of General Manager Laurent Chevalier, who never fails to make one feel like an old, loyal friend, help as well. Finally, of course, there’s fabulous food, always fresh, always inventive, and always delicious. For Palm Beach, Boulud chose just the right, Executive chef, highly-talented Zach Bell from the NYC Cafe. And if Le Patron himself is in town and in the dining room, passing from table to table, greeting his guests with that Gallic warmth, charm, and ease of manner, that make Daniel so engaging, then a great meal becomes even more memorable.
La Tradition, La Saison, Le Voyage, and Le
simple. I should know better than ever to equate simple with
of hesitation before
ordering the tomato risotto with olive oil confit heirloom
Grana Padano and basil. What arrived was one of those
deceptively uncomplicated, understated, as well as unexpected dishes,
clean, unadulterated, captivating flavors: ripe, fresh tomatoes,
cooked rice, fresh basil and yummy shards of Grana, and such
means, as only the best of chefs can create.
On Le Voyage we found Octopus à la plancha, nicely grilled and tender, served atop a wonderful “salad” containing chick peas, potatoes, red onions, piquillo peppers, in a smoked paprika aïoli, all of it sparked by the addition of Spanish chorizo. Grilled local mahi with a fricassée of haricots verts, fingerling potatoes, and a fresh dill/horseradish soubise was a perfect piece of fish, all but swimming with freshness, in the setting it deserved. Saddle of rabbit was also rewarding, stuffed with a paste made from its innards, on a bed of fava beans in a pool of creamy grits with brown gravy. Only a side dish of chickpea fries was disappointing, the big thick fries without much of a crunchy crust.
fromages included Casatica di bufala, an unusual
made from water-buffalo's milk
Italy, near Bergamo; Cacio di Roma, a classic Italian table
semi-soft, and made from pasteurized ewe's milk in Lazio; Brebis
des Pyrenées, a French, hard-rind cheese,
made in the
Basque country and the region of Béarn; and finally, a
Fairbault blue cheese,
needing no italics since it comes from a dairy in Minnesota.
OMG, dessert too! An upside-down chocolate soufflé, warm and gooey inside, and a scoop each of vanilla gelato, and passion-fruit sorbet, both richly flavored and well worth the caloric intake. And, after all this, came the not-to-be-passed-over-lightly petits-fours, a lovely passion-fruit gelée, one of those wonderful, crunchy, thin-crusted Parisian macaroons, an exquisite miniature financière, and similarly scaled quatre quarts (pound cake), a rich, dense, chocolate truffle, and, for me, the pièce de resistance, a beautiful, blushing pink, raspberry-flavored marshmallow. I’m always pleasantly surprised, as well as impressed, when a pastry chef, here Arnaud Chavigny, takes the time to make something sublime out of that humblest, and, so often, awful, of childhood indulgences, the marshmallow.
For a complete change of pace, a visit to the Omphoy Ocean Resort is in order. Mention the Omphoy in town, and the first thing you’ll hear is “South Beach in Palm Beach.” Certainly, the boutique hotel brings an entirely new and unexpected resort experience and design esthetic to Palm Beach, but you don’t have to be among the young, or ultra-hip to appreciate its up-to-the-minute décor.
After the bright sunlight outdoors, entering its dark interior leaves you momentarily “blinded.” But this juxtaposition of darkness and light is, of course, the whole point. With a good stretch of the gorgeous, sun-drenched, Atlantic right out back, the designers wanted to provide guests with a shady retreat once inside. One goes from the bright, shining sun and shimmering sea of eternal “high-noon” outside, directly to dusky evening, verging on nightfall, within, and to the welcome shade of a cavern-like lair, or den.
Once inside, on the ground floor, you feel you’ve entered a rather roomy, rather posh cave, one that surrounds you with towering, dark brown walls, dark wood flooring, soaring ebony pillars, a “floating” stairway to the first floor, and, from underneath it, the gentle sound of falling water, and at the very back, small expanses (that, after a moment, reveal themselves as windows) bright with sunlight.
deep cobalt blue, oblongs of glass, are framed by a simple,
bright-white, horizontal grid. Hallways shroud you in darkness, their
walls, either large sheets of steel, oxidized so they have a gorgeous
sheen, like that left by a gasoline-slick, or long expanses of soft,
suede. The guestroom floors, of bronze-infused, porcelain tiles, are
the foot, virtually indestructible, and give the room a clean, carefree
at one end, where
doors opened onto a private terrace large enough for two beach
small table and its unobstructed view of the ocean close by. A big,
comfortable king-sized bed of dark wood sat in the center of the room
furniture of the same hue all around. The Omphoy’s
the Atlantic, right out back, was gorgeous, but charging guests $20 a
day to rent the beach umbrellas was a little much.
The signature restaurant here is called, simply, Michelle Bernstein’s at the Omphoy (left). The highly acclaimed Bernstein did exceedingly well in her choice of Chef de cuisine for the space, Chef Lindsay Autry. Lovely, petite, and looking younger than her 28 years, Autry joins an iron will with a determination twice her size. Jpeg photos of a particularly good catch--many a good bit larger than she is--are routinely e-mailed to her by local fishermen.
Cobia, a regional fish, was impeccable, with firm, sweet flesh, all but jumping off the plate with freshness. Ditto the wild striped bass, again with a satisfying, firm, meaty texture. With the first course came ethereal gnocchi alla carbonara, light, airy, and so good they could have been an entrée by themselves, with slivers of delicious jamon Serrano, and shitake mushrooms; the bass came atop a farro “risotto,” studded with good-sized chunks of lobster and tasty chorizo. Autry puts her reputation squarely on the line by offering fresh Sardines, and comes out a winner. Their clean, briny taste and texture are irresistible, and have nothing to do with those oily things that come in a tin. Chef Autry has them Fed-exed from Spain or Portugal. These were perfect, nicely grilled, and served --one big one-- on bruschetta along with local heirloom tomatoes in a vinaigrette with just the right, clean acidic bite to enhance their flavor, and a little crunch to round out the dish.
olés as well for her
Florida tomato gazpacho. Someone’s been to Spain: here was
true gazpacho, a light to medium-bodied liquid, smooth
refreshing as a cool
drink of water. In torrid Seville where I first had it, it’s served
an ice cube floating in the middle to keep it that way. You taste each fresh
vegetable--tomato, bell pepper, and cucumber, yet the
flavors all mesh
easily one into the other, and what emerges is a seamless, supple
whole. I had to stop myself from adding an ice cube.
keeps Michy’s fried chicken on the
menu, much to her guests’ delight. The buttermilk-marinated
chicken was super-crunchy from the cornmeal in its coating
and juicy within. What could be more appropriate with it than
mac-and-cheese and coleslaw?
Chassagne.-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes, $99,
was a good, satisfying red
Burgundy, while the Numanthia Termes: $65, shows why
the International Style, done
right, is so
attractive, when some kind of structure, whether from acids, tannins,
balances opulent, upfront fruit, as do lovely, secondary notes of
to $20, mains: $30 to $38,
desserts: $8 to $10.
PALM BEACH'S NEWEST HOT SPOT
by John Mariani
350 South County Road
For all its conservative traditions, Palm Beach residents are as eager as visitors to hit the newest restaurants and bars in town, and the brand new 160-seat Būccan has been packing them in since opening in January, at the start of the high season. Yet even now, well past the spring and into the sweltering Florida summer, the place is still jammed every night, as I found out on a recent Friday visit.
I made a special trip up from
Miami just to eat at Būkkan
principally because I have so admired chef-partner Clay Conley's
cooking in the
past when he was at Azul in Miami, where he was doing some of the most
cuisine in the city. Here at Būccan (a word that refers to a Caribbean
grill-like apparatus, a progenitor of a barbecue) he is going far more
casual with what he calls a "Progressive American Grill."
The room is done up in sandy colors, with lots of soft pillows, couches and banquettes, muted but consistent lighting that allows you to see everyone coming and going, the whole of it done with accents of copper, stone, and mercury glass. Tables are polished copper and wood. It all fits nicely into contemporary Palm Beach with a distinctly casual feel that draws people from the area, the oldtimers in Lily Pulitzer and Ralph Lauren, the younger generation in Versace and Tommy Hilfiger, with scads of women who dress to the nines here. Deep tans, from beach, booth, spray, or bottle, seem de rigueur.
Clay (below) and his crew turn out food at a furious pace, starting with tapas-like pinchos of cheeses, hamachi sashimi with chilies, really delicious tuna poke with coconut, gingered carrot, and jalapeno, and a succulent, sweet petite lobster roll. Under the “Crispy Flour & Water” category, the menu offers whipped ricotta ravioli (too soft) with truffle butter, sweet peas, and a Port syrup, as well as spinach-tomato gnocchi with crispy prosciutto. The Thai beef salad is better than most I've had in Thai storefronts.
grill is clearly the centerpiece here, and the woodfire-roasted
mushroom-Gruyère-onion pizza with a black truffle vinaigrette
from that fearsome oven just right, crisp and bubbly, everything well
melded. Popular grill
items like tender octopus with creamy tabbouleh and black garlic, and
quail with a delectable Cheddar biscuit and irresistible creamed
bacon are really good. The lamb scottaditti--which
large plates too, about five of them, and I highly recommend them as
including a yellowtail snapper with bok choy, green curry and white
very juicy rendition with good flavor components.
Būkkan is open nightly
for dinner. Small plates $4.50-$15, large plates $15-$30.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
Spain's Rail Sytem
Las Ramblas, Barcelona
I recently returned from Spain where I visited Madrid, went on to the lively city of Barcelona, made my way south to Valencia and finally back north to Madrid before flying home to New York. This destination triangle is a terrific way to experience three distinctly unique cities.
Madrid, the capital, is packed with beautiful architecture, a newly constructed over-the-highway lush green park and charming little neighborhoods where you can sit outside, enjoy a glass of wine and grab a bite to eat. Barcelona, a shopper’s paradise, is a dynamic city right on the Eastern coastline of Spain, fueled by the city’s youth, full of tasty little tapas restaurants and chic outdoor cafés. Valencia is a culturally rich city known for its stunning cathedrals, magnificent museums and a traditional dish called paella, slightly disappointing. If only the cuisine of Spain embraced garlic and spiciness, oh what a difference it would make.
All three cities are worth a visit but they are not exactly close to one another. Madrid sits almost directly in the middle of Spain, Barcelona on the Northeastern corner of the vast country and Valencia, a good 200 plus miles south of Barcelona, also directly on the coastline. The question is, how does one get from city to city with luggage, without paying astronomical fees and in a very short period of time.
I found, is
the high-speed rail that is part of Spain’s rail system, RENFE. I
had always heard amazing testimonials regarding European railway
systems, but it
was not until this trip to Spain that I understood exactly why. Four
up the railway experience: pleasant, comfortable, efficient and clean.
After touring Madrid, where I spent one night at the Intercontinental Madrid, my next stop was Barcelona. I woke up at 6 am for a 7 am departure and jumped in a cab heading towards the Atocha Madrid Train Station. Upon arrival I witnessed a bustling station filled with thousands of men and women getting ready for daily commutes to other cities around Spain. I found my way to the terminal and prior to boarding I grabbed a cup of coffee from the station’s café Ciao Restaurante. Twenty or so minutes before departure I was told I could board the RENFE train. Once onboard I took a look around and was delighted to see my quarters were extremely clean and well kept, all seats designed with ample leg room (keep in mind I’m 6'1") and giant windows to gaze out of once en route.
Traveling first class, I was immediately offered a selection of newspapers and magazines, asked if I would like any water and given a genuine welcome from a very pretty young lady. Once out of the station, departing exactly on schedule, unlike our wonderful train system here in the States, the sun’s light filled the train car and we picked up speed in a hurry. According to the onboard speedometer, once out of the city, we were cruising towards Barcelona at speeds upwards of 290 kilometers (approximately 172 mph) and you don’t feel a damn thing. The train seems to glide through the countryside of Spain as if floating above the steel rails below. There was almost no noise from the engine, just a peaceful hum in the background.
Just a few minutes into our travel I was handed a breakfast menu followed shortly by a breakfast tray filled with coffee, orange juice, an omelet, a selection of bread and lots of jam. The food was no better than that found on a mediocre airline but it was still a nice touch. After a few chapters of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, I drifted off to sleep after reclining my chair, and two hours later I woke up in Barcelona as the train quietly pulled into the station.
In Barcelona we checked into the Hotel Claris and had a very fine lunch at the Mandarin Oriental. That evening we walked until we found a cozy little tapas restaurant and ordered almost everything on the menu, twice. In the morning it was off to Valencia.
Out of the three train rides taken while in Spain, the Barcelona to Valencia trip was by far my favorite. The view is magnificent. Imagine, for two hours straight, looking out onto the ocean on one side and a gorgeous green landscape on the other. I probably should have slept but instead I took tons of pictures and stared out at the coastline while drinking a double espresso inside the bar car. It was blissful and the natural beauty of Spain will never leave my memory.
Spain, the AVE railway system is clean, quiet, efficient and
all, nothing like the embarrassing railway systems found throughout
(although the Northeast does have nice trains). The beauty of traveling
Europe is that it is so easy. You are more than welcome to stand on
lines at the airport, I’d rather take the train. Let’s see who gets
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NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
The City of Beaune in Burgundy, France
My advice to the budding wine enthusiast is to go out and buy a very good wine that is typical of its type, thereby having a standard by which to measure other wines, or, to carry the literary metaphor further, give a person Jane Austen or Ernest Hemingway and they’ll probably never go back to Barbara Cartland and Steig Larsson.
Thus, were I to recommend an introduction to fine cabernet sauvignon, I’d recommend a third- or fourth cru bordeaux or a Napa Valley estate in the $30-$50 range. For a premium Italian wine, a barolo or barbaresco. When it comes to chardonnay and pinot noir, however, I’d shy away from recommending big, flashy, oaky California examples and instead focus on French burgundies.
The problem is, the very best burgundies are out of reach for most consumers—a bottle of Romanée-Conti is running about $10,000—and, unlike the wines of bordeaux, which come from single estates, a single vineyard burgundy may be owned by many negoçiants (merchants) who buy the grapes, must, or wine then make their own blends bottled under their own label.
Becoming familiar with obscure burgundy negoçiants is a lifelong project, but many well-established companies like Bouchard Pere & Fils, Louis Jadot, Domaine Leroy, and Joseph Drouhin are not just readily available in the global market but produce a wide range of consistently good wines, including many of the most illustrious and expensive.
So on Father’s Day this year, I celebrated by opening two Joseph Drouhin bottlings, a 2009 Meursault ($45.50) and a 2009 Morey-Saint-Denis ($50), the first with spaghetti with a basil pesto sauce, the latter with a grilled veal chop. These are wines of enormous refinement, not to be drunk without food, and they vividly reminded me what I how distinctive Burgundian chardonnay and pinot noir can be.
The Meursault’s chardonnay grapes are picked by hand in various selected vineyards from “trusted growers.” They are then gently pressed and aged nine to ten months, using only 30 percent new oak barrels, so that the subtlety of the wine remains and the complexity of the fruit itself is revealed both in the nose over the palate, with a creamy finish that is quintessential chardonnay.
Morey-Saint-Denis is located on the Côte de Nuits between Gevrey-Chambertin and Chambolle-Musigny, and only garnered its own appellation in 1935. Relative to its more famous neighbors, which have grand cru status, Morey-Saint-Denis wines are generally less expensive than them yet express the same lush virtues of the best pinot noir grapes. Again, Drouhin draws from its partner vineyards with very low yields in order to “reveal every nuance of the terroir,” as well as deep color and lilac-like bouquet.
Using 20 percent new oak, Drouhin’s bottling spends 14 to 18 months in barrel, blended after extensive tastings of each one. I might well let the wine age a year or more, but at this point, on a summer’s night, it could not have been a better expression of great but affordable pinot noir.
Drouhin is also a fine representative of French vineyards’ 21st century attention to biological and biodynamic principles of cultivation to limit the amount of chemicals in the vineyards, using instead natural predators to control spiders and compost from organic matter instead of fertilizers. Under CEO Frederic Drouhin, the 131-year-old company, with 73 hectares (182.5 acres) in Burgundy, has also switched to bottles that are ten percent lighter, thereby reducing their carbon footprint.
are applaudable commitments, especially since global warming is making
increasingly more difficult to grow the finicky pinot noir grape. But
now, wines like these, in this price category, will set a bar for a
drinker by which to judge fine chardonnay and pinot noir.
And for those already converted long
ago, we are reminded by such wines of what it was we loved about them
John Mariani's wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis.
WHY THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ENGLAND
the same thing in the restaurant business. Great
dazzle every day, every table.We're not
the cozy new
spot in Little Italy, is the Boobie Gibson of restaurants. More like
Williams: very good, most of the time. Chef-owner Peppe Pilumeli's
prepared Italian and Sicilian dishes are served in a warm atmosphere --
light-amber plastered walls, knickknack-cluttered windowsills and a
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I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK: THE HIGH LINE IN CHELSEA; BEST BEACH WALKS ON CAPE COD.
Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio. He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at KNPR.org. Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).
ALL YOU NEED BEFORE YOU GO
An engaging, interactive wine
column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine
Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani.
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