In the tinsel-dripping days leading up to Christmas, there’s an annual fest that’s a bacchanalian stocking stuffed with five days of wine, cocktail receptions, multi-coursed dinners, and beachside revelry. The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival is merrymaking at its finest for the food-loving set, especially those who prefer to celebrate the holidays basking in the sun rather than bundled in the snow.
This year, the events kicked off at the historic Brazilian Court, a hotel oozing with romance and charm and home to Cafe Boulud — Chef Daniel’s al fresco South Florida gem. “Daniel and Friends” was a lively cocktail party with excited guests and chefs mingling in the courtyard, chatting about the coming days’ festivities. Illustrating the dichotomous nature of South Florida, the following day, sequins turned to swimsuits for a beach volleyball tournament, where chefs “serving” took on an entirely different meaning.
While all events were exquisite in their own right, my memories are fondest from PB Catch and Raw Bar, where Charleston’s chef Mike Lata created a Palm Beach-y version of his much-lauded The Ordinary. The menu was a tribute to sustainably-sourced seafood, with dishes by Lata, Cafe Boulud’s Zach Bell, Dean Max of Ft. Lauderdale’s 3030 Ocean, and PB Catch’s executive chef Aaron Black.
The final course of that meal was a bow-wrapped double treat for me: the dessert itself (hazelnut dacquoise, praline feuillete, chocolate ganache, and milk chocolate chantilly paired with a Quinta do Noval 10 Year tawny port), and the discovery of Chef Patrick Leze. Leze was a pastry chef in France for more than 40 years, with resume notches including Laduree and Gaston Lenotre, before discovering Palm Beach while touring the Florida coast on motorcycle. He now has a new (eponymous) patisserie on Sunrise Avenue, which I visited the day after tasting his dessert. When you visit, of course try a Paris-worthy macaron, but make a full lunch of it — the French Brie sandwich and pate are magnifique.