Café Boulud’s success lies in the roots we have set down in the community, personalizing our approach and adapting the restaurant to the town’s tastes.
Just how many five-year-olds do you know who have been celebrated by food critics and wine connoisseurs, earned four star ratings, and merited countless awards? The one I have in mind is not a kindergartner, but rather Café Boulud Palm Beach, which has clearly found its place in the sun. Palm Beach may be a town set in its ways, but it has embraced my first restaurant outside of New York, and for that I am infinitely grateful, as it has motivated me to venture farther, first to Las Vegas, and soon to Beijing!
How do you explain the success of this precocious five-year-old, a gem of a restaurant, nestled in the lush tropical gardens of the legendary Brazilian Court Hotel? Aesthetes might attribute it to the warm Mediterranean hues, lavish silks, and pecky cypress paneling, all so artfully arranged by designer Leslie Schlesinger. Gourmands would vote for signature dishes from a delectable pompano with its magically crisp crust and smoked eggplant, to the hand rolled short rib-filled tortellini, or the comforting beet and brisket borscht, deftly prepared by Chef Zach Bell. As for Zach, he is biased toward the succulent sandwiches on which he unleashes his creative spirit come lunchtime. After all, where else but in a seaside resort could a four-star chef concoct sandwiches to his heart’s desire. This month’s favorite: Asian Duck hero with duck pâté, duck confit, and jalapeno peppers.
The story of the sandwiches dates back to a friend of mine from Texas. He had dinner at Daniel in New York one night, and he said, “Your food is fantastic. I really want to send you a gift-a barbecue.” I guess must have mentioned that night that I love barbecued food, because, sure enough, I received a huge barbecue made of steel, that you can load with wood and cook for hours and hours! I had no place for it in my kitchen or on the terrace of my apartment, so I shipped the barbeque down to Palm Beach, and Zack made a host of brilliant sandwich recipes around this new contraption. Now, every time I travel to Palm Beach, I go and check out my barbecue.
Ask any member of the town’s social set and they would say Café Boulud’s success lies in the highly polished service at the festivities in the private party rooms that make my restaurant the center of what’s happening in Palm Beach. Lily Pulitzer’s recent “For Darfur” benefit there was a resounding success. Emilia Fanjul, a discerning Palm Beach hostess and Café Boulud regular, has lent her stamp of approval, holding her Everglades School benefit in the restaurant’s conservatory for the fifth year in a row. Perhaps the greatest compliment from one known for gala giving savvy was Audrey Gruss’s invitation to prepare the Vernissage dinner she is chairing for the International Fine Art & Antique Fair this winter. Not to upstage these lovely ladies, Zach and I will be hosting a gala of our own on January 28, when we will give our third annual dinner supporting Share Our Strength and its efforts to end childhood hunger.
Those who love Palm Beach for its easy elegance would claim that Café Boulud is all about a languorous weekend brunch on the terrace. It’s been voted the Zagat Survey’s No. 1 best brunch in Palm Beach County. Even the younger set would have a say, offering up the café’s buzzing “Lounge Nights,” and the incredible following we have attracted. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, gents in tailored blazers and demoiselles in cocktail dresses and Manolos spill out of the lounge and into the courtyards, swaying along with DJ Jean Marc.
Get wine connoisseurs’ opinions, and they’ll stand behind Sommelière Jenny Benzie’s spirited tasting dinners. This year, she launched her season with a Champagne Henriot tasting on December 18, and a Burgundian Feast is coming up on February 5.
But if you ask me, I’ll tell you Café Boulud’s success lies in the roots we have set down in the community, personalizing our approach and adapting the restaurant to the town’s tastes. Café Boulud has simply become an integral part of the local landscape, and a delicious fixture of Palm Beach life. For this I say, thank you Palm Beach for your warm welcome and your support!
Whichever facet of Café Boulud appeals to the Palm Beacher in you, join me and my beloved team in celebrating our fifth season, with countless delicious festivities planned for the months ahead.