Our neighbors to the north are learning a thing or two about how to throw a great food party. The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival closed out its tenth year with droves of satisfied food lovers, dozens of star chefs and many 3-D glasses put to good use (just look closely at the festival’s logo).
Returning chefs and industry leaders included Daniel Boulud, Robert Irvine, Johnny Iuzzini, Anita Lo, Jeff Mauro, Mike Lata, Dean Max, Ken Oringer and Virginia Willis.
Miami chefs represented with Giorgio Rapicavoli, Timon Balloo, Jeff McInnis, Richard Hales and Jose Mendin cooking alongside Palm Beach County favorites Clay Conley, Tim Lipman, Julien Gremaud and Lindsay Autry. The list goes on and on but we braved the cooler temps and pastel wardrobes to bring you this report of the best bites.
Hearts of Palm “crab cake” at Chef Welcome Party at The Breakers Resort Palm Beach
The Breakers’ executive chef Jeff Simms created the food stations at this glitzy kick-off at the storied Palm Beach resort. Due to weather the event was moved indoors, but that just meant we got to bask in the glory of the resort’s opulent Circle Dining Room with its 30-foot frescoed ceilings and glorious chandeliers. It was all a fitting backdrop to the hedonist proceedings with tables laden with whole-roasted pig, sauteed shrimp and roast beef. But we were most impressed with the vegetarian table offering crisp “crab cake”-style fritters that were composed of hearts of palm. The take home gifts of mojito cupcakes were a nice touch as well and proved why this resort is known for their stellar pastry department.
Kimchi-brined fried chicken sliders with Korean buffalo sauce at “Chillin’ N Grillin’” at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
Saturday afternoon’s BBQ event was also moved off the pool deck and under cover due to weather but that didn’t dampen the festive atmosphere. It helped that there were plenty of great cocktails (hello cucumber vodka!) and plenty of gregarious culinary personalities happily hobnobbing to keep things interesting. At the grilling stations chefs and personalities Johnny Iuzzini, Anita Lo, Jeff Mauro, Marc Murphy, Ken Oringer, Adam Richman and Tory Martindale kept the crowds satiated with dishes of lamb burgers, grilled steak (Marc Murphy that was magic) and seared tuna (thank you Anita Lo, for topping that tuna with a hefty lobe of uni!) but we kept going back to Boston chef Ken Oringer’s table for his kimchi-brined fried chicken sliders with Korean buffalo sauce. Housed in a fluffy Hawaiian bun and topped with the perfectly pickled slice of pickle they were the perfect bite for the rainy-day cook-out.
Citrus Semifredo at “Chillin’ N Grillin’” at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
Pastry guru Johhny Iuzzini didn’t have much competition at the grill event – he was the only dessert game in town – but he no doubt would have smoked the competition with this meticulously-plated bite of sweetness. A citrus semifredo orb sat atop an almond sponge cake which was accompanied by a margarita gel. Candied citrus, dehydrated grapefruit, crispy tangerine, micro basil were all tweezered on top for an explosion of crunch, brightness and grassy freshness. It was like eating a citrus orchard on a cake.
Quail Leg Lollipops at “Street Food” at Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
There were plenty of Asian-influenced dishes at this buzzing evening event which featured vegan tonkatsu ramen from Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern chef Jonathan Sawyer to Sarsaparilla Club’s Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth’s pork buns. Lobster poutine, oyster sliders and scoops of ice cream from The Ice Cream Club rounded out the grazing. Our top two choices ended up being the award winners that night: Chef Tory Martindale of Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach snagged the People’s Choice for his Short Rib Wagyuyaki Doughnuts but it was Chef Julien Gremaud’s of Avocado Grill’s pistachio crusted quail leg over truffle aioli with a cherry chutney that won the Judges award and our vote.
Everything at “Daniel and Friends” brunch at Cafe Boulud
We considered highlighting a single dish like the expertly-executed French omelette with shaved white truffles but then we remembered the mountain of fried chicken with its finger-lickin’ peppery batter, the ham and cheese station, the exquisite soft-boiled eggs over artichoke hearts or the massive table of house made charcuterie. And the fresh-shucked oysters. And the gravlax table stacked with four types of cured salmon. Oh and then of course the dessert table with its mini Baba au Rhum cakes, the French macaron trees, the chocolate confections in flavors of ginger and coffee, the panna cotta topped with caramel, and the mini-eclairs stuffed with passion fruit cream and we realized the whole shebang was truly spectacular. It helps that the man himself, Chef Daniel Boulud was the consummate host, graciously posing for pictures, mingling with the crowd and emanating his trademark Alsatian cool.