In 1892, Henry Flagler, a real estate and railroad tycoon and one of the founders of Standard Oil brought the railroad to eastern coast of Florida. In the process, he discovered what is now known as Palm Beach. Flagler was convinced that he had found one of the most beautiful places on earth and was determined to build an American Riviera there.
So Flagler went about constructing a resort community. His first project was the Royal Poinciana hotel in 1894, the world's largest structure which accommodated a staggering 2,000 guests. Two years later came the Palm Beach Inn (ultimately renamed the Breakers). Buzz circulated fast. And soon the Astors, Carnegies, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and other notables came in droves -- all by word of mouth.
The allure of Palm Beach continues. But it's not just the sprawling mansions, 234 days of sunshine per year or days averaging 78 degrees that make the locale so special. Just like Henry Flager, the area still draws great innovators who help create a unique place to visit. Here are just a few of the region's standouts.
Design superstar, Eric Villency and his team refashioned the swanky club lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach. Villency designed the retro-looking space with customized wallpaper murals and Carrera marble bar tops. Working with noted textile designer, Wook Kiim, Kim's hand-sketched monkey and palm-tree murals line the walls. The sofas and chairs were built from sustainable and eco-savvy materials like soy foam instead of petroleum based foam. The wood is reclaimed from the Cape Fear River. Available to hotel guests who book accommodations on the Club Lounge floor, it's the ideal place to kick back with a glass of chilled bubbly, fresh assorted cheeses, chocolates and the many snacks served throughout the day.
When Chef Clay Conley opened būccan with Sam Slattery and Oliver "Piper" Quinn, the idea was to cull inspiration from Conley's lifetime of vast experiences. Raised in rural Maine, Conley has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and South America -- cooking and tasting along the way. In Tokyo, he developed a keep appreciation of the clean flavors of traditional Japanese cooking and fell in love with the Tsukiji market. He was also a protégé of Todd English. The vibe at Conley's Palm Beach hotspot is buzzy, but come-as-you-are whether your taste is a Pulitzer shift, or faded jeans or knock-em-dead Versace. The wood Grilled Prime Burger with aged cheddar on a brioche is so much more than a burger, people go gaga for short rib empanadas and the hamachi sashimi with Peruvian chilies is said to be off the charts. Just leave room for the warm chocolate chip cookies. (Conley also owns Imoto next door.)
Matthew McGhee, Chef de Cuisine at Angle the sophisticated and fetching candle-lit supper club at The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach is always up for a challenge. For guests who are game, McGhee and his team prepare what is called "a Spontaneous Chef" extravaganza with with five to eight courses (including coffee and dessert). Upon arrival at Angle, McGhee firsts consults with guests and learns their culinary preferences. Using farm to table and other locally sourced fare from the area's best purveyor's McGhee prepares a customized feast. Some of the first courses might include heirloom beets with loxahatchee goat cheese, decadent but divine butternut squash cappuccino; sheep's milk ricotta gnocchi, wood charred octopus. And everyone starts with the house-made barbecue chips with blue cheese dressing, hot rosemary and swiss cheese popovers and a delectable glass of bubbly.
Perched before the 18th fairway at the Ocean Golf Course at the Breakers, The Flagler Steakhouse is one of the key spots to get a serious steak. In fact, Executive Chef Anthony Sicignano is devoted to obtaining premium cut Mid-Western USDA Prime, dry aged meats that are standouts when it comes to marbling and trim. The Steak au Poivre with brandied cream sauce and the bone-in ribeye with tempura onion rings, asparagus and lemon butter sauce are mainstays. So is the broiled twin lobster tails with herbed bread crumbs. The vibe is clubby and sophisticated whether you're inside amid the mahogany or al fresco on the vast terrace.
Photos courtesy the Breakers
When Virginia Philip earned the prestigious Master Sommelier accreditation from the the Court of Master Sommeliers (think Oscars of sommeliers), she was tenth woman in the world to earn the title. (She's now only one of 24 in the world to hold the honor and remains refreshingly low key). As much as she adores wines, she loves sharing her vast expertise. So in addition to working as a wine consultant she now owns the Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, which caters to wine lovers of all varieties. "Wine is for everyone, it's not just for connoisseur or people with large wallets," she explains. Phillip offers her personally curated favorite wines from around the globe that range in price $10 to $1000. Classes and tastings with wine parings are also offered.
Enter HMF, the new Adam Tihany-designed lounge and dining experience in the historic Florentine Room at the Breakers and you feel as if you've entered the Mad Men era with an extra dose of glamour. The sky high ceilings, rich cognac and cyprus green carpet, stained glass and giant wrought iron chandeliers, creates a jewel box of a setting. There's even a stainless steel and glass custom-designed wine wall housing a 28,000 bottle collection and a clear glass humidor. The room is fabulous, but best of all is Chef Joey Tuazon's eclectic and mouth watering dishes like warm onion and reggiano dip, wood roasted asparagus and burrata, duck sausage and wild mushrooms, churrasco steak chimichurri and chicken albondigas tacos. Born in the Philippines, Tuazon says he first discovered a joy for food and cooking when he accompanied his aunt on daily dawn market trips and they stocked up on fresh produce and fish. At home he worked beside her in the kitchen preparing a daily feast from scratch cooked out of clay pots. With such warmth and caring, Tuazon loves to
share that passion.
For more Palm Beach information, visit http://www.palmbeachfl.com
All photos used with permission.
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