(FROM WE MAGAZINE)
PALM BEACH, WHERE HAUTE CUISINE IS ALWAYS IN THE BEST OF TASTE BY MARILYN MURRAY WILLISON
Ten years ago I locked the door to my London flat, saw all my earthly positions put on a trans-Atlantic container ship, took a taxi to Heathrow Airport and began life as a South Floridian. An earlier, lengthy vacation in the Palm Beaches had left me dazzled, but as a expatriate I had learned only too well that there is a huge difference between visitors and residents. What first attracted me to the Palm Beaches was the ever-present clear blue skies with puffy white clouds, friendly people, and manacured beauty. And now, a decade later, I’m convinced that moving here was, as they might say in Blimie, “a very good decision indeed.”
This posh, beautifully landscaped haven measures only twelve miles long and a scant four blocks wide, representing a sliver of the most valuable real-estate on the east coast.
Reservations are de rigeur for what has become the most popular restaurant to see and be seen in in Palm Beach. Known as the place “where friends meet,” Amici was started by Maurizio Ciminella and Glen Manfra when they left Bice (Ciminella was maitre d’ and Manfra was executive chef) to launch their own restaurant. At that time in, 1994, what Palm Beach needed was a neighborhood-style Italian pastaria for both lunch and dinner. Since then dining at Amici (especially at night) has become the social activity of choice for Palm Beach regulars, and its lively, festive atmosphere combines the best of good food and glamour. During the season, every seat in the restaurant is filled. The fare is primarily Northern Italian, including several pizzas and pasta dishes (the fettuccine with portabello, shiitake, oyster and porcini mushrooms is hard to beat). Much of Amici’s cuisine is prepared in a wood oven; be prepared to pay about over $20 per entree, and feel that it’s worth every penny.
CAFÉ PARIS SORBET
Via De Mario
MAXIM’S DE PARIS
410 South County Rd.
Palm Beach, FL
Royal Poinciana Way
GRACIE’S GARDEN CAFÉ
Via Gucci / Via Flora
Palm Beach. FL
(561) 820 8839
There are no fast-food franchises in Palm Beach, but these four oases offer a variety of casual if high-caloric treats for shoppers and sightseers who are in the mood for indulgence. While Gracie’s, Sprinkles and Maxim’s de Paris offer cozy seating arrangements and mini meals, Paris Sorbet offers the ambiance. Sometimes the ice cream has a satiric bite in and of itself. Particular desserts are named after people or events in the news. When frequent Palm Beach visitor William Kennedy Smith was a defendant on trial for rape, he had the dubious honor of his very own ice cream flavor at Sprinkles.
County Convention and Visitors Bureau
1555 PalmBeach Lakes Boulevard, #204 West Palm Beach, FL
Palm Beach International Airport is served by all major airlines and is totally accessible. Amtrak also has a station in West Palm Beach.
Palm Tran Bus Service
(561) 233 1111
Airport Limousine Service (561) 791 3000
(561) 748 8414
There is no public transportation other than conventional taxicabs in Palm Beach.
363 Cocoanut Row
Palm Beach, FL
(561) 659 5800
When Margaret Thatcher comes to town, the Chesterfield Hotel is her home away from home. For 70 years guests have come to appreciate its uniquely British flavor, from high tea each afternoon in the hushed confines of the library to well-stocked humidors in the Churchill cigar room. Within three blocks of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercostals Waterway, the Wednesday night summer cookouts by the pool help guests remember that in spite of the British colonial flavor, they are in Florida. The Chesterfield has 55 rooms, 11 luxurious suites, a supper club and draws crowds with live music each night in the appropriately named Leopard Lounge.
The Breakers is widely considered to be one of the finest hotels in the world. The ornate 572-room Italian Renaissance-style hotel rests on 140 acres of scenic oceanfront property. The Breakers has two 18-hole golf courses, 14 tennis courts, four oceanfront swimming pools, a new luxury spa, fitness center and beach club, as well as a variety of boutiques. Sunday brunch is an experience. It’s expensive, but you can enjoy nine chef-attended stations with made-to-order items in cluing tropical French toast, porcini-dusted salmon and veal scaloppini.
The Brazilian Court
301 Australian Avenue
Palm Beach, FL
(561) 655 7740
Opened on New Year’s Day 1926—at the peak of the Florida land boom—this three-story local landmark once welcomed the likes of Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Judy Garland. With 103 apartments set round an inner courtyard, the Brazilian Court has become a favorite of locals in search of accommodations for too many guests. In-room massage therapists, a special room service menu for visiting pets, fitness center, live entertainment weekends.
155 Hammon Avenue
Palm Beach, FL
(561) 655 5430
What began as Casa Manana, a private winter residence, became in 1928 a Palm Beach landmark. Known locally for its A-list party clientele, The Colony was the Palm Beach residence of choice whenever the Duke and Duchess of Windsor came to town. The guestrooms have a tropical, British colonial feel and the villas for extended stays feature beamed and hand-stenciled Cypress ceilings, hand-formed Barbados tile floors, kitchen. Jacuzzi and private pool.
The Flagler Museum
Cocoanut Row and Whitehall Way Palm Beach, FL
(561) 655 2833
Housed in Whitehall, the home that Henry Flagler, railroad tycoon, built as a wedding present for his third wife. When it was completed in 1902, the New York Herald called it “The Taj Majal of North America.” The 55-room home is furnished much as it was back when it was Flagler’s winter retreat. Hours: 10 to 5 Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 Sunday. Admission: Adults, $7, Children 6-12, $
Society of the Four Arts
Four Arts Plaza
Palm Beach, FL
(561) 655 7226
Back in the ’30s local residents, who longed for a cultural center in a town that was then a seasonal resort, founded the Society of the Four Arts. It occupies three separate buildings—two of which were designed by Addison Mizner, the area’s most acclaimed architect. During the season exhibitions, films, lectures and concerts are offered. And a children’s library (as well as one for adults) maintains a wide variety of art and general-interest books.
PGA National Resort and Spa
of the Champions
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
If you tire of the elegance, refinement and oh-so social flavor of Palm Beach, it’s good to know that only a short drive away there are five 18-hole tournament golf courses, a luxurious spa, 19 tennis courts, a health and racquet club (with personal training facility), a world-class croquet complex, nine swimming pools, a 26-acre lake with a private beach and seven restaurants and lounges. Set on over 2,000 well-tended acres, PGA is the national headquarters for the Professional Golfers of America. There are 339 newly renovated guest-rooms in the main hotel (each with private terrace or balcony) as well as 60 one and two-bedroom suites and a 2,000 square-foot presidential suite. For those who are seriously devoted to golf, there are 80 cottage suites overlooking the golf course with two bedrooms, two baths, large living room, fully equipped kitchen and washer and dryer.
The Kravis Center
West Palm Beach, FL
(561) 655 6664
Opened in November 1992 at a cost of $67 million, The Kravis Center (set on 10 acres of land) is the area’s premier venue for cultural events. From opera and ballet to Broadway musicals and chamber music, the Kravis Center and the adjacent School for the Performing Arts provides a much needed home for the arts in South Florida. It offers state of the art services for people with disabilities. Master violinist Itzhak Perlman was actively involved in the design phase of the Center to ensure that it would be user-friendly. Even the stage areas are accessible. Signage is provided in Braille and an infrared audio enhancement system is available free of charge. In 1996, it won the National Endowment for the Arts “Universal Design” award.
WORTH AVENUE SHOPPING
As with many other high-end shopping areas in America—think Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—Worth Avenue is famous for trademark stores like Cartier, Tiffany, Armani and Gucci. But what makes this street unique are the more individualized shops that help avoid the cookie cutter feel of shopping in Anywhere, USA. From antique silver to garden supplies to military memorabilia, Worth Avenue and its delightful offshoots; the Vias, offer something for everyone.
There are over 200 shops on Worth Avenue, and whether your quest is for an antique dresser, a signed Marilyn Monroe photograph, or customized frames for your sunglasses, it can answer your need for fantasy or frivolity. There are nine delightful Vias, charming tucked-away byways that are shaded, manicured, hidden and enticing. Between the Van Cleef & Arpels and Chanel stores, for example, shoppers will find Via Encantada. The largest of the group, behind the large Gucci store, even boasts a small sculpture garden and attractive fountains. The Vias are where you’ll find Palm Beach’s most unusual stores, from boutiques to tiny Beach Orchids where proprietor Bob Aymond arran ges orchid centerpieces for the area’s most discriminating hostesses that bloom from the 2,000 plants in his astonishingly beautiful greenhouse, to an unforgettable shop named Grande Armee where over 15,000 military items are on sale. Imagine what the late Malcolm Forbes would have made of that! From $10 lead soldiers to a $45,000 imperial Russian helmet, it’s there.