Restaurant News & Reviews

This food festival is worth driving an hour for

The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, in its 10th year, brings together many top chefs in an intimate setting where diners can watch them in action.
The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, in its 10th year, brings together many top chefs in an intimate setting where diners can watch them in action. 2015 LILA PHOTO

If the South Beach Wine & Food Festival could be trimmed back to only the best, most intimate events, it would look a lot like the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival.

Yes, it’s that good.

Some of the country’s best chefs — James Beard Awards piled up among them — slip out of their kitchens for a weekend in posh Palm Beach, where it is they, themselves, who cook intimate dinners for lovers of fine food. No 8,000-person melee to squabble over a slider. (Looking at you, Burger Bash.)

The events are such that many of the best begin selling out within the first two weeks, thanks to personalities such as Robert Irvine, Elizabeth Falkner, Mark Murphy, Daniel Boulud and Michelle Bernstein, who put on events where diners actually get to watch the chefs at work and talk with them about their cuisine.

Oh, and the most lavish event won’t set you back more than $170.

“It’s an escape,” said Sugarcane chef Timon Balloo, who is cooking at several events. “You have high quality chefs cooking great events together. They have awesome satellite dinners. It’s really just magical.”

Even Miami’s best toques have a night all to themselves, the Miami Takeover, which has already been sold out for weeks. Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford of the Matador Room, Pubbelly founder Jose Mendin and Meat Market’s Sean Brasel are among the chefs who drive north for the event.

But several great events are still available. Here’s a look at the best remaining tickets. (For the full schedule, visit

Sustain: A five-course dinner to celebrate the best of sustainable seafood, with the flourishes of four chefs, including Anita Lo of The New York Times’ three-star restaurant Annisa and Michelin star chef George Mendes of Aaron Black’s PB Catch, one of the county’s best restaurants.

PB Catch, 251 Sunrise Ave, Palm Beach

7-10 p.m. Thursday, $170

Rise and Dine: Wake up Saturday morning at the luxurious Eau Palm Beach Resort to a two-hour brunch put on by Mendin, Giorgio Rapicavoli (of Eating House and Glass and Vine fame), and chef Lee Wolen, who was chosen as a Chicago Tribune chef of the year at Boka.

Eau Palm Beach Resort, 100 South Ocean Boulevard, Manalapan

9-11 a.m. Saturday, $75

A Rustic Root: A vegan’s delight — a five-course vegetable-based dinner, headed by Falkner and Amanda Cohen, who founded the lauded vegan mecca Dirt Candy in New York’s Lower East Side.

Avocado Grill, 125 Datura St., West Palm Beach

7-10 p.m. Thursday, $150

After Hours: Sakaya Kitchen and Blackbrick chef Richard Hales teams with ace Palm Beach County chef Clay Conley (formerly of Azul at the Mandarin Oriental) for a late-night party with delectable bites at Conley’s Imoto, his Japanese restaurant inspired from his travels in the far East, next door to the restaurant that earned him national acclaim, Buccan.

Imoto restaurant, 350 S County Rd., Palm Beach

Saturday, 11 p.m. to late, $99

Grand Tasting: The only event off the island, the grand tasting moved to The Gardens Mall to make room for dishes and drinks from more than 60 restaurants, with live music and chef’s throwdown cooking competition.

The Gardens Mall, 3101 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens

5-9 p.m. Saturday, $75

Carlos Frías: 305-376-4624, @Carlos_Frias

Where to eat

Don’t waste that trip north. There are too many good restaurants to hit in one weekend in Palm Beach County, so here are five near the food festival that promise to make you rethink a mere hour’s drive (traffic willing) for fine dining.

Buccan/Imoto: Chef Clay Conley awed with his cuisine at Azul, and he has taken even a leap forward at Buccan, where he has twice been nominated for Best Chef South by the James Beard committee. His cuisine wows in every bite; if you want to see how he transforms Asian flavors, try his next-door Imoto.

350 S. County Rd., Palm Beach

The Regional Kitchen & Public House: Michelle Bernstein protege Lindsay Autry debuts her first restaurant, combining her experiences in Mexico and Latin America, classic French styles and her North Carolina roots. You can even sneak in some shopping at CityPlace, where it resides.

651 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

Grato: Jimmy Strine, Daniel Boulud’s sous chef at still-sterling Cafe Boulud, moved on to work with Conley at this honest Italian-inspired West Palm Beach restaurant. The handmade pasta is perfect, the pizzas crisp and inventive (the mushroom one pops like few you’ve ever tried), and Strine raises it a level with perfectly cooked meats. Sit at the pizza bar for true kitchen theater.

1901 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach

Queen of Sheeba: Stop asking where you can get good Ethiopian food in South Florida — this is the one and only spot. Chef Lojo Washington is single-handedly trying to revitalize a rough neighborhood with her misir wot red lentil stew and her shiro wot chickpeas cooked with onions and spices. Wipe it all up with roll after roll of her injera bread and thank me later.

716 N. Sapodilla Ave., West Palm Beach

Avocado Grill: Chef Julien Gremaud left the go-to French spot Pistache to open his own place right down the street, and now downtown West Palm has two can’t-miss spots. Whether it’s the whole-avocado vinaigrette, a small dish like the octopus with chorizo or a larger plate like the short-rib stuffed jumbo shells or the stuffed zucchini blossoms, it’s hard to go wrong.

125 Datura St., West Palm Beach

Carlos Frías