Written by Jeff Cohen
Tea for Two
My wife, Jen, and I have been visiting and revisiting Palm Beach ever since we started dating back in the nineties. We were married there 15 years ago, and most of our subsequent visits have included our daughter and son. While certainly fun, the family trips are a far cry from the romantic, just-the-two-of-us escapes we used to enjoy in our courting days. So when an opportunity for arose this fall for us to visit The Chesterfield Palm Beach without our children, we jumped on it.
Despite several days of closure last year due to power outages and a mandatory evacuation on the island, The Chesterfield was fortunate to survive Hurricane Irma intact. Today, the luxurious Red Carnation Hotel, part of the international 17-location boutique brand owned and founded by Beatrice Tollman, thrives in preparation for the busy snowbird season ahead.
Like most of Palm Beach, the decidedly English Chesterfield property built in 1926 exudes nuanced Old-World hospitality enhanced by the friendly Florida climate. Checking in at a standalone antique desk, we received a proper key to our suite along with a complimentary sherry (a nice Amontillado, if I recall correctly) as part of a warm welcome.
Jen and I arrived on a Sunday morning just in time to enjoy a traditional English breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon and grilled tomato in the Courtyard, an idyllic nook studded with lush palm trees and cozy tables shaded by green umbrellas. This intimate setting also provides a charming backdrop for traditional afternoon tea with all the accoutrements. Served daily at any spot of guests’ choosing, we opted to enjoy the stunning presentation of looseleaf tea, Mrs. Tollman’s chicken salad sandwiches, baked-to-order scones and Devonshire clotted cream in the handsome formal library, where Arnelle Kendall, vice president of public relations for the Travel Corporation, shared a bit of history about the property and treated us to a personal tour after.
Rejuvenated by our late breakfast, we wandered hand-in-hand over to Worth Avenue for some window-shopping, gallery browsing and a stroll through the European-style Esplanade shopping center. Local historian Rick Rose leads fascinating one-hour walking tours that touch on the street’s illustrious history and significance. The “vias,” hidden courtyards on the avenue designed by architect Addison Mizner, added a suggestion of mystery to our lengthy rambles. We also highly recommend making time in any Palm Beach itinerary to visit the Flagler Museum, a must-see for architecture buffs.
Thanks to the hotel’s proximity, we found ourselves meandering along Worth several times during our trip — once to snap up a pair of Stubbs & Wootton slippers, another for a decadent black truffle pizza at Pizza al Fresco in Via Mizner, followed by passion fruit-laced Palm Beach Martinis at Ta-boo. The latter proved to be so much fun, we returned later to share the famous Coconut Lust dessert, a big slice of gooey coconut cream pie that neither of us needed, yet devoured with gusto. Dinner another night at nearby Bice, an outstanding eatery specializing in Italian fare, delivered a wonderful meal of veal Milanese, grilled sea bass and a heavenly Sicilian ricotta cheesecake.
Daily rounds of golf on the ocean at the award-winning Palm Beach Par 3 Golf Course after breakfast set us up wonderfully for our lunchtime activities. The Chesterfield’s prime location also puts the pristine beach within easy walking distance, which we took advantage of during leisurely barefoot strolls on the sand as we admired the magnificent oceanfront residences. Filling the spaces between meals with bike rides, coffee, books and just enjoying each other’s company had an invigorating effect on both of us. Going back to the place where our relationship began and remembering the things that brought us together in the first place proved a welcome escape from our hectic, though fulfilling, daily lives.
Back at our Chesterfield home base, our stylish king suite accommodations pampered us with a luxurious four-poster bed, a marble-clad bathroom, exquisite finishes and a view from our balcony of the pool below. Each of the 43 rooms and 11 suites is individually decorated with care by Mrs. Tollman herself, who, rumor has it, personally reads every guest comment card submitted from Red Carnation properties around the world.
For fine dining on site, the Leopard Lounge and Restaurant boasts an eclectic Gilded Age sophistication with jet black lacquered walls, leopard-skin carpets and a gorgeous frescoed ceiling that took artist Lino Mario a year and a half to complete. In the kitchen, Executive Chef Gerard Coughlin capably oversees a menu that highlights steaks and seafood including a delectable lobster and shrimp cocktail. It was here I enjoyed two of the most potent Bloody Marys I’ve ever encountered, while Jen proved herself up to the task at hand with a Leopard Classic Tini. Or two. Our dinner was delightful, with one of the finest strip steaks I’ve ever eaten and a perfect sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Other notable Leopard fare includes a to-die-for chicken noodle soup served with a small chicken pot pie on the side, and the Cape Seed bread made in house, all made from Mrs. Tollman’s recipes. Jen and I enjoyed the bread so much, our server presented us with a freshly baked loaf to take home on the last morning of our stay.
Unfortunately for us, we barely missed a visit by Mrs. Tollman herself, who had just returned to London prior to our arrival. Philanthropic by nature, all proceeds from the sales of her book “A Life in Food” go to charitable causes. Had she been there, Jen and I would have fallen all over ourselves telling her how much we were enjoying our stay. Maybe we need to check out her property in Kensington. Without the kids, of course.
For more information about the Chesterfield Palm Beach:
Letting The Good Times Roll In New Orleans
As a native of New Orleans, I enjoy returning to my old stomping grounds at least once a year with my wife, Jen, to catch up with family and friends. The home of Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and the Neville Brothers (not to mention “my” Saints), the Big Easy owns a unique place in the pantheon of American cities. Its culture is long and deep, steeped in colonial history, voodoo and ancient traditions. The setting for myriad movies, the French Quarter is the epicenter of the party. While we usually visit NOLA strictly for pleasure, on our most recent trip we had some business to attend to, which included a luxurious stay at the Royal Sonesta, in the heart of the Quarter on Bourbon Street. We reveled in our club-level room, enjoying all the extra amenities we had hoped for: a designated concierge, complimentary breakfast, and an evening spread that comprised wine, Champagne and appetizers. The hotel and its staff were absolutely delightful, attending to all our needs in their distinctive Big Easy fashion.
On our first night in town, we caught up with my cousin Arie and his girlfriend, Cameron, at Le Booze, the aptly named whiskey bar in the hotel’s courtyard. Open to Bourbon Street and perfect for people watching, Le Booze is a classy addition to that crazy street. Earlier in the day we had joined in the funeral celebration (or second line, as it’s known) for Fats Domino, who had recently passed away. He was a favorite son, so there was an especially festive mood in town. From Le Booze, we moved on to Pascal’s Manale, the “original home of B-B-Q shrimp.” A comfortable New Orleans classic, it’s been in my friend Bob’s family for four generations, and much of the dedicated staff seems to have been with them as long. It was a perfect spot to unwind with a dozen oysters, washed down with traditional Sazeracs. A shared bread pudding rounded off our meal (and the evening) perfectly.
We’d planned to take a break from basking in luxury at the Royal Sonesta to attend back-to-back fundraisers for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, which assists children through culinary, nutritional and arts education. Friday night was Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, a funky, casual party hosted by Emeril in Champions Square at the foot of the Superdome. Boudin, a mainstay of French cuisine, has become a staple in New Orleans. There were a number of different expressions on offer, including boudin blanc and the richer, blood-based, boudin noir. Emeril and some 59 other wellknown chefs and their teams provided dishes for our delectation, and while there was more food than anyone would ever dream of tasting, Jen and I had a ball trying.
The following morning, we relaxed over café au lait in the hotel, then ventured out for a morning of sightseeing, picking up a bag of beignets at Café du Monde to nosh on. We ate lightly at lunchtime, in anticipation of a highlight of our visit: Carnivale du Vin, a black-tie gala at the Hyatt Regency. It was an unforgettable event, with Emeril, ever the effusive and delightful host, mingling during the silent auction. The culinary superstar was visibly touched and delighted by the evening’s outpouring of support. And when a single bottle of wine sold for a cool quarter of a million dollars during the live auction after dinner, it sent a palpable frisson through the already excited crowd. As one might expect at such a celebrated gala, the food, not to mention the wine, was marvelous. We were fortunate to be seated with a wonderful group of winemakers, chefs and restaurant owners, including a partner in Chateau d’Esclans, which ensured that Rock Angel rosé flowed freely at our table. What a delightful night!
On Sunday night, our last in town, we had dinner at the Royal Sonesta’s Restaurant R’evolution by Chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto. It’s an exciting establishment with a very NOLA courtyard entrance. The service was stellar, and we sampled more dishes and drinks than we probably should have; we’ve been known to go overboard, and this night was no exception. It offers a modern take on classic Creole and Cajun food, and it’s almost impossible to go wrong, provided you can get a reservation. It was all so delicious that Jen tried dishes that might not have appealed to her under normal circumstances, including some rillettes and other mysterious potted meats that she enjoyed thoroughly. Exceptional was the beef cheek Stroganov, as was the seared sea scallops and foie gras, the latter perfectly matched with a slightly off-dry Riesling from J.J. Prüm. The sommelier also took us on a tour of the spectacular wine cellar, which numbers 10,000 bottles from topflight producers around the world. With dozens of Grand Cru bottlings, the Burgundy section alone is truly mind-boggling.
After dinner, we attended a concert by Germaine Bazzle, a popular jazz singer, at The Jazz Playhouse off the Royal Sonesta lobby. As we sipped our nightcaps and took in the 85-year-old’s exhilarating set, I reflected on our trip. We’d seen friends, met celebrities, walked the French Quarter and taken the St. Charles streetcar down to Audubon Park, where I used to play as a kid. We’d toured Old Ursuline Convent and the St. Louis Cathedral. When we’d tired of walking, we’d eaten and enjoyed cocktails at Desire Oyster Bar in the hotel. It had been a splendid visit. We retired that night, exhausted, happy, and already planning our next NOLA adventure. I may have lived in Indy long enough to qualify for dual citizenship, but New Orleans is my hometown, and my roots will forever be there. Laissez les bon temps rouler.
For more information about Royal Sonesta New Orleans: