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Palm Beach Part One: The Brazilian Court

Originally Posted: January 03, 2012

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

The signature fountain and voluptuous Palm Tree southern courtyard of The Brazilian Court Hotel. (Douglas Harrington)

Palm Beach - There is an indelible relationship between the resort communities of Palm Beach and the Hamptons. On any given day during the Hamptons summer season one will see a Rolls Royce, Mercedes or Aston Martin driving down Jobs Lane with a Florida license plate noting Palm Beach.

Transversely, as the winter winds begin to blow Hamptonians close up their sprawling East End cedar shake estates and head south to their terracotta roofed mansions in Palm Beach.

Hamptons.com decided to pay a visit to our sister city and, as I certainly do not own a terracotta roofed mansion, I frequented several of the iconic historic hotels in this beautiful, tasteful and uber-wealthy community. Along the way I dined at several wonderful restaurants, attended an opening night exhibition party at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, took a private tour of the Flagler Museum and, of course, strolled up and down Worth Avenue, a street of retail shops that equals the Champs Elysees, Madison Avenue or Rodeo Drive.

A Palm Beach terracotta roofed mansion and this one is in town, not on the ocean! (Douglas Harrington)

This Palm Beach travel piece will be published in two installments centered upon the two iconic hotels I visited during my stay: The Brazilian Court and The Chesterfield. In each installment I will also touch upon other aspects (cultural, architectural and social) of my visit to Palm Beach, a destination that should absolutely be on everyone's travel bucket list. Here is Part One: The Brazilian Court.

The Brazilian Court
We arrived at The Brazilian Court on a lovely Palm Beach afternoon and were greeted by complimentary Mimosas and a charming front desk clerk named Edwin. An effortless check-in and we were off to our room via bellman Paul who along the way on our walk through the extraordinary rainforest like courtyard explained all the amenities and services available to us during our stay.

Maitre d' Martial Tilan, waiter Imre Papp and sommelier Christopher Birnie-Visscher of Cafe Boulud. (Douglas Harrington)

Up the elevator and into our traditional keyed, not swipe card, room I was fully impressed by the tasteful décor that immediately invoked the feeling of Hemingway's bedroom in the Florida Keys or Cuba. Yes, this frustrated novelist was home and I will frankly tell you that I could easily live the rest of my life in room 304 at The Brazilian Court trying to write my "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I loved the dark wood and understated elegance of this absolutely masculine, tasteful room. Ladies, your man will love this hotel as well, and so will you unless you have the gaudy taste of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." In which case, they probably would prefer you did not stay at The Brazilian Court in the first place, much less visit Palm Beach at all.

Mahagony louvered windows and door lead to our third floor patio with two chaise lounges and an umbrella covered table, which was graced by the tops of the various species of Palms whose leafs Lily noted were the size of me. A wet bar that provided every type of glass from wine to rocks, which was graced by a welcome gift of various treats provided by the hotel's restaurant Café Boulud from Director of Sales & Marketing Stacy Lee.

Hard cover art books about Palm Beach architecture and culture were placed on an end table and separate closets that included bathrobes, slippers, extra pillows, blankets and, yes, an umbrella. Beautiful pottery that I assume is filled with fresh fruit in season sat upon the breakfast table with two stuffed chairs at the base of our pillow topped king size bed whose linens and pillows where deliciously extravagant in quality and comfort.

The Brazilian Court's very Hemingway, very masculine, very stunning Room 304. (Douglas Harrington)

Our Brazilian Court bathroom was absolutely extraordinary! The towels were large and lush and the accoutrements like soap, shampoo and conditioners were Gilchrist & Soames, enough said! There was, of course, a hair dryer, a lighted makeup mirror and ladies, an ottoman to sit upon while applying your L'Oreal. There is both a separate shower and bath in this beautifully appointed salle de bains. The shower is not a corner afterthought; it is large with great water pressure and elements that include a numbered water temperature gauge and room for two. The bathtub is a jet tub and we found it as relaxing and therapeutic as any Jacuzzi and it is long enough to lay out completely flat.

After freshening up, we strolled across the beautiful courtyard of The Brazilian Court to its world class restaurant, Café Boulud, www.cafeboulud.com. Award winning chef Daniel Boulud chose the hotel as his first location outside of Manhattan, creating a warm, beautifully decorated ambience that is casually elegant.

The tasteful and tranquil poolscape of The Brazilian Court, Palm Beach. (Douglas Harrington)

Opened in 2003, Café Boulud offers a French inspired menu that is as eclectic as it is delicious. Chef Boulud's menu reflects his four culinary muses. "La Tradition" highlights classic French dishes, while "La Saison" features courses in harmony with the season. "Le Plus Simple" offers selections simply prepared and "Le Voyage" is Boulud's interpretation of various world cuisines. Diners can mix and match any combination of appetizer, entrée and dessert from each of the Chef Boulud's four muses. On premise Executive Chef Jim Leiken is a seasoned veteran of Boulud's New York restaurants, having spent years training with the master.

The wine list is superb at the Café Boulud, receiving the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence. That said, it is not my nature when on assignment to take it upon myself to make selections from a host restaurant's list, I prefer to let the restaurant's sommelier pair my evening's dining choices with selections from the restaurant's list or wines offered by the glass. Although there is an occasional failure in my wine protocol, most sommeliers more than succeed. In the case of Café Boulud Sommelier Christopher Birnie-Visscher, he excelled!

The Library Loggia at The Brazilian Court. (Douglas Harrington)

Our first course consisted of a Smoked Salmon prepared with chives, crème fraiche, caper berries and salmon roe paired with a Laetitia Brut from the Arroyo Grand Valley in California and a Tourchon de Foie Gras paired with a Clos Uroulat, which worked beautifully with the Quince Tatin and pecans that are part of the preparation of Café Boulud's superb Foie Gras.

We then shared a Swank Farms Winter Greens Salad with Melfor vinaigrette, pain d'epices croutons and poached Asian pear which was perfectly paired with a 2010 Domaine Girad, "La Garenne" Sancere.

Our main course dishes included the Dos de Turbot with green and white celery and Hen-of-the-Woods Black Truffle-Bone Marrow Fumet paired with a 2005 Domaine du Miex-Foulot, Mercurey, 1er Cru "Le Saumonts." As marvelous as this fish dish was, I was more impressed with the Duo of Beef which included a prime strip steak and braised Wagyu short ribs that literally melted in my mouth. The dish included scallion pomme puree and baby carrots and was paired with one of my favorite wines, a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. In this case a 2005 Domaine de Cristia, "Renaissance" that was stunning.

The 1926 original courtyard of The Brazilian Court. (Douglas Harrington)

We finished up with a pecan and caramel Crème Brulee, which was more than large enough for two. It was paired perfectly with a 2005 Chateau de la Mulonniere, Coteaux du Layon-Beaulieu from the Loire Valley.

It was an absolutely memorable and breathtaking evening of dining and as I noted, Sommelier Christopher Birnie-Visscher did not have a miss and exceeded expectations. Our waiter Imre Papp was attentive, but not overbearing and was certainly well versed in the preparation and ingredients of each dish. Finally, Maitre D' Martial Tilan was not only charming and engaging, but often very funny. As opposed to stuffy and overbearing, Tilan and his entire staff make this world class French restaurant a warm and welcoming experience.

After an extraordinary dinner at Café Boulud, evening cocktails on our Palm Tree secluded, third floor, moon lit patio and a perfect sleep, I joined Palm Beach publicist and historian Maureen O'Sullivan the next morning for a full site tour of this historic Palm Beach hotel. Co-authored by O'Sullivan and Dianna Shpritz, "Palm Beach: Then and Now" is a must read for anyone interested in the history of this iconic resort community.

The "Cocktail Culture" opening night reception at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. (Douglas Harrington)

The Brazilian Court is essentially a tale of two courtyards, the original built in 1926 by architect Rosario Candela with its entrance on Brazilian Avenue, hence the hotel's name although its official entrance and address is now on Australian Avenue. The southern courtyard was added a decade later and designed by Maurice Fatio, who continued in Candela's Spanish-Mediterranean style. The voluptuous, palm filled courtyard with the signature Brazilian Court fountain has hosted some of Palm Beach's most dazzling parties for almost a century.

To each side of the original courtyard are the library/game and media loggias, both beautifully appointed in rare woods, unique slate and comfortable overstuffed couches and easy chairs. The library/game (as in chess, backgammon, etc.) loggia is filled with books including many by the writers of the Brazilian Court's popular Authors Breakfast Series which over the years has included the likes of familiar Hamptonites like Martha Stewart, Erica Jong and Nelson DeMille.

The hotel also contains a gallery wing featuring the art of Mark Bowles, whose bold and stunning works also grace the walls of Café Boulud. Directly off the gallery is the world renowned Frederic Fekkai Salon & Spa, one of Palm Beach's most popular salons.

The Brazilian Court has been a favorite wedding destination for generations and the hotel has over 3,500 square feet of corporate meeting space, including the Brazilian Court Pavilion, a state of the art small meetings facility with plush, oversized executive chairs, international teleconferencing and wide-screen plasma monitors.

From the Norton Museum's "Cocktail Culture" exhibition: Summer Cocktail Party with English Butler, 1961. Watercolor, gouache, ink on paper by Larry Salk. (Courtesy Photo: Norton Museum of Art)

The Brazilian Court's poolscape is tasteful and tranquil and the rooms that overlook the pool are particularly popular among returning guests. I was told by O'Sullivan that the Marlon Brando Suite was a particular favorite of comedian Joan Rivers. Many of the suites are named after icons of the stage and screen including the Fred Astaire, Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart suites.

The Brazilian Court is a must stay during any visit to Palm Beach, it bespeaks a unique elegance and the distinct style of a community that has been described as America's Riviera.

The Norton Museum of Art

The evening of my Brazilian Court site tour, at O'Sullivan's invitation, we attended an exhibition opening in West Palm Beach at the Norton Museum of Art. As described on the museum's website www.norton.org, "The museum is internationally known for its distinguished permanent collection featuring American Art, Chinese Art, Contemporary Art, European Art and Photography. Provenance Research is an on-going activity of the Curatorial staff. From its founding the Norton has been famous for its masterpieces of 19th century and 20th century painting and sculpture by European artists such as Brancusi, Gauguin, Matisse, Miró, Monet, Picasso and by Americans such as Davis, Hassam, Hopper, Manship, O'Keeffe, Pollock and Sheeler."

This particular Norton exhibition is entitled "Cocktail Culture" and it should be scheduled into any visitor's calendar during their stay in Palm Beach, it runs until March 11, 2012. Drawn from museum and private collections from across the country, it is an absolutely stunning multi-disciplinary exhibition that examines the social rituals of the cocktail hour through the lens of fashion and design. From gorgeous gowns, jewelry and shoes from numerous eras to classic bartender utensils and tools to cocktail related fine art and photography depicting the art of cocktails and the cocktail hour as a uniquely American phenomenon, "Cocktail Culture" is informative, illuminating and highly entertaining.

The Norton's opening night cocktail reception evoked the same style and panache as the exhibition itself, with the elite of Palm Beach's social and art scene in attendance. Dressed to the nines with cocktails in hand, attendees mixed and chatted to the sound of classic jazz standards. No art opening could have been more appropriate for a visit to Palm Beach, where style and elegance is the de rigueur of a community that is truly an iconic American resort paradise.

Next installment: The Chesterfield!

For more information, click here.

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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