Back for its 13th year of drawing world-class chefs together for a weekend of socializing and showing off, the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival will descend upon the Palm Beach County scene Dec. 12 to 15, with more events in Palm Beach than ever before. While this year’s festival will feature many repeat favorites and returning chefs, six new events will spice things up with a wide variety of foodie fêtes and culinary experiences, from barbecue and bourbon to Indian spices. The festival kicks off Thursday evening with four different five-course dinners at restaurants such as PB Catch, Buccan and Avocado Grill’s Palm Beach Gardens location.
However, the buzzed-about highlight of the Thursday-night festivities is an utterly new event: the Beef N Bourbon Experience, hosted at Okeechobee Steakhouse by widely televised chef Adam Richman, and Dan McKee, master distiller at Michter’s. Richman, a recognized Travel Channel personality, will walk diners through five hearty courses—including meats treated to the Lewis family’s three-generational top-secret beef-aging process, an Okeechobee Steakhouse signature—plus expertly matched rare bourbon pairings.
Friday sees the advent of two new events: SPICE, an Indian luncheon, and A Dinner at Florie’s, held at The Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach. Hosted by chef Julien Gremaud at his original Avocado Grill location in West Palm Beach, SPICE is a five-course noontime meal prepared alongside renowned chefs Maneet Chauhan and Pushkar Marathe. “I have worked with Pushkar previously; we did an Indian-themed dinner at Avocado Grill to benefit No Kid Hungry,” shares Gremaud, who has been involved with Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival since its inception. “I am also looking forward to cooking with Maneet—she has the best social media, and I love watching her on Food Network.”
While Avocado Grill’s typical menu consists of a medley of flavorful, garden-fresh meals and small plates such as sushi, raw bar specials and (of course) guacamole, it also blends in the rich warmth of Indian cuisine. “I always try to incorporate some Indian flavors to our menus and specials,” he shares. “I have many very close Indian friends, and I learn techniques from them, cooking in their homes. Indian spices add a delicious element to a variety of dishes. We have a popular curried cauliflower on our menu—it’s also vegan!—and I put my spin on it by adding coconut.”
SPICE attendees will delight in the irresistible combination of taste and place as Indian fragrances permeate Avocado Grill’s newly breezy, open-concept space. “We recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of Avocado Grill and renovated the entire restaurant,” Gremaud says. “It is such an airy and serene setting now, perfect for a Friday afternoon lunch.”
Those who want to experience both of Friday’s new-to-the-festival events can head from SPICE to A Dinner at Florie’s, hosted by chefs Jose Gamez and Brandon Salomon. Guests will be treated to cuisine presented by Four Seasons visiting chefs and wine pairings by in-house sommelier Jessica Altieri, all set against the rousing backdrop of the live-flame kitchen at Florie’s.
Other foodie-friendly ways to spend your Friday include four longtime festival favorites, this year featuring all-new chef lineups: Lunch with Friends at Meat Market; Southern Revival, A Bell & Evans Dining Series at The Regional Kitchen & Public House; an Italian feast called GRAVY featuring Antinori Wines at Café Sapori; and the Chef Welcome Party at The Breakers Palm Beach.
Saturday sees the final three of the six events hitting the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival scene for the first time this year. At Master Taste, oenophiles will get a chance to sample rare vintages hand-selected by master sommelier Virginia Philip at her eponymous wine shop and academy in Palm Beach’s modish Royal Poinciana Plaza.
Those with an appetite for grilled goods over grapes can opt instead to attend Porch BBQ at Lantana’s Oceano Kitchen. Chef-owners Jeremy and Cindy Bearman, will be joined by chef Stephen Stryjewski to host the walk-around tasting event promising mouthwatering smoked meats and just-plain-good cookin’. Awarded the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef: South” title in 2011, Stryjewski—who owns various award-winning restaurants in New Orleans—knows good barbecue.
Closing out Saturday’s gourmandizing is a longtime tradition with a newly welcoming twist: the After Hours: Chef After Party. Now held at Grato—and with no tickets required to attend—the chef-soaked affair will be open to all revelers, with a cash bar and no cover charge. Join top chefs Clay Conley and Zach Bell, for carousing at 9 p.m.—with plenty of time following the final gastronomic event on Saturday’s agenda—which goes ‘til late.
“This will be my ninth festival, and we’ve had a great time hosting the Saturday night Chef After Party for the last five years,” Conley says. “In the past it’s been hosted at Imoto, but this year we decided to do something casual by doing it at Grato without a ticket required to attend. It’s a great opportunity to hang out with some of the guest chefs in a laid-back setting. We’ve also enjoyed creating an awesome menu with some creative bites and cocktails.”
While the 2019 lineup of new festival events is tantalizing, don’t overlook the returning events—they’re back again this year for a reason. Case in point: the Grand Tasting event by Wine Spectator, which takes place as a “grand finale” of sorts on Sunday afternoon, will bring together more than 50 local restaurants and 2,000 guests to watch chefs compete for a $10,000 charity prize. The Grand Chef Throwdown, presented by Creekstone Farms, features guest judges Robert Irvine and Adam Richman.
Chef Adam Richman dishes on Thursday’s Beef N Boubon Experience
You may have only seen him on your TV screen, but at the Beef N Bourbon Experience, chef Adam Richman will be calling on all five of your senses—especially taste. Best known for his role in “Man v. Food,” he knows a thing or two about fine flavors. Below, Richman foretells the delectable agenda guests can expect during a night spent sampling quality beef and rare bourbons.
What’s in store for guests at the Beef N Bourbon Experience?
At this event, we’ll pair the best cuts of meats with high-grade bourbons. One of my favorite bourbons, and quite possibly the only rye I like, is made by Michter’s and their master distiller, Dan McKee. Dan will also be on hand with me to unveil a special release, which has not yet even been made public.
Tell us about some of the courses guests can look forward to.
I don’t want to give too much away in advance, but Okeechobee Steakhouse is the oldest steakhouse in Florida, operated by third-generation owner Ralph Lewis. Their beef program, featuring only prime beef, is unparalleled. Different cuts of meat, depending upon marbling, proximity to bone and the length of time they are aged—and even whether they are wet- or dry-aged—can drastically alter the flavor, creating quite a bit of nuance and texture in each cut. With each of the five courses, the food and bourbon will slowly ramp up in intensity.
What’s so special about the pairing of beef and bourbon?
Bourbon is not something we often see paired with different courses of meals. Bourbon is often seen as something to be enjoyed on its own, but the corn content of bourbon—coupled with its notes of caramel, spice, smoke, vanilla, oak, grass, cinnamon and even cloves—lends itself to pairing with rich and earthy red meat.
What’s a fun food fact you’d like to share relevant to PBF&WF?
My first real exposure to cooking with and understanding the flavor applications of the spice sumac happened at the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival years ago, courtesy of chefs Marc Murphy and Robert Irvine. Robert had thrown it in as a secret ingredient in the cooking competition, and being able to sit with them and the good people of Creekstone Farms and learn how it can be applied to red meat and in other recipes—from both a legendary meat purveyor and two of the best chefs to ever do it—was incredible. I learned so much that during a recent trip to Israel, where that spice is super prevalent, they were impressed that I knew so much about it and asked where I learned so much about a spice that influences the Middle Eastern menu. My response: “The Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival!”