Brunch @ Cafe Boulud (Palm Beach)
Was just up in Palm Beach this past weekend - sadly our timing was off and we couldn't get to Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud at the Brazilian Court Hotel for dinner, but we did stay there overnight and rose from our slumber in time to catch a Sunday brunch. Service is either inside in the restaurant (done up in vibrant Provencal yellows and oranges) or in a nice outdoor courtyard. It was pretty sweltering and we opted for indoors.
Only brunch option was a 3-course deal for $32 (I think if we had gotten out of bed earlier we could have ordered from the breakfast menu, but it was past 11am and they were only serving the brunch) - not as gluttonous, perhaps, as many brunch buffets, but quite a bit of food indeed. Starter choices were a fruit and yogurt parfait, a watercress vichyssoise, or a salad; then there were about a half dozen or more entree choices, some on the breakfasty side of things (French rolled omelette with smoked salmon mousse, eggs mornay, belgian waffle, etc.), others more lunch-y (Nicoise salad, fish and chips, etc.) and then 4 desserts ("floating islands," tropical fruit gelee & sorbet, bread pudding, chocolate mousse). I opted for vichyssoise, eggs mornay and fruit gelee while Mrs. F went fruit parfait, nicoise and floating island.
A nice little bread basket started us off - surprisingly the croissant suffered the same flaw as almost every other croissant I've had in South Florida - the texture was all gummy and off - but all the other items, including a slice of zucchini bread and some other goodies, were all good.
The vichyssoise was one of the best renditions I've had - bright green and brightly flavored from the watercress, but still substantial from the potato base, rich but not heavy, perfectly seasoned, and an elegant presentation with a waffle potato chip balanced on top. Good stuff. I didn't bother tasting the fruit parfait, which was a berry / granola / yogurt concoction done with good rich Greek yogurt.
The eggs mornay were also very nice, a big slab of crusty bread, topped with ham, creamed spinach, a couple fried eggs, and hollandaise. Rich and good. The nicoise salad was also nice, the tuna done "confit" - which I think meant cooked in olive oil at very low temperature, so that the texture and flavor are like a perfect cross between a good slab of raw tuna and a good top-quality canned tuna in olive oil (which, as the Spanish know, has its virtues), salad dressed with a classic mustardy vinaigrette along with some green beans, hard boiled quail eggs, nicoise olives (all piled off to the side, much to Mrs. F's satisfaction as she is not an olive person).
Mrs. F's "ile flottant" was quite good, a rich but light meringue over a creme anglaise with berries. My tropical fruit gelee was the only real miss of the brunch - it was a silly thing, the bottom of a wide bowl getting a ring of - well, jello, basically, topped off with a dice of orange, grapefruit, mango, topped with a mango sorbet. Didn't do it for me.
The wine list was exceptional, and aside from a number of show-off bottles, had a "sixty under $60" section which I think is a great idea (though my preference is for fifty under $50, or better yet, I'd even take forty under $40). Given that it was only 11am I wasn't actively shopping the wines and didn't pay much attention to the markups. There was also a cocktail list which was sort of clever, in that it followed the thematic structure of the regular dinner menu, which is divided into "La Tradition" (traditional stuff), "Le Saison" (seasonal), "Le Voyage" (around the world) and "Le Plus Simple" (simple). It wasn't SO early, after all, and I had a very nice "Ars Mundi" champagne cocktail with elderflower liquor from the "Voyage" choices which hit the spot.
They had a number of interesting specials going on, including a BYOB Monday with no corkage, Wednesday wine dinners w/ 4 courses and wine pairings for $75, another night w/ $5 rose wines (they're pushing the pink stuff for the summer) ... makes me wish it wasn't usually 1 1/2 hours away for me.