During the summer, South Florida as restaurants slow down and relax both fare and prices.
One of the top deals is at Cafe Boulud’s restaurant-within-a-restaurant, Boulud Sud. With a special menu served for dinner on the enclosed terrace, the chef created what he calls a “pop-up” venue last summer and brings it back for another season. The French menu at Cafe Boulud, which is marking its 15th year in Palm Beach, is still available indoors, and can be ordered outdoors, but the bright flavors and lighter, small sharing plates on its menu are the focus at Boulud Sud.
I chatted with Daniel Boulud when he was in Palm Beach to introduce the new menu to the media.
Cuisines of the sun are lighter
“During the summer, it’s more fun and practical to do a more casual menu,” he said. The menu is inspired by foods he prepared in his many jobs as a young chef, he said. His work took him all around the sun-drenched regions in the Mediterranean that closely match South Florida’s climate.
“I worked in the South of France, starting in Provence, and worked my way around the Mediterranean – Italy and Spain, then Turkey, North Africa and Greece – even Sardinia – that was very interesting. And of course, I have the Mediterranean experience from when I worked with Sirio (Maccioni) at Le Cirque.”
It was an Old World experience. At every region he visited he found unique combinations of spices, herbs, cheeses and grains to influence flavors of the traditional summer foods – fish, fresh vegetables, and seasonal meats such as lamb.
“There would be wines from the area vineyards – sometimes, I would go to a family home, and they would have their own wines or olive oil on the tables,” he said. It wasn’t unusual to find local cheese or bread makers who made foods to sell only at village markets – artisans, we’d call them here, he said. “For them, this is how they eat every day. They’ve been doing this for hundreds of years.”
Putting a twist on the traditional
These artisan products and fresh foods made an impact, and Boulud worked with chef Jim Leiken at Cafe Boulud to make his own versions of the traditional dishes. For starters, there’s hummus – bright green, made from spring peas, and served with a crisp herb falafel, babagnoush and a lavash. On the tabbouleh plate, cauliflower is spiced with za’atar (made from sumac and sesame seeds – uniquely Mediterranean), and served with figs.
Taramasalata, a dip, is made from cod roe, smoked in-house, and served with a dill potato chip. An escabeche, a dish found throughout the region, was inspired by one from Sicily. Sardines, with pine nuts and raisins, give it a flavor twist.
The chilled cucumber gazpacho with dill cream and baby radishes brings the cool, bright flavor Boulud says is key to the cuisine of the hot climes. With the fishermen contributing fresh fish at markets there daily, seafood plays the star protein role in the area. Boulud creates his version of gambas al ajillo – head on sweet pink shrimp, and serves them with ratatouille and pesto.
The crowning dish of the day was a whole roasted Loup de Mer, at this luncheon served tableside. The fish is roasted with skin and head on – and flaked off the bones plated with locally grown summer squash, a tangy romesco sauce and wild greens.
Sweets and wines also influenced by Mediterranean
Pastry Chef Arnaud Chavigny finishes dinners with Provencal Moelleux – almond-postachio cake with berries and meringue, a mint-chocolate pavé with chocolate sorbet, and a cool grapefruit givré with sesame halva and rose loukoum alongside.
Sommelier Mariya Kovacheva includes Mediterranean wines in her list for Boulud Sud, including Rosés, a Rebula from Slovenia, and lighter reds from France and Italy.
Boulud Sud is only around for a few months; dinner is served daily through September 2. The menu is ala carte during the week, and $35 as a three-course prix fixe Saturday and Sunday.
Special pricing is available at the Brazilian Court hotel as well during the summer. The dining package for two includes a three-course Boulud Sud dinner with a glass of rosé each. Also available through September 2, the package starts at $299 a night, pre-tax. Additional nights are available without dinner.
Cafe Boulud/Boulud Sud
- At the Brazilian Court, 301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach
- Phone: 561-655-6060; cafeboulud.com
The Brazilian Court Hotel
- 301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach
- 561-655-7740; thebraziliancourt.com