Here’s a rundown of last night’s Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival dinner at The Breakers, Palm Beach, where John Mariani was honorary host. Mariani explained how Italian food has conquered the world in his new book just out (How Italian Food Conquered the World), saying he’s found pizza in airports around the world, flatbreads or pizza on almost all new restaurant menus across America, and an empty Chinese restaurant in Taipai sitting next to a packed Italian one.
I’ll tell you more about the book after I’ve sampled it – it’s sure to be a good bedtime read.
The dinner last night was prepared by several notable chefs – Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine in Miami did hors d’oeuvres like tempura-battered squash blossoms, duck rillette, and a mackerel bite.
Kicking off the dinner was David Burke, with a pretzel crab cake – inspired, he said, by sitting at the bar and eating pretzels. He realized the sticks didn’t absorb as much fat as breadcrumbs would and married the two foods. A crabcake stuffed with crab was baked with the rafts of pretzels held together with a scallion tie. Mayonnaise was the slight binder for the lump crab.
Next up was Scott Conant’s Polenta with wild mushroom fricassee. The polenta was completely smooth and creamy. Conant, a TV celebrity chef who stars on the Food Network “Chopped,” and is chef at the acclaimed Scarpetta in New York and Miami, joked that he uses his crème brûlée recipe as a base for the creamy corn. Diners at the event requested his recipe, and he directed them to his cookbook, Scott Conant’s New Italian Cooking.
Chef John DeLuchi created the main dish – a simple shortribs with celeriac puree and Brussels sprouts leaves over all. Cooked 3-1/2 to 4 hours on a braise simmer, the beef was tender and moist. It wasn’t sous vide, a technique common in other areas. “Sous vide is tightly controlled in New York – so most chefs don’t bother,” he said. It requires certification according to strict food safety laws in that state.
For dessert, The Breakers’ own Chef Jeff Simms wowed the crowd with the Martini Sundae of gelato, biscotti, espresso and a chocolate-honey cup. Caramel sauce with walnuts was passed by servers.
The remaining events for the Palm Beach Food and Wine Fest are sold out, except for the Cocktail Culture at 5 p.m. today at Cafe Boulud – walk-ins are welcome; see the web site, PBFWF.com for more information.