Monday, February 4, 2008

Palm Beach Weekend

The Nadine and Lars Bolander house in West Palm Beach.
Palm Beach like this. Coming from grey and raw and rainy Manhattan, who could resist? The weather – no humidity; 70s, sunny with some passing clouds and a nice balmy breeze blowing in off the Atlantic.

Thursday night after photographing the Vernissage preview of the Palm Beach Art and Antique Fair and the dinner especially prepared by Café Boulud (in the Brazilian Court) for the paying guests, We went over to Michael McCarty’s restaurant at 50 Coconut Row for some downtime. And a break from the glittering crowd.

McCarty’s. Whenever you drive up, there’s a sense of tropical hospitality in the air. On the low slung and ample veranda, there’s some gang of sun-washed friends and mates occupying sofas and chairs, having drinks, waiting for tables or having an after dinner cocktail, solving the great mysteries of life (like where to shop or to golf tomorrow). Just inside the bar’s jumping or just clearing out for the next jump, and the dining room is occupied with more revelers having dinner.

I say revelers because the place has a party feel. A very mixed crowd; age-wise; couples, single women, single men, dates. Women dress or don’t; but usually do. Men in open shirts, sometimes jackets. The bare-ankles velvet pumps brigade. I saw Rainer and Regina Greeven, grandparents to Cristina Greeven and Chris Cuomo’s little one. I saw Paige Crawford, formerly of Manhattan and now a fulltime PB convert, and Susan and John Wanamaker Leas. Geoffrey Bradfield and his assistant Roric Tobin came in from the Vernissage for an after-dinner nightcap. And a lotta people I didn’t know. Doesn’t matter; you feel at home at McCarty’s.

Had a drink, some dinner and then hit the road back to the Colony to prepare Friday’s Diary.
The scene at Mar-a-lago Club where the Boy’s Club of New York was holding its annual fund-raising luncheon-fashion show.
Friday morning. Up until five putting the NYSD and getting it up online. We usually don’t run this late. Slept till 10:30. Missed the breakfast hour at Hamburger Heaven on County just off Worth Avenue. Damn; I only have eggs (and maybe some bacon) when we’re on the brief (self-impossed) non-caloric/fatty diets jaunts to faraway places, and I look forward to it. Grilled ham and cheese instead.

Then down to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago Club where the Boy’s Club of New York was holding its annual fund-raising luncheon-Asprey's fashion show (chaired by Mai Hallingby Harrison) in the  Trump added 18th century French-style grand ballroom. They had a huge turnout of about 200 including a large round table of husbands at the children’s table (just kidding!) off to one side of the stage. These guys are guests of their checkbooks and the checkbooks of anyone they can collar to raise more funds for the cause, which is helping young people make their way.

There was a big contingent of New York women present, all sun-kissed and bright and chic in their designer resort couture what have you. I was thinking looking over the crowd of beautifully turned-out, well-manicured, well-coiffed well dressed women from 20-something to more than-something, how you’d probably never find many groups quite like this outside of New York, meaning outside of Palm Beach. This is part of what makes Palm Beach different from all the other winter resorts in America. This is the place with the social cachet, where the social cachet resides in the winter months. This is the tradition of Palm Beach, since its inception more than a century ago by Henry Rogers, the Standard Oil man and railroad-and-real estate entrepreneur.
A view of the Mar-a-lago Club from the back.
Mar-a-lago itself is an astonishing place. Built by a very rich woman (Marjorie Merriwether Post) in the 1920s when the rich “entertained” with railroad- and boat-loads of guests. It is so big and sprawling and rambling and over-the-top-child’s-notion-of-a-castle, that it intrigues and delights. Mrs. Post lived it up in a way none of us do/can or would today. You can feel the woman’s personality; the house says it all. And Donald Trump defines it perfectly; he’s the rightful heir to that architectural extravaganza and flamboyance, and so it remains the most fantastic house in Palm Beach.

From Mar-a-lago it was back over to the Palm Beach Convention Center and the 12th annual Palm Beach/America’s International Fine Art & Antique Fair to photograph some of the stalls. (see Art Set).

From the Art Fair, back over to Palm Beach for a brief visit with Ellen and Ian Graham (See NYSD House) in their PB house (more on that tomorrow).
The Palm Beach living room of Ellen and Ian Graham.
Friday night. Lars Bolander is a purveyor of art and objets, etc. I don’t think he’s officially an interior decorator, nor an antiquaire or a furniture designer. Maybe he’s all of those things.

He’s got a shop on the Dixie Highway in West Palm which is the Rodeo Drive of antique, consignment, thrift, memorabilia, what-have-you/what-not shops in America. That is where the decorators go, where the shoppers go, where the tourists hungry for a find or a bargain or a trip go.
A look around Lars Bolander's Palm Beach home.
Lars also has a shop in Manhattan on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District.  Since I’m not a shopper or a decorator but merely an appreciator, I went looking for some kind of professional description of what he does. I found the following on the web:

Known for his light, classic Gustavian design sensibility, Bolander has packed his 3,600-square-foot Manhattan Meatpacking District store full of suddenly au courant traditional Swedish antiques, as well as English and French pieces from the 18th century through the 20th. Noted The New York Times: Wherever Bolander goes, "Bronfmans and Vanderbilts follow."
Lars and his wife Nadine throw a big cocktail party every year the night after the opening of this particular Art Fair in Palm Beach. The party always took place at their rambling second floor apartment in one of the old Addison Mizner buildings on Worth Avenue. It was a fabulous apartment, like something out of the tropics or Warner Bros.’ version of the Humphrey Bogart’s lair in Casablanca.  Every now and then on our travels we visit some amazing house or apartment, something that transforms your attitude or tweaks your curiosities. Lars and Nadine’s was one.

It’s called charm. Their cocktail parties are packed with familiar New York faces and new not-New York faces. They are always very jolly and friendly with lots to eat and lots to drink and a very casual but welcoming host and hostess.

This year's party was held for the Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair which takes place in London on June 5-15.
So this year I heard they’d moved. Left that fantastic place for a new house in West Palm. Why? Leaving a little treasure behind for ...?

I should have known better than to question. The new house, built from ground up is fantastic. Big and spacious and totally utilitarian with lots of wall space and floor space for the Bolander collections and objets. You walk in and think “I could live here.” Perfect for a work space, for a big party with the French doors opening wide to the terrace and the poolside. Simple, elegant, grandly welcoming spaces. Lots of books; lots of paintings, lots of plants and art.

It was a big party. By nine when it was supposed to end, there was still a crowd mingling inside and out. They didn’t want to leave.
Jackie Weld and Barbara Thompson
Wendy Moonan and Duncan Darrow
Hillie Mahoney and Steven Stolman
Linzy Roth and Scott Woodward
Minot and Victoria Amory
Ashley Copeland, Joe Dernfeld, and Sue Belle Robbins
Regine Traulsen
Nadine Kalachnikoff
Iris Apfel
More from the Bolander home.
Anna Tonarely
Kristi Witker and Dick Koons
Richard and Jackie Cowell
Geoffrey Thomas with Geoff Jr. and Jennifer Thomas
A laugh and a sigh
Audrey Gruss, Lars Bolander, and Beth DeWoody
Eric Purcell with Regine Traulsen
Alexia Pickett, Pat Patterson, Candy Hamm, and Maura Benjamin
JH and DPC
Rod and Jackie Drake, Beth DeWoody, and Sharon Sondes
Marilyn White and Freya Simms
Virginia Coleman and John Mashek
Alan and Maggy Scherer, Hope Annan, Grace Meigher, and Sharon Hoge
Hilary and Wilbur Ross
Steve Stolman and Matthew Patrick Smyth
Stephen and Liz Sans
Lars Bolander, Sharon Sondes, and Mario Buatta
William Secord, Candy Hamm, and Bruce Bierman
Freya Simms and Mario Buatta
Ann Jones, Sharon Sondes and Geoffrey Thomas, and Barbara Dixon
Ann Jones and friends
Mai Harrison and Iris Apfel
Sue Belle Robbins, DPC, and Ashley Copeland
Mary Hilliard and Leonard Harris
Brook Mason and Barbara Smythe-Jones
We had a 9:30 rez. Many will tell you the best restaurant in Palm Beach is the Palm Beach Grill on Royal Poinciana Way across the street from the Breakers golf course. They are “famous for their ribs.” However, it’s so popular that it can be very difficult getting a table. Like impossible. The 5:30 or 10 line. 

The clientele can’t stay away. If you’re an out-of-towner (in other words a nobody), you can forget Friday night or Saturday. Unless you know someone. We knew someone; thank god. So Beth DeWoody and company joined us for a 9:30 reservation.

Noisy? Is the A-Train Express running through the station at 81st and Central Park West noisy? Deafening? Deafening. A madhouse? A madhouse. Jammed bar? Five deep. A line waiting? A line waiting.
But don’t worry. First of all the drinks will keep you while you wait. You order an ordinary vodka on the rocks with a twist, and you get ... a double? How about a quadruple?

Then the food. Interesting menu; not remarkable in the read. However, someone ordered the Home-Smoked Salmon. You’ve never had anything like it before. Ever. I ordered the (what else?) Roast Chicken. Incredible. Even the non-chicken lovers at the table were swooning after a taste. Someone else ordered the Red Snapper. Beyond. Devilled Eggs. Deviled Eggs? Who cares? You would if you had these. The Grilled Artichokes. And someone else ordered the Ribs. Order the Ribs. Even if you don’t like Ribs. Always order the Ribs, no matter whatever else.

We got our table at ten, moving through the clamoring crowd. So, should you try it sometime? Even if you have to write six weeks ahead, and take a table at 10.
Brazilian Court on Saturday morning.
Saturday morning. We remembered from the last trip that they had a good Breakfast at Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court. On the terrace. Prix fixe, three courses:  Fresh Fruit Parfait, Eggs Benedict with Spinach on Toast and heaping with Crabmeat, and Chocolate Bread Pudding. Another one of those “only when I’m traveling” breakfasts.

The Brazilian Court’s courtyard is festooning with flora and fauna, orchids, palms, citrus and banana trees, and on Saturday there was a crew shooting some video. Maureen Sullivan, the hotel’s public relations manager who was on set came by to say hello. It turned out to be Bill Stubbs, one of AD 100 , the interior designer from Houston who is doing a 13-segment for PBS, “Moment of Luxury” which will take viewers to “exotic locales in search of design inspiration.” Bill told us next stop is Blenheim Palace where Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill is going to give him (and the viewers) a tour of the 400 year old 400 year old palace and family seat the Churchills. The first segmet of “Moment of Luxury” airs on PBS April 5th.
Bill Stubbs shooting a “Moment of Luxury” for PBS.
From breakfast it was a quick trip  down the road to see our Palm Beach Social Diary correspondent Hilary Geary Ross for a brief editorial meeting and some computer and camera tips from JH, our company instructor.
Hilary at her home in Pam Beach
Then to the airport with a stop off at an ice cream shop on Royal Poinciana Way where Ken Noland and Paige Rense were treating themselves (she a raspberry smoothie and he a sugar-free milk shake, and me with a chocolate cone). Then on to Palm Beach International airport for a 3:50 flight to Newark.
Flying over West Palm Beach and Palm Beach back to Newark.

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