Journal Concierge | An Insider’s Guide | January 22, 2011
The town of Palm Beach is turning a century old in April. And though a new glitzy gang of jetsetters has discovered the once discretion-friendly vacation paradise, the Belgian Loafer Set still rules the roost. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re tired, so tired, of the Twitter Age, it’s your Lilly Pulitzer bag: The rules of conduct abide, as does cocktail hour. And the “careless people,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald called them, keep their riches mostly un-embarrassing.
November to April is known as “The Season” in Palm Beach, Florida’s 16-mile-long Atlantic coast barrier island that completes the Preppy Triangle (Manhattan and the Hamptons also included). That means designer-store openings, mansion parties, celebrity fly-ins and a generally more lively time to cross its bridges.
At the private “B & T” (or Bath & Tennis Club), blue-blood members still grumble over G and T’s about The Donald, blaming Mr. Trump for the influx of brand-name-bragging islanders. And when he bought the showy Mar-a-Lago compound in 1985, transforming the residence a decade later into his own private country club, the carefully guarded floodgates were in fact opened to a paparazzi swarm. But that is what they do, and to some, complaining is a pastime.
The city was founded at the turn of the last century by high-living Standard Oil tycoon Henry M. Flagler, who fell in love with the lush oasis and developed it into a playground for his rich but mannered friends. They bought up everything else. In 1902, Flagler completed “Whitehall,” his Beaux-Arts mansion, which followed the opening of his resort, the Palm Beach Inn—renamed the Breakers in 1901. To this day, the Breakers remains the spot to see-and-scene it.
In this teensy town, gossip flies rapidly down the pristine white sand beaches, and scandal has visited the island—from the William Kennedy Smith rape trial of 1991 to the recent Bernard Madoff swindle, the latter of which hit the enclave hard. (No wonder Michael Kors once designed an entire fashion collection called “Palm Bitch.”)
Yet despite the true-crime gossip and influx of cash-and-flash, names like Phipps, Boardman, Fanjul and Hanley still carry substantial weight. That said, it hasn’t deterred the Pretty Youngish Things—Tinsley Mortimer, Ivanka Trump, Aerin Lauder—from laying claim to their own scene, all regularly making appearances in the party pages of “The Shiny Sheet,” the nickname for the Palm Beach Daily News.
Sound kind of snotty? Why go? Why not, old sport? You go to Palm Beach to marvel at this manicured time bubble, where lawn jockeys once guarded many a porte-cochère. You go to luxuriate in its old-school resorts and daydream on its un-peopled beaches. You go to gaze through the hedgerows surrounding those Addison Mizner-designed, pink-stucco villas, built in the Roaring ’20s. And mostly you go to soak up that rare “Six Degrees of Separation” from reality you can’t find anywhere else. Hey, you’re entitled to it. – Peter Davis
Founder and president of Vie Luxe home fragrance company; Palm Beach and New York socialite
Prep Central: Michael R. McCarty’s. I always stop for a drink here to see which blue-blazered and Stubbs & Wooton-loafered friends of mine are in town to make plans with. 50 Cocoanut Row,michaelrmccartys.com
Dairy Dream:Sprinkles Ice Cream & Sandwich Shop. No visit would be complete for my son without a pass by there. I love the black-and-white checkerboard floors: It’s upscale-casual. There are so many flavors and toppings, I never imagined! 279 Royal Poinciana Way, 561-659-1140
Tabloid Grabber:Main Street News. I always make a stop there in the morning to grab the paper and European magazines like Hello! and Tatler. 255 Royal Poinciana Way, 561-833-4027
Mirror, Mirror:Tammy Fender Holistic Skincare. A facial at this pampering emporium is like no other. You lie down on a puffy feather bed and are transported to a place of complete relaxation. The cleansers, exfoliators and oils are all organic and packaged old-apothecary-style. 711 North Flagler Drive, tammyfender.com
Air Apparent:Lotus Hair Studio. A blow-dry and makeup at Lotus Hair Studio is always a must. It’s the only salon in a town of “Palm Beach Crash Helmet” hairdos that’s young and with-it.1609 South Dixie Highway, lotushairstudio.com
Author of “Eccentric Glamour” and five other books; creative director-at-large of Barneys; New York and Palm Beach resident
Public Club:Publix Super Market. To view the WASP-y hauteur at its hilarious peak, crash the private Bath & Tennis or Everglades clubs. If this fails then stalk the aisles here, watching the old-money crowd buying hot dogs and Velveeta.
265 Sunset Ave., 561-655-4120
Fashion Food:Chez Jean-Pierre. It’s a fashion show there—tiaras and boufants…and that’s just the men! The scene is more over the top than anywhere in Paris. The food, by contrast, is simple: rustic and yummy. Get the vegetable soup.
132 North County Rd., 561-833-1171
Beach Bumming:Phipps Ocean Park. You can romp in the sand to your heart’s content—even on major holidays, this beach is totally deserted. Maybe everyone’s at the hairdresser. 2185 South Ocean Blvd., 561-585-9203
Natural Habitat:The Lake Trail. You’ll see indigenous nature everywhere here: ospreys, buzzards, foxes, snakes, lizards. Marvel at the natural beauty…and the power-walking outfits worn by aging glamorpusses. North Lake Trail, Palm Beach
Second-Hand Chic:4Dolce. Trawl the vintage furniture stores on Dixie Highway to see the surreal excesses of decades past. But the most intriguing objets d’bizarre can be found here.3700 South Dixie Highway, No. 8, West Palm Beach; 561-832-4550
Daughter of Jimmy Buffett, designer of A1A sportswear; co-author of the children’s book “The Jolly Mon”; raised in Palm Beach
Surfer Essentials:P.B. Boys Club. It’s funny to think of it as a surf town, but there is actually an avid local scene there. This is the one-stop for all-things surfing, including Strong Boalt swim trunks by local designer Amanda Boalt.
307 South County Rd., pbboysclub.com
Live Music:Nick and Johnnie’s. This fun restaurant and bar books great roots acts from all over the country. What starts out as post-black-tie cocktails easily turns into an all-out dance party.
207 Royal Poinciana Way, nickandjohnniespb.com
Cantina: 8Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar. This is the place for Mexican food with friends. Catch owner Rocco dancing Pee-wee Herman-style—white shoes and all—on top of the bar, pouring free Patron tequila. 224 Clematis St., West Palm Beach; roccostacos.com
Shaken and Stirring:5 The Seafood Bar at The Breakers. Enjoy some stone crab claws and a martini, while gazing out at the ocean. And its aquarium bar is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
1 South County Rd., thebreakers.com
Road Trip Respite:3The Old Key Lime House. Take a drive south to the oldest waterfront restaurant in Florida. It’s a classic salty-dog bar with blackened mahi sandwiches and shrimp baskets. 300 E. Ocean Ave., Lantana; oldkeylimehouse.com
Furniture designer with stores in West Palm Beach and New York
Cheap-Chic Eats:Vagabondi. This place is very casual but with great service and unpretentious owners. My favorite dishes the mussels and the fish stew. It’s very intimate—only ten tables.
319 Belvedere Rd., No. 2; 561-249-2281
Brunch Scene: 2 Cafe Boulud at The Brazilian Court. Saturdays are wonderful on the café terrace. Stellar Bloody Marys and Chicken Cobb salad. It’s also a fun place to see the beautiful people.
301 Australian Ave., thebraziliancourt.com
Chop Shop:Joseph’s Classic Market (Palm Beach Gardens). They’ve just reopened in a bigger space: three generations of artisanal butcher experience. And there’s a gourmet market with prepared foods for take-home. 4409 Northlake Blvd., josephsclassicmarket.com
Linen Love:Kassatly’s Inc. Since 1923, they’ve knows their fine linens and housewares. To me, it’s the best shop on the Worth Avenue strip.
250 Worth Ave., 561-655-5655
Rare Finds:1Wilson Antiques. It’s run by this great couple that carry the things my clients need. But it’s dangerous: I always end up buying something for myself. My last purchase was a life-size 18th-century Tibetan horse made of wood.
3716 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-802-3881