Southern Hospitality: Premier Palm Beach Dining & Wellness This Spring

The Branzino Portofino at Principessa Palm Beach
The Branzino Portofino at Principessa
Courtesy Principessa

Major Food Group is on a roll in Florida, having taken over most of the restaurants at the Boca Raton and the resort’s Italian concept called Principessa Ristorante (similar to Major’s Miami smash hit, Contessa) and the Japanese Bocce Club.

Principessa’s menu is loaded with creative options, from squash carpaccio with arugula and pumpkin seeds, to smoked salmon with horseradish cream and caviar. A baby kale salad is studded with roasted sunchokes, sunflower seeds, almonds, pomegranate and sliced pear, while one version of pizza is topped with bacon, red onion, caciocavallo and pecorino Romano. For entrées, you can stick with classics like branzino or a range of steaks.

The Paella Valencia at Medi Terra
The Paella Valencia at Medi Terra

Favorite New Jersey restaurant Mediterraneo closed after 17 years in 2020, but its chef/owner Michael Velicu and his son Daniel have found a new home in Boca, opening Medi Terra in Royal Palm Place, and featuring many of the chef’s well-loved Western Mediterranean dishes.

Velicu studied under renowned chefs Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner and Alain Sailhac, and he sources the highest quality ingredients, including sea bass from Greece, saffron from Spain, pomodoro tomatoes from Italy, and truffles, lavender and herbs from France. Menu highlights include chicken tajine, paella, ginger-accented halibut and smoked duck breast salad with orange vinaigrette.

If you see Jon Bon Jovi posting on Instagram from Rocco’s Tacos or Mark Wahlberg sidling up to a Rocco’s bar, it’s not only because they are fans — both Bon Jovi’s Hampton Water Rosé, and Wahlberg’s Flecha Azul Tequila are carried by the uber popular restaurants. When you go to sample them, don’t miss the guacamole made tableside or the yummy tacos with grilled chicken.

Francophiles rejoice — three fantastic bistros are in the area! La Goulue, the ultimate classic, has become part of the Palm Beach fabric after just two years.

Don’t miss Sunday nights when prime rib is carved tableside. Pistache in West Palm is known for its power lunch scene, but it’s also a romantic spot for dinner, whether you go for standards like onion soup with melted gruyere and steak frites or something a little more creative, like swordfish schnitzel.

In Delray, La Cigale is an authentic and delicious choice, with such offerings as pan-seared fresh foie gras on grilled brioche; spicy calamari with wine and hot cherry peppers; and whole Dover sole.

If you prefer feeling like you are in Italy, the villas off Worth Avenue have two of the most picturesque ristorantes, complete with landscaped gardens. The other night at BiCE, when it began to drizzle, the staff, including the impeccably dressed owner, raced to line the sky with giant umbrellas to protect al fresco guests, so they could enjoy perfectly prepared fish, meats and pasta. A few doors down, Renato’s, bright with purple orchids, has service to match the impeccable food and atmosphere. Don’t miss pompano if it’s a special.

The Vegan Pasta Bolognese at Atlantic Grille
The Vegan Pasta Bolognese at Atlantic Grille

There is a new culinary team at the Seagate Hotel & Spa in Delray, led by Chef Gordon Maybury, who most recently headed the food and beverage program at award-winning Turnberry Resort. The property’s signature restaurant, Atlantic Grille, has some of the freshest seafood around including local grouper, roasted seabass and a raw bar. Carnivores will love the apple-spiced pork chops, and vegetarians have lots of options, including a vegan pasta Bolognese.

South Florida is home to some amazing spas, and since hiking isn’t quite the thing in this flat state, the emphasis has been on cutting-edge and spectacular treatments.

The Atlantic Pool at Carillon Miami
The Atlantic Pool at Carillon MiamiDominic James

Carillon Miami is the largest luxury spa and wellness resort in the region, with over 45 fitness classes weekly, and 40 different state-of-the-art therapies. Check out Spa Wave, which employs music, sound waves and highly efficient vibration, matched to the body’s energy chakras, for ultimate relaxation, or the Prism Light Pod, which uses red light therapy (aka photobiomodulation) to speed heeling from injuries or chronic pain four to 10 times what your body can do on its own. The hotel also just opened a new 18-seat French/Asian fine dining experience called the Tambourine Room.

Indulge your senses with Coconut Nourishment at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne where sugar cane coconut scrub is used along with a massage and wrap, or go for the Tequesta Ritual, a Native American therapy incorporating an algae wrap, aromatherapy massage and scalp massage.

The Breakers is now using Vermont favorite Tata Harper’s herbaceous products for spa facials. Inhale when the cleanser is applied, and you will feel like you are in a freshly mowed field.

The Four Seasons has added Polo in Paradise to its activity program, with Argentinian polo star Nic Roldan leading the program that includes lessons and polo ponies for adults and children.

Meanwhile, The Four Seasons restaurant Florie’s is creating botanical cocktails, using ingredients from the resort’s gardens, such as the Begonia, made with citrus shrub.

A PGA National Resort cottage designed by Serena & Lily
A PGA National Resort cottage designed by Serena & LilyCarmel Brantly

Stylish new cottages and helicopter service to the airport are all part of the offerings at the newly renovated PGA National Resort. Apart from five golf courses, a stellar tennis program and a spa with expert estheticians and therapists, a men’s salon has been added in conjunction with wellness brand Groom Guy. It offers the vibe of an elegant barbershop with leather chairs, artful cuts and shaves.

The property’s new cottages are a chic and private alternative to the main resort. A stroll, or golf cart ride away, they are two-bedroom, two-bath beachy retreats designed by Serena & Lily with wooden floors, blue, white and rattan décor, and private patios.

Leaving the resort is always a bit sad, but the experience is brightened now by elegant and speedy departures thanks to a partnership with luxury flight service Blade, that whisks guests to Palm Beach International Airport on helicopters.

If you are looking for a great deal, check out the Renaissance Boca Raton Hotel, which is located minutes from the town center’s stores and a slew of top restaurants. There is a spectacular new pool, rooms are clean and well-appointed, and service is friendly and efficient. The hotel will be opening a branch of steakhouse, Meat Market, but until then, you can stroll to Copperfish Kitchen where the focus is on sustainable seafood.