June 5, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan, General Manager of the Conrad Chicago
The Conrad Chicago, formerly the Le Meridien Chicago, opened in November 2005 and has been continuing to upgrade ever since. Five Star Alliance and The Informed Traveler got in touch with the General Manager, Mr. T Colm O'Callaghan to find out more about his experiences with the new hotel and to learn more about what guests can expect.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: My family owns a hotel in Ireland which meant I was born into the business; I also attended hotel school, worked for Hilton for 18years. When this position became available I jumped at the opportunity.
Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Location, location, location.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Our customers are both business and leisure with our feeder markets being Los Angeles, New York, the UK, and Germany.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel’s location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Mr. O'Callaghan: We are located in the heart of The Magnificent Mile surrounded by wonderful shopping, great museums, great dining and within walking distance to city favorites as Millennium Park, and Navy Pier. My favorite thing to do is people watch, great people watching right on Michigan Avenue.
Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?
Mr. O'Callaghan: I can not speak about specific guests. I will say we do have a loyal client base. Our biggest compliment is our repeat guests.
Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?
Mr. O'Callaghan: All of our rooms are fabulous!
Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Perhaps a bit of history? Any special events that have taken place on property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Designed by Chicago architects Frederick J. Thielbar and John Reed Furgard, this 16-story art deco limestone building is a collaboration between one of the city's leading architectural firms and the sculptors Eugene mad Gwen Lux. Gwen Lux is among America's pioneer women sculptresses; her work can be found at the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City and at the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit designed by architect Eero Saarinen. The McGraw-Hill Building served as the Midwestern offices of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, among the largest trade paper and book publishers in the country.
Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The location of the hotel, and the warmth and friendliness of its staff.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The hardest part is the administrative aspect of the job it prevents me from interacting with the guests and staff as much as I would like.
Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?
1. Sheen Falls – Kenmare, Ireland – ideal setting
2. Evans Hideaway Resort – Huahin, Thailand – love private villas, infinity pools and enclosed walls.
3. Conrad Tokyo – New standard for the International Conrad, great urban hotel.
Five Star Alliance:Anything else you would like our readers to know about you’re your property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Warm friendly staff, second none in Chicago.
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan is the General Manager of the Conrad Chicago in Chicago, IL where he came from his position as the Resident Manager at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. Prior to that, Mr. O'Callaghan had over 20 years of European and American professional experiences with hotels such as The St. Regis Hotel New York, The New York Palace, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, and Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton. He received his B.A., an Honors Degree, from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland and his Graduate Certificate from the General Manager Development Program in Hong Kong.
June 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
In a city known for endless dining options, at one of the world's most famous hotels, a new trend made waves: guests join the Chef's Table for a tailor-made meal prepared before their eyes. The Peninsula Hong Kong offers an exquisite culinary experience hosted by the Executive Chef, Florian Trento. Witness the inner workings of a busy hotel kitchen and watch in awe as your mouth-watering personalized menu-- comprised of one course from each of the hotel's seven dining venues-- is crafted before your eyes. The gourmet delight of the Grand Chef's Table can cater up to ten guests. Sample cuisine from each of the hotel's restaurants: Chesa, Felix, Gaddi's, Imasa, The Lobby, Spring Moon and The Verandah. It is only available on request with two weeks advance notice and costs HK$48,888 (US$6,268), and includes a special gift for each guest. Also available at The Peninsula: Gaddi's Chef’s Table, which seats only four guests. Three-course lunch $88, five-course dinner $191, ten-course dinner $268. Spring Moon Chefs' Table seats up to six guests, and is available only for dinner. The six-course dinner menu costs $1,071 for one to four diners, with up to two additional diners at $268. Reservations essential.
May 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The award-winning Marquesa Hotel-- Key West's finest small hotel, a luxurious gem with lush gardens just steps from Duvall Street in Old Town--is home to one of the best dining experiences on the island. The 50-seat restaurant offers Contemporary American Cuisine, with specialties including Seared Brioche Dusted Yellowfin Tuna, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Marinated Key West Shrimp, along with fresh baked breads and desserts. Awards include the AAA four-diamond and the DiRona Award. And Zagat has distinguished the restaurant as one of the best hotel restaurants in the country, identifying its "sophisticated" Key West style, "beautiful" presentations, and "relaxing ambiance" as what "makes her a queen."
May 30, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
There's a lot of buzz about New Zealand-- above and beyond the publicity generated by the Lord of the Rings flicks. Everyone's talking about this little island nation on the far south end of the Pacific. (Indeed, Conde Nast readers rated the country the #1 holiday destination in the world.) No matter what the season, New Zealand has it all: breathtaking scenery, recreational activities galore, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. Easily the best place to stay on this gorgeous island nation is Huka Lodge, located in Taupo, in the central North Island, and considered one of the world's top retreats. This 20 suite lodge has racked up the awards: Travel and Leisure Top 500 list (the only property in New Zealand with this distinction), Conde Nast Traveler "Best Hotel Rooms in Australasia and South Pacific," Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report "Top 20 International Resort Hotels." And if the awards list seems impressive, you should see the famous guest-list. The guestbook reads like the party of the century.
The setting is magical. Situated in a beautifully landscaped park on the banks of the Waikato River, Huka Lodge is just a short walk from the spectacular cascades of Huka Falls. As can be expected, activities run the gamut from tennis to petanque, hiking to trout fishing, mountain biking to relaxing in the hot pools and outdoor spa. Spacious, light guestrooms are complemented by outdoor terraces and bathrooms with under-floor heating and sunken baths.
As described recently in Stuff NZ:
Huka Lodge is New Zealand's quintessential super-lodge for the globe-trotting rich, royal and famous… Since 2001, all the guest rooms and the Owner's Cottage - the super suite perched on a rise overlooking the first set of rapids - have been rebuilt or refurbished with the difficult aim of combining the comfort of a five-star hotel with a boysy ruggedness befitting its fishing hut origins.
And the dining is exquisite. Hotel rates include pre-dinner cocktails, a five course dinner and breakfast. All meals are communal seating with some private dinning available.
May 26, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
If Wynn's signature restaurant is identified by a first name, the chef must be pretty darn good. Indeed, Zagat describes Alex Stratta as one of the "very best chefs" in Las Vegas, having learned his cosmopolitan gastronomic savvy while working under Alain Ducasse. The luxurious four-course prix fixe menu ($120) is a hedonistic delight-- perhaps the dining experience of a lifetime. His artistic French cuisine combines the freshest seasonal ingredients and includes dishes such as foie gras ravioli in truffle bouillon with duck confit salad. The entrance is dramatic-- descending a grand, hourglass-shaped staircase to arrive in the elegant and romantic dining room, designed in a European style with inlaid wood and crystal chandeliers. Zagat raves:
the staff "goes out of its way to ensure a wonderful evening", and "perfect touches" like "the seat-side purse ottoman" for a clientele "who actually remembers to dress" guarantee a reprieve from "the shorts-and–flip-flops" "Vegas culture."
But don't bring the kiddies (children under five are banned from the premises).
Wynn Las Vegas, Five Star Alliance
May 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
In a city with a superb culinary scene, Four Season's Chartwell Restaurant shines at the forefront. Recognized as one of Vancouver's finest restaurants, Chartwell has received numerous accolades including the 2006 AAA Four Diamond Award, 2006 DiRoNA Award, 2006 Vancouver Magazine, 17th Annual Restaurant Awards "Bronze - Best Hotel Dining", and 2005 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its "Outstanding Restaurant Wine List."
Four Seasons Vancouver has recently appointed Miami's Rafael Gonzalez as executive chef. He has worked in some of the country's most revered kitchens, starting off in Miami at Le Pavillon, then moving on to New York where he was mentored by David Bouley, chef of the famed four-star Bouley Bakery, Chef Eric Rupert at Le Bernardin, and Chef Jean-George Vongerichten at Jean George Restaurant. His last stint was at The Pierre, where he was Executive Sous Chef. Gonzalez is an outstanding chef, and can also handle a large kitchen; at Chartwell he will be overseeing 1,200 to 2,000 meals a day and managing four sous chefs and 33 employees.
May 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Surrounded by the finest wine-making chateaux in the world, this converted 17th century monastery is now home to a small hotel and Thierry Marx's inspired restaurant. (Of course the star chef's creative cuisine is paired with the best Bordeaux grand crus from the Medoc region.) Named "Chef of the Year" by GaultMillau, Thierry Marx is one of the finest, cutting-edge chefs of the day. A recent review in the International Herald Tribune describes his food as intensely creative, and thus "not for everyone":
Look at the titles of some of his dishes and you simply may want to run the other way. Liquid quiche Lorraine? Virtual sausage? Bean sprout risotto? Sweetbread spaghetti? Wacky, yes. But Marx is not taking food to another level of perfection or enjoyment, but to a different level. Food such as his makes us look at taste in a new way.
In my book, none of this would be any good if the food did not offer pleasure as well as amusement, shock as well as satisfaction. And it does. Most of the time.
For me, the most satisfying, surprising and enjoyable dish of some 15 little tastes was his smoked Aquitaine beef. Marx sears the filet quickly, slices it, then sets the beef on a miniature hibachi set above burning Merlot vine clippings. All of that is wrapped in clear thick plastic, tied with ribbon and paraded to the table. As the wait staff unwraps your dinner gift, light, delicate, pleasing smoky aromas waft through the room. The end result is a meat that is juicy, delicate, sweet and oh-so-gently smoked, a dish created with a stroke of genius.
Bring it on.
May 18, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Announcing yet another tantalizing culinary event at the discriminating Los Angeles hot spot. The Mobil five-star award winner celebrates a five year tradition of culinary events and special wine-maker dinners, featuring exquisite multi-course meals paired with rare wine tastings. On Thursday, June 8 Hotel Bel-Air welcomes Meadowbank Estates for a New Zealand BBQ featuring 27 different wine varieties. Each winemaker (representing Clearview Estate, Foxes Island, Voss, Escarpment, and more) will have a tasting table with selections. Food stations are served on the front lawn and include such delicious dishes as Roasted New Zealand Lamb and Rock Lobster Tails. 6:30 pm, $115 per person.
Vancouver's delightful boutique hotel already has plenty of gold in its collection. A fixture on Travel and Leisure's Top 500 list and considered the best hotel in Canada by Conde Nast Traveler readers, the Wedgewood is a delightful European style hotel situated in the city center on Robson Square. The 83 luxurious rooms and suites all feature private balconies and beautiful, plush furnishings. The four Penthouse Suites are currently undergoing a $1 million renovation, and will reopen at the end of May. At 700 sq. ft. each, the Penthouse Suites will feature large private garden terraces and balconies with views of the Robson Square gardens and waterfalls, luxurious Spa bathroom with Jacuzzi tub, walk-in showers and heated limestone floors, living rooms with fireplaces and marble wetbars, and bedrooms with French doors and LCD flatscreen TVs. A truly blissful spot in this cosmopolitan city.
And to add to the awards at the Wedgewood, Vancouver Magazine recently gave top honors to Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge at the 17th Annual Vancouver Restaurant Awards. The restaurant received Gold for Best Bar/Lounge, Gold for Best Hotel Dining and Bronze for Best Formal French in Vancouver. In addition, Bacchus was awarded the title of Best Bar and Lounge in the City, for the seventh consecutive year.
At the world-famous intersection of Rodeo and Wilshire Boulevards, The Regent Beverly Wilshire wows with its signature suites, superb Spa, and unrivaled service. And this legendary address has now been enhanced by a renovation of luxurious refurbishments and newly designed Spa and Pool. The exciting makeover includes the June 1st opening of celebrated Chef Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant and lounge, called Cut and Sidebar. The contemporary steakhouse was designed by architect Richard Meier, boasting a stunning modern look.