October 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Welcome to the "Greatest City in America." These days Balty is a shining star, welcoming tourists in droves to the glittering Inner Harbor. By far the best Baltimore restaurant for exceptional cuisine and service is Hampton's, located in the award-winning Intercontinental Harbor Court Hotel directly on the waterfront. The dining room at Maryland's premier restaurant is genteel and elegant, featuring antique mahogany breakfronts, Chinese laquered screens, overstuffed armchairs, and fine art. But the contemporary American cuisine is what makes the restaurant worth the trip. Incorporating only the freshest local ingredients of the season, Hampton's is renowned for its signature dishes like lobster bisque, broiled Maryland crab cakes with a grilled Granny Smith apple slaw, and grilled Hereford Rib-Eye with potato and wild mushroom millefeuille. The restaurant has been recognized for excellence by Gourmet, Zagat, Conde Nast Traveler, and DiRoNa, the Distinguished Restaurants of North America. Open nightly for dinner and Sunday for Champagne Brunch. Dress is business casual; jacket preferred but not required.
Cool terraces and gardens, bubbling fountains, stone arches, and traditional wooden doors… The elegance and charm of Colonial Mexico beckons at Casa de Sierra Nevada. The luxurious boutique hotel, acquired by Orient-Express Hotels, Trains and Cruises in February, is a historical landmark, dating from 1580. The hotel is comprised of a collection of colonial mansions centered around cool, flowering courtyards, and consists of 33 deluxe rooms and suites. Highlighting the distinctive original architecture, these rooms are each unique, boasting rich art and antiques, exquisite fabrics, tiled bathrooms, working fireplaces, and private terraces overlooking San Miguel. Recognized as one of the finest hotels in the world, Casa de Sierra Nevada has an impressive list of accolades: Conde Nast Traveler World's Best Awards and Gold List, Zagat's 2006 Top International Hotels, Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report, Travel and Leisure T500, Robb Report, NYT…(whew).
The hotel is reason enough to visit this magnificent city, steeped in rich history and culture. But Orient Express has just announced an exciting new enticement: the acquisition of the Sazón Cooking School, which will now be part of the hotel. Guests learn to cook with the masters of Mexican cuisine, with a variety of programs ranging from one hour cooking classes on local specialties to week-long culinary packages. In addition to featuring regional culinary talent, the hotel will also include a "Toque Travels" series, featuring renowned chefs from around the world, such as Chef Raymond Blanc of Orient-Express's Michelin two star, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire, England.
Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale's hip urban resort, is home to one of the most stellar restaurants in town. Recently praised by Bon Appetit Magazine as one of "America's Top Tables" and recognized in Phoenix Magazine as one of the "Best New Restaurants" of 2006, Cafe Zuzu serves contemporary American comfort food and handcrafted cocktails in an ultra-cool, retro setting. This Fall, the restaurant launched its Monday Nights Chef's Table, a gourmet extravaganza featuring one supplier, regional American Cuisine, one particular ingredient, paired with wine... every Monday night. Themes for November's Chef's Tables include "The Fleeting Fruit of Fall: Pomegranates, Persimmons, and Quince" (Nov 6) and "In Celebration of Oysters: The Best of Both Coasts" (Nov 27). Thanksgiving promises to be a feast to remember, with a delectable four-course menu including their famous slow-roasted Young's Farm turkey, awesome side dishes, and warm, fluffy Parkerhouse rolls. Mmmm.
Le Bar at Plaza Athenee is the place to be in the City of Light. Fashionable and sexy, Le Bar has become the city's contemporary and trendy meeting spot. Designed by hot Parisian designer Patrick Jouin, a former protégé of Philippe Starck, Le Bar is distinguished by a long illuminated bar-- sculpted with curve-shaped glass with an ice-blue lighting, resembling a luminous, glowing iceberg— and leather club chairs and large paintings whose frames allow patrons to actually sit inside and become part of the art. The drinks are likewise innovative; the bartender crafts delicious concoctions like Rose Royal (raspberry and champagne), Flower Power (flower elixir distilled in an oxygen-enriched 'eau de source'), and ice-cream drinks. A word of caution: celebrity-sightings galore.
Embark on some exciting culinary adventures at The Peninsula Chicago, where Shanghai Terrace (specializing in Shanghainese and Cantonese delicacies) and the newly-renovated Avenues (contemporary cuisine served from an exhibition kitchen) woo diners with discriminating palates. With the Peninsula Chicago Cookery Classes, learn superb culinary skills from two of the top chefs in Chitown. The classes provide guests with the opportunity to prepare four signature dishes from either Shanghai Terrace or Avenues, recently named "Restaurant of the Year 2005" by the Chicago Sun-Times. Learn how to prepare mouth-watering dishes served in Avenues under the professional guidance of Graham Elliot Bowles, recently named one of the "Ten Best New Chefs" by Food and Wine magazine, and nominated as a Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2006. Or master the craft behind Shanghai Terrace's delicious dishes-- from classic dim sum to kung pao chicken-- with Executive Chef Terry Crandall.
October 24, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Since 1766, The Homestead has provided a luxurious escape for Princes, heads of state and sports fanatics. Located in Virginia's Allegheny mountains, the National Historic Landmark is now ranked among the world's top Spa and Golf resorts. Folks have been flocking here since the 1700s to "take the waters" at the historic hot springs and naturally-heated pools. And they continue to flock to this timeless retreat to enjoy the world-class facilities and beautiful setting. It's the ideal spot to start or preserve a family tradition (The Homestead makes it easy with endless activities for the whole family to enjoy). Here's the skinny on all the fun holiday happenings:
Big Band Weekend: November 10-12, 2006. Dining, dancing and absolute luxury packages starting at just $314
Thanksgiving and Christmas Celebration: Special dining, holiday events and plenty of holiday spirit. Packages starting at $295.
New Year's Eve Celebration: A year that starts this way is sure to be a great one. Dance, dine and celebrate the arrival of 2007! Packages start at $375.
October 20, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Yep, it's in a mall. But Maestro restaurant, housed in the Ritz-Carlton at Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia, is worth it. (Besides, Tysons is pretty swanky as far as malls are concerned.) This is contemporary Italian cuisine at its tasty and artistic best. A winner of the exclusive AAA five-diamond award, Maestro is a celebrated and highly-acclaimed venue which features an elegant open kitchen where guests are witness to food preparation that's more like an exquisite culinary performance. Zagat hails Chef Fabio Trabocchi as a "star," his talents matched by the fantastic sommelier Vincent Feraud. The restaurant's accolades are numerous and it's really no wonder: the menu is divided into Trabocchi's four culinary inspirations-- La Creazione, La Tradizione, L'Evoluzione and I Colori dell'Orto—showcasing the freshest of ingredients in the chef's creative interpretation of the regional Italian dishes that he grew up with. Plus there's an impressive wine cellar brimming with 800 wines from Italy, France, and the US.
Perfectly situated in the heart of the vibrant German capital on Eislebener Strasse just steps from the Kurfürstendamm shopping mile, Brandenburger Hof Berlin is an exclusive luxury boutique hotel that offers a private haven of indulgence in the midst of the bustling city. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Brandenburger Hof features 58 fashionable rooms and 14 suites named after great operas. The Michelin starred restaurant, Die Quadriga, is one of the best in Berlin, boasting a "treasure trove" of 850 German wines. Guests enjoy relaxation and pampering in the Thaleia Beauty and Wellness Suite, where certified masseurs and beauticians offer a full menu of spa services.
With the Christmas in Berlin package, visitors can marvel at the bright lights of the big city beautifully adorned for the holiday season, including the world-famous Christmas market. The package includes three nights accommodation at Brandenburger Hof, limousine transfers, bottle of champagne, Christmas welcome with stollen/mandarins and Christmas cookies in-room, champagne shopping including concierge parcel service, afternoon tea, a three-hour guided stroll through Berlin, entrance to the Christmas market, champagne reception and small Christmas concert in the festive winter garden followed by the Quadriga Christmas eve menu, and tickets to the Christmas concert or the ballet at the Staatsoper. Rates start from EUR 985 per room, inclusive of tax. Valid from December 22, 2006 to December 27, 2006.
Americans will spend a record $511 billion dining out this year. And prices at the country's best restaurants are skyrocketing, in part to keep up with the rising cost of high-quality, locally-grown, artisanal ingredients. Forbes has teamed up with the Zagat Survey to determine the priciest restaurants in the US, and topping the list is Masa, the NYC sushi restaurant in the Time Warner Center where the price of dinner for one is about $446. Also on the list? Napa Valley's epic French Laundry ($254 per person), Chicago's futuristic Alinea (12 and 24 course menus are $125 and $175 respectively), Philadelphia's landmark Le Bec-Fin ($120), Alex at Steve Wynn's opulent Vegas hotel ($114), and elegant Virginia establishment The Inn at Little Washington ($141).
October 18, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
From its perch overlooking the largest private beach on the Croisette, the Hotel Martinez reigns over the glamorous French Riviera. The legendary Art Deco palace, the glitzy hotel of choice during the Cannes film festival, is home to one of the few Givenchy spas in the world (and highly-acclaimed top-floor terrace suites that offer panoramic views of the sea from teakwood decks and sunken Jacuzzis). This New Year's Eve, the Hotel Martinez celebrates its film legacy by paying tribute to Bollywood magic. On December 31, the Hotel Martinez transforms the Salon Royal Galuchat to become a fairytale palace reminiscent of the Taj Mahal. There will be a show with dancers, acrobats, singers and musicians a la Bollywood, and a superb dinner with elegant food tastings and wine pairings prepared by chefs Christian Willer and Christian Sinicropi. The "Indian Fairytale New Year's Eve Party" includes the show, gourmet dinner including a bottle of champagne for two, wines chosen by the Master Sommelier, overnight accommodation in a Superior room, buffet breakfast in the restaurant or in-room on New Year's Day, and entry to the fitness area and sauna. The package starts at EUR 915 for two. Extra nights are available from EUR 195 per night, breakfast included.