August 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Where to find the best steakhouse in the Wild West? Vegas, baby, Vegas, where The Bellagio features Prime Steakhouse (among all of its many award-winning restaurants). Superstar Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees a superb staff at this gorgeous lakeside establishment, packed with Baccarat chandeliers and plush furnishings. Resembling a 1930's style speakeasy, the restaurant evokes a bygone era. Enjoy a sumptuous meal accompanied by heavenly drink (the wine cellar is brimming with California reds and first growth Bordeaux), followed by a hand-crafted cigar. As always, Zagat says it best: "if the Rat Pack were still around, they'd congregate here" for "marvelous" meat, "martini-centric drinks", "theatrical decor" and "fantastic" fountain views."
August 8, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Jonathan Critchard is the General Manager of the five-star deluxe Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments in London. He has held the position since 1993 and has over 21 years experience heading some of the most prestigious hotels and residences in the United Kingdom and worldwide. He has left his professional imprint on Blakes Hotel, The Hempel, The Dorchester and 3A Palace Green (the world's most luxurious apartment complex located in Kensington Palace Gardens in London); Amberley Castle in West Sussex and The Regent in Hong Kong.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Mr. Critchard: By good fortune
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. Critchard: We are family owned and have a warm, friendly and intimate persona.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Mr. Critchard: Our market is predominantly from the USA. We have a repeat guest factor of 45% which is split between corporate and leisure business.
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. Critchard: The best thing about our location is that it is incredibly central and situated right opposite Green Park. My favorite thing to do in the surrounding area is to enjoy the open spaces of London’s parks.
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. Critchard: Unfortunately not, we are renowned for our discretion in the entertainment industry.
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?
Mr. Critchard: All our apartments are individual and unique, offering both contemporary and traditional styles of decor. 30% of our hotel rooms have stunning views overlooking Green Park.
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. Critchard: AA Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh used to live in our apartments. During the war Winston Churchill spent a lot of time in the Down Street underground station, opposite the side of the hotel, and rumor has it, that we kept him supplied with his favorite drink of Pol Roger.
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. Critchard: What is their service ethic, how warm is the welcome, and I focus on the quest for both comfort and service.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager?
Mr. Critchard: To juggle a myriad of priorities and key issues to help determine what is best for the business, people and guest.
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?
Mr. Critchard: The Peninsula in Hong Kong which is the epitome of quality service. Gravetye Manor in Sussex which is a classic country house hotel in stunning surroundings, which offers a wonderful old world charm, hospitality and service.
Five Star Alliance: Anything else you would like our readers to know about your property?
Mr. Critchard: We have recently completed a major refurbishment of our ground floor public areas and dining facilities. This is part of an ongoing project desire to maintain our property to a high standard.
More info on the Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments.
August 7, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Named one of 2006's "Hottest New Hotels in the World" by Conde Nast Traveler, Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa is a luxurious California Rancho-style coastal retreat. Surrounded by lush gardens, the resort is just minutes from the beaches of La Jolla and Del Mar, and the attractions of San Diego. Indulge yourself with exquisite cuisine, lounge by the pool, or try your game at the nearby Torry Pines Golf Course. Decompress in the spa with the unique menu of spa services including Garden Stone Massage, Citrus Medley Body Scrub or Garden Vegetable Wrap. (The resort has excellent Day Spa Experiences.) At Mustangs and Burros Bar, enjoy a signature margarita and listen to the rumba flamenco flavor of Los Reyes Del Ritmo live every Friday and Saturday night. On Sunday mornings, experience the all-new Brunch at Adobe Restaurant, featuring freshly prepared breakfast specials, meats, cheeses and a vast array of desserts. The gracious hospitality at Estancia ensures an extraordinary summer getaway.
Located in the heart of the Scotland's capital overlooking Edinburgh Castle, Rocco Forte's Balmoral is a charming and historic luxury hotel. A fixture on the CNT Gold List for its superb spa, chic rooms and traditional Scottish hospitality, the hotel also boasts a Michelin star rated restaurant and delightful Afternoon Tea. The hotel only recently completed the refurbishment of its Drawing Room, featuring distinctive touches from Designer Olga Polizzi, who was inspired by the beautiful Scottish landscape, and included marled wools for the sofas and chairs, cushions with embossed velvet leaves, a collection of antique antlers, and paintings by contemporary Scottish artists. To celebrate this dazzling new Drawing Room, the hotel is introducing a range of innovative Afternoon Tea Concepts, including the Balmoral Tea, the Tartan Tea, and the Chocolate Dream. The Drawing Room provides the perfect setting for a world-class afternoon tea experience throughout the summer, between 2:30-6 pm. Indulge in the variety of finger sandwiches (from Scottish Smoked Salmon to Cucumber and Milled Pepper), French pastries, homemade scones and clotted cream, tea, and a glass of house Champagne.
For those in the know, the Hotel Valley Ho is the place to be in Arizona's vibrant city of Scottsdale. The original hide-away for Bogart, Bing and Marilyn has been made-over into a hip urban resort, and reopened to much fanfare in December 2005. (The classic mid-century design of the exterior belies the chic contemporary feel of the guest rooms, which feature all-glass walls opening onto private patios, flat-screen TVs, WiFi, terrazzo tile bathrooms, and feather-top beds with 300-thread-count linens.) The hotel's Cafe ZuZu is known for its contemporary American comfort food, handcrafted cocktails, and cool setting with soda fountain, classic counter, and courtyard dining.
Starting in September, the restaurant will launch its Monday Night Chef's Table, where each Monday is transformed into a gourmet extravaganza, featuring one supplier, regional American Cuisine, one particular ingredient, and a vineyard or a grape varietal. The diner, from 6:30-8 pm ($42 per person) will consist of three courses paired with appropriate beverages. Examples include the Tomato Fest on September 4 (the menu includes stewed tomatoes and dumplings, pan roasted wild striped bass with Abe Lincoln tomatoes and bacon, and warm cherry tomato and mango crumble for dessert), Alaskan Halibut on September 11, Sweet Corn on September 18, and Pinot Please on September 25.
August 3, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Located in the middle of the Cotes du Rhone wine-growing region, the historic city of Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France. An important artistic and cultural center, Lyon traces its roots back to the ancient Romans, when Lyon was the capital of the Roman territories of Gaul in 43 BC. The cobble-stoned streets, colorful Medieval buildings, and outdoor cafes of the Old City are all protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Looming above Vieux Lyon is the hill where the Romans built an exquisite amphitheater—still used today for summer concerts—and next door, the 19th century Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. The Villa Florentine is the place to stay in Lyon, offering panoramic views of the city from its perch above the Old Town, an unrivalled setting. With its elegant facade and Renaissance art and architecture, this Relais and Chateaux property exhibits a gorgeous Florentine style. Enjoy the region's famed gastronomy and a glass of Cote du Rhone at the terrace restaurant, while gazing out over the city. Rooms are sumptuous and modern, and the outdoor pool is breathtaking.
August 3, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
In case you missed "The Terrace Movie Nights" at the Conrad Chicago Hotel in July, you still have more chances to unwind in their chic outdoor setting this August. On Sunday and Monday nights you can enjoy watching one of the following movies while also having fantastic cityscape views. August Line up: 6/6 – Lawrence of Arabia 6/7 – Oliver 6/13 – The Sting 6/14 – Amadaus 6/20 – Great Expectations 6/21 – All the President’s Men 6/27 – Tootsie 6/28 – Out of Africa ****** All movies subject to change ******
French formal dining at its best. The award-winning Le Fountainebleau is a San Diego treasure, its focus on attentive service and artfully conceived menus incorporating fresh seasonal ingredients. The dining room is elegant, full of antiques and beautiful floral arrangements, with a grand piano setting the mood with background music. Named San Diego's most romantic restaurant by the San Diego Reader, the restaurant is also beloved for its Friday night seafood buffet. The Seafood Soiree features over 30 items: a sumptuous display of oysters, caviar, lobster, mussels, gourmet sushi and other favorites. Located in the Westgate Hotel.
Nestled among vineyards, olive groves, and Tuscan forest, the Villa Mangiacane is a majestic 16th century villa, overlooking the famous Duomo in Florence from its loggia. Once owned by the ancient and powerful Machiavelli family, the villa also bears the artistic influence of Michelangelo. The hotel has been completely and lovingly restored, with exquisite historical touches coexisting with luxurious modern details. The Villa boasts its own library, beautiful gardens, Renaissance frescoes, full-size infinity pool, and decadent Master Suite. Guests enjoy lavish treatments at the new spa, using homegrown ingredients such as grape seed and olive oil. Art exhibitions are frequent, featuring sponsored on-site artists and the proceeds go to African charities. Meals are divine, ranging from three to seven courses, served outdoors overlooking the Chianti countryside, or in the formal dining room. The Villa has just recently opened its Vineyard Villa wing, featuring 19 spectacular rooms. Enjoy an escape to Villa Mangiacane this summer—soaking up the Renaissance culture and art of Florence—with the Vineyard Villa Introductory Summer Rates. Classic room starts at EUR 250, based on double occupancy. Includes Continental Buffet Breakfast, and Villa Mangiacane wine and olive oil tasting. Valid until September 30, 2006.
July 28, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
From August 2-6, 2006, Rockland, Maine is transformed into a lively playground of gourmet tents serving delicious Maine seafood (loads of succulent lobster), with lots of entertainment and events. The world's largest lobster cooker is a sight to behold. During last year's Lobster Festival, a whopping twelve tons of lobster were prepared and consumed. (That's over 25,000 lbs, folks!) And if you tire of lobster, stuff yourself with steamed and fried clams, fried Maine shrimp, shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels in wine and vegetable sauce, and endless dishes of traditional Maine summer fair food. Other festival highlights include the coronation of the Sea Goddess, Lobster Crate Race (sprint along a string of partially submerged lobster crates before falling into the freezing Atlantic), Cooking Contest, Fine Art Tent (with works by local artists in oil, watercolor, photography, etc.), Craft Tent, and Parade down Rockland's Main Street on August 5th, which draws an audience of over 25,000.