March 7, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Plan ahead for the perfect summer escape to Russia's cultural capital: the magnificent city of St. Petersburg. During the last 10 days of June, darkness never falls and the lively White Nights festival inspires a celebration of ballet, dance, art, and rich history. Where to stay? The Grand Hotel Europe, perfectly situated in the heart of St. Pete's, has completed a dramatic renovation including a complete refurbishment of 200 rooms and suites, upgrade of the hotel's main entrance, and a redesign for the Caviar Bar restaurant. French designer Michel Jouannet also transformed the Grand Hotel Europe's sister establishments, the Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the Copacabana Palace in Rio. Choose a room on the historic first floor, and enjoy the services of your own personal butler.
March 6, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Sir Richard Branson has scored another one. A gem of a Caribbean island, that is. The founder of the Virgin group of companies (including Virgin Atlantic airline and Virgin Galactic) purchased Mosquito Island in the British Virgin Islands for $13.2 million and plans to convert it into a luxurious, eco-friendly resort. Accessible by boat from Virgin Gorda, the 124-acre Mosquito Island sits in North Sound about a mile from Necker Island, Branson's other Caribbean paradise, a favorite celebrity hideaway. Plans are in the works for the resort to be environmentally-savvy: the resort will be powered by renewable energy sources (wind, wave, and solar power); the Balinese style guest buildings will be built from sustainable materials; electric buggies will serve as the transportation. Branson aims to make his resort island carbon-neutral, providing an example for other resort properties in the Caribbean.
Never fear: the island was named for the Indian tribe, and not the pesky insect.
Announcing the hottest new restaurant in South Beach: LA's trendy, celebrity-beloved Table 8 has moved in on Miami's dining scene (recently profiled in the NYT by Mark Bittman). Bon Appetit raved, "It's hard to find a place where the scene is hot, the chef is hotter, and the food is actually worth the hype..." Celebrity chef Govind Armstrong, who launched his career at the tender age of 13 with Wolfgang Puck at Spago, recently opened a branch of his LA hot spot in The Regent Hotel South Beach. The restaurant features a main dining room, private VIP dining room, and a wine room. There is also a cool 40-seat lounge situated beneath the hotel's glass-bottom pool. Be sure to order the salt-roasted Porterhouse Steak, hailed by the Robb Report as the Best of the Best (2004).
Manhattan's chic Bryant Park, midtown's first luxury designer hotel, is stylish, contemporary, and utterly fabulous. The Bryant Park suites are the essence of sophistication: French doors separate the living and bedroom areas, hardwood floors are adorned with Tibetan rugs, Travartine marble bathrooms are outfitted with both deep soaking tubs and separate showers, the technology is state-of-the-art (Bose Wave Music system, iPod docking station, etc). And of course the views from the hotel, housed in the Gothic-Revival-style American Radiator Building, are stupendous. Enjoy a weekend jaunt to NYC and score a fantastic rate with the Suite Escape package at Bryant Park. The package includes luxurious accommodations in a Bryant Park Suite, Raymond Hood Suite, or The Penthouse, chilled champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, full American breakfast for two served in-room daily, welcome amenity upon arrival, and complimentary late check-out at 1 pm. The package, excluding taxes, is priced from $659 until June 24, 2007; $599 from June 25-September 2, 2007; $699 September 5-December 31, 2007.
An American institution that has hosted almost every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce, The Willard InterContinental was recently listed as one of the most iconic buildings in the US. The Empire State Building and the White House topped the list of America's Favorite Architecture, according to a public poll of the 150 best works of architecture conducted by Harris Interactive and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). The only DC hotel on the list, The Willard dominates the Pennsylvania corridor between the White House and the Capitol and was originally built in 1901 on the site of an older Willard property. At that time, Joseph Willard Jr. decided to create one of the city's first skyscrapers to "out-dazzle" anything else on the Washington horizon. The hotel's style? French Second Empire Beaux-Arts, distinguished by vast proportions and great columns, with an interior marked by huge chandeliers, inlaid mosaic marble tile floors, elaborate plaster work and painted and carved ceilings. Truly majestic. The newspapers of the day raved that The Willard was "The Handsomest of Washington Hotels," and today, guests are still dazzled by the hotel's architectural magnificence.
The Monday Night Chef's Table continue to dazzle diners at the ultra-cool Café Zuzu, located at Scottsdale's hip urban resort, Hotel Valley Ho. Since the hotel's opening in late 2005, Café Zuzu has been racking up the awards. Critics swoon over the stylish American comfort food, hand-crafted cocktails, and fun retro setting. The next Monday Night Chef's Table: The Great White-- Rediscovering Chardonnay on Monday, March 5. A note of explanation from the witty chef:
A few months ago, a Monday night theme was ABC (Anything But Chardonnay), a sentiment shared by some wine lovers in the '90s when overly oaky, flabby and overpriced renditions of the grape were emerging from California. It's not that we have anything against chardonnay; we simply wanted to expose our guests to some alternatives. The truth is though, when chardonnay is poorly done it's extremely difficult to pair with food. We do enjoy a well made chard however, so we thought it was high time to rediscover this extremely popular varietal and design a menu around it ("The Great White") just in time for summer.
The menu looks divine: Smoked Salmon (hearts of palm and garlic cream), Braised Pork Belly (roasted cipollini and foraged mushrooms), Pheasant Breast (truffle gnocchi, English peas and tomato confit), and Peach Tarte Tatin (honey mascarpone cream and blackberry nectar). From 6:30-8pm, priced at $42 per person.
The Montreal High Lights Festival is in full swing. One of the best urban festivals of the season, Montreal's fabulous citywide festival includes culinary and wine events, art exhibits, and free concerts and performances. Foodies will be thrilled by the culinary tours, wine tasting events, gourmet dinners, lunches, and cheese-making course. Feast on a five-course gourmet dinner prepared by one of the world's leading chefs, glide under the stars at the ice skating rink, take in a concert, visit an exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and enjoy the fabulous fireworks. The festival runs until March 4, 2007, so don your scarf and mittens and embrace winter in Montreal!
A one-room hotel? I kid you not. The One Hotel Angkor is a stylish, one-suite hotel, offering the ultimate privacy in the heart of Siem Reap. Located in the town's Old Market area, the hotel is devoted to you and you alone. Perks include intimate, stunning dining experiences (the choice is up to you), a mobile phone for the duration of your stay, and in-room spa treatments.
Enter through a gallery-cafe on the ground floor. Ascend to your luxurious bedroom. A custom-made king size bed draped in Frette linen. Your personal iBook and iPod. 32" LCD screen television. Luxury and sensual indulgence continues into the bathroom. Choose from the two-person granito tub with underwater lighting or the soothing experience of your rainfall shower. A private rooftop terrace awaits above. Sink into your jacuzzi. The indoor-outdoor sound system allows you to accompany a romantic late evening dip with your favorite music. Lounge on the daybed. Dine at the table setting. Cast off your clothes for an outdoor shower. With the entire hotel to yourself, how you enjoy The One is up to you.
This hotel is no stranger to awards lists. Lavished with media attention, the One Hotel Angkor was recognized on Conde Nast Traveler's Hot List as one of the hottest luxury properties worldwide.
Where to dine in the trendy, popular neighborhood of Buckhead? Head to the Grand Hyatt Atlanta, where Cassis and Onyx Bar have made names for themselves in a crowded (and distinguished) playing field. Recently featured on Fox 5's "Good Day Atlanta," Executive Chef Billy Skiber has set the gold standard for hotel dining. Cassis is one of Atlanta's most successful kosher kitchens. This is the perfect place to enjoy an extravagant Sunday brunch; the spread includes everything from crab cakes to made-to-order omelets. Dinner is likewise memorable, pleasing palates with eclectic takes on traditional continental cuisine. For after-work happy hours and evening cocktails, head to Onyx Bar, where the extensive bar menu features fine liquors from around the world. Don't miss the elegant HyTea on Saturday afternoons from 2 to 6 pm served in the chic bar overlooking the tranquil Japanese gardens.
February 26, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Named Tatler Hotel of the Year 2007, Banyan Tree Ringha is set in the stunning, mountainous country which inspired the author of Lost Horizon to describe the remote, peaceful paradise of Shangri-La. The rugged landscape is mythical: snow-capped mountains towering over wide, open valleys. Designated the official "Shangri-La" by the Chinese government, this region of Yunnan province is part of Greater Tibet both historically and culturally. Here, 3,200 meters above sea level, Banyan Tree Ringha is a magical resort which reflects the local Tibetan culture. Crafted from traditional Tibetan farmhouses, the 32 spacious lodges and suites feature intricate woodcarvings, smoky fireplaces and wooden balconies with awe-inspiring views. Embark on a trek with a local guide through the Tibetan Mountains to crystalline lakes, deep canyons, mystical plateaus, and divine mountain peaks. At the end of the day, return to the heavenly spa and unwind in serene, luxurious comfort.