November 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Kai, the renowned restaurant at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa on the Gila River Reservation, was recently awarded the covered five-diamond award from AAA. Located within the rugged expanse of Arizona's Sonoran Desert, the resort is designed to be an authentic representation of the Gila River Indian Community's cultural heritage. Its restaurant, Kai (meaning "seed" in the Pima language) is tribe-owned, and offers a menu rich in Native American culture. In fact, Executive Chef Michael O'Dowd and Native American Chef de Cuisine Jack Strong have masterfully created an indigenous menu focusing on locally farmed ingredients. (James Beard Award-winning Chef Janos Wilder is consulting chef for Kai.) Sample menu items include Tenderloin of Buffalo from the Cheyenne River Tribe (with Smoked Corn Puree, Barbeque Scarlet Runner Beans, Saguaro Blossom Syrup, Cholla Buds and Seasonal Mushrooms) and Sugpiaq Black Cod with Los Palacios Chorizo and Red Lake Wild Rice (accompanied by Plantain Creme Brulee, Guava Nectar, Caramelized Young Pineapple Wild Rice and Yucatan Coconut Cream). Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, reservations are recommended.
This weekend NYT Travel profiled the new, high design hotels that are making waves in the Caribbean. These uber-luxe hotels boast private plunge pools, Egyptian cotton sheets, the best five-star service, and luxurious guest rooms designed by high-profile designers. One such hotel is Discovery at Marigot Bay, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, located on the breathtaking island of St. Lucia. Prized as "the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean" (to quote James A. Michener), Marigot Bay is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery, tropical rainforests, and secluded beaches. The boutique resort offers 57 suites and 67 rooms overlooking the sea and the yachts anchored in the harbor. Rooms are the height of luxury (plunge pools, balconies, cable TV, wifi, espresso makers, huge bathrooms with walk-in drench showers, Italian kitchens…) In addition, there's the luxurious Lapli Spa, fitness center, numerous watersports, bars and restaurants. The Special Opening Offer includes daily breakfast, a USD500 credit to spend in the resort, and a 7th night complimentary. Valid until December 21, 2006.
It's here. The new, beautiful glossy from Sherman's Travel is a feast for the senses, jam-packed with savvy travel tips, thrilling photography, and entertaining features. Published by the travel experts at the beloved website, the quarterly magazine focuses on the best luxury values of the season-- the "smart splurges" for today's sophisticated, value-conscious traveler. Here's a sampler of the good stuff in the premiere issue: the Top Ten Emerging Wine Regions in the World, New York's New Burger Bistros, Off-the-Path in Romania, and an in-depth feature on Maui. Noteworthy signature sections (and my favorites) include: the Luxe List (the season's best luxury-value deals include the Pavillon de la Reine in Paris and Aspen's Hotel Jerome) and the Sweet Spot (places to go for Fall value, like Curacao and New Zealand's South Island). Also noteworthy: handy tear-out sheets about the best hotels, restaurants, and nightlife at a given destination. Available online.
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 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Announcing the 1 Hotel and Residences, the brainchild of Barry Sternlicht, former big shot at Starwood. (As HotelChatter points out, this is the same mastermind behind the yet-to-be-seen Crillon lux hotel brand.) The new hotel brand aims to compete directly with the St. Regis (Starwood's lux label), Ritz-Carlton, and Four Seasons brands. And Sternlicht's setting his sights high: these hotels will have a "level of amenities and service lofty enough to earn a coveted five-star ranking from Mobil Travel Guide." Hotel launch locations will include Seattle, Scottsdale, Paris, Mammoth Mountain (Cali), and Fort Lauderdale. It's a crowded field. In South Florida, for example, the St. Regis Fort Lauderdale Hotel and Residences has been under construction since 2000 and is expected to open soon, and other luxury properties—including hotels by Trump and W—are in the works. (Not to mention the already existing five-star hotels.) How will 1 Hotels distinguish itself? It's being billed as the first ultra-luxurious, eco-friendly global hotel brand. 1 is planning to donate one percent of revenue from each hotel to local environmental groups, and the NRDC will serve as the environmental adviser.
Pictured: St. Regis, Fort Lauderdale
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.
It's on the market for a whopping $70 million. According to the Times UK, the penthouse is being marketed as the most expensive apartment in the world:
The French chateau inspired flat has 16 rooms, including five master bedrooms, 10 baths, and separate guest suites and staff accommodation. But there is no need to cook. The Pierre's five star hotel service is available 24 hours a day.
This could be the best spot in Manhattan. The Pierre, New York's landmark hotel, is located on Central Park at Fifth Avenue, steps away from all the best NYC attractions. The Penthouse boasts easily the best views in the city: sweeping vistas of Central Park and the city skyline.
October 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
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).