March 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The award-winning hotel that is oft considered the best city hotel in the United States has a dining room to match. Seasons Restaurant is an opulent dining experience, both in its gorgeous seventh-floor setting overlooking Chicago's avenues, and in its creative Franco-American cuisine. The new executive chef brings with him an 11 year career with the company. A Chicago native, Hickey is a frequent shopper of neighborhood ethnic markets, incorporating local, organic products into his distinct menus of American cuisine.
Seven months ago, four-star executive chef Robert Sulatycky left Seasons for Napa Valley to pursue his dream of becoming a winemaker. Since the Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels are sister properties, that left Kevin Hickey, the executive chef of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, responsible for the entire kitchens of both hotels. The guy says he has literally been running across the street in his chef whites as many as four times a day, "writing menus, driving the creative force, being involved with events." How do you do it? Dish asked. "I don’t know," Hickey replied, "but I delegated a lot. I have great sous chefs and put a little bit more work on their shoulders." One set of those shoulders belongs to the executive sous chef at the Ritz, Mark Payne, a UK native with credentials that include nine years with the Four Seasons family from properties in Nevis (West Indies) to New York City. Clearly Payne and Hickey each performed at the top of their culinary game because Hans Willimann, general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, has announced that as of April 1st, Hickey will become the executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel and Payne will be promoted to the top toque position at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Both chefs expect to have their new dining room menus in place by mid-May.
March 22, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
To many, the Hotel Jerome is the symbol of Aspen. Opened in 1889 at the height of Colorado's silver boom, the grand Victorian hotel is now a National Register Landmark. Just minutes from downtown Aspen and surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains, the Jerome is magnificent. The gorgeous rooms, the essence of comfortable elegance and sophistication. Each luxurious guest room is individually decorated, equipped with fully stocked mini-bar, luxurious terry bathrobes, DVD, double line telephones, fax lines, high-speed internet access, and oversized tubs with separate shower. Other perfect amenities include the year-round heated pool and two Jacuzzis, exquisite dining, and all sorts of kid-friendly activities.
From April 9- May 24, take advantage of the "Spring in Aspen" package, for an unbelievable $265 for Deluxe King accommodations. In addition, the "Ski Deal" package is available through April 16. The package offers excellent value, combining luxurious hotel accommodations and two lift tickets daily. From April 2 to 16, package rates start at $320 a night, double occupancy, during the week; or $370 on weekends. During Feb and March, that same package is at least $695 a night.
Hotel Jerome, Official Site
Hotel Jerome, Five Star Alliance
It's that time of year again. MGM Mirage-- which now owns over half of the hotel rooms on the Strip-- is spending a whole lot of cash on its Vegas spring cleaning. $800 million on upgrades, in addition to the $7 billion they're shelling out for the Project CityCenter development, expected to open in 2010. After all, you've got to spend money to make money, as the Las Vegas Sun explains: "the idea is to continue to attract big spenders." Last year they spent big bucks on upgrading a wing of MGM Grand, building high-end Skylofts, adding two restaurants from Chef Joel Robuchon, and serious upgrades at Mandalay Bay. What's in store with this year's spring cleaning? Renovation of the outdoor pool and beach area at Mandalay Bay to add a bunch of new deck space and cabanas. Remodeling of the Rumjungle bar and revamping of the 3950 restaurant, with the addition of a celebrity chef. A new nightclub at Luxor. A new restaurant and bar at Excalibur. A new Japanese restaurant at Mirage. And the biggest upgrade of all: a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by the music of the Beatles, to debut in May at the Mirage.
After the tragic mess left by Hurricane Wilma, Cancun is slowly making a comeback. The Presidente Intercontinental Cancun Resort has recently reopened, with some profound improvements. They've renovated each guest room and suite, revamped the Club Floor, redesigned the lobby, enlarged the pool, added a new oceanfront bar with nightly live music, and added a new open air restaurant. Not to mention a wider (and whiter) beach. Actually, as the hotel explains:
due to its privileged location, added more than 15 feet of additional frontage to its spectacular private beach, one of the largest and most beautiful in Mexico and featured as one of the "World's Best Beaches" by the Travel Channel.
Forget the spring break hordes (they're all in Key West and Panama City, anyway); now's the time to head south of the border.
Palma de Mallorca-based Barcelo Hotels and Resorts recently acquired the five-star Karmina Palace Hotel along Mexico's Pacific Coast near Manzanillo. The 324 all-suite, all-inclusive resort has long been known as a world-class, premium destination, and the new Barcelo management will surely only enhance that reputation. (Barcelo operates 10 luxury properties throughout Mexico.) This baby-- for which they shelled out $48.2 million-- is rated AAA Four Diamond and offers an 18-hole golf course, swanky accommodations, three restaurants and four bars, eight swimming pools with waterfalls, children's club, fitness center and spa, and a theater. The Barcelo Karmina Palace Hotel is uber-family-friendly, and superior service is not abandoned with the convenience of the all-inclusive plan.
Here in Washington we're already going gaga over the annual flowering of the Cherry Blossoms. The festival doesn't get rocking until next weekend, but the flowers are a-blooming and travelers are enjoying the best time of year to visit the nation's capital. Below I've compiled some articles for your perusal and pleasure:
National Cherry Blossom Festival, Official Website
The Washington Post, "2006 Cherry Blossom Guide"
Fodor's Travel Wire, "Think Pink: Spring Cherry Blossom Festivals"
Fodor’s Travel Wire, "Essential Washington, D.C."
The Informed Traveler, "Luxurious DC Cherry Blossom Package at The Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington"
Tony Ryan-- founder of Europe's beloved and enormously successful airline Ryanair (this is the airline that paved the way for the new model of competitive low-fare carriers, after all)-- is investing in a new low-fare airline in Mexico. Viva AeroBus will take off in September, servicing major Mexican domestic markets as well as big US cities like LA and Houston.
Seriously, this is the hideaway. According to Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report, anyway. Las Amandas was recently voted a "2006 Hideaway of the Year," and is the frequent haunt and luxurious retreat for celebrities galore. Halfway between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, the 70-acre resort is set in a lush ecological reserve chock full of exotic flowering plants, pristine beaches and lagoons. Its 14 suites and six villas-- beautifully designed with Mexican artifacts and antiques-- are linked by yellow mosaic-lined walkways winding through graceful gardens. Most are equipped with private terraces and verandahs. For a limited time this spring, get four nights for the price of three! The "Spring Escape" includes a welcome cocktail upon arrival, a fruit platter and flowers in suite, daily Continental breakfast and a romantic candlelit dinner for two on the beach. Unlimited horseback riding, tennis, gym and croquet are included. Rates depend upon the suite selected and range from $360 to $1,400 per suite, per night.
The beautiful and scenic California coastline near San Luis Obispo is also Cali's fastest-growing wine region. But the cat's not yet out of the bag-- the rolling hills and undulating countryside are still peacefully quiet. No Napa traffic jams here. To explore these tranquil environs-- just about halfway between Lalaland and San Fran-- take a room at the charming Villa Toscana, a luxe bed and breakfast that boasts just eight romantic suites. Overlooking the vineyards, the rooms are opulently decorated, each named for one of the estate's award-winning wines. To really do it right, reserve the private winemaker's residence: a two-bedroom, 2.5 bath suite, with a detached two car garage, private courtyard, patio, and Jacuzzi.
March 16, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
It's hot. It's hip. Welcome to the new Strand Ocean Drive Hotel, a chic and stylish boutique hotel on Miami's South Beach. The unique hotel is comprised of four different historical structures (and one new building) with each suite featuring a unique design theme so—and get this!— you can change the style and ambience each time you visit the hotel. Whatever your whim. Thus, at 1024 Ocean Drive, you can savor the Retro style of the 1960s. Next door at 1036 Ocean Drive, you can join the martini-set in the classic Art Deco style of the 1930s. At 1052 Ocean Drive, get a taste of the contemporary, with the hip new five story structure. And at 1060 Ocean Drive, you can soak up the Mediterranean Tropical style of Miami. Now through April 7, 2006, the hotel is offering a cool giveaway. If you sign up for The Strand Ocean Drive mailing list, you are entered to win an iPod shuffle. They're giving one away each week for a month. Hop to it!