LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
Wishing you and your family a fantastic Thanksgiving from all of us at The Informed Traveler and Five Star Alliance. We'll be back soon with exclusive luxury travel news and special offers. In the meantime, we thought we'd leave you with some food for thought, courtesy of celebrity chef Thomas Keller. (His French Laundry restaurant is closed for Thanksgiving, and the other Michelin three-star restaurants* in the U.S.-- Le Bernardin, Per Se, Jean-Georges, and Joel Robuchon-- have been booked for months.)
Sunchoke soup with Virginia ham croquettes
Breast of Four Corners Farm's turkey "cuit sous vide" and roasted leg "en ballotine" with giblet gravy
Green-bean casserole-- oven-baked haricots verts with cream of California cèpe mushrooms and crispy shallots
Garnet sweet-potato mille-feuille with white-truffle royale and shaved truffles from Alba
Pecan pie with whipped cream
*Note: This is the first year ever that Michelin came out with restaurant and hotel selections for Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The 2008 prize goes to Tokyo for the most Michelin three-star restaurants in one city.
Steal away to the Alps this winter for an epic skiing experience with Kristiania Lech, one of the most elegant resorts in Austria. Snow enthusiasts seek out Lech for the plethora of superb ski runs, unlimited winter activities, and impossibly picturesque scenery. Nestled above this charming village is a unique luxury hotel that fuses the best alpine traditions with modern technology and a contemporary perspective. The pride of Othmar Schneider, 1952 Olympic Slalom Champion, Kristiania Lech boasts designer guest rooms, a superb art collection, children's program, cooking school, health club, and excellent personalized service. The skiing is world-famous, and there's a ski butler on standby to help ensure that guests have the best skiing experience possible. And there's plenty of off-piste pleasure in Lech. Retire to the comfort of the hotel after a day on the slopes and sample the range of fine Schnapps, Austrian Malts and ports at the convivial bar before enjoying a delicious traditional meal paired with local wines.
Kristiania Lech has designed an irresistible package with a six-day ski pass to help beat the post-Christmas blues. Valid from January 12-February 1, 2008, the January Ski Escape includes accommodations for two with guaranteed room upgrade upon check-in, a complimentary bottle of Austrian white wine and fruit tray, a six-day ski pass, daily breakfast and five-course gourmet dinner, one 30-minute massage and private return airport transfer (Zürich, Innsbruck, Friedrichshafen). Priced at EUR 460 per room, per night, based on double occupancy, minimum 7 nights stay.
In September, The Peninsula opened its doors on Harumi-dori and Naka-dori Avenues in Tokyo's business district of Marunouchi. A dose of high-octane glamour awaits. The facilities are extensive. There's a spa, fitness room, ballrooms, even a wedding chapel and Japanese ceremony room. And lucky guests are the first in the world to sample the exclusive new luxury skin care line, Davi, which will soon be rolled out in all Peninsula hotels. This collection of in-room bath amenities was designed by Robert Mondavi's grandson, and takes its cue from the vineyard.
What's on at Tokyo's hottest new hotel? The holiday season is full of tempting delights, including decadent set menus from December 21- December 25, 2006 at all three fine dining restaurants. At The Lobby, enjoy a four-course dinner featuring dishes like goose liver flan and braised morels with Madeira wine sauce and roast Japanese beef with chestnut and winter truffle. (10,500 yen per person.) Hei Fung Terrace is even more extravagant with a drool-worthy menu: lobster and mango salad, premier shark's fin and crabmeat served with a clear broth, braised whole Yoshihama abalone and foie gras with gold foil oyster sauce, steamed fish fillet with black mushrooms and Yuunan ham, steamed turnip rings filled with assorted fungus served with fired glutinous rice and double-boiled superior bird's nest in papaya. (16,800 - 48,800 yen per person) Or reserve a table at Peter and enjoy the city's bright lights from the 24th floor while savoring a seven-course dinner. Peter also promises a fabulous New Year's Eve celebration with a seven-course dinner paired with wine and a live band and DJ.
The opening of the The Umstead Hotel and Spa caused quite the stir last year. One of the finest hotels in the Mid-Atlantic region, The Umstead was recently awarded the prestigious AAA Five-Diamond award for 2008, one of only eight new hotels on the list. Pretty impressive for a hotel that's barely a year old. (The list of accolades isn't short; the hotel is a member of Leading Hotels of the World and was listed on the Hot List.) You can find sumptuous luxury just six minutes from RDU International Airport in N.C.'s Triangle area. The Umstead has become a destination in and of itself. Play golf at Prestonwood Country Club, indulge at the full-service spa, and chow down in style at the award-winning Herons restaurant, where you can catch live music nightly. Guests rave about the afternoon tea: Villeroy & Boch China and silver tea service featuring dainty tea sandwiches with southern flair (like Mini Buttermilk-Chive Biscuits with Johnston County Country Ham and Jalapeno-Strawberry Preserves).
Hurry! Now's your chance to score a lavish room at one of the poshest hotels in the world. Four Seasons George V, the Parisian palace hotel that exudes luxury in every detail, is available for as little as EUR 310 a night for select dates, including January 5- January 7, 2008; January 25-27, 2008; April 16-April 25, 2008. Browse dates and rates at Five Star Alliance, the leading site for luxury hotel reservations. This is a steal, as regular rates are more than double!
How about an over-the-top New Year's Eve, Vegas-style? This year Mandalay Bay will be going off. Celebrate the arrival of 2008 at Dreams, the ultimate New Year's Eve party. The New Year's Eve Dreams Weekend includes three nights in Mandalay Bay's fabulously remodeled rooms, tickets to Dreams, including a four-course meal, gift for the occasion, and a commemorative photo, and two FREE airline tickets for a future Mandalay Bay weekend. Available December 29-31, 2007; priced at $1,795.
Plus, Mandalay Bay is currently running a sweepstakes where you can actually win this decadent New Year's experience! Check it out.
Luxury in Truckee, CA? You bettcha. The Cedar House Sport Hotel fuses hip European style and high-adrenaline adventure. Right out the back door, there's backcountry skiing galore (or hit the slopes at Alpine Meadows just 15 minutes away). High-end accommodations means designer leather platform beds, luxurious European linens and pillow-top mattresses, spa bath amenities, flat screen TVs, and high speed Internet. The 42 rooms and suites have a contemporary design with an organic edge. Indeed, the hotel is devoted to environmentally friendly practices and a green design: sod roof, natural building materials, radiant floor heating. The Cedar House Sport Hotel partners up with local mountain guide companies to create the perfect outdoor adventures. After a day of snowshoeing, skiing, or dog sledding, chill out in the lobby bar by the roaring fire. Or relax in the outdoor hot tub. Within weeks of its opening last summer 2006, the hotel hosted teams of pro-cyclists and the Canadian Olympic Nordic ski team-- who easily sniffed out the area's hottest new hotel.
PS. Cedar House is dog-friendly. Fido is welcomed with special treats and a dog bed.
Thanksgiving is opening day for Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. Early season means a decidedly uncrowded mountain, so you can get fresh tracks well into the day, and take advantage of an indulgent breakfast at The Little Nell, the best luxury digs in town. This five-star splurge is yours for just $365 a night (Town View room), which is a steal for the hot spot where the international jet-set converge for the legendary après-ski scene. The Bed and Breakfast package includes a daily allowance of up to $50 for breakfast at Montagna (or in the comfort of your own room). Available from November 25-December 12, 2007.
You must actually scuba dive 21 feet beneath the surface of the sea to get to Jules Undersea Lodge, located at the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon in Key Largo Underseas Park. For the first time in history, an authentic underwater research habitat is open to the public. After swimming through the tropical mangrove habitat, overnight guests will approach the big 42' round windows of Jules Undersea Lodge. Inside, the cottage space is stocked with creature comforts: air-conditioning, hot showers, VCR/DVD, well-equipped kitchen, and cozy beds from where you can watch the colorful reef fish swim outside. Enjoy unlimited diving (for certified divers) and then dine on a subaquatic feast prepared by your "mer-chef": filet mignon, Florida lobster, and of course Key Lime pie. No wonder Jules Underseas Lodge has been featured in countless magazines and on every major television network in the world.
Say hello to the newly renovated Mandarin Oriental, housed in a neo-renaissance building just around the corner from the rowdy Hofbräuhaus. Last summer this sophisticated hideaway was renovated from top to bottom. The facade got a facelift, and all 48 rooms and 25 suites ooze exclusivity with a sleek contemporary design and all the latest technology. Choose your own bed linens (down-feather duvet, hypoallergenic blanket...) and help yourself to the mini-bar. Like an elegant museum, this stately hotel showcases hundreds of pieces of decorative artwork and antiques from Asia. On the top floor, the heated swimming pool boasts a view that extends to the Alps. Mark's, the hotel's signature fine dining restaurant, just earned its first Michelin star.