Monday, January 31, 2011

HotelHostess: Top Celebrity Chef Hotel Restaurants

Last week on HotelHostess, I wrote about the best hotel bars. This week, I wrote about some of the best celebrity chef hotel restaurants. There are so many, though, that I had to limit this quick list just to non-Las Vegas U.S. destinations.

I think I got a fairly large cross-section, and included favorites like Alain Ducasse's Adour at the St. Regis Washington, D.C., L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons New York, Tom Colicchio's Craft at the W Dallas, and a bunch of others--basically, there's something for every taste. And most budgets. Though I won't lie--there are quite a few expensive places here.

Read more about them, and what you can expect to find on the menu at the link to my article below.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

HotelHostess: Best Hotel Bars

For my latest HotelHostess piece, I got to do what is probably one of the more fun roundups that I've compiled lately: the best hotel bars. Hey, I do more than just take pictures of the rooms I stay in when I travel!

Before you go disagreeing with my choices, let's just remember that I was limited to ten, and I know there are tons more fabulous hotel bars out there than that. This list is just a quick mix of classics like Harry's Bar at the Hotel Cipriani in Venice and the Redwood Room at the Clift in San Francisco, some local favorites of mine like High at the Hotel Erwin, and ones that have been generating a lot of buzz like the Sky Lounge at Upper House in Hong Kong and Long Bar at the PuLi Shanghai. Plus a lovely hidden gem that I came across in Paris, the Le Dokhan Champagne Bar at Radisson Blu Le Dokhan's. I could have spent all my nights in Paris there sipping bubbly.

To read about all these and more, look at my article at the link below, then tell me about some of your favorite hotel bars from recent stays.


Friday, January 28, 2011

LA Confidential: Savory

The January issue of LA Confidential is out, and with it, several new restaurant reviews for me. The lead one, however, happens to be of Chef Paul Shoemaker's new restaurant out in Malibu: Savory.

I can honestly say that, despite the long drive out there, this was one of my favorite and most worthwhile meals I've enjoyed in Los Angeles lately, and I'd heartily recommend a meal there to anyone.

You can click on the link below to see my article on the magazine's web site, or just check out the text below.


By Eric Rosen

Savory means “pleasing to the sense of taste,” and Paul Shoemaker’s new Malibu restaurant is certainly to our taste—both the beach-chic décor of dark wicker chairs and blonde wood tables and bar, and the locally sourced foods on Shoemaker’s ever-evolving menu.

Though the location in the Point Dume Village strip mall seems unlikely, it made sense to Shoemaker since Malibu is where he met and married his wife. Shoemaker brings his experience working with Michael Cimarusti at Water Grill and Providence—and his sadly stunted stint as executive chef at Bastide—to bear in dishes that combine the pick of regional produce with the refined touch of haute cuisine. A recent salad of arugula, prosciutto and burrata incorporated figs grown down the road. A perfectly pink hanger steak in Bordelaise with smoked butterball potatoes came with sautéed spinach from a farm just 40 miles away. The breads are all baked in-house, including the crust for his artisanal pizzas, made with a 200-year-old Neapolitan starter yeast.

Best of all—besides potential desserts like chocolate-brioche bread pudding with pistachio crusted vanilla gelato—is the price tag (dishes rarely cost more than $30). Now that’s something to savor indeed. Point Dume Village, 29169 Heathercliff Road, Malibu

Thursday, January 27, 2011

LowFares: There's More To Barbados Than Beaches

It was just about a month ago that I was in Barbados, but I've flown so far since then on quite a few other big trips that it seems like much longer!

Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful Caribbean island nation just before Christmas, and I wanted to write up all the fun things I got to do there for LowFares.

As you'll see from the title alone, there's so much more to do there than just go sunbathe on the beach or at the pool. It's kind of like a perfect vacation destination for someone like me who loves fun in the sun, but also needs a bit of cultural activity (plus some adventure!) thrown in to make a truly well-rounded, satisfying vacation experience.

Want to know what I did during my quick two days there--including rum distilleries, plantation houses, spelunking, surf lessons, and more? Check out the story I wrote at the link below, and start planning your next trip!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

HotelChatter: Inside the Hilton Arc de Triomphe

Just a quick post on HotelChatter today about one of the hotels I stayed at during my recent trip to France: the Hilton Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

As usual, it's got a whole gallery of photos plus a quick walk-through video of my suite. I think my favorite photo, however, is this one of the lobby. It gives you a real sense of the Art Deco aesthetic of the hotel--an unusual theme for a Paris property.

Check out my story and the gallery at the link below.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

HotelChatter: Director of Privileged Pets at San Ysidro Ranch

For my final piece in this installment of the Cool Hotel Jobs series on HotelChatter, I'm taking you to one of my favorite hotels in California, San Ysidro Ranch outside Santa Barbara, to meet the Director of Privileged Pets.

Not only does she make sure that pets and their people have the best stay possible at the resort, but she's also in charge of special programs like doggie fitness and spa treatments!

Now, there are a lot of hotels with special pet programs like this, but SYR definitely goes above and beyond in the animal-friendly department. Find out how by reading my piece!


Frontiers: Fresh East

My latest Frontiers restaurant review is up! Nothing too fancy this time, just the new healthy Asian cafe at the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson called Fresh East.

More interesting than the actual food here are all the environmental initiatives that are evident in the construction and operation, including renewable woods used in the floors and counters, efficient lighting, and biodegradable flatware. Oh, and the smoothies are pretty good too.

To find out what you should be ordering for takeout next time you stop by, check out my review at the link below.


Monday, January 24, 2011

HotelChatter: Four Seasons Manele Bay Perfume Melangeur

The Cool Hotel Jobs series from last week on HotelChatter proved so popular, that we're continuing it with two more installments this week, starting with this post from today on the Perfume Melangeur at the Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay.

Not only does Lanai sound amazing since there are only two hotels on this remote former pineapple plantation island, but they're both Four Seasons! Sounds like paradise. And the job of perfume melangeur sounds awesome, especially to someone who likes to smell everything like I do. That sounds weird, but it's a skill that's helped me with my food and wine career for sure.

To read more about Teresa Blackwell and the custom scents she concocts for guests based on spa consultations with them, be sure to read my piece at the link below!


JustLuxe: Farm Dinners at FIG

It's been a few weeks, and it was time for another JustLuxe post! Hopefully I'll be posting a little more regularly. Meanwhile, it was time to get this one up on the site because I'll be heading in to one of my favorite restaurants in Santa Monica, FIG at the Fairmont, for one of Chef Ray Garcia's special Farm Dinners on Wednesday, January 26.

This time he'll be featuring fresh produce from Garcia Organic Farm (no relation) including grapefruit, mandarins and avocados. I can't wait!

To learn more about the dinner series, and see what else will be on the menu, take a look at my post at the link below.


Friday, January 21, 2011

HotelChatter: Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch's Loan-A-Lab

For the final piece in this week's Cool Hotel Jobs series on HotelChatter, we travel to the snowy peaks of Beaver Creek, Colorado, where the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch has a "Loan-A-Lab," starring Bachelor, the yellow lab.

That's right! The final job this week isn't even filled by a human, but by a big, friendly doggy who goes snowshoeing and on hikes with hotel guests, and donates his fees to the local Humane Society. On his downtime, he's also available for cuddles and pets in the lobby.

How much do you want to go to the hotel now? To read more about Bachelor and his wag-a-docious job, check out my story at the link below.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

HotelChatter: Hyatt Regency Maui's Director of Astronomy

For today's Cool Hotel Job, I looked to the resorts of Hawaii for inspiration and came across this fun position at the Hyatt Regency Maui: Director of Astronomy.

Eddie Mahoney takes resort guests (and other island visitors who are just interested) on three nightly tours of the heavens, showing them how to use telescopes, how to take the best nighttime shots with their cameras (I could use that!), and telling them about all the salacious myths behind the constellations we see in our night skies.

Plus he hands out candy. Which is sort of awesome. Read more about the job, and his "Romance Tour" in my story at the link below.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

HotelChatter: Maroma's Temazcalera

No, it's not the liquor called mezcal. It's a temazcal, or a Mayan sweat lodge. That's where you'll find the subject of Day 3 of my HotelChatter series on cool hotel jobs: Nancy Aguilera, the resident temazcalera at the Maroma Resort and Spa on the Riviera Maya.

Her job includes stoking the volcanic rocks that superheat this miniature pyramid, and then interpreting the visions that guests have while inside, where they rub themselves with special mud and fruit essences before jumping into the Caribbean sea outside at sunset for a cooling, clarifying, mind-blowing experience.

Sound trippy? It is! That's why you need Nancy guiding you along the way. Read more about her in my article at the link below.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

HotelChatter: Four Seasons Golden Triangle's Elephant Wrangler

For Day 2 in my HotelChatter series on More Cool Hotel Jobs, we travel all the way to the far reaches of Thailand's Golden Triangle (which came up in my Glamping series last year) to chat with Khun Wee, the Elephant Camp Coordinator who takes care of the resort's pack of pachyderms and teaches guests how to guide them through the jungle treks through former drug-runner territory.

Not only that, but apparently the dude plays polo on them as well. Awesome, right? How fun would it be to work with elephants for a living, and at a hotel that rescues them from a fate hauling logs or performing for crowds in the big cities? Just goes to show, you can do something totally cool for a living, while also doing good.


Monday, January 17, 2011

HotelChatter: Cool Hotel Jobs

Another week, another HotelChatter series! This time around, I revisit what turned out to be quite a popular idea: the coolest hotel jobs out there. And I don't mean being your average, run-of-the-mill concierge or sommelier. I am talking out-of-the-box, amazing, can't-find-anywhere-else jobs. And just wait till you see what I have lined up this week.

To start, I talked to a man who I can only describe as Peninsula Hotels' Head Geek, Ingvar Herland. He runs the hotel group's Electronic Services Department, which means his is the mind behind all the fancy gadgetry and life-easing gizmos in their luxury hotel rooms.

But it's more than wiring and electronics--Ingvar's job is to conceive of guest comforts guests don't even know they want, and then manifest them in easy-to-use controls in the rooms. Oh, and they test them out in a secret location. Totally cool, right?

To read about what Ingvar does and the great lengths Peninsula goes to to protect the creations he and his team come up with, check out the first installment in my More Cool Hotel Jobs series at the link below.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Jaunted: Martinborough Wines

So far in my Jaunted tour of "New Zealand's Other Wine Regions," I've taken you to Waiheke Island in Auckland's bay, and to the famous appellation of Hawkes Bay on the east coast of the North Island. For today's third and final piece in the miniseries, we're headed to the tiny hamlet of Martinborough, about an hour east of Wellington.

No, I'm not talking about that other "M" region where all the Sauvignon Blancs come from, which is actually on the north end of the South Island. Poor Martinborough gets confused with that one all the time, and I'm afraid it has a little inferiority complex, but there's no reason for it.

Here you'll find not only a charming little historic town center, but also such famed wineries as Ata Rangi with its range of elegant Pinot Noirs, the ultra-premium Dry River, and approachable Palliser.

With affordable and nice lodging, cute little restaurants, and friendly cellar doors, it makes the perfect daytrip or overnight from Wellington. Read about my time there in the article below.


HotelChatter: Cape Kidnappers Visited!

And now, for the final item of my HotelChatter New Zealand Week, I actually got to visit a hotel I wrote about way back in September of 2009 for HotelChatter's Cubicle Dreamin' series: The Farm at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand's Hawkes Bay wine region, which I wrote about on Jaunted earlier this week.

The area is absolutely gorgeous, with pristine coastline, the beautiful Art Deco town of Napier, and New Zealand's oldest and most awarded wineries. Lending it the final touch of true wine destination legitimacy is this ultra-luxury lodge on the region's famous cliffs, and its world-class golf course.

Now, I didn't get to spend a night there (sigh!), but I did get a detailed tour of the property, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Interested? Check out my story on HotelChatter below.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jaunted: Auckland Tips From Air New Zealand

You'll recall that when I went to London, I talked to my Air New Zealand in-flight concierge about her tips for what to do in London. So I figured that while I was on that long flight to Auckland, I'd get some insider knowledge dropped on me by the in-flight concierge on that trip, Jo.

As the flight drew to a close, we sat down in Premium Economy, and she gave me her picks for what to do in Auckland during my three days there, and then, as a favor, she also pointed out great things to do along the rest of my itinerary to Hawkes Bay and Wellington.

For now, take a quick look at our little video interview, and keep Jo's picks in mind for your next trip to New Zealand!


HotelChatter: Inside Wellington's Museum Hotel

Today on HotelChatter, I moved from New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, to its capital, Wellington.

There I stayed at a quirky little hotel called the Museum Hotel, which is right across the street from a quirky museum called Te Papa that is a huge, hands-on exploratorium of New Zealand's history, geology, climate, culture, and more.

The Museum Hotel was quite an interesting place that was sort of a hybrid residence-hotel kind of setting, and its location right in the heart of Wellington near trendy Cuba Street and its fantastic restaurants was pretty much ideal. To read more about the hotel's contemporary arts scene, retro wallpaper, and fancy restaurant, check out the link to my story below.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jaunted: Hawkes Bay Wines

It's Day #3 in my Jaunted New Zealand Week, and I'm back to my "New Zealand's Other Wine Regions" series with a look at Hawkes Bay.

Most people are familiar with New Zealand's most famous wine region, Marlborough (ah, Sauvignon Blanc country!), but few realize that the country's second-largest region, Hawkes Bay, is actually its oldest, and most awarded region, and that the Bordeaux-style reds that are produced here compete on the world stage.

It's also home to some of the world's best examples of Art Deco architecture, gorgeous coastline, and a host of other fabulous features that make it a great destination for a trip to New Zealand's North Island.

Just read this article, and you'll find out all that, and more!


HotelChatter: Westin Auckland Lighter Quay

For my third New Zealand hotel piece on HotelChatter this week, and the final entry for Auckland, I decided to go on a quick guerrilla visit to the Westin Auckland Lighter Quay (right after my visit to the Hilton) and take a brief look around the little property. Though it's in a rather quiet corner of the Central Business District, it's quite near all the fun places to eat and drink at Viaduct Harbour, and it's also an interesting Westin property because it's only got 58 rooms and suites. Total.

It's also very into the idea of being surrounded by the marina, and there are fountains and water features everywhere. Hence the cheeky title of my piece. To see what I mean, check out the story on HotelChatter at the link below!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jaunted: Long-Haul Flight Beauty Tips

I think this is probably one of the more useful video interviews I've conducted for Jaunted. While I was on that long Air New Zealand delivery flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, I got two of my new flight attendant friends to share all their little beauty secrets for staying fresh and spry on those thirteen-hour flights across the Pacific.

Best of all, I got to test them out on the flight back (and on the way to Paris this week), and they really do work. Nothing is as effective as a good night's sleep, of course, but until you can catch some actual quality shut-eye, these little tips for staying well groomed in the skies can work wonders.

Check them, and the friendly Kiwis, out in my article at the link below!


HotelChatter: Inside the Hilton Auckland

New Zealand Week sees its second day on HotelChatter with this quick post on another hotel I checked out while in Auckland, the Hilton.

While I didn't get to stay there, I did take a quick hotel tour on my way back from Waiheke Island. I wasn't crazy about the architecture (you'll see what I mean), but I thought the rooms looked pretty spacious and nice (and uncluttered), and the fourth-story pool hanging over the side of the building was pretty darn cool.

Take a look at my story and photos at the link below, then get ready for some more New Zealand hotel love as the week continues!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Jaunted: New Zealand's Other Wine Regions, Waiheke Island

Like I mentioned in my previous blog post today, this is going to be NEW ZEALAND WEEK for me on my blog, with two concurrent series on HotelChatter and Jaunted. HotelChatter will take a whirlwind look at the New Zealand hotel scene, including two properties I enjoyed staying at.

Jaunted, meanwhile, will be posting five stories of mine this week as well along two different themes. Two of them will be video interviews with those perky Air New Zealand flight attendants giving us tips on what to do in Auckland, and how to stay fresh and fancy on those long-haul trans-Pacific flights.

The other part of my series will be three posts on "New Zealand's Other Wine Regions," including the one I posted today on gorgeous Waiheke Island, which is just a 40-minute ferry ride from the heart of Auckland.

Never heard of it? Don't worry, I've got the inside scoop on this sunny paradise with sandy beaches, premium wineries, and gourmet cuisine. Sound heavenly? It was! So read my story below, and check back every day for the rest!


HotelChatter: Inside the Langham Auckland

I might be traispsing through France at the moment, but I'm basically having NEW ZEALAND WEEK with a blast of articles on HotelChatter and Jaunted about my recent trip down to Kiwi-land.

On HotelChatter, I'll be doing a week-long series on the New Zealand hotel scene with three in Auckland--including this first one on the Langham, where I stayed for three nights--and one each in Wellington and Hawkes Bay.

I've actually got two mini-series on Jaunted this week: "New Zealand's Other Wine Regions," and two more quick videos from the friendly flight attendants on Air New Zealand where they tell us what to do in Auckland, and how to look our best after the long flight down there.

Lots to talk about this week, so please check back daily! In the meantime, check out my first hotel piece, with photo gallery and video, at the link below:


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Jaunted: Air NZ's Ed Sims Fills Us In

The Air New Zealand coverage continues on Jaunted this week with a video interview of the international airline division general manager, Ed Sims, who oversaw the new 777-300ER program for the airline.

Though he gives me the company line on all the fabulous new features, he also lets drop a few interesting tidbits like Air New Zealand's quest to be the "first boutique airline in the sky," AND I got him to tell me what his favorite position on the SkyCouch is, and who he'd be cuddling with on one.

That's all I'll reveal here. To find out the rest, check out my story below!


Saturday, January 8, 2011

JustLuxe: 2011 dineLA Restaurant Week!

The holidays might be over, but one of my favorite times of year is coming along and it's going to be two weeks of delicious, moderately priced gourmet food. That's right! It's the Winter 2011 dineLA Restaurant Week!

This time around--the sixth--there are newcomers like Beechwood, Inn of the Seventh Ray, and Hungry Cat. There are also some of my old favorites like AOC, Bouchon, Drago Centro, FIG, RH at the Andaz, Bazaar at the SLS, La Cachette Bistro, Palate Food + Wine, Waterloo & City, and Wilshire.

Friends and I have already made our reservations at Craft and Cleo! Meanwhile to find out where else you should be making your reservations and how much the special menus will run you this season, take a look at my JustLuxe article below!


Friday, January 7, 2011

HotelChatter: Splurging at Wolfgang Puck's WP24

And, for my final piece this week on HotelChatter, the follow up to my inside look at the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles: a blow-by-blow account of the multi-course dinner I enjoyed a few weeks back at Wolfgang Puck's latest L.A. restaurant, WP24, whose new executive chef, Sara Johannes, I wrote about in my Brand X article on lady chefs.

This article, however, is about pure, splurge-tastic gourmandising at the high-end, high-rise restaurant, where I enjoyed a four-hour multi-course dinner.

Want to hear (and see in the photo gallery!) what I ate? Check out my story at the link below...


Thursday, January 6, 2011

HotelChatter: Park8 Sydney

Another day, another story on HotelChatter! This time it's about the newest boutique property in Sydney from Eight Hotels, whose Diamant Hotel I stayed at last May when I visited Australia. Now I totally want to stay in the loft-like rooms at Park8 next time I'm in the city.

I'm also excited to check out Eight Hotels' new set of Paris apartments while I'm in France next week, but for now, take a look at my opening announcement for the Park8, and if you get a chance to stay there, let me know how it is!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

HotelChatter: Inside Look at Hilton Barbados

My work week on HotelChatter (the first of a few in a row right now) continues with this inside look at the Hilton Barbados, where I stayed before the Air New Zealand hullabaloo last month.

Previously, I'd written about the Food, Wine & Rum Festival that took place on the island in November, with headliners Tom Colicchio and Marcus Samuelsson. This time around, however, I got to preview the first American Airlines direct flight from Dallas direct to Barbados (2,700 miles, and 5 1/2 hours!) and spend a couple days on the island getting to do fun stuff like visit St. Nicholas Abbey, Harrison's Cave, and taking my very first surfing lesson!

More on those experiences to come in a future LowFares article, but for now, you can check out the hotel I stayed in, the Hilton Barbados, along with a photo gallery and video of my room. Not the most distinctive hotel, but definitely a great option for a trip to the Caribbean!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jaunted: The SkyCouch Kama Sutra

And now...the moment you've all been waiting for: my EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK AT AND REVIEW OF the Air New Zealand SkyCouch!

Sure, you've seen other pieces on it on, Gadling, Cranky Flier, and even my own piece from last week on Jaunted.

But now, for the first time, I am taking you along with me as I stretch out on one of the new workhorses of Air New Zealand's trademark "Cuddle Class" for a test nap on the long-haul flight from Los Angeles to Auckland.

The other pieces might show you photos, video and even test positions on the SkyCouch, but I am on the ONLY one who has actually used it to sleep on a real flight!

Does that get your interest? It should! No one else is going to be able to tell you about it for real until the plane goes into regular service later this month, so this is the one and only place you can read about the onboard experience.

That's all I'll say here--if you want to find out more, go ahead and read my Jaunted story at the link below!


HotelChatter: W Seattle

When I headed up to Seattle a few weeks ago for the unveiling of Air New Zealand's new planes, I stayed at the W Hotel there, so I decided to make a little more work for myself and write up the experience for HotelChatter. You know, as long as I was staying there anyway...

The article below, complete with accompanying photo gallery and room video, is what I had to say. As you'll see, I sort of picked on the hotel a bit since several elements are looking a bit...dated. That said, it was still a nice experience, and the staff was fantastic, so it's definitely a good option if you're heading to the Northwest. Take a closer look by checking out my article.


Monday, January 3, 2011

HotelChatter: Inside the Ritz-Carlton L.A. Live

Well, the holidays are officially over and it's back to work in a big way for me this January. I have another couple of trips coming up, but in the meantime, I've got a whirlwind of articles to get done, including this first one for the new year: a look inside the Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live for HotelChatter.

This is one of my usual inside looks at a property including a photo gallery and walk-through video of my room, along with a list of my favorite amenities (spoiler alert, it's the steamshower bathtub/shower suite in the bathroom!), as well as why I would be willing to pay $50 for use of the Executive Lounge. Curious to learn more? Take a look at my story at the link below!