Sunday, January 31, 2010

We Love the Ace Hotel, NYC

lamb burger at the breslin
Yesterday we were out and about in the city, and craving lunch at a cozy restaurant, ideally with a fireplace (it was 18 degrees for most of yesterday).  We were in lower midtown, so we headed to Keen's , one of my all-time favorites, but it's closed on weekends for lunch.  Disappointed, we figured we'd head to the East Village, and switch gears to a Japanese noode house, like Sobaya , Ramen Setagaya, or Momofuko Noodle Bar ...but then we remembered the Breslin at the Ace Hotel , and figured since we were in the area, it was worth seeing if we could get a table.  Luckily, we got three seats at the bar, and settled into the most delicious lamb burger ever (and I'm not even a big fan of lamb).  The fries they serve with it are huge, and perfectly fried, and come with a kind of curry mayonnaise.  We also got lentils with poached eggs and steak and eggs. It was all perfect. Afterwards, we got a coffee from Stumptown  (they have an outlet in the hotel, right next to the Breslin, and then asked to see a couple of rooms.  We got shown around by the nicest guy, Adam, who was so informed about the hotel, and so passionate, and ended up showing us probably 5-6 rooms.  They are so well appointed, and so well priced--and it's a property with so much personality, we became instant fans.  We're sending our friend here who is visiting from Austria next month, and I'd send families and hipsters, and hipster families, and families with teens.  They have rooms with bunk-beds (big with the Europeans who are used to hostels), which would be perfect for teens, especially if you get a room for the parents right next to it.  Adam works in reservations, and says he talks to people calling the hotel all day long, helping them figure out what room is right for them.  Because it was an SRO before it's life as the Ace, each room is really different, so it's a good idea to call, rather than just book off what you see on the website.  When I say it's reasonable, we are talking rooms that are super nice, and reasonably big, in the range of $199.  And you get a very cool coffee shop and restaurant downstairs...and a very enthusiastic, thoughtful staff.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tiger Swiss Shoes

I know K Swiss, but I never heard of Tiger Swiss, until I was at a friend's house the other week, visiting her new baby.  One of her Swiss friends had given her a pair of these adorable little girls shoes, and said she grew up wearing them, as did her mom, and her grandma.  I guess you can order them online, or you can ask a friend to bring back a pair, if you have any friends who are headed in the Switzerland direction.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

File Under Rentals: Swedish House, Puglia

I'm already thinking about summer.  I would love to find the perfect little house to rent in Greece, southern Italy, or hey, even Idaho.  The thing is, I just want to find a house or apartment that has the right feel to it, and is in a good location.  I know this is what everyone wants, but it seems that so many people renting out their places, just don't get what makes a rental fantastic.

I thought I'd start collecting my favorites here, starting with this one in Puglia.  I love Puglia, which is in the south of Italy, actually, the heel of the boot.  I was there several years ago, and fell so in love with it, that we imagine that someday we could buy a little house there.  Check out this sweet little house, in the town of Depressa, which, despite its name, is lovely.  It's also about 5 km from a nearby fishing village called Castro Marina, and a little swimming beach.  I think this website, owned by a woman who lives in Puglia, is worth bookmarking.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

American Flatbread: Waitsfield Vermont

I have been dying to go have dinner at American Flatbread, in Waitsfield, which is in the Mad River Valley, probably a half hour below Waterbury, and maybe an hour from Burlington.  Somehow, every time I am in Vermont, it isn't over a weekend, and the restaurant is only open on Fridays and Saturdays.  Have you ever had one of their pizzas?  They sell them at many Whole Foods, and they are fantastic--you really won't feel like you are eating a formerly frozen pizza. First of all, they use the best ingredients, most of it organic and local. Second, they make it with love. So here I was,  a 10 minute drive from Waitsfield, and when I told the manager of the hotel I was staying at, The Pitcher Inn , how obsessed I was with American Flatbread, he offered to call there, and see if I could stop in for a visit, just to see them in production.  They make all of the pizzas there during the week, box them up, and send them off, and then on weekends, open as a restaurant.  We got so lucky, and the owner, the sweetest guy named George, showed us around, and spent over an hour just telling his story, and teaching us how to build our own oven.  If you are ever in that area around a weekend, you must go there.  And if you aren't ever in that area, you should at least try his pizzas.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Unbelievable Moment in Air Travel

Thank you to Gully Wells, a friend, and one of my favorite editors at Conde Nast Traveler. She wrote a lovely post about an amazing experience that we had with Horizon Air, involving a lost food/wine journal (recovered and shown here) of my husband's.  It's a great story, that she tells better than I do, so read it!  It should give you a little faith that there are some really nice people who work in the airline industry, and there are some airlines that actually support their staff, and work like a team.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter Getaway: The Pitcher Inn

Last week I went to Vermont with my husband Matt for three nights, and four whole days (the longest ever we've been away from Clara). The first night, we stayed at The Pitcher Inn, and it being a weeknight, it wasn't busy, so we were able to see most of the rooms.  All of them are themed--we stayed in the Mountain Room--there's Trout, Schoolhouse...they are really nicely appointed, each with their own Nespresso machine, super nice sheets, and many with steam room shower/tub setups.  

We loved our breakfast there--it was maybe one of the best omelettes I've had.  The pastries were so good--loved the scones--and when are scones ever that good?

It's in this sweet little town called Warren, which is about five minutes from Sugarbush, if you are into skiing.  There's a cute little store across the street from The Pitcher Inn, called The Warren Store, which has a very organic local menu that serves breakfast and lunch, although we were too stuffed to try anything.  They have beautiful bottles of maple syrup from very small producers, and a very good edit of wine.  

When we checked out, I spoke at length with Ari, the general manager of The Pitcher Inn.  He's such a sweet guy, and so knowledgeable about the area.  He and his front desk person Michelle mapped out so many cheese producers for us to check out, called and made an appointment for us to visit American Flatbread, and told us about the local food coop, and the Woodstock Farmer's Market, where he said we had to stock up on our cheese on our way out of town.

(my kind of heaven--selling stacks of kindling at the local coop)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Amtrak: Give it a Chance

From the look of these pictures above, you wouldn't imagine they could be from a train trip in this country.  But, they are. My dear friend Jen Smith just moved from New York to Tucson, and made the move by taking a cross-country train trip with her 10 year old son Fisher.  She writes about her experience on, along with great pictures of her journey and invaluable tips.  It's completely inspired me to get on board Amtrak.  

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quickie Getaway: Vermont Day 1

I am on Day 2 of a getaway with my husband.  This is the longest we've been away (3 nights, 4 days) and it's pretty exciting for us. We drove to Vermont, and spent last night at the lovely The Pitcher Inn in Warren, which is about 3 miles south of Sugarbush (for those of you that ski).  Unfortunately the restaurant at The Pitcher Inn was closed (only on Tuesdays), so we went to The Common Man for dinner.  It was so great--very rustic while grand barn interior, with empty bottles of Dom lining the walls (its a tradition there, where people who are celebrating buy one, and then write their names and dates on it)...and great food.  Huge portions, which pleases the locals, but I would just share one entree next time.  We had microgreen salads, duck with risotto, and quail with a johnny cake and bacon on top (two quails in one entree and it was $23),  and it was all delicious.  I'll write about The Pitcher Inn and American Flatbread later this week.  After all,  I am supposed to be on vacation with my husband.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Perfect Little Travel Bag


I love this little bag for taking on trips.  It comes in gold, gunmetal, and lots of other colors, but I like the metallics the most, because the reason I travel with this bag, is for the rare moment I might go out and have to be slightly dressed up.  It weighs nothing, doesn't wrinkle, and looks good with hardly anything in it, or stuffed.  And they cost $14.99!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter Getaway: Palm Beach Florida

Last winter break we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Palm Beach, which is actually in a small enclave called Manalapan, but I guess that doesn’t roll off the tongue like Palm Beach does.  It’s actually about 20 minutes south of West Palm Beach, and while when we first arrived, I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t in the middle of West Palm Beach, it ended up being better than I imagined.  The property itself is really nice—it’s right on the beach, has some nice pools—one just for adults, which was empty, and one for everyone, which was so packed, and you could tell that people came down in the morning, put their towels on their chairs, and staked their claim for the day.  Mildly annoying, especially for people like us.  However, it wasn’t really all that warm, and we wanted to explore anyway, so it was okay.  Plus Clara was fine just jumping in the hot tub.  Rooms were comfortable, and staff was helpful (but then again, when are they every not that at a Ritz Carlton?), and food was good.  Décor was very Kelly Wearstler-ish—felt very appropriate to the area—a modern take on old-school rich.  One of the best things was the location—it was right across the street from a mini-mall.  The mini-mall had a great grocery store, so we bought our snacks and beer/wine there, so we could save on room service.  It also had the cutest surf/wakeboard shop, called Coastal Surf&Ski, owned by an incredibly handsome (even Matt said so) dad named Morgan.  He runs it with his parents and his wife—they sell all types of surf gear, plus swimsuits and goggles, jewelry and cool ceramic mugs made by his wife.  He teaches surfing to kids and adults, and you can book lessons through him directly.  Because he has kids, I am sure he would be a great teacher.

One of the best parts about that area is all the resale shops.  You don’t want to go to the fancy parts of West Palm Beach where they know exactly what they have, and charge hundreds for vintage Lily Pulitzer.  Instead, drive up the Dixie Highway, and stop at every consignment shop you see.  We got some crazy steals, including a custom made tux (Matt’s exact size) for $70.  Then the owner of the shop recommended a great Italian tailor to him, who tweaked it perfectly for $50, and shipped it up to us within five days.  I found Ferragamo shoes for $8.  I did notice though, that small shoe sizes prevail here—if you are a 5 of 5 1/2, you’d make out like a bandit.

If you are into natural beauty products, and want to splurge on yourself, make a booking at Tammy Fender Day Spa.  I had read about it in Vogue, years ago, saved the article, and the second I knew we were coming this direction, made an appointment.  She is pretty magical, and her products are amazing. She gets her essential oils from the best sources and makes all of her products right there.  All products are in dark glass containers, and nothing has parabens.  While giving me the facial, she taught me something that I still do every night—we were talking about bedtime rituals, and she told me how she does a ‘guided meditation’ with her kids—mainly to center them, calm them down, and get them in the right mindspace for sleep.  I tried it with Clara, a little self-conscious the first time, and now she asks for it every night.  It’s pretty much doing a version of “you are getting sleepy” your way.

A cute town to visit in the area is Lake Worth.  It also has a row of consignment shops, and a nice vegan restaurant, that Tammy Fender recommended to us, called Soma Center Cafe.

Back to Manalapan, we walked to the Old Key Lime House one night for dinner.  It is from 1889, and they say it’s Florida’s oldest waterfront restaurant.  The walk was easy—across a causeway—and very pretty, and the food was very class Floridian: fried fish, key lime pie, cold beer…the décor was great, and there were even tables out on the dock that has swinging seats.  Totally worth a visit.  Another really cool thing to do, in walking distance to the hotel, is the Lantana Nature Preserve.  Clara ran up and down the paths, learning about all the native plants and trees.

We also loved the little town of Delray Beach—not up near the beach, but more inland…there was the coolest shop called The Trouser Shop that was like a news-stand, but had every type of man’s pant inside, totally Waspy, with rolls of web belts.  There was a great old school candy shop down the block, and also a department store completely caught in time. In that area is a sweet lunch spot called Ciao Sidewalk Café, and that’s also by a cute kids shop called Next Generation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

On My Wish List: Raffles Canouan

I so want to be here right now-- at the Raffles Canouan.  I have friends who have gone twice (with their child), so they must really like it (and have a bigger bank account than I do).  This place is off Barbados, which is a nonstop flight, and then you have to connect to Canouan Island. It has a great kids club (for kids 4-14), a 12,000 square foot pool, and just look at that water.  I imagined it would be so outrageously priced--but I just checked it out (winter and spring breaks are no deal--I was finding rates around $1400 per night including breakfast), and if you go in a less travelled month, like in May (if you don't have school-age kids) , or in the summer, it isn't totally out of reach.  It also helps if you only have one kid like us.  Rates listed for 2 adults and 1 kid were listed starting at $495 including breakfast, but jumped up to $920 for 2 adults with 2 kids.  I am sure you could call if you were really interested, discuss with the manager how the rooms are configured, and work something out that works for you.  Or, you can just look and dream a little dream.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Lovely Moment in Coach

This was Clara's lunch on a Delta flight, at least I think it was Delta.  Looks like their hummus and vegetable snack option.  I just really like the way this looks, and how often can you say that about a flight in the back of the bus?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On My Wish List: Small Hope Bay Lodge

I think the warmest its gotten in the last seven days is maybe 32 degrees, so I'm just imagining all the other places I would love to be this winter.  We covered this family owned lodge, in the Bahamas, on the island of Andros, in Cookie, a couple of years ago.  My husband and his friend Stephen Lewis reviewed it for me, which they were very excited to do, because it's paradise for fly-fisherman, since the bonefish there are so prolific.  They both agreed it was a very cool place, although not upscale at all, so not for the fancy resort set--they seemed concerned that the Cookie reader might have an issue that there was Dial Soap in a pump container in the shower.  Regardless, we wrote it up, and a year later, our new beauty director came to Cookie, and raved on and on about how she read about Small Hope Bay Lodge in Cookie, and went with her whole family, had a blast, and has gone back every year since then.  I think it's my turn now, right?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bring Back From Montreal...

This maple syrup is so delicious, but it's really the packaging that makes us the most excited. I'd like to have a whole shelf lined with them.  We picked these up at the Jean Talon Market, but we saw versions like this in many food shops.  Another item to bring back from Montreal is Cold FX Extra Strength-it's a cold and flu remedy that has been warding off colds and flu for me since I've been taking it, and it's half the price in Canada that it costs here, if you can find it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Winter Getaway: Rosewood Mayakoba

I can't believe it's almost two years since we went to the Rosewood Mayakoba.  It had just opened up when we went, and from what I hear, it's just getting better.  I think it is truly a fantastic property, and would really recommend works well for families that want to have some alone time as a couple, families travelling with any age children, or just couples.  Here's what I like about it:  It's so easy to get there.  Most major cities have flights into Cancun--from there it's about 45 minutes to get to the resort.  There really is no need to rent a car (they'll come pick you up)--and if you're coming to this property, you're more than likely looking for a resort experience, not day trips to Tulum, Valladolid, or Merida. (That's a different trip.)  You come here because it's so good, you  really just want to stay put.  All of the rooms are stand alone suites, and they all face water, most of them the lagoon, and some of them the ocean.  Now most of the time, I would prefer the ocean view, if price was no object, but here, I have to say I prefer the lagoon view, and it's so much cheaper.  Here's why:  your view onto the lagoon, ends at the lush mangroves, where there are all types of birds nesting and landing.  No one can walk in front of your suite, and many of them have their own plunge pools. It's a view like no other--whereas a view of the beach, (and it isn't a quiet beach in the middle of nowhere) can be more distracting--you might see boats, jet-skis, people walking in front of your villa.  

(that's the living room half of our messy suite, where clara slept)

(that's the amazing view of the lagoon, mangroves, and the plunge pool is out there too)
The next reason I love this place:  the architecture and interior design are really well done--nothing seems dumbed down.  Moving on:  I love the kids club, and the beach club.  The kids club is really so well designed and managed--it's right next to the beach restaurant, and the beach pool, so the kids don't feel like they are at the opposite end of the resort, and in a dark room that used to be the gym.  It's light-filled, and the people working there love kids, and the activities they do are actually fun...they make pinatas,'s very interactive, and creative.  Never once did they put on a DVD for Clara.  When she wanted to come out and say hi, they brought her to us, and then she was really happy to go back to the club.  One night we wanted to go out on our own, and the babysitter they arranged for us was the woman who ran the kids club, so there was no issue with having to introduce a stranger to Clara.  

(that's the kids club on the left, and this is shot from the pool area)

(that's the kids pool, with beach restaurant behind, and kids club on distant left)
Lastly, the margaritas, and the tequila selection, were stellar...and the food was really great.  We loved the breakfasts, and the simpler Mexican food the most.  I know the spa is supposed to be amazing too, but we didn't try it out.  I would say you could come here for even four days, and feel so happy, that it could seem like you were gone seven.   Depending on your dates and how many people are in your family, you can now buy 4 nights and get the 5th night free (and there's even availability during winter break--I just checked!), and for a Lagoon Suite King,  it will run around $590 a night.  I have seen it less than $500 too, but I think it all depends on when you go.