Cedar House Sport Hotel

Cedar House Sport Hotel

Rest assured, chic travelers do not have to sacrifice comfort and style for a breathtaking scenery.  Carved out of its natural surroundings, the Cedar House Sport Hotel is visually stunning.  It boasts 42 rooms built mostly out of recycled harvested wood.  The rooms evoke an appealing minimalist space, with an eclectic mix of contemporary design and functionality.  The organic feel is complete with a European bedding system featuring luxurious linens and individual down comforters.  Relax over the leather-upholstered platform beds, or birch plywood furniture, in the complimentary Egyptian cotton robes.  Take a quick walk through the crisp mountain air and unwind in the hottub overlooking the snow-capped peaks.

The Cedar House Sport Hotel is located in the heart of Truckee, California, just fifteen minutes from the home of the 1960 Winter Olympics.  Before beginning the day enjoy the hearty gourmet breakfast for gratis!  The enthusiastic, outdoorsy, staff are a pleasure to be around and are never short of recommendations on activities in this wonderland at any point in the year.  Their in-house guides are happy to accompany you on anything from Wilderness Adventure Dog Sled Tours and Snow Shoe Tours, to hiking trails around the beautiful Lake Tahoe region.

The staff is well aware that your mountain vacation would not be complete without your adorable pet counterpart, so they welcome them with special treats, dog beds and bowls.  It is apparent that their goal is to make their guests feel at home, so leave the four legged friend in the room to relax while you enjoy one of the finest dining experiences Truckee has to offer.  The avant-garde Stella Culinary, located at your figure tips in Cedar House Sport Hotel, is bound to be a shock to your taste buds, but if you just like to sip on vino the über chic bar has an array of California’s finest.  Cedar House Sport Hotel will have you leaving hoping to return in the near future!


Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle

Twenty Rows

Twenty Rows, the only working winery and tasting room in downtown Napa Valley, is an amazing discovery outside of the numerous vineyards.  Walking into the family-owned tasting room, I’m struck by the room to my left, with bright red walls, beautiful flowers, and a long wood table.  Instead, I continue to the cellar across the foyer, and park myself at the two communal tables between barrels and stainless steel tanks.  This is not uncommon according to Timothy Nuss, who says the atmosphere in the chilled cellar draws clients right in, prepared to taste.

The wine comes from Vinoce (vin-o-chay), a 24 acre vineyard planted on Mt. Veeder, and operated by the Nuss Family.  Meaning “wine nut”, Vinoce produces 1,800 cases depending on the year, and showcases production at Twenty Rows like a brew pub for wine.  The huge, open space with concrete floors and tall ceilings is filled with the aroma of barreled wine.  The Nuss Family opened Twenty Rows as a place for “wine nuts” to relax and drink a wine catered for every day consumption.  To make it even more inviting the Nuss’ decorated the area with flowers, a shiny pink child-size convertible car, dimmed lights and votive candles.  Wines are set on a rustic hutch and are poured straight from the people who get their hands dirty during harvest.

Clients immediately get that family experience when they walk into Twenty Rows and are greeted by sons Timothy and Tyler Nuss.  I’m offered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and within minutes feel as though I know the whole family.  Their parents, Brian and Lori Nuss, have been growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, for nearly three decades.  In 1996, they began making their own wines from their Mt. Veeder estate before setting up production in downtown Napa.  Periodically, the Nuss clan hosts public parties, often featuring live music and catered food.  On July 28th they will hold their third annual Blues and Cheese Festival.

Twenty Rows is a truly unique experience in Napa Valley, and just so happens to have great wine at a great value!


courtesy of WSH

Washington School House

One of the countries last remaining school houses built in 1889, and located in Park City, Utah, has graduated into the unexpected: a luxury boutique hotel.  The Washington School House hotel is a pint-sized structure, that has achieved such status after almost going up in flames in Park City’s Great Fire of 1898, and then being sold in 1936 to Veterans of Foreign Wars because enrollment declined.  Soon after it was used for dances and social events until the 1950s.  But it was not until December of 2011 that the Washington School House turned into the striking hotel it is today.

Paul Allen Design and architect Trip Bennett have given the structure a new life aside Utah’s alluring spruce and aspen trees.  Named for George Washington, the boutique hotel exudes chicness with its original quarried limestone exterior, and the well appointed twelve rooms/suites.  Enter into the historic living space with 16ft ceilings and a roaring fire, surrounded by original antiques and art.  The 10-foot tall antique mirror came from an opera house in the south of France, and is starkly juxtapose a one-of-a-kind white antler chandelier covered in crystal.  The guest rooms also feature a curated collection of art and antiques, and they boast original reclaimed oak barn wood repurposed as flooring.  The bathrooms are exquisit with ice-white marble heated flooring and walk-in showers.  But none of the rooms quite live up to the incredible Penthouse Suite with a 270-degree view of the town of Park City, and a backdrop of the Uinta Mountains.  This suite comes with its own elevator entrance, kitchen, full living-room with an antique fireplace, private den, and king size bed.

However, the National Historic Registry landmark has maintained its historic integrity well-beyond beautiful accommodations.  The service is as carefully crafted as the decor.  The hotel concierge gladly recommended local restaurants and activities suited for the summer season.  In the winter the ski lift is just a few yards from your front door, and after a long day of testing your endurance relax in the heated outdoor pool.  The staff was a delight to be weighted by, and even served up an iPad when I felt like watching a movie outdoors.  It was effortless to relax in the wonderfully private, and beautifully adorned, Washington School House hotel.


Cafe Dufrain

Cafe Dufrain

Cafe Dufrain is an understated restaurant in Florida, quietly hidden in a chic condo community of Harbor Island.  Just a short walk across the bridge from downtown, Cafe Dufrain, is tucked away overlooking the canal.  Casually dine outside in the warm weather and revel in the sustainable and organic New American cuisine.  The lively artwork, brings to life the fun ambiance, complete with an attentive and friendly waitstaff.

Fitting for the coastal weather I decided to begin with Grilled scallops, roast squash, almonds, lemon confit, which was cooked to perfection.  The “Shares” part of the menu encourages exploration, and is suited for those who would enjoy a tapas-like meal.  Choosing to go with an entrée, my waitress was very knowledgable about the best wines suited for my meal.  A unique Owen Roe Pinot Noir from Oregon accompanied my entrée of choice, four pork bolognese gnocchi ricotta, very well.  The robust red wine flawlessly complimented the bolognese sauce, leaving my taste buds to melt! Cafe Dufrain is easily the best cocktail bar, with exquisit cuisine, in the Tampa Bay area.



Clift Hotel

Clift Hotel

Philippe Starck did a number on San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, transforming it from a nearly century-old Art Deco hotel, to an ultra chic wonderland.  Two glass doors open, amidst classic stone exterior, to a glowing purple entryway.  The sense of scale is striking upon entering, and the soaring lobby contains an eclectic furniture collection with a riot of rich textures and colors.

It’s hard to miss the larger-than-life chair in the center of the lobby, aptly named “Big Arm chair” by Starck himself.  Contrary to belief, guests are encouraged to climb on or crawl under the monumental chair, and revel in the childish design surprise.  The Big Arm chair is juxtopose with Michel Haillard’s intricate Horn Sofa, and a plexiglass and bronze side chair, designed by Starch and developed by Thierry Goux.  At the center of it all lies Salvador Dali’s Leda table, uniting the extraordinary collection of chairs.  Cozy up next to the thirty-five-foot fireplace with a bronze chimney sculpture by Gerard Garouste, or relax in the Crystal Farm’s “Elk Gentleman’s Chair,” a rustic piece that manages to drawl together the lobby’s warm vibes.

The contemporary glamor is alluring, and easily enjoyable while sipping a cocktail at the amber wood bar.  Located just off the main lobby, is a classic Living Room, furnished with large comfortable velvet sofas.  A gallery of formal black and white photographs of plastic toy animals, by renowned artist Jean-Baptiste Mondino, covers the walls.  I walk across the exposed concrete lobby to be kindly greeted by the receptionist, and quickly whisked off to the elevator.

Passing the “Angel Chair”, the only chair remaining from the original Clift lobby, designed in 1918, we enter the elevator, on our way to a Standard, 24.15 sqm, room.  The beautifully appointed room is brightly lit with a custom Venetian Murano glass lamp, and fantastical furnishings, custom-designed by Philippe Starck.  The striking space is complete with a luxurious king size English sycamore bed, accented by velvet, leather chairs.  Simply indulging in the deluxe bathrooms MALIN+GOETZ bath amenities was enough to create a lasting impression.

Home to one of California’s most unique collections of designer furniture, Clift Hotel offers an authentic  boutique atmosphere despite its 300 rooms.  The dream-like composition entices guests to engage in their surroundings, while the monumental scale is the foundation of Clift’s magic.

courtesy of Salt Water Farm

Salt Water Farm

Hands-on cooking classes prior to feasting on the freshest ingredients is a foodie’s extravaganza.  Set it amidst the coast of Maine and it is the ultimate experience!

Salt Water Farm is not your traditional urban cooking school, their kitchen space is designed to closely interact with where the ingredients are born.  Right at your fingertips is a vegetable garden with over 100 seed varieties, a chicken coup that houses 8 laying hens, meat birds, and 4 ducks for fresh eggs.  Three day summer workshops consist of hands-on cooking classes overlooking Penobscot Bay, with just about every ingredient coming from the backyard, aside from olive oil and lemon.  Socialize with fellow classmates while gathering the contents of your recipe, and proudly indulge in everything you have cooked.  Within three days you will be proficient in basic knife skills, baking bread, creating and fostering an edible garden, cocktail making, making pasta from scratch, and much more.

The kitchen is fully equipped with a wood burning brick oven, an open hearth for spit roasting, pastry ovens, a Wolf range top, to turn beginner chefs into pros.  Deep fryers, sausage makers, pasta makers, and an ice cream maker will only help add to your repertoire.  However, it is not the kitchen amenities that set Salt Water Farm aside from traditional cooking classes, but the ambience that owner, Annmarie Ahearn, and manager, Ladleah Dunn create.  With two very different culinary backgrounds, but complementary teaching styles, they both encourage active participation with a “get your hands dirty” approach.  The final result is a group of inspired chefs with a new appreciation for the farm-to-table experience.

Aside from cooking classes, various events take place on the several acre farm throughout the summer.  Chefs from Brooklyn convene for The Maine Event, at which they make cheese, forage for mushrooms, bake pies, slaughter and butcher a chicken, and relish in the summer heat.  Reserve a seat during one of their Full Moon Suppers, an evening beginning with bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, followed by four courses, happening only during a full moon.  Single session cooking classes are also offered, such as Pickles & Preserves, Backyard Burgers, and Wood Fired Oven Pizza, as well as, home brewing sessions.

With an exciting culinary experience complete with rigorous cooking classes, bespoke farm feasts, and an enthusiastic staff, it would be an understatement to call Salt Water Farm a cooking school.




Wythe Hotel

Wythe Hotel

Offering what has yet to be seen in one of the hippest corners of New York City is the newly opened Wythe Hotel.  Some years ago Manhattan dwellers were escaping the ever-increasing rent, and moving into the rundown houses and warehouses, of what was soon to become hipster central.  Partners, Peter Lawrence, Jed Walentas, and Andrew Tarlow, were au courant with the gentrification process taking place in this Brooklyn neighborhood.  The trio invested in turning a 1901 cooperage building into a trendsetting hotel on the waterfront of the East River.  The renovated factory building has what you would expect from a Brooklyn hotel, a grungy industrial look of exposed brick in du jour fashion.  The atmosphere immediately embraces local flavor with a retro bookcase, über chic furniture, and bikes for borrowing.  But the Wythe Hotel offers one thing you can not find in hotels across the river; a postcard view of Manhattan.

The appealing hotel is quietly located, with an entrance that is genuinely amiable.  In the west side of the building are rooms lit by floor to ceiling windows, boasting a picture-perfect view of Manhattan.  The minimalist aesthetics give off a relaxing vibe, and if you are looking for more representation of Brooklyn you will find it in the details.  Local restaurant Marlow & Sons provides mini-bar accoutrements, including a small selection of ice creams, while Marlow Goods provides bathroom towels.  The unique, and intricately designed wallpaper is custom-made by Brooklyn’s own Flavor Paper.

Paying homage to the stunning skyline is the rooftop bar, The Ides.  A mix of brass, iron, marble, and tile mosaic endure, making way for classic cocktails emboldened by the bounty of each season.  Nevertheless, the rooftop bar is not the only plus to the Wythe Hotel, it also boasts a “band room.”  Created on the recommendation of the team behind Brooklyn Bowl music venue who needed a place to put up traveling musicians.  The Band Room’s quasi bunk beds hold six to four guests, respectfully.   Not unexpectedly, the hotel is gradually becoming part of the urban fabric of Brooklyn, and is the perfect blend of hipster chic.


Farmstead exterior

Farmstead Restaurant

Matching world-renowned wines with  tasty foods is an important factor to most visitors of wine country, luckily, eating well comes easily in the Northern California region. Completely aware that delicious food surrounded me at every turn, I went on a mission to seek a truly authentic cuisine, that set itself apart from Napa’s distinguished dining experience.  On a balmy day I came across Long Meadow Ranch Winery, perfectly situated on Napa Valley’s Main Street, and home to the quaint Farmstead Restaurant.  Located in a former nursery barn, Farmstead Restaurant features a truly authentic farm-to-table menu, highlighting organic ingredients at their peak freshness.

Family owned, Ted and Laddie Hall, grow grapes for wine; farm organic artichokes, cardoons and watermelons; raise chickens for eggs; and produce grass-fed beef from 350 heads of cattle.  The Hall family fosters a humble experience aside fancy Napa Valley, and is dedicated to providing wines that compliment their farmhouse cooking.  The food was excellent, but what truly sets Farmstead apart from other top Napa Valley restaurants, is that each ingredient on the plate comes straight from their backyard.   Executive chef Stephen Barber emphasizes a wood-burning element for select dishes, including the simply delectable grilled jumbo artichoke with sauce gribiche and lemon.  While the artichoke was proportioned perfectly for an appetizer, I thoroughly enjoyed the LMR meatballs with caramelized root vegetables and tomato marmalade.  To top it all off, the dishes include estate-produced olive oil, also available to try in their tasting room.

The Hall’s sustainable philosophy is apparent, not only in their cuisine, but also in the interior of their restaurant.  Abandoned redwood framing from the original property has been used as coating for the restaurant’s bar front.  Tree stumps have been used as side tables, and stones from the original foundation shape the outdoor fireplace.  Although it was quite hot the day I arrived, I can only imagine on a chilly fall night, how relaxing it would be to enjoy a glass of wine by their outdoor fireplace.  Vaulted ceilings and a beautifully displayed kitchen only add to the warm ambiance.

It goes without saying that the wine is superb, but Farmstead has found another avenue to set themselves apart.  Instead of a corkage fee, a $2 per bottle fee is collected as a donation to a local charity organization each month.  This modern family farm offers an innovated farm-to-table experience, while sustaining utter chicness.



Farmhouse Inn

Farmhouse Inn

Nestled in the picturesque hills of Sonoma County, between meadows adorn with olive trees, lies the charming Farmhouse Inn.  In 1911 the Bartolomei Family legacy was born through cultivating orchards, vineyards, gardens, and livestock, that resulted with lifetimes of celebrations.  Five generations later, the great-great grandchildren and siblings Joe and Catherine Bartolomei are carrying the family tradition in a new fashion.  The duo set forth Valentine’s Day of 2001 to create an extraordinary Inn, Restaurant and Spa on six gorgeous acres in the Russian River Valley.

Located in the back of the property are the exquisit Barn Luxury Rooms, with vaulted ceilings and skylight windows.  Natural lighting illuminates the all white, spacious rooms, complete with heavenly feather beds and Italian Carrera marble bathrooms.  The heated flooring is a wonderful touch for those chilly summer nights.  The cozy suites offer wood-burning fireplaces that blur the lines between the indoors and out.  Revel in the beauty of mature trees amongst the outdoor fireplace, while relaxing in the Adirondack chairs, or enjoy the charming indoor fireplace while wrapped in plaid throw blankets.

During the evening indulge in Chef Steve Litke’s brilliantly crafted cuisine that rely entirely on what is in season.  The seared rare wild king salmon, straight from the Sonoma coast only thirty minutes away, comes with roasted heirloom beets, coriander emulsion, and micro mustard greens, and is ideal during a Spring time visit.  Juicy heirloom tomatoes and  artisan cheeses are the ultimate Summer ingredients.  Accompany dinner with their authentic vino from Lost and Found Winery, primarily available for guests due to limited production.

While the suites are exceptionally chic and the food is absolutely divine, it is the authentic experience and truly compassionate service that sets Farmhouse Inn apart from other hotels in wine country.  From the bellman’s warm welcome and thoughtfulness of the personal concierges, to the expertise of the Master Sommelier, Geoff Kruth, the Farmhouse Inn creates a distinct and unforgettable experience.  Joe and Cathrine set out to share their unique upbringing with their guests and have done a remarkable job creating a very humble ambiance.  With the Redwoods only a 15 minute drive away, and the Sonoma coast a 30 minute drive away, the location is unbeatable.





courtesy of Poole's Diner

Poole’s Downtown Diner

Hidden in downtown Raleigh is a charming retro-chic diner with a lot of history.  Poole’s began as Poole’s Pie Shop in 1945 with the moto “Life is short, eat dessert first.”  While the Winston Churchill saying is still taken seriously, the modern day diner has a new motto, “If you don’t use profanity you will not offend anyone”, and it proudly hangs throughout the narrow restaurant.

North Carolina native, Chef Ashley Christensen, has restored the original diner into a contemporary downtown hot-spot.  The restoration includes the authentic double horseshoe bar and bright red leather booths, with a modern presentation of the menu written on oversized blackboards.  Changing daily, the menu is inspired by the season and availability of locally grown food.  Christensen puts a creative spin on traditional southern food, while carefully executing the made to order dishes.  However, you can always count on pie and mac-and-cheese to be available, and what a flavorbomb they both are! The mac-and-cheese is perfectly crafted and includes a unique twist of brie cheese.  If available, I recommend the devil’d eggs, soft shell crab, and chocolate soufflé.

True to diner fashion, Poole’s is open late, even after the kitchen has closed! Open until 2am, diners can enjoy the exceptional cocktail list, with drinks like Wake County Cooler and Mile High Club.  With a blend of the past and present, Poole’s Diner continues to be the local’s choice, while reinventing the diner experience.  It really had me wondering, is Raleigh the new foodie destination of America?