courtesy of The NoMad Hotel

The NoMad Hotel

The grandeur of The NoMad Hotel, in New York City, is designed by the acclaimed French architect and interior designer, Jacques Garcia.  Inspired by his younger years in Paris, Garcia possesses a truly unique style while creating a timeless interpretation of French elegance.  The turn of the century Beaux-Arts building has been masterfully restored, with interior spaces that are lavishly decorated with chintz, as though it were the new chic.  Original features in the lobby have been restored with elaborate ceiling moldings, mosaic tile floors, and distressed embossed-leather wallpaper.

With unparalleled service the clientele had a bold presence during our stay.  From the warm welcome received in the lobby to the cocktails ordered in the Library, service was impeccable.  My weekend in the Atelier room was accompanied by exclusive Argan bath amenities by Côté Bastide, custom linens, bedding, and bathrobes by Sferra and Frette, and my favorite, a mahogany writing desk!  Reclaimed maple flooring covers each beautiful room with vintage Heriz rugs and a curated art program covers the white walls.  Dimmers in the light switches for guests to set the mood, are just another touch to the glamourous European rooms.

Located North of Madison Square Park and bordered by the iconic Flatiron Building district, the NoMad is centrally located for easy access to all the best dining and shopping hotspots.   But the glass-roofed atrium, originally an interior courtyard, may entice you to stay with award winning chef, Daniel Humm’s, cooking aromas.

zafra

Zafra

In the heart of Frank Sinatra’s hometown sits the charming Zafra, the first restaurant owned by Cucharamama owner, Maricel Presilla.  The Cuban expression “making a zafra”, which means harvesting sugar cane, is represented with an authentic sugar cane juicer behind the bar.  During Presilla’s opening her father gaver her a beautiful mural, now hanging in the dining area, depicting the sugar cane harvest, for good luck.  And good luck it has brought! This gem, in Hoboken, New Jersey, had me feeling as though I was seated in the kitchen of a Latin American home.

The result of Presilla’s persistant cooking from scratch is bona fide Latin American tapas.  Dishes originate from Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Ecuador, Chile, Guatemala and Brazil, but the core of Zafra’s menu if Cuban.  For a more relaxed atmosphere Zafra is BYOB, so I recommend bringing in a bottle of red wine, for the waitstaff will mix and serve Sangria at a small charge!  Tapas to my liking included, Empanadillas con Pebre, crisp empanadas filled with beef picadillo and spicy chilean cilantro sauce; Croqueticas de Jamón, cuban ham croquettes with lulu sauce; and Chrizo Encebollado, sauttéed chorizo with onions and green olives.  At an unbeatable price you can’t go wrong ordering an assortment of tapas!

 

Winvian Exterior

Winvian Resort

Tucked away on 113 acres sits one of Connecticut’s most prestigious resorts.  Winvian resort, built in the 1770s, was named by Winthrop, a founding member of Merrill Lynch, and Vivian Smith as a nod to their first names.  A wealthy couple from New York, the Smiths escaped city life to the hills of Litchfield whenever possible.  Part of the Smith family, Maggie and her daughter Heather, a Managing Director, restored the Seth Bird House, which serves as an historic farmhouse and centerpiece of the Winvian Resort today.

Scattered amidst the property is a collection of eighteen themed cottages suited with every bit of comfort one could ask for during a New England vacation.  Beaver lodge, stable, and a tree house 35 feet off the ground are just a few of the cottages designed by fifteen very imaginative architects.  However, the helicopter cottage includes a restored 1968 Sikorsky Sea King Pelican, and is by far the most thrilling.  But not to worry, the staff is extremely attentive and offers rides around the property or visitors can hop on a bike that comes with each cottage.

Each cottage is equipped with a sitting area and wood-burning fireplace to inspire some serious R&R, and the fully stocked minibar is just one of the many bonuses.  Leave your exclusive nest dressed to the nines and you are sure to fit in.  Head to the restaurant for meals served by chef Chris Eddy, trained under the acclaimed Boulud/Ducasse, featuring the seasons best ingredients.  Winvian’s wine choices are carefully selected and inspired me to try some of the finest vintages.   There is no need to be fooled by the exclusivity, Winvian is far from stuffy.

 

Cucharama Oven

Cucharamama

If you are looking for a delectable meal off the beaten path look no further than Cucharamama.  Located just outside of Manhattan, this one-of-a-kind restaurant had me feeling the essence of Latin America.  Translated as “mother spoon”, hinted by the big spoon that serves as a door handle, Cucharamama’s ambience is strikingly warm as you enter.  The dim lighting and authentic decor are accompanied by an adobe oven, in which empanadas of beef, roast suckling pig, lamb, breads, or pizzas are infused with wood burning aromas

Unlike most restaurants in the Hoboken area, Cucharamama offers an extensive wine and cocktail list, including Sangria! I recommend accompanying any choice of the unique wines from South America and Spain with two appetizers; White bean and tomato cream soup with cabrales cheese and onion empanaditas from the wood-burning oven, and octopus in peruvian black olive and panda pepper sauce.  For a main dish go for the Latin cassoulet of white beans, sausages, smoked bacon, and kale braised slowly in the wood-burning oven, spicy sauce and rice, only available Friday and Saturdays.  For larger parties, Cucharamama will roast whole suckling pigs, available with a five-day notice.

Maricel Presilla chef and co-owner leaves no authentic flavor behind, and is an artisan in Latin American influenced cuisine.  Visit her restaurant just a ten minute train or ferry ride from Manhattan at 233 Clinton Street in Hoboken, NJ.

Villa D' Citta

Villa D’ Citta

Villa D’ Citta, a beautiful and historic bed and breakfast, sits blocks from Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The windy city’s premier luxury guesthouse, renovated in 2008 and built in 1887, is quaint and secluded with a variety of capacious rooms and suites. Rooms range from the Euro Room that offers a queen sized bed with two rooftop sky windows, to the Grand Tuscan 1000 square foot suite that offers a full master bath, a boarding room, an over-sized king canopy bed, fire place, and a private walk out terrace. While these rooms and suites are well appointed, the Euro Room unfortunately does not provide guests with their own bathroom. The Florencia suite provides a private bath, but down the shared hallway. For the utmost luxury with a private bath included, choose from the Grand Tuscan suite or Venetian Suite. In addition to a private bath, these suites offer a private terrace and entrance, garage parking, and walk out access to spa and sun deck.

The classic, grey-stone, tree-covered mansion is situated perfectly to receive ample sunlight on their spacious outdoor deck. During chilly nights, relax in the hot tub or enjoy homemade quiche and cookies from the fully equipped gourmet kitchen. The gracious B&B staff provided do-it-yourself breakfast necessities, from waffle mix to eggs and bacon. The staff was also more than helpful in recommending local activities. Head to this windy city gem with the entire family, or book a room when in town for business. With advance notice, the entire mansion can be rented out for groups, an ideal setting for a chic bachelor or bachelorette party. While urban B&B’s can be quite different from suburban counterparts, Villa D’ Citta offers unparalleled comfort in the heart of Chicago.

Graffiti

Graffiti

Nestled in the East Village of New York City is the compact Graffiti Food & Wine Bar.  This hidden gem, run by former Jean Georges pastry chef Jehangir Mehta, has an eclectic offering of colorful dishes.  While some restaurants in the East Village tend to be compact, Graffiti’s bold furniture makes the space tinier than usual.  Chandeliers dangle above the few tables, situated next to exposed brick, in the miniature space.  The menu is intended to surprise, with conflicting flavors and textures unexpectedly working perfectly together.  The zucchini hummus pizza on a pastry crust was delectable and the Graffiti burger was perfectly cooked.  My hesitations on the various mixed flavors kicked into high gear as we looked at the dessert menu.  Strawberries pepper ice cream was not on my radar until the wait staff recommended it, and what an outstanding choice it was.   While the cramped space may have you sharing a table with strangers the unique cuisine is guaranteed to make up for it.

Hotel San Jose

Hotel San José

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but I beg to differ; Hotel San José is flawlessly boutique.  Located right on South Congress in Austin, Texas, this ultra-hip boutique hotel keeps hospitality simple and authentic.  Built in 1939 as an ‘ultra-modern motor court’, the stucco walls were turned into a hotel in the heart of a hipster neighborhood.  The vine covered entrance welcomes me to the bona fide Austin hotel, with cactus lining the building.  Facing the road is a wall covered in stainless steel, that reads: Hotel San José, making it obvious that I have arrived.

With the utmost sincerity, the staff brings my bags to the beautifully arranged Grand Standard room.  When booking a room I would suggest making sure that you are equipped with a private bath, and located away from the street view as to avoid any traffic noise.  The Grand Standard room is simple with sophistication, as the bed sits low to the ground with clean linens and plenty of lush pillows.   The hotel amenities are wonderful, but the simplicity of the room makes their advertising strategy quite obvious; flip flops, robes, and even our soap had price tags on it, which is not a very welcoming or chic touch, to say the least.

The dimly lit landscape of the Hotel San José is a subtle and chic alternative to the bright and iconic Austin nightlife, located only blocks away. The hotel has an outdoor patio, a perfect place for enjoying a glass of beer or wine, but there are no mixed drinks available.  I recommend the ‘Michelada,’ a homemade Mexican cerveza that even the locals will come to the Hotel San José to enjoy. Sit amongst the overgrown vines while at the pool, but do not expect too many lounge chairs as retro butterfly chairs are the common theme at Hotel San José.  Hotel San José is wonderful if you’re looking for a change of pace while in Austin, Texas.

Trio an American Bistro

Trio, an American Bistro

Located off the town square of Jackson, Wyoming, the modern American bistro, Trio, is a family friendly restaurant, popular with both locals and tourists. The dining room is decorated in simple chic style with clean wood tables filling the floor space and lining the walls.  Enjoy a cocktail at the bar, facing the wood-fired oven, or choose from the innovative menu designed by two local chefs.  With an attentive wait staff you will be sure to pair the perfect wine with the perfect meal.  I suggest the Prince Edward Island mussels in white wine sauce, and seared Maine diver scallops with ginger shitake tempura roll as starters, or the perfectly cooked medium rare Hawaiian Ono as a main dish.  I accompanied the unique seafood dishes with two different Albarino’s, both from Rias Biaxas, Spain.  With a comfortable atmosphere this contemporary bistro is a wonderful balance between small town friendly and city chic.

Images courtesy of The Rusty Parrot Lodge

The Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa

The Rusty Parrot Lodge, in the town of Jackson, Wyoming, is a true gem, both because of their luxury hospitality and their spectacular backdrop of the Grand Tetons.  This family-run establishment stays true to their claim of catering to the traveler and not just the tourist, as I found a handwritten card with fresh fruit welcoming me to my room when I arrived.  The lodge has 30 spacious rooms decorated in true Wyoming style, with handcrafted wooden beds and plush linens.

The bathrooms are equipped with a jetted tub, authentic L’Occitane bath amenities, and soft terry robes. The lavish robes are perfect for gallivanting to the outdoor hot tub, however, I found an unbearable amount of chemicals one evening that left a film of chlorine on my skin.  The staff was quick to shut down the hot tub and fix the issue, but I would recommend proceeding with caution.

Their impeccable attention to detail was shown as we returned to our room each night to find a unique western poem and home-made candies placed on our pillow.  The dry Wyoming air may bother some travelers, but conveniently located in every closest is a humidifier, which help travelers sleep comfortably.

Every staff member proved to be extremely valuable and experienced, with great recommendations on local favorites, from where to eat and grab cocktails, to where to snowmobile and sight-see.  The hotel restaurant, Wild Sage, exceeded any local dining experience that I had.  Chef Matt Love’s exquisite Farm Fresh Scrambled Eggs with boursin cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach for breakfast, and House-Made Cavatelli Pasta with meyer lemon butter, grape tomatoes, and fresh herbs and pecorino romano for dinner, were both outstanding.  Lastly, indulge in a spa treatment after a long day of skiing or hiking at The Body Sage Spa, appropriately located on the first floor of the lodge.  Wait in your room and they will stop by to get you at the time of your appointment, or if you wish to receive a treatment in your own room they are happy to accommodate you there.  This world class lodge and spa is perfect for any chic traveler, year round.

Twenty Five Lusk

Twenty Five Lusk

Nestled in an alleyway in San Francisco’s SOMA district, Twenty Five Lusk is a beautiful mixture of old and new.  Formerly a meat-packing and smokehouse facility back in the early 1900’s, the two story brick building has been transformed into a rustic, yet elegant restaurant and lounge. The sexy ambiance is complimented by the polished steel fireplaces that hang above the lounge tables. Original brick and wooden beams accompany the concrete and glass that separate the kitchen and dining areas.  Perfectly chic decor had my hopes sky high for delicious food.  I began with a Lusk Toddy from their delectable cocktail list; a superb blend of Brandy, Benedictine, lemon, cinnamon, star anise, and clove.  A smiling and attentive waiter took my order of lemon parsnip basque with basil white truffle oil to start, and an entree of grilled McFarland trout, bok choy, artichokes, and sea beans.  While the cocktail and appetizer were exquisite, I was hoping for a more tasteful trout.  While the trout was a bit undercooked and bland for my liking, I thoroughly enjoyed everything else, including the free sparkling water.  With sexy ambiance and fantastic cocktails, I would surely return to Twenty Five Lusk for another round of chic drinks with friends.