Post4

R BlockBoutique Boomtown

The Westin? Love it. The Intercontinental? That’s a “10.” The Ritz-Carlton? There must always be a Ritz-Carlton.

And yet, if a critique is to be had, it is this: If you’ve been to one Westin/Intercontinental/Ritz-Carlton, you’ve been to them all. Which, if you’ve been to one, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it allows for only a very borderline exposure to the flavor and flair of the locale you are in.

Read more »

Post4

R BlockGreetings From Kentucky

Our Tips for Perfecting the Mint Julep and Drinking It in Style

Looking to throw a derby party with mint juleps that people will actually remember? We have simple advice–go big or go home. Don’t buy any old whiskey, don’t cut corners on the ingredients and don’t serve Kentucky’s favorite cocktail in solo cups. These tweaks to your usual routine will have your guests looking forward to next year’s shindig.

Read more »

Post4

R BlockIn With the Old

Looking for an alternative investment? Antiques can be some of the safest. 

The erratic volatility in today’s markets could make any trader, however skilled, want to throw up his hands, cut his losses and toss his remaining money into a commode. A commode, of course, being a chest of drawers from France, circa 1750.

Read more »

Post4

R BlockKing of Trains

James Bond had it shaken – not stirred – on it, Wilhelmina Murray owes her immortal soul to it, and Mr. Rachett got whacked in it. It’s the Orient Express, synonymous with romance and exoticism (and intrigue and mystery) and the unsung hero of “From Russia with Love,”Dracula,” and “Murder on the Orient Express.” And yes, it still runs. Read more »

Post4

R BlockBitter Beauties

No, not a room full of your exes – bitters are Weapon X of many a bartender, and the unsung hero of many a classic cocktail. “Think of bitters as the spice rack behind the bar,” says Joe Fee, co-owner of the four-generations-old bitters producer Fee Brothers.

Read more »

 

The pod people are coming. And they have their own hotels.

 

When he first introduced the property in the cutthroat hotel-scape of New York five years ago, Richard Born of BD Hotels went against convention — hard. While other debuting spaces one-upped each other with ever more rarified levels of luxury and exclusivity, the Pod 51, at 230 East 51 Street in Manhattan’s Midtown East section, shot for the modest-of-means hipster crowd. The rooms were small. The showers were communal. The starting price was $119 a night.

 

The success was immediate.

 

And, riding the wave of that success, this month witnesses the Pod becoming a chain. Using Pod power to reincarnate the old Allerton House at 145 East 39 Street as the new Pod 39, says Born: “This is a rare instance where a hotel genre has developed organically. When we opened the first Pod, we found it attracted a very particular kind of person: Individuals who thrive on travel and are looking for a hotel that enhances their exploration of a place. For them, the communal experience in the hotel’s public space is vital, being plugged-in is essential, and terrific style at an affordable price is expected.”

 

Translated, Pod people reveled themselves to be all about form and function, but frills? Not so much. And at either property, stepping into your room, whether it be the Single Pod, Double Pod, Queen Pod, Bunk Pod — it’s just what you think it is — or one of the Odd Pods (a townhouse studio-type space or a room with two double beds, depending on which hotel), is to step into an environment as efficient as your college dorm room but without the cut-rate color scheme and unflattering fluorescent lighting.

 

To some, to have the moniker “pod” brings to mind those vaguely unsettling honeycomb hotels in Japan, but with the Pod 39, Born and his team created an environment as welcoming as it is efficient. Of the 366 rooms, there are 57 singles, 83 bunks, 88 doubles, 137 queen-sized, and one double bunk, and the starting price remains a ridiculously-cheap-for-New-York $119 a night. Into each room designer Vanessa Guildford integrated bedside media hubs with a full range of ports allowing guests to connect to the room, view personal photos, videos and entertainment on wall-mounted flat-screen TVs. WiFi is free. But while the tech is 2012, the design, like that of the Pod 51, is decidedly a pared-down mid-century mod: the light fixtures are a classic design from Leucos, the calendar wall clocks are inspired by the concourse displays and next train indicators. (Unlike its predecessor, and in a possible relief to the modest among us, the Pod 39 features private bathrooms in every room.)

 

Pod 39 Hotel NYC

 

While Pod 39 stays close the DNA of Pod 51, the 17-floor Allerton House, built in 1918 and whose brochure described it as having “quiet, refined, club-like homes that provided socially respectable, economical housing for hard-working, refined, ambitious young men and women,” provided Born with more funky finishes than those at the original space. The vast ground-floor lobby is reconfigured to create distinct public spaces while promoting a natural flow from one to another. After passing through a vibrant red-tiled vestibule, guests enter a high space with a “window box” reception desk, a coffee bar, and a Pod-particular feature: A “screening wall” where guest photos and videos are projected around the clock. The original Gentlemen’s Sitting Room upholds its illustrious heritage by remaining proudly all-purpose: Part restaurant-lounge, part library, part workspace and part communal center of the Pod 39 social experience as a whole. The terra cotta floors and enormous east fireplace remain intact; the ceiling soars.

 

The rooftop setting is styled into the ultimate under-the-stars shmoozing zone. In keeping with the building’s ornate Romanesque architecture, the two-story “cloister” is framed with brick arches and terra cotta columns. New York icons rise in in every direction: East to the river, south to the lower-Manhattan skyline, southwest to the nearby Empire State building, and north to the even closer Chrysler building.

 

“The Pod is like no other hotel brand I know,” says Born. “From the moment we opened five years ago, we attracted a self-selecting community of individuals who really relish travel and the social experience around it. We have always looked to them to determine how to evolve. With Pod 39, we’re building upon all of that knowledge. It’s been an exciting process because it feels like we’re capturing the essence of travel, which is discovery.”

Post4

R BlockGin Is In

It may have been invented by a 17th century Dutchman, but today there is no more an oh-so-Anglo spirit than gin. With its unmistakable notes and bouquet of juniper, gin, as one of the “five clears,” makes way into just about every mixed drink in a bartender’s repertoire. Read more »

Post4

R BlockBest Places To Watch a Game in NYC

5 Classy Sports Bars to Catch a Game in New York City

New York is never short of professional sports team to watch on TV, with more professional sports teams (Giants, Jets, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, Islanders, Knicks, Nets) than any other city. Add to that major golf and tennis tournaments, College Football, College Basketball, World Cup soccer, The Olympics, boxing and virtually any other sporting event with a Neilson rating above 1 and you’ll likely find it at any decent New York City sports bar.      Read more »

Post4

R BlockWhiskies A Go-Go

What a difference an “e” makes. In 2008, New York Times writer Eric Asimov set off thunderbolts when he did up an otherwise non-confrontational whiskey review. His most dire of offenses? He used the American spelling of the spirit: w-h-i-s-k-e-y. And nothing gets a thistle up a Scotman’s kilt like that “e.” Read more »

Post4

R BlockThe Musts of the Modern Man

What makes the modern man; what are the constituent parts? The equation, if you will. It can be a heavily loaded question and, of course, the ideal changes with the idealist, but there have to be a few fundamental basics. Matt Moore, singer-songwriter, entrepreneur and author of “Have Her Over for Dinner: A Gentleman’s Guide to Classic, Simple Meals“, and the Double R. Ranch take on the weighty matter of what it takes to be a modern, post-Millennial man. The answers may be something of a surprise Read more »

 

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. At Mandarin Oriental, New York, they don’t need a second chance.

 

When the elevator opens onto the 35th floor lobby, you will genuinely feel as though your head is in the clouds. There may be no better view of the legendary Manhattan skyline anywhere in New York. With floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s the perfect showcase for views of all the skyscrapers, plus Central Park and the Hudson River.

 

If you can manage to tear yourself from the view, be sure and take a look up to the ceiling in the lobby, which should be on the list of amazing attractions: a massive, spectacular chandelier made from Waterford Crystal.

 

Situated in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, which interestingly enough is the point where all distances to and from Manhattan are measured, Mandarin Oriental, New York is literally at the center of it all. The modern Asian-influenced décor resonates throughout the hotel, and the impeccable service never disappoints.

 

Once you’re done giving your eyes a workout it will be time for the rest of your body, so explore the state-of-the art workout facility and 75-foot lap pool, then rejuvenate and feel as if you are floating in midair at the bi-level spa, featuring a VIP Spa Suite for two, a Thai-yoga room, and holistic treatments with the freshest ingredients.

 

While New York is a Mecca of fine cuisine, you won’t be but an elevator ride away from the outstanding Asiate, offering contemporary, Asian-influenced gourmet cuisine. Then, walk off your dinner with a stop in Central Park, a green oasis located directly across the street, or take an easy stroll to Broadway and catch a show.

 

Whether you are an out-of-town guest or just seeking a spectacular getaway in your own backyard, with a combination of award-winning service, decadent luxury and the ideal city location in the world’s most exciting city, Mandarin Oriental, New York is an absolute must.

 

Belles and beaus are readying their bells and bows for the premier event of the South: the Kentucky Derby. And amid the horses and hoop skirts, that oh-so-Southern cocktail, the mint julep itself, is poised to make its annual gallop through the world consciousness. Read more »

 

Forget the too-sweet daiquiris, piña coladas and cuba libres that you associate with a certain type of beach vacation. Dominican export Brugal makes dry, sophisticated rums that deserve a lighter touch – and a second look.

 

Brugal was founded in 1888 by Andrés Brugal Montaner, and the family remains heavily involved to this day, with the company’s chairman and most of its board members being comprised of descendants of Don Andrés. The brand grew through the 20th century, and, thanks to distribution in the United States, Canada and Europe, Brugal is currently a major Caribbean export.

 

For an experience that is indeed miles away from the traditional (for better or worse) rum cocktail, I recommend Brugal 1888. Named for the year the company started, this dry spirit (new for 2012) is aged in wood casks for a distinctive flavor. Rum-o-philes recommend drinking this one as you would a whisky or Scotch: Neat or on the rocks so that its delicate flavors can unfold on the palate. Most well-stocked bars have a good bottle of single malt but how many have a good bottle of rum? We’re adding this to our list for out-of-the-box bar gift.

 

For a refreshing summer drink, on or off the beach, few quaffs beat the minty mojito. We made ours using Brugal Blanco Especial and their proprietary recipe (see below). Rather than soda, the recipe calls for ginger ale, not a bad idea at all considering the natural rapport of rum and ginger in a Dark & Stormy. Too balance out the extra sweetness from the ginger ale we recommend only one tablespoon of simple syrup as opposed to the standard two – and you can easily forego the simple syrup all together if you wish. 

 

Gin has its stalwart supporters, whisky its devoted diehards – even tequila has an outspoken contingent. We think it’s time to take another look at rum. As far as we’re concerned, any spirit that counted serious drinkers like Hemingway among its fans can’t be written off that easily. Here are a few cocktail recipes designed to change your opinion of the sugar-cane derived drink:

 

Brugal Mojito

 

1 ½ oz. Brugal Blanco Especial Rum

8 to 10 Fresh Mint Leaves

Half a Lime

1 Tbsp. Simple Syrup

Ginger Ale

 

Using a muddler or spoon, crush mint leaves and squeeze lime in a tall glass. Cover with simple syrup and fill glass with ice. Add rum. Fill glass with ginger ale. Mix all ingredients. Garnish with mint.

 

Hemingway Daiquiri

 

2 oz. Brugal Blanco Especial Rum

¾ oz. Fresh Lime Juice

½ oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice

½ oz. Maraschino liqueur

 

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with lime. 

ESPOLON,_blanco_and_reposado

 

OK, we admit it: A skeleton on a bottle usually makes us think “cyanide” before it does “award-winning tequila,” but in the case of Espolón Blanco and Reposado Tequilas, it’s all part of the plan. Read more »

 

It is such a mainstay we almost no longer notice it, but every kitchen needs one: a blender. It slices! It dices! It comes in thousands of versions with thousands of prices! Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping are excellent resources to whittle down the herd, but only to a point. Read more »

 

It is the cradle of humanity. There’s a little bit of Africa in all of us. And she’s calling us home.

 

From the legendary vistas of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, to the crystalline heights of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the deep green depths of her equatorial rainforests, “Africa’s landscapes are immensely varied,” says Dennis Pinto, “populated by animals in the thousands and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet anywhere.”

 

The managing director for Micato Safaris, Pinto is part of a 40-year family tradition of creating one-of-a-kind excursions across Africa’s storied landscapes. Named “World’s Best Tour Operator and Safari Outfitter” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for an eighth time, Micato began in 1966 in Kenya.

 

“My parents, Felix and Jane Pinto, began Micato Safaris because they wanted to share ‘their’ Kenya with travelers,” explains Pinto. “For us though, Micato is more than just a business; it’s a labor of love.”

 

As the world’s premier luxury (and nothing but luxury) safari coordinator, Micato partners with many of the most exclusive properties on the continent – the Serengeti Migration Camp, Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp, and Ngorongoro Crater Lodge among them – to craft a start-to-finish extravaganza of African splendor blended with unmatched service. Groups, limited to 12-14 guests, travel in air-conditioned Mercedes Viannos, leather-upholstered Land Rovers and chartered bush planes to minimize travel time between destinations. Micato even provides each guest with a 24/7 personal concierge to attend to any unforeseen needs, and, adds Pinto, “We employ tribesmen and women as local ambassadors who spend time with travelers, sharing insights about their traditions and day-to-day lives.

 

 

 

“We also have special connections to people who are shaping today’s Africa and can arrange special experiences for our guests depending on their interests,” Pinto continues. “We can arrange for a guest to go on an archeological dig with famed paleontologist Louise Leakey, or have a private audience with Dame Daphne Sheldrick, renowned for her work saving orphaned elephants. We spend significant one-on-one time with travelers, tailoring the perfect safari.”

 

And Micato isn’t above throwing in the odd perk, like the man who found out his Safari Director had arranged a surprise birthday party (favorite ice cream included), or the opera enthusiasts who found one of Cape Town’s leading opera talents at their table during a home-hosted dinner in the city.

 

This is how you become number one for the eighth time.

 

Operating in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique, Micato recommends visiting in Africa’s dry season, when the herds are most likely on the move: July – October for eastern Africa, April – October for southern regions. With it being the most popular season, and not just for Micato, it is recommended you book well in advance. However, notes Pinto, Africa and Micato provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences year-round.

 

 

 

Africa calls. Her adventures beckon. For as geographer George Kimble said, “The darkest thing about Africa is our ignorance of it.”

 

To book a Micato Safari, visit www.micato.com; or call 1-800-MICATO-1