The Best of Las Vegas—Old and New

When gangster Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo in 1946, it was the first large-scale casino-hotel project on a quiet stretch of Nevada desert. Today, Las Vegas is anything but quiet, with massive casino-hotels stationed like giant soldiers on the world-famous Strip. Continue reading

Hotel For The Holidays

From rooftop terraces transformed into enchanting winter wonderlands to charming, artisan markets selling handcrafted novelties and gifts, hotels from Vancouver to London are pulling out all the stops to offer one-of-a-kind holiday pop-ups, festive events and even a few deals to guests and locals alike this winter. Here are some of the most festive (and luxurious) holiday experiences in the US, Canada and Europe.  Continue reading

New York’s Pierre Hotel – A Jewel on Central Park

With its newly renovated Rotunda Room, reimagined Perrine restaurant, long history and international appeal, the iconic Pierre Hotel is the perfect place to stay if visiting New York City this fall 

The U.S. Open is an international event, with an international crowd, played in an international city. If you’re in New York over the next few weeks to watch some tennis or you live in New York and enjoy a little people watching and the patronage of this great tennis event – the Pierre Hotel is a must visit place. Continue reading

Master a Mole and More in the City Travel + Leisure Rated #1 in the World

San Miguel de Allende, a rather little known colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands mostly known for its baroque Spanish architecture, just recently received the prestigious accolade of #1 city in the world by Travel + Leisure. So what is so special about San Miguel de Allende? T+L cites the authenticity, cost effectiveness and great restaurants among the many draws, all while—according to one reader—“maintaining its Mexican heritage, culture and charm.”

Here’s a quick review of San Miguel de Allende; where to stay, what to do and, according to our own John Newton, why a certain cooking school might be the biggest attraction of all.

 

Casa de Sierra Nevada

 

The grand dame of San Miguel de Allende, Casa de Sierra Nevada is a cluster of historic buildings at the centre of the city. With cool, leafy gardens, stone arches and traditional wooden doors surrounding pretty courtyards lit by lanterns at night, this charming luxury hotel offers the ultimate Mexican experience. While the interior, like many San Miguel hotels, is all about carved headboards and bathrooms in traditional blue-and-white Talavera tiles, their are also more contemporary options that shake up this hill town.

 

Hotel Matilda

 

The 32-room Hotel Matilda celebrates the arts scene of San Miguel with a gallery like atmosphere that is focused on the works of three emerging Mexican artists: Aldo Chaparro, Nacho Rodriguez Bach, and Bosco Sodi. Photographs by Mexico City’s Eduardo Zaylan hang on the walls of the guest rooms. Don’t worry, however: the scene is chic and celebratory, not studious, from the hopping Bar Matilda to the 4,700-square-foot spa. In celebration of its opening, all rooms are $195 per night, including breakfast, through the end of the year.

 

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

 

Meanwhile, newcomer, luxury boutique hotel Rosewood San Miguel de Allende reflects the artistic traditions of an enchanting historic town, while still providing the amenities you would expect from the Rosewood brand. Surrounded by natural beauty and history, Rosewood San Miguel de Allende is ideally placed for experiencing this fascinating colonial town. Guests are invited to explore local vibrant fiestas or the town’s colorful streets lined with churches, gardens and galleries at their own pace. Guests can appreciate the art of craftsmanship at galleries such as Fábrica La Aurora to discover stonework, papier maché and hand-blown glass masterpieces.

 

Wine Cellar at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

 

Bathroom at Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

 

If you have ever wanted to master a mole or be able to prepare pitchers of agua fresca for your next holiday party, the chefs at the Sazón Cooking School at Casa de Sierra Nevada can guide you through the process.

Students of the day-long Market Tour and Class program begin with a guided visit to the markets of San Miguel de Allende, a postcard perfect 500-year-old colonial town outside Mexico City. The hotel’s chef, the charismatic and engaging Paco Cardenas (who, thankfully, speaks flawless English) explains the differences between habaneros, poblanos, and other chiles of the Mexican kitchen as well as basic shopping Spanish with opportunities to sample cheeses and other ingredients.

Students then return to the Sazón school, located in an 18th-century home near the hotel, and don their aprons. Hands-on lessons in preparing traditional Mexican dishes follow, with the results consumed at the end of class. During our visit, the favorite dish of most students was a nopal salad, made from the cactus plant of the same name, but what is on each class’s menu is determined by the ingredients at their peak of ripeness and available at the market. Other classes (which cost 600 pesos) focus on the country’s regional cuisines and signature dishes.

While classes are open to visitors who aren’t guests at the hotel, a stay at Casa de Sierra Nevada is a highlight of any visit to San Miguel. The Orient-Express property has 15 rooms and 22 suites, decorated with Spanish colonial–inspired furnishings, and distributed among four different colonial mansions and the larger Casa del Parque, a few minutes walk from the hotel. If you pay a month in advance and stay at least two nights, you’ll receive a 10 percent discount on any stay at Casa de Sierra Nevada, including the Sazón Culinary Package, which includes one market tour and one cooking class.

Not to be outdone Rosewood San Miguel de Allende has launched it’s own cooking school. At Los Pirules, a new, immersive outdoor cooking venue overlooking the city of San Miguel de Allende, guests use local Manchego cheese, fresh salsa and herbs picked from the hotel’s garden to create a sizzling queso fundido prepared in a traditional, heated stone bowl or molcajete, a technique that can be traced back to the Aztecs.

While San Miguel de Allende might have something for every type of traveler we’re pretty sure foodies—especially traditional Mexican food aficionados—will enjoy themselves thoroughly in this quaint, authentic and now famous, Mexican city in Mexico’s rustic central highlands.

Medicinal Margaritas

Who says margaritas have to be calorie-laden affairs that do nothing more than get you buzzed while shooting your blood sugar to the moon. From the heart-healthy unsaturated fats found in avocados to the ancient healing properties of traditional Mexican ingredients such as xoconoxtle cactus fruit and damiana herb, superfoods are finding their way into cocktail shakers of mixologists around the world. Continue reading

Best Hotel Holiday Pop Ups

From rooftop terraces transformed into enchanting winter wonderlands to charming, artisan markets selling handcrafted novelties and gifts, hotels from Vancouver to London are pulling out all the stops to offer one-of-a-kind holiday pop-ups to guests and locals alike this winter. Here are the most festive holiday pop-up experiences at luxury hotels around the world. Continue reading

Blue Curaçao

It is said that to go to Ireland is to experience every shade of green there is. If so, then the Caribbean is the showcase for all things blue. Nestled amid boundless fields of sapphire and cobalt, the island of Curaçao, 171 miles of Old-World-Europe-meets-New-World-palm-trees, is a far-flung fragment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And while no insult is intended, if one hankers for a bit of European style in the month of February, Curaçao probably trumps Amsterdam in anybody’s book…

 

Landing on 2010’s Hot List by Condé Nast Traveler, and Winner of the 2011 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice award for Top 10 hotels for Romance in the Caribbean and Mexico, the Baoase Luxury Resort, ensconced on 300 meters along Curaçao’s starlight-white southern beaches, is a fairyland vantage point for all the blues the Caribbean can conjure. Reflecting the qualities of an elegant island manor house, the villas and suites at Baoase are decorated with refined Asian motifs, providing a relaxing ambiance complete with modern amenities and unrushed tropical serenity.

 

Washed by lush winds and waves and brimming with luxury and attentive staff, the Baoase isn’t about to give guests an easy excuse to leave—here, it is all about kicking back and letting the world go by on puffs of tropical air. Baoase seduces visitors with luxury without slapping them in the face with it. By paying attention to the little details, such as the water trays located at the guest room entrances to wash the sand from your feet before entering your room, the resort need not rely on pomp and circumstance to get its 5-star message across. Surrounded by billowing trees, meandering streams, gem-like pools, waterfalls, and a symphony of island birdsong, visitors are spoiled from the very minute they set foot on the property (literally—a complimentary welcome drink awaits at check-in).

 

Now, it is not to say that the resort’s rooms and lofts are by any means lacking, but for the top-shelf experience, only the villas will do. Featuring it’s own Jacuzzi, private infinity pool and a luxury cave including a pool, in- and outside shower, lounge area, bar, and it’s very own baby beach, the aptly named “Mastervilla” is the crown jewel of the property. With its master bedroom offering panoramic views of Bibi Island, the space has a luxury, walk-in closet, flat screen TV, balcony, and a voluminous bathroom stocked by Gilchrist and Soames with a bath and in- and outdoor showers. The villa can also attach to the Baoase’s Banyan Rooms to let up to eight people delight in view of the sea, pool, and garden.

Terra firma is not the only place from which Baoase casts its spell. Curaçao is one of the top shore diving destinations in the whole of the Caribbean, and a vibrant coral reef located just beyond Baoase’s lagoon awaits. After breakfast on the beach, you can, with your own private scuba diver instructor at Baoase (for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced divers) delve into the wonders of the sea. There is even a mini-submarine to explore deeper seas up to 320 meters. Baoase’s aqueous charms are not limited to the undersea realm, however: Jet skiing, sailing, deep sea fishing, surfing or swimming with dolphins at the Dolphin Academy are all at the ready to enchant. After spending the day with Poseidon, Executive Chef René Klop, whose French-Asian fusion cuisine is something of a local legend, ushers in coral-colored sunsets and nights heavy with floral scents.

 

The Baoase also features in-room “wellbeing service.” In the language of Baoase, wellbeing does not mean a routine spa; rather, it attempts more by providing a comprehensive range of spa services (Couple Massage, Aromatherapy Massage, Hot Stone Massage…) directly on the private room terraces or on the beach to the eternal rhythm of aquamarine waves.

 

For a hemisphere still locked in winter’s grip, trading winter blues for tropical ones is music to our ears.

Less Is More With GoPro’s New Hero4 Session

It’s $400 and has no touch screen or removable battery, yet GoPro’s new Hero4 Session is ideal for active people and here’s why

The new GoPro Hero4 Session is without a doubt a completely new animal—even compared to other GoPros. It’s 50% smaller (in it’s waterproof casing) and 40% lighter than the regular Hero4.  Continue reading

How to Make a Tom Collins and Why It is Often Misunderstood

The Tom Collins is a classic example of a purist cocktail that fell from grace after grocery stores began stocking their shelves several decades ago with the mass produced, heartburn-inducing sour mix. It’s been written about since 1876—Jerry Thomas, widely considered the father of mixology wrote The Bar-Tender’s Guide in 1862. The original recipe was made with gin, lemon juice, sugar and soda water. Remember to mix the gin, lemon juice and sugar (or simple syrup) first, before adding soda water.

 

Ingredients:

2 Ounces Dry Gin

Juice of 1 lemon

1 to 2 teaspoons superfine sugar, or simple syrup*

Soda Water

 

*An authentic Tom Collins should not be too sweet, but if you really need to watch your sugar intake try making it with Truvia – an all-natural, zero calorie sweetener (made from stevia) that is used in brands such as Vitaminwater Zero, Odwalla and Hanson’s Natural Low-Cal Juice.

 

Directions

Pour the gin, sugar and lemon juice into an empty Collins glass and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add ice and finish with an ample amount of soda water—approximately half a glass. Garnish with an orange or lemon slice. Remember to add plenty of soda water. Too little soda water will result in an acidic, sweet, gin-laden drink, which may make you angry and result in heartburn and a hangover the next morning.

 

A slightly different version of the drink, using Old Tom Gin gained popularity around the turn of the century and the recipe still lives on today among those in the know. Our resident cocktail expert, AJ Rathbun weighs in on another style of the age old classic. 

 

AJ’s Take: 

 

 

 

Tom Collins #1:

 

A combination that’s rolled pretty steady in the last century and a quarter (plus another 10 or 15 years), except for one monumental change: for a long while, we were lacking at our drinking-holding fingertips Old Tom gin, a sweetened gin which was the pre-eminent ingredient here, and which lead to the name, Tom Collins. Luckily, in the recent past, a few traditional Old Tom style gins have been released (such as the delicious Hayman’s Old Tom gin). So, today, you have two options (and will see two options when out, depending on the reach of your local). First, you can make it in classic style with an Old Tom gin. Second, you can use a little sweetner (sugar or simple syrup) to make up the difference when using a regular dry gin. Once there were many Collins’ drinks available (including the John Collins, exactly the same as the TC but made using the drier Holland Gin—this might be equated today with a gin such as Bols Genever or any gin saying it’s Jenever), and currently others don’t make the muster roll at most establishments. The formula is a fine one though, so try it at least with other liquors as well as gin: whiskey and brandy add their own nice touches.

 

With a drink that’s lasted as long as the Tom Collins, it’s bound to have shaded into various societies, too. Originally much heavier and more sugary (as were many drinks at the time), it played well in the top hot spots allowing ladies and gentlemen both, and had a hip cache amongst those in the booze know. Before long, as other potent potions came around, and as tastes and styles changed, the Tom Collins shifted its popularity to a more conservative constituency, as it began to be poured more in the middle part of last century by and for those who favored tightly trimmed hair and neatly pressed trousers. Today, it’s had a renaissance of sorts with the young professional type looking to unwind and recharge after a long day at the cubicle.

 

Whoever is drinking it, two things have to be remembered. First, our palate has changed, shifting to a love of drier drinks (and with the lack of Old Tom gins). With that firmly in mind, be careful when sliding in the simple syrup. There’s no need to cause tooth decay while drinking a classic. Secondly, the bubbles here need to be of the energetic variety. Never make a Tom Collins with old club soda, or you’ll fall as flat in the eyes of those consuming the drink as the soda itself. If available, use a soda siphon–if not, buy the club soda as close to constructing the drink as possible, and chill it beforehand. As Jerry Thomas said in 1862 about the Collins, “imbibe while it is lively.”

 

Tom Collins #1

2-1/2 ounces Old Tom gin

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

Chilled club soda

Lemon slice for garnish

 

1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin and lemon juice. Shake well.

 

2. Fill a Collins glass three-quarters full with ice cubes. Strain the mix over the ice. Top off with chilled club soda. Garnish with a lemon slice.

 


A.J. Rathbun is the author of Good Spirits: Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments, and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist (Harvard Common Press, 2007) and other books. All of his books, including the soon-to-be-released Champagne Cocktails and In Their Cups are available at www.amazon.com/ajrathbun