Currently viewing the tag: "travel"

bondstreet

I love London; it always leaves me wanting more. The fashion is next level, the pubs super fun, and the people are genuinely enthusiastic about America and Americans. As a history fan, London does not disappoint and there is always something in view to remind you that Britain is great for a reason. I was there last month to see Eric Clapton’s final night at The Royal Albert Hall and brought an almost empty suitcase that I filled past capacity for my return home, British pound vs. American Dollar conversion rate be damned. Pick your poison fashion fans, or pick them all as I did. Whoops.

MAYFAIR / BOND STREET: HARRODS & SELFRIDGES

HarrodsWant it ultra posh, upscale, and pricey? Heading to Mayfair and Bond Street are musts but be sure to go to Harrods and Selfridges. These London retailers are considered national treasures for a reason. Teeming with shoppers keeping the cash boxes ringing, the conspicuous consumption of the most exclusive brands and logomania makes for excellent people watching and will suck you in as well. I dare you to visit Harrods and not walk out swinging one of their hunter green shopping bags. Sticker shock got you down when in Harrods or Selfridges? Head to the food halls and prepare to be amazed by the cornucopia of culinary choices. Harrods is the more incredible of the two, pretty sure I ruptured an optic nerve trying to take it all in. There is nothing like these food halls in America and nothing like these two very British institutions.

OXFORD CIRCUS

Oxford Circus

Like your fashion fast, served up easy peasy, and budget friendly? Then Oxford Street / Oxford Circus is for you. Try not to go on the weekend when the immense crowds will slow you down. Send your bloke to the pub and wear comfortable shoes and clothes easy to change in and out of, you are going to want to move like a fashion ninja to experience the insane amount of choices. Get your fleek on at the Primark store, which is a playground of must haves at incredibly reasonable prices. I can’t wait for the Primark to open in Downtown Crossing this fall; that’s right Boston we are going to have our own Primark, which will be the first one to open in the USA.  Topshop’s flagship store is like the hot boyfriend you can never really get over because its just so good, why aren’t the Topshops in America this yummy? Given my obsession perhaps it’s for the best.

RIVER ISLAND

river islandRihanna’s favorite River Island exceeded my expectations especially as a source for interesting accessories and custom jewelry, how I wish there were stores stateside. There is a Zara on every other corner yet the mix of merchandise varies slightly by store making it necessary for me to visit each one. Damn you and thank you Zara, European Zaras trump their sister stores in America every time. Even H&M seems to have upped their game offering merchandise I have never seen on this side of the pond. Festival fashion is currently THE theme in all of these stores so rock on fast fashion groupies.

BRICK LANE

Vintage storesMy favorite places to shop in London are the vintage areas and markets. You’ll love it too if you are all about the hunt for the truly unique and original. Leave the tony neighborhoods of the West End and the madness of the main shopping streets and head to gritty Brick Lane for some of the best fashion vintage shopping on the globe. It’s not posh or pretty, but Brick Lane has a great assortment of vintage stores that offer their wares categorized with British military precision. Prices are in the reasonable range and in the individually owned stores you can feel free to haggle a bit. Blitz was the star store; the assortment and quality of their vintage merchandise blew me away. Expertly curated, make sure you visit the basement for their clearance area where I scored some fringed pieces that are totally on trend, leather and furs, and classic capes that I know will be standouts come the fall. Once you’ve made your way down Brick Lane, be sure to hit nearby Spitafields Market where you can find independent purveyors of fashion both vintage and current. It was love at first site for me when I walked in Collectif. This retro rockabilly boutique was all 40’s and 50’s sex symbol with a new age edge stray cat strut that just won’t quit. Shopping making you thirsty and working a Jack The Ripper fascination? Be sure to stop by The Ten Bells for a pint (or two) before heading back to modern day reality.

Greek-Dolmades-recipe-Stuffed-Grape-Leaves1One of the bi-products of the wine-making biz that keeps us busy on weekends in our vineyard in El Penedés, the wine region of Catalunya, is the proliferation of fresh grape leaves on our vines. (Duh!) In May or June, grape growers undertake the labor-intensive process of “leafing” and “suckering” the vines, which means that you remove all of the stems that have no fruit, and you also snap off big leaves that are casting shadows on the baby grape clusters. The leafing also gives the fruit more air and minimizes the possibility of icky mold growth. (“Sin miedo!” our local helper tells us: Snap off the excess growth WITHOUT FEAR!)

Last year, during our first season with the white grapes that are now slowly fermenting into “cava” (Spanish champagne), we were pretty thoroughly focused on getting all of the steps right. This year, I had the wherewithal, with the help of daughter Stassa, to collect a few of the largest grape leaves and tuck them away in a plastic bag for later use, after we recovered from the very hot and sweaty leafing process!

My motive? DOLMADES! I had read up last year on the quickest and easiest way to stuff your own grape leaves, guided by Martha Stewart and a dozen other on-line cooking websites, many of them Greek-oriented. And then I promptly forgot it. So while the leaves were still mostly green and supple, I consulted the Internet once again, and I went for what seemed like a fool-proof and remarkably rapid method of preparing the grape leaves for stuffing: blanch them for a few seconds in boiling water.

It worked pretty well, and the results were tasty if a bit chewy. The stuffing process itself was less laborious than I’d anticipated, and it helps if you can make it into a fun assembly-line process in the kitchen.

Here’s how…

First you go in the vineyard…

vineyard

Filling: I used some leftover risotto

risotto

Steam:

steam

Blanche:

blanche

Stuff:

stuffing

Enjoy!

finished

They came out a little chewy but I’m working on it…

“Kali Orexi!”

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clapton is god originalMy husband David proposed to me during an Eric Clapton song and one of our sons was conceived to a Clapton song. Am I over sharing here? Probably, but I’m not going to tell you which of his songs or which of my sons. I will tell you that Clapton has been our soundtrack from the beginning and although we have seen him many times in the states, seeing him in London at the Royal Albert Hall has long been on our bucket list. Eric was going to celebrate his 70th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his first performance at the Royal Albert by playing there once again. Touted by the press and “sources in the know” that this would be his last concert, we had to be there and if we were going to be there it would have to be the last night of the series.  We weren’t the only Americans to have come in for the concert; many Yanks we met were in London for the same reason. We all had our own Clapton stories and we all shared the same questions: how is he going to sound, what will it be like inside the Royal Albert Hall, and will this be the last time he preforms as a headliner?

clapton on stageWhen Eric took the stage I was immediately struck by how he looked.  He appeared thinner, grayer, and okay I’ll say it…. older. But that thought flew out of my head the second he started to rock, as his guitar playing remains unequaled and his voice sounded strong and right. Is the Royal Albert Hall gorgeous? YES. It’s like being inside a decadent crimson and gold jewelry box with an amazing sound system. Was it all worth it? YES! I prayed to hear “Bell Bottom Blues” or “White Room” but got acoustic “Layla” and “Tears In Heaven” instead, my least favorite songs of the night.  I like my “Layla” in its original version, all glorious angst on a Stratocaster with the haunting instrumental. “Tears” is just too sad and I don’t know how he plays it knowing its genesis, making it the perfect song for this girl to run to the bar.  Overall the set list didn’t seem to disappoint the crowd and hearing “Can’t Find My Way Home” live and in that venue was almost a religious experience for me. Moving quickly from song to song, shifting eras and playing selections from both his solo catalog and magic he created with the band, the concert was a dream that went to fast.

clapton on stage 2One of the many things I enjoy about seeing Clapton live is that he doesn’t really talk to the audience, doesn’t preach his politics, and doesn’t waste your time together yipping when he could be playing.  Eric tells his story thru his music and what he choses to play. He didn’t say much to the crowd but did comment on how grueling the series of concerts have been on him. His closing song “High Time We Went” was also telling and he and his band seemed to linger longer than what you would expect as they took their bows. Was May 23, 2015 Eric Clapton’s last concert as a headliner? Probably.  Is Clapton still God? YES.

It’s not always easy being a vegetarian in Spain. Because I also eat fish and seafood–and I live in Barcelona, which is smack on the sea–it’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible. In Madrid, I would call it impossible. There is a big deli there, for instance, called El Museo del Jamón.  Generally, all over Spain there is a general suspicion of those who do not follow the cult of the slaughtered cow and pig. That small club would include both my husband U.B. and me.

So, we greet with joy the discovery of an extraordinary Spanish dish that is not based on meat. And there is a family of soups whose ingredients have never been near a pig.  The chilled soups are a refreshing thirst-quencher in the parched southern reaches of Spain’s Andalucia, where summer days can be broiling.

GAZPACHO

Everybody knows about gazpacho, the perfect chilled tomato-garlic-and-vegetable first course on a hot day, and in Spain it is as readily available in the local grocery store as orange juice.  My family slugs it down right from the carton if we’re on the road, and it’s one of our daughter Stassa’s favorite after-school snacks.  Still, nothing beats the homemade version, which is not difficult to make in either a blender or a food processor; recipes abound on the Internet.  Crucial to its success is the crunch factor of the accouterments that you add when serving gazpacho at your table:  diced green (or red) pepper and cucumber, little cubes of fresh tomato, and crispy croutons of bread that have been toasted with olive oil.  I like a sprig of rosemary or basil in mine.

 

 

SALMOREJO

Salmorejo from gildedfork.com

Salmorejo from gildedfork.com

The other tomato-based soup that has not found the international fame of its cousin gazpacho is called salmorejo.  A search for the etymology of the word led me nowhere, but it almost certainly has something to do with salt (“sal”) in spite of its being not exceedingly salty.  When I plug the word salmorejo into Google translate, the English translation is…(fanfare): “Gazpacho!”

As far as I can tell (after hundreds of tastings), salmorejo, whose origins are in the Andalucian city of Córdoba, varies from its more famous cousin mostly in the inclusion of a higher proportion of bread amongst its ingredients, which renders the soup a slightly lighter shade of red, and considerably thicker, than your average bowl (or glass) of gazpacho.  The ingredients list is also shorter, focusing on vine-ripened tomatoes, green olive oil, garlic and bread.  It is often garnished with cubes of ham and hard boiled egg.

AJO BLANCO

Ajo Blanco from Mercado Calabajio.

Ajo Blanco from Mercado Calabajio.

An unsung cousin to the red chilled soups is little known outside of Andalusia, and almost completely unheard of outside of Spain.  The secret of the creamy white, refreshingly chilled ajo blanco or “white gazpacho” summer soup seems to be well guarded.

U.B. and I first discovered ajo blanco in the swank restaurant of one of Spain’s most charming paradores, a converted fourteenth-century Moorish castle in Carmona, outside of Seville. Since my lactose-tolerance is not high, I at first shied away from the white soup in spite of U.B.’s swooning response to it. Only after asking the waiter, “Que es esto?” and hearing the list of ingredients, did I dive in and become a life-long fan.

Ajo blanco is more than the sum of its parts. In fact, the ingredients at first seem to be seriously at odds with each other: Bread. Almonds. Olive oil. Grapes. Vinegar. And of course garlic (ajo).

 

Here is a recipe, freely adapted from a version that I found at EPICURIOUS.COM:

Toast several slices of country bread without its crusts and soak in a cup of ice water.

Toast about a dozen sliced almonds in a skillet until golden, then grind them in a processor with one clove of garlic.

Squeeze the bread dry and add it to the almond/garlic mixture, along with half a pound of seedless green grapes.

Process until smooth then put it into a bowl and mix it together with 3 Tbsp. of wine vinegar, a half cup of extra virgin olive oil and two cups of ice water.

Strain it through a sieve, forcing as much bread through as possible. Add salt and cayenne pepper, and chill well, at least one hour.

Serve the soup with freshly toasted croutons and more green seedless grapes, cut in half.  I know it sounds weird, but trust me.

Once while traveling around the south of Spain, we came across a thicker, dip-like version of ajo blanco, which is usually a rather thin soup. Quite a surprise and just as yummy.

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RomeAmong the many pearls of wisdom shared with us as we were packing to leave San Francisco for a six-month stint at the American Academy in Rome a decade ago was this: leave behind that dainty McLaren stroller that your one-year-old has been so happy in, and invest in a jogging stroller.  In fact, the average American toddler vehicle is no match for the ancient stone streets of Rome.  Although little Stassa still had to survive some bone-rattling tours through the Eternal City while hanging onto her bottle for dear life, the sturdy jogging stroller (which we had picked up second-hand before leaving northern California) survived our half-year stay in Rome, and then some.  We subsequently had a ceremony to say goodbye to it in a dumpster on the Greek island of Crete, after it had admirably served its purpose.

Stassa and U.B. touristing in Urbino when she was one-and-a-half.  The other parent is running laps around the inside of this museum!

Stassa and U.B. touristing in Urbino when she was one-and-a-half. The other parent is running laps around the inside of this museum!

One great frustration for us new parents as artists and art historians was having to sacrifice the leisurely strolls through museums that we had cherished in our early years together.  U.B. and I had chosen to raise infant Stassa ourselves, and we didn’t even employ a nanny until we arrived in Rome when she was a year-and-a-half old, and then only for a few hours on alternate mornings.  So usually when we set off to discover Borromini, or Caravaggio, or Bramante, our toddler daughter was with us.  A strategy that worked for us, mostly, was to take along a favorite outdoor-kind-of-toy (Stassa’s was a plastic geodesic kind of ball–a gift from a dear friend in Napa–which didn’t roll very far or bounce at all).  Then, when we set off for a baroque church or an ancient history museum, this was the routine:

PARENT ONE: Entertain junior in the cloister of the church or the piazza in front of the museum, by kicking and tossing the ball back and forth for as long as you can stand it, alternating with a game of peek-a-boo behind the cypress trees, or, if there’s a fountain, play Let’s Get Daddy Wet.  (But not too wet.)

PARENT TWO: Make a mad dash through the galleries or the historic building, making mental or written notes on the highlights to share with Parent One.

When these activities are exhausted, PARENT ONE and PARENT TWO change roles.

A hint that I almost hate to admit to: dash into the gift shop first and quickly review the postcard rack, which inevitably features the “greatest hits” paintings and sculptures on view in the permanent collection galleries, and seek them out first.

This “treasure hunt” strategy has taken a slightly different turn in more recent years since we’re occasionally able to coerce Stassa into spending an hour or so with us inside a museum.  Even for grown-ups, including artistically inclined grown-ups like us, a visit to the Louvre or the Uffizi can seem overwhelming almost from the moment you pass through the entrance.  (If the queues are long enough, it can seem overwhelming BEFORE you go through the front door!)  We have devised some unofficial treasure hunts that are best implemented if your kid has a friend with her to “compete” with.  Recently upon entering the newly re-opened Musée Picasso in Paris, we let Stassa know that her job was to find a goat, a sculpture of a bull’s head, and a painting of Picasso’s son dressed as a harlequin (we might have misguided her on that one).  It kept her somewhat occupied and mostly focused, at least long enough for her parents to enjoy an untroubled hour with the new hanging of the permanent collection in the beautiful Hotel Salé in the Marais, which we had really missed on our last few trips while it was closed for renovations.  At the Louvre, armed with the maps provided at the admissions desk, she and a friend went on a mission devised by their parents to find the route toward five masterpieces: Théodore Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa,” the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo, Jacques-Louis David’s “The Coronation of Napoleon,” and of course, the Mona Lisa, barely visible–from their ten-year-old perspective–over the heads of a zillion visitors taking pictures with their iPhones of a distant portrait behind a couple layers of glass.

THE TREASURE HUNT STRATEGY:

It’s too bad scooters aren’t allowed in the Louvre, as we’ve found our lives radically altered by the fairly modest purchase of three two-wheeled vehicles that we use to zip around the flatter parts of our home city, Barcelona.  Since we live in the Gothic Quarter, where few cars can fit through the narrow stone canyons, the scooter provides a terrific alternative to walking.  We’ve found that by rolling rather than walking, the family can cover a lot more ground before the moaning about when-are-we-gonna-get-there begins.  Local sporting goods stores like the French Decathlon sell adult scooters for as little as 79 euros, a small investment equal to a couple of taxi rides.*

TRAVELING EURO STYLE:

When we do take road trips (and we do!) we’ve been amazed at our daughter’s powers of concentration if an audio book is playing on the car speakers.  Assuming you can pry her iPad away from her, the magic provided by listening to a fictional (or non-fictional) tale that somehow relates to the countryside that you’re traveling through, is immeasurable.  We played “The Little Prince” and some tales from Jules Verne for Stassa on a drive from Spain toward Bordeaux.  And on road trips in the USA, a place that she likes to visit, but doesn’t really relate to culturally, she has delighted in hearing the adventures of Laura, Mary and Baby Carrie in “Little House on the Prairie” (voiced by actress Cherry Jones in the version that we bought on line).  Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley” was less successful; maybe we’ll save that for next time.  We’ve just bought both “The Yearling” and “The Old Man and the Sea” for an upcoming trip to Florida, but we’re not sure that either of us drivers will be able to see to navigate through our tears.  Maybe we’ll just let her watch “The Deathly Hallows” on our way to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World…

Here is a link to Decathlon’s webpage that shows a range of adult scooter prices.

Will S-photoIt’s well known that the French are great dog lovers, and that your pooch is welcome to enter almost any shop or restaurant that you are when you find yourself traveling with Fido in Paris.  But cats?  In a cafe in the tony 3rd arrondissement?  Cat lovers rejoice!  If your family is missing its feline member during your travels, there’s a place in France…

LE CAFE DES CHATS

Le Café des Chats now has two locations in the center of Paris.  The original one–which opened in 2013 in the Marais, a stone’s throw from the Centre Pompidou — proved so popular (reservations are recommended generally, and on weekends, essential) that its owners opened a second kitty emporium last autumn nearby in the 11th arrondissement, near the Place de la Bastille.  Marie-Claire of the Café des Chats told me that the second neighborhood “is very different and attracts yet a wider range of cat lovers.”

The lucky cats are all rescues that are being given another chance at life in an enviable situation.  While the cafe is not itself in the cat adoption business, a portion of its profits go to rescue activities.  “We wanted to show how a cat from a shelter is deserving and capable of affection,” says M-C.

Wiil S-Les Chats
Will SA:Les CHats

Les chats have pretty much free run of the place, although lunch guests are prohibited from feeding them table scraps, tempting though it may be. The cafe calls itself “un salon de thé et un restaurant,” and happily the food from its full-service kitchen is not an afterthought to the gimmick, but is absolutely delicious in a traditional Parisian way, and the management seeks out organic produce.  Both restaurant locations are open for lunch and dinner, and they also serve a yummy weekend brunch.  Our daughter had a croque monsieur, and her parents enjoyed a veggie-and-chevre quiche with a salad.  And a bowl of cream.

Is this proof that Parisians treat their pets better than they do their children?  Peut-etre.   Meeooooow…

Paint the Town Red – Kennebunkport Inn Kennebunkport, Maine

Falling in love is all about fateful timing: being in the right place at the right time.

Like most native New Englanders, I suspect, I’ve always enjoyed visiting Kennebunkport in the summer. (Warm days and fresh lobster on the Maine coast — how can you not swoon?) But as anyone in a relationship can tell you, it’s during life’s little storms – not under its fair skies – when love really reveals itself. Kennebunkport was walloped with a winter storm this Valentine’s Day, while me and my other-half were celebrating with an off-season weekend getaway. It could have been a disaster — but as fate would have it, it was just what we needed: a reason to slow down and soak in the sweet charm of a quintessential New England resort town. The place has a lot of heart.

Another shot of the Paint the Town Red Inn

Front view of the Paint the Town Red Inn

If you haven’t bothered to visit Kennebunkport in its quieter season, now’s a good time. (In fact, during the weekend of Friday, March 13, the town is hosting a series of “Valentine’s Do-Over” promotions and events. More on that momentarily.) Kennebunkport in the off-season is quiet — very quiet. That’s part of the appeal, of course, though we didn’t expect it would be entering such serious hibernation mode when we checked in to the Kennebunkport Inn on Friday, February 13. As unluckiness would have it, a major winter storm – predicted to dump about two feet of snow amid hurricane-strength winds – was swiftly moving in, scheduled to hit Saturday night. The inn was ready to receive overnight lovebirds: a sparkling red “Valentine’s” tree (more tasteful than it sounds) glowed in the parlor, and a stack of souvenir pins reading “Love KPT” awaited at check-in. But several guests had already cancelled their stay, said the front desk clerk as she processed our arrival; hopefully, she added, we won’t lose power.

Uh-oh.

The good news was: if there was a place to be snowed in – it was here. The Kennebunkport Inn is part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, a portfolio of properties with distinct identities but a common, contemporary sheen that runs throughout. The Kennebunkport Inn is housed in a stately, rambling structure built in the 1890s but recently renovated. Our room – 214, perhaps not coincidentally for a Valentine’s getaway – had a casual elegance, as though Ralph Lauren had signed on board for an HGTV-aired interiors makeover show.

river house 3

A vibrant palette of reds, white and blues made it a warm and welcoming space to nest after a filling dinner at One Dock, the inn’s restaurant and lounge housed in what feels like an ample living room. We dug in to contemporary American plates of mussels, bourbon-glazed pork belly and red wine-braised short ribs as a fireplace flickered to one side and a pianist tickled ivories to the other. After fighting Friday evening traffic out of Boston, this is just the right way to unwind.

Winter might be overstaying its welcome, but at least that allows for extended opportunity to enjoy some of New England’s snow-filled fun — and the Kennebunkport Inn can help guests make arrangements for everything from snowshoeing to sleigh rides. With a blizzard about to bear down, we weren’t in the position to take advantage. But there’s plenty to do and see even while keeping it low-key, from ducking into adorable art galleries and shops that line Dock Square (check out Minka and Abacus in particular for art, fashion accessories and gifts) to taking a sip from the area’s craft brew scene: upstairs from the Kennebunkport Brewing Company is Federal Jack’s, a casual neighborhood eatery for grabbing topnotch chowder and clam rolls alongside a pint of suds. Afterwards we took a quick drive to neighboring Kennebunk for treatments at The Spa at River’s Edge. I wouldn’t exactly call myself a spa snob, but I indulge often enough to offer strong context — and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my facial was one of the best I’ve had, period, in or outside of Boston’s higher-end Back Bay spots. (And at a predictably lower price point too, even if you add on the extra eye treatment. You should, by the way.)

By the time we slipped out of our robes and back into street clothes, the storm was starting to pick up the pace. So it was back to the Inn for a quick sip of bubbly before our dinner reservations at David’s KPT, the sleek, modern American at sibling property The Boathouse Waterfront Hotel, just across the Dock Square.

Interior shot of David's

Interior shot of David’s

The three-minute trudge through swirling snowflakes was just long enough for a laugh before battening down in the window-lined riverside dining room that bustled with cocktailing couples (younger, compared to some of the other restaurants) for the standout meal of the weekend. The New England-inspired fare included a tender filet mignon with a perfect cauliflower-parmesan mash, skewers of citrus- and truffle-inflected shrimp and scallops, and plenty of fresh oysters from the raw bar. Outside the window, inches accumulated on a docked ship; it looked like something phantom Arctic pirates might hijack. But inside we were warm, rosy from wine and five years of Valentine’s Days. We hadn’t been counting on this interfering snowstorm, but in a world of constant digital connection – buzzing phones, rapidly refilling email inboxes – we were suddenly grateful for Mother Nature imposing upon us a moment to stop, slow down, and appreciate what was right in front of us. The timing was just right, and I found myself in love with Kennebunkport in a whole new way.

An exterior shot of David's --- from the summer of course.

An exterior shot of David’s — from the summer of course.

Visit DestinationKennebunkport.com to check out winter packages and special rates. Try to make it up for the “Valentine’s Do-Over” weekend on March 13-14, which also coincides with Maine Restaurant Week.

upper east side

THE SCENE The Upper East Side. A luxury streamlined visit.

THE MUSTS: Ultimate destinations – all within 10 blocks.

THE STAY: The Pierre, A Taj Hotel at 61st and 5th on Central Park- Old World Elegance – Recently underwent a $100 million renovation. Sublime – the quintessential hotel team- (including elevator operators –true PR agents) no request too big; no detail too small; Frette linens and robes; grohe fixtures in the marble baths.the pierre

THE EATS – Day One: Rev your engine with – Ralph’s coffee at the Polo Store 5th & 55th – THE best cup in the city – An exclusive blend of Nicaraguan, Peruvian, and Columbian beans. Pair it with a cured salmon sandwich on country bread with watercress and preserved lemons, and an all American chocolate walnut brownie (A secret recipe from Mr. Lauren’s mother-in-law.)

Day Two: Breakfast- La Viand Coffee Shop at 61st & Madison – real authentic diner for locals – can’t beat the eggs over easy, bacon, rye toast and hash browns – in and out in 20 minutes!

Dinner- Le Bilbouquet at 61st between Madison & Park – chic neighborhood spot –order the signature endive salad with granny apple, candied walnuts and Roquefort and the Branzino –practice your French with the uber charming maître d’s.

THE COCKTAIL – Sirios at the Pierre – sip the “PEAR SE” –grey goose pear, alchemia ginger vodka, pear puree, solerno, lemon juice or the “Bitter Love” – a potion of Greenhook Ginsmith gin, Campari, strawberry puree, lime juice.

THE SWEETS – Laduree at Madison – The original Macaron from Paris – drool over the rose water, pistachio and salted caramel flavors.laduree

THE SHOPPING – Bergdorf’s on 5th Ave for Old world experience, Barney’s on Madison Ave for New world experience, and Ralph Lauren Women’s store on Madison for a combination of the two– The Beaux Art Hotel Particular Style Building is a recent addition to the street – All three are a part of the true luxury retail fabric of New York.

THE SHOW – “The River” – Starring the charismatic Hugh Jackman at the Circle in the Square at 50th –get “hooked” on this darkly romantic tale about a fisherman in a remote cabin and the 2 women he entertains there. 1 hour 25 minutes with no intermission.Hugh Jackman

Photos-of-Amsterdam-by-Michael-Matti-4

Photo by Michael Matti

Overall impression: Go for the architecture, the inspired shopping, creative and friendly atmosphere and the trendy dining. A must in Amsterdam? The enchanted 9th Street District for its swirl of everything amazing.

EPISODE:

I love vintage and I really love European vintage. European fashion from a previous era tells a story that more contemporary fashion rarely does. Owning the original version of a fashion moment is more inspiring to me then the “easy get” of that mass produced look today.

My favorite spot to source unique and envy inspiring pieces is Episode. Episode is a small chain, but you can’t hold that against them as they are all about budget friendly, quality merchandise that is organized with dewy decimal precision. The focus on grouping like merchandise together is a godsend when time is tight – and your husband’s patience is growing thin. Their mens collection is just as fabulous as their ladies.  If you’ve never “been into vintage” or found vintage to be too much work, Episode will convert and spoil you.

HIGHLIGHTS OF MY VINTAGE BINGE:

The tuxedo jacket with tails of my dreams – €30.00 (euros) and a heavily metal grommeted ’80’s jacket done in buttery soft suede – €25.00.

Amazing fur accessories: muffs, collars, boleros, hats, scarves, gloves. Sorry PETA but I bought bags full and I certainly wasn’t alone. Everybody is buying and wearing fur in Amsterdam, and with prices that start at €10.00 and topped out at about €50.00, you can see why. The fur coats were all in the €100.00. range and would easily go for much more in the US.

An epic, embroidered lederhosen, with incredible leather braided suspenders. I am obsessed with the buttons, the pewter buckles, and the embroidery. Super flattering and completely unexpected, I can’t wait to wear this with a killer pair of high heels. At only €35.00 , I now wish I had bought more.

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LAURA DOLS VINTAGE

My spirit animal has got to be the magpie. Its bad rap for attraction to shiny things hits close to home, because I too am absurdly attracted to everything that glitters – especially vintage. Indulge your inner magpie while in Amsterdam and be sure to visit Laura Dols, located in the heart of the 9th Street District. This sweet, well curated two level shop is filled with a wide range of girly party dresses that will have you feeling ready to go get flirty. Sequins, beading, and feathers embellished on silks, satins, and all varieties of polyester from the last 5 decades boast impressive quality. What did I bring back to my nest? The diaphanous, white belted dress with a subtle metallic sheen, very Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat”.

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STOUT LINGERE

lingereAttention all femme fatales: for unabashedly feminine lingerie, a stop at Stout is a must when visiting Amsterdam’s 9th Street District. Don’t let its unfortunate name fool you; this small but incredible boutique is for grown up ladies, who need something more stimulating than Victoria’s tired secrets. All 50 shades of exquisite underpinnings are offered and well displayed. Sexy, bold, sweet, classic, naughty…whatever your personal taste, this is an upscale shopping experience that will surprise and delight you with its wide range of European brands. I’m always impressed with their selection of beautiful bras, panties, teddies, swim wear, accessories and other items that will help you break hearts and get your groove on.

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DerutaAlthough my partner U.B. and I are both artists with a keen appreciation of art history, when our family booked a week-long visit to Umbria during our ten-year-old daughter’s spring break this year, we wanted to do something other than the typical visit to churches and art museums.

We spent a memorable morning at a Craftsman Workshop in the famous ceramics town of Deruta. You’ve no doubt seen, or bought, some of the pricey and precious plates, espresso cups or soup tureens made by the artisans of Deruta, with their traditional swirls and griffon shapes meticulously painted on glossy high-fired porcelain. When we learned that we could make our own at the authentic, no-frills ceramics studio called MAIOLICHE ARTISTICHE GORETTI, we said, “Sign us up!”U.B. painted plateWe loved that it was off the beaten path of ceramic factories. The husband-and-wife team of Umberto and Vania were extremely patient with us beginners. Their passion for their craft, which has occupied them for 25 years, shone through. Umberto was delightful with our daughter Stassa, who modeled low-fire bowls, which she personalized for our dog and our cat. In the meantime U.B. and I focused on the fine art of centuries-old decoration of dinnerware. Vania made sure that we followed the rules, after we “pounced” the design with a bag of charcoal onto the unfired white plate or cup. If we put a stroke of light blue rather than a stroke of the dark blue on that wing of the griffon, she would smile and firmly let us know that, no, THIS is the right color for that feather on that wing: SEMPRE (ALWAYS)! Then she would scrape the stroke away with a sharp knife, and we would do it properly.

We thought that the €70 per person price tag for a half-day session was quite reasonable, and afterward we couldn’t resist buyingsome of the Gorettis’ own (admittedly more professional) serving dishes and bowls. But our own creations are our real treasures.finished pottery

www.ceramichegoretti.com

CONTACT INFO:
Via Vincoli 7/9
06053 Deruta PG
Italy
Tel. +39 075 971 0048
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“Cacio e Pepe”

My husband’s very favorite pasta sauce is also one of the world’s simplest. We both fell in love with this Roman specialty, a creamy twirl of fresh pasta, hot with crushed black pepper, during our time in residence at the American Academy in Rome, after a friend introduced us to the charms of the old Jewish Ghetto. There, on the Piazza delle Cinque Scuole, behind an unmarked door at number 30, is one of the smallest trattorias in the city, Sora Margherita.

You need to become a “member” of Sora Margherita because of local licensing, but this essentially means filling in a form. We were introduced in this loud and crowded little watering hole to the simple marvel that is pasta cacio e pepe. The cooks at Sora Margherita serve it over a delectable egg tonnarelli (a variation on long, flat fettucine), but any long pasta will do. The quality of the pasta is as important as the freshness of the few ingredients.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are thirty images to give you a 30,000 word flavor of Athens, one of Europe’s undisputed cultural capitals and a city which exudes culture from every pore.

Special thanks to YES! Hotels  and Original Senses Bespoke Tours

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Exhaling, I sink gently to the soft, white sand seabed as a Southern Stingray ripples elegantly past. Scores of tiny, pearlescent Yellowhead Jawfish dart backwards into their little burrows, spitting mouthfuls of sand in apparent disgust as they retreat. Ahead of me, myriad reef fish swarm around the coral stack that rises sharply almost to the water’s surface. Our guide beckons us forward and I scan the tower for some sign of the promised swim through, marveling at the diversity of coral. As I approach, a tunnel opens before me, and, checking the group is with him, our guide sinks into its cavernous maw. The tunnel levels out and, taking care not to damage the fragile orange sea fans all around, we swim towards the dappled light ahead. We emerge onto the wall, a three foot Hawksbill Turtle drifting gently by on slow, powerful strokes of its flippers. It’s awe-inspiring.

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Chasing The Lights

I have a confession: I owe my first glimpse of the northern lights to my terrible smoking habit. Pacing around in blast-freezer conditions, I was puffing away on my after-dinner cigarette (my face and hands progressing from cold, through stinging, to completely numb) when I happened to glance to the skies. There it was. A faint beam of eerie green light snaked overhead, curling and intensifying, then slowly unfurling into a delicate, shimmering curtain. As I watched, a second swathe of rosy pink light began to materialise. I was mesmerised. Eventually I snapped out of my trance and burst into the restaurant to share the news. A stampede for the door ensued.

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Terri-Stanley-HeadshotExecutive Producer Terri Stanley created styleboston in 2009 and has seen the show go on to receive four New England Emmy® Award nominations and garner high ratings on both ABC and CBS stations in Boston.  Since Terri launched the show she has interviewed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Best Buddies’ founder Anthony Shriver, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and actor/director Ed Burns. Terri earned her style stripes as Executive Editor of Boston Common, the preeminent New England luxury lifestyle magazine, where she interviewed leaders in business, sports, and entertainment and was previously the Editor-in-Chief of Scene magazine. A Boston native, Terri was president of New Boston Properties for 15 years. She has a degree from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and is a member of both The Council for Women at Boston College and Boston Women in Media and Entertainment.

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