Friday, November 30, 2012

1789 Restaurant in Georgetown

1789, it was the year of the French Revolution, the Rights of Man were finally surfacing and Napoleon was still a young, obscure Lieutenant in the shadows. On the other side of the pond George Washington was President of the United States and the venerable Georgetown University was first founded. Fast forward to 1960 when a Georgetown Alumnus, Richard McCooey, purchased a federal home dating from the 1800's in Washington, D.C's historic neighborhood of Georgetown and the upstairs evolved into Restaurant 1789. The classic French menu and equestrian decor soon became a favorite with well-heeled Washingtonians and so it still is...The majority of diners during my visit last October were celebrating a Graduation from nearby Georgetown University or a Wedding Anniversary and as far as I could tell, there were many beautiful memories being made that night.

Today, the Restaurant's culinary future rests in the capable hands of Chef Anthony Lombardo as it has since August 2011. I had a chance to talk to him over the course of my dinner a few weeks ago at 1789. What interests me in a culinary artist is not the ingredients, the techniques or any of the technical details of the craft. I want to know what drives the spirit of the Chef, what sparks the passion in a dish. After all, when we go to a restaurant we are looking for more than just food: we're looking to make memories and we want food to be transcendant, so that it's no longer a form of sustenance but a work of art.

I was impressed with Chef Lombardo's passion for creativity and even more so by the discipline and love that go into his Kitchen. I found Chef Lombardo to be charming, in love with his work and eager to share his raison d'etre with his customers, and it shows! Every bite was infused with classic craftsmanship, quality ingredients and...oh yes, love, that elusive ingredient that transports a dish to the next level of culinary excellence.

The standout dish of my meal was the Appetizer of Nantucket Bay Scallops with roasted Parsnip Puree, Kale & Oxtail Ragu. The fresh delicacy of the scallops was in stark but delicious contrast to the rich, onctuous oxtail ragu. 

My main dish was the Icelandic Cod with braised red cabbage which was equally excellent although by this point I was quite full and therefore not able to enjoy it as fully as I should have.

Prepare to spend the entire evening at 1789, it's an experience. You will leave sated and deliciously full. Especially after the chocolate profiteroles pictured below. They come in a group of three, each with a divine ice cream filling.

Trendy, hip, molecular gastronomy this restaurant is not. But if you want the Classics, food that doesn't try to be cool for the sake of it, Limoges china instead of minimalist decor then 1789 is for you. Everything from the equestrian decor down to the plates is very much as President Washington might have approved of himself. Restaurant 1789 is like a beautiful harkens back to a bygone era, remains faithful to its heritage and in an age of constant fluctuatons it clings steadfastly to its traditions with aristocratic restraint.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hotel Bel-Air...Luxury Oasis in Los Angeles

It's pure Hollywood glamour in its most unadulterated form...the famed Hotel Bel Air, now part of the Dorchester Collection, is where celebrities go to hide away in Bel Air's most beautifully manicured gardens. As soon as I pulled up the driveway I knew I was in for something special...this is no ordinary 5 Star Hotel, that would be an insult. Its hallowed gardens and now renovated bungalows once housed Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly...oh no, this isn't a's a legend come to life!

What amazed me the most was the intense peacefulness that pervades every corner of the property...I felt like I was the only guest but later found out the hotel was fully booked. I strolled past the renowned "Swan Lake" nestled quietly within the property's 12 acres, observed the tropical flowers in the gardens, and sat under cupola's and secret alcoves feeling as if I had just stepped onto a Hollywood movie set...the old MGM execs could not have planned it so perfectly.

The Bel Air sign as you pull up the know you are entering a garden paradise sans pareil

 Swan Lake...nature's ballet...

The sleek lobby...

A Suite Living Room 

 The Gardens by night...
 The restaurant...check out that incredible marble fireplace
The Grace Kelly Suite Living Room...just like the Princess herself: elegant, sleek and quietly stylish...

The Bel-Air estates were purchased by Alphonso Bell in 1922 and transformed into a hotel in 1946. Almost immediately it became a spot favored by the rich and famous and that respect it hasn't changed. Even the air one breathes feels a little more rarefied at the Hotel Bel's just pure glamour...she's like a rare Madeira wine in a sleek new bottle...I can't wait to visit this vibrant but nonetheless legendary hotel once again

Friday, November 9, 2012

The James Hotel Chicago

It's sleek, sexy and modern...The James Chicago is one of a trilogy of hotels, the others are in Miami & Soho, and it has everything the young business or leisure traveler might want. A quirky mid-century modern theme can be found throughout with designer furnishings for emphasis. Situated minutes from the Magnificent Mile the location is perfect for shoppers!

My Suite had two bedrooms and a living room, a projector TV in one room and the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in! The color palette of beiges and neutral tones really set the mood for a relaxing stay in Chicago. It's a great place to come back after a hectic day and just re-group!

Service was excellent and staff was always eager to help. The hotel offers complimentary use of bicycles for guests but as it was late October and I was told they were no longer available due to the weather- I confess, I was disappointed, I had been looking forward to biking along the Chicago Lakefront. That's alright...there's always next summer!

Here are some pictures to give you a vibe for the place...

The Penthouse Suite...notice the Eames armchair...

Staircase and restaurant on the left...sleek and modern

The uber modern details...

Crisp white bedding...spartan but plush

Quirky modern decor

The Lobby...I sat here for hours as I arrived before check-in time. The gentleman at the desk graciously offered me a coffee while I waited...great service!

Mini-Bar...notice the mid-century decor prevalent throughout

The second bedroom in my Suite...can be used as a lounge or a bedroom...VERY comfortable!

Next time you are in Chicago and you want a comfortable, modern and plush hotel to stay in give The James Chicago a try. It's small enough to give you a real boutique feel but large enough to give you all the anonymous privacy you might want (I find that really important). It's a great alternative to the stuffy grand dame hotels in's young, hip and trendy.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC

Thomas Jefferson and I go way back, so to speak. When I first read about his four year sojourn in Paris on the eve of the French Revolution, we bonded via our love of all things Francophile. When I started to read his works, I began to admire the audacity of his mind. And when I found myself at Monticello, his beloved home in Charlottesville, Virginia on a research fellowship I fell in love with the same green hills he had ridden on, the beautiful vegetable gardens he had planted and the lush countryside he had so admired during his lifetime.

So, when I found myself in Washington, DC staying at "The Jefferson", a unique Relais & Chateaux property that defies the generic definition of hotel, I started to find the Jeffersonian string of coincidences that had brought me there almost uncanny...everything I thought I had once looked up to in this intriguing founding father was nothing compared to my newly found unbounded enthusiasm for the third President of the United States.

Staying at "The Jefferson" is like being personally invited in the great man's home...only better. The sumptuous decor is 1780 meets 2012 with all the intricate detailing of a Classical structure and all the modern amenities to make it worthwhile. Framed letters in the founding father's own hand are elegantly displayed along the walls along with white marble busts of the man himself. Delicate drawings of Monticello are woven into the crisp decor, modern luxury and history at the service of one another.

On any evening, important Washington types sit in luxuriously draped alcoves over a power lunch at Plume, the hotel's critically acclaimed restaurant sipping on Madeira wines dating from as far back as 1810 that Jefferson himself would have undoubtedly approved of. Discreet elegance is the goal throughout the lobby, the library and the many private spaces available to guests for business meetings. But make no mistake, The Jefferson harbors no generic overtones similar to the many conference style hotels...oh no, that is not the vibe here. Au contraire, guests will experience all the glamour of secret service like privacy and all the perks of royal treatment, or perhaps I should say presidential treatment...

The House Car aka a Luxury SUV will take you to dinner or wherever else you need to go, while suited men with earpieces hover over you as if to watch over your safety...take that, Mr. President! But enough talking...a picture is worth a thousand words!

The impressive Lobby

The Greenhouse...Breakfast or High Tea anyone?

Every corner was exquisitely decorated

The Bedrooms...Oh TJ (Short for Thomas Jefferson) how I miss you!

This wasn't my room but it looks pretty damn gorgeous!!!

Check out the drawing of Monticello (Thomas Jefferson's beloved home in Virginia) on the pillowcase...god really is in the details...

Plume, the highly acclaimed restaurant on property. Checkout the mural at the back: it's a drawing of the vegetable garden and beyond at the left is Montalto...

A private alcove at the Plume Restaurant...elegant, discreet...I'm in love with this place!
The Lobby

One of many private rooms...small, intimate and ultra-luxurious. Wood paneled walls, plush leather sofas, state of the art technology...the detailing was fabulous...notice the Native Indian drawings on the walls, Thomas Jefferson also collected Native artifacts, drawings and the like... 

The attention to detail at The Jefferson is incredible. If you want to be pampered in D.C. this is THE address! I don't think I could ever stay at another hotel in this nation's fact, I would rather stay home than betray my love for The Jefferson, a palatial property that defies description...

Hyatt New Orleans: A Modern Twist on a Classic Favorite...

New Orleans: Jazz bands and horse-drawn carriages, Old World Charm and down home Southern cooking...It's tough to reinvent a classic but the team at the newly renovated New Orleans Hyatt has managed to do it with style, panache and a distinctively modern flair.

Located right next to the Superdome, the location sets it apart from the run of the mill French Quarter properties yet within easy access to everything the historic district has to offer. My suite was expansive, modern, luxurious and boasted an incredible view of the Superdome.

If you plan to be in New Orleans on business or otherwise: this is a modern oasis in a city of Old World charm...

The Regency Club for select members...with your room key this luxurious lounge serves breakfasts and snacks (complimentary) all day long. There is also a TV Lounge (not pictured here) which I used a few times.

Deluxe Suite...and sweet it was!

King Room

Queen Room

Presidential Suite

If you're in New Orleans for business, a conference or even just for fun then the newly renovated Hyatt New Orleans will give you a modern, lucurious and crisp experience that is sometimes difficult to find in some of the more quirky hotels in NOLA's French Quarter.
But don't take my workd for it...check it out and let me know what you think!