As Valentine's Day approaches, these romantically inclined ideas make for a lovely day.
A Chocolate Pop-Up Shop
Prestat—said to be favored by the Queen of England—makes a stateside appearance during a weeklong pop-up chocolate shop at Henri Bendel. Highlights include dark chocolate caramel truffles sprinkled with sea salt and Prestat's signature heart-shape assortment box, with flavors like passion-fruit fondant. Through February 14; 712 5th Ave.; 212-247-1100; prestat.com.
Japanese Food for Two
Cherry, restaurateur Jonathan Morr's month-old Japanese restaurant in Chelsea, is hosting a five-course prix-fixe menu on February 14. Options like foie gras-and-short-rib gyoza and chef's choice omakase sushi—combined with Cherry's dark, sultry decor—could make this one for the ages. From $95 per person; 355 W. 16th St.; 212-929-5800; cherrynyc.com.
A Special Mexican Feast
Food Network iron chef Jose Garces will cook Mexican fare for a guest and 50 of his or her friends in the penthouse at the Mondrian SoHo. Pulling from his new cookbook, The Latin Road Home (Lake Isle Press), Garces and his team will turn out margaritas (spicy and mango) to go along with a taco bar highlighting dishes like beer-and-citrus-braised fired pork and alambres de camarones (flavorful shrimp skewers). After dinner the lucky host will settle in for a three-night penthouse stay. $45,000;9 Crosby St.; 800-606-6090; mondriansoho.com.
Views of Central Park
The Pierre provides a one-night city escape in a Park View room complete with a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park (why not?), monogrammed pillowcases, a delectable breakfast in bed and Champagne. On the big day, Sirio Ristorante, located in the hotel, is available for a three-course Valentine's Day dinner. Through February 28; from $950; 2 E. 61st St.; 800-743-7734; tajhotels.com.
A Canadian Sojourn
The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, a Relais & Châteaux property located in Vancouver, British Columbia, serves up a one-night stay in a room or suite, truffles and sparkling wine and a four-course dinner at Bacchus Restaurant & Lounge. Dinner includes roasted tomato and Nova Scotia lobster velouté, seared breast of Brome Lake duck and lemon chiffon with raspberries and vanilla crème brûlée. From $425; 845 Hornby St.; 604-689-777; wedgewoodhotel.com.
We discovered Le Labo Fragrances, a New York–based perfumer that is known for its creative collection of handmade scents, at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which burns its Cade 26 candles in the lobby. The scent was so intoxicating, we bought some to burn in the office. So when bottles of Le Labo shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion—in the floral yet woodsy Rose 31, a perfect unisex scent—appeared in rooms at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, California, we had another great reason to check in. fairmont.com.
There are those who say Le Sirenuse, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, is the chicest hotel in the world—no small thanks to Carla and Antonio Sersale, whose family has run the place for 60 years. In October, Antonio celebrated his 50th and Carla did what any la-dolce-vita-loving wife would do: She threw a party. The dress was festive with a tinge of Orient—and so it was, on everyone from Carla and Antonio to their two sons, Aldo and Francesco, and the rest of the cast of 300 family, friends, and regulars at the hotel, which opens its doors once again on April 1.
The Chinese-born Fung carved these eight original seals out of soapstone and artfully stamped them on traditional
xuan paper for the October issue’s cover. Here, he tells us what they mean: “For more than 2,000 years, seals have played a crucial role in East Asian culture. They are not always only literal expressions but often reflect the character of their creators. From left to right, the first two seals simply display my Chinese name, while the third one represents my studio, Four ‘No’ Studio (for no principle, no judgment, no reality, no truth). Some, like the cloud, just depict images I like, and the rabbit and carrot are because I was born in 1951, the Year of the Rabbit. They can also just be sayings. The last seals display two of my personal favorites: ‘Life of ease’ and ‘Right and wrong all life long.’”
The preferred Asian airlines, routes and other tips from some of our frequent fliers.
“Singapore Airlines’ all-business-class, 100-passenger flight from Newark airport to Singapore is the best-kept secret among seasoned travelers to Asia. Not only does its nonstop route shave nearly five hours off 22 hours of travel time, its flatbed seats are extra wide with two large pillows and super-soft linens.” —Deborah Frank, managing editor of Departures
“My all-time favorite route is Virgin Atlantic Airways’ upper class [its version of business class] from New York to London to Shanghai. There’s personal, one-on-one service—a driver can pick you up from your home in a Mercedes-Benz—and on some flights you can choose to sit up in the Snooze Zone on the second level, where you can sleep so peacefully with nobody bothering you. During the layover at Heathrow Airport, you can shower and get manicures and pedicures at the Cowshed Spa in Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse.” —Han Feng, designer
“I recommend taking the
Airport Express train to and from Hong Kong International Airport. It’s convenient and comfortable and takes just 24 minutes from the city’s center—much faster than by car. You can take the train straight to terminals 1 and 2, and most of the airlines have a baggage check-in counter at the entrance of the station.” —Richard Chang, director of Tira Holdings
“Flying between Europe and Asia in first class on
Thai Airways is always a marvelous experience. From the moment you arrive outside the airport, you are assisted every second by the same butler. Check-in is done in an individual salon, and you have a special lane for immigration and customs and then a superb lounge with a complimentary Thai massage. It also has the best onboard service, delivered with the very unique manners, style and kindness of the Thai people.” —Guy Bedarida, creative director of John Hardy
“If you fly out at night from Hong Kong, only one side of the plane gets to see the stunning skyline. It depends on which way the plane is taking off—if toward the east, then passengers on the right side get the good view; if toward the west, you want to be seated on the left side. And the
Dragonair flight from Beijing to Hong Kong serves Mediterranean dishes like smoked duck breast with balsamic mustard dressing from Sureño, the flagship restaurant of the Opposite House in Beijing.” —Sheila Donnelly Theroux, publicist
“Cathay Pacific Airways is my favorite because of its caring service and continuous improvement, like the evolution of its seat design. The food is delicious—I especially love the barbecued pork noodles. Its flights are seldom delayed, but if they are, Cathay constantly keeps passengers in the loop via airport announcements and even text messages.” —Rainy Chan, general manager of the Peninsula Hong Kong
Five Asia cruise itineraries that cater to the sailing specialist as well as the tyro.
Starting in Bangkok and ending 25 days later in Beijing,
Imperial Interludes winds its way across the China Sea—both the South and East—to the Yellow Sea. It’s a perfect Pan-Asian tour, with generous two-day stops at Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Trip starts at $6,000; departs February 28; oceaniacruises.com.
From pagodas to skyscrapers,
Crystal Cruises’ 16-day Temples and Dynasties
tour, aboard the 1,070-passenger
Crystal Serenity, visits ports both large—it starts in Singapore and ends in Hong Kong, with stops in Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok—and small. A call in Chan May, Vietnam, offers exploration of Hue, the country’s beautiful dynastic capital. Trip starts at $12,060; departs February 26; crystalcruises.com.
Celebrity Cruises plies Southeast Asia’s old trade routes in two late-year itineraries. Aboard the
Celebrity Millennium, the 2,034-guest ship that will be dry-docked in early 2012 for a massive renovation, passengers can start in Singapore and head north to Hong Kong or catch the southbound cruise. Both itineraries stop in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Trips start at $1,600; depart in December; celebritycruises.com.
From Asia to the antipodes,
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers a 17-night journey starting in Singapore, skimming Bali, then curving across the Timor Sea to Australia’s eastern coast. The voyage—aboard the appropriately named all-suite ship
Voyager—ends in Sydney, with equal time devoted to both continents’ destinations.
Trip starts at $11,300; departs January 6; rssc.com.
For those who prefer their journeys directed by sports,
Azamara Club Cruises offers golf-centric trips that jump from green to green across Asia. But even its non-putting itineraries, like a late-2012 jaunt from Singapore to Hong Kong, offer plenty of time to find fairways in Bangkok (three nights) and Ho Chi Minh City (another three).
Trips start at $4,000; departs December 23; azamaraclubcruises.com.
Caviar is perishable and packed to order so only buy what you plan to eat soon. "Fresh caviar should be used within ten days to two weeks and refrigerated in our insulated bags," says Betsy Sherrow, the president of the Seattle Caviar Company. Always store it in the coolest part of the refrigerator—the ideal temperature is between 26 and 32 degrees (never freeze it, though). "Opened jars and tins should be treated like fresh fish and eaten within two days," Sherrow adds.
How much caviar should I serve per person?
Peter Struffenegger of Sterling Caviar recommends having on hand at least a half ounce to one ounce for straight-from-the-tin enthusiasts. If you’re planning to serve it as part of a caviar-based appetizer for eight to ten people, make that three ounces. When you’re using the caviar as a garnish, fig-ure that one ounce yields 20 one-quarter-teaspoon servings.
How about The presentation?
Serve caviar in a glass or mother-of-pearl dish, advises Sterling Caviar’s Struffenegger. As metal will adversely affect the flavor, use mother-of-pearl, horn, or even plastic spoons (caviar "tins" are lined with a thin layer of plastic). Set the dish in a shallow bowl filled with crushed ice to keep the caviar cold.
What is the best way to enjoy caviar?
Armen Petrossian recommends placing a small spoonful at the back of your mouth, gently crushing the beads against your palate with your tongue. Serving it with blini and crème fraîche is nice, but skip the onions and lemon, which can mask the flavor and the texture.
Red Rooster: The Details Scene: Jay McInerney meets Jay-Z Food: Grits and shrimp, garden pickles, grilled snapper, sweet potato donuts, whiskey fudge Prices: From around $35 for lunch to $65 for dinner, including drinks Reservations: Absolutely necessary at tables and banquettes in back; it's take-your-chances in the front-room bar for drop-on-bys. 310 Lenox Ave., New York; 212-792-9001; redroosterharlem.com..
Adventurer Dave Munson has thrown spears with the Masai in Tanzania, gone shark diving in Bora Bora and fought bulls in Spain. While teaching English in Mexico, though, he decided he needed a scholarly bag that could not only hold his lesson plans but also keep up with his life on the road. After sketching his ideal design and working with a local craftsman, he founded Saddleback Leather Co., a line of leather travel bags and accessories. A favorite is the versatile Waterbag, made from a giant piece of thick, full-grain boot leather and sewn with the same industrial heavy-gauge thread used to make sails and airbags. The water- and dust-resistant rucksack has two handles (one fixed and one moveable), no breakable parts such as zippers, buttons or snaps, and can be carried open, folded over, rolled up or carried as a backpack. All Saddleback bags come with a 100-year warranty—that's how confident Munson is of their durability. $645; saddlebackleather.com.
Back in 2009, Departures talked with long-time New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel, a who had just signed on to oversee the Vail International Dance Festival. We have looked forward to the summer event ever since. Enhanced by its Rocky Mountain backdrop and the Gerald R. Ford outdoor amphitheater, the festival has quickly gained a cult following: More than 20,000 people attended from the U.S. and Europe last year. Running July 31 through August 13, the 2011 lineup includes a 30th-anniversary celebration of the Mark Morris Dance Company and five never-before-performed pieces by choreographers Christopher Wheeldon, Emery LeCrone, Trey McIntyre, Charles "Lil Buck" Riley and Richard Siegal. July 31 through August 13; from $20; 970-777-2015; vaildance.org.
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