France is renowned for its food, but for all the delicacies that grace its capital city—macarons, pâté, white truffles—tapas has been surprisingly lacking. That is until W Hotels opened its 91-room W Paris-Opéra, next door to the famed Palais Garnier opera house, and chose chef Sergi Arola to head its restaurant, which bears his name. Arola is a fitting choice for bringing Spanish haute cuisine to Paris. He got his start as a protégé of Ferran Adrià (the godfather of Spanish gastronomy and creator of the now-closed El Bulli restaurant) and went on to earn two Michelin stars and win Spain’s National Gastronomy Award for his Madrid restaurant, La Broche.
The flavors and spirit of Catalonia, Arola’s native province, strongly influence the restaurant’s cuisine. The menu philosophy is known as pica pica, or tapas-style—small, intensely flavorful dishes meant to be shared. Each falls into one of three categories: garden, sea or land. There is an elevated take on the tapas staple patatas bravas, in which hollowed-out potatoes (normally diced and dolloped with sauce) are lightly fried and piped full of spicy salsa brava and whipped aioli. There are succulent white sardines dotted with sun-dried tomato oil, and thinly sliced Iberian pork with hot Basque peppers. The experience is full Spanish gastronomical immersion served in an airy room with a view of one of Paris’s most iconic plazas—a cultural collision of the highest (and tastiest) order. 4 Rue Meyerbeer; 33-1/77-48-94-94; restaurant-arola.com.
For travelers hoping to connect with a city’s rich cultural heritage, there is no more expedient (or lavish) way to do it than by staying in a hotel with some history of its own. Amsterdam’s new Conservatorium Hotel, which opened this past winter, is just that. The castle-like building was designed at the turn of the 20th century by famed Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel, and its construction in Museumplein neighborhood marked a turning point for the enclave, initiating its transformation from a seedy area into the glamorous shopping and museum district it is today. (Brunello Cucinelli and the Van Gogh Museum are more or less equidistant from the hotel’s wrought-iron gates.)
The architectural landmark has had past lives as the headquarters of the Rijkspostspaarbank and, most recently, the home of the Conservatorium of Amsterdam, the country’s largest classical music conservatory. A meticulous, three-and-a-half-year restoration, spearheaded by Milanese designer Piero Lissoni, has rendered the hotel a playful (and beautiful) mix of antique glamour and ultramodern influences. Original stained glasswork remains in the stone staircases, the brick wall in the dining room was recovered from the old bank vault and the sounds of string quartets float through the dark-paneled hallways. But the 129 guest rooms themselves are furnished with sleek Italian designs by the likes of Kartell and Cassina, and a striking glass-and-steel atrium now encloses the building’s old courtyard. The state-of-the-art Akasha Wellbeing Center, a 10,000-square-foot spa with decidedly modern amenities, features a Watsu pool, sound therapy and an exhaustive list of spa treatments.
The hotel’s clash of aesthetics might feel schizophrenic elsewhere, but the end result here feels both historic and hip—Old World happily meeting new luxury head-on. Van Baerlestraat 27; 31-20-570-0000; conservatoriumhotel.com.
There are few handbags as iconic as Fendi’s Baguette. The petite, simple design, meant to be tucked casually under the arm like its French namesake, has seen infinite takes on the original in materials like leather and crocodile skin and festooned with intricate embroidery, Damien Hirst’s famous spots and Jeff Koons’ graphics. Now, as the bag reaches its 15th birthday, the company is celebrating with a book called Fendi Baguette (Rizzoli; $125). The tome (out in June) features 250 photos of the Baguette’s many variations as well as essays and tributes from acolytes like Sarah Jessica Parker, Museum of Modern Art senior curator Paola Antonelli and Italian architect Quirino Conti. If you see an out-of-circulation style within the pages that strikes your fancy, take heart: Fendi is rereleasing six designs on June 1, including a mirrored style from 1997 and a yellow beaded one from spring/summer 2000. 677 Fifth Ave.; 212-759-4646; fendi.com.
A touch of the Old World arrived in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood last Monday as luxury spa company Aire opened its first Ancient Bath outside its native Spain. The company, which has spas in Seville, Barcelona and Almeria, draws inspiration for its elaborate complexes from the historic Greek, Roman and Ottoman traditions of communal bathing used as a method for relaxation and purification. The new TriBeCa location is expansive, more than 16,000 square feet of illuminated pools, exposed brick and lounge areas lit by lanterns. Guests move through the pools in sequence—from icy to cool, warm to hot, and then onto the saltwater pool, the propeller-jet bath and the steam room. Those not content to bathe in water can opt for one of Aire’s ritual treatments, where guests bathe in more luxurious elixirs, like sparkling wine or olive oil, while receiving four-hand massages. With any luck, this new outpost is only the beginning of a wider campaign to revive the tradition of ancient baths. “We wanted to expand the culture of the bath experience to the world,” says founder Armando Prados. “New York is an amazing, vibrant city to begin that.” From $75; 88 Franklin St.; 212-224-3777; ancientbathsny.com.
As we’ve mentioned before, the Philip Johnson Glass House, located in New Canaan, Connecticut, is one of those destinations just outside of New York that are truly worth the drive—and never more so than during Dine with Design, its annual epicurean festival. This year, on June 9, Dine with Design will host the Food Film Festival in its first appearance outside of New York and Chicago. The evening will begin with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and then progress to an eight-course tasting menu in film form, starting with The Perfect Oyster, a short documentary about northwest Canadian oysterman Brent Petkau. As the films progress from appetizers to dessert, the audience will sample a course featuring the foods on screen. Expect local Fanny Bay oysters during the first screening, for example, or flavors featured in the film about Bruce Becker and his Max and Mina’s ice cream shop in Flushing, Queens, which makes more than 4,000 varieties (including grass and Pinot Noir).
As an added treat, the Glass House compound will open earlier in the day to a limited number of guests for a Modern Picnic, featuring local delicacies prepared by six star chefs, including Missy Robbins (A Voce Madison and Columbus) and Gabriel Rucker (Le Pigeon), who won last year’s James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year Award. Picnic guests will have the opportunity to chat with the chefs and local food artisans and wander freely through the grounds’ historic buildings—a feast for the eyes as well as the appetite. 199 Elm St.; June 9; Food Film Festival, $100 per person; Modern Picnic, $250 per person; combined VIP tickets, $300; philipjohnsonglasshouse.org.
When French actress Bérénice Béjo, who received an Oscar nod this year for her role in The Artist, took the stage Wednesday to host the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival, her earrings nearly stole the show. Their one-of-a-kind diamond-drop design is part of a 65-piece Haute Joaillerie Red Carpet collection created by Chopard copresident and artistic director Caroline Scheufele—and it’s all to celebrate the festival’s 65th year.
Chopard, a Cannes partner for the past 15 years, has created new designs around the event before. But this is its most extensive effort by far: More than 70,000 hand-set stones went into the collection, and the entire process took Chopard artisans five-plus months to execute.
Introduced over the course of the 12-day festival—mostly on the necks, wrists and ears of leading ladies—the Red Carpet pieces range in mood. Some, like a tsavorite garnet statement ring shaped like a Granny Smith apple with a brown diamond stem, are pure whimsy; others, like the pink sapphire and amethyst long necklace (pictured above) and the detachable elderflower pendant made of ruby and pink sapphire clusters set on a diamond floral necklace, are classically elegant. All are gorgeously Chopard. Prices upon request; 709 Madison Ave.; 212-223-2304; chopard.com/cannes.
The Kips Bay Decorator Show House, an interior design bonanza held each year to benefit the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, opens its doors on May 16 with an eye-popping display of various styles and aesthetics. Thirty prominent designers have taken over two bi-level units at the Aldyn Residences on Riverside Boulevard, each choosing a room and making it his or her own.
For many participants, the experience is quite personal. “Normally when I design, it’s a collaboration between myself and clients,” says Lynne Scalo, whose white lacquered retreat features oversized portraits of Steve Jobs and Andy Warhol. “But here, my only collaborator is the architecture, and that’s a really wonderful opportunity to showcase my point of view as an artist.”
That connection is apparent throughout the house: Alexander Doherty’s version of an art collector’s inner sanctum features several pieces from his own art collection on the wall, and a mirror-paneled library by Jamie Drake is filled entirely with his own books.
For others, the 40th annual showcase is an opportunity to escape into fantasy. Raji Radhakrishnan composed her corner unit as though it were the private home office of the head curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, incorporating Art Deco and modernist elements, custom photo murals of the King’s Chapel at Versaille and a gilded plaster ceiling medallion designed by Radhakrishnan herself. Charlotte Moss turned her suite into a taste of the French countryside, layering trompe l’oeil wallpaper and garden photography, freestanding trees and an immense antique birdcage from her own collection.
Even without the lavish interiors, both units are impressive, with oversized pools and sweeping views of the Hudson River. But with the addition of each decorator’s dream pieces—witness the $115 million antique desk in David Scott’s sophisticated, richly textured gentleman’s study, or the massive 1820s Neoclassical secretary from Germany in a dining room by Patrik Lönn—the scene is fairly stunning. May 16–June 14; 60 Riverside Blvd.; kipsbaydecoratorshowhouse.org.
Jean-Louis Dumas, the former president of Hermès and an avid photographer, passed away in May 2010, but his legacy is being preserved by another brand with which he had a special bond: Leica. The renowned cameramaker has announced the debut of the limited-edition M9-P Edition Hermès Série Limitée Jean-Louis Dumas camera set ($50,000; available in July), created to honor Dumas, who famously carried a Leica camera and a small red notebook everywhere he went. Only 100 of the cameras will be made. (The standard M9-P Edition Hermès camera, which sells for $25,000, will be available in June.)
The design of the M9-P Edition Hermès combines silver chrome and ochre Hermès calfskin and comes with three lenses: the Summicron-M 28mm, the Noctilux-M 50mm and the APO-Summicron-M 90mm. Owners of the special set will also receive a hand-finished Hermès camera bag, the first bag the company ever created for Leica cameras, and a portfolio of 200 black-and-white images taken by Dumas on his Leica M. Consider it a bit of inspiration—and good luck. Available in Leica stores and boutiques worldwide, including 977 F St., Washington, D.C.; 202-787-5900; leica.com.
Paso Robles is one of California’s largest and most scenic wine regions, with 26,000 vineyard acres running up the Central Coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once a year the area comes together to celebrate its 180 wineries and 40 varietals—from heritage Zinfandel to French Viognier. And this year promises to be especially festive as Paso Robles marks its 30th annual Wine Festival, from May 18 to 20. The weekend kicks off with a reserve event on Friday, where the region’s top wineries will showcase their reserves and futures, offering eager oenophiles the opportunity to bid on vintages while they’re still in the barrel.
The festivities continue Saturday with a tasting from 60 wineries in downtown Paso Robles, where holders of premium tickets ($75) can enter early to enjoy a more personal experience. Then there are the events—more than 150 of them in all—at the wineries themselves. Choose from cave tours, live music, a tri-tip barbecue at Eberle Winery (the 2011 Winery of the Year), a four-course, farm-fresh feast (with wine pairings, of course) in the garden at Harmony Cellars (3255 Harmony Valley Rd.; 805-927-1624; harmonycellars.com) and more. May 18–20; reserve admission, $125; vineyard events, ticketed separately; pasowine.com.
The literati has descended upon Manhattan for a week of readings, performances and panels at the PEN World Voices Festival, which will gather 100 writers from 25 different countries to celebrate the power of the written word around the world. Poet Tracy K. Smith, who was recently awarded the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her latest collection, Life on Mars, will speak on the Memory in Harlem panel (515 Malcolm X Blvd.). Departures sat down with Smith to talk about the festival and her recent work. Memory on Harlem panel on May 5 at 5 p.m.; pen.org.
Q: Congratulations on winning the Pulitzer! What does this mean for you and for your work?
A: It’s gratifying and humbling at the same time, in large part because it feels like my poems have been invited into a more public conversation with the poems and poets who have always inspired me as a writer and a person. It’s also a profound honor to join the four other African-American poets to have received the Pulitzer since the prize’s inception: Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, Yusef Komunyakaa and Natasha Trethewey.
Q: What poets have influenced your work?
A: That list is constantly changing. I return again and again to Elizabeth Bishop, whose poems are just so perfectly made. I love Lucille Clifton’s moral and social conscience and the spare, poignant impact of her lines. I love the largeness of vision of Jack Gilbert, whose poems, to me, feel a lot like Platonic philosophy.
Q: Life on Mars is pretty wide-ranging thematically. Did you have a sense of how you wanted the poems to cohere in the reader’s mind?
A: I always put a lot of thought into the architecture of a collection of poems. I want each of the individual poems to play an important role, but I also want the reader to move through the book with the sense of being taken on a journey. With that goal in mind, I look at the ways poems seem to speak to one another, and I use arrangement to heighten that sense of conversation.
Q: Why do you look forward to the PEN Festival?
A: I have such respect for PEN’s commitment to literature and freedom. As a writer, I don’t know what is more important than the kinds of questions that literature teaches us to ask, and the freedom to go in pursuit of their answers.
Q: What festival events are you planning to attend?
A: This is a situation where I wish I could be in more than one place at once! I’m very interested in the Doon Arbus, Michael Cunningham, Francine Prose and Diane Arbus event, because the relationship between photography and poetry has been important to me for such a long time. I’m also quite curious about the Writing from the Domestic Workers United workshop. It’s going to be an amazing weekend.
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