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Hotel Restaurants Get to Gardening

Hotel Restaurants Get to Gardening
Courtesy of Tower Gardens at El Encanto

Over the last few years, “fresh,” “seasonal” and “local” became the undisputed culinary buzzwords at top temples of haute cuisine. Hotels around the world followed suit, reinventing their restaurants to remain on trend. Some planted on-site kitchen gardens, growing herbs and maybe the occasional tomato. But these early efforts often felt like window dressing—initiatives that didn’t affect the food all that much. You might find some homegrown basil on a caprese salad or a few microgreens atop a sous-vide heritage-breed pork loin, but it seemed like hotels continued to procure most major produce by more conventional (read: corporate) means.

Not anymore. A handful of hotels, both new and old, have begun building more serious chef’s gardens—quasi-farms that are leading to big-picture reevaluations of restaurant concepts and top-to-bottom menu overhauls.

One of the most recent arrivals is at iconic El Encanto in Santa Barbara, California (800 Alvarado Pl.; 805-845-5800;, which reopened this spring after a seven-year, $134 million renovation by Orient-Express. Here, chef Patrice Martineau (pictured above) planted not one but two gardens: A traditional plot for the likes of eggplant and peppers, and a vertical tower started in partnership with Montecito Urban Farms. The tower—a so-called aeroponic garden used for a variety of lettuces, kale, arugula, herbs and edible flowers—suspends roots in midair, letting them soak in an organic, nutrient-rich solution that allows them to mature faster than normal. The results have turned up in a dish of Provençal-style vegetables, chilled tomato soup and lemon-basil risotto, with more planned for autumn.

Spring also saw the addition of a large garden on the park-like acreage of Il Salviatino (21 Via del Salviatino; 39-055/904-1111;, a three-year-old hotel (its villa is more than 500 years old) just outside of Florence. Chef Carmine Calò—who has worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants—designed a growing space for the necessities of Italian cooking. Already the 300 plants (eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) are producing a quarter of the vegetables used in the restaurant, whose concept Calò will adapt as the vegetation develops and expands. Fall menus will feature dishes using yellow pumpkin, black and savoy cabbages and chard. By spring 2014, Calò says he expects nearly two thirds of the restaurant’s produce to come from the garden, with new plantings of celery, carrots, spring onions, garlic and zucchini.

In the English countryside, on the pastoral border between Dorset and Northampton, the country house hotel Chewton Glen (New Forest District, New Milton; 44-14/2527-5342; debuted an expansive chef’s kitchen garden last year, plus a newly planted orchard of some 200 trees. Overseen by an in-house, full-time gardener, the plots provide the hotel with thousands of pieces of fruits and veggies every week, including radishes, beans, ruby chard, black kale, fennel, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, herbs and edible flowers. Chef Andrew Du Bourg’s stuffed zucchini flowers were one of the most popular items on the menu this summer; this fall he’ll pair homegrown borlotti beans with a dish of braised lamb brisket and crispy sweetbreads

The Art of Buying Art

The Art of Buying Art
Chris Jehly

Supporting emerging artistic talent is nothing new, but for online art-buying platform @60”, bolstering the promise of on-the-rise talent will always be a priority.

“It was important for us to be able to build a community of artists that are affordable yet on the verge of mainstream gallery representation,” says co-founder Kipton Cronkite. “We build their careers and our collectors are able to take advantage of our insider knowledge before these artists are widely recognized.”

The site, which debuted late last year, is no slouch, having won a pair of 2013 Webby Awards for (naturally) Best Art and Best Home/Welcome Page. Paintings, photographs and sculptures—from $100 to $50,000—fill the inventory; roughly 50 talents, like painter Tony Ingrisano and photo portraitist Wenjun Liang, make up the roster.

Cronkite and his team try to make the process as easy and engaging as possible. A new Virtual Art Advisory service, which launched earlier this week, helps collectors glean expert advice: Complete a thorough questionnaire and a consultant will recommend specific pieces based on the findings. A try-before-you-buy feature allows you to test-run true-to-size watermarked replicas on your walls. And the Living with Art section features various influencers illustrating how they integrate art into their lives. (Profiles include design entrepreneur Stuart Parr and interior designer Thom Filicia.)

The site’s curatorial board of gallery owners, art professors and advisors vets the artists, and the staff is always on the lookout for a new find, scouting the country and tapping the expertise of curators, museum insiders and collectors along the way. After all, you never know what the next big thing might be.

“Rising stars bring a unique, modern voice that pushes the constraints on traditional definitions of art,” says Cronkite. “We’re very proud of the talent that we have secured.” 212-486-2608;

A New Cocktail Lounge in South Africa

A New Cocktail Lounge in South Africa
Courtesy of Le Quartier Français

When Susan Huxter, owner of the boutique hotel Le Quartier Français in Franschhoek, South Africa, was unable to find a refined yet laid-back place in town where she could meet friends for an early evening drink or an afternoon tea, she created one herself. The new Le Quartier Lounge Bar, which opened in August, is meant to be more than just another hotel watering hole.

“We would like the lounge to be the meeting place in Franschhoek, where locals and our international guests can relax and enjoy good food, teas, cocktails and great company,” says Huxter. “It should be the place to relax and mingle in the area.”

The bar focuses on cocktails—the Edible Fruit Coupe (dried fruits soaked in Cape Brandy and Harnepoot dessert wine topped with sparkling wine) is pictured here. But there are also artisanal beers, wines and teas (by Lady Bonin’s Tea Parlour) that pair with delicious snacks by executive chef Margot Janse that highlight indigenous ingredients and locally sourced products. Try bites like Gruyère Oreos, wildebeest doughnuts, crayfish popcorn and flatbread with smoked salmon, avocado and spring onion.

Soothing decor and plenty of space make for a peaceful ambiance, and even the tall-legged, washed-oak bar has a buoyant personality that is more inviting than imposing in every way. “I did not want a dark masculine bar but rather a light, more feminine feel,” says Huxter. “We hope people will love it as much as we do.” Rooms start at $310; 16 Huguenot Rd.; 27-21/876-2151;

Three Must-Try Philadelphia Restaurants

Three Must-Try Philadelphia Restaurants
Michael Persico

For those in the know, Philadelphia has been a hot restaurant town for quite a while now. Outgrowing its cheesesteak roots, the city has welcomed tiny BYOBs with innovative spirits, glitzy empires of celebrity restaurateurs (Stephen Starr, Jose Garces) and more. Here are three new places where you must dig in.

In December, chef-driven Fond moved to a new and larger (though still intimate) location in the middle of East Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia—one of the city’s brand-new foodie hot spots. Fond’s small menu of contemporary American fare changes seasonally, but recent standouts included grilled duck hearts with fennel salad and tahini yogurt; skate wing with corn risotto, avocado and pancetta; and a housemade dessert of cannoli laced with Earl Grey crème anglaise. 1537 S. 11th St.; 215-551-5000;

Peter Serpico (of Momofuku Ko fame) helms Serpico, restaurateur Stephen Starr’s latest venture, and although it just recently opened (on June 21), it has already garnered critical raves. The James Beard award–winning eatery has designed a menu that's both playful and serious, with dishes like deep-fried duck leg sliced off the bone, dressed with hoisin and scallions and tucked into a Martin’s potato roll in a creative spin on a lobster roll. A bowl of frozen foie gras (micro-pureed in a Pacojet) is mixed with grapes, candied peanuts and cubes of elderflower jelly for a stunning sweet-and-savory dessert. 604 S. St.; 215-925-3001;

The Corner Foodery
For something a bit more casual, the six-month-old Center City location of The Corner Foodery is a perfect spot for a boozy lunch or late-night dinner. Floor-to-ceiling refrigerators line one wall, showcasing the 650 different beers on offer. The menu of Italian sandwiches is based on high-end ingredients, like house-cured charcuterie, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers with pine nuts and warm mozzarella, all of which go down perfectly with a cold Allagash Grand Cru. 1710 Sansom St.; 215-567-1500,

An Art Exhibit in Norway

An Art Exhibit in Norway
Richie Culver, Jason And The Astronauts, 2013

Artist Richie Culver is perhaps best known for combining words with painting and collage to form provocative, often emotionally charged pieces. But for “The Four Letter Word”—his first solo exhibit in three years, which opens September 5 at Skur 2 gallery in Stavanger, Norway—the British artist is delving into newer territory: photographic works developed through experimental techniques. Self-taught, Culver hit it big in 2011 when the Tate Modern displayed his work in a group show. This most recent journey to Norway (he exhibited in Stavanger two years ago and recently worked there) is a homecoming of sorts. We asked him about the new show.

Q: What do you love about Norway?
What struck me initially was how nice the people were—I've gone on to make some great friends in Stavanger. Also, the surrounding areas are really beautiful, and I love the small towns and the fjords.

Q: How do the pieces in the exhibit differ from what you normally do?
The works are a big departure from my past ones. I’m using a totally new technique. Before I was making more documentary/reportage photography of people and objects with an emphasis on my own living environment. Now I have started to really use photography as a medium to express my ideas and thoughts, which is more akin to how I approach my paint or drawing work. Also, the photography in the show is all manipulated. I am exploring lighting and exposure, a little like how one would explore working with photogram photography.

Q: What part of your world do you enjoy the most right now?
I really enjoy living in Berlin. I love it there. I had been in London for quite a while, and a change is just what I needed. I do enjoy collaborating, but I’m just enjoying working at the moment. I’m in a really good space, and I am creating works I’m really happy with.

Through September 29; Skansekaien 4006; 47/9710-1074;

Fashion-Forward Cocktails

Fashion-Forward Cocktails
Courtesy of Dorchester Collection

Champagne could easily be considered the fashion world’s drink of choice, but for the next few months the Dorchester Collection will be toasting in style with cocktails. Beginning September 5 (the start of New York Fashion Week) and continuing through October 2 (the end of Paris Fashion Week), five hotels will serve exclusive drinks inspired by the finalists of this year’s Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize.

“Our bar managers are well versed in creating stylish bespoke cocktails, they are all familiar with the fashion crowd as it forms a large part of their clientele, and they relished the creative challenge of interpreting the designers’ ethos and collections,” says Julia Record, director of communications.

To get a sense of each finalist’s style, the mixologists pored over look books, sketches and videos. Robert Rouleau of Bar Nineteen12 at The Beverly Hills Hotel worked from color swatches and a cocktail drawing by Fyodor Podgorny and Golan Frydman of Fyodor Golan; the resulting Marilyn (Champagne, peach purée, strawberry syrup, lemon-peel garnish) is a nod to the designers’ love of Marilyn Monroe. William Oliveri of Bar 228 at Le Meurice in Paris concocted the Berry Lace (rosé Champagne, strawberries, raspberries, brown sugar, lime juice, fresh mint) to complement Huishan Zhang, whose feminine designs show lots of lace. The Dorchester (London), Le Richemond (Geneva) and the Hotel Principe di Savoia (Milan) will also serve a signature drink.

This year’s Fashion Prize judges include Tank Magazine executive fashion director Caroline Issa, fashion writer Derek Blasberg and stylist Penny Lovell, and the winner (announced on October 29) will take home a $33,000 endowment and mentoring opportunities with the judges. Awarded since 2010, the honor has proven to support burgeoning talent and solidify Dorchester’s own fashion legacy. We’ll raise a glass to that.

Root Down Denver Opens at the Airport

Root Down Denver Opens at the Airport
Adam Larkey Photography

Justin Cucci has ruled the Denver restaurant scene over the past five years as the chef and owner of Root Down (1600 W. 33rd Ave.; 303-993-4200) and Linger (2030 W. 30th Ave., 303-993-3120;, two award-winning eateries in the trendy Highland neighborhood.

Now Root Down, known for its seasonal menu of locally sourced ingredients and its location in a converted 1950s-era gas station, has opened a second outpost, at Denver International Airport (DIA). Good news for en-route diners but wasn't the easiest decision for the owner.

“The Root Down dining experience is very contextual, so it didn’t even make sense at first,” says Cucci, who spent his formative years in the kitchen at New York’s Waverly Inn. “But from my own travel experiences and the struggle to find good food, I saw it as a worthy challenge. There’s an amazing opportunity to change how dining is perceived when traveling.”

Root Down at DIA operates on the same philosophy that fuels the original location. It will source local, organic, natural ingredients—a non-negotiable requirement for Cucci when it came time to ink the deal—and feature many menu favorites like carrot and red Thai curry soup, sweet-potato “falafel” and diver scallops. Riffing on its older sibling’s use of reclaimed and recycled materials, the design in the new space will celebrate the heyday of American travel with vintage Knoll and Saarinen chairs, recycled airplane parts and model globes converted into light fixtures.

But true to its new locale, the restaurant is focused on the traveler. A Grab & Go area caters to those in a hurry, and a forthcoming app will allow guests to submit an order via text at check-in so food can be picked up before takeoff. Denver International Airport, Concourse C;

Grand-Slam Snacking

Grand-Slam Snacking
Courtesy of United States Tennis Association

Forget Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. A new set of stars is taking over at the US Open: celebrity chefs. The 700,000 fans attending the Grand Slam tennis tournament, which started this week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens and runs through September 9, are in for a real gourmet treat.

David Burke, Tony Mantuano and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto are all setting up shop, as well as New York barbecue eatery Hill Country and its pit-smoked turkey or chopped-brisket sandwiches (pictured here). In all, a culinary team of 250 mans five restaurants, 100 suites and 60 concessions stands throughout the complex.

“No sporting event in the entire world matches the US Open," says Mantuano. "It's the best of the best and the food matches the tennis.”

Along with dishes like sushi (Morimoto), dry-aged, bone-in rib-eye steaks (Burke) and marinated artichokes and tomatoes with rosemary breadsticks (Mantuano), a new oyster bar is offering caviar, lobster rolls and shrimp cocktails, while a Pat LaFrieda filet mignon steak sandwich joins the menu at the popular East Gate Grill. The Honey Deuce (Grey Goose vodka, lemonade, raspberry liqueur, honeydew-melon-ball garnish) remains the Open's signature cocktail.

Players are, of course, also getting the royal treatment. Balance Kitchen, featuring items developed by chefs, trainers and nutritionists to maximize wellness, serves juices, nutrient-dense dishes, gluten-free options and varieties of chocolate milk for recovery. Who knows? This year’s winning moment could come down to whoever has the healthiest appetite. Flushing Meadows Corona Park Rd.;

A New Nantucket Restaurant

A New Nantucket Restaurant
Courtesy of The Proprietors Bar & Table

Nantucket is the most conservative of Massachusetts’s coastal getaways—the island prides itself on being more traditionally minded than casual Cape Cod or flashy Martha’s Vineyard.

So when The Proprietors Bar & Table opened at the end of June, just before the July 4 rush, there were a few raised eyebrows directed at the globally accented menu items. The island’s diners rarely see dishes like fluke sunomono with crunchy kimchee, smoked tomato mayo and basil or socca tart with beet salad, whipped feta, charred baby carrots and pistachios.

A few things allayed the concern of the locals. For starters, the food is uniformly delicious, served in a true Nantucket atmosphere that starts with the crisp, white clapboard home on India Street that houses the restaurant. Maritime touches and a pressed-tin bar front add to the classic feel. And there is already a familiar comfort level with the proprietors of Proprietors: Husband-and-wife team Michael and Orla LaScola run American Seasons, one of Nantucket’s best restaurants, and executive chef and co-owner Tom Berry has worked on the island in several incarnations over the years.

The eatery’s theme is the “well-traveled palate,” which Berry has developed with ingredients sourced from the island and its surrounding waters. If you go over Labor Day, the smoked bluefish fritters are a must-try among the appetizers, as is the halloumi cheese with eggplant puree. (The duck breast tiradito is pictured here.) Move on from there to the Point Judith squid—a New England food to be sure, but one given some international flair thanks to a seasoning of Espelette pepper from France. 9 India St.; 508-228-7477;

Chopard's Custom Watch App

Chopard’s Custom Watch App
Courtesy of Chopard

When Chopard debuted its Happy Sport ladies watch 20 years ago, the new arrival was a bold shift from the typical jewelry watch of the era. It paired diamonds with steel, had a modern, sporty look and (most important) included loose, floating diamonds on the dial—a signature now iconic to its brand.

To mark the anniversary, Chopard has debuted the My Happy Sport app, which allows fans to create their own custom Happy Sport watches from their iPads or iPhones. Customers can browse inspirations or start from scratch, choosing from rose gold or stainless steel, mother-of-pearl or white dials, crocodile, steel or rubber bracelet straps, diamond settings and a variety of diamond objects (stars, flowers, letters) that float on the dial.

Our favorite (pictured above) is a plain rose-gold case with a matching rose-gold bracelet strap and a sprinkling of three star-shaped floating diamonds and four round bezel-set pink sapphires. And the best part of the process? Once a design is submitted, it takes just three weeks for Chopard’s in-house watchmakers to craft the timepiece. Watches start at $8,000; app is available on the iPad or the iPhone;

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