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March 29, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Arts + Culture

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In recent years the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from Washington, D.C., has been on a hot streak. First came the 2009 Regional Theatre Tony Award, then last year a celebrated performance of Sweeney Todd in honor of Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday, and now Art, which opened March 29. Written by Yasmina Reza, author of the Broadway hit God of Carnage, the dark comedy won a Tony for Best Play in 1998 and revolves around a blank canvas, a so-called piece of art purchased for nearly $43,000 by one of three friends—Serge, Marc and Yvan—who proceed to argue the question: Is this piece an avant-garde painting or a sham? Starting as a theoretical debate, the conversation spins into a wildly funny yet acerbic argument that exposes personal rifts and ultimately tests their 15-year friendship. A trio of much-lauded local actors—John Lescault, Mitchell Hébert and Michael Russotto—take the stage as the three friends and are accompanied by original music from Peter Lerman, winner of the 2010 Jonathan Larson Award. Tickets start at $50. At 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington, VA; 703-573-7328; signature-theatre.org.

Photo Chris Mueller

March 29, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Travel

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Luxury train and cruise operator Orient-Express has teamed up with London's National Gallery of Art to offer The Art of Travel, a series of itineraries that start at the museum and take art lovers to the picturesque places depicted in the gallery's masterpieces. For example, the five-day "Impressions of Paris" tour has an art historian showing guests the works of Monet and his contemporaries before they board the Art Deco carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train to Giverny, the French village where the artist lived; then to Paris for guided tours of Impressionist work at the Musée de l'Orangerie as well as the Musée Marmottan-Monet, a hidden gem. A specialist from the National Gallery of Art will be along for the entire ride. Major destinations on other trips are Venice and Bath, England, where the Holburne Museum recently reopened. Departures begin in April and run through October. From $1,500 to $8,000 for double occupancy; orient-express.com.

Photo Courtesy Orient-Express

March 29, 2011
By Christina Ko | Lifestyle

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Recently, in our January/February issue, we uncovered the world of Julien Farel, hairstylist extraordinaire, whose clients include Richard Gere, Kate Moss, Ivanka Trump, and Rafael Nadal, to name just a few. Now he has partnered with Hommage, best known for its luxe shave sets, to open a state-of-the-art men's grooming lounge on the penthouse level of his Madison Avenue salon. And who better to trust with this than Farel? Opening this week, Hommage Atelier by Julien Farel is staffed with stylists, barbers and aestheticians handpicked by Farel and features individual grooming stations that are like first-class cabins on steroids: iPad 2s for reading, TV-embedded mirrors and drawers dedicated to charging gadgets; all treatments, from shaves (from $50) to haircuts (from $125) to massages (from $100), are done in black leather ergonomic chairs. The menu is well thought out, with options such as hand reflexology ($50) for those whose fingers need a break from their BlackBerrys and lymphatic drainage face massage ($125) for the puffy-faced businessman who suffered numerous sleepless flights. The service is first-class, too, with a personal attendant for each guest, who can, say, have your shoes shined or suit steamed. For real VIP treatment, however, Hommage Atelier offers three types of annual memberships—Titanium ($1,500), Carbon ($4,000) and Platinum ($6,000) —which, among other perks, includes a personal engraved shave set and private casier, special rates, off-hour appointments and access to Hommage Ateliers around the world (plans are underway for outposts in Asia and the Middle East). And once you slip into that robe and velvet loafers, don't forget to request your beverage of choice—single-malt Scotch, anyone? At 605 Madison Ave., New York; 212-752-2100; hommage.com/atelier.

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Photo Luciano Abbaterusso, Farel: Pablo Corradi

March 29, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Dining

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To aid those affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami, Peninsula Hotels has launched Hope for Japan, a three-pronged initiative taking place in all its U.S. and Asia locations. The first element: Ten dollars of each guest's stay will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross. For the second part of the campaign, hotel lobbies will feature trees adorned with origami cranes (in Japanese tradition, the folding and construction of them is a form of healing). For a $5 donation, guests can purchase a paper ornament or make one on their own with the help of hotel staff. A more indulgent option is Japanese Afternoon Tea, a riff on the Peninsula's signature midday rite that involves sushi-inspired treats and a selection of Japanese teas. One hundred percent of the $50 cost will be donated to relief efforts. peninsula.com.

Photo Courtesy The Peninsula Hotels

March 23, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Dining, Chicago

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Chef Homaro Cantu has opened the doors of his second Chicago restaurant, iNG, whose menu bears his signature flair for inventiveness and respect for ancient Asian cooking techniques. The name iNG refers to the suffix "-ing" and expresses Cantu's passion for action in the kitchen. The menu is divided according to the verb used to create the food: The "Heating" section, for example, has Baozi buns with pork, enoki mushrooms and melted scallions; noodle soups are listed under the "Boiling" heading; and a waffle (frozen in liquid nitrogen) with coconut and mango sorbet is among the "Sweetening" offerings. But the truly experimental dining happens at the chef's table in the sublevel kitchen, where Cantu offers a 15-course tasting menu to four visitors per evening. The experience is centered around the miracle berry, a cranberry-sized fruit that acts as a natural sweetener, temporarily altering one's taste buds, and on which diners "flavor trip" before sampling certain courses. (Cantu calls it "food science with a purpose.") The details are a secret, but we do know the menu involves a beer and oyster pairing, Poke tuna, salt-and-vinegar kettle corn and sour cherry cheesecake. Miracle berry tasting menu starts at $250; 951 W. Fulton Market; 855-834-6464; ingrestaurant.com.

Photo Mike Ruggirello

March 23, 2011
By Marina Cashdan | Arts + Culture, Museums

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Attending TEFAF Maastricht is like going to a museum where everything can be taken home. Collectors, curators, interior designers, creative consultants and art lovers visit the Netherlands city every March for the event, in which MECC (the town's 101,700-square-foot convention center) becomes home to 260 elegantly designed booths for ten days. Each stall brims with paintings, sculpture, furniture and jewelry spanning 7,000 years, including works by Renoir, Rembrandt, Picasso, Dalí, Miró and Klimt. The quality of every piece is guaranteed: The day before the fair opened, 29 vetting committees comprised of 168 international experts assessed each and every item, assuring its authenticity and condition. (And it's not all centuries-old: A Jeff Koons-designed BMW is also on view this year.) Visitors can take a break from gazing at one of the two sit-down restaurants, a casual café, an oyster bar or a sushi spot. TEFAF runs through March 27; tefaf.com.

Photo Loraine Bodewes

March 23, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Shopping, Charity

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Doing good has never looked so chic. On March 29, Christie's will host its Bid to Save the Earth live auction followed by a Runway to Green fashion show, the proceeds of which will benefit four environmental charities. For those who can't make it to the main event, the auction house has partnered with Chartitybuzz.com, which will host online bidding on truly one-of-a-kind items donated by a cast of cultural heavy-hitters. Up for grabs are a day with former president Bill Clinton, a one-hour tennis lesson with John McEnroe, front-row seats to the Chanel couture show followed by a meeting with Karl Lagerfeld and a tour of Mlle. Chanel's home, breakfast with Tory Burch and a hefty gift certificate to her store, a Damien Hirst-designed Fendi bag, a stay on the superyacht Lady Sheridan during the Cannes Film Festival, dinner with Her Majesty Queen Noor in her D.C.-area home and a slew of exclusive travel opportunities. The online lots are open until April 7, so ladies and gentlemen, let the bidding begin. Bidtosavetheearth.org; looks from the Runway to Green event will be available on net-a-porter.com.

Photo Prudence Cuming Associates, © 2010 Damien Hirst and Hirst Holdings Ltd, DACS 2011

March 23, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Travel, Hotel, London

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For proof that the British are big on preserving their history, one needn't look further than the new St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, now in its soft opening in London's Kings Cross neighborhood. The Victorian Gothic building, first opened in 1873, served as both a railway station and the Midland Hotel for decades and was saved from demolition thanks to a campaign led by poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in the 1960s. Its glory faded when it became an office space, but over the past ten years, the red-brick structure has undergone a staggering $200 million renovation and reopened—with a blessing from the Queen, no less—as a new Eurostar terminal and a 245-room hotel that bridges the gap between present-day luxury and historical authenticity. Thirty-eight of the rooms are in the heritage part of the building, and another 207 are located in a new addition called the Barlow House, as the addition is called. The hotel's public spaces seem from another era, with grand staircases, 50-foot windows, gold-leaf vaulted ceilings, mural-covered walls and the Ladies Smoking Room, the first space in Europe where it was acceptable for women to smoke. The original Booking Room has been converted into a bar and restaurant, while the spirit of other olden-day institutions, namely the barbershop and members-only club, has been preserved. The official opening date will be May 5, exactly 138 years to the day the hotel first debuted. Rooms start at $485; Euston Road; 44-207/841-3540; stpancrasrenaissance.com.

Photo Courtesy St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel

March 23, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Fashion, Aspen

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Some fashion shows are serious, haughty affairs, but not at Aspen Fashion Week, where models danced and walked happy Saint Bernards down the runway. The event, now in its third year, had something for every type of skier, from the black-diamond expert to the cocoa sipper at the bottom of the mountain. aspenfashionweek.com.

For the haute-couture skier: First on the Snow Stage was Rossignol by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who came to Aspen straight from his Paris presentation. True to JCC form, the women's clothes were wild and bright: zebra stripes paired with primary colors, paint-splattered parkas and pants, bolero down vests and a panther profile motif, which the designer said was a lighthearted take on traditional coats of arms. For men, the highlight was a series of authentic red-tartan numbers in waterproof fabrics. rossignol.com.

Technically stylish: Serious skiers can't go wrong with Kjus. The company uses material worn by NASA astronauts to regulate body temperature and includes thoughtful utilitarian details like air padding in the shoulders, where skis rest when being carried. But great technology doesn't come at the expense of design. In fact, Kjus collaborated with Loro Piana for two gray wool and cashmere jackets, both weatherproof, that could just as easily be worn in the city as on the slopes. kjus.com.

Urban on the mountain: There was a rock-and-roll-meets-preppy vibe at the Obermeyer presentation, where leopard prints and silver snowboarding pants appeared alongside striped V-neck sweaters and rainbow-plaid trousers. If Kanye West hit the slopes, he would be wearing Obermeyer. obermeyer.com.

The rookie hits: Local label Authier (founded by the owners of the Performance Ski shop in town) had an edgy look, sending plaid bandanas and what looked like leather snow pants down the runway. One of the strongest and best-styled shows of the week came from NUMBER:Lab, a superchic men's après-ski collection of fitted gray blazers with neon yellow accents. We'll have an eye out for them next year. authier.com; number-lab.com.

Sidenote: If you're headed to Aspen and on the hunt for new skis, try a set of handmade Heidiskis—chances are they will lead to a much-treasured purchase. heidiskis.com.

Photo Riccardo Savi

March 21, 2011
By Amanda Friedman | Travel, Hotel, Whims, Spa, New York

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This may be the first week of spring, but with a chilly mix of snow and rain enveloping the streets of Manhattan, it’s apparent that winter isn’t ready to go away just yet. This final cold stretch can feel like the longest of all, which is why there’s never been a better time for a nice, relaxing day at the spa. One of our favorite city options is the Spa-cation at The Peninsula New York, which, for $250, is also one of the best deals in town. In addition to a 60-minute treatment of choice—holistic massage, intensive facial or organic sunless tanning—guests have all-day access to the fitness center and classes, as well as use of the indoor pool, with panoramic views of Fifth Avenue from its perch on the 22nd floor. There’s also a delicious bento-box lunch, with choices like grilled beef sirloin with bok choy and poached salmon with roasted red pepper and Thai spices. We recommend getting there early to take advantage of the daily fitness classes—yoga, pilates, cardioblast—then following that with a relaxing treatment and finishing off with a poolside lunch. Who cares about the cold when you can have so much fun indoors?  At 700 Fifth Ave.; 212-956-2888; peninsula.com.

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