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The Comeback Cocktail: G&T

May 31, 2013

Ideal Cocktail BArMake room, vermouth. The gin and tonic—or rather, gin tonic—has captured the fancy of Barcelona’s mixologists and tipplers alike. The cocktail isn’t new to Barcelona—the city’s old timers have been sipping G&Ts from their well-worn bar stools for decades—but a slew of new gins, including Gin Mare, a Catalan gin made with Arbequina olives, rosemary, and thyme, plus specialty tonic waters like Fever Tree, Fentiman’s, and Q Tonic, are attracting the younger set.

It’s an obsession that has launched a thousand gin joints, including El Raval’s Pesca Salada, a fish store-turned- cocteleria with more than 24 different types of gin. Locals pack into the sardine tin-size spot, which still retains reminders of its past life (fish scale ceilings are just the beginning), for super-strong pours served in balloon glasses. In Eixample, the second-floor Boca Chica has an eclectic décor—think animal busts, wood paneling, and Moroccan poufs—and a Chic & Tonic menu that pairs gins like Bulldog and Brockmans with unique garnishes like licorice, cardamom, and tonka beans. And at Xixbar in Poble Sec, you can take do a gin tonic tasting—and then pick up your favorites at the connecting shop. It’s not just newcomers that have jumped on the trend: Every watering hole in town stocks at least a handful of different gins—including Dry Martini, where barmen in white jackets can make a mean G&T.

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We all scream for ice cream

March 15, 2013

Small-batch ice cream from Ohio’s Queen of Dairy

When I was a kid, I played on a little league baseball team. I use the term “played” loosely because I wasn’t very good (cue Right Field). Neither were my teammates: Our batting average collectively was so low that we often had to use a tee to get through the game. But the fact that we were suburban New Jersey’s equivalent of the Bad News Bears didn’t matter. Because what was really important came after. Win or lose, we went to Van Dyke’s for ice cream—real, homemade ice cream. Back then, I was strictly a vanilla girl. That classic is still a favorite, but my tastes have evolved and I’m equally enthused about mint chocolate chip, peanut butter and salted caramel. Here, some of my favorite ice cream purveyors. Fair warning: This stuff is so good, you’ll want to eat the entire pint.

Steak with a side of shlag

March 5, 2013

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Jody Storch, one of three female meat buyers for Peter Luger, the no-frills steakhouse underneath the Williamsburg Bridge, is my new hero. Over lunch at her family restaurant, she ordered salmon, confessed to a weakness for wine spritzers, griped about not having any pull in the New York restaurant scene, and chatted about everything from nudie calendars in the meat locker to Soul Cycle (she’s a fan, but doesn’t buy into the new age chanting).

Storch doesn’t have anything to prove. Neither does the famous chophouse that has been serving expertly broiled, perfectly marbled USDA porterhouses since 1887.

I’d never been to Peter Luger, but I made the trek in the name of research (keep an eye out for my roundup of America’s best steakhouses in Travel & Leisure). First impressions: The restaurant feels more biergarten than chophouse thanks to fachwerk walls, decorative steins and simple wood furnishings. And I was a little afraid of the woman at the hostess stand with the purple hair. But I was charmed by my waiter in his white apron and black bow tie and intrigued by the gravy boat of horseradish-flecked steak sauce he sets down before me.

(more…)

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Checking in: The Viceroy Anguilla

January 7, 2013

We’re not even a month into winter and I’m already pining after warm weather and beachy bliss. It’s been a year since my visit to Anguilla, where I checked into The Viceroy Anguilla and I’m ready for my return visit. Here, my blog post for Caribbean Travel + Life on the Kelly Wearstler-designed resort with a Benjamin Bratt look-alike GM and a Cheers vibe.

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For my weekend jaunt to Anguilla, I had planned to explore the island’s 33 bone-white swaths of sand, sample its beachside shacks and upscale eateries (said to rival those of St. Barts), and confirm whether or not the rumor about goats (that they outnumber people) was true.

But once I arrived at the year-old Viceroy Anguilla, I found I had little desire to leave. It didn’t hurt that the property, with its restaurants (five), swimming pools (three), and beaches (two), had plenty to entertain. But it was the friendly, everyone-knows-your-name atmosphere that kept me rooted there: It reminded me of the Catskills resort in Dirty Dancing (only in the Caribbean) or a tropical Cheers.

Style wise, The Viceroy has an easy, neutral-hued elegance. The emphasis is clearly on the horizon, where blue waters meet blue skies – which isn’t to say that the hotel’s interiors (designed by Kelly Wearstler, the home and fashion design guru known for her retro-glam stylings) aren’t impressive. Driftwood sculptures and distressed mirrors, metallic spheres and low-slung furniture give public spaces and rooms—there are 166—a modern, beach-chic feel that befit the celebrity clientele who come here to unwind – and occasionally get their groove on (Shaq partied here over Christmas).

As for sampling the pleasures here, my first night, I had supper at Italian-Caribbean Coba, the hotel’s most upscale restaurant – and while I spotted a few women in evening wear, their floor-length gowns were, more often than not, paired with casual sandals rather than stilettos. The next morning, it was poolside yoga and a facial at the spa, followed by lunch at the beachfront Bamboo Bar & Grill, helmed by a New York expat who brings his impressive culinary chops to bear on island fare such as fried soft shell crab on johnny cakes and grilled wahoo with breadfruit salad.

But good looks and a place to work on my tan aren’t typically enough to keep me resort-bound. It was more than that: this place has a real sense of community, both amongst the guests, most of whom are New Yorkers, and the beyond-friendly staff. On your visit, you may find yourself playing hoops with the Benjamin Bratt look-alike GM, chatting with your butler about his favorite island eats, or even being offered a golf-cart ride by a guest. Making the Viceroy Anguilla truly, “Where everybody knows your name.”

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Where cell phones won’t work

December 20, 2012

Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park

If you harbored any doubt that cellphones are increasingly running our lives, consider this: Survey data compiled by Wilson Electronics show that 15 percent of Americans take calls during sex. While 27 percent of participants over age 25 consider it acceptable to text while eating, 12 percent say it’s okay to text while using the bathroom.

Getting off the grid has become a luxury. With a cell phone functioning as everything from a daily diet log to an alarm clock, it’s easy to forget that less than a decade ago, just 15 percent of the world’s population had one. Today, that figure is closer to 87 percent, with more than 5.9 billion global subscribers, according to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union. The report also indicates that one-third of the word’s population uses the Internet, up from about one-fourth in 2009.

In the U.S., nearly 293 million Americans—or more than 95 percent of the population—were mobile subscribers by June 2010, making 2.2 trillion minutes worth of calls and sending 1.8 trillion text messages, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Some 77.3 percent of the population is online.

Disconnecting, many believe, requires a trip to some remote part of the world—Patagonia, say, or the Gobi desert—or removing yourself to a tropical island. But it’s also possible to find pockets of isolation in our own backyard, for example, outside Los Angeles or on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. These are our picks for places to give technology a rest.

Just Back From: Chicago

July 10, 2012

Wiener CircleStayed at the just-opened Hotel Lincoln, Joie de Vivre’s first east-of-the-Mississippi endeavor. Loved: The eclectic-cool lobby (loads of art, deep chairs perfect for reading or snoozing, reception desk made from retro luggage), the coffee shop, Elaine’s (La Columbe coffee, a takeout section stocked with local milk and roast beef and horseradish wraps), Lather products in the rooms.

Ate Chicago dogs (one char dog, one Polish with the works) at Wiener Circle; oysters, ceviche, clam bake in a pot and halibut with Israeli couscous at GT Fish & Oyster; a three-hour meal at Alinea, with wine pairings (highlights: razor clams with XO sauce, dashi broth that percolated on the tabletop and a bounty of mushrooms); and a Slagel Family Farms burger with aged cheddar, bacon and a runny egg at Longman & Eagle.

Ran along Lake Michigan during the heat wave. Lasted all of three miles. Also took a longer jaunt (seven miles?) once the heat broke to prepare stomach for Alinea.

Walked along Michigan Avenue to Millenium Park. Ogled the bean, watched kids splashing about in the fountains and listened to classical music at the Pritzker Pavilion.

Considered catching a comedy show, taking a river cruise and renting bikes. Next time.

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