Thursday, August 14, 2014

St. Tropez, France - Chateau de la Messardiere

A long time ago, I gave up on the dream of visiting the fairy tale castles in the children’s books of my youth. Then, this summer, I motored through the wrought iron gates and up the long, steep driveway to the four-turreted façade of the five-star Chateau de la Messardiere in St. Tropez. 

One of only twelve ‘palace’ hotels in France, the serene, oasis-like ambience of the Chateau de la Messardiere’s property is a stark contrast to the crowds and champagne-soaked nightclubs of the bustling port of St. Tropez (a five minute drive away via the hotel’s complimentary 24-hour shuttle service).

Set on a hill and encompassing 25 acres (including a birdlife reserve), the native umbrella pines and mile-high cypress give way to the azure sea and undulating vineyards. You can see it all from expansive windows, doors, balconies, and terraces.

My own room, one of 118 on the property, was an enormous suite decorated in Provençal style, with red terra cotta tiled floors, a canopy bed, sitting area, two full bathrooms, and a private balcony so large I could have held a cocktail party for 60 of my nearest and dearest.

The room rate was inclusive of a breakfast buffet to rival all breakfast buffets (treats ranging from fresh baked croissants, jelly-filled beignets, pastries, meats, cheeses, cereals, yogurts, crepes) and was held on the hotel restaurant’s outdoor terrace, which boasts a panorama so arresting I needed two hands to keep my coffee cup from trembling.

The hallmark of the hotel, should I be so bold as to name just one, was the attentiveness and absolute competence of the staff. Perhaps best summed up by my first morning at breakfast, when a waiter ran over and swooped a small footstool under my handbag to save it from having to endure the horror of resting on the ground beside my chair.

There is certainly no reason to ever leave the Chateau de la Messardiere. The property boasts a first-class spa, heated indoor pool and sauna, gym, outdoor pool, private beach with a beach restaurant, hairdresser, clothing shop, gourmet fine dining restaurant, poolside bar, British-style library bar, and rotating art exhibits and musical recitals. Should you want to venture off the property, however, the Golden Key winning concierge will attend to your every request.

My travel companion, a discerning and very critical individual, who is no stranger to some of the best luxury properties in the world, deemed the Chateau de la Messardiere, quite simply, “almost beyond description.” And yet I try.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

London, England - Ostuni

Sparkling Negroamaro rose, Angelini, Puglia 2013

I've always wanted to visit the Puglia region of Italy, but sadly have not yet made it there. Last night I found the next best thing: Ostuni. Ostuni is a London (Queen's Park) restaurant entirely dedicated to the food and wines of Puglia. Dishes are unique and authentic, as is the setting. They have a large outdoor patio and the interior is decorated to reflect the "trulli" or traditional stone houses that can be found in Puglia. The menu ranges from hot and cold antipasti, salads, traditional pasta dishes, fresh fish, and a variety of meats cooked in a large charcoal oven that is fired up each night.

Cured capocollo and salumi from Martina Franca
Greco di Tufo, Pietracupa, Campania 2012
Favabean & chicory croquettes, chilli jam
Arugula and Canestrato cheese
Marinated artichokes, tomatoes, zucchini, onions
Mussels in a claypot 
King prawns, chili, garlic, arugula

Whole seabream baked in salt crust
Grilled Veal Chop, Rustic Rosemary Fries
Chocolate fondant, pistachio ice cream
Cherry Torte

I just ate at Ostuni last night and I woke up this morning wanting to go back again! I think this may just be a new favorite. 

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Capri, Italy - Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda Show Autumn/Winter 2014

Paris Fashion Week has NOTHING on the Italians. Last Friday evening Dolce & Gabbana showed their Alta Moda A/W14 collection in a dramatic Fellini-esque staging on the rocks of Capri.

Guests were shuttled by boats garlanded in lemons to the Fontelina Beach Club, where they sat in striped lounge chairs and were provided with fans depicting tourist scenes of the island. Pavarotti and Boccelli music began to play as little boats started to appear from behind the famous Faraglioni rocks, carrying the models that would walk the show.

"On Capri, a woman doesn’t live the seasons," wrote Stefano and Domenico in the beautiful little book they produced for guests, filled with images of the island and the legendary women who have fallen in love with it through the years—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Maria Callas, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, and Ingrid Bergman among them. "She lives life, love and passion."

After the show, guests sat at tables covered in traditional, embroidered pale tablecloths and rustic arrangements of red peppers, lemons, tomatoes, and bougainvillea blossoms. Traditional local delicacies were served—perfect zucchini blossoms, spaghetti alle vongole, and deadly rum babas among them—and another flotilla of boats appeared, lit by garlands of light bulbs and serenaded by musicians. 

The grand finale: the Dolce & Gabbana bride, illuminated as a figurehead, sailed by in the dark sea below and a fireworks show kicked off over the Faraglioni ... a true masterpiece of Italian drama. 



The party continued into the wee hours of the night at the famous Capri disco Anema e Core as revelers danced until the sun came up. 

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