Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lake Como, Italy - Hotel Terminus

View of Lake Como from my room at the Hotel Terminus

 I just recently arrived in Lake Como for my first official business trip with my new job. Yes, that's right, I am actually getting paid right now to be in this magnificent place! I came to Como to meet with one of the biggest textile printers in the area. Their list of top-name clients, in both fashion and interior design, is thoroughly impressive. I actually saw next season's Roberto Cavalli fabric being created in front of my eyes on one of the printing machines; how exciting to think that when I walk in the shop in a few months it will actually be hanging on the rack in the form of a dress!

I'm staying at a lovely hotel called Hotel Terminus, a restored 19th century building smack on the lake. Thanks to my new friends at the factory, who are very close with the owner of the hotel, I received a wonderful upgrade to a deluxe room (Room 222) overlooking both Piazza Cavour (I'm literally above the famous Pasticceria Monti) and the lake. The room has beautiful hardwood floors, spacious marble bathroom with a tub and an overhead rain shower, a queen-sized bed, a walk-in closet and some really cool sepia colored photos of villas from the area printed above the headboard directly on the wall.  Judging from the hotel website, many of the rooms below the deluxe level are not nearly as nice, so keep that in mind when booking so you are not disappointed. You may also want to be on a higher floor to avoid the noise of the piazza and the main road. The location, however, could not be any more central.

The facade of the Hotel Terminus
My deluxe room overlooking Piazza Cavour and the lake

One of my closest Italian friends, who lives in Milan, took the train up to Como (about half an hour) to surprise me for lunch! I will be attending her wedding in Venice the last weekend of August, so stay tuned for lots of blog posts from that upcoming trip. We had a lovely lunch at the hotel on their outdoor terrace overlooking the lake, called Bar delle Terme. The waiters tell me George Clooney lunches here often. As it was quite hot today, we opted for a light lunch consisting of prosciutto and melon, and a caprese salad with absolutely delicious and creamy mozzarella and beautifully cut tomatoes.

Prosciutto and melon
Caprese salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes
Doesn't get much more picturesque than this!
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sardinia, Italy - Pasticceria Sa Conca (Porto Cervo)

I never met a bakery I didn’t like. Pasticceria Sa Conca is no exception. Not only do they bake eye-pleasing and mouth-wateringly delicious Italian pastries, but they just happen to be located on one of the most glorious islands in the world: Sardinia. Pasticceria Sa Conca’s (Via Sa Conca, Porto Cervo) modest interior and simple display cases evoke the simplicity of a rural Italian pasticceria from many years ago, yet it exists in a town where glamorous opulence and extravagant displays of wealth surround it on all sides. The stark contrast between this humble bakery and the town of Porto Cervo, coupled with the authentic flavor of its sweets, is what makes it a true gem.

Situated behind the shops of the main piazza, Pasticceria Sa Conca is a short walk from the center on a stunningly beautiful street that overlooks the sparkling harbor of Porto Cervo. Red tiled roofs, white-washed housess, glimpses of blue ocean and vibrant bougainvillea dot the road of Via Sa Conca. Once inside this small bakery, your hardest decision will be what to buy. They offer many kinds of chocolate dipped fruits, biscotti, lemon tarts, cream puffs, fruit tarts, gelato, and typical Sardinian sweets. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. And as you dive into sampling all of these pastries, just make sure to temporarily forget that you have to be in that tiny prerequisite Pucci swimsuit for the rest of the trip!

Chocolate covered ginger
Chocolate covered winter cherries
The inside of the bakery
View of Porto Cervo Harbor from next door to Pasticceria Sa Conca
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

London, England - Taste of London

Last weekend I participated in the Taste of London, held annually over the course of four days in London's Regent's Park. The UK's largest restaurant festival, this sell-out event hosted 50,000 people this year and served over 200,000 Michelin starred dishes.  Major chefs from forty of the best restaurants in the city prepared signature dishes, and even Gwyneth Paltrow was on hand to sign her new cookbook, Notes From my Kitchen Table. For anyone who is a true foodie, this is a fun and delicious event that is not to be missed. Dates have already been announced for the 2012 festival, so if you find yourself in London next June, this is a cost effective way to sample signature plates from some of the city's culinary gems.
Traditional British fish & chips with mushy peas and tartar sauce

A delicious ground steak burger with garlic mayo aioli, lettuce, tomato and onion
Each restaurant prepares three to four small plates and then lists their menu at their individual booth. Guests can purchase as many dishes throughout the day as they like, and the currency used at the festival is the 'crown.' A packet of 20 crowns costs ₤10, and staff members selling crowns circulate amongst the crowd, so it is quite easy to buy more. There are also many cooking demonstrations held throughout the day and in addition to the restaurant booths, there are many stalls where you can purchase various food items from local producers such as cakes, cookies, ice creams, cheeses, biscuits, sauces, etc.
Lots of oysters were shucked over the 4 days!

A decadent wagyu beef burger with truffles and a truffled polenta french fry

There were many stands with producers selling their homemade goodies, like this patisserie
The atmosphere is a festive one, and there are many bars under various tents where you can sit out and have a cold drink. Pitchers of the famous British Pimms (Pimms, lemonade and chopped fruit) is a favorite here. British Airways, the major sponsor of the event, has a wonderful VIP tent with free alcohol and snacks, open to anyone who is a BA frequent flyer (just show your card). 
A festive bar set up under one of many white tents that covered Regent's Park

People lining up to pay their crowns to sample dishes

An example menu board for one restaurant, there were hundreds of dishes on offer!
Each individual restaurant decorates their own booth at the festival, and many have gorgeous flower arrangements, hired dancers, musicians or people in costume helping to serve the dishes.
Many of the booths were beautifully decorated, including this one from the Ritz London
Floridita, a Cuban restaurant in the Soho area of London, hired a Cuban band to play at their booth and also served mojito drinks, using real pineapples as the glasses. See a short video of the band here:

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

London, England - Breakfast at The Wolseley

One of the hottest tables in London right now is actually at breakfast. The Wolseley has recently become the place to start your day. Situated at 160 Picadilly, right next door to The Ritz hotel, The Wolseley is a beautiful space that originally served as the Wolseley Motors Limited car showroom and was designed in 1921 by William Curtis Green, who modeled it after a recently constructed bank building he had seen in Boston. Featuring venetian and florentine detailing, the interior has beautiful marble arches, columns and stairways.

When the car dealership went bankrupt in 1926, it then became a branch of Barclay's Bank, and the original architect was called in to create offices and a large banking counter, as well as designing furniture in Japanese lacquer. The Japanese influence still permeates the space today. Finally in 2003, The Wolseley was opened as a restaurant by the dynamic duo who also run Le Caprice, The Ivy and J. Sheekey (all in London).

Open for breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch and dinner, we started out with the Viennoiserie, which is a basket of pastries all made on-site that includes mini croissant, pain au chocolat, amandine, pain sucré au beurre normand, and cannelé bordelais. (If you want butter or jam with that it will be an extra ₤1.50!).

Moving on, we sampled the traditional English breakfast: a hearty plate of eggs (fried, poached, or scrambled) with bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomato, black pudding (eek!) and mushrooms. We also had the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and toasted campagne bread, which was quite tasty. I especially loved the super fresh and pulpy pineapple juice, which was deliciously refreshing.

The traditional English breakfast

Smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toasted campagne bread

A basket of homemade pastries

Make sure to book a reservation in advance, and heaven forbid you're the type to linger, you'll be kindly reminded on the phone that the restaurant is fully committed so you may only have your table for approximately an hour and a half. The restaurant even sent me a text message the day before my reservation and asked me to text them back with the word 'confirm' to make sure I was still coming (breakfast is serious business evidently!).

Love the black and white marble floor and the table of pastries that greet you on the way in

Large hanging chandeliers, Japanese wall panels, arches and upstairs seating
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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Paget Parish, Bermuda - Elbow Beach Hotel

Mickey's Bistro and Bar is smack on the sand and open for lunch and dinner at Elbow Beach

Pink sands and turquoise blue waters

It's that time again, the summer months, when the island of Bermuda just seems to sparkle. Pink sands, azure seas, British flair, native hospitality, and a mere two hour direct flight from Boston and New York City makes this the perfect weekend getaway. Check yourself into one of the cottages (all named after flowers) at Elbow Beach and then laze the days away on their half mile stretch of private beach while sipping a Rum Swizzle or Dark & Stormy cocktail. Does it get any better than this?

 Having been a British colony means that proper English tea begins each afternoon at 3pm. Book yourself a table at the lounge just off the main lobby and enjoy finger sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and a variety of teas, all enjoyed over an Atlantic sea view. Elbow Beach's three different restaurants and lavish breakfast buffet ensure that you never have to leave the property. This makes staying put and vegetating at this resort that much easier.

Strolling the beach

Forget the main hotel, some rooms there are still dated, lack character, and do not feel as private as the little cottages that dot the property. All of these cottages have been recently updated and feature stunning bathrooms, sitting areas and their own private patios. I just loved the free standing bathtub that seems to float in the middle of the room.

One of the many private cottages on the property, love the tubs in the middle of the room!
 Not only does Elbow Beach sit on a beautiful oasis of 50 acres covered in lush vegetation and gardens, but it is just seven miles from downtown Hamilton. A short cab ride can bring you to Bermuda's capital for shopping, dining and sightseeing.

It truly is amazing how tropical and remote this island feels for how easy it is to get to if you live on the East Coast. Just the men dressed in traditional Bermuda shorts and knee socks alone are enough to make me smile!

A beautiful flower arrangement in the main lobby of Elbow Beach
* June is Portuguese man of war season, so be very careful on the beaches. They sting and are fairly poisonous making them a real nuisance for vacationers. Pin It