Just Back From // Little Palm Island Florida

Thursday, August 07, 2014

 I've had the chance to visit some spectacular destinations & properties lately, one of which being Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys on Little Torch Key. Fairly mid-way between Miami and Key West, it's set on it's own private island. Due to its locale, you can do as much or as little as you'd like .. spend the day exploring an adjacent key by kayak and your night spent sitting under the stars while a jazz pianist plays on the deck nearby. It's a throwback, timeless class & ambiance. Adult only, impeccable cuisine, perfect for honeymoons and anniversaries. It's even available for complete buy-out for weddings & special occasions. Below are just a few snapshots I took with my phone doing the property little justice .. it's one of those that needs to be seen to be experienced.


Just Back From // Montana, The Ranch at Rock Creek & Paws Up

Saturday, July 19, 2014

 I've recently returned from visiting a couple of luxury guest ranches in western Montana, near Missoula. Any ideas that I had of glamping and ranching were that plus plus. I think the idea of the ranch vacation has always been around but not entirely embraced because the beach vacation dominates our vision of 'vacation.' 
Sometimes it's good to break with the norm.

 Both Rock Creek and Paws Up are completely different from each other. Rock Creek is small, intimate. Paws Up is larger, almost a small national park. Both are 5-star gourmet inclusive, tip top accommodation whether you're in a luxe cabin or glamping tent, with activities to keep you busy from sun up to sun down - but each have very different personalities & ambiance. Reach out if you'd like to discuss options for your next family vacation, group trip, or corporate retreat.

Just back from // UXUA Casa Hotel in Brazil.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A conversation with my father earlier this week has reminded me that I need to do a better job with keeping up the blog. He's not into facebook / twitter / instagram -- the outlets where I can quickly share tidbits & photos -- but he does read my blog and often asks, "When can I see photos from _______ trip?" And the honest truth is that I got a lot of great information to share, but little time to properly devote. 
Alas, I have just gotten back from a true gem down in Brazil that you need to know about. Trancoso on the Atlantic Coast in Southern Bahia. A 1-hr flight from Rio / 2-hr flight from Sao Paulo then a 2hr drive to one of the most divine hotels I've laid eyes on in quite some time. UXUA Casa Hotel & Spa, which translates to unpretentious laid-back luxury in an old Brazilian Fishing Village unaware of how fantastic it really is. 
I'll let the photos tell the story.


 If you'd like to read more, please check out my longer review on SmartFlyer.
Images are mine

Desert Love | Las Vegas, Nevada USA

Friday, February 28, 2014

I've just returned from a long weekend in Las Vegas. Part leisure for a dear friend's birthday, and part business to visit hotelier friends. Truth be told the birthday celebrations were exceptional.. and the hotel scene is hotter than ever with the likes of Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas, the sexy oasis straight in the middle of City Center, and the sublimely elegant Four Seasons Las Vegas at the quiet southern strip. Neither of which have an internal casino. Less is definitely more. And later this year the contemporary SLS brand will pop open their doors offering 1,600 guest suites and a plethora of restaurant & lifestyle boutiques at the tip of the northern strip.

The neon city is a very top destination for my clients so it's important to me to stay on top of the trends like the quirky new vaudevillian dinner theater Rose.Rabbit.Lie at The Cosmo that everyone's buzzing about, to the lesser known experiences such as a jaunt out to the serene Red Rock Canyon on the outskirts of town. 

Whether you're heading to Vegas for leisure or business, a list of my preferred partner hotels is below where you'll always receive privileged rates, complimentary amenities, and VIP treatment just for booking your stay through me.

Aria Resort & Casino
Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas
Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
Wynn & Encore

If I can help with your next trip out to the desert, do let me know!

A Private Chef in Italy

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

During a recent trip to Italy for my husband's 40th birthday, we were lucky enough to have friends from different parts of the world join us to celebrate. We decided early on in the planning process that an apartment rental in the center of Florence was the way to go - this way we'd be able to entertain everyone comfortably. And since everyone was traveling from afar to be with us, it was pretty important to Chad & me to do something special, memorable for them. So working with friends over at Bravo! Concierge, I hired Chef Claudio Rossi to prepare a laid-back, traditional Italian meal for a dinner party in our rental.
The morning of the dinner party, Claudio met me & some friends at our apartment and took us to the local market to shop for ingredients. Wanting a total surprise at the dinner table, I left the menu up to Claudio. So the entire time we were shopping, with each new ingredient he'd select, my mind was running trying to peg the dish. Rows of produce, fruits, fish, meats, cheeses, breads, pastas, wines. At each new stall we'd stop at Claudio would smile my way to see if I could guess the dish. Not a clue. Until he picked up zucchini flowers, and I was hoping he was frying those babies. With a wink my way, I kinda knew he was. Before dropping the groceries back at the apartment, we stopped off for a cappucino - Claudio's treat. Such a gentleman.
Claudio returned to our apartment shortly after lunch, with his sous chef in tow - Ilaria, a spunky woman from Pisa. Friendly with a fiery red pixy, I immediately liked her. She & I talked some as she began making preparations. I soon left them to work their magic in peace.
Upon returning to the apartment a few hours later, I walked in to find Claudio setting the table and our friends mingling, sipping the cabernet we'd bought at vineyards the day before. I paused in the doorway to just soak in the moment.

To borrow words from a client, "It was just one of those moments where you have to stop and say to yourself.. 'What a privilege it is to be here.'"
It wasn't a fancy affair. Casual, comfortable, with mismatched linens and dinnerware. But what it was was 7 courses of pure love with the undertone of 'Welcome to Italy, welcome to Florence, I hope you enjoy our home.' Claudio & Ilaria joined us at the table for the last course. We laughed, we talked. They'll be cemented in my mind forever. How could they not? I felt like the food I was eating was intimately special to them for one reason or another, I felt like they wanted us to get a real taste of their life, of their childhood, upbringing, of what their grandparents cooked for them and so on. Intimate and honored.

The menu that Claudio & Ilaria prepared for us is below. My favorite dish was a twist on the caprese salad. I loved it so much, I requested the recipe from Claudio; it's below for your enjoyment as well.

Ps, Thank you Ana Paula Toledo for bringing Claudio & Ilaria into our temporary home in Florence!

Course #1, Tuscany " focaccia " with Colonnata Lard
Course #2, Fried zucchini flower
Course #3, Caprese
Course #4, Pappa al pomodoro
Course #5, Zucchini and saffron risotto
Course #6, Stuffed pork fillet with fennel and orange salad
Course #7, Apple crumble

Caprese recipe, straight from Claudio ..

some "sheets" of carasau sardinian bread
some tomatoes confit
500g mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) or 2 smaller
basil olive oil

1) break the carasau sheets creating 3 pieces each (as squared as possible), the size can be almost as the mozzarella slices  or a bit larger. You can use scissors to help you, be very delicate as the bread easily breaks.

2) Cut the mozzarella in slices, need to have 3 slices each person. Cut it some hours previously as it needs to lose its "water"

3) Create the plate: 1 mozzarella slice, then tomato confit, 1 piece of carasau bread, repeat it twice (or more if preferred). On the last sheet of bread put some tomatoes, decorate with basil oil and just an idea of olive oil. 

use a lot of basil leaves, washed and gently dried. Put the leaves inside the blender glass with olive oil (as much as needed to create a soft cream), blend very well. Use a chinoise and filter the cream. Store it immediately in the fridge (otherwise the basil tarnishes). It can be used for some days.  

Use small red and compact tomatoes, cut in two. Or you can cut slices of red tomatoes like "Roma" quality. Put the tomates on a baking tray with hoven paper, the cut side up. Spread them with some salt, provencal herbs, a thread of olive oil, icing sugar. Put in pre-heated hoven at 100° for almost 90 minutes, until they start to dry..

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