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..

From the Tarmac in Marrakech

Thursday, January 09, 2014

2013 was an incredible year of travel for me personally. From kicking off the New Year in Bangkok to celebrating my husband's 40th in Tuscany to wrapping up the year in Morocco and all the little bits between.. it was monumental.

The photo above was taken at Menara Airport in Marrakech. As I hopped on that little plane, grabbed my seat, I watched as folks filed in along with the heat from the tarmac. And it hit me. That particular moment on the surface wasn't anything special, we were boarding a plane, I'd done it dozens of times. I hadn't painted anything about that moment in my dreams, but collectively everything leading up to where I was at that particular moment in time was exactly from my dreams. An intrigue with the world beyond my door, an innate desire to experience the far corners of the earth. It's a part of who I am. I knew it from my early childhood. I knew that popping around to see those far corners would be how my life would be spent. And as it often happens when gratefulness hits you like a jet plane, it happened during such an ordinary moment, that actually turned out to be one of the best yet.


& To read more about my time in Marrakech at PURE Life Experiences, click here -- SmartFlyer Why We Travel

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thank you for entrusting your travel to me this past year. My first year in business was beyond anything I could have hoped for. You've traveled all over North America, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa. Whether for business, leisure, or a combination of the two, it's always an absolute joy & honor getting to know each of you, your families, friends, and then hearing your stories when you return from that monumental trip.
Nothing else like it.

Cheers to an adventurous 2014!


a Tour through Chianti

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I'm of the opinion that you'd be doing a disservice to yourself if you went all the way to Florence and didn't discover Chianti- to bop through the cellars of Tuscany, it's quintessential. In fact, anytime I have curious wine & food loving clients visiting the area I always incorporate a day trip to Chianti into the itinerary. One of my favorites is orchestrated by Your Personal Italy, so when my husband decided he wanted to spend his 40th there, I immediately messaged the owner, Max, to get us set up with the perfect experience - a mix of formal tastings and downright gritty cellars. Which is why Max is my go-to tour operator in Italy, he knows how to blend casual luxe flawlessly.
We were lucky to have several friends join us for this trip, which made the experience that much more enjoyable & memorable. Riccardo picked us up early in the morning, and with a car to ourselves plus a personal driver / guide so we could enjoy without worry, we were off on one of the world's most beautiful and famous routes. Riccardo gave us a history lesson of the Florentine region on the way to our first tasting at Castello di Fonterutoli - one of the largest and most historic wineries in the region producing for nearly 600 years.
After our private tasting of their fantastic production, our next stop was a walk through the walled medieval town of Montefioralle, consistently ranked among Italy's most beautiful villages, for sweeping views over the vineyards below.
By this time we were all hungry, and eagerly anticipating where Riccardo's car would lead us next! When he pulled up to Monterinaldi, a sprawling estate and told us lunch would be here, I think our jaws collectively dropped. We had our own personal dining room and attendant.. and several courses of simple Italian fare that never seemed to end. After lunch, we were able to tour Monterinaldi's winery and cellar to get a first hand look at what goes into creating authentic Chianti wines.
What came next was possibly my favorite bit of the entire day - a visit to the tiny winery Montagliari. The vibe was lively in the packed tasting room, everyone having a good time sampling their exquisite reds, balsamics, and olive oils. At one point I found myself behind the counter serving myself, and others.. it was just that kind of place. My kind of place.
Not wanting to leave, but curious about the remainder of what Riccardo had in store, we loaded ourselves and new bottles of wine & olive oil into the car for our next delight - Falorni, one of Italy's oldest butcher shops, situated in the center of charming Greve. Somehow we found room in our stomachs to sample various types of salami, proscuitto, and cheese.
..And of course as I was walking through the piazza, I heard Southern accents and had to introduce myself. Turns out these ladies were all born in my hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. What a small, wonderful world it really is.
On the drive back to Florence we all laughed and talked about our favorite parts of the day, each of us knowing that this would be one of those experiences in life that stays with you forever. Getting out of the city and into the countryside is always my favorite part to a trip, this one no exception. If you find yourself thinking about a trip to Tuscany, let me know, It would be an honor to work with you to make your visit even more special than you could have imagined.

Grazie to Max & Riccardo at Your Personal Italy for arranging such a perfect day! I'm off to make fresh ragu with the olive oil I bought from Montagliari...

Venice, Italy

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I fell in love with Italy even more so during a recent visit. Seems every time I go, I fall a little deeper. Here are some shots taken through Venice. The city is just so magical. Get off the main squares and into the small alleys to find unbelievable restaurants tucked into unassuming corners, and a building more spectacular than the next. The colors, the sights, the feeling. Can't get enough of it.
 If your travel plans have you considering Italy, contact me.

Images are all mine. 

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