Asta, William Powell, and Myrna Loy in
"The Thin Man" (1934)
SILENT PARADISE: The New Jade Mountain Suites at Anse
Chastanet by Edward Brivio
NEW YORK CORNER: Rayuela by John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: A French Approach to California Wine at Hyde de Villaine
by John Mariani
The New Jade Mountain Suites at Anse Chastanet
by Edward Brivio
Photos by Robert Pirillo
The Pitons at night on Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia
You don't come to the
The Suites are breathtaking. Minimal decoration allows the building materials to speak for themselves: Walls of multi-hued, almost pastel fieldstones, quarried on the island, floor-to-ceiling plantation shutters, and tongue-in- groove floors of various tropical hard-woods, harvested from sustainable forests in Guyana, each exceptionally beautiful--the blond, tiger-striped, snakewood is gorgeous! These define a vast open space flowing effortlessly from bedroom to living room to terrace and to your own in-room infinity pool. The understated, almost austere beauty of the rooms contrasts with the lush profusion of the rain forest outside.
Architect Troubetzkoy is as much showman as designer. To spectacle he' loves to add drama. In our previous stay at Anse Chastanet proper, we entered our
The fourth wall, so to speak, has been done away with, replaced by an unobstructed postcard view of the Pitons, Soufrière Bay, and the blue sky beyond. No walls, windows or even French-doors to get in the way; even the railings, simple vertical stanchions held taut by seven horizontal runs of heavy gauge nautical wire provide ample protection while remaining virtually transparent. Seen from below, the infinity pools seem to float in mid-air. The pools themselves, ranging from 400 to 900 square feet in the largest "sanctuary," are lined with iridescent, polychrome glass tiles that glisten in the sunlight like the surface of the sea. At night, the pools are illuminated by underwater lighting that changes color as it moves through the spectrum.
At Jade Mountain exterior stairways take you from level to level, while individual bridges branch off to the rooms. At night, with their railings outlined in soft orange tube-lighting, these walkways seem suspended in space, and the whole complex looks like some multi-storied dwelling out of "The Jetsons." Freeform concrete terraces, faced with coral tiles mimicking Travertine marble punctuate the different landings. There's something of Gaudi's Parque Guell about it all but with pared-down, functional beauty standing in for exuberant, rococo whimsy.
This is architecture as high drama, a warren of extravagant cliff-dwellings for well-heeled, grown-up boys and tomboys. The building techniques are up-to-the-minute, the design sophisticated, the concept bold and imaginative, but the overall impression is one of primitive simplicity and languor, what Baudelaire called "luxe, calme et volupté." The stark, natural beauty of the materials not only complements the surroundings, but also gives the rooms a clean, unfussy, carefree feel just right for a laid-back, beachfront getaway, where we spent most of the day in wet bathing suits. Spar-varnished wood floors, tough as a boat's deck, segue into coralstone tiles as you approach the edge of the room exposed to the elements. At night the soft lighting gives it all an almost magical, golden glow, and the gorgeous "brightwork" tropical woods seem to warm up and soften the rough, impervious stones of the walls. Outside more stars than I've ever seen before filled the midnight blue sky.
The silence was glorious, broken only by the twittering of birds, the chirping of tree frogs -- so tiny, so much sound, if only we could teach them to sing opera, how easily they could fill our mammoth modern halls. And then the soft, welcome rustle of the tradewinds.
The Jade Mountain Club dining room (below) is exclusively for the use of resort guests, sitting at the top of the hill--it's a long way up, but well worth the trip, to this breezy aerie, with its own infinity pool, perfect for casual dining all day long.
Our first dinner here started with a tomato and mozzarella salad with a basil-pine nut drizzle, simplicity itself and all the better for it. Sweet corn and spicy chipotle soup was rich and creamy with beautifully rendered flavors. The gazpacho was unexpectedly dark, as if one of the vegetables might have been roasted, rather than crisp and refreshing; and the Cuban spiced pork tenderloin overcooked, saved only by the tangy goat cheese salad it came with.
With the entrees, however, the chef hit all the right notes. Blackened salmon, a glorious piece of fish with real flavor that could singlehandedly revive my interest in the species, was beautifully charred and served with vegetable-studded couscous, and a racy champagne beurre blanc. Lamb kebabs and rack of lamb were another complete success, tasting of the wood-fired grill, yet still tender and juicy. Cumin roast potatoes and a red wine jus completed the plate. Also nicely flavored from the grill were a strip loin, medium-rare as requested, with yummy bangers and mash, and smoky grilled giant prawns highlighted a well-turned out Caesar salad, large enough to serve as a main course.
Crème caramel with orange sauce didn't quite come off, but the chocolate tart with chocolate sauce was a knockout, oozing with deep, rich chocolate flavors, and the velvety lime cheesecake had just the right citrus bite to cut its richness.
A Masi Valpolicella classico was an incredible find at only $31, a delicious Old-World red, with just enough fruit to carry its acids and tannins. A Chianti classico riserva from Cecchi ($52), however, was a little too ripe and fruity for my taste. Perfect with both steak and salmon was a Nuits-St.-Georges 2001 from Jadot. Definitely a splurge at $140, but with everything I look for in red burgundy: something a little funky on the nose, fresh, tart cherry flavors, supple texture, and a long clean finish. I was glad to see Antinori's vin santo ($12 a glass) available as a dessert wine, with its reliable combination of luscious yet defined flavors.
Dinner is à la carte or table d'hôte--$45 for 3 courses plus 18% tax and tip.
Every night but Tuesday and Friday the waterfront restaurant, Trou au diable, is transformed into Apsara (below), the place to go on the island for Indian/Caribe cuisine, carefully prepared and beautifully turned out. A saffron-colored scrim curtains off most of the dining room, creating a more intimate, candle-lit space just steps from the shore. The entire stretch of beach in front of the restaurant is light up by flaming torches, and a handful of tables actually sit on the sand.
Chef Hemant Dadlani, originally from Bombay, certainly knows his way around the tandoor oven. Start with Bhed ka Khazana, lamb three ways, a tandoori rack of lamb, really one delicious riblet; spiced lamb Seekh kebab, a ground lamb sausage; and lamb samosa, hot, crisp and flavorful, served with a mango chutney. Also benefiting from its passage through the tandoor was Chatpati Batakh, tamarind-honey glazed duck breast with a steamed rice dumpling and two different homemade chutneys, one, fresh banana, the other, a coconut version.
Then order Jugal Bandhi, a pu-pu platter of fire roasted lamb chop, one long rib bone with a succulent nub of meat attached, coconut-chili prawns, and Cajun tandoori chicken, once again perfectly seared and juicy, served with tasty lime rice. On their own, the coconut-chili tandoori king prawns arrive on a bed of vegetable paella with a yummy tomato, garlic, and black mustard seed sauce. The chef here has a knack for creating intense, highly-spiced sauces, but with clearly delineated flavors so they never seem heavy or overwhelming. Don't pass up the Aloo Kulcha, a bread stuffed with potatoes and onions, head and shoulders above any version I've had before, hot and smoky, with a lovely crust and well-spiced filling.
The brand of chocolate used here, Cacao Barry, enhances everything it's used in, like the sweet samosa cocoa dessert, bitter sweet, with a slight crunch of almonds, served with a mango kulfi ice cream. My Sticky toffee pudding with coconut ice cream was exactly what its name implies, but for once not cloyingly sweet.
A lovely Pascal Jolivet Sancerre $56 was just what was called for, cool and crisp to refresh the palate, with plenty of flavor to stand up to the spices, but not so much depth that you were missing any of its complexity.
Appetizers run $6-$18, entrees $16 -$30.
In its daytime incarnation, Trou au diable is conveniently located right on Anse Chastanet's beautiful bay, so it's only a short walk from your palapa. Whether a steak sandwich or one stuffed with the grilled catch of the day, usually kingfish or mahi-mahi, on excellent baguettes, or jerked pork, or pork chops braised in a spicy tomato-based sauce, satay of chicken with a wonderful peanut sauce, or crab cakes, we enjoyed all our lunches. Even the cheeseburgers and fries were top-notch. Wash them down with chilled bottles of Piton lager.
The Troubetzkoys, especially Karolin, are always striving to bring the cuisine here up to the world-class standards of the accommodations and setting. Executive chef Jon Bentham, who honed his skill with a handful of
Seared tuna with cumin poppadums and a garlic dressing made for a perfect first course, light yet flavorful, as did a wonderful fennel and Pastis soup, all velvet and licorice. A chicken, parsnip and foie gras terrine was a good idea that somehow turned heavy-handed in the execution. Tenderloin of pork, with a sage, caper and sherry jus was just about perfect as was the reliable king fish, grilled, with lime butter, roast squash and a coconut chutney to make Major Grey envious, and King prawns on garlic risotto, with a lemon and tomato vinaigrette could not have been better. Table d'hôte here is $52, $44, and $39, before tax, tip, and drinks.
Whoever buys the wine here, knows his stuff, and certainly knows a bargain. The Château de l'Auberdiére Muscadet de Sèvre et
Anse Chastanet has always been a special place that obviously cannot come come cheap. A certain amount of physical stamina is also called for, because there's a hell of a lot of climbing up and down between most of the accommodations and the beach. Finally, it takes a guest with a certain mind set to enjoy the absence of noise: no A/C, no television, no telephones, nor computers. Now with the opening of
The original Anse Chastanet is a Matisse painting lovingly brought to life, all bright primary colors and primitive energy, sun-drenched gazebos and overhanging bougainvillea, an exuberant response to the natural profusion, the flora and fauna, of the rain forest into which it was so gently placed. Anse Chastanet grew out of the Troubetzkoys' love for their new island home and its people. With
Anse Chastanet (www.ansechastanet.com) reservations can be made at 800-223-1108.
Edward Brivio is a freelance writer who lives in New York City.
NEW YORK CORNER
by John Mariani
I would need at least ten adjectives for "tasty" and at least a dozen for "spicy" to begin to describe the food at Rayuela, a new Latino restaurant that brings the flagging Lower East Side a new vibrancy.
Owner Hector Sanz. Madrid-born, and executive chef-partner Maximo Tejada (below), previously at several of Doug Rodriguez's restaurants, then at Lucy Latin Kitchen, have fashioned a very shadowy, very sexy, two-level restaurant with an impressive California olive tree that raises its branches through both floors, gaining sun from a skylight.
Rayuela means "hopscotch," the name plucked from a 1963 novel by Julio Cortázar and the guiding principle at the restaurant for its design, with lots of checkerboard-like motifs in light and lay-out, which is all "Estilo Libre Latino" (freestyle Latino) in both decor and menu, incorporating culinary ideas from Spain, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. The ground floor room (above) constitutes the bar and lounge, but the same menu is served throughout the restaurant. Upstairs is the main dining room (below), outdoor terrace, and ceviche bar, where banquettes are separated by sheer curtains to give a seductive hint of privacy, and Mr. Sanz is always around to recommend what's best that night, what cocktail to try from a special list, and to recommend one of the new wines he is crazy about from an ever-changing and growing list of more than 200 Latino wines from a dozen countries. The drinks include Pisco cocktail, with quince, aloe vera juice, Barsol Pisco and Damiana liqueur, as well as the Mezcal cocktail, with ginger, jicama, pineapple, Maria Mezcal and Cointreau. I tried a rum cocktail made with cucumbers that made me realize the only vegetable I want in a drink is from potato vodka.
You are encouraged for good reason to sample the nightly ceviches, made unstintingly at the moment, with some fanciful names like "Lobster Revolution," a mix of poached lobster meat with rum-laced grilled pineapple, zesty lime, calamansi, jalapeño, and coconut water flavored with lemon grass and ginger.
The dishes are many--very many--with ceviches, salads, appetizers, soups, vegetables, and entrees spread over two sides of the menu. Diced calamari and tuna is marinated in watermelon-lemon sauce, and hamachi is served with avocado and orange zest in a wasabi-spiked citrus sauce. By the way, even the bread rolls are terrific here.
You might begin with tejada's cold corn soup over an arepa corn cake topped with lobster meat, white asparagus and truffle oil. Portions of the starters are generous, and everything at Rayuela is meant to be shared, like the jalea, crispy seafood with mango-aji chile-aïoli and sided with red onions and yucca fries; Sweetbreads are pan-seared and served with frisée greens, arugula, beans and a champagne vinaigrette with crispy potatoes and bacon; and carica relleno is a lovely idea of stuffing a papaya with duck confit, roasting then “branding” the fruit with a custom-made iron cast that embosses a hopscotch pattern onto the skin. It is then served with spinach, and sherry-doused duck sauce.
One of my favorite main courses was Cuban pork with arroz grandules, sweet plantains, and grilled pineapple mojo, as much for the lush quality of the pork as for the brittle canopy of very crisp pork skin. Breast of duck comes marinated in sugar cane with a confit of the duck, spinach and foe gras (which got lost in this melange) on an arepa. One of the specialties here is the grilled beef churrasco with Peruvian potatoes, wild mushrooms and bone marrow, with crabmeat chimichurri. In some cases there is too much going on in a dish, with flavors not so much clashing as disappearing under stronger ingredients, but overall, this is wonderful, imaginative food unique to NYC right now.
Desserts, by Bruni Bueno, share the same generosity of spirit, including a big lemon meringue tart and a coconut flan.
Demerits at Rayuela include a low level of lighting that makes menu reading difficult and the intrusion of throbbing bass-and-drum Latino music that makes yelling and cupping your ear to hear your friends the only way outside of sign language to make conversation. I asked Mr. Sanz why he doesn't play the softer Latino sounds--bossa nova, fado, tango, and so much more, and he told me he does, but they were not in the air the night I visited.
But in its beautiful decor and its dazzling food, Rayuela is succeeding in its plan to showcase myriad cuisines that have been finessed here into something new and tantalizing, and with so much to try and so much creativity, not even a once-a-week regular could ever grow tired of this kind of, well, tasty, spicy food.
Rayuela is open every night for dinner and for brunch on Sunday. Appetizers runs $9-$14, ceviches $11-$17, and main courses $24-$32.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
Approach to California Wine at Hyde de Villaine
It’s been said that you could jab a stick into the ground inTHEY ASKED IF HE WANTED TO JOIN THEM IN THE HOT TUB BUT HE SAID IT WOULD JUST GET HIS GUN WET
Which is decidedly not the way they do it in
Aubert de Villaine and Lawrence Hyde
To these ends the blocks from which Vivier gets his grapes are part of the Hyde Vineyard, established in 1979 by Laurence W. Hyde, 62, whose family worked in
The Carneros district itself, the closest appellation to
Hyde Vineyards has not in the past made its own wines, instead selling their grapes to prestigious wineries like Kistler, Patz and Hall, and Paul Hobbs. But in 1999 Hyde joined with Aubert de Villaine, 68, to establish HdV Winery. It was actually a second marriage for the two families, since de Villaine, who has his own vineyard in France, A. & P. de Villaine, and is co-director of the illustrious
He is one of a handful of French vignerons who have opened wineries in
Vivier (right), who has worked extensively in
It is distinction that goes to heart of winemaking in
I tasted several of HdV’s wines with Vivier over a seafood lunch at Go Fish in
The 2004 HdV Chardonnay ($55) was a very beautiful wine, benefiting from a warm spring start and a perfect autumn of warmth and fog. The yields were low, the fruit concentrated, and 11 months on lees and new French oak give it the backbone to allow it to develop like a fine white
The 2004 HdV Syrah ($60) is a blend from four different blocks, picked just before a spike of heat that September. Half the grapes went into open top fermenters, which Vivier says “imparts femininity and finesse,” boosting the floral notes, while the other half was in closed top fermenters that give spiciness and “a little French funk.”
The HdV Belle Cousine 2004 ($60) is labeled simply “red wine,” a blend of 80 percent merlot and 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, not unlike the wines of Pomerol, which are blends of merlot and, usually, cabernet franc. The HdV grapes were able to take the intense heat of early autumn, concentrating the fruit and sugar to produce a wine of 14.5 percent alcohol. Right now it is a pretty massive wine, with deep black cherry flavors and good spice. If it has the kinds of acids Vivier likes in his wines, it should age impeccably for the next five to ten years.
“You know, in
John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and some of its articles play of the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.
A robber broke into a
MOST FASCINATING OPENING PARAGRAPH OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
"When first hearing about Stella's in Monarch Beach, I just assumed it was somehow connected to a woman named Stella. After all, Orange County boasts many cafés named for local women: Rosine's, Zov's, Britta's, even Ruby's. So, of course, there must be a Stella."--Gretchen Kurtz, "Stella's Takes Italian Seriously," Orange Coast (July 2007).
* On Aug. 26 at Valentino in
* On Aug. 26
* During September in
* From Sept. 7-9
* On Sept. 8 at the
* On Sept. 8 The Inn at Sawmill Farm in
* On Sept. 8, the 13th Annual Staglin Family Vineyard Music Festival for Mental Health will feature Gladys Knight, with hosts Garen, Shari, Shannon and Brandon Staglin at the Staglin Family Vineyards located in Rutherford, Napa Valley, CA, with the participation of more than 30 other wineries, incl. Etude, Lewis, Revana Family, Flowers, Opus One, Screaming Eagle, Colgin Cellars, Groth, O'Shaughnessy, Shafer, and many more, with food by Rick Moonen of RM Seafood in Las Vegas, and Richard Reddington of Redd in Yountville, CA. Dr. Shitij Kapur of U. of
* On Sept. 11 Cafe Matou in
* From Sept. 11-16
* On Sept. 11 The Taste of the NFL and Gallo Wineries will host a Wine Dinner at Wright’s at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa to benefit the local
Everett Potter's Travel Report:
I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." To go to his blog click on the logo below:
Tennis Resorts Online: A Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991). Click on the logo below to go to the site.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani, Naomi Kooker, Kirsten Skogerson, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery, Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
Any of John Mariani's books below
may be ordered from amazon.com by clicking on the cover image.