"Atalanta and the Golden Apple" By Galina Dargery (2015)
IN THIS ISSUE
MILAN and PORTOFINO
By Misha Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
MICHAEL JORDAN'S STEAKHOUSE
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
VIÑA ARDANZA OF RIOJA
By John Mariani
MILAN and PORTOFINO
By Misha Mariani
While trying to decide where we wanted to go on our most recent vacation, my wife got lost in a myriad of places that we wanted to visit. But at the end of the day, we were drawn back to Europe, specifically Italy and France, where we hadn’t visited since we got engaged in Florence four years ago. (By the way, that's her as the model for Atalanta in the painting above.)
This time we wanted to venture to regions and towns where we had never been before. We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to solely Italy, so we decided why not explore southern France for a bit. This led us on an excursion starting in Milan and bringing us all the way to St. Tropéz and Ramatuelle and then back to Milan.
After we touched down in Milan we settled into the Four Seasons Hotel (left) located in the heart of the fashion district on Via Gesù, also home of top fashion designers and luxury brands such as Thom Browne, Versace and Rolex. The Four Seasons was a 15th century convent that has been transformed into one of the top hotes in Milan. Much like some of the company’s other properties, specifically their property in Florence, where I also had the pleasure of staying, the Four Seasons Milan houses its own private garden, nestled into the center of the hotel and surrounded on all sides with many rooms and suites looking down into it.
The property has, of course, been refinished and renovated, and has been done over in a style that is modern yet timeless, highlighted with touches of vintage motifs and décor. Chairs and lamps hint at a time going back to the 1950s but are set among 21st century counterparts and aesthetics closer to the current Milanese style. Soft colors and fabrics set the tone that you are at home and in your own posh quarters. And the structure of the building still retains its 15th century charm with surrounding arches in the garden, pebble walk ways and a sense of seclusion away from a bustling city.
The Four Seasons is also home to one of Milan’s more exceptional restaurants, La Veranda (right), where my wife and I enjoyed the first meal of our trip. La Veranda has seating inside and outside on the terrazza, where we enjoyed our evening. Chef Vito Mollica (below) oversees the restaurants at both the Milan and Florence Four Seasons Hotels and proudly carries a Michelin star. We embarked upon a four-course menu that included dishes such as sweet scallop carpaccio enriched by creamy burrata and Calvisius Siberian caviar. Perfectly al dente risotto was studded with Iberian chorizo and Pamigiano-Reggiano, while properly gamey quail was stuffed with apricot and accompanied by goose liver and celeriac. Delicate turbot was emboldened with cheek bacon and creamed lettuce, and for dessert, almond crémeux came with tart rhubarb sorbet. All of this was impeccably served with an exquisitely executed wine pairing that showcased the complementing characteristics of wines such as Travaglino Riesling "Campo della Fojada" 2015; Vermentino di Gallura "Riccaìa" 2013 by Masone Mannu, and a Colterenzio Sauvignon "La Foa" 2015.
In addition to La Veranda, the hotel also has the Il Foyer lounge in the lobby, where you can sip handcrafted cocktails and nibble light bites, or settle into the courtyard/garden outside in one of their cozy lounge arrangements and enjoy some sparkling wine and bar snacks.
After our lovely stay in Milan, which set the standard pretty high for the rest of our trip, we rented a car and drove a little over two hours to the Ligurian coast and the charming town of Portofino, which originated as a small, modest fishing village but after the war quickly became the go-to destination for artists, celebrities, vacationers, and the just plain wealthy.
Despite the demand tourism created, Portofino has retained all of the charm and glory that originally made it such an attractive destination. Much of this has to do with the government protection in place that has put a limit on development and preserved the natural habitat and parks that make up this quaint little town. Its tiny port is lined with colorful buildings and homes that have become a trademark of Portofino’s allure. While Portofino isn’t that large it does have a number of hotel accommodations to chose from. But take it from me, there is only one place to stay and that’s Hotel Splendido (right), now owned by Belmond Hotels, which is increasingly known for destination high-end luxury hotels located all over the world, in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, North and South America and throughout Europe. One of those is Villa San Michele, where I proposed to my wife overlooking all of Florence.
Driving into Portofino, we careered around winding, narrow roads where oftentimes you have to stop and hug the road just inches from the nearly vertical hillside walls so that the oncoming traffic can get through. But as I looked out of my driver side window, there was the glorious sight of the deep blue, white-capped Ligurian Sea with its many little coves where rowboats anchored so that their occupants could take in the golden sun. Those winding roads continue into Hotel Splendido’s private entrance via a winding adventure up a hillside garnished with endless varietals of foliage, flowers and Cyprus trees to where the hotel is perched hundreds of feet above the city and looks down into the harbor.
Hotel Splendido is a former Benedictine monastery, and just like the hillsides around it, it is also under historical protection. This might seem like a hurdle to many expanding hotel brands, but one of the core principals Belmond was founded on is respecting and preserving its community and improving it through their occupancy. This is evident in the design and alterations made to the property. There is tranquility and historical beauty radiating throughout the premises.
Immediately after checking in, my wife and I took advantage of one of Hotel Splendido’s many amenities, its salt-water infinity pool overlooking the harbor. We settled into one of the perched terraces just above the pool, laid out our towels, ordered a bottle of San Pellegrino, donned our sunglasses and breathed in the salty fresh air blowing in from the sea. We had found perfect happiness right then and there. My wife even said to me at that point, let’s get a home here. She wasn’t kidding.
Annexed to the pool is one of the hotel’s two restaurants, La Terrazza (right). During the day, you can dine by the pool on wood fired pizza, housemade pasta, fresh seafood, bowls of tiny Manila clams steamed open with white wine and garlic, or simply have some crudo di pesce to keep it light before you embark on the town in the evening for a more substantial dinner. La Terrazza extends down to the pool area, as well as up a terrace level where you can enjoy a superlative breakfast in the morning, have an Aperol spritz in the afternoon or listen to live piano music in the evening during cocktail hour, then have dinner in the dining room or outside on the terrazza looking down on Portofino.
Splendido’s second restaurant—Chuflay (below)—is down in the harbor, set less than 50 yards from the water. Here we settled in to enjoy a lovely dinner while watching people come and go and fishermen docking their boats as we sipped a Ligurian Vermentino and set our gaze on the hillside, where Castello Brown, a house museum, is located.
Staying at Hotel Splendido for us was geared more around relaxation, and if this is what you seek, take advantage of the Spa, salt-water pool, wellness center, dining amenities or just stroll their tranquil estate. But if you are looking for some more physical activities, the hotel has a grass tennis court on property, can arrange a tee time at a nearby golf course or take you motorboating in the Liguria Sea.
It would be difficult to pick a better name for Hotel Splendido than it already has, and I applaud Belmond for applying the same standards of luxury here as elsewhere around the world. Like the Four Seasons brand, Belmond does deluxe with a consummate refinement.
NEW YORK CORNERMICHAEL JORDAN'S
By John Mariani
23 Vanderbilt Avenue
Grand Central Terminal
A few weeks ago I wrote
that Porter House Bar & Grill, overlooking
Central Park, had a uniquely New
York location as well as terrific food. But in a wholly different way Michael
Jordan’s The Steakhouse NYC is one of
the city’s true icons, for the
restaurant is set on the balcony of Grand Central Terminal’s Main Concourse, which,
since its renovation was completed in
2007, is one the greatest public
spaces in the world. Its stunning astronomical ceiling, the elegant
ticket booths and marble staircases, the
arched mullioned windows and
glorious chandeliers, and its central bronze information booth set with a
four-faced clock (said to be worth $20 million)
are all a perfect expression of
the city’s immense heart and soul.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
SETTING STANDARDS FOR LA RIOJA ALTA:
By John Mariani
while ago I wrote that Viña Ardanza is, overall,
my favorite Spanish
wine, one that expresses everything the terroir of
the territory it springs
from is at its best. And, after a dinner held by
the winery to celebrate
its 75th anniversary (below), at The Grill in New York
City, at which several vintages
dating back to 1989 were sampled, I’m more
convinced than ever that this
is a wine that shows how far Spanish viticulture
has come in the past
SOON TO BE PUBLISHED IN A LEADING SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL
Mechanical Engineer researchers at Utah State University’s Splash Lab spent “several hours a day, for two weeks” trying to find the peak dip time for an Oreo cookie: four seconds. Tadd Truscott, who runs the lab, said that the question about optimized dunking time “kept coming up” with colleagues. According to their study, the cookie will soak up 50 percent of possible fluids in just one second. By the fourth second, it’s “reached maximum absorption,” so is therefore “best eaten then.”
FOOD WRITING 101: TIME TO GET RID OF THE EDITORIAL "WE"
“We were drawn to the Bad Hombre burger. . . . We loved every sloppy bite. . . . We opted for boardwalk fries for an extra $2, instead of the standard kettle chips offered. . . . We weren't expecting a boneless chicken breast from its description on the menu . . . .We chose cole slaw as a side for an additional couple of bucks." Suzanne Loudermilk, "Humagalas restaurant in Bel Air serves pizza and burgers with Maryland flair," www.baltimoresun.com. (8/25/17)
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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." THIS WEEK: The Leopard at Des Artistes NYC.
Eating Las Vegas
JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is
the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50
Essential Restaurants (as well as
the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas.
He can also be seen every Friday morning as
the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the
Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3 in
nickonwine: An engaging, interactive wine column by Nick Passmore, Artisanal Editor, Four Seasons Magazine; Wine Columnist, BusinessWeek.com; email@example.com; www.nickonwine.com.
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Editor/Publisher: John
Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani,
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Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina
Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.
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