Washington, D.C. Opening: The Bar at the St. Regis

We do sort of miss the unapologetic bluebloodedness of the St. Regis Washington, D.C. before its various renovations. The St. Regis Bar itself was once all stogies, cognacs, political kerfuffles, and celebrating young Sebastian’s Ivy League accomplishments. Modernized in 2007 to complement the arrival of Alain Ducasse’s Adour restaurant, it has just received another facelift which, ironically, tips it aesthetically back to its former glories. The Rockwell Group’s design draws on those particular northeastern takes on trad English comforts, all distressed leather Chesterfield sofas and herringbone floors. A custom Swarovski chandelier adds just a touch of glam.

Drinks-wise, the bar eschews ephemeral trends in favor of timeless sips. Adour’s deep wine cellar offers up highlighted monthly selections, complemented by such classically leaning cocktails as the Bitter Loves Company, the Old Fashioned Old Fashion, and the Capitol Mary. Comestibles including the croque monsieur & madame and the Contemporary Waldorf Salad also suggest that they knew enough not to try make it avant / neo / nouveau anything. Bless.

For more great spots to party in Washington D.C., like the BlackBook-approved Capitale and Heist, check out the BlackBook Washington, D.C. Guide and download the GPS-enabled City Guides apps for iPhone and Android. See you at the bar.

Hotel Food to Stay For

Why ever leave your hotel when so many accommodations now offer a wonderful spread for their guests, like the freshly renovated Auden Bistro and Bar at the Ritz Carlton? Where once the bar and dining room of this classic hotel exuded old, musty money, the newly revamped space brings a clubhouse vibe and chef Mark Arnao’s modern-meets-traditional bistro cuisine. Hotel guests and diners can choose whether to look at the view over Sixth Avenue or at their plates of regionally sourced nibbles. Over at the bar, the team has carried over the regional bent and offers many local spirits and beers, all poured by bartender Norman Bukofzer.

Of course, Auden Bistro and Bar stepping up their game comes long after the boom of laidback, yet fine dining. Not too long ago, Reynards made waves by opening up in the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Yotel also entered the game with their fun FOUR at Yotel and Dohyo, which looks like it should be in a hip-hop video, which is just might. Oh, and Ace Hotel has the joy of hosting April Bloomfield’s babies, The Breslin and John Dory Oyster Bar.

Todd English spread his, ahem, seed to the Plaza Hotel a couple years ago with the Plaza Food Hall, which is more like a fancy food court that hosts guests as well as permanent residents like Tommy Hilfiger and family. Yes, I am told he is a regular.

Lest us not forget the institutions that have made hotel dining a fine and glorious thing, such as Alain Ducasse’s Adour in the St. Regis, or the famous King Cole Bar next to it. The Trump Hotel also features a world-renowned chef’s self-titled eatery, Jean Georges. In fact, New York’s shift out French food and the start of fine dining featuring American cuisine began in The Four Seasons.

All of this sure beats the continental breakfast low budget travelers (like most of my friends and I) are faced with. True, nothing beats a good cup of cold orange juice from a machine or gooey, prepackaged cinnamon roll, but sometimes, it’s nice to have a little bit of bubbles added to it.  

Anthony Bourdain & Co. Celebrate South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s 10th Anniversary

We all know that at one point, the entire culinary scene in South Beach needed a boot camp guest appearance on Gordan Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. I still remember, back in 2004, ordering some fish dish that didn’t taste like fish (hey, aren’t we on the Atlantic here?), which I sent back only to have them bring me another fish that tasted even more unidentifiable. The food sucked almost everywhere I went, and your best bet was true, homestyle Cuban food — if you could find it. Thankfully, restaurants in South Beach have ramped it up considerably in the past five years alone, to the point where I can actually recommend restaurants to friends passing through. Another good sign is the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary this month with a roster of events and flashy food-types that prove it’s come a long way.

From February 24 to 27, South Beach Wine & Food Festival will spoil visitors with one of the most hyped-up food events in history. Not only was a Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival cookbook published (with a foreword by Anthony Bordain but Alain Ducasse, no less), it will be honored at a tribute dinner. Throw in Emeril Lagasse and Martha Stewart to host the Let Them Eat Cake event, Rachael Ray bringing beers and cooking up burgers at the Amstel Light Burger Bash, Paula Deen’s Gospel Brunch, and a slew of iconic chefs getting their Croqs on, and you’ve got a feast worth skipping the South Beach diet for.

Openings: Adour @ St. Regis, Washington DC

imageIt’s debatable how the ambition-averse French (for the record, that’s a compliment) view Ducasse, Inc. — and the global “branding” of what was once a sacred and strictly indigenous vocation. But as Americans, we’ll gladly latch on to the symbolism of a revered French chef settling in two blocks from a xenophobic White House, “audaciously hoping” it is a significant harbinger of change to soon come. And despite Monsieur Ducasse’s spotty stateside success, praise for his Adour NYC has been as lavish as its gilded interior. His new DC outpost, opening this September and sporting elegantly modern interiors by the Rockwell Group, completes the transition of the St. Regis from gloriously stuffy old-money citadel to the city’s most formidable modern luxury hotel.

The contemporary French-American menu will concentrate on fresh, seasonal ingredients and is designed for specific red and white wine pairings (sorry patriots, no such thing as blue wine). If all goes as hoped, expect regular non-Francophobe Presidential sightings.

Openings: Benoit

Who says the French surrender too easily? Le big shot chef Alain Ducasse, for one, is a Gaul with gall. After his eponymous and debut New York restaurant finally raised the white flag in 2007, he quickly staged another invasion, with his universally feted and palpably less vainglorious new Adour at the St. Regis. On April 21, he further ratchets down the snoot factor with Benoit, an outpost of his decidedly more casual bistros in Paris and Tokyo. In the space that once held La Cote Basque (the 1960s society scene for lunching ladies, which legendarily hastened the downfall of one Mr. Capote), the new restaurant opts to recreate the resplendent aesthetic glories of the Belle Epoque, with engraved glass, antique posters and red velvet banquettes—as well as offering a menu of lusty French classics. Unfortunate phonetic double entendre aside, this one looks like une certaine victoire pour M. Ducasse.