Eight Great Park City Spots for Sundance Boozing and Schmoozing

If you’re in Park City for Sundance, you know skiing and movie screenings take a backseat to schmoozing (Merriam-Webster: "to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections"). Filmmakers schmooze with distributors to get a deal, actors schmooze with directors to get a role, and journalists schmooze with anybody to get a story. But schmoozing is inherently smarmy, and most people in possession of a conscience feel dirty about doing it. The answer is alcohol, which flows freely at the following Park City spots that are sure to be filled with everybody on the Hollywood success continuum, from the lowliest starry-eyed intern to the studio mogul who’s seen it all. Now grab your business cards, script, and Altoids and go get famous. Continue on to our Top List of Eight Great Park City Spots for Sundance Boozing and Schmoozing

Industry Insiders: John Murcko, Park City’s Reigning Chef

Chef John Murcko was named “Best Chef in Utah of 2011” by Salt Lake Magazine. Let me say that again: He’s not just the best chef in Park City, the pristine ski town known for its upper-class residents and proximity to one of the biggest indie film festivals in the world, but in the whole irregular hexagon that is the state of Utah. He oversees two dozen or so spots in Park City, and his award-winning philosophy is to simply care about the environment and insist upon knowing not only where all of his organic, mountain-grown ingredients come from, but knowing the people who bring him that food. A life dedicated to the industry affords him those types of relationships.

Story goes you were interested in becoming a chef very early in life. When most parents were watching their boys disappear over the hills on bikes and skateboards, your dad was signing a waiver so you could wash dishes in a restaurant at the age of 14. On your request. Can you tell us more about being born in Michigan, and how you were able to find your passion so early in life?
I grew up in a town called Holly, Michigan. My father was in advertising and PR, and he had to travel to places like New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. He started taking us kids separately on trips. Dad was what I call a passionate diner, and he sought out great restaurants. When I was about 10, he took me to Manhattan and we ate at Tavern on the Green – in the garden room. I vividly remember him introducing me to artichokes there, and how to peel off the leaf to get at the meat. On another trip, we went to The Russian Tea Room. The maitre d’ had to loan me a coat to wear. I consider that a turning point in my interest in restaurants – I thought that maitre d’ was the ultimate guy I wanted to grow up to be like.
We also spent a lot of time at a house we had on Mackinac Island (in northern Michigan); this was our sanctuary as a family. We also became members of the Grand Hotel, which has operated since 1887. I loved eating at this historic hotel, watching the synchronized service in a dining room of 300 people. I was enchanted. Both my Dad, and a passionate Grandma, thought I should start in the bottom of the business. So my first job was washing dishes at a place called Little Bob’s – a family restaurant that was in business for nearly 50 years. It was just a little family restaurant with a buffet, but he obviously knew how to run a restaurant.  (Little Bob’s closed in 1994.)
After the dish-washing gig, and waaaay before you were named Best Chef in Utah by Salt Lake Magazine in 2011, there must have been other paths you considered. What greener grass almost pulled you in a different direction, or what kept you moving forward in a straighter line than most? To prepare you for where you are today, what has your professional background been like?
My brother always said, “If you want to be great at what you do, play with people better than you.” So early in my career, I moved a lot. I moved every six months to a year to a different restaurant, looking for the next mentor to learn from. Then, in my 20s, I came to Park City and I met someone I stayed with for 16 years. That was (legendary Park City restaurateur) Bill White.
Other paths? There are two I almost considered; when I came to Park City, I thought I wanted to get out of hot kitchens and be a pastry chef instead. I thought it offered better balance; I would no longer have to depend on a team and could be individually responsible for myself. I did that for a little while, but there’s nothing quite like cooking. Second, through the fault of budget and timeline, prior to the opening of a Park City restaurant (Grappa), I was also the lead carpenter. I really liked it, and found that I had some natural abilities. I liked the similarity of outcome that you get with cooking – you could go back and see the results of your labor. I also liked that you could have your nights free and not be cooking until 2am.
In the end, however, the things that frustrated me most when I was younger have become the greatest joys of cooking for me. At first, like many chefs, I wanted to do everything myself and control everything. (No one can touch my sauce!) But now, I love being a great mentor and watching young people progress (from sous chef to executive chef, etc.). It makes everything better, you get more done, the quality goes up when you become a great leader, teacher, and mentor – not just a chef.
Partnered with the Toronto-based Talisker Corporation, you oversee two dozen different dining venues in Park City. How exactly did that come about, and how is that even possible to manage?
Talisker had a vision for food and beverage and flew in chefs from all over, but they couldn’t find someone who they felt understood the company culture. Dana Keele, human resources director for Canyons, said she knew someone right here in Park City and reached out to me through my wife, Kelli. After 16 years at Bill White, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. Over the course of several interviews, they determined I was the person who understood their company culture of integrity and quality.  
An average day must always be above average; can you walk us through your upcoming week? What are some of the more interesting responsibilities?
(laughing) Right now we’re preparing for some really exciting events for the Sundance Film Festival, while making menu and system adjustments on our flagship restaurant, The Farm. During Sundance, our restaurants are packed, we’re catering private parties and events, and we have a ton of VIP functions. For example, we’ll create comprehensive dining “experiences” in our yurts, which are beautifully appointed, private circular tents. On top of all that, this year, Talisker is catering Artist at the Table, the $1,500/plate Sundance Festival Kickoff dinner that accompanies the Opening Night Premiere film. Worth magazine named it one of the 10 hottest tickets for all events last year. It’s an incredible opportunity to showcase what we do for hundreds of interesting people including Mr. (Robert) Redford himself. So, January is always an exciting time – we’re incorporating enhancements based on the holiday season and making sure everything is fine-tuned for Sundance, President’s Day weekend, and the rest of the ski season. Plus, right now I’m hosting “Chef Tryouts” – I’m bringing in chefs to cook for me as I’m always looking for chefs who can complement and add to what we do.
Standing in the open kitchen of The Farm, one of Talisker’s flagship restaurants that focuses on ingredients sourced within 200 miles away of Park City, you have the perfect view of skiers and boarders descending the slopes. In fact, Ski Beach is just a snowball’s throw away. How do you not turn off your burners and grab your skis? If that’s not the biggest challenge of your job, then what is?
Any successful chef finds as much joy from cooking as anything else. It’s not a job – it’s a passion that I truly love. There are times when I work 100-hour weeks, but I also make time for my family. I moved to the mountains to spend time with my family, and spring and fall, in particular, there are literally countless springs and falls to hike and bike to in the Park City area. I still ski as much as I can, but we have an expression among chefs, “Speed of the chiefs, speed of the tribe.” Right now, the chief and the tribe are both speeding!
Can you tell us about the recently-opened Bistro at Canyons? It’s the first restaurant of its kind in the U.S. serving modern American kosher cuisine, including Friday Sabbath dinner throughout the winter season.
To produce food under any sort of guidelines, does not mean quality has to suffer. I think kosher dining has suffered from a lack of attention and passion. Now, with people exploring dairy-free diets more often, we’re proving we can deliver world-class dining experiences under that guideline. And the quality of all the ingredients, from chicken to meat to produce, is second-to-none. We’re making exceptional, very healthy food. Dishes like the Beef Cheek Gnocchi or the Mustard Crusted Wild Salmon are exquisite! Additionally, the clientele is so appreciative and supportive that we are going the extra mile to serve them. The dining room is spectacular. With 85 seats, we’re able to provide the attention to detail that guests have come to expect of our brand.
Do you have any funny or interesting mountain anecdotes that occurred in the line of duty that you can share? Guests-gone-wild incidents, that kind of thing?
Most are unprintable (laughing). I will say I’ve gotten very creative in using several-carat diamonds as garnishes to entrees in order to help with wedding proposals.
What is the secret to your success? What advice would you give someone who is interested in doing what you do?
One of our secrets is that while this is a town built for tourism, we can’t forget that we’re a community. Every guest is our most important one – but we go out of our way to make sure our locals feel that way all year long.  
Since you’re overseeing these two dozen restaurants, your immediate future must be booked solid. Is that the case, or is there something exciting on the horizon for winter/spring and beyond?
Whats on the horizon? Refinement. We’re constantly looking at how we can be better. Summer is more and more of a time for Talisker and Canyons to shine, with more guests hiking, biking, and fishing every year. We’re looking at some exciting ways for our guests to enjoy our beautiful weather – and our great food – long after the snow has melted. Plus, I want to enter and win a National BBQ Cook Off!

Tim & Eric Go to Sundance!

At one point in Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, one of the protagonists endures a penis piercing so visceral that it’s almost unwatchable— and that’s the point. The penis is, of course, very fake. But when the graphic scene unfolded at a screening during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the screams in the audience were very, very real. By the end of the movie, according to one report only two-thirds of the once-packed house remained in their seats. After the credits rolled, the film’s co-directors and stars, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, took the stage to answer for what they had done.

The crowd was a mix of unsuspecting moviegoers and diehard fans of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the wonderfully disconcerting sketch comedy show that aired for five seasons on Adult Swim. When members of the audience asked questions like “Who got wood first?” and “What the fuck?” the two comedians hurled insults into the crowd, who lapped it up. “I don’t think anybody really takes it seriously,” Wareheim says of their aggressive post-screening shtick. “If you goof on somebody or yell at them, usually the audience laughs, so I think they understand that we’re not actually upset or anything.”

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie represents the culmination of a dream that began when Heidecker, 36, met Wareheim, 35, when they were film students at Temple University in the mid ’90s. A feature film was always their goal, but they never imagined the twisty—and twisted— road they’d travel to get there. “We fell into TV as a sideways move,” Wareheim admits. After one of their heroes, Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show fame, responded favorably to some cheaply made shorts they sent him, Heidecker and Wareheim got the confidence they needed to pursue their brand of comedy, which was a fresh blend of the awkward and the macabre, usually involving a public-access aesthetic and characters culled from the bowels of hell. As their cult following grew, famous admirers like Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Zach Galifiankis, and Will Forte, all of whom make appearances in their feature debut—became frequent collaborators.

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie is partly an indictment of Hollywood’s autopilot moviemaking, but also a self-aware attempt to adhere to the very tropes it lampoons. (After ninety minutes, the heroes will learn an important lesson.) It follows two friends, also named Tim and Eric—“Those guys are a lot dumber than we are,” says Heidecker—who were given one billion dollars by the Schlaang corporation to make a movie. Instead, they blow their budget on diamond suits and makeovers, and turn in a three- minute film starring a Johnny Depp impersonator. To pay back the angry investors, they take up an offer by a deranged mall manager (Ferrell) to revive his decaying shopping center for a billion-dollar fee. “We didn’t want to make an experimental art film,” says Heidecker of the more traditional— by their standards—storytelling in Billion Dollar Movie. “We wanted it to be more watchable and entertaining, not just a nightmare. It’s still pretty wild, it’s just not a ‘fuck you’ to the audience.”

But some audiences at Sundance didn’t see it that way. “I think we pissed off a lot of people,” Heidecker says, referring to the walkouts. “It’s understandable,” adds Wareheim. “Sundance audiences are not exactly our key demo, but it’s fun to see the walkouts. There are a couple scenes in the movie that are whoppers.” Those include a go–for–broke sex scene involving a blow-up doll and strap-ons, which is intercut with an unsettling episode involving character actor Ray Wise, a coterie of cherubic boys, and a bathtub. Wareheim calls it “our ultimate brown joke.”

For Heidecker and Wareheim, who normally reside on comedy’s lunatic fringe, Sundance was a mainstream debut of sorts. Their distributor, Magnolia Pictures, threw them a lavish dinner at a mountaintop hotel, which they were chauffeured to in an RV that doubled as a karaoke bar. “It was very scary,” says Wareheim, recalling the treacherous journey. “The driver would take his hands off the steering wheel and dance to the music while we’re trying to traverse these insane mountains.” Once inside, they were astonished that all the swank was in their honor. “It was really ridiculous and over-the-top,” says Heidecker. “I think there might have been some confusion that maybe Will Ferrell was going to show because—not that he wants this—there was a jeweler named Roberto Coin who had a display in the dining room, and everybody got a gift card for a Roberto Coin necklace. We just looked around at all our friends, and were like, What the fuck is going on?”

Later that night, following their premiere, Heidecker and Wareheim got a dose of Sundance’s infamous, zoo-like party circuit when they attended their after–party at the Blue Iguana on Main Street. “These parties are generally for people who haven’t seen each other in a while to have a drink and talk,” says Heidecker, “but these DJs have turned it into a rave, where nobody can hear each other and if you want to communicate, you have to scream and everybody wakes up the next morning with no voice.” Wareheim adds: “It’s the kind of L.A. thing you want to escape. When you’re in Park City, you want to focus on this positive, independent film vibe, and then you go to a party and you see lines around the block with douchebags. At our after–party I knew, like, four people, and that was in our roped-off VIP section.”

But despite its growing reputation as a ten-day excuse for people named Paris to get plastered, the Sundance Film Festival is still a place where filmmakers go to have their films seen and voices heard. That means an endless parade of interviews. Heidecker and Wareheim surprised many reporters who expected to question their onscreen characters, only to find two normal dudes. “If an interviewer treated us like our characters, Tim and I usually shut it down right away because we don’t like engaging in that kind of thing,” says Wareheim. “It depends on our energy level,” adds Heidecker, “but it’s too much work to keep up some kind of Andy Kaufman routine.”

Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie debuted on video on demand shortly after its Sundance premiere, but it finally hits theaters this month. Heidecker and Wareheim already know their fan base will remain faithful, but if they can shock and awe a virgin audience, they’ll be okay with that. “Hopefully it’s not going to be like Bucky Larson, or one of those movies where everybody can agree that it was a disaster,” says Heidecker. “It’s going to be a matter of personal preference, but it’ll be a relief to know that it’s not just a universal repudiation of us.”

Illustration by Amy Steinhauser

A Snowy, Dog-filled Park City Preview

I’ve never been dog sledding. It’s never been on my agenda or come close to circling my brain stem. If I had a bucket list, yelling "mush" at team of yelping huskies like Yukon Cornelius wouldn’t even be crossed out in its margins. Yet, there I was, stomping on a metal brake from the back of a six-person sled, barreling through the snow-covered meadows of the Wasatch Mountain Range in Park City, Utah, grinning like some jerk who just won the lottery and wasn’t going to tell his spouse.

As a guest of Canyons Resort and its marquee hotel, Waldorf Astoria Park City, I was in town to scout the different paths to the Sundance Film Festival, to check the December powder, try out the brand new 2,111-foot zipline tour, and dine at some of the city’s hottest restaurants. Dog sledding was on the itinerary, too, but so was a private Scotch tasting at the infamous High West Distillery. Some things sound immediately more important.
To get to Canyons Resort’s 4,000 acres of varied terrain, all you have to do is fly to Salt Lake City and drive 35 minutes out of its eerie smog. Then it’s mountains, mountains, farms, and mountains. For me, the first evening was all about clasping my hands behind my back and strolling through Waldorf Astoria’s property–an award-winning spa, a fitness facility with a Kinesis Studio wing, a pool and two hot tubs steaming in the back courtyard–but it was also about the throbbing elevation headache. When your hotel sits 6,700 feet above sea level, pack Advil and pound water. Or vice versa.
Once my head cleared, I descended to the hotel’s ground floor to the world debut of Slopes by Talisker, an upscale restaurant headed by Salt Lake magazine’s “Best Chef in Utah of 2011,” John Murcko, who is hell-bent on using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients to offer dishes like the Yukon Territory Arctic Char with spicy tomato jam and artichoke puree, a Pistachio Venison with elderberries, and a Berkshire Pork Tenderloin sitting atop caramelized onions and a cranberry gastrique. An extensive wine menu and knowledgeable spirits team ensures everything is paired perfectly, just in time for this winter’s film festival.
The next morning I was introduced to over two dozen huskies and malamutes all howling to be patted and scratched, to be told they were definitely good boys and girls. After a few minutes of wiping away the slobber from my ski pants and some detailed instructions on how to lean and apply the brake, I found myself being pulled past a frozen reservoir while two malamute puppies jogged in our wake. I was a time traveling Jack London, keeping my eyes peeled for moose and avalanches. It was truly exhilarating. On our way back to base, we stopped for spiked hot chocolate and I actually felt hair sprout around my nipples. How was dog sledding never on my agenda?
A few hours later I’m dangling my legs over the Orange Bubble Express, America’s most technologically advanced and first heated chair lift. A warm skier is vertical skier, after all. December’s snowfall has been almost non-existent, but a dozen or so runs at Canyons Resort have been painted white by snow machines. On Canyons’ retainer, former Olympian Kaylin Richardson acts as our guide, handing out much-appreciated compliments like Altoids. I carve a few gentle turns and check out the panoramic mountain views.
Then it’s off to the hot tubs before making our way to Park City’s historic Main Street and the only ski-in gastro-distillery in the world: High West Distillery. Small-batch, mountain-crafted, award-winning whiskeys and vodkas, all sipped (slugged) in a rustic building that was once a livery stable in the late 1890s. With a sufficiently warmed throat, I floated through plates at Talisker on Main, Salt Lake magazine’s Best Restaurant in Park City of 2011. Everything was sublime.
On my last day, I squeezed in a morning of skiing before strapping myself to a 2,111-foot long wire to stare down the side of Lookout Peak. What exactly do you think about when zipping 45 miles per hour, 140 feet above a canyon floor dotted with trees and rocks and skiers and snow shoers? Becoming a superhero; yes. Figuring out how to make that superhero storyline into a Sundance film; maybe. This month’s iPhone bill, Monday’s interview, Mitt Romney’s Joker-like smile; not a chance. My mind raced faster than my body, and by the time my feet hit solid ground, I felt refreshed and ready to sew myself a cape, find a director, and hammer out a storyboard.
Things came to a close with an insider’s look at The Farm, a modern fine-dining spot literally at the foot of the slopes that only serves ingredients pulled from within 200 miles of Park City. Exposed wood, textures and tile matched the unobstructed view of the outside elements. Chef Murcko prepared several signature dishes in the open kitchen while discussing his career, and later, while sitting at the table devouring Chopped Creminelli Salad, Roast Pumpkin Soup, and Silver Bean Espresso Rubbed Beef Tenderloin, I tried my damnedest to slow time, or at least figure out a way to deliver my scraps to my team of huskies.

BlackBook Nightlife Investigations: Austria’s Apres Ski Scene

The nice thing about being on a junket in Austria on Audi’s dime — which you can read about here, but you can read more about it on this blog come Monday, when I’ll tell you all about how I flew out here on Business Class, raced cars on ice and did it for free — is not only that I’m actually on this junket, on work time, but that I’m on this junket in a foreign land, with a few extra moments to devote to BlackBook‘s special cross-section of travel and nightlife. So, in the interest of “work,” I ventured out into the town to see how the locals do the do. With a few fellow junketeers, we went out to the lovely Kaprun, Austria, which is about an hour outside of Salzberg, on the first night, and found out what Austria’s apres ski scene was like.

Pavilion had a huge banner on the outside that said APRES SKI, which meant, you know, it was probably an Apres bar. It also had disco lights and raging techno blasting, so there was that. The four junketeers entered Pavillion — a round room halved in two, with one side as a “dance floor” and the other acting as more of a traditional beer (“bier”?) bar — to this song.

It’s been stuck in my head ever since. And not because I enjoy anything about it.

The bar was filled with cigarette smoke and Germans and Austrians, singing and laughing along to this track, which is apparently, as a translation would have it, fairly epic, despite its totally nonsense music video. As interpreted by Google Translate:

Amsterdam Come, we go to Amsterdam I know that nothing can happen to us You and I, we are still in control We long sat on the sinking ship

“Stay, I’ve never said How, you asked me then? Love has totally failed In Amsterdam Amsterdam

This endeared the people of this bar to me, after the fact. I still want to bludgeon the person responsible for this “song,” however.

On the less annoying side, everyone seemed to be friends! And they were complete strangers who had just been skiing together, from what I could gather (observed: introductory conversation). In fact, that was another thing I noticed about all the people doing skiing here! They were of all stripes. And Kaprun is, as it would be, a fairly famous Austrian skiing destination. And I’m glad to know that Austria’s big skiing destinations aren’t like ours. There aren’t any luxe hotels or restaurants here, like, say, Aspen, Sun Valley, Park City, or any of the rest of America’s chichi skiing destinations. And if this place — which was raging — could be taken to be indicative of the rest of Austria’s skiing scene (which, as a dumbass American, I’m wont to assume, though am fairly certain it actually is), this also endears Austria’s skiing scene to me. Because there was so little getting in the way of people getting plastered and bonding over a common, shared experience at 6pm.

And then I left because I didn’t understand any German, and had to buy an adapter for the silly European plugs. And then I sent my bosses this email.

From: Foster Kamer Sent: Tue 1/5/2010 5:34 PM To: Chris Cc: Willa Subject: RE: ice driver

Hello from Austria. I’m exhausted. I’ll put something up in EE. Should I do one post or break it up into two? Just got on the internets after having to seek out an adapter in KAPRUN and buying WiFi, which is where we are. Everyone is speaking German on the TV, I don’t get it. Trenchant Observation: “Schnitzel” is just a fancy word for “Chicken Cutlet” which you can pretty much get at every bodega, but they’re OBSESSED with it here. Also, I walked around to seek out some local scenes and I came across a bar called APRES, appropriately, slammed with people at 6PM, disco lights raging, many young, all screaming along to a song now jammed into my head. I had a beer there and left. Also, guys wear T-Shirts tucked in here. What’s with that? I thought only retarded kids did that.

Over and out,



Top 12 Hotels for a Dirty Weekend

These are getaways for lovers — or lusters — only, without the family, just-good-friends, kids, laptops (lap dancing and clothing optional) or other encumbrances. Either you want to see and be seen, or you don’t. Whether you’re after an in-room Jacuzzi, couples massages, meals, or just a fireplace and a view, read on.

Pan Deï Palais (Côte d’Azur) – A princess’ historic palace turned boutique hotel in the heart of St. Tropez. With only 12 guestrooms, the palace is exclusively reserved for hotel guests — so unless the people you’re trying to avoid are staying there, you’re safe. Valmont treatment fit for a princess are available in guestrooms and spa. Also rans: Château de la Chèvre d’Or, L’Hôtel Du Cap – Eden Roc, La Réserve Ramatuelle.

Ritz-Carlton (Chicago) – The Ritz-Carlton (a Four Seasons Hotel which makes it a double whammy) has a special weekend suite. After drinks in their Greenhouse, and couples massage in the Kiva Spa (or in-room), have sushi delivered from Kamahachi on Wells Street for a sultry beginning to a long weekend. Also rans: Trump International Hotel & Tower, The Drake Hotel, The James Chicago.

The Address (Dubai) – Possibly the only example of design restraint anywhere in this town, but never fear — you can still glance out the window at the world’s tallest building across the lagoon. The eight bars and restaurants serve high-class eclectic without the gold-foil-sushi trytoohardy madness found elsewhere. Spa Suites probably the most hip yet peaceful hotel accommodation in the Emirates. Also rans: One & Only Royal Mirage, Burj Al Arab.

Hilton Baltimore Convention Center (Baltimore) – Who, besides John Waters, is going to see you in Baltimore? Half the rooms and the fitness center face Camden Yards for sports fans. This big-box hotel actually feels a little homey, with works of local artists adorning public and private rooms, blueberry pancakes delivered by room service, and in-room pampering from Spa Sante. Their beds can, quite literally, put you to sleep — if you‘re not careful. Also ran: Admiral Fell Inn.

Sunset Marquis (Los Angeles) – Granddaddy of all the rock ‘n roll hotels meanders over an entire city block. Much has changed since Flea jumped for the swimming pool — and missed. The hotel bought all of the surrounding houses and turned them into villas, complete with swimming pools, Jacuzzis, and gardens combined for an in-town oasis. Try the one Keith Richards uses, complete with a gym they built for him (no kidding).You’re lucky if the waiter can find you, much less an angry spouse. Also rans: The Charlie, Andaz West Hollywood, Hotel Bel-Air, Chateau Marmont.

The Palms (Las Vegas) – The Fantasy tower is filled with one-of-a-kind suites with names like Erotic Suite, the Hugh Heffner Villa, the Barbie Suite, the Hardwood Suite — you get the picture Also rans: Four Seasons Hotel, Wynn Las Vegas, Red Rock Resort Casino Spa.

The Mayfair (London) – The Suite Seduction weekend package includes intimacy enhancers by Agent Provocateur (e.g. a paddle whip), champagne, Jo Malone essences, late checkout, chocolate-covered strawberries, unlimited internet service, music, movies, and chauffeured pickup from the airports (for an extra charge of £180 pounds), beginning at £1,500 for the Schiaperelli suite, the Opium suite, or one of ten others. Also rans: The Dorchester, Brown’s Hotel.

The Tides (Miami) – Redesigned by Kelly Wearstler, the hotel features just 45 suites, each with a view of the ocean. Intimate cocktails are available in the lobby — or in your suites — as is cuisine from La Marea’s chef Gonzalo Rivera. Also rans: Fontainebleau Miami Beach, The Standard, Mondrian Miami, Viceroy Miami.

Hotel Opus (Montreal) – Boutique hotel with modern design in an original avant-garde structure built in 1914 in the historic setting of downtown Montreal. Early art nouveau outside with an interior curving staircase by architect Dan Hanganu; a hot-hot-hot spot with Koko Restaurant and Bar featuring Pan-Asian cuisine. Minimalist guest rooms are nevertheless luxurious. Also rans: Hotel Le-St-James.

Hôtel Fouquet’s Barrière (Paris) – One of those discreet lovers’ magnets: silk linens, personal butlers, huge mirrors that turn into televisions (there are even tellys above the Jacuzzi bathtubs). “Paris by Night” package includes welcoming caviar and champagne, intimate breakfast each morning, champagne dinner at Le Diane restaurant, and transport to and from the airport at 1,599€ nightly with a two-night minimum stay. If you actually want to be seen, the “Paris C’est L’Amour” package takes couples on a photo shoot to duplicate Doisneau’s famous photograph “The Kiss” (Le Baiser, taken in 1950). Also rans: Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, Hôtel du Petit Moulin, Hôtel Plaza Athénée.

Sky Lodge (Park City) – Off the hook. Every room has a Japanese hot tub on the balcony, granite countertops, Subzero stainless kitchens, and a private bar and cocktail lounge for hotel guests only. Also ran: The Chateaux at Silver Lake.

The Mansion on O Street (Washington DC) – The most luxurious hideaway for a dirty weekend in this three-piece-suit city. Off DuPont Circle, everyone who stays there is so famous that nobody — but nobody– will notice you. No keys: each guest gets a code, and none can be reached by telephone unless the guest provides the caller with a room name, as in: the John Lennon room; the Log Cabin suite … Also rans: Mayflower, Hay Adams, The Willard.

Dishing with Bethenny Frankel of ‘Real Housewives’

“There are rules!” warns Bethenny Frankel, as a waitress approaches our booth at the downstairs bar of Bandit’s, just across the street from her Park City home-away-from-home, Harry O’s, where her ChefDance dinner parties have been the top event in town for four years running. In case I forgot, we’re in Mormon country. “You have to order something to eat if you get a cocktail in a restaurant,” she explains.

We avoid the extra calories and settle on tea and a club soda with lime for her — fitting selections as we’re sitting down to talk about her new book, Naturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinny Girl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of Dieting, her ChefDance rivals, and the oil-and-water drama on the upcoming season of Bravo’s addictive guilty pleasure, The Real Housewives of New York City.

How does this year’s ChefDance compare to years past? Has the profile risen after your stint on Real Housewives? It usually is 10 nights, but this year because I have a book coming out and my TV show, it’s only 5 nights. The concept is the same. Each night is a different celebrity chef. It’s a 4-course meal with 250 guests, and everyone is a VIP. Well, not everyone. You’ll have Paul Allen or Paris Hilton sitting next to a ski lift operator. This is the hottest ticket in Sundance by far. We had to turn away Slash. Last night, Andy McDowell and Cuba Gooding Jr. stopped by. And Woody Harrelson just stopped by. We’ve had Robert Redford, which is unusual because he’s not into Sundance for what it’s become. Eddie Murphy celebrated his Oscar nomination. Sharon Stone had a party with Tom Arnold on the same night that Mischa Barton celebrated her birthday. Kerry Simon was there from Rock n’ Roll Chef.

Give us the skinny on your book. It’s a no-nonsense, no-BS book that talks to every person. If Oprah and Britney can’t keep their weight down, how is a person at a Wal-Mart checkout supposed to do it? It’s ten rules, such as: Your diet’s a bank account so eat like the way you invest. If you decide to invest in a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast — it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just that at lunch you account for that. In every situation, there’s a tool to use. If you’re at a Superbowl party, the tool to use is the “taste everything, eat nothing” rule. And it’s not that you shouldn’t drink, but it’s about what you should drink.

What should you drink? The Skinny Girl Margarita. It’s clear tequila, four limes, and a tiny splash of citrus. It’s going to be in stores in May. I did a deal with the people who built Skyy Vodka. Why should we take your advice? Well, I’m a natural food chef, I went to school for it. I was always the girl who would eat the steamed vegetables and would deprive myself and then eat everything in sight. So the more intelligent that we become, the stupider we become with dieting. The book is so stupid that it’s smart.

Real Housewives is back on the air on February 17. What can we expect this year? It’s a lot of drama. It’s not like Orange County and Atlanta drama, because we’re all seemingly a little more intelligent. We’re just really different from them. I don’t see myself going to someone’s house and slapping them, or having some bitch fight. It’s still five women, so you’re still going to have a lot of cattiness, but it’s just in a different package. You can’t write this stuff — it happens.

What’s the deal with the couple from Brooklyn? Alex and Simon? They’re like aliens — amazing to watch. But to their credit, they’re the only ones on the show who never said a bad thing about anyone else.

What’s the juiciest drama this season? I have a definite person that rubs me the wrong way. I have a moment with oil and water. I also have an argument with Jill, which is really unusual, because Jill and I are like family. I have it out with her. And I’m single this season. So that’s news. I’m sure a lot of people will have things to say about the fact that I’m 38, and I don’t have a child yet, and all I’m doing is working, and I’m probably too tough to have a relationship, and all that stuff. Which might be true.

Is that all stuff that you’re afraid people are going to say? Or people are already saying? I’m not really afraid. I don’t really give a crap about any of those things, ever. I am like, “Go big or go home.” This season, everyone knows who we are, so you don’t have to catch them up. It’s just like — GO. And it’s also double the episodes. So it was 6 last time and now it’s 12. You get a lot more bang for your buck this time.

How did the show change your life in New York? I was very nervous to do the show, and I kept turning it down for two months, and they kept coming after me. I mean, I could understand why because I understood what they saw in me as a person who is battling career and love. And you need that one, sort of, extra Sarah Jessica Parker character to identify with. Doing it, everything just exploded for me. It was the best thing that happened to me in my entire life. Do you see a spinoff show? I’ve been approached by a couple people about a couple of different shows. I can’t really talk about it. There is something in the works.

What’s the best part of being on the show? Being able to be totally yourself and honest and realizing that really is the best way to be. People that don’t come off well are people who try to manufacture who they are on TV. Or they get upset because they are not self-aware. They think it’s in the editing or they think, “That’s not me.” The viewer is really intelligent, so don’t underestimate that.

It’s real and it’s you. It’s like being on a blind date. You sit down on a blind date, and in five minutes, you pretty much have a good idea about who the other person is. People want to say, ‘Well that’s not my life, I do other things.” Of course that’s not everything. I drank 19 margaritas when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, on someone’s boat. And I don’t normally do that, but I did it that time, and that’s true.

What’s the worst part about being on the show? That’s it’s totally toxic. Resting and doing yoga is not interesting to anyone. Things that sell are things that are dramatic. It’s literally like having a flashlight right on you when you’re crying or down, but you sign up for this.

Sundance: The Burden of ‘Motherhood’

The only reason a party in celebration of a film called Motherhood (featuring Minnie Driver, Uma Thurman, and Jodie Foster) is even worth mentioning is that it was full of drunk folk. Not that it was bad; Greenhouse has thrown compulsively fun parties all festival long. It’s just that after a week of the same party every night — same people, different poster — I don’t know. You just kind of want to abort the whole mission. (Sad movie-title pun intended to demonstrate desperation). Yay movie that already has a deal! Yay already famous people! Yay living in the back pages of US Weekly! Yay open bar!