Chefs Flock to the Cayman Cookout

Yesterday, while blissfully bathing in the warm water of the Caribbean, I watched as Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, and other chefs dipped their tanned toes into the water so they could get a group photo in the soothing orange light of the sunset.

This little photo op was just the beginning of this weekend’s fifth annual Cayman Cookout, which begins today at the Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman. Started by Ripert in 2009, the three-day, celebrity chef-packed even showcases the finer things in life: food, wine, and the white sands of a tropical resort.

Ripert started the event for the pure fact that he loves the island, and calls it his home away from home. He is not alone in his amour of the Cayman Islands; there are over 150 restaurants on them, and many owned by top chefs including Dean Max, who has Brasserie here, Vidyadhara Shetty, the president of the Cayman Culinary Society, and of course Ripert himself who has Blue by Eric Ripert.

As this morning kicked off the festival, along with chef Jose Andres jet-packed stunt on Seven-Mile Beach, there will also be wine tastings and classes with Food & Wine’s Ray Isle, the art of pie with Spike Mendelsohn, a beach picnic courtesy of Daniel Humm, and fresh fish with Paul Bartolotta.

It might already be Friday, but it’s not too late to jump on a plane and join this tasty beach party.

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.  

Montreal Preview: Ritz-Carlton

Having hosted Queen Elizabeth, Sophia Loren and The Stones, as well as acting as the backdrop to the first wedding of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, the Ritz- Carlton Montrèal is certainly not wanting for history. But a $150 million renovation is bringing it dazzlingly into the 21st Century, just in time for its 100th birthday.

But not content with just a dolling up of its lobby and rooms, the Ritz is now sporting an architecturally impressive glass and steel addition. And while the Palm Court has a dazzling new elegan-tay look, it’s the anticipation of Daniel Boulud’s Maison Boulud that really has Quebec epicures all atwitter. The many-Michelin-starred chef arrives for the first time in Canada’s Francphone capital, and the competition for tables in the ethereal courtyard is sure to be fierce. Another glamorous century awaits.

Hotel Spa Treatments Go for the Gold, Silver & Bronze

Every hotel spa we’ve ever been to promises the gold standard in treatment, but a few hotels are taking their devotion to precious metals seriously, working them into their spa treatments for that extra layer of luxury per treatment.

The latest comes from Terme di Saturnia in Tuscany, a spa and golf-centric resort that’s a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. The treatment begins with a ginger, chamomile, and silk protein scrub, followed by a caffeine gel treatment infused with flakes of 24-carat gold, meant to draw out impurities. It’s then massaged thoroughly into your skin, and layer of gold dust and ground ginger is applied, and then locked in with moisturizer. It’s also available as a facial, since gold is said to help stop the formation of wrinkles.

That put us in mind of some other treatments as delightful for their indulgent nature as for their result. Fans of silver are generally out of luck at spas (despite its reputation for healing properties, it seems to be too downmarket to feature), but you can satisfy your urge for a cooler metal with the Platinum Rare Facial at the Ritz-Carlton on Central Park (they also offer it at the Beverly Hills Hotel) which uses La Prairie’s Platinum line of products to restore the balance of moisture in your skin and protect cells from damage. Two La Prairie experts will minister to you over the course of 90 minutes, and as generations of the Swiss line’s devotees will tell you, they know what they’re about when it comes to skin.

If you’re looking for a cut above even gold, the Diamond Journey at the Anantara Spa at the Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi is a fitting indulgence in one of the most over the top properties we’ve ever visited. It’s a long and involved process, but we’ll skip straight to the good stuff: the crushed-diamond and mud exfoliating scrub (not as painful as it potentially sounds, we promise), the hot oil massage, the hot stone treatment, and the diamond facial, which uses facial massage and lymphatic drainage to brighten skin.

Of course, if you’d rather not spend your vacation locked inside a spa facility, however luxe, we’d suggest the W Scottsdale’s version of service that will still leave you feeling like you made it onto the winner’s stand. As a part of their Whatever/Whenever concierge service, they’ve introduced a Tanning Concierge to help you take advantage of the local light, by offering expert tips, applications of the best sunscreens and after-sun products, and in-room spray tanning and skin consultations. There’s nothing like a good bronze to give you an excuse to indulge in some spa treatments, after all.

Ritz-Carlton Now Offering Perks for Loyal Guests

The Ritz-Carlton group has just decided to enter the 21st century by joining the world of hotel rewards programs. Last week, the hoteliers finally introduced an eagerly-anticipated, frequent guest-stay program for their affluent customers: Ritz-Carlton Rewards. They are one of the first major luxury hotel groups to take the formerly déclassé plunge, and I’m pretty sure the move is going to trigger copy cats within the same caliber of chain hotel—although, at this time, Four Seasons has no solid plans to follow suit.

With each Ritz-Carlton stay, guests can accrue points for some pretty amazing offers, or, if they prefer, air miles. For every dollar spent on room rates, you rack up ten points or two air miles with your membership. Furthermore, you’ll receive exclusive promotions throughout the year at participating hotels and with partners. The partners involved are just as luxe as the Ritz, and include Abercrombie & Kent, Vera Wang, and Neiman Marcus. Members of Ritz-Carlton Rewards can earn unique perks like exclusive tours in various destinations and the opportunity to redeem points toward Vera Wang wedding gowns.

One of Ritz-Carlton Rewards’ first offers comes with enrollment: by signing up, you’ll receive a complimentary night after two paid stays. Not a bad incentive for a company that doesn’t tend to dole out free rooms.

Jersey Shore Puts on the Ritz (Over Massive Amounts of Hair Gel)

Maybe you can take the girl (and the guido) out of Jersey…then again, maybe not. In this week’s In Touch, which surely you’ve already rushed to the newsstand to purchase, the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore gets preppied up for a photo shoot at New York’s Ritz-Carlton, or the “posh Ritz-Carlton” according to In Touch. Sure the Ritz is nice, but, well, if you really wanted to get upper-crusty, we’d have the crazy kids sipping tea at the Plaza or the Pierre or the St. Regis, not just another Ritz. (Though perhaps those places wouldn’t want the cast of Jersey Shore or In Touch on the premises.)

Still, even donning preppy garb and hitting the Rtiz was a stretch for some cast members. Pauly refused to part with his signature hairstyle because undoing and redoing it is such a time intensive process. Instead, stylists had to cut an expensive cap to cover his ‘do, which, as we well know, requires more than mere hotel toiletries to achieve its durability and height.

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.

Top 10 Most Expensive Hotel Suites in the World

imageThe Wealth Bulletin compiled a top ten list for the priciest suites in the world, Luxist chimed in, and here are the final tallies:

10. Brook Penthouse, Claridges, London: $10,000 per night. 9. The Imperial Suite, Park Hyatt-Vendome, Paris: $15,500 per night. 8. The Royal Suite, Four Seasons George V, Paris: $16,000 per night. 7. The Ritz-Carlton Suite, The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow: $16,500 per night. 6. Royal Armleder Suite, Le Richemond, Geneva: $17,500 per night.

5. Royal Suite, Burj Al Arab, Dubai: $18,000 per night. 4. The Presidential Suite, Hotel Cala di Volpe, Costa Smeralda, Italy: $21,000 per night. 3. The Setai Penthouse, Miami Beach, Florida: $30,000 per night. 2. Royal Penthouse Suite, President Wilson Hotel, Geneva: $33,000 per night. 1. Ty Warner Penthouse, Four Seasons, New York: $34,000 per night

Get Drunk and Watch Election Returns in Washington DC

imageHotel Chatter has an ongoing round-up of the best DC hotels to watch the election unfold at this evening. ● The Mayflower is offering free hors d’oeuvres 5:30-7:30 p.m., along with drinks like the Obama Rama-Tanqueray & Tonic and the McCain Mojito. ● The Ritz Carlton wants to get you drunk on their Jager Bamas and McHitos, and they’re putting your money where your mouth is in a color-coded drinking game: When a state is called for McCain, red drinks will be half-price; when a state is called for Obama, blue drinks will be half-price. ● The Omni Shoreham (like every Omni in the country this evening) will be hosting a party in their lobby from 6-10 p.m.