If you find yourself in Bangkok over New Year's (and really, it's a much warmer choice than icy Boston), the Tower Club at Lebua, one of the city's most luxurious hotels, is offering specialty menus at its restaurants, Mezzaluna, Sirocco, Breeze and Distil, all high up in the skyscraper hotel and carrying pretty sky-high prices.
Available for one night only, the menu features things like Japanese Kyushu beef, Petrossian Imperial caviar, red king crab from the Okhotsk Sea and New Caledonia Pacific Ocean blue shrimp. The experience starts with free champagne at Flute Bar on the 64th floor, with spectacular views of the Chao Phraya River and city skyline. Prices are $980 per person at Mezzaluna, $903 at Breeze, $829 at Sirocco and $678 at Distil
New Haven hosts its 11th installment of its popular bi-annual restaurant week Nov. 3-18, with 30 of the city's eateries taking part by offering three-course prix fixe meals for lunch and dinner, the former costing $18, the latter $32, not including tax, tip or beverages. All the restaurants are also offering their regular menu items, and urge that reservations be made due to the popularity of the program.
Participating restaurants include 116 Crown, Basta Trattoria, Caseus, Heirloom, Ibiza, John Davenport’s, Oaxaca Kitchen, Thali, and Zinc. For a full listing, check out www.infonewhaven.com/restaurantweek, and follow on Twitter with hashtag #NHRW13
The Wild Rover Pub in Manchester, N.H., said to be that city's original Irish pub, has a new menu and general manager. Tom Puskarich, a 20-year veteran of the trade, and most recently the chef/owner of Z Food & Drink in the city, has updated the pub's menu and expanded the bourbon, whiskey and beer offerings. The new menu and hours is the first phase of an overall redo of the space. The chef has added things like Asian nachos, macadamia-nut chicken fries and gouda-stuffed tater tots, while adhering to the Irish flavor of the pub with chicken and sausage pot pie with Irish black pudding.
The pub was voted "Best Irish Pub in New England" in 2010 by a New England Cable News viewers' poll and one of New England's "10 Best Irish Pubs" by the Boston Globe and boston.com in 2009. Check it out at www.wildroverpub.com
Wild game is the focus of a Thanksgiving dinner at Water Street, the signature restaurant at Harbor View Hotel on Martha's Vineyard this year. Created by Executive Chef Nathan Gould, the buffet, prices at $59 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under, includes local meats (venison and boar, for example, and of course, turkey), artisan breads and cheeses, salads, soups, seafood and seasonal desserts. The buffet runs from 11:30 a.m. To 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. For information and to check out the menu, visit www.harbor-view.com
The Lake Placid Lodge in Lake Placid, N.Y., is holding its annual “Gastro Getaway Weekend” Nov. 7-10, in conjunction with Lexus. The weekend highlights the combined talents of Executive Chef Nathan Rich of the lodge, and Executive Chef James Hackney of Wequasset Resort & Golf Club on Cape Cod. There will also be eight Lexus vehicles on property, and three will be available to guests to test drive during their stay. The weekend also features products of Miner Vineyards and Taittinger Champagne House.
During the weekend, guests can participate in various culinary and spirits-oriented events, including wine and champagne tastings, culinary demos and pairings, cocktail muddling and mixing classes, one-on-ones with chefs, a brewery tour, craft beer tastings and more. The weekend will also showcase local talent and Olympic-themed activities, including curling.
The lodge is also offering an extra night free when booking three nights for the weekend. Rates start at $799 a night, and include all “Gastro Weekend” events and activities.
For info and booking, visit www.lakeplacidlodge.com
By Michell Eloy, Chicago Tribune
Originally published: 06/13/2013
The National Hockey League Stanley Cup Finals kicked off last night in Chicago, pitting the Blackhawks against the Boston Bruins in a best-of-seven battle on the ice. And this series looks to be a nail-biter, given the three-overtime opening game Wednesday night. Naturally, Bruins and Blackhawk fans alike will need to stay nourished as the series moves forward, so for visiting Bostonians, we in Chicago have compiled a list of places to eat while visiting our fair city:
Pequod's -- Most first-time visitors (or second-time, or third-time) to Chicago have one thing on their culinary to-do lists upon arriving -- deep dish pizza. While places like Uno's and Giordano's have popularized the pies outside of Chicago, Pequod’s in Lincoln Park, with its "caramelized crust" and charred-cheese pies, is a more local option that captures the quintessential Chicago deep dish pizza. (2207 N. Clybourn Ave., 773-327-1512)
Frontera Grill -- James Beard Award-winning chef Rick Bayless' casual Mexican restaurant hasn't lost any of its popularity in its more than 25 years of existence. As one of the restaurants that helped make Chicago a culinary destination, Frontera Grill should be a must on any visitor's list of places to eat. But if you're pressed for time and can't do the hour-plus wait, some of the local taquerias, like Arturos (2001 N. Western Ave.) in Bucktown and El Taco Veloz (1745 W. Chicago Ave.) in Ukranian Village, will satisfy any taco cravings. (445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434)
Goose Island Brewpub -- Chicago has become a destination for craft beer lovers. And as the local brewery that arguably started it all, Goose Island Brewpub in Lincoln Park is an ideal spot to sample local drafts while taking in the game or calming those overtime nerves. (1800 N. Clybourn Ave., 312-915-0071)
Superdawg Drive-in -- What list of Chicago places would be complete without suggestions for where to get a Chicago-style hotdog? Superdawg's pure beef dog is served on a traditional poppy seed bun with all the typical fixings: yellow mustard, relish, onions, a dill pickle and a hot pepper. A word to the wise: Don’t ask for ketchup. Especially if you're wearing a Bruins jersey. (6363 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-763-0660)
Davanti Enoteca -- The small-plate trend has exploded in Chicago over the last few years. For those looking to sample some of the area's best offerings, Davanti Enoteca, run by Chicago restaurateur and chef Scott Harris, has an excellent wine selection and an array of inventive Italian plates -- think pastas, cheeses, oven pizzas and cured meats -- that have elevated it among other restaurants in the same vein. (1359 W. Taylor St., 312-226-5550)
Doughnut Vault -- No longer the dining choice of police departments, doughnuts are making a bid to take over cupcakes as the trendy "gourmet" food item in Chicago. Doughnut Vault (pictured) serves some unique spins on the fried confectionary, like pistachio and strawberry shortcake, along with the more traditional cake and vanilla doughnuts. We recommend getting there early, as the shop closes as soon as the doughnuts sell out. And they sell out quick. (400 N. Franklin St.)
Text and photo courtesy of our friends at the Chicago Tribune. Doughnut Vault photo by José M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune.
By Patricia Borns, Glove Correspondent
As April 20-28 marks National Parks Week, there's still a short window to visit Everglades National Park before it's swallowed in mosquitos and uber high humidity. As you roll along SW 192nd Ave. toward the park's most visited Arnold Coe entrance, keep an eye peeled for Gator Grill, where a Brooklyn, NY transplant is cooking up the best gator bites around.
Then, in 2010, a local farmer Sal Mucumeci offered him a spot near the Everglades agricultural buffer to start a business. The location offered a steady stream of Glades traffic and a standout neighbor: the wildly popular exotic fruit smoothie stand Robert Is Here, a short hike down the road.DeVito jumped at the chance, and voila, or should we say, ecco: a menu of farm-raised gator and locally sourced frog legs done every which way except fried was born, with South Florida's best Italian meatball sub thrown in for good measure.
Recently I tried the popular gator tacos served with crispy shredded slaw and DeVito's delicious cream sauce ($9.95), outstanding. You might equally like the grilled gator kabob ($9.95) or the area's only local frog legs served in wine and garlic butter sauce instead of a fried basket ($9.95). For the less adventurous, DeVito has gourmet burgers in the $6.00 range including a vegan version, a local fish sandwich and sweet potato fries.
As I chowed down at one of the outdoor picnic tables, a glimpse of Glades wildlife in the form of an invasive cannibalistic tegu lizard slithered from behind an out building and tried to cross the road!
Spanish Aracena doesn't have the "eat" reputation of Italy, but its Tuscan gold sunlight and Mediterranean larder are no less. A British couple Sam and Jeannie Chesterton discovered this in a tiny village on the edge of Sierra de Aracena National Park. They turned their arful hands to creating an organic homestead and guest house, Finca Buen Vino, where they've farmed, fed guests and taught them to cook for 20 years. Whether raising their own branded Iberian pigs, gathering chestnuts and mushrooms in the hills or spreading a picnic in an open field, everything they do is touched with rustic beauty.
Now their friend Tom Clinch, a Conde Nast travel and food photographer, is teaching 3- and 5-day photography workshops there in the fall and spring (schedule and prices). Put it all together, and you'll forget about Mr. (or Ms.) Wrong.
Meeting the single Brazilian business exec? Remains to be seen.
If the journey along the Wine & Cheese trail in central Massachusetts described in the October 21 Travel section has inspired you to check out the state's wineries and cheesemakers, you might want to purchase a $2 Massachusetts Wine Passport at one of the participating wineries. The 19 wineries in the Passport cover the state from the tip of Cape Cod to the southern Berkshires and produce a range of grape and fruit wines. Once you have had your passport ''stamped'' at 15 wineries you will be eligible to enter a January drawing for the grand prize of 15 cases of wine.
Jenn Samek-Lutkus of Hardwick Vineyard and Winery holds a Massachusetts Wine Passport. (Photo by David Lyon for the Boston Globe)
The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council is hosting its annual Fall Foliage and Shopping Train Excursion Oct. 20 aboard the Providence and Worcester Railroad, which leaves the Woonsocket train depot in Rhode Island at 9 a.m. and returns at 4:30 p.m. The foliage train travels through historic Blackstone River Valley to the many antique shops, restaurants and gift shops in Putnam, Conn., where there will be an arts and crafts fair, music, sidewalk sales, a pumpkin festival, bazaar and luncheon, at the Putnam Congregational Church. The train leaves Putnam at 2:15 and chugs back to Woonsocket by 4:30 p.m.
Ticket prices run from $28 to $58. There is a snack bar on the train, and passengers can also bring their own, though no alcoholic beverages are allowed. For information and reservations, visit www.tourblackstone.com or call 401-724-2200.
The weekend lineup includes the carving demo which will show head-to-tail carving and showing diners how to harvest and use each part of the animal; a beer and charcuterie master class; an "All-Things Pork" dinner, featuring a range of pork specials at American Seasons.
For complete pig-out information and reservations, visit www.americanseasons.com/hogtoberfest.html or call 508-228-7111.
I've never been a huge football fan, but given the chance to talk to Don Shula, one of football's most beloved coaches, winner of back-to-back Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins, while at the same time chowing down a world-class burger at a new restaurant bearing his name, you think I'm gonna say no?
The occasion was the opening earlier this year of the first Shula Burger at the Postcard Inn in Islamorada (formerly Holiday Isle, a legendary hotspot of the Florida Keys back in the day). The burger joint is the newest part of the Shula culinary empire, which consists of Shula's Steak Houses, Shula's 347 and Shula's 2 Steak and Sports.
"We had a lot of success in restaurants, starting in Miami Lakes where we live, then on to Tampa, then outside Florida," said Coach, as I found myself respectfully calling him as everyone does, a title he'll righteously never lose despite not having coached for years. "We'd never done it before, but my wife, she has a great business mind."
So does his son, David, who runs the food empire, and who also had coached for the Cincinnati Bengals. Opening night at Shula Burger, David was explaining to rapt football fans the details of a play scrawled on one wall, one of his dad's plays from the Super Bowl years that was found on a yellow legal pad Coach had drawn. Sitting near the wall bearing the play writ large was a familiar face: Bob Griese, fabled Dolphins quarterback and winner of said Super Bowls, and long-time great and food friend of Shula.
Coach looked great, still fairly active at 83, though not as much as he'd like: A balky back had sidelined his golf game, he grumbled. I asked where the next Shula Burger would be opening.
"I don't know," he shrugged, as we sat on the outside patio of the restaurant. "They don't tell me anything."
"But Coach, you're the face of the franchise," I offered. He just smiled.
And he's still good dealing with reporters bearing loaded statements.
"Coach, I have to say, you have a way better personality than Bill Belichick," I teased about the sour-pussed Pats coach.
He laughed and held up one hand, Super Bowl ring flashing, as if about to make a point, but diplomatically stopped, talking instead about what a great receiver Wes Welker was for the Pats and calling Tom Brady "a great quarterback, just so cool under pressure." Just a few feet away sat Griese, one of the greatest and coolest of all time.
Shula Burger is a lovely place with, naturally, a football motif, and an impressive menu of burgers of all stripe, the buns fresh and fluffy and branded - literally - with the Shula name. My fave was Coach's as well, "The Don,"which has an all-beef hot dog, split and grilled, served atop a burger with pickles, onion, sauce, cheese and mustard served on a branded brioche-style bun.
"You go to a barbecue, what do you get?" the Coach asked, setting up the punchline as easily as Griese set up in the pocket all those years ago. "A burger and a dog. Why not put 'em together? Makes perfect sense."
Coach was looking a little tired, but remained gracious despite my blabbering, but I moved on as he moved inside, to pose with the staff, Griese, his son, his wife, anyone who wanted his time and chance to pose with him and talk burgers or football. But mostly football.
Now, I wish I had his ear, I'd love to know what he thought of the replacement officials in the NFL. I'm sure he'd have plenty to say - between bites of "The Don" that is.Photos from Shula Burger. Top photo, from left, Bob Griese, Mary Anne and Don Shula
It was such a hit the first time around, they decided to do it again: The 2nd annual Stowe Restaurant Week is on tap Oct. 21-27, celebrating the local Vermont culture. Restaurants will offer a prix-fixe, multi-course menu with prices of $15, $25 or $35 per person (in some cases per couple). Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch menus are available as well as wine, beer and other cocktail options. Some restaurants are offering a new menu each day, and others will have the same fare throughout. Participating restaurants include Cactus Cafe, Charlie B's Pub and Restaurant, Harrison's Restaurant and Bar, Pie in the Sky, The Whip Bar and Grill and Winfield's Bistro.
Overnight accommodations are available from $85 a night during the week. Call Stowe's central reservation line at 800-467-8693 for lodging info. For the skinny and all that good food for restaurant week, visit www.gostowe.com/restaurantweek
The Epicurean is being developed in collaboration with Bern's Steak House in Tampa, and will be the first newly built property to join the Autograph Collection of Marriott International. Joe Collier, president of the development company doing the project, Mainsail Lodging & Development, said some of the special experiences planned for the Epicurean includes wine lockers for guests, evening wine sampling, signature organic bath products and luxury linens and pillows. The Hotel will also be home to the popular annual Bern's WineFest, and will host a variety of cooking demos and classes, wine exhibitions and more from chefs and sommeliers around the world.
For more information on the Epicurean, visit www.epicureanhotel.com
I've probably driven up and down Memorial Drive in Newport a million times, and have long heard of the upscale Chanler at Cliff Walk, but never put two and two together and realized the Chanler was so close to Cliff Walk. OK, so it's smack dab on Cliff Walk, but my reason for not knowing that is a big one: It is completely hidden behind a giant hedge, affording it remarkable privacy and quiet despite being steps away from one of Newport's busiest streets. Set back on a cobblestoned drive, it is a magnificent building, loaded with charm, elegance and a pretty neat history: Built in 1865 as a summer home for New York Congressman John Winthrop Chanler and his wife, Margaret Astor Ward, it was the first mansion built on Cliff Walk and hosted the likes of President Theodore Roosevelt and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was later a museum and then a girls' school before becoming a hotel in the 1940s.
We had the occasion to stay there one night and got the Empire Room; each of the 14 mansion rooms in the main building are decorated and named for an historical period based on the furniture design and architecture of that time, themed from Gothic to English Tudor to Greek Revival. One of the many beauties of this place is no two rooms are alike. And throughout, some of the furnishings from the Chanler Museum are sprinkled throughout. There are also three separate garden villas and three ocean villas.
Our Empire Room in the mansion was gorgeous, on a corner facing Easton's Beach and Cliff Walk. The room had a sizable living room with a two-person Jacuzzi on the far wall, which doesn't exactly befit the historical period on which the room is based, but was a very relaxing respite after a long stroll on Cliff Walk. Here, for an extra cost, a butler will come in while you're at dinner, run the bath and leave rose petals strewn about, and lighted candles surrounding the tub set in a mirrored alcove. A more romantic setting we could not imagine.
The fireplace mantel is of antique slate, taken from a mansion in Michigan and painted to look like granite. Empire decor, inn officials said, often used a faux treatment of materials to look like granite or marble. Several antique tiles with figures on them in ochre and lime green are embedded into the mantel, making it more unique and interesting. The room itself is unique; being on the corner, the ceiling height varies from corner to center, from around six feet to more than eight, with a stained-glass skylight in the ceiling. The room's feel is decidedly Victorian but with modern touches such as a triple-head shower in the gold-hued granite bathroom, and iHome docking station.
The main culinary draw is the Spiced Pear, a restaurant with incredible ocean views, some of the best in Newport, and cuisine to match. Give the Spiced Pear martini a shot, with Absolut pear vodka, Amaretto DiSaronno, pear nectar, cinnamon and lemon juice. We also had local chilled oysters, wild burgundy escargot, Narragansett Bay striped bass and the menu's highest priced item, the exquisite butter-poached Maine lobster for $42, worth every melt-in-mouth cent. Before and/or after a meal like that, a long jaunt down nearby Cliff Walk is almost a necessity. Or you could wait until the next day, because breakfast here is insane, too; check out the salmon and goat cheese omelet.
We retired to the bar of hand-rubbed mahogany for a nightcap before heading back to the room where that rose-petal strewn tub awaited, and got more proof of how renowned the Chanler is: The following weekend, it would be closed to the public, privately booked for the wedding of the creator of the Facebook logo. And yes, Mark Zuckerberg was scheduled to attend.
Newport used to go to sleep in the off season, but no more. At the Chanler, a fall two-night special ($425 per night) includes full breakfast, a bottle of Spiced Pear sparkling wine, two tickets to a Newport mansion of your choice, and one, three-course meal for two in the Spiced Pear. Wait until winter and you can get the two-night "A Chanler Christmas," ($375 per weekday night, $430 per weekend night), available Nov. 28-Dec. 29 which gets you the same as the fall special, minus the bottle of wine; instead you get a minted Chanler Christmas ornament. All prices include room taxes, food taxes and dinner gratuity. And if you want to check out other parts of the city, you can get a free ride any place in Newport, up until 11 p.m., first come, first served. Check it out at www.thechanler.com
All that behind a hedge? I have to start paying attention where I'm going.
The addition of "Gaston's Tavern" to the newly-revamped Fantasyland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom raised some eyebrows recently due to the theme park's long-standing ban on alcoholic beverages. What's in a name though, right?
As it turns out though, alcohol will not be served at the forthcoming restaurant. It will, however, be served at "Be Our Guest," which opens Nov. 19, sparking a debate as to why the ban has been lifted at the most family-friendly of Disney's four theme parks.
"As part of the overall theming, we wanted to offer wine that enhances the guest experience and complements the French-inspired cuisine," beverage director Stuart McGuire told the Disney Parks Blog. "The wines focus primarily on France's famous wine-growing regions, including Champagne, Alsace, Loire, Rhone, Burgundy and Bordeaux.
"We'll also offer the leading French beer, Kronenbourg 1664," said McGuire. "And, staying in the general region, we'll also offer Belgian beers."
Beer and wine has been served for years at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot, where some visitors have even made it a day's challenge to sample beverages from around the World Pavillion, but the Magic Kingdom has always been treated as something of a sacred jewel in that regard by Disney. The quiet admission yesterday did not go unnoticed by many.
Previews of the new Fantasyland, which has already debuted a few attractions, begin in November, prior to its grand opening on Dec. 6.
In Great Britain, afternoon tea is a tradition, a relaxing way to recharge the body's batteries while savoring a three-tiered silver tray usually laden with three-bite sandwiches; scones ready to lavished with clotted cream and jam; and exquisite pastries and chocolate bonbons.
While gadding about on a BritRail pass, I used afternoon tea as a way to immerse in the United Kingdom's rich heritage and indulge in five-star experiences, without coughing up $500 or more for a hotel room. Almost anyone willing to ante up 15 quid (about $30) can do the same. Even better for the budget bound, afternoon tea can substitute for a late lunch or an early dinner. I experienced each of these properties simply by sipping afternoon tea. You can, too.
The Arch, London: On the exterior, these seven Georgian townhouses facing Great Cumberland Place appear quite ordinary and stiff upper lip British. But inside this five-star boutique hotel, just a couple of blocks from Hyde Park and Oxbridge Street and across from Madonna's London pad, designers let loose with contemporary vigor, vibrant colors and patterns, and original works by emerging British artists.
After a boutique binge in Marylebone or along Oxford Street (where you might get lucky and see Princess Kate), celebrate your finds over afternoon tea in the casual yet chic Library, where you can thumb through art books, or in the tony Le Salon de Champagne, with its champagne ceiling mural, modern armchairs, and secluded leather banquettes. Be sure to wander the public rooms to check out all the art - and see who might be lounging about.
Bodysgallen Hall, Llandudno, Wales: The stone pine tree in front of Bodysgallen Hall, one of three historic hotels owned by The National Trust, is approximately 600 years old. The hotel's oldest section was built in the late 13th century as a guard tower for Conwy castle. Over the centuries, it's expanded to a 220-acre estate with wooded parklands and an exquisite, private, 20-acre formal garden, dating from 1678.
Book afternoon tea and be rewarded with a double treat: Experiencing Bodysgallen both inside and out. Sit in the entrance hall or upstairs drawing room, both with elaborate fireplaces, magnificent oak paneling, and stone mullioned windows. Request a copy of the historical brochure from the front desk, and browse through the history while sipping and nibbling. Afterwards, mosey through the other public rooms. Having tea entitles you to explore the gardens and parklands, usually reserved for overnight guests. Highlights include a rare 17th-century herb-filled boxed hedge parterre, rockery with a water cascade, walled rose garden, several follies, and 17th-century Terrace Walk with views to Conwy Castle and Snowdonia.
Plas Maenan Country House, Maenan, Wales: After a day poking around the Conwy Valley countryside, finish up with tea at James and Caroline Burt's masterfully restored Edwardian manor house overlooking Snowdonia National Park and the Conwy River. Tea is served in the elegant living room, near doubletake-producing life-size faux sheep lounging by the fireside. I shared tea with Paul Wakely of Cambrian Tour Guides, who introduced me to slathering clotted cream and jam not only on the scones, but also on the homemade shortbread, "brilliant!" as the Brits say. If the service seems a bit royal, that might be because James is retired from service to the Queen.
Plas Maenan has an interesting history, but perhaps most intriguing is that it is home to one of the largest colonies of endangered lesser horseshoe bats in the British Isles. If you stick around until dusk, you might see as many as 500 emerge from an old tunnel complex under the hotel's terrace. About that tunnel complex: Reputedly, it was used to store treasures from the National Gallery during World War II.
Chester Grosvenor, Chester, England: Top-hatted doormen welcome guests to this five-star hotel, owned by the Duke of Westminster's family and located within the walls of Chester, a city with a history dating back to its origins as a Roman fort in the first century. The hotel's black-and-white timbered facade fits in well with Chester's numerous Tudor buildings, some original, others Victorian-era restorations. Inside, the décor is contemporary, but accented with a half-ton, 28,000-crystal Georgian chandelier and original artwork selected from the Duke's collection.
Afternoon tea at the Arkle Bar And Lounge or upstairs in the gallery is a treat. While the Traditional Afternoon Tea is a decadent offering of scones, finger sandwiches, and sweets, the Gentleman's Afternoon Tea is a far heartier affair, with crusty sandwiches, addictive chips (fries), Cheshire cheese, and more substantial sweets, and it's not limited to men. A friend and I ordered one of each tea to share, which resulted in a decadent and quite filling meal. Afterwards, even if you're full, pop into Rococo Chocolates, the only non-London shop for one of England's finest chocolatiers.
Great Fosters, Egham, England: The royal connections for the mid 16th-century main house (converted to Elizabethan design in the early 20th century) are deep - witness the original royal crest of Queen Elizabeth I inscribed above the main porch and dated 1598 Great Fosters served as a hunting lodge by King Henry VIII, so there's some irony in taking tea in the Anne Boleyn Room, where the magnificent 16th-century ceiling include Boleyn's personal crests.
While the interior is reason enough to visit, the gardens are the real calling card. A moat, likely of 6th-century Saxon origin, now forms a border for the gardens, including yew hedges and a knot garden created in the 1920s in the Arts and Crafts style. Cross the wisteria-dressed Japanese bridge over the moat, and arrive in the circular sunken rose garden, a masterpiece that when in full bloom is an especially sensual treat. Keep wandering to find hedges with secret rooms.
Want to linger at any of these properties? Specials, off-season rates, and online deals often bring room prices down to within splurging range: I've found rates of less than $250/night double, with breakfast.)
So the Nantucket Project seems a good fit, it running Oct. 5-8, a veritable think tank which brings together big-brained types from many disciplines, such as writer and businessman Jack Abramoff; CNN political analyst David Gergen; Eric Schmidt, Google chairman; Henry Louis Gates, Harvard professor of black culture; John Abele, founder of Boston Scientific; and Doug Melton, founder of the Harvard/MIT Broad Center for Stem Cell Research. For full information and ticket pricing, visit www.nantucketproject.com/#blank
The Nantucket Project is one of a few cool things happening on Nantucket in the off season, a time with still lots of sun but lower temperatures and prices. For cheaper fall stays, check out the "Hot Dates, Cool Rates" program. Nantucket Island Resorts is offering discounted fall nightly rates, including at places like Jared Coffin House, with rooms going for $125. Check it out at www.nantucketislandresorts.com/hotdates.php
There are a lot of great restaurants on the island, and many are showing their stuff during the Nantucket Restaurant Week Sept. 24-30, including Topper's at the Wauwinet, home of a notable butter-poached lobster, and Brant Point Grill at the White Elephant, known for its duck confit Bolognese. Visit www.nantucketrestaurantweek.com/ for complete information.
The 10th annual Cranberry Festival is scheduled for Oct. 6, when the Milestone Cranberry Bog and Nantucket Conservation Foundation host a festival celebrating the island's historic bogs. Events include cranberry foods of all stripe, bog tours, hay rides, and sheep-shearing workshops. Check www.nantucketconservation.org/page.php?section=3&page=cranberry_festival for more info.
And rounding out the season, the Brant Point Grill offers a New England Thanksgiving and on that morning, the island hosts the 11th Annual Turkey Plunge on Children's Beach. For information on all, visit www.nantucketislandresorts.com or call 800-475-2637.
The 2012 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend features Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch; the 20th annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction held at a new venue, Chateau St. Jean; the new Sonoma Starlight Supper Club at Francis Ford Coppola Winery; and various small, exclusive winery lunch and dinner parties at locations throughout Sonoma's wine country.
Proceeds from the weekend support Sonoma County non-profit organizations; to date, more than $10 million has been donated directly to Sonoma non-profits by the local wine community.
Ticket prices range from $85 to $500 per person. Presenting sponsor, Visa Signature, is offering its cardholders even perks and savings. For reservations and information visit www.sonomawinecountryweekend.com
The Fairmont Copley just finished a $20 million renovation, in celebration of the historic building's 100th anniversary. The renovation included all 383 guestrooms, suites and the Fairmont Gold Lounge, and also the introduction of eight themed suites, which hotel officials call "Mini museums," each celebrating one of the city's iconic institutions, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Pops, The Freedom Trail and the JFK Library and Museum.
Most noticeable are the public areas, including the lobby lounge, the walls of which are graced with signed lithographs by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. Catie Copley, the hotel's canine ambassador, has a new custom-made dog bed as part of the renovation, and adjacent to the lobby, in Peacock Alley, the original hand-laid mosaic tile floor from 1912 was restored. Also new is the hotel's rooftop health club, some 3,000-square-feet in size, with TechnoGym gear, floor-to-ceiling windows affording Back Bay views and an outdoor deck.
And that old smoky room is now the OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, a neoclassical space with vaulted ceilings, original beaux arts plaster and restored copper mullions which contrast a lighter, more contemporary cerused oak palette - which officials said is the first real oak to actually be brought into the space. Fireplaces sit alongside a state-of-the-art wine room and tufted leather bar stools sit next to a most impressive, 83-foot copper-topped bar.
The 100-year-old space has been many things over the years - The Oak Room and Oak Bar most recently, and also Plaza Bar & Dining Room, Merry-Go-Round Bar and Copley Cafe - and was redesigned into its current iteration by designers Dayna Lee and Ted Berner of Powerstrip Studio in Hollywood. There is also a seasonal patio, with bistro tables custom made in France, with rattan seating under umbrellas, and lantern lit at night. For more information, visit www.oaklongbarkitchen.com
All that luscious dark moodiness is now light and airy thanks to 17-foot Palladian windows and original stained glass, and the menu reflects that new lightness, said Suzanne Wenz, director of public relations. The old menu here was meaty, literally, heavy on steaks and such. The modern American menu is now much lighter, with a wide range of seasonal, locally sourced food, she said, heirloom ingredients from regional farms. The day I visited we had a whopping charcuterie platter with tasty meats including prosciutto and porchetta, regional cheeses and Copley-brined olives, and I ordered a Kobe American burger, sans bun, that was simply the best ever. The kitchen is run by Chef Stefan Jarausch, a native German, who once cooked at the Ritz-Carlton Boston.
The hotel, which opened on Aug. 19, 1912 with Mayor John F. Fitzgerald presiding over a reception, is known for industry firsts: The first completely air conditioned hotel in the city, the first hotel with an international reservations system and the first to accept credit cards. It was built on the original site of the Museum of Fine Arts and named for painter John Singleton Copley at a cost of $5.5 million.
For reservations and information on special events marking the hotel's 100-year anniversary, visit www.fairmont.com/copleyplaza or call 800-441-1414.
The pours feature unusual and small-batch producer wines, the Jennings said, most of which are rarely available outside the bottle, including Stefano Massone Masera Gavi, Valdesil Montenovo Godello and Glatzer Blaufrankisch. Matt Jennings, a three-time Cochon 555 champion (a popular culinary event that has chefs creating "snout-to-tail" menus from heritage breed pigs), creates charcuterie including the unique pig-ear bacon, hoof and snout terrine and fennel and preserved orange cotechino.
The Farmstead's curated cheese selections include spirit-washed originals like the Drunken Providence, a Gouda-style cheese from Narragansett Creamery that's washed with Thomas Tew Rum from Newport Distilling, and aged for two months in Farmstead's street-level cheese cave, and other creations from Matt Jennings and his team of three cheesemongers.
Matt and Kate Jennings have run La Laiterie and Farmstead for the past 10 years. Matt Jennings is a two-time James Beard Foundation award nominee, and the couple has earned kudos from Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Travel + Leisure and Saveur, as well as mention on the Cooking Channel's "Unique Eats" program.
For more info, visit www.farmsteadinc.com, or call 401-274-7177.
Down below, the hotel's upscale restaurant Muse has a "Vintage Vanderbilt" menu that was unveiled in May, modeled on a Vanderbilt family menu from 1912 created by Grand Chef Relais & Chateaux Jonathan Cartwright. The menu includes cream of mushroom and lobster broth; oysters with mignonette sauce; and a main course of turkey supreme with roasted potatoes or sea bass with hollandaise and grilled asparagus. Vintage dessert options include chocolate meringues with coffee ice cream or roasted peaches with cinnamon ice cream.
A "Vintage Vanderbilt Experience" package is now being offered, with pricing starting at $995 for two, and including a two-night stay, welcome gift, daily champagne breakfast for two, a Vintage Vanderbilt five-course dinner for two with wine pairings, and two Newport mansion passports to tour five mansions. If that's too pricey, the hotel offers a $599 option for a one-night stay, which includes the package components and one Newport mansion tour.
Check it all out at www.vanderbiltgrace.com