Worlds away from the kitschy tourist zone of Waikiki and the rural surf paradise of the North Shore, Honolulu’s Chinatown has recently become the center of the city’s arts community—bringing with it the requisite cafes, music venues and even a whiff of the cool kid aura that permeates other bohemian enclaves in the rest of the country. Of course, you won’t be mistaking the neighborhood for Williamsburg, Brooklyn or the Mission District in San Francisco anytime soon—and that’s a good thing. Like many things in Hawaii, the area is a unique blend of local Asian-American and immigrant cultures, with a dash of edge mixed in (it was formerly the city’s red light district) and its downtown location gives it just the right amount of urban grit, albeit with palm trees and 80-degree tropical weather.
Here are a just a few places (both new and established) that are worth a visit:
I'm in Berlin for the annual ITB travel fair, and last night had one of those magical moments that sometime happen when we travel, a foruitous experience that can't be planned, only enjoyed. Kismet.
We were a small group of magazine people dining at Grill Royal, one of Berlin's restaurants of the moment, overlooking the Spree River from a quay just below fashionable Friedrichstrasse. The massive restaurant is renowned for its beef— entrecôte from Nebraska, Wagyu from Australia, specialty cuts from Argentina—a decidedly gourmet approach to steak. But the menu is varied, with choucroute (dressed sauerkraut), oysters from the island of Sylt, bouillabaisse, and other regional delicacies.
The restaurant decor is minimalist, with spotlighted artwork on the walls, massive columns, dark-wood banquettes. The real decoration comes from the diners themselves—chic, attractive, some young, others young-ish, all wearing fashions you'd find in the cutting-edge boutiques off Unter den Linden a few blocks away.
With my snowboarding skills firmly intact, I decided this season I would head west again (after three years) for some real-deal riding. Here are my highlights from my January jaunt to Vail and Beaver Creek.
Avanti and Pickeroon, Vail (lift ticket $97 a day)—often-groomed, excellent mix of intermediate and advanced slope.
Larkspur Bowl and Golden Bear, Beaver Creek (lift ticket $97 a day)—the bowl was next to empty and made me shout, WOOHOO, multiple times; I renamed Golden Bear “Honey Bear” because it was such a sweet ride.
Favorite après-ski spots:
Garfinkel’s, Lionshead (drinks for two $15)—lots of picnic tables outside, making it easy to spot your friends; I accidentally stayed après après.
Los Amigos, at Vail Village (drinks for two $15)—watch tired experts and out-of-their-league beginners make their last run down the black-diamond Pepi’s Face, and be thankful you’ve already loosened your boots.
I’ve just returned from a blissfully relaxing trip to the deep Caribbean. After the Christmas rush, my family annually escapes to the West Indies for a week of sailing, diving, and, with months-in-advance reservations in place, great food! As French and posh as ever, St. Bart’s seemed virtually unaffected by the unfavorable economic climate—with Microsoft magnate Paul Allen’s 416 foot mega-yacht Octopus in the lead, an unparalleled collection of pristine 150+ footers took up their usual spots on Gustavia’s glitzy dock.
That is, until a powerful tide and unforeseen surge forced the multimillion dollar vessels to leave their front-row seats on the flashy dock and retreat to the outer harbor (where our relatively diminutive sailboat lay), leaving the high-profile passengers to be shuttled in their heels and tuxes to the mainland in lieu of stepping right off their boat onto dry ground. A nice reminder that being on a boat does, in fact, involve being in contact with water!
They must put crack in the fried chicken at Gus's in Memphis. My sister has lived there for years and has always gone on and on about this place. Whenever I'd visit from New York, I wanted real Southern barbecue, whether the Bar-B-Q Shop or the Three Little Pigs. But last month, she insisted. So I went. And I'm a total convert.
Washingtonians are treated to one of the best international dining scenes in the world. Everyone in D.C. knows where to go for the best Ethiopian (Meskerem), best Scandinavian (Domku), and best Trinidadian (Teddy’s Roti Shop). Tucked into different neighborhoods in Northwest, many of the international restaurants in D.C. are quite affordable.
But when I go home to D.C., my favorite place to eat is the Lebanese Taverna. The staff are affable, the vibe is congenial, and the food is uh-mazing. The shared small dishes always makes a dinner feel more like a party. I try and get a big group together so that we can try different things. I can’t leave without ordering the Foole M’daas (fava beans with garlic and lemon) and the shrimp Arak. Trust me on this one.
I'm a huge fan of flying United to SFO—the PS flights are my favorite. Another enticement has sweetened the deal: SFO's Terminal 3, the United terminal, has some terrific new food and shopping options.
Today’s cool, crisp, finally-fall weather had me in the mood to walk to our offices in Midtown from my downtown home. As I trotted down Broadway, passing 29th street, I realized I had not yet been by to see the new Ace Hotel, and more precisely, its buzzed-about in-house Stumptown Coffee shop.
Every city, it seems, has its own follow-up question, that line that comes after “How are you?” when meeting someone for the first time. In New York City, it’s “What do you do?”; in Austin, it’s “Who are you listening to?”; in D.C., it’s “Who are you voting for?”; and after only one day of visiting my sister in Charleston, that South Carolina city’s question rang out as loud and as clear as the hourly bells on Church Street: “Welcome to Charleston! Grab a seat! Now…what will you have to drink?”
The answer, alas, does not roll off the tongue as easily as the question, and as my sister quickly discovered, locals need to be prepared—with shaker in hand—for almost any answer.
Yes, Philippe Starck may be one of the most overexposed hotel designers in the world. But just when you think, “If I’ve seen one room by Philippe Starck, I’ve seen them all,” you step into a space like the Spa at Icon Brickell.
Something about Starck’s designs just seems to make sense in Miami. And this glamorous new spa, the flagship for Viceroy Resorts, is particularly successful, with water as its central theme.