Like millions of Americans, I’m chomping at the bit for Sunday’s season six premier of Mad Men. So ecstatic am I for the gang at Sterling Cooper Draper (Pryce?) to forge into the late-1960’s that I had to mollify my angst in the only appropriate way I knew how: Booze.
One of the hallmarks of the AMC series has been the period-piece cocktails Don Draper, Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell (above) imbibe at bars, dinner parties, soirées, power lunches, and, yes, work. All over country, retro-tipples are chic again, from Mai Tais to Manhattans, becoming part of the show’s defining characteristics. As a proud member of the New York City cocktail tribe and avid fan of the show, I decided to teach myself to joggle a proper drink and learn my jigger from my Boston shaker.
There are some hotels that immerse guests in local culinary traditions. And others that actually immerse them. Overlooking a national park on Tasmania’s eastern coast, Saffire Freycinet(all-inclusive; $$$$$) offers visits to a nearby marine farm, where a guide suits you up in waders, leads you to a waiting table in a cool, pristine bay, and pulls a handful of Pacific oysters from the water. He swiftly pries the bivalves open and serves them right there with just a squeeze of lemon and a glass of sparkling Tasmanian wine. Silence, stillness, and a dozen creamy oysters from some of the purest water in the world. What better way to get a taste of Tassie?
The Draw: Medieval towns, hills covered in olive groves, and more than 100 miles of Adriatic coastline define this area of central Italy.
The Experience: Eight miles south of Urbino, the Savini family’s 185-acre Locanda della Valle Nuova($) has six modern guest rooms and three apartments and arranges horseback riding, visits to artisanal producers, truffle hunting, and traditional dinners of porchetta and fried olives.
The Draw: Tuscany’s northern neighbor, Emilia-Romagna is the home of prosciutto and Parmesan.
The Experience: The late-1300’s Antica Corte Pallavicina($) is a favorite retreat of noted Italian chefs, including Massimo Bottura. Set along the Po River, the property has six rustic-chic rooms, each named after an aristocrat who once stayed there. Breakfasts include hand-squeezed blood-orange juice and farm-fresh eggs; don’t miss dinner at the property’s Michelin-starred restaurant, where chef Massimo Spigaroli serves his house-cured culatello.
The latest wine country hotels come in several varietals—some bold, others more subtle. Below, four of our favorites.
Delaire Graff Estate, South Africa(pictured): British jewelry baron Laurence Graff brings a new level of sophistication (doting butlers; world-class art) to rural Stellenbosch with his 10-villa estate, an hour from Cape Town. After a walk through the Keith Kirsten–designed gardens, take a dip in your private plunge pool. $$$$
Entre Cielos, Argentina: This airy, 16-room property in Luján de Cuyo offers more than just easy access to some of Mendoza’s top producers. Linger over perfectly grilled sirloin paired with a glass of the hotel’s own Malbec at the on-site restaurant, or lose yourself in the hammam, where Bacchus-themed treatments include a grape-seed body scrub. $$$
See if your hotel concierge can get you in. If not, you’ll have to use your wiles. At pint-size hot spots such as Atera or Blanca, your chances are slim. But established favorites, such as Daniel or Maialino, have more tables—and more cancellations. Call at or after 3 p.m., when the hosts finish reconfirming the evening’s reservations. There just might be a spot. OpenTable is also a great resource. It may not get you in to your first choice, but it will show you nearby restaurants that do have availability. If all else fails, walk in. Casual arrivals may find seats at the bar—and if you dress the part, some maître d’s will reward a bold, spontaneous request with a table.
Follow discriminating Romans to the city’s emerging foodie district—Testaccio—which grows fresher by the day.
At the airy, solar-paneled Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio—which recently replaced a 97-year-old market nearby—you’ll see nonnas searching for fresh pasta and artichokes, and stalls selling everything you came to Italy for: organic olive oil, handmade gnocchi, and tozzetti cookies. Between Via Galvani and Via Alessandro Volta.
Tucked inside the market is 20MQ Design & Derivati, a treasure trove of housewares. Among the quirky finds? A serving tray made from vinyl records and a lamp crafted out of teacups. 66 Via Aldo Manuzio.
Thanks to collaborative chef dinners—in which chefs invite fellow toques to take over their kitchens for a night—diners have the chance to sample dishes that would normally require a plane ticket to taste. Here, a few of our favorite upcoming events:
Graffiato, Washington, D.C. On the first Monday of each month, head to this Italian-inspired spot in D.C.’s Chinatown, where chef/owner Mike Isabella recently launched Industry Takeover Nights. From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., the kitchen is turned over to chefs and mixologists for late-night snacks and cocktails. Coming up: Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac, the husband-and-wife team behind Dupont Circle’s forthcoming fried chicken-and-donut concept GBD (May 6), and Jamie Bissionnette of Boston’s always-packed tapas restaurant Toro, coming soon to New York (June 3).
Would you drop out of an Ivy League university for chocolate? Former University of Pennsylvania undergrad, David "Mott" Green did.
Originally from New York City, Mott left Penn to pursue a more altruistic (and sunny) lifestyle in Hermitage, Grenada. After noticing how exploitive the chocolate industry was on the island, he thought, Why don’t cocoa farmers produce the chocolate themselves? Since then, Mott has spent the last 25 years operating the bean-to-bar Grenada Chocolate Company. His efforts to bring Grenadian citizens back into agriculture have helped create a sustainable alternative to the harsh chocolate industry.
Ditching the classroom to eat, live, and breathe chocolate? Sounds like the sweet life to us!
Natty couples channel their grandparents in a supper-club setting at Carbone($$$$), with upgraded Italian American classics—linguine with clams; chicken scarpariello—by the duo behind the ever-popular Torrisi.
Two big names are vying for West Villagers’ affections. Top Chef alum Harold Dieterle explores his German and Italian roots at the Marrow($$$), while Gabriel Stulman—whose retro neighborhood joints Joseph Leonard and Fedora have a cult following—veers into new territory with the Frenchified sushi at Chez Sardine($$$).
At Lafayette($$), his all-day NoHo brasserie, Andrew Carmellini returns to his French training (he cooked under Daniel Boulud), serving country-style dishes to the fashion set.
Across the river in Brooklyn, the culinary intelligentsia clamor for tables at Aska(pictured; $$), a New Nordic spot in Williamsburg.