How do you dive into the heart of a city? Better rephrase the question—where is everyone eating right now? A hot restaurant is more than a place to have a meal; it’s the microcosm of a scene, the movers sitting elbow to elbow with the shakers. Case in point: Coya(pictured; $$$), in London, where aristos and art dealers alike dine on sea-bream ceviche, rib eye with chimichurri, and other bites from Peru, culinary touchstone of the moment. It’s the newest opening from restaurateur Arjun Waney, whose Zuma and Arts Club were themselves era-defining canteens for the in-crowd.
The long-awaited Covent Garden outpost of Balthazar(44-20/3301-1155; $$) is a near-replica of the New York original, down to the distressed mirrors, steak frites, and media bigwigs in the booths.
While France is famous for its champagne and wine regions, Paris is discovering a newfound love for beer. Craft beer bars are surfacing like foam and offer dozens of microbrew options from across the globe.
La Fine Mousse, which opened in Ménilmontant, literally translates to The Fine Head. Bright white paint and tons of natural light mean there’s no shame in ordering before 5 o’clock at this bar. Choose from one of twenty rotating brews from the chrome taps or scope through 150 bottled beers on their menu. Too many options? A full beer list on their website uses filters such as bitterness, color, and alcohol range to help you find the perfect pour before you arrive.
We’ve road tested the latest crop of digital tools to help you find exactly what you’re looking for, from the perfect cup of coffee to a last-minute restaurant deal.
For Restaurants You’ll Love: Ness While the popular Foodspotting app has mastered the art of predicting your next craving based on specific dishes you’ve said you enjoy, up-and-comer Ness uses its algorithm to deliver Pandora-like recommendations of restaurants themselves. The app factors in your preferred price point, cuisine, and more. As with the music service, the suggestions get better the more you use it. Free; iOS.
For Last-Minute Dining Deals: Savored A cut above the usual dining deal sites, Savored offers discounts at surprisingly excellent (sometimes even trendy) restaurants around the country. The app is best for off-peak days or hours: on Sunday or Monday nights, you might be able to snag 30 percent (or more) off dinner at Mercadito, in Miami, or Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne, in New York City. Free; Android and iOS.
For Your Caffeine Fix: Best Coffee If you turn your nose up at Starbucks, try these café-centric maps, which pinpoint independent coffee shops in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and London (more cities are coming later this year). Staff-written reviews note brewing methods, Wi-Fi availability, and even the types of grinders used. From 99 cents; Android and iOS.
For the Best Local Brews: Untappd Like a Yelp for beer-lovers, Untappd helps locate the best bars around you—and pinpoints their top microbrews. A notepad function keeps track of beers you like and ones you’d like to try next. You can also share your finds on Facebook. Free; Android, BlackBerry, and iOS.
For Tips From the Pros: Chefs Feed Who better to seek out for advice on where to eat than the professionals themselves? This app canvasses well-regarded chefs in 16 global cities for their local picks. Insider tips range from Chris Galvin’s favorite quintessentially English meal (calf’s liver and bacon at London’s Delaunay restaurant) to Graham Elliot’s beloved Chicago deep-dish haunt (Lou Malnati’s). Free; iOS.
One to Watch: Evernote Food Digital note-taking pioneer Evernote’s culinary spin-off might be the best new documenting and sharing tool for foodies. Built-in templates let you record your meal (with everything from maps to photographs) on the fly. When you’re done, your notes instantly upload to your account and become digital mementos of your gastronomic pilgrimages. Free; Android and iOS.
Tom Samiljan is Travel + Leisure’s Tech Correspondent.
Q: Is the “service charge” on my room-service bill the same as a gratuity?
A: Though the exact definition varies from hotel to hotel, service charge usually indicates a pooled tip, to be divided up by the entire room service department. If your specific attendant was particularly good, you may consider giving an extra gratuity—but are in no way obliged to do so. To be sure, ask what the hotel’s policy is when placing your order.
It was in Phuket, Thailand, that I first encountered a mangosteen, years ago, in an otherwise ordinary hotel fruit basket: a curious object the size of a billiard ball, its leathery shell as purple as a bruise. The snow-white, segmented flesh recalled a lychee crossed with a clementine: tart and tangy, generously but not garishly sweet, bursting with juice and tropical sunlight. The mangosteen has since ruined me for all other fruits—hell, for all other foods, period. Grown primarily in Southeast Asia, they were barred from import to the U.S. until 2007, for pest-control reasons. It’s still hard to find fresh (not frozen) specimens stateside—unless, like me, you troll the back alleys of New York’s Chinatown looking for a guy who might know a guy. But never mind. It would be worth flying 18 hours in coach to Thailand to savor a single bite.
Q: I love to bring food back from my trips abroad. What are the restrictions? —Alexander Bauman, Lexington, Mass.
A: The lure of forbidden fruit is strong—as is the authority of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to confiscate it once you hit American soil. Why so stringent? The agency cites the example of a Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak in California in the 1980’s that cost the state and federal government $100 million to contain. It started with a single traveler bringing in a piece of contaminated food. Add to that the threats of hoof-and-mouth and mad cow disease, avian and swine flu, and exotic beetle infestations, which can devastate livestock and crops, and you get a sense of why caution is necessary.
That said, there are still plenty of foods that you can carry home from your travels. You just need to be aware of the rules, which can be tricky—and fluid. Restrictions change as disease outbreaks occur. Look for updates on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service websites. And always declare your food: trying to bring in undeclared prohibited items can result in a fine of $300 for a first offense and more for repeat offenders.
Cheese and Milk Products: Hard and soft, pasteurized and unpasteurized cheeses are generally acceptable—that includes everything from Camembert and Brie to feta and mozzarella, even in brine. Nonsolid cheeses, such as ricotta and cottage cheese, pose problems, unless you’re a registered importer. Yogurt and butter are unrestricted.
Meat and Seafood: Unfortunately, almost anything containing meat products is off limits. This includes most fresh and refrigerated meats, cured and dried ones (salami, sausage, and prosciutto, sigh), and even dried soups and bouillons. (Some pork products are allowable from Spain and Italy, but—before you grab that chorizo—require official certification from the country’s health inspectors.) Pâté and foie gras in unopened hermetically sealed containers can usually be brought into the country. At press time, beef and pork products were allowable from Australia, Canada, Fiji, Iceland, and New Zealand with proof of origin (such as a grocery-store receipt or a label indicating where they came from). Seafood, including fresh, dried, canned, and smoked fish, is generally permitted.
Fruits and Vegetables: You need an official permit for most fresh fruit and vegetables, though Canadian produce is generally exempt, once again, with proof of origin. (Check the USDA’s Fruits and Vegetables Import Requirements Database to see what can be carried onto U.S. soil.) Dried fruits, herbs, and spices (except seed-based ones) are by and large okay.
Pantry Items: Good news: oils, vinegars, mustards, canned or jarred meatless sauces, pickles, honey (without honeycombs), jams, baked goods, noodles, roasted nuts, candy, and chocolate are all basically unrestricted.
Alcohol: Anything less than a liter is generally permitted duty-free. Thanks to the 21st Amendment, it’s up to each state to determine how much alcohol you can carry. Most states limit you to a “reasonable” amount for personal use. If you’re from a control state, however, check with the local alcohol board to see if there are restrictions. Utah, for example, sets a two-liter limit. For the record: absinthe (anything bearing the brand name Absinthe, containing thujone, or decorated with artwork “project[ing] images of hallucinogenic, psychotropic, or mind-altering effects”) is not allowed in the States.
A quirky bar is just the prescription to liven up an otherwise ordinary neighborhood. Take Paris’s bizarre new bar at Le Bristol, for example. A giant stuffed peacock welcomes you at the door, leading you to other tasteful taxidermy within the expansive former conference suite.
Located within the luxurious Hôtel Le Bristol, Le Bristol’s wood paneling, parquet floor, and sumptuously upholstered furniture give the venue a younger feel than the rest of the hotel. Lending also to the club vibe is the mirrored LED display over the bar, which runs slide shows and video art from local artists.
The bartender, poached from the Ritz Paris’s Hemingway Bar, serves an array of unique craft cocktails. Tapas, including beef carpaccio and urchin taramasalata, are designed by triple Michelin-starred chef Eric Frechon. Le Bristol’s offbeat personality is bound to make it the hot local watering hole.
Maria Pedone is a digital editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.
It isn’t easy getting to Flora Farm($$$$)—way out past the San José del Cabo marina, down a pothole-riddled road, and up a steep dirt lane. But once you arrive, you see what looks like a mirage amid the barren Mexican desert: 10 acres of organic herbs and heirloom vegetables, which Patrick and Gloria Greene have quietly harvested for the past 17 years. (The nearby One&Only Palmilla has its own dedicated plot.) Now word is spreading—and the expats may have Mexico’s next culinary hot spot on their hands. Last month, the 12-seat fine-dining Flora’s Table restaurant opened on the grounds, joining a new beer garden and an outdoor bar that hosts live music. The goal is to absorb the crowds from the year-old Flora’s Field Kitchen, where dinner is booked months in advance by in-the-know travelers (chef Thomas Keller and George Clooney are fans). Walk-ins are welcome at breakfast and lunch for such dishes as Scotch eggs with herb sausage (the naturally raised pigs come from the Greenes’ nearby ranch); there’s also a market stocked with house-made granola and local honey. For complete immersion, sign up for a cooking or gardening class and, starting this month, book one of four brand-new guest cottages.
Hotel Pricing Key $Less than $200 $$$200 to $350 $$$$350 to $500 $$$$$500 to $1,000 $$$$$More than $1,000
On February 10th, “We Found Love” earned R&B superstar Rihanna her sixth Grammy, this time for best short form music video. That’s nice, but the songstress has another video that T+L readers may find even nicer. It’s a tourism promotional video for Barbados, Rihanna’s home country, and one of the Caribbean’s top destinations.
Check it out:
Okay, so now that we all officially want to go to Barbados but know nothing about it, T+L can help. Here are some things the video didn’t tell us that make a visit to this Caribbean isle more enticing: