Chances are, if you're in the music, tech, film, or media business, you or some of your colleagues are headed to Austin right about now for the SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive conference which kicks off March 8. While attendees will find their schedules packed with panels, demos, concerts, and wall-to-wall marketing pitches, if they can sneak away from the SxSW circus, Austin has a lot to offer.
Here, we present some suggestions for enjoying the most laid back city in Texas beyond the 24-hour blitz of the festival.
The Dock & Roll Diner: Every city has food trucks, but Austin has a food Airstream trailer. Follow them on Twitter @DockandRoll for the daily specials, like today's offering: The Infidel Castro: "Cuban rubbed smoked pork, prosciutto, swiss, pickle, jalapeño and vaquero."
Perhaps not the most obvious choice for a spring break, Chicago can keep a family happy—if not warm and dry—when school lets out. The city welcomed us with open arms during a blustery spring break week when our 'Plan A' vacation fell through. Here are some basic tips for a terrific time with the kids in the Windy City:
If you’re planning on hitting more than a few museums and skyscrapers, buying the Chicago CityPass ($94 for adults, $79 for kids, 11 and under) not only makes economic sense but it allows you to skip the lines at most of the participating venues. The passes saved us from standing in line in the sleet outside the Shedd Aquarium one day and we felt pretty smug sweeping past the hour and a half wait at the Skydeck. Waltz up to the desk and buy the passes at the first venue you visit, and they're valid for the next nine days.
Museum of Science and Industry This magnificent edifice in Hyde Park, between Lake Michigan and the University of Chicago campus, is one of the last remaining buildings of the 1893 Columbian Exposition (you know, from The Devil in the White City!). The museum offers engaging high- and low-tech exhibits—from the physics of basketball (kids pre-set the velocity and angle of a cannon that launches a ball across the grand hall and into a basket on the far balcony) to how cow manure can be turned into fuel (From Poop to Power!). A longtime favorite of Chicago kids, the museum was fully interactive before the word involved touchscreens. You can easily find enough varied and interesting activities to fill an entire day. Don't miss the retro make-your-own-molded-plastic-souvenir machines at the submarine, farm, and space exhibits.
The reincarnation of the Titanic by Australian tycoon Clive Palmer will include a dramatic grand staircase, marble-lined Turkish baths, and one hopes, more lifeboats. But until the Titanic II is built, a series of culinary events around the world will give the public a preview of the experience to come.
New York was the latest stop last week. With the help of New York-based caterers Pinch Food Design, an 11-course menu was created for Palmer's invite-only party to promote his project. Around 600 guests attended the black-tie dinner on the U.S.S. Intrepid docked on the Hudson River west of Times Square. Future food-themed parties will be held in London and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Food-world luminaries are making sure New York’s culture class doesn’t go hungry. At Lincoln Center, Marcus Samuelsson’s American Table dishes up inventive pre- and post-show treats, including a sensational Ethiopian chicken taco (pictured). Michael Oliver and Andrew Carmellini’s chipotle calamari and pizza popcorn are earning bravos at theLibrary at the Public, at NoHo’s Public Theater. Over in Queens, Hugue Dufour’s late, lamented Quebecois diner has been reborn as M. Wells Dinette inside MoMA PS1, where rabbit terrine and whelks in garlic butter are elevated to an art form.
History and hipsters coexist on the leafy, laid-back streets of Chiang Mai’s Wat Gate quarter.
A former home base of the 19th-century teak exporter East Borneo Company has been revived as 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai, a hotel whose 30 suites are decorated with four-poster beds, claw-foot tubs, and bright orchids. Book a room on the second floor for a well-shaded veranda. 2 Na Wat Gate Soi 1. $$$
The open-air Hinlay Curry House serves terrific (and super-affordable) Indian dishes such as aloo gobi, pumpkin curry, and flaky rotis. Save room for the house-made coconut ice cream—a perfect salve for the tropical climate. 8/1 Na Wat Gate; 66-53/324-621. $
Our abridged, meal-by-meal guide to where to eat now.
Oeuf à la coque at Claus: The perfectly cooked four-minute organic egg at this book-ahead épicerie-café comes in an adorable hand-sewn chick-shaped cozy. 14 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, First Arr.; no dinner. $
Turbot rôti at Les Jalles: A chic crowd fills the Deco-tinged spot for such modern bistro dishes as oven-roasted turbot, which comes with salsify, marrow, and potatoes au gratin. 14 Rue des Capucines, Second Arr. $$$
Last month I reported on great après-ski traditions at resorts out West. Don't worry, East Coasters, here are four top-notch resorts closer to home, each with an après-ski scene to rival anything in the Rockies.
In the Adirondack region of New York, Whiteface Lodge's signature après-ski drink is the Campfire, a soothing blend of bourbon, local apple cider, scotch, and sage. Where better to enjoy a liquid Campfire than by an actual campfire? The Lodge agrees, and has built two large lean-tos around a fire pit. Cushy seating, blankets, and mountain views allow guests to relax under the stars while still enjoying the comforts of resort life. And a direct phone line to the hotel concierge means that a Campfire by the campfire need never be far away.
At the Hotel Bel-Air in Beverly Hills, head bartender Allen Allam will teach you secrets of the Japanese hard-shake method for mixing bespoke cocktails. During an hour-long class in the lustrous bar lounge, learn the recipe for such signature drinks as Dragon's Fire and Monroe's Passion, a potent fusion of ginger juice, fresh passion fruit puree, Thai chili syrup and Barcardi 151 rum. (Actress Marilyn Monroe was a regular at the Bel-Air.) Other tricks of the bar trade are also revealed. Allam demonstrates techniques for stirring and garnish cutting, as well as how to employ essential barware like slow-frozen Clinebell ice, stainless steel muddlers and gold-plated strainers. Beverage director Rob Harpest provides colorful cocktail history commentary as Allam pours. Afterwards, slip into one of the lounge's banquettes under larger-than-life celebrity portraits to further your liquid research. From $100 per person, minimum six per class, 14-day advance reservation required.