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The New Hamptons Hot Table: Q+A with Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio

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When chef Tom Colicchio’s long-awaited Topping Rose House restaurant opened its doors last September, it became the most buzzed-about spot on the East End. Now, the 19th-century Bridgehampton mansion is experiencing a second wave, with 22 rooms and cottages set to debut this month. Fellow Top Chef judge Gail Simmons sat down with the restaurateur turned innkeeper to discuss the opening, the menu, and his newfound interest in the hotel world.

Simmons: Why did you decide to get into the hotel business?
Colicchio: When Topping Rose House’s owners, Bill Campbell and Simon Critchell, approached me about two years ago to do a restaurant, I thought it would be too difficult with such a small property to have someone running the restaurant and someone else taking care of the rooms. We felt that we understood what needed to happen from a hospitality standpoint. We just needed to hire someone who had the experience to take care of the day-to-day. The idea was that this business would ultimately provide a springboard to do other hotels.

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Finding America's Best Beers: Q&A with "The Audacity of Hops" Author Tom Acitelli

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The next time you find yourself enjoying a finely crafted beer, you might want to ask yourself what it took to bring that drink to your lips. Tom Acitelli, author of The Audacity of Hops: The History of America's Craft Beer Revolution (Chicago Review Press) did more than wonder about it: He went off across America in search of the stories behind the suds.

Acitelli, the founding editor of Curbed Boston, and a contributor to The New York Times and other publications, answered a few of our questions about where to find the best beers, how Europe is catching onto America's craft movement, and what it's like drinking brews infused with St. John's Wort or hot peppers.

Here are some of his insights:

Where is the heart of the American craft brewing scene?
Tom Acitelli: There are now more than 2,300 breweries in the United States, the most since the 1880s, so pinpointing a definite geographic heart might be a tad difficult. Spiritually, however, the American craft beer movement indisputably pivots on Northern California—specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area. The oldest craft brewery still in operation (Anchor Brewery, famous for its steam beer) is in an old coffee roastery in San Francisco's Potrero Hill neighborhood. The first startup craft brewery since Prohibition (New Albion Brewery, which went out of business in 1983) was also nearby, in Sonoma County wine country; and the nation's second- and third-oldest brewpubs, Mendocino Brewing and Buffalo Bill's, started just outside of San Francisco.

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Surfing as Art and Lifestyle: Q&A with Saturdays' Colin Tunstall

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Any store can put out a catalog or a little circular that focuses on its brand, but few would dare print a full-color, oversized glossy and sell it for $25. That's exactly what Saturdays, a New York City-based surf shop has done with it's massive Saturdays Magazine.

The second issue (out now) is a celebration of all that's great about print: It's heavy, its pages make noise as you turn them, and it falls open with a satisfying "thunk." The magazine, which was printed in Iceland (watch this video of it coming off the press), is so massive you might not be able to fit it in your carry-on bag. But if you do, inside you'll find striking multipage spreads of surfers at work and at play, interviews with artists like Larry Clark and Christo, and projects from photographer Bruce Weber and designer Hedi Slimane. What you won't find is a hard sell for surfboards.

We spoke with Saturdays co-owner and Saturdays editor-in-chief Colin Tunstall. Here's what he had to say:  

What's a little surf shop with two locations in New York and two in Japan (the newest in Kobe) doing putting out a 300+ page oversized doorstopper of a magazine?
Colin Tunstall: I've always wanted to produce magazine. Before starting Saturdays I worked in publishing for 10 years. The concept was simple, we just wanted to produce something cool. We decided to focus on Q&A's with people we thought were interesting. We cast a wide net and embraced the variety of backgrounds, ages and locations of everyone to define the common thread of our lifestyle.

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Cruise Booze: Q&A with Bruno Maddox

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What's it like to mix drinks on a cruise ship? In the May issue of Travel+Leisure, writer Bruno Maddox tells all in I Was a Cruise Ship Bartender.

Maddox has already practiced his brand of immersion journalism by working as a Las Vegas hotel concierge and renting a private island for T+L, but we wanted to know what it was like to be among the crew chasing down fluttering napkins and serving up Baileys Banana Vanilla Thrillas on a massive floating hotel.

Here are some of Maddox's insights:

What was your first thought when you got this assignment?
Bruno Maddox: Well, it was December, and the thought of a sunny cruise in the Caribbeandid obviously hold some appeal, but the job itself sounded pretty bad. I knew there'd be uniforms. There would also almost certainly be mandatory grooming, shaving, etc., which is always a nightmare, and then there was going be the pure living hell of having your photo taken, for hours, in a crowded public space... and if all that weren't bad enough I'd be making high-degree-of-difficulty cocktails for people primed to expect flawless service. But you know. This is what I do. It's like being a soldier. When your commanding officer tells you to go, you go.

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From Belize to Kenya and Rome: A Q&A with Actress Kate Walsh

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Kate Walsh has been a prime-time star since 2005, when she earned fame for her role as Addison on Grey's Anatomy. While the spin-off series Private Practice just ended its six-year run, the native Californian isn't taking a break to relax, with trips to Vienna, Washington, D.C., and possibly the Middle East coming up this year. There’s also her fragrance, Boyfriend—the bottle of which was inspired by the Venetian glass and gold frames at Le Meurice hotel in Paris. Here, the actress talks to us about her more memorable trips, favorite hotels, and more.

Tell me about your recent trip to Belize.
I was there with Oceana [an ocean conservation organization] to bring awareness to the importance of conserving the barrier reef, which is essential for the island fisherman and protects the island from storms and hurricane. This was one of the most pristine and rich reefs I’ve ever been to.

We stayed at a little place called Turtle Inn, which is owned by Francis Ford Coppola. There was no TV, and only one area you can get Internet. It was so quiet and relaxing, and the food was great. It was just about being in the water, lying in hammocks, and taking boat rides to snorkel at different islands.

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Trip Doctor: Spring Packing for Paris and Barcelona

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Q. I will be traveling to Europe this coming May and will only be able to bring one 22” carry-on and one overnight bag (that will fit under the seat). I'll be in Paris from May 5 – 11, and then in Barcelona from May 12 – 16.

The weather should be okay, but most likely there will be rain. I'm stumped as to how to best pack so I'm prepared for anything while packing as light as possible.

What shoes would you recommend for daytime walking (a lot of walking!)? Jacket or sweater? How many pairs of jeans? How many tops?

This is my first big trip to Europe so I'm trying to be proactive and figure out now what is needed. Since I will be responsible for lugging my own bags from Paris to Spain, I am truly limited for packing purposes. —Marianne VanAuken, Chandler, AZ

A. Since this is your first trip across the pond you should know Europeans' idea of casual is a bit more pulled together than Americans'. Parisian culture is steeped in fashion history and they take it seriously, so if you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, bring your best casual looks and buy some new things too. I always think of myself as a representative of our country when abroad and step up the style quotient.

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Q+A: The Globetrotter Diaries' Michael Clinton

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Most 12-year-olds save their money to buy video games or remote-control helicopters. But Michael Clinton wasn't most 12-year-olds. His piggy bank funded a month-long visit to see family in Ireland—and so began his love affair with travel. Today, the president, marketing, and publishing director of Hearst Magazines has visited more than 120 countries. He's climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, camped in the mountains of Bhutan, and has plans to run a marathon on every continent (he has Africa, Asia, and Antarctica to go).

Clinton shares these experiences—and many others—in his new collection of essays, The Globetrotter Diaries (Gliteratti Inc.; $30). We asked the fanatical adventurer about what drives his desire to travel, where he's going next, and more.

Q: Travel + Leisure's editor Nancy Novogrod considers you one of the world's greatest travelers. What makes you so passionate about crisscrossing the globe?

A: Why is someone passionate about food? Or about art? Or about collecting art? When we are lucky enough to find something that fulfills us, brings us joy, or keeps us wanting more, then we need to pursue it. It is core to our individuality. Travel does that for me. What better way to discover more of yourself, by experiencing the world, its wonders and its people?

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Smile! There's a New Trend in Medical Tourism

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New evidence suggests dental tourism is skyrocketing, with a now estimated one million people traveling outside their home country for affordable dental treatments and enhancements. According to medical travel resource Patients Without Borders, most tooth tourists are from the U.S., with Europe a close second—with the majority seeking implants, crowns, root canals, and smile makeovers.

And while Hungary, Poland, Thailand, India, and Singapore are fast emerging as top spots for dental work, some are traveling to the U.S. for treatments. Call it Reverse Dental Tourism. And it makes sense, given Americans' worldwide reputation for flaunting mouthfuls of pearly whites. But these aren't your average bargain-hunting snaggle-toothed tourists.

Dr. Michael Apa, a partner in New York-based Rosenthal-Apa Group and pioneer in Facial Aesthetic Design, is one of the world's top cosmetic dentists. Beyond catering to celebrities such as Matt Dillon, Chloë Sevigny, and the Trumps, he also services many of the Middle East's royal families, who pay upwards of $30,000 for his mouth makeovers—and who decamp to New York City for weeks at a time. As a result, Dr. Apa not only helps people looks years younger with porcelain veneers and facial asymmetry adjustments, but his practice also acts as de facto concierge and travel advisor. He was recently honored with a Five-Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Science for being "One of the Finest Dentists Worldwide." Travel + Leisure recently caught up with the doctor in NYC:

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Hotel Impossible's Anthony Melchiorri

Anthony Melchiorri has come a long way since working as the director of front office operations for New York's iconic Plaza Hotel. Now, more than 20 years and a fair share of hotel management jobs later, the Brooklyn-born hospitality expert has taken on the role of "hotel fixer" for the Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible. And After Anthony, a one-hour special looking back on Season One, airs February 4 at 10 p.m.Here, Melchiorri reflects on the properties he visited, describes his perfect hotel room, and more.

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Q+A: Gloria Guevara, Secretary of Tourism, Mexico

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T+L spoke with Gloria Guevara, Mexico's Secretary of Tourism, in the closing days of the administration of Felipe Calderón, in whose cabinet she served, and days before the end of the cycle of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new era.

Q: Mexico is the number one international destination for U.S. travelers.  In fact, it has grown by record numbers in 2011 and is on track to exceed these figures in 2012.  To what do you attribute the growth?

A: Yes, in 2011, we had a record number of international visitors, 23.4 million.  Of these, 10.1 flew into Mexico, and of those 5.7 were from the United States.  First, I would have to say that the increase is due to an increased interest and appreciation in Mexico, that is, in the richness of the destination: the natural landscape, from Baja California to the Yucatán, our beaches and colonial cities, history, arts and culture, cuisine, and, of course, the hospitality of our people.  But the growth in tourism also is a result of the creation, and for the first time, of an overall tourism business plan.

Q: Tell us about the plan.

A: President Calderón dedicated one full year, 2011, to tourism, to building the foundation of an integrated tourism plan and strategy, involving federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector and enterprise. This overall plan was unprecedented, involved major investment, increased budgets for infrastructure–several billion dollars alone spent on airports, railroads, and highways in the past five years–to marketing. We diversified our product, developing various segments, including multi-faceted cultural and adventure and eco-tourism programs, in addition to the ever popular sun and beach segment.  And a part of our strategy also involved diversifying our outreach to foreign nationalities.

Q: From which countries come the largest number of your visitors?

A: First, the United States, then Canada, which has grown significantly, the UK, Spain, and Argentina.  However, in a close sixth place is Brazil.  And some months, Brazil moves into fifth place.  Overall, we have visitors from more than 130 countries. And notably an increase by more than 87 percent so far this year compared to last from Russia.  There is a direct flight from Moscow to Cancún but Russian tourists travel everywhere from the Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua in the north of the country, where I encountered a group, to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, and Mexico City, of course.  Also, the Russians spend on average $1,000 per person per day, which is very high.

Q: Are there new destinations on the horizon?

A:  Yes.  As you know, Cancún, was the initiative of Fonatur, one of the arms of the ministry of tourism.  Prior to its development, nothing existed there.  We have developed others, notably Los Cabos and Huatulco.  All are known as fully-integrated centers.  The new development is Playa Espiritú on Mexico's Pacific coast, approximately 80 kilometers south of Mazatlán.  The plan would be for it ultimately to be twice the size of Cancún in terms of hotel rooms, with approximately 44,000.  It would include a marina and golf.  We are in the process of building the infrastructure and we are including all the experience we have gained from the other developments so that Espiritú is 100% sustainable.

Q: Traditional Mexico cuisine was recently designated by UNESCO to its list of intangible cultural heritage or cultural treasure.  Along with the traditional French gastronomic meal, this citation represented the first time UNESCO considered food.  What does this signify?  

A: As part of the declaration, we completed a data base and were able to determine that there exist at least 1,500 traditional dishes, which speaks to the diversity of the foods as well as the forms of cooking. Partly as a consequence, we have developed 18 gastronomical routes, which can take the traveler throughout the country, allowing them to try various specialties, learn to cook some of them, and visit cultural sites along the way.  Particularly interesting are the cocinas tradicionales of the indigenous people in Michoacán, tied to the Day of the Dead celebrations.  The UNESCO designation offers a great opportunity for us to share what we have.  There are seven different levels of Mexican cuisine, the most sophisticated and difficult to prepare involves ingredients that are not found outside of the country.  Like the notion of terroir and French wine, the ingredients depend on the type of soil—and certain foods and ingredients grow only in Mexico.

mmpng Mario R. Mercado is arts editor at Travel + Leisure.

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