Three hotels, two glasses of rose, and one marvelous cocktail in Newport

Welcome back to hotel cocktails – Newport edition (the first and most certainly not the last – as this is one of our favorite places to be and it’s an easy drive, especially on a bright sunny spring day).

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(he’s the most fun and basically the best)

Historic and storied Newport is home to the Newport Wine Festival – of course – which we attended and I wrote about here – but there’s really no bad time to visit.  A day in April is especially fine, as it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it would be in the height of season.  We began with rose at the Castle Hill Inn.

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and watched the sunset, and culminated the evening with another seafront location – The Chanler

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Billecart-Salmon – creamy, dry, and almost more of a champagne than a rose.  We drank it outside by a fire pit overlooking the beginning of the Newport Cliff Walk, with the surf crashing below.  Absolute perfection.

chandler bathroom

Also, quality bathroom for a quality instagram story is always a huge plus.

Although we hotel hopped along the sea, we stayed at our usual spot: the Hotel Viking.  It’s historic

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(very)

and centrally located: gets top marks for hospitality and service.  I took advantage of Scott’s obsession with all things auto related, and off he went to peruse the Audrain Automobile Museum while I and enjoyed a cocktail on the patio:

 

Newport Lemonade | Thomas Tew Rum | House Strawberry Basil Simple Syrup | Dell’s

We will be back to the Viking and Newport as often as possible this summer – certainly at least once for the summer and of course, for the 2017 Newport Wine Fest (dates and info on that here).  

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ALL about Cocktails – Hotel Libations with Hoi Polloi + Bloody Marys for a cause with Max Restaurant Group

WELCOME to another installment of Hotel Cocktails – in the Shoreditch district of London.  Before we venture across the pond, let’s looks at something a BIT closer to home (well… I guess it depends on where you’re reading this from, but for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume you’re in Connecticut, or at very least, somewhere on the east coast of the USA.  OK?  OK).

Max Restaurant Group is well known for its charitable endeavors, and as soon as I finish typing this, I’ll be headed to Max Oyster to sample their new Bloody Mary Bar (clearly the best part of any Sunday): drinking for a cause as they raise funds all day for Autism Speaks.  Join them at any of their CT or MA locations, OR at the lovely Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

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All good things.

And now, back to our review.  Scott and I were in London in February for a couple days, and being aficionados of the Ace Hotel in NYC, we naturally ventured to its London counterpart, and the very chic and on trend Hoi Polloi (an extra cheeky name if you consider the working class roots of the East End), which you, naturally, enter through a flower shop if you haven’t crossed in via the hotel lobby

 

Few things better than a big city eatery which knows you’ll find it.  No need for a sign.  Signs are for Applebee’s.  The cocktail list was, naturally, intriguing as hell.  After much deliberation, I selected a Zhoosy Sour:

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Woodford Reserve | Woodford Rye | Choya Yuzu umeshu | creme de banana | yuzu citrus | egg

A flip with whiskey?  I’ll take it.  Only (minor) complaint is that this is a missed opportunity to showcase a Japanese whiskey, given their immense caliber and all the other ingredients – but I’m going to stop insulting the mixologist now and assume that the Woodford was selected and blended in two varietals for its smoky sweetness to balance the other ingredients.  And balance it did.  Not a single one of the individual elements was identifiable in this cocktail.  Which is perhaps, one of the hallmarks of a well mixed libation.

Vibe of the Hoi Polloi?  Not surprisingly, intensely hip and open to whatever you want to make it.  Afternoon tea?  no problem.  DJ and dancing?  They have that too.  Want to work at the bar?  Wifi and lots of power outlets await you.  Full dinner service?  Well, naturally.  Would love to return for dinner the next time we are in London.  Cheers to a great experience with, naturally, the best company.

Best in Bridal this weekend with Lux Bond & Green

Love is in the air.  Spring is (attempting) to spring.  It takes a minute people.  We live in New England.  So, even if the snow falls today, hope springs eternal for warmer climes, and of course – wedding season.  Grab someone you know who is engaged, your bridal party (or, even better, grab your fiancé), and head to our friends at Lux Bond & Green today and tomorrow (3/31 and 4/1) for their Best in Bridal Wedding Band Extravaganza.  You can also shop online via the link above.

Why should you go?  Well first, because they are awesome people.  Locally owned and operated, customer service focused, and just SUPER nice to deal with.  Not to mention knowledgeable jewelers.  LBG has been in the game of pretty shiny things for many, many years.  And they will pass their buying expertise to you.  And the sales for this weekend can’t be beat.  And – did we mention shiny things?

There will be raffles and splendor and many, many diamonds.  Specifically: the largest regional selection of diamond, platinum, gold, and alternative metal wedding bands.  And during the extravaganza, enjoy an immediate 10% discount on wedding bands, free engraving, and 10% savings on most bridal gifts: plus an additional 5% coupon for your next purchase.  Plus champagne and beer.

Cheers to all the happy couples (and please note: LBG believes in love for ALL and is open to all relationships, and I think that’s pretty darn cool).  And enjoy these photos taken by yours truly – who enjoyed the opportunity to photograph flowers and diamonds together because that’s just awesome.

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Appetizing with Russ and Daughters Cafe

A Sunday well spent brings a week’s of content, as the saying goes.  What could be better than a sunny 60 degree day in February on the Upper East Side with someone you love?  Throw in a bagel and cream cheese you say, with some of the best cured fish in the city?  Well, ok.

Russ and Daughters is a New York institution, with a gritty and wonderful flagship location on the Lower East Side.  Want a fine, comprehensive, and dazzling array of cured fish?  Caviar?  Babka?  Well, head down, grab a ticket, and wait in line (and DO NOT lose that ticket, my friend).  Looking for a slightly more polished and artsy experience?  Well, do what we did yesterday and head all the way uptown to the Russ and Daughters Cafe, nestled in the basement of the Jewish Museum.  Sit down, have an egg cream, and an appetizing platter that will knock your socks off.  Nosh away, friends.  Nosh away.

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Greek Wine Dinner at the Fez

The Fez is a charming, cozy, Moroccan restaurant on restaurant row in Stamford, which owner Nancy Laist describes as a “bit of Soho in CT.”  Although they are known for their live music, we came for the food (and the wine) and were not in the least bit sorry that we did.

Greek wine is a category neither Scott nor I have explored at any length, so we were delighted that Nancy invited us to attend (and gave us tickets for the event, thank you!)  The wine itself was good enough and interesting enough that several bottles found a home in our cellar (a Domaine Katsaros Valos and a Rhous White – all bottles pictured below and available for purchase at Horseneck Wines & Liquors).  The Rhous White in particular we loved: a Muscat blend lacking the sweetness of many of the lighter whites of Italy and Spain.  The wine, overall, was punctuated by a somewhat intense but very pleasing mineral quality, which the distributor  assured us was indicative of the region.

And the food?  Oh my, the food.  Baba ganoush was a creamy and airy delight: whipped eggplant served with a cinnamon toasted Pita chip.  Scott proclaimed the grilled octopus with harissa mango sauce (not pictured) to be his favorite – a great textural char on this dish offset the subtle sweetness in the sauce nicely.  As for me?  The vine leaves, stuffed with meat alone and no rice, were fresh and appealing.  Vegetable kebobs punctuated with freshly made falafel and a light dessert of African style baklava, known as Briwat, ensured that the balance of food was also not too heavy or overwhelming – a common issue at multiple course wine dinners.  Of everything we sampled, my heart belonged to the lamb: slow braised with a thick wine reduction to ‘fall off the bone’ perfection.

And speaking of hearts – The Fez is hosting a Valentine’s Day dinner (reservations highly recommended).  Four courses and a prosecco toast are offered for $60 – excluding tax and gratuity – with live music from Kathy Muir.  Treat your sweetie to a cozy, intimate dining experience, and enjoy the visual tour of our dinner below.

The Fez | 227 Summer Street, Stamford | 203 324 3391

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Hotel Cocktails: Beluga Caviar Martini

Welcome, friends, to a new special section of my blog where I review cocktails at the various hotel venues Scott and I venture into during the course of our travels.

Why?

Well, because hotels are a perfect little microcosm of the macrocosm of the city around them.  The best are thought out in meticulous detail, creating a world unto itself, much like a properly created cocktail is a world unto itself.  A chance to pause from life, and enjoy one simple, thing, executed well, if you will.

So let’s explore together, starting with the Beluga Caviar Martini at the Beverly Wilshire

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Beluga Noble Russian Vodka | Cinzano Dry Vermouth | Petrossian Caviar Cube

A word about the Beverly Wilshire – classic Beverly Hills.  How classic?  Well, “Pretty Woman” was filmed here, and yes, there is a “Pretty Woman” cocktail on the menu (but of course), although  visual inspection of one several tables over was definitely not encouraging.  Something has to cater to the tourists, after all.

No, order the Beluga Caviar Cocktail instead.  At first, it will impress you as, perhaps, pretentious, a little “too too” – much like Rodeo Drive itself.  But then you taste it, and soon you are a convert.  The oil from the caviar will slowly but surely seep into the vodka, so I would recommend drinking this at a semi brisk pace before it crosses the line from ‘dirty’ to ‘fishy:’ and if you’re brave enough to order two – that’s on you.  One was perfect for me.  Sometimes, simplicity and brevity are best.

Champagne and Teddy Bears!

The Holiday Season means different things to different people, but one universal is that it SHOULD involves the things (and people) we love the most.  That was most certainly the case for me at Max Downtown for their annual Champagne Gala reception, with my most favorite date (Scott), followed by Teddy Bear Tea the following day, with my darling daughter Penelope and the adorable Mommy/daughter combo of Rosa and Gloria – of Lady Diana’s Pearls (check out her blog about our experience here!)

Before I delve into everything we enjoyed – a quick note for those (like me) still doing holiday shopping (bonus points if you make a spreadsheet to track the eight nights of Chanukah… oh that’s just me… oh ok).  A Max gift card is an excellent gift for those who enjoy champagne, teddy bear tea, burgers, wood fired pizza, local oysters – the list is long with ten locations to choose from!  Pick one up here (e-card options available too for those last minute purchases!)

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And also, a huge thank you to my friends at Max for inviting me in for both of these amazing experiences below.  Please enjoy the photos at the bottom of this article also for a visual recap of my experience.

OK – on to the important stuff.  Champagne, champagne, champagne.  Our good friend Jacob of the Wise Old Dog was on hand along with Max Sommelier Brian Mitchell the night of the gala.  Scott and I are semi regulars at the wine tastings of the WOD (if you haven’t been – go – RSVP in advance and prepare to be entertained AND educated by Jacob, who is both knowledgeable and oh so clever.  And probably going to give me flack about writing all of this about him next time I see him).  My two favorite champagnes of the evening were the Fourny and the Marguet, and he was gracious enough to give me the background on each.  The Fourny is imported by Kermit Lynch, and is organic, small batch, and sustainable in a mass market, over produced area.  The Marguet is imported by Jeff Hellman, a quote “Grower Champagne Gangster.”  Small batch, specially produced and created with a relentless attention to detail.  Another Jacob quote on this champagne “this all grand cru fruit, high toned sparkler shows orchard fruit, nice structure, medium-plus body, and a very clean and persistent finish. Delicious.”  Both these champagnes were indicative of the evening overall – if you want to stray from Verve and find something interesting, original, and totally excellent, the Champagne Gala is the way to go.  Or, just go and soak in some bubbly.  The choice is yours!  So check out the impressive bubbly list next time you’re at Max Downtown – and also – when you go to the Wise Old Dog.  And if you need help selecting a bottle – Jacob and his staff will be more than willing to oblige.

On the Teddy Bear Tea: this was Penelope and my first tea, and we will absolutely make it a holiday tradition.  Every part of the afternoon was a high note, from the impressive brunch cocktail selection to the well curated brunch/dessert plates, to the stuffed bears which every child received, to the candy bar.  Penelope was all smiles the entire time – a bit of a rarety for a little kid in a restaurant setting.  We also lucked out in that Shabbat Bear was visiting that weekend from her preschool, so he was able to hang with the other bears and also enjoyed a delicious latke as part of the tea spread.  Having lived in the UK for several years, I’m a large fan of high tea in general, and the concept of eating many small bites as part of a full meal on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  The Teddy Bear Tea is also a fundraiser and toy drive for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center – so in addition to be excellent Mommy/daughter Daddy/daughter Mommy/son Daddy/son bonding time, it’s a destination to drop off toys and help sick children enjoy their holiday too.  What a wonderful time.  So set your calendars for next year, and from my family to yours – Happy Holidays!

One last note: Steve Abrams, Managing Partner at Max Downtown, was on hand for both evenings.  Steve is a dapper dresser and gracious host, and seeing him is always one of the highlights of visiting MD!  He is pictured below with Brian Mitchell and again with Rosa at Tea.

Max Champagne Gala

Max Teddy Bear Tea