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1 MAIN Table 926 Credit Rich Mackey
 Photo Credit Rich Mackey

If you're someone who seeks to exclusively or primarily eat foods that are locally produced or sourced within relatively close proximity to your home and not moved long distances to market, than it’s official…you’re a “locavore”! Wikipedia explains that the locavore movement in the United States and elsewhere was spawned due to the growing interest in sustainability and eco-consciousness becoming more prevalent. Whatever the impetus, locavores are dining out in droves and, happily, there’s a growing number of restaurants catering to guests with this specialized mindset.

Among these is Table 926—perhaps the best kept secret in San Diego’s North Pacific Beach area. This reverential restaurant embodies the very essence of being locally-oriented, even taking its name from its address at 926 Turquoise Street.

Table 926 is small, but don’t let its modest size fool you. This is an independent, family-run eatery serving up seriously bold and fresh flavor. Even Executive Chef and owner, Matthew Richman, himself is locally sourced, having grown up less than 10 minutes away from the restaurant's location.

Chef Richman has honed an eclectic culinary point of view through a career journey that's taken him all over the United States, including stints in gastro-meccas like San Francisco and South Florida. From these experiences and others, Chef Richman mastered methods and flavors that he’s adapted with foodstuffs showcasing premier provisions from the region in which he operates. He also taps into his own cultural heritage for inspiration, blending California ingredients and French cooking techniques with Latino and Mediterranean flavors for dishes with flare, like Braised Pork Cheek Tacos with corn tortillas, pickled red onion, queso fresco and tomatillo-avocado and smoked chili salsas ($13.50).  Flare indeed. Amid all of these influences, Table 926 extends an ever-evolving, varied menu highlighting each season’s best.

In a recent conversation with Chef Richman, I asked about his personal favorite dish.  He was hard-pressed to choose just one item, conceding, "It’s not easy, but I’d have to say the Grilled Octopus Salad [$14, with Spanish sausage, fried potatoes, frisée and paprika aioli] because it blends classic Mediterranean flavors that always taste perfect in the Southern California climate settings. The dish is fun, different, has a variety of flavors going on, and the fresh octopus is delicious."

Having eaten this dish, I could not agree more. Awards and accolades also attest to Table 926’s approach. Not long after it opened, San Diego Home and Garden magazine named the restaurant a “Silver Fork Winner.”

"As far as the dinner menu, we do not have ‘signature dishes’ per say," Matt goes on to explain. This is understandable since the menu is continually in flux—probably the foremost feature of the eatery.  "We’re constantly changing with the season to best highlight local, farm-to-table cuisine.” And, the seasonal shifts are not just reserved for food. “We have a seasonal homemade sangria and homemade Limoncello occasionally as well," he notes.

On the evening of my own visit I was fortunate to sample a broad cross-section of that evening’s iteration of the menu. While I did largely enjoy it all, there were a few superstar standouts. The Braised Pork Cheek Tacos mentioned above were by far my favorite appetizer. The meat in this Spanish delicacy was melt-in-your-mouth goodness that was also seasoned to perfection. The tangy and salty pickled onion added just the right amount of tang and texture. The crisp greens and creamy cheese added that earthy freshness, and the dual salsas married all of the components to make this a very cohesive dish.

I had not originally intended to order the Char Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($9), but the table next to me had been served the dish and the smell was intoxicating. I had to have a serving all my own. The vegetable, which was crisp from roasting on the outer leaves and tender underneath sans bitter notes, was tossed in a sassy Dijon-white anchovy vinaigrette and topped with grated parmesan and Spanish paprika

Entrée-wise, the Grilled Natural Pork Chop ($23) earned top honors at my table.  Well seared on the exterior and succulent and moist inside, the amply portioned chop was served with a delightfully savory smashed Yukon potato-cheddar cheese cake that was perfectly browned with a crisp outer layer. Asparagus and sundried tomato butter completed the ensemble

Running a close second was the Natural Chicken Breast ($21) in all of its plump and juicy glory. This cooked-to-perfection poultry was served with roasted baby carrots, king oyster mushrooms, small and aptly sweet caramelized cipollini onions, and pea tendrils—all served over a creamy salsify purée suitably spotlighting this root vegetable native to the Mediterranean region of Europe

Dessert-wise, my fave was the Butterscotch Pot de Crème ($8)—an insanely decadent pudding that was more thick and mousse-like than it was runny as I prefer, served with caramelized cocoa nibs, a spiced tuile wafer and a sweet and cinnamony snickerdoodle cookie.  The Loaded Brownie ($8) with candied nuts, peanut butter chantilly cream, ganache and praline ice cream was certainly tasty, but I personally found the richness of each component, delightful on their own or with lesser counterparts, to be a bit overbearing in large combination. That said, plating was cute, and I especially liked the chocolate “926” garnish.

I also liked the menu price points, which are decidedly affordable and accessible for food of this caliber—and quantity given the generous portion sizes.  In fact, when I asked Chef Richman what qualities set Table 926 apart from other area dining options in the area, he points out that, despite its elevated approach cuisine, the relaxed, beach-town ambiance of the locale makes it unpretentious and inviting for all. "Table 926 is the perfect culmination of seasonally-driven food in a laid-back, yet upscale setting. Wearing casual attire to enjoy our Roasted Duck Breast with pomegranate molasses is totally acceptable," he urges.  Chef Richman eagerly added that his favorite non-food aspect of the eatery is the warm and knowledgeable staff who he regards as “the heart of the restaurant.” I would agree as the staff was affable and attentive throughout the entirety of my visit.

Even beyond its inspired epicurean endeavors, Table 926 also takes pride in engaging the local community through events, such as participating in dinners, tasting events and fundraisers that directly benefit the community.

Having opened its kitchen in December of 2011, Table 926 may only be a few years old but it’s well on its way to becoming an entrenched San Diego staple. Its brand of hyper-local and imaginative cuisine combined with a casual atmosphere and endearing hospitality could very well entrench it as one of the finest locavore-minded restaurants in America’s Finest City.

Locavore Love at Table 926 Restaurant San Diego

 

merileen

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

~~~

marileenThe Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

 

 

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Padma Lakshmi Photo Courtesy of Edelman Portland
Photo Courtesy of Edelman Portland

For most of us mere mortals, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen can be tough. Those who really struggle with weight loss and maintaining healthy lifestyle choices can feel a lot like Sisyphus, the mythological Greek figure eternally doomed to push a giant boulder up a hill over and over only to see it roll to the bottom again and again. Even with the best of intentions and even if you do achieve your weight and fitness goals, progress can all-too-easily slip back down that proverbial hill just like Sisyphus’s burdensome boulder. The ensuing disappointment can be enough to prompt even the strong-willed to head to the emotional dark side and devour a pint (or two) of chunky monkey.

The reality is, willpower alone isn't enough to sustain healthy habits and maintain fitness over the long-term. Unless you base your diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices on correct, factual information from credible sources, backsliding remains an ever-present threat. Sadly, the health and fitness information superhighway is strewn with myths and misinformation. Incorporating faulty ideas into your diet and exercise routine is like stepping in a huge pothole. You go forward in good faith only to find your progress sidetracked at best, severely derailed or completely obliterated at worst.

In my quest to help health-seekers keep their “body boulder” at the top of that hill, I've sought out advice from health, food and fitness industry field experts. These are pros who have been around the block or two and, in many cases, have literally written the book. Their insight and advice runs the gamut, including what food choices to make for a healthy lifestyle and how to effectively multitask your exercise regimen. When I asked them for their best slimdown secrets, this is what the food and fitness pros had to say:

"Restrict calories without hunger. This means balancing protein to carbohydrate at every meal. If you do it correctly you will not be hungry for five hours after a meal."
--Dr. Barry Sears, ZoneDiet.com

"After a long day, cooking is the last thing on my mind. My new obsession is meal delivery services. It’s a great way to guarantee veggies at your doorstep for every meal. Growing fresh herbs and tomatoes on my kitchen windowsill also keeps me connected to the food I eat."
--Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef

"Get fit with fiber. Dietary fiber does more than contribute to what we delicately refer to as ‘regularity’—it also aids in digestion and can play a role in preventing heart disease and colon cancer, among other conditions. Fiber is also an effective tool for weight management: it fills you up quickly despite being very low in calories, slows digestion and keeps blood sugar on a level plane, which maintains normal insulin levels associated with a healthy weight. Aim for at least 10 grams of fiber with each meal (and 5 grams with each snack)."
--Harley Pasternak, HarleyPasternak.com

"Skip the bread basket and the olive oil usually served in fancy restaurant as soon as you sit down. This represents about 400 calories of oil and white bread at each sitting on average. 15 meals with bread and oil and it is 2 pounds of extra fat on your body (indeed, you need to eat 7,000 extra calories on average to gain 2 pounds of fat). Do like the French, only eat one slice of bread with your meal. Don't stuff yourself before the good food is put on the table."
--Valerie Orsoni, LeBootCamp

"Maintain your exercise routine and change it up even when living a fast paced lifestyle, traveling or on set! Take the time to experience new gyms, exciting workouts and taking your workout outdoors while traveling. This will keep you motivated and refreshed in your workout goals. Consider wearing a Fitbit and tracking your food intake on My Fitness Pal to stay on target as well. Get out of your comfort zone — try a barre, Flywheel, Boot Camp, or Yoga class in the local area."
--Stacy Goldberg, SavorFull.com

"There are tons of fad diets out there that promise results, but what these diets don’t disclose is the extreme calorie deprivation and lack of substantial nutritional components. Cutting too many calories makes your body think that you are too lean and slows down your metabolism and holds up the fat burning process to conserve energy. Every individual's body is different in what to consume and how much to consume."
--Steve Saunders, PowerTrainSports

"Always cook with cast iron. It’s the oldest pan in the book, but there’s a reason for it. Cast iron allows you to cook with less oil and helps the meat cook at an even temperature. You’ll never have to worry about the pan releasing any unhealthy toxins, like nonstick."
--Chef Chris Kydes, The Flaming Greek

"As a co-host, I’ve learned that cooking with someone in the kitchen promotes more than just good food. It demonstrates positivity in a relationship because you are both cooking for the greater good (meaning each other). It also creates a camaraderie in the kitchen. If one is trying to change themselves, either eating better, losing weight, cooking together helps achieve that."
--Kami, Co-Host, The Flaming Greek

"Add heart healthy cocoa flavanols to your diet. Cocoa flavanols are powerful phytonutrients that are scientifically proven to help promote a healthy heart by supporting healthy blood flow. CocoaVia is a cocoa extract supplement that delivers a high concentration of cocoa flavanols. It can be consumed either before or after exercise and scientific studies demonstrate that within a few hours of consuming a product with cocoa flavanols, the cocoa flavanols enter the body and start to help support your cardiovascular system. Add this product to yogurt, oatmeal, coffee or your morning smoothie. It’s a delicious way to support your heart health."
-- Harley Pasternak, HarleyPasternak.com

“When time is of the essence opt for compound, multi-joint exercises – squats with shoulder press, walking lunge with bicep curl. This will give you more bang for your buck by engaging more muscles and burning more calories.”
--Ray Grayson, Mr. Shut Up And Train

"You need only cut 100 calories per day, on average, to lose 10 pounds in a year. So be mindful of everything. Cut just one tablespoon of olive oil per day and you’ll lose an average of 12 pounds in a year. Cut calories where you won’t even miss them."
--Devin Alexander, Celebrity Chef

While these experts cover a breadth of territory, what's most notable is the overwhelming message that eating a healthy diet and making smart choices about fitness doesn't have to be complex. Small choices made consistently each and every day is what’s needed if you want to  lose weight, get fit and stay healthy. You certainly don’t need to feel deprived…and may actually enjoy the process.

merileen

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

~~~

marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern Merilee Kern is a wellness industry veteran, consumer health advocate and influential media voice. She is the author of the award-winning children’s book, “Making Healthy Choices—A Story to Inspire Fit, Weight-Wise Kids,” along with the corresponding smartphone APP, “Kid’s Making Healthy Choices, (available on iTunes.)” She may be reached online at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

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Photo: Credit Jorg Photo (Andrew Jorgenson)

San Diego’s Little Italy section has morphed into a culinary craft hotspot, with exciting new restaurants pushing food and beverage boundaries like never before. Among the array of notable establishments that have cropped up is the hip hotspot Kettner Exchange. This lively, impeccably-designed, multi-level restaurant (boasting Little Italy’s only rooftop patio) is the current see-and-be-seen “it” eatery—and with good reason. Decidedly swag vibe and pretty people aside, Executive Chef Brian Redzikowski masterfully imbues refined Asian flare and other ethnic infusions into comfort-style favorites while skillfully serving up unique spins on everyday fare. His fan-favorite Big Eye Tuna "Pizza" ($18) is case in point. However, not to be outdone, bar manager Steven Tuttle’s specialty craft cocktail program is also lauded as "unique and forward-thinking." All combined this restaurant has a sure-fire recipe for success.

While Kettner Exchange, which opened in October 2014, may be the cool new kid on the block, the restaurant pays homage to San Diego’s rich maritime history dating back over one hundred years. For starters is the restaurant's namesake, William Kettner--a Democratic Congressman in the early 1900’s credited with bringing the Navy to San Diego among other notable accomplishments. The reverence for Kettner’s contributions, and the county’s nautical roots at large, duly extends into the restaurant’s décor, which exudes a warm and dignified seafaring sensibility that’s not overly theatrical. Notable interior design touches like antique brass sconces, antique binoculars, a custom chess set with pieces designed after famous San Diego landmarks, and an early 20th century topographic map of the San Diego Bay embellishing a dark mirrored wall and ceiling all serve as reminders of San Diego’s legacy in the Naval community, as does the compulsory portrait of William Kettner above the fireplace. However, the overarching effect is not “old fashioned” or stuffy, but rather the space is quite bright, airy and contemporary.

Kettner Exchange is the brainchild of the same folks who brought other notable eateries to San Diego like Firehouse American Eatery + Lounge in Pacific Beach and both Vin De Syrah and Analog downtown. While design elements of the eatery may harken back to days of yore, its approach to food and beverage service is quite contemporary, featuring Chef Redzikowski’s personal interpretation of progressive American cuisine. And he has much experience to draw from having worked for some of the best restaurants and chefs in the country, including New York City’s acclaimed Le Cirque 2000, Colorado’s Nobu Matsuhisa Aspen and Yellowtail Restaurant in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino Las Vegas. Chef Redzikowski also competed in Iron Chef America, which is proof-positive that he can think creatively on-the-fly and manage a team under extreme pressure.

At Kettner Exchange, Chef Redzikowski’s pedigree shines through. “He is constantly adding new menu items and expressing his culinary expertise by leveraging new and interesting local finds and putting them to work on the menu,” notes spokesperson Carrie Barrett. “For example, foie gras has recently made its way into various nightly specials that change each week to surprise and delight guests.” Though I didn’t opt for it, on the evening of my own dinner service visit the Hudson Valley Foie Gras ($19) was a preparation with mango, Brussels sprouts and balsamic-teriyaki.

The menu at Kettner Exchange is decidedly sharing-friendly, prompting my party of four to eat family style. We chose a diverse range of “shared plate” and “small plate” starters, two “large plate” entrees and two desserts. Much to our delight, the overarching epicurean experience excelled in all key areas—what I have affectionately coined my “5 P’s”: dish planning (conception), presentation, preparation, proportion and piquancy. 

Amid the numerous dishes I sampled that evening, there were certainly a number of “most memorables.” From the “shared plate” category, the Japanese Okonomiyaki ($12) pancake was a delight. Just the right amount of crunch on the outside with a soft and moist interior, the mild pancake was juxtaposed with two savory sauces (one crème-based, one glaze) that worked equally well for the sweet, firm grilled shrimp playfully perched on top. A dash of diced daikon radish, scallions and fresh micro greens added just the right amount of crisp and earthy notes.

Another “shared plate” standout was the Grilled Skuna Bay Salmon ($14). Mild and tender, the buttery fish was served atop a bed of sautéed shiitake mushrooms that added more meaty mouthfeel to the dish, and both texture and flavor were further bolstered by a topping of crispy fried onion strings and diced scallion. While I don’t often include Brussels sprouts in my fish recipes, the addition of the leafy vegetable to this dish worked really well. A drizzling of sassy caramelized mustard tied the components together beautifully.

From the “small plate” section, we loved the Cauliflower Tempura ($14). While simple conceptually, execution was on point. A glistening beurre rouge sauce soaked into the light batter encasing the deep fried vegetable, which was also topped with fresh uncooked cauliflower shavings. A sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles and tender, slightly peppery mustard frills balanced out the flavor profile.

The fresh and fragrant Fatty Crab Salad ($19) was my favorite among all of the starters. With Alaskan King crab, mango, long beans, bok choy, cilantro and crunchy onion strings, this salad was a symphony of texture. An extremely light citrus dressing added the necessary touch of acid that made this dish sing.

As for the entrees, the taste of the New York Strip Steak ($37) was nearly outdone by the gorgeous rustic presentation. The perfectly cooked sliced steak, dripping with natural juices, was anchored on a bed of rich, buttery, sour cream-enhanced brittany mashed potatoes along with thick-cut wild mushrooms and squash blossoms—some tempura fried. A tempura fried onion ring and fresh greens rounded out the garden aesthetic of this insanely delicious dish. 

From turn to surf, the Alaskan Black Cod ($32) was just a touch too sweet for our taste given the heavy hand on the miso glaze.  A shame since the fish was otherwise impeccably cooked. Luckily there was a copious amount of grainy, wholesome quinoa and broccoli rabe, and just enough red pear onion to cut through the strong glaze flavor and make the dish less one-note.

Desserts held their own, with every drop of the creamy, pudding-like Caramel Budino ($8) with crème fraiche and Maldon sea salt being duly devoured. The Chocolate Cup ($9) with Nutella powder, banana froth and vanilla bean ice cream was just as enthusiastically received.

Also worth mentioning is that, in addition to its regular dinner service, Kettner Exchange holds private Chef's Table dinners allowing patrons to enjoy a "behind the scenes" look at Chef Redzikowski's domain. The Chef's Table is tucked into a cozy back corner of the kitchen where there is a bird’s eye view of the bustling brigade. The space accommodates eight guests at a time and is available for private bookings only. Each $125 seat includes a specially-designed five course meal with food and wine pairings conceived by Chef Redzikowski along with the restaurant’s in-house Sommelier, Jonathon Brennan.

Whether you opt to dine at Kettner Exchange’s Chef's Table or in its main dining room, you’re certain to experience gratifying food and drink in an upbeat atmosphere sure to keep you coming back for more.

Kettner Exchange Restaurant San Diego

merileen

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marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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1Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Art.com

Digital photography has revolutionized the way we take, share and store photos. Whether you're a pro looking for a better way to showcase your portfolio or simply striving for the perfect selfie, these four photography tools will bring your shots to life in entirely new and exciting ways.

***TAKE***

LuMee Case (www.LuMeeCase.com) - $39.95- $44.95

The LuMee case is a unique cell phone case with embedded lights that surround the front of your phone, allowing for perfectly lit selfies, FaceTime sessions and even makeup applications. LuMee was designed by a professional photographer who was fed up with poor lighting while Skyping with his daughter abroad. LuMee comes with its own charger and battery so it won’t drain your phone's battery, and it has a dimmer button to achieve just the right amount of light. LuMee will provide perfect light for any epic-selfie/ussie moment, even in low light situations. LuMee also makes the perfect nightlight for reading or midnight walks to the fridge. Walking alone to your car at night? Use LuMee as a flashlight to guide the way.

LuMee Case 1 credit LuMee   LuMee Case 2 Credit LuMee  LuMee Case 3 Credit LuMee
   Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: LuMee

Smart iReach Selfie Stick (www.SmartiReach.com) - $49.95 - $69.95

Selfie sticks are all the rage right now, showing up everywhere…even at red carpet events! With the Smart iReach this gadget is cooler, more fashionable and easier to use than ever before. This selfie stick is designed for the everyday adventure, enabling users to quickly and easily capture moments and experiences. Thanks to Bluetooth technology, you can capture the moment with just the click of a button. Featuring a lightweight carbon fiber pole, it extends the reach of your arm so you can capture everything and everyone in your individual or group selfie still image or video. It’s compact enough to fit in a purse, pocket or backpack, and weighs less than 6 ounces. While light enough to tote, it’s still plenty strong enough to hold your phone securely. Simply click the button on the specially designed, form fitting handle and “SNAP!”

Smart iReach 1 credit SmarTech Products LLC   Smart iReach 3 credit PaleyFest SmarTech Products

Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: SmarTech Products LLC

***CREATE***

Art.com’s ‘SwitchArt’ App for iPhone (www.iTunes.Apple.com) – Starts at $35

Life moves fast and tastes change quickly–now your décor art can too! Turn your photos into easy-to-update magnetic art using Art.com’s SwitchArt Magnetic Frames and Prints! Special peel-and-stick customized photo prints adhere to magnetic frames like magic. Hang your frame once, and replace prints as often as you make new memories or change the design of the space. Easily upload photos directly from your iPhone’s camera roll or social media accounts, and quick-edit images within the app to create personalized SwitchArt Prints. Customers can buy prints in a pack to keep a steady stream of fresh and current art on-hand. Packs include one magnetic frame with your choice of size and color; and either 1, 6, 12, or 24 prints--the more you buy, the more you save. Say sayonara to stale art!

2Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Art.com

***STORE & SELL***

Zenfolio (www.Zenfolio.com) - $30

For those who have a quick photo trigger finger and amass a lot of images, storage can become an issue. Zenfolio is a great online solution that allows photographers to professionally manage their entire online presence under one “digital roof.” Not only does it provide ample secure storage, Zenfolio will also help you create a beautiful web site, or revamp your existing one, with its powerful organizational tools. With various galleries, Pinterest-style grids and design options, you can customize your site to create an appealing online presence. Also notable is that you have the option to set up your site to sell photo books, products and more, which you can custom-create within Zenfolio, to your clients and fans. Zenfolio also has a new app called Photo Moments, which allows photographers’ clientele or other private groups to instantly gain access to their digital photos, view them in a beautiful presentation, download to their device and share with others. This app provides a more accessible, streamlined, pocket-friendly way to access photos in their pocket.

Zenfolio 1 credit ZenfolioPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Zenfolio

merileen

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

marileen~~~ "The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList. ***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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1MAINTomTom GO 500 1 credit TomTomTomTom GO 500 credit TomTom

merileen

Spring Travel Enhancements

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Whether you're planning to travel for business or if you intend to spend your spring break reprieve sightseeing, hiking trails, soaking up the sun or tucked in a cushy hotel bed binge-watching your favorite TV series, it’s safe to say the least pleasurable part of your journey will be getting to—and then home from—your vacation destination. Whether traversing by land, air or sea, here are a few spring travel enhancements that’ll make the experience of getting from point A to point B easier…or just more enjoyable.

TomTom GO 500 2 credit TomTom
Photo Ownership /Copyright Credit for Above Image: TomTom

TomTom GO 500 Navigation System (www.TomTom.com) - $199.99

For road trippers, the redesigned TomTom GO will put you in control of your drive, allowing you to make the smartest driving decisions by knowing precisely what is going on around you and what lies ahead. When you purchase the TomTom GO 500, you are provided with lifetime TomTom Traffic, with a total road network that comprises highways, major roads, secondary and residential roads. Only TomTom Traffic covers 99.9% of all road types, helping you avoid those annoying jams. The TomTom GO 500 pinpoints exactly where delays start and end so you always know the fastest route. With 3D maps, you can also see buildings and landmarks in a stunning three dimensional view, to help assure you know exactly where you are. In addition, interactive maps allows you to zoom in and out and explore the map with your fingertips. Just tap on the map and you're on your way.

1043 black and silver lPhoto Ownership/ Copyright Credit for Above Image: Polk

Hinge Wireless Headphones (www.PolkAudio.com) - $199.95

When traveling, headphones are needed for multiple reasons—watching video media, listening to music or other audio, or simply silencing the unwelcome atmospheric noise that surrounds. Here’s a product that’ll not only let you use headphones wirelessly, but look stylish all the while: Hinge Wireless headphones. Brought to market by Polk—a high-performance audio brand with over a 40-year legacy in sound and engineering expertise, the Hinge Wireless headphones uniquely combine a vintage design with modern technology to enhance the listening experience. Other than looking really cool, these headphones provide wireless convenience via Bluetooth connectivity as well as Polk Optimized Electro-acoustic Tuning that improves audio balance, depth, quality and overall sound performance. Their easy foldable design makes the Hinge Wireless headphones easy to fit in any carry on. Additional features include Dynamic Balance plus POET system design, 12 hour rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, and three color options: blue, black and camel.

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Photo Ownership Copyright Credit for Above Image: Kidz Gear - USA
Photo Ownership Copyright Credit for Above Image: Kidz Gear - USA
Photo Ownership Copyright Credit for Above Image: Kidz Gear - USA

Kidz Gear Deluxe Stereo Headphones with Microphone (www.GearForKidz.com) - $29.99

Hip headphones are not just reserved for teens and adults! The Kidz Gear Deluxe Stereo Headset Headphones with Boom Microphone also provide an exceptional audio experience for younger kids—with voice interactivity to boot! Building on the success of its original award-winning KidzControl Volume Limit Headphones, the Kidz Gear Deluxe Stereo Headset Headphones now feature a flexible boom microphone that clearly picks up omnidirectional sound, making them ideal for a child’s language studies—quite useful if your vacation plans will take you to foreign lands. Of course, this mic feature is also great for audio/verbal test-taking at school and at home. These headphones are compatible with all devices that use a 3.5mm (1/8”) audio jack and support microphone use, including iPhones, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, Android smartphones and tablets, computers and Chromebooks. Perfect for audio entertainment, and educational apps and software, the Kidz Gear headphones have many helpful uses while traveling including YouTube video creation, Skype phone calls, entertainment, keeping up with studies/lessons and more.

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 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Doppler Labs  Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Doppler Labs

DUBS Acoustic Filter Earplugs (www.GetDubs.com) - $25

Why might you need effective earplugs while travelling? Oh let me count the ways…! DUBS Acoustic Filters are stylish, high-design earplugs that utilize advanced acoustical physics to reinvent hearing protection. By leveraging the way the ear processes sound, the DUBS accomplish two goals simultaneously: lowering sound by roughly 12 decibels and preserving audio fidelity. Whether for adults traveling via noisy planes and trains, anyone attending music festivals or those who simply want to sleep peacefully, the DUBS are essential audio gear for travel this season and beyond. Unlike awkward foam earplugs, the DUBS' unique form factor allows them to be worn comfortably and to sit flush against the ear. What’s more, DUBS are reusable, and come with a convenient, portable case to go with you everywhere.

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 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Master Lock Company LLC
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Master Lock Company LLC

Master Lock TSA-Accepted Luggage Locks (www.MasterLock.com) - $9.21 - $12.93

Master Lock model 4692D and 4688D TSA-Accepted Luggage Locks provide durability and security when traveling to ensure belongings remain safe without the risk of forceful baggage inspections, which can cause damage. With these Master Lock TSA-Accepted Luggage Locks, screeners can easily open, inspect and relock luggage, securing your personal belongings without damaging the lock or the suitcase. These locks feature a three dial combination for keyless security and convenience, and have an easy-to-set and reset numeric combination. The 4692D has a 1-1/4 inch (32mm) wide durable metal body with leatherette cover while the 4688D features a matching lock and cable to coordinate with popular baggage colors and simplify baggage identification on the carousel.

 
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 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Ahnu Footwear
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Ahnu Footwear

Ahnu Footwear (www.Ahnu.com) - $80 - $130

To describe Ahnu Footwear is simple: relaxed comfort. While the company carries a variety of shoe designs, I feel that two are perfect for a spring break escape: flip flops and sneakers. Ahnu’s Simeon in Olive Nightdesign is more than just the average thong sandal. This super-comfortable men’s flip flop is crafted to give underfoot support and cushioning all throughout the day. Fashioned from tumbled nubuck and soft suede and with an EVA footbed, this laid back sandal adds interior ease and shock absorbing durability for any casual adventure. For ladies who want to hit the trail, Ahnu’s Sugarpine WP is an athletic shoe-inspired waterproof hiker, offering eye-catching style and performance for the outdoor enthusiast. Its waterproof-breathable technology keeps your feet dry, while “Vibram” rubber outsoles offer superior traction on both wet and dry surfaces. All of this is combined with Numentum Hike technology for neutral positioning as well as EVA midsole construction for a lightweight feel and sleek styling. Also fashion forward, Ahnu’s Sugarpine may change the way you think about outdoor footwear.

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 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Luxe Me Now      Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Luxe Me Now      Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Luxe Me Now  

Luxe Me Now Slides (www.LMNOnline.com) - $115 - $178

On the other end of the shoe spectrum, here is a line of uber chic, super comfy luxury slides that will take you from the bedroom to the airport and every latte stop in between. If you’re like me and hate walking barefoot in hotel rooms and bathrooms, these sophisticated slippers—designs for which are replete with luxurious fabrics such as velvet and satin and some even adorned with tassels and faux jewels--will make you feel pretty and pampered since each pair of Luxe Me Now slides boasts memory foam foot beds. So stylish are these slides, they are superb for running quick errands, travel and just lounging about. Luxe Me Now slides are reportedly “a fave” of some of fashion's biggest influencers like Drew Ginsberg of Dylan Lex.

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 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: EMME
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: EMME
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: EMME

EMME Toiiletry Bag (www.EmmeBag.com) - $49.99

I’m told the EMME Bag was created to fill a need for the “perfect” toiletry and cosmetic bag designed especially for frequent travelers who want to stay organized. This the EMME Bag certainly accomplishes, with a design that effectively maximizes what you can take on a trip in one single bag AND easily find everything you need. The optimized design of this bag makes frequent travel much simpler, including getting through airport security. The three panel design allows you (or security personnel) to clearly see where all items reside, while at the same time keeping them fresh and clean. Created with premium quality materials, the EMME bag is also fabricated to last a very long time.

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Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: LulyBoo

LulyBoo Baby Lounge/Backpack (www.LulyBoo.com) - $64.99

Whimsical and fun, the LulyBoo Baby Lounge gives your baby a safe, comfortable and familiar place to play, sleep and be toted around pretty much anywhere. Portable and lightweight, LulyBoo weighs only four pounds and converts to a backpack in seconds. It features stylish cotton fabric that surrounds a flexible foam interior. A waterproof underpad prevents messes from spreading while the removable cover makes machine washing quick and easy. This lounge is recommended for babies up to 15 lbs. (6.8 kg) or until baby can push up or roll over unassisted. LulyBoo offers an entire collection of products designed for parents on the go to keep baby happy, cozy and safe. 

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 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Rove
 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image: Rove

Rove ‘Diamond Collection’ Beverage Bottles (www.RoveLiving.com) - $7.99 - $14.99

Rove is a new mobile lifestyle brand with products that make life easier for today’s on-the-move generation. They now offer a premier Diamond Collection—a coordinating, thoughtfully created line of chic and portable beverage bottles. The line includes a variety of handy designs, including a 22-ounce single-wall Tritan sports bottle with a one-touch lock lid and a built in infuser; an 18-ounce double-wall Tritan bottle with one-touch lock lid; a 24-ounce stainless steel cup with a click lid; and an 18-ounce vacuum-sealed stainless steel bottle a with a one-touch lock lid. All of the bottles come in red or metallic-hued titanium. All of Rove's high quality reusable hydration products give you trendsetting style, ease of use, high functionality, and eco-friendliness in line with modern sensibilities.

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marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at
www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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1MAIN Saffron Marigold Luxury Bedding and Linens 2 credit Saffron Marigold

 

Spring is that perennial time of renewal. It’s a season that beckons us to revitalize our body and surroundings and take a fresh approach to life. Whether you desire to breathe new life into your personal care regime, beautify your home décor or add some trendy new elements to your wardrobe, here are some spring pick-me-ups that’ll have you sitting pretty all season long.

 

SVELTA Tan’s Skin-Perfecting Self-Tanner (www.SveltaTan.com) - $38The sun is shining, the temperature is rising and it’s time to put your best flesh forward…with a healthy tan, that is! SVELTA Tan is packed with potent natural ingredients designed to deliver a bronze sunless tanand make skin look flawless. Its natural formula uses botanically-derived,eco-certified DHA for a healthy and natural-looking tan, while mineral bronzers provide an instant boost of color for easy, streak-free application. In addition to a sultry glow, SVELTA Tan’s formula also delivers a wealth of key skin-perfecting botanicals including guaranapoppy, sacred lotus, aloe veraand olive leaf. It also contains Camu-camu, which is rich in vitamin C and not only prevents free radical damage, but also is essential for collagen synthesis that keeps skin looking young and firm. SVELTA Tan is ECOCERT certified, vegan and cruelty-free. 

SVELTAPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:SVELTA Tan

 

DermaSilk’s 1 Minute Wrinkle Erase Pen (www.DermaSilk.com) - $15No time for a hardcore beauty regime? No problem! DermaSilk’s 1 Minute Wrinkle Erase Pen is a revolutionary treatment formulated to effectively minimize five key imperfections--forehead lines, “eleven” lines, crow’s feet, smile lines and marionette lines--for visibly more youthful looking skin. The 1 Minute Wrinkle Erase Pen optically plumps, diffuses and smoothes lines and wrinkles with its Micro-Diffusing Complex, which helps to reduce “crease” memory and lines.Use the pen-like applicator, which fits into any travel bag, for precise application every time. With one brushstroke applied to the desired area, fine lines and wrinkles appear to vanish.  

DermaSilkPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:DermaSilk

 

Swell Skin’s Face Treatment Bar and Serum (www.SwellSkin.net) - $16 - $17

This two-product set—a face treatment bar and a concentrated Oil of Sea Buckthorn serum--is a simple, all-natural, multitasking skin care line purported to manage 90% of skin's requirements. The products feature what the company cites as “the most powerful anti-oxidant in nature” that’s extracted from the Sea Buckthorn plant--a powerful workhorse with a 1,000-year history for healing and regenerating skin. The beauty bar will clarify skin for a clear, even-toned luminous glow. Once the face is clean, place the serum on any area where you would like to see an improvement. Many reportedly use the oil to minimize lines, acne, rosacea, eczema, rashes, age spots, burns, fight free radicals, moisturize and reduce inflammation. 

SwellPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Swell Skin

 

Rowenta Beauty Versa Style Iron (www.Ulta.com) - $129.99

If you seek salon-quality hair styling from home, here’s a handy tool for you: the Rowenta Versa Style Iron. This salon-quality master tool does the work of five salon tools – a flat iron, roller set, and three curling irons! Ready to use in less than 30 seconds, the iron not only straightens but also uses exclusive ProCurling technology with lateral edges and surrounding silicone rubbers to curl, wave or create incredible root lift in one easy step. Featuring hard anodized nano-titanium plates and tourmaline-boosted ceramic coating, the Versa Style Iron produces non-damaging infrared ionic heat with even heat distribution and high resistance to scratching for smoother, shinier, frizz-free results.It comes with a heat resistant pouch for convenient storage and travel.

Rowenta Beauty Versa STyle Iron 1 credit Groupe SEBPhoto Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Groupe SEB

 

Hot Iron Holster (www.HolsterBrands.com) - $19.99 - $39.99

When revamping our beauty regimes, let’s not forget about organization and safety. The Hot Iron Holster is a unique silicone pouch specially designed to safely hold and store hot styling tools and keep them at-the-ready. This innovative product is heat-resistant to 500 degrees FahrenheitYour styling tools can be placed in the Hot Iron Holster while they are heating up, during use and while cooling down. It easily clings to any smooth, non-porous surface allowing the user to safely stow a variety of hot hair styling tools while also freeing up precious counter space. No more finger and counter top burns from using hot styling tools. The holster is available in a variety of colors and sizes to best suit your needs and décor. 
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   Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Holster Brands

 

SLIM Sonic Toothbrush(www.Violife.com) - $14.95

Not only are the battery-operated SLIM Sonic Toothbrushes from Violife stylish, they’re also incredibly compact, making them great to use anywhere like the gym, office, or while jet-setting around the world.Its vented mascara-style cap keeps the toothbrushdry, safe and clean, no matter where you stash it.Hot date? No problem! Just pack it in your clutch to keep those pearly whites on point. It delivers 22,000 brush strokes per minute! The portable Violife Slim Sonic Toothbrushes come in an array of fashionable colors and patterns, and each includes an extra replaceable brush head and AAA battery.

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 Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Violife LLC  

 

Carlos by Carlos Santana Handbags (www.Macys.com) - $3- $69Pretty spring fashion is now literally in the palm of your hand with these twodesigner Carlos by Carlos Santana clutches. I’m obsessed with fringe this season, and the pristine white Daryll clutch features fabulously long faux leather fringe that's sure to turn heads. When you need to go hands-free, a hidden strap converts the clutch into a cross body style. Another great spring style is Carlos by Carlos Santana oversized Kailee wristlet clutchavailable in white or orange,which features a gorgeous, intricate laser-cut, faux leather shell. With the entire Carlos line, you can look good and feel good about your purchase, too. Santana supports the Milagro Foundation—a charitable organization that makes grants to community based organizations around the world working with children in the areas of the arts, education and health. Now that’s a good look!

Kailee Clutch White 1 credit Carlos by Carlos Santana  Daryll Clutch White 1 credit Carlos by Carlos Santana 
  Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Carlos by Carlos Santana

 

Timi & leslieBaby Bags (www.ShopTimiAndLeslie.com) - $159.99 and $169.99
timi & leslie’s designs are inspired by the philosophy that being a parent does not mean sacrificing style to gain function. Indeed, withtimi & leslie bags parents can look chic and fashion-forwardwhile staying organized and having everything they need for baby at-the-ready.These great-looking, functional bags are made from faux leather (PVC free) and featuretimi & leslie's custom hardware in an antique brass finish. With its intention to revolutionize the diaper bag, timi & leslieis ushering in an era where moms can also be style icons. With reported celebrity fans that include Angelina Jolie, Cindy Crawford, Courtney Cox Arquette, Nicole Kidman, Jessica Alba and Jack Black, timi & leslie bags are a stellar choice for parents who seek luxurious style, practical function and great quality.
Baby bag 2 Credit timi leslie  Baby bag Credit timi leslie 
  Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:timi & leslie


Saffron Marigold
’s Luxury Bedding and Linens (www.SaffronMarigold.com) - $29.99

Does your bedroom décor need a dose of fabulous? Here’s a way to add a touch of sensual Indian elegance to the space. Saffron Marigold is an online boutique offering a collection of exotic designer handcrafted, India-inspired luxury bedding and linens that are all Fair Trade. Each unique pattern isblock printed and hand printed ensuring all are a "one-of-a-kind" product. Hand block printing is one of India's oldest textile arts, and the company applies it to a range of home décor items for the bedroom and elsewhere, including Indian bedspreads, duvet covers, fabric shower curtains, sheer tab-top curtains, decorative pillow covers, and table linens. All products are printed on superior grade, super soft 100% cotton with either vegetable dyes or non-toxic eco-friendly fabric dyes.
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   Photo Ownership/Copyright Credit for Above Image:Saffron Marigold

 

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By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

 

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"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

 

 

 

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1MAINBijou Interior13536LR Courtesy Bijou French Bistro1
Courtesy of Bijou French Bistro

"Bijou" is French for "jewel," which is a fitting moniker for this enchanting eatery nestled in the heart of La Jolla, boasting a plum position on Prospect Street. While Bijou French Bistro is relatively new on the scene, celebrating its first anniversary in June 2015, Bijou's roots extend much deeper into San Diego's renowned culinary culture. The restaurant was brought into being by the same brilliant team behind Addison at the Grand Del Mar that, for the sixth year in a row, has earned both the Forbes Five-Star Award and the AAA Five-Diamond Award—the only restaurant in San Diego County to do so.

Given that Addison’s highly decorated Executive Chef William Bradley, who is among an elite group of chefs to hold the prestigious Relais & Châteaux Grand Chef title, is serving as Bijou’s culinary director, my expectations were decidedly high on a recent visit to the location for dinner service.  My elevated anticipations were perpetuated with the knowledge that Bijou’s Chef de Cuisine, Shaun Gethin, has worked with Bradley for years, most recently as sous chef at Addison, and now brings all of that skill, experience and passion to bear at Bijou. All told, I was downright giddy for the gastronomic experience to come—and Bijou devotedly delivered.

Upon entering the restaurant, which encompasses an ample 10,000 square feet, the classic elegance of the City of Love surrounds amid a light and inviting interior replete with European characteristics. While the styling is undeniably elegant, the overall atmosphere is not stuffy or overly formal, but rather is casual and comfortable in line with Southern California sensibilities. Designed by Warren Sheets, who also designed the Grand Del Mar, the color palette is rich with ochre, gold and aubergine contrasting with French plum and cardamom rose. French table lamps and white linens adorn the table tops while antique mirrors, chandeliers, articulated lighted coffers and hand-painted frescoes further enhance the delightful décor.

With thoughts of the luxurious interior in mind, I asked Chef Gethin for his opinion on what makes Bijou special. He exuded a great sense of pride that Bijou is authentically reminiscent of the popular, much-loved bistros found throughout France and elsewhere in the world. However, understanding that a stylish space can only take a restaurateur so far, Chef Gethin was also quick to underscore the bistro’s focus on “classically uncomplicated and satisfying French fare" in tandem with its impressive selection of regional and French wines curated by Advanced Sommelier Elizabeth Huettinger.

Whether drinking, dining or both, guests can settle into the 88-seat main dining area where a lovely pianist further brightens the mood, or at the lively adjacent Wine Bar focused on rare French producers available by the bottle and by the glass. Guests can also sip and savor their favorite libation while swaying to live music in the bistro's chic Club M Lounge area.

Phenomenal food and beverage aside, what I particularly love about Bijou is its proactive efforts to engage with the community by frequently hosting special culinary events.  For example, the eatery is holding an impressive series of winemaker's dinners that feature mix and mingle receptions coupled with thoughtfully conceived five-course prix fixe menus complemented with fine wine pairings in the bistro’s exclusive private dining room. The next such winemaker dinner event, to be held on April 8 at 6 p.m., will be highlighted by selections from Sonoma-Coast based winery, Soliste Cellars, along with guest vintner Claude Koeberle. Born and raised in Burgundy, Koeberle—once the youngest 3-Star Michelin Chef in Paris—is a James Beard award winner and French Laundry partner.  This is a great opportunity to learn from a true master of his craft. The Soliste Cellars winemaker's dinner is $95 plus tax and gratuity and is limited to 30 people.

Easter is shaping up to be another fun event at Bijou French Bistro with a special holiday menu that includes starter options like French Onion Soup and the restaurant’s revered Oeufs Mayonnaise (a tribute dish to Chef William Bradley’s favorite Paris bistro, Le Comptoir du Relais), which is comprised of egg yolks mixed with crème fraiche and served over a soft-boiled yolk, along with house-made honey mustard and lemon vinaigrette. Entrée options will feature Braised Lamb Shoulder with peppers, arugula and apricot; Veal Paillard; Loup de Mer; and Gnocchi à la Parisienne. An almond and chocolate Paris-Brest will be among the sweet endings.

To aptly honor Mother's Day, Chef Gethin has created an extraordinary four-course dinner starting with a choice of Haricots Verts Salad or Gravlax before the second course, Gnocchi à la Parisienne, followed by either Roasted Cod "a la barigoule" or Fillet of Porc with leeks and sage. Almond Dacquoise and Salted Caramel Crémeux Sable Cookies complete the meal. This Mother's Day feast is $85 per person, tax and gratuity not included.

Of course, no need to wait for a holiday or formalized special event, as tastings are available daily at Bijou’s Wine Bar from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and live entertainment in the Lounge heats up each Friday and Saturday night between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Whether you're looking for an unforgettable epicurean experience in the main dining area, a special group event in the private dining room, partaking in the city’s best fine French wine tasting at the Wine Bar, or want to get your groove on with live music in the Lounge, Bijou on the whole is a pièce de résistance.

PHOTO GALLERY

Courtesy of Bijou French Bistro

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marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) nd/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

1MAINHC low Courtesy Hotel Coral and Marina
HC low Courtesy Hotel Coral and Marina

A mere 80 miles from San Diego lies the port city of Ensenada, a charming Mexican enclave that runs along 700 miles of Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortéz coastline. The city, which is Mexico’s largest municipality in the area, offers endless possibilities for vacationers since the region is replete with culture, adventure, inspired cuisine, fine wine and gracious hospitality that’s all tempered with a relaxed beach and marine mindset.This certainly holds true forthe Hotel Coral & Marina—a luxury Mexican resort that truly has it all for families, couples, groups or any well-heeled traveler seeking an easily accessible, all-encompassing escape South of the Border.

Well-Appointed Accommodations

glisteninggetaway on the shores of Todos Santos Bay, Hotel Coral & Marina boasts the area's only world-class marina with 353 slips that offer shared access to the property's impressive array of amenities. But, for those seeking accommodations on land, the property offers a comprehensive set ofconveniences and creature comforts that start with the 147 rooms and suiteswith each featuring flat-screen TVs, included high-speed Wi-Fi and coffee maker. Upgrade to a specialty suite for an added refrigerator, dining area, double bathtub, Jacuzzi, wine cooler or fully equipped kitchen.

While standard rooms start at 635 square feet, the luxury suites start at 721 square feet (the “Deluxe” suite in which I stayed at 1,022 square feet) and top out at over three times that with the Presidential Triple Suite, which providesa whopping 2,034 square feet of vacation spaceIn speaking with Lizette Sanchez, Director of Public Relations at Hotel Coral & Marina, she cited many elevated amenities available with the opulent top-tier suites, such asa wraparound ocean-view balcony, chic bar, modern living area, Jacuzzi, hydro-massage shower, dining table and wine fridge.

 

With thoughts of the grand room options in mind, I asked Sanchez if any celebrity guests have stayed at the property. She enthused, "We’ve hosted a variety of celebrities, including Matthew McConaughey, Olivia Wilde, Nicolas Cage, Harrison Ford,Esteban Loaiza,VinicioCastilla and the late Paul Walker, in our ultra-luxurious Presidential Suites." Nice to know Hollywood A-Listers are privy to this delightful property.

Amenities-a-Plenty

However fabulous your room may be, don’t stay in it too long as there’s so much more to do and see at Hotel Coral & Marina. Whether your idea of a good time includes indulging in “Baja-Medstyle cuisine at the on-site Bistro & Cava indoor/outdoor restaurant or more casual fare at the Marina Grill indoor/outdoor restaurantcocktailing at the patio bar; taking a dip in the indoor or outdoor pool or in the large outdoor Jacuzzi;pampering with a service at the fully-equipped CSpa; sweating out the stress in the state-of-the-art fitness center; or playing an exhilarating game of tennis, the property offers all of this and more to keep you and your companions duly engaged and entertained. 

Guests can also enjoy various water activities like water bikes, paddle boarding and kayaking all throughout the the marina.  With these enjoyable exploitsas well as an on-site playground and professionally staffed Kid’s Club, the Hotel Coral & Marina is decidedly family friendly. 

What’s more, all ofthis is located just minutes from downtown Ensenada, San Miguel beach and the Las Cañadas campground where you can purchasea day pass allowing you to partake in an incredible assortmentof ground, water and air activities like ATV rental, horseback riding, mountain biking, zip lining, canopy tours, water slide and swimming. It’s also advisable to spend some time in Baja's burgeoning wine country.  I did mention the Hotel Coral & Marina has a Kid’s Club, right? For locations closer to the property likerestaurants and shops, the hotel will even provide complimentary ground transportation.  

Speaking of ground transport, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the hotel can also provide reasonably-pricedpick up and drop off service from, and back to, the U.S. Border, which is only about a 90-minute drive each way on the scenic toll road. 

Magnanimous Marina

For those whoprefer to travel by sea, one of the hotel’s unique qualities of having its own marina is how effortless it is for oceangoing guests to arrive and settle in. Sanchez explains, "Our marina offers a high-quality experience that is convenient to those who choose to dock in Ensenada for a short vacation or a long-term stay. Ensenada is the very first port of entry into Mexico, and our property makes the immigration and vessel import process seamless for marina guests.”

“Guests docked at our marina also have access to the hotel’s world-class amenities, specialized yacht maintenance services, a fuel dock and special discounts at the spa and restaurants,” she continues. “Those guests who fish particularly love to have their own catch-of-the-day grilled up at ourMarina Grill restaurant!"

Eat, Drink and Decompress

Speaking of restaurants, Bistro & Cava is the hotel's award-winning signature gourmet restaurant featuring a blend of traditional Mexican entrees and locally-sourced Mediterranean cuisine.  But the food isn't the only notable aspect of the bistro, as it also happens to housethe largest local wine cellar in Baja California. From this locale, patrons can enjoy more than 150 labels.

marileenThose seeking a more casual atmosphere will enjoy eating at the waterfront Marina Grill restaurant or at the Pool Bar, where I highly recommend ordering the ceviche and a margarita. If this doesn’t put you in a vacation state-of-mind, probably nothing will.  The Arrecife Lobby Bar is another communal space offering sports on the flat-screen and a two-for-one drink Happy Hour.

SpaSatisfaction
In my book, no luxury escape is complete without a trip to the spa. Hotel Coral & Marina’s own newly designed CSpa is full service, offering a wide array of beauty salon servicesalong with a number of luxurious and locally-sourced treatments. Among these isa service called “VinoTherapy”—a treatment I myself have experienced that uses organic wine byproducts like grape leaves, stems, skin and seeds to exfoliate, moisturize and replenishskin all over the body. It’s a highly relaxing 50-minuteservice that will leave your skin feeling soft and supple.

A Look Ahead
Short-term, Sanchez indicated that the hotel’s CSpa plans to launch a more comprehensive wellness program later this yearthat will give guests another way to unwind and revitalize through a guided program of yoga, spa treatments and health discussions covering a range of topics–from nutrition to meditation and exercise.

In discussing the overall longer-termfuture of Hotel Coral & Marina, Sanchez indicated the property’s efforts to continually improve all facets of the hospitality it proffers, with a concerted focus on delivering “top-notch customer service.This I experienced first-hand with an affable, mostly English-speaking staff willing to facilitate nearly any need or request. Continuous attention to cosmetic upgrades, employee training and innovative new guest programs will further enhance the guest experience.

Whether you’replanning a family vacation, a romantic respite or a group getawayEnsenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina enchants as a one-stop oasis where leisure, recreation and gastronomic pursuits await.

Ensenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina

merileen

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

1 MAIN P1070339 Courtesy Cafe LaRue.La Valencia LOWCourtesy Cafe LaRue la Valencia

TheLuxelist

La Jolla’s Café la Rue Restaurant Rightly Reimagined

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Have a hankerin’ for some European fare but can’t fit a trip across the pond into your schedule? No problem. A visit to the recently re-launched Café la Rue, nestled in the heart of San Diego’s La Jolla Cove, will give you a satisfying taste of Europe, and then some. What’s become a signature eatery at the famed La Valencia Hotel, the advent of the new-and-improved Café la Rue marks the first restaurant concept change at "La V," as locals call it, in nearly 50 years.

The hotel’s Managing Director, Mark Dibella, recently commented on the re-imagination of this long-standing restaurant, noting, "Our goal with the new Café la Rue is to delight and surprise our patrons with both the space and the menu. We've worked hard to create an intimate bistro and bar for today’s diners and travelers that embodies a decidedly more casual and sassy La Jolla social ambiance of easy comfort.”

I spoke with Michael Hutchison, Director of Restaurants & Lounges, regarding what inspired Café la Rue's new direction. He revealed that, in its former incarnation, Café La Rue occupied about a third of the total space and that a wall separated it from The Whaling Bar, which was in need of renovation. Given the extent of the overhaul The Whaling Bar required, management decided on an entire concept change with Café La Rue to occupy the entire space. Even amid the fresh and fab facelift, the new interior design embraces the rich history of the location as the walls remain adorned with the art of Wing Howard whose works have graced the space for decades.

Situated at 1132 Prospect Street with an exterior dining space right on La Jolla Cove’s “main drag,” this bistro and bar has it all—great food, cocktails, live entertainment, ambiance, and indoor and outdoor seating that’s ideal for people watching while soaking up the SoCal sun.

Café La Rue features imaginative European-inspired cuisine prepared by Executive Chef James Montejano and his crew. "Chef James," as he is known at the Café, graduated from the California Culinary Academy and proceeded to work with some of the best West Coast chefs in the business before taking his position as award-winning executive chef at Café la Rue.

I’ve been to the newly inspired iteration of Café La Rue for dinner and loved every moment of it. There is ample patio seating with space heaters available, as needed. The live music creates a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere that prompts you to decompress from the day’s stresses and, instead, turn attentions to social and sustenance matters. Of the many dishes I sampled during my visit, there are a few standouts that are an absolute must-order. Paramount among these is the Choux de Bruxelles de la rue ($10)—Brussels sprouts roasted to perfection with Kalamata olives, pepperoncini, parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. This appetizer alone will have me heading west to Café La Rue often. The Moules ($12) mussels with a fragrant broth of butter, sherry, garlic, tomato and parsley with a crostini was also extremely satisfying.

For the main I opted for the “chef favorite” Crevettes et Provencal” ($22), with large spiced grilled prawns and a sundried tomato, garlic and Brussels sprouts, mascarpone and fennel ragout all skillet-served atop baguette bread with a side of fresh leafy greens. I also sampled another crowd favorite, the Loup de Mer ($23)—richly seasoned baked sea bass with sweet peppers, olives, gorgeous whole-roasted cipollini onions, and grilled artichoke with a garbanzo puree.  For dessert, all roads led to the Crème Brûlée Lavand ($10), a creamy lavender-scented delight topped with extraordinarily fresh berries and a thin and crispy tuile. In all it was a meal aptly representing the restaurant’s reformation.

It's not only world-class cuisine that keeps patrons coming back but also the live music on Wednesday through Saturday evenings, which has made happy hour at the bistro extremely popular. Also favored during happy hour, which is playfully coined “The Appointment,” is Café La Rue’s “1132” wine program (an homage to La V's address) that gives local and hotel guests, alike, a unique opportunity to enjoy a bottle of one of eleven carefully selected wines from the restaurant’s signature cellar for just $32.00. Café La Rue’s happy hour runs daily from 4pm–7pm and features half-priced appetizers, beer, wines by-the-glass, $5 house cocktails and $7 martinis.

Any mention of Café la Rue would be remiss without paying respects to the Pink Lady of La Jolla herself: the Hotel La Valencia. Established in 1926, La V has been known for lavish openings and glamorous settings ever since. Throughout its history, La V has been a popular hideaway for the Hollywood glitterati. The Pink Lady still glows with timeless elegance, and is a luxury hotel unlike any other. A few cool factoids courtesy of Hutchinson include: Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam fame once worked at La V as an overnight security guard. And, Dr. Seuss had a booth all his own, complete with plaque embossed into booth, and at least in part wrote some of his many works in the restaurant.

As I often do, I asked Hutchinson about his personal favorite aspect of the eatery. "I’m a huge fan of world-class live music of all genres which we have in spades,” he gushed. “Additionally, we have the freedom to change really just about anything we think will best suit our guests’ wants and needs. We are not handcuffed by red tape or corporate policies. Our only guidelines are to make smart, thoughtful decisions that align with the best interests of both our guests and ownership."

Hutchinson goes on to commend the team members who give their best effort each and every day to take such great care of restaurant guests. “Our team as a whole realizes that there simply is no finish line in what we do,” he says. “We must embrace the notion that what we do well, we can do even better tomorrow and, conversely, where we have opportunities, we MUST do better tomorrow.”

Lofty aspirations I’ve no doubt Café la Rue will continue to realize.

Photo Gallery

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Merilee"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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Actress Angie Harmon’s new "X Red Earth" is no ordinary jewelry line. Her edgy, socially conscious collection combines chic designs, unconventional materials and artisan craftsmanship that takes skull and bone baubles to a sophisticated new level. 

Angie Harmon X Red Earth is a labor of love designed in partnership with Red Earth--an ethical lifestyle brand that creates “ruggedly elegant jewelry with a purpose.” The company employs talented artisans and craftsmen in rural, poverty-ravaged African villages who are enabled to sustain their own families through their hard work and creativity while also creating jobs for others in their community. Red Earth helps these artisans grow their businesses and, in turn, gives even more people in the region hope and opportunity through gainful employment.   In this way, Red Earth tells a different story about Africa—one of beauty and entrepreneurship rather than of charity.

As a UNICEF ambassador, Harmon, who is best known for her starring role as Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael on NBC’s Emmy-winning drama Law & Order, “was a natural fit for our first celebrity partnership,” notes Red Earth founder Travis Gravette. “Angie’s sense of design and fashion is totally in sync with our brand and she ‘gets’ that the heart of our company is to use business for good. We are so excited to have released this collection.”

And what an amazing collection it is, with each unique handmade piece exuding substance and character.  In further alignment with Red Earth culture, all pieces in the collection are also notably created from recycled materials such as old locks, door knobs and ethically sourced animal bone from Africa. The exquisite pieces are designed in the U.S. but are hand-crafted by the artisans in and around Kenya.

While one might expect Harmon’s A-list celeb status to command a hefty price tag for her wares, the cost of the items in this collection are decidedly affordable--ranging from $195 on the high end to just $30 on the low end--assuring it’s accessible for most style-seekers.

Then there are the designs, themselves. I am admittedly a sucker for edgy statement jewelry and the Angie Harmon X Red Earth line more than fits the bill. The collection features skull rings and bracelets, and black-beaded “refined bone” necklaces and bracelets as well as super sexy reverse choker necklaces, chain link necklaces and bracelets, stud earrings, and a simple yet striking brass ear cuff.

Angie’s “signature piece” also happens to be my personal favorite item in the line and one I wear often: the 17.5” long black-beaded Skull + Bone Necklace ($165). It’s a truly memorable piece that commands attention everywhere I wear it. It’s made by an artisan named Raymond in Kenya who works with his wife and employs four others just outside of Nairobi.  I love to wear this piece in combination with the elegant Simple Reverse Choker ($85), which is incredibly versatile for both day and night looks. Together they proffer an unexpected aesthetic that’s a true standout. Pair these with the Skull Cuff ($68) and Bone + Brass Bracelets ($45) along with the Skull Ring ($78) and Ear Cuff ($30) and you’ll have yourself a cohesive, uber-cool look that’s sure to get you noticed time and time again.

Of course, if skulls and bones aren’t your thing, the Angie Harmon X Red Earth collection does feature other pieces that are quite delicate and feminine.  Though not a hugely expansive line, there is enough design versatility to suit a wide variety of tastes and styles.

As if all of the above-described do-gooding isn’t enough, cause-conscious accessory aficionados can also take heed that a percentage of all revenue from this collection is donated to UNICEF.  My hat’s off to Red Earth—a shining example of how to cultivate hope and opportunity through commerce.

Actress Angie Harmon Photo Gallery

 

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marileen"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

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There’s nothing I love more than an immersive vacation experience—one that transports you to a time and place that connects you with the past in a palpable way while adhering to modern standards and expectations. This is what I encountered during my stay at the historic Napa River Inn in downtown Napa Valley. But, don’t let the quaintness of this locally-owned, antique-laden boutique hotel fool you. This property is downtown Napa's highest Michelin rated hotel, which also nailed a Four-Star rating in the 2015 Forbes Travel Guide.

With its plum location within the Historic Napa Mill situated right on the Napa River, guests of this waterfront hotel are in walking distance to a burgeoning urban renaissance scene replete with restaurants, shopping and, of course, wine tasting. Lots and lots of wine tasting.

Good things come in hotel packages
Given the property’s deep and rich past, with roots dating back to 1884 courtesy of Captain Albert Hatt, I felt it would be apropos for my stay at the property to embrace the spirt of history this hotel embodies.  To accomplish this I opted for the Inn’s “Wine Train” Package, which allowed me to explore a few of Napa's most historic features: The Napa River Inn and Napa Mill as well as the vintage Wine Train rail cars—some 100 years old.  This one-night package for two includes the perfect mix of activities for a fun-filled Napa getaway: luxury accommodations in a historically authentic setting, a gourmet in-room breakfast from the award-winning Sweetie Pies Bakery that’s adjacent to the property, two "Downtown Wine Tasting Cards" for 10-cent tastings at 12 Napa winery tasting rooms that are all within walking distance, complimentary bicycle rentals and a truly unforgettable gourmet lunch on the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Historic charm meets modern amenities
As was my explicit intention, my visit to the Napa River Inn was a true Victorian era throwback. From the moment I stepped into the quaint marble-laden lobby where to the time I spent in my “Historic Deluxe” room beautifully appointed with King canopy bed, fireplace and clawfoot slipper tub, I could vividly imagine the good times of yore this unique locale has hosted. There are only sixty-six guest rooms here that are spread out over three diverse buildings: the Plaza Building, the Embarcadero Building and the main building above the Inn's lobby.  As mentioned, I stayed in the Historic Deluxe room—one of eight of the oldest and most notable rooms that are all located within the main Hatt Building. This building began as a two-story structure with a U.S. government warehouse on the first floor and a roller skating rink on the second floor. The roller rink was quite popular for social events and was in use until 1930. However, while the exposed white rock maple tongue-and-groove plank hardwood floor of the skating rink exists even today, the modern incarnation of the Hatt Building is home to a group of elite hotel rooms, each boasting a King canopy bed, fireplace and slipper-backed tub as well as a separate walk-in shower and comfy sitting area with lounge chairs and a velvet ottoman that make these cozy yet elegant rooms an ideal retro retreat.

Amenities abound at the Napa River Inn. All rooms include a personalized California breakfast delivered daily to your room, evening wine tasting showcasing a featured winery, in-room gourmet coffee and tea with Keurig coffee makers, and a refrigerator with complimentary water and creamer. Enjoy a nice soak with a selection of "Napa Valley Spa" bath products and lounge in a plush terry robe. Down pillows, extra cotton blankets, non-allergenic pillows and individual climate-control systems make for a great night’s sleep.

Not only is every room stocked with top-quality linens and refreshments, but also has all the technology you would expect from a modern inn like a flat panel TV with pay-per-view and in-room check out; complimentary Wireless high-speed Internet access; two direct-dial telephones with voicemail and two-line data and voice ports; and a CD clock radio and MP3 player with iPod docking station. Guests enjoy a complimentary daily newspaper available Monday through Friday. Of course there is also the requisite iron, ironing board, hair dryer, nightlight and illuminated make-up mirror.

I spoke with Melodie Hilton, Director of Marketing and PR, about what makes the rooms and the Napa River Inn special. "We make sure our rooms have a blend of historic romance and modern day accoutrements to make our guests feel at home. Also, since Napa Valley is a romantic destination, we have a top concierge that can book the most romantic experiences in Napa Valley."

Package perfection
Speaking of romance, that brings me back to the hotel’s Wine Train package. After you’ve enjoyed a restful night at the Napa River Inn and your sumptuous breakfast-in-bed courtesy of Sweetie Pies Bakery—the smell of baking pastries from which deliciously permeates the property throughout the day and night—it’s time to take the hotel’s courtesy shuttle over to the Napa Valley Wine Train. There you’ll indulge in a 3-hour multi-course gourmet lunch aboard a gorgeous antique train that meanders through the Napa Valley countryside. The train’s expertly refurbished 1915-1917 Pullman Cars create an atmosphere conducive to relaxation and enjoyment. Meals, crafted by Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald, are freshly prepared on the train using environmentally responsible ingredients, humanely-raised, hormone-free meats and fresh, line-caught fish. The excursion begins with a welcome taste of wine to set just the right mood and prepare your palate for the epicurean delights ahead.

Once the train pulls back into the station and the Napa River Inn’s courtesy shuttle has whisked you back to the property, I highly recommend booking a service at The Spa at Napa River, which is known for using all organic, wild-harvested and hand-milled products crafted locally. Each treatment is signature and exists only at this spa location, and all are designed with a guest’s relaxation in mind. Also notable is that Inn guests enjoy discounted pricing. After the uber-romantic train ride, a couple’s massage is a fantastic finish to the day.

Eat, drink, shop and make merry
With its downtown riverfront location, the Napa River Inn provides stellar access to an array of activities. The mill may have been built in the 1800s, but today this waterfront space offers visitors a variety of dining, entertainment and shopping options including live music and microbrews at Silo's, art and theatre at the Riverbend Performance Plaza, sandwiches and pastries at Sweetie Pies, candy and confections at the Vintage Sweet Shoppe, and local artisan goods at Amelia's and the Napa General Store. Additional dining options include French cuisine at Angéle and global comfort food at Celadon.

When you’re ready for some wine tasting, grab the two "Downtown Wine Tasting Cards" that come with the Inn’s package and take a leisurely stroll to a dozen downtown wine tasting rooms that’ll ensure you’ve left no varietal stone unturned during your visit to the valley. Each tasting costs just ten cents, and some of the tasting rooms offer full, well-rounded flights of up to six different kinds of white, rose and red wines. These cards are a wonderful way to experience the diversity of wines that Napa is famous for.  And, with the Inn just a stone’s throw away, a designated driver need not be required (although the courtesy shuttle would be happy to pick you up). Of course, you can utilize the bicycles that also come with your package as well to jaunt around downtown if you prefer.

Preserving the past while thinking ahead
A more modern sensibility is the Napa River Inn’s concerted efforts to be eco-conscious. Hilton explains, "We are an important adaptive-use development for downtown Napa–an effort focused on saving and restoring buildings with historic significance. We maintain environmentally healthy practices, including key cards of wood instead of plastic, energy efficient lighting and strong recycling policies. The bricks of the Hatt building were made from the clay of the Napa River. We also provide free EV charging for our customers."

As my own stay drew to a close, I considered what Hilton indicated was her favorite aspect of the property: its dedication to the local community. The significance of this property and its preservation practices cannot be underestimated as, without the Napa River Inn’s dedication to upholding its rich and storied past, downtown Napa on the whole just wouldn’t’ be quite as remarkable.

The Napa River Inn

Photos Courtesy of Napa River Inn And Michelle Chaplow

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Merilee"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

 

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