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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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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

 

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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Credit TheLuxeList.com

Let's face it. For some Dads, gifting a tie, a bottle of aftershave or a pair of slippers for Father’s Day just won’t do. And a “fallback” gift card from a drugstore carousel reeks of desperation—or utter laziness. For many men, life is all about experiences…and beer, lots and lots of beer. Luckily, San Diego boasts an inspired service—Brew Hop Tours—that’ll make Dad truly “hoppy” this holiday. Whether he’s a hardened beer connoisseur or just likes to have a good time over a cold brew, this gift idea is for you!

San Diego has evolved into a hotbed region rife with micro and craft breweries catering to folks who favor the hoppy, yeasty goodness of a painstakingly formulated, expertly executed beer. Brew Hop Tours lets beer lovers get up close and personal with San Diego’s burgeoning craft brew culture at its source, providing a far more sophisticated version of a beer-driven bar hop experience.

All of this company’s tours are private and customized especially for each guest’s particular tastes and desires. Will it be just you and Dad on the tour, a small group, or a dozen (or more) of his closest friends or family members? Would he like to be picked up at home, a hotel or a trolley stop? Will a plush VIP luxury SUV suffice or will he need a limo or an even larger transport? Does he want to spend just a couple of hours or make a whole day of it? How many different breweries would you like him to visit during the tour? Would his group like a guided behind-the-scenes tour? No matter what your preferences for the experience you wish to gift, from the very first phone call staffers will be “foaming” at the proverbial mouth to accommodate you.

All tours do include a private vehicle with a driver who doubles as a VIP host who will guide Dad and his guests through the tasting experience. When making the arrangements for dear old Dad, you may choose from over 60 local breweries, including Stone Brewing Company, The Lost Abbey and, my personal favorite, Ballast Point where the craft beer ingenuity is matched by an elevated culinary program and all is served up in a super cool and relaxing atmosphere.

Gift-givers may opt for a two and half hour tour featuring one or two breweries (starting at $75 per person) or a full five hour tour featuring three or four breweries (starting around $119 per person). The experience includes guided tours at each brewery (when available), copious sample-size beer tastings at each brewery his tour visits as well as gratuities for all bar staff. Any additional tip for the driver, who serves as your personal host, isn’t included but is certainly appropriate. And note: while food isn’t part of the tour experience itself, guests can certainly choose to order eats at any of the locations that offer a menu and pay for that aspect separately.

This tour experience is a truly thoughtful, unique and super-fun way to say "thanks" to Dad this Father's Day. Go ahead, arrange a day for him to Brew Hop on down to some of San Diego’s best and brightest craft beer houses where he’s certain to raise a frosty glass in your honor.

theluxe

Brew Hop Tours San Diego a Failsafe Father's Day Gift

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Merilee1
"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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MAIN-3-Zip-Courtesy-Canopy-River-298x192The beautiful city of Puerto Vallarta is perfectly situated along the western coast of Mexico. Over the last several decades, this city has become a mecca for travelers seeking an all-in-one vacation destination. Puerto Vallarta certainly fits the bill, proffering everything a leisure traveler could want: amazing sunsets, gorgeous sandy beaches, exceptional authentic Mexican cuisine, stellar hotel and resort properties, world-class spas, gorgeous golf courses, and a bevy of fun and exhilarating activities to ensure a good time is had by all.

Relative to activities, Puerto Vallarta certainly has all of its bases covered. Below are details on two of my personal favorites—the Canopy River adventure tours and the Rhythms of the Night dining extravaganza—for pure adrenaline experiences by day and an unrivaled enchanted evening al fresco.

Canopy River
If you are an action seeker looking for excitement and a way to see the beauty of Puerto Vallarta up close and personal, Canopy River tours are for you. This company offers everything from a fast-paced zip line boasting no less than 12 heart-pounding sections to thrilling ATV tours, which include diving and dipping at a gorgeous hidden river and waterfall basin, to exciting expeditions through the rainforest. You can complement any of these adventures by dining at the breathtaking on-site Los Coapinoles Restaurant where guests can also participate in one of the greatest tequila tastings in the area.

Your zip line adventure begins with a brief safety training provided by experienced, talented and affable zip line professionals. You will then be safely hooked up to a full-body harness and provided with a security helmet, as you and your tour guides head off for an experience of a lifetime. You will zip through 12 different lines that fly directly above the amazing rainforest located in the Sierra Madre Mountains to heights as high as 709 feet. Each zip line ends on a large platform that gives you the opportunity to stop for a moment, enjoy the surroundings and take memorable photos. Adding to the adventure, at the end of the line, you will travel by mule back up the mountain to the point of origination.

The river expedition is definitely designed for both nature lovers and adrenaline seekers. These expeditions starts on the coastline of Rio Cuale and take a six-hour journey through the remarkable rainforest of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Among other notables, you will travel across two bridges that reach heights of up to 88 feet. This journey is only meant for true thrill seekers looking for the thrill of a lifetime.

If you are looking for a fun experience, but may not have the daredevil aptitude for zip lining or a full-blown expedition, an ATV tour can provide an amazing experience. These tours are crafted for those with even little or no ATV experience, so even if you have never ridden an ATV before, this tour is for you. This 60-minute thrill ride will take you on a journey through the Sierra Madre Mountains. You will be given the opportunity to stop at several prime locations to view the ample beauty this area has to offer, from stunning flora to incredible wildlife to mountainous vistas beyond. As mentioned, halfway through the trip, the experienced tour guide will take you to one of the most beautiful hidden treasures in the mountains: Piletas. This location will reward you with the opportunity to see a breathtaking waterfall and even take a swim in the pristine waters beneath the falls before hopping back on your ATV and heading back.

Rhythms of the Night
Rhythms of the Night is an immersive dinner show experience like none other, transforming your night into an enchanted evening on a mystical land. The experience begins with a relaxing cruise across the Banderas Bay where complimentary snacks and cocktails are served. As the sun sets across the sky, you will be rewarded with a stunning light display along the coastline, as the sun sets and the moon starts to rise. This picture-perfect setting is a primer for the experience ahead. As your cruise ship ports at the secluded Las Caletas cove, you will be greeted with a beautiful starry night, a torch–lit pathway, and mysterious islanders coaxing you to your initial destination.

As if the journey to this tranquil cove was not enough, your evening will only get exponentially better. The fire-lit path will guide you to an exceptionally romantic outdoor dining area right along the coast. Nature provides the perfect setting for this outdoor dining experience, as a light wind from the Pacific Ocean blows in the air and through the decorative palm trees. Light from the torches and litany of candles scattered about flickers on the water. The sounds of nature are intertwined with table-side serenades from talented musicians wandering through the dining area. The atmosphere alone transforms dinner into a mesmerizing experience.

Guests are then treated to a full-service buffet that includes thoughtfully prepared food selections to accommodate any dietary preference. The buffet includes grilled chicken, fish and steak, along with a delicious display of vegetables, salads, and, of course, tortillas that are hand-made exhibition style. The dessert buffet is equally tantalizing, with pies, rice pudding and brownies among the many offerings.

After dinner, you will be beckoned to the outdoor amphitheater where talented local artists will perform a spectacular theatrical performance amid the backdrop of a pyramid adorned with candlelight. Through fire, acrobatics, dance, song, music, comedy and magnificent costuming, the performance proudly reenacts some of the ancient customs that highlights the rich history of this region.

At the conclusion of this perfect enchanted evening, you will receive a final toast as you dance the night away as the cruise ship transports you back to the port with music bumping and cocktails flowing. As with the ride to the cove, the return trip also provides scenic views unique to this part of the world.

Overall, this enthralling evening offers the opportunity to have a relaxing, peaceful and exciting night filled with sights, sounds, smells and tastes you will not soon forget. Whether you are looking for the quintessential romantic dinner experience, a fun-filled family adventure, or are planning a group event, an evening with Rhythms of the Night is a magical journey sure to impress.

No matter which of these day or night excursions you choose to partake in while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, you are assured a special experience. The adventures at both Canopy River and Rhythms of the Night are exceedingly well-organized and planned by people prideful of the rich history of this area—and their enthusiasm is nothing short of contagious.  Rhythms of The Night

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.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: http://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.***

[readon1 url="http://luxelistreviews.com/?p=2308"]Source:luxelistreviews.com[/readon1]

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01 MAIN Hamilton Cove Community Courtesy CIVR SMAs a revered Southern California getaway destination for couples, friends, and families, alike, Catalina Island offers that perfect vacation combination of natural beauty, fun activities, divine dining and accommodation options replete with amenities. 

Located just 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, a quick boat ride—only 90 minutes via the Catalina Express out of Dana Point—will put you on this island paradise. Once there, Catalina Island offers 76 square miles of pristine beaches as well as forest and mountainous terrain where you can enjoy everything from sunning seaside, to submarine sightseeing and fishing, to seal and porpoise watching to zip-lining, shopping, and exciting Jeep excursions. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or just need some long-overdue R&R or together time with loved ones, this island is an optimal destination.
While there are many types of accommodations to choose from on Catalina Island, not everyone wants a standard hotel room—particularly those who are looking for more space and residential-type creature comforts. One company that helps match visitors with the exact type of accommodation they desire is Catalina Island Vacation Rentals Company (CIVR). They have a robust portfolio of nearly 200 unique rental properties around the island that include tastefully decorated cottages, homes, and condos like the spectacular oceanfront villa rentals in the Hamilton Cove community just outside of Avalon.

Along with the unsurpassed full-frontage ocean views with the surrounding island foliage and mountains beyond, the Hamilton Cove villas provide all the comforts of home. That’s because they are actual condominium residences that private owners rent out through CIVR when not in use. This offers vacationers a great alternative to a hotel room, especially when you have a family or larger group and would benefit from key amenities like a full kitchen to save on the cost of eating out multiple times a day, multiple full-size bathrooms and bedrooms, separate living room (with pull out sofa) and bedrooms for greater privacy, wood-burning fireplace, free Wi-Fi and, in many units, additional personal leisure-time touches like satellite TV, board games and books.

Most of the properties also include laundry facilities to keep that suitcase fresh as well as housekeeping services that can be arranged by request in addition to the initial complimentary start-up service applied before your arrival. All of this is proffered amid expansive ocean and spectacular sunrise views accentuated by the sound of waves crashing on the shore just below the open-air wrap-around balcony. Notably, CIVR also includes a golf cart with every villa rental as this only way to travel around the island.

Because Hamilton Cove is a private community only accessible to those staying at the location, there are additional amenities that are only accessible to guests. These include croquet, tennis, pool, tub, and a private beach.

Booking a private villa or condo on Catalina Island, whether at Hamilton Cove or otherwise, could not be easier. For its part, CIVR is an excellent option for booking these private and spacious accommodations due to its high level of customer service coupled with the company’s easy-to-use Web portal. Among other details, this Web site provides guests with the features and benefits of each villa as well as information regarding points of interest and local sights to see. CIVR also employs a highly trained team of reservation agents that can handle any guest questions either by phone or email. Unlike other vacation rental companies on Catalina, CIVR also accepts most major credit cards.
What’s also interesting is that, to ensure the best service possible, the CIVR team lives on the island and considers themselves “always accessible” to guests whether for property-related matters, island information, or recommendations on tours, dining, and other sightseeing adventures.

“Vacation rentals are a great option for travelers [and are] becoming more and more popular as they provide a great experience for vacationing together,” noted Denny Honsey, General Manager of CIVR.  Indeed, having vacationed at Hamilton Cove myself, I can attest that the villa rental experience does lend itself to enjoying more of a local sensibility whereby guests are better immersed in the native culture. And, in addition to fostering a communal dynamic that elevates interactions with family and friends, the residential ambiance also enhances the state of relaxation for guests whose watches are set to “island time.”

Catalina Shopping Courtesy CIVR

Via Casino Way Courtesy CIVR


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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.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://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

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1MAINChefChristianGraves 3 credit Courtesy JSix Kimpton Restaurants LOWRESCourtesy JSix Kimpton Restaurants LOWRES

Located in San Diego's kinetic, community-centric East Village, JSix is a neighborhood bar and restaurant offering warm hospitality alongside culinary whimsy and craft cocktail ingenuity. With a seasonally-driven menu committed to hormone-free, sustainable and organic “farm-to-fork” dishes, JSix patrons are sure to experience stellar food and drink with a side of gracious hospitality.

My personal favorite aspect of the offerings at JSix is its cryptic “Chef's Mercy" experience—an entirely customized and randomized five-course tasting menu allowing chefs to go “off road” and dish up whatever suits their fancy—with the goal of dazzling the awaiting palate, of course. Unlike a typical "chef's choice" menu where actual menu items are tapped for selection, JSix's Chef’s Mercy allows executive chef, Christian Graves, and his able brigade to prepare any dish they can conceive based on that day’s, or moment’s, available ingredients and inspirations. The result is an enigmatic epicurean adventure well worth the price of admission—certainly the $65 cost-per-head or $85 with wine pairing.

If you’re a culinary control freak who needs a little more convincing, here are six reasons to succumb to the JSix Chef's Mercy menu:

1.  Dishes are a manifestation of what the chef feels is the best use of, and result from, that day’s ingredients. JSix prides itself on utilizing organic ingredients that support local farmers and the local economy, so the printed menu changes seasonally and the Chef’s Mercy menu, well, in real time based on what’s in the refrigerator, the pantry and the heart when the order presents. Chef Graves also strives to utilize as much of the ingredient as possible, whether it's an animal protein or produce, which also can affect the dishes making it into a Chef’s Mercy course. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Graves recently and he emphasized his lighthearted approach no matter which menu direction a patron decides to go: "To have fun while you cook, which translates into the dish. To keeps things fresh, playful and unfussy. The ingredients speak for themselves, staying true to their flavors."

2.  The Chef can express his culinary prowess with more creativity and flair than the more “mass appeal” items inscribed on the menu. Chef Graves boasts an impressive background with accolades that include being named San Diego's hottest chef by Eater and winning the Silver Fork Award from San Diego Home and Garden. While regular menus are typically strategized to best ensure dishes will resonate with the masses, Chef’s Mercy allows the kitchen crew to stretch their culinary legs and take imaginative risks they may not have the opportunity to otherwise. As well, in addition to creating incredible flavor and textural profiles on-the-fly, JSix dishes are always a visual delight with impeccable plating duly showcasing the high level of culinary skill and technique.  

3.  Allows patrons to savor a more complex cross-section of flavors available at the eatery. JSix's seasonal fare is "as eclectic as the East Village neighborhood." Chef Graves creates each of his dishes in response to what is available locally at the given time, including ingredients indigenous to California's coast. As the Chef’s Mercy courses unfold, in total the experience delivers a diversity and range beyond what a typical dinner would entail.

4.  Gives adventurous, non-finicky eaters the chance to participate in informal “field testing.” Since the menu at JSix is ever-evolving with Chef Graves continually considering menu items to add up ahead, the Chef’s Mercy menu allows patrons to actually help shape the culinary direction of the eatery—something hardened foodies will especially appreciate. Not only is the Chef's Mercy menu a brave, fun, exciting and mysterious culinary adventure for the guests, it's also an adventure for Chef Graves and his team as well. While the dishes are based entirely on Chef's whim and what is available, as well as what has stimulated him in that day or moment, the intrepid guests' reactions to the fare could actually shape future iterations of the regular menu.

5.  Through expertly strategized pairings, patrons can experience a wide cross section of domestic and international wine varietals by the glass. The wine pairings for each course are impeccable and often showcase international and domestic varietals from boutique wineries that you may not otherwise know about—or consider pairing with a certain kind of food. Being introduced to these wines with low commitment by the glass, oenophiles can readily expand their repertoire and their own wine pairing prowess. Of course, in addition to copious wine varietals, JSix has an impressive artisan craft cocktail menu spearheaded by head bartender, Chris Burkett, who balances a classic approach and timeless techniques with ingredient-focused concoctions.

6.  It’s distinctive dining at its finest. The JSix Chef’s Menu proffers a dining concept not readily replicated elsewhere and, of course, the dishes themselves are entirely unique—perhaps never to be seen again. That's what makes the Chef's Mercy menu an experience unlike any other: the dishes and pairings you taste have probably never been tasted before, and may never be tasted again. So many factors contribute to the creation of these meals, it’s like capturing culinary lighting in a bottle. The possible combinations and endless variety make every Chef's Mercy menu a gastronomic marvel.

So there you have it. Six rock solid reasons that will hopefully inspire you to head to JSix for a Chef’s Mercy exploit all your own. Amid the excitement and mystique of impulse-induced fare, rest assured you’ll be served scratch-cooked American cuisine that’s curated with care.

San Diego’s ‘Chef's Mercy‎’ Menu

 

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Merilee1"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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1 MAIN Courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train

The Napa Valley Wine Train isn't so much a mode of transportation but rather a time machine transporting passengers back to an era when the journey was as scintillating as the destination, itself. Particularly well-suited for couples seeking quality together time, this excursion offers an elegant sojourn through the heart of Napa Valley in a refined, history-rich atmosphere befitting the lush countryside through which it passes. Duly complementing the drop-dead gorgeous vistas are gourmet victuals and varietals-a-plenty.Having been aboard with my own loved one, I dare say the Napa Valley Wine Train is among the most romantic experiences you can have while in this revered region.

The train itself is a wonder to behold. The expertly restored and maintained antique Pullman cars gleam with brass and Honduran mahogany while etched original glass and swanky armchairs evoke the early 20th century spirit of luxury travel. One of the few active historic passenger railroads remaining in the United States, the Napa Valley Wine Train offers a tempting variety of tours, events and packages,including gourmet dining experiences for both lunch and dinner.

Of course, fundamental to the Napa Valley Wine Train is the route, itself, which takes passengers through the heart of the winery district. The round-trip tour starts in the downtown area and meanders its way through Yountville, Oakville, Rutherfordand Calistoga, passing directly by such revered wineries as Opus One, Cakebread, DomaineChandon, Grgich Hills and a host of others. With seemingly endless rows of grapevines in the foreground and foliage-laden rolling hills beyond, the scenery is utterly breathtaking and worth the price of admission alone. However, the splendor outside the windows is duly accompanied inside the train by the posh retro-chic décor, impeccable customer service and an elevated food and beverage program that would delight even a hardened epicure.

Indeed, dining on the Napa Valley Wine Train is not incidental, but rather an integral part of this indulgent multi-sensory experience. The train features four separate dining cars, but the two-story Champagne Vista Dome Car in which I travelled provides a truly distinctive dining experience. This luxury glass-domed observation car is a 1952 antique Pullman rail car that is accessible exclusively to guests with reserved seating, inaccessible to passengers in the main cars. The intimate setting accommodates only 56 guests at a time and can also be reserved for private events.

Lunch is served on the Vista Dome car as well as two others: the Silverado Car and Gourmet Express car. Each has its own kitchen and dedicated menu, with the Vista Dome offering the premier experience of the three. Each meal on the Napa Valley Wine Train is prepared to order by award-winning chef, Kelly Macdonald, and hisbrigade who work culinary wonders from compact but highly efficient on-board galleys.

Dinner is available on the Vista Dome or Gourmet Express cars. As with lunch, menu items are prepared to order and feature fresh, environmentally responsible ingredients that are locally sourced to the extent possible. During spring and summer, dinner passengers delight in the Napa Valley landscape bathed in the golden twilight sunshine,while during autumn and winter the dinner train departs after sunset, ramping up the romance and adventure factor of being aboard an antique train traveling through the dark.

My guest and I hopped aboard the Vista Dome Premier Train for a seasonal lunch package offered on select weekdays throughout January and February for $154 per person. The experience surpassed what I had hoped and imagined. This elite trainserves the same fine diningmenu of the traditional Vista Dome experience that’s available throughout the year (also priced at $154 per person, increasing to $199 on March 9). It connects only the Champagne Vista Dome Car, Grappa Power Car (believed to be the only power car in existence that passengers can enter and walk through while in operation), a 100-year-old Lounge Car and the rarely experienced Deli Car—far fewer cars than the usual Wine Train. Perfect for couples, the privacy factorwas enhanced vis-à-vis a more intimate venue with seatinglimited to just 56 passengers in total. While I anticipated the beauty of the region we traversed through to enthrall, which it did in droves, the authenticity of this semi-private train transport in concert with the quality and creativity of the culinary program exceededall expectations.

The 3-hour odyssey began with a welcome glass of California sparkling wine, to be enjoyed while settling into the plush booth seating and taking in the stellar surroundings. From there, a thoughtfully conceived four-course menu ensued, on this day commencing with a choice of Flourless Yam Ravioli or Smoked Salmon Crêpe, then continuing with an appetizer course selection of Red and Green Endive Salad or the Soup du Jour, which was a rich and creamy Lobster Bisque. Of the multiple entrée selections proffered, my guest and I opted for the Roasted Beef Tenderloin, served in a Cabernet reduction on cambozola toast alongside a sautée of vegetables, as well as the Special of the Day: a lightly-seared Tuna Filet. Other scintillating entrée options included Grilled Local Lamb Chops in a rosemary-garlic bérnaise, a Grilled Salmon Filet topped with lemon-basil pesto and Seasonal Vegetable Risotto topped with a sweet potato stuffed gypsy pepper.The grandiose gastronomes continued through dessert, as we reveled in an Espresso Crème Brulée and a White and Dark Chocolate Cheesecake served atop a brightly flavored raspberry coulis. Not only a conceptual success, the execution of this menu was on point with perceptibly fresh, top-quality proteins and produce that was allskillfully prepared and plated.

As goes without saying, the wine offerings on the Napa Valley Wine Train are ample, and impressive given the space restraints. With approximately 30 varietals to choose from, there is something for every oenophile’s palate. Or, passengers can bring their own bottle on board for a nominal $15 corkage fee. Those hankering for a social vibe can hit the bar car where wine and champagne flights are available—those pre-planned by on-staff staff wine experts or mixed-and-matchedby passengers preferring to custom-create their own tasting experience. In fact, passengers are encouraged to get out of their seats and explore each the train’s various dining and lounge cars and also visit one or both outdoor observation decks where they can take lovely keepsake photos and generally bask in the fresh country breeze.

In addition to the lunch and dinner packages, the Napa Valley Wine Train also offers winery tours—be exact. If amour is top-of-mind, the Castle Winery Tour is perhaps the most romantic. Passengers enjoy a gourmet lunch before attending a two-hour wine tasting at Castello di Amorosa, which literally means "Castle of Love" in Italian. The winery is an authentically-styled 13th century Tuscan castle located on 30 acres of estate vineyards. Other tours include an evening wine tour—the only such tour offered in Napa Valley—as well as tours of popular local wineries such as Raymond Vineyards, Charles Krug Wineryand Grgich Hills Winery.In addition to the wine tours, the Napa Valley Wine Train boasts a calendar packed with fun events includingholiday-themed trains and murder mysteries.Moonlight Escapes take place at sunset during a full moon making for an extra romantic ride. A gourmet dinner is included, of course.

The Napa Valley Wine Train isn’t just a train ride—it’s an institution that echoes the glory days of train travel, with fine dining service, multiple course meals cooked to order, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard an exquisitely restored vintage rail car. Book this experience and you’ll be on track for a spectacular time.

Amour Aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train
Photos: Courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train

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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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1 MAINBull and bear Steak179 Waldorf Astoria and Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York 1

The iconic Waldorf Astoria New York hotel—world-renowned for five-star accommodations and premier amenities—is notorious for its impeccable standards whereby luxury and refinement reign supreme in all that it offers. This includes the property’s award-winning food and beverage program that has stood the test of time, making itself as relevant and revered today as in storied years past.

One need not be a guest of the hotel to partake in gastronomic pleasures at the Waldorf Astoria New York. Whether you're staying at this prestigious Park Avenue hotel or are simply seeking a memorable dining experience in the heart of Manhattan, this haute hotel boasts two premier epicurean experiences that are a perennial draw unto themselves: Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse and Sunday Brunch at Peacock Alley. These two dining options are very different, but both deliver everything a patron would expect of fine dining in one of the world's most illustrious luxury hotels.

Bull & Bear Steakhouse
Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse
, the signature restaurant located inside the Waldorf Astoria New York, is home to one of the most historic and well-recognized bars in New York City. Here, Italian fabrics, leathers, dark wood, plush carpet, decorative mirrors and painted artwork lend an air of casual sophistication to the old-school lounge ambiance of this former men's club. The signature bronze Bull & Bear statues stand behind the legendary bar as commanding reminders of the steakhouse's significance to city's financial sector and its rich history—ultimately serving as the location’s namesake.

"In the late 1800s, the New York Stock Exchange was the place where businessmen and burgeoning industrialists staked and won their fortunes,” explains General Manager Gilbert Bolivar. “At The Waldorf Astoria Bar, now Bull & Bear Steakhouse, New York’s giants of real estate and finance hammered out deals while drinking elbow to elbow. In honor of this patronage, the hotel placed two magnificent bronze statues–a bull and a bear. Over time, so many deals were struck 'at the Bull and Bear' where the gilded statues stood that regular patrons adopted the moniker as the bar’s unofficial title."

Mere steps away from numerous Fortune 500 companies, the Bull & Bear caters to sophisticated tastes. Bolivar notes, "Our food and beverage is top notch–everything is sourced as locally as possible, including ingredients coming from the hotel’s rooftop garden. Bull & Bear is also one of the only restaurants in NYC to offer real Satsuma Wagyu beef [Grade A-5 Black, “600” day grain fed, hand cut and aged 35 days] imported from Japan. We are constantly working to lead the food and beverage trends. We change our signature cocktails seasonally and our culinary team is always looking at ways to enhance our dishes. I continue to be my own critic and every day we look for ways to improve.”

And those efforts are paying off amid the modern marketplace, with Bolivar pointing out recent accolades, including a 4-star rating on Tripadvisor, Yelp and Opentable, and earning the 2014 OpenTable Diners' Choice Award. The New York Times also cited the restaurant's mahogany bar as one of the world's greatest. In his quest to continually curate exceptional dining experiences, Bolivar also shared that among the restaurant’s short term goals is achieving a 5-star rating on all platforms, “exceeding the expectations of customers daily." This the restaurant will work toward one divine dish at a time.

For his part, Bolivar’s favorite item from this fairly traditional steakhouse menu is the 30-ounce Porterhouse ($62), a robust combination of a sirloin and a filet. In my own visit to the eatery, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to indulge in the 6-ounce Satsuma Wagyu New York Strip Steak ($115). Although the house recommends this superlative steak be served at rare temp, my personal preference (in line with recommendation on how to optimally prepare Wagyu steak), is to achieve medium temp to achieve the peak richness and flavor point. Sauce options for all of the steak dishes include peppercorn, bordelaise, béarnaise or Bull & Bear’s own steak sauce.

Baroque beef aside, I can also personally vouch for the restaurant’s Chilled Maine Lobster Cocktail starter—a half lobster served with a fine herb aioli ($29); Dover Sole Meuniere in brown butter sauce ($59) entree; Parmesan Truffle Fries ($14); and the Lobster Mac & Cheese ($16). Of course, don’t miss the opportunity to eat a fresh, crisp and light Waldorf Salad ($19) at its birthplace. The Bull & Bear also serves the Waldorf Astoria’s Private Label Caviar (Gold Selection $100; Premium Selection $130). For dessert, you simply can’t miss with the New York Cheese Cake ($16), of course, served with an orchard fruit sorbet. Divine indeed.

Peacock Alley and Sunday Brunch
While the Bull & Bear is the quintessential venue for making high-octane deals and celebrating life’s good fortune, Peacock Alley is another popular place to "see and be seen." This eatery’s scintillating Sunday brunch, held seasonally from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ($98/adult, $65/child), flows out of the restaurant’s various dining rooms into the Waldorf Astoria's expansive main lobby—the promenade area that connects the once separate Waldorf and Astoria hotels. Today, the space is utilized to deliver a lavish power brunch like none other—one that that pays homage to the hotel’s culinary history as the birthplace of American breakfast staples like Eggs Benedict.

Executive Chef David Garcelon elaborates on the scope and significance of what has become a highly anticipated weekly affair: "I believe we are the only hotel in Manhattan with a full, gourmet buffet brunch. The buffet features over 100 meal options and is highlighted by a seafood station with shellfish, smoked fish and caviar, chefs preparing omelets, eggs benedict and carving beef wellington and, of course, a bountiful display from our pastry chefs around a molten chocolate fountain. I love our latest chef station that features one of our a pastry chefs making made to order 'Baked Alaska Lollipops' using Top of the Waldorf Honey Ice Cream, coated in meringue and browned with a blow torch."

"While dining with us at the Sunday Brunch, you will be able to taste the best that New York has to offer while enjoying the legendary and renowned Waldorf Astoria New York lobby atmosphere," states Julien Pierlas, Director of Restaurants who can be seen meandering through the dining rooms to meet and greet patrons tableside.  "Then, you will be transported back in time as you listen to the pianist perform on Cole Porter’s piano while the harpist in the back room lulls you into a relaxed Sunday mood."

Pierlas continues, "Our beverage program is also of the best out there. With specials like the Waldorf Buzz Beer made exclusively for us by the Finger Lakes’ own Empire Brewing Company, with the honey produced on the rooftop. In fact, many of the ingredients grown in the hotel’s rooftop garden are used in Peacock Alley specials, from daily dish specials to creative cocktails. Or, try 'The Bloody Bunny,' a twist on the original Bloody Mary, made with fresh carrot juice."

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Peacock Alley’s Sunday Brunch, and the bounty can overwhelm at first.  One sumptuous station unfolds after the other, each with an allure all its own. Among other notable aspects of the buffet is the abounding raw bar replete with various types of caviar and accoutrements as well as clams, oysters, lobster and shrimp. Multiple soups, salads, breakfast fare, pasta dishes and a bevy of meat carving stations are among the other fine fare options rounding out the savory pageant of provisions.  The sweet finish consists of more than 100 gourmet desserts displayed in delectable form. At this buffet, check your diet at the door and fully immerse yourself in this one-of-a-kind experience.

Indeed, this is a brunch designed to be distinctive. When asked about future plans for Peacock Alley, Pielas replies, "Our goals are to keep food quality, food presentation and drink specials at such a high level, that guests won’t find it anywhere else." Garcelon concurs. "Of course we want to continue to focus on quality and continuing to tweak the offering while maintaining the items that people love. We are very fortunate to have a large group of loyal New York guests who come on a regular basis."

For over a century, the chefs of The Waldorf Astoria New York have been renowned for their culinary excellence. This heritage continues to be celebrated through Bull & Bear and Peacock Alley’s Sunday Brunch—two classic dining experiences that inspire patrons to slow down, soak in the scene and savor a life being well lived.

Bull and Bear Prime Steakhouse Courtesy Waldorf Astoria and Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York 1

normal BullandBearDining Waldorf Astoria and Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York 1

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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.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://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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1MAINProof IMG 0396 ProofCreditTheLuxeList
Photo Copyright/Courtesy of: The Luxe List

Imagine a desert oasis where you can enjoy award-winning cuisine and partake in nightlife unlike any other. Well, Scottsdale is that place and it’s a perfect locale for a quick weekend getaway.

Don’t know where to eat or what to do? No time to research and plan a dining, imbibing and socializing schedule ensuring your brief vacation is an utter sensation? No worries! Here are a few tried-and-true, chock-full-of-fun location recommendations that are sure to suit.

Proof, an American Canteen at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
Hungry for some home cooking? Proof restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale presents homestyle comfort fare sourced exclusively from the 50 states. Popular lunch options include homemade bite-size buttery Pretzel Knots with warm Vermont cheddar cheese; finger-licking-good Rib Bites in a rich and thick Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce; and Chicken and Waffles—buckwheat waffle, smoked blueberry syrup, peach compote, bacon brittle, almond honey butter. Those who prefer to eat healthy, or vegetarian, are also in business as the Heirloom Vegetable Crudité is sensational, comprised of raw seasonal veggies, cucumber-basil Greek yogurt, lemon garlic hummus, crab remoulade and more all served up over cubed ice in a gorgeous copper bowl. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this relaxed American Canteen offers guests a glimpse of old Americana with nostalgic soda fountain, televisions, games and a bustling bar.

Breakfast at Proof is an experience all its own! If you can take the heat, the spicy Bloody Mary, with its proprietary tomato mixer base, topped with a thick-cut piece of fiery-sweet candied bacon is an absolute must! The savory Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict topped with a jalapeno hollandaise may very well top the list of your favorite breakfast dishes of all time.

Happy hour cocktails amid the Sonoran sunset at Onyx Bar and Lounge at Four Seasons
Adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale’s signature restaurant, Talavera, Onyx Bar & Lounge receives its namesake from the amber, color-ribboned onyx framing the bar, drawing comparisons to desert sandstone and inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright. The bar top is custom-made out of a single mesquite tree, sanded smooth and veined with black. The lounge features a menu of small plates and fresh sweet and savory cocktail combinations.

Dinner at Talavera Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale
Talavera introduces a modern take on the classic steakhouse, with unique steak and seafood pairings, a range of specialty sides, accompaniments and starters as well as comfort desserts to-die-for. The restaurant features vibrant decor, dramatic views and possibly the best patio dining in the Valley. Its energetic ambiance is representative of its upscale casual approach to resort dining, with a range of menu choices fit for every taste and occasion.

Specializing in locally and regionally sourced cuisine, Talavera clearly prides itself on prime cuts of meat, poultry and game that are sourced from boutique purveyors, including Arizona ranch-raised meats. Vegetables are locally sourced as well, with heirloom tomatoes from local farms and olive oil procured from a nearby mill. Executive Chef Mel Mecinas, quite an affable and approachable chap, combines these über-fresh ingredients into exquisitely delectable signature dishes such as Buffalo Tenderloin with bacon, roasted carrots and ancho-tomatillo sauce, or Venison Loin with baby squash, mole, foie gras and cotija cheese.

During my own epicure adventure at Talavera, I opted to start with the Chilled Seafood Platter that was a cornucopia of fine seafood, including ample amounts of Maine lobster, oysters, prawns, King crab, scallop and tuna sashimi served simply with a variety of cold dipping sauces. I also couldn’t resist ordering the Rougié Foie Gras—seared to perfection and exquisitely paired with rhubarb chutney, bacon and a perfectly moist and sweet slice of peach pound cake.

For an entrée I opted for another signature dish that’s an excellent deviation from the ordinary surf and turf: the Chilean Sea Bass. This appropriately-portioned fresh fish was served atop a creamy potato “risotto,” which added a great textural contrast to the soft sea bass—all and further crowned with a delectable dollop of braised oxtail. Another in my party selected the Lamb Rack that had a Mediterranean spin as it’s served with an eggplant-olive caponata—a Sicilian stew of sorts—all kicked up a notch with a garlic jus. I also sampled the Mexican Jumbo Prawns—five firm, sweet and perfectly butterflied crustaceans enveloped in a rich and creamy lemon caper butter and with grilled lemon and a spicy Capsicum chile pepper for a spicy and citrus punch of flavor. While the food at Talavera is certainly hearty, portions are appropriate so you’ll likely have room for dessert. I suggest savoring one of the fleeting specials that feature creative configurations using that season’s fruit bounty.

Dinner at Virtù Honest Craft at Bespoke Inn
With a menu described as “wandering Mediterranean,” Virtù Honest Craft opened under the culinary talents of Chef Gio Osso who gained national praise for his cuisine at the now-closed Estate House in downtown Scottsdale.  Virtù’s rotating menu features items like hand-made pastas, braised oxtails and house-made sausages. Diners can also choose from a 30-bottle global wine list, craft beers and handcrafted cocktails.  Accolades include The #1 Restaurant of 2013 by The Arizona Republic as well as being named one of the top 20 best new restaurants by Esquire magazine.

The quaint restaurant is located within the intimate, luxurious Bespoke Inn, but is open to the public. Chef Osso describes the eatery’s food and atmosphere as a “beautifully composed symphony of sights, scents and tastes,” which is a fitting depiction considering "Virtù" is the Machiavellian term for achieving excellence—something Chef Osso has been doing throughout his career at countless award-winning restaurants in the Phoenix area. Now having ventured out on his own, Chef Osso’s passion is evident in his deft execution of seasonally-driven dishes that give a nod to his Mediterranean family roots.

At Virtù, the dishes are not complicated or fussy. In fact, most are relatively simple conceptually but don’t let the lack of menu complexity fool you. The quality and freshness of the ingredients and is stunning as is the culinary skill proffered during preparations. Dishes feature the season’s best seafood, prime meats, freshly made pastas and regional produce—each expertly executed by the kitchen brigade. My own visit to Virtù allowed me to sample a variety of dishes from each section of the menu: sharables, salads, pasta and entrees.

The Burrata Board starter was downright exceptional. The creamy and buttery Italian cheese spread accompanied by shavings of beautifully marbled, salty prosciutto di parma and sweet fire roasted fresh peppers served with grilled toast. The tenderized Charred Octopus with lemon chick peas and arugula and fennel was also a crowd pleaser, although I could have personally used a touch more of the spicy orange Calabrian chile butter upon which all other components was served. However, that nit was quickly forgotten with the arrival of the golf ball sized Brown Butter Gnudi stuffed with a mild and slightly sweet ricotta. The soft pasta and cheese was aptly countered with hearty and firm roasted mushrooms, decidedly al dente English peas and hazelnuts all topped with shavings of a pecorino pepato—a semi-hard Italian sheep's milk cheese dotted with black peppercorns.

However good the courses leading up to it, it was our entrée dish that stole the show: the Bistecca Tagliata. This behemoth 40-ounce Wagyu tomahawk ribeye, cooked to a chef-recommended medium rare, arrived to the table on a large wooden cutting board after having already been sliced in to strips. Suffice it to say it was more than enough meat to accommodate a family-style dinner for my table of three…and then some. The exterior seasoning and sear on the steak was impeccable, locking in the juices and maintaining the integrity of the superbly marbled meat. The fresh and light accoutrements of cherry tomato pomodorini that exuded a sweet basil essence along with Mediterranean rucola and shaved parmesan were apropos.

Of course, dining out is often enhanced with a libation or two and Virtù's elevated bar program is befitting of its cuisine. The restaurant boasts inventive signature cocktails such as the Virtù Starter Kit, featuring Cocchi di Torino vermouth, gin, grapefruit bitters, bitter lemon soda and orange essence. There’s also Virtù's take on the classic gin and tonic, the Virtù G+T, made with gin, white port, giffard apricot, Mediterranean tonic, thyme and cardamom. Perhaps a little game of truth or dare might be in order with The Fortified Truth, made with blueberry-infused Amaro Montenegro, Irish whiskey, Cocchi Barolo Chinato, fresh lemon, Cassia bark and grapefruit essence. Visit Virtù to eat, drink and make merry amid a lively atmosphere.

Lunch or Dinner at FnB Restaurant
Enjoy the Arizona wine and dine experience at FnB Restaurant, a trendy eatery in the heart of downtown that’s known both for its inventive food and for serving local wines. Chef Charleen Badman, a James Beard nominee, is known for her visionary vegetable creations—even being referred to as “the vegetable whisperer” as I was told by a staffer. In fact, her braised leeks with mozzarella and a fried egg dish was named one of the 10 best restaurant dishes of 2010 by Food & Wine. Of note is owner Pavle Milic’s other venture, Bodega/AZ Wine Merchants, varietals from which oenophiles can sip and savor while at FnB.

FnB is an intimate café-like scene with a décor that’s trendy yet rustic and a vibe that beckons—and celebrates—gastro-snobs like myself. The food is locally sourced but the menus are globally accented as Chef Badman's cuisine is bold, imaginative and often out-of-the-box. The locavore-minded restaurant's wine program also covers its bases by offering an Arizona-only wine selection in addition to a "Plan B" out-of-state wine selection featuring expertly selected reds and whites that pair perfectly with the eatery's seasonal fare.

Speaking of cyclical menus, what's on FnB’s dish docket varies not only season to season but often daily, depending upon what's fresh and that day. Locally grown vegetables figure prominently on the menu in various fabulous forms that constantly change. During my own dinner seating, I had the pleasure of experiencing Chef Badman’s ingenuity with dishes like joy bus French fried squash blossoms with halloumi, chermoula, lemon and olives; socca (a chickpea pancake) with aleppo pepper, roasted Roma tomatoes, goat cheese and sicilian pistachios; and salad of watermelon and beets, pumpernickel, curry-style vadouvan spice and feta. However, meat lovers don't despair; as there are mouth-watering options for you as well, including crispy chicken parts with sake sauce, miso pickles and Japanese pepper flake; churro lamb leg with summer squash, roasted tomato, olive, crumbs and mint; and fish in the form of pink grouper with avocado, grapefruit and carrot furikake atop brown rice.

If you'd like a little after-dinner retail therapy, head directly next door to the Bodega Market where you can pick up ROC 2 coffee, Sweet Republic Sweets and Wild Clover Botanicals, just to name a few of the local artisanal offerings. I myself left with a few bottles of “Fire in the Hole” hot sauce. You can also purchase fresh-baked breads, farm-raised cheeses and a bottle of local wine so you can take a taste of Arizona home with you.

Kick up your heels at the famed Rusty Spur Saloon
After you’ve duly wined and dined it’s time to let your inner cowpoke out to play! Head on over to the Rusty Spur Saloon—Scottsdale’s last real cowboy saloon. Registered historic landmark, Farmers Bank of Scottsdale 1921 – 1931, closed during the Depression, but the old bank vault is still there, holding liquor instead of money. It’s been referred to as one of the three happiest places in the U.S. - Disneyland, Las Vegas, and the Rusty Spur Saloon... “Where the party never ends!!!” Patronized by John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, Dierks Bentley, and John Rich (Big & Rich). They offer live entertainment every afternoon and evening - Country Western, Blues and Rockabilly. Be sure to pin your own commemorative dollar bill to the wall!

Enjoy a glam night out at The Living Room at W Scottsdale
Maybe you prefer to glam it up a bit? If so, head on over to the W Scottsdale where the only question is: would you rather linger downstairs in The Living Room, a plush and swanky lounge, or upstairs on the chic Shade Lounge that encompasses the entire pool deck? The Living Room is known for its extensive martini menu, avant-garde clientele, and for live music every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night from 9 p.m. to midnight featuring local and national recording artists. Alternatively, head upstairs where you can party either indoors next to mood-setting fire and water design elements, or socialize alfresco on the stylish and expansive outdoor patio with dedicated sections for bottle service seating. Sip on creative concoctions and top-notch wines while the DJ spins Euro-inspired beats. At either venue at the W Scottsdale, be sure to dress to impress!

While in the 1950’s Scottsdale was known as “The West’s Most Western Town,” today this renaissance city is a modern and chic hub boasting a progressive epicurean scene and bustling nightlife—the perfect recipe for a wonderful weekend getaway.

Eat, Drink and Dance in Scottsdale

 

theluxe

Merilee1"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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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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