Perfect Gems for Fall 2014

Explore the little luxuries the world has to offer.

BY DONALD CHARLES RICHARDSON

ESCAPE ARTISTS

There are many opulent hotels on the glamorous island of St. Barths. Then there’s the Taiwana. Set on Flamands Beach, Taiwana is the island’s most private retreat. Within moments of your arrival, the staff knows your name and room number and is quickly learning your preferences in wine and food. Both are superb at this resort (and if you wake up hungry in the middle of the night, you’ll find someone on duty in the restaurant to supply a snack or ice cream). The rooms are sleek and sumptuously supplied with Frette towels, robes and linens. There’s an excellent Neville hair salon and spa. But it’s the ambiance of an exclusive club that truly sets Taiwana apart and makes it one of St. Barth’s most stylish places to unwind.

Image by Richard Termine

CAT HITS HIGH NOTE

Celebrated for producing works composed for intimate venues, New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera is now in its 12th season. Performances have included rarities from the Baroque era, such as Mozart’s Il sogno di Scipione and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and contemporary operas including I Have No Stories to Tell You by Lembit Beecher and The Raven by Toshio Hosokawa. During the 2014/2015 season, the company will present a revival of a favorite, El gato con botas (Puss in Boots), by Xavier Montsalvatge, at New York’s El Museo del Barrio. The opera tells the children’s story of a miller who inherits a mangy cat with magical talents. The cat woos a princess for the miller and, after defeating an evil ogre through trickery, happily unites the miller and princess. They marry and provide a warm home for the cat (which is probably what the cat had in mind all along).

GATHERING THE GRAPES

At the 56-acre Hestan Vineyards located at the base of Okell Hill on Napa Valley’s eastern slopes, individually farmed blocks are planted with all five Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The grapes are co-harvested and cofermented to create Stephanie Proprietary Red Wine, a Bordeaux made from a layered blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot, 16% Malbec, 12% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Limited to 900 cases, Stephanie is a complex wine with an intriguing nose of licorice, clove and sweet spice mingled with cedar, tobacco and black currant. And rich mocha notes unfold on the supple palate, lingering well into the long, elegant finish.

Image by Nicola Gnesi, courtesy of Eykyn Maclean

ROCK STAR

Sculptor Kan Yasuda’s critically acclaimed work is exhibited and installed at galleries and public spaces all over the world. The Boboli Gardens in Florence displayed the first abstract sculptures in this 500-year-old collection; a solo exhibition featured 18 large works at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park; and a 17-acre sculpture park is dedicated to him in Japan. Working in marble (his studio is in Pietrasanta in northern Italy, near the Carrara quarries), Yasuda’s creations are gentle, tranquil and contemplative, encouraging interaction with the viewer. At his recent American debut show at Eykyn Maclean Gallery, when asked how an individual should chose a sculpture, Yasada replied, “Touch it, and if it touches you back…”

 UN CHÂTEAU AVEC DES ANIMAUX EXOTIQUES

As you drive into the Château of Thoiry, about 30 miles west of Paris, don’t be surprised if a giraffe strolls past your car. Many animals, such as camels and zebras, roam freely. Others, like tigers, leopards and cheetahs, are kept in the château’s zoo. While touring this 16th-century, 370-acre estate, you’ll also discover a maze, several gardens, a restaurant, and possibly the current Count and Countess of La Panouse, who still live in the château (part of which is shown to the public by costumed guides). Because architect Philibert de l’Orme designed the château to be in perfect harmony with nature, the most spectacular time to visit is during the summer or winter solstice, when the center arch marks the exact position of the sun.

A Better Mousetrap

For Tesla Motors, reinventing the wheel doesn’t just involve a new car.

BY ROBERT HAYNES-PETERSON

The past two decades have borne witness to fantastical leaps in technology we now consider invaluable: smartphones, GPS guidance systems, tablet computers. It’s also provided its fair share of clunkers: the Segway, non-iPod MP3 players, MySpace. One innovation that appeared to straddle the hot-or-not fence several times since its introduction almost a decade ago: Tesla Motors’ luxury electric vehicles (EVs). In recent months, however, much of the doubt about Tesla’s viability and even its historic importance seems to have been erased through a flurry of investments, new products and innovative sales and intellectual property rights management.

Though founded by computer engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003, it was big thinker Elon Musk who got Tesla rolling. (He’s also a driving force behind much of the commercial space travel industry and a proposed Hyperloop high-speed magnetic rail in California.) The world got its first taste of the future with the Tesla Roadster in 2006. Musk argued that the nascent electronic car industry needn’t be restricted to boxy, utilitarian vehicles. He envisioned luxury roadsters and even high-performance racecars (the Tesla Roadster was the first EV to top 200 MPH, and was soon participating in eco-races in Australia). He made a point of investing personally in American manufacturing and dropping a significant amount of his and other people’s (including the U.S. DOE’s) money into manufacturing. Soon pundits speculated each $128,000 car rolling off the line actually cost millions more based on investments vs. actual production. Various delays, along with a 2009 Roadster recall and battery pack fires in the Model S in 2013, made it seem as if the Tesla might be another rich kid’s vanity toy destined to be tossed aside. (Remember the DeLorean?)

Flash forward to 2014, and Musk’s vision is very nearly rock solid. The company posted profits in 2013. Buliding vertically, Tesla offers a growing range of cars. The full-sized, five-door Model S, with a remarkable 97 MPG highway, expanded sales in the U.K. and Europe significantly during the first part of the year, while the falcon-winged, dual-motor, all-wheel drive Model X is expected to reach buyers by 2015. Just as importantly, the company opened its 100th charging station in Hamilton, New Jersey (also the 22nd state to approve Tesla’s unusual direct sales approach: you can scope the models on a showroom floor, but you must buy online). The most unusual aspect of the Supercharger stations? Topping off your batteries doesn’t cost a cent. With enough stations, you can now theoretically cross the country for free.

Even more mind-boggling to the traditional Carnegie-era capitalist: in a blog post dated June 12, 2014, Musk made waves by announcing that all of Tesla’s hard-earned (and expensive) patents would be released into the public domain. In an era when the concept of open-sourcing headbutts against the lucrative intellectual property universe (think patented human DNA), the announcement was a potentially world-changing one. “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electronic vehicles,” Musk wrote, “but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.” All of this adds up to a rosy future for Tesla, which claims to have more orders than they can possibly fill. Though he’s no longer associated with the company, Tarpenning is convinced of the significant role luxury EVs play. At a 2012 Silicon Valley Band of Angels lunch, he noted that in 10 years, “all the supercars will be electric or electric assisted.”

Eat Across America

James Beard-approved events and eateries have become more accessible than ever.

BY SHIRA LEVINE

Image by Ken Goodman

When it comes to America’s pioneering  chefs, most are familiar with Julia Child. Yet it was another great gastronome that first taught America how to cook on TV and penned cookbooks for aspiring foodies to obsess over. James Beard—the “Dean of American cookery” according to a 1954 New York Times piece—influenced the way Americans eat today, championing local markets and products long before it became de rigeur, opening a culinary school in his home, and nurturing many of our most well known chefs and cookbook authors.

The James Beard Foundation is headquartered in the West Village home where he lived during the last 15 years of his life. But today Beard’s legacy has spread even further, with the foundation’s stamp of approval appearing on eateries and events all across the U.S. Successfully determining a city’s tastiest epicurean experience can be a tricky dish, especially for new visitors. But “you can’t go wrong with a meal from James Beard award winners and nominees,” promises Susan Ungaro, who has served as the foundation’s president since 2006. “These are the best-of-the-best.

“We are the country’s best-kept secret, but we don’t want to be!” says Ungaro. “The James Beard Foundation Awards are the Oscars of the culinary world, but we’re open to the public! People don’t realize all of our events are accessible, and that they don’t only happen New York.”

In fact, the 2015 James Beard Awards will be held in Chicago, America’s “Tastiest City” long celebrated for its contribution to molecular gastronomy. The move marks the first time in a 24-year run that the annual fete will leave the Big Apple.

Ungaro’s goal is to bring as many James Beard events outside New York City as there are within it. These currently include nationwide Friends of Beard events, where chefs create something special on location at their Beard-approved restaurants, rather than making a pilgrimage to “perform” at the flagship. There’s also Taste America, the annual celebrity chef tour that visits 10 cities over five weekends from September 12 to October 25. “We showcase the talent of one city with a guest chef from another city,” says Ungaro. “These pairings are one-of-a-kind events for diners who want to try something completely unique. The linked chefs have never cooked together before, so they get try something new too.”

All this is not to detract from the delectable dining experiences dished out at the James Beard House, which essentially operates as a restaurant with different chefs and menus 200 days of the year. Enjoying a meal here is a full sensory experience that will make you feel like an utter insider. Guests get to walk through the bustling kitchen where “America’s first celebrity chef” once demonstrated how to roast chicken and hand-make pastas with Tom Brokaw and Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show. You can mill around the quaint backyard garden as you nosh on curious canapés, then head upstairs for the guest chef-of-the-night’s much-anticipated multi-course dining experience.

Image by Ken Goodman

Dinners often sell out and can be priced at up to $250 per person. But if you can’t make it in person, you’re in luck: “We just installed a Livestream kitchen camera so anyone can watch what the chefs are creating in the James Beard kitchen every night.” says Ungaro. “In fact, you can see more of the action than our seated guests!” (Chefs are graciously given the choice between a sound-on or sound-off camera, although so far only one chef has opted to mute.)

Ungaro credits America’s passion for reality food TV (and good fundraising) with much of the success of the foundation’s programming. “We’ve raised awareness about the joy of cooking and the art of cooking.”

 

It Bags

Winter ’14 handbag must-haves.

BY ELISE DIAMANTINI

Whether you’re looking for boho chic or tongue in cheek, this season’s trends range in style, silhouette and function.

Bag by Anteprima, image courtesy of WGSN

SCHOOL GIRL: Backpacks are… well… back, and you don’t have to be a student to carry one. While silhouettes are smaller than your typical knapsack, it’s also not the mini backpack you remember from the ’90s. Backpacks can be found in various fabrications for wherever you want to carry them: try an active-influenced sling in a nylon fabric for a stylish way to hit the yoga studio, or high-fashion quilted leather for a more upscale look. And if you can’t commit, convertible backpacks (those that can be either worn on the back or converted into a satchel) are trending too.

FESTIVAL FRINGE: Music festivals like Coachella have been a big source of fashion inspiration as of late. New York-based forecasting firm The Doneger Group has coined the trend “Frontier,” calling out festival-influenced saddlebags, pouches and anything with fringe. Fashion Snoops’ Laura Miller describes the trend as bohemian mixed with tribal influences. “We saw it on the runways from brands like Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch and Etro,” she adds.

Street style image courtesy of WGSN

BUCKET LIST: The drawstring bucket bag is reemerging for fall, making an important impact on the runways. “This is a nod to the ’70s trend, which is in full swing with a cleaned-up ‘mom’ look,” explains Jacqui Ma of trend-forecasting firm WGSN. Size doesn’t matter here either: go for a big “black hole” bucket or a smaller drawstring style.

SHOW US WHAT YA GOT: “Transparent materials continue to be strong, as people like to expose the inner contents of their bags,” explains Ma. This style leaves nothing to the imagination, so make sure to put the items you might not want to show the world inside a cosmetic case!

Bag by Anya Hindmarch, image courtesy of WGSN

PATTERN & PRINT: “The trend toward print and pattern on luxury bags has been led by Chanel. Painterly effects and hand-drawn styles add a new artist-casual feel to bags,” says Ma. Fashion Snoops’ Miller echoes this sentiment, noting that “billboard” bags featuring iconic graphics or even Fortune 500 company logos are trending on portfolio bags and totes.