Perfect Gems for Fall 2012

ENJOY THE LITTLE LUXURIES THE WORLD HAS TO OFFER.

BY DONALD CHARLES RICHARDSON

A CHÂTEAU IN NORMANDY

At the end of a boulevard shaded with ancient trees, past clusters of huge roses in brilliant, almost illusory colors is the Château La Cheneviere. The grand three-story mansion, built in the 18th century, is set in the Normandy countryside, between the exquisite town of Bayeux and the historic beaches, in Port-en-Bessin. During WWII the residence was occupied by the Germans, then by the Americans after the June 1944 landing. Restored in 1988, the manor became a fully equipped hotel and restaurant, with a swimming pool, lovely terrace and beautiful views. Each guest room has a different décor, some with marble fireplaces, others with private patios. An intimate bar leads to a graceful dining room, where the brilliant chef uses local produce to present the distinctive and legendary dishes of Normandy.

STEP IN STYLE

Located in a small shop on New York City’s East Side, designer Barbara Barran’s Classic Rug Collection puts fashion underfoot with fascinating custom rugs. Her unique creations can be seen in very stylish homes all over the world, as well as the Whitney Museum, the Smithsonian, and other museum stores. Barran’s rugs, inspired by everything from Art Deco to traditional American quilts and her personal passion, Eastern art, are made of natural fibers including wool, silk, pashmina, hemp, linen, nettle and banana silk. She’s the only rug designer in the U.S. to offer hand-knotted rugs from Nepal in 300 knot silk. Go barefoot!

REST ASSURED

Hôtel Le Toiny is, if possible, even more fashionable and exclusive than the island of St. Barth’s itself. Set away from the throngs on a gently sloping hillside in the Côte Sauvage area, each of the 15 luxurious private villas has its own gated entrance and a red mailbox flag that serves as a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Inside, enjoy netting-draped four-poster mahogany beds, high-tech entertainment centers and kitchenettes. Outside, you’ll find private plunge pools and incredible views across the lush hills to a beach, popular with surfers. The sommelier has selected superb wines and the chef creates amazing dishes (including the hotel’s signature pasta in cream with black truffles). If you choose to stir from your villa, arrangements can be made for a sunset cruise or a fishing expedition.Or, you can just put up your flag, order the excellent room service, and hide out like the other privacy seeking celebrity guests.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE ART

Inspired by the celebrated French inn, Houston’s La Colombe d’Or hotel takes its muse seriously. This 1923 mansion, located near the museum district, owns an extensive art collection that includes Corot, Matisse and Chagall, as well as the 1715 panels, thought to be one of the finest examples of authentic French Regence décor in North America. When staying in one of the hotel’s rooms or villas (like the Cezanne Suite, pictured above), art- and food-loving guests can arrange to take a personal tour of the collection, then dine on Pan-seared Chilean Sea Bass or Stuffed Quail, (naturally paired with the appropriate wines) and Champagne sorbet, created by chef Jeramie Robison in the hotel’s famed Restaurant CINQ.

BUBBLES IN THE AIR

Pops for Champagne is one of Chicago’s most elegant nightclubs, presenting a Champagne list comprising nearly 200 selections. Beverage director W. Craig Cooper offers the lowdown on Champagne for the summer: “When the mercury rises, it is always better to select a drier Champagne. A higher dosage [sweetness level] in a sparkling wine can be cloying when the weather is warm and balmy….” Cooper suggests Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut. “Composed of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, this wine…is perhaps one of the best of all Champagnes to pair with oysters…but can go just as well with a simple summer crudité.” Here’s to a sparkling season!