THE WORLD’S BEST BEACH TOWN

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY]  — That’s right, this might be it. This is my favorite place to be in this world. About a half hour north of the Miami-like Punta del Este is a small peninsula that juts just right out into the ocean. Surrounded on three sides by beaches, Jose Ignacio is the definition of “rustic elegance”. A sleepy town most of the year, it may have the shortest high season on earth, lasting last just weeks and starting, exactly on the day after Christmas. Like locusts that all come out of the ground on a single day, on December 26th,

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THIS MAY BE THE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD (I’M NOT ALONE ON THIS..)

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY] — It’s 3pm, the day after Christmas. It’s 82 degrees and sunny, with a light breeze gently flapping the white canvas awnings, fanning the cool shade underneath. The place is packed, everyone’s knee-to-knee. Cool pitchers of Clerico — the local Uruguayan version of a white sangria — are flowing past above the heads of the crowd, headed toward an antsy, thirsty table. There’s a DJ tucked in the back, but affecting moods in the front; like the breeze, causing everyone to gently sway along with him in a cool, mellow vibe. The smell of woodsmoke wafts out onto

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A RESTAURANT LIT ONLY BY THE STARS, FIRE AND CANDLES

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY]  — I was reading in the New York Times about this sweet little under the radar beach town, in Uruguay of all places, and the picture at the top of the article had a photo of one of the most magical restaurants I’ve ever seen.  A restaurant out in the beach bush, sand floors, no roof, open to the stars. Lit only with with candles and fire. All the food, cooked with fire. It was called Marismo. The more I read about this town and about this restaurant, I knew I had to go. So I booked

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THE PERFECT LITTLE HOTEL, IN THE PERFECT LITTLE BEACH TOWN

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY] — The first time I tried to book a room, I got an email back from Jose, the owner, saying “There is no luxury in Jose Ignacio, the roads are unpaved, there is no ATM.  We are just a small place and also not a luxury hotel. There is no restaurant, no room service and no gym.”  That’s when I knew I had to go there. And I’ve been coming back ever since. Posada del Faro is one of my go-to places. I’ve been five times now and each time it is like coming back home. It’s a small place

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A LUXURY RESORT IN THE MIDST OF TALL PINES OF CARMELO URUGUAY

[CARMELO, URUGUAY] — I’m not a huge Four Seasons fan for international trips — I prefer more unique hotels that reflect the character of each locale — but in a pinch for a room at the last minute in Carmelo, I booked a couple of nights at the Four Seasons Carmelo in the heart of the prettiest part of Uruguay’s best wine region. Nestled in and under the towering, towering pine trees lining the Rio de la Plata, the trees themselves, and the lazy muddy la Plata are the stars, with a lot of five star cush to soften your

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STAY ON A CLASSIC VINEYARD IN URUGUAY’S WINE COUNTRY

[CARMELO, URUGUAY] — Along the cool banks of the muddy Rio de la Plata is the wine region of Carmelo, Uruguay’s top wine region. All the best Uruguayan vintners are here, including Finca Narbona. Restored to turn of the century newness, Narbona Wine Lodge is like a museum of the past, with antiques, buildings and charm that dates back over a century.  With only and handful of rooms nestled right up along the vines, you feel like you’re staying in a period movie. The rooms are huge. The service minimal. The quiet is deafening. What a great place to relax, eat

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STAY IN A MOVIE-SET-PERFECT GAUCHO TOWN IN THE COUNTRYSIDE OF URUGUAY

[PUEBLO GARZON, URUGUAY] — Pueblo Garzon is a one-horse….actually a 75 horse town in the rolling green estancia country of Uruguay’s Maldonado province. It’s a gorgeous 40 minute drive inland from the bohemian chic beach town of Jose Ignacio. The town was practically abandoned until famous Argentine chef Francis Mallmann bought a building and then nearly the whole town to create a movie-set perfect town and install another fine restaurant in his empire. Others, mostly friends, famous and wealthy, have followed, buying up abandoned buildings and creating summer houses, yet preserving the rustic gaucho character of the whole town. Speaking

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A GAUCHO FESTIVAL IN URUGUAY

[PUEBLO GARZON, URUGUAY] — It was the first of March. We wanted to take horses up for a picnic in the nearby Uruguayan highlands. But the extremely nice people at the Hotel Garzon apologized, but said in clipped-English,”I’m sorry but normally we accommodate your request, but today all the horses in town are taken for the parade.”  “What parade?” “Today is our Carnival, when all the gauchos come to town for a parade and then a festa out in the fields.”  “Perfect!.” As my brother Mike said once in New Orleans,”Just when you think you’re having fun…along comes a parade!”

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A REVISIT TO FRANCIS MALLMANN’S STUNNING GARZON HOTEL & RESTAURANT IN URUGUAY

[PUEBLO GAZON, URUGUAY] — Details. Details. Details. It’s all in the details. And famous Argentine chef Francis Mallmann’s hideout in the small, un-developed Pueblo Garzon is dripping with it. Imagine the perfect movie set or photo shoot where every single corner, nook and cranny exudes great thought and attention. Nothing is missed. Zoom in on any square meter and you have your shot. Not to mention the food. Oh boy, the food. Set about 40 minutes inland from the popular Bohemian Jetset town of Jose Ignacio the restaurant has been drawing carloads of gourmands to make the trek inland, past

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COOKING WITH FIRE IN JOSE IGNACIO

Each time I go back to either Argentina or Uruguay I’m amazed at the variety of methods they use with cooking with fire. We’re not talking about just wood fired grills or pizza ovens, but truly unique engineering feats to draw the best of wood, fire and iron.  The more I eat, the more I like. I’m going to start this file and keep updating with the different fire types I run across and from learning by seeing (and eating). JOSE IGNACIO — PARADOR LA HUELLA           JOSE IGNACIO — MARISMO   JOSE IGNACIO — LA SUSANA

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MY FAVORITE PLACE TO BE IN THIS WORLD

[JOSE IGNACIO, URUGUAY] — This is my FIFTH trip to this perfect little beach town, in the perfect little hotel — Posada del Faro. This last time in late February of 2014 where I finally dragged two couples that are my best friends and world travelers…and after years of hearing me yammering on and on about Jose Ignacio, they finally got to experience it firsthand. I think it’s a good sign that my friends Jim and Paula sent me this VRBO rental the week after we got back to start thinking about when we can go back again…and stay longer. I pretty much

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OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF URUGUAY’S ESTANCIAS, A JEWEL BOX

(Garzon, Uruguay) — About 40 or so miles inland from the surf of Jose Ignacio is a sleepy little town called Garzon.  There, in the middle of gaucho country and home to Uruguay’s famous grass-fed beef, Francis Mallmann (my favorite restauranteur in the world) has created a true destination place, El Garzon. I first ate at his famous restaurant Los Negros in Jose Ignacio several years ago and was immediately hit over the head with his incomprable design style, intense focus on every detail and his complete dedication to cooking with fire. Los Negros was built around a horno, a large

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