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An awesome place for sunset cocktails

(Lake Travis, Austin) — Seriously, almost every night, perfect sunsets. This is one money-maker, a ginormous restaurant on a hilltop overlooking the leaky Lake Travis outside Austin. The Oasis. Drinks are cold, lots of room, the drinks are better than the food. But well worth the jaw-dropping sunsets and the jaw-dropping size of this joint. It really is cool. Get their early, the sun drops fast.      

THIS IS THE BEST MARTINI I’VE EVER HAD

(MADRID) — Dry Cosmopolitan Bar, the cocktail bar from Javier de las Muelas.  I’d read about it when I was in Barcelona last Christmas, put spaced making it there. But this year in Madrid, I saw they’d opened an outpost there and heard it was the bomb for cocktails. It was eerie walking in, almost like “The Shining”, but instead of Lloyd, it was just me and Ricardo. Nobody else in the place. I heard it was packed, always, but maybe it was the holidays, lack of tourists or Spain’s economy. In any case, I had Ricardo all to myself to understand the mysteries of making the perfect martini. The man was a master, going into detail of each step, from “dee ice must be

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YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN MADRID

            MERCADO DE SAN MIGUEL — Just like the Boqueria in Barcelona, the Mercado de San Miguel is the perfect place to go back to several times to load up on the best tapas, wine and beer. You just walk from stall to stall, looking for what’s interesting, step up to the bar and eat.  Perfect if you’re with a group that can’t decide, everyone can find what they want and meet up at the common eating area. About as easy as it gets, but it can be jammed with people. Just be assertive. LA GABINOTECA — This was my favorite place to eat in Madrid. A very hip new place called La Gabinoteca. Truly a delightful place. When I

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THE COOLEST HOTEL IN CHICAGO

  (Chicago) — I”ve stayed now a half-dozen times at the Public hotel and it still ranks as one of my favorite places to stay in Chicago and certainly my favorite Ian Schrager hotel. One of the coolest lobby designs I’ve seen — that great combination of classic architecture and modern design — with good looking people as props. Come in at night and all the wealthy black-dressed Chicagoans are silhouetted against the perfectly lit white whiles. It’s almost an optical illusion. The rooms are really big, with huge windows and awesome amount of sunlight. Gigantic baths. Love the quiet stretch of upper State Parkway, quiet with gorgeous townhouses lining the blocks. And if you’re a Tablet Plus member, they’re really good about upgrading you

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A ROMANTIC HIDEAWAY ON THE WEST COAST OF TUSCANY

[PORTO ERCOLE, TUSCANY] — Il Pellicano is a world famous destination resort on the western Tuscan coast of Maremma. Just celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary, Il Pellicano is on the top of nearly every Gold List. It’s a Leading Hotels of the World hotel and is built around the Michelin two-star restaurant, which is indeed worth the trip. The views are stunning, overlooking the Argentario peninsula, not far from where the Costa Concordia tipped over. Really amazing service, where each and every person, from the waiter to the bartender, remembers what you ordered the last time. It’s expensive, but the room I got was one of the most spacious and perfectly appointed I’ve ever had, perfectly laid out, with an enormous bathroom and opened onto a terrace overlooking

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Great cups of coffee in New York

       

YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN FERNANDO DE NORONHA

[FERNANDO DE NORONHA, BRAZIL] — As a still developing tourist destination..and only 450 tourists allowed on the island a day… the restaurant scene on Fernando de Noronha still has some ways to go.  But there are some incredible standouts I tried. And am still thinking about. About the most dramatic is Merhulhao, right overlooking the harbor. Perfectly positioned to catch the full length of the island at sunset, you just can’t beat the view….maybe one of the best in the world. Clouds, currents, boats sailing in and out, awesome chill music, extremely nice young couple that runs it. Oh…and the food. Perfect, clean, simple seafood. Excellently prepared. Man, the energy of this place is just really remarkable.  And one of the coolest coffee preparations I’ve ever

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AN ENTIRE RESTAURANT TUCKED UNDER A 300 YEAR OLD TREE

(Sao Paulo) — Nicely tucked into the leafy Jardins neighborhood is the famous restaurant Figueira Rubaiyat, an outdoor restaurant set under about the biggest tree I’ve ever seen — a 300 year old fig tree. There must be seats for a couple hundred people underneath its limbs, with an ingenious glass canopy built under it all. I first noticed it while taking a short walk from the Fasano, right around the corner and instantly knew I had to come back. I was there over a Monday lunch, and as I sat there a host of SP’s business elite came to have long lunch meetings over grilled steak and some of the most attentive service I’ve seen at any restaurant….I take a dip of the appetizers

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A CHILL NEIGHBORHOOD IN BARCELONA

(BARCELONA) — El Born is a cool, quiet neighborhood away from the crazy crowds. Perfect for walking around, cool shops, mellow restaurants and beautiful streets.  There’s a great little square with four or five outdoor cafes, perfect to just sit and watch Barcelona go by.  Go here. Here’s a good article from The Guardian. Last visited July 2015      

COOKING WITH FIRE IN BUENOS AIRES

(Buenos Aires) — Continuing my pursuit of visiting all the restaurants of my favorite chef, Francis Mallmann, after an all-night flight, I had a five hour layover at the Buenos Aires airport.  I planned to take a car into the city to have lunch at his famous restaurant Patagonia Sur in BA’s colorful La Boca neighborhood, then head back to the airport. I asked my travel agent to make a reservation and when I got there they unlocked the door and let me in. There was no one there but the extremely nice waiter. I asked “Where is everybody?” and he replied: “We’re normally not open for lunch, but you had made a reservation so we opened up early for you.”  I think that’s a perfect

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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 clay oven, where nearly everything was cooked around the high temperature wood fire. He has since closed Los Negros, but I’ve sought out his other

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THIS MEAL CHANGED MY LIFE

[PRAIANO] —  A teeny little restaurant right on the water underneath the Onde Verde, we avoided it at first…just some bamboo and plastic chairs clinging to the rocks right on the water. It was one of the best meals all of us every had. While we were eating, a fisherman pulled his boat right up to the railing and whistled. The cook comes out of the kitchen and the dude hands over a few octopuses and a sea bass of some sort. Not a tourist in site. Doesn’t get any better than that. Simple stuff, like muscles. bruschetta and pasta. This was the first meal that made me realize the importance fresh ingredients can make in a dish. Before, I always thought “more was better”. But this meal taught me that

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THE PERFECT OLD SCHOOL BRASSERIE

(Paris) — Right on the north tip of Ile Saint-Louis are four restaurants all together. And to me, the Cafe St Regis is about as perfect of an incarnation of a classic brasseries. Subway tile, cool lights, snoof waiters, beer and big windows to watch Paris go by.  This is so perfect, it looks like Keith McNally made it. I’m sure they get a lot of tourists, but don’t act like one and they treat you right.  Here’s what all the cranks on Trip Advisor say. Tartare, please.         View Larger Map

A GREAT LITTLE CASUAL RESTAURANT ON THE LEFT BANK

(Paris) — My Francophile friend Rex turned me onto this great little hip place on Rue Christine, just blocks south of the Seine. Small, casual, affordable. Cool fork. Cool spoon. And some awesome bottles of wine-smoked sea salt on the tables. Simply named Le Christine. Very nice and patient service.  Check out this amazing smoked salt, Sel de Chateau.

THERE ARE MARKETS, THEN THERE IS BOROUGH MARKET

[London) — A perfect cloudy afternoon thing to do in London is to go walk among the stalls of Borough Market.  Tucked under a viaduct and carved out of various nooks and crannies, the Borough is just a great place to while away a morning, then head out to see other sites around central London. Go early and beat most of the crowds.  And make sure you check out Monmouth Coffee, some of the best coffee I’ve had.  The lines are long (for a reason) but their system moves you fast.  Grab a cup, have a walk ’round.    

SIMPLICITY DONE RIGHT

(London) — When you’re out and about in SoHo in London, look for these simple places. Fernandez & Wells. Nothing fancy, just a beautiful little shoebox of restaurants, with simple sandwiches and espresso. Dramatic simplicity at it’s best.

YOU SHOULD EAT HERE IN TRANCOSO

(Trancoso, Brazil) — What makes Trancoso special is not just the beauty of the beaches, the nice hotels and people, but also the great food. The whole town is built around the Quadrado, a long square in the center of town with a National Geographic-perfect colonial church at the end. The Quadrado is the center of the village’s activities and nice restaurants, galleries and shops line its periphery.  Each night, the town promenades around the oval road, so sitting at the tables is just fantastic people watching. My favorite restaurants are El Gordo, Restaurante Vitoria and Restaurant da Silvana. El Gordo, UXUA article in Vogue, here’s a great article on Trancoso restaurants by the website Brazil for Insiders by two beautiful journalists,        

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AMSTERDAM POSTCARDS

(Amsterdam) — I’d never been to Amsterdam before – not that interested in the coffeeshops and sex shops and drunken British lads. But after working like a fiend all year, I decided to make a Mileage Run over Thanksgiving, booking two weeks before and doing very little research. I jumped on a plane and just decided to wing it, knowing I just needed to get out of the country, fast. Icame for five days, but I was kinda done after three. It’s a small city. November is, I discovered, the absolute rainiest month in the year. No big deal, I was expecting that, I like going places when hoards of tourists aren’t there and get a chance to live like a resident. Living in New York taught me that. While everyone came in

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A great restaurant find in Trastevere

[ROME] — Trastevere is the cool part of Roma where Romans go. Chocked full with students and awesome, affordable restaurants, it’s where you want to head out for a stroll and some grub. Day or night. If you’re zigzaggin’ through Trastevere schtop into the most excellent Ristorante Paris, not 30m from the cathedral S. Maria in Trastevere (which is a cool church to duck into… or even pray, for chrissake). I’m cuckoo for carciofi. Oh man, just the mere mention of artichokes on the menu and my feathers get all fluttery… almost as if they said “lamb”.😳 If you’re in Rome from Feb-May that’s peak artichoke season and carciofi is on the menu nearly everywhere. Heaven. They specialize in Roman dishes throughout the seasons, but

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A CLIFFSIDE AMALFI COAST HOTEL, OVERLOOKING A FISHING VILLAGE

[PRAIANO, ITALY] — Two villages down from Positano is a small little hillside village called Praiano. Clinging between the cliff and the roadway, it is like a suburb of Positano — once removed, quiet and friendly. And zero tourists. What few hotels there are cheaper. It’s a great place to stay away from the touristy Positano. You can shoot in a cab, your car or take a water taxi that comes by fairly regularly. Not that many people know the secret that is Praiano. Just 20 minutes around the corner from Positano, past the ritzy San Pietro hotel, is this little village, also perched on a hill. (Aren’t they all in Amalfi?) If you want to be close to the action in Positano but away from the crowds, this is your

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