Life's a Beach
Beach House Bal Harbor hotel in Surfside, Florida, feels like an overgrown summer cottage, from the rambling porch to the casual menus by Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate fame (877-RUBELLS).
For her ceramics boutique in West Hollywood, California, 29-year-old Hilary Stern, scours Italy for artisans who make majolica and even commissioned her own "Querciata" design ($285 for a five-piece set; 323-655-2074).
Scents & Sensibility
Cooking oils from Wild Things are scented with mood-enhancing aromatics. Marjoram relaxes; aphrodisiacs like ginger and black pepper make the kitchen more romantic ($19.95 for 6 ounces; 310-657-2310).
Menus divided into Appetizers and Entrées are out; that's way too limiting. Earth & Ocean in Seattle splits its offerings into, well, Earth and Ocean; Gordon's House of Fine Eats in San Francisco organizes its dishes into Comfort, Luxury, Healthful and Local Favorites; and Manhattan's Café Boulud has La Tradition, La Saison, Le Potager and Le Voyage. (For details, see Index.)
Scoring a seat at Yountville, California's French Laundry can take months. While you wait, try making Thomas Keller's rarefied cuisine at home with The French Laundry Cookbook ($50; Artisan).