© The Berkeley
Haute-cookies at the Berkeley hotel in London.
I’ll be blogging this week about discoveries from my recent eight-day trip to London. The city was buzzing with pop-up restaurant/design projects, ambitious new hotels and hip new British comfort food joints. One of my favorite finds was at the Berkeley hotel, which just introduced the fall/winter collection of its super-popular Prêt-à-Portea (the menu changes every six months to reflect the new fashion season). This haute-couture-inspired tea service features edible designs inspired by Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. Adorable confections include a Roger Vivier chocolate boot cookie, a Mulberry "Bayswater" white-chocolate-and-coconut-truffle "it" bag and a cinnamon Burberry Prorsum trench-coat cookie with a caramel belt and buttons. All are served on Paul Smith china alongside a proper cup of English tea.
The restaurant at the Crown Inn.
Superhip Brit designer Ilse Crawford is constantly innovating. Her latest obsession is reinventing the idea of the coaching inn, which offered travelers in the mid-17th century a place to eat and sleep. Last year I stayed at her first such property, the Olde Belle, outside of London in Hurley. And I just spent the weekend at her second, the Crown Inn, about 40 minutes outside London in Amersham. Crawford has modernized the bed-and-breakfast, combining a cozy place to spend the night with an enticing, comfortable restaurant that's perfect for having a cocktail or a superfresh, farm-to-table dinner. Imagine if New York City's Spotted Pig gastropub added rooms upstairs—that's basically the Crown. It features incredible design juxtaposing the modern (flat-screen TVs and funky white-fur throws for the rocking chairs) and the historic (Room 12 has a section of hand-painted wall dating back to the 1500s), with smart touches like Aesop body soaps and Welsh wool blankets. Rosie Sykes and chef Mark Bristow are in charge of the food and make a satisfying breakfast spread for guests that includes homemade breads and sesame-hazelnut granola, chocolate muffins, eggs and hash. The chalkboard dinner menu changes daily, and some regulars convinced me to try the hearty beef-and-ale pie with a pint of local hard cider. I'm hoping Crawford brings the concept to the U.S. next.
What can someone like me, a girl living in Queens, NY, possibly learn from a bunch of Park Avenue socialites with names like Muffie Potter Aston? A lot, I learned, after I read Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations
, a new book by New York Times
columnist Florence Fabrikant; it's a compilation of recipes and entertaining tips from some of the city’s most celebrated hostesses and members of The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
(proceeds from the book will go to the center). Here, a few surprisingly down-to-earth tips from high society that I'll actually adopt:
1. Be worldly—follow the Swedish tradition of eating birthday cake for breakfast on your birthday.
2. Drink a cocktail before party guests arrive—it'll loosen you up and make you a better hostess.
3. Be a gracious and unflappable hostess, unperturbed by spilled wine or a crying child. Note: See #2, which will help.
4. Lottery tickets make great place cards—that’s one way to make it to Park Avenue.
5. Note for next year: Hand out to-go wine cups for parents accompanying trick-or-treaters on Halloween.
© Courtesy of Frappe Inc. and the TV series Spain...On the Road Again / Eric Rhee
Scrounging for a last-minute Halloween costume? Get inspiration from some of our favorite chefs’ ensembles in F&W's "Dress Like a Chef" slideshow
, like Mario Batali's
now-iconic look: red wig pulled in a low ponytail, baggy shorts and his signature orange clogs from Crocs.