© Conrad Hotels
A suite under the sea.
Six years ago, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort could lay claim to the hottest table in the Maldives when it opened Ithaa, a restaurant 16 feet below sea level. If dining inside what is virtually an aquarium isn’t cool enough, the resort is now giving guests the option to sleep with the fishes in its new Ithaa Underwater Suite. The all-glass suite can only be booked for one night at a time, and guests can get everything from room service to a massage upon request.
The Vancouver suburb of Richmond is home to the Olympic Oval, the speed-skating venue, but it’s also where you’ll find the Golden Village: an intensely concentrated taste of Northern China. Here, some of Richmond’s best modern-Asian restaurants:Cattle Café:
Dishes at this Hong Kong
–style café range from the tame (noodle soups with king mushrooms and sliced brisket) to the adventurous (BBQ-eel sandwiches and spicy pig ears). 1020-8580 Alexandra Rd.; 604-276-2800 or cattlecafe.ca.
This Taiwanese bistro offers lots of fun things to eat, like deftly fried, delicately seasoned chicken nuggets. The fresh-taro-root bubble tea is creamy and tasty. Unit 170-4811, Hazelbridge Way; 604-278-7268 or welltea.ca.Gyo-O:
The specialty here is fresh fish on warm seasoned rice (the tuna with negi sauce is particularly great). For dessert, the house-made macaroons are presented as the Olympic rings in blueberry, chocolate, green tea, maple and strawberry flavors. 2137-3779 Sexsmith Rd.; 604-295-4072 or gyo-o.com.
Fisherman’s Terrace Restaurant: The focus here is big-ticket seafood, like local geoduck prepared two ways: sashimi-style, and lightly battered and stir-fried with loads of garlic, jalapeños and green onion. 3580-4151 Hazelbridge Way, 604-303-9739.
After a week of snowboarding in the Alps, I splurged with a side trip to the Dolder Grand Hotel. This storied property set on a hill just outside the center of Zurich closed in 2004 to undergo a massive renovation and reinvention by star British architect Norman Foster. Now a sleek, futuristic new modern wing wraps around the spired, chateau-like 19th-century building. The result should be the blueprint for all projects melding old and new.
My favorite new addition is the 40,000-plus-square-foot spa within the modern wing. Here, the most outrageous highlights:
* The two enormous spa suites with mother-of-pearl walls, fireplaces and even mud baths.
* Sunaburos, Japanese-inspired “pebble loungers”: basically deep, egg-shaped tubs filled with smooth, warm pebbles that release muscle tension.
* The ”snow paradise” chamber, a superchilly room with a snow-covered floor and ice formations.
* An indoor, infinity-edge swimming pool with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mountains. The outdoor hot tubs (for those brave enough to run out into the cold, or in my case, a mini-blizzard) have the same killer views.
* The spa café, tucked into a white room with oversize flowers painted on the walls, is probably fabulous, but I held out for dinner at the Dolder’s excellent, Michelin-star restaurant. The meal probably canceled out my day of detoxing, but it was well worth it.
With more than 300,000 visitors expected to hit the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver
, finding a good meal will be its own competitive sport. Here’s a cheat sheet to some local favorites:
Gyoza King: Local chefs come to this hole-in-the-wall izakaya for buttery local mushrooms and monkfish livers with ponzu sauce. Star chef (and F&W Contributing Editor) Jean-Georges Vongerichten likes to stop by when he’s in town checking in on Market, his new restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel. 1508 Robson St.; 604-669-8278.
PAJO's at the Wharf: This decades-old floating seafood shack in Steveston serves deep-fried local cod, salmon and halibut in paper cones, with sides of killer slaw, tartar sauce and fresh-cut fries. If clouds were tender fish, battered and dunked in hot oil, they’d taste like those at Pajo’s. 12351 Third Ave., Steveston; 604-272-1588 or pajos.com.
Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie: The German-born chocolatier worked with Daniel Boulud in New York City and now creates handmade chocolates, spicy hot chocolate and ethereal almond croissants at his two cafés: one in North Vancouver, and a brand new spot in Kitsilano, right beside his old boss’s new restaurants, DB Bistro Moderne and Lumiere. 998 Harbourside Dr., North Vancouver; 604-924-1847; 2539 W. Broadway, Kitsilano; 604-736-1848 or thomashaas.com.
Vera’s Burger Shack: A local institution since its days as a beach concession (circa 1977), today Vera’s has 13 locations serving made-to-order burgers (classic or organic beef, chicken, veggie, lamb or turkey) with its famous secret sauce. Order burgers from the Denman St. location to go for a seawall picnic. 1181 Denman St.; 604-681-5450 or verasburgershack.com.
© Jen Murphy
Montjola serves the biggest Wiener schnitzel in St. Anton.
St. Anton am Arlberg is one of those places where traditional, family-run restaurants often rival the brand new spots. My friends and I sampled the local haunts and the recently opened. Here, a run down:
Last summer, local hero and two-time world slalom champion Matt Mario bought the legendary
Krazy Kanguruh bar and gave it a major renovation, including the addition of a large terrace; expect a young crowd, with lots of dancing and potent homemade schnapps.
Located at the top of the Galzigbahn, the resort’s futuristic-looking new gondola, Verwall Stube is Europe’s highest-altitude restaurant (at more than 6,500 feet) and also one of the chicest and priciest in St. Anton; known for its superb fish dishes, including a fantastic bouillabaisse.
What was once The Underground reopened a few seasons ago as Underground on the Piste, next to the Ski Museum (which also has a great restaurant). This tiny chalet has live music, excellent fondue and charcuterie and a superfun staff (one of our servers ran out dancing in a Mexican wrestling mask and the owner even joined in our impromptu dancing in the dining room).
A meal at Seitenblick, which opened in December next to the ferris wheel–like cable car at the base of the mountain, was my favorite of the trip. The restaurant serves updated takes on traditional Austrian fare and the best kaiserschmarrn (a dessert of chopped up pancakes topped with powdered sugar and apples) in town.
The Montjola hotel and restaurant is a steep uphill hike from the main street, but you’ll need the extra exercise if you’re thinking of ordering the Paul Bunyan–size Wiener schnitzel (they claim to serve the town’s largest schnitzel).
One can only eat so much schnitzel and fondue, so I was thrilled to find delicious thin-crust pizza and addictive, cheesy garlic bread at the low-key restaurant Pomodoro, and delicious, inexpensive tapas like bacon-wrapped dates and dangerously good sangria at Bodega Tapas & Vino.
© Jen Murphy
Cocktails at the Drinks Company in St. Anton am Arlberg.
Amid the wooden chalets, ski and snowboard shops and fabulous artisanal food stores on the main street of St. Anton am Arlberg is a window showcasing glowing neon liquids in all sizes of bottles. What looks like a futuristic mad scientist's laboratory is actually a shop, called the Drinks Company. With roots in one of the oldest Tyrolean herbal distilleries, it works with herb farmers and specialized mountain farmers who supply the ingredients for excellent herbal elixirs, brandies, schnapps and grappas. Each beverage is stored in a gorgeous, beaker-like glass vessels, and customers can taste samples of Alpine Herbs Root Spirit, Farmer Fruit Brandy and even pre-made caipirinhas. Once you find your favorite, you pick a bottle to fill with your drink of choice and take it to go.
© Kristin Donnelly
A riff on a hot toddy at High West Distillery in Park City, Utah.
I’m not really a skier but I always love the après party—which, as my coworker Jen Murphy mentioned in her envy-inducing posts about a recent trip to Austria, is more popular in Europe than in the U.S. David Perkins, founder of the High West Distillery in Park City, Utah, is trying to change that. On Saturdays, in the cozy new saloon next to his copper stills, he’s serving hot late-afternoon cocktails to skiers fresh off the slopes while a local bluegrass band plays. I popped into High West while I was out in Utah last month and loved the Rock n’ Rye. Made with freshly muddled oranges and lemons, hot water and High West’s Rendezvous Rye, it’s essentially a riff on a hot toddy with a cute little addition: a rock-candy stick so drinkers can sweeten it to taste. After finishing the drink, I couldn’t decide what surprised me more: that I got this lovely, warming buzz hassle-free in Utah (read more about that here) or that I briefly considered taking up skiing.
© tourist office St. Anton am Arlberg
Fearless rodelers in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria.
After six epic days in the Austrian Alps, I must admit that the highlight involved a sled, not a snowboard. In St. Anton am Arlberg, children and adults alike partake in rodeling (what we know as sledding in the States). One brilliant restaurateur (apparently with no fears of liability) decided to set a restaurant called the Rodel Alm mid-mountain. Adventurous diners take their toboggans up the gondola, sled down the steep, barely lit hill and stop for dinner at this supercozy Tyrolean restaurant with live Tyrolean music and enormous portions of pig’s knuckle (schweinshaxe) with honey-infused sauerkraut, spinach spaetzle and kaiserschmarren (chopped up pancakes topped with warm apples and powdered sugar—a favorite of Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn). Of course dinner is accompanied by fantastic wines and a shot or two of schnapps (we opted for hazelnut) to keep rodelers warm on the 2.7-mile ride back down the mountain. At the bottom, a little hut with a bonfire outside awaits. Locals cheer on the rodelers, passing out celebratory glühwein (mulled wine) and beers. They then dare you to ride a tiny, circular tray down a nearby hill to see who can get the most air off of a jump. Our friend Stefan became a local legend that night, setting a new tray-sledding record.
© Hospiz Alm
The cellar at Hospiz Alm is reached by slide.
In Austria the fun starts long before après-ski, as people break for leisurely two-hour lunches at excellent on-mountain restaurants. My favorite find was a rustic, ski-in, ski-out chalet in the tiny hamlet of St. Christoph called Hospiz Alm
I knew we were in for a surprise when I saw a Godzilla-size, blow-up bottle of Dom Pérignon marking the turn downhill to the restaurant. Waiters wearing lederhosen and wooden bow ties serve chef Gunnar Huhn’s hearty dishes like Tyrolean potato soup with smoked bacon rinds and croutons and braised oxtail with fried butter dumplings and pommes frites
. The restaurant claims that its Bordeaux-heavy cellar holds the world’s biggest collection of large format bottles. I was certainly impressed by the variety of rare vintage magnums and jeroboams, but even cooler was the spiral slide that takes guests down to the cellar.
© Jen Murphy
The après-ski party at Mooserwirt.
Dining at American ski resorts has undergone a radical transformation over the last few years, but Europeans still one-up Americans when it comes to post-ski indulgence. I’ve just come back from a week of snowboarding in St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria. The charming Tyrolean village is considered the birthplace of modern skiing and is also arguably Europe’s best après-ski destination. I’ll be blogging this week about my adventures.
Adventure One: The legendary Mooserwirt bar claims to sell more beer per square meter than anyplace else in Austria. As skiers come down the slopes around 4 p.m. they stop off to dance on picnic tables to techno-versions of "Sweet Carolina" and "YMCA" and warm up with Jägertee (black tea spiked with rum, schnapps, sugar and sometimes a bit of lemon) or my new personal favorite, Heiße Witwe, a warm plum liqueur with cream and cinnamon. Wilder than the dancing is watching tipsy partiers try to ski home down the mountain in the dark.