© Jen Murphy
The bar at Cervo.
Zermatt’s fabulousness comes at a cost. It’s one of the most pricey ski towns I’ve been to. Since I have yet to win the lottery, I didn’t stay in any of Zermatt’s fabulously glitzy new hotels. My friends and I instead rented a great apartment
owned by one of Zermatt’s top mountain guides, Gianni Mazzone
. We scoped the hotel scene by après-ski eating and drinking at the bars. For those who want to splurge, here are some swank spots to stay.
Swiss-German film director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace
) is a co-proprietor of this chic new 23-room chalet just up the hill from the main town at the foot of the Matterhorn. His mark on the property: a permanent photo exhibition of his movie productions and a master suite named after him. Interior designer and co-owner Betty Summermatter is responsible for the rest of the cool design touches, like deer-head decorations made of silver, and oversized tubs.Cervo
Five stylish wood-and-stone chalets make up this swank new hotel on the Sunnegga side of the mountain. Seraina Müller runs the excellent restaurant and cooks Provençal-inspired dishes like côte de boeuf. There’s a great après scene: The outdoor, downstairs bar overlooking the slopes is rowdier, while the upstairs deck with its fireplace and blankets is quiet and cozy. Indoors the bar has deer antlers dangling from the ceiling and a huge wall showing off an impressive collection of magnums. Hotel Firefly
A short walk from the Klein Matterhorn ski lift, Firefly’s 15 suites are each themed after one of the elements (water, fire, earth and wind) and decked out with PlayStation 3 and chairs made by the Swiss wood artist Spoon
. Many a night we found ourselves hanging at the hotel’s Bar 55, which has billiards, foosball and a great cocktail list.
© Jen Murphy
Stunning views from Chalet Etoile.
On my recent ski trip to Zermatt, our days were largely planned around where we’d be eating lunch on the slopes. A separate ski pass allowed us to cross the border into Italy, where we could ski around the resort of Cervinia. Everyone in town told us to call ahead and make reservations for Chalet Etoile, located on a blue run above Plan Maison. The bombshell Swedish chef, Ulla di Frassy, and her Italian husband ride up the mountains on snowmobiles at 5 a.m. each morning to start prepping for the lunch crowds. The always-changing, rustic Italian menu featured outstanding specials like grilled lobster and spaghetti, a dish of three grilled meats (mountain goat included), Flintstones-size spareribs and a lovely artichoke pappardelle. If the sun is out, the large deck has spectacular mountain views, and speakers blare Abba songs. The warm Bombardino drink doubles as dessert and is deceptively potent: a mix of advocaat—a creamy yellow liqueur made from egg yolks, sugar, brandy and vanilla—and whiskey. I probably would have gone for the towering tiramisù instead, had I known our waitress was going to give us extra-large shots of Etoile’s homemade grappa as a parting gift to keep us warm on our trip back to Switzerland.
© Jen Murphy
The mille-feuille at Zum See.
There are two things I love about skiing in Europe: One, the sheer size of the mountains and endless possibilities for going off-piste. Two, the Europeans’ leisurely on-mountain afternoons which include a two-hour lunch and, if the sun’s out, sunbathing in lounge chairs on the deck. I recently got back from an outrageously delicious week in Zermatt, Switzerland, where I ate at some of the world’s top slope-side restaurants. Here, some of our best meals from the slopes:
Zum See Midway down the slope from Furi to Zermatt is a blue sign for this 70-seat restaurant that’s been run for more than 20 years by Max and Greti Mennig. Their son Markus and his girlfriend Marion are often there, bringing out food from the tiny kitchen. A cord has been strung above the tables so skiers can hang their helmets while they eat Swiss beef carpaccio, calf’s liver rösti or homemade pastas. Greti is responsible for the Italian- and French-focused wine list, and Markus makes the restaurant’s popular mille-feuille, a decadent puff pastry layered with cream (It's so good that many skiers stop in just for a slice).
Bergrestaurant Blatten Located just a bit farther down the slope from Zum See, this tiny restaurant in a charming wooden chalet is a favorite amongst the local mountain guides. The husband-and-wife owners met while summiting the Matterhorn, and their kids help run the place. The wild mushroom soup in a puff pastry shell is a must-order.
Chez Vrony This farmhouse-turned-restaurant is run by the parents of the quirky artist Heinz Julen, and is located on the Sunnegga side of the mountain. Not only does the family make its own sausages and cheeses, but they also raise, slaughter and butcher their own grass-fed cattle. All of the risotto dishes are ridiculously good, particularly one studded with cèpes and white truffle shavings.
Adler Hitta Also on the Sunnegga side of the mountain, this restaurant may have the most spectacular views of the Matterhorn from its deck. We ended up here twice for lunch. A large oven had a spit roasting chickens for a special one day, and my friends got a kick out of the “pasta for men” dish which was a simple spaghetti with pepperoni, salt and pepper and olive oil.
My favorite slope-side lunch required us to ski over to Italy, which we did twice because the food was so good. More on that tomorrow.
© Jen Murphy
Baho, a local Nicaraguan dish, from Aqua.
On my recent trip to Nicaragua, I spent two days at a brand new beachfront, eco-treehouse villa retreat called Aqua. A little more than 30 miles north of the Costa Rican border or an adventurous 90-minute drive south from Granada (partly along a bumpy dirt road with feral pigs and cows dashing out into the road), Aqua is tucked away in the small village of Tola and is a yoga-foodie-surfer paradise. My treehouse villa had a super-luxe kitchen with a Bosch fridge and a wine fridge, plus a mini plunge pool on the deck looking down to the ocean. Top yoga instructors teach class on the huge yoga deck overlooking the beach and world-class waves are just one beach away for surfing. Aqua’s mission is sustainability. Juan, one of the local staff, took me on a spectacular three-hour nature hike up overlooking the nearby surfing beaches.
Much of the hotel's produce is sourced from a farm nearby Ometepe Island and there is talk of organizing sustainable cooking classes led by guest chefs from the States. There was a yoga retreat at the resort during my visit and I felt a blt guilty to be indulging in the organic Nica coffee, local brews and the incredible food like a local dish called Baho (orange-and-lime marinated carne, yucca and plantain steamed in banana leaf) while the yogis were spending the week eating vegan and even fasting some days.
A new spa and more treehouse villas are in the works for later this year. There’s also a huge golf resort, a paved road and an airport in Tola’s future. I’m guessing the secret about Aqua and this idyllic beach town in Nicaragua will soon be high on people’s travel radar.
© Jen Murphy
Hawkers sell bags of mustard and fermented veggies at Granada's Sunday market.
En route from my eco-island adventure
to a beachy tree-house paradise
(more on that Monday), I had a chance to spend a Sunday afternoon wandering Nicaragua’s colorful, historic town Granada. I was told I had to stop in at The Garden Café for breakfast and to order the chompipe—egg, cheese, turkey, tomato and avocado on a flaky, buttery croissant—but it was sadly closed on Sundays. Instead I was directed to El Zaguán, which I was told served the best steak in town, if not all of Nicaragua. Huge cuts of local beef and guapote (a bass caught in Lake Nicaragua) were being cooked on a big, open grill while dueling mariachi bands played in a corner. I didn’t expect to find great steak in Nicaragua, but my filete churrasco was excellent. The upside of being in town on a Sunday is that the market—a mishmash of produce and items that looked like they belonged in a convenience store or thrift market—was packed with locals, and people were idling around in the town square. I got a kick out of all of the locals drinking from small plastic bags that looked like they should contain a pet goldfish. Apparently, juices (and, as one local informed me, moonshine) are sold in plastic baggies, and you just pop a straw in and drink. At the market, the baggies also held everything from homemade mustard and salsa to chile peppers and pickled vegetables.
© Jen Murphy
Jicaro overlooks Nicaragua's Mombacho Volcano.
I try to start every year with an exotic, off-the-beaten-path solo vacation. My requirements: beach, decent surf, nature, a good local beer and supersimple, fresh food. On a late-night whim, I booked a flight to Nicaragua and mapped out an exciting four-day adventure. My friends cracked jokes about being on the lookout for Sandinistas, but we’re no longer in the 80s. Nicaragua in 2011 is all about fabulous, luxe ecolodges, unspoiled nature and… yoga (who knew!). I spent my first two nights at the new Jicaro Ecolodge
set on a tiny island in Lake Nicaragua. Each of its nine suites has a deck that overlooks the lake (I ended each night there on my oversized hammock with a cold Toña, the local pilsner). There are more than 300 islands in Lake Nicaragua, and in the morning, Fabian, the resident naturalist, took me on a sunrise kayak tour pointing out the various herons and egrets and parrots hiding in the trees. The local fisherman we passed often supply Jicaro’s restaurant with their day’s catch; the restaurant makes a point of using as much local produce as possible. Meals are served al fresco overlooking the water and highlights included shrimp tacos, seared lake fish over cauliflower puree, bananas Foster pancakes with Flor de Caña rum and mocha bread pudding made with organic local coffee. Everything on the menu is available in half portions, which meant I could try more local dishes. Roberto, another local staffer, seemed to read my mind. While I lounged by the infinity pool, he’d appear with a cookie as a midday treat or would bring me red bean hummus and vegetables to snack on just as I was getting hungry. Jicaro often hosts yoga retreats with teachers like guru Cyndi Lee, but can also schedule private lessons on the spectacular yoga deck with local instructors from Pure
in Granada. My instructor, Warren, gave me his cheat sheet for what to scope out in Granada on a Sunday. I'll post more on that tomorrow.
© Nigel Parry
Roy Choi's Kogi truck will serve late night tacos at Sundance.
Boy do I wish I were a Park City, Utah, restaurant critic. Or a celebrity with a new film to promote right now. Last week we heard Michael Voltaggio
would be cooking at the Sundance Film Festival
. And now, here come my heros on L.A.'s Kogi taco truck
, too. The truck will be at the Lift in Park City for two nights serving its exceptional tacos, like short rib, spicy pork, chicken and tofu. While Voltaggio is cooking breakfast and lunch, Kogi will make sure that all the late-night eaters are covered, too.
© Jen Murphy
Breakfast of Champions: Chipirones and Cava at El Quim, Barcelona.
In the December issue of Food & Wine, the editors share the most amazing restaurant dishes they tasted in America this year. I had an epic year of globe-trotting and I’ve combed through my notes to recall the most memorable and satisfying things I ate in 2010, both at home and abroad. One thing is certain: I ate extremely well. Here, my favorites:
1. Sea bass in singha broth— a savory reduction of crab and shrimp—accompanied by a tiny copper pot of paella from brilliant young chef Virgilio Martinez at Central in Lima, Peru.
2. Wild hare confit beneath a supersavory reduction sauce enriched with rabbit blood from the distractingly handsome Torres brothers at Dos Cielos in Barcelona.
3. The mozzarella sticks from Torrisi Italian Specialties’ stand at NYC’s San Gennaro festival.
4. The Grains, Seeds, Nuts dish topped with sultana grapes and an amaranth veil and served with a sunflower broth from Curtis Duffy at Avenues in Chicago.
5. Charred leeks, hazelnuts and milk skin prepared by genius chef Nuno Mendes at Viajante in London. (Read more about Mendes in our January issue.)
6. Chipirones a la plancha with olive oil, topped with a fried egg and best paired with endless glasses of cava and a side of fried artichokes, at El Quim de la Boqueria in Barcelona.
7. Kataifi-wrapped langoustines with uchiki kuri squash, pumpkin seed oil and pickled pear from Barbara Lynch prodigy Colin Lynch at Menton in Boston.
8. Cinnamon mille-feuille and cardamom marshmallow with burnt honey ice cream at Commonwealth in San Francisco.
9. The haute version of the middle-class German dish Senfei from Reinstoff in Berlin. Chef Daniel Achilles takes a quail’s egg pickled in Dijon, lightly coats it in a sugar Bautz’ner mustard caramel, and serves it on a savory beet macaroon filled with a smoky blood pudding cream.
10. Lime and chili-cured red snapper with cucumber jelly (almost like a Burmese ceviche) from Burmese chef Bawmra Jap at Bomra’s in Goa, India.
11. The pork buns from Cantina, the hidden restaurant behind Bar Tausend in Berlin, which rivaled even David Chang’s version at NYC’s Ssäm Bar.
Over the last few years, the generic hotel gift shop has been rethought into a super-curated retail experience. Now, hotel guests can buy Kelly Wearstler–designed pieces in the Viceroy Miami’s store, Opening Ceremony in the Ace New York and even surfboards at the new Waikiki Edition.
Now, the Surrey hotel on NYC’s Upper East Side has partnered with Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi to exclusively showcase her newest collection of jewelry. The Padma Collection’s Fall/Winter 2010 line was inspired by Padma’s global travels. Guests can purchase pieces, which are on display in a grand armoire in the lobby, directly through the hotel concierge through March 2011.