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Ray's and Stark Bar, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, March 11 07:17 PM

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Los Angeles
has its fair share of beautiful people. So it makes sense that one of the city's top museums would want to put that beauty on display. Enter Ray's and Stark Bar, the newest addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, named for Ray Stark, the late film producer and former LACMA trustee.

Ray's glass-box design, by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, makes people the exhibit. Outside, museumgoers observe diners noshing on seasonal Mediterranean fare prepared by chef Kris Morningstar (formerly of District and Mercantile). Inside, diners survey museumgoers frolicking in Chris Burden's famous lamp-post installation, Urban Light. The open-air Stark Bar offers similar people-watching opportunities as well as market-fresh cocktails. Just don't overdo it and make an exhibition of yourself.

Photo: Courtesy of Dustin Downing

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, February 25 04:54 PM

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The hottest ticket in England these days isn't the royal wedding, it's scoring a table at Dinner. The new restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is the first London outing of Heston Blumenthal, the patron saint of modern British cooking.

A departure from the mad scientist fare at The Fat Duck, Blumenthal's three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Berkshire, Dinner aims to resurrect centuries of British food tradition with dishes such as turkey pudding with cockscomb and rice and flesh. The elegant dining room has playful touches, such as porcelain sconces in the shape of antique jelly molds and a wall of 16th-century British cookbook prints that appear and disappear, depending on the light. Just the kind of magic that will keep them coming back for ages.

Tambo del Inka Resort and Spa, Peru

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, February 23 11:27 AM

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The new Tambo del Inka Resort & Spa is an eco-friendly property built in glass and stone that sits beside the Vilcanota River in Peru's Urubamba Valley. The 128-room complex centers on a gorgeous two-pool spa, an ideal place to relax after hiking or cycling the quinoa-covered grounds or a day trip up to Machu Picchu on the recently opened Urubamba train line.

While you're in Peru...

Eat here:
Malabar
Malabar is Peru's first outlet for haute Amazonian cuisine, served amid brightly colored furniture and a riot of artwork. Though many of the jungle's creatures, fruits, and vegetables take the form of street food in their native habitat, at this Lima restaurant chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino creates soufflés (hearts of palm), purées (yuca), and vinaigrettes (the applelike cocona).

Climb here:
Machu Picchu
The 2011 centennial of Hiram Bingham's rediscovery of the mysterious Incan ruins promises to attract bigger crowds than ever. One of the most rewarding ways to sidestep the hordes is to trek along the fabled Inca Trail. On the last morning you reach Machu Picchu's Sun Gate by sunrise, after which you can expect a tourist-free couple of hours before the buses start to roll in.

Photo: Courtesy of Tambo del Inka Resort and Spa

The Sebastian, Vail, Colorado

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, February 17 04:32 PM

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The Sebastian (formerly the Vail Plaza Hotel & Club) is perfectly placed if you're all about the après-ski rather than the slopes. The hotel, which sits at the gateway to Vail Village, reopened in January 2011 with 107 plush rooms, a spa, and valets for everything (so you can avoid schlepping a single piece of gear). In the restaurant, Block 16, chef Sergio Howland marries Maine lobster with braised veal cheeks, but you might be more interested to hear that the hotel bar has one of the largest Scotch collections in the Colorado Rockies.

And while you're there--

Eat here:
Atwater on Gore Creek
Chef Adam Votaw's clubby dining room overlooking a slope-side stream specializes in savory meat and seafood crowd-pleasers, such as soy-glazed beef short ribs and mustard-crusted diver scallops. Leave room for dessert: Pastry chef Felicia Jablonksi adds a scoop of house-made fig ice cream to the sticky toffee pudding and pairs coconut sorbet with the flourless chocolate cake.

Play here:
Adventure Ridge
If riding a bike over the snow and through the treesat night, with only a headlamp illuminating the path aheadis your kind of thing, then head straight for Adventure Ridge. This adrenaline junkie's dream at the top of Vail Mountain is actually pretty child-friendly, too, with a long, multilane tubing hill, trampolines with bungee harnesses, and pint-size snowmobiles for kids ages 6 to 12.

The Dandelion, Philadelphia

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, February 11 04:15 PM

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The Beatles. Deep-fried candy bars. Colin Firth. Our neighbors across the pond have given us many gifts over the years. But this weekend, we're giving thanks for Britain's greatest export, the gastropub.

Philadelphia now has one to call its very own, courtesy of Stephen Starr's the Dandelion. This new watering hole hits all of the haute-pub highlights: cask ales, creative takes on hearty Brit classics (rabbit pie with cipollini onions, oyster mushrooms, and grain mustard), and hangover-curing morning fry-ups. The interiors feel lived-in, with two carved wooden bars, tartan-covered stools, and a mishmash of quirky ephemeraceramic dogs, souvenir plates, a life-size plastic cow. In other words, it's exactly the kind of place you'd raise a pint to.

Ember Room, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, February 08 04:05 PM

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If your tastes tend toward the bold in flavor and decor, then Ember Room, an American-Asian barbecue restaurant that has just opened in New York City's Hell's Kitchen, will feed your desires.

Chefs Ian Chalermkittichai and Todd English collaborate on dishes that pack a punch: chocolate baby back ribs, red miso bamboo-roasted black cod, and Berkshire pulled-pork burgers. And designer Roy Nachum's sultry surroundingswalls decorated with Chinese characters, ceilings covered in tiny Thai bellsare bathed in a deep, golden light, like, well, burning embers. But the focal point is the open kitchen, equipped with a clay-brick and volcanic-rock oven, where chefs wok, roast, and grill for your viewing (and tasting) pleasure.

Minimalist, this is not.

Atelier Crenn, San Francisco

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, January 20 01:36 PM

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When you think of France, do food, art, and perhaps poetry spring to mind? If so, Atelier Crenn, Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn's new restaurant, which opens tomorrow in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood, is likely to transport you there.

Crenn, who is originally from Versailles, sees plates as blank canvases on which she attempts to remind the diner where the food comes from: Many of the ingredients on her seasonal, modern French menu come from Gouge Eye Farm, a small holding near Sacramento. Winter dishes include slow-cooked eggs, chanterelles à la grecque with wild nettle, and trout fumé served with rose, horseradish, and crispy fennel--but don't be surprised if soil or river stones are incorporated into your dining experience to connect your dish back to its source.

The paintings on Atelier Crenn's walls are by the chef's late father. And the poetry? Crenn is inspired by verse and composes a poem before writing her menus. It seems that she aims to feed the soul as well as the stomach.

Photo: Courtesy of Ron Armstrong

Aburiya Toranoko, Los Angeles

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, January 20 11:42 AM

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Here are two words for those of you who are guilty of ordering the same old dish at the same old restaurant month after month: Aburiya Toranoko. Go there, order the shiokara-marinated intestines, and open your palate to a whole new set of sensations. Good ones, we hasten to add.

Aburiya Toranoko, opening tomorrow in downtown L.A.'s Little Tokyo, is the latest offering from Michael Cardenas, who also owns the Lazy Ox Canteen next door. Alongside those intestines, you might also like the miso-marinated beef tongue. But don't worry, there are plenty of play-it-safe dishes on the menu, too, from sumiyaki to sushi--all expertly created by former Nobu Matsuhisa chefs.

As you'd expect from an izakaya cocktail bar, the menu includes an extensive sake selection as well as plum wine, Japanese beers, and cocktails with an Asian twist-- surefire ways to guarantee you won't chicken out.

Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Daniels

 

The House of Shields, San Francisco

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, December 29 05:09 PM

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So what if this beautiful old bar in downtown San Francisco doesn't have a clock (or a TV) to help count down the last seconds of 2010? We're hoping it means there won't be a last call, either.

The House of Shields has been around for a while--over 100 years, in fact. But it has just reopened after a renovation that's added some extra polish to the wood-paneled walls and brass statues and stripped the floor back to the original tile mosaic. Owner and chef, Dennis Leary, also runs Canteen restaurant and the much-loved Sentinel sandwich shop next door, so expect some quality eats soon, too.

Grab one of the spruced-up wooden booths for you and your posse to toast 2011...just make sure one of you wears a watch.

The Counter, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, December 17 05:26 PM

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Is there such a thing as too much choice? When West Coast burger joint The Counter opens its first New York City outpost in Times Square on Monday, you'll be able to choose from more than 300,000 burger combinations. Surely it's only a matter of time before someone takes that as a challenge.

The options to build your own Angus beef, grilled chicken, turkey, or veggie burger--with toppings like grilled pineapple, roasted corn and black bean salsa, country buttermilk Ranch dressing, basil pesto, fried egg, and dill pickle chips--sound yummy. And the industrial-style interiors with hanging globe lights and mint-colored walls will be a welcome respite from the many gaudy fast-food options in Midtown.

Better still, there's a full bar with spiked shakes. We're there.

Photo: Courtesy of The Counter

The Normandy Hotel, Washington, D.C.

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, December 14 11:21 AM

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Saving a couple of hundred dollars when you're staying in D.C. might feel like a drop in the ocean compared with the sums Congress is arguing over. But for ordinary folks like us, it's a big deal. The Normandy is a 75-room hotel that feels far more luxurious than the bargain rates (often as low as $109 per night) suggest. Located on a leafy side street within walking distance of Dupont Circle's restaurants and bars, the Normandy juxtaposes Old World touches like toile wallpaper with a clean, neutral palette and leather headboards. Service is friendly and efficient, and there's a host of perks (free Wi-Fi, Nespresso coffee machines in the rooms, wine and cheese receptions). It all adds up to a pleasant stay, and, dare we say, the best value in the District.

And while you're in town...

Eat here:
Bibiana
Madeleine Albright, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have all been spotted in Bibiana's buzzy dining room. So, what's the draw? Chef Nicholas Stefanelli applies a light touch to pasta dishes such as citrus agnolotti (airy pillows perked up with tangy ricotta) and buttery Maryland lump crab on a rich tangle of squid ink spaghetti. The confident yet unobtrusive service is a welcome plus, too.

Drink here:
Columbia Room
The tiny Columbia Room is part apothecary, part Japanese omakase experience. Owner and master of ceremonies Derek Brown chips ice from a wooden hangiri while holding forth on the chemistry of tinctures and the history of tiki. Tipplers tend to linger, taste-testing new recipes, mellowing out to the acoustic indie soundtrack, and ordering one last cocktail. We suggest the martini, the perfect marriage of precision (Brown uses a thermometer) and flair (that cut crystal coupe!).

Photo: Courtesy of the Normandy Hotel

La Terrasse, Bern, Switzerland

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, December 09 11:52 AM

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If you like the idea of watching a chef at work but prefer to keep your distance from sharp knives and hot sauces, La Terrasse at the grande dame Bellevue Palace hotel in Bern, Switzerland, is the place to eat.

Diners already use an iPad to browse the French dishes on the menu. Now they can use the tablet to watch head chef Gregor Zimmermann cook their dinner. And beginning next year, it will also be possible to connect to the kitchen directly via instant messaging to say hello or share some "constructive criticism."

We're told the communication will be one-way, so you won't hear what the chef thinks of your culinary advice. Probably just as well.

Photo: Courtesy of the Victoria-Jungfrau Collection

St. Regis Lhasa Resort, Tibet

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 16 11:09 AM

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There's no end of hotels boasting great views, even if that "great view" turns out to be a scrappy piece of greenery. But if you're serious about what's outside your window, the newly opened St. Regis Lhasa, in Tibet, offers the kind of spectacle that can only be found on the Roof of the World, 12,000 feet above sea level.

The first international luxury hotel in Tibet, this 150-room property promises to immerse guests in its surroundings. It's not just the view that will remind you of where you are: Guest rooms have traditional lattice wood furniture and photography depicting local life. Eating options include a Tibetan and Nepalese restaurant, Si Zi Kang. The tearoom serves local blends, some of them aged up to 25 years, and in the spa, you can opt for Tibetan herbal treatments.

If you're looking to live the high life, this is the place.

Courtesy of the St. Regis Lhasa Resort

Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, November 04 03:28 PM

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For many of us, the end of daylight saving time on Sunday means one thing: the start of a long, cold winter. But don't despair--book a vacation for January, when the festive sparkle of the holidays is gone and you're frozen to the bone. It just so happens we've found somewhere you can chill (in a good way) in a mild climate to beat your winter blues: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico, opening January 20.

This city resort--67 rooms, all with balconies or terraces--slots seamlessly into San Miguel's winding, cobbled streets lined with colonial-era buildings. The hotel has a Mexican restaurant, two swimming pools, a spa, and a rooftop tapas bar.

Go on, picture yourself here come January--suddenly the next few months don't seem so bad, do they?

Photo: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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