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Mondrian Soho, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, March 14 06:24 PM

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An entrance flanked by outsize topiary, and 270 guest rooms in periwinkle and midnight blue lit by furry lamps. Inspired by Jean Cocteau's 1940s French fantasy flick, La belle et la bęte, the new Mondrian Soho is every bit the cinematic dream world that designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz intended.

The fantasy continues in the hotel restaurant, Imperial No. Nine, a soaring space with mirrored tables reflecting chandeliers dripping with crystals. Here, chef Sam Talbot creates shareable plates of sustainable seafood dishes. After dinner, guests can disappear into Mr. H, a scarlet-hued speakeasy already awash in pretty young starlets. Now if that's not a dream stay, we don't know what is.

Photo: Courtesy of Morgans Hotel Group

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

Hubbard Inn, Chicago

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, March 04 08:50 PM

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Travel lovers can't help but romanticize Ernest Hemingway's wanderings. Three such admirers have turned that adulation into--what else?--a bar.

Located on an up-and-coming foodie stretch in Chicago's River North neighborhood, the Hubbard Inn is decorated with what owners Daniel Alonso, Adolfo Garcia, and David Mitria envision Papa bringing back from his travels. Moroccan tiles line one wall, 1940s-style oil paintings hang on another, and more than 5,000 vintage books fill the bar's carved bookcases. The food served also tips its topper to the writer, incorporating ingredients from his journeys (Cabrales cheese, Medjool dates) as well as less literal interpretations such as stout burgers and earthy bone marrow.

Of course, no Hemingway tribute would be complete without booze--and lots of it. Here you'll find one of Chicago's best bourbon selections, new takes on classics like the Manhattan, and the author's namesake drink, made with 10 Cane rum, maraschino liqueur, and lime and grapefruit juices. Raise a glass (or eight) to big Papa.

Photo: Courtesy of the Hubbard Inn

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 aprčs-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.

Lodekka, Portland, Oregon

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, February 15 04:24 PM

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Portland pioneered the nation's gourmet food-truck craze. Now the city's mobile business is being taken to the next level, literally, by Lodekka, a dress shop in a bus. The 1965 double-decker originally ferried folks around Liverpool, England. Owner Erin Sutherland has no idea how the bus made it stateside, but she spent six months sanding, scraping, and painting the old clunker into one of Portland's coolest vintage boutiques.

Inside, you'll find 1970s jeans, swingy 1960s sundresses, flowy maxi-frocks, and retro souvenir pendants. Old board games and 1980s Esquire magazines will entertain the less sartorially minded. Next stop, a dance club in a 747? A salon in an Airstream? We can't wait to get on board.

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 ŕ 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 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

TKTS iPhone App, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, December 13 11:33 AM

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A lot can happen in a New York minute. Broadway theater tickets can be available at a 50 percent discount one minute then sell out the next. Which is why, if you're visiting NYC and planning to catch a show, you should download the Theatre Development Fund's new TKTS iPhone app (free through March 2011).

Check the app for real-time listings of all Broadway and Off-Broadway shows for which discounted same-day tickets are available at TKTS booths. (The big one under the red glass steps in Times Square is hard to miss, but there's another in Lower Manhattan at South Street Seaport and a third at 1 MetroTech Center, Brooklyn.) The app also provides show descriptions, performance schedules, theater locations, and accessibility info.

Now give yourself a round of applause for saving time and money.

Download the TKTS iPhone App at the iTunes app store or TDF.org.

Photo: Gary Burke, Flickr

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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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