Posts Tagged Spain
From world-class restaurants to local specialties, memorable meals can be a destination in and of themselves for travelers. Virtuoso suppliers have responded to the growth in culinary travel by transforming mealtime into an unforgettable experience. These three properties have created innovative programs to make delicious cuisine a true adventure.
Executive Chef Fabrice Guisset at Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort, San Jose del Cabo, Mexico found that many guests enjoyed cooking and sharing favorite recipes. He also noted the popularity of cooking competition shows such as “Top Chef.” Thus the “Challenge the Chef” game was born.
This light-hearted competition gives guests the opportunity to cook any dish they wish under the tutelage of a chef. Guests begin the game with a pre-meal consultation. Then on the evening of the event, the guest prepares the dish in an open kitchen on the property. “It is the perfect time for guests to prepare their famous dishes with help of equipment and ingredients that are generally not available in a home kitchen,” explains Guisset.
After tasting the results, Guisset gives pointers on ingredients, preparation and presentation so that guests can improve their culinary prowess. The most common mistake? Guisset says it’s an unbalanced dish, such as one that’s too sweet or salty.
Guest chefs receive a “Challenge the Chef” diploma and a shot at culinary stardom: winning dishes are added to the resort menu for a week with the guest’s name. Mouthwatering past winners include a double pork chop roasted with fettuccine cake and port-glazed onion, and fish with prosciutto and mango chutney. The service is $130 for set-up and $85 per person.
At the Virtuoso-exclusive property Four Seasons Resort Nevis, guests can go a step beyond preparation and catch their own meal. The “Dive and Dine” experience gives certified divers the opportunity to search for their own lobsters in the warm Caribbean waters.
Guests are taken by boat to hotspots for hunting the elusive lobsters, where the Nevisian crew helps divers capture their dinner using traditional methods. British author Dominic Midgley recently tried the experience and noted, “Lobsters may not look like the cheetahs of the sea but when someone tries to lasso them with twine on a stick they can move with lightning speed, when…it’s safely in the dive master’s net bag there’s a real sense of achievement.”
The day’s catch is prepared for a private beach dinner, where guests can take turns slathering on sauces and picking up tips at the grill. Meals feature in-season ingredients, such as fresh mango glaze. Created as an over-the-top luxury experience, the service costs $1,950 for the first two people and $500 for each additional one.
For guests looking for an easier route to delicious cuisine, the Hotel Arts Barcelona in Spain, another Virtuoso-exclusive property, offers a new Michelin dining program. “Many disciples of [famed Spanish chef] Ferran Adria have started their own restaurants, and increasing the popularity of the region amongst foodies,” explains hotel representative Lorriane Lacy. In response to this growing enthusiasm, the hotel gives guests VIP access to the region’s top restaurants by making lunch reservations and providing quick, luxurious transportation via helicopter.
The journey begins with a five-minute transfer from the hotel to a heliport, then a scenic flight of 45 minutes to an hour. It includes a bird’s eye tour of Barcelona with glimpses of famous sites such as Sagrada Familia and Montjuïc. The rest of the journey could include sweeping views of coastal Catalan towns and beaches or rocky inland landscapes.
Part of the program’s appeal is the guaranteed reservations at some of the most sought-after tables in the region, where access usually takes months to arrange. Guests may choose among the two and three-star rated restaurants El Celler, Miramar and Les Cols, enjoying avant-garde tasting menus and artistic creations such as fresh tomatoes and caviar drizzled with olive oil and quail egg tempura. All for $4,923 per couple.
These hotel stays, and other unique hotel experiences, are best when planned by your Virtuoso Travel Advisor. Don’t have an advisor? Click here to find out more.
Confetti cannons blew a riot of red and yellow slips skyward, and you could sense the envy of passengers looking on from a neighboring cruise ship. Chef Cat Cora had just christened Oceania Cruises’ newest vessel in sunny Barcelona, and the Riviera’s horn echoed with baritone bravado as its stewards, cooks, housekeepers, and other staff cheered from balconies.
I’d joined the 1,250-passenger ship five days earlier in Monte Carlo with international media, travel industry veterans, and around 50 top Virtuoso travel advisors for a preview (look for it in Virtuoso Life’s July/August issue – along with cruise writer Fran Golden’s previews of Viking River Cruises’ Odin and the Disney Fantasy). While on board, I’d put to the test Oceania’s claim of serving some of the best cuisine at sea, had one late night too many, and crossed my sun-soaking threshold by at least a couple of hours – all for the sake of journalism. Here’s a taste of the trip.
Of all my meals – including Chesapeake Bay crabcakes and aged rib eye at Polo Grill and an extravagant three-hour “lunch” at Jacques – dinner at pan-Asian Red Ginger topped the list. In the restaurant’s tastefully bold dining room, where a playful horse-faced painting dominates one wall, you begin meals by selecting from an assortment of chopsticks. What my wife and I would order all over again: caramelized tiger prawns, spicy duck-and-watermelon salad, the clay-pot chicken, and yuzu citrus sorbet.
Canyon Ranch SpaClub was fresh out of appointments on our only sea day, but the Bon Appétit Culinary Center squeezed me in for a brunch session, in which 23 classmates and I whipped up scones and frittatas and learned to perfect poached eggs. Unlike on other cruise lines (and at many hotels and resorts), Oceania’s culinary courses are hands-on, with participants pairing up and making each dish from scratch. On the class roster for the rest of its European season: crepes, pasta making (with sauce and wine pairings), and modern Greek cuisine, as well as a host of regionally focused classes and favorite dishes from Riviera’s specialty restaurants.
One of the advantages of traveling with Virtuoso advisors is insider access. Bill Smith, Virtuoso’s VP of cruise sales, worked with Découvertes to organize an outing in Aix-en-Provence for advisors and guests, followed by a garden lunch at Chez Thomé (www.chezthome.fr), which sits in a quiet valley Cézanne frequented when painting Mont Sainte-Victoire. The finale: a tour of Château de la Mignarde, a private estate and onetime home of Napoleon’s sister, Pauline, that’s closed to the general public.
To find out more about having your own one-of-a-kind cruise experience, contact your Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to find one.
by Betsy Goldberg
Senior Manager – Corporate Communications at Virtuoso, Ltd.
Fascinating Spain blends a rich heritage with contemporary twists on history. This mix is particularly evident when visiting the country’s Virtuoso properties. I toured five network hotels during a recent educational sponsored by Virtuoso On-Site Valesa Cultural Services and two Virtuoso tourism board partners, the Tourist Office of Spain and Heritage Cities of Spain.
We began at the grande dame of Madrid hotels: the Ritz. This 101-year-old señora is famed for her elegant interior resplendent with historic treasures, the impeccable service and the Sunday brunch buffet. Here we found a mix of tradition and modernity, as Spanish standbys such as paella and the ubiquitous ham shared tables with international favorites such as carpaccio (no less than three different types), quesadillas and sushi.
The InterContinental Madrid offers an equally impressive Sunday brunch buffet in equally impressive surroundings. Included are everything from non-traditional whole lobsters to dim sum to chocolate mousse – and, yes, traditional paella and ham. We stopped eating long enough to tour the hotel, and were blown away by the 4,000-square-foot modern Royal Suite, which has housed such luminaries as Paris Hilton, Joe Biden and Virtuoso CEO Matthew Upchurch.
More oohs and ahs followed as we visited the newly redecorated AC Santo Mauro Hotel in Madrid. The hotel’s elegant late nineteenth-century building was the residence of the influential Duke of Santo Mauro. Its decor playfully blends history with hipness. We admired the public rooms, including the gorgeous Chinese and Red Lounges, and craved a sip of something delicious in the clubby Chivas Lounge.
How many hotels have such a storied history that they have their own on-location museum? The Westin Palace Madrid, which turns 100 next year, does. Giants of the arts world, including Hemingway and Dali, frequented the bar. More recent celebrity guests include Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson and Henry Kissinger. We dined under the hotel’s spectacular stained-glass dome after touring the spacious rooms decorated in a contemporary style.
You’ll feel like a celebrity when concierge Joey Sendra escorts you around the cutting-edge Hospes Palacio del Bailio in Córdoba. You’ll see patios, gardens, murals from the 1700s and the stunning lounge-library, where guests have been known to doze off in the comfortable surroundings. The hotel, declared a historic monument in 1982, was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. But the site has been inhabited for much longer. We were given a midnight tour of the Roman ruins under the hotel – accessible only to Virtuoso guests.
All of these trips and more can be hand-tailored to suit your needs with the help of a Virtuoso travel advisor. Don’t have a travel advisor? Click here to find one.
Virtuoso’s annual Symposium in Madrid showcased a stylish city with cultural flair.
Nearly 400 executives from top travel agencies and providers gathered in Madrid last week at Virtuoso’s 31st Symposium for a mix of thought-provoking meetings, engaging events in gorgeous venues, and a healthy dose of Spanish culture. Spain is the only country to host this event twice (Symposium was held in Barcelona in 2004).
The meeting kicked off with a welcome reception at the InterContinental Madrid, complete with dance performances, music, and huge pans of paella. During the next three days of business sessions at the hotel, attendees learned about the destination’s highlights from tourism board dignitaries; conducted networking sessions; and heard from futurist Nancy Giordano on trends shaping consumer behavior and the rise of “collaborative commerce,” which enables clients, advisors, and suppliers to share information for even better travel experiences.
Of course, it’s not all work. Food is central to any travel experience, and attendees dined in venues from the dramatically refurbished City Hall (at which the deputy mayor spoke to the group) to the Circulo de Belles Artes theater; the Casino de Madrid; the historic Westin Palace and Hotel Ritz; and the Quinta del Duque de Arco, a stunning palace just outside the city.
The group also had the opportunity to learn the flamenco, see the city with a photographer, tour the city’s esteemed museums, and more.
Special thanks to Made for Spain and Valesa Cultural Services, Virtuoso’s on-sites in Spain who tended to all the details, as well as the event’s many sponsors. Olé!
Serving up a world of great tastes and experiences, the latest issue of VIRTUOSO LIFE is filled with amazing stories that are sure to get you yearning for your next journey. With the turn of the page, you will find yourself transported to Northern Spain for pintxos, the Guggenheim and a glimpse of the good life in San Sebastián; treated to a list of 20 hot restaurants around the globe that give way to a new style of casual and inventive dining; exploring Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and more.
Plus, this issue celebrates VIRTUOSO LIFE’S 10th anniversary with a look back at some of the best travel advice we’ve printed (page 24).
Editor’s List: The Best of The Best – Our annual list of the most noteworthy hotels and resorts on the planet.
Basque in It – Pintxos, pride, and perhaps the perfect stretch of sand on Spain’s northern coast. By Justin Paul
20 Restaurants for Right Now – Craving something new? Take a table at one of these of-the-moment dining spots. By John Mariana
Among the Vines – Five fabulous wine regions done right, with itineraries by Virtuoso travel advisors.
Inside the Walled City – A trip through Cartagena: Colombian heart and Caribbean soul. By Hunter Holcombe
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE – Tag It
The September/October issue of VIRTUOSO LIFE goes high-tech for readers with smartphones. Look for this tag through the printed version to view dynamic content via Web-enabled smartphones. To experience it on your smart phone, download Microsoft’s free Tag Reader on your phone at www.gettag.mobi, launch the application, then scan the tag.
In this issue, readers can send a letter to the editor (page 16), enjoy detailed maps for dining on Magazine Street in the Big Easy (page 86) and touring the design district in Toronto (page 88), as well as check out the sights and sounds of Cartagena in a video (page 129). It’s fun and it’s easy – just look for the tag on the page and enjoy!
By Justin Paul, Senior Editor, Virtuoso Life
Tapas, pintxos, media-raciónes – San Sebastián, the gourmet capital of Spain, is the land of perpetual grazing. I recently had the opportunity to visit the resort city just miles from the French border for a weeklong exploration of the Basque Coast from Bilbao to Biarritz. The results: a bit rainy (they don’t call it “Green Spain” for nothing), but undeniably delicious.
It’s always happy hour in San Sebastián. From open to close, bars and cafés line their counters with a bounty of pintxos, smallish snacks that range from tortilla española to skewered peppers with anchovies or prawns to bocadillos (three-bite sandwiches); larger, often more involved tapas, such as seared goat cheese with a micro-green salad and olive tapenade; and raciónes, plates of flash-fried padrón peppers with crunchy salt or the famed Iberian ham (order media-raciónes, half portions, where possible). And that’s just the warm-up – the area is known for many of Spain’s finest Michelin-starred restaurants.
When the sun shines, San Sebastián sparkles like few places on earth, with three excellent beaches: Zurriola (best for surfers and body-boarders), and gentle La Concha and Ondarreta in front of the city’s core facing out on the sea. Though surrounded by unforgiving hills and rock outcrops, the town itself is flat, with copious bike trails and a long beachfront esplanade that make for perfect diversions between bites.
No gourmets should consider their time in Spain complete without visiting this nook of the Bay of Biscay. Make San Sebastián your base camp, then set out on day trips to Bilbao (1.5 hours west) and Biarritz or Saint-Jean-de-Luz (30 minutes to the northeast), stopping in markets and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it villages along the way. Look for a complete report and the perfect itinerary to explore the region in the September/October Food & Wine issue of Virtuoso Life.
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