Archive for June, 2009

Napa Valley, CA: Eco-Travel, Organic Farming, & Wine Tasting

This just in from my cronies in Northern Cali! An itinerary from Napa and Yountville to the Carmel Valley for a new LEED-certified hotel and several eco-travel ideas, complete with haute cuisine, antiques, wine tasting, and a visit to an all-organic farm.
The Bardessono (debuted February, 2009). Every element of this LEED-Platinum aspiring hotel, restaurant and spa is wrapped in an earth-friendly blanket of luxury. Secluded on five acres of gardens and vineyards, the 62-room hotel boasts a “green spa,” heated and cooled by an underground geothermal system, smart guestrooms in buildings crafted from hand-milled, reclaimed wood and steel and 93-seat restaurant headed by Executive Chef Sean O’Toole, former group operations chef for Michael Mina. If approved, Bardessono would be the second U.S. hospitality entity to receive platinum certification and the first in California.

Bottega – December, 2008 marked the return of Food Network’s Michael Chiarello to the kitchen with the debut of Bottega. Chef de Cuisine Nick Ritchie will drive the culinary team in what Chiarello calls the “craftsman’s workshop” – or “bottega” set against a palette of rustic yet refined warm textures in olive greens, chocolate and deep red. The 184-seat Italian restaurant is located in the historic Groezinger Winery (1870), a two-story brick structure that crowns V Marketplace.

Ma(i)sonry – Set in the former Burgundy House, a 1904 stone masonry stunner listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this new venture was opened by visionary, Michael Polenske, in October, 2008. The setting is reminiscent of a home or a private club, framing a highly edited collection of furnishings and artwork. The furnishings, ranging from 16th century to mid-twentieth century, are paired with contemporary works crafted by today’s top designers. This “living gallery” atmosphere serves as a stylized backdrop for the appreciation of limited production boutique wines including Blackbird Vineyards’ portfolio of Pomerol-inspired blends crafted by Sarah Gott.

Vita – Laura Cunningham steps up with a new Italian eatery in the heart of Yountville called Vita, after her grandmother, Vita Morrell. The concept is a Sicilian southern Italian restaurant with the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group managing its day to day operations. The 130-seat restaurant set in the former PJ Steak restaurant is due to debut in Fall, 2009.

Hotel Luca – The minds behind L’Auberge Carmel have broken ground on a 20-room luxury hotel fronting Washington Street on the north end of Yountville. The modern-style property perched on over an acre of prime real estate will include a 90-seat restaurant modeled after the successful Cantinetta Luca in Carmel, California. Expect rustic, informal Italian dining with authentic European-style hospitality – the perfect meritage of Italy and Napa Valley. Fall/2009 opening.

Girard Winery – The 1800 sq. ft. tasting room opened May/2008 featuring super Cabs backed with an elegant décor of antique reclaimed barn wood ceilings, cedar floors and grand mosaic glass tile wall and floor treatments. Hand-crafted polished concrete tasting bar, custom lighting, state-of-the-art walk-in glass-enclosed wine cellar and top-flight private food and wine pairing in the Club Room ($40) round out the experience. Crafted by Marco DiGiulio, (“one of Napa’s top wine consultants,” Wine Spectator 2007) these wines have placed Girard firmly in the “Top 100 Wineries of the World” (Wine and Spirits magazine, 2006).

Villagio Inn & Spa – Debuted a new 13,000 sq. ft. spa in April, 2008. Set in true Mediterranean style on the resort’s 23 acres, the spa is one of Napa Valley’s largest featuring 16 treatment rooms including five sumptuous spa suites, outdoor terraces, fireplaces and a tight mix of high tech+indigenous wellness treatments.

Earthbound Farms – Get downright dirty with all things squirmy via a Bug Walk or mix it up with a local chef or florist at Earthbound Farm, the nation’s largest producer of organic greens. When Drew and Myra Goodman came to California’s Carmel Valley in 1984, they were determined young transplants from Manhattan, drawn to the natural beauty and richness of the land. Even before they turned over their first shovels full of soil, they believed strongly in doing the right thing.

They settled on a 2.5-acre raspberry farm and decided that doing the right thing meant committing to farming this land organically, producing food they would want to eat themselves and would feel good about serving their families, friends, and neighbors. Undaunted by those who said it couldn’t be done, in 1986 they became the first company to successfully launch prewashed, packaged salad for retail sale. When they introduced their mixed baby greens or “spring mix” to restaurants and supermarket produce aisles, they started a salad revolution. Today, gourmet salad greens and packaged salads have become staples of grocery baskets everywhere. Flowers, herbs and vegetables steal the show on 30 sun-drenched acres in Carmel Valley. Saturdays are a true beehive of activity; morning tours start at 11:00 a.m. (May – September). $5.00/child.

Bali: Eco-Travel, Luxury, & Farming!

It begins in an exotic and remote location among rice fields along the sacred Ayung River in Bali. There are a series of tasks to complete and if done successfully, there will be a great reward. As you consider what you’ve gotten yourself into, the questions begin to swirl in your mind: When will I meet the other “players”? What kind of challenges will I have to overcome? And, am I going to get a makeover?!”

Not to worry; this is one reality program that doesn’t involve contests, eliminations or scripted outbursts. The Balinese farming experience provides guests of Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan with a chance to spend a day in the life of a local – without the camera crews.

It begins with a trek along jungle paths and terraces for a glimpse at Sayan’s farmers at work. After learning about the complex irrigation system used in the rice paddy fields, you’ll have the opportunity to pitch in and plant rice seeds – a crop vital to the lives of rural Balinese. A traditional breakfast and refreshments will be served along the way. And as a reward from a hard day’s work, you’ll partake in a river stone bathing ritual called batukali. Bathing in the river is both an old-age ritual and a social event for the Balinese as villagers gather to share songs, laughter, gossip and stories. The day’s adventure ends with a lunch of nasi campur (mixed rice) – typical of an everyday Balinese meal.

Want a glimpse into the real world of a Balinese farmer?
Then we say, “Visit the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan.” Thatched-roof villas with private plunge pools are nestled among 35 acres of landscaped tropical gardens, providing 147 unique panoramas of the idyllic sandy crescent below – Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. Lotus ponds float above the treetops along Bali’s sacred Ayung River, as expansive enclaves rise from the mountain mist.

Boston, Mass: The Bike Program & Market Fresh Food

Located along Boston’s Charles River, we spotted one earth-friendly activity that reminded us of a summertime spent lingering in the heart of Harvard Square. Members of Harvard’s elite played chess as my father regaled me with stories of secret societies and ambitious scholarly pursuits.

The Charles Hotel, nestled in the heart of this fine area, celebrates it’s own love of such summers, with a simple, yet earth-friendly activity we always enjoy. A complimentary bike program and annual Kids Summer Music Series! These family-friendly programs, along with the hotel’s proximity to Harvard Yard, history museums and Fenway Park, make the Charles an ideal spot for summer fun. Six Electra Amsterdam Classic Bicycles are equipped with shopping baskets available complimentary to hotel guests. Additionally, the Hotel has partnered with The Liberty Hotel in Beacon Hill, encouraging guests of both hotels to take the eight mile scenic ride along the river to and from the hotels, while touring the historic streets of Beacon Hill and Harvard Square. The option to ride one-way and return by taxi or public transportation is also available.
The Executive Suite

Summer is also the season for the freshest foods. While staying at the Charles, guests can enjoy its weekly Farmers’ Markets to try some of the area’s very best seasonal ingredients. The Down to Earth Package includes:

• Overnight accommodations in a deluxe guestroom, featuring custom signature quilts and sumptuous down duvets, Séura® in-mirror televisions, and Bose Wave® radios.

• A signed copy of Chef Peter Davis’ cookbook, Fresh & Honest. Chef Peter Davis of Henrietta’s Table at The Charles Hotel released Fresh & Honest this past fall. His restaurant was recognized by Gourmet magazine as one of America’s “Best Farm-to-Table” restaurants in 2007.

• Use of the Electra Amsterdam Classic Bicycle, along with helmet, map of the city and U-style lock and key.

• Picnic lunch for two from Henrietta’s Table to take on your bike ride.

Down to Earth Package starts at $235/night, based on double occupancy, not including taxes and gratuity. The package is based on availability… so get cycling and brush up on your chess while you’re at it, will ya?

Regular room rates start @ $199/night

Charitable Travel: Discounts & Deals

Shopping should feel good in more ways than one, don’t you think? We spotted this interesting website for those who want to shop and do a little good while they’re at it. Good Shop is a growing coupon service that allows consumers to plan family vacations and save money at more than 1,000 online stores (including Expedia, cheaptickets,, Travelocity, Budget Rent-A-Car and others) while supporting their favorite charity. It lists hundreds of great coupons and deals and a percentage of every sale at these stores goes back to the charity of the users’ choice. This allows people to save money and help a good cause at the same time.

Here’s how it works:

1. Go to
2. Designate your favorite cause (you only do this the first time)
3. Click to your favorite store – check out the travel category, book a vacation with the coupons listed, and a percentage of your purchase will go to your cause

Here are some examples of coupons listed on GoodShop:

1. Southwest Airlines Vacations Coupon – Save up to $80 when you book a flight + hotel of 3 nights or more to any Las Vegas property
2. STA Travel – $25 off any flight Coupon
3. Travelocity Coupon – Book a 5-Night Vacation and Save $100

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