Let the 2016 European Marathon begin; first stop: Lisbon, Portugal

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Oh my, my…I cannot believe it’s been almost 3 months since I’ve posted anything on my beloved Blog! It’s unforgivable…I know! I just haven’t had the time, discipline or inspiration to write anything…call it: “Bloggers block”! It’s quite unbelievable how time flies, so much has happened since my last post it makes my head spin. But before I freak out trying to figure out how to come back from the abyss with a fresh, new, fun blog; I need to decide where to start. How about I start with my 2016 European Marathon that I just completed; a two months summer journey across much of Europe that has just come to a close a few weeks ago.

A big reason I was so quiet for some time is that I was finishing up my hotel project in Beverly Hills and Brentwood; as I’m sure I mentioned already, I was hired to design two hotels in Los Angeles one a year ago and I just recently finished both projects. By the end of it, I was counting the days to get out of LA and fly away, no matter where. I’m like a tiger in a cage when I stay put in one city; I need to travel or I start going bananas!

My first destination is Lisbon, Portugal; I’ve been meaning to visit this city for so long but never got around it so the time has finally come. After a lovely flight on my beloved Swiss International Airlines from LAX to Zurich and then to Lisbon on the new Boing 777 planes with their new fab business class pods; I arrive in this very old city full of excitement and “Yes”, with a major jet-lag. I have a very dear friend from Lisbon that I’ve known for 30 years that and that I haven’t seen for 28 that will be showing me around and look after me. His name is Nuno and last time I saw him back in Los Angeles he was out of his mind…hopefully nothing has changed!

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to stay in Lisbon between AirBnb or the large variety of amazing hotels dating back to the 18th century, some of them National Monuments. The one that stood out the most among the flurry of 5 star hotels was The Pestana Palace, a 19th-century palace that has been restored to its original glory. The hotel is an architectural marvel, its ornate ironwork, gilt-covered paneling, Chinoiserie elements and coffered ceilings complemented by classical furnishings and opulent fabrics, make you feel like royalty (www.pestanapalacelisbon.com).

I asked Nuno about it and he replied with an air of sass: “Well…Madonna stays there!!” Well, if it’s good for Madonna it must be good for me…snap! It was even better after I found out that Nuno’s good friend is the marketing director of the Hotel chain, so before you know it, I’m upgraded to a fabulous suite with an amazing terrace overlooking the old structure and the beautifully manicured grounds. Bingo!

 

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The grand entrance to the Pestana Palace in Lisbon

 

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The stunning 19th century Pestana Palace

 

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The coach house at the Pestana Palace

 

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My Uber Glam Suite

 

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My bedroom

 

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…and my terrace

 

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The breakfast room

 

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The pool and Chinese themed restaurant

 

The history of Lisbon is as fascinating as it is tragic; it was one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Prior to the 18th century, Lisbon had experienced several significant earthquakes but on November 1, 1755, the city was destroyed by another devastating earthquake, which killed a large percentage of its population and destroyed 85 percent of the city’s structures. After the 1755 earthquake, the city was completely rebuilt and you can still see to date, evidence of the old destruction. Portugal has also gone though a rough patch financially and you can’t avoid noticing the level of poverty in this city; that is in contrast with the newly discovered financial boom that has taken over the city in the last few years. Many of its stunning old buildings with their signature-tiled facades, are being restored, new museums are popping up everywhere and old ones are being updated. Not to mention the boom in the service industry with many amazing restaurants, hotels, bars and shopping areas.

On my first night out Nuno takes me to a local institution, Bica do Sapato (www.bicadosapato.com) and one of Lisbon’s first super trendy restaurants, co-owned by John Malkovich (don’t ask me why…). The old converted port building is quite fancy and the decor is definitely avant-garde, though you can see that it has reached his age; I try all sorts of delicious fish dishes, typical of the area, on a beautiful terrace overlooking the river and the bustle of ships arriving and departing from the Port of Cais da Pedra. Portuguese food is quite amazing with all sorts of influences from the many countries it mingled with through its ancient history. Portuguese people love to drink and smoke so I reluctantly adapt to their customs and join in. I don’t quite remember how I got home…but I did!

 

Restaurante Bica do Sapato em Lisboa, 19 Julho 2005.

Bica do Sapato Restaurant

 

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The bustling streets of Lisbon at night, packed with people

 

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Just had to take a photo of this small restaurant with a huge Octopus hanging form the ceiling…

 

The following day it’s time for my favorite activity: walk everywhere until your feet bleed! This is always the best way to see a new city and discover all its secrets. My main destinations are the usual suspects like: Praça Do Comércio, the trendy neighborhood of Chado and Baixa, the Medieval Castle and the Museum of Coaches. While in Chado I had the opportunity to visit my dear friend Pedro Girao, Chairman of the venerable Christie’s Auction House in England, who is a native Portuguese. He invited me to see his new apartment up high on the hill with the most incredible views of Lisbon; it’s castle and the water…just breathtaking!

 

img_9967The stunning mosaic floors typical of Lisbon


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Just another simple entryway to the Jerónimos Monastery

 

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Entrance to the President’s residence



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The odd looking 1902 Santa Justa elevator

 

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The Praça do Comércio

 

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Statue of King José I, by Machado de Castro (1775)

 

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One of the city’s standing churches still showing the damage of the 1775 earthquake

 

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Nuno and Robert Kass on Pedro Girau’s balcony

 

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The breathtaking views from Pedro Girau’s balcony in the Chado neighbourhood

 

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One of Chado’s oldest and most famous Cafés

 

Also on the list, is a local institution: Pastéis de Belém (www.pasteisdebelem.pt), a pastry shop of sorts that is world renowned for it’s signature custard canapés: a small puff pastry basket filled with an “Out of this world” custard, finished with a sprinkle of cinnamon…Orgasm!!!! I had no idea what I was dealing with until I arrived to the store and saw a line of people a mile long wrapped around the building…WOW, it must be good! Thankfully, Nuno’s brother in law owns the joint so we were quickly treated to this amazing dessert and a tour of the massive facility. The great thing about this little pieces of heaven is that they are only 60 calories apiece…of course I inhaled 15 of them.

 

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The lines at Pastéis de Belém

 

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Interior

 

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More interior

 

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The signature custard cups at Pastéis de Belém

 

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The door to the secret kitchen

 

The final treat of the day was visiting the newly constructed Coach Museum. I mean, who would build a museum for coaches? Well, the Portuguese did and now I know why! OMG, this museum holds the largest collection of 17-18 century coaches in the world and I cannot even start saying how impressive this exhibition is. Surprisingly, I was the only one in there. I mean really…people have no imagination! I highly suggest it to anyone visiting Lisbon…bring a tiara!

 

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Entrance to the Coach Museum

 

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The Imperial procession coach

 

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The week days coach

 

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The sporty coach

 

img_0027Amazing portable bed

 

The following day Nuno has arranged for a day trip to the popular beaches of Cascais, along the Estoril coastline, the stretch of shoreline that extends from Lisbon in the east to Cascais in the west (kind of their version of our Malibu) and a hike at the westernmost point of the European continent named Cabo da Roca where 2 large rocks, stand supreme on this amazing spot of the Portuguese coast. It’s definitely worth the time even though Nuno told me it would be a 1 hour drive, when in fact it turned onto a 4 hours. We even passed by an enormous, bizarre, yellow castle, in the middle of no-where, that the king of Portugal built in the 18th century as an identical copy of the Austrian Imperial Palace in Vienna; these monarch…really!!!


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Sculpture at Cabo da Roca at the westernmost point of Europe

 

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Nuno Ramos and Robert Kass at Cabo da Roca

 

On my last night, Nuno and Gang take me to the “Time Out Market” Food Hall (Like the magazine) l. This enormous warehouse hosts a number of local food pop-ups, wine sellers, local “Jamon” booth, dessert booths and just about anything your little stomach desires. It’s packed with young people and bustling with energy! We tried to find a table but that proved impossible so Nuno suggested we visit the more fancy restaurant on the second floor: Pap Acorda (www.papacorda.com). The space is beautiful and the food is decent, though not my favorite. The atmosphere is definitely the highlight of this eatery…and everyone smokes! This Food Hall is definitely a must see if you’re in Lisbon; also a great place to meet the locals. After dinner the marathon of bars and dives took center stage and, once again, I don’t remember how I got home…but I did!


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Time Out Market

 

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My clan

 

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Jamon shop at Time Out Market

 

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Pap’ Açorda Restaurant

 

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Group shot


img_9870And back to my Palace for the last night

 

What an amazing city and amazing people; Lisbon is truly a city of the future with the most important, glamorous and colorful past; Nuno was the best host and an amazing tour guide filled with pride and knowledge. I can’t wait to come back!!!

Throwback Thursday “Photo of the week”

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Goodbye Champ…you were a true inspiration to me and the rest of the world!

 

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Robert Kass and Mohammed Ali

It’s that time of the year again…Formula E Racing is coming to town!

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It’s that time of the year again…Formula E Racing is coming to town! After a successful debut in 2015, Formula E racing is back in Long Beach with a weekend of amazing celebrations, dinners and parties. The best part of this event is that it is organized by one of my best friends: Giorgio Veroni, who happens to be married to my best friend Tamara Beckwith; so it’s really a full on “Best friends” extravaganza. These 2 are so much fun and they definitely have made “Jet setting” an art form of their own; a really, really fun time is always guaranteed with this couple that I have know for almost 3 decades!

The weekend marathon starts Friday night with a private dinner at Chateau Marmont, probably the coolest hotel and restaurant in LA. Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag and Giorgio Veroni are hosting a small cocktail party followed by dinner for 30 close friends. The invited group includes the usual suspects, celebrities, some fashionable Euros and a little royalty with the Duchess of York. One hour goes by in second catching up with Tamara Beckwith, super model Claudia Mason, jeweler designer Alice Evans Gruffudd and her adorable husband Ioan Gruffudd, the talented Welsh actor; all old friends of mine whom I haven’t seen in a while. Also in the group is the nutty Sara Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who is always hilarious and so very entertaining.

 

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Claudia Mason and Alice Evans Gruffudd

 

The duchess is seated next to me at the dinner table along with Tamara on the other side; needless to say, the evening is a hoot and a holler; these 2 broads are just too much fun!!! We are all trying very hard not to get too carried away tonight and save ourselves for tomorrow’s race day and then the big closing party at Chateau Marmont for 500 guests. By dessert time, both the Duchess and myself are ready to take our leave; so after our goodbyes, we make our way through the very popular and sceney outdoor terrace of Chateau Marmont and on to our waiting Uber rides.

 

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Robert Kass with Sara Ferguson, the Duchess of York, sporting matching rings by Alice Evans Gruffudd

 

It’s Saturday morning and I’m ready for some action! My race partner today is the gorgeous model: Celesta Hodge, who picks me up at 12 noon in her new, flashy, red Ferrari (how appropriate for this day). After getting lost 7 times on the way to Long Beach (she’s gorgeous with a gorgeous car…but she can’t drive for the life of her!!!), we finally arrive to our destination. It’s a beautiful day and the temperature is perfect compared to the sweltering heat of last year’s race. Giorgio has kindly arranged for some VIP passes for me and Celesta, so we make our way to the Formula E, E-MOTION Club, where all our friends are surely getting drunk on Rosée before the races start.

 

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My Formula E partner in crime: Celesta Hodge. I don’t know what she did to this photo but we look like we just escaped Madame Tussauds wax museum

 

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Entrance to the VIP area: Emotion Formula E Club

 

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My VIP badge…as one does!

 

After socializing for an hour, Giorgio invites a group of us to visit the “Grid”, meaning, the actual race course where all the race cars are parked and ready to go. Visiting the “Grid” is a big deal in the racing world, only a selected few get the chance to see the cars upfront and talk to the drivers. Alright…it’s almost time for the race to start so we are all ushers back to the VIP area stands to witness the famous racing line: “Gentlemen, please start your engine!!!”. The one thing that you will immediately notice at a Formula E race is the noise factor of the lack of. Electric engines are silent and all you hear is a high pitch hiss every time the cars pass in front of you; it takes a little getting used too, specially after experiencing Formula 1 races where the sound of the engines is deathining and thrilling at the same time.

 

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Lady Victoria Harvey, Tamara Beckwith, Giorgio Veroni,  Claudia Mason and Robert Kass

 

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The Michelin Man giving me the thumbs up

 

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On the Grid with the Andretti team

 

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BMW’s electric Pace Car

 

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Being silly as usual

 

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The Glamour Crew: Tamara Beckwith, Giorgio Veroni, the Duchess of York, Claudia Mason and Lady Victoria Harvey

 

The race cars have to go around the track 45 times to reach the end, but after 20 laps I’m ready to go! Not very sportsmanship of me, but I really want to go back home and get a little downtime before getting ready for the big party at Chateau Marmont. Tonight I have 2 very special dates I’m taking with me: my BFF Loree Rodkin and the beautiful Melanie Griffith.

 

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Emotion’s viewing bleachers

 

It’s show time and I’m all dolled up for tonight’s event. Once again, the party is taking place at Chateau Marmont; there is a sit-down dinner for 200 people, some speeches from the organizers and the winner of the race and the after party for an additional 200 guests. By the time I arrive with my girls, the party is in full swing; among the many guests, you can spot some familiar faces like Leonardo di Caprio, a big supporter of the electric car movement, Adrien “Brooding” Brody, Victoria’s Secret model Irina Shayk, supermodel Elaine Irwin, my old friend Misha Barton, Demi Moore and so on. For dinner I’m seated between my two beautiful dates: Loree Rodkin and Melanie Griffith and across from me is Erica Pelosini, the queen of the “Duck face” pose on Instagram along with some handsome Euro hipsters. It’s a lovely combination of Hollywood people, Euro fashionistas, sportsmen, society and our royal favorite: the Duchess of York. It’s a really fun dinner with very interesting people to meet. After what seems like hours, the after party is bursting in the seams with a whole slew of new faces arriving for the second part of the evening. It’s now past 1am, I’m a little tipsy but mostly exhausted from a long day…it’s time to get out of here and dive in my lovely California King, huge bed…alone!

 

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Giorgio Veroni and Tamara Beckwith. Photo credit Tamara Beckwith

 

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Irina Shayk with Spanish Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag. Photo credit: Tamara Beckwith

 

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Mischa Barton with Nelson Piquet Jr, Winner of the Race. Photo credit: Tamara Beckwith

 

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Robert Kass, Melanie Griffith and Loree Rodkin

 

It’s ben such an amazing weekend; thank you so much Giorgio and Tamara, you sure know how to throw a party…I love you guys!!! As Tamara would say: “Ciaoyee for nowyee”!

Part 2: Killing two birds with one stone in Mexico: Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s day.

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Today I am going to Cuernavaca to surprise my mom at tomorrow’s Mother’s Day luncheon at Las Mañanitas ( www.lasmananitas.com.mx ), she has no idea I’m in Mexico and no clue I’ll be spending Mother’s day with her. My brother is picking me up at Eugenio’s home for the 1:30 minute drive to the “City of eternal spring”; yes, that’s what they call Cuernavaca. I’m not quite sure why, since every time I go to this city, it is scorching hot, humid as hell and most definitely not what comes to mind when I think of spring! In order to succeed in my surprise, I can’t stay at my mother’s home, where I usually lodge; instead, I am spending the night at a local hotel in the center of the city that I found on the internet that looks really adorable and suitable for my 48 visit: Las Casas B + B Hotel (www.lascasasbb.com). It’s a converted private villa with a dozen rooms, 2 pools and what appears to be a “happening” restaurant and bar scene; maybe I can make a few new local friends.

Once I arrive at my destination I am pleased to discover that today is a lovely Spring day in Cuernavaca, clocking in at a mild 102 degrees, with a very comfortable 100% humidity…just screams Spring, doesn’t it? Being the world traveler that I am, I knew what weather I was walking into so I made sure to pick a hotel with AC in the bedrooms…don’t laugh; a lot of them don’t have it in these areas; you got to do your homework possums! The Hotel looks lovely; they did such a good job decorating it in a simple, yet chic colonial style. No surprise there…turns out the owners are a gay couple from NYC!!! I make a dash to my AC room and out of the elements to slip into a bathing suit and spend the rest of the afternoon poached in the swimming pool like a hippo at the Serengeti. There is nothing else one can do with this kind of heat…at least not this “Gringo”. Later in the evening one can venture out in the town for some drinks and snacks and a tour of the beautiful Palacio de Cortes and the charming center of town, with it’s open markets, cafes and Mariachis everywhere.

 

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Entrence to Las Casas B + B Hotel

 

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Lobby

 

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Pool area

 

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Another pool area

 

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Kass relaxing

 

By 8pm I’m ready for a little excursion around town; the heat has subsided a little and the world comes out to celebrate anything they can think about. My hotel is literally 1 block away from the center square where the impressive Cortes’s Palace holds reign in all its glory. The Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca is, at almost 500 years old; the oldest conserved colonial era civil structure in the continental Americas. The famous conquistador’s former residence is now a history museum with murals by Diego Rivera and the town’s center where all the locals hang out in the evenings, eating and drinking and listening to Mariachis.

After walking around for a few hours, I am famished and I think I’ll be checking out the “Happening” scene at my hotel’s restaurant and bar. The place is packed with a totally different crowd then from the outside walls; here the clientele is quite chic and obviously well off financially. I ask for a table for 1 and I’m told they are fully booked…wrong answer! 3 tantrums and 1 meltdown later, I get a lovely table by the pool and complimentary tequila on the rocks…SNAP!

The food is a modern interpretation of Mexican classic dishes and quite good, though I’m definitely not blown away. The crowd is very trendy and the place definitely has a great energy; I love the old black & white movies screened on the side of the building…nice touch! Having dinner with yourself has its limits, so after an hour of eating and drinking alone and NOT meeting anyone…I’m off to my freezing cold room for a good night sleep so I can be ready for tomorrow’s Mother’s day extravaganza.

 

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Restaurant is happening

 

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Restaurant

 

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Entrance at night


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Entrance

 

IMG_9122Lively alleys in the center of town



IMG_9128Palacio de Cortes

 

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Statue of Cortes

 

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Lively scene

 

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Restaurant filled streets

 

My morning starts with the most amazing interpretation of a Lox & Bagel I have seen in this country; such a beautiful presentation. The heat is starting to rise so I spend the next few hours back in the pool until it’s time to get dressed for the 3PM Mother’s day lunch (they eat lunch very late in Mexico). I was going to wear a suit for the occasion, but I will have to re-think my outfit due to the 100-degree weather….perhaps I’ll just go in my Speedos. I am pleased to learn that Uber service has started in Cuernavaca 3 weeks ago, so I go to my favorite App and low and behold, a white car, the size of a truffle, arrives with the most charming and kind driver I have ever experienced in Mexico. A very welcomed addition to this country if you have any idea how awful the Taxi drivers are in Mexico and how they rip you off as soon as they smell “foreigner” or Gringo.


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Just though this was pretty

 

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My very well presented Lox & Bagel dish at Las Casas B + B Hotel

 

I finally arrive at the famous Las Mañanitas, a favorite of my family for over 30 years. This Relais & Chateaux Property is one of Mexico’s best hotels and restaurants, not to mention the most amazing tropical garden I have ever seen, complete with flamingos, peacocks and other tropical birds roaming around freely in all their beauty. My mom and bother, along with a few friends, are already seated at the table, so I go around my mom, lean in and whisper in her ear: “Excuse me Ma’am, can I join you for lunch?” My mom turned around and practically jumped off her seat with surprise; for a moment there I thought she would have a heart attack!!! Note to myself: probably not a good idea surprising your 82-year-old mom in the future. Shock is followed by tears, hugs and kisses…I would say the surprise is a big success (also thanks to my brother who helped me arrange the whole thing). Lunch is amazing, as usual and goes on for hours, as they do in this country; no wonder you need a siesta after eating and drinking for 4 hours! After lunch we go back to my mom’s home and spend the rest of the day catching up and enjoying some well-deserved family time.
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Exterior of Las Mañanitas


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The stunning outdoor dining area at Las Mañanitas

 

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The tropical birds roaming around the property at Las Mañanitas

 

IMG_9148 My delicious Chile Relleno

 

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A very loud Flamingo visiting the dining area

 

I’m feeling very good about this trip and the successful Mother’s day surprise! Thank you so much to my darling brother David and my Mexican brother Eugenio Lopez for a wonderful stay in one of my favorite countries in the word. Tomorrow is back to LA and back to work…I feel so blessed!!!!

Part 1: Killing two birds with one stone in Mexico: Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s day.

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Part 1, Mexico City:

Today I’m off to one of my favorite cities in the world to research the real estate market for my new restaurant project in Mexico City. It will be a nice change going to the warm weather of Mexico after a week of freezing cold in Canada. It’s the 5th of May, which, in the US, is a big celebration of the Mexican independence “Cinco de Mayo”; the irony is that NO one celebrates this holiday in Mexico; it’s just an American manufactured holiday for the purpose of selling beer and tequila. Oh well…I guess no one here needs an excuse to drink beer and tequila…the least, me!

I’m exited to stay, once again, at my Mexican ”Brother from another mother” Eugenio Lopez’ amazing Polanco penthouse, surrounded by one of the best art collections of contemporary art in the country. I’m a little concerned about the news that Mexico City is experiencing one of the worst air pollution in its history; something like smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day just by breathing the air….I’m glad I stopped smoking! To try and contain this urgent problem the city has come up with a system of allowing only half the cars in the city to operate on certain days of the week and the other half on the remaining days of the week. Pretty cleaver if you ask me; it forces people to use public transportation…not that I would be happy with that!

I immediately notice the difference when Eugenio’s driver picks me up at the airport and there is no traffic on the way to his home. Mexico City is renowned for one of the worst traffic congestion in the world and today it took us only 15 minutes to get to our destination, a trip that usually takes one hour and a half. I’ve been a guest at Eugenio’s home several times before, so Its always fun to come back and see all the friendly faces that work for him, especially his personal chef Lupita who always spoils me with the most delicious Mexican specialties during my stay. Eugenio is in full form and I am quickly updated on our busy schedule of dinners and parties and who know what…it’s never a dull moment with my Eugenio!


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They have really big spiders in Mexico…bring bug spray!

 

IMG_9085Amazing contemporary art just outside my bedroom

 

After a quick change of clothes, we are going to one of the city’s best restaurants: La Rosetta (www.rosetta.com.mx) where we are meeting up with his Mexican contingent. The elegant restaurant is spread through several rooms in a stunning old mansion house in the city’s Roma district, in Colonia Roma and it is renewed across town for its delicious and simple Italian food with a Mexican influence by chef Elena Reygadas. Dinners are very long in Mexico, just like Europe, they loooove sitting at the table for hours and hours. At the risk of sounding rude, I must take my leave; I’m beat from getting up at 5am in LA to travel to Mexico, so after my 5th Vodka Tonic, I excuse myself and retire in my fabulous Polanco penthouse.


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The beautiful 18th century villa turned into the restaurant Rosetta

 

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More Rosetta Restaurant

 

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The hilarious Christian Hannig and Claudia Zacarias

 

My morning starts with one of the best possible treats I can think of: Lupita’s famous Chilaquiles…in bed! There are no words to describe how good this classic Mexican breakfast dish is, with fried “Totopos”, green chile salsa, roasted chicken, Crème Fraiche with a side of beans and Mexican cheese…YUMMY! As I mentioned before, I am here in Mexico City to look at locations for my new restaurant project, so I have my brother David picking me up to spend the day driving around Polanco and La Roma to look at potential spots. It’s amazing to see how many high-end American restaurants, such as Nobu, Morton’s and Mr. Chow, are popping up everywhere in the rich areas of Mexico City, a definite sign of the emerging upper-class starving for luxury goods and services and high-end restaurants. For lunch we stop at one of my favorite cafés in Polanco, the darling Maison Belen (www.maisonbelen.net); a charming café where you can enjoy all sorts of Mexican and American brunch dishes on a lovely, sunny terrace.

 

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Lupita’s famous Chilaquiles…in bed!

 

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Nobu in Polanco

 

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Mr. Chow…opening soon in Polanco

 

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Uriarte, my favorite Mexican pottery store in Polanco

 

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Maison Belen in Polanco

 

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The lovely display of pastries at Maison Belen in Polanco



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Two “Packing” gentlemen fixing my bedroom TV…only in Mexico!

 

It’s now 4pm or otherwise know as siesta time! I’m dropped off at Eugenio’s home so I can rest for a few hours before getting ready for Charro Salinas’s birthday party tonight. Charro is the son of the ex president of Mexico Carlos Salinas, and he’s having a sit-down dinner at the iconic Mexican restaurant Cicero Centenario, in the Zona Rosa of the city (the naughty area…), a breathtaking 18th century building decorated in colonial style with amazing traditional Mexican food…right up my alley! We arrive at 10pm, on a 9pm dinner invitation, and we are the only ones at the restaurant beside the birthday boy and his girlfriend; That is typical Mexican behavior: 9pm means 11-12am; don’t try fighting it, it’s not going to change…ever!!!!

 

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Cicero’s amazing dining room

 

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The bar at Cicero

 

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Cicero’s dining room

 

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Delicious ceviche at Cicero’s


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Alvaro and me drunk

 

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Mariachis playing all night long behind me

 

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Cake time for Charro Salinas’s birthday

 

By 11:30pm the party is in full swing and I get to meat the most wonderful people, starting with Alvaro Ariza, a local restauranteur and the gorgeous, club owner Karla Deregil among many others. I will say, Mexicans are so incredibly polite and charming and always going out of their way to make you fell welcomed and comfortable. Four hours later and 8 margueritas in, my new best friend Karla, kidnaps me, along with Alvaro, from Charro’s dinner and whisks us through the streets of DF in her chauffeured Cadillac to her night club: M N Roy, named after Manabendra Nath Roy, the Indian born revolutionary and founder of the Mexican communist party. Of course, M N Roy is the hottest underground club in Mexico City and within an hour it is packed to the hilt with beautiful people, dancing to the tunes of DJ “Gordo”. Though plenty of fun, I manage to escape around 4am, totally exhausted and desperately ready to get into my comfy bed back at Eugenio’s. Buenas noches amigos!!!

 

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The gorgeous Karla and DJ “Gordo” at N M Roy night club

 

It’s morning again, or should I say, almost afternoon and I’m just waiting to see what will appear at my bed for breakfast today; after ringing the bell my the bed (I know…super fancy!), a tray with Huevos Rancheros arrives and they are as delicious as the Chilaquiles from yesterday; I could get used to this really easily!!! It’s time to get out of this bed, pack and get ready for my brother David who’s picking me up to drive to Cuernavaca to surprise my mother for Mother’s Day on Sunday. It’s been a wacky 48 hours and I’m so thankful to my dear friend Eugenio for treating me to yet another great time in his beautiful city!!! I can’t wait to open a business here so I have a reason to come here more often.

 

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Huevos Rancheros in bed…as one does!

 

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Amazing view of Chapultepec Castle and park from Eugenio’s penthouse

 

Part 2, Cuernavaca…coming soon.

Throwback Thursday “Photo of the week”

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Arriving in style in St. Petersburg, Russia. October 18, 2005

I love Montreal!

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We are back in Montreal for a few day of the usual excess. The weather is definitely better then Mont Tremblant at a crisp 8 degrees below zero; sure glad I bought my long johns and layers and layers of cashmere! Our “Host with the most” Luc Cartier has planned an array of activities for us and here are some of the highlights: On our first night, our dear, dear friend David Cooley from LA, was kind enough to lend us his stunning apartment in the old town of Montreal, where we cooked up an amazing “Welcome to Canada” dinner for a dozen of our Canadian and LA friends; the best part of this was spending all day with the whole gang shopping at some of Montreal’s best food markets, like the charming Marché Atwater.

Atwater Market, opened in 1933, is a farmers’ market located in the Little Burgundy area of Montreal. The Art deco’s building interior market is home to many butchers, bakeries and restaurants, the outside market has many farmers stalls which sell both local and imported produce, as well as many cheese stores, wine stores and fish stores. We’re all like a pack of wild dogs going from stall to stall buying up everything in site as if we haven’t eaten for a month. If anything we are contributing to the local economy, not to mention…our waistline!

 

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Marché Atwater’s Art Deco building

 

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The beautiful displays art the market

 

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Amazing vegetable displays

 

At night yours truly, with the help of sweet Chad, cooked enough food to feed 20 people, though we are only 12. Another unexpected surprise on this trip is the arrival of one of my oldest and dearest friends from NYC who decided to join me for the weekend: Scott Currie. Scoot is probably the funniest person I have ever met and I don’t mean funny…I mean hilarious, stomach cramps, tears and convolutions type funny! Needless to say he is the life of the dinner and I can’t get enough watching my Canadian friends rolling on the floor crying in pain. The eating and drinking go on till the wee hours of the morning until we finally crawl back to our respective apartments for a good night sleep.

 

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Martin Beaurivage with a hotel dolly full of groceries

 

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Unloading

 

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Chef Kass mis-en-place

 

The following day Scott and I explore the streets of old Montreal; it’s his first time here and leave it up to him to find the most bizarre selection of museum to visit, such as the Agatha Christy museum, where you can aw in amazement at such things as her typewriter and a hat collection. After a day of strange exhibits, a lovely lunch at Bistro Modavie on Rue Saint Paul (www.modavie.com), sightseeing and listening to Scott complaining about the streets and sidewalks in Montreal not being clear of the snow thus creating all sorts of hazards; we all get ready to meet at one of the best restaurants in the city…are you ready? The Grinder Restaurant (www.restaurantgrinder.ca) !!!

 

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Beautiful Old Montreal

 

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Yup…Horse and coach

 

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Old Montreal


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Old Montreal

 

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Old Montreal

 

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The lovely Marché Bonsecours

 

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Our lunch stop: Bistro Modavie

 

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Interior

 

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Scott Currie posing with Agatha Christy prop

 

Yes, Grinder, like the gay sex app that a Chinese company recently purchased; if you don’t know what I’m talking about…look it up! I guess only in Canada you can get away with naming your restaurant Grinder! Besides the obvious, the restaurant turns out to be really great; full of life, gorgeous young people, great decor and decent food and drinks. The waiters are flirty and right up my alley!

 

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Grinder Restaurant

 

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Grinder’s window

 

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Grinder’s Interior

 

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My Steak Tartare

 

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Martin & Shelly Bearivage and Chad Waterhouse

 

After dinner it’s off to “Montreal en Lumière”, a yearly festival in the freezing weather where everyone comes to the center for lots and lots of drinking and carnival style activities. People are flying over your head on cables from one building to the other, there are Ferris wheels and DJ’s spinning away to the hundred of thousands of drunken Canadians on a rampage, dancing and vomiting in every corner. We last all of 15 minutes before we make our way through the very crowded streets to our dear friend Annie Delisle’s infamous Club “Le 281” for a bottle of vodka and some eye candy. The rest of the evening is not PG 14 and will remain secret, let’s just say, we had the best time as one can only have in Montreal!

 

 

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“Montreal en Lumière” Festival

 

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Crazy people dangling form a wire over our heads

 

IMG_8509“Montreal en Lumière”


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Massive outdoor dance space with DJ spinning amazing music

IMG_8512Funny plastic enclosures

 

The following day Luc, Martin and I have our farewell brunch at the hip Richmond Restaurant and Market (www.lerichmond.com) and one of my favorite eateries in Montreal. Half the place is a fine gourmet market with specialties form all over the world and the other is a super hip, yet casual bar and dining room all inside a stunning refurbished industrial warehouse. After the best duck comfit grilled cheese sandwich in the world, it’s time for hugs and kisses and tears because this little piggy is off to LA and back to work.

 

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The Richmond Restaurant and market

 

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The Richmond Restaurant and market


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Bar and dining room

 

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The Richmond restaurant

 

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Mr. Luc Cartier and Martin Beaurivage at The Richmond

 

I’ve been coming to Montreal now for over 2 years after my friend David Cooley kept telling me for years how much fun this city was and how I should really make an effort to visit. Well…since the first time I came to this city, now you can’t keep me away! It’s not just the fun places and the “everything goes” attitude, but the people of Montreal are really the nicest people I know, they are delightfully uncomplicated, real to the core, sans all the LA hang-ups and attitude and just a joy to be with! I made some very special friends here that quickly have become some of my closets and dearest and I always look forward to coming back to this crazy city!

Throwback Thursday “Photo of the Week”

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I Duck-faced my way into a Models party! Bangkok, Thailand, circa 2006

On the road to Canada…”Eh?”

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After a short flight, I arrive in Montreal where my Motley Crew: Luc Cartier, Martin Beaurivage, Shelly Beaurivage, Chad Waterhouse, Alex and Mathew, are all arriving from different cities to meet in Montreal for our pilgrimage to Mont Tremblant, some local ski resort that I have never heard off…and that’s never a good thing! After walking 3 miles to the custom area (you would think they are the busiest airport in the world!), i am shocked to see an ocean of people, probably thousands, all waiting in line to go through the 5, yes…five custom agents on duty for all those passengers. No worries, Mr. Kass has the “Global Entry Card” that allows you to get priority entrance and service in most international airports; you must input some information on a designated computer terminal in a private area and you’re on the other side of the border in minutes. Sadly, not today! Once at the Global Entry Terminal, the damn machine won’t accept my passport info and after trying 20 times, I am advised by an angry mob of waiting people, to leave the area and join the masses in the main collection area…I am livid!!!! I am in line for two and a half hours and by the time I reach the Canadian side and my friends, I literally turn into Lucifer and I’m ready for blood. My poor friends have a tough time getting me back to “Sweet Robert”, but after 3 cocktail and an apple tart, I am back to normal..ish! We finally make our way to our cars and on the road to Mont Tremblant, just a few hours out of Montreal. The drive is beautiful, especially when you start climbing to higher elevations and the snow is covering the whole landscape. The boys rented a large estate in Mont Tremblant for us for our 3 day visit and once there the property doesn’t disappoint. It’s a beautiful day and you can see across the whole valley, past the lake to the mountain range, if you can call them mountains.

 

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Our welcoming committee.

 

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View of Mont Tremblant sky resort from my bedroom.


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Our mountain retreat for the next 3 days.

 

IMG_8572Our mountain retreat.


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The grand Living room.

 

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And grand kitchen.



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My bedroom, complete with fireplace and stunning views of the mountains

 

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You know I’ll be in here very soon!

 

Mont-Tremblant is a municipality in the Canadian province Québec, set within the Laurentian Mountains northwest of Montréal. The year-round Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort, on the shores of Lake Tremblant, features intermediate to beginners slopes that take a long time to get to top of them and then minutes to come back down. Canadians love this place so I will try to contain myself and my judgment, but this is no mountain…more like a “Bump”, a very, very cold “Bump” with less than impressive skiing, with a very disturbing title of “Coldest ski resort in the world”!!! I’m a serious skier, so for me being in a place that is so cold, with such mediocre skiing, makes no sense; but I will say that the little village is very charming, if you’re into that Disneyland kind of thing. Thankfully, I did my skiing back in St. Moritz a few months ago and I am really here to spend some time with my buddies. I join the boys on the first day for the afternoon and quickly realize that between the crippling 18 degrees below zero temperature and the short, icy bunny slopes, I will not be doing anymore skiing after this. I last all of 1 hour on the slopes and finally make a mad dash to the first mountain lodge I see in the village for one of the best treat one can have after skiing: Glühwein (Mulled wine). This hot, red wine and spice concoction is a favorite for mountain skiers all over Europe; it warms your body on a cold winter day…and you get super drunk too!

 

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Mont Tremblant village

 

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Mont Tremblant’s gondolas.



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Freezing my ass off on the way to the top.

 

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At the summit at a chilly 15 degrees below zero

 

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Striking a pose.

 

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And another…

 

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And another with my friend Martin Beaurivage.



IMG_8610The infamous Glühwein.

 

After a lovely, hot bath facing the fireplace, an hour cat-nap and a few Luc Cartier “special’ cocktails, we all going for dinner at La Savoie (www.restaurantlasavoie.com), a favorite in the area, specializing in Swiss specialties such as: Raclette, Cheese Fondue, Fondue Bourguignonne and Fondue Chinoise. I absolutely looooove all these dishes; I grew up with them! They are very popular throughout the mountain resorts in Switzerland, France and Austria during the winter; I just never been in a place where you can have all of them at the same time, at the same table! There are 8 of us, so you can imagine how much food arrives at this table, it’s ridiculous! I gorge on so much melted cheese that after dinner I can barely wobble my fat ass through the snow and into the local bar for a nightcap.

 

IMG_8579Our living room at dusk…so beautiful!


IMG_8652The Motley Crew all bundled up in 28 degrees below zero temperature

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Charming architecture in Mont Tremblant.

 

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More Disneyland…

 

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La Savoie restaurant…Let there be cheese!

 

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Fondue Bourguignonne.

 

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One of my favorites: Raclette.

 

After making fun of the locals at the bar and risking getting our ass whooped, we finally make it back to our massive chalet where we where planning to have a rip roaring party till the wee hours of the morning. Sadly, the cheese got the best of us and after a few minutes trying to whip it up…we all fall into a “Cheese Coma” and go off to bed. The next day is pretty much the same thing as today; not much happens up here in Mont Tremblant, though I will admit, it’s growing on me…I think it’s the cheese talking.

 

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Matt, Alex and Luc being his usual charming self.

 

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When in Rome…

 

On the last day, I wake up in the morning to find out that it snowed all night and we are totally snowed in! Not a problem, I am so very happy laying in bed in front of the fireplace, watching movies and looking out the window into a stunning, white winter wonderland…I can do this forever!!! Unfortunately, this afternoon we must pack up and drive back to Montreal for another 4 days of shenanigans. Worth mentioning, is our pit stop at the famous breakfast place in the middle of nowhere on the way back to Montreal, named Au Petit Poucet (www.aupetitpoucet.com). This super kitsch, though charming, Canadian eatery with Mousse heads and Dear heads and choo choo trains and fake snow everywhere (I know…you gotta love’em), is obviously a favorite around here and packed to the tilt with locals, nibbling away on their Canadian bacon smothered in Canadian Maple syrup. No need to twist my arm, I’m in for bacon, eggs, waffles and a gallon of maple syrup…probably the best in the world (though every time I try to bring some back in the US, they take them away at customs…those bastards!).


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Enjoying being snowed-in under my fluffy comforter.

 

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View from my bedroom.

 

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The fabulous Au Petit Poucet on the way to Montreal


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Au Petit Poucet interior

 

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Luc Cartier being Luc Cartier…with pig in hand

 

All right possums, I’m driving back with Mr. Cartier and I’m on co-pilot duty, so I’ll see you soon back in Montreal…”Eh?”