Last day on the Alps before the BIG change: From 0 degrees to 100 degrees in 10 hours

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Now that the scary first day of skiing is behind me, I’m feeling quite confident, so today Jonathan and I are gong for the highest peak in St. Moritz, the “Top of the world” Piz Nair at approx 4000 meters hight! Funny how after visiting Macchu Pichu, hight has become just another number! My entire body is aching from yesterday skiing, but I must suck it up and show my little brother that I’m still “The man”! it’s amazing to me how much effort goes into skiing, though you never realize until the next day when you are practically paralyzed! After the Kempinski’s amazing breakfast spread in their main ball room and my daily dose of Birchermüesli, a delicious Swiss breakfast icon, it’s back up the Alps for my last day of skiing (www.kempinski.com/en/st-moritz/grand-hotel-des-bains/welcome). I was very surprised to find out that on the way up the funicular to the Piz Nair, I am suddenly petrified by the dangling and sheer hight of the funicular; I am experiencing Vertigo and a bit of a panic attack. I have never been scared of heights and this is certainly not my first time on a scary, high-up dangling funicular, but today it’s a whole new experience…must be yet another damn present that comes with age!!! We finally get to the “The top of the world” where it’s customary to go up to the bronze statue of a goat that looks down on the world from its position and grab its balls for good luck! God knows I need all the luck I can get…so It’s a mad dash for the goat’s balls. Once again, I am very uncomfortable with the extreme height of this mountain top and I look at Jonathan, with panic on my face, and tell him:”Let’s get the hell down from this mountain!!!”.

 

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The very scary Piz Nair funicular

 

6cdc9b6f87The famous goat at the top of Piz Nair


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Incredible  views from Piz Nair

 

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Love my iPhone Panorama shot from Piz Nair

 

We continue skiing all morning until it’s time to meet up with my oldest BFF, Fabrizio at one of St. Moritz’s top places for lunch: Salastrains Restaurant (www.salastrains.ch). Salastrains is a beautiful, typical Engadin style building with the most amazing terrace on the slopes overlooking the Alpine mountain range. If you are lucky enough to get that perfect sunny day, you can sit outside on the terrace and have one of the most memorable lunches in your life! Today, we have that kind of luck and we sit on the terrace for some great views, great company and some St. Moritz specialties: like Onion soup and Carne del Grigioni.

 

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St. Moritz’s ski-in, ski-out top lunch spot: Salastrains Restaurant

 

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Salastrains’s Menu

 

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The amazing outdoor dining terrace

 

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Another Engadina classic: Carne Secca del Grigioni

 

After a few more slopes, the rest of the afternoon is spent walking around the old town and a visit to one of my favorite hotels in the world: Badrutt’s Palace Hotel                                   (www.badruttspalace.com). This place has more stories than you can imagine; it’s been a mecca for the jet-set, super stars and billionaires for over 100 years! Not only it’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, but it’s also a place that I have frequented since I was a little kid; I have to many memories here to count, especially at the infamous King’s Night Club in the basement of the hotel where more parties, scandal and debauchery have been going on for so many years. My dad used to bring talent to the Palace in the 60′ to perform and I spend countless New Year’s here at my late friend Christina Onassis’ NYE parties. The founder of this iconic hotel is pretty much responsible for creating St. Mortiz when he built the first hotel in the area, now the Kulm Hotel (www.kulm.com), and later  the Palace with its famous “Torretta”, once occupied by the famous German playboy and billionaire Gunter Sachs. To date, I am still friend’s with the grandson: Johannes Badrutt Jr.

 

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The legendary and super-chic Badrutt’s Palace Hotel

 

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The famous billionaire Günter Sachs’s green roof Torretta at the Palace Hotel

 

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Torretta detail

 

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Palace Hotel entrance

 

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The stunning mountain/chic interior at the Palace



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The amazing carved wood ceilings at the Palace Hotel

 

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More amazing details at the Palace Hotel

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The 1959 Rolls Royce Silver Spur for guests at the Palace Hotel

 

Alright, I better get back to the hotel for a siesta before tonight’s big event at the Kempinski: The 2016 St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, featuring only Top Japanese chefs from around the world, including my buddy from LA, Nobu Matsuhisa. Reto has arranged a few tickets for this famous yearly gala held in St.Moritz featuring a different cuisine every year; it’s going to be a bonanza of food tasting of one of my favorite cuisines. Most presenting chefs have 1 or 2 Michelin stars restaurants around the world, so you can imagine the kind of foodie experience this will be. It’s a black tie event and I only have a sport jacket and jeans (Clearly, I wasn’t planning on attending elegant events on this trip. But it goes to tell you what my dad always said: A gentleman always carries a suit in his luggage…you never know!). Apparently I am not a gentleman and I definitely stood out like a sore thumb; all this means is that I have to turn up the charm to make up for my inappropriate appearance. After a few sakes, no one cared, least of all, me! After inhaling about 20 incredible Japanese nibbles with equally amazing paired wines, I am literally falling a sleep on my feet! It’s bed time for this aching, out of shape, old ski bunny!

 

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The Japanese Chef delegation at the 2016 St. Moritz Gourmet Festival

 

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Preparations before the big event

 

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The Gala is in full swing

 

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Look who is also here showcasing his amazing food? My friend Nobu from LA

 

Tomorrow I will spend my last half day in this winter paradise before driving to Zurich, where I will spend the night for my early departure the next day to Tanzania; in other words, I will go from 10 degrees to 110 degrees in one day! Sayonara!!!

 

 

 

First day of skiing…God help me!

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Waking up in St. Moritz is truly a dream; especially in my beautiful, comfortable and spacious suite at The Kempinski Hotel (www.kempinski.com/en/st-moritz/grand-hotel-des-bains/welcome) that my childhood friend and Hotel GM Reto Stockenius has arranged for me. Looking out the window and seeing the enchanting town with the Swiss Alps as a backdrop is medicine to your soul and puts you immediately in the best mood possible. I guess I have the same connection and awe with the mountains as other people have with the ocean back in California; the shear size, presence and overwhelming beauty, takes over you and you are suddenly part of the miracle that is NATURE!

St. Moritz is an alpine resort town in the Engadin, a valley in Switzerland. Twice a host of the Winter Olympics, St. Moritz is mostly know for its jet set and aristocrat clientele that has been part of the fabric of this town since its inception. Winter in St. Moritz is as good as it gets, and the infrastructure is second to none: great skiing, amazing hotels and restaurants, sassy night clubs and more glamour than you can handle! A mecca for billionaires, celebrities, royals and sports figure, St. Moritz always seems to deliver with flying colors!

 

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My fabulous suite at The Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains

 

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My sitting room

 

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View from my window

 

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View from my window

 

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The stunning 19 century facade of the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains

 

Today is my first day skiing in 6 years since I broke my shoulder in Whistler, Canada, when an 18 year old drunken hooligan, ran me over with a snow mobile!!!! Yes…a snow mobile, that threw me up in the air 15 feet to land on my shoulder; I passed out on impact and woke up in the emergency room of the local hospital with my deranged friends laughing at me…equally as drunk as the criminal that ran me over!!!! That was my dear friend Jeff Bartlett’s bachelor party, so it’s not a surprise that multiple injuries, to multiple people happened during the trip.

So back to St. Moritz; today I will ski after 6 years and I’m really exited and nervous at the same time…I don’t want to brake anything else!!!!! The fact that I am soooo out of shape now will not help either. So it’s me and my brother Jonathan off to the slopes today at a comfortable 8 degrees weather; if I don’t brake my neck, I’ll probably freeze to death anyway…no positive outcome here! Surprisingly, the day goes really well, the weather is amazing, not a cloud in the ski, the snow is fluffy and dry and I just got back into the swing of things like a champ! The best part is realizing that I’m a better skier than my little brother…HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Brotherly competition never dies…

 

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Amazing Coffee Shop on the slopes

 

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Ready and gorgeous…

 

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Corviglia sceenery

 

IMG_7587A very happy Robert ready for lunch

 

After 3 hours of skiing, I can’t feel my legs or body for that matter, so it’s time for my favorite pastime on the mountains: Gluhwein…and lunch!!!! Gluhwein is the equivalent of Mulled Wine in the US and a staple in the European mountain resorts to keep warm (at least that’s the excuse we use). Jonathan and I stop at one of our favorite mountain eateries for lunch, or more specifically, the Swiss staple: Bratwurst with Rösti and mustard. It’s amazing to me how the simplest little things in life make me soooo happy; I don’t need a Bentley or a Hermes leather Jacket…give me a Bratwurst or cheese fondue and I’m truly fulfilled…literally!



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The outdoor bar at the Alpina Hütte

 

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Alpina Hütte’s amazing terrace overlooking the Swiss Alps

 

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Menu

 

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A swiss mountain classic: Bratwurst with Rösti

 

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My little brother Jonathan Kass

 

After a great lunch on the terrace of the Alpina Hütte (www.alpinahuette.ch) looking at the Swiss mountain range, both myself and Jonathan decide that we had enough for the first day and that it’s time for a nice walk around St. Moritz and a hot chocolate at the legendary Hanselmann Bakery (www.hanselmann.ch), a staple in St. Moritz and a must after a long day of skiing. Once back at the hotel we go for yet more indulgence with an hour of SPA action at the Kempinski. Now I am literally paralyzed with exhaustion…I need a serious disco nap before dinner.


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Classic Engiadina style architecture

 

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The iconic Chesa Veglia restaurant, also part of the Palace Hotel

 

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One of Switzerland’s most famous bakeries and a St. Moritz institution: Hanselmann


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The beautiful Laurent Perrier ice bar for the après-ski Bolli

 

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Hanselmann Bakery at dusk


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View from my suite at dusk

 

IMG_7597View from my suite at dusk with full moon

 

Tonight I’m having dinner with 3 of my oldest friends in the world: Reto and Simona Stockenius and Fabrizio Malfanti, whom I’ve known since I was 3 years old along with my brother Jonathan Kass. It’s not often these days that you can sit at a dinner table with people you love so much and have known for all your life. Catching up over a period of 40 years is no small feat and will require multiple bottles of amazing Swiss wine to do the job. We are eating at the fairly new Dal Mulin Restaurant (www.dalmulin.ch), which I picked on the Internet because of its stellar reviews; all the other top restaurants were just way too expensive for my little “Jet setting on a dime” wallet. Expensive in Switzerland is NOT the same as the US; “expensive” in St. Moritz is $300-400 per person without an expensive wine; so I’m hoping this more reasonable eatery with great reviews, will impress us, for we all are pretty demanding customers!

As expected, dinner goes on for hours and laughter is in abundance, in fact, we close the place down after midnight. Dinner is really good; the boys share a massive Stinco di Vitello, cooked to perfection, while the rest seem very happy with their dishes. Reto picks a Swiss Charbertin red wine that is truly out-of-this-world for a medium priced wine.

 

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Tonight’s restaurant choice

 

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The very Swiss warm and cozy dining room at Dal Mulin

 

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Our round table at Dal Mulin



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Steak Tartare at Dal Mulin

 

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Stinco di Vitello al forno



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Amazing local wine that Reto Stockenius picked for us

 

We are all so tired now but as they say: “No rest for the wicked”…one more stop before hitting my very comfortable bed. Reto and Simona want us to see one of the hottest bars in St. Mortiz, where their kids usually hang out when in town. Contrary to all the other hot night spots in St. Mortiz like The King’s Club at the Palace Hotel or Dracula at the Kulm Hotel that are ûber exclusive, super expensive and difficult to get in; Baracca is an old barn where poor workers used to gather after work for some cheap booze. Now, of course, it’s no such place; though it’s still the old barn, it’s now a favorite with the young ones visiting St. Moritz. It’s loud and packed to the tilt and people often end up dancing on tables to the same old European favorite tunes like the Gypsy King and yes…Crystal Water’s “She’s homeless”! We last just about 30 minutes before we all realize that we are a little to old to hang with the kiddies, so we finally head back to the Kempisnki and hit the sack!!!!

Good night from heaven…or as the locals call it: The top of the world!!!

 

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The infamous Baracca restaurant and bar

 

labaracca_20150201_212025The very simple interior of Baracca



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My brother Jonathan Kass with my gorgeous childhood friend Simona Stockenius

 

 

My Hotel project is finished and I definitely need a brake…off to Switzerland for some great skiing

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After five months of hard work, I have finally finished designing my first Hotel in my long and multifaceted career. Interior design has always been one of my favorite interests in life, and though I never pursued it professionally, I have designed dozens of restaurants and bars through the years along with some other projects for fiends of mine, but this project was quite special; not only it’s my first hotel, but also the first time I work for a proper client, beside my projects and my friends. I am so grateful for being given the opportunity to take on a project of this kind and visibility on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and to really show my work at a whole different level! None of this would have happened if not for my beloved BFF Ilona Margolis who promoted me and my talents to the right people with more passion and conviction than I would ever be able to do. I have now been entrusted with designing my clients’ next hotel in Brentwood; but in true Kass fashion, before I dive into my second hotel, I need a little brake and I can’t think of anything more extreme than a week in the Swiss Alps for some skiing in freezing weather and another week in scorching hot Tanzania, Africa!

 

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Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel Entrance


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New Club sign

 

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New reception area


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New Lobby

 

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New Lobby

 

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Library detail with Salvador Dali print

 

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One of the many beautiful pieces of art at the new hotel

 

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The dramatic Lacquered wood paneled hallway at the new Luxe Hotel

 

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The new outside patio on Rodeo Drive

 

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The new Bar at The Luxe Hotel

 

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Bar detail

 

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New bar and dining room

 

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New dining room

 

To celebrate my latest achievement and my last night in LA, I decide to spend the night at home alone with a bowl of Beluga caviar, a bottle of Tattinger Champagne, toasted Pain de Mie and Leonardo di Caprio’s latest epic movie: The Revenant…my kind of BLISS!!! The next day is a whole different thing…I spend most of the morning agonizing on how to pack for such an extreme combination of climates; finally I go for a larger suitcase packed with as many cashmeres I can get my hands on, all my sky gear and any warm clothing item I can find and a smaller suitcase with flip flops, bathing suit, t-shirts and two large cans of mosquito repellent…a must when traveling in Africa!!! Perfect, it’s time to Uber myself to LAX for my long haul to Zurich, Switzerland where my brother will pick me up and drive me to the most beautiful winter wonderland in the world: St. Moritz!!! Of course, I fly my beloved Swiss Airlines, who surprised me this time with a better than usual dinner menu that I thoroughly enjoyed before popping my sleeping pill for the twelve hour beauty-sleep to Zurich.

 

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My idea of a perfect night!

 

I was having dreams of mosquitos attacking me in Africa when I get a tap on my shoulder and awake to find out we are arriving in Zurich! After a short layover I board the small propeller plane to Lugano where my brother is waiting for me for the 2 hour drive to St. Mortiz. The drive is beyond amazing from Lugano through the Swiss alps, covered in snow to our final destination, the super chic Kempinski Hotel.

 

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View from my seat

 

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Delicious dinner on Swiss Airlines

 

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Abord the small propellor plane to Lugano


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Zurich at dusk from my plane

 

IMG_7411Amazing views of the Swiss Alps at dusk

 

We are staying at the beautiful Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains in St. Mortiz, the historical ski resort that had its first winter season in 1814-15;  it’s charismatic director is my childhood friend Reto Stockenius, one of Switzerland’s best Hotel General Managers and long time friend of mine from my early days in Lugano Switzerland. Reto is the kindest and most generous soul and he is married to yet another childhood friend of mine from school: Simona Stockenius. It’s a real treat to be able to stay at his hotel and share some time together after soooo many years knowing each other. Reto’s class-act style is evident form the first minute I enter my room with a welcome bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a delicious almond tart, typical of this region and more goodies in toe. What was supposed to be a standard room, was upgraded to a one bedroom stunning suite with the most incredible view of St. Mortiz and the Swiss alps skyline. I’m in Heaven!!!!


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The stunning Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains in St. Moritz

 

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The best welcome treats in my suite from my dear friend and Director Reto Stockenius



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The Stunning vIew from my suite with full moon

 

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More images form my room

 

After settling in Jonathan and I make our way to one of the oldest and most renowned eateries in St. Moritz: Veltlinerkeller. This place has been around for generations and we’ve been going here since I was a kid; they are famous for their Pizzoccheri, which is whole-wheat pasta with potatoes, Spinach smothered with a local melted cheese…divine!!!! I was a little apprehensive about dining under a huge head of a Moose, but after a few glasses of wine, he turned out to be quite interesting! I have the best time catching up with my little brother, but j between my main course and dessert, jet lag kicks in and I’m ready to go back to my fancy suite and turn in!

 

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One of my favorite restaurants: Feltlinerkeller

 

IMG_7457The very Swiss interior at Feltlinerkeller


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Their signature dish: Pizzoccheri della Valtellina



IMG_7470My brother Jonathan Kass and someone we picked up along the way…


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Being naughty with our new friend

 

Oh…by the way, did I mention it’s 18 degrees below zero in St. Moritz? I am quickly reminded how thin my blood has become living in LA for so many years; the frost is truly unbearable!!!! Once back at the hotel, I can’t help feeling so nostalgic, overwhelmed by so many memories from my past in this place: from my late father, to my many friends from my youth I lost touch with and so many glamorous events I was so lucky to attend in St. Moritz. I can’t wait to be back on the slopes tomorrow for the first time in 20 years. I hope this old carcass of mine will make it though the day without braking anything!

Good night everybody from this enchanting place…bloody freezing too!!!

 

A quick flight over the Swiss Alps and off to one of my favorite countries: Turkey.

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I could hardly sleep last night from the excitement of today’s trip to one of my favorite cities: Istanbul. It has become a yearly pilgrimage of sort, an event that I look forward too the entire year: a time to visit my beloved, adopted Turkish family. It’s a time of raw fun, beauty, drama-free-unconditional love from the most unassuming, generous and loving people one could hope to have in their life’s…a really hard thing to find in my neck of the woods. This time around, my friend Raphael is flying in from Montreal and joining me in Istanbul for a 3-week journey all around Europe.

It’s always hard to leave my family, but after the usual chaotic, screaming children, food flying, back talking breakfast at the Kass’s, I’m ready for the next chapter. My brother Jonathan drives me to Lugano’s own tiny airport; an Airport that surprisingly has gone in and out of business 10 times in the last 40 years, so you never know if you can fly into it or out of it! Thankfully, it’s in business today, so I can catch my flight to Zurich for my connection to Istanbul. After a teary goodbye with my little brother, it’s time to board this tiny Austrian Airlines propeller plane…not exactly my cup of tea, in fact, I hate small propeller planes, this little “Suiso” needs “Jets”; but the alternative is a 3 hour train or car ride to Zurich…so suck it up! The flight to Zurich is only 30 minutes but absolutely spectacular; flying over the Swiss Alps mountain range is truly an amazing sight. I couldn’t help but notice that the amount of snow on the mountains is the lowest I have ever seen in my life; As far as I can remember, it was always totally white, year round. Now, it’s hard to find the snow; they say climate change is to blame…sounds really scary to me!

 

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Lugano’s own small airport

 

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Austrian Airlines propellor plane to Zurich Airport…God help me!

 

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The Swiss alps with surprisingly little snow to show for

 

Once arrived in Istanbul airport, my hosts “Welcoming’ agent is awaiting at the end of the ramp to escort me through Visa lines, Passport lines and just about every other line in this very busy airport. He’s been welcoming me for years now and we still cannot communicate one word to one another: him no English…me no Turkish. He’s an ex cop in charge of Airport security who looks more like a Manchurian assassin than a greeter; the first time I saw him I ran the opposite way, fearing for my life. That’s until I found out he worked for my hosts and is, in fact, the biggest Teddy bear ever!!! Once at the baggage claim, I reunite with my friend Raffi who arrived just about an hour earlier and was waiting for me to go to our final destination on the Bosporus.

Traffic is a big problem in Istanbul; a lot like Mexico City, so the fastest way to Nibbles’s house is driving to the nearest ocean point on the Bosporus and then have a speedboat meet you there and take you the rest of the way to the house on the water (certainly NOT an option if you’re on a budget). After a 45 minutes drive we reach the water where Nibbles’s captain is waiting for us; the boat ride to the house is breathtaking no matter how many times you do it. You go by so many monuments along these old waters; palaces after palaces from the old Ottoman Empire, built by the very lavish Sultans. You go under the new, modern bridges that link the European continent to the Asian one; the contrast between old and new is striking.

Finally we are home! Seeing Nibbles, dad and the kiddies is always an enormous pleasure; after lots of kisses and hugs we make our way to the guest suites to settle in and prepare for tonight’s “Welcome” traditional Turkish dinner party at the house. We have a special treat this summer: after trying for years to get the one and only Cher to visit this amazing country, she finally agreed and has arrived today in Istanbul along with BFF (and my wifey) Loree Rodkin and will be joining us for dinner tonight and for the next 3 days. After a much-needed nap, it’s time to get dressed and meet my fab friends Mr. and Mrs. K, Omer Karajan, Alasdair Dundas and sweet Endar for drinks at the fabulous, Roman columned veranda overlooking the Bosporus. Catching up with everyone over fresh watermelon and vodka martinis is always a favorite of mine and watching the boats going back and forth in front of you, with beautifully lit medieval castles and bridges is truly magical…never gets old!

 

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On the boat and on our way to Nibbles house

 

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I think Raffi is happy to see me

 

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Çiragan Palace from our boat

 

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View of the medieval castle from my bedroom

 

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View of the pool and the bridge from my bedroom

 

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View from the bridge from the gardens

 

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Amazing night view of the bridge linking both European and Asian continents

 

At last, my darling Loree Rodkin, Cher, Paulette Howell (who’s husband is the producer of South Park) and her long time assistant Jennifer, arrive via boat from the Four Season Hotel; it’s time for an amazing Turkish dinner with all it’s Mediterranean influenced dishes…and more watermelon martinis. It’s a really fun group and such an intimate delightful gathering; before you know it, we laugh our way to 2am in no time.

Tomorrow is a BIG day, so it’s off to bed for a relatively early night; I cannot wait to show “newbies” Cher and Raphael the Grand Bazaar tomorrow…God help us!

 

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Two of my favorite people: Loree Rodkin and Raphael Tessier

 

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IMG_4539Nibbles, the “dashing” Omer Karajan and Paulette Howell

 

Boat day on lake Lugano and rocking-out at the Harley Davidson’s music festival…sounds like a plan!

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Today is a very busy day! After being woken up by 2 little bandits who attacked me in bed, it’s off for a swim in the pool and breakfast with the Kass family. I’m really exited to be spending the day with both my childhood BFF’s: Fabrizio Malfanti and Gigi Nasoni, with whom I’ve been friends with since we were 15 years old; we even shared an apartment during our college years in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

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Morning wake-up by local little bandits

 

One of the best things to do in summer in Lugano, is take a boat on the lake for the day and have lunch in one of the few amazing Grottos around the lake. Today Gigi is taking Fabrizio and me on his boat for the day and we are having lunch at Crotto del Lago (www.facebook.com/pages/Il-Crotto-Del-Lago) in Porlezza, in the Italian side of the lake. Crotto del Lago specializes in local fish dishes so the three of us have a field day gobbling up all sorts of specialties, not to mention a few bottles of “plonk”. After lunch, it’s time for calm and digestion, so Gigi takes us to his secret lagoon, somewhere on the lake, where you can swim and relax in total seclusion…except the curious swans and ducks. Swimming in a lake is so different from the ocean; the sweet, cool, green tinted water and the lush landscape around you, really create a unique experience.

Finally, it’s time for a tour around the lake and a peek at Campione d’Italia’s relatively new Casino designed by the famed Swiss-Italian architect Mario Botta. What strikes you about this building is it’s sheer size; so disproportionate to it’s small village environment; there’s big money at work for you. It’s time to go back to shore; tonight I’m having dinner with my family’s old butler: Ettore. Ettore worked for my family for 20 years and pretty much helped raise David and I in both our Swiss and London home; he is one of the most charming and kind Italian man with whom I have so many fond memories. I haven’t seen him in 15 tears so I’m really exited…he must be in his 80′ now and I can’t wait to hear all the tales from my youth, my parents, The Beatles and other icons that were hanging around the house in those days, London, etc… I remember that when I was little, I would blackmail him into paying me money to do the things that my mom and dad had asked him for me to do; I knew that he would get in trouble if I didn’t, so scalping a few pennies seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea…lovely child I was.

 

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Boarding Gigi Nasoni’s boat for the day


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Captain Gigi Nasoni

 

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Damn tourists…

 

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Approaching Crotto del Lago in Porlezza

 

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Table with a view

 

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Crotto del Lago’s Menu

 

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Beautiful lagoon

 

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Nothing like a swim in sweet waters

 

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Local visitors

 

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Stunning lake villa

 

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Small lake village

 

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Refurbished old farm house

 

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The very large Casino di Campione by Mario Botta

 

We are having dinner at Osteria la Palma (www.osterialapalma.ch) where they serve the BEST risotto al Barolo in the universe; I’m telling you, this dish is simply insanely good!!!! And I know… I’ve been around!!!! Barolo is an Italian, bold red wine, which is what they use for this local specialty. Jonathan, myself with family in toe, pick up a slightly frail Ettore at his home and off for dinner. Ettore is definitely emotional and overwhelmed by the whole situation; after all, it has been so long since our last encounter.

After a little time to adjust, the stories start flowing out one by one like a gift that keeps on giving; hilarious stories about the Beatles at our home, the Rolling Stones, Rod Steward, Alice Cooper, Joan Collins, Edgar Bronfman, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, the Bee Gees and so much more. You see…at the time of Ettore’s employment, my dad was a very successful music executive: President of Apple Record (the Beatles own Label), President of MGM music, head of Warner Brother’s music for the UK, etc; so having all these music icons around the house was a normal, daily event; that is why Ettore has so many tales about the shenanigans at 30 South Street (our home in Mayfair, London). Good Lord, most of them I cannot even repeat they are so scandalous…maybe on my Biography when I’m much, much older and most of these people are dead!

 

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Osteria la Palma

 

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Osteria la Palma entrance

 

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Jonathan Kass, our old butler Ettore and yours truly

 

All good things come to a close and it’s time to leave the family and join my Brazilian friend Wesley Torriani at the Harley Davidson Music Festival in the center of town; an unusual event for Lugano given the rough and tough demeanor of the Harley Davidson brand in comparison to the very conservative and quiet nature that is Lugano. Perhaps they are finally coming out of their shell…but Harley Davidson??? Who’s making the decisions around here??? The center is packed with Harley freaks from all over Europe, not the American rougher kind, more the gentle, old and bohemian European type…Oh no he didn’t!!! The rest are young locals, thrilled that there is finally some activity in their town. My generation? Nowhere to be found…they rather stick needles in their eyes before part taking in such a mundane event.

Of course here I am in the middle of it with my friend Wesley looking so out of place without our black leather HD outfits. No matter, 5 Vodka Tonics later, no one cares anymore! What next? Since I am leaving tomorrow, I promised my brother’s employees at his restaurant Etnic that I would join them at a local night club for my last “Hurrah” in Lugano…how bad can that be?

 

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Seven Restaurant in Lugano

 

IMG_4460View from our table at Seven Restaurant



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The amazing risotto Milanese


IMG_4461Lovely bread presentation


IMG_4469Box of Petit Fours for all guests


IMG_4481An unusual sight for Lugano: Many Harley Davidsons

 

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The main square: Piazza Riforma

 

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Big stage in Piazza Riforma for Harley Davidson’s concert event

 

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Crousing the Piazza with my Brazilian buddy Wesley

 

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Final “hurrah” at Club Chocolate with Jonathan’s employees

 

3AM, dying to get home but to drunk to drive…why do I do this to myself? I guess it was worth it, I had an amazing day, an amazing night and I am ready for bed and even more ready to leave in the morning for my beloved Istanbul!! Loving my life…ZZZZZZZ

Birthday week in Switzerland

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After a wild week in London, I am looking forward to a mellow and grounded week in beautiful Switzerland with family and friends and much needed rest. I’ve written several pieces on my hometown Lugano, but it never seems to get old and I find that there is always more to share with you about this amazing small city bordering Italy. I arrive in Zurich airport, and this time, I decided to take the train down to Lugano instead of a rental car or small plane; the train leaves directly from the airport so it’s an easy operation all together. I’m happily surprised to see that the first class wagons are now panoramic, an option that did not exist when I was living in Switzerland. Taking the train through the Swiss countryside and mountains is already an amazing treat in itself, but having a panoramic ceiling, well…what more can you ask for. Even better is the fact that there are only two of us in the entire car. After a 3 hours train ride, I arrive in Lugano to find my brother and his 3 kids along with my BFF Fabrizio, with whom I’ve been friends since we were 3 years old, waiting for me at the station…right there and then you understand the feeling of love and the true meaning of coming home, no matter how many years it’s been since I’ve left Switzerland.

 

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Arrivals at Zurich airport

 

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Swiss trains first class panoramic car

 

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Amazing view from my seat

 

Since this will be a quiet week of relaxation and family time, I won’t be doing a 1-day review post, but rather I’ll talk about the highlights of my stay in Lugano.

I always love walking around town in Lugano, not only it is such a beautiful city, but it carries so many amazing memories from my youth: like Gabbani Market (www.gabbani.com), an iconic gourmet market that has been in Lugano since 1937 and also the place where I had my first summer job when I was 15 years old so that I can earn enough money to buy myself a moped!!! I worked outside under the arcade selling fresh berries (don’t even…), there, the first seeds of what would become a fearlessly independent entrepreneur, were planted. The food at Gabbani is beyond amazing and the presentation is just fabulous! Walking through the streets of Lugano is a real treat; you will find such amazing buildings and churches from way back in the 15″ century. One thing about Switzerland is that they take good care of their national patrimony and all historical buildings look as they were built just a few year ago.

 

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The iconic Gabbani market in Lugano where I had my first summer job at 15 years of age


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The famous salami arches at Gabbani

 

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Gabbani’s amazing sandwiches

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, Lugano’s oldest church and monastery, circa 1499

 

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Santa Maria degli Angeli, interior

 

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The last supper at Santa Maria degli Angeli

 

IMG_4229The stunning alfresco “Passione e Crocefissione” by Bernardino Luini.



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The newly renovated Palace Hotel and residence

 

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Lake view

 

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Another amazing lake view

 

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The oldest building in Lugano, circa 16′ century

 

I loved having lunch with one of my oldest friends: Stefano Pesce; an art dealer and representative of one of the biggest Salvador Dali collections in Europe. He takes me to one of my favorite Grottos on Lake Lugano: Grotto Pojana (www.grottopojana.com). As I already explained in previous posts, a Grotto is a uniquely Swiss Italian phenomenon; it’s basically an old mountain home, turned into an open air restaurant by the family living in it only during the summer season, after which, it turns back into the restaurateur’s home fro the winter. The owners of the Grotto make all their foods in house and all specialize in typical Ticino specialties like: Polenta, Risotto, Brasato, local cheeses and cold cuts, horse meat, pork ribs to name a few. Anyway, back to Gotto Pojana! This place has been around forever and the food is still amazing to date! I had the Cipolla Tonnata, which is a take from the Vitello Tonnato (one of my favorite dishes in the entire world…); basically a grilled sweet onion with a Tuna, anchovy, lemon and fresh mayo sauce. As an entree I had the Persico filet (a local sweet lake fish) with Risotto alla Parmigiana…delish! Stefano had the fried lake baby fish with French fries, also amazing and typical of this area. A bottle of their own Merlot wine and there goes a perfect lunch by the lake before going to visit the foundry that exclusively casts all of Salvador Dali’s sculptures, of which Stefano is the representative.

 

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My childhood friend Stefano Pesce and myself at Grotto Pojana

 

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Grotto Pojana’s own Merlot wine

 

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Pesce persico del lago with risotto alla parmigiana

 

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“Pesciolini del lago fritti” with french fries

 

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Grotto Pojana’s Menu

 

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View of the lake in front of Grotto Pojana

 

The whole bronze casting process is really astonishing and watching each piece going through all the different stages and become the final shiny bronze sculpture it is meant to be, is something really special. It reminds me of my art school days when I was doing sculptures and castings in plaster. You could see some of Dali’s famous pieces, like the stretched out clock and his Knight on a horse fighting the dragon…amazing!

One of the highlights of my stay was coming home from a luncheon and being surprised by my 3 nephews with a small chocolate tart with candles for my birthday. The best part was the 35 year old candles…the fact that they think I’m 35 is in itself, the best birthday present EVER!!!! There is nothing like family my dear Possums and that is one of the main reasons I come to Lugano so often, so I can see my brother, and watch his kids grow up and be a small part of it…and because they think I’m 35!!!!!

 

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Dali’s bronze sculpture

 

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Dali’s famous Knight fighting the dragon

 

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Two stunning bronze heads that I sooooo wanted to steal!!!!

 

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One of the many stages of bronze casting

 

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Dali’s famous stretched clock

 

Another Grotto worth mentioning is Grotto del Pep (www.grottodelpep.ch); once again, we’ve been going here for many years, so Jonathan, my youngest brother, decided this would be a good place to celebrate my Swiss version of my birthday with a few friends and family. They are known for their pork ribs and the Polenta with trifled mushrooms…to die for!!!!! The meats are BBQ’d outside on the grill for all to see; sitting outside on the signature granite tables and benches on a warm summer evening is a real treat. The drink of choice in Grottos in this region is “Merlot with Gazzosa”, which is red wine with a lemon soft drink that they mix together and drink out of these unique porcelain cups that look like tea cups without the handle. After eating half a pig, 10 lb. of polenta and mushrooms, 5 bottles of Merlot and Gazzosa, and having such an amazing time with my friends and family, I am ready to end the Swiss part of my “Global Birthday Celebration” and prepare for the upcoming Turkish Birthday week…too much? Hey…until you can still stand up and celebrate the fact that you are still alive…I say go for it!!!!!

 

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My own little dynasty celebrating my 35th birthday…ish

 

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Entrance to Grotto del Pep

 

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Outdoor terrace

 

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Outdoor grill

 

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Specialty dish: Polenta with trifled mushrooms

 

IMG_4086Signature dish: Costine di Maiale con Patate


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The beautiful and serene view from my bedroom at dusk…is he watching me?