It’s time to pack and head to Zurich for the night and off to Tanzania in the morning

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I’m actually sad to be leaving this marvelous place but also exited to vista Tanzania for the first time in my life! After one last amazing breakfast at my hotel, it’s time to pack! Being the seasoned traveler that I am, I brought 2 pieces of luggage so I can pack all the winter stuff in the big suitcase and leave it behind for when I go back to LA and pack the small suitcase with my African needs, mainly bathing suits, t-shirts and shorts. I’ll miss my beautiful suite at The Kempinski with the best view in town; God know where I’ll end up staying in Africa. I have one last lunch with my dear friend Reto before hitting the road to Zurich where i will spend the night with some friends and then leave in the morning for Tanzania.

Reto has invited me and some Italian reporters at Mathis restaurant (www.mathisfood.ch); It’s the hottest restaurant in St Moritz, located at 8,000 feet at the base of Piz Nair cable car. Uber-chic skiers in Bogner and Chanel ski wear make the culinary pilgrimage to the bold-yellow multilevel ski lodge in search of chef Reto Mathis and his acclaimed kitchen of high-end culinary indulgences. On sunnier days guests also have the option of eating outside near the famed “Yacht Club” complete with vodka ice bar, fur-clad chairs and personal Beaver lap blankets. Today is such a day and we indulge on the most delicious meal while sunbathing to the Alpine sun, complete with Beaver lap blanket!

During lunch, the charming Reto Mathis makes his way to our table to meet us and chat with my Reto from Kempinski. What a beautiful day and lovely company, but Helas, it’s time to leave; my friend Riccardo from Italy has kindly offered to drive me to Zurich so I don’t have to take the train, though I do like the train ride from St. Moritz to Zurich…another time! After returning to the hotel and saying goodbye to Reto and Simona, Riccardo and I hit the road for the 2-hour drive to Zurich. It goes pretty fast, especially listening to all of Riccardo’s entertaining and somewhat ridiculous stories of all his ex, present and future girlfriends’ dramas…those Italians!

 

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The funicular to the Corviglia

 

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The Corviglia funicolar

 

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View from Mathis Restaurant



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Swiss star chef Reto Mathis

 

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The very exclusive Mathis Restaurant at the Corviglia


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Once we arrive in Zurich, I give Riccardo a little tourist tour of the beautiful city since he’s never been here. We start with the very chic Bahnhofstrasse (The Rodeo Drive of Zurich), a walk in the old town Zurich dating back to the year 450, up and down the river and finally at my favorite Bar in Zurich; The Odeon. This place had been around forever and I’ve been coming here since I was a student in my teens. Talking about students…we are meeting my dear friend Tina Serianni with whom I went to school at Franklin College, an American College in Lugano Switzerland. Tina and I will be going to Tanzania together in the morning, she works for Swiss Airlines and she’s been trying to get me to go to this magical place for many years; I finally accepted and here we go. She brought along her new French boyfriend, a tattoo artist with hardware all over his ears and nose…she’s always been a little bohemian and rebellious.

 

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Beautiful Zurich at night

 

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The Fraumünster church with Chagall’s famous stained windows

 

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Zurich’s famous bohemian Odeon Bar

 

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Odeon’s classic interior

 

After introductions, pleasantries and 3 martinis, we go to one of Zurich’s landmark restaurants: Zeughauskeller Restaurant (www.zeughauskeller.ch/home). Swiss food is not necessarily renewed in the world, but for those who know, there are a few dishes that are just amazing from this country and one of them is the famous Kalbgeschnetzeltes Zürcher Art hit Rösti…yeah, don’t even try to remember this name, it took me 20 years! It’s a veal dish, drowning in butter and cream and spices served with Switzerland’s most famous side dish: Rösti, the Swiss version of Hash Browns. Rösti is a Swiss dish consisting mainly of potatoes, in the style of a fritter. It was originally a breakfast dish, commonly eaten by farmers in the canton of Bern, but is now eaten all over Switzerland and around the world.

 

Kalbgeschnetzeltes Zürcher Art hit Rösti recipe:

Ingredients:
2 lbs veal cutlets, sliced into 3/4 in strips
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, very finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
15 fresh sage leaves, chopped
7 ounces cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Directions:
Sprinkle the flour over the meat and coat well. Heat half of both the butter and oil in a frying pan. As soon as the butter foams, add the meat and brown it very quickly on all sides. Set aside on a plate.
Add the rest of the butter and oil to the pan and sauté the onion, garlic and sage for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms. Stir well and when the mushrooms start to soften, continue cooking for about 5 minutes longer.
Add the wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape away any crust that has formed. Add the veal and cook, stirring, until the wine has evaporated. Turn the heat down to low and cook for another 10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, and at the last moment, add the cream, let it bubble for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and serve.

 

Zeughauskeller was built in 1487, this former middle-ages armory is a bustling place located just steps from the Paradeplatz. It’s always jammed packed and you may have to wait for a table a long time. The menu is all Swiss classic, including sausages and beer…a Swiss staple!

 

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Place setting at Zeughauskeller in Zurich

 

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Zurich’s traditional dish and Zeughausekeller’s signature dish: Kalbgeschnetzeltes Zürcher Art mit Rösti…AMAZING!

 

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Zeughausekeller’s 15th century main dining room originally built as an Armory

 

After gorging on a low-carb dinner, we stumble out and make our way to the hotel for an early nigh, since I will have to meet Tina at Zurich’s airport at 7am. I am to busy digesting my dinner to realize that tomorrow I’ll be in Africa…how AMAZING!

Well goodnight possums…Chüss!

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

 

IMG_7635Robert Kass, Jonathan Kass and my Swiss BFF Fabrizio Malfanti

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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!!!