LA DOLCE LIGURIA

LA DOLCE LIGURIA

In the oft-beaten trail of V.I.P. Italy, our transcendent traveling reporter Gordon Kendall winds his way into the most authentic  parts of the country that visitors seldom explore.

  Our little car, resembling nothing more than a collection of suitcases on wheels, crept mid-morning into the empty village of Casanova Lerrone, located in the province of Savona in the northern Italian region of Liguria, about 50 miles southwest of Genoa. If it were to have eyes, the coupé would have been casting bold glances around its church square and few shops wondering, as were we, “Where was everyone? Were we in the right 18th-century Italian hamlet?” ITALY THIS MORNING In the Ligurian countryside, there were quite a few paths from which to choose, or, as we feared,  inadvertently wind up on, leading us way off course. Like all “visitors”, we did not want to do anything wrong. Yet, even with no one to be found in the streets, in any of the forlorn appearing shops, and the darkened businesses seemingly abandoned, we had that feeling of being watched. Bashful, we and our little car, stopped at a signpost full of markers, like a multi-fingered hand, with each blue digit route marker pointing its own way and distance. Keep Going, it seemed to whisper.     Don’t Yet Turn, it beckoned.   Then, a text came through the mapping on our phones, jolting us forward into action. We sauntered out of the village and made our way up the hillside of curves and turns, climbing higher and higher into the mountains until we reached what appeared to be the ultimate dead end: a garage door with 13 ominously painted upon it. Nothing more than a pebbled path ran alongside it. We stopped again.   Make Sharp Turn Right, the screen screamed.   Cautiously, we inched forward and saw the road actually continued going higher toward the clouds. Both car and passengers took deep breaths and held our sides in, then maneuvered a hairpin turn in the truest sense of the word.   Watch Out For Goats, we learned on our own from observing.   As if on cue, a few goats soon meandered in front of us after we cautiously passed another turn. We paused as they moseyed and munched their way along, soon joined by the rest of their goat gang and herders, human and canine. Clearly, we were the visitors in this crew’s estimations―time and goat wait for no one.   Then, as with all journeys, we were there. But where, what precisely was our destination?   Our friends, who had been tracking our progress, had already opened the gates to Villa Barca as a welcome. Across the gravel drive, an orange stucco house built successively over several centuries, with multi-level gardens and sweeping terraces and patios awaited us. On a table, binoculars and its owner’s cell phone confirmed: we were, indeed, being watched; our automotive hesitancies as we made our way was the lunchtime entertainment. Away from the hurly-burly of corporate life, and, yes, the deadlines that follow every writer, to what would be our home for the next two weeks.   And so we were to find and fall in love with the rhythm of what I’m sure some marketer would term as the villa lifestyle. For us, it was a respite to do absolutely nothing at all if we wanted  to.  Our hosts had retired from owning a popular and highly successful bed-and-breakfast in a prominent r Northeastern resort town. They, then opened Villa Barca their Italian venture, on something of a referral-only basis to  truly just friends and family gleaned from their previous venture.

VILLA WAKE-UP CALL

 

Each day began with not one, but two roosters in chorus. Perhaps the younger of the two was first, then echoed minutes later by one likely of a certain age, proclaiming his was still the valley’s morning call to wake. Maybe we’d follow their twin advice to face the day with them. Well, perhaps tomorrow. What followed after a light breakfast was the difficult choices of whether to soak up the sun on the terrace, or venture to the beaches thirty minutes away in Alassio or Cervo. Maybe even help in the many gardens the owners planted to make the villa as sustainable as possible and save a trip back down the hillside to the not-nearby grocery store?  We opted to view the agricultural activity from a potting shed, turned into a breeze-cooled sitting room. The only thing we absolutely were  not to do was disturb the ghost of a prior owner whose remains and impressive marble bust resided in the villa’s very own chapel. Yes, we could handle that.

 

Affable dogs, both world travelers in their own right, one being rescued from a stray pack on the island of La Reunion, were our only distractions when reading the pile of books we had lugged across the globe. The dogs were just as likely to join us under our chairs in the potting shed to cool off. The villa cat, who greeted us upon arrival, slept outside our door, keeping her own company,  never really venturing too far from the center courtyard of the villa. She and we knew that doing nothing never felt so good.

 

Nothing except eat. Would a trip to Italy be complete without food? When we roused ourselves from watching lettuce grow…and the odd thousands of tomatoes…, or finally finished that book, we ventured to the towns of Albenga and Allasio. It was deep in the heart of  old town, the center of Albenga where we stumbled onto the treehouse-like restaurant of La Cantina di Re Carciofo. Technically, this is a small plates establishment, but, what small plates. Prosciutto, rich local cheeses of every description and the truffles, the kind you can smell two tables away, were so earthy fresh. Then, there’s the saber. In one fell stroke, the saber decapitates the bottle of prosecco, cleanly, with nary a drop spilled in a movie-worthy scene. Then the saber is put under lock and key…just in case you’d like to try it for yourself. Every bottle of prosecco is opened by not a server, but by the patron himself with elaborate twists of the wrists and tentative cork pops.. That same proprietor wields as well an industrial-sized pipette to extract the last of the locally-made gigantic size bottles of grappa.

 

An ideal day in Liguria perhaps would begin with a trip to the beach and a chaise in a bagni (beach club), complete with sumptuous towels, changing rooms, and showers. If you want to go to the beach, it may be the only option to pay the fees charged by these many places that dot the boardwalks. The public beaches, when you can find them, seem no bigger that the few beach towels that inevitably will already be there.

 

EATILY FOR A REASON

 

You’re doing something wrong in Italy if you don’t eat well. One place we found to eat and rest with our newly acquired sun tans was Clapsy, a casual dining experience on the Alassio coast. But don’t think too casual. Change into something smart at your bagni, if you want to join the crowd. Then dine on the perfect pulpo con patatei and tonno.

 

If it is to be a big evening, perhaps because it’s a special occasion, or just a Wednesday, do dress for Ristorante La Prua. Placed on the boardwalk, we asked for a table overlooking the beach here at the Hotel Savoia’s signature restaurant. We wondered which yacht belonged to the Russian-speaking gent holding voluble court at the next table, wearing head-to-toe Stefano Ricci. But the food captivated our attention even more: branzino cooked the best way, simply.

 

The night of La Prua marked our last before the much-dreaded return home. On the terrace of La Barca it was easy to reflect on the need we all have to disconnect from our daily world of constant activity. But not from that reality highlighted with visits to good friends in a welcoming environment and the villa dogs wanting to play another game of catch well into the night. We say ciao to Italy until the next visit, which we are already planning.

  

NOW THAT’S ITALIAN

 

Villa Barca

Borgata Case Soprane, 25

I-17033 Casanova Lerrone (S.V.)

 

La Cantina di Re Carciofo

Piazza S. Francesco, 38

I-17031, Albenga, S.V., Italy

(+39) 3356871785

 

Clapsy

Passegiata Grollero, 18

Alassio, S.V., Italy

(+39) 0182660573

 

Ristorante La Prua

Hotel Savoia S.R.L.

Pass. Ta. Baracca, 25

17021 Alassio (S.V.)

(+39) 0182642557

CRAZY SEXY COOL

CRAZY SEXY COOL

Whether near or far, the holidays are meant to be enjoyed to the maximum. As Auld Lang Syne plays in the background, you can make beautiful music with someone fascinating while wearing some of the most gorgeous fashion of the season. So what are you waiting for? Pack your best dress, tuxedo…and bring the passport.

 

Photography by  Mark Oberlin        Styling by Dion “Bleu” Drake

Hair by Alex Henrichs, using Oribe, Bumble and Bumble

Makeup by Julia Taylor, using Dior and IsaDora Cosmetics   

Models: Masha Bebris, Meraki Model Management & Mario Blanco, LA Model Management

 Sittings Producer: Lance Avery Morgan

AUTUMN’S AMBITION

AUTUMN’S AMBITION

With winter here, we’re ready for the slopes and après ski, aren’t you? Our luxe style arbiter Rank & Style CEO Jamie Chandlee has a few recommendations that make the Top 10 list of your must-have trends to try right now.

WARMTH ALL OVER

This emerald green double-breasted wool blazer is one that means business…and pleasure. From dawn to beyond dusk, this sharp shoulder trend from Balmain jacket will keep you in step. $2,295. At Net-A-Porter.

JUST PLEAT IT

The high shine trend this season is Capture a futuristic edge of Christopher Kane with this dynamic metallic silver midi skirt. Crafted in Italy with a metallic black and silver geometric print that catches the light with sparkly lustre. $740. At MyTheresa.  

HERE’S A NEW ANGLE

This new fragrance, Carven by Dans Ma Bulle, offers freshness, fantasy and sensuality all in one scent. It’s for curious and daring women who know how to mix Parisian chic and effortless style. $120. Photo and availability courtesy of Bloomingdales.

HOOP SCOOP

Hop on the large hoop trend with these Kenneth Jay Lane threaded ball hoop earrings with subtle gold-tone accents in dark pink. The highlighter hue trend will perfectly accent any outfit. $75. At Intermix.

IT SUITS YOUR BODY

The Iris lace-trimmed silk charmeuse and stretch-jersey thong bodysuit by Cami NYC means both comfort and glamour in the satin trend wave. $180. At Net-A-Porter.

PURPLE, YOU REIGN

The big color trend that’s purple? Yes, please. Gucci’s leather lapel-free jacket can be casual with pants and dressy with a skirt, either long or short. $5500. At Net-A-Porter.

FEATHER YOUR BEST

The big trend that represents classic chic is feathers…everywhere. These Salsa feather-embellished suede sandals are beyond fun. $531. At Charlotte Olympia.

WHY, THAT’S FAUX-TASTIC

Want the look of leather without the bother in one of fall’s biggest trends? Try these faux leather leggings by Spanx to get the look. $98. At Nordstrom.

FLOWERS FOREVER

Flowers and wild patterns are very on trend again. This satin floral midi tress by Topshop is fall friendly for work, luncheons or after six drinks $95. At Nordstrom.

BO-HO CHIC

The 70s-inspired gauze, feather and crystal hair clip by Ranjana Khan shows that hair accessories are a timeless trend to enhance any outfit. $135.00. At Net-A-Porter.

FLAVORS THAT FLOURISH

FLAVORS THAT FLOURISH

Fall into more fun, we say. Our editors Lesa Rossick in Austin, Cynthia Smoot in Dallas, Jennifer Roosth in Houston, and Eleanora Morrison in San Antonio share their stellar statewide recommendations that are must-dines as the weather cools down.

AUSTIN

EVER EASTSIDE

La Corsha Hospitality Group has exceeded all expectations with the East Austin Hotel. Sixth and Waller, a counter style restaurant headed by Chef Jason Stude, offers a poolside bar and The Upside rooftop bar that are all perfect spots to relax with a cocktail and delicious eats. At EastAustinHotel.com

THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

Kyoten Sushiko, the beloved sushi spot, has been reopened into a more intimate, omakase-only restaurant. Enjoy a front-row experience as you watch your meal being prepared by the chef, down to the most intricate, delicious detail. At KyotenSushiko.com

ASIAN? SWEET.

Sugar Pine is the new, cheerful eatery that has arrived in North Austin with homemade ice cream, pastries, Onigiri, and so many appetizers. The delicious Bento Boxes are a great option…ranging from grilled salmon to Chicken Karaage. At SugarPineATX.com

DALLAS / FORT WORTH

IRISH SWEEPSTAKES

Cannon’s Corner Irish Pub is located inside one of Oak Cliff’s oldest and most historic buildings and offers diners a traditional Irish pub experience. Their menu features a wide range of items from hardy starters, sandwiches, and salads and a must-try traditional Irish stew. You can also enjoy a large selection of Irish beers with more than 25 on tap, 200 Irish whiskies and scotches. At CannonsIrishPub.com Photo by Kathy Tran

REALLY, IT’S SCIENCE

Beto & Son is the chef-inspired new generation of Mexican restaurant in Trinity Groves that has become quite a popular destination. With tableside-crated liquid Nitrogen margaritas, the fresh farm-to-table ingredients and the warm environment, it’s a spot to which you’ll want to return often. At BetoAndSon.com

NOW THAT’S ITALIAN

Recently opened in the Plaza at Preston Center, il Bracco offers a fresh take on classic Italian dishes with everything made from scratch including breads, pastas, and sauces. The fresh fish is delivered daily and all proteins are butchered on-site and offered on an impressively high quality, crave-able and everyday accessible menu. The chic, but comfortable environment with excellent service and hospitality is a core emphasis At IlBraccoRestaurant.com

HOUSTON

LOCH IT IN

Located in the heart of River Oaks District, Loch Bar is Atlas Restaurant Group’s classic seafood tavern with a speakeasy twist. It serves oceanic dishes synonymous with Houston’s cuisine and curates one of the city’s largest raw bars. In addition to offering a wide selection of local craft beers and handcrafted cocktails, the beverage program centers around one of the city’s largest whiskey lists. At LochBar.com

HUSTLE YOUR BUSTLE

Houston insiders know what a gem Nancy’s Hustle is. Burgers with English muffins instead of a bun? Yes, please. It’s a modern bistro and wine bar on Houston’s east side. With simple fare in mind, they like butter, natural wine, cider, and cocktails that pair well with food. At NancysHustle.com

HEAVENS TO BETSY’S

Located inside the beloved Yellow House at the southwest corner of Evelyn’s Park in the Bellaire neighborhood, Betsy’s offers not only fast casual dining, but also features outdoor grill nights, movies on the lawn, pop up events, and unique workshops.  At BetsysBellaire.com

SAN ANTONIO

CLEAN CUISINE

Founded by Chef Elizabeth Johnson, Pharm Table is the mastermind behind what is arguably the only anti-inflammatory restaurant of its kind. Pharm Table embodies its anti-inflammatory menu with the amazing ability to traverse the nuances of today’s fad diets but also deliver the staying power of centuries-old cultural diets like Ayurvedic and Blue Zones. At PharmTable.com

BREAD WINNERS

Brothers José and David Cáceres’ passion for baking at La Panadería began when they were young boys selling their mother, Doña Josefina’s fresh baked bread on the streets of Mexico City. Eventually they took over their mother’s homegrown business and started baking on a larger scale, supplying bread and pan dulce for businesses throughout Mexico. After finding success in Mexico, the brothers realized they wanted to get back to the basics, and decided to bring their passion for bread culture to Texas. At LaPanaderia.com

THAT’S AMORE

Located in both Olmos Park and on San Antonio’s North Side, Pesto Ristorante was recently opened by Chef Alejandro Santoyo, who mastered his craft for 18 years in the kitchen of local favorite, Paesano’s restaurant. The restaurant, aptly named for Chef Alex Santoyo’s love of European cuisines, is primarily focused on  Italian cuisine. The perfected recipes crafted with pesto have infused native Mexican flavors with tastes that evoke his own authentic flare. At Pesto-Ristorante.com

IF THE SHOE FITS

IF THE SHOE FITS

Our Native Texan style bon vivant Gordon Kendall, who spends plenty of time in Manhattan, recalls his encounter being photographed by the late Bill Cunningham of the much beloved New York Times’ On The Street fashion column.

 

We all have our quirks. I’m a “shoe guy” and always have been. Judging from the number of other well-shod gents I see; I know I’m not alone. It won’t, then, come as a surprise that I’ve ended up with lots of shoes: sneakers, loafers, slip-ons, sandals, boots, drivers. Over time, though, my shoes have done more than just get me fashionably from one place to another: they have become my calling card, introductions to new friends and invitations to unexpected fun. My shoes have even helped me step into fashion near immortality.

 

I got to thinking about that recently after receiving a copy of Fashion Climbing: A Memoir with Photographs, by the late Bill Cunningham, of The New York Times’ Style section, photographer of On the Street and Evening Hours. One of fashion’s legendary photographers, he was at every fashion and fashion-able event in New York City for decades, camera at the ready, clad in his signature blue workman’s jacket with multiple pockets to house his camera gear, no matter how swank the affair. His images captured not always the entire person, yet perhaps a specific item of clothing, accessory, or piece of jewelry that captured his unlimited imagination and fashion knowledge. It was this very sense of having caught the master’s eye that came to mean the unseen, sometimes unnamed wearer had gotten it just right. So much so, I have no doubt there are fashion-striving New Yorkers who can attest to sunburns and chilblains from having consistently waited at the corner of Fifth Avenue around East 57th Street for Bill Cunningham to pass by on his bike and take their picture.

 

Gala partygoers were no better. At one event, an entire table fell silent as a mysterious hand reached over to touch the sleeve of one lady’s rather fabulous Oscar de la Renta gown, camera poised. How could anyone talk, when we were all holding our collective breaths, trying to photobomb the moment? But such was Cunningham’s skill at controlling the setting and the subject that no attempt worked. Especially my own. As it turned out, I had only to wait. I recall a February snow lay in thigh-high berms dotted up and down Seventh Avenue, approaching Chelsea. The sidewalks were a wet mess, but the jaunt from the subway-to-another event was short and I buy my shoes to wear, not decorate my closet. How could I forget how I was shod late that day? It was the Sloane, Glitter Slip-On, by Jimmy Choo. If Darth Vader ever attended the opera, these would be his kicks: covered in sparkling black crystals, its dark, glossy textured surface catching the light, highlighting each step with shine. I had just entered the venue, standing in the lobby, when I felt it. The hand, that hand, at my shoulder. It was him.

 

This is what I recall from that near minute, I admit, my only one ever, with Bill Cunningham. Turning towards him, watching his camera go ever downward, aiming past the evening jacket, ignoring everything else until it focused on the shoe toe. He shot just that one detail. Nothing else. He then asked who made…not “did”…the shoe. I could only stammer, “Choo. Jimmy Choo.” Then, just in case it wasn’t obvious, I added: “…but the feet are mine.” I recall walking on air the entire evening after that.

 

My shoes: past, present, and future. I don’t know where they’ll take me, or whom I will meet in them. But one special pair enabled this unabashed shoe guy to step, however briefly, into fashion’s most famous flash.