BEDAZZLING BUDAPEST

BEDAZZLING BUDAPEST

Europe’s remarkable destination, Budapest, has attracted the world’s attention since the Roman Empire…and its appeal remains as current as ever. See history come to life in a magnificent feast for all the senses, as our global raconteur Ashley Dobson discovers.

Sailing with my husband down the Danube River one evening with a glass of champagne in my hand, it was easy to see how people fall in love with the beautiful city of Budapest. Paris might have dominated the title of the City of Love for over a century now, but the romance of Budapest can certainly give it a run for its money. Floating along the river through the city infused with rich historical beauty, it felt like we were sailing through a movie set.

 

On one side of the river, you have the Buda side, known as the Castle district, with historical monuments as far as the eye can see. The other side, Pest, is more lively, featuring some of the city’s most famous attractions. The Danube River, connecting the two halves, flows like the beating heart of the city.

 

IN ROYAL COMPANY

In Budapest, history comes to life right before your very eyes. Vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire can still be found near signs of the 17th-century Turkish occupation. Of course, the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty’s reign over the region figures prominently in Pest’s architecture. The historic Jewish districts tell the story of World War II, and remnants of Communist rule remain in the austere design of buildings from the 1980s. Still growing, the city is working on adding a series of modern buildings to its skyline.

 

Hollywood is quite familiar with Budapest’s allure and has shown the city a new wave of tourism. The Grand Budapest Hotel, set in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, sent people to the city searching for similar experiences. Likewise, the July film release of Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris is also set in Budapest. Travelers visiting Budapest will undoubtedly enjoy soaking up the culture and quite literally relish a soak in one of the city’s famed thermal spas. I dipped my toes in both on this Eastern European adventure.

 

FOUNTAINS OF YOUTH

In the spirit of adventure, I set out to discover Pest, the city’s more vivacious half. Here, delightful restaurants and cocktail bars are tucked into repurposed ruins, along with fabulous shopping and, of course, Budapest’s crown jewels, the thermal spas.

 

The Szechenyi Spa Baths are the most luxurious way to spend a day in Budapest. It was an easy way to escape real life as the naturally warm water swirled around us for hours. However, if you are a regular spa-goer, Szechenyi will be quite a different experience. There is no soft woodwind music playing in the central area, and the thermal treatments are enjoyed in large shared baths.

 

Despite the communal ambience, the spa offers highly personalized attention. Attendants graciously helped us find our way around the enormous spa. Szechenyi is one of the largest spa baths in Europe, with 15 indoor baths, three outdoor thermal pools, and a stunning gold-colored palace containing rows and rows of private cabins.

 

A world-class indulgent experience like Szechenyi draws more than just travelers. Locals, too, swear by the water’s healing powers ,and many go out of their way to enjoy a daily soak in the thermal pools. Our local guide couldn’t wait to tell us stories of the people she knew who had been healed by the baths. From infertility to cancer, these magical waters potentially have restorative properties for everyone. In fact, as a healthy-looking woman walked past us in her bathing suit, our guide asked me to guess her age. I thought she was about 55. But the truth is she was in her seventies and had been soaking every day for 30 years. So, if you’re looking for the fountain of youth, you may find it in Budapest.

 

If it is not the pools that heal you, it just might be the massages. Szechenyi has a rooftop VIP lounge with massage rooms and relaxation areas for more privacy. The deeply soothing Harmony Aroma massage was perfect for me, while my husband opted to spend time in one of the facility’s many saunas.

 

TO DINE–SO DIVINE

It was hard to say goodbye to the relaxing waters, but the call of our stomachs demanded to be answered. The food scene in Budapest is one we didn’t want to pass up. With a myriad of renowned restaurants and a food culture centered on meat, the hearty use of paprika, and lots of baked desserts, my husband and I knew we could both find something to love.

 

The Michelin-starred Onyx Restaurant offers a take on Hungarian food that is almost too pretty to eat, with the presentation being just as important as the food itself. The tasting menu was the perfect sampling of what they had to offer. Onyx also shares a roof with the world-famous Café Gerbeaud confectionery, an added bonus for anyone with room left for a sweet treat after their meal.

 

Robinson Restaurant in City Park, down the street from the Szechenyi Baths, is the best place in Budapest to get a great steak. The restaurant’s sommelier, Masciuch Béla, really knew his wines and offered fantastic recommendations. Monk’s Bistrot, located just off the bank of the Danube River, is the place to enjoy a dish of lamb or suckling pig. The cozy atmosphere was great for conversation.

 

A TOAST TO BOAST

Hungarians have a lot to be proud of, yet there is nothing they pride more than their wine. The vast majority of the vineyards and winemakers do not export wine out of the country, so it is a luxury not many foreigners get to enjoy. For the best wine tasting experience in Budapest, there is simply no better spot than Faust Wine Cellar.

 

Tucked away underground in Buda’s castle district, behind the stunning Matthias Church, and underneath the Hotel Hilton Budapest, Faust Wine Cellar is an exclusive experience. With only five tables and two reservation times per day, getting a seat at the cellar can be difficult. But the intimate setting ensures just the right amount of personalized attention and, even better, access to the most exclusive vintages.

 

Hungarian wine is the stuff of legends, literally. While sipping a bold red wine, properly called Bikavér, but commonly known as Bull’s Blood, my husband and I were regaled with tales of how the wine got its name. According to one legend, the name came about while the Turks were trying to invade the town of Eger. To give themselves the strength and courage to fight during the siege, the people of Eger drank red wine. The red color of the wine stained their beards and armor, and the invading Turks thought they had been drinking the blood of bulls. The Turks withdrew in fear, and the Hungarians prevailed. Sitting underneath the historical Castle district and drinking a cup of “Bull’s blood,” Budapest made me feel like a fierce warrior ready to take on anything.

 

FLOATING ON A DREAM

But for a city that always leads back to the water, we realized we had eaten all of our meals on land. So on our last night in Budapest, we decided to try one last unique experience. We booked a candlelight dinner cruise down the Danube River on the Legenda Boat and watched the sunset over the water, illuminating the city’s famous landmarks against the night sky.

 

Our time in Budapest had flown by too quickly. As dinner ended and the Legenda started back to the dock, I wished the boat would slow down. I wasn’t ready for our trip to end. Drifting along with the current, I replayed memories of our trip in my head as we passed back by each location…the Chain Bridge, Hungarian Parliament, Buda Castle. Each one made me smile, and I knew I would be sharing memories about this trip for months to come.

 

I also knew I couldn’t let this be my last time in Budapest. My husband was thinking the same thing. “When we come back here,” his next sentence started. I was grinning too hard to register the rest of his sentence fully. I only had one reply, “I can’t wait.” So, give yourself the pleasure of experiencing Budapest. You, too, will soon find yourself planning a return voyage to this magical city.

HED: BOUNTIFUL BUDAPEST

 

STAY:

Budapest is a stunning city, so look for a hotel that gives you a great view. Also, consider location. Since the Danube River bisects the city, you should stay on the side of the river where you plan to spend most of your time.

 

For a regal look and an unbeatable river view, the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest definitely lives up to its architecture by giving you the full royal treatment. Add the bonus of the Four Seasons spa to Budapest’s booming spa culture, and you’re in for the perfect vacation.

 

Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest

Budapest, Széchenyi István tér 5-6, 1051 Hungary

FourSeasons.com/Budapest

 

 

 

If you want a city experience and to be close to the famed Hungarian Opera House, Boscolo Budapest is for you.

 

Boscolo Budapest

Budapest, Erzsébet krt. 9, 1073 Hungary

Budapest.BoscoloHotels.com

 

 

 

For true art lovers, boutique hotel Brody House may be more your style. Each room in the Brody House includes a unique art installation. With only 11 rooms on the premises, the concierge promises devoted attention to its guests.

 

Brody House

Budapest, Bródy Sándor u. 10, 1088 Hungary

BrodyHouse.com

 

 

 

SEE:

Narrowing down what to see in Budapest can be challenging, but here are a few can’t-miss locations.

 

You must see the immensely impressive State Opera House. If you don’t have time to enjoy a performance, be sure to at least go inside and admire the grand décor.

Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts features an impressive collection of Dutch, German, and French art from the 15th to 19th centuries. It is also home to the second largest collection of Spanish painters after the Prado in Madrid.

 

The Hungarian Parliament is one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings. It is the largest building in Hungary and the highest building in Budapest.

 

Matthias Church is simply breathtaking. Located in the Buda’s Castle District, this Roman Catholic Church was constructed in the Gothic style and includes a tile roof with mosaic tiles that can only be found in one other European city, Vienna, Austria. The church also has its own legend surrounding it, the “Mary-wonder.” In 1686, during the siege of Buda, a wall of the church collapsed due to cannon fire. A Madonna statue was hidden behind the wall and was revealed in the fall. As the sculpture of the Virgin Mary appeared before the Muslim invaders, it is said that they fell at her feet and immediately surrendered.

 

Buda Castle is the historical palace of the Hungarian kings in Budapest. While no traditional castle exists now, the Castle District is famous for its baroque and 19th-century houses, churches, and public buildings. 

RAVISHING RIVIERA

RAVISHING RIVIERA

This sun-drenched shore has beckoned the famous and infamous for centuries. Here our girl-about-globe Ashley Dobson shares the allure of the French Riviera’s history…as well as the latest trends and tips for this hot destination.

Cruising along in a silver Aston Martin, taking in the entire coastline of the stunning Côte d’Azur, we finally pull up to the grand façade of the Monte Carlo Casino. Dressed to the nines in a tuxedo and long fitted gown, we walked up the red carpet, had our photos taken inside, and then made our way to the bar to grab a drink—shaken, not stirred.

Did I just describe James Bond’s night out or my husband and me on his annual birthday trip? Instead of a party, we take a trip together to celebrate each year. But choosing the right location for the perfect birthday trip can sometimes be a challenge. It needs to have the right blend of relaxation, sights to see – but not too many – and a place to properly celebrate. This year it needed to be even more special because my husband, Cameron, was turning another decade older, and we needed to ring in his milestone birthday in style. The French Riviera delivered on all of these requirements—and more.\

CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION

The only international airport in the Riviera is in Nice, France. As the largest city on the Côte d’Azur, Nice makes the perfect home base for your trip. We arrived late in the evening and headed straight to our hotel, which overlooked the crystal-clear water. There is nothing better than waking up to the soft sound of Mediterranean waves crashing upon the shore.

We began our first full day by enjoying coffee on our hotel room balcony, and then strolling down the Promenade des Anglais on our way to Old Town. You could be forgiven for spending the majority of your time in Nice on the Promenade; the views are spectacular, and it feels as though the ocean is actually calling to you. But there is so much more to see.

We left the Promenade for the Cours Saleya pedestrian street in Old Town and spent some time shopping in Nice’s daily market. Striped awnings stretched over stands overflowing with fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, and handmade items for sale. Of course, we couldn’t resist the fresh pastries, and we also picked up some lavender-scented soaps made in neighboring Provence.

The Côte d’Azur is nothing short of inspiring with its unique architecture, stunning water, and fields of lavender, and we are far from the only people who felt that energy. Artists have flocked to the region for centuries, and the Riviera features more than 100 museums to prove it. Twelve of these museums are dedicated to a single artist who worked in the Riviera, Marc Chagall.

The Musée Marc Chagall houses the artist’s most impactful pieces, including the 17 Biblical Message painting. Henri Matisse is honored in the Musée Matisse, which holds some of the artist’s best-known works. It is near the artist’s former Nice residence and the cemetery where he lays buried. After a day full of sightseeing and walking along the beach, we returned to our hotel, where we indulged in in-room massages. Feeling relaxed and happy after a perfect first day on vacation, we looked forward to the next day of our adventure.

CUISINE CONSIDERED

If the first day of our vacation was about seeing everything the Riviera had to offer, the second day was about experiencing its epicurean offerings. The French Riviera holds more than 50 Michelin stars spread amongst 38 restaurants, not to mention all of the adorable cafes and bistros tucked along almost every street. Good food is easy to find; the more challenging choice is narrowing your options. We let reservations and location help make this choice for us. A word to the wise – many restaurants in the Riviera are booked up months ahead of time, so if you have your heart set on a particular place, it helps to call ahead.

We managed to secure a seating at Jan, a popular spot located in a former motorcycle repair shop, not that you would ever know it thanks to the elegant décor. Every detail, from the blue walls to the unique dishes, were handpicked and added to the restaurant’s sophisticated yet comfortable vibe. Jan has a world-renowned reputation thanks to its South African chef and namesake, Jan Hendrik.

The menu, a mix of South African and French cuisine made with all fresh ingredients from local markets, was inspired by Hendrik’s grandmother. There is no option for a la carte; you must have the chef’s selection – but rest assured, he won’t steer you wrong. Even if the flavors sound like they won’t work—Cucumber Ice Cream, is this for real?—you may just discover your new favorite dish.

 

CANNES-DO ATTITUDE

The French Riviera is sometimes referred to as a playground for celebrities. In fact, the region has earned this reputation from the annual Festival de Cannes, the international film festival. The invitation-only festival previews new films of all genres from all around the world. The Festival de Cannes celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, with special events at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

The Boulevard de la Croisette is the street on which the festival takes place, and this neighborhood offers a spot with just the right amount of star power. Cannes’ fabled history is loaded with the antics of celebrities during their visits since 1947, when the festivities began. Five-star luxury hotels, luxury shops, and top restaurants line the famed boulevard. One such destination is the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes. The hotel was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, and the hotel still pays tribute to this 1955 cinematic masterpiece. Guests can stay in suite 623, where the film was shot, or in a suite named for the film’s leading lady, Grace Kelly. The hotel also honored the brightest stars who have called the hotel home for a night or two by naming ten Prestige Suites after them. If you want to vacation like a celebrity, Cannes is the place to see and be seen.

MONTE CARLO MYSTIQUE

The different flavors of each city on the Riviera makes the area such a vibrant and exciting place to visit. Monte Carlo, though located in its own independent principality, is considered a part of the French Riviera, and we dedicated our final day of the trip to exploring what this city had to offer.

When I think of Monaco, I immediately think of Grace Kelly, so my first stop had to be the castle where she lived out every girl’s dream of being a real-life princess. Most know Kelly was an American actress who became the Princess of Monaco after marrying Prince Rainier III in 1956. The Prince’s Palace of Monaco is still the royal family residence, so it is heavily guarded, but you can still see the Renaissance-style façade and catch a glimpse of the view she must have had from her tower.

As we walked around and took in the view, there was one thing we couldn’t help but notice. Beyond the architecture and the seafront, there were luxury cars as far as the eye could see. Ferraris, Buggatis, Maseratis, Aston Martins, you could find them all. Lamborghinis are basically the Hondas of Monte Carlo―commonplace and ubiquitous. There is something about Monte Carlo that insists you step up your game to join the glamourous fun. It is the perfect place to celebrate a birthday, or indeed any landmark occasion.

For our final stop, we headed to the famed Hotel de Paris, a recognizable landmark from movies such as The Red Shoes, Iron Man 2, and GoldenEye, and stepped into the very lobby where Audrey Hepburn was discovered as a film starlet. With a marble staircase and a stunning chandelier, it oozed old-school allure.

Cameron chose the hotel’s historic Salle Empire restaurant in the hotel for his birthday dinner, and we were greeted at the entrance with glasses of champagne. Our three-course meal was nothing short of pure decadence, from the cheese plate to the lobster to the Grand Marnier soufflé for dessert. The windows of Salle looked out over the Monte Carlo Casino entrance, and we grew more excited about the next stop of the evening as we watched men and women get out of their exotic cars and climb the red-carpeted steps.

We soon took their lead and found ourselves following in the footsteps of James Bond into the fabled casino. The slot machines were not kind, but we found our luck at the Roulette table. A few rounds in, and it was like we hadn’t spent any money at the casino at all. We decided to leave before Lady Luck decided to favor someone else. After such a perfect vacation, it truly felt as though we couldn’t get any luckier.

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OUT OF THIS WORLD

OUT OF THIS WORLD

Sky high heels with intergalactic shades of metallics, sparkles, and beyond? Why not step into a new direction this spring for that big night on the town? Here, our editorial team has discovered the most delectable shoes to keep you kicking up your heels and conquering your world like never before.

Silver sandales disco a plateau encuir, $1250. At Tom Ford.
CANDLE
PAN
Emerald green slides. By Aquazurra, $950. At Neiman Marcus.
Lutara pointed embellished heel mules, $1195. At Manolo Blahnik.
French Oil
EYE MASK KEEP BOX IN
Laminate mid heel sandal with signature Gucci buckle, $790. At Gucci.
Pink fake shearling mules, $750. At Balenciaga.
BOOK
CHARGER
DG Barocco printed snakeskin heel sandals. By DOLCE&GABBANA, $1395. At Neiman Marcus.
Colibri 85mm multicolored slingback pumps, $1100. At Fendi.
PJS NEW
your birthday can be any day
Sacaria 120mm pearly-stud platform sandal, $2050. At Jimmy Choo.
your birthday can be any day
Enrico bi-color patent ankle-strap pump. $715. By Jennifer Chamandi. At Bergdorf Goodman.
Mesh stretch sandal with ankle strap, $990. At Bottega Veneta.
PJS NEW
your birthday can be any day
Polished cityscape globe-heel slide sandals, $198. At Kate Spade.
Goldora mutli-colored stud leather with red sole sandals. By Christian Louboutin. $1295. Neiman Marcus.
PJS NEW
your birthday can be any day
Remi rhinestone ruffle mid heel sandals by Badgley Mischka, $235. At Dillard’s.
Evening sandal with ankle strap, $895. At Armani.
PJS NEW
  1. Beige sandal with signature YSL heel, $1095. At Saint Laurent.
GLOSSIER

TAKE A BOW

TAKE A BOW

Join us as our ardent social chronicler Gordon Kendall recounts his very brief foray as a debutante escort in the Big 80s. Texas Dip included, so pull up a chair as we take an insider’s tongue-in-cheek look at the man behind the bow.

ESCORT? EXCELLENT

Last year, at an ordinary dinner party (remember those?), the evening took a rather extraordinary turn when I let it slip to all present that, yes, at one time, I had been an escort. All forks dropped to the plates at once. After the seconds of silence, I’m still not quite sure how I should interpret the guffaws of laughter that soon followed. “You?” and “C’mon, really?”  are not affirming credits to any man’s masculine pride. Finally, after a bit of hemming and hawing, I fessed up to having been a debutante escort, which explanation seemed to have satisfied all those assembled for a time.

 

“So,” it was later asked, “how does that, you know, work? The whole ‘party thing’” Thus, began my wine-enhanced recount of my season being the unsung accessory elbow, an escort to a series of young women as they were introduced to…no pun intended…Society Texas. Although it has, indeed, been a few decades since I donned white tie in the name of chivalry and social custom. However, this elbow will remain anonymously tucked inside its cut-away coat sleeve out of respect to all involved and to make the whole event, just a little more dramatic. Wylie readers, however, may be able to guess a thing or two about the who’s, what’s, and where’s of my experiences, and we’ll leave them to that worthy enterprise. They might be right. Or not. My escort season seemed to end as quickly as it began, yet it was quite a whirlwind of activities.

 

THE ANNOUNCEMENT TEA   

The life of an escort starts with something usually referred to as an “announcement tea.”. Who will be the upcoming season’s debutantes when the formal presentation will occur, and when the debutante’s individual parties will happen is decided. Often, I know some of the girls from our school days. As a sidenote, escorts for the girls are mentioned with about as much enthusiasm as saying, “Nice weather we’re having.” Then, everyone goes off and talks to someone they haven’t seen since last night’s other party, leaving the escort and deb to initially meet and get to know each other in preparation of “the season.”

 

If there are any untapped ideas for reality television left, I’d like to suggest Drama Debs, which would recount all the goings‒on that occur during each season. To help draft the pilot, here are other things about the people, places, and happenings the writers should consider. Will she be attractive? Will she be witty? Will you be handsome? Will you be charming? Hers and your faults of beauty or character don’t matter. It’s quite possible the escort and deb will not have known each other previously, so in the first few minutes, with so much at stake, it’s best to agree…to be agreeable with each other. Nothing more is required. The whole thing is “for real,” but only for the others involved. The concept of debs and escorts as players in a saga began much earlier before the first deposits on party venues were paid, before the first contributions to the symphonies, or operas, were put down. This isn’t the time to reinvent the ongoing wheel of societal expectations. Forget that one detail, and it’s going to be reality T.V. time, so watch out. It’s just about having a good time and how many things can you say that about? Hence, that open bar.   

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LET’S HAVE A PARTY, SHALL WE? 

The girls’ families host a round of parties honoring the debutantes, to celebrate their debut. The themes vary, from Monte Carlo to a simpler fare, like, the State Fair. But, whatever the theme, simple or elaborate, it is the perfect setting for a terrific time for all the attendees to honor the debs.  

 

These evenings happen across that state…evoking New York’s grandest Fifth Avenue hotels in Austin…recreating Versailles in Houston…70s Studio 54 discos twisting in Dallas…to Luaus hula-ing in Laredo, and beyond. You get the idea: The Texas Debutante Theme Party. Of course, no mention of the escort experience would be complete without mentioning this unique feature of coming out in the Lone Star State. After the Announcement Teas that start off these seasons, there are scores of separate parties as well. They are the enticing amuse-bouches, the tantalizers to prepare one and all for the main course, the grandest gala in the season’s grail of parties, The Presentation Ball.

 

These season openers come about when one, or several, debs and their families get together and throw some fete-tastic homage to…name your place and time… but think of Paris or French themes as Toujours Favoris. With that in mind, prepare for at least one Les Miz or Mardi Gras inspired to do in any given deb season, or get ready to do your own Can-Can come party time when it’s a Moulin Rouge Rallye, as these parties are called in France. Of course, gardens are always good ideas for these kinds of deb dances, too, but not just any old patch of dirt is party inspiring. They must be Italian Tuscan, or, of course, Provence de France in spirit to be worthy of the debs’ families’ attentions.

 

Considering the original purpose of the debutante party was to introduce young maidens to society, especially to suitable marriage candidates, you’d think Garden of Eden themes might be popular. Interestingly, but not likely intentionally, economically inflationary epochs, such as the 1950s and 1970s, remain popular themes. Just don’t expect casseroles and Chianti jug wine will ever be served no matter those parties’ homage decades. Costs-of-living be darned; these parties are about having fun and fun…as we know…takes a lot more, a whole lot, to make that happen. So, when it comes to themed deb parties, the sky is the limit to produce these one-night-only fun factories.

 

Once inside this combination theme park, high school cafeteria at the lunch rush, and rock concert events, what really happens? Dancing, naturally; eating certainly; queuing at bars, inevitably; gawking, a given. And what you will see. How to transform a relatively mundane country club or a generic hotel ballroom into these fantastically focused events? Just as there would be no reason for these parties without debutantes, there would be no way to carry out their themes without flowers. Not just demure arrangements are dotting the tables, but installations that could rival most of the annual floral output of Honduras. That amount will be just about right to hang from the ceilings, fill the corners, line the walkways, and compose huge arrangements surrounding the buffet tables, and flanking the dance floors…all perfect social media backdrop opportunities. The creativity of the florist and their sidekicks, and the lighting pros, know no bounds of checkbook when it comes to not just decorating such plain spaces but transforming them into entertaining environments.

 

Ultimately, these blooming extravaganzas of the debutante experience will wilt after they are often donated to local charities the following day, the food and drink consumed, and the band packed up. But, inevitably, it will be the memories of these themed parties that will inspire debs in later years to say to their own almost-deb daughters, “It’s up to you, My Dear, certainly, to pick the kind of party you want, but for my party, this is what we did…” 

 

MAJOR GENERAL MOM

One and all will deny it, yet the debutantes’ mothers are really the show’s co-stars. They are the ones who sat through countless committee meetings, raised the most money, and hand-addressed the most envelopes. They also were the ones who ever so subtly, politely, but determinedly jockeyed for their daughters to be the jewels, the princesses, the whomever’s being asked to represent whichever group is presenting them. Mess with M.G.M. and you, Mr. Escort, could very well be escorted yourself…out. I’ve heard a few stories of guys who all of a sudden “had obligations” then disappeared from the stag line of escorts and landed into social oblivion. On the other hand, a debutante’s mother who likes an escort can indeed, rally the Oscar-clad crowd of other mothers on his behalf. That happened to me. One deb’s mother just happened to be quite the doyenne. What she said, went and so did I, from well-dressed nobody to hob-nob, because of her. Her David Webb jewels were medals earned from the social battles she’d fought and won to make everything happen, and I’m glad I was able to share in her success.   

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TERRIFYING TAFFETA & TUXEDO’S JUNCTION

The dress is as much a part of the party as the debutante herself making the coveted bow. So, what if it looks like an upside-down snow cone and costs as much as a nice car? What’s really fun, I hear, is when two debs choose the same style of dress. Rare, but possible. How that issue is resolved is way above my pay grade, but I’m sure it’s nothing that socially savvy mothers can’t work out with no hard feelings, right? As if. When it comes to the actual dress that will appear on the big presentation night, there’s not much you’ll have to worry about, besides not stepping on the huge thing, which is good, because you, Sir, have sartorial problems of your own. To wit.

 

Imagine having as many as fifteen different articles of clothing you will need to have on your body at once, from fiddly little button-like studs to the more familiar socks and shoes. Now imagine that each of these must be put on in a specific order and in a certain way. Then imagine having to walk, dance, carry things like programs and plates of hors d’oeuvres with all this free-spirited, high-maintenance merchandise attached to you. The first mishap is always with the shirt; trust me on this. “Pop,” “Pop,” “Pop,” go the studs right down the front of your shirt, and everyone might see how well, or not, that new ab routine is working for you. Clear tape and a plain white tee-shirt to your rescue. Not the one covered in logos and what-not sayings. The problems don’t end there. Even at winter events, you will burn up in these layers of wool, silk, and cotton. Think about water in article number sixteen, the hip-flask.   

 

DIP AWAY

All dressed up and off you and the deb go. The whole evening will be one of both glamour and grandeur. Lucky you, if you even get to sit down…at all…to enjoy any of it. While everyone else is seated and eating, you and the deb will be backstage, waiting for them to get done, so you can get on with why you’re are there: the presentation. By the time you and the deb line up to get ready, you’re hot, exhausted, and that shirt…it’s always a stiff-as-steel shirt…and has started to come untucked from all the bending over to shake hands. According to some precisely determined order, the same one that says all debs are beautiful, but some go on stage before others, it’s showtime for you and your deb, with all eyes on you two.      

 

Now, the time comes where it all comes together, so no pressure. Brave is the man who tries to tell the deb what to do, but, as she lowers herself to the floor, arms outstretched, mere seconds before her head goes forward into the white abyss of money that is her gown, you really, really hope she followed your invariable lead and laid off the open bar. In my days of escorting, yoga and Pilates were not the fitness phenomena that they are now, so debs today may actually be stronger than you, Sir. Don’t let your downward dog butt get kicked, just keep an eye on her, nonetheless. Help turn her wobble into a wow. Two well-timed hands at her waist might mean a Rolex on your wrist when it’s all over from appreciative parents. I’ve heard that actually happened: one escort received a gold and stainless TYVM. You may think it’s over after the bow, but that’s when it can get even more interesting.      

 

THE BOYFRIEND

We’ll leave it for the etiquette experts to ponder whether an escort is a date, in the “date-date” sense, or just a one-night standup guy. It’s good to get that sorted before all the partying because the deb’s actual date/boyfriend/almost fiancé might just have an opinion about the matter. Leave it to chance, and you’ve set yourself up for a ménage-a-trouble with the three of you. Inevitably, you will not see what she sees in him, the lout. You probably are more fill in the blank than he. He got there first. Don’t forget that and, hopefully, you and the deb will part at some point after the presentation with charming promises to keep in touch and not a terse: “She’s all yours, pal!” ringing in everyone’s ears.

Back to the dinner party that got this walk down memory’s runway started, the inevitable question was asked: would I let my own children do it, be a debutante or escort? My lack of both offspring and funds has already answered for me. So, what can I say? Except for a few evenings, this young man got the chance to play that suave character shown in so many films. So, to those, I’ll take my bow.

 

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MEET ME AT THE CADILLAC

MEET ME AT THE CADILLAC

The famed Cadillac Bar in Nuevo Laredo holds special memories in the hearts of so many Texans. A destination of its era, the nostalgia for the fabled Mexican bar and restaurant lives on, according to our Texas pop culture chronicler, Lori Duran.

AN EASY WALK

I can still remember stepping into the venerable Cadillac Bar. The spacious interior was both casual and refined. Everywhere I looked, besuited waiters were attending to every table. The food coming out of the kitchen looked heavenly. And the enthusiasm of the clientele was palpable. We had driven from Corpus Christi to Laredo, parked our car at the shopping mall on the border, and simply walked across the international bridge into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. It was an easy walk and I have such fond memories to this day.

 

Wanda Garner Cash, the granddaughter of the original owners, also shares her insight, from her new book, Pancho Villa’s Saddle at the Cadillac Bar: Recipes & Memories. “The Cadillac was a special place that served exotic food and cocktails in a comfortable atmosphere,” says Cash. “It was unlike anything else. Prohibition in the U.S. had brought about the creation of this legendary watering hole. Maybe we thought it would last forever. Unfortunately, Mexico was not altogether business-friendly. And the Cadillac weathered storms and changed hands by the time it finally closed 11 years ago.”

 

It all started with Mayo Bessan, an ambitious bartender and waiter in New Orleans. Bessan worked at several establishments, including Henry Ramos’s renowned Imperial Cabinet. In 1920, Bessan’s career was halted with Prohibition in the U.S. And just a couple of years later, he left his honeymoon early to travel to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, to seek opportunities for life and livelihood. The city appealed to him since business was booming on both sides of the border. Bessan and his wife eagerly moved there, and he took his southern Louisiana recipes with him.

The 1920s brought prosperity to Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, especially as Prohibition hung over the landscape and attracted visitors south of the border to wet their whistles. Laredo, then known as the Queen City of the Rio Grande, was a major port of entry for goods coming into the U.S. Bessan saw this as an opportunity. In 1926, he opened a genteel drinking hole and restaurant in Nuevo Laredo, titling it with the rich-sounding name, Cadillac Bar, formerly known as Cabello Blanco (White Horse). Bessan hoped the elevated name would lure respectable Texans inside. Did it ever. Instantly. The customers came, all dressed to the nines, by bus, car, train, and airplane. Bessan infused the menu with Creole flavors and lured his buddies from south Louisiana to be the cooks. The Louisiana friends also organized a gambling operation in the backroom since it was legal in Mexico.  

NICE COCKTAILS

The establishment offered nice cocktails, as they were touted then, which would become an understatement with its future reputation. Meanwhile, the kitchen offered seafood and delicious sauces, and things went well as the social headquarters among the sprawling, arid landscape of South Texas into Mexico. Business was profitable, even during the lean depression years in the U.S., which was then followed by an economic downturn in Mexico. But, Americans would pay for good food and drinks despite the tough times. For more than half a century, Bessan’s restaurant attracted notables, politicians, and ranchers as well as plenty of tourists who would come to shop and eat in Nuevo Laredo and stay at the gracious La Posada hotel in Laredo.

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The Cadillacs famed drink, the Ramos Gin Fizz, was a frothy concoction that Bessan learned to make in New Orleans and taught his bartenders to replicate. The notoriously labor-intensive drink requires a plethora of shaking, but it was worth the effort because it quickly became a customer favorite. In 1949, the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans contested Bessan’s use of the Ramos Gin Fizz title because the Roosevelt’s owners had trademarked it in 1935. So, the Cadillac changed the name to New Orleans Fizz, but everyone knew its pedigree. The food menu included Louisiana specialties such as shrimp gumbo, grilled quail, frog legs, and turtle soup. It also featured TexMex favorites such as guacamole and enchiladas and plenty of mouth-watering frosty margaritas when a gin drink wouldn’t do. With the respected bar and cuisine, linen tablecloths, and impeccable service, the Cadillac was a popular destination along the border.

The Cadillac had a broad following, from Texas Jet-Setters to shoppers lured by the silver jewelry and pottery. Beyond the city on nearby leases, hunters were beckoned by dove, deer, and quail. “It was my father, Epitacio R. Resendez III (1928-1991), who used to call The Cadillac Bar his office and would actually give out their phone number 2-00-15 as his own,” says San Antonio and Laredo resident, Epitacio R. Resendez IV. “He would always be at the corner of the long bar to be close to the phone, since most calls were for him anyway.” Even though the Cadillac bar was a celebrity in its own right, in 1952, Marlon Brando and Anthony Quinn visited when they were filming Viva Zapata! about the legendary Mexican revolutionary of the region, Emiliano Zapata.

ATMOSPHERIC CONDITIONS

Perhaps it was the atmosphere and Mexican folklore that so many loved. Regular patrons had their usual waiters, whom they knew on a first-name basis. Outfitted in white jackets and black bowties, servers made sure that drinks were already arriving at the patron’s table by the time they sat down. Now that’s service. The atmosphere was enhanced by the décor. The Cadillac kept a saddle on display that once belonged to Pancho Villa, which survived a devasting flood in 1954 that affected much of the region.

 

Natural disasters aside, Mayo Bessan died in 1969, and his son-in-law Porter Garner continued the Cadillac for the next ten years. In 1979, Garner turned it over to the employees as he had grown tired of dealing with the Mexican government and the unions. Reportedly crooked bureaucrats demanded multiple payments to renew their license, and annual taxes were based on the single best weekend each year, and everything was taxed. The Garners took their family treasures, including Pancho Villa’s saddle, and left. The South Texas-based Longoria family, Ramon Salido Longoria, bought the Cadillac in 1980.

In 1991, reportedly, a Longoria family feud split the establishment effectively in two. One of them renamed the original site as the El Dorado. While another Longoria, with his partners, took the Cadillac Bar name and moved it to a new location. In the 2000s, business started slipping as violence broke out among the drug cartels in the area. Within a few years, the violence escalated, and tourism slowed tremendously in the vibrant border town. The New York Times had once called the Cadillac “The best run and most delightful watering hole” on the U.S. and Mexico border. But by the early 2000s, the drinks were still being poured even though the throngs of visitors slowed to a slow stream. The El Dorado struggled until 2010 when it closed. In the end, the famed institution had few customers brave enough to visit. The same cartel violence also claimed some of Nuevo Laredo’s beloved shopping sites.

The legendary establishment is gone, as are those carefree trips across the border. But the Cadillac food, drinks, and reputation created a powerful lure that inspired others in the tourist-dependent area. In 1977, George Jackson and partners opened their version of the Cadillac in Houston. By 2016, Houstonian Tilman Fertitta owned four Cadillac Bar locations in Las Vegas, Houston, Kemah, and Lake Charles. There were also separately owned Cadillac Bars in San Antonio and San Francisco. These outposts had similarities with the original, but they could never match it. The original, as in most cases, is usually the best.

Recently, there has been a revived interest in the Ramos Gin Fizz, thanks to the robust craft cocktail trend in Texas. The recipe for this infamous concoction as well as other favorite dishes from The Cadillac Bar can be found in Cash’s book,  Pancho Villas Saddle at the Cadillac: Recipes & Memories, which is available at bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

THE RAMOS GIN FIZZ

Ingredients

1 oz. dry gin

juice from one lemon

1 tsp. powdered sugar

1 egg white

3 oz. whipping cream

6 drops orange flavoring

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in blender.

Serve over crushed ice in tall glass.

Serves one. Enjoy responsibly.

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SETTING THE SCENE

SETTING THE SCENE

When lifestyle expert Kimberly Schlegel Whitman creates, people take notice. Her elevated point of view is flawless. Here, Lance Avery Morgan gets up close and personal about her brand, ShopKSW, and how she inspires others so beautifully.

Photography by John Cain Sargent

When Kimberly Schlegel Whitman creates, people take notice. The author of eight books devoted to entertaining, she leads a beautiful life in Dallas with her husband, Justin Whitman (the son of 50s and 60s movie star Stuart Whitman) and their two children. The life she leads is the perfect subject for her tomes devoted to well, living the good life. Not only is she a genuinely warm and caring friend, she is an inspiration with her tips and insight on how we can all live our best life. A delight to be around for decades, it’s a treat to see her on-going success due to the robust efforts she gives to all she endeavors and triumphs doing. In an exclusive to Society Texas, get to know this dynamic woman in her own words…

ELEVATED P.O.V.

Lance Avery Morgan: Kim, I’ve known your great style as long as I’ve known you, for decades now–in fact, and you’ve always had great style. How did it all start?

Kimberly Schlegel Whitman: That is so sweet, but I’m not sure it is true. I know I have made style-mistakes before, but I like to try new things and experiment. I’m also “moody” in my style, so sometimes it changes. I’ve always been drawn to the classics…and I like to give them a little twist.

LAM: One thing that many other folks and I know is that your entire family has amazing style. How has that helped you hone your own stylish point of view?

KSW: This is what my next book is about–celebrating the things we learned from the women in our lives and thinking about how we incorporate those things into our entertaining and personal style in a modern way. We are featuring 25 women who embody this respect for tradition but have their own take on it.  For me, it was all about being bold and vivacious. My mother, as you know, doesn’t shy away from bright colors or dramatic statements in her fashion and in the way she decorates and entertains. She is always looking for fun, festive, new ways to celebrate, yet has a great appreciation for the traditions that are meaningful to her. I’m so lucky that she remains a strong influence on my family and me.

LAM: You’ve been such a successful, entertaining author, and a busy wife and mother. Tell me why you decided to move into tableware and home goods?

KW: I love setting the table, and I wanted to make it fun and easy for everyone. My book, Tablescapes, was my favorite one to write and style because I find setting the table so relaxing and joyful. I posted photos of my simple family tablescapes almost every day during the early parts of the pandemic. Although it felt frilly when there was so much going on in the world, it gave me comfort to be a little bit creative every day and set a place for my family to sit down together. It was a small part of the day that I could control when so much seemed out of control.

I received so many questions on my social media about table settings and people asking if I could help them coordinate something to match things they had or help them pick out something new. It dawned on me, with some nudging from my husband, Justin, that I could be selling my favorite curated items directly. That’s when I launched the digital platform, ShopKSW, to make it simple to find a curated tablescape that could be ordered, collected, and set easily. My favorite thing about the site is that I get so many messages from viewers who send me a photo of a set of china or glassware or linen they inherited, and we work on finding them additional pieces to give those antique treasures a fresh look.

TIMELY TRADITIONS

LAM: I love the heritage point of view you have incorporated, combining the older with the new. What are some of your personal favorite pieces?

KSW: Everything on ShopKSW is a favorite, or I wouldn’t have it on there!  I will say that when a set of Herend multi-colored Chinese Bouquet Dinner Plates was shipped off to a client in New Orleans, I was a little bit sad to say goodbye to them, so I immediately ordered more. I have always loved linens from D. Porthault, and I’m thrilled to be able to offer their unique products on the site. I’m also crazy about the traditional patterns such as Tobacco Leaf, Blue Canton, and Famille Verte by Mottahedeh. I love setting them in unexpected ways. The resurgence of Gio Ponti’s design for Ginori, Oriente Italiano, has been so exciting too. It is so much fun to set a table with all of those wonderful colors at my fingertips. I could go on and on about my favorites, but, actually, I love it all.

LAM: Your taste certainly reflects how you live on a daily basis. I always love seeing the beautiful environments you create for yourself and your family. What are some of your personal favorite tableware themes?

KSW: I always love a blue and white table. It reminds me of home and my mother’s blue and white breakfast room that I find so very comforting.

LAM: Beyond color, does tableware have a seasonal theme?

KSW: Absolutely. I think that cold, weary winters call for cozy and comforting settings while the vibrancy of spring calls for a vivid and colorful mix.

LAM: For spring, so our readers can be inspired by you even more, what are you loving most within your product line offerings?

KSW: This spring, I’m planning some tablescapes that all seem to have a lot of green, which represents new life. I think we all long for a colorful, joyful, and refreshed season ahead. I have quite a bit of Bordallo Pinhero’s Cabbage Leaf, Mottahedeh’s Famille Verte, and all of the vibrant colors from D. Porthault and Ginori 1735.

 

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SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

LAM: I know you also love and offer vintage pieces. Tell me about the appeal of pieces that have a story behind them and why this is attractive to buyers?

KSW: We have a wonderful exclusive with Opaline Atelier, two Canadian artists who describe their pieces as re-enhanced glass. I love that word for vintage and antique pieces, re-enhanced. Whether they are altered, as Opaline Atelier does or simply set in a new way, I love that we can bring new life to items that were treasured by someone before. We have an exquisite collection of vintage Gucci, Hermes, and Dior on the site as well. They are so unique and special, and I am thrilled to be able to offer them. 

LAM: You really do offer an array of selections for anyone’s refined tastes. How do you source for new products to offer on your platform?

KSW: I only offer products that I do or would use, myself, so most of the products are from brands that I use regularly.  When I find something unique that I want to try, I always give it a test run before purchasing it for ShopKSW.

LAM: Do your travels inspire you? I recall you found some great pieces in Paris when we were there at the same time for Becca Cason Thrash’s American Friends of the Louvre gala.

KSW: Great memory, and yes, travel has always been an inspiration. When I was young, my parents took my siblings and me on a trip around the world.  We learned so much and met so many wonderful people along the way. Among other things, we saw how others entertained and dined in different parts of the world, and that was very inspiring to me. I am sure it shaped the way I love to entertain more than I realized it would, even as a child.

LAM: Never underestimate the power of a stylish child, I say. What advice would you give to any budding lifestyle expert, based on what you have learned so far?

KSW: Don’t be afraid to try something unique, and remember that there is so much to learn from traditions. I think a mix of the two is always best.

LAM: I know how important philanthropy is to you and your family.

KSW: Working with NorthPark Center on their incredible Ambassador Program has been such an honor for me.  The program has been an excellent way for NorthPark Center to make the most of its resources to help the community. As its chair for the last five years, I have had the privilege to work with so many inspiring community volunteers and non-profit professionals. Beyond the financial support that NorthPark Center often provides, there are so many other ways that they can lift up these worthy causes. From exhibitions in the shopping center to in-store events to hosting gatherings, the incredible team at NorthPark makes the most of the resources they are able to share.

This year, I also continue to serve on the Children’s Cancer Fund’s advisory board. We are working on ways to continue raising funds for support and research. As so many galas and fundraising events have been canceled, it is so heartwarming to see all of the creative ways that non-profits continue to meet the needs of their beneficiaries. I also am the owner, once again, of the RSVPCalendar.com. The previous owners returned the website to me in January of 2020, and I’m working on other ways to support the non-profits that we are designed to lift up through our blog and social media.

Plus, I am doing some corporate collaborations. The Kimberly Schlegel Whitman in collaboration with Antonio Melani for Dillard’s–the dress and footwear collaboration launched on May 14th.Then, there is the Kimberly Schlegel Whitman in collaboration with CasaMia. CasaMia curates tablescapes in a box. The is for a garden party and features the Bordallo Pinhiero plates.

LAM: Fantastic. Part of your entertaining finesse includes your cuisine that is such a crowd-pleaser. Any favorite recipes that you’d like to share?

KSW: I would be happy to share a couple. These have always been a success….

SIDEBAR: FROM KIM’S TABLE

Parties Around A Punch Bowl

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SAVORY TOMATO TART

I love to serve my guests comfort food, and this take on a tart is just that. I guess you could call it the cousin to a pizza, but the buttery and flaky phyllo dough makes it feel fancy!

1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 sheets phyllo dough
1/3 cup melted butter or olive oil,

For brushing
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese 1 cup grated Swiss cheese,

Divided
4 tomatoes, sliced 1 egg
1/4 cup milk
10 basil leaves

MAKES A 9 X 13-INCH TART

In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Layer the phyllo sheets flat in a jelly roll pan, brushing the top of each sheet with butter or olive oil. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Swiss cheeses over the pie crust, reserving 1/4 cup cheese. Next, spread on the onion and garlic mixture. Then place tomato slices side by side, covering the tart completely with tomatoes.

Whisk the egg and milk together and paint the edges of the tart with this mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the tomatoes and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove tart from the oven and sprinkle the basil leaves over the tart. Cut into mini squares.

TIPS:

  • This tart is extremely easy and very versatile. At the end of a long week, when you don’t know what to do with your leftover tomatoes, this tart is the perfect answer for a supper at home.
  • Don’t be afraid to try different cheeses if Swiss isn’t your favorite. • Use any variety of tomatoes with this tart.
  • For an alternative that is more pick-up friendly, try filling phyllo shells with the ingredients instead of layering phyllo sheets.

 

PINEAPPLE SPICE BARS

I have many happy recollections of my grandmothers opening Tupperware containers filled with a variety of “squares” that they would set out on beautiful silver trays or tiered tea stands. I had so many favorites and loved their small size and precise cuts because I knew that I could sample a few! For an adult party, the rum glaze is a scrumptious alternative.

3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup crushed pineapple 1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt

GLAZE:

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 3 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

 

RUM GLAZE:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar 1/4 cup dark rum
Grated zest of 1 lemon

MAKES A 9 X 13-INCH PAN, OR THINNER BARS IN A JELLY ROLL PAN

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a bowl, cream the sugar and shortening together. Stir in the crushed pineapple and molasses. Add the egg, beating well.

Mix the soda, spices, flour, and salt together in a separate bowl, then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. If your mixture appears too dry, add a scant amount of milk until just moistened. Spread batter into a
9 x 13-inch pan (for thicker bars) or a jelly roll pan (for thinner bites). Bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool about 1 hour before glazing with one of the two options.

For the glaze, melt the butter, brown sugar, and milk together over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Pour glaze over the cake, adjusting the thickness of the glaze by adding milk or confectioners’ sugar as needed.

For the rum glaze, mix all ingredients until you have a pourable glaze. Drizzle over the spice bars.

TIPS:

  • For an extra flavor of the islands, try adding 2 teaspoons of dark rum to the bar recipe along with the wet ingredients.
  • These bars are an easy transition into fall and Christmas if you substitute the pineapple for brown sugar.
  • We like our bars extra soft. For a firmer bar, bake a bit longer.
  • If you don’t have a strong sweet tooth, I recommend the thinner Rum Glaze alternative, which includes an extra kick.
  • Flowers stuck into a leafy pineapple top makes a festive decoration.