HotelCrush: a vehement, furious, downright pathological appreciation for hotel design and culture
We love hotels. We love room service. We love poolside cocktails. There is nothing more decadent than a trip to a hotel, the epicenter of our social circles and respite from our daily life. They are destinations in themselves, with the acumen of the location converged in the design and the sensibilities of its inhabitants. Hotels are daydreams made real, with amenities at your fingertips and a dip in the water just steps away. More than temporary homes, today's hotels aspire to be just like home - whatever home it is that you are looking for.
10/2/11: hotelcrush, we are la
As completion nears on the backyard of our Parker-inspired dreams we're down to picking our lounge chair (future HotelCrush headquarters) and we've gotten a chance to muse on our favorite outdoor spaces. The gorgeous landscaping of the Parker Palm Springs breathes quietly against a backdrop of desert, that invisibility its great accomplishment.
10/1/11: hotelcrush, we are la
Hotel cuisine has gotten a bad rap for being overpriced and dodgy, and while we admit the former, we'll attempt to save you from the latter with a run-down of our tested favorites:
It goes without saying that we love the hotel lounge. Whether it's in our home city or far abroad, the hotel lounge is a respite from the mundane and a welcome perk of geographic proximity. Here's where you'll find us across the country:
XYZ Lounge - W San Francisco. The lobby lounge of the W SF is as comfortable as they come, with an expansive gas fireplace and yummy menu of small plates (we love the chicken sandwich and tuna tartare). Always temperate despite the SF chill, the lobby also offers complimentary hot chocolate to warm the hands and temperaments of guests.
St. Regis - San Francisco. We love love love this cavernous lobby bar, with a modern and slightly Asiatic sensibility. From the fresh seasonal flowers to the towering Christmas tree and sparkling lights, the lobby provides the perfect setting for the beginning of the night or the end. One of the few bars in town with top-notch bar snacks, we're addicted to the cheese puffs, a light and delicious crisp of Parmesan and cheddar.
Chateau Marmont - Los Angeles. Quiet, subdued, but buzzing with moments of rogue glamour. This is Hollywood the way Hollywoodland intended, bright enough for an afternoon lunch but dark enough for secrets.
Olives - W Union Square New York. Slide in here the way you would your own living room or the library at your old college. We love the central location perched in Union Square (up, right), close enough to the train to work as a meeting point for friends but far enough from the vendors selling organic honey sticks. Order liberally from the appetizers menu – we assure satisfaction.
Mandarin Oriental - London. Tthe Mandarin Oriental is like having a well-situated friend in Knightsbridge across the street from Harvey Nichols. With comfortable club chair seating and a decadent "see and be seen" central bar, it fulfills the HotelCrush quotas for style and relaxation. Voted Best Hotel Bar by Time Out London, it garners our praise for its perfect Ketel One martinis and its crisp barbeque potato chips, deliciously refilled again and again.
An excursion to Beverly Hills today brought us within olfactory distance of the smashing new Bouchon Bakery, located in the Montage Beverly Hills. We went a bit brash and ordered two sweets, a kouge amman and a Bouchon brownie. We polished off both immediately and destroyed our productivity for the rest of the day, a dear mistake but one we'd repeat again in a heartbeat.
9/20/11: hotelcrush, yummy
Nothing shouts "summer!" like a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade on a sunny afternoon. And it must be fresh, nothing is worse than a dribble of synthetic preservative-laden lemon syrup stirred into room temperature tap water.
With the jacuzzi construction underway and visions of poolside afternoons reading our Kindle, we stirred up a pitcher of caustic, minimally diluted lemon juice, with a slim cut of sugar. Here's how we do it:
Serves 3. Or in our case, plenty to taste test and serve over ice for the fabulous construction crew.
9/19/11: hollywood, speakeasy swank, campaign champagne
We love the Hemingway known to Gerald and Sara Murphy – brooding, ambitious, and calculatingly absorbed in a sort of post-war carelessness. It's this Hemingway, untainted, that's arrived in a storefront lounge on Hollywood Blvd. dimly lit (to discourage reading, no doubt) and crushed wall-to-wall in books. The drink menu is as spare as Hemingway's prose, and our Death In the Afternoon cocktail featured absinthe, sour mix, blackberry juice, and a float of champagne. As undrinkable as the Old Man and the Sea, we gamely downed the glass in three gulps over fast conversation with a party of Munich natives. Our curiosity sated, we cut out before the weekend crowd, borrowing a move from the pages of Hemingway himself.
New hotel restaurants are high on our radar so with the renovation and re-opening of Public came the subsequent craving for menu novelty. We grabbed our good friend L, brushed past the bikini sun worshippers at Bar Tropicana, and laid into their $35 multi-course brunch offering. We ran through her visit to the W Barcelona over bottomless mimosas (a HotelCrush occasional indulgence) which came straight from the juicer in perfect champagne/orange proportion.
The space is arranged like a French bistro stirred into an English countryside dining room, with twisted horns displayed next to staid portraits and chalkboard cheese specials. Gone is the dark formality of the Dakota dining room, with its speakeasy booths and club seating. Cafe chairs and pub tables congregate under the aged ceiling mural of serpent unicorns swimming around the Roosevelt Hotel logo, and the effect is bright, breezy, and cozy as afternoon tea.
The brunch menu is organized as a pre-fixe inviting diners to select one starter, one main, one side, and a dessert. Starters range from our choice of the crabcake, to asparagus salad, hummus, or burrata on pain vert. We selected diver scallops as our main, though we could have chosen skirt steak, lemon ricotta pancakes, or one of the eggs benedict options (duck confit hash qualifying as the most haute). Our side of mixed berries was delicious – ripe, sweet, and as perfect-looking as a cereal ad. We loved the warm cinnamon and nutmeg coated Berliners for dessert, and resolved to hit the W Barcelona, rooftop pool or (gasp!) no rooftop pool.
9/15/11: hotelcrush, w hotel
We love the anonymity of hotels, the perfectly piqued generic atmosphere, a buzz of locals and people passing through. Nowhere is this climate more poignant than at the W (any of them), a brand that floats effortlessly on whatever city it anchors. Our first W was Union Square New York, with its corner lounge sanctuary from the protests and flash mobs punctuating Union Square. We passed hours with friends over martinis and thin crust pizza before breezing downtown, hanging on the scent of the lobby.
Our next W was Los Angeles, swollen with house music and the airy crowd at French Tuesday. We weaved through the lounge beds on the patio, balancing a clutch and a glass of champagne, dancing every beat. We forgot we were in Westwood, in Los Angeles, in America. Cloaked in a trail of L'Artisan Parfumeur and the fizz of Laurent Perrier we were (our young mind insisted) almost French.
And we landed at the W San Francisco. Comprehensively urban and as anonymous as an airport, it was thrillingly easy to forget which city we were in, which year. When we moved back to LA it was the W San Francisco we'd make our temporary base, testing everything from the hot chocolate (delicious!) to the spa (every bit Blissful), to the stock of pink champagne and half of the room service menu.
But the best part? The opening of a W in Hollywood, so close we could zipline in.
Our very own W.
Carasoin is a beautiful spot located on Robertson Blvd. next to Newsroom Cafe. Appointed in tapestry wallpaper with lacquer sidetables and comfortable beige couches, the waiting room has both the formality of a living room and the comfort of a lounge. We were warmly welcomed, and offered tea or water both before our treatment and after.
Located off the main corridor, our treatment room had a luxuriously high ceiling and a black box theater feel. Deliciously scented candles (pomegranate?) gave warmth to the space, and the treatment bed was appointed with a sheet and full duvet, with a piece of chocolate on the pillow.
Some spa treatments are as old as time (massage anyone?) and some are dubiously cutting edge. Leaning heavily on technology, Carasoin's signature Intraceuticals Oxygen Facial with Rejuvenate serum would have been considered plastic surgery fifteen years ago. Involving a machine that delivers a vitamin-rich antioxidant serum to skin through a stimulating, deeply penetrating blast of oxygen, the Oxygen Facial promises rejuvenation and hydration, and it delivers.
Our treatment began with a Eucalyptus cleanse and warm foot rub, then proceeded to a second cleanse and Pumpkin Enzyme scrub. Spiced like gingerbread and slightly tingly, the pumpkin scrub combined the efforts of jojoba beads to physically remove dead skin cells and fruit enzymes to chemically address them. We moved next through a series of gentle extractions (so gentle that we fell asleep) but we revived sufficiently for the hyperbaric oxygen spray. Lasting approximately fifteen minutes, the machine's nozzle mowed the surface of our face with a fine spray of oxygen and serum. We loved the cool smothering of oxygen, (though it did tickle our neck).
We were told at the end of treatment that the serum would absorb fully in the next day, and we're happy to report that our skin feels tighter and looks clearer.
Maybe there is something to science, after all.
9/12/11: speakeasy swank, hollywood, yummy
By Hollywood standards it was a slow drip. A Tuesday or Thursday at the height of summer, a night here or there for the rest of July and August. But with our devotion to Sayers Club deep in full pitch, we're verging on a level of attendance seen only in educational settings or the workplace. It's rare that a nightclub is this good, and like the thrill of your first concert or trip backstage, we're happy to report that it's downright exhilarating.
Ambience: A black box theater with tufted leather couches, 1920s light fixtures, a gripping sound system, and rigorous sense of lighting nuance. We've compared Sayers to a scaled version of the Edison during its moment (Lucent Dossier, 1920s film projected on the walls). Drinks are classic speakeasy, like our favorite, the French 75 (pictured left). A mixed drink made with gin and tart with lemon juice, the slightly sweet concoction is finished with champagne and a strawberry.
DJ: We're known for DJing three or four genres a night, moving in and out of each at full blast. The same mentality goes here, where the DJ will spin the Ronettes, the Presets, and Biggie in the same half hour. Seamless, and perfectly on point. The late '90s/early '00s concept of Eighties night or hip-hop night is completely irrelevant here, and the single-genre boredom is absent as well.
Live Music: The reason everyone is here. Thursday night Sessions and Tuesday night funk are infamously good, with knock-out cover performances that have the entire crowd on their feet, breathless and stunning guest performances (like Prince last Tuesday) that leave everyone feeling smarter, taller, better-looking, and on a bender of good fortune.
Crowd: 100% music. The best parties revolve around a superordinate purpose beyond straight pick-up dynamics. It might be a great DJ or a weekly residency, but everybody is united by something more ephemeral than their next drink.
9/8/11: bliss, spaaah, yummy
Don't get us wrong, we at HotelCrush love to delegate like the best of them. (Dress hems? Tailor. Driving? Taxi. Cooking? Well...usually take-out.) But there are certain things when absolutely nothing else will do, and that's when we take matters into our own hands.
Our love of L'Artisan Parfumeur began with the scent of French Tuesday. Sultry, enveloping, imbued with the same charm as the heavy French accents and toasts of Laurent Perrier. It was the fragrance of L'Eau d'Ambre – gorgeous and swelteringly addictive, daring as a first kiss and intimate as candlelight. We sipped champagne and drank each room, infatuated.
Our devotion deepened when we received a gift from French Tuesday. It was an exquisite, triangular red box with three candles, two Mimosa Maurin and one Mure Sauvage. We nurtured them like a bottle of Louis XIV – opening the cap, sniffing, indulgently taking a sip. We burned them sparingly, gently returning them to the box and retying the gold ribbon.
As Fall descends and temperatures get colder, the smells change too. Rain seeping through dry leaves, wet asphalt, spices in place of citrus, hot chocolate instead of lemonade. But if there's one scent we'd like to leave with you, it's the aroma of Ambre, tingling like the first cold chill, warm as a beach bonfire, decadent, endless.
As we plummet into September with the verve of a CEO ("Get ahead of the trend before it gets ahead of you"), we give a parting nod to Summer 2011, a summer that wasn't too hot or too cold, but just right:
and lots and lots of refreshing, tart, delicious lemonade...
Spa music can range from the perfect – soothing Massive Attack ambient at Le Posh Salon, to the tolerable – light jazz covers at Bliss Hollywood, to the absenting – classical piano at Ciel. But this is what we'd recommend:
In the way that muzak strives for the specific talent of non-polarizing mediocrity, every spa has the choice of making a statement with their music selection or making music as forgettable, disposable, and unconscious as breathing.
We love the latter. Make us forget how critical we are of slow folk covers of fast hit songs or pop so light it disperses before it reaches your ear. Melt each selection seamlessly into the next, without the jolt of "this is the sixth song, must be about halfway through." Make us remember why we booked an hour, music or no music, with you.
We love Ciel with the torrid revelry of a summer soak on a remote beach. We love a day of pure floating – a relaxation massage, a drench in rooftop sunshine (and SPF100), and a dripping, thoroughly indulgent steam. And like a good plot, the ambience follows suit. Adorned in opulent lighting, beveled mirrors, and polished lacquer, white has never felt so refreshing.
Design: Simple, but not too simple. The stark, glowing white is pacified by textures – the gloss of the mirrors and softness of the faux fur blankets on the tufted couches and leather setees in the waiting room.
Atmosphere: The atmosphere is sparse and minimal, as restrained as SLS can manage (which given the ornamentation of the lobby borders on moderation). Everything is lush and comforting - a shower that flushes you with six jets of water, a steam room opaque with soothing vapor, a drawer in our locker with a razor and lens cleaning wipe.
Waiting Room Amenities: We love the treats, meticulous spears of pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew, or strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry. The chocolate is dark and salty or pale olive and green-tea flavored (our new fav). Melon juices or cucumber-mint water satiate thirst, books like SLS's own or "Trench Coats" (a history) bridge the time before or after treatment.
Locker Room Amenities: Every supply in your morning arsenal is here, save makeup. The room is sparkling white and made for dawdling, with plenty of mirror real estate and at least four kinds of hair styling products.
World Class Hospitality: We were welcomed three times- with a watermelon juice shot upon arrival, a dark berry (pomegranate) sugared gelatin square in our locker, and a glass of rosé following treatment.
The Fitness Center and Entrance to Ciel:
The Hallway to the Locker Rooms and The Fully-Stocked Vanity:
The Locker Area:
8/28/11: in the air, hotelcrush
Traveling can be a slow, planned out, highly organized affair. It might involve an itinerary - "3 days in Paris, 4 days in Italy, 3 days in London" and a roster of flights and transfers meticulously pre-planned.
Or, it can be an all-out runaround.
Our last trip to London went something like this. Hotly immersed in work and work travel, we had little time to devote to our ever-immediate vacation in Europe (which we hate in its catch-all reference but use for lack of another term except maybe, E.U.) There was a dust cloud over Western Europe and an imminent strike by British Airways which blossomed profoundly on our day of travel, negating a set of flights booked in and out of Berlin. Thus we were left with LAX <--> LHR roundtrips and one hotel booked for a night in Berlin but nothing for the remaining week and a half.
It may have been jetlag, or a British candy bar sugar high, or a cocoon of oppressive denial but we weren't worrying the slightest. "Let's just book and go." So we set to the task of booking new Berlin flights, hopping into our hotel and asking ourselves "where next?" Fueled by regional air carriers, a bit of train travel, and the guidance of Tablet, we checked into Straf in Milan, Galeria Del Arte in Florence, and Hazlitt's in London.
It was off-the-cuff, fast and rushed with no small amount of optimism, but it was our most successful "Europe" trip yet. So the next time your travel plans are thwarted by a dust cloud, a strike, a hurricane, or a petulantly low stamp of fog, we advise: Book and go.
We've said before that all you really need is a sturdy suitcase and some good lingerie. Leaning on this line of thinking is the fall collection from our friends at Agent Provocateur. With brilliant advertising spots and seduction for days, we turn your attention to Autumn-Winter 2011.
8/25/11: hotelcrush, palm springs, dc, hollywood
The hotel cocktail can be overpriced, rushed, and cranked out with the same care as a beer on tap. But it can also be deliciously reviving, the perfect complement to a sunny afternoon or evening outdoors. Here are our favorites to move you gently through the last few weeks of scorchingly pleasant weather.
The Parker Palm Springs - Fresh Squeezed Lemonade: We love the cold, tart taste of fresh squeezed lemonade and the Lemonade Stand at the Parker is devoted solely to this. With poolside ordering and shady lounge chairs, this is our favorite setting for an hour drowned in our Kindle and some Balzac.
W Hollywood - Berry Caipirinha: A good caipirinha is neither too sweet nor too sour, and the W Hollywood has struck the perfect balance of both. We love the addition of muddled strawberries which nearly turns the drink from a cocktail to a Jamba Juice.
W D.C. - Mixed Berry Mojito: Nothing seems more decadent than sipping a mint and berry cocktail on a weekday afternoon against the backdrop of snipers patrolling the rooftop of the White House. We love this refreshing cocktail for all the reasons we love mojitos (mint, lime) and berries (sweet, slightly acidic).
Like the Mandarin Oriental and the spa at the Standard Miami, there are certain spa destinations in our future that we've plotted like bank heists. Ciel Spa is on our roster for the end of this month (August), and our full-on consumption of amenities, run through the fitness center, and dip in the rooftop pool will soon be reported here, as fast as a 50-minute massage reaches "time"..
Summer days are hot, smothering, and oppressively wonderful, and we're devastated when they're gone. (Not entirely gone, as temperate weather in Southern California ensures, but not 80, with fresh lemonade, night swims, and pool parties..) With a month and a half of deluxe summering to squeeze, we're working poolside and reporting vigorously, determined to gulp every last drop. Today's mission: a sunny lounge chair at the W Hollywood rooftop, and a plate of our favorite ceviche tacos.
We loaded our Kindle, packed our notebook, and headed to the 12th floor rooftop pool. Swatting past tables of posturing and big moves that come standard in this town, we enlisted the hostess in our quest for a sunny lounge chair. (The one on the end near the bar? Perfect.) Our afternoon passed in a blitz of heat and plunge into a new book, and we emerged as satiated and tranquilized as a Day 3 vacationer.
Our advice? The vacation you need just might be in you own city. And it's nearly effortless to take it.
The W Hollywood rooftop pool is open daily from 11am-6pm (though we don't recommend weekends).
We love sharing our recommendations, which we'll post here for the record. We've been asked the following in the last month: