Glass house wrapped in a brilliant crimson bow? Baccarat Hotel opened last spring by the legendary French brand; it’s first hotel and residential space in New York. Directly across the street from MOMA, the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed tower is an impressive addition to the NY skyline, the prismatic wall of glass facing shimmers in the night sky and is a subtle suggestion of the sparkling interiors.
The hotel is petite, with 114 rooms, a La Mer spa and a signature restaurant and posh cocktail bar. The lavish public spaces have become a go to spot for local New Yorker’s. Most of the small salons are designated for the hotel guests to dine privately, however the grand salon with walls of cascading pleated silk, silver leaf wood paneling, massive bouquets of red roses, and vaulted ceilings hung with immense crystal signature chandeliers is a gathering place for the chic cognoscente crowd. Flattering dappled lighting bestowed by Baccarat chandeliers cast a romantic glow in the sophisticated stylish lounge known simply as: The Bar.
Enter through an elegant, yet discrete street entrance, the friendly doormen quietly let staff know of your arrival – and deliver you to the slightly obscured elevator where you ascend to the 6th floor for check in. Staff awaits and efficiently escort you to your room, there is no lobby lingering, a good thing!
French style blended with a bit of a mid-town edge, the rooms are generous in size and pale in color with a spark of Baccarat red to remind you of the French provenance. I arrived after a long Italian jaunt and the pristine white room was a peaceful antidote to a long flight and the JFK grit. Room service was beyond prompt and quite delicious, a luxe brasserie menu. Dynamic nighttime views from my 7th floor suite of the New York skyline were just as enchanting as the sunrise – did I mention time zone fatigue?
The quiet halls have small-embedded niches with displays of the classic crystal, my room was near an elevator, however, the soundproofing was excellent, I didn’t hear a peep. Over the top lavish bath amenities are wrapped in a stunning box and resemble a gift box, fitted with exclusive toiletries by Maison Francis Kurkdjian.
The Bar, with barrel vaulted ceilings and natural wood walls deliciously adorned in a pale red and of course, a flourish of chandeliers. Crystal clad French elegance, is that redundant? Black & white marble floors, cherry red walls of course and stunning Baccarat bling chandeliers – elegant, sophisticated – a bit of a dreamy Parisian landscape in the middle of Manhattan.
The 50 foot pool is a serene oasis with a sweet lifeguard – he told me he is there all day and generally assists guests, he had never been called on yet to save a life. The luxurious silver loungers, the size of beds looked like the perfect nap zone pre-theatre. Nearby is the first U.S. Spa de la Mer and a very professional training room.
When you need sparkle in New York, the Baccarat Hotel is the perfect choice! Our clients are spoiled beyond belief!
One of my favorite travel activities is meeting chefs and taking cooking classes. My recent stay at Amanera in the Dominican Republic allowed for some free time with Executive Chef Antonio Tridenti. He eventually added a cooking demonstration to our schedule and at the suggestion of the more than willing to please GM Rocco Bova, we enjoyed the most delicious lasagna lunch before our airport departure. Chef Antonio rose to the request, Rocco had raved about the lasagne and then insisted we enjoy it before we departed…this is typical Aman hospitality! Light as air pasta with scrumptious ricotta, homemade tomato sauce, a touch of basil…yum!
Chef Antonio Interview:
Do you have a favorite meal? One of my favorite meals is pizza. I come from Naples and we usually like to enjoy it 2-3 times a week.
Do you feel a responsibility with your chefs in each kitchen you inhabit – a sense of mentoring younger chef’s? Yes, I try always to teach them everything I’ve learned in my experience. I share the process of a dish from the first step to last, and I also try to learn something from them because you can always learn from other chefs.
If so, what do you look for in a young chef? The passion they have in their job, this is the most important point to be a cook.
Did you have cooking or dining influences as a young child? Yes, from my mother and my grandmother.
Which talent would you most like to have that you don’t possess? My next step is to make a course of Japanese food and understand their technique, they are perfect on the cut and in creating raw dishes. This is a skill I do not have but I want to learn.
Have you always had an affinity for fine food? Not always, when I was a child I grew up with the typical Italian kitchen of my grandmother and my mother. Difficult to try something different, but when I started my adventure in London I started to try all types of food, from street food to fine dining and I started to open my mind to different flavors.
Do you have a preference for Michelin style dining or are you happy with a simple baked chicken or other comfort food? I prefer ‘mamma style’ cooking, for this reason, I chose to come with Aman. I like fine dining, but I think this is something you can have 1-2 times a month. On the rest of the days, I prefer simple food with nice flavors as you would enjoy in your home.
Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking? When I was young always tried to help my father (he was a policeman, but always with passion of bricklayer). When he needed help, I was always with him, but the passion of the kitchen was always with me. I tried to help my mother or grandmother when possible, and when I was 12 years old I had already been in my first kitchen, I understood this was what I wanted to do for life.
What foods are you craving the most right now? Healthy foods – now everyone tries to eat healthier.
How strong is the will to be recognized as a Michelin chef? Sincerely, not too much, because not every Michelin chef will be a good chef. In Italy I’ve been in a lot of restaurants where the foods is amazing, genuine and fresh and the cook is simply the mum of the owner. And I been in some Michelin restaurant where the foods was not the best experience. I prefer to always have happy guests with our dishes, it is not Michelin style dining.
Is there one food that you’re secretly obsessed with having at home? Like most Italians, we cannot eat a meal without bread, cheeses and enjoy a meal without a glass of wine.
How are you influenced by other chefs? Or cultures? I like to meet chefs from other countries and listen to their opinions and ideas; you can always learn from them.
Do you try to tell a story with your menus? I always try to add my experience and my history from my home country, Italy is famous for their pasta. So in this respect, I always offer fresh homemade pasta and a selection of dishes from my background.
Is there a food that you hate? No, I like all foods, but I find I am intolerant to bell peppers. Although, I sometimes eat them and incorporate them into a dish.
What do you do for fun? I like to stay with my dog and my girlfriend. I enjoy swimming and if I have a chance to watch a match of my favorite team (Juventus), I will watch them at any time.
Is there a childhood comfort food that you think about? Baked rabbit from my grandmother she always cooked it on specials days.
What kinds of ethnic food do you think are underrated right now? Food from Ethiopia. I meet one chef from this country and the Ethiopian food is very good.
Are you intimidated by choosing say, a menu/dish from a foreign country and putting your own twist/stamp on it? No, I am not intimidated, it’s a nice idea for chef’s to adapt different ideology of foods and add your own touch to a particular dish.
Has there ever been an ingredient that you weren’t able to master and have given up on, like animal innards or tongue or brains or a particular spice? I am not fond of brains. Animal innards and tongue is typical in my country, my father loves it.
Do you have a favorite foodie city in the world? I think London and New York, you can found all types and quality of dining in these cities.
If you could read anyone’s cooking notebook, whose would it be? Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef by Massimo Bottura. http://tinyurl.com/h8x395h
On average how many times do you change a menu? My habit is to change one dish from the menu monthly. Trying to change the complete menu is usually too complicated. The kitchen staff has full knowledge of an entire menu, we can change options dish by dish, but not an entire menu.
What do you appreciate the most in your kitchen staff/friends and family? Sincerity, everyone in the world can make a mistake, the most important quality is having the courage to admit mistakes.
Where would you go for the best dessert in Italy? In Naples or Sicily they have the best dessert in Italy. If you visit Naples you need to try ‘Pastiera’ and ‘Sfogliatelle’.
Do you have favorite restaurants in Italy? Or any other international cities? When I’m in Italy, I always go to BelSito Hotel in Manocalzati AV. When I was young, it is where I spent some time in the kitchen. In London, I always go to Cecconi’s Restaurant, the executive chef is my friend.
Thank you Chef Antonio for taking time to respond to my questions and even more for your personal attention while at Amanera. I’m grateful you and Rocco were so enthusiastically receptive to our requests, which were usually at the last minute!
Salad with local cheese wrapped in a sliver of bacon…
Ceviche from our cooking class demo.
Scrumptious breakfast…local avocados with eggs!
Dessert, a caramel crumble with coconut ice cream.. I intended to have only one bite…
Our first night Chef served an array of delicious starters..this was a lentil dish that was fabulous…
Delicious meals at both Amanera restaurants, great diversity, fresh and healthy and innovative!