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2009 Reader's Choice: First Picks

The Editors

Swimming Pool: Hôtel du Cap Eden-Roc
In 1914, the management at the Hôtel du Cap Eden-Roc had a saltwater swimming pool carved into a cliff at this resort on France’s Cap d’Antibes. Over the years, the body of water, like the hotel itself, attracted such luminaries as Rita Hayworth, Ernest Hemingway, and Sidney Poitier. Today the pool still draws discerning sunseekers—including, according to our survey, several Robb Report readers—thanks to its Mediterranean views and, some say, its timeless aura. "There’s more to it than just a pool," says a reader from Los Angeles who first tested the water in the early 1990s and has stayed at the hotel every summer since. "You get a sense of history and glamour and sophistication that has been lost in our casual environment. People can spend millions of dollars on resorts around the world, but there are certain places that are special and that transcend the simple notion of going to a pool. It’s got history. It’s got staying power. It’s a classic." +33.4.93.61.39.01, www.hotel-du-cap-eden-roc.com

 

 

Private Club: The Old Collier Golf Club
When one Robb Report reader was asked what amenity distinguishes the Old Collier Golf Club, her reply was a resounding "service," especially on the course. "The caddie program is excellent," she says, citing the attention to detail of the club’s caddie master, Michael Hunter.

Contrary to its name, the Old Collier club is relatively new; the Naples, Fla., facility opened less than eight years ago. Today the club has a capped membership of 250. Adding to its exclusivity, Old Collier does not have a residential component. It is, in short, a pure golfer’s club—with support staff to match. "Maybe on a particular day or time, one caddie stands out over another," says the reader. "But in the big picture, they’re all outstanding. Old Collier is just an all-around, first-class golf experience." 239.597.9898, www.theoldcolliergc.com/

 

Artwork: Mark Rothko
"Art is chocolate and vanilla—what one person loves, another hates," says reader Dick Robertson, who is a senior advisor to the Warner Brothers Television Group. "It is hard to say why one likes a piece, but in the case of Mark Rothko’s color-field paintings, I find them visually stunning, extremely powerful, and iconic." Rothko, whose works rank among the most valuable in the modern-art market, painted this oil, No. 15 (above), in 1952; it sold last year at a Christie’s auction for just over $50 million. Robertson notes, "When you look at a Rothko, you know it’s a Rothko—there’s never a doubt." 212.492.5485, www.christies.com

 

Chocolate: Norman Love Confections
Norman Love, a former pastry chef, expresses his fondness for American comfort food through his gourmet chocolates. "I set out to create American chocolates for American consumers," says the Florida-based chocolatier, whose assortment of flavors includes peanut butter and jelly, cookies and cream, and vanilla cupcake. Other popular flavors include tart raspberry in a dark chocolate shell and Tahitian vanilla caramel with a touch of sea salt. ("If it’s too sweet," Love says, "you taste nothing; so by adding salt to caramel, you reduce sweetness and you accentuate and enhance flavors.") Robb Report reader Mary Susan Clinton, a retired CEO of Gallien Global Vision in southwest Florida, characterizes Norman Love’s chocolates as "culinary art exploding with flavor." Love uses chocolates sourced from Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, as well as butter, spices, nuts, and purees. His delectable confections are also made with fresh cream and no preservatives, so they must be consumed within three weeks of purchase. 239.561.7215, www.normanloveconfections.com

 

Concierge: Roderick Levejac, Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris
"He always runs from behind the concierge desk and approaches me with a gusto of friendliness and a warm welcome," says one Robb Report reader of Roderick Levejac, head concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris. Levejac displays a similar enthusiasm when handling guest requests at this renowned hotel off the Champs-Élysées. The president of the French chapter of Les Clefs d’Or, an international organization of hotel concierges, Levejac sets up authentic experiences for his clients, such as the private tour of the house of Ruinart, a nearly-300-year-old winery in the Champagne region, that he arranged for the reader and his wife on a recent visit. For such excursions, Levejac can have his guests transported in the Four Seasons’ new Rolls-Royce Phantom, which features a one-off custom interior by Hermès. +33.1.49.52.70.00, www.fourseasons.com

 

 

Cruise Line: Silversea Cruises
Silversea Cruises launched in 1994 to offer an alternative to megaship cruising. Fifteen years later, the company offers trips to destinations worldwide in five ships that range in capacity from 132 to 540 guests. (A sixth will join the fleet late this year.) The limited number of passengers—and the service they experience—distinguishes Silversea from other cruise lines, our readers say. "The great thing about being on a smaller boat is that it gives you a lot more access and better attention," says Brian Cobb of Naples, Fla. "Personal service is the premier thing you want in a cruise."

Although they cater to only a few hundred guests at a time, all of the ships in Silversea’s fleet offer a range of dining options, from formal halls to casual restaurants. "You don’t want to feel like you are constantly forced to eat in the same place with the same people at the same time every day," says Garen Staglin, one of the proprietors of Staglin Family Vineyard in Rutherford, Calif. "That’s totally not the case with Silversea." 800.722.9955, www.silversea.com

 

 

Resort: Villa d’Este
Several readers cited Villa d’Este, a 16th-century-estate-turned-resort in northern Italy, as their favorite leisure destination. Villa d’Este’s attractions include Renaissance-era formal gardens and a modern spa, but the property’s greatest asset, in the minds of our readers, is its setting on the shore of Lake Como. "The ambience is mesmerizing," says one Florida reader.

Villa d’Este opened as a hotel in 1873, and today the establishment consists of 152 rooms and two private villas. The resort’s owners diligently preserve the "phenomenal architecture," says the reader, and they maintain "great detail to service." +39.031.3481, www.villadeste.it

 

Jewelry Store: Tiffany & Co.
On the seventh floor of its Manhattan jewelry emporium, Tiffany & Co. produces extraordinary one-of-a-kind pieces. For these private commissions, chief gemologist Peter Schneirla tracks down the hardest-to-find gems—including a recently procured deep-blue tanzanite of more than 150 carats. He personally delivered the stone to a couple’s Los Angeles home, where he advised the clients on design possibilities for the gem. A sketch of a Jean Schlumberger–?style pendant met with their approval, and the stone was sent to Tiffany & Co.’s seventh floor, where experts spent six weeks setting the stone and surrounding it with 150 individually cut diamonds. Says Schneirla, "I guide our clients based on good taste and wearability." His approach is one you might expect from a 172-year-old company long known for what Florida businessman and Robb Report reader John J. Taylor calls "timeless, classic designs." 800.526.0649, www.tiffany.com

 

City Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
What makes a hotel your favorite anywhere? Our readers who cherish the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, above all others cite its midtown location—at Central Park South and 6th Avenue—as uppermost in their minds. "It’s in the middle of things, and yet you can get out of there when you want to," says a California reader who began his career in Manhattan more than 30 years ago. He adds that the establishment offers easy access to the most frequented areas of the city without the congestion. And unlike the approximately 1,400-room Waldorf-Astoria and the city’s other top hotels, the 33-story Ritz offers only 259 guest rooms and suites. "You don’t get the feeling of being overwhelmed like you do at other hotels in New York," the reader says. "The Ritz has a small, intimate feel. Whatever stress I have, [the hotel] eases it a little bit." 212.308.9100, www.ritzcarlton.com

 

Restaurant: Cyrus
Since its 2005 opening in Healdsburg, Calif., the 65-seat Cyrus restaurant has been turning heads and dazzling palates. In the words of Robb Report reader John Jordan, CEO of Jordan Vineyard & Winery, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant offers diners a "complete experience: Everything from the service to the food to the decor is executed perfectly." In addition to chef Douglas Keane’s seasonally inspired menu, which highlights produce and farmhouse cheeses that are sourced locally, Cyrus offers a Champagne-and-caviar menu that Jordan enjoys. As for the wine, Jordan confides that he does not necessarily always drink his own. "The restaurant’s wine list is quite extensive, and I like trying their recommendations. Sometimes I just tell them to surprise me." 707.433.3311, www.cyrusrestaurant.com

 

Men’s Custom Shirts: Charvet
Charvet stocks more than 6,000 varieties of cotton fabric—including Sea Island and Egyptian cotton and royal oxford cloth—and an equal number of color variations, with 400 shades of white alone. However, it is the 170-year-old Parisian shirtmaker’s proprietary shirt-construction methods, rather than its assortment of textiles, that have made it a favorite among Robb Report readers. Charvet’s bespoke and ready-to-wear shirt collars, for example, are fashioned from six layers of cloth and two layers of lining, which lends them stability without leaving them stiff. The company’s longer-than-standard shirttails are squared and vented, for a classically tailored yet relaxed style. Each Charvet shirt is a study in symmetry: Stripes on the yoke, the shirt body, and the sleeves are precisely aligned to give the illusion of one piece of fabric. One would expect no less from a company whose founder, Christophe Charvet, is credited with having invented the first shirt with a permanently attached collar and cuffs. +33.1.42.60.30.70

 

Chef: Julian Serrano
The one thing—besides a passion for fine food—that every chef in Las Vegas has in common is the stiff competition they all face. And few culinary competitors are more formidable than the Spanish-born Julian Serrano, of Picasso at Bellagio, whom Robb Report readers single out as a clear favorite. "He’s so personable: Every time we go, he comes over to the table and greets us," says a Florida reader, adding that he has been dining at Picasso since it opened in 1998 and that he typically orders fish from the Mediterranean-inspired menu. Reader Jim Knapp, of Woodland Hills, Calif., says that, in addition to the chef’s respect for foods that pair well with the establishment’s extensive wine list, the highlight for him at Picasso is the braised short ribs: "Everyone makes them," he says, "but Julian Serrano just makes them better." 702.?693.?7223, www.bellagio.com

 

 

Jewelry Store: Graff
Known as the "King of Diamonds," Laurence Graff is a determined (some say intimidating) dealer who for decades has handled many of the world’s most important stones. The 70-year-old London-based jeweler—who recently paid about $25 million for a 35.56-carat grayish-blue diamond at Christie’s in London, setting a new world-record price for a jewel sold at auction—offers "unsurpassed quality in white and yellow diamonds," according to Robb Report reader Steven Fink, who is CEO of Lawrence Investments. "The prices are high," he says, "but you can have confidence you’ll get the highest-?quality gems." VIP clients can expect private consultations with the King himself. 212.355.9292, www.graffdiamonds.com

 

Spa: Canyon Ranch, Tucson
Set against the foothills of Tucson’s Santa Catalina Mountains, the Canyon Ranch destination spa offers guests a total wellness experience. In addition to seven tennis courts, a basketball court, three outdoor pools, and golf, hiking, and biking programs, the 150-acre property provides health-care assessments, lifestyle counseling, and personal trainers. "The atmosphere and staff really help motivate you to live healthfully," says a Robb Report reader from San Francisco who has been visiting the desert spa twice a year for about 10 years. "They have some great workout, yoga, and boot-camp classes. They also have some fantastic personal trainers. I go there for extensive workouts, but my wife and I know a couple who go there to do nothing but relax." 520.749.9000, www.canyonranch.com

 

Short-Range Aircraft: Piaggio Aero P.180 Avanti II
In the 1980s, roughly 80 years after its inception, Italian manufacturer Piaggio Aero began developing a plane to meet the growing demand for high-?performance aircraft that cost less than jets. The company’s first offering along these lines was the P.180 Avanti, which achieved certification in 1990. Fifteen years later the project culminated with the Piaggio Aero P.180 Avanti II, a $7.2 million piston-engine aircraft that is "the best thing in the air," according to a Robb Report reader who lives in Malibu, Calif. "I love that airplane," he says. "It has a big, wide cabin and half the cost of a Beechcraft." A frequent traveler on Avantair’s fractional fleet of Avanti aircraft, he says that the plane’s efficiency and comfort are its most appealing characteristics. The Avanti II’s non-cylindrical fuselage and rear-mounted wings with rear-facing Pratt & Whitney engines offer very little drag, and their placement within the aircraft’s overall design makes it possible to have an unusually large nine-passenger cabin. "A light jet is too small," he says, "and with comparable aircraft, there is no contest." 561.253.0104, www.piaggioaero.com

 

 

Men’s Store: Bergdorf Goodman
The Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Store in Manhattan is a three-story, 40,000-square-foot luxury emporium that combines finely tuned, well-edited selections of the world’s finest menswear brands (including Tom Ford, Kiton, Brioni, Loro Piana, and Brunello Cucinelli); impeccably fashioned private-label collections; and every accessory imaginable, from bespoke footwear and briefcases to men’s grooming products. "They simply have the best selection and inventory," says a prominent Florida businessman, one of many Robb Report readers who deem Bergdorf the best men’s store. Among the retailer’s many amenities is personal shopping by Pierre Lenis, who assesses his clients’ lifestyles and personalities in creating custom wardrobes that reflect their personal styles. Some loyal clients are so dependent on his expert advice that they request digital images of his recommended ensembles to store on their laptops or to print out and pin up on the walls of their closets. 888.774.2424, www.bergdorfgoodman.com

 

Hotel Suite: The Oriental Suite, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok
For more than 130 years, the Oriental hotel has provided sanctuary within the heart of Bangkok, a busy metropolis crowded with tuk-tuks, pink taxicabs, and golden palaces. The premier suite at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok—as Thailand’s first hotel is now known—opened 31 years ago on the top floor of the River Wing, which is coveted by guests for its views of the city’s liquid highway, the Chao Phraya River. The Oriental Suite is served by 24-hour butlers who "help with everything from wrinkles to munchies," says a reader from Huntington Beach, Calif. "The master bedrooms and bathrooms are huge. We could’ve thrown a party." In 2003, the Mandarin Oriental threw a lavish party (though presumably not in the suite’s bathrooms) to celebrate extensive upgrades to the Authors’ and Garden wings, the two oldest sections of the hotel. The event marked the culmination of a four-year renovation, which included updates to the Oriental Suite’s two master bedrooms, dining room, and living room. +66.2.659.9000, www.mandarinoriental.com

 

 

Suitmaker: Kiton
Ciro Paone, the owner of Kiton, fittingly refers to his signature suits as "conforme al corpo," or second skins. Although the slighter armhole, high-button stance, and trim body shape of some Kiton suits may appear restrictive, the natural-looking signature cut is actually more comfortable than the seemingly roomier designs of other suitmakers. Moreover, the hours that the company’s tailors spend on a single garment—often as many as 50—show in the suits’ details, which include hand-stitched buttonholes, boutonniere stays under the lapel, and sleeves attached by hand to give the shoulders their distinctive shearing. "Kiton offers contemporary artistry in style and cut, combined with unparalleled fabrics, in a suit for the boardroom," says one Robb Report reader. The suitmaker’s fabrics are produced from the finest-micron wools and cashmeres—nearly all of which are exclusive to the Naples, Italy–based company. 212.486.5250, www.kiton.it

 

Bartender: Jean Georges, New York
No matter which one of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurants you go to—whether it is, for example, Rama in London or Prime Steakhouse in Las Vegas—the not-so-secret ingredient to its success is always uncompromising hospitality. And this welcoming atmosphere prevails in the bar as well as in the dining room. "There are two bartenders at Jean Georges in New York: Charlie and Jacqueline," says one Robb Report reader. "No matter how long it has been, they always remember what my wife and I drink and keep a close eye on when our glasses are almost empty. Plus, they’re both really great to chat with." 212.299.3900, www.jean-georges.com

 

 

Safari: The Oberoi Vanyavilas
The Oberoi Vanyavilas, a tented resort that abuts India’s Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, "is by far the most luxurious way to see animals in the wild," according to Staglin Family Vineyard’s Garen Staglin. Staglin recently stayed at the camp with his wife, Staglin Family Vineyard’s CEO, Shari, in a luxury tent that, he says, was "more like a suite at the St. Regis." Each of the resort’s 25 accommodations affords nearly 800 square feet of living space and a level of privacy and comfort that the Staglins find remarkable, considering the remote jungle setting. The property’s 52-foot-high watchtower overlooks the reserve, and Jeep tours arranged by the resort traverse it. "We saw five tigers," says Garen. "And they have two elephants you can ride. It was our Christmas photo last year." +91.7462.22.3999, www.vanyavilas.com

 

Pen: Jacques de Molay by David Oscarson
On October 13, 1307, Jacques de Molay, the last grand master of the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was arrested. Seven years later, after being tortured for a confession that the order committed blasphemous acts—which he later recanted—Molay was burned at the stake, and the Templars were dissolved. Molay’s refusal to damn the order was commemorated 700 years later by David Oscarson, who designed the Jacques de Molay pen—and created only 700. "It reminds you of the Crusades," says a Los Angeles–based Robb Report reader with a penchant for historically inspired objects. The sterling-silver, hot-enamel pen ($4,900 for the fountain pen, $4,700 for the roller ball) is decorated with emblems that are associated with the Templars, including an engraving of their seal: two knights on one horse, a reminder of the order’s initial poverty. 636.?458.4345, www.davidoscarson.com

 

Jewelry Store: Cartier
At high-stakes auctions, Cartier’s vintage jewelry—the Art Deco pieces especially—consistently commands top dollar. Collectors bid for various designs by the 162-year-old French jewelry house, including streamlined Art Deco brooches, fanciful Belle Époque pendant necklaces, and panther-motif bracelets. The jeweler’s history of innovation and craftsmanship continues in its contemporary pieces. "Cartier still has great style after all these years," says Robb Report reader and California businessman Bruce Meyer. The company’s ability to evolve while staying true to its heritage is evident in its 2009 high-jewelry collection, which debuted in September at the Biennale des Antiquaires at Paris’ Grand Palais. The elaborately jeweled pieces revisit some of Cartier’s historic motifs—chimeras, serpents, and dragons among them—and may one day be highlights at auction. 800.227.8437, www.cartier.com

 

Shipyard: Delta Marine
In the more than four decades since the Jones family founded the Delta Marine shipyard in Seattle, the company has become one of the most highly regarded builders of luxury yachts worldwide. Delta started out producing charter and commercial fishing boats, but in the 1980s, after delivering more than 800 of these vessels, the company shifted its focus to the design and construction of megayachts. Today, the boats in Delta’s fleet range in length from 108 feet to 164 feet, and command the respect of customers and competitors. "Delta is the best U.S.-based yacht maker," says Tim Blixseth, a Robb Report reader and Seattle-based investor. "It builds boats that, in many aspects, are better than those of other shipyards." In addition to building new yachts, Delta also has a refitting-and-repair division that keeps its products fit and in fashion. 206.763.2383, www.deltamarine.com

 

Macaroni and Cheese: Charlie Palmer
Macaroni and cheese has come a long way from the Kraft Dinners that rose to popularity during the food rationing of World War II. In recent years, the dish has made appearances in some of the country’s top restaurants, including Charlie Palmer’s, who enhances his version with a blend of three cheeses (Gruyère, Parmesan, and fontina), preserved winter truffles, truffle oil, and garlic béchamel. "We use three different cheeses and truffles to give it an earthy flavor," Palmer says.

"The fusion of flavors makes it a standout," says a Robb Report reader from Southern California, who first tried the dish at Aureole in New York City. Palmer’s macaroni and cheese with truffles is currently available only at the chef’s South Coast Plaza location in Costa Mesa, Calif. 714.352.2525, www.charlie?palmer.com

Architect: Robert A.M. Stern
While most major-league architects attempt to mesmerize their clients with cutting-edge boxes of glass and steel, Robert A.M. Stern relies on more classical traditions in his designs. "There’s always a sense of symmetry and Palladian proportions in Stern’s work," notes reader Burt Sugarman, of Beverly Hills, Calif. "Even his newest buildings look like they could have been there for hundreds of years. There’s timelessness and livability in everything he does."

Although many of Stern’s projects are shingle-style structures with wide porches and expanses of windows, the defining characteristic exhibited by all of his commissions, from the Manhattan high-rises to the beachfront estates, is their sense of place. "You never see a Stern house sandwiched between other properties. They are always set apart on a knoll or a bluff, and in tune with their surroundings," says Sugarman. "They’re classic and beautiful, but they’re never boring." 212.967.5100, www.ramsa.com

 

Adventure Aircraft: De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver
In 1928, eight years after founding an aircraft manufacturing company in his own name, the English aviation pioneer Sir Geoffrey de Havilland established a Canadian subsidiary, which years later would focus on the production of adventure aircraft. Following World War II, de Havilland Canada began producing a short-takeoff-and-landing plane called the DHC-2 Beaver that fast earned the nickname "workhorse of the north." The Beaver was a high-wing, radial-engine aircraft that could be fitted with floats, wheels, or skis. By the time production ceased in 1967, de Havilland had delivered some 1,600 Beavers, nearly a third of which are still flying. (Viking Air of Sidney, British Columbia, is now a primary provider of replacement parts and service for the Beaver and other vintage de Havilland Canada aircraft.) With its 1,350-pound payload capacity and its ability to carry up to seven passengers, the Beaver continues to live up to its sobriquet. "They always seem to be flown by grizzled old Alaskan bush pilots who can land in puddles," says Robb Report reader Adam Gordon, a New York real estate developer. "They also can tell wonderful stories." 250.656.7227, www.vikingair.com

CONTRIBUTORS:
Bailey S. Barnard, Samantha Brooks, Jennifer Hall, Erika Heet, William Kissel, Lara Loewenstein, Jill Newman, Oliver Slosser, Jessica Taylor, Shaun Tolson

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