mercado san juan

a word from our sponsor

jean paul masIn the interest of putting to rest the rumors that I’ve devolved into a wino, it’s high time I introduce you to the man who’s brought me to the south of France: Jean Claude Mas, owner and winemaker of Domaines Paul Mas, which comprises seven estates spread across the crus of the Languedoc – most of which I’ve by now had the chance to imbibe. Jean Claude is an ambassador of sorts for both his family owned estate and a unique concept called “le luxe rural,” or affordable, everyday luxury. There’s no pretense about him, just as there’s no pretense to his wines. And more importantly, Mas isn’t selling some imagined romantic notion a la Ralph Lauren, but bringing the best facets of the rural way of life center stage; made by hand and built on traditions that stretch back to his grandfather, who first farmed a small vineyard close to the estate.  It’s an intoxicating conceit because it smacks of authenticity, not just marketing savvy. Mas talks the talk, but he also lives the life: utilizing the local farms, promoting local craftsmen, pressing his own olive oil, commissioning local artists, even creating a line of clothing line based on provincial designs and textiles. Wine, it turns out, is but the tip of a far grander ambition: taking the ordinary out of the quotidian. Now that’s a life we all could live.

domaine paul mas


video: vin sans romance

IMG_2300I’ll be the first to admit that I had a somewhat naive idea about how wine is produced in the 21st century. This being France, I assumed little old men in flat caps individually filled each bottle with a pipette out of oak casks – while precariously dangling a cigarette out of the corner of their mouth, natch. But oh, how times have changed: industrialization is everywhere. As I recently discovered at Domaine D’Astruc in Malras – and as these two video clips below make abundantly clear – it might completely shatter the romance of winemaking, but there’s something beautiful in the startling degree of efficiency achieved.


mauzac de limoux

IMG_2321Following a little dirt road along the Martinollet River as it winds its way through vineyards, olive trees, and garrigue in the shade of the Pyrenees, it eventually ends at the modest estate of Chateau Martinolles, part of Domaines Paul Mas. This part of Languedoc is rich in heritage. In Medieval times Cathars settled in the area to escape – ever so briefly – persecution by the Catholic Church. Nearby is the Abbey St. Hilaire, where in 1531 the method for creating sparkling wine was discovered and Prima Perla, the first bubble, was born. The rugged climate and topography together create a superb terroir for chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, but it’s Mauzac that stands out. A local varietal, it’s the key to Blanquette de Limoux and Cremant de Limoux, two effervescent AOC sparkling wines redolent with apples and freshly cut grass.


valley of the vineyards



spa break: la costa

la costa spa

In what has become a cherished January tradition, I’m ducking into the spa at La Costa for a day of steam, massage, lunch, and sunning myself under the orange trees. Wake me when the cold snap in the northeast is done and dusted, please. Then again, don’t bother.

spa pool


sizing up the night market

pub street

Night markets are a tradition particular to Asia. A crazy open air jumble of stalls and stands selling everything from meat and produce to tchotchkes to clothing, condiments, and prepared foods, it only comes alive after dark. Part shopping mall, part social scene, it makes for great people watching while also being quite handy for souvenir shopping if you’ve spent your entire day engaged in more culturally elevated pursuits. In Hong Kong the night markets are pristine; in Bangkok only slightly less so. Here in Siem Reap the capitalism is nakedly pure – if slightly less hygienic: no price is what it seems and absolutely everything is negotiable

night market

night market toenails

night market grill


fruit with ‘tude

mangoes and attitude

The attitude of this girl selling bags of boiled peanuts and mango-on-a-stick at the side of the road was fantastic. You just know I had to buy some.


comfort me with apples


james street south

Opened by Niall and Joanne McKenna in an old linen mill close to ten years ago, James Street South Restaurant was at the forefront of marrying the best of Irish ingredients with classical French cooking methods and seasonal menus. My return found smartly renovated interiors and a menu which reminded me of just how far ahead of the curve the McKennas really were. Local smoked eel? Pork cheeks? Razor clams? It’s good to discover the city has caught up – and that a restaurant like this can not only thrive, but set the agenda, too.



smells like me

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve breathed in that fragrant mix of flowers, fruit and tropical Caribbean wood and wished I could somehow capture it and take it home. Just a little something to get me through the dog days of winter. So imagine my excitement at discovering how the Spa at Four Seasons Resorts Nevis  – intoxicating in its own sublime way – has partnered with noted organic alchemist, Ajne, to take those smells a flacon further and create 100% natural, one-of-a-kind perfumes. Typically a customized formula takes weeks or even months to complete – and often costs a small fortune, too. Yet Ajne’s ingenious blending process takes a cool 90-minutes while lounging by the Spa pool or taking in the Nevis sunset, cocktail in hand. To create my bespoke formula a Melangeur, or mixer, administers a quirky computerized fragrance analysis based on Sanskrit chakras, which divide the body into energy centers. Test questions determine fragrance preferences and help find areas of the body and psyche in need of balancing. The Melangeur works like a private scent sherpa, guiding me over the fragrant terrain and assisting me in discovering ingredients ideal to my body chemistry. Working one-on-one she mixes combinations of rare and precious plant oils – some worth their weight in gold. Not only do I walk away with a greater understanding of myself, but the real results are delivered to my room an hour later: a hand-blended smell that is individual and entirely me. And totally Nevis, too.


welcome to my shake-shack

I’ve never been much for the cabana experience. Frankly, I just never saw the point; I mean you’re already paying to stay at a resort on the beach – why would you pay even more for what amounts to little more than a pup tent with a day bed? Yet the trio of miniature beach shacks at Four Seasons Resort Nevis struck me as far too inviting to not finally break down and give it a try. Each architecturally detailed bungalow comes fully loaded: couch, dining table, flat screen tv, wi-fi, iPod dock, fruit, stocked refrigerator, loungers on the deck, loungers on the sand, loungers on your own stretch of beach, and best of all, a butler. I had no idea what I’d been missing. Happily ensconced after breakfast in my little home away from home, I didn’t want to leave. So I didn’t. I read a little, I slept a little, I listened to all six hours of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung while navigating between the three levels of lounge chairs at my disposal. I swam, I snorkeled, I got spritzed with Evian and cooled by soothing mint-scented towels just as the beads of brow-sweat were becoming an irritant. When hunger hit, a feast was delivered. So, too, a crisp bottle of Chateau D’esclans Whispering Angel rose. In fact, every time I had passing thoughts of some thing that I might like, the butler was there with a toothsome smile and one treat or another, be it the aforementioned spritz or a mid-afternoon mango smoothie. The phrase “treated like a king” gets bandied about these days with far too much frequency, so let’s just say I was duly recognized as the reigning royalty of my little shake-shack. Alas, time passes far too quickly when you’re being coddled. Before I could truly appreciate it, the sun was setting over the Caribbean and I was draining the last dregs of rose – raising a glass in toast to the purest day of wanton leisure I’ve had since I was 10 years old.


what makes a better breakfast

What’s makes for a better breakfast than freshly-picked bananas with local Nevisian honey? Spiny Caribbean lobster hash with Hollandaise. Duh. Welcome to Nevis and the oh, so fabulous Four Seasons. I’m about to get spoiled.



love at first bite

Fat-free, cholesterol-free, vegan-friendly, nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and kosher-certified, I’m officially obsessed with these 50-calorie bags of freeze-dried FruitziO from Crispy Green. A sophisticated freeze-drying process wicks the water out of fresh fruit, leaving behind a fruity essence sealed in a light and crispy chip that’s as addictive as narcotics. If you’ve never tried crispy mangoes, be warned – you have no idea what you’re missing. My only gripe is that they’re not organic. Still, next time I’m stuck flying coach I’m stuffing my bag full of crispy kiwi. And cantaloupe. And Asian pear.


wild grow the lychee

Either my eyes deceive me or I stumbled upon a cluster of lychee growing wild along the La Jolla bluffs.


Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.