Category Archives: LUXURY & SPAS


Maroma Resort and the Riviera Maya

Earlier this year, I enjoyed a memorable visit to Waldorf Astoria’s excellent Riviera Maya property, Maroma, a resort and a region where natural beauty, history and spirituality combine to create a very unique escape. Click on the link below to read my story for Dallas/Ft. Worth’s 360 West magazine, and view the gallery for more of my candid shots.

360 West Maroma Resort E.C. Gladstone

Click above to download full article PDF

Singular Staycations: Gourmet Bachelor style

For my friend Chad Carns’ blog TheGourmetBachelor, I contributed a series of my favorite West Coast staycation destinations, including Calistoga (Napa)’s Solage, Santa Monica’s Casa Del Mar, and San Diego’s La Costa resort. Enjoy them… I did!

La Costa

La Costa

Didn’t Get The Memo: Arty Party Dim Sum Fun


It’s been a while since I’ve attended an art gallery opening where you can’t buy the art. Not because it’s obscenely expensive, but because it’s actually not for sale.

Also, it was all behind thick glass. Which makes me think either someone feels this gold-lame flecked Technics 1200 is the new Mona Lisa, or they weren’t kidding when they called this event Party Animals.

Gold Soundz

Gold Soundz

Royal T in Culver City, for those who haven’t been here before (which includes me, shocking since it’s apparently been here since ’08) is part gallery, part kooky retail, and part cafe staffed by cute girls (mostly Asian) in French Maid costumes. Which is not at all kinky at all. Certainly not. Perfectly innocent.

Lauren doesn't like living in Venice anymore. I should've told her my servant's quarters was vacant.

Lauren doesn't like living in Venice anymore. I should've told her my servant's quarters was vacant.

It’s very much the kind of place you would’ve found in New York maybe 15 years ago, except that, well, it’s 10x bigger than it could ever be in Manhattan. [Turns out it was the locale of one of the early LudoBites. Which shows you how out of the loop I've been in covering LA food for the previous few years. Catching up quickly ;)]

Anyway, they had this gallery opening, and as much as I’m a fan of cool art (and it was mostly cool) my main motivation–at least as far as this blog is concerned–was chowing on the noms from Dim Sum Truck, which catered the event.

"I'm not a creep, I'm a blogger," I told them. Small difference, I know.

"I'm not a creep, I'm a blogger," I told them. Small difference, I know.

The Frasian Maids got the hint and were beelining to me with their trays before long. I suppose I should’ve taken more foodporn pics, but to be honest, most of the dumplings didn’t look that exciting. That is no reflection of their quality, however: these are excellent bites, all of them–mostly traditional preparations, vegetable, pork, chicken and ground shrimp-based. The latter were my favorite, flavor-wise, the pork bao probably least successful. But I wouldn’t have complained even if I paid for them!

some 'sum

some 'sum

Everyone at the event (or nearly) was dressed in some kind of kooky Rennaissance Festival Fanfic Plushy Geekout. There were bizarro balloon animals and face paintings and a dress-up photo booth, and of course a DJ who thought his music was much better than it really was. I wore a white shirt and jeans, because I’m a loser (or incredibly contrary, take your pick).


Royal T’s big bearded and tiny spectacled mixologist (didn’t get the name, but there’s probably a Dr. in it) made me a very nice fresh watermelon, basil and soju cocktail as well.

sup sup

sup sup

At some point I had to leave, or become the creepy guy who was taking voyeuristic pics of the guests and the maids. Luckily this one came up to me offering one of these professionally-childish sugar cookies. Which we all know is code for GET THE F**K OUT.


Just kidding. ;)


Find Royal T at 8910 Washington Blvd, Culver City, 310 559 6300

“Party Animals” exhibition runs until Labor Day-ish

Oh, P.S. Mental note for next Mother’s Day present…


The “New” Ritz-Carlton: Downtown at LA Live

It’s hard to find a better definition for modern urban luxury without ostentation than the Ritz-Carlton LA Live. I recently reviewed the hotel and it’s adjoined twin JW Marriott for 360 West magazine (see below) but thought I would also post some more details on the property…

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


The Executive Suite is a perfect expression, serious but sumptuous. Modern wood and earth tone appointments, with textural constrasts, glass and chrome, sliding heavy doors to bathroom & powder room, large dressing area with full length mirror, makeup mirror, dvd players with large 60” flatscreens in bedroom and living/dining area (the second, BluRay).


Leather desk chair, wet bar with full minibar and Nespresso coffee maker. Bedroom has thick pillowtop bedding, padded tall headboard, gooseneck reading lamps, Ipod docking radio. His and her closets with valuables safe and complimentary shoe shine service.


Bathroom has large Japanese style soaking tub and rainfall/wand shower, Bulgari products and extensive amenities (loofah), makeup mirror, ceramic hair dryer, digital scale, TV in mirror, two sinks, thick towels and soft robes. A single callalilly on the marble countertop is a nice touch.

Inside the stylish spa

Inside the stylish spa

There is also a hotel car for guests (per availability) complimentary within a 3-mile radius.

Happy hour.

Happy hour.

Inside A Legendary Las Vegas Penthouse Suite (pics)

The private elevator to the Sky Villas

The private elevator to the Sky Villas

I’ve been inside some of the most impressive high-roller suites in Las Vegas–almost too many to name (Oh alright, I’ll name them: The Paiza level at Palazzo, Villas at Mirage, MGM Sky Villas, several at Caesars Palace–though not the Presidential–Bellagio, Vdara, Aria, Mandarin Oriental, Tropicana–new and old–Imperial Palace, Harrah’s, and Metro at Flamingo, all the kooky ones at Palms and Hard Rock and a few at Wynn/Encore, though not the Wynn Villas).


But very few compare to the 15,000 square foot Verona Sky Villa at the Las Vegas Hilton. I got a chance to check out the Sky Villa last week as part of an overall property review, and wanted to share these pics that reassert how Vegas–past, present, and surely future–can do some things in ways no one else can. Fifteen thousand square feet. Think about that. A typical hotel room is 500.


One of three huge penthouses atop the Hilton, it was originally created in the late ’80s, when the top floor was redivided from what was originally a nightclub and Elvis’ legendary suite (you know, the place where he shot Robert Goulet on the TV). It is “continually updated”  according to LV Hilton Sales Manager Joy Burns (my tour guide). The copious marble is really Italian, and the gold fixtures are really gold (well, at least gold plated–solid gold would be too soft).


It would exhaust me to list all amenities, but highlights of the three bedroom suites and common areas include several multi-person spa tubs, an outdoor pool and lawn, automatic curtain and lighting controls, grand piano, full bar and hidden butler pantry (what, you’re going to cook? yeahright.) The Venetian-style Rennaissance decoration is lavish and excessive but somehow manages to avoid being garish, mostly just by well done.

While there are likely accommodations in the MGM Mansions or Wynn Villas that equal or top this (even if they lack the citywide views), this is almost certainly the most lavish suite in the city, if not these entire United States, that anyone can book. That’s right, $15,000 rack rate a night (“very negotiable” Joy Burns allows) and this place is yours. If you can’t seal the deal here, give up.

Tales of Retail: Haute Living blog



Yes, I have also written about designers, fashion and retail a fair amount in my career. These blog posts from Haute Living are some of my most recent work in this category:

Sustainable Chic: Kendall Conrad’s Venice Boutique

Beach Hair Bingo: McMillan and Canale in Malibu

Green Is The New Black: Eco-Salon Event

Keep Your Lid On: Hollywood’s Haute Hatter

Haute Décor: the Haute 5 Home Décor Stores in Los Angeles

Haute Couture: The Haute 5 Fashion Boutiques in Los Angeles

Shoe Ins: The Haute Five Shoe Stores in Los Angeles

Keeping Summer Alive: A “Natural” Tan Without the Sun

Haute Arrival: Vanessa Bruno’s First American Boutique

Hot Couture: Kao Pao Shu by Naida Begeta Hits Santa Monica

Santa Monica Place: A Blessed Re-Opening

Back to School: The Haute 5 Kid’s Clothing Stores in Los Angeles

Fashion Night Out: A Global Celebration of Style

Staycation In Style: Haute Living blogs on LA Hotels + Spas

Aromatherapy Massage at SpaRelaken Photo By Jimmy Cohrssen

Aromatherapy Massage at SpaRelaken Photo By Jimmy Cohrssen

One of the hardest parts of blogging LA is covering it’s recent explosion of boutique hotel experiences and spas. Gosh, staying in different fancy suites and getting pampered every night can really wear you out. ;-)

Hautels: The Haute 5 Hotels in Los Angeles

The Room IS The View: A Staycation at SLS

Haute horses: Del Mar Debuts

Ready To Bare It: The Haute 5 Spa Treatments

Haute Seclusion: The Beverly Wilshire Spa is a Hidden Treat

Found Horizons: The Sexy Scene at Shangri-La

Haute Hybrid: Miyako Hotel and spaRelaken

At the Top: The Top 5 Penthouses in Los Angeles

Pamper. Rinse. Repeat. Spa Week hits Los Angeles!

Petit Ermitage: West Hollywood’s Most Exclusive Club

Designer Dodd Mitchell

Dodd Mitchell's My House nightclub

Dodd Mitchell's My House nightclub

No two spaces are alike for hot LA-based interior designer Dodd Mitchell (click here to download PDF) who continues to top himself with one impressive restaurant or nightclub design after another. I was lucky enough to be able to print one of the more rare lengthy interviews with him.
Other intriguing designers I’ve interviewed include Thomas Schoos and Roger Thomas.

Orbitz: Get a Room, already!

FLV_MiniSuite_lvng rm_dariusKuzmickas

Flamingo's GO Junior Suite: Possibly my favorite room in all of Vegas.

In Vegas it’s always hard to separate the hope and the hype. Here are links to my Orbitz Vegas blogs discussing many of the hotels I’ve stayed in on (and off) the Strip:  Top Ten Standard Stays … my favorite Hot Habitats and Sumptuous SuitesWhere The Celebs Stay… Top Ten Off-Strip Stays…surprising Family-friendly casino-resorts… The new Hard Rock Hotel towers … Concierge Level at the Palazzo… impressive Casino-Free Destination Resortsthe wonder-filled Wynn EncoreMonte Carlo Mk IIHow Flamingo Created The Coolest Rooms in Vegas… and a preview of the long awaited City Center!

Somerville Summit

0918090943aRed Carpet glamour may focus on “what are you wearing?” but let’s be frank: if you haven’t got it going on above the neck, what’s below won’t matter. So facial guru Kate Somerville made use of the Emmys moment to gather together a small dream team of aesthetic pros in her “White Room” medi-spa, reminding Hollywood that you can’t fake the fundamentals. Oh, and to gift-suite some nice products to celebs and their happy media tagalongs. Denise Richards, Sal Masekela, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Rachel Harris (The Hangover) and Aaron Stanton (Mad Men) were among the celeb turn out yesterday, and Marla Sokoloff wandered in while I was there, just after todays press presentation with Kate, Bare Escentuals CEO Leslie Blodgett, and Alexandre Chouery, the official hairdresser for the royal Saudi family, and in his spare time, one of Frederic Fekkai’s Creative Directors (with the French accent to prove it). All three stressed the importance of customer care in all service elements and proven results for products as the keys to their success. In other words, even at luxury levels, it’s time to break away from b.s.

With Kate Somerville

With Kate Somerville

Goodies and gimmies included a KS Ageless Collection package (her Quench, Deep Tissue Repair, Total Vitamin and Line Release serums in a glam little sliver kit case)…some baobab and olive oil-based products from Fekkai’s new line…a bare escentuals BareMinerals sampler…Clarisonic’s new travel-sized skin care brush…GoSmile’s pocket-packable flavored tooth whitener vials…Ajne natural-based perfume…and one of Dayna Decker’s very fancy candles–sorry, “chandels” (I dropped a suggestion that they adapt their cool oil lamp for a channukah menorah).

I even got a (near-perfect) manicure from Yuka Nishizawa of Calgel, a South African company–apparently huge in Japan–that does long-lasting gel-based nail art. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take advantage of the Fashion Forms lingerie table (note to self: bring lingerie wearer along next time) or the Michael Greene pearls the size of gumballs (note to self: bring along filthy rich lingerie wearer next time) and my hands were too full to take a Sprinkles cupcake!(clearly I have my priorities upside down)

Also notable:

Fekkai just moved his salon out of Beverly Hills to the less showy, more boutiquey Melrose Place (near Somerville).

Somerville has a big book coming in March 2010, and hopefully before that, the long awaited debut of her take-home light therapy device…

UPDATE: Debra Messing, Lauren Conrad, Debi Mazar (Entourage, Dancing with the Stars), Lisa Rinna, Sally Pressman (Army Wives), Judy Greer (Love Happens), and Michaela Watkins (SNL) also showed up after me on Friday. Guess I shoulda loitered more… And then on Saturday, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Felicity Huffman, Bryan Batt, Paris Hilton, Kate Walsh, Jordana Brewster, Perrey Reeves, Olivia Wilde, and Rachel Boston came by for freebies. Paris apparently made lunch of it, when she found out M Cafe was catering…