Founded in 1996
Seating arrangement at NYC's La Caravelle, circa 1965
IN THIS ISSUE
JADE MOUNTAIN ON ST. LUCIA
By John Mariani
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
SUSANA BALBO WINES OF ARGENTINA
By John Mariani
ON ST. LUCIA
By John Mariani
Set within proximate sight of the island’s beautiful Piton Mountains—a World Heritage Site—and reachable only by bumping along a rocky road through deep, dark tropical forests, Jade Mountain is the dream of architect-owner Nick Troubetzkoy, who insists that his resort must fit organically into the natural world around it. This translates as soaring columns of stone and Gaudi-like tiled bridges leading to 24 secluded suites (some called “Sanctuaries”) in four price categories, each with its own private infinity pool made of recycled glass completely open to the trade winds.
How local workmen fashioned this extravaganza, which included hauling 20 species of tropical hardwood up the hillsides, is bewildering, all of it to create rooms with 15-foot ceilings, massive poster beds draped in gauze (with no fourth wall in the room, mosquitoes can buzz on in), massive armoires and an open bathroom with every amenity.
Down below are two white sand beaches covering 600 acres and offering an array of water sports and activities, including a catamaran that takes you under the shadow of the Pitons, which are named Gros and Piti.
St. Lucia, in the Lesser Antilles, is independent, though for centuries it was ruled by the French and British—each seven times!—earning it the nickname "Helen of the West Indies.” In 1836 slavery was abolished, by which time the black population already far outweighed the Europeans.
Owing to its southern location, St. Lucia is below the Caribbean hurricane zone, and the trade winds keep average summer temperatures below 90 degrees, with the rainy season arriving in autumn.
There is some industry on the island and its agriculture sector is growing, but tourism still drives the economy, with the high season January to April, when people come to visit the drive-in volcano, the springs at Soufrière, the Botanical Gardens and even to climb the Pitons. Most hop on and off the island from huge cruise ships that dock at the capital city of Castries.
Troubetzkoy and his wife, Karolin, began as visitors to St. Lucia and eventually bought the Anse Chastenet resort adjacent to Jade Mountain, which is a far more personalized and truly eccentric property with a secret logic behind it. I am not the first to report that Jade Mountain is not for everyone. That very rocky, jolting road is meant to keep non-guests from getting to the beaches, and, once you’ve entered the premises, you are unlikely to face that rugged road trip for the length of your stay. (Boats will take you to other parts of the island.)
Also, the rugged and often unpaved roads and staircases on the property take a good deal of stamina to navigate, and the route to the beaches is a trek down hundreds of uneven steps. Fortunately, the resort has vans and SUVs to pick you up throughout the premises and get you back to your suite. You need only to dial up a personal butler on a phone you carry with you.
Then there is the total absence of TV, video and movies (iPhones, however, do work pretty well). The intent is to allow guests to zone out completely, but I’ve always felt that such people simply need not turn on TVs or movie channels if they don’t choose to. The rest of us might prefer to zone out watching TV or movies. Most of us, I would expect, also would prefer the option of air-conditioning, which is installed in only one room.
Not that the eager visitor will lack for things to do. There is a scuba center with full diving program, a Jungle Biking Center (not for the unadventurous), coastal kayaking, sunfish sailing, windsurfing, tennis, a Cybox Fitness Studio, and the opportunity to visit the property’s ever-growing tropical organic farm. One of the loveliest of activities is a cruise on the resort yacht Searenity [sic] or a “Jazzy Sunset Cruise” on a 60-foot catamaran (below). The sunsets can be dazzling and for the first time in my life I got to see the fascinating “green blast” that sometimes occurs at the last split second of the sun’s dropping below the horizon.
Good restaurants in the Caribbean are rarities, largely because of the unavailability of ingredients, including seafood. So my wife and I were happy to find that Allen Susser, whose sterling career I’ve followed and applauded in Florida for more than twenty years, is onboard as consulting chef, along with Executive Chef Jonathan Deardon, who has worked for years to grow as much provender as possible and contract local farmers and fishermen to guarantee the best that is available.
Susser also began the resort’s own Chocolate Lab, using the property’s cacao beans, which are roasted, fermented, ground and made into a variety of desserts and chocolate bars for sale at the resort. Each year they hold a Chocolate Festival, which includes tours, excursions and chocolate-centered dishes throughout.
The two best restaurants at the resort are the Jade Mountain Club (below), which is exclusively for the use of resort guests, and Apsara, down at the beach, serving delicious Indian/Caribe cuisine.
After a long flight from New York and an hour’s ride to the resort, my wife and I were ready to be pampered. So, having cocktails on the terrace of the Jade Mountain Club allowed us to slip into Island Time that evening, followed by an excellent dinner that included curry-and-cumin spiced farm-raised prawns with shaved cucumber, green banana salad and lemon sauce; a crispy chicken roll with chorizo escabeche, local potatoes and pineapple compote; perfectly cooked spiced mahi mahi with coconut rice pilaf, baked pumpkin and seafood bisque; and a superb seared red snapper with leek risotto, sautéed Malabar spinach and a saffron nage. For dessert there was mango baked Alaska and a lemongrass and ginger cheesecake with dark chocolate ganache, beetroot bubbles and caramelized bananas. It was a blissful evening.
We also enjoyed a simple lunch on the beach at Anse Chastenet of grilled lobster, accompanied by cold Piton beer.
Breakfasts, full of fresh fruit, were very good, but, sorry to say, service on Caribbean Time meant interminable waits for the food to arrive.
On that first night at Jade Mountain, we looked up at the star-spangled sky and saw a vivid crescent moon lying on its bottom rim. Where I live crescent moons stand upright, but by its position in the equatorial sky it seemed as if it were cradling a star in its arms as the trade winds blew gently across the room.
Jade Mountain is an all-inclusive resort.
NEW YORK CORNER
By John Mariani
323 West Broadway (near Canal Street)
like the irresistible smell of a new car,
does not last forever, but a finely tuned,
good-looking car can be a joy to those who
appreciate the consistent delivery of what
it was they loved about it the day they
Mamo is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner nightly and brunch Sat. & Sun.
NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR
SUSANA BALBO WINES
By John Mariani
winemakers of whatever sex have in so short
a period of time achieved the respect and
honors of Argentina’s Susana Balbo, whose
wines I have long counted among the best
coming out of the Mendoza territory.
Susana Balbo Rosé
of Malbec 2018 ($20)—Rosés
have made considerable headway in South
America, and this one, made from 60% Malbec
and 40% Pinot Noir, has real finesse to it,
with just enough alcohol (13.2%) to bolster
its fruit flavors. It is cold macerated with
dry ice for one hour. An ideal apéritif that
can go with any seafood that comes afterwards.
Susana Balbo Brioso
White 2017 ($24)—This is a white blend of 45%
Semillón, 30% Torrontes and 25% Sauvignon
Blanc, the last enriching the fruit component,
with the Semillón providing the lush aroma.
The grapes are pressed without maceration, and
after fermentation the wine spends a month on
the lees, spending 4 months in 60% first -use
French oak and 40% second-use. There’s a
light, pleasing grassy edge along with a good
acid content and alcohol of 12.9%.
Susana Balbo Brioso
Agrelo Red 2016 ($45)—This is the
winery’s top-of-the-line Bordeaux-style blend,
with 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet
Franc, 16% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot. It
undergoes extended maceration of 35 days, then
spends 15 months in new French oak barrels,
coming out at a fine 14% alcohol, so it is
neither plummy nor hot on the palate. Instead,
you have a smooth, multi-faceted red that
shows off the cool Mendoza terroir.
Valle de Uco 2016 ($25)—Malbec is
currently the darling of Argentine
viniculture, and this bottle contains 100% of
it, at 13.5% alcohol. Unlike its often inky
French cousin Cahors, made from the same
grape, this is a softer, silkier version that
is ideal with pork, roast chicken or veal
BenMarco Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($20)—On the other hand, if you like more tannin, this 100% Cab, at just 13.8% alcohol, shows how vivid the grape can be if not allowed to ferment into a one-dimensional blockbuster. Char-grilled anything, spicy sausages, Italian pasta sauces will all be enhanced by this excellent offering.
OF WRETCHED EXCESS
MOST TERRIFYING HEADLINE
OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)
Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners
Wine is a joy year-round but
in cooler weather one
grape varietal has really taken center stage in
my daily activities – that most Italian of
grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression
– Brunello di Montalcino.
Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese
BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites.
Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage.
Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish.
Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation. Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.
Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape. Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name. The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky. Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red. The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut. It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note. It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillside in southern Montalcino.
SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet. An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine.
Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.
Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table.
Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti. An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes. This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.
Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining.
Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.
Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region. The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice. It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.
Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.
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I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and a frequent contributor to National Geographic Traveler, ForbesTraveler.com and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star places as five-star experiences." THIS WEEK:
Eating Las Vegas
JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas
food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is
the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50
Essential Restaurants (as well as
the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas.
He can also be seen every Friday morning as
the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the
Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3 in
MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET
NEWSLETTER is published weekly. Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani,
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and Brian Freedman. Contributing
Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical
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