September/October 2023 | Santa Barbara Life & Style Magazine

Page 1

September/October 2023
AMINA RUBINACCI FW23 COLLECTION IN STORE NOW 1269 Coast Village Road, Montecito CA | 805.563.2425 | @allorabylaura | CAPTIVATING MODERN LUXURY SHOP ONLINE at
LORI CLARIDGE BOWLES 805.452.3884 | | CalRE #01961570 DANA ZERTUCHE 805.403.5220 | | CalRE #01465425 Not intended as a solicitation if your property is already listed by another broker. Affiliated real estate agents are independent contractor sales associates, not employees. ©2022 Coldwell Banker. All Rights Reserved. Coldwell Banker and the Coldwell Banker logos are trademarks of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. The Coldwell Banker® System is comprised of company owned offices which are owned by a subsidiary of Anywhere Advisors LLC and franchised offices which are independently owned and operated. The Coldwell Banker System fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act Majestic 1 9 3 8 S P A N I S H C O M P O U N D 5 BEDROOMS / 6 BATHROOMS / 5 ACRES / $8,475,000
Our new Botanica Afternoon Tea is now available from Monday to Thursday, 2:30pm to 4:30pm. CONTACT OUR CONCIERGE TO RESERVE YOUR SPOT. CONCIERGE.ELE@BELMOND.COM (805) 845-5800 800 ALVARADO PL SANTA BARBARA, CA 93103 BELMOND.COM
THE FINEST MONTECITO & SANTA BARBARA HOMES ©2023 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties (BHHSCP) is a member of the franchise system of BHH Affiliates LLC. BHH Affiliates LLC and BHHSCP do not guarantee accuracy of all data including measurements, conditions, and features of property. Information is obtained from various sources and will not be verified by broker or MLS. *Individual agent by sales volume in 2022 for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. CRISTAL CLARKE • MONTECITO-ESTATE.COM • 805.886.9378 • CRISTAL@MONTECITO-ESTATE.COM • DRE 00968247 CASAMAR: AN EXQUISITE MEDITERRANEAN HAVEN 1502 E MOUNTAIN DRIVE, MONTECITO | OFFERED AT $23,500,000 TIMELESS AND ROMANTIC MEDITERRANEAN VILLA 733 KNAPP DRIVE, MONTECITO | OFFERED AT $9,975,000
CRISTAL CLARKE • MONTECITO-ESTATE.COM • 805.886.9378 • CRISTAL@MONTECITO-ESTATE.COM • DRE 00968247 ©2023 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties (BHHSCP) is a member of the franchise system of BHH Affiliates LLC. BHH Affiliates LLC and BHHSCP do not guarantee accuracy of all data including measurements, conditions, and features of property. Information is obtained from various sources and will not be verified by broker or MLS. *Individual agent by sales volume in 2022 for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. THE FINEST MONTECITO & SANTA BARBARA HOMES JACK WARNER CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECE 238 MIRAMAR AVENUE, MONTECITO | OFFERED AT $14,895,000 I Love Where I Live. Love What I Do. Sell What I Love. #1 BHHS AGENT LOCALLY AND GLOBALLY*
8 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 EXPLORE PASEO NUEVO and our collection of local, regional, and national retailers and restaurants @ShopPaseoNuevo 651 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara CA 93101 EXPERIENCES AWAIT #COMETOGETHER Open 11am to 7pm Daily
FOLLOW US: LOS OLIVOS 2920 Grand Ave 805.697.7377 ORCUTT 3388 Orcutt Rd 805.922.9195 PISMO BEACH 890 Price St 805.773.1055 PASO ROBLES 1236 Park St 805.226.5088 SAN LUIS OBISPO 874 Monterey St 805.543.3200 THE CENTRAL COAST’S PREMIER WOMEN AND CHILDREN’S BOUTIQUE Home of Sandbox Kids









PHOTOGRAPHERS Murray Ash, Jackie Beran, Tynan Daniels, Jared Fix, Arnie Watkins

WRITERS Murray Ash, Haven Heffernan, Laura Hupp, Nicole Johnson, Alexandra Lee, Hannah Meyers, Emma Roberts, Alexandra Sharova

INTERNS Nicole Johnson, Laura Hupp



STYLIST Ottocina Ryan


MODEL Morgan Chelf with Two Management

HAIR & MAKEUP Ja’Nice Ramos

LOCATION Olive + Lavender Farms Los Olivos

Dress MIGUELINA Lou Los Olivos

Belt SAINT LAURENT The Webster

Handbag CELINE The Webster

Necklaces & ring KAI LINZ Allora by Laura


Santa Barbara Life & Style Magazine is published by Santa Barbara Life & Style, Inc.

26 West Mission Street #5, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

For distribution, advertising and other inquiries: THIS COVER
Majorelle Spa at Hotel Californian 36 State Street, Santa Barbara | (805) 882-0103 | @hotelcalifornian Personalized Luxury Redefined
Gi s 2 3 2 5 LILLI E A V EN U E | F ARM T O P APE R O R G | F A RM2 P AP E R@ G MA I L C O M | 80 5 96 9 799 8 Artisanal Food . . Custom Stationery . Design Services . Wedding Invitation Suites . Classes
the highly rated wines of Alma Rosa Winery in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor tasting room in downtown Solvang or at its stunning 628-acre estate.
ROOM OPEN DAILY 1623 Mission Drive Solvang
Estate Tastings By Appointment 805-691-9395




S POTLIGHT 17 New and noteworthy.

TO THE MAX 18 Home is where the heart is.

FALL IN LOVE WITH AUTUMN 20 Change is a good thing.

48 HOURS IN SANTA BARBARA 98 A guide to all things sipping and shopping.



The 70s called, We Want The Funk answered.


The stars align at El Encanto’s Botanica Afternoon Tea.


Anacapa Street’s newest restaurant is a work of art.



The Craft House Inn is your home away from home.


Partner in wine.


SECOND NATURE 48 Nourishment elevated, one scoop at a time.


All the reasons to add olive oil to your grocery list.



Stop and smell the lavender.


Life’s better under a turquoise and white striped umbrella.



Unlock another level of luxury at Raffles Singapore.


Las Ventanas al Paraíso is an experience so surreal you’ll be asking somebody to pinch you.


Open your mind and your heart in Luang Praban.


Maroma offers an adventure full of memories, Mayan culture, and Melipona bees.

(sea)son PLACE YOUR AD HERE Contact Instagram | @sblifeandstyle


Westmont consistently ranks among the nation’s best Christian liberal arts colleges with one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. And for 85 years, we’ve remained committed to cultivating thoughtful scholars, grateful servants, and faithful leaders for global engagement with the academy, church, and world.

Experience Westmont during your visit to Santa Barbara


2023 applicants can receive up to $2,000 in additional scholarship, renewable each year, for visiting campus! That’s an $8,000 value!

more at 955 LA PAZ RD, SANTA BARBARA, CA 93108 WESTMONT.EDU • (805) 565-6000

The most exclusive wine tasting experience takes place in The Secret Cellar, surrounded by San Ysidro

Ranch’s extensive collection of soughtafter bottles, as you dine on a four-course tasting menu.





The Inn at Mattei’s Tavern introduces Gin’s Tap Bar, serving up Chinese-fusion bar bites such as crispy pork belly and duck wontons along with a selection of wines and ice-cold beers on tap.

Follow @sblifeandstyle for daily behind the scenes content, new restaurants, events, getaways, and more...
4. SMOKE SHOW The Ritz-Carlton Bacara partners with Cohiba Cigars to bring visitors the Cohiba Experience, a permanent one-of-a-kind luxury cigar lounge with unbeatable ocean views. 3. RETAIL THERAPY Webster Rosewood Miramar Beach now carries menswear, including local Doni Nahmias’ brand Nahmias and its 9-piece Summerland capsule collection. 1. FINE WINE



From Carmen Ellis’ imaginative Illumination Series, we receive a whimsical approach to lighting that touches on themes of sensuality and asymmetry. Handmade in Los Angeles, these lamps turn on and off with a simple tap for ultimate ease.


Big Chill 24” Retro Slim Fridge in Berry

The retro Barbie refrigerator of our dreams—except it works! Marrying a vintage aesthetic with modern functionality and designed to fit smaller spaces, this attention-grabbing fuschia fridge is all you need to brighten up the kitchen.


L’Objet Neptune Bowl

We’re calling on seashells for inspiration long past summer’s end. Hand-finished with painstaking detail in fine porcelain and 24k gold, this unique bowl is the perfect coffee table statement piece or seasonal fruit basket, suitable for food and decoration alike.


Bang & Olufsen Beosound 2

3rd Gen Speaker

For a sound system equal parts effective and aesthetic, opt for this third-generation gilded Bang & Olufsen speaker. Its 360-degree shape and coveted Acoustic Lens Technology infuse the air with powerful sound, no matter where it’s placed.


Roche Bobois Bilboquet Cocktail Table

Move over, boring coffee tables! This graceful hand-blown glass piece adds an element of artisanal sophistication to any space. Created by Ukranian designer Kateryna Sokolova, it acts as a perfect base for magazines and flower arrangements of plenty.


18 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 SBLS covet & crave
3 1 2
Carmen Ellis Flora & Fauna Lamp Set


As the seasons start to ever so slightly change, the Central Coast brings only the best in food, wine, and experiences


Chopsticks at the ready? Roll up to Margerum for the delectable combo of sushi and wine. The Funk Zone favorite recently opened a Los Olivos tasting room with a menu unlike any other. Margerum’s newest space on Alamo Pintado Avenue brings not only the wines Santa Barbara knows and loves, but a delightful food menu. Slurp some Kumamoto oysters alongside sparkling wine pairings or dive into a bento box of hand crafted sushi (reservation necessary). Of course, the classic cheese and charcuterie board isn’t going anywhere. Don’t leave without trying their Rori’s collaboration—amaro ice cream!


Expand your knowledge and palate at El Encanto’s new Ocean’s Garden workshop in partnership with Kelpful, a cooperative aimed at sustainably harvesting seaweed. The experience starts by exploring the secrets and advantages of the seaweed, and in turn the foundations of sustainable ocean practices, and segues into trying snacks highlighting the plant’s varying forms, like warm kelp broth and seasoned popcorn. Guests will be able to concoct their own sea salt seasoning, incorporating seaweed and sesame seeds, to create a unique umami topping for avocado toast. Lastly, guests will walk away with their own blended bath salts with citrus and floral essential oils as a memento of their newfound knowledge and experience.


The best way to round out summer? A good old-fashioned cookout…except at the stunning Alisal Ranch with award-winning chefs. Nestled in Santa Ynez Valley, Alisal offers a ranch experience bathed in quiet luxury. This year they’re bringing back their California Ranch Cookout series with a rotating show from the best chefs in the country. On September 23, guests can dance away to live music while watching sisters and co-owners of Rory’s Place in Ojai, Rory and Meave McAuliffe, do what they do best. Chef Meave brings her impressive resume in the restaurant industry to the ranch to grill up a proper feast while Rory handles the drinks and production. Dine al fresco with all the classic meats, sides and sweets that one could ask for.

SBLS this season


Hats off to that! This October, explore Madame Ganna Walska’s hat collection at none other than her famed gardens, Lotusland. LACMA curator of costume and textiles, Kaye D. Spilker, will host “Madame’s Millinery Masterpieces: Hats Throughout History,” diving into not only Madame’s customized hat selection but also a broader discussion on historical hat fashion and trends. Peruse the cherished hats and learn from an incredible curator with experience in global art and culture.


“I’m not meant to fit clothes, the clothes are meant to fit me,” says Lynda Oniah, founder of Stand Tall Jeans. The FIDM graduate’s recently launched denim line empowers tall women to embrace their height, femininity and strength, while spearheading inclusivity in the clothing industry. The inaugural campaign shoot at Sunstone Villa was orchestrated by Chloe Redmond of Vino Vaquera Consulting, who is known for going above and beyond for clients’ shoots with surprise DJ appearances and other special touches. This shoot included custom florals by Roam, DJ Peetey setting the mood, styling by Dylan Star, hair by Mila Garcia, and makeup by Julie Christy. Model Kristin Schackmann and Lynda herself strutted around the Villa in the butterysoft denim, embodying the confidence only a perfectly-fitting pair of jeans can offer.


Stay and play at the newly renovated Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and Epiphany Tasting Garden in Los Olivos. The refreshed rooms and suites perfectly blend rustic comfort with contemporary pleasures. New hardwood floors, wrought iron four post beds, and fireplaces in every room are only a few of the latest additions implemented by designer Olivia Villaluz. “As a family owned and operated business, we hold our heritage in high regard, while also recognizing the importance of providing a fresh and modern experience,” says Ashley Parker Snider, co-owner and proprietor of the Fess Parker portfolio. To complement the many new amenities at the hotel, spend an afternoon at the updated Epiphany Tasting Garden on Grand Avenue to savor their expansive wine list from the new outdoor service bar.




Istroll through the Funk Zone, bustling with Saturday afternoon foot traffic and the echo of live yacht rock. I duck into Gray Avenue and I’m met with the bright, welcoming patio entrance to We Want The Funk, one of Santa Barbara’s newest food truck-style restaurants.

Retro murals contrast white and gold fixtures to create a funky, clean aesthetic for the interior. As I settle into the velvet booth, owner Ted Ellis shares stories of his almost 30 years of restaurant industry experience. He explains the inspiration behind the newest concept: Parliament’s song “We Want The Funk!” and his and his wife’s love for good food and entertainment.

I sip on a glass of Grenache rosé from neighboring La Lieff Wines while admiring the rainbow of potted flowers and vines that envelop the white brick building. 70s tunes play through the speakers as natural light fills the dining area, casting enchanting shadows through the foliage. The design radiates groovy energy with a sleek, modern flare.

After settling in, my first dish floats into the dining room from the food truck on the patio where each item is prepared. I start with the So Shuckin’ Good wood-fired oysters. The shellfish trio arrives steaming on a wooden serving board adorned with orchids, crisp flatbread and a buttery dipping sauce. Freshly roasted in the custom Forno Classico pizza oven that serves as the center for many dishes, the oysters melt in my mouth and are finished almost instantly. Thankful for the side of flatbread for dipping, I savor the excess cayenne garlic butter sauce.

The next dish arrives: the Voodoo Child salad. Toasted walnuts, poached pear, candied fennel, and goat cheese top a bed of fresh mixed greens. Each ingredient is carefully placed, accompanied by another decorative orchid. I take my first bite and am instantly pleased by how well the tang of the date vinaigrette complements the creamy goat cheese and walnuts. The star of the show is clearly the candied fennel. Notably Ted’s favorite, the ingredient adds an interesting, slightly bitter flair to the refreshing dish.

SBLS dining

Shortly after, the Shroomin’ flatbread arrives as the main course. The five slices each incorporate mushrooms, goat cheese spread, lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. Drizzled with a decadent truffle chili oil and topped with edible flowers, the flatbread is just as photo-worthy as the previous dishes. With the crunch of each bite, earthy, buttery notes fill my mouth. The lemon zest pairs perfectly with the truffle chili oil, creating a completely unique flavor. The flatbread holds its shape well, as the mushrooms are roasted prior to entering the pizza oven to avoid sogginess.

Ted returns to the table to make sure that the dining experience has been enjoyable. I rave to him about my surprise at the sweetbut-bitter licorice flavor of the candied fennel and inquire about the eye-catching rainbow mural. Ted shares a story about its origin; he and his wife Greer were inspired by a vintage scarf that hangs framed in their living room, and reached out to a local artist to emulate the feeling for the art in the restaurant.

My meal ends on a sweet note with the Dream Cream. Vanilla soft serve from Straus Family Creamery is topped with a drizzle of blood orange infused Agrumato olive oil and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt to create a simple, yet decadent dessert. Despite my hesitance toward the combination of ice cream and olive oil, I instantly fall in love with the blend of flavors. The citrusy tang engulfs the sweet vanilla cream, making for a perfect finale.

As my gold spoon scoops up the last bite of dessert, I take in the vibes around me. The vintage colors juxtapose the trendy fixtures to create a perfectly Instagrammable atmosphere. I take note of the bright patio and its openness into the dining area, making it the ideal spot to enjoy a delicious meal with friends or listen to spunky 70s tunes. Here, upscale dishes are tastefully casualized to meet the friendly energy that We Want The Funk encapsulates.*


Celestial Delights



Afternoon tea offerings are few and far between in Santa Barbara, and El Encanto, a Belmond Hotel doesn’t just serve it, they’ve gone above and beyond (our earthly existence) and put a cosmic spin on the British tradition.

Perched atop the Riviera, this serene getaway boasts verdant grounds and sweeping views of the Santa Barbara coastline. My friends and I stroll through the sophisticated lobby, greeted by the tinkling of live piano as we make our way to the Botanica Afternoon Tea experience in The Lounge. We are led to the bright and airy terrace by attentive waitstaff who explain the menu before we embark on the enchanting journey.

This astrology-inspired afternoon tea is a modern twist on an age-old ritual; Ojai-based Magic Hour crafted astro-botanical infusions to pair with each guest’s sun sign. The teas are blended with aromatic herbs and adaptogens to produce distinct health benefits catering to each zodiac, including skin nourishment and stress reduction. I select Queen of Courage, Tea of the Sun to align with my Leo sign.

In an instant, the white tablecloth is adorned with tea party finery. Tea steeps in a silver kettle as I inhale the complex citrus aroma of the Tea of the Sun. Three short minutes later, the sand has run through the hourglass that was lovingly placed with the kettle, and the Leo tea is poured into my cup. The warm vanilla notes of the black tea perfectly contrast the orange blossom, embodying the boldness and courageousness of the Leo personality.

In perfect time to enjoy my first sip, the first display of treats arrives: a tray filled with warm scones accompanied

by strawberry basil jam, clotted cream and local honey butter. Fresh from the oven, steam rises and I struggle to select what to try first. I slather a buttermilk scone in jam and am delighted by the palatable flavors of the locally sourced herbs.

I pour my second cup, and another round of delights floats onto the table. The shiny tower of treats puts a finishing touch on this dreamy tea party, complete with finger sandwiches and dazzling desserts. Each ingredient is lovingly hand-selected by the chef, with a bounty of flavors bursting in this unique selection. We enjoy smoked salmon mousse on charcoal loaf, melange of chicken atop beetroot levain, and a classic cucumber dill tea sandwich with turmeric bread, making it impossible to pick a favorite. The artisanal ingredients and exceptional flavor combinations mirror the region’s culinary abundance.

I excitedly admire the whimsical desserts that lie ahead. The divine spread includes blackberry cheesecake, vanilla bean profiteroles, coconut mango napoleons, chocolate banana gateaux, and lavender macarons. The sweet selection offers something that appeals to every star sign. The napoleon’s tropical tang pairs ideally with my Leo tea—a satisfying finale to this culinary experience.

As we conclude this mystical adventure, I contemplate Magic Hour founder Zhena Muzyka’s intention to connect the world through tea ceremonies. I feel more in tune with myself and my friends I shared the afternoon with. Thanks to the Botanica Afternoon Tea’s magical blend of wellness teas and fresh culinary delights, my mind and body feel renewed.*


“This astrology-inspired afternoon tea is a modern twist on an age-old ritual; Ojai-based Magic Hour crafted astro-botanical infusions to pair with each guest’s sun sign.”



welcome home

Iam not sure if it’s the company, the flickering candle light, the black and white photographs captured by owner Tara Peinke’s father, or the soft chatter filling the air, but the ambience of Gala emits a comfort that puts me at ease.

Gala may be new to Santa Barbara, but owners Tara Peinke and Jaime Riesco (who doubles as head chef) are experts in the field. The husband-wife duo’s first venture, Picnic, took the Barcelona brunch scene to another level with their American-Chilean cuisine. After nearly twenty years, Tara, an American Rivera native, decided it was time to bring her family and her talents home. Thus, Gala was born.

The name is an ode to artist Salvador Dalí’s muse, his wife. As the evening progresses, I come to understand the choice of title. The entire experience mimics Dalí’s painting style—surreal.

We opt for a seat at the bar where the open arched window offers a clear view of lively Anacapa Street, perfect for people watching and catching the coastal California breeze. Perusing the menu, there are two avant-garde choices that describe Gala’s environment better than any explanation I could give: one to “buy the table next to you a glass of cava” and another to “buy the kitchen team a beer.” Here, no one is a stranger, and that’s exactly how Peinke and Riesco intended.


Tara describes their menu as a combination of what's in season, local, and loved by their family and diners. The rotating selection offers something new every time, but favorite dishes stay put. “We wanted to do a bit of a mix,” she says regarding the style of cuisine. “Much to people’s surprise, the Spanish don’t eat paella every night,” Peinke jokes.

Gala’s Beet Margarita and Ysidro Spritz accompany the serious food decisions that are to be made. The margarita’s perfect deep pink hue comes from the house hibiscus and beet syrup, which is fused with lime and fresh agave to satisfy every single taste bud. The Spritz is a quintessential summer cocktail—refreshing with a bit of a kick.

We begin the culinary portion with the Tempura Zucchini Flowers and Alaskan King Crab, both recommended and both living up to their acclaim. The in-season blossoms stuffed with haloumi cheese sit atop a romesco sauce. With a light crunch, the soft cheese filling levels the salty tempura beautifully, while the tomato puree offers a slight zip. Despite my Maryland origins, the Alaskan King Crab dish at Gala reaffirms my belief that this catch takes the crown. Stuffed in a canelone, baked with marinara and fresh parmesan, and topped with additional crab meat, the combo of tomato compote and crustacean is a match made in heaven.

“There seems to be a theme—take a classic food loved by most and make it better.”

Tara stops by to check in as we are practically scraping our appetizer dishes clean. Before I can ask for entree recommendations, she hints that you can’t move on from the first course without trying the fried green tomatoes and crudo. Who am I to deny a woman in her own home? Good thing we listened. The Fried Green Tomatoes give tastes of the South while elevated with corn salsa and a sweet chili sauce. There seems to be a theme—take a classic food loved by most and make it better. Thinly sliced local halibut crudo soaking in a layer of Leche de Tigre decorated with fresh wildflowers follows. The sauce’s lime flavor and earthy undertones partnered with the fish reminisce on the dish’s past home both on land and in sea.

The time has come for entrees, and after much consultation with our server, the couple sitting next to us, and Tara herself, we settle on the Mushroom Risotto and Branzino a la Plancha. The aroma of the vegetable rice dish arrives before the plate, as if to prepare us. Butter, thyme, and parmesan dance with oyster and portobello mushrooms putting on quite the performance. Once I start, I can’t stop. Cheesy, creamy, and comforting, the perfect risotto combination.

The neighboring table wonders, “What is that?” with wide eyes as the branzino floats in front of us. Settled between a fennel apple slaw and grilled polenta, the fish is a sight. It’s a melt in your mouth sea bass that emits a light salty flavor balanced by the sweetness of the fruit. The buttery polenta piques my interest—it’s amazing

how something so simple provides so much texture and warmth, finishing the dish beautifully.

No meal is complete without something sweet. To preface what I am about to say, I have always been anti-cheesecake (controversial, I know). I do not like it—well did not like it. Gala’s cheesecake has me questioning all sorts of things I thought I knew about myself. It’s traditional in all senses: graham cracker crust, cream cheese-based filling, finished with the sweetest berries and compote. My usual denial of the dessert comes from the sourness, but this slice is mellow and complements the sweet crust instead of overpowering it. In case I still wasn’t sold, a slice of the carrot cake follows. The decadent sweet has mastered the fluffy cream cheese frosting to cake ratio and serves as another reminder that cheese absolutely belongs on the dessert menu.

As we finish our final bites, I survey the restaurant for Tara, who at this point in the evening feels like an old friend. She’s found sitting at a small table directly in front of the kitchen windows with her two young daughters, watching her husband prepare the dishes he and his family love for the people of Santa Barbara. On my way out, I stop by to say thank you for such a wonderful evening. She gives me a hug and expresses her gratitude for us joining them for dinner. We leave with a full stomach, full heart, and a promise to return to a place where not only can you feel the love, you can taste it.*


HERITAGE reimagined

SBLS homes


Nestled amongst Bath Street’s verdant greenery lies a newly reimagined bed and breakfast: The Craft House Inn. Cloaked in a traditional yet captivating dark palette, the home’s exterior foreshadows the alluring mix of old and new that awaits within. I stroll up the stone walkway, admiring the polished landscape, as the classic stained glass door swings open.

I am warmly greeted by Katie Labourdette-Martinez and Olivia Wahler, the duo behind the newly remodeled property. The sisters-in-law are the masterminds of Hearth Homes Interiors, a local design studio specializing in residential and hospitality. The pair stumbled upon the run-down bed and breakfast in late 2021 and were overcome by its historic charm. The property felt like the perfect spot to carry out their vision for a hybrid Airbnbhotel experience that tailors its offerings to its guests.

The house was originally built in the 1900s, and Labourdette-Martinez and Wahler have remodeled

in a way that celebrates the age and history of the building. They thoughtfully blended the home’s original craftsmanship with modern amenities and comfort, agreeing that “the home needs to shine the way it was built to.” Upon entering the foyer, I am enveloped by striking earth-toned walls, cozy knit textures, and antique decor.

I gravitate toward the living room, where modern elegance melds with the original framework of the room. A custom-built marble fireplace and coffee table perfectly complement the time-worn hardwood floors. The room possesses a timeless charm, bearing the marks of age with a modernized twist.

“We pay careful attention to the craftsman style architecture and the preexisting elements,” says Labourdette-Martinez. “We want to preserve the original features first and tie them in with the rest of the house.” Their modus operandi shines throughout the dining area where original crown molding, exposed beams,


and refurbished paneling accentuate the historic beauty of the home. Vibrant vintage bird wallpaper contrasts the contemporary table-setting to create the ideal space for a family to enjoy an intimate meal.

The ground floor of The Craft House is also home to Wahler’s favorite room: the kitchen. From the immaculate checkerboard floor to the custom cabinetry and gourmet appliances, not a single detail is spared. The mature, elevated aesthetic invites guests to explore its offerings, like the curated cookbook collection and fridge stocked with local artisanal goods. Wahler recalls sourcing pieces for the vintage plate wall from local estate sales, as she believes the smallest details make the biggest difference.

Just around the corner, the staircase leads to the home’s four sophisticated bedrooms. Each room is thoughtfully named after a Santa Barbara hotspot: Butterfly, Harbor, Rose, and Granada.

I’m instantly drawn to the vibrant butterfly-patterned wallpaper peeking through the doorway of the Butterfly Room. Labourdette-Martinez notes that floor-to-ceiling wallpaper was one of her bucket list items for the bedroom interiors. “The fun elements of wallpaper and color really brought our vision to life,” she says.

Each of the bright bedrooms brings its own vibe to the historic home. The Rose Room radiates floral energy with a pastel pink bathroom and a wall of Morris & Co. Strawberry Fields wallpaper. The Harbor Room takes a simple approach with crisp white linens and marble accents. The Granada Room brings moody energy, as muted blues contrast with the statement fireplace.

One of Hearth Homes’ signature embellishments can be found in the upstairs bathrooms. Labourdette-Martinez and Wahler salvaged original dressers discovered in the home to create custom sink vanities. Details like these truly encapsulate the warmth of the property’s history.

Unassuming from the outside, The Craft House also harbors a surprising addition: a studio unit inside the home. Once a parlor, the Lotus Suite can be accessed through a separate side entrance. The studio mirrors the aesthetic of the rest of the home, with its own custom kitchen and penny-tiled bathroom.

“We want to preserve the original features first and tie them in with the rest of the house.”

Labourdette-Martinez and Wahler recall the serious reimagining the space took. “It’s so hard for me to wrap my brain around how we changed this,” Wahler says. “It’s a very magical layout and we just wanted to make it functional.”

Lastly, I head outside to the backyard, sprawling by the standards of downtown Santa Barbara. The sunlit lawn is bordered by cozy outdoor furniture. The couch seating looks ideal for lounging in the sunshine, while the massive table would lend itself perfectly to hosting a dreamy dinner party.

After soaking in the elegance of the property, I tuck in for the night in the Harbor Room. My eyes flutter open

after a quiet and restful sleep as the smell of freshlycooked bacon floats upstairs. I make my way down and am met with a stunning breakfast spread, prepared in-house by Executive Chef Julian Martinez of Barbareño. I sip French-pressed Handlebar coffee while indulging in fluffy eggs, farmer’s market fruit, and decadent avocado toast.

With plans to build on their upscale experiences, from pizza-making classes and private chef meals, to in-home massages, Labourdette-Martinez and Wahler will continue growing Hearth Homes as a full service design practice and hospitality business. As for The Craft House itself, a fully customizable stay in a thoughtfully designed home-away-from-home awaits.*



soil the power of the

Have you ever sat in a stupor while drinking California wines, falling in love with the idea of owning a vineyard with your one and only? There is an overpowering feeling of sweetness when I think of living on a farm, growing grapes, working harvest, and sipping wine with my true love. But that all vanishes when you’re living in a city and spending so much time working a corporate job that you don’t have the bandwidth to even contemplate the glory of farming your own land.

And yet, “Wanting to be different than the Jones,” as Anna from Solminer Wine Company puts it, is exactly what she and her husband David are doing. Shortly after getting married, Anna was reminiscing about her native Austrian Gruner Veltliner wines. Not finding many options for this grape varietal in Central Coast California,

and feeling ambitious, she and David decided to create wine together.

Beginning in 2012, they purchased their initial land to plant Austrian varieties. It was a small, 12-acre property, and several mentors and vineyard managers encouraged them to be as hands-on as possible. They learned the trade from the help they were getting. Both of their skill sets were beneficial as well—Anna has an engineering degree, and David comes from a musical background. These were instrumental in implementing sustainable and creative ideas.

Through trial and error, Anna and David learned that when you don’t till the ground, it holds the carbon, which helps the soil flourish. They challenge the idea of keeping a “clean” looking vineyard, meaning tilling and stripping


When you open a bottle of wine, you open up a landscape that will never be re-created. ”

everything away, and pose the question: how can a vineyard survive if you remove all the nutrients it needs to develop? When taking them away, it usually means one has to add fertilizer and chemicals to protect it, which makes it less natural. Keeping the microbiol network can help the uptake of the nutrients into the plant.

David and Anna note that when looking at organic fruit, you may find it more sunkissed, not as big, and with a few blemishes. The vineyards have to fight off insects, which builds character. It is a long-term investment to farm organic vineyards—for the plants, and the consumers.

The first time they stood in a vineyard, the manager told them to use glyphosate, which accompanies conventional farming. David and Anna were disillusioned, as glyphosate kills the gut biome of plants, essentially an antibiotic. The pair wanted to use their own homemade probiotics—also known as compost, courtesy of their donkeys (Molly, primarily), dandelions, chamomile,

and food scraps. Animal integration is important to them—sheep grazing and fertilizing the land feeds the microbiome in the soil, which will become nutrients for the vines. They want to be self-sufficient in their food system and keep it local. The pair are not trying to cover up anything and are as natural as can be, as sulfur added to wine can affect one’s health. They began certified organic, grew into being biodynamic, and now practice regenerative farming.

“Wine is about passion,” David states. And indeed it is—Anna remembers that her Austrian family had a farming background, which inspired her to start her decades-long project with the love of her life. Some of her most unique wines are Austrian varietals such as Gruner Veltliner, Blaufränkisch, Muscat, and Saint Laurent.

Anna and David’s mission is clear: protect the life in the soil, don’t kill it.


Not too far from Santa Ynez, near Santa Rita Hills, proprietors Sonja Magdevski and Greg Brewer work hard at regenerative farming as well. Having been married six years, they share the same facility, but their brands are separate. Sonja has been making wine for over nineteen years, and has Casa Dumetz, Clementine Carter, and The Feminist Party to her name. Greg has been in the business for thirty years, and enjoys his craft at Brewer-Clifton, Diatom, and Ex Post Facto.

Wanting to keep the highest integrity for their wines, Sonja spends every waking moment thinking about how to make it better. The power couple are especially mindful about shipping costs, labels, and glass bottle choices, because these are things they can control for sustainability. Both enjoy being present and thoughtful in their winemaking, and hope that is translated to the guest. They want the evidence to be in the bottle, and if the consumer is there to taste and learn, hopefully they can experience the care they put into their work.

“Wine is about joy, and about finding pleasure and everyone coming to the table,” Sonja reminds me. She values knowing their farmers and collaborating with their regions. Similar to Solminer, she and Greg have animals in the vineyard to help with the regenerative farming, noting that everything plays a role in the final product. Sonja explains, “If you’re not integrated in the wine making process, then none of it makes sense, as the resulting wine reflects your level of understanding of your grape growing.”

Sonja and Greg’s passion for wine is palpable. “When you open a bottle of wine, you open up a landscape that will never be re-created. Everything that went into that bottle is present in that bottle, and hopefully that is translated without words. That’s the goal—for the wine to strike you with joy,” Sonja states, full of intensity and affection.

Having visited with both couples, the bright future of regenerative farming for wines seems unmistakable. Their fervor and dedication to their crafts speaks volumes, and the glee they sense when the vines get it right proves that they share best practices and want the best for the future. While holding a glass of Solminer Riesling, I reflect on how inspiring the couples are; their love for eachother and for changing common practices in order to give us the best quality wines is so profound.

I smile, and sip a little longer.*



n e a c t o u n r d e





SBLS wellness

The Ecuadorian Andes’ topography evokes a story. Butter-coated alpacas graze on wispy ancient grains, while pristine puffs of white slink down snow-capped peaks, parting to wash the sun’s kindness over emerald crater lagoons. The wild splendor of the Inca Trail whispers the complexities of civilizations past, and brisk winds breathe the pulse of their nearby indigenous descendants.

Save for tourism and deforestation, this mountain range has escaped much of the industrial disruption inherent in modernization. Enter Ricky Echanique, fifth-generation Ecuadorian farmer and Santa Barbara local, attempting to preserve the pure Andean narrative while sharing one of its best-kept agricultural secrets—an unsuspecting bean—with the outside world. Nestled in lush grasslands between 9,000 to 14,000 feet, chocho predates even the Inca, offering untouched genetic biodiversity and a rich base for vegetarian ceviches of the Ecuadorian highlands. And several years ago, it offered Ricky a guide home.

A former professional tennis player, Ricky found his performance compromised by stomach pains induced by his protein intake, which slowly unfolded into chronic inflammation and lethargy. Doctor’s regimens worked to no avail. So where to? For most, Bristol Farms’ vitamin and alternative wellness aisle. Ricky’s obvious answer? A solo venture into the Amazonian depths, and an exploration of the native holistic traditions therein.

While traversing the alpine route back to Ecuador, Ricky’s eyes wandered toward curious, ubiquitous purple sprouts,

revered by local farmers for their soil regeneration properties. Remembering a mention of the creamy bean enveloped by these lilac buds from an old friend, Ricky investigated chocho’s protein profile, given that soy, pea, and whey options were now off the table.

He sent a packed powder sample to a lab—from which it was rejected. “‘What are you mixing with this?’ the lab asked me; ‘Nothing,’ I replied,” Ricky chuckles. “The food branch couldn’t analyze it because it was too rich in nutrients. When they sent it to their pharmaceutical lab, I decided this was a project of its own; my Amazonian ventures went on the shelf.” Drawing upon his agricultural DNA, he partnered with indigenous farmers cultivating the crop, offering them the empowering certainty of profits in the harshly uncertain conditions of elevation agriculture. Several flavor trials and packaging designs later, Mikuna—a clean, lightweight chocho protein powder— was actualized.

Mikuna is Quichua for food, translating to “nourish the body with food” or “feed it with love”—and it excels at doing so. It sounds nearly excessive, but Ricky’s genuine zeal for natural wellness is palpable— which becomes clear to me in the initial moments of our interview, when he describes Mikuna’s digestion process as “beautiful,” an adjective I’d seldom think to attribute to the gut. The legume truly has an elegant breakdown, though: it’s bountiful in crucial nutrients, all nine amino acids, vitamins D and E, and healthy fats. The ancient Andean plant packs a punch. One serving


of Mikuna—available in airy vanilla, decadent cacao, and pure chocho varieties—nourishes with 20 grams of whole protein, and no lectins, gluten, dairy, hidden ingredients (or B.S.) to hamper digestion.

No wonder it was Erewhon’s best-selling plant protein for two consecutive years following its December 2021 launch—and yes, it was on the high-end grocer’s radar just weeks after its official release. If shelving exposure wasn’t enough, Mikuna was soon the centerpiece of an initial Erewhon smoothie collaboration, Regenerada, quickly becoming the poster child for eco and gut-friendly alternative protein. The Ecuadorian gem has since been featured in July’s Erewhon x Emma Chamberlain Cold Brew Cookie blend, and now rides the momentum of a recent nationwide Whole Foods deal. And for the record, Ricky notes, Mikuna’s Erewhon smoothie debuted before they were cool.

Transcending such high-profile reception is a threetiered philosophy. “We’re here to make things better for the environment, for our farmers, and for the people who consume Mikuna,” Ricky smiles. “Environmentally, the world relies on ten chief crops; we’re providing food diversity and seed sovereignty. Mikuna is the definition of an alternative source of protein.” It’s an incredibly efficient substitute that may become our go-to,

given the continued strain the climate crisis has put on land mass and resources. Chocho relies solely on infrequent rainfall, actually thriving in drought. Offering a rare dose of raw regeneration through its natural soil fertilization, Mikuna is revolutionizing a future of food that reverts agriculture back to its intuitive roots.

The underbelly of just about anything tells its true story—and Mikuna’s is no different. Vividly hued indigenous textiles stripe the bottom of each package, an artful nod to the mountain farmers who sow the seeds of its contents. Hailing from one of the first 19th century families to export cacao to Europe and North America, Ricky seeks to uplift traditional farmers by imbuing mutual visibility, genuine relationships, and stable sources of income. The lowdown: Mikuna harnesses the power of the plant through the power of the people.

And a protein of the people it is—the most vitaminvigilant athletes, like surfers Taylor Knox and Mick Fanning, have caught on. “High-velocity athletes, idolized for their longevity, are the most tuned into what they eat for performance, and they all love the clean factor. When Taylor goes on surf trips, he’s drinking Mikuna left and right and surfs for eight hours; he reports he could never do that before,” Ricky remarks. On top of attaining a coveted B-Corp certification for outstanding environmental and social achievements, Mikuna is NSF Sport Certified, serving up transparency in ingredients and functional energy fit for all levels of fitness.

I’m no Mick, but I can attest to the powder’s everyday performance in my mobility and sharpness of thought—since infusing it into my morning smoothies, I’m mindfully in tune with each step, resetting and stabilizing my body’s natural rhythm. Mikuna brings smooth to smoothies, coffees, and beyond, making them at a minimum less boring, and at best, transportive—both to a place of holistic wellness, and to the Ecuadorian birthplace of the bean.

In all facets, Mikuna feels wholeheartedly good, particularly when paired with the Riviera as its backdrop. “The best way to enjoy Santa Barbara is healthily—whether going to the Channel Islands, to surfing Jalama to Rincon, to hiking, it’s inspiring to physically thrive in such a grounded community,” Ricky smiles. “When I was in Ecuador, I’d miss Santa Barbara, and vice versa—Mikuna to me is a synergy between the two.”

As for the story of the Andean highlands? A continually pristine one, with a purpose, regenerated.*



MIKUNA can be added to almost any recipe that requires ingredients in powder form. It can replace flour in recipes such as pancakes, tortillas, breads, protein shakes, and items that you want to add an extra binder element. For example, adding chocho to soup to make it thicker is a great alternative to flour or cornstarch. One of our favorite recipes is these protein-packed tacos.




1 cup diced shiitake mushrooms

1 cup diced yellow onion

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp sage

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp chopped garlic

2 chipotle chilies in adobo (chopped)

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 cups cooked quinoa

1 cup rough chopped walnuts

1/2 cup MIKUNA Chocho Protein Powder

1/2 cup oat or cassava flour

2 tsp sea salt


1.5 cups masa harina (corn flour)

3/4 cup MIKUNA Chocho Protein Powder

1.5-2 cups hot water

1/2 tsp salt


1 cup olive oil

1 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup coconut aminos

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

3 chipotle chilies

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 cup MIKUNA Chocho Protein Powder


1 Dice mushrooms and onions and set aside. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add in walnuts. Stir walnuts around until fragrant (a few minutes maximum). Remove walnuts from the pan and set aside. Add oil to the pan and pour in diced mushrooms, onions, and spices. Cook down on low heat and then add in the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate. Cook to desired consistency and adjust seasoning to taste.

2 Stir together all spicy chipotle crema ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

3 Mix tortilla ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover with plastic or a damp cloth and let rest for 20 minutes. Measure approximately 1 oz of tortilla mixture. Flatten with your fingers or a tortilla press. Cook tortillas on griddle, a couple minutes each side. Remove and serve warm.

4 Top tortillas with walnut shitake crunch and spicy chipotle crema and enjoy!


olive oil




There certainly are such things as good fats. Deemed an “elixir of youth and health,” by the ancient Greeks, olive oil is doing more than adding flavor to your pasta and saturating your ciabatta. Recent chatter, and debate, about the condiment has revolved around one question: is it actually good for you? I’m no doctor, but all signs point to yes.

It’s all about the polyphenols. These plant compounds contain abundant amounts of antioxidant properties. Next time you think about grabbing the Motrin, head to the kitchen for a tastier alternative. The anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenol oleocanthal, which is present in olive oil, can be comparable to ibuprofen.

Aside from a Mediterranean diet being incredibly delicious, it also reduces your risk of cancer. The use of olive oil in their cooking could be why. A link between lower breast and colon cancer risks and the consumption of olive oil is present with one study even finding that the likelihood of developing any sort of cancer was 31% lower in oil users. As if that wasn’t enough reason to applaud olive oil, it also aids in controlling blood sugar levels.

Naysayers of high-fat diets usually attest them to poor heart health, but extra virgin olive oil, high in monounsaturated fat (the good kind), actually combats cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown that including olive oil in your daily eats lowers chances of strokes and heart attacks by almost 30%. To thank for this reduced risk? The polyphenols. The natural bioactive compounds lower the amount of oxidative stress, which damages lipids, proteins, and DNA, leading to an array of heart issues and even dementia.

As a final part of my “research,” I pay Olive + Lavender Farms in Los Olivos a visit. Beyond the physical health benefits of the oil made, I would consider Olive + Lavender Farms also valuable for your mental health. After spending the day tasting their oils and reveling in the beauty of the property, I am left feeling a sense of calm and a new-found appreciation for what I once considered just an ingredient.*

“The anti-inflammatory properties of polyphenol oleocanthal, which is present in olive oil, can be comparable to ibuprofen.”
Dress RHODE Lou Los Olivos


On Chiara Dress LORETTA CAPONI Allora by Laura Necklaces ANNE SISTERON Earrings & bracelets KAI LINZ Allora by Laura On Morgan Dress MIGUELINA Lou Los Olivos
SBLS fashion


PHOTOGRAPHER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR Arnie Watkins STYLIST Ottocina Ryan | CREATIVE DIRECTOR Zoe Vella MODELS Morgan Chelf and Chiara with Two Management HAIR & MAKEUP Ja’Nice Ramos LOCATION Olive + Lavender Farms Los Olivos
On Chiara Dress LORETTA CAPONI Allora by Laura Hat ARTESANO Marcus On Morgan Dress MIGUELINA Lou Los Olivos Necklaces, earrings & ring KAI LINZ Allora by Laura Dress MIGUELINA Lou Los Olivos Necklaces, earrings & ring KAI LINZ Allora by Laura Top MIGUELINA Lou Los Olivos Skirt ASTR Bracelets & rings KAI LINZ Allora by Laura Earrings ANNE SISTERON
Dress MIGUELINA Lou Los Olivos Belt SAINT LAURENT The Webster Handbag CELINE The Webster Necklaces & ring KAI LINZ Allora by Laura Earrings ANNE SISTERON
Top DEREK LAM 10 CROSBY Marcus Skirt MIGUELINA Lou Los Olivos Watering can & sprinkler head GARDEN GLORY Top & skirt BA&SH Lou Los Olivos Earrings & necklaces ANNE SISTERON
Dress CELINE The Webster Earrings & necklaces ANNE SISTERON
Dress CELINE The Webster Sandals CLERGERIE Allora by Laura


PHOTOGRAPHER Jared Fix | STYLIST Ottocina Ryan MAKEUP Susie Lynn Zuniga | HAIR Corinne Viruet with Carlyle Salon & Style Bar MODEL Kendall Harris with L.A. Models | LOCATION Rosewood Miramar Beach
Swimsuit FENDI The Webster Choker ALEXIS BITTAR Bracelets & rings LAYKIN
66 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 Necklace &
Bikini JOHANNA ORITZ The Webster Earrings KAI LINZ Allora by Laura Bracelets & ring LAYKIN ET CIE Top & pants LAPOINTE Allora by Laura Necklace & bracelet LAYKIN ET CIE Bracelets KAI LINZ Allora by Laura
Jacket LAPOINTE Allora by Laura Rings LAYKIN
Top A.L.C. Lou Los Olivos Bikini GIGI C Rings & bracelet LAYKIN ET CIE Cuff ALEXIS BITTAR
Top LAPOINTE Allora by Laura
Shorts LOUIS VERDAD Lou Los Olivos Bracelets & earrings LAYKIN ET CIE


SBLS travel

in Time


Some places defy words, while others define them. Raffles Singapore is opulence personified, embodying timeless elegance from another era. If the Sikh doormen, clad in military-inspired garb, at the colonial property’s main entrance are not a clear foreshadowing of the grandeur to come, the lambent lobby is a dead giveaway. Floor-to-ceiling Victorian pillars stretching three stories high frame the apex of the space, a handblown crystal chandelier strategically illuminated by a skylight. Plush velvet chairs and tables hold tiered trays of finger sandwiches, scones, and cakes, all thoughtfully arranged for afternoon tea. As champagne flutes clink in celebration—perhaps a honeymoon toast—the melodic timbre of a harp breaks the soft chatter of the filled-up space. My partner and I look at one another with a charmed look that says, “We have arrived…in heaven.”

Our butler—yes, butler—leads us to our suite, passing several of the “personality suites” that pay homage to Raffles’ renowned guests, like Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and Ava Gardner, along the way. Divided into three sections, the parlor, bedroom, and a Peranakan design tiled bathroom—to honor Singapore’s melange of cultures—our accommodation is spacious and elevated. Yet, it manages to have an air of home, a tough feeling to replicate, especially for two people traveling around South East Asia for the better part of three months. Before excusing himself, Sunny offers an array of services I couldn’t even dream of. We opt for the evening bath. Our itinerary is packed in typical form, and we’re rushing out the door to lunch just moments after checking-in. On my way out, I grab a Raffles signature Pandan Kaya tart (a jam-filled biscuit). After all, the property’s gross floor area is

over 10 acres, it could be a long walk. I quickly learn that the sprawling acreage will prolong my typically tardy arrival time because today’s Raffles is more of a polished maze than the 10-room bungalow it was when doors opened in 1887.

Greeted by smiling faces and the finest bubbly, we’re seated at a sunny booth inside Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse. Previously the Bar and Billiard Room, this was the scene of the notorious 1902 shooting of an escaped circus tiger. To say Raffles Singapore has a storied past would be a disservice to the protected national heritage site; if only walls could talk… Our vermillion seat proves ideal for people watching. The crowd is chic: ladies lunching, families gathering, and business deals unfolding all under one roof. We begin with the signature dish, a Monaco staple: Tartar di Gambero Rosso. I’m not even big on shrimp, yet this is undoubtedly one of the most sophisticatedly balanced appetizers I’ve tasted; but then again, can buffalo mozzarella cream topped with Kristal caviar ever do wrong? The sommelier brings fresh flutes for a less sweet variant to accompany the rest of the meal. Whenever I find myself in an especially esteemed establishment, I indulge in raw meat, so naturally, the Battuta di Manzzo (black Angus beef tartare) was a must-try. The verdict? A symphony of sweet, savory, and acidic notes met by equally contrasting textures: cotton candy-esque beef topped with crunchy hazelnuts, all on a bed of parmesan sauce. We sit, hands interlaced, giddy from the change of scenery, rich Italian dishes, and the promise of what is still to come—this was only the first stop.

In a slight delirium from the early flight and overzealous consumption of champagne, after a long hiatus, we leave the comforts of our air-conditioned suite for some


much-needed shopping. The balmy air and drastic shift in temperature cloud my camera lens with opaque haze. We leave our enclave searching for a mall; as odd as it sounds, it’s been a while since we had the convenience of Western goods. Walking through the city, as the sun rolls towards the horizon, I feel like I’m in New York—if it lost its hallmark grit and grime. Singapore lies on the opposite side of the spectrum as one of the safest and strictest countries in the world. Everything is immaculate, and the economy is booming, but that comes at the hefty price of fines for spitting, smoking, and you can forget about chewing gum. A fiery sunset cuts through my thoughts and the monochrome landscape. Juxtaposed against the backdrop of reflective skyscrapers, Raffles offers an oasis in the middle of the city, transporting guests to another era; between British colonial expansion and the Gilded Age. Perhaps there really is a glitch in the space-time continuum because, within the creamy walls, time travel is a reality.

Donning our new staple pieces, we head for a pre-dinner drink at moody Long Bar, home of the original Singapore Sling. Smooth jazz plays while palm fans lazily sway overhead. Each table is equipped with peanuts in burlap bags, adding to the tropical plantation-esque scene. We sip on the nearly-fluorescent, unofficial cocktail of the nation, which is still made using a hand-operated shaker from 1915. There is a correlation (or causation) between the diminishing levels of the fruity concoction and our

growing laughter. Famously made with four different liquors, the smooth flavor has a way of sneaking up on you. It’s a good thing guests are encouraged to brush peanut shells onto the floor—perhaps the only place in Singapore where “littering” is welcomed—because being tidy is the last thing on my mind; food, however, is.

A few misplaced turns, and we’re lost. Luckily, Raffles has some of the most helpful staff I have encountered during my travels, and we’re led with a warm smile to Michelinstarred Butcher’s Block. Upon entry, we’re face-to-face with fresh veggie ingredients and aged-to-perfection slabs of beef glistening behind glass. We sit next to one another, rather than across, and take in the smart design; dark-blue lacquered walls and beamed ceiling seamlessly complement the brass and copper hardware while drawing attention to the “stage,” the wood-fire open-concept kitchen. Sam, the sommelier, expertly and enthusiastically guides us along our culinary journey with thoughtful pairings of champagne, wine, and even sake. This spot is a steak-lovers fantasy, which begins with a wagyu tartare that’s so buttery, you’d think it was cooked. Presented in an actual shell—an effort towards zero-waste cooking—the brown crab tartlet is so delicious it could moonlight as a dessert. Served alongside an Osaka sake, smoked sashimi decorated with N25 caviar, all atop a marbled sauce, delights on every point. We get to know Sam, our servers, and Chef Jordan Keao in-between bites. Everyone here truly loves

“To say Raffles Singapore has a storied past would be a disservice to the protected national heritage site; if only walls could talk…”

what they do; the team is like family—a sentiment that translates to the service. We sample Norwegian clams, fresh marron, and an Australian wagyu before wrapping up our indulgence with a gastronomical lemon tart and some digestifs.

In a daze from a truly memorable meal, we arrive back at our suite to find the bath drawn—bubbles, fresh roses, and all—as well as a printed copy of the short story Rudyard Kipling, wrote during his 1888 visit. When checking in, we mentioned our affinity for the writer, but this level of above-and-beyond care blows me away. We sink into the still hot water and read the tale, feeling like all this, can’t be real.

Mornings at Raffles are spent in the Tiffin Room, established in 1892, enjoying the most elaborate spread. Every breakfast desire is met here. I lean into my Slavic roots opting for pickled herring on rye bread, blini with roe, and some pastries for good measure. We spend the following hour soaking up the sun at the rooftop pool, looking past the emerald bar at the futuristic skyline. Leaving the nostalgia of the 19th century behind, we venture to one of Singapore’s crowned jewels, the Gardens by the Bay. The park spans 250 acres and is as close to real-life Avatar as one can get. The Cloud Forest is home to a 114-foot indoor waterfall, while the Flower Dome, which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest

glass greenhouse, hosts an overwhelming collection of global flora. Though we could spend all day here, with our heads tilted back in awe of how the city manages to beautifully marry technological advancements with nature, it’s time for a very late lunch at two-time Michelin star-awarded La Dame de Pic.

The restaurant is reminiscent of art deco glamor; pink undertones, velvet booths, gold accents, and sweeping mirrors set the scene for a French fusion tasting experience. An amuse-bouche platter is placed before us, making it clear that presentation is paramount because each canapé looks like art. The bonbon is a tiny cocktail contained within a fuschia ball, the uni tartlet, decorated with lilac seaweed and flowers, takes me away to a seaside town I’ve never visited, and the tuna tartare palate cleanser, topped with black currant sorbet, is the unexpected combination I didn’t know I needed. AnneSophie Pic puts on an exquisite gastronomical show that marries cultures and the finest ingredients with ingenious charm. Whether it’s black pepper from Madagascar or uni from Japan, every player in the performance is the best of the best.

We rush to our historical tour of the grounds, where Roslee, the in-house historian, shares fun facts, anecdotes, and wild stories from the hotel’s colorful past. Post-tour, we settle on the shared balcony in front of our suite to do


some work. Sunny approaches us to check in about the bath and see if we need anything else. He says we look amazing and asks to take our photo—we coyly oblige before heading to the spa, where we go to our respective treatments. In the calming lounge, I hydrate with geminfused water and some detoxing tea before beginning my plumping facial by Biologique Recherche. My specialist works highly concentrated formulas composed of active botanical, marine and biological ingredients with vibration-mimicking motions into my skin. After the multi-step treatment, I have the most supple glow of my life, all achieved manually and without chemicals—who knew that was possible? I linger in the spa, making the most of the thermal facilities before emerging renewed in time for our final dinner.

Feeling reborn and relaxed, we melt into a cozy booth at Tiffin Room, the oldest Indian restaurant in the city. My English boyfriend is a connoisseur, so I sit back, letting him handle the order. Arriving in authentic tiffin boxes, dahl, samosas, and several curries cover our table. The dishes are like a hug (with a kick), thanks to a cornucopia of traditional spices that rarely entertain my palate. Beyond satiated, we turn in for the night, both unsure of how we’ve consumed so much incredible food in just two days’ time.

After a walk through the grounds and a coffee on the terrace, we take advantage of the fully stocked gym before returning to what we do best in Singapore: eating. Our last supper is at yi by Jereme Leung. The entry is ornamented with thousands of paper flowers, creating an ethereal scene. The set menu offers an elevated take on age-old Chinese family recipes, many of which are not served anywhere else in the country. A procession of beautiful dishes paired with wines and teas make their impression. Crispy duck, Japanese sweet shrimp that’s so smooth it could pass for toro, a gelatinous sea cucumber and fish stew that feels like it’s healing me from the inside out, and a glazed cod for the books, show me that I’ve never really had Chinese food until now. And on that thought, we dart out of artful yi, to not miss our flight.

Back at the lobby, we’re handed a bag of goodies: cookies, Raffles signature jam, gourmet chocolates, and the photo Sunny took of us the day prior, framed. While there’s no arguing that the household name is the epitome of a world-class hotel, it’s the attention to detail and personalized care that brings guests back, time and time again. A sleek Mercedes-Benz takes us to our next adventure, as the Raffles experience replays in my mind like a classic movie, rich in nostalgia.*

“Perhaps there really is a glitch in the space-time continuum because, within the creamy walls, time travel is a reality. ”

welcome to paradise


It’s 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, and the evening air is starting to zing with intrigue—evidence that the 20s are roaring still, be it a century later. Down a dim-lit hallway, I push a button on a gold cash register, and slowly the cleverly concealed entrance of a Prohibition-era speakeasy reveals itself. “Policía?” the doorman asks me, a formality of sorts. “No!” I respond, gingerly crossing thresholds to a scene of feather-clad dancers performing daring lifts to the raspy timbre of singer Rosalía de Cuba. Liquor-laden shots are passed around on platters, and what started as an evening of civilized entertainment has transformed into a full-fledged jamboree. Reveling in La Botica’s apothecary-themed menu of craft cocktails, lingering here in secrecy until sunrise is a hard-to-pass temptation— yet after a couple hours, better judgment steers me through the Coca-Cola refrigerator exit, past the gourmet carnitas food truck, and back into my pillowy bed. Despite the sultry 1920s mise en scène and Prohibition panache, this speakeasy lies a notable distance from the stomping grounds you might expect—La Botica is Los Cabos’ most exclusive and elusive nightlife scene.

Though, I’m getting ahead of myself. Tired of California’s endless rainy winter, it was about time to escape somewhere sensational—and warm. Somewhere in the regular rotation of well-heeled bon vivants and celebrities seeking hiatus from prying eyes (Kourtney Kardashian a notable guest), though it’s not the fanfare of this destination that interests me. It’s as simple as

the minimal-effort plane ride to Cabo, where deluges of downpour are traded for sunset horseback rides, and black coffee for carajillos. Las Ventanas al Paraíso, a Rosewood Resort, has a reputation that precedes it, as much a gourmand’s delight and sanctum of personal renewal as a honeymoon haven. My very romantic guest of honor happens to be my sister, who’s already landed, rightfully one margarita and fish tacos platter deep. “Get here girly!!” she nudges me over text, as if I could make the plane land faster. “You have got to see this for yourself.”

My Escalade airport pickup whirrs past an arid forest of skeletal cacti, a telltale sign that we have in fact touched down in Baja, as my driver recounts a dauntless spearfishing tale in a riveting conversation about the region’s exceptional seafood. It’s not long until the Sea of Cortez’s aquamarine waters splash into view, and we pull into a whitewashed cul-de-sac where smiling attendants wave, placing a frothy margarita in my hand as soon as my feet hit the pavement. Past the mariachi-serenaded welcome, the view opens up to a maze of desert-toned balconies and cacti-dotted pathways, whose sand has been perfectly combed into parallel lines. Yes, even the sand here is artwork.

I’m steered down one such pathway, finding myself face-to-face with a looming stained glass door, the liminal entryway to our two-bedroom Signature Villa. It’s here that I’m introduced to Eduardo, our Villa Host for the next 72 hours, whose role is comparable to that of

“Cappuccinos just taste better when you’re submerged in a heated pool, I don’t make the rules ”

a personal assistant. “Welcome to Villa 1,” he says with flourish, cutting the ceremonial red ribbon protecting the entrance, and the colossal door swings open to reveal a jaw-dropping view of our private infinity pool. The resort’s twelve villas, second only to the $35k-per-night Ty Warner mansion, marry a clean Mediterranean aesthetic with vibrant Mexican decor; the master bedroom’s sliding glass “walls” open fully to fuse indoor and outdoor together. “Some people check into the villas and never leave,” says Eduardo, and I can certainly see why. Naturally, the welcome here is a bottle of Clase Azul, and Eduardo sees to it that our shot glasses are properly topped off, along with a platter of three salts and citruses to taste. Salud, we cheers. To our health.

Once that’s complete, we tour through the villa’s unparalleled host of amenities, from its fully-stocked kitchen, decked-out patio with direct beach access, and massive wellness room (in layman’s terms, the bathroom) to its two suites, each dressed up with monogrammed pillowcases—of course, to match the custom initialed Las Ventanas tote bags waiting for us in the living room. Within every minute detail uncovered, it’s abundantly clear that we’ve stepped foot in one of the world’s finest resorts. Assouline coffee table books stack the shelves from floor to ceiling, and the words “Welcome to Paradise” are carved into the pristine swath of sand out front our villa. I’m becoming more convinced of that very sentiment by the minute; in the first 30 minutes alone, the resort has managed to tick off all the important boxes. Suitcase unpacked for you in color coordinated fashion! Bulgari bath amenities! Tequila mini bar! Fridge stocked with prosciutto! 60-minute welcome massage!

I haven’t eaten all day, but I’m saving room for our inaugural dinner at Alebrije, one of the property’s six eateries (if you count the speakeasy, wine cellar, and ceviche bar)—so instead I rely on a celebratory carajillo, the Mexican espresso martini, to boost my energy levels. As the January sun begins to dwindle, we trade bikinis for eveningwear and prepare for a venture into Oaxacan cuisine. The menu is as imaginative as its namesake, alebrijes being the brightly-colored mythical creatures of Mexican folklore. I spy the Copal, a mezcal concoction with a grasshopper-salt rim, and order it for the novelty—surprisingly subtle, I’m pleased to report, in its earthiness. We stay on trend with the grasshoppercrusted ahi, its delightfully crunchy crust giving way to a smooth, buttery, expertly seared interior. The Carnitas Gorditas pay homage to that savory punch of flavor and comfort so well associated with Mexican food, and we finish with a decadent Tlayuda De La Baja, a staple Oaxacan dish resembling a flatbread, topped with rich lobster, black truffle oil, and a medley of greens. For dessert, a chocolate souffle with an umami black sesame twist.

Still deep into lobster-elicited dreams, I awaken the next morning to a sharp knock on the door. It’s Eduardo, with breakfast, which I’d forgotten we pre-ordered the night before—I’ll blame it on the grasshopper cocktail. I slip in my contacts and a robe just in time as Eduardo emerges with the largest tray I’ve ever seen, piled high with sliced fruit, coffee, toast, and chorizo eggs. "Do you still want to eat in the pool?" he asks. It's 8 a.m. My sister and I glance at each other with a shrug. Why not? As he sets up our Maldives-reminiscent floating


feast, I poorly attempt to conceal my enthusiasm, as if this isn’t a bucket list moment. We slide into the pool, half laughing in disbelief—cappuccinos just taste better when you’re submerged in a heated pool, I don’t make the rules. After all, we needed the wake up call—we’ve got important matters to attend to, involving a beach cabana, sunset horseback ride, and a 90-minute massage to mediate the stress of it all.

Our morning trek through the sand culminates at Pericú Cabana, a deluxe pink-and-white Barbie Dreamhouse equipped with its own plunge pool, daybeds, outdoor shower, mini fridge, and, of course, personal butlers available at the touch of a button. They inform us that the deluxe cabanas are intentionally named after Baja’s three major ethnic groups (Pericú, Cochimí and Guaycura), as they simultaneously greet us with two morning essentials: champagne and Evian facial spray. I wade into the plunge pool, clutching a mimosa in one hand and cooling mist in the other, as I peer out over the quintessential “Welcome to Paradise” sand art. Perfectly on cue, a trio of gleaming horses saunters by, donning cowboy-hatted riders, as if to foreshadow my evening’s upcoming adventures.

An impromptu lunch at Sea Grill precedes our journey to the spa, as I’ve developed a desperate hankering for sea bass tacos that demands immediate attention. Convinced that mind-reading is a requirement for the staff, the hosts hand my sister and I each a coconut branded with our name, never with a question as to who is who—a magic trick that has long since baffled me. I later learn from Farid Fajer, Manager of Arbol and Oasis Pool, that indeed it’s a goal amongst the staff to know every guest’s name— proving that, yet again, what would be an astronomical feat at any other destination is just another day in Las Ventanas land.

For adventure-types, there’s ultimate access to all the private yacht charters, snorkeling, surfing, and ATVing that Baja dreams are made of. Personally, as a selfproclaimed flâneur, I’m in search of activities more self-attuned and grounding (literally). Case in point: I’ve booked a 90-minute Signature Massage. We make our way to the solarium for the pre-treatment Holistic Twilight Ceremony, an energy-balancing ritual (called limpia by the Mayans) involving fragrant copal smoke and a thrumming sound bath to kickstart an afternoon of revitalization. My masseuse walks me through a medley of essential oils, and for the next 90 minutes, soothing aromas of lavender, basil, and orange entrance the air, accompanied by rhythmic strokes until every last point

“ much a gourmand’s delight and sanctum of personal renewal as a honeymoon haven.”

of tension is relieved. Afterwards, I take a deep breath and sink into the cold plunge pool, in hopes of reaping all the immunity-boosting benefits of the spa before departing. After all, I’m late for a date—with a horse.

After another quick change into our most equestrianappropriate gear, we assess the scene to find the meeting point for our sunset jaunt on horseback. My eyes trace across the sand, and all of a sudden, there it is: a caballero and his squad of stallions waiting majestically in the distance, framed by the sea as dusk begins to take hold of the sky. It’s been a long time since I was last in the saddle, but here it just feels right: these unbelievably patient gentle giants are used to novices like me. As I nudge my mare Luna into a shy trot, a pastiche of brilliant fuschia adorns what had been a gray-blue sky just minutes before. Our ride culminates at the Sunset Bar, quite literally a cluster of furniture sprawled across the sand. The perfect spot for a passion fruit margarita and a view.

Tonight’s comparatively casual dinner takes place at Sea Grill, which refines its reputation from a daytime seafood spot to a classy eatery with its elevated evening menu. Admittedly, I’m not always the most adventurous epicure when it comes to sea fare, and this happens to be my first encounter with octopus. The curled tentacle at first appears intimidating, but when sitting atop a bed of lucious squid-ink pappardelle in a saffrongarlic sauce, what’s not to like? Burrata and salmorejo, a Spanish gazpacho, with bits of fried prosciutto

and grilled bread are a welcome appetizer, followed by homemade empanadas brimming with cheesy gratification. A bottle of crisp chardonnay from Mexico’s Casa Madero, the oldest working winery in the Americas, is the ideal companion to wash it all down. Fireworks suddenly blossom over the sea, leaving me to wonder if this festive display is just an everyday occurrence at Las Ventanas—I wouldn’t be surprised. Apparently it’s not, and we’ve just been lucky enough to reap the benefits of a certain couple’s engagement or anniversary, as is commonplace here.

A 7 a.m. private yoga class (and the promise of a tantalizing breakfast to follow) is the only incentive to drag myself yet again out of the villa’s luxuriously soft sheets. Although it’s relatively early and I’m not a morning person, the hour-long yoga class is a gentle reminder to practice gratitude at every opportunity, which I can certainly do as we head back to Alebrije for its Oaxacan brunch. Our feast features an abundance of Mexican pastries, Chile Relleno, and “Cazuela,” a sublime skillet including poached eggs, poblano chile, onion, and corn on a bed of salsa roja and queso Oaxaca.

Our final evening of gluttony and glamor begins promptly at 5 o’clock. We meet Farid at the Tequila & Ceviche Bar, where the blind taste test of the century is about to occur. The Tequila Sign Class first walks us through the appropriate methods to sniff and sip the Mexican spirit, before Farid returns with a cluster of mystery flutes, prompting us to divulge our thoughts. “There are


no wrong answers,” he remarks calmy, although a few of my guesses certainly evoke inquisitive reactions from the maestro. Luckily, we aren’t drinking on an empty stomach, simultaneously served buttery-smooth sushi pairings from the raw bar. After some time, the results are in—my sign is Robust; my sister’s, Avid. Farid then promises yet another impossible feat: now that we’ve discovered our tequila sign, the resort can use that information for every cocktail going forward.

It could be excitement in the air, or the five flutes of tequila each, but we’re giddy as Farid leads us towards Arbol, regarded as one of Los Cabos’ most coveted reservations. Appropriately named for its many ethereal lantern-laden torote trees, Arbol is where glitterati come to dine off sparkling silverware, their tables inset into pools of water, where waiters tread lightly across stepping stones to deliver their steaming dishes. We’re lured into a comprehensive journey through Pan-Asian flavors, curated by Mumbai-born chef Anand Singh, who utilizes four separate kitchens (the wok, raw bar, tandoori, and charcoal oven) to connect a cultural narrative through cuisine. I never thought I’d say I ate the best Indian food of my life in Cabo, but here we are. Bite-sized truffle temari sushi followed by tuna tartare and chicken curry makhani with garlic naan are each standouts in their own right; the wagyu beef tenderloin is so delicate it barely requires chewing.

At one point, Farid reappears to assure us that our cocktails have been crafted with our newly discovered tequilas. Unsurprisingly, the staff here never misses a beat, anticipating every next move with astonishing precision without being too noticeable or overbearing. “Luxury is how you make people feel,” Farid remarks, as opposed to having the fanciest facilities (though, they have that too). I couldn’t agree more—it’s the people that make the place, and here the level of service and personalization is in an echelon of its own.

For our final act, a sparkler-adorned platter of treats graces the table; mango cheesecake, green apple sorbet, hazelnut crunch, and rich chocolate cake are the finale we didn’t know we needed. Slowly departing from the sparkling scene, we relish in the freedom of a night still young, the evening air riddled with the mystery and seduction of what’s in store.

As a parting gift, Las Ventanas gives guests a blown glass heart, same as the ones that hang on trees around the property. The souvenir is the only relic to prove that what we’d experienced was real, that we hadn’t fallen through a dreamlike portal to an otherworldly paradise.

Or had we? I press a button on a gold cash register, and… you know the rest.*





The roaring 20s are back! Match Rosalia de Cuba’s vivacious energy in this equally dramatic flapper-inspired look. Hand-sewn ostrich feathers cascade down the hem of this floor-skimming gown, mimicking the rolling tide of the ocean while locking in your spot as La Botica’s best-dressed.



Fleurette accents are the trend of the moment—why not elevate your swimsuit with this delicate detail? Flatter your silhouette in this villa-worthy one piece, finished with an open back and a high-cut leg for maximum elegance. Designer Maygel Coronel, born in Cartagena, Colombia, infuses the free spirit of the Caribbean into her femininity-celebrating designs.



An environment-conscious sandal that’s custom-made with the highest quality materials? Love at first sight. Amanu’s newest style adds glamor to your beach walk with its 24k plated gold bar and cream-embossed croc straps. Each shoe is handcrafted in Amanu’s Los Angeles workshop for the perfect fit. Your new favorite sandal—you’re welcome.



The true bon vivant travels exclusively with accessories that reflect their destination— in this case, an oceanic hand-finished clamshell clutch. Exemplifying designer Jonathan Simkhai’s philosophy for elevating the everyday, this clutch pairs perfectly with a casual catch of the day ceviche at Sea Grill, or the divine menu of temari sushi at Arbol.

Latin-Inspired Luxury




When one thinks of Laos, visions may arise of the mighty Mekong River or vast unkempt jungles that once reverberated with the roars of wild elephants. But there's more to this tiny landlocked country than mere natural wonders. In a nation that turns Vietnam War ordnance into fine art for tourists, adaptability and perseverance are at the heart of life. Behind the scenes, Laos' engineers lead hydroelectric energy exportation, paving the way toward a new vision of modern society. Laos has an unquestionably unique identity among the surrounding nations of Thailand, Vietnam and China. Firmly rooted in Buddhist spirituality and tradition, the sum of its constituent parts is still distinctly Laotian. Yet its recent history of French colonialism flavors both its architecture and food. A stay at the magnificent Rosewood Luang Prabang is an experience of translation from past to present. Signaling the rise of a new era for this tiny state, I’m eager to see how luxury travel integrates tradition with the inevitable and fast-approaching globalization of tourism.

It's early morning in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Luang Prabang. Passengers disembark a small plane, descending a rickety staircase onto the hot tarmac. The horizon shimmers and shakes in the mid-morning heat like a translucent and tempting serpentine welcoming us into Eden. A uniformed driver awaits me beside a luxury four-by-four. Inside I find welcome snacks, beverages and wi-fi. The short drive to the Rosewood is an immersive voyage into Laotian society. Giant mansions stand tall beside small wooden shacks, and street vendors sell packets of chips to passing motorcyclists at the side of the road. It doesn't feel pushy here, unlike other South East Asian countries I've visited. No one is bothering anyone, and everyone goes slow.

The sound of crunching rocks signals our arrival as we pull into the graveled hotel driveway. A concierge leads me down a short, winding walkway through a secluded, unassuming opening planted high with shrubbery. The recent French colonial stylings are present in every detail, yet Rosewood Luang Prabang feels undeniably Asian in its welcoming embrace. A path meanders alongside a manicured croquet green. The strong, dark, carved wooden beams of the welcome hall jut out of the landscape behind me, commanding attention. The woodwork overhead is adorned with intricate gold leaf stenciling, and tusk-shaped table legs support the long heavy center table at the hotel's heart. These details connect this establishment back to Laos' meaning of the land of a million elephants.

I check in, lounging on a low-slung traditional dining bed. A refreshing welcome drink of rosella iced tea calms and detoxifies after the early flight. I relax under a symphony of birdsong and dancing tree branches rustling in the wind. This cushioned area of quiet contemplation embraces my tired bones, and I'm brought cold towels to cool my skin. The backdrop is a jungle vista with steady-flowing waterfalls and a sapphire oval swimming pool. In the distance, far above the canopy, cloaked mountains emerge atop mauve rolling clouds.

The pathway leading to the suite is unlike anywhere I've been. An impressive 270 paces lead up through manicured grounds, past a bar stretching out effortlessly over a river. I cross rope bridges and walk along a terracotta parquet brick path toward my room. The Laotian jungle envelopes all. This place feels like it was dreamt up by Edgar Rice Burroughs, albeit short of a vine swing and loin cloth. A symbiotic ecosystem coexisting with man's


desire to tame it, manicured forest amongst the wild. Frondescent saplings claw at the well-established trunks of seasoned trees. Deep green leafy tonalities, textures and curved foliage complement the brutalist black planks of wooden bridges. This could be the Mekong rainforest, but it's not; it's home.

I'm shown to my private pool. It's dressed in muted sunlight and flanked by a small staircase to an outdoor dining space. There's a coffee and bar area well stocked with all one could want to enjoy the view of the jungle. Surrounding details are dripping in quality. Marble accents play harmoniously alongside traditional craftsmanship. Inside my room, dark turquoise walls emphasize the wooden rafters overhead, and French folding windows open out over the pool and river below. A chaise lounge is lit by the natural window light and low-hanging lamps on either side. A small table, perfect for resting tea while reading, hosts an old rotary phone for contacting reception. Outside, a large traditional wooden bathtub stands in the sunlight, an optional indulgence over the indoor shower.

Luang Prabang boasts a new fleet of electric cars and bikes in a nod to modernization and vehicular electrification. I rent a tiny electric car the following morning and head out to greet adventure. It's a forty-minute drive through rolling countryside and villages to the Kuang Si Falls. Along the way, I pass golden temples, lush rice fields and grazing water buffalo strolling calmly. When I arrive, I'm greeted with an unexpected sight: moon bears. These furry creatures were rescued from various locations worldwide. They live a life of serenity, playing freely in this open sanctuary. A short hike uphill, and I'm immersed in a cacophony of color and sound. Mineral-rich blue-green waterfalls cascade down smooth dark rocks into natural swimming pools. In every traveler's life, memorable places and times stand out for no reason other than the feeling one has there. For me, this was one of those places. A forever memory of a natural connection to an experience typically lost in the modern world. The water is welcoming and cool, and before long, I dive in and swim under a wall of refreshing water. These waters have a healing quality; when I leave, it's as if I've been reborn. On the drive back to the Rosewood, I stop to take in the sunset at a local eatery. This unassuming lookout has incredible views of the surrounding lakes and forests. I order veggie fried rice and sip on a refreshing Lao Beer. The smell of sun-warmed wood fills the air, and the day feels complete.

I awake the next morning before sunrise, for today is almsgiving. Drawing open the long, thick, black-out drapes, I reveal a peaceful forest view veiled in darkness. Although moist and sticky, the air has yet to offend with its heat. I allow a little extra time striding down the jungle

path to take in the stars through gaps in the canopy ceiling, and I listen to the whispers of the dawn wilderness. The time is 4:45 a.m., and my chauffeur awaits. It's a twentyminute drive through town as the sky's morning blue tones warm to something more tangerine. The empty streets of Luang Prabang are quiet now, but for the frequent sighting of monks walking silently in single file.

At sunrise, we reach a temple in Panom Village. I'm given a ceremonial scarf to wear over my shoulder and welcomed to the middle of the temple grounds. I kneel in front of prepared baskets of rice and chopped fresh fruit. Rosewood has a supportive relationship with this temple, and I'm the only tourist to visit. The Laotians welcome me in with smiling faces and open arms. People form a U-shaped space in front of the temple as monks approach carrying metal jugs on a rope. These containers are slung over their shoulder and hold the daily provisions we donate. In my right hand, I take a fistful of sticky rice and, in my left, a few slices of apple. I place the food into the baskets as the monks walk by. After almsgiving, we meditate as a group. The monks bless us by singing and chanting, and we pray to our loved ones. We bless water before pouring it over temple plants. Our guide translates that giving to others like this kills the narrowness of our minds. My brief time living as a monk in the past brings me close to the men in front of me. I wear a few tears of gratitude for their commitment to self-betterment in service of all.

I'm invited into the pagoda to sit for fifteen minutes. A giant statue of Buddha looks out over us, and golden ceremonial gongs sway in the light morning breeze by the temple's entryway. I choose to sit with Anapana meditation, an observation of natural breath. Fifteen minutes turns into thirty, and I feel immensely calm when I open my eyes. We leave the temple around 5:30 a.m. and head to the local morning market Deal Ta Mehay. This wet market feels like something between an Anthony Bourdain episode and a Star Wars movie. The freshly harvested plants, morning catch and recently butchered meat line narrow alleyways. Smells, sights, and chaotic sounds, colorful and intense, are a reminder of life and death. It's refreshingly honest and rarely experienced in the luxury end of travel. This is an experience of authentic life in Luang Prabang.

It's been a long morning with an early start, and I'm ready for breakfast. It's important to remember when in Laos to eat spicy. This isn't just for dinner; heat starts from the day's first meal. I have a bowl of hot beef noodle soup and ground spicy chicken rice, which kicks and awakens my palate. I sip on hot green tea to quench my thirst. I'm perched atop a great bamboo balcony propped up on stilts fifty feet above the Mekong riverbank. Overlooking the mighty waterway that supplies Laos

Photo by Teal Thompsen
“The backdrop is a jungle vista with steady-flowing waterfalls and a sapphire oval swimming pool ”

“In the distance, far above the canopy, cloaked mountains emerge atop mauve rolling clouds. ”


and its neighboring countries with food and energy, I listen to boat drivers discuss what I assume is the morning traffic. European-style cafes line the streets and paint a scene of cultural immersion. Live musicians play over the rhythmic chugging of the two-stroke engines, which power the spearlike skiffs across to the far bank. Dilapidated ferries shift cars and people from west to east. The resilience of a community who have faced considerable hardships is invigorating.

It's my final evening at Rosewood Luang Prabang, and I choose to dine at The Great House. The serene sound of the waterfall feeding the babbling brook sets the scene for dinner. Low-fi beats, and low-intensity lights depict a timeless elegance. Red lanterns adorn the surrounding lawn, and moonlight dances across the pool's surface. This indoor/outdoor dining area looks more like a Moroccan palace or Chinese water temple than a Laotian dwelling from some angles. The food arrives in a large wooden boat. Laotians don't drink with dinner; they soup, and what a soup it is. With subtle flavors it's like an amuse bouche to cleanse the palate between dishes. Delicate tastes tantalize my mouth, layered and delivered one by one. Rosewood developed a program named Partners in Provenance, which is dedicated to delivering the highest quality food sourced ethically. I'm served traditional handmade river weed harvested from farmers on the Nam Khan River. The poultry in my lemongrass chicken soup is from a nearby farm in Suang Village. The Paa Khun River Fish in my spicy curry comes from the Nam Ou River. Buffalo mozzarella and feta cheese for the salad is from the local Kuang Si dairy farm, as are free-range chicken eggs. The seasonal vegetables on my plate are grown using water from the river stream on the property. The yellow vegetable soup is the best I've had. Delicate coconut notes soak into the perfectly prepared vegetables and flawlessly complement the famous Laos sausage. This is as local as local gets, and the chef plays with these ingredients masterfully.

I retire to my room, reflecting on my short but impressionable time in Laos. It's challenging to sum this place up. On the one hand, there's immense hardship here. Street vendors work seven days a week to maintain a modest life. They have a real make-do mentality, but it's held with such humble gratitude for their karmic carnation. On the other hand, a few pioneers of industry are shaping the future of this tiny nation. Innovation and development are yet to influence the traditional feel of Laos. Time will tell, but as a global traveler with decades of experience, I can say one thing; visit Laos and do it soon. This kind of place is a diamond in the rough.*


Honey, I’m home


Icalmly lower my hand into a beehive, deep in the Azumel jungle. Several tiny creatures board my fingers and crawl around, tickling my palm. Like drinking a mocktail expecting a buzz, I’m anticipating a sting and bewildered that it doesn’t come. I remind myself, these aren’t just any bees, they’re Meliponas—an endangered stingless honeybee, sacred to the Mayans.

The Melipona bees flourish at Fundación Selva Maya’s research campus that I am touring, courtesy of my hotel, Maroma, A Belmond Hotel in Riviera Maya. The organization's beekeepers point out newborn bees, and extract honey from the hive for my friends and I to taste. The nectar drips down my hand like liquid gold; it’s the most flavorful honey I’ve tasted. The Meliponas are integral to the Yucatan Peninsula’s ecosystem. And not coincidentally, are Maroma’s muse and emblem, just one of their many nods to Mexican culture and the Mayan heritage.

Upon arrival at the 72-room beachfront property, I’m enveloped in a dreamy haven. Maroma reopened August 3rd following a top-to-bottom renovation, and it shows. The decor is pristine, and service is flawless from day one. Renowned designer Tara Bernerd reenvisioned the property in a palette of modern greens, blues, and terracotta, mirroring the surrounding landscape: the convergence of jungle and beach. From my suite’s deep soaking tub and tiled sinks set in colored marble, to the woven throw pillows, nearly all the furnishings and art are created by Mexican artisans. Even the intoxicating TierraAmate scented bath products, custom made by Mexico City perfumery Xinú, incorporate on-property Amate trees—sacred in Mayan culture—as an homage to the land. It’s all meaningful and no detail is overlooked. Plus, every angle of the hotel is so aesthetic, you could practically drop your phone on the ground and the photo would be grid-worthy. Aligned with Mayan belief, there are almost no hard corners, to let the energy flow throughout the property. And flow the energy does….

The week is filled with authentic cultural activities and laughing so hard my cheeks hurt, over tables of ceviche and margaritas. At many resorts in Mexico, I find you could be anywhere, LA or Vegas perhaps. Yet Maroma’s emphasis on cultural immersion is on par with their regard for luxury and safety. Mayan history and Mexican culture permeate everything on the property and Belmond works closely with local establishments to offer elevated and educational excursions.

First on our agenda is relaxation. We rinse off the heat in the cenote-inspired main pool. The mystical blue oasis is surrounded by palms, green striped loungers shaded by tasseled umbrellas, and servers who won’t let you lift anything…aside from a drink to your lips. The staff is sunshine personified—always smiling, friendly, and optimistic. As if everything is as fun for them as it is for the guests.

I return to my room to change for lunch, and not wanting to waste a second I could be eating tacos, I accept my butler’s offer to unpack for me. You can imagine the amazement (and personal inadequacy) I felt coming back from lunch to find everything, down to my bikinis, folded neatly and organized by color. My expectations of every hotel just went up a notch—and thanks to Maroma’s excellence, they keep climbing with each passing day.

The next morning, we visit a cenote, whose owners have Mayan heritage. Our group is the only one, not a Tulum tourist in sight. We climb down a ladder from a small hole and what I turn around to, takes my breath away; it’s a fusion of the underworld and Disneyland. Cerulean pools with stalactite chandeliers hanging above stretch as far as we can see. Bats flit around the air as we ease into the refreshing water. Emmanuel of 4 Worlds Expeditions leads us through a maze of mystical caves, imparting knowledge about the geology and how the cenotes formed…all while impressively holding our one designated phone safely above water. Our all-girl group was not going to miss this photo opportunity.

“Aligned with Mayan belief, there are almost no hard corners, to let the energy flow throughout the property.”

Back at Maroma, we further our cultural immersion. Chef Daniel Camacho teaches us to make tortillas from scratch. We then enjoy the fruits of our labor, heaped with carnitas and guacamole. No matter how much we feel like we’ve mastered the craft, we don’t hold a candle to Chef's modern takes on classic Mexican dishes, at on-property restaurant Casa Mayor. The chilaquiles at breakfast overshadow every other rendition of the dish I’ve tasted, an orange mezcal sorbet leaves its impression with slightly smoky notes, and the lobster ceviche, sustainably sourced from nearby Sian Ka'an biosphere, is incomparable. Each meal at Maroma is bursting with more color and flavor than the last, and Woodend, headed by Michelin-starred Chef Curtis Stone, somehow raises the bar once more with its fresh seafood dishes that are as eye-catching as the chef.

With full bellies, my friends and I lie snuggled together on pillows across the lawn, looking up at the stars and palm trees dancing in the warm breeze. We sip biodynamic wines as an Astrological Society representative points out constellations. We even try out their telescope, spotting Saturn, with its faintly decipherable rings.

Every morning, my butler knocks on my door with coffee from a different region in Mexico. I take the coffee to my balcony to watch the sun rise over the turquoise Caribbean. I repeat the ritual each afternoon, when a cocktail of the day is brought to my room, poured over a giant ice cube, and thoughtfully garnished. The service and attention to detail are delightful. It’s also educational, as all drinks are accompanied by a notecard explaining their background.


The bee is ever-present from honey in the cocktails, to the Bee Healing Ritual in Maroma Spa by Guerlain, the French maison’s first spa in Mexico. The honeybased treatment begins with body and face exfoliation. After the invigorating exfoliation, I drift off to sleep as the masseuse kneads my body with warm herbal pouches crafted in the spa’s apothecary, and I awake to the lymphatic drainage facial. Feeling like my newfound dewy, glowing skin is an accomplishment enough for the day, I head to the beach. My friends and I spend the afternoon sprawled on daybeds, listening to the waves and sipping hibiscus margaritas from Freddy’s Bar, the zero-waste beachfront bar.

To kick off the evening, we do a tequila tasting. Casa Mayor’s ocean view serves as a backdrop, while an expert walks us through a couple small batch tequilas, a mescal, and a raicilla—a liquor made from the agave root. She tells us to remember her when raicilla rockets to popularity in the next couple years, as mezcal has. The tasting is engaging and fun, and we bond over eating the pairings: worms and ants—crunchy, salty, authentic.

My week at Maroma felt like living in a dream. It opened my eyes to many aspects of Mexican culture while offering elevated renditions of familiar traditions. Mayan customs permeate the property and the curated excursions lead us to the fantastical wonders of the Riviera Maya—Mayan ruins, cenotes, and stingless Melipona bees (which will have their own sanctuary at the hotel by the end of 2023). Every day was whimsical and conducive to making memories of a lifetime. All that said, the decor and colorcoded closet organization were memorable wonders in their own right.*

“Mayan history and Mexican culture permeate everything on the property and Belmond works closely with local establishments to offer elevated and educational excursions.”

in Santa Barbara


This stagecoach stop turned luxury hotel is the perfect place to unwind. The Inn at Mattei's Tavern, Auberge Resorts Collection is steps from downtown Los Olivos and serves as a reminder of the past and a glimpse at the future of the wild west. Spend your day amongst the vineyards and your night nestled by the firepit swooning over their famous Cowboy Pies.



One-of-a-kind pieces from Morocco, luxurious linens from London, and contemporary candles from

France adorn the shelves of Layered by Paige Elise Interior designer Paige Cogorno turns her talents into a store with minimalist items that will make a major difference in your home.



It’s not just about the wine, it’s about the place. At Refugio

Ranch Vineyard, the land is what gives the wine its “soul.” Once a refining warehouse, now a tasting bar and lounge, this winery offers a diverse collection of reds, whites, and rosés while keeping the rustic spirit of its origins alive.




Take a break from the beautiful vineyards at Los Olivos’ Wildflower Women Boutique. Embrace your femininity with their curated collection of denim, cashmere, and leather goods (just to name a few) made to make women look and feel their best.



Nothing better to wake up to than the smell of freshly baked bread, and Helena Avenue Bakery is just the place to do so. Breakfast options like the Brioche Breakfast Sandwich and Smoked Salmon Toast will

leave your tastebuds dancing. An added bonus: this space is shared with Santa Barbara Wine Collective so pick up a bottle on your way out!



The summer to fall transition means time for a wardrobe update. Santa Barbara born and bred, Catherine Gee knows just what you need for a coastal autumn. From printed blouses, to silky slips and everyday staples, you won’t leave without a bag.



The Painted Cabernet, Santa Barbara’s original paint and sip bar, has reopened its doors with a new look. Express your creative side accompanied by a glass of local wine. Not an artist? Not a problem. All skill levels are welcome to enjoy this experience.



Wine and dine at Montecito’s Tre Lune. Walls adorned with vintage black and white photos welcome diners to the Italian bistro, and traditional dishes like Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe and Gnocchi Tartufati will transport you straight to Bel Paese.



Rok with this pilates-esque workout that found a new home on Chapala Street. No class the same, Bodyrok motivates clients to abandon their comfort zone for 45 minutes and sculpt and define their muscles.



Beloved Montecito boutique Juniper has a new home (literally) in Summerland. Marie Ferris’ elegant yet edgy fashion destination recently reopened in a white cottage on Lillie Avenue.



Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.