boot camp, commes les francaises

February 28th, 2011

Who doesn’t want that inherently French, effortlessly slim look? Swimsuit season is approaching, and La Réserve Ramatuelle has the best way to shed your “winter coat” (translation: that extra layer of flab that crept up on you when you weren’t looking) without fasting or quick-stepping through tires. The très français boot camp will have two sessions in April and two sessions in May. Set just outside of St. Tropez, La Réserve Ramatuelle is surrounded by quintessential Cote d’Azur scenery and nearly 360 degree views of the Mediterranean Sea – a great spot for hikes through the Cyprus trees and olive groves.

While strenuous, this boot camp is hardly roughing it, chéries! Walks through the Mediterranean countryside, spa treatments, and delicious (and healthy) local flavors cooked up by Chef Eric Canino will have you feeling svelte, not spent. Designed for groups of 4-8 people, it’s a great excuse to bring along some friends.

La Reserve Ramatuelle

The Boot Camp is a five-day (four-night) program. Guests start with a medical assessment to measure physical aptitude. The next day, training kicks off with an hour-long yoga session and healthy breakfast before a guide leads a fast-paced walk through the hills and along the coast. While sure to get hearts pumping, the duration and pace of these walks is determined on an individual basis. After the walks, guests can relax for the rest of the day, enjoying a healing and rejuvenating spa program that includes balneotherapy, body wraps, and the La Réserve Better Aging body treatment. (This detoxifying, slimming, and draining treatment enables cellular regeneration while eliminating blockages and tensions in the body.) Guests can also add à la carte experiences such as beauty and body therapies exclusively crafted for La Réserve by La Mer.


April:     Sunday, April 3-Friday, April 8

Sunday April 10-Friday, April 15


May:      Sunday May 1-Friday, May 6

Sunday May 8-Friday, May 13

Price: €3900, accommodation in a Deluxe room and full board

Example of a typical day’s activities – day 1

6:30am                 Yoga session (1 hour)

7:30am                 Breakfast

8:30am                 Morning Walk

1pm                       Lunch at the hotel

2:30pm                 Balneotherapy

3pm                       Body Wrap

3:30pm                 Jet shower

4pm                       La Réserve Better Aging body treatment

6:30pm                 Relaxation session

8pm                       Dinner at the restaurant

osso bucco from topper’s

February 28th, 2011

We’ve been begging the new Chef Kyle Zachary at TOPPER’S at The Wauwinet to share a delicious yet not too difficult recipe with us, one that we can make in preparation for TOPPER’S seasonal opening on May 4th.  Alas, here it is – delicious, classic Osso Bucco Milanese, turned elegant with the addition of saffron to the risotto.   And while we’re excited to taste-test this recipe for ourselves, we know we will be even more elated to try out TOPPER’S new menu when we are on Nantucket this summer (see the photo above to understand just how magical a meal at TOPPER’S can be!)  Recipe below: (more…)

ampr fyi: where to eat in nyc

February 25th, 2011

I love trying new foods, cooking them up myself, trolling specialty food shops for new ingredients, and trying out as many restaurants as I can. As the go-to for restaurant recommendations for the office, my friends, and my family, I’ve amassed a guarded list of my favorite places to go in the city. Although my cooking and eating pursuits aren’t terribly private (you can see almost everything I cook, eat, and drink on my blog, Sybil’s Spoon, or my twitter feed, @sybilbunn ) I take pride in my little collection. Only because I love our AMPR blog readers, I’ve been convinced to share my secrets. Happy restaurant hopping!

Sybil in Ios

Best BYOBs

La Sirène – I’m hesitant to give out the name of favorite restaurant – this is the most romantic, delicious, hole-in-the-wall. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere in SoHo and serves up the best mussels I’ve ever tasted (the moules vignerones). Everything I’ve tried on the menu, I’ve loved, and each entrée is served with a side of roasted and pureed vegetables. Be sure to save room for dessert – the profiteroles are heavenly.

Taureau – This narrow fondue restaurant in the East Village is by the same chef who started La Sirène. The prix fixe gives you lots of food – both cheese and meat fondue with a little green salad, followed by yummy chocolate fondue for dessert.

Kuma Inn – This “Asian Tapas” place fills up super quickly, so be sure to reserve well ahead of time. There’s a small corkage fee per bottle, but it’s a great place to go with friends for a night out. Be sure to order the Chinese sausage and the wasabi shumai. And afterward, head next door to Los Feliz.

Morakote Siam – This is pretty bare bones, but great for a casual dinner. It’s right by my apartment, so I’ll often grab a bottle of wine and go with a friend. Our bill is rarely over $20 total. Be sure to try the Thai Chili Beef and the veggie spring rolls.


Most Romantic

La Ramblas – Sentiment may be why I think this place is romantic (I went on my first date with my boyfriend here) but the dim lighting and emphasis on sharing back up my opinion. The small, high tables get filled with various tapas plates like grilled octopus or truffled mushroom salad with avocados. And the sangria is sweet, delicious, and disappears quickly.

The Place – I stumbled across The Place during a snowstorm and went in for a drink. The bar was dimly lit with candles and it was extremely cozy. I went back for dinner and it was equally romantic, even in warmer weather – although I think it shines most in winter.

Recette – This restaurant is super hot right now, so be sure to make a reservation and don’t expect to be seated right away (comfortable shoes may be in order). After a rough start waiting to be seated, it turned out to be wonderful. We sat at a little table next to the big, tiled windows looking out onto West 12th street. The food was incredible, and I recommend the carpaccio wrapped buratta with tomato jelly – creamy, savory, and tart.

Lupa – Mario Batali doesn’t ever seem to put a foot wrong, and he certainly hasn’t this time either with this, his less-expensive version of Babbo. I actually find the food here better than Babbo, and the atmosphere certainly wins out. Ask to be seated in the back room in the corner booth. It’s much more cozy and romantic sitting next to your date in a corner booth than sitting across from one another. Order the buccatini all’amatriciana.


Best Indian

Ghandi Café – This narrow, little Indian place is right around the corner from my apartment. They serve up the tastiest curries and hands down the best naan I’ve ever eaten. For two people, I suggest ordering the dinner for one and an additional curry. (The dinner for one comes with this amazing crispy vegetable fritter, naan, papadam, and a curry – along with three chutneys.) That way you get to taste a few things, and there’s usually enough left over for lunch. My favorite curry so far is the dansahk, slightly spicy with spinach and lentils.


Best Chinese

Grand Sichuan Eastern – There are several outposts of this chain, but the one on 55th and 2nd is the best. Along with the American-style Chinese food staples, they have a Sichuan menu with spicy, fresh options. If you live nearby, order delivery because the place isn’t terribly charming. If not, stop by if you’re in the neighborhood. The Spicy Chicken with Chinese Broccoli is delicious, and if you like heat, also try the Spicy Wontons in Red Oil.


Best Sushi

Tomoe – This unassuming little sushi place looks pretty run-of-the-mill, but the line outside the door proves it isn’t. The décor doesn’t wow, but the sushi does. It’s incredibly fresh and noticeably better than other sushi. I don’t know how they do it, but the fish is just better. Go for rolls instead of à la carte or you’ll be in for a hefty bill.


Best Pizza

John’s – This place is conveniently located about 30 seconds from my apartment, but even if it’s a hike, it’s worth a trip. They don’t serve slices, only whole pizza’s, but it’s not hard to gobble one down even with just two people. It’s New York pizza at its best. The secret to avoiding the long lines is calling ahead for pick up, as long as you have a place to eat it!

Moustache – John’s has the best NY pizza, but Moustache has the best Turkish pizza. This cute little place has brass tables and a casual vibe, and along with the usual suspects (hummus, babaganoush, etc), they have Turkish pitzas with thin crusts and lots of flavor.


Best Bar Food

Blind Tiger – This craft beer bar has a surprisingly good menu. It’s a fun and unexpected place to grab lunch on the weekend. Along with your Allagash White or Rogue Brutal Bitter, nosh on amazingly flavorful and juicy bahn mi minis, chili, or savory BLTs.

Rye House – The bar snacks here have a southern bent with things like fried pickles (frickles!) and boiled peanuts. A great place to grab drinks with a boy, especially one who enjoys bourbon.


Best Mexican

La Palapa West – The salsa they give you to start is so good you can eat it with a spoon – and embarrassingly enough, I’ve been known to scoop a few bites before the chips arrive. The tacos are great too, especially the chipotle chicken.


Best Trucks

Bistro Truck – Just down the street from AMPR, I love running here for a quick lunch like salad niçoise loaded with potatoes, tuna, tomatoes, and other goodies or chicken cigars - crispy, tasty, and cheap. Also, the Portobello burger is tangy and delicious with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and balsamic.



Fish – If you like oysters, this is the place to go. For $8 you get 6 Blue Point oysters (or clams) and your choice of house red or white wine or PBR on tap. If you sit at the bar, you can also snack on the big marble bowls of peanuts.

Milos – This can be a little pricey, but the fish is amazing and fresh and it’s just like a restaurant in Greece – you get to choose your own fish. I definitely recommend getting a whole fish because it’s fun to pick it out, and they’re flakey and served simply with lemon and olive oil. Really authentic and light.


Best Cupcakes

Sweet Revenge – You may know this place from its appearance on Chase commercials. It’s a great place for an afternoon snack or after dinner dessert. The cupcakes come in several varieties with two daily specials. Plus, they do wine and beer pairings, so you may be recommended a sparkling framboise to drink with your red velvet cupcake. If you like salty and sweet, try the fleur de sel cupcake – it’s amazing.

Baked by Melissa – These tiny little cupcakes are perfect for a snack with fun flavors like oreo and cookie dough and they won’t leave you feeling guilty. I can’t claim credit for discovering this – thank you Sarah Winters for getting these for the office!


Best Pork Buns

Fatty Crab – While the pork buns at Momofuku are savory and delicious, Fatty Crab’s win in my book. With the same basic set up – a fluffy, sweet steamed bun, a fatty, caramelized slice of pork belly, Hoisin sauce – Fatty Crab goes the extra mile with its spicy cilantro salad to stuff into the bun and its bulls eye of Sriracha in the bowl of Hoisin dipping sauce. Be careful – once you stop eating you really start to feel the burn. The slices of hardboiled egg on the plate help a little.

what does the snow partridge say?

February 24th, 2011

Mountain goats in Ladakh

Nature lovers of all ages are invited to explore the wildlife found in the Himalayas this Saturday through the paintings, sculptures, and other objects on display at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. After seeing all the species which call the diverse terrain home, guests are welcomed to sculpt their favorite animal of the day as part of a collaborative installation.

Want a preview?  Sikkim is home to the endangered red panda, snow partridge, Himalayan cuckoo, snow and clouded leopards, and over 650 species of butterflies, while Ladakh has native populations of red fox, ibex, snow leopard, Tibetan gazelle, and Chiru antelope.  Kumaon is within the Corbett National Park and the natural protected habitat of the snow leopard, blue sheep, and mountain goats. Shakti can arrange walks through each of these areas for the best chance of spotting these animals in their natural habitat.

Food for thought, the likelihood of seeing the peak of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, is the same as seeing a tiger in the jungle… about 70 percent.


February 22nd, 2011

Shakti walking in the hills of Ladakh

Huffington Post recently blogged about the The Most Stunning & Challenging Treks In The World with a lineup that includes the GR20 in France, Inca Trail in Peru, Overland Track in Australia, Haute Route in Switzerland, and the high altitude desert of Ladakh in India. While all can clearly guarantee some show stopping scenery, Ladakh promises to be the most unique on the list.

Where else can travelers experience a truly untouched landscape? Only accessible during the summer months, the surface area is approximately 17,375 square miles dominated by mountains, lakes, and a number of rivers. For many years, the only visitors were well-trained backpackers, but Himalayan experts Shakti enables guests to experience this culturally rich area with gentle walks and homestays in village homes. Travelers can hike along trails, raft along the Shayok River in the Upper Indus Valley, visit local monasteries, learn archery, attend lectures on Buddhism and cooking lessons, and explore local markets. Happy (untouched) trails!

fat tyre

February 18th, 2011

Get those bike shorts ready! Tomorrow marks the start of Jamaica’s Fat Tyre Festival – a week-long mountain biking extravaganza! SMORBA has been running the event for the past five years and is kicking it off with a registration party at John Crow’s Tavern in Ocho Rios. The actual cycling begins on the 20th with the Jamaica Bicycle Bash with racing through Oracabessa, a skills course race, and other games and contests. Guests at nearby GoldenEye can wander over and enjoy the day dubbed, “A Celebration of Jamaican Bicycling Culture.” The festival continues with downhill racing and trails through the Blue Mountains.

(away from) home stretch

February 18th, 2011

With spring just around the corner, everyone is ready to stretch those legs and come out of hibernation. COMO Hotels and Resorts has the best way to shake off the winter blues – yoga retreats in warm places! The group works with some of the top yogis from around the world to lead the immersive retreats, each with a different focus. Currently, there are three yoga retreats on the calendar for 2011:

Parrot Cay

About the Yogis

Judy Krupp

Judy has been teaching yoga for over 20 years with a zeal for educating students in the science of human movement in relation to the art of asana practice. She guides students so their bodies gracefully flow without restrictions or weakness, connecting mind, body, and breath.

Andrea Curry

Andrea has been practicing yoga for over 15 years and teaching internationally since 2000. She trained with David Goulet and Marina Hallerman in Thailand as well as with Ana Forrest in Seattle. Her passionate and focused style is inspired by Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Forrest Yoga traditions.

Christina Curry

Christina trained with David Goulet, Marina Hallerman, Ana Forrest, and Ganga White and Tracey Rich through the White Lotus Foundation. Her enthusiasm for yoga led her to Thailand in 2002, and she has since been teaching in the Maldives, Bhutan, Bali, and the U.S. Her style is grounded in Vinyasa with influences from and exploration into Pranayama, Hatha, Raja, and Ashtanga yoga.


About the Retreats

The Art and Science of your Yoga Practice – A Therapeutic Approach

COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali

Five days of yoga classes, along with healthy eating, to explore the deeper openings of the moving body. Judy Krupp’s relaxed style and humor make her retreats unique as she brings students to explore beyond the muscular-skeletal to work more organically. Her multifaceted approach blends her fervor for the art of asana practice with the science of the mechanics of movement.

While at COMO Shambhala Estate, guests can take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities such as the vitality pool, treatment areas beside the River Ayung, climbing wall, and outdoor gym. There are also hikes through the surrounding Balinese jungle.

Dates: February 26-March 4, 2011

Rates: Rates start at $3,860 for single occupancy and $5,615 for double occupancy


  • Six nights accommodation
  • Daily breakfast and lunch (on yoga days)
  • Welcome and farewell dinner
  • Five days of yoga
  • Services of a Personal Assistant
  • Return airport transfers

The Practice of Yoga

Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos

The Curry sisters will challenge the students in strength and flexibility to prepare the mind and body for the subtle practice of pranayama and meditation. Each class will have elements woven in on how to lead a more comprehensive yogic lifestyle. Guests will explore physical and mental barriers to promote balance, energy, and relaxation.

Dates: April 10-16, 2011

Rates: Rates start at $6,672 for single occupancy and $9,685 for double occupancy


  • Six nights accommodation
  • Daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Five days of yoga
  • Roundtrip airport transfers

Strength and Surrender: A Journey Into Balance

COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali

In this five-day, six-night retreat, the Curry sisters will focus on the practice of asana, pranayama, and meditation to bring balance to the body, mind, and spirit. Guests will learn to step out of the ego by developing the “witnessing mind” and explore beyond physical and mental barriers to promote feelings of harmony, energy, and relaxation.

Throughout the retreat, Andrea and Christina will recommend specific COMO Shambhala treatments that will benefit each guest, from a calming COMO Shambhala Massage to a Reiki session.

Dates: October 30-November 5, 2011

Rates: Rates start at $3,970 for single occupancy and $5,630 for double occupancy


  • Six nights accommodation
  • Daily breakfast and lunch
  • Welcome and farewell dinner
  • Five days of yoga
  • Services of a Personal Assistant
  • Return airport transfers

living art

February 17th, 2011

Shakti Ladakh Gompas

The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City is inviting families to create their own Himalayan towns and stupas this Saturday with clay, fabric, and mixed media. The museum will provide photographs of Himalayan villages, tents, temples, and stupas, but then it’s all up to the imagination! Get those creative juices flowing!

Or make the picture a reality on a family trip with Shakti.  Customize an itinerary based on your families interests in three distinct regions of India’s North: Kuamaon in Uttarakhand; the tiny state of Sikkim, and Ladakh, in Jammu-Kashmir.  Ideal for active and engaging family travel, guides will lead travelers on daily walks and exploration of temples and monasteries.  In Ladakh, adventurous types can try their hand at rafting down the Indus River, camping out under the stars, or riding an indigenious Bactrian camel through the Nubra. You might need a few more supplies, but we’re certain the personal treks will leave all ages inspired.

all abu dhabi

February 16th, 2011

Essential Abu Dhabi Plane

Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) are inviting visitors to experience all that Abu Dhabi has to offer with the Essential Abu Dhabi campaign.  After flying Etihad’s new three class A330-300 aircraft featuring the new Diamond First Class, simply show your boarding pass at participating hotels, restaurants, shops, adventure parks, cultural attractions, and sports facilities – including one of our favorites, Ferrari World – for exclusive offers and deals.

After all the essential action in Abu Dhabi, unwind at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara located just ninety minutes outside the city in the heart of the Liwa Desert. The landscape is home to some of the world’s tallest sand dunes, and was built from the vision of celebrating the traditions of the Emirate and celebrating the culture of the Bedouins. Enjoy a pampering treatment at the spa featuring a real hammam, a camel ride through the desert, or the 2,500 museum-quality Bedouin artefacts sourced from all over Arabia throughout the resort.  It’s hard to know what’s more relaxing, the resort or Diamond First Class – let us know your findings!

beauty on the menu

February 16th, 2011


Paris’ posh Place des Vosges welcomes a new bar at the Marais District’s must-visit hotel, Pavillon de la Reine. Will you be served bubbly? Mais oui! Can you nibble a flaky croissant? Certainment! Is this going where you think it’s going? Non…

Pavillon de la Reine’s new nail bar offers manicures each Saturday in the hotel’s library. The inviting bibliothèque and honesty bar of the 54-bedroom hotel morphs into a beauty enclave where nails are buffed, shaped and lacquered with OPI polish. While you wait for your nails to dry, page through books from literary greats, cozy up to the crackling fireplace, and sip another verre de champagne. The ambiance feels like a comfortable neighborhood townhouse, rather than a typical nail salon, with decadent tapestries, luxurious wall coverings and oil paintings.

How’s that for a French manicure?

Technicians from the hotel’s Spa de la Reine by Carita give on-the-spot beauty for €25 (around US$33), with no reservation required. The nail bar is open to the public. or telephone: 33(0)1.40 29.19.19