A Look Back: The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival 2014

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

They say the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach.  And if you haven’t fallen in love with Mexico yet, our Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival, would have you in head over heels, guaranteed!

Sabor + Vino 2014, which we held this past May, was Capella Ixtapa’s first culinary festival, and with the amazing feedback we received from our guests and visitors, I can promise you it won’t be the last!

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

“This region of Mexico has so much to offer gastronomically, offering an authentic Mexican cuisine experience.  We gathered well known chefs from different towns within the region to participate in festival Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino 2014, which established a sense of pride and honor, as we presented diverse traditional Mexican dishes, combined with exquisite Mexican wine and spirits for all attendees, complemented with a wonderful culinary event.  The feedback we received was fantastic, and I hope to see you all again at Capella Ixtapa’s Sabor + Vino 2015!” said Eliezer Quinones, General Manager of Capella Ixtapa.

The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival ran over two weekends in May, and featured Guest Chefs,  Carmen Valencia, Ramiro Ortega, Karla Chápero, Jesús Ordoñez.  Hosted by Capella Ixtapa’s Chef Miguel Baltazar, guests were delighted by appetizers based on regional cuisines, cocktail events, cooking classes, two exquisite 7 course wine pairing dinners and a special breakfast where each of the chefs prepared their own signature breakfast dish.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Sabor + Vino 2014 was an incredible experience,” said Chef Miguel Baltazar.  “Four different culinary minds came to Capella Ixtapa with the same objective; to satisfy the palate of our guests, surprise them with the magnificent flavors and show them the best of their cuisine.  It was a great pleasure having them with us and creating the first edition of Capella Ixtapa’s culinary festival together.  For me personally it was also a magnificent opportunity to create, innovate and practice with these amazing Chefs for the Chef of the Year in Mexico contest, at which I will be participating in June, and representing the colors of Capella Ixtapa and our region.  Some of the unforgettable dishes from the festival for me were jack fish with black radish, scallops tiradito, jicama fruit infused with beet and mezcal, cocoa with meringue of salt from Zihuatanejo, and crystallized nopal.”

You can see more photos from the festival here, and mark your calendars for May 2015, for the next Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino festival.  Our team is already hard at work planning next year’s festivities!

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

47 years ago, the first Smithsonian Folklife Festival was initiated in Washington, D.C.  Today, the Festival has become a national and international living cultural heritage expedition, home to over 250 artists and over 1 million visitors from all around the world.  I am so ready for this year’s lineup, kicking off June 25 to 29 and July 2 to 6 on the National Mall.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The theme of the program this year will be China: Tradition and the Art of Living and Kenya: Mambo Poa!  The China program emphasizes the themes of BALANCE and REUNION, processes of more profound importance than ever in China.  The program will also feature seasonal festival traditions, emphasize the exuberance of public life, share the meaning and preparation of Chinese foodways, engage visitors in craft and performance workshops, and highlight the country’s cultural diversity.

The Kenya: Mambo Poa program will present the ways in which the people of Kenya are balancing protection of their valued cultural and natural heritage with the challenges and opportunities for change in the twenty-first century.  Festival visitors will be able to interact with exemplary craftspeople who work with everything from clay to soapstone to recycled materials, learn about important fossil discoveries and so much more!

Smithsonian Folklife Festival China

What I love most about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is the opportunity to meet carriers of cultural traditions in a very personal way.  You will have the chance to ask questions and engage with participants to hear their unique insider stories and experiences.  It amazes me to think how Washington, D.C. has become the quintessential cultural center, home to so many diverse groups.  This Festival is a time to learn and appreciate our fellow Americans and their family sagas from generation to generation.

To get myself ready, I’ve been listening to the Smithsonian Music of China and Music of Kenya playlists.

There is no admission charge to the Festival.  I highly suggest dressing for hot and humid weather- summer will be in full effect!  Parking around the Mall is extremely limited, so you are advised to use Metrorail.  Your Capella Washington, D.C. Personal Assistant is of course on hand to arrange transportation services to and from the Festival as well.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Japanese Day & How To Wear A Yukata

rsz_yukata_tutorial

Do you remember my story about the Japanese-German history in Dusseldorf which I shared on the Capella Blog a couple of months ago?  Then you might remember that Dusseldorf is the city with the largest Japanese population in Europe.  Actually, one fourth of Germany’s Japanese population is living in Dusseldorf!

Every year we have celebrate Japanese Day, where visitors and locals alike can learn more about the Japanese culture.  The event will take place for the 13th time this year and will be celebrate on May 17th.   The event takes place throughout the city, even along the Rhine Promenade.  I love to wander along the promenade, tasting different Japanese food specialties, listening to music and watching dance performances, combat demonstrations and even Manga costume contests.  At night the event is topped off with a beautiful firework display that lights up the entire city.

This year, the Breidenbacher Hof is getting in on the activities, with a fantastic Japanese amenity.  This amenity includes a lot of special Japanese things, prepared by our resident Japanese expert Keiko.  The most important part of the amenity is a traditional sleeping kimono, known as the Yukata.  Keiko showed me the correct way to wrap it, something I asked her to show you as well:

rsz_yukata_tutorial

First of all, you have to slip into the Yukata, of course.  Grasp it along the hem with one side in each hand. Fold the right hand side under the left hand side, holding it in place as you fold the right hand side over the left.

Use the obi (belt) to secure everything in place. This is done by placing the belt over your waist (if you are a woman) or relatively low on your hip (if you are a man) and then crossing the obi on the back and tying it in the front over your right hip.

I know, it takes some time to become a pro, but I am sure Keiko will help you practice and get ready for Japanese Day.  Just ask her during your stay at the Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel in Düsseldorf as soon as possible and don’t forget to tell our Personal Assistants about your plans to visit the Japanese Day festivities so that they can prepare everything for you!

A Truly Unique Mother’s Day Gift

img_2096

May is one of my favourite months.  This is because the second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day.  As a new mother, it has become even more meaningful — signifying to me the true beauty of life.  I have learnt to appreciate my own mother a lot more as well. As such, I decided that instead of buying my mother a generic Mother’s Day gift this year, I would do a bit of my own research so that the flowers I buy her will have significance and meaning.

What better place to learn about flowers than the Singapore Botanic Gardens — which was where I headed to last weekend.

Opened in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Garden is home to the National Orchid Garden, which features the largest display of tropical orchids in the world.  As the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid is the national flower of Singapore, I thought it fitting to give my mother a bouquet of orchids for Mother’s Day.  Covering more than 3 hectares of ground with more than 60,000 orchid plants representing 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids, I was sure to find the perfect orchid for my mother.

National Orchid Garden Singapore

When I was there, I found out that many famous people had orchids named after them, such as, Princess Diana, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela and even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!  Apparently, the National Orchid Garden has named more than 100 VIP orchids.

Orchids named after Princess DianaOrchids named after the late Princess Diana

Orchids named after Margaret ThatcherOrchids named after the late Lady Margaret Thatcher

It was at the National Orchid Garden that I realised that you did not have to be a VIP to name an orchid after someone.  An orchid can be named after your loved one for a fee of anywhere from S$5,000 to S$15,000.  The National Orchid Garden can put you in touch with a local orchid breeder who confer a unique hybrid after the name of your choice.  He will then send the details to the Royal Horticultural Society in London.  How amazing is that?  Who wouldn’t want an orchid named after them?  Don’t you think it is a truly unique Mother’s Day gift?  One that will live on forever.  I might just name one after my mother this Mother’s Day!

For those who are interested in finding out more about naming orchids, please contact your Capella Singapore Personal Assistants at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5034.  Alternatively, The Knolls is offering guests the opportunity to create a bouquet of flowers for their mothers during the Mother’s Day Sunday Brunch on 11 May 2014.  Please contact theknolls.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5046 to find out more.

The Washington Ballet Presents Peter Pan

peter_pan_the_washington_ballet

I love Capella Washington, D.C’s partnership with The Washington Ballet and Artistic Director, Septime Webre.  When I first learned that Septime was creating a new whimsical production of the classic fairy tale, Peter Pan, I could not wait to make my reservations!  With my companion’s birthday just around the corner, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate spring with an outdoor seafood dinner and ballet at The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

We parked our car at Capella Washington, D.C. for an early dinner on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in April.  Capella Personal Assistant, Donovan Trott, had already reserved our tickets and had them ready for us when we arrived.  Donovan made us reservations at Tony & Joe’s Seafood Restaurant located two blocks away at the Georgetown Washington Harbour waterfront.  We thanked Donovan and took a beautiful walk to Tony & Joe’s.  I love this restaurant not only for the tasty local seafood, but also because of the legendary location in Georgetown, looking over the Potomac River boardwalk, Kennedy Center, Key Bridge, and across the water to Virginia.

Tony_&_joes_mussels_georgetown

We started off with Steamed P.E.I Mussels simmered in a tomato, basil, and chili sauce as well as fresh Rhode Island Calamari, crispy fried and served with pickled chilies and a chipotle aioli.  I loved these dishes, and for our entrees, a simple but delicious Caesar salad with chilled jumbo shrimp, yum!

After dinner, I used my iPhone to request an Uber X car to take us to The Kennedy Center for the Peter Pan ballet, just a five-minute drive down Rock Creek Trail.  The Eisenhower Theatre is beautiful, and our seats were just seven rows back from the main stage!  The ballet told the story of Peter and the Lost Boys, based on the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie.  “The story of Peter Pan is a compelling one as it reminds us to live our lives cherishing the child within,” says Artistic Director Septime Webre, “ I thought the ballet was both clever, funny and heartwarming, incorporating flying ballerinas through the air on their way to Neverland, and visually enhanced sets to create a sense of dream-like land of fantasy.

peter_pan_the_washington_ballet

The Washington Ballet is one of the pre-eminent ballet organizations in the United States with choreographers and dancers from around the world. For more information regarding exclusive upcoming events this ballet season, be sure to contact your Capella Personal Assistant by calling 202-617-2400 or emailing pa.dc@capellahotels.com.

 

Exploring Dusseldorf On Wheels

exploring dusseldorf

As soon as the weather changes to summery temperatures, I feel like spending time outside.  There are so many fun activities available in Dusseldorf – sometimes I can’t decide what to do first!  My most favorite outdoor activity is inline skating.  I’ve skated at many places in Germany, but Dusseldorf honestly has the best scenery along The Rhine Promenade.

exploring dusseldorfIn my opinion, inline skating is the best form of exercise, but even if you prefer cycling, I promise you that exploring Dusseldorf on wheels is a great adventure.  Of course, this is especially true if you follow my favorite route: The prettiest round starts at the Old Town continuing to Kaiserswerth and back.  I always start in the Old Town to get myself into the right mood for my skating trip.  And if you want to start the adventure with a meal, the best place to have a delicious dish with an Altbier is the Uerige!  It’s one of Dusseldorf’s traditional Altbier breweries and you can enjoy your Altbier outside.

The tour I take is about 20 kilometers long and I am sure you will enjoy every meter of it just as I always do.  Why? Because during the tour you see several sights!  The Tonhalle for example: The Tonhalle is a place where a lot of concerts, usually classical concerts, take place and it is very close to the Promenade.  Secondly, the entire path is located next to the Rhine, which is very idyllic – it makes me feel so free as the wind blows through my hair and I watch the boats move down the river.

In Kaiserswerth, I take a break at the beer garden Galerie Burghof as I am a big fan of their freshly made waffles.  And have you ever heard of the drink Radler?  It is beer mixed with lemonade.  I know it sounds weird, but it is very refreshing and gives you the necessary push for the trek back to the Old Town.
If you are looking for different routes for your personal Dusseldorf skating or biking tour our Personal Assitant’s can provide you with all information and tips during your next stay at the Breidenbacher Hof.  I am sure that they will arrange for exceptional activities for you to explore!