The Motorcycle Diamonds: Q&A With Private Jeweler Greg Jezarian

Jeweler Greg Jezerian and the engagement ring he ferried by motorcycle across Route 66, at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Tx.

Jeweler Greg Jezarian and the engagement ring he ferried by motorcycle across Route 66, at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Tx.

Anyone can walk into a jewelry shop and pick out a necklace. Only some can have jewelry created for them. That’s what Greg Jezarian, a concierge jeweler in New York City’s diamond district, does for clients around the world — when he’s not riding motorcycles or racing cars competitively. Max Luxe spoke to Jezarian about pieces he’s designed, engagement rings he’s delivered cross-country by motorcycle, and what luxury clients are buying in the jewelry market.

What’s your typical work day like?

Since I was a kid, I knew I would own my own business, and as I watched other business owners I knew I didn’t want my business to own me. I see private clients by appointment only, one on one. It’s not uncommon to have a engagement ring client in my office on a Monday, a diamond stud sale at my home office on a Tuesday and then fly to a client for a Friday wherever I’m needed. I’ve always been more of a quality over quantity person and I think that reflects in my pieces and certainly in the people who are drawn to my firm.

What is one interesting piece you’ve helped create for clients?

The prestidigitation ring, which we nicknamed the PrestoRing! At some point, a professional magician was referred to me and wanted a special engagement ring for his love. Naturally, there needed to be some sleight of hand. I hashed out some ideas and met him after a show in Boston. He chose a magnificent long and thin emerald cut diamond and gave me full control over the mounting. What I created was a ring within a ring. First it looked like a simple, hand-carved platinum band until the abracadabra moment; a slight twist of the ring revealed a hidden, flawless diamond which was concealed.

Interesting corollary to the story…I assumed someone with magical powers would be able to nail the one piece of homework I’d given and find out: I asked him to find out her finger size. It was crucial to get it perfect for an intricate ring like this. Not a chance; that was the hardest part of the job! Ultimately he ended up asking a close friend of hers for guidance.

What’s the most unusual request you’ve received from a client?

Historically, the jewelry industry in NY closes for July, so, naturally, I had a client in San Diego call with an engagement-ring build that needed to be in hand July 14. I explained how I was closing in July to cross a bucket-list item off and ride the entire length of US Route 66 on motorcycle. We brainstormed a bit and he came up with a great idea: I was to deliver the ring to him in San Diego via motorbike. This was a challenge I agreed to immediately.

I left New York City on July 1st with his ring in my motorcycle jacket pocket. His one request was that I stop at every silly roadside attraction on Route 66 and take a photo with the ring. His goal was to have hundreds of random photos of this random guy holding a ring box all over the country and he was going to show his girlfriend these photos on July 14. The last photo, of course, was he and I shaking hands, and a sign reading, “Will you marry me?”

What trends are you seeing right now in high-end jewelry?

Especially in the last few years, I’m noticing the wealthy are buying $100,000-plus investment-grade diamonds. These types of stones are known to appreciate over time, yet can be worn and enjoyed while they work for you. As I recall, one client lamented, “I wish my Bentley would do that.”

But not all of these diamonds look the part to the untrained eye. I have one client whose ear studs weigh a mere 4.00 carats total weight. What nobody knows is that each ear is holding a perfect 2.00 carat round brilliant certified D-Flawless diamond, approximately $50,000 each. Her rationale: she can be anywhere in the world and have these valuable and liquid commodities with her at all times. If there’s an emergency, she can live quite comfortably from each ear until things get sorted. Try that with a credit card.

Walking Into Inspiration: Q&A With Photographer Alexandra Huddleston

A marker along the pilgrimage route in Shikoku.

A marker along the pilgrimage route in Shikoku. (Alexandra Huddleston)

Setting off on a walking pilgrimage — a form of religious devotion common to many ancient faiths, and still practiced today — is a way to bring the spiritual and the everyday together. Photographer Alexandra Huddleston explores this dichotomy in her new book of art photographs, East or West: A Walking Journey Along Shikoku’s 88 Temple Pilgrimage. The book contains images from the famous Japanese pilgrims’ route, an 800-mile circumnavigation of the island of Shikoku.

Now based in the American Southwest, Huddleston lived around the world as a child before returning to the U.S. and graduating from Stanford, then Columbia Journalism School. Her last book, published in 2013, looked at the longstanding Islamic scholarly tradition of Timbuktu, in Mali.  Huddleston spoke with Max Luxe about her art, her influences, and her travels.

– How did you become interested in pilgrimages as a subject? 

In his best-selling book, Immortelle randonnée : Compostelle malgré moi, Jean-Christophe Rufin describes the urge to go on a pilgrimage as a viral illness that often has a long and invisible incubation period before the full range of symptoms erupt. There is some truth in this description!

I caught the pilgrimage virus in 1996 when I visited the Pyrenees as a tourist and innocently hiked some mountain trails that I learned were part of the Camino de Santiago. When I realized that I could continue for 500 miles on the same trail before eventually reaching Santiago de Compostela, I was very tempted to do just that. Instead, I continued with my vacation and went on to college. But an unspoken pact was made between myself and the trail that day: that I would return to walk that route, and I eventually did so in 2009.

My experience walking the Camino in Spain made me realize just how rich pilgrimage is as a subject: photographically, historically, culturally…

– What’s special about Japan, Shikoku, and this pilgrimage in particular? 

One of the reasons I decided to walk the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan after I had already walked the Camino was precisely to see what was the same and what changed in a long walking pilgrimage when you changed the country, religion, and culture (but kept the walking).

In the Japanese tradition spiritual journeys are circular. This is true whether the itinerary is very individual like Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North or very structured like the Shikoku pilgrimage. The Shikoku pilgrimage traces the circumference of the island of Shikoku and you end where you began. There is no terminusspiritual or physical–that dominates the journey. This removal of a final goal tends to allow pilgrims to focus more on the present and the actual.

Of course, there is also the delicious seafood of Shikoku, the beauty of walking next to the coast for most of the journey, and the colorful seasonal festivals of rural Japan.

– When you take narrative photos like the ones in “East or West,” what do you look for? What else can you tell us about your practice as a photographer and photojournalist? 

When I’m photographing a project I will have an ever-growing list of themes in mind, and as I photograph I look for moments that evokes these ideas. In the case of East or West the theme that dominated my mind was quite abstract. I wanted to somehow describe the bipolar daily experience of pilgrimage that throws the pilgrim between moments of mundane physical worries and moments of sublime exaltation. In the end, no one photograph could capture this idea. Only the book as a whole could do the work: by combining a very carefully edited sequence of images and text.

As my work has evolved in the last few years–and has, in fact, moved away from traditional photojournalism–my aim has become more to show the inner truth and experience of a situation, rather than just the outer appearance. I definitely think that my experience as a pilgrim myself (and not just as someone who photographs pilgrimages) played a big part in this transformation.

Now, my approach is closer to that of an ethnographer than that of a journalist.

– Your last major project was a look at Islamic scholarly culture in Timbuktu (333 Saints). How are these books related? What do they tell us about your interests? 

In both the Timbuktu work and the pilgrimage work I am looking at ancient, mystical, religious cultures and how their traditions have survived and evolved in the 21st century. I am interested in religion in general, but I’m particularly interested in how reconnecting with traditional cultures might be able to renew and re-enchant a modern world that is too often arid, one-dimensional, and flattened by the monopoly of the material over our consciousness.

That said, I hope to photograph these subjects without falling into the common traps of naiveté, delusion, or hypocrisy!

– You’ve lived all over the world. Where would you move tomorrow if you had the chance? 

Well, although I have travelled quite a bit, much of it has been in Europe and Africa. Other than Japan and Sri Lanka, I have not worked all that much in Asia, and I would like to do so! That said, I have this habit of returning again and again to places that I’ve already been. So, if I could move tomorrow, it might just be to go back to Japan!

– What’s your next project? 

Last summer (2014) I walked a third pilgrimage: 500 miles along the Camino de Santiago again, but this time I walked one of the main French trails called the Via Podiensis. So, the first step is to start getting these new photographs in order.

The next project is in the works, but it’s still a secret…

The War on Terroir: Sharing the Holiday Cheer

1864 Blandy's Bual Madeira (Wine-Searcher.com)

1864 Blandy’s Bual Madeira (Wine-Searcher.com)

We invited Ben Hammer, a passionate wine drinker and foodie, to contribute this guest post on how to think about wine choices. Ben is a strategic communications advisor for technology, media and entertainment companies. His firm, Hammer Strategies, is based in Washington, D.C.

By Ben Hammer

The holidays often stir up memories of presents that brought excitement to young lives — a remote-controlled sports car, pint-sized toy kitchen, or a new pet. Now, as we get older, we often exchange bottles of our favorite refreshment with friends and business partners. Whether you’re catching up with old friends or attending a special holiday dinner, a top-notch bottle of wine is an excellent gift to spread cheer. So, what are some options for giving an extra special bottle of wine to tell someone they’re an important part of your life? We asked some wine experts for their views. Here’s what they told us:

Shem Hassen, Co-Owner, Arrowine in D.C. and Arlington, Va.
$150: Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, Domaine Denis Peret et Fils 2012

A lot of Corton-Charlemagne is very rich price-wise, but this is a lot more reasonable. And the minerality and acidity is so precise. It’s like drinking champagne without the bubbles.

$160: Cade Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa, CA 2011
This is the second label to PlumpJack. If you try this one compared with a second growth bordeaux, this is good, something you can drink right away – not like you have to wait 10 years. It’s something you can open right away and drink without wasting a lot of money.

$300-$600: Mommessin Clos de Tart Grand Cru Monopole, Cote de Nuits, France
If you love Burgundy, and when you get to the Grand Crus, you stop there, it’s like Clos de Tart is one of the pioneers of wine-making, from 1100 [AD]. They make only one wine, it’s not like everyone else. Once in a while they make a second if they have extra left over.

Dean Myers, Sommelier, Brasserie Beck, Washington, DC

$65: A great gift idea for a client would be a bottle of Justin Vineyards & Winery Isosceles, Paso Robles. This is the wine that put the Paso Robles powerhouse on the map, and a wine I continually come back to. Cabernet Sauvignon blended with a touch of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it’s Bordeaux-inspired but with California drinkability both now and later. I found 2010 on shelves the other day, but 2011 is the current release.

$600-$750 (magnum): If you’re like me, opening a bottle of wine is about sharing it with those who are close to me and who will appreciate what’s on the inside of the bottle. So when buying for a special meal, I go big or go home (literally). Buy a magnum and be that more popular. In this case, something that goes with a holiday meal and will warm you up from the temperatures outside, I’d go with 1.5 Liters of Chapoutier Hermitage Le Pavillion. 2011 is out now and got 100 points from ol’ Bobby Parker. But for drinking now, the older you can find, the better.

Tami Hatridge, Landini’s, Old Town Alexandria, VA:

$1,000-$1,500: Domaine Armand Rousseau Pere et Fils Chambertin Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France
“A very complete wine even at this young stage. Dark fruits, blackberries, herbs, minerals and spicy flavours. Generous mid-palate with velvety tannins and long finish. Love the silky texture of this wine,” says Jeannie Cho Lee, Master of Wine at Asian Palate.

$4,000: Magnum of same (Domaine Armand)

Christianna Sargent, Sommelier, Coppi’s organic, Cleveland Park, DC; and rep. with Monsieur Touton Selections:

$89: Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founders Reserve, Chile
“The 2007 Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve is composed of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Syrah that spent 20 months in new French oak. A glass-coating opaque purple color, it surrenders an enticing nose of toasty new oak, graphite, scorched earth, cinnamon, clove, violets, blueberry, and blackberry. On the palate, it reveals a suave personality that combines elegance and power. Impeccably balanced, it has the structure to evolve for 4-6 years and should provide pleasure through 2027,” writes Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate, scoring it a 93.

$140: Quintessa Red, Rutherford, Calif.
“Attractive wine to drink young – green herbs and capsicum notes with dark berry fruit. Wine offers fresh acidity and firm tannins with mid-palate that is slightly hollow. Most blocks were picked before the big rain. There was an optical sorter used during harvest in this wet vintage. Tasted in: Napa Valley, USA,” says Asian Palate’s Jeannie Cho Lee.

$100-$250: Rene Bouvier Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Cote de Nuits, France, 2005-2012

$221 (half bottle): 1983 Avignonesi Vin Santo di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy

Any wine that’s high-end from them. “Indicative blend: Grechetto, Malvasia Toscana, Trebbiano. This is the second most highly rated Vin Santo wine (based on critic scores): the 1997 vintage was given a score of 97 out of 100 by The Wine Advocate; and the 1999 vintage was given a score of 97 out of 100 by Wine Spectator. Ranked second for number of awards won among wines from this region: the Vinibuoni d’Italia awarded the 1999 vintage Golden Star and the 1998 vintage Corone,” says Wine-Searcher.com.

$400 (half bottle): 2001 Chateau d’Yquem, Sauternes, France
“This beautiful Sauternes offers intense aromatics packed with overripe pineapple drenched in honey, roasted nuts, apricots, nectarines, white peach, flowers, orange rind and honey in the complex perfume. Thick, rich and intense, with the viscosity of motor oil, along with tropical fruit dripping with honey and the perfect amount acidity to give this elixir life, 2011 Chateau d’Yquem is majestic,” says the Wine Cellar Insider.

$185-$750 and $1,000-$10,000: Blandy’s Bual Madeira 1905, 1863 or 1864
“Critics have rated this as the best available among Madeira wines… Ranked second for number of awards won among wines from this region: the International Wine & Spirit Competition awarded the 1969 vintage Gold Outstanding; the Decanter World Wine Awards awarded the 1969 vintage Gold; and the Decanter World Wine Awards awarded the 1968 vintage Gold,” says Wine-Searcher.com.

The War on Terroir: On The Urge to Splurge

Vietti Barolo Castiglione

We invited Ben Hammer, a passionate wine drinker and foodie, to contribute this guest post on how to think about wine choices. Ben is a strategic communications advisor for technology, media and entertainment companies. His firm, Hammer Strategies, is based in Washington, D.C.

 

By Ben Hammer

There’s always a reason to go beyond your comfort zone and buy a lot more wine for that special occasion. Old friend in town? Promotion? Milestone? Closing that big business deal? Or asking your future spouse’s parents for their blessing? Wine has been used as a sacrament for millenia to separate the holy and monumental from the mundane. So we asked a handful of our favorite oenophiles about their favorite picks for a splurge selection.

Here’s one of my own picks:

Vietti Barolo di Castiglione Falletto 2010, Nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy. One of the grand-daddies of Italian barolos, Vietti is hands-down always a top pick for a moderately priced wine. This bottle goes for about $50 and is an unfiltered treat from a label that makes about 5,000-6,500 cases a year. Give it some time to breathe and open up. Decanting could be a good idea. Would go very well with a lamb ragu. And the bottle and label is beautiful, a work of art.

 

Warren Leonard, Weygandt Wines, DC:

Grower Champagne hands down. They know their terroir, grow their own grapes and many are in the extra brut and brut nature level so relying on the grapes, not dosage.

 

Erik Hope, former professional chef at Gerard’s and Cashion’s in DC:

d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz. Apart from sentimental value, I think it embodies what a great Australian Shiraz should be. Earthy, lots of dark fruit, great structure. And consistent from vintage to vintage.

 

Na Lee, Director of Special Events, Bordeau LLC, Table Restaurant, 42 Degree Catering, DC:

’94 Dalla Valle Maya or most any Harlan Estates. Closest you can come to meeting a God figure in a bottle of grape juice.

 

Jon-Christopher Bua, former Clinton Administration communications official:

Cote Rotie La Mordoree via ‘Chapoutier’ 95, 98, 2005 or 2006. Enjoy.

 

Chris Wilson, Oya restaurant, Penn Quarter in DC:

For something interesting and unusual, a rock-star splurge – Caduceus Cellars “Judith” a red blend. From Arizona. Super-small production. Made by Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool.

 

John Lonergan, Managing Director, Mercury in DC:

Pommard region in Burgundy. Or Cote Rotie in the Rhone Valley. Chapoutier. Or “Brune et Blonde” from Guigal in Pommard. Jean Perrin.

 

What’s your favorite pick for a splurge, and where is the best store or restaurant to do it? Email me at benhammer@zoho.com to let me know.

 

Where to Find the Coolest Fashions: Private Trunk Shows

Candice Postel and Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler in their Drawing Room space.

Candice Postel and Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler in their Drawing Room space.

When a pair of veteran fashion publicists put together an intimate trunk-show space just off Madison Avenue on New York City’s Upper East Side, it’s not a surprise to find a selection of hard-to-find cult brands on view there. Old friends Candice Postel and Emilia Fanjul Pfeifler launched the Drawing Room earlier this year as a way to bring New Yorkers together with brands that don’t have a presence in the city. Some days there are shows, with chic neighborhood ladies browsing tall racks under sprays of flowers; other days the space is used for product launches or press events.

Max Luxe spoke to Postel about the duo’s idea.

 

-How did you both get involved with this business?

We grew up together in Palm Beach,  and always lived parallel professional lives. We both come from fashion public-relations backgrounds.  I started at Salvatore Ferragamo many moons ago and Emilia at Bottega Veneta. From there, we both opened our own boutique agencies but motherhood called and we took time to raise our children.  Now that they are a little older, we decided this was the right time to do something.  We were hosting trunk shows out of Emilia’s home and decided to turn it into a business. But The Drawing Room is so much more than just trunk shows.  Brands have hosted their press previews here as well as launched products.  The Drawing Room truly is a jewel box of a space!

 

– When you’re running a trunk show, what is your typical day like?

We both wake up super-early, get our kids ready for school and drop them off, then head to The Drawing Room.  There are days that it is so busy that we look at each other at 5:00 and ask what is for lunch!

 

A show at the Drawing Room.

A show at the Drawing Room.

– What brands have you shown? Which ones are coming up?

We try to have different kinds of brands and interesting companies all the time. For example, we did a Bespoke Week with Attolini custom women’s blazers, Devon Woodhill beautiful bespoke lockets, and Paul Renwick’s gorgeous cashmere, and we topped the show off with an amazing portrait painter, Rob Beckett. We did a week with Veronica Beard, where they designed six exclusive styles for The Drawing Room. Before everyone leaves for the winter holiday, we are doing a Basta Surf swimwear sale along with L’Etoile, a tennis and golf wear collection.

 

– What are a few high-end fashion trends you’re seeing now?

Investment pieces: an item that goes with several things in one’s closet. Not bling but something that compliments what you already have on.

 

– What’s the one most important winter item women should buy?

A fabulous coat makes a statement. The navy car coat from Veronica Beard is a no-brainer.

Chic Entertaining: Q&A With “Dinner Diaries” Author Daniel Cappello

The new book "Dinner Diaries" includes place cards, menus, and other mementos of elegant soirees.

The new book “Dinner Diaries” includes place cards, menus, and other mementos of elegant soirees.

Dinner parties are both a relic of a bygone era and the most modern way to entertain today. When author Daniel Cappello set out to document what makes a dinner party special, he turned to a selection of noted and celebrity hostesses like Ivanka Trump. Each answered a list of questions about parties, style, and hospitality in her own handwriting.

Cappello, the fashion director at Quest Magazine and a former longtime assistant editor at The New Yorker, previously wrote a book about his alma mater, Harvard, and its university cohort (The Ivy League, Assouline). Max Luxe spoke with Cappello about his new book, Dinner Diaries: Reviving the Art of the Hostess Book (Assouline)

 

– What was the inspiration for the book?  

I grew up with parents who loved entertaining, and dinner parties were a very essential part of what we did with friends and family. That tradition has certainly carried through with me. It didn’t occur to me to do a book about entertaining, though, until I happened to be hosting a dinner party one night where one of the guests (who himself is a generous and fun host) decided we ought to change up the music because he didn’t love the vibe I had chosen for the night. He started looking for where my iPod was docked so he could put on a playlist of his own, and I was appalled! I couldn’t believe someone would dare to criticize a host’s or hostess’s choice on anything, let alone try to act on changing it. Part of the joy of a dinner party, for me, at least, is to relish in someone else’s tastes for an evening. I’ve often been inspired to do something I’d never have done before just by observing other hosts.

At some point, I happened to be telling this story to my publisher, Martine Assouline (who is herself a terrific hostess), and she walked over to her very impressive bookshelf and pulled out a vintage copy of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette. She opened it up to the section on dinner parties and asked if maybe my sense of propriety was stuck in the ’50s. Do enough people even have dinner parties anymore? Is the art of the dinner party dead? Have good manners and etiquette become antiquated? We started asking all these questions, and I told her I believed enough people still do cherish the finer details of the dinner party—and that I would poll some of my friends and acquaintances who had impressed me with their sense of style and entertaining. The result was a resounding yes—that the dinner party was very much alive, and that people still cared enough about it to document their own by keeping menus and invitations and place-card settings, or with iPhone photos or even old-school hostess books. So Martine and I set out to poll some great modern hosts and hostesses in the form of a Proust Questionnaire, and the result was this book, full of some very traditional and some very contemporary views on entertaining.

 

– Can you give us some tips for elegant home entertaining? 

Elegance is a state of mind, a state of being. Fundamentally, it’s about being true to your own sense of style. If you want to achieve truly elegant home entertaining, you have to own your own sense of style. If you’re a traditionalist and love silver candelabra and flowers and antique china and formal seating arrangements at the dining room table, your guests will feel special spending a few hours in your very traditional ways. If you’re more relaxed and prefer quirky evites, relaxed family-style buffets or passed plates around the kitchen island followed by freestyle dancing after dinner in the living room, then your guests will indulge in the fun. Whatever your style, you should command it. One of the tips I offer in the book for hostesses is that, as hostess, you are the director—so you set the tone and scene for the evening. Being confident and in command—and enjoying your own dinner party as much as your guests—is the ultimate elegance. Your guests will follow your lead and truly enjoy themselves.

 

-What did you learn while working on the book that was surprising?

Well, it’s funny. In some of the research that reached back to the days of, say, the 1950s picture-perfect housewife, there were some funny suggestions I came across. For instance, one authority back in the day told stressed-out wives to retreat to the kitchen and lie flat on their backs, against a cold kitchen floor, to regain their composure. I just imagined a beautifully coiffed housewife in a cocktail dress sneaking into the kitchen, swallowing a Valium with a vodka martini, and taking to the floor.

In truth, it’s not such a ridiculous scenario. I’ve had freak-out moments of my own hosting dinner parties, and maybe I should have gone into the kitchen and stretched out on the floor to take a few deep breaths to recover. Any host or hostess will tell you to expect the unexpected and to learn to go with the flow. One of the most formal women I interviewed for the book told about how her chef once mixed up salt and sugar in a dessert recipe. A guest took a bite and shouted out to warn everyone not to touch the dessert. She said she always has a stock of very good ice cream in the freezer for such situations. So if the flourless chocolate cake turns sour or the soufflé flops, there’s always some really delicious ice cream on hand. And who doesn’t love an indulgent ice cream for dessert?

We say that practice makes perfect, but you can’t always perfect the dinner party, so I learned a lot of fun tips from hostesses on how to turn a potentially bad situation into a fun or memorable evening.

 

– What’s the funniest anecdote from the book? 

I think the funniest—or most telling—part of the book is the response to the question about what makes for a bad guest at a dinner party. Many hostesses I polled said a drunk was a bad guest (while many others suggested a drunk made for a good guest). I suppose it depends on what kind of conversation or mood an intoxicated guest can stir up at a party. The funniest response for me, though, was when one of the participants polled said a bad guest shows up late, and a very bad guest hits on your husband!

 

– What’s your next project?

I have a few ideas for another possible book with Assouline. I have truly loved the process of working with Martine and Prosper Assouline. Their luxury-book house is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, and they have an amazing aesthetic for luxe books and products. I never know where our initial thoughts or conversations will eventually lead me.

I’m also in the process of researching a historical Renaissance figure to whom I may or may not be related down the ancestral line. Either way, I’m working on a book about her exciting life and times. I’m also working on a performance piece with some theatrical producers. So I’m looking back in my family history and looking inward to potentially take to the stage myself.

Luxury Horseback Tours: Q&A with Equitrekking’s Darley Newman

For those who love to ride, seeing the world from the back of a horse makes for a perfect vacation. Darley Newman, who hosts the PBS show Equitrekking as well as several other travel-related shows and web-video series, has been riding since childhood. On her show, she takes viewers along on horseback through some of the world’s most exotic places. Her travel company also arranges horseback tours around the globe for vacationers.

Newman talked to Max Luxe about what drives her, what her days are like on the road, and where she’d like to go next.

 

– How did you get interested in luxury riding trips? 

Horseback riding is such a great way to see a new place and really immerse yourself in nature and culture. There are amazing luxury riding vacations all over the world in destinations as far flung as Jordan and as close to home as Virginia.

 

 – What’s your favorite place to ride on vacation?

I have a few favorite riding destinations in Ireland, Botswana, Turkey and throughout the American West and Southwest. In Ireland, Castle Leslie is wonderful and unique. The horses and riding are exceptional with hundreds of cross country jumps built by Willis Bros. of Badminton Horse Trials fame sprinkled throughout the private estate, which is still inhabited by its eccentric founding family. You can hang out with Irish aristocracy, unwind in the Victorian-themed spa and spend nights in this splendid castle. Each room is richly decorated with family antiques and fireplaces, great for relaxing after a day on horseback. Past guests have included Irish poet WB Yeats, Prince Pierre of Monaco, Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger and members of the Churchill family, to whom the Leslie family is related.

 

– What is your typical day like while you’re on the road shooting an episode?

Every day is different and an adventure when we’re filming for Equitrekking. We’re normally in some exotic destination riding horses and trying other adventures with locals, who are passionate about their home area and sharing its rich culture, cuisine and history. When we’re filming, days are long, as we’re always trying to take advantage of the light and capture the diversity of the destination so the viewer feels like they’ve come along for the adventure. We’ve filmed in some extraordinary locations, including the Royal Stables with HRH Princess Alia in Jordan, historic Blair Castle in Scotland’s Highlands and the wild lava fields of Iceland.

 

Equitrekking host Darley Newman riding in Botswana's Okavango Delta.

Equitrekking host Darley Newman riding in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

– What are the most popular trips that riders book with Equitrekking?

North American ranches and riding tours in Ireland are really popular. These trips are great for both first time riders and more experienced equestrians and can be a great choice for mixed groups, where some people want to ride horses and others want to fish, golf, go to the spa or do other sightseeing. We started Top20Ranches.com and the Equitrekking Vacation Guide to catalog some of the exceptional ranches and riding vacations we’ve discovered and make it easier for other people to find these often lesser publicized experiences.

 

– What’s a luxury destination for people interested in riding that’s under the radar?

If travelers want to combine some of the most amazing wildlife viewing with a luxury, classic safari camp, Botswana has great choices and is lesser known. I’ve traveled throughout, enjoying exciting riding and some of the best wildlife viewing in the world. One amazing place that is definitely lesser visited is the Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the world’s largest salt pans. You feel like you’re riding the surface of the moon in this remote, otherworldly locale, which has the best stargazing I’ve ever experienced. A great time to visit is during the wet season, when you can observe the last surviving migration of zebra and wildebeest in Southern Africa. I even got the chance to gallop with a herd of zebra and wildebeest. This is not for the faint of heart! For guests who want a truly memorable, stylish safari experience, stay at Jack’s Camp, an opulent tented oasis complete with Persian rugs, unusual African art and artifacts and private butler service.

Must-See Sights in Hoi An, Vietnam

Endless tropical pools at the Nam Hai resort.

Endless tropical pools at the Nam Hai resort.

Looking for your next Southeast Asian beach resort — with a deeply local history? Hoi An, a small trading port in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province, could be your pick. We asked friends of Max to tell us what they liked about their luxury vacation in the South China Sea beach town.

– Stay

All signs point to the opulent Nam Hai Hoi An, one of the GHM Hotels and a Leading Hotel of the World. This all-villa beach resort boasts tranquil private pools and stunning views. Feel free to bring children, who will enjoy the resort’s kids’ club. The food is one of the high points, our informants say. If you fall in love with the place, the villas (up to 5 bedrooms) are for sale, with personal butler service included.

– See

The resort is situated close to three UNESCO World Heritage sites: the old town of Hoi An, My Son and Hue.

Hoi An, UNESCO says,  is “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a small-scale trading port active from the 15th to 19th centuries” revealing the influence of  Japan, China, and Europe. The town has an abundance of temples and features a noted Japanese-style covered bridge with a pagoda.  Lanterns illuminate the town at night, and a special night market is devoted to lights.

Hoi An is an old trading port and life there still revolves around the water.

Hoi An is an old trading port and life there still revolves around the water.

My Son, a day trip from Hoi An, is the ancient capital of the Champa Kingdom, which flourished from the 4th to the 13th centuries. The site includes 71 stone towers dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It’s comparable in quiet magnificence and worldwide significance to Indonesia’s Borobudur temple and the Cambodian holy complex at Angkor Wat. Hue is another former capital, the seat of the Ngyuen dynasty, which ruled Vietnam from the early 1800s until 1945.

– Do

If lounging by your own pool is too passive for you, rent bikes and ride into the surrounding rice paddies or the local markets. You can also try a cyclo, a three-wheeled bike, which is ideal for touring the Old Town.

Locals traditionally fish using giant baskets. The hotel or a tour agency can arrange an outing where you can try this technique yourself.

For foodie travelers, the Nam Hai offers cooking classes that include excursions to market stalls with the hotel chef. Other culinary seminars off the resort are easy to find and can introduce you to local styles of cooking.

The area is famous for its tailors and some 400 of them are in business here. Stop in with a picture of your favorite dress, or any clothing item you love, and have a tailor replicate it for you.

 

In Vino Veritas: The War on Terroir

Drink what you like, not what you're told.

Drink what you like, not what you’re told.

We invited Ben Hammer, a passionate wine drinker and foodie, to contribute this guest post on how to think about wine choices. Ben is a strategic communications advisor for technology, media and entertainment companies. His firm, Hammer Strategies, is based in Washington, D.C.


By Ben Hammer

In Vino Veritas: In wine there is truth. They say alcohol is a form of social lubrication. Behind closed doors or in a front of a bar, with a trusted confidante, a nice glass of our favorite elixir poured by a friendly bartender can help us ease into our personal time and space. The one we own, not the one most of us rent out for the day when we work for someone else.

To see, smell and taste is to believe. Reading a description of a wine is a bit like reading a greeting card. It’s either funny (and it should not be if received as intended), or it’s too flowery to understand. No, the only way to really know what a wine tastes like is to try it. Ideally, try it with another human being with whom you have a real live connection. One never truly experiences something unless with another human being.

For me, wine is about opening up a time capsule that encompasses soil, dirty fingernails, hard work, families, reputation, and the new discovery of a particular vintage, grape and combination of wine, food, palate and conversation.

Some wine snobs will pontificate what you should and should not drink when it comes to wine. I’m not one of those people. If you ask, I’ll tell you what I’ve heard about what to pair with duck (Pinot Noir, preferably from Willamette, OR, for my taste Patricia Green Ribbon Ridge; or if you like yours with a bit of spice, from France); or shellfish or fresh fish (something white, not too sweet, possibly a Riesling or Gruner Veltiner).

But I would rather arm you with the tools to make your own decisions.

Want to buy a serviceable $5 pinot noir from Trader Joe’s? Look for the blue bottle with the fish on the front [Blue Fin Pinot Noir]. Want a case of a white blend for a party?  Go with the Eichinger Gruner Veltiner for about $12-15 per bottle or the Edmund St. John Hearts of Gold blend for about $22 a bottle if for a special occasion.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or should not do. That said, here are a few things you might enjoy.

The 5: Tips for sure bets.

  1. Decoy red blend, Duckhorn Vineyards, Napa, CA ~$20 bottle
  2. Heart of Gold white blend, Edmunds St. John, El Dorado, CA ~$20 bottle
  3. Birgit Eichinger, Hasel Gruner Veltiner, Kamptal, Austria ~$13 bottle
  4. Schramsberg, blanc de blancs, Brut, CA (Champagne style) $~40 bottle
  5. Anything from Willamette, OR; Mallorca, Spain; or Stellenbosch, S. Africa.

Send questions or a picture of your favorite wine to benhammer@zoho.com. Best email of the month will receive a free bottle of wine.  Subject to local and federal laws.

A Day in the Life of Restorsea CEO Patricia Pao

Restorsea CEO Patti Pao found her business idea in a salmon hatchery.

Restorsea CEO Patti Pao found her business idea in a salmon hatchery.

Founding and running a luxury skincare brand is exhausting: Patricia Pao, the CEO of New York City-based Restorsea, sleeps 4 hours a night without an alarm clock, has racked up 150,000 flight miles on United Airlines, and recently got back from Oslo (try Alex Sushi, she suggests; ask for Wolfgang, the co-owner and manager). She walks to work when in town. To relax, she relies on Pilates, guided meditation, and a trampoline. We asked Pao, a veteran beauty executive who started Restorsea three years ago, about her daily schedule, her own beauty regimen, and what she’s seeing in the skincare world. Perhaps her answers will provide inspiration for those of you reading who are thinking of creating your own cbd skincare brand at some stage in the near future.

– How did Restorsea come about?

When I graduated from Harvard Business School all I wanted to do is work in the beauty business. My poor dad asked me, “Why can’t you be an investment banker or consultant like everyone else?” My first job in the beauty business was with Avon. It was there that I learned that I was really good at finding new technologies and ingredients and turning them into blockbuster brands. I discovered the potential of glycolic acid as an anti-aging active ingredient and helped to create the billion-dollar Avon Anew franchise.

In August 2010, I was touring a salmon hatchery and saw that the workers’ hands, which were constantly submerged in the baby salmon post-hatching fluid, looked like they were 20 years old while their faces looked much older than their actual ages. The reason why is because of an enzyme that baby salmon release at birth. Unlike a chicken who can physically peck its way out of its eggshell, a baby salmon can’t get out of its eggshell unassisted. Therefore, when it is ready to be born, it releases an enzyme. This enzyme is designed to only dissolve the eggshell so that the baby salmon can swim safely out of the opening carved by the enzyme. When this enzyme is applied to human skin, it only dissolves the dead skin cells leaving the living skin cells untouched and able to thrive. Plus, we believe that the amniotic fluid from the eggshell has anti-aging properties and the eggshell fragments have skin strengthening properties. The workers’ hands, submerged in the post-hatching waters, were constantly exposed to this enzyme.

I spent a year formulating a day cream and an eye cream and in August 2011 I sent lab samples to beauty executive Pat Saxby at Bergdorf Goodman. A month later she called and said that she would take the brand. And that was the beginning of Restorsea.

– Walk us through a recent day in your life.

5:00AM Wake up, feed cats (Max & Peter) and bird (Woody), clean bird cage. Now I know what it’s like to live on an urban farm…
5:15AM Read The New York Times, WWD, WSJ. I read three newspapers every day.
5:30AM Jump in the shower and cleanse my face with Restorsea Reviving Cleanser and the latest lab sample of our Body Wash which will be launching in the first quarter of 2015.
6:30AM Assemble my nut mix for the office. We are trying to eat healthy. My nut mix recipe is: 1 cup of unsalted: macadamia nuts, cashew nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, dried cherries, dried apricots (chopped) and dried figs (chopped).
7:00AM Guided meditation with my instructor Naomi Ponce de Leon.
8:00AM Walk to the office. It’s about two miles, but I started doing this because since starting Restorsea, I barely have any time to exercise.
9:15AM Speak via phone or email with our MD Affiliates. These are licensed aesthetic physicians who recommend and give the Restorsea Regimen (Cleanser, Serum, Day Cream, Eye Cream) to their extremely loyal patients and in turn receive 10% of the orders for 10 years.
11:00AM Make a Starbucks run (Grande Misto). Sitting is the new smoking. It shortens our telomeres, which are responsible for aging. So I make a concerted effort to get up and walk around.
12:00PM Meet with NextBee to discuss developing Restorsea Rewards, a loyalty and referral program which we are planning to launch in the first quarter of 2015.
2:00PM Break for lunch. When I am in the office I make smoothies for everyone. Today’s recipe is: 2 cups of kale, 1 cup filtered water, 1 cup coconut water, ½ cup almond milk, 1 cup blueberries, ½ cup raspberries and 1 banana, and blend well. This recipe makes 2 servings.
3:00PM Meet with Restorsea Conference team regarding our conference schedule. Our weekends are spent exhibiting and speaking at medical conferences.
6:30PM Update with my co-founder and business partner, Muneer Satter. He is a genius. The universe gives all of us one gift—he is a very successful business man and is always six steps ahead of me. I say that when the money waterfall flows, I am running back and forth trying to catch the droplets. In contrast, Muneer has a huge dumpster positioned directly under the flow of the waterfall.
7:30PM Begin the walk home (in the pouring rain).
8:30PM Feed my cats.
9:30PM Write the weekly Restorsea newsletter, and answer MyRestorsea customer profile inquires. Our app, MyRestorsea (available in the iTunes store) enables you to 1) virtually “try on” the Day Cream and Eye cream, 2) complete a personalized skincare profile and send to me for 3) a custom consultation. From October 6-November 30 we will be offering a FREE Day Cream (value: $150) to the first 1,000 to download the app, fill out and send their personal profiles to me for a custom consultation. We pride ourselves on our customer service and answer all correspondence within 24 hours.
11:00PM I need to read for an hour before going to bed. I read between 3-6 books a week. I just finished reading The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancy and The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith; they are both great beach reads. I am re-reading Katherine Neville’s The Fire, A Calculated Risk and The Eight. For non-fiction, I am currently reading Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys and rereading one of my favorite business books, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

– What’s in your toiletry case when you travel?

For makeup: mascara (Black Ecstasy), lip/cheek color (Stila Convertible Color in Poppy), Nars: The Multiple Makeup Stick in Orgasm, Givenchy Waterproof Ombre Couture Cream Eye Shadow in Taupe, and Laura Mercier Tinted Foundation SPF 20 in Nude.

For skincare, I carry the following from Restorsea: Reviving Cleanser, Revitalizing Eye Cream, Rejuvenating Day Cream, 24kt Liquid Gold Face Oil, Repairing Neck and Decolletage Gel, Retexturizing Body Butter, and Revitalizing Scalp Treatment.

– What trends are you seeing in skincare today?

Face Oils: The concept was formulated in the ‘70’s by Shu Uemura. He believed (and was right) that in order to fight oil, you need oil. The tendency of people with oily skin is to strip the skin of the oil. By doing so, it tricks the body into thinking the skin is dehydrated and it actually starts producing more oil. Applying oil to the skin causes the body to regulate sebum production because it thinks that the skin is hydrated. I believe that face oil will be a part of the standard skincare regimen. To use face oils correctly, you need to pat on the oil over your moisturizer. Why? Because if you apply the oil before the moisturizer, you’re preventing the moisturizer from penetrating into the skin cells because it can’t pass through the oil. But if you apply the moisturizer first and then pat the oil on top, the oil creates a moisture barrier, sealing the moisturizer into the skin and preventing the air from making it dissipate.