TIME Travel

Snuggle Up Next to the Best Hotel Fireplaces

Post Ranch Inn, CA
Post Ranch Inn, CA Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn

Kindle your sparks by the light of these romantic hotel fireplaces

After a day out in the snowy Adirondacks, you pull up two chairs and a bottle of Cognac by the crackling fireplace at New York’s Whiteface Lodge, where a golden glow suffuses the dining room.

If you’ve been stuck in the winter doldrums, nothing will change your outlook on the season faster than a dose of heartwarming fireside romance—and that doesn’t require booking a trip some place frigid. We’ve road-tested hotel fireplaces the world over, from the California coastline to Chile’s starkly beautiful Atacama Desert, and added irresistible newcomers in Newfoundland, Australia, and Argentina. The most bewitching include historic hearths whose stones could tell a thousand stories as well as contemporary fireplaces in urban boutique hotels.

Some hotels treat guests to a gas fireplace in the privacy of your room, while others use a roaring fire to make a bold design statement at the center of the lobby or restaurant. Then there’s the hip, art-filled Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It’s most famous for the spa, which sports its own apothecary—and its own fireplace.

“The fireplace area in the lounge is a favorite spot for couples, who enjoy quiet, private time together before and after a couples’ massage or a hammam experience for two,” says Alondra Saldarriaga, manager of Spa Matilda. “The ambience is so intimate and romantic, with many candles burning, that one guest proposed to his girlfriend there.” Her answer? Sí, of course.

The love stories date back centuries at Ireland’s Ashford Castle, which was once the Guinness family estate. “The Ingelnook wooden fireplace surround has two Irish mythology figures carved into the wood,” explains Paula Carroll, Ashford’s director of sales and marketing. “These two figures are Diarmuid and Grainne, who were involved in a love triangle with Fionn MacCumhaill.” The imposing fireplace has inspired modern-day lovers—and also witnessed many proposals.

Whether your idea of the perfect fireside tryst involves snowy slopes or the African savanna, there’s just something about snuggling up with your loved one while gazing into the flames and nursing hot chocolate—or something a wee bit stronger—that sets the mood, on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Read on for the hotel fireplaces that are heating things up.

Calistoga Ranch, CA

This Napa Valley gem is a favorite among wine-country-touring lovebirds. Each of the 48 freestanding guest lodges centers around a double-sided, indoor-outdoor fireplace. That means you can snuggle from the plush comfort of the lounge room on one side to the private outdoor terrace on the other, below the canopy of stars and breathing in that pine-scented Napa air.

Tierra Atacama, Chile

The activities at this high-design lodge in Chile’s Atacama Desert include exploring vast salt flats and bubbling geyser fields, climbing volcanoes, and hiking through some of the world’s most arresting and otherworldly terrain. So it’s thrilling to come home to a convivial lounge area where the waiters mix perfect pisco sours and there’s always a fire burning in the artful modern hearth—a long stone bench on which flaming twigs are piled. Even more gratifying: sitting fireside or on the terrace (which has its own fire pits) and watching the sun set behind the brooding Licancabur Volcano.

XV Beacon, MA

One of Boston’s hippest hotels, this boutique player in Beacon Hill sports modern gas fireplaces with brushed stainless steel in every room, along with other top-shelf luxuries like cashmere throws, private bars stocked with premium spirits, and Italian marble bathrooms with rain showers. Reluctant to leave the comforts of your room? The hotel can arrange an in-room massage fireside.

Cottar’s Camp, Kenya

There’s nothing quite like a sundowner overlooking the savanna at dusk, as the African wilderness comes to life. That treat comes daily along with guided game drives at this lovely lodge at the edge of Kenya’s legendary Masai Mara game reserve. The camp meticulously re-creates the romance of the 1920s safari experience, down to individual tents filled with turn-of-the-century antique furnishings and liveried waiting staff. Four family-size tents come with crackling log fireplaces in the lounge area, an idyllic spot to gather for story swapping as night closes in on the Mara.

Hotel Matilda, Mexico

A relative newcomer to the artsy Spanish Colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, this boutique hotel is already renowned for its avant-garde contemporary art collection and a groundbreaking spa—guests can have locally sourced ingredients blended into customized formulas for treatments. The fireplace in the tranquil relaxation area is a favored spot for guests to bliss out before or after a couples massage or soak in the hammam.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Dating

These Are the 20 Best Cities for Singles

New York, NY
New York, NY Noe DeWitt

Here are the liveliest singles scenes, whether at bars, bookstores or bowling alleys

The singles scene in New York City is a little crazy, maybe even certifiably so.

“This is a city with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but only in the best ways,” says Rachel Harrison, a Brooklyn-based public relations exec. “You can dress a little wilder, slap on some fake eyelashes—you can do anything you want, at any age. There are no judgments.”

Unabashedly batting those faux lashes got the Big Apple more than a few second glances this year. New York City landed in the top 10 for the best cities for singles, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In this year’s America’s Favorite Places survey, readers ranked 38 cities on dozens of appealing qualities, including good-looking locals, cool shopping, and hipster-magnet coffee bars.

The winning cities in the singles-scene category excel in the off-hours, ranking highly for nightclubs, dive bars, and even great diners, where you might lock eyes with someone over a late-night order of fries.

But the most singles-friendly cities also put a creative spin on conventional meet-up spots. Plenty of big attractions—from the Brooklyn Museum to the San Diego Museum of Art—offer monthly happy hours, wooing artsy singles with cocktails and live music. In Boston, one of the coolest bookstores does Trivia Nights, while in downtown L.A. a popular bar stocks old-school video games.

Another strategy for uncovering a city’s best singles scene is exploring the activities that locals love most. “New Orleanians live and breathe festivals—like Jazz Fest, and even Creole Tomato Fest,” says native Stephen Schmitz. Just be warned: “The heat and humidity,” he says, “can make for a rough appearance.”

Read on for the full results. And make your point of view heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.

No. 1 Miami

Gorgeous locals, a wealth of nightclubs, and a wild streak as long as the beach: Miami climbed from second to first place this year, thanks to its flair for throwing a big party. Hot spots like Wall at the W South Beach or the Italian-restaurant-meets-cocktail-lounge Cavalli get a big boost when celebs grace the premises, whether it’s Bieber or the formerly single Clooney. Other trendy hangouts are a little more accessible to the non-red-carpet crowd: Tamarina, for one, features an oyster bar and alfresco champagne bar, plus a reasonably priced happy hour. You might meet other singles while strolling through galleries and past street art on the Wynwood Art Walks, held the second Saturday of the month. And in this otherwise well-dressed town, your best secret-weapon accessory may be a smile: readers found the locals to be a little aloof.

No. 2 Houston

Houston sashayed into the top five for singles this year, and why not—the locals ranked as both smart and stylish, and the city landed near the top for both its decadent barbecue and world-class art. Gallery Row, at the intersection of Colquitt and Lake streets, offers both great art and conversation starters: check out Hooks-Epstein for contemporary surrealists or Catherine Couturier Gallery for vintage photos. Houston also pulled off an upset by winning the wine bar category this year. Pull up a stool to chat at La Carafe—the city’s oldest bar, with a fabulous jukebox—or try the newbie, downtown’s Public Services Wine and Whisky, which is located in the old 1884 Cotton Exchange building and serves a wide range of global wines, sherries, and whiskeys.

No. 3 New Orleans

Last year’s No. 1 city for singles still knows how to whoop it up, ranking at the top of the survey for festivals, bars, and wild weekends. But a good singles experience in NOLA need not be limited to collecting beads: some cool places to meet a more local crowd, off the tourist grid, include the Saturday night dance party at the Hi-Ho Lounge in the Marigny; Bywater wine bar Bacchanal, with its live-music-filled courtyard; or Fulton Alley for late-night “boutique bowling,” with shareable, andouille-sausage tater tots.

No. 4 Austin, TX

The seat of Texas government is also the nation’s capital of hipsters, according to readers, who also ranked Austin No. 1 for cool locals. Given Austin’s high density of both college students and bearded Peter Pan types, the can’t-miss spots for meeting singles include dive bars and food trucks: you can find both at Wonderland on East 6th, a stylishly low-key bar that provides space outside for the Thai-flavored East Side King truck. To mingle with fellow foodies, check out The Picnic, a trailer park on Barton Springs Road, which is home to Turf N Surf Po’ Boy and Hey Cupcake! If you need an excuse to let down your emotional walls, consider that Austin also ranked well for feeling safe.

No. 5 Atlanta

The Georgia hub scored well for its java, and Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, a single-origin coffee and donut bar in Ponce City Market, is a fine place for a pick-me-up (and perhaps a pick-up line). If you prefer snobs of the burger variety, head to Holeman and Finch, where every night at 10 p.m., you can line up for one of the 24 acclaimed double-patty (grass-fed chuck and brisket) cheeseburgers, served on house-made buns. Atlanta’s residents also made the top 20 for being smart.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Travel

This is America’s Healthiest Airport

bwi-healthiest-airport
iStockphoto

Nearly all the restaurants in this airport offer at least one healthy, plant-based entrée

Travel plans in the near future don’t need to undo your newly minted resolutions, thanks to surge in healthful food offerings at airports across the country.

A recent survey showed that most restaurants at 75 percent of the nation’s busiest airports offer at least one healthy, veg-focused dish. This year’s healthiest airport, surprisingly, wasn’t highly ranked Portland International, or even body-conscious Tampa or star chef-studded JFK in New York.

Instead, it was Baltimore/Washington International Airport that took the top spot for its vegetable and hummus plates, gluten-free quinoa pasta, and locally sourced vegetable salads, just to name a few. Nearly all the restaurants in BWI offer at least one healthy, plant-based entrée.

Sure, you have to pass by Potbelly Sandwich and hand-shaken margaritas at Zona Cocina, but the selection of healthful options and nutrition-minded eateries (low-fat frozen yogurt at Tasti D’Lite; Nature’s Kitchen Fresh Café) have given BWI something to brag about.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

What You Need to Know About Traveling to Cuba

travel-to-cuba-what-you-need-to-know
American flag with signboard of Cuba Southernmost Point, Key West, Fla. © F1online digitale Bildagentur GmbH / Alamy

There are 12 types of travel that are permitted, including family visits, journalistic activities, professional research and meetings

It’s happening, people. Travel to Cuba just got as little easier, thanks to a new set of regulations that take effect today and expand on President Obama’s recent policy changes.

The Department of Treasury dropped the amended regulations on the lap of tour operators and others with a stake in travel to Cuba yesterday morning. Just how quickly these changes can and will be implemented remains foggy—as do some of the particulars, which will likely be hashed out in the coming days and weeks. So watch this space.

In the meantime, for a sense of what the new regulations mean, we reached out to T+L’s trusted network of travel specialists for more insights. (A big hat tip to GeoEx, an operator that has been active in the country for several years, for help deciphering these regulations.)

Here’s what we know:

  • All travel to Cuba must still meet certain activity-related requirements. There are 12 types of travel that are permitted, including family visits, journalistic activities, professional research and meetings, educational activities, public performances, and religious activities.
  • “People-to-people travel,” the most common way most Americans currently now experience the country, is considered a form of educational travel that promotes meaningful exchanges between U.S. citizens and Cubans. It is officially still subject to “appropriate conditions” (meaning certain activities, such as going to the beach, are not permitted) and requires some sort of guide or agent to accompany travelers. In other words, you will still need to visit with a licensed tour operator.
  • Some operators are anticipating that the requirements and enforcement of people-to-people itineraries will soon be relaxed—meaning that even on these structured trips, you could more or less be able to travel through the island as you choose.
  • The new Treasury regulations lay the groundwork for a more simplified, general license for all types of travel to Cuba, which could open the door for more tours (and tour operators) bringing Americans to the country.
  • That said, the tourism infrastructure in Cuba remains very limited. It will be difficult for new companies to deliver meaningful experiences—for now.
  • Commercial flights are now authorized to Havana, but don’t expect them to start immediately (though U.s. carriers are already champing at the bit). Logistically, they will likely take several months to implement. So for the time being, it’s charter flights only from the States.
  • Americans can now bring back up to $400 in souvenirs home with them—that includes $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco.
  • U.S. travelers can also now use their credit cards in Cuba—a change that exists only on paper until U.S. financial institutions actually develop a presence in the country.

In essence, new flights, new tours and tour companies, and new ways to explore the island are coming soon. “Although things are sure to change in Cuba, we are viewing the regulatory amendments as very positive, and are excited about the possibilities.” says Jennine Cohen, the managing director for the Americas at GeoEx.

What remains to be seen is how long it will take to build up the tourism infrastructure in Cuba to meet increasing demand from Americans—and what this new tourism infrastructure will look like. “It is going to take a significant amount of time for Cuba to be considered a prime destination for tourists,” says Dan Sullivan, President and CEO of Collette tours.

In the meantime, the best experiences will be offered by operators who know the country well—and have relationships and connections already in place. We recommend GeoEx, Collette, InsightCuba, G Adventures and Smithsonian Journeys.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

The 16 Best Small-Town Museums in the U.S.

Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University Paul Warchol

These museums offer outsize collections of Impressionist paintings, modern installations, and folk art—without the big-city crowds

The first significant new museum of American art in nearly half a century debuted in 2011. But to view Crystal Bridges’ collection—from a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington to Jackson Pollock canvases—you don’t travel to New York, L.A., or Chicago. You head down a forested ravine in a town in northwestern Arkansas.

As museum founder and Walmart heiress Alice Walton scooped up tens of millions of dollars’ worth of art from across the country, thinly veiled snobbish rhetoric began to trickle out from the coasts. Most notably, when she purchased Asher B. Durand’s 1849 Kindred Spirits from the New York Public Library for $35 million, some culturati bristled at the thought that this famed Hudson River School landscape would be leaving for Bentonville. The controversy raised the question: who deserves access to great art?

Yet a small town is precisely the kind of place where a stellar art collection fits in. After all, coastal hamlets, mountaintop villages, and desert whistle-stops have inspired American artists for generations, among them, the Impressionists of Connecticut’s Old Lyme Colony and the minimalist installation artists who more recently gentrified Marfa. Where else can you find the mix of affordable rents, access to inspiring natural vistas, and enough peace and quiet to actually get work done?

Many small towns also offer detour-worthy museums, some housed in spectacular historic spaces—old factories, former army bases, Beaux-Arts estates, Victorian mansions—and others built from scratch by internationally renowned architects like Zaha Hadid and Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron. And with works inside just as varied, from landscape paintings at the Taos Art Museum to minimalist installations at Dia:Beacon to American folk art at the Shelburne, you’re sure to find a small-town art museum to suit any artistic taste.

Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT

When iron industrialist Alfred A. Pope began buying French Impressionist masterpieces, the movement was still stirring outrage across Europe for its radical departure from tradition. But you’d never know it from the intimate, even cozy, atmosphere at the Hill-Stead Museum, which places these works in the same context in which Pope would have enjoyed them—surrounded by antiques and period Federal-, Chippendale-, and Empire-style furnishings in his hilltop estate outside of Hartford. Like the works you’ll find inside, by Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, and Édouard Manet, the house itself now seems lovely and genteel. But it also comes with a radical backstory: the Colonial Revival mansion, completed in 1901, was designed by Pope’s own daughter, only the fourth registered female architect in American history. $15; hillstead.org.

Ohr-O’Keefe Museum, Biloxi, MS

Biloxi’s Ohr-O’Keefe Museum raises many questions. You might wonder what an avant-garde museum is doing in a Gulf Coast beach town known for its casinos and sunshine. Or how starchitect Frank Gehry got involved in a project dedicated to obscure 19th-century ceramicist George Ohr. Or how this place is even still standing. During construction, Hurricane Katrina slammed an unmoored casino barge directly into the unfinished buildings. Any lack of logic seems appropriate in honoring Ohr, a true eccentric who dubbed himself the Mad Potter of Biloxi and was known for his delightfully misshapen, brightly colored pottery. Opened in 2010 in a thicket of live oaks, the museum encompasses brick-and-steel pavilions, twisted egg-shaped pods, and examples of 19th-century vernacular architecture, with galleries on African American art, ceramics, and Gulf Coast history. $10; georgeohr.org.

The Huntington, San Marino, CA

San Marino is named for the tiny republic on the Italian peninsula. And it’s an appropriate connection for the Huntington, where the vibe is distinctly European, thanks to 120 manicured acres (reserve ahead for the Tea Room, surrounded by a rose garden) and a collection skewed to Old World classics. The Huntington Art Gallery has the largest collection of 18th- and 19th-century British art outside of London—including works by Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. Other galleries within this Beaux-Arts estate cover Renaissance paintings and 18th-century sculpture as well as the furniture of Frank Lloyd Wright and paintings by Mary Cassatt and Edward Hopper. A Gutenberg Bible from the 1450s and an illuminated manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are among the library’s gems. $20.

Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, MI

College towns offer more than beautiful campuses, tradition-rich bars, and football. Many can also brag about world-class art collections. Case in point: Michigan State University’s new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. It’s the first-ever university building designed by Pritzker Prize–winner Zaha Hadid and only her second project in North America. The corrugated stainless steel and glass facade juts sharply like a ship—or perhaps more accurately a spaceship—run aground. While the collection is primarily contemporary, the curators included some classic works to better contextualize the newer acquisitions. So you can expect Old Master paintings, 19th-century American paintings, and 20th-century sculpture, along with artifacts from ancient Greece, Rome, and the pre-Columbian Americas. Free; broadmuseum.msu.edu.

Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY

Low-slung and shedlike, with its corrugated tin roof and parallel 615-foot slabs of poured concrete, Eastern Long Island’s newest art museum features a style that might be called Modern Agricultural. Surrounded by a meadow of tall grasses on the long road to Montauk, the museum is a minimalist stunner that’s perfectly suited to its surroundings: the long horizontal space speaks both to the uninterrupted horizons of the region’s famed beaches and to the unfussy simplicity that first attracted artists like Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning. Inside, under an ever-changing glow from skylights above, the collection honors the generations of artists who called this area home, such as American Impressionist William Merritt Chase and mid-century realist Fairfield Porter. In 2014, it won Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron a T+L Design Award for best museum. $10; parrishart.org.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Food & Drink

These Are the Best New Restaurants in the World

best-new-restaurants-la-bonne-table-tokyo
Tetsuya Miura

In 11 of the world’s most compelling food capitals, neo-traditionalists, upstart iconoclasts, and ingredient obsessives are setting new culinary standards

Turn off Istanbul’s frenetic Istiklal Street, and pull up a seat at Yeni Lokanta, the modern meyhane of the moment. Chef Civan Er’s small plates feature heirloom Turkish foodstuffs like “burnt” Denizli yogurt atop green beans and beef ribs roasted in a wood-burning oven.

In seeking out the best new restaurants, we peripatetic editors at Travel + Leisure were hungry for more than just great meals. We were holding out for locales like Yeni Lokanta that serve up a distinct sense of place—ones that help travelers tap into the essence a destination. Our resulting list of favorites will direct you to the newcomers that are shaping the restaurant scenes in the world’s most exciting food cities.

In Mexico City, for instance, you can get a sampling of all the D.F.’s latest food trends by stopping into the stylishly casual food hall Mercado Roma. Hop from one kitchen to the next, snacking on chile-spiked pozole, clam and chorizo stew, and squid torta.

Philadelphia has become one of America’s most exciting food cities, and you’ll appreciate why after dining at Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook’s Dizengoff, where even the chickpea purées are memorable, especially when topped with zucchini and za’atar.

We found notable restaurants that run the gamut of dining experiences, from a posh new spot in London’s Claridge’s hotel—Fera, an ode to British terroir by star chef Simon Rogan—to a humble noodle joint on a Tokyo backstreet.

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles food revolution that kicked off a few years ago is gathering strength, powered by unrivaled California produce, daring young chefs, a United Nations of ethnic cuisines, and, yes, a dash of Hollywood glamour. While most TV celebrity chefs are peddling overpriced comfort food, Curtis Stone, the Australian heartthrob ofTop Chef Masters fame, has caused a sensation with his thoughtful and utterly original Maude, in Beverly Hills. In the chic, rustic space, Stone presents multicourse market menus themed around a single ingredient. Fall pears show up as “snow” atop briny oysters and as a gelée highlighting a veal cheek; in winter he celebrates citrus with tangerine-glazed chicken terrine. We love the tables, set with vintage silver and china and inspired by the kitchen of Curtis’s own grandmother, Maude. Among the city’s rising stars: Kris Yenbamroong, the Thai wunderkind with an NYU film degree, who counted the likes of René Redzepi and Wylie Dufresne among fans of his pop-up dinners. At Night & Market Song, his permanent Silver Lake digs (both spare and ironically garish), he presents hyper-vivid, authentic northern Thai dishes like grilled pork neck with a bracingly spicy jaew chile dip, and hor ab, an intensely aromatic tamale of catfish and pork fat in a banana-leaf bundle. Along La Brea Avenue, the soaring 1929 building that housed onetime celebrity haunt Campanile has been reborn as the even more gorgeous République. Headed by Walter and Margarita Manzke, the brasserie stays open around the clock, whether for an early-morning blood-orange brioche or a late-night negroni blanc, scrambled eggs with sea urchin on toast, and the best frites west of Paris.

Istanbul

This megalopolis has always charmed us with its mix of waterside fish restaurants, smoky kebab joints, and drinking dens known as meyhanes serving sumptuous meze. But lately, local chefs and glamorous out-of-towners alike have been invigorating the restaurant scene. Massimo Bottura, Italy’s most famous chef, debuted his first outpost, Ristorante Italia, at the posh Zorlu shopping center. Instead of reprising hits from his avant-garde Osteria Francescana in Modena, the chef presents thoughtful distillations of pan-Italian classics: an osso buco cooked at a super-low temperature for 25 hours with bone marrow enriching the sauce, or a deconstructed tiramisu so light it practically floats off the table. Off frenetic Istiklal Street, tile-clad Yeni Lokanta is the modern meyhane of the moment. We’re dazzled by chef Civan Er’s small plates, updated with heirloom foodstuffs like “burnt” Denizli yogurt atop green beans, walnut-studded sucuk sausage, and beef ribs roasted in a wood-burning oven. And in the gentrifying Balat district, Turkish film director Ezel Akay has resurrected the iconic 125-year-old Agora Meyhanesi, where raki flows once again and the herb- and pomegranate-laced salads, flash-fried petals of liver, and sizzling squid set a new standard for meze.

New York City

Though the city’s high-voltage restaurant scene assures thrills for all wallets and moods, our favorites now are places with focused menus and big personalities. Downtown glamour meets uptown polish—with nostalgic echoes of Mitteleuropa—at Bâtard, from über-host Drew Nieporent and Austrian chef Markus Glocker. An octopus “pastrami,” bewitched into a Gaudí-like mosaic terrine, and hand-pulled strudel filled with apples, raisins, and sweetbreads are among Glocker’s assured neoclassical dishes. Having first triumphed in Tokyo, the Long Island–born noodle master Ivan Orkin set up the lively Ivan Ramen on Clinton Street, where he creates witty Japanese-American mash-ups like Amish-scrapple waffles masquerading as okonomiyaki pancakes. Which dish wins? It’s a toss-up between the triple-garlic, triple-pork mazemen, with compulsively slurpable whole-wheat noodles, and the rye-enriched ramen in a sinus-clearing red-chili broth. In the East Village, Huertas, a Basque gem from two young veterans of the Danny Meyer hospitality school, seduced us with its enticing tapas—plush jamón croquetas, adorable shrimp-and-egg canapés—as well as chef Jonah Miller’s tasting menu, with its earthy-sweet pairing of cockles and wild mushrooms, and suckling pig served with an Asturian bean-and-chorizo stew. Meanwhile, Danny Meyer himself has an instant classic, the new Roman-themed Marta. It’s the convivial scene behind the long marble counter that wooed us, along with the wafer-thin pizzas and perfectly grilled lamb chops. And isn’t it nice to bond with a stranger over glasses of Fruilian Ribola Gialla?

Mexico City

Ever since the avant-garde fireworks at restaurants like Quintonil and Pujol established Mexico City as one of the world’s top food destinations, the D.F. has been looking inward, with humbler cooking that explores the country’s own food traditions. Alejandro Ruiz, the powerhouse chef from Oaxaca who revitalized that region’s food scene, opened Guzina Oaxaca in Polanco. His menu is both anthropological and sensual, with dishes like caldo de piedra, a pre-Hispanic shrimp soup cooked over hot river rocks and perfumed with anise-y hoja santa and epazote. In gentrifying Zona Rosa, behind the cheery turquoise façade of De Mar a Mar, seafood whisked in from Baja and Puerto Ángel is the star of the menu devised by Pujol-trained Eduardo García. Everything at this lovable urban beach shack is so tasty it’s impossible to stop ordering more sashimiesque tuna laminado and sweet battered shrimp folded into hand-patted tortillas. To try everything that’s going on in the city at once, head to Colonia Roma. It’s a blast perching on stools and sampling from each kitchen at Mercado Roma: chile-intensive pozole from José Guadalupe, a stew of pristine Pacific coast clams and chorizo from La Ahumadora, and La Barraca Valenciana’s squid torta with garlicky mayo created by El Bulli veteran José Miguel Garcia.

Sydney

Australia’s largest metropolis may have a reputation for the big, the obvious, and the showy, but the city’s restaurants have recently taken a turn toward the small, the unusual, and the understated. Mitch Orr, an alumnus of Italy’s vaunted Osteria Francescana, creates house-made pastas at Acme and prepares them in ways your nonna never imagined. That might mean linguine given a wok-like scorch with black garlic and burnt chiles or Filipino-inspired vinegar-tangy pork topped with a raw yolk and paired with immaculate hand-cut macaroni. In Redfern, a neighborhood on the rise, Eun Hee An and Ben Sears have traded the white tablecloths of their fine-dining backgrounds for spare furnishings and concrete floors at Moon Park. What the restaurant may lack in design it more than makes up for with its witty reimagining of Korean cuisine. Is that a glimmer of Scandinavia in that ssäm wrap of smoked eel and puffed rice presented on a nasturtium leaf? Or in the classic pajeon pancake topped by tufts of mackerel “floss”? In another nod to the Far East, the rambunctious, izakaya-inspired Cho Cho San is Sydney’s love letter to Japan: chef Nic Wong’s lamb cutlets are spiked with sancho pepper, and the gingery tatakiis made with prime Australian beef. Sydney’s go-to restaurant of the moment is inarguably Ester, a low-key spot where Mat Lindsay coaxes morsels of surprising elegance and originality from his wood-fired oven: lobster sausage on steamed bread updates the classic Aussie sausage sandwich with great success, not least when it’s paired with Si Vintners’ lovely pale Pinot Noir Rosé.

Read the full list HERE.

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These Travel Instagram Accounts Will Inspire Extreme Wanderlust

road trip
Getty Images

Daredevil Instagrammers go to extremes to capture spectacular travel images

Toronto native Tom Ryaboi—better known by his Instagram handle @roof_topper—has “been on more roofs than Santa Claus,” shooting gorgeous, vertigo-inducing skyline images. He and other rooftoppers worldwide have gained notoriety and sizable followings for Instagramming from buildings, bridges, and other urban sites that are sometimes off limits.

They’re part of a bigger trend of Instagrammers who seek out extreme vantage points, whether sharing a selfie taken on the head of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue or shooting from the ocean itself as lava enters the water and a wave crests. The artists hail from all ends of the creative spectrum: hipsters who dare to sneak into subway tunnels or abandoned theaters as well as established pros who got their start at magazines. (It’s even been reported that a few pilots have Instagrammed from the cockpit.)

“Instagram is the new portfolio,” says National Geographic photographer Chad Copeland, who captures action shots of climbers, skiers, surfers, and divers, as well as hard-to-reach natural landscapes. “When people find you now, it’s through Instagram, and they want to see what you’re doing every day.”

Former BMX pro Mike Escamilla was already jumping out of airplanes and breaking world records when he decided to start taking pictures of his feats and posting them on Instagram. And as a storm chaser for KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, Reed Timmer gets paid to track foul weather, using his Instagram feed as a way to showcase daring photography as much as a public alert system.

While some of these photographers still prefer to use high-quality DSLR cameras, it’s the new generation of smartphones and GoPro action cams that has really empowered Instagrammers. GoPro makes it easy to record yourself from any angle in mid-stunt, and the camera functions on smartphones—along with the speed of the networks for uploading images to social media networks—just keep getting better. Ashley McKinney, for one, shoots exclusively with an iPhone 6.

Equipment and editing tools are only part of the equation. Some of the most attention-grabbing Instagrams require significant reconnaissance and creative thinking. Ryaboi’s current favorite image features a man slacklining between two buildings, with the CN Tower visible in the distance. “This was something we planned and worked on for several months,” he admits.

There are hundreds of such Instagrammers pushing the boundaries of the medium every day. We don’t suggest joining them, but do find it fascinating to explore their images. Start here.

@daniel__lau

The Instagram scene is booming in Hong Kong, where photographer Daniel Lau is based. He shoots with a Canon EOS 700D from tops of bridges, construction sites, even hotels. And his feed features one death-defying vantage point after another, whether his own selfies or the handiwork of his rooftop-photography pals @lawrencedehk, @beerkus, and @sidorovv. “This photo was taken with a Canon EOS 7D by my friend Dex,” he recalls. “We were on that roof under a typhoon signal, hoping to chase the storm. The suspending ledge was even vibrating.” Doesn’t he ever get scared? “No, but I don’t consider what I’m doing to be daredevil stuff,” he says, “because I don’t feel fear doing it.”

Reaching our goal step by step… #Exthetics website coming soon. Photo taken by @d_sights

A photo posted by #Exthetics (@daniel__lau) on

@thiagomlcorrea

Countless tourists have snapped photos of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, but native Thiago ML Correa ups the ante. His feed is full of similarly dramatic, sunlit shots from across Brazil, Australia, and South Africa. He’s captured mountaintop yoga poses with his girlfriend, cliff diving near Rio, and hanging from a rock on Pedra da Gávea, the right equipment at the ready. “I use the GoPro Hero4 Black when I’m in the water or climbing, the Canon 60D when I’m doing a planned daredevil shot, and the iPhone 5S when I just want to take a spontaneous photo,” Correa explains. Always the adventurer, Correa grew up cliff diving at a secret spot in Rio’s Urca district. He won’t name it, but says he plans to shoot an image there soon.

🎶Cause I am still in love with that place🎶🙏😍 🔝 #gopro #riodejaneiro

A photo posted by @thiagomlcorrea on

@chadcopeland

To get great images of adventurers, you have to be one yourself. National Geographic photographer Chad Copeland learned survival tactics and other important skills during 10 years in the U.S. Air Force. “I have to do what the athletes are doing,” he says. “Sometimes I have to do it better, and then get out in front of them before they do it.” Copeland’s Instagram feed covers “all three realms,” as he puts it—air, land, and sea—everything from BASE jumpers to Icelandic ice caves to surfers. This featured image, shot in Utah’s Zion National Park with a Nikon D4 DSLR with a 24mm, 1.8 lens, shows a climber tackling a formation known as the Zicicle, which freezes only every decade or so. Timing wasn’t the only challenge. “Normally I’d fly my unmanned aircraft, but since drones are illegal in national parks, I had to resort to climbing myself,” he says.

@daveedgamboa

David Gamboa was one of the first to embrace the hashtag #Jumpstagram. For his first attempt, he climbed up to one edge of Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A. He shoots primarily on Android devices, rather than popular-with-the-creative-set iPhones. Lately, he uses a Nexus 5 and the first-generation Samsung Galaxy Camera, then edits in the device with VSCO Cam or in Instagram, where he prefers the Rise, Sierra, and Amaro filters. Why not use a DSLR and Adobe Lightroom as so many of his fellow Instagram photographers do? “I like the challenge,” he says. “The creativity it requires for people to shoot from a phone, especially an Android phone, and to push the boundaries of these devices.” This Instagram was taken on a mountain hike path where Gamboa lives in southern California—he’s a marketing major at Cal State Fullerton—and used the tripod-mounted unit’s 10-second timer. Gamboa increased his height by jumping off the edge of a bench.

Gravity release me and don't ever hold me down, now my feet won't touch the ground.

A photo posted by David Gamboa (@daveedgamboa) on

@humzadeas

Humza Deas gained some notoriety in 2014 as a subject in a story on “outlaw” Instagrammers in New York magazine, and he remains one of the more prolific among the urban exploration crowd, shooting from the top of the Williamsburg Bridge at sunrise (see below) and on train tracks in the Bronx. (He was using a Canon Rebel XTi until he recently acquired a Canon 6D DSLR with an L series lens.) But Deas snaps more than selfies and scenery. “I love to incorporate others into my pictures; I’ll ask friends to sit on the edge of a building,” he says. “I carry around a remote timer, too.”

I can't love you this much.

A photo posted by Humza Deas™ (@humzadeas) on

 

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Tourists’ Trash Caused the Oddly-Colored Geysers at Yellowstone, Study Finds

Morning glory
Morning Glory Pool at Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Tourist damage is not new for the beloved national park

For anyone who’s visited visited Yellowstone, our nation’s first national park, and marveled at the the vibrant hues of its hot springs—indigos, vermillions, and chartreuses—there’s evidence to suggest that the park’s technicolor spectacle is actually the result of tourist trash—tossed pennies, trash, and random objects.

A recent study conducted by the University in Montana and Germany’s Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences has determined that the thermal springs used to be a deep blue, but vandalism, especially to the Morning Glory Pool, has resulted in a rainbow of colors. And there’s no telling yet the true toll this abuse.

Tourist damage is not new: After WWII in 1947, a park geologist removed 55 wheelbarrows of debris from Yellowstone’s geysers and springs.

With the study’s findings as hard evidence, the national park system can begin an education campaign for visitors to help preserve some of our most precious—and fragile—national treasures. So next time you’re at Yellowstone (or any other park) and want to make a wish by tossing a coin into its gorgeous geysers, save it and donate to the U.S. National Parks Service instead.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Food & Drink

Toast Portlandia’s 5th Season With This Weird Oregon Vodka

Rogue Ales teamed up with Portland’s iconic Voodoo Doughnut

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Vodka Rogue

When the producers of IFC’s Portlandia went looking for a beer partner for seasons 1 and 2, it’s clear why they chose Oregon’s Rogue Ales. The Fred Armisen-Carrie Brownstein series, which began not-so-gently skewering hipster culture in Portland four years ago, is, shall we say, idiosyncratic. And Rogue, based in Newport, is equally eccentric. So with the launch of Portlandia’s fifth season on Jan. 8, we thought it was only fitting to find out what Rogue has been up to lately. Also, they sent us a bottle of seriously strange vodka, which piqued our interest.

Rogue Ales and sister Rogue Spirits have been collaborating with local purveyors to create one-of-a-kind beverages in an initiative they call “A Collision of Crazies.” In the case of the vodka, they teamed up with Portland’s iconic Voodoo Doughnut, whose pink boxes are a common sight among tourists (and locals) who willingly wait in line for up to 30 minutes to buy some of the planet’s oddest doughnut creations. And when a doughnut company—especially one that sells branded bikini underwear and 3D glasses in its online merch store—is partly responsible for creating a vodka, you can be assured it is not a drink you will have tasted before. The result: Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Vodka. (See below for a sampling of no-nonsense reviews from some of my colleagues.) Retailing for around $40 a bottle, the vodka is available at retail outlets in 40 states or by contacting Rogue via its website.

This is not the first time Rogue has partnered with Voodoo Doughnut; they’ve also collaborated on a series of popular beers, including Chocolate, Banana & Peanut Butter Ale, a nifty time-saver for those who like to get tipsy while eating dessert.

Another new release from the ale side of the aisle is One Brew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in support of the University of Oregon’s Ken Kesey Collection. Kesey, of course, is the Oregon author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest who notoriously led the Merry Pranksters in the LSD-fueled Acid Tests of the 1960s—which prompted me to wonder what in the heck Rogue was putting in that beer. Turns out the brew is rich, frothy, toasty, and strong, but I’m pretty sure there is nothing illicit in the ingredients. It’s available online at $13 for a .75-liter bottle.

Other local partners who have had the courage to link arms with Rogue include the Oregon National Guard, the Oregon Zoo, Portland International Airport, and even Keiko, the orca of “Free Willy” fame.

So if you’re looking for refreshments for Portlandia’s fifth season, you might consider raising a glass of bacon maple vodka and offering a toast with the now infamous phrase, “Put a bird on it!”

Amateur But Heartfelt Reviews of Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Vodka

“Smells sweet and burning. It might be better if it’s chilled. It’s got a creamy after-taste.”

“I have to go to a board meeting tonight. I really shouldn’t be smelling like bacon maple vodka.”

“It reminds me of a maple-rum hot toddy.”

“Hey, it tastes better than it smells!”

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

You Can Now Buy Art From a Vending Machine

SouveNEAR
SouveNEAR vending machine SouveNEAR

Here's a quick solution if you forgot to pick up a souvenir for your loved one

There’s a new way to experience local flavor at the Kansas City airport. A recently installed vending machine in Terminal B dispenses not food but products made by local artisans.

SouveNEAR, a new company that seeks out and showcases local artists, curates and sells goods as mementos for travelers. Instead of generic mugs and mass produced t-shirts stamped with a city name, visitors can try locally designed products. Stationary, soaps, artwork and jewelry are some of travel-sized gifts, ranging from $2.50 to $40.

Aside from the vending machine in KCI, SouveNEAR goods are also sold at the Nelson-Atkins Museum Store in Kansas City, Missouri, and a few locations in Kansas. Due to a great response from consumers, the company hopes to expand to more locations and other cities by summer of 2015.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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