SMITH brings a touch of worldly European flair to Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park with its new brasserie Pascal & Sabine. This is the fifth downtown Asbury restaurant from SMITH, a design and hospitality collective I covered in an article for Travel + Leisure this past October.
Reminiscent of another time and place, Pascal & Sabine has touches of Belle Epoque Paris with its copper and brass espresso machine, an Art Deco façade and design influences from French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse’s playful classic, The Red Balloon. The name of the restaurant is inspired by Lamorisse’s children Pascal and Sabine, who played lead roles in the short film.
The dining room is outfitted with sumptuous leather chairs and banquettes, marble tables, vintage mirrors, and floor-to-ceiling windows with flooding light illuminating the circular lounge bar.
The main bar seats 18 and serves stiff drinks to tipple in the rosy shadows thrown by the antique brass table lamps, while the front lounge is worthy of a Saturday evening Gertrude Stein salon.
While you’re getting comfortable and possibly a bit nostalgic, Grace Crossman and Paul Holzheimer will wow you back to reality with culinary delicacies like Duck Confit (seared duck breast, swiss chard, fingerling potatoes and duck jus), Bouillabaisse (Provençal fish broth, mixed seafood) and Pork Terrine (potato cake, shaved celery salad, crème fraîche, jus). The menu is simple yet refined, balanced with meat, seafood and vegetables.
The desserts are a sinful finale of Chocolate Mousse (flourless chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, crème anglaise), Tarte Tatin (puff pastry, caramelized apple, vanilla bean crème fraîche) and Poached Pear (cream, spiced port reduction).
Pascal & Sabine is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. When you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, just pop into the restaurant’s backdoor bread shop for a freshly baked baguette to go.
Pascal & Sabine www.pascalandsabine.com 601 Bangs Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712 732-774-3395 Open 7 days a week; 8am – 12am (Sunday – Thursday); 8am – 2am (Friday and Saturday)
For the past month I haven’t been writing much for Patchwork Compass because I kicked off the New Year working on a few dream-come-true projects that have been keeping me quite busy.
I have been officially named AFAR magazine’s Mendoza Local Expert and for the past month I’ve been tirelessly writing AFAR.com’s Mendoza travel guide. It’s been an all-consuming adventure of research, networking, exploration, writing, and photography.
I have learned so much about the city in such a short time and have met some incredible entrepreneurs in the process. By March 1st, I’ll have a comprehensive city-guide to share, which I will be updating every three months with additional travel tips. Many of these experiences will surely find their way onto the virtual pages of Patchwork Compass as well.
I am also scouring the continent as Travel + Leisure’s South American Stringer to find the best of what’s new in the southern hemisphere. I can tell you one thing, Ecuador’s eco-lodges have just made their way onto my bucket list.
A new travel video series has become a passion project I’m developing with the talented English journalist Amanda Barnes, who has been living in Argentina for the past four years. I look forward to sharing more details as we nurture this project to life.
In the midst of all of these endeavors I attempted to create a spreadsheet of measurable goals and deadlines with a template I downloaded from author Chris Guillebeau’s website. But I felt like the joy and inspiration was being sucked out of me every time I sat down to write them. I settled on just creating a theme for the year instead, which will guide my goals, dreams and desires for 2014.
Delving deeper into my meditation practice is an intention I have for this year. While I was reading some information about meditating and mindfulness I found this insightful bit of wisdom from Thai meditation master Ajhan Chah and it really spoke to me.
It also helped me put into perspective all the goals I thought should be on my to do list that I’ve since released. I’m making a conscious effort to not put too much attention on the future this year, but rather focus my energy on the here and now with gratitude and present moment awareness, letting the future take care of itself.
Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. If you haven’t wept deeply, you haven’t begun to mediate.
Entre Cielos, which translates to “between heavens” and “between skies,” is a holistic hospitality concept nurtured to life by three Swiss friends in the foothills of Mendoza, Argentina.
Daniela Wäger-Spreafico, David Wäger, and Cécile Adam dreamed of a wine hotel and spa where guests could reconnect with themselves, commune with nature, sip wine, and delight in impeccable gastronomic experiences. A worldwide pursuit for the perfect location led the group of three to Vistalba, Mendoza, where they invested their savings to purchase a 20-acre plot of land with sweeping views of the Andes mountains.
In 2009, they built a modern boutique hotel featuring 16 individually-designed luxury rooms and suites overlooking the mountainous landscape, including a floating wine loft in the vineyard. Entre Cielos also features Latin America’s first authentic six-stage circuit hamam spa, a lush eight-acre vineyard producing a crop of delicious Malbec wines, and a host of traditionally-inspired dining experiences.
I caught up with Entre Cielos Vice President and Founder Cécile Adam, who spends her time on-property greeting guests and fulfilling the hotel’s promise of quality and personalized service.
Q: Why did you choose Mendoza, Argentina as the location for Entre Cielos?
A: We started with a handful of destinations on the list, but narrowed down the options to France and Argentina. Argentina won because it was very welcoming to outside investment and has a strong European influence. Mendoza beat out Buenos Aires and Cordoba because of its burgeoning wine scene, growing tourism industry, sunny climate, and impressive view of the Andes. It’s also close to Chile’s Santiago Airport, making it easily accessible for international travelers. Additionally, Mendoza scored high on the criteria we used to evaluate potential destinations including quality of life, education, business opportunities, health programs, security, environment, outdoor activities, and approachable culture. Meeting these conditions was crucial to inspiring friends and family to join us on this journey.
Q: How did you get into winemaking?
A: The three of us are big wine aficionados and part of our dream was to learn how to make wine. The land we purchased for Entre Cielos had a large vineyard with unsalvageable 80-year old Malbec grape plants. The first thing we did was to soil, plough, and plant new grapes. Later, we got connected with a Swiss enologist living in Argentina named Hubert Weber who took on the project of helping us make wine.
Today, we have our own wine label, Marantal, named after a bright star in the Orion constellation that can be seen from the hotel. We offer several wine categories that feature a rose Malbec, a classic Malbec and a Gran Reserva Malbec and Pinot Noir. We make wine that can age for a long time, and we also use larger barrels, which minimizes the young oaky aroma. Marantal tends to have a less fruity flavor than most Argentine wines, but far more than European wines. At the moment, we sell Marantal at the hotel and in Switzerland, but soon we will be exporting our wines to Brazil and the United States.
Q: What made you decide to build a hamam and spa?
A: In recent years, the Swiss have been reinventing the hamam experience, which is a thousand-year-old bathing custom and consists of a six-stage treatment circuit that uses heat and water to rid the body of accumulated toxins. We all frequented hamams in Switzerland and love that it is an experience you can share with friends or significant others. Most importantly, the hamam practice is in line with Entre Cielos’ holistic lifestyle approach by nurturing the mind, body, and soul through rituals like herbal steam baths, relaxation pools, and nourishing body treatments.
Also, there are no other traditional six-stage circuit hamams existing in Latin America, so we knew it would be a differentiator for the hotel. We flew in experts to create a truly authentic hamam experience at Entre Cielos. A stand-alone spa structure was built because we wanted it to be a sanctuary enjoyed not only by our guests, but by all travelers visiting Mendoza and the local community as well. We weren’t sure how Argentines would react to a communal spa experience. There was some hesitancy at first, but eventually they really embraced the hamam culture and now Mendoza residents make up half of our spa business.
Q: What is the culinary scene like at Entre Cielos?
A: Of the three of us, Daniela is the one with a culinary background. Our main restaurant, Katharina, is named after her grandmother and offers an elaborate selection of à-la-carte plates from talented Mendocenean chefs who use local produce and meats to create a fresh brand of regional haute cuisine. The seasonal Beef Club & Wine House is a casual setting where guests can mingle with locals over an authentic outdoor Argentine asado, or barbecue, of juicy meats and vegetables. The wine list features over 100 labels and is curated by our in-house sommelier who also leads exciting wine tastings for guests. This year, we are opening a high-quality fast food gastro-market in the garden, which will offer simple but delicious food, specialty fish, a cooking school, and a new bar.
Q: Entre Cielos has won numerous design awards. What makes it distinctive?
A: Our original vision was to refurbish an existing estancia, but when we bought the land we had to construct Entre Cielos from scratch. We wanted the design for our luxury retreat to encourage guests to relax, renew and reflect. A4 Estudio, our principal architects, accomplished this goal. They also did an excellent job of translating international influences into the design. Inspired by prominent architects Le Corbusier and Oscar Neimeyer, A4 Estudio created contemporary spaces using exposed concrete forms and textures. Each structure was designed to integrate with the existing landscape, so guests could always feel the freedom of open space and enjoy the soaring mountain view. At the moment, we are toying with the idea of adding a sixth room category in the vineyard. Nothing is finalized, but we are excited about the possibility. It is impossible for us to stand still.
Two weeks ago, I met a young American hero, in the supermarket of all places. I was behind a father and son in the checkout line and asked them if they could watch my cart while I dashed off to grab a bottle of Malbec. When I returned, we started chatting about why we were in Mendoza.
To my surprise, nine-year-old Tyler was here to climb the highest peak in the Americas—Aconcagua, a towering Andean peak reaching 22,841 feet. He was determined to set the world record for the youngest person ever to summit the mountain. He was climbing with his father, Kevin Armstrong, and a Tibetan sherpa, Lhawang Dhondup, from Mountain Link.
Last year, Tyler became the second youngest person ever to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet). At seven years old, he reached the top of the highest peak in the United States, Mount Whitney (14,505 feet) in 7 hours and 50 minutes; the youngest climber to hike the mountain in only one day.
Kevin told me he used to take Tyler hiking around Orange County where they live, and Tyler always wanted to climb something higher. Little did he know his son would soon be challenging him to scale the world’s Seven Summits, because his wife, like any sane mother, doesn’t want Tyler to climb them alone.
Tyler trains for his mountaineering expeditions by walking every day before school on a treadmill with a heavy backpack and after school he plays soccer or hikes around a lake near their house.
Not only is Tyler an all-star climber, polite and adorably cute—he is also a humanitarian. Three of Tyler’s friends have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, so he has been raising money from all his climbs to find a cure for the lethal disease.
I asked him what he loved most about climbing and he said the loved reaching new heights.
When I asked him if he got an adrenaline rush from being so high up, he looked at me questioningly. “I don’t think he even knows what adrenaline is,” Kevin said. I remembered what it felt like to be a fearless kid who loved heights, speed, sports and big ocean waves.
What Tyler dislikes the most about climbing? The cold. He is a California boy after all.
His favorite thing to eat on the trail? Beef jerky.
His advice to other climbers? Go for the gold.
Tyler told me his goal was to conquer all Seven Summits which include: Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (done), Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Everest in Nepal, Mount McKinley in Alaska, Mount Elbrus in Russia, Mount Vinson in Antarctica and Mount Kosciusz in Australia.
“I’ll probably be retired from my hiking career by 12,” he said matter-of-factly. Which, at the rate he’s going, is probably likely.
On Christmas Eve, Tyler landed the gold and became the youngest person in history to summit Aconcagua. I shed of tear of joy for him and his family.
Shortly thereafter, I reassessed my New Year’s goals for 2014. Inspired by Tyler’s dedication and achievement, I decided, I too need to “go for the gold,” and made them a bit more ambitious.
In 2014, I look forward to watching Tyler climb to even greater heights. He’s got his eyes set on Everest and I’ll be cheering him on.
Although I’m far from home, I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by my husband’s loving family who care for me like one of their own children.
We had a delightful Christmas Eve dinner followed by a gift exchange. I’m a big fan of board games and my in-laws gifted me the closest game they could find to Boggle—speed Scrabble.
We also received a pack of Truco cards, which is a Spanish card game based on bluffing and trickery, faculties innate in the Argentine gene pool. My favorite present was a planter of aromatic herbs to grow in our new home.
After we finished dessert at 2:45 AM, we went to the club Black Jagger, which strives to emulate a sixties New York hot spot.
It’s located in the relatively new mega-resort Arena Maipu, which houses a hotel, casino, concert venue, cinema and a collection of restaurants.
To accommodate the multitudes of revelers, they transformed a large multi-use space into a second dance floor, which opened onto an outdoor bar and patio alongside the hotel pool.
We bounced between the three dance floors, weaving through hundreds of scantily clad woman with hair so long it brushed the hem of their mini-shorts.
We danced until 5:30 AM and decided to call it a night. When we reached the parking lot there were still throngs of merrymakers funneling out of cars descending on the club.
Daylight had broken by the time we got home. When I opened the door to our apartment I stopped dead in my tracks. Were we in the wrong house? I was caught completely off-guard.
"It looks like Papa Noel came," my husband offered with a smirk.
Glowing in the early morning light was a shiny new bicycle with a dainty red bow. It was just like the one I had left behind when we moved. My inner 10-year old was cartwheeling with happiness.
The holiday season may have been hot, sticky, and sufficiently lacking in festive décor, but our home was full of Christmas magic. Thank you Papa Noel!
There’s a heat wave in Mendoza and this unbearably hot 95-degree summer weather prevents me from taking Christmas seriously.
There’s no warming up by the fire with eggnog, Christmas lights decorating the houses, ubiquitous Christmas music or carolers. People don’t have real Christmas trees, but rather small plastic imitation pines wrapped in a string of lights.
I haven’t seen one Santa, and if I did, I would feel terribly sorry for the poor guy sweating profusely through a fur-lined winter costume. All nations south of the equator should join forces to institute an appropriate warm-weather Santa outfit.
Since Christmas is so strongly commercialized in the States from the day after Halloween, by mid-December I’ve had my festive fill and typically flee the bitter cold, gift shopping and holiday music by traveling to somewhere tropical.
But now that I am living in a country where Christmas falls just days after the summer solstice, I find myself longing for those holiday festivities. So much so that I made my grandmother sing me Christmas carols today over the phone.
My husband did buy a real pine tree though. We planted it on the balcony. My mother mocked our “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.” It’s modest, yes, but at least it’s sustainable and we’ll get to enjoy it all year long.
Christmas Eve is when all the celebrating happens in Argentina, rather than on Christmas Day. Tonight we will eat dinner with my in-laws and exchange our presents. After our holiday feast, it’s party time.
Much like the State’s Thanksgiving Eve, Christmas Eve is a night when Argentines let loose and dance ‘til dawn. We’ll see how long I last before my age and nationality catch up with me.
I was recently introduced to a talented writer, with sharp British wit, who has been living in Mendoza for three years.
"Amanda Wine", which the locals have affectionately nicknamed her, edits Wine Republic, a bi-monthly English language wine and travel magazine distributed throughout Argentina. She also maintains a sassy wine blog: The Squeeze.
I’m notorious for being late in the States. But in Mendoza, my tardiness translates to fashionably early. I’ve stopped rushing to be everywhere “on time.” Unless, like Amanda mentions, it is to arrive at a store before the metal grates are locked for siesta.
In the short time I’ve been living here, I have also been dumbfounded by the two-hour bank lines while trying to pay for my residency card, and the grandparents who outlast me at local weddings.
I’m equally appalled at the traffic lawlessness, with its lack of marked highway lanes and free-for-all four-way intersections with no stop signs. Whichever city council board thought this was an acceptable idea is beyond me. Maybe the voting was cut short by siesta.
It is comforting to know that others are baffled by these cultural nuances as well, and that I know have a sympathetic friend with a stash of quality wine to help me de-stress when “Argen-time” gets the better of me.
Cooking was a novelty for me in New York City. By the time I got home from work after a long racing day, all I wanted was to satisfy my hunger. I rarely mustered the wherewithal to prepare a meal and wait for it to cook while I was starving. I typically sought 20-minute delivery dinners to satiate my appetite, so I could move on to something I truly enjoyed doing with my precious free time.
Mendoza is not the ethnic melting pot of New York City. There’s very little variety when it comes to cuisine, much less delicious take-out. (Oh, how I miss fresh salad bars, seafood and ramen.) Which, in a way, is a good thing because it is forcing me to cook things I crave, like vegetables.
When I used to cook in New York, it was always on high heat. I wanted it to be done the quickest way possible. Since I have been in Mendoza, I’ve begun to let my food cook more slowly on lower temperatures, resulting in much more flavorful dishes. I’m certain the same richness will reveal itself with a slower pace of life.