Meet Mauro Buffo, notable chef who's been in many of the best kitchens in the world. Most noteworthy were the four "courses" or seasons that he was a part of the team at El Bulli. I had the pleasure of having met Mauro through mutual friends in New York, and then a few years later embarking on what I like to call the insider foodie tour of Barcelona with him. We landed in Spain from different corners of the world and started the tour of Mauro's favorite spots inside and just outside Barcelona. Many of the team that Mauro was a part of at El Bulli had since moved onto their own or other endeavors and we were able to partake of those new successes. My favorite Barcelonian was Albert Raurich who's place Dos Pallilos (two chopsticks) made for a real "situation" for me. Albert was at El Bulli in the beginning and stayed for well over a decade before stepping out on his own. I will be writing about our visit to El Bulli and our many meals at Dos Palillos soon, but for now it's a focus on Lolita, a perfect tapas spot formerly helmed by Albert Ferran and called Inopia. We were in town the weekend the switchover happened from Inopia to Lolita and yum is about the best way to sum it up. We sat down at a high bar along the wall and began ordering basically everything on the menu. A menu which is formed from a tight edit of heightened standard tapas fare, from ham to sardines to burgers all made differently with standout details added. The hot dogs are served with toy guns full of catchup which made for fun and good photos. The highlight of the night came when we literally ran into Albert Raurich as he was winding down from the service at Dos Palillos and joined us for cocktails and desert. He was heading to Lolita for a chill after work chef snack and an evening cocktail. I can admit that it felt like I was somehow privy to a life that I hadn't earned, but very much enjoyed being a part of. I suggest the Gin & Tonic which was all the two chef's drank and it's somewhat of a ceremony for them end of shift. Mauro currently makes food magic happen high up in the alps at the Vigilius Mountain Resort in Lana, Italy.
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The sexy, chic, and relaxing island of Formentera was high on my list of places to visit while I was based out of London last year. It is a small island that is part of the Islas Baleareas sitting off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea. The beauty of Formentera is an underexploited secret sitting just south of Ibiza. There is no airport. You fly into Ibiza, taxi to the port, and then ferry to the island. That is an adventure in itself. I recommend renting a car for your time on Formentera. They are reasonably priced and prove necessary to freely see what you want to while you're in residence. The island is small but not walkable if you want to partake of the many beaches, experiences, and sites to be seen.
IN-RESIDENCE / Dotted throughout the island and almost all out of sight from the main roads are small luxury resorts, bo-ho chic party spots, and bungalows on the beach. There aren't any large properties on the island. Below are my three picks for places to stay on the island. Two a bit more lux, posh, and chill and one a bit more affordable, with an authentic beach party vibe. All good, and all worth going back to again.
Es Mares Hotel & Spa • A 20 room luxury boutique property situated in the main city of San Francesc. This enclave of breezy chill is very centrally located and makes for easily jetting to any part of the island. The property is pared back with a beach decor that feels very mediterranean. The restaurant and spa are excellent so even if you're not laying your head here I recommend dropping in for an afternoon or evening. Book here ∞ hotelesmares.com
Es Ram • With just 8 double rooms and 4 villas this is definitely an exclusive luxury eco-resort. A gorgeous property that is completely secluded a mile down a sand road a thirty minute drive from the ferry. This is the kind of property you can stay put at for an entire stay. You will feel like you live here from the moment you arrive. This is small footprint luxury at it's best. The staff is welcoming and the common areas, rooms and villas are stunning and stylish. The grounds make you want to meander for hours. With pools and lots of lounging bungalows, the days will slip away. Book here ∞ esramresort.com
Las Banderas • Located directly on Mitjorn beach a 20 minute drive from the ferry in one of the most historic buildings on the island this bo-ho chic 8 room property is an enjoyable place to stay. The rooms are basic but well maintained and have the kind of character you want. Each room has an outdoor area with ocean views and you're just steps from the sand. The food and drink are good but not stellar and the outdoor bar area is a great place to watch the sunset. I stayed here and left having had a great time and feeling like it was a great value. Book here ∞ hotelresidenceformentera.com
FOOD / I didn't have a bad snack or meal while I was on the island and there are ton's of small spots that sit right on the water. As an island just off the coast of one of the most foodie nations on earth with mostly Italian visitors. The expectations for food and beverage are lofty.
People • The chiringuito (aka beach bar) sits directly on Platja de es Pujols is where you will end up often. No matter where else on the island you are if you're like me you will find a way to be there for lunch or cocktail hour on more than one occasion. The libations are divine - think huge delicious refreshing adult beverages made with fresh ingredients served over crushed ice - and the snacks are above par for beach food.
Juan y Andrea • A posh beachfront restaurant that has evolved from a small bar founded in 1972 into a see and be seen hot spot today. The food is good, the drinks are classic and it's an experience worth having for the people watching alone. Situated on a secluded beach almost at the end of Playa Illetes the journey is almost as good as the place itself. juanyandrea.com
Can Dani • A true foodie level experience in the middle of the island. Eating al fresco in the courtyard makes this a great dinner choice and you will certainly have a memorable meal. The chef works primarily with local ingredients, and with those simple beginnings she makes magic happen. I recommend the tasting menu, a luxurious value. candaniformentera.com
BEACHES / The beaches are the number one reason to visit Formentera, While they are all gorgeous my favorites were:
- Cala Saona
- Platja Migjorn
- Platja des Canyers
- Platja Tramuntana
- Platja de Ses Illetes
LIGHTHOUSES / There are three on the island, two that I visited primarily because they offered vistas that I wouldn't be privy to. They were breathtaking cliffs on both occasions with interesting surrounding areas.
La Mola • the highest lighthouse on the island it sits atop a 1200 ft cliff. The best part about visiting this spot was the scale it gave to the island. I ventured out my first late afternoon and ended up dropping into the "Hippie Market" which is really more of and artisanal market. Situated on the main road in El Pilar de la Mola and open Wednesday and Sunday afternoons this is a must do if you're in the area on those days. Please while you are there pick up some leather bracelets from the charming leather worker. I bought two and have much to my dismay lost them in my travels. I loved them so much I sometimes daydream about heading back just to procure some more.
Es Cap de Barbaría • this lighthouse is a bit more off the beaten path, but it's worth the drive. The views are stunning and you get a chance to hike a bit further and see a watchtower that was used to protect the island in century's past. The watchtower is stunning up close. (there is a photo at the top of this story with people providing scale)
Formentera is a magical place not far from civilization geographically but very far in reality. It is a part of the world that still moves slowly most of the time. The air is fresh, the water is sparkling, and you breath. Really breath when you are there. The cultures of Catalan, Spain, and Italy collide to protect what it means to be living completely in the moment. The residents are welcoming and the tourists I encountered were all relaxed, mostly Italian and there for the same reasons I was. While it's not an easy location to get to from Los Angeles or New York where I spend most of my time. I know I will be back to this tiny piece of the world again in this lifetime. I'm counting down the days.
Exhausted at the end of a long day of art and shopping. I made my way to the “Meatpacking” district in Copenhagen, modeled after the success of its New York twin. This meatpacking is still in its infancy and is still mostly good food and good art. Exactly what I wish it still was in New York. Mother pizzeria (mother.dk) is on the list of local spots to try while I am in Copenhagen. As I approach it’s jammed, there is a chalkboard announcing the wait for a pie is 45 minutes and everyone is enjoying themselves a bit to much for it to seem real. I am greeted by David Biffani learning later he is not only from Rome, he’s co-owner and head chef. It is a true Italian greeting, welcoming and business all rolled up together. I put my name in and head to the bar for a cocktail while I wait. Very happily I discover they have Campari spritz and they actually know how to make them perfectly.
I have a feeling I am in a locals favorite spot. This was confirmed when David pushed me to invade a communal table filled with other guests while we waiting. They were Italian as well and the theme was starting to sink in. These young gentlemen are architects and engineers moved to Denmark as a part of a massive team from the Italian company contracted to build the new metro line for Copenhagen.
Two cocktails later we migrate to our table together. David is having none of my sitting alone as planned. We place our pie orders and are then joined by David himself as well as another Italian engineer, who eerily looks like Stefano Pilati’s little brother. Now to the pizza! As good as anywhere you’ll ever have it. Ingredients that I find out are mostly imported from specific regions of Italy known for their mastery be it salami, flour, or olive oil and onward. The pizza crust is a perfect crispy sourdough cooked up in the wood fired ovens each day after being crafted from their “mother” dough. The spots name is an attempt to dispel the clichés of Italian restaurants outside Italy but is truly at its heart an homage to the dough itself. The starter for the mother dough was procured at the restaurants opening and was then three years young. It is now going on a decade in the making. We ate on the later side and before we were done with our meal the dough was finished for the day. The pizza is so good I can see why they run out.
David then took us on a fieldtrip to Mother’s offices across the street, through a locked gate, a locked door and into a huge basement bound meatpacking elevator that made me think. “I don’t really know these guys…this is either going to be really cool, or really bad.” Good news it was really cool. We got to peek into Mother’s underground headquarters and take a look at the collection of young Danish contemporary art David is amassing. Christian Andersen’s (christianandersen.net) gallery is just next door to Mother and that works out well for David with this quest.
We headed back to our table and closed the restaurant down along with a production team in town filming a fieldtrip for the latest cycle of Holland’s Next Top Model. A mix of local’s and visitors Mother felt like somewhere very special and at the same time somewhere I’d been a hundred times before. I had completely forgotten my earlier exhaustion and embraced what was a very memorable last dinner in Copenhagen. Thanks David.
Mother // mother.dk
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