Monday, August 8, 2011

Manhattans in Shanghai

This post is a little dated, but while I hunt for new material, you may enjoy this blast from the past. Last February I took my first trip to Asia when I visited the newly renovated Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Enjoy!

I never drink liquor. But when you walk into the Presidential Suite of the Fairmont Peace Hotel, the Sassoon Suite, which overlooks the Bund, and the general manager hands you a Dirty Martini, the least you can do is drink happily.

The Sassoon Suite is located on the 10th floor of the 11-story hotel. It was originally the private apartment of Victor Sassoon, the first owner of the Peace Hotel. It has a sizable living and dining area, two bathrooms, master bedroom and master bathroom with one of the largest marble tubs I have ever seen.

After sipping our swank cocktails, the GM, Kamal Naamani  escorted our group to the Shanghai Room for a private dinner reception - a blend of east meets west. We dined on traditional drunken chicken (chicken soaked in rice wine), steamed dumplings, marinated vegetables and a deliciously unctuous fois gras.

As if we weren't treated enough like 1920s high society, dinner was followed by a trip to the world famous Jazz Bar, where we swilled chilled Manhattans and listened to the plunk of the bass and the snap of the snare. I felt like I should have been sporting a bob haircut and sipping gin from a flask hitched under my skirt: from zero to high society boozehound in just one night.

The evening was enough to put my weary, jet lagged bones straight to sleep in my giant king sized bed. I had to be well-rested for my grueling day of spa treatments....I know, you hate me.

After waking up with a bowl of hot won ton soup (not as good for a hangover as you may think) I was ready to lay back down on the spa table and allow the therapist to do whatever she wanted to do with my lush of a self.

I made my way to the brand-spanking-new Willow Stream Spa, which was added to the Peace Hotel as part of Fairmont's $64 million restoration. The spa has nine treatment rooms, two couples rooms, a fitness center, pool, sauna and steam room.

I was greeted by Spa Director Lyndell Nelis who guided me to the resting area and handed me a cup of hot ginger tea. Linda, my therapist, came to fetch me and brought me into one of the treatment rooms for a 90-minute Mystic Peace treatment. Dear lord. All I could think during the 90 minutes (or at least for the portion during which I was awake) was 'how much does this cost, because I'm scheduling another one for tomorrow."

The treatment involves a massage that traces a continues knot on the body. Linda worked her way up and down my spine located exactly where my problem areas were and then proceeded to loosen up tension with a blend of essential oils and firm pressure. She had to pry me up from the table after the 90 minutes were up.

Little did I know that this hour and a half of bliss was absolutely imperative to keeping my sanity when I ventured out into the Shanghai night to tackle Yuyuan Garden, one of the largest gardens in Shanghai. It was built in 1559 as a private garden during the Ming Dynasty. Today it serves as a shopper's paradise, built within the Imperial buildings and alleyways. Looking for your Louis Vuitton knockoff? It's there. Jade bracelets? Silk prints? Wood carvings? Check, check and check. Get ready to dust off your haggling skills. It's easy to talk vendors down at least 40 percent. And in some cases, say for instance, when you are taken to the back room on the top floor of a dirty department store and shown the back closet which is lined with designer bags, you are cornered while the vendors shout lower and lower prices at you until you finally agree to buy...but I'm speaking only hypothetically here...anyway....

Did I mention one of the most famous dumpling houses, Nanxing Dumplings, is also located in Yuyuan Gardens? Anthony Bourdain made a stop here in his Shanghai episode of No Reservations. That's enough for me. Twelve yuan (about $2) gets you 12 little soup dumplings.

Three days in China is not much at all, but it definitely gave me enough of a taste that I know I need to get back as soon as possible.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over

There has been a lot to fret over lately. The headline in today's Daily News mentioned something about 401(k)s taking a hit after the Dow plunged 512 points. What's happening with the debt crisis? What the hell is going on in Syria? But most importantly….what happened to Meg D?

Rest assured, friends. It has been a long (…okay VERY long…) hiatus, but I can say with confidence that I am back baby. Inspired by my good friend Lauren E., who has her own successful food blog (seriously, check it out, it's pretty great), I thought I'd take some time to revisit with you fine people.

Next week I embark on a clash-of-cultures, all-you-can-eat-and-drink, groove-to-the-music road trip from Memphis through Delta Blues country and down into New Orleans. Can you smell the BBQ sauce and beer oozing out of my pores, yet? I sure as hell can. Anyway you may be interested to know that both the party-heavy Beale Street in Memphis and the streets of New Orleans are pretty lax on their open container laws. For the rest of you lushes out there, I've rounded up some other places in our great nation where you can do what our fore fathers set out to establish: drink freely, which, in effect lends itself to a good life and the pursuit of happiness. Forget the New York Stock Exchange and Representative John Boehner. America must be doing something right.

Where to Drink Freely

Butte, Montana
Power & Light District of Kansas City, Missouri
The Las Vegas Strip
Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee
New Orleans, Louisiana
Savannah Historic District, Savannah, Georgia
Fredericksburg, Texas

Where to Drink Less Freely That Other Places, but More Freely Than Most Places
(aka, where open container laws are tolerated)

Duval Street, Key West, Florida
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee