Monthly Archives: March 2013

Paolo Basso

Swiss sommelier tops world wine waiter contest

Paolo Basso

Paolo Basso, from Switzerland, was hoisted into the air as judges in Tokyo awarded him first place in a ceremony in front of several thousand spectators that was carried live on Japanese national television.

Basso, who works at Conca Balla in Vacallo, on the Swiss-Italian border, beat off competition from fellow finalists Belgian Aristide Spies and Canadian Véronique Rivest. The 47-year-old takes the title previously held by Gerard Basset, who won the 2010 competition in Chile competing for Britain.

Entrants from 54 countries had been tested over three days of events designed to measure their skills marrying wines to foods and serving demanding customers.

Contestants from Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Sweden were among those participating in the event, which has been held 14 times since it started in 1969.

“A good sommelier not only has to have good knowledge of wine, but he also needs to be able to put customers at ease and know what to do to let them enjoy the food,” explained Serge Dubs, chairman of the jury and a former champion, ahead of the competition.

Dior Fashion show Spring 2013

Dior hits Shanghai for haute couture show

Dior Fashion show Spring 2013

Famed French luxury brand Christian Dior is set to re-stage its Spring 2013 haute couture show for buyers and press in Shanghai, China on March 30.

For the first time since Belgian designer Raf Simons took over as creative director, the brand will be returning to mainland China and the country’s couture customers will be hurriedly booking appointments in the days following the show to place their orders.

The move isn’t a particular suprise: back in January Christian Dior CEO Sidney Toledano noted that China was the “big market of tomorrow” as the brand looks to expand its haute couture client base.

Flisvos Marina

Greece to begin auctioning marinas

Flisvos Marina

Greece will begin this week auctioning off rights to operate dozens of marinas as it seeks to tap private investment to boost lucrative yacht tourism, officials said on Thursday.

The state agency in charge of privatisation said six international tenders would be issued by June for 46 marinas in its portfolio while the tourism ministry pledged to facilitate licencing procedures for investors

In addition to bringing in revenue as the country continues to mired in recession, the government hopes that development of marinas will boost growth in the key tourism sector.

Though Greece is a major tourist destination, it has failed to adequately exploit its marina potential and has lost out to regional competition from Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro.

“Greece has over 15,000 kilometres of beaches and thousands of small and middle-sized islands but this is not enough,” said Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni, adding: “A total of 153 marinas have been zoned but fewer than 25 operate respectably under international standards.”

“In France, which has 270 marinas and berths 166,000 yachts of over six metres, there is a verified need for over 57,000 additional moorings. By comparison, Greece moors 9,000 yachts”.

In the upcoming tenders for marina leases that will run for around 40 years, investors will be asked for a down payment and additional sums based on operational revenue. They will also have to undertake the necessary harbour works to improve services and safety conditions.

A first cluster of marinas in the Saronic Gulf near Athens including the islands of Hydra and Poros will be auctioned this week. A second batch of five marinas including Lavrion near Athens, the popular Aegean tourist island of Chios and Argostili, the island capital of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea, will follow in the second quarter of the year.

Greece marina

Daniel Craig unveils new Range Rover Sport

Daniel Craig Range Rover Sport

Yesterday, Land Rover debuted the all-new Range Rover Sport through a live event in which Daniel Craig drove the vehicle through the streets of Manhattan.

Current James Bond, Daniel Craig put the car through its paces, taking it from a container on the docks, through bustling New York streets and into Skylight at Moynihan Station on 8th Avenue where he was met by a crowd of celebrity guests including Zara Phillips and Jade Jagger.

The event, which included a short film entitled “Delivery,” showcasing the Bond star’s initial encounter with Land Rover’s latest premium off-roader, comes ahead of the Range Rover’s official unveiling at the New York Auto Show, which opens its doors to the public on March 28.


Maison Martin Margiela x G-SHOCK

maison martin margiela casio g shock

After images leaked last week, Parisian luxury house Maison Martin Margiela has unveiled its latest collaboration, this time with Casio’s cult G-SHOCK watch brand.

Set to launch on March 30, with a limited edition of 3,000 pieces worldwide, at 300 points of sale, the tidily named ‘Collaboration Model GA-300’ watch will retail at €300.

To continue the numbers game, the project also celebrates G-SHOCK’s 30th birthday (Casio founded the adventure watch brand back in 1983).

Maison Martin Margiela G SHOCK watch

The new timepiece features a transparent liquid crystal skeleton display and watch dials which contain stopwatch, world time, and LED illuminator functions. It is also shock and 200M water resistant.

The watch comes with a removable mirrored silver leather cuff, metallic silver casing and a metal bracelet and on the reverse of the watch is Maison Martin Margiela’s classic “0 to 23” engraving.

vera wang wedding dress photo

Vera Wang cancels fitting fees following criticism

vera wang wedding dress

From Wednesday onwards, customers at the American designer’s Shanghai bridal store will no longer have to stump up a 3,000 yuan (nearly $500 US) non-refundable deposit to try on wedding gowns.

Earlier this month reports first emerged that Vera Wang’s Chinese store was practicing an unusual (and country-specific) new policy for its bridal customers: a ‘trying fee’, payable in advance, that secured a 90-minute session with the gowns. The 3,000 yuan charge would be deducted from the final cost of the dress, or could be used as store credit on other Vera Wang items, but would otherwise be lost.

After news of the charges hit the media this week, negative press began to build. Wednesday, in an email to the Reuters news agency, a spokesperson for Vera Wang announced the end of the policy:

“Please kindly be informed that Vera Wang has abolished appointment fees at her bridal salons worldwide starting from March 27, 2013”.

The policy was apparently designed to deter counterfeiters from producing copies of the brand’s pieces, which regularly appear on the Taobao site, China’s largest online marketplace.

The ‘trying fee’ is a feature of some Hong Kong-based retailers, but has not been seen in mainland China, and was not applied at any of Vera Wang’s other global locations.

KLM World Business Class

KLM reveals new World Business Class cabin

KLM World Business Class cabin

Dutch airline KLM has unveiled the latest makeover of its new World Business Class Cabin, which is carpeted with discarded bits of old uniforms and is designed to evoke the comforts of home.

For the redesign, the carrier teamed up with Dutch designer Hella Jongerius, whose portfolio includes clients like Ikea, Nike, Evian, and the United Nations lounge.

With a color palette based on different shades of blue, a polka dot motif, panels, curtains and cushions are meant to warm up the cabin and help passengers feel more at ease during their flight.

KLM Business Class cabin

The cabin will feature new full-flat seats that can be reclined horizontally, while strategically placed TVs and partitions ensure greater privacy for passengers. Seats will come with more storage compartments.

The cabin’s carpet, meanwhile, uses recycled bits of old, discarded KLM women’s uniforms.

The changes are being made on the fleet’s Boeing 747-400s and will debut in an inaugural flight in July. The entire 747 fleet is expected to have incorporated the new design by April of next year.

KLM World Business Class

Best Food Apps

Best Food Apps for Travelers

Best Food Apps

From apps that will help travelers find the nearest bar, microbrewery or coffee joint to a guide to chef-recommended restaurants, Travel + Leisure has curated a list of the top food-related apps.

Among some of their top picks is Ness, which claims to tailor restaurant recommendations to individual tastes. After users give their rating for 10 restaurants they’ve visited in the past, the app uses an algorithm to determine the user’s personal tastes and preferences before making customized restaurant recommendations.

Savored, meanwhile, will appeal to the budget-minded traveler with sophisticated palates as the app offers discounts at dining destinations including Daniel Boulud DB Bistro Moderne in New York.

Travelers undertaking culinary pilgrimages — that once-in-a-lifetime experience to an exorbitantly priced Michelin-starred restaurant — can also document their evening on Evernote Food which has built-in templates that let users archive photos, maps and tasting notes to preserve the memory.

And while Best Coffee and Untappd help users locate the nearest bar, microbrewery and artisanal coffee shop, Chefs Feed provides restaurant recommendations by some of the world’s top chefs.


2014 Jaguar XKRS-GT Revealed

2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT

Jaguar has just revealed a new hardcore version of its XKR coupe called the 2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT, which will see its world debut at this year’s New York International Auto Show.

“The XKR-S GT is the most extreme iteration of the Jaguar R Brand’s performance focus,” said Jaguar’s global brand director, Adrian Hallmark, in the press release.

“Utilizing race-car derived technology, all-aluminum construction and an uncompromised approach to aerodynamic efficiency, the result is a car as capable on the track as it is exhilarating on the road.”

2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT

Developed by the company’s Engineered to Order (ETO) division, the XKR-S GT has an aggressive exterior with a carbon fiber front splitter, carbon fiber canards and carbon fiber wheel arch spats.

There’s also a ventilated hood, a carbon fiber diffuser and a massive rear wing. Other changes include an aluminum valance and 20-inch lightweight alloy wheels with Pirelli Corsa tires that measure 255/35 front and 305/30 rear.

Jaguar XKR-S GT wheels

The sporty styling carries over to the interior as it is equipped with leather / Alcantara sport seats, red contrast stitching, aluminum paddle shifters and unique sill plates.

2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT interior

Power is provided by a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 engine that develops 550 HP (404 kW) and 680 Nm (501 lb-ft) of torque. It is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission which sends power to the rear wheels via an active electronic differential. This enables the XKR-S GT to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, before hitting an electronically limited top speed of 186 mph (299 km/h).

Jaguar XKR-S GT

According to worldcarfans, only 30 cars will be produced for North America—25 for the US, five for Canadians—and is set to fetch nearly $174,000 large.

2014 Range Rover Sport

Range Rover Sport launches in NY

2014 Range Rover Sport

Land Rover launched its redesigned 2014 Range Rover Sport yesterday at the 2013 New York Auto Show. The new vehicle has a stronger, more dynamic look than its predecessor.

The wheelbase has been increased to improve rear passenger space but thanks to the prodigious use of aluminum in its construction, it is still over 400kg lighter than the outgoing model, meaning that on-road handling is greatly improved.

To ensure the car lives up to its Sport moniker, the Range Rover has fully independent double wishbone suspension for better handling, road-holding and grip, all of which are needed to keep its 5.0-litre, 510PS, supercharged V8 engine in check (a 3.0-litre 292PS SDV6 diesel engine is also available).

Inside, the Range Rover Sport feels more luxurious than the old model. The cabin is packed with technological features but buttons and switches and other visual clutter are kept to a minimum.

Some of the more surprising interior features include configurable mood lighting and two extra ‘occasional seats’ beyond the standard five that fold flat into the floor when not in use.

The new model introduces an external digital camera system which aids with maneuvering the car both around parking lots and up mountains but also supports autonomous driving features including monitoring and maintaining lane discipline and automatically reading and recognizing road signs.

The car can be specified with a head up display that projects relevant information on the windshield so that the driver need not take his or her eyes off the road and, as is now customary with new vehicles, the Range Rover Sport has its own app that owners can use to remotely check the car’s status, verify its location, track it if stolen or call emergency assistance.

Land Rover is yet to confirm pricing or delivery dates for the Range RoverSport, but prices are expected to start at £50,000 (about US$75,000) for the diesel model.

2014 Range Rover Sport Interior

eva mendez

Eva Mendes, the new face of Vogue Eyewear

eva mendez

Vogue Eyewear has revealed its new spring/summer 2013 campaign featuring Eva Mendes. The American actress is following in the footsteps of Kate Moss, who was previously a brand ambassador.

The campaign was shot in a house up above West Hollywood last October by famous fashion photographer Mario Testino, who has been collaborating with Vogue Eyewear for several years.

The photographs emphasize the glamour and femininity of the Spring/Summer 2013 designs.

Vogue Eyewear’s new designs are inspired by catwalk trends: cat’s eye and aviator styles, retro squared shapes and oversized square frames.

Past brand ambassadors for Vogue Eyewear include Kate Moss, Daria Werbowy and Gisele Bundchen.

eva mendez Vogue Eyewear Vogue Eyewear

PerrierJouet The Enchanting Tree

Perrier-Jouet unveils ‘The Enchanting Tree’

Perrier Jouet The Enchanting Tree

In celebration of the first days of Spring, Perrier-Jouët has revealed “The Enchanting Tree”, a champagne service created by Dutch artist and designer Tord Boontje.

Combining both aesthetics and practicality, The Enchanting Tree by PerrierJouët reinvents the gesture of champagne in which each participant plucks a flute from the tree.

Perrier Jouet champagne The Enchanting Tree

Wreathed in anemones this champagne service is made of suspended golden branches that can be used to hang the flutes, blossoming at the base of an ice bucket to preserve the champagne’s coolness.

Faithful to the Art Nouveau philosophy, The Enchanting Tree applies a contemporary approach to the materials used, while employing the craftsmanship that is so dear to the House: the metal branches are hand-worked, the leaves are individually soldered and the anemones lacquered in white.

PerrierJouet The Enchanting Tree

Tord Boontje made a special large scale version of his creation for the launch at the Saatchi Gallery in London, which will return to Epernay to be part of the house’s private collection of 200 original Art Nouveau pieces of Art.

Tord Boontje

The Great Blue Hole

The prettiest islands in the world

Ambergris Caye island

The largest island off the north shore of Belize, Ambergris Caye, which boasts bragging rights to being home to the second largest barrier reef after Australia, has been named the most beautiful island in the world by readers of the largest crowd-sourced travel site TripAdvisor.

With a coastline protected by 306 km (190 miles) of coral reef – the largest in the Western hemisphere – Ambergris Caye has become a favorite destination for divers.

The island’s star attraction? The Great Blue Hole, a perfectly circular, underwater sinkhole of limestone that measures 300 feet across (91m) and 400 feet deep (124 m) deep.

The Great Blue Hole

The seemingly bottomless pit is home to underwater species like blacktip tiger and hammerhead sharks. Other sightings include angelfish, neon gobies, butterfly fish, and small groupers.

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System is a UN-designated World Heritage Site. Visitors can also visit the ancient Mayan ruins in a day trip, and jungle trek through the island’s lush tropical forests.

San Juan Island

Here are the top 10 islands in TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Award 2013:

1.      Ambergris Caye, Belize
2.      St. John, US Virgin Islands
3.      Bora Bora, Society Islands (French Polynesia)
4.      San Juan Island, Washington, USA
5.      Santorini, Cyclades, Greece
6.      Isla Mujeres (off the coast of Mexico)
7.      Moorea, Society Islands (French Polynesia)
8.      Koh Tao, Surat Thani Provence, Thailand
9.      Easter Island, Chile
10.    Nosy Be, Antsiranana Province (off coast of Madagascar)

Koh Tao

McLaren range

McLaren working on a new entry-level supercar

McLaren range

The third road car from McLaren, currently codenamed the P13, will be designed to compete head to head with the Porsche 911 Turbo in terms of price, performance and driving thrills.

Expected to go on sale in 2015, the car will not be a budget-basement vehicle built from the parts bin but will share the same carbon fibre MonoCell ‘tub’ chassis developed for the MC12 supercar.

Speaking to Autocar, Ron Dennis, the company’s executive chairman said that the resulting car would be available as a hardtop upon launch and would be joined later by a convertible version.

The P13 will be smaller than the MC12 but will share the same 3.8-litre V8 turbocharged engine. However, the powerplant will be tuned differently to produce 450hp, 166 fewer than the version currently found in its other production cars. It is most likely to resemble the flagship P1 than the MC12.

When asked why the company has set its sights on Porsche, rather than Bentley or Aston Martin, who all have cars in the same £120,000 (US$180,000) price bracket, McLaren representatives told Autocar that McLaren was going after 911 Turbo because it is the only true sportscar in that market segment.

Autocar quotes a company insider on the decision, who said: “The truth is, if you have £120,000 to spend on a sports car you’d still end up going for a Porsche 911, even though you can get one [without a turbo] for £70,000. There is nothing else out there between £100,000 and £150,000.”

Cars offered by Aston Martin and Bentley in the same price bracket are focused on long-distance cruising rather than true driver involvement and performance.

Therefore unless a serious driver has the extra £30,000 to upgrade to a Ferrari 458 Italia, a soon-to-be-discontinued Lamborghini Gallardo or indeed a McLaren MC12, the Porsche Turbo or possibly an Audi R8 V10 coupe are the only serious options.

Victoria Beckham website

Victoria Beckham reveals new e-commerce site

Victoria Beckham New York Fashion Week Fall 2013

Victoria Beckham has unveiled a revamped featuring e-commerce. Beckham’s customers in the UK, North America and Europe can now buy directly from the company online.

According to Victoria Beckham CEO Zach Duane, about 20 percent of Beckham’s current sales come from online, via third-party stores like and net-à-porter.

“That statistic alone makes it an important next step for us. When you think about opening your first physical shop, you come to the point of view that e-commerce allows you to service a global customer. We sell to over 54 countries, and we have a very even distribution across those counties,” he told WWD.

Accessories (including her minimalist bags), the ‘victoria victoria beckham’ diffusion line, eyewear, and denim are all available to purchase.

In addition, the site is also the exclusive home of the new ‘Icon’ range, a curated selection of ‘greatest hits’ from the past few seasons.

The new platform, designed by NYC-based creative agency King & Partners, is split into two sections: the aforementioned ‘Shop’ and a separate ‘Look’ area. This second zone features tumblr-style images and shareable social content including exclusive videos and behind-the-scenes fashion shots.

Beckham entered the fashion industry in 2004 with a denim line called VB Rocks for Rock & Republic, before launching her own label in 2006.

Her first full fashion collection debuted during the 2008 New York Fashion Week, and the former popstar went on to win “Designer of the Year” at the annual British Fashion Awards in 2011.

Victoria Beckham website

Sigrid Agren

Chanel launches Avant-Première beauty collection

Sigrid Agren

French luxury house Chanel has released a new line of lipsticks and nail polishes inspired by classic cinematic beauty. Awards season might be over, but after the Oscars, Golden Globes, Baftas and Césars, Chanel is clearly still buzzing from some traditional red-carpet beauty looks.

The new collection of matching nail polishes and lipsticks sticks to traditional pigment-rich tones in pink, bright scarlet, fuchsia, aubergine and coral.

There are eight Rouge Coco Shine Hydrating Sheer Lipshines, six Rouge Coco Hydrating Crème Lip Colours, and four Le Vernis nail varnishes.

With glamorous Hollywood names including Starlet, Paparazzi, Cinema and Provocation, the Collection Avant-Première de Chanel is set to hit stores from April 5.

Collection Avant Premiere by Chanel

restaurant noma table

Noma restaurant launches gourmet coffee program

Noma coffee program

Noma has launched a new coffee program with a world champion barista who uses a Japanese drip system to produce a brew that looks like red wine and smells of red berries.

The Copenhagen restaurant announced on its blog that after “months of planning and preparations,” the eatery has started to offer a special coffee menu which uses a special blend of lightly roasted coffee developed by world champion barista Tim Wendelboe of Norway.

The light, fresh and acidic flavors are meant to complement the menu and the “Noma experience.”

Tim Wendelboe sources his beans from small-scale, sustainable, socially responsible coffee farmers in Kenya and Central America. Currently on the menu is a java sourced from Mount Elgon, Kenya.

Coffee is brewed through a V60 system, designed by Japanese company Hario, a manual ceramic dripper which optimizes extraction by filtering the coffee through a brewing cone and into the cup.

Coffee is also served in custom-made glassware, designed by a local Dutch glass blower to enhance the flavor experience.

vera wang wedding dress photo

Vera Wang charges $500 to try on dress in China

vera wang wedding dresses

A store policy in the Shanghai bridal boutique of Chinese-American designer Vera Wang, which sees potential clients charged 3,000 yuan ($482) to try on a dress, has prompted accusations of bias.

The amount is payable in advance in order to book a 90-minute appointment at the store. The non-refundable deposit is deducted from the eventual cost of the gown but if a customer chooses not to buy one of the brand’s wedding dresses, then “the fee can be used toward other items in the store.”

There’s some upset that Wang’s Chinese customers are being treated differently to her clients elsewhere around the world. While the practice of ‘trying fees’ has been present in a number of Hong Kong stores, it’s a new trend for a global brand, and the first time that Wang’s bridal customers have been asked to set down deposits before even trying on a piece.

The brand explains the move as an attempt to “protect the copyright of the designer”. The Vera Wang release “also states that customers will be barred from taking photos or filming at the store.”

vera wang wedding dress

Icona Vulcano

The Icona Vulcano: a new supercar with over 900 hp

Icona Vulcano

New hybrid supercar, the Icona Vulcano, will be unveiled at 2013 Shanghai Motor Show. It promises to deliver over 900 hp, a top speed of 350km/h and acceleration from 0 to 200km/h in under 10 sec.

The man behind this ambitious project is engineer Claudio Lombardi who is known in sporting circles for designing the engines that helped the Lancia team at the World Rally Championships until 1991. He was also the F1 technical director at Ferrari until 2000.

The Icona Vulcano follows the current trend for ultra powerful hybrid supercars. At the Geneva Motor Show, all eyes were on the LaFerrari and the McLaren P1 which deliver 963hp and 915hp respectively.


Amphibious tourist buses put into service in Tokyo

amphibious bus

Tokyo’s first amphibious buses were put into service Sunday, carrying 40 passengers through the city’s low eastern side by road before taking to the Naka river during a 100-minute “Tokyo Splash Tour.”

The two buses, dubbed “Sky Ducks”, departed from Tokyo’s new landmark Skytree, the world’s tallest communications tower at 634 metres (2,080 feet).

The bus moves up to 100 kilometres per hour on the ground and up to 13 kilometres per hour in the water. Tickets are priced at 2,800 yen ($30) for an adult and 1,400 yen ($15) for a child under 12.