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I hit Dallas three or four times a year for trade shows (we exhibit the Stephanie Johnson line in the lovely Codarus showroom in the World Trade Center), and to check in with some of our favorite clients. I’m embarrassed to admit that after a decade of travel here I never saw much outside my hotel room. Fortunately, this trip changed all that.
A creature of habit, I’ve been staying at the Crescent Court for years. It’s nice to find a spot you can return to trip after trip and call home, and it doesn’t hurt that Stanley Korshak is next door and Nobu is in house.
I did venture out this trip and check out both the Ritz-Carlton and the newly renovated Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek. Both are winners. The Mansion is cozy with a fireplace burning in the intimate lobby and the Mansion Bar is the place to unwind after a long day. The Ritz is bigger with an expansive lobby filled with contemporary art and a hot restaurant to boot.
Any of these three properties will have you tucked in with a smile at night.
Ok, so I frequent Nobu Next Door in my TriBeCa neighborhood so who needs Nobu when I’m in Dallas? For starters, it’s in my hotel, and secondly, Dallas Nobu is the home of the Matteo Roll. What’s the Matteo Roll? Glad you asked. Nothing short of perfection: this $25 cut roll features spicy tuna and asparagus wrapped in soy paper topped with more spicy tuna, guacamole, chili oil and topped with dry miso.
Another Uptown favorite is Fearing’s. Dean Fearing is swathed in Texas charm and makes a mean tortilla soup. Anything he cooks up is sublime in a gorgeous setting. The staff here is as AMAZING as the food.
When in Texas, eat Tex-Mex. Beauty blogger extraordinaire Karla Sugar, aka ‘The Swatcher,’ brought me to Chuy’s and I was instantly entranced. The weather was warm enough for us to dine in a booth outside in ‘the garage’, sipping margaritas (Sugar ordered ‘the dot’, a frozen lime margarita with a shot of strawberry in the middle), and feasting on chipotle enchiladas. Insiders know to ask for the creamy jalapeño sauce. It’s not on the menu, it’s free, and I had two. Sugar also explained that you get a free appetizer if you bring a framed photo of your dog. That explains that!
For breakfast try The Dream Cafe after a walk along the Katy Trail and order the popover or Cloud Cakes. A newcomer directly on the trail, try Company Cafe for outside picnic tables and farm to table fare. The Ice House sits next door and has games, fire pits, and a backyard BBQ feel.
Shinsei is a must stop for sushi. Anywhere that hands me the check tucked into a Nancy Drew novel has my vote. And if you’ve overstuffed yourself on Texas BBQ and are looking to detox, don’t forget the Gem Juice Bar inside DUO. They feature juice squeezed to order, smoothies and house made cashew milk. YUM.
Dallas has great modern art. I was privileged to have a private tour of the Rachofsky House, a private home designed by Richard Meier. It’s one beautiful white cube sitting on 3 acres of the most beautiful lawn I’ve seen maybe ever. The views from inside are stunning from every vantage point and the private collection rotates annually. I was struck most by the work of Janine Antoni, which included a bust of the artist made entirely from chocolate and another of the artist made from soap (Lick & Lather). Very special.
Lucky for me the Dallas Museum of Art had the Jean Paul Gaultier show, a retrospective of the designer’s work that included pieces he did for Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and Gaga. A sensation. Catch it if you can.
I really enjoyed getting out in the morning and walking the Katy Trail, a paved path that runs 3.5 miles from SMU to downtown, crossing bridges and connecting to nature.
I discovered that my TriBeCa neighbor Lela Rose is a Dallas native and had just opened her first Dallas outpost days before I arrived. A small shop in Highland Village with to-die-for dresses in gorgeous prints with perfect detail, I got to walk away with a tiny recipe book and biscotti that Ms. Rose made herself in her kitchen back home. (Lela, when are you having me over?)
Of course no shopping trip to the Big D is complete without a visit to the original home of Neiman Marcus downtown. Go at holiday time when the store is transformed into a space odyssey with tubes the kids can shoot through and their restaurant The Zodiac rolls out the most extraordinary holiday buffet.
I’ve been going to Atlanta twice a year for the last decade or more to exhibit my collection of Stephanie Johnson cosmetic and travel bags at the Atlanta Gift Mart. (You can find our products in the gorgeous Codarus showroom!) I’ve never been to a more friendly place and I’m smitten with their brand of southern hospitality. Somehow Atlanta always feels like home.
Don’t be distracted by bright and shiny new things. The Ritz-Carlton in Buckhead is the only place to stay. An update a few years ago has kept the classic rooms cozy in neutral shades with the addition of flat screen TVs and a coffee bar in each room. But the real reason I stay there is the Cheers-like atmosphere where everyone knows my name and they welcome you back with a genuine smile that says they are really happy you are there. It’s no accident that this property consistently wins in the ‘best service’ category. Be sure to start your day with a swim in the indoor rooftop pool, or take a run around Buckhead and be welcomed back with water, fruit and cold towels. They will even give you a jogging map. Everyone at the Concierge desk is amazing and I have an old friendship with Jim Panero who knows everything about everything. Ask him where to dine and you won’t be disappointed.
This trip I tried all the new kids on the block and was pleasantly surprised. Ocean Prime had a weighty price tag but farm fresh unique salad offerings and a yummy blackened snapper with a jalepeno corn relish. Delish.
Bocado is located in Midtown and worth the drive if you are looking for a casual spot to dine. I had an avocado+carrot salad with grapefruit and crunchy seeds, and a burger. I eat burgers maybe twice a year and I heard theirs was the tops, and it was.
I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Art Smith through friend Lulu Powers on this visit, and lucky for me he just opened the new ‘it’ restaurant in town called Southern Art. Walking distance from the Ritz-Carlton, I loved the colorful ceiling that forces you to look up and the chairs that made me feel like a Queen whilst I dined. The shrimp and grits must be your starter followed by Art’s famous fried chicken. Ooh yeah. I was exhausted after a day on my feet and passed on dessert. The lovely waiter had remembered that I announced I wanted the ‘peanut brittle thingy’ for dessert even before I ordered (uh, I do this a lot) and he didn’t let me leave empty handed. Along with a full belly, I brought a cellophane sleeve of sweet peanut brittle back to the hotel. Perfect.
If you eat meat Bone’s is for you. If you don’t eat meat, find something else to love on their menu! Old Atlanta at its finest, Bone’s is the only restaurant I’ve ever dined where they remember you even though it’s been a year since you’ve been there. It’s always, ‘Hello Ms. Johnson, welcome back. Let me show you to your table.’ A dark, clubby atmosphere with white tablecloths and the very best wait staff, go for steak any way and a warm spinach salad.
Bistro Niko is another neighborhood gem that serves up French cuisine like Boeuf Bourguignon (made with Kobe beef y’all) and Coq Au Vin. I also like to hit The Tavern for Southwestern chips before a movie. And don’t forget the Lobby Lounge at the Ritz. It’s still the place to be at happy hour.
I took a morning off and headed to the Georgia Aquarium, which is walking distance from the Mart and located in Centennial Olympic Park. I was initially put off by the ‘in your face’ corporate sponsors for every attraction, but it was easy to see beyond it all and take in their large collection of fish and sea animals from around the globe. I loved the layout and could easily have spent the day observing beluga whales, manta rays, whale sharks and the tiny dance of the sea horses. My daughter would have gone nuts to see their dolphin show.
The World of Coca-Cola was a sweet surprise. I completely loved the tour, taking in Coke memorabilia from days gone by, like Raquel Welch modeling mail-in Coke jewelry. There is a great animated short and a theater that shows all the classic Coca-Cola commercials. Don’t forget the tasting room where you can sample Coke brands from around the world including Bibo from South Africa (addicted) and Beverly from Italy (yuck!). You get to walk away with a Coke fresh off their miniature bottling line that you can only get in Atlanta. It’s the real thing. (Couldn’t resist.)
B.D.Jeffries is 8,000 square feet of everything from French antiques (I’ve been to Paris with the owners!), to silver photo frames, alligator handbags, all things that say ‘chic home’ and the sporting life’, and of course Stephanie Johnson bags.
I always hit the shoe department at Neiman Marcus in Atlanta (Dallas too) for the latest and greatest. Somehow they manage unique offerings that I never see back in NYC and they always have my size (yeah!). My favorite Prada wedges and Prada sandals came from here and this time I managed to scoop up the most adorable Miu Miu cherry sandals known to fashion. Aren’t they cute?
What trip would be complete without a little pampering? Woo is a skincare and makeup haven (and longtime SJ customer!) known for their attentive service. They also offer a full menu of spa treatments. For my next trip, I’m craving the delicious-sounding Darphin Divine 8-Flower Lifting Facial. Bliss!
I rang in the New Year with old friends and some new, back in my hometown of Palm Beach. I wasn’t born there, but spent 15 years soaking up the island sun and dancing on every table in town from Bradley’s to LuLu’s, 264, and of course, Au Bar. Three days there was a wonderful trip down memory lane for me, visiting old friends, driving past my old apartment, and seeing how much has changed while so much has stayed the same. That’s the beauty of this magical place.
Considered a local, admittedly I turned my nose up a bit at staying down the road rather than in the center of town. However that attitude vanished when I checked into the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan. Placed directly on the beach, the divine ocean views and waking up to the sound of waves lapping the shore sold me. Endless beach walks, sunset ocean dips, and cocktails outside by the fire pit were some highlights. Not to mention the seriously good sushi served in the lobby bar. Rooms are standard Ritz Carlton fare: neutral tones, balconies, perfect bathrooms and maybe the most comfortable bed in the business. Shoot, have I mentioned the most incredible spa? Wicker chair orbs suspended from a trellis over a shallow pool, anyone? Sublime.
Buccan is the new ‘hard to get in’ restaurant in town and it serves up truly delicious food in a contemporary and comfortable setting. I feasted on everything from tuna tartare to pizza while seated on a cozy sofa in the lounge with friends. Worth making the res.
I started my mornings with cinnamon toast and fried eggs from Greens Pharmacy and Luncheonette. This mostly ‘locals only’ hideaway dishes up diner food at the counter in the middle of a pharmacy alongside sunscreen and beach pails. Might be my favorite PB destination and no trip there is complete without it.
Further south near the Ritz is the Dune Deck. Located on the public beach north of the hotel, I loved walking there on the beach and enjoying a BLT seaside.
Go to Hamburger Heaven for an egg salad sandwich, or a burger and a shake. Hasn’t changed a wink since I frequented here 15 years ago. Can’t beat counter seating. Old school PB.
Testa’s (strawberry pie and steak for two), Bice, Renato’s and Chez Jean Pierre are still island faves, and try the new pizza spot, Pizza Al Fresco, started by the folks from Renato’s. Located in Via Mizner, this always busy pizza under the stars was a welcome newcomer for me.
Leta Austin Foster is the stepmom to an old beau of mine, and a seriously cool woman. Never mind that she can finish the NYT crossword in about five minutes, she also has seriously good taste. Check out her shop in the Via Mizner for toney giftables, linens, and all things chic.
I love that Vivi’s Stationery is still in its home tucked in the Via Parigi after all these years. Go here to have a box of custom paper luggage tags made with your last name in your choice of colors. Use a new one for every trip and spot your bags on the carousel from a mile away.
No trip to Palm Beach is complete without a visit to Lilly Pulitzer headquarters aka C. Orrico. Owned by my favorite three sisters, this is your destination for all things pink and green.
Palm Beach is unlike any place you’ve ever been, with its manicured hedges, Mizner architecture, coquina stone and perfect setting between the intracoastal and the ocean. Definitely take a walk along the Lake Trail (a great way to be a voyeur and see how the other side lives), and take a drive down Ocean Drive ogling the grand Mizners. Don’t forget to peek at Donald Trump’s place, Mar-A-Lago, the former manse of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Don’t go in though . . . today it’s a members-only club.
Most of the street signs now are green, but when I lived there they were chic chic chic black with white letters. Keep your eyes open and you may see one or two left. Another peculiarity to Palm Beach are the real estate signs. If you are looking to buy, you better squint. Realtor signs are hung on pencil thin rods and are the size of your smart phone.
Fun Fact: When I first moved to Palm Beach around 1985, the wall that surrounds Mar-A-Lago still had broken glass bottles affixed to the top as a sort of olden days security system. The old school version of barbed-wire, it was insanely beautiful and dangerous. The town (or The Donald) removed it sometime in the mid-eighties, so now it’s just a memory of another era.