For Your Reading List: The Darlings
Cristina Alger discusses her first novel, a fall of the family tale that rivals the real-life story of the Madoffs.
February 20, 2012
In her debut novel, The Darlings, former lawyer Cristina Alger tackles subjects that she has experienced firsthand. From family ties and loyalties to the world of Wall Street and the economic crash, Alger's characters traverse sensitive yet timely issues under the microscope of New York's high society. Here, the author opens up about her switch from law to writing, the process of publishing her first novel, and her opinions on the current economy.
What sparked your decision to move from law and finance to writing?
I enjoyed my job and always saw writing as a side hobby. I found myself spending more and more time doing it, and I ended up showing the [book] to a friend who is a writer. She thought it was great and thought I should go off and find an agent. It was the first time I thought that I could, maybe, do this full-time and see if I could consider this a job and not a hobby. When I first left [law], I was a little bit nervous that I would miss the structure and miss having colleagues. Then I found that I loved it and it felt like I was doing what I thought was my hobby as a job, and I'm still marveled that that's the case.
How did you come up with the concept for the book?
When I started working on it, it struck me that I was watching history unfold. They were traumatic times for Wall Street, and New York generally. I started working on a story based on a family company, because I grew up in that environment. I thought it created an interesting stage for personal familly issues to play out. Eventually, I [plotted] my story with the Darling family and got very involved with the characters, building a larger story around them.
Where do you see the economy going in future years?
One of the things that I wanted to do in my book was show a changing of the guard a little bit, and have the characters that have stronger ethical values come out on top. I guess that was my sort of a hopeful way of saying that I hope that the turmoil of the market would allow for a little bit of reordering. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF CRISTINAALGER.COM
Rediscovering Pierre-Auguste Renoir at The Frick
A never-before-seen grouping of the artist’s full-length portraits opens at The Frick.
January 26, 2012
Dance in the City by Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
on loan from the Museé d’Orsay in Paris
This month, an exhibit five years in the making will debut in The Frick Collection’s vast East Gallery. “Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting” explores the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s commitment to the large-scale format. “This scale was for him very meaningful; it’s not just occasional. It’s really a format that he rejoices in,” says Colin B. Bailey, the Frick’s deputy director. “I would argue that it brings forth some of his most impressive, ambitious, beautiful pictures.”
The exhibition, which includes nine paintings from the Impressionist decade (1874 to 1885), culled from museums in London, Paris, Boston, and other cities, includes the painting The Umbrellas, last seen in the US in 1886. Says Bailey of the work, “It’s one of the most mesmerizing of Renoirs.”
However, it was The Promenade, purchased by Henry Clay Frick in 1914 and part of the museum’s permanent collection, which was the inspiration for the exhibition. In preparation, the painting was sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for study, during which an infrared analysis revealed two women in the background, painted over by Renoir. “Our pictures have never left the Frick, so it’s never been part of an exhibition and it hasn’t been, in some ways, studied or explored,” says Bailey. “I feel very strongly that for every work that we’ve asked to come here, we should encourage as much new study as possible. So for us, that was a fantastic, unexpected insight into Renoir’s process.” “Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting” is on display February 7 through May 13; 1 E. 70th St., 212-288-0700
Neal Sroka: Confessions of a Power Broker
Prudential Douglas Elliman’s real estate expert reveals today’s property investment for in-the-know New Yorkers—the Caribbean.
January 20, 2012
Thirty years ago, Neal Sroka, founder and president of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s DE Worldwide, an international real estate consulting group, first encountered the Caribbean market; 20 years later he began selling there. But it was only in the last 18 months that Sroka noticed the market really beginning to heat up. “As these [new] developments become more mature, you’re going to see some uptick in values,” says Sroka, who believes that buyers coming in at the ground floor will find there is room for the market to grow, spurring increased home values.
A shift has also occurred in the ease with which people can get to island locales, making the region prime for vacation homes. “The mere fact that, in three hours or less, you can be on the beach in one of these resort areas makes a very compelling argument for a New Yorker to pursue one,” says Sroka. “We used to joke that, on certain days, it was easier to get on a plane and fly to your house in the Dominican Republic than to drive to your place in East Hampton.”
Sroka has noticed a trend of New Yorkers with an apartment in the city and a place out in the Hamptons now buying in the Caribbean to “spread out the whole year.” Says Sroka, “They’ll spend three months in the Hamptons, six months in the city, and three months down in the Caribbean.” 575 Madison Ave., 212-319-5845
The Perfect Long Weekend in Mexico
Escape to Esperanza Resort for three glorious days of whale watching, yoga and unbelievably fresh seafood.
January 18, 2012
We’ve had a mild winter here in New York, but a gray and dreary one nonetheless—and it’s all downhill from here. But, did you know that it’s high time for whale watching, 83-degree weather and infinity pool wading in Cabo San Lucas? Prepare your frosty, downtrodden senses to be uplifted with this three-day itinerary at Esperanza Resort, located four miles outside of Cabo San Lucas on the bluffs of the Baja Peninsula. Through whale watching season (January to March 31) the resort is offering a special Whale’s Journey package ($2959) that includes three nights in an oceanview garden casita, a magical whale watching excursion, complimentary private roundtrip airport transfers, daily breakfasts at the resort’s fine dining restaurant, gratis yoga classes and a lunch for two at the resort's grill. Here’s how we recommend making the most of three days in paradise.
Arrive: Begin your journey at Los Cabos International Airport, where the Esperanza Cadillac Escalade will be waiting to whisk you away to the resort.
Decompress: Settle into your oceanview casita, replete with 925 square-feet of indoor/outdoor living space and one cozy hammock. Next, go for a dip in the resort’s infinity edge pool overlooking the glittering Sea of Cortez. Swim-up or sit down at La Palapa grill for a lunch of lobster fajitas and seafood ceviche. For dessert, hail a gourmet popsicle (watermelon ginger or coconut rum, anyone?) or snow cone from a friendly pool butler. After you’ve soaked up the necessary amount of sun, sea and seafood, catch a candlelight yoga class at the Esperanza yoga studio.
Fiesta: Get acquainted with the diverse and eclectic cuisines and libations of Mexico at Mexicanismo, a recurring Thursday night fiesta on the resort’s oceanfront patio that roars with live music, fireworks and fun.
Recharge: Savor a breakfast of old fashioned chilaquiles or huevos rancheros and organic estate-grown Mexcican coffee in the privacy of your casita or seaside at the resort’s cliff-perched Cocina del Mar restaurant.
Set Sail: ‘Tis the season for whale watching in Cabo San Lucas. During this time thousands of gray and humpback whales make the longest migration of any mammal to the warm waters near Cabo San Lucas. See the graceful and massive flock during a two-and-a-half hour Zodiac Whale Watching Excursion. Afterward, go off the resort grounds for a lunch at The Office, a lively beachfront restaurant where you can sink your toes in the sand and tuck into Baja-style lobster cooked in hot oil with garlic and onion and chorizo queso fundido served with piping hot corn tortillas and tomatillo sauce.
Turn and Burn: Enroll in Cocina del Mar chef Gonzalo Cerda's Refined Grilling Class and learn how to cook Baja’s indigenous “chocolata” clams. Chef Cerda will also instruct students on the traditional Mexican way to grill fish over a wood and coal bonfire.
Sunrise: Wake up before dawn and take in a sunrise yoga class on the resort’s private beach. Afterward, keep the sea in sight and enjoy a leisurely breakfast alfresco at Cocina del Mar.
Spa: Treat your newly tanned skin to an organic facial at the beach bungalow Spa at Esperanza. Request the new Baja Lime Brightening and Lightening Facial for a vitamin C and antioxidant boost using Marie Veronique products. Check in early and experience the Pasaje de Agua, where you’ll progress through a warm spring soaking pool, steam caves and a cool waterfall. And don’t forget to order a refreshing agua fresca made with local fruits, vegetables and desert plants.
Taste: Become an expert in the nuances of white, semi-aged and aged tequilas while enjoying homemade Mexican chocolate pairings, traditional mezcal and sangritas at an artisanal chocolate and tequila tasting led by the resort’s master tequilero.
Devour: Save the best for last and experience chef Cerda's sea-to-table menu at Cocina del Mar. The three-course tasting menu samples the bounty of the local waters accented by traditional Mexican spices. The seafood tortilla soup, bobbing with poached lobster, scallops, shrimp, littleneck clams, crispy corn tortillas, guajillo chili and cool avocado, is a first course favorite. Follow it up with the delicate shrimp and crab agnolotti with pernod and saffron seafood bisque and finish with the chef’s special catch of the day. Then, all that’s left to do is imbibe and sleep sound until breakfast is delivered to your casita and the Esperanza Escalade picks you up once again.
For reservations, call 866-311-2226 or visit esperanzaresort.com
Travel: See-and-be-Seen in St Barts
The Hotel Carl Gustaf provides the perfect escape from a New York winter.
December 19, 2011
St Barts draws the elegance of St. Tropez into the laissez faire of the Caribbean mode de vie, culminating in a renown for both chic sensibility and carefree charm all at once. Above all, though, it triumphs in providing visitors respite from the complexities of the outside world with its paradise of natural riches and delicate refinement. While maintaining a seemingly effortless beauty, St Barts is a land of golden apples in which only the crème de la crème stands exceptional.
Named for the current king of Sweden (in reverence to St Barts’s prior ownership), the Hotel Carl Gustaf sits on a steppe-like throne carved into the bluffs of southeast Gustavia. You wouldn’t readily notice it from below, as the carefully landscaped foliage all but camouflages it within the hillside. Yet just beyond the lobby the hidden conceit unfolds: a breathtaking panorama of the capital and encircling cliffs, scintillating waters dotted with boats and pink roofs reveling below in the tropical sun. This view greets guests every morning beyond French doors to a balcony. Breakfast is served en suite and should always be followed by a morning dip in the balcony private pool.
The hotel offers a selection of 14 suites along with a boutique spa and some of the finest French cuisine on the island. A dozen one- and two-bedroom suites are hidden among the walkways on the hillside, each a five minute stroll from the harbor or Shell Beach, and each within its own colonial-style cottage complete with a private terrace, plunge pool, kitchenette, spacious living room and king size bedroom. Continental breakfast arrives every morning at whatever time you request. Afterward, relax on the terrace for a spell and expect a visitor or two—it’s not uncommon for the local iguanas to join you.
The Royal Suite, in turn, has a more modern aesthetic. Designed by French yacht builder Franck Reynaud and completed in 2009, the suite is actually four smaller separate suites in one, constructed at the highest point on the hotel grounds and overlooking Gustavia, nearby beaches and miles of ocean. Its expansive terraces, infinity pool and Jacuzzi are perfect for parties, lounging or stargazing, while a separate entrance ensures total privacy.
Victoria’s, the hotel’s world-class French restaurant, offers some of the best cuisine on the island. For the first course, try a refreshing crabmeat salad with grapefruit over a gazpacho aspic, delightful in its own right while whetting the palate for the main course of Dover sole with mussels, shrimp and mushrooms. Dinner is delicious, but the dessert of Valrhona chocolate crisp and hot chocolate emulsion is transcendental.
As the only westward facing resort on the island, the Hotel Carl Gustaf has access to unparalleled sunset and harbor views from vistas in almost all of the rooms as well as its lounge and restaurant. Head up before dinner, and watch the veil of violet twilight descend on the milling crowds and harbor street lamps below. Wake up the next day and—blissfully—do it all over again.
Broker Beat: Core Group's Shaun Osher
Core Group’s Shaun Osher on utilizing cyberspace for the ultimate insider’s edge in securing residential space.
December 06, 2011
Shaun Osher, founder and CEO of Core Group, an upscale residential and commercial real estate brokerage and marketing firm, believes that success begins with this mantra: Knowledge is power. But reaching far beyond simply advising buyers and sellers on comparable projects in their area, Osher and Core Group—which he founded in 2005 with partner Jack Cayre, scion of a powerful yet under-the-radar billionaire real estate family—were among the first to harness the power of the Internet to move real estate and attract new clients to their business.
“We use our blog as a marketing tool because it is an open platform where we can instantly reach a mass audience and communicate and interact with them,” says Osher. “It gave us the platform to openly express our philosophy, business practices, and knowledge on the market.”
According to Osher, something as simple as using the Web’s search engines to learn about a buyer or seller, investigate the background of a builder or developer, or study a contractor and designer can give the smart real estate investor an insider’s edge in a competitive market. “We live in a world of transparency,” he says. “Both buyers and sellers should embrace the technology and use it as an asset.”
In today’s market, Osher says, there is still “low inventory” for highend properties. If you are a buyer and you can close a deal—do it. “Don’t be fixated on one or two percent differences,” he says. “Finding the right apartment is priceless.” 212-609-9100
Treasures & Bond Gives Big
Treasure & Bond opens its doors to benefit New York City Children's Charities.
November 02, 2011
One store, eight charities, 100 percent of the profits—such is the never-been-attempted-in-the-US concept for a brand-new downtown boutique, the brainchild of Pete Nordstrom, president of merchandising for the luxury retailer, Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, and Catie Marron, chairman of the New York Public Library. The idea began with the Nordstrom department store, which had yet to open a full-price establishment on this side of the Hudson.
A must-stop shop in other privileged cities for those seeking luxurious beauty supplies, cashmere capes, towering stilettos, and the bag du jour, Nordstrom is taking a new step into Manhattan by backing the opening of Treasure & Bond, a bi-level concept store that includes a remarkable philanthropic element in addition to the stylish fashions and home accents. Shopping in the rustic, expansive space evokes the feeling of hunting for the perfect souvenir on an exotic escape; the merchandise is alternative and sometimes irreverent, offering cheeky knickknacks for kitchen, boudoir, and every other part of the high-style home. “We want to have a full-line store in Manhattan, so anything we can do to make ourselves better and more informed is important,” said Nordstrom. “By virtue of the fact that Treasure & Bond has a philanthropic aspect, it connects us to the community.”
Fully Committed to Giving
Uncommon for a boutique, let alone a national department store, Treasure & Bond—which is operated independently of the Nordstorm chain of luxury stores—donates 100 percent of profits to charities in New York City that focus on children. Rachel Dooley, jewelry designer of Gemma Redux, an ambassador for Self Help Africa, and an active supporter of the American Cancer Society, celebrates the shop’s model. “We thought we must have missed a critical point, because what high-end retailer creates an entire concept store with the profits going to charity?” says Dooley, who became involved with the venture “the old-fashioned way,” by meeting at a trade show. “But when you walk into the space, you understand how dedicated they are to the project. It is incredible, conceptual, and inviting—inspirational on the surface and at its soul. I am proud to be part of an initiative with a fashion retailer that is truly altruistic.”
The partnering organizations change with each season, beginning this fall with The New York Public Library’s programs for children and young adults as well as New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative. Moving into the new year, beneficiaries will include Children’s Health Fund, Coalition for the Homeless (its Camp Homeward Bound sleepaway camp and after-school services), Edible Schoolyard NYC, and Friends of the High Line’s family and education programs, ending the summer of 2012 with Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Pediatric Cancer Care and the Association to Benefit Children. Looking beyond the first crop of charities, designers, community members, and shoppers alike will be able to cast a vote on the Treasure & Bond website to propose possible inclusion of their favored organizations. 350 W. Broadway, 646-669-9049
Interior Pick: Farrow & Ball
Brighten up your abode with bold colors and patterns using eco-friendly luxury wallpapers and paints.
September 26, 2011
Buy a new Manhattan residence and the first thing that greets you is wall after wall of plain, flat white. Thankfully UK-based company Farrow & Ball has opened a third location in the city—with a fourth coming this winter—to help give your pied-à-terre a most fashionable facelift. Made with eco-friendly natural ingredients and high-quality resins, the company’s signature chalky matte Estate Emulsion finish offers unrivaled depth of color to walls that may have seen more than one coat of paint over their history. “This exceptionally matte finish helps give a smooth appearance on walls by refracting light and defining a space with color,” says Sarah Cole, one of Farrow & Ball’s directors.
The 65-year-old company produces 132 interior and exterior paint colors—including nine elegant new hues ranging from soft gray to sophisticated lilac. “The color orange is very hot right now and looks set to continue,” says Cole, who recommends Charlotte’s Locks, the brand’s recently introduced fiery hue. “It’s a versatile color with powerful warm undertones and works wonderfully as an accent color in an interior scheme. Pink is also proving to be popular this year; its warm tone helps to create a casual, relaxed feeling in any room. Contrast with a warm gray for a very chic look.” To achieve the look, Cole suggests the company’s Cinder Rose paired with Dove Tale.
Also under the Farrow & Ball umbrella are 33 different designer wallpapers such as the latest collection, the Italian Renaissance-inspired Broccato Papers, just released in early September. Environmentally friendly, with zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the wallpapers are made to order at the company’s factory in Dorset, England, using a hand-brushing technique that gives each a unique texture. “Wallpaper can be used to create scale and texture in a room,” she says. “Bolder use of color and pattern is on the increase, with people becoming more confident when choosing a decorating scheme. Oversize prints have been popular more recently, as have more detailed designs featuring botanical and geometric shapes.”
With three locations in Manhattan, Farrow & Ball offers design help for any taste. Says Cole, “The Upper East Side showroom is situated in a striking bilevel townhouse building characteristic of the homes in the upscale neighborhood, while the Upper West Side showroom is located in a prime residential and retail area. Our Soho showroom is located in a beautiful cast-iron loft space, exemplifying a more Downtown feel.” 142 E. 73rd St., 212-737-7400; 322 Columbus Ave.; 112 Mercer St., 212-334-8330; 979 Third Ave., 212-752-5544
A-List Travel Agent: Jaclyn Sienna India
For a vacation that’s truly tailor-made, look no further than India’s boutique travel agency.
September 26, 2011
By the age of 29, Jaclyn Sienna India had circumnavigated the globe, moved 20 times and launched her bespoke travel agency, Sienna Charles, a marriage of an “old-school luxury travel agency” with a private club. Rather than spending her days tied to a desk, as India recalls the agents doing at the Palm Beach agency where she got her start, she is on the go some 25 days out of every month, experiencing properties first-hand. “I’ve been to 150 hotels in six months,” she says.
Her all-encompassing services provide clients with beautifully curated experiences, right down to the custom soundtracks that her musician husband, Freddy Charles, creates for their trips. Yet no matter how far she travels, some of India’s favorite destinations—despite the fact that she is one of only 85 people in the world who can sell trips to outer space via Virgin Galactic—are within driving distance of her native New York. “From here, you can head in most any direction,” she says, citing Blantyre in the Berkshires, Glenmere Mansion in Hudson Valley and Natirar in New Jersey as favorite weekend jaunts. “There’s an art to pairing a person with a hotel,” says India. “From there, I create an experience. I put my heart and soul into it.”
Pratesi linens do just the trick.
August 12, 2011
Pratesi, the century-old home linens brand, puts a modern twist on their collections just in time for summer. Add a splash of color to your patio set with a bright cashmere throw. 829 Madison Ave., 212-288-2315