The Morgans Hotel Group Breathes New Life into Their Digital Presence

Best Hotel Websites

Not unlike other major players in the digital hopsitality game like SLS South Beach’s new App or Conrad Hotels’ Conrad Concierge, now the Morgans Hotel Group, perhaps the first ‘Chic King’ in the hotel industry’s boutique sector with properties like the Delano (South Beach, Marrakech), Mondrian (LA, South Beach, NYC), Hudson (NYC), and Sanderson (London) to name just a few, has tapped New York-based digital agency, Firstborn, to partner on digital programming across its hotel properties, in addition to the development and re-launch of its global website. Firstborn will focus on creating mobile and web-based content geared toward enhancing the guest experience and promoting the brand’s boutique culture.  They’ll also be working to develop exclusive on-property technologies that will deliver a more personalized stay.  I’ll be curious to see what that entails, but I certainly have some ideas, if you need me, guys.  


Since mobile is clearly the new social for consumers, Kim Walker, Creative Director and Senior Vice President of Brand and Marketing at Morgans Hotel Group, said their goal to create “an enhanced presence that will provide better service, anticipate guest needs, and engage guests during every step of their stay.”  The real point here is that, when a guest chooses to stay at a Morgans Hotel Group property, they’re not just getting a place to sleep, they’re choosing to experience a unique culture.  This is a common trend in the hotel game and one that will only continue to become more competitive and innovative as hotels battle for the heads and beds. Earlier this year, Morgans Hotel Group also attempted to bring life and style back to the lifestyle game by introducing Back of House, a culturally rich blog that features curated content in the world of design, art, fashion, music, food and nightlife.  Through an extensive list of tastemakers, artists, and celebrities, Back of House wants to provide the kind of fresh, relevant material that makes guests feel on the cutting-edge of what’s current in the always-shifting cultural scene. Reminds me a bit of the 2010 launch of the LVMH blog,, which, after three years, appears to attract (according to, approximately 184K UMVS (unique monthly views). Given the difficulty in growing a brand website or blog as a destination without daily content updates, a brilliant SEO strategy, and advertising support, it will be interesting to see how their content strategy develops and what they’ve set as KPIs to measure success.  That said, the brand is always one to watch with their tapped in style.

Hot Spring & Summer Shades

While Cinco de Mayo (sadly) falls on a Sunday this year, we thought we’d share some hot specs so that at least we could look incredibly chic at each fiesta we plan to attend. Whether barhopping with our besties, doing the samba with our significant other, or hosting happy hour at our place, see the shades below from SOLSTICE Sunglasses which, we think, offer some of the sexiest and sleekest styles to complement every festivity (plus, these beauties from brands like Kate SpadeGucci, and Carrera will mask your Monday hangover after you finish celebrating one of the booziest holidays of the year). Drink responsibly!

Canta y No LLores

Three shots in and feeling brave? These transparent specs from Kate Spade and Carrera shield you from embarrassment after you join the in-house mariachi band to belt Cielito Lindo to your heart’s content.


Amor Prohibido

No need to learn a new language – these shades do all the talking for you.  Whether you’re enjoying outdoor tableside sangria with a cutie from the bar or dancing through the day and night, these bold and vibrant styles from Carrera add spice to your dating life.

Kate Spade sunglasses

¡Ay Caramba!

The perfect party host knows how to accessorize with these festive frames from Kate Spade.  Hang up the piñata in an outfit that coordinates with the surrounding red, white and green décor.

Herrera sunglasses

Como La Flor

Floral patterns are inspired by decorative folklorico designs. Embrace tradition with these styles from Kate Spade and Dior that accentuate your Bohemian side and are perfect through the summer!

Dior sunglasses

Beauty Along the Bosphorus


Four Seasons Spa & Hammam Bosphorus

Four Seasons Spa & Hammam Bosphorus

Most spa treatments speak to four of the senses, from sight and smell to sound and touch, but when you really think about it, there hasn’t been one blissfully perfect experience that engages all five — until now.

People have always flocked to the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus for its traditional Turkish hammam treatment, a bathing ritual that activates blood circulation, detoxifies the body and — bonus! — improves the look of your skin. But the decadent new Epicurean Hammam will give you a taste of Istanbul in more ways than one.
Part way through your 25-minute hammam treatment in the hot marble sauna, you’ll be served an olive oil ice cream popsicle to keep you feeling cool and hydrated — just before receiving a luxurious 15-minute foam massage with natural olive oil soap. Next, you’ll be drenched head to toe in a special creamy mixture of strained yogurt and rose water. As the healing yogurt absorbs into your skin, making it look firmer and brighter, a scalp massage will send you even deeper into relaxation.
And at the end of your sensory journey, you’ll rest with a refreshing yogurt with honey to leave just the right taste in your mouth — and ensure you’re feeling good and looking great, inside and out.

So check out Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus  to stimulate your five senses with the exclusive Epicurean Hammam treatment.  Oh, and did we also mention that spa goers voted the Four Seasons Spa & Hammam as their favorite spa in Turkey for three consecutive years in the SpaFinder Wellness Reader’s Choice Awards?

Pair that with your popsicle!

A Hot New Hotel App on the Miami Scene

hotel app

I’ve been writing about travel for the last ten years and one thing I’m newly excited about are all of the great travel apps and tech features hitting the hospitality scene.

From the ex-Googler’s who brought us Triposo to HotelTonight for last minute hotel deals and Tripomatic, Tripl, and Trippy, there’s no shortage of apps for all your traveling needs.

Now, hotels are jumping into the game with lifestyle apps for guests who want a bit more of an immersive tech-inspired guest experience (that’d be me, y’all). With SLS Hotel South Beach’s new lifestyle app, guests and fans of the property are served up dynamic online content including drink recipes, urgent champagne delivery, customized itineraries, and hotel concierge access. Developed by leading hospitality software platform Runtriz, the app is downloadable for free on iPhones, Androids, and also runs on all SLS Hotel South Beach in-room iPads.

Here are just a few of the sexy features of the SLS Hotel South Beach app:

Shake a Drink – Tap the “Shake a Drink” button to stir up a killer cocktail in the comfort of your Philippe Starck-designed room, or view specialty cocktails made by the hotel’s on-site mixologists at Katsuya, Hyde Beach and The Bazaar by José Andrés. Guests can raid the mini bar and stir up their own cocktail from the comfort of their room.

Bring Me Bubbles – Guests can rush order Champagne, ranging from a $50 Avinyo Cava to a $148 Lanson Ivory Label Demi-Sec Champagne, to be delivered to their rooms in less than 20 minutes (because sometimes bubbles is a real emergency).

Hotel Concierge – In-room iPads deliver unique hotel services to guests with a touch, including dinner reservations at The Bazaar and Katsuya, in-room dining and on-demand services. Guests can take advantage of the expert concierge team, who have created “Perfect Day in South Beach” sample itineraries from Lenny Kravitz and more. Concierge services through in-room iPads (also projected on TV flat screens) also provide detailed information on local Miami attractions, South Beach weather, as well as print traveler’s boarding passes.

My personal favorite?

It’s a toss up between Bring Me Bubbles and Shake a Drink, of course, because who doesn’t want a little bubbly or cocktail recipe delivered at the push of a button when on vacation? Kickstarting good times by encouraging guests to interact with SLS’ award-winning mixology program is clearly the way to anyone’s heart.

Wild Ponies, A Michelin-Starred Chef, and Berlin, Baby!

Das Stue's Interior

Das Stue’s Indoor Swimming Pool

Nothing surprises me anymore… until I hear about a hotel in Berlin where it’s not unusual to see ostriches, gazelles, and wild ponies from your hotel room.

Yes, the view from Das Stue offers just that. As you can see from the photos, this is no budget house ‘o beds. You’re looking at a 5-star design savvy property with free WiFi (Thank you, Hospitality Gods!), a solarium, sauna, spa, and, that right there, is an indoor swimming pool. While Axthelm Architekten revitalized the historic building (once home to the Danish Embassy), the interior design and artistic direction of the public spaces were realized by Patricia Urquiola, the acclaimed Spanish architect and designer famous for her sleek comfortable design. Based on Urquiola’s concept, LVG Arquitectura S.L.P. designed the hotel’s 80 rooms and suites.

Chef Paco Perez

Chef Paco Perez

Located next to Berlin’s Kurfurstendamm shopping street, you’re also about a mile or two from Zoologischer Garten Train and Subway Station, The Kulturforum Culture Centre (home to the Berlin Philarharmonic and Neue Nationalgalerie Museum), and the Berlin Central Train Station can be reached from the hotel in a 10-minute drive.

With all the usual luxe amenities befitting a sexy Design Hotel, you have iPod/iPhone docking stations, satellite TV, and bathrooms with rain showers. Some rooms also have a balcony or terrace…  and did we mention the hotel’s Michelin-starred Catalan chef’s “5-cinco by Paco Perez” restaurant? Creations include the likes of Morel Mushrooms à la Crème with Foie-Ice Powder, where the bold musky taste of morels are paired with chilled powdered fois gras. Yes, this is real life (it just feels like fantasy).

Here's to sleek modern design...

Here’s to sleek modern design…

Located in the peaceful neighborhood of Tiergarten Park, Das Stue’s rooms and suites offer undisturbed views of Europe’s most visited zoo (where those little animals can be seen doing a variety of fun animal things), along with the tree-lined park and Berlin’s western skyline. This vista, seen from the hotel’s balconies and terraces represents the true Berlin – a coming together of old and new, of modern architecture with timeless monuments such as the golden victory column which shimmers as a beacon in the distance.

The lobby fit for a King

The lobby fit for a King

Prices range from around $280 – $500/night, but for a view of wild animals and lapping it up in such award-winning style, we think it’s well worth it.

I Left My Stomach at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

Crest Confit Duck, puff rice, lime curd

Crest Confit Duck, puff rice, lime curd

It’s really not fair when luxury hotels like one of my all-time favorite classics, The Ritz-Carlton, introduce a new Chef de Cuisine that knocks my socks off. I can only eat and drink so much without dragging myself to the gym. But alas… they’ve done it again. So, say ‘hello’ to Michael Rotondo of The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco’s Parallel 37 who trained and worked alongside world-renowned Chef Charlie Trotter at his eponymous Chicago restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s. 

Chef Michael Rotondo

Chef Michael Rotondo

With a background at the Five-Star Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, where he focused on local Florida flavors and, of course, Latin American fare, he’s trained in Europe and worked in multiple Michelin star restaurants tasting the bounties from different countries, including a stint beside Paul Bocuse in France. In 2008, he even received the “Most Promising Chef” award from chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller after competing in the United States Bocuse d’Or, widely regarded as the epitome of culinary competitions worldwide.

Whole Roasted Saddle of Lamb, Israeli couscous, crispy kale, cranberry

Whole Roasted Saddle of Lamb, Israeli couscous, crispy kale, cranberry

“There are few cities in the world where such amazing ingredients are available locally and in season year-round, but also so close to the epicenter of the wine culture in the United States,” Rotondo explains. “Being a chef for me is about the complete food and wine experience.” We agree, Michael. After all, what is fine fare without the fruit of the vine? (PS. I hear Jesus agrees too). Michael’s hyper-seasonal menu focuses on the best possible ingredients in a progressive, market-fresh style that is both refined and creative, without being overly avant-garde or drenched in too much sauce (we abhor the saucy over-pour).

Octopus, smoked sunchoke, breakfast radish

Octopus, smoked sunchoke, breakfast radish

We tasted everything from his mouth-watering royal trumpet mushroom with sea urchin and bonito flakes  ($20) that was the perfect blend of forest heaven and sea wonder to his ever-so-delicate kona kampachi with kumquats and ponzu in brown butter  ($17), bringing together a light citrus splash and gentle salt surprise. I could have eaten four servings of this dish alone. To get a sense of his range, you’ll notice that all of the dishes I mention in this article are different than the dishes in the photos to demonstrate Chef Rotondo’s seasonal savoir faire.

Royal Trumpet Mushroom, manila clams, bonito flakes

Royal Trumpet Mushroom, manila clams, bonito flakes

The black cod with yuzu gel, arugula blossoms, and parmesan  ($20) and an almost deconstructed crispy porkbelly in a homemade steam bun with grapefruit and pink peppercorn  ($16) were two of my personal favorites. The pork belly was not only cooked to the ideal crispiness, but the sauce itself was also housed in a highly flavorful, yet light asian sauce. The brilliant touch of grapefruit gave the dish that added blast of freshness… yes, I’m salivating as I write this.

In short, if you’re living or staying in San Francisco and don’t mind spending a pretty penny on quality small plates, this is the spot to do it. Plus, you’d be hard pressed to find better service than the Ritz. You could walk into the property in sweats (though might as well put on the dog), but they still treat you like royalty. For that, I (and my yoga pants) will forever be grateful. Oh, and we also recommend going for Chef Rotondo’s tasting menu, given that the above were our top picks, but he changes his menu frequently.

All delicious photos courtesy of Michelle Walker

Parallel 37 at The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco

600 Stockton Street (between California and Pine)

Experience Raw: LA’s Latest Healthy Gourmand

For those in Los Angeles, we were introduced to a great company called Experience Raw, founded by  raw food chef, Kirsten Gum. Passionate about health, organic food, and conscious living, she started her business because she was determined to experience life fully and wanted to help others get there too. Kirsten credits her zest for adventure and endless amounts of energy to her daily food choices, personally experiencing the healing powers of raw foods and conscious cuisine.As the creator and owner of Experience Raw, a full-service transformational eating and lifestyle business, she’s made it her mission to enrich lives through conscious cuisine. Kirsten believes that when we connect with our food, we connect to our bodies, our souls and the Earth.KirstenGum_07

Not only is she a certified gourmet raw food chef and instructor, she’s also an outdoor enthusiast, a yogi, a cyclist, a world traveler and an internationally recognized journalist and television host. You may even recognize her from the Travel Channel show, Treasure Hunter, where she got down and dirty to search the globe for Mother Nature’s gemstones. Here are some of the amazing offerings that I’m sure to check out when I’m back in Los Angeles!

Private Raw Food Services
From one-on-one raw food instruction to health-conscious shopping trips and pantry revamps, Experience Raw will help put you on the road to wellness.

Personal Chef Services
Experience Raw now offers exclusive any time any where services for those with time restraints, busy schedules and special needs.

Traveling Chef Incentive Program
Bring Experience Raw to your own community — anywhere in the world — by becoming an ER Ambassador. You’ll become part of their team and build and strengthen the raw community. Oh, and you’ll earn a little cash to boot!

Cleanse Support: Liquid Delivery
They want you to succeed. No matter what type or style or intensity of cleanse you’ve decided on, Experience Raw serves the local Los Angeles area with fresh juices, smoothies, tonics and teas, right to your doorstep.

Experience Raw is a full-service operation! No job is too small (privates) or too big (large groups).

Online Transitional Support
Let them become your best supporter and inspiration with daily check-ins via email or Skype, meal plans, shopping lists and anything else you need to succeed.

Recipe & Product Development
In the ever-changing world of all-natural products, adding some new twists and dishes to your arsenal of marketing can be a great way to generate business. Original recipe creation, photos and videos can offer your customer a new way to look at your brand.

Menu Consultation & Creation
Offering conscious cuisine is more mainstream than ever as society tries to clean up its eating habits. Success for your business comes when you can provide specialized treatment for your customers’ health needs.

And… they have several classes in Santa Monica STARTING NEXT WEEK so get on it, my beautiful Angelenos!

raw food
March 29th:

RAW Thai Dinner Party

April 3rd: 
Raw Chocolate Truffles

April 5th:

RAW Med. Dinner Party

April 6th:

Fermented Foods

April 7th:

Raw/VEGAN Nut Cheeses
5pm – 8pm

To Register for classes: