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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

07/10 - Globe Trotting in Carmel

Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the country's most charming beach "hamlets".  With a very Euro-chic feel,  a glorious beach brimming with every kind of dog imaginable frolicking in its waves, distinctive Edwardian cottages lining the tree-canopied narrow rows of streets, wonderful food and wine for every taste and age, and accommodations ranging from luxury boutique hotels to cozy guest houses - all with their own unique charisma.

The town engulfs you in relaxed charm and elegance, and is the perfect spot for "people and dog watching" as you sit in one of the many outdoor cafes and restaurants and watch life go by!  Let the kids wander through the Cottage of Sweets in the truest British tradition, grab a micro brew pint at Jack London's, nibble on true Parisian breads and French fare at La Bicyclette or enjoy the fine salumi and gelato collection at Luca Salumeria.

What many don't know is that this quaint community is also a playground for globe trotting shopping. In this episode of Slow Living Radio, we hear from some of the more unexpected and colorful individuals that have helped shape Carmel-by-the-Sea into the destination it is.  A store with one of the countries largest collections of pens, paper and everything for writing, at Bittner - The Pleasure of Writing.

Southern Latitude is a store that show co-host, official Australian Wine Geek, Sally James, has dubbed the best selection of Southern Hemisphere wines she has found in the country. And as a bonus you may encounter the store mascots, their two beagles! And, finally, a local haunt for International cheese, wine and gourmet food lovers, The Carmel Cheese Shop.

One of the most historic and newly renovated hotels, the La Playa, has an enchanting history that we'll hear about!  Not to mention its magnificent grounds and rooms!

Located in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, just two blocks from the village and beach, La Playa Carmel is a 75-room historic luxury boutique hotel, recently restored to reclaim its past glory and modernized to meet today’s expectations. Perched above the Pacific Ocean with expansive views, the hotel features fully renovated guest rooms and interior spaces, colorful gardens, tranquil patios and courtyards perfect for catered events, and a terrace swimming pool. This special place that has lured guests with its charm, beauty and hospitality since the turn-of-the century, today beckons you to experience the same and make a little history for yourself.

An enchanting history that carries on today...

La Playa Carmel in Carmel-by-the-Sea has a rich, colorful and romantic history. What is now the main entrance of La Playa Carmel is the building that once stood as a luxurious mansion, designed in 1905 by artist Christian Jorgensen as a gift for his wife, a member of the Ghirardelli family.

Jorgensen, best known for his painting of California landscapes, envisioned a mansion of stone and heavy sand-hued beams, reminiscent of the Carmel Mission. But the real lure of the home was its location. Nestled atop a tree-lined bluff, the site looks out across the Pacific Ocean and its rugged coastline with Cypress trees and Pines.

The Grand Dame

Romantic and breathtaking, this view has captivated artists, as well as owners of the property throughout its long history. In 1916, it became a hotel under Agnes "Alice" Signor, an early San Francisco hotelier with an East Coast bearing, known for her hospitality.  Over the years, as the property has exchanged hands and ownership, it has undergone several expansions. The original section of the building that still stands today, features a star-shaped stained glass window facing the street, and steps leading up to a decorative bell tower - design details reminiscent of the early missions. The agricultural fields said to have flourished on adjacent property are long gone, but the commanding view remains the same today. It was this view and the Jorgensen's hospitality that brought guests, including numerous artists and writers, again and again to Carmel. It continues that tradition today.


Mary Crowe

General Manager

La Playa Hotel, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Mary Crowe has been appointed General Manager of La Playa Carmel, a member of Classic Hotels & Resorts. Ms. Crowe brings a strong hospitality background and impressive experience to La Playa Carmel. The historic boutique hotel, formerly known as the La Playa Hotel, located in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea is currently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation and will re-open to guests in July 2012.
With more than 20 years of years of experience, Ms. Crowe has held diverse positions at hotels and resorts throughout California, most notably as the General Manager of the acclaimed Villagio Inn & Spa located in Napa Valley. During her tenure, the boutique resort received Travel + Leisure’s prestigious awards as one of “Top 50 Hotels in the United States.”
Ms. Crowe attended Cornell University’s world-renowned School of Hotel Administration, started her hotel career at Sheraton Hotels and assisted in opening Seascape Resort & Conference Center in Aptos, California. Crowe has since held leading roles at some of California’s most regarded hotels, and has taken an active community role at each of these properties. Crowe served for four years on the California Hospitality and Lodging Association (CHLA) Board of Directors.
“It’s an honor to return the Carmel community and I look forward to welcoming the next generation of guests to La Playa Carmel,” said Crowe. “Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the most attractive destinations in America and we look forward to celebrating the region’s rich and beautiful history for years to come.”

Detlef Bittner
Bittner ~ The Pleasure of Writing
Bittner ~ The Pleasure of Writing has travelled the Seven Seas to bring you the finest writing instruments, accessories and stationery from around the world. Their boutique on Ocean Avenue in beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea is also known as "Pen Haven" among many customers, collectors and friends.

Bittner is a mecca for the writing enthusiast.
Encompassing a vast collection of the finest writing instruments, rare collectibles, fine papers and note cards, hand bound journals, specialized inks, seals and seal waxes, engraved stationery, watermarked and handmade papers, Bittner has gathered a truly remarkable and world class collection for you.
Their knowledgeable staff has over 60 years of pen experience and look forward to helping you with all your needs in the world of writing. We have an incredible creative business and corporate gift program, from customized leather products to custom designed pens and special editions.

The Bittner Collectors Club is an amazing resource for even the most discerning collector of the finest writing instruments, may they be solid gold, adorned with precious stone, Japanese Maki-e lacquer art or extremely rare.

R. Kent Torrey
President & CEO*
(*Cheese Eating Oenophile)
 The Cheese Shop, Inc.   

Carmel Plaza, Carmel-by-the- Sea California

Question: What provides your senses with delectable eye candy, sensual smells, all while tantalizing your taste buds? Answer: Everything at The Cheese Shop!
Simply put, Kent and his staff of The Cheese Shop Inc, in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, ROCKS when it comes to their selections of wonderful world class wines, their incredible array of cheeses, and gastronomic gourmet foods. A visit to Carmel is just not complete without a stop at this world-renowned store!
On any given day you will find Kent and his extremely amiable staff sampling from over 200 different cheeses from around the world, passing along to the customers wonderful insights from the history of that particular cheese’s origins, to its use in intricate dishes and tips on throwing great wine & cheese tasting parties. A particular specialty... how to pack a romantic picnic full of their goodies to be enjoy while watching a stunning sunset at the Carmel beach. Hearsay has it that many marriage proposals were the results of such picnics!
And alas, to the bemusement of his staff, Kent will always be offering up one of his litany of “cheesy” jokes to both entertain and make you groan all at once. Life is just too short not to have fun, and when it comes to eating and drinking, The Cheese Shop is all about enjoyment.
Being from the state of Hawaii, Kent has infused the “O’hana” spirit into this family oriented business, which has celebrated 39 years of eating and drinking! Kent’s mantra: “Eat Cheese, Drink Wine, Live Life Happy!” 

Kerre Dubinsky and  Annalisa Wood
Southern Latitude Wines
The store mascots, Flinders and Taz

A trip to Australia and Kerre Dubinsky and partner Annalisa Wood were sold.  Australian wines, lifestyle and old family owned wineries.  They happily filled their rental car with treasures from each winery they visited.  Not so easy was the journey home for these wines however – three months in customs and a few favors along the way, and at last they were able to enjoy their collection.

However a new problem arose. They loved these wines, but couldn't find a good selection in the U.S. Suddenly, like the proverbial bolt of lightening, the solution became clear - to open a wine shop, assemble a collection, and sell wine themselves! What could be simpler? Right.

Nonetheless, as youthful albeit middle-aged professionals, they were ready for a change. So, despite the best efforts of friends, who repeatedly advised that they were insane, Kerre and Annalisa opened Southern Latitudes Wines in May 2004. Much to their delight and immense relief, so far so good.

Realizing that “Southern Latitude” encompasses many more great wine regions than those in Australia, the couple venture to South Africa for an intense wine convention and have trekked through New Zealand visiting famous and lesser known wine regions to bring the best from these countries to their cellar.

That allows them to stockpile a large selection of inexpensive wines that often set trends, since those areas can exploit looser laws to apply innovative winemaking techniques sooner than the Northern Hemisphere.

“We wanted to be different and realized it’d be a good focus, since there are so many great values down there,” Wood says. “It’s also nice to have an excuse to travel.” Their commitment has earned bottles others can’t get. “When focusing on an area, you get more access to limited-production wines,” she adds. Customers reap the benefits.

More recently, the addition of South American wines have graced the shelves and these destinations are next on the ladies agenda!

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