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Uniquely Urban: A Weekend in São Paulo

Having lived, worked, and vacationed in Brazil for many years, it’s kind of shocking that I hadn’t really explored its largest city. São Paulo was always just a layover on the way to the gorgeous beaches of the northeast or the sexy city of Rio. But with an itinerary carefully crafted by my colleagues at the São Paulo Convention and Visitors Bureau, I was in for a surprise. Hotel Unique_Lobby

Walking into my hotel, I was immediately struck by the unique design of the lobby and quickly understood how it earned its name. Hotel Unique is the architectural gem by Ruy Ohtake, one of Brazil’s architect legends. Drawing inspiration from Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and of course, his mother, famed Brazilian artist, Tomie Ohtake, Ruy’s lunar shaped luxury hotel is a sight to behold. Unique_Skye_Pool

Sitting down to check-in, I noticed the Conde Nast 2016 awards for “Best South American Hotel” and Hotel Unique’s enviable position at #8 on the list of “Top 50 Hotels in the World”. Sipping on a glass of welcome champagne, I was curious to learn how this hotel had earned its accolades.

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Eager to rest, I drew a bath in my suite, all the while intrigued by the edgy design. The contrast of curves and corners set against a backdrop of soothing white decor had me entranced.

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But why the awards? There are many hotels that boast cutting-edge design and invest in their interiors, but what makes Hotel Unique stand out is their service. Every one of my requests, odd as they were, was met with a warm smile that made me feel like I was at an old friend’s home. Read any of the TripAdvisor reviews, and it’s no wonder Hotel Unique is ranked as their top São Paulo recommendation. And it’s also worth mentioning that I was greeted with a glass of champagne wherever I went – it was as if they had a secret champagne nymph following me around the hotel!

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In a city as large as São Paulo, it’s sometimes hard to uncover hidden gems. But with the help of my expert guide, Flazia Liz Di Paolo, every corner beckons with glittering finds. Two of her unique fashion recs: Japonique Boutique and Léia Sgro Jewelry.

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My favorite COMAS dress made from men’s shirts!

Japonique is trendy, but tastefully curated. I picked up a pair of Melissa shoes for a client, browsed through chic room decor, but my favorite discovery was the COMAS clothing line. Lucky enough to meet with the director of COMAS, she shared some of their eco-friendly design philosophy with me. “It’s upcycling. We take men’s shirts and rework them into wearable designs for women.” Emphasis on wearable. Luckily I bought my sustainable, yet stylish items early in my trip and wore them all over Brazil(see below!), since they hardly wrinkle, and looked great with wedges, tennis shoes, and the ubiquitous Havaianas.

Flavia Liz’s other hidden gem? The handmade jewelry of Léia Sgro. Walking into Léia’s studio, there’s a definite shift in your energy. Calming and centering, her delicate pieces float on branches hung throughout her gallery, coaxing you to take a second look. My favorites – a pendant and earring set made from the skeleton leaves in her garden.

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Léia’s talents don’t end with jewelry making. She is also one of only three people outside of Japan trained and skilled at the art of Chabako. Léia explained that a chabako is a box once used to store kimonos, as well as tea implements, made popular in the Sen no Rikyu era for use in outdoor tea ceremonies. With her special touch, they make the perfect addition to any room.

As Léia showed me some of her upcoming pieces, which will be shown in Rome in 2018, she talked about how her designs are inspired by her travels and nature, “especially the forms I see in nature”, she smiled. With her degree from Tokyo’s Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry and international stints in London, Vienna, Boston, Madrid, and Rome, Léia has plenty of inspiration to infuse her modern designs.

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One of Leia’s custom crafted chabakos

As we drove to our next stop, Flavia Liz shared some of the history of Japanese culture here in São Paulo. “With a large influx of Japanese immigrants in the early 1900’s, São Paulo is now home to over 1.5 million people of Japanese descent. And its influence is seen in the art, gastronomy, design, and culture throughout this huge metropolis.”

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Tomie Ohtake Institute’s striking façade

A near perfect example of this influence is the Instituto Tomie Ohtake. Mother to famed architects, Ruy and Ricardo, Tomie Ohtake was part of that Japanese immigration wave and reinvented herself as an artist at age 40. The embodiment of the phrase, “it’s never too late to be what you might have been”, Tomie went on to hold over 120 solo exhibitions in Brazil, and around the world in Milan, Miami, Tokyo, New York, and Havana.

Her institute hosts debates, research, and of course exhibitions that promote an understanding of national and international contemporary art, architecture, and design. Luckily, I was able to see the shocking and socially engaging exhibit of Yoko Ono, The Sky Is Still Blue, You Know. Known for her provocative and political art, Yoko’s works held true to her artistic signature of engaging with the spectators and seducing us to participate in the exhibit. museums-in-sao-paulo

As I walked through the exhibit, some of it was joyful and fun, like writing my wishes on the large tree in foyer, while others like the video of Yoko’s infamous and iconic 1964 Carnegie Hall performance, which allowed spectators to snip strips of her clothing, had me puzzled and pondering present-day power struggles.

But that is what great art is supposed to do, and it’s no wonder that Instituto Tomie Ohtake has staged shows of Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Josef Albers, all previously unheard of in Brazil. Tomie’s eponymous design landmark is definitely a must-see while in São Paulo.

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Next stop? A dining adventure at Ícone GastroRock in the Vila Madalena neighborhood of São Paulo. Two tips for a visit to Ícone GastroRock: make reservations and come open-minded. With a tasting menu that changes weekly, you’ll want to book your seat at the table well in advance where you can watch the mastery of Chefs Roberto Satoru and Alexandre Ortigoso up close.

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The brainchild of Chef Roberto and Chef Alexandre, Ícone GastroRock’s menu fuses the ever-present Japanese influence into artfully prepared plates – all ready for that perfect Instagram shot! Roberto was a gastronomy pioneer here in São Paulo, opening one of the first temakerias and launching a food trend across the city, while Alexandre brings his own gastronomy chops with a strong background in all things ale and spirits.

I’m glad that I came hungry! My first dish was a colorful array of vegetables placed atop a hummus made with red lentils, but it soon disappeared and was promptly followed by the most sumptuous seared scallop set atop a bed of seaweed salad – OMG! Next on the list – a beautiful arranged tuna tartare with Asian pear, quail egg, and a delicate ponzu sauce. My favorite(and not pictured because I gobbled it down!) was a braised lamb paired with the most divine burrata I have ever tasted. I forgot how strong the Italian influence was in Brazilian cuisine until I tasted this dish – perfection!

Back in the comforts of Hotel Unique, I marveled at the contemporary design by João Armentano and sunk into one of the chairs off the lobby’s extensive library, adjacent to their secret indoor pool. Intrigued by the vast collection, I was debating whether to stay here and get lost in a book, or head up to the rooftop marvel that is Skye Restaurant & Bar.

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“I can read on the plane”, I thought, and with that I headed up to the panoramic views of São Paulo that awaited at the top of Hotel Unique. After my bartender tested my Portuguese, he crafted a cocktail that was the perfect accompaniment to this sweeping view. Quickly perusing the menu, I decided to have lunch here the following day so that I could enjoy the creations of award-winning Chef Emmanuel Bassoleil, consistently ranked among the world’s best. Sipping on my drink, I was already looking forward to my next stay at one of the world’s best hotels, right here in São Paulo.

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Contact me to visit São Paulo’s top luxury hotel!

 

 

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L.A. Woman: A Weekend at SLS Beverly Hills

 

LA-womanWelcome to Los Angeles – where there’s never a “low season”. Gorgeous weather year-round attracts travelers from tough climates, while the entertainment capital of the world draws in jet-setting stars and adoring fans from all over the world for a steady rotation of awards shows, premieres, and film festivals. The perfect location for this flurry of star-studded activity? SLS Beverly Hills.

The list of accolades is long: Condé Nast Traveller “Hot List Hotel”, Travel & Leisure “It List”,  Fodor’s “Best Design Hotel. And I haven’t even started on the long list of awards held by Chef José Andrés. But more on him later…

 

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Entering SLS Beverly Hills is unique to say the least. A red carpet welcoming you to the whimsical world of Philippe Starck is one small detail that lets you know you’ve arrived to a destination that is one of the gems of a glittering collection of Starwood Luxury Properties around the globe. True to the hotel brand’s mission, SLS Beverly Hills is an “expression of its location; a portal to the destination’s indigenous charms and treasures” that befit each Luxury Property.

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Glittering beneath some of SLS Beverly Hills’ collection of over 77 bespoke chandeliers, Tres lounge is the genius antidote to the hotel lobby experience. Leather lounges, captivating bookshelves, and cozy fireplaces make you feel as if you’ve stepped into your own living room. At either end of this unique design space are two private rooms; The Black Room and the White Room. Each flanks the opposite end of Tres to provide VIP guests an even more luxurious way to dine and entertain.

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What to wear in this town? The edgy, yet sophisticated looks from Thomas Wylde. Founded in 2006, this global ready-to-wear and accessories luxury brand is perfect for the L.A. woman out on the town. While its headquarters are here in Los Angeles, Thomas Wylde has developed a loyal international following through brand awareness in Vogue, L’Officiel, and WWD, in addition to runway shows in New York and Milan.

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When I went to the showroom to pick up my pieces, I had the great fortune of sitting with Creative Director Jene Park. “The Thomas Wylde brand is strong yet elegant. And a rock ‘n’ roll influence is in our DNA”. Walking among enviable pieces of silk, leather, and other sumptuous fabrics, I learned more about the Thomas Wylde aesthetic. “Our fashions are wearable; it’s not just for the runway.”

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I have to agree. While waltzing through the SLS in these varied looks, I felt like I was ready for a night on the town. Comfortable, classy, sexy, quality – all elements that I look for when shopping for myself and my clients are here at Thomas Wylde. And it’s why they have such a large and diverse fan base that includes Madonna, Cameron Diaz, Halle Berry, Heidi Klum, Carrie Underwood, Selena Gomez, Dita Von Teese, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Paradis, and Li Bingbing.

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Learning a bit more about Jene’s illustrious background, I was even more impressed to hear that she’d won the sought-after scholarship from Maison Lesage and had spent the early days in her career at the fashion houses of Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Chanel. As she chose my pieces, Jene imparted with a wink, “there’s romantic movement in our pieces. But it’s still edgy.”

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The obvious complement to Thomas Wylde’s edgy and glamorous styles? Jewelry from Ara Vartanian. I discovered Ara’s signature style on a press trip to Brazil earlier this spring when my luxury guide, Flavia Liz Di Paolo took me on a private tour of his São Paulo atelier where I witnessed his artistry firsthand. Sitting with Luna and Val, the motivated women behind the brand, I learned the story of his signature hook earring. “It was his wife who inspired him to make this style. He had observed her wearing larger pieces, and found a way to make it comfortable, yet just as striking.”

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When your wife and exquisite gemstones are your muses, it has to be a success! Another one of Ara’s muses is Kate Moss. She recently helped launch his London showroom, bringing the Brazilian designer’s jewels to a new audience. Luckily, I can find Ara’s designs closer to home here in Los Angeles at Broken English Jewelry. A wide array of his two and three finger rings, hook earrings, cuffs, and chokers, all featuring the unique inverted diamond setting are waiting at their Westside boutique to adorn the L.A. woman.

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“No two stones are the same so each piece of jewelry I design becomes unique by this mere fact. These characteristics may be the key to understanding a sentence I often repeat when I finish creating a piece of jewelry: ‘The stone always chooses the right person’,” Ara states. And it is this mantra that has made each of his pieces a work of art.

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Speaking of art, those of you who have been reading my articles for a while know that I always seek out art on my travels. And it’s something I enjoy while here at home in L.A., too! One of my favorite local artists is Clara Berta, whom I had the serendipitous fortune of meeting at an art event last year. We instantly clicked while acknowledging each others’ funky style: Clara was donning a teal dress from Thomas Wylde and I had on some provocative tights from Wolford.

Clara is an artist at heart, not just by trade. Her energy is infectious and she speaks with passion about everything she does, whether it’s her favorite L.A. restaurant Bestia or the latest speakeasy she’s discovered. Clara did her first art show in 2000, while working as an actress at the same time and along her journey, met a costume designer who introduced her to printmaking. “I spent two years studying with her and getting a more formal eduction. I needed to learn structure. I think it’s important for every artist to have a foundation”.

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Next in Clara’s evolution was her one-woman show, Sex Is My Specialty, a performance that she found both healing and cathartic. “I found my voice, and saw how healing and moving the show was for other women.” It’s as if this emotional show prepared her for the sudden death of her husband, when she turned to painting. “I remember my first sale because my love and grief were mixed together in that piece.”

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This turning point allowed her to grow as an artist and be truly happy doing what she loves. “I’m inspired by people, nature, and the small miracles that happen in daily life. Sometimes I’m even stimulated by a good meal and the energy of my food!”

Like her art, Clara is exciting, vibrant and filled with energy and you’ll experience that at her studio events with guest speakers including neuroscientists, interior designers, and other artists. Next up for Clara? She has her sights set on Biennale, a possible show in Luxembourg, and hosting a retreat for aspiring women artists here in Los Angeles.

 

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Ok, so back to the Bazaar at SLS! This masterpiece dining concept is the brainchild of internationally recognized culinary innovator José Andrés. His accolades require their own article, but a few are Time’s “100 Most Influential People”, James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Chef”, and President Obama’s “National Humanities Medal”. Wow!

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The Bazaar at SLS Beverly Hills

Which is exactly what you’ll say when you step into The Bazaar, where every seductive corner lures you in with a design as diverse as Andrés’ menu. Chef Andrés has created a fanciful array of traditional and pioneering tapas, while the Patisserie features delicate sweets and roaming carts which showcase edible delights that weave their way through glass cases full of art, jewelry, and provocative books.

 

Sink back into one of the 277 chairs, all selected by Philippe Starck, and sip one of the inventive cocktails that integrate contemporary techniques and tools such as liquid nitrogen, olive and cherry spherifications, herbs, and organic emulsifiers. My waitress recommended their signature caipirinha cart; a welcome suggestion on a hot Los Angeles evening, and the perfect pairing for Andrés’ croquetas de pollo. Ummm! I sat there wondering what gastronomic wonders Chef Andrés will feature at the upcoming opening of Somni…

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Hard as it is to break away from the enchanting yet exotic Bazaar, you definitely need to seek out some nightlife when visiting L.A. The best choice? A performance by L.A. native, Anabel Englund. Her vocals infused the international chart-topper “Reverse Skydiving” with a sensual and sultry call to get out on the dance floor, energizing crowds as far away as Brazil and the UK. “Music has always been a part of my life. I was shy, but my whole life has been about challenging myself. If I’m afraid or uncomfortable, that’s a sign for me to go do it. If it’s healthy for me and my spirit, I go for it”.

 

Hearing Anabel describe what she calls her “moral code”, I can already sense that she is destined for stardom at this early phase in her career. In an industry that is competitive and cutthroat, she’s definitely got her head on straight! “We need to embrace each others’ differences, but we’re all the same. We share the same spirit.” Her spirituality is something that keeps her anchored in a frenzied environment. Anabel’s pre-performance ritual? Prayer. “Even if I don’t have time to be alone, I just say a quick prayer behind the DJ booth and ask God to help inspire me and ignite a fire in someone else.”

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And her career is definitely on fire. With an EP due out later this year, Anabel has drawn on her previous collaborative works to produce her recent party series “Gari Safari”, a curated tour of live dance music, an innovative concept that crowds are loving. This L.A. woman is ready for her close-up.

 

Credits:

Photography: Mike Fox Photo

Wardrobe: Thomas Wylde

Jewelry: Ara Vartanian

Makeup: Chanel

Hair: On Demand Salon

 

 

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Palácio Tangará: São Paulo’s Urban Gem

A lush, palatial retreat isn’t exactly what comes to mind when you think of the vast metropolis that is São Paulo. But with the new addition of luxury hotel Palácio Tangará, that’s about to change.

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Set inside Burle Marx Park, which boasts over 26 acres of artfully landscaped gardens, lagoons, and pathways, Palácio Tangará is Oetker Collection’s newest masterpiece hotel offering. “Masterpiece hotel” isn’t just a description of the luxury that you’ll experience; it’s the pledge of this worldwide brand that uses a pearl to signify their “commitment to provide service of the highest quality, every hour of every day”.

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Oh, what a pearl it is! This gleaming white palace is nestled in the green gem designed by famed Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Burle Marx’s urban oasis features his trademark curvilinear shapes and use of exotic plants, resulting in asymmetrical, natural art that is a welcome respite here in São Paulo.

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As Latin America’s economic capital, São Paulo is home to over 250 art galleries and museums, 171 concert halls and theaters, and 112 unique shopping experiences. It also boasts the largest fleet of helicopters in the world! During my recent stay, I had the opportunity to visit Sala São Paulo and hear a glorious Haydn performance, dine at three different Michelin-starred restaurants, and attend SP-Arte, Latin America’s largest and most internationally-renowned art and design fair.

But a highlight was attending São Paulo Fashion Week, one of the top fashion weeks around the globe, which showcases almost forty Brazilian brands twice a year. Here at SPFW, I had the great fortune of meeting Alexandra Fructuoso, head designer at Maison Alexandrine. I’ll never forget my introduction to this exquisite businesswoman who was wearing a striking ensemble of pearly silk, and a smile just as stunning. Alexandra is equal parts regal, beautiful, and inviting. And that’s exactly how you’ll feel in her couture designs. Whether it’s a long flowing gown for a gala, or a short, chic number straight off the runway, the designs from Maison Alexandrine fit perfectly amid the decor of Palácio Tangará.

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Satin and grosgrain ensemble by Maison Alexandrine

While visiting the showroom at Maison Alexandrine, I got a peek inside their bridal suite, complete with all of the picture perfect backdrops to make a bride swoon. At every turn, there’s gilded decor and sparkling sconces to please the eye. But what’s most pleasing is Alexandra’s artistic

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influence, which is evident throughout Maison Alexandrine.

While choosing my gowns to wear at Palácio Tangará, Alexandra imparted some of her design philosophy and the story of Maison Alexandrine’s origins. “The brand name was born out of a tribute to Madame Pompadour’s only daughter, Alexandrine. And like Madame Pompadour, my brand brings together the work of both new and established artists and designers, showcasing their work, and this luxury craftsmanship, to the world.”

And you’ll feel the craftsmanship at first touch. Slipping into every gown was a sensual experience, one that every woman should have. My personal favorite was a white tulle skirt and bodysuit – a possible contender for my future wedding dress!

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Black silk chemise gown by Maison Alexandrine paired with a bone and ivory cuff bracelet from Patricia MB Gotthilf

Speaking of weddings, Palácio Tangará already has 12 brides-to-be who were lucky enough to secure a date on its enviable social calendar. Tangará’s ballroom is the perfect setting for saying “I do.” The stunning space, which holds over 500 people, sits atop the famed park and has terraces that allow guests to take in the verdant views. And if you ever tire of these sweeping vistas, you can retreat to your suite and sink into the sumptuous bed, while still bathing in the natural light from your terrace.

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Silk tulle gown by Maison Alexandrine

While sitting in this impressive suite designed by interior design firm Bick Simonato, I read more about the hotel and how it got its name. Keeping with the theme of its natural surroundings, Palácio Tangará is named after an Amazonian bird, the rainbow-hued songbird, Tangara Chilensis. You’ll see this marine-colored mascot on Palácio Tangará’s hotel stationery and decor, a charming reminder of Brazil’s connection to many natural wonders.

Preparing for a visit to Tangará’s signature restaurant, I chose some jewels to coordinate with my gowns. The designs from jeweler Patricia MB Gotthilf are a flawless choice, and her design philosophy fits perfectly with Tangará’s aesthetic. With many international awards to her name, Patricia draws upon the rich flora and fauna of Brazil for inspiration, “I love nature. My collections are inspired by man’s connection to the land.” Her design process includes photographing natural elements as a guide to transform precious stones, gold, silver, precious wood, seeds, and roots, but without changing the details and staying true to the material.

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Jewels of rose and aquamarine tourmaline from Patricia MB Gotthilf’s “Candy Collection”

Hearing Patricia share her philosophy reminded me of Burle Marx’s same enthusiasm and advocacy for the biological phenomena he saw here in Brazil. But it was actually during a visit to Berlin, Germany where Burle Marx first developed his passion for his native country’s wealth of natural wonders. Upon returning home, he became an activist and ecologist, one of the first to call for the preservation of the Brazilian rainforests and rare plant species.

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Quartz and gold cuff by Patricia MB Gotthilf in Burle Bar

Glancing down at Patricia’s rare gems, I eyed my favorite: a bracelet from her “Cactus Collection” with delicate gold studs set inside a smoky green quartz. So many captivating options! And with a boutique inside of Palácio Tangará, Patricia’s designs will lure you in even further. Whether it’s the aquamarine stones in her Rock collection or the tourmalines and opals from her Laços da Natureza line, they’ll all look beautiful against the backdrop of Tangará’s alluring interiors.

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Even while you’re inside, there’s always a reference to the sylvan setting outside. Dining at Palácio Tangará is a feast for all of your senses. Mirrored panels reflecting the green gardens and stone-colored china are the perfect setting for Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s creations. Chef Vongerichten, who oversees 30 restaurants worldwide including New York, Paris, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong, is bringing his exceptional culinary talent to his first Latin American venture. São Paulo is fortunate to host this talented restaurateur here at Palácio Tangará, whose signature dishes include a delectable crispy salmon sushi.

Restaurant_2107Chef Vongerichten’s plated specialties are works of art, but so is the dining room whose walls are lined with art by esteemed Brazilian artists. Neutral ceramic pieces by Heloísa Galvão line one wall, while a Hugo França wall sculpture adorns the private room that hosts the Chef’s Table.

Walking back over to the Burle Bar that features beautiful pieces of trees and natural images, I thought of Chef Vongerichten’s excitement about the opening of this new luxury property in São Paulo. “The Brazilian heritage, culture and cheerful lifestyle, the huge variety of local produce combined with the spectacular hotel architecture and design in Burle Marx Park make this project very special.”

It definitely feels special. With each room carefully curated, you feel like you are experiencing this “masterpiece hotel” philosophy that is a trademark of Oetker properties. In Burle Bar, the decor integrates the park’s ambiance using colors, shapes, and works of art to bring in the verdant vibe in the absence of natural light. And just down the way, Laura Vinci’s sculptural homage to Brazil’s mining culture in Papéis Avulsos, with light gold leaves mimicking the park’s soft swaying of the trees just outside. Art is evident at every turn.

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A shower of gold leaves by Laura Vinci

 

Stepping out onto my terrace, I marveled at nature’s art and this biological wonder that surrounded me. I thought of a quote by Burle Marx, predestined for this setting at Palácio Tangará:  “The plant is, to a landscape artist, not only a plant – rare, unusual, ordinary or doomed to its disappearance – but it is also a color, a shape, a volume, or an arabesque in itself.” And this beautiful hotel is all of that! Come and see for yourself.

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Contact me to book your stay at this gorgeous São Paulo hotel!

Photography: Katiuska Sales

Styling: Marco Barboza

Wardrobe: Maison Alexandrine

Jewelry: Patricia MB Gotthilf

Makeup: Chanel

Manicure: Granado Pharmácias