New York Restaurants Travel: New York Restaurants Travel
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Wherever I go, I like trying the French restaurants of the city or town I’m visiting. After having lived eleven years in Paris and experienced much excellent French dining throughout France, I feel I’m an expert of sorts. Plus, I love French cuisine and the panache that’s typically associated with its presentation.
During a recent trip back east, I put out a query on Facebook for excellent French restaurant recommendations in New York City. Not surprisingly, I received many. Foodie extraordinaire David Rosengarten came back with his: La Silhouette. I dined here one evening with a dear friend where we enjoyed a sophisticated moment among a tony crowd of New Yorkers.
Situated within Hell’s Kitchen, this style-ly, dimly lighted restaurant—at least in the evening—seems well suited for the theater crowd it attracts. (Their red-hued, sultry mood lighting is truly fabulous, especially for ladies past their prime.) If you are going to a show, leave plenty of time to savor all that La Silhouette has to offer. Here Chef Steve Luttrell presents a contemporary, innovative cuisine rooted in French fundamentals. He followed his father’s path—a chef trained in classic French technique at the Culinary Institute of America—by also enrolling at the CIA. Chef Luttrel honed his skills at the renowned La Grenouille before landing at La Silhouette where everything I tasted here reflected a perfect balance and combination of textures and tastes. Dishes such as the quenelles with lobster bisque, crispy toasts with foie gras poached pear en gelée and a lamb très parfumé left me thinking about this meal for days. (The glass of Gevry Chambertin served with the lamb was memorable as well.) Yet don’t think the chef or the rest of the highly professional staff at La Silhouette takes themselves too seriously; you’ll also find plenty of whimsical twists from the honey-roasted almonds prepared with cinnamon and sesame served at the bar to their popcorn crème brûlée offered for dessert. (Note: Their menu is forever changing, depending on the season.) Indeed, the French-inspired dining scene at La Silhouette ranks among the best on my list.
My FB querying also produced Noir, another terrific French restaurant find in New York. Thanks to Bertrand Marechal, a wonderful French chef/caterer here in Telluride, Colorado and his lovely wife, Laura, I learned about Noir, a restaurant that boasts ties to Alsace, Bertrand’s native land. (Bertrand and Laura also conduct bicycle tours in France through their company Cobbles and Corks.)
I lunched with another girlfriend within the near show-stopping interior of Noir amid a luxurious array of deep, rich browns and beneath a chandelier that would make Liberace swoon. The seductive decor perhaps lends itself better to an evening experience, however, it worked out fine for a tête à tête among two old friends, two Francophiles, to boot! I delighted in Noir’s Alsatian pizza, a thin and crispy wonder that I hadn’t found on a menu since my last trip to Alsace. Order the one slathered with smoked hand-cut pancetta and sweet caramelized onion, the more traditional option of all those offered here. We sampled their expertly-prepared seared scallops along with a fresh red beet and goat cheese salad as we chatted about exquisite French ways such as how the French so beautifully launder clothes. (You haven’t experienced dry cleaning either until you have something done in France.) A light and luscious lemon tart completed the lunch merveilleusement bien, leaving us both longing for another trip to France.
Fortunately there are many fine French restaurants in the U.S. where one can find his or her fix. Et voilà deux à Manhattan.
For Upstate New York Travelers
Last fall I wrote about an Albany favorite in the story Milano’s: When a Restaurant Does the Right Thing. This prompted me to want to discover Provence, their sister restaurant that has enjoyed a terrific following in the capital district area since 1999. I dined here with my mom with whom I have experienced many wonderful restaurants in France. We enjoyed traditional French fare—moules marinières and salade au chèvre chaud—with a nice pour of crisp Sancerre blanc. Tucked within a brasserie-styled banquette late on a Saturday night, we enjoyed all the aspects of this French-styled restaurant from the wooden bistrot tables to the replicas of old faience that adorn the walls. There was even a jazz trio which as many of you Francophiles know, makes for a scene typiquement parisien. Provence is a happening choice for happy hour, too.
It’s best to reserve for all the above restaurants.
French Life Paris Podcasts Restaurants Travel: French Life Paris Podcasts Restaurants Travel
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There are so many websites and blogs on Paris that you can spend hours—if not days—perusing them in an effort to find the information you’re seeking for the City of Light. Want to check out the hottest restaurants? How about some up-to-the-minute fashion news? Or even better, do you need to find just the right place of lodging for your dream trip? Girls Guide to Paris provides this and more.
I chatted with Doni Belau, founder of this dynamic site on Paris and other French destinations, during a special April in Paris Travel Fun interview last month. Click on the play button below to listen to what Doni has to say about yet another of her “passion projects.”
Indeed, Doni is a woman of many passions. I was familiar with Girls Guide to Paris for a while although I came to know Doni from Susan Viebrock, a connection here in Telluride that does her own information-packed website/blog, Telluride Inside…and Out. Susan wrote a story that showcased Doni’s philanthropic works in the post TAB Welcomes Honorary Beneficiary: Ubuntu Africa. TAB, or Telluride Aids Benefit, is an organization that raises money for HIV/AIDS education, advocacy and NGOs. They put on many fun and happening events throughout Telluride Gay Ski Week. This year, Doni’s organization, Ubuntu Africa, was one of the beneficiaries from funds raised by TAB. Doni actually came to T-ride, my town, for the events, yet unfortunately we did not meet up in person. (She actually found out about TAB from Kittie Lingeman Brown, a former resident of Telluride that now lives in Paris.) Doni talks about that experience and her impressions of Telluride—particularly the fabulous TAB Fashion Show—in the below interview.
Back to Paris and specifically Girls Guide to Paris. With 100,000 readers/month consulting her site, Doni has good reason to be proud of the baby that she breathed life into in 2009. On the phone from New York, Doni talks about why she likes Paris so much and how she started this site which has turned into a fantastic resource for Paris and beyond. Doni spends about a third of her time in Paris every year, however, like many other people, she’s aiming to claim Paris home more and more.
“Paris is my first love,” Doni says. “To sum it up in one word, it’s beauty. You can’t convince me that there’s another place so beautiful,” she continues. Our interview turns into a full-on chat when I share my impressions of Paris as well. After having lived there eleven years, I have a few things to add and not surprisingly, Doni and I agree on everything.
Listen to Doni highlight the various features of Girls Guide to Paris, including her top Paris restaurant picks and the eighteen downloadable tours, most of which she created. You’ll also want to check out their Travel Club and the fixed pages that make the site like a guidebook on the web. Plans are in the works for an eBook and an eMagazine.
It seems as though there’s no end to Doni’s passionate projects! Bravo to you, my dear, and keep up the good work all over the world.
Note that in the interview, Doni cites Segway tours as a fun way to visit Paris. Read my story, Tour Mania Versus Zee Segway, on the Paris Segway Tours here.
Click on the play button below to hear Doni Belau talk about Girls Guide to Paris.
Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies Utah: Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding The Rockies Utah
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I’ve been thinking a lot about Utah lately. Maybe it’s because although we’ve had a ton of snow here in Colorado, it seems as though the Utah ski resorts have even bigger snow totals, especially once you consider their base. It was almost a year ago that my boyfriend and I enjoyed a spectacular weekend of spring skiing at Snowbird and now we’re itching to go back.
The year before that, we called Sundance home for five days and reveled in experiencing Utah’s top ski resorts including Deer Vally, Park City and the Canyons. Then and also last year, we drove through Heber City, a vast, flat area only twenty minutes from Utah’s world-renowned mountain destinations and towering peaks. Settled by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the late 1850s and named after a Mormon apostle, Heber Valley of today still appears pastoral and low-key. Dairy farming continues to reign supreme, a tradition started by Swiss settlers ages ago. Ranchers claim a fair piece of action as well.
I might never have known about this area’s history had I not been introduced to its Swiss ties last fall. I might have just continued to cruise through Heber—on the way to the big resorts—without discovering its hidden charms and one exceptional destination in particular: Blue Boar Inn.
Just slightly off the beaten path through Heber, you find Midway, a quiet enclave characterized by a sleepy main street and surrounding neighborhoods filled with European-styled homes. (I mean Old World Europe as in Swiss chalet-styled.) I accompanied my friend, Mary Dawn, here last year when we came for (of all things) a the Saint-Bernard Nationals! Mary Dawn, owner of Alpen Schatz, a boutique specializing in alpine treasures, was showcasing her goods, particularly her handcrafted Swiss dog collars, a dog show and national gathering of Saint-Bernard breeders and aficionados. I came along as her sidekick. Little did we know that we had brought a chunk of Switzerland to “America’s Little Switzerland.”
In no time at all, we found out about the area’s history, Midway’s renowned Swiss Days and Blue Boar Inn, a destination hotel and restaurant capable of transporting you to Europe from the moment you pull up to its old-styled entranceway. Inside you’re wrapped in a warm, inviting decor punctuated by sage green walls, alder wood trim and railings and a handsome collection of antiques and collectibles worthy of the finest hunting lodges in Europe. (Castles are typically referred to as hunting lodges, so don’t think little cabin in the woods.) Fourteenth-century crossbows, antler chandeliers, Western landscape and still life paintings reminiscent of Rembrandt and more add to the authentic feel of this superior establishment.
Just like in the best restaurants in Europe, here tables, dressed in white linens draped over rich, floral table skirts, are set with an array of finery including pewter chargers and crystal glasses. (Although only one wine glass may be on the table at a time—that’s Mormon law.) Blue Boar’s seasonally-oriented menus achieve a fine balance between traditional European specialities including schnitzel and fondue along with regional offerings such as Rocky Mountain trout (from a nearby blue-ribbon trout stream, but of course). As is the tradition in a fine European inn, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here daily along with an award-winning brunch on Sundays. Chef Eric May also presents a special Tasting Menu every Wednesday night that changes weekly.
If you’re not inclined to sit down to an elegant meal, meander to the back of the inn where you’re sure to be enchanted by the inn’s Bavarian bar, a more casual, gathering place typified by pine flooring, European farmhouse chairs and a four-hundred-year-old bar. Fair weather days see the opening of the beer garden out back, a seemingly blissful place where I’m sure many a frosty beverage is consumed.
Mary Dawn and I toured the inn’s twelve rooms, each more alluring than the other. Named after authors and poets, each room possesses an attention to detail unlike what you find in typical places of lodging in America. An abundance of pillows, fabrics, engravings, old armoires and carefully-selected objets adorn the nooks and crannies of each of the distinctly different rooms. This inn gives “inntimacy” new meaning. Mon dieu, how I would have loved to have settled into the room with the Italian leather bed!
If I make my way to this bucolic part of Utah this weekend, sadly I doubt I’ll have time to peek in at the Blue Boar. The skiing still beckons and I might not have time to luxuriate, however, I can think of no better set up than to settle in at the Blue Boar and ski Utah’s top resorts (all of which are closed now; Snowbird is about an hour drive from here). In the summer, I’d imagine the area to be like “Sound of Music” in a valley, a verdant land where you pass your time hiking, biking, sightseeing on the Heber Valley Historic Railroad or shopping for handcrafted cheeses from the neighboring farms.
Or you can just hole yourself up at Blue Boar Inn and soak up European refinement and savoir faire with someone you love.
Blue Boar Inn, 1235 Warm Springs Road, Midway, 435-654-1400 or 888-650-1400
Snake Creek Grill: Another Delightful Dining Option
Housed in an old train depot, people frequently travel to the Snake Creek Grill from Salt Lake City to dine at this country-fresh, chef-owned and operated establishment. Here amid a bright, crisp decor, surrounded by walls and wainscoting the color of this fertile land, Chef Dean Hottle has created a dining experience that wills you to feel at home. His menu is comforting and creative, offering dishes made from the finest ingredients, many of which have been sourced locally (especially in season). Main plates include grilled hanger steak with wild mushroom sauce, crispy hash browns, green beans and carrots, creamy crab penne pasta with roasted artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and arugula and maple mustard BBQ baby back ribs with mopping sauce, cabbage slaw and corn bread. Now that’s some pretty darn good home cookin’. Sophisticated, too. Be sure to save room for a slice of black bottom banana cream pie. It’s better than your mama’s, I’m sure.
Snake Creek Grill, 650 West 100 South, Heber City, 435-654-2133
Aspen Beaver Creek Colorado Restaurants Shopping Telluride The Rockies Vail: Aspen Beaver Creek Colorado Restaurants Shopping Telluride Vail
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Ski season might be winding down, although there’s little letting up on the wining and dining scene in Colorado’s top mountain destinations. To the contrary—with the window of prime skiing narrowed down during most spring days—it seems like visitors and locals alike allot even more time for socializing off the slopes during this fair weather season.
If you’re anywhere near Summit County, be sure to put Bagalis in Frisco at the top of your list. I love the warm, inviting decor of this chef-owned and operated restaurant. Chef Michal Ulehala and his wife, Joyce, opened this fine Italian restaurant two years ago and the accolades have been growing ever since. Copper-topped tables, subdued lighting, wood beams and lots of style-y touches such as rectangular white plates come together to create a look that feels like old mining town meets Euro lounge. A large communal table serves as center stage for diners looking to mix and mingle, however, you might want to tuck yourself into one of the more quiet corners of this handsome restaurant. Plan to while away a good amount of time here over beautifully prepared antipasti such as an olive and meat plate comprised of the finest products sourced with care. Indeed, Chef Michal and his team are proponents of the Slow Food Movement and here everything they serve—from shrimp polenta to artisan pizzas to housemade desserts—is made from the finest ingredients, many of which come from local purveyors. Expect an excellent price/quality relationship on all, including their wines by the glass and the bottle—all of which have been selected with great expertise. Bagalis also opens for lunch, offering the perfect time to enjoy their outdoor patio beneath sunny Colorado skies.
Colorado Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride The Rockies: Beaver Creek Breckenridge Colorado Hotels Restaurants Skiing & Snowboarding Telluride The Rockies
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Woo-hoo! It’s been snowing in Colorado—big time. Anyone that’s been following this winter’s weather patterns knows that Colorado has been shortchanged in snowfall this season. Yes, it has been a little tough going but that’s all changed after one humongous storm. And then another biggie.
Just in the nick of time, over forty inches were dumped on parts of the San Juans, the mighty range of the Rockies that dominates most of southwestern Colorado. Avalanche control work is still being carried out in much of the region but since Saturday, folks have been able to enjoy epic skiing and riding.
It’s no surprise that Wolf Creek racked up the highest number of inches with Silverton and Durango Mountain Resort following closely behind. Here in Telluride, we were extremely happy with almost three feet—yes, people have been hooting and hollering on and off the slopes for the past five days. (I was thrilled to enjoy two stellar days of skiing early in the week and then gladly welcomed a day at my desk after feeling totally whopped and sore after so much fun. Plus, I’m still tired from having succumbed to the flu—yuk.)
Vail, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge report almost two feet of fresh this past week while Aspen has measured a bit less. The latest weather system just blew out of the state and now everyone in Colorado seems to be grinning ear-to-ear. With blue skies all around us, it doesn’t get much better for enjoying all this lovely Colorado champagne powder.
Art & Culture Colorado Denver Restaurants Shopping: Art & Culture Colorado Denver Restaurants Shopping
It’s been snowing like crazy here in Colorado for almost twenty-four hours. It looks like the ski resorts will be shaping up nicely just in time for holiday travelers. I’ll be providing those snow reports soon enough but for now, I want to clue you in on some of Denver’s highlights. Many travelers will be stopping off in Denver on their way to or from the mountains, so here are some of my recommendations for this festive season.
Denver’s performing arts scene ranks as one of the most vibrant in the country. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) is actually comprised of many theaters that provide a range of talent and performances second to Broadway. If you act fast, you still might be able to land some tickets to Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, a classic production based on the renowned film of the same name that’s playing now through Christmas Eve. Dixie’s Tupperware Party serves up a bowlful of fun through December 30 complete with funny tales, free Tupperware giveaways, audience participation and laughs for those sixteen years of age and up. As always, DCPA has announced a stellar lineup of shows for 2013 including War Horse which opens January 8.
Culture, culture, culture—I can’t get enough of it when I’m in Denver and thankfully there’s plenty to take in at all times. I love hitting the Denver Art Museum (DAM) whether it’s to go to one of their spectacular shows or to check out some of their collections. (Their American Indian Art is very rich. Hey, this is the West, isn’t it?) Carve out time for both their temporary and permanent exhibitions and be sure to shop in their Museum Shop, a great resource for creative gift items for you and treasured loved ones and friends. Becoming Van Gogh is the show of the moment, a lovely exhibition I took in in November. I was saddened to learn that this great artist’s career only lasted ten years, but what a decade that was as you’ll find out at this in-depth exploration of his work. The show runs through January 20; be sure to reserve online since many of the time slots are already sold out.
I say make it a whole day at DAM and plan to have lunch or brunch at Palettes, the contemporary-styled museum restaurant right across from the Hamilton Building, owned and operated by the Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group. For over a decade and a half, Palettes has been presenting fine food to discriminating foodies in this bright and airy decor. Best of all, the staff here knows how to reply to the demands of hurried museum goers—they also gladly accommodate diners that choose to swill wine at their table for hours. I love the French flair of the whole menu, something Palettes has taken to more delightful bon vivant heights in honor of the Van Gogh show. They have, in fact, created a Becoming Van Gogh menu, a three-course prix fixe extravaganza—including French specialties such as coq au vin—that will leave you feeling like you just stepped away from a wonderful bistrot in Paris, or even better, Arles. If you want to take the Van Gogh theme even further, choose from one of the restaurant’s featured Van Gogh cocktails, enticing concoctions prepared with Van Gogh Vodka. Mais bien sur.
Reserve your evening dining for the Larimer Square area, the most happening part of Denver in the heart of LoDo (lower downtown). This place goes off from happy hour until the wee hours of the morning. I recently experienced Rioja, a busy, noisy, vibrant restaurant that’s clearly one of the most popular spots on the block. With a crowd as sophisticated as Rioja’s innovative cuisine, come here to take in Denver’s cosmopolitan scene. (Made up of young movers and shakers, many of whom are affiliated with green industries and Internet technology, it’s no wonder the mile-high city is fun for visitors and residents alike.) From the gorgeous selection of bread presented at the beginning to the poached pears I savored at the end, every part of my meal here tantalized my senses. Largely known for her handmade pastas, Chef Jen also wields a strong hand with regional specialties such as Colorado lamb and pan roasted venison. A nice, robust glass of Rioja at Rioja is a must and here they know how to recommend the best. Make that two.
For a more subdued ambiance, perhaps by the fire, go to Randolph’s, one of my favorite addresses housed within the Denver Warwick Hotel. Chef Jean Claude Cavalera consistently woos diners with his own smoked salmon—a major component of holiday feasts in France—served on house made country bread with its traditional accompaniments all year round. His filet mignon is one of the most tender and flavorful you’ll ever taste. The crowd varies from quiet and calm during most times to large and celebratory on holidays. With special Christmas Day brunch and New Year’s Eve menus at a prix fixe that represent excellent price/quality relationships, it’s no wonder Randolph’s receives such high marks. Thankfully the smoked salmon is on both menus along with an array of other fresh and delectable offerings.
By now, you’re perhaps wondering about shopping. Aside from a handful of lovely boutiques in the Larimer Square area, I think Cherry Creek offers the best shopping scene in Denver. Read Cherry Creek: One of America’s Top Spots for Chic Shopping, Lodging and Dining to find out more. Sadly, I’ve become less and less of a fan of the 16th Street Mall scene, however, you might have fun poking around there.
And how about something special for the kids? Take in Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo, every night from 5:30 to 9 p.m. through January 2. With more than 150 animated animal sculptures illuminated throughout this spectacular zoo, you’ll be oohing and ahhhing, too. Plus, it’s fun to share our love and celebrate this exciting time of the year with the animals, too.
Happy holidays to all!
Thank you DAM, DCPA, Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group, Rioja, Randolph’s, the Denver Zoological Foundation and my iPhone for the above images.
Colorado Girl Talk Hotels Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel: Colorado Girl Talk Hotels Mountain Living Restaurants Spas The Rockies Travel
I love travel. Yes, it can be terribly tiresome but it usually brings about some of the most unexpected and exciting happenings. Case in point: Last week I stayed at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain, one of my favorite properties in Colorado. It was to be a stopover with my friend, Mary Dawn, on our way back from combined promotions (for my new book and her delightful alpine goods) in Denver and Breckenridge as we made our way toward Telluride, Colorado, home base for us both. I was planning to just chill and recover from almost five weeks away, soaking up all the amenities of this first-class resort. But what an adventure it turned out to be!
The stay started out quietly enough. We had both settled into our luxurious digs replete with full kitchen and glorious beds piled high with comfy pillows in a variety of sizes, half of which we wanted to take home. I padded down to The Westin’s newly renovated fitness center the first morning to see how I could begin to restore myself after way too much time at my desk followed by extensive travel. This beehive of fitness fiefdom was still buzzing with activity at 11 a.m.—no wonder since it’s one of the preferred athletic clubs of the Vail Valley. I peeked into their fully-equipped pilates and spinning rooms before opting for the solitude of their yoga studio where I was thankfully in time for a much-needed class. Susan, the yoga director, took special care to address my needs, those of a weary travel writer that hadn’t devoted much time to being fit since last ski season ended. Thanks to her and the calming surroundings of this specially-designated yoga oasis, I felt one step closer to being whole again.
After chitchatting with the staff about all the doings at the hotel, I learned that the resort was in a flurry of activity largely due to the Audi FIS Birds of Prey World Cup Men’s Race that was taking place at Beaver Creek during that period. “Yes, I saw the gates and skis piled up in the lobby when I checked in last night,” I said. “I had totally overlooked the fact that that was going on. Then someone told me the Austrian team was staying here,” I added.
“Come back later in the afternoon to see the athletes working out,” a couple of the staffers exclaimed practically in unison. “It’s quite the show—with all those good looking guys lifting weights and swirling in their hula hoops,” one chuckled.
Sadly, my afternoon passed all too quickly up in my room at my laptop and by the time I sauntered down to the fitness area at 5:45p.m., all the studly dudes had left. Darn, I thought. There’s nothing like checking out world-class athletes in action and I missed it.
That evening, however, on the tail end of a most enjoyable dinner at Cima, the Westin’s signature restaurant and a Richard Sandoval creation, Mary Dawn wasted no time getting in on the World Cup fun. “Would you please tell those guys over there Grüß Gott?” she kindly asked the waiter. Already it was clear they were part of the Austrian ski team, so why not send the classic Austrian/Bavarian greeting from the Alps over to them? Why miss out on some Euro schmoozing? Three guys bopped over to our table and sidled into the curvilinear booth faster than you can say hooray. We enjoyed trading cross cultural stories and experiences until the wee hours of the morning. Since MD lived in Germany six years and is fluent in German, she particularly enjoyed the exchange. My French experience (eleven years in Paris) brought less to the table yet we were all in a bon vivant mood nonetheless. Fortunately our Austrian ski team companions were comprised of the director, a coach and a technician or else I can’t see how they would have been able to race the next day.
Colorado Restaurants Shopping Spas The Rockies: Breckenridge Colorado Restaurants Shopping Spas The Rockies
I love the idea of Small Business Saturday, the latest shopping initiative added to the Thanksgiving weekend holiday shopping kickoff. Thank you American Express. I’ll take that any day over Black Friday and grey Thursday (which sadly looks as though it’s here to stay). It should come as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of boutique-y places. Where would we be without our small businesses? We’d certainly live in a charmless world. I love places with personality and soul. I think you most often find those characteristics in something small.
In Colorado, we are well served, especially in mountain towns such as Aspen, Telluride, Crested Butte, Vail and more. This past summer I discovered Breckenridge, Colorado for the first time, yet another Colorado mountain town that offers picture-postcard views at every turn. Even their Starbucks is adorable! Breck’s main street is filled chock-a-block with a plethora of small boutiques and restaurants. I also discovered a spa that won me over by its intimate, relaxing feel.