PERFECT PASTA IN THE MIDWEST
The dining scene in Chicago has exploded of late, not least in the buzzing West Loop/Fulton Market district, a once-gritty expanse of former warehouses and meatpackers that’s now home to many of the city’s best restaurants. (Better still: the neighborhood is only a 10-minute Uber ride from the brand-new Conrad Chicago.) My first stop whenever I visit? Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, run by my friend Sarah Grueneberg, who previously wowed Chicagoans as the executive chef at Spiaggia. (She was also a breakout star on Top Chef.) Monteverde, which opened to raves last spring, is Sarah’s first solo venture and it’s already sensational. The spotlight, literally, is on handcrafted pasta, made by two elderly nonnas at the open kitchen’s pastificio, which rises behind the bar in full view of the dining room. Just watching the pasta cooks work is a thrill. And then you tuck into a plate of wok-fried pasta arrabbiata with Gulf shrimp, or the fantastically smoky, porky riff on tortellini in brodo, and you realize this could be the best pasta in Chicago, if not the entire Midwest.
1020 W. Madison Street; 312-888-3041;
SEAFOOD HEAVEN IN ALGARVE
week in Portugal’s sun-drenched Algarve region—home to the gorgeous Conrad Algarve resort—during which I pretty much consumed my weight in shellfish. The southern Portuguese coast offers some of the most delicious seafood in Europe. You can even spend a morning digging for razor clams in Ria Formosa Natural Park, a pristine coastal reserve fringed with sandy beaches. From the park, a hotel-arranged launch will bring you to windswept Faro Island (a.k.a. ‘Ilha Deserta’), which has one lone occupant: Estaminé, a breezy, barefoot-chic restaurant serving outstanding fish and seafood. You’ll want the garlicky clams, fork-tender marinated octopus, a platter of local oysters, and the briny percebes (gooseneck barnacles) if they’re in season. Then have them grill you whatever whole fish is freshest—a hint of lemon and olive oil is all it needs to sing. After lunch, you can hike around the island to one of several secluded swimming beaches to while the afternoon away.
Ilha Deserta, Faro; +351-917-811-856;
CRAFT BEER IN INDIA
Conrad’s first hotel in India just opened in Pune, which has become one of South Asia’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities. Among the surprising new developments is a burgeoning craft beer scene. Artisanal brewing is still something of a novelty in India due to licensing restrictions and the cost of equipment and ingredients. But Pune has a number of great local startups, some gaining national attention, such as Doolally, just outside the city, which recently spawned an outpost in Mumbai. Closer to Conrad Pune, in the nearby Mundhwa district, you’ll find Independence Brewing Company, known for IPAs and seasonal beers spiked with mango and peach. Independence offers tours of its glassed-in brewing facility, and for just 80 rupees you can sample flights of specialty brews including a four-grain saison laced with plum and pear; the bourbon-like Ixcacao, a nitrogenated beer, and the terrific Kettle ale, bearing notes of tropical fruit. There’s also a very good food menu, highlighted by fiery-hot tandoori dishes and a knockout chocolate soufflé (which pairs nicely with the Ixcacao).
INDEPENDENCE BREWING COMPANY
79/1 Pingle Vasti, Mundhwa Road, Mundhwa, near Passport Seva Kendra; +91-20-6644-8308;