Travel News

The Hot 100 2013, 1-25

Edible insects, wine labels worth framing, boutique hotels-cum-libraries. Welcome to this year’s Gourmet Traveller Hot 100. Consider this your global hit list (in no particular order), from the most exciting food and drinks trends to the latest and greatest in travel.

1 Organic wine (vessels) With designs inspired by "the asymmetrical shape, the organic feeling" and "an old-fashioned big electrical bulb and the ergonomics of a bowling ball" these hand-blown glass decanters by Sydney's Brian Hirst, designed with the help of 121BC's Giorgio De Maria, are adorning the tables of many a thirsty taste-maker.
2 New Venetian class Two irresistible reasons to put La Serenissima on your itinerary prontamente. Uno: Venice's most exalted address, the Gritti Palace, has reopened after a 15-month "handcrafted restoration" during which Italy's most talented artisans brought its interiors back to their original, breathtaking grandeur. The Gritti's Redentore Terrazza Suite is our idea of heaven on earth, with its spiral staircase leading to a private rooftop terrace equipped with daybed, plunge pool and heart-stopping views of Venice. Due: Resort supremos Aman have nabbed two five-storey palazzi on the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge and transformed them into the 24-suite Aman Canal Grande Venice. All rooms have canal views or equally winning aspects overlooking one of the hotel's two private gardens. Expect protected frescoes, friezes and architectural flourishes alongside Aman's intuitive and exceptional service.
3 Drinking Tasmania Tassie is the hottest cool-climate centre of booze production in Australia right now. The best sparkling wines in the country come from here (Arras, Radenti); the artisan cider scene is rockin' (Red Sails, Willie Smith's); the whiskies get better and better each year (Lark, Sullivans Cove); and serious mainland wineries are investing big-time in Tassie vineyards (Brown Brothers, Shaw and Smith).
4 Good morning, afternoon and evening, Vietnam While conflict will forever be part of Vietnam's history, we're more interested in its future and the growing value of tourism to the country's economy. Food is, naturally, a major draw, but beyond the country's countless banh mi carts and street-side pho lies an enthralling land to discover. From Sapa in the rugged, mountainous north to beachside resorts such as Da Nang and Phu Quoc island, the country's 58 provinces are blessed with culture and natural beauty. Sweeten the deal with affordable luxury options such as Anantara's first Vietnamese property in Mui Ne and the country's appeal to travellers becomes all too clear.
5 Lima to the limit Australians are flocking to Peru, and it's not just the altitude that's got them panting. Lima has upped the cultural ante with the opening of contemporary art gallery LiMAC; it follows the launch of MATE, a permanent exhibition of works by photographer Mario Testino. And Hotel B spells the capital's first luxury boutique hotel.
6 In De Wulf  "Dranouter, Belgium: it seemed about as likely to be a home to cutting-edge cuisine as Copenhagen, São Paulo or Ripponlea did, but it's happening and in a big way," says Garagistes chef Luke Burgess. "Transforming the family farmhouse into a Michelin-starred restaurant takes more than asking Mum for permission; it takes vision, skill and drive. After eating at In De Wulf you can't help but feel that chef Kobe Desramaults has these attributes in spades. You can feel the undercurrent of that Nordic aesthetic drifting south, but you certainly taste the authenticity of Flanders and Kobe's take on nature through well-travelled Flemish eyes. The food's delicious (smoked and roasted pigeon! Mussel juice and cabbage!), the service professional and the ambience seems as effortless as the rolling fields that enfold this little hamlet. Kobe is definitely one to watch."
7 Most anticipated Gothic revival The United Artists building in downtown Los Angeles is famous for myriad reasons, two of which were the "Jesus Saves" signs that glowed from the top of the renowned structure until recently. We imagine the religious sentiment will be echoed in a heavenly cocktail when the building reopens this autumn as the dazzling new Ace Hotel Downtown LA. The Ace is known for reconfiguring landmark buildings in Palm Springs, New York and beyond, yet this might be their most ambitious project to date. The Spanish-gothic building was established in 1927 by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford as offices and a theatre for their maverick film studio. Fast-forward to 2013 and the new hotel will feature 180 handsome rooms and a restored 1600-seat theatre.
8 Chenin blanc and cabernet franc Not content with gargling on stunning wines made from these two varieties in France's Loire Valley, we're also developing a thirst for local examples such as Jauma's apple-tarty chenin blanc from McLaren Vale and Jamsheed's berry-sappy cabernet franc from the Yarra Valley. 
9 Cray-cray for kuih We're head over heels for kuih (pronounce it "kway"), Malaysia's sweets made typically with tapioca or rice flour and flavoured with coconut, gula melaka or pandan. Alice's Makan in Sydney is just one of the country's better-regarded purveyors, offering coconut-covered pandan balls filled with gula melaka, tortoise-shaped rice flour cakes with sweet mung bean, and plenty more besides.
10 And the prize for putting the cool into corporate goes to… Dutch design darling Marcel Wanders, who turned what was once a public library on one of Amsterdam's famous canals into the new Andaz Hotel. Wanders, never short of a quirky idea, or of the ability to turn it into stunning reality, created the new hotel for Hyatt's Andaz arm, which is "business-minded but with personality". The hotel offers a modern take on Dutch history: "Amsterdam has such huge creative potential within its own heritage," he says, "it was a fun challenge to express just a small portion of that throughout the hotel."
11 Fermenting revolution For a centuries-old tradition, fermentation is very now. If you're a young, forward-thinking chef, chances are you're already toting a copy of Sandor Ellix Katz's charming, highly detailed The Art of Fermentation (Chelsea Green, $39, hbk), a new, very practically minded guide covering micro-flora in everything from shrubs, ginger beer and kombucha to pickles, tempeh and dosai. Unquestionably the outré textbook of the year, it's unlikely to be surpassed in its subject matter any time soon, and is a cracking read.
12 Fashionable causes Hot on the heels of shoemaker Tod's $30-million grant to restore the Colosseum, Italian fashion house Fendi has thrown some serious coin at the ailing Trevi Fountain. Designer Karl Lagerfeld is the white knight fronting Fendi's campaign to protect the 18th-century masterpiece with a $2.68 million rescue plan. The fountain, like the Colosseum, has been neglected by cash-strapped public authorities (a large chunk of the Baroque beauty fell off last year). The "Fendi for Fountains" push will revive the Trevi and the Four Fountains sculpture on Via XX Settembre.
13 The next big thing in grapes Sommeliers and adventurous drinkers are falling over themselves to seek out and taste ever-more-obscure grape varieties. Friulano? Nerello Mascalese? So 2012. Give us nosiola, and prieto picudo. No idea what these varieties are? Look 'em up in Wine Grapes, the encyclopedic new book from Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz: it's easily the most desirable wine-geek accessory in town right now. 
14 Best BYOC innovation That's short for "Bring Your Own Cocktail", the name of a new bar in London's Covent Garden. Book a table, then show up with a bottle of your favourite poison - gin, whiskey, even your uncle's rhubarb wine - and the bar staff will create cocktails from their selection of bitters, juices, syrups and cordials. It costs $29 per person and no alcohol is sold on the premises, so don't arrive empty-handed.
15 Best new Midas moment Nick Mathers, the Australian entrepreneur who excels at hatching buzzy restaurants, has launched his second Los Angeles outpost. Mathers's follow-up to Eveleigh on Sunset, which still draws a crowd three years after opening, is the newGoldie's on bustling 3rd Street. It's a deliciously inviting space with a living wall of plants on the sun-dappled front patio, a combination of woods, including olive, maple and oak, embellishing the rustic interior, and a towering bar stocked with small-batch liquor. The menu, devised by Thomas Lim, formerly chef at Sydney's Duke, features chicken wings and shrimp with kohlrabi and cucumber. "We make almost everything in-house," says Mathers. "It's about a mix of regression and progression." Another regressive element: Mathers borrowed the name Goldie's from a Sydney deli he frequented in his formative years.
16 Bones, Paris There's nothing else in Paris quite like Australian chef James Henry's Bones. The back part is a restaurant where he serves artful fixed-menu dinners, using some of France's best produce, as well as house-made butter, bread, yoghurt and charcuterie. At $49 it's a steal. Add a very loose bar with patrons overflowing onto the street into the early hours, though, and you've really got something unique. At the bar, there's always a suckling pig on the counter, three types of oysters are opened to order, and there are two or three beautiful small plates. Paris has plenty of noisy, vibrant natural wine bars and some great-value restaurants, including Au Passage where Henry first came to notice, but they've never been brought together quite like this.
17 Winning vintners The big discovery from the Rootstock Sustainable & Artisan Wine & Food Festival in Sydney earlier this year was Si Vintners, comprising Sarah Morris and Iwo Jakimowicz, who farm their Margaret River vineyard biodynamically and produce wines without any additions other than a little sulphur at bottling. Standout wine: the dreamily textural, gorgeously perfumed 2012 Sophie Rosé.
18 The saviour for suitcases It's amazing it hasn't happened sooner. After all, who wants to relinquish half their suitcase to a bulky beach towel? But savvy retailers have cottoned on to the practical allure of the Turkish fouta, which has swept off e-tailers and into travel bags in the past year. This lightweight, quick-drying, super-absorbent towel originated with the Turks' love of a hammam or steam room, but doubles as a scarf in transit, a sarong on the beach or a picnic blanket. And we're particularly partial to Hamam-ist's robes, ($145), woven from soft cotton in Turkish villages.
19 The power of four Get on a roll with Louis Vuitton's new four-wheeled monogram suitcase, from $3600. The chic TR4, the first from the French house to feature branded thermo-compressed canvas, twists in every direction, so you can keep moving towards your destination, even when others can't.
20 Crumb Street Kitchen The best thing to happen to cheap eating in Hobart in years, Crumb Street Kitchen feels like a food truck but it's actually a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, albeit one with the most limited of service. Brisket, beef ribs, and pork shoulder are slowly smoked and barbecued overnight, then sold as is with sides of excellent slaw, potato salad and house-made bread, or made up into tacos, alive with the freshest of radishes and herbs.
21 Hottest Asian food city Chiang Mai? Warm. Osaka? Getting warmer. Seoul? Keep 'em coming. Beijing? Nearly there. Taipei? Bingo. Ask any Sino-foodo-phile where they think the most interesting Asian food is right now, and chances are the Taiwanese capital, where many of imperial China's top cooks landed after fleeing the revolution, is top of their list.
22 The New Diversification
Melbourne chefs and restaurateurs are flexing their ingredient cred by diversifying into produce stores that champion small and artisan producers. Matt Wilkinson (Pope Joan, Bishop of Ostia) has Hams & Bacon, a yellow-hued joint with a great line in sandwiches and free-range meat, Gerald Diffey (Gerald's Bar, Brooks) has opened Skinner & Hackett ("purveyors of fine meats") and a greengrocer, St Clement's, while Tony Nicolini has added the superb, good-looking DOC Delicatessen to his café and pizza empire.
23 Most welcome shift toward a coffee culture Raw-food restaurants and superfoods fit for superstars and supermodels: this is the stuff that Los Angeles does best. What the City of Angels still struggles with, however, is coffee. Sure, you can get a fat-free, sugar-free, kick-free giant-sized number from Starbucks, but coffee of which Australians approve has remained something of an enigma in southern California. Enter Stumptown, the Portland-based roasters whose quality cup of joe until now could only be found in their home town, or outposts in Seattle and New York (with the occasional bottle of their cold brew available in the Ace Hotel, Palm Springs). Stumptown's new downtown Los Angeles roastery opens later in 2013. That means beans for the cafés of Hollywood, and just the ticket for Australians landing in La La Land and looking for a coffee hit. 
24 All-in with a twist Club Med, the famed all-inclusive vacation brand, is reinventing itself by offering a fresh and more dynamic take on holiday happiness. Instead of basic accommodation and notorious all-night parties, Club Med is now offering upscale, all-in deluxe resorts with an "informal chic" atmosphere. Its new Pragelato resort, close to Turin in northern Italy is located in the second-biggest ski resort in the Alps. Expect fine dining, a cosy trattoria, a complete spa and a kids' club where the GOs (gentils organisateurs, aka the hosts) speak several languages. New in 2013 is Belek on the Turkish Riviera, with a golf course and villas with private pools, followed by Guilin in China.
25 The future of retail They call it Burberry World. In an impeccably restored Grade II-listed building on Regent Street, the British fashion house has rewritten the rules of retail for the 21st century. Tills are iPads, a bank of screens streams fashion shows, and the most techno-fabulous moment of all: change-room mirrors spring to life on entry. The mirrors, activated by radio-frequency identification tags embedded in some garments, stream catwalk footage and still shots of pieces about to be tried on, showing shoppers how great they can look. It's the new fashion frontier.