The Chatwal may be a stone's throw from the neon fantasia of Times Square but it's a world away in spirit. This landmark 1905 building, a former hangout for Hollywood luminaries Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplin, has been reinvented as an elegant art deco-inspired retreat complete with period details such as round Chinese lacquer doors and wardrobes reminiscent of vintage steamer trunks. Downtown, the opening of Mondrian has ramped up Soho's already buzz-worthy Crosby Street, while the Trump SoHo - a 391-unit tower of glass and steel - has been fitted out with Fendi Casa furnishings given the tick by Ivanka Trump. Sitting pretty in Manhattan's illustrious Midtown, the much-anticipated Setai Fifth Avenue piles on the glamour with spacious rooms, a standout spa with ice cave and hammam, and fine finishes in rosewood, onyx and gold-flecked marble.
Planking, cooking fish on a soaked plank over an open fire has been big in the US for years, but it's now finding fans locally. Saké chef Shaun Presland shared his love of it in the barbecuing special in the January GT, and veteran fisho John Susman deploys the technique at his Cloudy Bay Fish Co restaurants. "It's a great way to retain moisture and impart a rich, smoky flavour without having a smokehouse," says Susman. "The trick is using new cedar or elk planks soaked in a brine with sugar and salt, and keeping the skin on the salmon."
** Cantonese: so over. Sichuan: don't make me yawn. But the great thing about Chinese food is that there's so much of it, and so many regional cuisines we barely see outside their own territories. It's only since economic liberalisation that we've even started to see the dishes of Yunnan outside the south-western province. In far-flung cities such as Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing, Yunnanese restaurants now feed not just nostalgic émigrés, but also the culinarily curious. Signature dishes? Bamboo worms and bee larvae are certainly memorable, both very like witchetty grubs. But we prefer the way they use South East Asian herbs in the salads and stir-fries, especially in the refined and complex cooking of the Dai hill tribes. To get the real thing, you still need to travel to Yunnan, where every village has a home-style restaurant, usually in someone's front room. "Yunnan is, after all, the home of Shangri La," writes restaurateur, cookery teacher and author Tony Tan, "and qi guo ji - the delectable chicken steamed with precious herbs in a pot - is pretty close to heaven in my books."
Well-dressed iPads say a lot about their owners' devotion to digital fashions. Chanel has launched a quilted black iPad cover that costs about three times as much as the tablet itself, while Louis Vuitton's Damier Graphite number stays true to the brand's distinctive chequerboard pattern. Gucci does one in an ebony and beige diamond pattern and, not to be outdone, Oscar de la Renta and Hermès have released cases in a range of glossy leathers.
It's been a big year for water features. Off the coast of Cancun, artist Jason deCaires Taylor has created MUSA, the Museo Subacuático de Arte, where scuba-diving aesthetes can swim among 400 permanent sculptures rooted to the sea floor. Late this year, you can party under water at Niyama in the Maldives' Dhaalu Atoll, where the chic hoteliers behind Huvafen Fushi have created a nightclub under the Indian Ocean accessible only by boat. And guests at Conrad Maldives can hop aboard the hotel's three-seater submarine for a trip around Rangali Island's reefs.
** Not nearly as gruesome as they sound, blood cockles are bivalves with opaque, red-tinged flesh. Sourced from the clear waters of Queensland's Hervey Bay, they'll be ready for Australian tables about August when they've grown to the 27mm to 45mm range and their meat-to-shell ratio is at its most promising.
Adventure tourism doesn't come much more colourful than a visit to far-north Norway to ski frozen fjords under the northern lights. Snow-hounds in the know book into the extremely cosy Lyngen Lodge, about two and a half hours east of Tromsø, to join exhilarating expeditions led by English owner and powder-fiend Graham Austick. Highlights include hiking mountains to their 1200-metre peaks, strapping on skis and skiing down to a snow-covered beach… and taking a dip in the fjord. Guests' exertions are rewarded each evening with fresh-caught fish and king crab and, if they're lucky, the most spectacular natural lightshow on earth.