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Where to Go...in 2012

You’ll be calling your travel agent when you read about what’s new in global hotspots like Tokyo, Maui, Iceland, and Montana—in our most adventurous, scrumptious, far-flung travel pages ever.



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Dine in Chicago

The country’s hottest food city is afire with new restaurants

Dine
Currently the most buzzed about restaurant in America, Next is so hot, visitors must enter a lottery for the mere opportunity to make a reservation. The latest creation of lauded gastronome Grant Achatz, Next is relaxed and adventurous at once. Diners enter a sparsely adorned columnar dining room that’s a blank canvas for Achatz’s themed dining experiences, which change on a quarterly basis. This summer marked a total Thai takeover—house-fermented sausage, whole braised wild catfish in caramel sauce, braised beef cheeks in peanut curry, rose-infused dragon fruit—an octet of personal inspiration served in phases. Rick Bayless—gringos’ gift to Mexican cookery—has taken the opposite approach, making his cuisine more easily accessible to the masses at XOCO. Just show up, get in line, and follow the scent of fresh-fried churros, slow-stewed soups, tortas stuffed with roasted suckling pig, and housemade chorizo. Down the Kennedy Expressway, Telegraph has joined an ever-expanding list of Logan Square hot spots, including Longman & Eagle and Lula, with a menu section devoted entirely to tartines. The Purple Pig continues to thrive along The Magnificent Mile on the back of its Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America nod by Bon Appétit. Making a bid for future Best Resto consideration will be Balena, a “polished casual restaurant” in Lincoln Park from the minds behind nose-to-tail, farm-to-table star The Bristol. Definitely worth scouting during your next visit.

Gulp
San Diegans with sudsy savoir-faire should get a room. With a slew of quality draught, bottled, and cask brews selected by a certified cicerone (that’s a beer sommelier), plus educational meet-the-brewer events, The Map Room is like a slice of home. Then there’s The Pump Room, the PUBLIC Chicago hotel’s reinvented nod to the early 1900s supper-club era. Showcasing classics menu items (pâté on toast points, tuna tartare) re-imagined by world famous toque Jean-Georges Vongerichten, due attention’s also been paid to their beer list and a tipple assemblage that includes beer-based cocktails. Of course, there’s nothing as simple and Chicagoan as beer and a ballgame, especially when the beer’s from the Wrigley-adjacent Goose Island Brewpub. Stop in for the acclaimed brewing company’s rare artisanal numbers like Fleur, a Belgian pale ale brewed with hibiscus and kombucha tea, or Juliet, a blackberry-based sour ale aged in Cabernet barrels. 

Shop (While You Also Eat)
Foodies who prefer to sample the best of Chicago’s edibles straight from the source will go gaga for Green City Market. The city’s largest sustainable farmers market, it’s open 7 a.m.-1 p.m. every Wednesday and Saturday from May-October. During the indoor season (November-April), the market moves to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 

Sleep
Hospitality industry impresario Ian Schrager is well known for his innovative hotel concepts. That includes his transformation of Chicago’s iconic Ambassador East Hotel into the PUBLIC Chicago. That makeover went far beyond the sweeping treatments at The Pump Room. Billed by Schrager as “a new breed of hotel,” this luxury lodging includes suites dressed with utilitarian furniture and amenities, and a white-based aesthetic chosen to help make the upscale venue accessible versus over-the-top. PUBLIC just opened in October. 

 // Brandon Hernández 

Trekking in Iceland

Reykjavik

This intriguing country is a dream for hikers, climbers, and road-trippers—but it’s small enough to conquer and still make it back to Reykjavik for some pints 

Arrive

Icelandair, the national carrier, is the only airline to offer international flights to and from the U.S. year-round. Be sure to take advantage of its free stopover deal for travelers en route between the U.S. and Europe. You’ll feel like you’re getting a free trip to the country. icelandair.com, 877-435-9423

Climb

Iceland is a fairly low-lying country—in fact, the country’s tallest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur, stands only about 400 feet higher than Mt. Cuyamaca, the second-tallest peak in San Diego County. But it’s eminently climbable. The best time to climb is late spring, when the snows have stopped, but the glacier cloaking the mountain, Vatnajökull, hasn’t yet developed treacherous crevasses. Arrange a tour through mountainguides.is

Drink

Reykjavik may have cultivated a rep as prodigious drinking town, but there are plenty of bars with a non-binge agenda. Laundromat Cafe, located at Austurstræti 9, is a bar-cum-coffee house that caters to a young and wholesome crowd. There are washing machines in the basement where folks can wash their clothes while enjoying a pint of Viking, the popular domestic lager.

Dine

A trendy activity for tourists and erstwhile locals is to take a stroll down to Reykjavik harbor and hit a fish shack called Sægreifinn, or “Sea Baron,” for lobster chowder and fish kebabs within hours of arriving in country. Be warned, though: While the fare is light, it’s heavy on moral relativism. Dolphin and whale are on the menu. And if you think that Icelanders are wringing their hands over the whole sea-mammals-as-food issue, think again. Iceland’s fleet of modern, black-hulled whalers sits conspicuously in berths a few dozen meters away.

Soak

One of Iceland’s most visited spots, a luxe geothermal spa called Blue Lagoon, sits a few miles off the road from Keflavik International Airport. Patrons wade the turquoise waters, warmed by shots of Brennivin, or Icelandic schnapps, served poolside. bluelagoon.com

Sleep

Try Fosshótel Lind, a minimalist but cozy three-star hotel in Reykjavik. Centrally located, the hotel is popular with trekkers as there are other locations on the island. Another clean and quirky one is Hótel Frón, right on Laugarvegur, a main street in Reykjavik. fosshotel.is; hotelfron.is

Drive

Iceland’s Route 1,or Ring Road, circles the island, but unless you have a week to drive the whole thing, stick to the southern half. As a good two-day trip, drive from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón, the famed lake made by a melting glacier, seen in a couple of James Bond flicks. Along the way, stop at the black sand beach at Vik, which features a kaleidoscopic basalt cave, and Skógafoss, a majestic 200-ft. waterfall that’s often wreathed in a misty double rainbow. Budget cars can be rented from Arctic Car Rental in Keflavik or Reykjavik for about $60/day. arctic.is 

did you know?

66˚ North is an outdoor apparel company that has become something of a national brand, as 99 percent of the homes in Iceland are said to own an article of clothing from the company. And get this: 66˚ North CEO Helgi Rúnar Óskarsson has ties to San Diego, having lived in Rancho Bernardo from 1989 to 1993 while earning a B.A. in business administration at SDSU. Óskarsson, 44, who lived with his wife and two infant daughters at the time, recalls, “There were a number of Icelandic families living in the area at that time. We’ve stayed in touch with some of these families and a few are still close friends.” A Little Reykjavik in RB—who knew?

// Larry Knowles

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