Whether it’s outstanding service, impeccable artistry or exquisite manufacture, excellence can take many forms. But what a person defines as excellent also depends on his or her own individual taste. In the 2015 Editor’s Picks series, Worth staff members share their favorite products, services and experiences from the year. Here is executive editor Emily DeNitto’s list.
A landmark inn nestled in Southern Vermont.
There isn’t anywhere quite like Vermont, with its lovely blue-green mountains, rushing streams and complete lack of flash. Newfane’s Four Columns epitomizes that homey and gentle vibe while adding just the right touch of sophistication. Housed in an 1832 building off the village green, Four Columns first became an inn in 1965 and discreetly hosted such big personalities as Mick Jagger, Michael Douglas and John Kenneth Galbraith before closing in 2013. Charles Mallory, founder of the Delamar hotel brand, took it over, renovated the property and reopened in late summer with spare, respectful design, plenty of original art and an excellent restaurant, Artisan. If you’re looking for a place to relax and a great base for exploring southern Vermont, this is your place.
Rates: $135 to $475 per night, contact: Nick Pawlush, manager, 802.365.7713, fourcolumnsvt.com
HOLD STILL BY SALLY MANN
A complex memoir about family, race and mystery.
Sally Mann has long been one of my favorite photographers, and now it turns out she’s one of my favorite writers as well. Her memoir, released in May, describes an extraordinary life filled with gothic mystery. Packed with photos and Mann’s ideas about family, love and art—including, finally, her take on the controversy around her nude shots of her children—Hold Still reads like a deeply moving, thoughtful and unique novel.
Little, Brown and Co., $32, 496 pages, hachettebookgroup.com
STAGS LEAP DISTRICT’S APPELLATION COLLECTION
A wine collection that is rich in history and wide in variety.
Napa Valley’s Stags Leap famously made history in 1976 when at a blind tasting held in Paris, nine French judges gave first place to a district cabernet sauvignon over such storied producers as Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion. It was a turning point for California wines, and the small area continues to create wonderful collections. This one, which features one bottle of 2012 cab each from 19 wineries in the district, is a terrific way to taste what all the fuss is about.
Price: $1,900 for 2015; orders being taken now for 2016 to be delivered in October. More information here.
LUNCH AT LE BERNARDIN
A seafood experience in New York City’s midtown.
I eat out for work (and fun) a lot. But no matter how many wonderful spots I get to visit, nothing compares to a midday meal at this extraordinary seafood restaurant. The hush that envelopes you as soon as you enter—such a contrast to midtown Manhattan’s busy streets; the seamless service; the calming interior that hints at the sea in myriad subtle and beautiful ways; and, of course, the astonishing food from chef Eric Ripert: Le Bernardin is a treasure. le-bernardin.com
THE TRAP DOOR THEATRE
An intimate theatre with shows that are consistently powerful and gutsy.
Anyone who has attended Broadway in recent years knows the debt that major commercial theaters owe to such Chicago powerhouses as Steppenwolf Theatre and the Goodman Theatre, whose shows are picked up again and again. But the Windy City’s vibrant scene is packed with hundreds of smaller groups presenting intriguing work. One of my favorites is Trap Door, a tiny space down an alley in the Bucktown neighborhood. Its shows, consistently powerful and gutsy, often have Eastern European connections that speak to Chicago’s immigrant roots (including “The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls,” pictured above). The theater is supported by some of the city’s leading philanthropists and theater names (the Rothman Family Foundation, former governor Jim Thompson, playwright Tracy Letts), but its avant-garde approach is anything but safe. trapdoortheatre.com
THE CHOCOLATE GARAGE
PALO ALTO, CALIF.
A robust and unique chocolate experience for the ultimate connoisseur.
Nearly six years ago Sunita de Tourreil founded this tasting room in a renovated Palo Alto garage to showcase the best small batch, bean-to-bar chocolate being made in the world today. Visiting is a chance to experience tastes you’ve never encountered before—including exclusive bars the Garage occasionally creates in partnership with select makers—and to hone your chocolate palette like a fine wine connoisseur. thechocolategarage.com
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
A bold and thoughtful curation of modern American art.
The Whitney’s new building, which opened in downtown Manhattan in May, has made that museum relevant to me again. The Renzo Piano design, particularly the way the indoor and outdoor spaces play off of one another, is exciting. But the best part of the opening was the way it reintroduced the museum’s permanent collection, particularly in the first show, “America is Hard to See,” which drew solely from the museum’s holdings. Taking in the art, which ran throughout the building until late September, made me think about U.S. history, immigration, aesthetics. And that made me eager to see what the museum would do next. whitney.org
THE ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM
A classic and incomparable driving experience.
Buzz is steadily growing for Rolls-Royce’s new Dawn, which will be unveiled in North America at the Naples Winter Wine Festival in Florida in late January. The car, a four-seat convertible, looks like a sexy and exhilarating ride. But I had the distinct pleasure of driving—and perhaps more to the point, being driven in—a classic Rolls-Royce Phantom from New York to Newport, R.I., this summer, and there really isn’t anything that compares to the experience. The ride is so smooth and so quiet, you almost feel like you’re floating. The Phantom has so much room you could take a nap on the plush floor in the back. And the electronics are top notch, allowing you to direct music, the GPS—basically whatever you’d like—from several screens. Or you could just sit back and relax. So here’s a salute to old-school luxury, before the new kid enters the block. rolls-roycemotorcars.com