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Thursday, July 26, 2012

London 2012: Who Designed the Most
Attractive Uniforms for Olympians? No one!

In the unofficial competition among designers of the clothing to be worn by athletes in London starting this week, it appears that there are few winners and many losers.

Stella McCartney, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Hermès
and Salvatore Ferragamo are just a few of the famous names enlisted to outfit Olympians.

Some countries selected local or little known names.

Either way, it's hard to pinpoint exemplary work. Most of the apparel is, as the Brits are fond of saying, a train wreck.

With an estimated billion folks watching on TV, would you want to show up at the opening ceremonies in in bright orange and yellow?

Most likely not, yet that's what the Chinese will be wearing.

Spanish athletes will be decked out in equally garish kit designed by – are your ready? – a Russian firm. Did they forget that Barcelona is now one of the world's hot fashion capitals?
The Brits, Americans and many others are going for boring, blah, banal blazers, like these goofy piped ones from New Zealand that recall a community playhouse production of The Music Man.

And here's what Giorgio Armani came up with for Italy. Uninspired, for sure. But at least he's consistent.

On a positive note,  Jamaica has received advance praise from fashionistas for snappy apparel from reggae icon Bob Marley's daughter, Cedella.
Fortunately, we're not watching the Olympics for the clothes. Let the games begin!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Enlightened Traveler:
When In Tel Aviv, Do as The Tel Avivim Do

The dynamic residents of Israel's bustling second largest city know how to live.

Modern Tel Aviv has stunning beaches and charming neighborhoods, if you know where to look
On every block, in every Tel Aviv neighborhood you'll find a cozy cafe, chic wine bar, funky coffee joint, tantalizing ethnic eatery, or world-class restaurant. Enthusiastic diners spill out onto sidewalks where they perch at tables and carry on until two or three in the morning, even on weekdays.

It's hard not to fall in love with a city whose population derives so much pleasure from good food and lively conversation.

("Lively" is an understatement. The Tel Avivim don't converse, they debate – about everything from politics to who makes the best pizza. Or as the old joke goes, "Four Israelis, five opinions!")

Tourists congregate mostly at the large, graceless chain hotels that hug the city's shimmering Mediterranean shoreline; along Dizengoff Street, its hit-or-miss main shopping boulevard; or at the bars and restaurants of the renovated, crowded Old Port.

While its  beaches are fabulous, Tel Aviv isn't really a resort destination. Nor do you go there to shop.

Much has been written in the last few years about Neve Tzedek, one of the earliest Jewish neighborhoods dating from the last quarter of the 19th Century. It was neglected until the 1980s when gentrification and preservation efforts brought boutiques, wine bars, and restaurants.

Today it is one of the city's most fashionable and expensive districts, frequented late into the night by tourists and locals alike. Particularly notable: The Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance, home to two of the country's leading troupes, Inbal and Batsheva.

While Neve Tzedek remains a popular entertainment quarter, savvy locals often head in the other direction at night toward the less well known Ibn Gvirol Street, home to some of the city's hottest and most interesting eateries.

Elba: new addition to Ibn Gvirol's many restaurants
The municipal government upgraded and refreshed this modern, wide boulevard a few years ago. Its arcaded buildings provide shelter for a stroll on a rainy or stifling day. Tel Avivim flock here because they know that there's something for everyone to enjoy on Ibn Gvirol.

Elba (at No. 36) is a sophisticated, pricey wine bar that opened to great anticipation a few months ago. It's minimalist interior would look right at home in New York or London.

Chef Yair Yosefi was born in Tel Aviv, cooked in Paris (at Le Grand Vefour and Lasserre) for ten years, and returned to start Elba. Yosefi is offering new interpretations of Israeli, French, and Mediterranean dishes, including a signature slow roasted chicken that undergoes a 48-hour preparation and cooking process.

Ha Miznon: modern twist on a pita joint

At the opposite end of the scale sits Ha Miznon, a tiny street food joint serving up fluffy, warm pitas filled with a remarkably delicious assortment of unlikely ingredients: short ribs, chicken livers, and shrimp plus house-made tahini sauce, pickles, peppers, and other condiments.

Another specialty is a whole cauliflower, unhurriedly roasted to delicious, tender perfection.

Eyal Shani, who previously ran several noteworthy high-end restaurants, is the talented chef behind this very affordable, locally popular establishment.

The scene is so casual and the food so original and tasty that you will want to come back again before you leave Tel Aviv.

Ha Miznon is at No. 23 Ibn Gvirol. The sign is in Hebrew only, so ask to make sure you're at the right place.

We'll have more on the many pleasures to be found on trendy Ibn Gvirol plus hotel recommendations and additional Tel Aviv travel tips in a subsequent post.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Things Not (Yet) Available In The U.S.: Fiat 500L

If you think the scrappy Fiat 500 is the height of pint-sized sophistication, the Italian auto maker has a surprise in store.

Fiat plans to bring a roomier five-seat version to the U.S. in 2013.

The 500L ("L" stands for "large") debuted earlier this year at the Geneva Auto Show and is available currently only in Europe.

U.S. sales of the original chic but slight 500 coupe have proved disappointing. Fiat is counting on the longer, taller four-door L model to drive more customers to its showrooms.

The move echoes the course BMW charted when it followed the Mini Cooper Hatchback a few years later with the bigger Mini Countryman.

Styling-wise, the 500L lacks the aren't-I-oh-so-cute? appeal of the 500. Some will find it downright unattractive.

Car and Driver likened it to a 500 that "stuck its thumb in its mouth." Ouch!

It remains to be seen whether U.S. buyers will stand up and salute the 500L or give it a raspberry.