Why I love the Gulfstream

What’s so special about a Gulfstream? As an entrepreneur and founder of a luxury brand, I would say that I have pretty discerning taste and have spent plenty of hours doing business in the air. But once I had experienced the Gulfstream 450 and 550, it was hard to fly anything else.

When you buy (or charter) a Gulfstream, you’re not just getting an airborne piece of eye candy. But there is no denying their appeal. The company’s iconic business jets are known for their sleek designs: smooth, swept-back wings; a T-shaped tail; and oval windows that let in plenty of natural light.

Passenger compartments are designed for both premium comfort and maximum productivity. In Gulfstream’s longer-range jets, the supple leather seats can be used for high-altitude strategy huddles, then stretched out for sleeping so the team will arrive refreshed for their long-distance meetings.

Christopher R. King inside the Gulfstream GIVSP
Christopher R. King inside the Gulfstream GIVSP

Some extra appreciated touches: Luggage is readily available from the lavatory or passenger compartment. And screens, lighting, shades, and entertainment systems can be controlled with the touch of an app.

The Gulfstream brand is about style and substance. You obviously wouldn’t want to purchase a multi-million-dollar private jet without doing your due diligence. Luckily, Gulfstream aircraft measures up just as well under the hood.

In a Gulfstream, there’s more going on below the surface than meets the eye. Fabric sidewalls muffle excess noise as you and your teammates comfortably crisscross the country—or the Atlantic—at nearly the speed of sound. Cabins are extra pressurized, enriching the air with additional oxygen to make flying less tiring.

This thoughtful attention to detail extends to Gulfstream jets’ performance and safety. The Gulfstream Enhanced Vision System for Pilots and fly-by-wire aircraft controls give pilots access to state-of-the-art systems to increase situational awareness and reduce pilot fatigue. Winglets make for added fuel efficiency, while the T-shaped tail creates stability during turbulence.

If you’re wondering why Gulfstream manages to outperform competitors on so many levels, the answers can be found in the company’s long history. Gulfstream originated as Grumman Aircraft, a manufacturer of military planes. Company co-founder Roy Grumman succeeded in launching an entirely new class of airplane with the Gulfstream I in 1958. He followed it up with the Gulfstream II, which in 1968 became the first business aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean nonstop.

Gulfstream didn’t stop there. The Savannah, Ga.-based company has been perfecting the design and performance of its business jets for more than a half-century, adding to their range, speed, size, altitude, and features.

Its flagship, the G650ER, now exceeds the performance of other business jets with a nonstop reach of 7,500 nautical miles at Mach 0.85. And that’s only one of the reasons there’s a two-year waiting list to purchase a G650ER. (Gulfstream aircraft are known for their strong resale value too).

Christopher R. King Gulfstream GIVSP

Gulfstream business jets have also become something of an award magnet. Gulfstream has won more Collier Trophies than any other entity: one in 1997 for the Gulfstream V, a second in 2013 for the G550, and a third in 2014 for the G650. The National Aeronautical Association hands out the coveted trophies for the greatest achievements in aeronautics and astronautics every year. But who cares about awards. At the end of the day, it is what it does for you.

For me, being able to continue through my work day on a smooth Gulfstream ride with soft leather seats and high quality finishes with a lot of the luxuries from my life on the ground is everything.

I mean if life is a journey, why not enjoy the ride?

Christopher R. King Gulfstream GIVSP

Tricks of the Tux

Like ordering fine wine to perfectly pair with a meal, most people don’t know how to coordinate the elements of a tuxedo. But unlike wine, learning about how to dress in proper black tie can be pretty simple if you have the right guidelines. I emphasize “guidelines.”

But first a little history on the tuxedo for those of you (like me) that love the back story. The concept of the tuxedo first emerged in the UK in the 1860s when Edward VII, Prince of Wales opted for a tailless jacket to be worn as formal evening wear. His Savile Row tailors made the custom suit, and the style eventually made its way across the pond. By the 1880s, it was extremely popular with New Yorkers in the wealthy upstate enclave of Tuxedo Park, hence the name. The addition of the bow tie came a bit later though. Originally worn by Croatian mercenaries during the 17th century, bow ties spread around France in the 18th century. But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that Pierre Lorillard III, one of the original developers of the Tuxedo Club—a country club within Tuxedo Park—matched a black bow tie with his tuxedo jacket for a formal event. The look caught on, and the concept of “black tie” was born. Of course, I love this story since it is about a king that broke the rules.

It is pretty incredible when you think of how long this look has remained the same. Sure, there are a few variations, but the overall look of the tuxedo remains the standard attire for formal affairs, so it is good to know the basics.

For starters, I don’t follow trends, but I definitely have my own style. I grew up looking to icons like Frank Sinatra, and you see even today their style was on point. Stay traditional. Black is the obvious color choice, but midnight blue is an excellent way to stand out without calling too much attention to yourself. The midnight blue is still elegant but has a little more personality, and I love it paired with my custom John Lobb velvet slippers. It is one of my favorite looks. Recently, I was at the Tom Ford store on Rodeo Drive and was getting one of my cocktail jackets altered (as shown in the pictures). While the incredible satin pattern is different than the typical black or navy I wear, the cut is traditional and the tailoring impeccable. Like I said, keep it appropriate, but it is okay to make a statement.

As with my suits and shirts, there is no substitute for a well-tailored bespoke tux. In fact, this is one garment you should always have custom made for you, if you can. For those that don’t have the option of hitting Savile Row, I suggest going to Tom Ford or Brioni, who make an incredible made-to-measure tuxedo. The classic look for the tuxedo will have larger lapels and should be a shawl collar or peak lapel, preferably in a one-button or double-breasted option. No one understands the importance of that better than Tom Ford, whose attention to detail is amazing. “I probably do have an obsessive personality, but striving for perfection has served me well,” the designer has said.

For me, living in Beverly Hills, I have always been fond of the Tom Ford store on Rodeo Drive. (If you’re heading there, be sure to ask for Jason.) They won’t fail you for an immediate off-the-rack option. They can get you fitted right away and have your garment tailored properly quickly.

Tom Ford White Dinner Jacket with Shawl Collar

Finally, put it all together. A proper tuxedo is about more than just a jacket and bowtie. These are a few of my guidelines and points I have learned along the way. Try incorporating a few and see if it works for you.

Jacket: I do not consider a notch lapel to be formal attire. I see trendy red carpet looks in notch lapel or a grey tuxedo. In my opinion, you should always go for a shawl or peaked lapel. The jacket should be a one or two button, or I also prefer a double-breasted jacket, which is a little more formal and is an exceptional fit for a slimmer man.

Tom Ford Velvet Peak Lapel Cocktail Jacket

Pants: These should match the jacket. Whether you choose a grosgrain-trimmed lapel or all satin, the stripe down the side of the pants should coordinate. You should also pay attention to the pant length. They should be a little shorter and not have a break as suit pants would. And they should never have a cuff; they should be flat front and not have pleats.

Tom Ford Satin Tuxedo Pants

Shirt: My favorite is a custom, crisp white Brioni. However, I do own a light blue one to pair with a midnight navy tux when I want to be more expressive. I also love monograms on my custom shirts. Of course, monograms for my suit shirts are done on the front panel of the shirt below the chest, but on a tuxedo shirt I have it done on the sleeve, so the cummerbund doesn’t cover it. Also, I always suggest showing a little more cuff on your tuxedo.

Custom Brioni Tuxedo Shirt for Christopher R. King

Bow tie: Learn to tie a proper one. And please don’t wear a clip-on tie, unless you are under the age of 16. Always make sure the material matches your lapel and trim on the side of the pants. I also love wearing a satin scarf if I choose not to wear a bowtie. Don’t dress down your tux with a satin necktie instead of a bow tie. The whole point of a tux is to dress formally.

Tom Ford Midnight Navy Satin Shawl Tuxedo

Shoes: I love velvet slippers. But the main guideline here is that your shoes should match either the fabric of the satin or grosgrain.

Those are the basics and of course, just my guidelines. Take them or leave them. You can take it from there. Just like everything I do in life, I learned everything I know from the experts. Follow the guidelines, but make it yours. Even if you don’t have a reason to wear a tux now, you never know when the occasion will show up, and you want to make sure you are communicating the right statement.

For the Love of Summer Truffles

Christopher R. King sampling summer truffles

Flavor, experience, exclusivity. Few culinary delights come together in such a divine combination as truffles. But nature’s perfect fusion of sensory experiences isn’t always easy to obtain.

For those new to truffles, let me give you a quick rundown. Truffles are a type of fungus generally found near tree roots. Since the truffle is found subterranean between a few inches to as deep as 30 inches, specially trained hogs and hounds have been used to help hunt down their locations. Their difficulty to farm lies in the fact that they only flourish under certain kinds of soil and trees that cannot be cultivated or controlled. Their rarity makes them highly sought after, and the deepness of the flavor and aroma adds to their soaring prices, as much as $900 a pound for summer black truffles and as much as $9,000 a pound for winter white truffles, likening them to caviar and fine wine.

My fondest memories of consuming truffles would be at the Georges V in Paris. Years later, I’m still haunted by breakfasts of toasted, butter-coated baguettes used to scoop up scrambled eggs cooked with truffles. Here in Los Angeles, I’ve attempted to re-create the experience at Cecconi’s, and just about any restaurant with a robust truffle inventory can whip up a plate of tagliatelle with cream sauce and shaved truffles—even if it’s not on the menu.

Black summer truffles from the “Truffle Brothers”

As we round out the summer season, I plan on enjoying as much as I can of the black summer truffles, which you can still find at top restaurants and suppliers into early fall when the season has had a good run. Black truffles are milder than white and have a woodsy, almost hazelnut flavor. Some consider it to have a sweet, chocolate-type flavor that is generally less potent than the winter variety and pairs incredibly well with the lighter spring and summer dishes. There are many different options in the world from Australian to Chinese black truffles and of course, the Middle-Eastern Terfez. But just like a fine-tailored suit, Italian truffles have their strong—and much deserved—cult following. When it comes to finding them in California, I’m continuously blown away by Michael and Marco Pietroiacovo, otherwise known as the “Truffle Brothers.” Born and raised in Italy and now the premier supplier to restaurants like Spago, Providence, Bestia, Melisse, and Wally’s, earning them some serious street cred. Their family has been in the truffle business for two generations now, and their love for the truffle date back to childhood. It’s definitely worth stopping by their new retail location to experiment with the different products like truffle oil, salt, or honey truffle. I plan to try the truffle honey over some crostini with a soft cheese like a Brillat-Savarin. It’s a lovely late-summer treat to indulge in as hints of fall’s cool breezes start to arrive.

The Warmth of Italy in The Heart of Beverly Hills

If you want to get away for a romantic dinner in Beverly Hills, Il Cielo is the place. Since it opened its doors in 1986, this has been the getaway within the city that makes you feel like you are back in Italy. When you are sitting on their patio with the soft lights, surrounded by the beautiful garden and old-world style of décor, you feel like you have been transported to a little country restaurant in Tuscany. All of the noise and distractions of the city fade away, and you will find yourself completely relaxed and focused only on your present experience.

The restaurant is still owned by Pasquale & Pattie Vericella, who bought it as a home with the vision to design it into a charming restaurant. They created an ambiance that had the intimacy of an Italian country cottage paired with the authentic experience of Italian dining. Pulling from their own upbringing and experiences, they designed an escape in the city that takes you to another time and place. Paying attention to every detail, their Italian wait staff are all well versed in fine wines and cuisine, and their menu boasts the same freshly made pasta that I enjoy every time I visit Italy.

Perfect filet mignon carpaccio
Il Manzo at Il Cielo

I had just come back from working on my new designs for CCCXXXIII and was still craving the Italian cuisine, so I found myself back here again. This evening I started with the Il Manzo, a filet mignon carpaccio with the perfect amount of lemon dressing and shaved black truffle and parmigiano reggiano. At the same moment, the wine arrived, creating the perfect pairing. Usually, when I have Italian fare, I will pair a pasta dish in between the appetizer and main entrée. My favorite pasta dish here is the Pappardelle al Cinghiale, which is Roasted Wild Boar in Au Jus with Barolo wine. This has been a long -time favorite of mine and suggest to anyone coming here for the first time.

Gaja Wine at Il Cielo
Christopher R. King at Il Cielo

My main entrée for this evening was the special they offered that night, the Grilled Veal Chop with sautéed rapini and mashed potato in porcini mushroom sauce. For those of you who want something a little lighter, I highly recommend this fish entrée. It is a grilled whole Mediterranean sea bass with the eggplant puree and sautéed spinach and cherry tomatoes. They present this and then delicately filet it tableside, which is a nice touch.

Gaja Barbaresco pairs perfectly with the grilled Italian veal chop
Christopher R. King enjoying the Grilled Veal Chop at Il Cielo

My choice for wine on this occasion was an easy one to make. I have enjoyed every bottle of Gaja Barbaresco from the 70’s, and 80’s that I have opened over the years. Personally, I prefer wine to be more aged to have the perfect flavor, which is why I don’t drink much of the current vintages. In my opinion, 1971 is not an exceptional wine as an investment, but most of the Barbaresco wines during this period have incredible flavors that pair well with the right cuisine and should be enjoyed. This 1971 is very silky with a light ruby color and is delicate enough for fish, but still, has the rich flavor of layers of dried red fruit that pairs beautifully with Veal and Wild Boar.

So, the next time you want to get away for an evening in Beverly Hills, with a date or even on your own to experience a piece of Italy, I recommend this landmark destination. You will be back, again and again.

A Cigar That Ages Like a Fine Wine

I love a great cigar, but it wasn’t until last week that I had the opportunity to experience something so special. I had met up with one of the founders of PuroTrader, to catch up and enjoy a smoke. I love talking with him about cigars, as he is a true aficionado and has such a vast knowledge about the market.

We had sat down at 10£ in Beverly Hills and had been talking about our recent travels when he that he announced that had a surprise for me. He laid down a box of 1982 Cuban-made Davidoff No. 2 cigars on the table.

Considered a “must have” for anyone interested in the best handmade Havanas, the 1982 Cuban-made Davidoff cigar weighs about 8.5 grams and is considerably thinner than most cigars I smoke. As you would expect, this is a rare find since they stopped making the Cuban version in 1991. It is still considered one of the most highly sought-after smokes among serious cigar aficionados, not just coveted for its quality, but also for its rarity. It is an excellent mild day-time smoke for those who want consistency and quality. Considering how well aged the cigar is, the ammonia created during the fermentation has completely disappeared leaving just a cigar that is full of flavor, without any harshness. This reveals all the subtleties and subtext found in a perfectly crafted cigar.

Very rare Davidoff No. 2 cuban cigar

For many cigar smokers, that white oval band bearing the scripted “Davidoff” logo with “Cuba” printed on its side is a real mark of excellence.

Davidoff No. 2 cigars in box

This rare cigar costs around $1,300 per box of 5, and over $9,000 for a box of 25 that is if you can find them. But if you are lucky enough to purchase a box, know that it is worth every dollar.

Immediately upon opening the box, I could see the Clara wrapper was delicate, and the band was just starting to show a yellow tint from the oils of the different tobacco leaves aging as it escapes the cigar. As I removed it from the packaging, I could smell the warm flavors of the nutmeg and cinnamon mixed with the suede. I was surprised by how much flavor this petite cigar had for its size. Upon my first puff, I could taste the suede and black tea notes on my lips as the aroma of citrus peel, cinnamon and nutmeg started to develop and then change slightly, weaving in notes of the classic Cuban flavors of grass, hay, and leather with each puff. As it progressed, I could taste the natural honey start to come through as the stronger flavors start to fade and make way for more of the subtle notes. This was truly a cigar experience, that topped any I have ever had.

Although many cigars do improve with age, I believe Davidoff cigars are the top of that mark, aging like some of my favorite red wine. The Davidoff Chateaux series was named after some of the finest red wines in France by one of the founders, Zino Davidoff, who often compared his cigars to Bordeaux wines. A cigar from this series will be my next smoke, paired with a first growth Bordeaux to mark the occasion.

I have had many cigars that are aged a few years, but having my first 1985 Cuban-made Davidoff No. 2 cigar was a first for me. To me, this was the equivalent of opening a 1961 Petrus or 1947 Cheval Blanc. This was special. Just like a fine wine that ages in your cellar, this cigar will never come to pass again, once they are gone they are gone forever. So, savor the moment.

1985 Cuban-made Davidoff No. 2 cigar

You never forget your first Greubel Forsey

It was a piece of art. It was a white gold, Double Tourbillon that inclined at a 30 degree angle with a navy blue crocodile strap. I had lost my first fortune with the real estate crash in 2008 and had just hit a milestone with my new ventures. The first time around, I didn’t make the kind of sustainable investments that I do now. But I had grown so much and now had such a deeper understanding of intelligent investing opportunities. I knew not only would a watch like this hold its value, but it also told the story about where I was now. This was the statement of my new direction and outlook on life.

Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degrees
Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 Degrees, Rose Gold with White Dial – $500,000

I love the philosophy of this brand because they have always been so focused on creating something both technical and artistic. They understand the person that wants something made with the finest craftsmanship and creativity, and most importantly, accuracy. This isn’t for the person that just cares about labels and status. This is for the person that has distinctive taste and experience, and truly appreciates the painstaking levels needed to create perfection. To me, labels are for telling people who you are, craftsmanship is showing them.

Greubel Forsey IP1
Greubel Forsey IP1, Platinum, Limited to 11 Pieces – $650,000

To give you an idea of this intense watchmaking process, you need to understand that it isn’t just what you see on the outside that counts. The Greubel Forsey watch is a meticulously designed timepiece that has multiple tourbillons and wheels with the intention to improve the accuracy of telling time. Hundreds of parts are finished by hand, for a total of 400 to 500 man hours per timepiece.

Greubel Forsey GMT
Greubel Forsey GMT, Platinum with Black Dial – $630,000

In my opinion, Greubel is by far one of the rarest and finest watchmakers in the world. Their standards of excellence are unsurpassed. They create extremely limited edition pieces that exceed the expectation of any collector. In fact the Sapphire Project pictured below only has 8 made in the world. Its price tag is $1,150,000. When you already understand the uncompromising level of work that goes into every single piece, it is no surprise to hear that they continued to push the limits. With this piece, they chose the more difficult, expensive route using large blocks of sapphire crystal to craft a 3 piece case, instead of going the less risky, less expensive route of using multiple smaller crystals to create the different components. But the end result is that you have full access to the intricate details of this watch from every angle, capturing every movement in its best light.

Greubel Forsey Sapphire Project
Greubel Forsey Sapphire Project, Special Execution – $1,150,000

Now at this point in my life, I have become more of an avid collector and continue to grow my collections and investments. If it is the first time for you, I recommend speaking to someone who can really give you the insight you need to find the one that is best for you. I have worked with Steven Rostovsky in Beverly Hills for years because of his passion, knowledge and his understanding of horology. He is a collector first, but has also been dealing in high end collectible wrist watch market for over 16 years. You want an experienced dealer when you are making this type of investment. I recommend first choosing something that speaks to you and then consult with an expert on the investment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get into the details on what makes it so special. Learning about the history and uncovering all of the fascinating components that make this brand unique are all part of the journey.

Greubel Forsey QP Equation
Greubel Forsey QP Equation in White Gold with Anthracite Dial – $750,000

Designing Your Own Wine Experience

Most people that know me, understand my appreciation for wine. This also includes pairing it with the perfect dish and environment based on my mood. What is your favorite wine experience for a day like today?

I think going through the process of creating my own wine gave me such an elevated perspective into the methodical and meticulous steps involved in creating an experience for a consumer. Enjoying wine should be an experience and to create this, you take risks and make choices with that goal in mind. It doesn’t happen overnight and it isn’t easy, but to create this kind of excellence is worth it.

When I released King of Clubs, the only retailer where I wanted the brand was Wally’s Beverly Hills. I loved the concept of a fine wine & spirits retail store & cheese shop within a casual, stylish restaurant in the heart of the city. The ambiance brought back memories of my travels and I loved the idea of being surrounded by conversations about wine. Of course, like most restaurants I frequent, I have become friends with the sommelier and wine director because of some of those conversations. Mathew Turner, the wine director at Wally’s has great insight into the history of different wines and we have often spoke about the best food to pair with our favorite wines.

Charcuterie from Wally's Wine Beverly Hills
Charcuterie from Wally’s Beverly Hills

The chef, David Féau’s love for creating the perfect cuisine to complement wine come from his early days of growing up in France. He learned his first lessons in cooking from his mother and his insight into wine and food is remarkable. This evening I was in the mood for an Abruzzo, to pair with my Wagyu Steak Tartare. The Wagyu is as an appetizer that can be shared with the whole table or could work as an entree. It is served with truffle-tarragon mayonnaise, garnished with white mushrooms and blossoms and topped to perfection with shaved foie gras, all served on a toasted baguette.  I chose the 1997 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Italy to balance my meal with the flavors of black olives and traces of mushrooms.

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Wine
1997 Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Wine paired with Wagyu Steak Tartare

This particular wine is part of the movement of artisanal wineries that were bringing both modern and traditional techniques to the art of winemaking. I love that the organic grapes are still crushed by foot, yet they have tried new innovations to create their own version of a well rounded red wine.

Just like in creating a fine wine, you create your own experiences. You just have to decide what that experience will be for you.

A5 Wagyu paired with the finest bottle of Burgundy

A5 Wagyu paired with the finest bottle of Burgundy.

The first time I tried an A5 Wagyu steak, I was blown away at the mouthwatering rich flavor and the soft, tender texture. The experience was like warm butter melting in my mouth. I had never had a cut of meat quite like it. Now it is one of my favorite meals at Spago in Beverly Hills, paired (in this picture) with one of my favorite Burgundies, La Romanée Liger-Belair.

For those of you who want to know a little more about it, I wanted to share my own thoughts and insight.

Christopher R. King and Spago's Head Checf, Tetsu Yahagi
Christopher R. King and Spago’s Head Checf, Tetsu Yahagi

Why I love Wagyu.

I love the entire experience, the way it makes me feel with every bite. It is the incredible flavor, the texture, and the way it pairs with my favorite wine. But I am so impressed with the entire story. Just like anything, when you understand the history, the process and the painstaking details that were put into creating something on this level, you have such an elevated appreciation for it. When you are sitting down to enjoy that first bite, you realize all of the passion, discipline and work that took place before the experience could happen.

It starts with the slow and thoughtful process of breeding the Wagyu cattle, serving them only the best feed accompanied with clean water to drink. Then they allow it to mature to up to 32 months, (much longer than normal cattle) for the ideal quality & texture. Then finally the restaurant, where a passionate chef has created the perfect preparation, cooking environment and presentation. Pairing it with accompaniments and wine to bring out the flavor of the entrée.

A5 Wagyu at Spago in Beverly Hills
A5 Wagyu at Spago in Beverly Hills

What is Wagyu?

Wagyu beef comes from cattle that are bred just for the purpose of creating the best flavor possible. The cattle live a sedentary life and eat frequently and are bred up to 30 months to create more of an evenly distributed, marbling effect in the beef. The result is a high-quality beef with unsurpassed taste.

What does A5 mean?

This references the score from Japan’s Meat Grading Association that provides a score from 1-5 based on marbling, firmness, color and quality and an A-C score based on the ratio of meat to weight of cow’s carcass. I even read that the National Livestock Breeding Center maintains the records of the cattle tracing back to their ancestry and history and can actually trace a steak from a restaurant back to its origins. Now that impressive history and details. Most Wagyu beef is either A4 or A5, due to its superior standards.

How Should It Be Cooked?

I have had the luxury of experiencing the A5 Wagyu all over the world, at some of the best restaurants. But for me, Spago is still my favorite because of the way it is served. They offer the A5 Kuroge Wagyu from Miyazaki in a New York cut. But it isn’t just the cut or the grade, it also is about the way it is cooked. Tetsu Yahagi, the chef at Spago is originally from Japan and is very familiar with this Japanese beef. He believes Wagyu should be cooked over an open fire charcoal grill at a higher temperature to give it the crisper, well done exterior that almost melts the fat inside, while keeping the interior meat rare. You can have the best grade of Wagyu, but if it isn’t cooked properly, you won’t get the real experience.

Christopher R King enjoying A5 Wagyu and Romanée-Conti Burgundy
Christopher R. King enjoying the A5 Wagyu paired with the finest bottle of Romanée-Conti Burgundy

How It Should Be Paired with Wine.

There are so many amazing wines to pair with Wagyu. You could go with a Napa Cabernet, a French Bordeaux or even some of my favorite Italian wines, depending on the climate and the time of day. Today’s shoot was lunchtime and most wine connoisseurs including myself, would go for a Burgundy, like the Romanée-Conti, as it is one of the finest and most expensive Burgundies. I love exploring wine with Philip, the Wine Director at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants. We knew the Romanée-Conti would be a predictable choice, but we wanted to have some fun.

I wanted to pair it with something special for this lunchtime entree, so we decided on the La Romanée Liger-Belair. With only 300 cases produced a year on this historic estate in Burgundy, consider yourself lucky if you have the opportunity to experience this. The main grape variety used for La Romanée is Pinot Noir and when you open the bottle, you immediately get those aromas of black berries and cherries. The perfect complement for enjoying Wagyu at lunchtime.

Now, the next time you at the restaurant for a lunch meeting or out to dinner with friends, you can explore the menu and indulge in something truly remarkable, with an even deeper appreciation for the experience.

Spago's Head Chef, Tetsu Yahagi, Christopher R. King and Wine Director, Phillip Dunn
Spago’s Head Chef, Tetsu Yahagi, Christopher R. King and Wine Director, Phillip Dunn

Hotel Bel-Air: Escape Into An Old Hollywood Oasis

Hotel Bel-Air

As an entrepreneur building a new luxury company, finding the time to get away can be really difficult. But when you are focused on reaching your goals, you have to find a nearby getaway that inspires you to create beautiful things.

For me, that is the Hotel Bel-Air.

Living in Beverly Hills, it is an easy 10-minute drive to Bel-Air for me, but it is a complete escape. Surrounded by twelve acres of gardens, this place is the perfect retreat to relax or just let the ideas flow. Originally designed as an oasis, it really has such a comfortable, relaxed yet, luxurious atmosphere. Located between the canyons, which allows for cooler nights, even in the summer.

As someone who has always loved the style and elegance of the Old Hollywood era, the history of this hotel completely resonates with me. It is no surprise that it was frequented by people like Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart and Robert Wagner. You can almost imagine being in a different time, the way they have maintained the property in this style.

My luggage is usually filled with Brunello Cucinelli for these weekend trips. The style and designs by this incredible Italian company is unmatched. His deep appreciation for cashmere led him to create some of the most beautiful garments. You can feel the “velvety softness” and see the manual work and craftsmanship that goes into all of his pieces. I travel with the Brunello Cucinelli silk throws during the warmer months and the cashmere versions in the winter and fall. These are perfect to throw on when I am reading or sketching designs outside on the patio on a cool night.

Some of the rooms still have wood burning fireplaces, which can create the most incredible ambiance in the fall and winter months. There is nothing better on a cool crisp night, then sipping a glass of fine wine with the smell and sounds of the wood burning fireplace in the background. Since the hotel is located between two canyons, even the summer nights can have a cool breeze so don’t think this has to be restricted to just the colder months.

Of course, I love that it has one of the Wolfgang Puck restaurants on the property so I can easily enjoy my favorite meals and wine. Their award-winning, world class spa is still one of my favorite places to relax and unwind. The estheticians and masseuses there are incredible. They used to carry my favorite face and eye cream from La Prairie, but recently changed to another product. Personally, I wish they would bring back La Prairie. Just putting it out there (wink-wink)! The best part of having this spa so close is that I can walk from my massage straight to my room. No driving or traffic to take me out of the state of relaxation.

I believe you can design your perfect environment and setting, right down to the clothes you are wearing. Just these small details can transform you into a different state. It is in that special place, that you can truly create.

Putting The Pen To Paper

Putting the Pen To Paper

If you want to achieve something in life, you have to plan it. You have to write down your goals, create your list and develop a plan. In the modern world of laptops and smartphones, it certainly makes doing all of this so much more convenient, but to me, there is still nothing like taking a pen to paper.

I have been drawn to art and the written word since I was a child and even as a businessman, I find myself sketching out ideas, creating visual concepts and drawing out my thoughts with images or designs.

I prefer taking notes with a pen and paper. For me, I feel like I retain the information and process it better because I am physically writing it out. But I also just enjoy the art of writing, the inconsistency of the letters, the way the pen just flows on the paper. It has more of a connected feeling rather than having the letters just typed out on a keyboard.

But I want to share something with you. As a high school dropout, I never truly understood how to take proper meeting notes. That is until I was in a board meeting and someone called me out. They had noticed that I always had my notebook and pen, but never took notes during the meeting. I believe honesty is the best policy, so I told them the truth. I didn’t really know how to take meeting notes. We ended up in a conversation on how everyone took notes and their personal style with it. It was an incredible meeting and I learned a lot. I transitioned from just using it for the creative process of my career to integrating it into the more strategic side.

Like anything in life, I believe that you have to have the right tools to fit your lifestyle. For me, I had custom linen cards made for my suit pockets that are about 2.5 inches by 5 inches with my name letter-pressed in a burnt orange. I always carry 3 of these on me at all times and use them for note taking, jotting down ideas or explaining a design in a lunch meeting. And truthfully, sometimes I will end up using them to give out my information. I don’t believe in business cards and never carry one. Of course, I always carry a small Mont Blanc pen with me just for this purpose.

In this picture, I have one of my favorite pens, a Limited-Edition Montblanc Masters for Meisterstück white porcelain rollerball pen. It is handcrafted with white Meissen Porcelain with a platinum-plated cap top and mother of pearl Montblanc emblem. The platinum-plated clip has an individual serial number and three platinum-plated rings embossed with the Montblanc name. The details of this pen are incredible, but is the weight of this pen that makes it my favorite for signing checks, contracts or writing letters. It will put you back about $2500.00 but is worth every penny. And yes, I do have different pens for different projects or purposes. If I am sketching a design, I like to use a fine liner, where if I am signing checks or contracts, I prefer a rollerball. To take a step further, I also like different pens based on what I am wearing at the time. For instance, if I am wearing a rose gold watch and cufflinks, I will use a rose gold pen in my breast pocket of my suit. And as far as brands, my favorites are MontBlanc, Montegrappa, Smythson & Cartier.

Now, the notebook. You need to start with a quality notebook cover. For me, that is usually a buttery leather or an exotic skin. I love crocodile, ostrich and even lizard. In the image above, I have one of my favorites, the Hermès orange ostrich, and leather notebook. Hermès does an excellent job with quality and craftsmanship. Each notebook is handcrafted with a saddle stitch that provides strength and repairability. They also use a very high-quality stationary grade paper in every notebook that feels and looks like Vellum. Which brings me to my next point.

The paper. The paper itself is very important. When I sign agreements, I use a heavier paper grade that matches the weight of the document. But when I am sketching or designing, I prefer Vellum, preferably made from calfskin, because of its ability to capture the finest detail. The modern version is still considered one of the finest materials for drawing, but it just doesn’t have the strength, durability, and clarity as the original. When we were designing the logo for CCCXXXIII in London, we wanted to use the original Vellum to really show every element of the design on a quality material that will last.

Listen, you have to do what works for you. For me, having a beautiful notebook and pen encourage me to use them and get creative. After working in front of a computer screen for hours, there is just something about sitting down with a pen and paper and letting the ideas flow. Trust me, you will your plan in no time and will genuinely enjoy the journey it took to get there.