00765 Travel Guide
Hotel Openings / Hotel Opening Rates / Caribbean Hotels / Puerto Rico Hotels / Vieques Hotels / → All Tags
One of the coolest and "greenest" new boutique hotels to surface in the Caribbean is on the popular island destination of Vieques, Puerto Rico. El Blok, located in the town of Esparanza, at the southern end of Vieques, is putting on its final touches and will be fully open by this weekend.
El Blok, designed by San Juan based Fuster+ Architects, goes for the softer side of modern minimalism, with a curvalineal shape that compliments the natural coastline and Esparanza's beachfront promenade. The hotel offers just 22 rooms, thus keeping its footprint small both literally (the hotel occupies the site of a former home) and environmentally (El Blok is LEED Gold Certified.) Virturally every aspect of the hotel's design has an environmental benefit.
Hotel News / Hotel Restaurants / Celebrity Chefs / W Hotels / Alain Ducasse / Vieques Hotels / Puerto Rico Hotels / → All Tags
After weeks of asking various members of the W Vieques team about Alain Ducasse’s departure from the hotel’s kitchen a few months ago, and receiving limp responses, the company has finally announced a new chef and name change.
Fernando Coppola is the new Executive Chef of Sorcé, the restaurant that’s thankfully swapped out the old (and irritating) name of miX on the Beach. Coppola was the sous chef there and has been promoted, though the company says Coppola is not “technically replacing Ducasse since Duccasse’s role was not to be on-site and in the kitchen on a daily basis.” Fair enough. But with the initial build up of Ducasse coming to the W Vieques in the first place back in 2010, and now that his presence is…gone…we’re not sure what other word to use for Coppola than replacement.
The W Vieques released this statement:
“When W debuted on Vieques Island, it created a new way to escape, and we would like to thank Chef Alain Ducasse and his culinary team for creating a dynamic, first-rate dining destination that was key to this successful launch,” said Greg White, general manager of W Vieques. “As we evolve to meet the needs of our jet set guests, our food and beverage strategies remain critical to enhancing overall guest experience while also drawing in locals.”
Celebrity Chefs / Hotel News / Hotel Restaurants / Alain Ducasse / W Hotels / Puerto Rico Hotels / → All Tags
We remember when the W Vieques opened in 2010, we were swept up in the hype. Here was this slick newjack busting in on a sleepy Puerto Rican isle that no one outside the armed forces had heard of. This island was the bomb, literally.
So, we watched with interest, especially when we found out they were bringing in chef extraordinaire Alain Ducasse to helm their restaurant called miX. Soon it seemed like everyone was heading to the W Vieques in droves. It was the “it spot”, indeed.
Fast forward to this past June when we visited in person. On the way to the “retreat” (they don’t use the word “hotel”) we heard some bad news. Ducasse had pulled out of the restaurant just weeks earlier! Yikes. We didn’t want that piece of gossip to taint our experience, but when we ate at miX, we had, well, mixed feelings.
The pumpkin veloute at a hefty $15 a bowl, was a watery disappointment. The description of the gambas (shrimp) mofongo with pork cracklings and sofrito sounded so good, we thought tasting it would make you want to slap your mother. Instead, it only made drink a ton of water it was so salty. But we kept picking at it, because hell, it was mofongo! And like pizza, even bad mofongo can be good mofongo, especially when you’ve had a few mango mojitos at WET bar. Which we did. And those drinks were on point! And the lunchtime ceviche was good too.
Anyhoo, regarding a replacement for Ducasse, reps for the W responded to an email saying they "don't have a statement ready yet, but we should have something soon."
We've been waiting a looooong time for this one to open but the day is (almost) finally here. The W Vieques Retreat and Spa in Puerto Rico will open tomorrow and an on-scene source sent us these gorgeous snaps of the pool and beach area. And our spy just had to let us know that the weather is currently 85 degrees and sunny.
Alain Ducasse's Mix on the Beach will also open tomorrow at the resort...er, retreat and don't forget, that your W experience starts at the Vieques Airport with the W Welcome Lounge where you are greeted by W staffers with cool refreshments. Once on the property, you can indulge in the Spa Chakra (no Bliss spa here), tennis, yoga on the sun terrace and a variety of land and sea "excursions" such as kayaking, scuba diving and eco-tours thorugh the Bioluminescent Bay.
With the opening just two weeks away on March 25, we can now report that the W Vieques Island Retreat and Spa has opening packages starting at $359 a night. Considering our disappointment that regular rates were $339 last time we checked, we're happy that the hotel—the first W retreat and spa in North America—has decided to give us a little more bang for our buck.
Not surprisingly for a property that calls its restaurant miX on the Beach and its rooms 'sand-sational', the opening package has a snazzy name too—it's the Surrender to Your Senses package. Here's what you get in return:
Hotel Openings / W Hotels / Puerto Rico Hotels / Hotel News / Hotel Restaurants / Alain Ducasse / → All Tags
UPDATE 2.28.10: Alain Ducasse's miX on the Beach will also open on March 25. Woot.
We've been fretting over the opening date of the long-awaited W Vieques Island Retreat and Spa for quite some time. The last time we checked in, the hotel was set to open March 1 but an insider told us that reservations would not be accepted until sometime in May.
But yesterday we got encouraging news. The hotel (with 157 "sand-sational" rooms) is now opening March 25 with the added bonus that the miX on the Beach restaurant from superstar chef Alain Ducasse would be opening on April 1. (No foolin'!) Straight from the press release:
Executive Chef Dagan Lynn, a key member of ALAIN DUCASSE Entreprise who previously worked at the Michelin three-starred Alain Ducasse at The Essex House in New York, has collaborated with Chef Ducasse to develop the miX on the beach menu.
Infused with the exotic flavors and colors of Vieques Island, the cuisine features sun-drenched fruits and vegetables such as papaya, avocado, cashew fruit, tamarind, starfruit, guava, guanabana, yucca, yautia, pumpkin squash, pigeon peas, sweet peppers and flavorful olive oils. The result is an extraordinary culinary offering full of light and refreshing dishes, expertly prepared and creatively presented.
While most hotels have put the breaks on their expansion plans, W Hotels has picked up speed and plans on opening several new hotels worldwide in 2010 and later in cool locations like Austin, St. Petersburg (Russia), Mexico, Marrakech, Shanghai and more.
We checked in with a W insider to see how the progress was going down here and whether it would actually open in March. After all, we've been waiting on this hotel for a few years now. Our tipster says:
Our latest is an opening of March 1st…but we’re not taking reservations until May 1st. The hotel is nearly complete… just waiting on furniture from Italy and all the necessary permits.
When we last reported on the W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island, it was to report on its “Talent Show” search to fill 250 jobs. The hotel was looking to open in mid-November, which is still the promise plastered across the Puerto Rican property’s Starwood site. (November 19, to be exact.) Scroll down a little, though, and you’ll notice this message: “Hotel Opens November 19. Taking Reservations April 1, 2010.”
Then when you click through to the “Hotel Offers” page, they tantalize us with mentions of Spa Chakra and Alain Ducasse cuisine, and then tell us the hotel is “now accepting reservations for arrivals January 1st, 2010 and beyond...” So, which is it? November, January, or April?
The W Hotel is auditioning for another one of its talent shows. That's W-speak meaning that the company is interviewing people at its job fair. The prize for this particular talent show is a gig at the W Retreat & Spa, Vieques Island, which is set to open in mid-November.
W Vieques, slated to open up in November (November 19th, to be precise), is notable for a handful of reasons: it's the first W "Retreat & Spa" in the Caribbean. It sits on a 55 square-mile island. And now it boasts a celeb-ish chef.
Chef Alain Ducasse has been announced as the man with the plan: heading up the kitchen at the W, his first Caribbean location, he'll be doing his part to make miX on the beach (spelling left annoyingly lower-case) a destination in itself. Expect "Latino Caribbean flavors with an artful French twist" in the restaurant which will complement an entire beverage & food program across the resort, created by Ducasse himself.
miX will also offer a selection of local produce from its own garden: papaya, avocado, cashew fruit, tamarind, starfruit, guava, and more with ocean views to enjoy as you trade fun Ducasse facts (like this one: he is the only chef in the world to operate three signature restaurants each honored with three Michelin stars).
Check out more specs on the W Vieques here.