Gretchen’s Picks

For over a decade Gretchen has traveled from India to Istanbul, from Seoul to South Beach Miami. In her capacity as an alumni relations professional, a fundraiser and a producer of special events she has worked with a wide variety of vendors, entertained in dozens of hotels and restaurants, and contributed to local communities by partnering with agencies and non-profits in efforts to support civic relationships between higher education institutions and their regional partners.

Gretchen’s Picks will be a go-to trusted resource for events venues (including hotels), hotels, restaurants, special event services such as photography, as well as tips on how to navigate global cities when it comes to taking care of yourself on the road, or your most important donor.

THE BEST OF THE U.S.

For those who like to combine a bit of pleasure with work, here are some of my favorite “go-to” spots for the best in hospitality, food, wine, recreation, services, meetings and special event management.

Boston Best Bet: TRADE

One of the very best restaurants in Boston is Trade. Situated on the waterfront with direct access to trains, planes and subways, Trade is an all-day delight serving everything local in the form of small plates, flatbreads, entrees, sweets and has a wonderful drink and wine list to accompany any taste. The establishment is led by award-winning culinary giants (http://trade-boston.com/about/bios/). There is a delightful private dining room (American Express staffers were there for a lunch back in January) and general manager, Elissa Rae (elissa@trade-boston.com) will take great care of your interest and needs.

What’s so great about TRADE is that you feel as if each encounter will be a quality and different delicious experience: new specials, a sophisticated but relaxed vibe, and the team will be there to back you up on your own goals: are you hosting a donor, thanking an alumni chapter team, or just visiting with alumni or members that have a last night before they fly out of Logan?

Trade-boston.com

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Ira Fox – NYC Photographer of Choice!

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For over a decade I have relied on Ira Fox to capture the heart of Tufts’ major alumni and donor events in one of the most active markets for alumni relations. Ira is a consummate professional who understands the importance of great photography during campaign, award and special event season. For more information, Ira@IraFox.com

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SPECIAL EVENTS/MEETINGS:

Want to plan a wine tasting? Want to host trustees over a gourmet meal? Are you tired of using the same venues when you travel to Northern California? Head to Napa Valley!!

I am a big fan of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in St. Helena, just an hour north of San Francisco. I worked with CIA in 2009-2010 when I produced the Tufts’ Universities Food for Thought special event series for alumni, families and friends. We sold out early and everyone thought we had picked a go-to destination for foodies, wine lovers and anyone who wanted a good reason to head to the wine region and spend an afternoon with their Tufts community.

For more on the CIA and their special events:
http://www.ciachef.edu/weddings-and-special-events/

For the sample invitation Tufts used for our event in February 2009:
http://tuftsalumni.org/events-reunions/detail/633/

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BEST HOTELS FOR WORK OR PLAY:

I’m a Kimpton Fan — http://www.kimptonhotels.com

For close to a decade, I have chosen Kimpton Hotels over any other hotel group in the U.S. Why? Kimpton Hotels have character. Kimpton Hotels have the very best loyalty programs (every 7 stays earns you a complimentary night) in the business. Kimpton Hotels are happy to provide yoga kits for rooms, the staff honors loyalty with favorite snacks and drinks delivered each evening, and each property includes a very good restaurant.

Kimpton Hotels sponsor Wine Hour every night between 5:00-6:00 pm. I have used the Wine Hour time to have meetings or social time with alumni or planning sessions with staff. Oftentimes, I have been upgraded to a suite and use the sitting room for alumni chapter meetings.

Whether you are new to Kimpton or a returning fan, please give them my name as a source for your inspiration. I’m an Inner Circle Elite member of the Kimpton family. I want you to join me in this special circle. The more you stay, the better the experience!

Istanbul: Best Hotel for University Business: Meetings, Special Events,
Hosted Meals and More

Swissotel Bosphorus
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I helped plan Tufts’ University’s Tufts in the World program to Istanbul and Ankara this past May. The have traveled to the city regularly since 2005 and have usually stayed at the Hilton. The experience at the Swissotel has locked in my hotel choice for good! The staff was highly attentive to our needs for the group of 40 including our President, Provost, Deans, faculty, trustees, their companions and the planning team of administrators. We held an opening reception in a room with The View of the Bosphorus, an Community Reception for all alumni on the expansive lawn lit with candles and given a white-glove touch with ample attendants and an excellent PA system. The central location is key as well to minimize too much time spent in a car. Don’t miss all the major highlights and savor the fresh fish caught daily.

Asia: From Asia-West to Asia-East:
Go Global’s Picks for Hotels, Venues and Memorable Meals

Chengdu: Favorite Hotel – The St. Regis
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GRAND OPENING IN CHINA’S FOURTH LARGEST CITY: ST. REGIS CHENGDU

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a combination of class, convenience, superb service and an excellent value

Don’t we always want to recommend the best of our hometowns? After leaving Boston this year, I can continue the tradition in my new home in Chengdu. You are likely familiar with the Starwood Hotel and Resort brand and, perhaps, have booked a stay or attended an event at their St. Regis luxury line of hotels. Chengdu, fourth largest city in China boasting more business opportunities for nationals as well as westerns, has welcomed a beautiful property in heart of the city, an excellent crossroads for both professional and personal time.

What differentiates St. Regis from other hotels in Chengdu is this:

– the standard room is the largest appointed hotel compared to others in the city (and delights you with automation galore from the TV to the bathrooms)

– there are TWO pools, an infinity-type pool inside as well as a large rooftop pool. The gym is well-equipped to support a “get over the jet lag” workout upon arrival. Spa services are ample and you can feel the serenity sink into your skin just a bit after walking through the main entrance

– special event space ranges from a ballroom for 300-400 seated, 250 for dinner, and plenty of other private rooms for everything from a board meeting, to a wine tasting in Decantur, their wine bar, to several private dining options that include having an event day or night on their rooftop terrace.Yan Ting

The St. Regis Chengdu is a smaller property with 279 bedrooms ranging from standard to deluxe suite. I want to highlight a very special grand opening rate for the standard room: approximately $240 (US) plus 15% tax and includes a full breakfast (I saw the buffet. It’s the kind where you wish you were having brunch on a Saturday at 11:00 and not feeling torn at 7:30am on a Wednesday because you don’t have much time and there are too many delicious  — plus new and native — choices!).

For those seasoned travels to China, you may have been to Chengdu before and likely remember it as a developing metropolis with cute Pandas and spicy Hot Pot. Maybe you had an extra day to see the Giant Buddha of Leshan or hike a sacred mountain such as Mt. Emei.  I want to invite everyone to take a new look at Chengdu. More chinese students from Chengdu are studying overseas; more alumni are relocating here or doing business on behalf of the Fortune 500’s seeking new fortune and opportunity.

Give St. Regis a try the next time you come to the Southwest of China. Please ask for Ms. Vikki Wang, Sales Manager,vikki.wang@stregis.com, and mention how you learned about the new property. She has promised a new and satisfying experience and I trust her immensely.

Tokyo: Favorite Hotel – The Conrad
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What’s not to love about the Hilton-branded Conrad when it is steps away from the famous Fish Market and central metro stops ready to whisk you away to the Ginza district for shopping or Shibuya for late night local dishes (all found off side streets and at least one set of stairs under the sidewalk). The Conrad’s staff are as attentive as ever and if you snap up a room on the an Executive Level floor you will get to enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast with a view of the city and wind-down after a full day of meetings with a glass of award-winning wine.

Seoul:  Favorite Restaurant: OK Kitchen – It’s much more than OK! 
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OK Kitchen is one of the top restaurants in Asia. Back in April I had the luck of being introduced to the intimate setting with a powerhouse kitchen specializing in Asian-inspired French and Italian dishes..

The owner and chef du cuisine, Susumu Yongaguni, teaches classes at FoodArt Institute and guides his kitchen staff. During our visit he treated our table of 7 with his choices for 5 courses. Our host, a younger grad with huge investments in insurance and defense, brought us to OK. Memorable tastes from that afternoon: sashimi of all kinds with interesting spices and pickled salads, a prune-stuffed pork loin sliced as thin as a thick potato chip, amazing homemade orrichette with handcured ham and beans,  and desserts to die for…mini bites of gorgonzola gelato on passion fruit parfait, chocolate fudge logs alongside minty froth and cream…you get the picture!