On Sunday Feb. 5th, Super Bowl 51 (LI) will bring hundreds of thousands of fans to Houston, Texas as they prepare to watch the final showdown between two, yet-to-be-decided NFL teams. Visitors to “H-Town” or “Space City” can’t just sit on their laurels, however: prior to the big game, football-loving luxury enthusiasts will need to find accommodation, think about eating something other than pizza and wings and maybe, just maybe, find some good, old-fashioned fun that doesn’t involve football. Here at Haute Living, we’ve put together the ultimate road trip, one that will take you from Houston to New Orleans where, depending on the Super Bowl, you can celebrate like a rock star or, conversely, lick your wounds in style. Without further ado, it’s time to hit the road, Jack!
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If you can afford to watch the big game in the best way possible, you’ll book one of the luxury suites at NRG Stadium. Here, you’ll find valet parking next to the stadium entrance, a private entrance, lounge-style seating and Verizon Club Access. Did we mention that a cheerleader will visit during breaks? No? Because that happens. You’ll also have a suite attendant to cater to your every whim. If you can, you should… you really should.
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Camp out at the Royal Sonesta Houston, one of only four of the Sonesta brand’s top-tier properties in America. As with each of the Royal properties, you’ll feel like you’re fully immersed in the city. This Royal hotel has a prime location: it’s situated at the gateway to the Uptown District and just steps from the world-renowned Galleria mixed-use complex as well as walking distance to the shops and restaurants of Post Oak Boulevard and Westheimer. A recent, $30-million renovation has positioned the 485-room, 23-floor landmark with 50,000 square feet of state-of-the-art space utilized for an array of high profile weddings and society galas as a go-to destination in the city. The hotel’s transformation was timed perfectly to take advantage of tremendous growth in Houston, which is why it has a cosmopolitan, less rustic approach than many hotels in the area. Many aspects, ranging from the custom, sculptural light fixtures in the lobby to the vibrant art throughout, reflect the influence of science and technology on the city’s landscape. Award-winning Looney & Associates has created an environment that is contemporary without being cold through an artful use of contrasting textures and a warm color palette, in addition to a mix of metal finishes and wood tones. You may not feel like you’re in a city at all though with the amount of outdoor/athletic activities on offer: there are hiking trails, courts and links at the nearby, 1500-acre Memorial Park as well as in-house at the hotel’s oversized and light-filled fitness center and adjacent rooftop pool. Plus, you won’t go wrong here when it comes to recommendations, given that the Royal Sonesta offers one of the city’s only Les Clefs d’Or.
DINE & DRINK
There are several dining options that you’ll want to take advantage in Houston, a playground for true Southern cooking aficionados, two of which you’ll find at the hotel. ARA offers a stellar ambience and globally-inspired, locally-wired cuisine under the direction of veteran Executive Chef Robert Graham. Here you’ll find brand initiatives such as “Food is Art” and “Liquid Art” in full effect, thanks to local influences found in the beautifully prepared food. Liquid Art is something you’ll definitely find at the hotel’s Axis Lounge, which offers small plates and speciality cocktails. The menu is pretty outstanding: there’s the use of farm or garden fresh products, like house-grown lemons in the Hibiscus Lemon Drop, as well as “deconstructed discoveries” which give guests the chance to play bartender. Axis provides the base, you add the flavor, then you can stir your own mojito, margarita or garden gin and tonic tableside. Wines will also stray from the ordinary, focusing on two dozen changing red and white varieties not typically found in retail stores, while beer selections will emphasize smaller local, domestic and international craft batches. If you venture out of the hotel, go for whimsical fare and a movie at Sherry Yard’s Tuck Room Tavern, located within the A-list-worthy iPic theater and nosh on some of the best oysters in Houston at Bernadine’s.
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Man of the moment Drake is opening a mysterious new club called “The Ballet,” just in time for Super Bowl. Not much is known about this swanky spot other than it’s not a strip club . On Instagram, the “Hotling Bling” crooner wrote, “Treat yourself don’t cheat yourself. Where the women are on a pedestal and the surroundings are unforgettable.” If that doesn’t make you want to check it out, we’re not sure what will.
Now, whether you’ve won or you’ve lost, you’re going to have to drown your sorrows or celebrate. New Orleans is the perfect place to do it, no? So hop in your Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, a sleek ride which features a handcrafted 6.3 liter V8 engine mated to a 7-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission with manual and Sport+ modes. A sport suspension and 18” alloy wheels keep you planted during this car’s plentiful acceleration and cornering. A luxurious modern interior offers power seating and Bluetooth audio streaming. Should you rent, the car is one of Hertz’s “Dream Cars” (luxury performance vehicles), and it might behoove you to make sure you’re on the VIP invite list for the brand’s Hertz Platinum program, the highest and most-coveted tier of the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program. Platinum membership is by invitation-only and offers a premier level of service. In addition to vehicle upgrades and savings, benefits include improved vehicle availability, personal vehicle delivery to the location of choice and private car service back to the departure terminal. So, to break it down, you arrive at the airport, you’re greeted by a member of the team who personally delivers your car curbside, you leave. When you return, you’ll be picked up by an employee, who drives you—typically in the same sweet ride—directly to your terminal. Yeah, you’re flexing. Truly the most amazing way to rent and feel like royalty.
While cut from the same cloth as its Houston property, the Royal Sonesta New Orleans is completely different. It embraces the music heavy wacky and wild spirit of the city while still remaining its opulence. Its Bourbon Hospitality Suite pretty much sums up the hotel itself: it’s above the action—elevated, you might say—while still allowing you to see the action given that it’s located in the heart of the French Quarter actually ON Bourbon Street. Thanks to a recent remodel, this 483-room, 36-suite property has been jazzed up and newly reimagined as something from the past, capturing the true essence of the city, while still offering modern amenities (like L’Occitane products). Its traditional gabled windows, rich colors and linens accented with fresh flowers, wrought-iron balconies, and a lush courtyard will make you feel like you’re living in another era. Yet, it’s current: luxury lovers will embrace the lavish Presidential Suite, whose parlor boasts marble floors, sparkling chandeliers, oriental rugs, silk drapes, a bar, seating area, dining room and foyer. You’ll also love the super swanky R Club lounge, which offers private, keyed elevator access just perfect for VIPs, personalized concierge service, and morning-evening fare from beignets to Bourbon and everything in between. The best view is one on its terrace: grab a coffee, a newspaper and a beignet and watch the sun rise over the Big Easy in style.
New Orleans is known for having some of the best food in the world—and luckily for guests of the Royal Sonesta NOLA, some of that is located right here in your hotel. First, there’s Restaurant R’evolution, an eatery which manages to take you around the world in one, 6,000 square foot space. Overseen by world-renowned executive chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto, is an unparalleled fine dining experience, which evolves the food of the seven nations that formed Louisiana’s culture and cuisine, presenting imaginative reinterpretations of classic Creole and Cajun cuisine in a setting that blends antique architectural details of grand French Quarter homes with contemporary accents. You’ll love the reinterpretations of gumbo, po-boys and beignets, but also new creations highlighting ingredients from what Chef Folse refers to as “the swamp floor pantry.” Classical New Orleans ingredients such as Gulf shrimp and oysters, Andouille sausage and catfish appear alongside alligator, frog, crawfish, kumquats, sassafras and persimmons and other indigenous ingredients that have defined Louisiana cooking for centuries. Soups include “Death by Gumbo,” quail gumbo served with a whole, semi-boneless quail stuffed with oysters, Andouille sausage and rice. Appetizers showcase selections such as Burrata cheese and choupique caviar with black olive oil, as well as roasted sea scallop with truffled cauliflower purée and beef cheek debris. There’s even turtle soup! Yes, you read that right. Wild game also appears on the menu, reflecting the important role that hunting and outdoorsmanship play in Louisiana’s “Sportsman’s Paradise.” A large selection of premium steaks and chops is offered with a wide array of sauces, crusts and toppers, including tomahawk rib eye for two with blue cheese crust; Wagyu sirloin strip served three ways and bone-in filet with foie gras butter. Here you’ll also find a superb wine list—10,000 bottles of wine from around the world, with a special emphasis on the seven nations that originally settled Louisiana and make up the backbone of Creole cuisine. Restaurant R’evolution’s comprehensive wine-by-the-glass program highlights white and red Burgundy, Bordeaux whites and California reds. Also make sure not to miss the restaurant’s lively Sunday jazz brunch, where you’ll listen to the sounds of The Don Vappie Creole Trio and nosh on items like Death by Gumbo, Duck Confit and Eggs, Eggs a la Cremé or the decadent Short Rib Grillades and Gravy. Meanwhile, Bar R’evolution offers chef-driven, seasonal cocktails inspired by modern takes on “gilded age” libations from the pre-Prohibition era. Reinterpretations of classic drinks such as the Presse, the Cobbler and the Absinthe Cocktail incorporate small-batch spirits, house-made Creole bitters, and chef-crafted ratafias (the French-influenced fruit cordials that have been produced in Louisiana kitchens for generations). Bar R’evolution also features an array of seasonally rotating craft beers from local breweries including Abita Brewing Company, Heiner Brau Microbrewery and NOLA Brewing. Moving on, you HAVE to pull up a chair at the oyster counter of Desire Oyster Bar, raw oyster bar where expert shuckers prepare fresh Gulf oysters a variety of ways – chargrilled, on the half shell and more. If you’re lucky, you might be able to shuck your own. Watching these fun-loving masters at work with a glass of champagne in hand is one of the best times you’ll have in Nawlins for sure. If you want a night of revelry, you head to Le Booze— which offers one of the best whiskey and bourbon lists on Bourbon Street. Outside of the hotel, the perennial, long-standing favorites are Commander’s Palace (which, as you might remember above, was even a subject of this year’s film festival) and Emeril’s, the first and favored eatery of world-famous chef Emeril Lagasse. Lagasse’s famed flagship restaurant is housed in a renovated pharmacy warehouse in New Orleans’ Warehouse District and serves up pure, New Orleans-style cuisine with chef de cuisine David Slater at its helm. Signature items include Emeril’s New Orleans barbecued shrimp, served with a petite rosemary biscuit; cast-iron baked escargots; an adouille-crusted drum served with glazed pecans and Creole meunière. VIPs can dine at the Chef’s Table, an intimate set-up for four, completely hidden from the prying eyes of the dining room guests. Those who love Lagasse are in luck: in addition to his plethora of NOLA eateries, he also just opened Meril, his first NOLA eatery in 18 years, inspired by his international travels .Elsewhere, make sure to try the Ace Hotel’s weird but wonderful Josephine Estelle, an Italian and Southern-inspired fusion eatery; Josh Besh’s takeover of iconic locale The Caribbean Room; and Peche, a coastal seafood haunt with a unique, modern approach to old world cooking methods from award-winning Chef Donald Link. Although it’s touristy, Cafe du Monde’s coffee and beignets still hold a special place in our hearts—and stomachs.
Live music is one of New Orleans’ signature and most charming characteristics. You need only walk down the street to hear something beautiful…or, as it happens, step outside your door. The Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta offers live music, cocktails and small plates nightly, as well as sets from some of the city’s greatest jazz talents alongside international music legends in a luxurious and intimate venue. Anywhere on Frenchman Street is a go as well—it just spills out onto the street, follows at your footsteps and heeds at your heels. If music is your thing, also make sure to check out Tipitina’s, Spotted Cat, Preservation Hall and Maple Leaf Bar. Plus, isn’t it easier to have the blues when you’re listening to them (sorry, that’s for fans of the losing Super Bowl team!)?