Hollywood Glamour at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida
In the hotel’s stainless steel pastry kitchen, Jeffrey turns things over to Executive Pastry Chef and motorcycle enthusiast Henry Martignago, a sturdy cross between Julia Child and the Swedish Chef from "The Muppets," with a tres French accent naturellement. Martignago’s busy season is definitely the holidays, when he and his team sling a 24-foot tall gingerbread house in the lobby next to the grab-n-go coffee shop Common Grounds, where his pastries are also available. He seats us at the long steel table and begins to trot out some of his specialties. I’m partial to the Princess cake: a vanilla slab with raspberries on the bottom. With the champagne Chef and his assistant Stephanie have on hand, it’s just the thing.
While we’re chowing down, Chef calls our attention to the periphery of the room and its high shelves lined with some of his Marzipan figurine handiwork: a chocolate bunny with beret, toga and painter’s palette, skinny Tim Burton Santa Claus and, my personal favorite, a Warhol soup can filled with Tiramisu. Chef asks us if we know what Marzipan is and I vaguely remember Martha Stewart calling it the RuPaul of chocolates, but I’m at least two champers away from volunteering that information.
Soon, we’re in the thick of it and Chef has us decorating our own outsized cookies with Marzipan, fondant and various other nibbles. The phalanx of journalists proves overachievers all and my desert--a ham-handed attempt to write my name, punctuated with jellybeans--winds up dubbed "the special cookie." I am deeply shamed when an Ambassador, who scans my room hopefully for signs of a child, delivers it later that night. "They’re at the Kids Club," I mutter, closing the door as quickly as I can.
If the pastry kitchen is Charlie’s Chocolate Factory, then my room has come to resemble an Augustus Gloop outpost. My retarded cookie joins a half-eaten, nautically-themed chocolate sculpture I half-demolished upon arrival, stuffing the remains in a drawer along with several infused pillow chocolates that are magically replaced whenever I leave the room. It could be the sugar fix, but almost immediately upon check-in, I begin a series of "looks" that I photo-document: luggage rack as shoulder pads, garbage pail cocked jauntily on head, wrapping up in the sheer white curtains for an instant J.Lo.
In truth, I suppose I’m bored in this deluxe, tricked-out room. It’s eco-friendly, but it’s also echo-friendly. I tell myself it’s because Hollywood’s almost equidistant from both of Florida’s gay-epicenters: Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but I think it really comes down to parking. The Diplomat sits on a strip of A1A populated by hotels almost as grand and that means only one thing: no street parking.
Valet at The Diplomat would set a gentleman caller back $25. I won’t say I’m not worth it, but it’s tough finding nibbles. One abortive text reads simply: "PARKING!!!" In fact, the only chocolate starfish in play is the one squirreled away in the drawer.
The $25 throw-down is a tiny complaint, but one that quickly telescopes from the exorbitant, $12.95 daily fee for an internet connection to the ten spot an Ambassador tries to bilk out of me to sit on a reclining chaise on the beach.
Sure, I’ve seen this five-star property deeply discounted online with room rates well under $200, but you quickly bump back up into resort economics if you have to pay for each minute amenity. With no man and no beach chair, there is nothing left to do but eat.
And the Diplomat has eating covered. The first day’s stay was capped with a walk across the sky bridge (think London’s Millennial Bridge meets more "Bladerunner") to Diplomat Landing across A1A for Intracoastal Waterway views and the Asian fusion of AiZiA (all Asian fusion restaurants in South Florida are spelled with the same Cher Horowitz panache).
This restaurant ’come lounge is heavy on what Simon Doonan calls "The dry-ice movement" in haute cuisine. I’m with Mr. Doonan when he says Cher or Celine’s stage fling up with dry ice is one thing, just keep it off my table. Still, it’s hard to quibble with the literal boatloads of sushi brought to table and an ever-replenishing pineapple-ginger Mojito that proved a ready toast for the many party boats strewn with colored lights crisscrossing the Intracoastal Waterway during the meal.
A party boat-sized hangover got some early sucre from the free-flowing Mimosas Executive Chef David Hackett had the good sense to pour as he presided over a private breakfast in his kitchen. Hearty Irish steel-cut oatmeal brûlée was balanced with delicate slices of Pata Negra, an Iberian ham that derives its rich flavor from the pig’s diet of hazelnuts. Meanwhile, Chef Martignago, who neglected to mention the other day that he was Clinton’s pastry chef, pops a rack of blueberry muffins loaded with lemon curd onto the table while Chef Hackett snipes, "Muffins, to me, are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast."
Under the header "let them eat cake for breakfast," we hop in one of the waiting shuttles that transport guests to and fro the spa component of The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, and after a five-minute drive, we’re immersed in an Italianate wonderland with a Kids-Club-be-damned, adults-only pool. There are rapid-fire golf lessons on the Joe Lee-designed 18-hole course and a clay court tennis lesson which I disrupt trying to photograph the hottie on the adjacent court. I believe the results were worth it.
The real spa story comes later when I sneak back onto a shuttle for my late afternoon assignation with a stacked African named Anthony who doesn’t so much massage me as crumble me like a piece of paper and throw me at the wall like the cliché of the tortured writer. No pun, Anthony was hands-down the best resort spa massage I’ve ever experienced, and the fact that his session can be super-sized from 50 to 80 minutes is just icing on the breakfast cake.
Women may have a different experience in this 30,000-square foot, full-service spa, but the branching, male-only locker areas, steam rooms, sauna and whirlpool are certainly an attempt to correct what the spa director explains is the 70/30 female/male ratio. How else to explain the abundance of Sports Illustrated fanned out on the locker room’s coffee table? Or the lack of cruising? Still, none of the 22 treatment rooms were vacant for a go-see when we chatted mid-afternoon, so The Real Housewives of Broward County are clearly running things.
After my massage, I linger around the spa. I’ll admit it, I’m horny. And I go for the sure thing, popping back into the Aura Salon, a 365-days a year hair and nail extravaganza run by the one-man Broward Beauty Bar: Mr. David.
His no-nonsense attitude doesn’t make flirting very easy, but it’s kept his nine-person staff so happy there’s been virtually no turnover since he opened with the property 11-years ago. The same can be said of his customers. "Anything she asks for," Mr. David explains, "she can have it." I’m getting ready to respond with, "Define she," but instead decide it would be prudent to catch the shuttle on the half hour.
As I’m leaving, Mr. David holds up a cutting comb. I pause. "Sometimes with the brides," he says, "we come to them." I point east towards the Diplomat tower. He nods. The room service up-do: that was worth the wait, but I rush back to the shuttle with just enough time to dress for dinner.
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