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Courtesy of Hotel Contessa

One of San Antonio's most elevated River Walk hotels is reaching for even higher heights, announcing Michael Collins as the new executive chef. Collins will be responsible for all culinary experiences at the boutique Hotel Contessa, from in-room dining to the sophisticated chic Ambler Texas Kitchen + Cocktails.

“We’re thrilled to have Chef join the team and bring an elevated approach to our Texas-inspired offerings,” says Denise Mojica, director of marketing for Hotel Contessa, in a release. “Since coming on board in August, he’s already made a huge improvement to our food program at Ambler; our new and loyal guests alike have been noticing and fully embracing the thoughtful and intentional changes.”

The chef brings 30 years of experience to the role, with extensive experience in the Texas Hill Country. He previously served as food & beverage director and executive chef at JL Bar Ranch Resort & Spa in Sonora, Texas, which he helped open. In San Antonio, he directed culinary operations and vision development as food & beverage director and executive chef at the Hilton San Antonio and held executive chef roles at the Elian Resort & Spa and Tapatio Springs Resort & Spa in nearby Boerne. He also boasts additional resort experience in prestigious locations across the country, and most recently served as an independent consultant for properties such as Sorrel River Ranch Resort & Spa in Moab, Utah; Lucky Arrow in Dripping Springs; the Kessler Collection in Orlando; and many more. He plans to put his own unique mark on the menus at Hotel Contessa.

“I’ve lived in Texas for the past 10 years, and have developed a huge love and appreciation for the preparation of food and ingredients of the region,” says Collins in the release. “We are lucky to have so many great purveyors, ranchers, and farmers right in our backyard. The plan is to utilize their produce and protein whenever possible in the dishes we prepare at Ambler.”

While the Ambler menu will always feature permanent signature items, seasonal dishes play an important role and rotate throughout the year.

“My goal is to offer good, simple comfort food at an elevated level. Think mom's cooking, but refined and using the best product available," Collins continues. “We are using seafood from the Gulf, and protein sourced from Central Texas. One of my favorites on the menu is our Texas Akaushi which we get from Beeman Ranch in Harwood, Texas.”

Other menu highlights will include shared plates such as cast iron goat cheese brulée; codigo poached and chilled shrimp; grilled Bandera quail; char-grilled oysters; and fried green tomatoes. New house specialties like blackened Gulf red snapper and seafood pappardelle will compete with the Texas Akaushi (which comes in flat iron form, New York Strip, tenderloin, ribeye, and Tomahawk) for diners' attention – no doubt necessitating repeat visits to mollify the anxiety of indecision.

Photo courtesy of Brendan van Son

Slide into San Antonio for real mouthwatering eats and true historic sites

On the Road

When you think of San Antonio, you may immediately remember the Alamo. But in addition to that legendary Texas landmark, there’s so much more that makes this authentic city memorable.

Awash in Old World charm and a melting pot of culture, San Antonio is a kaleidoscope of history, food, art, and more.

These eight highlights cover some of the not-to-be-missed experiences you should prioritize while in this immersive destination.

Explore the River Walk
Forgive us for stating the obvious, but the Paseo del Rio — the River Walk — lives up to its reputation as the No. 1 tourist attraction in all of Texas.

The world-renowned, 15-mile urban waterway has multiple personalities: quiet and park-like in some areas, while others are brimming with activity from European-style sidewalk cafes, boutiques, art galleries, nightclubs, and gleaming high-rises.

Explore the vibrant maze of walkways, bridges, and canals by foot or jump aboard a Go Rio! river barge for a guided tour or a dinner cruise.

See history come to life
The Mission Reach, an eight-mile stretch along the San Antonio River, has recreational trails, pedestrian bridges, pavilions, and portals to the beautiful, colonial San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes Concepción, San José, San Juan, and Espada.

You can also find Hot Wells along Mission Reach. It's a one-time bathhouse-turned-resort turned-entertainment complex that burned several times over, and the ruins are fascinating.

Downtown, the Spanish Governor's Palace is the only remaining example in Texas of an aristocratic, 18th-century, Spanish Colonial, in-town residence (and it's reportedly very haunted!).

The 1731 San Fernando Cathedral is the oldest standing church and continuously functioning religious community in Texas. Four nights a week, French artist Xavier de Richemont’s The Saga is projected on the façade of the cathedral and tells the history of San Antonio through music, sound, light and visual narration.

South Texas history, culture, and natural science are the focus at The Witte Museum, where you'll find dinosaur skeletons, cave drawings, wildlife dioramas, and several historic homes.

Head to historic art districts
Located on the south bank of the River Walk, the charming La Villita (which translates to “little village”) occupies one square block in the heart of downtown San Antonio.

It was one of the city’s original settlements, and now the tiny district’s cobblestone streets are lined with an eclectic array of adobe structures and early Victorian and Texas limestone buildings that house boutique-style shops with works and wares from artists and craftsmen.

Dating to 1840, Market Square (El Mercado) is a festive combo of Tex-Mex cuisine, music, entertainment, and shopping with more than 100 locally owned businesses.

Just past the hustle and bustle of downtown you’ll find Southtown the Arts District, a trendy, creative community populated by historic houses, converted warehouses, artist lofts, shops, galleries and restaurants.

It also includes the King William Historic District, which reflects San Antonio’s German heritage in a treasured residential area that was originally settled in the late 1800s. There are many mansions in the area, and you can tour the beautiful Villa Finale while there.

Discover even more art
With more than 20 museums, San Antonio has no shortage of artistic experiences, including street murals that dot the city.

With a Mediterranean-style mansion setting, The McNay art museum is beautiful on the outside and inside, with 22,000-plus collection of works, including post-impressionist and modern pieces, medieval offerings, Native American art, and more.

The San Antonio Museum of Art is housed in a castle-like structure that was formerly the Lone Star Brewery. It’s notable for its antiquities collections and a 30,000-square-foot Center or Latin American Art — the largest of its kind — as well as an Asian art wing that spans nearly 6,000 years of history.

Located in a historic building with a sculpture garden onsite, the Briscoe Western Art Museum is a hub for the art and culture of the Wild West.

For an immersive and interactive experience, Hopscotch is a unique, 20,000-square-foot art gallery with 14 distinctive, playful, and whimsical installations from more than 40 local, national, and international artists.

And San Antonio’s newest contemporary art center, Ruby City, is a crimson-hued building that displays paintings, sculptures, installations, and video works.

Find The Pearl
A vibrant micro-community all its own, The Pearl is a highly curated culinary and cultural destination with multiple dining options, shops, and a weekend farmers market, all centered around a historic German brewery that was founded in 1881.

Pearl’s Bottling Department Food Hall has also risen to the rank of a must-visit culinary hub thanks to resident gems like Caribbean street food-peddler Mi Roti and tasty ramen emporium Tenko Ramen.

Just outside the food hall is the Park at Pearl, an expansive lawn where you can catch a concert, fiesta, or dance party on any given evening.

Indulge in an epicurean experience
Known as the culinary capital of Texas, San Antonio is recognized as one of only two U.S. cities designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy (the other is Tucson) because of its unique blend of cuisine options. And it’s about more than just the crazy-good food, too; local restaurants serve up experiences, traditions, and culture.

But where to start the foodie tour? In 2022 alone, dining destinations across the city received seven nominations for the James Beard Awards, one of the highest honors in the culinary industry.

Put these nominees on your short list, including Clementine for chef John Russ’s seasonal eats inspired by global flavors.

Pitmaster Esaul Ramos’s 2M Smokehouse has impressive barbecue — and desserts, too — for the ultimate savory and sweet combo. And if you get nothing else at Cured, you must order chef Steve McHugh’s ultimate charcuterie plates.

Renowned Mexican restaurant Mixtli fuses old pre-Hispanic techniques with modern, avant-garde cuisine, and the menu rotates every 45 days. Pastry chef Sofia Tejeda’s delectable desserts there are not to be missed, either.

Speaking of baking, bakery-cafe La Panaderia specializes in making handmade bread and pan dulce inspired by Mexico’s Golden Era with influences from the famous bread-baking brothers José and David Cáceres.

Modern wine bar and bottle shop High Street Wine Co. has a distinctive selection of small-production wines, and their shareable snacks and small bites are equally impressive.

Put October 27-30, 2022 on your calendar for the Tasting Texas, Wine + Food Festival, which is being hosted in historic Travis Park downtown. It’s the first-ever statewide culinary festival to partner with the James Beard Foundation and will showcase both distinguished and up-and-coming chefs from all across Texas, as well as national all-stars and diverse talent.

Attend a show — or three
Prominently situated near San Antonio’s River Walk, the Tobin Center is a world-class venue that’s a central hub for performances as well as for local performing arts groups.

The opulent Majestic Theatre, built downtown in 1929, is a stunning setting for touring Broadway shows, concerts, and the San Antonio Symphony.

The neighboring Charline McCombs Empire Theatre reflects the beaux-arts grandeur of the 1920s and hosts touring musical acts and other entertainment headliners.

The 1926-built Aztec Theatre is a beautifully restored Meso-American-themed masterpiece for live concerts and other touring productions.

Get in touch with nature
Historic Brackenridge Park is a 343-acre refuge in the heart of the city, where you'll find more than just walking trails and picnic-perfect zones. Also onsite are the Japanese Tea Garden, Sunken Garden Theater, and the San Antonio Zoo, the third largest in the nation with a collection of more than 3,500 animals representing 750 different species from around the globe.

Not far from Brackenridge, the San Antonio Botanical Garden is teeming with beautiful, lush vegetation; there’s even a sensory garden, where emphasis is placed on the texture and scent of plants. Its monumental exhibition, Rooted, is from acclaimed contemporary artist Steve Tobin and features more than 20 towering, nature-inspired sculptures — it’s on view through October 30, 2022.

Discover more to look forward to during a San Antonio sojourn and start planning your trip here.

Courtesy of Hyatt Regency River Walk

River Walk hotel celebrates 40th anniversary with $38 million transformation

Revamped River Walk

One of San Antonio's premier hotels is celebrating four decades of River Walk hospitality with a gorgeous transformation. Hyatt Regency San Antonio recently announced the completion of a $38 million renovation, updating 602 guest rooms and 28 suites to reflect the upscale urban hotel’s prime position as a connecting feature between Alamo Plaza and the River Walk.

“We are ecstatic to celebrate the momentous milestone anniversary of 40 years in the San Antonio community with a new and vibrant chapter for our iconic River Walk hotel,” said Philip Stamm, area vice president and general manager of Hyatt Regency San Antonio, in a release.

“As our location sits directly between two of the city’s most famous attractions, we made this investment in our hotel and community to complement the revitalization of the downtown area, from the renovation of Alamo Plaza to the numerous updates that have been made to our nearby museums and attractions.”

Conducted by San Antonio-based Canco Construction, national design firm DLR Group, and Lombardi Construction, the collaborative effort broke ground in early December 2021. Canco is a local, minority-owned contractor specializing in commercial construction in South Texas.

“Born and raised here in San Antonio, I am honored to be an integral part of this historic renovation. My family and friends have enjoyed this beautiful hotel for many years,” said Frank Cannon, president and CEO of Canco Construction. “My team takes great pride in knowing that our craftsmanship and work will be enjoyed by future generations of visitors.”

Floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing sweeping downtown views, are a highlight of the updated guest rooms. Each room features brand-new hardwood flooring, complemented by modern amber-colored accent rugs, a denim accent wall, and a wooden hearth-inspired structure that doubles as a wall mount for brand-new 75-inch flatscreen televisions.

New amenities include updated mini-refrigerators, sleek furniture, and convenient work center desks with installed lighting and built-in power access. The hotel’s indulgent suites were transformed to serve as dual purpose spaces, ideal for luxury accommodations or entertainment locations for social gatherings and small events.

“Our design creates more work and dining options for the contemporary guest,” said Christopher Berenfeld, senior designer at DLR Group. “The extra space makes working from your hotel room, and collaborating with others, easy and convenient.”

Behind the smooth, gliding barn door, bathrooms were redesigned with luxury finishes including marble stand-up showers with premium sliding glass doors and dual rainfall and handheld shower combination systems, a lighted vanity mirror, and granite sinks and countertops. Hotel corridors and elevator waiting areas have also been updated to showcase the atrium-style hotel, which oversees The Alamo and River Walk.

The renovation of the Hyatt Regency San Antonio took place in concert with the multi-year, multi-million dollar revitalization of Alamo Plaza, including the addition of a $15 million Alamo Exhibit Hall and Collections Building, set to open in fall 2022.

“Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk is a vital hotel in a key, historic intersection connecting the River Walk and the Alamo,” said Marc Anderson, President & CEO of Visit San Antonio. “The renovation of this signature hotel for leisure and business travelers showcases how San Antonio is a city on the move while remaining proud and respectful of its roots. With Hyatt Regency’s renovation visitors will be able to enjoy an improved San Antonio experience starting from the upgraded airport to the Alamo Plaza restoration and new experiences throughout the city.”

For more information on Hyatt Regency San Antonio or to make a reservation, please visit HyattRegencySanAntonio.com.

Rendering courtesy of Overland Partners Architects

Texas firm to design new River Walk-style park at U.S.-Mexico border

International initiative

A San Antonio architecture and design firm is spearheading work on a proposed park that would straddle the U.S.-Mexico border and create a River Walk-style attraction.

Overland Partners recently secured a nearly $190,000 contract from the City of Laredo to come up with a fleshed-out concept and architectural renderings for the binational park.

As envisioned now, the 6.2-mile park would parallel the border of the South Texas city of Laredo and its Mexican neighbor, Nuevo Laredo. The park, encompassing more than 1,000 acres, would run along the banks of Texas’ Rio Grande River and Mexico’s Rio Bravo River. A pedestrian bridge might connect both sides of the park.

Early estimates indicate the binational park might cost more than $100 million. There’s no timetable for starting or completing work on the project.

“This project will rescue the Rio Grande by enhancing its ecology and the quality of our main source of water. It will also strengthen tourism, security, economic prosperity, our binational ties with Mexico, and quality of life,” Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz recently told the Laredo Morning Times. “Both cities look forward to presenting this project at a binational level and as a model to the world with the objective of keeping ‘Los Dos Laredos’ as one river, one community.”

The Laredo-Nuevo Laredo metro area is home to more than 636,000 people.

Laredo officials describe the proposed park as a “unique international landmark.” Proponents hope the park will evolve into a popular attraction like San Antonio’s famed 15-mile River Walk, which was dedicated in 1941 and now draws more than 15 million visitors a year. Because of his ties to the River Walk, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has joined discussions about the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo project.

“Rivers are sources of life. They’re sources of culture, heritage, and history, and when properly embraced, they can be a place where people congregate and come together,” the Laredo Morning Times quoted Nirenberg as saying in December. “So the work that will take place on this beautiful binational park that brings this critical river back to its life and prominence is an opportunity again for us to establish an important future that the United States has with Mexico.”

Aside from the mayors of Laredo and San Antonio, prominent backers of the binational project include Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico; Esteban Moctezuma, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S.; Deanna Kim, the U.S. consul general for Nuevo Laredo; and Carmen Lilia Canturosas, the mayor of Nuevo Laredo.

In February, representatives of Overland Partners and Laredo architecture firm Able City unveiled a preliminary site plan and initial renderings of the binational park. The firms are coordinating with the Binational Working Group, a public-private consortium, on the project.

“This park is a real solution to pressing challenges on both sides of the border — challenges that we as design professionals need to be solving in sustainable and inspiring ways,” Overland Partners says.

Austin praised as one of America’s friendliest cities by Condé Nast Traveler

Howdy, y’all!

Tourists are giving a well-deserved tip of the hat to the Capital City.

Austin just squeaks onto a new ranking of the 10 friendliest U.S. cities based on responses to Condé Nast Traveler’s 34th annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey, landing at No. 10.

Condé Nast Traveler praises Austin residents for its laid-back lifestyle and many entertainment offerings.

“Quirky, liberal, and proudly weird, Austin is for anyone (not just hipsters) wanting a fun, laid-back vacation. Once a small college town, the Capital City has grown into a haven of restaurants, hotels, and shops, not to mention countless startups,” Condé Nast Traveler observes.

Adding to Austin’s charm, the magazine says, are the presence of food trucks, dance halls, and hiking trails.

“Join the locals as they set up lawn chairs to wait in line at Franklin Barbecue or gather to watch the bats swarm out from under the South Congress Bridge, and you’ll be in good company,” Condé Nast Traveler declares.

Greenville, South Carolina, tops the list of the most friendly U.S. cities. Nearby San Antonio, meanwhile, nails down the No. 4 spot.

Condé Nast Traveler praises San Antonio residents for “going out of their way to give directions or make you feel at home.”

“Despite its huge size, San Antonio remains one of Texas’ more underrated cities — but our readers are starting to take notice,” the magazine notes. “There’s a little something for everyone here, whether you’re looking for barbecue, craft beer, or boutique hotels (when in doubt, stick to the River Walk and ever-evolving Pearl District).”

Here are the 10 friendliest U.S. cities, according to the latest Condé Nast Traveler’s readers’ survey:

  1. Greenville, South Carolina.
  2. Alexandria, Virginia.
  3. San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  4. San Antonio.
  5. Charleston, South Carolina.
  6. Key West, Florida.
  7. Santa Fe, New Mexico.
  8. New Orleans.
  9. Nashville.
  10. Austin.
Courtesy of Fiesta San Antonio

San Antonio’s favorite citywide celebration of culture makes its colorful return

VIVA FIESTA!

One of San Antonio’s most beloved — and intensely colorful — cultural traditions is back in all its glory this year, and Austinites have plenty of cause to join the party.

After the pandemic upended its planned citywide celebration in 2020, Fiesta returns to San Antonio Thursday, June 17 through Sunday, June 27, and features a (nearly) complete lineup of festival faves.

Beginning in 1891 as a one-parade event honoring the heroes of the Alamo and the defining Battle of San Jacinto, Fiesta has blossomed into a widely anticipated, jubilant annual city festival that celebrates the diverse heritage, culture, and spirit of the Alamo City — and has an economic impact of more than $340 million.

And this year, though some cherished Fiesta fetes won’t be returning — the King William Fair among them — Fiesta promises a packed schedule of more than 100 events guaranteed to get you in the party spirit.

(Note: Attendees are encouraged to check the Fiesta website for specific COVID-19 safety protocols, as they vary per event. Stay safe out there, folks!)

A full schedule of Fiesta 2021 events is available here and attendees can purchase tickets for specific events online. Following are some highlights of the local festival that are not to be missed.

June 17

  • Fiesta at Fiesta Hemisfair features live music, Fiesta medal bartering, an arts-and-crafts market, and bites from some of San Antonio’s top culinary talents. 4-10 pm at Hemisfair, 434 S. Alamo St. Admission is free.
  • Fiesta Carnival, which runs daily throughout Fiesta, comes to life in a wash of dazzling lights, amusement-park rides, and Fiesta foods in this always thrilling fair. Admission is free. 5-11 pm in Alamodome parking lot C, 100 Montana St.

June 18

  • Crown the King features the public crowning of 72nd Rey Feo Thomas Aguillon, as well as mariachi music, folklorico dancers, and the chance to hobnob with Fiesta royalty. Admission is free. 5:30-7 pm at the Main Plaza, 115 N. Main Ave.
  • Fiesta de los Reyes at Market Square, running through June 27, is a family-friendly event and one of the largest free Fiesta celebrations. It includes tons of live music, more than 30 food booths, an array of fun activities. Admission is free. 10 am-11:59 pm at Market Square, 514 W. Commerce St.

June 19

  • Juneteenth Festival includes free concerts, a flotilla fish fry, a health fair, kids’ activities, food booths, performances from gospel groups, and more. Admission is free. 11 am-11 pm at Comanche Park, 2600 Rigsby Ave.
  • Investiture of King Antonio includes the ceremonial crowning of the king with a plumed hat. Admission is free. 8-9 pm, Alamo Plaza, 300 Alamo Plaza.

June 21

  • Texas Cavaliers River Parade, a Fiesta tradition since 1941, features the best kind of local parade: one on the river! Tickets range from $14-$26. 7-9 pm at the San Antonio River Walk.

June 22

  • Ford Mariachi Festival features student mariachis from area high schools and local college mariachi programs, as well as folklorico dancers on river floats. Admission is free. 7:30-9:30 pm at the San Antonio River Walk.

June 25

  • 10th Street River Festival, hosted on the historic grounds of the VFW Post 76, includes live music, food nibbles, and cold drinks. Admission is free. Noon-11:59 pm at 10 10th St.

June 26

  • Fiesta Pooch Parade, a virtual parade featuring Therapy Animals of SA and a live costume contest, is about as cute as it gets. The parade starts at 10 am on Facebook live @therapyanimalssa, and the costume contest begins at noon at the North Park Subaru dealership, 9635 San Pedro Ave.

June 27

  • La Reina de la Feria de las Flores Reception, which takes place on the final day of Fiesta, is a fundraiser for the queen and includes food, music, and the chance to meet the queen in person. GA tickets are $50 and VIP options are also available. 5-7 pm at Paesanos Riverwalk, 11 W. Crockett St.

San Antonio's favorite annual fest is back!

Courtesy of Fiesta San Antonio
San Antonio's favorite annual fest is back!
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

---

The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.