Whether it’s outstanding service, impeccable artistry or exquisite manufacture, excellence can take many forms. But what a person defines as excellent also depends on his or her own individual taste. In the 2015 Editor’s Picks series,Worth staff members share their favorite products, services and experiences from the year. Here is senior editor Benjamin Reeves’ list.
BONAVITA COFFEE BREWER
The best brew depends on the machine, not the beans.
In discussions of coffee, the bean is usually the star; that’s where the flavor and body of the black beverage comes from, after all. But the same bean can have very different qualities, depending on the coffeemaker used to brew it. The Bonavita makes some of the best. Its most important feature is a simple–to–use pre-infusion mode, which slowly introduces water to the grounds to help them release gases, brew more evenly and ultimately render a smoother, fuller flavor. And the Bonavita delivers: the coffee is rich without being too acidic and layers of flavor are revealed without any labor or complication. The Bonavita only has one button, so it’s easy to use, and it looks elegant on the counter top, as much sculpture as kitchen appliance.
Price: $189.99; buy here.
OMMEGANG RARE VOS
A complex brew from Cooperstown.
There are more than 3,000 breweries in the United States, and 99 percent of them are micro or craft breweries. That means there’s a lot of good beer and it’s hard to choose just one that’s the best. But if you had to, Rare Vos from Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, N.Y., would be a good bet. The Rare Vos (Vos means Fox in Dutch), best served in a tall glass, is a Belgian-style Amber Ale spiced with orange peel, coriander and grains of paradise (ground ginger seeds). The beer is named after a Brussels bar known as a gathering place for pigeon racers (yes, they race pigeons in Belgium). Rare Vos is slightly sweet, caramel-y, a bit hoppy, and has a subtle spice that balances it. It pairs well with cheeses or savory foods—one brewery recommendation is lobster risotto with pork belly and mustard greens. Ommegang’s other brews are all excellent as well, and they also produce a limited run of Game of Thrones themed beers, perfect for viewing parties when season six premiers in April.
Price: $8.99 per 25 oz. bottle; ommegang.com
ATLAS OF CURSED PLACES BY OLIVIER LE CARRER
A dark travel guide from this sailor and journalist.
From the Sunda Strait in Indonesia, beset by the flames of Krakatoa, to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, the purported lair of the Jersey Devil, Le Carrer traces the places in the world that are cursed, in legend or actuality, the places where people and ships disappear and the stink of legendary beasts never quite seems to dissipate. “Since the time of the Old Testament,” Le Carrer writes, “humanity has found more effective ways of damning itself, coming up with bizarre town planning concepts and inventing all manner of jobs, one more disagreeable than the last—in mines, factories, industrial fishing, and call centers–in other words, devising an almost infinite number of hells that no god or demon would ever have dared to contemplate back in the day. The cases described in this book are a reminder of how much the woes of a place owe to mankind’s overactive imagination.” The book is beautifully illustrated with vintage illustrations and maps, and Le Carrer, a sailor and journalist, traces the history of each location with lyrical prose.
Hachette Books, October 2015, $24.99, 144 pages, hachettebookgroup.com
2017 FORD F-150 RAPTOR
Get ready for an upgraded trailblazer from Ford.
This isn’t a truck for picking up groceries at Whole Foods or taking the kids to soccer practice, unless the grocery store is on the other side of a hell-scape straight out of Mad Max. No, the Raptor is an off-road vehicle built for the most hardcore driving and drivers. The first SVT Raptor debuted at the grueling, axel-braking Baja 1000 race in 2008 and finished third—particularly impressive because it was competing against cars a full class higher. The 2017 F-150 Raptor, which wowed car aficionados at this year’s New York International Auto Show, has a host of upgrades that make it even more of an off-road bruiser. It has a light-weight aluminum chassis and body, shaving off 500 pounds, and the blocky, 411 horsepower V8 is replaced by a smaller, more powerful 450 horsepower Ecoboost V6. It also boasts a 10-speed automatic transmission and 3-inch Fox Racing shocks, which should make it particularly nimble off-road.
Base price estimated at around $50,000–$52,000, available Fall 2016. More details here.
MACHINES OF LOVING GRACE BY JOHN MARKOFF
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist explores the human-robot relationship
Long-time New York Times technology reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner John Markoff tackles what may be the defining problem of our era, the role of computing and artificial intelligence in human society. “One researcher attempted to replace human beings with intelligent machines,” Markoff writes of the early years of the computer industry, “while the other aimed to extend human capabilities. Of course, together, their work defined both a dichotomy and a paradox. The paradox is that the same technologies that extend the intellectual power of humans can displace them as well.” Through the lenses of science, history and technology, Markoff explores this paradox, and whether computers will set us free or destroy us.
Ecco, August 2015, $26.99, 378 pages, harpercollins.com
LA CEIBA DINNER AT ROSEWOOD MAYAKOBA
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, MEXICO
Luxurious outdoor dining at this Mexican resort.
There are a lot of lovely things about the Rosewood Mayakoba resort in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The powdery beach sands blends into the warm waters of the Caribbean. Swimming in the pools feels like you’re swimming in a work of art. The suites are clean and modern, yet comfortably luxurious. But the food—expertly prepared and with a focus on fresh fish—is on a level all to itself. One meal in particular makes a visit to the hotel worthwhile, even if you aren’t planning to stay: the La Ceiba dinner. It’s served in an outdoor herb garden, a light breeze coming off of the ocean, and the table is set beneath a globelike Ceiba tree that looks like it has been lit with starlight. The evening starts with handcrafted rum, mezcal or tequila cocktails and a bit of mingling; the Ceiba dinner is a group meal hosted by the hotel’s general manager Daniel Scott, and you’re sure to make friends. And then there’s the food. The meal includes everything from lobster and calamari to pibil roasted pork, all prepared in an authentic Yucateca style and expertly paired with tequilas and Mexican wines. Of course you can eat and run, but given the feast and the marinating effects of the alcohol, it’s worth staying the night—your room is just a short bike or golf cart ride away.
Price, $175 per person; for more information, call 52.984.875.8000, rosewoodhotels.com/mayakoba
A film about a team of women race car drivers in Palestine.
Since its premier at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in April 2015, Speed Sisters, directed and produced by Amber Fares, has been roaring through the international film festival circuit and was an official selection at the DOC NYC festival. In a taut 80 minutes, Speed Sisters follows the first all female team of car racers in the Arab world as they compete in their homeland of Palestine. Ostensibly a film about racing cars, Speed Sisters is really a narrative of Palestine as a place under occupation. The five women of the Speed Sisters racing team face a gauntlet of roadblocks, are shot at with tear gas by the Israeli army and must deal with the often-conservative expectations of families and a society that does not approve of women racing cars. Beneath it all, economic inequality is a subtle source of conflict between the drivers.
More details here.