trendy dining in various locales

so, what makes dining trendy? is it the upscale, exclusive location? the foreign sounding (and occasionally unpronounceable) name? the stylish decor and menu? the clientele? the highly credentialed chef and/or snooty staff? or that extra star rating? you tell me.

if trendy dining means i'll have to stir my drink with a weird-looking contraption (which looks like a safety pin?), er you can count me out [String, Sodermalm, Sweden]

whatever makes the case for you, sometimes trendy dining can be a way to prop up one's self-esteem. the thought of dining in the company of colleagues, friends or family while watching the rest of the world go about its business is a like a declaration that we belong -- like an extension of our identity as part of a group, company, or a family.

occasionally, dining out can be a much-welcomed break in our daily routine -- a sort of necessary reminder that we are still part of the human race. this is best exemplified when you're in a sidewalk restaurant. sometimes the absence of wall can make a huge difference in how we view or eat our meal.

watching the world go by while sipping your coffee/reading a newspaper is a nice way to spend those precious moments when you're not in a hurry to be somewhere else [Zante, Zakynthos, Greece]

other times, the idea of dressing up to dine in some fancy restaurant/bistro can be daunting prospect especially when you're feeling a wee bit leery of company, and not up to making small talk or churning out witty repartee (to appear more interesting).

sometimes being in the right company is all it takes to turn your dinner/lunch into a great experience [Java, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa]

for some, it can be a way to show off how far they have advanced in the scheme of things or to impress certain people (clients or dates). and yet for most of us, dining out in the right company and under the best circumstances can be oddly comforting, so we generally go to places that make us feel at home.

inside, looking out... occasionally, a quaint setting does the trick admirably well [Beijing cafe, Beijing, China]

bon appetit

Gwyneth Paltow on Elle (September)

For its September 2011 edition, Elle magazine is featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, a perennial favorite among designers and fashion editors. although she doesn't always photograph well, i must say Gwyneth Paltrow looks quite good in these series of images, taken by well-known photographer Carter Smith.

here, the photographer opts for a laid-back and natural shot. the black-and-white presentation emphasizes Gwyneth Paltrow's relaxed air.
...effortlessly evoking classic Hollywood allure and glamour with stylish pumps, sleek black dress and a great pair of legs.

poised and pensive gwynnie... the harshly lit background provides a nice backdrop to give her a soft, wistful air.

all in all, this is a nice blend of deft camera work, a great photographer and a good subject. nice work, Elle. definitely worth a grande-sized soy strawberry frappuccino on a hot, lazy afternoon.

current It girl, elle fanning, getting her caffeine fix courtesy of Starbucks.

basking in her recent success as one of the teenage leads of Super 8 (directed by JJ Abrams), elle fanning (yes, the younger sister of dakota fanning), is set to work on Twixt Now and Sunrise (a film by Francis Ford Coppola) and We Bought a Zoo (a film by Cameron Crowe).

at the ripe old age of 13, elle fanning has already compiled an impressive array of films (Babel, Somewhere, The Nutcracker in 3D), attracting the notice of many critics and industry watchers -- a feat that would be an object of envy for many aspirants twice or thrice her age.

looks, abundant talent, excellent prospects -- what more could a girl want?

here are 10 dining places that, according to New York Times, are worth spending your hard-earned $$ on this year (2011).

nope, we're not just talking about the tab (although i'm willing to bet half of my annual salary that it would be quite hefty, too). you also have to factor in travel expenses (fare, accommodations, etc.), because these restaurants are located in various parts of the globe.

1. Aponiente
El Puerto de Santa MarĂ­a, Spain

2. Benu
San Francisco, CA (USA)

3. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
London, UK

4. M. Wells
Long Island City, NY (USA)

5. Mirazur
Menton, France

6. Mamofuku
Sydney, AUstralia

7. Restaurant Andre

8. Restaurante Garzon
Garzon, Uruguay

9. Tickets
Barcelona, Spain

10. Willows Inn
Lummi Island, WA (USA)

hmmm... this makes for a nice screen cap but frankly, for most of us these establishments will remain as interesting items on a vaunted list -- like exotic species to be gawked at but unlikely to be savored.

but for those with deep-lined pockets, bon appetit!

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