• Sunday , 18 February 2018

Get Licked at Ritz-Carlton’s Aqimero ‘Yappy Hour’ Benefit During Dog Days of Summer

Story, photos by Sharon Kozden

Welcome to the dog days of summer.

The Ritz-Carlton’s Aqimero Lounge hosted their inaugural Yappy Hour to benefit Hemlock Edge Rescue, a non-profit organization “dedicated to rescuing homeless, abandoned and abused animals”.

As I made my way to the iconic hotel on one of the hottest days to date, I pondered the dog days of summer phrase.  Its perception as we know it – one of listless and seemingly catatonic canines stilled by heat so sultry and oppressive – allowed me to feel at one with man’s best friend. I ascended the Ritz-Carlton’s steps, panting and tugging my dress loose from sticky skin as sweat rivulets collected in my décolletage. Identifying palpably with the speaker in Hilda Doolittle’s poem, Heat (“O wind, rend open the heat, cut apart the heat, rend it to tatters …”), the hotel doors opened, immediately breaking the temperature-stultifying spell with its cool refuge.

Inside the voluminous lounge, its modern décor featured slate-grey and other muted colors accented by metallic and glass fixtures.  Massive dividers of conjoined glass circles simulated a waterfall and were interspersed with cozy seating nooks.  Naturally, the towering Corinthian columns were without competition however, they shared space with the aforementioned in a balanced and eye-catching manner. Aqimero pulsed with a mix of lively conversation, yapping puppies and a progressive musical beat that did not detract from any event-associated activity.

Chef Richard Sandoval describes Aqimero’s culinary fare as “coastal Latin” and, while not a literal name translation (for there is none), “right here, right now” is the closest descriptor for the singularly named restaurant.

After taking in my surroundings, I next honed in on four energetic and playful puppies on display at the entrance. Suddenly the columns were dwarfed in essence by the sheer delightfulness of these adorable living, breathing and frolicking creatures – the true focal point and clear crowd favorite.

I immediately wanted to bond with said puppies however, introductions to event coordinators and restaurant management were my first objective, followed by some much-needed nutritional sustenance. It’s a challenge to shoot photos, mingle and tell a story on an empty stomach. A marathon runner training for two upcoming races, I was not shy about enjoying the carbs and protein while appreciating their artful presentation and exquisite combinations of flavors and ingredients. Servers Lisa and Ishmael were super friendly and attentive.

Aqimero even created a bespoke cocktail to mark the occasion:  the Berry Good Boy made with Three Bitches Vodka.  Guacamole with a side of spicy crab along with a half-dozen oysters were my starters – superb on all accounts. As my energy level returned, I moved among the crowd, delighting in watching and photographing children and adults as they cooed and fawned over the puppies. They held, cuddled and petted them. Some even brought their own dogs. After all, the event was billed as a Yappy Hour.

It was gratifying to observe so many milling about the donation area.  The story of Hemlock Edge Rescue (“The Roots of Love in Rescue”) is quite a narrative in its own right. Visit their website and learn about Founder Chris Tornetta and the incredible story of the Rescue, from its decidedly humble beginnings to 500 lives saved to date.

As the mother of a rescued Maine Coon cat, I can honestly say there is no more rewarding and humbling feeling than knowing the difference you can make in such an animal’s life. I am fiercely protective of my Lilyaulait (Lily + au lait for her paw tips that appear dipped in milk). Knowing she was left on the roadside for dead at one point, my cattitude is woe be anyone who would try to do her harm, for they would consequently and quickly come to know this mother’s wrath. It’s a sad fact that animals are, in fact, abused, abandoned and homeless.

Kudos to Hemlock Edge Rescue and to Aqimero partnering for this worthy cause. Further applause for devoted animal lovers who turned out to make the event a woof-woof (win-win) situation.

Guests learn about and donate to Hemlock Edge Rescue.

Hemlock Edge Rescue folks greet Yappy Hour attendees and eager donors.


RICHEL D’AMBRA Spa & Salon offers donations with product purchases.

Thanks, RICHEL D’AMBRA Spa & Salon for pampering us as well as animals with your generosity!

Puppy mania caught on camera.

Who can possibly resist this adorable pup?

The grandeur of the hotel’s marble Corinthian columns merits a jaw-drop.

Good times to be had in a comfy-cozy nooks.

Glass block dividers simulate circular waterfall.

What to chose when every choice appeals?

Quelle charmante that Aqimero created an bespoke cock-TAIL for the occasion.

Bow-wow: The featured cocktail Berry Good Boy made with Three Bitches Vodka.

My personal favorite is the classic margarita, a great pairing with nachos and guacamole.

The heat apparently didn’t suppress this foodie’s appetite.  Raw bars rule!

Delicious guacamole (chipotle, lime, cilantro) with tortilla chips fueled this marathoner’s carb-load.

Did I mention I as well chose the spicy crab served sidebar to the guacamole?

I couldn’t resist the Nikkei Lobster Sushi Roll (New England lobster with aji panca and ponzu).

The Aqimero Dream Team: From left, Jim Gushue, General Manager, John Christinzio, Director of Operations and Eddie Sunday, Bar Manager.

Stephanie Murawski and Bob Aretz of Paragraph.

They DO call it puppy love.

Sharon Kozden got licked!

Just who rescues whom?

Sweet girl pets one pup; others patiently wait their turn.

“Can’t take my eyes off of you.”

Boy meets boy’s BFF.

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