Cartagena Cool Part I: The Lowdown on Latin America’s Most Alluring City

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Cartagena de Indias, the exotic port city on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast, has been something of an in-the-know spot for the more adventurous traveler for years; Mick Jagger has been visiting since the ’90s, and Justin Bieber even bought a house here. And though the pace of new hotel, restaurant and retail openings might seem to indicate that Cartagena has moved up the trendometer, it’s still under-the-radar to be…exotic.

Certainly there was a time when the words “vacation” and “Colombia” just didn’t sit well within the same sentence. In the ‘70s and ‘80s the country pretty much invented the cocaine industry, courtesy of noted narco-terrorist Pablo Escobar; and that, combined with the fifty-plus-years civil war with the Peoples Revolutionary Army (FARC), didn’t inspire visions of romantic Latin American getaways.

 

 

These days, however, it’s a much different story. In the early aughts the Colombian government launched a major get-rid-of-the-dealers initiative, resulting in a relocation of the Americas coke trade to Mexico. And effective efforts to end the civil war over the last several years has seen the remaining members of FARC assimilating into Colombian society. Colombia’s murder rate is at it lowest since the early ‘70s.

Cartagena was always the jewel of Colombia, the place where even Escobar would come to escape the, um, stress of his job. Fortress walls dating back to the 17th Century surround the central Old City – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and the main tourist area, within which you’ll find hotels and restaurants to rival those in Paris or New York. Beyond the walls are the scruffier but equally interesting enclaves of Getsemani, Bocagrande, Manga, and the quaintly residential Castilogrande. We fell in love with Cartagena and other spots along the Colombian Riviera on our first visit, and have been going back regularly since. Our eminent guides have been Travel Colombia Direct (more on them in Part II), who have helped us to feel at home in the city.

 

 

As long as you’re prepared for the heat – the year round prevailing temperature being hot – Cartagena is an easy and affordable getaway. JetBlue now flies direct from JFK in less time than it takes to get to San Francisco; and once there, typical hotel and restaurant bills are a good 25% less than you’d find in a comparable big American city.

Starting at the top is the classically sophisticated Sofitel Santa Clara, recently voted best luxury hotel in South America (a Conde Nast Readers Poll); Jagger stayed in the royal suite, as he would. Less opulent and pricy but no less charming is the lovely Casa Quero, housed in a historic colonial mansion. Fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi’s Tcherassi Hotel + Spa adds wellness and pampering, and has a chic poolside restaurant.

 

Sofitel Santa Clara

 

While Cartagena is technically a beach town, the actual beaches in town are not on par with their Caribbean neighbors (more on the amazing beaches just off shore in Part II), leaving travelers to occupy themselves as one would in any cosmopolitan city – and that obviously includes shopping. The spider web of streets in the Old City are a walker’s paradise of bustling local boutiques, street vendors, and upscale jewelers, with security at the door and NASA-worthy air-conditioning. With trays of dazzling emeralds and sapphires, Lucy stands out for its selection and service; for fashionable local styles we love the charming St Dom, but we’re also happy to explore the outdoor markets and vendors, including Las Bovedas, where we have tried on many a Panama hat. (Yes, they sell them in Colombia.)

Time to eat, and the options are seemingly endless. Of course fresh fish is a staple, as is plenty of steak, all accompanied by platacones, salsa, and beer or fruit shakes. One of our favorites is La Mulata, a casual Caribbean joint that’s always packed, and has some of the best grilled fish. Head to La Cevicheria early as, come dinnertime, the wait is endless; it’s got the best ceviche in Cartagena. For an over the top Argentinian carnivore experience, nothing beats the kitschy Patagonia Asados del Sur. And two new hotspots on our radar include the lively (it’s more a bar/club than resto) La Movida, and the pristine Moshi, which combines Asian and Caribbean cuisines; it was the first time we saw crispy pig’s head carnitas on a menu.

 

La Movida 

Coming up in Cartagena Part II we venture outside the walls to find the city’s equivalent of Brooklyn (or Oakland), plus an offshore paradise.

Williamsburg Wine Bash Brings Together Top Chefs and Wineries

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Brooklyn surely has more of a reputation for serious craft brews. But wine lovers will have a very good reason to find themselves in Williamsburg next Monday, June 26.

Indeed, the Williamsburg Wine Bash will bring together more than 60 prestigious wineries, as curated by exalted Manhattan wine sellers Sherry-Lehmann, at the perpetually hip Brooklyn Bowl on Wythe Avenue. Several high-profile local restaurants will provide the gourmet eats, including Chef Andrew Carmellini of William Vale, Chef Al Di Meglio of Le Gamin, Chef Emanuele Baldassini of Antica Pesa and Wylie Dufresne’s Du’s Donuts.

All of the proceeds will go to The Firehouse, a planned community center which will foster civic and cultural engagement.

“We could not think of a better way to support the Firehouse project,” says Firehouse board chair Del Teague, “than bringing together some of the greatest leaders in food and wine that Brooklyn has to offer for an unforgettable night. It’s not often that you can have so much fun and support a worthy cause.”

VIP tickets include exclusive tastings of tete cuvee Champagnes, Grand Cru Burgundies and Super Tuscans. As well, an auction of rare wines by Kevn Vraly of Windows on the World Wine School will include the chance to bid on an incomparable Napa Valley Wine Experience, also organized by Sherry-Lehmann.

In true BKNY fashion, there will be live music performances by indie soul singer Danielia Cotton and guitarist / Rihanna Music Director Tony Bruno, as well as a DJ set by Caroline Polachek of Chairlift.

 

Du’s Donuts

WEEKEND IN OTTAWA: The Art, the Food…the Canadians

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Louis Bourgeois’ Maman at The National Gallery of Canada

The endlessly unsettling reality of domestic politics has once again left untold Americans staring longingly across the northern border – where, currently, hotsy Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presides over a stable economy, and a society that provides universal healthcare, as well as affordable education. (And, despite comparable gun ownership, no seems to be casually blowing each other’s heads off up there, either.)

Thusly inspired, we returned to Ottawa recently (where Trudeau delegates from an office at stately 80 Wellington Street), just in time for the Tulip Festival – an event they share with that other bastion of progressive egalitarianism, The Netherlands. Downtown was teeming with food and flower markets and, of course, Canadians – who, while we hesitate to generalize, just seem so incredibly well-mannered and welcoming all the time. And speaking of wonderful welcomes, we checked into the exceedingly stylish new Andaz Ottawa Byward Market amidst what was actually a pretty buzzy Friday afternoon lobby scene.

The real lure of Canada’s capital is the impossibly picturesque setting, bordered by the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal – and with grandiose 19th Century architecture lording breathtakingly over the city. But there’s also quite a lot to pack into a few days’ visit. And it’s bi-lingual, of course, so you can brush up on your French.

Canada also turns 150 this year – so it’s pretty much a non-stop party up North.

Here’s what we did.

 

The National Gallery of Canada

A genuine architectural masterpiece by Moshe Safdie (dating to 1989), you feel awed just walking into all the cold, concrete modernism that is The National Gallery of Canada. There’s a great collection of Pop Art that should be your first stop. But the current exhibition, Photography in Canada, 1960-2000, presents an absorbing look at contemporary life through the lenses of some of the country’s most venerable snappers. Don’t forget to pose for a selfie outside with Louise Bourgeois’ massive spider sculpture Maman – it doesn’t bite, but it looks like it might.

Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica

From Naples to Krakow to Hamburg, you’ve seen all those uber-baroque European “Houses of God.” Still, none could prepare you for the astonishment of Ottawa’s own Notre-Dame (Cathedral of Our Lady). First, the twin silver spires, which gleam in the sunlight, as if to indicate the transmission of divinity itself. But we sat riveted within the intentionally histrionic neo-gothic interior, which suggests a path to God by means of really daring color choices. It could almost make a believer of Richard Dawkins.

Contemporary Art

There’s actually a good little scene in Ottawa. We liked the Galerie Saw, run by artists and with a decidedly socio-political bent. But we were most taken with an exhibition of Inuit (indigenous people of the Canadian Arctic) carvings at L.A. Pai, one of the city’s most influential contemporary dealers.

The Food + Drink

Ottawa – who knew? But our tastebuds were forced to shift into overdrive during our stay. We naturally dined at the Andaz’ own Feast + Revel, only to joyously discover our new favorite food ever, fiddlehead lasagna; go Canadian and also try the lamb poutine and wild boar rillette. But the city’s hottest scene is at Riviera, with its soaring-ceilinged neo-classical interior, super cute staff and life-altering dishes like venison tartare with pistachios, as well as possibly the best chicken liver pate in the universe (a big deal for us).
For lunchtime, Play Food + Wine is as fun as its name, with small plates (shiitake gnocchi, tempura eggplant) in an industrial mod setting. Though we most loved Social, a sprawling warren of rooms perfect for naughty assignations by night – but by day, we grabbed a sunny courtyard seat and indulged in the Scottish cock a leekie and a few glasses of Canadian Hinterland sparkling wine, all to a knowingly curated Britpop soundtrack. (Canada is of the Commonwealth, after all.)

Riviera Ottawa

The Shopping

Style hounds head to the Sussex Drive corridor, where cool indie boutiques like Trust Fund, Wolf & Zed and Schad offer a current view into mode Canadienne. Patrick McGahern is a legendary shop for rare and used books, should you still prefer them in physical form. Something for the home? Get your mod on at the Modern Shop, flogging designers like Tom Dixon, Jonathan Adler and Moooi.

Moscow Tea Room

If you’re going to pick one place for a night that will remain forever hazy in your mental recall center, Moscow Tea Room is absolutely it. As you might have guessed, it’s not a tea room at all. Rather, it’s a decadent, pre-Bolshevik watering hole done up in a sort of faded Czarist opulence – though a little too earnestly plush to be kitsch. There is a cocktail list, but whatever – drift your eyes straight over to the “Spirits” section of the menu, where you’ll find 19 expertly-chosen vodkas listed by shot price. Our unimaginably lovely Arab expat bartenders Zainab and Kianna (Seriously, how can you have those names and not be a reality show?) poured us ice cold Russian Standard Platinum and impressively expounded on international political matters and their love and loyalty for their adopted country. One of the best bars anywhere, period.

Stay: Andaz Ottawa Byward Market

We’d done time at the Andaz hotels in New York, WeHo, Mayakoba – but the Andaz Ottawa is easily our fave. As you enter, there’s a tiny area for check-in, leaving the rest of the lobby for lounging and socializing – of which there was much. Rooms smartly have huge floor-to-ceiling windows, all the better to frame the awesome scenery all around. And the bathrooms…cool, modern and surprisingly spacious.
The hotel’s (literally) crowning feature, though, is the rooftop Copper Spirits & Sights. Ottawa, apparently, has not exactly discovered the joys of skyward tippling – so the bar was a sensation upon opening. There’s an enclosed indoor area, an expansive, comfy-furnished outdoor terrace, and a killer cocktail list. Tequila aficionados should order the Copper Skyline; but we couldn’t resist with the bourbon-and-smoked-glass Last Man Standing. And there’s that view.

 

 

Pig Beach/Bleecker Chef Matt Abdoo’s 7 Ways to Get Your Summer BBQ Fix – Including Exclusive Recipes

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Image by Katie June Burton 

The lazy days of summer are finally here, but who in New York really has the energy to dust off the grill for a backyard BBQ? Luckily, a picnic bench filled with brisket, pulled pork and icy beverages awaits at the new Pig Beach in Brooklyn. It’s this summer’s must food destination for all those who have understood and indulged in the joys of the subtle smoke of a perfectly grilled heritage Red Wattle pork chop, dolloped with peach habanero jam and crispy onions at Pig Bleecker – the sister restaurant and West Village pilgrimage for ‘cue heads since its debut earlier this year.

And when there are two options for getting your smoked pork fix, everybody wins. Especially when they’re the product of the same chefs behind “Salty Rinse,” award-winning Pitmasters Rob Sharger and Ed Mcfarland, teamed up with former Del Posto Chef de Cuisine Matt Abdoo. The latter’s Lebanese heritage and experience with fine Italian cuisine ensure a few tasty surprises in both locations.

But the dueling Pigs, while sharing the same reverence for whole hog BBQ and heavenly, smoky goodness, couldn’t be more different. Abdoo enlightens us – and shares a couple of his tastiest recipes.

Image by Katie June Burton

Barbecued Pasta?

“Even the pasta at Pig Bleecker gets the BBQ treatment, with smoked black pepper cacio e pepe and smoked duck lasagna. Don’t miss the pecan-candied bacon.”

Southern Flavor in NYC

“At Pig Beach, you can munch on house made hatch chili vinegar drenched wings, paired with a side of Alabama white BBQ sauce and house made pickles. You don’t have to leave New York for authentic southern flavor.”

Smoked Fluke…

“The new summer menu at Pig Bleecker boasts such fresh finds as smoked fluke with peas and ramps and a soba noodle salad with ginger vinaigrette. Start off with a house made cocktail called ‘Put the Lime in the Coconut,’ a slightly smoky mezcal Paloma with grapefruit juice, lime and, of course, coconut.”

Frosé – Just Give In To It

“Hot days lead into hot summer nights, and Pig Beach can help you cool down with ice blended Frosé. This summer, frozen rosé is the only way to beat the heat, with a mixture of aperol, grapefruit and bitters.”

Meatballs?

“You can mix it up a bit at Pig Bleecker, with classic comfort foods like pigs in a blanket and meatballs, both with a smoked-centric ethos.”

Image by Katie B Foster

 

Smoked and Blackened Market Fish with Spring Pea, Mint and Pecorino Salad with Smoke Tomato Broth

Blackened Spice Mix
Salt                                          2 Tbsp
Sweet Paprika                       3 Tbsp
Granulated Garlic                  2 Tbsp
Granulated Onion                 2 Tbsp
Dry Thyme Ground               2 Tbsp
Ground Black Pepper           2 tsp
Cayenne Pepper                   2 tsp
Dry Basil                                 2 tsp
Dry Oregano                          2 tsp
Combine all ingredients and store in an air tight dry container
Pickling Liquid
Rice Wine Vinegar                 6 Cups
Sugar                                      6 Cups
Water                                     6 Cups
Salt                                          1 Cup
Pickling Spice Blend              ¼ Cup
Chili Flake                              1 tsp
Mustard Seeds                      ¼ Cup
Ramps                                                2 Pounds
Method
Combine Rice Wine Vinegar, Sugar, Water and Salt in a large Pot and bring to a boil. Combine Pickling Spice, Chili Flake, Mustard Seeds and wrap in cheese cloth. Place spice sachet in the pickling liquid and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour hot pickling liquid over cleaned Ramps and let sit covered at room temp for 1 hour, then cool and hold in refrigeration until ready to use. 
Smoked Tomato Broth
Plum Tomatoes                     2 Pounds
Whole Shallots                       2 each
Basil                                        8 leaves
White Wine Vinegar             1 Tbsp
Salt                                          tt
Sugar                                      to taste
Method
Pre-Heat your smoker to 250 degrees with cherry wood. Slice tomatoes and shallots in half length-wise. Place the tomatoes skin side down in a shallow hotel pan with shallots and smoke for 1 hour until tomatoes take on the smoke aroma and begin to soften. Transfer tomatoes and shallots to a Food Processor or blender and puree till smooth. Pour the tomato puree into a perforated hotel pan lined with cheese cloth set atop a deep hotel pan and allow the tomato to slowly drain overnight. Season the tomato water with salt, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil to garnish the fish.
Pea Puree
Birds Eye frozen petite peas                        1 Quart
Salt                                                      to taste
Sugar                                                  to taste
Method 
Blanch frozen peas for 10 seconds in salted boiling water and shock in ice water then puree till silky smooth. Adjust with salt and sugar to taste.
Pick Up of the Fish
Pre-heat griddle top or sautee pan over medium high heat. Season fish with Blackening Spice mix and Sear Skin Side Up until seasoning “Blackens” and creates a crust. Flip the fish over and finish with 1 tbsp of butter and baste fish until cooked through.
In a mixing bowl combine Peas, Julienne Sugar Snap Peas, Fava Leaves, Pea Leaves, Charred Spring Onion Rings, Chopped Pickled Ramps and Grated Ricotta Silatta with EVOO Salt and Pepper. Place 1 Tbsp of pea puree off-set on the bottom of a shallow bowl, and place blacked fish on top. Place salad next to fish and pour warm smoked tomato broth over salad and serve.

  

Purple Coleslaw with Smoked Jalapeno and Pineapple

Shredded Purple Cabbage                1#
Shredded Carrots                                8oz
Pineapple Small Dice                         1 cup
Red Onion Thin Sliced                        2 oz
Scallions Sliced                                     1 oz
Cilantro Chopped                                1 tbsp
Sugar                                                     3 tbsp
Salt                                                         1 tsp
Mayo
Helman’s                                               1 Cup
Alabama White Sauce                       5 oz
Smoked Jalapeno                                2 each
Cilantro                                 1/3 bunch
Apple Cider Vinegar                           1 tbsp
Salt                                                         1 tsp
Method
Toss Jalapeno in oil and season with salt and pepper.  Cook in smoker at 250 degrees for 1 hour with cherry wood, or until jalapenos are soft. Remove the seeds and place jalapenos in blender with cilantro, apple cider vinegar, salt and Alabama white sauce.  Puree till smooth and green.  Combine remaining ingredients and allow to sit overnight before portioning.
Alabama White Sauce
Sugar                                     ¼ c
Mayo                                     3c
Apple cider vinegar            1c
Apple juice                            ½ c
Lemon juice                          ½ c
Horseradish                          1t
Black pepper                        1T
Salt                                         1t

 

Star Chef Matthew Kenney on His New plnthouse at 1 Hotel South Beach

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Matthew Kenney’s NYC culinary mini-empire was as hot as it gets around the turn of the Millennium. His Monzu, Mezze, Canteen, Commune and Commissary perfectly embodied the new generation of restaurant-as-mediarati-social-incubator, galvanizing the in-crowd from Soho to the Flatiron to the UES.

Along the way, the star chef discovered something a bit more ideological: the joys and benefits of the plant-based lifestyle. Indeed, his 2004 book Raw Food World was just the first of seven he authored on the subject. He eventually decamped to, of all places, Oklahoma City, and began an experiment which became a philosophy – opening the world’s first plant-based culinary school – Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy – which he moved to Santa Monica in 2012.

1 Hotel South Beach

His Plantlab brand now oversees restaurants from LA to NYC to Bahrain and Miami, where his new plnthouse has done the impossible: made the already super hot 1 Hotel South Beach even hotter. We already loved 1HSB for its breezy chic style, plush Bamford Haybarn spa, and gorgeous, ocean-facing pool. (Celebs the likes of Adrian Grenier, Jessica Alba, Ellie Goulding and superstar DJ Steve Angello agree.) Now Kenney joins STK and Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft, making the hotel one of the city’s top culinary destinations.

The casual-chic plnthouse veritably presents a new paradigm for veggie-focused cuisine, with dishes like French lentil pâté, a carrot ginger kelp noodles bowl and sprouted garbanzo hummus (see recipe below) – all perfect for maintaining the Miami beach bod, of course.

BlackBook caught up with the chef for a rather philosophical discussion about it all.

 

You once lorded over some of the hottest restaurants in NYC. Are their particular reasons you’re focusing more on California and Miami now?

In general, the health and wellness lifestyle is gaining popularity. But Los Angeles has the most health-conscious community in the country – and the wellness lifestyle is building momentum in Miami. My team and I at Plantlab wanted to continue leading the charge in the wellness realm by offering beautifully designed, nourishing, raw vegan dining experiences and bringing plant-based education to a mainstream demographic in these cities. I’m really excited to be working with the 1 Hotel South Beach, because plnthouse is their first plant-based restaurant – and we are bringing our focus on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients to the hotel’s clientele in an accessible, grab-and-go form.

What first drew you to the plant based culinary philosophy/lifestyle? 

I developed an appreciation for the plant-based lifestyle, implementing this philosophy on a personal level little by little throughout the years. I worked as a chef at several fine dining restaurants in New York City, and I was somewhat turned off by raw vegan restaurants, because I found most of them to be void of the atmosphere and culinary design that would excite the guest. I noticed a disconnect between fine dining and plant-based living, so I set out to create something that combined the two.

Tell us a bit about Plantlab.

Plantlab is a lifestyle brand my team and I created to drive the sustainable health and wellness movement forward, in a number of different ways. We offer accessibility to plant-based cuisine through our restaurants, such as Plant Food + Wine in both Venice and Miami, Double Zero in NYC, Make Out in Culver City, Matthew Kenney NM at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills and, of course, plnthouse.
As well, Plantlab is grooming the next generation of plant-based raw vegan chefs through The Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy, a culinary school offering courses in raw vegan cuisine at the highest level via nine global locations and an online “campus.” And we’ve just officially launched Matthew Kenney Wellness, offering retreat experiences that give guests the knowledge and tools to implement a plant-based lifestyle when they return home. Plantlab hosted a wellness retreat in Kauai this May, and the next venture will be our collaboration with Camp Âme at Turnberry Isle Miami…for a weekend retreat this July 7-9, including nutritional education, group fitness, spa services, and social events led by health, nutrition, beauty and fitness practitioners.

plnthouse at 1 Hotel South Beach

What are the benefits of a plant based diet? And some of the misconceptions?

Plants are nutrient-rich and fuel our bodies with the minerals we need to operate at our best. Plants not only provide the basis for optimal health, but a plant-based lifestyle also contributes to the overall well-being of the planet.
There tends to be a certain stigma surrounding the term ‘vegan’; people think it means you have to sacrifice all enjoyment around your food, and you’re definitely not getting enough protein, etc. But there’s no need for an ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude when adopting a plant-based lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be a major shift from eating meat to suddenly gnawing on raw vegetables and nothing else. You can implement more plants into your daily routine quite easily by making small tweaks.

Why was the 1 Hotel South Beach the right locale for plnthouse? Is it a philosophical alignment?

Miami is already ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting an active and healthy lifestyle, and wellness is in the DNA of the 1 Hotel South Beach; it emanates health with a certain cool factor. It seemed like the perfect location because it’s so accessible. My hope is that people living in and traveling to Miami will realize how easy it can be to integrate a plant-based diet into their busy, on-the-go lifestyles.

What can diners expect that is new and unique about plnthouse and its menu?

The menu includes salads, wraps and sandwiches, bowls, and smoothies. Any of our smoothies can be turned into meal-replacement bowls with natural super-food granola and tropical fruits, which a lot of our guests enjoy. The One Salad is quite a crowd-pleaser and includes shaved vegetables, hemp seeds, sunflower sprouts, avocado and more. We also have really great shareable plates like sprouted garbanzo hummus and yuzu guacamole with wasabi crackers.

Can you quickly sum up your culinary mission? And the mission of Plantlab?

Our ultimate goal, through our restaurants, Culinary Academy and unique programming, is to help the world move towards a more sustainable outlook on health by offering accessibility and education about a plant-based lifestyle.

 

Matthew Kenney’s Select plnthouse Recipes

One Salad Recipe

Salad
3 cups mixed greens
1 cup shaved vegetables (carrots, fennel, radish)
2 teaspoons hemp seeds
1/2 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1 small bunch sunflower sprouts
Chili Lime Vinaigrette Yield 389 grams
30 g jalapeno, seeded and diced
108 g lime juice
25 g coconut nectar
7.5 g salt
50 g rice vinegar
Blend everything except the olive oil. Once the mix is smooth, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
Spicy Macadamia Nuts Yield 1 cup
1 Cup raw soaked macadamia nuts
1 Tablespoon lime juice
¾ Teaspoon dark chili powder
¾ Teaspoon maple syrup
Soak the macadamia nuts overnight. The next day rinse the nuts and strain to remove excess water. Toss the nuts in the lime, salt, maple, lime and chili powder. Transfer the marinated nuts to teflex lined dehydrator trays and dehydrate until dry at 115 (approximately 24-48 hours).

Sprouted Garbanzo Hummus Recipe

Garbanzo Beans
2 cups dry garbanzo beans
Soak garbanzo beans overnight then drain and rinse. Put garbanzo beans in a flat container then cover with cheesecloth and allow to sprout overnight. Once sprouted rinse the beans then place in a rondo with 2 quarts of water. Skim any foam while beans are cooking.
Hummus
2.5 Cups sprouted and cooked garbanzo beans
2 Cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
¼ Cup tahini
½ Tablespoon salt
¼ Cup olive oil – poured in slowly
Put the everything except the olive oil in food processor and start blending. Slowly pour in olive oil until smooth.
Yuzu Guacamole
Yuzu Guacamole
2 Avocadoes
2 Teaspoons salt
¼ Teaspoon yuzu extract
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Teaspoon rice vinegar
Garnish
Shaved daikon radish
Pickled jalapeno
Wasabi sprouts

FIRST IMAGES: Ace Hotel Chicago

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Having conquered the NYC – LA – London triumvirate, it seemed kind of inevitable that the Ace Hotel brand would go on to plant its flag in the Windy City. But rather than landing in the the more obvious hipster playland of Wicker Park / Bucktown, the new Ace Hotel Chicago will open in a more central location near Fulton Market.

Still and all, this will put the hotel just a couple of blocks from the perpetually trendy W. Randolph Street dining corridor. To that end, they have enlisted Jason Vincent (Thrillist‘s 2016 Chef of the Year), who racked up the accolades with the opening last year of his by now exalted Logan Square restaurant Giant. There will also be a rooftop bar and Chicago’s first Stumptown Coffee on site.

Interiors are by LA design studio Commune, with detailing meant to evoke Chicago architectural icon Mies van der Rohe. And as with other Ace Hotels, there will be assorted public event spaces, which will act as social hubs and incubators for music, art, tech, film and the like. Expect the hotel to be a particular galvanizing force for the local creative types.

Reservations are already being taken for an official September 1 opening – and since we love autumn in Chicago, expect to find us there. But those without the patience can book a “preview” stay, as early as July 1 – which comes with the best amenity of all: the right to stay you stayed there before everyone else. (And 10% of the reservation cost goes to support Ace community partners Little Black Pearl, Young Chicago Authors and 826CHI

 

Spending a Perfect Day (+ Night) in Paris with Neo-Jazz Songstress ALA.NI

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Like many a Londoner, Brit singer ALA.NI finally tired of all the building sites and construction mess in Blighty’s capital, and made her way to Paris – where erecting ugly new skyscrapers is relegated to aesthetically-challenged bastions of business like La Defense. The creative results of the move were a glorious new album, You and I, which is a dazzling, unapologetic paean to the glory days of jazz-pop divas like Billie, Ella and, surely, Mdm. Piaf.

Her greatest inspiration, other than maybe Paris itself?

“Love!,” she exclaims. “It leads us all. In its ups and downs. The album is a tale of a love affair that takes place over a year – from the first look, the first kiss, the anticipation of what’s to come, the longing, the reality, the heartbreak and the renewal.”

To be sure, tracks like “Roses & Wine” and “Ol’Fashioned Kiss” sparkle with a sexy, retro cool, and are delightfully free of trendy embellishment. While “Darkness at Noon” is a simmering, anguished bit of noir heartbreak, just waiting for a David Lynch scene to soundtrack.

But surely our favorite is “Cherry Blossom,” the sound of new love blossoming in springtime (“Fall for me / Long for me / Always be a friend to me”), in all its languid, hopeful, sensual and unbelievably irresistible beauty.

“I wrote ‘Cherry Blossom’ whilst in Grenada,” she recalls. “At 3am, with the crickets and sea stirring, the lyrics and melody came to me. This combo very rarely happens with such ease, so I took the moment fully. The lyrics express, like cherry blossoms, the impermanence of life and love. For that moment of existence, you must embrace it all and declare yourself as lost, taken by the wind.”

She’ll be appearing live at NYC’s Rockwood Hall Music Hall June 19, and Central Park Summerstage on the 21st. But hoping to catch a bit of her inspiration, we asked ALA.NI to take us through her perfect Paris day, from the patisseries to the bookshops to a grand, historic venue where she did cartwheels onstage.

 

 

Breakfast

Parisians don’t really do breakfast. Being a Brit, if I go out for breakfast I want a large fry up! It’s all cafes and croissants here. But I’m not a coffee drinker, so its patisseries and boulangeries for me; and I am in the best city in the world for making flour and water into fantastical culinary delights. I love the cocoa bread from Maison Landemaine and anything and everything from Dalloyau. A “Millefeuille Vanille” for breakfast is perfectly acceptable. Best apricot jam to have on your croissant is Alain Millet.

 

Lunch

The Yard is my absolute favorite for lunch. Its described as “Modern French.” For me it’s a bit Scandinavian too, rustic and delicious comfort food. The menu changes every day, the best are the three times cooked potatoes, cut in a cool cross hatch design. Details, I like the details. Rabbit in tarragon sauce. Wonderful mackerel salads, grilled marrow in the bone. It’s hard to practice vegetarianism here. Great wines too.

Shop

Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse has the best chocolate in the whole wide world! Take it from a girl who wanted to marry Willy Wonka. The factory shop in Bastille is worth a visit; as a choco-phile, I often find myself in the courtyard of the factory, just sniffing the air and letting out sounds of sheer delight.
Yvon Lambert bookshop. I can spend hours in there looking at art and photography books. And fighting for the one chair in the whole shop.

 

Culture

The Phono Museum is a must visit if you have any interest in the history of music. Wax cylinders, phonographs, huge vintage twin gramophones, specially designed for those old school 1900’s bashment “soundsystem” parties! So much to see to make you appreciate that your mini iPod player has come a very, very long way.

Dinner

I love Lapérouse for dinner. Its secret little Salon Privé is dripping with all kinds of antique, scandalous bad behavior. It’s a rabbit warren of a building dating from 1766, with secret passages hidden in the walls. Wonder what they needed those for?

 

Music Venue

Chatelet Theatre is one of my favorite venues in Paris. I have seen Pina Bausch dance company there a few times, and it is magnificent because the stage is so huge. I had the opportunity to perform there last autumn and during soundcheck I was doing no-handed cartwheels across the massive stage. I just wanted to feel the space. Luckily I didn’t land on my head.

Nightcap

I’m always hungry. I have endless munchies and I’m not much of drinker, so any late night food spots are good for me. There are no 24-hour bagel shops like in London or New York, but Babylone Bis creole restaurant is like a “knock twice” speakeasy that is open from 8PM-5AM. Perfect for midnight feasting.

Delicious Decadence + Tasty Star Spotting: BlackBook Visits the New Beauty & Essex Hollywood

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For anyone who knows Beauty & Essex in New York, the name itself can conjure up a certain moment in time (specifically 2010). Seriously late nights, assorted bubbly drinks, and the Lower East Side transitioning from indie music hub into a veritable adult playground. On this night, though, 3000 miles away, we reminisce about it all as we arrive at another Beauty & Essex, which just opened in Hollywood (there is still another in Las Vegas).

Like the original, the Hollywood Beauty & Essex sits amongst several bars and restaurants in one of LA’s most teeming nightlife neighborhoods; one of those is actually its new sister restaurant TAO, also an NYC export (Both are adjacent to the Dream Hollywood hotel – got that?). And here, just like the others, you’ll find a glittering oasis of beauty, decadence, and the scene that naturally follows. To be sure, the likes of Angelina Jolie, Kelis, Selena Gomez and, um, Paris Hilton have already made that scene.

After entering the venue through a pricey pawn shop (just like in NYC), a hostess takes us to a corner booth with a perfect view of the dining room – all golden peacocks and crystal chandeliers. Servers busy themselves at tables as guests’ eyes dart around the room. Everyone seems to be looking for someone – stars, producers, the cast of some or other reality show. As if on cue, comedian Bob Saget arrives with a beautiful blonde and takes a table a few seats down. A trio in business attire (studio suck ups?) rush over to say hello.

Cocktail? Yes. We start with the Lome of Pa – a perfectly spicy, smoky pick-me-up featuring Herradura, grapefruit juice, and habanero.

To our delight, star chef Chris Santos had brought his worldly menu to the West Coast. A delectable blend of high and low, gourmand fare and street food, the menu appeals to pretty much any taste. There’s a full raw bar, various toasts and tartars, vegetarian sides, salads, tacos, Thai-style deep-fried shrimp…you get the idea.

We dig in to the tomato tartar topped with a sunny-side up quail egg – an absolute must – followed by the yellowtail sashimi and chipotle mahi tacos. For entrees, we opt for the Chilean sea bass (cooked perfectly) and Mexican street corn ravioli (dee-licious). Yep – they’ve got that international thing going on here.

After another round of drinks, and a short parade of small plates, we make it to dessert – an old New York classic (when in Rome…), the “LES, NYC Doughnuts.” They arrive cloud-like, covered in sugar, and accompanied by ramekins of chocolate, caramel, and berry dipping sauce. Just like (our former New York) home!

After dinner, we take a glowing spiral staircase up to a vestibule that evokes, perhaps, what it’s like to stand inside a glass of champagne. Yellow uplighting and effervescent selfie-takers illuminate the path to yet another bar, dining area, and outdoor terrace. The space in its entirety, which seems never-ending, occupies a palatial 10,000 square feet.

After roaming the second floor for awhile, we find our way back to the foyer where, lo-and-behold, who’s standing in front of a wall of tiny spinning plastic ballerinas but Pamela Anderson. As she’s escorted away in her skintight white dress, presumably to begin her night, we decide she’s the high note we can end ours on. We pour out onto the courtyard and head towards Sunset Blvd.

Sure we may not be able to hail a cab over the Williamsburg Bridge afterwards; but then, you’re probably not likely to spot Pamela roaming the LES. We’ll take it.

Opera, Naughty Angels and Extraordinary Snails: A Rather Elegant Whirl Through Paris

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Above Image: Palais Garnier

What we had always most loved about Paris was its stubborn resistance to change. Vive la ville de la lumière!

But “branded” hipster encroachment has worryingly taken over such districts as the Bastille, Pigalle, and Belleville. And frankly, we’ve already had enough of the goofy facial hair and over-produced cocktails back in New York.

So, upon our most recent visit to the French capital, we decided to skip the hip, and revisit some of the things that for us make Paris so…intemporel. To her we never tire of saying, ne changez jamais, don’t ever change.

 

Tour the Palais Garnier

Sure, there’s La Scala in Milan and Staatsoper in Vienna; but Paris’s oh-so-grandiosely-grand opera house has something more of the intrigue about it – after all, this is where Le Fantôme was born. Fittingly, we exchanged philosophical arrows with our brilliantly eccentric guide and, ultimately, we lost. She also regaled us with the history of seating hierarchy (N.B. Ask about tickets for the “hidden” seats, which can be booked for just 10 euro.)

Revisit Georges at The Pompidou

It was the pinnacle of all Parisian super-fabulousness when it debuted back in 2000 (remember how optimistic we were back then?). But Georges – the crown jewel of the Costes empire – is once again, or perhaps maybe still, tres fashionable…which is very well with us, since we’d go for the view alone. Perched spectacularly atop the Centre Pompidou museum, its space age decor now seems a brilliantly futuristic counterpoint to all that grumpy hipster old-timeyness. But the international menu dazzles like the vistas of Paris, including possibly the most awesome croque monsieur in the city, and the appropriately titled Extraordinary Snails.

 

Take in a Gripoix Glass Jewelry Workshop

Renowned for the Chanel Gripoix jewels, worn by the likes of Rihanna and Emma Watson, this workshop, opened on the gorgeous Place des Victoires in late 2015, sells the brand’s own dazzling collection. Upstairs we watched as bespoke (note correct use of word) pieces were being created for moneyed clients. But on the ground floor, you can buy strikingly colorful necklaces, earrings and brooches for surprisingly approachable prices.

Go “Behind the Scent” at Serge Lutens

He’s the mystical French guru of fragrance. And entering his flagship boutique, hidden mysteriously away amidst the gardens of the Palais Royal, is like being welcomed into a sacred space. There are secret hideaways with astrological references and nautical charts, an upstairs sanctuary done up with Asian wall panels, even a Virtual Reality room…with medieval furnishings. The ethereal signature scents have magically poetic descriptions – for instance “Deliver us from Good! Jasmine petals are as white as snow. Black is my religion.” (La religieuse) and “She’s a rose with thorns, don’t mess with her. She’s a girl who goes to extremes. When she can, she soothes; and when she wants … !” (La fille de Berlin). An experience.

 

Get Bespoke Shoes Made at Non-Bespoke Prices

Tucked away in the charming Passage des Deux Pavillons in the 1st Arrondissement, Derville is an unassuming little shop that makes some of the best custom shoes in Paris. And they can be had for as little as…$700. The trick? They use a machine for the soles – though you’d never know it. And not just for business types, the shoes come in colors like pink, orange and sky blue.

Have a Glamorous Dinner at Mini Palais

Part of the awe-inspiring Grand Palais museum and exhibition complex, this is the place to go when you’ve had enough of all those charmingly low-key bistrotheques. Despite the name, it’s a statement restaurant in the best sense. Climb a grand staircase, enter into a dramatic foyer, and emerge into a dining room with arched windows, high ceilings and impeccable style. The menu is by Eric Frechon, Paris’ most exalted chef: lemon potato gnocchi, cod in tamarind crust, roasted scallops with fine truffle muslin. There’s also a plush outdoor terrace amidst the classical columns.

 

Stay: The Hilton Paris Opera

Face it, you’d stay for the name alone. It says to everyone, “Yes, I am staying somewhere grand in Paris.” Recently made over, there’s now a contemporary sparkle to its 19th Century majesty. The rooms have been done up with a stylish, modern elegance – and those looking out towards Gare Saint Lazare offer supreme Parisian-street-life watching.
But we spent most of our time in Le Grand Salon, literally a listed historic monument – with forty-five-foot ceilings, glittering chandeliers and cool, modern furnishings. You can breakfast like the Marquess of Something-or-Other, or try to spot the naughty angels amongst the stunning frescoes over a few rounds of Hugo Saint Germain champagne cocktails. There’s a Le Pain Quotidien on site, as well, should you need something a little less, say, imposing, for an important biz lunch.
And just step out of the hotel in you’re in Lazare, the casual but super buzzy new bistro – also from the many Michelin-starred Eric Frechon – in the station of the same name. The sausages and mashed potatoes are genuinely life-altering.

 

  • Hilton Paris Opera
  • Hilton Paris Opera
  • Hilton Paris Opera