Melbourne, Vienna Top The Economist’s 2017 List of ‘Most Livable Cities’

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Melbourne

The exalted Economist Intelligence Unit has just released its 2017 report on the World’s Most Livable Cities – with Melbourne, Vienna and Vancouver, hardly surprisingly, taking the top three spots.

Rounding out the list were Toronto, Calgary, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Helsinki and Hamburg – proving, as rather a lot of other evidence had lead us to suspect, that Australia and Canada should be given permission to basically just run the entire world. The survey takes in factors such as stability, healthcare, culture & entertainment, education and infrastructure.

Tellingly, with the US national healthcare system a profit-driven disgrace, and with a crumbling-infrastructure problem from coast-to-coast, not one American city could crack the ranks. Not shocking in the least, as America’s cities have been essentially handed over to cold-blooded real-estate developers, while services to the citizenry continue to decline.

 

Vancouver

 

Does this mean the denizens of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, even Houston, Minneapolis, Portland, Denver, etc., should think about an escape plan to the Great White North or Down Under? Actually, yes, it pretty much does – as that is where the future of progressive urban living would seem to lie. And hey – you don’t even have to learn a new language! (Though admittedly we sometimes still have no idea what our Aussie friends are going on about.)

A common thread running through the top ten? Well, if you hadn’t noticed, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Austria, Finland – none seem to be bothered about all that pesky “superpower” posturing. And all those missiles and warships they don’t build go to funding roads, trains, parks, education…and people not getting ripped off on healthcare.

Since you’re probably wondering, the cities you don’t want to live in? Kiev, Karachi, Algiers, Lagos, and, obviously, Damascus. Points lost, surely, for six years of bloody civil war.

(For a reconnaissance vacation before making the decision to move: Visit Melbourne, Vienna Info, Tourism Vancouver.)

 

MuseumsQuartier Vienna 

‘I Can Resist Everything Except Temptation’: The Oscar Wilde Bar Opens in NYC

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For Americans living with an intellectually stunted President, never has there been a greater exigency for wit, wisdom and, well…booze.

The late, and very great Oscar Wilde, 117 years after his extravagant death (“I am dying beyond my means,” he infamously quipped from L’Hotel in Paris), perhaps offers the ultimate antihero image for our times. And the dashing, rhetorically biting libertine now has a namesake drinking establishment, which opened this week in New York’s Gramercy/NoMad…from where we might drink away the strain of our troubling daily reality.

One imagines the poet himself would take delight in the Oscar Wilde being located in the former headquarters of NYC’s Bureau of Prohibition. It’s also cousin to the Flatiron’s Lillie’s, which is an homage to his dear friend, the late British actress Lily Langtry. But it’s the bar’s authentic Victoriana that most enchants: antique fireplaces, painted Milanese glass, an 1880s English standing clock, an 1890s Belgian piano.

 

 

Nodding to Oscar’s eternal witticism, “Moderation is a fatal thing, nothing succeeds like excess,” it features Gotham’s longest bar, at 118.5 feet. And the selection of more than 300 whiskies on offer is complemented by drinks wizard Johnny Swet‘s Wildean-clever cocktail creations, like the 50 Shades of Dorian Gray, with Plymouth gin, cherry liqueur, Chinese 5 spice, and citrus, and the Oscar Wilde’s Potent Elixir, which features cognac, gin, Guinness, cassis, lavender, Champagne and orange zest.

Of course, in a city which worships long hours and breeds perpetual stress, the Oscar Wilde bar will surely become the perfect excuse to put into practice the Irish Bard’s wisest words of all: “Too much work, and no vacation, deserves at least a small libation. So hail! my friends, and raise your glasses, Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”

Bottoms up.

 

Four Fabulous Cocktails For National Rum Day

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Chinatown Daiquiri at Slowly Shirley, Photo by Nick

 

It says something that the preferred spirit of both Ernest Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson was, in fact, rum. But one need not reach such epic levels of wantonness, surely, to enjoy the oft misunderstand spirit.

As happens with everything (yes, there’s a National Hug Your Cat Day – and sorry, but you missed it), tomorrow, August 16, is National Rum Day – though, to be honest, rum likely deserves at least a week. Still and all, to help the celebration along, we tapped a few of our favorite and fashionable drinking establishments to let us in on their special rum creations for the big day.

 

Slowly Shirley, New York

“Rum is probably my favorite base spirit with which to work,” says Jim Kearns, Beverage Director and Managing Partner of suave  subterranean West Village cocktail spot Slowly Shirley. “Because rum is the most unregulated spirit in the world, it is a huge umbrella category that encompasses a wide array of sugarcane / molasses-based spirits that all share a welcoming roundness, while simultaneously possessing their own very unique attributes.  Whether it’s the grassiness of an Agricole, the earthy funk of a Jamaican, or the silky caramel of a Spanish-style rum, there is something within the category for just about any application.”
They’ll be offering a special Daiquiri menu this week, including this tasty pair.

Chinatown Daiquiri (pictured above)

2oz Appleton Reserve Rum
.75oz lime juice
.75oz fresh strawberry / Sriracha puree
.5oz honey syrup
.5oz ginger syrup
Glass: Coupe
Garnish: Fortune cookie on the rim
Method: Shake & double strain

 

FAF Daiquiri

.25oz Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum
.5oz Pusser’s 15 Year Old Rum
.5oz Ibis Rum
.5oz Plantation Barbados Rum
.25oz L’Esprit de June Liqueur
.75oz lime juice
.5oz cane syrup
Glass: Coupe
Method: Shake with lime disc. Strain

 

Photo by Nick

 

Bar Fiori at the Langham Place, New York

Bar Fiori, at the swank Langham Place NY, is one of the city’s classiest cocktail establishments, with its elegant bar, plush banquettes and dark corners for more private assignations. Head bartender Pete Stanton, an avowed rum advocate, has charmingly named this papaya-forward drink for the pretty Southeast Asian bird. He explains that the cachaça adds “hints of funk” and he uses Barrell Rum for its fruitiness and spiciness. The Flor de Cana keeps it light and refreshing, making it, as he describes, as “easy sipper.”

The Mynah

Glass: Coupe 
Garnish: dried papaya slice 
Ingredients:
3/4 oz  Flor de Cana
3/4 oz papaya infused Avua Prata Cachaca 
1/8 oz Rare wine co. Boston Bual Madera   
1/2 oz  lime juice
1/2 oz simple
2 dashes Barrell Jamaican rum
Method: Combine all ingredients into a shaker tin with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and garnish.

 

Bar Fiori

 

Sugarcane raw bar grill, Miami + Las Vegas + DUMBO

Its small-plates-sharing, inventive cocktails and exotic interiors have made the Miami and Vegas locations of Sugarcane unequivocal hotspots. A Brooklyn location will open soon in DUMBO’s Empire Stores. But for Rum Day, the original outposts will serve up a decidedly on-trend Beet Mojito. It’s the perfect way to both tipple and care for your health at once: beets improve blood pressure, detoxify the liver and, perhaps now most important of all, improve brain function. And, well, it’s a really delish drink.

The Beet Mojito

Infused Bacardi Superior light rum,
Sugar
Muddled limes
Mint leaves
Club soda

 

 

Exclusive: Star Chef Scott Conant Pasta + Risotto Recipes From His New Fusco Restaurant

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Autumn is nigh upon us – and with it comes the changing of our eating habits from avocado salads to heartier, more, shall we say, rustic fare. Frankly, it cannot come quickly enough for us.

One place you’ll be likely to find us regularly pulling up a chair is  Scott Conant’s classy new Flatiron Italian Fusco. The marquee New York chef, as you may well know, made a splash in 2002 with his NY Times 3-star-awarded L’Impero. He then became a bonafide hit with the Chelsea hotspot Scarpetta (for the record, he’s no longer involved). But 2017 is surely his year, as he also opened The Ponte in Los Angeles and Mora Italian in Phoenix.

But while Fusco, with its leather banquettes, glittering chandeliers and orchid-adorned bar, is a decidedly elegant affair, it’s vibe is palpably more laidback (to be sure, Conant’s Italian grandmother was the inspiration). It’s reflected in the menu, which is strong on both traditional (al pomodoro) and more surprising, creative pasta dishes – but all unpretentious and approachable.

Before scarf weather hits, we asked Chef Conant to give us a peek into what exactly goes into all that deliciousness of two of his most inventive dishes.

 

Tajarin Aglio e Olio, Clams & Bonito Flakes

 

 

Serves 4-6
INGREDIENTS
1 pound fresh tajarin (or substitute dried tagliolini pasta)
Cooked clams (recipe below)
2 cups clam cooking liquid (recipe below)
Garlic & chili oil (recipe below)
Chopped parsley, as needed
Bonito flakes, as needed
PROCEDURE
  • Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions.
  • While pasta is cooking, heat garlic & chili oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  • Add clam cooking liquid to the sauté pan and deglaze.
  • When the pasta is just al dente, strain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and add both the pasta and the water to the sauté pan. Stir constantly to emulsify the oil and starch, about 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt.
  • Once emulsified, add the clams, stir to warm through–being careful not to overcook–toss in parsley, top with bonito flakes and serve immediately.
Garlic Chili Oil Base
10 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Slice garlic paper thin on Japanese mandolin.
  • Place garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes in 1-quart sauce pot.
  • Place sauce pot on low heat and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until garlic is sweet and tender and not bitter. Reserve.
Manila clams
5 lbs. clams (or cockles), washed
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
1 sprig thyme
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Place olive oil in a large rondeau or oven and set over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and shallots. Sweat for 8 minutes, stirring and not allowing the garlic or shallots to burn or take on too much color.
  • Add thyme, crushed red pepper and clams.
  • Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then deglaze with white wine.
  • Cover and steam until the clams open, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Strain and reserve liquid. You should have about 2 cups.
  • Remove the clams with their shells and reserve in olive oil until ready to use.

 

Black Truffle Risotto With Egg & Parmigiano

 

Serves 4 to 6
INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (enough to coat the pan)
3 tbsp. shallots, small dice
1 ½ tsp. garlic, small dice
Crushed red pepper flakes, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
2 ½ tbsp. butter, unsalted
1 ½ cups vialone nana rice
½ cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 ½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Preserved black truffles (from Jaloon Specialty Foods), as needed
Fresh truffles for shaving, as needed
PROCEDURE
  • In a 4-quart saucepan, heat about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-heat. Add the shallot, garlic, crushed red pepper and a pinch kosher salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute (Take the pan off the heat if the garlic starts to brown). Add 1 tablespoon of the butter, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallot is very tender, 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute to toast it lightly. Increase the heat to medium, add the wine, and cook until most of the wine is gone. Add 1 cup of the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until the liquid has been absorbed and evaporated. Add another 1 cup of stock and increase the heat so that there are a fair amount of bubbles on the surface (this agitation helps release the starch as the rice cooks).
  • Add another 1 cup or so of stock and continue to cook, stirring, adding more stock as needed and stirring. To see if it’s time to add more liquid, drag the spoon through the rice; if the liquid doesn’t immediately fill in the space, it’s time to add more. With the third addition of broth, add the thyme. Continue cooking, adding broth as necessary, until the risotto looks creamy but the rice is still al dente, about 18 minutes.
  • Take the risotto off the heat. Add the remaining 1½  tablespoons butter, the cheese and the truffles and stir well. Stir in the egg yolks until well combined.
  • Divide risotto among plates, top with freshly shaved truffles, serve.  

 

 

 

Exclusive: Making the Perfect Sunday Roast with London’s New Game Bird Restaurant

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The last decade or so of British chefs looking back to the great English traditions meant that the menus of high-profile chefs were now featuring haute versions of, well, steak & kidney pie. Even better, that greatest of all English traditions, the Sunday roast, has made its mark on the culinary trendometer. (Amusingly, the Guardian declared its revival in 2009, the Telegraph called it a “thing of the past” in 2012 – and then the Guardian last year hailed it as “a tradition worth preserving.”)

Whatever your view, Chef James Durrant is certainly the man you want at the job. He’s got Michelin-starred cred to spare, having done time in two of Gordon Ramsay’s top restaurants, as well as holding the Exec Chef title at Jason Atherton’s Maze. Now he’s at the helm of one of London’s most high-profile openings, the fittingly named The Game Bird at the plush, celeb-fave (David Beckham loves it) Stafford Hotel in posh St James. And they’re doing a quite a wonderful Sunday roast, we’re happy to report.

“It came to prominence back in 1485 during the reign of King Henry VII,” Durrant tells us, “when The King and his Guard – the Yeoman Wardens – dined on a feast of roast beef following church on a Sunday. This tradition has led to the Yeoman Wardens affectionately being termed ‘Beefeaters.’ To this day, beef is the ‘King’ of the Sunday roast, and we have decided to keep the tradition running at The Game Bird. Our mouth-watering roast rib of beef is carved table-side from a handmade trolley and served with all the trimmings.”
– 

 

What else can one expect at The Game Bird? Four- and eight-course tasting menus might include Rhug Estate fallow deer tartare, Orkney sea scallops with roasted cauliflower, smoked roe and seaweed butter, and pigeon with parsnips, cavolo nero and “bullshot” – all very English, to be sure. And interiors to match. It’s actually named for WWII resistance fighter and spy Nancy Wake; and with its etched ceiling, charmingly patterned chairs, Chesterfield style banquettes, and Deco lighting fixtures, it certainly is a throwback to more, shall we say, mannered times.

Trad-loving Anglophiles that we are, we asked Durrant to give us a peek behind the magic of his perfect Sunday roast. And he was gracious enough to let us in on some of his most treasured recipes. (See below.)

“There’s no general rule to creating a fantastic roast dinner,” he insists, “apart from choosing good meat and taking the time to create a great gravy. When it comes to vegetables, add your favorites that are in season, this way they will be more flavorsome. Spring greens with a pinch of nutmeg work great with roast chicken, or a lovely peppery swede and carrot mash work great with beef.”

 

 

Roast Rib of Beef, Yorkshire Pudding

Cauliflower Cheese, Honey Roast Carrots and Roast Potatoes

Beef and gravy
Ingredients
1 x 2.50 kg fore rib of beef (with 2 bones)
1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
A few sprigs of Thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
A knob of butter
2 x onion sliced
150g plain flour
500ml red wine
1.5ltr hot beef stock
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F. Take the beef out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and allow it to come to room temperature. Place a large sturdy roasting tray in the oven to heat up. In a pestle and mortar smash 3 garlic cloves and most of the thyme with a pinch of sea salt and generous amount of olive oil, then massage all over the beef.
  2. Quickly smash the remaining unpeeled garlic cloves and add to the hot roasting tray with the beef. Pop straight in the oven and roast for around 50 minutes, basting occasionally with the juices from the tray.
  3. After 50 minutes, reduce the temperature to 190°C/375°F/gas 5 for around 10 minutes, or until the beef is beautifully golden brown on the outside and pink in the middle – leave in for longer if you prefer your beef well done. Carefully transfer it to a platter, dot the knob of butter on top. Cover with a double layer of tin foil and a tea towel and leave to rest. reserve the beef resting juices for the gravy
  4. Meanwhile, to make the gravy, place the roasting tray on the hob over a low heat, add the sliced onion to the juices in the tray and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until the onions are soft and caramelised. Stir in the flour, then whisk in the red wine, making sure there are no lumps. Bring to the boil, whisking constantly, then bubble until reduced by half. Stir in the stock, and then cook over a medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick.
Yorkshire Pudding
Ingredients
100g plain flour
Pinch salt
3 large free-range eggs
225ml milk
Sunflower oil
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
  2. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and a little of the milk. Whisk until smooth then gradually add the remaining milk. This can be done with a wooden spoon, but is easier with an electric hand-held whisk. Pour the mixture into a jug.
  3. Measure a dessert spoon of oil into each hole of a 12 hole muffin tray. Transfer to the preheated oven for five minutes, or until the oil is piping hot.
  4. Carefully remove from the oven and pour the batter equally between the holes or the tin. Return the batter quickly to the oven and cook for 20–25 minutes, or until golden-brown and well-risen.
  5. Serve immediately.
Roast Potatoes
Ingredients
8 potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and cut into large chunks
Method
  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook until soft on the outside. Drain and let them steam dry on a wire rack placed over a roasting tin.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  3. Add a little oil to a roasting tin and place in the oven to heat. When the oil is hot, add the dry potatoes and stir gently to coat in oil. Roast for 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown.
Cauliflower Cheese
Ingredients
2 cloves of garlic
50 g unsalted butter
50 g plain flour
600 ml milk
500 g fresh broccoli
75 g mature cheddar cheese
50 g parmesan
1 kg fresh cauliflower
2 slices of stale bread
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
25 g flaked almonds
Olive oil
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel and finely slice the garlic and put it into a medium pan on medium heat with the butter.
  3. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour for a minute to make a paste, then gradually add the milk, whisking as you go, until smooth.
  4. Add the broccoli and simmer for around 20 minutes, or until cooked through and starts to break down, then mash or blitz with a stick blender (adding an extra splash of milk to loosen, if using fresh broccoli). Grate in half the Cheddar and season to perfection.
  5. Arrange the cauliflower in an appropriately sized baking dish, pour over the broccoli white sauce and grate over the remaining Cheddar and parmesan.
  6. Blitz the bread into breadcrumbs in a food processor, then pulse in the thyme leaves and almonds. Toss with a lug of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, then scatter evenly over the cauliflower cheese.
  7. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden and cooked through
Honey Roast Carrots
Ingredients
1kg Chantenay or other small carrots peeled
Thyme sprigs
100 g butter
3 tbsp veg oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp clear honey
Method
  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the carrots into a roasting tin and toss with the oil and some salt and pepper sprigs of thyme. Roast for 30 mins.
  2. Add a knob of butter then Drizzle the vinegar and honey over the carrots, toss well and return to the oven for a further 20 mins.

Creative Sao Paulo: Loupe Artist Paul Kurucz’ Fave Spots in the Buzzing Brazilian Metropolis

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Daniel Melim – Image Courtesy of Choque Cultural

 

The repeated charge that the art world is lofty and often out of reach has been recently challenged by the launch of the exciting new art app Loupe. Allowing for the easy streaming of a well-curated collection right on your computer, phone or television screen, it has something of a populist mission while also maintaining its impeccable sense of taste.

Some of Loupe‘s featured artists have become our new faves – to wit, Brazil’s Paul Kurucz. His provocative photographs play with perception and context, making the seemingly bizarre or surreal seem funny and curiosity-inspiring. They leave you wanting to know more about what you’re seeing.

“I was born in a Hungarian hospital to a French mother,” he explains, “who was expelled as a child from Egypt in 1956 for not being an Arab. She went to Europe instead of Israel because her Jewish family was pro-Arab.”

That tumultuous early life experience would go on to have a profound effect on the way he sees the world. Which, in turn, inspired his approach to creating such unexpected imagery.

“My life has been a long journey outside the boundaries of normality,” he says. “What one sees as bizarre or ambiguous is not only natural for me, but is the very essence of natural. This is how I see, feel and portray the world.”

Continuing a BlackBook-Loupe collaborative series which has included the likes of Bushwick, Atlanta and Denver, we asked him to share with us where local creative types might be found gravitating to in the endlessly chaotic but thrilling city of Sao Paulo.

“It’s Latin America’s New York City,” he tells us. “Its art scene is urban, vibrant, cosmopolitan, competitive, attracting the most creative minds. That could not be said of Rio de Janeiro, where I lived the past four years. One is extraordinarily fertile soil for the mind, while the other is a paradise for the body. Most inspiring is Sao Paulo’s lack of artistic elitism, its joyful habit of embracing new ideas, even the ones that are doomed to fail.”

 

 

  • 'abajour'
  • 'acapulco'
  • 'bbq'
  • 'cow girl'
  • 'snex'

Paul’s Sao Paulo Picks

Kof

In the alternative-chic district of Pinheiros, Kof is a perfect blend of imported coffees, ultra thick cookies, and race bikes in a small shop. Adorable waiters also serve homemade lemonades on the street, inside and in a small, hidden garden. It has super fast Wi-Fi that makes my home office feel like jail.
– 

Studio Offe

My second home, where we do our shootings. It is an old, 10m-high bunker with no heating or A/C, but always the same nice temperature. It has a wide corridor to the surface from where the light comes in, if we want. It’s a surreal setting, a modern day cavern that inspires us to avoid cliches associated with works done in downtown fashion studios.
– 

Museum of Image and Sound (MIS)

The PS1 and Centre George Pompidou of Sao Paulo. In a city located, or rather dislocated far from the world’s prime art scenes, the MIS brings the best multimedia art exhibitions [recent major shows have include O Mundo de Tim Burton and Frida Kahlo: Her Photos). To survive the hour long waiting lines, I like to call forgotten friends to get a life and or art update.
 –
 
Museum of Image and Sound – Photo by Leticia Godoy
– 

Pinheiros Galleries

For any art savvy globetrotter, I would definitely suggest to visit the more progressive galleries in Pinheiros. Then hang out at night at Roosevelt Square, where alternative subcultures are celebrated by the city’s “marginals.” Also have a long walk on the Paulista Avenue on Sundays (when the it is closed to traffic), where the best museums and most diverse exhibitions in town are. Some of the notable galleries are Choque Cultural, Galeria Millan and Instituto Tomie Ohtake.

Roosevelt Square

The meeting point of the city’s most eccentric subcultures, my favorite spot for free, open-air electronic parties. I love to chose among the 30 types of fresh pressed juices in one of the square’s hipster juice bars and just watch the the show of new fashion tendencies by the most extroverted people in town.

Mundo Pensante

A music venue with a name that tells it all: “Thinking World.” Mundo Pensante is an agnostic paradise located in a former church. Every night a different style, a different tribe, never mainstream. This is the place where I feel most at home, where curiosity, subversion, and alternative culture feel “true” and flow naturally.

La Loba Cantina’s Connoisseur’s Guide to Drinking Mezcal

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Mezcal board at La Loba Cantina 

The need to endlessly push the boundaries of exoticism / obscurantism in the cocktail world has created a new “spirit of the moment” seemingly every few months. (Seriously, did anyone actually own a bottle of Aperol before 2014?) Mezcal came and stuck, likely because it gave innumerable American tequila drinkers the opportunity to sip something with a bit more of a…romantic aura. (For edification, tequila is actually a kind of mezcal.)

Brooklyn’s La Loba Cantina are also in it for the long haul. The BKNY food police, of course, are notorious for going on about “authenticity”; but “The She-Wolf” genuinely looks like a place you’d stumble across on a random street corner in Oaxaca. Yet despite the obvious pleasures of its elote salads and calabaza quesadillas, its religion is, unquestionably, mezcal.

 

 

“Quality mezcals, made from 100% agave, are best experienced sipped, not shot,” explains co-owner Jeff Burfield. “And if it’s going to be a late night, sipping mezcal is a great option – it’s simple, straightforward, and the purity means you can sip it for long periods without the unsavory consequences you get from many grain alcohols or sugary mixed drinks.”

Hoping to tap into his enthusiasm and expertise, we asked him for his current top mezcal picks, from lowest to highest in cost. To our surprise and delight, he was also good enough to also provide the perfect soundtrack to go along with each.

 

Low-range

Fidencio Clásico (Espadín) $35

One of the best all-around mezcals out there – it’s versatile enough to enjoy neat, but affordable enough to use as a cocktail base. Mineral and clay flavors temper the pleasant, but not overpowering smokiness, the body is slightly richer and more robust than most espadins. Definitely a bottle to keep in your liquor cabinet for unannounced company.
Pairing/How to Serve: Serve with sliced oranges and a little chile salt or sal de gusano (worm salt). The citrus cleanses your palate between sips and enhances the experience.
Soundtrack: “Rudies Don’t Fear” by Derrick Morgan

 

 

Alipús, San Juan del Rio (Espadín) $45

A really unique espadin that’s on the savory side – dried herbs, charred broccoli, black pepper dominate first sips. But this mezcal is still wonderfully balanced with notes of lemon and sweet roasted agave.
Pairing/How to Serve: Works amazingly with grilled fish or small bites, like jicama with salt and lime, and fresh pico de gallo. Salinity really brings out its sweet and savory flavor profile.
Soundtrack: “El Estuche” by Aterciopelados

 

Mid-range

Nuestra Soledad – Lachigui Miahuatlán (Espadín) $55

The Nuestra Soledad line comes from a famed mezcalero who produces some of the most coveted mezcals in Mexico – so, it’s a steal when you can find it at your local wine shop. This particular bottle runs slightly hot for beginner mezcal drinkers (49% abv), but retains an amazing array of bright flavors: melon, fresh fruit, wood, and earth are most prominent. It also has a pleasant long finish.
Pairing/How to Serve: Great to bring to a cookout; the heat of the alcohol is best tempered with heartier summer fare, like barbecued chicken.
Soundtrack: “My Place” by The Adverts

 

 

Del Maguey Single Village – Minero (Espadín) $68

Hand-mashed and distilled in traditional clay stills, Minero is a rustic favorite we recommend to aspiring mezcal drinkers. An arid, semi-tropical microclimate gives it a refreshing floral nose, with flavors grounded in vanilla, honey and citrus.
Pairing/How to Serve: Minero works well with fresh cheese – Mexican cheeses like quesillo or queso fresco work beautifully with the warmer honey notes present in this mezcal. Fresh mozzarella or ricotta would also work nicely.
Soundtrack: “E.V.P.” by Blood Orange

 

Vago Mexicano (Mexicano) $85

Mexicano is a more rare species of agave, so it’s going to deviate in complexity from most espadins, which is the most common varietal used to make mezcal. A floral bouquet opens up to a rich silky body of flavors like peaches, cinnamon, caramel, and raspberries. This bottle should be shared with people you really like and will definitely elevate your mezcal collection.
Pairing/How to Serve: This is a great anytime mezcal, but even better as a late-night summer sipper. Savor it under the stars with arroz con leche or a high-quality vanilla ice cream.
Soundtrack: “Don’t Break My Heart” by UB40

 

 

The High-end

Real Minero Largo (Largo) $149

This is a ‘best day of my life’ bottle, made by fifth generation mezcaleros and distilled in clay – a really small production, rare mezcal that you’ll bring out for special occasions. Wild largo agave are grown in the mountains and give this a delicately complex palate of tropical fruits, pineapple and green olive brine.
Pairing/How to Serve: This is a mezcal that deserves your full attention. Sip and enjoy.
Soundtrack: “Let’s Start” (with Ginger Baker) [live] by Fela Kuti & The Africa ’70

 

Two Signature La Loba Cantina Mezcal Cocktails

When making mezcal cocktails, use an affordable cocktail-friendly bottle, like Fidencio, Classico or Del Maguey VIDA. These can be found at most wine shops or liquor stores.

 

Ancho Mezcalita

1.5 oz mezcal
.75 oz Ancho Reyes (ancho chile liqueur)
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
.5 oz agave syrup
Salt the rim of a rocks glass. Measure and pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

 

 

 

Santa Maria

2 oz mezcal
¼ of a dried arbol chile
.5 oz piloncillo syrup (1:1 piloncillo sugar:water)
1 strawberry
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dash Angostura bitters
.25 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
Muddle chili, syrup and strawberry in a shaker. Add mezcal, balsamic, bitters, and lime juice. Shake with ice. Double strain into coupe. Garnish with lime twist.
*substitute demerara sugar if you can’t find piloncillo (available in Mexican grocery stores)

 

 

Au Revoir, Saint Germain! Four Days in Paris’ Trendy East

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Image by Amelie Laurin

 

New York City’s hackneyed boast of being the city that never sleeps is a trope so outdated by now as to be comical. Seriously, we’ve had more late nights in Nashville lately.

But much even to our own surprise, we recently discovered that Paris comes surprisingly close to the top of our late night list; and while our friends in Berlin and Barcelona may challenge that, a recent whirlwind of a trip through the City of Light had us very willingly staying up way past our typical NYC bedtime.

After a relatively quick and uncomplicated voyage – thanks to a lovely Air France redeye, and some well-chosen medicinals – we came to rest on the far east side of town, a place where, if a view of the Eiffel Tower or Montmartre is absolutely necessary, requires quite  a lot of squinting and neck craning. But with the perpetually hip Mama Shelter hotel as our home base, we spent the next several days discovering a multitude of new streets to stumble down, whilst steering exceedingly clear of those pesky tourist throngs.

 

Image by Amelie Laurin 

 

The snail-shell-like map of Paris’ arrondissements locates the 20th, 12th and 13th on the eastern edge of the city. We made Pere Lachaise Cemetery – final resting place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison – our central landmark, and ventured forth to traverse the neighborhoods of Menilmontant, Bastille, Belleville and Bercy, areas more akin to where we typically roam at home in Greenpoint and Bushwick. Potentially intimidating waiters at white-cloth-tabled bistros were replaced by hip millennials offering cheap wine and organic veggies. And late nights on a floating dance club that stayed open for 50 hours straight were fueled by numerous imbibables.

Here’s how it all played out.

 

Air France offers the best in US/FR flights, for our money. Our overnight from JFK kicked off with complimentary champers in the airport lounge – what better start could one ask for?

The aforementioned Mama Shelter, the Philippe Starck designed boutique hotel that we made home, featured a cheery staff and a perpetually energized restaurant/bar off the lobby…that transformed into a lively scene come sundown each evening.

 

Mama Shelter 

 

First stop was the charming open-air market Marche Aligre in the Bastille, where we sampled delicacies from local restaurants Miss Lunch, Maguey, Marcelle and others as part of a city wide restaurant tour.

For us, Paris is even more of a walking city than New York – to be sure, we’re always excited to plant our feet on those ancient cobblestones. We found a wonderful street art walking tour that had us cruising the rues of the 13th, and turned us on to what’s happening beyond the pricey galleries of Saint Germain.

 

 

We know there’s no end of hallowed art museums in Paris; but we were intrigued to come across the Art Ludique, which featured an amazing DC Comics exhibit – including authentic Batman memorabilia – and got us in the mood for Paris Comic Con In October. It’s located in the modern Cite de la Mode at du Design, the roof of which hosts not one but three bars, and jaw-dropping views of the Seine.

As we were on the river, we stayed for dinner at one of many water-adjacent establishments… specifically Petit Bain, which was great for laid-back fish and chips and cocktails – sustenance we’d need for the planned late night ahead.

 

Image by Amelie Laurin

 

After being reminded that it was considered one of the greatest nightclubs in the world, we felt just a tad intimidated braving the line at Rex Club. We needn’t have, the place was the epitome of dance club chapel, with no attitude, awesome sound, and nonstop cocktails; a very late night return to Mama Shelter resulted in us missing breakfast, and lunch, the following day.

We did manage to grab an afternoon snack of pumpernickel toast with avocado, radish, red onions and deviled eggs at the hip Grand Central Restaurant and to check out the cool open space it is adjacent to, CENTQUATRE PARIS. The latter is used by budding dancers and performance artists to test their routines; it’s like the Fame school with baguettes.

We always love the Paris Metro for shuttling around between musees and bistrotheques; but when we were introduced to the option of a motorcycle sidecar tour, how could we say no? Their charming, and Gallic-sort-of-macho drivers had us yelling “tally ho Jeeves”…but in French, of course. The cycles dropped us off at one of the city sponsored creative hubs, Les Ateliers de Paris, where budding design houses are given yearly studio space in which to develop their aesthetic. We discovered stylish sneaker manufacturer Garconne & Cherubin and leatherwear designer AMPLR, whose chic backpacks would soon be slung over our shoulders.

 

 

Then it was off to Rosa sur Seine, where we met up with the director of the Paris nightlife council Frederic Hocquard. His business card reads Charge de la Nuit, and his main mission is to regulate the city’s nocturnal activities, including its 150 discos and clubs, thirteen thousand bars and venues, and six-hundred thousand nighttime workers. Sounds like fun, but we guessed he was probably pretty tired a lot of the time.

As were we on the edge – okay in the middle – of the decidedly more bourgeoisie 7th, we made a quick side trip through Invalides to visit with an artist friend at the gloriously Parisian classic bistro Le Tourville, before heading back to the 12th for a lovely dinner of salade de quinoa, et légumes du soleil, crevettes à l’ail (grilled shrimp over quinoa) at the exceedingly hip La Bellevilloise, a multi-room cultural center that includes a live music venue, restaurant, nightclub and outdoor surf bar. Director/founder Renaud Barillet has devoted years to developing the venue, and is also involved with numerous other public cultural spaces.

 

 

Our subsequent late night at Concrete could have been a lot more decadent, as the venerated riverfront club is open continuously from 8pm on Friday until Monday morning – and hosts the crème de la crème of international dance music DJs…techno/house being the vibe the night we were there. We didn’t encounter anyone planning to stay for the entire weekend, but we were pretty sure they were there.

Our final morning in Paris had us visiting the charming suburban commune of Saint Ouen, just north of the city’s boundary; it’s home to Paris’ enormous flea market, and the highest concentration of antique dealers in the world. We made a stop at the singularly cool MOB Hotel for a lunch of leek and avocado salad and squash soup, then spent time lounging around the hotel’s stylish and comfy lobby, before heading back to the Air France terminal at Charles de Gaulle…and what we hoped would be another couple of rounds of pre-flight bubbly.

 

Sorry, But Your City’s ‘Food Scene’ Might Not Actually Be All That Special

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Image: State & Lemp, Boise

 

A by now unavoidable pattern seems to have developed over the least few years, where the “draw” of just about every American city is being pitched as its “super hot food scene.” The same buzz phrases are employed by each: “innovative young chefs” are making “locally sourced cuisine” that draws on “regional traditions” but with “a new twist.” (In some cases this means nothing more than a fussed-over grilled cheese sandwich topped with a few “local” nettle leafs.)

This all comes amidst much misguided blather about how “food is the new rock & roll” and “chefs are the new artists.” Yet let’s be clear: April Bloomfield‘s wonderful restaurants will always send you home very well fed  – but her pan seared skate with saffron aioli is definitely not Björk’s Biophilia. As for food being held up as art, Jason Farago’s 2014 BBC story slaps that one down with relative ease. (“When a chef like [Ferran] Adrià is acclaimed as an artist, or when organic obsessives wax rhapsodic about the cultural virtues of turnips, it says we expect less from art than we used to.”)

 

Pontiac Bourbon & BBQ, Cincinnati

 

The more mundane truth is that American urban centers are gentrifying at a lightning pace (South Park even did a brilliantly incisive episode about it); and where there is gentrification, there are new restaurants hoping to attract the gentrifiers’ cash. It is, in a sense, the logical conclusion of the “Brooklynization” (or “Portlandization”) of…everywhere.

Now, for our part, BlackBook does not at all abide NYC-LA centrism; and we have enthusiastically promoted the many virtues of the likes of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Oakland, Ottawa, and so on.

So, is it simply much too easy to engender a food scene? For greater elucidation on the subject, we present here a loose, eye-opening list of the cities whose “food scenes” have been showered with rapturous column inches of praise from the “elite” press. And don’t worry – should that be enough to get you to book the next flight to Boise, St. Louis, Des Moines…we’re pretty sure a “lifestyle” hotel has just opened in each.

 

Boise

Earlier this year Vogue (yes, Vogue) insisted that Boise (yes, Boise) is “having a culinary renaissance, with creative young chefs, artisans, brewers and even winemakers.” If we’re being honest, we’ve never actually seen a bottle of wine from Idaho. But it’s definitely a thing.
The “Must” Restaurants: Mai Thai, State & Lemp

 

Pittsburgh

In 2015, Zagat ranked Steel City as the absolute No. 1 foodie destination in America. Who are we to argue with Zagat? (Hipster bonus: Pittsburgh now has its own Ace Hotel.)
The “Must” Restaurants: Butcher & Rye, Union Standard

 

Butcher & Rye 

St. Louis

Back in 2014, Time Out noted that “the Gateway City’s food scene has quietly established a reputation as a home to a wide variety of sophisticated, locally soured fare [and] craft beer.” And one of the city’s signature eats is something called gooey butter cake. Yum.
The “Must” Restaurants: Nixta, Olive + Oak

 

Olive + Oak

 

Des Moines

The Atlantic urged readers in 2014 to “do the most hipster thing possible”…move to Des Moines. By 2016, Politico had decisively confirmed the city’s cool cred – and the New York Times was going on enthusiastically about the culinary treats that awaited last year’s GOP Caucus goers.
The “Must” Restaurants: Alba, Saison Kitchen + Pub

 

Saison Kitchen + Pub

Milwaukee

It’s not your father’s beer and cheese lifestyle anymore, is it? In December 2016, Eater focused on 11 of the city’s restaurants that were “garnering some serious buzz” in a piece on “the hottest openings of the last 12 months” in Mil-Town. N.B. Milwaukee in December is actually pretty bloody cold.
The “Must” Restaurants: Red Light Ramen, DanDan

 

DanDan

 

Cincinnati

The Chicago Tribune in 2016 pointed to (what else?) an urban renewal program that has turned Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood from something of a blight into “a hub of the city’s culinary scene.” Isn’t it always the way?
The “Must” Restaurants: Pontiac Bourbon & BBQ, Quan Hapa

 

Quan Hapa

 

Charlottesville, Bloomington, Greenville, Grand Rapids…

The Tasting Table 2017 list of America’s 27 most underrated food cities included all of these. Yes. there are actually twenty-seven cities in the US that have yet to be given their proper due in honoring their culinary magnificence and hotness.
There’s banana pudding doughnuts in Birmingham, tagarashi-spiced catfish in Louisville, Mongolian-beef-stuffed chun bing in New Haven, oyster mushroom banh mi in Omaha and (we kid you not) rabbit served with rye pasta purses, cherry marmalade and soda spiked ricotta in Portsmouth – all of which have apparently been criminally under-reported and shamefully under-lauded.
For the record, though, we did check – and from what we can tell, Waco, Texas doesn’t have much of a food scene. Yet.

 

Terra Square Farmers Market, Grand Rapids