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

Pâté, Rosé and Naples-Worthy Pies at Brentwood’s Fab New Pizzana

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Ever wondered what happened to Chris O’Donnell? Heartthrob of the early aughts, Robin to George Clooney’s Batman. Well, he’s been filming episodes of “NCIS: Los Angeles”…and in between, opening Pizzana, quite a fab new Italophile destination in Brentwood.

As much as it would please us all, O’Donnell isn’t actually slinging dough or greeting customers at the counter. At least not when we visited. No, he and his wife, Caroline, partnered with Candace and Charles Nelson, the couple behind Sprinkles Cupcakes, to open this Neapolitan-inspired hotspot.

It came about because they all shared a passion for pizza (okay, who doesn’t?) and a fascination with the science behind baking. The Nelsons’ first savory venture features handcrafted neo-Neapolitan pies from Naples-born Daniele Uditi. (Now say that 10 times really fast.) To make them, Uditi uses “slow-dough,” which is easier to digest but still sturdy enough to pick up with one hand.

 

 

We just had to try these pies for ourselves, of course. Arriving on a typically sunny L.A. evening, we took our seats amidst the sleekly designed interior – all black and taupe with cushioned leather banquettes. Etta James played overhead, and the crowd (full house on a Tuesday – good sign) looked happily buzzed on vino and carbs. A marble countertop near the back of the restaurant offered bar seating overlooking a glass enclosed kitchen. Always trust an open kitchen. Did Al Pacino say that to O’Donnell in Scent of a Woman? Probably not.

After poring over the wine menu, designed beautifully by local stylist Amanda Crawford, our server brought us a glass of Idlewild rosé – which included “river rocks” in its list of descriptors. We were genuinely enthralled by its smooth body and smoky finish. River rocks – tasty!

Before the main event, we started with the pate di fegatini – a house-made chicken liver pate with San Marzano jam and wood-fired bread. Much to our delight, the dish excited the tastebuds of even those who didn’t usually have a taste for the stuff. Rich and creamy – it paired perfectly with sweet jam.

 

 

Other glorious antipasti: the seasonal veggies, roasted in the wood-fired oven, and the chopped insalata, a modern twist on a traditional Italian salad. The pizzas were thin-crust but, living up to Uditi’s standards, sturdy enough to hold. We indulged in the Agnello, made with San Marzano dop, fior di latte, lamb sausage, and oregano; plus the Corbarina, which boasts a huge dollop of fresh burrata and tasty pieces of squash blossom – who could resist?

Considering Ms. Nelson is responsible for the dessert menu, it is worth saving room. She lends a light yet decadent touch to Italian-inspired sweets – you must, must try the salted caramel panna cotta with pretzel crunch. Like we did.

After another glass of rosé, we started reminiscing on all of our O’Donnell favorites – from Fried Green Tomatoes (with Cathy Bates) to Mad Love (as the love interest of Drew Barrymore). Just as with films, the best restaurants take an ensemble to really make the magic happen – and the Pizzana cast gets two thumbs up…for both plot and special effects.

 

BlackBook Interview: ‘The Voice’ Finalist Kat Robichaud’s Guide to Outré San Francisco Nightlife

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Image by Mike Lloyd Photography

If you know her as the 2013 finalist on The Voice, you might have something of a different impression of Kat Robichaud. On the show, the Raleigh born singer exhibited glimmers of the flamboyant performer she would go on to become; but it was only after it was all over that the ringleader of her own “Misfit Cabaret” would fully emerge.

Misfit Cabaret is also the name of her fantastical new album, out this Friday, June 2, through RED. It is an unbridled, over-the-top riot of influences, from glam rock to classic Broadway. The grandiose”Bully” comes off like Sheer Heart Attack era Queen, while the Ziggy-esque “A Song for David Bowie” is perhaps the most dazzling posthumous tribute to the Thin White Duke yet (“You prettiest star / I’ll leave a light on for whenever you come home”). It’s surely the most the preposterously, wondrously extravagant music you’ll hear in 2017.

The equally extravagant show from which the album takes its title has been running for two years now at San Francisco’s historic Great Star Theater; though she has also recently taken it on the road to Seattle.

We chatted with the outlandishly glamorous Ms. Robichaud about The Voice, the misfit life, and the importance of being yourself at all costs. We also asked her to guide us through some of SF’s most dazzling and outré nightlife spots.

 

What exactly is “Misfit Cabaret”?

Misfit Cabaret is a splendiferous variety show centered around magical music with a rotating cast of eccentric performers. Each show is completely different– with changing themes such as the cult filmed Cinepheilia and the naughty nautical Whimsea. From burlesque to drag to circus to magic, you never know what you’re going to see.

The album pretty much shuns every current musical trend. Who are some of the specific influences? We can hear everything from opera to glam rock, Pulp to Dresden Dolls.

I’m definitely not trying to follow a trend. I just write what I love and what serves the specific theme of the show best. My four favorite artists are David Bowie, Queen, Marilyn Manson and Amanda Palmer in her various states. I’m also a huge fan of Broadway musicals, my dad introduced me to all the heavy hitters when I was a kid (The Sound of Music, Oliver, Cabaret, Rocky Horror…) and they definitely made their mark.

Especially with a song like “Artists” – it seems there is something of the defiant, “us against them” spirit about the record.

I grew up as an outcast and I’ve never been able to shake that feeling; which is where most of the songs on the album come from. “Artists” is actually about how we as a society need to do a better job as human beings and how we need to truly learn from the past. Photo journalists take pictures from war and they somehow become art in a really fucked up way. In the song, I’m pleading with these photo journalists (and artists and musicians and creators) to try and paint us in a more favorable light, so we’re not so horrifying in the future, but really it’s sarcasm. We need to stop whitewashing history.

 

Misfit Cabaret image by Zoart Photography

What was The Voice experience like?

It was wonderful and horrifying at the same time. You go from being a hometown artist to having 15 million people watching you with zero ramp-up time. All of a sudden everyone is judging you and loving you and hating you. You have to have rhino thick skin, which is why we have to take a psych test before auditioning. (My favorite question was “Do you like fire?” And it was a yes or no question. I mean, yes, I love fire, but no, I do not want to use it to burn a building down, if that’s what you’re getting at.) While you’re on the show, the producers and everyone that works on The Voice are trying their best to take care of you and to make sure you’re ok, but you are in a crazy bubble where it’s hard to think straight. The most important lesson I took from the show was to always be myself.

The attention was surely helpful. But did it affect you as an artist?

Yes. It forced me to repel every notion that I could ever be a pop artist and pushed me further to be myself and let the wonderful world of weird consume me. There was definitely a drop-off of fans who thought I was going to put out a pop album when I got off the show, and didn’t like the glam rock or unbridled theatricality. But I’ve slowly replaced the drop-off pop and country fans with the niche weirdos and lovely darling misfits that get what I’m doing.

Your live show is theatrical and visceral. Will you tour it?

We’re still only two years old in SF. But we did just take the show to Seattle for the first time and it was a huge success. We will definitely take it back to Seattle soon, and we’re looking to expand to LA, Vegas, Portland, Vancouver, and so on. I’m hoping the album gains enough traction to help us tour further, and I would love to see what Raleigh thinks of my new act. To be able to take my show and have a successful run in my hometown would feel pretty great.

 

Kat Robichaud’s Guide to San Francisco Nightlife 

The Great Star Theater

This historical diamond-in-the-rough has been around since 1925 and has been a home to Chinese opera, kung fu movies, and even boasts the celebrity resident of Bruce Lee ,who crashed on its couch back in the day. In recent years, local magician Paul Nathan took over as proprietor, spiffed the place up with a new movie screen, new projectors, new lighting and a new sound system. The theater now plays host to all kinds of off-kilter shows, including my show, Misfit Cabaret! I’m a sucker for old, worn-in and loved things, so the vintage red theater seats, the gorgeous blood red velvet curtains, and the kitschy rainbow bulb proscenium tugs on all my heart strings.

The Stud

Stud has been a San Francisco institution since 1966 and it’s my favorite dive drag bar in the city. Old mascot heads nest above the long wooden bar, along with a train set, a mixture of deco and 50s era lighting fixtures, and the occasional lava lamp. This is the place to see the nitty gritty avant-garde drag shows while showing off your new wig to the mirrored walls. There’s also a really great karaoke night, hosted by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s Flora Goodthyme.

The Tonga Room

Where else are you going to dance to a cover band on a boat floating in a basement pool on a Wednesday night? This place is like Disneyland for adults, and my black heart laughs whenever I see children peering into the windows and being told they can’t go in. HA! They even have the ceiling rigged so that it rains into the pool every 30 minutes while the band plays CCR’s “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”. It’s so delightfully cheesy in the best way possible. Get a fishbowl drink and split it with friends. Their rum pour will sneak up on you.

 

Hotel Utah

It’s a music venue! It’s a bar! It’s a pirate ship! Actually, it’s one of the oldest music venues in San Francisco and boasts the best local and touring up-and-coming bands. The drinks are cheap, the staff is friendly, there’s a pinball machine behind a stack of glasses, and the whole thing is literally a pieced-together pirate ship, complete with a mermaid figurehead that hovers over the stage. There’s even a cute balcony with seats. Famous people that have come out for this open mic include Robin Williams, John Mayer, Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Cho.

DNA Lounge

The melting pot of San Franciscans, DNA brings people together. The first time I went was to see Hubba Hubba Revue, the biggest burlesque show in SF. While I was there, I saw an ad for a Bowie drag show, which I promptly bought tickets to. During the Bowie show, I saw a performance from Bowie tribute band The First Church of The Sacred Silversexual, and was blown away. And that band introduced me to pretty much everyone I know in the Bay Area. So DNA is responsible for my success in the city, and I’m sure a lot of performers can say that. Besides bringing in some pretty big touring bands (I’m playing with Amanda Palmer on May 23rd), they also have Bootie Mashup parties every Saturday, Death Guild goth nights, and every weird themed party you could possibly dream up. It’s loud and industrial and messy and the drinks are really strong. And…they’re smart enough to own a 24 hour pizza joint right next door, because after a night of drinking and screaming your head off, greasy pizza is a necessity.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: A Brooklyn Guide to Alice Kristiansen’s Stunning New Video for ‘Lost My Mind’

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Alice Kristiansen first garnered attention in 2015, when the then 19-year-old covered Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams,” stripping it down to its visceral essence. It’s since racked up nearly 3.5 million YouTube views. Her stark, affecting version of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” also went viral, making her something of a sensation.

In 2017, the angelic-voiced songstress is very much focused on making her own music, however. And her honest, emotionally piercing new single ‘Lost My Mind” could easily be her surely inevitable breakthrough. Where Ms. Del Rey tends towards the weepy and maudlin, Alice’s words shimmer with strength and self-possession (“If I don’t make sense / Please forgive me / I can’t sleep at night”). And the music, with its majestic sweep of mournful strings, provides an epic backdrop to her starkly passionate, shiver-inducing vocal delivery.

“After almost a year, it’s so exciting to be releasing original music again,” she enthuses. “It’s been great to take some time and really develop what I want my sound to be – I hope that listeners can find something they connect to in my songs and get to know me better through my music.”

The accompanying video, which BlackBook premieres here, is something of an existential meditation on emotional desolation and loneliness. It was strikingly filmed at several particularly vivid locations around Brooklyn.

“It was very much a personal project,” she explains, “and I got to be super hands-on with it. Creating the concept, going down to Brooklyn and filming, looking at every shot and helping edit – so I’m really excited for my fans to be able to see it.”

We also asked her to take us around to some of the places she visited during the filming – a few of which have remained her personal favorites.

 

 

DUMBO

Definitely a touristy spot, but beautiful all the same! We got some great shots here at sunset and the views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge are to die for. I would recommend spending a couple of hours here at least once, just wandering around the cobblestone streets and popping into some of the local coffee shops; or just sitting down by the water to people watch.

Forrest Point

This spot was just a couple blocks down from my friend’s apartment and I spent about a year just passing by, admiring their neon sign, before ever going in. We finally did one night before going to see a show and I wasn’t disappointed. I got their quinoa salad & a whiskey sour and both were delicious. Also the décor inside was amazing and I couldn’t help but snap a picture for Instagram before we left.

Konditori

We spent at least an hour wandering around Williamsburg looking for good spots to film and found this gem by accident. The huge windows were great for the video, but also lovely to people watch from. Great Swedish coffee and pastries. Try the pumpkin spice muffin if you get the chance!

sweetgreen

This place is a chain that can be found almost anywhere in NYC, but I am unabashedly obsessed with their “Guacamole Greens” salad. The set up is similar to Chipotle, with an open kitchen and all the fresh vegetables on display. Great if you need to pick up something quick to go – I often grab something to eat here before I have a session.

Artists & Fleas

Great market to do some unique shopping, they feature many different vendors – ranging from handmade jewelry to vintage clothing. Definitely worth checking out even to just look around.

 

 

 

It’s World Gin Day! Our Fave Summer Gin Cocktails at the New Campbell Bar

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The Campbell Apartment was probably the most legendary “secret” nightlife spot in all of NYC. Ask one person, and they’ll speak of it in exalted tones; ask another, and they’ll look at you in bafflement. But the exciting news for Gotham’s sophisticated tipplers is that it has reopened – under the Gerber Group banner – as The Campbell Bar.

Tucked away behind Cipriani and up a flight of stairs at Grand Central Terminal, it is an opulent oasis of luxury, and an alluring throwback to another era. The former home of a jazz-age businessman dating to 1923 (Mr. Campbell’s own steel safe sits tucked into the fireplace) now flaunts plush leather sofas, dramatically beamed ceilings and soft, sexy lighting. For something a little less grandiose, opt for the Campbell Terrace, with outdoor high tops, or the more casual, but still secluded Campbell Palm Court.

As for the cocktails, with World Gin Day coming up June 10, there’s never been a better time to tipple at the Campbell Bar. And surely all through the summer gin will be the perfect cure for any steamy night, with the Blonde Negroni served chilled and perfectly balanced, garnished with an orange twist. Or ride the line between flowery and refreshing that is the Aviation, with shaken Crème de Violet and chilled gin – and there’s just something so urbane about a drink with brandied cherries.

And for nibbles? Try the crispy tuna tartare tacos and meatball sliders, or the butcher’s block with house made charcuterie and rich country pate.

 

Blonde Negroni

1.5 oz HENDRICKS GIN
1 oz COCCHI AMERICANO
.75 oz SUZE
Add all contents into mixing glass.
Stir and Strain into Nick & Nora Glass.
Garnish with an Orange Peel.

 

 

Aviation

1.5 oz NOLETS GIN
.5 oz LUXARDO MARASCHINO
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
bar spoon CRÈME DE VIOLETTE
Add all contents into a mixing glass
Shake and strain into a Coupe
Garnish with 3 skewered Brandied Cherries

 

 

Soul Purification, Good Tequila and Creative De-Stressing in Cabo San Lucas

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It goes without saying that one would rather be staring out into Mexico’s calm, beautiful blue Gulf of California than watching the endless American political tsunamis raging across our television sets every day. So when Cabo San Lucas came calling, we couldn’t pack our bags fast enough.

But our destination was not one of Cabo’s overamped celebrity resorts. Rather, we dropped our bags at the gorgeous, family-owned Hacienda Encantada Resort & Residences – perfect for those more discerning travelers (like us) seeking something a little more creative and personal.

Perched high above the stunning Sea of Cortez, overlooking rugged coastline, Hacienda’s unique appeal extends further than it’s dramatic topography. With a uniquely curated lineup of amenities and activities, an exceptional collection of local artworks, and a staff so friendly as to feel familiar, we wanted for nothing – and left Cabo already planning our return. 

 

 

“The essence of our family is to serve and try our best to be a great host,” said the resort’s gracious Gabriel Ibarra. “So I think what makes us special is that we try to pass this idea along to all of our employees through a very common saying: “Mi casa es tu casa. Our guests don’t feel that they are in a traditional hotel or resort at Hacienda Encantada.”

And we couldn’t agree more. There’s no one-vibe-fits-all here. Every staff member we encountered wasn’t just solicitous, but warmly welcomed us into their “home” with helpful suggestions based on our individual moods and interests. 

Here’s what we did.

 

Soul Cleansing

Aside from an exhaustive array of restorative treatments, therapeutic massages and fabulous facials on the menu, the opportunity to experience the ancient Mexican tradition of Temazcal was not to be missed. Temazcal means “house of steam,” from the native Nahuatl language, and is promoted as a “purification for the body and the soul.” Once inside the small, round chamber, hot stones are splashed with medicinal herb-infused water during the 90-minute session, for the ultimate in healing relaxation. Just a note, this native ritual cleanse requires four guests.

 

 

One if by . . . horse!

We loved the romantic allure of taking a horseback riding tour along the property, where panoramic views of Cabo San Lucas bay and the land’s end were just a gallop away. Make sure to book in advance though, as this equine option is only available on Fridays at the resort.

Tequila!

Staged on the outdoor terrace of the resort’s Barolo Restaurant, our tasting flight was led by the resort’s resident “sommelier.” Little did we know – or really care by the end – that tequila can only be called such if it is produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco (and in some select municipalities). Much like French Champagne, this agave-based distilled spirit is unique to the region and is known as “mezcal” anywhere else. Our favorite, after tasting six distinct varieties, was Blanco, or silver tequila. This popular ‘unaged’ tequila never touches wood, thereby delivering the purest notes of agave. Yes, we’ll take another shot please.

 

 

Mexican Flavors

Who better than the resort’s expert chefs to teach guests how to create one of the signature dishes of Mexico? During our al fresco cooking class, we watched – and then tasted – as our teacher expertly chopped onions and cilantro – the trick to the latter being, just bunch it up, stems and all, and dice finely. Combined in a traditional, volcanic stone molcajete (a mortar and pestle), pieces of gorgeous, ripe avocado met the freshest jalapeño, and was then topped off with lemon juice and sea salt. Can you say melt in your mouth? It did!

Sister Act

Taking a break from the sedate environs of Hacienda Encantada, we visited the resort’s sister property in downtown Cabo. Marina Fiesta boasted a lively poolside bar, La Palapa (it’s covered by a giant thatched roof) and four restaurants, all located along the bustling main drag. We dined at Los Deseos and were treated to a table side demonstration of the house speciality, heated Mexican cheese infused with tequila. Our gracious server was a good sport, taking our requests for more – and more – in amiable stride as he worked two spoons to serve us the deliciously gooey concoction.

 

 

Set Sail

No trip would be complete without seeing the Arch of Cabo San Lucas. And the best way is by boat, sailing by this distinctive rock formation at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. Suffering from erosion in recent years, it now looks like a dinosaur drinking water. Accessing ‘El Arco’ on foot is best done in October when sea levels fall and you can walk under the arch. However, stopping off nearby at Amor (Lover’s) or Divorcio beaches (depending on your state of heart) can be done any time of year by boat. 

“Home” Cooking

To say we ate well at Hacienda Encatada is a significant understatement. There’s eight (yes, eight) venues, and we recommend trying them all during your stay. There’s of course ‘a la carte’ tacos every night at El Eden, ancestral Mexican cuisine at classy La Trajinera (reservations required and there’s a dress code), and ceviche and sushi at El Patio. The breakfast buffet (both American and Mexican) at Las Marias will have you dining on a balcony cliffside. Be sure to order the ‘off-the-menu’ Mexican coffee, a spicy and sweet elixir (a tip from Gabriel).
There’s even good pizza if you’re feeling homesick, at Il Forno. But the standout is Los Riscos. With its mesquite grill, and ethereal views, it was genuinely our favorite.

 

 

 

Art Everywhere

Seriously, everywhere. The lobby, public areas and restaurants were all decorated with original paintings by notable artists including José María Velasco, Jesus Helguera and Diego Rivera. Talavera vases from Puebla, hand-painted pottery and handmade lamps from Tonala, Jalisco, and ceramic sculptures by artist Rodo Padilla, are an eye-catching mix of art and craft.
You’ll notice the beautifully carved wooden furniture (a colorfully painted bench on every floor of the building we stayed in, the newest on the property), made by local Mexican carpenters. There were also several ornate iron pieces wrought by indigenous artisans. The entire resort is a celebration of Mexican architecture and design – with the exception of the rugs and the ‘gobelino’ located in the lobby, which we were told were imported from Europe.
The resort’s luxurious suites and spacious villas also include ceramic tableware made in the state of Jalisco, and mirrors with copper frames constructed in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. Additionally, handmade wool carpets adorn the floors, woven in Oaxaca. Even the ceramic bath accessories are brought directly from Dolores Hidalgo Guanajuato. (We also liked the eco-friendly products themselves.) And as might be expected, the image of the lizard and iguana figure prominently throughout the resort – emblematic in numerous handmade sculptures and decorations. Though if you get the chance, try to make friends with a real one.

 

 

Fiddlehead Lasagna: It Might Seriously be the Best Thing We’ve Ever Tasted

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There are several things for which Canada isn’t given its proper due – and food is one of them. A vast, mostly uncorrupted land of varying climates and terrains, it produces some of the most chef-coveted ingredients anywhere.

One of those ingredients is the unassuming but very tasty fiddlehead, the curled leaf of an ostrich fern. So when, on a recent trip to Ottawa, we spotted something called Fiddlehead Lasagna on the menu, we naturally had to try it. The restaurant was Feast + Revel, the stylish, buzzy signature restaurant at the new Andaz Ottawa Byward Market hotel.

 

Feast + Revel interior 

 

Without exaggeration, it turned out to be one of the most sublime dishes we’d ever had the supreme pleasure of consuming, hearty but light, with each flavor making itself proudly known. We’d also never before considered the possible culinary nirvana of topping lasagna with a poached egg. Imagine.

Here, Chef Stephen La Salle shares the life-altering recipe with us.

 

Feast + Revel’s Fiddlehead Lasagna

Chef Stephen La Salle – Spring 2017

Ingredients
  • 12 Lasagna sheets
  • 500g Soft Goat Cheese
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
  • 2 Pints Fiddleheads
  • 45ml 35% Cream + 500ml
  • 1 Teaspoon Truffle Paste or Truffle Oil
  • 1x Egg per portion
Pasta Noodles
  1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Cook lasagna noodles for 8 minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Goat Cheese
  1. In a large mixing bowl, bring goat cheese to room temperature.
  2. Add zest of one lemon and two tablespoons of coarsely ground black pepper.
  3. Add 35% cream and mix well.
Fiddleheads
  1. Clean fiddleheads very well! Soak in cold water, replacing water 2 times.
  2. Snip off ends of fiddlehead stalks.
  3. Bring pot of salted water to a boil.
  4. Cook fiddleheads 8 minutes. Do not quickly blanche like other green vegetables.
  5. Drain and run under cold water until cool.
To Assemble
In a 9×9 pan lined with parchment, place one layer of pasta noodles. Next evenly spread a layer of lemon goat cheese. Place fiddleheads o ntop indenting slightly into the cheese. Repeat 2 more times for three layers. Add a thin layer of goat cheese on top of the lasagna.
Cover with foil and bake in preheated 375F oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before portioning.
To Serve
Reduce 500ml of 35% cream until nappe or slightly sticky where it coats a spoon, add teaspoon of truffle paste or truffle oil and mix well.
Serve square of fiddlehead lasagna on plate with small ladle of truffle cream sauce and a soft poached egg on top. Garnish with baby greens.

BlackBook Interview: Delish Summer Pasta Recipes from Lilia Chef Missy Robbins

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Still can’t score a reservation at Lilia, Chef Missy Robbins’ rapturously reviewed Brooklyn restaurant? You’re not the only one. It could be the handmade pastas and tortellini, or the wood fired fish. Maybe it’s the off-menu secret rib eye, basted in rosemary butter, that sells out by 8PM. Or possibly it’s the revamped former garage turned stylish Williamsburg restaurant space that has them lining up.

“I think Williamsburg picked me,” she reckons. “I looked for a very long time – I actually wanted to open in the West Village. But it’s probably the best decision I’ve made in my life. I’ve never been in a neighborhood restaurant; being a part of the community is awesome. “

Her food speaks for itself. Especially for warm summer nights, her perfectly balanced dishes provide, as as she says, “this canvas for light, fresh, bright flavors that I really love. I think it’s all really fun. Blowfish tails have been a big hit for us. “

Where does she draw inspiration? “I left (A Voce) in 2013 and opened in 2016, and did a lot of home cooking [during that time] that has been adapted for the restaurant. A lot came out of stuff I started eating.”

And about that famous mafaldine? The pasta named after an Italian princess, tossed with pink peppercorns and Parmigiano-Reggiano will never go out of season – and you must try it at least once.

But what can all those devoted fans expect at Lilia in the coming months? “We change once a week, I like to introduce one or two dishes at a time. We put a ramp focaccia on, and then a potato dish on. Asparagus will be one next week. Then fava beans, some pea stuff.”

She takes an off-hand question about where she buys her pasta as a compliment. For the record, all pastas are made daily in house.

 

Lilia interior 

 

 

Orechiette Broccoli Pesto

2 Heads Broccoli, just the tops. Reserve the stems for another use
1 head broccoli rabe
1 bunch basil
1.5 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 cup chopped pistachios
1 cup parmigiano reggiano
1cup pecorino romano
  1. bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt to taste (should taste like the ocean)
  2. blanch the broccoli until tender yet still green. Shock the broccoli in ice water and repeat two more times. This process will make the broccoli bery green but also quite tender
  3. Blanch the broccoli rabe in the same method as above
  4. Blanch the basil leaves and shock. Squeeze out the water and set aside
  5. Hand chop very finely the broccoli rabe
  6. Place the broccoli in a food processor and pulse until chopped fine
  7. Mix the broccoli and broccoli rabe in a large mixing bowl and cover with the olive oil. Add the cheese, the pistachios.
  8. In a blender make a basil puree with a touch of water and the blanched basil.
  9. Add the basil puree to the bowl and mix.

 

Spaghetti with Clams & Summer Herbs

Servings: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Total: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients

kosher salt, to taste
1 pound dried or fresh spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chili flakes
6 ounces cooked clam meat
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
dill, for garnish
Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, then drain, reserving a ladle-full of water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat half of the oil and butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high. Add the garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add the chili flakes and cook 1 minute more. Add the remaining oil and butter, the spaghetti and reserved cooking liquid, and the clams and toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer pasta to a serving plate and garnish with the dill.

 

 

Exclusive Interview + Six Great NYC Cocktails with Jazz Songstress Bria Skonberg

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While still in her twenties, Canadian jazz singer-trumpeter Bria Skonberg left Vancouver to have a go at it in New York City (but not before playing the 2010 Winter Olympics). Now just 32, she’s drawn comparisons to Norah Jones, dueted with jon the legendary John Pizzarelli, and received both a Jazz at Lincoln Center Swing! Award and a Juno Award (a Canadian Grammy).

Her newest and third album With a Twist was just released this month. Citing references from Esquivel to Spike Jones, it’s replete with the unexpected, including captivating covers of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.”

In advance of her appearance at the Highline Ballroom this Friday, June 2, and at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live on June 7, we caught up for a chat with her about inspiration, American pride, and her new “side gig” as a devoted cocktail aficionado.

 

Jazz is much more at the cultural forefront in Europe. What is the American jazz audience like?

American jazz audiences are warm, interesting and interested. Since the music was born in the United States, I feel a sense of pride and deep appreciation for where and who the music came from. America is also known for innovation so I feel that the audience is open to and excited by the artist taking chances.

The new album has some surprises. What were some of the inspirations, musically and personally/emotionally?

This album is inspired by falling in love both in and with the city of New York. There’s a never ending sense of adventure and possibility!

What did you discover about your musical self in the making of this album?

I was fortunate to arrange writing sessions with professional song writers in LA and Nashville which were wonderful learning opportunities. I learned I am more ready than before to share my real self and personal stories with new friends; it’s the quickest way to an honest connection.

 

 

You cover Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love.” As you’re also Canadian, was that done as a tribute, after his passing?

The song had been decided on months before, because of its theme, and I was drawn to interpreting it as more of a lament. I wanted to give a nod to one of Canada’s most cherished songwriters, and his unexpected passing took it to a deeper level.

What can we expect from the live shows?

Adventure! I really love the music from this album and I’m simply excited to share it with more listeners. I have a lot of fun, I also have many ideas, but it’s the band members that bring them to life – and I’m looking forward to showcasing their many talents.

How did you become a cocktail aficionado? How does it play into your music?

Jazz and speakeasies grew up together in New York; It’s the soundtrack to the secret spots and nightlife you can discover here. The way a good mixologist can craft a perfect arrangements of flavors and depth and enhance a mood is music to my tastebuds.

Check out the video she made with Slowly Shirley’s Jim Kearns, plus her picks for NYC’s most fabulous cocktails. 

 

 

Death & Co

Cocktail: Don Lockwood
I remember coming into this dark, intimate setting [for the first time] and it was the perfect nightcap after an evening on the town.

Pouring Ribbons

Cocktail: Diego Riviera
Pouring Ribbons is across the street from Mona’s, where there’s a fantastic hot jazz jam every Tuesday night, hosted by Mona’s Hot Four.

Slowly Shirley

Cocktail: Plum Tuckered
It’s been a thrill getting to know Jim Kearns (Beverage Director & Partner, Slowly Shirley and The Happiest Hour) and the fabulous signature cocktail he created for the album. The staff are incredibly friendly and the food is good too. It’s a wonderful getaway for intimacy and atmosphere for friends and lovers.

 

 

 

Dutch Kills

Cocktail: Jungleland
Located in Queens, this makes for a lovely weekend destination drink if you’re not a lucky local.

Angel’s Share

Cocktail: Watermelon Man
Angel’s Share’s secret location makes you feel like you’ve discovered a really special spot in the midst of downtown Manhattan. The decor is classy and the ceiling transports you to another place.

Dead Rabbit

Cocktail: Cage Fighter
Dead Rabbit has live jazz music played by fine local players! Little Branch in Greenwich Village also supports live music, which I’m obviously a fan of.