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

Share Button

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

Share Button
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

Downtown Art + Fashion Gather at Groupe for Monica Kim Garza Opening

Share Button
ALL IMAGES BY VM CREATIV

198 Bowery is now home to the Groupe boutique, which Seize Sur Vingt founders Gwendolyn and James Jurney created as an incubator for exciting new design talent. But as art and fashion have a way of sharing and trading inspiration, the shop also acts as exhibition space.

And so it was that an electric mix of Downtown creatives converged there last night to celebrate the opening of a particularly sultry and stimulating Monica Kim Garza show, curated by A Number of Names’ Jon-Paul Rodriguez and Naya Urena-Rodriguez (and co-sponsored by BlackBook). The Atlanta-based artist was on hand to meet, greet and in some cases even expound upon her work, which marries a Botero-like voluptuousness with Gaugin exoticism.

To a sensual, Caribbean-stylee soundtrack by Earthtone, guests sipped Sailor Jerry spiced rum cocktails and grooved the night away. Here’s what it looked like.

 

 

 

IMAGES OF NC IN NC: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Live in Asheville

Share Button

If you see Nick Cave irreverently galavanting around the stage, one observes his love and feels his pain.

Nick is the guy you want to drink a whiskey with, kick the devil in the ass, and share a good hug afterward.

Bad Seed aside, Nick is there to please the crowd. He takes you by the hand, looks you in the eye and sings with a vocation that all dark romantic crooners would sell their soul to have.

While this is not a haunting, Murder Ballads will be sung, you may cry, and you may weep, and keep the children at home if you’re afraid of Stagger Lee

Experiencing the Gospel according to Nick Cave will leave you emotionally exhausted and spiritually uplifted; grasping beyond the music.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, June 7, U.S. Cellular Center, Asheville, NC, USA, all images by Jefrrey Delannoy

Additional tour dates.

 

 

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

Share Button

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

Share Button
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’

Share Button

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

Share Button

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

Share Button

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.