We’ve never met a Firmdale hotel we didn’t utterly adore. Their eight London properties are amongst the capital’s buzziest (The Soho Hotel), most fashionable (The Ham Yard), and most dashingly elegant (The Knightsbridge). All of those qualities came magnificently together in their first US property, the Crosby Street Hotel – which opened in Soho, NYC 2009.
Now they’ve taken all that panache uptown…to W. 56th Street specifically. The new Whitby Hotel has just debuted, a few blocks from Central Park – a perfect counter to the area’s concentration of glitzy luxe hotels and old classics. Firstly, the rooms bear the instantly recognizable aesthetic stamp of inimitable designer-partner Kit Kemp – with their brightly mod color patterns and alluringly tactile fabrics. A wall of windows frames awesome views of the area’s towering edifices.
Playtime is also important (imperative?) here. For cocktails and bites there’s the The Whitby Bar, opening to the public March 19, is an exotic mixture of the baroque and contemporary – with walls adorned with striking plate displays. The Whitby Theater should finally take screening events out of those musty old Midtown screening rooms.
And best of all, American address, English heart – don’t forget to book a proper and very stylish Afternoon Tea at the Whitby. Lovely.
Our love for all things David Lynch has never been a secret. So it’s hardly a surprise, we’ve also fallen hard for his current and always stunning muse Chrysta Bell. The ethereal vocalist and songwriter has regularly collaborated with the modern Renaissance man, including the gorgeous recent single and video “Beat the Beat.”
Leading up to the quite anxiously awaited release of her new album We Dissolve, produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey), as well as her starring role in Showtime’s equally anticipated new Twin Peaks series, we asked the lovely Mlle. Bell to give us a peek into her current creative mindset…and also to share some insights into where she goes to seek sustenance and inspiration in her new adopted home of Oakland, California.
Chrysta Bell on Her New Music
The new record has a lot of the same darkness and tension of my music with David Lynch, but with some radio-friendly aspects as well. I venture into some “goth soul” territory, which comes pretty naturally with my most prevalent artistic motifs of the life/death/life cycle, the Great Unknown and Ultimate Transcendence. The lyrical matter is still pretty heavy and twisted… death ballads/murder ballads/obsession/passion/escapism. In the music I always want to convey that there will be a final and total peace, but the record romanticizes the trip of humanness, being trapped in a feedback loop. In the song “Over You’ I want to get over you but I don’t want to get over you. In “Heaven” I’m calling a dead lover and leaving phone messages.
On Why Oakland Inspires Her
Oakland is the most raw, exciting, brutal, depressing, vibrant and inspiring place I have ever lived. The plight of existence and the will to overcome adversity is everywhere. The duality of the organic ice cream shop next door to a tent community of homeless is commonplace. There are signs of life, death, struggle, survival, compassion and courage on every block. I have been undeniably enriched and expanded by my time living here.
The line out the door will not be an issue once you taste this bagel. As you wait you’ll be sufficiently entertained by the stellar people-watching due to its location in the young, alternative and vibrant Temescal neighborhood. I always get the everything breakfast bagel with braised greens. The coffee is a standout as well.
The food at this vegan spot is simple, wholesome and extremely tasty. The atmosphere is super chill and it’s a great place for having a thoughtful conversation with your dining companion. There’s only one thing on the menu (it changes daily) and it comes with soup and all-you-can-drink hot tea that is earthy and satisfying. There is a selection of after-dinner treats and I always indulge.
Geta is a tiny sushi joint serving traditional Japanese fare. Get the special of the day even if you have never tried it or even heard of it. Prepare your mouth for some of the freshest, most exotic and tastiest fish of your life; it’s the closest to an authentic Tokyo sushi experience as I have found in California. I love to order a carafe of hot sake and a beer and sit at the sushi bar; when the beer comes, ask for an extra glass and pour the sushi chef a beer. They love it and it’s a great and enjoyable way to bond.
This boutique of expertly curated spirits, wine and beer is what would happen if an art gallery and an upscale liquor store had a baby. The interior is all white and chic, and the elegant presentation of the wide range of liquors, liqueurs, bitters, and exotic mixers (you name it) includes handwritten information about flavor profiles and origins. I love looking at all the creative bottles, labels and packaging and imagining how a bouquet from the farmer’s market will look in the bottle once the spirits have been enjoyed. The free Saturday “tastings” offer opportunities to expand your palate and meet locals.
If you have a chance to see a band you love at Fox Theater, TAKE IT. It’s an architectural marvel built in 1928 that is beautifully maintained and features state-of-art sound and light packages – so the shows sound and look incredible. This venue will make a great performace from one of your favorite artists into a life event. Killer spot. An Oakland treasure.
This dive bar is the right mix of grime and personality. The owner is a great guy and somehow that shows through in the atmosphere. I filmed my music video for “Beat the Beat” at Eli’s, and he plays one of the bar patrons. A great place to meet friends who live close by, you feel lucky if this bar is your local hang. As David Lynch would say “it’s got a thing.”
Under the current administration, reproductive rights have come under significant and worrying threat. Indeed, President Trump has already signed an executive order to defund Planned Parenthood, on essentially false pretenses.
So calls to action have become ever more exigent; and it’s a cliche, yes – but every little bit counts.
To wit, our fave new Soho Italian restaurant, the cool and stylish Café Altro Paradiso, is holding a…bake sale – to raise money for the essential women’s health care organization. From 11:30am – 2;30pm on April 2, they’ll be joined by Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, Morgenstern’s, Momofuku Milk Bar, Le Coucou, Del Posto and Reynard, all offering up their signature sweets and baked goods. A similar sale will take place at Estela and at Flora Bar.
You would think George Clooney was single-handedly responsible for putting Lake Como on the map. But in fact, this spectacularly scenic hotspot – set in the foothills of the Italian Alps, about an hour north of Milan – has been a celebrity paradise for centuries. In the 1800s composer Franz Liszt and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were drawn to its shores; Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Clark Gable holed up here in the 1950s. Today it attracts the likes of Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears; John Krasinski and Emily Blunt even married here.
But the true stars of Lake Como are its legendary villas and palazzos – very much among them the Grand Hotel Tremezzo which reopened for the season this month. Built in 1910, this five-star waterfront gem is one of the oldest on the lake…and certainly one of the grandest. Five restaurants, three pools, a private five-acre park, a spa with hammam, tennis courts, a private boat – don’t you feel like Hollywood royalty just thinking about it?
Here’s what we loved.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s seven floors include 76 rooms and 14 suites – the best overlooking the lake, with views of the gorgeous village of Bellagio on the opposite shore. Others face the gardens, which were designed by Emilio Trabella (who also landscaped Clooney’s nearby Villa Oleandra). Even the smallest accommodations, which measure around 375 square feet, feature plenty of plush details: period furnishings, silk drapes, multi-thread-count sheets, marble bathrooms. If you’re feeling flush, book one of the eight rooftop suites, whose sprawling terraces are fitted with outdoor hot tubs. Swish!
The indoor heated pool and the outdoor garden pool are all fine and lovely; but the sufficiently named WOW (water on the water) is actually a floating pool built out over Lake Como…separated from the hotel’s private beach by two wooden piers. It’s as close as you’ll come to swimming in the lake itself — but with the fab factor of poolside drinks service.
It’s where Greta Garbo used to dine – no wonder, since La Terrazza is as movie-star worthy as they come. Big shot Milanese chef Gualtiero Marchesi serves up lobster pasta, spaghetti with clams, and saffron risotto; while the four-course, 120-euro tasting menu includes heavenly specialties like filet of veal with foie gras and black truffles. One floor below, L’Escale Trattoria and Wine Bar opened last year as the first (and only) place for fondue on Lake Como; this year there’s an expanded menu and a new chef’s table. More casual options include T Pizza (wood-fired pies in the garden) and T Beach, with burgers, skewers, salads and a special sunset menu highlighting local seafood.
Without a doubt, the highlight of T Spa is the hammam, where you can book a traditional Turkish exfoliation and foam massage in a steam-filled, white-marble room. Other treatments – facials, massages, scrubs – are carried out lovingly using all-natural ESPA products; a super-private T Spa Suite, set in a separate area next to the garden, is ideal for power-couples.
The hotel recently purchased the nearby Villa Sola Cabiati, an 18th-century residence where all manner of Milanese royalty once summered; it’s now open exclusively to hotel guests. The villa – replete with frescoes, tapestries, and original furnishings (including a bed where Napoleon once slept) – will be used mainly for weddings and events; but guests can book a tour of the collections and even have a private dining experience in its ornate private garden. Molto amore!
A new, tailor-made boat, Batt, will be added to the existing traditional water taxi – which means an even more luxe way to zip around the lake.
Though Mexico’s Grupo Habita lord over a mini-empire of boutique hotels in their home country, their expansion into the US has been somewhat careful and methodical. Indeed, after opening the art-and-fashion-fave Americano in New York’s Chelsea in 2011, they waited more than five years before debuting in another American city.
And so it is that Chicago’s hip Wicker Park neighborhood is now home to The Robey – recently unveiled in the renowned Northwest Tower building, dating to 1929. The striking Art Deco edifice remains stunningly intact – but inside, the brand’s inimitable sense of style is everywhere you look. The structure’s unique triangular design means the sleek, black-white-and-glass rooms are flooded with light; while the gorgeous public spaces are a combination of Corbusian modernism and warm urban-rustic.
Interestingly, there’s a sister building next door, The Hollander, with long-term-stay spaces.
But what we love most about Habita hotels, of course, is that they are galvanizing forces for the local creative classes. So, expect a particularly artistic scene to coalesce around its ground floor Cafe Robey (great for a lunchtime kale caesar salad or pork belly cassoulet), its 13th floor Up & Up lounge (with impressive terrace), and, coming in spring…a rooftop pool and its attendant Cabana Club party spot, serving Greek specialties and cocktails along with spectacular views.
Best of all, the Robey’s location means you’re near all the cool kid action – especially city’s notably iconoclastic music scene.
This year’s Lollapalooza will bring together pop princesses (Lorde), dance-goth overlords (The xx), alt-rockers (The Killers, Phantogram), Britpoppers (Liam Gallagher), hipster godheads (Arcade Fire) and hip-hop innovators (Chance the Rapper, Run the Jewels).
Dance geeks were not unconsidered: Justice, Kaskade and Crystal Castles (minus Alice Glass) are all on the bill. As are veteran singer-songwriters (Ryan Adams) and buzzworthy newcomers (Rag’n’Bone Man).
In its 13th year in Chicago, the unstoppable festival will take place August 3-6 in its usual Grant Park locale.
Where to Stay
The Virgin Hotel is just blocks from the festival grounds, and draws a steady parade of mediarati and musicians – who can be found schmoozing it up in the hotel’s super hip Commons Club.
Over the years, we’ve spent so many wild / crazy / hazy hours at the Tribeca Grand, and now The Roxy, that sometimes our mail accidentally goes there. But wouldn’t you know, they’ve gone ahead and given us another excellent / delicious reason to show up: the new and quite fabulous Oyster Bar at the Roxy Hotel.
Tucked away behind the lobby Roxy Bar, it brings together a New Englandy culinary mission – salt cod brandade, Maine lobster cocktail, seafood chowder – with dark and sexy atmospherics, in-the-know DJs on the decks, and sensual signature tipples. Perfect, then, for an aphrodisiac evening.
Pair it with a show downstairs at the awesome, retro-Parisian Django Room, one of the best live music spots in the city.
Back in 2013, a New York Times story was predicting the decline of the once seemingly unstoppable classic NYC steakhouse. In 2017 the best of them, however, are still thriving.
What in fact was needed was some new (excuse the pun) blood – and perhaps chefs with a careful attention to food trends and changing eating habits. Without, obviously, messing with the essence of why one gravitates to a great steakhouse to begin with. To wit, Primal Cut, which opened on East 60th to great fanfare last autumn.
It’s got no cloyingly trendy nightclubby frills – yet its stylish, modern design distinctly points the way forward from the tired old Chesterfields-and-oil-paintings look. Even the lighting is sexier. But Chef Thomas Perone also knows how to surprise your tastebuds, with inventive menu items like Jalapeno Hamachi and Yuzu Glazed Wild Salmon.
He explains, “Most people think that steakhouses are only known for one thing: meat! But a good one should actually offer a variety of different options for different tastes, especially as an appetizer or first course.”
Here he lets us in on the recipes for two of his most popular raw starters, intended as a light intro to either a hearty main course, or even Primal’s signature Currant Kale Salad to follow.
Step into abc carpet & home, or one of the three dining options: abc kitchen, abc cocina, and the new abcV, and you haven’t just left the stressful streets of NYC’s busy Flatiron behind – you’ve actually made a choice to commune with a thoughtfully considered, if you will allow, alternate way of life – Mindful Living, as introduced by the famed restaurateur Jean Georges and his partner and Creative Director / Owner of abc Paulette Cole. The third restaurant in their trilogy, abcV has just opened as the newest entry in the 18/19th St. abc empire.
For 32 years, Paulette Cole has cultivated and shaped with a curator’s eye and a youthful, spirited passion veritably every inch of the store’s space, surely hoping to have visitors take home not just two, three, four exquisite purchases (a Danish modern sofa, a Moroccan wool rug, a pink sapphire & diamond necklace from Marseilles), but also a different way of living their lives.
Surely no one has been more transformed by their contact with Cole’s magical thinking than Jean-Georges Vongerichten – celebrity chef and purveyor of multiple glamorous dining hotspots from New York to London to Hong Kong. Jean Georges and Paulette first met in 2009 and, sufficiently inspired, he opened abc kitchen the following year within the store; by 2013 he had taken over abc’s other restaurant space, debuting abc cocina to rapturous acclaim. (The New York Times’ Pete Wells rhapsodized how, “The vegetables were so tender and seasonal” and that the restaurant “puts you in the excellent dilemma of not knowing which you like better, the food or its sauce.”)
Yet it is their third project together, abcV, which is perhaps the culmination and true embodiment of their now shared philosophy. For Jean-Georges, who built such an exalted culinary reputation on elevated versions of charred squab, toasted foie-gras and spicy glazed baby back ribs, a fully committed vegetarian restaurant may seem at first unexpected – but it actually harks back to his upbringing in France.
“When I was growing up,” JG recalls, “meat was expensive. So [we ate] a lot of grains and vegetables. The excess of the 80s and 90s, where people had a big steak with two string beans on the side…I never ate that way. For me, life is a balance.”
And for Cole, it was “an invitation to create at the highest level without compromises, and also to deliver the kind of deliciousness that only Jean-Georges can. That, combined with a mission that is in service to our personal and planetary wellness.”
To be sure, both make reference often to “plant intelligence” (Jean-Georges is not so fond of the word “vegetarian”), with Cole emphasizing that human evolution is leading us not only to care more about what we put in our bodies – but also how it effects the entire ecosystem. The numbers suggest they are on to the next big thing: market researchers Statistic Brain released a 2016 study confirming that 53% of vegetarians are strongly driven by health concerns, 47% by environmental.
“This restaurant is about paying attention to the natural order,” says Cole. “We play a lot with the bio-mimicry, the magic of it. Like how if you cut open a tomato, it looks like a heart – and it has lycopene that feeds the heart. If you cut a carrot, it looks like an eye – and it has vitamin A for the eyes. Cauliflower and walnuts feed the brain, celery feeds the bones. All you have to do is pay attention.”
As a luxury plant-based eatery, abcV actually plays to the zeitgeist more than one might at first imagine: The Robb Report last year cited vegan cuisine as one of the hottest culinary trends. And a September 2015 New York Times story titled Vegans Go Glam noted how veganism was on its way to replacing its “dowdy, spartan image with a new look: glamorous, prosperous, sexy and epidermally beaming with health.”
Yet important as they are, the heady concepts recede behind the actual experience of abcV, with the typically fantastical décor, inspired, of course, by the store’s inimitable aesthetic tenets: “sacred spaces.” Indeed, with its sharp, uncluttered and very white interiors, punctuated by bold splashes of color and whimsically rustic lighting fixtures, the restaurant feels playful, soothing, zen – almost anti-urban.
The menus attest to their commitment to reinventing vegetarian cuisine for the most sophisticated of palettes – and they’ve enlisted Chef de Cuisine Neal Harden as their culinary accomplice. Breakfast might include dosas with Swiss chard; fresh steamed tofu roasted cauliflower with harissa; or the wild blueberry bowl with jungle peanut butter. Lunch brings beluga lentils with chili oil & black vinegar; shallot & herb labnah; and avocado lettuce cups. Follow it with vegan matcha creme brulee, of course.
Undoubtedly, abcV is signaling the future. Last year The Guardian reported that Millennials and Instagram are behind a 350% increase in the number of vegetarians over the past decade – and this is a generation that does not hesitate to spend a significant portion of their income on eating good food in great restaurants.
“The world is going this way,” Jean-Georges observes. “People now want to know where ingredients come from. If it’s a carrot salad, where are the carrots from?”
Or as Cole so thoughtfully puts it, “It’s very important to us to represent a more conscious relationship to the planet and to the food we eat.”