London’s Firmdale Opens Whitby Hotel in NYC

Whitby 170225_F_W_Lobby_1570
Share Button
Images by Simon Brown 

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.

Singer + Twin Peaks Star Chrysta Bell’s Hip Guide to Oakland

Chrysta Bell 2 by Rui Aguiar
Share Button
Image by Rui Aguiar

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.

 

 On Her Favorite Hangouts in Oakland

Beauty’s Bagel Shop  (Breakfast)

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.

13669563_1378199005539924_8824821339502485388_n

Shangri-La Vegan (Lunch)

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.
1452066_317097775095338_1233487286_n

Geta Japanese (Dinner)

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.
11165262_10206694953442485_1390592483616808644_n

Alchemy Bottle Shop  (Shop)

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.
 10255117_586041544837157_3716005457765746779_n

Fox Theater  (Music Venue)

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.

29894_121248787909136_2398364_n

Eli’s Mile High Club  (Nightcap)

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.”

14642402_10153832554450863_619482298003604515_n

Celebs! Views! A Springtime Lake Como Getaway at Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Grand Hotel Tremezzo 2017 image 2
Share Button

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.

 

The Rooms

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!

 

15541284_10154238223886139_6535569888138025319_n

 

The Pools

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.

 

gridcol_32Water-On-the-Water

 

The Restaurants

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.

 

13769419_10153848428471139_5196686290186732384_n

 

The Spa

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.

 

13332842_10153723960261139_882788636999614558_n

 

What’s New

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!

 

Coming Soon

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.

 

12141642_10153247603641139_6543343633023746344_n

Your New Favorite Chicago Hotel: The Robey

Robey @AdrianGaut courtesy of GRUPO HABITA (37)
Share Button
Images by Adrian Gaut

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.

 

FIRST LOOK: Delta and Alessi Team up for Stylish In-Air Dining

Delta Alessi BU161124A_481
Share Button

Airport security won’t be getting cheerier anytime soon. But once boarded, things are looking decidedly up for the perpetual traveler.

To wit, the fabulously groovy new Delta partnership with Italian design house Alessi – which we were privileged to have a peek at before its official launch on April 1. The airline, long America’s “cool” carrier, has been ratcheting up the comfort and luxury of late, with plush new seats, wifi access on most flights, bigger overhead bins, notable-chef-created meals and seasonal wine offerings. But this new program brings a welcome dose of style at 30,000 feet.

The Alessi for Delta collection includes signature mod flatware, stylishly patterned trays, stark bone china, curvy crystal glassware…even the tabletop accessories – napkin rings, salt & pepper shakers – get a clever reinvention. It all makes reference to popular items created and inspired by some of Alessi’s most renowned designers; but smartly, feedback was also solicited from both passengers and flight attendants during the design process.

“Alessi was a natural choice for Delta,” says the company’s President Alberto Alessi. “We have worked with some of the most exciting designers in our international network to create the most innovative and advanced in-flight collection in the contemporary design scene.”

Here’s what it looks like.

NEW HOTSPOT ALERT: The Oyster Bar at the Roxy Hotel

THE_ROXY_BAR_03
Share Button

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.

A (Very) Insider Guide to London Eating and Drinking

Rachel Felder Food_Oldroyd_Malfatti (1)
Share Button
Above image: Oldroyd

There was a time not all too long ago, when eating well in London meant hitting up some unassuming corner dive where they just happened to make a great curry. But the city’s post-Millennial food revolution has gone so far as to cause French culinary god Alain Ducasse to actually call it the best dining city in the world now.

Super trendy hotspots abound: celeb-bedecked Chiltern Firehouse; Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House; The Clove Club in hipsterwhelmed Shoreditch. But what if you just wanted to hit the capital for a few genuinely great meals (or a good pint), with lots of local charm, and without all the glam trimmings (and puffed up prices)?

To that end, we asked New York girl-about-town Rachel Felder, who would admit to London being a sort of spiritual home, for her best under-the-radar picks (from hip Islington to pretty Primrose Hill), which she elaborates on below.All appear in her fabulous new book Insider London (Harper Collins), in which she takes the reader on a whirl through what can be a rather apoplexy-inducing city, whittling it down to the absolute gems of dining, drinking, shopping, hotels and culture. With its striking photography, it is a masterstroke of Englishness: stylish, eccentric and utterly brilliant.

 

Oldroyd

This tiny duplex restaurant, tucked quietly down one of the main thoroughfares in Islington, serves truly wonderful Italian food in a setting that’s relaxed and mellow. It’s an ideal spot for a date, or just a leisurely lunch with friends on a weekend.

Rochelle Canteen

Shoreditch has become intensely hipster-ified over the last several years, but this hidden little spot is marvelously low key, although it’s just a few blocks from the area’s trendy bustle nearby. It’s essentially the extension of a catering business; open just during the day, breakfast is particularly good here, especially the granola, which is made on the premises.

Lemonia

This is a truly neighborhoody restaurant in one of London’s most charming areas, Primrose Hill, a genteel little nook that’s an easy stroll from Camden. The Greek food is authentic and delicious – especially the spanakopita, or flaky spinach pie – and it’s also a great spot for people watching, including, occasionally, a sighting of one of celebs that lives nearby.

 

  • Rochelle Canteen
  • The Duck & Rice
  • Tayyabs
  • 69 Colebrooke Row

 

Tayyabs

It’s not hard to find a good Indian restaurant in London, but this one might well be one of the best. It’s unpretentious and friendly, with truly wonderful (and filling and not overly expensive) food; you’ll rarely see a tourist at this East End spot, but it’s pretty much always crowded with people from the neighborhood and beyond.

Beigel Bake

For decades, this fabulous (and fabulously cheap) bakery has been beloved for its doughy bagels (aka beigels). Unlike almost everything in London, it’s open 24 hours, and pretty much always busy – so the bagels are always fresh (and, frequently, warm too.) There are plenty of fillings offered, but, personally, I love the bagels here just plain, eaten while walking down Brick Lane.

Marksman

There’s something undeniably inviting about a classic pub; this one, quite near the Columbia Road market in East London, makes you feel like a regular even on the first visit. But it has something extra: a seriously excellent restaurant upstairs, especially for traditional British Sunday roast lunch.

69 Colebrooke Row

Although it’s in the heart of Islington, this elegant cocktail bar has a truly insidery feel: it’s in a residential nook, on an unglitzy corner, without big signage or any fanfare. It’s got a real feeling of glamour – more that of an Italian champagne bar circa 1958 than a North London bar today – without being overly fancy or stuffy.

The Duck and Rice

A pub atmosphere and inventive Chinese food might seem like an odd combination, but at The Duck and Rice it somehow works. Downstairs, the focus is on beer and light bites; upstairs, the food is more of a priority. (The specialty is, appropriately enough, Cantonese style roast duck; but the Singapore fried noodles are also fabulous.) It’s in the heart of Soho and lively, even on a weeknight evening, although it’s understandably packed on weekends.

 

  • Marksman
  • Lemonia
  • Tayyabs
  • Beigel Bake

Design Lovers’ Escape: The Brentwood at Saratoga Springs

Brentwood Saratoga
Share Button

Need a little relief from the current climate, political and otherwise? If the urban grey of winter and the bad news on CNN have got you down, then look no further to rest your world-weary head than the stylish new Brentwood hotel, just a quick train or Zipcar ride up to Saratoga Springs, NY.

From Brooklyn’s Studio Tack, this revamped 12-room motor lodge is brilliantly situated directly in front of the Saratoga Race Course, making it nirvana for the equestrian obsessed. Every room enjoys a view of the massive, 50,000-seat historic thoroughbred track; yet the cozy-chic accommodations are perfect for a quiet, off-season retreat. (You know, like Valentine’s Day?)

15135872_1795727054020249_5635655970683056301_n

15178987_1795726330686988_841029101728750558_n

Avoiding that cookie-cutter soullessness we’ve seen in so many modern makeovers, Studio Tack took a homegrown approach to the design, collaborating with local craftspeople they consider friends and colleagues. Partner Brian Smith says, “Working with talented people helps us grow and learn as a company and always makes for a more compelling product.” The result, a refreshing eclecticism that goes just slightly irreverent.

The lobby, for instance, feels like a classic parlor room, with custom millwork, reclaimed white oak flooring from Hudson & Co., antique gilded mirrors and an intriguing collection of vintage oil paintings. Part check-in, part bar, and tons of welcoming charm.

15170877_1795725164020438_4601320275862504479_n

15056382_1795722720687349_7005539631417557489_n

In the rooms, the solid clear pine beds with signature octagonal posts were handmade by Dave Cummings, a local woodworker in nearby Bolton Landing. While the custom, hand-dyed French bed linens are from Brooklyn-based textile purveyors Sharktooth. Even the vintage oil paintings hanging above each bed were handpicked from regional collectors, featuring bucolic scenes meant to complement surrounding Saratoga. And with considered amenities like bath products from our favorite, C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries, as well as rain showers, and a refreshment bar stocked with local snacks, the stresses of city living easily melt away.

Smith enthuses, “If you appreciate handsome and classic spaces, you’ll love our design. If you like small-town charm and, of course, horses, you’ll love our location.” And the property is delightfully dog-friendly – so there’s no need to leave Fido behind.

Top Restaurants in Saratoga Springs

Salt & Char, Gray Kunz’ modern American steakhouse; Lake Local for seafood classics and lakeside dining; The Mouzon House for farm-to-table Creole in a striking Victorian setting.

To Do in Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Performing Arts Center; Yaddo Artist Community; Saratoga Automobile Museum; National Museum of Dance; Tang Museum at Skidmore College (pictured below)

15621796_10155768852395620_60442665612402004_n

 

Next Hip City: Düsseldorf

IMG_1400_1
Share Button

Berlin is still considered the Euro capital of bleeding edge; but it’s not the only German city with genuine hipster cred. Düsseldorf, set along the Rhine River in the Ruhr region of western Germany, has a storied artistic history. Director Wim Wenders hails from here; Electro gods Kraftwerk formed here; and Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter and Thomas Struth attended its renowned art school, Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where photographer Andreas Gursky now teaches.

Though the population is relatively small, hovering at around 600,000, Düsseldorf has culture to spare: 26 museums, 100-plus galleries, and a large number of artists’ studios. Its pulsing creative heart is Flingern, a district to the east of the city center. Split into two, Flingern-Nord (North) and Flingern-Süd (South), the area, once home to working-class Germans, is today cool kid central. Its streets are lined with buzzy coffee shops, trendy bars, indie boutiques and the ubiquitous stamp of coolness — a taco stand.

Where Anarchy and Instagram Come Together

The best place to begin your exploration of the neighborhood is on its rough edges, along Kiefernstrasse, in Flingern-Süd. In the 1980s, this street was a haven for squatters; it’s rumored that members of the notorious Baader–Meinhof gang (aka Red Army Faction), an underground German militant group, were arrested here. Those turbulent times have passed, but the subversive streak is alive in the local art. The facades of multi-story buildings (where those former squatters now have leases) are covered with wildly colorful artwork; a long stretch of wall nearby serves as a forum for topical, generally anti-consumerist graffiti (recently spotted: “Look at your Rolex, it’s time for revolt!”).

Flingern

Kunst

The most impressive new addition to the neighborhood is Philara, a contemporary art gallery housed in a stylishly converted former glass factory. The cavernous, 20,000-square-foot space, which opened last June, features pieces from the private collection of businessman Gil Bronner; it includes notable Dusseldorf artists like Thomas Struth and Hans-Peter Feldman, top international works – including a mind-bending immersive environmental installation from Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, “Artichoke Underground” – as well as up-and-coming local talent. A rooftop sculpture garden recently opened; the ground-floor bar is set to open late spring or early summer. On view through March 28 is special exhibition of photographs from Sabine Dusend and Alex Grein, two graduates of the Dusseldorf Art Academy. You can visit with a guided tour (Fridays in English) or individually on Tuesdays.

0f72dd8ef8

 An Antidote to Brats and Beer

While most of Düsseldorf’s historic Altstadt (old town) caters to beer-slugging, sausage-eating tourists, North Flingern offers plenty of trendy eateries, most on or around the district’s main thoroughfare, Ackerstrasse. Noha offers a casual, super-fresh Italian menu – but many come for the cocktails, especially the excellent Moscow Mules and well-crafted gin and tonics. Around the corner at Boeser Chinese the hand-pulled noodles are the stars of the show; be prepared to queue, there are no reservations. For street food, there’s An Banh Mi, which serves up quite good (and super-affordable) banh mi sandwiches in a California-cool environment; while tiny Pablo’s does made-to-order tacos, burritos, quesadillas and even burrito bowls. Café Lotte isn’t a café but rather a cozy little corner pub, complete with comfy sofas that make you feel like you’re drinking in someone’s living room. Café Hüftgold is a sleek spot for coffee and cake (a big thing for locals to do at around 5 pm) that is kind to the gluten-free / vegan set.

mg_9482_dxo2-2

Stay

There are no hotels in Flingern, but you can easily get there in 15 minutes by hopping a tram from The Fritz Hotel in central Karlstadt. The three-star design property has chic, serviceable rooms, but the standout is the restaurant, Frau Franzi, with a selection of lovely, innovative small plates (try the fried artichoke with mashed eggplant and the perfectly grilled roast beef). Don’t skip dessert: the chocolate confection is a clever combination of ice cream and hazelnut parfait crafted to look like miniature mushrooms.

86352064