EXCLUSIVE: Recipes from London’s Chiltern Firehouse Cookbook

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When Andre Balazs debuted Chiltern Firehouse in London’s Marylebone in 2014, it was with a particularly titillating mix of secrecy and fanfare. And quite unlike his Standard brand, the focus seemed to be much more on the restaurant than the hotel – te latter of which had something of the “bolthole” about it.

In the ensuing three years, the restaurant has drawn such a steady parade of actors, models, rock stars royalty and footballers (the Beckhams, the Gallaghers, Orlando Bloom, Emily Blunt, Cara Delevigne, Rita Ora, LiLo, Kate Moss) that it’s practically a zeitgeist of its own. It also turned its sleepy but sophisticated neighborhood into a bit of thing. But in fact, what is on the plate has been just a exciting as what’s on the gossip pages. Indeed, under Michelin-starred Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes, CF has won over food geeks and critics alike.

So, no surprise, Penguin has just released the significantly buzzed about  Chiltern Firehouse: The Cookbook. It’s all here, from the crab doughnuts to the wood-grilled Iberico pork to the lobster XO noodles.

We asked Mendes to pick a couple of favorites to prepare at home. For full Chiltern Firehouse effect, invite a couple of your favorite celebs over to share.

 

BLOOD ORANGE AND CAMPARI GRANITA, SWEET FENNEL, AND CRÈME FRAÎCHE

I have had many granitas in my life but the one that thrilled me and made me want to make them myself was at Noma in Copenhagen, in 2008. It was served with sweet prawns, dill, and cream. It inspired me to try to capture the essence of amazing fruits and vegetables, such as the orange and fennel in this dish, in cold and crunchy textures.
Blood orange has a short season, so we try to use it as much as we can while it’s around. A granita is my favorite way to serve it at the Firehouse.
INGREDIENTS – Serves 4
for the blood orange granita:
5 tablespoons/70 ml Campari
2½ cups/600 ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice
5 tablespoons/60 g superfine sugar
¼ cup/60 ml water
for the confit fennel:
1 fennel bulb
¼ cup/50 g superfine sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2⁄3 cup/100 g crème fraîche
2 blood oranges, peeled and segmented
MAKE THE BLOOD ORANGE GRANITA
Pour the Campari and blood orange juice into a large container suitable for freezing.
Gently heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved, then add it to the orange juice and Campari. Place in the freezer and allow to freeze hard (this will take about 3 hours). Once the mixture has been in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours, remove it every 25 minutes, scraping the mixture with a fork to break up the ice crystals, until it is fully frozen and flaky (scraping the mixture about 3 times should be sufficient). Keep in the freezer until needed.
MAKE THE C ONFIT FENNEL
Discard the outer layer of the fennel and remove the base of the bulb. Slice the bulb into thin slivers using a mandolin or sharp knife, retaining the fronds for garnish.
Mix the fennel slivers with the superfine sugar in a mixing bowl until the fennel juice starts to come out. Add the lemon juice, cover, and chill until ready to serve. You can make it up to 1 day in advance.
SERVE
Freeze 4 serving bowls ahead of time. Place a dollop of crème fraîche in the bottom of each bowl and top with the sweet fennel and segments of blood orange. Top with the granita and a few fennel fronds.

 

  • BLOOD ORANGE AND CAMPARI GRANITA, SWEET FENNEL, AND CRÈME FRAÎCHE
  • SPICED PUMPKIN AND BROWN BUTTER PIE WITH BOURBON CREAM

 

SPICED PUMPKIN AND BROWN BUTTER PIE WITH BOURBON CREAM

A good tart is a treat that is really hard to beat. We developed this tart with the goal of merging the spiced pumpkin flavor with the texture of a perfectly soft custard tart. It took a while to get there, but I think we nailed it. This pumpkin and brown butter pie always makes its way into the Firehouse menu on Thanksgiving Day. The pie filling is best made a day in advance, to allow the mixture to settle and any air bubbles to disappear.
NUNO’S TIP
This dish is also amazing served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, raisins that have been steeped in bourbon and then cooked with brown butter, and finished with a sprinkle of piecrust crumbs.
INGREDIENTS – Serves 8 to 12
for the pumpkin pie filling:
½ small pumpkin (about 1 pound/500 g)
3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 cups/500 ml heavy cream
4 large free-range egg yolks
1 large free-range egg
3 tablespoons packed soft dark brown sugar
1½ tablespoons maple syrup
Pinch Maldon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
for the sweet shortcrust pastry:
3½ cups/500 g all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon/250 g cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
Pinch Maldon sea salt
2 large free-range egg yolks
1⁄3 cup/80 ml ice-cold water
for the bourbon cream:
1 cup/250 ml heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, plus extra to dust
3½ tablespoons bourbon
MAKE THE PUMPKIN PIE FILLING
Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.
Wrap the pumpkin in foil and bake it for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Warm a saucepan over medium heat and drop in the diced butter. Once it melts and begins to foam, whisk it continuously for about 2 minutes, keeping the heat constant, until it becomes nutty and fragrant. The foam will die down a bit, then you will see the color change and the butter solids turn a toasted brown color. Remove from the heat and transfer to a metal jug (it will be very hot) and keep stirring for a further minute to prevent the butter burning (it will keep cooking off the stove).
Peel the baked pumpkin and discard the seeds, then combine 9 ounces/250 g of the flesh in a bowl with the remaining ingredients (including the brown butter). Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, and skim off any froth on the top. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to bake the pie.
MAKE THE SHOR TCRUST PASTRY
Place the flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix together, either in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, in a food processor, or by hand, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg yolks and water and mix until it comes together to form a dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F/170°C.
BAKE THE SHOR TCRUST PASTRY
Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface to 1⁄8 inch/2.5 mm thickness, and use it to line a 12-inch/30-cm tart or flan pan. Put the lined pan back in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes to an hour, then prick the surface of the pastry with a fork a few times, line the pastry shell with parchment paper and pie weights and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tart shell from the oven, remove the parchment and weights, and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 225°F/110°C.
MAKE THE BOURBON CREAM
Whisk the cream and confectioner’s sugar together in a bowl until the mixture forms soft peaks, then fold in the bourbon. Chill until ready to serve.
BAKE THE PIE & SER VE
Pour the chilled filling into the baked tart shell and bake for 1 hour, or until the filling is just set, with a slight wobble. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before serving with bourbon cream and dusting with confectioner’s sugar.

 

 

Reprinted with permission from Chiltern Firehouse by Nuno Mendes and André Balazs, copyright 2017 by Chiltern Street Hotel Ltd. Published in the United States by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photographs copyright 2016 by Peden + Munk

 

Mary Lambert on Her New EP + Her Fave Hangouts in Seattle

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Mary Lambert shot to fame in 2013 as the featured vocalist on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” which became something of an anthem for same-sex marriage. It scored her a Grammy nomination, and she even performed the song live with Madonna at the awards.

She’s since been compared to everyone from Adele to James Blake – and has been a tireless voice for LGBT rights. Her new EP, fittingly titled Bold, will be out May 5 – and is a new paradigm of her visceral, alluring and remarkably infections pop sensibility. For instance, first single “Hang Out With You” (co-written with Michelle Chamuel) is an exuberant, charmingly obsessive paean to falling head over heels. “I don’t want to fix my hair / I don’t want to write a song / I just want to hang out with you” she enthusiastically confesses to her new love, an elated feeling we’ve certainly all experienced.

“The EP is proclamation of fearlessness,” she says. “This is a collection of queer pop songs about having lots of feelings, and what it’s like to live in that dynamic range. The impetus for creating and releasing Bold really came from being told that I couldn’t do it. That an artist, specifically a fat, gay, female artist in the pop sphere choosing to be independent wouldn’t be taken seriously. So I guess this is the part where I yell ‘watch me!’ in a bright colored crop top on a mountain of glitter.”

It’s also a family affair – her mom is actually her latest special guest collaborator.

“She let me talk her into using a song she wrote called, ‘Love is Love,’ and the process of producing my mom’s vocals and arranging her song was very moving and emotional for us both.”

She’s also a Seattle girl, so in true BlackBook fashion, we asked her what her city (and state) means to her, and what are her fave places to hang out when she’s home.

 

On Being Inspired by Seattle/Washington

“There isn’t another place like Seattle.” she insists. “There’s just not. There is nothing quite like the gift that the PNW brings to someone who is willing to smile through eight months of cloud cover in order to witness a well-deserved sunlight parade in July. I recorded half of the EP here in Sequim, Washington (one ferry trip and three hours of driving away from Seattle) and I am planning on making the next record there as well. I made my very first recordings six years ago in this stellar studio owned and operated by Jeremy Cays on the peninsula of Washington state, and have always wanted to return and make more music there. I’m so glad I did, because the songs came out fantastic, and I feel like I’ve grown as a producer and artist in the process. “
“My best friend, Tim Mendonsa, who plays guitar and bass on the track “Do Anything,” drove down with me from Sequim to Portland for a radio gig, and I don’t know how to adequately articulate how surreal and beautiful the drive is from the Washington peninsula to Portland on the scenic 101. But if you can imagine being in one of those quintessential car commercials, and then superimpose your best friend in the passenger’s seat and then add a Death Cab for Cutie soundtrack underneath deep laughter and great talks – that’s basically where I was at when I was forming Bold. No labels, no managers, no A&R, no producers, just totally, completely free.”

Her Favorite Hangouts in Seattle/Washington

Sunny Farms (Lunch)

Sunny Farms is located in Sequim, about three hours Northwest of Seattle. I had to include it on my list, not only because it’s two minutes from the studio, and I’ve spent so much time there, but it’s so good! They have a little deli in the back, amazing produce in the front, and if you’re into alternative remedies, their health/wellness section is off the hook. If you’re ever in the peninsula of Washington State, you gotta go to Sunny Farms.

Tilth (Brunch)

I can never get enough of Tilth. It’s located in Wallingford, which is a neat neighborhood to walk around in, not to mention the restaurant itself is a converted house. Maybe that’s why it feels so cozy! Chef Maria Hines is in a league of her own, and has really cultivated something special. All ingredients are either certified organic or wild, and you can taste that in the nourishing quality of the food. Go for brunch, take a walk around the lake, then come back for dinner.

 

Two Big Blondes (Shop)

If you are a plus size babe like me, you know how discouraging it is to go shopping. It’s not just that stores might have run out of my size, it’s that they refuse to even carry my size. If I walk by a store, I must begin by dissecting the store name: if there are any hidden implications of “we MAY have your size here!” But Two Big Blondes is a plus babe’s paradise and I am grateful they exist.

Lola (Dinner)

I fell in love with Lola, this Greek inspired restaurant from Tom Douglas, when I was bartending and living in Belltown. I’ve never had a bad dining experience here –  and I feel like that is actually really a difficult thing to achieve in the restaurant industry: consistency. This food is comforting and delicious and fun, and I love that it’s open for all meals. Like, if you’ve got plans in two hours, just hop over to Lola and grab a kebab. Now you’ve got a place to sit. And a kebab.

The Upstairs (Drinks)

The Upstairs is one classy hell of a joint. If I hadn’t been drunk yelling John Denver at the top of my lungs when I lived around town, I would have said that this place was a little serious. But I know better now – it’s all shenanigans! I may be a cocktail snob, but I also like it when a drink is called “The Dirty Shirley”. What? A shirley temple with vodka? I’ll take ten.

Bathtub Gin & Co (After Drinks, Drinks)

If you’ve ended your night at Bathtub Gin, you did Seattle right, in my book. Good luck finding the door, though, as the entrance is in an alley and tricky to locate if you have never been. I would liken the decor and vibe to an unpretentious speakeasy, and the bartenders are ridiculously skilled, without being pretentious. I actually filmed part of the “She Keeps Me Warm” music video at Bathtub Gin; the owners Jessica and Marcus are incredibly kind, creative, and super hard-working. Love this place.

10 Brilliant Reasons to Get to Moogfest 2017

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There is certainly no shortage of buzzworthy American music festivals. But Moogfest, which debuted in New York in 2004, is genuinely set apart from the others, launched as it was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the greatest synthesizer company ever – Moog, of course – giving it something of an aesthetic and ideological mission. To that end, it has also acted as a lab for the cultivation of new ideas, from the cultural to the social to the political.

The festival (May 18-21) is now entering its second year in its new home of Durham, North Carolina. And it comes at a historic time – as the state’s divisive “bathroom bill,” designed to ignorantly discriminate against transgender people, was just overturned on March 30. It was a “hallelujah moment” for civil rights.

This year’s program is among its best, and most diverse ever. Here are just ten of the reasons you need to be there.

 

The Lineup

In addition to electronic icons like 808 State and Simian Mobile Disco, the Moogfest stages this year will hold art rockers Animal Collective, nu-goth goddess Zola Jesus, superstar DJ Derrick May, Syrian singer Omar Souleyman and rapper Mykki Blanco.

The Protest Stage

Certainly a response to the tense political and social climate under the Trump Administration, Moogfest 2017 will feature a dedicated Protest Stage – with, amongst others, a performance by hip-hop provocateur Talib Kweli.

Michael Stipe

The former R.E.M. frontman, who has been noticeably quiet since the band’s 2014 breakup, will premiere a new multi-media installation, soundtracked by his first ever solo composition.

Stranger Things

SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein will perform a live version of their score for the hit Netflix series Stranger Things – surely the most talked about new show of the last year.

Nick Zinner

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist will join Haxan Cloak for what is being intriguingly described as a “durational” performance. It’s worth going just to see what they actually mean by that.

Nona Hendryx

As vital a creative force as ever, the Labelle / Talking Heads legend will perform, and also conduct a discussion on her futuristic wearable tech instruments.

Peanut Butter Wolf

Will do an exclusive DJ set mixing the songs of recently deceased music legends, from Bowie and Prince, to Sharon Jones, George Michael and George Martin.

The Keynote

By Kate Shaw of CERN in Geneva, discussing the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. Food for deep thought.

Thought-Provoking Themes

Will include discussions on such heady topics as Hacking Systems, Black Quantum Futurism, and Transhumanism.

The Future of Creativity 

Always the most urgent, exigent topic for the worldwide creative community, it will be addressed by some of its greatest minds.

 

Spring Getaway: Art, Food + Flamenco in Madrid

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A massive sign on Madrid’s City Hall read “Refugees Welcome.” A cynic could take it as being a bit glib; but in truth, the statement was genuinely characteristic of Spain. It was particularly poignant, as our time there coincided with the onset of Trump’s divisive attempts at instituting a travel ban.

We were actually there to check out the impossibly cool new Only You Atocha hotel. And the visit just happened to be timed with their pop-up promotion with NYC’s Katz’s Delicatessen – incidentally, a proud, 128-year-old symbol of 19th Century Jewish immigration to New York’s Lower East Side. This sort of internationalism was very much a part of the allure of the hotel.

The brand itself had launched in 2013 with a very different sort of property – the Only You Boutique hotel in the trendy Chueca district. There, an aristocratic 19th mansion was converted by star designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán into a surreal but drop-dead stunning maze of differently themed public areas and plush guest rooms. He was enlisted again for the Atocha, this time giving a distinctly Spanish context to the lobby-as-hip-playground concept familiar to guests of hotels like The Ace.

And indeed, everywhere you might turn, there was something to grab your attention. To the right of the entrance, The Bakery by Mama Framboise, which serves decadent Tartaletas MF, a dozen flavors of macarons (goat-cheese-figs-pralines!), and Iberian ham toast all day. To the left was the Latin-Asian Trotamundos restaurant, with its buzzy corner cocktail bar. And just beyond is a dramatic atrium where nouveau jazz concerts take place regularly.

 

 

But probably our favorite part of the day was lingering over a lazy breakfast and the spectacular views at the 7th floor YOUniverse – where in the evenings DJs soundtrack the Panoramic Drinks Sessions.

In those rare moments when we actually did not have something to do, upstairs the rooms packed a great deal of charm and style considering the very approachable rates: smartly patterned bedspreads, exposed brick walls, white tiled bathrooms. For a special splurge, consider booking  the magnificent Terrace Suite.

Madrid itself comes especially to life as winter passes into spring, with its scores of pavement cafes, its teeming plazas for people watching and its streets that buzz late into the night. The food is divine, the nightlife is some of the best on The Continent, and it grand boulevards and its grandiloquent baroque architectural icons make it a city that glitters in the springtime sunshine.

 

The PradoThe Reina Sofia

The thing about classical art in Spain…it’s just different. It’s a country that still has a king, after all. And so a great deal of la historia de España is still told in a place like The Prado. It’s a very Spanish museum, and even if you’re a contemporary art geek, you’ll find yourself drawn in to the narrative as told through the dramatic works of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. The astonishing collection also includes Rubens, Titian and Hieronymous Bosch’s proto-surrealist masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The Reina Sofia, just a short stroll from the hotel, is Spain’s most important museum of 20th Century art, with works by Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, and, of course, Picasso. The latter’s war horror masterpiece Guernica is here – and an exhibition (Pity and Terror) dedicated to it, runs through September 4. The museum also holds works by Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and Richard Serra.

 

Prado Museum 2017

 

Art Gallery Tour

Madrid’s contemporary art scene has genuinely started to garner international attention, with its annual ARCO fair having become one of Europe’s most important. This is your best bet for getting to know the inside story, with tours of specific districts like the hip Letras and posh Salamanca. They will also curate private tours to suit your taste. You can add a wine drinking element, should you wish to pontificate on what you’ve seen over a glass or two of Rioja.

Barrio de Las Letras

Also a short stroll from the hotel, Las Letras is just that sort of neighborhood that defines Madrid: an atmospheric place where charming little bars and cool indie boutiques reign, and there’s not a chain outlet in sight. The outdoor cafes on Plaza de Santa Ana and the narrow streets around it are great for lingering and people watching.

 

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Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant Terrace

Atop the spectacular municipal building on the Plaza de Cibeles is a hidden away 6th floor restaurant and terrace. There’s a full gourmand’s menu – but come for cocktails, views and to soak up the vivid afternoon Madrid sunshine.

YOUnique Restaurant at Only You Boutique Hotel

Just being in this gorgeous hotel is an indescribable aesthetic pleasure. Its signature restaurant is a particular delight for a long, lazy lunch (Is there any other kind in Madrid?), with octopus salad, jamon coquetas, and lamb terrine with couscous all beautifully presented. Ask for a table in the verdant, art-adorned garden. The YOUnique Lounge is a stunning setting for evening cocktails.

 

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1862 Dry Bar

Spain’s is a wine-beer-sherry drinking culture. The cocktail thing, mercifully, did not sweep into its major cities and strap all of its bartenders into old-timey suspenders. 1862, for instance, is distinctly Spanish bar, not some Brooklyn imitation. A crowd of urbane Madrilenos come to sip updated takes on the classics (Gimlet, Sazerac, Manhattan) by drinks wizard Alberto Martinez. Spread over two floors, it’s one of the city’s buzziest scenes.

Corral de la Morería

Flamenco is way hotter than you might actually think – and five decades after opening, Corral de la Moreria is still one of the hottest tickets in Madrid. In a classical but sensual setting, with Arabic touches, watch some of Spain’s top names in the genre heat up the stage (and the audience) with their visceral, passionate performances. It’s actually quite an intense, even somewhat aphrodisiac experience.

 

Flamenco Madrid

NYC’s Langham Place and 1 Hotel Get Their Earth Day On

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The Langham Place Fifth Avenue Tree of Wishes

Earth Day (Saturday, April 22) had arguably hit a moment where it began to seem a bit…culturally hackneyed. But with a climate-change-denying administration in the White House, and an incoming E.P.A. Administrator (Scott Pruitt) who is likely gearing up to gut his own agency, the very idea of setting aside a special day to stick up for our Mother Planet seems suddenly once again urgent, even imperative.

Two of our fave New York City hotels are joining in the cause. The staff at the  Langham Place New York, Fifth Avenue (as part of their new #LovingEarthMonth initiative) have gone hands on, “planting” an exclusive Tree of Wishes in the elegant lobby, made entirely of reclaimed materials. Guests can purchase the pink, seeded “leaves,” and the donation will go towards bee preservation, benefitting The Honeybee Conservancy and Honey Love. For those who don’t know, as the bee population goes, so goes humanity. Celebrate the day with cocktails upstairs at Bar Fiori.

Across the East River, the new eco-chic 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge will celebrate its “official” opening with a day-and-night (noon – 9:15pm) Earth Day bash. In conjunction with mindbodygreen, it will be something of a festival of “conscious living.” Indeed, Biet Smikin will lead special meditations, there will be sessions with wellness studio Treatment by Lanshin, rooftop yoga with Caley Alyssa, and sustainability-focused panel discussions.

But it won’t be all seriousness. Mojave Rising’s Bess Matassa will be conducting astrology readings, there will be a live musical/visual performance by BELLA GAIA, and vendors from the new Dekalb Market Hall will be on hand, including Ample Hills Creamery, Bread & Spread, and Jianbing Company.

 

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FIRST IMAGES: London’s Hottest New Hotel ‘The Curtain’

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When the first Soho House opened in London in 1995, no one really imagined that it would launch an entire new generation of private clubs, which would stretch to NYC, LA and beyond. It cooled off for awhile – but now one of the most high-profile hotel openings of 2017 will also have an equally high profile members club as a key component.

Indeed, The Curtain will debut next month in ever trendy Shoreditch courtesy of Michael Achenbaum, co-founder of the Gansevoort Hotel Group. The $100 million undertaking will feature 120 guest rooms and suites, done up in a kind of rustic-industrial aesthetic.

Says Achenbaum, “It’s in our DNA to create hotels in neighborhoods that are not only ahead of the curve but also areas that are growing. The Curtain is that vision come to life.”

But the real marquee news is the first London restaurant from celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson, an outpost of his exalted Harem hotspot Red Rooster – with the same Aunt Maybel’s Dumplings, Sammy’s Chicken N Waffles and the now hallowed Sunday Gospel Brunch. It will also launch the Rooster Taqueria concept.

But playing to the East London location, The Curtain will be an exceedingly nocturnal hang with a rock & roll soul. Red Rooster’s live music program will showcase young London buzz bands; the hotel will display original artwork by legendary rock photographer Mick Rock; Billy’s Bar will host ongoing late-night programming; while a live performance space, LP, is inspired by CBGB – and will feature a regular series of members-only events.

Expect quite a scene to coalesce around the hotel’s rooftop brasserie and Moroccan-style pool this spring and summer. But also expect a guest list for the Curtain’s private members’ club to swell with the ranks of the upper echelons of the mediarati. Indeed, one imagines that it won’t so much lure members away from nearby Shoreditch House – as much as give them a dazzling new place to stay, play and schmooze.

 

The First Virtual Reality Cocktail? Report from London’s One Aldwych

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London has no shortage of glamorous hotel tippling establishments. But the absolutely gorgeous Lobby Bar at the One Aldwych has always been a favorite. So imagine our thrill when we heard they were adding a fascinating bit of high tech to the experience.

Indeed, as part of their new Showtime Cocktails program, one particular creation, The Origin (an urbane mix of Dalmore 12-Year-Old Whisky, Merlet cherry liqueur, cherry purée, fresh grapefruit juice, chocolate bitters & Lallier champagne) will get the full virtual reality treatment. The drink actually comes with a VR headset, which takes you on a magnificent journey from the Scottish Highlands to Covent Garden and back to the bar just as your cocktail is being served. For our part, having endured years of old-timey bartender mustaches and suspenders, we’re thrilled that the art of drinking is at last pointing the way to the future.

While you’re there, make sure to sample one of their other terribly sophisticated, theatre-referencing cocktails, like the Ce Soir, the Jasmine Breeze or the Fairy Garden Infusion, the latter inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

 

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Miami Weekend: The Stylish New Plymouth Hotel

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Nothing says “get me outta here” faster than a walk down SoBe’s trendy Collins Avenue on a busy weekend; yet as everyone eventually finds out, relief is just a fashionable hotel lobby away. Miami’s main drag teems with far too many overamped hotspots – so for us the stress level only starts to subside when we propel ourselves a block or two away from it all.

It’s why, in our most recent attempt to escape the daily hustle of NYC, we made our homebase the charmingly retro-fabulous new Plymouth hotel. In a striking Art Deco building and nicely located across the street from the stately Bass Museum of Art and Collins Park, it’s just the sort of chill oasis we prefer – with its own private slice of beach – and much to our delight, was not stingy with the pampering and fancy-pants amenities.

 

  • Image by Steve Hill

 

Hitting the beach was priority #1. But after soaking up the sun, we had a quick prosecco at The Cafe at our fave Lincoln Road literary destination Books & Books.

But we were also excited to check out the brandy-new outpost of NYC’s Employees Only. When it opened in New York in 2004, its sophisticated take on cocktail preparation and presentation blasted through the prevailing “Cosmotini” culture that had dominated the bar scene. Their weeks old operation in Miami offered a similar experience, a classy, grown-up respite from so much cheesy club culture. As with the original, the drinks are smashing (the Fraise Sauvage is Fords Gin shaken with wild strawberries and Tahitian vanilla), the select bites distinctive – we loved the bone marrow poppers – and per their moniker, hospitality pros (as in “employees only” –  get it?) tend to gather there, making it a lively scene – as those people really know how to get their drink on.

 

design district

 

Late mornings we indulged in the Plymouth’s so many special touches, from poolside breakfast, to a languid dip in the gorgeous pool to a lazy hang in one of the antique cabanas. A lunchtime cocktail at the tiki-like lobby bar motivated us up and out one day to the Design District (pictured above) where high fashion window-shopping can be taken to wallet busting extremes, if you’re not careful.

A short cab ride south from the Design District took us to once scruffy Wynwood, which seems to become more populous and stocked full of fabulous galleries, boutiques and trendy watering holes with each visit. Out latest favorite turned out to be with the new Wynwood Yard (pictured below) a pop-up food, music and general hangout space that even has a edible garden (ask first, don’t just start munching).

 

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But we never leave Miami without getting our Cubano on in Little Havana, a short trek west of Miami’s business center Brickell. Strolling down 8th St east of 17th Ave you’ll find cigars being rolled in storefront windows, plus mariquitas, tostones, and Cuban sandwiches on every corner, and the best bar in town, the Ball and Chain, which has been open since the ‘30s. It was also where Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Chet Baker played at impromptu jam sessions in the ‘50s. The real thing.

Back at the Plymouth, another New York City icon had recently made its Miami debut: Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill. Dinner at this newest outpost of the Bromberg Bros. exalted mini-chain is just as sublime down south, with delectable Maki dishes like Negi Hama, Karai Kaibashira and Ebi Tempura – and a serious sake selection.

 

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Hanging With Rocker ZZ Ward in LA

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Though she joined her first band at the age of twelve in Oregon, there’s nothing much of that hipster mecca about ZZ Ward‘s music. Rather, she follows a great tradition from The Stones to Gary Clark Jr. of mining the essence of the blues, then making it something all her own. Her 2012 debut album Til the Casket Drops featured the visceral singles “Last Love Song” and “365 Days” and brought her significant success right out of the box.

She’s currently working on a follow up record in her adopted home of LA – and will take the Rose Bowl stage June 25 at the inaugural Arroyo Seco Weekend, from the organizers (Goldenvoice) of Coachella. In the meantime we followed her around to her fave places in her Studio City neighborhood, and chatted about her fiery gospel-tinged new single “The Deep,” which hauntingly recalls the late, and very great Amy Winehouse.

 

“The Deep” sounds very gospelly – is this a new direction for you?

When I wrote the deep and the songs for my new album I wanted to evolve my sound by going deeper into what I love about music. I grew up listening to a lot of blues music and hip hop, to singers like Big Mama Thornton and Vera Ward Hall, women who sang from their hearts, and sang about real stories. For me, I just try to keep the songs I write true to my emotions and let the music and production support that.

Do you find living in LA is a particular inspiration; how does it influence your music?

Living in LA influences my music in that it gives me access to collaborate with a lot of talented people. I’m originally from a very small town, where I would mostly work on music myself, so living down here gives you a lot of chances to work with other musicians, songwriters and producers. I think the environment lends itself to be more competitive, because you have so many people around you that are good at what they do; it forces you to work harder and push yourself more.

You’re working on a new album. What can we expect from the new material? Any collaborations you can reveal?

I feel like I became more of an artist on this album, I became more protective of the songs and the music I’ve been trying to create. When looking for inspiration, I started to dig up all of my past relationships and broken hearts. I thought it might be time to clean out my closet and get a lot of stuff off my chest that I hadn’t taken the time to face. And yes, there are a lot of collaborations on the album, I can tell you I have a song with Fantastic Negrito which I’m very excited about…stay tuned for more.

ZZ’s fave Studio City hangs

Mercado

Mercado is my favorite restaurant for Mexican food. There are a few locations in Los Angeles, but I generally frequent the Studio City one because it’s right in our neighborhood. The décor is beautiful and if all the tables are full, there’s a great big bar to sit at that serves delicious margaritas and cocktails as well as the full menu. Sometimes my girlfriends and I stop in there for a quick bite to eat when we’re on the go. We are always running into people we know and the servers are very friendly. The Choriqueso and chips can’t be beat!

MERCADO STUDIO CITY INTERIOR

 Iroha Sushi of Tokyo

Iroha Sushi Of Tokyo is a really fun date spot that I try to frequent on a weekly basis. They have very fresh fish and delicious rolls. You can even order rolls with brown rice instead of white if you are trying to be more healthy. With indoor and outdoor seating, the atmosphere is very relaxed and dimly lit. There are oftentimes different specials to try. In my opinion, Iroha competes with some of the best sushi restaurants while staying moderately priced.

Studio City Farmers Market

There is a farmers market in Studio City every Sunday that we love to walk to. I love to pick up beautiful flowers for our home; and the fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers are some of the most delicious I have ever had. I am passionate about giving back, and since The Studio City Farmers Market is a non-profit organization, the proceeds after expenses are donated back to the community and some incredible organizations. I enjoy being around others in our charming neighborhood and it all makes for a really great Sunday!

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Paper Source

Whenever I have a friend or family member’s birthday coming up and especially around the holidays, I can always count on Paper Source. I love a good one stop shop. Not only is their wrapping paper special and unique, I’m always finding cute gifts there. It’s enjoyable to browse through their one of a kind card selection too for a quick laugh. I love getting crafty and they have so many options and colors it’s fun to make someone’s gift even more special!

Maxwell Dog

Among the people who know me, it’s no secret that I may have a slight obsession with my border terrier Muddy Waters. With that obsession comes spoiling, and Maxwell Dog is the perfect place to do that! They have everything you can ask for from fun toys, adorable beds, flashy collars, cool accessories, food and even specialty treats for dogs with allergies to spoil your favorite little one. I can get myself into some real trouble walking into that store. Muddy always appreciates a quick visit.

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