Creative Sao Paulo: Loupe Artist Paul Kurucz’ Fave Spots in the Buzzing Brazilian Metropolis

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Daniel Melim – Image Courtesy of Choque Cultural


The repeated charge that the art world is lofty and often out of reach has been recently challenged by the launch of the exciting new art app Loupe. Allowing for the easy streaming of a well-curated collection right on your computer, phone or television screen, it has something of a populist mission while also maintaining its impeccable sense of taste.

Some of Loupe‘s featured artists have become our new faves – to wit, Brazil’s Paul Kurucz. His provocative photographs play with perception and context, making the seemingly bizarre or surreal seem funny and curiosity-inspiring. They leave you wanting to know more about what you’re seeing.

“I was born in a Hungarian hospital to a French mother,” he explains, “who was expelled as a child from Egypt in 1956 for not being an Arab. She went to Europe instead of Israel because her Jewish family was pro-Arab.”

That tumultuous early life experience would go on to have a profound effect on the way he sees the world. Which, in turn, inspired his approach to creating such unexpected imagery.

“My life has been a long journey outside the boundaries of normality,” he says. “What one sees as bizarre or ambiguous is not only natural for me, but is the very essence of natural. This is how I see, feel and portray the world.”

Continuing a BlackBook-Loupe collaborative series which has included the likes of Bushwick, Atlanta and Denver, we asked him to share with us where local creative types might be found gravitating to in the endlessly chaotic but thrilling city of Sao Paulo.

“It’s Latin America’s New York City,” he tells us. “Its art scene is urban, vibrant, cosmopolitan, competitive, attracting the most creative minds. That could not be said of Rio de Janeiro, where I lived the past four years. One is extraordinarily fertile soil for the mind, while the other is a paradise for the body. Most inspiring is Sao Paulo’s lack of artistic elitism, its joyful habit of embracing new ideas, even the ones that are doomed to fail.”



  • 'abajour'
  • 'acapulco'
  • 'bbq'
  • 'cow girl'
  • 'snex'

Paul’s Sao Paulo Picks


In the alternative-chic district of Pinheiros, Kof is a perfect blend of imported coffees, ultra thick cookies, and race bikes in a small shop. Adorable waiters also serve homemade lemonades on the street, inside and in a small, hidden garden. It has super fast Wi-Fi that makes my home office feel like jail.

Studio Offe

My second home, where we do our shootings. It is an old, 10m-high bunker with no heating or A/C, but always the same nice temperature. It has a wide corridor to the surface from where the light comes in, if we want. It’s a surreal setting, a modern day cavern that inspires us to avoid cliches associated with works done in downtown fashion studios.

Museum of Image and Sound (MIS)

The PS1 and Centre George Pompidou of Sao Paulo. In a city located, or rather dislocated far from the world’s prime art scenes, the MIS brings the best multimedia art exhibitions [recent major shows have include O Mundo de Tim Burton and Frida Kahlo: Her Photos). To survive the hour long waiting lines, I like to call forgotten friends to get a life and or art update.
Museum of Image and Sound – Photo by Leticia Godoy

Pinheiros Galleries

For any art savvy globetrotter, I would definitely suggest to visit the more progressive galleries in Pinheiros. Then hang out at night at Roosevelt Square, where alternative subcultures are celebrated by the city’s “marginals.” Also have a long walk on the Paulista Avenue on Sundays (when the it is closed to traffic), where the best museums and most diverse exhibitions in town are. Some of the notable galleries are Choque Cultural, Galeria Millan and Instituto Tomie Ohtake.

Roosevelt Square

The meeting point of the city’s most eccentric subcultures, my favorite spot for free, open-air electronic parties. I love to chose among the 30 types of fresh pressed juices in one of the square’s hipster juice bars and just watch the the show of new fashion tendencies by the most extroverted people in town.

Mundo Pensante

A music venue with a name that tells it all: “Thinking World.” Mundo Pensante is an agnostic paradise located in a former church. Every night a different style, a different tribe, never mainstream. This is the place where I feel most at home, where curiosity, subversion, and alternative culture feel “true” and flow naturally.

London’s Charlotte Street Hotel Launches John Hughes Film Series

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The ostensibly little-known irony regarding perhaps the 80s’ most beloved film director, is that what was surely the best, most poignant John Hughes movie, was not actually directed by John Hughes. Indeed, 1986’s enduringly affective Pretty in Pink saw Howard Deutch get behind the camera, with the late JH relegated to a writing credit.

Still, silly as it could all be at times, the Hughes oeuvre taken together did uniquely and incisively capture what it was probably like growing up a teenaged outsider in America, those wonderful oddballs who ran with the post-punk dream of purple hair, contempt for suburban norms and a perpetual halo of noble existential alienation. Judd Nelson’s Bender in The Breakfast Club, especially, represented a new sort of paradigm of youthful antipathy for everything “respectable” and “ordinary.”

Said films also resonated with kids in Britain. And honoring that legacy, London’s perpetually hip Charlotte Street Hotel will launch a month-long John Hughes film series (in its private screening room) this Thursday, September 1, with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.



Pretty in Pink is particularly notable for its piercing delineation of teen “class” warfare, with a deliciously malicious performance by James Spader as uppity rich kid Steff, and the glorious Annie Potts as flamboyant-but-philosophical record shop proprietor Iona. But the series will also include the more grownup Planes, Trains and Automobiles, in which the director transposed that same sense of alienation and societal isolation onto a lonely shower curtain ring salesman, played brilliantly by John Candy.

To best make a night of it, the Soho-located hotel is offering dinner-or-cocktails-and-a-movie packages at its stylish Oscar Bar & Restaurant. For those not expecting to be in London during the next month, Firmdale’s two NYC hotels, The Crosby Street and The Whitby, each has its own ongoing Film Club series.


1st SEPT – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

8th SEPT – The Breakfast Club

15th SEPT – Planes, Trains and Automobiles

22nd SEPT – Pretty in Pink

29th SEPT – Sixteen Candles



Au Revoir, Saint Germain! Four Days in Paris’ Trendy East

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Image by Amelie Laurin


New York City’s hackneyed boast of being the city that never sleeps is a trope so outdated by now as to be comical. Seriously, we’ve had more late nights in Nashville lately.

But much even to our own surprise, we recently discovered that Paris comes surprisingly close to the top of our late night list; and while our friends in Berlin and Barcelona may challenge that, a recent whirlwind of a trip through the City of Light had us very willingly staying up way past our typical NYC bedtime.

After a relatively quick and uncomplicated voyage – thanks to a lovely Air France redeye, and some well-chosen medicinals – we came to rest on the far east side of town, a place where, if a view of the Eiffel Tower or Montmartre is absolutely necessary, requires quite  a lot of squinting and neck craning. But with the perpetually hip Mama Shelter hotel as our home base, we spent the next several days discovering a multitude of new streets to stumble down, whilst steering exceedingly clear of those pesky tourist throngs.


Image by Amelie Laurin 


The snail-shell-like map of Paris’ arrondissements locates the 20th, 12th and 13th on the eastern edge of the city. We made Pere Lachaise Cemetery – final resting place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison – our central landmark, and ventured forth to traverse the neighborhoods of Menilmontant, Bastille, Belleville and Bercy, areas more akin to where we typically roam at home in Greenpoint and Bushwick. Potentially intimidating waiters at white-cloth-tabled bistros were replaced by hip millennials offering cheap wine and organic veggies. And late nights on a floating dance club that stayed open for 50 hours straight were fueled by numerous imbibables.

Here’s how it all played out.


Air France offers the best in US/FR flights, for our money. Our overnight from JFK kicked off with complimentary champers in the airport lounge – what better start could one ask for?

The aforementioned Mama Shelter, the Philippe Starck designed boutique hotel that we made home, featured a cheery staff and a perpetually energized restaurant/bar off the lobby…that transformed into a lively scene come sundown each evening.


Mama Shelter 


First stop was the charming open-air market Marche Aligre in the Bastille, where we sampled delicacies from local restaurants Miss Lunch, Maguey, Marcelle and others as part of a city wide restaurant tour.

For us, Paris is even more of a walking city than New York – to be sure, we’re always excited to plant our feet on those ancient cobblestones. We found a wonderful street art walking tour that had us cruising the rues of the 13th, and turned us on to what’s happening beyond the pricey galleries of Saint Germain.



We know there’s no end of hallowed art museums in Paris; but we were intrigued to come across the Art Ludique, which featured an amazing DC Comics exhibit – including authentic Batman memorabilia – and got us in the mood for Paris Comic Con In October. It’s located in the modern Cite de la Mode at du Design, the roof of which hosts not one but three bars, and jaw-dropping views of the Seine.

As we were on the river, we stayed for dinner at one of many water-adjacent establishments… specifically Petit Bain, which was great for laid-back fish and chips and cocktails – sustenance we’d need for the planned late night ahead.


Image by Amelie Laurin


After being reminded that it was considered one of the greatest nightclubs in the world, we felt just a tad intimidated braving the line at Rex Club. We needn’t have, the place was the epitome of dance club chapel, with no attitude, awesome sound, and nonstop cocktails; a very late night return to Mama Shelter resulted in us missing breakfast, and lunch, the following day.

We did manage to grab an afternoon snack of pumpernickel toast with avocado, radish, red onions and deviled eggs at the hip Grand Central Restaurant and to check out the cool open space it is adjacent to, CENTQUATRE PARIS. The latter is used by budding dancers and performance artists to test their routines; it’s like the Fame school with baguettes.

We always love the Paris Metro for shuttling around between musees and bistrotheques; but when we were introduced to the option of a motorcycle sidecar tour, how could we say no? Their charming, and Gallic-sort-of-macho drivers had us yelling “tally ho Jeeves”…but in French, of course. The cycles dropped us off at one of the city sponsored creative hubs, Les Ateliers de Paris, where budding design houses are given yearly studio space in which to develop their aesthetic. We discovered stylish sneaker manufacturer Garconne & Cherubin and leatherwear designer AMPLR, whose chic backpacks would soon be slung over our shoulders.



Then it was off to Rosa sur Seine, where we met up with the director of the Paris nightlife council Frederic Hocquard. His business card reads Charge de la Nuit, and his main mission is to regulate the city’s nocturnal activities, including its 150 discos and clubs, thirteen thousand bars and venues, and six-hundred thousand nighttime workers. Sounds like fun, but we guessed he was probably pretty tired a lot of the time.

As were we on the edge – okay in the middle – of the decidedly more bourgeoisie 7th, we made a quick side trip through Invalides to visit with an artist friend at the gloriously Parisian classic bistro Le Tourville, before heading back to the 12th for a lovely dinner of salade de quinoa, et légumes du soleil, crevettes à l’ail (grilled shrimp over quinoa) at the exceedingly hip La Bellevilloise, a multi-room cultural center that includes a live music venue, restaurant, nightclub and outdoor surf bar. Director/founder Renaud Barillet has devoted years to developing the venue, and is also involved with numerous other public cultural spaces.



Our subsequent late night at Concrete could have been a lot more decadent, as the venerated riverfront club is open continuously from 8pm on Friday until Monday morning – and hosts the crème de la crème of international dance music DJs…techno/house being the vibe the night we were there. We didn’t encounter anyone planning to stay for the entire weekend, but we were pretty sure they were there.

Our final morning in Paris had us visiting the charming suburban commune of Saint Ouen, just north of the city’s boundary; it’s home to Paris’ enormous flea market, and the highest concentration of antique dealers in the world. We made a stop at the singularly cool MOB Hotel for a lunch of leek and avocado salad and squash soup, then spent time lounging around the hotel’s stylish and comfy lobby, before heading back to the Air France terminal at Charles de Gaulle…and what we hoped would be another couple of rounds of pre-flight bubbly.


Ace Hotels To Honor 105th Birthday of Legendary Composer John Cage

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“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.”

This was not just a pithy observation by legendary composer John Cage – but a veritable manifesto. Indeed, it was his 1952 composition “4’33″” which signaled a sea change in the way we think about sound. The piece itself was just four minutes and thirty-three seconds of (yes) silence – allowing for incidental sounds to be audible while it was “performed.”


                                                                                      Ace Hotel New York


This September 5th, which would have been Cage’s 105th birthday, the Ace Hotels will honor his incredible sonic legacy by broadcasting his compositions throughout the public spaces of their hotels, for the duration of the day. Should you be planning to be in New York, Seattle, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, LA, Chicago, London…it will present perhaps the only opportunity you’ll ever have to see the Post-War avant-garde come together with hipsterdom. Just think of the possibilities.

For a more comprehensive history on the composer and his ineffable body of work, visit the John Cage Trust website.


Hotel RL Brings an Immersive Cultural Experience to Brooklyn

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Photos by Glenn Garner

With the myriad of trendy Manhattan hotels, there are endless options for tourists seeking the quintessential New York experience. But for the eclectic traveler or the overwhelmed local who needs a weekend away, there’s a completely different scene just one borough over.

Although Brooklyn has evolved into a hip locale for young families looking to settle down and hipsters who can afford the exorbitant rent, the area remains rich with culture. Bushwick is a shining example with its vibrant blocks of street art, historical buildings and a diverse community that’s keeping the neighborhood alive.

Just at the edge of the neighborhood, right off the M train, is the newest addition to the Hotel RL family. Warm accommodations with a modern style and an active social setting, it’s become a Bushwick staple. Guests and locals alike have found a common appreciation for the establishment.

Left: A guest bed at the Hotel RL in Brooklyn. Top Right: Storage bins labeled with the Hotel RL logo. Bottom Right: A view of the elevated MTA line from a third-floor guest room at the Hotel RL in Brooklyn.

I recently crossed the river into Brooklyn for a little staycation at the newly opened hotel. As I settled into my room, I was enamored with the mural behind the bed, a room-length black and white photo of the Brooklyn skyline from an era long past. The room’s modern design fused style and function for the ideal stay. The railway themed decor was complemented by a view of the elevated MTA line, passing right in front of the hotel, above the street outside.

Just downstairs is the Living Stage. A great place to get a coffee or a snack, it also serves as a nightly venue for live performances and other events. Queer youth from the Ali Forney Center have also been welcomed to perform their own pieces.

Top Left: The cafe at the Living Stage in Hotel RL Brooklyn. Right: The stage at the Living Stage in Hotel RL Brooklyn. Bottom Left: Seating at the Living Stage in Hotel RL Brooklyn.

Hotel RL has teamed up with the Ali Forney Center as part of Project Wake Up Call. For a donation less than the cost of most New York hotels, guests get a free night stay at the hotel. The donation goes toward Ali Forney Center’s housing of LGBTQ youth and the many lifesaving services they provide.

Outside the hotel are blocks and blocks of beautiful street art. Featuring artists from all over the world, the colorful creations provide a uniquely artistic atmosphere to the neighborhood. It’s worth an afternoon walking tour or just a stroll on your own to take in the incredible works.

The neighborhood is also rich with history to explore. A red brick mansion at the corner of Willoughby and Bushwick Avenues was once home to the explorer, Robert Peary, who claimed to be the first man to reach the North Pole. A few blocks away is the Arion Mannerchör, a former opera house that now houses lofts for trendy locals. The streets of Bushwick and the neighboring Bed Stuy also raised the likes of Mae West, Jackie Gleason and Jay Z.

Various works of street art in Bushwick, walking distance from the Hotel RL Brooklyn.

Before heading back to the hotel, there’s some unique local shopping for the thrifty, yet stylish treasure hunters. Street Fever is a bohemian market built into an alley, reminiscent of those in the narrow streets of Morocco or Jerusalem, but with a punk motif and filled with novelty trinkets and tchotchkes. Just across the street from Hotel RL is an unnamed, newly opened showroom for local up and coming designers, a unique array of vintage and original pieces perfect for those with a specific sense of style.

Street Fever, a bohemian market in Bushwick.

After returning to the hotel to freshen up, it’s a perfect time to visit the backyard. Unwind and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail while taking in the sunset. Or play a game of cornhole or Jenga with friends.

With a hearty appetite, there’s no better place for dinner than Santa Panza. Just across the street, this Italian restaurant is the delectable creation of Pietro Hebel, Giovanni Gelfini and Clement Chabernaud. The menu is curated with refreshing fruit cocktails and authentic Italian cuisines. The interior provides a rustic charm for a low-lit romantic dinner or some drunken and jovial company.

Dinner and drinks at Santa Panza.

After dinner, head back to the Living Stage. Enjoy a nightcap and take in a live performance from musicians, poets, and the many talented local artists who’ve taken to the stage.

As you retire to your room, there’s no better way to fall asleep than to the calms sounds of the passing trains and their soft vibrations.

For more information and to book your stay, visit Hotel RL.

Preview: Scarpetta Opening This Fall at the New James NoMad Hotel

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Keeping up with the rotation of trendy hotels and restaurants certainly makes for good sport, if you like that sort of thing. The latest? NoMad’s plush Carlton has just been rebranded as the second James Hotel in New York (and something like the 75th hotel to open in the magically “invented” neighborhood in the past few years – but who’s really counting?).

Following that news came the announcement that the Meatpacking District’s perpetually chic Scarpetta restaurant will be leaving its current space and moving into the James come October. The modern Italian hotspot has been a hit going on nine years in the MePa – though it should be noted that star chef and co-founder Scott Conant is actually no longer involved. Instead, the kitchen will be headed by Jorge Espinoza, who was a key kitchen player from the start at the 14th Street original.

Devotees needn’t worry, but rather expect the most hallowed signature dishes to carry over: creamy polenta with truffled mushrooms, short rib & bone marrow agnolotti, duck & foie gras ravioli. The “Crudi” menu, and “Verdure” for vegetarians, will also reappear. Perhaps the biggest change? More of an emphasis on shareability – a welcome communal gesture in these times of worrying division.

Danish designer Thomas Juul-Hansen‘s rustic-luxe space will be all subdued opulence, with warm tones, sexy curves and dramatically tilted mirrors. There will be a separate 50-seat bar and lounge, as well, where you’ll likely find us this fall, knocking back a few expertly made negronis.

“Scarpetta has always been at once informal, comfortable and elegant,” says LDV Hospitality Founder John Meadow, “grounded with a passion for old world hospitality. But as opposed to our earlier years, the new menu is built for sharing and conviviality.”

The James itself is already hosting international mediarati types, drawn to the considerably amped NoMad buzz.



Exclusive: Making the Perfect Sunday Roast with London’s New Game Bird Restaurant

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The last decade or so of British chefs looking back to the great English traditions meant that the menus of high-profile chefs were now featuring haute versions of, well, steak & kidney pie. Even better, that greatest of all English traditions, the Sunday roast, has made its mark on the culinary trendometer. (Amusingly, the Guardian declared its revival in 2009, the Telegraph called it a “thing of the past” in 2012 – and then the Guardian last year hailed it as “a tradition worth preserving.”)

Whatever your view, Chef James Durrant is certainly the man you want at the job. He’s got Michelin-starred cred to spare, having done time in two of Gordon Ramsay’s top restaurants, as well as holding the Exec Chef title at Jason Atherton’s Maze. Now he’s at the helm of one of London’s most high-profile openings, the fittingly named The Game Bird at the plush, celeb-fave (David Beckham loves it) Stafford Hotel in posh St James. And they’re doing a quite a wonderful Sunday roast, we’re happy to report.

“It came to prominence back in 1485 during the reign of King Henry VII,” Durrant tells us, “when The King and his Guard – the Yeoman Wardens – dined on a feast of roast beef following church on a Sunday. This tradition has led to the Yeoman Wardens affectionately being termed ‘Beefeaters.’ To this day, beef is the ‘King’ of the Sunday roast, and we have decided to keep the tradition running at The Game Bird. Our mouth-watering roast rib of beef is carved table-side from a handmade trolley and served with all the trimmings.”


What else can one expect at The Game Bird? Four- and eight-course tasting menus might include Rhug Estate fallow deer tartare, Orkney sea scallops with roasted cauliflower, smoked roe and seaweed butter, and pigeon with parsnips, cavolo nero and “bullshot” – all very English, to be sure. And interiors to match. It’s actually named for WWII resistance fighter and spy Nancy Wake; and with its etched ceiling, charmingly patterned chairs, Chesterfield style banquettes, and Deco lighting fixtures, it certainly is a throwback to more, shall we say, mannered times.

Trad-loving Anglophiles that we are, we asked Durrant to give us a peek behind the magic of his perfect Sunday roast. And he was gracious enough to let us in on some of his most treasured recipes. (See below.)

“There’s no general rule to creating a fantastic roast dinner,” he insists, “apart from choosing good meat and taking the time to create a great gravy. When it comes to vegetables, add your favorites that are in season, this way they will be more flavorsome. Spring greens with a pinch of nutmeg work great with roast chicken, or a lovely peppery swede and carrot mash work great with beef.”



Roast Rib of Beef, Yorkshire Pudding

Cauliflower Cheese, Honey Roast Carrots and Roast Potatoes

Beef and gravy
1 x 2.50 kg fore rib of beef (with 2 bones)
1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
A few sprigs of Thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
A knob of butter
2 x onion sliced
150g plain flour
500ml red wine
1.5ltr hot beef stock
  1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F. Take the beef out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and allow it to come to room temperature. Place a large sturdy roasting tray in the oven to heat up. In a pestle and mortar smash 3 garlic cloves and most of the thyme with a pinch of sea salt and generous amount of olive oil, then massage all over the beef.
  2. Quickly smash the remaining unpeeled garlic cloves and add to the hot roasting tray with the beef. Pop straight in the oven and roast for around 50 minutes, basting occasionally with the juices from the tray.
  3. After 50 minutes, reduce the temperature to 190°C/375°F/gas 5 for around 10 minutes, or until the beef is beautifully golden brown on the outside and pink in the middle – leave in for longer if you prefer your beef well done. Carefully transfer it to a platter, dot the knob of butter on top. Cover with a double layer of tin foil and a tea towel and leave to rest. reserve the beef resting juices for the gravy
  4. Meanwhile, to make the gravy, place the roasting tray on the hob over a low heat, add the sliced onion to the juices in the tray and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until the onions are soft and caramelised. Stir in the flour, then whisk in the red wine, making sure there are no lumps. Bring to the boil, whisking constantly, then bubble until reduced by half. Stir in the stock, and then cook over a medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick.
Yorkshire Pudding
100g plain flour
Pinch salt
3 large free-range eggs
225ml milk
Sunflower oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
  2. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and a little of the milk. Whisk until smooth then gradually add the remaining milk. This can be done with a wooden spoon, but is easier with an electric hand-held whisk. Pour the mixture into a jug.
  3. Measure a dessert spoon of oil into each hole of a 12 hole muffin tray. Transfer to the preheated oven for five minutes, or until the oil is piping hot.
  4. Carefully remove from the oven and pour the batter equally between the holes or the tin. Return the batter quickly to the oven and cook for 20–25 minutes, or until golden-brown and well-risen.
  5. Serve immediately.
Roast Potatoes
8 potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and cut into large chunks
  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook until soft on the outside. Drain and let them steam dry on a wire rack placed over a roasting tin.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  3. Add a little oil to a roasting tin and place in the oven to heat. When the oil is hot, add the dry potatoes and stir gently to coat in oil. Roast for 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown.
Cauliflower Cheese
2 cloves of garlic
50 g unsalted butter
50 g plain flour
600 ml milk
500 g fresh broccoli
75 g mature cheddar cheese
50 g parmesan
1 kg fresh cauliflower
2 slices of stale bread
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
25 g flaked almonds
Olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel and finely slice the garlic and put it into a medium pan on medium heat with the butter.
  3. When the butter has melted, stir in the flour for a minute to make a paste, then gradually add the milk, whisking as you go, until smooth.
  4. Add the broccoli and simmer for around 20 minutes, or until cooked through and starts to break down, then mash or blitz with a stick blender (adding an extra splash of milk to loosen, if using fresh broccoli). Grate in half the Cheddar and season to perfection.
  5. Arrange the cauliflower in an appropriately sized baking dish, pour over the broccoli white sauce and grate over the remaining Cheddar and parmesan.
  6. Blitz the bread into breadcrumbs in a food processor, then pulse in the thyme leaves and almonds. Toss with a lug of oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, then scatter evenly over the cauliflower cheese.
  7. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden and cooked through
Honey Roast Carrots
1kg Chantenay or other small carrots peeled
Thyme sprigs
100 g butter
3 tbsp veg oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp clear honey
  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the carrots into a roasting tin and toss with the oil and some salt and pepper sprigs of thyme. Roast for 30 mins.
  2. Add a knob of butter then Drizzle the vinegar and honey over the carrots, toss well and return to the oven for a further 20 mins.

Sorry, But Your City’s ‘Food Scene’ Might Not Actually Be All That Special

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Image: State & Lemp, Boise


A by now unavoidable pattern seems to have developed over the least few years, where the “draw” of just about every American city is being pitched as its “super hot food scene.” The same buzz phrases are employed by each: “innovative young chefs” are making “locally sourced cuisine” that draws on “regional traditions” but with “a new twist.” (In some cases this means nothing more than a fussed-over grilled cheese sandwich topped with a few “local” nettle leafs.)

This all comes amidst much misguided blather about how “food is the new rock & roll” and “chefs are the new artists.” Yet let’s be clear: April Bloomfield‘s wonderful restaurants will always send you home very well fed  – but her pan seared skate with saffron aioli is definitely not Björk’s Biophilia. As for food being held up as art, Jason Farago’s 2014 BBC story slaps that one down with relative ease. (“When a chef like [Ferran] Adrià is acclaimed as an artist, or when organic obsessives wax rhapsodic about the cultural virtues of turnips, it says we expect less from art than we used to.”)


Pontiac Bourbon & BBQ, Cincinnati


The more mundane truth is that American urban centers are gentrifying at a lightning pace (South Park even did a brilliantly incisive episode about it); and where there is gentrification, there are new restaurants hoping to attract the gentrifiers’ cash. It is, in a sense, the logical conclusion of the “Brooklynization” (or “Portlandization”) of…everywhere.

Now, for our part, BlackBook does not at all abide NYC-LA centrism; and we have enthusiastically promoted the many virtues of the likes of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Oakland, Ottawa, and so on.

So, is it simply much too easy to engender a food scene? For greater elucidation on the subject, we present here a loose, eye-opening list of the cities whose “food scenes” have been showered with rapturous column inches of praise from the “elite” press. And don’t worry – should that be enough to get you to book the next flight to Boise, St. Louis, Des Moines…we’re pretty sure a “lifestyle” hotel has just opened in each.



Earlier this year Vogue (yes, Vogue) insisted that Boise (yes, Boise) is “having a culinary renaissance, with creative young chefs, artisans, brewers and even winemakers.” If we’re being honest, we’ve never actually seen a bottle of wine from Idaho. But it’s definitely a thing.
The “Must” Restaurants: Mai Thai, State & Lemp



In 2015, Zagat ranked Steel City as the absolute No. 1 foodie destination in America. Who are we to argue with Zagat? (Hipster bonus: Pittsburgh now has its own Ace Hotel.)
The “Must” Restaurants: Butcher & Rye, Union Standard


Butcher & Rye 

St. Louis

Back in 2014, Time Out noted that “the Gateway City’s food scene has quietly established a reputation as a home to a wide variety of sophisticated, locally soured fare [and] craft beer.” And one of the city’s signature eats is something called gooey butter cake. Yum.
The “Must” Restaurants: Nixta, Olive + Oak


Olive + Oak


Des Moines

The Atlantic urged readers in 2014 to “do the most hipster thing possible”…move to Des Moines. By 2016, Politico had decisively confirmed the city’s cool cred – and the New York Times was going on enthusiastically about the culinary treats that awaited last year’s GOP Caucus goers.
The “Must” Restaurants: Alba, Saison Kitchen + Pub


Saison Kitchen + Pub


It’s not your father’s beer and cheese lifestyle anymore, is it? In December 2016, Eater focused on 11 of the city’s restaurants that were “garnering some serious buzz” in a piece on “the hottest openings of the last 12 months” in Mil-Town. N.B. Milwaukee in December is actually pretty bloody cold.
The “Must” Restaurants: Red Light Ramen, DanDan





The Chicago Tribune in 2016 pointed to (what else?) an urban renewal program that has turned Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood from something of a blight into “a hub of the city’s culinary scene.” Isn’t it always the way?
The “Must” Restaurants: Pontiac Bourbon & BBQ, Quan Hapa


Quan Hapa


Charlottesville, Bloomington, Greenville, Grand Rapids…

The Tasting Table 2017 list of America’s 27 most underrated food cities included all of these. Yes. there are actually twenty-seven cities in the US that have yet to be given their proper due in honoring their culinary magnificence and hotness.
There’s banana pudding doughnuts in Birmingham, tagarashi-spiced catfish in Louisville, Mongolian-beef-stuffed chun bing in New Haven, oyster mushroom banh mi in Omaha and (we kid you not) rabbit served with rye pasta purses, cherry marmalade and soda spiked ricotta in Portsmouth – all of which have apparently been criminally under-reported and shamefully under-lauded.
For the record, though, we did check – and from what we can tell, Waco, Texas doesn’t have much of a food scene. Yet.


Terra Square Farmers Market, Grand Rapids 



Indie Songstress Tristen’s Guide to Authentic Nashville

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At a time when technology continues to rapidly alter the way we process music, singer-songwriter Tristen is a steadfast practitioner of the more traditional model. She releases a record every couple of years through decidedly indie channels – and she hits the road with her guitar and outsize personality to connect with her rather enthusiastic fans in the most visceral way possible.

She’s just released her fourth album, intriguingly titled Sneaker Waves. The songs are full of dreamy, uplifting atmospherics, shimmering melodies and clever lyrical wordplay (“Only the lonely would find themselves inside of your bed / I’m howling at the moon instead.”) You might hear hints of everyone from The LA’s to Cocteau Twins to Patsy Cline.

She hits the stage in Fayetteville, Arkansas on September 7, for the launch of an extensive US tour that will take her to 23 cities, ending up in Chicago on October 6.

She grew up in the Windy City, in fact – but now calls Nashville home. So, in true BlackBook fashion, we caught up with her for a chat, and asked her to turn us on to her absolute fave places to hang in her adopted home.



Your new album is called Sneaker Waves – what exactly does that title mean?

I was at Rockaway Beach in Oregon, and I noticed signs for “sneaker waves” as I climbed along some rocks on the ocean. [I learned that] a sneaker wave is an unanticipated coastal wave that is much larger than the waves that have come before it; and it has the power to sweep you away into the ocean with no notice or reason. I felt it was a metaphor for death and how impermanent things are, I was immediately drawn to the words. We always try to find reasons for why people die young or suddenly, or ways we can prevent our own death. We often live in fear of it, when really it is a sneaker wave that can take you at any moment, and so your time, right now, becomes more precious than ever.

Songs like “Got Some” and “Glass Jar” have a sort of exuberance to them. What were some of the overarching inspirations behind the record?

For Sneaker Waves, I really tried to focus on what the song wanted to be, so I went in without a concept. It’s always about finding the right groove and that’s really the interaction between the bass and the drums. For me, I always know and can feel when things are right – trying to explain why the music is right for the song has always been the tedious part. So my job is really finding the right people to come in, and guiding them as much as they need to be guided. I make sure the arrangements are really concise.

What brought you to call Nashville your home?

I moved to Nashville fresh out of college to follow my dream of being a working songwriter. I was always able to write songs fairly easily from a young age and so I wanted to be around other artists and musicians. I learned how to record by myself, so that when I wrote songs like ‘Eager For Your Love’ and ‘Easy Out’ I could demo them at the moment of inspiration.


How does the city inspire you, both personally and creatively?

Nashville has a very rich musical fabric and so moving there became an invaluable education for me. I was inspired by the musicianship and taste. Nashville is all about songs and tone and if you are listening, there is a wealth of wisdom you can tap into. I mostly love the people in Nashville; my friends are some of the most talented, brilliant  musicians I’ve ever met, and we can commiserate over our troubles and party our sorrows away together.


Tristen’s Nashville Faves

Buy a Record at Grimey’s

The most supportive, connected, legendary record store in Nashville, possibly the country. Grimey’s frequently has in-store performances by titans of music, and their staff has ultra great musical taste; they can turn you on to some real treasures. Many great touring Nashville musicians work there when they are off the road. Next door is Grimey’s Too, a book store with used media, as well.

Pick Up Vintage Threads at Hip Zipper

Hip Zipper is most definitely classic Nashville, and it’s the best vintage store in town. Located next to the legendary local rock club The 5 Spot, Hip Zipper always has a great collection and it’s very fairly priced.



Buy Books at McKay’s Nashville

If you don’t mind making the drive, McKay’s is massive and has loads of used media: books, DVDs, records and video games.

Eat a Delicious Lunch at Mas Tacos Por Favor

Teresa Mason was the innovator of the food truck. She now has a great permanent spot in East Nashville, and Mas Tacos continues to please locals and tourists alike. She is the queen of curating a simple, concise, delicious menu.



Get a Damn Fine Cup of Coffee at The Post East

Although it’s not in my neighborhood, I frequently make the journey a couple miles away to The Post. This is my favorite coffee shop in East Nashville, tucked away from the beaten path, but a genuine local favorite.

Eat Delicious Vegetarian Food at The Wild Cow

Want a big salad after the BBQ crawl? Wild Cow is a vegetarian restaurant that won’t leave you hungry. Everything on the menu is delicious and nutritious. Make sure to have a smoothie. If you have to wait to get a table and it’s after 5pm, head across the street to the bar at Eastland Cafe for a cocktail.



Listen to Some Country Music at Nashville Palace

Skip the madness of downtown Broadway tourism, but experience real Nashville and great country music, cold beer and fried foods at the Nashville Palace. There is country music seven days a week, and a dance floor for you to practice your two-step.

See a Rock & Roll Show at Fond Object

I hope you are lucky enough to catch a show at my favorite spot in Inglewood, Fond Object. It’s a record store and vintage clothing shop that frequently hosts local and touring acts in it’s backyard. You can also check out Fond Object’s brand new downtown location, if that’s more convenient.