An Utterly Transcendent Food + Wine Tour of New Zealand’s North Island, Part I

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There’s a tendency for those of us who have chosen to reside in cities like NYC in our ridiculously overpriced luxury shoeboxes, to possess a particular sort of snobbery about the privilege of knowing that the chef-of-the-moment has just opened the most talked about restaurant in the universe right down the street. Which only makes it all the morning humbling to be reminded that they can do it just as well elsewhere, usually without all the haughtiness.

Which is precisely what transpired on our recent visit to New Zealand, where, during a weeklong stay, we ate and drank our way across the landscape to rapturous effect. Truly, the level of excellence we encountered could hardly be conveyed. From Auckland to Wellington, Hawkes Bay to Waiheke Island, we were duly impressed at every turn…and we didn’t even make it to the South Island.

Speaking of excellence, the delightful flight on Air New Zealand also reminded us of why US airlines could use a few lessons in impeccable service. And for some reason, the day-and-a half-time difference resulted in minimal jet lag…perhaps partially thanks to the employment of the appropriate medicinals?

Here’s how our epicurean tour of Kiwi country’s ethereal North Island played out.

 

Auckland 

After a painless 13-hour flight from LA to Auckland, our first meal allowed us an intimate look at typical Aucklanders out on a Saturday night – and at Depot, across from the famous Sky Tower, they were loud, proud, and knew how to have a good time. The restaurant specializes in casual fresh and sumptuous shareable plates, from oysters and clams to the NZ meat board, which included wild rabbit rillettes, popcorn duck tongue, wild pork salami, beef bresaola and smoked pork loin with cherry relish and fig & fennel crostini. Any doubts as to N-Zed’s chefs’ ability to sit at the big boys table were immediately dashed.
On our first morning we breakfasted at the popular SKYCITY Hotel, before hopping in a rental car and heading an hour or so north (more on driving on the left in another story). Our destination was the Brick Bay Winery and Sculpture Trail, and on the way we stopped for a coffee at the unbelievably charming Puhoi General Store, where the comely young checkout girl seemed genuinely excited that we were from Brooklyn; we only had to go 8,699 miles for that to happen.

 

 

Once at Brick Bay we delighted in strolling the 2km long trail and mercilessly critiquing the 45 sculptures on display; most received raves from us, however, despite our tendency towards cultural jadedness. Then it was back to the winery for a tasting from what is one of the Matakana Wine Region’s top boutique vineyards; we were particularly partial to their crisp rosé. The beautiful Glass House Kitchen restaurant paired BB wines with simple yet delectable menu items, such as the grilled chorizo and fried egg sandwich (with free range bacon, buffalo mozzarella, and roasted garlic aioli).
Matakana also has a town of the same name; and we took a stroll amongst the quaint boutiques and shops before stopping at Sawmill Brewery for a tour and tasting of the local suds. That included an impossibly delicious and healthy lunch of miso baked gurnard with asparagus and preserved lime gremolata. Co-owner Rei Harris’ tale of kayaking to work from his house “upstream” challenged us to come up with not horrible tales of our daily L-Train commute; we failed miserably.

 

Above: Orphans Kitchen; Sawmill Brewery

 

That evening we skipped a traditional dinner and went straight for one of the most creative and decadent desert experiences we’ve ever had the pleasure of…experiencing. Inspired by couture fashion houses, science, art, and technology, Giapo Petrucci and his wife Annarosa make ‘haute ice-cream’ in the form of mind-bogglingly inventive creations like the chocolate covered giant squid, at their namesake Giapo. The couple were so passionate about their creations that we couldn’t disappoint them by not trying them all.
The following day, before saying adieu Auckland, we checked out some shopping on Ponsonby Road, and had yet another impressive lunch at Orphans Kitchen. The simple, quaint restaurant on a boutique-lined street serves food so fresh there isn’t a standard menu; but our waiter suggested wood roasted chook with kiwifruit mole, kumara tortillas, as well as a side of oysters and a cheeky glass of Pinot…and who were we to disagree?

 

Waiheke Island

 

Our next stop was Waiheke Island, a stunning, 32-square-mile rock, just a 30-minute seaplane ride east of Auckland, that is home to over 20 wineries and close to 50 hotels. During the summer its 7,000 permanent residents are inundated by 50,000 visitors (think: The Hamptons, without all the hangers-on).
Auckland Seaplanes dropped us off at 10am on a seemingly deserted beach in a stunning cove, and promptly departed. We were about to start gathering wood and laying animal traps when we were welcomed by an amiable missionary from Man O’ War Vineyards, located about 50 yards from our position, who escorted us to the tasting room (so, we were “stranded” for all of about five minutes). Named for the battleships that Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy sailed in the 1700’s, the winery is one of the island’s finest – although that impression may have been influenced by the thrill of drinking good vino at 10 in the morning. Their Sauvignon Blanc and Tulia Blanc de Blanc were the definitive standouts.

 

Man O’ War Wine Estate

 

We spent the remainder of the afternoon being ferried around Waiheke by a wonderful guide from local tour operator Ananda Tours, who had once worked in the Auckland music biz. He regaled us with a constant geyser of information about the island between stops at various vineyards and restaurants. First up was an alcohol-free vineyard (or “orchard”), which excelled in another dinner table staple, olive oil. The Rangihoua Olive Estate is an award-winning 100% NZ owned purveyor of the extra virgin variety, which we sampled in abundance.
Stony Ridge and Mudbrick vineyards followed, both of which were in the grand tradition of opulent wineries, the former focusing on luscious reds, the latter including cottages and a lodge for when one doesn’t want to sleep too far from the next bottle. We had a late lunch of local Te Makutu Bay oysters, olives, and the vineyard’s signature Shepherds Point Merlot in the Mudbrick restaurant, overlooking the rolling hills and ocean beyond.
Our final stop for the day was our room for the night at the gorgeous Boatshed, a boutique hotel where our four-course dinner was served in the downstairs sitting room with yet another ethereal view of the baycr The crème brûlée was to die for, and a sublime cap off to our visit.
In Part 2 we travel south and east explore Wellington and Hawkes Bay.

 

The Boatshed

 

 

 

 

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.

 

BlackBook Exclusive: DJ Lady Kier’s Groovalicious Playlist Celebrating POP Montreal’s #Sweet16

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We’ve loved Lady Miss Kier since she grooved her way into our hearts back in 1990, as 1/3 of the super fantabulous Deee-Lite.

Now going by the honorable title DJ Lady Kier, she will be one of the many and sundry musical highlights of this year’s POP Montreal festival, #Sweet16 edition. Resolutely indie at heart, the five-day (September 13-17) extravaganza will feature the likes of RZA, Austra, The Dears, Son Little, Naomi Punk, Doe Paoro and John Maus.

As a tease for her late night set at Piccolo Little Burgundy on Sept. 14th (with Jessy Lanza and Quay Dash), Lady Kier has put together this totally fierce playlist exclusively for POP Montreal and BlackBook. So start booking those flights to Montreal, and don’t forget to bring your best headphones for the plane.

 

Cartagena Cool Part II: The Lowdown on Latin America’s Most Alluring City

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Continuing our exploration of the seductive Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias (see Part I of the story), we ventured out of the walled city to see how the locals live.

A 10-minute walk directly south of the Old City, and past the Parque del Centenario, brought us to Getsemani, the town’s once very sketchy but now colorful bohemian hub. Strolling its quiet (during the day at least), narrow, tree-lined streets we came across all manor of intriguing urban life: old men playing dominoes in dusty front rooms – front doors and windows are often wide open, presumably to encourage a little circulation – which double as industrious, home-based businesses (i.e. beauty parlors), and stray cats and dogs lounging in the sun. In the evenings the bars fill up, and enthusiastic party people take over.

 

 

It was in Getsemani, and more specifically at Demente, a hip but romantic restaurant with a soaring atrium and amazing pizza, that we first met Julian Baker of Travel Colombia Direct – our insider for all things Cartagena. While Baker still sounds like the British prep schooler that he is, nine years in Colombia have infused him with a very South American cosmopolitanism, along with an excellent grasp of Spanish. His lovely Cartagenan wife Juliana, a jewelry designer, is also an advisor to the travel company.

“It’s a unique beautiful city,” Julian enthused, “with some of the most charming people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. This place has something for everyone: typical and international gastronomy, pumping nightlife, first class hotels, fantastic shopping, history, art and culture. All wrapped up in year-round sunny days, local beaches and nearby islands – a magical place, that will take your breath away if you give her the chance to.”

Dinner and drinks at Demente gave way to a midnight stroll through the hot streets; kids were still up playing football in front of the old church and portable refreshment carts supplied unnecessary yet delicious, sugary nightcaps. We stumbled back to our hotel, the bewitching Casa Pizarro, while the street scenes played out until dawn.

 

 

For the record, another great hotel choice in the neighborhood is Monterrey, on Getsemani’s northern perimeter. It has a rooftop pool and bar with a magnificent 360-degree view of the city…for just $80 a night.

While the best shopping in Cartagena is in the Old City, we discovered the marvelous Artesanias de Colombia around the corner from our hotel, which retails beautiful, handmade local housewares and clothing. Moving farther afield we headed west to Bocagrande, Cartagena’s downtown and beach area, where new chain hotels and shopping malls are bringing modern gentrification to the area. We saved our water sports for more exotic locales, but found the charmingly ramshackle beachfront restaurant Kiosco El Bony, where we dug into a lunch of fried fish and coconut rice, all washed down with a couple of bottles of Aguila beer.

 

Artesanias de Colombia

 

Cartagena is surrounded by water and we were eager to get out on it. The best way to hit the waves is to charter a small private boat and head to the Rosario Islands (a cluster of about 30), about an hour off shore, with plenty of options for swimming, beaching, eating and drinking; a few even have hotels. Travel Colombia Direct organizes day trips and more, including yoga retreats, like this one in October. For something a little less elaborate, grab a taxi and head 30 minutes northeast of the city to the dusty town of Manzanillo Del Mar, where the beach is beautiful and quiet and you can grab lunch at one of the cheap and cheerful local restaurants.

On our last night we had a wonderful tapas dinner at the cool, international Spanish/Colombian restaurant Caffé Lunatico, on one of Getsemani’s quiet side streets. Afterwards we headed back to the Old City, joined the locals at Café del Mar, an always buzzing bar/restaurant on top of the 17th Century city wall, where we watched the sun set into the ocean.

Just as we found ourselves doing, you’ll likely spend the final hours of your trip to Cartagena planning your return.

 

Rosario Islands 

 

 

 

Boardwalk Empire: A Plush Weekend Getaway at Atlantic City’s Borgata

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There’s always been a lot of drama in Atlantic City. After all, it was once, as Steve Buscemi so diabolically demonstrated on Boardwalk Empire, a hub of nefarious activity. As we learned from that show, just building the roads in and out was a life or death enterprise. And while there have been more goings than comings (at least of the real estate variety) of late – the last of which, with the closing of the Taj Mahal casino in the summer of 2016, bore the name of our current Commander-in-Tweet – we never pass up a chance to hit one of our fave weekend getaways: the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

On a recent long weekend, we alighted in the plush lobby of the Water Club just in time for Friday cocktail hour (okay, it’s always sort of cocktail hour in AC.) The WC is the Borgata’s boutique-hotel-within-a-hotel, where we would be laying our heads. And for the next few days we just got lost in in the opulence of the city’s plushest resort – while reacquainting ourselves with the charms of downtown and its well-trod boardwalk.

Here were the highs, and, thanks to our lack of finesse at the craps table, one minor low.

 

 

The View

With a combined 2800 guest rooms the hotel complex is pretty much an empire unto itself. The fact that’s it’s not on the boardwalk, but a couple of miles inland, distances it from some of the less, you know, glamorous establishments. Our sleek room on the 27th floor of the Water Club afforded us a spectacular view of the harbor and Atlantic Ocean – a great start.

Going Japanese

Walkways lined with shops lead from both hotels and converge on the casino floor and some world class dining establishments. On our first night, we opted for sumptuous Japanese at chef Michael Schulson’s buzzy Izakaya. Edamame dumplings exploded with a broth of sake and truffles (food of the Gods, veritably) and were small enough that we didn’t feel guilty that we ordered two. An entree of salt & pepper flounder with red chili relish, nori, and shishito was equally delish. After a slightly fuzzy, sake-soaked post-dinner walk around the tables we headed back to the room, with plans for a busy day to follow.

 

 

A Bloody Sunny Start

Our fave spot for breakfast was the Water Club’s lobby level Sunroom, a lush oasis of cascading waterfalls and plentiful plant life. So, perfect for lingering rapturously over a lobster & bacon omelette and a Water Club Classic bloody mary.

Swimming, Beer

We spent the morning having a swim or three, starting at the top, literally, with the Water Club’s Immersion Spa – 32 floors above the casino. Floating in the 80-foot long infinity pool with 360-degree views of the Atlantic shore had us feeling worlds away from the New York City anxiety and stress. Back at lobby level we lounged at both the indoor pool with dual jacuzzis, and the Borgata’s outdoor pool, which is conveniently located next to its super fun Beer Garden.

 

 

Over the Boardwalk

Atlantic City itself has a windswept charm that recalls a simpler time. The fact that some of the boardwalk casinos are shuttered lends the place a distinct air of mystery, but also a curious calm. The Hamptons it is definitely not. A leisurely walk on the boardwalk, requisite sun, seagulls and funky pizza joints in place, made for a genuinely enjoyably mellow afternoon.

Meatballs and Chris Rock

That evening’s dinner was at the newly opened Angeline by Michael Symon, the James Beard and Iron Chef award winner’s ode to classic Italian food. The menu had few surprises, just perfect takes on chicken parm, Caesar salad, and our fave, “Mom’s Meatballs.” On to the main event, as we packed into the on-site, 1000 seat Music Box Theater for a set from the still provocative Chris Rock, who was touring his Total Blackout show. (N.B. The theater also hosts a weekly burlesque show.)

 

Angeline by Michael Symon

Losing With Dignity

As the word casino features prominently in the Borgata’s name, there was no chance of ever losing sight of the hotel’s hundreds of slot machines and gaming tables. We limited ourselves to a modest bankroll, with which we managed to hang on to for close to an hour, before surrendering it at a blackjack table. The loss was well worth it for the great people watching, and a couple of gratis cocktails.

The Nightcap

A final nightcap was proffered in the form of good old bottle service at the hotel’s glammy mega club Premier – an over the top DJ emporium, which is promising a rebirth of nightlife in AC. Judging by the shenanigans we witnessed, we’d say they’re on to something.

 

 

Cartagena Cool Part I: The Lowdown on Latin America’s Most Alluring City

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Cartagena de Indias, the exotic port city on Colombia’s northern Caribbean coast, has been something of an in-the-know spot for those with an adventurous streak. Indeed, Mick Jagger has been visiting since the ’90s, and Justin Bieber even bought a house here. And though the pace of new hotel, restaurant and retail openings might seem to indicate that the city has moved up the trendometer, it’s still under-the-radar enough to be…exotic.

Certainly there was a time when the words “vacation” and “Colombia” just didn’t sit well within the same sentence. In the ‘70s and ‘80s the country pretty much invented the cocaine industry, courtesy of noted narco-terrorist Pablo Escobar; and that, combined with the fifty-plus-years civil war with the Peoples Revolutionary Army (FARC), didn’t inspire visions of romantic Latin American getaways.

 

 

These days, however, it’s a much different story. In the early aughts the Colombian government launched a major get-rid-of-the-dealers initiative, resulting in a relocation of the Americas coke trade to Mexico. And effective efforts to end the civil war over the last several years has seen the remaining members of FARC assimilating into Colombian society. Colombia’s murder rate is at it lowest since the early ‘70s.

Cartagena was always the jewel of Colombia, the place where even Escobar would come to escape the, um, stress of his job. Fortress walls dating back to the 17th Century surround the central Old City – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and the main tourist area, within which you’ll find hotels and restaurants to rival those in Paris or New York. Beyond the walls are the scruffier but equally interesting enclaves of Getsemani, Bocagrande, Manga, and the quaintly residential Castilogrande. We fell in love with Cartagena and other spots along the Colombian Riviera on our first visit, and have been going back regularly since. Our eminent guides have been Travel Colombia Direct (more on them in Part II), who have helped us to feel at home in the city.

 

 

As long as you’re prepared for the heat – the year round prevailing temperature being hot – Cartagena is an easy and affordable getaway. JetBlue now flies direct from JFK in less time than it takes to get to San Francisco; and once there, typical hotel and restaurant bills are a good 25% less than you’d find in a comparable big American city.

Starting at the top is the classically sophisticated Sofitel Santa Clara, recently voted best luxury hotel in South America (a Conde Nast Readers Poll); Jagger stayed in the royal suite, as he would. Less opulent and pricy but no less charming is the lovely Casa Quero, housed in a historic colonial mansion. Fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi’s Tcherassi Hotel + Spa adds wellness and pampering, and has a chic poolside restaurant.

 

Sofitel Santa Clara

 

While Cartagena is technically a beach town, the actual beaches in town are not on par with their Caribbean neighbors (more on the amazing beaches just off shore in Part II), leaving travelers to occupy themselves as one would in any cosmopolitan city – and that obviously includes shopping. The spider web of streets in the Old City are a walker’s paradise of bustling local boutiques, street vendors, and upscale jewelers, with security at the door and NASA-worthy air-conditioning. With trays of dazzling emeralds and sapphires, Lucy stands out for its selection and service; for fashionable local styles we love the charming St Dom, but we’re also happy to explore the outdoor markets and vendors, including Las Bovedas, where we have tried on many a Panama hat. (Yes, they sell them in Colombia.)

Time to eat, and the options are seemingly endless. Of course fresh fish is a staple, as is plenty of steak, all accompanied by platacones, salsa, and beer or fruit shakes. One of our favorites is La Mulata, a casual Caribbean joint that’s always packed, and has some of the best grilled fish. Head to La Cevicheria early as, come dinnertime, the wait is endless; it’s got the best ceviche in Cartagena. For an over the top Argentinian carnivore experience, nothing beats the kitschy Patagonia Asados del Sur. And two new hotspots on our radar include the lively (it’s more a bar/club than resto) La Movida, and the pristine Moshi, which combines Asian and Caribbean cuisines; it was the first time we saw crispy pig’s head carnitas on a menu.

 

La Movida 

Coming up in Cartagena Part II we venture outside the walls to find the city’s equivalent of Brooklyn (or Oakland), plus an offshore paradise.

Celebrating Dorothy Parker’s Legendary Wit at the New York Distilling Company

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Perhaps the most stinging ever critique of writing-as-a-career-choice, Dorothy Parker once trenchantly suggested, “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

Yet there is much about the epigrammatic American author that gets lost amidst the razor-sharp one-liners and ribald tales of boozing and, err…manizing. As one of the first female writers to flourish in the world of nineteen-twenties magazine publishing – at Vanity Fair and then as one of the initial editors of the New Yorker – she commanded legions of followers, many of her poems and short stories going on to become best-sellers.

Parker’s mid-career move to Hollywood was equally successful, earning her Academy Award nominations and the paychecks that come with them. Later blacklisted as a Communist after years of courageously championing civil liberties and liberal causes, she battled alcohol abuse and depression while protesting fascism and government abuses. DP was one tough chick.

Having passed in 1967, in 1994 she was brilliantly, incisively portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh in the scintillating, visceral biopic Mrs. Parker and The Vicious Circle.

 

 

In 2011 Brooklyn’s New York Distilling Company, the borough’s premiere craft distilling operation, created a gin in honor of Ms. Parker, a renowned gin lover. And this week they are organizing a pair of events in their in house venue, The Shanty, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of her death.

Members of the Dorothy Parker Society, along with some of the exalted writer’s relatives, are to be in attendance, and will be sharing stories of her life. Most importantly, as The Shanty is literally part of the distillery, there will be little chance of running out of gin.

Just take care to heed the words of Parker herself, “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.”

 

Memories of Aunt Dot

Friday, June 2nd, 6:30pm
Dorothy Parker’s grand-nieces Susan Cotton, Nancy Arcaro and Joan Grossman will be joined at The Shanty by the director of the Dorothy Parker Society, Kevin Fitzpatrick. Throughout the evening, The New York Distilling Company’s Dorothy Parker Gin cocktails will flow, while these intimately-knowledgeable hosts share stories and scrapbook memories of ‘Aunt Dot’.

Party Like it’s 1967

Wednesday, June 7th, 7pm
The Dorothy Parker Society will party like it’s 1967 to mark the 50th Anniversary of Dorothy Parker’s passing. This boozy literary evening will comprise live readings of Dorothy Parker poems, as well as music and a selection of Dorothy Parker Gin specialty cocktails.

 

The Shanty at New York Distilling Co.

Philippines Art Pop-Up Comes to Donna Karan’s Urban Zen

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Above: Ryan Villareal

No one would deny that most of the news coming out on the Philippines these days is far from uplifting. The island nation is in the middle of a seriously bloody police crackdown on supposed drug dealers and users, which has resulted in an average of a thousand killings a month over the last year. To make things worse, Trump has invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, instigator of said crackdown, over to the White House recently for some chummy chat (and maybe a bucket of KFC).

Life had often been a little, err, dramatic in the crowded Asian country; up until the mid-’80s it was under martial law and run by dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Yet the last couple of decades are actually considered to have been reasonably stable. And this post-Marcos freedom and calm has lead to the blossoming of an arts scene in and around the capitol of Manilla, resulting in new museums, galleries, dealers (not that kind) and patrons.

 

  • Alfredo Esquilo
  • Dex Fernandez
  • Ian Quirante
  • Kawayan de Guya
  • Rodel Tapaya
  • Tony Leano

 

Flying in the face of all the bad press, a one-day celebration of Filipino arts is being presented in New York by the Philippine Pinto museum, in conjunction with the Asian Cultural Council. Pinto Manhattan Manilla, a wide-ranging exhibition of contemporary artists from the Philippines, will be open for a continuous 24-hour stretch starting at 8pm on Monday, May 22, at Donna Karan’s West Village ideological-philosophical lifestyle shop Urban Zen.

The goal of the exhibit is to shine a light on the vibrancy of Philippine art, specifically the 30 artists who will be featured. Skype stations will be set up at the space so that patrons can talk directly to the artists, and Dr Joven Cuanang, one of the nation’s top collector/patrons, will be on hand to discuss the emerging evolution of Philippine art in the States.

For our part, we’re curious to see how the turmoil of life back home has influenced this new generation of artists.

Mexico’s Glorious Mayakoba Resort Turns Ten

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Spring break had come and gone, but the group of young women waiting to board our short AeroMexico flight to Cancun early one morning recently certainly looked like there was an abundance of overly sweet drinks and cloying DJs in their future. It turned out they were part of a bachelorette party, which wasn’t a surprise at all.

As an entry point to numerous destinations on the Mayan Riviera, Cancun airport sees an interesting mix of travelers: the high-fiving bros and the women who put up with them head to the high-rise hotels on the closest beach; well-heeled nouveau hippies drive an hour and a half south to Tulum, where they can dip a toe into eco-tourism while still eating at restaurants imported from Tribeca; and stressed-out urbanites desperately in need of luxe pampering head for the geographical middle – the opulent multi-resort enclave of Mayakoba.

It’s been a decade since it first appeared – and Mayakoba still thrives by offering remarkably polished yet relaxed service at all of its enclosed resorts, at which the newest, Andaz, we recently dropped our bags. Andaz shares the Mayakoban encampment with three other resort hotels and their accompanying residences, each of which appeal to a slightly different demographic; we came for a long weekend and this is what we found at Andaz Mayakoba.

We’re very big on first impressions, and Andaz nailed it with their circular open-air reception area, The Sanctuary, which is built around a pool designed to resemble the fabled jungle cenotes.

 

Image by Tadeu Brunelli

 

Our airy open plan room looked out on to the hotel’s lagoon, home to hundreds of species of chattering birds – all of which are included in the rate. As was one fat, happy looking iguana – who may have discovered Mayakoba’s array of excellent dining options.

Indeed, with three poolside restaurants-slash-bars at the hotel, and no particular business to be done, cocktails en la piscina was a perpetual option. We couldn’t imagine saying no to an expertly made pina colada…and didn’t.

Guests of each resort have the privilege of touring the other three, expanding dining options exponentially – not that we wasted any time doing the math. Andaz by itself flaunts four superb restaurants, ranging from hipster casual at OllaTaco (Yucatan street food), to elegant fine dining at Casa Amate.

Technically there’s nothing outside of the Mayakoban encampment that you can’t live without; but we were in the middle of a Mayan jungle, so we got out and explored. Tours of the amazing cenotes (underground rivers, pools, and caves) are a must – our new friends at 4Worlds Expeditions escorted us through one of them, as well as taking us to a sacred Mayan cacao ceremony. It wasn’t quite “altered states,” but it was the middle of the afternoon, after all.

 

 

Image by Tadeu Brunelli

 

A series of canals and waterways connecting all four resorts flows throughout Mayakoba; Andaz offers an eco cruise that ferries you through mangrove covered banks while you try to catch a glimpse of a baby croc (we did). Oh and you can have them bring champagne and snacks (we did).

The beach. Do we really need to say? It’s stunning.

But Andaz’ de rigueur spa Naum was where we passed most of our leisure time – with such wellness wonders as a hydrotherapy room featuring a shaved ice face bath and a customized fragrance roll-on, made from ingredients you choose, as a parting gift. The hot stone massage was…hot stuff.

Perhaps we were most charmed however by El Pueblito, at the entrance to Mayakoba. Created to look like a town center of yore, with cafes, shops and even a church and a quaint stone gazebo. It’s a Mexican-inspired recreation of Mexico, in…err, Mexico. How meta.

 

 

 

Images 1,2,4,5,6,7,8 by Jeffrey Leder