Exalted Fashion Designer Azzedine Alaia Dead at 77

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Azzedine Alaia image from Joe McKenna’s untitled documentary 


The fashion world mourned, as news came yesterday that eminent designer Azzedine Alaia had passed away in Paris, aged 77. The cause of death was apparently heart failure.

Born in Tunisia in 1940, he started his career in the City of Light as a teen working for Dior, then Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler. He shot to genuine fame in the 80s with his own ready-to-wear label, eventually dressing Grace Jones, Madonna, Janet Jackson – and becoming the unofficial designer to the first wave of supermodels. His form-fitting creations notably and stunningly adorned the likes Linda Evangelista, Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell. In recent years, his devotees included Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham, Rihanna…even First Lady Michelle Obama.

Earlier in 2017 Joe McKenna had released an untitled but beautifully shot documentary on Alaia.

Celebrity friends took to Twitter to share their love, tributes and lamentations.






WATCH: Boy Epic’s Beautifully Macabre New Video for ‘Wolf’

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Sometimes it’s all in the name. And Dallas songsmith Boy Epic is indeed not one for middling musical gestures. His 2014 breakout “50 Shades” (yes, it was inspired by the film) was dark, dramatic and theatrical…and it racked up 12 million views on YouTube.

Since then he has intrigued with his ethereal presence, soulful, androgynous vocals, and dark, visceral songwriting. Now newly signed to Hollywood Records, his latest single is the sultry but anxious “Wolf” (Get it? The Boy Epic who cried “Wolf”?). It is a compelling bit of haunted, cinematic Euro-R&B-pop, a disquieting meditation on self-doubt and the need for connection: “I hate this city / It’s bad for my health / I want a lover that hates themselves / So I can pity and feel like I can help.”

But it’s the accompanying horror-vérité video that genuinely gave us chills. Directed by the singer himself, it depicts something of a post-apocalyptic post-op, as he tries to grimly dance away the pain.

Genuinely compelling stuff – and makes one wonder just what this Boy is capable of.


Your Alternative Thanksgiving: Surprising T-Day Recipes From Empire Diner & Au Za’atar

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Of course, not everyone can be with family for the Thanksgiving holiday. So if you’re not going to be stuffing yourself with mom’s mashed potatoes, why not gather your similarly stranded friends and mix it up a bit? We consulted two of our fave NYC restaurants on how to do an alt-T-Day at each – and even got a couple of exclusive recipes, should you opt to stay home and fire up the stove.

At John DeLucie‘s groovy reboot of Chelsea’s legendary Empire Diner, give thanks for the pleasures of comfort food and old-school cocktails. Start with the buttermilk biscuits and Exec Chef Justin Nuebeck’s cheeky butternut squash bisque, with lobster stock and peekytoe crab; then substitute sourdough pretzel fried chicken for the gobbler…or maybe a prime hanger steak with apple cider roasted brussels sprouts; and ditch the tired old pumpkin pie for a mad decadent signature Empire Sundae with peanut butter ice cream. Sorry mom!

Feeling exotic? Why not do a Middle Eastern Thanksgiving at Tarik Fallous’s Au Za’atar in the East Village? Kick off the feast with grilled halloumi salad; then do Lebanese turkey, in the form of their Fattet Djaj – shredded chicken with chickpeas and yogurt. Or, to make it really feel like a T-Day table, order up a few dishes from the extensive mezze menu (fried & herbed cauliflower, lamb tartar, minced meat with onions) and pass lovingly around. Dessert? Do the nammoura, a semolina and orange blossom cake.


Butternut Squash Bisque from Executive Chef Justin Nuebeck of Empire Diner


Dish Components 
1qt butternut squash puree
2qt lobster stock
¼ cup chili pickling liquid
1oz peekytoe crab
2oz shaved delicata squash
Minced chives as needed
1lb butternut squash roasted and separated from the skin
1/4C onion sliced
1tbsp. garlic sliced
2C vegetable stock
Grapeseed oil as needed
Salt and pepper as needed
In a medium size saucepan over low heat sweat onions and garlic till tender and roasted squash and saute for about 3 minutes to cook out any excess water. Add vegetable stock and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes then transfer to a blender. Puree till it has a smooth consistency without any grains of squash. Then transfer back to a clean medium size sauce pot. Over low heat add lobster stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Season the soup with chili pickling liquid, salt, and pepper. Season shaved delicata squash and crab with extra virgin olive oil and heat in a 350F oven till hot. Place soup in each bowl and garnish with squash crab, and chives


Fattet Djaj from Executive Chef Tarik Fallous of Au Za’atar 


Image by Liz Clayman



1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
3 pita breads, cut into small square 
1 cup boiled chickpeas 
2 cloves of garlic, mashed
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts and sliced almonds to garnish
Chopped parsley to garnish
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Toast the pita square until golden brown. Prepare the sauce by combining the mashed garlic and the yogurt. Whisk until smooth. Add the tahini while whisking and, finally, the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. 
Make sure your shredded chicken and boiled chickpeas are warm before assembling the FattetDjaj and work quickly so everything is still warm when you serve it. In a servingplatter, start with the pita squares, evenly distributed in a single layer. The next layer is the chickpeas and finally 2/3 of the chicken mixture. Top with the yogurt sauce and the remaining chicken and finish by sprinkling the toasted nuts, melted butter, chopped parsley and touch of cumin.


WATCH: Lui Hill’s Lynchian New Video for ‘5000 Miles’

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Working a serious Frank Ocean by way of Marvin Gaye vibe, neo-soul crooner Lui Hill has grabbed our ears and attention in a big way, with his impassioned vocal delivery and stunning falsetto. His sultry, dreamlike new single “5000 Miles,” in fact, has been on endless repeat.

The striking accompanying video is particularly compelling, with its mysterious, Lynchian noir aesthetic. Shot on the very noir-ish streets of LA, it tells a story replete with enigma and metaphor – just begging for multiple explanations and interpretations. Let it lull you equivocally into the weekend…





Exalted Sushi Master Masa Takayama Opens Tetsu in Tribeca

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All Images by Dacia Pierson 


Lording over his three-Michelin-starred Masa above NYC’s Columbus Circle, he could arguably be called the the greatest sushi chef in America. Indeed, Masa Takayama has been causing critics and devotees to swoon and wax endlessly rhapsodic since opening in 2004 – even more so since expanding the empire in 2014 to include Kappo Masa at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue.

Now he’s at last brought his particular brand of Japanese culinary alchemy to Downtown, this week opening his new robata grill Tetsu on Tribeca’s buzzy Leonard Street. In a striking interior that marries stark Asian minimalism with a sort of industrial-rustic-gothic, the new restaurant manages to be both cooly chic and alluringly sensual/romantic.

But the menu is definitely “approachable” Masa. Most plates are under $20, and include raw items like seared tako ceviche with bottarga, and kanpachi poke seaweed; surimi pasta dishes like squid pasta with garlic, bacon & chili; and specialities from the robata including yellowtail tataki skewer, and salmon belly himono. Oh, and a deceptively decadent lamb burger.

Pair with a rum milk punch (with Japanese horchata) or a Soju Thai Basil cocktail.

Okay, we’ll say it: Tetsu has Masa-ppeal.



BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Actress-Songstress Kat Cunning’s Gorgeous New Single ‘Wild Poppies’

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Image by Zenith Richards 


None other than the New York Times called her “an exquisite indie siren.” And we couldn’t agree more. Kat Cunning has all the intensity of Lorde, but with a much more ethereal, romantic quality  – indeed, there’s something of the gossamer about her voice and her presence.

She is also a burgeoning theater talent, having done time in Dangerous Liaisons, Sleep No More and Cirque Du Soleil’s Paramour.

Her haunting new single “Wild Poppies,” which BlackBook premieres here, has a bit of the noir about it – indeed, one could easily imagine it soundtracking a particularly melancholy David Lynch scene. But as happens, it’s actually a meditation on The Wizard of Oz and its storied relationship with the gay community.

“It’s inspired by my long standing love for The Wizard of Oz,” she explains, “and a celebration of the way the story resonates with the queer community. In the film, the Wicked Witch of the West casts a spell, and snow falls down onto Dorothy and her friends, putting them to sleep in a field of wild poppies. I was drawn to Dorothy as she fell ‘over the ledge’ and under the witch’s opiates.”

And the symbolism of the poppies?

“To me, they are a symbol of pleasure, acceptance, and escape,” she says. “Dorothy submits to their power with her emerald destination gleaming in the background, as if to allow for one more taste of the beautiful world she has found. In light of this, I always found her eventual return home to be strange. Although she is invalidated for all she has seen, she exclaims that she’ll never leave home again. I wrote ‘Wild Poppies’ to explore a version of Dorothy that does not come home; it is a song for those who choose the technicolor dream.”

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Haunting New Mackeson Single ‘Falling Apart’

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Of the endlessly “critic-invented” genres, one of the most amusing would surely be…folktronica. (Very Flight of the Conchords, to be sure.)

The LA by way of Portland singer-songwriter Brad Mackeson was, in fact, a guy with a lot of acoustic guitars, anxiously in search of the right inspiration. And wouldn’t you know, he found it by listening to the likes of New Order and Ennio Morricone, and messing about with what he calls, “weird synths and drum machines from different eras.” And it worked – though don’t call it folktro…well, you know.

Indeed, newly signed to Atlantic (and with his name shortened to just Mackeson), his striking new single “Falling Apart” – which BlackBook premieres here – is a widescreen stunner, with its haunting cinematic sweeps, thundering drums, soulful vocals and profoundly expressionist instrumentation. While one is reluctant to make such direct comparisons, it’s hard to ignore that this just might be the great, lost Tears For Fears song.

And very much like that band’s Roland Orzabal, Mackeson also manages to lyrically snatch a bit of personal hope from the threat of all encompassing nihilism. As he proclaims, “We are, we are living in ecstasy / While the world is falling apart,” one can’t help but feel inspired to do the same.

He explains: “The original burst of inspiration for this song came from a mental vision I had while I was playing piano at my home in Los Angeles. The political and social climate had gone off the rails, and outside of an apartment building on the streets below was chaos, people rioting, losing their minds, end of the world. Then I saw a young couple in the apartment building who instead of panicking closed the blinds to the world outside and decided to shift their focus and enjoy the moment. I realized that the world has always been and probably always will be teetering on the edge, and somehow we’ve got to find our balance.”

Words for our times, and forever.


BlackBook Exclusive: Delectable Ceviche + Crudo Recipes From Brooklyn’s New SUGARCANE raw bar grill

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DUMBO is the one Brooklyn neighborhood that seems to have managed to avoid a particular sort of worrying commercial encroachment that has spread so quickly through the rest of the borough. And so the arrival of Empire Stores on Water Street in late 2016 actually seemed a reasonable addition to the area.

In addition to the fashionable retail offerings (West Elm, Shinola), it’s also become a genuine epicurean destination – FEED Shop, Cecconi’s, Smile to Go – something which DUMBO had yet to cultivate. And its buzziest new scene is the one unfolding every evening at SUGARCANE raw bar grill (their stylization). Of course, its founding locations in Miami and Vegas have been magnets for the international culturati – so no surprise, the frisson has carried over to its first NYC outpost.

But SUGARCANE built its rep on the food, most of all – an imitable fusion of Asian, Latin and American influences. And so in celebration of the opening, we asked Exec Chef and Partner Timon Balloo to grace us with two of his best signature recipes.


Fluke Crudo (pictured above)

“I have so much respect for the Japanese approach to cooking, and this dish is my tribute to the technique of marinating fish on the kombu.”
Fluke, 5 thin slices
Kombu, 1 pc
Amazu sauce, 1 tbsp
Green grapes, 1 pc
Red radishes, 0.5 pcs
Olive oil, drizzle
Maldon, salt to taste
Garlic chips, 5 pcs
Red shiso furikake to sprinkle
Method of Prep
Cut 5 thin slices of fluke and arrange them on kombu over ice. Dress with amazu, olive oil and top it with a salad of red radishes and white grapes.
Finish with red shiso furikake

Snapper Ceviche

“The ceviche is a Miami staple, I bring it to every SUGARCANE raw bar grill location to give diners that tropical feel. Guests can take a little trip to the tropics.”



Peruvian yellow pepper, sweet potato, crispy corn 2.5 ounces of Snapper cut sashimi style, tossed with ceviche base (lime juice, orange juice, white soy sauce, garlic, and aji Amarillo) chopped jalapeno, chopped cilantro, shaved celery, red onions, sweet potato and crispy Peruvian cancha corn.
Prep Yields Two Portions 
8 ounces local Snapper, sashimi sliced thin
1 tablespoon jalapeno, chopped
2 tablespoon celery, shaved
2 tablespoon red onion, julienne & washed
2 ounce sweet potato, cooked & diced
4 ounces ceviche base
Pinch, cilantro chopped
1-2 tablespoons maiz cancha (fried fresh daily)
Micro greens (optional) cilantro/celery
  1. Toss together fish, aji amarillo, celery, onions, cilantro, and lime juice
  2. Carefully mound fish high in the center of bowl
  3. Garnish with sweet potato, maiz cancha & micro greens.
Ceviche Base
¼ cup lime juice, strained
¼ cup orange juice, strained
2 tablespoons white soy sauce
1 teaspoon aji Amarillo paste or chipotle
1 clove garlic, chopped
pinch, sea salt, maldon
Combine, puree and reserve.


Fever Ray Announce European Tour; Watch the Video for New Single ‘To The Moon And Back’

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For the singularly rabid fans of The Knife, this is really big news. The exalted but enigmatic electronic Swedish duo of Karin Elisabeth Dreijer and brother Olof Dreijer disbanded after a final tour in 2014, leaving a gaping hole in the contemporary cultural landscape. But Karin has resurrected her rapturously reviewed but equally mysterious project Fever Ray, with their first album since 2009, Plunge, just released late October through Rabid/Mute.

They’ve also just announced a 22-date European tour in early 2018; and if you’ve ever witnessed their live performances, you’d have no doubt that hopping a plane to Vienna, Berlin, Brussels or Copenhagen will be very much worth the effort. Though shows in the cities of Lund and Stockholm (in their homeland of Sweden) should be particularly electrifying.

They’ve also just released a beautifully unsettling sci-fi video for the new single “To The Moon And Back.”




February 19 – Vienna, Austria – SiMM City
February 20 – Milan, Italy – Fabrique
February 22 – Munich, Germany – Muffathalle
February 23 – Lausanne, Switzerland – Les Docks
February 24 – Zurich, Switzerland – Volkshaus
February 26 – Prague, Czech Republic – Forum Karlin
February 28 – Berlin, Germany – Columbiahalle
March 1 – Warsaw, Poland – Klub Progresja
March 2 – Vilnius, Lithuania – The Hall Compensa
March 4 – Helsinki, Finland – The Circus
March 13 – Hamburg, Germany – Docks
March 14 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
March 15 – Brussels, Belgium – AB
March 17 – Cologne, Germany – Palladium
March 19 – Paris, France – L’Olympia
March 20 – London, England – Troxy
March 21 – Manchester, England – Albert Hall
March 31 – Lund, Sweden – Mejeriet
April 2 – Bergen, Norway – USF Verftet
April 3 – Oslo, Norway – Sentrum Scene
April 4 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega
April 6 – Stockholm, Sweden – Nobelberget