Hotel Art Gets Cheeky: The Cool HeART Gallery Curates a New Collection at the Sofitel Los Angeles

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Historically, hotel art hasn’t inspired much awe from its intended audience. Interesting at best, and at worst utterly abhorrent, it hovers low on the priority list of hospitable experiences. Fair. But for dedicated aesthetes like ourselves, it’s truly refreshing to see several hoteliers righting this artistic wrong. The Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills is one of them – and this Thursday, January 17, they are inviting everyone to see just how committed they are.

Indeed, they will be filling their otherwise elegant lobby with an explosion of color, sculpture, neon, and paint; and, naturally, throwing a fabulous party to celebrate.

Partnering with The Cool HeART, the Sofitel has given the notable L.A. gallery the space to curate a particularly playful, cheeky and vibrant mix of more than 40 works from Atomic Love, graffiti artist RISK, and painter Shawn Kolodny, amongst others. We’re absolutely certain you won’t miss Elena Bulatova’s Lollipop Medium, a sculpted duo of oversized blow pops melting onto their base, nor her Lollipop Large Valet.

After viewing the art, guests can get to what art parties are really all about: making time with the local L.A. creative class – while onsite restaurant Cattle & Claw serves up decadent party snacks like the crab mac ‘n’ cheese, truffle fries, and some signature, decisively artsy cocktails.

And, if you’re tempted to buy a piece, you absolutely can, as limited editions of the work will be for sale. You may want to sleep on it though, if for no other reason than for a chance to unwind in the Sofitel’s plush accommodations. They’re only a lift away.  

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Luke Sital-Singh’s Poignant New Video for ‘Los Angeles’

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In Luke Sital-Singh’s latest single “Los Angeles,” he asks quite directly: “Do we know what we’re looking for?”

It’s a question that’s crossed the minds of most anyone who’s come to L.A. – whether making their first pit stop at a Moon Juice, or having just made it their new home. For Sital-Singh, it’s the latter. He recently took the daring leap across the pond, leaving Bristol, UK for a new nine-oh-something zip code.

“My wife has wanted to move to California for years, but I’ve always been a bit more cautious,” he admits. “Writing this song crystallized my enthusiasm for moving there. It’s probably the most honest and open song on the [new] album. There’s no metaphor or characters. It’s me and Hannah, ‘let’s move to America, I’m scared, you’re not scared, so stay close, ’cause I’m gonna freak out along the way.’”

 

 

Sital-Singh’s new album A Golden State will be released April 5, and reveals something of a new approach he’s taken to his music. Known for his distinctly melancholy tunes (he even did a TED Talk on the cathartic effects of writing and performing ‘sad’ songs), he thinks this album has a more “ethereal, positive vibe”.

He had emerged onto the UK scene as someone to watch back in 2012; his first EP landed him a coveted spot on The Guardian’s New Band of the Day, and also made it to BBC Radio. Since then he’s been writing and recording, and even getting some air time on American telly. You may have caught his song “Dark” on Suits, starring one former Angeleno turned Londoner Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

The video shows footage of Sital-Singh wandering through a bleak English day, cut with retro-inspired shots of L.A. landmarks. At one point, he sings about local real estate – “We dream of a house on the Canals” – assuring that he’s well on his way to fully embracing life in La La Land. 

 

Culver City Chic: Making the Scene at Platform’s New Rooftop Hotspot Margot

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It’s official, Angelenos: Culver City’s Platform has everything. In the past few years, The Runyon Group has transformed the once auto dealership – now 50,000 square feet of retail and office space – into a mecca of LA essentials. There’s the Soul Cycle, Blue Bottle, Sweetgreen, and even the first-ever west coast outpost of Brooklyn hipster pizza fave Roberta’s. Other fashionable shops are sprinkled in betwixt the food and fitness (like Aesop, Reformation and Freda Salvador).

Now, much to our epicurean delight, there’s also a reason to hang out there well after dark…and it’s called Margot. The rooftop restaurant and bar opened its doors just before Christmas (December 19), and West Side nightlife is sure to be all the better for it.

 

 

Situated amongst the skyline views and the Expo Line train tracks, Margot’s rooftop space is literally the pinnacle of Platform’s California cool. It has a 75-seat patio, wraparound bar, plushly outfitted lounge, and vast indoor dining room surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows. (And, naturally, a well-coiffed crowd to match.)

IB Hospitality’s Rohan Talwar is the man behind the venture, while Thomas Schoos designed the space; and noted chef Michael Williams lords over the menu. On it, we find more of what West Coasters crave these days: California cuisine with Mediterranean influences, and a lot of fresh, produce-forward dishes. The capellini with shaved black truffles was so good, in fact, we’d suggest ordering two, and taking one home for a posh breakfast the next morning. Also don’t pass on the delightfully soft stuffed piquillo peppers or the whole grilled sea bream – tarragon aioli and salsa verde brighten the buttery white fish to absolute perfection.

 

 

But you could make an evening of the cocktails alone – they’re that good. Drinks wizard David Kupchinsky knows what makes a cultivated tipplers heart flutter, and we are sincerely loving him for it. Our absolute fave, the Pompelmo, blends still trendy mezcal with pomelo – a cousin to the grapefruit – and black pepper, for a palate pleaser that’s equal parts pucker and bite.

While Platform has well established itself as a go-to spot for a quick bite or cycle sesh, Margot now makes it a genuine scene. That means no more hauling to Silver Lake for those covetable Medi-Cali eats, and the zeitgeisty buzz that goes with them. 

Oh, and make sure to shoot us a hello – we’ll be there a lot.

 

BlackBook Film Spotlight: ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

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Some may play a little coy about it, but let’s face it – we all really do want to see this giddily-anticipated update of the 1964 classic not-just-for-the-kids (sort of) children’s film.

And that’s the thing. P.L. Travers’ series of eight Mary Poppins novels – which, curiously enough, were published over a 54-year-period, from 1934 to 1988 – always towered above kiddie-lit fare, with their sharp wit and emotional complexity. As for the film version, most of us have gleefully sat and watched with our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews as Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke sang and danced their way through an assortment of realistically fantastical problems.

Now Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda have their go at playing Mary and Jack. And, naturally, the ethereal actress (The Girl on the Train, A Quiet Place) thoroughly steals the show – with her sly smile and expressive eyes…not to mention her way of delivering a line with charming aplomb. She makes Poppins all her own, a bit more camp and slightly more strict, steering the precocious, motherless Banks children through difficult times with a fierce self-determination.

 

 

If the music’s the thing for you, there’s every possibility you may find the songs not living up to those of the original. But the visuals are a delight, and the messages of empathy and self-belief are right there up front to be absorbed and taken away for future reference.

And if our divisive times have succeeded in beating it out of you, here’s the perfect opportunity to recapture your sense of wonder and whimsy.

Mary Poppins Returns opens Friday, December 19, and also stars Emily Mortimer, Colin Firth, the always brilliant Ben Whishaw, and, just for kicks, Dick Van Dyke himself.

 

Sleeping on a $40K Bed? The Villa at Estate Yountville is Napa’s Most Extravagant Splurge

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Images by Will Pryce

 

If the walls in The Villa at The Estate Yountville could talk, they’d probably be bragging. A lot. Do you have soaring 20-foot ceilings flanked by prodigious windows overlooking a private pool? What about not one, but two $40,000 Hästens beds? While the surrounding Estate, which includes the recently renovated Hotel Villagio and sister property Vintage House, goes pound for pound when it comes to style and charm, nothing quite compares to this private five-bedroom, 6,600-square-foot respite in the middle of thriving Yountville.

Utilizing Restoration Hardware furniture (amongst other brands), the design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates successfully paired touches of glam throughout – like the neon that says ‘Take me home turn me on’ – with natural woods, exposed brick, and old-world furnishings.

 

 

You might have to draw straws for the master suite, or the second largest bedroom. Both have the aforementioned Swedish Hästens beds – all hand-stitched and perfectly plush. Though all five bedrooms do have luxurious king-sized beds.

Just outside the master is the grander “salon” space with custom pool table, sitting area, stone fireplace, and spectacular kitchen. Made with culinary greatness in mind, the kitchen features an Officine Gullo refrigerator and a French La Cornue oven, as well as plenty of counter space. If cooking on vacation isn’t your idea of, well, vacation, Villa guests can request that an Estate chef design a custom menu featuring fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Or, of course, French Laundry is just steps away – as are half a dozen other acclaimed restaurants lining Yountville’s epicurean Washington Street.

 

 

Outside, away from the European appliances and 20-foot-ceilings, there’s a private pool and hot tub for Villa residents only. And if so inclined, guests can wander beyond the walls of the Villa. Within the larger Estate Yountville they’ll find 22 acres of hotel properties (including the Hotel Villagio and Vintage House), a 2-acre vineyard with seating and fire pits, and the Marketplace, a retail lifestyle shopping and dining complex housed in the former 147-year-old Groezinger Winery.

Estate Yountville also curates a variety of wining and dining experiences for its guests throughout Yountville and greater Napa.

At $10k a night, it’s the perfect way for you and your friends to spend those holiday bonuses in a most glamorous way. Now all you need to decide is exactly who to invite – and who gets that master suite.

 

Weekend in Yountville: Could Wine Culture be Getting Fun and Flamboyant?

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Del Dotto Estate

 

A friend and trained sommelier scoffed when we told her we were heading up to a wine and food extravaganza in Yountville, Napa,

“But you don’t know shit about wine,” she said.

That’s, um, not entirely true – though we’re far from a connoisseurs. As luck would have it, we didn’t need to know much of anything about wine in order to fall madly in love with Napa and its storied viticultural charms. Not to mention, the once “insidery” attitude of the higher reaches of the wine world is rapidly becoming…passé.

Part of that seems due to the overwhelming variety of vineyards and vintners, increasingly aware of their own brands; standing out seems imperative to survival. But what was also visibly evident from the moment we arrived in the Bay Area: times – as in the climate – are-a-definitely-changing.

The fires were still blazing not far from where we were, though the harvest was blessedly spared this year. A place this beautiful, that relies almost entirely on agriculture for its livelihood, has to reckon with the cruel realities of nature. Now is surely the time to get creative, and part of that is welcoming a new set of revelers.

 

JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset

 

Yountville wants to be “more accessible” – and so does wine culture in general, according to the people working in Napa’s illustrious wine industry. There’s the breathtaking landscape, a history of farming and agriculture, new restaurants and famed older ones (like French Laundry) – and also several stylish hotels to accommodate the perpetual influx of newbie weekenders. To wit, the new Hotel Villagio, of the larger Estate Yountville (they also own Vintage House) decidedly injects a fresh hipness into the area’s hospitality scene.

Also on those same grounds – all walkable – guests can stumble into Michael Chiarello‘s Bottega, Platform 8, or Ottimo restaurants. Just up the road, drink and dine under lavish chandeliers and a fire-pit-studded patio at Restoration Hardware’s new restaurant concept, unfussily titled RH. (Restoration Hardware also furnished all of Estate Yountville’s hotel properties.)

But back to the reason we all came…the wine. If you come to Napa you can’t escape it, nor should you try. Here we highlight four winery tasting rooms that are genuinely doing it differently.

(Bonus: Estate Yountville and its umbrella properties all organize epicurean tasting tours, and can put together a day of wine drinking for you and yours, with exclusive rates for guests.)

 

Hill Family Estate

Fifth generation California farmers, the Hill Family maintains over 600 acres of vineyards across Napa Valley. They supply grapes for big name winemakers like Stags Leap, Mondavi and Cakebread – but it was their own label that captivated us most. After one of our tasting guides successfully sabered a bottle of sparkling rosé amidst a burnt-orange sunset in the Hotel Villagio’s vineyard (all true), we stepped into the cozy lobby for a sampling. The Sauvignon Blanc, crispy with hints of oak, and the “Like a Hawk” Cab-Syrah blend were table favorites. Hill Family Estate does all their dealings direct to consumer, so you won’t find them in a local wine shop; but their wine club makes it much easier. Membership includes three bottles of their choosing four times per year, and the option to add in more of your own picks.

 

 

 

JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset

Just a little further up the road from Hotel Villagio, Boisset’s shop and private tasting room takes wine flare to new heights. It’s like Game of Thrones meets Vegas. One half of a wine empire (he’s married to Gina Gallo of E. & J. Gallo Winery, California’s largest exporter of wines), Boisset is undoubtedly the emperor. His uniform of pink socks, drapey scarves, and velvet smoking jackets match the ornate tasting room – decked in gold-framed mirrors and glimmering cases of rosé bottles. He also owns Atelier Foods next door, a fine foods grocer that offers a wide selection gourmet picnic fare.
All of Boisset’s wines are categorized by number, which represent something autobiographical. The No. 1 and No. 10, both Cabernets, are indicative of being Number One and a Perfect 10. As a Frenchman from Bordeaux in Napa making a 100% Cab in Cab country, Boisset wouldn’t settle for anything less.

 

 

 

Silver Trident

The cozy living-room-feel of Silver Trident’s tasting room owes its aesthetic charms to Ralph Lauren, who furnished the entire space. If you’re in need of a silver serving tray or crystal scotch decanter, both have a price tag on them. You’ll also need to purchase your wine here (or give them a call)- like Hill Family, Silver Trident prides itself on its smaller-run, direct to consumer approach. The winery was co-founded by Bob Binder, founder of Oceania Cruises, and Walter Jost, hence the name Silver Trident. We were particularly fond of the Apollo’s Folly Rosé and Pinot Noir, playfully titled the “Benevolent Dictator.” The Pinot, we discovered, is made the old-fashioned way: winemaker Kari Auringer stomps the grapes herself before sending them to fermentation.

 

 

Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves

By far the most ostentatious and aristocratic feeling of the four, Del Dotto’s tasting room is located on the vineyard, a sprawling and gorgeous retreat just off St. Helena Highway. They do things like using French oak barrels just once before discarding – or selling. “French oak is where our palates are at,” our guide told us. They even have a Carrara marble barrel that cost upwards of $10,000 to make…for what reason, nobody’s really sure. The wine, the views, the pairing menu all feel similarly decadent, in the best possible way, of course.

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Aussie Indie-Poppers SAFIA’s Fave Spots in Canberra

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Obviously, somewhat overshadowed by Melbourne and Sydney, the music scene in Canberra has gotten a fraction of the international attention. But in 2013 the first single by SAFIA, “Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues,” generated significant excitement, before their 2016 debut album Internal would go on to shoot all the way up to #2 on the Aussie charts.

The dynamic indie-pop trio – vocalist Ben Woolner, drummer Michael Bell, guitarist Harry Sayers – exhibit influences as disparate as James Blake and Disclosure. And indeed, their sound ranges from sleek, ’80s referencing synth-pop (“Embracing Me”) to cool disco-funk (“Freakin’ Out”) to smooth, sultry soul (“Starlight”).

A new album is on the way, which they are currently recording; it’s expected to see release in April of 2019.

 

 

The Australian capital they call home is unusual in that it is noted for being so close to so much nature and wildlife – drive 20 minutes, and you’ll be hanging with emus and kangaroos. It also flaunts world class cultural institutions like The National Portrait GalleryCanberra Contemporary Art Space, and the National Gallery of Australia, whose collection of more than 13,000 photographs is one of the most extensive in the world. And at 153 miles from Sydney, Canberra is just a 55 minute flight from the country’s most visited destination.

In between recording sessions, we asked the band to turn us on to their fave places to hang in when they’re home in Canberra.

(Alas, if you want to catch them live, you’ll have to fly half way around the world, as they’ll be doing shows in Australia through the end of January.)

 

 

 

SAFIA’s Fave Places in Canberra

 

Mt. Ainslie Nature & Wildlife Reserve

I was lucky enough to grow up at the base of this beautiful reserve, which hosts a huge array of native flora and fauna. Situated only ten minutes from the centre of town, it offers 360 degree views of Canberra, which truly help you appreciate the city’s unique design, as well as the vast landscape that surrounds it.

 

 

Smith’s Alternative Bookshop

A bit of a Canberra institution, Smith’s Alternative Bookshop plays host to a wide range of local, interstate and international performers. You will always find a friendly community of people who are passionate about the arts here.

 

 

Highroad

This is my local so I may be a little biased here, but Highroad has arguably some of the best coffee in town. The staff are incredibly welcoming and genuinely passionate about both coffee and food. Its bright, open layout makes it a great place to relax during the day.

 

 

Mocan and Green Grout

This is one of Canberra’s great little hidden gems. It’s the perfect coffee spot during the day, but truly shines as a dinner experience. The kitchen is situated in the middle of the dining area and its sharable plates menu is really unique and, most importantly, delicious.

 

 

Grease Monkey

If you’re looking for the best ‘American’ style burger in town, then Grease Monkey is definitely your best bet. Its outdoor area is great, especially in spring and summer, and you’ll always find a great atmosphere here.

 

 

Old Canberra Inn

This place actually outdates Canberra itself, and used to serve as a coach stop in the late 1800s. It has retained its historic roots and offers a great authentic pub experience. Sitting next to the open fire while enjoying a beer is the perfect way to escape a Canberra winter.

 

 

Bar Rochford

The stylish Bar Rochford is a wine bar tucked away in the heart of the city. Its only signage is a capital ‘R’ written on the front door, but upstairs you’ll find a vibrant drinking spot that offers great wine, cocktails, tapas and company.

 

 

 

Poignant New MILCK Track ‘A Little Peace’ Was Inspired by the Las Vegas Shooting

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It’s hard to believe, but a year after the horrifying mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert in October of 2017, we’re still turning on the TV to regular reports of more of the same. For all the talk, virtually nothing has been done, legislatively, to address the issue.

LA singer-songwriter MILCK remembers the despondency she experienced upon hearing the news. But she also took the opportunity to create something positive out of all the horror, a new single titled “A Little Peace,” which was released today – just five days after another gunman murdered 12 innocent people in Thousand Oaks, California.

She recalls of last October, “I was home alone the night I heard about the Vegas shootings. The only things that kept me from spiraling into fear and despair were my fans, and my music. I remember turning on my Instagram Livestream to play a spontaneous concert to find a way of not being alone. As I was playing the concert I came up with the chorus of ‘A Little Peace.'”

 

 

The song, with its gospel vibes and hopeful refrain of “All I need is a little peace,” is also part of the YouTube #creatorsforchange series, which brings together “positive voices who are tackling social issues and promoting awareness, tolerance and empathy.”

“When YouTube told me about the #creatorsforchange program,” she explains, “I knew my song would have the right home. They understood my vision of bringing strangers together to create literal and figurative harmony. My director and I assisted through hundreds of testimonials of singers from all over the world, and we found seven voices to join me in the studio. Each person brought such uniqueness and beauty to the project – we are all forever connected thru this song, and I am so grateful.”

MILCK, who has also been an activist for LGBTQ and women’s rights, released her debut EP This is Not the End earlier this year. She will be performing at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles tomorrow evening, November 13, and at the Google HQ in D.C. this Thursday.

 

 

Gorillaz and G-Shock Team Up for Limited-Edition Watch Collection

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We never really gave it much thought, to be honest – but despite living in a sort of parallel universe, cartoon characters still do seem to be subject to the rigors of scheduling. Though the fact that they never age does make one wonder as to the actual effects of time on their seemingly ambiguous reality.

Still, such existential concerns need not necessarily interfere with the desire to simply be in possession of this season’s surely most talked about timepiece. And one of the new GORILLAZ x G-SHOCK collection should absolutely be on the wrist of everyone who counts themselves amongst the disciples of the most enduring animated band in (sort of) existence.

 

 

The watches are styled in tribute to each of the four members: 2D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs – so you may finally have to decide which of them is your actual favorite…despite egalitarian impulses to love them all equally. Best of all, only 1000 of each are being produced – so bragging rights are included in the price. They’ll be available as of November 15…but insider tip: go to the Gorillaz web shop today, October 25, for a chance at early pre-order.

Don’t even consider buying one, though, until you’re in possession of a copy of their excellent new album The Now Now, which was released earlier this year to nearly universal acclaim.