Art at the Harbor: Contemplating Frank Stella and Yayoi Kusama in Boston’s Seaport

Yayoi Kusama, LOVE IS CALLING

 

Long a sanctuary for the local art community, Boston’s Seaport has for the last few years been undergoing a dramatic transformation that has seen a new wave of dining and high profile retail enter the area, as the city also tries to ensure that funding for those artists remains intact. It also hosts some of our fave East Coast city’s most buzzworthy art happenings, as was most definitely the case on our most recent visit.

And indeed, with word that one of the most influential living American artists, Frank Stella, was set to unveil his latest public mural – a new edition of Damascus Gate – we Amtrak’d it north to be a part of it, and take in a some of the area’s notable spots in the process.

Here’s what we did.

 

ICA

 

Frank Stella, ‘Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation 1)’

Marking the exalted artist’s return to his home city, Frank Stella unveiled a replica of Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation 1) on an office building along the main thoroughfare in the Seaport district (60 Seaport Boulevard, to be exact). Stella, a native of Malden, is a celebrated painter, sculptor and printmaker, working in the areas of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction. And taken from his legendary 1970s protractor series, the new work felt as fresh now as it did then.
Over champagne and bites, the octogenarian humbly waved off the accolades being showered upon him from an adoring crowd, in favor of a knowingly mischievous grin…which we couldn’t help but notice. Oscar-nominee Amy Adams even made an appearance, chatting with Frank and looking gorgeous in Prada from head to toe.
It’s a real get for the Seaport, the installation having been Commissioned by Boston-based WS Development in conjunction with New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery. The colorfully abstract geometric mural now boldly stops onlookers in their tracks. Perhaps a harbinger of more public works to come?

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

Designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, the ICA of Boston is one of our favorite buildings by the award-winning architects – and their first in the city. Taking inspiration from performance artist Anna Deavere Smith’s idea of a “radical hospitality,” the waterfront museum’s vision is one of “radical welcome,” woven into all of its activities and programs. Since its opening in 2006 the ICA has been at the intersection of art and civic life, as much educator and incubator as it is a place to experience some of the most important works of contemporary art.
To wit, currently on view through February 7, 2020 is Yayoi Kusama’s LOVE IS CALLING (she’s also currently showing at David Zwirner in New York). Staying for the allotted two-minutes, we excitedly made our way through her signature polka dotted, soft sculpted ‘tentacles,’ done up in brightest color and glowing light. It was an experience that verged on the surreal and fantastical. Afterwards, we popped into the ICA’s well-curated gift shop, with a wide-ranging book selection and design objects, plus some really cool stuff for the kids (like us).

 

On the more serious side, we also spent time with When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art. The hard-hitting exhibition is a response to the refugee and immigrant crisis, and looks at the contemporary displacement of peoples. It featuring more than 20 artists from more than a dozen countries, including Colombia, Cuba, Iraq, Mexico, Palestine…and these United States, with featured work by such notable names as Kader Attia, Tania Bruguera, Isaac Julien, Hayv Kahraman, and Reena Saini Kallat.
The timing of the show could not be more relevant, of course, given the current administration’s aggressively malevolent stance on the treatment of migrants – especially children. It was a particularly moving, even heart-wrenching exhibit, but is a must see for all those who oppose the Trump administration’s despicable policies on the subject.

Shopping

The Seaport is having a decidedly DTC moment, redefining retail in the most clever of ways. To wit, hot on the heels of Glossier’s residency at pop-up The Current last summer, the wildly popular beauty brand has again taken over miniature village. Located in a lovely open plaza just across from the ICA, the cargo-container-like storefronts were done up brilliantly in the brand’s trademark pink.
Home to an ever-evolving lineup of forward thinking brands, The Current spins the concept of traditional storefronts – a refreshing alternative to the high-end-only offerings at Copley Place. The first phase in 2018 was dubbed She-Village, and now showcases 9 female-founded businesses, including etailer-to-retailer The Giving Keys, designer Cynthia Rowley and beloved Boston fitness brand Booty by Brabants.
The latter is by Kelly Brabants, one of Boston’s most sought-after fitness instructors, and her line of leggings are currently all the rage. Inspired by the vibrant culture of Rio de Janeiro, the birthplace of samba and sunshine, BbB seeks to overturn any notion that leggings aren’t actually pants. Brabants has created a built-to-last, one-size-fits-most clothing line uniting comfort and confidence, and we couldn’t resist picking up a couple of pairs of the versatile style favorites.

Warby Parker
On the DTC tip, Warby Parker, Outdoor Voices, Bonobos, and Away have all put down roots in the Seaport. While For Now, a pop-up collective and retail incubator, is bringing together customers and one-of-a-kind e-comm brands to connect in real life, “no screens attached”. We especially loved The Foggy Dog pet products (every purchase helping a shelter dog), and the cozy chic Frances Austen sweaters, beautifully modern, ethically sourced, and heirloom quality. The brands do change regularly, so there’s always something new to experience as intended by visionary female founders Kaity Cimo and Katharine ReQua.
There’s even an outpost of L.L. Bean – who also sponsor a dock nearby where one can rent a kayak – Blue Mercury and Sephora for beauty junkies, a lululemon, and a Trader Joe’s that opened to significant fanfare while we were there. But surely our favorite, hailing from Boston’s South End, was the Polkadog Bakery, where we picked up handcrafted dried codskin treats for our own pooch. Cool dogs, obviously, go gaga over them.

 

Envoy Hotel

Part of the luxe Autograph Collection, the Envoy Hotel was the perfect choice for full Seaport immersion, with its wildly happening rooftop bar (there was a line out the door when we were there, though hotel guests get immediate entry) and exceptional on-site restaurant Outlook Kitchen. The minimalist chic rooms have a comfy, residential layout, but with cooly mismatched furnishings. More importantly, most are radiantly light drenched, and some have heart-stopping Boston Harbor views. We especially loved the plush in-room bathrobes, cleverly fashioned after legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in signature grey jersey, complete with a stylish hood – especially appreciated on those chilly Boston autumn mornings.

 

 

Restaurants / Bars

The airily designed Outlook Kitchen and Bar is helmed by rockstar chef Tatiana Rosana, a first-generation Cuban-American, who oversees the bold, always-surprising food program at the hotel. Star of The Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and Chopped, she’s also twice earned the title of Chopped Champion.
We especially enjoyed the bountiful, fresh breakfast and brunch offerings, including a Maine lobster benedict that was truly to die for – while the roasted cinnamon apple french toast was also totally irresistible. Dinner was just as outstanding, especially Rosana’s delectable yucca gnocchi, the Georges Bank scallops and the locally sourced Pineland Farms filet mignon. There’s a determined focus on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, which puts Outlook at the forefront of sustainable dining in Boston (N.B. – Check out chef Rosana’s delectable dishes on Instagram, @chef.tatiana.)

Outlook Kitchen and Bar

 

Finding ourselves craving something sweet between shopping stops, we popped into Japanese ice cream import Taiyaki, on Seaport Boulevard just a few blocks from The Envoy. Home of the custard-filled, whimsical fish-shaped waffle cone of Instagram fame, Kawaii-lovers from Toronto to Miami to Williamsburg have been madly posting since Taiyaki hit North America in 2016. We chose the matcha and black sesame soft-serve as a start, filling the freshly-made cones with red bean paste, then topping them with mini M&M’s.
The Seaport actually now boasts a apoplexy-inducing array of dining options, from the low-key to the Michelin-starred. Exalted Chef Barbara Lynch lords over the scene with her outstanding Italian diner Sportello, as well as Menton, a fancy-fancy Relais & Chateaux member serving delectable French fusion. Also worth a stop are Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe (a long time favorite from Harvard Square), Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar, Strega Waterfront (you may find yourself seated next to one of the Patriots), plant-based NYC export by Chloe, the landmark, century old seafood classic No Name Restaurant, and a Tatte Bakery and Cafe. We were significantly spoiled for choice, obviously.

Menton

 

Considering Boston’s comely cityscape and harbor, it’s still a little light on rooftop venues. Which partly explains the wild popularity of the Envoy’s spectacular Lookout lounge/bar. But we also loved the clever cocktails like the Fizz Bump (Hendricks, Lavender & Earl Grey Simple, lemon, egg white) and the Cereal Keeler (Keel Vodka, Americano Bianco, pineapple, orange, cherry bitters). The skyline and waterfront views, of course, are eminently Instagrammable. But with colder temps upon us, the Lookout also features glowing fire pits, out of the way ceiling-mounted heaters and cozy blankets for keeping nice and toasty while sipping a hot Teeling Frisky whiskey cocktail.

Lookout

 

Missoni Opens New Singapore Flagship Boutique

 

 

 

Western shoppers have not been kind to marquee fashion brands’ retail efforts, lo this past decade or so – as trends have shifted to digital purchasing (thus spreading out the actual spend), and a new generation has become less luxury-brand-focused/loyal. But the East still has its label mania nearly fully intact, and thus remains in thrall to the iconic houses.

No surprise then, extravagant boutique openings in major Asian cities are not in the least unusual. And indeed, Missoni has just opened the doors on a striking new Singapore flagship, at The Shoppes by Marina Bay Sands – already home to the likes of Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Fendi, Dior…one gets the idea. The 150 square meter space was concepted and designed by Angela Missoni herself, who still retains a refreshingly hands on approach to the brand;s creative endeavors.

“It’s very exciting to have this opportunity to bring the Missoni brand to Singapore’s most iconic luxury mall,” she enthuses. “It is the perfect location for us to debut our flagship boutique, and we hope this will open up new doors for Missoni to expand the brand within the whole Southeast Asia region.”

Featured amongst the stylish racks will be Missoni Womenswear, Menswear, Beachwear and Accessories collections, as well as the new M Missoni collection, designed by daughter Margherita Maccapani Missoni.

 

Opening Visit: The Andaz Munich Schwabinger Tor Ups the Bavarian Hotel Ante

 

 

We’ve been enthusiastically following Andaz’ European goings on, with stops at their London and Amsterdam hotels during the last year. So with the news of a pair of new openings on the Continent, as discerning, design-minded travelers, we made immediate plans for visits to Vienna and Munich.

Firstly, as opposed to so many hastily thrown together programs, Andaz actually retains local gallery curators to oversee their eclectic art collections – and it shows. And with so many hotels offering so many forgettable amenities these days, their collaboration with the The Society of Scent, an olfactory collective with their own fragrance laboratory, means each Andaz will ultimately have its own custom scent – with co-founders Frederick Jacques and master perfumer Jean Claude Delville creating signature experiences inspired by the hotel’s location.

 

Following our visit to Vienna, we hopped over to Germany, where the new Andaz Munich Schwabinger Tor exemplifies everything we love about the Bavarian capital and its perpetually chic inhabitants – from the food and fashion, to the world class museums and nightlife, to its bike-friendliness and gorgeous green spaces. The hotel is perfectly located between the Olympic Stadium, the Pinakotheken and the Englischer Garten, in the heart of Munich’s currently most creative quarter.

Opened earlier in 2019, Southern Germany’s most talked about new luxury lifestyle hotel is the product of a philosophy of pioneering design, and has already become a meeting place for the local and international cognoscenti – thanks to its epic lobby space, and minimalist but colorful aesthetic. But we must admit, the Andaz staff were as good looking as the hotel, period, with urbane General Manager Mattheos Georgiou assembling an energetic, totally plugged in team, whose recommends took us to some of Munch’s most happening places.

 

But inside, the hotel boasted one of Germany’s most luxurious and largest wellness destinations, The Spa at The Andaz, at 2,000 square meters. We wished we’d had more time to experience the 24-hour gym and personal trainers on-site; but we did get to lounge poolside on the terrace, with seemingly endless views of the city, after indulging in one of the premier treatments – and who could resist a WELL + BEE Bavarian Honey Massage or a DEEP + SLEEP for stress relief? The former effectively kneaded away the knots from a full day of exploring Munich by bike, which the hotel kindly provides upon request. It’s such a sought after program that the Andaz offers a limited number of lucky locals a yearly membership.

Every morning, a rejuvenating breakfast awaited at Bicicletta, the hotel’s ground floor coffee bar geared to bike lovers (or anyone, really), with fresh pressed juices and smoothies. Though if we’re being honest, we also loved just curling up in the cozy window seat of our cool, residentially styled room, watching the energetic Schwabing street life below each morning.

As we were not quite disposed towards the local currywurst spots, we were eager to dive in to The Lonely Broccoli, Andaz’ amazing, meat-forward eatery. With its globe lamps, warm woods, central, peep-worthy open-plan kitchen, two communal tables, and a private dining room, it was equally    endowed with energy and style. The menu was chock-a-block with a selection of charcoal-grilled and slow-roasted marinated meats of premium butchered pork, beef and lamb in assorted forms, accompanied by pickles, foraged salads, signature sides, and sauces like caramel port gravy and lemon-parsley bearnaise. For those not bothered about cholesterol, the signature Butcher’s Plate is a shamelessly decadent feast.

Now, like many European cities, Munich has not gone full tilt into roof bar mania. So no surprise, the hotel’s sexy rooftop M’Uniqo was already boasting lines out the door. It was a stunner of a hotspot – and the clientele was equally easy on the eyes. Once settled in, we sampled a curated range of rare and infused vermouths, and kicked back with classic and signature aperitivos. The bites were of the Venetian variety (cicchetti, to be specific), with pizzette, bruschette and dolci.

And as the sun set over the distant Alps from the city’s highest epicurean venue, we realized we had fallen in love with everything about the Andaz Munich Schwabinger Tor, as well as the city it calls home.

 

 

 

The Munich Hit List

 

  • Tantris, two-Michelin starred since 1974, one of the fifteen best restaurants in Munich. The building is listed, and its retro-fab interior design should be as well.
  • The FreudenHaus, the go-to place for lovers of stylish eyeglasses, hand manufactured for over 20 years.
  • Surfing Munich style – it’s a thing! See local surfers in action along the Eisbach, a small, two kilometer long river flowing through the Englischer Garten, with human-made waves.
  • The Badenburg in the Nymphenburg Palace Park, with free concerts in fair weather and a romantic view of the miniature palace on the lake.

 

Badenburg

 

  • Kaisergarten, a majestic bar and restaurant, for over a century located in the heart of Schwabing, in an Art Nouveau house opposite the St. Ursula’s church – with its lovely shaded beer garden and age-old chestnut trees. Bavarian-inspired cuisine with regional and seasonal offerings.
  • Odeonsplatz, a beautiful square, Hofgarten, an Italian-style renaissance garden, and Gartnerplatz and Glockenbach, both trendy neighborhoods full of independent boutiques, bars and pubs.
  • Jaadin Grillhouse and Chaada Teahouse, located directly across from the Andaz – we loved, loved, loved these spots. Both owned and operated by a Vietnamese brother and sister, with an eye for beautiful design. Offering delicious food and drink in the dining room with outdoor seating, and takeaway in the adorable storefront tea shop.
  • Haus der Kunst, Munich’s modern and contemporary art museum, in an awesome neo-classical building dating to 1937. And don’t skip the Golden Bar, consistently earning its title as one of the world’s best, its exquisite interior dating back to the 1930s.

 

Haus der Kunst

 

First Images: New ‘Dior Essentials’ Line For Men Captures a Timeless Sense of Style

 

 

Let’s face it – sometimes even fashionable gents just want a look that’s simple, classic and understatedly stylish. And so comes the new Dior Essentials line, capturing everything that is timeless about the ideal men’s wardrobe.

 

 

And indeed, from the Navy Virgin Wool Jacket w/ Button Strap, to the Double Breasted Cashmere Pea Coat, to the Black Cotton Pique Polo Shirt w/ Bee Emblem, the looks live up to the Essentials name in every possible way. There’s even a strikingly cut Peak Lapel Tuxedo in grain de poudre wool.

Yet still, there are a few playful elements to the collection. To wit, the Dior Oblique Backpack, and the B-23 Low-Top Sneaker, with its alternating patterns. Dior Essentials is designed, of course, by Kim Jones, Artistic Director of Dior Men’s.

 

Opening Visit: The Andaz Vienna am Belvedere Hotel is the Austrian Capital’s New Style Paradigm

 

 

We’ve been enthusiastically following Andaz’ European goings on, with stops at their London and Amsterdam hotels during the last year. So with the news of a pair of new openings on the Continent, as discerning, design-minded travelers, we made immediate plans for visits to Vienna and Munich.

Firstly, as opposed to so many hastily thrown together art programs, Andaz actually retains local gallery curators to oversee their eclectic art collections – and it shows. And with so many hotels offering so many forgettable amenities these days, their collaboration with the The Society of Scent, an olfactory collective with their own fragrance laboratory, means each Andaz will ultimately have its own custom scent – with co-founders Frederick Jacques and master perfumer Jean Claude Delville, creating signature experiences inspired by the hotel’s location.

Our first stop was Vienna, where the new Andaz Vienna am Belvedere (the “rock star” of the brand) has decisively raised the bar for the Austrian capital’s slow-to-change hospitality scene. Still often mistaken for a city much stuffier than it actually is, we’ve always loved its fascinating mix of the high and low – which even managed to seduce a jaded Anthony Bourdain in a 2011 episode of No Reservations.

Here’s what we loved.

 

The Location

Autumn in Vienna promises a vast array of cultural happenings, from art and design fairs to major museum events to world class theatre – and the possibility of spending time in its lush urban vineyards. We prefer to be as near to it all as possible, and the Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere was actually quite ideally located, in the up and coming Quartier Belvedere – with easy access to the Belvedere Palace, and the Belvedere 21 Museum of Contemporary Art, which was just across the street.

 

 

The Rooms

Of course, style is big for us. And within its strikingly designed tower by Renzo Piano, the hotel featured interiors by Claudio Cabone and Gabriel Kacerovsky – with 259 rooms and 44 suites of cooly understated chic, done in muted grey-and-blue color palettes, and boasting floor-to-ceiling windows offering magnificent views of the Vienna skyline.
The Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere was also delightfully dog-friendly, so we highly recommend brining along your furriest of friends. Nearby is actually one of the city’s biggest and greenest dog runs, where you can meet local Viennese canine lovers.

 

The Restaurants

The hotel’s signature restaurant, Eugen21, billed as a modern Austrian tavern, was designed with an airy, open feel, perfect for sunny Viennese breakfasts and moonlit dinners. And we were thrilled to dive into their contemporary take on classics like wiener schnitzel, sheep’s cheese spaetzle, Galloway beef goulash and Viennese fried chicken.
Our favorite sips were the of-the-moment Andaz Spritzer, and the Scofflaw Cocktail, made with Bulleit Bourbon, La Quintinye Extra Dry, grenadine, orange bitters, and lime, which was actually invented in Paris, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s birthplace. But we’ve also been loving Austrian wines these days, and the excellent pan-European wine list included a few memorable regional Gruner Veltliners.
For more casual daytime dining, we loved The Cyclist, the hotel’s bicycle themed eatery, with a healthy buffet that changes daily, and dishes with cycling-minded names. The super cute spot was actually a favorite amongst hotel staff too – and even had its own coffee bean roast for take away.

 

Eugen21

 

The Rooftop Bar

Fancying a nightcap, we headed upstairs to Aurora, the Nordic-inspired rooftop bar located on the 16th floor of the hotel. Scandinavian-inspired small plates were complemented by clever cocktails like the Swedish Highball and Huh! The Call of the Vikings (we kid you not). It’s already a hot spot with local style cognoscenti, not just a little because of the views that seem to stretch all the way to Bavaria.

 

 

The Belvedere

At only a 5-7 minute walk away, and with classically manicured grounds leading to its entryway doors, this palace-turned-art museum that is The Belvedere was once home to the aforementioned Prince Eugene, one of the leading Austrian developers and art collectors of his time. (You’ll see the Prince with his flowing locks and fancy frocks portrayed more contemporaneously throughout the Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere.)
The Upper Belvedere is home to Klimt’s exalted painting The Kiss – and its fantastical romanticism makes for a transcendent experience when viewed in person. But in addition to Gustav’s masterpieces, the palace as well holds the biggest collection of works by the beloved/maudlin Egon Schiele, who led a tortured existence, and whose expressionist paintings remain powerfully visceral. The museum ingeniously also regularly spotlights a notable contemporary artist, which happened to be American sculptor Kiki Smith when we were there. Set within the palace’s baroque grandeur, her work made for a radically refreshing contrast.
But we especially loved strolling through the Schweizergarten on our way to the Belvedere. A picturesque park in the style of an English garden, we passed by the famous Chopin statue and other such sculptures very much worth seeing.

 

The Vienna Autumn Hit List

  • viennacontemporary art fair, September 26-29th, 2019, featuring more than a hundred galleries from twenty-five countries.
  • Vienna Design Week, September 27-October 6, 2019, in its 12th year, boasts more then 200 design-oriented events and attractions.
  • Parallel Vienna, hybrid art fair, exhibiiton, platform and artists’ studio, September 24-29th, 2019
  • Viennese ‘stages’, discover local performances, the city’s hidden stages, Vienna State Opera, University of Music and Performing arts, and the Zentralfriedhof (Vienna’s second largest cemetery wilderness).
  • Saint Charles Apotheke, a modern pharmacy with three locations (including a yoga studio), with its own line of exceptional skincare and supplements, also supplying the in-room amenities at Andaz Vienna Am Belvedere.

 

St. Charles Apotheke

 

  • Aend, the exquisite Michelin-starred restaurant from rockstar German chef Fabian Gunzel.
  • Glacis Beisl, tucked away in the Museums Quartier, one of the prettiest bistros in town, serving classic Viennese cuisine in a garden oasis
  • Naschmarkt, the largest urban food market in the 6th district, with over 100 stalls selling produce, meat, baked goods, spices. Also Indian and Vietnamese cuisinee, and every Saturday includes a flea market.
  • Fenster Cafe, Vienna’s tiniest and loveliest cafe, in the 1st District, withunique coffee creations – try the cornettoccino served in a waffle!
  • Wiener Weinwandertag, over 180 Vienna wine growers open their orchards to the public. (www.vienna.info)

 

Raffles Hotel Singapore Gets a(n Even More) Plush Makeover

 

 

In the pantheon of great hotels, the exalted Raffles Hotel Singapore can easily takes its place beside The Plaza, the Ritz Paris and Venice’s Cipriani. Dating to 1887, the gleaming white Colonial-style facade has, arguably, become an icon of the thriving Southeast Asian city.

But, alas, even legends need the occasional revitalization – especially since the last was all the way back in 1991. And after a reverential makeover by venerable interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud, together with renowned architecture and design firm Aedas, the hotel this month reopened its century-plus-old doors to much excitement.

The modernization has left many of the public spaces looking brighter and more contemporary, especially the Grand Lobby, where afternoon tea is taken under a soaring ceiling, supported by prodigious Victorian columns. The check-in desk has also been moved. Upstairs three categories of suites have been added: Promenade, Studio and Residence, with names each containing explanatory hints (the latter, for instance, offering home-away-from-home living comforts).

 

 

The new F&B offerings are truly wow-inducing, including La Dame de Pic, under the direction of the triple-Michelin-starred Anne-Sophie Pic; an approachable Medi grill restaurant from a superstar chef, BBR by alain ducasse (opening in September); 兿 yì  by Jereme Leung for elevated Chinese (also debuting in September); and Butcher’s Block, a sophisticated steakhouse with an oenophile-worthy wine library (opening in October).

Also given a makeover is the Writers Bar, an epicurean tribute to the long list of scribes who have stayed and played at the Raffles Hotel Singapore. Its cultivated, of-the-moment cocktail program is already drawing the local and international cognoscenti.

The hotel’s rebirth is yet another great reason to visit Singapore this autumn, following the opening of the fantastical Jewel Changi Airport this past spring.

 

Stopover in Copenhagen: Where to Shop, Stay, Eat + Play

Vesterbro

 

 

After an amazingly ideological time in Iceland recently, we took advantage of the wonderful Icelandair Stopover program, to spend a few days in Copenhagen, arguably the coolest city in Europe now.

The airline righty describes the program thusly: “When you fly Icelandair across the Atlantic, you can Stopover in Iceland at no extra airfare. That gives you the opportunity to explore Iceland, both country and culture, without adding to your ticket price.”

Flying Icelandair’s Saga class makes it also highly recommended, especially as Saga members receive a special wildlife themed toiletries kit (with puffin footprint pattern). Filled with the usual sleeping mask and socks, we really loved the 100% natural, cruelty-free beauty products from Icelandic brand Hannesdottir (we’re still using the perfect lip balm). Lingering in the tastefully appointed, savories and sweets-filled Saga Lounge at both JFK (New York) and Reykjavik airports was also a particular pleasure.

Saga Lounge, Reykjavik

 

Once in Copenhagen we checked into the playfully stylish Andersen Boutique Hotel, located in the heart of hip hood Vesterbro. From the Andersen (and its sister property Absalon, just across the street), it was easy to get anywhere in Copenhagen – whether by foot, bicycle, taxi or train (the station is only a block away).

Our bellies full from the Andersen’s awesome breakfast buffet, we first made our way to the storied Tivoli Gardens. It is a must-do, since however touristy you’ve been told it is, it is in the best way possible. We strolled the park’s magnificent gardens, stopped by the Mallows kiosk to sample the local brand’s flavorful, taffy-like marshmallows, then hopped The Demon rollercoaster (there’s a VR experience for an additional fee). For something uniquely spectacular, hit the famous Star Flyer – its swings carry riders 80 meters above the park for a stellar view.

 

We then hit the shops, starting with Langsamt, a beautifully stocked sustainable clothing shop in Vesterbro that carries cool brands like Fub, Armor Lux, and Portugal’s organic cotton t-shirt Colorful Standard, as well as dozens of other like-minded designers. Owner Johanne Kjaerum, along with her mother, have curated a lovely selection of fashions, accessories and modern ceramics (made by mom, by the way).

HAY House was another fave for modern furniture and design. Founded in 2002, this exceptional shop occupies the second and third floors of the most gorgeous building along Stogen (Copenhagen’s main shopping street). Where sophisticated industrial manufacturing meets good design, you’ll find irresistible objects and functional pieces for the home. We tried to figure out how to get their seriously good matte olive green outdoor furniture – designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for HAY – back to the New York…and were told they ship to the States. Joy!

HAY House

 

We then spent an afternoon and evening in the Meatpacking District, one of the city’s most happening neighborhoods, with cool restaurants, galleries and nightlife aplenty. We loved Butchers and Bicycles, even though we weren’t actually in the market new wheels. And dinner at Bob Bistro, an edgier organic restaurant housed in a former appliance store (look for the neon Bosch sign out front), followed by the boisterous Jolene, for a very Copenhagen take on the DJ-and-dive-bar thing.

We started another day with the plentiful smorgasbord-style breakfast at the cool, curiously named Mad & Kaffe, on Sonder Boulevard in Vesterbro (you can do the same at their other locations in Amagerbro and Frederiksberg).

 

We got our Copenhagen culture fix at Design Museum Denmark. The Danish know and love design, certainly, and this is their place of exultation – all very intelligently curated. The Hall of Danish Chairs was a highlight. Currently on view, an impressive Bauhaus survey, coinciding with the movement’s 100 year anniversary.

Then we toured the canals, an experience which allows you to really comprehend the singular beauty of this city, offering a whole new perspective, after we’d spent all our time walking. We just jumped on one of many passenger boats taking off every 15 minutes. Though we specifically recommend Hey Captain.

If it’s too cold or rainy to be on the canals, we would definitely suggest catching a movie at Grand Teatret, featuring a smartly curated selection of European and American films, in a gorgeously maintained historic space – and with a full bar to boot.

Design Museum Denmark 

 

Craving an afternoon snack, we popped in to Cafe Norden for the city’s best ‘hindbaersnitte”. Translation: raspberry slice, and that’s exactly what it is. We enjoyed some serious people watching as we bit into two layers of sweet shortcrust pastry sandwiched with raspberry jam, topped with a simple pink icing and real sugared raspberry bits.

Of course, Copenhagen is now the universe’s most exalted culinary destination. And 108, affectionately called NOMA’s little brother, dazzled our taste buds with it’s awesome foraged and farm-to-table fare. Reasonably priced and unpretentious, we loved the whole lacquered quail, for its presentation and crunchy goodness, the soft leeks with salted plums and aged cheese (like savory little pillows), followed by the “hot dough not” – you guessed it, tiny donuts filled with caramel and seaweed ice cream.

For the adventurous, there is an excellent tasting menu to experience the full flavor of the cooking at 108. We were most intrigued by the ‘livretter’ offerings, asparagus with smoke Osietre sturgeon, raw lamb with last year’s pickles, and steamed egg yolk with 10g of Royal Belgian Caviar. If you’re feeling decadent, we suggest a dessert of Rausu Konbu ice cream, again accompanied by 8g of Royal Belgian Caviar.

Yum.

108

Andersen Boutique Hotel

A chic and charming Vesterbro boutique hotel, ee stayed in the “Amazing” suite, which was, yes, actually pretty amazing. All 69 rooms and suites feature wallpaper, cushions and curtains by Designers Guild, while the interiors are bold and bright, yet super comfy. Little touches like Molton Brown toiletries in the bathroom, Jasper Morrison garbage containers, Philippe Starck toilets, and Muuto hangers by Lars Tornoe meant we were surrounded by good design during our entire stay. Photographs by German-Iranian photographer Patricia Parinejad adorn all of the rooms.

Heading back to the hotel at the end of each sightseeing day, we were warmly greeted by a communal happy hour. Guests are invited to the hotel’s version of “hygge,” where drinks are served from a makeshift bar in the lobby, and all are encouraged to socialize. One evening we sat next to two gigantic stuffed bears, who appeared already to have imbibed. But their silence was welcome after our brisk touring of one of the best cities in the world.

Lemon’s Rooftop Brings Breezy, Mediterranean Style to Brooklyn

 

 

When life gives you Lemon’s, order the Capri Son.

Indeed, the play-on-words refresher is just one of the irresistible new cocktails on offer at arguably this summer’s most buzzy NYC rooftop opening, this one atop Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel.

With, naturally, breathtaking views of Manhattan and across the ‘Burg, Lemon’s is the result of an inspired collaboration between some of New York’s hippest hospitality heavyweights. To be sure, the warm-weather haunt is the brainchild of dream team Jon Neidich (Acme, The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley), chefs Aidan O’Neal & Jake Leiber (Chez Ma Tante), and beverage team Jim Kearns (Acme, The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley) and Christine Kang (Soho House).

It’s also meticulously styled, with an easy-breezy-beautiful branding identity conjured by Swedish design duo Andrea Johansson and Claudine Eriksson. It’s their second collaboration, as they all previously worked together on Neidich’s Financial District hotspot Recreation, at the Moxy NYC Downtown Hotel.

Finding inspiration in Mediterranean filming locations (think: The Talented Mr. Ripley), the duo have cooly and elegantly brought to life a 1960s Italian Riviera vibe. The Lemon’s logo and illustrations – pencil and watercolors featuring sun umbrellas, crabs, figs, rosemary – were all hand drawn. A delightful touch in this coldly digital age.

Even the typography chosen by the team borrowed from retro storefront signage and the classic Italian soda Limonata. The collateral has all been printed on “soft, cream-yellow uncoated, textured paper for a sense of sun-bleached nostalgia,” as they tell us. And not to miss any detail, the check at Lemon’s comes with a gorgeous postcard, meant to be a sent on from your all-too-brief Williamsburg staycation.

With its channeling of a “sun-kissed-on-the-Italian shore” feel, Lemon’s conceptually plays homage to a fictional character named Senora Lemon. We learned she was an Italian widow who carried on her husband’s tradition of mixing cocktails and socializing at her house in 1960s Emilia Romagna (the Italian region just above Tuscany). Suffice it to say, her day long lunches-turned-parties were the stuff of legend, a spirit Lemon’s perfectly captures.

The music is curated by local favorites Chances with Wolves, and you’ll want to bop along as you sip on spiked lemonade and other signature house cocktails. The aforementioned Capri Son, for instance, is made with tequila, grapefruit, calamansi and honey, topped with sparkling wine. There’s also aperol spritz on tap – divine!

The Italian influence really comes through in the “aperitivo” vibe of “casually imbibing while enjoying light bites,” as Neidich puts it.

Savory snacks like salumi, raw oysters, and stracciatella with olive oil and bread will look familiar to anyone who has lazed away a summer afternoon in the caffes of Roma or Milano. Grilled calamari, sugar snap peas and tuna carpaccio on cracker crisps all play to the light-eating coastal vibe, while a selection of Italian-style toasted sandwiches will satisfy those craving heartier nibbles.

And given the rash of trendy rooftop openings, Lemon’s commendably isn’t into taking itself too seriously. They imaginatively offer guests a “picnic” option, where everything comes in lemon yellow with vintage coolers and accompanied by a snack trio. It just screams sophisticated summer fun.

But most of all, be sure not to leave without sampling their boozy popsicles, in thematic flavors like cantaloupe, limoncello and Italian citrus. And because Lemon’s aims to keep things communal, there’s plenty of thoughtfully designed seating and comfy cushions on which to kick back, get social and enjoy an NYC sunset.

Saluti!

 

Ideological Iceland: A Weekend of Forward-Thinking Food, Politics and Empowered Women in the Scandinavian Mini-Utopia

Above image by Robyn Dutra

 

 

If the draconian attempts by the current administration to curtail women’s reproductive rights has got you down, may we suggest a quick escape to Iceland? After all, this is the country intent on closing the gender pay gap, having passed the Iceland Equal Pay Certification law early last year. They also elected the world’s first female president back in 1980, and have yet another bold female environmentalist serving as Prime Minister today.

We did precisely that, hopping an Icelandair flight as soon as possible, for an empowering tour of women-owned businesses. And taking advantage of the airline’s ingenious Stopover program, we made a quick detour to Copenhagen just afterwards. (Story to follow.)

It should be noted that Icelandair boasts nearly double the average of female pilots than any other commercial airline. Making up 12.9% of the team, the airline has also implemented the equal pay gap within the company. With a commitment to gender equality across the business Icelandair champions women in the boardroom. 41% of executive and director level roles are filled by women. So any feminist looking to mindfully travel across the Atlantic, should seriously consider VIA Equality with Icelandair.

Once on the ground, we settled into the fun and funky Reykjavik Marina Hotel, centrally located so you need not wander far to enjoy some of the city’s best female-run and LGBTQ-friendly establishments. First was the Coocoo’s Nest – just a 5-minute walk from the hotel – a family-owned restaurant where owners Iris Ann Siguroardottir and her husband, chef and artist Lucas Keller, serve deliciously healthy meals to a supportive clientele.

Lady Brewery

 

Keller is known for his outstanding baked bread (we can attest, after eating our way through almost an entire heavenly loaf), and the Coocoo’s Nest donates leftover sourdough scraps to a local chicken farmer. Sharing an ethos of environmental sustainability (common in Iceland), Julius Mar then provides the restaurant with their very fresh eggs. He’s dedicated his life to preserving the foundation of Icelandic settlement chickens, which fascinating story can be read here.

The pair had more recently opened Luna Florens, a “holistic gypsy bar, cafe and boutique,” a welcoming spot for all stripes, full of plants and crystals in all their witchy goodness. There’s also a selection of craft beers on offer from Lady Brewery, a one-of-a-kind, all-female run micro brewery.

Founded by Þórey Björk Halldórsdóttir, she’s revolutionizing the male-dominated brewing industry in Iceland one beautifully branded bottle at a time. A designer by background, Þórey and her husband, Baldur Bjornsson, an artist and electronic musician, also run a creative studio in Reykjavik called And Anti Matter (&AM).

Coocoo’s Nest

 

Iris, also a photographer and visual artist, even recommended her tattoo artist, after we admired her many, weirdly wonderful tats. Audur Yr Elísabetardóttir is an Icelandic illustrator and tattoo apprentice. Also living in burgeoning downtown Reykjavik, her style is simple and delicate. A must visit if you’re looking to add to your existing body art.

We were especially taken with the Women’s Book Lounge, just a short, very scenic drive from Reykjavik. Established in April of 2013, the educational museum is dedicated to Icelandic female writers, with it’s objective to preserve their written works at home and abroad, making the texts and information about the authors available to the public. A noble endeavor, indeed.

In fact, you’ll find all 26 of the beloved and widely read author Gudrun fra Lundi (1887-1975), alongside copies of the first women’s magazine in Iceland, Kvennablaoio (1895-1919). It’s a friendly, drop-in kind of space, where we enjoyed a hot cup of strong coffee on the rainy day we were there, and even more, the conversation with librarian and founder Anna Jonsdottir and author Sella Pals.

Women’s Book Lounge

Pals, a native Icelander, spent 40 years in the states. Arriving at the tender age of 17, she earned her B.S. at the University of Utah, going on to become an off-Broadway producer of Forbidden Broadway in New York and Boston. Her first novel, Pitching Diamonds, was published in 2012. Sella’s passion for writing is just one vocation among many, including restaurant owner (on Manhattan’s Upper West Side), documentary filmmaker, e-commerce entrepreneur, substance abuse counselor, interior designer, rancher and mother. Did we mention, Icelandic women are totally badass? (Check out her latest work, Girndarráð).

As nearly half of Iceland’s Parliament are women, we were excited to share a meal at Fish Market with Helga Vala Helgadottir of the Social Democratic Alliance. Over lobster soup, the house speciality composed of langoustine tails, prepared in coconut milk with mandarin oranges, we discussed politics there and here (in the U.S.).

Proprietor Hrefna Rosa Saetran is one of the city’s brightest chefs, creating upscale Icelandic-Asian fusion on Adalstraeti near the waterfront. The Fish Market has been turning out creative fare since 2008, and remains a hot table. There’s puffin on the menu, which was a bit disconcerting since one can take a boat tour to see the lovable little birds up close; but our waiter promised it was harvested locally. There’s also minke whale, served in thin slices with an airy wasabi. We recommend the tasting menu for first timers, saving room for the excellent desserts including a unique licorice and praline lava mousse.

Fish Market 

 

Helgadottir leads one of eight parties (there’s even a Pirate Party in Iceland – think, skull-and-crossbones flag), and graciously gave us a Saturday morning tour of the modest yet no less impressive Parliament – where the original building is joined by a new, Nordic-modern wing. There’s a life-size bronze statue out front, memorializing Icelandic suffragist, politician, school teacher and gymnast, Ingibjorg H Bjarnason. Take a selfie with the first woman to become a member of Althing, which is what the country’s parliament is called.

We well knew Iceland elected the world’s first female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, who served in that position from 1980 to 1996. Arriving hot on the heels of the 1975 Iceland Women’s Strike in Reykjavik’s main square, Finnbogadottir remains the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country to date. (Take that, America.)

Notably, Iceland also appointed Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir as the first female Prime Minister and the world’s first openly lesbian head of government in 2009; while the country’s second female Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, has held the office since 2017. Voted “Iceland’s Most Trusted Politician”, after the corruption scandals that saw the country jail its bankers, the 41-year old is a staunch environmentalist. The mother of three sons leads Iceland’s Left-Green Movement, and is intent on making the island carbon-neutral by 2040.

Iceland Parliament

 

A stop at the offices of Pink Iceland is also a must. The LGBT travel and wedding company hosts a “pop up Hygge” every Friday night, with a rotating lineup of performers and free libations. Hannes Pall, owner and operator, has planned and executed over 500 weddings over the past seven years in Iceland.

With the country having legalized gay marriage in 2010, business has been booming. From hosting your nuptials in a glacier to other otherworldly locations, this gay-owned and uber-inclusive agency also tailors tours, and is amazing at getting you on or off the beaten path, curating experiences for the luxury to the laid back traveler.

Absorbing all that progressivism made us a bit peckish, so we made for the one of Iceland’s most unique man-made attractions, the Fridheimar tomato farm. Family-owned and operated since 1995, midlife matriarch Helena Hermundardottir gave us a guided tour followed by a tomato-fueled lunch at the farm’s on-site restaurant. If you’ve ever wondered how Icelanders get their fresh produce, this is it.

 

Fridhaimer

Growing the most flavorful tomatoes we’ve ever tasted, the farm’s greenhouses welcome visitors every day. One can soak up the ‘sun’ under the artificial lighting year round; the farm’s impressive atrium is especially inviting during Iceland’s long, dark winters. The family also breeds Icelandic horses, the only kind you’ll find on the island and coveted the world over.

It was typical, of course, of everything we encountered on this particularly ideological visit to the eye-openingly progressive Scandinavian nation. Western principalities can take a lesson in how acting decisively locally, can indeed ideologically counter what is so troublingly happening globally.

 

Top: Reykjavik Marina Hotel; Bottom two: Downtown Reykjavik, by Robyn Dutra