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

The New Retro-Glam: Sunken Lounge, Pool Bar + Connie Open at JFK’s New TWA Hotel

 

 

You won’t find NYC’s coolest new cocktail spot in Williamsburg or the West Village this summer. Rather, it’s all the way out in Queens, at the just opened – and most hotly anticipated – TWA Hotel  at JFK International.

Yes indeed, you will find the cognoscenti hanging at the airport this summer, as the stunningly revived Eero Saarinen-designed masterpiece that was his 1962 Trans World Airlines Terminal now houses not one, but three new venues from hospitality hotshots Gerber Group – who forever changed the way we think about and drink at hotel bars starting with The Whiskey at the Paramount back in 1991. But it’s these latest jetsetter jumpoffs that are decisively setting tongues a-wagging.

“Operating The Sunken Lounge, The Pool Deck, and Connie at TWA Hotel is an incredible opportunity, and we’re thrilled to bring each of these unique concepts to life in their own way,” says Scott Gerber, Principal and CEO of Gerber Group. “The millions of guests from around the world, as well as locals who join us, can expect the exceptional service, cocktails and bites we’re known for, infused with a sense of history and discovery.”

Meticulously restored by Beyer Blinder Belle architects, the terminal’s additional two brand new hotel wings boast a total of 512 rooms. So one can imagine there will be no shortage of well-turned-out guests seeking that perfect Bond-style martini, perhaps a Pink Squirrel, or some or other sexy cocktail throwback to the Jet Age.

Here’s what to expect.

 

 

The Pool Bar & Observation Deck

It boasts a 63-by-20-foot infinity edge pool (turned heated pool-cuzzi in colder months) with unparalleled views of multiple JFK runways. Must Order: a Mile High Spritz to complement those rooftop pool vibes.

The Sunken Lounge

It decisively reignites the magic of Eero Saarinen’s landmark 1962 TWA Flight Center, restored as a particularly glamorous lobby bar, in dazzling retro red and white. Must Order: the Come Fly With Me, inspired by Frank Sinatra’s 1958 album cover and garnished with a rainbow of swizzle sticks modeled after TWA’s original set.

Connie

One of only four Lockheed Constellation L-1649A’s left in the world, it transports you all the way back to 1958. Step onto the tarmac and aboard her renovated cabin, where vintage-inspired cocktails flow and snacks are served with a sunny smile. Must Order: an Aviation, of course – but between sips don’t forget to stop by the cockpit to check out the original authentic controls.

 

Eating Goth: The New York DARK Food Festival Comes to Williamsburg

 

 

What’s more goth than wearing black? How about eating black?

If the very thought sends a shiver up your spine, you might consider making haste for the grimly fiendish New York DARK Food Festival, which debuts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on May 19, after its tantalizing debut in Budapest (as the Black Food Festival)…with stops in Berlin, Tel Aviv and Helsinki along the way. Hungry darkwavers (and everyone else) will know the existential joy of indulging in everything from black sesame or charcoal ice cream, to black garlic and of course, black chocolate – as well as an array of inventive and innovative dishes that experiment with, naturally, the color black.

Festival founder Regina Boros shares, “I am a food blogger in Budapest, following trends on social media. I noticed people’s crazy reactions to the posts where black cakes, or black hamburgers appear, even in the fine dining scene – like Noma in Copenhagen, or other Michelin-starred restaurants. If someone shares a black dish, people love it more than usual. So it came to my mind: why not create a food festival where every vendor can sell only black, or dark colored food?” And we love that she did.

But black food isn’t just artificially colored; some of the most sought after ingredients, from the finest coffee, luscious black berries, or balsamic vinegar have been cultivated for centuries using traditional methods that render them blackest. “Our passion here at the DARK Food Festival is to discover and share the lesser-known black foods from across the world – whether that’s boudin noir, black macarons, or black garlic – and to explore a new and unique culinary dimension.”

“Black is not just a color for me,” she continues, “it is something creative, beautiful, simple but complex. It can be weird to try a black hamburger or macaron, new types of black vegetables or fruits, black corn, black tomato, or even a completely black rice dish; but it is about experimentation, to step out from your comfort zone.”

There’s even a juried competition, the New York Experimentalists Black/Dark Food Festival Awards. Risk takers, iconoclasts and tenebrous trailblazers all, will be judged by a prestigious panel of gastronomy professionals, on the lookout for the most creative concoctions. Two dark-hearted exhibitors will be awarded in the food and drink categories.

Should you be watching your emaciated goth figure, not only will comestibles and tipples be on offer, but also “black design and fashion, accessories and decoration.”

Boros concludes, “I love dark culture, dark music, black fashion…”

Us too, of course.

(The Dark Food Festival will take place Sunday, May 19th at The Canvas, 132 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tickets are available on EventBrite. Istanbul and London follow in June)

 

New Book ‘Red Lipstick’ Gorgeously Traces the History of Beauty’s Most Indispensable Item

Illustration for the French beauty brand Payot, 1951. © 2018 René Gruau: www.gruaucollection.com

 

Author and journalist Rachel Felder has long had a love affair with red lipstick. And her latest book is evidence of her devotion to, and fascination with that classic, perfect pout.

She reveals, “I’ve been wearing red lipstick every single day for decades, and writing about makeup for many years as well. I felt the subject would resonate deeply with many women, perhaps for different reasons, because of those intense associations.”

Luxuriously wrapped in a matte gold-toned cover, Red Lipstick (released April 9, via Harper Collins) is filled with show-stopping imagery. Packed with a museum’s worth of fine art, including both Man Ray’s photograph of Red Badge of Courage and Chagall’s Les Amoreux. Lush, rarely seen vintage magazine ads from beauty biggies Guerlain and Elizabeth Arden mingle with a gorgeous array of illustrations and paintings by renowned artists including Francesco Clemente, Alex Katz, Maira Kalman, Bill Donovan, Edgar Degas and Wayne Thiebaud.

A promotional photograph of Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950s. She’s wearing a fur stole that was typical of the period and, of course, red lipstick. Everett Collection. 

With fascinating insights into the uses and cultural history of lipstick, Felder makes an astute case for the “one item most women can’t live without.”

“Every woman has a relationship with red lipstick,” she insists. “For some, it’s associated with a relative – like, say, the aunt who always wore it, perfectly applied. Others think about it for special occasions, whether they’re nights out in black tie or important meetings at the office. And then there are those who say ‘I can’t wear red lipstick,’ which I believe simply isn’t true: everyone can wear red lipstick, it’s just about finding the right one.”

Power and beauty factor heavily into Felder’s exploration, as she excavates the origins and history of red lipstick. Illuminating its association with movie stars, aristocracy, sex appeal, illicit sexuality, rebellion, glamour and fame, she never loses sight of the woman herself.

Bil Donovan, Dotty Girl (watercolor and ink), 2007 © Bil Donovan / Illustration Division.

 

She enthuses, “Women love red lipstick because it’s simultaneously polished and bold, and both classic and cutting-edge modern. I love it for those reasons and also because, after wearing only red lipstick for so many years, it makes me ‘myself.’  It’s the ultimate finishing touch to face the outside world, and makes you look made up even if it’s the only beauty item on your face.”

Granted unprecedented access to experts and the archives of revered brands like Chanel and Dior, there’s lots of juicy tidbits within the pages of Red Lipstick. Little known fun facts, quotes and anecdotes, and a striking 100 plus images. Felder’s expert curation – which we’ve come to expect from the Insider London and Insider Brooklyn writer – make her musings even richer. She also spotlights a fascinating array of women who’ve worn red lipstick through the ages: think, suffragettes (yes, even those early feminists wore it), monarchs, flappers, geishas, Hollywood sirens, rockstars, working women during World War II, politicians…we could go on.

It’s an irresistible little (in size not stature) book, a must-have for any fashionista or fan of beauty’s cultural history. As Ms. Felder puts it, “When I wear red lipstick I feel stronger, more confident, and ultimately, more beautiful. It makes me feel like I can conquer anything the day brings my way.”

Catwoman represents a different type of powerful woman: one that uses sensuality as one of her weapons. Here, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the part in Batman Returns (1992). © Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection. 

Dune Bashing, Persian Carpets and a Spectacular Outpost of The Louvre: A Weekend in Abu Dhabi, Part II

 

(Continuing on from Part I of our Abu Dhabi story…)

 

Peckish from sightseeing, we headed back to The Grand Hyatt where we lunched at Verso, a stylish Italian trattoria, that serves outstanding pizzas, pastas like pappardelle ai gamberi, and squid ink risotto – and as New Yorkers, we’re not easily impressed with Italian food. The property will actually boast a total of six international dining options (just two were open when we were there), so you’ll never go hungry. Sahha, an “adventurous market,” is the spot for made-to-order and buffet breakfast and dinner options – don’t miss the big-as-your-head pastel-colored meringues at the dessert station. Pearl Lounge in the lobby provided a sophisticated little stop off when we were feeling parched, as our minibar seemed to be a work in progress (um, empty).

And for those feeling a little more motivated than were we, there was a Dynamic TechnoGym fitness center open 24-hours, with a steam room and sauna to sweat out the night-before’s partying on the hip and happening Yas Island. (N.B., you can drink openly at hotels and nightclubs in Abu Dhabi, but public drunkenness is of course very much frowned upon.)

Never hearing of dune bashing before we visited Abu Dhabi, the daytime sport courtesy of Land Cruisers and their agile drivers, provided some raucous fun. We were told to buckle up, because off-roading amongst the sand dunes gets hair-raisingly bumpy. If you book a tour with Abu Dhabi Desert Safari you’ll also get up close and personal with a herd of very cuddly camels, available for short rides and lots of petting. As part of our excursion, we got to partake in sand skiing, a Bedouin-style BBQ dinner, belly dancing and Tanoura (traditional folkloric dance) performances, henna painting, and even the chance to hold a falcon for the ultimate photo op.

For anyone who might be wondering where Whistler’s Mother is currently on view, it was right there at the spectacular, Saadayit Island located Louvre Abu Dhabi. The name is on loan from its Paris counterpart, which was incidentally paid $525 million to license the name for 30 years. Here, the Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Jean Nouvel has again outdone himself – the sprawling design is actually comprised of 55 detached buildings.

With a giant overhead canopy ‘woven’ out of 7850 metal ‘stars,’ the structure ingeniously anchors sand and sea. Waterfront views from the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s many terraces are breathtaking, while visiting day or night promises dazzling light shows under the dome. And the art? We especially loved the cosmography room and the well-curated collection of artifacts from early civilizations. Currently showing is Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia, through the end of February.

Of course, when they go big in the U.A.E., they always go really big. And the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was no exception. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdekly, the glistening white-marble stunner is one of the world’s largest. A massive undertaking at over 20 years to build (2007 saw the completion), a collective of highly skilled artisans using only the finest materials were enlisted from around the globe, coming from India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia…the list goes on.

It should be noted that visitors are required to respect the dress code, traditional Abaya dress for women, or Kandura for men. For us ladies, this meant loose pants (so please do leave your athleisure at the hotel), loose tops covering arms and chest, and head scarf with no hair showing. Our Isabel Marant tunic was deemed too sheer by staff, so we were loaned a hooded, pinkish-colored Abaya, which are available before entering the mosque. And after all, who doesn’t look good in mauve?

Resplendent with the world’s largest Persian carpet (woven by women, we were told by our lively guide, with 2,268,000,000 knots) and the third largest, brilliantly colored crystal-encrusted chandelier in existence, the humbling, grandiose main hall can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Its benefactor, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, wanted to establish a structure uniting the cultural diversity of the Islamic world, and its historical and modern values of architecture and art. His Highness’ final resting place is actually located on the grounds beside the mosque.

Before we departed from Abu Dhabi, we were determined to visit one of its beaches (and not one of the many man-made ones). Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, on the shores of Saadiyat, boasted an invitingly pristine, natural beachfront, where gentle waves beckoned us in. A quick dip provided perfect refreshment before winding down and washing up before dinner. The sleek, minimalist rooms here offer our favorite Le Labo products, which will soon become standard across all of the Hyatt properties, we were told.

Reserving a table under the stars at the award-winning Park Bar & Grill, we were thankful for the simplicity of a menu of charcoal-grilled seafood and fine steaks. Dining al fresco on a clear, we took in one last magnificent view, before normal life would take us back to Gotham.

(N.B. ideal travel times to the UAE are December through March, before it gets too hot and humid.)