España in Springtime: Indulging the Art, Food + Flamenco of Madrid

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A massive sign high up on Madrid’s City Hall read “Refugees Welcome.” A cynic could take it as being a bit glib; but in truth, the statement was genuinely characteristic of Spain, whose citizens have actually held protests urging the government to accept even more immigrants. It was particularly poignant, as our time there coincided with the re-escalation back home of Donald Trump’s spiteful (nay, ridiculous) plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

All socio-political machinations aside, we were actually in the Spanish capital to check out the exceedingly cool new Only You Atocha hotel. The brand itself had launched in 2013 with a very different sort of property: the Only You Boutique hotel, in the trendy Chueca district, an aristocratic 19th mansion converted by star designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán into a surreal but drop-dead stunning maze of differently themed public areas and plush guest rooms. He was enlisted again for the Atocha, this time giving a distinctly Spanish context to the lobby-as-hip-playground concept familiar to denizens of hotels like The Ace.

And indeed, everywhere you might turn, there was something to grab your attention. To the right of the entrance, The Bakery by Mama Framboise, which serves decadent Tartaletas MF, a dozen flavors of macarons (goat-cheese-figs-pralines!), and Iberian ham toast all day. To the left was the Latin-Asian Trotamundos restaurant, with its buzzy corner cocktail bar. And just beyond, a dizzyingly dramatic atrium, where nouveau jazz happenings regularly bring in the city’s modern day hepcats.



But probably our favorite part of every day was shuffling off the hangovers while lingering over a lazy breakfast against spectacular views at the 7th floor Séptima – where in the evenings DJs soundtrack the Panoramic Drinks Sessions…thus perpetuating the hangover cycle.

Upstairs the rooms were a great deal more plush and stylish than those in typical hipsterrific hotels, with smartly patterned bedspreads, exposed brick walls and white tiled bathrooms. For a particular splurge, we can’t stress enough the fantabulousness of the sprawling Terrace Suite – whose outdoor space could easily accommodate 10-12 enthusiastically gyrating party people.

Madrid itself – sometimes mistakenly passed over for the more archly hip Barcelona – comes especially to life as winter passes into spring, with its scores of pavement cafes, its teeming plazas for sexy-people watching and its streets that buzz late into the night (really, more like 6am). The food is transcendent, the nightlife is some of the best on the Continent, and its grand boulevards / grandiloquent baroque architectural icons make it a city that gleams in the April-May sunshine.

Here’s what we did.


The PradoThe Reina Sofia

The thing about classical art in Spain…it’s just different. It’s a country that still has a king, after all. And so a great deal of la historia de España is still told in a place like The Prado. It’s indeed a very Spanish museum, and even if you’re a contemporary art geek, you’ll find yourself drawn in to the narrative as told through the dramatic works of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. The jaw-dropping collection also boasts Rubens, Titian and Hieronymous Bosch’s proto-surrealist masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights. Don’t kill too much time on the stiff royal portraits.
The Reina Sofia, just a short stroll from the hotel, is Spain’s most important museum of 20th Century art, with treasures by Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, and, of course, Picasso – whose influence can be appreciated in the current exhibition Telefónica Collection: Cubism(s) and Experiences of Modernity. The museum also holds more contemporary works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and Richard Serra.


Prado Museum 2017

El Prado


Art Gallery Tour

It’s not Berlin, surely – but Madrid’s contemporary art scene has genuinely started to garner international attention, with its annual ARCO fair having become one of Europe’s most important. The Art Gallery Tour people are your best bet for getting an insider’s view, with tours of specific districts like the hip Letras and posh Salamanca. They will also curate private tours to suit your taste. You can add a wine drinking element, should you wish to pontificate on what you’ve seen over a glass or two of Ribera Del Duero.

Barrio de Las Letras

Also a short stroll from the hotel, Las Letras is just that sort of neighborhood that defines Madrid, with atmospheric streets where charming little bars and cool indie boutiques reign – and there’s not a chain outlet in sight. The outdoor cafes on Plaza de Santa Ana and the narrow streets around it are great for lingering and people watching.




Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant Terrace

Atop the spectacular municipal building on the Plaza de Cibeles is a hidden away 6th floor restaurant and terrace. There’s a full gourmand’s menu – but come for cocktails, views and to soak up the vivid afternoon Madrid sunshine.

YOUnique Restaurant at Only You Boutique Hotel

Just being in this gorgeous hotel is an indescribable aesthetic pleasure. Its signature restaurant is a particular delight for a long, lazy lunch (okay, there’s really no other kind in Madrid), with Valencian paella, oxtail cannelloni, and skipjack carpaccio all beautifully presented. Ask for a table in the verdant, art-adorned garden. Come back in the evening, as the YOUnique Lounge is a stunningly designed setting for fancy cocktails – and the surrounding neighborhood jumps at night.




1862 Dry Bar

Spain’s is a wine-beer-sherry drinking culture. The cocktail thing, mercifully, did not sweep into its major cities and strap all of its bartenders into old-timey suspenders. 1862, for instance, is distinctly Spanish bar, not some awful Brooklyn imitation. A crowd of urbane Madrilenos come to sip updated takes on the classics (Gimlet, Sazerac, Manhattan) by drinks wizard Alberto Martinez. Spread over two floors, it’s one of the city’s buzziest scenes.

Corral de la Morería

Flamenco is way hotter than you might actually think – and five decades after opening, Corral de la Moreria is still one of the hottest tickets in Madrid. In a classical but sensual setting, with Arabic touches, watch some of Spain’s top names in the genre heat up the stage (and the audience) with their visceral, passionate performances. It’s actually quite an intense, even somewhat aphrodisiac experience.


Flamenco Madrid

Feels Great: Fetty Wap and Cheat Codes Talk Tattoos, Taking Risks and THC

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Photography: Christian Cody


Anyone with a phone knows the name Fetty Wap. But what they might not know about the 26-year-old rapper, is the fact that he doesn’t like to play by the rules. Case in point, his latest collaboration with Los Angeles-based electronic outfit Cheat Codes. While on the surface he may not appear to have much in common with the trio, there’s a lot more similarities between them than just the fact they all like to smoke weed – and a lot of it. A sunny and almost annoyingly perfect pop banger, “Feels Great” shows how all four of them won’t be boxed in by anyone, including themselves.

BlackBook caught up with Fetty and Cheat Codes following their collab, and just in time for the weekend. The boys sounded off on Michael Jordan, marijuana and making music.



BlackBook: You guys collaborated on ‘Feels Great’ a couple months ago. Tell me about the track.

Matt: What was your first impression when you heard the track? As a whole, I think the track is really different than anything you’ve worked on before.
Fetty: Yeah it was a really big difference for me, but I enjoy being challenged. Immediately, when I heard the song, I just thought it had such good vibes. At first, I didn’t even listen to the lyrics – I just focused on the melody and the production. Melody is really the biggest thing for me, anyway. And the melody just really caught my attention – that and the energy of the track.
Trevor: So it literally felt great. That’s perfect.

BlackBook: How was it for you guys to work together?

Fetty: Well, we had met before we worked on the song. So it was all just really chill. Plus, we smoked weed together, and when you smoke weed, everything good happens.
Matt: We’d also always wanted to collaborate with Fetty. So, when this song came along, we immediately thought he’d be great. He just has such good vibes and we always see him smiling, and that’s really how we felt about the song. Then the fact that he actually liked it and wanted to do it – that was just perfect for us.
Trevor: We’re also used to working as producers and songwriters. Even when we work with other artists, we always try to have, like, 90 percent of the track done, so they can just kind of come in and put on the finishing touches. But with Fetty, we sent him the record and he completely did his own part. So, it was really cool to have him bring something totally new and unexpected to the track.
Matt: Yeah, when we did the video together you told us a little about the verse you wrote. What was the story behind it?
Fetty: When I first started listening to the lyrics, my interpretation of this song was kind of like, ‘Okay, this is something that I’ve been through,’ but with a totally different attitude. You know, my background – I’m from the hood. So doing this track and having such a positive spin is something that people probably wouldn’t expect from me. I started thinking about my girlfriend when she was in high school and how no one used to really look at her or talk to her. But then of course, I became Fetty Wap, and she got older and matured, and all of the sudden people liked her and she was so beautiful. So, I used her for my interpretation of the song – that was the idea I pulled from.
Kevin: I’ve always wondered how you got into the rap game. Was it in high school? Or how did you get into music?
Fetty: I actually got into music because of Remy Boyz’ Monty. Everybody knows our song “My Way” that we did together. But Monty was really the one who pushed me to pursue music because it’s really his first love, and he showed me how much I love music and how much I really love to make music – every part of it. He’s the real inspiration for me being Fetty Wap.
Matt: Shout out Monty!
Trevor: He’s the man.
Fetty: But what about you guys?
Trevor: For me, I started writing songs when I was probably 12. My dad actually played guitar and he would always play us songs that he wrote, so I was always around that. Then I just started writing and recording in my bedroom, and dropped out of school when I was 16 to try and really pursue it. It was kind of like, ‘If I’m going to do music, I’m going to really do it.’ So, that’s exactly what happened.
Kevin: My uncle was in Sugar Ray actually, and my brother was in a big rock band back in the day, so I also grew up around it and it was something I always wanted to do.
Matt: It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when I got into music, but I was always doing it in school, like band and choir and all that stuff. Eventually, I was kind of just like, ‘I don’t want to do choir, I want be in a cool rock band and make cool music.’ So, in high school that’s what I was doing: playing rock ‘n’ roll in my basement. Then I moved to L.A. and met these guys and we started making electronic music because honestly, we all just get really bored really fast. So, we wanted to be able to make the kind of music that we could switch up whenever we wanted, making tracks with a pop star like Demi Lovato and then do a song with a dope rapper like Fetty Wap. I swear I have A.D.D. or something. But that was really the goal behind this project.



Fetty: What’s your biggest inspiration when you’re writing?
Matt: For me, it’s weed.
Fetty: I definitely agree with that 100%.
Trevor: I’m just always so excited about the idea of moving culture forward. I honestly can’t think of anything better than when I hear something that sounds like it’s never been done before. I really don’t even care if it ends up flopping or if people hate it because the risk is worth it for me. I want to be on that record that’s changing things and changing music. If I’m just doing the same thing other people have done for years and years, it’s not really worth it for me. So, that’s what really inspires me and makes me want to create. Well, that and weed.
Kevin: I just like being in the studio or in my room writing music. I mean, of course I love performing but my favorite part is just being by myself or with the guys and being creative.
Trevor: Fetty, what was the first tattoo you got?
Fetty: My first tattoo? I believe I was – I don’t want to get my mom in trouble, so I’m just going to say I was 17. It’s a T, a star and an F on my left forearm, which stands for ‘Team Fam,’ which was a sports thing that every kid had to do in my neighborhood, and my friends and I, we had our own little crew. My favorite tattoo though, is my Michael Jordan tattoo on my leg. I was supposed to get his jersey tattooed on my leg, but it hurt so bad, I only got his name.
Trevor: I just got a neck tattoo the other day and that really hurt.
Trevor: Wait, so you’re into basketball?
Fetty: Actually, football is my favorite sport. But my mom kind of cut my football career short because she was so scared I’d get hurt.

BlackBook: I’m curious if you guys think your personas onstage are really different from who you are IRL. Like, is Fetty Wap a character? Or is that who you are all the time?

Fetty: Fetty Wap is just a brand name. When I’m home, I’m just Willie. A lot of people think I am who I am onstage – like when I’m performing, I’m really aggressive – but I’m not like that at all. Except when I’m in California. When I’m in California, I’m Fetty Wap all day.
Matt: I think we’re all the same, except maybe our personalities are a little exaggerated when we’re playing.

BlackBook: With social media, though, do you feel like you have to be ‘on’ all the time?

Trevor: I don’t know any other way to be. I grew up in the social media age, so I’m just used to it.
Kevin: I also think as long as you don’t take anything or yourself too seriously, it all ends up working out.

BlackBook: Do you see similarities between rap and electronic music?

Matt: The main thing that’s probably the most obvious is the fact that it just makes people feel good, you know? People want to go out on the weekends and have fun when they hit the club. That’s why you want to make records that people can enjoy.
Fetty: Real energy and authenticity always provides the best outcome, you know what I’m saying? And I like to do different things. I don’t even consider myself a rap artist, you know? I’m just an artist because I like testing limits and I don’t like boxing myself into any one thing. So, even with ‘Feels Great,’ it was like, ‘Okay here’s a new opportunity for you to do something you haven’t done before, and try out a new genre.’ I’m never going to say no to expanding my music in a positive setting. I don’t only want to be a rapper – I don’t only ever want to be one thing.

BlackBook: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t an artist?

Trevor: I’d definitely be in the NBA.
Fetty: I don’t even think I can answer that question, because I don’t know what the hell I’d be doing. My music is just part of who I am. Or maybe I’d be a doctor or something.


Next Hip City: A BlackBook Guide to Denver

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Having ticked most of these United States off our travel list, it was a bit odd to realize we’d never actually set foot in Colorado. But a great new hotel is often the only excuse we need to set about correcting such a situation. And sure enough, this past November Le Méridien threw open the doors on a very stylish new downtown sleep.

Denver is also pretty happening these days, having tapped into the zeitgeisty formula of urban renewal (run down neighborhood becomes artists district becomes playground for trend chasers). The city’s rustic, mountain charms, historic architecture and spectacular scenery combine with a new sense of possibility, from a thriving street art scene to a winery that has made it hip to drink it from cans.

Here’s what we did.


RiNo Art District

Yep, you guessed it. A former industrial district in Five Points, it became an incubator for Denver’s exploding street art scene – and you can see the results everywhere you look. Naturally, creative businesses followed, and now the neighborhood hosts design and architecture offices, as well as trendy restaurants like Acorn, Bar Fausto and Mister Tuna. Check out the contemporary exhibitions at Helikon Gallery & Studios, as well as the RedLine Contemporary Art Center. Don’t miss the fangeek Stranger Things mural, by local collective Arty Deeds.



Union Station

Like New York’s Grand Central, Union Station is more than just a place to catch a train. It’s a striking architectural masterpiece dating to 1914, marrying neoclassical, Romanesque and Beaux Arts styles into a particular sort of grandiosity. It was given a splashy makeover by design coolsters AvroKO in 2014, and is once again a genuine social hub for the city. While puttering about the dramatic confines, pick up local crafts at 5 Green Boxes, as well as books and periodicals at Tattered Cover. There are also ten food and drink options, including the buzzy Terminal Bar and the strikingly designed Cooper Lounge, perched histrionically up on the mezzanine.



Clyfford Still Museum

He was one of the great American Abstract Expressionist painters, having passed away in 1980, aged 75. But the museum dedicated to his work has a fascinating story: his estate offered to bestow his entire oeuvre on whichever city came up with the best proposal for a namesake gallery. Denver won, and the Clyfford Still Museum was opened in 2011. His visceral, perception-altering work from the ’50s and ’60s (along with that of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock) literally defined an era in American art. Featured exhibitions include Artists Select, for which the likes of Mark Mothersbaugh and Julian Schnabel have chosen works from the collection to a thematic end.



The Source

Of course, you can’t have urban renewal without the requisite trendy food markets. The Source is where the creative class come to fuel up for another round of artistic conceptualizing. The soaring, 19th Century brick foundry building houses modern taqueria Comida, and foodie-magnet Acorn, as well as a butcher shop, baker, Boxcar Coffee, and the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project. Alternately, hit the Denver Central Market, for something a bit less achingly hip, a bit more fancy pants.



Colorado Cider Company

A must visit for immersion in something authentically local and welcoming. In a charmingly rustic tasting room, sample their lemony Grasshop-ah, the tart Cherry Gilder, the earthy Ol’ Stumpy, and their new botanical Pome Mel, with notes of lavender and rosemary. Book a tour for the full experience.



Infinite Monkey Theorum

You had to know it was coming: the hipster winery, run by British-born Ben Parsons. Fittingly, they have made a “thing” of wine in cans – and don’t be troubled, it’s actually really quite good. For proof of cred, it’s now available at the Brooklyn holy trinity of hip: Rough Trade, Brooklyn Steel and The Williamsburg Music Hall. They also sell bubbly in kegs – which means those bubbles stay fresh until the keg is dry (no more stale prosecco at brunch – phew). Their Cabernet Franc was a serious hit with us.



Larimer Square Restaurants

With its historic architecture and inviting shops (Element for home furnishings, Goorin Brothers for stylish chapeaus, Hailee Grace for chic women’s wear), you could while away an entire day on Larimer Square. But it’s also Denver’s buzziest restaurant destination. We loved Rioja for its creative take on Med cuisine – proprietors Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski also run Bistro Vendome down the street; Corridor 44 champagne lounge/restaurant brings the bubbly and charcuterie amidst the opulence of brick walls and baroque chandeliers; Napa-styled wine bar CRÚ has more than 40 selections by the glass; Russell’s Smokehouse does elevated barbecue in an artsy space with stained glass windows; and Tamayo is modern Mexican courtesy of Richard Sandoval. To name but a few.




Le Meridien Denver Downtown

Denver’s most happening new hotel, the moment one enters, a distinct sense of place takes over. Suave, urbane and buzzing from one end of the lobby to the other end of the lobby bar, it nevertheless unabashedly plays up a rustic/mountain ski-lodge vibe – with its cozy fireplace and warmly designed interiors. Rooms manage to be cozy and luxurious, cosseting and minimalist – and the bathrooms are to die for. The Corrine restaurant is all low-key cool, serving up lobster mac & cheese, maple glazed salmon and caramelized pork shank. But you’ll want to spend as much time as possible up on the 54thirty rooftop bar, with its clever cocktails and jaw-dropping views of the Rockies. The hotel has partnerships with the likes of Rocky Mountain Soda Company, The Real Dill, Leopold Bros Whiskey, allowing for a genuinely immersive Denver experience.




‘I, Tonya’ Editor Tatiana S. Riegel Discusses Her Oscar Nom, and Getting ‘A Delicate Dance of Tone’

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Tatiana S. Riegel is the only woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing this year, for the dark comedy I, Tonya – about figure skater Tonya Harding and the scandal of the 1994 Winter Olympics. If she wins, she’ll be the fourteenth female editor to take home a trophy from the Oscars, which celebrate their 90th ceremony this year.

As far as categories go, it’s true that editing is actually fairly female-friendly, comparatively. 74 women have been nominated over the past decades, as opposed to the five female directors who have ever been recognized. The statistics are not lost on Riegel, who has observed little change in the film industry’s gendered climate since she entered it after college.

“I don’t think the gender aspect is all that different now from when I started,” she observes. “However, I do think it’s beginning to change for the better. I think the current amount of discussion is a very important aspect of change, not just in editorial but in all departments of filmmaking and, frankly, in all jobs.”


Tatiana S. Riegel 


With movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp dominating the media, it’s hard to argue that gender equality and diversity in film in general isn’t at least at the forefront of the general consciousness, if not beginning to improve.

“I think the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are really powerful,” Riegel says. “The conversation is creating confidence and support where people previously might not have felt it. Hopefully, it is also creating awareness among the people who do the hiring, causing them to think twice before falling into the routines of their own past prejudices and assumptions. Ideally this process can help to empower people so they can seize greater opportunity in the future. It’s empowering to be believed, especially when you know you have support.”



Starting any job is a daunting task, but it’s proven in recent months that Hollywood especially has had and continues to harbor some extremely toxic boys’ club vibes. Riegel got into editing after she graduated and made a list of potential career options she would both enjoy and be good at, quickly realizing that the only job really fitting both those descriptions would be in post production. Her first job was on a tiny movie, working for free in exchange for the chance to learn about editing.

“Starting out in this career is challenging for everybody, particularly for women and minorities,” she explains. It’s always a challenge to be considered for a job when you’re not exactly what the people hiring are expecting. There are many stereotypes women have to fight, for example, many people think women editors are not suited to cutting action movies. This is ridiculous, of course, but trying to convince people to think otherwise and to give you a shot is tough. I believe the number of female editors in the Motion Picture Editors Guild totals somewhere between 22 and 24%. I don’t think that number has really changed much in the last few decades. I suspect there are some jobs I did not get because I am a woman. However, I have had the good fortune most of my career to work with people who recognize the value of diversity in the cutting room.”



Riegel has worked with director Craig Gillespie for ten years – I, Tonya is her fifth feature editing for him. After reading the script, she was eager to get to work telling a story equal parts hilarious and dark, dealing with quite serious issues like domestic abuse, while still maintaining a certain levity throughout.

“It required a delicate dance of tone,” she says. “It is an emotional and tragic, yet extremely funny film. Within a story populated by characters who at times behave in absurd and ridiculous ways, there are violent scenes that graphically depict domestic abuse. It was a challenging process to find the correct balance. Ultimately, we always leaned towards reality and allowed the comedy to come from the craziness of the behavior.”



Her delicate touch has paid off: in addition to her Oscar nom, Riegel has already scored the American Cinema Editors’ Award for Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical, putting her in prime position to take home Oscar gold (her biggest competition is Dunkirk’s Lee Smith).

“I am thrilled and honored beyond imagination to be nominated,” she enthuses. “It’s hard to comprehend my name is listed with other women editors whom I admire so much. People like Thelma Schoonmaker, MaryJo Markey, Maryann Brandon, Dody Dorn and, of course, Sally Menke. I worked for Sally on many films at the beginning of my career.”



Menke worked with director Quentin Tarantino on seven films, having edited all of his movies until her death. She scored Oscar noms for her precise editing in Inglourious Basterds and Pulp Fiction. But of course, there are many other female colleagues of Riegel’s who’ve not yet garnered the same recognition. It’s these women who’ve made working in film editing a joy for Riegel.

“I hope that I have opportunities to work on films I love and with people who are talented and fun,” she says. “I have an amazing group of women editor friends that may not have Oscar nominations (yet), but are some of the most talented and supportive people I know. I would not be where I am now without them.”



Stupendous Skiing, Artisan Tippling + a Twin Peaks Coffee Shop: A Captivating Weekend in the Catskills

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The trendy “ruralization” of the urbanista psyche, surely only spurred on by the HipsterAmish mafia (with its plethora of Brooklyn storefronts creatively incorporating the word “farm”), has shown no signs of abatement. Indeed, your once Marc Jacobs adorned, gallery-hopping magazine editor friend may well these days be shopping in earnest for…tractor parts.

And that tractor may be powering a lifestyle being cultivated a couple of hours north of Manhattan, in the Catskills – the mountainous region recently decisively regaining the bohemian cred it enjoyed back in the ’60s and ’70s.

We spent a few days there post-holidays, with no intention of chasing down the intel on where celebs were gathering for their craft-beer-and-pork-belly-bao fix these days – but rather indulging the area’s timeless, incorruptible charms. You don’t have to look hard to spot precisely the sort of captivating eccentricities that should be associated with such a place – including picking up handcrafted eco-lite soy candles in the same place where you can score a really serious looking handmade hunting knife.

Here’s what we did.


Skiing and Snowboarding

We’ll get this one out of the way, since it’s not really much of a secret. But NY State has put a lot of effort into modernizing the area’s ski facilities, and it shows. Hunter has always been the marquee mountain up here; Windham offers a bit more low-key, civilized experience; and Belleayre draws women’s-march-size crowds – lots of excitable little tykes among them. But the scenery and views are literally breathtaking. In the spring and summer, obviously, hiking and biking opportunities abound.


Windham Mountain Resort 



There’s no town named Tuscany in Tuscany, but the Catskills actually do have a town called Catskill. Its Main Street is everything you could possibly hope it to be – including the Country Store whose owner might just have closed up shop and popped out to the bank in the middle of business hours (how very Pottersville). Wonderfully, there’s no Williams Sonoma, there’s no Shake Shack – just an oddball assemblage of antique and second hand shops and the like. The absolute must stops are Magpie Books, and Catskill Mill (created by Etsy founder Rob Kalin).

Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company

Washington Irving’s short story legend Rip Van Winkle (a rather unenlightened chap who chose to sleep for 20 years rather than be, um, nagged by his wife) is really big up here. Like, Oprah big. So his name and image are plastered everywhere you look, including this friendly restaurant and brewery. The Angela’s dining room is actually modern, bright and comfortable – and serves up a well-executed menu of Italian classics and American pub grub. But it’s their beer that is genuinely top notch, especially the Otis Red-Wheated Ale and Peek-a-Boo Porter, should you be one to gravitate to the dark stuff. Request a tasting flight of five or six for full effect.



Scribner’s Catskill Lodge

The arrival of big city chic is embodied in this stunningly designed hotel. Yet it doesn’t take long to be swept up into its rustic, homey ethos. Rooms are zen minimalism in the warmest way – request one facing Hunter Mountain. And the many-windowed Prospect restaurant takes full advantage of the spectacular vistas, while serving up rapturous fondue Savoyarde, braised short ribs, a heavenly roasted chicken and, well, parsnip ice cream. The stylish Library doubles as a game room – we shot a few rounds of pool before an intoxicated game of Cards Against Humanity. Top that.



Mama’s Boy Burgers

A kitschy cool spot, whose pastel quirkiness is just waiting for a part in a John Waters film (even the bathroom is kinda campy). The burgers are equally as fun, with names like Devil’s Tombstone and Big Daddy, especially paired with a shake or float and key lime pie. We universally thumbed-up the ’90s revival soundtrack. (“Said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me…”).


One of our fave stops, its Main Street features one of the most insanely fabulous vintage shops ever, the marvelously monikered Out of the Closet – stocking everything from Etro pantsuits to a Louis Vuitton “steamer trunk” coffee table. Up the street is the – of course – eccentric Twin Peaks Coffee & Donuts, attached to which is a room of curiosities (for sale) that decidedly blur the line between camp and really, genuinely weird. We ended our afternoon at the parlor of the Hudson-Chatham Winery, which offers tastings in a dining room of bygone-era elegance.

The Roxbury Motel

The name of The Roxbury Motel (in the town of the same name) is a bit deceiving, as it’s not really a motel. Rather, it’s a camp but not too camp boutique hotel, with a penchant for fantabulous retro theatricality. Rooms are extravagantly done up to cleverly chosen themes: Miss Kitty is all bordello red; Maryanne’s Coconut Cream Pies is a nautical nod to the show Gilligan’s Island (with a, um, coconut cream ceiling); the highly recommended Amadeus is a spectacle of 18th-Century baroque pomp; and The Sound of Music is all flouncy-frilly-fun romance. Just next door, we had a great night out at Public, the epitome of a lively local, serving farmer-sized helpings of BBQ ribs, shepherd’s pie and chocolate lava cake. (N.B. The owners of The Roxbury, Greg Henderson and Joseph Massa, are opening plush “villas” just up the road, with jaw-dropping views, sometime in the next year.)




The Catskills in miniature, a quaint postage stamp of a town. Pop in to Kabinett & Kammer for a dizzying selection of curious curiosities: hit Clementine for top notch vintage finds; Paisley’s Country Gallery for ethnic crafts; then refuel at the cheekily monikered Two Old Tarts restaurant and bakery.

Wayside Cider

Make an absolute point of stopping here, as it’s one of the genuinely hippest destinations in the region. In summer there’s a big yard and a barn with yet another bar, where all manner of fine weather fun goes on. But in the colder months, hunker-down in the stylish, Brooklynesque dining room and plan to order up a couple of local charcuterie plates, while running through a tasting of their truly sublime ciders. Indeed, from the sweet and spicy Half Wild, to the oaky Catskill, to the earthy, mellow Dry Town, this is what rustic “champagne” tastes like. Highly recommended.



Union Grove Distillery

This is a city-worthy distillery in Arkville, which produces excellent apple-based vodkas – notably, a maple-infused creation that is richly satisfying. Go for a tasting, or order from their expertly crafted cocktail menu, enjoyed in a cozy, exposed brick, fireplace-adorned room. The cognoscenti have caught on to it – we randomly ran into a music biz pal from NYC here.

Brushland Eating House

This chic, sophisticated eatery run by former Brooklynites Sohail Zandi and Sara Elbert does absolutely everything right. The dimly-lit dining room is smartly stylish and romantic, all dark woods, rustic chairs and hanging globe lamps. Yet the cool ’60s soundtrack gave it a lively vibe when we visited. The fashionably bedecked staff delivers some of the region’s most creatively turned out modern-comfort-dishes – hand rolled pasta, cast-iron chicken, sunchokes & cauliflower – and it’s all beautifully presented. The olive oil cake may ruin you for all other desserts.


One of the most genuinely picturesque Catskills destinations, it’s notable for the One Grand Books shop, which offers collectible-worthy collections of books chosen by very famous people, including Tom Hanks, Greta Gerwig, Amber Tamblyn, Anthony Bourdain and Trevor Noah. Sunrise Ruffalo also runs a design shop, Sunny’s Pop, in the town.


BlackBook Interview w/ Brit Rocker Yungblud + His Guide to Authentic, Indie London

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Since he exploded onto the UK music scene in 2017, we haven’t been able to get enough of Yungblud’s guts-and-glory punk anthems. At a time when music artists mostly shrink from controversy, his songs take on such exigent topics as sexual assault (“Polygraph Eyes”) and soulless gentrification (“Tin Pan Boy”) with a lyrical wit and bite that put him far above his guitar-wielding musical contemporaries.

His debut, self-titled EP was released this month to rave reviews from a press eager to extoll the virtues of something of genuine substance. He’ll also be bringing his exhilarating live act back to the States this spring for an extended tour.

In the meantime, we caught up for an enlightening chat with him – and, expanding on the message of “Tin Pan Boy,” asked him to turn us on to his fave authentic, indie spots in London.




There are UK artists like yourself and Shame that are speaking up in a confrontational, socio-political way. Why do you think there are not more musicians doing so?

I think because it’s risky. I think you just gotta do it in the right way, ‘coz no one wants to be preached to or told what to think, you know? Ultimately, I’m just angry, speaking about what’s going on in my head and saying what I think about the world in the music I love. I’m not trying to tell people what to think but to just speak!

Have you found that your fans are actively responding to your lyrics? Are they getting swept up into the message?

It’s the best feeling for me when people send me a message or tweet me about what they’re upset about, angry about or proud of in relation to my music. When I was growing up it was mainly Alex Turner and Eminem’s lyrics that made me feel better when I was confused. The dream for me is for people to relate to my music and put it on when they need an answer or just wanna jump around and let it out!

“Tin Pan Boy” is about the gentrification of Soho. Do you feel artists and creatives are getting priced out of London?

Yeah, I don’t want to live in a world where there’s 28 of the same coffee shops in a row down a street. I think it’s important that areas with an individuality and a history of artistic soul remain alive or everything is going to become sterile like a doctor’s surgery.



What were you listening to and inspired by when you recorded your debut EP?

I am completely in love with rock and roll music and hip hop simultaneously, I think they come from the same soul. They are genres of music that are more than the music, they’re an attitude, a feeling, and speak about something real. I thought, “why can’t I take elements of both genres and glue them together?” I am inspired by artists like Kanye West, Lorde, Eminem, NWA and Trippie Red, as well as the Arctic Monkeys, Blondie, Joe Strummer and Kurt Cobain. They are all definitely integral to the music I make.

Does it seem like guitar music is making a comeback in the UK? 

I think it’s gonna come back full circle worldwide to be honest, and that’s really exciting.

Will you be coming back to the States to tour?

Yes, I’m heading out with K.FLAY across the country in March and I can’t wait. She’s such an insane artist and switched on person. I think she views the world in a very similar way to me and we share the same ideologies.


Yungblud’s London Faves

Katzenjammers, London Bridge 

This place is an underground German beer hall in London Bridge, where they serve huge steins of beer and have an oompah band that play bangers all night. You’ll probably find me in there on a Saturday night totally intoxicated screaming my head off to “Don’t Stop Me Now!”

Denmark Street, Soho 

I literally grew up on this street, I first picked up a guitar here. Tin Pan Alley is where the foundations of British rock and roll and pop music were built, I feel a connection to it. It has a sick vibe, lots of history and there’s always music blasting outta the shops into the street. It’s a bit of a time warp.


The Drunken Monkey, Shoreditch

I’m obsessed with Asian food; my mates took me here once and I got hooked. It’s dimly lit, feels rock and roll and the dim sum is just the best!

Brixton Market

It’s a classic…me and my guitar player love to walk down it, grab some food off one of the street food stands and watch the street players – they’re the best.


The Pink Chihuahua / El Camion Mexicano, Soho 

Upstairs is an insane Mexican restaurant and downstairs is a sneaky sick tequila bar, that almost feels like it’s a secret. Perfect spot if you’re feeling lit in Soho and if you ask they will bring Mexican food to you downstairs.

Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill

Again another classic, but this place just makes me happy. The absolute best market, that stretches for about a mile – there is such a community here and on a Saturday it’s just mental! If I feel down, this is the place I go to pick myself up and get inspired again.




Erma Fiend is Making Eerie, Incredibly Queer GIF Art

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It’s time you started following @erma.fiend on Instagram, if you don’t already. The incredibly well-spoken queer visual artist creates gory, expectation-defying, fluid looping GIF art that is easy to get lost staring at for hours at a time. They work both in front of and behind the camera, the subject of their own portraits, making Fiend a sort of animated disciple of Cindy Sherman, with a bit more of an inclination for insect imagery.
We’ve been following Fiend for quite some time, after seeing their work on the Bebe Huxley Scorpio EP, and so were delighted when we got to sit down with them to talk about their process and inspiration. What followed were enlightening insights on the fourth dimension, gender performance, the fluidity of the solid form, and making art that surprises the viewer.
Check out their Fiend’s GIFs in the attached gallery, where Fiend made an exclusive new piece just for BlackBook.

First off, how’d you get into animation and gifs? What were your first experiments in the medium like?

I’ve been animating for a while, mostly motion graphics for production jobs or ambitious hand drawn shorts I’d start but never finish.  It wasn’t until Giphy’s halloween gif contest last year that I got back into stop motion and photo collage, and it was very satisfying to be able to start and finish an animation in one night. I also love performing in drag and doing special effects, so GIFs were a way to combine it all.
The great thing about learning animation is that you can study other people’s work by slowing it down frame by frame to see exactly how the illusion is created.  I’ve learned a lot from watching traditional animation and I try to use the techniques of cartoon physics to create a surreal sense of logic in the physical world of stop motion. Pixilation creates the effect of hyperreal cartoons. I ended up with this technique because I love the limitless nature of animated movement and fantastical physics, but I also love live action and the dramatic quality of human expression and physical materials.  I’m always looking to use digital tools to enhance traditional animation techniques so I can keep that tactile quality of stylized real world elements.

Walk us through the process of creating one of these – you make these by taking several photos in a row? Using After Effects?

I shoot sequences of photos and then use Photoshop or Flash (Adobe Animate) to isolate different elements, and then Frankenstein the frames back together on a timeline, usually with added effects drawn on top frame by frame. The preplanning involves sketches and frame charts, but once I start shooting it can take a new direction and lots of trial and error by the time it gets to the edit phase. I’ll spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days on a GIF, which are usually around one to five second loops. I shoot everything on my own, usually late at night in my apartment, so I use a wireless remote for when I’m in front of the camera.


What draws you to creating the types of animations you make? You’re clearly interested in gore and horror – but what else inspires you?

I’m definitely interested in surreal body horror as it relates to the illusion of solid forms of humanity that change over time, which I like to call the horror of the fourth dimension. Since we live in the third dimension, we perceive the fourth dimension as time – or, more accurately, as change happening over time. But in the fourth dimension, that changing thing is actually a constant shape, we just can’t see it that way. It’s the same logic of trying to draw something rotating in 3D on paper. If you made a little flip book of a cube spinning, to someone living inside the flip book a cube would mean two 2D squares morphing and intersecting themselves over time, even though we know a rotating cube is a contained and unchanging object in 3D. So to me the horror of the 4D comes from ideas like the object permanence of shapeshifters, or that objects deforming and scattering across time and space are actually very solid and contained in a higher dimension. Any kind of rift in our expectation of how things are meant to be fixed or unchanging starts to suggest forces that have a logic beyond our own comprehension.
I’m endlessly fascinated by anthropomorphism and our perception of faces as unique from the way we perceive everything else – what makes up our visual sense of humanity, the semiotics of identity, in particular the aesthetics of performed femininity.  When you are simultaneously behind and in front of the camera, you can explore the overlap of subject and object in a more nuanced way than with the pervasive male artist / female muse dynamic.

You’re hoping to expand into longer films down the line. Can you talk more about upcoming projects?

Right now I’m working on some stop motion segments for Richie Browntown’s new show Uncle No Rules, which has an amazing cast of characters. I’m also doing some animation explosions for a new kids show that I can’t talk about yet except to say…there will be bugs.

How do you feel your work is speaking to a queer audience, if at all?

Animation is a great medium for capturing fluid identity that continuously oscillates between different states. The experience of feeling disconnected from your body, or embodying ever-changing performances of gender, can be viscerally felt in the tension of looping animation. The self remains whole as it morphs, deforms, and comes back together, creating a larger 4th dimensional shape from the rhythm it generates while moving through these different forms. The best advice I’ve heard from experienced animators is to animate verbs, not nouns.  Animation isn’t about beautiful drawings or photos, it’s about the illusion of movement that’s created by cycling through these images. It’s a cathartic medium for depicting a sense of self that feels whole while destructing into scattered pieces at various stages of stasis.
Loops can have different trajectories; some are closed looping cycles, while others are linear – a form enters, morphs into something else, and leaves the shot. In this second case I like to play with the idea of the dynamics of attraction, what roles we occupy and how the self changes in relationship to the other. One of my favorite kinds of loops are the ones where the first form interacts with itself at a later stage – for example, the one where I push myself down the stairs. I think that’s something that probably resonates with other queer people – playing defined roles at different times in a dynamic and having your sense of self shift as you move through these different roles with someone else.

Do you see your art as political?

I like to create work where tension and discomfort feels meditative and destruction becomes a passing state of cyclical change. Perceptions of gender and femininity are at the core of real world power structures, and the more we see that perception distort the harder it is to think of those structures as natural or inevitable. While bodies aren’t inherently subject to being politicized, but being read as femme both in front of and behind the camera inevitably frames my work, especially in the field of horror effects / dark comedy animation, which more often than not uses feminine forms as flattened sexualized objects removed of nuance and agency.


What other artists/ animators should we know about?

I love animators with a perverse sense of humor and great color palettes. I’m inspired regularly by animators/multimedia performers like Jamie WolfeDax NormanRAFiA SantanaJulian GlanderSholimPIXELtheartistPhyllis MaJaimie WarrenSarah Squirm.

What’s your favorite claymation movie?

Anything by Jan Švankmajer, Gumby, Prometheus and Bob from the late 90s Nickelodeon show KaBLaM!  Not claymation specifically but Stephen Sayadian’s Dr. Caligari (1989) and Vince Collins’s Malice in Wonderland (1982) are favorites for animation and special effects.


How did you come into contact with Bebe Huxley to design for her?

Bebe and I first started talking on Instagram. As a drag jester myself I’m always on the lookout for other gender performers who play with femme masculinity. She was in town for Pride this spring so we had the chance to collaborate on a shoot. It was definitely one of the most ambitious GIFs I’ve done, which was a real treat to shoot with a subject who was not myself, because I’m used to posing on camera while simultaneously trying to glance at the preview monitor. I love Bebe’s energy and aesthetic, and her Scorpio album was a perfect match for my obsession with human bug illusions.

The Next Great Weekend Getaway: Norwalk, CT

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Amongst NYC’s many great failures of infrastructure and urban planning, the lack of worthwhile public spaces connecting the citizenry to the city’s waterways is a particularly glaring one. But what if you could simply jump an MTA train, head an hour north and be around all sorts of watery wonders?

You’d be in Norwalk, of course – one of Connecticut’s most urbane, good-looking harbor towns, and arguably a still under-considered getaway from Gotham.

Tri-Staters, obviously, have the tendency to make for New England every spring and fall for all the obvious reasons. But we’ve been popping up to Norwalk for as long as we can remember, especially for its restaurant-rich, historic SoNo district – which also happens to be right on the harbor.

Come spring, the beaches, bicycling and boating opportunities are like siren songs for stressed out urbanistas. But we recently made a well-fed winter weekend of it, complete with one of the prettiest snowfalls we’ve ever experienced.

Here’s what we did.

(Check out the Fairfieldista Instagram page before you go.)


Pedego Sono

Proprietor Mike Heslin has a plan: he wants to make the word “Pedego” a verb. In other words, “Let’s go Pedego today!” And once you try these exceedingly cool electric bicycles, you’ll wonder why it took so long for someone to make this a…”thing.” The bikes themselves have compelling names like the Interceptor, the Trail Tracker and the Boomerang – and they’re actually quite stylish rides. Essentially, you can shift constantly back and forth between peddling them like regular bicycles, and throttling them like motorcycles – so, obviously, it’s a ridiculous amount of fun, especially trekking around water’s edge.



Simple Sono

Admit it, there have been innumerable times when you just thought to yourself, “How can I get that dashing, cultivated Jeremy Irons or Kate Winslet look?” The elegant Simple Sono boutique answers that and many more of your most pressingly urbane fashion questions. To be sure, there’s almost something of an Anglophilia at work in their stylistic mission. They stock men’s and women’s – quite a bit from Europe – and you’ll find labels like Adriano Goldschmied, Majestic Filatures, and Calleen Cordero accessories. Don’t forget to pick up one of the ethereal LAFCO candles.



Factory Underground

This is a great diversion from the usual, especially for music geeks. Book a tour of this thriving studio, and enjoy the anecdotes of owner Ethan Isaacs and his amiable staff. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes peek at vintage guitars being repaired; perhaps meet the next great singer-songwriter singing or writing that next great song in one of the rehearsal rooms; and watch raw video footage being edited into something exciting. Check with them about the occasional on-site special event.



El Segundo

Despite the Latino moniker, El Segundo is actually a thrillingly international affair. The menu is broken up into continents, so you can make a meal of Venezuelan arepas, Vietnamese banh mi, and Portuguese style grilled sardines. Pair it up with a Japanese Road Soda gin cocktail or a Jamaican Red Stripe, and it’s like doing an epicurean world tour. We loved the Indian curry soup and the insanely delicious esquite shaved corn with cotija cheese. The crowd is cool, the music is well chosen reggae and dub.



Beach House Sono

If you’re counting the days until summer, this is a great place to wait it out. The decor is appropriately breezy and beachy, the vibe totally laid back. No surprise, seafood dominates the menu, from organic Scottish salmon to seafood risotto to rock shrimp tempura. Landlubbers should try the truffle mushroom flatbread and goat cheese wontons. Chef Kane Xu also lords over the super-trendy Beach Cafe, the sister restaurant in Greenwich.



Cigar Factory Outlet

A top international cigar seller, their lounge is one of the few places that you can actually still sit and enjoy a luxurious smoke and sophisticated tipple. We loved kicking back with an Oban single malt and a super smooth Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado, 2014’s Cigar Aficionado #1 pick (they also recommend the Oliva Serie V Belicoso, and the Padron Serie 1926 No. 2 Natural), while owner Brian Shapiro explained to us that the highest quality cigars are now coming out of Nicaragua, and not, as generally assumed, Cuba. They also offer their own El Cobre line from that country, and boast an in-house hand roller, Daniel Cruzeta, for the ultimate bespoke experience. They’re planning more nights with live music and / or DJs.



Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint

This will automatically be one of your favorite restaurants ever. Run by the charismatic Greer Fredericks, the bar up front is a totally buzzing local scene. And in the elegant main dining room, you could actually score big points for atmosphere on date night. The Southern-influenced food is just ridiculously good: the Cajun confit wings are almost indescribable, as are the truffle grits and the pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese – which might just ruin you for everything else you ever eat. There are also unexpected dishes like roasted butternut squash & burrata salad, or the crispy pork shank cassoulet. Bonus: enjoy a hipster-free live music scene at the wood-beamed, exposed-brick upstairs venue.



Washington Prime

This is as good a steakhouse as any we’ve been to in the last year. And though they’ve got a ribeye that might just change your life, you’ll literally swoon over the steak tartare with truffle vinaigrette and quail egg, or the thick slab bacon with their signature sauce. Specialties also include the roasted duck and the crab-stuffed filet of sole. Their happy hour, particularly, is totally aces: come for specially priced Copp’s Island oysters and littleneck clams, as well as nicely priced signature cocktails. Atmospheric interiors are rustic-industrial chic, with hanging vines wrapping around dangling bulbs.



Even Hotel Norwalk

A new Intercontinental brand devoted entirely to health, the vibe at the Even Hotel Norwalk is somewhere between cool, retro airport lounge and casual, contemporary spa – all done in soothing, mellow earth tones. There’s a top class Athletic Studio in house, rooms with workout equipment (including fitness channels on the television) and eucalyptus fiber bedding for that special calming effect. The Cork & Kale Market Bar, which also has organic grab and go food items and awesome breakfast smoothies, is replete with comfy, wi-fi-equipped public spaces for working or just people watching over an evening cocktail. A concept hotel that actually does what it says on the label. (There are outposts in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Seattle, Pittsburgh and Miami on the way.)



And Yet More Sono…

Stop in for a Deep Chill session at Saraswati’s Yoga Joint; pick up Game of Thrones worthy accessories at Knotted Bone Leatherworks; do some kitschy Euro food shopping at A Taste of Holland; hit trendy Mecha Noodle Bar for pho and ramen, Match for great classic cocktails, Barcelona Wine Bar for happy hour tapas, and Troupe 429 for the city’s best LGBTQ nightlife scene. And do not miss Norwalk’s amazing Maritime Aquarium.



BlackBook ‘Rooms With a View’: Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia

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There are so many reasons we never tire of weekending in Philadelphia. And this time out we were beside ourselves with aesthetic joy, as we were graced with a not insignificant snowfall, turning Center City into a sparkling winter wonderland.

It only served to highlight the genuinely festive ambience of our chosen hotel: the cozily stylish Kimpton Hotel Palomar. Positioned as it is along the buzziest stretch of an always buzzing S. 17th St, it put us within a few blocks ramble of so many of our fave Philly hangs: nouveau British pub Dandelion, bougie-chic, Italophile hotspot Tredici Enoteca, and punky-charming wine bar Vintage. Though our genuinely most treasured moment was meeting a darling little French bulldog named Layla, during the hotel’s spirited evening wine social (in this case, nicely wintered up by the inclusion of whiskeyfied hot toddies).

But we must admit to actually spending way too much time upstairs in room 802 – in good part to simply gaze tirelessly upon the awe-inspiring view just outside our window. It is one of the Palomar’s plush “Spa Rooms,” so the view gloriously extends to the luxurious and picture-windowed bathroom – which you really must see to truly appreciate. (It flaunts a marble-trimmed bathtub that might make Marie Antoinette jealous).

It all looks ethereally out onto the former First Baptist Church, now the Liberti Church, dating all the way back to 1900. Replete with dramatic Roman and Byzantine influences (there are interior references to Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia – make sure to have a look), it appears more like a house of worship you’d stumble across somewhere in the Yorkshire countryside. Completing the architecturally sensational view is the historic Allman building (dating to 1910, by Baker and Dallet), just across the street.

It’s all so inspiring as to make you simply not want to leave the room. And thusly, we recommend just staying in and ordering up some Thai curry mussels and crab-avocado toast from the hotel’s Square 1682 restaurant, who can pair up it up with a bottle of their actually quite good namesake Cabernet or Chardonnay.

Alas, despite the holy proximity, personal redemption is not included in the room rate.