A Loupe Art Guide to San Francisco, With Street Artist ‘The Apexer’

Share Button


Amongst the marquee US cities, San Francisco is a lot of things (best Asian food, most awe-inspiring views, strangest strange people) – but leading incubator of contemporary art has not necessarily seemed to be one of them.

Street artist The Apexer would surely beg to differ. One of SF’s most prolific muralists, he’s part of the city’s Mission-District-based Gestalt Collective, and his work has been included in group exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Luggage Store Gallery and the Pacific Asia Museum (Pasadena). He’s also a featured artist on Loupe, the game-changing new art app that has made it possible to stream art anywhere that you can carry a screen (so, actually, everywhere.) It represents top level art talent from Atlanta to Berlin to Sao Paulo and everywhere in between, making their work accessible to anyone who simply downloads the app.

As part of an ongoing BlackBook/Loupe series, we asked The Apexer (real name: Ricardo Richey) to guide us through the some of his fave art scene spots in SF, from the galleries to the streets to those places where artists can usually be found hanging out with other artists and creative types.

“It’s constantly changing,” he observes, “just like the people moving in and out. It’s always nice to find places that hold their own character through it all, the kinds of places that transform your emotions and sense of space as soon as you walk in. There are a few of those gems hidden in plain site in the city.”

If you haven’t yet done it, you can download Loupe here. You’ll wonder how you ever did without it.



  • Colorful Hayes
  • Mission Portal
  • Outside Lands 2014
  • Outside Lands 2015
  • LA Style Bubbles



The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art just reopened after a remodel that included an additional large building. It now has one of the most extensive modern and contemporary art collections in the world. The outdoor spaces are a highlight for me while at the museum, from living walls to forgotten corners. Make sure to keep a look out for “Where’s Waldo,” as you might find him hanging out on a roof or two.

Ratio 3 Gallery

This gallery is hidden behind a matte black storefront exterior in the Mission District, and once you enter you feel like you’ve just walked through a Willy Wonka trick door. The space is massive, with beautiful lighting from the skylights, and they have great shows from artists like Barry McGee and Ryan McGinley. The unexpected aspect of the location and the quality of the exhibits make this gallery a must visit.



Apexer Mission Portal

This work of mine explores a lot of different ideas, such as geodes and compasses. In the piece you can see my classic crystal terminated points, as well as some gold rings. It is right on a busy intersection in the Mission District, and I wanted to give the public a moment of reflection – a moment to take a deep breath, look at the mountain in the background and see the juxtaposition of the houses and sky. To appreciate the beautiful area.

Andy Goldsworthy Wood Line

If you enjoy the outdoors and nature then you will love Andy Goldsworthy’s work. Wood Line is a group of cut trees placed on the floor of the forest in the Presidio Park; the trees create a long S-curve sculpture going down a gentle slope. This piece will take you out of the city without having to leave the city; as you walk along the sculpture you can smell and hear the forest in the wind. In the late afternoon the sun creates some amazing shadows.



La Taqueria

This taqueria is a cornerstone of the Mission District. Locals have enjoyed the food here way before the TV shows found it and labeled it the best taco in America. When you go, make sure you get the crispy taco with the soft shell taco inside of it, and whatever you want inside of that. While you’re in this neighborhood, there are also a lot of different murals that are cool to check out.

Caffe Centro

This is a little walk up coffee shop in the SOMA District, in an old warehouse area. I recommend ordering the cortado, which is in between a macchiato and a cappuccino. There is an old loading dock across the street that people sit on to enjoy their coffee in the good weather. If you’re hungry there’s a soul food restaurant next door that has a walk up window as well. Just cool vibes all around this shop.



Golden Boy Pizza

Classic square pizza in the North Beach District, with a walk up window and inside sit down area. The inside has stickers all over the place, from bands and artists. At night most people choose to use the window, and that becomes a scene of its own. If you go, I recommend getting a corner or side pizza, because it has more crust on it.

Benjamin Cooper

This is a great hidden bar in the heart of the touristville of Union Square, that you wouldn’t expect and probably couldn’t have found. The door looks like a service door for a restaurant that only has a small sign. You then walk up some stairs to find a perfect bar that can make some of the best drinks (and oysters) you’ve ever had. The vibes are good and it’s a breath of fresh air from Union Square.



alexa BlackBook: Recipe for Success: April Bloomfield, Elise Kornack & Kerry Diamond Stir Up the Culinary Boys’ Club

Share Button


ANTHONY Bourdain once described the professional kitchen as a place infested with a “towel-snapping, locker-room attitude,” although he thinks that’s changed in recent years. Perhaps it has, but if the situation is improving, it’s largely down to female chefs making their voices heard.

Among their ranks is April Bloomfield, famously dubbed “Burger Queen” in a 2010 New Yorker profile that mapped the British chef’s influence on New York’s dining culture. Bloomfield, who won plaudits at gastropub the Spotted Pig and meat-lover haven the Breslin (both received Michelin stars) is now giving veg lovers something to celebrate with Hearth & Hound, her first LA venture.

One of the many chefs inspired by Bloomfield is Elise Kornack, who made waves with her own tiny Michelin-starred eatery, Take Root, in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens. Earlier this year, Kornack closed shop and relocated to the Hudson Valley, where expectations are running high that she will make the region the home of her second act.

Kornack and Bloomfield sat down with Kerry Diamond, co-founder and editorial director of Cherry Bombe, a biannual magazine that focuses on women and food. – Aaron Hicklin


EK: As someone younger in the industry, I want to give respect to people who came before me. I want advice. But I don’t want to make it seem like I’m saying, “Make this easier on me.”
AB: It’s OK to say that you’re having a hard time or that you don’t know how to deal with something. I don’t know that it necessarily comes with age. I’ve always been quite open and willing to act, especially if it’s a problem that you need to address. But I don’t think women are any lesser at doing that than men. Maybe women feel that they don’t get supported. Maybe we should be talking more, as women.
KD: I think the bigger issue is institutional sexism. The guys just have better infrastructure when it comes to asking for help. They’re part of a network. I went to an event two years ago, a type of lunch-and-learn, and it was all the heads of the big restaurant groups in the city. There were four women out of 75 people in the room. It was shocking, but it opened my eyes. We have to start penetrating that infrastructure if we want to have equal opportunity. It’s the lawyers, the accountants, access to the people with money. It’s starting to change, but it’s still a little slow going.
EK: I’ve moved out of the city and into a smaller community [in Woodstock, NY]. And it’s amazing how many women up there and in general are so eager to help each other get things off the ground.
KD: Do you feel like New York City wasn’t as supportive as upstate?
EK: People are a bit more organized in the country. There’s a lot going on in the city. When there’s not a lot going on, you can grab onto something faster and make a bigger impact. It’s like being a bigger fish in a small pond, and it takes a lot more to do it in a larger place. But you can start in a small community and grow from there.
AB: New York is a pretty busy place. I think it’s really important to gather and talk, that we have some agenda that is meaningful for everybody. I’m quite shy. I like to go to talks and I like to listen, but sometimes it takes me a while to process. It’s one thing to talk, but there’s the pressure of, “Well, I’m thinking …”
KD: That’s what I like about social media, that even if you’re shy, you can promote yourself. The self-promotion aspect of this industry is really hard for a lot of people. One of the things we need to be careful about is not just promoting people who can afford a publicist and people who’ve got a big machine. I think that I’ve come to a better understanding of what mentor means — someone who would reach out a hand and show you the way like Yoda. They were like the personal-goals mentor that would know how to get to the next level.
AB: Or you can have young people that teach you. I think there was once an idea that a chef was always in charge and that all ideas had to come from a chef, and I think in this day and age, it’s more open.
EK: I’ve always wanted to just lead by example, and then maybe I can inspire people through that.
KD: The [James Beard Award-winning] chef Jody Adams was on the radio saying something to the effect of, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” And I feel that it’s such a great moment for women in the industry because you have so many dynamic female chefs today, and for so long you didn’t see any women. That’s finally starting to change, and, April, I think you get some credit for that because so many women learned under you and now they’re opening their places and cooking elsewhere.


Photo by Victoria Will; April’s Hair & Makeup by Mary Guthrie at ABTP.com


Acclaimed British chef Bloomfield (of Spotted Pig and Breslin fame) reveals her favorite tools and treats.

PG Tips black tea: I like a good, strong English breakfast tea. Great for gradually waking up and for dipping biscuits.

Jacobsen sea salt: Flaky sea salt is great for seasoning food right at the last minute to maintain the clean, crunchy quality that comes from its harvest. I visited Ben Jacobsen at Netarts Bay in Oregon, and it was wonderful to see how they make a product that I love to use.
Westwind Orchard’s apple-cider vinegar: Vinegar is great for balancing salt and fat. My friend Fabio makes incredible apple-cider vinegar at his farm, Westwind Orchard.
Microplane: This little tool serves many purposes, but I especially love using it to get a nice fine grate on Parmesan to cover a grilled cheese sandwich.
Mortar and pestle: This one is perfect for getting your spices to blend together before seasoning. And it’s also a great upper-body workout!



Elise Kornack photographed at her Woodstock home. Photo by Michael Mundy.


Elise Kornack’s Kitchen Essentials:

Aged meat: Usually we have some piece of meat aging in the fridge, whether it be a local bird or a piece of beef sitting in there waiting for its day to be used. I usually get something like that a week out.
Ceramics: It’s beautiful — all of it was handmade for our restaurant, Take Root, by Felt+Fat. When we closed in the summer, we brought everything to the house.
Sweet treats: We always have really trashy ice cream bars, like the ones from a gas station. It’s usually a really gross processed thing. People are always shocked. The other day, a guest was over and saw a Chipwich, and they were like, “What the hell is this doing in here? You guys don’t eat like this?” We were like, “No, sometimes we do.”


Kornack loves to grill and keeps her upstate refrigerator stocked with aged meat (along with a few surprising indulgences).


Sourdough starter: I make a lot of fresh bread.
Fermented chili sauce: Any sort of hot sauce or fermented chili sauce — either homemade or the kind by Huy Fong Foods, Inc. I like to put hot sauce on most things I eat.


Chef Kerry Diamond at her home in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Taylor Jewell.


Kerry Diamond’s Kitchen Essentials:

Bubbly: I am one of those New York 
clichés in that I always have Champagne in my fridge.
Bee pollen: I read somewhere that bee pollen can help you ward off colds and allergies, and I swear since I starting putting it on yogurt almost every morning, I haven’t gotten any colds.
Beauty products: Which always annoys my chef boyfriend. I have all these facial sprays — my favorite is Caudalie — and they’re just so refreshing when you keep them in the fridge.



Cherry Bombe co-founder Kerry Diamond is always prepared to celebrate — with bottles of bubbly and small-batch jams.


Condiments: I am a sucker for artisanal condiments: Sir Kensington, Brooklyn Delhi, Basbaas sauce. I cook a lot of simple things — quinoa, roast veggies — and a sexy condiment always perks things up.
That’s my jam: I’m a bit of an indie jam addict! It’s a fun souvenir, especially from the West Coast. There’s Ayako & Family in Seattle, Sqirl in LA, June Taylor Jams in San Francisco. I don’t eat the jam as fast as I collect it, though! I need to host some tartine parties or something.


Moderated by Alyssa Shapiro

The Coolest European Cities You Don’t Know, Part II

Share Button
Above: Tallinn Old Town


We’ve been plenty busy in 2017, museum-hopping in Paris, flirting in Rome and clubbing in the Berlin Kreuzberg underground. But cultivated Europhiles that we are, we’re always feeling the call of some of our less-trodden, yet still favorite cities on the Continent.

Nothing beckons us to Europa quite like the turning of autumn, with its exhilaratingly crisp evenings, stylishly scarfed locals, and those transcendently evocative fragrances that fill the air of each city (the latter a particular treat for those forced to breath the noxious fumes of New York and LA every day).

Part I took us to Antwerp and Maastricht. Next we head further east, to the Estonian capital of Tallinn, and to Austria’s second city Graz.




Clockwise from top left: Hotel St. Petersbourg; Tallinn streets; Kaerajaan restaurant; Kumu Museum


There was a moment around say 2005 – 2007, when Tallinn, bolstered by the success of companies like Skype, became sort of the new Prague: a former Soviet satellite which was now drawing young dreamers from the US and Britain. Only this time they were tech geeks rather than boho literary aspirants.

Now, we would probably love the Estonian capital if only for the fact that it’s home to the Depeche Mode Baar (quick, guess the theme). But its Old Town is as strikingly beautiful and symmetrical as any in Europe – and just strolling the streets is reward enough in itself. There’s also a bright, gleaming modern city (the City Centre) right outside the medieval walls.

On the culture tip, the Kumu Museum is one of the largest in Northern Europe, showcasing two centuries of Estonian art (with an impressive collection of Socialist Realism), as well as special exhibitions of top international contemporary artists. Cold War enthusiasts should check out the KGB Museum, actually located inside the Hotel Viru.

Tallinn is also a considerable epicurean city, with chefs drawing on the considerable bounty of the Estonian countryside (their local black bread is to die for). Art Priori is the avant-garde choice, focusing on creatively realized (mostly) vegetarian dishes in a stunning, art adorned space; MEKK specializes in inventive seafood plates, and its sophisticated bar is a bit of a scene; for something a bit more…Middle Ages, Olde Hansa cooks up wild boar, elk and venison, in an interior that could only be described as 13th-Century chic.

Stay in Tallinn: Both the Telegraaf Hotel and the Hotel St. Petersbourg combine classical elegance with cool postmodern design, and each has a notable restaurant (Tchaikovsky and Heritage, respectively.) The chic Three Sisters hotel has strikingly theatrical rooms – one even has its own grand piano.




Clockwise from top left: Island in the Mur; Graz City Hall; Hotel Wiesler; Kunsthaus Graz


After losing its Empire in the wake of WWI, Austria pretty much keeps to itself now, content to have traded influence on the world political stage for more, shall we say, sybaritic concerns. Yet the fact that right wing demagogues have been angling for power there does genuinely matter within the scope of the wider EU situation.

The country’s “second city,” Graz, is actually one of its bastions of left-wing ideology, home to more than 30,000 university students, out of a total population of 270,000. A UNESCO City of Design, its rather imperial looking city center, with its elegant baroque edifices, is complemented by some of Europe’s most radical works of contemporary architecture.

Indeed, the Island in the Mur is literally a steel island in the middle of the river of the same name that splits the city, with a designy cafe and amphitheater; the Chapel of Rest is a stunning minimalist cathedral by Hofrichter-Ritter Architects; and the Dom im Berg is a spectacular performance space carved literally into rock. The Kunsthaus Graz contemporary art museum (by British architects Colin Fournier and Peter Cook) is the city’s showpiece, and looks like a giant blue heart and valves.

Not much of a foodie destination, Graz is more of a cafe town – and you’ll find dozens of boho spots as you stroll the streets, many packed with students. Mitte is one of the artier ones, while Aiola Upstairs has a chic crowd and awe-inspiring views. Design junkies should hit the Kunsthaus museum’s namesake cafe. For nightlife, there’s great bar-hopping around the area nicknamed the Bermuda Triangle.

Stay in Graz: The Augarten Hotel (a member of Design Hotels) has stylish, loft-style rooms, and a pool that doubles as an art gallery. The Hotel Wiesler‘s Philippe Starck designed restaurant hosts a “soul brunch” every Sunday, while the rooms have a cool-minimalism and river views. And Hotel Daniel has affordable rooms, a lobby espresso bar and Vespas available for guests.



BlackBook Interview: Talking Grappa and Perry Farrell With The Bloody Beetroots

Share Button


If the name didn’t immediately give it away, The Bloody Beetroots are electronic music’s reigning punks – the barricade-storming descendants of the likes of The Prodigy and Digital Hardcore. And the level of secrecy and media-sleight-of-hand that surrounds the sole constant member – of the stately sobriquet Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo – has only served to heighten the drama and intrigue connected to the name.

The awesome new TBB album The Great Electronic Swindle (note: cheeky Sex Pistols reference) was released this week by Last Gang. It convulses with fury and indignance at our despicable socio-political reality, from the the savage opener “My Name is Thunder” – with the boys from Jet conspiring to crank the proceedings up to ear-splitting heights – to the sinister, sludge-ariffic closer “Crash.”

In between, the listener is taken on a visceral rollercoaster, from the romantic tension of “Nothing But Love” (with Jay Buchanan delivering a breathtakingly operatic vocal) to the chill-inducingly majestic “Future Memories” (featuring Crywolf) to Perry Farrell’s explosive performance on the thrillingly insurrectionary “Pirates, Punks & Politics” (Jane’s Addiction fans will love it). TGES is a masterclass in music-as-emotional-pile-driver, an unflinching catharsis/confrontation at a moment when nothing could be more exigent or timely.

It’s also music that really must be experienced in a live setting. And TBB will indeed be storming into a town near you, kicking off a 10-date tour at The Music Box in San Diego this Friday, October 27.

We caught up with Sir Bob just before the mayhem was about to be unleashed.



Why the four year gap between albums?

Time is a necessary tool to create quality.

You seem to be going a bit metal on “My Name is Thunder.” Did working with Jet sort of inspire that?

Metal is a strong word. I would like to use “rock and roll”. My will was to create a sonic bridge between opposite music scenes. Jet was a perfect match for the purpose as I believe Nic Cester is one of the most interesting voices of the last fifteen years.

How did you come to hook up with Perry Farrell?

He’s a good friend. We originally planned to collaborate in 2014, but the strong desire to take position on the current state of politics in the US finally made it a reality.

The song, “Pirates, Punks & Politics” seems almost an homage to Jane’s Addiction. Are you a fan?

Yes, I’m a great fan of Perry and the story behind his life and music.

Will he appear live with you on the tour?

Who knows? You might just have to come to the shows to find out! There could be many surprises…I think that might be an official exclusive announcement!

What were some of the other collaborative highlights on The Great Electronic Swindle?

Definitely Jay Buchanan. “Nothing But Love” has a particular power over me. That said, all TGES songs deserve to be heard, as each of them has a story to tell.



Your live shows have been pretty explosive. What can people expect on this tour?

It’s a very intense show with a strong exchange of human physical energy. It brings together the past and the present of TBB in eighty minutes. Definitely a journey you must experience in person.

You’ve managed to remain impressively anonymous. Do your LA neighbors know who you are?

Few know my face; but everyone respects my choice of staying anonymous to focus the attention on the music.

You’re from Bassano del Grappa, Italy. Do you actually drink grappa?

I love sipping grappa on winter Sundays, after a good espresso. There’s also a thing we love doing with pleasure called “Rasentin” – which is mixing the coffee left in the cup with some drops of Grappa. Try it and let me know what you think.

10 Amazing Movies Made by Women, About Women

Share Button


It may have come as a surprise to much of the world that the man behind many of the important films of the last 20 years is an alleged sexual predator. But to those in Hollywood, it was just a little-known fact. Within the past two weeks, numerous women have come forward with allegations of assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, emphasizing a deep-rooted problem in Hollywood.

Meanwhile, female directors are still fighting to make their visions come to life. Although it’s still largely a man’s game, a growing number of women have been staking their claim and making their considerable creative mark.

From sports flicks to biopics to period pieces, these are some of our favorites by and about women.


Directed by Barbra Streisand

Having already established herself as a singer and actress, Barbra Streisand took to her first role behind the camera with Yentl. Also portraying the titular character, Streisand gave a stellar performance as a young Jewish woman who disguised herself as a boy to undergo religious training.



A League of Their Own
Directed by Penny Marshall

One of the most beloved films of our time featured a strong female ensemble, as well as a woman behind the camera. Penny Marshall’s A League of Their Own was inspired by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a group of women who kept the sport going while men served in World War II.



I Shot Andy Warhol
Directed by Mary Harron

One of the more radical feminists in recent history was portrayed in Mary Harron’s I Shot Andy Warhol. The film followed Valerie Solanas (Lili Taylor) on her New York journey from aspiring writer to sex worker to attempted assassin of Andy Warhol, before writing her feminist classic, SCUM Manifesto.



Directed by Julie Taymor

Taymor brought the legendary artist’s life to the big screen with this visually striking biopic. Starring Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo, the film covered her tempestuous love affair with Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) and the eccentric personality that sealed her legend.



Directed by Patty Jenkins

The notorious serial killer, Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) was immortalized by director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman). Working as a prostitute, she kills a customer in self defense, which turns into a series of murders that became her downfall.



The Secret Life of Bees
Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

After facing abuse from her father, Lily (Dakota Fanning) runs away with her friend and caregiver, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson) to a town in South Carolina, hoping to learn about her mother’s past. There, she finds a sisterhood with the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo) who teach her about beekeeping.



Whip It
Directed by Drew Barrymore

In Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, Ellen Page plays Bliss, a Texas teenager pressured into the world of pageantry by her mother (Marcia Gay Harden). But after meeting a roller derby team, the Hurl Scouts, she discovers a group of friends and where her true passion lies.



Winter’s Bone
Directed by Debra Granik

Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout role was Ree in this gripping drama. With an absentee mother and a criminal father, the Ozark teenager is left on her own to care for her younger siblings. When she learns her father put their home up for bond, she sets out to track him down before they’re left homeless.



Directed by Dee Rees

Director Dee Rees tells the story of Bessie Smith, an American blues legend of the ’30s. Queen Latifah portrays the singer during her rise to the “Empress of the Blues.”



The Beguiled
Directed by Sofia Coppola

Coppola’s most recent film utilizes a powerful female ensemble to tell a gripping story of female rivalry. When a Union soldier (Colin Farrell) is injured, he seeks refuge at an all-girls boarding school. But sexual tensions lead to dangerous rivalries among the young women.


The Coolest European Cities You Don’t Know, Part I

Share Button


We’ve been plenty busy in 2017, museum-hopping in Paris, flirting in Rome and clubbing in the Berlin Kreuzberg underground. But cultivated Europhiles that we are, we’re always feeling the call of some of our less-trodden, yet still favorite cities on the Continent.

Nothing beckons us to Europa quite like the turning of autumn, with its exhilaratingly crisp evenings, stylishly scarfed locals, and those transcendently evocative fragrances that fill the air of each city (the latter a particular treat for those forced to breath the noxious fumes of New York and LA every day).

Part I of our sojourn takes us to fashionable Antwerp (Belgium) and sophisticated Maastricht (The Netherlands). Take note, if you’ve yet to fall for the charms of the Benelux, a couple of days in each city will cure you of that straight away.



Clockwise from top left, The Jane Restaurant; Antwerp architecture; Hotel Julien; MoMu


If fashion has held a central place in your life and you haven’t yet been to Antwerp, you should readily acknowledge a slight tinge of embarrassment. From the Antwerp Six on to today’s new guard of Belgian design, the exalted Royal Academy of Fine Arts continues to turn out some of the most astonishing talent, whose creations can be found in the vanguard boutiques in and around Nationalestraat – where you’ll also stumble upon the hallowed flagships of the likes of Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. Nearby, as well, is the MoMu, the city’s incomparable fashion museum, which as of December 10 will host Olivier Theyskens, She Walks in Beauty. (Between boutiques, stop in for a de rigueur lunch at Verso Cafe, within the concept shop of the same name.)

Antwerp is also a place of staggering physical beauty, with its gothic-looking Flemish Renaissance cityscape and majestic harbor. The latter is now home to industrial-chic restaurants like Het Pomphuis (in a grandiose former pump house) and the sleek, Michelin-starred ‘t Zilte, on the top floor of the MAS (Museum aan de Stroom).

And speaking of vanguard, the thought-provoking M HKA museum, and independent galleries such as Valerie Traan, Stella Lohaus and Annie Gentils are central to Antwerp’s thriving contemporary art scene. If it’s architecture that sets you atingle, plan a leisurely stroll along the Cogels Osylei, a street in the Zurenborg district where art nouveau, neo-Renaissance, neo-gothic and Tudor-revival styles (amongst others) all come together in a strange but elegant sort of harmony.

Antwerp nightlife, it must be said, is totally bonkers. Start with a glamorous dinner at The Jane, fitted into a stunning 19th Century former chapel; the 13-course prix-fixe menu is €140, but the upstairs bar has much more agreeable prices, and seats you closer to God. Continue on to the extravagant scenes at over-the-top dance clubs like Red & Blue, Publik and Cafe D’Anvers. Expect a significant degree of mind-altering.


Hotel Julien is a smart, mostly-minimalist guesthouse with an intimate subterranean spa; Hotel Banks is a stylish sleep amidst the best fashion shopping; De Witte Lelie is the joining of three 17th Century townhouses into a place of utterly ethereal beauty (and favored by notable fashion designers).



Clockwise from top left, Kruisherenhotel; River Meuse; Stijl boutique; Maastricht streets


Famous as the place where in 1992 the modern European Union and the euro were born (the anti-Brexit, if you will), Maastricht is actually a seductive mix of international college town and exquisitely cosmopolitan city. And seriously, nearly everyone seems to have a bloody great sense of style here. With its right and left banks straddling the majestic Meuse River, the ethereal setting might easily have you thinking it can’t possibly all be real.

Wedged almost covertly between Belgium and Germany (Cologne is just 70 km away), history and modernity play very well together in this comely Southern Dutch town. Roman cathedrals bookend narrow 17th Century streets, which are abuzz with urbane cafes, indie fashion boutiques and intimate contemporary art galleries. And to be sure, one of the vigorously recommended activities is just…walking around.

Remarkably, for a relatively small city, Maastricht packs in rather a lot of Michelin stars. Tout a Fait, Beluga loves you, Toine Hermsen, Au Coin des Bons Enfants and the glorious Chateau Neercanne, just outside the center, all boast at least one – and chefs can be wildly experimental. But there are also more bars per capita than even Amsterdam – so a jenever (gin) soaked night on the tiles requires little planning. Still, make sure to hit The Lab for perception-altering cocktails, and Complex for bleeding-edge dance music.

Culture vultures should make time for the architecture and design gallery Bureau Europa, as well as the Bonnefantenmuseum, with its fascinating mix of Italian and Flemish Renaissance and baroque works, and brilliantly curated – Richard Serra, Sol Lewitt, Neo Rauch, Gilbert & George – contemporary collection.


The Kruisherenhotel (a member of Design Hotels) might literally be the most spectacular hotel in the known universe, fitted as it is into an awe-inspiring, 15th Century former monastery and cathedral; the Beaumont, right on the buzzy Stationsstraat, has minimalist rooms and the chic Harry’s restaurant; Hotel Dis is an artistic 7-room guesthouse with its own gallery.






Au Revoir, Saint Germain! Four Days in Paris’ Trendy East

Share Button
Image by Amelie Laurin


New York City’s hackneyed boast of being the city that never sleeps is a trope so outdated by now as to be comical. Seriously, we’ve had more late nights in Nashville lately.

But much even to our own surprise, we recently discovered that Paris comes surprisingly close to the top of our late night list; and while our friends in Berlin and Barcelona may challenge that, a recent whirlwind of a trip through the City of Light had us very willingly staying up way past our typical NYC bedtime.

After a relatively quick and uncomplicated voyage – thanks to a lovely Air France redeye, and some well-chosen medicinals – we came to rest on the far east side of town, a place where, if a view of the Eiffel Tower or Montmartre is absolutely necessary, requires quite  a lot of squinting and neck craning. But with the perpetually hip Mama Shelter hotel as our home base, we spent the next several days discovering a multitude of new streets to stumble down, whilst steering exceedingly clear of those pesky tourist throngs.


Image by Amelie Laurin 


The snail-shell-like map of Paris’ arrondissements locates the 20th, 12th and 13th on the eastern edge of the city. We made Pere Lachaise Cemetery – final resting place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison – our central landmark, and ventured forth to traverse the neighborhoods of Menilmontant, Bastille, Belleville and Bercy, areas more akin to where we typically roam at home in Greenpoint and Bushwick. Potentially intimidating waiters at white-cloth-tabled bistros were replaced by hip millennials offering cheap wine and organic veggies. And late nights on a floating dance club that stayed open for 50 hours straight were fueled by numerous imbibables.

Here’s how it all played out.


Air France offers the best in US/FR flights, for our money. Our overnight from JFK kicked off with complimentary champers in the airport lounge – what better start could one ask for?

The aforementioned Mama Shelter, the Philippe Starck designed boutique hotel that we made home, featured a cheery staff and a perpetually energized restaurant/bar off the lobby…that transformed into a lively scene come sundown each evening.


Mama Shelter 


First stop was the charming open-air market Marche Aligre in the Bastille, where we sampled delicacies from local restaurants Miss Lunch, Maguey, Marcelle and others as part of a city wide restaurant tour.

For us, Paris is even more of a walking city than New York – to be sure, we’re always excited to plant our feet on those ancient cobblestones. We found a wonderful street art walking tour that had us cruising the rues of the 13th, and turned us on to what’s happening beyond the pricey galleries of Saint Germain.



We know there’s no end of hallowed art museums in Paris; but we were intrigued to come across the Art Ludique, which featured an amazing DC Comics exhibit – including authentic Batman memorabilia – and got us in the mood for Paris Comic Con In October. It’s located in the modern Cite de la Mode at du Design, the roof of which hosts not one but three bars, and jaw-dropping views of the Seine.

As we were on the river, we stayed for dinner at one of many water-adjacent establishments… specifically Petit Bain, which was great for laid-back fish and chips and cocktails – sustenance we’d need for the planned late night ahead.


Image by Amelie Laurin


After being reminded that it was considered one of the greatest nightclubs in the world, we felt just a tad intimidated braving the line at Rex Club. We needn’t have, the place was the epitome of dance club chapel, with no attitude, awesome sound, and nonstop cocktails; a very late night return to Mama Shelter resulted in us missing breakfast, and lunch, the following day.

We did manage to grab an afternoon snack of pumpernickel toast with avocado, radish, red onions and deviled eggs at the hip Grand Central Restaurant and to check out the cool open space it is adjacent to, CENTQUATRE PARIS. The latter is used by budding dancers and performance artists to test their routines; it’s like the Fame school with baguettes.

We always love the Paris Metro for shuttling around between musees and bistrotheques; but when we were introduced to the option of a motorcycle sidecar tour, how could we say no? Their charming, and Gallic-sort-of-macho drivers had us yelling “tally ho Jeeves”…but in French, of course. The cycles dropped us off at one of the city sponsored creative hubs, Les Ateliers de Paris, where budding design houses are given yearly studio space in which to develop their aesthetic. We discovered stylish sneaker manufacturer Garconne & Cherubin and leatherwear designer AMPLR, whose chic backpacks would soon be slung over our shoulders.



Then it was off to Rosa sur Seine, where we met up with the director of the Paris nightlife council Frederic Hocquard. His business card reads Charge de la Nuit, and his main mission is to regulate the city’s nocturnal activities, including its 150 discos and clubs, thirteen thousand bars and venues, and six-hundred thousand nighttime workers. Sounds like fun, but we guessed he was probably pretty tired a lot of the time.

As were we on the edge – okay in the middle – of the decidedly more bourgeoisie 7th, we made a quick side trip through Invalides to visit with an artist friend at the gloriously Parisian classic bistro Le Tourville, before heading back to the 12th for a lovely dinner of salade de quinoa, et légumes du soleil, crevettes à l’ail (grilled shrimp over quinoa) at the exceedingly hip La Bellevilloise, a multi-room cultural center that includes a live music venue, restaurant, nightclub and outdoor surf bar. Director/founder Renaud Barillet has devoted years to developing the venue, and is also involved with numerous other public cultural spaces.



Our subsequent late night at Concrete could have been a lot more decadent, as the venerated riverfront club is open continuously from 8pm on Friday until Monday morning – and hosts the crème de la crème of international dance music DJs…techno/house being the vibe the night we were there. We didn’t encounter anyone planning to stay for the entire weekend, but we were pretty sure they were there.

Our final morning in Paris had us visiting the charming suburban commune of Saint Ouen, just north of the city’s boundary; it’s home to Paris’ enormous flea market, and the highest concentration of antique dealers in the world. We made a stop at the singularly cool MOB Hotel for a lunch of leek and avocado salad and squash soup, then spent time lounging around the hotel’s stylish and comfy lobby, before heading back to the Air France terminal at Charles de Gaulle…and what we hoped would be another couple of rounds of pre-flight bubbly.


BlackBook Exclusive: Star Chef Scott Conant Pasta + Risotto Recipes From His New Fusco Restaurant

Share Button

Autumn is nigh upon us – and with it comes the changing of our eating habits from avocado salads to heartier, more, shall we say, rustic fare. Frankly, it cannot come quickly enough for us.

One place you’ll be likely to find us regularly pulling up a chair is  Scott Conant’s classy new Flatiron Italian Fusco. The marquee New York chef, as you may well know, made a splash in 2002 with his NY Times 3-star-awarded L’Impero. He then became a bonafide hit with the Chelsea hotspot Scarpetta (for the record, he’s no longer involved). But 2017 is surely his year, as he also opened The Ponte in Los Angeles and Mora Italian in Phoenix.

But while Fusco, with its leather banquettes, glittering chandeliers and orchid-adorned bar, is a decidedly elegant affair, it’s vibe is palpably more laidback (to be sure, Conant’s Italian grandmother was the inspiration). It’s reflected in the menu, which is strong on both traditional (al pomodoro) and more surprising, creative pasta dishes – but all unpretentious and approachable.

Before scarf weather hits, we asked Chef Conant to give us a peek into what exactly goes into all that deliciousness of two of his most inventive dishes.


Tajarin Aglio e Olio, Clams & Bonito Flakes



Serves 4-6
1 pound fresh tajarin (or substitute dried tagliolini pasta)
Cooked clams (recipe below)
2 cups clam cooking liquid (recipe below)
Garlic & chili oil (recipe below)
Chopped parsley, as needed
Bonito flakes, as needed
  • Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions.
  • While pasta is cooking, heat garlic & chili oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  • Add clam cooking liquid to the sauté pan and deglaze.
  • When the pasta is just al dente, strain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, and add both the pasta and the water to the sauté pan. Stir constantly to emulsify the oil and starch, about 3-4 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt.
  • Once emulsified, add the clams, stir to warm through–being careful not to overcook–toss in parsley, top with bonito flakes and serve immediately.
Garlic Chili Oil Base
10 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Slice garlic paper thin on Japanese mandolin.
  • Place garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes in 1-quart sauce pot.
  • Place sauce pot on low heat and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until garlic is sweet and tender and not bitter. Reserve.
Manila clams
5 lbs. clams (or cockles), washed
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
1 sprig thyme
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Place olive oil in a large rondeau or oven and set over medium heat.
  • Add garlic and shallots. Sweat for 8 minutes, stirring and not allowing the garlic or shallots to burn or take on too much color.
  • Add thyme, crushed red pepper and clams.
  • Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then deglaze with white wine.
  • Cover and steam until the clams open, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Strain and reserve liquid. You should have about 2 cups.
  • Remove the clams with their shells and reserve in olive oil until ready to use.


Black Truffle Risotto With Egg & Parmigiano


Serves 4 to 6
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (enough to coat the pan)
3 tbsp. shallots, small dice
1 ½ tsp. garlic, small dice
Crushed red pepper flakes, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
2 ½ tbsp. butter, unsalted
1 ½ cups vialone nana rice
½ cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1 ½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Preserved black truffles (from Jaloon Specialty Foods), as needed
Fresh truffles for shaving, as needed
  • In a 4-quart saucepan, heat about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-heat. Add the shallot, garlic, crushed red pepper and a pinch kosher salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute (Take the pan off the heat if the garlic starts to brown). Add 1 tablespoon of the butter, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallot is very tender, 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute to toast it lightly. Increase the heat to medium, add the wine, and cook until most of the wine is gone. Add 1 cup of the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until the liquid has been absorbed and evaporated. Add another 1 cup of stock and increase the heat so that there are a fair amount of bubbles on the surface (this agitation helps release the starch as the rice cooks).
  • Add another 1 cup or so of stock and continue to cook, stirring, adding more stock as needed and stirring. To see if it’s time to add more liquid, drag the spoon through the rice; if the liquid doesn’t immediately fill in the space, it’s time to add more. With the third addition of broth, add the thyme. Continue cooking, adding broth as necessary, until the risotto looks creamy but the rice is still al dente, about 18 minutes.
  • Take the risotto off the heat. Add the remaining 1½  tablespoons butter, the cheese and the truffles and stir well. Stir in the egg yolks until well combined.
  • Divide risotto among plates, top with freshly shaved truffles, serve.  




Third Wave Coffee, Psychedelic Cathedrals + Jean-Paul Gaultier: Montreal Turns 375

Share Button

The news at home is perpetually unsettling, the conversation endlessly divisive. So what better time to hop the quick flight over the border to one of BlackBook‘s most beloved destinations than during Montreal’s dazzling, year-long 375th birthday celebration? Canada’s grooviest city has divided the events into four seasonal themes – with part of summer and autumn still to go, obviously.

On our most recent trip, we immersed ourselves in the celebratory cultural offerings, while also taking time to stroll the beautiful McGill campus and the city’s many green parks, imbibe a few fizzy champagne cocktails at the Ritz Carlton, and indulge in the city’s exceptional designer and vintage shopping.

Here were some of our faves…

Divine Lighting

Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica is hosting AURA, a radical new show of music and illumination. Revealing the Basilica’s exquisite collection of statuary, Moment Factory (the same design and production studio that is artfully lighting up the Jacques-Cartier Bridge nightly) has designed an immersive experience that both sonically and visually captivates – enlivening the grandness of the cathedral interior with a psychedelic multimedia spectacle, featuring august orchestral sounds and a dramatic light spectacle. You’ll never look at being in church the same way again.


The Daily Grind

Montreal’s perpetual buzz might partially be due to its residents’ obsession with coffee. And not just any coffee, but ‘third wave’ coffee, where sourcing and production, origin and output all get equal attention. This artisanal focus is being championed by numerous local purveyors, which is why scheduling a cafe crawl with Thom Seivewright, the founder of Living Like a Local, is the best way to experience some of the city’s best offerings in the grooviest spots. These include Dispatch, where the sleek, minimalist interiors and packaging design rival the handpicked, farm-to-counter coffee selection. Some other must-sips are Cafe Osmo, in the Notman House, Le Moineau Masque in The Plat (one of the city’s hippest ‘hoods), and Crew Collective & Cafe, which is also a members-only co-working space and basement nightclub, located in the utterly spectacular former Royal Bank building in Old Montreal.


Crew Collective & Cafe

Avant-Garde Circus Folk

Cirque du Soleil was actually birthed in Montreal. And the experimental circus troupe’s latest show, VOLTA, is a spellbinding story about the freedom to choose and blazing your own trail – albeit in flamboyant costumes and roller skates. As you might expect, the transformational sets, lighting, original music and general choreographed mayhem assault the senses from all sides. VOLTA even features a full on BMX park, mounted on stage, where riders drop in to deliver breathtaking stunts.

Plugged In, Well-Fed

We were particularly privileged to spend time at the Society for Arts and Technologies. Set up in an abandoned public market in Montreal’s former Red Light District, the 20-year-old SAT bills itself as an incubator of talent, and center for research in emerging technologies. Inviting “visionary artists, techno-poets, enlightened artisans, atypical engineers and unconventional thinkers” to connect and create original work, it boasts over 30,000 members. The non-profit is also community-minded, even lobbying successfully to legalize skateboarding in the adjacent Peace Park.
Dining at Foodlab, atop SAT, is as adventurous as the centre’s programming. We were served a locavore-driven, eclectic menu (no poutine here), complemented by a renowned wine selection. Exchanges between chefs, sommeliers, mixologists and “audacious foodies” are also hosted regularly here. Post-dinner we were ushered into a Buckminster Fuller-esque dome, where we laid our well-fed bodies on giant beanbags and tripped out in the semi-dark over a cosmic show of mesmerizing light and sound.



Curated History Lessons

You may wonder (as did we) what those captivating projections on the buildings are as you traverse Old Montreal by night. Created by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, Cite Memoire invites viewers to meet a cast of notable historical characters involved in the evolution of the city. More than 20 poetic tableaux are brought to life through image, words and music, emerging from the walls and the ground, infused with just the right dose of whimsy. You can download the free app for maximum effect.
The newly opened Fort Ville-Marie pavilion at the Montreal Archaeology and History Complex, Point-a-Calliere, has dusted the former musty fustiness off the site of the city’s birthplace. The museum itself is built atop a restored sewer tunnel, which now features a walk-through light installation by the aforementioned Moment Factory. Props to the museum’s passionate curatorial team, who created a uniquely engaging experience – where visitors can view the actual archaeological dig site through a reinforced glass floor (the only one like it in the world, we were told), allowing the opportunity to connect with the very origins of the city.


Room With a Dazzling View

Au Sommet Place Ville Marie rightfully boasts the most beautiful view of Montreal. The 360 degree observation deck also currently hosts the #MTLGO exhibit, an interactive video portrait series of 55 notable Montrealers. We playfully clicked our way through the various personalities and perspectives, getting to know Olympic athletes like Jennifer Abel and Caroline Ouellette, choreographer Marie Chouinard, comedian Sugar Sammy, conductor Kent Nagano, DJ Ghislain Poirier, circus troop Les 7 Doigts de la Main, and restaurateur Martin Picard. (Alas, no Arcade Fire pics.)
From hockey to gastronomy, performance art, language (of course, everyone here speaks fluent English and French) and neighborhoods like the Plateau Mont-Royal and Vieux Montreal, we loved tagging points of interest on iPads as we moved along the exhibition’s perimeter, enjoying the panoramic view. As a nice little touch, everyone receives a printout of their customized journey to pursue at leisure.
Our hunger for knowledge turned to actual hunger – so we dined at the observatory’s spectacular restaurant, Les Enfants Terribles. Serving a mix of old and new Quebec cuisine (paired with a glass of one of their refreshing roses), the only thing we enjoyed more than the frites was the jaw-dropping view.


Au Sommet Place Ville Marie

Puppeteers and Fashion Shows

After a mouthwatering morning croissant – Montreal, by the way, has seen a boom in boulangeries and patisseries all across the city in the last few years – we set out for an arts-focused final day.
A Nous la Rue brings together 60 street theatre companies from six countries (France, Spain, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and, of course, Canada), taking over Montreal’s streets every day in July with over 800 performances. We were particularly enchanted by the Big Little Girl, who brazenly squatted to pee as part of her performance; the dog who ‘panted’ as he trotted close behind her; and the enormous Deep Sea Diver. The “giants” enacted a touching story of Montreal via pulleys and strings controlled by dozens of energetic, red velvet-clad puppeteers.
Being as we are so sartorially obsessed, we also made a point of visiting the McCord Museum’s “Fashioning Expo 67” and Jean Paul Gaultier’s landmark show “Love is Love” at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – both up through October, and not to be missed.
(N.B. We’re planning to return for “A Crack In Everything,” a paean to the recently deceased and deeply lamented Leonard Cohen, coming to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal  (MAC) in November.)


Jean Paul Gaultier at the Museum of Fine Arts