In the Shadow of Frank Lloyd Wright: A Well-Designed Weekend in Scottsdale

Above image: Canal Convergence

 

 

In the 1930s, Frank Lloyd Wright started making regular treks from Wisconsin to Scottsdale, Arizona. The climate suited him, and in winter months, he found it easier to breathe. By 1937, he’d made the desert city a permanent winter residence and constructed what would become one of his most well-known masterpieces, Taliesin West. The city built up around him over the following decades, going from vast and empty desert land to a thriving metropolis.

Today, though he’d hardly recognize it, Wright’s legacy lives on in Scottsdale. From the architecture he influenced, to the city’s longstanding commitment to preservation, sustainability, and art. 

 

Canal Convergence

 

This month, over 200,000 people congregated to witness Canal Convergence, an annual art festival that started as a diversion for when the city drained the canals. It’s since evolved into one of the city’s most anticipated attractions (though Spring Training still reigns supreme). And like Wright discovered almost a century ago, the weather does provide a breath of fresh air this time of year. 

We joined the crowds to explore the abundance of art, design, and culture that defines this cosmopolitan Southwestern city. Here’s what we did.

 

Cattle Track Arts & Preservation

This hidden gem gives local artists and artisans a supportive space to create, much like a commune without all the living quarters (though there is a van). Owner Mark McDowell, a painter himself, walked us through the historic complex, which dates back to the 1930s. Today, Cattle Track welcomes art talent across several mediums, including painting, photography, ceramics, and even, well…blacksmithing. They also has a gallery space that defies art world conventions: artists can hold shows, sell their works, and keep 100% of the profits. 

 

 

Cosanti 

Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri made a home in Scottsdale after a stint apprenticing for Wright at Taliesin West. Cosanti served as his gallery, studio, and residence, and today the space houses a molten bronze bell casting business. A walk around revealed several earth-formed concrete structures styled to dramatic effect by Soleri’s ecologically-inspired vision. Elaborately designed bronze bells hang throughout, adding an audible sensory experience.

 

 

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

At SMOCA the art begins outside, as James Turrell’s “Skyspace” is seamlessly incorporated into its facade. It’s one of only a handful of Turrell’s completed works in the world (though Kanye West is helping him finish another). Inside, Counter Landscapes: Performative Actions from the 1970s to Now (on view through January) encapsulates the powerful dynamic between artist and environment. Marina Abramovic, Agnes Denes, Antonia Wright, Sarah Cameron Sunde all have works on display.
In one room filled with hanging planters of creosote bush (a local plant with a potent scent), we watched a video work of Wright falling through an icy lake again and again. In another, Sunde uses her own body as a measurement of the rising tides in a video series titled 36.5/A Durational Performance with the Sea. Intense stuff.

 

 

Taliesin West 

A must-see for design aficionados, Taliesin West is Wright’s sprawling desert compound just outside downtown Scottsdale. He, his third wife, and a band of apprentices took to the land in the ‘30s to create what is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. He discovered there was in fact water flowing not too far underground, and turned a piece of desert into a working design laboratory. 
Each space holds its own otherworldly vibe: a movie room feels like a bunker with rock walls and uplighting (a technique we have Wright to thank for); a concert hall is specifically shaped to amplify music; a theater is cloaked in red velvet. Wright made space for the things he loved, and his appreciation for the arts ran deep. He once cited Beethoven as the greatest architect, noting he could make a symphony out of only four notes. To that end, Wright famously made every structure in Taliesin West out of materials he found in the desert. Even the color palettes were inspired by the natural landscape (lots of Cherokee Red). He spent the last 20 years of his life here — the most prolific of his career, and is said to be buried somewhere on the grounds. 

 

 

Restaurants

The Mission Old Town

It would be a disservice to head to the Southwest and not partake in some great Latin cuisine – and this is the place to do it. Here, chef Matt Carter reinvents his French culinary training with a menu focused on South American flavors. We loved the tableside guacamole, shrimp tacos, and the Malbec braised short rib. 

 

 

Citizen Public House 

It’s hard to say what to enthuse more about here, the food or the drinks. In a relaxed environment, chef Bernie Kantak and company’s New American marries the inventive with the familiar. For starters, we sampled the crab cakes and the original chopped salad, which has its own Facebook page. The seared scallops are a fan favorite too, as are tipples from the barrel aged cocktail list, like the bourbon-based Rose Garland. 

Zuzu at Hotel Valley Ho

While the hotel itself is reminiscent of yesteryear, it was refreshing to see their on-site restaurant is firmly planted in today. Zuzu had a beautifully curated wine list and plenty of imaginative shared plates, courtesy of Executive Chef Russell LaCasce. The constantly shifting and always delightful dessert menu is worth saving room for.

 

 

Hotels

Hotel Valley Ho

Originally opened in 1956, Hotel Valley Ho has long been a go-to destination for out-of-towners. Back in the day, Hollywood starlets frequented the space for its privacy and charming mid-century design. As they say, everything and nothing has changed. After a couple of ownership shifts, the hotel was recently restored to its original splendor – though many of the interior elements have remained untouched since its inception. Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner would be pleased – they had their second wedding reception here. 

The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows

Hyatt’s boutique arm of hotels (Andaz means “style” in Hindi) are known for paying homage to their surrounding environs. In Scottsdale, the Andaz mirrors the desert, and the artists and architects that have made it what it is today. The property sits on a single level and feels more country club commune than luxury hotel – in the best way. Poolside cabanas come attached to the more coveted suites. Be sure to stop by restaurant Warp and Weft, which features hand-made installations and ceramic dishes from Cattle Track artists. Executive Chef Nate Larson infuses his menu with seasonal Sonoran cuisine, every dish is inventive fresh, and full of Southwestern flavor. 

 

Six Questions w/ Exalted Peruvian Chef Pia León

 

 

Chef Pia León may not yet be the most recognized name in New York’s culinary scene, but in her hometown of Lima, Peru she’s a legend. Named 2018’s Best Female Chef in Latin America by World’s 50 Best Restaurants, she’s taken the rich food culture of a diverse nation to create something utterly new. Kjolle, her first solo restaurant, has become renowned for plating simultaneously familiar and yet also surprising gastronomic experiences to the Peruvian palate.

Now she’s brought those flavors to NYC. Indeed, thanks to the Priceless pop-up on St. John’s Lane, featuring some of the best bars and restaurants in the world. And thus, a taste of Lima has never been more at hand.

 

 

Chef León actually spent three years cooking at Central, generally regarded as the best restaurant in Peru – and possibly all of  Latin America. But Kjolle, named for a hearty mountain flower, is where she established the uniqueness of her own cuisine, reflecting her passion for her home country’s ingredients. Peru, for instance, boasts around 4,000 indigenous varieties of potatoes and tubers – sourced from the towering Andes to the Amazonian jungle – as well as many hard to find grains and unique herbs.

We enjoyed a chat with her, before she generously revealed the secrets behind two of the most popular dishes currently being rhapsodized over by diners at Kjolle.

 

 

 

 

So what can diners expect at the New York pop-up?

Fresh baked bread and butter topped with cacao nibs and local salt, raw scallops with guanabana pulp and lime, or a tart of layered and thinly shaved roots in a delicate pastry shell made of a mixture of Peruvian grains. Even the pork belly is paired with cassava, yucca and and mole, but topped with locally sourced rocket and edible flowers.

What inspired you to come to New York and set up at Priceless?

It’s a great platform to communicate our concept and ideas about Kjolle to a different audience. It has been a really positive experience working with such a very professional and dedicated team, that is willing to understand and show Peruvian products in a way that hasn’t been done before.

How is the dining experience different from back home?

It’s very similar actually, since the idea was to replicate the restaurant in New York, and for people to feel like they’re in Lima. We even brought part of the team from Lima to NYC. But we also had the opportunity to make it different by mixing Peruvian ingredients with local ones we have access to here in the city, which has been exciting.

How have the local products been received?

The local products have been of very high quality, and we’ve been glad to work with different ingredients and adapt them to our menu in our own way.

What ingredients are exciting you right now?

The quality of the meat here in NYC is great, the fish we’ve been receiving is so fresh and tasty. Most importantly, the vegetables and roots are amazing, between all the colors, quality and variety. And a big plus is to be in a city where you can find so many different ingredients from around the world!

What are your goals for expansion, if any?

I would like to eventually replicate Kjolle and share our concept with many other cities for short periods of time. I haven’t thought about making something permanent outside of Peru…but you never know.

 

 

 

 

SHORT RIBS AND BURNT CORN

To cook the short ribs, start with an andean dressing. You will need:
  • 5kg yellow pepper
  • 100g chincho
  • 100g Huacatay
  • 100g Muña
  • 50g garlic
  • 300mL White vinegar
  • 10g Pepper
  • 10g Cumin
  • Salt
Blend all the ingredients together. Reserve.
Clean the short ribs. Take each rib and cover them with the andean dressing. Place them in a pot, and cover half of the pot with water (even better if you have a chicken stock). Slow cook the meat for 8 hours, or until the meat softens.
Once the meat is cooked, take the ribs out and use the cooking juice to make a sauce. Strain the fat out of the cooking juices, reduce what’s left and add demi-glace sauce to serve.
You can let the entire rib for each plate, or you can cut in in cubes to make a smaller and more presentable dish.
For the corn garnish:
  • 1L Cream
  • 200g Butter
  • 10g garlic
  • 20g White onion
  • 1kg Blended corn
  • 200g Corn kernels
To make the corn pure, start cooking the garlic with white onions in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. Once everything is cooked and soft, blend all of the ingredients adding the butter and cream.
Reserve the pure in a pot, cover with film paper until needed.
On the other side, cook the corn kernels in salted water. They must be cooked but still firm. Strain the water out of the corn kernels, place them on a trail. You can either use a torch or a frying pan without any kind of fat, to slightly burn every corn kernel on each side.
Reserve the burnt corns.
To plate, place the Short ribs in the middle of a round plate and cover them with hot sauce. Coat the piece of short rib with the corn pure. Use the corn kernels to decorate. You can save some of the herbs to burn them and use them as a decoration too.

 

 

 

Razor clams from Huarmey

INGREDIENTS
Razor clams
  • 160 units razor clams
Purple tiger milk
  • 150g razor clam broth
  • 80g lime juice
  • 60g pickled mashua juice
  • 10g salt
  • Olive oil
Razor clam stock
  • Razor clams shells
  • White wine
  • White onion
  • Celery
  • Green apple
Pickled black mashua
  • 500 mL water
  • 500 mL White vinegar
  • 500g sugar
Pickled Macre pumpkin
  • 200g macre pumpkin
  • 100g panela sugar
  • 100ml wáter
  • 100ml White vinegar
Amazonian chalaca sauce
  • 50g cocona
  • 1 sachaculantro leaf
  • 50g tomato
  • 50g red onion
  • 15mL lime juice
  • 15g salt
Preparation
Razor clams
  1. Clean the razor clams and reserve the shells for the stock.
  2. Cut the razor clams in small pieces (1cm long)
  3. Reserve the razor clams in cold storage with a towel to keep them dry
Razor clams stock
  1. Cut the onions, celery and apple in mirepoix
  2. In a pot, cook the vegetables and apple with some vegetable oil.
  3. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the white wine, and before it evaporates, add the razor clams.
  4. Pour some water (until it covers the razor clams), let it boil. Strain and reserve in cold storage.
Purple tiger milk
  1. In a small bowl, pour all the ingredients.
  2. With a hand mixer, emulsify the liquids with olive oil. It has to have a consistent yet liquid texture.
Pickled mashua
  1. With a mandoline, slice thinly your mashua form the longest side.
  2. Pour the ingredients of the pickling juice in a pot and boil them.
  3. Once the pickling juice is ready, poru them on to the mashuas so they can briefly be cooked. Keep them in cold storage.
Pickled macre pumpkin
  1. In a pot, mix the sugar, water and vinegar. Let it boil.
  2. Once the pickling juice is ready, let it cool down.
  3. Cut the macre pumpking so you can slice it through a mandoline. We recommend in pieces of 10 cms long and 2cm wide.
  4. Pour the pickling juice in the sliced macre pumpkin. Vacuum everything together so the pumpkin can absorb the juice.
Amazonian chalaca sauce
  1. Dice all the ingredients in a small brunoise.
  2. Mix them all together and add the lime juice and salt.
  3. To finish the sauce, cut thinly the sachaculantro leaf and add it to the sauce.
Plating
  1. Place around 8 units of cut razor clams in a wide-open plate. Put some sea salt on the top of each piece of razor clam.
  2. Pour some of the purple tiger milk.
  3. Strain the macre pumpkin and the pickled black mashua. Roll them and place them in 5 different spots in the dish (5 pieces of mashua and 5 pieces of pumpkin)
  4. Top your dish with some of the chalaca sauce, it should cover all the spots where you can see the purple tiger milk.
  5. To finish your dish, as a garnish, burn some jungle nuts and slice them really thinly with a mandoline. Place around 8 slices per plate.

 

 

 

 

Gelato, Rock Stars and Eco-Hotels: Three Days in the Heart of West Hollywood

1 Hotel West Hollywood

 

Though we often refer to Los Angeles as a monolith (no one in New York says “I’m flying out to Bel-Air tomorrow”), truth is, it’s sort of a collection of fairly autonomous towns given an overarching “federal” government – which we must admit we’re not exactly sure is in charge of what.

For our purposes here, we’ll refer to them as neighborhoods – and those like Silver Lake and Highland Park have followed the typical hipster arc this past decade-plus…while Beverly Hills remains central command for all things posho, and Downtown, now a combination of business, trendy nightlife and upscale apartments, still struggles for an actual identity.

 

Maxfield

 

But for the dozens of times we’ve made the 3000-mile trip to LA, West Hollywood has generally acted as our spiritual home. No other ‘hood has remained so steadfast in its identity, while also never lapsing in its mission to stay dynamically current. It’s cool, it’s fun, and it actually looks more like everyone’s idea of Hollywood than Hollywood does.

We recently checked into 1 Hotel West Hollywood – a fairly new eco-luxe brand with a pair of sister properties in NYC, as well as one in Miami. With its sustainable chic, casual-cool clientele, and destination F&B offerings, it could not be more philosophically aligned with its 8490 Sunset Boulevard address (just east of La Cienega). And in keeping with WeHo’s “anything you want, it’s yours” agenda, the legendary Comedy Store is just a block up – we caught hilariously woke-defying sets by Whitney Cummings and Anthony Jeselnik – while directly across from the hotel is the equally legendary Pink Dot liquor store, for those late night “back to the room” party supplies.

 

1 Hotel West Hollywood

 

Of course, nobody walks in LA. But we figured we would at least ditch the gas guzzler and do a Bikes & Hikes tour of WeHo, which is ridiculously fun considering the “slopes” leading up to and down from Sunset. We opted for of-the-moment electric bicycles, meaning real cyclists were looking on at us with genuine disdain; and the range of old and new discoveries along the way included the city’s first marijuana-tolerant restaurant, the Lowell Cafe, and Elvis’ house, flamboyantly tucked away in the lower hills (though we’ve always preferred Little Richard).

We then headed for lunch at the exceedingly buzzy Gracias Madre (it translates to “Thanks mom” – aww…). Crowded since its opening in 2014, it boasts a gorgeous Oaxaca meets WeHo interior, with a tiled bar, and Colonial style hanging lamps. The cuisine was fancy vegan Mexican, and has also sated the likes of Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard and Harrison Ford.

 

Gracias Madre

 

A brief stroll through the Design District took us to Maxfield, a brilliantly curated and very mod furniture shop – mid-century French is a thing there – which also stocks a smartly chosen selection of design finds and bleeding-edge fashion (Anne Hathaway, Lana Del Rey and Usher are amongst the steady parade of celebs that have been spotted shopping there). A separate gallery space has exhibited everything from Galliano-for-Margiela clothing to The Kills’ Alison Mosshart’s paintings to selections from the Daft Punk archives.

GM Nick Remidio then greeted us for a tour of the nearby Kimpton La Peer Hotel (named for its address). And we must admit, with hipster-style fatigue having set in years ago already, we loved that La Peer was a bastion of elegance and good taste, with plush furnishings fitted into a lobby space of Corbusian like understatement, a very nice-looking private pool area, and some gorgeous tile-work at the entrance. We returned that evening for dinner at the hotel’s Viale dei Romini restaurant, where charismatic Exec Chef Casey Lane dazzled us with his creative pasta dishes, including the Alla Piastra with “the world’s best bolognese.”

 

Gelato Festival 

 

The next day we went deeper into WeHo Italophile culture (trust us, it’s a thing) with a gelato making class at the charming Gelato Festival on Melrose. Founded in Florence in 2010, the festival itself now travels around the world, Berlin, Chicago, Yokohama…and West Hollywood, of course. The shop is staffed by real Italians, and they delighted us with their inimitable charms and delectable flavor creations – all of which are better for you than actual ice cream.

There was nothing particularly healthy about lunch at Pizzana – but it certainly has done away with the notion that you can’t get great pizza in Los Angeles. We could safely say it is definitely not for purists, as these were distinctly high-concept pies – Vegan Funghi, Cacio e Pepe, the spicy salami Diavola…and were all far too decadent for a 1pm feeding.

 

Pizzana

 

We had to fit in some “old” West Hollywood, naturally – and the best place to do it was the Sunset Marquis hotel, which is like a little village tucked away behind Alta Loma Road – albeit one endlessly populated with rock stars. And indeed, we popped over for a visit only to find that Ringo Starr was having an exhibit of his photographs…an opening for which guitar gods Jimmy Page and Joe Perry would make appearances. Dining on the patio were Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry, while Bono and Keith Richards anecdotes were amusingly shared. So…you get the idea.

But we were invited down to the hotel’s exalted Nightbird Recording Studios to have a look around – and were reminded that a new generation – Katy Perry, Rihanna, Drake – were now regularly making music here as well.

Fittingly we then went on to check out the recently revitalized Formosa Cafe, which once hosted the likes of Sinatra, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. Now it feeds the cool kids a menu of hipsterized Chinese eats (the patio is a total scene) set to a very well curated soundtrack.

 

Sunset Marquis 

 

Back at the 1 Hotel, there was no discernible scenesterizing at the 1 Kitchen by Chris Crary, which is really all about the food, and hits all the right consciousness notes: sustainably sourced ingredients, with an organic garden and beehive on premises, and a good selection of biodynamic wines. A tequila-and-watermelon Quench cocktail paired beautifully with an heirloom tomato panzanella, and the Brandt Beef grilled ribeye was one of the best steaks we’d enjoyed in recent memory. Perfection.

Drinks at the absolutely gorgeous Harriet’s rooftop easily conjured that ever elusive vibe of classic Hollywood glamour, with twinkling lights reflecting on the elegant black and white striped sofas. But our Champagne cocktails also came with a striking view of Janet Echelmann‘s ethereal Dream Catcher installation, dramatically draped between the hotel’s two towers – the old and the new, just as we’ve come to expect of our beloved West Hollywood.

 

Janet Echelmann’s Dream Catcher

Epicurean Northern Spain: Rioja Wines, Starchitects and an Enlightening Lesson in Evolución

AC Hotel Burgos

 

 

We have been for years trumpeting the glories of Spanish cuisine and wine, both of which still don’t get the same respect in America as, say, French and Italian. We still can’t figure that out.

So when the opportunity arose to spend a few days in Northern Spain‘s wine country, we were particularly piqued. After all, there’s plenty enough written about Napa/Sonoma, Burgundy and Tuscany. And sure enough, our visit left us wondering how a region so dotted with starchitect designed wineries, Michelin starred restaurants, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, has saved itself from the mass tourism of cities like Barcelona and Sevilla.

 

Burgos Cathedral

 

Heading a few hours north of Madrid, we were met with rolling hills, ornate rock formations that tower into the sky, and historic villages begging for thoughtful exploration. Our first stop was Burgos, in the Castilla y León region, a perfect dichotomy of the medieval and the modern.

The Burgos Cathedral, one of those aforementioned UNESCO World Heritage sites, and a landmark whose towers serve as a visual compass to the city, is a fascinating melding of Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture, and dates all the way back to the 11th century. Original stained glass windows, ornate spires, and gothic cloister gardens on the outside give way to interiors boasting a massive golden staircase, Renaissance chapels, and the Papamoscas, or fly catcher, an odd looking character that sits high above one of the clocks and opens his mouth to ring in the time on the hour.

 

Museum of Human Evolution

 

Built into the naturally elevated landscape, the the cathedral spans four levels, and a breathtaking panorama of the city from the top level inspired a more than a few earnest oohs and aahs.

Just a short walk across the river was the Museum of Human Evolution, a modern architectural marvel whose exhibits delve into the Darwin-approved progress of our prehistoric ancestors, as well as offering insight into the human brain, and charting our social and intellectual development. Heady stuff for the consciously curious, but equally entertaining and engaging.

We ended the day with a highly anticipated epicurean feast at Cobo Vintage, a Michelin starred restaurant with a sleek/modern, but low key vibe. Here, Chef Miguel Cobo deftly fuses his Cantabrian roots with the locally sourced provisions and traditions of Burgos. The tasting menu, eight courses paired with a local Verdejo or Crianza, saw us indulging in skewered hake in a garlic and hot pepper sauce, shrimp carpaccio with tomato tartar, and a melt-in-your-mouth beef rib accompanied by a rather bold green herb sauce. It’s a cliché by now, but the beautiful presentation was just slightly eclipsed by our delightedly dancing taste buds.

 

Cobo Vintage

 

Continuing our journey west to La Rioja, we wandered through medieval villages and walled hamlets while local artisans plied us with homemade cheeses, sausages, olive oils and bread to feast on as we took in the undulating grape and olive vines from a hilltop perch. Logrono, the capital of Rioja, seemed like the natural place to call home for a couple of nights, with its proximity to the bodegas (wineries), and to the best places to experience a pinchos crawl. Pinchos (sometimes spelled pintxos), Rioja’s version of tapas, are flavorful bites that accompany your wine or beer pairing in this region of Spain.

The most action could be found on the busy Calle Laurel, and the neighboring narrow and vibrant streets that are lined with over 50 tavernas and bars, making it easy to stroll and sample the local specialties. The vibe was definitely social, nibbling and sipping around makeshift tables made from aged wine barrels as we people-watched the locals and visitors buzzing by.

 

Street in Logrono

 

Some tavernas featured a particular signature dish, like Bar Angel, whose specialty was grilled mushrooms. Served stacked in threes and topped with a shrimp, they’re assembled over a slice of hearty bread that soaks up the olive oil, garlic, and also the secret ingredient they’ve been grilled in.

At Taberna del Volapie, we paired a citrusy white Rueda with a cone of bright orange prawns, head and tail included. And as we grazed our way through the streets indulging in barely fried sardines, tender beef in a hearty sauce, and tasty pork lollipops, we paired each with glasses of Rioja’s crisp whites and structured, fruit forward reds.

The de rigueur wine tasting, tour, and vineyard dining experiences are available at the many bodegas throughout the region – but La Rioja is also a hotbed for design enthusiasts. Exalted architects Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava and the late Zaha Hadid have all spectacularly made their mark in the area, in the process setting the bar ridiculously high. At Bodegas Ysios, considered by many to be the most “remarkable wine building ever built,” Calatrava crafted an homage to the surrounding landscape that offers a startling visual experience upon approach.

 

Bodegas Ysios

 

Sitting at the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range, the winery was built into the uneven terrain, and its expansive roof of thick aluminum bars mirrors the hills in the background. We strongly recommend scheduling a tour of the property and, of course, a proper tasting of the indigenous Tempranillo varietal which is aged in French oak barrels.

Oenephiles looking for a familiar name in Rioja wines will not be disappointed with a visit to Campo Viejo. We were particularly impressed that it is helmed by a trio of women winemakers dedicated to sustainable and innovative wine making practices; and its design, built almost entirely underground, is like nothing you can imagine.

A tour of the winery, a bouquet workshop to identify the smells and tastes of spice, tobacco, plum, and berry notes of the wine, followed by a dinner on the terrace overlooking the vineyards, and we were irreversibly in love with Northern Spain.

 

Campo Viejo

 

AC Hotel by Marriott Burgos

AC Hotel by Marriott La Rioja

Originally a designed-focused hotel brand founded in Spain, AC Hotels was brought under the Marriott umbrella in 2011 – and has been in growth mode ever since.
Style remains a priority, with modern lighting and mid-century furniture creating inviting lobby spaces and lounge areas for kicking back between cathedral tours and pinchos crawls. We especially loved the European style breakfasts and tapas lunches, which fused local flavors with more traditional Spanish cuisine.
In Burgos, the AC is located alongside the river pathway leading to the city center, and is a cool oasis of modernity. The warm, neutral palette of the rooms perfectly suits the minimalist design philosophy, a cool aesthetic respite from all that medieval architecture outside.
In Logrono, proximity to both the town center and aforementioned bodegas make it the best located hotel for a Rioja excursion. The light filled rooms are outfitted with warmly modern furnishings and particularly comfortable beds.

 

Top image: AC Hotel Burgos; bottom images:  AC Hotel Logrono

 

Epicurean Montreal: Where to Eat Now in Quebec’s Culture Capital

Above image: Capsa

 

 

Montreal is a small city with a large reputation – a rep that has mainly to do with the quality of life, which includes rolling green parks, stunning architecture, friendly people…and a bountiful food scene. Much like the rest of Quebec Province, Montrealers take immense pride in using local and sustainable ingredients whenever possible, giving their cuisine a uniquely regional flavor. Not to mention the locally brewed beers and local wines sold in specialty shops around the city.

With almost six thousand restaurants and three hundred gourmet food markets, there is always something uniquely delicious waiting just around the corner. And while change comes in Montreal at a manageable pace, we made another visit recently to discover some new fave dining spots – and as ever, were not disappointed.

 

Dandy

Branded the “new brunch spot for Vieux Montreal” (meaning, the historic part of the city), this light and airy restaurant crafts coffee and cocktails with an Italian influence. And some of the best biscuits and baked goods in the city, along with their specialty œufs pochés all are perfectly complemented with a Campari spritz or two. Also, don’t miss the Vol-Au-Vent Du Moment. The strikingly designed space features dramatic arches, globe lamps, bright orange banquettes and mod schoolhouse chairs.

 

 

Beau Mont

Beau Mont is the latest venture from Normand Leprise, famed chef and restauranteur of Toque and champion of Quebecois ingredients. Located off the beaten track in Parc Extension, the sprawling but welcoming dining room is the setting for local market cuisine, featuring seasonal vegetables and refined techniques – plus, there’s an extensive wine list. The space is a work in progress, with a dedicated area acting as a showcase for the growing pool of local artisan-producers.

 

 

Pullman Wine Bar

Sophisticated design, lush décor and a fascinatingly staggered interior make for a place of uniquely low-key luxury. Pullman claims to have over 350 wines, sold by the glass or bottle, including an impressive selection of natural and hard to find bottles. Snacks come sweet or salty, yet all are simple and refined and change seasonally. The grand aioli has a rotating variety of seasonal vegetables from fresh to pickled, and the steak with chimichurri is uncommonly tender and well cooked. Servers are extensively schooled in pairings, ensuring that plats are enjoyed with a perfectly matched cuvée.

 

 

Capsa

This garden level restaurant brings dazzling Portuguese flavors to the city’s Latin Quarter. Located in the hip new Boxotel, it features a daily three-course-menu lunch offering, with dishes like vegan mushroom risotto and braised pork with clams. Highly recommended is their Francesinha, basically a Portuguese croque monsieur, made with house chorizo and a shimmering pan sauce. Capsa is located a little of of the way, but it’s worth the detour for their fresh “crafted” salads alone.

 

 

Spade & Palacio

This is the locally founded company that puts on “non-touristy tours,” taking guests to parts of Montreal they may not otherwise see. These include visiting various murals painted by local artists, bike tours and a variety of unique food tours. One of latter, the Beyond the Market Tour, begins in a handful of small, local restaurants like Los Planes on Bélanger Street, where Salvadoran pupusas (flatbreads) are filled and hand shaped, then drenched in sauce and spice at the eater’s discretion. The tour shifts to a local beer and cheese bar, multiple stops at the Jean-Talon market and a fried chicken picnic in Little Italy. With samples of locally made cheese, gelato and even 5th Wave coffee, no food corner is left unturned.

Are ‘Sound Aged’ Spirits the Next Big Tippling Trend?

Images courtesy of Quadrant Bar & Lounge

 

 

For better or worse, trendy cocktails have gotten very…sciency. But what if actual science could be applied to aging the booze itself?

As it turns out, Chris Mendenhall, lead drinks alchemist at Quadrant Bar & Lounge, tucked into the Ritz Carlton Washington D.C., realized the possibilities of aging liquor not with time, but with sound. A self-proclaimed curious mixologist, he was “always seeking ways to expand [his] knowledge. Sound-aged liquor was a journey down a ‘Google black hole’ that led to learning about technology that is being introduced into the spirit world.”

So, what is sound-aging? It’s a way of infusing sound waves into spirits, which mimic the effects of, well, aging. Mendenhall has a special process that injects wood into the spirit directly, pushing it through like a sieve. Sounds easy, right?

 

 

But according to him, “It took my team and I about a year to develop the recipes and ratios using the device we purchased.”

So what’s the benefit of sound aging? As far as he’s concerned, it’s educational. “The sound waves allow us to impart characteristics of time and help educate the guests on what whisky is, how it’s made, what re-casting is and why it all takes time.”

His most favored cocktail so far is the sound-aged negroni which he describes as, “a negroni for those that don’t like negronis, and a new twist for those that do.”

By pushing the liquor through the wood itself, all the subtle characteristics of that wood are that much more prevalent. Chris introduced a combination of wood soaked in cabernet to round out the sharpness of the newer liquor, and created a caramel-like aged flavor which mellows the finish.

 

 

So, what are the best sound-aged liquors?

“My favorite is the sound-aged Bourbon #1,” he says, “It is best showing guests just how whisky is made and what time does to whisky.”

It also happens to be made with 120-proof nine-year-old Kentucky bourbon that he processes with a customized homogenizer that “ages” spirits in under thirty minutes. According to him, the best way to enjoy it is, “neat with a sample of the unchanged base.”

The Quadrant Bar & Lounge itself is a testament to the changing face of downtown Washington D.C., which although steeped in history, has lately been enthusiastically embracing innovation. Though he doesn’t much care for “cocktails that use crazy ingredients, but instead those that you see and taste, and know that someone put a lot of thought and effort into creating – whether it be simple or complex.”

For our further enlightenment, we asked him to further elaborate on four of more popular sound-aged spirits.

 

Bourbon Style #1

An example of a pure age reflection, this bourbon shows the true power of the machine without added variables such as wood chips to mimic a cask. The“base” is a 120 proof, nine-year-old Kentucky bourbon. After being sound-aged, the “change,” yields a more mellow bourbon with pepper, leather, and vanilla notes.

Bourbon Style #2

This seven-year-old Kentucky bourbon has a “base” of 107 proof, and after being sound-aged with American Oak chips soaked in a 10-year port, the “change” yields a sweeter, richer bourbon with caramel notes.

Whiskey Style #1

The “base” is a 90 proof Tennessee sour mash whiskey. After being sound-aged with French oak chips soaked in sherry, the “change” yields an incredibly smooth whiskey with notes of corn and vanilla.

Rye Style #1

The “base” is a 100 proof, four-year-old American rye whiskey. After being sound-aged with French Oak chips soaked in cognac, the “change” yields bold hints of pepper, orange and chocolate.

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Munich Hit List

 

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

 

Badenburg

 

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

 

Haus der Kunst

 

Beauty at the End of the Earth: Three Days in Finnish Lapland

Image by Markus Kiili 

 

We recently had the privilege of following none other than Carly Rae Jepsen to Finland, for a unique and unforgettable performance. Whilst there, she and we all fell in love with the peaceful landscape of the fabled Lapland.

Located above the Arctic Circle, the unspoiled wilderness that is the Finnish Lapland is decidedly remote and silent, yet is abuzz with visitors once winter arrives. In summer and autumn, it offers long days lit by the midnight sun, with a temperate climate, actually making it a year round destination. Over 70% of Finland is covered by forestry, with nature at one’s beckon – the world’s cleanest air making it the perfect life reset and recharge.

Here’s what we loved.

 

Levi

Levi is the largest ski and recreational resort in Finland, and lies 170 km north of the Arctic Circle. We soaked up the majestic scenery of the mountains and lakes, as we hiked through the forest and foraged for wild superfoods – that could at any time include cloudberries, lingonberries, chanterelles and porcini mushrooms – which are all free for the taking.
During the summer there are 45 days of 24 hour daylight, which culminates in a crescendo of golden hues of yellow, red and caramel in autumn. The Aurora Borealis Northern Lights show starts around mid-August and lasts through early April, and can be witnessed on any clear night. The dancing cosmic display is as dramatic and breathtaking as it is unpredictable.
We stayed at the luxurious Levi Spirit, designed as sprawling log cabin villas, with a modern Nordic decor and luxuriously appointed amenities. Situated in the middle of a forest, we appreciated how the floor to ceiling windows virtually brought nature indoors, especially as you’re cozying up by the fireplace or indulging in your ensuite hot and steamy Finnish sauna or jacuzzi – which tops out at over 110 degrees celsius.
The restaurant served Lappish and international fare with a view, specifically a 360 degrees one of the surrounding fells and plains of Lapland.

 

 

Yllas

Consisting of two authentic Lappish villages surrounded by seven fells, Yllas is a gateway to one of Finland’s most famous national parks, Pallas-Yllastunturi. We explored the park by hiking and following the trail alongside the waterfall, where it’s not uncommon to see reindeer strolling along beside you. We ended the day with an authentic Finnish sauna experience, followed by a quick frigid dip in Lake Akaslompolo, for the ultimate hot/cold experience.
Perfectly located at the base of one of the gondola lifts in Yllasjarvi is the Lapland Hotels’ Saga, which offers magnificent and changing views of the landscape depending on the time of day and year from its vantage point of 1000 feet above sea level. Our room featured contemporary Finnish decor, with a private balcony overlooking the slopes, and we warmed up from the outdoors by the fireplace. There are also spa and sauna facilities on site.
We tasted traditional Sami and Lappish dishes at the cozy Restaurant Rouhe, which uses locally sourced ingredients for a seasonally changing menu. Some of the local specialties included sautéed reindeer with lingonberries, braised lamb shank in a rich blackcurrent sauce, and oven roasted arctic char and pike perch.

 

 

Ruka

Ruka is a stunningly beautiful ski resort – but it was very much about where we were staying. Indeed, Rukan Salonki Chalets offers charming lakeside log cabins in the middle of Lappish nature, with decor created from locally sourced materials, embodying the spirit of Lapland, with the comforts of home and a few luxurious touches. Naturally, each chalet also came equipped with an ensuite sauna.
Perhaps our favorite meal of the trip, the fine dining spot Restaurant Rukan Kuksa offered a seasonally shifting menu created from the wild food and ingredients harvested around the Lapland. The atmosphere was chic but cozy.
But we couldn’t leave the Lapland without a Forest Yoga session with MyTrail, meditating atop a peak bathed in the warm light of the sunset under a canopy of birch trees. The majestic scenery of the verdant valley and rivers below made it a truly unforgettable experience.

 

 

Getting There by Finnair 

The most convenient and luxurious way to travel to the Lapland from the US is via Finnair, which offers daily direct flights to Helsinki from JFK, with easy connections to destinations in the Lapland. Their Nordic Business Class represents all the best of that legendary Scandinavian hospitality (i.e. a lovely staff), with flat reclining seats, signature menus created by top Finnish chefs, a signature Finnish cocktail program (no more dull airplane vodka tonics), and, our favorite, the very fashionable Marimekko designed amenities kit.

 

 

Trending Cities: Is Columbus, Ohio as Hip as The Hype?

 

 

In 2017, a Yelp analysis deemed Columbus, Ohio to be the nation’s #1 market for the cultivation of the more and more vaguely defined…”hipster” market. This sort of meant that if you intended to open a millennial-friendly business, or were hoping to peddle apartments (preferably in converted warehouses) to said demo, this was pretty much the place to do it.

A long time swing state, Ohio seems to have troublingly tipped a bit over into the Red recently – though that doesn’t seem at all apparent in cities like Cleveland and Columbus. The latter has poured civic financial support into programs for the arts (surely much to the horror of local 45 supporters); and, well, the city is ever excitingly abuzz with university students. These days, Short North / Clintonville is where most of the action is.

Into all this hipsterifficness has recently debuted the extravagantly named Canopy by Hilton Columbus Downtown Short North. It’s the 12th entry into the hotel giant’s new-ish boutique brand, which takes a particularly artful approach to 21st Century hospitality – evident to us as soon as we entered the cavernous lobby, with its lively Central Market House restaurant greeting guests with an immediate dose of dazzle.

 

 

Short North is characterized by an astonishingly long stretch of North High Street, which seemed to be home to about 450 restaurants and bars. Naturally, for a town full of students, there is a fussy coffee culture – which meant our first stop on our recent visit would be One Line Coffee, where we learned the rarefied but approachable art of “cupping.” It’s rather like wine tasting, except the people doing it (in this case, One Line partner Mark Forman) actually seem quite a bit more serious about it. As several of their top – and quite aromatic – varieties were put before us, we detected notes of flowers, fruits and nearly anything else you can imagine, thus coming to more deeply appreciate the fragrant qualities of really, really good coffee. The honey latte was a particular fave.

The aforementioned support for the arts was evident straight away in the so many public murals lining Short North’s main drag. Featured artists included Andrea Meyers, April Sunami, Melissa Ayote and the ideologically driven Omar Shaheed, born in nearby Youngstown. We were most taken with Terry Norman’s vivid portrait of Richard Pryor, who seemed to be stuck somewhere between laughing and wincing – which is really just what you’d expect of him.

Columbus also has destination worthy exhibits going on at any given time. At the nearby Hammond Harkins Galleries, a text based show by Jenny Holzer was/is currently running. And the Dublin Arts Council is showing Cuba in Columbus, an homage to the cultural exchange the city shares with the controversial Caribbean island, until November 15. Also worth a stop are the Sean Christopher Gallery and Studios on High Gallery.

 

 

The sheer number of restaurants along North High was nothing if not apoplexy inducing. For lunch we opted for Harvey & Ed’s, which was something of a groovy take on the classic Jewish deli; but to give one an idea of the pace of change in Columbus these days, the 16 month old eatery is already temporarily closing, to be morphed into a new concept by its owners.

But local epicures have been congregating in great numbers at North Market, which is humming away at any time of the day, and is actually about to expand into nearby Dublin. Of course, food halls can be crowded, dimly atmosphered places, where the sights and smells sort of blend together and overwhelm each other. Yet this one was very much a civilized affair, with space to move around, and plenty of light flooding in from all sides.

Being early afternoon, we were tempted to settle into the Barrel & Bottle wine bar – but opted instead for a fix on another kind: lavender ice cream at Jeni’s Splendid. which we quickly added to our last-meal-on-earth list. One should make a point to stop at Hoyo’s Kitchen, a popular Somalian spot in the market that stands as a symbol of the 60,000 strong local Somali population.

 

 

Just up the street, the chic little MMELO was an absolute treat, literally, for our Belgophilic hearts. A chocolate shop with a level of creativity and style (this was basically confection as fashion) as to surely have them upping their game in Brussels and Zurich, they were so of-the-moment as to feature KETO, vegan and gluten free options; but their wildly designed and ridiculously decadent Chocolate Tea Cakes exhibited little concern for all that trendy tweeness. Carmelized Banana Caramel with Pecan? Why of course.

Later, we found the late afternoon scene at Seventh Son Brewing Co. to be impressively energetic – and the Qahwah Turkish coffee stout, as well as the Goo Goo Muck tart IPA very much to our liking. The latter, named for the Cramps song, hinted at their excellent taste in music – which was confirmed by several obscure new wave gems coming over the soundsystem, including Devo’s “Pink Pussycat.”

 

 

Nearby Wolf’s Ridge was actually a pretty sophisticated affair, at whose Taproom we sampled a very strong (10.4%) Coffee Vanilla Dire Wolf Stout and a Hefe & Wedge Orange Hefewiezen, both of which will forever alter your notion of creative brewing. The elegant but energetic dining room turned out international fare like Sakura Wagyu strip steak, Chinese 5 spice duck, braised oxtail, and Faroe Island salmon with roasted root vegetables. They weren’t at all offended when we ordered up a a few bottles of wine with dinner.

No surprise, cocktail culture has reached Columbus, and Antiques on High is Seventh Son’s urbane spot for artful tipples like the Draft Punk (cognac, Lillet Rose, orange blossom, tonic) and Yuzu That You Do (tequila, mezcal, Choya Yuzu, sherry-vermouth, grapefruit, citrus, orange blossom water).

Which brought us full circle back to the Canopy, and its new Goodale Station rooftop bar – where we were given a little pre-opening preview and mixology class. Created in partnership with NYC’s exalted drinks alchemists Death & Co, it offered heart-racing views of the dynamic city below – a city which had intrigued us enough to want to return sooner than later. Especially if it involves more chocolate.

 

 

Canopy by Hilton Columbus Downtown Short North

Perhaps Hilton’s most intriguing new brand, Canopy has been populating the international hospitality landscape from Portland to Iceland with a singular panache. Not at all attempting to be scenestery, rather they build hotels around the local DNA, making for a unique experience from city to city.

In Columbus, however, they might not be able to not make a scene, with the October 17 debut of the hotel’s much talked about rooftop bar Goodale – and those aforementioned Death & Co created cocktails. Though we departed before the opening, we were more than satisfied with the feasting we undertook at Canopy’s Central Market House restaurant, where chef Tripp Maudlin (a Michael Mina alum) focuses on simplicity and flavor. So unfussy dishes like sweet potato & coconut soup, ricotta & shishito tartine, spiced lamb flatbread and the curry chickpea bowl all seemed as exciting as much more complex fare.

Elsewhere, the hotel is rife with thoughtful amenities: to wit, a dedicated shower area, should your room not be ready upon check-in; and the Retreat lounge, complete with brick-walled terrace – which feels more like a living room than a shared work space.

The stylishly un-showy rooms had attractively muted color schemes, and carpets flowing into wood floors, giving them a bit of a comfy, residential feel. Prodigious windows framed the handsome downtown Columbus skyline.