BlackBook Rooms w/ a View: The Moxy Washington, DC Downtown



Much like the daily routine of Wile E Coyote and Ralph Wolf (his sheepdog nemesis), the careful calibration of the DC political social scene has relied on Congressional sorts ripping each other—and their policies—to shreds on the House/Senate floor, then sharing a back slap and a stiff martini with one another at the Hay Adams Bar round about 7pm.

That’s virtually all gone now, as those across the aisle regard one another as a snake regards a mongoose. So seeking instead the greatest possible levels of comfort and joy on our most recent holiday visit to the capital, we strategically checked into the new-ish Moxy Washington, DC Downtown, positioned just far enough away from the sinister machinations on Capitol Hill – and with a keen understanding of how to have fun while Rome burns all around you.

Moxy the brand debuted in 2014 in Milan (my, how six years flies…), and has since come to epitomize a new sort of 3-star cool, with smallish/stylish rooms, quite reasonable rates, and lots of action going on downstairs.

Here’s what we loved about the Moxy DC.



The Check-In

It can sometimes seem a little overly cute to have a check-in desk that also functions as a coffee bar / hipster shuffleboard / eco-warrior information station. And at the Moxy DC, it is purposefully unclear at first who it is that is charged with handing you your room key. But a beacon of warmth and seasonal cheer named Rachel greeted us with such a force of endearing welcomeness, that we couldn’t help but beam right back at her. A very good start.
And she was, indeed, performing said task from behind a multi-purposed fueling station—similar to that at the Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof—which is busy at breakfast, buzzy all day, and a genuine scene in the evenings.




The Moxy couldn’t be better placed in a city that is not always eminently walkable. And heading north from the hotel (a very short distance), we came upon the glittering City Center complex, where we shared an afternoon prosecco at the charmingly bougie Fig & Olive, before browsing the luxe offerings at Dior, Bulgari, Ferragamo and Zadig+Voltaire. Walking further, we came upon the high-energy Dupont Circle. But a short stroll afterwards in the opposite direction took us to the National Portrait Gallery and then the sprawling culture complex that is the Smithsonian collection of museums – where the Cooper Hewitt’s Design Triennial is still going on.


Dior at City Center 


The Rooms

As we have noted in previous coverage, DC’s downtown has been developing quite handsomely architecturally (unlike the hideous state of NYC development). And so our 13th floor, and very well windowed room allowed us a spectacular vantage point from which to take it all in. Also included in the view was the handsome 19th Century Asbury United Methodist Church (on the National Register of Historic Places) just up the road.
As is the Moxy credo, rooms are small and quite well designed, with pegs instead of closets, and tables you can fold up and hang on the wall. We admit we weren’t quite sure why our room came with so many inflatable pink flamingoes—but we loved the cool greys-and-whites minimalism. And the spotlights on either side of the bed were a cheeky touch.
Throughout the hotel there are, of course, also the Moxy’s signature bunks, should you be a touring band from Minneapolis or Liverpool.



Bar Moxy

We are partial to a lobby scene that is reasonably amorphous, so it seems like at any moment you might just flop into a comfy couch, and quickly be handed a drinks menu – even at 11 in the morning (we didn’t test that theory). We actually took our place on one of the stylish Moxy Bar sofas on an early Sunday evening (admittedly, we hadn’t gone to church), and quickly discerned that there were quite a few music biz sorts hanging about, make phone deals and such…along with the usual mediarati types and just generally not uptight people.
The foosball table has become a bit de rigueur in Moxy type hotels, though we admittedly find the game a bit mentally exhausting—so we skipped it to focus on the entertaining people watching. The general design vibe was one of kitsch and charming sensory overload, with the hotel proudly proclaiming its iconoclasm by shunning the typical sparkly lobby Christmas tree, instead opting for a pink plastic one adorned with, yes, more similarly colored flamingoes.




When we were attending the opening of the aforementioned Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof in late 2016, we noticed an interesting phenomenon: breakfast, usually a hushed affair with everyone’s noses in their newspapers or their mobiles, was actually a bit of a scene, as if it were seven in the evening. The Moxy DC had a similar sort of morning energy, since the bar / check-in desk was actually – you guessed it – also the breakfast area.
And rather than the usual trend-flogging menu of avocado toasts and maple-bourbon pancakes, were were offered something called a “breakfast naan”—essentially, Indian flatbread slathered in cream cheese, and then piled with more cheese and bacon, and heated up into a sort of Eastern morning pizza. It is literally worth checking in just for that, it was so deliciously decadent. Plus, they have fresh squeezed orange juice—something we’ve come to expect more of the Waldorfs and Mandarins.
As we’ve come to learn, the Moxy is always good for surprise or two.




Tippling Trends: Low ABV Liqueurs Are on the Rise, Led By Milan’s Fernet-Branca




This time of year is notorious for unkept resolutions and vague attempts at “dry January.” While we support you, whoever you are, we think it’s also the perfect time to dive into low ABV (alcohol by volume) liqueurs. And perhaps the perfect post-holidays digestif might be Fernet-Branca, created as a health tonic in 1845, and still maintaining an almost zero sugar content. Although made in Milan, it has become the national drink of Argentina and a favorite in San Francisco.

Its digestive properties are well documented. Take Suburbia Today circa 1962, which recommends a splash of Fernet-Branca as a cure-all for “overeating, flatulence, hangovers, gas pains, [and] lifting yourself off the floor when you’ve mixed oysters and bananas.”

The acclaimed liqueur turns 175 this year, and while few would combine bananas and oysters these days, that hasn’t affected the company motto: “Novare serbando: renew and conserve.” And Edoardo Branca, the sixth and current family member in charge of the brand, has just reestablished offices in Manhattan. The first order of business? Making a custom in-house bar for the Branca team and visitors.



While the love of Fernet is renewed daily, it’s distilled in Milano, comprised of the original and proprietary blend of herbs, including bitter orange peel, star anise, cardamom, laurel and saffron (In fact, the Branca distillery purchases 75% of the world’s saffron—and at $5000 a pound, no less). Its sharp yet distinctive bite and signature hue are utterly distinctive.

With the New York move, Edoardo hopes to also showcase other labels in their portfolio, like Brancamenta, a mint version of Fernet, house distilled Stravecchio Branca, or “the oldest” Branca brandy, and Carpano Vermouths like Antica Formula and Punt e Mes. With America’s growing love for amaro and low ABV liqueurs in general, this makes perfect sense. According to last fall’s Nielsen reports, Carpano Vermouths are growing four times the overall category rate, and are being used in everything from Manhattans to Negronis. Top trends show that a splash in your next spritz or even a little on the rocks is on the way. And while Fernet has earned its name, Carpano Vermouths will always be the chicest member of the family.

Here, Edoardo Branca shares his personal recipe for what he calls a Reverse Negroni—for those times when you want to a cocktail without the aftermath—and a few other Fernet-forward classic tipples.



Fernet-Branca Cocktails 


Reverse Negroni

1 oz. Bitter
1 oz. London Dry gin
¼ oz. Fernet-Branca
Glass: coupe
Directions: In a mixing glass, add all ingredients and stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with orange peel.


Hanky Panky

1.5 oz Dry Gin
.75 oz Antica Formula
2 dashes Fernet-Branca
Directions: In a mixing glass, add all ingredients and stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with orange peel.


Fancuilli Cocktail

1.5 oz Rye Whiskey
.75 Punt e Mes
.25 oz Fernet-Branca
Over a Large Ice Cube With Orange Peel
Directions: In a mixing glass, add all ingredients and stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with orange peel.



2 oz Rye Whiskey
.5 oz Fernet-Branca
.25 oz Simple syrup
1 dash Angostura
Lemon twist
Directions: In a mixing glass, add all ingredients and stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with orange peel.



Elote Broccoli and Italo-Japanese Fusion: Where to Go For dineL.A. Restaurant Week

Marco Polo Trattoria


Los Angeles is a densely populated wonderland of inventive, surprising, and widely representative cuisines. The late, great food critic Jonathan Gold made it his after-work job to eat at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard one year. He covered ground all the way to Century City, “never made it to the beach,” but the telling of his journey, excavating the lesser-known gems as he ate his way through Central American, soul, and Persian-Jewish cuisines is the stuff of legend. He paints a vivid picture of what we’re dealing with here. In L.A., food is life. It’s also everywhere.

Thus, it’s impossible to try it all. For this reason, we love dineL.A. Restaurant Week, which kicks off this Friday, and goes until January 31 (right, right…that’s two weeks). It makes the intimidating challenge of sampling all those places on your list—or ones you might have never normally considered—considerably little less daunting. Over 400 restaurants participate, often curating a special prix fixe menu for the occasion. Lunches range from $20–$35 and dinners are between $39–$59 per person. 

Since 400 can still feel overwhelming, we’ve highlighted a handful of hot picks across town that you should add to your list, and then quickly tick off. (Browse the full list of participating restaurants, view menus, and make reservations at dineL.A.)


Marco Polo Trattoria

Silver Lake
Celeb Chef Casey Lane (formerly of Tasting Kitchen) puts his unique spin on coastal Italian cuisine at the newly opened Silver Lake Pool & Inn. Creamy mozzarella sits in a pool of fresh tomatoes and olive oil for his rendition of the caprese, “so you can take the bread and soak up the sauce afterwards,” he advises. For an appetizer, he scattered mason jars of preserved lemons across the table — the perfect usage for winter lemons — to spread like marmalade over grilled bread from The Larder Baking Co. To wrap it up: soft serve. Swoon. 



Orsa and Winston

Sometimes an odd concept pays off. Italian and Japanese might not seem like a eureka fusion, but Orsa and Winston makes it work, and work well. Think: lots of seafood, like the mussel and scallop chowder; or chilled soba noodles with pesto, uni, and abalone. The man behind it, Josef Centeno, has a firm grip on popular DTLA establishments. He also runs Bar Ama, Baco Mercat, and PYT. Orsa and Winston will be serving a five-course tasting menu for dineL.A.




Century City
Craft is an industry go-to brought to L.A. from New York by none other than Top Chef host Tom Colicchio. But don’t let that deter you. It’s also a great place to drink wine, people watch, and sign a network deal. For dineL.A., they’re offering a pretty impressive selection of land and sea entrees—Berkshire pork loin, Ora King salmon—to pair up with their fantastic drinks list. 




Los Feliz
Atrium, the latest brainchild of Jake Laughlin and Beau Milliken (Kettle Black, Sawyer), boasts a gorgeously designed interior loaded with plant life, light wood, high ceilings, and all the beautifully-appointed accoutrement hipsters crave, including scrumptious food. For dineL.A. they’ll be serving up elote-style broccoli, cavatelli with squash-miso broth, glazed pork cheek, and a number of other imaginative and flavor-packed dishes. 



Maple Block Meat Co.

Culver City
BBQ lovers rejoice, Maple Block’s smoked chicken, pork ribs, and brisket just might hold up to Texas…or Kansas City. Fighting words, we know, but they’re that good. Their side dishes aren’t to be missed either: buttermilk biscuits and mac and cheese with cheddar crumble and chives will leave you feeling adequately gluttonous. dineL.A. specials include a free range half chicken or the brisket and pork spare ribs combo. 



Here’s Looking at You

Once reviewed by Gold himself as “spicy, nimble and adept at crossing cultural boundaries; quick to reference street food traditions but with farmers market ingredients,” Here’s Looking at You is a collaboration between Jonathan Whitener (Animal) and Lien Ta, with a fusion focus. Indeed, they draw from Mexican, Vietnamese, and American cuisines for a style that translates to some amazing dishes you’ll see on-menu during dineL.A. week, like the hamachi crudo, brisket tartar, and beef striploin with sarsparilla.


After Nog: How to Warm Your Winter w/ Top Shelf Rum




The first time we ever drank rum it came out of a white bottle decorated with twin palm trees against a setting sun. Malibu, like Southern Comfort, is something of a gateway liquor—by the time you’ve thrown up on it a few times you are ready to move on. But while Southern Comfort might lead all the way to aged bourbons and single malts, Malibu took you to… piña coladas? Well, why not? We all know that as a beach drink, the piña colada is damn near faultless. There’s the creamy goodness of the coconut, the spikiness of pineapple, and the hit of rum. Done well, it’s a dream of tropical heaven, with a cherry on top.

After the glorious rehabilitation of gin and bourbon in the cocktail cosmos it was inevitable that rum would get its own moment. Distilleries took note of innovations such as cask finishes and longer aging more commonly associated with bourbon and Scotch malts. The result has led to more complex tastes.

Spiribam, which distributes a portfolio of Caribbean rums, includes both Martinique’s Rhum Clément and Saint Lucia Chairman’s Reserve. Clément is made from sugarcane, bestowing a fresh, smooth, pineapple-y quality to its white rum (Première Canne), while the dark rum (Clément Select Barrel) with its vanilla nose, is aged in charred oak. Try it in a mai tai, or savor it neat.



A recent acquisition, Saint Lucia’s Chairman’s Reserve ia a blend of pot and column-still rums. With its notes of Christmas spice and molasses, there’s an intrinsic warmth to it that brings out the best of a winter’s night—even in a long drink like the classic Cuba libre. Gin and whisky have their acolytes, and no one is ever going to object to vodka (it’s so wonderfully “adequate”)—but rum is the charmer that can be reliably droll (the daiquiri) or seductive (dark “n” stormy) to order.

It’s no bad thing to treat top shelf brands like these the same way you’d treat a single malt, but they are robust enough to withstand mixing and shaking. Try Chairman’s Reserve with a dash of Angostura bitters, half a cube of sugar, a teaspoon and a twist of lemon for a rum old fashioned. Or go the highball route, and mix two ounces of dark rum (Clement 10-year Aged Rum works a treat) with eight ounces of a peppy ginger beer like Reed’s from Jamaica (get the Extra Ginger Brew if you can find it), garnished with lime, for the aforementioned dark “n” stormy.


A ‘How To’ of Classic Rum Cocktails


A Perfect Hot Buttered Rum

1.5 ounces of dark rum
2 tablespoons of compound butter made from combining 2/3 lb butter, ½ cup molasses, ½ cup water, zest of one lemon, cinnamon stick, ½ vanilla bean (scraped) and 2/3 pound of butter.
Combine rum and butter in toddy glass. Top with boiling water


Chairman’s Mai Tai

1 oz Chairman’s Reserve Rum
1oz Rum Agricole
½ oz Creole Shrubb
¾ oz orgeat
1 oz fresh lime
Shake all ingredients with one cube of ice and pour into glass. Top with crushed ice and garnish with fresh mint.

Old Fashioned de Martinique (see photo top)

1 tsp sugar
3-4 dashes of bitters
2 oz of Clement Select Barrel
Grate nutmeg and cinnamon on top. Garnish with orange peel.


Piña Colada

½ fresh pineapple, peeled, cut into chunks (canned will do)
6 ounces sweetened cream of coconut (preferably Coco López)
2 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
8 ounces white rum, preferably Clément, Première Canne
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 ounces dark rum (optional)
Maraschino cherries and lime wedges (for serving)
If time, freeze pineapple pieces in a plastic bag for about three hours. In a blender, purée pineapple, cream of coconut, coconut milk, white rum, lime juice, and 3 cups ice. Pour into glasses and top each with ½ oz. dark rum and a cherry.






The New Order: 48 Hours in the Revitalized Manchester City Centre

Manchester Corn Exchange



Visiting Stockholm in 2010, we were expertly tipped off that the newly minted SoFo was the Swedish capital’s most happening new neighborhood. To be honest, we’re always a bit skeptical of such things; and, indeed, SoFo turned out to be just two cool kid cafes and a vinyl record shop. But such is the urgency to declare the next “hip” whatever.

Just prior to our latest trip to Manchester, we were similarly informed that its Ancoats neighborhood had recently secured the distinction as one of the 10 most buzziriffic hoods in the known universe. And our first night out, at a significantly happening new restaurant called Elnecot, seemed to confirm just that.

Ancoats in the 19th Century epitomized the promise of the new industrial age, which England had embraced with uncharacteristic gusto. Majestic rows of Victorian factories urged Manchester towards a new era of technological prosperity. Alas, by the mid-20th Century, that promised had all but disappeared – and decades of downturn and, well, greyness, followed.


National Football Museum


But as is the 21st Century urban drill, developers began converting those same factories into iconoclastic living spaces. In fact, we became quickly, palpably aware that Manchester City Centre had been undergoing a radical transformation upon checking into the stylish new AC by Marriott Manchester City Centre hotel – where the international media had gathered for an edition of AC Unpacked: A Conversation, a new series that brings together creative visionaries for inspirational discussions.

But we have to say we found ourselves most inspired as we actually traversed the new cityscape of this infamous birthplace of Factory Records and the Gallagher brothers. Here was our takeaway.


The Music

Being as we were unshakable American Anglophiles, for us Manchester’s allure has revolved entirely around its illustrious music history. It was here that Joy Division, The Fall, New Order, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, The Hacienda, Stone Roses, Take That, Oasis and their considerable like all rose up from tower block dreariness to international exaltation. Two post-Millennium films – Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People (2002) and Anton Corbijn’s Control (2007) – captured all the bleakness, humor, drugs, mayhem and musical genius perfectly brilliantly.
To set the mood, we programmed a playlist of Manc classics, which we left blaring in our room at all hours throughout our stay (“You and I are gonna live forever…”). And it was the contemplation of that very music that emphasized just how much everything had been changing in Manchester, for better or worst. Surely there would never be another music scene like it…so, as they say, on to the next.


New Order 


The Architecture

For as long as anyone can recall, most workaday Mancs retreated to suburbs like Didsbury or Burnage at the end of each business day. But SimpsonHaugh architects have spent the last two decades reshaping the City Centre for full-time habitation, careful not to follow the crass contemporary model of shameless, mercenary overdevelopment. One of their latest projects was the aforementioned AC hotel, where we met partner David Green for a tour of the Manchester’s landmark structures.
Since a 1500 ton IRA truck bomb devastated the area around the famous Corn Exchange building in 1996, the firm has been instrumental in moving the city forward to a new contemporary reality. Without a doubt, striking edifices like the residential No. 1 Deansgate (which, when completed in 2002, was a watershed for City Centre development), Great Jackson Street apartments/retail, the Manchester Civil Justice Centre (by architects Denton Corker Marshall), and more recently the Manchester Town Hall Extension and the Library Walk have visually transformed the city into the 21st Century urban success story that now decisively has the world’s attention.


Manchester Town Hall Extension


The Derby Day rivalry between Man United and Man City dates all the way back to 1881 – and possibly only Brazilians and Italians take their footy teams more seriously. But the National Football Museum (another headline-grabbing SimpsonHaugh project), whether you’re a fan or not, is at least a must architectural visit – as it stands like a modern Great Pyramid above Todd Street. And, well, the exhibitions are a genuinely fun afternoon’s diversion.
Still, history does ground the city; and we were riveted as we roamed the stately rooms of the neo-gothic John Rylands Library, first opened to the public in 1900. It’s considered one of the most important collections of books in the world.
But a visit to the Manchester Cathedral (dating to the 15th Century and built in the Perpendicular Gothic style), turned surreal, as we stumbled upon a “family” of teddy bears set up in a corner for an imaginary…tea party? Leaving us to wonder if it was something metaphorical, or just meant to keep the little ones occupied while the grownups ogled all the religious grandeur. Later we stumbled upon a chap setting up a full bar at the back of the church – and our curiosity netted the information that it was for some sort of music performance that evening. Only in Manchester?


John Rylands Library 



It’s hard to argue against the allure of loft-like apartments in Victorian era factories – and row after restored row now makes up one of the most visually striking neighborhoods in all of England. Sure, it’s still a little early to declare Ancoats the next Shoreditch; but along with Elnecot, groovy new spots like The Counter House, Canto, The Jane Eyre, Panda, Sugo, and a super mod bakery called Trove (with its corresponding restaurant Erst) were abuzz with media types. Here and there outside tables gave the streets the hum of emerging energy, and most of the aforementioned places shared a sort of unifying rustic-industrial aesthetic, many with factory windows gloriously framing the surrounding architecture. Yet despite the newness, it all felt very, distinctly English.
For urban trend watchers, Ancoats is most definitely worth keeping an eye on.



Epicurean Manchester

The dearth of new generation restaurants in the UK was a stark reality until chefs like Marco Pierre White and Fergus Henderson began celebrating Britishness in cooking in the swinging new post-Millennium London. That culinary revolution eventually spread north, until cities like Leeds and Birmingham were boasting Michelin stars.
In Manchester, though, we steered clear of the haute in favor of the happening. And indeed, the aforementioned Elnecot is as cool as anything in New York or London’s Chelsea or Soho, with its Corbusian aesthetic, and clever menu divided up by Nibbles, Fish, Meat, Veg and…Balls (who wouldn’t love wild mushroom pearl barley arancini?).
The hyper-fashionable 20 Stories is exactly what is says it is, and is surely the city’s most international scene (we detected Israeli, Balkan and Latin American accents). But for all the flash, and heart-stopping views, the modern British cuisine was also a genuine revelation, with Shetland cod, roasted Goosnargh duck and slow cooked pork belly all rising to the heights of the lofty location.
But easily our favorite was Mackie Mayor, a trendy but mad fun food hall in an 1858 Grade II listed building. Spread over two industrial-chic floors under a massive skylight, vendors like Baohouse, Honest Crust Pizza, Fin Fish Bar and Pico’s Tacos make it a pretty much non-stop party. From our experience, bring as many friends as possible, and don’t skimp on the gluttony.


Mackie Mayor


AC Hotel by Marriott Manchester City Centre

A sudden tourism boom leaves Manchester now playing catch up when it comes to the contemporary boutique hotel races. The AC Hotel by Marriott Manchester City Centre is a good start, opened in early 2018 at a perfect midpoint between burgeoning Ancoats and the City Centre of its title, which now hums both day and night.
As is always the case with AC, it’s very much about design, with a lobby done in urbane, earthy tones and stylishly clean lines. To the right is a lounge area that is very much the nerve center of the hotel, with creative and business types mingling and working away by day, giving the hotel a persistent sense of energy. By evening, it transforms into a lively bar, where we had the privilege of gin tasting with the Manchester Gin Company, responsible for the hotel’s signature AC G&T. It’s a “must” order – as is bringing home a bottle of their inimitable Wild Spirit gin.
Upstairs the rooms are all understated chic, with warm woods and elegantly contemporary furnishings. But best of all, generous windows frame a new Manchester skyline, one that has changed at a manageable pace – and that leaves one genuinely wondering just where the fabled music city will go next.



Mickalene Thomas and Climate Enlightenment: Six Reasons You Need to be in Baltimore This Winter

Adorned: African Women and the Art of Identity



A full forty-four years had passed since a sitting American president had declared “war” on an American city. The last time, it was Gerald Ford telling New York to “drop dead” in 1975. And in 2019—again a Republican to a Democratic-leaning city—it was Trump calling Baltimore a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” The comment was an infantile riposte to the dignified Congressman Elijah Cummings, who had dared to criticize 45.

Cummings succumbed to cancer on October 17, after decades of loyal service to his city of birth. But he would likely be pleased to know that the attention afforded Baltimore as a result of the feud would ultimately have a positive effect. After all, the media loves an underdog and, well, they don’t have much love for the antagonist-in-chief in the White House.

We popped down to Charm City for a holiday visit, and immediately came across a skinny Asian hipster kid onstage in the middle of a quirky Christmas market playing “Folsom Prison Blues” spot on. Which pretty much sums up what we love about Baltimore.

Here are six more reasons for a winter 2020 visit.


Alexander Brown restaurant



Harbor Point Ice Festival

It’s becoming clearer that climate change fallout has probably assured that the Northeast Corridor will pretty much have to stop dreaming of a white Christmas forever. So the Harbor Point Ice Festival this month becomes almost an act of nostalgia, for those lost times when things used to actually freeze in January. About 50,000 pounds of ice will be carved into mad fun interactive exhibits, including a slide and a graffiti wall. It might make you forget for a moment that 10,000 miles away, an entire continent is on fire.

From Mucha to Morris: Books of the Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is still one of the most influential styles of the last century-and-a-half. And the Walters Art Museum gathers a stunning collection of books by two of its most iconic purveyors, William Morris and Alfonse Mucha—including a special edition of Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli, with original watercolor illustrations by the latter. The permanent collection at the Walters is also one of America’s best, reaching across the millennia – so do plan to spend some time with it.



Adorned: African Women and the Art of Identity

With historically strict gender divisions in artistic output across sub-Saharan Africa, this exhibition brings together two dozen works that convey the role of women in shaping the cultural identity of the continent. For this show the exalted Baltimore Museum of Art assembled beaded aprons and capes from the Ndebele artists of South Africa, jewelry from Kenya and Tanzania, and textiles from Nigeria—each with its own set of internal signifiers underlying its aesthetic beauty. Through June 19.

Mickalene Thomas: A Moment’s Pleasure

Surely the only artist to claim Cubism and the Harlem Renaissance as influences, Mickalene Thomas’ striking collage works have made her one of contemporary art’s most powerful female voices. For this project, she has transformed the Baltimore Museum of Art’s two-story lobby into a sort of fantastical “living room,” reflecting her most vivid aesthetic signatures. Through May 2021.



The Secret Life of Earth

At one of the country’s most iconoclastic cultural institutions—the American Visionary Art Museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year—this sprawling exhibition was curated with the consultation of top global earth science researchers (you know, people who genuinely understand science). It attempts to make some sense of how our actions have disrupted the delicate balance of nature, and to clearly explicate the difference between climate and weather (a difference which some politicians seem to be having trouble with). Helpfully, it also proffers possible solutions to some of the most exigent eco problems. Through September 6.

Spectrum of Fashion

The Maryland Historical Society opened up the costume collection archives to assemble a survey of more than a hundred garments across four centuries. Designers represented include Claire McCardell, Hermès and Pierre Cardin, and there are even fashions worn by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as well as opera singer turned women’s suffrage activist Amelia Himes Walker. Through October 2020.



Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore

For proper immersion in authentic Baltimore, check in to the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, fitted into the stunning former headquarters of the B&O Railroad, a Beaux Arts masterpiece dating to 1906. Inside are acres of marble, a pair of dramatic central staircases surrounded by Tiffany stained glass, and ornate coffered ceilings. Plan to spend some time just taking it all in, and filling up your Instagram pages.
Upstairs, rooms are signature Kimpton style, with a slightly quirky, mildly flamboyant elegance. To wit, fleur de lys drapery, regal, gold checked wall coverings, and luxe furnishings. A cheeky touch are the plush leopard print robes; but particularly thoughtful is a list of items—cell phone chargers, makeup mirrors, international adapters, sewing kits, deodorant—that they will fetch for you on demand. Higher floor rooms have views to the harbor.
The adjacent B&O American Brasserie is great for a casual lunch of lobster and avocado salad or a classic white flatbread. But one of our truly new favorite restaurants, Alexander Brown, is just around the corner. In a grandiose former bank building—marble pillars, a spectacular stained glass dome—it serves up classics like crab beignets, seared scallops and chicken roulade, plus amazingly good AB Old Fashioneds at the elegant bar.



Sustainable Skating? The William Vale Hotel Opens an Ice Rink…in Brooklyn



If you went back in time to just a decade ago, most of what is happening in Williamsburg—good and bad—would have been virtually unimaginable. To wit? It’s now home to a cluster of luxury boutique hotels.

One of those hotels, the William Vale, has been bringing a bit of unexpected glam to a previously low-key corner of the hood since opening in the autumn of 2016. So its latest masterstroke may not seem so much of a surprise—though certainly the very idea of a dazzle-a-minute skating rink in this part of Brooklyn will surely be inspiring not just a few looks of disbelief.



But open through the winter season is the hotel’s succinctly named Vale Rink, high up on the 23rd floor rooftop. And playing perfectly to the current eco zeitgeist, it actually uses fully sustainable technology. Indeed, a company called Glice (get it?) produces synthetic ice, which mimics the qualities of the real thing, minus all that coldness and wetness. It also makes for a better skating experience, especially important if you’re not exactly Kristi Yamaguchi. And the fact that it doesn’t require any power or maintenance, means that it is most definitely kinder to the environment.

Best of all, from a social point of view, well…everyone is invited, not just hotel guests.



“We’re dedicated to staying well connected to the community and finding experiences that can tailor to visitors and locals alike,” says Nick Angel, General Manager of Vale Rink. “As part of this, we always wanted to introduce a skating rink to the property, and thought the rooftop would make the perfect destination. It allows us to take advantage of our unique location and views of the Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan skylines during the winter months.”

The spectacular views, of course, are including in the $20 price ($12 for kids); and there’s a on-site tent for kicking back with a hot chocolate between double axels. The hotel has also created a special Winter Retreat package, including a 15% discount on your room rate, admission for two to the rink, and a goody bag with products from Kari Gran, Popbar and Happy Socks.

We repeat…you can actually go ice skating in Williamsburg.


Winter Getaways: Montauk’s Navy Beach is Now in St. Thomas + St. Maarten

Navy Beach St. Thomas



For some four decades, Silvano Marchetto’s Da Silvano was the epicenter of downtown NYC cognoscenti socializing, before sadly closing in 2016. In the interim, daughter Leyla also got into the biz in 2009 with the beloved, but now closed, Scuderia. But sensing the increasing fashionability of once serene Montauk, she opened Navy Beach there a year later.

Its cool, breezy chic and “everyone welcome” hospitality has made it a runaway hit. And as it approaches its 10th birthday, its celebrating in an appropriately spectacular way…by spreading the love all the way to the Caribbean.


Navy Beach St. Thomas


Indeed, a gorgeous new outpost has just opened in St. Thomas, and yet another is on the way in St. Maarten. Each features similar stylistic hallmarks of the original, with checkerboard rattan chairs, rustic wooden tables, and seafaring bric-a-brac. Both also boast open-air dining, with rather dazzling watery (and yachty) views, and are part of an Island Global Yachting Ltd. partnership, being located at the latter’s superyacht destinations at Yacht Haven Grande St. Thomas and Yacht Club at Isle de Sol St. Maarten.

On the seafoody, comfort-heavy menus are Montauk clam & corn chowder, soy glazed red snapper, and island spiced blackened mahi mahi (as well as the excellent Navy Burger, for landlubbers). But plan to fly several of your best friends over for a full-on party, courtesy of the Mermaid and Pirate (aargh!) Prix-Fixes, served family style, and including crispy calamari salad, yunnan ribs and buttermilk fried chicken. Even the drinks are crazy fun, especially the rum based Frozen Bushwacker, and the tequila-jalapeno Hot Skinny Wench.

The St. Thomas location also boasts a new sister restaurant, the Mexican ISLA Cantina, and will soon add Sylvette, a French-Medi bistro. While at St. Maarten, the exclusive Sky Deck will host splashy private parties—and a gaming area, swimming pool and plush daybeds will assure it will be the island’s buzziest scene this spring and summer. Don’t miss it.


Navy Beach St. Thomas


Navy Beach St. Maarten


Navy Beach St. Maarten 

The Swish New W Aspen Hotel Will be ‘the’ Cognoscenti Magnet this Ski Season



With the news earlier this year that Greenland ha lost 11 billion tons from its disappearing ice sheet, it’s time to just accept that things are not going to be getting any cooler. And yes, that probably means shorter ski seasons.

The only reasonable answer, surely, is it make those ski seasons as fabulous as they can be imagined to be. Thankfully, W Hotels are on the case – specifically in the form of the (pun-intended) swish new W Aspen, which opened its doors this August at the end of Durant Street, which was once home to the city’s infamous Red Light District. The hotel actually sits slope-side of the 11,000-foot-plus-high Aspen Mountain, which means coveted ski-in/ski-out access.

The hotel itself – the brand’s second W Mountain Escape, after the W Verbier – is an absolute looker, with its chalet-chic exterior, wildly patterned carpets and bold color schemes set against light, warm woods in the public areas.



Specifically The Living Room, the W’s social heart, is replete with clever design references to Aspen’s silver boom history (lighting fixtures are inspired by miners’ headlamps). For après-ski indulgences, there’s an outdoor fire pit, and a dramatically suspended DJ booth in The Living Room adds sonic fuel to keep the party going long into the night.

Back upstairs, the 104 guest rooms, suites and residences nod to bohemian Aspen, with cozy Alpine touches like rustic finishes and a fireplace inspired W Mixbar. And a first for W, some rooms are tiered, opening up more living space.

The hotel also boasts the 39° restaurant, a WET Deck rooftop bar with heated pool, and a 24-hour fitness room. And should you not be ready to come down from holiday partying, the Aspen Snowmass Wintersköl festival takes over the area from January 9 – 12, with fireworks, snow sculptures and a canine winter fashion show.