Nine Questions About Fine Agave Spirits w/ Revel

 

 

Despite there being some very good tequilas, it’s a spirit, not unlike rum, that has a fairly workaday reputation. Old money still prefers brandy, port or a good scotch for those evenings of long-winded pontificating at old money hotel bars and such. Mezcal, of course, brought a dose of the hipsteriffic into the category—but it never really elevated above its Brooklyn-y sort of cool.

But Revel Spirits has been crafting fine agave spirits that are neither tequila nor mezcal since 2012, steadily winning over the sipping classes with their elegant trio of offerings. Of course, being aesthetes as we are, we ourselves were instantly seduced by the cool, modernista bottle design. In fact, at first glance, it’s not hard to imagine one has possibly encountered a new Tom Ford fragrance, with bottle styling by Zaha Hadid Architects.

 

 

But what is contained within is what really made our tastes buds flutter. The seductively clear Blanco is smooth as silk, offering a sort of herbal, citrusy mellowness—it’s as clean as the Arctic sea. While the Reposado is all rustic, earthy elegance and warmth—and we detected hints of nutmeg, porcini, and even a wisp of banana. And finally, the Anejo just might be the most luxurious product of the agave plant since, well…ever. And its stately, urbane packaging would likely be enough to bring the Tiffany design department to tears.

But with National Tequila Day upon us (today, July 24 to be exact), we asked Revel CEO and founder Micah McFarlane to further enlighten us on the differences between agave spirits. They were also kind enough to grace us with the recipes for a few signature specialty cocktails—the perfect change up for your Tequila Day celebrations.

 

 

What is an agave spirit? 

Any distilled spirit made from an agave plant. The most commonly known agave spirit is tequila. However, many consumers are not aware that tequila is just a subcategory of agave spirits, and there are several others with unique flavor profiles, such as mezcal, bacanora and avila.

How are the others distinguished from tequila?

By law, tequila must be produced in a specific region of Mexico, primarily Jalisco, in addition to four other states—it must be made from only one variety of agave, Blue Weber, and is required to contain at least 51% agave. The traditional production method for tequila is steaming the pinas (heart of the agave) in autoclave ovens, which differs from mezcal (pinas are roasted in earthen pits) and avila (roasted and steamed).
Mezcal and avila, on the other hand, can be made from different varieties of agave. Mezcal can be produced in nine different areas of Mexico, while avila is made in the state of Morelos.

So that is where Revel is from?

Yes, Revel Avila is made in Morelos, a state which is crowned by an active volcano, making the lands that surround it rich with minerals—a fertile environment for growing agave.

What are the individual characteristics of the Blanco, Anejo and Reposado?

Blanco: Unaged, which leaves it with a very clean and crisp agave flavor. It also displays notes of citrus and lemongrass and can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or goes great in almost any type of cocktail.
Reposado: It’s often referred to by fans as the whisky of agave spirits. It picks up its traditional whisky notes of smoke, wood and caramel both from the once-used American Oak Whiskey barrels that it rests in for 12 months, as well as the production method of roasting/smoking 70% of the pinas underground before fermentation and distillation.
Anejo: Rests for 24 months in New French Oak barrels, giving it its beautiful amber color, as well as its deep and robust flavor. Some of the tasting notes associated with it are vanilla, caramel and cardamom, which are all intensified by the higher proofing on this expression (96 proof).

Can you reveal something unique about the process of making an agave spirit?

During the distillation process three compounds are released from the still, the apparatus used to distill liquid mixtures:
  • the heads (the poisonous compound of the distillate that is disposed of)
  • the hearts (the compound that is collected – it’s primarily ethanol and the good flavors)
  • the tails (the remaining biproduct which is lower alcohol content and usually consists of bad flavors and aromas – it is often redistilled).
The order in which these three compounds are released during distillation for all other spirits is first the heads, then the hearts, then the tails. But with agave spirits it’s the opposite, the tails are first, then the heart, then the heads.
Furthermore, like wines, the region and terroir impact the quality and taste of the spirit. Avila for example uses agave that is grown in mineral rich soil at the base of a volcano, and the land hasn’t been over-farmed like the soil where tequila is made, which produces a higher quality product.

The bottle design is stunning – how did that come about?

As a new brand catering to a higher-end audience, we wanted to break away from the stereotypical “Mexican” imagery you see from many tequila brands. We wanted to create a bottle that was more contemporary and luxurious, to match the quality of the juice inside. We wanted to make sure it stood out on the bar cart.
Additionally, we didn’t want to forget our roots, which is why the closure pays homage to a Mesoamerican Pyramid, a nod to the ancient tradition of agave spirits in that region.

Mezcal became very popular in the last several years. Do you see a trend now towards something else?

Mezcal is the second agave spirit, after tequila, to gain popularity in the United States and globally, which can only lead to an uptick in interest in other agave spirits. Just the fact that consumers are beginning to understand the differences between tequila and mezcal is a huge milestone and success for agave spirits across the board, and we certainly anticipate the trend to extend to other agave spirits.

How are Revel spirits best enjoyed? On their own, of course. But do they also pair well with food?

Revel Avila is best enjoyed neat; however they can be mixed. Additionally, Revel Avila Anejo is an amazing after-dinner drink, paired with a decadent dessert like pumpkin pie or chocolate.

Who is the Revel drinker?

Drinkers of Revel Avila are those who are interested expanding their palate, and above all else, enjoy a quality spirit. The bottle attracts drinkers who are interested in high-end products, but at the end of the day, it’s the taste and quality of the juice inside the bottle that brings people back.

 

 

 

Recommended Revel Specialty Cocktails

 

Last Mango In Morelos

  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz spiced mango and coconut puree
  • 3/4 oz Paranubes Oaxacan Rum (we used Paranubes Oaxacan rum because of it’s funky, tropical flavor profile)
  • 1 1/2 oz Revel Blanco
**Garnish with fresh mango fan, lime wheel and a generous dusting of Tajin (If you don’t have Tajin, mix cayenne pepper with sea salt as a substitute)
**Spiced mango and coconut puree:
  • 2 champagne mangos puréed
  • 1/2 of a 13.5 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup of filtered water
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • Pinch of salt
**Combine all ingredients in a pan over medium heat until emulsified**

 

En Mi Casa

  • 1/2 oz Fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz Pomegranate Juice (We used POM Wonderful brand which is easily accessible at most grocery stores.)
  • 3/4 2:1 Rosemary Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz Revel Blanco
**Garnish : Expressed orange peel and flamed rosemary
**Make your rosemary simple syrup by combining 1 cup of cane sugar or granulated with 1/2 a cup of filtered water in a pot over medium heat, add in 3-4 rosemary sprigs (leaves removed) and allow sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar has dissolved turn the heat to low and let the mixture sit for at least 20 minutes to achieve adequate potency, then strain out the rosemary and it’s good to go!

 

Stuck in Emerald Bay

  • 1 oz Revel Blanco
  • 3/4 oz G.E. Massenez Crème de Gingembre
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 2 oz FeverTree Ginger Beer
  • 5 oz Prosecco
**Build all ingredients over ice in the largest wine glass you can find. Garnish with lemon twist and candied ginger.

 

Summer ‘Buyout’ Destination: The Catskills’ Eastwind Hotel & Bar

 

 

Obviously seeking creative ways to decisively bounce back from this bottom-line-devastating pandemic, hotels have gotten impressively creative—for instance, those clever “buy now, stay later” programs. And fast emerging is a new “buyout” trend, wherein one assembles one’s most beloved friends and family to take over an entire hotel for a weekend or more. Kind of like a wedding party, except no one has to deal with the responsibility of actually getting married.

Kilkea Castle in Ireland, for instance, can be had for just $8000 a night. Head over to the Continent, and France’s Hotel Château du Grand Lucé is going for precisely double that—and well worth it, we must add. But since Europa remains off limits to Americans now (see what happens when you don’t wear your masks?), we’re obviously inclined to propose something distinctly more geographically attainable.

 

 

Now certainly The Catskills, the sprawling Upstate New York region just about two hours from NYC, is going on about 15 years of steady hype—yet has somehow remained pretty much unspoiled by the usual urbanista plunderers. Perhaps because it is yet still a bit sylvan for pampered cosmopolitan types? But we spent a weekend last year at the casual chic Eastwind Hotel & Bar (located in Windham and new to the scene in 2018), to where you can get decisively away from all those maddening NYC stresses—as well as the heightened social distancing issues—and yet not really want for any of the perks of being in a big city.

And yes, the hotel is now offering two-night buyouts for just $9000 in total. This includes 16 rooms and suites spread over two buildings, plus three Lushna Cabins, should you choose to invite your, um, glamping friends. It’s all done up very stylishly in an aesthetic we could only admiringly describe as Scandi-rustic, far more appealing than all the faux-farm hipsterati stuff that has so blighted Brooklyn these last several years.

 

 

And you could really only be bored at the Eastwind if you wanted to be. Windham Path, Diamond Notch Falls, and Mine Kill Falls are just a few of the ridiculously scenic hiking trails; there is mountain biking, horseback riding, yoga on the lawn, and even an authentic wood-barrel, Finnish style sauna; and, for the foodsters in your group, opportunities for local foraging. There are also two Writer’s Studios amongst the rooms, should you choose to ignore your companions, and instead spend the time finishing your Great American Novel.

“We have definitely seen an increase in bookings over the last few weeks,” says Co-Founder Bjorn Boyer. “People are wanting to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and there are an array of options for our guests such as hiking, biking and fishing. Eastwind provides a quiet place to unwind, reconnect with friends and family, or work remotely. From a contactless check-in to breakfast delivered to your room, we are continuing to do everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our guests and staff.”

 

 

We we visited, we were admittedly most content just playing games in the lounge, or chatting up the bartender over martinis and manhattans. But the Eastwind serves up five-star level breakfasts and dinners in that same lounge area, which can also be enjoyed by the fire pit or elsewhere out on the lawn (though keep an eye out for picnic stealing Yogi Bear types).

Boyer concludes, “Guests who buyout Eastwind can enjoy all of the property’s no contact amenities: cocktails can be delivered to outdoor decks, or even to guests’ rooms…or anywhere they are on the property. Staff can also provide group buyouts with outdoor BBQ dinners prepared over an Argentinian wood fired grill, and served under the stars.”

And considering how much time since March we’ve spent staring up at the ceiling, those stars actually sounding really good right now.

 

Capital Re-Opening: The View From the Palomar Hotel DC

 

 

 

If there’s a city whose pandemic experience has been particularly piqued, it is surely Washington, DC. With the District recently fighting once again for Statehood, it is also “home” to an administration proven to be particularly incapable of dealing with the crisis—and politics, certainly, are injected into nearly every facet of life here. But it was the Northeast Corridor cities, after being the initial epicenter, that proved most effective at getting the coronavirus effectively under control…and so can cautiously get to the business of each phase of the re-opening plan.

At last able to travel, we were intrigued by the possibility of taking in the view of the mitigated Independence Day celebrations from the capital itself—hopping aboard a thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and luxurious Amtrak train (more on that in another story), arriving on the 4th in a Union Station that was as quiet as we’d ever seen it. But checking in to the stylish Kimpton Hotel Palomar DC, there was a sense that its buzzy Dupont Circle neighborhood was indeed springing back to life.

 

 

The Palomar itself is one of the more impressive embodiments of the boutique hotel tenets, in a city that has generally fostered a culture of efficient business chain brands and high-end luxury hotels. Our Spa Suite had a massive jetted tub, which, considering the heat outside, we could have spent all day in—especially with the royalty-worthy marble bathroom that surrounded it.

The rooms are brazenly but urbanely stylish for the buttoned-up city, with wildly patterned carpets, primary color schemes, and contemporary Deco-style furnishings. The red brick edifices just outside our windows were a charming visual counter to the usual straining for a glimpse of a distant monument.

Outdoor tables normally thrum with summertime energy along the streets spreading out from Dupont Circle; but taking a stroll, it was encouraging just to witness a social scene at all. As of June 24, more than 150 restaurants and shops had undertaken Phase II reopening measures, and there was a palpable sense of relief and hope hanging in the air. But we were actually excited to return to the hotel for the beloved Kimpton “Wine Hour,” until we realized that it was likely one of the many casualties of the pandemic. Still, upon our re-arrival, someone at reception asked if they could pour us a glass—which turned out to be a crisp chardonnay that was a perfect antidote to a very hot day. We were just unable to mingle with other guests while enjoying it.

 

 

On the way back to the Palomar, we had started up a conversation with a Lyft driver from Nepal, who shared his story of how this administration’s policies had sadly kept his wife from joining him in America; though we were able to joke a little about how we might all consider Canada as a future option. But on the 4th of July, it was a stark statement on America and immigration. “There would be no Silicon Valley without immigrants,” he insisted. He was absolutely correct, of course.

Later, we headed down to the Palomar’s own Urbana restaurant and lounge, which, since a $600k makeover in 2014, has been one of the area’s most consistently buzzing epicurean destinations—but it was, for now, relegated to carefully orchestrated social distancing policies, as well as its outdoor tables along elegant P Street. We made great new friends in staff members Kelly and Lauren, the latter of whom mixed nothing short of a perfect dirty martini—to be paired with a plate of warm roasted olives. God, how we missed such things.

Later, we undertook the obligatory act of walking down 14th Street towards the Washington Monument for the annual grand fireworks display. We wondered what our first president would have thought of America’s current socio-political climate, considering the vast reassessment of the so-called icons of our history. We’re actually not much for patriotic pageantry, preferring decisive action to symbolism. But then, it’s never too hard to enjoy colorful explosions in the sky.

 

 

Perhaps appropriately, What’s Eating America? was currently on MSNBC when we returned to the hotel. We didn’t wait for an answer, instead choosing to make good use of that aforementioned jetted-tub.

The following day, we were saddened to walk by a still shuttered Phillips Collection museum—where we have spent many a morning thrilling to Braque, Cézanne, Degas, El Greco, Klee, Matisse, Picasso and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s exalted impressionist masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Later we sidewalk table hopped along P Street to some of the Palomar’s hipper neighbors: Sorellina, Chiko, and chic little bar-slash-coffee-shop Emissary. At the latter, we chatted up a pair of particularly stylish Russian girls, before a jealous little dachshund puppy intervened with his own brand of irresistible flirting (he obviously knew how important immigrants were to America). As we took in the whole scene, we thought that the vibe and visual overview reminded us a bit of Notting Hill—and so popped on an appropriately Britpop soundtrack to groove the rest of the afternoon away to.

Back at Urbana, we treated ourselves to one of the best “artisan” pizzas we could recall in quite some time: their specialty Maiale pie—which literally translates to “pig.”

Needless to say, we “pigged out” like there might just be no tomorrow.

 

It’s Bastille Day: And Here is a Truly Extravagant Way to Celebrate

 

 

 

With the modern history of our countries so inexorably intertwined, you’d think France and America would play a little nicer in the geopolitical sandbox. The latter’s Independence Day—which celebrates something the French helped us win—has just come and gone, and the former’s Bastille Day (July 14), which was influenced by the latter, is now upon us. Let’s all get along, no?

Alas, the Stateside tradition of celebrating the turning point of the French Revolution is mostly confined to our major urban areas. And now this insidious pandemic has even made that nigh impossible. But American Francophiles with a taste for more than just a classic salade Lyonnais or simple bavette steak can now get their Gallic on Michelin style, via an opulent new partnership between NYC’s Gastronome Catering—headed by Pop Burger founder Jonathan Weizmann—Studio3, and beloved French elderflower liqueur St-Germain.

 

 

Indeed, the aforementioned three have combined their epicurean and stylistic acumen to create a special Bastille Day gourmet tasting kit, aptly titled Menu du Quatorze Juillet. The exquisite four-course dinner, by venerable Gastronome Chef Alex Ureña, starts with uni & caviar, moves elegantly on to peekytoe crab with avocado, gets serious with roasted chicken avec oyster mushrooms and spinach/parmesan puree, then finishes beautifully and sweetly with an irresistible pamplemousse custard. And all paired with delectable St-Germain Spritz cocktails.

“It was not me alone,” Weizmann explains of its inception, “but it was reaching out and seeking to develop an idea, and then using the potential of the talent, from Studio3 to St-Germain and on to Chef Ureña. This is something deeper than simply a menu; it is about people coming together and creating something unique in this difficult time.”

The special packaging, by Studio3, is also an essential element of its epicurean/aesthetic appeal.

“It is so important to choose and work with people who are experts at their craft,” Weizmann insists. And Studio3 are amazing at what they do. This luxury meal kit was packaged with TLC…every detail was handled with care and branded to perfection. All the senses are awakened, with the goal of transporting the recipient to another place. In this case, France!”

And certainly, 231 years of ironic distance means that we can, indeed, celebrate Bastille Day luxuriously.

To purchase a Menu du Quatorze Juillet Bastille Day gourmet tasting kit, visit Gastronomecatering.com. At just $250 for two people, it will be delivered directly to your door. And, because why not, it will be available through August 14.

 

National Tequila Day: Three Singularly Sultry Cocktail Recipes from El Tequileño

 

 

Like champagne, tequila has a denomination of origin, meaning that it must be produced in one of five Mexican states:  Guanajuanto, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Jalisco, the main tequila producing region, where you can also find the town of the same name. It’s located about 320 miles from Mexico City. And aren’t we all interested in origin these days?

This is at least the most basic of information you’ll need to properly celebrate National Tequila Day, this year landing on Friday, July 24. It’s also necessary to select a sip that exhibits your knowledge and good taste…one of which is most definitely small maker El Tequileño (pronounced “El Tek-Eh-lane-yo”). It has only been available in the States since 2019 (a venture now under the direction of Florida’s Paradise Spirits), though its history reaches back to 1959, when the US and Mexico had, shall we say, significantly better relations.

 

 

And from their smooth Blanco, on to their luxurious Platinum, and further on to their coveted Reposado Rare, the taste and textural spectrum is decidedly impressive…and inclusive.

This August, flying in the face of a pandemic-plagued travel biz, the brand will also open a chic little bolthole, directly adjacent to the distillery, and pithily names the Casa Salles Hotel Boutique. It will feature just 25 rooms, a pool, a spa and restaurant—and is just the sort of place to sub for the stays in charming little palazzos in Florence that we won’t be having.

But for now, with National Tequila Day fast approaching, we asked the good people of El Tequileño to grace us with three of their most interesting cocktail recipes, so that we might celebrate in style—because, of course, we would never do anything less.

 

 

El Tequileño Blanco | Cocktail: La Batanga

Ingredients:
2oz El Tequileño Blanco
1oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Top with Mexican Cola
Method: Coat the rim of a highball glass with coarse sea salt, fill the glass with cubed ice, add El Tequileño Blanco and freshly squeezed lime juice, top with Mexican Cola. Stir with knife.
About: Created by the late Don Javier Delgado, founder of world famous Cantina La Capilla in the magical town of tequila, La Batanga has been the signature drink of his establishment since the early 60s and has always been made with El Tequileño Blanco. It is always stirred with the same knife that is used to cut the limes, as Don Javier would say it added flavor.

 

El Tequileño Reposado | Cocktail: Mango Margarita

Ingredients:
1.5oz El Tequileño Reposado
2oz Mango Puree
1oz Mango Liqueur
1.5oz fresh lime juice
Method: Add all ingredients to a shaker over fresh cubed ice. Shake until ice cold. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with a piece of dehydrated mango
About: Located within the El Tequileño distillery grounds are 14 mature mango trees around 150 years old. These mango trees have a natural influence during the open fermentation process and positively impact the resulting flavor profile of El Tequileño tequila. During the months of June & July the mangos are ripe to pick and we like to create fresh mango margaritas

 

El Tequileño Platinum | Cocktail: El Dragon Rosado

Ingredients:
2oz El Tequileño Platinum
1oz Lime Juice
1oz Agave Nectar
1 whole dragon fruit flesh
Method: Add all ingredients to a blender, add one cup of ice and blend until smooth. Serve in a rocks glassed with a salt rim, garnish with dragon fruit slice and mint sprig
About: Throughout the region of Jalisco, you can find an abundance of a specific Cactus species that produces a fruit that locals call ‘Pitaya roja’ aka ‘Dragon Fruit’. Around the town of tequila there are many of these cactus plants which produce fruit which is harvested during the summer months!

 

Harold’s SoHo Perfects the NYC Restaurant Re-Opening

 

 

 

From sea to other shining sea, a tragic impatience in the face of real casualties saw restaurants and bars rush to re-open, only to have coronavirus cases escalate—forcing a defeated retreat.

But, after being the original American epicenter of the pandemic, New York City rose up to be a paragon of responsibility, and the resulting significant slow down of new cases was its reward. Gotham, of course, is one of the most social places in the universe, where small apartments drive people steadily into bars and restaurants—and so no one needed a return to that “normal” more than did it.

The west side of SoHo had in the last several years had become more of an epicurean destination than it had ever been, really. And its more notable dining spots have been valiantly springing back to life. Houseman Chef/Owner Ned Baldwin—formerly of Prune—had taken to (legally) setting up tables between parking spaces, creating a whole new sort of…installation art. And trendy Westville had come alive on the sidewalk, where we downed a Sunday afternoon bottle of prosecco just before a spectacular thundershower. It did indeed, feel a bit normal.

 

 

But Harold’s restaurant at the Arlo SoHo hotel, which had become as popular as the hotel’s very, very popular rooftop bar A.R.T. SoHo, was blessed with a “hidden” garden area, complete with two fully functional rustic cabins, where one can feel shut away from all the towering edifices just beyond. So we booked a table on its first night back in biz (it had been doing takeout for guests and locals since the lockdown), and the sheer exhilaration of having a waiter ask “Can I take your order?” could not be over-exaggerated. But it took some real work to get there.

“Forecasting of all our costs, redesigns of our floor plan, and a very different approach to our product,” Arlo Director of Food & Beverage Gary Wallach explained. “We have only been able to bring back a minimal number of staff members. With that comes restrictions on what we can accomplish, especially when our main goal is the safety of guests.”

Still, we had strolled confidently into the aforementioned garden to a well-chosen funk / R&B soundtrack, including Tinashe’s groovalicious cover of “Genius of Love.” A good start indeed.

 

 

The menu was limited, a reasonable decision; but food choices at Harold’s were never too difficult. They make one of the city’s best cheeseburgers (with an “impossible” option as well), and their prosciutto & fig pizza, as well as their healthy cobb, with crispy farro and pumpkin seeds, were both always flawless. But we inquired about the hot chicken sandwich, and unhesitatingly received a knowing nod from our server.

Tables were thoughtfully spaced more than six feet apart, and a good-looking crowd began to filter in, giving it the energy we so exigently needed to be around again. The first notes of Sade’s “Never as Good as the First Time” came through the soundsystem, and we were utterly contented.

Back to that hot chicken sandwich…confession: we ate it with a fork and knife, just to more fully replicate a typical restaurant experience. But it was also a sublime mix of textures and flavors, just hot/spicy enough to jolt us into a higher consciousness…though not too hot for anyone with a sensitive constitution. And we decided that the fries, skinny, soft and crunchy, with three heavenly tasting dipping sauces, might be the best we’ve ever, ever had. Even the cole slaw was chopped and tanged to perfection. And—this is a really big thing for us—they mixed an exemplary dirty martini, with high quality olives.

“It’s been nice to see guests within our space,” Wallach enthused. “A full restaurant equates to a feeling of fulfillment. We do this to bring people together. It’s nice to do that again.”

Yes…it definitely is.

The Arlo SoHo is asking guests to book through OpenTable for both Harold’s and the A.R.T. SoHo.

Be Here Now: Postcards From the Arlo SoHo Hotel

Images by Kristen Spielkamp

 

 

 

With the drastic shift away from physical letter writing (and even dialing the phone), to communicating by text and email, it’s really kind of charming how, when you arrive in a new town or city virtually anywhere in the world, there are plenty of postcards to purchase and send off to your loved ones—as a way to viscerally reach across the miles that separate you. Often, we put more thought into what we write on those postcards.

At NYC’s Arlo SoHo hotel, however, they’ve been put to a different use. Indeed, after checking in, one walks just a few feet to the elevators, and opposite is an entire wall of spontaneously guest-generated messages. We’ve been watching the hotel come back to life these last few weeks, as it has been valiantly returning to semi-normal from those worst moments of the pandemic in New York back in April and May. We immediately noticed a single postcard that boldly read ‘Be Here Now’—a reference to the legendarily controversial 1997 Oasis album.

 

 

But it also sent a definitive message to everyone who viewed the wall: “Wherever you are, just be there.” Which happens to be a much more poignant statement than it normally might be, in these times when so many people readily abandoned Gotham out of understandable fear. And the Arlo, we can say without hesitation, has been a place “to be” at this moment—one where you could feel a bit of that old hum of NYC, while so much else (museums, shops, wellness centers) remain closed.

It’s a completely democratic concept—the “flashcards” are there for anyone to take and pithily or extravagantly express themselves, then paste it up beside all the others. And it’s the hotel’s clever way of making everyone feel a little more connected, during a time of rather dispiriting disconnect.

Naturally, we decided to capture some of it here, also getting a couple of Arlo SoHo staff members to pen their own messages. And even if you’re not staying at the hotel, we urge you to popping by for dinner in the garden at the newly re-opened and truly excellent Harold’s restaurant on site—pausing to leave your own brilliant thoughts up on the wall before departing. It’ll feel better than a thousand Instagram posts, we promise.

 

Opening: Circulo Mexicano is Mexico City’s Most Stylish New Hotel

 

 

What now seems ages ago, a new breed of hotel began popping up everywhere from Paris to Tulum, redefining a new trend in travel, to the thrill of style-disposed global nomads. Cozy, design forward, and oozing with laidback coolness, the new breed of boutique hotels raised the bar, literally, on nightlife and the way we stay.

Grupo Habita was Latin Americas’s answer to Ian Schrager’s Morgans Hotel Group. Habita, the first boutique design hotel in Mexico City, opened in 2000, ushering in a new concept that reflected the people and neighborhoods surrounding them. Then on to Escondido Oaxaca, Condesa DF back in the capital (one of the chicest hotels anywhere, period), and so many more, the properties and the experiences they offered helped to evolve the experience of visiting some of Mexico’s most coveted destinations.

2020 marks the group’s 20th anniversary, and this week Habita unveiled its newest member of the collection, Circulo Mexicano (also a member of the prestigious Design Hotels group). Located in a 19th century residential property along the Republica de Guatemala, and reimagined by architect Ambrosi Etchegaray, the intimate, 25 room hotel is a calm, peaceful oasis in downtown Mexico City.

 

 

Outfitted with light woods and natural shades of Mexican textiles, the serene rooms are complemented with freestyle bathtubs, rain showers, and skylit patios and balconies. With sweeping views of the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Palace, and Temple Mayor, the hotel feels like an almost surreal juxtaposition of the contemporary and historical.

The rooftop terrace, a signature of Grupo Habita properties, hosts a swimming pool, a bar, and ONA Le Toit, a French restaurant that is an ode to “bistronomie,” but using Mexican ingredients. A marketplace of boutiques and galleries will soon occupy the ground floor.

Circulo Mexicano deftly intersects modern day Mexican food, fashion, and design in the center of the city’s history. And if one thing holds true as we integrate back into our suddenly interrupted lives, our love of a great boutique hotel lives on.

 

Loupe Artist Petrus Bergstrand’s Cultural Guide to Stockholm

Thielska

 

 

As unrelenting travelers, a game we’ve found ourselves playing under quarantine is one the one where we plan out trips that may or may not actually happen, recognizing that anticipation can at least provide a part of the thrill that we’ve been asked to put away for now. Naturally, scanning the slate of postponed exhibitions is a crucial element of said planning, as we honestly can’t wait to get back to our established schedule of fervent gallery and museum hopping.

Surely, the much buzzed about app Loupe has played a crucial role in helping art lovers survive this three-month cultural disconnection, with its multiple and expertly curated channels of “on demand” streaming art. In fact, during the lockdown, they notably launched a new motion art feature.

Yet still, as we can’t expect international travel to be returning to normal levels any time very soon, we asked Loupe artist Petrus Bergstrand to take us on an artistic trip through his comely hometown of Stockholm, admittedly our fave Scandinavian capital. The successful Swedish painter is known for his canvases that explore the possibilities of abstraction and surrealism, while unburdened by the narrowness of specific narratives. His work has been exhibited in New York, LA, Miami, Dubai and, obviously, Stockholm. It can also be viewed, of course, on Loupe.

“Petrus’ abstract pieces are multifaceted,” enthuses Loupe curator Nicole Kutz. “Their layers, organic forms and colors are not only striking in person, but they translate beautifully to Loupe’s streaming experience. His work truly fills a space both onscreen and in the flesh.”

The latter, of course, we’ll just have to wait for.

 

Petrus Bergstrand, The soft reality

 

Petrus Bergstrand’s Cultural Guide to Stockholm

 

Theilska

Thielska (pictured top) is an art museum at Blockhusudden on southern Djurgården. The gallery contains the financier and art collector Ernest Thiel’s collection of works of mainly Swedish painting from the 1900s. Thiel sold the building, the art collection and all the equipment to the Swedish state in 1924. This is a gem for the visitor who wants to travel back in time. Djurgården is also a large royal green park open to the public 24 hours a day. Beautiful for a nice long walk in any season.

Karlavägen

This is where the top notch Swedish galleries decided to accumulate. The area is an allé, as they call it in French, with a walking space and well curated gardens in the middle of a wide avenue going in opposite directions. You can find galleries like Forsblom, Anna Bohman, and so on—I like to go here for openings.

 

Galerie Forsblom

 

Hälsingegatan

Similar to the area around Karlavägen, in Hälsingegatan you will find many interesting galleries showing a less bourgeoisie kind of artm and a wider variety of art forms. Here you can visit my favorite small galleries Flach and Fagerstedt. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations about the route around the gallery area. They are very co-operative here and love to do simultaneous openings that end up becoming a block party (especially during summer).

Ulfsunda slott

Ulfsunda slott is the historic Queen Kristina’s hunting castle, built in the 15th Century, located right opposite my studio. This is now a conference area, gallery, spa, hotel, café, and a great place for a business meeting. In the gallery and dining area they show some great upcoming artists. You can stroll the garden, shoot pool and hang out; but it’s not really for the social party person, though. More of a tête-à-tête vibe here. I go here occasionally for an opening or a meeting.

 

 

Skånegatan / Katarina bangata

When I want to visit the southern part of Stockholm, I take a 50 minute stroll from my studio in Bromma to Skånegatan. The area has a wide range of restaurants, record shops, thrift stores and cultural hotspots. Not far from there you can find my favorite Indian eatery Shanti, located on Katarina bangata. I go here for lunch at least once a week—delicious.

Lillsjön

This is my meditation garden, and I go here for my daily power walk, to clear my mind and to reload energy. The pond is located a stone’s throw from my studio, and it can solve any problem for you with its magic in summer. Lillsjön is great for inspiration, relaxation and bird watching.

 

 

Sosta

Sosta is a little cafe found in the middle of Sveavägen. On this nice, broad avenue, planned by Jean de la Vallées, you can find a lot of bars, cafes and shops—but Sosta is a must. A small but lovely Italian place where the staff is like family from the first conversation, and the audience is a broad blend of people with one thing in common: the love good coffee.

Konstnärsbaren

The artist bar, or KB as it is most commonly called, opened in 1934, and is now somewhat of an hotspot in Stockholm’s pub life, for the artist wannabes as well the original artists. The unique murals have been painted by Sweden’s foremost talents and are matched with exhibitions by contemporary colleagues. A unique atmosphere and exciting history. Many stories have passed here. Come see for yourself.

 

 

Biljardpalatset

This is a Swedish undercover classic. Dark and gloomy, it has three floors of billiards with two bars. They usually play great music while the game is on.

Riche

This restaurant has been around since 1893, and many world-known personalities have come here. In the small bar you can enjoy DJs and live acts throughout the week. They also show contemporary art and some mostly younger, upcoming acts. At Riche you can blend in as a 23 year old or a 66 year old. A great place for a full night of fun and madness, or just a pit stop for a peek at the art, architecture, crowd and menu.