Easter Accessorizing: Absolut Elyx’s Charming New Copper Rabbit Vessel

 

 

 

Despite a few misguided predictions to the contrary, we will indeed still be under quarantine conditions throughout this Easter weekend, April 10-12 to be precise. So aside from stocking up on Cadbury Eggs and possibly even scheduling a viewing of Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in Irving Berlin’s musical classic Easter Parade, the options for celebrating the holiday are going to be somewhat limited.

But perhaps consider making this Good Friday a “great” one, by mixing up a couple of “I’m All Ears” cocktails, courtesy of our friends over at Absolut Elyx. Best of all, you can do it in full cottontail stylee, with Elyx’s charmingly luxe new Copper Rabbit Drinking Vessel. It follows on in the series from their previous Unicorn, Owl, Mermaid and Gnome vessels—but this one is particularly “plush,” and surprisingly lifelike. At $299, and available via the Elyx Boutique, they are also eminently collectible.

The cocktail itself is the brainchild of Brit Gareth Evans, the drinks alchemist behind such exalted Jason Atherton restaurants as Social Eating House and City Social (both in London). So it’s like a bit of Blighty coming to you, when you obviously can’t go to it.

“Hippity hop…”

 

I’m All Ears

Created by Gareth Evans

2 parts Absolut Elyx
3 parts Carrot Juice
3 parts Blood Orange Juice
2 parts Ginger Juice
Squeezed lemon
Method: Build over ice and stir

Six Signature Belvedere Cocktails to Make While Sheltering-In

 

 

 

The stockpiling of toilet paper unquestionably brought up examinations of our shared sense of civility, as every consideration should be given right now to necessities being available for the people who need them the most. But when CNN reported late last week that sales of alcoholic beverages were up 55%, we could hardly question the reasoning. Indeed, during the harrowing uncertainty of the current pandemic quarantining, we not only need something to take a bit of the edge off, but pouring a familiar favorite drink at the end of the day can also lend a necessary sense of normality to a situation that is anything but.

Thankfully, our friends at Belvedere were kind enough to offer up the recipes for a few creative takes on cocktail classics featuring their super-premium Polish vodka (certified kosher), so that we might just use our time sheltering-in for making a new epicurean discovery or two. And to be honest, while we’d really never considered the possibilities of a “Cucumber Spritz”—it’s already become one of our new favorites, perfectly paired with everything from a no-contact-delivery artichoke-prosciutto pizza, to a night of Tiger King binge watching.

Quarantine responsibly.

 

Five Signature Belvedere Cocktails to Make at Home

Belvedere Classic Martini (pictured top)

2 oz / 60ml Belvedere Vodka
.25 oz / 7ml French Fortified Wine
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and stir over ice until very cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a pink grapefruit twist.

Belvedere Citrus Spritz

30 ml / 1  Oz Belvedere Vodka
30 ml / 1  Oz Vermouth Bianco*
3 Lemon slices
2 Fresh sprigs of mint
Top with equal parts of sparkling water and tonic water*
* FEVER TREE, made from all natural ingredients, is the recommended brand to use
Fill the Belvedere Spritz glass to the top with ice. Combine all ingredients and garnish.

Belvedere Herbal Soda

50 ml / 1½  Oz Belvedere Vodka
150 ml / ½ Oz Soda water
3-4 Dashes Peychaud Bitters
Build in highball glass over cube ice, garnish with a lemon zest.

 

Belvedere Herbal Spritz

30 ml / 1  Oz Belvedere Vodka
30 ml / 1  Oz Italian bitter
1 Rosemary stem
1 Orange slice
Top with equal parts of sparkling water and tonic water*
* FEVER TREE, made from all natural ingredients, is the recommended brand to use
Fill the Belvedere Spritz glass to the top with ice. Combine all ingredients and garnish.

Belvedere Ginger Spritz

30 ml / 1  Oz Belvedere Vodka
30 ml / 1  Oz Sweet vermouth
1 Fresh ginger slice
2 Orange slices
Top with equal parts of sparkling water and tonic water*
* FEVER TREE, made from all natural ingredients, is the recommended brand to use
Fill the Belvedere Spritz glass to the top with ice. Combine all ingredients and garnish.

Belvedere Cucumber Spritz

30 ml / 1  Oz Belvedere Vodka
30 ml / 1  Oz Dry vermouth
2 Cucumber ribbons
Top with equal parts of sparkling water and tonic water*
* FEVER TREE, made from all natural ingredients, is the recommended brand to use
Fill the Belvedere Spritz glass to the top with ice. Combine all ingredients and garnish.

 

Pandemic Survival Guide: 14 Sophisticated Cocktails to Make At Home

 

Curiously enough, while Republicans and Democrats apparently had so much trouble coming together on a vital stimulus package, there was one thing that practically everyone has seemed to agree on: liquor stores are “essential” businesses. And while we strongly recommend following the advice of medical experts in maintaining peak health during the coronavirus crisis, we also enthusiastically suggest a little self-medication each evening.

And there’s certainly no reason you should resign yourself to boring old vodka-tonics. Our friends at Absolut Elyx, Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey, Mr Black Coffee Liqueur, NYC restaurants/bars Dante, Valerie, Mister French, Pouring Ribbons and The Shanty at New York Distilling Company, Via Sophia in DC, Ocean Restaurant in Kennebunkport, LKSD Kitchen in Newport, CA, and Pelican Hill Coliseum Pool & Grill in Newport Coast, CA have all generously shared their insider tips for the types of sophisticated tipples they’ve helped us grow accustomed to, so that the quarantine period does not have to be without a dash of fabulous.

Of course, we also recommend ordering take out from these establishments (which may even include to-go cocktails) and buying gift certificates on their websites, to help them through these difficult times.

Bottoms up.

 

Garibaldi

From Dante, NYC

1.5 oz. Campari
Fresh orange juice
Glass: Garibaldi
Garnish: Orange wedge resting on rim + plastic stirrer
Method: Add 2 ice cubes to glass
Add Campari and a little of the OJ. Stir well to combine
Add 1 more ice cube and fill remainder of glass with OJ

Swedish Riviera (pictured top)

Created by Gareth Evans for Absolut Elyx

3 parts Absolut Elyx 
3 parts Coconut Water 
1 part lemon 
1 part honey 
3 parts Prosecco 
Glass: Absolut Elyx Copper Balloon Cup or Highball Glass 
Ice: Cubed 
Garnish: Cinnamon stick and orange slices 
Method: Build the ingredients over cubed ice, top with prosecco and stir gently to combine. 

Elyx Martini 

Created by Gareth Evans for Absolut Elyx

5 parts Absolut Elyx 
1 part Lillet Blanc 
Garnish: Lemon Zest 
Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir over cubed ice and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe and garnish. 

Aperol Flip

Mister French, NYC

1 oz Aperol Apéritif 
1/2 Fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 Wildflower Honey Reduction
1/2 of Egg White 
1 1/2 oz Sparkling Brut 
Garnish: Expressed Orange Oils, Orange Twist (in middle) 
Glass: Wine Glass

Espresso Martini

From Mr Black Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Espresso
Method: Shake hard, strain into coupe, garnish with a coffee bean or cacao nib

Fast Car

From the Shanty at New York Distilling Company 

2 oz Ragtime Rye Bottled in Bond
.5 oz Aperol
.5 oz Fernet
Dash Angostura Bitters 
Method: Stir, Serve up with an orange twist

 –

County Clare Cooler 

From Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey, created by Joaquín Simó, Bartender and Partner at Pouring Ribbons, NYC

2 oz Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey 
0.75 oz Unfiltered Apple Cider 
0.75 oz Lemon Juice 
0.5 oz Wildflower Honey Syrup (2 parts honey : 1 part water) 
0.25 oz Benedictine 
1 oz Ginger Beer 
Glass: Rocks 
Ice: Cylinder 
Garnish: Fanned Apple Slices 
Method: Add Ginger Beer to bottom of rocks glass. Shake & strain remaining ingredients. 

Dawn to Dusk Sour

From Marc Branden Shelton, Owner of LKSD Kitchen/Mixologist

2 oz Blackened American Whiskey
1 oz Lemon Juice
.75 oz Simple Syrup
2 Drops of Saline Solution
2 oz Float of Red Zinfandel
Method: Add Blackened, lemon, simple syrup and saline solution to cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into a chilly coupe or cocktail glass and float Red Zinfandel on top.

Fiore Piccolo

Available at Via Sophia in Washington, DC

Created by Raquel Fowler and Corey Holland for 

1 1/2 oz Plum Wine
1 oz Junmai Nigori sake
1 oz Green Tea simple
3/4 oz Strawberry Liqueur
Method: Combine all ingredients and shake; strain and serve into an old fashioned glass (or any small drinking glass at home). Garnished with an edible flower.

Due Diligence 

Created by Gareth Evans for Absolut Elyx

2 parts Absolut Elyx 
1 part Elderflower Liqueur 
1 part Lemon Juice 
1 pinch Dill 
2 parts Tonic 
Glass: Highball Glass 
Garnish: Cucumber slices 
Method: Muddle cucumber, swizzle with crushed ice, add tonic, top with ice and garnish with cucumber slices 

 

Ambrosia

Created by Raquel Fowler and Corey Holland for Via Sophia, Washington, DC

1.5 oz Don Ciccio Ambrosia Aperitivo
.05 oz Averna
1 oz Prosecco
Splash of soda water
Method: Combine all ingredients and stir. Serve in a wine glass with ice and garnish with an orange slice.

Mini Gibson

Created by Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director for Valerie, NYC

1 ¼ oz Le Gin
¼ oz House Dry Vermouth
Method: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass, fill with ice. Stir. Strain. Pour in a 3oz martini glass and garnish with a pickled pear onion.

Blood Orange Cosmo

Ocean Restaurant at Cape Arundel Inn & Resort, Kennebunkport Maine

Blood Orange Cosmo
1 1/2 oz. Tito’s Vodka
1 oz. Blood Orange Pure
1/2 oz. Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Lime juice.
Add ingredients to shaker, shake, strain into glass, garnish with a toasted orange peel.

 

Cucumber Cooler

Available at Pelican Hill’s Coliseum Pool & Grill 

1 1/2 oz Hendricks Gin
4 cucumber slices 
1/2 oz Cucumber Syrup
1 Lime Slice
4 oz Tonic
4 torn mint leaves
Method: In a cocktail tin, add four torn mint leaves, lime slice, cucumber slices, ice and gin, shake vigorously, strain cocktail over ice, top with tonic and garnish with cucumber slices

 

A Swiss Hotel Company is Offering a ‘Covid-19’ Quarantine Package

 

 

If there’s one thing you can count on during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s that human ingenuity will rise to the occasion—evidenced, for one, by the proliferation of makeshift masks.

No industry needs such ingenuity more than hospitality, a business that relies on strangers wanting or needing to spend time around other strangers. And cleverly answering that, Swiss hotelier Le Bijou Hotel & Resort Management AG has come up with the pithily named Covid-19 Service package, for those who are reasonably flush with cash and need to get out from under the stir-craziness of home quarantine.

 

 

With luxury apartment-style rooms available in Zurich, Lucerne, Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zug, they have teamed up with a private health care provider to offer on-site coronavirus testing and daily nurse visits, while all meals are delivered straight to your door (no contact with staff is necessary). The rooms themselves are equipped with every home comfort…though you’ll have to pack your own dog-eared copies of Orwell and Camus; decor is typically Swiss, sleek but restrained, and elegantly contemporary.

No surprise, it doesn’t come cheap—figure on about 800 Swiss Francs (the equivalent of roughly $824). But, well, if you’re going to ride out a pandemic, there are certainly worse places to do it than Zurich or Lucerne, right?

 

The Last Thing We Did Before NYC Lockdown Was Check Out the New Dream Downtown + Saatchi Art Collab

 

 

We’ve spent untold hours over the last eight+ years at some or other zeitgeisty happening at the Dream Downtown hotel—so it was perhaps appropriate that the last thing we did before the NYC coronavirus lockdown was to pop over to check out the hotel’s exciting new collab with Saatchi Art.

Looking back, when the Dream Downtown opened to much fanfare in summer of 2011, it quickly established itself as a hotel that could step in and pick up the slack for the fading Chelsea nightclub scene all around it. It had a rooftop bar, poolside lounge, the Electric Room by Nur Khan, and a lobby that seemed to be perpetually humming with the comings and goings of the international mediarati.

 

 

It also made a commitment to cultivating a relationship with the contemporary art world, well before pretty much everyone else came along and attempted the same thing. And nearly nine years after its debut, the new partnership with Saatchi Art merely cements that commitment—which was actually launched with sister hotel Dream Midtown—and the result now adorns the gallery area between the lobby and elevator banks.

Perhaps sensing the upcoming scaling back of non-essential travel, we actually decided to also actually check in to the Dream Downtown for the first time. And we hope in reading this, you will be inspired to take the hopeful step of planning future stays at the hotel, while we wait out the eventual ebbing of the coronavirus.

(Note, for the new Dream Downtown cancellation policy, just click here.)

 

Dream Downtown Art Collection

Prior to the partnership with Saatchi Art, the Dream Downtown already owned several notable works, most especially Shadow Secrets by Anish Kapoor, a fascinating detour from the massive sculptures that made him famous. But Serge Becker and Patrick Marando’s Beer Can Wall was hung epically within the lobby an proved particularly poignant, an assemblage of Mexican beer cans making up an American flag…what could be more relevant? But now appearing startlingly prophetic, AV One’s 2015 canvas comprised images of NYC landmarks spelling the words It Was All a Dream—and it’s hard to imagine any phrase striking a more visceral chord in the midst of this utterly surreal pandemic.

Dream Downtown + Saatchi

The partnership with Saatchi Art proves the Dream Hotels are able attract the a-list collabs, and the resultant Dream Midtown collection includes works by Jessy Cho, Camile O’Briant, Xan Padron, and Thomas Hammer. At Dream Downtown, having a dedicated gallery, rather than just scattering the art randomly about (we’ve even seen some hotels sticking it in the bathroom—oh dear), distinctly marks the hotel out as taking its program impressively seriously.
The inaugural Downtown exhibit is a bit more concise than Midtown, but no less destination-worthy. Madrid born and now New York Based, photographer Alejandro Áboli, with his “The RedLine” series, constructs fantastical realities, in which juxtapositions are intended to contort our imaginations, and provoke new perspectives. Both Los Angeles and Gotham are surreally represented.
And perhaps equally perception-altering, Brooklyn artist Neil Powell uses discarded/recycled book covers to create almost Spirographic/kaleidoscopic works that cross from collage to character study and stopping almost everywhere in between. They’re so shot full of fortuitous detail, you could ponder them for hours and not completely grasp everything going on.
“The pieces selected are by international artists who all now live in New York,” explains Rebecca Wilson, Chief Curator and Vice President, Art Advisory Saatchi Art. “The artwork offers varying perspectives of this vibrant city, and in different formats including photography, paintings, and collages.”

 

The Rooms

We have come to expect something of the current generation of design hotels: extravagantly adorned public spaces, trendy bars and restaurants…but with sort of dull rooms. The Dream Downtown, however, has some of the most originally designed chambers in New York, with large porthole windows…in our case, affording a view across the Chelsea rooftops all the way to the Empire State Building. Our Silver King room was actually smartly postmodern, with a sexy, fuzzy ottoman, Turkish style rug, shining silver headboard (the pattern of which reminded us of champagne effervescence), a brown leather, low-slung version of a director’s chair, stylish, clear globe hanging lamps, and a prodigious glass bathroom, with distinctly luxurious tiling. The low rise platform beds are actually kind of sexy, as one can make a particularly wild flop down onto them.

 

 

Winter Rose Garden

We all know the devastating current situation with bars and restaurants. Yet we don’t see the point in ceasing to talk about them, especially as they will need our support more than ever once they reopen. The Dream’s Winter Rose Garden will actually be changed over on April 30, seeing as how it will be spring—but its sheer extravagance is proof of their commitment to making this conspicuous corner of the lobby a destination unto itself. We sipped martinis and margaritas amidst 15,000 crimson red roses, going out with a glorious bit extravagance before then being confined to our apartments.

 

 

Bodega Negra

First brought over from London in 2014 by a team including nightlife honcho Serge Becker (he has since departed), the darkly lit, sensually opulent Bodega Negra, situated just off the lobby, remains one of the hippest Mexican hotspots in NYC (now run by Tao Group). While overnighting at the Dream Downtown, we hit up happy hour, with excellent $6 sangria, $8 El Diablo specialty cocktails, plus specially priced queso fundido and quesadilla rustica. It’s precisely the sort of experience we’re looking to return to once this is all over: sexy, decadent, but also easy on the wallet.

 

The Moxy Chelsea Has a New Flower Shop – We Definitely Needed That

 

 

Everyone is talking about airline stocks, and colleagues have been texting us photos of eerily empty NYC airports. Yet there has been surprisingly little talk of what hotels are going through as a result of the ominous coronavirus panic.

So we are inclined to applaud those hotels still endeavoring to spread a bit of hospitality joy amidst the hysteria. And the Moxy Chelsea, which was already a BlackBook fave, has just opened a gorgeous new flower shop, which greets visitors straight away at the entrance to the lobby. Imported all the way from London, McQueens Flowers offers guests and passersby the opportunity to witness their floral artistry firsthand—and we couldn’t think of a better way to divert from this overarching crisis than to observe such efflorescent ingenuity “in bloom.”

 

 

“McQueens Flowers has been telling stories with flowers since its founding in London in 1991,” says CEO Richard Eagleton. “After more than 25 years of sending our amazing and talented team of florists from London to create amazing floral designs for events across the U.S., we are thrilled to be embarking on a New York residency that showcases our team’s boundless creativity and the beautiful storytelling, which is at the heart of each arrangement and bouquet we produce.”

Make sure your visit includes a zip up to the Moxy’s 35th floor Fleur Room, where floral inspired cocktails like the Lilac Jane (Bombay London Dry Gin, Fresh Lime, Grapefruit Infused Pea Flower Tea, Lavender) and Aztec Marigold (Illegal Mezcal, Campari, Carpano Sweet Vermouth) will immerse you in nature’s most egalitarian bounty. Pretty…fabulous.

 

First Images: Torel Palace Porto Hotel

 

 

Over the last decade, Lisbon has finally been getting the recognition it deserves for its combination of history, breezy sophistication, and ethereal, red-tiled-roof beauty. But just about 300 km to the north, Portugal‘s second city of Porto remains one of those rare “undiscovered” European cities, with its stunning mix of architectural styles and majestic position along the Douro River.

Boutique hotel development has been correspondingly slow, and international brands like W or Andaz are certainly nowhere to be found. But independent hoteliers have been decisively taking to the task—and the gorgeous new Torel Palace Porto is the most sublime recent example of this.

 

 

From the Torel Group’s Torel Boutiques collection, it’s housed in an elegant 19th Century palace along the Rua de Entreparedes. A stunning, original skylight above a dramatic staircase sets the aesthetic tone, which strikes a delicate balance between the classical and modern. Rooms have etched ceilings, gossamer drapery, and carefully chosen antiques—yet might also hold contemporary, cow print chairs. Each is named for a famous Portuguese novelist or poet (Florbela Espanca, Raul Brandão, etc.)

The onsite restaurant is named Blind, not because you’re made to eat in the dark (that trend has long come and gone), but rather it’s a reference to José Saramago’s 1998 novel Blindness. Still, diners are also encouraged to let award-winning chef Vitor Matos and their own senses guide them through a unique culinary experience.

There’s a tiled pool (adorned by opulent chandeliers, why not?), and a SKINLIFE Wellness Suite with luxurious facial, massage and other treatments—so you get to enjoy the intimacy of a 24 room hotel, with the services of a five-star. But most of all, it’s a great reason to visit a new city that still holds untold surprises…so go, before everyone else figures it out.

 

72 Hours in Marrakech: Fancy Coffee, Secret Gardens + a Glamorous New Oberoi Hotel

 

 

 

For the last half century, Marrakech has been synonymous with the sort of glamorous boho chic style epitomized by jetsetters Talitha and Paul Getty Jr., whose 1969 photograph atop their 17th century Moorish palace by Patrick Lichfield continues to exist as an eternal style inspiration for fashion designers and decorators.

The exotic allure of Morocco‘s most cosmopolitan city continues to draw the cognoscenti, from its dramatic landscape of red desert that starkly contrasts with the snow capped Atlas Mountains, to the rise of palatial five star hotels, to the intriguing confluence of French and Arabic culture. Marrakech is indeed still a fashionable destination, but with a rich cultural history, where the old city blends effortlessly with the new, and historic architecture, landscaped gardens, handicraft shops, and authentic cafes make for endless fascinations.

Our most recent trip was specifically to check out the new exceedingly glamorous new Oberoi, Marrakech, set on 28 glorious acres just outside the city, and offering every luxury imaginable.

Here’s what we did.

 

Jardin Majorelle

In the ’70s, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge would spend extended periods of time in Marrakech to find inspiration for his collections. They were seduced by the idyllic Jardin Majorelle, an oasis of colors influenced by Henri Matisse and nature, and conceived by French painter Jacques Majorelle. In 1980, when it was going to fall victim to a real estate development project, Yves and Pierre purchased the garden and villa and lovingly restored it to its current glory. One of the most visited attractions in Marrakech, we were similarly seduced by the beautifully landscaped botanical garden, filled with exotic cacti amongst meandering paths and ponds that surround the enchanting indigo blue villa as the strikingly elegant centerpiece.

 

 

Dar El Bacha Museum of Confluences

We were excited to visit one of the best preserved examples of Moroccan architecture and design, the Dar El Bacha Musee de Confluences, which was formerly the governor’s palace and home to the notorious Thami El Ghouli, Lord of the Atlas. The elaborate masterpiece exemplifies the sumptuous lifestyle of the Pasha during the French occupation, with its luxurious decoration, elaborate courtyard, carved cedar wood paneling, coffered ceilings, and Andalusian Arab-style geometric zellige tiles.
Inside the courtyard was Bacha, one of Morocco’s most celebrated and beautifully styled coffee shops. Oozing with French colonial charm, the airy greenhouse setting was bedecked with antiques and old school waiters dressed in white jackets and fez caps (which we particularly loved). The coffee specialists guided us through their extensive menu, offering over 200 varietals and flavors, served from golden decanters with fine china place settings…yet all for a surprisingly reasonable price.

 

 

Le Jardin Secret

Tucked away off a busy street in the souk was Le Jardin Secret—The Secret Garden, of course—one of the largest and oldest palaces in the medina. Formerly known as the Riad Loukrissi, it was once the opulent home of Qaid U-Bihi, who was head of the Haha tribe. We immersed ourselves in the lush, peaceful setting of the the exquisitely laid gardens, before exploring the 400-year-old palace, which housed a wealth of information on the history of Marrakech, ancient Moroccan architecture, and Arabic culture.

 

 

Jemaa el Fna

Wandering around the souk in the ancient Medina, it felt as if time had stood still. Narrow, winding streets were filled with vendors selling Moroccan handicrafts, such as indigenous lamps, handmade shoes, woven bags, caftans, rugs, leather goods, textiles, silver jewelry, pottery…as well as Argan oil products, food and spices. We proudly learned how to haggle discounts of up to 50%. We also got a bit lost, only to realize that all roads led to the sprawling central square, Jemaa al Fna, which was a feast for the senses.
As the sun set, the square came to life as part circus and part street fair. Locals and tourists convened around different food stalls serving Moroccan tagines or spit barbecue grills, made with both familiar and more exotic parts of the animal. Snake charmers, henna tattoo artists, Berber water men, and other cultural curiosities descended for photo ops, which added to the chaotic, multi-sensorial experience…obviously not for the faint of heart.

 

 

Mimouna Restaurant

For a special dinner one evening, we headed over to the new city, characterized by posh shopping malls and wider avenues, to experience the refined but unstuffy Mimouna restaurant, in the five-star Dar Rhizlane boutique hotel. In a lush garden setting with floor to ceiling windows, it serves some of the best contemporary Moroccan cuisine in Marrakech. With a seasonally changing menu, we appreciated that the kitchen’s experiments with new flavors added an interesting twist to classic tagines and seafood dishes. The elegant dining room featured brown zelliges, a beamed ceiling and dramatic French chandeliers, making for a sumptuous atmospheric experience.

 

 

Essaouira

A two hour drive west of Marrakech was the beautiful seaside port city of Essaouira, the ideal day trip, and a favorite weekend destination for locals—who go for the wide white sand beach and surf. A special treat, on the ride over, we actually spotted goats clambering up the argan trees. Only found in this part of the world, they possess unique sets of hooves that allow them to climb and feast on the nuts up in the tree.
The name of the town translates to “little picture” in Arabic, which is appropriate, considering its picturesque setting…which you might know as Astapor, the mythical city in Game of Thrones. Navigable by foot, we started at the bustling port, filled with fishing boats, and proceeded to explore the well preserved, ancient white-walled medina, before walking up to the fort for breathtaking views of the dramatic coastline. There are any number of port cafes for freshly caught local seafood.

 

 

Oberoi, Marrakech

As the bar for luxury in Marrakech keeps rising, the recently opened Oberoi, Marrakech has gone a long way to set the new standard. Set on 28 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, filled with citrus orchards and olive groves with views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, the spectacular oasis was actually located about 25 minutes minutes from the ancient walled city—giving it a seductive air of seclusion.
A testament to the intricate craftsmanship of Moroccan design, the central courtyard was modeled after the historic 14th Century Medersa Ben Youssef, and designed by world renowned architect Patrick Collier. It incorporates dazzling design elements, including a large shallow reflection pool, intricate archways and tile work which was all hand created by over 500 Moroccan artisans, taking five years to complete. And it shows.
We definitely felt like royalty in our luxuriously appointed deluxe room with private terrace (there are a total of just 84 rooms and suites).

 

But the majority of the accommodations were actually deluxe villas, with Andalusian design elements, and each with a large pool in a private landscaped courtyard…as well as a master bedroom and sitting/dressing areas, airy marble bathroom, and with beautiful, hand-painted, traditional zellige tiles and hand-sculpted wall panels. A Royal Suite offered views to the canal, orchards and Atlas Mountains; while the sprawling Presidential villas had 1,700 square feet of plush living space, as well as private gardens.
Spending the afternoon by the large outdoor pool area, landscaped with sweeping palm trees in a desert oasis atmosphere, we enjoyed an alfresco poolside lunch at the chic Azur restaurant, which offers light and healthy Mediterranean inspired dishes. Later, at the beautiful Oberoi spa, we took a dip in the indoor pool overlooking the orchards; there was also a yoga pavilion and fitness center, and a range of of Moroccan and Ayurvedic spa treatments, including herbal massages and hammams, all of the particularly luxurious kind.

 

 

But the Oberoi is also a culinary destination unto itself. And the traditional Moroccan cuisine at the exquisite Siniman restaurant, overlooking the regal courtyard, was a particular indulgence. The gorgeous dining room décor featured high ceilings, ornate tile work and carved columns. Live Moroccan music elevated the fine dining experience to something uniquely magical.
The terrace at Tamimt made for one of the more breathtaking dining experiences we’ve ever enjoyed, with views of the grand canal, the orchards and the Atlas mountains. And the contemporary Indian/Mediterranean fare can be had for both breakfast and dinner. But even the indoor dining room was elegantly decorated with frescoes lit with grand chandeliers surrounding tufted banquettes.
But we capped our visit with cocktails and champagne at Vue, the Oberoi’s stunning alfresco bar, which enjoys those very same views. And we couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else…ever.

 

Six (Mostly) French Things We Love About the Wythe Hotel’s New ‘Le Crocodile’ Restaurant

Images by Read McKendree

 

These days, with weekend hordes taking over Williamsburg’s N. Wythe Avenue, and the spillover reaching over to Greenpoint’s Franklin Street, it’s easy to forget that about a decade ago, both hoods were just reaching ‘coolhunter’ recognition point. Indeed, when the Wythe Hotel opened in 2012, it brought a jolt of grownup urbanity to an area more used to self-parodic hipster dives.

The rooftop bar, then The Ides, now Lemon’s, was pulling people across the river from the Gansevoort, and the Reynard restaurant was a genuine scene.

 

 

But this being NYC, things changed quickly once developers realized that all those empty lots and car repair shops on the northside had billion-dollar views of Manhattan, once you built up a few stories. Boutique hotels, and their restaurants, now outnumber bike shops and dance clubs…even Output, after five years of Berlin style nightclubbing, closed in 2018. So the Wythe’s new restaurant Le Crocodile arrives prepared to do battle with all these other new epicurean contenders…and luckily it’s, well, armed to the teeth.

Boasting chefs from chic Greenpoint bistro Chez Ma Tante—itself a notable result of gentrification—Le Crocodile (how long before everyone just starts calling it Le Croc?) is now serving up classic French fare, with wonderfully inspired touches, and atmosphere to spare.

Here’s what we loved.

 

 

Le Style

In both Brooklyn and Paris, restaurateurs seem equally aware of how lighting, recognizable design elements, and intelligent use of space are all critical in creating an invitingly endemic ambiance. Here it’s a delicate balance of BK meets Par-ee (by local design studio LOVEISENOUGH), with brick walls, booths of deep burgundy leather, prevailing dark wood detailing, patterned floors, and theatrical globe chandeliers all lending warmth to the high-ceilinged industrial space. The effect is both dramatic and welcoming. Seated next to us was a heavily tattooed couple avec toddler…so we felt right at home with the crowd, as well.

Le Steak

Steak frites was once as important in our lives as our Serge Gainsbourg records—but its ubiquity has dampened its significance. Le Crocodile, however, brings the steak au poivre, not as common as you would think in NYC…and it’s as good as any we’ve had in our fave Marais brasseries. Seriously.

Le Frisee

Almost as crucial is a good salade Lyonnais. And Le Crocodile smartly reinvents it with the familiar lardons replaced by chunks of smoked eel to incredibly delicious effect. We were instructed to mix the semi-poached egg around as the dressing, and the result was epicurean sublimity.

 

 

Le Pâté

Though the various duck and chicken liver incarnations also hold a special place for us, we’re honestly lucky to find an unimaginative pâté de campagne on any given menu. But here it comes in six different and glorious possibilities, including country pâté with foie gras and pistachio, chicken liver pâté with cassis jelly, and pâté grandmère with apple mustard. Order one up at the bar, paired with a rustic red glass of Burgundy, for some serious art de vivre.

Les G&Ts

Gin and tonics are a signature at the bar, with six versions of the classic (by drinks wizard Jim Kearns of Slowly Shirley fame) that combine a variety of spirits with varying tonics; we had Tanqueray No. 10 London Dry Gin with citrus tonic, and it was simplicity and perfection at once. The enormous wine goblet it was served in was a bit of a head scratcher at first…but then we just went with it.

Les Desserts

Complacency often informs the bottom of bistro and brasserie menus: here’s your crème brûlée, or a familiar sorbet, and that’s about it. But Le Crocodile offers nothing less than a dozen very sweet options, including profiteroles, tarte tatin, chocolate pot de crème and, oui, crème brûlée. If you’re having a Proustian moment, the madeleines come in generous groupings of six or 12.