Kingston to Montego Bay: Vegan Eats, Soundsystem Parties & Coconut Oil Massages in the New Jamaica

Spanish Court Hotel

 

Repeatedly invaded, conquered, and enslaved, first by the less than accommodating Chris Columbus, and subsequently by the British, Jamaica finally achieved independence in 1962 after almost 500 years of turmoil. Having a rock (as the country is endearingly referred to) the size of Tennessee subjected to that amount of historical upheaval, however, resulted in a national culture as deep, complex, and visceral as anywhere you’ll find.

These days, it’s almost impossible to overstate how teeming with joie de vivre Jamaica is; and on our most recent visit, our only goal was to meet every experience, and person, with that same spirit.

While the majority of tourists fly into Montego Bay on way to the island’s western beaches, our first stop was the southeastern capital city of Kingston, a San Francisco sized metropolis where we holed up at the charmingly refined Spanish Court Hotel. Long beloved as a civilized oasis in the heart of New Kingston, the central area known for its live music and arts scenes, the recently refurbished property boasted all the accoutrements we could possibly ask for, including a couple of pool bars, outdoor hot tub and luxuriously comfy rooms. Our first afternoon, we barely left the place.

 

Spanish Court Hotel

 

When we did eventually venture out, it was for dinner at the curiously diverse Reggae Mill, which was remarkably both a Greek/Jamaican restaurant and nightclub. Housed in the elegant Devon House complex, which includes a number of shops and cafes that have grown up around the celebrated eponymous mansion, it’s one of only a handful of eateries that serve Greek food on the island. While the atmosphere in the dining room was relatively sedate, we were told that in just a few hours, after packing up the tables and turning on the strobe lights, the place would be thronged with hundreds of clubgoers. And indeed, the growing line of exotically clad revelers outside suggested just that. Not quite ready for that kind of party, we headed back to the Spanish Court for a poolside nightcap.

The following morning we trekked up into the Blue Mountains for coffee at the Strawberry Hill hotel and resort, the fabled – and absolutely gorgeous – mountaintop enclave of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. After taking in the spectacular view, we marveled at the ubiquitous photos of visiting rock stars – Sting, Jagger, Marley – cavorting around the place in more free-wheeling and decadent times.

 

Strawberry Hill

 

Back at sea level we grabbed lunch at the thoroughly unique Veggie Meals on Wheels, a vegan restaurant with an ardent mission. Operating out of empty shipping containers in a nondescript strip mall, the place is an oasis of delicious food and good vibes that also caters music and arts events throughout Kingston, produces a weekly radio show from a tiny studio in the back, and runs an Airbnb in another container. Our lunch of tasty delights included brown stew tofu, tofu wrap with ackee and greens, veggie wraps, and ackee with sweet potato…with nary a beef patty in sight.

The musical heritage of Jamaica hardly needs an introduction; and there’s perhaps no one musical genre more universally embraced than reggae (along with its sub genres dub, dancehall, and yes, hip-hop). It all pretty much started at one place, specifically Rockers International Records, the veritable birthplace of reggae. After a quick stop to browse the racks in the tiny space, we headed to a more formal tutelage of the art form at the Bob Marley Museum, where our guide not only lead us through the groundbreaking artist’s home and studio, but also regaled us with personal anecdotes about the man himself, and even led us in a sing-a-long of some of his beloved hits. (Jamaica does have a way of letting down your too-cool-for-this guard.)

 

Bob Marley Museum

 

Full of good vibes, we then headed west to Kingston’s Caymanas Park racetrack to lose a few bucks on the horses, while downing a Red Stripe or two as the sun went down.

We settled in for dinner at the Spanish Court’s Rojo restaurant, supping on Rasta Pasta, penne with sautéed sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, baby corn, and zucchini, and deep fried crusted chicken breast stuffed with ham, bell peppers, mozzarella and parmesan, served with a garlic cream sauce. But not for long, as exalted Brit radio host and DJ David Rodigan was in town and performing up the road at the five-years-running sound system party Dubwise. So we conjured a third wind and headed out to party with the locals.

 

Rojo at the Spanish Court 

 

After two pretty jam-packed days, we headed west to Montego Bay, on the other side of the island. Previous trips to Jamaica made the thought of a cross-rock drive a little daunting, as some Jamaican roads are not highly recommended. But thanks to a newish modern highway, the 100-mile-long trip was a zip, and we were soon ensconced in the fabulous new S Hotel.

If our time in Kingston was all about Jamaican culture, M’Bay was focused on sun and sand – and the S was the epitome of contemporary resort cool. Its open plan lobby ushered one straight to the magnificent pool just steps beyond, and the beach was only a few more steps from there. Our room was rather enormous – something that happened in the conversion of the old building – and had a million dollar view of both pool and ocean. Taking advantage of the space, we actually unfurled the in-room yoga mat and got in an hour of vinyasa the following morning.

 

S Hotel Montego Bay

 

But before that there was more relaxing to be done, i.e. a cold-pressed coconut oil massage at the S’ Irie Baths and Spa. The S has more dining options than we could ever get to, but a prosecco at the Sky Deck Bar – beholding the glorious sunset – and a dinner of coconut curried shrimp and Jamaica braised oxtail at the hotel’s elegant Rocksteady restaurant were definitive epicurean highlights.

After a deep sleep in our opulent chamber, we made the most of the following morning before taking a 4-minute drive to the airport for the easy flight stateside. A dip in both pool and sea and coffee at the S’ airy Ska Café and we were off – with enough Jamaica memories to keep us warm through another NYC winter.

 

Top: S Hotel; bottom: Montego Bay

Report From London: Christian Louboutin’s Christmas Tree for Claridge’s is Truly Magical

 

 

After Karl Lagerfeld‘s upside down design in 2017 – lord, how we miss him – it’s been hard to imagine anyone outdoing him in conjuring the annual and always feverishly awaited Claridge‘s Christmas tree.

Last year Diane Von Furstenberg opted to make hers all about, well, love. And while we can all use a little more love, Christian Louboutin has given this year’s tree at one of London’s most beloved hotels a serious dose of glamour, playfulness and sheer spectacle. Done up in regal golds and reds, it is shrouded in an ethereal, fantastical “snow” cover – with elegantly minimal packages placed so perfectly beneath. Naturally, for the king of stilettos, it also features gingerbread biscuits shaped like shoes (hint hint: we wouldn’t mind finding a few of those in our stocking this year.)

 

 

Surrounding it is a mini forest of similarly exquisite trees. But the pièce de résistance, especially for the kid in all of us, its accompaniment by the Loubi Express, a bright red holiday train (with more presents!) boasting four dining tables, which will be serving up a magical epicurean experience through December 31. But don’t expect to pull any strings – they’re available on a strictly first come, first cheerily served basis.

“It’s an honor to be invited to design the Claridge’s Christmas Tree,” Loubi himself enthuses. “The hotel is my second home, and I’m glad to bring a little piece of Paris to such an iconic London landmark. There is something nostalgic about traveling by train, it reminds me of grand adventures and journeys home…and I wanted to capture the excitement and romance of it.”

As if we even needed yet another reason to be in London this holiday season.

 

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

1 Hotel West Hollywood

 

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

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

 

Maxfield

 

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

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

 

1 Hotel West Hollywood

 

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

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

 

Gracias Madre

 

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

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

 

Gelato Festival 

 

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

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

 

Pizzana

 

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

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

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

 

Sunset Marquis 

 

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

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

 

Janet Echelmann’s Dream Catcher

Art at the Harbor: Contemplating Frank Stella and Yayoi Kusama in Boston’s Seaport

Yayoi Kusama, LOVE IS CALLING

 

Long a sanctuary for the local art community, Boston’s Seaport has for the last few years been undergoing a dramatic transformation that has seen a new wave of dining and high profile retail enter the area, as the city also tries to ensure that funding for those artists remains intact. It also hosts some of our fave East Coast city’s most buzzworthy art happenings, as was most definitely the case on our most recent visit.

And indeed, with word that one of the most influential living American artists, Frank Stella, was set to unveil his latest public mural – a new edition of Damascus Gate – we Amtrak’d it north to be a part of it, and take in a some of the area’s notable spots in the process.

Here’s what we did.

 

ICA

 

Frank Stella, ‘Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation 1)’

Marking the exalted artist’s return to his home city, Frank Stella unveiled a replica of Damascus Gate (Stretch Variation 1) on an office building along the main thoroughfare in the Seaport district (60 Seaport Boulevard, to be exact). Stella, a native of Malden, is a celebrated painter, sculptor and printmaker, working in the areas of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction. And taken from his legendary 1970s protractor series, the new work felt as fresh now as it did then.
Over champagne and bites, the octogenarian humbly waved off the accolades being showered upon him from an adoring crowd, in favor of a knowingly mischievous grin…which we couldn’t help but notice. Oscar-nominee Amy Adams even made an appearance, chatting with Frank and looking gorgeous in Prada from head to toe.
It’s a real get for the Seaport, the installation having been Commissioned by Boston-based WS Development in conjunction with New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery. The colorfully abstract geometric mural now boldly stops onlookers in their tracks. Perhaps a harbinger of more public works to come?

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)

Designed by Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, the ICA of Boston is one of our favorite buildings by the award-winning architects – and their first in the city. Taking inspiration from performance artist Anna Deavere Smith’s idea of a “radical hospitality,” the waterfront museum’s vision is one of “radical welcome,” woven into all of its activities and programs. Since its opening in 2006 the ICA has been at the intersection of art and civic life, as much educator and incubator as it is a place to experience some of the most important works of contemporary art.
To wit, currently on view through February 7, 2020 is Yayoi Kusama’s LOVE IS CALLING (she’s also currently showing at David Zwirner in New York). Staying for the allotted two-minutes, we excitedly made our way through her signature polka dotted, soft sculpted ‘tentacles,’ done up in brightest color and glowing light. It was an experience that verged on the surreal and fantastical. Afterwards, we popped into the ICA’s well-curated gift shop, with a wide-ranging book selection and design objects, plus some really cool stuff for the kids (like us).

 

On the more serious side, we also spent time with When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art. The hard-hitting exhibition is a response to the refugee and immigrant crisis, and looks at the contemporary displacement of peoples. It featuring more than 20 artists from more than a dozen countries, including Colombia, Cuba, Iraq, Mexico, Palestine…and these United States, with featured work by such notable names as Kader Attia, Tania Bruguera, Isaac Julien, Hayv Kahraman, and Reena Saini Kallat.
The timing of the show could not be more relevant, of course, given the current administration’s aggressively malevolent stance on the treatment of migrants – especially children. It was a particularly moving, even heart-wrenching exhibit, but is a must see for all those who oppose the Trump administration’s despicable policies on the subject.

Shopping

The Seaport is having a decidedly DTC moment, redefining retail in the most clever of ways. To wit, hot on the heels of Glossier’s residency at pop-up The Current last summer, the wildly popular beauty brand has again taken over miniature village. Located in a lovely open plaza just across from the ICA, the cargo-container-like storefronts were done up brilliantly in the brand’s trademark pink.
Home to an ever-evolving lineup of forward thinking brands, The Current spins the concept of traditional storefronts – a refreshing alternative to the high-end-only offerings at Copley Place. The first phase in 2018 was dubbed She-Village, and now showcases 9 female-founded businesses, including etailer-to-retailer The Giving Keys, interior designers Havenly, footwear brand Margaux, and artful florist Orly Khon.
The latter is by Kelly Brabants, one of Boston’s most sought-after fitness instructors, and her line of leggings are currently all the rage. Inspired by the vibrant culture of Rio de Janeiro, the birthplace of samba and sunshine, BbB seeks to overturn any notion that leggings aren’t actually pants. Brabants has created a built-to-last, one-size-fits-most clothing line uniting comfort and confidence, and we couldn’t resist picking up a couple of pairs of the versatile style favorites.

Warby Parker
On the DTC tip, Warby Parker, Outdoor Voices, Bonobos, and Away have all put down roots in the Seaport. While For Now, a pop-up collective and retail incubator, is bringing together customers and one-of-a-kind e-comm brands to connect in real life, “no screens attached”. We especially loved The Foggy Dog pet products (every purchase helping a shelter dog), and the cozy chic Frances Austen sweaters, beautifully modern, ethically sourced, and heirloom quality. The brands do change regularly, so there’s always something new to experience as intended by visionary female founders Kaity Cimo and Katharine ReQua.
There’s even an outpost of L.L. Bean – who also sponsor a dock nearby where one can rent a kayak – Blue Mercury and Sephora for beauty junkies, a lululemon, and a Trader Joe’s that opened to significant fanfare while we were there. But surely our favorite, hailing from Boston’s South End, was the Polkadog Bakery, where we picked up handcrafted dried codskin treats for our own pooch. Cool dogs, obviously, go gaga over them.

 

Envoy Hotel

Part of the luxe Autograph Collection, the Envoy Hotel was the perfect choice for full Seaport immersion, with its wildly happening rooftop bar (there was a line out the door when we were there, though hotel guests get immediate entry) and exceptional on-site restaurant Outlook Kitchen. The minimalist chic rooms have a comfy, residential layout, but with cooly mismatched furnishings. More importantly, most are radiantly light drenched, and some have heart-stopping Boston Harbor views. We especially loved the plush in-room bathrobes, cleverly fashioned after legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in signature grey jersey, complete with a stylish hood – especially appreciated on those chilly Boston autumn mornings.

 

 

Restaurants / Bars

The airily designed Outlook Kitchen and Bar is helmed by rockstar chef Tatiana Rosana, a first-generation Cuban-American, who oversees the bold, always-surprising food program at the hotel. Star of The Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay and Chopped, she’s also twice earned the title of Chopped Champion.
We especially enjoyed the bountiful, fresh breakfast and brunch offerings, including a Maine lobster benedict that was truly to die for – while the roasted cinnamon apple french toast was also totally irresistible. Dinner was just as outstanding, especially Rosana’s delectable yucca gnocchi, the Georges Bank scallops and the locally sourced Pineland Farms filet mignon. There’s a determined focus on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, which puts Outlook at the forefront of sustainable dining in Boston (N.B. – Check out chef Rosana’s delectable dishes on Instagram, @chef.tatiana.)

Outlook Kitchen and Bar

 

Finding ourselves craving something sweet between shopping stops, we popped into Japanese ice cream import Taiyaki, on Seaport Boulevard just a few blocks from The Envoy. Home of the custard-filled, whimsical fish-shaped waffle cone of Instagram fame, Kawaii-lovers from Toronto to Miami to Williamsburg have been madly posting since Taiyaki hit North America in 2016. We chose the matcha and black sesame soft-serve as a start, filling the freshly-made cones with red bean paste, then topping them with mini M&M’s.
The Seaport actually now boasts a apoplexy-inducing array of dining options, from the low-key to the Michelin-starred. Exalted Chef Barbara Lynch lords over the scene with her outstanding Italian diner Sportello, as well as Menton, a fancy-fancy Relais & Chateaux member serving delectable French fusion. Also worth a stop are Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe (a long time favorite from Harvard Square), Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar, Strega Waterfront (you may find yourself seated next to one of the Patriots), plant-based NYC export by Chloe, the landmark, century old seafood classic No Name Restaurant, and a Tatte Bakery and Cafe. We were significantly spoiled for choice, obviously.

Menton

 

Considering Boston’s comely cityscape and harbor, it’s still a little light on rooftop venues. Which partly explains the wild popularity of the Envoy’s spectacular Lookout lounge/bar. But we also loved the clever cocktails like the Fizz Bump (Hendricks, Lavender & Earl Grey Simple, lemon, egg white) and the Cereal Keeler (Keel Vodka, Americano Bianco, pineapple, orange, cherry bitters). The skyline and waterfront views, of course, are eminently Instagrammable. But with colder temps upon us, the Lookout also features glowing fire pits, out of the way ceiling-mounted heaters and cozy blankets for keeping nice and toasty while sipping a hot Teeling Frisky whiskey cocktail.

Lookout

 

Drink Here During Art Basel: Sling Bar Opens at COMO Metropolitan + Four More Hotspots

 

 

With Art Basel fast approaching (December 5 – 8), organizing a proper schmoozing plan is absolutely imperative to a successful overall experience. And we’re guessing the cognoscenti will be enthusiastically hobnobbing over the turmeric rubbed cobia and red curry noodles at Traymore by Michael Schwartz, the star chef’s new-ish, Asian-inflected eatery at the perpetually trendy COMO Metropolitan Miami Beach hotel.

And now the restaurant has a complementary and very stylish new cocktail spot, Sling Bar, just opened this week. No surprise, the drinks menu is also steeped in Southeast Asian influence, and inspired by night market flavors – in fact, they’re elegantly conceived as “culinary cocktails.” Notably, the SB Sling – Bombay East Gin, BenedictinePF Orange Curaçao, pineapple, lime, cherry cordial – is a Miami-ish take on the classic Singapore Sling; and the Traymore Pimms is a nod to the city’s British Colonial history (remember that?).

 

 

Exec Chef Jorge Negron draws on traditional Singaporean street food – which means epicurean elements of Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Indonesian. So steamed snapper dumplings can be paired with a young coconut salad and Singapore style stone crabs, for a thoroughly continent hopping experience.

And here’s a new one: Sling’s lush interiors also feature a video installation of circadian rhythms which juxtaposes their varied behavior in natural versus urban environments. So, obviously, we’re considering getting one of those for ourselves.

 

 

“Singapore is such a vibrant intersection of food cultures,” enthuses Schwartz, also known for Michael’s Genuine. “I was able to experience its energy on a recent trip and was inspired by drinks, dishes and even new ingredients that have influenced the menu and cocktail recipes. We’re excited to give guests an opportunity to taste something different.”

Just as good, surely, will be the people watching – especially come early December, when the art world comes crashing into town. Come find us at the bar.

 

Where Else to Party During Art Basel

 

Nautilus by Arlo

With two NYC hotels and the super chic Nautilus in Miami, Arlo has been making waves with the culture cognoscenti. During Art Basel, the hotel will be turned into something called the Universal Playground, which will include a TIKI DISCO pop-up, plus a replica of The Box in New York. Expect the beach to be a scene here as well.

 

LIV at the Fontainebleau

Yes, it seems that there is in fact an intersection of art and EDM – and it will be cultivated amidst the glitz and glamour of Miami’s iconic Fontainebleau. The hotel’s LIV mega-club will host a ridiculously topline lineup of DJ superstars, including Tiesto, David Guetta and Calvin Harris. Sort out your entry plan ahead of time, obviously.

 

 

Mondrian South Beach

French sculptor Richard Orlinski will be a featured artist at Basel this year. And the evening of December 4, his feral Born Wild animal sculptures will be on display for the Mondrian South Beach’s official cocktail party. But expect the hotel to be schmooze central throughout the fair, especially with the promise of sunset cocktails overlooking Biscayne Bay.

 

Basement at the Miami Beach EDITION

The underground lair at Ian Schrager’s fashion fave EDITION hotel is usually up to something cheeky. But during Basel, it will be all about the music, with French turntable legends Dimitri From Paris and François K spinning on the 6th, and Idris Elba switching off on the decks with Diplo on the 7th. The former spins some mean reggae/dub/grime sets, and has even launched a DJ inspired clothing line. Should you forget your dancing shoes, there’s also a four lane – and very stylish – bowling alley.

 

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

AC Hotel Burgos

 

 

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

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

 

Burgos Cathedral

 

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

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

 

Museum of Human Evolution

 

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

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

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

 

Cobo Vintage

 

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

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

 

Street in Logrono

 

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

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

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

 

Bodegas Ysios

 

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

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

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

 

Campo Viejo

 

AC Hotel by Marriott Burgos

AC Hotel by Marriott La Rioja

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

 

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

 

Six Questions w/ Exalted Peruvian Chef Pia León

 

 

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

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

 

 

Chef León has been since 2009 cooking at Central, generally regarded as the best restaurant in Peru – and possibly all of  Latin America. But Kjolle, named for a hearty mountain flower, is where she established the uniqueness of her own cuisine, reflecting her passion for her home country’s ingredients. Peru, for instance, boasts around 4,000 indigenous varieties of potatoes and tubers – sourced from the towering Andes to the Amazonian jungle – as well as many hard to find grains and unique herbs.

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

How is the dining experience different from back home?

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

How have the local products been received?

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

What ingredients are exciting you right now?

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

What are your goals for expansion, if any?

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

 

 

 

 

SHORT RIBS AND BURNT CORN

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

 

 

 

Razor clams from Huarmey

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

 

 

 

 

Dolomites Chic: The Schgaguler is the Under-the-Radar Ski Hotel For the 2019-2020 Season

 

 

 

Let’s be honest, global warming is eventually going to make ski season about two or three weeks long. But for now, a uniquely stylish hotel in a less than obvious skiing destination still gets our heart pounding.

The destination is the Dolomites of South Tyrol Italy, which boasts a good dozen ski resorts, but very little mass tourism. So if Burlington, Aspen, even Chamonix seem like yesterdays news to you, perhaps spending time amidst the beauty of the northernmost slopes of Italia just might reignite your love of the possibly endangered sport.

And for those tired of those cloyingly rustic New England and Tyrolean lodges, the newly revamped Schgaguler Hotel offers a decidedly more 21st Century experience. A member of the exalted Design Hotels group, its distinctively mod facade hides 36 rooms of low-key elegance, with light but warm wood floors and accents, sexy, contemporary deep soak tubs, and an all around determined aesthetic minimalism – i.e. lots of white and even more white.

 

 

The ornamentally-opposed sense of style continues through the public spaces, with elegantly cool armchairs, hanging pendant lamps, and contemporary fireplaces all adding to an overarching modern Alpine style, but with striking Scandinavian and Japanese accents. There’s also a sleek Mediterranean restaurant, a full spa, plus an outdoor whirlpool and two indoor pools.

But history is all around, as the Schgaguler is actually located in the UNESCO World Heritage protected mountain village of Castelrotto. And it overlooks the breathtaking Alpe di Siusi, the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe.

 

 

Autumn, Upper East Side: Renaissance Armor, ‘Kill Bill’ Cocktails and the View From the Surrey Hotel

Kate Moss by Chuck Close

 

 

There’s something about the turning of autumn (which is now apparently late October) that distinctly mellows us out, and re-ignites all our impulses to higher culture. And we have to admit, once in awhile, we’d really rather just see some 16th Century armor and Canova statues, than another exhaustingly inscrutable downtown performance art piece.

When this feeling overtakes, there’s only one reasonable direction to head: straight to the Upper East Side, that bastion of grand museums and high-end fashion flagships. We also require just the right hotel to accommodate that particular headspace – which for our most recent visit we decided had to be The Surrey, on East 76th – New York’s only Relais & Chateaux property.

Here’s what we did.

 

The Surrey Hotel

Opened nearly a century ago (1926 to be precise), it was once host to both JFK and Bette Davis. These days you’re more likely to bump into the likes of Zoe Kravitz or artist Jenny Holzer – but all are greeted by a haunting (and very large) painting of Kate Moss by Chuck Close. Though by no means are there any cloying attempts to lure the fashion crowd on obvious display. Rather, the lobby radiates low key chic – except for a conspicuous Grafitti Armoire by cheeky Brit furniture designers Jimmie Martin.
We checked in on a sunny Saturday morning, and the lobby (with its gorgeously patterned marble floors) was abuzz with those surely prepping for a whirl of Madison Avenue shopping – with fashion flagships like Tom Ford, Bottega Veneta, Celine, Armani, and pretty much everyone else you can think of lining the glittering street of style dreams.
While we waited for our room, we took the elevator up to the 17th floor rooftop, a verdant, intimate spot that the hotel occasionally opens for sophisticated pop-ups, like the recent Dom Perignon Private Rosé Garden. At any time of year, though, it’s great for a quiet moment of serenity in the big city, while surveying New York’s awesome uptown skyline.

 

The Rooms

We must admit, we’re not much for the new current trend of more tightly spaced rooms, that make “clever” use of downscaled square footage. Blessedly, the Surrey’s chambers are generously proportioned, as well as stylishly up to date. But they also exude a sense of classical elegance, with fleur de lys adorned carpets and furnishings, sumptuous marble bathrooms, and plush armchairs. The luxuriant Diptyque toiletries were also a nice touch. Our room faced north, and offered a particularly awe-inspiring view of the eclectic Upper East Side architecture.

The Met, American Wing

We postponed the shopping until next morning, more in need of a significant culture fix – and the Met was just a few blocks east and north. First up was a pilgrimage to one of our favorite places in the universe, the Charles Engelhard Court at the American Wing – where we pondered Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s dramatic bronze The Vine, and observed with quiet awe George Gray Barnard’s 1892 epic Struggle of the Two Natures in Man, which still resounds with sociological relevance.
And after a quick lunch at the American Wing Cafe (where a pretty good Chardonnay can be had for just nine bucks), we made the rounds of the Met’s other monumental statuary spaces, including the magnificent Caroll and Milton Petrie European Sculpture Court, communing contemplatively with Rodin’s The Martyr and The Burghers of Calais, Canova’s Perseus With the Head of Medusa, and Philippe Bertrand’s erotically charged Lucretia.

 

 

The Last Knight: The Art, Armor, and Ambition of Maximilian I

While watching Netflix’ thrillingly visceral new film The King – in which Timothee Chalamet plays a brooding Henry V – we couldn’t help but pause for rumination on the military armor of the depiction of the Battle of Agincourt. So we were already piqued to see The Met’s The Last Knight: The Art, Armor, and Ambition of Maximilian I. The 16th Century Hapsburg ruler notably manipulated his “media” image in order to consolidate power, much as they all do in this, the 21st Century. In hindsight, the Romantics labeled him The Last Knight, before a new era of creative banking and Machiavelli decisively did away with the age of chivalry.
Max’s battle getup came with particularly “effective” looking spiked shoes; perhaps kicking someone in the testicles with an armored boot was a perfectly acceptable fighting strategy back then? (Though we’re guessing the swinging maces were a bit more of an issue.) We also learned that men of means wore steel shorts – coming in at 12 pounds…oh dear – as their everyday attire.
Most entertaining was learning that, in a more flamboyant precursor to Soho House or h Club, the elite boasted membership in the likes of the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece. Beyond the actual armored artifacts, though, the exhibition was actually impressively edifying and absorbing, eschewing the dry academics of so many historical surveys.
The closing quote confirmed Maxmilian’s particular brand of forward-looking wisdom: “He who makes no memory of himself during his lifetime will have none after his death, and will be forgotten with the tolling of the final knell.” Was he predicting social media?

 

Bar Pleiades

While the sidewalk tables at Cafe Boulud offer some of the best Upper East Side people watching – and their Crescent Farm duck and Vol Au Vent À La Forestiere make for an unforgettable long weekend lunch – we couldn’t wait to hit the buzzy aperitivo hour at Bar Pleiades (also under the masterful aegis of Chef Daniel). In fact, it’s one of the UES’ defining spots for a classy tipple.
The crowd leaned to very fashionable femmes, which made sense, seeing as how it was all inspired by none other than Coco Chanel herself. In the gorgeous Art Deco interior, tables and chairs were all numbered, maintaining a high level of personal service.
Charismatic head bartender Darryl Chan ran us through a drinks menu that was broken down into such wonderfully epicurean headings as La Tradition & La Saison, Le Potager and Le Voyage. Cocktails were also in-thrall to tradition rather than the latest twee trend – though created with foraged ingredients. We were particularly enamored of the Last Caress (grapefruit-chartreuse snow, green juniper berries, champagne), and the Mmmmm…Sofie Fatale (yes, yes – named for the Kill Bill character), made with nutmeg and black peppercorn infused Japanese whiskey, plus sparkling water and a twist.

Flora Bar at the Met Breuer

Just a block south from the Surrey, this is surely the most perfectly realized NYC museum restaurant, as it feels so authentically aesthetically suited to the Met Breur’s artistic mission. And after taking in the ethereal current exhibition of the paintings, sculpture and drawings of prolific LA artist Vija Celmins, we pulled up to a bar seat in the stunningly Corbusian surrounds of the Flora Bar, for an excellent Sunday brunch of duck sausage with potato salad, and some genuinely fantastic people watching.
And, as happens above the cultural Maginot Line of East 57th, just for a moment, we could barely even remember where Houston Street was…let alone Bushwick.