Epicurean AC: Savor Borgata Weekend Returns This November

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Just where can you stroll the Boardwalk in the morning, and chat up Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Michael Symon and Geoffrey Zakarian in the afternoon? The surprise answer is: Atlantic City.

While a weekend filled with baccarat and poker chips may not be to everyone’s taste, this November 9-10, a quick 90-minute trip from Manhattan will land you at the Savor Borgata weekend, offering the opportunity for meets-and-greets with the hotshot restaurateurs who boast outposts in the plush AC resort – part of its ongoing 15th birthday celebration.

Of course, each day those signature restaurants give Atlantic City a particular culinary edge: Izakaya by Michael Schulson is a nod to traditional Japanese meat and sushi in a modern setting; Symon’s new Angeline, named for his mother, features updates of classic red sauce pastas and wood fired meat; Wolfgang Puck American Grille forwards a signature mix of French and seasonal American cuisine that is always fresh and contemporary; and Bobby Flay Steak is just what is says, red meat nirvana from the pioneering chef.




But Savor Borgata takes it all to another level.

As VP of Food & Beverage Becky Schultz explains, “it’s an opportunity to wine, dine, mix and mingle with our A-List culinary roster in both intimate and expansive settings throughout the weekend.”

What to expect?


-Wine pairing with…music? A master sommelier talks Bon Jovi and vino.
-Food facials and spa treatments at the immersion pool.
-Fall favorite ginger bread cookies with the Borgata’s pastry chef.
-A Moet & Chandon champagne tasting event with Geoffrey Zakarian.
-A Japanese whiskey and BBQ dinner with Schulson, featuring Suntory Whiskey, which has veritably changed the way we think about the exalted brown spirit.



-Live cooking demonstrations with Chef Puck – his infectious charm and talent always make everything taste better.
-A fiesta for bourbon and bacon-lovers in all its sweet, savory and drinkable forms with Executive Chef Tom Biglan.
-3-course lunch with Iron Chef Flay, paired with Paul Hobbs wines.
– A pasta making class with Symon, who will give hands on and interactive demonstrations.


The best part? After such extravagant indulgences, you get to head straight upstairs to one of the Borgata’s luxurious, ocean views rooms to sleep it off – before a pampering morning at its plush Spa Toccare.


Honey Galore, No Stings Attached: Catskills Bee Fest Beckons

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This much is true: honey is good for you. It’s rich in antioxidants (especially buckwheat honey), it’s beneficial to the skin, and it can lower triglycerides which is healthy for the heart. Oh, and it tastes great slathered on toast or in a pot of thick Greek yoghurt. But as everyone knows, bees are in trouble, and need our help.

A rise in the popularity of beekeeping has been welcome news for our most beloved pollinator, but keeping hives in the city has drawbacks: a study of honey harvested from urban bees in Vancouver showed trace elements of heavy metals, including cadmium, copper, lead, arsenic and zinc. Meanwhile, in a recent story in The New York Times, a Cornell University professor, Scott McArt, specializing in pollination, told of a study of Manhattan bees communicating to their fellow pollinators that the best pollen could be found not in the flower troughs and parks of New York, but across the Hudson River in New Jersey’s meadows.

We recommend that humans follow the instincts of the bees and cross the river, and then keep going through New Jersey, and all the way up the Delaware Valley to Narrowsburg, the beekeeping capital of New York – which hosts its 4th annual Honey Bee Fest on Saturday, September 22. With the region’s abundant forest canopy, apple orchards, and rich tradition in organic farming, plus the diverse riverside flora, there’s little risk of accidentally covering your English muffins with pesticides or heavy metals when you indulge in the local honey.

The one-day festival take place in the heart of this beautiful river town that has emerged as a favorite destination for New Yorkers, thanks to its location on the Delaware River, several excellent restaurants, boutique homeware stores, and specialist shops including Narrowsburg Proper, a food emporium that sources regional and international gourmet products. It’s also owned by Joan Santo, the creator of Honey Bee Fest.

With a new luxury bus service to Narrowsburg, operated by Catskill Carriage (departing NYC at 4pm on Fridays; tickets $55 each way if booked five days ahead), and plenty of Air BnB options, why not make a weekend of it? In addition to a street fair on Main Street featuring honey vendors, mead tastings, beekeeping classes and cooking demos, there will a special performance by the Wallenpaupack Marching Band, dressed as bees.

With honey bees in decline, expect to hear a vibrant rendition of the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive,” among other numbers. And then book dinner and brunch at The Laundrette and The Heron, two Narrowsburg mainstays that could easily hold their own with the best of New York City. Honey is guaranteed to be on the menu.

BlackBook Exclusive: Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears’ Guide to New Orleans

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Jake Shears is perhaps one of the most improbable of modern musical heroes. Indeed, emerging from the post-millennial NYC gay club scene, when his band Scissor Sisters’ eponymous debut was released in 2004, it stood athwart a zeitgeist that was otherwise in thrall to post-punk revivalism, and busy worshipping citymates the likes of Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Yet Scissor Sisters made a spectacular thing of celebrating their love of disco, while also kind of weirding it out – even grooving up Pink Floyd’s somber classic “Comfortably Numb.” They would go on to sell several million copies that first record, as well as its utterly glorious follow up, Ta-Dah.

It didn’t hurt that Shears was veritably born a star, with his expressive good looks and inimitable iconoclasm. And long-awaited, his first, self-titled solo album at last arrived this month – and it truly does not disappoint. Tracks like “Big Bushy Mustache,” which, with its cool, funkified grooves recalls the best of the Pointer Sisters, and the bluesy “Sad Song Backwards,” remind that he can always be relied upon for shattering expectations – yet never without a great hook or three.



But surely our fave is “Creep City,” with its retro cabaret vibe and its dazzlingly flamboyant accompanying video.

Fittingly, he had decamped to New Orleans to write the album (it was recorded in Louisville) – and the city’s honky tonk idiosyncrasies haunt the proceedings throughout. So, naturally, we asked him to take us to his fave places around The Big Easy, so we could get deep down into his creative inspiration.

“The album began and was written in New Orleans, a place I felt simply called me,” he explains. “And I am so glad that I answered. This city, through its crafty ways, facilitated one of the most creative and fulfilling moments of my life. I still haven’t left and never plan to….come on down and experience your own epiphanies!”



Images by Greg Gorman


New Orleans

Whether you’re alone or with friends, there’s nothing like a NOLA wander – it’s just a great place to stroll around and have a think. There’s beauty to be found everywhere, surprises all over the place, and at any given moment a ton of stuff going on. The city also rewards exploration. When visiting, do your best to support hotels, or Airbnbs that are hosted by someone that lives on site, keeping in mind that short term rentals have really hurt the residential neighborhoods. Dance to jazz, eat delicious food, laugh with strangers, have the time of your life. Before you get there look up WWOZ, the local radio station: it’ll get you in the mood, which will remain for you once you’ve left.

Audubon Zoo

Okay, I know that a zoo makes a lot of people sad – but trust me on this one. It’s one of my favorite spots in town, and the climate of the city makes it ideal for the wide variety of animals they steward. The design feels open and airy, it’s big and beautiful. And the albino alligator in the swamp section is from another planet. Grab a frozen margarita to-go from Juan’s Flying Burrito, slip it in a big purse, head in and have a leisurely afternoon.



Cajun Encounters

This is a swamp tour, which may sound like a dumb tourist thing – but it’s really not to be missed. The terrain you cover on the tour is staggeringly beautiful. You see wild pigs, gators, tons of different birds, and snakes. And also on the trip out there, you get to see what it looks like outside the city. I’ve been all over the place and I truly believe there ain’t nothing prettier than Louisiana.

Crescent City Conjure

This place just opened down the street from me, and I’m so happy about it. The wonderful furniture store that was in there moved out, and I was hoping something lame wasn’t moving in. But an actual voodoo practitioner setting up in the neighborhood is exactly what one wants. Its a beautiful shop, and he’ll make you oils and cast a love spell if you’re in need.



Crescent Park

With an entrance in my neighborhood, the Marigny, and one in the Bywater, you walk up and over the levee and are suddenly right on the edge of the Mississippi. It’s kind of New Orleans’ version of The High Line in New York City. It’s peaceful and grounding, and if you just stand there for a second and look, with the massive ships passing by and the river’s majestic presence, you can really see hundreds of years back in time.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

One of the oldest bars in America. Check it out from across the street, it’s quite a sight. Head inside for their amazing piano sing-alongs, and the wild smell of 300 year old barf. DO NOT MISS the best tipple in town: go for the Purple Drink, and you will discover true magic. It is a dark, slightly acrid grape-ish daiquiri that’s not too sweet, has mysterious notes and is a beautiful color that resembles a four-day-old New York slush puddle. I have no idea what’s in it, but…it just makes you feel good, and really nips a hangover in the bud.



Good Friends Bar

It’s one of the main gay bars in the Quarter. It has one of the best balconies in town, very sweet bartenders, and the formidable Separator drink (a big delicious liquored up milkshake). There’s just something comforting about the place on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I liked it so much, the opening song on my record is about it.

Preservation Hall

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is an absolute treasure of the city, and its residence is a temple. There’s usually two or three shows a night that run about 45 minutes. With some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world, just let it wash over you. It’s a shower of goodness that will stay with you long after you leave the city.


BlackBook Exclusive: Artful Cocktail Recipes from NYC’s Dazzling Straylight Bar at Juku

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When Juku opened on the southern end of Mulberry Street in late 2018, it particularly amped up that already trending NoLIta – Chinatown nexus. In fact, it actually took over the space that had housed Le Baron, Monsieur Andre’s first non-Paris fashion-magnet venue.

The sprawling new tri-level nightspot, however, was designed less for fashionista preening, and more for astonishing the senses of downtown denizens who like a bit of pageantry with their sashimi. It has since become known for its excellent izakaya offerings – but also for its sensational Straylight bar, which offers cocktails “omakase” style, in the eye-popping surrounds of what is a veritable living art installation – complete with stained glass ceiling and lavender stairwell.

But it’s not all just spectacle. The tipples themselves are some of the most creatively and visually realized (in a city full of trying-too-hard bartenders), but without the 38-ingredient pretension of so many others. So we tapped their exalted drinks alchemist Jamie Jones to give us the secrets behind a few of their most popular – though we highly recommend sipping them in situ, for that proper sense of dazzle.



Bulleit Train (pictured top)

Stirred, Whiskey Glass
1 Bulleit Bourbon
1 Sesame Bourbon
3/8 Oloroso Sherry
1/4 Honey Ginger
5 d Matcha Cacao Angostura
pinch Salt
Garnish: Matcha Dust


White Geisha

Shaken, Nick & Nora Glass
2 Sushi Rice Gin
3/8 Lemon
5/8 Myoga Cointreau Banane
Garnish: Sesame Oil Drops


Shiso Dumbo Shiso Leaf

Shaken, Dumbo & Baby Coupe
2 Shiso Coconut Gin
3/8 lemon
3/8 simple
3 d Rose Water
1 bar spoon Giffard Creme de Violette



BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: New Jesse Harris Video ‘Where a Rose Falls’ + His Lisbon Favorites

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On the scene since the earliest days of the new Millennium, Jesse Harris is in the mold of classic New York bohemian songwriters. And in true romantic fashion, he and long time collaborators Will Graefe (guitar) and Jeremy Gustin (drums) were playing a festival in Vilnius, Lithuania, when they hatched a plan to meet another musical associate, Ricardo Dias Gomes, to all record an album together in Lisbon.

The result is Aquarelle (which translates to “watercolor”), an album of songs that have a distinctly painterly quality, if ever that could be said of music.

Harris teased the album this July with the advance track “Out of Time.” But the latest single, the romantically titled “Where a Rose Falls,” is a genuine stunner, a wistfully melancholic ballad, which finds him poetically ruminating, “Where a rose falls fast than a tear / In the light of every desert morning / You’ll be gone so far away from here.”

The accompanying video, which BlackBook premieres here, was also recorded in Lisbon. It shows him strumming away on lonely but atmospheric beach, while the object of his desire tosses her hair nearby in a seemingly unconcerned fashion.

“We got very lucky with this video,” he recalls. “The fact is we had no concept and no plan. We were hoping for clear blue skies with incandescent sun and instead got dark clouds, rain and high winds. Before taking a break from only twenty minutes of shooting David filmed Mads’ hair in a heavy gust in slow motion. It so completely captured the feeling of the song that he made a rough cut of the video that afternoon.”

Aquarelle will be out this Friday, September 7; and Harris will be at Union Pool tonight for a special record release party. We also asked him to recount his favorite memories of Lisbon, which he does for us below.


My Friends

Lisbon has a vibrant music scene with many Brazilian ex-pats. Ricardo Dias Gomes, who played bass and keyboards on Aquarelle, had recently moved from Rio, where we met originally, with his family. We recorded in the studio of Marcelo Camelo, one my of my favorite Brazilian singer/songwriters, who relocated with his wife, Mallu, also a great talent. My friend Pierre Aderne, from Rio as well, hosts an evening of performers, called Rua das Pretas, every Saturday in an old castle. While in Lisbon I made many new friends – filmmakers, actors, singers, winemakers. I look forward to seeing all of them again soon.


The city is tucked in from the coast and nearby are many beautiful beaches with clear blue – and cold! – waters. Since I only stayed for about a week, I only got to visit one, called Galapinhos. We drove down to it for the day and ate of a lunch of local fish with white wine at a restaurant right on the sand.


Alfama is the oldest part of the city and has an enchanted, dreamlike feeling to it. The cobblestone streets are narrow, winding, and steep, and often at night, when they’re lit by old lamps, you can hear Fado singers echoing up from a club or restaurant. Jeremy Gustin, Will Graefe and I stayed there in the apartment of Jeremy’s friend Sara. The three-story building dated back hundreds of years, with original windows and heavy wooden doors.


Preview: Marcus Samuelsson, Lord Huron to Headline Catskills Wine + Food Festival

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With the persistently multiplying slate of food festivals, we’ve come to focus more and more on the factor of setting. After all, you can get a good duck confit just about anywhere; but where else can you get scenery like, say, The Catskills?

And indeed, if breathtaking vistas do make your heart flutter, the Catskills Wine + Food Festival, October 6 & 7 at the Camp Echo grounds in Bloomingburg, must be an absolute on your autumn culinary calendar. Organized against a peaceful lakeside backdrop, at the foot of the Catskills Mountains, it’s also surrounded by towns noted for their timeless charms and awe-inspiring views.



Big name food world talent abounds at this year’s festival, with Marcus Samuelsson heading a lineup that also features Meatball Shop’s Michael Chernow, Top Chef‘s Gail Simmons, Chopped‘s Alex Guarnaschelli, and Late Nite Eats host Jordan Andino. Standard passes include cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and the like, while VIP access affords special chef & artist meet-and-greet events, plus open bar at designated times, and preferred viewing areas during entertainment programming.

And speaking of, while the musical lineup at such festivals can often fall decidedly flat, here you will get to eat to the beat of the considerable likes of The Revivalists, Moon Taxi, and those indie-darlings-turned-sensations Lord Huron (amongst others).

For our part, we recommend tacking on a couple of extra days to further explore the Catskills region, visiting charming Narrowsburg and its venerable literary destination One Grand Books, or atmospheric Tannersville, for its inimitable vintage shops.


Marcus Samuelsson


Lord Huron




London’s Ham Yard Hotel Launches Epicurean ‘Art Walks’ Program

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The London art scene can be overwhelming, even for those who consider themselves as having reasonably cultivated tastes. But these days the best hotels offer more than a chic room and a buzzy dining destination – and the gloriously stylish Ham Yard Hotel (part of Tim and Kit Kemp’s Firmdale group) is offering a new Art Walks program, designed to guide and enlighten its culture vulture guests.

Kit herself is an enthusiastic collector, something evident throughout their ten London and New York City hotels. So the tour itself begins in the Ham Yard’s stunningly realized private Drawing Room. From there, curator Olivia Paterson takes sojourners to some of the most high-profile galleries throughout sassy Soho and poshie Mayfair.

The walks will take place September 15 and October 6, from 10:30am to 2:30pm, with the last hour-and-a-half devoted to a three-course lunch or afternoon tea at the hotel’s eponymous restaurant (one of our London faves) – where you can enjoy expounding perspicaciously on all you’ve seen and learned.


Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Tony Cragg sculpture at the Ham Yard Hotel

Ham Yard Restaurant 

First Images: The Striking New Bank Hotel Stockholm

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With Southern Europe suffering under climate-changed temps of up to 115 degrees Farenheit, Scandinavia has emerged as a destination-of-the-moment for yet another very good reason.

Now, Stockholm itself has always lured with its matter-of-fact sense of style and design. And that is sublimely exhibited in the new Bank Hotel, opening late August, from the prolific Stureplansgruppen restaurant/nightlife group. Naturally, food plays a major role in its allure, with the unassumingly named signature eatery Bonnie’s fitted into a dramatically renovated banking hall (thus, the hotel’s name), flaunting sexy, emerald green booths, stylish, black-and-white checked tile flooring, and a kitchen lorded over by award-winning chef Magnus Persson. The influence in both food and wine tends toward France and Northern Italy.


Image by Mathias Nordgren


Characteristic of its parent company, aesthetics figure significantly throughout this rather swish new hotel, its striking 1910 building graced by both modern Renaissance design influences. Swedish interior stylists Ida Lauga and Lo Biurlf have infused the rooms with a contemporary classicism, with eight signature suites culminating in the quite spectacular, 185 square meter Bank Extreme Terrace Suite, featuring a full-length balcony and arguably life-altering views (considering the city’s breathtaking beauty.)

Social life comes by way of the casual Sophie’s lounge, and the more elegant Papillon Bar. But make sure to smooth talk your way to the 9th floor, where the secretive Chambre Separé caters to just 12 very privileged guests at a time.

The Bank Hotel is located on Nybroviken Quay, just a short stroll from the old world charms of the Gamla Stan – which is just another bridge away from the hipster paradise of Sodermalm…should that be your inclination.


Above images by Johan Nilson (1) and Mathias Nordgren (2,3).


BlackBook Exclusive: Soulful French Singer Jean Castel’s Bordeaux Favorites

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He decamped to Los Angeles in 2014 to make a go of a music career (after studying at Berklee) – but upstart French singer Jean Castel was actually born and raised in the storied French city of Bordeaux.

An obviously burgeoning songwriting talent, he’s cultivated such towering influences as Michael Jackson and The Beatles into a melody-driven nu-soul sound, perfectly encapsulated in his debut single “What Happened to Us.” With his expressive vocal delivery and clever way with a lyrical couplet – “You only laugh when he calls you / You’re only nice when he comes through” – the song is a paradigm of contemporary pop, with obvious nods to the chart fare of the ’70s and ’80s.

His debut EP, Orange & Yellow, will be released sometime this winter.

Back to his illustrious hometown…though the name has long been associated more with the region and its exalted wines, the city itself is a glory of 18th Century architectural grandiosity (as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site). And after decades of neglect, it has seen a dramatic renewal over the last ten years or so.

There are many things that I love about Bordeaux,” he enthuses, “from the architecture to the food, the air, the scent and the memories. This is where I fell in love with music, where pretty much my whole family lives. The diversity of landscapes and how close the mountains and the beach are to the city. It’s a place that still and will probably always feel like home, and I can still find inspiration when I’m there.”

We asked him to talk us around to some of his fave places there.


Jean Castel’s Bordeaux Favorites


This is the best canelé maker in the world. Canelé is a small pastry flavored with rum and vanilla, with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust – and originally from Bordeaux. They get pretty expensive, but I could eat tons of them. Baillardran has been holding the torch since I discovered them. 


rue Sainte Catherine

Love going on a walk with friends or by myself down this street. There’s always tons of people, it is the second biggest pedestrian street in Europe, I believe (1.2 km) – so it definitely gets really busy, and my thoughts always get lost when I’m there. I just love watching people be people, laughing, being in a hurry, being happy, drunk or focused. It’s filled with shops, bars, restaurants, so you definitely can spend a whole afternoon there and not realize it’s already 8pm.



Bordeaux’s Vineyards

The best wine comes from Bordeaux. We all know that. But getting to see the vineyards and the castles in 3D has no price. They’re pretty much all located at the same area, which makes it easy for you to take a day, go see them, and maybe even find a lovely spot to picnic. I always love going on bike rides with my dad or by myself around them, you get to witness so much history and so much life at the same time. (N.B. these are the top Food + Wine vineyard recommends.)



Les Berthom

In this predominantly wine-focused city, come here to drink amazing beer (local, but also from Belgium, Sweden, Denmark), eat incredible gourmet food and have great conversations. It’s a very chill, warm and friendly bar. I’d recommend it also to people who would want to meet up for business purposes.



Bistro Regent

One of the best and warmest restaurants in Bordeaux. My favorite on the menu is the magret de canard (seared duck breast). They cook the it exactly how you want it to be, and also bring you homemade french fries and salad. Also, it’s only 12 Euro. Oh man.