Rustic Refuge: Maine’s Hidden Pond Has a Stylish New Hideaway Suite

Images by Douglas Friedman

 

 

Recognizing that our usual list of urban weekend getaways (Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco) now comes with all manner of safety concerns and quarantine restrictions, opting to head into the woods instead seems like a pretty excellent idea right now. But how to do that, without compromising those aesthetic inclinations we have so carefully cultivated over the years? After all, Andre Balazs isn’t exactly opening new hotels in the woods…is he?

Thankfully, amidst all the hospitality doom and gloom, some are still bravely moving forward with newsworthy projects. And one new “must” destination for Eastcoasters during this coming and still very confusing autumn season (it arrives today, as a matter of fact) is Maine’s luxurious Hidden Pond, which is notable for its plush Treetop Lodge accommodations. The latest of these is the newly debuted addition dubbed ‘The From Away Lodge by Todd Snyder,’ for which the preppy-mod designer was enlisted to conjure a gorgeously rustic-chic atmosphere—and has very much succeeded.

 

 

Snyder’s eponymous clothing label (founded in 2011) was bought by American Eagle in 2015; and the new suite is inspired by his current ‘From Away’ runway collection for L.L. Bean. So…you get the idea. Collaborating on the project were Kennebunkport’s Hurlbutt Design, and another Maine native, Krista Stokes.

The suite itself is a generous 1099 square feet, and is what you would picture in your dreams, if you were dreaming about a new paradigm of elegantly woodsy design. Indeed, you’ll find no hipstery tweeness or cutesy-frilly anything here; rather, dark woods blend exquisitely with a color scheme of deep reds, greens and blacks, with fabric choices tending to tweed, shearling, even military canvas. L.L. Bean is specifically referenced via bed covers and pillows in its iconic red plaid print. There are also ABC Home patchwork rugs, pebble-stone tiled bathroom showers, even a genuine Herman Miller dresser.

It’s all characterized by a very contemporary unclutteredness…while also evincing a strong sense of local history and heritage.

 

 

Best of all, it also flaunts so many of those cosmopolitan signifiers and amenities that we have come to appreciate and expect, even when we’re staying in a tree. To wit, vintage accessories, a wet bar, a pair of handsome gas fireplaces, local artworks from the nearby Corey Daniels Gallery, and signature scented candles by Snyder himself.

“I was honored to design this suite at Hidden Pond,” Snyder enthuses. “We called it ‘From Away’ because when you’re visiting Maine, you realize you’re either a Maine-Ah (from Maine) or From Away (not from Maine). I had a lot of fun translating the collection’s concept to the suite’s design aesthetic. It’s a reflection of how inspired I was by my first trip to Maine—the beauty of outdoor life, the people and the traditions. I hope a stay in this suite will help guests appreciate what makes Maine such a special destination.”

All things considered, the $1000 a night price tag is perfectly reasonable. And if you can splurge on The From Away Experience Package, the $10,500 will get you a five-night stay, a Porch Picnic for two, a 30-minute one-on-one virtual styling session with Snyder himself, a Todd Snyder VIP card (which entitles you to 30% off all TS merchandise for a one year period), a $200 L.L.Bean gift card, and private access to the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Program, which might include paddle boarding, kayaking, clay-disc shooting, fly-casting, archery…and other such un-city-like adventures.

Oh, and since downtown Kennebunkport is a few miles away, social distancing will have already been sorted for you.

 

Report From Detroit: Andrew Carmellini on Reopening the Restaurants at the Shinola Hotel

San Morello

 

 

While the hit taken by the hospitality industry has been essentially universal, some stories stand out because of what was happening before the coronavirus lockdowns. Detroit, of course, has been a story for a very long time—struggling as it has been for the last four decades to revive its once and former glories.

Interestingly, rent fatigue in cities like New York and San Francisco at last saw young creatives making a beeline for Motor City in recent years, seeking reasonably priced apartments, and the thrill of “anything can happen here” that disappeared from NYC a long time ago. And one shining symbol of this new era of possibility was the Shinola Hotel, opened in January of 2019 in the historic Woodward shopping district. It was the sort of hotel that would these days be more likely throwing open its doors in Brooklyn or Silver Lake, with its unapologetic hipster signifiers—rustic furnishings, nostalgic Americana, factory-style windows, hanging globe lamps—and its goal of acting as a social hub for the city’s invigorated mediarati/culturati.

 

Shinola Hotel 

 

If you hadn’t guessed, it was indeed a branded project of Shinola, the Detroit based accessories purveyor who had gained international cognoscenti approval and financial success over the last several years with their zeitgeist-tapping watches, bags, belts, etc.  But another very big name was also attached to the project: exalted NYC Chef Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo Hospitality (The Dutch, Locanda Verde, Lafayette) were overseeing the restaurants, both of which were instantly adopted by the local trend-setters and -seekers.

Indeed, Carmellini’s San Morello deftly brought the laidback charm of the Sicilian Coast to Woodward Avenue, with dishes like chicken rosalina, black shells puttanesca, and lamb meatballs with whipped goat cheese; while The Brakeman now seems the perfect place to blow off steam in such troubled times—a handsomely designed craft beer hall, with a unique selection of drafts, amazing fried-chicken from the adjacent venue Penny Red’s, plus foosball, ping pong, and shuffleboard, the latter two of which happen to be very of-the-moment with the cool kids.

On the occasion of the re-opening of both, we chatted with Chef Carmellini about the noble struggle back to normality. He was also kind enough to share a few of most popular recipes from San Morello.

 

What is new about the experience at the Shinola restaurants?

At all the restaurants, sanitation and safety protocols in line with Michigan’s state health guidelines have been put in place. This includes staff wellness checks, face masks, and social distancing requirements, and surface disinfectant protocol between uses. As far as the experience, it was important to us to create the warm, friendly and comfortable atmosphere that our guests have come to expect, while maintaining safety as a top priority. For the food, we initially thought to create new menu items, but after listening to the community we realized they were craving the dishes they know and love, like San Morello’s sheep’s milk ricotta or the rosalina chicken, and we prepared to have those ready for them.

How do you see the near future of the Detroit restaurant scene, and the near future of American restaurants in general?

I think the future is unpredictable. I’ve run restaurants through disasters before, like the September 11 terrorist attacks, which many thought Manhattan restaurants would never recover from, and we proved them wrong—so it’s hard to say. Independent restaurants employ more than 10 million people, so my goal and the goal of the Independent Restaurant Coalition right now is to fight to make sure that a majority of those jobs don’t disappear for good. I will say that based on our re-openings in Detroit, I do think that the concept of eating a meal together at a restaurant is still important to communities, something people will always seek out when they are ready, possibly even appreciating the experience even more than ever. So I am optimistic.

 

The Brakeman

 

How had things been going at your restaurants at the Shinola before the lockdowns?

I’m very proud of what my team has done in Detroit. The team that relocated there is loving the city, they’ve bought homes there, and have really ingrained themselves in the scene. Seeing the quality and success of the whole hotel itself has been impressive; and having celebrated its one-year opening anniversary in January, the restaurants were really settling in nicely there.

What has characterized the re-opening experience?

Make no doubt about it, it is hard. At the same time, it feels great to be at work. Essentially restaurant people are like tuna fish, we swim or we die. It’s nice to take a break, but there is that high that comes from working together on a team and taking care of people the best way you can; and the desire to do that is at the core of all of us.

 

San Morello

Three Recipes from San Morello

 

Sheep’s Milk Ricotta with Hot Honey and Garlic 

Chef Andrew Carmellini

Serves 6
Every chef loves playing with complex flavors and textures, but this dish is a great reminder that straightforward, delicious food always makes people happy. We whip the ricotta with a splash of milk to give it a fluffy texture, and spread it on grilled semolina bread drizzled with spicy honey and crunchy herbs & garlic.
Ingredients:
For the whipped ricotta:
2 cups Sardinian sheep’s milk ricotta (if you can’t find this, use the regular cow’s milk ricotta) 1⁄2 cup whole milk
2 to 3 tablespoons Mike’s Hot Honey
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse sea salt 2 to 3 tablespoons Mike’s Hot Honey
For the garlic chips:
1 cup extra virgin olive oil 6-7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
For the crunchy herbs:
6-8 basil leaves
1 cup canola or other neutral oil
Method:
Beat the ricotta and the milk together until the mixture is light and fluffy, using a KitchenAid with the paddle attachment if you’ve got one, or a whisk and a medium-sized bowl if you don’t. Add the table salt and mix well. Set aside.
Place garlic and oil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the garlic begins to fry. Remove garlic from oil as soon as the garlic starts to caramelize and drain on paper towel. It will continue to cook and darken a few shades after you remove it from the oil. Reserve the remaining garlic oil for serving. Allow the garlic to cool and set aside.
To make the crunchy herbs, use a pot to bring canola oil to 350°F and add herbs — be careful as it will splatter. Stir consistently for about 15-30 seconds, then remove herbs and place on paper towels to dry.
To serve, place the mixture in a serving bowl and drizzle with Mike’s Hot Honey and the crispy garlic and herbs. Spoon over a little of the reserved garlic oil and finish with pinch of fleur de sel. Serve this with a board full of grilled semolina bread. I guarantee you won’t be able to stop eating it.

 

Image by Nicole Franzen 

 

 

Lamb Meatballs
 

Chef Andrew Carmellini 
 

Makes 30 meatballs
Ingredients:
For the meatballs:
3 T olive oil
1⁄2 cup onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
1⁄2 t coriander
1 t fennel seed, chopped
1 T chopped rosemary, chopped
1 lb lamb, ground
1⁄2 lb merguez sausage, approx 8 links (or 2 links hot Italian sausage if you prefer), with casings cut away
onions, diced
1⁄2 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 whole eggs
1⁄2 t salt
2 oz fresh goat cheese
For the sauce:
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 cup onions, diced (approx 1 small onion)
1 1-lb 12 oz can San Marzano tomatoes (about 15 tomatoes) plus their juice 1⁄4 t peperoncini
1⁄2 t salt
1⁄2 t sugar
1⁄2 t Sicilian oregano
To finish:
1⁄4 cup grated Pecorino
Method:
To make the meatballs:
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add the coriander, fennel seed and rosemary. Cook together 1 minute, so that the aromas of the spices and herbs are released.
Remove to a bowl and place in the fridge to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the sausage meat and the lamb with the onion-herb mixture, the breadcrumbs, the eggs and the salt. Mix well with your hands.
Roll the goat cheese into roughly 1⁄2-inch balls (the size of a small marble).
Take approx 2 tablespoons of lamb mixture. Roll and press it into an oval. Use your thumb to create a large goat-cheese-ball-sized dent in the middle, and drop the goat cheese ball inside. Pinch the mixture up around the ball to close up the hole and roll the meatball between your hands till it’s golf-ball-shaped. Repeat until you’ve used up all the goat cheese and the lamb mixture.
To make the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions start to soften, approx 1 minute.
Add the canned tomatoes and juice, the peperoncini , the salt and the sugar. Mix to combine.
Cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the flavors combine and the sauce is reduced. Add the oregano and mix well.
Add the meatballs and ensure they’re all covered in the sauce. Reduce the heat to low, so the sauce is at a very low simmer, and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, until the meat is cooked and the sauce takes on the flavor of the meatballs. It’s very important that the liquid never comes to a boil: you want as slow a simmer as possible, so the flavors really come together, the cheese melts and the meat becomes rich and tender.
To finish:
Ladle the meatballs and sauce into 4 bowls. Sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Image by Joe Vaughn 

 

Sicilian Pistachio Cake

Chef Andrew Carmellini

Makes one 8-inch cake
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup almond paste
1⁄3 cup pistachio paste (Sevarome brand recommended) 1⁄4 cup all purpose flour
For the cake:
2 sticks butter, room temperature 2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, room temperature
Cake topping:
3 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw
3 tablespoons raw Sicilian pistachios, chopped
To Finish:
1 Valrhona Guanaja 70% chocolate bar (2.46 oz) 1 navel orange
Method:
Combine all ingredients for the pistachio sugar in a food processor and pulse until no large chunks of almond paste remain and mixture is sandy and completely uniform throughout. To achieve the best results, pulse in two batches. Take out of the food processor and set aside.
In an electric mixer bowl with paddle attachment, cream butter with the pistachio sugar from above until combined and lighter in texture. Do not over-mix or the cake will deflate after baking. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside. Add vanilla paste and almond extract to the creamed butter mixture and continue to mix on a low speed, making sure to down the sides of the bowl. Next, add the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the bowl again before proceeding. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.
Line the base of a removable bottom 8-inch cake pan with a round cut piece of parchment paper. Spray the paper and sides of the pan lightly with vegetable oil spray. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out the top with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle the Sugar in the Raw and chopped Sicilian pistachios evenly over the cake. Bake at 325°F for about 45-50 minutes or insert a small paring knife into the cake — it’ll be done when it comes out clean.
Cool completely. Once cooled, run a small offset spatula along the edge of the pan to release the cake. Gently lift the cake out of the pan and cut into 12 equal pieces using a serrated knife.
Using a microplane, grate chocolate evenly over the entire cake. Lightly zest an orange over the top and enjoy.
Image by Emily Berger 

Desert Debonair: Arizona Has a Gorgeous New Hotel Called the Tuxon

 

 

 

For awhile there, it seemed like California, Florida and Arizona were locked in a coronavirus race to oblivion, as cases continued to skyrocket in all three states. For the latter, the numbers are still not good—but have at least achieved a hopeful downward trend.

Into this worrying reality comes a shining new beacon of hope (new hotels are always beacons of hope, aren’t they?) called the Tuxon. As you can guess from the name, this strikingly designed new sleep is situated in the desert just outside of Tucson, dramatically set at the foot of Sentinel Park and along the banks of the Santa Cruz River. It’s an area proudly referred to as “the birthplace of Tucson.”

 

 

But don’t come looking for flouncy spa amenities—rather, the Tuxon strikes a clever balance between boutique design resort, and retro roadside hotel. The luxury ultimately wins out, with 112 stylish rooms done up with elegant but rustic grey woods, patterned textiles that reference local southwestern/Mexican/Native-American heritage and Tucson-centric minibars.

It’s also a design geek’s dream, with the most instantly iconic feature being the boomerang-shaped pool, which acts as the hotel’s central social hub. A private desert garden area further reminds of the hotel’s geography—as do the handcrafted “slushes” and southwestern-inspired bites at The Pool Bar.

Fittingly, it is also Arizona’s first member of the exalted Design Hotels group.

 

 

Co-creator Sunny Patel explains, “Through design, service and our programming, we are delivering a truly authentic experience that celebrates the spirit of our community. The Tuxon stays true to its surroundings by paying tribute to the retro vibe and road trip feel of the past, while building upon Tucson’s modern legacy.”

That legacy includes it being a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, flaunting some of the country’s most exalted and authentic Mexican eateries—and two of them, El Charro and Mi Nidito, are within biking distance of the hotel. As is “The Loop,” a 131-mile hiking trail around Tucson.

This being 2020, naturally, the Tuxon is also very much a safety-forward property.

“We continue to take all of the proactive steps needed to ensure a safe and clean environment,” promises partner Vishal Patel. “Prioritizing the health and safety of our employees and guests remains of the utmost importance.”

 

 

A Happiness Museum Has Just Opened in Copenhagen – Good Timing(?)

 

 

 

The thing about museums is that for the most part, they exhibit things that have taken a place in history—even if that history was just nine or ten months ago, in some cases. So the irony of opening a museum focusing on happiness, while in the middle of a global pandemic, is either a deliciously clever one…or perhaps one that is just a little depressing.

Said institution, pithily titled The Museum of Happiness, has just opened in Copenhagen, curated by the awesomely named Happiness Research Institute. One can certainly see the sense in locating such a place in a country which experiences about 170 rainy days per annum—though Denmark actually recently finished second only to Finland in the World Happiness Report. So take your pick whether the intention of the museum is to bring about happiness, or merely to celebrate it.

 

 

“The UN has put happiness on the agenda with that report,” says Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Institute, “where Denmark is repeatedly ranked as one of the countries in the world that is best for creating well-being, happiness and quality of life. Therefore, we think it is an obvious home for a museum that focuses on how we create a better framework for good lives.”

Wiking should know. He has written three best-selling books on the subject, including The Little Book of Lykke, The Little Book of Hygge and The Art of Making Memories, which have been collectively published in 50+ countries.

The museum itself, fitted into an 18th Century building along the Admiralgade, in Copenhagen’s Old Town, features eight rooms with titles like The History of Happiness, The Geography of Happiness, The Politics of Happiness, and, most intriguingly, The Science of Happiness—the latter which will surely eventually be protested by American Evangelicals. Visitors can hear a speech by JFK questioning the role of economic prosperity in cultivating contentment; scan a wall of post-it notes with assorted international peoples’ individual definitions of the “H” word; and test emotional recognition technology, seeking to better understand tech’s role in our quest for genuine serenity. (Sadly, there’s no gift shop yet, in case you were wondering if “happiness” were available for purchase.)

 

 

But considering what the last six months have wrought, we wouldn’t be surprised if there were a perpetual bottleneck to gain access to The Smile room, something which has decisively alluded us in this rather miserable calendar year of 2020. Here, one is tasked with testing one’s resistance to contagious laughter—and we’re very much looking forward to trying and failing.

Wiking concludes, “Our hope is guests will leave a little wiser, a little happier and a little more motivated to make the world a better place.”

So, if it even need be said, don’t expect to be bumping into Mitch McConnell here.

 

Trendspotting: ‘Cocktails in a Can’ Go Upscale

 

 

Is it us, or does it seem like ordinary occurrences that we would typically take for granted, or even become annoyed by, now tend to illicit a new kind of satisfaction, or dare we say….actual joy? Simple pleasures like sharing a bottle of prosecco under an umbrella during a thunderstorm with a friend you haven’t seen in months, or just getting out of dodge (i.e. the city)—no matter where you happen to be going?

As we bask in the remaining weeks (hopefully) of summer, we have one more recently discovered little pleasure to be chuffed about: the ready-to serve cocktail, a trend which has been booming during these alcohol-forward pandemic times. Sure, they’re not new to 2020; but thanks to award-winning local distilleries and marquee mixologists, the new breed of crafted, canned tipples is now giving its predecessors, like High Noon, some serious competition.

 

 

What started as a quest for the perfect gin & tonic by Julie Reiner and Tom Macy, Clover Club’s cocktail culture pioneers, eventually inspired them to make the perfect mixed drink. The result is Social Hour, canned cocktails that are convenient as open-and-pour, and at the ready for whatever occasion—perhaps even breakfast. In fact, we’ve been enthusiastically experimenting with day-of-the-week and time-of-the-day possibilities, and highly recommend it.

“Social Hour comes from what my family has always called cocktail hour,” explains Macy.

Their trio of libations include summer’s favorite past time, an herbaceous and floral gin & tonic, as well as a citrusy, effervescent whiskey mule, and a light(er)-on-alcohol poolside refresher, the Pacific Spritz. Ingredients were carefully selected from local resources: New York Distilling’s Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin and Ragtime Rye; a proprietary tonic water made from scratch; and a rosé wine blend from New York’s Finger Lakes. The dynamic duo’s creations are testament to their liquid artistry and their absolute attention to detail.

“We’ve made a career crafting the perfect cocktail,” Reiner says. And it truly shows in the details.

 

 

Another newcomer to the happiness-in-a-can market gets its inspiration from a bygone era: the old fashioned. Sourced from Cooper Spirits Co, a family owned distillery in Philadelphia, Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye is a modern day take on a prohibition style recipe that dates all the way back to 1884 (and we all know how hip the 19th Century is right now). It’s expertly made from straight aged rye whiskey, 100% raw honey from Western PA, dried navel oranges from Florida, a pinch of rock candy, and Angostura bitters.

The result is an 84-proof eye-popper, that’s prepping us to welcome the cooler, more rustic days of autumn.

“Canned cocktails are exploding in popularity because of their ease of use,” says Chad Solomon, Cooper’s Director of Trade Advocacy and Innovation. “Slow & Low is an update of Rock & Rye, modernized through the lens of a rye whiskey old-fashioned. It’s craft cocktail bar quality in a can, that’s ready to roll wherever you go and ready to go when you get there. Life is hard, your cocktail doesn’t have to be.”

Of course, from what we can tell, we can’t actually tell anything about what the next few months holds for the now non-existent indoor bar scene. But the new gen of ready-made canned cocktails will mean your favorite new bar will be pretty much anywhere you want it to be.

Slow and Low packaged in 4pk/100ml cans for $19.99 and available via Reserve BarDrizly, Instacart, BevMo, Total Wine

Social Hour packaged in 4pk/cans for $19.95 and available at liquor stores in New York and New Jersey and their website: www.socialhourcocktails.com

Philadelphia’s Fitler Club Reemerges w/ New ‘Garden’ Restaurant + ‘In Residence’ Pandemic Recovery Program

 

 

When Fitler Club opened in summer of 2019, it essentially announced to the world that Philadelphia could do “private clubbing” easily as well as New York or Los Angeles. We paid a visit last August, and actually thought it was better in so many ways than Soho House or any of the profusion nof competitors that followed it…save for maybe Norwood in New York.

The scope of its ambition is surely what was most impressive. With its overarching sort of neo-Corbusian design scheme (by LA’s M-Rad), it easily aesthetically eclipsed the postmodern pastiche of so many clubs that had come before it. And it had an art collection that included Damien Hirst and Joseph Beuys, while still actively cultivating young local talent; it also had a restaurant overseen by Philly godhead chef Marc Vetri (private clubs were previously notable for their mediocre culinary offerings); it had a sprawling gym and a bowling alley (a 20,000 square foot swim club is in the works); and 14 gorgeously designed, very spacious rooms that you actually didn’t want to leave, even if so much a-level socializing waited just beyond your door.

 

 

The latter, collectively known as The Rooms at Fitler Club, have reopened to guests (after being shut down by COVID, obviously), coinciding with the debut of the pithily named new restaurant The Garden at Fitler Club. Helmed by Ryan Bloome, formerly of the Jean Georges SkyHigh bar at the Four Seasons, it’s set in a handsome brick courtyard, with social-distancing in effect—and is hosting a series of special guest chef collaborations.

Most significantly, a new all-encompassing and science-based program called Fitler Forward has also been put into effect, to assure the health and safety of all guests—and, with the “In Residence” element of the program, will also assist the recovery of local businesses by hosting notable local entrepreneurs for idea sharing sessions. Included in the safety check are a rapid temperature screening, electrostatic disinfection, PPE requirements, and UV sanitizing for phones—all to be completed in under 45 seconds.

The restaurant has already been a hit.

 

 

“Launching The Garden at Fitler Club has been a welcome endeavor in an otherwise difficult time for the restaurant industry, Philadelphia and the world,” offers Chef Bloome. “We’ve seen such a positive reception from the community, who have really embraced the opportunity to dine out and feel at ease because of all the safety protocols we have put into place, giving our members and their guests the confidence to gather together again.”

In that spirit, BlackBook asked him to share a few of his fave recipes with us—though we strenuously recommend experiencing The Garden, and Fitler Club, firsthand.

 

Recipes From The Garden at Fitler Club

 

Beef Skewers with Smashed Cucumber (serves 2)

For the beef:
8oz Strip Loin or Sirloin cut, this is a great way to use the ends of a larger cut
Slice in thin strips and marinade for 2-4hrs before skewering
For the Marinade:
10g shallot, minced
5g scallion, root end, sliced thin
8g ginger, minced
2g garlic, minced
.5 of a fresh thai chili, seeded and minced
2g salt
5g toasted sesame seed
30g neutral oil (we use sunflower)
20g soy sauce
2g sesame oil
For the Smashed Cucumber:
400g persian cucumber (or kirbys or parisian gherkins, anything with a thinner skin)
50g salt
Smash the cucumbers with a rolling pin, you want to break them but not completely pulverize them, they should be slightly broken apart but still mostly intact. Place them in a colander, toss with salt and let sit in the sink for 30-40 minutes. Rinse well after and add remaining ingredients. Allow to sit for another 30-40 minutes or up to overnight. After a full day you’ve basically just made quick pickles and they lose that freshness so don’t make too far ahead, day of is best.
Add to cucumber:
18g shallot, sliced into thin rings
6g garlic, minced
6g fresno, sliced into thin rings (the more seeds the spicier so if you like it mild remove all seeds)
8g white miso
35g sugar
135g rice vinegar
Smash with a rolling pin.
Drain some of the liquid off of the cucumbers and place in a shallow bowl, Grill beef skewers to desired temperature using the existing oil as your lubricant and lay on top of your cucumbers, enjoy together!
The cucumbers are awesome by themselves or with other proteins as well, try them with grilled shrimp skewers.

 

Grilled Flank Steak with Hazelnut Romesco and Charred Summer Squash

For the steak I like to leave them as whole flanks for groups and slice down after cooking but you could just as easily cut the flank into the desired portion size before marinating
Marinade Steaks with:
100g Olive Oil
5g fresh basil (stems and all)
5g fresh oregano or marjoram
1 whole fresh serrano, sliced in half and smashed to release some of the oils
1 clove garlic
15g salt
a few turns of fresh black pepper
You can either put your steaks in a vacuum bag with everything or just let them sit with the marinade in a bowl in your fridge for a few hours. pull your steaks out of the fridge an hour before you need them and place them on a cooling rack so most of the oil is allowed to fall away.
For grilling flank steak you want relatively high heat to start and relatively low heat for the last few minutes
Place the steaks on the hottest part of your grill for 3 minutes, flip for an additional 3 minutes and then reduce the heat of your grill or move to a cooler area for the next 2 flips (2-3 minutes per side depending on desired temperature. Allow steaks to rest for 6-8 minutes before slicing
For the Squash:
200g mixed summer squash
2g basil leaves, torn
2g scallion greens, sliced thin
2g fennel top or dill, chopped
3g flaky sea salt
We get a mix of local squash from a farm called Three Springs Farm. We use 6 or 7 different types of summer squash but any 1 or multiple kinds will work.
Cut the squash at odd angles or quarter small ones (try to keep the pieces close to the same size.)
Heat a pan well (preferably a cast iron to get a good sear) over high heat. add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
Do not salt your squash before they go in the pan, we’ll do that after. When you salt them before they begin to leach out water and that prevents a good sear.
Add your squash to the pan carefully and making sure you’ve got cut sides of the squash up against the heat source.
Reduce your heat to medium and allow to caramelize on first side. Turn each piece of squash to any cut side to caramelize.
Turn off pan once all squash are cooked just through and browned nicely and allow residual heat of pan to finish cooking the squash. We want them to have some texture left in them.
Pour squash into a bowl and dress with herbs and sea salt
For the romesco:
100g hazelnuts
100g sunflower oil
3g annato seed
1g chili flake
6g dried guajillo or ancho, seeds removed
7g garlic cloves (whole)
30g shallot, 1/2’ed
150g roasted pepper (good jarred peppers like piquillos are ok)
25g sherry vinegar
15g orange juice
5g salt
Place hazelnuts and oil in a small pot and heat over medium heat. Keep a close eye and stir almost constantly. As soon as the nuts are nicely toasted all the way around remove and allow to cool.
Add second set of ingredients (annato, chilis, garlic, shallot) to hot oil and reduce to very low heat. Once everything is very soft allow it all to cool completely
Put all of your liquid ingredients and your peppers into the base of a blender and add your hazelnuts and begin to blend until relatively smooth. add salt and remaining ingredients with the oil slowly, stopping to stir occasionally if needed. Once fully blended smooth you’re ready to go!
Place some of your romesco on the plate, top with your squash and finally your sliced steak, sprinkle the steak with a little bit of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

 

Charred Corn and Tomato Pasta with Pecorino and Fresh Herbs

250g pasta (we use a fresh extruded Gnocchetti Sardi but mini shells are a perfect substitute)
10g scallion whites
150g fresh corn
150g cherry tomatoes
200g vegetable stock (fortified with your corn cobs and pecorino rinds)
100g dry white wine
juice from 1/2 of a lemon
40g pecorino cheese (+ more to sprinkle on top at the end of course!)
30g fresh basil
50g cold unsalted butter
40g toasted pine nuts
For the vegetable stock you can use store bought stuff or just take all of your onion, carrot, celery and herb scraps and save them and bring them to a boil very briefly and allow to cool before straining. For this vegetable stock we add the cobs from our corn and the rind from our pecorino as well as bay leaves and black peppercorns. Regular veggie stock will work just fine but the corn flavor is really amplified if you just throw your corn cobs in with it and bring it to a boil for a few minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it well. Once boiling add your pasta. While your pasta is boiling heat a large pan until very hot and add your scallion and corn and allow them to char a little bit in the dry pan. Reduce your heat to medium low and add your wine and, 1/2 of your pecorino and your fortified vegetable stock and allow it to reduce most of the way down. At this point if your pasta isnt ready just remove your pan from the heat until it is. Once your pasta is ready add about 8-10 ounces of your well seasoned pasta water to your pan of corn and begin to reduce. add your pasta and the other half of your cheese and stir well for a minute or 2 over the heat until the liquid has reduced and gotten a little thicker. Put your tomatoes and butter in now and stir vigorously for another minute, turn off your heat and toss in your basil.
Pour the entire pan into a bowl and top with pine nuts and some more pecorino cheese!

Texas’ New Hotel Paso Del Norte Will Open w/ the Virus-Killing Air Filtration System We’ve All Been Waiting For

 

 

That the hospitality industry has taken a particularly hard hit during the coronavirus crisis goes much deeper than just the numbers. Hotels are where a city comes together, and where the world crosses paths; the reality that many are now sitting nearly empty only serves to emphasize just how socially isolated we have been for the last five months.

But most health experts have agreed that hotels, if not yet their indoor restaurants, are amongst the safest places to be, provided safety guidelines are being maintained. And the opening of new ones, certainly, is an incredibly hopeful sign, at a time when we really do need as many hopeful signs as possible. Intriguingly, it’s in the city of El Paso, Texas, of all places, where the future of hotel safety is soon to be unveiled.

Indeed, the Hotel Paso Del Norte (part of the Autograph Collection) will open there this autumn with a state of the art air filtration system that sounds for everything like it is designed to kill any sign of virus in its path, via “bipolar ionization.” Using HVAC-mounted ionizers, it employs proactive air purification technologies to conjure millions of positive and negative ions; or, to put it in easily understandable numerical terms, it eliminates 99%(!) of all infectious matter within 10 minutes.

How do they know it’s effective? The system, developed by Stamford, CT’s Plasma Air, was tested in simulated hospital ICUs and hotels used to house medical personnel in isolation during the pandemic. And it worked.

 

 

It’s the central element in the Paso Del Norte’s “A Commitment to Clean Plan,” which also includes sanitizing stations throughout hotel, temperature checks for staff prior to each shift, plexiglass barriers at the front, bell and concierge desks, and all restaurant host podiums, mobile check-in via the Marriott Bonvoy app, and thorough cleaning of all guest rooms, with a 24-hour window between guests for each room. Even use of the rooftop pool is by reservation, to avoid overcrowding.

“Being in the renovation process when this crisis occurred,” offers General Manager Carlos Sarmiento, “gave us the unique opportunity to implement additional safety features before opening our doors. When we undertook this project, we were prepared to restore the 108-year-old property’s architectural elements, create stunning event spaces and amenities, and curate a distinct culinary destination—but COVID-19 gave us the need to also enhance air quality in all areas of the hotel.”

Those 108 years date the Paso Del Norte back to 1912, and it shows—with grand Art Deco columns, gilded and coffered ceilings, and dramatically arched windows, which offer majestic mountain views. Elsewhere, warm woods, contemporary and classical chandeliers, and elegant but vibrant color schemes make for an overall interior design that strikes that oh-so-careful balance of the modern and the historical.

Still, Sarmiento very much emphasizes the safety aspects of a stay at the Paso Del Norte.

“In 2020, there is no amenity greater than safety,” he insists. “Reopening during a pandemic means that offering an authentic destination experience is not enough. It’s imperative that we employ advanced safety precautions to promote health and peace of mind. Then guests will truly be able to enjoy this beautiful hotel.”

 

Travel 2020: New Study Shows Americans Wish They Were in Greece, Italy, Hawaii

Santorini

 

 

Aside from having to spend most of the day, every day, indoors, one of the most significant alterations to our Western lifestyle resulting from the coronavirus crisis, has been the almost complete shut down of our insatiable wanderlust. The travel biz, battered and bruised, has subsequently been seeking to understand just what its business is going to look like in six months, one year, and in the longview.

Most surveys are revealing pretty much what you’d expect. But a recent study by Trainline netted what were actually some fascinating results. Trainline is an independent digital rail ticketing platform, based in London—and it’s part of the Virgin Group of companies.

Using Google search patterns over the last twelve, they sought out Americans’ travel wish list across 300 of the world’s top destinations. Obviously, those searches experienced a radical shift once worldwide lockdowns went into effect in March, and assorted travel bans went into effect.

Most startling, the top foreign holiday search was Puerto Rico, an island nation that has still never fully recovered from the 2017 devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria. One also might question its inclusion on the list at all; but then, indications were that a fair number of Americans don’t seem to know that Puerto Rico is actually part of the United States.

 

Hawaii

 

After that comes Greece and Italy, perhaps because they both did such an efficient job of beating back the virus. And well, if the Apocalypse is actually coming, who wouldn’t want to be on a beach in Santorini? Or sipping Negronis at the Hotel Quisisana in Capri? Canada comes in at number six, probably because a growing number of Americans are hoping to get there and never leave.

For those staying domestic, Hawaii didn’t have much trouble taking the top spot over New York City; but the latter’s decisive performance on corona makes it an attractive weekend getaway—but only if you’re coming from a state which has behaved itself and kept the virus numbers down. Quite curiously, however, residents of Hawaii are juicing to get to Las Vegas, surely as the perfect counter to all that Aloha State sunshine would be holing up in windowless gambling halls. Hmm.

For our part, we’re seriously considering tunneling all the way to Greenland, which seems like it just might be the last truly safe place on Earth.

The complete results of the Trainline study can be viewed here.

 

Rome

 

Socially Distanced Opulence: France’s Château de Chambord Premieres a ‘Floating’ Suite

Images by Philippe Nannetti 

 

 

For anyone who has been in lockdown for months in a small to medium sized apartment, it’s hard not to be envious of they whose bloodlines have left them in the situation of spending the duration of the coronavirus crisis in the, erm, family castle. It conjures fantasies, surely, of the Euro travel ban being lifted, and subsequently romping around the chateaux and wide-open vineyards of France’s fertile Loire Valley.

One of those, the rather storied Château de Chambord—third in size, stature and all around awesomeness behind only Versailles and Fontainebleau—saw a hotel open on its grounds in 2018, the Jean-Michel Wilmotte designed Relais de Chambord. And recently the hotel debuted a suite that seems purposefully designed for those who feel the urgent need to continue social distancing practices whenever possible. Indeed, built into a toue cabanée (a classic French flat-bottom boat), it floats in elegant isolation along the shores of the Loire.

Of course, its most prized amenity is the spectacularly humbling view of the 440 room chateau and the 5440 hectare estate that surrounds it. But inside, like the hotel that it is a detached feature of, there’s not sign of the 16th, 17th or 18th Centuries. Rather, the cozily modern, Stefania di Petrillo designed suite is done up in dignified tones of blue, red and white, with dark woods, rattan furnishings and wraparound windows.

 

 

In the morning, one can take breakfast on the suite’s private deck, with the Château as a lavish backdrop.

It’s also just 160 km from Paris, about an hour-and-a-half train ride. And admirers of pomp and outrageous opulence will want to spend several sumptuous hours just poncing about the château itself, with its magnificent French Renaissance architecture (said to have been influenced by none other than Leonardo da Vinci), fascinating double spiral staircase, and vast collection of paintings, tapestries and objet d’art.

Of course, located as it is in the middle of the glorious Loire Valley, make sure your stay includes a visit to the region’s finest wineries…where you can indulge like your favorite dissolute 17th Century aristocrat.