Next Neighborhood: Fort Point is Boston’s New Waterfront Creative Hub…Still

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Let’s face it, NYC’s hunger for novelty and change often doesn’t produce the most worthy results (see: health-conscious cocktails). So little wonder about our esteem for cities like Philadelphia and Boston, where such change occurs at a more, let’s say, considered pace.

The latter’s Fort Point neighborhood is a case in, well, point. Long a harborside area known for its…parking lots, it nevertheless actively cultivated and supported the local artistic community. But we know the formula by now: developers discover it, and up go the skyward condo buildings and the prices. Yet Boston is a very different place from New York, and even amidst the gleaming new high rises, an artistic soul is yet tended to here.

 

Envoy Hotel lobby

 

To wit, on our recent stay at the stunningly designed Envoy Hotel, located right along the waterfront, we discovered that a space within the hotel was given to the Fort Point Arts Community, to stage exhibitions by its member artists. FPAC is non-profit founded back in 1980 – and it sees to the needs of the more than 300 artists who still live in the district (visit their site for gallery listings). And it fits quite nicely with creative mission of the hotel, if we do say.

The area is noticeably changing. Just up the road, Harpoon was the city’s first microbrewery (dating to 1986), and is still producing its excellent Winter Warmer and Dark Beer / Stout, amongst others. But just around the corner from the Envoy, Scorpion Bar does velvet-roped, signature margarita fueled evenings in extravagantly decked out, nightclubby surrounds.

Here’s what we discovered.

 

The Institute of Contemporary Art

It arrived before the recent rush, opening in a spectacular new waterfront location in December 2006. But the ICA itself actually dates to 1936, and is regarded as one of the most important American contemporary art institutions. Its thought-provoking shows will make you smarter (the current Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today) and also more engaged with the socio-political zeitgeist (We Wanted a Revolution, Black Radical Women 1965-1985, opening June 27 – and spot on for the current prevailing mood). The Diller Scofidio + Renfro building is a breathtaking example of the firm’s architecture-as-art ethos.

 

 

The Cafes

Where creative sorts are massing, there must be coffee to brood over. And the Fort Point outpost of Caffe Nero (a Brit import) is an aesthetically charming mix of industrial chic and Euro bric a brac, with excellent cortados and breakfast pots. Nearby Barrington Coffee caters to the cool kids, with artful interiors and uncommon brews from Guatemala and Nicaragua. Flour Bakery does salads, grain bowls, brioche au chocolat and vegan cakes, with a spacious terrace on comely Farnsworth Street.

 

Barrington Coffee

 

The Restaurants

And then came the trendy restaurants. Barbara Lynch’s Menton is the area’s culinary showpiece, a very French, Relais & Chateaux dining experience – with an 8-course tasting menu, and a classy bar serving Euro-centric cocktails like the Cassis Spritz and Florence Sour. Anchoring the Congress Street “scene,” Pastoral is a rustic-chic, artisan pizza kitchen, with creative antipasti (octopus panzanella, escarle caesa) and fourteen craft beers on draught. Sportello does interesting pastas – braised rabbit strozzapreti, cavatelli cavolfiore – in “mod diner” digs. And perpetually packed Smoke Shop BBQ offers up award winning plates of its namesake meats, as well as local whiskey flights, in a buzzy atmosphere.

 

Pastoral 

 

The Nightlife

Exalted chef Barbara Lynch’s low-lit, connoisseur’s cocktail spot Drink has no actual drinks menu – they’re all done to order (you know, like…bespoke), paired with excellent mushroom crostini and steak tartare. Dark woods, parquet floors and artful chandeliers set the tone in the lounge area of Bastille Kitchen – toast to the French Revolution on a smart leather coach with a bourbon-and-fig Marquis or a Parisian Mule. Lucky’s Lounge is the area’s longtime fixture, a gritty, retro rocker bar that serves a stiff drink, pulled pork sliders, a Sinatra brunch and rousing live music.

Bastille Kitchen 

 

The Envoy Hotel

Frankly, one of our favorite sleeps…period. The Envoy Hotel‘s glass and steel construction allowed for stylish, loft-like rooms with floor-to-ceilings windows framing honestly jaw-dropping waterfront views (the bathrooms also come with impossibly chic bathrobes.) The snazzy lobby area – complete with electronic billiards table – spills into the Outlook Kitchen & Bar, a sleek, all-day dining affair (the duck confit toast at brunch is ridiculously delicious) serving cognac mac & cheese, pear & pistachio salad and spicy tuna poke, all under the direction of charismatic Cuban chef Tatiana Pairot Rosana. But the real bragging rights come by way of the Lookout Rooftop & Bar, which does top notch cocktails against the glittering backdrop of all those spectacular downtown high-rises.

 

 

 

Schitt’s Creek Star Daniel Levy’s 5 Fave Spots in Toronto

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The creator and star in Schitt’s Creek – which has won 11 Canadian Screen Awards and received another 15 nominations, as well as picking up three Director’s Guild of Canada Awards – Dan Levy is a Canadian to his core. The entertainment multi-hyphenate and son of actor Eugene Levy grew up mostly outside the glittering spectacle of Los Angeles in his home country, spending much of his time in Canada’s notably culturally diverse city of Toronto.

We asked Levy to pick some of his favorite spots in the city – where he can be found passing the time when he’s not busy doing the obligatory dealing with the Hollywood types in LA.

 

La Palma

It’s a great new addition to the Toronto restaurant scene. Get the lasagna!

 

 

Hoof Cocktail Bar

A cozy little romance-y spot, with very low lighting and very solid and strong drinks.

 

 

Business Woman’s Special

A big gay dance night held every second Saturday of each month.

 

 

The AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario)

Go sit in front of a piece by one of The Group of Seven and forget your worries for an afternoon.

 

 

Assembly Chef’s Hall

Some of the best food in the city in one big marketplace.

 

 

First Images: New Mama Shelter Hotel Belgrade

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As the line of “next destinations” in Europa pushes ever eastward, the further exploration of The Balkans seems only natural. And the Serbian city of Belgrade is very much that city just waiting for those Westerners who have long since done Prague, Budapest and Tallinn.

Of course, a cool new hotel is always a really good reason to drop your bags in a new place. And French hipster brand Mama Shelter – with Philippe Starck as aesthetic overlord – will soon be setting up shop in the capital, along the bustling Ulica Kneza Mihaila.

It’s the seventh outpost of the affordable chic hotel group (following Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Los Angeles, and Rio), and Jalil Amor’s design hews very much to the familiar stylistic philosophy. So, lots of uncluttered but slightly kitschy boho chic, with well chosen animal prints and charming bric-a-brac – but paying specific homage to the city’s Ottoman history.

There will be 125 guest rooms. But for playtime, there’s a 5000 square foot foosball-and-table-tennis-equipped terrace, employing zeitgeisty DJs and live music, to go along with the trend-aware cocktails and, of course, spectacular views.

The hotel officially opens March 8 – so the Belgrade Dance Festival, March 15 – April 4, is the perfect excuse for a springtime jaunt.

 

Next Hip City: A BlackBook Guide to Denver

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Having ticked most of these United States off our travel list, it was a bit odd to realize we’d never actually set foot in Colorado. But a great new hotel is often the only excuse we need to set about correcting such a situation. And sure enough, this past November Le Méridien threw open the doors on a very stylish new downtown sleep.

Denver is also pretty happening these days, having tapped into the zeitgeisty formula of urban renewal (run down neighborhood becomes artists district becomes playground for trend chasers). The city’s rustic, mountain charms, historic architecture and spectacular scenery combine with a new sense of possibility, from a thriving street art scene to a winery that has made it hip to drink it from cans.

Here’s what we did.

 

RiNo Art District

Yep, you guessed it. A former industrial district in Five Points, it became an incubator for Denver’s exploding street art scene – and you can see the results everywhere you look. Naturally, creative businesses followed, and now the neighborhood hosts design and architecture offices, as well as trendy restaurants like Acorn, Bar Fausto and Mister Tuna. Check out the contemporary exhibitions at Helikon Gallery & Studios, as well as the RedLine Contemporary Art Center. Don’t miss the fangeek Stranger Things mural, by local collective Arty Deeds.

 

 

Union Station

Like New York’s Grand Central, Union Station is more than just a place to catch a train. It’s a striking architectural masterpiece dating to 1914, marrying neoclassical, Romanesque and Beaux Arts styles into a particular sort of grandiosity. It was given a splashy makeover by design coolsters AvroKO in 2014, and is once again a genuine social hub for the city. While puttering about the dramatic confines, pick up local crafts at 5 Green Boxes, as well as books and periodicals at Tattered Cover. There are also ten food and drink options, including the buzzy Terminal Bar and the strikingly designed Cooper Lounge, perched histrionically up on the mezzanine.

 

 

Clyfford Still Museum

He was one of the great American Abstract Expressionist painters, having passed away in 1980, aged 75. But the museum dedicated to his work has a fascinating story: his estate offered to bestow his entire oeuvre on whichever city came up with the best proposal for a namesake gallery. Denver won, and the Clyfford Still Museum was opened in 2011. His visceral, perception-altering work from the ’50s and ’60s (along with that of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock) literally defined an era in American art. Featured exhibitions include Artists Select, for which the likes of Mark Mothersbaugh and Julian Schnabel have chosen works from the collection to a thematic end.

 

 

The Source

Of course, you can’t have urban renewal without the requisite trendy food markets. The Source is where the creative class come to fuel up for another round of artistic conceptualizing. The soaring, 19th Century brick foundry building houses modern taqueria Comida, and foodie-magnet Acorn, as well as a butcher shop, baker, Boxcar Coffee, and the Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project. Alternately, hit the Denver Central Market, for something a bit less achingly hip, a bit more fancy pants.

 

 

Colorado Cider Company

A must visit for immersion in something authentically local and welcoming. In a charmingly rustic tasting room, sample their lemony Grasshop-ah, the tart Cherry Gilder, the earthy Ol’ Stumpy, and their new botanical Pome Mel, with notes of lavender and rosemary. Book a tour for the full experience.

 

 

Infinite Monkey Theorum

You had to know it was coming: the hipster winery, run by British-born Ben Parsons. Fittingly, they have made a “thing” of wine in cans – and don’t be troubled, it’s actually really quite good. For proof of cred, it’s now available at the Brooklyn holy trinity of hip: Rough Trade, Brooklyn Steel and The Williamsburg Music Hall. They also sell bubbly in kegs – which means those bubbles stay fresh until the keg is dry (no more stale prosecco at brunch – phew). Their Cabernet Franc was a serious hit with us.

 

 

Larimer Square Restaurants

With its historic architecture and inviting shops (Element for home furnishings, Goorin Brothers for stylish chapeaus, Hailee Grace for chic women’s wear), you could while away an entire day on Larimer Square. But it’s also Denver’s buzziest restaurant destination. We loved Rioja for its creative take on Med cuisine – proprietors Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski also run Bistro Vendome down the street; Corridor 44 champagne lounge/restaurant brings the bubbly and charcuterie amidst the opulence of brick walls and baroque chandeliers; Napa-styled wine bar CRÚ has more than 40 selections by the glass; Russell’s Smokehouse does elevated barbecue in an artsy space with stained glass windows; and Tamayo is modern Mexican courtesy of Richard Sandoval. To name but a few.

 

 

Stay

Le Meridien Denver Downtown

Denver’s most happening new hotel, the moment one enters, a distinct sense of place takes over. Suave, urbane and buzzing from one end of the lobby to the other end of the lobby bar, it nevertheless unabashedly plays up a rustic/mountain ski-lodge vibe – with its cozy fireplace and warmly designed interiors. Rooms manage to be cozy and luxurious, cosseting and minimalist – and the bathrooms are to die for. The Corrine restaurant is all low-key cool, serving up lobster mac & cheese, maple glazed salmon and caramelized pork shank. But you’ll want to spend as much time as possible up on the 54thirty rooftop bar, with its clever cocktails and jaw-dropping views of the Rockies. The hotel has partnerships with the likes of Rocky Mountain Soda Company, The Real Dill, Leopold Bros Whiskey, allowing for a genuinely immersive Denver experience.

 

 

 

BlackBook Urbanologie: London’s New Private Members Clubs

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Mortimer House

 

It’s by now reached the point where London is actively exporting its private members clubs to New York and Los Angeles. Naturally, then, the need to keep producing new ones – as well as updating some of the olds ones – seems fairly exigent.

So from Mayfair to Fitzrovia – and even importing one from Scotland – there is much buzz in Blighty’s capital about just such clubs. We consulted our friends over at Urbanologie for the inside scoop.

 

Mortimer House

Housed in a majestic six-floor Art Deco building in the heart of London’s Fitzrovia, Mortimer House (pictured above) sets out to provide a “new experience for those who wish to create, work and unwind in equal measure.” Founded upon a philosophy of providing holistic balance in work and life, it is intended to “satisfy the needs of both the head and the heart”. Facilities include offices, meeting rooms, event spaces, lounges, terrace, studio and gym – melding “mid-century design touches with the classicism of the original building.” Mortimer House is also home to Mortimer House Kitchen, which is open to the public and will serve up Mediterranean cuisine. This is a new project by hotelier Guy Ivesha, in a joint venture with Cain Hoy and other private investors, as a premium work and lifestyle concept with a strong emphasis on hospitality.

Oswald’s

Business mogul Robin Birley, owner of London’s most exclusive private members club 5 Hertford Street, is opening (in February 2018) a new club on Mayfair’s prestigious Albemarle Street. Although initial rumors have only just started circulating, we can confirm that the location is at 25 Albemarle (previously the Michael John hairdressing salon). Named Oswald’s – after Birley’s grandfather, an English portrait painter and royal portraitist – the club will look to offer members a focus around wine, with dedicated storage space for private collections. It will consist of a 80 cover restaurant, wine cellars and eventually a first floor drawing room. It will sell wines at retail prices and with no corkage charges. Birley is also set to open a business-centric club, in Mayfair, by taking over the rooms which used to house Pasley-Tyler.

The Conduit

Mayfair will be home to yet another new members club – with the taking over of Washington House by the founder of New York-based, ethical fashion brand Maiyet. The eight-story building at 41-42 Conduit Street, next to the Westbury Hotel, was formerly home to Brasserie Chavot and a basement nightclub. Expect the new club to feature dedicated work, lifestyle and social spaces as well as several open terraces.

 

 

Gleneagles

Ennismore (behind The Hoxton Hotels) is opening a private members club in Mayfair, on Grafton Street, inspired by their Gleneagles luxury resort in Scotland. The iconic country estate nestled in the beautiful hills of Perthshire, offers a glorious playground of thrilling country pursuits, and has been a luxury destination for nearly a century. One of the attractions is Andrew Fairlie’s eponymous restaurant – the only two-Michelin-star restaurant in Scotland. Check back for further information and details.

 

 

The Quay Club

Planning permission is being sought by the owners of The Arts Club in Mayfair, to open a five-story private members’ club in Canary Wharf, on a floating pontoon. The proposed Quay Club is being launched by developer Gary Landesberg and the Waney family – also the owners behind popular hotspot The Arts Club, in Mayfair. The building will be made from aluminum and house a bar, restaurant, private dining area, members lounges and guest accommodation, as well as a gym, treatment studio and open terrace overlooking Middle Dock. The top floor will feature an open roof terrace.

Annabel’s

The relocation of the legendary Annabel’s to a close-by Mayfair townhouse has been big news. It was originally founded in 1963 (beneath the Clermont Club) by the doyen and tastemaker Mark Birley, and named after his wife Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, who would later marry Sir James Goldsmith. The Mayfair institution and celebrity hangout was sold to restaurateur tycoon Richard Caring, who decided to move the club to a nearby (and bigger) location – actually just two doors down the street. The elegant premises in a Georgian townhouse also houses new lounge areas, bars, dining and meeting rooms and an outdoor restaurant terrace (with a retractable roof). In addition, there is also to be a gym and health club – including fitness studios and treatment rooms.

 

 

Urbanologie has been described as “the must have VIP lifestyle app,” designed to keep members in the know with up-to-the-minute insider news and exclusive content on the most anticipated restaurant, bar, club and hotel openings.

 

 

Aussie Songstress Hoodlem’s Insider Guide to Vegan Toronto + New Single ‘Teenager’

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It’s a globalized world, to be sure. This is precisely how we might come to find ourselves connecting with an Australian songstress, the cheekily monikered Hoodlem – whose music is markedly influenced by American R&B – about her favorite vegan haunts in Toronto.

Indeed, she recently moved from Oceania’s boho capital of Melbourne, to Canada’s city of the future – and it seems to be serving her well creatively. To wit, her new single, the rather guilelessly titled “Teenager,” is a lush, visceral treasure of alluring neo-soul music, which finds her meditating earnestly on young desire – but without resorting to the typical lyrical cliches associated with said subject.

“I wanna know you in the summer / Do you like the heat?,” she seductively entreats over a steamy, languid beat and sumptuously opulent atmospherics.

It’s the second track (following “Funny Farm”) from her forthcoming – and as yet unnamed – new EP, due later this spring. And as such, bodes decidedly well for what’s to come.

As aforementioned, she lives an ideologically meat-free existence – something perfectly suited to her distinctly progressive new home city. And so we asked her to enlighten us on just where to go in Toronto to live the vegan life in as tasty a way as possible.

 

 

 

Hoodlem’s Fave Vegan Spots in Toronto

Baddies 

I go to this cafe every week, it’s owned by a fellow Aussie. They have heaps of vegan breakfasts on their menu like the smashed avocado and the lamb sammy, and they serve amazing coffee. I almost didn’t want to tell you all about it, because maybe it will get even busier.

 

 

Through Being Cool 

This is my favorite vegan bakery (named for a Devo song), and they do the most delicious breakfast burrito. I will stop by sometimes and get a croissant on the go – which for a vegan is a very rare thing!

Madras Masala

I go here for a quick dosa after we are done at the studio. As a meal it is probably as big as my body, stuffed with potato, and it comes with all these little dipping sauces. It is seriously amazing and so very filling in the winter time.

 

 

Ital Vital

Caribbean vegan buffet-style in Kensington, they load you up with so much homemade-tasting goodness (BBQ soy beef, curry “shrimp”). I love going here for a quick take out if I’m busy between things, and I know that it will always make me feel so good.

Ramen Isshin

Favorite ramen spot in Toronto; they do two vegan ramens, which are just like the ones I had in Tokyo. There is also this weird little peach sake jelly drink in a can, such a strange but delicious treat – but be careful how many you have.

 

 

Planta

Such a great, fancy-ish place with so many delicious things to eat (sweet mess tacos, quinoa tartare, eggplant lasagna). I’m obsessed with the cauliflower tots and that brownie on the dessert menu…

Imonay

My favorite spot in Koreatown! They do a vegan bibimbap, and I get it with avocado and japchae. Even writing this I am getting hungry…

 

 

 

 

Winter in Iceland: Glacier Tunnels, Thermal Pools and a Trendy New Food Hall

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If you’re in need of a dramatic change of scenery as much as we were – given the unsightly view of the current political landscape at home – may we suggest hopping the next flight to the always breathtakingly beautiful Iceland?

It’s all true! From glacier-hopping to the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights, the unhurried cosmopolitan buzz of Reykjavik to the soothing thermal baths of the Blue Lagoon, we can decisively report that Iceland is still as cool as it is comely. And the terribly clever Icelandair Stopover program means you can now stay up to seven nights on your way to another European destination at no additional airfare cost. Can you say “Já takk”? (Yes, please!)

 

Reykjavik

 

And while back home they were still sorting through the detritus of high-level misogyny and sexual assault, we were basking in the country’s Scandinavian progressive glow. Indeed, not only did Iceland elect the first woman head of state anywhere in the world in 1980 – Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, a divorced single mother, went on to serve four terms. They also elected the first openly gay woman in 2009, as well as its first female Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir.

And did we mention there are horses? Not just any horses (and don’t call them ponies); Iceland’s equine treasures may be smaller than average but, like seemingly everyone on the island, they pack a lot of personality. These gentle beasts are popular the world over, and are the only breed native to, and therefore allowed, in Iceland.

Here’s what we did.

 

Ice, Ice…

Our first order of business was to head 45 meters below ground, by way of snowmobile, to the tunnel entrance of Langjokull. It’s Iceland’s second largest glacier. The Mountaineers™ 4-wheel-drive-on-steroids monster trucks deposit you halfway up to your already revving rides (you can’t turn them off or they’ll freeze in the frigid temps).
We set off during white-out conditions, a thrilling and bone-chilling, but once in a lifetime experience. Of course, we were particularly thankful for the warmth and protection of our borrowed snowsuit, and safely in the hands of our neon-clad, GPS-equipped expert glacier guide. It was all part of the Into the Glacier adventure tour, and said adventure allowed us to visit a man-made ice cave and an acoustically-designed chapel, where our guide – who was currently starring in Reykjavik’s version of “Mamma Mia” – serenaded us with a haunting Icelandic folk song.

 

 

Chasing Waterfalls

The spectacular natural wonders blew our minds perhaps even more than we’d expected. For instance, the rugged Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall) in South Iceland – on the Hvita (White) River – is fed by our favorite glacier, the Langjokull. Its water plummets 32 meters down, in two drops, with walls that reach up to 70 meters in height. You might even catch a rainbow on a sunny day.
As with most destinations in Iceland, there’s a story to be told. Sigriour Tomasdottir, the daughter of a farmer, fought (often barefoot) to save the falls from development, even threatening to throw herself in at one point. In 1907 her father had leased the land to an Englishman who wanted to harness Gullfoss’ power for electricity. The scrappy lass used her own money for the lawyer’s fees, but failed in court after numerous attempts – though the lease finally ended up getting thrown out on a technicality. Lucky for us, as the pristine waterway is a life-altering sight to behold. Sold to the government in 1940 and designated as a nature reserve in 1979, Gullfoss’ savior, Sigriour, is often called Iceland’s first environmentalist.

 

 

The Cure 

What was once just a tiny pond of geothermal runoff in the early ‘80s is now one of Iceland’s must-do attractions. Indeed, the Blue Lagoon has been impressively designed out of black volcanic rock to utterly dramatic effect. A favorite among locals too, our Icelandair Stopover buddy and guide, Inga Osk Olafsdottir, told us the tale of her uncle, who worked at the plant, wading into the waters…which miraculously cured a chronic skin condition.
Even being healthy, we were mesmerized by the mist-laden, medicinal waters. There are two kinds of silica mud masks on offer, and one can quench one’s thirst at the Lagoon Bar without ever leaving the warm water. When we were feeling peckish, we donned one of the plush terrycloth robes on hand and sauntered inside to the highly-regarded Lava Restaurant. We very much recommend the langoustine (think tiny lobster) soup to start, followed by local favorites: fresh caught cod and locally-raised lamb. And surprising that one didn’t exist already – but a wellness hotel will be opening here in April. No diving please!
– 

 

Eat Sleep Repeat 

Icelandair plays an active role in hospitality – and we found its Hotel Reykavik Marina to be a very stylish, convivial place to stay. Very centrally located, the guest rooms are done up with a zen Scandinavian appeal, while the public spaces are cool and colorful, with eclectic, charmingly mismatched furnishings. The family of mannequins down the main hall were a little creepy at first, but ultimately a clever and fun touch. Request a room facing the marina, so you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the active shipyard.
The hotel’s mod-meets-bric-a-brac Slippbarinn restaurant and bar is full of cuties, with a “spunky” happy hour boasting cuckoo-sounding cocktails like Hiphopopotamus, Judas Hobo and, simply, Penicillin. Plan to dive in to the hearty breakfast buffet before venturing out to the shopping and galleries just blocks away.

 

 

Kids In The Food Hall

Quite a clever repurposing, a former derelict bus station in the city center was transformed into a discriminating dining hub recently, with the opening of Hlemmur Mathöll Food Hall – one of the buzziest spots in Reykjavik now. “All kinds of food for all kinds of people,” goes the manifesto, and we were lucky to taste almost all of it with our new friends from Icelandair Stopover, Inga and Unnur Eir Arnardottir. We loved the Danish open-faced sandwiches at Jomfruin, and also hit a variety of booths serving gourmet global goodies: Vietnamese (Banh Mi), Mexican (La Poblana), Italian (Bordid), and so on. Krost is notable for the curated selection of French wines and cured meats, while Isleifur Heppni proved it’s never too cold for liquid nitrogen-spun ice cream in Iceland.

 

 

We Laughed So Hard…

Who knew Icelanders had such a wicked sense of humor? Ari Eldjarn’s stand up will have you in stitches with his spot on send up of Scandinavian stereotypes. While in Reyjkavik, we enjoyed an up-close-and-personal gig in the living room of an Icelandair Stopover Buddy. Eldjarn, a former Icelandair flight attendant, is now a Buddy in the Stopover program. Be sure to catch his show live around Reykavik, or on one of his worldwide tours. March 12 through the 17th he’ll be at the Soho Theatre in London for his “Pardon my Icelandic” show. Eldjarn’s hilarious observations and insights into fatherhood, the size of Iceland (pop 380,000), and his time as a flight attendant are sure to bring the house down.

Stylish Nights, Northern Lights

We made a point of getting out of the capital for a couple of nights – and can’t say enough about the stunning ION Adventure Hotel. Nestled into the hillside, against a backdrop of lava fields and geothermal plumes, on the perimeter of the Thingvellir National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), it’s a genuine architectural wonder. There are breathtaking views from every room; and the on-site Lava Spa has its own thermal pool.
Though we fell in love with the hotel’s Silfra restaurant, where we savored the arctic char and lamb shank, both mouth-wateringly succulent and locally produced. The name of their award-winning Northern Lights Bar pretty much speaks for itself.
But they also offer horseback riding in the warmer weather; which, naturally, has us already planning our return trip.

 

 

Icelandair’s Stopover Pass series of free curated performances is in celebration of its 80th year, starring Icelandair Buddies and Icelandic talent. As mentioned, Icelandair passengers can transform their boarding pass to a Stopover Pass from now until end of March 2018. The Stopover Pass offers access to unique private stand-up, dance and music events, including Sigur Ros concerts, duo Milkwhale in the home of a Buddy, and even surprise performances by buzzy local artists in Icelandair’s brand new and cozy Saga Lounge at Keflavík Airport.

The Stopover Pass gives you the unique opportunity to add free entertainment to your transatlantic travels – to find out more and see how you can transform your boarding pass into a Stopover Pass visit: icelandair.us/stopover-pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebs Throng for Glittering Mr. Chow 50th Anniversary Fete

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Heidi Klum and Michael Chow

 

There are parties, and then there are…parties. And Friday night, a dazzling parade of boldface names gathered for what was unquestionably the latter: the 50th anniversary of the legendary Mr. Chow restaurant – which has been serving upscale Chinese cuisine and spectacular people watching to the glitterati since the day the original location opened in Knightsbridge…all the way back in 1968.

Think about it: This was before Studio 54, and way, way before Spago – so it’s arguable that Mr. Chow veritably invented the modern star-power-magnet nightspot. And though the brand now boasts outposts in London, NYC, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Miami and Vegas, Friday night’s bash was actually held at founder Michael Chow’s artist studio in Downtown Los Angeles. Falling on the Chinese New Year, naturally it included a traditional dragon dance.

But proof of the unceasing and far reaching influence of both the restaurant and its boss Michael Chow – who hosted along with his daughters Asia and China – the guest list last night stretched across the worlds of film (Al Pacino, Adrian Brody, Olivia Wilde, Chris Rock), music (Mark Ronson, Stevie Wonder, Carrie Brownstein, Ricky Martin), style (Heidi Klum, Garance Dore, Arianne Phillips) and art (Jeffrey Deitch, Paul McCarthy, Sterling Ruby, Kenny Scharf).

Frankly, we’re already angling for an invitation to the 75th.

 

  • Adrian Brody
  • Miranda July & Carrie Brownstein
  • Jwan Yosef & Ricky Martin
  • Olivia Wilde & Chris Rock
  • Mark Ronson & China Chow
  • Jerry Hall & Anjelica Huston
  • Mia Maestro, Maggie Grace & Casey Libow

 

Photos: Getty Images / Stefanie Keenan

From Malta to Lithuania: Three Inimitably Stylish New European Hotels

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Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour

 

If we could, we’d be in Europa every month – though we’d grudgingly admit that February in the Baltics might not be everyone’s idea of happiness. Yet springtime will be here in a few blinks of an eye – and what better time to start planning a more eastward push towards the expansion of your Euro horizons?

We’re thinking Helsinki and Vilnius, specifically – and each has a stylish new hotel to lure you into their web of intrigues. If you’re nevertheless inclined towards Mediterranean climes, another will be opening in the Maltese fortress city of Senglea.

Each also happens to be a member of Design Hotels, so expect a set of aesthetic values to lord over each.

 

Hotel St George, Helsinki

If you’re a design junkie, you’ve probably hit up Scandinavia’s most high-profile capitals, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo. But Finnish design has perhaps the most distinctive signature – and Helsinki (part of the Cities of Design Network) is where it blends so seamlessly with the city’s more historic character. The new Hotel St George – sister to the legendary Hotel Kämp – opens here in March, and will decisively rise to meet the aesthetic splendor of its locale. In the former Finnish Literary Society building, it features a stunning winter garden, and an art collection that includes a large-scale dragon sculpture by Ai Weiwei (a reference to Saint George, of course). There’s also a holistic spa, and a restaurant, Andrea, overseen by Finnish-Turkish chef duo Antto Melasniemi and Mehmet Gürs. While visiting, make sure to pop in to the Design Museum, nearby on Korkeavuorenkatu.

 

Hotel Pacai, Vilnius

Every few years since the fall of the Soviet Union, some or other Eastern European city becomes a next “must” destination. But beautiful Vilnius doesn’t need a zeitgeist to bolster its appeal. Lithuania’s capital has majestic baroque architecture (its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site), extraordinary cultural offerings, and a distinctly bohemian spirit. The plush new Hotel Pacai will open this spring, in the former palace of the same name, dating to 1677. Stylish rooms feature 17th Century frescoes, and public spaces rich in original historic details include two restaurants and a luxury spa. Plan to hit the Vilnius Contemporary Art Centre, which boasts a cinema and sculpture garden.

 

 

Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour, Senglea

For something a bit more temperate, consider Malta, whose capital Valletta will serve as one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2018 (the other is Leeuwarden, Netherlands). Just south of the capital, the dramatically monikered Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour hotel will open in the fortified city of Senglea this spring. The landmarked 16th Century structure that houses it gives it a sort of “fortress-chic” vibe – think vaulted ceilings, slate stone and spectacular harbor views, for which the elegant, muted color schemes are perfectly suited. Local culinary god Chris Hammett will lord over the in-house Maltese restaurant, and there’s a rooftop pool that is beyond breathtaking in its vistas.