BlackBook Exclusive: Tantalizing Cocktail Recipes From Downtown NYC’s Buzziest New Bars

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We can veritably feel the electricity in the air, as the annual arrival of spring approaches (though admittedly, this was a wimp of a winter). Extended daylight, warming temperatures, and let’s face it, serious FOMO, make for the perfect inspirations to spend these more pleasant evenings sipping your way through seasonal cocktails at the newest downtown tippling hotspots.

Soho’s hotel bar scene, for one, just got much more interesting with the opening of A.L.B. at the Arlo Soho, over on the western fringe. Sitting by the floor-to-ceiling-windows facing the verdant courtyard is the perfect way to decompress after another day of soul-crushing headlines. But the East Village is also heating up, with Mr. Paradise, an Art Deco inspired boite, and Paper Daisy, a serious cocktail spot in the former Cafe Orlin.

 

A.L.B.

 

Finish the night by ducking into into the sultry Peppi’s Cellar, the bar under the new Aussi-by-way-of-Italia stunner Gran Tivoli, fittingly in NoLIta, The brick walls and moody lighting make one feel as if you’ve been transported to a Tuscan wine cellar, only with a thing for forward-looking cocktail creations.

Having made the rounds, we asked each to share with us the secret behind a favorite from their impressive drinks menus. Do try these at home – but make sure to also sip them in situ. And leave the designer parka at home.

 

Bloody Jasmine (pictured top)

A.L.B., Food & Beverage Director Gary Wallach

“Our Aussie twist on a classic cocktail. A pretty drink that tastes even better than it looks.”
Ingredients
.75oz Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin
.75oz Campari
.75oz Dry Curacao
.75oz fresh lemon juice
1 dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Lemon twist for garnish
Method
Add ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupette glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

 

The Party Lobster

Mr.Paradise, Bartender Will Wyatt

4 Dashes Fermented Habanero/Garlic Brine
1/4 oz Campari
1/2 oz Mezcal
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1 oz Clarified Watermelon Cordial
1 1/2 oz Blanco Tequila
A riff on the spicy margarita, sets your mouth on fire with habanero, but here it’s fermented and paired with savory garlic, watermelon, lime, and a blend of agave spirits.

 

Where’s Dallas

Paper Daisy, Bartender Thomas Flynn

1.5oz Spring 44 Vodka
0.5oz Lillet Rose
0.75oz grapefruit cordial
0.5oz lemon juice
grapefruit
Seltzer
Method: build ingredients, shake with ice, and fine strain into a highball glass with ice and top with seltzer

 

Amaro-Palooza

Peppi’s Cellar, Dave Fisher, Beverage Director

0.75 oz Lemon Juice
0.33 oz Orange Juice
0.75 Simple Syrup
1 oz egg white
0.17 oz Branca Mentha
0.25 oz Triple Sec
0.25 oz Cappalletti
0.25 oz Campari
Method: Double shake and strain over cubed ice in a highball glass. Top with some. Garnish with a orange wedge

 

Peppi’s Cellar

 

Is ‘Go Get ‘Em Tiger’ the Coolest Coffee Company in the Country?

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What do coffee and fashion have in common? Not much, unless, you’re the founders of Go Get ‘Em Tiger – the Los Angeles based coffee brand that began as the brew in Sqirl Café’s now infamous pop-up shop. If you don’t remember, Sqirl made toast the trend a few years ago, and about 700 million pounds of avocado have been subsequently consumed.

Go Get ‘Em Tiger refers to “what coffee means for most of us,” says Co-Founder (along with Charles Babinski) Kyle Glanville. “It’s the moment we take to enjoy and become alive for the day that lies ahead.” GGET was also cited by the New York Times as having the best iced latte in America, and the aforementioned pair have each won the National Barista Championship.

 

 

Known as GGET, a part of G&B Coffee and soon a roasting and sourcing portion of the coffee empire, they are essentially on a really fun mission to change how we interact with coffee. To be sure, they have a number you can text for coffee advice anytime, day or night; and their newly introduced coffee club is basically a cool kids club for bean obsessives.

Naturally, they are also branding geniuses, having commissioned special edition ceramic mugs made by ceramic designer Phill Kiho Kim, with asymmetrical knobs instead of handles – they’ve already become collectors’ items. More recently, logo designer Junior Doll has become art director for growing clothing line at GGET, with their slyly stylish t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats flying off the shelves.

 

 

With five shops in the Los Angeles area, including a bright and airy Arts District location and an impressive roasting facility, Glanville enthuses, “We’re thrilled to deliver our vision of great coffee roasting and perhaps to begin to define what L.A.’s coffee identity can be while we’re at it.”

GGET, always looking to stir up the next trend, has a newly launched limited edition (only 50 pieces) spring line based on the iconic TV character Punky Brewster (Get it? “Brewster”?). In fact, their inspiration page looks like an ’80s collage, with blue, tan and red blocks of color; though Glanville  says the pieces all have a certain, “back to school functionality with some whimsy.”

Which is just how we like our coffee (minus the “back to school” bit). But if that’s not how you take yours, they actually don’t mind at all.

 

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Sublime Recipes From Dario Cecchini’s New Carna at the Baha Mar, Bahamas

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The name Dario Cecchini, who runs his family’s 250 year old butcher shop in Tuscany, has been everywhere recently. Earlier this year, he taught The Top Chef Kentucky crew how to butcher a steak to yells of “Carne! Carne!” In an even more recent episode of Chef’s Table (about him), the Netflix star Samin Nosrat, creator of “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” waxed poetically about Dario’s attitude towards meat: “You can taste the care that he has for the animals.”

The shop in Panzano (in the Chianti region of Toscana) has been doing things the same way for eight generations. So you may be surprised to learn that Dario almost became a veterinarian.

An early advocate for ethically-raised and humanely-treated animals, Cecchini’s mission is to protect the art of butchery. It’s a philosophy that he brings to his new venture Carna, at the Baha Mar in Nassau (in partnership with nightlife impresarios sbe) – where we were lucky enough to attend the recent opening event.

 

 

The shouts of “carne, carne!” go along with Cecchini’s signature red cow printed shirt and butchers’ apron, as well as a tireless effort to promote sustainable farming and butchering, using every part of the cow. After two-and-a-half centuries of familial experience, he can’t help but bring a bold palate from Tuscany to the Bahamas.

The entryway of the restaurant features a smorgasbord of said meat: whole racks of prime rib, tomahawk steaks, and dry aged sirloins, lit behind glass like works of art. An antique red and white meat slicer, set in the center of the room, is mounded with charcuterie, legs of prosciutto and the occasional tin of caviar. The dark grey walls convey a sense otherworldliness, ringed in white shelves that display jars of salts and seasonings – quite like an apothecary.

 

 

The tall ceilings are light and airy with plush sea foam green chairs and cozy banquettes, mostly allowing the food to be the star. Locally sourced seafood and a few carefully chosen seasonal vegetables grace the menu as well – which is overseen by Executive Chef Thomas E. Griese, formerly of the Mina Group, who trained with Dario in Panzano. Joseph Yalung will work closely with Chef Thomas as Carna’s Head Butcher. The meats, naturally, come with their origins listed.

The most important lesson Dario wants to impart to his diners at Carna? In Panzano, when guests step over the threshold to his shop, they are handed a glass of wine because as he insists, “No Meat, No Party.”

To celebrate his first restaurant outside of Italy, we asked him to share a couple of his most prized recipes with BlackBook.

 

 

Dario Cecchini Recipes from Carna at the Baha Mar

 

Salt Grass Lamb Chops

Lamb Chops
 
Ingredients
 
¼ cup             Eggplant Puree (ingredients and process below)
¼ cup             Apricot Mostarda (ingredients and process below)
                                    Pimenton Oil, to taste (ingredients and process below)
6 sprigs          Watercress
1 each                        Whole Australian Lamb Rack                               
 
Process
  1. Mark lamb chops on the grill and place lamb on baking tray. Roast in convection oven at 475 degrees until temperature reaches medium-rare (about 7 minutes).
  2. To begin plating, smear a bit of eggplant puree onto the plate.
  3. Opposite of smear, place a dollop of eggplant and a dollop of apricot mostarda.
  4. Sauce the lamb with lamb jus and pimenton oil and place watercress leaves on top in organic fashion. Serve immediately.
            Pimenton Oil
            Ingredients
            1 Tbsp.           Pimenton de la vera
1 Liter             Canola oil
Process
  1. Steep combined ingredients in heavy-bottom sauce pot to 275 degrees for fifteen minutes.
  2. Let cool and set aside.
 
Apricot Mostarda
Ingredients
1 cup              Dried Apricots, chopped
1 Tbsp.                      Yellow Mustard Seed
½ cup            White Sugar, granulated
½ cup            White Wine
¼ cup            Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp.             Kosher Salt
½ cup              Shallot, minced
3 each                        Bay Leaf
1 Tbsp.           Black Mustard Seed
1 Tbsp.                      Canola oil
Process
  1. In a large sauce pot heat, over medium-high heat, add canola oil and wait until it gently heats.
  2. Add shallots and salt and allow to sweat until aromatic.
  3. Add apricot, mustard seeds and bay leaves and sweat for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Add white sugar and slightly caramelize.
  5. Add the wine and vinegar and reduce until all liquid has evaporated.
  6. Reserve for plating in a small container at room temperature.
Eggplant Caviar
 
Ingredients
3 cups                         Eggplant Pulp
¼ cup              Yellow Onion, finely chopped
1 Tsp.              Garlic, minced
1 pinch           Cumin
1 Tbsp                        Olive Oil
½ cup              Mayonnaise
1Tbsp.                        Kosher            Sale
1 Tbsp.           Canola           Oil
                        Black Pepper (to taste)
                        Lemon Juice (to taste)
Process
  1. Puncture eggplant with a paring knife to prevent bursting, season eggplant with canola oil and salt.
  2. Char eggplant in broiler and blacken all sides, when charred remove and cool to room temperature.
  3. Peel eggplant.
  4. Combine eggplant pulp with onion, garlic, cumin, olive oil, mayonnaise, salt & pepper and blend until smooth.
  5. Add lemon juice to taste and re-season with salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  6. Chill in small bowl and reserve for plating.
 

 

 

 

 Roasted Beet Salad

Roasted Beet Cooking Method 
Ingredient
12 each                                    Whole Baby Red Beets
¼ cup                       Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup                       Fine Sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp.                    Kosher Salt
1 tsp.                       Black Pepper
Process
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Clean beets in water, place beets in a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients.
  3. Place the beets into two-inch metal roasting pan. Place resting rack inside pan to prevent burning.
  4. Cover in foil to create a tight seal.
  5. Place the pan with beets inside the oven and cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.
  6. Check beets to see if they are fully cooked with a paring knife (if knife slips in and out easily beets are done, if not continue cooking process until beets are fully cooked.)
  7. Peel beets with a cloth or towel to remove the skin.
  8. Once peeled, store them in a cool place.
Goat Cheese Mousse
Ingredients
1 cup                        Chevre Goat Cheese
2 cup                        Heavy Cream
1 Tbsp.                    Kosher Salt
1 Tbsp.                   Corn Syrup
Process
  1. In heavy bottom sauce pot heat cream just below a boil with black pepper, corn syrup and salt.
  2. In a blender, combine cream with goat cheese and blend until smooth.
  3. Keep warm and reserve for plating.
Sherry Vinaigrette
                  Ingredients
                                    1 cup                        Sherry Vinegar
½ cup                       EVOO
1 Tbsp.                   Kosher Salt
½ cup                       Clover Honey

 

Process
  1. Measure out all ingredients and blend on low first, then high.
  2. Once fully incorporated, put in a bowl and reserve for beets.
 
Candy Hazelnuts
Ingredients
2 cups   Sugar
¾ cup     Water
1 cup      Hazelnuts
                                    Parchment paper
 
Process
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a small pot, melt sugar in water on medium heat.
  3. When sugar is melted, add hazelnuts and start reducing.
  4. Make a cartouche (cover) by folding parchment paper over the pot of hazelnuts.
  5. On medium low heat, completely reduce hazelnuts.
  6. Once reduced, hazelnuts will harden with absorbed sugar.
  7. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Set aside for plating.
Espellete Oil
Ingredients
1 Tbsp.                   Espellete
2 cups                    Canola Oil
Process
  1. Place oil in a sauce pot and heat to 275 degrees.
  2. When oil reaches temperature, turn off burner and whisk in espellete.
  3. Let the oil mixture cool down.
  4. After being cooled, strain through an oil filter or fine strainer, reserve for plating.
Beet puree
Ingredients
8 each                     Whole Cooked Beets
¾ cup                       Sherry Vinegar
½ cup                       Honey
5 tsp                         Salt
1 ½ cup                   Canola Oil
Process
  1. Place beets, sherry vinegar, honey and salt in blender and begin blending on low, slowly increasing speed until blended into a puree.
  2. When the beets have fully been incorporated, slowly add in the oil until the emulsion becomes thick.
  3. When the oil is fully blended in, pour it through a fine strainer and store until plating.
Plating
  1. Align the beets in a circular shape on the plate near the rim
  2. Sprinkle hazelnuts and goat cheese crumble, on top of the beets
  3. Squeeze the goat cheese mousse into the center of the circle of the beets
Finish with espellete oil and beet puree on top

 

BlackBook Rooms With a View: The Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

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At the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo nothing gets…lost in translation. Most assuredly, it is because they provide guests with a very strong “sense of place.” Indeed, in fulfilling this philosophy, the newly renovated property pulls from the cultural and historical, enriched and inspired by the past, present and future.

Situated in the Nihonbashi district, which is arguably the financial and commercial hub of this exceedingly hyper but cosmopolitan city; in fact, this area was considered the historical birthplace of modern Japan (when the “new” capital shifted from Kyoto to Tokyo). From artisans and merchants to entrepreneurs, all walks of life would be lured here with the prospect of opportunity and success. Today, it remains a multilayered, rich neighborhood tapestry interwoven with department stores, dizzying skyscrapers, and prestigious financial institutions.  

 

 

This year was all about rejuvenation, as the hotel’s 179 guest rooms and suites were smartly renovated and refreshed. Determined to showcase local talents, the team sought out renowned textile designer Reiko Sudo and art director Ryu Kosaka, who transformed all of the rooms and spaces to better exemplify the “Woods and Water” theme – to which the brand pays sincere honor. To be sure, the Japanese maintain a respectful relationship with nature, and the Mandarin Oriental draws earnestly on that relationship. 

The standout suites are gilded in autumn gold, orange and purple wisteria, along with sakura flower embroidery on the headboards. Then there’s the locally sourced Bamboo flooring, Japanese tapestries, handcrafted chests made from the wood of Paulownia trees, and Japanese style lamps (made from washi paper) – all of which lend authenticity and exhibit resolute attention to fine details.

Oh, and did we mention the majestic views of Mount Fuji from your room via floor to ceiling windows. (They even supply you with a pair of binoculars for pristine sightings.) It’s particularly stunning when illuminated by the sunshine. 

 

 

Elsewhere, everything from the cascading waterfall at the entrance down to the opulent bonsai tree that greets you in the lobby help to set the tone and sophistication of the hotel, harmoniously marrying city and countryside in its aesthetic presentation. 

The “sense of place” ideology also makes for an oasis of tranquility that is the in-house spa. You’re transported to the wilds of Japan’s vast meadows, bamboo forests and undulating valley greens; an with it being situated on the 37th floor, it also offers a little bit of Heaven. While in the crystal steam room, dry sauna and/or infinity pools, you’re greeted by the sprawling views of the city below and, it being the 37th floor, the very heavens above.

Most importantly, there’s a genuine commitment here to providing physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. The “Woods and Water” design theme dovetails with their signature services such as The Essence of Tokyo and its pampering-perfected Totally Tokyo ‘Five Journeys from Nihombashi’ treatment. Here, skilled staff utilize local ingredients which encompass Sakura blossoms (a seasonal treat offered from now until April 30th), pine, bamboo, rice bran and plum to transport you to new states of euphoria – soothing mind, body and spirit. The journey includes a scrub, cleanse, massage and stretch. 

 

 

For pleasures of a more epicurean sort, you needn’t even leave the property. They are, in fact, the only hotel in the country to have three Michelin starred restaurants within its pearly walls – including Signature for French fare, Tapas Bar for molecular gastronomy, and Sense for Chinese. More impressive is the range of cuisines offered – there are twelve restaurants/bars/eateries in total!.

When we couldn’t decide between the wealth of options, our helpful concierge team quickly booked us in at Sense. Also situated on the 37th floor, the restaurant’s seductive decor is merely enhanced by the twinkling lights below, and the perfumed aromas wafting out of the kitchen. The fine dining here is fanciful, to say the least, drawing from Chinese heritage, while utilizing local Japanese ingredients to offer dining delicacies of an unexpected sort. Standouts included stir fried A5 Wagyu, crisp suckling pig skin on squishy bao, and buxomly braised abalone on morning glory greens – all ideally paired with a succession of their particularly inspired tea cocktails, crafted by their expert bar team.

While Tokyo offers a plethora of joys, we admit we looked forward to nothing as much as making a beeline back to our plush suite, for a hot soak using their specialty green tea bath salts; and sleep came only after a treat from their impressive in-suite pillow menu. Though it’s those breathtaking views that will surely most linger in our memories. 

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Manhattan Neighborhood Inspired Cocktail Recipes From the New A.L.B. at Arlo SoHo

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We admit we never imagined it was possible – but could SoHo nightlife be back?

Enter into evidence A.L.B., the swanky new lobby bar slotted into the stylish Arlo SoHo hotel – which is at least the third or fourth SoHo hotel bar we expect to be spending time in this spring. Having just officially opened, it’s already stirring up a buzz, and for good reason: the drinks selection boasts a total of 24 unique signature cocktails, designed to take you on a sensory-filled, virtual NYC journey.

The liquid menu, by Arlo Hotels’ Food & Beverage Director Gary Wallach, is inspired by the city’s subway line, with specific stops and iconic Gotham experiences reflected in their clever boozy creations. It’s broken down into four sections, each symbolizing specific neighborhoods.

 

 

Take a trip Downtown with the 80s Rock Tee Cocktail and his other elixir friends, designed to remind you of NYC clubbing’s musical glory days. Then be transported to Midtown, where you can ponder your Times Square Swizzle without a middle-aged man in a Dora the Explorer costume (if you know, you know) hovering over you. The menu continues on its NYC marathon, heading on Uptown, and then safely arriving back in SoHo – where the tequila based Knockoff Hand Bag will remind you of that enduring Canal Street chutzpah.

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky – but the artful presentations are equally playful, beautiful and delicious. And Wallach was kind enough to exclusively share the secrets behind a few of his best geographical liquid creations – though we can’t recommend strongly enough sipping them in situ, in the A.L.B.‘s exceedingly stylish but comfy surrounds.

 

Exclusive Cocktail Recipes from A.L.B.

Illegal Poker Game

Inspiration: “Ever been to an illegal poker game down in Chinatown? Me neither. But anytime in my life I ventured down a staircase, through an alley, into a hole-in-the-wall type Chinese restaurant, I always assumed somewhere was a secret door where a poker game was happening. Next to the whiskey, I assume they might be drinking this…maybe.”
1.5 oz. Shiso infused Absolut Elyx Vodka
1.5 oz. K-G-L cordial (equal parts ginger syrup, kalamansi juice, and lychee syrup)
.50 oz. Lime juice
3 dashes Thai Chile Tincture
Glassware: Double Rocks Glass
Garnish: 3 Dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters over the Ice, Shiso Leaf, Ginger Candy
Method: Put all ingredients into a small tin. Add a small amount of crushed ice and whip until you no longer hear the ice moving. This should aerate the drink without over dilution. Strain over crushed ice. Add more crushed ice to create a cone and garnish.

 

Times Square Swizzle

Inspiration: “Here’s to the random dancing, unwanted collisions from text walking, and all the other reasons we get mixed up in weird things in midtown Manhattan.”
.75 oz. Jack Daniels Rye
.75 oz. Parce 3 year Rum
.75 oz. Hennessy Cognac
.75 oz. Ancho Chile Tropic Cordial
.25 oz. mint syrup
.75 oz. lime juice
.25 oz. pineapple juice
2 dashes angostura bitters
8 mint leaves
Glassware: Wine Glass
Garnish: Mint Sprig, Dehydrated Pineapple slice, powdered sugar
Method: Put all ingredients into a small tin, add some crushed ice. Whip the drink until the crushed ice has melted, and dump into glass. Continue to add ice and create a cone on top. Garnish.

 

 

Maria, Maria

Inspiration: “Sharks vs. Jets…should remind you of West Side Story.”
.75 oz. El Jimador Blanco
.75 oz. Clement VSOP Rhum Agricole
.75 oz. Lemon Juice
.5 oz. Cinnamon Syrup
.5 oz. lemongrass syrup
.75 oz. green apple Juice
Bar spoon oz. Amaro Nonino
Glassware: Double Rocks
Garnish: Mint Sprig, Grated Cinnamon
Method: Put all ingredients into a small tin. Add a small amount of crushed ice and whip until you no longer hear the ice. Dump into glass, and add crushed ice creating a cone on top. Garnish.

 

SHOWTIME!

Inspiration: “Sometimes it’s the things we want nothing to do with that end up being more memorable then we could imagine. This recipe is inspired by a traditional cocktail known as the El Presidente.”
1 oz. Flor de Cana rum
1 oz. Remy Martin 1738
.5 oz. Martini & rossi dry vermouth
.25 oz. grand mariner
Bar spoon Giffard Banana Liqueur
Bar spoon House made grenadine
Angostura bitters
Glassware: Nick & Nora Glass
Garnish Orange Twist, Discarded
Method: Put all ingredients into a mixing glass and stir. Once at proper dilution pour into glass. Garnish.

 

L.A. Staycation: The Uncommonly Stylish New Gold-Diggers Hotel

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Photos by Pablo Enriquez

 

If the slogan “Drink. Sleep. Record.” didn’t already give it away, the new Gold-Diggers in East Hollywood just rounded out its multifaceted entertainment concept with the opening of its uniquely stylish hotel (now accepting reservations) located atop the bar/venue and recording studio of the same name. 

Dave Neupert, a music industry veteran, who was head of new media for Maverick Records and ran his own M80 online marketing company, purchased the space a few years ago for a cool $3.3 million. He launched his “bed and beverage” concept with the Royal Street Inn and R Bar in New Orleans, and counts several other Los Angeles venues – popular Echo Park dive The Short Stop, as well as La Cita, Footsies, Melody Lounge, El Dorado and Monty Bar – among his portfolio.

Following the purchase of the Gold-Diggers location, he brought in Wick Architecture & Design to create a singular atmosphere – and while the new space feels hip and modern, it still pays homage to its history. 

 


Originally built in 1924, the Greene Building – as it was once known – has had several incarnations. The recording studio was in the ’50s filmmaker Ed Wood’s soundstage, Quality Studios, and he filmed scenes for
Plan 9 From Outer Space there. This was also the last place Bela Lugosi performed before he died. Eventually the soundstage became a legendary rehearsal space called Shamrock Studios, known for hosting rock, punk, and metal bands like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Slayer, and Guns N’ Roses.

We learned all of this sipping mezcal cocktails called Naked & Famous with the friendly bartender. There was a DJ that night, and in place of a live performance, a projection of the Westminster Dog Show. These walls can talk, too. What was originally a tavern became a “bikini bar” in the 1960s, complete with stripper pole. As legend would have it, Manson’s (Charles’, not Marilyn’s) girls used to frequent the spot.

Upstairs, we took a tour of the hotel, which is sprinkled with carefully chosen treasures; everything, we were told, is from local artisans and artists. Andrew Savage’s animated paintings – bright, bold, and simple interpretations of city life – grace the walls. We made our way to our room, which felt very much like an urban oasis (overused term, but here it really applies). From floor to ceiling, this is what a modern boutique hotel really should be: lead with good vibes, good lighting, and chicly appointed furniture…and the rest will follow.

 

 

Indeed, soft, velvet couches, a record player with a carefully curated selection of LPs (courtesy of DJ Justin Gage aka Aquarium Drunkard), a white chevron-tiled bathroom with Malin + Goetz amenities, and an Alexa, for those whose privacy paranoia is still under control. It was everything we needed, nothing more, nothing less. 

There’s something to be said for a place with a built-in history, not one manufactured by a scheming branding agency. Gold-Diggers showcases its past; but unlike the gym that cheesily kept the Tower Records sign out front, the tribute feels authentic – like its predecessors would genuinely approve of the facelift. It’s the ideal trifecta of drink, sleep, record –  for anyone who has long grown tired of the scene that always seems to be trying too hard.

 

 

 

First Images: The New Mandarin Oriental, Doha Hotel

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Despite our undying Europhilia, we’ve admittedly found ourselves spending more time in the super zeitgeisty environs of the Persian Gulf region of late (specifically Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi) drawn by the heat, the energy and, well, the freewheeling spending on cultural and hospitality projects.

One of those projects is the fittingly extravagant new Mandarin Oriental, Doha, located very much action-adjacent in the Msheireb Downtown area. Not just another standard issue luxury property, the David Collins Studio interiors nod to Qatari tradition and heritage, while at the same time hewing to MOHG’s vigorous devotion to uncluttered, contemporary style.

Rooms, for instance, elegantly blend chic Asian understatement with regal, stately color schemes and accoutrements. In other words, opulent…but restrainedly so.

 

 

As one has come to expect of Middle Eastern bastions of luxe, there will be (no kidding) nine dining options on-site, including the sleek Mediterranean hotspot IZU, the nine-kitchen Mosaic – offering dishes from Indian to Japanese to Arabic – the stylish Ambar lounge, and a gelato bar simply called…Gelato. A rooftop restaurant and bar arrive later in the year, sure to be 2019’s people watching perch par excellence.

Said rooftop also sports a pair pools, with private cabanas and far-reaching Gulf views. And no surprise, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Doha will be a plush as they come – with two VIP suites, a couple’s suite, and a high-tech fitness/wellness center.

Not that we needed all those reasons to get us back on the next Emirates flight to Qatar’s buzzy capital. But don’t be surprised if you stumble across us roaming the corridors of the new Mandarin Oriental, Doha – we wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else this spring.

 

 

BlackBook Rooms With a View: The Hilton Osaka

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When you’ve flown halfway around the world to Osaka, Japan – it’s a relief to know you have comfortable dwellings at hand in which to recuperate from the jet lag. And we simply adored our stay at the Hilton Osaka – though not just for the rest and rejuvenation. Location-wise, one couldn’t be more ideally situated, being steps from JR Osaka Station and just 25 minutes from Osaka International Airport. And the striking, 35 story-high property is actually situated in the Umeda district- a bustling playground for business, shopping and entertainment.  

Of course, while it’s a tired cliché, East really does meet West in the most stylish of ways at this hotel. Considered a bastion of luxury since opening its doors in 1986, it was given a recent refresh of its 562 guest rooms (3 of which are Japanese Tatami Suites). Moreover, the attentive team at Hashimoto Yukio Design imagined each space by embedding rooms with welcome Japanese flourishes, including green tea colored rugs dotted with cherry blossoms, crimson accent pieces, use of native tochi wood, yukata robes, and shoji screens – the latter which open to reveal sprawling, awe-inspiring skyscraper views of the cosmopolitan city below.

 

 

We got our contemporary culture fix by hitting the National Museum of Art, where we thrilled to the current exhibition, Christian Boltanski: Lifetime, a comprehensive survey of the exalted French artist’s oeuvre. Then we delved into Japan‘s fascinating history with a visit Osaka Castle, a 16th tribute to the country’s unification, before hitting the seemingly limitless historic landmarks in Kyoto – just 43 km away.

But we admittedly were content to mostly hole up at the Hilton, where four of the five dining options were just given culinary makeovers. Indeed, they have conceptualized new menus for Folk Kitchen (all day dining), Centrum Grill & Wine (showcasing a worldly selection of fine labels from around the globe) and My Place Cafe (perfect for happy hour cocktails and tea time fare).

 

 

Though our two fave spots turned out to be KawaUme Japanese Cuisine & Sushi (with new menus by 2-Michelin Star Chef Kazuo Takagi) and Tenka Teppanyaki. The former is a must because you absolutely cannot leave Osaka without trying their finest seasonal ingredients such as uni and fugu, best enjoyed with their locally brewed sake. The latter is a delectable jewel, where chefs wield their skillful showmanship, ingredients are given ample respect, and guests are provided with a meticulously crafted dining experience. Enjoy creative fare like foie croquettes stuffed with seasonal strawberries, and coveted cuts such as kobe beef sirloin, and buttery A5 wagyu filet – all masterfully grilled before your eyes, and best savored with one of their more than 250 varieties of wine.

In our glorious and perpetual food coma, we were perfectly happy each night to waddle back to our king size bed and down-filled sheets – mesmerized by the glow of the spectacular Osaka cityscape.

 

Avena Downtown Opens in the Old Da Silvano Space – and It’s an Absolute Revelation

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When Da Silvano served its final meal in December of 2016, it was not just the last act for a beloved NYC dining institution – it veritably closed out a chapter of old media schmoozing. Beyond the celebrities, it was a “print media” restaurant, in an increasingly digital world.

A little more than two years on, the West Village space at last has a new occupant – and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

Firstly, the new Avena Downtown (sister to the namesake that opened on E. 57th St. in 2017) is decidedly European – though the vibe doesn’t specifically evoke Rome or Naples or wherever. The brick-walled space actually feels a bit Parisian – like you might stumble across it somewhere in the posh 7th arrondissement. But the understatedly mod furnishings, chicly distressed mirrors, and an artful, rustic-industrial sliding door – which can close off the bar from the main dining room – appear straight out of a fashionable eatery in Milano.

The bar area itself, infused with a bit of Italian Riviera cool, is a destination unto itself – and we expect to be propping it up on a regular basis in the coming months. In fact, the fab Euro-disco soundtrack was a welcome relief from all that twee indie rock clouding the atmosphere at so many of-the-moment hipster restos. It was like a bit of nighttime Capri in NYC.

 

 

But the food is, well…nothing short of a revelation. Chef Roberto Deiaco (who runs Avena Downtown with his charming wife Giselle) has fittingly manned the kitchens at some of New York’s most notable bastions of Italophile glamour: Cipriani, Armani Ristorante, and, back in the day, Palio. And while the food at Da Silvano pretty much ran neck and neck with the scene, here the culinary allure will undoubtedly eclipse any celebrity star power you might find filling the seat next to you.

We started with the flan di zuchinelle, a zucchini/flower flan over parmigiano fonduta with Perigord truffles (a bit of French influence); and we can honestly say it was one of the most sublimely flavorful dishes that has ever graced our taste buds – an absolutely perfect balance of flavors and texture.

How to top that? A simple but delicious plate of scialatelli pasta with Mediterranean seafood (frutti di mare is a house specialty) with a floral glass of Vermentino, as well as a veal osso buco that literally fell off the bone, over a bed of risotto alla Milanese – paired with a wonderfully chalky Nebbiolo. Other Avena specialties include capesante scotttate (seared sea scallops), polpo alla brace (pan roasted Portuguese octopus), and grilled branzino over broccoli rabe.

A rich chocolate fondant again nodded to France; but the cannoli duo – one with citrus, another with caramel – was a veritable dessert nirvana. We’ve actually been seeing it in our dreams.

For NYC Europhiles, Avena Downtown is the only place you need to be in the first months of 2019. For everyone else, when you’re tired of all those trendy beetroot salads and bok choy whatevers – this will be your culinary salvation.