Stunning New Hotel Alert: Chapter Roma

 

 

In keeping with Rome’s general glacial pace of change (even in a globalized world, don’t really expect to eat anything but Italian food there), the city’s adaptation to the contemporary boutique hotel culture has been, well…slow.

Still, we were genuinely excited by the arrival in 2018 of the elegantly cool Elizabeth Unique Hotel nearby to the Tridente. And this spring has just seen the opening of the gorgeous new Chapter Roma, (a member of Design Hotels), located in the historic Regola district – a quick zip to the glorious flower market at Campo dei Fiori.

Fitted into a late 19th Century Neo-Classical building, it is the veritable aesthetic antithesis of Elizabeth Unique’s minimalist understatement. Indeed, Chapter Roma is dark, enigmatic, and palpably sensual, its dramatically brick-walled, vaulted-ceilinged interior accented with copper, brass and raw steel elements (courtesy of Tristan Du Plessis of South Africa’s Studio A), giving it the sort of industrial-chic intensity you might expect to find in Hamburg or Rotterdam.

 

 

And in a city of cramped accommodation, the generously proportioned rooms feature refined but muted orange and green color schemes, with cascading pendant lamps, dramatic drapery and handsome parquet flooring. Some also boast brick walls – and most offer captivatingly intimate views of the surrounding historic architecture.

Downstairs, the seductive, moodily-lit bar is dotted with plush couches and provocative illustrations. For summer people watching, it also opens onto the cobblestoned Via di S. Maria de’ Calderari. And who doesn’t love a good Roma street scene with their Negroni?

Sitting as it is just across the Tiber from the hip nightlife of Trastevere, it’s surely the ideal hotel for nocturnal sorts. Though the area’s plentiful art galleries make for no small amount of daytime cultural diversion. Either way, we very much expect this to be our new go-to hotel in the Eternal City.

 

Statement Architecture, Frida Kahlo & Yayoi Kusama: Is Lille France’s Next Great Cultural Destination?

 

 

With music festivals now coming in at a dime for probably three dozen, contemporary art fairs and festivals have arguably become the new way for cities to show off their impeccable cultural cred. Yet Lille3000 actually started all the way back in 2004, when its namesake city was chosen as that year’s prestigious European Capital of Culture.

Now occurring as a regular triennial, 2019 was thus timed for the sixth edition – so we hopped an Air France flight to see what all the fuss was about. Especially as this year’s “themes” particularly intrigued. First, Mexico was the partner country – so many of its top artists were invited over for that spark of cross-continental vitality. Secondly, the mythical Spanish kingdom of Eldorado was employed as muse…and, well, we do love a bit of mythological inspiration.

 

 

The city itself (just an hour by TGV from the capital) had been through some tough postwar years – and as is so often the story, eventually employed cultural strategies as a method of revivification. Needless to say it worked very well, and Lille has since emerged as a galvanizing creative force (to wit, Yayoi Kusama is not only a participant in Lille3000, but her 2003 The Tulips of Shangri-La has sat proudly outside the Gare de Lille since 2004). Still and all, just strolling around the city, you wonder how such a visually beautiful place could have ever been down.

It’s important to note that it is also far enough north to be almost more Belgian than French – and its captivating mix of Flemish and Beaux Arts architecture strikingly bears that out. And like the Flemish, there is a palpable penchant for aestheticism (Lille is designated a World Design Capital for 2020), and, naturally, a tendency to drink more beer than wine.

During our visit we were admittedly very much swept up into the art happenings of Lille3000, which runs into November – though we left there adamant that at any given time, Lille can now confidently be counted amongst the A-list of French destination cities.

Here’s what we saw.

 

Euralille

The visually daring Euralille has been on the starchitect groupies’ “must lists” since opening in 1994. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it sort of epitomizes the hope that shiny new contemporary business districts can bring to a city in search of a new way forward. It’s now a stylish mix of offices, dining options and retail – everything from Adidas to G-Star Raw – as well as housing a pair of railway stations. The complex also includes the sleek Crowne Plaza hotel, from whose windows one can admire a vista that epitomizes the juxtaposition of old and new.
But most importantly, when arriving by train, there is an immediate sense when you look up that Lille is very much a “somewhere,” a place that is helping to shape the contemporary cultural conversation. Which is surely what everyone involved had hoped for when first envisioning Euralille.

 

 

Eldorado 

The Lille3000 flagship exhibition is impressively fitted into Le Tripostal, a cavernous old post office facility now used for just such happenings. The show itself is breathtaking in its scope, and yet still very much aesthetically and intellectually cohesive. From the get, one of Yayoi Kusama’s Mirror Rooms offers a bit of the fantastical and celestial (one genuinely does get the feeling of floating in space), before the exhibit crashes back to Earth. Indeed, in Chen Zhen’s ominous Precipitous Parturition 1999 – which was once precariously suspended at the Guggenheim – a dragon gives birth to newly produced automobiles, a biting commentary on capitalism and the perpetual supply-demand-consumption cycle that holds the Western world so decisively in its grip. It’s followed by Marnie Weber’s sardonically titled Happy Go Lucky, a Boschian fantasy of demonic creatures on some unexplained metaphysical journey.

 

Marnie Weber

 

No surprise, it being France, politics and resistance are front and center. For example, Stefan Bruggemann’s Headlines + Last Lines in the Movies 2019 is a massive graffiti-on-glass installation which makes its feelings well known regarding President 45; while Lucy & Jorge Orta’s United Assemblage 2016 uses the 1977 Argentine social unrest as a metaphor for our current socio-political zeitgeist. Most striking is Anne & Patric Poirier’s Danger Zone 2001, a makeshift dwelling in a protective glass dome, representing a future ruin – poignant, to put it mildly.

 

Yayoi Kusama

 

Intenso / Mexicano

One of the key Lille3000 events, this exhibit at Le Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse boasts 48 works from the permanent collection of the Museo de Arte Moderno de Mexico. Included are notable pieces by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, Francisco Toledo, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Graciela Iturbide, Germán Venegas and Daniel Lezama. Yet hardly just some “best of” museum assemblage on loan, the show has a rather vivid common thread, keenly playing with the concepts of identity and nationalism – especially relevant in these days of rising right wing nationalism.
Particularly affecting are Las Soldaderas, 1926 by Orozco; The Revolution Gives Back Culture by David Alfaro Siqueiros; and a self portrait by Rosa Rolanda.

 

 

The Green Goddess

The old Saint Sauveur station building is an awe-inspiring space for just such an exhibition, which explores how the natural world can be superimposed onto the Eldorado myth – a poignant interaction between nature and culture. Especially captivating are David Gumbs’ Echo-Natures 2019, a wildly colorful, nature-referencing “tunnel” which offers a curiously calming, contemplative immersive experience; and several works by Renaud Jerez, which depict fantastical creatures with strangely ominous, robotic features. In another particularly engaging installation, several artists were asked to each design a space for an imaginary hotel, seemingly hidden in the jungle – and yes, you can “sleep” in the bed.

 

 

Additional Art Highlights

Other works that captured our imagination at Tripostal: Christopher Kullendren Thomas’ New Eelam, 2019, which presents a sort of system for life, leaving it to the viewer to decide if it is possibly real or just imagined; Qiu Zhijie’s sprawling One Has to Wander Through All the Worlds to Reach the Innermost Shrine at the End, 2015, a stupendous work of cartography, with handblown glass figures relating to different regions of the world; and several paintings by French-American artist Jules de Balencourt, which were exceptionally aesthetically captivating.
Another can’t-miss at Tripostal, New York photographer-provocateur Ryan McGinley and French painter Claire Tabouret’s group show will be on exhibit through September 8.
And at the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, we caught a brilliantly and very intelligently executed exhibition on the exalted Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, which reminded us of his significant influence on later artists like H.R. Giger.

 

 

Epicurean Lille

With all that art so decisively stimulating our intellect, we made sure to make the occasional stop for epicurean restoration. Meert, founded in 1761, is an absolute must, one of the few most famous pastry/chocolate shops in France (they now also have three locations in Paris and one in Brussels). We cheerfully waited in line for the obligatory and very famous waffles, the city’s rightly famous take away pleasure…and as elegant a street food as you will ever enjoy. We later fell in love with Le Lion Bossu, a second floor charmer of a restaurant, hidden exquisitely away in a 17th Century building – where we dined on poelee de Saint Jacques, ris de veau and joue de boeuf braisée in a gorgeous brick-walled setting.

 

Meert

 

La Piscine Museum of Art & Industry

In the neighboring town of Roubaix, La Piscine literally began life as a very fancy indoor swimming pool in 1932 – a function which lasted all the way into the 1980s. It became a museum in 2000, and a further nine-million-Euro restoration was just unveiled in 2018.
Amazingly, the pool remains the museum’s centerpiece, dramatically lined as it is with classical statuary – and just begging for multiple Instagram opportunities. But this is very much a serious musee, counting amongst its permanent collection paintings by Ingres, Mondrian and Robert De Niro Sr., sculptures by Rodin and Camille Claudel, as well as design pieces, textiles, and even ceramics by Picasso and Chagall, amongst others.
Meert also happens to run a restaurant on site, where we lunched on French classics in original Art Deco surrounds – and with particularly lively people watching.

 

 

Villa Cavrois

Just a short drive from the center of Lille, for devout modernistas this is the new and almost imperative religious pilgrimage. Completed in 1932 by French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, this modernist masterpiece – consider it the anthesis of all the showy gaudiness of Hearst Castle – was built for Paul Cavrois, a local textile industrialist. Opened to the public in 2015, it is now starkly furnished as close to the original period as was possible. And there’s a functionalist yet also visceral beauty to the style that seems to take Adolf Loos’ famous proclamation “ornament is crime” as an unbendable manifesto.
And walking from room to room, what is astonishing is just how true it is to the principals of anti-ornamentation, as laid down by Corbusier and the Bauhaus School. And everywhere – we mean everywhere – there are terraces from which to survey the exquisitely beautiful grounds, including a tranquil reflecting pool. Perfect for moments of contemplation amidst such a universe-altering aesthetic accomplishment.

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Savory Summer Recipes From Santa Monica’s FIG Restaurant

 

Image by Christian Horan 

 

 

Summer has almost sprung in the east but, of course, it’s perpetually sunny and bright on the California Coast. And soaking up as much of that sun as possible is FIG, in the plush Fairmont Miramar hotel in Santa Monica. Known by those in the know for their locally sourced farm-to-table fare and seasonally rotating menus, their approach to food is as personal as it gets.

Helmed by Exec Chef Jason Prendergast, he was trained in the classic French tradition, but his presentation is pure SoCal. According to the chef himself, what makes FIG so special is the years he has personally spent “cultivating relationships with local farmers, ranchers and fishermen.”

 

 

And it’s true. Much like the the infamous Portlandia episode, where Fred and Carrie are escorted to a local farm, chef Prendergast can, “tell you where livestock was raised and what their diet consisted of, name the fisherman, and tell you where his catch was.”

There are even specialty foragers who comb the forest and coastline for those especially hard to track down items like seasonal morels or edible flowers. And fromager extraordinaire Eric Brazel is so knowledgable as to be known as “The Cheese Guru”; he leads tastings at FIG, when he’s not stocking the menu.

We especially recommend popping out for a breezy, seasonal summer brunch. Until then, chef Prendergast has been kind enough to share these special recipes with BlackBook, so that you might try them at home.

 

Organic Eggs on Toast

Ingredients

4 Slices of Best Quality Rustic Country Loaf Bread8 Organic Farmers’ Market Eggs4 Ounces Normandie Butter or Best Available2 Ounces Crème Fraiche1 Ounce Finely Chopped ChivesCoarse Sea SaltBlack Pepper

Method

1. Crack eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk well. 2. In a medium deep sided pot over low to medium heat, add butter and allow to foam. 3. While butter is foaming, toast country bread to a deep golden brown, still leaving a chewy crumb in the center.
4. Add eggs to the pot and continue whisking the entire time until eggs begin to cook and start forming scrambled eggs, about 6-8 minutes. Once the eggs begin to scramble, add in crème fraiche and place back over heat. Continue cooking until soft scrambled egg stage is reached. 5. Remove from heat, season with sea salt and black pepper. 6. Place country bread on individual plates, top with soft scrambled egg mixture and finish with a generous pinch of chives. Enjoy immediately

 

 

Diver Scallops

Ingredients

12 Jumbo Dry Packed Diver Scallops
½ Pound Best Quality Salted
Butter
1 Pound Morel Mushrooms
2 
Sprigs Fresh Thyme
4 
Ounces
Canola oil
2 Garlic Cloves, Smashed
5 Pound
s
Whole Fava Beans
5 
Ounces Wild Ramps, washed, cut into 1 inch pieces
5 
Quarts Chicken Stock 
Reduced by half
5 
Ounces 
Finely 
Chopped 
Chives
Sea Salt as needed

Method: Fava Bean Preparation 

1.
 Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add enough salt to 
create a flavor of the ocean
 2.
 Remove fava beans from first rough outer pod and place into a bowl. Once water comes up to a boil, add 
fava beans and blanch for 30 seconds.
 3.
 Remove fava beans from boiling water and place into a bowl of ice water, shock for 3
 t
o 
4 minutes. 
4.
 Once beans are cool, drain and carefully remove from second shell using the tiny “tab” at the top of the 
bean. Store fava beans in a container until ready to assemble final dish.

Method: Morel Mushroom

1. 
Split morels directly in half and wash morels 
in cold water. Once washed, place on a cookie sheet lined 
with paper towels.
 2.
 In a large sauté pan over medium heat add 1 ounce of canola oil and ¾ of the salted butter. Swirl the 
butter in the pan until foaming, add garlic and thyme, swirl until fragrant.
 3.
 Add morel mushrooms and allow to braise for 12
to 
15 minutes until very tender. If morels seem to be 
cooking too quickly, 
lower the heat
. Once morels have been glazed with butter, remove from the heat and 
place in a container until ready to assemble final 
dish.

Method: Scallops & Finishing the Dish

1.
 Place a cast iron pan or heavy bottomed pan over high heat, add remaining oil and get hot enough to see 
ripples of the oil in the pan.
 2.
 While pan is heating, season scallops with a small amount of sea salt and add to t
he pan. Allow the 
scallops to get a nice crust on the first side, approximately 1 to 1
½ 
minutes. 3.
 Once scallops have formed a nice crust flip over and cook other side for 30 seconds. Remove scallops from 
the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate.
4.
 R
emove all but a tablespoon of the oil from the pan, return to heat, add the ramps and sauté just until 
ramps are wilted. 
5.
 Add reduced chicken stock, bring to a simmer and add the morels until just warmed. Once morels are 
warmed add remaining butter along 
with fava beans, swirl to combine. 
6.
 Remove pan from heat and add in chopped chives. 
7.
 Divide ragout amongst four warmed bowls, top with 3 scallops and a pinch of sea salt on each scallop

 

 

Lemon’s Rooftop Brings Breezy, Mediterranean Style to Brooklyn

 

 

When life gives you Lemon’s, order the Capri Son.

Indeed, the play-on-words refresher is just one of the irresistible new cocktails on offer at arguably this summer’s most buzzy NYC rooftop opening, this one atop Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel.

With, naturally, breathtaking views of Manhattan and across the ‘Burg, Lemon’s is the result of an inspired collaboration between some of New York’s hippest hospitality heavyweights. To be sure, the warm-weather haunt is the brainchild of dream team Jon Neidich (Acme, The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley), chefs Aidan O’Neal & Jake Leiber (Chez Ma Tante), and beverage team Jim Kearns (Acme, The Happiest Hour, Slowly Shirley) and Christine Kang (Soho House).

It’s also meticulously styled, with an easy-breezy-beautiful branding identity conjured by Swedish design duo Andrea Johansson and Claudine Eriksson. It’s their second collaboration, as they all previously worked together on Neidich’s Financial District hotspot Recreation, at the Moxy NYC Downtown Hotel.

Finding inspiration in Mediterranean filming locations (think: The Talented Mr. Ripley), the duo have cooly and elegantly brought to life a 1960s Italian Riviera vibe. The Lemon’s logo and illustrations – pencil and watercolors featuring sun umbrellas, crabs, figs, rosemary – were all hand drawn. A delightful touch in this coldly digital age.

Even the typography chosen by the team borrowed from retro storefront signage and the classic Italian soda Limonata. The collateral has all been printed on “soft, cream-yellow uncoated, textured paper for a sense of sun-bleached nostalgia,” as they tell us. And not to miss any detail, the check at Lemon’s comes with a gorgeous postcard, meant to be a sent on from your all-too-brief Williamsburg staycation.

With its channeling of a “sun-kissed-on-the-Italian shore” feel, Lemon’s conceptually plays homage to a fictional character named Senora Lemon. We learned she was an Italian widow who carried on her husband’s tradition of mixing cocktails and socializing at her house in 1960s Emilia Romagna (the Italian region just above Tuscany). Suffice it to say, her day long lunches-turned-parties were the stuff of legend, a spirit Lemon’s perfectly captures.

The music is curated by local favorites Chances with Wolves, and you’ll want to bop along as you sip on spiked lemonade and other signature house cocktails. The aforementioned Capri Son, for instance, is made with tequila, grapefruit, calamansi and honey, topped with sparkling wine. There’s also aperol spritz on tap – divine!

The Italian influence really comes through in the “aperitivo” vibe of “casually imbibing while enjoying light bites,” as Neidich puts it.

Savory snacks like salumi, raw oysters, and stracciatella with olive oil and bread will look familiar to anyone who has lazed away a summer afternoon in the caffes of Roma or Milano. Grilled calamari, sugar snap peas and tuna carpaccio on cracker crisps all play to the light-eating coastal vibe, while a selection of Italian-style toasted sandwiches will satisfy those craving heartier nibbles.

And given the rash of trendy rooftop openings, Lemon’s commendably isn’t into taking itself too seriously. They imaginatively offer guests a “picnic” option, where everything comes in lemon yellow with vintage coolers and accompanied by a snack trio. It just screams sophisticated summer fun.

But most of all, be sure not to leave without sampling their boozy popsicles, in thematic flavors like cantaloupe, limoncello and Italian citrus. And because Lemon’s aims to keep things communal, there’s plenty of thoughtfully designed seating and comfy cushions on which to kick back, get social and enjoy an NYC sunset.

Saluti!

 

BlackBook ‘Rooms With a View’: The Arlo NoMad Hotel NYC

 

 

We can’t help it – sometimes we just slip into etymology. And so it was that we discovered that the name Arlo is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “fortified hill.”

Of course, NoMad, the mythological neighborhood squeezed between Gramercy and Midtown, has no hills; but it does have one of the best perches from which to view those most awesome skyward edifices of the exalted borough of Manhattan. It just happens to belong to the new-ish Arlo NoMad hotel, sister to the Arlo Soho a little further downtown, and the Nautilus by Arlo in Miami –  an obviously relatively small hotel group, that nevertheless seems to be stirring up a lot of attention.

We checked in recently, admittedly lured by the possibility of open-air cocktails with a side of that aforementioned fabulous view, courtesy of the hotel’s A.R.T NoMad rooftop bar. But as happened, some of the rooms themselves offered just as much eye-candy.

Here’s what we loved.

 

The Location

NoMad is still a neighborhood finding its way – for instance, upscale retail has not quite taken off here. But it’s a visual gem of an area, with much of the same handsome Beaux Arts architecture as the adjacent Flatiron. From the hotel (located on 31st between 5th and Madison) it’s a quick hop to Midtown meetings, a Park Avenue South lunch date…or take an evening zip westward for a bout of irresponsible fashion profligacy, followed by some even more fashionable cocktailing in the Meatpacking District. And, well, the increasingly thrilling Museum of Sex is just around the corner from the Arlo.

 

 

The Rooms

Like its Soho counterpart, the Arlo NoMad very much wants to coax out your inner social animal, with relatively small, reasonably priced rooms (meaning, please spend more time in the bar). But those on the higher of the 31 floors (the Sky View Rooms) may just leave you mesmerized enough to hole yourself up for long periods of time. Indeed, they are for all intents and purposes glass cubes with a bed and bathroom. So, the majestic city is right there sprawled out around and below you – a dizzyingly stunning urban tableaux. Should you prefer something a little less dramatic, rooms with more recognizable walls still have generous windows – ours even looked out onto the Empire State Building.
What is most impressive, however, is what they’ve managed to fit into 150 square feet, including abundant, comfy beds, as well as surprisingly spacious and beautifully styled bathrooms, with cool, grey concrete floors (our favorite). Overhead storage units allow for getting unsightly luggage out of sight, a pragmatic but thoughtful touch.

 

 

Studio / Barlo

It’s essentially a lounge area. But playing to trends, Studio is set up as a co-working enclave – because, apparently, none of us ever seem to stop working. It handily divides up into three separate territories, fitted with ample TV screens (perfect for small group screenings or presentations, obviously) and all the right tech gadgetry. But the stylish, light-flooded space does genuinely invite a bit of downtime, relaxing over a coffee from Barlo, which is just a quick walk past the central staircase.
In the evenings, for those not particularly enamored of rooftop scenes, the Studio/Barlo duo offers a quieter, more contemplative – or possibly even romantic – cocktail alternative.

 

 

A.R.T. NoMad Rooftop

Due to the luck of location, there is nary a visual obstruction from where you sit at the A.R.T. NoMad – so it has easily one of the few most breath-stopping views in the city. There’s even a plexiglass floor in one spot, which allows you to see 31 floors down to the street (careful with that vertigo). Now certainly, the drinks themselves can sometimes be an afterthought as such sceney spots; and while there were indeed no Aperol-worshipping, old-timey-suspendered “mixologists” on hand, the manhattans and mojitos we ordered were spot on. The crowd, which seemed to include a fair mount of flirtatious types, was also very much international – so come prepared to chat about politics in Turkey, the economy in Argentina, or the latest hotspots in Milan.

 

 

Lamalo Restaurant

Though reviews were good, Arlo NoMad’s former Massoni restaurant was just given a thorough makeover, and is now Lamalo, a stylish Middle Eastern spot with colorful tile work and an intimate bar area. Expect a menu of cabbage shank, short rib, grilled octopus, etc, with eastern-influenced prep and spices – as well as The Daily Spread, featuring an assortment of seasonal dips and salads.

 

 

Stunning New Hotel Alert: The August Opens in Antwerp

 

 

Okay, we’re used to the confused stares when we state that Antwerp is our favorite European city – even many of our fellow cognoscenti seem to have missed that train. But even if we made it just about the fashion…one should know that the Flemish capital has produced some of the most exalted design talent across the last couple of generations: Anne Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee, Raf Simons – the list goes on. Never mind that in the MoMu, it also boasts what is arguably the most intellectually engaging fashion museum in the Western Hemisphere.

It’s also a world class culture capital (the M HKA is one of Europe’s most challenging contemporary art museums), with decadent, over-the-top nightlife. And then there’s the citizenry, who are steadfastly aesthetically inclined – something which never fails to fill our hearts with joy.

And from those same aesthetic inclinations comes the breathtaking new August hotel (a member of Design Hotels), from chef Nick Bril of the equally spectacular and Michelin-starred Jane Antwerp restaurant nearby in the city’s Green Quarter.

 

 

Set in a former Augustinian cloister, the 44 rooms have retained the original convent dimensions – though we’re pretty sure the nuns weren’t pampered with a luxury spa and outdoor pool set amidst the private gardens. Similarly, the bar and lounge areas are fitted into what was once the sisters’ private chapel, so you can practically pray away your sins as you’re committing them.

It’s the first ever hotel project from exalted Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen, who insists that, “When you restore a building, you have to do it with respect. We have to consider the past as being a beautiful gift.” And so the dramatic wooden ceilings, original arched windows and patterned floor tiles restored their original splendor are all retained to striking effect. But now they come with custom Flos lighting and Molteni&C furnishings.

With Bril’s involvement, the eponymous seasonal restaurant can be expected to maintain the highest quality. But let’s face it, you’re really booking into the August for the complete immersive experience in this once sacred and still awesomely beautiful space. Prayers optional.

 

 

Champagne Edification: Five Questions w/ Veuve Clicquot Winemaker Gaelle Goossens

 

 

We’ve muddled through too many tipsy brunches with bottomless mimosas, where cheap cava is barely masked by a splash of apparently freshly-squeezed orange juice. So seeking to upgrade our “bubbles” IQ, we arranged a chat with Gaelle Goossens, Winemaker at Veuve Clicquot – one of the longest standing Champagne houses in France (in the city of Reims, to be specific).

According to Gaelle, “one woman changed it all: back in 1805, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin took over her late husband’s Champagne business at the young age of 27, and changed the industry forever.” In fact “Veuve” means “widow” in French; and because of his death she was able to run the Clicqout house by herself, according to French law, and in the process revolutionized the business.

Goossens enthuses that she was, “one of the world’s first businesswomen!”

 

 

Madame Clicquot actually created and trademarked the brand’s legendary yellow-orange logo, which is now number 137c on the Pantone scale. But certainly more impressively, even sparkling rosé all day can be attributed to Madame Clicquot.

How did she do that? By creating practices that are now standard in Champagne making, including “remov[ing] sediment to make Champagne clear, and in the assemblage process, which mixes red and white wine to create a beautiful, balanced rosé.”

Positioned as Veuve Clicqout is under the LVMH umbrella, beside exalted fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Fendi, Champagne may seem like it’s merely a luxury. But we posed five pointed questions to Mlle. Goossens, who proceeded to lead us down the path of edification on just how to enjoy the subtly sparkling beverage any day, every day.

 

 

What Makes Champagne….Champagne?

Champagne makes up less than 1% of wine in the entire world. Because true Champagne is only created in a small region of France, it means that only a minuscule portion of the world’s wine can truly be classified as Champagne.

What Glasses Should be Used for Drinking Champagne?

Flutes are not the best way to enjoy Champagne. Although they are very festive, they do not do it justice. Winemakers recommend drinking from a white wine or tulip shaped glass to allow it to breathe. Most people forget that Champagne is a wine with elaborate tasting notes, that need room to be fully enjoyed.

Should One Drink That Bottle of Veuve Immediately?

Good Champagne is an investment piece. High quality vintage-dated Champagne, such as Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2008, can age 15+ years if properly stored in a dark temperature-controlled environment. The end result is a Champagne that develops more complex notes of dried fruit, honey, and toasted flavors.

Isn’t Champagne Prohibitively Expensive?

You can buy luxury for less, if you do it right. Buying Vintage Champagnes is a great way to try a “nicer,” more unique bottle of wine without spending an exorbitant amount. You can also opt for a house’s prestige cuvee (the best of the best), but that will usually come at a higher price point.

Can Champagne be Too Fussy?

Too clean can be a bad thing. One of the best parts about Champagne is the bubbles! If you use a dishwasher to wash your wine glasses, you might end up seeing less bubbles than you would if you hand-wash. The dishwasher tends to work too well and creates a slick surface on the glass, making it more difficult for the iconic bubbles to form.

 

Gaelle Goossens

Catskills Cool: The Eastwind Hotel & Bar is NY State’s Hippest Hideaway

 

 

For reasons too many to get into right here, interesting people are, simply, leaving New York. Indeed, those who find the once provocative city’s cultural edges to have been decisively filed down have headed to Berlin and Detroit; and those who can’t bear to watch another high-rise tower go up, or another innocuous brunch spot open on their block, are perhaps taking up residence in Philadelphia, Baltimore…or, in the case of the more arcadian inclined, settling a couple of hours north in the surprisingly unspoiled but increasingly intriguing Catskills.

Our most recent visit was actually a temporary one – but the immediate charms of the Eastwind Hotel & Bar in Windham did have us daydreaming a bit about life amongst the majestic peaks. The hotel was opened quite recently – in June of 2018, by first time hoteliers Bjorn Boyer and Julija Stoliarova – but was still very much ahead of the curve of the new wave of Catskills buzz that has been lately stirring up amongst the cognoscenti.

In our learned opinion, the Eastwind represents one of the “must” getaways for the upcoming summer season. Here’s what we loved about it.

 

 

Location

The town of Windham, which the Eastwind calls home, is central to the “action,” since it’s got some of the best skiing in the region. But with the hotel sitting just across from the majestic Windham Mountain, especially in springtime, the scenery elicits a constant stream of awe-inspired gasps.
Of course, in any season, “take a hike” is obviously not an insult up here. We took the Diamond Notch Falls hiking trail, and trust us, it will easily outperform your meditation class for summoning inner serenity – and will do so without the corresponding damage to your wallet. Nearby, we also took – we swear – a survival guide course with Jeff Vincent of Catskill Mountain Wild, who taught us how to start a fire from scratch, build a shelter, etc. – though we must admit, adept as our instructor was, we’re still not sure we should be left to fend for ourselves in the wild.

 

 

 

Design & Rooms

It’s actually quite impressive how natural everything feels at the Eastwind – especially considering that, for fussy New York visitors, woodsy charms generally need to be balanced with a knowing sense of contemporary style. An overall Scandinavian influence is evident, and rooms and beds are clean, white, modern, with just the right amount of rustic finesse – like old-fashioned fireplaces, as well as invitingly patterned rugs and Faribault wool blankets. The copy of David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries placed on the nightstand was a knowing touch. No surprise, views from virtually every window vary from peaceful to breathtaking.
You could also virtually throw a party in the cavernous bathrooms, done up with gorgeous mosaic floors and cool, industrial style sinks. You may even find a vintage tennis racket hanging on the wall above the loo – because, why not?
For the more adventurous, there are three architecturally striking A-frame Lushna “houses” on the property, great for those who like to feel they are genuinely living amidst nature – a bit like glamping, but way sexier. They’re always booked, so reserve far ahead.

 

 

Amenities

They’ve got snowshoes, wellies and wheelies to satisfy your many exurban inclinations, should you wish to take a trudge or take a spin. And, as if it had been airlifted from the Finnish Laplands, a handsome-looking sauna rests up high behind the main building – a wonderful relaxation option for any time of year. Yoga classes on the upper lawn come, of course, with a jaw-droppingly majestic view.

 

 

The Bar

Yes, you’ve heard it before – but in the Eastwind’s particularly inviting bar and lounge area, the rustic and the modern really do play nice together, in a way that feels remarkably unstudied. Wraparound windows sort of beg long, lazy afternoons-into-evenings over tea or cocktails, with savory sandwiches and generous cheese & charcuterie boards to assure that you barely have to move for hours at a time (don’t worry, you did yoga in the morning). Scattered about for entertainment are assorted non-strenuous games – though we strongly recommend bringing along your own copy of Cards Against Humanity or Exploding Kittens, and making new friends.
The hotel also does a special communal Friends & Family barbecue series every Friday from May through October. Though it’s essentially for guests and former guests, you can call and make a request to join. And honestly, sometimes it’s actually hard to tell the staff from the patrons…which is exactly how it should be in a hotel such as this.

 

 

The Catskills

Since NYC nightlife has been pretty much toned down to its current PG-13 status, you needn’t feel the least bit of FOMO opting for a few days immersed in the cultural offerings of the Catskills. For starters, the Supertone music festival will be at Basilica Hudson on July 6, with indie darlings including Ex Hex, The Felice Brothers and Habibi. While Red Hook & The Chocolate Festival takes over the town of the same name (not in Brooklyn) for an afternoon of gorging on, well, you-know-what.
But before that, head to the groovy little town of Narrowsburg, for one of the best bookstores in the world, One Grand Books – where you’ll find erudite collections curated by the likes of Lena Dunham, Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton and Greta Gerwig. The shop’s impressive annual Deep Water Literary Festival will be galvanizing bookish sorts this June 21 through 23rd, in its hometown – and will feature a-list writing talent amongst its special guests. Unmissable.

 

 

 

The New Retro-Glam: Sunken Lounge, Pool Bar + Connie Open at JFK’s New TWA Hotel

 

 

You won’t find NYC’s coolest new cocktail spot in Williamsburg or the West Village this summer. Rather, it’s all the way out in Queens, at the just opened – and most hotly anticipated – TWA Hotel  at JFK International.

Yes indeed, you will find the cognoscenti hanging at the airport this summer, as the stunningly revived Eero Saarinen-designed masterpiece that was his 1962 Trans World Airlines Terminal now houses not one, but three new venues from hospitality hotshots Gerber Group – who forever changed the way we think about and drink at hotel bars starting with The Whiskey at the Paramount back in 1991. But it’s these latest jetsetter jumpoffs that are decisively setting tongues a-wagging.

“Operating The Sunken Lounge, The Pool Deck, and Connie at TWA Hotel is an incredible opportunity, and we’re thrilled to bring each of these unique concepts to life in their own way,” says Scott Gerber, Principal and CEO of Gerber Group. “The millions of guests from around the world, as well as locals who join us, can expect the exceptional service, cocktails and bites we’re known for, infused with a sense of history and discovery.”

Meticulously restored by Beyer Blinder Belle architects, the terminal’s additional two brand new hotel wings boast a total of 512 rooms. So one can imagine there will be no shortage of well-turned-out guests seeking that perfect Bond-style martini, perhaps a Pink Squirrel, or some or other sexy cocktail throwback to the Jet Age.

Here’s what to expect.

 

 

The Pool Bar & Observation Deck

It boasts a 63-by-20-foot infinity edge pool (turned heated pool-cuzzi in colder months) with unparalleled views of multiple JFK runways. Must Order: a Mile High Spritz to complement those rooftop pool vibes.

The Sunken Lounge

It decisively reignites the magic of Eero Saarinen’s landmark 1962 TWA Flight Center, restored as a particularly glamorous lobby bar, in dazzling retro red and white. Must Order: the Come Fly With Me, inspired by Frank Sinatra’s 1958 album cover and garnished with a rainbow of swizzle sticks modeled after TWA’s original set.

Connie

One of only four Lockheed Constellation L-1649A’s left in the world, it transports you all the way back to 1958. Step onto the tarmac and aboard her renovated cabin, where vintage-inspired cocktails flow and snacks are served with a sunny smile. Must Order: an Aviation, of course – but between sips don’t forget to stop by the cockpit to check out the original authentic controls.