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

Share Button

 

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

Share Button

 

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. 

 

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

Share Button
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

Share Button

 

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

Share Button

 

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.

 

Dune Bashing, Persian Carpets and a Spectacular Outpost of The Louvre: A Weekend in Abu Dhabi, Part II

Share Button

 

(Continuing on from Part I of our Abu Dhabi story…)

 

Peckish from sightseeing, we headed back to The Grand Hyatt where we lunched at Verso, a stylish Italian trattoria, that serves outstanding pizzas, pastas like pappardelle ai gamberi, and squid ink risotto – and as New Yorkers, we’re not easily impressed with Italian food. The property will actually boast a total of six international dining options (just two were open when we were there), so you’ll never go hungry. Sahha, an “adventurous market,” is the spot for made-to-order and buffet breakfast and dinner options – don’t miss the big-as-your-head pastel-colored meringues at the dessert station. Pearl Lounge in the lobby provided a sophisticated little stop off when we were feeling parched, as our minibar seemed to be a work in progress (um, empty).

And for those feeling a little more motivated than were we, there was a Dynamic TechnoGym fitness center open 24-hours, with a steam room and sauna to sweat out the night-before’s partying on the hip and happening Yas Island. (N.B., you can drink openly at hotels and nightclubs in Abu Dhabi, but public drunkenness is of course very much frowned upon.)

Never hearing of dune bashing before we visited Abu Dhabi, the daytime sport courtesy of Land Cruisers and their agile drivers, provided some raucous fun. We were told to buckle up, because off-roading amongst the sand dunes gets hair-raisingly bumpy. If you book a tour with Abu Dhabi Desert Safari you’ll also get up close and personal with a herd of very cuddly camels, available for short rides and lots of petting. As part of our excursion, we got to partake in sand skiing, a Bedouin-style BBQ dinner, belly dancing and Tanoura (traditional folkloric dance) performances, henna painting, and even the chance to hold a falcon for the ultimate photo op.

For anyone who might be wondering where Whistler’s Mother is currently on view, it was right there at the spectacular, Saadayit Island located Louvre Abu Dhabi. The name is on loan from its Paris counterpart, which was incidentally paid $525 million to license the name for 30 years. Here, the Pritzker Prize-winning starchitect Jean Nouvel has again outdone himself – the sprawling design is actually comprised of 55 detached buildings.

With a giant overhead canopy ‘woven’ out of 7850 metal ‘stars,’ the structure ingeniously anchors sand and sea. Waterfront views from the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s many terraces are breathtaking, while visiting day or night promises dazzling light shows under the dome. And the art? We especially loved the cosmography room and the well-curated collection of artifacts from early civilizations. Currently showing is Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia, through the end of February.

Of course, when they go big in the U.A.E., they always go really big. And the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was no exception. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdekly, the glistening white-marble stunner is one of the world’s largest. A massive undertaking at over 20 years to build (2007 saw the completion), a collective of highly skilled artisans using only the finest materials were enlisted from around the globe, coming from India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia…the list goes on.

It should be noted that visitors are required to respect the dress code, traditional Abaya dress for women, or Kandura for men. For us ladies, this meant loose pants (so please do leave your athleisure at the hotel), loose tops covering arms and chest, and head scarf with no hair showing. Our Isabel Marant tunic was deemed too sheer by staff, so we were loaned a hooded, pinkish-colored Abaya, which are available before entering the mosque. And after all, who doesn’t look good in mauve?

Resplendent with the world’s largest Persian carpet (woven by women, we were told by our lively guide, with 2,268,000,000 knots) and the third largest, brilliantly colored crystal-encrusted chandelier in existence, the humbling, grandiose main hall can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Its benefactor, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, wanted to establish a structure uniting the cultural diversity of the Islamic world, and its historical and modern values of architecture and art. His Highness’ final resting place is actually located on the grounds beside the mosque.

Before we departed from Abu Dhabi, we were determined to visit one of its beaches (and not one of the many man-made ones). Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, on the shores of Saadiyat, boasted an invitingly pristine, natural beachfront, where gentle waves beckoned us in. A quick dip provided perfect refreshment before winding down and washing up before dinner. The sleek, minimalist rooms here offer our favorite Le Labo products, which will soon become standard across all of the Hyatt properties, we were told.

Reserving a table under the stars at the award-winning Park Bar & Grill, we were thankful for the simplicity of a menu of charcoal-grilled seafood and fine steaks. Dining al fresco on a clear, we took in one last magnificent view, before normal life would take us back to Gotham.

(N.B. ideal travel times to the UAE are December through March, before it gets too hot and humid.)

First Images: Virgin Debuts Splashy New Hotel in San Francisco’s SOMA

Share Button

 

Unlike those mega-corporate brands, Virgin has been distinctly more methodical in the building of its new hospitality venture. Indeed, their first hotel opened just more than four years ago in Downtown Chicago  – and it’s taken this long for the follow up.

But that second act has at last arrived, as their San Francisco outpost opens this week to significant chattering amongst the creative classes. And surely a part of that excitement stems from the reality that despite its world class cultural/culinary/nightlife status, SF has been a bit slow in crafting its new-gen hotel cred, barely registering on the international trendometer when it comes to groovy places to lay one’s head when visiting the City by the Bay.

 

 

The new hotel is located in the perpetually trendy South of Market (SOMA) district – with all of the attendant food and drink options to keep its denizens hanging about from morning ’til midnight. One can pop in for a caffeine fix at the Funny Library Coffee Shop in the AM, grab a buzzy lunch at the Commons Club (a spinoff of the Windy City original), and, starting in March, carry out some serious seeing and being seen at the Everdene rooftop bar.

Public space aesthetics actually come by way of rock star designer Matthew Rolston, and nod to both SF’s fabled 1960s bohemia and its lesser known British Victorian influence.

But amidst all the socializing, you can actually get a good night’s sleep here, if that’s your thing. The 192 rooms flaunt separate dressing areas and ergonomic lounge beds, with warm woods accented by the signature Virgin red.

if you tend towards booking the St Regis or the Westin St Francis, the Virgin probably won’t be your thing. But if you’d prefer to be where the SF wild things are, we would suggest it as your only new option.

 

BlackBook Exclusive: Winter Cocktail Recipes from the Stratus Rooftop Lounge at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia

Share Button

 

When the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia debuted in the fall of 2012, one particular feature blared from the headlines with great new promise: there would be a very high-profile rooftop bar up on the 11th floor. Maybe not earth-shattering news in NYC or LA, but at the time Philly (already one of our fave nightlife destinations) was vividly lacking in such lofty drinking establishments.

Six+ years later, the Stratus Rooftop Lounge is still one of the sexiest spots in the city. Open year round, there’s actually something decidedly European about the overall vibe and aesthetic – as if it might be found crowning a plush hotel in Munich or Rome. It also boasts one of Philadelphia’s top drinks alchemists, in the person of Mirek Struniaski – with a cocktail program full of surprises. The Dismembered, for instance, mixes Bulleit​ Rye, crème de cacao a la vanilla, peppermint bitters, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe. There’s also a rotating selection of cocktails on draft.

 

 

The hotel itself – where we checked in just recently – apart from its location amidst Old City’s teeming restaurant scene, has much to recommend it. First, its own Red Owl Tavern does regional dishes (winter squash panzanella, lamb shank cassoulet) with an international flair in a rustic-chic setting, and is buzzing at weekday lunchtime. The Monaco also has one of those great lounging lobbies, done up in an array of smartly mismatched neo-baroque / neo-classical furnishings and zodiac artworks. The space hosts a sociable wine reception for guests every evening – we made new friends, one was a dog.

The stylistic playfulness extends to the rooms, which have baroque-detailed wall coverings and curtains, Empire style armchairs (ours was embossed with a dachshund silhouette – neato!), Chinoiserie cabinets, and dramatic 1920s-style fringe lamps. We particularly loved the dramatic view of historic Philadelphia from our window.

Still and all, it was the Stratus that really had us swooning – and Mr. Struniaski was good enough to enlighten us as to the magic behind a few of his signature creations. Try them at home…but absolutely make haste to sip them in situ at the Monaco sooner than later.

 

 

Casanova 2

 

Stratus Rooftop Lounge Signature Cocktails

 

Water Lily

Butterfly pea infused Tanqueray 10
Johnnie Walker Black
Lillet Blanc
honey syrup
rose water

 

Radiant Club

Gosling’s Black Rum
Campari
pineapple juice
lime
cherry syrup
cranberry bitters
egg white

 

Casanova No 2

Cognac
ginger syrup
cayenne (served hot)

 

First Images: Nobu Hotel Palo Alto Will Become the Palace of Zen-Minimalist Extravagance it Has Always Meant to Be

Share Button

 

There’s enough money in the Silicon Valley corridor right now, that it’s not the least bit surprising a luxury brand would skip right over San Francisco, and plant its flag in the high tech corridor just to the south. And that is indeed exactly what Nobu did, taking over the Epiphany hotel in Palo Alto in 2017 – with plans just announced to last ratchet it up to the brand’s lofty level of zen-minimalist extravagance (with apologies for the seeming contradiction in terms), in the form of the rebranded Nobu Hotel Palo Alto.

Santa Monica based Montalba Architects, who designed Nobu Ryokan in Malibu, will oversee the upgrade. Keeping with the landscape’s natural theme, the light chiseled stone and golden hued wood will make for an elegant display of minimalism fit for a Wallpaper* magazine shoot. Guests will be welcomed via a floating stone and teak railed staircase to the second floor reception lounge, complete with fireplace, mid-century George Nakashima lounge chairs, and sculpted lighting courtesy of John Wigmore. And if it even need be said, a typically splashy Nobu restaurant will occupy two floors of the eight story property.

 

 

The 73 Asian influenced and tech enabled rooms will be outfitted with Alexa for smart commands over various fixtures (designed to impress a steady parade of Silicon Valleyites), Toto Neorest, washlet toilets, and floor-to-ceiling glass windows with private patio access. (Special bonus: views to the ethereal Santa Cruz Mountains.)

For a distinctive Nobu experience, book one of the Ryokan traditional Japanese styled rooms, which will feature high ceilings, slatted teak wall paneling, 90” televisions (especially important to Game of Thrones fans, surely), and a freestanding wood soaking tub.

Other amenities will include a 24 hour in-room Nobu dining menu, and a state-of-the-art fitness studio with Peloton bikes.

Considering all the free-flowing expense accounts, expect other super-luxury hotel brands to be currently scouting Silicon Valley locations. For its part, the new Nobu Hotel Palo Alto will be unveiled in early 2020 – with a $500- $700 price tag on the rooms.