Hurricane Hell: 12 Great NYC Spots to Visit In Your Mind Today

Hurricane Sandy got you housebound? Don’t die of boredom, hit your liquor cabinet, think about all the great bars and restaurants in New York, and take a mental stroll through them all. To get you started, I’ve made a list of a dozen winners that I love. Check them out, agree or disagree, and then dream up a perfect NYC itinerary of your own. When the weather eventually improves, work through your list in real life. It’s like Imagination Christmas, and just as cheap. Continue on to our list of 12 New York Spots I Wish I Could Visit Today Instead of Being Stuck Inside Thanks to Hurricane Sandy

Hey, it beats playing solitaire by candlelight. 

Anonymous Sex Blogger ‘Chloe Is My Alias’

“I have fantasies about seeing him again, what it would be like. I imagine seeing him, just like I did the first time, at the park outside the coffee shop. His denim jeans and grey t-shirt hugging his incredible body; me running my hands over every inch of him; tearing his clothes off and having all of him.” Meet Chloe Is My Alias, the successful, sex-obsessed, and wholly anonymous scribe of So I Met This Guy, the blog where she chronicles her dalliances with a Jung-like roster of New York movers and shakers: The Ralph Lauren Guy, The Photographer, The Editor, The Media Guy. The Wife. Chloe herself is in Fashion, and while we’re not likely to discover her real identity anytime soon, BlackBook spent a rainy afternoon on the phone with the candidly sexual blogger in what was her first interview ever. What follows is a frank conversation about feminism, porn, and British accents.

I hope you don’t mind answering some personal questions. Feel free to ask me anything. I’m an open—well, I’m almost an open book.

I’m interested in why you started a blog. I have always been the girlfriend with the wild stories. Every time I’d go to tell any of my stories to my friends, I’d say, “Oh my goodness, I met this guy,” or, “So I met this guy last night,” and it just kind of took on a life of its own. So I just decided, “Ok, I might as well write about these [stories] and share them with other people.”

I’m assuming that one of the reasons you have to remain anonymous is because of the men you sleep with, and certainly for your own career’s sake, but I’m wondering if part of the reason is also because people aren’t ready to hear these kinds of stories from women. I think that’s a huge part of it, and that’s actually one of the reasons why I wanted to write about it in the first place, to say that women have these kinds of feelings and experiences, and it doesn’t make them bad people to want to be sexual and enjoy sex, and to want to have these crazy experiences. Or not— you don’t have to want it. Some people who read my blog write to me and tell me that they could never do that, but they love hearing about it and living vicariously through me. Even if they might not themselves do it, they still appreciate it.

I feel like a lot of people are still very judgmental of women, which is also a very small part of why I remain anonymous right now. And it makes it more interesting for the story. I like that there isn’t a face to the name, so to speak. I think that allows people to put themselves in the story more, and visually create the story for themselves and build their own fantasies. At the same time, I do worry. What if someone doesn’t hire me for a job because I happen to enjoy sex and wrote about it once?

What do you look for in a lover? It depends. I’m not really attracted to men that pursue me, because I know what I want the second I see it. So if I see someone, I’ll approach them. I don’t wait for guys to come talk to me. He has to be very well dressed. My number one criteria is style; he has to have very good personal style. I guess second, looks-wise, I definitely like older men. So, 35-45, I guess. Physically, I don’t really like very muscle-y guys. That doesn’t turn me on. Are there certain professions that are sexier to you? I find myself more attracted to the creative types, people that work in magazines or production. The Artist, The Photographer—I don’t know if it’s so much that I’m attracted to their creative side, or if it’s that I’m not attracted to the really linear positions. There’s no “Doctor” or “Lawyer.” Well, there’s one lawyer, but he’s from London, so he’s an exception. The accent. British men: that’s my weakness, actually. My weakness is the British accent. If you have that, you’re like gold. What about money? I’m not looking for someone to take care of me financially. I’m a very independent person who takes care of herself, so I don’t really care. I think when you have money it allows you to do more exciting things, so that kind of plays into it, but it’s not—If some guy walked around and flashed his wallet, I wouldn’t care. I don’t want to go to a bad restaurant, not because I want to be seen in a good one, but because I actually like good food, and if you take me to a bad restaurant, they’re not going to have good food. When you go to Balthazar, you know that you’re going to get good food. It just happens to be a bit of a scene also. What is it that you think drives you out to seek anonymous sex? The people that I sleep with, when I sleep with them, I’m my real self. I’m not Chloe to them. So I don’t really think of it as anonymous sex, actually. I don’t have a boyfriend right now and I haven’t met anybody that can keep my interest for long enough, but I still really like sex, and I really enjoy having it, and often. I have people that I do that with that are great people, and they’re nice, they’re just not anyone that I want to pursue anything more than a physical relationship with. It’s just about being able to do that and have those experiences. I just feel like I always end up with these crazy stories just from meeting a guy. What’s one of your craziest stories? I think the first story I wrote about has to be the most outlandish, because I met London Guy in Las Vegas. I had taken my mom there for a “girls’ weekend.” Basically I had a night of just wild drinking and having fun and he invited me, the next day, to go to Hong Kong with him for a week. So we went and had this whirlwind romantic week-long vacation in Hong Kong. I think that was probably my craziest. Whenever anyone says, “I have a Las Vegas story,” I say, “No. I have a Las Vegas story!” Do you think you could ever be satisfied by one man, or do you think the idea of monogamy is just wrongheaded? No, I think it’s a really interesting idea, actually. I think that it’s a really nice idea. My grandparents were together forever. How could they have possibly been with someone else when everything they did, they did together? I think that’s an amazing, amazing thing. I think that in today’s world, people are only looking for a quick-fix. Our whole culture is based on instant gratification, like a diet pill, or plastic surgery—something really quick. I feel like in relationships, that’s not the case. Relationships take a lot of time and a lot of hard work if you want to maintain them over the course of a lifetime, and as much as I would love to find someone that’s willing to do that with me, I don’t know if that’s actually possible. I think it’s a really nice idea to say that it is possible; I just don’t know if it is.

Just for you, or for anybody? I think for anybody. I think for me the biggest thing is that we’re brought up in a culture where we’re told from day one that you get married and you have babies, or, you fall in love, you get married, and you have babies, and then you live happily ever after. I feel like that’s a really old model and maybe we need to revisit that model, and maybe that model works for some people, and maybe it doesn’t work for others. Do you ever judge yourself harshly for sleeping around? Never, ever. If I did I would stop it immediately. If I ever felt bad about anything I did, I would not do it. If think that there’s something I shouldn’t be doing, I don’t do it. As much as these things are spontaneous, I’m a very logical and thoughtful person so if I thought it was a bad idea, I wouldn’t do it in the first place.

Some might interpret some of the things as anti-feminist, or at the very least, controversial, and I think some feminists would read it and say it’s extremely empowering. I am really fascinated by the whole concept of feminism. It’s really interesting because when the movement originally started it was really about equality, but there are the extremists, as there are in every movement, that made it about being “anti-men.” I actually did a Facebook post a while back about why feminism is such a dirty word, and I think it’s because it really did become an anti-male thing and I’m not anti-men. I love men. I would go crazy without them. I feel like women can have the same attitude towards things that men do, and I think even still, they’re not really allowed to be as free, sexually, as men are. What about being the other woman? Do you ever feel guilty? I think there are two sides. There’s the “affairs,” and then there is the sexual aspect of it. If you’re emotionally and mentally involved with somebody on a really deep level who’s not your wife or husband, I feel like that is cheating. That probably means you shouldn’t be married to the person that you’re married to, or whatever it means for you. But if you’re just having sex, I feel like that’s a totally different story. I feel like that’s acceptable as long as it’s done in a “respectful” way—you’re not flashing your girlfriend around town, you’re not sending emails, you’re not deleting pictures on your computer. Like I said, I’m very much of the mindset that “what I don’t know doesn’t hurt me.” If I had to hear from my girlfriend, “Oh we saw your boyfriend out with another girl for dinner,” that’s embarrassing. But if I don’t have to hear that, then I really do believe it’s just sex. I’m going to read back a line to you that I read in one of your posts: “As unfortunate as this is going to sound it is true; women are master manipulators. If I wanted to I could make any man fall in love with me.” How would you go about making a man fall in love with you? That’s not an easy thing to explain. Maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s not all women, but I’m very good at anticipating what a man wants in response. So you can just look at a guy, size him up, and think, “What kind of girl does he want me to be?” You can be that girl, if you want to have him. If he wants the girl that’s fun and flirty, you can be that. If he wants the girl that is kind of standoffish, and makes him work for it, you can be that person. I’m not talking about making him fall passionately, madly, eternally in love with you. I’m talking about physically conquering someone. What’s one of the least sexy things a guy can do in bed? A very good question. I don’t know, talking? (laughs) Talking about anything other than dirty talk? Actually, one of the men that I write about knows about the blog, and he said, “You should write about bad sex,” and I told him, “I don’t have bad sex!” I can’t write about it, because I haven’t had it, I’m sorry. What’s something that just drives you wild? I really, really like the feeling of hands on my body, like being grabbed, and being pulled, a little bit of aggression. It really turns me on when a guy has to really grab you because he wants you so badly. I know once you talked about masturbating in your blog. Why don’t you think more women masturbate? I think they do. I think they just don’t talk about it. This is just my personal opinion, but I would never just sit down at the coffee table with my girlfriends over a cappuccino and start talking about how I just masturbated. But for some reason guys feel like it’s totally okay. Guys seem to be able to talk about that all the time and no one thinks it’s weird, but if a girl talks about it, it’s like “Whoa.” Do you watch porn? It’s funny, I’m not really into porn, but mostly because of who’s in porn. It’s all so trashy looking, and I’m really not into trash. I find sometimes I’ll look at fashion photography that’s really sexualized and that turns me on more. They’re beautiful and everything about it is so aesthetically pleasing, but in porn, especially the girls—they are just awful. I come from a fashion background, so for me, the over-bleached, blonde, fake-boob thing isn’t exactly exciting. Are there certain places that are best for meeting men? Yes. Hotel bars. Absolutely. Is there anything that you think everyone should try once? I really try to stay away from any kind of mold. For me I just do what feels good. I don’t like to put labels on things. I do what makes sense to me, and I don’t think that something that makes sense for me necessarily makes sense for everyone. The one thing, and this has nothing to do with dating, or men, but I think every person should be able to be independent, and be able to go somewhere by themselves. Go have dinner by yourself. Go to a movie by yourself.

Photography by Harry Fellows.

Nightlife Try Outs: Intern Alice’s Wide Eyed NYC Itinerary

Name: Alice Urmey Professional Resume: BlackBook intern and NYC newbie.
 One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Fascinating.

City Loves: 
 • Favorite lunch spot: Hampton Chutney Co. in Soho. Cheap, delicious, and a nice alternative to Whole Foods. 
• Favorite dinner spot: DBGB. Fight for a table up front and enjoy upscale burgers and beer with the crowd.

• Favorite nightlife trend: Bars becoming more than just places to drink: Union Hall, Culturefix, Pimps and Pinups, The Blind Barber. • Drink of choice: Sangria is always a summer favorite. And a Belve and Soda. • Meal of choice: John’s of Bleeker: classic New York pizza. 
• Favorite group of people to bump into: Anyone I haven’t seen in a long time and keep forgetting to call.

image Union Hall, Culturefix, Pimps and Pinups, The Blind Barber

City Gripes: 
 • Nightlife trend you loathe: When a good trend goes out of style too quickly. 
 • Drink: Martini, who knew it was just a fancy name for gin?
 • Meal: Raw oysters. Briny and slippery goop. • Group of people to bump into: Crowds on The High Line, tourists in Soho.

image Alice, Left

Her Hotspots: Monday: Fresh pasta at Scarpetta, Little Branch. Tuesday: B.E.S., Avenue. Beautiful art and beautiful people in Chelsea. Wednesday: Bar Pitti, Wilfie & Nell. A low key night with close friends. 
 Thursday: Schiller’s Liquor Bar, free entrance to New Museum after 7pm–great incentive to get my boyfriend to a museum. 
 Friday: Start with a bite in Brooklyn at The Vanderbilt. Hit the East Village for Death & Co. and Mayahuel, where tequila is not only the drink of choice, it’s the only drink. 
 Saturday: Union Square Greenmarket for a loaf of bread and Long Island wine. Light dinner at The Standard Grill, followed by a night of rooftop bars. Sunday: Aroma Espresso Bar, Balthazar. Recover from the weekend with strong coffee and steak frites.

image Smith & Mills

Every night: Smith & Mills. Perfect place to end any night. 
 Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Fratty bars like Wicked Willy’s. If I wanted to play beer pong, I would’ve stayed in the suburbs. 
For special occasions: Celebrate with drinks at The Modern while munching on truffle popcorn. 
Brunch is usually: Pastis. Or Bubby’s if I didn’t eat there in the early hours of the night before.

5 Reasons Why Food Halls Are Better Than School Cafeterias

1. You’ll never get stuck eating lima beans and cabbage, unless you want to. Everything at the Plaza Food Hall by Todd English is fresh, gourmet, and made in front of you, even the sushi. You have a choice of goodies from Murray’s Cheese or Balthazar bakery, the Ocean Grill or the Dumpling Bar. Rectangular cardboard pizza and meatloaf Tuesdays not on the menu.

2. Long gone are the days of awkwardly scanning the cafeteria for a place to dine in social anonymity. You can get your food to go! Recently inducted Chelsea Market vendors Bar Suzette (for crepes) and People’s Pops (for gourmet popsicles) offer completely portable snacks. This also eliminates the possibility of bullies knocking over your lunch tray and you inhaling your inedible fare in a bathroom stall.

3. No more ex-convicts slapping mashed potatoes on your plate. The new Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich (Del Posto, Esca, Babbo) Flatiron food hall complex, Eataly (opening this fall), is looking for professionals with at least 5 years experience in fields other than hospitality (like finance). Let go of the anxiety of wondering whether those lunch ladies pay attention to the ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ signs before digging in.

4.You can consume alcohol. As much as you want and/or can afford. Hudson Hall at the Hudson Hotel presents a swank rendition of your typical cafeteria. Perhaps because the masterminds here modeled the joint after an Ivy League Mess Hall (How New England of them), they have versions of the same disgusting concoctions you drank in college (Lynchburg Lemonade, Gin-N-Juice, Lemon Drops) and maybe high school (if you’re from Mississippi) but with quality liquor and less hangover-inducing ingredients.

5. There’s more to explore than the mystery meat. At the church-turned-club-turned-bazaar Limelight Marketplace, there’s a green market, yes, but also a slew of shopping options and a J. Sisters salon. And it looks like a mini-Disney, much better than bologna, I think.

Striking Up Friendships

A working weekend kept me hot, bothered, and a little short on steam. But I was able to attend the Carrera Sunglasses party on the fabulous roof at 505 West 37th Street. The roof—some 40 stories over the Javits Center, train yards, and the Port Authority Bus complex—is so high that it made those places seem romantic. A pal asked me what that place across the Hudson River was, and I replied “America.” New York did seem far away from America this week, with the World Cup bringing so many accented tourists to the haunts I hang in. The Carrera event had a slew of downtown types who followed GoldBar honcho John Lennon and downtown PR flack Dana Dynamite uptown. I chatted up a very nice Whitney Port, who I was told is in that show The City. Watermelon, cold cans of Café Bustelo, and clear views of places I rarely want to see up close kept me happy for hours. I visited an apartment downstairs where they hid the swag, and I was told that the one bedroom with those views goes for $2200 a month. Almost cheap enough to forget the $15 cab fare to anyplace I’d like to be. Still, I think there will lots of fabulous events at this sweet spot.

An expensive yellow limo returned me to downtown where I belong, at the behest of Fuse Gallery/Lit bigwig Erik Foss. I attended the art opening The Hole Presents Not Quite Open for Business, “A conceptual group show of unfinished art, unfinished poems and unfinished symphonies.” When Jeffrey Deitch split to be the director of MOCA in L.A., it left the presenters confused as to what to do next. Some funding problems and an artist not quite ready to show was turned into a positive thing, as artists were asked to show their work in the stage it was in, a caught-with-your-pant-down approach to curating. The result is a fun, thought provoking, and unpretentious good time. I joined Erik Foss over at Lucky Strike and watched him have a snack. Erik is just back from Mexico City where he brought his Draw show. I hadn’t been to Lucky Strike in a long time. A friend of mine who used to work there was killed in his apartment many years ago, and it stirred up bad memories.

Mike “Seal” used to be my head of security over at Life, and his untimely death under mysterious circumstances made me wonder. When you go out to eat or play, you don’t necessarily need to be reminded of sad things. Lucky Strike wowed them back in 1989 when it first opened. Like all Keith McNally joints, it has an energizer bunny type of energy and the basic bones to last forever. The service, the staff, the design, and the fare are timeless and I felt good to be back. I still visit Pravda, Odeon, Pastis, and Balthazar from time to time, and his other entries Minetta Tavern, Morandi, and Schillers are magnificent machines. I am currently building in his old Nells space, trying to create something worthy of its lore. Pulino’s opened in my hood a little bit ago and although it wasn’t reviewed well by one prominent critic, the crowds have voted it a winner.

I will be DJing at the other Lucky Strike, the bowling alley and lounge on far West 42nd Street. The occasion is the birthday bash for Noel Ashman, who was at one point the operator of the Nells space when it was Plumm and NA. The invite reads “National Academy of Television, Arts and Scienes… Emmy Awards along with…” And it goes on to list Chris Noth, Patrick McMullan, Damon Dash, and a slew of others. Grandmaster Flash, Jamie Biden, Ethan Browne, and DJ Reach will join me on the wheels of steel. In the left corner is the logo for adult entertainment company Wicked. There’s hosts like Richie Romero, Brandon Marcel and Matt de Matt listed as well. Every time I write about Noel, a slew of haters come out of their holes and hovels to spew dirt. I am always asked why do I write about him. Noel has made a ton of omelets over the years and I guess in the process has broken his share of eggs. I personally have never had a bad experience with him and the naysayers are always of the suspicious variety. The diversity of the people on this invite and the crowds that will attend speak well of him. I am always asked why do I write about him. The answer is short and sweet. He’s my friend.

Industry Insiders: Farryn Weiner, Fly Girl

Farryn Weiner really loves her job. As the associate editor of Jetsetter, the flash-sales travel site allied with Gilt Groupe, the Miami native gets to peak around the four corners of the world in search of premier hotels, properties, and adventures for members of the site. Launched in September ’09 by Drew Patterson, formerly of Kayak, Jetsetter makes the decision to travel easy with incredible steals on hotel stays and members-only experiences. More after the jump on Farryn’s must-have travel tips and the story behind Jetsetter.

On catching the travel bug: I was an NYU undergrad and went on a semester at sea. We circumnavigated from Puerto Rico and ended up in San Diego. It really opened my eyes to all these amazing stories that you can tell through travel and the art of storytelling that was happening through my photography and my writing. I came back and totally changed my career path and started working as an assistant for Zac Posen. I ended up back in grad school doing a masters degree in travel content. I started freelancing and worked for National Geographic and Daily Candy.

On fitting in at Jetsetter: The moment I heard about Jetsetter, I was like, that has to be my job. When I came in to interview, we all just clicked. They’ve built a team of people who are passionate about what we do. We sit around and talk travel, we breathe travel. That’s what I was doing on my own, so I finally found a place where I wasn’t the odd man out. It was the norm to die over a new hotel or a new article.

What is Jetsetter, exactly? Our CEO, Drew Patterson, has two questions: where do I want to go next and where do I want to stay when I get there? He’d met with the founders of Gilt and thought that their flash sale model would be really well-suited to travel. We ended up working with them to develop Jetsetter, which is an online private sale site for people to come and find the world’s best experiences, best hotels, and even things like safaris and luxury cruises for a really great value.

On securing good deals: We have a really wonderful marketing model and the places that we pick are places that we’d actually go. We work with the properties to find a way to offer something exclusive to our members. The sales normally last 5-7 days, and gives members the opportunity to get in and get a great value that they can’t get anywhere else. People want to know how we pick our places, but it’s really just places we love. We want to send our members to places that they’re going to come home and brag about to their friends.

On loving the gig: When I’m in a bar and someone asks me what I do, I’m like, You do not want to ask me this right now. I might go on for an hour. It’s really exciting to be somewhere that’s growing and where people are passionate and really just love what we do. We’re crazy.

A typical day: On a normal day, I’m working with the writers. I’m working with the correspondents. I’m finding new properties. I have a writer right now in China who is just hearing about this new property that she thinks is perfect for us. I spent yesterday speaking with the people from that property, trying to see if they were interested, and developing these relationships. We want to work with people for the long run. If we put our stamp of approval on you, you’re a part of the family. A lot of what I do is putting together the bits and pieces of the writing, the photography, and, of course, the property. When I’m not in the office and I’m out in the field, I’m shooting for Jetsetter and I’m covering events. I was at Coachella and did a whole big spread. People were in Palm Springs for the first time. “Where do I go? What do I do? Where do I eat?” A perk of the job is being able to have those kinds of experiences and share those with our members.

Favorite destinations: I think everyone should go to Tokyo. It’s like New York in 20 years, or at least what you hope New York will be like in 20 years. I was just in Barcelona and then Turks and Caicos visiting Zanzibar Hotel which is such a perfect escape, especially for city goers, who really will feel comfortable hopping on flight and relaxing for a weekend. I’m dying to go to Napa Valley.

On the concierge aspect of Jetsetter: All of us are travelers and we want to share that information. Sometimes Drew will answer an e-mail at midnight because he wants to make sure that our member who’s out in St. Lucia knows exactly where to go. We all race to be the first person to answer! We also get tons of feedback and we listen to all of it. We’re very hands on.

Summer travel trends: The dollar’s getting stronger, the recession is subsiding slightly: people are starting to realize that they can do things that maybe in the last two years they haven’t been able to do. People are really looking for value. When they have one week off in the summer to take or they’re going to go on one big trip in the year, they want to get the best value. We’re seeing a lot of interesting bucket list trips like visiting the pyramids in Egypt. We sold an amazing Experience Galapagos cruise and we’ve seen such a peaked interest in things like this. We sold safaris in Africa and we did a trek up Kilimanjaro. They’re more than adventure trips, they’re those once-in-a -lifetime opportunities things that haven’t been all that financially accessible the last few years.

Tips on packing light: Pack half of what you think you should pack, and pack a duffle bag. On the way back, you can always take it out. You’re going to buy things. You’re going to have dirty laundry. Go there with a carry on. Don’t worry about coming back. I’m a big fan of versatile clothing—anything you can wear twice. If you can’t wear something out at night and during the day, then you probably don’t want to bring it.

Travel as a learning experience: You really need to be open to new experiences and you need to be ready for everything. Being prepared and cautious is important, but it’s more about being open-minded. For me, traveling with the right group of people is so important. It really can make or break a trip. When I was younger, I’d travel with friends. When I got older and started to have a really good sense of what I wanted to see and do, it became even more important to pick the right group of people that are on the same level .

Other favorite travel websites: TripIt is an amazing tool! It’s an online itinerary builder. You can forward them your flight information and they put that right into your itinerary. They give you a map of your itinerary. They give you the weather. They tell you when your flights are delayed. I get a TripIt update on my flight delays before I find out from the airline. You can import articles you find directly into your itinerary. You can also connect to other people. So, when I’m away, my friends, my sisters, and my parents can look online and see exactly where I am and where I’m staying and the phone number of the hotel. Kayak is great to book flights. I’m a fan of this woman who writes this blog called Eating Asia.

Go-to’s: Locanda Verde. One of the best meals I ever eaten. I couldn’t speak. Café Habana is one of my favorite restaurants. I love SL. Abe & Arthurs is a wonderful restaurant and it’s really fun to hang out downstairs. They always have really good music. The Jane Hotel. Morandi is the best lunch. Balthazar is a staple. I think Balthazar at 8 a.m. is secretly one of the best things to do in the city.

Nightlifer’s Response to Haiti

Lelaine Lau is a fixture in NY nightlife, working at fabuloso places like the Breslin, Mercer Kitchen, Hudson Hotel, Balthazar, Bungalow 8 and a ton of etcetera’s. She is the founder of Saloniere 403, a cultural salon. While most of us have only offered our relegated thoughts to the continuing disaster in Haiti, Lelaine has gone down there to try to do something.

What was the purpose of your trip to Haiti? I teamed up with a foundation aligned with Columbia University’s Earth Institute to explore potential educational and cultural partnerships which we hope will help to uplift, celebrate and heal Haiti and her people. The project is centered around the content recently released music of ‘Alan Lomax in Haiti.’ Lomax was an ethnomusicologist, who, at the age of 20, was commissioned by the Library of Congress to go to Haiti and explore the roots of folk music in 1936. For a year he traveled around Haiti to record traditional Haitian music, celebrations and rituals. His recordings include everything from Rara, Troubadour, Merengue, Carnaval, children’s songs and around 90 hours of audio and film. This treasure trove of vintage Haitian culture remained unmastered for decades until after his death.

The idea of recovering and restoring cultural works, museums and other places of heritage brings about an excellent opportunity to dovetail with other efforts in preserving Haiti’s rich cultural history. The relief efforts are addressing immediate needs, while our efforts address the long-term rebuilding of national pride through educational and preservation initiatives. We hope to develop a strong cultural curriculum alongside Haitian educators and scholars, while also working with groups who further preservation and repatriation. Who did you go with? I went with a friend, Kimberly Green. She’s based out of Miami and is president of her family’s foundation, The Green Family Foundation, which has been funding anti-poverty development and healthcare interventions in Haiti for 10 years. A few years ago, she began funding the first Millennium Village Project in Haiti alongside with the Earth Institute, an initiative spearheaded by noted economist Jeffrey Sachs. The project is geared toward attaining the UN’s Millenium goals by developing sustainable and long-term economic solutions by empowering the country on a community level, so these villages may lift themselves out of extreme poverty. It is a hand up, not a handout. I must add that Kimberly is a woman who has a led a truly remarkable life. I am honored and humbled to be her friend and so inspired by all she has done. She is a free and kindred spirit, and has made tangible contributions to the world and those less fortunate. We actually have discussions about developing new terminology for ‘philanthropists’ like her to denote not only those who give in order to promote systemic change, which is typically a harder sell in the charitable world, but those who are also willing to roll up their sleeves, do the work and get dirty. I just don’t feel the words charitable or philanthropist do justice to what she does. How did you get involved? Kimberly and her good friend Fisher Stevens had come up with the idea of doing radio PSAs using some of the Lomax material to highlight the history and culture of Haiti instead of just lamenting on the grief and devastation. I ended up collaborating on the text read by Sting, Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts and got a major crash course in the history of Haiti during the 48 hour process. This is a girl who really has great ideas and knows how to make them happen! Was this your first trip to Haiti? Yes, I had never visited an impoverished nation, much less one that was in a state of emergency. I came almost two months after the quake, but the devastation was still profound. It was a roller-coaster ride of conflicting emotions. There is no denying the horrific conditions they are living in, but the Haitian culture, it’s people and the enthusiasm that surrounded this project was euphoric. What was your first impression? The dust created a dark haze that covered the city. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, even as a native Angeleno. We could barely make out the coastline. The thing that struck me the most was the very poignant entrepreneurial spirit. People were selling things on every corner, people moving with purpose, one man striding along with a shirt, tie and tie clip. The industriousness is impressive, but it’s not regulated which is a set-up for another economic disaster. I saw a popcorn machine, shoe shine and car wash on the edges of camps. Some of the camps are not officially acknowledged or serviced because they fear the camps might become permanent down the line. What surprised you about Haiti? There appeared to be a sense of outward normalcy for businesses and for the upper-middle class. We met with many arts and cultural groups, business owners and department ministers who were back at work to try to instill a sense of normalcy. Of course we heard horrible stories, many people lost family members, but we also visited private homes, some of which had no, or very little damage at all. Even though they weren’t affected on a personal level, they still were passionate about the rebuilding, which colored almost all of our interactions with the local Haitians. Another thing I was surprised about was the number of hotels and restaurants that were open for business. I learned that some of the owners had conflicting feelings about reopening, especially with camps very close by, but they were supporting the economy and families that worked there. I was given pause one evening when I heard an unsubstantiated rumor that 2 people were kidnapped outside of the restaurant we were in while we were eating inside. I was quite impressed by the quality of the food. As we’re on the topic of hospitality, I have to say that one of my biggest disappointments was not getting to experience RAM night at the Hotel Oloffson. RAM is a Voudou Rara band that throws a legendary party every Thursday night, which I’m told is one of those absolute musts. The hotel and the grounds are very grand and huge – the hotel itself has a storied past. Understandably, the Haitians are still in mourning, so now is not the right time, but I eagerly anticipate the day I can have the experience.

Did you meet some interesting people? I got to meet a man known as the Mango Man, he works with small farmers who supply his mango-exporting business, and he was delightful and a wonderful fountain of information as to the way things work in Haiti. All of the people involved in the arts group are just really soulful people. I think the evening spent with this group was my favorite. We broke bread together, shared lots of wonderful ideas of our hopes for Haitian recovery and they taught me how to play the bongos Jean, our driver, was hilarious and a bit of a playboy– each of his girls had a different ringtone! A couple of times he would take down these back roads that were unpaved, narrow, even narrower by rubble, where we didn’t think had an outlet and inevitably we’d find ourselves back on the main road, having bypassed most of the traffic. I was really excited about getting to meet Paul Farmer. He is one of the founders of Partners in Health and is a legend for his work and dedication to the people of Haiti. His work has influenced the policies of World Health Organization for treating TB and HIV/AIDS. We also had a chance to visit Sean Penn’s operation and I came away deeply moved by his passion and commitment, both in the immediate and the long-term. I was tremendously inspired by the Dean of Haiti’s Quisqueya University Jacky Lumarque. The university is considered to be the best in Haiti and was completely demolished by the quake just as it was about to open. Post-quake, when many foreign universities offered to take in his students the Dean said, “The University is here, it is people, not buildings. It is in our hearts and minds.” The students are currently volunteering in Haiti and getting hands-on experience across sectors such as medical, psycho-social, education and child development.

What did you learn about Haiti? I learned that Haiti is a country that grabs you and doesn’t let go. I felt it, and in all of the reading I’ve done in the last week, about various artists, even in a National Geographic article from the 30s, there it is time and again – Haiti over the years has caught the imagination and hearts of so many people. image

What would you leave us with? Early in the trip, I came across a work of graffiti depicting Haiti crying as she’s asking for help. I later learned that this was the handiwork of a young man named Jerry, a man that was behind much of the graffiti around the city. After doing some research on him, I discovered a really cool collaboration that he’s participating in with a NYC arts professor named Pedro Lasche. Anyone in the international community can send a message to the Haitians in Port au Prince that will be interpreted into a work of graffiti by Jerry, for $25. I just think it’s a really cool initiative. In the same vein, the upcoming NY ArtExpo, which is running from March 25 to the 28, has given a booth to a group of Haiti-based art galleries for the duration. All proceeds from this booth will go to support the rebuilding of the Centre D’Art in Haiti. The Centre D’Art was instrumental in building international interest in Haitian art in the 1940s. My understanding is the booth will carry a wide array of Haitian art, so please go find yourself a new favorite artist and support the preservation and restoration of Haiti’s cultural heritage! And finally, I ask that people support the development of a watchdog group, which will hold the many, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Haiti accountable for the money, which at last count amounted to $3.8 billion dollars, raised for relief and rebuilding. It is time for organizations operating in Haiti to be vetted, to be transparent and to be coordinated and organized so that efforts and funds are not squandered. The Haitians have a right to know where this money is going.

Groups Cinema Under the Stars: This group has been screening films in the camps, sometimes working in partnership with international groups. Friends of FOKAL: Implements a variety of programs aimed at supporting the development of children and the young, youth organizations, youth civil society associations, the peasants and women’s organizations. They are partnered with libraries all over Haiti, and provide cultural programming and activities. Haiti Aid Watchdog: This group is working to independently track the impact of the relief and humanitarian efforts in Haiti, facilitate communication among partners, encourage the Haitian population to play a more active role in this initiative and ensure that the majority of the Haitian people really benefit from this aid.

A Primer on Gentlemen’s Grooming from Steven Rojas

Steven Rojas is usually so put together, people assume he’s gay. He explained his appeal when he was named one of New York’s Mr. Rights “Some girls see guys dressed in Thom Browne or some sort of amazing suit, and they’re like, ‘Wow, what’s that dude’s deal? Is he gay?'” Often described as a ‘Man About Town,” Rojas balances the late nights of a full social calendar with a demanding career as a fashion director at Archetype Showroom, always appearing dapper, fresh and awake. Here is how he does it (it’s a surprisingly simple routine).

When you wake up in the morning after a long night out, what do you usually do to save face? I always have a nice shave to make me feel a lot better and put on a nice outfit! Do you get ready differently for a night out, versus a day of work? Day outfit would consist of a combination of blazers, ties, bow ties, khakis and a button down shirt. I just got the ACL x Steven Alan white button down and I love it. I have a sick obsession with white button down shirts and white sneakers. I also wear a lot of denim (obsessed with my Surface to Air jeans) with a new pair of Converse or penny loafers, V-neck sweaters (I love my Oak deep-V sweaters and my J. Crew cashmere blend sweaters). For night I usually pick a LnA V-neck T-shirt in white or black, with a leather jacket (in love with my Surface to Air x Kings of Leon jacket) and jeans with a skinny fit. My sneakers are usually Converse x Comme.

Skin-care essential: Soap and water. I should probably take better care of my skin … I’m a total guy with this and bed stuff.

Exercise routine: Does walking to and from my office every day count?

Anti-aging tip: NO SMOKING.


Must-have hair product: A tiny bit of Murrays! Biggest indulgence: Huh?

Hair Salon: Never been to one. I’ve cut my own hair since I was 16. Product line you’re obsessed with: I’m straight, so none.

Shower essentials: Water of course.

Your Scent: Burberry Brit. LOVE LOVE LOVE

Biggest Splurge: Myself.


Favorite breakfast spot: Balthazar — it’s right by my office and always a good scene. That and Yuca Bar on Avenue A. Great steak and eggs there.

Great lunch spots: The Smile, Gemma, Kelley & Ping, Bite, Dean and Deluca.I also like takeout from Lovely Day, and Corner Shop Cafe.

Dinner spot: Frank’s in the East Village, Blue Ribbon Brasserie, Bouley Upstairs, Nobu, Tribeca Grand.

Industry Insiders: Michael Stillman, Meat and Potatoes Guy

Michael Stillman, president of Fourth Wall Restaurants (Park Avenue Winter, Quality Meats, Maloney & Porcelli, Post House, and Smith & Wollensky) calls mid-town steakhouse Quality Meats his “baby” while giving us a tour of the space, speaking of each architectural element with grand hand gestures and obvious satisfaction with the finished product. Stillman is the son of famed restaurateur Alan Stillman of T.G.I. Friday’s and Smith & Wollensky fame, and plans to expand his empire, much like his father in the next calendar year. His newest venture being the Flatiron Tiki-Polynesian outpost, The Hurricane Club. More details after the jump.

On being born into the business: I really didn’t know I would steer in this direction at all. It wasn’t something I was pushed towards. I fell into it after college as one of the many things that I had an interest in so I tried it and loved it. In some ways, I think my dad’s taste for aesthetics is what was passed down to me, and that’s what makes me love the restaurants as much as he does rather than this natural “I grew up in restaurants” kind of thing.

On his favorite room in the place: My favorite is the butcher room. The logs on the wall are all reclaimed logs from the Arkansas River where trees have fallen. This logging company literally goes down and picks them up from the bottom of the river. Then they bring them up and make these beautiful end cuts. It was a nightmare to put up but it’s super cool.

On starting at the bottom: I worked for Danny Meyer when I got out of college, and I ran food, checked coats. I’d do anything. I was completely useless and a smart alec, and they really got me to feel the nuts and bolts of the business. Danny is extremely talented and is a very different feeling from my dad. It was good to see that.

On his steak preference: Charred to medium rare. I grew up in New York so I love charred steaks.

Does the way someone orders a steak say anything about them? We never judge! Only behind closed doors!

Best steak of his life: I’ll always go for the Smith and Wollensky steak when it’s extra aged. The most fantastic experiential steak I’ve had was on a ten day trip through Spain. At one point, we thought we were lost in San Sebastian, but we got to this little place with crates outside and thirty seats inside. They just cooked one steak right after another on top of the open fire. It was spectacular, very downtrodden but still high end.

On expanding Q.M. like a Friday’s franchise: We’ve been looking around in London. I think it’d be a very interesting place to take Quality Meats. They’ve started to have more American meats, but nothing with this look and feel. A lot of the British clientele here love it. We just wanted to be really careful with this and expand it the right way. I’m more interested in “one-off” restaurants and new projects. But if we expand a project I want it to be special with personality. I don’t want it to feel monochromatic.

On the biggest misconceptions about steakhouses: Steakhouses get a natural bad rap because they’re expensive and “for bankers.” They’re not for “real foodies”. Ironically, though, the foodie culture has become so market driven and focusing on the elements and raw ingredients. Steakhouses were some of the first places to emphasize the quality of products. I think when you go to the best steakhouses they’re really ahead of other places in brining in the cleanest, simplest product and not taking away from it.

On his new joint: It’s called the Hurricane Club. It’s supposed to be a modern take on Trader Vicks and a Tiki-Polynesian restaurant. Our idea for the menu is what I call “inauthentic” cuisine. We’ll have all these cool new modern Tiki-cocktails. There’s a less serious sensibility, but equally high-end. I don’t think it’s a summer thing because, what’s better than coming into a place in cold weather and relaxing and drinking out of a coconut? There’s going to be a big bar lounge. It’s a little farther downtown for us, so I think it should drive a big crowd. It’s a little bit of a lower price—50 to 60 dollar range as opposed to 80 to 90 dollar range. It’s at 26th and Park with around 250 capacity.

On changing Park Avenue from Winter/Autumn/Spring/Summer: Each one is scary. We close down the restaurant for two entire days and we change the walls; we take down the ceilings; change the light fixtures and materials; we put in installations; we change the music, the food. We’ve got it down to a science. We knew that we were putting a big bull’s-eye on our back because it sounds so kitschy. But we literally build four new restaurants every year, and we try to make it feel like how you would want to feel in that season.

On bonding with the the Stillman senior: I took my dad to see Lady Gaga. It was hysterical. He’s like 74. I went with some friends, too, who had gone to Sacred Heart with her. We remember her doing stuff down at The Slipper Room. She puts on a good show—not really my cup of tea but it was fun. I loved watching my dad. That was second to none.

Go-to places: Bilboquet. It’s a classic UES show. It’s simple, but it’s got a punch and attitude. Another place is Balthazar. An oldie but a goodie. You can’t go wrong there. For Asian, I go to Kuma Inn on the LES. It’s been around six years. Chef King does some Thai/Filipino tapas, and it’s BYOB.

Worst habit or guiltiest pleasure: American Idol might be both.