Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali Launch 2016 EAT (RED) Culinary Tour

Mario Batali, Courtesy EAT (RED)


If you could eat well and save lives at once, you could hardly say no, could you?

To that end, this year’s edition of the highly anticipated EAT (RED) kicks off June 2 in New York, with the (RED) Supper at Battery Park City’s Brookfield Place, hosted by those ubiquitous, globe-trotting celeb chefs Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain. Other participating a-list culinary talent for the night will include Dominique Ansel, Frank Falcinelli, Nancy Silverton, Tom Douglas, Vinny Dotolo, Angela Dimayuga, Kristen Kish and Kevin Gillespie.

The overall goal? To raise money for the ongoing (RED) #86AIDS effort, by means of 27 days of edible nirvana. Indeed, the “tour” continues through the 28th, with special dinner, lunch, brunch, happy hour or cocktail events and offerings by many of the world’s hottest epicurean gods and goddesses at their exalted, signature restaurants.

Bourdain_CNN1[1] Eat Red

Anthony Bourdain (Courtesy CNN)

To name but a few: Enrique Olivera at Mexico City’s Eno, Stephanie Izard at Chicago’s Little Goat Diner, Jason Wass at London’s Polpetto, April Bloomfield at NYC’s Spotted Pig, Thomas Keller at the Las Vegas and Beverly Hills Bouchon Bakery locations, Alice Waters at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, Jose Andres at DC’s Jaleo, as well as Batali and Lidia Bastianich’s own B&BHG Vegas restaurants at the Venetian/Palazzo, including B&B, OTTO Enoteca & Pizzeria and Carnevino Italian Steakhouse—with scores of delectable options to choose from in two dozen cities across four continents.

“Anyone who has ever worked in a kitchen knows that the sum of our efforts always far exceeds what we can do individually,” says Batali. “EAT (RED) is an opportunity for all of our restaurants to collectively contribute to a tremendously worthy cause while doing what we do best: making delicious food.”

LeftBank_GnocciGnocchi at Left Bank NYC, Courtesy EAT (RED)

The (RED) charity, of course, was founded by Bono in 2006, with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria as its primary recipient. EAT (RED) debuted in 2014, and has become one of its most high-profile annual events. N.B. Plan to reserve in advance. It’s a hot ticket.

Drugs, Insanity, Death: The World’s Most Bizarre Museums

The Morbid Anatomy Museum

Today, May 18, is International Museum Day—which is really just an excellent reminder that we should make an effort every day to fill our lives with a bit more beauty, peculiarity and enlightenment. But it’s also an opportunity to consider that museums indeed offer so much more than just Damien Hirst, Jackson Pollock and Alexander McQueen. To that end, here are five of the oddest, and perhaps most unsettling of them all. Happy Museum Day:

The Morbid Anatomy Museum, New York


Morbid Anatomy Museum 2


This strange and captivating Brooklyn museum’s mission is stated as “Exploring the intersections of death, beauty and that which falls between the cracks.” It has become a meeting point for NYC’s more funereally disposed artistic souls, as well, hosting lectures, screenings and dark-hearted social gatherings. Its current temporary exhibition is The House of Wax: Anatomical, Pathological, and Ethnographical Waxworks from Castan’s Panopticum (Berlin, 1869-1922). Naturally.

Mütter Museum, Philadelphia




Philly’s rather notorious museum of medical oddities, including historical surgical instruments, corrosion specimens, and the Hyrtl Skull Collection, is genuinely not for the squeamish or sensitive. Its current featured exhibition, Vesalius On The Verge: The Book and The Body, focuses on a series of 16th Century books on human dissection. Creepy.

Museum Dr. Guislain, Ghent, Belgium


Museum Dr Guislain


Joseph Guislain was a forerunner of Freud, the first to posit that mental illness was indeed treatable and that its sufferers were to be cared for with dignity. This singularly fascinating eponymous museum is located in the rather lugubrious former asylum in which he did his groundbreaking work (in one of our favorite European cities, Ghent), and explores insanity and madness from Antiquity through to modern times. A current exhibition, titled Shame, is fairly self explanatory.

Museo De Enervantes, Mexico City


Museo de Enervantes


What the Renaissance is to Florence, so are drug wars to Mexico City. And indeed, this is a museum dedicated to its notorious and storied narco culture. Alongside an arsenal’s worth of seized firearms in display cases, there is an edifying run through the long history of drug abuse itself, and a plaque which commemorates those who have lost their lives battling the brutal cartels (it’s a lot). The museum is technically not open to the public; but call ahead (52 55 2122 8800) and say it’s for, um, educational purposes.

Collection De L’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland


Art Brut Museum


Renowned French painter and sculptor Jean Dubuffet first began assembling and collecting the artworks of the insane in 1945, influenced by Hans Prinzhorn’s seminal text Artistry of the Mentally Ill. Now, of course, the art world lumps it all together as “Outsider Art.” But this collection, located in the glorious Swiss city of Lausanne, is surely the most astonishing and, arguably, the most honest.

A Mystifying Look at Mexico City

Mexico City is mucho elusive. What goes on there? Salma Hayek sightings? Sombreros? Guacamole? Gangs? It’s not the eternally chic Cabo, nor the rough and tumble Tijuana.  No. Mexico City is it’s own unique land.

As a first time visitor on a three-day tour, I was stunned to discover the capital’s countless features; North America’s largest city has a lot to offer––glamorous nightlife, vibrant culture, mouth-dropping architecture––and nothing falls short of spectacular.

Located in the high plateaus of south-central Mexico well over 7,000 feet above sea level, if crowds don’t affect your equilibrium, the altitude might. This is not so much a warning as a self-affirmation. I personally worried very much about being plagued by dizziness…but the culture’s positive energy outweighed any such issues.

At every corner, there’s colorful, animated old streets, lush with live music, laughing children and an abundance of magnificent museums and galleries––it ranks second to Paris in number of museum options. And the food! Let’s put it this way: if you don’t love Mexican food, you are no friend of mine…

We stayed at the Hotel Condesa DF, a quirky hang, with a wind-up vintage car that works like a music box at the entrance. Offbeat and stylish, the hotel is on a triangular block amid wide, tree-filled streets in the Condesa neighborhood––often referred to as Barrio Magico or Magical Neighborhood. It’s a picturesque location, with lovely parks and fountains nearby.

I liked my room, which was clean, if a bit cramped. The killer complimentary breakfast comes with quesadillas, which I accepted with great joy. The hammam and outside grounds were sun-drenched and divine during the day. Evening noise, however, was an issue. The hotel welcomes a very happening nightlife. Good for the single ’n’ mingle set, not great for sleep!

On our first night in Mexico City, we ate at Don Chui, a fun, vacay-friendly Chinese-fusion restaurant fifteen minutes from our hotel. Out of this world. There, we were gastronomically spoiled rotten.

The next day, we refueled in an open-air restaurant at the impressive, 17th-century palace, Azul Historico. Set underneath mighty laurel trees and fringed by balconies, we felt like royalty. We inhales warm fresh bread, sipped mescal served out of dried bowls made from fruit and ate dishes like mole Filete de res servido con salsa de chile chipotle––filet mignon with chipotle sauce. Make sure to try the ensalada de pera con queso Roquefort, the supermodel of all Mexican greens.

Pre-dinner cocktails were at La Terraza at Hotel Habita––a tropical, South Beach-esque haunt with hypnotic views of the castle of Chapultepec and Espana Park. Downstairs, in the lobby restaurant, I ordered the Veracruz-style mahi mahi; otherwise known as the best fish dish I’ve ever had in my life. (Fact!).

The next day, we tried Tori Tori in the Polanco neighborhood, widely considered the best Japanese restaurant in Mexico City. With an exterior made from steels, it looks more like an urban art gallery than a high-end food establishment. A truly special place, for the VIPs and in-crowds. I highly recommend the Gyu Tataki (cold sautéed beef with secret sauce).

The Palacio de Bellas Arts, or Palace of Fine Arts, in the central square, is said to be the most notable cultural center in the area. Even if you have no attention span for museums, this is the one must-see. The exterior of the building is simply awe-inspiring. Inside, massive murals depicting different scenes from Mexico’s history take your breath away.

For history buffs, Templo Mayor is an imperative stop on the itinerary. The temple was nearly destroyed by the Spaniards until a telephone repairman stumbled upon the site in 1978. Since then, its excavation has uncovered numerous findings like jewelry and bones––just last month, it was reported that 50 skulls were discovered at one sacrificial stone.

My favorite is Museo Rufino Tamayo, situated in the peaceful Chapultepec Park, which primarily showcases the private collection––about 300 paintings––of artist Rufino Tamayo. Other paintings, sculptures and installations from artists like Picasso are on display as well. It’s worth having a museum tour guide walk you through each painting, as the art reflects so many details in Tamayo’s fascinating life. By the end, you feel so connected to him personally that you actually feel like you knew him.

In the end, I grew to understand what makes Mexico City so magnificent. It’s the richness of character in everybody and everything! Vibrancy cloaks you; from the second you step off that plane. And when you leave, you take some of that effervescence home in your heart…wrapped carefully in a wool tapestry of history, honor and humanity.

Boutique Hotels Focus on the Business Traveler

When Starwood launched the W Hotel group in 1998 in New York City, it tipped off a trend in business travel that fundamentally changed the industry. No longer would we be content with soulless beige rooms, bland breakfast buffets, and generic hotel art. If we’re going to spend weeks of our lives on the road, we want to stay somewhere that feels like home — or preferably, better than home. Now that W is the corporate behemoth, smaller groups and individual properties have emerged to take up the mantle of the best boutique hotels for business travelers. Here are a few exceptional examples around the world.

The Upper House opened just two years ago, and it quickly became the hottest ticket in Hong Kong, which is quite an accomplishment for such a crowded local hotel market. The design throughout the building (and in Chef Gray Kunz’ restaurant, Café Gray Deluxe) seamlessly integrates minimalist Asian architecture with modern touches like iPad check-in and iPod Touch in-room information, making this bright aerie perched on the top floors of the JW Marriott building a calming retreat from the city. The large studio-style rooms start at 730 square feet and go up to the 1,960 square feet penthouse, making the Upper House particularly comfortable for long-term stays.

Travelers doing business in New York may have to stay in midtown, but they no longer have to elbow past tourists crowding Times Square. Since the opening of the Chatwal, the Stanford White-designed building has been packed with guests, celebrities, and locals there to enjoy Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lambs Club restaurant and the Lambs Club bar, recalling the elegance of the 1930s-era theatre crowd who once made the bar famous. With just 83 rooms and two suites (the Barrymore and the Stanford White) the atmosphere is intimate and plush, and conveniently located to the heart of the city.

Even in cities not traditionally known for their cutting-edge style, the boutique hotel trend is making inroads. Las Alcobas in Mexico City is designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the New York-based design duo responsible for numerous boutiques, residences, and hotels like the W Times Square and the St. Regis in San Francisco, the intimate 35-room property is located in Polanco, one of the city’s major business districts, and offers business-friendly amenities like their “Second Home Service,” which provides repeat guests with a personal wardrobe to store their own belongings, and includes cleaning, pressing, laundering, garment repair, and restocking of favorite toiletries.

While the Chateau Marmont is arguably the original boutique hotel on the left coast, the SLS Beverly Hills is making a bid for dominance in the modern era, with its riot of Philippe Starck design touches, Jose Andres restaurant (The Bazaar, warmly welcomed to Los Angeles in its own right) and prime location near the Beverly Center, all kinds of recreation, and numerous corporate headquarters. The 24-hour business center is fully equipped with 24-hour support, office supplies and machinery, plus loaner Macbooks free of charge.

Seventy beautifully appointed rooms in the heart of the City are a surprisingly warm escape for those on business in London. Housed in a converted Victorian banking hall built in 1856, the beautiful period features of the Threadneedles Hotel are complemented by modern amenities like Frette sheets, iPod docking stations, and personalized business cards for use during your stay. Meeting rooms and private dining rooms are also available to guests — and what better way to follow up a full day’s work than a toast in the Champagne Lounge, under the building’s glass-domed ceiling.

Notorious Monkey Smuggler Caught in Mexico

A Mexican man has been arrested after trying to smuggle monkeys back from Lima, Peru. Authorities searched Roberto Sol Cabrera at the Mexico City international airport when they noticed he was behaving “nervously.” The search quickly revealed the reason behind his funny behavior: He has hidden 18 small titi monkeys in a girdle around his waist.

Cabrera was arrested on charges of trafficking an endangered species. He told authorities that the monkeys had traveled in his luggage, and that he had put them under his clothes to go through customs and X-ray machines. Police say the little animals had been tied into socks and two died in transit.

South American titi monkeys are an endangered specie; those that Cabrera transported were reportedly only six-inches tall. Cabrera said he paid about $30 a pop for the monkeys, which can fetch around $1,500 from people who want to keep them as pets.

Animal trafficking is a big issue in Mexico, where it’s long been a tradition to keep wild animals as pets. It’s also an easy stopover for smuggling animals into the U.S. from South America. The government has placed increased restrictions on importing of primates, but monkeys are still openly sold at Mexico City’s Sonora market.

Man Enjoys Permanent Residence in Mexico City Airport

imageFor no discernable cause, a Japanese man, Hiroshi Nohara, has decided to spend over three months (and counting) living at the Mexico City airport. He subsists off of fast-food donations and is becoming something of a local celebrity, with near daily news reports on his well-being broadcast from the airports’ food courts. He flew into the airport on September 2, ostensibly on a layover; instead of using his already-purchased ticket home to Tokyo, he stayed. He says he has no real reason for hanging out in the airport, but he seems to be enjoying himself and the notoriety he’s gained. Perplexed airport officials say that although he smells awful, they can’t make him leave until his visa expires in March 2009.

“Labyrinth of Glances” in Mexico City

There’s something delightfully subversive in the gallery of everyday eccentrics presented at Mexico City’s Cultural Center of Spain. The literal labyrinth of glances in “Laberinto de Miradas” look deep within the concept of immigration within Mexico and South America. Through the eyes of photographers like Eduardo Hirose and Raúl Cañibano, the process of uprooting and transplanting is documented without being dolled up. It’s less Vanity Fair and more National Geographic.

So this means that while the works in this exhibit don’t necessarily aspire towards high-concept, the motif of immigration is broadened out, allowing for subjects like political refugees, a young bride, and even this woman whose smugness is measured by her fur coat and penchant for argyle to share the same gallery space — their mutual experience lying in the sense of displacement they feel by having to give up one life in order to start another.