ISSUE-7-FOOD-2_issue7

Kitchen Confidential

Having first started cooking at the age of 15, Egyptian-born chef Michael Mina made a name for himself at Aqua in San Francisco, from where he established – with tennis star Andre Agassi – an empire of 18 restaurants across America. Since being named the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year in 1997, he has won several awards, fronted a TV program and written an eponymous cookbook.

 

 

What’s your favorite dish to cook?

 

Anything cooked outdoors. At home, in northern California, I am blessed to have an outdoor kitchen in the garden with a wood-burning oven. Often, I’ll give guests a basket to pick vegetables from the garden, which we then cook over wood. I love things like fresh vegetables on pizza, or côte de boeuf cooked on the flames. I adore shellfish, too, particularly abalone from the Bay area, which I grill with lemon, egg-batter with brown butter or sauté, niçoise-style, with olives, capers and lemon.

 

 

What do you eat when you’re home alone?

 

Spaghetti with thinly sliced garlic, cooked nice and slow in olive oil with a hint of red chili and lemon.

 

 

Anything local you’ve been inspired by?

 

Greens that we don’t get anywhere else, exceptional seafood and wonderful tomatoes. My wife makes the most amazing Bloody Mary using them.

 

 

What’s the dish you’re most proud of?

 

A dish I made for my wife on our honeymoon in Hawaii. She wanted caviar, so I found some and served it to her in bed with warm potato cake, smoked salmon and eggs. It’s a dish I now serve in all our restaurants.

 

 

What’s been the most memorable moment of your career?

 

Winning the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef in the United States. I was so proud, as it was my first award, and because there are so many young talented chefs. Another great moment was my son being accepted into the Culinary Institute of America.

 

 

Are there any foods that are overrated?

 

Anything that’s out of season. And beef that’s called “Kobi” or wagyu beef but isn’t. Real wagyu is one of the most amazing products there is, but the term can be used rather loosely.

 

 

Are there any particularly fine ingredients in California?

 

So many. Particularly good are sanddabs, which are like little sole. We fry them in a pan with a little oil and butter and serve them with lemon.

 

 

What do you like most about Dana Point?

 

The community, which is made up of arty surfers. They’re very social and love interacting with our staff, which makes the restaurant relaxed and fun.

 

 

If you could revisit any meal in your life, what would it be and why?

 

A dinner at Sushi Kanesaka in Tokyo, which was the most perfect meal I’ve ever had. The chef cooks for only four people at a time and everything he did was unbelievable. We had 28 courses, including several kinds of tuna, each of which had a different fat content, and spiny crabs that were cooked, taken out and mixed with their roe, then put back into the crab shell.

 

 

What’s the secret to running a restaurant?

 

Having balance; precise but engaging service; and connecting, making friends and building long-term relationships with each other and our clients. Having the right chef and the general manager is essential, too, as they are the mother and father of your new restaurant family.

 

 

What was your favorite food as a child?

 

Hamburgers, which I still love. But they have to be perfect. The bun (ideally potato) has to be toasted right. The meat has to be ground quite coarsely, then flattened just before it’s cooked, so it’s still full of juicy air pockets. Extras should be simple: I like a piece of cheese, ketchup, onion and pickle.

 

 

What meal most reminds you of home?

 

Kusheries, which my mother has made all my life. It’s a typical Middle Eastern dish, made with rice, lentils and chickpeas in a spicy tomato sauce with caramelized onions. It’s not something you can just whip up: the lentils and chickpeas need soaking overnight and the tomato sauce has to cook for a couple of hours. But it’s worth the effort because it’s so delicious.

 

Michelin-starred chef Michael Mina

 

 

 

Whole fried jidori chicken for two, one of Stonehill Tavern’s signature dishes

 

 

The restaurant’s imaginative tasting menu uses the freshest local ingredients

 

 

Issue7_Interview-Vodianova

Natalia Vodianova

Natalia Vodianova looks incredible in red. Don’t get me wrong, she also looks incredible in white, black, pink, or even sludgy brown. But it’s in red that she really shines. Perhaps that’s because she wears it whenever she’s hosting one of her Naked Heart fundraising events, which she did in February of this year during London Fashion Week – a red sequined dress made specially by Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein to accommodate the model’s five-and-a-half-month pregnancy bump.

 

Vodianova, the 34-year-old Russian supermodel who is based in Paris, but regularly jets between New York, London, and Moscow, does not do things by halves. As well as being one of fashion’s most successful and instantly recognizable stars, she’s a leading figure in the charity world. Her first Love Ball in Moscow’s Tsaritsino Estate, held on Valentine’s Day in 2008, featured a 220-ton ice palace specially constructed for the event, the auction of a Damien Hirst work that fetched $1.2 million, and a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet. She set her sights high – and the rewards matched. The ball raised $6 million.

 

When I first met Vodianova, at her house in the English countryside, it was a few weeks before her now legendary London Love Ball, which included a sit-down dinner for 420 people and an auction conducted by Christie’s that raised $1.7 million. In typical Natalia fashion, she juggled the interview between a snowball fight with her children in the garden, a photo shoot where she slipped straight into cover girl mode, all dreamy eyes and soft lips, and negotiating logistics for the event. She had the air of someone who is very capable, used to taking control of situations – and getting things done.

 

“Looking back, I realize that growing up in Russia gave me tools that other people don’t necessarily have,” is the explanation she gives for her extraordinary drive, “such as the will to push that bit further, to make things happen, to succeed. I try to use these now to help other people.” Nor has her lavish lifestyle left her suffering celebrity amnesia: she is happy to talk frankly about her impoverished childhood and the difficulties of growing up with a disabled sister.

 

Vodianova set up the Naked Heart Foundation as a response to the 2004 Beslan school siege, when at least 334 hostages were killed, including 186 children. “I guess everyone who does charity has a moment when it strikes them, and it is unfortunately something horrible most of the time,” she told me. Her response to seeing the siege unfold on her TV screen in Moscow at the time was to cry. But through her tears, she had a vision. She decided she wanted to build a playground so that the children who survived would at least have some moments when they were lost in play and could forget the horrors of the siege.

 

She went back to New York, and with the help of her friend Diane von Furstenberg, set up a charity auction and raised $350,000. She had to wait five years before she could open the playground in Beslan, but that didn’t stop her opening her first in her home town of Nizhny Novgorod, and then opening playgrounds in more than 30 cities across Russia – many in the remotest, most forgotten towns.

Since starting the foundation, she has built 158 playgrounds across 103 Russian cities.

Born in 1982, Vodianova had a childhood that could not be further from the lives of her own four children (three from her previous marriage to Justin Portman, half-brother of the 10th Viscount Portman, who she met when she was 19, and one with her boyfriend Antoine Arnault, the son of LVMH founder Bernard Arnault). Vodianova’s mother Larisa, who raised her three daughters alone, had a stall selling fruit and vegetables. Natalia looked after her sister Oksana, was born with cerebral palsy, while her mother worked long hours.

In her teens, Vodianova was spotted by a French model scout. She moved to Paris in 1999 and was soon swept up in the glamorous new life as an A-list model. In 2004, Steven Meisel shot her for the cover of American Vogue in 2004 alongside Gisele and Daria – the three models of the moment. Calvin Klein booked her for the most lucrative fashion contract of them all (a seven-figure contract she held for an unheard-of eight seasons) and ten years later, she became the face of the brand’s Euphoria fragrance. In 2012, Forbes named her as the world’s third most profitable model, estimated to be bringing in a very handsome $8.6 million in one year.

What is most striking about Vodianova is her incredible work ethic and her philanthropic drive. Anyone would forgive a mother of four (soon to be five) if she wanted to take a break from professional life. But Vodianova was back on the catwalk two weeks after giving birth to her first son Lucas. And she is utterly committed to the Naked Heart Foundation. As well as opening playgrounds, she has extended her focus to work with orphanages with the campaign Every Child Deserves a Family, which works with children who are abandoned by their families because of unemployment or disabilities.

Small wonder, then, that Vodianova’s nickname is “Supernova” – a tag Diane von Furstenberg would surely endorse: “The more you know Natalia,” she says, “the more you are impressed with her. She’s a remarkable woman – and I don’t say that easily. She’s probably one of the strongest women I’ve ever met. Her beauty is nothing compared with her character.”

 

Natalie Vodinova's Charity: nakedheart.org

Issue7_Interview-Vodianova

 

 

 

prosperasolunie-beyondissue7_2

Prosper Assouline

1. Seville, 1962

 

I was born in Morocco, but my earliest memory of traveling was going to Seville with my parents when I was five. I can still remember the scent of orange blossom. I love Seville because it’s a crazy city. The people are so full of life. They enjoy every day because they have a constant tension between life and death: flamenco is life and the corrida [bull-fighting] is death.

 

2. The Louvre, Paris, 1972

 

When I was a teenager we moved to Paris. At the age of 15 I visited The Louvre for the first time. It made a big impression on me, and after that I went there nearly every week. My favorite place was an amazing room with 13 paintings by Rubens. The walls were a deep red. Today, we have 20 Assouline stores around the world and in all of them the walls are that same red.

 

3. St. Paul-de-Vence, 1976

 

I was 19 when I first discovered La Colombe d’Or [a restaurant in the Provençal town of St. Paul-de-Vence where famous artists would settle their bills with artworks]. It was my first real understanding of what luxury means. It’s not necessarily marble floors and vases of flowers but a simple restaurant with good tomatoes and great olive oil, where you’re surrounded by wonderful art and there’s an amazing view. I took my wife Martine there for the first time in 1992, a year after our wedding. She said, “We should do a book about this place.” So we did. We did it just for ourselves, as a hobby – I had an advertising agency at the time, Martine was a lawyer – but it was thanks to that book that we ended up going into publishing and working together.

 

4. New York, 2001

 

My first memory of New York was sitting on a step on a sunny day in SoHo eating a hot dog. It’s kind of a cheesy, touristy thing to do, but for me, that was a real New York moment. That was when I decided to set up an office in New York, and after that I was back and forth from Paris every two weeks until 2008 when Martine and I finally said to each other, “OK, New York is going to be our home.” I didn’t speak English at the time, but in a way that’s not a problem, because lots of people in New York don’t speak English.

 

5. Capri, 2006

 

I resisted Capri for a long time. I thought it would be superficial and snobbish. But then 10 years ago I decided to go there with my wife, to see what everyone was talking about. Now I can’t live without going to Capri every year, because it’s the most beautiful place on the planet. The best time to go is in June – you feel like you’re on the Côte d’Azur in the 1950s. There are no cars, and we enjoy being on our own, just strolling around, swimming and eating pasta. That’s true luxury.

 

6. London, 2013

 

I never liked London. I had nothing but bad memories of the city. But the first time I saw the building that would later become Assouline’s first “maison”, it was a revelation. This building [196A Piccadilly] had been a bank for nearly 100 years and then an art gallery, so it was completely empty and it had no windows, but for me there was something magical about it. I had always dreamed of combining a café, a cocktail bar, a gallery and a bookstore – and here my dream became a reality.

 

7. Costa Mesa, California, 2009

 

Henry Segerstrom was one of the most impressive people I’ve ever known. He was a true visionary – he created a mall in Southern California called South Coast Plaza, which became the most important mall in America. I met him eight years ago – when he was 84 – and he invited me to visit him in Costa Mesa, where he gave me a tour of the mall at night, with a glass of champagne. What impressed me most was that even in his eighties, he still had the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old. He was still dreaming every day. He died two years ago, but I think about him a lot.

7-ART-1

Grit and Glitter

The Brooklyn-based artist Mickalene Thomas has every right to be frustrated when people only associate her work with hip-hop. “It’s so easy and lazy to do that,” she rails. “Just because it’s all black women and bling!” But this spring, visitors to Aspen’s Art Museum – housed since summer 2014 in an exceptional new building by the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban – will be left in no doubt that there’s rather more to it than that. Here’s a diptych Super 8 film of Eartha Kitt spliced with lesser known artists singing Paint Me Black Angels; elsewhere are stunning silk screen acrylic panels of stills from the film The Color Purple. “That book and the film, with Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg, are touchstones for women about breaking the silence around abuse, and how to be strong in spite of being a victim,” says the curator Courtenay Finn. The exhibition is called Mentors, Muses and Celebrities.

 

Mickalene’s work has never been short on content or visual drama. She’s known in the art world for her elaborate paintings – often of Afroed women who recall the heroines of the Blaxploitation movies of the 1970s – depicted in oils and acrylics and then bedazzled with copious quantities of glitter and rhinestones. “Those women, like Pam Grier and Foxy Brown, I’d grown up with them,” says Mickalene. “I loved their directness, their fierceness.”

 

In others, she delves into art history, stealing Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe from 1863 and reworking it with three modern muses, her friends Mnonja, Din and Qusuquzah. “When I use people as subjects, it’s important I know them,” she says. “I never want anyone to feel exploited or used or victimized.” Sometimes, she’s turned to the grids favored by the British artist David Hockney to create a work, and even included the tiles from Monet’s own house in the background décor in another. In 2011, she completed a three-month residency at Giverny, the property in France where Monet created, and painted, his famous garden between 1890 and 1926. “I’d never understood his sincerity as an artist until I spent time there,” she says. “It made me realize that when you’re sincere, it doesn’t matter what people think – it’ll work itself out.”

 

Now 44, Mickalene sold her first painting in 2004, at a group exhibition in New York – a self-portrait called Rumor Has It, showing the artist stripped down to her underwear in a super-size Afro wig, and stroking her cat She-La. “It was one of my last self-portraits,” she says. “And it felt great to sell it. It meant I could stop doing house-cleaning and I could stop being my own model.”

 

Nowadays Mickalene’s work is significantly sought after (Solange Knowles had her create the cover of her EP True in 2012) and costs rather more than the $8,500 which that early painting fetched. But it continues to be an exploration of black female beauty and sexuality, along with the underlying complexity of women’s lives. “Look at Eartha Kitt,” says Courtenay Finn. “An amazing performer with a strong presence but a difficult life, who went on to speak out against Vietnam.” A woman, then, who combined beauty and politics and was not averse to be covered in sequins – rather like a Mickalene Thomas work of art.

 

Mentors, Muses and Celebrities is at Aspen Art Museum from 10 March to 12 June. Your address: The St. Regis Aspen Resort

 

 

Untitled 15, 2015
Mickalene Thomas (below), creates explosive large-scale collages in rhinestones,
glitter, dry pastel, acrylic and oil paint on wood panel. “The conversation between
the patterns is what works, brings life,” she says

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Mnonja with Flower in her Hair 2, 2011
Mickalene’s friend brings to mind the singer Billie Holiday. The painting was
created using rhinestone, acrylic paint and oil enamel on wood, and the
background is a collage of found fabrics

national-treasures-beyond-issue-7

National Treasures

Edythe Broad clearly remembers buying her first artwork. “It was a Picasso print, on a school trip. I saw it, I liked it and I bought it. The excitement was like someone had hit me in the stomach. But then, I’m like that: buying for me is an emotional process. Eli’s the smart one.”

 

More than six decades later, Edythe and her husband Eli, the American property developer and philanthropist, own so many works of art that last summer they opened a $140m museum in the heart of downtown Los Angeles to house them. Today, The Broad, an elegant white space a few doors from the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Hall, houses more than 2,000 artworks amassed by the couple since the 1960s. 

 

The first “serious work” they bought, Edythe recalls, was by Van Gogh. “But the more we looked at art, the more we enjoyed contemporary pieces. So, we exchanged it for a Rauschenberg.” 

 

Today their contemporary art collection includes works by 200 of the world’s biggest names, including Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, Jasper Johns, William Kentridge, Barbara Kruger, Charles Ray, Ed Ruscha, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol. What’s impressive is not just the number of important works they have but how many by the same artists. Today, they own the largest collections of works by Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein (outside the Lichtenstein Foundation) and Joseph Beuys. 

 

This, says the museum’s director/chief curator Joanne Heyler, is because “Eli and Edythe have been collecting for more than 50 years, and have known many of the artists. They’ve been friends with Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman – so they have access to many of their finest works. When Eli first bought Basquiats, he understood that they were more than just graffiti; he’d met the artist when he was living in a basement.” 

 

Although initially the couple bought art for their own pleasure, their collection has now been put in trust for the nation. “We feel it’s important for people to have access to works that reflect our times, so they have a greater understanding of what’s happening around them,” says Eli. “Art is a mirror that reflects the world. We want people to be able to look into that mirror and get a better picture of what’s going on – whether it’s Barbara Kruger’s Your Body Is A Battleground or photographs of the Missouri riots.”

 

To ensure that the collection remains current, the Broads buy about one new work a week. “It’s a passion and an addiction we’ve had for 30 years,” Eli admits. “Thankfully, we’re privileged enough to keep doing it. By opening The Broad, our hope is that others can enjoy what we have too.”

 

Unlike many other American institutions, entrance to The Broad is free, and will always be so, thanks to a substantial endowment created by the couple. That, says Eli, “really makes us proud. It’s a great feeling knowing that everyone has access to something that we love.”

 

The Broad, 221 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles (thebroad.org)

 

 

7-2-foodie-Travel

Taste hunters

The luxury minibus pulls up outside a scruffy door in a back alley somewhere in the vast metropolis that is Shanghai. Ten expensively dressed, if somewhat confused, figures step out and survey their insalubrious surroundings. 

 

In terms of age and ethnicity, they are an eclectic bunch that includes American business executives, newly wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs and cultured young Europeans. But they have one thing in common: each has paid a small fortune, and many have traveled here especially for this one evening, to embark on a multi-sensory gastronomic journey. Welcome to the new frontier of food tourism.

 

These experience-hungry global travelers have bagged a coveted seat at Ultraviolet, a restaurant in a mystery Shanghai location that has achieved cult international status over the course of its three-year existence. A black door slides open to reveal a large pod-like capsule which serves as the dining space. Each guest’s name is projected onto their spot-lit place at the single communal table before the 20-plus course tasting menu is presented. 

 

Crucially, every plate is coupled with music or sound effects (such as rain lashing on a roof); films and graphics are projected onto all four surrounding walls; bespoke lighting is directed onto the dishes themselves; presentation and service are frequently dramatic in the extreme. 

 

The whole thing is witty and theatrical and, most of all, great fun. Ultraviolet’s diners find it difficult not to smile and laugh throughout much of the globe-trotting four-hour extravaganza, created by French chef Paul Pairet. A dish called “Foie Gras Can’t Quit”, for example, is a crisp fruit-skin “cigarette” filled with an airy and delicious foie gras mousse sitting in an ashtray dotted with black cabbage “ash”. 

 

We’ve long been led around the world by our stomachs, of course. The idea that food and wine might play a role in determining our next travel destination is far from new; indeed, France’s tourism industry has been built on it. It’s the new extremes that we will go to, and the real sense of discovery that so many seek, that makes this such a notable phenomenon.

 

A new generation of foodies is harnessing the power of social media – after all, Instagram’d pictures can induce travel and food envy simultaneously – and racing to notch up far-flung culinary experiences before anyone they know gets there first. It’s an extension of the metropolitan social cachet of eating in a new restaurant within days of its launch, taken to the global level. “Our customers usually secure their reservations here before booking flights and accommodation,” confirms Monica Luo of Ultraviolet. “We recently had five gentlemen come from France as a surprise birthday gift for one of them. They were in Shanghai for only 48 hours, but they certainly had a blast.”

 

Others of a similarly inquisitive nature will seek out the world’s very finest sushi, served at Tokyo’s ultimate specialist restaurants such as Sukiyabashi Jiro or Sushi Saito. Each will seat only 8 to 12 diners at a simple wooden counter, with the venerated sushi master hand-preparing each piece of fish in front of them. Securing a seat (for non-Japanese at least) will involve working your charms on the concierge. Diners are often in and out in just an hour or so, but they are still prepared to go to such lengths for the ultimate nigiri. 

 

Litti Kewacha is a Thai entrepreneur who regularly criss-crosses the globe in search of outstanding meals. “People travel for sightseeing, some for art, concerts, sporting events. I travel for food. My trips around the world are driven by a desire to explore the world of gastronomy, and to appreciate and enjoy not just the best food but the greatest minds in gastronomy,” he says. “For me, a meal at Noma [in Copenhagen, Denmark] or El Celler de Can Roca [in Girona, Spain] is like going to an exhibition of masterpieces by one of the world’s leading artists.”

 

This is not a trend, however, that is restricted to a super-wealthy high-culture elite. Young creative professionals are replacing the adventurous backpacking of their youth with intrepid and immersive food experiences in destinations as diverse as Bangkok and Bogotá, Mexico City and Osaka. Increasingly, travel companies are getting savvy to this – often supported by national tourism boards – and arranging itineraries revolving around food. Already over one-third of western travelers’ spend is devoted to eating and drinking, a figure that’s growing steadily – and any nation’s overall appeal is massively enhanced if it’s seen to be an epicurean hotspot.

 

American-born Mason Florence has lived in Bangkok since 2002, and has documented the changing food scene. While the city “oozes food, and the culture of Thai people is deeply rooted in the art of cooking, with locals frequenting late-night street food meccas like Yaowarat and Banglamphu”, these days more adventurous food-hunters are finding their way to lesser-known hot spots: “places like Wang Lang Market and Talat Phlu, both a short ride across the river from central Bangkok”.

 

In recent years the Thai capital has added higher-quality restaurants to its roster. “Bangkok has developed an international reputation for its restaurants, in large part due to their success in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list,” says Florence. “More than ever we’re seeing hardcore foodies flying into town with one sole purpose: to eat. Many of them journey from other parts of Asia, while others come from as far afield as Europe, Australia and the Americas.”

 

As well as restaurants such as Nahm, where Australian-born David Thompson uses his deep knowledge and extensive research of historic Thai recipes to produce super-authentic dishes, the city has produced a new raft of cool, informal bar-restaurants such as Namsaah Bottling Trust, Quince and Opposite Mess Hall, as well as Eat Me, run by New York chef Tim Butler, where the city’s glammed-up crowd sample edgy cocktails alongside razor clams with spicy nduja pork.

 

On the other side of the world, Mexico is rapidly becoming another promised land for fashionable-food devotees. Each of the country’s regions has its own distinct identity and signature dishes, from the Baja peninsula on the west coast to Oaxaca in the south. Mexico City itself boasts enough great restaurants, bars and markets to sate the hungriest and most demanding traveler’s appetite – literal and metaphorical.

 

The menu here is certainly about much more than tacos and tortillas – think fried insects at Rosetta or the 400-day aged “mole madre” at Pujol, two of the Mexican capital’s most acclaimed eateries. At the same time, it’s also about an extraordinary array of tacos and tortillas, tamales and tequila in bars and cafes, street stalls and markets across this food-loving land.

 

For those without the opportunity or time to explore such exotic culinary landscapes, finding the niche foodster hotspots within New York, London, Paris and San Francisco satisfies a similar urge. At hip Brooklyn food market Smorgasburg, for example, the weekend throng is replete with numerous nationalities and languages (not to mention artful facial hair). It also happens to boast almost 100 seriously good local food purveyors.

 

Tellingly, uber-foodies like Kewacha are now switching from blogging to Instagram as their preferred medium through which to share their culinary escapades. In fact, notching up particularly hard-to-access restaurants is prime social currency among proud gastronauts, as witnessed by the meteoric success of Fäviken in Sweden. Magnus Nilsson’s restaurant set in an old lodge on a 24,000-acre hunting estate is famously situated in the country’s frozen north, just 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. First, you have to make your way to Stockholm, then fly an hour up to Östersund, followed by further hours (depending on the season and weather) up to Järpen. The 12 seats are booked many months in advance, so it’s not really the place to simply show up hoping for a “walk-in” – and don’t be late for dinner or you may be refused entry.

 

Once in for the night (accommodation is also on-site) and lighter by some $700, diners are treated to rare delights such as trout roe in dried pig’s blood and potatoes cooked in decomposed leaves. In short, the more remote the location, the more outlandish and outré the food is likely to be. Next stop, penguin brains in Antarctica?

 

Your address: The St. Regis Bangkok; The St. Regis Mexico City; The St. Regis Osaka; The St. Regis San Francisco; The St. Regis New York 

 

 

Chef Paul Pairet’s wittily-named Foie Gras Can’t Quit “cigarette”
at Ultraviolet restaurant in Shanghai.

 

 

Diners make pilgrimages from all over the globe to experience Ultraviolet’s theatrical gastronomy 

 

For the culinary jet-set, a meal at Noma in Copenhagen, “is like going to 

an exhibition of masterpieces by one of the world’s leading artists” 

lennonbeyondissue7

Come Together

When John Lennon left Britain to begin a new life in America in the summer of 1971, the transatlantic move represented something more than just a change of location. Encouraged by his wife Yoko Ono, it was a decisive step in shedding what remained of his Beatle skin, and, he hoped, towards reinventing himself as a radical chic bohemian. He no longer wanted to be just a rock star.

 

Happily assured of wealth for the rest of his life from the songs he’d already written, his emigration was achieved in some style as he and Yoko moved into two adjacent suites on the seventh floor of the elegant St. Regis Hotel on New York’s East 55th Street. The St. Regis played a significant role in mid-century Manhattan life, attracting a mixture of high society and bohemia that made it the place to be and be seen. From there Lennon would fall in love with New York, as Yoko showed him around what he described as her “old stomping ground” – that is, the city in which she’d begun her career as a conceptual artist.

 

The St. Regis and Manhattan were a complete change from the Lennons’ previous home and surroundings, Tittenhurst Park, a Georgian mansion and 72-acre estate near Ascot, 20 miles southwest of London. There, the nearest neighbors had been a small herd of former seaside donkeys in a field outside the couple’s bedroom window, along with a Hare Krishna troupe, who, until their chanting got on his nerves, Lennon had allowed to decorate a small temple in his extensive gardens. 

 

The tranquility of the English countryside might have helped him write and record the Imagine album, which would top the U.S. charts shortly after he and Yoko arrived in New York, but it was too sleepy for the ever-sparky Lennon and his ambitious wife. Brash, boisterous New York, with its cosmopolitan population and aggressive cultural energy, was the place to be.

 

At the time, I was a journalist at London’s Evening Standard newspaper and had been befriended by the Lennons during the break-up of the Beatles over the previous two years. So I was intrigued when, a few weeks after they moved to New York, they invited me to fly across and join them at The St. Regis and then celebrate John’s 31st birthday by attending an exhibition of Yoko’s art at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY.

 

Almost as soon as I got to the hotel, John was enthusing about his new hometown. In a grand suite stacked high with newspapers, magazines, fan mail, posters and film-editing equipment, he raved about how the jaunty abrasiveness of New Yorkers reminded him so much of the people of his Liverpool youth. Like every craze he had, and New York was his latest, he threw himself into it with total enthusiasm.

 

Before then, the only time he had visited the U.S. had been with the Beatles, where the band were held prisoners at the heart of mass hysteria. But now, having “divorced” himself from the group, as he put it, he was getting to know America properly, starting with New York. And he talked about how, just a few days earlier, fellow St. Regis guest Fred Astaire had knocked on the door of his suite to say “hello” and immediately agreed to appear in an experimental film that the Lennons were shooting there. The following day, Jack Palance, also a hotel guest, was happy to be filmed there, too.

 

To John, the openness and acceptance he and Yoko experienced in the U.S. were in stark contrast to the treatment they’d received back in the U.K. in recent months. There, Yoko had been overwhelmingly blamed for the Beatles splitting up, and John had been forced to defend her, while a public exhibition of his erotic lithographs had provoked predictable tabloid outrage and inevitable police charges. (The private gallery owner presenting the exhibition later got off on a technicality.)

 

 

  

 

 

As he fashioned his new ex-Beatle persona, Americans, and especially 
New Yorkers, would, he felt, respect “nutty John”, as he would laughingly 
call himself, more than his own countrymen

As he fashioned his new ex-Beatle persona, Americans, and especially New Yorkers, would, he felt, respect “nutty John”, as he would laughingly call himself, more than his own countrymen. “Look at this,” he said to me, picking up a letter. “A university in Tennessee is offering me $60,000 just to talk. Just to talk! I don’t even have to bother singing! It’s unbelievable. Invitations like this come every day.”

 

Indeed, one invitation, the retrospective of Yoko’s work in Syracuse, had already been accepted. And when we flew up there the next day, accompanied by Phil Spector, who had just produced Imagine, and secretary May Pang, who would become John’s lover two years later, it was unabashed lecturers as much as their students who mobbed the ex-Beatle and his wife.

 

This appealed to John’s new image of himself. As he moved around the exhibition, with its water theme, which also contained works by Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg and Willem de Kooning, he let it be known that he wanted to be considered an artist, too. Although, as usual, there was a joke in his artistic contribution – a plastic bag half-filled with water which he titled Napoleon’s Bladder.

 

Two years earlier he had written and recorded the anthem Give Peace A Chance, a song that students across America were now singing at every anti-Vietnam War demonstration. So, later that day, he sat singing it for a group of Syracuse college kids as slices of his birthday cake were passed around. His career as a musician (not to mention his lack of academic qualifications) had meant there had been no college for him after the age of 18, so to be lionized at universities was flattering.

 

He didn’t want to be one of “four gods on stage” any more, he told me that week. Deep down he wanted to be considered an intellectual, and, always on the side of the underdog, a beacon of protest.

 

With this in mind, the next day we were off in a limo, followed by a caravan of media vehicles, to visit a tiny Native American reservation, the inhabitants of which were taking on the state of New York, which was claiming the right to build a road through their land. Whether the publicity the visit generated did any good or not, I have no idea, but, unbeknownst to John, the regular protests with which he had now become associated were not going unnoticed. The FBI was compiling a file on him as an anti-war activist.

 

Back in New York, the Lennons’ HQ in The St. Regis would have looked to the FBI, had they seen it, like the headquarters of a counterculture movement, as the notorious social activists, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, quickly latched on to the politically naive John. Quite what the front reception desk thought as the Lennons’ new friends passed through the lobby was never recorded.

 

Not that it was all demonstrations. Records were good for protests, too, so John quickly turned the melody of the folk song Stewball into the festive song Happy Xmas (War Is Over) while sitting with his guitar on a sofa in his St. Regis suite. A few weeks later, he and Yoko would record it together with 30 children from the Harlem Community Choir a few blocks away at the Record Plant on West 44th Street. It wasn’t exactly John at his best, but we still hear it played on the radio every Christmas.

 

Music was always there. One afternoon when John and I were engaged in a singsong of old rock ’n’ roll hits while riding in the back of his limo, he told me rather regretfully that since his divorce from his first wife Cynthia in 1968, he’d lost track of his boyhood collection of early Elvis records. I fixed that with a quick phone call to RCA Records, who sent a complete collection of Elvis singles over to The St. Regis a couple of days later. Hound Dog would be a regular on John’s jukebox for the rest of his life.

 

Yoko had already begun showing John around Manhattan, introducing him to Max’s Kansas City, the Russian Tea Room and the Museum of Modern Art, and, energized by the sheer verve of the city, he felt, tragically, as it would eventually turn out, that he could move around untroubled by fans. “It was Yoko who sold me on New York,” he would say later, “as she made me walk around the streets and parks and squares to examine every nook and cranny. In fact you could say I fell in love with New York on a street corner.”

 

The street corner he most fancied was that at 1 West 72nd Street, which housed striking gothic millionaires’ apartment building, the Dakota. It offered a spectacular view across Central Park, and, while I was staying at The St. Regis, John put on a suit and tie to go to the Dakota and be interviewed by the reputedly stuffy board of residents there. He was unamused when Yoko’s dress for the interview was a pair of floral hotpants, and he insisted, not altogether politely, that she wear something more sober for the visit. When it came down to it, John knew very well how to behave like the well-mannered middle-class young man he had been brought up to be.

 

I left New York the following day, carrying a private letter from John to deliver to Paul McCartney in London, an attempt by him to bypass the managers and lawyers who were engaged in the bitter feud between the two former best friends. As it transpired, the legal wrangles, which included McCartney filing a lawsuit against his bandmates, would drag on for years, so my efforts as a go-between clearly didn’t work.

 

John and Yoko moved out of The St. Regis at the end of October 1971 to rent a two-room apartment in Bank Street in New York’s West Village, at which they would become further involved in political demonstrations and protest records, and from where they would also explore their neighborhood by bicycle. John’s new radical-chic persona would survive for only one more year. With the FBI increasingly anxious to have him thrown out of the U.S., and him anxious to stay there, in early May 1973 he and Yoko achieved a long-held ambition when they bought an apartment in the Dakota building. This would be the eccentric millionaire’s last home and the location of his murder in 1980.

 

Reflecting on why he preferred New York to London, to which he never returned, John would tell interviewers: “If I’d lived in ancient times, I’d have lived in Rome. Today America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself. New York is at my speed.”

 

Your address: The St. Regis New York

 

John and Yoko enjoying breakfast in 1972

 

 

Above: the gothic-style Dakota building on New York’s Upper West Side,
Lennon’s home until his death in 1980

 

 

Mumbai-beyond-issue-7

Mumbai Style

Since the 15th century, when Vasco da Gama discovered the direct sea route to India, Mumbai has become a vital link between East and West. Today, this former cluster of islands is a vibrant megalopolis of more than 20 million people: India’s largest, richest and fastest city, which adds its own unique cultural spin to all aspects of fashion, design and haute cuisine. 

 

While Mumbai is home to Asia’s oldest stock exchange and some of the country’s wealthiest tycoons, it’s Bollywood that provides the city with its glamour. The Indian film industry predates the birth of Hollywood by a decade and is the world’s most prolific, releasing more than a thousand movies every year, and celebrating with parties that set the style of the city’s fashion scene. Sponsored by Lakmé Cosmetics, Mumbai’s two annual fashion weeks, in March and August, create a buzz and energy unlike anywhere else, mixing local style, color, music and design in a way that make them pulse with unmistakably Indian energy. 

 

For anyone tempted to get a taste of the fast-moving and fashionable character of this intoxicating city, a place I’ve called home while writing my Love Travel Guides, here is my pick of Mumbai’s hippest haunts, from Colaba to Kala Ghoda.

 

Bombay Electric

Mumbai’s answer to Colette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London or Barneys in New York, this cutting-edge store, located in a heritage building, is more like a gallery for the New Indian Cool than a boutique. Creative director and founder Priya Kishore curates India’s best fashion and design and mixes in bold jewelry and vintage collectibles with exclusive capsule collections from emerging designers. Look out for established talent such as Manish Arora, Péro and Gaurav Gupta as well as hot local labels like NorBlack NorWhite and Bodice. The in-house brand Gheebutter features wonderfully soft cotton shirts, shorts and pants, and has acquired cult status among the city’s best-dressed men. 

1 Reay House, Best Marg, Colaba; +99 22 2287 6276; bombayelectric.in 

 

Le Mill

Founders Cecilia Morelli Parikh and Julie Leymarie worked at Bergdorf in Manhattan and L’Oréal, respectively, before joining forces to create this luxury concept store with an Indo-European aesthetic. Located in a splendid Victorian building, it showcases international designers and selected Indian labels, including Shift by Nimish, Bodice, Dhruv Kapoor, Anushka Khanna and NorBlack NorWhite – plus local teas from No. 3 Clive Road, homewares from Bar Palladio Delicatessen and a wall of cashmere scarves from Janavi.

1st Floor, Pheroze Building, C.S.M. Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba; +99 22 2652 2415; lemillindia.com

 

The Table

In the five years since its opening, this restaurant has grown in stature so much that there are whispers of The Table deserving India’s first Michelin star. Husband and wife team Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf gave up corporate careers to pursue their dream of creating a restaurant, and lured the supremely talented chef Alex Sanchez from San Francisco. He creates innovative dishes based around fresh, seasonal produce, much of it grown on their farm, a short boat trip away. At lunchtime, fashionistas and socialites dominate; the communal table is a great option for singletons, and is particularly lively at cocktail hour.

Kalapesi Trust Building, Apollo Bunder Marg, Colaba; +99 22 2282 5000; thetable.in

 

Kulture Shop

This cool studio shop features the creative talents of cutting-edge Indian graphic artists from around the globe. Founders Arjun and Jas Charanjiva and Kunal Anand have a great eye for outstanding graphic art, and their shop is an unerringly cool celebration of urban culture from more than 40 artists, displayed on a wide range of objects from limited-edition prints and T-shirts to mugs and phone cases. 

2nd Floor, Hill View 2, 241 Hill Rd, Bandra West; +99 22 2655 0982; kultureshop.in

 

 

The entrance to Priya Kishore’s celebrated Bombay Electric fashion boutique

 

 

A carefully curated edit of international and local designers at Le Mill

 

 

Freedom-fighter badges from hip graphic design emporium Kulture Shop

Kala Ghoda Café

The heritage precinct of the Kala Ghoda area in South Mumbai has become one of the city’s coolest areas. Home to the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Jehangir Art Gallery, the narrow lanes behind them has become the epicenter of India’s contemporary art world. Between the galleries are stylish boutiques and hip cafés, including KGC, as it’s affectionately known, which was founded by photographer Farhad Bomanjee, who returned from Europe to create his perfect coffee shop. The few tables are set in an early 20th-century barn with vaulted ceilings and whitewashed walls that are perfect for displaying small art shows. The compact menu features fresh simple food and the best coffee in the city, made from organic, South Indian arabica and robusta coffee varieties grown on sustainable plantations.

10 Ropewalk Lane, Kala Ghoda Fort; +99 22 2263 3866; kgcafe.in 

Sabyasachi

Acclaimed Bengali fashion designer Sabyasachi, who is known for his opulent fashion, has created one of the most extraordinary shopping experiences in the country. The stunning 8,500ft showroom has 22 vintage hand-painted chandeliers, 52 antique rugs, 400 old glass ittar (perfume) bottles, antique plates from Kolkata, as well as clocks, antiquarian books, vintage calendar prints and more. The store is a testament to Sabya’s love of the rich aesthetics of India and a visual and sensual feast for those who visit it. The two-level space stocks Indian and Western fashion, ready-to wear saris and menswear, as well as a bridal jewelry collection created by Sabya and jeweler Kishan Das and Co. of Hyderabad, which has been in business since 1870.

Ador House, 6K Dubash Marg, Kala Ghoda; +99 22 2204 4774; sabyasachi.com

Good Earth

India’s most acclaimed lifestyle store is a one-stop shop for beautiful design and a celebration of India’s craft legacy. Created by Anita Lal, a designer and potter intent on preserving India’s rich design aesthetic, the first Good Earth opened in Mumbai 20 years ago and now has stores across India. This flagship outlet is located in a sensitively converted textile mill, with dramatic interiors and a stylish café. Although the store stocks a wide variety of items for use throughout the home, and clothes made using natural fabrics and embellished by traditional craftsmen, it is particularly famed for its hand-decorated tableware and bed linens.

Raghuvanshi Mansion, Raghuvanshi Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel; +99 22 2495 1954; goodearthindia.com

 

The Bombay Canteen

This recent addition to the Mumbai dining scene is located in the historic mill area, which is now also home to tall office blocks. Tucked away in a low-rise building, the restaurant is a recreation of an old Mumbai bungalow, with meticulous detailing such as traditional tiles and stained glass. The menu features seasonal produce and contemporary twists on classic regional Indian dishes, all ready to share, including a trio of desi tacos, which use Indian flat bread, and large-format dishes like tandoori red snapper in a coriander and chili marinade. Specials at the bar include martinis made with gooseberry juice and jaggery (cane sugar) and punches served from handcrafted brass bowls.

Unit 1, Process House, Kamala Mills, S.B. Road, Lower Parel; +99 22 4966 6666; thebombaycanteen.com

Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra

Celebrated author and restaurateur Jiggs Kalra and his son Zorawar opened this restaurant in late 2013 to offer their guests a gastronomic adventure through the past, present and future of Indian cuisine. The unique and entertaining dining experience is carefully orchestrated with wonderfully flamboyant service and innovative presentation, embracing elements of molecular gastronomy, regional cooking and dishes inspired by both royal kitchens and Indian street food. The tasting menu is the best way to experience the restaurant, with small signature dishes that can be paired with wines.

First International Financial Center, Bandra-Kurla Complex; +91 22 6642 4142; masalalibrary.co.in

 

Obataimu

Obataimu’s creative director Noorie Sadarangani believes in the art of slowness; the boutique’s name translates from the Japanese as “overtime” and the shop celebrates the process of making an object. A school of tailors sits at the heart of the establishment, producing its Shibui line of relaxed, androgynous pieces and its Wabi Sabi line of conceptual, often laboriously handmade, art pieces. Open for just six months annually, the rest of the year it pops up in spaces such as Rue Vertbois in Paris and Selfridges in London.

Military Square Lane, Kala Ghoda, Fort Sameeya; +99 84 5484 5854; obataimu.com

The Gem Palace

The Mumbai outpost of India’s most iconic jewelry chain is run by ninth-generation jeweler Siddharth Kasliwal. Having created jewelry since 1852, and been court jewelers to the Mughal royals, the Kasliwal family still has royal clients as well as loyal fans in both Hollywood and Bollywood. This exquisite boutique is perhaps the most beautiful store in the city; the magical interiors – including a private salon upstairs – were laid out by Dutch designer Marie-Anne Oudejans and hand-painted by artisans from Jaipur.

D8, Ground Floor, Dhanraj Mahal, Apollo Bunder, Colaba; +99 22 2288 1852; munnuthegempalace.com

 

Your address: The St. Regis Mumbai 

 

Rasa glasses from Good Earth

 

 

The Bombay Canteen’s Chicken Chettinad desi tacos

 

 

Discover “the art of slowness” at fashion boutique Obataimu,
which also boasts pop-up food areas