SO FAR, SPRING has been delicious. I’ve been lucky to have had some amazing food experiences this season, starting with omakase at San Francisco’s Sushi Aoba, an unassuming new 10-seat sushi bar opened by 91-year-old Japantown restaurateur Lena Turner. The sushi is prepared by local legend Sachio Kojima, and it’s the best I’ve had anywhere in the Bay Area.
Speaking of omakase, on a trip to Los Angeles, I stopped by Destroyer and picked up a package of Oishii strawberries, known as the “omakase berry.” These celeb-endorsed berries were once found only in the Japanese Alps, but Oishii has replicated their ideal growing conditions in LA. The taste is a revelation: it’s as though each bite has been infused with extra fresh strawberry aroma and flavor. A worthy indulgence.
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While at the Frieze Art Fair in Los Angeles, I also went to a Food For Art dinner at Bar Restaurant, sponsored by Ruinart Champagne. The curated meal was sea-themed, and included a pleasantly salty, briny salad with fresh crab meat that I am still dreaming about.
One big draw of the art fair Frieze Los Angeles was artist Suzanne Husky’s installation, titled “Dam Beverly Hills!” The piece celebrates the role of the beaver as “an ally of regenerative agriculture and a spiritual leader” in maintaining the natural habitat of California. (Beaver dams help slow soil erosion, filter heavy metals, and offer shelter for insects and fish.) Visitors who made a verbal commitment to embrace the beaver’s way got to take a real beaver’s “chew” (gnawed wood used in dam-building) with them.
I’m in love with a luxurious, buttery new moisturizer from Omorovicza, Cushioning Day Cream, which I’m using day and night in a particularly generous, regal-feeling gesture of self-care. Omorovicza’s line incorporates the healing properties of Hungarian thermal waters. And while slathering this thick but fast-absorbing cream onto one’s winter-parched skin, it’s easy to believe in the promise of their patented Healing Concentrate™. After a month of regular use, my skin is deeply hydrated, clear, and happy.
I AM ONE of those types of people who, when washing my hands at a fancy hotel or restaurant, will take a photo of the soap in the restroom so I can track it down and buy it for myself. This is how I first became aware of Soeder soaps. Made from organic vegetable oils and scented with natural plant extracts, these soaps smell amazing and leave your skin feeling soft and moisturized. I’ve been devoted to Soeder’s Black Pine natural soap for ages, but I recently converted to Amour Soeder, the brand's collaboration with Paris’ famed Hotel Amour. The soap is formulated to evoke the smell of a classic Negroni cocktail — tart, delicious, and clean — and the chic bottle adds a subtle touch of class to my otherwise pedestrian Brooklyn bathroom.
In need of a little break from our apartment, my partner and I decided to have a staycation in New York City, opting to spend a night at the Ritz-Carlton New York. Even though I’ve lived in the city for nearly 20 years, I was embarrassed to say that I’d never actually been inside the Ritz, other than to have a drink at the bar. Knowing that the landmark hotel recently underwent an extensive renovation, I was curious to see if the 253-room property lived up to its venerable reputation. I’m happy to say that we were not disappointed. Our suite, overlooking Central Park, was stunning and, while very contemporary, still felt totally in keeping with the property’s opulent history. There were lots of luxe touches, like a high-end record player and a selection of vinyl albums, a marbled bathroom with a soaking tub, vintage Parsons tables, hand-drawn wallpaper, and, in our case, a framed photo of us waiting on the bedside table (not sure exactly how they pulled that off, but we were appropriately gobsmacked). The property also boasts a La Prairie spa, a new fitness center and movement studio (where you can ride a Peloton or do ballet, depending on your mood), and a chic new dining area called Contour, where we had a lovely low-key dinner. After waking up to a glorious panoramic view of the park, I took breakfast in our room and spent a few hours having coffee and doing work before packing up and heading back to Brooklyn, feeling refreshed and somehow newly enamored of the city I call home.
A FEW MONTHS ago I visited the new NYC piano bar and supper club The Nines, located in the old Acme space. I had a lovely chat with the owner, Jon Neidich, who was thoughtful and soulful — much like the space itself. The Nines is pure escape. With dim sconce lighting, burgundy velvets, leopard carpeting, and a piano man straight out of the 1920s, it’s a capsule of old-world glamour and a departure from modern life. “Going out used to be a bigger affair,” said Neidich. “It wasn’t accepted as such a common activity.” The Nines is thus a return to the pageantry and theater of an adult night out. Entering the space, I had to pass through a sort of anteroom, a dark mirrored area before a velvet curtain. Here, the portal seemed to say, is where you shed reality, creating just a bit of distance between you and the outside world. The owners also lowered the ceilings to enhance the intimacy. And intimate it is. I fell in love around three times just looking at the attractively lit crowd. The N˚9 (gin, manzanilla, vermouth) is balanced. Their hamachi is briny and tangy. But the real magic is in the air, in that perfectly rouged light (an endless point of fixation for Neidich). “The lighting is by far the most important thing. It sets the foundation for everything,” he said, glancing up at a chandelier with a furrowed brow. “And that’s actually a bit too bright. I need to lower that.” (He did.)
I recently discovered a bottle of Extra Añejo Tequila from a quirky new brand called Pātsch. The bottle is funky and playful, but its contents are for serious sipping. Aged for seven years in whiskey barrels, it offers notes of maple, cocoa, and cinnamon. I’ve been loving it neat as a silky after-dinner drink.
Established in 1833, American Optical is the oldest sunglasses brand in America. Pilots, presidents, and NASA space crews have all worn them. They were the first sunglasses on the moon. And while I have not taken my pair anywhere near as groundbreaking, I sure feel absolutely iconic walking to my neighborhood juice spot in these.
FOR THE PURPOSE of storytelling, I’m going to admit to something that makes me sound like a child: I don’t eat raw tomatoes. I remove them from sandwiches, pick around them in salads, and, when traveling in Italy, order ensalada caprese just for the mozzarella and basil. It’s an embarrassing predicament, but I have just never been able to get on board with the texture. I do, however, love to grow tomatoes, mostly because I love the very specific and wildly fresh smell of the plants. It’s a distinctive scent, and one that is rarely used in products. Whenever I find one that uses it well, I buy it (my summertime perfume for many years has been Hermès’ Un Jardin en Méditerranée). So I was particularly excited when I recently received a gift from Flamingo Estate, an LA brand and property whose Instagram haunts my dreams with glimpses of the life I hope to one day live. Their soap smells great, the olive oil is delicious; but the product that is sitting in front of me as I write this is the single-note Roma heirloom tomato candle, which, for a lover of tomatoes (the plant not the food), smells divine. I have been burning it regularly as I work, injecting these early spring days with a potent reminder of the lush summer to come.
I have written here before about my trials with my skin, and the many products and treatments I have used to try to calm it. These have all been for my face — which is actually doing better these days, perhaps thanks to all those interventions. But my scalp is still super sensitive. Recently I have been using SEEN, a line of dermatologist-designed shampoos whose website features a battery of third-party testing and papers published in peer-reviewed journals to prove their efficacy. That’s all above my pay grade, so I will keep it simple: they seem to really work (also, they smell great and feel very luscious to use).
I RECENTLY TOOK an unforgettable jaunt to Dubai, where I accomplished two things I’d long hoped to experience. The first: flying business class on Emirates. As a longtime fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, a peaceful full night’s sleep, and ultrachic Emirates flight attendant uniforms, I’d always looked forward to the day when I’d finally satiate my curiosity and be granted access to one of their swank airport lounges. To say it lived up to my expectations is an understatement.
The second: being invited to celebrate the Cartier Women’s Initiative, an annual soiree hosted by the maison to honor their passionate support of female impact-driven changemakers around the globe. This year’s 15th anniversary event coincided with a grand International Women’s Day forum at Cartier’s Women’s Pavilion, elegantly designed by architect Laura Gonzalez and artist eL Seed as a collaboration with Expo 2020 Dubai. Over the course of four days, the space — which featured two floors of immersive installations highlighting women’s achievements throughout history, and films by Academy Award nominee Nadine Labaki and director Mélanie Laurent — hosted a series of panel discussions with the brand’s extensive community of female entrepreneurs. The talks centered around the fellowship program’s three main pillars: the future of global innovation, preservation, and opportunity. Among the forward-thinking women honored in this year’s celebration, there were those who spearheaded enterprises focusing on providing accessible medical assistance to patients with chronic health conditions; created systems to help underserved youth obtain student loans using a proprietary credit-rating program; and used wool to manufacture sustainable insulated packaging for temperature-sensitive items. Despite the glitzy desert landscape and luxury treatment, it was a profoundly humbling and thought-provoking experience to listen to stories from these incredible women, while also celebrating an iconic brand using their influence and reach to support businesswomen and creatives working toward the collective goal of making this world a much better place.
Skye Parrott Photographer
Skye Parrott is the executive editor of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor in chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.
T. Cole Rachel Writer
T. Cole Rachel is the managing editor of Departures. A Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media, his writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Interview, and the Creative Independent.
Nina Renata Aron Writer
Nina Renata Aron is a senior editor of Departures based in Oakland, California. She is the author of "Good Morning, Destroyer of Men's Souls." Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, Elle, Eater, and Jezebel.
Sophie Mancini Writer
Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.
Annette Lamothe-Ramos Writer
Annette Lamothe-Ramos is the visuals director of Departures. A native New Yorker now based in Los Angeles, she is a multidisciplinary artist and creative consultant working in online media, print, and film. Formerly the creative director and fashion editor at Vice, she has also created original documentary shorts and series for several major streaming platforms.
Jess Rotter Illustrator
Jess Rotter is a Los Angeles–based illustrator and artist. Rotter’s work has frequently featured in the Washington Post. Her clients range from Natalie Portman to Questlove.