Cynthia began her international writing career as the Asia correspondent for
Condé Nast Traveler, where she continues to contribute to this day. Her work also appears in Afar, CNN.com, Financial Times, The New York Times, Robb Report, The Telegraph, Travel+Leisure, and Wallpaper, among others. Cynthia Rosenfeld's Articles Sound Is at the Core of Musician-Turned-Ceramicist Kansai Noguchi’s Vases and Vessels From his Tokyo studio, Japanese artist Kansai Noguchi crafts striking, one-of-a-kind ceramic vases, vessels, and painted canvases that make a bold first impression that invite the eye to linger on their mesmerizing visual contrasts. His preference for working in a limited palette is obvious, and is inspired by ceramics of Japan’s Jōmon period (10,500–300 B.C.), considered among the oldest pottery in the world. Noguchi’s approach isn’t just about visual aesthetics; equally present in his pieces is their ability to possess “sounds of music.” “Culinary Alchemist” Pascal Baudar on the Art of Foraging and the Craft of Vinegar Pinning a single job title on the award-winning food expert and forager Pascal Baudar is no easy task. A self-described “culinary alchemist” who cans, dries, smokes, ferments, steams, and pickles cactus buds, harvester ants, and other obscure flora and fauna, Baudar is the go-to source for Los Angeles–based chefs Curtis Stone, Josiah Citrin, and Ludovic Lefebvre, as well as cocktail maestros, including Matt Biancaniello, seeking these delicacies. “The majority of chefs use 30 wild ingredients, maximum,” Baudar says. “We deal with four hundred and fifty-six.” An Heirloom Masa Supplier Champions the Origins of the Historic Latin American Dough Many people eat masa—the Spanish word for the maize dough produced from stone-ground corn and used for making corn tortillas, gorditas, tamales, pupusas, and other Latin American staples—with little or no idea that it represents a multibillion-dollar industry, one that relies heavily on environmentally damaging agricultural systems that strip corn of its flavor and health benefits. A game-changing player in the masa world, Jorge Gaviria is the founder and CEO of Masienda, a supplier of heirloom masa, corn, and beans, and the first to create a scalable market for the surplus corn grown by more than 2,000 smallholder subsistence farmers using regenerative practices across more than 30,000 acres throughout Mexico. The Unsung Virtues of Natural Wine, According to an Expert Made from grapes alone, organically farmed, then harvested, fermented, aged, and bottled without additives, natural wine “has nothing to hide,” writes Paris-based, British-American wine expert Aaron Ayscough. “It’s wine that seeks to express, in every sip, its traditional and crucial link to nature.” Yet for something so natural, it's a surprisingly complex and contentious topic that divides the wine industry, rooted in its pastoral self-image despite its abundance of chemically altered ingredients and technological manipulation. An Edible Perfume Made to Enhance Ice Cream’s Savor Science estimates that we experience around 80 percent of flavor based on our sense of smell, rather than taste. How then to think about ice cream, beloved but essentially scentless? Even when the ingredients within are highly fragrant—I’m looking at you peanut butter and chocolate—at such low temperatures, the chemicals that would normally provoke human olfactory sensors freeze. Only when ice cream melts on our tongue do flavor aromas that we can taste get released. At New York’s Lodi, Braided Bread Tells the Story of Adaptive Reuse Inspired by the unrushed pleasures of Milanese cafè culture, Uruguayan-born chef Ignacio Mattos opened the restaurant, bakery, and bar Lodi last September at New York City’s Rockefeller Center. There, head baker and pastry chef Louis Volle, who kneaded his way up from starting the bread program at Dean & Deluca to upstate New York’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns to San Francisco’s Tartine, leads a bread and pastry program that celebrates the age-old crafts of milling and baking. A large stone mill—among the first of its kind in Manhattan and visible through a window on Rockefeller Plaza—grinds single-variety grains, such as wheat and rye, into flour for Volle’s delectable baked goods, which rotate through Lodi’s ovens from morning to night. A “Grower Champagne” Brand Sources Its Wines From Independent Vineyards That Opt for Flavor Over Flash Twenty years ago, April Siler had a chance encounter with “grower Champagne”—wines made from grapes in the Champagne region of France that are harvested, processed, and bottled by the same estate that grew them. (The category stands apart from Champagne houses, such as Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon, and Dom Pérignon, which typically blend together grapes grown by multiple growers from across the region.) Awed by grower Champagne’s fuller flavor and vibrant, fruity savor, the Melbourne-reared, Brooklyn-based food and beverage executive set out to learn more about the niche sector, and to cultivate a greater U.S. recognition for its production. The Perfumed History of Dhup, Nepal’s Traditional Hand-Rolled Rope Incense In Nepal, where I lived in the early aughts, cultural treasures abound, including seven groups of historic Buddhist and Hindu monuments, palaces, temples, and stupas dappled across the Kathmandu Valley that together form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was within these intricately carved buildings that I first smelled the ambrosial aromas emitted by the traditional Nepalese rope incense called dhup (sometimes spelled “dhoop”). Found in nearly every home in the South Asian country, dhup is most closely associated with the Newar people, historical inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley who are renowned across the Himalayan foothills for their artisanal craftsmanship, which they used to build many of Nepal’s temples. In addition to religious ceremonies, people in Nepal use the incense to calm the soul during meditation, to aid in Shamanic healing processes, and as a natural air freshener. Baratunde Thurston Wants to Activate Your Inner Outdoor Adventurer “We think we invent things and create things and define ourselves by ourselves, but that’s not the whole story,” Baratunde Thurston says on the trailer for America Outdoors, a six-part travel series that premiered last week on PBS. Thurston—a writer, comedian, and podcaster who has advised the Obama White House, worked as a producer on The Daily Show, and authored the best-selling memoir How To Be Black—has a knack for navigating nuanced conversations around race, culture, politics, and technology, framing these discussions in approachable ways. His curiosity and wit make him an engaging host as he explores the nation’s open terrain. On each episode, Thurston travels to a different region, investigating how our shared landscapes shape our lives. A Denver Restaurant Brings Nationwide Access and Attention to Native American Cuisine The restaurant Tocabe may appear to be a humble affair—it operates just two locations, plus a food truck, in the metropolitan Denver area—but since launching an online platform last summer, this small business has been booming, and is in turn raising the profile of Native American cuisine and Indigenous ingredients nationally. Owners Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs, the latter a member of the Osage Nation of Northeast Oklahoma, started the business in 2008, taking the name Tocabe, which means “blue” in the Osage language. (Before founding the company, the two met and became friends while attending the University of Denver, where Chandra majored in digital media and Jacobs in history.) At first glance, Tocabe’s two brick-and-mortar outlets look like any inviting fast-casual café, with a serving line of freshly made ingredients on full display. A closer look, though, reveals menu items like glazed bison ribs with berry barbecue sauce, Red Lake Nation wild rice, and Osage hominy mixed with cranberries, red onions, and jalapenos. Its “Indian tacos” feature a signature fluffy fry bread topped with braised shredded bison, ground beef, or grilled chicken, as well as lettuce, pinto beans or black beans, sweet corn salsa, mild or hot salsa, and a drizzle of sour cream. The tacos, like the restaurant itself, deftly balance heritage while broadening accessibility. “We serve food, of course,” Chandra says. “But we also aim to show the relevance of American Indian culture in a twenty-first century context.” For Eleven Madison Park’s New Sommelier, Smell Is the Most Important Sense Born into a Franco-Sicilian restaurateur family, Gabriel Di Bella traces his passion for food and wine to helping his chef father, Giuseppe, run their family operation in the French city of Vichy. After graduating from the distinguished Tain-l’Hermitage professional wine school in the Rhône Valley, Di Bella joined the team at Alain Ducasse in Monaco. Eventually, he made his way to London, where he worked his way up to head sommelier at Marcus Wareing, at the Berkeley Hotel, and then oversaw the wine programs for the restaurant group Caprice Holdings and the Birley Clubs, the latter of which includes the legendary lounge Annabel’s. In the summer of 2019, he joined chef Daniel Humm’s opening team at Davies and Brook, at Claridge’s London, as the wine director, a position he held until Humm and the hotel’s management parted ways at the end of last year, unable to agree on Humm’s new plant-based direction (“The future for me, and for this company, is plant-based,” Humm wrote of the decision on Instagram, “and this is the path we must take”).
Since landing in New York City and starting this spring as the wine director at Humm’s Eleven Madison Park flagship (which transitioned last year to an all-vegan menu), Di Bella has been overseeing its 200-plus-page, 5,000-selection wine list, with its highlights from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône, and Italy. Currently in the midst of his first weeks on the job, Di Bella readily spoke with us about his life’s work—through the lesser-discussed perspective of scent—and how he’s thinking about wine pairings for vegan dishes.
What role does scent play in the wine experience?
A major one. We think of the mouth and taste buds as the primary aspect of drinking wine or eating food, but I believe the nose is at least equally important. Once you look at whatever you’re going to eat or drink, the next sense you’re going to use is your nose. As soon as you bring it closer to your face, the smell comes through first, always before the taste. Smell is crucial to the wine experience. Just enjoying the smell can actually be extremely fulfilling, and very intense. That’s why you’ll see very geeky sommeliers like myself spending five to ten minutes just smelling a wine in the glass, to witness its evolution as it opens up and slowly reveals layers and complexity and different aromas emerging.
How does scent interact with the other senses in our appreciation of wine?
Tasting wine is one of the few activities in which we use all five senses. You’ll even use touch when feeling the liquid inside your mouth, and hearing comes into play, too, with the pop of the bottle. Removing any of these makes the wine experience immediately more challenging, as we do when tasting with blackened glasses—your brain can even become convinced a white is a red. Similarly, scent is a key part of the learning curve with wine. I would estimate that thirty to forty percent is lost if you could not smell each wine, especially when you consider there’s also a residual scent experienced in the back of the palate. As a wine buyer, my nose is absolutely vital every single day.
With wine, does a linear relationship exist between smell and taste?
Wine experts and even nonprofessional wine lovers will test a lot of wines in different years, or the same specific producer in plots or varieties, or cuvées. Through the years, one builds a database in your brain from these repeated encounters to gain an understanding of what a specific wine should taste like. When you encounter a wine, and start by smelling, your brain starts to connect the sensory dots. So you expect something from a specific vintage. Perhaps it was a warmer vintage, or it was colder or rainy and therefore more diluted. But then comes the unexpected. This is where wine is truly magical. You can study and learn, and smell and taste wine for your entire life, and I promise, with its unexpected variations, wine is going to keep surprising you.
Is our memory with wine triggered by smell or taste, or a combination of the two?
It’s the smell for me, one hundred percent. I put my nose to the glass, inhale the first breath, and feel completely transported to another time and place.
Can we learn to appreciate certain wines more through their scent?
There are definitely a few producers or grape varieties where this is true. I’m a huge lover of syrah wines from the Northern Rhône Valley; when you think of a producer like Jean-Michel Stéphan, the wine always surprises me. From the first smell, the wine seems a little shy. A little closed, even. The more time passes, the more the wine opens up in the glass or in a decanter, and you really have the full expression of this variety and producer. Every single time, whatever cuvée I taste from this producer, the scent alone provokes a similarly strong emotion of pleasant surprise.
I also have a significant memory of the first time I tasted la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru, one of those iconic “unicorns” of the wine world. I was an extreme novice back then, yet just smelling the wine—and I probably did this for at least five minutes—I understood what set this wine at the pinnacle of the wine world.
What about the impacts of the climate crisis? Can we smell them in the glass?
Yes, some wine growing regions are reviewing their grape varieties in response to warming climates and less water. Obviously, this impact arrives in the glass. Over the past several years, we’re seeing much higher levels of alcohol and sugar due to a consistently warmer climate.
Looking at what the new generation of winemakers are dealing with, especially in California, climate change presents a really big challenge. Not knowing if you’ll even have a harvest and how that will impact the coming year, due to frost or fire, that would be bad enough. But they face this uncertainty not only for the coming year, but for a year or two after.
I’ve only been in the United States for two months, but already I’m very interested in Racines Wines, an experimental collaboration between Justin Willett, from California’s Tyler Winery, and vignerons Étienne de Montille and Brian Sieve, of Burgundy, with Rodolphe Péters, from Champagne. They’re seeking to produce pinot noir and chardonnay in the Santa Rita Hills. Their wines tend more lean and are made with less alcohol and less acidity. It’s just one of the wine world’s responses to climate change.
How does Eleven Madison Park’s transition to an all-vegan menu affect your work?
This does not make my job more complicated. In fact, I think it makes my work more interesting. The old way was about pairing wines with foie gras, fresh lobster, and, of course, duck as the main course. That made wine choices pretty straightforward. Now there’s much more room for curiosity, research, and pairing development. For example, working on our summer menu, I’ve found so much more to play with and explore. The luxury we have is that because we’re changing what Eleven Madison Park is, we can take a fresh look at wine pairing and shine a light on underrepresented regions. This expands so many possibilities. Our diners also arrive more open-minded. They know they’re going to have amazing hospitality, and that the food is going to be delicious. That level of trust opens them up to trying new smells and flavors. I’m thinking of Austrian wine producers like Markus Altenburger and Claus Preisinger. They each make such delicious wines that are worth showing off and sharing. Both are very versatile, fruit friendly, very savory styles of red wine.
Our summer menu is especially green and fresh. The chefs are experimenting with acidity in the kitchen. Reflecting that in the glass keeps my work really interesting. It’s definitely something our diners will be able to smell. Gohar World’s Handmade Tableware Makes for Satisfyingly Surreal Meals For artist Laila Gohar, meals are all about “creating moments,” as she puts it, “and setting the stage for them to happen.” Gohar, who hosted at least one dinner party a week in her New York apartment before the pandemic, entertains guests with her delicious, engagingly absurdist handiwork, such as blocks of butter molded into the shapes of an eye, nose, ear, and mouth, or a Christmas tree–like tower of langoustines and pink roses. Each fantastical concoction radiates with a heartfelt desire to connect with her diners in profound ways. “I am guided—obsessed, really—with beauty,” Gohar says. “My mission on earth is to cultivate joy and happiness, and to channel a nearly overpowering empathy into my work. It’s about so much more than food.” How a Storied Heritage Building Became a Contemporary Community Pub As chef and co-owner of King, the acclaimed Mediterranean restaurant in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, Clare de Boer learned how cooking and eating food can make time stand still. “Meals are one of our precious final frontiers,” she says. “People slow down, really look at the person across from them—and even put away their phones—to share the moment.” Now, she’s applying those lessons at her first solo venture, Stissing House, which she opened, with the help of Italian chef Oliviero Borgna and pastry chef Suzanne Nelson, in mid-March in the Hudson Valley town of Pine Plains. The goal for her incarnation of this two-story 1782 farmhouse-style building, which once housed the second-oldest inn in the United States, is not merely to serve food. It’s far beyond that, de Boer says: “It’s to hold time by creating a space that allows people to connect.” At Manhattan’s Thyme Bar, Cocktails Channel an Enchanted Forest If you want a cold beer or a glass of wine, Jeremy Le Blanche, the beverage director at Manhattan’s Thyme Bar, is happy to deliver. But ordering either at the space, a 1920s gambling den-turned-21st-century speakeasy, would be a missed opportunity. Since it opened, in March 2020, and especially since the arrival of Le Blanche that summer, the underground lounge has developed an eye-popping array of botanical, multisensory cocktails that translate art into drinks. These Scented Strips of Paper From France Are the Ultimate Deodorizers It’s been two years, three months, five days and a few hours since I last set foot in a five-star Paris hotel room (but who’s counting?). However, any time I want a whiff of those treasured, pre-pandemic memories, I reach for a palm-sized book of scented papers from the French company Papier d’Arménie. After tearing off a thumb-length strip, I fold it up like an accordion, place it on a ceramic dish along the paper’s thin edge, and strike a match to ignite it. Usually, I don’t even expend a breath blowing out a flame, since there typically is none. These tiny-but-mighty deodorizers burn out in less than three minutes—quicker than incense—but I find the subtle, powdery fragrance lingers considerably longer than even the best candles, enveloping me in luxurious scent distinctly reminiscent of that beloved Parisian hotel for hours—all for the recession-proof price of around 27 cents per strip. The Health Benefits of Mushrooms, Infused Into Fruit-Flavored Gummies Evidence abounds for the accelerated aging effects of the past two pandemic-filled years. Recently, however, I caught myself identifying with a friend’s 5-year-old daughter, Ella, who, every morning after devouring a chewable multivitamin, begs her mother, “More yummy gummies!” Turns out, the science developed to make vitamins munchable, colorful, and tasty for kids works just as well for grown-ups. Since kickstarting the new year with a daily regimen of Troop gummies—bright, fruity drops made from mushroom extracts—I’ll admit to craving more than the suggested one-a-day dose. Unlike Ella, all I have to do to satisfy my hankering is twist off the childproof top, and pop another gummy in my mouth. Made from Grapes Grown on an Active Volcano, These Wines Smack of Liquid Stone In 2001, winemaker Frank Cornelissen bought a vineyard in Sicily, nestled high upon the slopes of Mount Etna, an active volcano. The Belgian transplant had previously worked as a wine broker who, after tasting countless vintages, became convinced that wine, as he puts it, “should show its territory more than the hand of its producer.” After tasting locally produced wine during a visit to Italy, Cornelissen decided to try making his own, with grapes grown in Etna’s distinctive soil, a result of constant changes in seasons and the volcano’s regular outbursts. He has since become an influential voice in a small group of winemakers who are proving that Etna, long ignored by the world of fine wines, can be a source of singular drinks. The Skills and Secrets Behind Mochi’s Distinctive Chew Fugetsu-Do, the oldest business in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo district, specializes in mochi, a popular variety of Japanese sweets made from a glutinous short-grain rice called mochigome, which is soaked overnight, then steamed and pounded into a soft, sticky dough. A mainstay of Japanese festivals and New Year celebrations, these bite-sized orbs are traditionally filled with white or red bean paste and trace their roots back to ancient Shinto rituals, where they were made as offerings to thank the deities for bountiful rice harvests. The Spirit Brands and Bar Owners Redefining a “Good Drink” As a bartender in San Francisco, a city at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, Shanna Farrell wondered why the environmental awareness devoted to food never quite extended to drinks. She went in search of the answer through her new book, A Good Drink: In Pursuit of Sustainable Spirits (Island Press), in which she documents her travels to bars, distillers, and farms that are forging a more sustainable path forward for spirit-making. Farrell—who currently works as a writer, audio producer, and interviewer at the University of California Berkeley’s Oral History Center—puts her incisive journalism skills to use in every site she visits. She meets distillers in South Carolina who are saving a scarce type of corn from near extinction and using it to make one of the world’s most sought-after bourbons, and travels to Guadalajara, Mexico, to visit mezcaleros who produce the spirit using time-honored traditions that preserve an important part of the country’s culture as well as the health of the land. In London, she encounters a bar owner whose establishment is redefining luxury drinking by prohibiting the use of ice and bottles. Should Museums Prioritize Emotional Wellness Activities? The Rubin Museum of Art Thinks So. Tantric Buddhist practitioners use mandalas—circular, often ornate, symbolic representations of the universe that can appear in paintings, on objects, or as a visualization in the mind’s eye—as a focal point during meditation. The figure served as the inspiration for the Mandala Lab, an interactive multi-sensorial space that opens October 1 at New York’s Rubin Museum of Art, an institution dedicated to celebrating Himalayan art, ideas, and culture. These Illuminating 9/11 Podcast Episodes Bring Survivor Stories to Life Podcasts are a powerful resource for those interested in learning about the singular, unimaginable tragedy of September 11, 2001, as they offer heightened levels of intimacy, emotion, and realism. A number of illuminating programs dedicated to the subject have appeared over the past two decades—including Ep. 118 of our At a Distance podcast, out today, which features architect Daniel Libeskind, whose studio designed the original master plan of the new World Trade Center site—bringing the stories of those who were impacted to life. Daniel Boulud on Feeding First Responders in the Aftermath of 9/11 After working at various five-star restaurants in Europe throughout the 1970s (and for two years, as a private chef in Washington, D.C.), French chef Daniel Boulud at long last moved to New York City in 1982. About a decade later, in May 1993, he went on to establish his eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Since then, his seasonal dishes, which are rooted in traditions from his native Lyon, have earned him global culinary renown and inspired more than a dozen restaurants around the world—including nine in New York. How Scent Helped This Blind 9/11 Survivor Escape Tower One Michael Hingson was in his office at the data-protection agency Quantum on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One when he felt and heard the thud of the first airplane hitting the building, 15 floors above. Hingson, who has been blind since birth due to an eye disorder called retinopathy of prematurity, realized the crash had also roused his guide dog, a yellow Labrador named Roselle, who had been asleep under his desk. As the structure tilted, the longtime Californian took shelter in a door frame until it became clear that the shaking was no earthquake. This Body Mist Captures the Benefits of Forest Bathing in a Bottle Though rooted in Buddhism’s reverence for nature, shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) traces its origins to 1982, when Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries coined and prescribed the practice, which involves full sensory immersion in tree-filled outdoor spaces. The ritual was meant to counter the adverse physical and mental effects of the country’s tech boom, and to encourage city dwellers to venture into surrounding landscapes. Since then, various scientific studies have confirmed the benefits of communing with nature, which include helping to curb conditions including depression and anxiety, and even the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Family Is a Central Ingredient in Lauren Tran’s Toothsome Vietnamese Desserts Last March, pastry chef Lauren Tran was furloughed from her job at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern—just four months after winning the beloved restaurant’s annual Thanksgiving pie competition with a coconut-pandan pie layered with lemongrass whipped cream. Later that year, her father, who lives in Seattle, where Tran grew up, was rushed to the hospital after experiencing chest pains, prompting Tran to move back to the Pacific Northwest. While caring for her dad, whom she credits with introducing her to the French pastries of his colonial-era childhood in Da Nang, Vietnam, and the abundant Vietnamese bakeries around Washington State’s capital, Tran found her pandemic silver lining by launching Bánh by Lauren, a line of traditional Vietnamese desserts, enhanced with her epicurean flair, that she sold in boxes at pop-ups around town. (They swiftly became known for commanding around-the-block lines and near-immediate sellouts.) Encouraged by the response, the chef recently returned to New York to proffer her creations, including steamed bánh da lợn layer cakes, crunchy fried sesame balls, and tropical fruit macarons, her not-too-sweet take on the classic French cookie. Here, Tran talks about the role her family and her heritage play in her toothsome treats. Exquisite Leaf-Shaped Incense, Made from Japanese Washi Paper The Nihon Shoki, one of the oldest written records of Japanese history, traces the origins of incense in the nation to a single log of agarwood that washed onto the rocky coast of Awaji, an island southwest of Osaka, during the sixth century. The region became the epicenter of the aromatic substance’s artisanal production, and today manufactures around 70 percent of the country’s incense, primarily in the form of small, fragrant wood pieces that mimic that storied slice of timber, and sticks or cones, formed out of incense paste. In 2019, the fragrance masters at Kunjudo, a 128-year-old incense-maker based on the island, introduced another form of the sweet-smelling matter via Ha Ko, a brand that offers delicate, leaf-shaped incense made from Japanese washi paper. This ’80s Summer–Inspired Fragrance Line Evokes the Era’s Popsicles, Pool Toys, and Speedos The two-year-old experimental radio website Poolsuite deftly mixes AOL-era computer graphics with disco-driven beats, channeling the cool optimism of the 1980s. Now, just in time for the post-vaccine summer that seemingly everyone’s been waiting for, the site’s founder, Marty Bell, teamed up with Miami-based entrepreneurs Dakota Green and Lach Hall to expand its offering into the physical realm with Vacation, a new line of sun-care products and a corresponding perfume. In Tokyo, Cocktails Are Both a Culture and a Craft For three years, Tokyo-based British journalist Nicholas Coldicott visited approximately four bars a night, conducting research on the Japanese capital’s premier drinks. Some 800 libations later, Coldicott, who has covered the region’s beverage scene for more than a decade, poured his learnings into a new book, Tokyo Cocktails (Cider Mill Press), a collection of more than 100 drink recipes enhanced with stories about the city’s individual cocktail history, traditions, and virtuosos. “In no other country do you encounter such extreme thinking about the science of technique,” Coldicott says of the bar culture he has encountered there. “This seems uniquely Japanese.” The Media That Shapes Claus Sendlinger and His Slow Hospitality Brand Several years ago, Claus Sendlinger began contemplating ways to address his concerns about overdevelopment in the boutique hotel industry, the one he helped nurture with Design Hotels, an international network of independent, style-focused properties, which he founded in 1993 and led as CEO until 2018. Fascinated by various mindful practices he observed germinating across society—such as the Slow Food movement, adaptive reuse, and regenerative agriculture—the German entrepreneur found himself shifting away from the man-made design and technological innovations that drove his earlier work, and toward a more considered notion of travel. His philosophizing resulted in his co-founding, with consultant Peter Conrads, of Slow, a hospitality venture dedicated to creating places that draw upon their locations’ culture, environment, and history as a means to help visitors reconnect with nature, with others, and with themselves. To bring each property to life, Sendlinger assembles a transnational collective of designers, farmers, artists, chefs, and architects whose work engages with slowness and well-being.
The company’s first project, completed in 2016, transformed an agricultural plot in Ibiza into an elegant, contemporary take on an agriturismo (farmhouse retreat) called La Granja. The working farm practices regenerative agriculture, and teaches visitors how it benefits the planet through workshops and community-based projects. (The initiative is taking a break this year, but plans to reopen in another location soon.) Additional properties include Mexico’s Tulum Treehouse, a five-room guesthouse with an open-air restaurant and ceramics studio, and an ancient grains bakery in Berlin’s Mitte district. Upcoming projects range from a multi-building retreat in Lisbon’s historic Graça neighborhood to a buzzing creative campus (the site of Slow’s headquarters) along Berlin’s Spree River. A blend of artist residencies, classes, exhibitions, and collaborations with area arts and environmental organizations further connect visitors with the literal and figurative landscapes surrounding each property.
Sendlinger eschews online booking and social media, preferring to investigate ways to enhance Slow (an acronym for Sensitive, Local, Organic, and Wise) in the physical realm. We recently asked him about his media diet, which focuses on stories about the built and natural environment and apps that help him slow down. How Tom van Puyvelde Transformed a Berlin Bathhouse Into an Office Rooted in History and Place Slow’s headquarters sits within Marina Marina, a sprawling multi-building campus located just outside Berlin’s city center. When it officially opens, next spring, the grounds will serve as a hub intended to encourage the cross-pollination of creative work and ideas, hosting an array of exhibitions, performances, and public and private events. A mix of new construction and renovation of the site’s former Lichtenberg Municipal River Baths, a public bathing facility that opened in 1927 and was later turned into the base of the East German customs bureau, the project includes four central structures: a hotel, a performance venue, a cafeteria and restaurant, and the Platte, a co-working space that holds Slow’s offices, which its staff moved into earlier this year. How This Antwerp Designer Uses Cork to Create Meditative Spaces of Silence Wizened cork oak trees carpet the gently swelling highlands of Portugal’s Alentejo region, where Cédric Etienne, co-founder of the Antwerp-based design practice Studio Corkinho, is transforming a cork farm into an alternative healing retreat that will open in 2024 under the Slow hospitality banner. The project builds upon Etienne’s fascination with cork, a biodegradable, renewable resource with sound-absorbing properties that his firm uses as a primary material and source of inspiration. (He first became enamored with the medium after witnessing a cork harvest, a meditative tradition of stripping the bark from trees that takes place once every nine years.) Through the studio’s objects and environments, such as the multipurpose cork-filled Still Room (2020), built inside a 19th-century building in Antwerp that hosts events including yoga classes and tea ceremonies, Etienne aims to develop an “architecture of silence”—providing quiet, meaningful spaces that allow people to “listen to their inner voices without distraction, like [in] a Buddist monastery,” as he puts it. Here, Etienne talks about how he came to revere cork as a building material, and about its power to shape silence. This Mexican Fragrance Brand Borrows Its Notes From Local Vegetation “Scent and architecture both take people on sensory journeys,” says architect Héctor Esrawe. “More and more, I believe in curating three-hundred-and-sixty-degree experiences—ones that link the built [environment] with the olfactory.” Esrawe’s multitrack career creates the means to do exactly that: In addition to running his Mexico City–based design practice, Esrawe Studio, he oversees Xinú (pronounced “she-new”), a perfumery he co-founded in 2016 with architect Ignacio Cadena and his wife, Verónica Peña. The firm is named after the word for nose in Otomi, an indigenous Mexican language, and has since developed five unisex scents with Mexican perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux (the mind behind Clinique’s Happy fragrance) as well as evocative candles, incense, soap, and hand cream. This Berlin Craft Bakery Brings Ancient Grains Into a Contemporary Context A restored 19th-century brick factory in Berlin’s Mitte district houses Sofi, a craft bakery created by the hospitality company Slow in collaboration with Danish chef and restaurateur Frederik Bille Brahe. Opened at the end of last year, it aims to preserve and celebrate the natural flavors of ancient grains through honest, low-intervention baking performed by an international team of young bakers headed by Marisa Williams, who trained under master baker Chad Robertson at San Francisco’s Tartine. “Our hands are in dough all day, mixing flour, water, and sourdough culture,” she says. “But beyond that, there’s really not much handling. Working with something so alive, we leave the finished product to develop on its own.” A Storied Japanese Watermill Produces the Primary Ingredient in This All-Natural Incense In the early 20th century, locals from Yame, a small city in Fukuoka Prefecture on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, dug a canal and built a watermill that served traditional businesses such as paper-making and rice-milling. At its peak, the region boasted 40 watermills that manufactured cedar-leaf powder, a central ingredient of incense—until electric-powered factories began replacing them in the 1970s to meet the needs of mass production. Baba Watermill is the only mill still producing the raw material. It’s owned by 73-year-old Takeshi Baba, who inherited the business from his father and feels a profound responsibility to continue the century-old practice. As artificial fragrances, colors, and chemicals came onto the market, Takeshi grew increasingly frustrated that the fruits of his labor kept ending up in a garish rainbow of inferior commercial incense. So in 2000, he started making his own. Traditional Self-Care Alternatives, According to Some of the World’s Healthiest Cultures Frustrated by the high cost of wellness in America, Brooklyn-based journalist Annie Daly set out to find meaningful alternatives to bath salts and body creams by immersing herself in some of the world’s happiest, healthiest cultures. She queried locals in Norwegian fjords, Jamaican organic farms, and Japanese Buddhist pilgrimage treks, listening to Hawaiian storytellers and learning to do nothing while embedded with Brazil’s hammock culture. Daly documented these and other findings in her forthcoming book, Destination Wellness: Global Secrets for Better Living Wherever You Are (Chronicle Prism), out May 11. What may sound like a travel writer’s cushy, decidedly pre-Covid boondoggle in fact offers up low-cost, deeply rooted customs that reveal how living well is less about exclusive products than intentional, inclusive choices. How Snøhetta Translated the Ethos of Bronx-Based Chef Collective Ghetto Gastro Into an Experimental Kitchen Three years ago, on New Year’s Eve in Havana, artist José Parlá introduced Craig Dykers, a founding partner of the architecture firm Snøhetta, to Jon Gray, one-third of the Bronx-based chef troupe Ghetto Gastro. The two began what would become an ongoing conversation about the intersection of food and the built environment, a dialogue now manifest in the real world at the newly completed Burnside, an intimate, flexible café and culinary event space for the Tokyo creative agency En One. (Health restrictions have prevented Burnside from kicking off its programming schedule, which will be solidified once the pandemic lockdown lifts.)
Ghetto Gastro is a food collective that uses cooking to activate conversations around food inequality, race, and class. The group served as both muse and close collaborator on the project’s design, which was envisioned by a Snøhetta team led by Anne-Rachel Schiffmann and Mzwakhe Ndlovu, with help from the local firm Kooo Architects. We spoke with Dykers about how the designers expressed the ethos of Ghetto Gastro, which will be among the first groups to hold court in the Burnside kitchen, once it’s safe to do so. This Japanese Creative Agency Aims to Shape Culture Through a New Versatile Venue Masayuki Nishimoto, founder of the Japanese creative agency En One, knew he wanted to develop an experimental culinary space in Tokyo long before he met Ghetto Gastro’s Jon Gray on the street during Art Basel Hong Kong in 2019. His concept for Burnside took shape that week over a dinner hosted by Gray’s team at the restaurant-cum-listening room Potato Head, where Nishimoto sensed an opportunity to connect the Bronx collective and other like-minded creatives with his community back home. Today, this spirit of cross-pollination shines through the finished space. In his mind, Nishimoto says, Burnside is “all about the connection between Jon and myself. I’d always rather work with people I like. That’s all that matters.” The Scentless Eternal Flowers Made by Japanese Artist Makoto Azuma If absence makes the heart grow fonder, what does it do to the nose? Tokyo-based floral artist Makoto Azuma, who has sent his outrageous bouquets down the Dries Van Noten runway, up into outer space, and under the sea, addresses this and other existential questions in a site-specific work made for Burnside from preserved plants that are wholly divested of scent. Part of his “Block Flowers” series, which considers our collective desire to stop time and lock in an object’s allure, the bold, six-panel piece hangs on a blackened wood wall above the space’s banquette alcove. Ghetto Gastro Brings Its Food-Centric Message of Inclusion and Unity to Japan Jon Gray, along with chefs Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker, form the Bronx-based culinary collective Ghetto Gastro, whose work celebrates their native borough while seeking to elevate its stature within global culture through immersive, food-centric experiences. (They got their start back in 2012, cooking for house parties and events; listen to Gray share his journey on Ep. 2 of our Time Sensitive podcast, recorded in early 2019.) Through imaginative storytelling, experiential activations, and product development for clients including Airbnb, Cartier, Marvel Studios, and Tate Modern, the group’s projects spark transformational dialogue around inclusion and economic empowerment. In Tokyo, Devon Turnbull’s Custom Audio System Delivers More Than Superlative Sound Dominated by companies such as Sony, Sennheiser, and Bose, which leverage technology to make ever-smaller components, the global audio equipment market is expected to grow to an estimated $28.5 billion by the end of this year. On the flip side, there are proudly D.I.Y. audio designers like Devon Turnbull, who with his brand Ojas creates high-end sound systems from his basement and a studio near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. By hand-building speakers that resemble sculptural takes on the office water cooler, Turnbull has amassed a global following of serious audiophiles. At the end of 2019, his custom audio solutions for the Brooklyn club-café Public Records caught the ear of En One’s Masayuki Nishimoto. He sent Turnbull a WhatsApp message—“I love what you’re doing with sound”—followed by an invitation to Tokyo. Turnbull left the next day.