Category Archive for Food + Theme Restaurants
Sailor Moon ring from Sapphire Studios & tattoo stickers! Santiago hipster district Lastarria, De Patio restaurant.
“Moon Crystal Power, Make Up!” As a Sailor Moon fan since the 1990s, I’m delighted with my new Sapphire Studios Prism ring — from their Sailor Moon jewelry collection!
Read on for three summer outfits featuring my current favorite designers. We’ll also explore the coolest restaurant and neighborhood in Santiago, Chile, where I recently spent a few days.
Altogether now, let’s sing: “Fighting evil by moonlight. Winning love by daylight. Never running from a real fight. She is the one named Sailor Moon!”
I’m sure many of you adore the 90s Japanese manga and anime series, which follows the intergalactic adventures of a schoolgirl and her friends. They transform into the fierce Sailor Soldiers (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter), who fight to “right wrongs and triumph over evil.”
Inspired by this universe, Sapphire Studios released a luxurious Sailor Moon jewelry collection. The designs include a crescent-shaped floral necklace, and this Prism ring based on the “moon crisis” heart compact in the series.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Sapphire Studios Design produces fine jewelry for those who love alternative, vintage, Goth and Japanese influences (much like myself). Everything is individually crafted with exquisite crystals and gemstones — these are accessories to treasure, and the quality shines through.
I loved unboxing my Prism ring, which came in this elegant case and velvet ring holder. As you can see, this isn’t “cosplay” or “costume” jewelry. Sapphire Studios makes high-end works of art, which extends to the package presentation.
The Sailor Moon ring is a fabulous statement, yet comfortable and subtle enough to wear daily, with all types of outfits. In tribute to Usagi / Serena, I put my hair in “odango” buns, and wore a crescent moon temporary tattoo from Capumon (more about them below). My dress is Liz Lisa x My Melody; it’s currently for sale on my Depop shop.
My cut-out lace black capelet is by Pheren Couture, creator of dark and decadent luxury accessories. Pheren makes earrings, chokers and other hand-sewn fashion with inspirations from fantasy, history, and Gothic aesthetics. In love with how the material drapes and shimmers, featuring a high collar and wings over the shoulders.
In addition to the Sailor Moon collection, Sapphire Studios has jewelry for men and women based on Zelda, Final Fantasy, Kingdon Hearts, Death Note and other Jpop favorites. They are especially known for their alternative engagement rings, and skull series (I own the black and crystals “Aphrodite” ring, as you can see in the back.)
Sapphire Studios even lets you design your own ring, or customize one according to your preferences and budget. Each is made to order, in the size and specifications that you choose. My Sailor Moon ring, for example, can be made with a rose gold, silver or yellow gold band, and with various diamonds or accent stones (opal, blue topaz, pink sapphire).
The level of detail is wonderful, as you can see from the crescent moon and ribbon design on the sides. “In the name of the moon,” I encourage you to see more from Sapphire Studios.
I’m sure you are curious about my Sailor Moon forehead decal… These are temporary tattoos by Capumon! Take “a trip to Nemesis” and wear the Black Moon Clan’s symbol (the upside-down one). Or choose Crystal Tokyo, and join the squad with a golden shimmering crescent.
These Sailor Moon tattoo stickers are a must-have for any fan. Each package contains 56 moons — perfect to share with friends. It’s easy to put on the tattoos: just cut out the 1 x 1 moon, remove the plastic back, and press it to your skin for 15-30 seconds with a warm, damp towel. I’ll be wearing these all the time, thanks to Capumon — be sure to check them out, and they ship orders worldwide.
And now, another summertime outfit. Popular in the 1990s, slip dresses are perfect for warm weather days. This red silk slip dress is by Print All Over Me, designed by gentlethrills — how about that roaring jaguar and animal print pattern!
My black boater straw hat is by Lack of Color; shop more from them below:
I’m all about holographic space-age materials, and can’t get enough of these Irregular Choice boots. Love the reflective silver leather, with black ribbon laces and a zipper up the sides. I think these ankle boots are made for walking on the moon.
I have been fond of Irregular Choice’s fanciful footwear for over a decade now. They have quirky collaborations with Disney, Toy Story, Star Wars and more, as you can see below (click the images for details)…
Photos of Outfit #2 by my first mate Naomi Rubin, who is currently releasing a weekly comic, Moonsprout Station. It’s “a queer fantasy comic about growing community and relationships while exploring and studying a world full of islands floating in the sky,” rendered in compelling watercolors and linework.
I reunited with her at the VanCAF (Vancouver Comic Arts Festival). We have more Pirate adventures coming soon in Asia… stay tuned to see what we’re up to next.
Close-up on my Gothic enamel pins, from Life Club. These accessories are the perfect way to decorate a leather jacket (or any item of clothing), and the mottos speak to my inner emo kid. Damage and Joy, Sad Lifestyle, Never Smile… you got that right.
Chaos is Me (in the shape of a coffin). Misery is All the Rage. It’s safe to say that UK-based Life Club rocks! These enamel pins come in gold or silver edging, and they have tons of designs with rock, metal and Goth themes / words / shapes.
Outfit #3 brings us to Santiago, Chile. My black-white-red color scheme matched well with my chic Wimdu apartment rental. I enjoyed staying in a local’s area of Santiago, right across from Ecuador subway station and surrounded by grocery stores (I picked up sardines and avocados, of course). It was easy to book this flat using Wimdu’s site, and communicate with the kind host Beatriz. Plus, the WiFi and all amenities were included for a far lower rate than if we had gotten a hotel.
I didn’t have too much time to spend in the Chilean capital, so I headed straight to Barrio Lastarria. As you can see, it’s known as the youth / hipster / art district of Santiago. This is a great neighborhood for strolling and people-watching, and there’s plenty to do here (street food, bars, theaters, art installations).
(All Chile photos by Joey Wong.)
Attack of the lobster-aliens! La Starria is a colorful area with unexpected murals, and small markets where locals sell organic and handmade products.
– My Japanese top is by Underground England (if you can read katakana, you’ll know that it says Post Punk).
– My Girardi Meredith hold-up knee socks are from UK Tights.
Just like Anthony Bourdain (RIP), I’m all about finding cheap and local eats wherever I go. LaStarria is full of tasty and creative food, for a handful of Chilean pesos.
Locals adore the gelato from Emporio La Rosa (I got scoops of berry and dark chocolate). I also tried the new Buffalo Waffles, a genius waffle wrap with cheddar and vegetables inside.
Especially on weekends, you’ll hear music wherever you walk in Barrio LaStarria. We came across flamboyant dancers in the streets, a slightly annoying clown-mime, and these electronic DJs at an outdoor public lounge.
What else is there to do in LaStarria? Browse the alternative boutiques, which sell kawaii cute and rock / Goth fashion. And enjoy the urban art all around. In addition to these giant wall paintings, I encountered a moving lights installation that anyone could enter for free.
I was pleasantly surprised by the hip artwork I found in Santiago. You may recall that I also went to the vibrant street art city of Valparaiso. The takeaway: Chile is one cool country.
We wrapped up our Santiago trip with the most creative meal I’ve had in a long time. I heard rave reviews about a young restaurant, De Patio, and was keen to experience it for myself. It took a while to locate the hidden entrance (barely-marked large wooden doors), which opened up to a spacious, modern interior with a courtyard. We sat the bar counter in front of the open kitchen, and watched Chef Benjamin Nast work his magic.
(DePatio restaurant address: Av Vitacura 3520, Vitacura, Región Metropolitana, Chile)
Chef Benjamin Nast has an impressive resume — he worked in top restaurants in Chile, Paris, and Barcelona (at the Michelin-starred Dos Palillos owned by Albert Raurich, the former executive chef El Bulli). In 2017, he opened up De Patio in Vitacura, to highlight Chilean products along with Asian flavors and techniques.
Sit at the counter, and let him surprise you with an 8 or 12 course menu. Everything he creates is daring and artistic; delicious without being pretentious. Our first taste was an eye-opener: snails from the garden with soy shitake mushrooms, tapioca, and flowers.
We enjoyed chatting with the tattooed Chef Benjamin. He explained that De Patio Restaurante’s circular logo is inspired by Woody Woodpecker, “the crazy bird” — and spoke passionately about how the team experiments to make surprising dishes from seasonal ingredients.
It was a treat to watch Chef Benjamin prepare each plate in front of us, while The Doors and Janis Joplin howled from the speakers. Between plates, I sipped on the perfect healing drink made just for me: a pisco sour with eucalyptus, honey, ginger and lemon.
Above: zucchini noodles, clam, picked cucumber, almonds and grated avocado — wow.
He showcased his finesse for Japanese cooking with a shabu shabu: fresh fish, scallops and still-moving prawns in a delicious dashi broth.
Dessert was once again a feast for the eyes and tastebuds. Above is a refreshing cucumber granita and strawberry coulis with freeze-dried vodka jelly. He also served up crispy potato ice cream sandwiches with thyme, whiskey, toffee, egg — we ate them so fast that there aren’t any photos!
Cheers to Chef Benjamin Nast for the outstanding omakase that breaks the conventions of gourmet cuisine. As he writes in De Patio’s manifesto: “What matters most is making delicious food that is both simple and provocative. We believe in tradition as well as contradiction. We love food and are constantly searching for freedom.”
The fun team at De Patio is constantly changing up the menu, and their passion is infectious. Prices are extremely reasonable, and I’m certain that the restaurant will be racking up more awards — so be sure to go, when you’re in Santiago.
Thanks to LATAM Airlines for letting me bring these “only in South America” stories to you. We still have more from Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo to come, as well as the isle of stone-faced aliens… If you missed the previous posts, come take a look at the S. America category here.
And for more summer style inspiration, check out the images below >>
Synthwave San Francisco! Turbo Drive retrowave club, design Hotel Clift by Philippe Starck, Alexander’s Steakhouse.
Fire and brimstone… Talk about a warm welcome back to San Francisco!
I recently took a weekend trip to see some of my favorite ghouls. Since I’m currently all about retrowave music, this was also the perfect excuse to check out SF’s synthwave party scene.
San Francisco has long been a hub for subcultures: from the Beatniks to the hippies and onward. Right now, it’s the site of the longest-running and best synthwave party on the planet, Turbo Drive.
Keep reading for a firsthand report of the outrun fun, featuring a performance by French artist Danger (above!)
First, let me introduce you to my favorite new necklace — this minimal choker from Aurum by Guðbjörg. They’re an Icelandic jewelry designer, handcrafting every piece from silver from their workshop in Reykjavík.
My necklace is from the Aurum Asterias collection, which is inspired by the country’s unique, dark ocean waves. I love this design because it brings back fond memories of when I visited the black sand beaches of Iceland.
As you know, I’m all about supporting independent designers that produce exquisite pieces. Aurum melds traditional craftsmanship with modern design, and prioritizes sustainability with fair-trade materials and environmentally friendly packaging.
For a special piece, I encourage you to view their collections that include rings, bracelets, earrings and other accessories.
See more from Aurum below:
I had fun staying at San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, which was designed by Philippe Starck (one of my favorite modern furniture/interiors designers) and Ian Schrager (co-founder of the legendary NY nightclub Studio 54).
Monkeying around is encouraged, in this hip hotel. Guests can sit on Starck’s Big Arm Chair and take photos… that is, if they can manage to clamor up there! (Images by Lauren Levitt).
Clift Hotel San Francisco has a mind-bending lobby, featuring a collection of avantgarde chairs. There are seats designed by Ray and Charles Eames, a coffee table by Salvador Dali, and a surreal stool by Roberto Matta who was inspired by René Magritte. (Remember when I went to his surrealist museum in Belgium?).
Clift San Francisco is part of Morgans Hotel Group, hence the eclectic, boutique luxury vibe of the space.
We had cocktails in Clift’s historic Redwood Room; legend says it was carved from the wood of a single redwood tree. The bar has been restored by Starck, with an enormous etched glass bar and plasma TV screens that broadcast digital art.
(I’ll show you more from the hotel further down… but now, it’s time to party.)
Many of my friends and I are currently loving the neo-80s sounds of synthwave: think Stranger Things and John Carpenter. I’ve long wanted to attend Turbo Drive, the first and only San Francisco dance club dedicated to retrowave / outrun.
As the party describes it: “This is the soundtrack for carefree drives along the beach, Day-Glo legwarmer aerobics, sunsets over laser grids, outrunning the cops in a cyberpunk dystopia, falling in love with your first robot crush, and occasionally summoning the unholy forces from the depths with a keytar.”
Turbo Drive takes place regularly in the space about DNA Lounge. I’m hanging with Meikee Magnetic in the DJ booth; he runs the party with Danny Delorean and Devon Dossett. (They also do other events around the city, including Bootie SF and Neon Black).
The club’s playlist is space-synth perfection. The DJs spin Carpenter Brut, Perturbator, Dance with the Dead, Com Truise, Gost, Robert Parker… the soundtrack of night-driving in space.
Then, Danger took the stage! The French musician electrified the crowd with his glowing eyes, behind a mask reminiscent of Daft Punk or Aural Vampire’s Raveman.
Danger had tremendous energy throughout his set, never letting up on the pounding hyperdrive. He drew in a packed room, and by the end, everyone was headbanging hard to the retro-futuristic sounds of the 80s.
Thanks to Meikee for inviting me to Turbo Drive. It was great to catch up with friends, and experience this intergalactic club scene. If you come to San Fran, hopefully you too can check one of their synthwave events.
Here’s another look at my “Kung Fury” outfit of the day. I’m constantly wearing this 90s-style red beret by Mary Wyatt London.
My Dragon midi skirt is from Print All Over Me, which lets you print custom designs on 200 high-quality templates. You can also order designs by top artists; my skirt is by gentlethrills.
San Francisco’s Hotel Clift is made for photo-shooting. Lauren and I got access to one of the mod suites, with high ceilings and a dining room with furniture designed by Philippe Starck.
Mirrors, mirrors everywhere. (As you can see, PAOM skirt is double-sided!)
The suite at Clift San Francisco is a study in sumptuous textures. Silk, leather, velvet, chrome and Venetian Murano glass.
The relaxed opulence fit with my embroidered high heel shoes by Le Babe. (More of their designs featured below:)
One of my friends rented a Clift suite for a birthday party. This would also be a fabulous spot to ring in the New Year, as it’s centrally located in downtown San Fran.
Lauren’s black latex dress and cat mask matched the playful energy of the hotel. (On each level, you’ll find a big circular mirror and these reflective chairs).
Don’t miss out on the 16th floor, featuring this lavender spiral staircase and glass lights.
At an art hotel like The Clift, adventure awaits… Shout-out to the staff for welcoming us here, and their kind comments on our various outfits!
On our first night, I enjoyed a brilliant meal at Alexander’s Steakhouse with Dr John Skutlin, who was in town to speak at a University of San Francisco conference about tattoo culture in Asia. He says, “Alexander’s elegant and sophisticated interior and warm ambient lighting set the mood for an evening of gastronomic delights guided by their expert staff.”
The restaurant is a traditional steak house, yet they innovate with fusion dishes and creative cocktails. My gin curry cocktail above is a perfect example; decorated with edible flowers, this Indian inspired drink is wonderfully refreshing.
(John and I are wearing rings by Alex Streeter, our favorite jewelry designer. The legendary silversmith created the Angel Heart Ring, which was memorialized in the movie starring Robert De Niro as Lucifer. This pentagram design comes in several variations; John’s ring has two silver devils on the side. I’m wearing Alex Streeter’s Ouroboros and Bone Claw rings.”)
John continues, “Of course, steak is the name of the game, but before our massive cuts of beef we were treated to hon Hamachi “shots” – a line of shotglasses each filled with avocado, serrano, cilantro, and of course raw yellowtail, all topped off with a splash of yuzu soy sauce for a refreshing aperitif.”
The server quipped that we could throw back a dozen of these and still want more… as you can see from my expression, he was correct! Other restaurants have copied this dish, but Alexander’s hamachi shots are the original ones.
“Might I say that I’m Old Fashioned?” Our server brought us an extensive wine and cocktail list to peruse.
John says, “The libations were almost too numerous to choose from, but the double rye Manhattan was perfectly balanced between the vermouth and the heavy dose of rye. Everyone knows about aging wine and whiskey, but cocktails can be mixed and then aged as well, allowing the ingredients to fuse together in subtle and surprising ways, as I found with the aged Rob Roy cocktail Alexander’s served up.”
Alexander’s Steakhouse has a meticulously curated beef program, highlighting small farms from the US, Australia, and Japan. They are also one of the only restaurants in the US certified to serve authentic Kobe beef.
In John’s words, “The star of the show was the steak. Wagyu Japanese beef has become a household name in the US, but here we found a menu with rare and intriguing selections, including Hokkaido privately farmed beef from cattle raised in below freezing temperatures, and extremely limited olive-fed beef from Shodoshima Island in Kagawa, Japan.”
Our server recommended the aged T-bone, which John is cutting into. The meat was tender and juicy, and at a perfect medium rare: total umami. We accompanied it with sides of wild mushrooms and mashed potatoes, all beautifully prepared and not too heavy.
At the bottom, you can see the Hidagyu from Gifu Prefecture that we sampled. John raves, “It was richly marbled, a hallmark of Wagyu beef, and practically melted in our mouths. The beef was served with what can only be described as a “flight” of twelve different salts from around the world, some smoky, some almost sweet. Each brought out a new dimension of flavor from the meat.”
The staff impressed us with their knowledge, and treated us with little extras such as a splash of red wine to pair with the steaks. They also created special cocktails for us based on our favorite tastes — mine had yuzu in it, and was spot on!
We ended with a warm, gooey souffle and lemon poppy cake. Fresh out of the oven and not overly sweet; exactly how I like my desserts.
Alexander’s Steakhouse was a five-star experience, all around. The dishes, drinks, atmosphere and especially the service deserve the highest rating. For a special night out or celebration in San Francisco, I’d book a table at Alexander’s without hesitation.
More to come from San Francisco — including shopping at occult shops, and the Death Guild Goth party!
It was such a treat to reunite with friends that I met in Tokyo, over 10 years ago! I’m sure you recognize them from this blog over the years. Have you ever had a reunion like ours?
Casa de Campo resort review: our luxurious Dominican Republic hotel! La Romana all-inclusive, restaurants.
Winter… what’s that? In early January, I escaped the cold by travelling to Casa de Campo Resort & Villas in the Dominican Republic!
With 7000 acres of palm trees, warm beaches, a marina, golf courses and activities — it’s easy to see why Casa de Campo is one of the Leading Hotels of the World.
My photographer and long-time friend Molly Weingart accompanied me to the Dominican Republic. We wanted to be surprised, so we didn’t do much research beforehand… and our jaws dropped when we saw this exquisite property. Casa de Campo isn’t your typical all-inclusive; it’s the most beautiful and luxurious resort on the island.
How to get here: Casa de Campo is a resort and community located in La Romana, on the southeast coast of the DR. Most international flights land at Punta Cana or Santo Domingo airport. From there, you can either take another short flight to La Romana airport, or have the hotel pick you up (the drive is about an hour long).
Casa de Campo address: Carretera La Romana – Higuey, La Romana 22000, Dominican Republic
Casa de Campo was established in 1974, but recent renovations have modernized the buildings with an airy, warm Caribbean feel.
From the moment we arrived, we were in love with the peaceful, authentic feeling of this five-star resort. There’s nothing “touristy” or “Americanized” about the experience. Molly instantly bonded with the staff, who chatted with her in Spanish, and were always a step ahead of our needs.
Casa de Campo has a variety of rooms to choose from. Our home base was this spacious suite, with our own patio overlooking the tropical grounds.
(CDC has private villas for rent too. In the next post, we’ll give you a glimpse of this rock-star living.)
As a “Mario Kart” fan, I was tickled to learn that every guest received a personal golf cart! Molly and I had our own little 4-passenger mini car, marked with our room number. This way, we could easily get from place to place (remember, the grounds span thousands of acres).
The carts also make sense because Casa de Campo is hands-down the best golf resort in the country, with three award-winning Pete Dye courses including “Teeth of the Dog.”
It was quite the adventure to learn how to put the golf cart in reverse, turn on the lights, and avoid oncoming traffic. For the safety of everyone on the resort, I let Molly do the driving!
We went to the Dominican Republic in January, the pleasantly warm and dry season. The east coast storm brought brief rainshowers, but these let up quickly by the afternoons.
Even if it’s raining, there’s plenty to do indoors. Our comfortable room had fast wifi, a flat screen TV, and giant bathroom with a separate dressing room. I loved spending time soaking in the bathtub, which came with L’Occitane bath products including an effervescent cube.
There’s also the option of going shopping. Casa de Campo’s lobby opens up into a courtyard with several fashion boutiques. We loved the colorful selection of designer resort wear, and were tempted to get jelly spiked platform shoes by Carmen Sol. (She also makes the studded sandals below.)
Here’s another look at my “tropical Goth” outfit, perfect for a relaxing getaway in the Caribbean.
The sun is out — time to explore! Casa de Campo’s all inclusive package is a stellar deal, especially if you’re a foodie and enjoy trying new activities.
With this package, guests get full unlimited access to the amenities including the swimming pools, fitness center, bars, and seven restaurants. You also get to experience horseback riding, skeet shooting, tennis and water sports (we’ll show you the fun we had, in the next post!)
Can’t go wrong with the main pool deck, featuring modern cabanas and an in-water bar. The resort’s guests were very respectful (you won’t encounter rowdy guys or noisy children), and you can always find a secluded spot to lounge.
Casa de Campo’s common areas are also beautifully designed. High ceilings, rich mahogany and native stone create a relaxing tropical vibe.
So many lounge areas to choose from! But first, a cocktail please.
The bar at La Caña is located in the main area of the resort, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The friendly bartenders quickly get to know you by name, and prepare your favorite drink with a generous pour.
La Cana bar is a popular gathering spot for guests, who come to watch the game on the big screen, dance to live music, or simply hang out on the L-shaped couches. Molly and I would often come here to grab a snack or drink, and chat with our favorite bartenders.
The Dominican Republic is known for its fruit and rum (Brugal, Barcelo, and Bermudez are local favorites). I combined these in the perfect tropical drink: freshly blended pineapple juice, with Ron Bermudez Aniversario dark rum! I also recommend their special “Coco Chanel” cocktail, a scrumptious mix of coconut puree, lime juice, white rum and black pepper.
On the right: the bartenders also brew up an addictive latte with perfect froth, served with home-baked cookies.
Unlike typical resorts, the dining at Casa de Campo is at a consistent high level. I got my “fish fix” at La Cana restaurant, and ordered Nicoise salad, grouper, and sea bass. All were prepared beautifully with Mediterranean flair.
I’m usually not a fan of buffets. However, once again, Casa de Campo reversed my expectations. Lago Restaurant served up probably the best lunch buffet I’ve ever had, with dozens of Dominican dishes to choose from.
You could have mahi mahi, chicken, and steak grilled up fresh — or choose from these bright Caribbean salads. Or try a bit of everything, as I did. The creamed pumpkin, sweet potato mash, coconut fish, and roast chicken… I’m still thinking of this meal today!
On the left, a snap of my pigeon beans and rice, chayote, avocado, and grill selections. We ended with tea and a selection of fruit and desserts; as you can see, I have a passion for passionfruit.
Too stuffed to drive? Thankfully, the hotel bellmen can give you a lift any time. We discovered it’s especially fun to ride on the backseat of a golf cart when you’re a little tipsy!
We carted to the resort’s newest addition, Minitas Beach Club. It’s located right by the ocean, and features an open-air bar with minimal lines.
Molly and I immediately took off our shoes to wade in the 23 meter infinity pool. I love the modern, upscale design of the pool deck and lounge areas.
Minitas Beach Club also encompasses a casual oceanside restaurant. We sat down to panoramic views of the sand and waves, and sipped on rum with coconut cream. (Don’t you feel relaxed, just looking at this?)
Minitas Beach Club Restaurant has a menu inspired by Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines. To match this casual beachfront, there’s an extensive selection of fish served light, clean and bright — as well as a selection of vegan and gluten-free options.
We dined on arepas, fried plantains, ceviche, and burrata. A pleasure to listen to the sounds of the ocean, while dining on colorful salads and vegetable dishes.
As you can see, there are so many different areas to explore in Casa de Campo. The community also includes The Marina, where you’ll find multi-million dollar yachts bobbing in the water. It’s a charming area with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants amidst cobblestone paths.
After window-shopping at The Marina, we went to Pubbelly Sushi for what Molly calls the best sushi of her life. (She’s planning to visit Miami, just so she can eat at their original location!) She says, “I thought they did a great job of respecting traditional dishes while playing with the creativity allowed in modern cuisine” — and I wholeheartedly agree.
Our waiter, Cezar, suggested innovative dishes such as the Tuna Pizza (with crispy tortilla, garlic aioli, and truffle oil), short ribs gyoza, and Tigueraso sushi (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, avocado). We were delighted by unexpected combinations like dates with chorizo, and brussel sprouts with miso.
Be sure to order the unique cocktails, made with Japanese spirits like umeshu, sake framboise and vodka-sake. And leave room for the berries and cream dessert of dreams.
We walked off the meal with a stroll in the Marina, and came across this metal statue. Molly’s red dress made her the perfect dance partner for the bull.
On another evening, we revisited The Marina to dine at La Casita, a Spanish fine dining establishment. (As you’ll recall, all these stunning restaurants are part of the Casa de Campo all-inclusive pack. The concierges are great at making reservations for all their guests.)
Casa de Campo is an elegant resort, and it inspired us to dress the part. We noticed that guests tend to be from European or Spanish-speaking countries, and are very stylish (I saw some beautiful jewelry, handbags and resort-wear!)
At La Casita, we ordered passionfruit rum cocktails, followed by sangria with fresh fruit. What a treat to sip these drinks under tall sail-like callings, while yachts pass by in background.
It was easy to choose our main course: seafood paella. The servers plated this beautiful mix of Spanish saffron rice and seafood at our table, and we finished up every last grain.
As we dined al-fresco, we got a visit from some furry friends. It looks like the cats want a piece of shrimp!
Finally, we rode our golf carts to Altos de Chavón, and found ourselves in a re-created 16th century Mediterranean village. This project as conceived by Dominican architect, Jose Antonio Caro, and Italian designer / cinematographer Roberto Coppa.
The quaint village includes a 5000-seat Grecian-style amphitheater that has held performances by Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesias, Sting and Carlos Santana.
Altos de Chavón is a cultural center that lets guests meet artists from all over the world. In the daytime, you can pop into studios dedicated to pottery, weaving, silk screening and other media. The village is also home to the Altos de Chavón School of Design, which is affiliated with Parsons in New York.
At night, St. Stanislaus Church glows next to sweeping views of Chavón River.
Since Altos de Chavón has a Mediterranean feel, it was fitting that we had dinner at this rustic Italian restaurant, La Piazzetta.
We entered what looked like a home in the Italian countryside, lit with candles. This sweet trio serenaded us with traditional songs, while we eyed the antipasti bar and handmade pastas.
Red wine, creamy black truffle risotto, and green pea ravioli with Parmesan… what else does one need in life? La Piazzetta’s flavors are as lovely as anything I’ve had in Italy; in fact, this was the best pasta and risotto I’ve had in a while.
We continued with filet mignon and truffles, and melt-in-your-mouth tiramisu. Trust us, Casa de Campo’s dining is outstanding and will satisfy even the most jaded foodie.
Back to La Cana bar for a nightcap, and some dancing! Every night, Casa de Campo brings in live music to the lounge. Singer Daniel Castro Arias showed us how to dance the bachata (a style of dance from the Dominican Republic).
The atmosphere got lively as more guests took to the dance floor. We watched them sing their hearts out to Toño Rosario – Dale Vieja Dale, while hopping back and forth — a memory that will always make us smile!
Casa de Campo was the perfect winter getaway to the Dominican Republic. The resort exceeded our expectations in every way, with world-class food and amenities in a picture-perfect setting. Now that I’m back in cold weather, I’m keen to return to the tropics as soon as I can.
PS: this is only Part 1 of our Caribbean adventures; stay tuned for the next story featuring the beaches and activities.
Twin Peaks themed bar & restaurant, The Black Lodge Vancouver! Strathberry East/West crossbody handbag.
Twin Peaks fans, this one’s for you. Did you know there’s a restaurant and bar in Vancouver… inspired by David Lynch’s cult TV series?
It’s called The Black Lodge, and as you’ll see, it deserves a whole lot of thumbs up.
Read on for photos of inside the Twin Peaks theme restaurant including a Red Room, cocktails named after show characters, and of course — damn fine coffee with cherry pie.
Since many of you loved my Instagram preview, I’ll also unveil my new East/West crossbody beauty from Strathberry. They’re my favorite handbag designer for obvious reasons: clean, minimal, handcrafted perfection! More about these purses below:
The Black Lodge has been a hidden gem in my hometown (Vancouver) for some time. After the success of their first location, the owners set up a second, larger restaurant on Broadway near Main Street, which I visited on David Lynch’s birthday.
My friends and I are fans of Twin Peaks, the 1990-1991 mystery TV series that returned for a season last year. It’s a favorite among Goth / horror fans, and one of director Lynch’s most celebrated works. The plot opens with the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer, and spirals into an addictive web of camp, surrealism, drama and the supernatural.
Broadway Black Lodge address: 317 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC, Canada. The old location is also open, at 630 Kingsway.
In the story, special agent Dale Cooper learns that the Ghostwood Forest holds the entrance to two extra-dimensional realms: The Black Lodge (a place of evil) and White Lodge (a place of goodness). Rob and I love how the restaurant is named after the dark, Gothic dimension.
The TV show’s lodges are connected by a room with zigzag black and white floors, red curtains, and bright spotlights. As you can see, the restaurant’s bathroom and hallway look just like the Twin Peaks Red Room!
The Black Lodge’s owners, Brad MacKinnon and Claire Wyrostok, are independent business owners who truly put their passion into their restaurants. Brad and Claire adore Twin Peaks, and when they got city approval for the restaurant’s name, the theme took on a life of its own.
Today, Peakers (hardcore fans) even make Lynchian pilgrimages up from California, to see the show’s Pacific Northwest shooting locations and visit this bar.
Outside the new location, you can see The Black Lodge sign beckoning mysteriously.
The atmosphere recalls the words of Deputy Hawk: “There is a legend of a place called the Black Lodge… every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self… But it is said, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”
Rob was amply prepared to cross the dark threshold, with his custom ring and tattoos featuring the Twin Peaks sigil! He’s also wearing a t-shirt based on the series, which you can see in the image below.
The Black Lodge has an extensive food and drinks menu. We eyed the list of over a dozen special cocktails, all named after Twin Peaks references.
Above, Rob is holding a “Blue Rose” mixed with Beefeater gin, curacao and Aquafava. On the left is Ben’s “Double R” — coffee infused genever and sherry. Indeed, it was a “damn good coffee,” “black as midnight on a moonless night!”
I prefer drinks on the smokier, not-sweet, “old man” side. My personal favorites were the “Fire in the Mill” (rosemary gin, scotch, ginger, lemon, bitters), “Wally Brando” (brandy, chartreuse and grenadine), and “Ghostwood Forest” (infused gin and tonic with muddled rosemary).
For something on the sweeter side, try the outstanding Lynch-burg Lemonade on the left (triple sec, Jack Daniel’s and mint).
The Black Lodge serves hearty comfort food, all of it vegan or vegetarian. I tried the B.A.L.T sandwich, and it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The “bacon” is house-made with coconut, and I couldn’t tell it from the real deal. Paired with avocado, sprouts, tomato, cheddar, dijon and garlic aioli… it was creamy crunchy heaven.
There are many indulgent dishes that you can share, including curry poutine, nachos, vegan drumsticks.
In Twin Peaks, inhabitants of the Lodge feasted on garmonbozia — which looks like creamed corn, but is made up of pain and sorrow. While this isn’t on the menu, a similar-looking “Tot-Chos” is available (above): spuds smothered in corn, beans, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream and cheddar. We ate it up like it was the nectar of the undead!
If you’re in Vancouver, Canada, there’s no better place to spend a spooky night with friends than The Black Lodge. (All photos by Ben and La Carmina.)
My black cut-away top is by Michi; more from this avantgarde activewear label below:
That night, we made a toast in memory of our friend Rose (June 26 1988- January 11 2017). Can’t believe it has almost been a year since we went to her memorial in Sechelt.
Rob introduced Rose to the original Twin Peaks, and she devoured each episode. She always had a blast dressing up and going to underground, off-the-beaten path places with us. Rose would have adored The Black Lodge (I even had old photos of her in what look like a Red Room), and it certainly felt like she was there with us.
We’ll try to keep the tradition going and meet up every year around this time, to celebrate her life.
The Black Lodge fills up fast on weekends, so I encourage you to come early and nab one of the peaked booths. Weekdays are no problem.
Even if you know nothing about Twin Peaks, the restaurant / bar has a warm, easygoing, Canadian cabin feeling that anyone can enjoy.
As detective Dale Cooper would say, “If you ever get up this way, that cherry pie is worth a stop.” The Black Lodge’s “Damn Fine Cherry Pie” is a fresh-baked slice filled with tart fruit, served warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Two thumbs up!
The bar has a large selection of spirits, and various beers on tap. Go for the Black Lodge Lager, an amber-style Baltic brew. (Note that the restaurant’s font and logo are reminiscent of the one on the Twin Peaks map.)
The owners Claire and Brad are lovely, and put genuine care into the service and decor. I smiled when I saw a VHS Twin Peaks collection, guarded by owls. Below, there’s as tribute to Canadiana kitsch; those “Cheezies” are our national version of Cheetos.
The Black Lodge restaurant gets an earnest thumbs up from all of us! If you’re in Vancouver, Canada, do check out their newly established Broadway location.
“The Owls are not what they seem…” But “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song, and there’s always music in the air.” (Twin Peaks quotes)
For more info, check out the The Black Lodge website that includes opening hours, menus, addresses etc.
I dressed a bit like Audrey Horne for our Twin Peaks dinner. Played by Sherilyn Fenn, she’s the daughter of a wealthy businessman and enamored with FBI Special Agent Cooper. I wore red lipstick, a plaid skirt and deadly heels in her honor.
I completed the outfit with my new Strathberry purse. They just released this East/West – Black with Edge bag… isn’t it a beauty? It arrived in a beautiful black box with gold font, and matching dust bag.
The 2018 East/West has the brand’s signature structured silhouette, branded hardware, and bar closure.
Strathberry’s East / West dual-length strap is an ingenious design. You can extend one end and wear it cross-body… or double it up, and sling it over your shoulder! The gold chain is beautiful quality and easy to adjust, yet the bag is lightweight.
All of their handbags are made in Spain with the finest calf leather, and lined with a suede-like microfiber. The flap has an easy yet secure closure: you slip it under the horizontal bar, and it secures magnetically.
I also have the Strathberry midi tote, from their original collection. You can find this style below:
I’m quite choosy about handbags, and the popular luxury labels don’t appeal to me (no monograms please!).
On the other hand, Strathberry is an independent, artisan company based in Edinburgh. Their purses have clean lines and exquisite luxury detailing, which appeal to my love of minimalism, and increasing focus on “slow fashion” over mass production.
Here’s a peek inside my East/West White Edge purse. There are two compartments with one interior pocket, and the accordion-style sides can expand. It’s the perfect size for me: compact, yet spacious enough to hold all my necessities.
Strathberry just released multiple new designs for 2018, and I couldn’t be happier with their East/West crossbody meets shoulder bag! The purse comes in various colors and combinations, and there’s a mini size as well.
Are you loving Strathberry as much as I am? I hope you enjoyed these photos, and the tour of the Twin Peaks themed diner.
(PS: see below for more about this sweet bag.)