Category Archives: Insider Interviews

Cheryl Wat: From Marketing & Finance To A NYC Food Influencer

Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat

Cheryl Wat went from Marketing & Finance to becoming a NYC Food Influencer! Take a look at her 7 secret New York City tips and be sure to add them to your To-Go spots!

Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat

Cheryl Wat was born and raised on Long Island, but now lives in Queens. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Marketing and Finance and has 10 years of marketing experience working in the Finance industry as an Analyst in Marketing Research and Product Management.

During this time, Cheryl’s boyfriend wanted to open a restaurant. She became interested in learning about influencer marketing and using social media as a means to build his restaurant’s brand awareness and anticipation of its opening. To do this, she realized that she had to open up her own Instagram food account.

In July 2016, Cheryl established Book of Eats on Instagram and as a site, with the initial focus being restaurants, food, and beverages primarily in NYC area.

As she shared her dining experiences, she realized a community of people was being built who share the same interests. Since then, Book of Eats has expanded to travel, food around the world, and interesting food/travel related news.

See below her 7 secret New York City tips:


Trademark Taste & Grind

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Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Trademark Taste Grind Sween N Salty Granola
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Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Trademark Taste Grind Coffee
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Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Trademark Taste Grind Fried Chicken Sandwich
Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Trademark Taste Grind Office Hero
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“I love how this Midtown restaurant, called Trademark Taste & Grind is hidden behind a coffee shop. It’s one of the few places near Penn Station that I can think of with good food, isn’t touristy, and that I would want to bring someone.”

Yup! They are known for their delicious food, coffee and cocktails. The front area of the restaurant – Trademark Grind – is a coffee shop with a great selection of pastries and coffees. Walking towards the back area, you’ll find Trademark Taste serving new American comfort food.

It’s located in the Hotel Le Soleil.

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 7am – 11pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am – 11pm

Location: 38 West 36th Street

www.trademarktaste.com


Fry Guys

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UNFORTUNATELY THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED!

“Fry Guys is a super cool retro looking French fry spot in the East Village with vinyl records all around the floors, walls, and ceiling. There’s even disco balls hanging from the ceilings. If you come here get the Drunk Guy, its fries are loaded with guacamole, bacon and cheese.”

These guys are really experts when the subject is “fries”. Their food is gluten-free fries and made from delicious Idaho Russet potatoes. How do they make it? They hand-cut everything, season it and perfectly fry it to get that crunchy texture.

The décor of the place is also fantastic and it’s vintage kinda look will take you back decades. It’s most certainly a nostalgic feeling.

This is the place to splurge and forget your diet! Forget about calories and just be happy! Ha! After all, as they say ‘Every day is FryDay!’.

Location: 150 East 2nd Street


Gaijin, now Koyo

Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Gaijin Bar
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“Gaijin is the only place in Astoria that I know of with a legit omakase sushi menu. I love the whole experience of sitting at the counter, interacting with the Chef, and being told the preferred way of eating the sushi is with my hands like in Japan. I can’t think of any other restaurants like this in Astoria, but in the city I definitely can.”

Chef Mark, a Chicago-native, is the artist behind it all. His outstanding culinary career gave him enough experience to open Gaijin – the result of his take on modern Japanese food.

Moreover, he blends his traditional Japanese cooking technique with a personal touch and inspiration. It’s known that his signature nigrizushi toppings are outstanding!

Nigirizushi (“hand-pressed sushi”) consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice that the chef presses between the palms of the hands to form an oval-shaped ball, and a topping (the neta) draped over the ball.” ~ Wikipedia

Gaijin has been rebranded to Koyo.

” The restaurant was originally opened as Gaijin which was a very popular local establishment that offers Omakase dining and robata grill a la carte menu fares. In the summer of August 2018, the team of Gaijin decided to refine what they do best, a modern omakase establishment and undergone a full update along with a new brand, Koyo.

Koyo means “Autumnal Foliage” which refers to the changing of Japanese maple tree leaves which signals the change of a seasonal. Koyo has a strong focus on seasonality and uses ingredients at its peak during that season to create a Kaiseki inspired multi-sensory dining experience.”

Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 5pm – 10pm
Friday – Saturday: 5pm – 11pm

Location: 37-12 31st Avenue

www.koyonewyork.com


Vaccaro’s Bakery & Café

Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Vaccaro's Bakery Cake Pops
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UNFORTUNATELY THIS FAMOUS NYC BAKERY IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED!

“Vaccaro’s Bakery & Café is a bakery in Astoria, Queens, that has the most delicious “donnolis”. It’s basically a cannoli wrapped in a donut. It’s the best thing ever.”

This authentic Italian bakery was founded in 1981 and has been one of Astoria’s to-go spots. Loved by locals, they sell everything from delicious cakes, desserts and pastries, to breads and breakfast specials!

It will be hard to pick only a few things to try. But, remember you call always buy more and take home!

Location: 28-05 Steinway Street


The Last Word

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UNFORTUNATELY THIS SPEAKEASY IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED!

“A speakeasy in Astoria, called The Last Word, serves really good cocktails and is hidden behind a hardware store. I know in Astoria it’s well known, but I’m not sure about the general public.”

So, if you enjoy oysters paired with a good cocktail, this is the place for you! They still have a great menu with beer, wine and a few bites to nibble on.

They explain that: “Our name comes from the gin-based prohibition-era cocktail called, The Last Word.”

And still, if you enjoy Soul, Rhythm and Blues, they have it live, every Thursday night. It’s definitely a place to got more than once! You’ll love it!

Location: 31-30 Ditmars Blvd


Shuraku

Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Shuraku NYC Fried Lotus Root

“Of course I have to mention my boyfriend’s restaurant on here. I’d be a terrible girlfriend if I didn’t, I’m also a bit biased, but read his Yelp reviews if you don’t believe me! Shuraku is a hidden Japanese Grilling restaurant without a sign on the building. You would only know it exists if you walk up close to the building and see a menu hanging from the window. This is the only place that I know of in NY that serves gyu-katsu (deep fried breaded steak).”

We love Shuraku too and we’ve recently visited and written about them.

They are certainly a new place to have in your To-Go places in New York, especially if you’re into high-end Japanese spots with unique tasting menus!

Hours:
Wednesday: 5:30pm – 10pm
Thursday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 11pm
Sunday: 5:30pm – 10pm 

Location: 47 8th Avenue

www.shurakunyc.com


Jason Naylor’s murals

Curiosities Insider Interviews Cheryl Wat Jason Naylor Murals
Jason Naylor, in action!

“The murals all around the city by Jason Naylor. Offhand, I can only think of the one on 60th and 2nd Ave and the one on 16th and 6th Ave. I’m amazed by his graffiti work. The colors he uses are so vibrant. It’s so distinct that you don’t even need to see that it’s his work, you’ll just know.”

Jason is not only an artist, but he’s also a designer, writer and creative director. In addition, his colorful art works certainly make the city look even more beautiful and the quotes are very inspiring!

He was born in Salt Lake City, but fell in love the NY at an early age. His works can be seen in the fashion industry, as well as magazine, footwear and even in tattoos. We personally love the Statue of Liberty in his left arm!

http://jasonnaylorcreative.com


Thank you, Cheryl, for participating in our Insider Interviews and sharing with us these 7 amazing secret New York City tips!

Stay tuned for more upcoming interviews!


Photo Credits: Courtesy of the venues
*Last Update on April/2020.*

A Filmmaker, Digital Storyteller And Travel Expert Named Kristen Kellogg

Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Camping Ithaca New York

Kristen Kellogg, a filmmaker, digital storyteller, and travel expert shares with us her 7 best NYC tips for exploring New York City. There is nothing better than learning with travel experts, right?

Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Camping Ithaca New York
Kristen Kellogg glamping in Ithaca, New York!

We love all different types of interviews and the ones with travel experts are always quite amusing. We not only love all the tips, but we also end up finding out more secrets about our own beautiful concrete jungle.

Read about Kristen’s explorations and see her 7 best NYC tips for exploring New York City.


Exploring rugged to refined, filmmaker, digital storyteller, and travel expert Kristen Kellogg has designed her life for life on the road. Her Wanderlust Website + Content Creation Agency, Border Free Travels, produces and shares highly engaging lifestyle stories and brand campaigns through film, photography, and innovative media tied to travel.

In addition Kristen’s work and words have been featured in AFAR, MSN, Refinery 29, Daily Mail, Yahoo, and Travel Channel, and Islands Magazine, among others. Some of her recent clients include Skype, Thailand Tourism, The Outer Banks, Visit California, and Rosetta Stone for whom she produced a new travel video series.

On this adventure, Kristen journeys through Mérida, Mexico getting “Lost With Locals” while touring markets with a local chef, practicing Spanish phrases with strangers, and even picks up some local dance moves.

Kristen lives on Nantucket, has an obsession with cheese, loves talking to strangers – in person and on Instagram, and feels most at home when she’s not.

A Nantucket Island resident, when she’s not on the road, she finds inspiration by literally running around exploring her own backyard. She frequently visits NYC between travels in and out of the country.

So, take a look at Kristen Kellogg 7 best NYC tips for exploring New York City:


Helicopter Tours

Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg NYC Helicopter Tour East River

“The best views of Manhattan I’ve ever seen were in a helicopter – doors off! Everyone should do this once in their life – I’d go again in a NYC beat.

And we have to agree with Kristen! As we’ve said before, we know we are obsessed with New York City and one of the best views of the city is from high up in the air!

Plus, it’s incredible to see our concrete jungle and all the boroughs from this perspective.

Take a look at this Helicopter Tour and book now!


The William Vale

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“Sunset drinks and apps at the Westlight atop The William Vale hotel. This is the best view looking back on the city!”

Brooklyn is certainly the most up and coming area in New York and so much is going on, on that side of the bridge. New restaurants, stores, nightclubs, coffee shops, events, etc!

The William Vale is one of the newest additions to the neighborhood and has become an immediate hotspot.

Its rooftop offers a priceless 360º view where you can see the 5 boroughs.

So, if you want to stay in one of the trendiest hotels, in a super cool location and mix with an energetic and stylish crowd…then this is the place for you!

Location: 111 North 12th Street

www.thewilliamvale.com


Matcha Bar

Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Matcha Bar Counter
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“If you have a thing for matcha and Instagram, you’ll find your prefect match at Matcha Bar, with two addresses in Manhattan.”

Founded by the brothers, Max and Graham Fortgang, in 2014, Matcha Bar is the perfect drink if you’re looking for energy, focus, paired with powerful antioxidants.

As they explained, they “became fixated on the idea of bringing this ancient tradition into the modern metropolis they call home”. And they did!

Their matcha is sourced directly from an independent family farm in Nishio, Japan.

www.matchabar.co


Miss Paradis

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UNFORTUNATELY THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED!

“I love Miss Paradis in SoHo – prefect for catching up with a friend or two. Nosh on small plates and sip on rose — it adorns the walls of the place. I love the burrata!”

Miss Paradis opened just a while ago, in November of 2016. The place is beautifully designed by Philippe Starck and serves super healthy, seasonal food. Moreover, the dishes are works of art and creatively presented.

They are well-known for their Rosé labels, so we do recommend trying the cocktails on their list. And, as they say: “don’t expect to skip dessert!”

“Miss Paradis is a timeless temple to the glory of the fruits of Nature.” ~ Philippe Starck, Créateur

Location: 47 Prince Street


Takoyaki

In New York city, you’ll find surprises around every corner, especially when it comes to culinary treats, such as this popular Japanese snack called “Takoyaki.” What is the most interesting street food you’ve tried?

Posted by Rosetta Stone on Thursday, December 1, 2016

UNFORTUNATELY THIS SPOT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED!

“I stumbled on this gem of a Takoyaki stand on Doyers Street in Chinatown. You’ll get hungry watching the video I made (above).”

If you go to New York, you have to be opened to trying the different street food you’ll find along your way. Plus, if they are literally a hole in the wall, it’s even better.

Hidden in one of Chinatown’s most famous streets, Takoyaki opens only for a few hours during the weekends, so you need to be sure to pass by.

What to try? Maybe a little of everything! Their octopus dumpling is on the top of our list. Prices are super fair, so don’t worry.

Hours: Saturday & Sunday: 12pm – 6pm

Location: 5 Doyers Street


KIIN Thai Eatery

Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Kiin Thai Eatery Egg Noodles
Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Kiin Thai Eatery Shrimp Lemongrass Skewers
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Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Kiin Thai Eatery Pulled Salmon
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Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Kiin Thai Eatery Grilled Summer Shrimp
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UNFORTUNATELY THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED!

“I’ve traveled three times extensively through Thailand and always have a tough time finding those same tastes in the states. If you want authentic Thai food, KIIN Thai Eatery is IT! Every bite will have your mouth watering. This place is best for atlas for people – you can order half of the menu this way and try it all.”

KIIN, in the Greenwich Village, in Manhattan, serves authentic central and northern Thai cuisine, with recipes that dates back centuries, but are still current.

Ingredients are all very fresh and tasty, challenging everyone’s taste buds and offering a true Thai experience. 

Location: 36 East 8th Street


Sisley Spa

Curiosities Insider Interviews Kristen Kellogg Sisley Spa The Carlyle

“If you’re in need of a time out, stop at the Sisley Spa in the Rosewood Hotel and treat yourself to a unique treatment – the Phyto-Aromatic Replumping Youth Facial with Rose. The esthetician gently moves rose quartz around your face – so relaxing I fell asleep.”

Not really a “behind the scenes” experience, but nonetheless, super worth exploring, specially after a long and tiring day exploring New York.

Moreover, it’s located inside The Carlyle hotel, in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Treatments are customized according to you needs and desires, so you’ll be sure to leave completely relaxed and ready for more NYC adventures!

Location: The Carlyle – 35 East 76th Street – 3rd Floor

https://thesisleyspa.com


Thank you, Kristen, for being part of our Insider Interviews and for sharing your 7 best NYC tips for exploring New York City!


Photo Credits: Courtesy of Belly Adventure, Marky_Marc13 and all the venues.
*Last Update on April/2020.*

Africa Miranda: A Multi-Talented Beautypreneur From Harlem

Curiosities Insider Interviews Africa Miranda NYC Streets

Africa Miranda, a multi-talented beautypreneur born in Harlem, shared with us her journey and her favorite secret 7 NYC spots! Be sure to add them to your list!

Curiosities Insider Interviews Africa Miranda Street Style

Today we share a fantastic interview with a beautiful woman called Africa Miranda! Many of you probably know her already, but if you don’t, you should!

What are her talents? Countless! As she briefly states on her Instagram: “Beautypreneur. Performer. Travel Maven. Speaker. Host. Black Girl Magician.”

We love it!

Read below her journey and countless accomplishments throughout her career, as well as her 7 best secret places in New York!


Curiosities Insider Interviews Africa Miranda Morning Sun

“Africa Miranda is a dynamic speaker, host and spokesmodel, with distinctive style and quick wit, that won the hearts of many across the US, and around the globe, as the breakout star of Bravo TV’s ‘The New Atlanta’.

Her unique personal style, sparkling personality, and glorious, attention-grabbing mane, have made Africa an in-demand beauty expert and event host.

Whether she is visiting exotic locales – #AfricasAdventures – representing major brands, or sharing her take on hair trends and celebrity style, Africa brings her brand of accessible glamour to any setting.

A sought after travel and lifestyle influencer, Africa was recently featured in Vanity Fair as one of the VF500 tastemakers to watch and has also been part of major campaigns for Macy’s, Coca-Cola, Revlon, and Kia Motors.

A rising star in the digital media world, she was a Shorty Award Finalist for “Periscoper of the Year,” host of the inaugural Periscope Summit, a keynote speaker at Summit Live, and is a regular podcast guest and panelist for various entertainment and tech platforms, marrying her knowledge of pop culture with her considerable tech savvy. Phiuf!

Africa can now add “beautypreneur” to her list of growing accomplishments.

Her newly launched beauty and lifestyle brand “Beauty by Africa Miranda” , marries her love of travel and her extensive beauty industry experience.

Her first two offerings, the Facial Elixir and Luminous Body Mist, have garnered rave reviews and are fast becoming cult beauty favorites.

“The first offering, the Facial Elixir, is born of Africa’s special connection to the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. Lovingly called “Brazil in a bottle,” the Facial Elixir helps to recapture the vacation “glow” using Brazilian ingredients Maraca Oil and Cupuaçu Butter.”

Curiosities Insider Interviews Africa Miranda Facial Elixir
Facial Elixir from Beauty by Africa Miranda.

Some highlights:

“A trip last year to the south of France with Kia Motors was the inspiration for my latest product the Luminous Body Mist. Plus, I hosted a travel show pilot in Curacao called “From Soil to Shore.”

Curiosities Insider Interviews Africa Miranda Kia Stinger
Africa Miranda at the Kia Motors America #StingerRunway.

In addition, my company ‘Beauty by Africa Miranda’ has been featured on Yahoo Beauty, Ebony, Bet, MadameNoire and HelloBeautiful.com.”

Current & Upcoming projects:

Just shot a campaign for Coca-Cola that will be in US, Mexico and Canada – I’m also a commercial model & actress.

I’m the co-host and co-executive producer of the digital series “Beautifully Driven” powered by Kia Motors and Harman Kardon.

This new interview series highlights “Women You Should Know” in the world of art, science, and entertainment.

Finally, I will host of Parlour Magazine’s Travel Fly Solo Weekend to Greece (June 2018).

And, I will be the host of Parlour Magazine’s annual solo trip – hosting over 50 women on an epic bucket list adventure to Mykonos.

Here are my secret 7 favorite NYC spots:


The Edge

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“The Edge is my go to spot in Harlem for brunch, lunch, and everything in between! I was turned onto this great little spot by a friend and fell in love. A great blend of Jamaican and American dishes.”

Located in Hamilton Heights, in Harlem, The Edge is a great spot to visit. Their kitchen opens Mondays through Fridays at 10am, and as they say, they serve “flavors of Jamaica and England, with a little New York attitude”.

Their menu is also divided by these locations. So, you can expect everything from Jamaican jerk chicken, to English grilled cheese sandwich and New Yorker bagels with smoked salmon.

Hours:
Monday – Wednesday: 9am – 10pm
Thursday & Friday: 9am – 11pm
Saturday: 11am – 11pm
Sunday: 11am – 10pm

Location: 101 Edgecombe Avenue

www.theedgeharlem.com


The Back Room

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“The Back Room is speakeasy that takes you back to “old New York.” Once you get past walking underground and through a tunnel you will find this hidden gem. Perfect for a late night drink or a get together with friends. My favorite touch is that all of the drinks are served in teacups!”

Located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this speakeasy is certainly a secret spot we love. It’s known to be one of the only two speakeasies in New York City that actually operated during Prohibition Era, in the 1920’s, and is still in existence today.

You’re wondering “Why teacups?” Well, back in the Prohibition Era, that was how alcohol was served, so no one suspected and people could enjoy their drinks.

Monday’s are known to host great live Jazz music, while during weekends, they bring in DJs to entertain the night.

Hours:
Mondays – Thursday: 7:30pm – 3am
Friday & Saturday: 7:30 – 4am
Sunday: 7:30pm – 3am

Location: 102 Norfolk Street

http://backroomnyc.com


Champs Diner

Curiosities Insider Interviews Africa Miranda Champs Diner BBQ Burger
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“Champs Diner is off the beaten path in Brooklyn, but if you make the trek you will get some of the best Vegan comfort food ever! My faves: The Cubano, The Soltero Bowl, and the Girl Scout Milkshake.”

Oh! We l-o-v-e this place. It’s located at the very tip of East Williamsburg, and it’s always pretty packed. They definitely serve some of the best and tastiest vegan American comfort food in New York, hence the huge success.

We recommend not arriving there too hungry, since the waiting time can be crazy.

Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9am – 12am

Location: 197 Meserole Street

www.champsdiner.com


The Crabby Shack

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“My go to for a seafood fix is The Crabby Shack. This family owned business serves up some of the best crab dishes I’ve ever had. The stand out – the crab roll (of course!) and the crab grilled cheese. The IG-worthy decor is a plus.”

Located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, this is one of the to-go spots if you enjoy seafood. They are well-known for their tacos, rolls and sliders, besides, of course, their different crab dishes.

Don’t forget to try their dessert of the day!

Hours:
Monday: 3pm – 10pm
Wednesday – Thursday: 3pm – 10pm
Friday: 3pm – 11pm
Saturday: 1pm – 11pm
Sunday: 1pm – 9pm

Location: 613 Franklin Avenue

http://thecrabbyshack.com


The Groove

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“Long standing live music spot: The Groove. Great place to get turned on to new soul and jazz artists. Fun fact – my first NYC live performance was here!”

Have you ever wanted a place that played live R&B, Funk and Soul music 7 nights a week? Well, this is the place! Located in the Greenwich Village, in Manhattan, The Groove started back in the 1990’s and showcases some of the best musicians and performers in the city.

They serve a few appetizers like nachos, quesadillas, mozzarella cheese sticks. Plus, you’ll also find buffalo chicken wings, salads & veggies, sandwiches, a few side dishes like French fries and onion rings. And still, bigger entrées like the chicken kebab and the steak frites.

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love the hot fudge brownie sundae or their vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Perfect place to splurge on your diet-day-off!

Hours: Monday – Sunday: 4pm – 3am

Location: 125 Macdougal Street

http://clubgroovenyc.com


Vin Sur Vingt

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“Very cozy. Very Romantic. V-e-r-y French. Order escargot and champagne and fall in love with Vin Sur Vingt.”

Africa’s preferred location is the one in the West Village, in Manhattan, but they have other 3 spots around the city, besides having a place inside The Plaza Hotel’s famous Food Hall.

Vin Sur Vingt is a classy, French bistro bar perfect for all wine lovers that live or come visit New York City. Their wine list is pretty extensive and the ambience will take you to Paris in a blink of an eye!

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 4pm – 1am
Saturday & Sunday: 4pm – 2am

Locations: 201 West 11th Street
They have other 4 locations – Nomad District, Upper West Side, TriBeCa and inside The Plaza Hotel Food Hall. See website for locations and hours.

http://vsvwinebars.com


Sugar Hill Market

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UNFORTUNATELY THIS MARKET IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED!

“The Sugar Hill Market is a great monthly market that showcases local designers and artisans. I live in Harlem and it is a great way to learn about and support my fellow local entrepreneurs.”

We also love exploring local markets around the city and seeing what local vendors are selling.

You are able to find some of the most unique and one-of-a-kind items at these spots, so be sure to go there will enough time.

Hours: 12pm – 5pm

Location: 259 West 132nd Street


Thank you, Africa, for sharing with us your fantastic journey and your 7 favorite NYC spots! Cheers!

If you enjoyed this interview, you might want to check out some other spots in Harlem, recommended by Kevin Herson, founder of the absinthe, Doc Hersons!


Photo Credits: Courtesy of all the venues.
*Last Update on March/2020.*

Alexia Bomtempo: Chasing Storms And Stars

Curiosities Insider Interviews Alexia Bomtempo Flying Hair

Brazilian-American singer and songwriter Alexia Bomtempo recently released her 3rd album and has been part of New York’s music scene. Come read about her arrival in NYC, the challenges, the new album, some of her top NYC secret spots and more!

Curiosities Insider Interviews Alexia Bomtempo Floor

The Brazilian singer and song writer, Alexia Bomtempo, just released her 3rd album and has been part of the best of New York’s music scene.

The new album, calling “Chasing Storms and Stars”, reflects a self-exploration of her identity and experiments with her surroundings over the past years.

After growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she now calls New York City her “home”. Lucky us!

Moreover, she performs in some of the best venues around the city, so be sure to check out her website to see where you can find her and have a taste of her fantastic music.

The upcoming show will be this Thursday – November 9th, at 8pm, at Symphony Space, one of the best sounding rooms in Manhattan.

www.alexiabomtempo.com


1) Tell us a bit about how you started your career, when/where was your first contact with music and when this gift came to life?

I had quite the distinctive childhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My dad used to be a concert promoter and I grew up going to shows and experiencing that magical atmosphere behind the scenes.

So, while my friends were busy doing the normal things that kids do, I was going out to see legends like Baden Powell and Gilberto Gil.

Being exposed to music on this level as a child was very powerful and I knew then that I wanted to follow an artistic path. Later on, after studying classical voice in the U.S., I decided to move back to Rio and pursue a career in music.

I was very lucky to work with Brazilian music icon Dadi, who produced my first album (and became a great friend).

2) Why did you decide to leave Rio de Janeiro in 2013 and move to NYC?

After releasing my sophomore album “I Just Happen to Be Here”, a collection of English songs written by Caetano Veloso during his 1969-71 exile in London, I was invited to perform at “Brasil Summerfest” in NYC.

I was looking for a change of scenery and the borderless approach to music that New York has to offer really motivated me.

So, I moved here with a one-way ticket and one big suitcase – within a few weeks, I knew that the city would be my home.

3) Upon arrival, which were the biggest challenges you faced? Did something happen differently than what you had expected?

I arrived excited about exploring and open to new possibilities. Furthermore, I was looking forward to experimenting with my music and was fortunate to quickly fall into the East Village Nublu scene, which offered me the chance be exposed to many different genres and that significantly affected the way that I view and make my own music today.

Maybe, the biggest challenge was understanding that, if you’re going to be here as an artist, you have to commit to the pace of the city. Everyday life can be challenging and finding a routine that works for you is key.

4) How would you describe NYC’s music scene when talking about emerging bands that dream in spreading their music?

Being a musician in NYC forces you to go deeper into the meaning behind the art you make. The city has certainly driven me to be more resilient and focused – and that pressure is a beautiful thing.

And, the level of talent all around is inspiring and requires that you find what makes you stand out as an artist.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Alexia Bomtempo Standing

5) I’m sure there are many, but which are some of the bands that you’re most inspired by?

Mutantes, Radiohead, Caetano Veloso, Dinah Washington, Jon Brion, Blossom Dearie, Gal Costa… and the list goes on.

6) How would you describe your music style?

Cinematic dream pop with a tropical indie rock twist.

7) Tell us about your new album “Chasing Storms and Stars”? What’s the main theme around it? How was the process and challenges of creating, writing and composing it?

This is the third album of my career, but my first American release. It’s inspired by the massive changes in my life that have taken place in the 5 years since my last album came out.

Shortly after I relocated from Rio de Janeiro to New York I was offered a performance residency in Tokyo. So, I completely immersed myself in Japanese culture. I spent much time alone, reflecting on memories and experimenting with new melodies.

This lonesome state of mind inspired me to write and, for the first time, I felt the freedom and independence as an artist to make my own voice more prominent in what I was creating. I had always been a bit self-conscious about writing, especially having started out in Rio as a singer of Brazilian Popular Music, where historically, female vocalists didn’t write most of their material.

This album made me explore my identity and experiment with my surroundings. The collaboration with Jake Owen (my partner in music and in life) is an essential element to the album.

From the writing process to the final product, he challenged me to work hard and believe in my potential to create.

8) Do you already have a favorite song?

I go through phases where there is always one song that sticks out the most. Recently it has been “Mexico”.

Jake and I wrote this song during a road trip through West Texas. I had never seen that part of the country and was very moved by the desert, the sky, the open roads…

The landscape had a serious affect on how the song came about. The “murder ballad” tradition of the place we were in led us to explore different themes.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Alexia Bomtempo

9) This is your 3rd album. What’s new and different about it, in relation to the first two? How have you grown from the first albums?

My first two Brazilian releases were heavily influenced by Bossa Nova and Brazilian Popular Music.

For “Chasing Storms and Stars”, I have written or co-written all the songs, except for one cover. Jake is a Texas-born, Brooklyn-based producer and heavily influenced by music of the southern United States.

With our contrasting backgrounds we managed to piece together a mixture of sounds incorporating cinematic strings, Brazilian percussion, electric guitars, and psychedelic keyboards.

We took the work we started in Brooklyn and finished it in Austin, with veteran producer and engineer David Boyle.

10) Where can people find your album to buy? Any upcoming shows that we can share so people have a chance to see you Live?

The new album is available on all digital platforms and the vinyl record can be purchased on my website, along with some cool merchandise: www.alexiabomtempo.com.

My next New York performance is part of the “LatiNew” concert series. It celebrates the synergy between the Latin and Brazilian music communities. The show is on Thursday, November 9, at 8pm, at Symphony Space, one of the best sounding rooms in Manhattan.

11) What are some of your favorite, off-the-beaten-track spots in New York?

Restaurant: Gennaro
“A hidden gem on the Upper West Side. The best Italian food I’ve had in the city. A local favorite!”
Location: 665 Amsterdam Avenue
www.gennaronyc.com

Bar: Bell Book & Candle
“The bar at Bell Book & Candle feels like a friend’s living room. Sunday nights are particularly special where talented singer/songwriter Alfonso Velez holds down his weekly residency.”
Location: 141 West 10th Street
http://bbandcnyc.com

Live Music Venue: Berlin
“Berlin is my favorite hangout for local musicians. It’s an easy going and seems to recapture the old spirit of the East Village.”
Location: 25 Avenue A
www.berlinundera.com

Park: Riverside Park
“I love biking through the park and taking in the river views.”
www.nycgovparks.org

Museum: Whitney Museum
“There is always a new piece that absolutely blows my mind.”
Location: 99 Gansevoort Street
https://whitney.org


Thank you, Alexia, for being part of our Insider Interviews and for sharing with us these exciting stories about your journey, career and favorite NY spots! Plus, we are exited to see your show on November 9th!

In addition, if you want to see more interviews with NY-based Brazilian singers and musicians, take a look at Aline Muniz and Andre Vasconcelos.


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alexia Bomtempo
*Last Update on March/2020.*

Journey Into The World Of NYC-Based Illustrator, Thomas Pitilli

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli

Thomas Pitilli, a NYC-based illustrator, in love with Comics, talks about his amazing career, challenges, inspirations and his favorite spots in New York City!

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Working

The other day we met Thomas Pitilli, a native New Yorker living in Brooklyn. He works with some of the greatest publications today like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Billboard, Playboy, Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Post and other big names.

After briefly browsing through his work, we fell in love with it. We are huge fans of illustration and his style certainly called our attention.

If you want to see more details about his work, check out his website and read the interview we did with him below!

www.thomaspitilli.com


1) Tell us a bit about you. Where you were born, what you studied, what you’ve worked with, did your parents incentivize your work, etc.

My name is Thomas Pitilli and I am an illustrator from Brooklyn, NY. I am an actual Brooklyn native, one of the few left nowadays, haha.

I’ve been drawing and making art since as far back as I can remember. When I was 3 or 4, I wanted to be a fireman and when I was 5, I wanted to be Peter Pan. But, from then on, I’ve always aspired to be a professional artist!

Like most kids, I grew up obsessed with cartoons and comic books and it didn’t take me long until I started writing my own stories and making my own “books” made out of stapled sheets of typing paper with my drawings on them.

Both my parents are artistic, so thankfully, my creative imagination was always encouraged at home. An adolescence filled with constant drawing and practice led me the School of Visual Arts, in Manhattan, where I wound up studying illustration and cartooning.

I immediately began pursuing my dream of becoming a professional illustrator upon graduating. I spent several years hustling, trying to get as much freelance work as I could get, while supplementing my income with various odd jobs and part time gigs around the city.

A decade since graduating, I can proudly say I now make my entire living as an illustrator. NYC is not an easy city to ‘make it’ in, but you know what they say, ‘if you can make it here…’

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Metro Internaional Naked

2) Where did the passion for illustration come from? And why Comics?

My passion for illustration came out of my love for comics actually. When I was a little kid, I discovered comic books by rummaging through my older brother’s collections. I quickly became fascinated with the artwork inside and from then on, I was obsessed.

Through comics, I was exposed to a variety of different types of artists and styles, which then led me to explore other art forms outside of comics. I’ve always been drawn to artists that tell stories, whether it be in a comic book or in an oil painting.

The idea of getting a specific idea across through a drawing and making people feel something specific just by looking at it is truly satisfying to me and definitely fuels my passion for the craft.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Hollywood Reporter

3) What are the personalities that inspire you, in the illustration world, but also within other industries?

Confidence is a big one for me. When someone exudes confidence in what they do, no matter what the profession, I’m definitely inspired by that.

I like watching fighting sports, like boxing and MMA. The confidence and conviction that those fighters posses is so inspiring and interesting to watch.

I study that and try to understand how I might be able to apply that kind of attitude to what I do. The quote that always sticks with me is, “competence breeds confidence”, which pretty much means, if you work on your craft hard enough, the confidence you have in that area will likely follow.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Metro International

4) What type of mission and message do you strive to convey through your work?

I don’t really think I have a particular mission or message that I strive to convey in my art. I’m fascinated by people, body language and faces. Those have always been the things that I love to draw, so most of my work focuses on people, either interacting with each other or with themselves.

I have always loved drawing the female form and my work usually has a strong female protagonist within it. I think of my approach to illustrating similar to that of a street photographer.

I’m more concerned with capturing moments than creating any kind of particular statement. Also, the vast majority of my work is client based, so I spend most of my time trying to convey other people’s message or idea. There’s a very satisfying challenge within that as well.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli New York Observer

5) You’ve had works featured in many renowned publications like the Wall Street Journal, Scientific America, Climbing Magazine, Scholastic’s Choices Magazine and The New York Times! Tell a bit about these works and the process behind them.

I really enjoy making editorial illustrations. I get exposed to some pretty interesting articles and topics that I might not otherwise come across on my own.

The process is usually a pretty quick, yet intense one. I normally have less than a week to take the illustration(s) from concept to final. It’s a collaborative process between the art director and I, and at its best, it can be a very fun and rewarding process.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great publications and some great art directors. Some of my favorites are the ones where I felt like I was pushed creatively and was able to stretch new muscles.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli New York Times Giftbag

6) We see a great variation of styles and even colored vs black & white pieces. We love them all! What do you enjoy most doing and what style does your audience resonate more with?

I tend to gravitate towards black and white line drawing. I feel like that’s where my strengths are. That’s also what I have the most fun making as well.

Color has always been a challenge for me, it definitely is the longest part of my process, mainly because there is a lot of reworking and trial and error involved in it for me.

Like I said earlier, storytelling has always been the most appealing aspect of illustration for me. It doesn’t always have to be a literal narrative either, sometimes you can tell a story with a pose or a facial expression, or the capturing of a simple moment.

I feel like that’s the kind of thing my audience responds to. Although there’s no real way to predict what people will like or not like. Ultimately all you can do is make the work that you most enjoy making and hope somebody else likes it.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli New York Times

7) What are the best places to buy comics in New York? Are there any hidden, off-the-beaten-path old book stores or thrift bookstores you love to go check out?

My favorite comic shop in NYC is Forbidden Planet, down by Union Square. They have a pretty extensive collection of both new and old comics, with a super helpful and knowledgeable staff.

The Strand Bookstore is also a great place to find comics. They are more geared towards trade paperbacks and all of their stuff is at a discounted price, which is always a plus!

Speaking of discounted prices, there’s a place in Midtown called Bookoff, and downstairs, they have a used comic section where you can find some really rare, out of print comics, both single issues and trades.

If you’re a nerd like me, this city has definitely got you covered, haha.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Pinup Series

8) Does anything inspire your work when you think about New York City?

So many things inspire me about New York City. I get most of my ideas while riding the subway or walking the streets. I love people watching and random interactions with strangers. Even just the weird things you overhear while riding the train can be inspiring and creatively stimulating.

If it’s a nice day out and I have to come up with an idea for a particular project, I will often times take my sketch book to one of my favorite parks and start brainstorming. Something about the constant hustle of New York generates a kind of rhythm that is very conducive to making art.

I also love sneaking in specific NYC locations into some of my work. I’m lucky enough to work with the iconic characters of the Archie Comics world and when I create covers for them, one of my favorite things to do is place those characters into some of my favorite NYC locations like the fountain at Washington Square Park, or specific subway platforms.

Because I grew up here, my relationship with the city is very personal and deeply embedded in me, therefore it’s embedded in my work as well.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Wall Street Journal

10) What is your biggest ambition when it comes to work? A publication you’d like to be featured in? Someone you admire and would like to meet? A project that you’d love to work on? Anything what would rock your world if you had that opportunity!

I have a lot of ambitions when it comes to my work. I’d definitely like to continue working in the comics field and see where that takes me.

I’d love to work with a variety of different writers and publications in the comics world. I don’t rule out writing and illustrating my own graphic novel one day either. I’m always inspired when I see illustrators or cartoonists working with well-known brands, lending their unique voice to a campaign or advertisement.

Being able to share my work with an audience that goes way beyond comics or illustrating, that’s something I’d love to do. Being an artist whose work is primarily created for print or the web, I’m definitely a stranger to the art gallery world.

I’d like to change that one day by perhaps showing a series of pieces that were specifically created to be viewed in person. Other than those things, I stay open to whatever opportunities present themselves.

One of the exciting things about being a freelance artists is never really knowing what types of projects may be in my future!

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Library Journal

11) What are your top 5 local, hidden spots in New York that you love to go? A restaurant, bar, museum, store, coffee place, park, street, etc?

Central Park is definitely one of my favorite places in this city. I’m a big fan of New York summers, I really feel like that’s when the city shines the most. With that being said, Central Park is probably one of my favorite spots on a nice Spring/Summer day. I spent multiple times playing Frisbee over there at the Sheep Meadow this summer and really enjoy the relaxing vibe.

Speaking of summer, I try and make it to the beach whenever I can. People don’t really think of beaches when they think of NYC, but there are some nice locations if you want to trade the concrete for some sand every now and then. I really enjoy hanging out at Rockaway Beach and Coney Island. Much more of a low key, laid back vibe at Rockaway, but Coney Island has that history and energy that can be fun sometimes too.

As far as food goes, there’s a nice little farm-to-table restaurant in my neighborhood called Brooklyn Beet Company. The magic ingredient over there is beets. They have a veggie burger that is made out of a beet and they also have this awesome beet ketchup! Definitely worth checking out, unless you hate beets, haha.

I’m sort of a health nut, so when I’m running around and in need of a healthy lunch, I like to pop into HU Kitchen (See Antonia Grecco’s post on Hu Kitchen) on 14th Street in Manhattan. They use a variety of local ingredients as well. It’s sort of the healthier alternative to something like Chipotle.

Curiosities Insider Interviews Thomas Pitilli Jughead Cover

And still:

As far as neighborhoods go, I’d probably say that the West Village is my favorite. It still has some old cobble stone streets and some of the most quiet blocks in all of NYC. Things seem to fall off the typical grid system over there too, so I often get lost whenever I’m around there!

And, probably one of my all-time favorite places in NYC is The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s always been a sort of sanctuary for me, a place where I can spend hours and come out totally inspired. My favorite spot in that museum is the Sackler Wing. There’s this huge window covering the entire room with an awesome view of Central Park, it’s really cool.

That’s more than five, I know! I have a bunch more too. Some runner ups would probably be the High Line and Chelsea Market!

12) And last! Where can people find your work and purchase your illustrations!?

I’m all over Social Media, but I’m most active on Instagram (@ThomasPitilli) where you can find me .

You can also check out my website at www.thomaspitilli.com.

And, if you’re interested in purchasing some of my artwork as a print, check out my Etsy Store.


Thank you Thomas, for this fantastic journey into your world and keep up your breathtaking work and captivating energy!


Photo Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Pitilli
*Last Update on March/2020.*

Doc Hersons: Story Behind a Harlem-born Absinthe Brand

Curiosities Insider Interviews Doc Hersons Absinthe Kevin Herson Stacey Luckow

New York City is known for many things, from being the #1 Fashion Capital in the world, to its tireless nightlife, but did you know it’s also the home of the 1st and very special, all natural, small batch absinthe producer named Doc Hersons?!

Curiosities Insider Interviews Doc Hersons Absinthe
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Curiosities Insider Interviews Doc Hersons Absinthe Kevin Herson Stacey Luckow
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New York City is known for many things, from being the #1 Fashion Capital in the world, to its tireless nightlife, countless fantastic restaurants and yet a priceless art scene. Of course, there is much more to this list!

But, maybe something you didn’t know: It’s also the home of the 1st and very special, all natural, small batch absinthe producer named Doc Hersons.

A while ago, we hosted a great tasting event, paired with fantastic acoustic music, at one of Williamsburg’s coolest rooftops. Doc Hersons was the brand we brought in to offer the tasting and share a bit of his journey.

We were so intrigued with the product and their story, that we decided to interview Kevin Herson that founded the brand with his wife, Stacey Luckow.


1) Tell us a bit about your background and what lead you two to start Doc Hersons? Is it a family tradition, or a personal passion?

We started the distillery in 2012 in our basement in Harlem. My day job as a commodity broker ended around 3pm each day, while Stacey would only return home from working at our vintage clothing store in the East Village around 9pm.

This left plenty of time for me to experiment in the basement of our Harlem apartment. I started buying distilling equipment and experimented with making Whiskey and Moonshine.

Then I decided to try make some Absinthe, since I had always enjoyed drinking it.

My Chemistry background and knowledge supplied the baseline for which soon became a full functioning Absinthe distillery on 142nd and Broadway, the 1st Absinthe distillery in NYC.

2) We love Harlem! What is it about this neighborhood that relates to the brand and being there during the journey to bring this product to life?

I feel that starting a distillery in a Harlem basement just seems sort of a natural beginning for an Absinthe distillery. Harlem has many great stories and an amazing history, as does the Absinthe.

3) Why absinthe? I feel that not many people know how to drink it, so what are the challenges when trying to introduce this spirit into people’s lifestyle?

Absinthe has an interesting history and many myths associated with it.

I think the spirit is very misunderstood, and the controversy surrounding it was intentionally made well know through the efforts of the French wine industry – read the “History” paragraph on Wikipedia).

Our Absinthe is very unique and we simply enjoy it over ice or in the various different cocktails that call for Absinthe as an ingredient.

I feel the biggest challenge regarding Absinthe is dispelling all the myth’s surrounding it. This will take time, for almost 100 years Absinthe was illegal in the USA so we have some truthful storytelling to do to educate people that Absinthe can be enjoyed just like all the other wonderful categories of spirits out there.

4) So, what’s the biggest myths about absinthe?

Absinthe doesn’t make you hallucinate, it never did and it never will.  It’s a unique spirit and the truth is it’s delicious!

5) Tell us a bit about how absinthe is made.

We start by fermenting grains from upstate New York. We then run that ferment through a stripping still to get a raw alcohol, raw meaning all the good and the bad alcohol mixed together.

Then, we take that raw alcohol and transfer it into our pot still, add a bunch of different botanicals from fennel, anise, Grand Wormwood, mint, lemons… etc. That concoction is boiled and fractionally distilled to collect all the good alcohol infused with the flavors and essential oils from all the herbs.

Once we collect the good stuff, we proof it and then add additional herbs for color and flavor, all 100% natural. Finally, we strain off the spirit from the botanicals, let it settle and then bottle it all up to enjoy.

6) Do you know a few curious historical facts about the spirit that you can share?

Wikipedia does a good job of this. However, most people don’t know that Absinthe was originally developed as a Malaria prevention. This was way back when it was first produced, in 1792.

7) What are the main characteristics of each of the 3 products by Doc Hersons?

  • Green Absinthe: Notes of licorice, mint and slightly bitter
  • Red Absinthe: Floral Hibiscus, licorice and citrus notes
  • White Absinthe: Poppy seed, licorice and vanilla woody spice

8) Besides having the drink neat or with ice, when you teach people about how to consume it, what are the best easy mixes with each of the 3 flavors?

Each of our different styles of Absinthe can simply be enjoyed over ice or in the various traditional cocktails that call for Absinthe as an ingredient.

Or, one can enjoy them in the following simple cocktails:

  • Green Absinthe (1/2 oz) over ice, fill the glass with ginger beer and garnish with a mint leaf
  • Green Absinthe (1/2 oz) over ice, fill the glass with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge
  • Red Absinthe (1/2 oz) over ice, fill the glass with ginger ale and garnish with an orange wedge
  • White Absinthe (1 oz) over ice and garnish with a jalapeño slice

Or even add 1/2 oz White Absinthe to your favorite Bloody Mary cocktail for an extra note of flavor and fun.

And, if you’re into beer, check out 52Brews to enjoy the great beer as a way of life.

9) Are there any upcoming flavors we can expect to see in the near future?

We are working on some other spirits projects, but as for Absinthe we just produce the three styles traditionally know, Green, Red and White.

10) The bottles and the labels are very unique and give us a delicious, nostalgic feeling. What’s the idea behind the visual communication?

Branding and aesthetics are all centered around classy, simply, elegant and intriguing. Visual representations of what one can expect when they enjoy sipping on our Absinthe.

11) Do you offer any catering service and experience, for people interested in learning more?

People are always welcome to reach out personally to find out more about our Absinthe. They can even email or call to schedule a special distillery tasting/tour. We do both public and private events to promote our brand on a regular basis. Each event is coordinated on a case by case basis.

12) Where can people purchase your products, besides online?

Besides online, there are a number of liquor stores listed on our website DocHersons.com under our “buy” tab. There are also many bar and restaurants throughout NYC and NY State that serve our Absinthe.

13) Any new upcoming project that you’d like to share with us, as a “teaser”?

We are working on a new spirit to be released in February of 2018. Keep an eye out but it’s a surprise!

14) Since you’re a Harlem-expert, we’re curious to know what are your favorite “behind the scenes” spots!

Regarding a couple cool spots in Harlem, I can suggest our favorite spot, Harlem Public. You can ask for Roni the bartender, he is awesome and makes some of the best cocktails in the city.

There’s also a great liquor store there called Pompette Wine. When you get there, ask for Mozel. He owns the store and knows a lot about great local wines and spirits.

We don’t live in Harlem anymore and haven’t for about 5 years, so we are not really current with some of the newer happening spots.

We live in Brooklyn now, so some of the cool spots we like to visit are Le Boudoir and Chez Moi, both in Brooklyn Heights!


Thank you Kevin, and Stacey for sharing your beautiful story with us. It’s certainly an exciting journey, and we will stay tuned for the new spirit launching soon!

If you want to learn more about Doc Hersons, this small batch absinthe producer, take a look at their website.

When you decide to visit the neighborhood, you might want to start by visiting a park we love called Morningside Park. Plus, stop for lunch at Seasoned Vegan, even if you’re not Vegan. We promise, you’ll be amazed with their dishes!

Lastly, if you’d like to be put in touch with them, we can connect you! As Kevin mentioned, they offer very exclusive tasting tours, so let our experts organize it for you! For Corporate requests, for catering or tours, talk to our team.

http://dochersons.com


Photo Credits: Courtesy of Doc Hersons
*Last Update on March/2020.*

Antonia Greco: A Love Guru Uncovers NYC’s Dating Scene

Curiosities Insider Interviews Antonia Greco NYC Dating Expert

Lets talk about Dating in New York City?! Everyone knows about the “rumors” about NYC’s dating scene and how different it is from the rest of the world! Antonia Greco tell us about the best spots to hang out, if you’re single!

Curiosities Insider Interviews Antonia Greco NYC Dating Expert
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Gary He

If you’ve just moved to this beautiful, tireless city, or if you’ve been in New York City long enough, you will notice two topics that will always (and we mean, always!) come up during dinners or bar conversations:

  1. RENT! It’s amazing how people are eager to know how much you pay for rent and all the amenities you have in your building to justify the high prices. Note: It does not matter if they just met you, they WILL boldly ask…
  2. DATING! The “Dating Scene” in New York is, without a doubt, unique and different from anywhere else on this planet! It’s a battle to figure out all the do’s and don’ts, right? So, after you do, and everything seams to be flowing well with your beau…BOOM! The guy dumps you…

With the Dating topic in mind, our Contributor Ari Crane interviewed Antonia Greco from Loved Tapped. She is a NYC-based Dating and Relationship Expert. She is also the co-author of “Who Lies More, Men or Women? 6 Ways to Succeed in Dating, Relationships, and Life”.

Over the past eight years, Antonia’s worked one-on-one with clients of all ages to help them meet partners, date successfully, and has had a helping hand in several marriages.

In her spare time, she likes to run, fuss over cute dogs, play piano and bake pies.

“A question I often get asked by singles is ‘Where can I go to meet people?’ — Simply put, you can meet people anywhere you go. It’s just a matter of having the guts to open the dialogue and/or be approachable. That said, it’s beneficial to pick places that reflect something about your lifestyle, your passions, or something new you’d like to try.”

Here are Antonia’s top picks in the City! Do check them out and, who knows, maybe you’ll find your partner in crime, for life.


Hu Kitchen

Curiosities Insider Interviews Antonia Greco Hu Kitchen by Iwan Baan for Medibank
Photo Credit: Iwan Baan for Medibank

“If working out and being healthy are your thing, then get ready to be excited by Hu Kitchen. Everything is delicious and wholesome sans ingredients that you can’t pronounce. And the clientele, well, they’re exceptionally good looking, in shape, and healthy. Not to mention, the layout of the tables is conducive to striking up a conversation very effortlessly. Rotate this place into your weekly lunch or dinner schedule and be sure to treat yourself to the house-made Almond Butter truffles!”

Not only all the ingredients are fantastic and super healthy, but they also produce their own delicious chocolate bars.

They have a huge list of “What they don’t have”, but there are just a few, so you get the vibe: NO Conventional Sweeteners, NO Gluten, NO Soy, NO GMO Corn, NO Commercial Lecithins, NO Preservatives…

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 7am – 10pm
Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 9pm

Location: 78 5th Avenue (at 14th Street), Midtown

http://hukitchen.com


B-Cup

Curiosities Insider Interviews Antonia Greco B-Cup

“Whether you’re “working remotely” or in the mood for a chill place to enjoy some coffee, look no further than B-Cup. This hip little haunt is tucked away in Alphabet City and is the “office” for many singles. With free, reliable wi-fi and iced coffees served in carafes, this friendly space is a mix of funky and accommodating. Bonus: Most people come here alone so it’s the perfect place to table share during the busier hours!”

Alphabet City is part of what most people know as the East Village. The area is very residential, but it is the home of several bars, cocktail spots and super cool restaurants. The area is filled with life and great spots to uncover.

Their park is called Tompkins Square Park. You might recall it from the post we wrote about a Feeding Program our Founder coordinates, feeding 200 homeless every week!

The area has also a significant Puerto Rican community, that definitely brings an uplifting vibe. After all, we know how cheerful Puerto Ricans are, right!?

Location: 212 Avenue B, Alphabet City

www.bcupcafe.com


It is definitely a place to go and meet interesting people, creative minds and mingle with a super cult crowd!

Be bold and go see what they have to offer!

Location: 231 11th Avenue, Chelsea

www.printedmatter.org


Cooper Hewitt

Curiosities Insider Interviews Antonia Greco Cooper Hewitt

“If you find museums to be boring, then maybe Cooper Hewitt will change your mind. The interactive environment – especially in the Immersion Room – is the perfect place to strike up conversation with others, all while interacting with art and design. When you’re done, grab a coffee from the cafe and head to the garden!”

The museum was founded in 1897 and was named “Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum”.

It’s dedicated exclusively on historical and contemporary design, making it the only museum in the US with this focus.

Therefore, it has “more than 210,000 design objects spanning 30 centuries.

From ancient textiles and works on paper to icons of modern design and cutting-edge technologies, Cooper Hewitt’s collection serves as inspiration for creative work of all kinds and tells the story of design’s paramount importance in improving our world.”

They have a great outdoor area and garden, where they host different events, so be sure to see what’s on next!

Location:  2 East 91st Street, Upper East Side

www.cooperhewitt.org


Niketown Running Club

Curiosities Insider Interviews Antonia Greco Nike+ Running Club

“Running is a great way to unwind all while staying healthy and I love the Nike Run Club! Regardless of your pace or athletic level, this is a good place to meet others – especially for those that are tired of the bar scene. Don’t be discouraged if the guy to girl ratio is not in your favor. One thing singles tend to forget is that ANY person you meet may have a single friend, relative or coworker that would be a fit for you!”

The Nike Run Club it not only for professional runners, but also for the amateur and aspiring runner!

Don’t be intimidated. It’s a great place to find like minded people.

You’ll have professional coaching and experts to help you out at any time of the day – from 5am through 7pm.

Plus, you can do a one-time test in Nike’s new shoes, register your evolution through their APP, run with the best lists on Spotify and also choose from 100 different workouts by Nike Master Trainers.

Location: 6 East 57th Street, Midtown East

www.nike.com/nrc-app


The Big Takeover Band Is Literally Taking Over New York City!

Insider Interviews The Big Takeover Band Show

Our Founder, Fê Paronetto, recently went to a Sofar Sounds event, hosted at a super cool spot in Bushwick, called Honey’s. There, she saw a fantastic show by The Big Takeover Band and understood “why” they are taking over New York City!

Insider Interviews The Big Takeover Band Show

If you’ve never heard of Sofar Sounds, they host the most exclusive, secret and intimate music gigs in over 300 cites all over the Globe!

“Bringing the magic back to live music. Amazing artists in intimate spaces, performing stripped-back sets to carefully curated audiences. Sit down, settle in and just listen. You’re gonna love it.”

This event is BYOB (bring.your.own.bottle), so you can bring your own Booze! So feel free to bring Wine, Beer, or whatever makes you happy!

During the night at Honey’s, three bands performed for around 25 minutes each. The place is amazing, with an additional space containing a tasting room with wine barrels by Enlightenment Wines. That’s where the event was hosted. Super cool!

At this last event that Fê went, the last band was The Big Takeover Band! She fell completely in love with their music, the style, the vibe and decided to interview them!

The Band:

Nee Nee Rushie – Vocals | Rob Kissner – Bass | Kerry Shaw – Guitar | Andy Vogt – Trombone | Chas Montrose – Sax | Batu Attila – Drums.

Insider Interviews The Big Takeover Band Sofar Sounds NYC
Sofar Sounds NYC event, hosted at Honey’s, in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

So, take a look below to see what they are all about:

1) Let’s start with how the band started. Being from the Hudson Valley, how did the band come about?

When I moved to New York from Jamaica to go to college, I met Rob Kissner (bass) and Sam Tritto  (original drummer) in New Paltz. We became friendly and realized we had a common love for Jamaican music.

We eventually formed a reggae band with the best guitar player in town (Jonny Monster) and Sam’s cousin, Andrew Vogt (trombone). Andrew soon brought Chas Montrose (sax) on board. They were old buddies who grew up together.

We started playing out and writing songs and people really enjoyed them. We have had some line-up changes along the way, but we have never stopped. That was back in 2007.

2) Was there any local inspiration when you guys started?

New Paltz, where we met and started playing gigs, has a very rich music scene. There is always something interesting music-wise happening there.

When we started out, there were many bands that played to very excited people. So we were inspired not only by our peers that were creating independent and good music, but by the people who were so open and excited to hear and see independent artists.

3) The music is very unique, mixing a quite a few different genres. Which bands are the ones you most enjoy and also gather inspiration from?

We gather inspiration from most styles of Jamaican music. We look up to bands and artists from the 60’s and 70’s. And some current artists with the old soul: The Skatalites, The Specials, The Slackers, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Phyllis Dillon, Gregory Isaacs. Too many to mention, really.

4) Before writing a song, is there any ritual or maybe a place you go to be in silence? What are some things that people don’t really know about this creative process and how much work is put in it that you could share?

We always have something conceptualized before we meet and flush it out. It starts with a chord progression or a bass line. I put a vocal melody and lyrics on top of it and the rest of the band works their magic. No special place, no rituals. It comes to us and we play it.

5) You’ve played in over 700 show, throughout the past 10 years, which is simply amazing! I don’t believe that there is only 1 highlight in that timeline, so what were the most memorable moments or experiences that you guys had? Which show (or shows), would you love going back in time and experiencing again?

We love playing festivals in the summer time. That’s our favorite. This year we played Mountain Jam and we loved it. We enjoyed every festival that we have played!

Whenever we get the opportunity to open for a band that we look up to, we enjoy the hell out of it and always wish we can do it again.

We have shared the stage with many people we look up to like: Beres Hammond, Culture, The Wailers, The Skatalites, The Slackers, Eek-a-Mouse…

6) What’s the most exciting part of a show and of performing? The very beginning before going on stage? The middle when you see the crowd vibing with your song? The end, when you have massive applauses? Or another pivotal moment?

I personally don’t enjoy the time before going on stage. Anytime that is spent not on stage or waiting to be on stage, is not fun for me.

The best part is the entire experience of being on stage from beginning to end. I love to sing, so if I’m singing, I’m happy. When I look out and see happy people, it makes it even better.

7) You are going on a new tour now to promote the “Silly Girl” album! What is the itinerary? What are you most looking forward too and what are some cool things you want to take from this tour?

We are going to VA, NC, LA, TX, CO, CA and WA and we’re really look forward to it all! It will be amazing since we are going to get to see a lot of the country! We want to see the Grand Canyon, the desert and some wild horses.

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A few other fun questions regarding the Hudson Valley region:

8) What are your top 5 picks in the area of places to go and activities to do? In other words, here would you take your friends and family to explore away from the touristy scene?

We are so lucky to live in such a unique area of the country and love it here! We would recommend walking over the Hudson River (Walkway Over The Hudson), swimming in a water hole (so many all over!), hiking (countless hiking trails), visiting a farm for picking fruits or veggies, visiting a distillery, brewery or cidery.

9) Which are the best spots in New York (5 boroughs) to listen to the best music and upcoming bands?

We don’t get the time to listen to upcoming bands, unless we catch them before or after our set. Manhattan and Brooklyn never fails to have an eye catching act. We’ve seen some great bands at Rockwood Music Hall and The Shrine in Harlem.


Thank you Nee Nee (and band!) for participating in this interview! We are happy to show the world a bit of your story and fantastic work!

Here are 3 video clips of musics we love:

You can purchase their albums, if you enjoyed the videos!

And, if you want to check them out or go to a show, take a look at their website to follow where they’ll be live next! As we mentioned, they are literally taking over New York City.

www.bigtakeoverband.com


Photo Credits: Courtesy of The Big Takeover Band, Matthew Conde and Arius Photography
*Last Update on March/2020.*

Guitarist Andre Vasconcelos Is Shaking Up New York City

Insider Interviews Andre Vasconcelos Guitar

Today we are here with one of New York City’s best guitarists Andre Vasconcelos. Hailing from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Andre has been living in the United States for quite some time now, playing with several different bands in stages throughout the world.

Insider Interviews Andre Vasconcelos Guitar
Photo Credit: Andrea Vodickova

We’ve written in the past about The Brazilian Johnsons, a band Andre played in, so we’ve been hearing about guitarist Andre Vasconcelos’ amazing musical talent for some time. Since we hear and see his name constantly showing up on band’s concerts line ups and posters around NYC, we decided to attend a show this past June 3rd, at Rough Trade. There, we were able to witness his performance first-hand. Our immediate reaction? We were in awe, and speechless!

Andre was performing as the lead guitarist for the band “The Velvicks”, who were interestingly acting as the openers for Andre’s main band, the RANN. We were blown away by the performances. Victor’s songs are catchy and energetic and the band that backs him up are made with some of the most incredibly players we have seen live.

Andre took some time to answer a couple of questions for Behind the Scenes NYC. We are thrilled to hear a little about his journey as a musician.

Insider Interviews Andre Vasconcelos RANN on Stage
Photo Credit: Rescalla Cury

1. When did you start playing music? And what was the moment you decided that this would be your professional path in life?

“I started playing music when I was around 13 years old. My brother was having guitar lessons so, when my mom offered me to start doing those too, I accepted just so I could be better than him (laughs).

Having done that, I moved on to developing a true relationship of love and devotion to the instrument. I started on nylon string guitar, but quickly changed to electric after coming back from the massive Rock in Rio Festival, in Brazil, where I witnessed Guns n’ Roses melt my face.

I don’t think I have ever decided that this would be my path, but also never really saw myself doing anything else. Then, I attended Business School for a while, just to find myself skipping classes to practice and/or learn new material.”

2. When did you move to New York City? What is the day-to-day life of such an in-demand musician living here?

“I moved to New York City around a year after I graduated from the renowned Berklee College of Music, in Boston. Many of my peers and collaborators were making the move to the big apple so the timing felt right. I had been playing in New York City for many years before I moved here, which is how it eventually works anyway.

The city requires you to be smart about your planning, scheduling and all of the logistic aspects of the profession. You need to understand immediately how big the city is, how long it takes to get from one place to the other and how costly it is to do so.

My day-to-day varies immensely as I have a Music House (Ghidrah Music) in my home studio, in Bushwick. There, I am a writer and producer for my own original rock band, called RANN, where we are always working on new materials. My jazz/rock band, called Racha Fora, does yearly tours in Japan, several other projects and side gigs that keeps our schedule very busy and diverse.

To answer your question, it is basically a combination of studio production sessions in the morning, followed by pretty intense rehearsals or performances at night.”

3. Talking a bit about RANN, how did this amazing project come to life? You guys went on 3 tours, what were they like? Plus, when can we expect new material?

“RANN is the main project I work with. There are four of us: Apoena Frota is the lead singer and also my partner at Ghidrah Music. We have our drummer, Joe Ullmer and Rafael Russi is our secret weapon playing guitars, synths and bass. I play guitar and sing harmonies.

We all met in Boston, but we only formed the band around January of 2015 when we rented a cabin upstate NY and wrote our entire full length record “Yellowgun” during that trip.

Quickly after finishing the album and seeing our shows get more and more hype, we went on our first US Tour. The, we won the Deli Magazine award of “Best Indie Pop Band of 2015”, had our song placed in a massive movie in Brazil and performed extensively.

In 2016 we crossed the country twice playing shows in over 45 different cities, driving from Cape Cod to Seattle and back.

New material should be released soon! We are very excited about it.”

4. After seeing your show with Vic, at Rough Trade, we decided to invite him to be part of the Sofar Sounds event we organized at the Greenpoint Gallery a few days ago. The show was a tremendous success and we were sold out! I heard you’ve played at several of these Sofar events with countless different artists. Can you tell us a bit about the event and what it feels like to see it from different artists’ perspectives?

“Absolutely! Sofar is always a fun experience. The name stands for “Songs from a Room”, which is a great concept. I’ve played Sofar shows with Brazilian artists singing in Portuguese, with Brazilian artists singing in English, with RANN, with heavy rock bands, but also with very soft and subtle singers…and pretty much everything in between.

Sofar Sounds shows are usually ‘stripped down’ versions of the original musics. So, adapting some music to that setting is both challenging and really fun. The show I did with “Victor & the Peculiars” was a particularly interesting one. The band is usually a full blast rock band, taking no prisoners. For our Sofar show last weekend, we managed to rock out, keep the energy up there, but still play the room. It was awesome!

I usually have around 10 guitar pedals with me, but for this show I only had 4. After the show I saw so many posts and comments from people complimenting the guitar sounds. It is always very rewarding. I have the Strymon pedals to thank for that – they are truly incredible pieces of gear.

One of my favorite Sofar concerts I did was with Racha Fora, the powerful and fiery jazz/rock ensemble, led by Hiroaki Honshuku. The music composed and performed by Hiro, myself (guitar), Rika Ikeda (violin) and Sebastian Chiriboga (percussion), pushed the envelope so much that the crowd’s reaction was stunning. Everybody really loved the concert. Being able to share our international touring experiences was another highlight.”

Insider Interviews Andre Vasconcelos RANN
Photo Credit: Alyss Tyler

Andre, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, at Behind the Scenes NYC! We are very excited to share this inspiring feature on you and continue rockin’!

“Thank YOU so much! This has been so much fun. Hope to catch you at our show soon!”


If you want to learn more about RANN, take a look at their website: www.rannpage.com. To listen to their music, enjoy their You Tube Page with countless clips!

We’ve chosen two, to share below. One was filmed at a place we love, with some of the coolest people in town, called Pianos.

Lastly, if you’re dying to see the guitarist Andre Vasconcelos play, his next show with “The Velvicks” will be for the July 4th celebration at El Derty’s rooftop in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

See you all there, for we are definitely going!


Photo Credits: Courtesy of Andrea Vodickova, Rescalla Cury and Alyss Tyler
*Last Update on March/2020.*

Learn How To Get The Best NYC Shots With Dani Diamond

Curiosities Insider Interviews Dani Diamond Photography Dani Smiling

New York City is a paradise for photographers, but getting the best NYC shots is not always easy! Dani Diamond, a professional photographer gives us a few tips to make it right!

At 27 years old, Dani Diamond, born in Ohio, but currently based in Connecticut, is more of the introvert type, so photography focused on Weddings & Events was definitely not up his alley, since he’d need to worry about countless details and bigger groups of people interacting with him.

He started working in Fashion / Commercial photography, at the age of 23, because he always wanted to be able to take amazing photos and, as we know, models do know their way in front of a camera (with a bit of orientation from the photographer, of course). So Dani, being a confessed introvert, found his way in.

His photography style is based on natural lighting and it’s surely what makes him stand out in relation to other photographers today. His technique also helped him built strong social media presence which, only on Instagram, is over 114k.

How he started? “I started on my own, figured out how things worked looking at Youtube videos. I studied in Business School and even though I didn’t follow that path, I can definitely apply what I learned to my own business.

As he says: “I wasn’t born talented, I was born ambitious.” Awesome, right?

He now has clients not only in the US like New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Texas, but also over seas in England and other countries around the Globe.

For this Insider Interviews, we decided to shift a bit the focus. So, this time instead of “Top 7 Secret Tips in NY”, Dani will give us his “Top 7 tips for Photographers that want to shoot in NYC”.

Read and learn, Guys!


#1 – I love shooting in NYC mainly because I can work outdoors at anytime of the day and get that soft golden hour light.

The tall skyscrapers of Manhattan block the direct harsh sunlight from hitting the streets, so this really softens the light as its bounces off the buildings.

This does come with a price to pay though. Contrary to popular believe, shooting during Sunset hours in NY is not good because of this. The same way harsh sunlight is softened before it reaches the street during daylight hours, it also eliminates the much weaker sunset light.

Without much light at the golden hour it makes taking photographs very difficult. In the end, I’d take 10 hours of soft light over 1 hour of sunset light on any day.

#2 – Stay away from touristy areas, like Midtown, of course.

I prefer mainly places in quieter areas. Areas like the Financial District on a Sunday where you’ll find absolutely no tourists nor business man walking around. You’ll have 10 blocks of beautiful emptiness.

In Brooklyn, Dumbo is favorite area. Even though you can find lots of people walking around, there are several streets that people just don’t pass by and that have a very unique cobble street look. You can also find great alleys, gorgeous store fronts, plus you have a breathtaking background with the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge. You can find the Brooklyn Bridge Park with a great view of Manhattan’s skyline, all within a 5 minute walk, versus Manhattan, that doesn’t have all that in a small radius.

#3 The West Side Highway is great to shoot.

The best time is to shoot during the first half of the day, before the sun reaches that area. The first half of the day, the sun is on the FDR side (East).

Plus, you also have nice docks with boats in the back, giving it a cool background.

#4 If it’s a rainy day, go to Soho. You’ll find tons of bars.

You can shoot in the empty bars before 4-5pm, since people start showing up only after work for the endless Happy Hours.

They all have different looks and personalities. Just feel free to walk in and politely ask to take pictures, not more than 5-6, though. SoHo has only a “10 block radius” and each bar speaks in a different way.

#5 Go to the famous Highline!

Try shooting early in the morning, before people come around. It does get quite crazy during the day. This area will give you a unique nature type of vibe and lots of green.

#6 Hit-up bridges in NY to shoot.

Shoot at Sunset because you’re out in the open. The Brooklyn Bridge is #1, for sure, but it has the most number people too.

The Williamsburg Bridge is great, but keep in mind it is very ‘red’, so remember this detail when styling the wardrobe. My favorite bridge is the 59th Street Bridge that crosses Roosevelt Island – there are no tourists and only a few people biking to work or from work.

#7 The best place to buy your equipment is B&H.

They have any piece of gear you’ll probably need. And, the best is they are not forcing any things down your throat since they don’t get paid commission to sell.

The store has robots hanging from the ceiling that take care of your shopping cart. Therefore, you don’t need to carry anything around while shopping!

www.bhphotovideo.com


Here are a few other tips:

What is a hidden spot in NYC with a stunning view of the City?
As I said, Dumbo is great, and I also really like Hoboken, in Hudson County, New Jersey.

What piece of advise would you give someone that just moved to NYC?
Do not stay in the City. Get a place in Brooklyn or New Jersey, this way you’ll actually see the City’s beautiful skyline. It’s also cheeper and you’ll experience more things around it. If you stay in the City, you will likely stay o-n-l-y in the City. Plus, the ferries are cheep and pretty fun!

        

Oh! Dani told us that he uses a Nikon D800 and buys semi new cameras. His tip for buying a used camera is to check the shutter count to see how old it is. If it’s under 20k, it’s ok! Cameras are rated up to 200k.

Click on the images above to see further details of the camera and the lens! It will surely help you get the best NYC shots.

http://danidiamond.com


His YouTube page has great stuff and tells a bit more about his career and photography tips! Enjoy!

Take a look as some of his beautiful work:

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And, a few portraits:

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Photo Credits: Courtesy of Dani Diamond
*Last Update on March/2020.*

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