Six Things You Need To Know for February

Snapchat food fights, hotels play cupid, and Super Bowl Monday

February 2019


Unique art pops up in the Coachella Valley at this month’s Desert X

The sprawl of the desert can be as sparse as a gallery wall, but also carries connotations. Maybe that’s why the area outside Palm Springs, California, makes such a splendid location for Desert X (Feb. 9 to April 21), an art biennial in which international artists pick a spot—anything from a bluff to an abandoned storefront—and create pieces specifically for that site. “Desert X is all about scale,” says artistic director Neville Wakefield, which means artists can really go big. The first event, in 2017, saw 16 works dotting the area, including Doug Aitken’s Mirage (top), a reflective ranch-house kaleidoscope of nature and human aspiration; and Jennifer Bolande’s Visible Distance / Second Sight (bottom), a series of highway billboards with images of the mountains they obstruct perfectly aligned. What’s up their sleeve for 2019? Expect text projected on mountainsides, huge orange monoliths and a massive AR/VR work by artist Nancy Baker Cahill that suspends curious visual objects over the rugged landscape. “It’s an invitation to explore the desert through the eyes of the artists,” says Wakefield. 

—Bill Kearney




Around the world, chicken wings and beer take center stage for the NFL’s championship

On Sunday, Feb. 3, Super Bowl LIII will kick off in Atlanta, attracting an estimated U.S. audience of over 100 million. If you’re not in the States, here are some of the top spots around the world to catch America’s Big Game.


El Alamo Bar

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Local Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. Sunday

Serving burgers, wings and tacos, this bar stays open until 4:30 a.m.


CocoVail Beer Hall

Barcelona, Spain

Local Kickoff: 12:30 a.m. Monday

Inspired by American beer halls, this bar has 20 different craft brews on tap.


The Camel Sports Bar 

Shanghai, China

Local Kickoff: 7:30 a.m. Monday

Voted the best sports bar in Shanghai, it’s known for its ribs and smoked Cajun drumsticks.


24/7 Sports Bar

Sydney, Australia

Local Kickoff: 10:30 a.m. Monday

This bar inside The Star Sydney resort (above) has 50 LCD TVs, so patrons won’t miss the action during lunch. 

– Fred Gonzalez


A Massachusetts eatery is using augmented reality to tempt diners

What if you could view a dish on the dining table—and zoom in for juicy details—before you actually ordered it? That’s the reality at Boston’s Backyard Betty’s and several other restaurants utilizing augmented reality menus, where diners can use their mobile devices to experience 360-degree views of given dishes. 

Guests access an evolving menu of 3D items—including smoked nachos, Nashville fried chicken sandwich and Dr. Mintz Boozy Shakes—via a QR code on the menu and the Snapchat app on Apple devices. “You can see people of all ages playing with their [virtual] food, even placing it on their head,” says PJ Crowley, general manager of the restaurant. To create the augmented offerings, New York-based tech start-up Kabaq used up to 10 cameras to capture each dish. “The level of detail allows you to zoom in and check out every nook and cranny of the fried chicken.”

-John Gaudiosi



For Valentine’s Day, these hotels resurrect the lost art of love-letter writing

According to Shakespeare, the course of true love never did run smooth, but with a little help from a couple hotels this Valentine’s Day, it just might. For the entire month, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh and Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia have set up love-letter writing stations near the lobbies, where guests can pen epistles to their sweethearts. The hotels also provide stamps, stationery, envelopes and inspiration: Desks are stocked with feather pens, fresh flowers and romantic works by Pablo Neruda and Rumi. Since the stations debuted in February 2016, thousands of love letters have been delivered as far away as England, Japan and Australia.“A letter is much more intentional than a text message or email,” says Rob Mallinger, manager of the Pittsburgh hotel. “The recipient is usually truly surprised.”  

-Jess Swanson



Asia’s latest accommodation turns a quarry into upscale hospitality

What to do with an abandoned quarry? Why not build a hotel into its cliff walls? The recently opened InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland, about 20 miles southwest of the city, stretches 18 floors down instead of up, prompting the project’s chief architect, Martin Jochman, to refer to it as a “groundscraper.” Guest rooms offer views of rugged cliff walls and a waterfall, while the lower two floors are submerged underwater, allowing aquarium views. An indoor pool’s floor-to-ceiling windows look out on the landscape as well. “The project shows how a man-made scar on the earth can be made into an attractive environment,” says Jochman. 

-Derrik J. Lang



Island dishes evolve at this month’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival

“The first thing people associate with Jamaica is Bob Marley and jerk,” says Miami-based  chef and restaurateur Cindy Hutson, who has been traveling to the island for more than 30 years. “But their soil is amazing, they grow beautiful herbs, spices and fruit—it’s really exciting to be putting a different spin on it.” Hutson has spent the past 25 years plating elevated Caribbean cuisine, such as oxtail ravioli served in butter-bean sauce and breadfruit fish tacos (left), in her four restaurants across Florida, and Jamaica. This month, she and her partner, Delius Shirley, will lead the Taste Jamaica event at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, where patrons can sample their stylish creations while shimmying to DJ Irie’s beats.

-Jess Swanson



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