INTERVIEW : COURTNEY MAZZOLA OF DINING IN THE DARK
Courtney Mazzola is a partially blind server working with Opaque : Dining in the Dark, a new dining experiencing landing at Ace Hotel New York this week. The organization hires all visually impaired and blind servers to use their expertise to guide diners through a sensual and inspiring culinary experience. Courtney is a San Francisco-based massage therapist with a growing somatic psychology practice. She volunteers at San Quentin Prison and is an accomplished horse jumper and jujitsu fighter. She took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her experiences with Dining in the Dark, her love of travel and her advice for Dark Diners…
What’s it like working with Dining in the Dark?
On my first night at Dining in the Dark, it was pretty surreal. Having lived most of my life surrounded by almost all sighted people, this was the first time I not only felt equal to sighted people, but I actually had the upper hand. I realized this was the first time I felt I truly could be myself in the company of sighted people –- I wasn’t having to try to appear “normal.” Skills I’ve developed throughout my life suddenly became useful assets. An example is “listening around the room” (the equivalent of “looking around the room”) — my ability to listen for certain things, like the lack of silver wear clinking to signify that the guests were done with the course, or uncertain voices wondering how to get my attention…
Do you travel a lot?
I’ve visited over 15 countries, and there’s a sense of freedom that traveling provides me, being outside the somewhat limiting normality of daily life. As a blind person, travel means that I am much more dependent on sighted people but traveling takes me out of the box, and motivates me to get out and explore and find my way, continually showing me what I am capable of. I also find the ways in which different cultures relate to me as a blind person really interesting. Each culture seems to view and engage with me differently. The most impressive to me so far have been the people of both Cuba and Egypt, whom I found to be more observant of the fact that I am blind than most Americans, and definitely much more at ease with approaching and interacting with me than my fellow countrymen.
Do you have any tips for Dark Diners?
+ Don’t be afraid to explore your table –- follow along the edges to know how big the area is, feel over the surface to locate the position of utensils.
+ Don’t be shy to ask your server for anything -– including advice.
+ Place beverages above silver wear so they can be easily located by following the utensil to the top.
+ When passing an item to another person, try to make some sound with it to indicate to the other person where they should be reaching –- like gently rattling the ice in a glass, or quietly tapping on the edge of the plate with a fingernail.
Thanks, Courtney — see you in the dining room!

INTERVIEW : COURTNEY MAZZOLA OF DINING IN THE DARK

Courtney Mazzola is a partially blind server working with Opaque : Dining in the Dark, a new dining experiencing landing at Ace Hotel New York this week. The organization hires all visually impaired and blind servers to use their expertise to guide diners through a sensual and inspiring culinary experience. Courtney is a San Francisco-based massage therapist with a growing somatic psychology practice. She volunteers at San Quentin Prison and is an accomplished horse jumper and jujitsu fighter. She took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her experiences with Dining in the Dark, her love of travel and her advice for Dark Diners…

What’s it like working with Dining in the Dark?

On my first night at Dining in the Dark, it was pretty surreal. Having lived most of my life surrounded by almost all sighted people, this was the first time I not only felt equal to sighted people, but I actually had the upper hand. I realized this was the first time I felt I truly could be myself in the company of sighted people –- I wasn’t having to try to appear “normal.” Skills I’ve developed throughout my life suddenly became useful assets. An example is “listening around the room” (the equivalent of “looking around the room”) — my ability to listen for certain things, like the lack of silver wear clinking to signify that the guests were done with the course, or uncertain voices wondering how to get my attention…

Do you travel a lot?

I’ve visited over 15 countries, and there’s a sense of freedom that traveling provides me, being outside the somewhat limiting normality of daily life. As a blind person, travel means that I am much more dependent on sighted people but traveling takes me out of the box, and motivates me to get out and explore and find my way, continually showing me what I am capable of. I also find the ways in which different cultures relate to me as a blind person really interesting. Each culture seems to view and engage with me differently. The most impressive to me so far have been the people of both Cuba and Egypt, whom I found to be more observant of the fact that I am blind than most Americans, and definitely much more at ease with approaching and interacting with me than my fellow countrymen.

Do you have any tips for Dark Diners?

+ Don’t be afraid to explore your table –- follow along the edges to know how big the area is, feel over the surface to locate the position of utensils.

+ Don’t be shy to ask your server for anything -– including advice.

+ Place beverages above silver wear so they can be easily located by following the utensil to the top.

+ When passing an item to another person, try to make some sound with it to indicate to the other person where they should be reaching –- like gently rattling the ice in a glass, or quietly tapping on the edge of the plate with a fingernail.

Thanks, Courtney — see you in the dining room!


An afternoon shot from Publication Studio in Portland, maker of special, constructed-one-at-a-time-by-hand books sold all over the world. They’re throwing a collaborative event on July 2 at the Brooklyn Grange Farm, a zero chemical input commercial urban farm located on a New York City rooftop. Friends of Publication Studio have been hard at work designing and constructing a very large dining table in the middle of the farm and under the open sky. Tickets are limited so save yourself a deep and insurmountable regret by buying yours as soon as possible — the first 15 tickets sold include a walking tour of disappeared NYC bookstores, and all tickets include an incredible dinner and a copy of P.S. co-founder and Guggenheim Fellow Matthew Stadler’s novel Chloe Jarren’s La Cucaracha.
The walking bookstore tour covers those with personal import to the author followed by a six-course dinner by Benjamin Walmer of Highlands Dinner Club. Toasts, reading and conversation with the author and the chef, whose work explores and exploits transdisciplinary design opportunities within architecture, food systems and social innovation.

An afternoon shot from Publication Studio in Portland, maker of special, constructed-one-at-a-time-by-hand books sold all over the world. They’re throwing a collaborative event on July 2 at the Brooklyn Grange Farm, a zero chemical input commercial urban farm located on a New York City rooftop. Friends of Publication Studio have been hard at work designing and constructing a very large dining table in the middle of the farm and under the open sky. Tickets are limited so save yourself a deep and insurmountable regret by buying yours as soon as possible — the first 15 tickets sold include a walking tour of disappeared NYC bookstores, and all tickets include an incredible dinner and a copy of P.S. co-founder and Guggenheim Fellow Matthew Stadler’s novel Chloe Jarren’s La Cucaracha.

The walking bookstore tour covers those with personal import to the author followed by a six-course dinner by Benjamin Walmer of Highlands Dinner Club. Toasts, reading and conversation with the author and the chef, whose work explores and exploits transdisciplinary design opportunities within architecture, food systems and social innovation.


We are incredibly honored to share a building in downtown Portland with Clyde Common, our in-house, internationally celebrated restaurant and lobby bar at Ace Hotel Portland, for many reasons, not the least of which is that we get frequent exposure to the genius workings of the mind of chef Chris DiMinno. His latest revelation is this plate of early June vegetables (house-pickled, freshly harvested, still tasting of earth) with mâche on a spread of truffle yogurt so smooth and unbelievably good you basically want to wear it.
We closed our wanton eyes like Tilda Swinton as we savored this dish, and envisioned a disc of gold hovering over Chris’ head. Fortunately, and unsurprisingly, The James Beard Foundation has taken notice and will host a woodland feast by Chris and Clyde co-owner Nate Tilden on June 16, with wine and eggs by Big Table Farm. The menu will lead Manhattan’s city-dwelling diners into the Oregon forests, with dishes like hay-cured salmon and seared foie gras in ash. Furthermore, New Yorkers will be introduced to the delectable delight that is Olympic Provisions’ chocolate salami. See the full menu and get a reservation here.
If you’re in Portland and won’t be able to make it to dinner in NYC next week, tonight and tomorrow are your last chances to experience a preview of each course — through tomorrow night, Chris will feature a James Beard Dish on the already worthy and stunning Clyde menu. Spontaneous omnivorism is required, reservations are not.


Photos by Hunter Gatherer

We are incredibly honored to share a building in downtown Portland with Clyde Common, our in-house, internationally celebrated restaurant and lobby bar at Ace Hotel Portland, for many reasons, not the least of which is that we get frequent exposure to the genius workings of the mind of chef Chris DiMinno. His latest revelation is this plate of early June vegetables (house-pickled, freshly harvested, still tasting of earth) with mâche on a spread of truffle yogurt so smooth and unbelievably good you basically want to wear it.

We closed our wanton eyes like Tilda Swinton as we savored this dish, and envisioned a disc of gold hovering over Chris’ head. Fortunately, and unsurprisingly, The James Beard Foundation has taken notice and will host a woodland feast by Chris and Clyde co-owner Nate Tilden on June 16, with wine and eggs by Big Table Farm. The menu will lead Manhattan’s city-dwelling diners into the Oregon forests, with dishes like hay-cured salmon and seared foie gras in ash. Furthermore, New Yorkers will be introduced to the delectable delight that is Olympic Provisions’ chocolate salami. See the full menu and get a reservation here.

If you’re in Portland and won’t be able to make it to dinner in NYC next week, tonight and tomorrow are your last chances to experience a preview of each course — through tomorrow night, Chris will feature a James Beard Dish on the already worthy and stunning Clyde menu. Spontaneous omnivorism is required, reservations are not.



Photos by Hunter Gatherer


Moorten Botanical Garden is a funky little cactus garden in Palm Springs that’s been around since the late 1930s — the Moorten family have called its acreage home for almost a century. ”Slim” Moorten and his family traveled around the world collecting specimens then came to the desert and opened Moorten’s, where you can see these fine samples on display, arranged along a meandering path, some of which are over 70 years old and several feet tall. Read all about it above (a local article about Moorten’s from 1969), and come meet Clark, Slim’s son, this evening at Ace — we’re celebrating our sustainability efforts including a new food waste system, and guests will get a potted cactus from Moortens, a bag of locally made, organic granola from Earthling Organics in Palm Springs, plus special treats from King’s Highway and Chef Craig Mattox with friends from County Line Harvest Farm.
See you tonight.

Moorten Botanical Garden is a funky little cactus garden in Palm Springs that’s been around since the late 1930s — the Moorten family have called its acreage home for almost a century. ”Slim” Moorten and his family traveled around the world collecting specimens then came to the desert and opened Moorten’s, where you can see these fine samples on display, arranged along a meandering path, some of which are over 70 years old and several feet tall. Read all about it above (a local article about Moorten’s from 1969), and come meet Clark, Slim’s son, this evening at Ace — we’re celebrating our sustainability efforts including a new food waste system, and guests will get a potted cactus from Moortens, a bag of locally made, organic granola from Earthling Organics in Palm Springs, plus special treats from King’s Highway and Chef Craig Mattox with friends from County Line Harvest Farm.

See you tonight.


INTERVIEW : CHRIS ISRAEL, GRÜNER

Chris Israel is an old friend and enterprising culinary freestylist recently nominated for a James Beard award. His newest venture, Grüner, explores the Alps, the Black Forest and all manner of obscure root vegetables and hard-wrought, herby, nearly-medicinal liqueurs and apertifs. On any given afternoon, you can watch Chris’ team in the midst of hours of preparation for that evening’s ingredients, prepared from scratch, before your check is delivered to the table in a tiny old book. It’s a nice place, and we got a chance to chat with Chris about it while he was staying at Ace New York during the James Beard Award events.

Grüner is one of our favorite places — you’ve said you hope to “create an audience for this underloved cuisine,” and you seem to have succeeded. How do the local food culture and resources influence your menu? You seem to steer clear of gimmicky takes on the Alpine meets Pacific Northwest angle.

Portland’s food community is filled with excellent purveyors and passionate farmers whose offerings inspire chefs like myself to consider the possibilities. 

I want my menu to tell a story so I try to imagine the similarities between the Pacific northwest and the Alps.

The beauty of what you offer at Grüner is that it’s specific enough to create a sort of culinary fetish, in a place that is dark and dreary enough, often enough, that people are always in the market for a new food obsession. Has Grüner provided some kind of extra satisfaction for you beyond Zefiro and Saucebox, for this reason?

Yes. I knew that Grüner would be a harder sell and to watch it become successful has been rewarding. German & Austrian food isn’t inherently sexy like Italian or French. 

You’ve been nominated for a James Beard award — a pretty enormous honor. Tell me about how the team of people who work with have led you to this point? Who has influenced and inspired you, and who supports you in the day to day?

Besides my mother & grandmothers, I would say my experience working at Square One restaurant in the 80’s under chef & author Joyce Goldstein was my biggest influence for food. There I watched, learned and tasted the regional cooking of the Mediterranean and the rest of the world over a five year period. The menu there changed every day so it was an enormous undertaking which was very successful. I was drawn to the sense of theatre and the fluid dynamics of an ace team of talented people enjoying what they were doing. I like to create a full experience so I’m concerned with every detail — graphic design and architecture have always been important to me and history, ephemera and links to the past. Day to day, my support team is my partner Jason, my chef de cuisine Jake Sheffield — we’ve worked together for a number of years — and my GM Yaduki is my godsend.

Last time I was at Grüner, the communal table in the back of the dining room was entirely devoted to making what looked like fresh ravioli and sausages — the ravioli was this mesmerizing tide of golden ribbons. It’s making me want to walk over and beg at the back door for some right now. What’s it like to keep the balance between running a restaurant efficiently and remaining devoted to this kind of human, handmade and authentic element of food?

I think of Grüner like a ship — it’s small but every element relates to the next so there’s no wasted space or movement. That, combined with the feeling that I don’t have to worry about who’s steering the boat means I can relax a bit more and think about the menu, which allows me to respond to the season quickly, capture the moment through tastes and textures.

The Grüner menu explores the alpine regions of Europe — who devised the spirits menu and cocktails, and how do you hope this contributes to the whole experience?

Our original bartender Shane Firstein created some amazing recipes using spirits from Germany, Austria, Croatia and the Czech Republic (our geographical boundaries also include countries on the Danube river which starts in the Black Forest and ends at the Black Sea. He thought about classic drinks and how they would be interpreted using these different but similar ingredients. The drinks were created to express a mood or feeling — we had a drink called “The Monk’s Path” which imagined what a Carthusian monk’s walk might have felt like in the forest on a warm spring day. These are the monks that make Chartreuse which is an incredibly floral and herbal liqueur.

Our original wine goddess and GM Dana Frank put together our amazing wine list and also contributed to our beginning menus.

Where are you spending your downtime in NYC?

I’ve been hanging with old friends, eating and celebrating at spots like Fatty Cue, John Dory, Buvette, Torys and ABC Kitchen. Also The Met and Cooper-Hewitt and even got to see Oregon Symphony rehearse at Carnegie Hall before I left for Paris & Strasbourg.

Please settle this once and for all — is the food better in Portland?

After spending two weeks eating in New York and Europe, I would have to say yes — the quality of ingredients and the value our smaller metropolis offers is unbeatable.


A selection of celebratory caps and fascinators from this morning’s Royal Wedding viewing party and English Breakfast with The Breslin in the lobby at Ace Hotel New York.



Photos by Tiffany Davis and Billy Gray of The Feast New York


Everyone has their own way of celebrating, and you have to respect that. Our way is an early morning Viewing Party & English Breakfast by The Breslin tomorrow in the lobby at Ace Hotel New York, as we screen The Royal Wedding live from Westminster Abbey. English porridge and pastries, booze, coffee and tea will be available on the menu from 5:30am Friday morning. Screening begins at 6am and will continue until around noon.

Everyone has their own way of celebrating, and you have to respect that. Our way is an early morning Viewing Party & English Breakfast by The Breslin tomorrow in the lobby at Ace Hotel New York, as we screen The Royal Wedding live from Westminster Abbey. English porridge and pastries, booze, coffee and tea will be available on the menu from 5:30am Friday morning. Screening begins at 6am and will continue until around noon.


Join us tomorrow night in The Cleaners at Ace Hotel Portland for Make it Pop!, a benefit for PDX Pop Now! — our local non-profit musical heros bringing music to public schools and hosting Portland’s annual local music festival and compilation of indie music.

Local treasures like Laura Gibson, singing here in an alley in Vienna, Laura Veirs, Eric Early of Blitzen Trapper and others are donating their talents to fundraise for one of the west coast’s most important cultural institutions. And it’s just going to be a really good party. You’ll be treated to appetizers from Beast — Chef Naomi Pomeroy is a current contestant on Top Chef Masters — and Fifty Licks Ice Cream, as well as beer from Captured by Porches and wine from Annie Amie Winery. Yum. Get your tickets here.



Video by playgrrround


New Amsterdam Market is inspired by the history and cultural institution of public marketplaces where commerce engages with a sense of place and culture. It’s going to be a collective market space for food purveyors who source food directly from farmers and producers whom they trust to be good stewards of our land and waters, and will work to diminish the economic, social, and educational impediments to sound nutrition by being accessible to all. They’re raising funds to get the market up and running, and we’re looking forward to their Oyster Saloon Fundraiser this Saturday at the Old Fulton Fish Market on South Street. The menu is an exultation of fresh, real foods by celebrated chefs, including April Bloomfield, executive chef at the Michelin-starred Breslin and John Dory at Ace Hotel New York. Find out more about the event and buy tickets here.

New Amsterdam Market is inspired by the history and cultural institution of public marketplaces where commerce engages with a sense of place and culture. It’s going to be a collective market space for food purveyors who source food directly from farmers and producers whom they trust to be good stewards of our land and waters, and will work to diminish the economic, social, and educational impediments to sound nutrition by being accessible to all. They’re raising funds to get the market up and running, and we’re looking forward to their Oyster Saloon Fundraiser this Saturday at the Old Fulton Fish Market on South Street. The menu is an exultation of fresh, real foods by celebrated chefs, including April Bloomfield, executive chef at the Michelin-starred Breslin and John Dory at Ace Hotel New York. Find out more about the event and buy tickets here.


We have a new breakfast spot at Ace Hotel Portland. In the room formally known as 215, we’re serving up local, organic and housemade abundance 7 days a week from 7 to 11am. We’re going to be posting videos of our hunter-gatherer missions at local farmers markets soon, but for now suffice to say we’ve been concocting fresh rhubarb jam, pickling vegetables, making mustard, and shopping around the neighborhood for the best local breads, cheeses and prosciutto that’s so good it’s just not right. Not to mention local French press coffee, organic juice, granola from Clyde Common, Nutella, honey and local butter, fruit and eggs.

When you book a room at Ace PDX through March, we’ll hook you up with free breakfast and free parking plus 10% off your room (except shared bath rooms). You can book online here.

If you’re coming anytime after March, breakfast is $8 a head, and you’re always welcome to partake in as much as you’d like. There’s also a $5 option where we bring breakfast to you, so you can just stick your hand out the door and grab it — whether you’re wearing something unmentionable or nothing at all, we’ll never be the wiser. The bag includes yogurt, granola, fruit and juice, and can be delivered before 7am, too.


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