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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Enlightened Traveler: What's On In Paris And Why You Should Spend The Holidays There

Are you planning a cozy Christmas holiday week at home with friends, family, lots of good food and movies? Or are you joining the legions who already have decided that the holidays are going to be no big deal this year?

Either way, you could do better.

We recommend heading straight for Paris, which, while magnificent at any time of year, seems most magical at Christmas.

(Hey, if it's too late for this year, there's always 2010. So, read on!)

By day you'll have your pick of dozens of wonderful museums and exhibits, sans the long lines and crowds of summer.

The Grand Palais is currently running an ambitious exhibit that explores the work and influences of Spanish cubist painter Pablo Picasso. Whether you're an expert on Picasso's work or are encountering it for the first time, "Picasso and the Masters" promises to give a solid overview of the artist's development and early influences, from Goya to Renoir and Manet.

The exhibit showcases some 200 works and should allow even those who are very well-versed in Picasso's creations to gain new perspective. Through February.

An exhibition devoted to Louis Comfort Tiffany is at the Musée du Luxembourg. This show brings together some 160 works (stained-glass windows, vases, lamps, objects, jewels and mosaics, drawings, watercolours and photographs), to reveal Tiffany’s outstanding contribution to the glass industry as well as to decorative arts in general. Through Jan. 17.

Other tantalizing exhibits on now include, "Renoir in the 20th Century" at the Galeries Nationales, "Venetian Rivalries: Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese" at the Louvre, and "Louis XIV: The Man and the King" at the Chateau de Versailles.

Plan to spend some quality shopping time at our favorite grand magasin, Au Bon Marché on the Left Bank. Even if your budget prevents you from loading up on designer duds, you will find affordable, memorable gifts in the store's La Grande Epicerie, a showstopping agglomeration of gourmet foods, sweets, and spirits.

Save some time to explore the charming boutiques – laden with gifts, tabletop items, and antiques – on the several streets that lead from Au Bon Marché through the Latin Quarter to the Seine.

A this time of year sometimes testy shopkeepers will be happy to see you. (In this economy, they'll be positively ecstatic.)

After an afternoon at the galleries, restore yourself with a cup of rich hot chocolate at one of the numerous patisseries to be found in every neighborhood. You'll enjoy it all the more in the crisp air of December than in the sweltering heat of July. If in doubt, head for the famous Ladurée or Angelina. (For more ideas, see David Lebovitz's Hot Chocolate Address Book.)

During Christmastime, Paris is breathtaking at night with dazzling light displays on the Champs-Elysées and other major thoroughfares.

Many fine restaurants and theatres remain open and welcoming throughout the holidays. Waiters normally are convivial, not brusque, owing to the season and absence of tourists.

Still, it may be difficult to find a place to dine on Christmas Eve or Christmas Night.

Our choice for Christmas eve: the famous patisserie Ladurée also operates an elegant restaurant with excellent food at their Champs-Elysées location.

We once chatted with a French couple seated next to us who boasted that they dine at Ladurée every Christmas Eve. Turns out the the husband is executive chef for Air France first class; he knows what he's talking about.

Sleep in on Christmas morning, then eat a hearty late lunch at your hotel and plan to skip dinner. Instead, reserve tickets to see the Nureyev staging of "Nutcracker" by the Paris Opera Ballet at Opera Bastille.

On another evening, see the company's new Ballets Russes de Dhiagilev program at the historic Palais Garnier, magnificently restored to its original splendor. The original choreography and stage settings for Spectre of the Rose, Afternoon of a Faun, Three-Cornered Hat, and Petroushka are on offer. Not to be missed!

At 4p.m. on Christmas afternoon, there's a free concert of organ and choral music at the Church of La Madeleine.

You'll also get a kick out of the Parisian version of the Broadway musical "The Lion King" at Théâtre Mogador. It's in French, of course, but that won't matter as you've already seen the show in the States, right?

Go for the enchantment, sheer spectacle, and fun of watching a French audience clap and stamp their feet in time with the music. As the show has been running for two years, it's likely to still be there next Christmas.

Looking for more amusement? How about outdoor ice skating until 10p.m. (midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) at the Hotel de Ville?

There's lots more to do in Paris at the holidays.

Even if you don't follow any of our suggestions, go anyway. Whatever you end up doing, you're sure to have the experience of a lifetime.

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année à tous!

(For more Paris travel tips, click here.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Make It A Double: Scotch You Don't – But Should – Know

David Wondrich, Esquire magazine's resident "cocktail historian," writes often and knowledgeably about Scotch.

By reading Wondrich regularly, you'll learn not only what to look for in a fine Scotch, but also what's in a Rusty Nail and why you shouldn't drink one. But I digress.

Wondrich explores seven lesser known but impressive single-malt whiskeys in Esquire's November issue.

If you think there's more to life than Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Johnny Walker, but don't know where to turn, Wondrich will introduce you to the likes of Old Pulteney, Ledaig, Auchentoshan, and four others worth seeking out.

Here's his full selection.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Enlightened Traveler: Hermes On A Budget In Paris

Saturday's Wall St. Journal reported on the November 10 sale of vintage Hermes at the prestigious French auction house Artcurial.

Great deals on vintage Hermes in Paris.
Top: Hydra bag $189. Bottom: Mephisto bag, $259.
Below left: watch, $689
The paper states that the appetite for Hermes, whether vintage or new, has not at all been affected by the global economic downturn. Indeed, the auction netted a record of nearly $1.2 million for 631 lots, mostly bags and scarves but also including some unusual pieces such as a pair of garden pruners and a circa 1930 ladies watch that records golf scores.

While items from Vuitton, St. Laurent and other luxury labels are gathered into group auctions, Hermes is the only house to have its own twice-yearly sale.

The famous Birkin and Kelly bags were the top sellers with prices to match. Some crocodile and alligator models in exotic colors went for $25,000 - $50,000.

Still, there were bargains to be had. Many scarves sold in the $200 - $300 range.

You could have purchased a Kelly bag in natural pigskin for $4,677 or one in black leather for $2,598. A large Kelly in blue leather went for $2,079.

One lucky buyer snagged a small Kelly backpack for just $693.

If you schedule your next Paris visit to coincide with one of Artcurial’s Hermes auctions, you can skip Printemps and the other grands magasins altogether and return home with an affordable and prized vintage Hermes.

Getting a bargain won’t be the best part. When others compliment you on your good taste, you’ll get to tell them that you picked it up for a song at an auction on the Ave. Montaigne.

The full WSJ report is here.
Artcurial’s website is here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Fine Print: Louis Vuitton Suddenly Affordable

While it still will cost you to put a genuine Vuitton in your closet, you can display the new Louis Vuitton: Art, Fashion and Architecture on your coffee table for a mere $53.55, available at Amazon.com.

This hefty 400-page volume comprises the breadth of the great fashion house's collaborations over the past 30 years with artists, architects, designers, and photographers, such as Jun Aoki, Shigeru Ban, Zaha Hadid, David LaChapelle, Jean Larivière, Annie Leibovitz, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Inez Van Lamsweerde, and Vinoodh Matadin.
From early collaborations such as Jacques-Henri Lartigue's Eiffel Tower-shaped suitcase back in 1978 the volume's glossy pages come stuffed with an unending stream of high profile partnerships.

There's a streamlined carbon fiber suitcase from Philippe Starck, conceptual art scarves from Sol LeWitt, and David la Chapelle’s Lil’ Kim tattooed with the LV monogram from 1999.

Vuitton's Murakamified store in Tokyo
Other work from the likes of Olafur Eliasson, with his unearthly tubular light installation from 2006; Vincent Dubourg and his aluminum encased travel trunk; and Vanessa Beecroft's 2005 body installation at the Petit Palais in Paris shows Vuitton’s creative outreach stretching beyond the realms of most other fashion houses.

Buy it now at Amazon.com

We also recommend:
Dior by Farid Chenoune

Tom Ford by Tom Ford

Ralph Lauren by Ralph Lauren, introduction by Audrey Hepburn

Yves Saint Laurent: 40 Years of Creation
by Yves St. Laurent

Avedon Fashion 1944-2000
by Carol Squiers

Paris 1962: Yves Saint Laurent and Dior, Christian Dior, The Early Collections
by Jerry Schatzberg

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Interview: Photography Gallerist Peter Fetterman On the State of the Market, Collecting, and What to Buy Next

"One of the wonderful things about photography is that it is still possible to build up a significant collection for relatively small sums of money, if you go about it in a smart way," says Peter Fetterman.

The impassioned collector turned dealer displays images in an intimate salon-style atmosphere at his popular Peter Fetterman Gallery, where visitors can see carefully curated shows by both master and lesser known photographers.

We spoke with the congenial Fetterman at his gallery in Santa Monica.

Peter Fetterman at his gallery in Santa Monica

What is the state of the photography market today?

I think classic photography is strong. Cutting edge art is in trouble.


There was so much hype. The buying was purely speculative. Kids were coming out of art schools that dealers grabbed and put extraordinary prices on untried work. These days are over.

This isn’t a bad thing, is it?
No it is good that a saner environment will now prevail. Hopefully real
artists – people with genuine, unique insight and original vision – will now
emerge instead of “wannabes” expecting to be treated like rock stars.

Which photographers are you talking about here?

I’m not naming names! We deal in a lot of blue chip, classic photography. A lot of the artists we work with are in their 80s and 90s. These people have spent 40-50 years practicing their craft.

What are people buying today?

Our clients are buying images that move them, that have a haunting quality that they can connect to.

Sebastian Salgado

Who's in vogue now?

We represent the foremost photo journalist in the world, Sebastiao Salgado… What he’s been working for the last 30-40 years is bringing people together. (He believes that) we in the first world can’t ignore the third world… The images have great humanity and great beauty; they’re inspirational and humbling at the same time.

Willy Ronis, Amoureux de la Bastille, Paris, 1957
Who should we be buying now?

Sadly, one of our great photographers died a few weeks ago, Willy Ronis. He was 99 years old and undervalued.

Next year MoMA in New York is doing a major Cartier-Bresson retrospective. He’s Rembrandt. I know that show is going to change the perception of him and also change his market.

So this would be a good time to be collecting Cartier-Bresson?

I think it’s a very good time, because I think he’s undervalued.


If a Robert Frank is selling for $220,000 and a Cartier-Bresson is selling for $20,000… those prices seem to be out of sync. As a collector, you want to buy not only something that moves you… but also something that is somewhat undervalued.

Who else is undervalued?

I think Salgado is. I think Willy Ronis now is. Also Andre Kertesz and any of the master blue chip photographers.

My impression is that those are expensive, established names and already command high prices.

The prices, they are not as high as they’re going to go. As the contemporary market decompresses, people go back to the masters. The recent successful auctions have been the Old Master painters and classic Impressionists. People have been going back to those tried and true names. Everything else seems unstable. The hype that was going on about Chinese and Indian art!

Jeffrey Conley, Snow Covered Reflections, 2005

Great collectors always have an eye for new talent? Who should they be watching today?

Jeffrey Conley. My eye tells me that he is a master American photographer in the Ansel Adams tradition, but with his own originality and voice. This is the first young photographer we’ve taken on in many years. We’re putting a lot of time and energy to promote him. I believe in the work. I think it’s special… I’m not a landscape person, but I’m very moved by these images. I’m very inspired by them.

Lillian Bassman, for years no one ever heard of her. She was a contemporary of Irving Penn (who just died) and Richard Avedon. But because she was a woman in the 1950s bringing up her children, she wasn’t into her career as those guys were. Now she’s having a major renaissance. Fortunately, we’re a big part of that.

Lillian Bassman, Fantasy on the Dance Floor: Barbara Mullen, Paris, 1949. The ball gown is by Dior.

Tell us about your new show, "Faces of Fashion."

We’re doing a major show of fashion images. We’re also doing a one-woman show to celebrate Lillian Bassman’s new book.

Who else will be in the fashion show?

You’ll see great Irving Penns, great Horsts, a wonderful French photographer Georges Dambier, who was a photographer for French Elle in the 1950s. This will be his debut West-coast showing.

There will be a lot of beautiful surprises. Fashion photography as a genre seems to be one of the most expanding sectors of the market. When you pick up the newspapers in the morning, it’s depressing. So it’s great to look at these beautiful images.

How do you decide whom to show in your gallery?

The question I ask myself before I write a check is, in 500 years time, will this image have any significance in the history of photography?

You have great confidence in your judgment, because you won’t be around to find out! Does the photography market mirror the art market in general?

The status of photography has changed; it’s no longer the poor relative.

What shows over the next year should we be looking for?

In April the Museum of Modern Art in New York is hosting the biggest Cartier-Bresson retrospective ever. Robert Frank’s The Americans has just opened at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Those will be two significant, great shows.

What is your favorite luxury item? What items give you the greatest pleasure?

I’m not materialistic. I’m not interested in cars. I value peace of mind, serenity, clean air and being away from the computer!

"Faces of Fashion" is on view through February at Peter Fetterman Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Call (310) 453-6463 for exhibition hours.

For an appreciation of Irving Penn, who died earlier this week at the age of 92, please click here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

This Just In! The Cool, New Must-Have Gadget Everyone Will Want This Holiday Season

Anyone can watch a movie on a television set. Big deal!

The lucky few soon will be able to watch movies and videos on any wall, anywhere with the aid of a 6 oz. device that is small enough to fit in your hand but powerful enough to project a crisp 60 in. image from eight feet away.

We're talking about the amazing Wowee Cinemin Swivel microprojector.What's a microprojector? These pocket-sized gadgets take video from an iPhone, iPod, DVD player (including portables), video camera (including the Flip) and laptop computer and play it on any surface, indoors or out.

The New York Times called them "the newest blow-away-your-friends devices."

We call them the perfect cool gift for your clients, business associates, cast friends, and family this holiday season.

Here's what New York Times tech reporter Bob Tedeschi had to say about the Wowee Cinemin Swivel:

In short, this is easily the coolest new thing I’ve seen since the iPhone...

The Swivel came in handy on a sweltering afternoon last week, when we retreated to my son’s air-conditioned bedroom, connected my iPhone to the Cinemin Swivel, and voilà! An instant big-screen matinee of “Cars.”

Score big points for the Swivel’s simplicity...

Battery life was just enough. On a full charge, the Swivel lasts about two hours and 15 minutes, but when our unit started to fade on an incompletely charged battery, we just plugged it in and cruised through the end...

The Swivel has an audio jack for connecting the device to external speakers. [It also has a small built-inspeaker.] We plugged in a lightweight speaker, and at full volume the experience was amazing — a portable big-screen movie with big sound to match.

Luxury campers, I know what you’re thinking. How will this setup work if you have no power outlets to plug in your speakers? Simple. Newer audio devices like the JBL On Tour XTB feature very good speakers, and they work on batteries or AC power... Purely battery-powered speakers like the Nokia MD-8 are easily loud enough for the task.

Another nice feature: the Swivel’s hinged design means you can flip the business end of the device upward, and the video plays on your ceiling.
As we said before, this is very cool. See for yourself:

At $349.99, this clever gadget is already often sold out on Cinemin's website and will continue to be in short supply through the holidays.

Please call us now at (310) 581-6710 to make sure that we set aside several for you in time for holiday gifting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do You Know M0851?

Fashionistas who appreciate quality construction and design that stands the test of time know M0851, and you should, too.

Their fabulous leather bags, clothing, and small accessories will take you from morning through evening and around the globe in timeless style.

Constructed of the fashion house's signature soft, supple analine leathers from Italy, these items are simply gorgeous. Every one of the minimalistic, functional designs is handcrafted at M0851's workshops in Montreal.

(Did you know that some very well known brands of leather goods are manufactured in China? Not so with M0851.)

We've been big fans of M0851 since we shopped at their Toronto store in the early 1990s. In those days, the company was known as Rugby North and had shops only in Montreal and Toronto.

Since that time, they've opened attractive boutiques in New York, Paris, and trendy Antwerp, home to avant-garde designers Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester.

You'll find a small selection of their leather goods at chic shops, such as Fred Segal in Hollywood.

Sure you can buy a bag that is more famous and costs a lot more. But do you want to be known for your $2,000 bag of the moment, or do you want to be recognized for your sense of effortless, sophisticated style?

You'll feel very pleased with yourself if you choose the latter.

Here are two of our favorite M0851 designs.

For women,
the Round Bag

This large bag (shown here and on the model, above) has a slouchy, half moon shape and ample room for many items. Equipped with an interior zippered compartment and three patch pockets, it closes with a zipper and has a wide, adjustable strap.

Made from buttery soft leather, it has a luxurious silky, padded interior.

Available in black, brown, gray. $350

For both men and women, the Large Weekend Bag

Rectangular in shape, this handsome bag opens to reveal a roomy interior that will hold a weekend's worth of clothes and gear.

Centered handles and a comfortable, large adjustable strap.

Available in black or brown soft leather. $595

Accessories perfect for business gifting

M0851 also makes wonderful computer cases, passport covers, travel wallets, document carriers, jotters, and many other small items – all from their signature soft leather.

Your valued clients and business associates will love you if you give them one.

We can have them made to order for you in a variety of colors – not just black and brown, but also navy, off-white, turquoise, gray, and more.

We can also have them embossed with your logo, if desired. Quantities start at 10-15, depending on the item selected.

For holiday gifting, please call us now at (310) 581-6710 to discuss your custom order.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Enlightened Traveler: Where The Locals Dine In New Orleans

Here’s a secret we’ve learned from our many visits to the Crescent City over the past 25 years: the shabbier the restaurant looks on the outside, the greater the likelihood that the food is fantastic – and cheap.

Thus, we were pleased to read that Indiana Colts star quarterback Peyton Manning recommended two of our favorite New Orleans eateries in the September issue of Esquire.

In New Orleans, the worse it looks, the better the food.
As for Domilise's shrimp po' boy, brace yourself!
They are in the Uptown neighborhood and mostly patronized by locals, the folks who rarely venture into the French Quarter.

Neither Domilise’s or Camellia Grill is what you’d call a restaurant. “Joint” is more like it, especially in the case of Domilise’s, which from the outside looks as if it might be closed. The interior isn’t going to win any design awards either. But, the service is friendly and the po’ boys are outstanding. The true taste of New Orleans in every bite.

Camellia Grill's burger: all "dressed up" plus bacon and cheese
Compared to Domilise’s, Camellia Grill is posh. Still, it’s just a counter, a few booths, and often long lines outside, unless you go late at night. (If you go after a Saints game, be prepared to wait!)

No po’ boys here, but they do offer great beans and rice for Sunday supper. Their hamburger is what most people want. Ask for it “dressed,” the New Orleans equivalent of lettuce, tomato, pickle and ketchup.

Another favorite of ours is the better known Mother’s in the Central Business District. We prefer their Jambalaya to the version at The Gumbo Shop (take out only at their Uptown kitchen; eat in at their French Quarter cafe).

Mother’s will “cold pack” a gallon of Jambalaya so you can take it back on the airplane as your carry-on. This won’t seem as crazy as it sounds once you’re home and tucking in to a brimming bowlful a few nights later. (Freeze the rest in serving portions and enjoy sparingly until you return to New Orleans.)

We especially like Mother’s debris sandwich. It’s a French Dip affair made with the small leftover end pieces of the roast beef, the debris, that have been sitting in the juice for a while. Do not leave Louisiana without having sampled one.

More on where to dine in New Orleans, Uptown and elsewhere, in future postings.

Domilise’s, 5240 Annunciation St., (504) 899-9126 (take a taxi)
Camellia Grill,
626 S. Carrollton Ave., (504) 861-9311 (on the streetcar line)
401 Poydras St., (443) 408-6004 (walking distance from the Quarter)

Photos: Domilise’s – Eating in Translation, shrimp po’ boy – hollyeats.com, Camellia Grill hamburger – David Adams, Camellia Grill – Nola-Shiva

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Enlightened Traveler: New York's Best Bakeries

We're crazy about good bread and cookies – not necessarily in that order.

Over the years, we've sampled our way through loaves and tempting treats of all kinds from San Francisco to San Juan.* No place in North America has more fine bakeries than New York City.

Mitchel London cupcake
Mitchel London cupcake: not fancy, just fabulous!
We're fond of the deservedly famous cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, whose Upper Westside location opened earlier this year with, sadly, the same long lines as the original downtown bakery.

Don't feel like waiting? Mitchel London's chocolate fudge cupcakes are equally sublime.

Pick them up at his cafe on East 65th or at Fairway Market on Broadway and 74th, open until 10:00pm.

The hands-down-best-we-ever-tasted almond croissant at the recently closed Payard Patisserie on Lexington Ave. is another passion. Happily this flaky, crunchy marzipan-filled wonder is still available at the Payard Bistro at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. It's hard to imagine a better use of $4.

So many NY bakeries, so little time!

Here are our top Manhattan baked goods. These are the ones we bring Zip-Loc bags for.

Citarella Pecan-Cranberry Bread

Citarella Bakery
Citarella has a bakery. Who Knew?
Long Famous for its fish and meat selections, Citarella, at Broadway and 75th, also has a swell bakery on the premises. We always bring a couple of loaves of the dome-shaped pecan-cranberry loaf (sliced thin) back home with us. Toast it lightly. Enjoy with a smear of sweet whipped butter and a cup of tea or coffee.

Citarella also has locations on the Upper Eastside, in the Village, and in the Hamptons.

Amy's Semolina With Golden Raisins and Fennel Bread

This is the loaf that started it all for Amy's, one of the first artisanal bakeries in New York when it opened way back in 1992. We've never been able to get enough of it. Consume the same as with the pecan-cranberry bread. It's also good with a little strawberry or raspberry jam and complements blue cheese nicely. Both this and the Citarella loaf freeze very well.

You'll find Amy's on Ninth Ave. (between 46th and 47th), in the Chelsea Market, and in the Village on Bleecker St. The semolina loaf is also sold at Fairway Market on Broadway and 74th, a block from Citarella. (Why schlep?)

Levain Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie

A legion of New Yorkers swear that Levain Bakery's chocolate chip walnut cookie is the best around. We agree, although we think that their chocolate chocolate chip cookie is just as delicious.
Levain chocolate chocolate chip cookie
Levain cookie: not to size, it's bigger!
The first thing that sets Levain's cookies apart from all others is their size. They're huge, about the size of a squashed softball or an engorged hockey puck. They're chewey and rich.

The chocolate chocolate chip is prepared with an extra dark French cocoa and semisweet chocolate chips. They come out of the oven with molten layers of chocolate swirling together. Trust us when we tell you that one of these babies will feed two ravenous adults. (Allow one per person if you skip dinner altogether.)

At $4 each, you could get a whole box of store-bought cookies for the same money. But, honestly, why would you want to?

Levain is on West 74th St. between Amsterdam and Columbus.

*In San Juan, Puerto Rico, we recommend the mallorca con mantequilla (a round, flat pastry dusted with confectioner’s sugar and served with butter) and a strong cup of coffee at La Bombonera.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This Just In! Enjoy Music Anywhere In Your Home – Even Outside – Wirelessly

We've got more than 120GBs of music in our computer at home. Listening to it when we're not at our desk or don't want to walk around with an iPod and earphones is another matter.

Trust the good folks at Bose to solve that problem.

Their new SoundLink™ wireless digital music system lets us enjoy all of our digital music – iTunes, Podcasts, Internet radio – all around the house wirelessly.

It's easy: no wires, no software, no setup. We just plug the little USB key into any of our computers, whether PC or Mac. Voila! Music streams in high fidelity to the lightweight, portable speaker unit indoors or out, up to 60 feet away.

And the sound quality is robust, full, rich – as you would expect from any device produced by the famed engineers at Bose. In fact, the SoundLink will breathe new life into your music.

It has lots of handy features to make your listening super enjoyable.

Rechargeable lithium-ion battery delivers more power and longer playing time than other rechargeable batteries.

Rechargeable lithium-ion battery delivers more power and longer playing time than other rechargeable batteries (3 hours at full blast, much more at normal listening levels). Charges whenever the system is plugged into a wall outlet with included power cord.

Built-in carry handle allows quick and easy transport from place to place.

Built-in carry handle allows quick, easy transport from place to place, even outdoors.

Auxiliary input for an MP3 player, DVD/CD player or other portable device.

Auxiliary input for playing an iPod or other MP3 player or DVD/CD player through the system.

Infrared remote control operates system and some music play functions.

Remote control operates power and volume, and can also play/pause and skip tracks within a playlist from almost anywhere in the room.

The SoundLink will be available in mid-September. If you order now, we'll send it to you as soon as it's in stock. Promise!


Buy it now at www.shopjasperandjames.com

For more gift ideas, click right here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Enlightened Traveler: In Rio de Janeiro, Forget Copacabana!

Rio de Janeiro doesn't have many must-see sites for the visitor. (The impressive Christ the Redeemer, with it's breath-taking view of the city and shimmering bay, is a noteworthy exception.)

Rio's museums and shopping aren't much either. You'll do better elsewhere.

The main reason to visit this Brazilian gem is a simple one. If you enjoy people watching and like to hang out into the wee hours at cozy neighborhood cafes, bars, restaurants – as the locals do – then Rio's for you.

Before we had been there, our friend, screenwriter Tom Musca, informed us that there's only one thing we needed to know about it - Leblon. How right he was.

Leblon, at bottom, boasts Rio's nicest beach, cafes and streelife

The trendy quarter known as Leblon is two beaches south and a world away from the tawdry tourist stomping ground that is Copacabana Beach.

In fact, we advise you to skip Copacabana altogether. In no circumstances lodge there, unless it's at the luxe, palatial Copacabana Palace and you don't mind taking a taxi to other neighborhoods for strolling, dining, and shopping.

Ipanema, the famous beach between Leblon and Copacabana, is a mixed bag, with nicer hotels, restaurants and shopping, like the impressive H. Stern jewelry workshops and sales floor. This is where you'll find Vuitton, Cartier and other international brands. But you you're not traveling 20 hours for that, are you?

For most of your visit, you'll want to stay close to Leblon, with its mix of sophisticated bohemian pleasures. (Pronounce Leblon as if you are speaking French: "luh-blohn" with the nasal "n" at the end.)

Its beaches and streets are among Rio's cleanest, safest, and least crowded.

We often dine at the brasserie Garcia & Rodrigues, where we are well fed by their French chef from early in the morning until very late at night. For snacks or take out, they have their own bakery, deli counter, and wine cellar. The place is casual, friendly, and filled with students, sophisticates, and otherwise untouristy, very cool folks – just like us.

Garcia & Rodrigues is on the Ave. Ataulfo de Paiva, Leblon's main boulevard, and right across from the Hotel Ritz, where you can nest in a spacious one bedroom apartment, not a paltry room such as you'll get in Ipanema or Copacabana, for around $125 per night, breakfast included – if you ask politely.

Right next door to the the Ritz is the fabulous Letras e Expressoes book and record emporium. You'll want to own every CD in the store and most of the DVDs, books, and international newspapers. They frequently host free performances from established and young Brazilian musicians. (Click here to see videos.) It's open until 2AM weeknights and round the clock on the weekend.

Many of Leblon's best restaurants can be found on Dias Ferreira street, just around the corner from the Ritz. The hot South American designer Isabela Capeto also has a boutique there.

Not to be missed: Pizz
a Guanabara, serving Cote d'Azur style pizzas that are so good you'll be back several times during your stay. Don't forget to order a choppe (Brazilian draft beer and pronounced "shop") with your meal, as the Cariocas do. You can sit outside all night, basking in the sultry tropical warmth as the hours and crowds gently pass by.

Just a few blocks from Leblon in Ipanema is Restaurant Da Silva, under the same ownership as the famous Antiquarius, which is to say that at Da Silva you get much of the same food, but cheaper and more casual. It's where young professionals and artists like to dine.

After your meal, it's time to hurry back to Leblon to browse
Letras e Expressoes, grab a desert and coffee at Garcia & Rodrigues, or join the illuminati at the profusion of outdoor bars and cafes.

And the best part is, you're in Rio!

As much as we love Leblon, Rio has other attractions. The formerly dicey Santa Teresa neighborhood is being gentrified and is home to art galleries, trendy cafes, and hip boutique hotels. ♦ Catch the entertaining, flashy samba show at Plataforma, which is in Leblon, even though it caters to tourists. ♦ Leave your good jewelry and watches at home. Brazil can be unsafe even in the best neighborhoods. ♦ The first "R" of any word in Brazilian Portuguese is pronounced as an "H". It's the Hotel Hits (not Ritz), Hee-oo (not Ree-oh). If you meet someone named Rosa or Roberto, now you know how to pronounce it. ♦ For Brazilian history and music, we recommend these volumes: "Brazil, The Once and Future Country" by Marshall Eakin and "The Brazilian Sound" by Chris McGowan and Ricardo Pessanha.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gordon Ramsay Finds Himself in the Soup

Does Gordon Ramsay have his fingers in too many pies? As the recession lingers, the super chef has discovered that running a far-flung network of pricey eateries is no piece of cake.

Attendance is down at Ramsay's 20 restaurants across Europe, North America, and Japan, causing him to breach the terms of a $15.7 million bank loan. The celebrity chef is being forced to restructure his global empire, shuttering his Prague location and reducing his 1,200 person staff by 15%.

He is closing some of his restaurants at slower times of the week and is using less expensive cuts of meat, according to an article in the Wall St. Journal. Costly out-of-season ingredients no longer have a place on his menus.

Reasons for the decline are several. Corporate expense accounts have been slashed, and diners are ordering fewer high priced bottles of wine, where the fattest profits are.

Another reason for the drop in patronage may have nothing to do with the souring economy. With so many restaurants, Ramsay isn't cooking in any of them very often. Diners who pay several hundred dollars per head may be reluctant to do so when the star chef is not in the kitchen.

It's a good bet that the tough Scot can withstand the heat. Yes, he sold his silver 430 Scuderia Ferrari. But he still earns an estimated $16 million per year for his TV shows ("Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares"), as well as from publishing and endorsements.

That's a lot of bread, even in a stale economy.

You'll find the full text of the Journal article here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Enlightened Traveler: The Best Burger in San Diego or Pretty Much Anywhere Else

After spending the month of July cleaning out and moving our offices (same address, just a different part of the building) we were eager to escape to La Jolla for a few relaxing days with our friends Nancy and Andy.

On a lazy Monday, we strolled into town to lunch at Burger Lounge, which had been commended to us recently. We cannot recall who told us about the place; all we could remember was the name.

And a good thing, too, because the burgers are among the most agreeable we have ever tasted.

The concept behind Burger Lounge is simple. The owners, Dean and Mike, use only all natural grass-fed beef from Kansas.

This produces a juicy, tender, mouthwatering burger. There also are a host of health (no hormones or antibiotics) and environmental benefits, which are enumerated on the restaurant's website.

Patties are topped with iceberg lettuce, tomato, house-made 1,000 island dressing, fresh onion and white cheddar or American cheese. Everything rests delicately on a signature home-style bun. Ask for grilled onions, which provide an additional layer of flavor.

Grilled turkey burgers (also fabulous) and veggie burgers are are on the menu, too, along with fresh-cut fries, thick shakes, and made-on-the-premises Red Velvet or cream-filled chocolate cupcakes that are every bit as rich and toothsome as the ones you find at specialty bakeries.

Oh yes, and the decor, while casual, is sleek and sophisticated. In other words, Burger Lounge is seriously not a greasy spoon.

Burger Lounge opened in the heart of La Jolla village two years ago and now has three other locations in the San Diego area.

If they don't open in Los Angeles soon, we might have to move south.

You'll find Burger Lounge at 1011 Wall St. (corner of Herschel Ave.), La Jolla, (858) 456-0196, and also in Coronado, Kensington, and recently gentrified Little Italy. www.burgerlounge.com