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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rhode Island Is Famous For Jay Strongwater. We Preview His Impressive New Collection

The great jazz pianist and whispy-voiced chanteuse Blossom Dearie, who died earlier this year, was known for her expert musicianship and casual sophistication.

She often took a nonchalant approach to lyrics with dryly humorous renditions of the two Dave Frishberg tunes "I'm Hip" and "Peel Me a Grape" and a breezy version of the Arthur Schwartz-Howard Dietz number, "Rhode Island Is Famous For You."

That song, a panegyric to the Lower 48, contains one of our favorite verses:

Ol' whiskey comes from ol' Kentucky
Ain't the country lucky?

New Jersey gives us glue

And you, you come from Rhode Island

And little ol' Rhode Island is famous for you!

(You can listen to Blossom Dearie's complete recording here.)

Which brings us to another of that state's celebrities, designer Jay Strongwater.

From his Rhode Island workshops, Strongwater fabricates exquisite picture frames (like the orchid and palm model shown here) that sparkle with crystals and bold colors. He also creates fanciful clocks, vases, figurines, lighting, and other art objects for the home.

Each piece is ornately hand enameled. Strongwater is partial to nature imagery – leaves, flowers, coral, animals, insects, and sea shells.

The other day, we chatted briefly with the designer who gave us a preview of his Fall collection. We were particularly impressed by this desktop clock in the shape of a squirrel with an acorn.

What time is it? Open the top of the acorn to reveal the clock.

This sensational draped table mirror knocked us out...

...as did these chrysanthemum and lacewing picture frames.

Strongwater's Menorah will be available in time for Hanukkah, which starts on December 11. (Be prepared, the Festival of Lights arrives early this year.)

Not new this season but one of our favorites is this gingko vase made of luminous earth-toned Portuguese glass with hand-painted enamel and metal leaves and a dragonfly.

There's certain to be a Strongwater objet that each of your Emmy and Oscar nominees and winners, valued clients, and cherished loved ones will adore. Please ask us to help you select the perfect one. We are at (310) 581-6710.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Enlightened Traveler: Buenos Aires –There's More to the Capital Than Tango

To hear visitors tell it, you'd think that there is no other music in Argentina but tango.

While we love the national art form as much as the next guy, at times we want something different – which is why when we are in Buenos Aires we're happy to spend a mellow evening listening to jazz at Notorious.

It's a memorable experience. For one thing, the cozy night spot is tucked away behind a record store on busy Av. Callao. From the street, you wouldn't know the club is there. You walk through bins of CDs to a small opening at the rear.

Surprise! This is a great jazz club.

It's a simple affair, an intimate black box really. All of the tables are close to the "stage." Young, sophisticated Portenos (what the residents of Buenos Aires call themselves) make up the crowd.

You'll hear mostly local musicians – albeit very accomplished ones – with an occasional gig by an internationally known name. One night we enjoyed a mellow Chet Baker-like set from the trumpeter Roberto Fats Fernandez. When we mentioned this to one of our Argentine friends, he exclaimed, "Fats Fernandez has played in New York, you know!"

What will your night out cost? About US$5 for admission. A plate of charcuterie with a baguette (enough for two) and a couple of beers will set you back another US$10.

A great night out, and the price is right!

Notorious is located at Av. Callao 966 (a few minutes by cab from Recoleta). Telephone 4816 2888. www.notorious.com.ar

Monday, July 13, 2009

Things Not Available in the U.S.: Philips 21:9 True Widescreen TV

A few years ago, you were in the vanguard if your TV had a 16:9 aspect ratio screen. Today, that's the norm, allowing you to watch most movies more or less in their original format.

But if you want to watch widescreen movies at home, you have to put up with those annoying black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

Philips has solved this problem with the introduction of its 56 in. Cinema 21:9 HDTV, the first set with the same spectacular 2.35:1 aspect ratio as today's biggest films. Think Michael Mann's new Public Enemies or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

The set also has a record number of pixels, at 8.3 million. To get the full benefit you'll want to play movies recorded on Blu-ray discs.

Philips hasn't set a release date yet. They have announced the price, about US$7,400.

The British TechRadar website said: "Four and a half grand [in UK£] is a lot of money, but then this is, in every sense, a lot of telly.

"If you are serious about video quality and have a substantial budget, then this set should be at the very top of your list."

The review added that the picture quality is "remarkable."

Sadly, Philips says they won't be selling the TV in the U.S. or Canada. Just in Europe for now.

Read more here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Annals of Luxury: Premium Wine Prices Falling

Americans are forsaking premium wines and buying more mid- and low-priced wines, reports today's Wall St. Journal. Sales of wines priced above $25 per bottle slumped 12% in the first quarter.

Boutique wineries – those that make $100 per bottle cabs, for example – are seeing sharper drops of up to 40%. How much are they suffering? Auction Napa Valley, the industry's annual event, raised $5.7 million last month, down from $10.4 million last year.

While winemakers are feeling the heat, consumers are benefiting from lower prices on top bottles. If you've got money to splurge, now is the time to stock up on pricey domestic cabs and meritages.

The full report is here.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Grill of Your Dreams

Cooking food out of doors over glowing embers is one of summer's great pleasures.

If you're more into Bauhaus than Beaux Arts, have we got a grill for you!

This lustrous all-stainless steel beauty was designed and is manufactured in Denmark. You'll admire its sleek, architectural lines while waiting for your steak to reach medium rare.

The generous 23 in. diameter cooking surface is large enough to prepare food for up to six guests.

After dinner, throw on a few logs and your barbecue becomes a welcoming hearth. (All the more inviting if you break out a bottle of vintage port or premium Scotch, along with a couple of good cigars.)

An optional dome lid is available for indirect cooking, as is a custom fitted cover that will keep the stainless steel looking good for many years.

At $1,890 there are less expensive barbecues. But if you're the kind of person who knows the difference between Philip Johnson and Don Johnson, then you gotta have this.

Special order only. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. To make sure you get yours in time for Labor Day, call us now at (310) 581-6710.

A Sweet, Chic Alternative

If you're a design snob on a budget, the same Danish team has come up with this nifty porcelain table top grill.

It's perfect for intimate dinners on the terrace or for an impromptu picnic at the beach or park. The practical handle makes it easy to carry anywhere, everywhere.

Available in white or black. $350. Also special order only.