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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trend Roundup: What's Going On In China, Istanbul, Tokyo – And With The Economy

In our current edition, we cover the economy, the luxury market in China, and why trendsetting Europeans are buying flats in Istanbul.

We also learn about historic, caterer-to-the French-elite Dalloyau's expansion plans and what Tokyo is doing to remake itself into the world's greenest metropolis.
  • Americans reduce debt, setting the stage for economic growth, Wall St. Journal
  • The French still dominate the luxury market, even in China. But or how long?, China Economic Review
  • Tough times still ahead as mall stores are getting smaller, Wall St. Journal
  • Dalloyau, France's ultimate luxury caterer is expanding, but not to the U.S., Financial Times
  • Tokyo's Goal: Be Greenest of World Capitals, Los Angeles Times
  • Historic Istanbul is attracting Western trendsetters looking for bargains, culture, and upscale city living, Telegraph

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Annals of Luxury: Hey, Louis, Gucci, Georgio! Did You Know You're Toast?

Cadillac, Gucci, Armani, Vuitton, and Versace were not among the top 75 luxury brands preferred by wealthy consumers, according to "The New Face of Affluence," an in-depth study just released by Dwell Strategy and Research of San Francisco.

Dwell identified a segment of nearly 9 million Americans who have household incomes of $100,000 or higher. They represent less than half of 1% of U.S. households, spend $303 billion annually on their favorite brands and have a whole new take on what it means to be wealth, reports the trade publication Ad Age.

We don't know about Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg, but many young New Affluents aren't donning Armani to shop at Whole Foods.

The 1,000 survey respondents said that many traditional luxury brands are no longer relevant to them.

With a median age of 45, this generation of elites is shunning "conspicuous consumption" in favor of brands that represent quality, aesthetics and authenticity. These attributes, along with uniqueness, integrity, design and performance, represent today's "prestige" for these high-end consumers.

So what brands do New Affluents find meaningful, authentic and relevant? Apple, Sony, BMW and Ralph Lauren, unsurprisingly. But Crate & Barrel, Ikea, Whole Foods and Levi's, too. Porsche, Lexus, Chanel and Viking. And Target, North Face, Volkswagen and The Gap.

Yes, Target and The Gap.

The study also shows that formerly trendy Herman Miller, Knoll and Eames. have regained luxury status for the New Affluents.

The respondents said that they don't buy anything "to impress others."

If you believe that, then you must be one of those folks who don't fudge their expense accounts. That's a much smaller group than the half of one percent of Americans targeted in the survey.

People don't tell researchers things they are ashamed of – like the real reason they plant that shiny new BMW in the driveway where the neighbors can see it or why they wear their big fat Rolex to shop at Costco.

Until those behaviors cease, luxury is here to stay. It just looks a little different to the current generation of affluent consumers.

Read the full text of the Ad Age report here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Enlightened Traveler: Lasagna To Die For In New York

If the missus and I lived on New York's Upper Westside, we'd eat at Salumeria Rosi often. Make that very, very often.

It's our idea of the perfect neighborhood restaurant:
  • Casual and upscale at the same time
  • Reasonably priced
  • Terrific by-the-glass wine selection
  • Wide range of small plates, so we can order a little or a lot
  • Cozy, contemporary atmosphere
  • Friendly service
And did we mention that that the food is fantastico?

Salumi is the Italy's answer to charcuterie.* (Or maybe it's the other way around?) Salumeria Rosi's exquisite cured meats, sausages and other dishes are pretty close to what you'll find in the Old Country.

The Italian-trained Cesare Casella oversees the kitchen. While we've never dined at his two earlier New York restaurants, Maremma (now closed) and Beppe, both had undistinguished reputations. He seems to be hitting his stride with this latest incarnation.

Porchetta (oven roasted, spiced pork tenderloin), culatello (wine soaked proscuitto, rubbed with spices and massaged by hand), coppa (aged, salted pork collar) are just a few of about a dozen and a half housemade coldcuts on offer.

It's not all about meat, however. There are plenty of fresh salads, vegetable dishes, satisfying soups and delicate pastas, too.

Of these we especially recommend the Torta di Porri (an individual savory tart of leeks, pancetta and parmesan) and the very tasty Cavolini con Prosciutto (roasted brussels sprouts, prosciutto, garlic and red wine vinegar).

Not to be missed is their sensational lasagna. It starts with housemade pasta that is layered with pork and beef ragu and velvety béchamel sauce. Each portion is assembled, then cooked to order. What shows up at your table is lighter, more delicate, and more delicious than anything you've had before.

Except for the soups, portions are on the lighter side and range from about $4 to $8 per plate. While you can always stuff yourself if you choose, two can eat well on an assortment of six or seven dishes. (And as we say, if you're not very hungry, you can choose fewer dishes. Sweet!)

The restaurant offers an interesting selection of wines by the glass from small Italian producers of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Dolectto, Neprica and other varietals and styles. All pair nicely with the food. At $10 to $16 per smallish serving, they seem to be not as good a value.

Soppressata (top); white anchovies on a bed of raddichio.
(Photos by Marc Whalen)

If you go, be sure to ask your server for food specials and wine selections not on the menu. They usually have several but don't make a point of volunteering them.

It should be abundantly clear by now that this isn't a checkered-table-cloth-and-chianti-bottles-hanging-from-the-ceiling kind of joint. The clever, dark, contemporary interior is the work of motion picture production designer Dante Ferretti, responsible for the later Fellini films and many Scorcese works. (Think Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence, Casino, and the current Shutter Island).

According to chef Casella, a visit to the salumeria is considered an integral part of daily life for many Italians. Now that Salumeria Rosi is here, New Yorkers may feel the same.

After your meal, if it's a nice night, stroll to Lincoln Center to take in the water show at the new fountain and refurbished plaza. Or saunter a few blocks up Broadway to the bustling Fairway Market where you can browse the generously stocked aisles and pick up a few goodies for tomorrow night's dinner.

Salumeria Rosi is located at 283 Amsterdam Ave. (between 73rd and 74th Streets), (212) 877-4800

*The word salumi is not a misspelling or variant of salami. Salami is a specific type of salumi. But you knew this already!