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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Big Deal: Herman Miller On Sale At DWR

If you've ever wanted an Eames chair or Noguchi table, here's your chance to save some $$.

The Herman Miller sale at Design Within Reach offers 15% off all of their iconic designs. DWR is throwing in free shipping, too. That's a lot of exquisite contemporary furniture, designed principally by Ray and Charles Eames, George Nelson, and Isamu Noguchi.

A few of the most important pieces that Herman Miller has manufactured continuously since the 1940s and 1950s:

George Nelson Thin Chest

Eames sofa

Eames chairs

The popular Aeron chair also is included in this special event. Don't delay. DWR's offer is good only through December 15.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Make It A Double: Putting An End To Blah Booze

Who says the wine or whiskey you give to friends and business associates this holiday season has to be boring?

Certainly not The Luxurist – or anyone he knows or would care to know. But I digress.

Back to the subject at hand: haute hootch. By this we mean premium libations that stand out from the crowd of monotonous merlots and so-so champagnes – in other words, bottles with bling.

Here are two that The Luxurist recommends:

Absolut Elyx 

The first thing you notice about this super premium vodka is the distinctive shape of the bottle – it's not round! – suggesting that what's inside is something out of the ordinary, as well.

Absolut (and nearly all other) vodka is produced in large stainless steel vats. The entire process is controlled by computers. No humans allowed! Elyx is distilled by hand in a small, all-copper still at the original Absolut distillery in Ahus, Sweden. Simply distilling in all copper creates a vodka with unique flavor characteristics, one that is silky smooth, quite different, and more refined than vodkas you might be used to.

Also read: Scotch You Don't Know But Should

The wheat used to make Elyx is sourced from a single estate, introducing the concept of terroir to this category of spirits and further distinguishing the flavor profile.

Critics have called Elyx "a grand slam home run" and "one of the best vodkas" to come to market in ages. That's saying a lot when you consider how many fine vodkas you can find nowadays. Drink Elyx neat or with a single ice cube. About $50 per bottle.

Belvedere RED

It's what's on the outside of this eye-catching semi-transparent metallic special edition bottle that's important here. When you purchase Belvedere RED, half of the profits go to the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Inside you'll find the same tasty vodka as in a regular bottle of Belvedere. And there's nothing shabby about that! About $35 for 750ML and $65 for the double-your-fun 1.5L bottle.

To purchase these and other premium wines and spirits in multiples for holiday gifting,  call Jasper & James at (310) 581-6710.

See more fine wine and premium spirits here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Artful Traveler: What to See Now

Whether you fire up the G5 or scan Expedia for a pair of inexpensive tickets, here are a few of the latest must-see exhibits, museums, and destinations for Artful Travelers:

Matthew Day Jackson's super-sized show in Switzerand

Attack of the Giant Art Galleries – "Driven by a booming art market and demand for oversize 'trophy' works, the world's top art galleries are opening vast new spaces, upending the economics of the business," reports the Wall St. Journal.

Three Quiet Museums in Rome – Even when the city is overrun with tourists and the summer heat is at its most intense, there are sites where you can enjoy Rome’s cultural riches in relative comfort. The New York Times offers three opportunities for contemplating art away from the masses.

Zaha Hadid's Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Zaha Hadid's Greatest Buildings – A tour of the influential architect's most arresting, expressive designs around the globe, as selected by London's Telegraph.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Enlightened Traveler: The Dorchester On My Mind

After having been stranded, treated no better than rubbish, then left to fend for himself for two nights in London in May by British Airways on an impossibly overcrowded holiday weekend – trust me, this was not a pleasure trip – The Luxurist longs to return to the land of Tennyson and Tesco for a more gratifying visit.

This was not a planned stopover. The Luxurist and his lovely Luxurista were simply transferring  through Heathrow en route from the Cannes film festival to Hollywood, where, like British Airways,  they do not bother even to try to fake sincerity.

British Airways wants you to think you'll enjoy flying with them. Don't you believe it!

Of course, even Hollywood has its virtues. Heads roll when executives fail to perform.

Not so at British Airways. On a day when Heathrow's runways were closed for four hours and some 225,000 passengers were flying in, out or through the airport, the world's largest airline managed to bring unimagined grief to many of them.

Passenger service failures were massive.

Flights were not automatically rebooked. Why, The Luxurist wonders, do they ask for your mobile phone number and e-mail address if they are not going to use them to notify you of your new flight information?

Instead, customers were made to wait in lines of up to nine hours, were given phone numbers for rebooking only to find that the airline hung up on them repeatedly ("Too many calls now. Goodbye!") and then closed the switchboard entirely at 8 PM.

Nine hour lines at Heathrow, courtesy of British Airways

Presumably this was done so that BA's employees could enjoy the start of their holiday weekend.

Never mind those pesky 225,000 paying passengers, who not only had no flights but no place to stay either. British Airways handed everyone a hastily reproduced piece of paper stating, bluntly, that they were not going to find hotels for anyone.

Apparently you have a better chance of being treated with care if you work for British Airways than if you buy a ticket from the company.

And they say that there is no justice in Hollywood!

But I digress. British Airways was guilty of many more depredations on this dreadful weekend. There will be much more to read on why The Luxurist will never, ever fly British Airways again in a future post.

Watch for it if you want to spare yourself unfathomable misery in the future.

Also read: Bellagio's New Caviar Buffet – A Good Value Or A Waste of Money?

Back to the topic at hand: London's fabulous Dorchester hotel.

The one and only Dorchester hotel

The Luxurist was amused to read in hotelchatter.com and elsewhere on the web that The Dorchester  is offering a side-by-side tasting of all four Remy Martin Louis XIII cognacs – Louis XIII, Louis XIII Black Pearl, Louis XIII Rare Cask 43,8 – for a mere $3,200 per person.

This is what you call a stiff drink, indeed.

It's not the cost that concerns The Luxurist. The cognacs are très rare. By all accounts they may well be worth every penny. And, after all, if you have it, what's money for?

The Luxurist simply wants to know why a great hotel like The Dorchester must resort to publicity gimmicks to promote itself.
Publicity is not necessarily a bad thing – unless, as Jane Russell opined, you don't have any.

That is not to say, as many do, that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Contrarian that he is, The Luxurist does not subscribe to this tired adage.

Same price. Which would you choose?

He also does not believe in pointless publicity.

Gimmicks, even high class ones, will not compel customers to stay at any hotel, or to return if they have found their stay lacking.

Enlightened travelers do not want stunts. They require friendly, unobtrusive, exceptional service, posh yet comfortable accommodations, good food, a bit of exclusivity, and, in general the feeling that they are being cared for at all times.*

This is exactly what The Dorchester has offered The Luxurist on his several stays there.

Let's do the math. Would you rather treat yourself to a round of costly cognac, or, for the same money enjoy a memorable five-night stay at one of the world's top hotels?

The choice is yours.

*None of these superlatives applies to British Airways. But, again, I digress. Watch this space.

Monday, April 29, 2013

This Just In: A TV That's Both Curvy And Skinny

Sometime in the last decade The Luxurist's television set underwent a near-miraculous transformation.

Whereas once it was just a bulky device for delivering news and amusement, manufacturers had  transmogrified it into a high definition, flat panel, surround sound, 16:9, 60-inch wide, micro-dimming, Internet ready, interactive electronic marvel, whose chief purpose now was to bring an approximation of the theatrical movie-going experience into our homes.

(And about time, too. Microwave popcorn had been around since 1981, so what were they waiting for? But I digress.)
Because the makers of TV sets want us to watch films at home, they make evermore boastful claims. Samsung, for example, says that their "smart" TVs offer viewers an "immersive television experience."

Not to be outdone in the exaltation department, LG announced a 55 in. curved screen ultra-thin model at the CES in January. Like an IMAX theater screen (or Cinerama for an earlier generation), the edges of the Model 55EA9800 curve ergonomically towards the viewer to provide – wait for it! – a more immersive feeling.

Also Read: Bang & Olufsen's Massive 85 in. 3D HDTV

According to LG, the benefit of the curvature is that "the entire screen surface is equidistant from the viewer's eyes, eliminating the problem of screen-edge visual distortion and loss of detail."


Despite the prattle, this is a pretty nifty TV. For one thing, it's remarkably svelte at just .17 inch thick. And it features thin transparent film speakers in the crystal clear stand, "providing high-quality sound without compromising the TV's beautiful design."

If this all sounds too appealing to resist, consider this: the 55EA9800 is going for $13,500.

If you are game, LG is taking pre-orders, with deliveries promised for later in the year.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Enlightened Traveler: Bellagio's New Caviar Buffet –
A Good Value Or A Waste of Money?

How much is too much?

The Luxurist has been pondering this age-old brainteaser ever since he learned that the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is trumpeting an all-you-can eat caviar buffet. It introduced this schnor-fest a few months back and just announced that it will be a permanent feature, owing to – what else?popular demand.

(Or as one of the hotel's chefs told the Las Vegas Sun, "If we wouldn't have it here this weekend, people would complain." And we wouldn't want that, would we?)

As if there already is not enough fabulousness in the Macao of the Desert, the price of gorging on  endless blinis and fish eggs (along with a small selection of sushi) is a mere $38.

Now, for a hair less than two twenties, you will not be served any Beluga or Sevruga from the Caspian Sea, or anywhere near. The Bellagio is offering American Sevruga, salmon roe of unspecified origin, and tobiko roe from Japan.

There are excellent North American caviars, as well as a good many that are inferior. Let us hope that the Bellagio knows the difference, even if not all of its customers will.

The Luxurist and his Lovely Luxurista are particularly fond of the silky, delicate taste of good American salmon roe. Its flavor is not as complex as sturgeon roe, but can be sublime when fresh, having been carefully handled during packing and transit.

Both American Sevruga and salmon roe are best enjoyed on a slightly warm blini with a dolop of room temperature creme fraiche.

Skip the usual accompaniments of chives and chopped onions or eggs. They only detract from the  clean, faintly salty taste of good caviar and cannot mask the bad – unless you prefer onions and chives to caviar, in which case why shell out $38 when you can buy an onion and a bunch of chives at the supermarket for $1.50?

But I digress.

The Luxurist is of the opinion that Ang Lee's great "Life of Pi" should have won the best picture Oscar this year.
That the movie contains a memorable scene in which hordes of flying fish descend on the adrift Pi
and the Bengal tiger Richard Parker is the reason, however nominal, that we show this photo here.

Tobiko (or flying fish) eggs are small, crunchy, without a distinctive taste, and typically are used as colorful toppings on certain kinds of sushi. As The Luxurist has never seen these tiny red nuggets served on a blini, he wonders exactly what the folks at The Bellagio are thinking?

Do they believe that visitors will find this unusual presentation appealing, or that they will not know better?

Guess on which side The Luxurist is taking bets?

To be fair, The Luxurist has not yet sampled the pleasures of The Bellagio's endless caviar buffet. When he does, he hopes that he will be pleasantly surprised.*

Until that moment, The Luxurist can only wonder if enabling people to pig out is what businesses should be doing.

No one wants to end up at the craps table shouting, "Daddy needs a new pair of pants with a larger waistline."

As in all things, caviar should be enjoyed in moderation and savored.

If it's quality stuff, you, Dear Reader, will appreciate the experience all the more.  If it's not, you will spare yourself unwanted calories, as well as the uncomfortable feeling that comes with overeating.

Either way, both your waistline and those who love you will be grateful.

* The Bellagio also houses a Petrossian Restaurant, not to be confused with the hotel's caviar buffet. Petrossian's menu does indeed include costly imported caviars plus pricey foie gras,  fine champagnes and wines. No bargains here!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Enlightened Traveler:
Tired of the Dorchester? Try These.

The folks who run oyster.com (a nice site if you are looking for something different in a hotel) claim that a good hotel is hard to find.

The Luxurist believes that it is infinitely more difficult to find a hotel that can maintain high standards with consistency.

When selecting accomodations, The Luxurist and his lovely Luxurista want to be assured of the same top-notch experience that the reviewer enjoyed.

Rockhouse Lodge, Negril, Jamaica

Actually, this is more often a problem when it comes to dining at a new restaurant that has received rapturous notices.

Having patiently waited a few weeks for the next available table – because everyone else has read the same review – The Luxurist and his LL invariably sit down to a less than stellar meal, rushed from the kitchen to appease the noisy hordes that  descend nightly on the place, thanks to the aforementioned hosannas.

Many are called, but it's a rare chef indeed able to withstand the pressure and still turn out memorable food night after night.

But I digress.

If you would like to try your luck at a luxury tree house, French chateau, Bohemian hideaway, or  cliff-top sanctuary, oyster.com offers a few suggestions right here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Annals of Luxury: Chinese Luxury Brands

Last year the Chinese surpassed Europeans and Americans to become the largest group of luxury consumers in the world.

Chinese shoppers now comprise a bit more than 20% of the worldwide luxury market. They buy an average of $14,940 on luxury goods when they travel to Europe, Hong Kong, and Singapore. They also spend heavily on pricey brands at home.

Despite the current global economic slowdown, the country's mammoth economic potential and vast population mean that China's upper classes will continue to swell and outstrip Western luxury consumers for years to come.

The Chinese seek out Vuitton, Cartier, Armani, Prada, Rolex, Gucci, Hermes, and a few dozen other traditional European brands. Those are what the Chinese (and other international shoppers) have preferred – at least until now.

Qeelin diamond-encrusted panda necklace and ruby and diamond goldfish ring

The rise of several luxury brands created by Chinese designers for the local market and other recent indicators may point to forthcoming changes in the shopping habits of Chinese consumers.

Several manufacturers have created high-end brands and are targeting Chinese buyers by incoporating design elements intended to appeal to local tastes.

They hope to launch their brands into the rarefied luxury space, attracting big spenders not merely in China, but in the West, as well.

At least two companies appear to be poised to succeed.

PPR – the French group that owns Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Balenciega, Alexander McQueen, and Brioni –  recently invested in Qeelin, a small but chi-chi chain of jewelers launched in China in 2004.

Hong Kong actress Maggie Cheung, star of Wong Kar-Wai's
"In the Mood for Love," models Qeelin's longevity necklace

The brand incorporates traditional Chinese elements into its luxurious, intricately detailed designs. One of its signature pieces is a fully articulated rose or white gold panda, encrusted with diamonds or other precious stones and typically worn as a necklace.

Other designs are derived from the shape of Tang and Qing era vases or from the Chinese longevity lock, an ancient symbol often depicted in traditional arts and crafts.

The jeweler has has just 11 stores in China and Hong Kong and one in Paris. Westerners also can pick up pieces in London at Qeelin boutiques in Selfridge's and Harrod's.

Not to be outdone by rivals, Hermès recently announced plans to invest tens of millions of euros over the next five years to develop Chinese boutique label Shang Xia – selling traditionally inspired apparel, jewelry and furniture – in which it bought a majority stake in 2008.

Shang Xia's Twilight wooden boxes made of Zitan wood and carved bamboo for jewelry or small objects

Among Shang Xia's offerings are $45,000 gold-woven porcelain teapots, red sandalwood tables, and cashmere dresses inspired by the traditional Chinese qipao. Everything is sourced locally and made by Chinese craftsmen.

Jiang Qiong Er, Shang Xia CEO told red-luxury.com that he views his stores as "platform(s) where we show the Chinese art of living with beautiful, quality, luxury objects.

"This is a cultural project with a business aspect" he went on to say. "What we are doing is quite unique."

The firm has two locations, one in Shaghai, the other in Beijing. A third boutique will open this spring in Paris on the rue de Sèvres, near le Bon Marché, The Luxurist and Luxurista's favorite grand magasin.

It remains to be seen whether Qeelin, Shang Xia, or other emerging Chinese luxury brands will be called up to the big leagues.

If they are, will they make the championships or will they strike out and get taken out of the game?

Watch this space.

For more information: