good advice


mallarme’s cat


Mallarme’s cat by Edouard Manet

On a cold, rainy February night in New York, I remember a story Andre Malraux used to tell — and which, at some remove, was told to me — about Mallarme’s cat, whose name, almost needless to say, was Blanche.

On a cold, rainy February night in Paris, a thin and bedraggled alley cat, wandering the streets, looks in the window of Mallarme’s house and sees a white, fat and fluffy cat dozing in an overstuffed chair by a blazing fire. He taps on the window:

“Comrade cat, how can you live in luxury and sleep so peacefully when your brothers are here in the streets starving?”

 “Have no fear, comrade,” Blanche replies. “I’m only pretending to be Mallarme’s cat.”

— From “Anecdotal Evidence,” by Eliot Weinberger, in the Fall 2003 issue of Conjunctions. [reprinted in Harper’s Magazine, June 2004]

d’yquem is a peach

2 years ago, my friends the Alexander-Mitchells served up my first taste of Chateau d’Yquem. It was a revelation. Crack cocaine in a bottle is how I think Andrew described it. Addictive, exquisite, utterly decadent. We drank it with dessert, of course, the dessert being grilled peaches served with an amaretto mascarpone cheese. We’ll get to that later.

I am not (was not) a fan of “dessert wines.” To my heretofore unsophisticated palate, these wines tasted somewhere between cough syrup and peach schnapps (which made me wildly sick my freshman year of college and has never, ever crossed my lips again.)

But the Alexander-Mitchells, well, they know a thing or two about a thing or two. And for this particular gathering, we had come together to drink 26 bottles of 1970 vintage Bordeaux over two nights. This isn’t as irresponsible as it might seem. To begin with, there were seven of us. Some of the bottles were undrinkable, others you really could only stomach a sip or two. And we generally started eating and drinking at around 5, and kept going well into the night, finishing the first night with some Graham’s 1970 vintage port and the second with a rather robust amount of scotch.


Handmade tasting cards next to the empty bottle of d’Yquem.

Our victims.

Some of the wines had turned into vinegar, and were ceremoniously dumped down the drain. Others bloomed in the glass, tasting like — one suspects — their youthful selves, but with more gravity. Others revealed themselves quickly, only to become ghostly and wispy, dying as we drank them. And some were the vinous equivalent of sitting with an aged aristocrat. Good breeding with an air of exhausted refinement.  A skeleton in a smoking jacket.

But the Chateau d’Yquem. I was dubious. A disbeliever. Until Andrew set a glass in front of me. And my husband delivered a charming grilled peach with amaretto marscapone.

Everything I had experienced from a culinary perspective prior to this simple little dessert + wine pairing faded into the background. The d’Yquem, unlike the other Bordeaux wines we were drinking tasted utterly….drinkable. No contortions, no wispiness, no fleshy fruit lost, leaving just an acid spine in the glass. Instead, here was a confident, healthy wine. Elegant, relaxed. And with the peaches, it was maybe the best gastronomical combination to have passed my lips. All seven of us became silent…just sighing every once in a while, and a little too energetically to demonstrate our pleasure.


We had a second bottle the next night, where the charming wine —again— raced effortlessly to the head of the Bordeaux pack. The honeyed encore: nutty, rich, luxurious…luscious. It was obscenely luscious. 

I haven’t had d’Yquem since that weekend. But as the summer begins to make itself known, I think about peaches. And whenever I think about sweet, unctuous peaches, I think about my voluptuous d’Yquem.

Denis Kelly’s Grilled Peaches with Amaretto Mascarpone

In the absence of Chateau d’Yquem, serve the peaches with a Gewürztraminer.

1/4 c. mascarpone cheese
2 TBSP packed brown sugar
2 tsp amaretto
4 peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
1/2 c. brown sugar

4 amaretti Italian cookies, crushed
1/2 basket raspberries

Mix the mascarpone, brown sugar and amaretto to make the amaretto mascarpone

Prepare grill (clean well and rub with oil)

Dip the cut side of the peaches into 1/2 c. brown sugar. Grill cut side down for 2 minutes, covered. Flip and grill for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Top each peach with a dollop of mascarpone mixture in the hole where the pit was. Sprinkle with crushed cookies and garnish with raspberries.

do one thing well

Whilst perusing the Comm Arts “webpick of the day” page (in order to keep tabs on the competition, graphic design-wise, you understand) I noticed a little site for a little company called Hiut Denim. Naturally, because the site was so prettily made, I poked around. And the more I poked around, the more I fell in deep admiration of the company, its founders and its mission. As if it’s not enough to say “We’d like to make the best jeans in the world, with the best textiles.” Instead, why not, as your company mission, declare, “Let’s make the best jeans in the world, and revive a dead industry in our town of 4,000.”  From their site:

Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades. Then one day the factory closed. It left town. But all that skill and knowhow remained. Without any way of showing the world what they could do. That’s why we have started The Hiut Denim Company. To bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on our doorstep. And to breathe new life into our town.As one of the Grand Masters said to me when I was interviewing: “This is what I know how to do. This is what I do best.” I just sat there thinking I have to make this work. So yes, our town is going to make jeans again. Here goes.


Grand Master Elin

hiut-jeans-detail-06 hiut-factory slim-selvedge_large

Elation. The perfect confluence of care about the community, care about the product and care for the consumer. I feel respected because these people, who make these jeans, want to provide me with a product that won’t fall apart, is classic enough that I can wear it over time and supports the very people whose skill make the product possible.

Hey, guys at Hiut Denim. I’m rooting for you.

scarves — a perennial obsession; pt. 1

nomadic tibetan

Because I live in the Bay Area, I am allowed to indulge in my passion for scarves.  I’ve discovered two new purveyors of my favorite accessory recently, and both compelling for very different reasons.

The first of these finds are the asburdly soft scarves by Fibre Tibet.  Apart from using top-notch cashmere (yes, it’s Grade A; yes, it’s organic and undyed), Fibre Tibet keeps the manufacturing local in Kathmandu, Nepal. Alberto Zanone ensures a beautiful — and compassionate — product is the result. Monica Garry, the founder of Fibre Tibet isn’t just interested in sustainable fashion, however. She’s been actively involved in supporting and growing local Tibetan economies since 199 via her not-for-profit The Bridge Fund, and has mobilized over $30,000,000 in its service during that time.



As far as luxury goes, this pulls all the threads together nicely: beautifully crafted and kind to both the consumer and the producer.

It is better to have old, second hand diamonds than none at all. — Mark Twain

A Georgian diamond floral tiara as worn in Downton Abbey

Really, I don’t wear all that much jewelry. I like the quasi-permanence of it, the cultural preciousness of it, but I don’t own a lot or pile it on. Arm parties aren’t really my bag. I wore a pair of modest diamond studs every day for years. Despite Lucia van der Post and Coco’s love of it, costume-y jewelry generally leaves me feeling like a Christmas tree, and not in a good way. And, to top it all off, new jewelry in the style of Zales is unimaginative and “art jewelry” brings out my inner art/cat lady in a manner which I do not appreciate.

There are, of course, some beautiful jewelry designers working (the list is, admittedly, absurdly long) but still, the jewelry I most enjoy perusing is old. Estate jewelry, vintage jewelry…it’s  another kettle of fish. Maybe it’s the craftsmanship, or maybe it’s the implicit untold stories in the tiny objects. Who owned it? Was it a gift or was it a family bauble? Was it loved? Or did it sit in jewelry box, unworn?

There are many sites I visit to do some estate/vintage jewelry ogling: M.S. Rau AntiquesErie Basin, A. Brandt & SonMacklowe Gallery, and my personal favorite,  S.J. Phillips. Recently, I stumbled across Bentley & Skinner. Add one more to the queue for active ogling.

Some of my favorites from the Bentley & Skinner site:

1930's diamond cluster ring

1930′s diamond cluster ring

Diamond tiger head cufflinks

Diamond tiger head cufflinks

Cartier enamel and gold lorgnette

Cartier enamel and gold lorgnette

Edwardian vice cufflinks


Art Deco jade and diamond drop earrings

Art Deco jade and diamond drop earrings




sign up at coléoptère

Launch page for the debut collection of jewelry from coléoptère.

Launch page for the debut collection of jewelry from coléoptère.

We (as in my new business) are launching a capsule collection of sustainably-source fine jewelry this fall, with nary a brass triangle, ear cuff or double-finger ring in sight.

Sign up, and be the first to see the inaugural collection from Coléoptère when it debuts.