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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Rerun: SIP Musc Botanique

By Tom

I've been sort of slammed this week with Auto and Home stuff that's made me resort to something the Networks used to do. Yes, it's the first (and last?) Summer Rerun here on PST:

Strange Invisible Perfumes is a house that for various reasons kind of stayed off my radar. I trekked once out to Venice to their shop, where I was wholly ignored by the young man behind the counter. Being a naturally huffy person, since he wasn't asking if I wanted to go on his trip to Palm Springs, I huffed on in a... huff. The website used to be of such aggressive unusability that I would have to force quit Exploder to get out of it (that, and it was unreadable). I had been back once or twice and met a very lovely lady who looked like Maud Adams and who showed me the line; there were several that I liked, but on me they faded fast and I'm cheap: I like my fumes to last the day. I've always meant to get back there, but it's all the way in Venice (please insert Wendy Whiner voice), which when you work in Downtown LA and live in Beverly Hills might as well be Acapulco or New Hebrides: at least an hour and a half in traffic if it's moving then the fight for a beach-adjacent parking space. Or the MTA bus that will take a week. Not that I'm lazy. Or spoiled. Not at all.

When is ScentBar going to deliver like Jacopos?

Then QWendy set up this little trip out on a Saturday morning. For those of you who are unaware of her, Wendy has her own blog and has a business making shoes. Yes, that's right. She makes shoes. That's like me mentioning that when I am not blogging I'm busy knitting Automobiles to spec. There're some talented people out there in Perfume-land...

So the deal was that we would meet at 10am on Saturday AM at the Abbott Kinney Store, which would open early especially for us. The MTA gave me directions that were within reason, so I didn't even have to drive there, and even arrived with time to spare. Upon my arrival I saw several familiar faces, including IrisLA and Robin, but I will leave the rest of the recap for Wendy to cover on her blog (linked above). I also had two glasses of Champagne, which added sparkle to the morning if not to my ability to speak coherently.

I did find the answer to why the ones that I liked in this line seem to have no lasting power: most are only available in perfume strength, but the testers are EDP's. I don't think it's a matter of saving money as much as it is that EDP's develop faster and you can wash them off when you're unable to expose any more skin for testing without years of Yoga and the risk of an indecent exposure arrest. I did mention that perhaps it would be a good idea to have both strengths available, so that when one narrows it down to two or three that one would have more of an idea of the lasting power and the development from the concentration actually sold.

Now that I know that that last impediment to my enjoying these (or my cheap-a$$edness) was out of the way I was able to test with abandon. There are several (Vine, Galatea, Narcotic and Moon Garden) that I really liked and several more that I wouldn't exactly cry over if they showed up in a stocking.

But the one that I kept coming back to was Musc Botanique. Through the alcohol haze I remember the nice girl telling us that it was meant as a sort of riff on the idea of plants seducing each other through their smell, like the musk that animals produce to attract a mate. This makes immediate sense in its tart opening: the woody, almost harsh geranium mixes with sweet angelica to make me think of berry patches. It gets earthier and earthier as the frankincense and amber come in, until the whole thing gets surprisingly, delightfully slutty. But slutty in a wholly different way that you would imagine: not human and not even animal. It's as if you're walking in a night-time garden and suddenly the whole place starts giving you the glad eye; the woods, grass and flowers are waving their little fronds at you with a decided "Hello, Sailor" attitude. Not in that somewhat confrontational Satyr-of-the-berries CB I Hate perfume way (which, as you all know I adore) and not in some Majicky, Sci-Fi way either. It's different: it's also entirely wearable (I would and did wear it to the office) but definitely, wonderfully.. odd.

Musc Botanique will be available at SIP in September, I believe it's $135 for the EDP and $165 for the pure perfume but don't quote me on that (Edit- it's $155 and $255 respectively). I will write that as one of the line that is designed to be sold as both EDP and pure perfume that the lasting power on the EDP is great and that strength might be better for day wear or for guys. The perfume is that much more. I might need that much more... 

Originally published August 29th 2008.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Dozen Roses: Amber Queen

By Tom

Out of the blue I was contacted by this company asking me if I would like to try their new scent, Amber Queen. I of course said "sure" and they offered to send a (sadly empty, and one that I'll have to ship back..) bottle to photograph. If I was just reading the listed notes, I'd be heading for the hills:

TOP: Apricot, Clementine, Ginger
MIDDLE: Bengal Rose, Signature Rose Absolute
BASE: Amber, Myrrh

I'm glad I didn't run. It's a lovely, feminine fragrance that's almost to me the olfactory equivalent of butterfly wings. The sweetish fruits lead into the soft roses and when the amber and myrrh kick in it really sings. It's cool and summery and an easy choice in our sweltering (well, LA sweltering...) summer. It's no more me than a Pucci dress and espadrilles, but it can't always be about me, now can it?

Better yet, it's even a decently priced: $110 for 3.4 ounces. Available exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, coming fall 2012. My sample was from the perfumer.

Photo: my iPhone.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Foodie Sunday: Live from Castine Maine!

By Beth

You've got to love a summer family vacation..Jim and I try to take one every year, but this summer the stars aligned in just the right configuration and my friend old friend John and his wife Brenda suggested that we meet up in Castine Maine, an absolute paradise of an island about 4 hours north of Boston.

So we rented a house on the water that served as vacation central and the kids all stayed there while the two couples roughed it in two gorgeous rooms at The Lovely  Pentagoet Inn, which by the way if you ever get the chance to stay there, this is about as perfect an Inn experience as you can get. The house on the water was/is(I'm still there!) gorgeous with a porch that sits right on top of the Penobscot Bay, resplendent with a view of some pretty wonderful sailboats , lobster boats and a lighthouse! We wake every morning to the brightest  clearest sunrises that I've ever seen, the sound of early morning ships bells and the sweet/salty  tang of the sea air. I even found a broken shard of antique blue willow porcelain on the beach one day when I was looking for sea glass....

The best part of this trip was that our son Alex was able to join us for the whole week! So we've spent our time kayaking, sleeping,reading, playing guitars, hiking and eating and if you've ever spent anytime in Maine then you know just how wonderful last activity can be. Fried clams and fresh lobster rolls and the tenderest , nuttiest fried scallops that you've ever tasted. New England seafood never lets you down and this summer was no exception. On Monday night after a full day of play, our kids walked in with 10 live Maine lobsters, some of the largest I've ever seen, purchased for the whopping price of 4.50 cents a pound! We began dicing potatoes, roasting asparagus and setting huge pots of water to boil. We tossed the lobsters into the pots,( never an easy job for me!) and set the table with the adorable lobster plates that Joes girlfriend Steph found in the cupboards. Then we sat down to eat.

What a feast...I looked at my friends son Joe who is an avid fisherman and asked him where he thought the lobsters had been caught. "Right out there" he said and pointed to the bay outside our window. "They brought them in yesterday from about 1000 feet out". I have never tasted lobster so fresh and sweet, all it needed was just a little bit of melted butter and even then it felt like we were gilding the lily.

After dinner, none of us could bear to throw out the shells or the broth that had collected in the bottom of the shell bowl so Steph,( a fabulous cook in her own right) decided that we should make stock. Out came the pots again, in went onions, carrots, celery and all of the shells. We couldn't find any Old Bay seasoning but we had some Garam Masala so we threw that in too. A little salt, a little pepper and we set the whole thing to simmering for a few hours. The aroma was out of this world, just a briny, tangy scent that you can only get with seafood that's as fresh as this was. Into the refrigerator it went, just waiting for the perfect opportunity.

About two days later , somewhere in between a fabulous platter of smoked seafood and my second lobster roll and a nighttime kayak trip through the bay to enjoy the glorious bioluminescent algae,  Steph decided to make some chowder . I sent them off with requests for some fresh vegetables for a ratatouille and a few hours later we were cooking again! Talk about sustainable food. Two days before we were enjoying the lobsters picked from the shells and now there was chowder, steaming and fragrant with fresh thyme and bay leaves, chunks of potato, fresh scallops and haddock (again minutes from their watery home), carrots and celery. I made Ratatouille that we ate with fresh Parmesan and buttered toast points and Steph made a baked Brie with fresh raspberry jam and strawberries. A wee dram of Laphraoig and enough love in the room to light up the whole world and the evening was perfect .

If you want to try this yourself, remember that cooking like this is simply a matter of patience and intuition. Start with the freshest ingredients and plenty of time. Gather a great book, a glass of wine and someone you love and stay in the kitchen for awhile. Listen to what the pot is telling you, if it wants cumin, add cumin, if it wants cinnamon add cinnamon. Sip , smell, taste.  Turn on some music, light a couple of candle and while the stock is simmering have dance or two. There will always be plenty of time for eating later.....

Images: the author

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Agar Musk by Ramon Monegal Fragrances

By Tom

Another new set of scents (14 of them!) that have landed at Luckyscent. It's still been a bit warm here so I admit that although I have samples of three, I only really wore the heck out of my favorite: Agar Musk.

You're shocked, right?

It's a perfect blend of the salty oud, agar, spiced leather, vetiver and lovely skin musk. The rooty vetiver is I think the ingredient that really makes it for me. I think that there's an inherent cleanness to vetiver that here adds a bit of polish to all that slightly drrty musky oudiness.

I love it. At $185 for 50ML, however it will be a long distance love affair.

At Luckyscent, where I asked for and received a sample.
Image: Luckyscent

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Special Foodie Thursday: Water

By Tom

It's hot.

It's humid.

I don't like it.

It's just a little too warm to contemplate reviewing anything when the news is telling not to leave the house and a trip to the mailbox leaves you a dripping mess. So let's talk water.

I remember that the tap water in NYC when I lived there was absolutely delicious. The water in LA isn't as great, but it's perfectly acceptable (and for Beverly Hills, much better tasting than it was when we used our own. Having its own water kept it separate from Los Angeles, but it also gave companies like Arrowhead a business case for existing.) I have to confess that I buy bottled water (Trader Joe's usually). I tell myself that it's part of my earthquake preparedness kit (I try to keep a case or so and rotate them out), but really, it's just better tasting.

I don't get the whole designer water thing. I don't feel that Evian is so much finer than TJ's finest that I should pop $4 extra a bottle. I don't believe that my water can be all that "smart", or that I need ones with electrolytes.

But on a day like today when it's in the 90's and unusually humid (yes, I know other places have it worse, but I moved away from those other places to avoid this), a really cold water is my favorite thing in the world.

What water if any do you prefer? Let us know in the comments..

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Revisited: Serge Lutens Chêne

By Tom

I think Chêne was about the second Lutens scent I ever smelled, and the first one I jumped through hoops to get a bell jar of (I shipped it to a friends mums house in Switzerland, we carried it back from a Christmas visit). Now it's available at Barneys of course, which means it's less of a hoop and more of a hop..

Originally, I wrote of Chêne as being fairly linear, and it is. It starts out earthy on me with hints of rum and immortelle, then gets drier, smoky and woody. I know some loathe it, but it's really one of my favorites. Robin calls it a "sleeper" scent, forgive me for being punny, I call it a keeper scent.

Chene is available at Barneys, among others, $140 for a 50ML bottle. My samples came from a healthy spritz from one of their bottles and from my bell jar. They smell exactly the same.

Image: Internets