Thursday, April 27, 2006

Las Ramblas: Petite Perfection

Over the course of the last few months we’ve witnessed the ascent of Morimoto, Del Posto and Buddakan. There’s even rumored to be a three-story steak house going into an old parking garage on Little West 12th Street. But with all of these over-sized, over-designed, over-eateries, the lower West Side of Manhattan is giving Orlando a run for its money.

But how much can one truly over-indulge? Just a few weeks ago I refused to dine out, I just couldn't handle the gluttony of it all. It’s more than the food; it’s the crowd, the atmosphere, the entire experience.

Therefore, you can imagine my delight dining (I got over it) at Las Ramblas, an adorably quaint and delightfully delicious tapas bar on West 4th Street. The incredibly small dining and bar area bustle with an unpretentious after-work crowd as the extremely helpful staff guides you through the menu.

Each small plate, with offerings such as grilled octopus, chicken empanadas and steaming garlic shrimp, are complimented by an extensive wine list and cocktail menu. The made-to-order sparkling strawberry sangria is refreshing and naturally sweet, a must for these warm pre-summer evenings.

Though most would consider Las Ramblas neither new nor noteworthy, their petite approach brings much delight. Even our check was small.

Final Word: I guess good things do come in small packages. Bring a friend, but only one. Las Ramblas, 170 West 4th Street, between Jones and Cornelia.

Rub my Buddha Belly

I know what you're thinking. Ugh. Another pan-asian monstrosity on the lower west side, I don't know if my poor belly can take another rock shrimp rendition, short rib stew or creative sushi roll served on a bed of goldleaf salad. But knowing your inner trendzoid who must try a new place before its shelf life runs out and before you lose your insider status, guess what, you can, and you will!

Cue Buddha Bar. The infamous Parisian restaurant-cum-lounge-cum-club-cum multi book CD collection has finally opened. No it's not a rumor you've read in WWD or the Post. After years of planning, the sprawling compound on Little West 12th (turns out not so little what with mega venues like PM, Pastis, Saacha, Highline...I could go on) has materialized before our eyes into a dim-lit, vast den with Occidental flavor and Western status. Yes, Buddha Bar has arrived, in all of its Tao-like glory.

What Tao? How dare I mention the uptown tourist trap that has or should have nothing to do with this brand spanking new and way more cooler Buddha Bar? Well for one, there's a big Buddha. Yes I know Tao ripped it off from the latter back in Paris but that's the thing, B-squared, you're 3 years too late! One of my girlfriends brightly quipped, "If this opened two years ago it would be brutally hot!" Yes, brutally! But now, well, it's tepid.

Ok, maybe I'm being a bit harsh. You still have to go, obviously. If not for the Buddha, then for the jellyfish tank behind the sushi bar, the glass-encased open air smoking den (which past 10PM, becomes a glass-encased open air ashtray), the Koi fish pond below the back tables and believe it or not the food.

The sushi is fresh and not overpowering with simple rolls and not so simple presentation; the chicken salad beats China Grill's and fried shrimp makes you (almost) forget about Nobu's rock version, almost.

But the best part of Buddha Bar is what makes it so famous in the first place. The music. Yes, the music is why we're here isn't it? The playlist of Middle Eastern dance hits makes you forget you're New York and brings you to the shores of St. Tropez, the beaches of Beirut and dare I say, the streets of Paris? Way to go Buddha for holding on to your identity in the so affected Meatpacking District.

Final Word: Though its timing may be a little off key, Buddha Bar remains an attraction to be seen, heard and experienced first hand. Just one tip, get it while it's hot.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Chanel's New Face

Chanel announced today actress Keira Knightley will be the new face for their Coco Mademoiselle perfume campaign. The choice could not be more perfect. Mademoiselle Knightley is chic, classic yet contemporary and breathtaking. Exactly what a Chanel muse should be. Finally the fashion forces are taking under consideration tabloids don't sell perfume. Could you imagine a Mary Kate scent? Starbucks and patchouli aren't don't exactly olfactory aphrodisiacs.

Yes Chanel has gotten its celebrity face right, which can't really be said of its French compatriot that has made the less than discerning choice of a freckled teen sensation as their latest muse (both of whom will remain unnamed). I'm sorry but do I really need the poster child of crack cocaine, bulimia and celebrity hooker syndrome selling me monagrammed bags? No. No I don't.

I look forward to seeing Miss Knightley in the new Chanel ads and in Pirates of the Caribbean 3 this summer. Now if we only could convince the spectacled bag man himself to reconsider...

Final Word: Ok, I know we've been MIA for a while but the Blackberrie is back in action, today, tomorrow, and forever.

Friday, April 14, 2006

"Ashes and Snow"

Sigmund Freud once said, “beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it.” After spending five days in LA, a town infamously known for its obsession with physical beauty, Freud could not ring more true.

But apart from all of the gluttony, celebrity hang-outs and clichéd superficiality, we managed to experience a beauty worth mentioning; Gregory Colbert’s multi-media masterpiece, “Ashes and Snow” showing through May 14th on the Santa Monica Pier.

The ever-evolving traveling exhibition had its first iteration on the Hudson River Park’s Pier 54 last March. Although it has been showing in LA since January, lines of enthusiasts eagerly wrapped around the Nomadic Museum in the hundreds.

Once inside the museum, an industrial structure that is part of the exhibit, there is an overwhelming sense of calm. Viewers walk down a narrow pathway surrounded on either side by incredible images hung from transparent wire. As the audience passes through, the artwork sways soothingly about above a zen-like stone garden.

The instillation, which has been a life-long project for Colbert, uses photographs and
film to explore the extraordinary interactions between humans and animals. With images shot in India, Egypt, Tonga, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Antarctica and other seemingly intangible locales, Colbert beautifully captures an instinctual side of humanity and nature that to most people, ceases to exist.

A theme of tranquility carries throughout the exhibit as a child leans lovingly leans against a leopard, women and elephants lounge lethargically and humans dance with whales beneath the ocean’s surface.

Since no images have been digitally collaged or superimposed, “Ashes and Snow” is as unbelievable as it is stunning, moving and completely remarkable.

Final Word: As for “Ashes and Snow,” words carry little weight. If you’re not heading to Santa Monica anytime soon, try to get your hands on a copy of the DVD to experience it for yourself.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Slow and Painful Death of Print

The past couple weeks have been sad ones for the magazine world. The unavoidable fate of non-relevancy has claimed the lives of 3 young publications on verge of making it big but never quite getting it.

Cargo, Celebrity Living and Elle Girl have bit monthly digest dust leaving without a trace, dumping their loyal staff on the sidewalks and forcing the unfortunate souls to find freelance work or worse - beg peers for jobs. But why???? You must be asking. All three have conveyed a strong presence in the industry, but I guess looks aren't everything.

Apparently, Cargo failed to establish itself in the ever-shrinking men's market. A shopping magazine for men? Please, what guys do you know shop, let alone read a how-to magazine on the subject. Celebrity Living sunk among the myriads a buoying gossip rags - why? It could not differentiate. How many times do we want to read about Paris' Hilton's doggie wardrobe? And Elle Girl, the most unfortunate of the three cited a shrinking teen market for their pulling the plug. But it was so cute!!

What's most interesting is that 2 of the 3 aren't claiming complete bankruptcy - they are going digital. Both Cargo and Elle Girl may continue their ventures with an online magazine, which may prove to be more profitable in the long run. Perhaps people just have gotten sick of paper. I mean with all of the pointless, self-indulgent, non-relevant blogs and websites out there in the world wide web, what's 2 more? (The Blackberrie excluded, bien sur.)

Final Word: It's a tough time we're living in, when guys don't want to read about new gadgets, girls don't want to read about affordable fashion and people are sick of celebrity gossip because they're oversaturated. And all the while, a show like Deal or No Deal remains a runaway hit. Can someone please explain? I just don't get it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Shop Til You Drop

One thing LA does have a lot of is great boutiques. Here is our list of hot and not so hot stores to hit up while you’re there…

All Hype:

1. Kitson – The acclaimed celebrity boutique that calls Paris Hilton, Halle Berry and Kate Beckinsale customers is a glorified Olive and Bettes. I mean the average shopper there is 11 years old, the average product is a t-shirt advertising which celbutante team you identify with and the average price point is under $100. Great for teeny-boppers, bad for adults with taste.

2. Tracey Ross – Supposedly the hottest store in LA, this place is a merchandiser’s nightmare. Vanessa Bruno and Stella McCartney frocks are stuffed together on racks and look like something out of the Salvation Army rather than an upscale retail emporium. It’s not that this place is bad, I mean I found a pair of awesome Chloe wedges for spring, but for all the press this lady gets, it couldn’t hurt to invest in a vacuum.

3. Fred Segal – Worse than Kitson, they might as well call this place the Juicy Couture flagship, cause that’s all they have. Oh and other brands that you could find anywhere from Bloomingdale’s to Scoop. And the shoe department could double as a Payless outlet, except the shoes are over $400 and from last season.

The Real Deal:

1. Satine – An adorable hole in the wall on 3rd street, this unique boutique offers indie brands like Tsumori Chisato, Rogan and Harald in a closet-like space where you can find the inner French girl in you. Check out their website if you can’t book a flight.

2. Diavolina – Don’t let the cheesy plastic façade fool you, this is a destination you must not miss. Offering off the cuff brands like Anna Sui, Imitation of Christ and Marni, cool stars (think: Sarah Foster) find their “going out” tops here and are drawn to the lounge-like space of modern interior décor.

3. Maxfield – An artie/fashionista’s dream come true this mega retailer mixes high design with high fashion. With dark, cerebral brands like Libertine, Lucienne Pellat-Finet, Commes des Garcons and Junya Wantanabe, this boutique doesn’t just offer clothes, it offers a lifestyle. It’s hard to believe the bubble gum Kitson lies just around the corner. Even if you can’t afford anything, just go to check out the $1500 oversized plastic shades (perhaps Warhol’s?) Sidenote: Tommy Hilfger comes here for his blazers and designer jeans.

Final Word: There’s something for everything in the City of Angels, at least anything with a price tag.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I Just Threw Up a Little in my Mouth

L.A. is a circus town. From its billboard-sized advertisements for beauty "enhancement" to its streets filled with SLKS driven by girls with blonde extensions, fake French manicure tips and faux mink coats, you can't make this stuff up.

Throughout our stay here we've amassed so many "throw up in our mouth moments,"it would be uncouth not to record them. So here are some slices of our trip that disgusted us so much to the point that we physically could not hold our vomit down. Note: all of these events are true and have not been altered to mask the identity of anyone.

1. No Inner Dialogue

Apparently in this town everyone thinks out loud. Like when we had dinner at Sushi Roku, the maitre d assured us that he would seat us at a "more high profile table" when we asked to be seated in the dining room. And when the bouncer at Privilege eyed us for a minute and then decided, "Yeah, you're pretty cute." I just threw up in my mouth.

2. Ashley Parker Angel and Tiffany
On our first night here at Lobby, these G-list reality show stars of MTV's "There and Back" made a cameo at our table. Tiffany, the so-called mother of a newborn, guzzled Grey Goose and cranberry like it was her job. I couldn't stop thinking, I've seen this girl give birth. I mean literally. I just threw up in my mouth.

3. Splash Private Jacuzzi Suites
Driving through West Hollywood we came upon a sprawling compound that covered a block with awnings advertising, "Hourly rental of private jacuzzi suites...where everyday is Valentine's Day." Uh, I just threw up in my mouth.

4. Men with Makeup
While outside of Privilege, waiting to get in, a forty-year old something guido stood there groping a ten-year old something blonde with fake boobs. The weird thing was his face was sparkling, like neck, ears and all. He was wearing bronzer. I just threw up in my mouth.

5. Hookers at Skybar
According to locals, Skybar is infamous for moonlighting as a brothel for high class hookers trying to score with stupid, drunk prepsters and businessmen on vacation. We saw it first hand. One girl, clad in a a mini vest and skin-tight jeans (nothing underneath), tried to recruit us to her table. After we refused, we watched her French kiss her way through 7 guys until one took her hand and they left upstairs. I just threw up in my mouth.

6. Paris Hilton in Lingerie and Fishnet Gloves Dancing on a Banquette.
Need I say more? I just threw up in my mouth.

7. Nicky Hilton and Kevin Connolly Making Out
I just threw up in my outh.

8. After-party in the Hollywood Hills
After Privilege, we were convinced to go to some "VIP"'s house for an after party. We were greeted by a short balding man in matching Burberry pajama pants and shirt, unbuttoned enough to see his greasy, curly chest hair. We turned to run but were stopped by a 6 year old blonde bimbo in her underwear complete with a garter belt and complaining she was freezing. We fled to the living room where a fake fireplace warmed a full on orgy of frat boy alums and more hookers in lingerie on a fur rug. Outside we saw more girls strip down to nothing but their implants and jump in the hot tub while the gross older men quickly followed. I just threw up in my mouth...and want my mommy.

Final Word: When I got home, I literally threw up.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Back to Basics

There's nothing better than basics. Whether it's tank tops at American Apparel or unmentionables from Cosabella, you can never have too many shirts, jeans, sweats, bras and cashmere sweaters. Cue Zadig & Voltaire.

The French's answer to one stop shopping, this boutique offers everything from boots and belts to sweaters and satchels- and all in a chic, fashionable way (bien sur). The understated French chain carries luscious cashmere pullovers with cheeky detailing like rhinestone skulls or marajuana leaves to stitched names of rock legends "Mick," "Patti," and "Elvis" in addition to private label leather ballet flats, tumbled totes and straight leg jeans.

Each piece, however simple, is cut to perfection, crafted with the highest thread count, and makes you look, well, French. And what's not to love about that?

With it's first American outpost having just opened on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, the chain is already scoping out a locale in NYC this coming fall.

Final Word: After you make your first trip to Z & V, you'll wonder, mon dieu, what did I do before them?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Los Angeles Confidential

Ok, so we’ve been slacking a bit lately. We realize that. But those pesky little day jobs of ours have been a bit ruthless. Without running the risk of career-induced exhaustion, we decided to take a vacation. A little “spring break” if you will.

Yes, we are well out of college and hold full-time jobs, but that didn’t seem like reason enough to abandon a little mid-April getaway. As a result, for the next few days, The Blackberrie will morph into a blog about “fashion, culture and society” in Los Angeles—or at least, the spec of which exists out here.

The following is an introductory list of sights and sounds unique to the City of Angels. Each has individually heightened our appreciation for life on the East Coast.

*The K-Fed clone on our flight this morning. He was audibly reciting lines from a highlighted script. I prayed he would sit next to me. Thought maybe we could toss around a few lines. I didn’t get so lucky.

*A radio commercial for a plastic surgeon referring to breast augmentation surgery as “augs.” Since they perform so many in this town, I guess the last three syllables have become extraneous.

*The valet parker at Baja Fresh. Cher from “Clueless” taught us, “everywhere you go has valet.” But fast-food Mexican? Let’s be real.

*A man at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf reading “Sober But Stuck,” while shamelessly taking notes. Is there a vault in this town filled with lost souls?

*A yellow Hummer tricked out in Ed Hardy logos and auto-body tats. When the driver stepped out, he matched the whip perfectly. He proceeded to enter the coffee shop and immediately picked up a game of Backgammon.

Final Word: Fact is stranger than fiction my friends. More to come from the Paradise City.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Tabloid Diet

Jaded by the tabloids lately? I am. Yet week after week I find myself at my local CVS in the same predicament. To buy or not to buy? Of course the answer is always buy, duh. But the whole act has become increasingly routine. It begins like this: 1. Come up with new excuse to go to the drugstore (this week it was Intuition cucumber melon razor refills, last week it was Crest Whitestrips). And 2. Wait on long line at the checkout counter until I notice it’s safe to make a discreet lunge for the tabs. This second part is tricky because depending on how many people are behind me the situation may require a little bit of acting. So the act goes, I pretend to be intrigued by the cover — “Oh my god TomKat’s breaking up? I didn’t see this one coming I thought they were so in love!” Then I slowly flip through it and let out a sigh as throw it in my basket and glance at all the others. Then I do a similar stop and grab for the rest. “This one says TomKat is back on, phew! Better just read all of them to be safe.”

Between the acts what I’m really thinking is, “Wait are these new or did I read these last week?” It’s so hard to tell these days because you see the same people on each cover, each issue. (This month’s headliner du jour is Kristin Cavalleri from Laguna Beach, but that deserves it’s own post altogether, so I’m not even going to get started.) And since I can’t rely on the covers to actually decipher the newness factor of a given issue I instead find myself in deep pensive thought trying to figure out if the date on the issue corresponds with this week. (It’s usually about two weeks ahead of the real date so you have to add and subtract dates in your head then apply sub-equations for special circumstances like holidays or a leap year.) It’s more mental workout than spur of the moment point-of-sale purchase.

When I get home I have the same monotonous routine for reading them. First I go for the newbies like Life & Style and Celebrity Living (they’re actually interchangeable because I can’t tell the difference between them) followed by OK (which thankfully just reformatted their sizing, it was way too big before) then In Touch, then Star, then Us Weekly (I have a soft spot for the original, so I always read it last). And I don’t even bother with People, too much news.

Page after page it’s the same story, same picture, same headline that I’ve already seen via the internet on the countless blogs and webpages before even purchasing the six issues I’ve just read. Yawn. Will someone please wake me up when Britney becomes suddenly slim sexy and stylish, has an affair with Brad Pitt, and the two run off together with Maddox and Zahara? Actually, don’t even bother me unless she breaks up Brangelina by having an affair with Angelina and Madonna quits Kabbalah in a jealous fit.

Final Word: I’m beyond over all of it. Starting today I declare I’m officially on the tabloid diet. I’m going anorexic, people. No more weekly newsstand binges. Who’s in with me?