Items 1-25 · Items 26-50 · Items 51-75 · Items
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Items 276-300 · Current Items · Index
125. Best Atlas of the
Published in October, Dr. Richard Talbert's The Barrington
Atlas of the Greek and Roman World is the best thing going on the way things were
way back when. Or so says John Wilford of The New York Times, the
author of a very fine book on map-making himself, The Mapmakers.
Dr. Talbert is at UNC-Chapel Hill, which is supporting the establishment of an Ancient
World Mapping Center. See "An Atlas Unveils the Intricacies of Ancient
Worlds," The New York Times, December 12, 2000, p. D5.
the malt-whiskey people, and their American distributor turn out the Macallandar every
year, replete with fishing shots that delight the heart. All proceeds from
sales go to the Atlantic Salmon Federation (www.asf.ca).
Call 1-800-428-9810, a number which will
take you to Remy Amerigue Inc., their U.S. outpost.
For more on MaCallan, see www.macallan.com.
123. Best Jazz at NoonNew York
One of New York Citys unique institutions, Jazz at Noon, under the
leadership of Les Lieber, takes place every Friday from 12-2 at Cafe St.
restaurant located at 143 East 49th Street in Manhattan. Les, who plays a mean alto sax and penny whistle,
founded the program 36 years ago to give business people who were also good musicians a
place to jam and have some fun.
Heres the way it works. A core group of CEOs, doctors, lawyers,
advertising executives, etc. show up at noon to start things off with a standard like
All of Me or Just Friends and, during the ensuing two hours, they
are joined by other business people/musicians who drop by from all over the United States
and other countries. Finally, the guest
artist for the day (top names like Clark Terry are regulars) joins the band for the rest
of the session. In addition to music, what
makes Jazz at Noon special is the warmth and sharp wit of Les Lieber, who
introduces each of the band members with a great deal of humor. For more
information, check out the website, www.jazzatnoon.com, then
call Cafe St. Bart's for reservations at 212-332-0888.
Thanks to our friend Bob Whyte, Chapel Hill venture
capitalist and banjo player, for this entry.
Book on Domestic Improvement
Its Christopher Alexanders A Pattern
Language. See also Home Designs Zen Master of Perfect
Imperfection, New York Times, November 25, 2000, p. Bl8.
Alexander lives in Berkeley, which is only fitting because it was home to Americas
most significant domestic architect in the early 20th century, Bernard
Maybeck, whose quaint houses just happened to be very charming and very livable. Mr.
Alexanders house does not have a doorbell so you have to give him a shout to raise
him. You will also find his website (www.Patternlanguage.com)
hard to navigateall
part of the trappings of artfully designed eccentricity. For sure he is an antidote
to sterile architects, Home Depots, and new housing developments that lack any memory of
120. Best Atmosphere in a Mexican
RestaurantSan Antonio, Texas
Over the years weve eaten more chalupas
compuestas at La Fonda on Main than wed care to admit. Somewhere along the way, this beloved Tex-Mex
eatery, founded in 1932 and still located in its original red tile-roofed casita, began a sad downward drift. Local restaurant maven Cappy Lawton came to
rescue, and when it re-opened a couple of years ago, La Fonda quickly resumed its place in
the hearts of the faithful. The new décor distills the best of the old: pale stucco walls
hung with bullfight posters and photos of the first La Fonda, banquettes upholstered with
day-glo serapes and huge broken tile urns flanking the arched doorways. The service is the nicest in townsome of the
waitresses have been there for decadesand you can still get the essential pecan
pralines at the cash register. On hot summer
nights, todo San Antonio gathers on the airy
terrace to drink margaritas and cool down under a gentle mist that periodically falls from
the trees. In winter, get cozy inside with a
traditional steak a la tampiquena or the
aforementioned chalupas compuestas: crispy tortillas piled high with refried
beans, guacamole, lettuce and tomato, chicken and grated cheese. This is not
the place to come for inventive cuisine, just good, old-fashioned comfort food, San
Antonio-style. Contact: La Fonda on Main,
2145 North Main Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78212. Telephone:
119. Best Source of Trendy Objects for the
HomeSan Antonio, Texas
The tone is set the moment you enter Sloan Hall: two flanking tables of Prada sneakers,
one for men and one for women, and straight ahead, Johnathan Adlers muted,
organically shaped ceramics. The proprietors
of this urban chic emporium do their shopping in Paris, so between trips deprived
Francophiles can stock up on Christian Tortus rectangular zinc vases, Marie
Papiers leather-bound journals, and Diptyques Baies candles. Theres even a cache of trendy vegetal
fragrances (think tomato leaf) from LArtsan Parfumeur, a jewelbox shop in the
Marais. Most beautiful object: an engraved
crystal goblet patterned after Renaissance Venetian glass.
Wittiest object: an enormous white porcelain laughing Buddha with a slot in the
back for centimes. Contact: Sloan Hall, 5930
Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209. Telphone:
118. Best Source of Hippie-Chic Clothing for
WomenSan Antonio, Texas
sultry fragrance of incense wafts through Kathleen Sommers eponymous shop, located
in the premises of a former beauty supply house on North Main Avenue. The store is so dimly lit and so full of wondrous
stuff that one has to navigate slowly to take in even half of it: sequinned
Mexican skirts, Asian noodle cookbooks, sculptural beeswax candles, glittery evening shoesin
short, lots of feel-good girlie luxuries that have won Sommers an avid following among hip
San Antonio ladies. Most alluring is her own
line of luxe but comfortable eveningwear made in our factory a few blocks from
here for those who like the rich hippie look.
One irresistible ensemble included a short, fitted, antique velvet jacket of
beaujolais red worn over a creamy crushed silk shell, with flowing velvet pants of a
burgundy so dark it was almost black. Novelist
Sandra Cisneros is said to shop here. Contact:
Kathleen Sommers, 2417 North Main Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78212. Telephone: 210-732-8437.
117. Best Intimate Creative
This is not a big program, but it has a star-studded cast of poets, novelists, and
playwrights as faculty, and its students win endless accolades, including the National
Book Award, Pulitzers, etc. Director Leslie Epstein has led the program for more
than twenty years; his eight books of fiction include the well-known King of the
Jews. Poet Robert Pinsky was U.S. Poet Laureate from l997-2000, poetry
editor for Slate, and a regular on PBS. Given the small number of faculty
and students, it is something of an intimate salon. See www.bu.edu/writing/.
116. Best Falconer
Philip Glasier, the world's best modern falconer, died on September 11. See New
York Times, September 23, 2000, B27. Among his books were Falconry and
Hawking, As The Falcon Her Bells, and A Hawk in the Hand.
The National Bird of Prey Center in England, started by him in 1967, has spread way
beyond eagles to include 300 plus birds and 80 species.
115. Best Toy Stores
Chasing about the nation, we have looked at all the toy stores that the media
praise. Well, the stores they laud are as humdrum as the current FAO Schwartz, a
wonderful store that has been lobotomized by the current owners. We have a couple,
not on the charts, for you to inspect (we will be adding to this list):
Attache List (December 1997, pp.74-83). Back in 1997, toy
collector Barry Janoff put together a fine toy store list for Attache,
a fine airline magazine Pace does for U.S. Airways, this issue dating
back to when that always troubled airway still had dreams of grandeur
aloft. We’ve been to many of the stores, and they are of mixed
quality. But each provides entertainments for the toy fancier in all of
us. They are: Archie McPhee, 35110 Stone Way, North Seattle,
Washington 98103. 206-545-8344.
www.mcphee.com. McPhee is a very fun provider of toy kitsch and has
a dribs and drabs catalog that proves it. Classic Toys, 218 Sullivan
Street, New York, New York 10012. 212-674-4434. We hope this still
exists: it’s a little mysterious den on a side street down in SoHo and
could have been wiped out by rising rents.
www.classictoysnyc.com/home.php. Le Petit Soldier Shop, 528 Royal
Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. 504-523-7741. This should be all
right since it was in the quarter. It has some beautiful hand-painted
figures, and, as is the case here, enough wares are in the window to
hint at its ambiance.
www.lepetitsoldiershop.com. Nashville Toy Museum, 2613 McGavock
Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37214. 615-883-8870. It’s a little hard to
tell the current status of this museum, but at least you can get a
www.over50.org/nashvillemuseum.html. It’s probably more of a train
store now. Star Wars Collectible & Old Tyme Toy Store, 6159 N. 9th
Avenue, Pensacola Florida 32504. 904-857-1343. This store seems to
have moved so do some checking before you venture there. Sullivan’s,
3412 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20016. 202-362-1343.
Actually this was a pleasant, run-of-the-mill store. Toy Joy, 2900
Guadeloupe Street, Austin, Texas 78705. 512-320-0090. The late hours
here make it a thing to do after a bite in Austin. It looks like a
http://tspweb02.tsp.utexas.edu/webarchive/07-17-01. Toys & Co, 803C
Friendly Center, Greensboro, North Carolina 27408. 910-294-1114. This
is actually a rather typical mall store, but with more inventory than
you will find at many North Carolina locations. Interestingly, it has
spread to a number of locations in the Piedmont and onto the coast.
U.S. Toy Company/Constructive Playthings, 208 West 103d Terrace, Leawood,
Kansas 66206. 913-642-8247.
www.ustoyco.com. This shop and its many sisters had an educational
tilt, its CEO once a preschool teacher, but it has since become all
things to all people. The Wound & Wound Toy Company, 7374 Melrose
Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046. 800-937-0561.
www.thewoundandwound.com. Full of tin cars and other action toys.
Incidentally, U.S. Airways and America West are merging, with the new
leadership coming from America West executives. (10/19/05)
We have it on the word of Forbes that this 200-year plus store in London
is worth the visit, although we cannot remember for sure whether we liked
the store or not. But it is the sort of place you have to visit once
anyway because it is a colossus. Besides, how can we resist visiting what
claims to be the finest toyshop in the world? See
www.hamleys.co.uk. Hamleys. 181-196 Regent Street. London.
our very faithful readers reports that there is a very big downside to the
renowned Hamleys. He says, "I have been to Hamleys three times. It is
always overcrowded, and it has a poor selection and absolutely horrible
service. Three episodes of unresolved frustration." Well, we suppose you
still have to go, though you may also leave very fast.
Le Petit Soldier.
Soldier is ground zero for strategic warriors of all ages. Ranged amongst
the military medals, uniforms and antique pistols are battalions of
beautifully hand-painted miniature soldiers from the time of the Greeks
and Romans to the present day. We spied a legion of generals and other
leaders: Julius Caesar, MacArthur, Robert E. Lee and Mussolini to name a
few. But among the thousands of troops, we were most enchanted by the
colorful Louisiana Tiger Zouaves, in blue-striped pantaloons and red
fezzes. Owner Dave Dugas knows his stock intimately and is not averse to
trading war stories if business is slow. Contact: Le Petit Soldier Shop,
528 Royal Street, New Orleans. Telephone: 504/523-7741.
2. WoodShop Toys. 320 lst Avenue
South, Seattle at Pioneer Square. 1-888-624-1763. Owned by Douglas Norwood,
a.k.a Top Dog, this store has a unique selection of most everything, so don't be fooled by
the wooden toys name. He claims he is "Often a circus, always a zoo."
This fits because his specialty is folkmanis puppets, darn cute animals of
reasonable dimension that also happen to be puppets. We found Doug lending voice to
Chuck the Dog when we visited--so we bought Chuck the Dog. Doug's father Willis
started the store in l972. Now Doug divides his time between his child life at the
store and his six- and two-year olds at home.
1. Oz. 1977-1 Main Street.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina. 1-828-295-0770. This is probably the only really
charming shop in Blowing Rock, a wonderful tourist mecca where the stores have taken to
kitsch. We found Jim Thirtle busily putting more stuff on the shelves, pained a bit
that he did not have enough room for all his new discoveries. Suspended in the air
was a vintage Roadmaster bike; on one side, a fair number of tin toys. He and Iris
claim to have all sorts of "needful things," which, I presume, are all needed by
the Thirtles. A retired contractor from Florida, Jim obviously thinks you can only
get it truly right when you construct fantasies.
114. Best Reason for Reading
All our newsweeklies of all sorts--Newsweek, Time, U.S. News, Sports
Illustrated, blah, blah--have been ruined by the media conglomerates. So we
have done the impossible in discovering why you should peek at Sports Illustrated,
even if you don't buy it. Uncle Tom from Pittsburgh has uncovered Rick Reilly, the
new star of sports columnists. He writes with passion, anecdote, and skill about
stars who matter because they have character, like John Wooden or Shaquille O'Neal.
We are particularly fond of his pre-requiem for ailing Al McGuire, champion coach
and sportscaster. Reilly is full of telling details: "As a pit-bull New
York Knicks guard in the early 1950's, he once showed up at center court with a knife,
fork and plate and hollered, 'I'm gonna eat Cousy for dinner!' " See Sports
Illustrated, September l8, 2000. You'll find the web-version of Sports
Illustrated (in league with CNN) at www.cnnsi.com.
113. Best Kids' Expository Writing
The Concord Review is shockingly good, and we are annoyed that we did not see it
sooner. It is "A Quarterly Review of Essays by Students of History," a
selection of papers from high school students all over the country who, in general, write
and research better than their college cousins. You can find a short history of IBM,
a piece on Williston Academy and World War I, two treatments of Marbury vs. Madison,
a memory of Julia Morgan (the architect of Hearst Castle and friend of the great
California architect Bernard Maybeck), and just about everything else you can imagine.
This is the child and worthy compulsion of Will Fitzhugh of Sudbury, Massachusetts.
A one-time teacher who has spent 13 years building the Journal, he has earned the
praise of everyone, even though, financially, his enterprise has been a hand-to-mouth
affair. So subscribe and get your friends to endow it. On the Internet, you
will find some sample essays at www.tcr.org.
Send praise and dollars to Mr. Fitzhugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
112. Best Sunday
Night Dining Room on Central Park West
Just steps from Columbus Circle, on the ground floor of the predictably
glitzy Trump International Hotel, is a rare find: a beautifully chic restaurant that draws
a well-dressed crowd on the Upper West Side, even on a Sunday night. Nougatine is the casual stepchild of Jean-Georges,
the highly acclaimed French restaurant opened in 1997 by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. With its pale taupe, Adam Tihany-designed interior
and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park West, the dining room has a
luminous, airy feeling amplified by the luxury of actual space between the tables. The scaled-down but still luxurious menu reflects
the innovative culinary philosophy that has been winning Vongerichten four-star reviews
for the last fifteen years: he takes exquisitely fresh, seasonal ingredients and cooks
them in a way that boosts their natural flavors, often with pure vegetable and fruit
essences and the occasional Asian twist.
As the sky turned steel blue and street lights glimmered
one autumn evening, we began with an amuse-bouche of stunningly fresh, almost
buttery salmon tartare with a tiny puff pastry shell.
It was followed by salad of white asparagus, enoki mushrooms and baby lettuces in
an earthy vinaigrette flavored with soy sauce and truffle juice, and then by a succulent
poached lobster, its generous chunks bathed in a voluptuous lemon broth and served atop
chive-flecked spaetzle and tiny fava beans. Though
Vongerichten is known for top-notch desserts (especially his famed soft, warm chocolate
cake), a fresh fig tart did not measure up to the rest of the meal. Contact: Nougatine, 1 Central Park West, New York,
NY 10023. Telephone: 212-299-3900. See http://starchefs.com/JeanGeorges/home.htm.
111. Best Source
of Big Garden Ornaments on Lexington Ave., New York
Through the windows of Lexington Gardens, one first glimpses sumptuous
dried flower arrangements. Hydrangeas, roses
and pomegranates spill over the sides of urns, while wreaths in autumnal hues of gold and
ruby beckon the passerby. Inside, one
discovers a small but well-chosen trove of over-sized garden ornaments with a seductive
patina of age that could give immediate credibility to a new McMansion or instant garden. A gorgeous 19th-century terracotta urn
adorned with acanthus leaves and grinning satyrs ($5,000) almost demands to be placed on a
country estate at the terminus of an allee of pear treesbut would also lend
regal splendor to a double-height entrance hall. For
homeowners with an Asian bent, a fierce pair of weathered wooden guardian dogs from a
temple on the Thai-Burmese border ($9,500) might prevent evil spirits from entering the
front door during a down market. A large
antique circular window with a frame of peeling white paint could anchor an empty wall
until the Rubens arrives. Contact: Lexington
Gardens, 1011 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10021. Telephone:
110. Best Antidote
to Pottery Barn's ClutterNew York
If your eyes begin to glaze over at the sight of yet another Pottery Barn
catalogue lurking in the mailbox, take heart. Terence
Conrans new outpost beneath the 59th Street Bridge in New York is the
perfect antidote to all the ersatz country furniture and fake kilims
that clutter up that other lifestyle merchandisers stores. The absence of clutter is precisely whats
most alluring about this airy, ultra-modern, glassed-in structure, where minimalist pieces
of furniture are displayed almost like sculpture. Our
eye was drawn to the sleek, classical lines of the Cicero daybed in soft honey-colored
leather (from $2590), which would look nifty in almost library or in front of a pair of
French doors opening out to the garden. A
barrel-shaped, 19th-century Ethiopian throne in dark wood with
diamond cut-outs ($5,400) would be dramatic silhouetted against stark white walls. The Capuchin zinc-clad dining table ($2,190) was
chic, but we were deterred by warnings about the effects of fingerprints on its surface. Not everyone finds the modernist look appealing,
of course, but for a fresh vision of what good design in the home could look like, Conran
scores at the top of our list. (There are no
catalogues, alas, but tear sheets for sofas and tables are available.) Contact: The Terence Conran Shop, 407 East 59th
Street, New York, NY 10022. Telephone:
212-755-9079. See also www.conran.co.uk/.
109. Best "White" Japanese Soy Sauce
It has the deep amber hue of old Kentucky Bourbon, and an aroma redolent
of wood fires on a frosty night. The flavor is subtle and complex, not unlike that
of a well-cured jamon serrano. It is Shiro Shoyu, a "white" soy
sauce brewed (mostly from wheat) in small batches in central Japan, just as it has been
for 150 years. We discovered it a year ago, while searching for an alternative for
the ubiquitous dark soy sauces that taste mostly of salt and the murky bottoms of enormous
factory vats. Shiro Shoyu transcends the genre, taking dishes as varied as grocery
store avocado rolls, Chinese watercress and shrimp dumplings to unexpected culinary
To those in the food and wine orbit, it may occur as no surprise that
Shiro Shoyu was introduced to America by Darrell Corti. Hailed by Saveur as
"The Man Who Knows Everything About Food and Wine," he circles the globe
searching for excellent, often little-known delicacies to sell in his family's Sacramento
grocery emporium. As Corti wrote in one of the newsletters which occasionally waft
across our desk, Shiro Shoyu has a "meaty, intense flavor ... the scent is a meaty
one, smoky like a good aged country ham"--as unlike ordinary soys, we might add, as
day from night. Contact: Corti Brothers, 5810 Folsom Boulevard, Sacramento, CVA
95819. Telephone: 800-509-3663.
108. Best Friendship Book of 1999
Just as you conclude the nation is going to hell in a handbasket, you
discover some new wonderful people who are marching to a different drummer. We have
already pointed out the best love story of 1999 (see Best of Class #81), and now we
discover a gem about friendship. It's Stephen E. Ambrose's Comrades,
Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals. He writes about the Ambrose family,
but also about Eisenhower and Patton, and Lewis and Clark. It includes an affecting
chapter, "Nary A Friend: Richard Nixon," in which Ambrose calls Nixon a man of
enormous talent and drive, brought low by his very inability to have true friendship.
107. Best Card Games for Kids 3-12 and over 40
Gamewright of Newton, Mass. puts out simple games that use brain, eyes,
and hand coordination while providing a barrel of laughs. Among our favorites are Go
Bananas, Slamwich, Rat-a-Tat Cat, Pigasus, and Frog Juice. See www.gamewright.com.
106. Best Corporate Advertisement
And probably the longest running as well. We just got the latest
number of the Royal Bank Letter, a long-running publication of the Royal Bank of
Canada. Always a four-page issue, the current topic is "The Place of
Recreation." As a society, it says, our quality of life is coming to depend on
the quality of our leisure. The question is, are we amusing ourselves to death?
When you contemplate all the triviata coming out of
Wall Street's investment banks, it is a joy to receive a missive from a financial
institution that knows how to act like number one. If I remember correctly, this
reflection goes out to 600,000 plus readers. The secret of its success: in
this letter, the bank talks engagingly about values, not boringly about itself.
Available also at www.royalbank.com/community.
105. Best Way to See Cuba
Americans and others are pouring into Cuba now in increasing numbers.
But a fast visit there will not invoke the leisurely land where one went to Sunday
mass, because the walk there in the sun will put you in a state of grace even before you
reached the cathedral. We suggest you listen to the Buena Vista
Social Club, which will let you see the whole thing the right way in your
minds eye. Latin music is sweeping through the United States, the surest sign
yet that we are getting ourselves linked to Latin America, becoming a dual culture if not
104. Best New Bird Watchers Book
David Allen Sibley of Concord, Massachusetts has turned out The Sibley
Guide to Birds, which even seems to have displaced Roger Tory Peterson. It
weighs more than 2 ½ pounds, so you will not be carrying it around in your knapsack.
The whole Sibley family is into birdsthe kind of passion that creates
greatness. Concord is home to all sorts of interesting people, many of whom are not
really part of the academic/industrial complex Boston has become.
103. Nicaraguas Best Poet
And probably Latin Americas. Possibly the most important
modernist poet in the Spanish-speaking world. Ruben Dario (1867-1916), born in
Metapa, spent his creative life in Santiago, Chile, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Paris.
Harvard recently uncovered a couple of his poems, which were gathering dust,
unheralded, on the shelves of the Widener Library. (See Harvard Finds Two
Poems, and a Latin Romance Reignites, New York Times, September 19,
2000, p. 2. He is celebrated by both the greats and the critics. See, for
instance, a 1933 dialogue between Pablo Neruda and Garcia Lorca at www.dariana.com/tribute.html.
Some works are available such as Azul,
Completos, and Poemas
Escogidos, with more due to be published. On the website, there are six
dramatic poems including To Roosevelt.
102. Best Pen Shop in Dallas
Why bother with fancy watchpieces that everybody has? Penwright
stocks all the premium brands plus vintage pens. It also does both repairs and
restoration. With one of these in hand, one can prove that the pen is mightier than the
sword. Penwright is located at Lovers and Inwood. 5330 West Lovers Lane,
Dallas, Texas 75209. Telephone: 800-672-7814 or 214-350-7814. See www.themetro.com/02/penwright.
Mystery Book Store in Washington D.C.
We first spied MysteryBooks one bright March afternoon when cherry
blossoms were gusting in the wind around Dupont Circle. Always in search of books by
our favorite Irish crime writer (his early works are out of print and we can never
remember his name), we ambled inside and inquired vaguely about a working-class Irish
detective and his escapades in the rare-book and trout-fishing worlds. Within
moments, the genial proprietor had not only identified the writer, Bartholomew Gill, but
had, to our delight, discovered newly reissued paperbacks of Gill's works, as well as a
forthcoming novel. (For more on Gill, see entry #61.)
Addicts of literary murder and mayhem, take note: The
store not only features the usually autographed bestsellers, but also stocks hard-to-find
classics, plus intriguing volumes from European publishers rarely available here.
For buffs hooked on mysteries set in, say, Tokyo or Venice, there's a section in which
books are shelved by location. Here we discovered Sujata Massey's funny, sexy
antique dealer-detective, Rei Shimura. You can peruse these diabolical treats in the
comfort of an easy chair in the stacks or in your own lair via the store's
gargoyle-bedecked website, www.killerbooks.com.
Washington-based mystery mavens can compare clues with luminaries such as Dick
Francis and Robert Parker, who regularly stop by when on tour. Contact: The
MysteryBooks Store, 1715 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20009. Telephone:
202-483-1600 or 800-387-8252.
Note: We regret to hear
that MysteryBooks is closed. As the proprietors write, "We
have struggled and fought the good fight, but too many circumstances did not
turn in our favor. ... For all of us here it is more like the loss of a
loved one than the closing of a business."
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