The Best of Class

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175. America's Best Ginger Ale
There have been better ones along the way, but they've disappeared.  We came upon Boylan's by accident recently and found that it is the pause that more than refreshes.   Not easy to find, we had to have several cases trucked in.  So we gave a six-pack to our good neighbor Mac, who found it so appealing he had to lay in his own store.  Apparently Boylan's other drinks are just as appealing, its root beer coming in first on our own recently-unearthed root beer survey. (See entry #126k in Best of Class).   Boylan's Bottleworks is located in Haledon, New Jersey.  Telephone: 800-289-7978.

174. Best Heroic Books for Boys
We recently observed two middle school boys avidly poring over a table of used books at a library sale.  "There's one!" they exclaimed, pouncing on a worn paperback with sword-wielding rabbits on the cover.  It was The Long Patrol, one of fourteen books in the very popular series about Redwall Abbey and the lovable animals that live there.

At first glance, a series about a medieval abbey inhabited by talking mice, moles, squirrels and badgers wouldn't seem like a sure thing.  But in the world conjured up by author Brian Jacques, these small, mostly gentle forest creatures must do battle with the forces of evil—in the form of sniveling weasels, villainous foxes (Marlfox,1998) and cruel wildcats (Lord Brocktree, 2000).  The great clashing battles that ensue are filled with the sort of old-fashioned daring-do and feats of valor that most boys (and girls) love.  But underneath, these stories are also meditations on the virtues of goodness and kindness, loyalty to one's friends, and most especially, courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

Jacques, a former milkman and stand-up comedian, began spinning tales of the kingdom of Mossflower for children at The Royal School for the Blind in Liverpool.  He received a modest $4,000 for his first novel, Redwall (1986), which was written on 800 sheets of recycled paper kept in a grocery bag; today the fourteen books in the series have over 3.5 million copies in print, and the official website,, receives 3.9 million hits annually from visitors in 126 countries.  It has spawned an animated TV series carried by about 200 PBS stations in the U.S. ( Two more books are due out this fall: The Taggerung and A Redwall Winter's Tale.

One twelve-year old we know explains the series' appeal:  "I like reading about the feasts and the adventures that lead to fights, like the one between the hares and the sea rats." Fights, yes. But feasts?  How about "thick porridge flavored with cut fruit and honey ... hot cheese flans and mugs of rosehip 'n' apple cider"?   Or "watershrimp an' 'otroot soup, full 'o dried watershrimps, bulrush tips, ransoms, watercress and special spices."  Why, it's mouthwatering enough to tempt even the most dedicated non-vegetable eater.

173. Best Full Spectrum Paint
Donald Kaufman, a color field painter whose works hang in The Museum of Modern Art, and his wife, Taffy Dahl, a ceramist, may be America's premier color consultants. Working with architects and designers such as Philip Johnson and Philippe Starck, they've created subtle, very sophisticated hues for museums, hotels and the homes of the rich and famous.  But for ordinary mortals, they have also formulated the Donald Kaufman Color Collection, a line of fifty full spectrum paints that have the same rich, luminosity as the colors they've created for, say, the Getty Museum or the Delano Hotel.  The secret is the use of transparent pigments which reflect rather than absorb light, as ordinary paints do.  Kaufman uses all the pigments in the color spectrum when blending his colors, often in minute amounts, compared with the three or four that most standard paint companies use.  Although he never uses black, many of his hues have a neutral undertone, which makes them extraordinarily easy to live with.

The beauty of Kaufman's paints is that often, one can't quite identify the color.  DKC-29, for instance, a mysterious watery blue, has turned a windowless hallway we know into a luminous passage that at times looks misty gray and, at others, like the soft blue of an early spring sky.  More pronounced colors, such as DKC-11, a spring green with a neutral edge, have a rich enveloping glow that is far from dull, yet avoid the nerve-jangling intensity of  hues form other paint manufacturers. Kaufman's color theory is expounded in his beautifully photographed books, Color: Natural Palettes for Painted Rooms and Color and Light: Luminous Atmospheres for Painted Rooms, and in Color Palettes by Suzanne Butterfield, a partner in the paint business.  Paints, which are mixed using a Pratt and Lambert base, are available only from Kaufman's paint company, The Color Factory, as are over-sized paint chips and small sample-size cans of paint.  Contact: The Color Factory, 114 West Palisade Avenue, Englewood NJ, 07631-2692.  Telephone:  201-568-2226.

173. Best Counterculture Digest
For a blast from the past, just leaf through the Utne Reader.  Non violent activism.  Save the whales.  Good karma.   Feels like the sixties, only it’s 2001, and articles talking up Emma Goldman and the virtues of anarchism share space with pieces on “ecological medicine” and the corporate take over of the internet.  Since 1984, this bimonthly Minneapolis-based counterculture digest has been skewering the establishment with articles drawn from over 2,000 alternative media sources.  With pieces ranging from the truly visionary to the merely quirky, it’s become required reading for futurists and trendspotters who want to know where the great American public is heading next.

In the June 2001 issue, one can delve into articles on medicine from plants, achieving inner peace by decluttering your living space, and a quality-of-life check list.  In the latter,  “Reimagining the Good Life,” Utne’s editors posit that having a new Ferrari or a Malibu beach house can’t compete with the richness of a life deeply connected to one’s community.  And what makes a community rich?  Among other things, “lovable eccentrics,” affordable housing, bookstores outfitted with sagging couches, and “a fierce but friendly spirit of local patriotism.”  Sounds a little, uh, countercuture, but maybe Americans are getting fed up with the bland suburban sprawl that seems to be  swamping our towns and cities.  Contact: Utne Reader, 1624 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, Mninnesota 55403.  Telephone: 612/338-5040.  Website:

172. Best Breakfast Hotel in San Francisco
Campton Place is very central (just off Union Square), very obliging at breakfast time, and is equipped with a dining room that is very right-sized and quite calming when you are starting the day.  Probably it is just down the hotel ladder a few rungs from the Mandarin, which makes it very good, indeed, and the dining room has a better ambiance than Silks.  Occasionally, the hotel's rooms are a bit too snug, but we understand that they all have been reworked to be more capacious.  Of all the hotels, there is more attention to design details (some quite successful) than in all the other hostelries around town.  We hear the bar and restaurant are to be redone--for the better we hope--even though management may be messing with a good formula.  Campton Place Hotel.  340 Stockton Street, San Francisco, California 94108.  Telephone: 415-781-5555.   Fax: 415-955-5536.  Website:

Update: We recently paid another very extensive visit to Campton Place and found it to be as good as ever.  First, hurray for the restaurant, which has finally reached the first rank.  It and the bar outside have undergone a light redesign, but it’s nothing dramatic and the tone has remained reasonably understated.  The banquette at the back has turned slightly more uncomfortable, since the padding pressed up against one’s spine is not quite right.  At night you will want to sit in the booths on the left.  By day, get a position near the windows since the lighting is mildly depressing otherwise.  The service at night is as good as ever, though we did not see the old hands who had a bit more knowledge about the food.  The food in the old days was a little fruity precious (new California chefs trying too hard); things are now more complex and very decorative but very mellow.  It’s all a bit filling, so go empty and don’t plan on visiting too often.  Despite the fact that it’s a better restaurant, it does not seem as crowded—for any meal—which, of course, is a very big plus for the discerning.   

Breakfast is still quite pleasant but with some caveats.  You have to pick your way through the menu and be a little demanding.  For instance, we eat the egg white omelet which will come out a little watery (just pour the waste onto a saucer), and the vegetables, which strangely are not wrapped into the omelet, tend to blandness.  It helps if you ardently spell out what you want in the omelet and caution the staff on the cooking.  Likewise the breads are mixed: a croissant was respectable, but the attempt at an English muffin could even be said to be gluey.  Do try the jams and jellies.  But it’s a quiet place to kick off the day and to carry on civil business conversation. 

The hotel staff is ever willing and the rooms have grown more comfortable over the years.  There are a few trifles that need to be repaired.  The front desk can be dilatory about getting a bellboy to the room or effecting a simple transaction that requires a bit of creativity—in other words, balls do get dropped there.  Nobody polices the front lobby, so an unruly guest can prowl back and forth yapping for a long time on a cell phone, disturbing more temperate guests.  Generally, however, it attracts a genteel clientele.  The flaws probably arise because management is rather invisible.  Room service really ends at 10:30: this is not quite luxury.  But the papers really do make it to your door in the morning, even if they are not on the table in the restaurant which sports too many copies of USA Today and the emasculated San Francisco Chronicle.  The maid will do a fast clean up in a pinch.  It’s quiet in the rooms, and the double seal glass protects one against rather noisy streets.  Unusually we found ice in our room every night—without asking. The towels have a reasonable nap and there are enough at hand.

171. Best Vietnamese Restaurant in North Carolina
Leafing through Saveur magazine one wintry December night, we were astonished to discover that a Vietnamese restaurant in Greensboro, North Carolina had vaulted onto the magazine's top 100 list for 2000.  Sharing accolades with chefs like Jacques Pepin and the entire state of Vermont ("Coolest Food State in the Union"), Saigon Restaurant was billed as the "Least Likely Place for Great Vietnamese."

Least likely, indeed.  This narrow storefront cafe is situated next to an all-but-defunct hot dog joint right off busy High Point Road.  A raffish clientele--Sikhs in turbans, pony-tailed guys, and dolls in skin-tight capri pants--spills out into the parking lot, waiting with good humor for one of a dozen tiny tables.  Whole flounder, delicately fried and served with a subtle chili basil sauce, was well worth the wait, as were the fresh spring rolls with shrimp, papaya and fragrant mint.  Saigon showcases the culinary skills of the Nguyen family, who fled Vietnam 23 years ago.  Brother Donnie cooks, brother Nick is business manager, and the third brother, Duc--better known as Duckie--keeps customers entertained with a running stream of hilarious patter. When we ordered the flounder, he yelled, "Free Willy!"  Contact: Saigon Cuisine Restaurant, 4205 B High Point Road, Greensboro, NC 27407.  Telephone: 336-294-9286.

170. Best Source for Old China, Crystal and Silver
There comes a moment when one might like to buy a few more Spode dessert plates, or replace the antique silver fork that accidentally went out with the garbage.  But who to call?  Replacements, a 225,000-square foot warehouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, stocks over five million pieces of china, silver and crystal in more than 100,000 old and new patterns.  Chances are, it has what you're looking for.

Founded by a former auditor for the state of North Carolina, Replacements gets new stock daily from a nationwide network of 1,000 pickers who haunt estate sales and flea markets looking for pieces that customers have requested.  A computerized database not only keeps a moment-to-moment inventory list, but also matches stock against individual customer wish lists.  When a piece of your china or crystal comes in, a letter or e-mail goes out.  Many items can be viewed on the company's website,

The Greensboro showroom welcomes visitors seven days a week and features a museum of unusual pieces.  Here one can find everything from clunky $8 Noritake salt and pepper sets to an exquisite Royal Winton cake plate ($249.50) with rose and peach pagodas on a jet black background.  Amongst the acres of Lenox china and and Towle silverware are one-of-a-kind items such as a 19th-century Flow Blue chamber pot from the G.L. Ashworth company.  We've had success locating pieces of the long-discontinued Royal Worcester Empire pattern and an out-of-production line of Italian silverplate.   Contact:  Replacements, 1089 Knox Road, P.O. Box 26029, Greensboro, NC 27420.  Telephone: 1-800-REPLACE.  Fax: 1-336-697-3100.  

169. Number One in the U.S.A.
Gannett's USA Today captured the circulation crown in the United States a long time ago.  And, forever, it has had the best sports section of all the national newspapers.  (In fact, the Wall Street Journal should start a section pronto: it has been obdurately dumb not to write about sports.)  What we hadn't observed is that the McPaper often is more relevant and trenchant than the other rags.  Take its front page story on gas prices in the May 22, 2001 edition.   While the others dithered, it did the best story in a timely manner, using a round-up team of reporters to cover every angle, showing the cracks in our whole energy (and hence gas) supply system.  It encouraged us that encouraged that summer public-transit use is already up, and SUV buying is down.  USA Today is going well beyond fast-food reporting on several accounts, and is offering up some very sparky new cuisine.

168. Best Excuse for Bibliomania
We've just run across an intriguing mention of Jahiz, a ninth century Arabic man of letters and bibliomaniac.  So ardent was his passion for books that he bribed the booksellers of Basra for the privilege of spending the night in their shops, reading each volume from cover to cover.  His seven-part masterpiece, Kitab al-Hayawan, was written to demonstrate the "usefulness of every created thing," a self-imposed mandate which permitted him to extol the virtues of dogs and the charms of singing girls, as well as the ever-ready friendship provided by books.

"I know no companion more prompt to hand, more rewarding, more helpful or less burdensome, and no tree that lives longer, bears more abundantly or yields more delicious fruit that is handier, easier to pick or more perfectly ripened at all times of the year, than a book," wrote Jahiz.  You can read these and other delightful excuses for bibliomania in Night and Horses and the Desert:  An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature, edited by Robert Irwin (Woodstock and New York:  The Overlook Press, 2000).  Like other addictions, it seems that bibliomania can kill:  Jahiz died when a stack of books fell upon him.

167. Best Triad (and Triangle) Hotel
The O. Henry Hotel is probably the best hotel from the Coastal Plain to the Piedmont of North Carolina.  It's still a secret, incidentally; most denizens of Greensboro and Winston Salem simply don't know about it.  It is the reincarnation of an earlier version torn down in 1979.  It's named for O. Henry, a.k.a. William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), the storyteller who started life here but then made his way to Texas, Ohio, and other parts, finally dying in penury in New York City despite his prolific writing career.  Like O. Henry, the hotel is a gem waiting to be rediscovered by history.

Among its virtues are a staff that tries quite hard, Green Valley Grill (a first-class, pleasant restaurant), unusually large, ample bathrooms, a comfortable lobby, a lovely sun room, and outdoor dining (relatively smog free) outside the Grill.  Both the exercise room and the pool are intimate and fairly quiet, since they are hardly used.  O. Henry Hotel.  624 Green Valley Rd., Greensboro, North Carolina 27429.  1-336-854-2000.

We found an O. Henry volume by our bedside and would recommend the hotel make the writer the centerpiece of more visible promotion.  Here are some O. Henry books available:

166. CampaTampa Restaurant
This is Tampa's campest restaurant in America's unsung extremely camp city.   Bernini's is located in the heart of Ybor City, which, as we've mentioned elsewhere, is now undergoing a facelift with some major national chains and interesting side bars putting down roots in the area.  Bernini's, interestingly conceived by an interior decorator and former part owner, features blow-ups of the great Italian artist;'s work on its walls.  It is installed in an old Bank of Ybor City building (circa 1899), and the doors of the vaults are still in use in the wine cellar upstairs.  Principal owner Jason Fernandez (you'll see a Jason dish on the menu) recommends Chef Bob's Crispy Duck.  He has worked everywhere, including Columbia, the old Ybor City mainstay down the street.  It's where we were headed until we spotted Bernini's in our walk along the street, and my companion said, "Let's give it a try."  Though it was not yet officially open, we were welcomed, so we soaked up a little atmosphere and food.   The music is good, and all the help wanted to be of service.  Bernini Restaurant. 1702 E. Seventh Ave. (at 17th), Tampa, Florida 33605.  813-248-0099.

165. A Romantic Dinner for Two
But at home, without reservations, without buzz, without driving.  Impromptu Gourmet (, will send dinner from top New York restaurants (Vong, Le Bernardin, Union Square Cafe, etc.) to your doorstep.  It arrives the same day in Manhattan or within two days in the provinces.  You will have a little warm-up duty while you sip your first glass of wine, but apparently it's a relaxing way to go top drawer at home after a harassing day.

164. Kona Rich Coffee
For tastebuds that have been coddled by too many milky lattes, the flavor of real Kona coffee can be a stunner: rich, full-bodied and slightly acid, it packs a wallop.  Virtually every shop that sells coffee beans has a high-priced jar labeled “Kona.”  The dirty little secret is that many roasters blend a few Kona beans with less expensive varieties and pass it off as the real thing.  A University of Hawaii study revealed that while only 2 million pounds of Kona coffee beans are produced annually, retailers sell upwards of 20 million pounds. Chances are that if you’ve been buying Kona from your corner purveyor, you haven’t been drinking the genuine article.

To get pure Kona coffee, grown in the volcanic soil and heavy rainfall on the slopes of Mauna Loa, one must locate the handful of dedicated Big Island growers who painstakingly cultivate, hand pick, sun dry and roast the beans in small quantities.  One of the best (we’re still sampling) is John Langenstein, a refugee from the harsh winters of upstate New York, who grows coffee on an 8-acre estate and ages his beans anywhere from two months to a year in order to mellow them.  Langenstein Farms’ coffee has been praised by The New York Times (“From the Volcano, the Rarest Brew” by R.W. Apple), Food and Wine Magazine and The Wine Spectator.  We personally like the dark French roast; medium and Vienna roast are also available.  Contact:  Langenstein Farms, P.O. Box 615, Honaunau, HI. Telephone: 800-621-5365.  Fax: 800-328-9891.  Website:

163. The Home of Corrosion
The best place to find out about rust and what to do about it is a website called   Corrosion Source (   It charges you $995 a year "for access to its Java-based corrosion prediction software and database."  See Forbes, "Best of the Web," May 21st, 2001, p. 40.  To paraphrase Forbes, if you have lots of data not available anywhere else that deals with a big problem--even if it's data on rust--you can charge for it on the Web.

162. Best of Curtis
Edward S. Curtis, renowned portrayer of the American Indian, is suitably commemorated in the Library of Congress American Memory collection.  See   This collection is monumental and beautiful.

161. Best Arcades
Steven Spielberg has put together a winner for those Guttenberg parents lost at sea in a digital world.  To be specific, the hell holes where you usually take the kids to play video games, etc. are often noisy slums.  Gameworks, now up to fifteen locations (thirteen in the U.S.), are reasonably clean and well appointed.  We went to one in Tampa, which has a couple of restaurants in front where you can get away from the action.   On the day we visited the restaurants were closed, so we went across the street to Starbucks.  See  In Tampa, Gameworks is in Ybor City, which is undergoing a revival well worth your attention.

160. Best Encyclopedia of Hardy Trees and Shrubs
Anyone who has tried to find the right tree for the right spot—and has been frustrated by the standard offerings and lack of knowledge in local garden centers—would do well to consult  Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs:  An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 1997).  Here one will discover a wealth of possibilities for gardens in zones 3 through 6 and, by extension, zones 7 and 8.  Dr. Michael A. Dirr, renowned Professor of Horticulture at the University of Georgia, has compiled a stellar collection of 500 species of trees and shrubs, describing their growth habits and needs for soil, sun, water, and other necessities of life.  Dirr’s color photos, as clear as they are beautiful, show full grown frees as well as close-up details of bark, leaves and flowers.  Add to the mix his own pithy, highly knowledgeable comments, and you have a genuinely useful book that can open up new vistas in the landscape.

159. Campest College Student Center
Right at the center of the University of Tampa campus, you will find the Henry B. Plant museum, which also is a part of the student union/administration building.  He was a New York financier who put together his own railroad system.  No railroad hummed without railroad hotels, and this one was his most opulent.  Its minarets certainly make it Tampa's most distinctive structure, especially since it's set in an utterly banal campus.   This quiet little museum is a way to get in touch with Tampa's secret personality--the town that sent Teddy Roosevelt's Roughriders into battle.  See

158. Best Art Newspaper on the Web
Everything about art from museums, to stolen paintings, to Mayrn Giulani's and Beijing's tirades against inappropriate art.  It is the Art Newspaper.Com (  Especially impressive is this site's set of links.

157. Best Book on Moroccan Design
Yesterday's mail brought the new Dooney & Bourke catalogue.  Photographed in and around Marrakesh, it offers striking views of leather goods in the desert and in rooms featuring the intricately inlaid zellig tiles that are such a distinctive element of Moroccan design.  All of which serves to remind us that Morocco is currently enjoying  a  moment in the sun.

Moroccan Interiors (Germany: Taschen America, 1995), by Lisa Lovat-Smith, a former Vogue editor who lives in Paris, is that rare anomaly: an intelligently written design book.  Lovat-Smith travelled all over the country, poking her nose into Berber tents and 18th-century palaces, cave dwellings and the mansions of the aristocracy.  She traces the development of different architectural styles, then embarks on an enthralling tour of  magnificent abodes, many restored by Europeans.  The dazzling color photographs capture the innate richness of Moroccan decor and the high level of craftmanship that is necessary to achieve it.  It's enough to make one dream of a vacation home in the medina.

156. Best Book on Antique Southern Apples
Some years ago, Creighton Lee Calhoun retired from a career in the military and began driving the backroads of the South, searching for heirloom apple trees.  He found them in barnyards and abandoned orchards, often unnamed or misidentified, but still prized by their owners for their wondrous, memory-laden fruit.  Calhoun took cuttings, did a lot of research, and eventually started a nursery, selling trees bearing such long-forgotten apples such as Maiden's Blush and Red Willowtwig.

Over 1600 varieties of antique apples are covered in Calhoun's monumental volume, Old Southern Apples (Blacksburg: McDonald & Woodward, 1995), a superb resource for any apple grower living below the Mason Dixon line.  Each entry not only describes the apple in great detail, but provides historical information about its origins, often citing old agricultural journals and nursery catalogues.  The illustrations are magnificent, particularly the watercolors commissioned by the USDA's Division of Pomology in the late 19th century.

155. Best Dessert Locale in Tampa
Bern's Steak House is not a restaurant.  It's an institution.  We were put on to it by a detective friend.  Only days later Frank Prial wrote about its wines for the New York Times (April 4, 2001, B2 and B11).   

We all agreed that the climax of our evening came in the Harry Waugh Dessert Room, completed in 1985.  Located upstairs, there are forty-eight private rooms where you can finally get a touch of quiet, an after-dinner drink, pleasant lighting, perhaps an Italian vineyard mural, and paneled comfort to keep your brandy, cigar, and dessert company.  And you can dial up some pleasant music--we chose light jazz.

Founded in 1956 by Gert and Bern Laxer, the restaurant is now headed by son David, and may crank out upwards of a 1,000 meals a night.   So have a steak your way plus some of the vegetables from Berns' own farm. 

The restaurant reminds you of several eateries in America that combine mass with a touch of class.  There are good spirits, and very loyal, motivated help all take pride in the institution.  We're reminded of Snuffy's in Scotch Plains, New Jersey and of several other spots where you can have the pleasure of eating too much.

After the dessert room, the second remarkable thing about Bern's is the wine.  It's list is now only a couple of hundred pages, though we have heard it once covered two thousand.  At any rate, we know of no restaurant with a larger inventory.  We enjoyed a very serviceable pick of Ken Collura, head sommelier.  This was followed by a tour of the wine cellar with Eric, our waiter.  In fact, we wish the wine tour were longer, but things downstairs were much too busy.   To start your introduction, look at or call 813-251-2421.  Bern's is located at 1208 S. Howard Ave. Tampa, FL 33606.  Incidentally, there are a host of other restaurants on South Howard, a few of which the locals will vouch for.   And we are told that SideBern's, a nearby sister restaurant, is worth a visit.

154. Campest Museum on the Continent
We had a young lad along for the ride, because we persuaded him that Dali would really knock his socks off.  Dali did turn his head, and he considered Salvador to be the "wackiest" artist he had ever seen.

Eat your heart out, Guggenheim.  Don't even try, Whitney.  The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg has over 1500 of Dali's works, plus a big kitsch store with pens, shirts, scarves, etc.  Dali was Barnum and Bailey, con man, and Surrealist impresario wrapped in one.  Avaricious for dollars, he would have loved all the merchandising in the museum.  The big collection is the fruit of the unrequited passion Reynolds and Eleanor Morse of Ohio felt for Dali and Dali's output.  Initially the collection was housed in Cleveland, but eventually it went south for the winter and never came back.  See "A Museum in Florida for a Spanish Original," New York Times, April 22, 2001, TR8-TR9.  The Salvador Dali Museum is located at 1000 Thad Street, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.   Website:

153. Best Guide to FezMorocco
Picture a maze of dark alleys, unexpected cul-de-sacs and ancient streets that split into three or four confusing byways. Picture yourself getting lost.  In the Fez medina, a guide is essential, and we found the best in Mohammed Bouftila. Intelligent, charming, and well-educated (a degree in English literature), Momo is not only well-versed in the history of his city, but also in the little details that make what you are seeing come alive.  Instead of giving us a canned tour, Momo took the time to find out what we wanted to see and do:  good food, craft and antique shops, and traditional tilework were high on our list.  He not only took us to wonderful places where we could indulge these yens, but also introduced us to a friend who was restoring an old riad with magnificent tiles and carved plaster. While we were lolling around a tea room, Momo was out scouring antique shops for 18th-century tiles similar to some we'd just seen in the Attarine medersa.  He gently deflected our thanks, saying “I just want you to be happy.” Contact: Mohammed Bouftila, Rue 2 No. 22, Cite des Fonctionnaires DK (v.n.) Fez, Morocco.  Mobile telephone:  212/61-25-62-91.  E-mail:

152. Best Weaving Workshop in Fez—Morocco
Azami Tissage, we discovered exquisite sheer fabrics of natural silk and cotton, handwoven on a loom in the traditional manner.  The Azami family, weavers for generations, has revived centuries-old patterns that would fit beautifully into the most modern,  Zen-like interior.  Unfurl the neatly folded panels stacked on a table in the workshop and you may find a sheer silk with gold, silver and white horizontal banding, or a creamy silk and cotton panel with a Bauhaus-like grid of squares.  Now envision these diaphanous fabrics floating at a window, or as airy drapes for a canopy bed, or even as a tablecloth (they are washable by hand).  Panels can be woven or dyed to order. Next time, we'll bring an extra suitcase. Contact:  Azami Tissage, 8 Derb Touil (Face aux Tanneurs) Quartier Blida, Fez, Morocco.  Telephone: 212/66-20-26-14 and 212/66-06-18-07.  Email:

151. Best Pottery Workshop in Fez—Morocco
Tour groups throng Poterie Fakhkhari in the Potter's Quarter outside the Medina, but that’s all right.  If you have a passion for tile or ceramics, this is shoppers central.  Fez has long been a major producer of elaborately decorated pottery, and this showroom is filled with stunning copies of kaleidoscopic 18th- and 19th-century patterns.  One could put together an exotic dinner service from the plates and bowls hanging on the walls, or pick out near perfect reproductions of traditional jebbanas (butter pots) and other storage jars.  On the roof, you can see sample tables and fountains of mosaic tile, ranging from the intricate spiderweb pattern symbolic of Fez to eye-popping Escher-like designs.  Sales reps say they ship often to California and other points in the US; there is one shipping price for up to 70 kilos, so you may as well stock up. Contact: Poterie Fakhkhari, Potters Quarter, Fez, Morocco.  Telephone:  212/55-64-93-22.

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