One of the great things about Sniffapalooza is that you get to learn about brand new perfume houses before anyone else does. Manuela Pfannes-Völkel is a German perfumer who started making privately commissioned scents years ago, and just started her own house, Arts and Scents.
Pfannes-Völkel likes to mix scents you don’t usually see together, like mint and tonka. Her perfume line is accessible and a little kitschy, with names like Wild Cat Musk, Fantastic Green Bird, and Dream Of India.
NY Steel Flowers was inspired by the mix of nature and industry you see in New York City. It’s a great concept. New York City thinks commerce rules everything, which is true in the human world but nature still fights back when prompted. That premise has not only brought forth cool fragrances, but also time-tested blockbuster films like Godzilla. (He feeds off nuclear waste. Watch the movie.)
New York City’s nature/industry pull can be shown in harmony, like in the High Line:
Anyway. It’s really hard to pin down the scent. It starts off sweet and woody, very, very sweet actually. It calms down fast. I think the overall effect is of a sweet tobacco. I can also detect some kind of machinized neocivet note in there, like a half-robot civet cat in 2134 who’s royally pissed at having been used to make perfume for so long. It’s a one-accord wonder, but recommended.
Angel is probably one of the biggest perfumes out there besides Chanel No. 5 and anything released by a daughter of OJ Simpson’s defense attorney. Its distinctive otherworldly periwinkle star bottle (followed in spirit by Alien) is pretty much everywhere, as is the deceptively simple patchouli-chocolate miasma that comes out of it.
I didn’t like it the first time. The second time was when I walked past Times Square’s Sephora at about 11:00 at night and sprayed the travel-size bottle just because it was so ubiquitous I had to try it again. That same effect keeps people going to McDonald’s to get fries. McDonald’s fries aren’t anywhere near as good as Wendy’s, but you see the ads so much that they become a permanent part of your subconscious and it’s like you haven’t fully achieved self-actualization until you get it with a side of Mickey D’s extra salted fries and a Quarter Pounder.
Angel opens with the heady, throaty-voiced patchouli-chocolate blast and some ambiguous fruits (I’m getting orange rinds). It does have a distinctly androgynous character, like Tania Sanchez says in The Book. It’s such a powerful effect that I’m reminded of a falsetto choir singing at full blast in an echoing room.
(New York Polyphony, closest thing I could find)
The funny thing is, Angel isn’t loud. (Keep in mind, almost every other reviewer disagrees with me about this.) Its sillage isn’t much bigger than the average perfume, but its unmistakable effect makes you feel like it’s radiating to Mars. It was made in 1992, which was right before perfume houses transitioned from big distinctive beasts to osteoporotic clean fragrances. Also, Thierry Mugler designed things like this:
so he obviously wasn’t afraid to make a statement.
Angel also manages to be powdery on top of everything else. It’s a musty effect that keeps it from being too raw. I think that an undiluted chocolate/patchouli/fruit mashup would smell like the apartment of a hippie with the munchies. It also keeps it from being too edible. Angel is referred to as a gourmand. It almost smells edible, but not quite.
In the heart notes it smells more vanillic and a little more appetizing. The grand slam is over. The caramel comes in and the sharp citrus notes go out. The drydown is a warm, delicious caramel vanillic treat. It’s cool, but I think the untouchable top notes are way more interesting.
Here’s the note list, from Victoria at Bois de Jasmin’s detailed review: bergamot, mandarin, dewberry, honey, red berries, patchouli, Australian sandalwood, coumarin, vanilla, caramel, chocolate.
There’s two reasons Angel isn’t going to be one of my top ten favorite perfumes. Most importantly, it’s aloof. I definitely get the effect that a distinct personality is sitting on my skin when I spray it, but that personality isn’t going to be my friend. There’s nothing natural-smelling about it, it doesn’t meld into a skin scent, and it doesn’t tell any kind of emotional story except that this pretty and possibly hermaphroditic character is high-concept, high-art, and totally uninterested in me.
Basically, it’s a famous fashion designer.
Second, it has so many flankers that I feel like I’ve grown up with it, even though I’ve probably only smelled it a total of ten times. I like it. I might buy that travel-size bottle at Sephora for 25 bucks. But I can’t imagine myself connecting with it.
Perfumers: Olivier Cresp and Yves de Chirin
Price Range: Moderate
Recommended Occasion: Any
Release Year: 1992
My Rating: 8
Ferraro’s is the mainstay Italian restaurant in Westfield, NJ. It’s family-owned, and has been in business since 1969. It has a second floor that seats 60-70 people and a bar/lounge that you can rent out for private parties. They have a huge wine rack and an extensive gluten-free menu. They were playing Frank Sinatra on the radio.
It’s pretty good. The bread has a hard crust and a soft inside, and they give you high-quality pepper and olive oil for dipping. While you wait for your food, you can make your own dipping sauce (my own idea here) by pouring a dollop of olive oil onto your plate and some vinegar into it. Then put some cracked pepper on top. It’s a good mix of tastes.
I got a Caesar salad for an appetizer, as usual. The croutons were crisp and the dressing had an excellent kick to it. They used more of the lettuce stem than I’d like though. But they aren’t at all stingy with their Parmesan cheese.
My gnocchi was decent as well, in well-spiced tomato sauce. My dad ordered a dish called Anna’s Homemade Sausage Lasagna. They used Andouille sausage- smoked pork sausage, and spiced it perfectly. The house coffee was good, and they give you heavy cream, not half-and-half.
The only thing I really didn’t like was the vanilla bean crème brulee. I like vanilla bean anything, so it was a huge disappointment when I cracked through the caramel crust to encounter what looked and tasted exactly like scrambled eggs. The cannoli, though, my dad informed me, was out of this world.
My Rating: 7.5
Recommended Dish: Cannoli
Atmosphere: Big and classic, meant to bring in traffic
Price Range: $25-45 per person, not counting wine
When an ice cream says it tastes like green tea, it rarely actually tastes like green tea. It tastes like an artists’ rendition of green tea, or like green tea’s rendition of arty food. Either way, you know that there can’t be THAT much green tea in the ice cream or else you’d have a closer approximation.
Enter Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream. You know they pack a high content of the title ingredient because you have to be 21 to order the White Russian. Other unusual flavors include pineapple upside-down cake, salted chocolate, mango, and lavender honey. Lavender honey is my favorite because it’s soothing. It smells like lavender, and tastes like honey. The raspberry and blueberry ice cream are better than the blueberries themselves. You also might want to try the traditional flavors like chocolate: Sparky’s chocolate is like traditional chocolate ice cream in the same way the Enola Gay is like a paper airplane.
My Rating: 9
Recommended Dish: Lavender Honey
Atmosphere: Usually a line, but you can look at the art on the walls
Price Range: $4-7
Clientele: Students and parents with kids
I wore this silk jumpsuit last weekend to Sniffapalooza. I took the picture in the dressing room at Bergdorf’s. To anyone who’s wondering, I got the jumpsuit from Shopbop.
I also wore a cotton hat by La Coppola Storta (they used to have a store in Soho, but now they’re just in Europe.) Shoes by John Fluevog. The costume necklace was my aunt Joan’s.
I’ve been too busy to post anything whatsoever, but I’m soon going to review Hot Topic’s new perfume line Bitty Betty’s and a lovely perfume called NY Steel Flowers. NY Steel Flowers is the brainchild of the idiosyncratic new perfume house Arts and Scents. Stay tuned!
Hamsa Perfume is designed to be a healing fragrance. It’s based on the hamsa, a symbol depicting the open palm of the right hand. Hamsa was originally spelled “khamsa,” an Arabic word that means “five.” The hamsa has also been called the Hand of Fatima, in honor of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter. The hamsa was believed to ward off the evil eye. (Evil eye= an envious stare that is believed to cause misfortune in Islamic doctrine and folklore.) The hamsa was frequently made into a talisman to protect its wearer against it. (Wikipedia)
Celine Leora dedicated Hamsa Perfume to her mother. It reminded her of how her mother smelled and the hamsa symbols around their home in Morocco.
The note list is white lotus, frankincense, black currant, and coffee. Each note has been used for healing properties: white lotus to improve concentration and immunity; frankincense to boost your mood; black currant to increase the senses, and coffee to make you more alert. (I’ll attest to the last one, but only if it’s espresso.)
If you like white lotus, you’ll like Hamsa Perfume. It opens with a vague, airy, somewhat antiseptic lotus flower that brings pond lilies to mind. It’s like looking at an austere screensaver or one of those serene inspirational quotes on Facebook. It does get a little muskier and more like a skin scent (the frankincense) at times, especially towards the end. I don’t notice the black currant. I do get a hint of coffee, which gives it some zip.
But it’s basically a one-note, no, a one-objective wonder. Hamsa Perfumes is what you wear to yoga class. Its what you scent the den with when you’re having your friends over to knit potholders. Not my thing, but it does the job.
Papatzul was recommended by New York Magazine, so I decided to give it a try. The first thing I should note is that it’s colorful and conveniently located in SoHo near Osswald. They have a big, cheap happy hour during which you can order good drinks for $5. If that doesn’t cheer you up, you can look at the intricate metalwork on the walls. The one my dad and I were sitting under features birds in a tree.
They have interesting sodas, Jarritos natural soda. I ordered one made of tamarind. (A tamarind is a pod fruit that comes out of the tamarind tree. Tamarind is popular in Mexico, though indigenous to Africa.) The guacamole was mild, but good. I wasn’t a fan of the dry, makeshift coleslaw.
For an entrée I ordered Torta de Aguacate y Queso Panela: an avocado and panela cheese sandwich with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and thick cream. It was decent, very fresh. The yucca fries were oversized and also very fresh. My dad ordered the Alambre de Res: soft tacos with seared hangar steak, sautéed onions, peppers, and cheese. He said it was fantastic and deserved 10 stars.
My favorite dish was the Flan de Naranja: flan with orange glaze. It was creamy, good, and had strawberries and mango pieces on the side. I wouldn’t call Papatzul’s offerings the best Mexican food, but it’s okay.
My Rating: 7
Chef: Thierry Amezcua
Recommended Dish: Flan de Naranja
Atmosphere: Cheerful, colorful, trendy. It will make your day.
Clientele: Parties, the happy-hour crowd
Price Range: $15-40 per person
55 Grand St
(between Broadway & Wooster St)
New York, NY 10013
Hey activists! Shopbop is debuting an exclusive collection today in collaboration with Born Free, an organization devoted to eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Now you can both buy clothes and save lives: Born Free will use 100% of profits to support its cause.
The collection is based on prints by Wangechi Mutu, a Kenyan print artist who makes collages of women using all kinds of sculpted material and found objects. Here’s a few of her pieces:
And here’s a quote from her to think about (I wish it were on my brainyquote sidebar!) “Females carry the marks, language and nuance of their culture more than the male. Anything that is desired or despised is always placed in the female body.”
Many of the designers are mothers themselves and know how it feels to want nothing more than your child’s good health. The collection includes some pretty awesome mother/child matching clothes, like these skirts by Prada:
Everything is limited edition and mostly under $250. Don’t wait too long, because once a piece sells out it won’t be sold again!
Born Free’s objective is to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV by December 31, 2015. Medicine has improved so much over the past 30 years that a pregnant woman only has to take one pill a day to prevent her unborn child from becoming infected. Says Diane von Furstenberg: “We already have the solution, we just need to scream it. It’s the very beginning of the end of HIV.”
Contributing designers include Victoria Beckham, Gisele Bundchen, Tory Burch, Sarah Burton (Alexander McQueen), Consuelo Castiglioni (Marni), Alberta Ferretti, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan (DKNY and Urban Zen), Liya Kebede, Clare Waight Keller (Chloe), Jenna Lyons (J Crew), Isabel Marant, Marchesa, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo (Celine), Miuccia Prada, Rachel Roy, Ivanka Trump, Donatella Versace and Vera Wang.
So we went to go sing some karaoke. I’ll show you what I wore:
There I am in the subway. The top is a silk halter from Express:
and the pants are Kelly Wearstler. They have mesh inserts and these hot pants things to wear under them. I got them on Shopbop. They’re called Narwhal Pants. Look and you’ll see the narwhal horn.
Tangent: the narwhal is a medium-sized whale with a giant spiral tusk that protrudes from its mouth: actually a canine tooth. It lives in the Atlantic and Arctic Ocean. Sadly the narwhal is an endangered species. There’s only 75,000 of them left.
Granted, whales are killed by pollution and Naval sonar equipment, but the narwhal has been a target for over a millennium. Its tusk looks just like a unicorn horn. There’s a narwhal horn on a circa 1750 German wood sign.
People used to sell it claiming it was a unicorn horn, the same way they’d sell pebbles and say they were the teeth of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the poor whale’s been paying for it. I hope you enjoyed your history lesson.