It’s been nearly two years since I gathered together a bunch of things I can heartily recommend—not a bad exercise in general, and especially on the ever-negative Internet. I’ve tried not to include stuff I’ve already enthused about here and there (the Spring Street Salt Shed, for instance, or Semilla, or El Vez Burrito, or the fact that Gourmet Garage sells actual watercress and not that sham Upland Cress crap), and they’re not necessarily specific to this area.
Adam and I just tried Silvercar in L.A., and it truly was a higher level of car rental. First, you get an Audi A4 (silver, naturally); second, they pick you up in that A4 and drive you to the rental office, although that may have only happened because we had to add me as a driver; third, the rate was $59 per day—fantastic for a good car. Plus: Free GPS, free satellite radio, free toll tracking, and a refueling plan that is basis enough to switch. Silvercar is only in 11 cities right now, but I’m sure it’s destined to grow. If you do sign up, you might as well enter my promo code (ETORKELLS), so I get a $25 credit. Costs you nothing, makes me happy: win-win.
B&G HAMBURGER DILL CHIPS
If you want your sandwich to taste like a fast-food burger, you need B&G Hamburger Dill Chips. Other brands probably make something similar, but this is what Food Emporium had, and they transform a cheese sandwich. They’re one of the key reasons I’m bummed about having to rely on Whole Foods, even if it’s only for a few months.
RAFFETTO CHUT-NUT COLONIAL CHUTNEY
Speaking of ways to enliven a sandwich…. I’ve tried every high-end, deep-Brooklyn condiment there is, and Adam and I keep coming back to Raffetto Chut-Nut Colonial Chutney (or simply Chut-Nut, which is more fun to say). The ingredients make it sound insane—they include cauliflower “and/or” turnips, watermelon rind, orange peel, currants, raisins, and walnuts—but if you have a sandwich press, you really need to get your hands on some. We had initially bought it at the Dutch Epicure Shop in Litchfield, Conn., and now I have to buy it online.
K. AUSTIN COLLINS [HIGH:LOW] CROSSWORD PUZZLES
I’m a crossword snob—I don’t generally bother with anything besides the Saturday New York Times one—but I’m digging the free [HIGH:low] ones that K. Austin Collins is emailing out on a bimonthly basis. I fold them up and save them for air travel. Sign up here.
SCHOOLHOUSE ELECTRIC’S FREE PENCILS
More stores should give out free pencils! Who cares if we never use them? Two other items from Schoolhouse Electric that I can recommend: this gorgeous marble board with pretty brass feet ($45) and this mini measuring cup, so handy for cocktails ($5).
An ideal stocking stuffer, or just a way to liven up a holiday gathering: fake piercings from the Balloon Saloon, as shown on my niece.
MY LUNCHES WITH ORSON
Orson Welles was brilliant and pompous and hilarious and absurd and a fantastic lunch companion, particularly if you were more interested in listening than talking (and if, like Henry Jaglom, you had a tape recorder in your bag). My Lunches with Orson is incredibly entertaining. You’ll enjoy it more if you know a bit about old Hollywood, but the anecdotes are mesmerizing even when you don’t have a clue who Welles and Jaglom are talking about. P.S. I also rather liked the film Me and Orson Welles that came out a few years ago.
THE TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO
Likely because I spend so much time reading and writing for this site, I don’t read for pleasure the way I used to. In fact, I mainly do it on airplanes, and it’s almost always Elmore Leonard. (He can do no wrong, and even the movie adaptations tend to be good: Check out the most recent one, Life of Crime.) But I made an exception for Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno, and it’s astoundingly good—the best “literary” novel I’ve read in years. (It’s described as a collection of linked stories, but it’s actually a novel.) P.S. The Mysterious Bookshop has it.
MIDNIGHT (AND NETFLIX DVDS)
Adam and I still get DVDs via Netflix, because the selection of old and obscure films is far, far richer than what’s on demand. (I’d almost always rather watch a film from the 1930s through 1970s over contemporary offerings.) One classic Hollywood film, Midnight, felt as fresh as if it had come out last year. It stars Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche, and it was co-written by Billy Wilder. Try it.
As for Netflix on demand, I don’t know if it’s still available, but the Danish TV show “Rita” is quite good. I’m lobbying Connie Britton to play the main character in an American version.
I had to ship some art recently, and I asked around: Surely there exists some way to pack art that’s less expensive and difficult than crating? Then Patrick Parrish told me about Masterpak: The company makes plastic-lined boxes of various sizes that come filled with foam you can tear out to accommodate your artwork. Brilliant for when your art is valuable but not that valuable.
PICO AND RED WITCH
I know people who think the Whole Foods cheese counter is no good, but I’ve been pretty happy with what I buy there—as long as you get a good look at it first, to make sure it’s not old, and have them slice off the dried outsides of anything that’s been around a while. Two I can recommend: Red Witch, a Swiss cow’s-milk cheese with a bit of onion-y funk to it (they’ll have to cut you a wedge); and the grab-and-go Pico, a French goat’s-milk cheese, little wheels of which have expiration dates months away—so you can stock up and never risk being out of cocktail cheese. Note: Both want to be put in Ziploc bags, or your fridge will reek.
••• Eight New Enthusiasms: March 2012
••• Eight New Enthusiasms: December 2011
••• Eight New Enthusiasms: July 2011
••• Eight New Enthusiasms: April 2011