Moon glow

Photo: ©2008 Visuelle Medien, www.visuelle-medien.deThere’s something undeniably romantic about moonlight.

Now you can capture the moment with some moonlight of your own, thanks to a German company called—what else?—Moonlight.

You may have seen their glowing orbs gracing properties in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, where they lend their luminosity as sculptural interior design pieces, illuminate outdoor paths, or even bob gracefully in swimming pools. Exclusively distributed in the U.S. by Moonlight USA, these gorgeous globes range in size from 10 to 30 inches in diameter and can weather temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Their energy source? Rechargeable batteries or household current.

Now if they could only find a way to make them lunar powered.

Photo: 2008 Visuelle Medien,

Gnocchi nirvana

Crackers and a Coca-Cola.

That’s all I really wanted. Something to settle my stomach. Hugging the occasional guardrail, crawling along the exceedingly narrow roller-coasterlike roads that twist through the tiny towns dotting the shore of Lake Como had left me feeling lightheaded and somewhat queasy. But it’s Sunday, and essentially everything is shuttered: groceries, gelaterias, even gas stations.

As fate would have it, the torturous ride was worth the wait. My reward: the most memorable gnocchi I have ever wrapped my lips around. A sumptuous sauce of Camembert, studded with walnuts and enriched with truffle. That dish will haunt me for years to come. Eventually, I will succumb to its siren song, returning to Nuova Capannina for yet another taste of the plate that rescued me from the drive that almost put me over the edge.

Wine down

vinovolo_image.jpgIt’s about time something good happened on the concourse.

Yesterday, on my way to gate C-1 at Washington’s Dulles airport, I stopped in at Vino Volo. These wine rooms have landed at half a dozen airports, and I hope they become as ubiquitous as airport Starbucks stands. Vino volo, loosely translated from Italian, means wine flight. And I’m sure you’ll agree that flying, or waiting to fly, is infinitely more enjoyable when you can pass the time in the company of some good wine.

Sip in, or carry out. A thoughtfully written wine list includes crowd pleasers like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also offers an opportunity to taste lesser-known grape varieties like Virginia’s Norton and Majorca’s Callet. A menu of small plates allows you to pair like a pro, savoring selections like Braised Pork Tacos or Smoked Salmon Rolls while you wait to make your connection. Whether you order a tasting flight or a single glass, you’ll love the comfy living room feel of these welcoming wine sanctuaries.

Finally, flying has become civilized once again. Cent’ Anni!

Bag bonanza

bag-bonanza.jpgJennifer’s my new best friend.

When I spotted a must-have bag on Bag Borrow or Steal, I got her on the phone and she assured me that I’d have it the very next day, in time for my overseas flight. That’s what best friends do.

Another reason Jennifer’s my BFF: She has access to a closet brimming with designer styles. And she lets me borrow whatever I want, whenever I want it, for as long as I want to wear it.

She’ll let you do it, too. Choose from 3,000 bags with names like Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Prada. Keep them for as little as a week, or opt for a longer get-to-know-you-better session. There’s a modest price to pay, but you won’t even think twice. Just consider it a thank you gesture for your new best friend.

First, I borrowed a stunning red lizard clutch by Kara Ross, which would have cost me upward of $2000 to buy. My price: a mere $51 a week. I wore it to a charity event and then blissfully returned it to its owner. It made the outfit, and it was such a smart way to accessorize a one-night stand.

Today, I’m enjoying the Exception tote by Lamarthe in black leather. It’s buttery soft and oh-so-chic. We’re en route to Europe, and if the first day of our relationship is any indication, I think I’ll end up stealing this bag so we can travel together more often.

Scotch pairings

Here’s the menu from last week’s Rare Malts Dinner at Fort Lauderdale’s St. Regis Resort, as prepared by James Beard Award-winning executive chef Toby Joseph.

The St. Regis Resort Aficionado Scotch Pairing Dinner

Passed Amuse served in the Wine Room:
Farm Cheeses and honeycomb
Fresh berries with lavender cream
Glenkinchie Distillers Edition 1991

North American Hackleback Caviar
Talisker 175th Anniversary

Dinner served at Cero Restaurant

Taste of land and sea Oyster with marinated Watermelon
Talisker 30 Yr cask strength
Smoked trout and sour apple
Caol Ila 25 yr cask strength
Prosciutto-wrapped Stilton on crostini
Lagavulin 21 yr cask strength

Smoked Buffalo Carpaccio, Leaves of Frisee hearts and Mache lettuce, candied Pecan, pomegranate vinaigrette
Oban Distiller’s Edition 1992

Caramelized Veal loin, roasted artichokes white anchovy, lemon caper berry demi glaze
Clynelish 14 yr

Slow braised scotch scented beef short ribs, Melted beets and leek confit, Mustard cream
Cragganmore Distillers Edition 1992

Warm carrot cake with kumquat compote and creme fraiche ice cream drizzled with a Dalwhinnie Distiller’s Edition 1990 reduction
Dalwhinnie 29 Yr Cask Strength

Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V edition

Daily double

caviar.jpgCaviar. Again.

At lunch, it was an unremarkable wisp of caviar atop the sour cream that adorned a starter of Norwegian smoked salmon. Nice. Classic. But totally expected, and nothing to get excited about.

But at dinner it was a decadently different story. Even without caviar service, the sight of men in kilts makes me go weak at the knees. So when I entered the bar at the St. Regis Resort and saw a kilted Scotsman, I knew it was going to be quite the evening. And indeed it was.

In the brief moment before a white-gloved waiter appeared bearing politically-correct North American Hackleback caviar, I found myself shimmying up to the Scotsman. Evan was his name and whisky was his game. Beckoning me to follow his lead, Evan extended his arm, allowing the waiter to deposit a dollop of inky-black eggs on the back of his hand at the base of the V formed by his thumb and index finger. I watched as he ate it from his skin, rolling the roe in his mouth, gently cradling them with his tongue.

According to caviar connoisseurs, eating caviar off your skin is unadulterated bliss.

I agree. You don’t really eat caviar as much as you caress it with your tongue, causing the eggs to literally pop, which creates an extraordinary, sensual mouth feel. With nothing between you and those jet-black jewels, you can use the tip of your tongue to burst the eggs against your palate, releasing the entirety of their essence in your mouth. Big, complicated, and changing from the instant they made contact, it was hard to say which was headier, the caviar itself or the Talisker 175th anniversary Single Malt that accompanied it. Both brought the taste of the sea to the fore, and sent me swooning for the nearest seat.

Then again, maybe it was the sight of a man in a kilt.

Instant kitchen

cia.jpgCan an instant gratification junkie happily coexist in the kitchen with a partner who embraces the Slow Food movement?

Absolutely. If the CIA has anything to do with it.

At next month’s auction benefit for the Vintners Hall of Fame Dinner in Napa, the high bidder will walk away with an Instant Gourmet Kitchen, comprised of 80 essential items of cookware, bakeware, cutlery and tools. Makeover and Make a Difference will assist the winning bidder, at no charge, in donating their old unwanted kitchen items to a deserving charity, creating a second wonderful donation as part of their winning bid.

Those who like it slow will adore the rondeau, suitable for sultry braises, while the digital instant read thermometer will quickly satisfy those in a hurry.

If you can’t bid, you can still click to get your own Instant Gourmet Kitchen. What a fabulous way to outfit the kitchen at a vacation home. $5000.

Luxury pours

fn_cabchard.jpgQuality. Uniqueness. Exclusivity.

Those were the characteristics that wealthy Americans were asked to consider when naming the best premium brands of wine and liquor. Their responses to the Luxury Institute’s survey are, undeniably, right on the money.

Champagne: Dom Perignon

Tequila: Patron

Scotch: Macallan

Wine: Far Niente

Vodka: Grey Goose

Gin: Bombay Sapphire

Cognac: Grand Marnier

Rum: 10 Cane

Whiskey: Woodford Reserve

So, what’s in your glass?

Icing fight

german_chocolate_cake.jpgEveryone has a childhood favorite.  Cake, that is.  Mine’s German Chocolate.

When I went home this weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday, I wanted to present her with one.  Trouble is, her recipe is so fabulous, I was a bit hesitant to bring someone else’s to the table for fear that it might not measure up to the memories.  But when a friend tipped me off to Jean-Jacques Bakery, and I discovered they do a German Chocolate, I rolled the dice.  Good roll.  We literally fought over the extra dabs of icing.

The bakery’s on a fabulous strip of Richmond‘s Cary Street, a stylish swathof one-off shops known as Carytown.  I picked up a reverse-painted Robert M. Weiss Shih Tzu coaster at Janet Brown, oogled a Rebecca Minkoff bag at Que Bella, and lunched at Can Can Brasserie. — Hats off Skirts up to their Parsnip Soup with Apple Butter, Hazelnut, and Rosemary Oil.

Sniff this

giant-truffle.jpgThe uncontested title of Top Dog goes to Rocco, who unearthed a tuberous treasure near Pisa, Italy. The record-breaking 3.3-pound white truffle fetched $100,000 per pound at a charity auction, selling to Macau billionaire Stanley Ho, who paid $330,000, outbidding British artist Damien Hirst. Bidders from three sites linked by satellite in Macau, Florence, and London competed for the magnatum pico prize.

Ironically, it takes less than a sliver of this magnificent mushroom to elevate a humble dish like risotto to celestial heights. Fresh white truffles will turn moldy within three weeks, so Ho must have thrown one heck of a party.

Truffle lovers will want to ferret out one of these fabulous presentation sets from Gump’s. Made in Italy, the wenge-wood serving tray is designed with a recess for mortal-sized truffles and includes a delicate brush to dust off sediment, as well as a horn-handled shaver and glass display dome.

White truffle season is fleeting, but Black Diamonds will be coming to market later this month. Scrambled eggs, anyone?

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