30 June, 2010

The Duchess Dines . . .

Bottega Louie

This post is long overdue. When the Duchess permanently resided on Bunker Hill, the arrival of Bottega Louie -- with much fanfare -- brought with it a breath of fresh air into the downtown Los Angeles dining scene. Its cacophany of sounds and scents, its expansive menu and cheery waitstaff always made for a lively and culinarily yummy dining experience.

And Bottega Louie remains steadfast in its leadership of downtown Los Angeles watering holes. Though the Duchess is now relegated to those noirish chambers in the shadows of the 405 Freeway, she still enjoys a munch or two at Louie when in the vicinity -- including for lunch yesterday (grazie senatore).

Though the Duchess slightly prefers Louie at brunch (on a Sunday, post-tennis/pre-Landmark), its lunch menu has much to recommend it. A long list of pizzas straight from the brick oven in the rear of the dining room; copious lishy salads; and a robust offering of "small plates" including asparagus with fried egg, heirloom carrots, meatballs marinara, english peas and prosciutto, and white anchovies (all lovely).

Louie also serves the downtown denizens plenty of take-out, and carries some of the best macarons in town. It is very highly recommended by the Duchess.

28 June, 2010

The Duchess Observes . . .

"I Am Love" (Io sono l'amore)

This past weekend in Los Angeles, the cinemas were stuffed with moviegoers, including yours truly. In a packed house at the Arclight on Saturday night, the Duchess (et cetera) viewed "I Am Love" (or "Io sono l'amore") with great anticipation.

"I Am Love", as we all know by now, tells the story of a Russian beauty married into a magisterial Milanese family who -- tempted by the fruit of the tree of carnal knowledge -- ultimately faces cosmic (karmic?) reckoning, as we do. Signora Emma Recchi, played by the regal Tilda Swinton with lots of derring-do, anchors this cautionary tale of lust, moral ambiguity, and transgression.

Ms. Swinton predictably lights up the screen with her elfin, androgynous face; it's a good thing too, limited as she is by lack of sufficient meaningful dialogue. Human connection through oral communication is a concept foreign to "I Am Love", which instead trades on more sensual pleasures and provocations: food, fashion, wine, and sex are its currencies.

It isn't superficial. It is ambitious. It caresses without embracing an exploration of the nature of desire, and its power over us; but it works to impart a handful of moral lessons, or to raise a handful of moral questions. For example: read charitably, it could be seen as asking whose sins are the cruellest and bloodiest? Whose abandonment of unspoken family promises causes the most upheaval and disgrace? Where can the Duchess locate a pair of those most intensely fabulous tangerine pants worn by Sra. Recchi as she readies herself for violation in the hills near San Remo?

The Duchess, as you darlings are well aware, is not so charitable. Oh no, no. In the end, "I Am Love", though undeniably visually gorgeous, failed to present in its main character a complex and strong heroine, and in the end it relied too heavily on cliche about the "nature" of woman. There was more than a touch of hysteria in the film. Naturally all of the women who flout male authority and assert their own power cut off all their hair (this is true in real life, the Duchess is told); "I Am Love" comes complete with a lesbian daughter who studies photography in bermuda shorts and brogues in London of all places. Please. She also happens to be blonde, like her mother, Ms. Swinton's character, and not at all like the devoted, true Italian (and brunette) women who keep those home fires burning -- the devoted housekeeper Ida (played marvelously by Maria Paiato), the cherished son's beloved fiancee Eva, and of course Marisa Berenson in the Carmella Corleone role (the Duchess liked her better in Barry Lyndon). And interesting that the Indian businessman, who negotiates the sale of the Recchi family business, is named Mr. Kubelkian (criminally close to Kublai Khan -- or is that the point?).

In the end the Duchess recommends "I Am Love." It's a bit overwrought in its denouement, but otherwise (in her view) is quite beautiful, and quite evocative of the heady intoxication brought on by early love.

24 June, 2010

The Duchess Politely Suggests . . .

Taking a Tip from the Men of Pitti Uomo.

Pitti Uomo just wrapped up, and of course the Duchess has been on this side of the Atlantic (unlike the Baron and Baroness -- how the Duchess envies!). Luckily the Duchess can reliably call upon Mr. Tommy Ton, fashion photog extraordinaire, to document the very best in menswear detailing, in vivid, living color.

Without further ado the Duchess presents her favorites . . . . Gentlemen, your attention please.

Spectacularly well done. The cuff is amazing.

A classic, effortless (and sexy) workaday uniform.

A handkerchief is de rigeur: this one, in ivory linen with antique lace edging, complements this gentleman's more rustic look perfectly.

Fantastic color.

Calling Dick Diver. Love that cabled sweater. Nice hair too.

A bit too cheeky for the Duchess's taste, but what effort!

Windowpane check, expertly fitted vest, natty kerchief and evocative facial hair. Almost heaven.

The Duchess's other favorite color combination (besides navy and green, see supra). Fabulous casual look.

So unexpected.

Comfort made fashionable. The socks are visible and printed, and produce a less generic look than would a no-socks strategy. The stripe, naturally, in navy. What other color is there?

All photographs copyright of Tommy Ton, published through Gentleman's Quarterly.

22 June, 2010

The Duchess Shops . . .

at American Rag

Today after being thoroughly raped by the Beverly Hills parking gestapo, and after a loooooong lunch at Bar Bouchon, the Duchess stopped into American Rag for a new pair of kicks (much needed after marching around the Golden Triangle in her Dries). She really, really, desperately wanted these:

But they were out of her size! So she settled on these:

Better, no?

21 June, 2010

The Duchess Contemplates . . .

The Male Songwriter

Today is the summer solstice and yet the Duchess has the blues. (Not the Deacon Blues (too nihilistic); something more like the Moody Blues, but far less British.) The Duchess's blues are attributable in parts to June gloom, lazy movers, sneaky feelings and the prehensile Internal Revenue Service. Though causes are known, cures are unavailable.

When down and bluesy, the Duchess often takes comfort in the songs of the South, that fetid cradle of misery and despair. This very morn she supped on the lonely love songs of those kingpins of heartbreak:

Willie Nelson, "I'm a Memory"

Ronnie Milsap, "Any Day Now" (a first-rate tearjerker)

Johnny Lee, "Lookin' for Love" (canonized in Urban Cowboy)

Alabama, "There's No Way" (so difficult to choose just one)

and last but certainly not least, the late great Keith Whitley, "I'm Over You"

These precise and achy modules of yearning, capturing as they do the literary essences of longing, loss and desire, led the Duchess to wonder: why are so many of the most historic love songs, the ones that get into our brains and work their way south to take over our hearts, written by men? It couldn't possibly be that they are better writers than women. It couldn't possibly be that they work harder, or are more talented (speaking generally of course). Could it be perhaps that they feel more deeply, and are even more possessed by that crazy little thing called love?

The verdict is still out, as the Baron would say. But the Duchess, in search of her cure, wonders on.

18 June, 2010

The Duchess Prepares . . .

for the Weekend, and Observes the Photography of Joseph Szabo and Richard E. Aaron

Bon weekend, dear readers. It's been one hell of a week. It's been one hell of a month, for that matter, but that's life for the Duchess -- never a dull moment. And although even the weekend is now booked up beyond all rationality, one item on the Duchess's must-do list is a stopover at M+B Gallery at 612 N. Almont Drive (in the Duchess's old neighborhood . . . sniffle, sniffle) to view Joseph Szabo's Jones Beach series. The Jones Beach photos, taken over a period spanning decades, riff on Joan Colom (whose Raval photographs the Duchess adores, beautifully chronicled in a Steidl monograph); they are more sensual than Irving Penn's carefully orchestrated portraits; they are more democratic and more carefree. (Thanks for the tip, Irene!)

And if one is in the market for black and white photography of the rock and roll kind, venture over to One Kings Lane and snap up a Richard E. Aarons from the Celebrity Vault; if you had hurried, loves, you could have had this enigmatic shot of Willie and Waylon -- alas it has been sold.

But you can still get down with Brown.

17 June, 2010

The Duchess Adores . . .

1stdibs and Natalia Vodianova

Natalia Vodianova in Nina Ricci

The lushly gorgeous Natalia Vodianova (mother of three!) graces the pages of this month's Vogue in a layout surely inspired by the Mad Men zeitgeist. Ms. Vodianova's sumptuousness, illuminated in no small part by the photography of master Peter Lindbergh, overwhelms in a way that the visuals of that show, however well-scripted and acted, never have and surely never will.

Natalia in Vera Wang

She is simply stunning.

Natalia in Oscar de la Renta

The bygone era imagery of woman embodied by the Vogue layout aroused in the Duchess a stirring for attire of similar romanticism, and mystique. Luckily for the Duchess, 1stdibs is always open, and there are no avaricious shopgirls poking about. And while the Duches's grabs may not hearken back in a straight line to 1957, they are nonetheless nothing short of divine.

Oscar de la Renta olive duchesse coatdress


1970s Leonard cocktail dress (to match the Duchess's timepiece)


16 June, 2010

The Duchess Returns . . .

Nighty Night

The Duchess returns to the world, hereby inspired by the avant garde operatist David Chisholm, who romps around France even as she types, and also by the sweet vocal stylings of T. Rex. Today, the Duchess and Herr Chisholm exchanged fond remembrances of the BBC sitcom "Nighty Night", the wickedly brilliant brainchild of Julia Davis, who both wrote and starred in the series as its sociopathic star, Jill Tyrell.

The show launches with a diagnosis of terminal cancer given to Jill's husband Terry. Faced (somewhat excitedly) with the prospect of her husband's imminent death, Jill immediately begins her search for another man. Her escapades to a dating service matched her up with the Scottish suitor Glen Bulb (see immediately below), but it is her new neighbor, the womanising doctor Don, after whom she pines.

Jill truly stops at nothing in her pursuit of Don, much to the chagrin of Don's wheelchair-bound wife Cath.

"Nighty Night" is raunchily, raucously funny, but caveat emptor if you don't possess a strong stomach and an even stronger resilience to moral turpitude. It was described adoringly by The Times (of London) as "a blistering wall of superbly unredeemed cruelty that manages to trample over every social convention in a pair of cheap stilettos." Enough said.

10 June, 2010

The Duchess Dines, and Dines, and Dines . . .

Sawtelle Kitchen, Tom Bergin's, Terroni, and Spago! (With a little El Taurino thrown in.)

Never one for caloric deficiencies (at least, not since the late '90s, when caloric deficiences were tres comme il faut), the Duchess sunk her teeth in very deeply yesterday on a number of tremendously lishy meals. The Speaker of the House treated her to late lunch at Sawtelle Kitchen, an oasis of degustationary offerings in this wasteland that is West Los Angeles. Worth many a return visit ('specially on the Speaker's dime).

The Duchess's hellacious commute east on Olympic (rush hour, no less) merited a pit stop at Tom Bergin's tavern on Fairfax just north of San Vicente. Speaking of wastelands . . . .

Well-oiled, the Duchess summoned all her strength to brave the traffic up to Terroni. Che buon ristorante! And a spectacular view to boot.

The Duchess had to be rolled out of Terroni on a gurney of gorgonzola. But tonight, she'll be floating -- out of Spago, buoyed by burgundy and the company of Empress and the Queen Mum.

The Royal Family arrives tomorrow, let's celebrate! Considering a takeout dinner for ten or so, chez Duchess, from El Taurino. Thoughts/observations?

09 June, 2010

The Duchess Anticipates . . .

Susanna Salk at Hollywood at Home

In the words of the Marchioness, one cannot stop the march of time. Quite true. It is thus that the Duchess finds herself facing another 30th birthday, this time (she hopes!) to be much, much better than the first. A celebratory weekend chockablock with fetes and fancies kicks off tomorrow evening with a huge to-do at Hollywood at Home.

That the Hollywood crowd's party isn't in honor of the Duchess . . . well, perhaps that can be forgiven, or at least temporarily overlooked. Especially since we'll honor the terrific Susanna Salk (formerly of Elle Decor and House Beautiful magazines, currently of 1stdibs.com and the "Today" show) and her newest tome, "Room for Children: Stylish Spaces for Sleep and Play" (Rizzoli 2010).

Many of you already know Ms. Salk from her widely distributed books "Privileged Life: Celebrating WASP Style" (as if we needed any help!) and "Weekend Retreats", which are beautifully curated and edited. The Duchess cannot wait to get her hands on "Room for Children" -- she needs considerably more herself (room, that is, not children), and is keen on Ms. Salk's inspirations. All those breeders in the Duchess's circle surely do too.

Merci tres, tres beaucoups to BelleMaison23.blogspot.com for the photographs.

See you tomorrow, loves.

Hollywood at Home
724 N. La Cienega Boulevard (pray for valet)
Los Angeles, California 90069


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