Essentials for a romantic night at home, sophisticated sweets and more recommendations from T Magazine.
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Home sweet home
Ingredients for a Romantic Dinner In
By Ella Riley-Adams
I’ve always preferred to spend Valentine’s Day at home — avoiding crowded restaurants and dressing up on freezing-cold February nights. But that doesn’t mean it should feel like any other night. When I was growing up, my mother would serve what she called a “red dinner.” Beets and salmon (pink was permissible) were usually the stars, paired with cranberry juice and strawberry mousse for dessert. Now, my fiancé and I have started a new tradition of making Meera Sodha’s mushroom bao — a recipe we wouldn’t normally undertake on a weeknight. To inspire your own special night in, consider gifting your dinner companion a plant-dyed linen apron (the fuchsia-splattered Abstract pattern would be perfect for anyone planning a red dinner). Set the mood with a cocktail — those extending dry January will enjoy Amaro Falso, the newest nonalcoholic offering from the Brooklyn distillery St. Agrestis — poured into a festive glass. Maison Balzac, the Australian brand that specializes in colorful tableware, has a whimsical selection and, though it’s more suitably sized for chips or dips, I’m partial to the coupe featuring a faux pink prawn perched on its rim.
Chocolate for Sophisticated Sweet Tooths
By Kurt Soller
Gifts, like all things, follow trends — a fact I thought about when, after the December holidays, my pantry was unexpectedly crowded with chocolate bars. But if life is like a box of chocolates, then bars are whatever comes after life: a nice end to a night spent watching “The Last of Us” with a loved one, as you both snap off segments (that pleasing thwack!) until all that remains is shiny foil. Such a gesture is much more romantic, I’d argue, than fighting over a passion fruit truffle or a heart-shaped bonbon in a customary sampler. It also feels more special, since bars are where some of the country’s top chocolatiers show off, offering variety packs and tasting sets to slowly tear through with your partner as you debate your individual palates and chocolate’s own nuances. Where to start? San Francisco’s Dandelion has a great trio, full of 70 percent dark chocolate bars that use cocoa from Colombia, Ecuador and Tanzania, while Compartés, in Los Angeles, offers pretty fruit-inflected sets with flavors like Raspberry Rose and Strawberry Shortcake. The Berkeley-based Tcho is now selling a Sweet Thang coffer, including all six of its dark chocolate and oat milk varieties, ideal for sharing (or just hoarding for yourself). And if you’ve got many lovers, stock up on the latest treat from Los Angeles’s Valerie Confections — a bittersweet bar covered in rose petals and dehydrated raspberries — and make sure to spell those names right on the wrappers, inspired by traditional Valentine’s Day cards.
Affordable Art With Heart
By Alice Newell-Hanson
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received is a small painting from a friend. I love knowing that she saw it and thought of me — and when I look at it, I think of her. And given how hard it can be to find good affordable art, the act of buying a piece for someone else feels particularly considerate. If you’re looking for ideas, the online platform Wondering People sells editioned prints and original works on paper by emerging artists (Oriele Steiner’s pencil drawings are some of my favorites); the British company Mount Collective offers framed works including several sketches by the midcentury Italian architect Gio Ponti; the London-based studio Wrongshop offers pieces by the French Memphis Group artist Nathalie Du Pasquier, among others; and the New York gallery Picture Room curates a wide selection of not only frameable works but also ceramics by artists such as Maia Ruth Lee and Phoebe Collings-James. Or go straight to the source and buy a work directly from an artist. I’ve been coveting a collage by Lauri Hopkins, a print by Petra Börner and a psychedelic botanical illustration by Taehyoung Jeon.
Pop of Color
Enamel Rings to Brighten Winter
By Angela Koh
A ring for Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be cliché. Look to designers whose pieces tell a story through their technique and aesthetic. The British jeweler Alice Cicolini draws inspiration from the architecture and patterns of the Silk Road, like a Chrysoprase ring that evokes Uzbekistan’s richly tiled temple tops. Her pieces use meenakari, a Persian enameling method that was brought to India in the early 1600s. Sophie Joanne, a self-taught jeweler, also creates her enameled pieces with this classic art form. The Amsterdam-based designer looks to the symbolism of flowers for inspiration, as seen in this 14-karat recycled gold ring enameled with a pink lotus bloom. For a more modern take on enameling, the London-based designer Cece Fein Hughes of Cece Jewellery offers classic signet rings and pendants stamped with enamel sketches. Many of her hand-painted designs feature creatures of the sea, such as a clam and pearl signet ring, inspired by her father who is a retired deep-sea diver. Gift givers can also work with Fein Hughes to create a bespoke painting that she will engrave on a piece.
Rare Erotic Art Books, Curated by a Fashion Insider
By Carla Valdivia Nakatani
For me, nothing says Valentine’s Day like rare, sexy books — and Climax is the perfect place to look. Isabella Burley, who is also the C.M.O. of the Swedish fashion company Acne Studios, founded the London-based distributor of hard-to-find erotica, art books, periodicals and other cool ephemera in 2020. Past treasures have included a photo zine and CD set titled “Everythings for Real 2” by Grace Wales Bonner and “Tokyo Love,” the 1994 photo book by Nan Goldin and Nobuyoshi Araki. Right now, the shop features titles like the first edition of “Wrestlers” (2004), a book of Collier Schorr’s photographs showing New Jersey high school wrestlers in action, as well as books you never knew you needed like the 1995 “Collector’s Guide to Trolls” by Pat Peterson (dedicated to the wild-haired rubber toys that were especially popular in the ’60s and ’90s) or “Hardcore Crafts” (a photo book of erotic crafts) by Nancy Bruning Levine, published in 1976. With such a specific selection, it might be hard to know what to get a loved one — I recommend buying this rocket-shaped gift certificate to grant them unbridled shopping at Climax.
Hop to it
Bunny Baubles for the Table and Beyond
By Jinnie Lee
Even if you don’t celebrate Lunar New Year, know that you are officially in it — the new moon cycle according to the lunar calendar is now underway. (Arguably, it’s a timetable that we all abide by as subscribers to the same moon.) In the Chinese zodiac based on this calendar, we’ve entered the Year of the Rabbit, an animal that symbolizes bountiful luck. And who wouldn’t want more luck in their lives? Valentine’s Day offers an opportune moment to gift your loved ones (or yourself) a talisman in the form of an adorable bunny. Practical kitchen baubles featuring this gentle creature abound: A set of stoneware egg cups from the Los Angeles-based design duo Nickey Kehoe offers an original vessel for eating a soft-boiled breakfast, while an urushi plate from the Japanese laquerware brand Isuke adds charm to any dish cabinet. Those who love setting a festive Easter dinner tablescape (another imminent holiday) will be delighted by Anke Drechsel’s handcrafted velvet bunnies emblazoned with springtime florals. And for the collector of fashion accessories, these cartoonish pendant earrings from Marni are whimsical and joyous, made for igniting conversations.
An Instant Camera for Enduring Memories
By Carla Valdivia Nakatani
I oscillate between desiring objects and never wanting anything new again, but deep down, I’m a collector, and one of my favorite things to collect is instant photos. They remind me of baseball cards: You can trade them, preserve them, gift them or just carry them around in your wallet. Some pictures will have more value than others, but their material nature makes each one feel like an actual slice of that exact day you took it. This can result in some seriously romantic memory keeping.
I’ve taken these photos with lots of different camera models over the years. The most recent range of Instax Mini cameras are easily the most fun and friendly. Some models have added features like long exposure, double exposure, macro and kid mode (for fast-moving subjects), but the most satisfying improvement overall is that portraits and macro images come out with a sharpness that seems almost digital. There’s even a front-facing mirror on some models so you won’t crop your special someone out of a selfie.
Earrings Inspired by Tokens of Devotion
By Caitlin Kelly
Tap into your inner Casanova by gifting these chandelier earrings dripping in garnets, blue topaz and pearls. Created by the Italian jewelry designer Diego Percossi Papi, they’re handmade in Rome — with no two pairs exactly alike — and they’re sold exclusively at Issimo, the online purveyor curated by Marie-Louise Sciò, the creative director and C.E.O. of Pellicano Hotels. The design was inspired by traditional ex-voto offerings — “tokens of gratitude or devotion,” Percossi Papi says, which were left for saints and divinities. The cloisonné enamel that adorns the earrings is done in a technique original to the designer, who has been perfecting it since the 1960s.
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