Holiday gift guide: Know what to give, know what to get!
ACTION FIGURES In the eyes of Tobias Trost, we’re all superheroes. By day, he’s works in production for the Nickelodeon Animation show “The X’s;” by night, he’s the creator of Imatoy, a service that transforms anyone into a 6-inch action-figure superhero with the powers of his or her choice, complete with a detailed backstory of just how your fabulous alter ego came to be. Figures are $300; another $100 if you need a kid or dog as a sidekick. Imatoy
CHOCOLATE The sweetest gifts are at L.A.’s chocolate shops. Littlejohn’s English Toffee has been made the same way since 1946, with chocolate and ground roasted almonds encasing a rich buttercrunch. At K Chocolatier, Diane Kron makes aphrodisiac chocolates for women, chocolate teddy bears and vodka chocolates, all packaged in red and silver. Distinctive tastes at L’Artisan du Chocolat include French-style bonbons in chili/apricot, thyme, jasmine tea, melon and ginger. New additions tomato and Kalamata olive have addictive potential.
Littlejohn’s Candies, 6333 W. 3rd St., #432, (323) 936-5379
K Chocolatier, 9606 Little Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 248-2626; dianekronchocolates.com
L’Artisan du Chocolat, 3364 W. First St., (310) 880-9396.
COFFEE With clients that include Providence and Mr. Chow, there’s plenty of snob appeal in the coffee roasted at LA Mill. However, the gift appeal lies in owner Craig Min’s passion for the little beans, which has more in common with Napa Valley than with Starbucks. The result is full-throttle java with names like Black Velvet that contains the flavors of dark chocolate and fresh nuts. Min won’t have a retail storefront until sometime next year (he’s thinking about West Third Street), but his coffees are all available by mail order.
LA Mill Coffee, 1112 Westminster Ave., Alhambra. (626) 202-0100; lamillcoffee.com
COOKBOOKS Los Angeles often lags behind its Bay Area brethren when it comes to chefs documenting their work, but this year we’ve got four local cookbooks to be proud of. Suzanne Goin, doyenne of A.O.C. and Lucques, has written “Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes From Market to Table,” while sushi master Nobu Matsuhisa has composed “Nobu Now.” And, there’s two macrobiotic tomes, Ann Gentry’s “Real Food Daily Cookbook” and Eric Lechasseur’s “Love, Eric,” from the pastry chef of healthy hotspot M Café de Chaya. All books contain stellar photography and some call for stellar cooking skills; Nobu’s should come with him as a sous chef. Even so, they qualify as worthy representatives of the Los Angeles restaurant scene as well as food porn of the first order.
DRESSES At Scout, Joey Grana and Greg Armas are improving L.A.’s dress code. Local designers like Society for Rational Dress and Grey Ant fill the racks, but the duo’s own versatile pieces are the real gems. Our favorite: a washed-silk gown in blue that can be tied into eight different designs that looks good on every body type, anywhere you wear it. Says Grana: “We’re creating an L.A. look that’s a little edgier and more sophisticated, and not as trendy as, say, Juicy.”
Scout, 7920 W. Third St. (323) 658-8684; scoutla.com
FLAVORED VODKA In Russia, spirits are part of the food culture,” says Modern Spirits owner and craftsman Melkon Khosrovian. His eight handmade, infused vodkas includes flavors like black truffle, rose petal and grapefruit honey. It’s a perfect apertif with potential to shine during the main course. For vodka lovers who won’t suffer duplication, Modern Spirits developed Haute, one-of-a-kind infused vodkas based on client preferences. Minimum orders begin at $15,000 for 10 cases, containing 120 personally labeled French bottles.
Modern Spirits, available at Bristol Farms, 7880 W. Sunset Blvd., (323) 874-6301; modernspiritsvodka.com
FURNITURE “We have our own designs, but sometimes people will reinvent the whole wheel,” says Jim Green of J. Green Furnishings. “They totally start from scratch.” At a client’s requests, Green rigged a bar with a pull-away top for quick liquor access. When actress Majandra Delfino (“Traffic”) wanted a bed within a bed for impromptu slumber parties, Green gave her a four-poster with a trundle accessible from a hidden wooden shelf. As for his own designs, J. Green’s ’50s-style credenza is a hot item; the modest piece of furniture looks good placed beneath flatscreen TVs. However, he’s always game to tinker and tailor.
J. Green, 603 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 935-5575, and 1709 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-7045; jgreeninc.com
GUITARS Working out of Ben Harper’s Folk Music Center in Claremont are the guitar-making Barnes brothers, Henry and Richard. Henry makes electric guitars; Richard hugs the acoustic side, so as to avoid sibling dust-ups. But they both revere wood; Richard has a spruce board over 400 years old, of which he says, “It’s hard just to touch it.” Henry says he isn’t above theft: “I used the top of an old hand-operated sewing bench from the late 1800s I took from my mom.” In addition to more familiar guitars like the Black Ace, they have built a Seuessian catalog of instruments: Nefers, Ngonis and Bouzoukis, with Disney commissioning a “Kithara” for their Japanese theme park. Prices range from $2,500 to $10,000 for the brother’s instruments.
The Barnes Bros., 220 Yale Ave., Claremont, (909) 624-2828; folkmusiccenter.org
WINE In Bel Air, there’s two acres of deep gravel at the bottom of Moraga Canyon. That’s where Tom Jones grows his Moraga Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. Says Jones, “Sauvignon blanc likes the more austere soil. You can taste a bit of mineral in our wine. Sauvignons in Napa don’t lend that — they’re a bit richer.” Nothing in L.A. can be all restraint, however, so get ready for upfront flavors of peach and blueberry that give way to acidity on the finish.
Moraga Vineyards White, available at Wally’s, 2107 Westwood Blvd., (310) 475-0606; moragavineyards.com
WOOD PORTRAITS Chris Wallace is a master woodcarver, but he doesn’t work in the hinterlands. He’s in Highland Park’s Space Gallery, a building that was once the 1914 Sunbeam Theater and later Zack de la Rocha’s Popular Resource Center. Here, he creates wood-relief portraits of musical artists like Nina Simone, Scott Joplin and the incredibly detailed natty dreads of Bob Marley. “I wanted to represent the best the U.S. has to offer,” he says. “And that’s music.” On commission, Wallace’s muse extends to wedding portraits, landscapes, bedposts, fireplace mantels and even computer desks (for Aerosmith rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford). Chris Wallace, (323) 257-7969; wallacewoodcarving.com
Compiled by: Rachel Dowd, Dana Harris, Pat Saperstein and D.R. Stewart