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We don't think there's anything wrong with the usual Valentine's Day conceits of candy, perfume, cards, underwear; we just think there's room for creativity and freshness. That's where our handy gift guide comes in: it's a few thoughtful twists on the standard issue gift fare.
CARDS—Though it's not nearly as big or fancy a selection as you'll find at someplace like Soolip, the greeting card selection at Skylight Books has long been our favorite. It's big enough to afford variety without being overwhelming, offering plenty of hand-made, beautiful cards on linen and fine paper, as well as really clever, smart cards. The store also stocks cards for GLBT folks. If you need a card but can't stand all that flowery, hearty crap, Skylight is the way to go. 1818 N. Vermont, Los Feliz
CANDY—If romantic love is supposed to be this hot, passionate, nuclear thing, why not celebrate it with appropriate chocolate? A couple of suggestions: the spicy chili chocolate bars at the Alcove will quicken your pulse, for real. And who knew salt could be so good on chocolate? Admittedly, an acquired taste; the best way to acquire it is to go straight to the high end stuff, like what you'll find at Tobi Tobin. The chocolate has an almost truffle-like consistency, with a very sensual mouthfeel and the right balance of sweet and salty. You'll also find more traditional flavors, like dark and peanut butter, as well. Alcove chocolate bars are $5.95 each; Tobi Tobin's gourmet candy sells for $3.25 for 1 oz.; $4.25 for 2 oz.
Alcove: 1929 Hillhurst Ave., Los Feliz. Tobi Tobin: 8601 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.
PERFUME—When a friend first told us about CB I Hate Perfume and their line of real-life inspired fragrances—like Winter 1972, which is supposed to capture the scent of the first snowfall of the season; or In the Library's approximation of old books, wood and leather—we were a bit skeptical. More like, conditioned to think that perfume should make us smell a certain way, like floral, sweet, spicy?and then we took a whiff for ourselves and we were dumbfounded. The scents pack such a powerful emotional whallop, and if you wear one, you'll never have to worry about someone else stealing your signature scent. If you like the idea but would prefer something more perfumy, check out Comme de Garcon's Glitter. Again, this isn't a scent that says "heart and flowers": we've read that it was inspired by the smell of Sumi ink. It smells hot and contains discernible notes of patchouli and mandarin. And how amazing is the purple glittery decanter?
For info on where to buy CB I Hate Perfume, click here; purchase Commes de Garcon Glitter at Fred Segal/Ron Robinson, 8118 Melrose.
LINGERIE—We get that high-end lingerie is one of those private luxuries: whether you're buying it for yourself or giving it as a gift, it's supposed to make the wearer feel sexy and feminine, regardless of whether anyone else sees it. Part of us is in agreement; then there's the other part, the cheap part that thinks that if one spends more than $150 on a bra, surely someone ought to know about it. Dramatic underwear by Marlies Dekkers is a classy compromise: the sexy, strappy bras add a little intrigue simply by having some of those extra straps peeking out of a tank or low-cut neckline. Playful, but not trashy.
Available at Neiman Marcus and online at BergdorfGoodman.com
JEWELRY—Most Valentine's day jewelry has hearts and scrolls and diamonds and lovey-dovey words engraved into them. Not so with Tom Tom jewelry, whose spring/summer collection is inspired by designer Elena Coleman's love of David Bowie, new wave and synthpop. Which means tough-looking geometric shapes, sharp edges and mixed metals, kind of like what would happen if you dragged some colorful 80's enamel jewelry through the back alleys of early 90's rock shows. Available at Milk, 8209 West Third St., and TenOverSix, 7427 Beverly Blvd, and online.