Welcome to the T List, a newsletter from the editors of T Magazine. This week, we’ve turned it into our Valentine’s Day gift guide, with recommendations on what we’re coveting for ourselves and eyeing for our loved ones. Sign up here to find us in your inbox every Wednesday. And you can always reach us at [email protected]
French-Inspired Chocolates With Japanese Flavors
It was a leap of faith when Michiko Marron-Kibbey decided to leave her job in early childhood education to pursue her dream of learning how to make pastries and chocolates. Marron-Kibbey — who eventually studied at the Parisian culinary school Ferrandi and apprenticed with the Japanese pastry chef Mori Yoshida — especially liked the challenges that came with mastering chocolate, a temperamental and fickle food. In 2018, she launched the Los Gatos, Calif.-based Deux Cranes, working with her childhood friend Ayaka B. Ito on the brand’s art direction and design. “Cranes famously mate for life and are symbols of longevity in Japan,” says Marron-Kibbey. But the brand’s name also reflects the way the chocolatier incorporates the flavors of Japan (think buckwheat, matcha, miso and yuzu), where she and Ito mostly grew up, with the aesthetics of French chocolate making. This holiday, Deux Cranes is offering several limited-edition bonbons and bars in decadent and romantic flavors — raspberry, passion fruit, pistachio and rose — alongside its more classic fare.
A 1963 biography of the painter Florine Stettheimer contributed greatly to the impression that she was a “cloistered spinster” whose work was too frivolously ornamental to be taken seriously or regularly exhibited. Barbara Bloemink’s newly published “Florine Stettheimer: A Biography” serves as a necessary corrective: For starters, the artist was a dedicated feminist who actually enjoyed single life. The writer also excavates Stettheimer’s impact as a progressive thinker whose paintings challenged the societal norms of racism and antisemitism, and highlights the monumentality of her work, both in terms of its scale — the artist favored large canvases, uncommon for female artists at the time — and its grand themes such as American patriotism and women’s independence. And then there’s Stettheimer’s delightful palette. Critics remarked that her colors were so bright as to dim neighboring paintings, and Bloemink’s text is complemented by lavish images of Stettheimer’s works, along with photographs of her equally exuberant costume designs and lodgings, as she occasionally designed furniture and fixtures to match her paintings.
Colorful Scarves Hand-Woven From Yak Wool
Dechen Yeshi grew up with a Tibetan father and a French mother, Kim Yeshi, who was enamored with textiles. Kim had long heard tell from traditional Tibetan tailors about fabric made from the wool shed by yaks each spring and, in 2004, Dechen traveled to Tibet to experience the fiber for herself. Sure enough, it was soft and incredibly warm — the nomadic herders of the Tibetan Plateau regularly bring the hearty animals to high altitudes, and in harsh weather. Several years later, the mother-daughter duo hired Nepalese artisans to come to the Tibetan village of Ritoma and train a group of locals in how to hand-weave the wool. The resulting label, Norlha, has been a fixture of the community ever since. And while the line now sells sumptuous throws and a range of clothing pieces, it started with scarves. In Tibet, says Dechen, a white scarf symbolizes an auspicious beginning and is a customary gift for a birth, homecoming or graduation. Why not for Valentine’s Day, too? Though you might prefer one of the brand’s earth- or jewel-toned options, each of which might pass among 10 different makers before being sent off. “We like that the scarves retain the essence of the Plateau but work across different identities and cultures,” says Dechen. “And you feel this protection when you wear one. It’s like a companion, almost.”
Cocktails to Make You Feel Far Away
If a winter getaway isn’t in the cards, why not try a transporting at-home cocktail? On the Balearic Islands, “basbas” is a term of endearment for the spirit hierbas, first distilled there by monks in the 15th century. The version of the drink from the newly launched Basbas (the brand) tastes of anise, citrus and sage, and can be sipped on its own or used, say, to replace the rum in a mojito. It’s made in the Santa Eulalia region of Ibiza according to a recipe that’s been kept secret by a single family for generations. For a taste of Oaxaca, opt for a bottle from Madre Mezcal, which recently partnered with the Brooklyn chef and artist DeVonn Francis on a trio of salt blends — black citrus, chile and healing herbs (turmeric, ginseng) — that nod to the tradition of sprinkling sal de gusano, or “worm salt,” on an orange slice served alongside mezcal, and that draw from Francis’s own Jamaican heritage. And for those seeking some sophistication in the nonalcoholic sphere, there’s Aplós, a hemp-infused blend developed with Lynnette Marrero, a James Beard Honoree and the bar director at the popular Brooklyn Peruvian restaurant Llama Inn. Apart from noticing its soothing effect, you’ll pick up notes of yuzu, rosemary and dandelion.
Amid a February tableau of pink paper hearts and red-boxed candies, there’s something invigorating about orange anything, including stones. The California-based designer Irene Neuwirth was inspired by tropical flowers to create her one-of-a-kind Mandarin garnet and fire opal bracelet. Fire opals are formed at volcanic depths, and another one of them features — bordered by pavé pink sapphires — in an eye-popping cocktail ring from Suzanne Felsen. Cathy Waterman, another California designer with a thing for plant life, chose opaque carnelian, a semiprecious gemstone used for adornment since the Bronze Age, for a pair of earrings modeled after clovers and accented with tiny diamonds. For a cheeky statement, consider the French designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac’s lip-shaped carnelian Rouge Baiser ring. Two equally cheerful and more affordable alternatives are Lizzie Fortunato’s persimmon Lucite Ridge Cuff (which comes in a rainbow of hues — try stacking a few) and Mondo Mondo’s Jelly Earrings, both of which recall the ferocious statement jewelry of the ’80s, and would help make any date night shine.
Bouquets for Conveying Love and More
I’ll take any excuse to give flowers, which don’t necessarily need to be romantic in tone. As Schentell Nunn, the founder of the Los Angeles-based floral business Offerings, puts it, “They are really just an offering of respect in so many ways.” A childhood spent connecting with Vermont’s verdant landscapes led Nunn to start working with blooms at age 17, and she launched her business, after a stint studying interior architecture, in 2018. In recent years, she’s provided the bouquets sent with the invitations for Chanel’s digital fashion shows. One of her Valentine’s Day bouquets features squat garden roses set against larkspur and foraged grasses. Over on the East Coast, the best friends Effie Cudjoe and Rugie Jalloh moonlight as the duo behind the Brooklyn-based floral studio Reflorish (by day, Cudjoe works in marketing and Jalloh in social impact operations), which they started, in 2020, to serve as “a source of joy for others.” Their designer’s choice bouquets begin at a reasonable $75, while their Valentine’s Day-specific offerings include toffee roses and ranunculus paired with inky purple scabiosa or checkered fritillaria.
An Incense Holder That Does Double Duty
Though she is the founder of the unisex skin- and body-care line F. Miller, Fran Miller doesn’t begin her day by cleansing and moisturizing. “The first thing I do in the morning, even before I grab a glass of water or make a cup of coffee, is light the incense on my coffee table,” she says. So with her brand expanding into home items (an olive green Nalgene bottle printed in a wiggly font with the word “Hydrate” was an early viral hit), producing an incense holder of her own seemed like a logical next step. First, she partnered with the artist Sam Jayne and, after that version had promptly sold out, Miller teamed up with her friend the Tel Aviv-based jewelry designer Sapir Bachar. “We thought about how we could create a calm environment and a safe space through organic shapes,” says Bachar. The result is a minimalist, curved sterling silver band that, if you happen to fit a dainty size three, also doubles as a pinkie ring — and comes with 40 green tea-scented incense sticks, the ultimate mood setters.