Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Of The Best For 2009

For the fourth consecutive year, I'm proud to join forces with a group of excellent bloggers and bring to you my favorite products, scents and little pleasure that helped make my year more beautiful. Organized by Elena from Perfume Shrine, many of the other blogs are scent-centric, while here you will also be subjected to nail polish and lipstick. Enjoy!

Skin Care
Joining my perennial favorites, this year I made two discoveries that improved both my complexion and my general outlook: Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect Beauty Serum is a hyped product that really delivers, and might keep the Botox needle away for a while longer. At $22, this is as close to a miracle as it gets.
On the other end of the price spectrum there's Erno Laszlo. I'm on my second full jar of pHormula No. 3-9 cream, and it saves me again and again. During my house move and in this current weather I haven't seen a single flake.

Honorable mentions: Dior Hydraction Serum and anything by Kanebo Sensai.

Body Care
I have several holy grail products from L'Occitane (face cleanser, hair products, shea butter body cream). This year's limited edition Shea Butter collection in Frangipani is wonderful. I can't get enough of the foaming cleanser.
Then there's the best body cream, Kanebo Sensai Collection Premier. For the cost you can either feed a village or buy this product, but I have to mention it because it really is that good.

Nail Polish
StrangeBeautiful, a niche nail polish line with a unique concept and superb quality. The third collection by Jane Schub was launched not long ago and it's as beautiful as you'd expect it to be.If only they'd sell the bottles individually...

More than ever before, 2009 was the year limited editions and seasonal collections had sent everyone over the edge. Almost every brand came up with several products that sold out as quickly as they appeared. Of course, Bobbi Brown and Chanel have made this into an art form in previous years, making eye shadow palettes and nail polish in unorthodox shades into an eBay sensation. While this is exciting and probably drives sales even (or especially) in a crappy economy, what happened to the art of a well-thought and carefully edited makeup collection?

The answer is Edward Bess. Creative, perfectionist and talented Edward Bess has a niche makeup line (a Bergdorf Goodman exclusive) that is all about elegance, glamor and impeccable taste. While I wish there were more lipstick and lipgloss shades so I would be able to own more than one of each (minimalists don't become beauty bloggers), I adore what I have and covet each and every eye shadow.

Another company that offers both a gorgeous regular collection as well as stunning seasonal items is Le Metier de Beaute. While their eye and lip Kaleidoscopes are what grabs a makeup lover's attention, it's the face products that give a smooth, flawless look. And the miniature nail polish bottles are pure genius.

The title of Best Mascara belongs to two products: Giorgio Armani Eyes To Kill and Bare Escentuals Buxom Lash.

Honorable mentions go to to Bobbi Brown for her Ivy League fall collection, Giorgio Armani for the lipsticks and Christian Dior for the new single eye shadows.

Insert heavy sigh here.
These are strange times for the art of perfumery. The writing has been on the wall since 2005 or so, but most of us have been playing ostrich to some degree, mostly because it was so hard to believe that iconic houses that existed for decades (even centuries) and have been a synonym with quality would allow a bunch of bureaucrats to mutilate their classic bestsellers. But IFRA is everywhere and Guerlain, Chanel, Annick Goutal and everyone else have been complying without a fight, thus making No. 5, No. 19, Eau d'Hadrien, Shalimar, Mitsouko and other beloved scents a sad shadow of what they used to be. There's also the issue of cost, of course. Everyone needs to make a profit, and replacing expensive raw materials with cheap ones helps the bottom line. After all, consumers don't care, right? They just want to smell like they've stepped out of the shower.

Not this consumer and not most of you reading this blog.

While even niche houses have been reformulating their perfumes (Chergui, Feminite de Bois, Fleurs d'Oranger) or discontinuing them (JAR Shadow is no more), there are still perfumers who do not create perfumes for focus groups. Mona di Orio has been consistently awesome and her perfumes take you to times and places where Calone doesn't exist. Her line is coming back to NYC (Takashimaya), which is the best news I've heard in ages.

My favorite perfume releases in 2009 come from two small houses. Anya McCoy of Anya's Garden, an all-natural, uncompromising perfumer, has already brought us Kaffir and Pan, two of the most interesting and non-traditional scents I can think of (the first is a lime and leather concoction, the second is all about goat). Her two newest perfumes, MoonDance and StarFlower and stunning in their power, magic and pure sensuality. They are a must-try for any perfume lover.

The perfume that touched my heart more than any other this year (and frankly, probably longer than that) is Andy Tauer's Un Rose Chypree. An emotional, romantic rose on a chypre base that smells of days long gone. It's a masterpiece.

Honorable mentions: L'Artisan Havana Vanille, Uncle Serge's Fille en Aiguilles and last year's Italian Cypress by Tom Ford, which is the most wonderful thing I've smelled on my husband in a while.

And Other stuff...
Green & Black's newest chocolate: Peanut. A 37% milk chocolate, crisply caramelized organic peanuts, a hint of sea salt. Godiva who?

Kajitsu, a vegan Japanese restaurant (414 East 9th Street, New York, NY). It's an amazing experience that doesn't taste like anything else you've had before. The delicate aroma of the food, unique textures and zen atmosphere make it into my favorite restaurant. Get the roasted tea to accompany your meal (and some warm sake). You can also buy it by the pound to take home.

Didier Dumas Patisserie in Nyack, NY (163 Main Street) is a little taste of Paris. Gluttony has never felt so good.

Happy New Year and please visit the other participating bloggers:

Perfume Shrine
Mossy Loomings,
Ayala Smelly Blog,
Bittergrace Notes,
Eiderdown Press Journal,
Scent Hive,
Roxana's Illuminated Journal,
A Rose Beyond the Thames,
Notes from the Ledge,
I smell therefore I am,
Under the Cupola,
All I am a Redhead,
Perfume In Progress,
Savvy Thinker

Images:, and Perfume Shrine


  1. A yummy list all around...especially your mention of Green & Black's chocolate. I shouldn't be reading this late at night, when the cravings always seem to start.

    Happy New Year to you too, Gaia!

  2. Gaia, I think you have me pegged with uncompromising and non-traditional, lol. Thank you so much for the mention, it was wonderful


  3. Oh my, I discovered the REAL French bakery in Nyack on my last trip to NY, amazing that you know it too -- thanks for telling me the name! Happy new year ~ Qwendy

  4. Happy New Year!!
    Excellent list, as I always pick up beauty recommendations off you ;)
    I'm irked by too many limited editions as well, though: really, is it just to drive interest in the brands? It gets really tiring after a while.

    "After all, consumers don't care, right? They just want to smell like they've stepped out of the shower"> the problem (and excuse) in a nutshell! :-(

  5. I really love Mona's fragrances. Last night I enjoyed some Nuit Noire again, after revisiting carnation. Why do you think she's had such a struggle? Thanks for your year end thoughts.


I love comments and appreciate the time you take to connect with me, but please do not insert links to your blog or store. Those will be deleted. The comment feature is not intended to provide an advertising venue for your blog or your commercial site.

Related Posts Widget