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These articles were prepared for the December 8, 2004
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
If you’re dressing the man in your life (and let’s face it, they all
need dressing), Nick Hilton Studio offers a wide range of gift ideas
for every budget. "We have everything from leather to khaki," says
owner Nick Hilton. And speaking of leather, let’s go straight to the
buttery-soft stuff. Hilton’s leather jackets come from Lone Pine, a
company in California that tans its own hides, makes the skins, and
sews the jackets. "The skins are incredible, luxurious, and
beautiful," says Hilton, adding that the trim on the pockets, stitch
work, design, and fit are all exquisite. From pine-colored suede to
burled walnut brown, the colors are just as divine as the leather.
Prices range from $995 to $1,835.
Hilton also recommends the extremely luxurious lightweight knitwear.
Made in Italy, these sweaters come in polos, mock turtlenecks,
v-necks, and crewnecks. "It’s a unique blend of merino, cashmere, and
silk – very lightweight and soft," says Hilton. "Merino can get hot
and is harsh to the touch; the cashmere and silk add a loftiness and
softness, so it’s more comfortable. These sweaters are a great
alternative to a collared shirt. You can wear the polo over a shirt or
t-shirt, or you can wear it as a shirt." Prices range from $165 to
You can also find many items under $100. Shirts, $85 to $97, are
surprisingly inexpensive for the high quality they offer. "Made with
high count cotton," says Hilton, "these shirts are spun better and
woven better than cotton shirts you’ll find in a department store."
Another great deal is the khakis by Bill’s Khakis ($45 to $97.50).
"You can wear these for 10 years or you can wear Dockers for two
years," says Hilton. "These khakis are a high count cotton, thick but
not stiff. They are made very well, with a good drape, a solid
waistband, and deep pockets. They last longer and look better when
you’re wearing them."
But the real package deal at Nick Hilton is this: three custom-made
shirts and three suits for $1,400. "You do the math," says Hilton.
"That’s an incredible deal."
Attention, men. Yes, you, men. I know you’re out there. And I know you
have, well, shall we say mixed feelings about shopping? OK, you hate
shopping. Someone just came to your rescue.
On Thursday, December 16, Spa Therapia and Triumph Brewing Company
present their second annual "Men’s Night Out," from 6 to 9 p.m. At
this "stress free shopping" night, men are invited to stop in and
enjoy some of the spa treatments Spa Therapia offers and sample
different brews from Triumph while knocking off a good portion of your
Spa Therapia, a medically-supervised day spa, offers several lines of
skin care products and cosmetics as well as spa treatments like
facials, waxing, massage, salt scrubs, body wraps, microdermabrasion,
pedicures, manicures, and more – you know, stuff girls crave. She’ll
love you for it.
A few years ago I got a $200 gift certificate to Spa Therapia (for,
let’s just say, a round-number big girl birthday), and I was so
thrilled that I made it last the whole year, with three different
treatments over three visits.
This gift-giving season Spa Therapia is recommending gift certificates
for its Signature Massage: 50 minutes, $70; 70 minutes, $90; 90
minutes, $120. This is a personalized massage experience incorporating
Swedish techniques and other modalities to focus on specific trouble
areas. A Signature Massage is created by you and your therapist for
the ultimate experience and includes a warming back mask for extra
Another option is the Ultimate Customized Facial, 65 minutes for $95.
It begins with an expert skin analysis, followed by intense cleansing,
toning, exfoliating with papaya and pineapple enzymes, extractions,
massage, masking, and treatment creme chosen specifically for your
skin type. The Ultimate also includes a scalp, hands, and foot
As a special holiday promotion, every gift certificate comes with an
eight-ounce Avocado Lotion from the spa’s new line of private label
skin care products called Results by Spa Therapia.
Combining the finest formulas, highest standards, and the latest
techniques for anti-aging, these products are designed to facilitate
total wellness and beauty. The line includes O2 Rejuvenating Creme,
Willow Herb Soothing Serum, Derma Pore Cleanser, Spot Fix, and Vitamin
Both the spa and the Results product line are under the supervision of
Thomas A. Leach, M.D, medical director of Princeton Center for Plastic
If there’s someone on your list who loves to shop or someone who loves
to stroll through downtown Princeton on a weekend afternoon, just
drinking in the ambiance, you can package that experience up in a box
this year – with a Palmer Square gift certificate. With over 40 stores
– a mix of top national chains like J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Chico’s,
Coach, and Ralph Lauren, to independent stores with an entrepreneurial
spirit like Zoe and Zoe Shoes, which just expanded into bigger digs,
and Honey West, which showcases small boutique designers from New York
and Los Angeles – Palmer Square offers downtown charm but with the
sophistication of the city. From women’s and men’s apparel to home
furnishings and accessories, from health and beauty to specialty foods
and specialty gifts, Palmer Square offers gift solutions in every
Here are just some of the things you can find on Palmer Square,
whether you are shopping for others or thinking about what someone
might be able to get with a gift certificate. A pound of handmade
chocolates from Thomas Sweet or a box of truffles from Lindt
Chocolates. Acqua di Parma cologne and NARS cosmetics from Blue
Mercury or ginger souffle whipped body cream from Origins. Swedish
Christmas ornaments from Bowhe and Peare. Paintings of the Princeton
campus and Princeton at Cranbury Station Gallery. "Winter" holiday
candles at Banana Republic. Provencal table linens at April Cornell.
Estate jewelry at The Silver Shop, the oldest shop in the Square
(established in 1937). Shoes from Nine West and Aerosoles. Clothes for
children at Talbots Kids and the three ICI’s – ICI Bebe, ICI Fashion,
and ICI Monde. Toys and children’s books at Jazams.
Palmer Square is all dressed up for the holidays. Every weekend in
December there are strolling musicians, a strolling Santa, and horse
and carriage rides.
For holiday dining and desserts, there’s Bucks County Coffee, Halo
Pub, Medittera, Teresa Caffe, the Bent Spoon, Winberies, and the
Yankee Doodle Tap Room.
Palmer Square gift certificates in any denomination are available at
The Papery, 43 Hulfish Street. For each $25 gift certificate purchased
through December 31, you get a $10 free parking value pass card.
It’s arguably the most distinctive business accessory – for a man or a
woman. A top-of-the-line briefcase makes a defining statement that
sets the tone the moment you walk into a meeting, client appointment,
or business dinner. The possibilities are endless, but above all, a
briefcase should reflect the very best attributes of the person who
carries it – intellect, creativity, innovation, and executive savvy.
Luttman’s in Princeton carries a selection of briefcases for virtually
any taste – urbane and contemporary, staid and conservative, edgy and
sophisticated, in a price range from $250 to $1,000. There’s the
Rawlings line, crafted from one of the most durable natural materials
available – Rawlings baseball glove leather. Jack Georges cases are
strong yet lightweight, made from leathers like top grain soft tumble
milled leather, soft milled full grain steer hide, Italian and German
leather, and vegetable-dyed, hand-stained suede – accented with
details like satin nickel finished solid brass hardware, ballistic
lining, blue steel metal reinforcements, and quilted leather.
The British line Tusting, which dates back five generations, features
specially-prepared water- and stain-resistant leather prepared by
highly-skilled artisans not to cover the natural scars of the hides
but simply to enhance the texture and feel. Some styles have a soft
"bookbag" structure, others a popular semi-rigid structure, featuring
quick release "tucktight" closure.
Daines & Hathaway offers exquisitely elegant, classic styles like the
Harvard, Oxford, and Banker’s cases, crafted from English bridle hide,
using designs and traditional manufacturing techniques dating back to
the 19th century. The Ghurka line features cases made fromsignature
vintage leather that is pure vegetable tanned, entirely free of
chemicals, utilizing tanning extracts from mimosa and quebracho tree
Luttmann’s Luggage is a venerable Princeton shop that opened 101 years
ago as a saddlery shop. Over the years it began to carry leather goods
and continued to be run by the Luttmann family until its current
owner, Frank Riccato, took over ownership of the store. In addition to
traditional and contemporary briefcases Luttmann’s offers women’s
handbags, wallets, portfolios, gift items including leather picture
frames, accessories, and day planners including Filofax and Scully.
We look for classic traditional high quality items and beat the price
down and up the selection," says Robert Landau, owner of Landau’s.
"This is our 49th Christmas in Princeton. There’s no benefit to
longevity other than we think we really know our customers. When we
find something that’s good, we really overdo it."
Landau recommends three items for holiday gift giving. The first is
the pashmina shawl, which became extremely fashionable just in the
last three years. Through a contract Landau’s has made with a
cooperative in India, the store offers a pashmina shawl that used to
sell for $265 but is now priced at just $59. And it comes in over 50
colors. "If you have 40 women on your list, you can get each one a
different color," says Landau, adding that the shawl’s 70% pashmina
cashmere/30% silk blend "drapes spectacularly. You can wear it on
Christmas Day and to a restaurant in the middle of July. People fly
with it and use it instead of an airplane blanket; others use it as a
bed jacket. These shawls work all year round. And one size fits all so
you don’t have to worry."
Another example of the Landau’s strategy to evolve woolen items into
more affordable apparel is the very popular acrylic zip-front cardigan
sweater for women. Landau says the sweater was copied from a
traditional Austrian boiled wool jacket that sells for $475. Done very
nicely in acrylic, the cardigan sells for $29. "It looks very
expensive," says Landau. "And it’s washable." And in true Landau’s
tradition of great selection, it is available in eight colors.
For the men on your list, Landau recommends the Viyella shirt from
England. Viyella was origianlly a 60% wool/40% cotton blend that over
time has evolved into an 80% cotton/20% wool blend. Landau says this
makes the shirt, which is styled like an outdoor shirt or a lumberjack
shirt, a little bit warmer than a standard cotton shirt. And talk
about patterns – the Viyella shirt comes in about 60 different
patterns. Elsewhere these shirts sell for $115 but Landau’s gets them
direct from a mill in Pennsylvania (the fabric is made in England) to
be able to offer a retail price of $65. "We’ll end up selling 600 this
season," says Landau.
I went through a phase a number of years ago where I bought everyone
shoes for presents. Now that, pardon the pun, was thinking outside the
box. I was the smash hit of Christmas morning.
Buy really comfortable shoes, and you’ve hit pay dirt. Ask anyone who
wears Birkenstock shoes and they are likely to tell you they are the
most comfortable shoes they own. The 200-year-old company has reshaped
its image with the addition of enclosed shoes and boots. "A lot of
people are curious about Birkenstock," says Steppin’ Birkenstock owner
Jimmy Jimenez. "People have a perception of Birkenstock as a clunky
clog or the Arizona sandal but they’re that and a whole lot more.
We’ve had lots of three-generation families as customers, even four
For kids, Jiminez recommends putting them in the most comfortable and
supportive footwear from day one with Birkenstock’s kids fun clogs.
Growing feet, legs, and spines need correct footwear introduced early
on. This helps bodies develop correctly into adulthood.
By starting your child on the Birkenstock road of life from the
beginning, you insure fewer bumps in the road later on in life. Unlike
many other major comfort-ware manufacturers Birkenstock isn’t just
satisfied with making a knockoff of the adult clog. You know the
shoes, all show and no go! These clogs are fully functioning
Birkenstock footwear. They feature the same great orthopedic support,
comfort, and durability as the adult versions do, including four
natural arch supports and heel cup, along with the toe bar found in
the adult version.
Plus these clogs are downright adorable and dare I say, FUN! There are
three separate clogs in this group, each with a distinctive character
motif and color. There is a pig in a blue base color, a sheep in a red
base color, and a cow in a green base color. The design is unique with
the head and neck on the right clog and the rest of the animal on the
left clog. Your kids will love these clogs, and so will you. So much
fun that you’ll wish they made them in adult sizes too.
Jiminez also recommends other Birkenstock styles as a gift – or give
a gift certificate. In addition to shoes, sandals, and boots, the
store also carries insoles, arch supports, and cashmere socks.
609-921-8411; 530 Union Square Drive, New Hope, Pennsylvania,
Thanks to Carson (if you don’t watch "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
you won’t get this) the word "product" has gone mainstream Still don’t
get it? Product means great stuff for styling your hair. Product will
make anyone over the age of 14 on your list happy. It’s even good for
people who think they don’t want it. Trust me. They want it.
Look for European packaging with at least four languages. Women go
weak for anything European. We recommend Phyto products, also known as
Phytologie, which are produced in France. Phyto products, made with
all natural botanical ingredients, have received the Hollywood Good
Housekeeping Seal of Approval – InStyle magazine named Phyto the
number one haircare product line.
Elaine Staats, owner of E.Y. Staats, recommends several Phyto products
for gifts. Phytodefrisant ($22), a botanical hair relaxing balm, is
made with ferula and sage and received Allure magazine’s Reader’s
Choice Award in 2004. Phytobrush ($20) uses acacia honey and thermal
protective agents for heat styling and enhances the action of the
Phytodefrisant. Phytolisse is an ultra shine smoothing serum ($24).
Phytovolume Actif ($22) is a volumizer spray root lift.
Staats also recommends a five-inch round boar bristle styling brush
($30) and the Elchim blow dryer ($95). Made in Italy, the Elchim has
the best air velocity of any dryer, says Staats, allowing for a quick
dry, even with thick hair – it’s the only dryer the stylists at the
E.Y. Staats in Princeton is a charming salon that offers modern
styling in an 18th century home – there’s even a fireplace in the
reception area. "Everyone who works here has been with me since the
beginning," says Staats, adding that the stylists have extensive
experience in cutting, coloring (including dimensional coloring),
styling, and bridal services. The staff stays on the cutting edge by
attending seminars such as a recent one on styling and presentation
given by the uber-chic Minardi + Minardi team from New York at the
Canyon Ranch Spa in Lenox, Massachusetts.
If someone offered you a 60-minute full body massage or a sweater for
a gift and told you they both cost the same, which would you choose?
Easy. Wouldn’t you go for the massage? Who wouldn’t? "Our purpose for
being is to provide quality caring and massage and bodywork for
everyone," says Darby Line, owner of Full Circle Family Massage and
Healing Center. "But our work goes much deeper than the muscles."
Sometimes the gift of relaxation and rejuvenation is far more
significant – and enjoyable – than the stuff that comes in a box. A
gift certificate for a massage or a facial – 30 to 60 minutes away
from the stress and pressure of everyday life – would thrill anyone.
Even men. "A lot of men need massage, a break from their stressed-out
lives," says Line. "Forty percent of our clients are men. We even give
facials to a lot of men. Men don’t want to walk through a salon past
women getting their hair done in order to get a massage. We’re not
slick. We’re housed in a small Cape Cod and each private treatment
room is a little bit different experience. Men don’t feel embarrassed.
People often comment that it’s very much like ‘coming home.’"
Full Circle treats clients as young as four and as old as in their
90s, everyone from professional athletes to people with terminal
illnesses. "The body work we do is tailored to everyone who walks in
our door," says Line. "We have 15 highly-experienced therapists who do
everything from total relaxation to injury rehabilitation massage. We
always spend time with a client before their appointment. If they have
a one-hour appointment we’ll talk for five to ten minutes before to
determine the right approach."
Line says a very popular gift certificate is for a one-hour
integrative massage ($70), which is based on Swedish massage but also
includes shiatsu, reflexology, reiki, or other techniques, depending
on the individual’s needs. For those who don’t want to spend that
much, Line suggests the half-hour massage ($45). A facial is $55 and a
radiance facial, which includes a special eye treatment to minimize
the little lines around the eyes and an exfoliating mask, is $90.
Line also recommends, especially at this time of year, the 50-minute
full body Swedish massage for $60. "It helps get the circulation
going, and warms and detoxes the muscles. It’s a great break for
anyone." She adds that a gift certificate for a massage is a great
gift for an older parent, "someone who has everything or someone who
has never had a massage."
Princeton-Hightstown Road, 609-371-0888, www.fullcirclemasage.com.
Gift certificates, which can be mailed to the recipient or the buyer,
are available over the phone. $1 service charge per gift certificate
A couple of weeks ago, I took my nine-year-old son to have dinner at
Teresa Caffe on Palmer Square before going to see Savion Glover and
Bobby McFerrin at McCarter Theater. There was a wait for a table so we
grabbed two stools at the polished wood bar in front of the pizza
oven. Before we knew it, my son was drinking Sprite out of a champagne
glass and chatting with the lady next to us about his tap class, and
we decided to stay put and eat at the bar. My son could watch his
pizza margherita being made, and the attentive bartender refilled his
glass before he even had to ask. It was cozy and bustling and and we
could watch everyone coming and going. I had a salad and a glass of
merlot – we were happy campers.
Maybe there’s someone on your list who really needs a "date night"
with his or her spouse. Maybe there’s someone who loves to
people-watch at a cafe or sip an exotic drink at the bar and listen to
live music. Or someone who could use the treat of dining out at an
Italian bistro on a weeknight. A Terra Momo gift certificate takes
care of all of them.
Terra Momo restaurant group is named after owners Carlo and Raoul
Momo’s parents, Teresa Azario Momo and Raul Momo Marmonti. Terra Momo
includes Mediterra, offering a Mediterranean menu and intimate musical
groups on Wednesday and Thursday nights, 29 Hulfish Street, Princeton,
609-252-9680; Nova Terra, with a Nuevo Latino menu, featuring rodizio
every Wednesday night (a kind of Brazilian barbeque) and live Latin
music Thursday through Saturday nights, 78 Albany Street, New
Brunswick, 732-296-1600; Teresa Caffe, serving authentic Italian
cuisine, 23 Palmer Square East, Princeton, 609-921-1974; Eccoqui, also
serving authentic Italian cuisine, 107 Route 202, Bernardsville,
908-221-0040; and Witherspoon Bread Company, featuring artisan and
organic breads, 74 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, 609-688-0188.
While the flavors and themes of each location differ they all share
the Terra Momo vision with special "ingredients" – from locally-grown
produce and wines from small producers around the world to
distinctive interior design like the circular bar at Nova Terra.
Terra Momo gift certificates. Available from any Terra Momo restaurant
or online at www.terramomo.com. Gift certificates are the size of a
credit card and come in a wonderful gift package and envelope.
We get everyone – truck drivers, surgeons, reporters, artists. I had a
woman who was about 60 years old come in today and buy one for her
good friend, then say, ‘I’m going to get one for my son and
daughter-in-law,’" says Naomi Nierenberg at Raritan Flying School at
Princeton Airport. "It" is an introductory flying lesson.
"It’s a mini first lesson with hands-on experience," says Nierenberg.
You are accompanied by an FAA certified flight instructor, who starts
the lesson with a pre-flight check on either a Cessna 152 or 172
single engine high wing airplane. You check the oil and gas and make
sure the plane is in airworthy condition, then you sit in the left
seat and the instructor sits on the right. Both you and the instructor
have hands and feet on the controls and you taxi down the runway. Then
comes the big moment. The instructor talks you through take-off.
"The view is just magnificent," says Nierenberg. "And so is the sense
of freedom. As congested as New Jersey is, there is a lot of open
space. You don’t have to follow roads. Sometimes people fly over their
home or go over the Delaware or near Spruce Run and Round Valley
reservoirs." The instructor talks you through basic maneuvers like
medium bank turns, bank climbing, and descending, so you experience
the three "directions" of flight: up/ down; left/right; and forward.
A lesson that’s a little under 20 minutes costs just $49. A full hour
is $109, which Nierenberg says counts towards loggable time for a
license (which requires 40 to 80 hours) if you continue with lessons.
There is no minimum age but there is a minimum height – five feet. "We
get a lot of people who buy flying lessons as gifts because they say
they are ‘tired of giving sweaters,’" says Nierenberg. "It’s something
they will always remember."
The pilot shop, called Plane Toys for Children Big and Small, is on
site at the airport as well as online and offers thousands of
aviation-oriented gifts. "I think it’s the most unique gift shop east
of the Mississippi," says Nierenberg. Items include infant suits,
robes, and bibs with airplanes on them; bomber jackets for children
and adults; wind chimes with a biplane; a weathervane with airplanes;
scarves with airplanes; white pilot scarves; mugs; tie tacs; a
sweatshirt with the Princeton Airport shown on a current aeronautical
chart; "Spirit of St. Louis" CD players and radiophones designed in
vintage Lindbergh style, and more.
206 . 609-921-3100, www.princetonairport.com.
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