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Balloon Shakers by Masayuki Kurokawa

Designed by Masayuki Kurokawa, and Hand-blown by Shotoku Glass, a Japanese company that originally produced lightbulbs, these very thin, yet durable glass balloon shakers are the perfect home for salt and pepper, but look especially beautiful filled with the rich pigments of exotic spices.

Available at: Merchant No. 4, $68 (Set of 2)

Salt Cellars by Culinarium

Jordan Castro, the man behind Culinarium, creates skillfully-casted, hand-burnished concrete kitchen and table accessories. The special blend he uses has taken years to perfect, and is composed of extremely small particulate, very little water, and reactive recycled pozzolans, a combination that results in very strong, smooth concrete that patinates beautifully, and actually becomes more durable with time.

Culinarium’s designs lean toward utilitarian, with simple form and straightforward-practicality, emphasizing the material used. Perhaps the most expert design is Culinarium’s salt cellar; available in multiple sizes, and fitted with an aluminum scoop, or simply lidded, this modest vessel is handsome beyond any decorative table piece.

Castro does experiment with variations in color, and sometimes he’ll employ simple, but striking decoration. His eye and hand with this often cold-in-appearance material make for strict designs that are also texturally organic, a combination that is not only stylish, but artful.

Culinarium designs are available at the Culinarium Store on Etsy.

Above: Small Salt Cellar, $34

Taza Chocolate Mexicano

Taza is a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, based in Somerville, Massachusetts, specializing in the centuries-old Mexican technique of chocolate making. Using hand-chiseled, Oaxacan stone mills called molinos, Taza produces its Chocolate Mexicano. Whereas most chocolate is refined with advanced steel machines, this traditional technique allows for pieces of cacao and crystals of sugar to remain in the finished chocolate, lending intense flavor, and a unique, rustic texture. All of Taza’s chocolate is roasted, winnowed, ground, tempered, and packaged in-house, by hand, at their small factory.

Complex flavor combinations, from guajillo chili, to salt and pepper, bring attention to the true and bright flavors of the cacao, in dark chocolate form. Taza has also formulated a natural flavoring extract that captures the intensity of cacao and the warm spice flavor their chocolate is known for, perfect for baking, or for use in a distinctive cocktail, imparting true chocolate flavor, not cloying supermarket sweetness.

Taza only uses organic and sustainably farmed ingredients to craft their chocolate, and also maintains relationships with their growers in the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Mexico, and Belize, visiting and evaluating at least once a year, as well as paying a quality premium over the Fair Trade price.

“Artisan-crafted” chocolate can be found at every corner these days, but Taza has actually followed through with this very true-to-the-source interpretation, which is certainly worth trying.

Chocolate Mexicano discs ($4.50), and Mexicano Extract ($18) are available at Taza.

Bellocq Tea Atelier

An appreciation for best-quality tea, artisan craftsmanship, and a shared aesthetic vision resulted in tea “atelier” Bellocq. Founded by Heidi Johannsen Stewart, Michael Shannon, and Scott Stewart, the trio shares a history of creative credentials, from product design and editorial work at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, to work with fabrication firm SAAW.

In addition to the finest of pure teas, Bellocq offers their evocative, bespoke blends; from Charleston (a black tea created for and inspired by the country residence of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant), to The White Wolf (a studied mélange of white peony, cedar, juniper, and mint), their evolving collection aims to satisfy both traditionalists and the sophisticated tea explorer.

Considered design choices in regard to packaging and brand image, from handsome metal caddies, to lush photography, make it obvious that Bellocq’s dedication to quality extends beyond their tea. This approach serves as a reminder that a very simple preparation can be one of unflawed elegance.

Bellocq teas are available at the Bellocq Atelier in Brooklyn (open Fridays and Saturdays), at several stockists both domestically and internationally, as well as online at

Above: “Twelve Months of Bellocq,” $390
Photo: Anna Williams

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

1. Vosges Red Fire Milagro Heart of Love, $4; 2. Hudson Baby Bourbon, $50; 3. EXOvault Aluminum & Wood iPhone4 Case, $155; 4. Cire Trudon ‘Nazareth’ Candle, $85; 5. Smythson Passport Wallet, $140; 6. Michael George NYC Short White Tulips, starting at $100

Olive Oil

With the public becoming more and more educated about food and quality of it, it is surprising that there is still a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding something as commonly used as olive oil. Here is The Aesthetic Post’s primer on buying and using olive oil:

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

1. BeeRaw 9-Varietal Honey Flight, $78; 2. John’s Phone, $100; 3. Sachajuan Ocean Mist, $28; 4. Ecosphere, $79-$409; 5. Byredo ‘Fleur Fantôme’ Candle, $65; 6. Billykirk No. 95 Shoulder Satchel, $325

7. Aesop ‘Celestial Mechanics’ Skin Care Set, $115; 8. Papabubble Hard Candy, $25; 9. Cor Sine Labe Doli Ceramic Bow Tie, $175; 10. Le Labo Rose 31 Eau de Parfum, $220; 11. Lanvin Leather & Chain ‘Fleur Naturaliste’ Necklace, $890; 12. Chemex 6-Cup Hand-Blown Coffeemaker, $84

Vipp Salt & Pepper Mills

Vipp’s steel rubbish bin has become a Danish design icon, and over the years the company has maintained a strict approach to design and function, limiting their output to just that they’ve perfected. A recent extension into kitchen tools introduces Vipp’s gorgeously executed salt and pepper mills. Crafted from characteristic Vipp materials; stainless steel, aluminum, and rubber, the mills feature an adjustable ceramic grinder that is specifically engineered to optimize the quality of feel and sound while using.

Available at Vipp, $189.

La Colombe Torrefaction

In the mid-nineties, Todd Carmichael and Jean Philippe Iberti founded La Colombe Torrefaction. Based in Philadelphia, the company was built on an appreciation of European coffee roasting and culture, as well as an obligation to honest flavor and quality. They present a limited number of blends, and each speaks to their concern for superiority and appreciation of the bean. On top of six locations of their own (three in New York), La Colombe coffee is served in some of the city’s finest establishments, including Daniel, and Le Bernardin. Aside from their dedication to excellent coffee, the company ethics and earth consciousness are something to be admired, a fact they don’t use as a gimmick to sell coffee, but are proud to explain on their website or in store.

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