Saturday, December 30, 2006

Buy Curious: December 29, 2006

by Lauren Gard
Sat, Dec 30, 2006 at 3:25 PM

The holiday shopping madness is over, but the real shopping season has just begun! This week, Buy Curious braved the crowds (and the gale-force winds) to track down the best post-holiday sales in the East Bay. Needless to say, almost every store has slashed their prices, and we found discounts so astounding that we almost don't want to tell you about them! Does "half-off" mean anything to you? Then, Buy Clueless tackles two very serious issues: precious metals and blue jeans. Read on for your weekly dose of style ...


Who: Coco Poovey, 35, visiting from Orange County

Occupation: film producer Spotted: College Ave. at Manila Ave., Oakland Wearing: Chloe sweater coat, Prada sweater with suede elbow patches, Taverniti jeans, Tod's riding boots, Chloe purse, and Chanel sunglasses. What inspired the look: "Comfort." Fashion inspiration: "Tom Ford. Everything he does is sexy and cool." Also, Kate Moss, who can "swill champagne gracefully." Fashion style: Practical. "Casual elegance with a flair for comfort," says her husband. Also: Sexy, glamorous, country club preppy. Favorite piece in her wardrobe: "I like to look at my [Oscar] de la Renta dress. I need to go to the Academy Awards but I haven't been invited yet." Poovey describes it as a frothy concoction of tulle, gold sequins, and metallic thread.

Currently into: "I love Gucci right now."

SHOP TALK No matter what your budget is, no one can turn down a sale. We headed to the Bay Street mall and checked out some Oakland boutiques to compile our Top Ten list of sales you can't miss. Now if only we could cash in those darn gift cards ...

#10: The Gap : up to 60 percent off Stock up on basics, shirts for dad, and cozy loungewear. Try long fitted sweaters, perfect for layering, for just $14.99. Where: 5690 Bay St., Emeryville, (510) 594-9500. Also online.

#9: J. Jill : up to 50 percent off The mature older cousin to, say, Anthropologie, J. Jill has some deals worth checking out, like a ribbed U-neck cotton sweater for just $20 (orig. $39)

#8: Aerosoles : up to 60 percent off Check out warm, snuggly boots and flats perfect for the office, on clearance! If you haven't been in years, you'll be stunned by how hip this retailer has become. Where: 5643 Bay St., Emeryville, (510) 428-0626. Also online.

#7: Banana Republic: up to 50 percent off Almost all their merchandise is discounted, including suits, dresses, and sweaters. How about a wool/nylon-blend sweaters in an array of neutral tones for $33.99 (orig. $68)? Where: 5636 Bay St., Emeryville, (510) 428-0389. Also online.

#6: Iniam: 20 percent off The two-year-old Oakland boutique has discounted most of its merchandise, including this delicate Cynthia Steffe chiffon floral dress for $244 (orig. $305). Where: 5902 College Ave., Oakland (510) 597-1448

#5: Sefina Studio : 50 percent off and more The closet-sized Oakland boutique is clearing out their sportswear and lingerie for half off. We spotted cute, colorful undies from Cosabella and Mary Green. Plus this super pulled-together off-white pea coat from French Connection for just $99 (orig. $248).

Where: 5326 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-4779

#4: FIT: up to 40 percent off For the slightly more mature Rockridge mom, FIT stocks its shelves with comfortable, stylish, and low-key items. It's also one of the few East Bay stores that carries our favorite line, Diane von Furstenberg, and lucky for us, they've got quite a few pieces on sale. Try a DvF long chiffon dress for $196 (orig. $326), or a brown jersey wrap dress for $165 (orig. $275). This brown wool coat with floral embroidery from Rites was on sale for $299 (orig. $499). Where: 5707 College Ave., Oakland (510) 923-0784

#3: Viva Diva: 20 percent off dresses until New Year's Day A boutique for the young and trendy, Viva Diva is currently discounting its collection of dresses, just in time for your New Year's Eve bash. We spotted this red-hot Ella Moss dress for $135.20 (orig. $168) and this Rachel Pally kimono-style frock for $179.20 (orig. $224). On Monday, Jan. 11, Viva Diva will extend discounts to most of its merch, including jeans, sweaters, and dresses. Where: 5854 College Ave., Oakland (510) 594-8380

#2: August: 50-70 percent off Starting Tuesday, Jan. 2, this modern, Oakland boutique is having a massive sale off all its merchandise, including its entire denim collection. August specializes in unique styles from lesser-known designers and luxurious fabrics. Definitely one of our new favorite stores! (For stellar tips on shopping for jeans, be sure to read this scroll down to read this week's Buy Clueless.) Where: 5410 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 652-2711

#1: Twenty Two Shoes: 25-30 percent off; 50-60 percent off starting Tuesday, Jan. 2 One of the most buzzed about shoe stores in the East Bay has slashed its prices on its fabulous collection of shoes, including sparkly Repetto ballet flats and boots from its own collection. We found these fantastic black booties by Marc Jacobs on sale for $409 (orig. $585). Next week, they'll be $289!

Where: 5856 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 594-2201

BUY CLUELESS Has a shopping or style quandary been eating away at you for months? Mere minutes? Whatever the case, it's time to end your agony. Buy Curious will tackle your fashion dilemmas in Buy Clueless, the East Bay's first online fashion advice column. Advice is free, but following it may require forking over some cash. Send your query to

DROWNING IN MY JEANS Dear Buy Curious, Help! I'm 5'4," the average height for an American woman, but when it comes to shopping for jeans I feel like an elf. I love bootcut and straight-leg styles, but whenever I find a pair that fit at the waist, they're way too long. Faced with no alternatives, I buy them anyway, and � shocker! � I step on, and shred, my hems day in and day out. I've tried jeans marked "ankle length" or "short," but they tend to be tapered in an unflattering '80s pegged-leg sort of way. I'd rather not do the giant pant cuff, and haven't had much luck hemming them myself. Any suggestions for brands that do right by us "short" girls, or know of a good jeans repair place closer than LA's Denim Doctors? Bonus points if you have any helpful tips about how to keep a dark rinse dark for as long as possible! Thanks, Frustrated Jean Shredder

Dear FJS, We've also been forced to decide whether to drag extra fabric around (was the swaddled ankle look ever in?), learn to walk in six-inch heels, or leave a pair of otherwise perfect jeans hanging in the dressing room. And we're both taller than you, Frustrated. Truth is, unless you're angling to be the next Miss California (and if so, we suggest you don't get sloshed while you're practicing that giraffey strut), these options are not options at all. So we've got two that are better: check out, and find a reliable tailor.

Zafu, a genius (hah!) Emeryville-based Web site that launched in August, is a denim addict's dream. Answer a dozen or so simple questions (Height? Weight? Booty size? Preferred rise? Leg cut?), and a mysterious Oz-behind-the-curtain runs some fancy algorithms to come up with more than a dozen perfect possibilities for your body. (Zafu culls from ninety brands and more than three hundred styles, so there's bound to be at least one you love.) Once you home in on a pair, Zafu directs you to an unaffiliated online store, like Nordstrom, where you can snap it up.

The site has great tips, too, including a list of non-dorky brands that offer shorter inseams (including our personal favorites -- 7 For All Mankind and Lucky), and the nifty suggestion to go with a flare leg style if you're short and plan to get the jeans hemmed. Which brings us to our next option: Put down that hotel sewing kit and find a good tailor who understands trends.

Truth is, even if your Zafu selection fits you to a T, you're going to fall in love with supermodel-length pants at some point in your life. One local spot that's received rave reviews for its denim know-how is Advanced European Tailoring (2115 Allston Way, Berkeley, (510) 843-3881). The name may sound hoity-toity, but you'll pay just $9 for a regular hem or $18 for an exact copy of the original (think intricate stitching or fading). They're speedy, too, with a one to two day turnaround time. Just remember: always wash jeans before having them hemmed, as most will shrink about a half-inch or so. And before you toss them in the machine, turn them inside out, and be sure to use cold water only. If you must expose them to the dastardly dryer, do so only until they're slightly damp, then hang them over your shower rod.

Once you're at the point where you pretty much want to sleep in your jeans, if not marry them, maintain the original rinse by washing them only when absolutely necessary. In other words, wear underwear and watch the spills.

XO, Buy Curious

P.S. To our readers: Have other suggestions? Tales of denim woe? Post them in comments.

THE PRICE OF LOVE? Dear Buy Curious, My boyfriend and I have been together for two years now and we are ready to display our homo-commitment for the world to see. He really wants a platinum ring. I'm sure it's because it's the trendy Castro thing to wear, but I've done my research and platinum is not only very expensive, but soft and prone to scratches as well. Will anyone notice the difference if I were to buy 18k white gold for him? It's almost as heavy, is more durable, and is less than half the cost of platinum. Is platinum really that much better? Or is it worth it to spend the extra $1,500 now to not have to hear about it later? Signed, Seeking Family Jewels

Dear SFJ, You're asking a few separate questions here, but only the last really matters. If your guy wants a platinum ring, and you can afford it, then by all means, go for it. If you don't, he may well end up thinking, "My partner is damn cheap," instead of, "Oh, how I adore my partner!" every time he studies the ring during a boring business meeting. (Or, worse yet, during foreplay.)

It may help to think about it this way: Let's say you're 33 (the average age of a visitor to and expect to be with him for fifty more years. If you shell out $2,000 for the ring, that's a mere $40 a year, or eleven cents a day. Even if you wind up spending just another decade with him (not to bring you down or anything but we do have to be practical here), $200 a year isn't much to pay to make him as happy as he can possibly be, right? Sure, his attitude may appear to be materialistic, but isn't that part of the reason you love him? Because he has great taste and elevates yours as well? Back in the 18th century, King Louis XVI anointed platinum "the metal of kings." So go ahead � coddle your king.

If you still want to make an argument for 18K gold, be careful. You may lose. While platinum's more matte surface may make it look "scratched," it's actually a stronger, more durable metal than 18k white gold, according to online jeweler blue nile. The reasonably priced, reliable retailer (one of us once received an engagement ring from there which was simply gorgeous, although it never made it to the altar) offers a great assortment of platinum bands for men.

Finally, something to consider: If your would-be life partner cares so much about what other people might think of his ring, you've got to ask yourself why. Better yet, ask him.

XO, Buy Curious

Every Friday, Buy Curious posts photos of the fashion fabulous of the East Bay, as well as news on store openings, closings, new items, and sales. We want to hear from you! Tips? Send them to us!and Kathleen Richards

Back to 92510, the East Bay Express news blog.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The East Bay Today: December 29, 2006

Fri, Dec 29, 2006 at 3:25 PM

Today's Top Event: Jerry Kennedy, aka J-Soul, brings his band to Maxwell's Restaurant & Lounge in Oakland.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: Ralph Nader pulls his Corvair into Cody's parking lot to talk about his book, The Good Fight.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Thai Satay in San Leandro.

On the Town: Going out tonight? Get your "mojo" working with the Jump Kings at Fremont's Mojo Lounge.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out the Black Metal Dialogues.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The East Bay Today: December 28, 2006

Thu, Dec 28, 2006 at 3:25 PM

Today's Top Event: Comedian Brian Copeland brings his one-man show Not a Genuine Black Man to the California Conservatory Theatre in San Leandro.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: Adventures in Jewish Learning, a multi-interest day lecture series continues at Temple Beth Sholom in San Leandro.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Ital Calabash in Oakland.

On the Town: Going out tonight? Head down to the Nomad Cafe for some organic tea and the Bocalicious! Spoken Word Swap Meet.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out Pandafix.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The East Bay Today: December 27, 2006

Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 3:25 PM

Today's Top Event: McCoy Tyner wraps up the 2006 season at Yoshi's

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's exhibit: Artist Joshua Churchill riffs on disappearing businesses in downtown Oakland in Keys That Fit at 2312 Telegraph Ave.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Habibi Restaurant in Fremont.

On the Town: Going out tonight? Try one of Cato's cocktails, featuring Korean Soju or Los Cabos Agave wine from Mexico.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Was Your 2006 Dream Meal Really Wild Boar Salame and Kaffir Lime Martinis?

by John Birdsall
Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 3:25 PM

The way the CoCo Times figures it, Italian-style charcuterie, wild boar, and kaffir limes topped the year's roster of favorite ingredients for Bay Area chefs. Also the here-to-stay nature of the small-plates format, an ever-tightening radius for ingredients considered local, fancy food courts, and communal tables in restaurants. Yeah, pretty much, though we think the Times missed the artisan ice cream trend (Sketch, Ici).

We're not convinced that boar really broke out, not in the East Bay anyway (we'd argue that the popularization of heirloom pigs and turkeys made a much louder squawk). And we think the higher profile for things like kaffir limes is really part of a bigger trend toward embracing South Asian flavors.

The Year in Food Vindicated Bay Area Activists

Organics weren't the only thing that went mainstream in 2006. Sure, Wal-Mart took to them the way GM takes to a new advertising campaign, but other areas of concern to local food activists (lack of muscular regulation, trans fats, animal welfare) are now national topics of discussion. On the coasts, anyway. As The New York Times observes in its look back at the year in food politics: "This was the year when Americans got in touch with their food, and its varied political and social connections came into focus in different media." We'll take credit for starting the discussion at least a decade ago. But we'll pass on having anything to do with turning Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation into a lame drama.

The Contra Costa Tribune, Week Two

Last week all three Bay Area MediaNews dailies ran the identical story as the lead food section feature. This week only the Trib picked up Nick Boer's Coco Times feature, part of his ongoing two-chefs-drop-in-on-the-unsuspecting series. Trib readers: Why not just eighty-six your subscription and read the food section on line? You could avoid the hassle of hauling all that newsprint out to the recycling bin.

Back to 92510, the East Bay Express news blog.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The East Bay Today: December 26, 2006

Tue, Dec 26, 2006 at 3:25 PM

Today's Top Event: Wicked, the Young Actors' Theatre's winter holiday break camp for kids eight to eighteen.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's exhibit: "Once Upon a Time" at Oakland's Museum of Children's Art featuring the early and mature work of noted children's-book illustrators.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Rick & Ann's Restaurant and Catering in Berkeley.

On the Town: Going out tonight? Relax to the sounds of Chris Bradley's Traditional Jazz Band in the lounge of the historic Pleasanton Hotel.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out Scribble.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

You Write Too Long: This Week's Feature Bite-Sized

by Kelly Vance
Tue, Dec 26, 2006 at 3:25 PM

This week, "The Big Payback: The Year in Comics." Finally, the one week per year we get a story with lots of pictures. The plot is a bit episodic, though, actually a series of little graphic political and cultural barbs. The recurring theme is revenge: Screw you, Pombo. Nancy Pelosi as a dominatrix, with Jerry McNerney stretched on a rack. Don Perata as Da Debble. Oakland loses the A's to outer suburbia. Artisanal foodie serfs secretly drink Starbucks. We live in a state of sellouts (well, duh). Newspapers are dead (with the possible exception of this one). We shoulda listened to Al Gore. Food critic John Birdsall may be a robot, but he's a friendly robot. If you ain't with Google, you're off-world. Lots of issues and trends to think about, but you'll never be able to actually do anything about any of them. Happy 2007.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The East Bay Today: December 25, 2006

Mon, Dec 25, 2006 at 3:25 PM

Happy Holidays, East Bay!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The East Bay Today: December 22, 2006

Fri, Dec 22, 2006 at 3:25 PM

Today's Top Event: Accordionist Odile Lavault and her Baguette Quartette haul out the valse musette cafe hits of the '20s at Ashkenaz in Berkeley.

Brainiac: Learn something new every day. Today's lecture: Beading Night at Bead Inspirations in Alameda.

Is It Lunch Yet? Express food critic John Birdsall recommends: Soi4 Bangkok Eatery in Oakland

On the Town: Going out tonight? Groove to the hottest reggae, reggaeton, dancehall, and hip-hop at Luka's Taproom.

Hardly Working: You've got time. We know how to waste it. Check out Winterbells.

Feed Us: Got an East Bay news tip, photo, video, or link we need to know about? E-mail us.

Buy Curious: What to Wear to the Party, Plus, Buy Clueless

Fri, Dec 22, 2006 at 3:25 PM

'Tis the season for holiday parties. This week, Buy Curious scoured the East Bay on a quest to find the perfect party outfit. Check out the smashing head-to-toe look we put together at Anthropologie, the simple gold-embellished showstopper we slipped into at Jeremy's, and the casual-cool look from month-old Red Bird Outlet. Also, we're proud to introduce our first installment of Buy Clueless, the shopping advice column you've been craving. Consider it our holiday gift to you � and ask away!

PROWLING FOR THAT PERFECT HOLIDAY OUTFIT ... First stop: Anthropologie. A more-massive-than-ever sale is underway at the Fourth Street store, and we found it nearly impossible not to stop en route to holiday outfit bliss to snap up a set of color-splashed $1.99 dishes (originally $14) and festive woolly hats. Endearing sales associate Allison helped us choose this flouncy, sophisticated ensemble. We loved that it was something we'd never have picked out ourselves. Allison added a gold necklace, matching earrings and ballet flats and taa-daa � Tres chic!

    Cream and blue dress with velvet sash, Coven, $288 Sparkly crocheted mini shrug, Moth, $98 Pale gold ballet flats with bow, SF/NY, $148 Gold and crystal earrings, $59 Matching necklace $68

Where: Anthropologie, 750 Hearst Ave., Berkeley, 510-486-0705

Next up: Jeremy's. Crammed with designer leftovers from previous seasons and salvaged items with minor cosmetic flaws, this Elmwood store can be pretty hit or miss. But we definitely hit the jackpot with this smashing but simple Tory Burch dress embellished with gold pailettes at the neck and waist. It was missing one disk in the front, but other shoppers assured us we could easily rock the look anyway. (It's all about confidence!) What do you think? P.S. The store is currently having a big sale. Get there before the weekend madness!

    Navy wool dress, Tory Burch, $59 (orig. $325)

Where: Jeremy's, 2967 College Ave., Berkeley, (510) 849-0701

Red Bird Outlet. En route to Red Bird, one of the best upscale boutiques around, we tripped across its new outlet store, which is housed in the same block. We couldn't resist a peek at the roomy shop stocked with killer shoes, Ghost slip dresses, gorgeous tops galore, and ultra-comfortable cashmere James Perse sweatpants � all at about half off or more. For a low-key holiday look, we added a sparkly red tank, a crushed velvet coat, and four-inch platforms to our favorite pair of straight-legged jeans.

    House of Moy� black swingy coat $144 (orig. $360) Chan Luu red sequin sheer tank top $70 (orig. $175) Elisa Ferrari distressed gold platform shoes $238 (orig. $595)

Where: Red Bird Outlet, 2918 Domingo Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-5530

NEED HELP? INTRODUCING BUY CLUELESS Has a shopping or style quandary been eating away at you for months? Mere minutes? Whatever the case, it's time to end your agony. Starting this week, Buy Curious will tackle your fashion dilemmas in Buy Clueless, the East Bay's first online fashion advice column. One of us is a diehard shopper with a keen sense of style and a penchant for listening to metal. The other is a former fashion magazine editor who majored in psych back in the day. Advice is free, but following it may require forking over some cash. Send your query to

Dear Buy Curious, Perhaps you can help me. My wife's birthday is in early January, and I'm trying to decide what to give her. Let me just come out and ask what I'm really wondering about: If I treat her well at Christmas, I don't really need to do much for her birthday, do I? Dinner and a card should do it, right? My new car payment is messing with the budget. Loving But Cheap

Dear Cheap, No dice. Because one of us blows out birthday candles mercilessly close to Christmas, we can tell you straight up that dinner and a card won't do it. If your wife's birthday were in April, would you still be trying to screw her out of a proper show of your affection? (Don't answer that. Just get in your new car, and go shopping.)

You're lucky that she's a practical Capricorn because that means she's not the type of woman to want � much less expect � the moon. According to one top, uh, authority your best bet is to give her something career-related, like a "sleek business card holder," or an experiential gift like ballroom dance lessons. Another online expert suggests that, "The rule with Capricorn gifts is: If it worked last time choose the same or similar present again this time. You see, Capricorns are sticklers for routine and won't be at all offended if they get socks every year." If you do go for the socks, though, make sure they're unique and durable. (For the perfect pair, book a cheap flight to Japan, where the number of sock shops inexplicably outnumbers the number of sushi joints three to one. Better yet, bring her along and forget the socks altogether.)

Finally, if you do wind up doing the card and dinner thing, be sure the card is homemade and the dinner is not.

XO, Buy Curious

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