Best Local Italian Wine Blog 2009 | On the Wine Trail in Italy | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

On the Wine Trail is local in the sense that blog-master, Alfonso Cevola, lives in Dallas and mentions local themes and places once in a while. But Cevola is also something of an international authority. A lifelong wine seller whose mom's mom came from Calabria at the toe of the Italian boot, just across from Sicily, Cevola can tell you all about things like the tension within the Calabrian wine world over strictly regional tastes versus a more international mix of grapes. If you were real lucky, you could get this kind of stuff from him in person any Saturday morning when he might happen to drop into Jimmy's Market in East Dallas for some wine schmoozing. But the blog is the more reliable place. A salesman for Glazer's Wholesale Distribution in Dallas, Cevola has watched Dallas' wine palate develop over 30 years. Asked what the big new thing is in these times, he said, "Wine under $15." He's got the skinny.

Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS shoes after a visit to Argentina in 2006: For every pair of shoes sold to a customer in the United States, TOMS donates a pair to a needy kid somewhere in the world. So far TOMS has given away 140,000 pairs to shoeless kids. All of the Southwest Region Whole Foods stores are offering a line of TOMS shoes—simple but cool canvas slip-ons with plastic soles. They cost $49.99 each—not bad, compared with similar products in shoe stores. The line includes subtle variations in style and colors from taupe to faded red and blue. If nothing else, it's a way to indulge your shoe habit and do some good in the process.

From the reclaimed wood floors to the organic oils and balms, a massage at Spa Habitat is a luxurious way to go green. The spa uses recycled paper for paper products, organic cotton for linens, and Green Mountain Energy's wind power to fuel the operation. So it's easy to offset your guilt emissions at indulging in such a sybaritic pursuit—hey, by getting a massage here, you're helping the environment. A dimmed reception area with cushy chairs and curtains for privacy begins the relaxation. The warm aromas and even warmer rice packs used in the Green Peace Massage (the spa's most popular massage) take you all the way to limp-noodle state. As far as environmental action goes, this beats a protest any day.

Any douche can ask, "Wanna go to the movies?" It takes a slightly more thoughtful guy (or gal) to change the old date routine into something a little more interesting—like a Saturday afternoon "movie" date at the Museum of Nature & Science. For just $7 apiece, you and your date can catch a short film in the museum's hemispherical IMAX theater, an all-enveloping experience, no matter whether the flick is about the ocean or the mountains. (Plus, it's a great way to start a conversation about a romantic getaway to Fiji or Steamboat Springs.) Just another $3.50 each will get you into the planetarium for an opportunity to hold hands (or if you're lucky, get to second base) under the simulated stars.

Countless critically acclaimed films have made their debuts at the Angelika throughout the years, making it the favorite theater for movie buffs anxious to see the latest Oscar-caliber flick. And while it has the reputation for being more of a specialty and independent film house, it's not afraid to mix in a few movies for mass consumption like Bruno, which is part of why we like the Angelika so much—it's not a snobatorium. And because it's at Mockingbird Station, parking is a breeze and access to shops and restaurants to kill time before and after shows is all within walking distance. Luxury stadium seating, digital sound and a café featuring beer, wine and desserts all create the city's best place to catch a movie, hands down.

Remington has been shooting pictures for a decade, but only in the past two years has he debuted as a professional, making a living showing and selling his unique brand of photography. Mostly surreal landscapes or urban scenes and close-ups of natural objects, his images are often manipulated through long exposures or digital techniques that bring out phantasmagorical colors. His 2009 exhibit at Cathedral of Hope was aptly named Ethereality, but don't be fooled—the beautiful images aren't at all too bizarre for tasteful display. From his vibrant, large-scale orchids to his bright green landscapes and creatively composed architectural shots, Remington's work would transform any space into a welcoming enchantment. His work can be found at Rising Gallery or viewed through a private showing.

East of NorthPark is the easy-to-access, fun-to-shop collection of new stores that offer lots of fashion options for the non-petite woman. While the mall's biggest retailers have taken women's sizes 14-up off their selling floors, Nordstrom Rack has a huge selection of curvy-girl couture at markdown prices. The discount arm of the Seattle-based retailer also is the best place to find size 9, 10 and 11 ladies' shoes on deep discount (seriously, new Cole Haans for $40). Directly across the street in this five-block center is ladies' retailer Lane Bryant, which carries sizes into the 20s, plus the Cacique line of lingerie. Coming soon to the $750 million Park Lane project is Old Navy, which also carries a variety of women's sizes. At least in this shop-to-drop arena, it's hip to have hips.

First, you have to get Gardens. Since 1981 the original place on 35th Street in northwest Austin has been a destination in itself--a showcase for high-end outdoor architecture and new wave plants. The Dallas store, which opened only a year ago, is already a point of entry for people interested in modern garden design--the kind that flows easily in and out of a house, binding the indoors with the out. The Dallas store offers far fewer plants than Austin but more and even better garden-related thingies. "Where else can you find both chocolate and dirt?" manager Kevin Brown asks. It's really a showcase for the landscape architectural services offered by Gardens. In the very back of the store, for example, you will see landscape architect Aimee Weber at her drawing board. She's a product of UT in Austin who did extensive work in Tokyo before coming here. The way to consume it all in one gulp is to attend the store's monthly "neighborhood night"--free wine, refreshments and even occasional garden apparel fashion shows.

Sure—the online boutique community for crafters, jewelry designers, knitters, tailors, bookbinders, vintage sellers and collectors of everything—is a surefire way to kill an afternoon and build up a wish list, but an Etsy Dallas event is even better. Prices are great, the craftsmanship is fantastic, it feels good to support local crafters and you'll still cover everyone on any gift list you might have for the next two years. But the downside is you'll also empty your bank account with little to no effort without some preventive measures. We have a friend keep us from purchasing on the first lap through the show. We spend only cash (even if a booth takes cards). And we buy no more than we can carry on our own person. It's hard, but, well, you gotta leave something for the rest of the shoppers to look at. On the other hand, screw everyone else, retail therapy rocks! The Etsy Dallas Jingle Bash takes place November 21 at Sons of Hermann Hall. Sharp elbows stimulate the economy, people. 

Organic is the least of it for Tom Spicer. He won't sell a tomato, an onion or a potato if it doesn't have the right terroir, a vintner's term for the flavor and quality imparted to the grape by the place where it is cultivated. Who knew potatoes could have terroir? "I taste things down at the farmers market, and I have a bad taste in my mouth for a week," he said, referring to produce that is quick-grown with chemicals. He chooses only produce that tastes of the good Earth, some of which he grows himself on a plot behind his store. He also develops suppliers among small regional farms. Cool place. Staff includes chef Cole Kelly. Spicer's sister is famous New Orleans chef and author Susan Spicer.

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