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Queens Chronicle

2018 Valentine’s Day gift and travel guide

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Posted: Monday, February 5, 2018 10:30 am

Finding the right Valentine’s Day present for someone special is never an easy chore. Here are some gift ideas that should add a touch of romance not just on Feb. 14 but any time of the year.

You cannot think of Valentine’s Day without thinking of flowers, and it’s hard to think of flowers without thinking of 1-800Flowers, the company founded and still run by Woodside native Jim McCann. While floral arrangements such as the “Follow Your Heart Bouquet” and “Magnificent in Marquis by Waterford Vase” are still the company’s main sources of income, it has expanded its lines to include food gift baskets and oversized teddy bears. Teleflora is 1-800’s leading competitor.

Jewelry is another romantic gift staple and comes in all price points. Manhattan retailer Roman & Sunstone (romansunstone.com) has one of the largest collections of high-quality costume jewelry. Their products are also sold at Target. Photographer Anne Geddes (annegeddes.com) has expanded her artistic talent into jewelry design and her line of pearl pendants and earrings are in the $140-$200 range. Dune Jewelry (dunejewelry.com) makes stylish thin bracelets in both rose and yellow gold that cost a reasonable $60. Ritani.com is known for its fine jewelry that come in all price points and for all occasions such as your first gift to that special person to engagement rings.

Men are being catered to by jewelers as well. Esquire Magazine has expanded over the years into lines of clothing and now the company is making men’s bracelets. Pranga & Company (pranga.co) is a leading producer of cuff links.

Watches are the most popular form of jewelry because they are utilized by both sexes and you can find a quality timepiece for just about any budget. Timex, Swatch, and Little Neck’s own Armitron, produce plenty of timepieces for less than $125. Forest Hills High School alum Lawrence Leyderman created his own watch company, Chronspire (chronspire.com), that produces chronometers that rival Tag Heuer, Tissot, and Omega but at a fraction of their cost. Woodside’s iconic Bulova also makes fashionable and durable watches in the $400 to $800 range.

Handbags and totes are always useful. Flushing native Crystal Kodada (crystalkodada.com) is a newcomer to the high-end leather handbag business but her line tends to be a bit larger in size than most of her competitors and there are a lot of zippered compartments for secured storage. Deux Lux has handbags, totes and weekend duffels that range from $100 to $150. A new company, the Handbag Raincoat (handbagraincoat.com), has ponchos that fit over a handbag to keep them dry and protected on a rainy day.

Cosmetics are tricky items for guys to purchase for women for a number of reasons. If you know which shade the lady in your life loves then you can’t go wrong with lipsticks from Ulta Lip Gloss, Be Yu, Hard Candy, NVEY Eco, Essence, Shiseido, Mineral Fusion, Kiko Milano and especially Sephora.

These days skin care products have become almost as popular for men as they are for women. With good jobs tougher to find as we age, no one wants to look older than they have to, even those who aren’t the slightest bit vain. In addition, everyone is more aware of the dangers of the sun than they even were just a few years ago. Moisturizers, serums and sun-fighting products from CeraVe, Columbia Skin Cares and the humorously-named Kiss My Face, are all recommended.

Kiehl’s, which has been around since 1851, makes a ton of skin products including its Ultra Facial Cream. For those who have the time to invest in looking as youthful as possible, Tammy Fender (tammyfender.com) has an entire at-home regiment kit for the truly dedicated. Masks are popular for all who are truly serious about eradicating wrinkles. Perricone MD Cocoa Moisture Mask and Total Results Miracle Creator Mask are two well-respected products in this ever-growing industry.

Hair care is a multibillion dollar industry. Evolis (evolisprofessional.com) has quickly gotten the attention of salon professionals with its shampoos, conditioners and activator serums that make hair look thicker, fuller and stronger. Its products help eradicate the FGF5 protein that blocks and eventually destroys follicles so the company strongly believes that they can help regrow hair and a number of dermatologists have concurred.

Men have been taking an increasing market share in the fragrance industry. Ralph Lauren’s Polo Eau de Parfum Valentine’s Day and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb gift sets are safe choices. Other high-quality men’s colognes are Dior Sauvage and Coach for Men, which are available at Ulta. Former Jackson Heights resident and now, LA transplant Tara Durkin has an excellent men’s fragrance called Dossage 8.

There are obviously thousands of perfumes for women. You won’t go wrong in the perfume world with Revlon’s Love Is On Eau de Toilette or Elizabeth Arden’s Always Red. Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb gift set includes parfum, shower gel and body cream. Other perfume brand options are Marc Jacobs Daisy Twinkle and SJP Stash Unspoken which can be purchased at ulta.com.

Valentine’s Day, like Halloween, is a day when barring serious health issues, we can look the other way when it comes to sugar consumption. Godiva and See Candies make tasty chocolates but I have to admit to a special fondness for Ghirardelli’s peppermint bark and caramel squares. Vermont Nut-Free Chocolates (vermontnutfree.com) is perfect for anyone who might have allergies to nuts of any kind.

Cheryl’s (cheryls.com) has a Valentine’s Day gift box of its popular cookies while Harry & David’s has gift baskets of its popular Moose Munch popcorn as well as its many other confections.

For the spirits industry, Valentine’s Day ranks just behind New Year’s Eve in terms of sales numbers. Liqueurs such as Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur, Baileys Old Irish Creme, Baileys Salted Caramel, and Baileys recent creation, Strawberries & Cream, and Kahlua are terrific dessert aperitifs. If you are looking for a cocktail that is a tad less sweet try Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Bitter.

Sparkling wines as France’s Lillet Rose and Italy’s Prosecco DOC Consortium are also synonymous with romance. If you want a slight sweet touch to somewhat harder alcohol try Smirnoff Wild Honey Vodka and Balvenie Caribbean Cork.

If you prefer smooth over sweet, Glenfiddich 12, Macallan, Usquaebach and Johnnie Walker Black Label (the Blue Label will cost you over $200) are great options in the scotch whisky market. Tequila aficionados can’t go wrong with Milagro Silver, Don Julio, or if you really want to go high end, try Tequila Avion. Blue Nectar Reposado Special Craft Tequila will remind many of a cognac because of its sweetness. A great mid-priced tequila that comes with terrific packaging for gifting is Patron Silver. Bacardi’s Gran Reserva 8 Anos is a very easy-to-imbibe rum. If you prefer a Japanese rice-based clear wine, try Ty Ku Sake and its newest flavor, Ty Ku Sake Coconut.

Red wine not only goes with a romantic meal but according to a lot of medical research also offers cardiac benefits. California produces a lot of fine and affordable wines in the $15 to $50 range. Among the fine reds from the Golden State that you can select from are Josh Cellars North Coast Reserve cabernet sauvignon, Dreaming Tree Crush (Dreaming Tree’s owner is rock guitarist Dave Matthews), Clos du Bois cabernet sauvignon, BR Cohn cabernet sauvignon 2014, Simi Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon, and Woodbridge by Mondavi Merlot. For those wanting to spend a little more on a California red, Michael Mondavi’s Animo cabernet sauvignon retails for $85.

If you are looking for a true bargain, Chile’s Gato Negro cabernet sauvignon retails for around $5 and it tastes better than American budget wine brands as Yellowtail and Barefoot. Staying with international wines, Lucente from Italy’s famous Tuscany region is a merlot-Sangiovese blend whose vintage is from 2015 and it retails for around $30.

Searching for an inexpensive white wine? Give Barone Fini pinot grigio a shot.

In my opinion, pinot noir is the king of varietals because of its smooth and full body taste. Among the better California pinot noir brands are Castle Rock, Mark West Black, Woodbridge by Mondavi and Josh Cellars. Chile is now becoming a pinot noir player Vina Pedro 1865 pinot noir 2014. I have to admit though that my favorite pinot noir brand, Benton-Lane, comes from the state just north of California, Oregon.

If you want to go off the beaten path, North Carolina’s Old North State Winery has a semi-sweet red in honor of Ozone Park native Cindy Lauper’s signature hit, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Opening wine bottles can be frustrating. Rabbit’s Automatic Electric Corkscrew and Coravin’s Wine Preserver, which allows you to pour wine without ever removing the cork, are two very good solutions.

Lands End created a line of red products and clothing for February 2nd’s “Wear Red Day.” A portion of the sales proceeds for these products are earmarked for the American Heart Association. All of these items will be available through Valentine’s Day. UnTUCKit makes shirts and blouses that are designed to hang loose as opposed to being nestled behind a belt. Minnie Rose (minnierose.com) has slippers with romantic sayings for both guys and girls.

Sunglasses are as necessary in winter when the sun’s rays are indirect, particularly in the late afternoon, as they are in the summer. Carrera makes stylish aviators for both men and women. Covry Eyewear (shopcovry.com) has retro style shades including the kind that Marilyn Monroe favored.

Bedding is crucial for both getting a good night’s sleep and romance. Farmingdale-based Bedgear makes high-quality pillows, sheets, and blankets.

Here are some ideas for what would be the Valentine’s Day equivalent of stocking stuffers. Candles help set a romantic mood and Chesapeake Bay Candle’s Love & Passion and LAFCO’s Duchess Peony (lafco.com) will accomplish that mission. Fresh’s Sugar line of lip products (fresh.com) will help prevent chapping and dryness. Since sweet products are Valentine’s Day essentials, why not pick up Bosco syrups that can be used to make milk into a dessert or as a key ingredient for sundaes? If you or your partner wear a lot of glasses, either prescription or sunglasses, then you know storing them safely and in an organized manner is rarely easy. OYObox (oyobox.com) solves this problem by making artisan boxes that are designed to hold numerous pairs of glasses.

New York City, for all of its hustle-bustle, has always had a romantic side. A dinner cruise on World Yacht or Spirit is always a memorable and enjoyable evening. You should purchase a CityPASS or New York Pass if you want to see a lot of points of interest in a short amount of time. Pretend to be a tourist and go up to the 86th floor Observation Deck of the Empire State Building.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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