The Achilles Project/Persephone

Last week I visited Boston's latest hot spot, The Achilles Project, and its adjoining restaurant, Persephone. Sadly, they did not quite live up to the hype.

Billed as the first of its kind for Boston and "destined to become a shopping and dining destination" in the Fort Point area, it's a combination retail (Achilles Project) and dining (Persephone) experience in one cavernous room.

Upon entering the establishment from Summer Street, one's faced with an upscale boutique reminiscent of New York City. Moveable display cases (which are slid back against the walls late night to open up the lounge area) contain "limited run" clothing and accessories from high-end brands like Jovovich-Hawk and Acne (unfortunate name, I know). Overly-eager shop keeps are quick to offer their services, plus commentary on the inventory (which includes options for both women and men, but only one of each item on the racks; more sizes are available from out back). Above the racks hang a couple of flat panel monitors where guests can play Guitar Hero or Wii (the shop keeps themselves were playing while I was there).

Achilles

Just beyond the retail area is the bar/lounge, with its unbelievably bright, fluorescent lights. I like my restaurants & bars dimly lit, so this was a big turnoff for me. One might even say the ultra-bright lights were the Achilles' heel of the whole place. But it has a full bar, serving beer, liquor and wine, plus the obligatory specialty cocktail menu. We opted for wine while waiting for our table, and wondered why they chose to run black & white old movies on the flat panels above the bar (vs. something more modern, given the nature of the space).

Persephone_bar

The bar opened onto Persephone, the restaurant presumably named after the Greek Goddess of the harvest, and helmed by head chef Michael Leviton of Newton's Lumiere. It's described as local, organic, and American, but the meal preparations, menu items (shellfish bouillabaisse, veal shoulder, beef marrow) and minimalist dining room are reminiscent of a French bistro. Similar to the mobile display cases out front, the dining tables are on tracks and can slide together or apart to accommodate groups of various sizes.

Persephone_dining

The meal was good, but not over-the-top memorable. We started with warm, fresh bread (yum) and the Jamon Iberico - a platter of serrano ham, manchego cheese, marcona almonds and olives, a plate I would normally drool over. Sadly, the ham didn't have much flavor, and the entire dish was a bit too oily. Our  entrees (skirt steak, grilled chicken with pine nuts and capers) were very good, as was the creme brulee we shared for dessert, but not much different from those available at a number of other spots around town (with the exception that Persephone reportedly uses all local ingredients, which is nice).

Overall, I really like the concept - I just think they need to make some tweaks to become the feverishly stylish hot spot it wants to be.


I'm Back...and at AJ Wright

OK, it's been awhile since I've blogged. Sorry...it has been a busy few weeks!

But yesterday I dropped into the local AJ Wright on the hunt for something to wear to tonight's Ugly Sweater Party (more on that later) and came across this:
Stephanierogerstop
No, I wasn't drawn to the clever snowmen on the front, and it wasn't sufficiently ugly for the party - it was the label that caught my eye. Take a closer look:
Stephanierogerslabel

Yes - I stumbled upon an item from the Stephanie Rogers clothing line!  And at a cool $15, my namesake top was surely - as AJ Wright puts it - "the Deal for Real."


Genie Pants

Mchammer NO WAY.

The genie pants that MCHammer made (in)famous in the 80s are making a comeback.

I think Marc Jacobs was the first to horrify by unveiling his line of billowy short pants on the catwalk last Fall, and again at Fashion Week earlier this month (where even the skinniest of models look pear-shaped in these things).Marc_jacobs

Now I see that the Victoria's Secret catalogue has unveiled genie pants for the masses:
Genie1_2Genie2_1

Please, someone put this genie back in the bottle!


BrowseGoods.com

A Cambridge-based start up called  Dotted Pair just launched a new shopping site called BrowseGoods.com that is based on a unique visual search interface. Check it out:

Browsegoods1_1

Browsegoods_1

If I select shoes, I'm presented first with different categories upon which I can drill down to a screen full of shoe images.

Every page offers pan and zoom similar to Google Earth and Map applications. It's designed to replicate the experience of shopping in a store, where products are organized by department/aisle/shelf/item.

While most ecommerce sites are designed for direct searches (not browsing), Dotted Pair notes that  twenty-five percent of offline purchases occur through undirected browsing, and shoppers who start their searches by exploring constitute a large and under-served market on the Web.

I mistakenly thought this was an Amazon.com beta application, but have since learned that Amazon is simply the first (of many?) affiliate partner for the site. It's currently limited to shoes, toys, sports, and watches, but hopefully will grow to include other categories.


Thank *You*, Cole Haan

On this, the largest shopping day of the year, I want to highlight one particular retailer who's doing it right.

I visited the Cole Haan store on Newbury Street recently and purchased a lovely pair of shoes. While trying them on, I had casually mentioned to the sales woman that they would look particularly nice with a certain dress I own. I proceeded to pay for the shoes and left the store.

Soon thereafter I received a postcard in the mail from that very saleswoman. It said, "Stephanie, Thank you for shopping with us...I hope the shoes worked well with the dress. Let me know if there's anything else I can do."

Cole_haan Such a simple gesture, with such a big impact.

I received a similar note from the Coach store in Copley Place when I purchased an item there earlier in the year.

I have to hand it to these big, so-called masstige retailers that have been able to deliver quality goods on a mass scale and still maintain a personal touch.

For a 30-second investment at the register, plus the cost of postage, they made a positive brand impact and generated true word of mouth.

And ok, fine...I'll come back and buy more things soon (like they really needed to send the postcard for that to happen!)


SunTrap Handbag

Designer Rosanna Kilfedder was inspired by her girlfriends (digging for car keys in the dark abyss of their handbags) to create the SunTrap Handbag. The bag, which has a battery sewn into the lining,  lights up when opened and remains lit for 15 seconds (or until the bag is zipped closed again). A flexible, solar side panel keeps the battery charged with normal everyday use; the battery can also be used to recharge wireless devices like a mobile phone.

Suntrap_handbag The bag will be on exhibit at Wired NextFest, a four-day festival showcasing innovations in communication, design, entertainment, health, transportation, security, and green living. It takes place September 29 thru October 1 in New York City.


PlanetLuLu.com

Of course I clicked on this banner ad, since it prominently displays the name of my favorite French Bulldog. Doyoululu_1 

And lo-and-behold, it's a shopping site (another one of my favorite things!). A clearing house, to be exact...full of top designer labels at 50% off retail.

But WAIT...the online store is only open 3 days a month...and it's by invite only.

So until then, check out LuLu's MySpace profile. This girl has taste! Besides shopping, she lists Hotel Costes and Breakfast at Tiffany's among her faves.