The Book of Taste is a blog & online store curated by Darrin banks. Based in Los Angeles, he offers design services & his posts explore art, entertainment, food, fitness, and fashion.

A TBOT 2016 Best of Retrospective
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Today marks the 365th day of 2016. Typically on this day of reflection, we use our 20/20 vision to assess the past year and set intentions for the new year ahead. More likely than not, in a few hours I’ll be clinking a glass of bubbly before planting a kiss on my partner for good luck while a group of friends stumble through the lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” (why is it that no one can ever remember the words to that damn song? I sing it every year and still have no idea what comes after “Should all acquaintance be forgot”). Needless to say, 2016 has proven to be stranger than fiction in many regards, but I am grateful for every triumph and failure endured. For all of the wackado, 2016 saw the launch of The Book of Taste, a venture that has supplied my life with incredible joy and purpose. Looking back on all the wonderfully creative and inspiring people, places and things I’ve experienced and shared with TBOT readers, it seems nearly impossible to narrow it down to a “best of” list. Hopefully this 2016 TBOT retrospective will be an enjoyable trip down memory lane for all of you. 

Adore Decor 

Succulents

For the majority of us living with limited floor space (or space in general), we have to seek alternatives that realistically make incorporating live plants in our design scheme a possibility.  Planters that can be mounted on the wall are a great solution to this predicament. Perfect for California weather all year round, succulents are often considered a fan-favorite. These desert flowers offer sophisticated beauty to any garden or indoor planter.

wall planters

Get Me Body

paddle board

This year while vacationing in Cape Cod during 4th of July, I got hooked on a great outdoor activity that I can’t wait to do again.  In addition to riding our bikes through the picturesque town of Wellfleet, I absolutely loved paddle boarding at the famous Kettle ponds. There are a number of ponds filled with glacier water scattered throughout the Cape, but Wellfleet is home to the best. Early in the morning when hardly anyone was around, I took the paddle board out on the still water for a meditative glide. I pushed myself along and listened to the water quietly ripple behind me. It’s a great arm and leg workout and requires you to consistently engage your core muscles while maintaining your balance on the board. It quickly became one of my favorite pastimes. 

Mode-ality

Paul Smith Polka Dot

Nowadays, most men think about purchasing a suit when they get married, when they have to attend a wedding or when there is a death in the family. Suit buying has become a reactionary response to an anomalous event that pops up out of nowhere and generally involves procrastination if not scrambling and stress. But there comes a time in a man’s adult life when they need to bite the bullet and invest in a great suit or two, ensuring that no matter the occasion, or however sudden or inconvenient; they are prepared. That time aptly arrived for me this year resulting in the purchase of three Paul Smith suits I absolutely adore and wear on a regular basis—much more than I ever thought I would. 

umbrella suit

Seen & Heard

Art

Huguette Caland

Huguette Caland

Out of all the impressive exhibits I saw this year at a variety of museums and galleries both domestically and internationally, I would have to say that 2016 Made In LA was particularly special. Lauren Davis Fisher’s plaster sculptures isolating the movement of liquid as well as the wood carved totems from Japanese sculptor Kenzi Shiokava were all extremely noteworthy. But it was the paintings and collages of Huguette Caland that captivated me the most. Her work uses the female body in provocative ways that have a playful abandon that I responded favorably to. I always look forward to the Made In LA exhibit because the Hammer assembles a diverse group of artists making work that is often inspired or some how tethered to this city.  

Lauren Davis Fisher 

Lauren Davis Fisher 

Kenzi Shiokava

Kenzi Shiokava

Huguette Caland

Huguette Caland

Huguette Caland

Huguette Caland

Film

la la land

If you were blown away by the artistic genius of writer/director Damien Chazelle present in his Oscar winning film Whiplash, prepare to be floored once again. For those of us nostalgic for the antiquated musical film, over the last 15 to 20 years ( with visionaries like Rob Marshall to thank) we’ve been satiated by movies such as Chicago, Les Miserables and Into the Woods where the glamour and magic of yesterday’s musical traditions are expertly balanced with realistic and contemporary methods of film making. These movies have helped to resurrect the beloved musical film proving that reality with the right amount of song and dance sprinkled in can still draw people to the box office. In my opinion, the latest and greatest installment in this line of reimagined musical story telling—the future of musical film is La La Land

Music

Lemonade

It’s no secret that I’ve been a proud member of the Beehive ever since Ed McMahon tried to crush the hopes and dreams of Beyonce and the rest the Girls Tyme gang on Star Search in 1993. Haters get your juice boxes of haterade ready because here comes the Queen Bey praise!  Say what you will about Mrs. Carter as a person or her adoring fans, I think Lemonade represents an evolution of artistry from a singer that can’t be denied. Beyonce went deeper into her gift this year, stretching herself as a singer, performer and film maker. One giant Givenchy black hat off to you Bey! You did it with your middle finger up in six inch heels and got everyone into formation right behind you.

Television

Chewing Gum

We are definitely in the new golden era of television. Between Amazon, Netflix and all the cable networks consistently pumping out brilliant shows like Transparent, Stranger Things and West World, my DVR is having to resolve recording conflicts on a regular basis. Even network TV produces substantive programming now. The People vs OJ Simpson was a tour de force. But having said all of that, my pick of the year goes to an unexpected, brilliantly clumsy Netflix original series called Chewing Gum. Created by Michaela Cole, she stars in the show as Tracey— a hilarious 24 year old unconventional beauty, learning about the birds and bees through trial and error. New to being sexually active, this Beyonce loving black girl living in low income housing with her overtly religious mother and sister, works at a convenience store in an ethnically diverse community. This comedy shows how the other half lives in merry ole England. Far from the refinement of Downton Abbey, this show is totally irreverent, and at times uncomfortably awkward—leaving you holding your breath and contorting your face with awe and disbelief at what you are witnessing. As the English might say, it leaves you gobsmacked! Watch it! 

The Good Book

A little life

Although I’m an avid reader who loves both fiction and non-fiction equally, I don’t generally review books for TBOT (perhaps I’ll add that to TBOT' New Year’s resolutions) however, this year I read one of the best pieces of literature I’ve come across in recent memory. The book is called A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, the novel became a best seller in 2015 and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and National Book Award. It’s a coming of age story about 4 college friends living in New York from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Even though the pages of this novel are filled with heartbreak and tragedy of unmeasurable magnitude, there is a great deal of humor and hope between the cracks. With the question of nature vs nurture omnipresent I found myself wrestling with the characters and their plights in life as if they were my own conflicts, desires and aspirations. It is beautifully written capturing a truth about the human condition and the internal struggles of the psyche like no other novel I’ve read.  

This Taste So Good

Gwen restaurant
Gwen sign

I’ve had so many delicious meals over the course of this year at some of the best restaurants that LA has to offer, so much so that it seems disingenuous to pick only one. Gun to my head, I’d have to say Gwen Butcher Shop and Restaurant. Gwen is owned by world renowned chef Curtis Stone and his brother Luke Stone. This fine dining establishment is an art deco palace from the glittering chandeliers that hang between the curves of the arched ceiling to the frosted antique gold mirrors in the bathrooms. The restaurant serves a European-style prefix menu featuring delectables such as: premium house-made duck charcuterie, prime cuts of aged Wagyu and ribeye, chestnut agnolotti, creamed endive, celery sorbet and a passion fruit glace. With an extensive cocktail, wine and spirit list boasting rare single-malt scotch and whiskeys, this meal was superb from pretzel bread to glace. I had to give this Hollywood gem a TBOT 9.4.

The Stones

 Wanderlust

New Zealand

I can’t begin to adequately describe the stupefying beauty of New Zealand. With a multitude of waterfalls, volcanoes, beaches, mountains, rainforests and national parks inhabited by spectacular floral and fauna, it’s as if the landscape has been art directed by Jesus himself. The blue of the New Zealand sky is so abnormally vivid there should be a Pantone color named after it. From a blooming flower or flapping bird, to a giant wave crashing against black-sand beaches, or steam escaping from cracks in the pumice rock, at every turn this loamy archipelago offers a new feast for the eyes. For these reasons and many more, I chose my trip to New Zealand as my  travel experience of 2016. 

Darrin on the boat

Book Mark

Prince

I would also like to take the time to acknowledge those leading entertainers and cultural influencers that died in 2016 including: David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Alan Thicke, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds and the incomparable Prince. They left an indelible mark on the world and I thank for them for sharing their gifts. 

#soletitbewritten 

La La Land: A Movie For the Dreamer In All of Us.

La La Land: A Movie For the Dreamer In All of Us.

Five Tbot Favorites From Renegade LA: There's Still Time!

Five Tbot Favorites From Renegade LA: There's Still Time!

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