Matthew Biancaniello is a mad, mad mixologist with a bent for foraged ingredients: wood sorrel, mugwort, wild mustard, stinging nettles, black sage, and white mulberries. One of his latest obsessions is candy cap mushrooms, which he’ll use to infuse sherry or bourbon. “I love to use the bourbon to make a Manhattan,” says Biancaniello. Or he’ll mix candy cap sherry with curry-infused elderflower liqueur, tangerines and lovage. What’s so special about candy caps? It’s actually quabalactone III. That’s the recently discovered compound that gives candy cap mushrooms their distinct maple or butterscotch aroma, the quality for which they’re coveted. After nearly three decades of research, Humboldt State University chemist William Wood last year identified quabalactone III in candy caps, only present when they’re dried (the result of an amino acid reaction). They’re almost always used dried, in the same way you might use saffron or vanilla pods. The name quabalactone is derived from the scientific name for the Mexican tree rosita de cacao, Quararibea funebris, whose flowers contain the same compound and were used by the Aztecs to flavor chocolate drinks. For Biancaniello’s quabalactone-fueled sherry, place an ounce of dried candy cap mushrooms and a bottle of fino or oloroso sherry in a covered container and let infuse for at least a week (two is better), then strain. Sipped straight, it’s a mycologist’s dream after-dinner drink.
From cufflink boxes to duffels, to belts and gloves and briefcases, Pickett offers a dizzying array of fine leather accessories. All of Pickett’s leather goods are thoughtfully designed and handmade in England. Though many items are available in a variety of colors (including less traditional hues like violet, lime green, or baby blue) Pickett designs are simple and classic, echoing the traditions of much older marks. Founded in 1988 by Trevor Pickett, the house prides itself on maintaining the highest level of craftsmanship and offers furnishings to complete every gentleman’s wardrobe. A selection of Pickett goods, including their leather bound flasks, games, and journals, are available exclusively in Los Angeles at ALTAI.
Born in 1981, German-Danish designer Gesa Hansen lives in Paris. Raised in a family of architects, carpenters, and designers, Hansen went on to study at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany and the University of Arts in Nagoya, Japan. Before founding her own design house in 2009, Hansen spent time at the venerable Nippon Design Center, one of Japan’s largest design firms, and worked with Jean Nouvel and H5 in France. Hansen’s low-key, high-concept work reflects the various places where she has lived. Melding elements of the rustic Danish vernacular, the disciplined creativity of the German design tradition, the humble elegance of Japanese design, and the urbane whimsy of contemporary Parisian style, Hansen ties these influences together with strong lines and simple forms.
Hansen’s furniture is made at the highest level of craftsmanship. Primarily made of oak, every Hansen Family piece is handcrafted from wood sourced in German forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council for environmental sustainability. The wood is selected with great care and worked with equal attention to color, texture, and grain. Hansen’s practice allows elegance to emerge from her materials. Recalling Herman Miller designs from the 1950s, Hansen’s forms have strength and heft without being burly or overbuilt. Her pieces are a laid back and a little bit down home while also being polished and grown up. Adding color here and there, Hansen deploys bright hues to add humor and fun without diminishing her work’s seriousness, often using a palette that recalls the graphic punch of design from the later 1970s.
Already the recipient of numerous design awards for her furniture, Hansen has also worked on graphic design projects and has collaborated with Kitsune, Surface to Air, Steven Harrington and now ALTAI. In 2011, she opened Hansen Feutry Interior Design with Pascaline Feutry. The Hansen Family furniture is available exclusively in Los Angeles at ALTAI.