Wednesday, July 22, 2015

This space has served us so very well, my friends, but new adventures call for new clothes, do they not? The Pickwickians have more in store for you on other shores, so keep a weather eye out for the new home of testaments of our adventuring. How shall you know where to look? Why, by following along with Mr. Pickwick's Weekly Missive. When the ship puts into the next port of call, you will be the very first to know!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Mother's Day Gift Guide 2015

It's hard to believe that Mother's Day has come round once again! It seems as if I was writing last year's gift guide only yesterday. The Pickwickians are back with their recommendations to pamper your mum on her special day. Our motley crew has a diverse group of moms with a wide range of interests and so we have compiled a gift guide for every kind of leading lady in your life.

Lady Pickwick's Pick: For the Mom Who Indulges

Lady Pickwick is forever recommending the Santa Maria Novella apothecary products and sending her guests home with bars of pomegranate soap to try and fall in love with. The oversized "Melograno" Pomegranate Oil and milk bath soap works up a lather that smells beautiful and moisturizes the skin. You'll never want to use another soap. The Olio Cosmetico is even more decadent. This vitamin cosmetic oil is blue with azulene, an active chemical in chamomile flowers, and soothes and treats using a blend of Vitamin F and almond oil. ($32/$80)

Mr. Pickwick's Pick: For the Mom Who Travels
Mr Pickwick is a man of the world and he would never dream of stepping on board the clippers without his Moleskine Voyageur. This notebook is for the consummate traveler and, with purchase, gives the owner access to a world of downloadable content to make your notebook a keeper of tickets, itineraries, maps, and memories! ($24.95)

Penny Dreadful's Pick: For the Mom Who Cooks

Revol Chicken Roasters, porcelain cookware made in France, are as beautiful as they are functional. Available in a range of vibrant colors, they are also oven, freezer, fridge, microwave, and dishwasher safe. Use these roasters for roasting chickens, making casseroles, baking pasta, or just about anything else you can imagine doing in a lidless Dutch Oven! ($70 lg/$22 sm)

Bailiwick's Pick: For the Mom who Imbibes

The Admiral has put together some of his favorite treasures for the mixologist mom. Elderflower Presse is a lightly sweetened British traditional beverage that is lovely by itself or chilled with gin. Bittermilk may be more the speed of the mother who enjoys a touch of the amber. This drink mix is designed to turn any glass of fine whiskey into a Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour. Finally, Mint Julep sugar is a delight in or on the rim of glasses, but can also be used on ice cream or in cooking for an extra kick of curious flavor. 

Thistle's Pick: For the Mom Who Reads

The Penguin Clothbound Classics come in every reader's flavor, from gorgeous Austen tomes to spooky The Woman in White and Dracula to such beloved volumes as Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Come in and pick up your mother's classic of choice and she will treasure her beautiful collectible copy for many rainy days to come. ($20-$30)

Knewton's Pick: For the Mom Who Communes

The New England Curiosities ghost tours begin on May 16th and are sure to be full of ghost seekers and history hunters alike throughout the summer. This year, Pickwick's Mercantile is teaming up with NE Curiosities to make the ghost tours even more delightful and dramatic, adding a touch of Pickwickian flair to the guest experience. Tickets can be purchased/pre-ordered at Pickwick's Mercantile at 64 State Street in Portsmouth! ($10-$15)

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ginsation: Gin Perfumes at Pickwick's

Last week we received a devastating duo of scents at the Mercantile. From the imaginations and sensitive noses of the renegades behind EastWest Bottlers come Moonshine for men and Speakeasy for women, prohibition inspired scents with a touch of rebellious gin at their hearts. Moonshine is clean and bright, a perfect scent for dapper breakers of rules. It opens with smoky confidence, the pop of black pepper seduced down to a whisper by warm tobacco and leather. Gin opens up the heart with a clean profile that brings to mind cool wind through juniper branches, and patchouli runs deep roots into dark earth, bringing it all together. It isn't hard to imagine Moonshine and Speakeasy dancing across a well-worn dance hall floor together. 

Maverick Theater as a speakeasy

Speakeasy is an ode to that new generation of women, gin-slinging, short hair wearing, and unlikely to wait for the man to ask for the dance. It opens as a feminized mirror to Moonshine with pink peppercorn on a bed of white moss, intoxicates with sapphire gin, and then turns the lights down a little bit with patchouli and nutmeg notes that pull no punches. Both are incredible and the Pickwickians are besotted. You will have to come in and sniff.

This new arrival got us to thinking. What other Pickwick's picks have this note, fresh and bright, but heavy with implications?

Tokyomilk's "Gin & Rosewater"

This little bottle packs some serious zing. With a composition of citrus zest, rosewood, mimosa, and mandarin, it goes on fresh and stays fresh throughout its wear life, rosewood sweet and gentle beneath a wave of green. It's a perfect scent to welcome Spring or love through the summer. ($32)

Arquiste's "Architect's Club"

Arquiste came at gin with a sophisticated angle for "The Architect's Club", setting the scene that inspired this concoction as follows:
Cocktail time, March 1930, London.A group of architects gather for cocktails at Mayfair’s smartest Art Deco smoking room. As they settle in the warm interior of dark woods, leather and velvet, London’s bright young things burst in, frosted martinis in hand, surrounded by a cloud of laughter, white smoke and fine vanilla.

Romanced? I am. This scent brought to mind the luxe and naive world of Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited". Sebastian would live in this scent and it would suit him absolutely. This scent features notes such as juniper berry oil, bitter orange peel, the sweet resins of oakwood and vanilla absolute and it is as clean and warm as it sounds. ($190)
Penhaligon's "Juniper Sling"
If beer is German and vodka goes to Russia, then perhaps the Gin & Tonic is the spirited drink of  choice for staid Britannia. Penhaligon's of London, fine perfumers from 1870, pay homage to this idea with Juniper Sling, a men's scent that is at once both bald-faced and mysterious. Spicy with notes of cinnamon, brandy, and juniper, it surprises with sultry brown sugar and black cherry on the dry down. Intoxicating is the right word. ($ 180 )

Tocca's "Colette"

And back to the ladies! Tocca's Colette is a classical women's fragrance, with bergamot, lemon, juniper berry, as well as seductive notes of incense, sandalwood, and cedar. It wears close to the skin and is enticing, but keeps its secrets. Colette would have appreciated it, I think. It is a perfume that says much, but reveals nothing. ($68)

Come in and sample some of these delectable choices for yourself! Take a seat at the perfume bar and we'll serve you a cocktail of fine scents to enjoy- perhaps you will find your seduction of choice among the offerings. And if that doesn't suit you, we have some wonderful new lines for Spring that are approaching as quickly as the season itself (19 days, but we aren't counting). In the meantime, a touch of gin in your tonic is a time-honored New England way of surviving what remains of winter. Stay warm (and smell amazing).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our Valentine to You: All About Victorian Valentines

The Victorians were thoroughly in love with love. The original flower children were part of a time when affairs of the heart were more celebrated and necklines were not so buttoned up and so, of course, Valentine's Day promised great fun for  all. Major paradigm shifts helped this along, including the increasingly common and shockingly modern idea that one could include love in their reasons for entering into holy matrimony. With this new freedom, Victorians devoted enormous energy to sending their dear ones missives worthy of their love. Common practices included hand-painting your own Valentines and rimming them in layers of fine lace, or gifting lockets, small mirrors, or "puzzle purses", origami inspired Valentines that delivered more and more dramatic professions of amour as they were unfolded. Love knots, amorous acrostics, and cheeky riddles abounded.

An early example of a Puzzle Purse, circa 1816
from Victoriana Magazine
The first Valentines to be commercially produced actually hailed from Worcester, Massachusetts (New England, ever a bastion for innovation). The clever and creative Esther Howland, who later came to be known as "The Mother of the Valentine", started making Valentines to order in her home in 1848 and the business venture had explosive popularity, nearly overnight, selling thousand of her handmade Valentines to amorous suitors all over the world. Her business eventually came to make over $100,000 a year, which would come out to just over three million dollars annually in 2015. The enormous success of Howland's Valentines was in no small part due to prepaid postage stamps and the advent of the affordable Penny Post, introduced in 1840 in England and 1847 in the United States. Suddenly, even common folks could  send messages to sweethearts all over the world.

An example of an Esther Howland Valentine
Even our inspiration Charles Dickens gave a nod to the phenomena of the Valentine in his own publication Household Words, describing a post-office awash with confessions and declarations of love as
"sacrifices to the fane of St. Valentine—consisting of hearts, darts, Cupid peeping out of paper-roses, Hymen embowered in hot-pressed embossing, swains in very blue coats and nymphs in very opaque muslin, coarse caricatures and tender verses.”

Victorian Valentines were not limited to sweet nothings or even vaguely lewd suggestion, but were also occasionally used as a platform to shake a finger at someone or completely insult them. They ranged from the playful to the downright nasty. These were known as vinegar valentines and were a common practice throughout the waging of the Civil War, losing steam as one century turned into another. Perhaps it is not a tradition to be missed.

An Esther Howland creation

So this our Pickwick's Mercantile Valentine to you, a little bit of a peek at what inspires our own love of this delightful holiday. I hope that you are out upholding the legacy and spirit of Valentine's Day in your very own way today. You know we'll be at it today, tomorrow, and always!

"A loving heart is the truest wisdom."
- Mr. Charles Dickens


For more seasonally appropriate reading on this fun topic:
The Valentine - a Tribute to Love (Victoriana Magazine)
"Valentine's at the Post Office" by Charles Dickens
"Esther Howland and the American Valentine Industry"
"Love and Derision, or Valentine's Victorian Style"

Monday, February 9, 2015

Galentine's Day: A Gastronomic Love Letter to SASS/A Safe Place

Last Tuesday evening, at 7 o'clock, a wonderful group of diners, male and female, gathered in the upstairs space at Moxy Restaurant on Penhallow Street to enjoy a meal, performances, and raise money for Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) and A Safe Place. We dubbed it "Galentine's Day: A Gastronomic Love Letter to SASS/A Safe Place" The event was sponsored by Lady Pickwick's and we could not be more thrilled with the response. Only five days after beginning to spread the word, we were over-sold for the evening! The time itself was lovely. Chef Matt Louis of Moxy presented dish after mouth-watering dish to the guests, many of whom were first-time visitors of this amazing North American tapas experience. Such special dishes as duck egg, fried goat cheese balls on fresh greens, caviar, and homemade espresso crumble with homemade ice cream delighted diners as the evening passed. All locally sourced and made completely from scratch, I believe it safe to say that it was the first time that many Love Letter attendees had ever enjoyed such a dining experience.

Between the final course and dessert, there was another special treat prepared for our guests. Three lovely ladies from the cast of Back Alley Productions' "The Vagina Monologues" presented their pieces in performances that ranged from the heartbreaking to the hilarious. These three monologues were so excellent that they tempted the palate of everyone as mere teasers for the main event, V-Day Portsmouth and Back Alley Productions' presentation of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" at the Music Hall on February 21st. This is the tenth and final year of this stirring production and the first time it has been presented in the beautiful and historic Music Hall. The proceeds for that event, just as the proceeds for Galentine's Day, will go to support SASS and A Safe Place. It is certain to sell out, so buy your tickets now!

Pickwickians Knate Higgins and Thistle Jones welcome guests to Galentine's Day
Perhaps the most wonderful part of this particular evening was how the community rallied to support it coming to be. Aside from the overwhelming response from our kind dinner guests, so many wonderful sponsors offered their fine product and services so that the maximum amount of funds raised could go directly to SASS and A Safe Place. These sponsors included Moxy, Dole & Bailey, Seaport Fish, New Hampshire Mushroom Company, Emergence Farm, and woman-owned New England Uncorked and Throwback Brewery. 

Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) and A Safe Place are local women's charities that focus on serving and empowering victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Both have served the Seacoast with incredible energy for over thirty years and merged this winter to bring even greater quality assistance to the Seacoast. They do incredible and important work and we were honored to host Galentine's Day in their honor. You can read more about what their work at:

and support them further by attending The Vagina Monologues for V-Day Portsmouth on February 21st at the Music Hall! The Pickwickians will be there and we simply can't wait to see you. Keep an eye on our facebook and this space for more exciting events, like our Love Magick workshop at the end of this month!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: "Pour Les Hommes"

As promised in our Valentine's Day guide for the lady in your life, here is the Pickwickian follow-up, with romantic choices for the gentleman!

Knewton Higgins
Juniper Ridge Trail Crew Wash, $26
Does your sweetheart sport a backpack as comfortably as a business-suit and dream of walking the Appalachian Trail like some folks do of the boardwalk in Miami? Juniper Ridge is made by and for men of darling's ilk. The crew of Juniper Ridge escape into the woods for weeks at a time and emerge loaded down with all natural, wild-gathered and home-extracted essential oils. This crew soap literally smells of an escape into the woods and can even be used safely in rivers and streams. The perfect Valentine's choice for your very own Muir or Bon Iver.

Penny Dreadful
Jimmy Chin x Harry's Kit, $30
Aside from your Valentine, Jimmy Chin is pretty much the most fascinating fellow walking. He hikes, climbs, skis and, most notably of all, photographs. Now he can add design to that list with this collaboration with Harry's. You can read all about our Harry's love on this post from last year and this special collection is no different. Red, yellow, blue- great shaves and as cool as the man behind them.

Lady Pickwick
1740 (Marquis de Sade), $125
The Parisian born Marquis de Sade is one of the most controversial figures in history, a true libertine that shocked and appalled with his sexy escapades and fantasies. This perfume is inspired by his legacy, with a hazy composition that brings to mind red-panelled rooms, damask curtains pooling in shadow, and threads of incense-like smoke coiling in the shreds of light that slip beneath the door-frame. Liquor and leather, davana sensualis, labdanum, patchouli, and the temptation of dry fig.

Thistle Jones
Icons of Men's Style, $30
Gregory Peck, Steve Mcqueen, Yves Saint Laurent, and even John Wayne. If your gentleman is a dapper dress, he will appreciate looking through this book and learning about the trailblazers that made monk shoes and tailored trousers a reality and the perfect simplicity of a white t-shirt and denim a universally acknowledged fact of rogue-ish style.

Mr. Pickwick
Penhaligon's "Lothair", $160
This choice was so clear for Mr. Pickwick that there wasn't even any debate. He hopes Lady Pickwick looks at this list (hello, darling). Penhaligon's of London presents this spectacular fragrance, inspired by the tea ships of yore. How very Portsmouth! This is the object of our obsession at Pickwick's right now, with something for everyone in its many layers. The heart of smoked black tea and fig milk, base of cedar wood, and top notes of grapefruit, salt, and juniper, build the ship before your eyes. There, the deck and there, the cargo- exotic blends of tea and citrus from distant islands, cutting the headiness of wood and its varnish. You will both be transported whenever he wears it.

Admiral Baileywick Candybuttons
Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bitters, $
Baileywick suggests that, while he tries to surprise you with dinner, you surprise him with a Manhattan like never before. These spiced cherry bitters from Woodford Reserve are a favorite among mixology connoisseurs and, topped off with Woodford's equally astounding bourbon cherries? Served next to that rack of lamb you absolutely weren't expecting? Oh yes. You are a good team.

This holiday is all about love so, from everyone here at Pickwick's, we hope you see it from all directions in the next couple of weeks. Love your friends, love your lovers, and love yourself, because you deserve every ounce that comes your way. Happy Valentine's Day!

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Valentine's Day Gift Guide: "Pour Les Dames"

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and we are all in love with love here at Pickwick's. The Pickwickians are excited to offer their top choice for your darling and here is round one, dedicated entirely to the ladies!

Lady Pickwick
Vollers Corset, $205
The Lady is inclined to suggest the only Valentine gift more classic than a heart-shaped box of chocolates- lingerie. Ever the sophisticate, she offers up her favorite piece: a hand-boned corset, made in England, in a delicate blossom shade. Is your sweetheart more daring or perhaps more demure? Black and ivory renditions can be found in the drawers at Lady Pickwick's, as well.

Penny Dreadful
Prize Candle, $25
Sometimes we choose something we would simply like to receive and that is certainly true for Penny Dreadful's choice. Prize Candles smell delightful, are soy, and made in America, but the best part of all lies at the very bottom. In every candle there is a lovely cocktail ring, worth anywhere from $10 to $5,000. Every candle is guaranteed to have one. If she starts burning the ring on Valentine's Day, she will then have a ring to enjoy all year long.

Thistle Jones
Lady Chatterley's Lover, $22
This is the original saucy read. Long before Harlequin began its mighty march across the world, there was D.H. Lawrence's liberated Lady Chatterley, who wiggled her hips onto shelves in 1928. Smart and well-written, this book is as relevant and engrossing now as ever. Not to mention, our lovely Penguin clothbound edition is as striking as its content, a brilliant red with a rising phoenix pattern.

Admiral Baileywick Candybuttons
Bellagio Hot Chocolate, $2 paired with Danish Biscuits, $12
Baileywick's gift is all about cozy comfort. If dinner out is not to her taste, then perhaps dessert in is. Make dinner together, curl up with this silky french vanilla hot cocoa and some biscuits, and choose a favorite movie. Single? This is an equally lovely Valentine's ritual with a dear friend.

Mr. Pickwick
Mason Pearson Hairbrush, $60-$200
The first Valentine's Day gift that Mr. Pickwick ever gave his beloved Lady was a Mason Pearson hairbrush with which to brush her long locks every morning and evening. The first of these beautiful handmade boar hair brushes was made in 1905 by Mason Pearson and they are put together in England with the same attention to detail and quality now as they were then. 

Knewton Higgins; Soothsayer
Tea Infuser Travel Mug in Bloom, $20
Is your sweetheart a tea drinker? We have a wonderful selection of teas available to pair with this sweet, European aesthetic infuser mug. Pickwick's at the Banke offers loose-leaf options from across the pond and this will be function for her desk at work or the breakfast table at home.

Keep an eye on this space for our men's guide on Wednesday evening! And remember...

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