Poet Dorothy Parker once scorned her lover's gift of "one perfect rose." Perhaps her boyfriend's mistake was not going to Buchanan's to buy his present. The beautiful Heights plant-and-flower shop offers so many different types of roses it would have been hard for him to stop at just one. The shop, staffed with knowledgeable flower lovers, offers everything from hearty, disease-resistant antique roses to the more finicky but beautiful hybrid teas, known for their large flowers and strong scent. Reasonably priced (some roses sell for just $10.99 a gallon), the offerings include every color you can think of, from red to white to purple. Buchanan's is also in regular communication with the Houston Rose Society, a group of locals in love with the popular plant, so you know it's got its fingers on the pulse of the rose world.
Owner Scott Spencer renamed his store, formerly Wines of America, because the name no longer reflected his product offerings. This little gem of a wine shop carries selections from all over the world and reflects what you can do with your shelves when you have limited space but excellent taste. Chat with the knowledgeable staff. Ask questions. Is the Aussie shiraz still as sweet as it once was? What are some of the better vineyards of the Rhône region? Who makes a high-quality yet affordable Pouilly-Fuissé? What's new in Chile? Better yet, ask the staff what they've been drinking lately. By all means, take their recommendations. These folks know their grapes and want to wake up the oenophile in you.

With a full-time cheese buyer who spends most of her time visiting local farms worldwide, a full-time department head, and a full-time cheesemonger who may spend 15 to 20 minutes with a customer helping him match up the perfect cheese-and-wine combination, it's easy to see how Central Market manages to stock nearly 700 different cheeses. Each cheese department employee is passionate about one thing and one thing only: cheese from all over the world. Here, you'll not only find a delicious Spanish manchego, you'll find four different kinds. Dutch Gouda comes in seven varieties, many from small artisanal suppliers. The Parmigiano-Reggiano is made especially for Central Market in Italy. Their supply of raw-milk cheese is unsurpassed in the city. Most of their cheeses arrive in bulk and are individually cut and wrapped by hand, with a two-week shelf life, after which they are removed from sale. With the resurgence of fondue parties and the fact that many people are rediscovering the simple elegance of wine-and-cheese parties, they don't have to remove a lot from the racks unpurchased.

Eleanor Roosevelt's solitaire came from Tiffany's; Dennis Oppenheim created a sculpture in New York based on their engagement ring designs; George Peppard had a plastic ring from a box of Cracker Jack engraved by them in the classic Breakfast at Tiffany's. Since 1837, these experts have been dealing in rings and diamonds and little blue boxes with white ribbon. There is no known account of a woman declining a proposal accompanied by that box. Pricey? Certainly. But she's worth it.

Jeff Balke
Humble Oil founder W.W. Fondren never imagined his 1923 home would become one of the finest little luxury hotels in the world. But hey, this is Houston; we could have torn it down. Luckily, Steve Zimmerman not only retained the mansion's elegance but also added the 8,000-square-foot Grand Salon de la Comtesse. Plight your troth beneath circa-1730 carved panels that once graced the greatest hall in Europe. With excellent modern French cuisine and Old World service, you'll feel like you're marrying royalty. Whether amorous or just tipsy, wedding couples don't have far to go to reach the honeymoon suite. Six rooms just up the stairs house antiques, private dining rooms, marble bathrooms and king-sized beds.

Built in 1925, the Warwick is another of those rare Houston gems from time gone by. Old World elegance combined with a recent face-lift make for splendid accommodations: fabulous rooms, a great lobby and the most informed concierge in town, plus the elegant Hunt Room, with its marble fireplace and great steaks. The 12-story structure abuts Hermann Park and the Texas Medical Center. It's a location convenient to airports, the Galleria and downtown that feels secluded thanks to the grand old oaks of the Museum District. Bob Hope once called the view from the penthouse the most beautiful in the world. Who are we to argue with that?
Bob Lemmon's massage room is a magical mini-oasis. There are fountains, mystical music, candles, incense and Bob. Bob is the best part. This man's hands will drain every ounce of stress out of any body. His regimen includes oils, hot rocks, soothing lavender lotion, even warm water poured over your feet. Talk or remain silent, whichever you choose. His hands know exactly where to knead, where to rub gently and where the tension is greatest. And Bob doesn't stick to time limits. He didn't stop when time was up, but went on for two and a half hours. The man is an angel, truly. You leave feeling not only relaxed and destressed but loved. Every single person on the planet deserves an hour of Bob.
This amazing old structure, built in 1898, is lovingly restored and chock-full of Victorian charm. Yes, it's a little foofy; don't check in if your idea of luxury is the downtown Hyatt. This luxury is of a different, softer sort. Stroll over (yes, you can stroll in Houston) to one of the many restaurants in the Montrose, or just lie on your bed and marvel at how many different patterned fabrics can appear in one room. The Robin is a great place to get away from it all for Houston dwellers and out-of-towners alike.
Nestled between Origins and Victoria's Secret, Sephora is the Never-Never Land of beauty. Grab a basket for help-yourself makeup shopping. The first thing you encounter when you walk into the store is two walls of perfume, listed alphabetically. It's daunting even to a product whore. The selection of makeup is nothing less than miraculous. Christian Dior, Shu Uemura, Terrax, Shiseido, Benefit, Kneipp's bath products -- and that's just a small sampling. The most prized product is the line N.V. Perricone M.D., formulated by the doctor who authored The Wrinkle Cure. You can also buy Urban Decay and Anna Sui makeup, and a Japanese skin-care line whose main ingredient is sake. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable but not intrusive. And they encourage you to try things on; everywhere are mirrors, tissues and applicators. We suggest you bring only cash. Going over the limit is way too easy here.
If your goal is to experience the luxury and selection of the Galleria but to avoid the insane parking and crowds, then check out Highland Village. All of the staples are there: the Gap, Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret and, of course, Starbucks. But the area also includes fine apparel stores such as Tootsies, Cole-Haan and the always cool Anthropologie, where you will find clothes, bath products, rosebud lip salve, rugs and bedding. The shopping center also is home to James Avery, a reasonably priced, high-quality jewelry store that carries classic cross pendants and heaps of charms -- everything from frogs to the Texas seal. If you get hungry, grab a bite at P.F. Chang's, or if you have a fatter wallet, Anthony's. After eating, explore Pottery Barn, the store we know Martha Stewart loves. Norton Ditto is close by if you need a "gentleman's clothier since 1908." After a fulfilling day of shopping, stop by Omaha Steaks and buy some filet mignon to throw on the grill at home.

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