best bets

From Low-Cal Root Beer to Marlon Wayan’s Favorite Jordans

Photo: SmartSweets

An all-over-the-place assortment of stood-behind products culled from this very website that appear in the March 27 issue of New York Magazine.

Best in Class

The Best Bad Bulb

Most LED bulbs make everything look … well, bone-chillingly awful. And in a few months, when incandescents are banned, they’ll be our only option. So Strategist writer Erin Schwartz spoke to architects, designers, and LED enthusiasts to find the best lightbulb in a sea of bad options — ideally, one that’s dimmable and affordable (in the past, they’ve been neither) and casts an actually bearable, pleasant glow. For a standard screw-in bulb that mimics the warmth of incandescent light, our experts say the Philips LED Dimmable A21 Soft-White Lightbulb is the top choice. It has a five-year life span, is dimmable (but doesn’t buzz or flicker), and manages to emit a soft-white glow that Schwartz says is “cooler than the old-school halogen burning in my living room yet still warm enough to make the previous bulb, an inexpensive Feit Electric LED, seem gray and clammy.”

This Thing’s Incredible

I Only Drink Tall Boys of This Diet Root Beer

A longtime mission in my life is finding the best diet root beer. That ineffable mix of vanilla, licorice, and wintergreen flavors, a little bit of anise or nutmeg, perhaps — it’s a liquefied spice cake of a drink. Despite its being an East Coast invention, I’ve found it difficult to obtain a quality root beer in Brooklyn. Diet Barq’s was my favorite until recently, when I was introduced to Sprecher’s Low-Cal Root Beer. It goes down like velvet but has the gentlest sparkle on the tongue. The sweetness (and the 45 calories) comes from “pure Wisconsin honey,” whatever that means, but it tastes less artificial than others. According to the Sprecher website, a mysterious brewmaster “combines a host of flavors in a gas-fired brew kettle, then ages it just long enough to achieve peak flavor.” Yum! The only downside is it’s not easy to find. I’ve been ordering it from the brewery’s website, where a 12-pack goes for $32. This price may seem exorbitant, but the soda comes in 16-ounce cans. So I suppose it is more bang for my buck, and Sprecher is worth it. –Leah Finnegan

Celebrity Shopping

Rob Lowe’s Motivational Water Bottle

“This is my baby. On set, they’ll be like, ‘Where’s the baby? Has anybody seen Rob’s baby?’ If I’m being good, I get through one a day. It’s very durable; it’s reusable. It has cute delineations: Keep drinking! You’re doing great! And they do help me realize if I’m on pace or behind.”

Jinkx Monsoon’s Spell Book 

“For me, witchcraft works as an extension of therapy. I like to look up a spell to help with what I’m going through. I put my attention and focus into that spell, and it takes away my anxiety. I have a ton of spell books, but I always start with The Element Encyclopedia — it points me in the direction of which book I need next.”

Marlon Wayans’s Jordans 

“I always told myself I’d work hard enough to afford a pair of Jordans. Now I own about 1,200 sneakers. Out of all of them, the OG Jordan 1’s in black and red are my favorite. I’ve been performing in them since I started. No matter how sick or tired I am during a show, I’ll look down at my Jordans and feel like I can be the best version of me. I give it my all.”

Steal My Registry

What L’Appartement 4F Co-owner Ashley Coiffard Got for Her Wedding 

“Laguiole makes the best knives. Gautier, my husband, told me they used to put a Band-Aid in with the knives because they’re so sharp.
And they come in such a beautiful wooden box.”

[Editor’s note: These knives are currently out of stock, but Food52 expects they’ll be back in stock on April 14. You can sign up for restock notification on the product page.]

“I originally wanted Rinka plates, but they’re really expensive. These are way cheaper, also made in Japan, and have the fluting detail. They’re super-durable and dishwasher safe.”

“They’re very vintage- feeling: I love that they have the ribbing and that they have the stem. And they are very, very sturdy.”

Our Shopping Cart

We Found a Laundress Alternative

For anyone looking for a fancy detergent that won’t irritate your skin, this is it. I’ve been buying Dirty Labs’ signature scent for about six months now, and I’ve noticed fewer eczema flare-ups and random rashes since making the switch from Tide Free & Gentle. Even if that’s purely coincidental, this stuff makes my clothes smell so good. It has an earthy and slightly floral scent that is never overpowering. It’s also better for the environment, since it’s completely biodegradable (which isn’t the case for most detergents). Arielle Avila

Gifts They’ll Actually Want

Easter-Basket Ideas for Every Type of Kid

Easter baskets are the Christmas stockings of spring, and there’s an art to filling them with a variety of delightful surprises and practical goodies without overspending, whether you’re shopping for a toddler, an 8-year-old, a full-fledged teen, or all three. As both a parent of two kids and a Strategist editor whose job involves thinking about gift-giving all day long, I deeply understand this challenge, so I’ve compiled a list of excellent Easter-basket fillers for every type of kid. –Jen Trolio

Baby Baggu
$36 for 3
$36 for 3

For someone in college, make a “basket” out of a Baggu: Fill it with their favorite snacks and send them back to school with a new bag that is as good-looking as it is functional.

Our top pick for best instant camera comes in five colors and is a wonderful (if splurgy) Easter gift for a tween or teen.

$19 for 6

Ward off candy overload with these Swedish Fish doppelgängers from SmartSweets that contain just three grams of sugar per serving.

Use this bike basket to present the Easter gifts, then buckle it to their handlebars so they can haul a water bottle and snack.

I like smaller LEGO sets that tuck nicely into a basket and don’t take long to build. This bunny-and-carrot duo is right on theme.

Crayola My First Palm Grip Crayons
$16 for 6
$16 for 6

These egg-shaped crayons help develop fine motor skills, but they’re also nice for a child who tends to be rough with traditional crayons.

Retail Secrets

Everything Worth Buying at J.Crew, According to J.Crew Employees

J.Crew has gone through many phases, and it’s continuing to evolve with Noah co-founder Brendon Babenzien at the helm. But there are some facts about shopping at J.Crew that have stood the test of time. Here, employees share their tips. –Chloe Anello


Men’s sweaters are just … better than women’s

There’s no scientific proof here, but the associates I spoke with think the men’s sweaters are made better. They feel thicker, more focused on material than style.


Stretchy Camerons are the best work pants

Work pants were the second-most- recommended item by the associates I consulted, with the Cameron in “four- season stretch” being the favorite. Made with an elastane blend, they have a forgiving fit and relaxed feel without looking sloppy.


Stock up on Tissue Turtlenecks

It’s an excellent base layer for winter dressing that comes in nearly two dozen vibrant colors, neutrals, and seasonal patterns, and the lightweight shirt looks flattering on most body types — it even goes up to a 3X.

This Thing’s Incredible

Skateboarder Dickies Are the Only Pants I Want to Wear 

I bought my first pair last summer while searching online for medium-blue pants that weren’t jeans; they’re made from the brand’s signature twill, a tightly woven, rigid fabric composed of 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton. They quickly became my favorite pants — plausibly nice enough to wear out or to work, slouchy and crisp in the right places. They’re a dusty blue, the color of antique Levi’s found in abandoned mine shafts. The pants hang nicely over pretty much any shoe, from Vibram-soled Chelsea boots to chunky dad sneakers. Recently, I caved and bought a second pair, in black. Since they arrived, a pair of black Carhartt jeans that never fit quite right have languished at the bottom of the drawer. Erin Schwartz


A Serving Dishes Matrix

Platters and bowls at every price point.

Bowl, under $100.

[Editor’s note: This serving bowl is currently sold out, but you can see other Porta serving bowls here.]

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

From Low-Cal Root Beer to Marlon Wayan’s Favorite Jordans