Twin Cities' Best Splurges

From affordable luxury items to over-the-top splurges

Maserati and Model
photo by chad holder, styling by jahna peloquin, model katie lietz, hair & makeup by shannon darsow, location the saint paul hotel

Worth the Splurge!

You’ve been good this year, haven’t you? Good enough to deserve a $50 million Monet—or a least a $24 brownie sundae? If you’re not ready to spend, it’s still fun to dream about swank style, fabulous food, unmatched experiences, and premium products. And so we bring you 54 unique ideas for treating yourself or those you love.

Worth the Splurge Jewelry
Photo by TJ Turner; Rings, top to bottom: Alex Sepkus 18k gold, aquamarine, and diamond ring, $10,120 @ Max’s,; antique Art Deco diamond and sapphire ring, $25,000 @ JB Hudson Jewelers,; antique Art Deco ruby and diamond ring, $9,125, and modern Art Deco diamond and sapphire ring, $15,800, both @ Filigree Jewelers,; Aaron Henry mixed-stone and 18k gold rings, $3,415–$3,365 each @ Max’s

Swank Style

Designer Fashion (Women)

Nordstrom is the premiere local source for elite global fashion brands with distinct, luxe style. At the Mall of America location, a trio of in-store boutiques from Prada, Chanel, and Gucci showcase runway looks—literally, in the case of a $4,900 hibiscus-red satin-georgette ruffle dress recently spotted on actress Cate Blanchett at Singapore Fashion Week. Drool-worthy fall pieces include Oscar de la Renta’s polka-dot gown that runs about six grand, or, for a quarter the price, Saint Laurent’s leopard-print pony-hair ankle boots. But don’t count Macy’s out: The Nicollet Mall Oval Room still carries high-end fashions from Armani, Issey Miyaki, and Lanvin—whose double-breasted, taffeta trench coat is a luscious twist on the classic English outerwear staple ($2,585). To ensure no one else at the party will be wearing the same dress, local designers such as Joy Teiken and Caroline Hayden create custom couture, from ready-to-wear to bridal; prices range from about $800 for a cocktail dress to several thousand for gowns.;; –JP
(Right: Photo courtesy of Nordstrom)


Designer Fashion (Men)

The pinnacle of menswear is the well-made, perfectly tailored suit, which moves from boardroom to cocktail den exuding classy sophistication. Service and fit are just as important as the construction and fabric, says Todd Fliginger, a longtime personal shopper at Neiman Marcus who now works at North Loop menswear store Martinpatrick3. Fliginger swears by made-to-measure items from third-generation Italian luxury suiting company Isaia. Suits he considers “some of the sexiest garments in the world” start at $3,295. Or begin your upgrade with a custom shirt from Top Shelf, starting at $160.; –JP


Deluxe Beauty Services

Treating yourself to personal grooming services provides both relaxation and a confidence boost, whether it’s a sub-$50 mani-pedi or blowout, or a mortgage-matching laser treatment or dermabrasion. On the highest end is Halo, a new service that offers less downtime than traditional laser treatments, from Skin Rejuvenation Clinic ($1,500). Chemical peels ($500-$1,000 for a series) available at medical spas and the dermatologist’s office offer more noticeable results than less-powerful at-home peels. Lash extensions at Brow Chic ($225-$375 for a full set, plus fills every three weeks, $70–$135) give more fullness than mascara—and, even more priceless, no streaking.; –JP


High-End Furnishings

For more distinctive home décor, Roam Interiors carries rare furniture designed by world-renowned architects such as Patricia Urquiola and Zaha Hadid ($5,000-$15,000). At AlwaysMod, find high-end furnishings from popular modern-design brands such as Alessi and Iittala, including Fritz Hansen’s iconic Arne Jacobsen-designed Egg lounge chair (starting at just under $7K). Forage Modern Workshop gets major cool points for its Rapson-Inc. chairs based on designs by Minnesota’s most famous architect (about $2,000) and mid century-inspired credenzas, shelves, and tables by Northfield-based furniture maker Matt Eastvold ($290-$1,940). –JP
(Right: Photo courtesy of Roam Interiors)


Stunning Jewelry

Wearing precious gems and metals is one of humanity’s earliest status symbols, and the hand-hammered, chain-link sterling silver and 18K gold bracelets and filigreed rings by Greek line Konstantino at Scheherazade Jewelers would be fit for King Tut himself ($750-$2,990). JB Hudson is a destination for upscale jewelry from names such as Robert Coin, Tag Heuer, and Cartier, and also known for its selection of high-end vintage jewelry, including a Victorian-era Sybil Dunlop pendant of opal, pearl, peridot, garnet, and green tourmaline ($10,950). But for iconic luxury, it’s hard to beat Tiffany & Co., with its lavish pair of platinum-set, mixed-cut diamond cluster drop earrings offering a bold yet delicate black-tie look for a cool $40,000. For a blue-box treat within broader reach, there’s always a pair of their classic freshwater-pearl earrings for $225.;; –JP


Handcrafted Footwear
Mens Amara Shoes

Find your Cinderella slippers at the St. Paul studio of Amara Hark-Weber, who creates hand-stitched custom shoes to order. The designer favors clean lines and traditional styles with modern accents for her leather oxfords, cowboy boots, and English men’s shoes (she doesn’t do high heels). “Each hide is very different, and that makes each shoe totally unique,” says Hark-Weber, who works with French calf, water buffalo, kid, and cow. Her clientele extends from the Twin Cities to as far as Iceland and South Korea. A pair of bespoke shoes costs something in the $750-$950 range, and takes between 40-60 hours to complete. Would-be customers should plan ahead, as Hark-Weber’s waiting list is six months long. But after experiencing the personalized look and fit of custom footwear, you’ll kick that Zappos habit. –NR
(Right: Photo courtesy of Amara Hark-Weber)

Worth the Splurge Macallan Scotch
macallan 55 single-malt scotch at the st. paul grill; photo by kelly loverud

Fabulous Food

Grand GroceriesCheese from Surdyk's

Kowalski’s “Kobe-style” steaks ($32.99 a pound) come from a herd of Akaushi cattle that were flown from Japan to Texas in 1994 and guarded by off-duty Texas Rangers for a dozen years to ensure they didn’t breed with other, lesser bovines. Surdyk’s carries some of the world’s most prized cheeses, like Beaufort Alpage ($28.99 a pound) and the Wisconsin-made Pleasant Ridge ($23.99 pound) modeled after Beaufort. Or try Grazier’s Edge ($22.99 a pound), made in northeast Minneapolis and only recently available for retail. Coastal Seafoods occasionally gets bluefin toro, the coveted fatty middle of the tuna ($21.99-$29.99 a pound). Persian caviar can be special ordered ($299 an ounce), though the California stuff regularly stocked at $60 an ounce bested it in a Coastal clerk taste test. –TG
(Right: Surdyk’s cheeses; photo by TJ Turner)


Exclusive Dining

In our egalitarian era of open kitchens, it’s hard to find a real, honest-to-god chef’s table—behind the scenes, separate and unequal. But there’s one at Vincent: A Restaurant, tucked back with the bouillabaise ($60 per person, $33 extra for wine pairings). Heartland offers a tour with its five-course, $130 per person chef’s tables (there are three, for sociable gourmands)—plan on three hours of gastronomic bliss. Meritage has a nine-course tasting menu for $118 per person, $60 extra for wine, that you better not book without a room at the nearby Saint Paul Hotel. There are also five- and seven-course menus, for snackers. –TG


Decadent Desserts

The brownie at Manny’s Steakhouse is the size and shape of a car battery, buried under a hot fudge and caramel sundae with a steak knife jammed into it, strawberries rimming the plate like beads of blood—a big dumb animal sacrificed on the altar of gluttony. Yet somehow, at $23.95, it’s not even the most expensive dessert on the menu (that’d be the banana split, a dollar more). Patisserie 46 offers the opposite: rare French classics like Napoleon cake and Paris Brest, made by special request only. Izzy’s takes dessert to its logical, brain-frozen conclusion: the Hot Dish, all 32 flavors of Izzy’s ice cream in a red casserole dish. Hundred bucks. Order it and you get the party room for free, along with the vessel. –TG


Personal Chefs

Is a harried schedule making you overly reliant on microwavable burritos and takeout? Consider hiring a personal chef service such as Farm to Fork or Thrive Chef Works to fill your icebox with fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced meals (think lemony roasted chicken legs with new potatoes or truffled tomato soup). All this goodness is prepared in your very own kitchen so you don’t even need to do the dishes—beyond licking your plate clean. Typical clients range from professional athletes to busy families to chemotherapy patients. Farm to Fork owner Heather Hartman and Thrive Chef Works’ Nick Schneider both bring health-focused, locavore cred from their stints at Cafe Brenda and the Mill City Farmer’s Market. One of Fork’s most popular packages, two portions of four full meals, costs $350.; –NR


Swank Spirits

The St. Paul Grill obtained four bottles of the rare Macallan 55 single-malt scotch in 2008 before the Republican National Convention, and that was a big deal indeed. There were only 420 bottles of the stuff ever made, and a mere 100 made available in the US. At the time, a one-ounce pour would set you back $525; today, it’s risen to $750 (though it’s on the house if you join the Grill’s Scotch Club and sample your way through every scotch on the menu). It reportedly is “wonderfully soft, smooth, and spicy with lingering touches of citrus,” though reporters aren’t offered free samples. Order it neat. –QS

Mannys Steakhouse Brownie
manny’s steakhouse brownie; photo by tj turner

Premium Products

Tesla car
tesla interior; photo by chad holder

Killer Cars

Sure, it’s hard to resist the requisite fantasies of speeding down the road in a stately Mercedes or an insouciant Porsche, but how about a luxury car that can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in roughly three seconds while making nary a sound? The Tesla Model S feels like science fiction come to life, somehow combining elegantly simple design with ridiculous levels of tech. It will also set you back a little more than $100,000, but you can save a buck or two by never needing to buy a drop of gas—it runs on quasi-magic technology one Tesla rep calls “special sauce.” Charge this fully electric ride at home, or at one of a burgeoning number of Super Chargers (three in MN today) for free. This might well be the future of the car, liberated from the gas pump yet still as eye catching (and powerful) as last century’s luxe sedans. But if only a classic will do, Morrie’s in Golden Valley carries Maserati, Bentley, and new-to-MN Aston Martin—but be prepared to spend upwards of $300,000.; –QS

Web Extra: Read what it’s like to test-drive a Tesla

Video: Test-driving a Tesla

Video by Chad Holder


Great GadgetsSplurge Home Theater

The home theater, with rows of seats and a fixed screen, seems to be on the way out these days in favor of custom “media rooms” with flexible layouts for maximum chill factor, along with hidden speakers and acoustic treatments that’ll make the neighbors call for help when you’re watching The Lord of the Rings. But why not go one step further: Twin Cities–based Admit One Home Systems touts combining home media with total electronic automation, including texted reminders when you’re heading away from the house that you left your door unlocked (a control app will lock up automatically), energy-conscious light and thermostat control, and even one case in which a living room was set with flashing lights and a fight song triggered every time a certain football team happened to score. All the bells and whistles can run in excess of $50,000. Open the pod bay doors, indeed. –QS
(Right: Photo courtesy of Admit One Home Systems)


Bespoke BicyclesA Train Bike Splurge

Time for a big-kid bike. Chris Kvale, the godfather of local bike builders, will spend about three hours taking your measurements and breaking down your riding style. A few weeks later you’ll have a custom lightweight steel road bike, starting at $3,300, with the classic styling of the cycles Kvale raced in Olympic trials during the ’60s and ’70s. For $600, he’ll slice up your old or new bike and add couplers, so you can take it apart, stash it in a special case, and check it as regular luggage. Alex Cook of A-train Cycles can make you one of his handcrafted city or touring bikes, singled out at national cycle shows for their smart details—he’s an obsessive who made his wedding band out of a cross-section of steel tube., –TG
(Right: Photo by Jeff Cords)


Incomparable Art

There are those of us whose art investments tend to run toward prints picked up between brewpub stops at Art-A-Whirl, and there are the high-end collectors who frequent galleries such as Minneapolis’ Douglas Flanders & Associates. Flanders can currently connect you with a Monet for $50 million, or a Jackson Pollock for $45 million. Or there are copies of Andy Warhol’s Scream (after Edvard Munch): You could pick one up from Flanders for $8,500 in 1987, though today it will set you back just a shade short of $1 million. Buy before the price goes up. –QS


Youthful Delights

Since kids today are a lot more likely to be hypnotized by a laptop than Lincoln Logs, how about a splurge on fresh air, sunshine, and exercise—a tree house, albeit of the most extravagant variety. MCAD graduate Dustin Feider relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011, where he’s started up his company O2 Treehouse specializing in custom-built tree-line play spaces including geodesic domes and found-copper play sculptures that emphasize safety as well as the power of imagination. While he’s worked as close as Wisconsin since starting up O2, he’s dying for a project to bring him back to the Twin Cities. “Some of those giant oaks would be just a dream to build on,” he says. –QS
(Right: Photo by Benjamin Ariff)

carpenter mansion; photo by jeff johnson

Unmatched Experiences

Posh Accommodations

The owners of the historic Carpenter Mansion have operated it as a luxury B&B and event space for the last couple of years, but now they’re thinking really big: For $8,000 a week, groups can rent out the entire place, top to bottom, along with a domestic staff for the full Downton Abbey experience. There’s enough room in the house’s faithfully restored seven bedrooms to house more than a dozen for a reunion or a wedding gathering. For something more spur of the moment, there are plenty of hotel rooms in town for sleeping, but these are for staying up: the Penthouse Suite at Le Meridien Chambers, and the Extreme Wow Suite at the W Minneapolis—The Foshay. They come with flat screens big as billboards, leather furniture from the Donald Trump King of the Freaking Universe Collection, or, in the case of the under-renovation Performer Suite at Loews Minneapolis Hotel, a baby-grand piano and a high-demand-night price of $6,500.;;; –QS


Awesome AdventuresParadise Lady Cruise

You can love the great outdoors without loving sleeping on a parchment-thin bedroll or trying to start a fire with wet kindling. Wilderness Inquiry will plan custom travel adventures around the globe, but its regional high-end camping trips to the Boundary Waters, Lake Superior Hiking Trail, and Apostle Islands with amenities including tents on raised platforms. WI’s Josh Swedberg says it appeals to those “who might want to experience the wilderness and return to beds, hot showers, and a glass of wine at night.” Some of these trips can run up to $1,300 per person, but you can also get your food cooked by a wilderness guide or even a chef. If you’d rather your adventure take place on the water, $12,000-$16,000 will get you a party on the Paradise Lady, where you and 50-145 besties can enjoy unlimited libations, a dance floor and a Prince impersonator, an open buffet, and a casino.; –QS
(Right: The Paradise Lady Party Boat; photo courtesy of Paradise Charter Cruises & Minneapolis Queen)


Selective Matching

You could spend the rest of your life tweaking your Match profile, swiping left, and swatting off guys in half-shirts at the gym. Or you could pay the ladies at Love Architects, Pairings Group, or Cupid’s Cronies anywhere between $1,000 and $100,000 to set you up with better prospects. Singles with careers, balanced portfolios, teeth. They each offer similar services: consultations, date coaching, wingman duties, and of course hand-picked matches from their carefully curated little black books, perpetually refreshed even if it means handing out cards to cute guys at the gym. Failing that, just download the locally made Sparkstarter app, which helps you meet your friends’ other single friends on Facebook.,,, –TG


Elite ExerciseSteele Fitness Workout

Most gyms are casinos, stuffed with strange machines that—without a strict regimen—will only slim your wallet. Get a personal trainer and every penny goes toward kicking your ass. Go luxury with Steele Fitness (aromatherapy towels, rainfall showers), have the trainers come to you through Minnie Fitness (they bring their own equipment), or, if you need more motivation, there’s the prospect of being personally coached by Kirk Dewindt, a fan favorite on The Bachelorette and this summer’s Bachelor in Paradise. The former All-American track athlete specializes in endurance training, weight loss, and muscle strength for weekend warriors and Ironman triathletes alike, combining nutrition and workouts at Lions Gym in Robbinsdale (starting at $65 an hour, averaging $43 for groups of two to five),, –TG
(Right: Photo courtesy of Steele Fitness)


Kids Birthday BashesSplurge Kids Birthday

For your birthday, you got yourself an Audi and a new set of golf clubs—and your kids know it. So this year, you’re bringing your daughter and 11 of her friends to Honey & Mackie’s in Plymouth. For $140 they can help make their favorite ice cream in back, cover it with toppings, and dip French fries into it (it’s a kid thing). You’re also having Gamin’ Ride pull its Mobile Video Game Theater in front of the house so your son and 23 friends can shoot aliens all day (about $400). And for about the same price, the kids are going to wake up and find ponies in the back yard (Hasse Family Mobile Petting Zoo) or maybe even a camel (Tommy’s Zoo and Stables).,,, –TG
(Right: Photo courtesy of Gamin’ Ride)


Country Club Memberships

Contact list lacking in CEOs and IIIs? Lafayette Club—the only one right on Lake Minnetonka—has one of the metro’s more egalitarian membership fees: $8,000 for initiation, $425 a month in dues (half that if you don’t golf). The University Club, overlooking downtown St. Paul from Summit Avenue, has grand architecture, a historic pool, a whiff of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and just one membership requirement: a college degree. Monthly dues are equivalent to Life Time Fitness: $199 per family. Otherwise, there’s always Betty Danger’s Country Club in northeast Minneapolis, where the 99 percent can douse their social shame in Rachel “Bunny” Lowe Lambert Lloyd Mellon’s Guacamole.,, –TG

Editors Note: How to Spend Minnesotan

Read More: 5 Affordable Splurges