Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Food : Smoked Sea Salt | Gustus Vitae Artisan Salts

Simple things. Enhanced.

That's how I like to see my everyday flavour palette. Sure on the rare Saturday afternoon I may suddenly get a zest for cooking up something splendid but my day to day food choices are usually very simple. Sometimes it's a cucumber sandwich, sometimes it's simple wonton noodles.

Lately my hit item has been eggs. Soft boiled, just enough so the whites come together but the insides still reveal a smooth golden yolk. Growing up my mother had always made eggs over hard in the frying pan or sometimes steamed into a custard but after a few times with a soft boiled egg, I was hooked. The perfect seasoning? Smoked sea salt.

If you recall, I picked up this small tin of artisan salt by Gustus Vitae over on iHerb a few months ago. The deep smoky Alderwood flavour is reflected in its rich earthy colour and the aroma hits your nose as soon as your open the lid. Naturally smoked and handmade in small batches, this is not only delicious but I found it rather beautiful to look at as well. 

With two slices of buttered rye bread in the pan, I'll usually pop an egg in a pot and let it simmer for 4.5 minutes on medium-low after the water boils. Remove it immediately into a bowl of ice cold water. Stacking my toast, I'll then slice the egg right over it and finish with a few sprinkles of smoked salt (just a touch as this is quite salty). 

The result is a warm creamy egg in your mouth with just a kick of smokiness, an interesting and delicious contrast of flavour and textures that will probably leave you wondering why you didn't make two.

Website | iHerb (international shipping) | Handmade in California

A year ago, I thought I was pretty fancy getting introduced to Himalayan Pink Salt but this little tin has really upped the game. In Gustus Vitae gourmet salt range alone there are numerous artisan flavours like green tea, chipotle and sriracha sea salt. I've just ordered the hungarian paprika salt and can't wait to use it in my chicken recipes!  Remember that while they will taste delicious either way, these are generally used as finishing salts to add atop cooked and ready to serve dishes but you can also use them while marinating meats. Personally, I think sprinkling a pinch on plated dishes really shows off the colour and texture of these salts as well. Excellent as a gift or hoard them in your own kitchen.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

STYLE | The Old Navy Shoe Mystery

Old Navy is probably not what most people would think of when it comes to shoes, flip flops maybe but proper, even stylish footwear? Me neither. But in the past year with a few clicks of my mouse, I've found myself in possession of 3 pairs of shoes  and as someone with a no commitment policy to footwear, I thought this deserved a proper post.

The is the pair that I wear most often and for good reason. I purchased it while searching for something to replace a beloved pair of modern cowgirl boots that I wore to death. The soft faux suede feel and neutral colour palette makes it easy to pair with clothing be it with a blazer or a fun summer dress. I love the simplistic design with the top stitching detail which looks like a city version of a country boot. Thick heels and a zipper means I can walk comfortably from cobblestone to grass and the treaded bottom keeps me on my feet.

Availability: Discontinued.

I picked up this pair solely for the fact that it looks identical to a black pair from Forever21 that I own which in turn is a dupe for a pair of Chinese Laundry shoes. At a mere $15 when it was on sale during Black Friday, there was absolutely no way I was passing these up. Even though d'orsay styles can often slip in the back heel, this pair was surprisingly snug when I ordered in a half size down. It could do with a little extra arch support but overall I am thrilled. The bottom of the shoe is rubber which makes sure I won't be making a fool of myself in slippery hotel lobbies when I head to events. Faux suede, deep red and oh so luxurious looking.

Availability: Still available! Shop it here.

Everybody needs a shoe that just gets them out of the door quickly in the winter weather. This is my pair. Purchased at the same time as my Lady Shoe, I was desperately seeking an everyday shoe that can handle a bit of rain, snow and is, for all intents and purposes on the Westcoast...an all terrain shoe. This fit the bill perfectly. I ordered a size up to accommodate for thicker winter socks. This convertible style actually allows you to wear the boot laced all the way up or folded down to reveal a bit of faux fur while still keeping my feet warm and dry. Not quite a snow boot, not quite a rain boot but perfect for the daily hustle in bad weather.

Availability: Still available in black and brown. Shop it here.

The moral of today's post? Good shoes often come from unexpected places. Old Navy only carries a small selection of shoes but it seems that once in a while, a real gem will pop up. If possible however, I would suggest checking them out in stores just to insure there aren't any loose seams or major quality issues but all three pairs I own came out perfectly fine. Definitely worth revisiting for everyday simple footwear. I've got them bookmarked.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dine Out | Japanese SPAGHeTEI (Vancouver, B.C.)

One of my favourite things about eating Japanese cuisine is the fact that it easily blends itself with other flavours of the world. Fusion food combines two familiar tastes into an unexpectedly delicious experience at SPAGHeTEI, Vancouver's very own Japanese spaghetti restaurant.

My adventure at this place happened just after my eventful morning interview with makeup artist Maxim of Guerlain (read that here). Stepping outside into the drizzle, my friend and I pondered on the fate of our stomachs. For a second we though about just going to the usual affair when she suggested this place.

"Isn't it like, all the way down the street?" I asked sheepishly, a combination of immediate hunger and laziness causing my hesitation.

"There's a bus" she said.

So away we went.

Lucky to find it rather quite when we arrived (it was a Thursday after all), our arrival was warmly greeted by a staff member who directed us to one of the many tables that lined the walls. Quite spacious for a Japanese noodle place, the decor was a combination of neo-rustic design mixed dark wooden furniture. A few lamps dangling from the ceiling gave a cozy feel.

GARLIC BREAD | Complimentary

Our order started with a small serving of garlic bread which looks to be also season with something vibrantly green. My guess? Pesto. Each of us quickly devoured the crusty warm bread, savouring the buttery goodness. Just a hint of garlic but too strong to ruin your palette.

BARAYAKI SPAGHeTEI | $12 (Regular) | $9.80 (Happy Hour)

Being the apprehensive eater that I am, I went with something that...quite frankly is probably the type of fusion Asian food that I would cook at home. Thinly sliced pan fried beef with onion and spinach are coated with Barayaki Sauce (similar to Terayaki) sits invitingly over a swirl of spaghetti. The two must have been cooked separately then platted together because the toppings were perfectly salted while the noodle had a milder flavour. No wilted spinach here. Mix them together and the two parts really complimented each other with a slightly sweet and salty flavour. Did I mention al dente noodles? I think you'll approve.

 MENTAIKO & SHRIMP SPAGHeTEI | $13 (Regular) | $9.80 (Happy Hour)

For those with a lighter palette, my friend chose the seafood version with fish roe and shrimp. Mushrooms are also added along with a sprinkling of chopped nori seaweed. While there was no heavy sauce to found, this spaghetti still had a light creaminess in your mouth. She seemed to have really enjoyed it as it was polished down quickly before I was even finished.

CREME BRULEE | $4.50 (regular) | $2.50 (w/main order)

Now being who we are, every chance to have creme brulee must be taken seriously. It arrived in a small bowl, torched to a goden hue and topped with decorative berries. I broke the top layer with a satisfying crack to reveal creamy custard goodness underneath. Soft, fragrant and sweet.

A quick look at all the other main dishes available at SPAGHeTEI. Lots of variety and everything looks not only delicious but reasonably affordable for Vancouver prices. You also have the option of having a smaller order, regular sized order or extra large order (with price adjustments) to suit your preference which is so appreciated for small stomached gluttons like me. Happy Hour actually happens at lunch which was great for us!

1741 Robson Street, Vancouver, B.C.
Tel: 604-428-1014 | Website
SUN-THU: 11:45 〜 21:30(L.C. 21:00)
FRI&SAT: 11:45 〜 22:00(L.C. 21:30)
(Closed 15:00 〜 17:30 on Weekdays)
Closed Every 3rd Tuesday of the Month

If you love spaghetti come here. If you dont love spaghetti, come here because this place will change your mind. Full of delicious flavour and the perfectly cooked noodle, everything from the lovely decor to the colourful arrangement of the food is well a visit plus a couple more revisits. What I really loved about SPAGHeTEI was its artful way of combining two cuisines without loosing the goodness of either and in fact creating something that noodle lovers all over will surely love. If this is how the Japanese have their Italian...well then, I'm 100% on board with that.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Review: Artist Shadows 210Shades | Make Up For Ever

There's no doubt that when it comes to make up artistry, Make Up For Ever stands out as one of the leaders in the industry and being easily accessibly to the mass market makes lots of us even more giddy. In celebration of the brand's 30th Anniversary this year, they went back to basics and worked on a new formulation of eye shadows....oh and did I mention there are 210 shades? You'll probably want to sit down for the rest of this.

Brand: Make Up For Ever
Product: Artist Eyeshadow in D504* (yellow gold), I238* (medium teal), M106* (smoky charcoal)
Colour Selection: 210 shades in matte, satin, iridescent, Metal, Diamond finishes
Size: 2 grams
Price: $24CAD (single), $39CAD (duo), $50 (trio)
Availability: Sephora, Make Up For Ever Boutiques
Would I (re)purchase: Probably yes.
Website: www.makeupforever.com

Released this fall, the Artist Eye Shadows were 3 years in the making and exploded on the market with a rainbow of colours in 5 enviable finishes. The formulation itself uses what Make Up For Ever calls Pigment Atomization technology which maximizes pigmentation, up to 88% concentrated pigment and said to be highest on the market.

L-R | D504* | I238* | M106*

In line with the rest of it's revamped packaging, these eye shadows come in customizable palettes of singles, doubles or trios. The case itself has a magnetized sticker that allow the metal pans to sit inside firmly and a small hole on the bottom of the palette allows pop it out again with a pin. Of course, if you're stranded on a dessert island, a quick smack onto the palm of your hand does the trick easily as well. The case, although plastic feels solid in the hands with sturdy hinges, a clear top for quick colour picking and snaps close with a reassuring click.

(If you're wondering, these pans are much bigger than regular MAC shadows.)

Of the 3 different finishes I have here, the diamond and iridescent have a smooth almost slightly gel-like feel to the touch which the matte shade is smooth without feeling chalking. None of these are particularly powdery when you put a brush to them but there is some fallout with the matte shade.

The swatch on bare skin (see below) gives very consistent and true to pan colour payoff which feel so satisfying. Pigmentation is definitely up there with some of the best I've used and if all the 210 shades turned out like this, I think we have just found ourselves a new beauty staple. Make Up For Ever actually recommend you use these all over, certain shades can be used as blush and certain mattes can double up as eyebrow powder. This has versatility stamped all over it.

For the most part all three colours are rather blendable but the matte charcoal was hard to lay on evenly in one swipe and did require some more attention and careful layering. Mattes are the most fickle of all eye shadow finishes and while this one isn't the smoothest I've used, it's still certainly up there in the top tier. If you're keen to see them live in action, I used them in this GRWM Video right around the 5 minute mark.

Without a primer, longevity stretches to about 4-5 hours before I noticed some shifting and if layered over another shadow formulation it does have a tendency to crease once in a while. On that front, wear time is standard to good for this price point.

If you are a colour fanatic and are looking for a very specific shade of shadow with rich saturation then these Make Up For Ever Artist Shadows are the way to go. With 210 options to choose from you are pretty much guaranteed to build a palette that you love. But with that being said, there will be certain shades in finishes (like metal and iridescent) which are easily replaceable from another brand so not every single colour will be unique. At the heart of this, it is really about the pigmentation and the subtle nuances of those hard to find shades that makes this range unique. Worth swatching, trying and bringing home a few favourite shades especially if you snag a few multi-purpose ones.

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INGREDIENTS: (Not yet found, will update.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review: BITE | High Pigment Lip Pencil

Never one to shy away from a bright lip, my motto for lip colour has always been... bigger, brighter, better. For the past few years I've been sneakily stalking BITE lipsticks which are sold exclusively in Sephora. Based out of Toronto Canada, their brand concept of healthy natural lip products that pack a punch of colour had them high on my Lust List.

Brand: Bite Beauty
Product: High Pigment Lip Pencil Set
Colours: 21 Shades
Size: 0.09OZ (full size) / 0.05OZ (mini)
Price: $30 CAD/set , $28 CAD (full size)
Details: Food grade colour pigments, no parabens / sulfates / phthalates
Availability: Sephora, BITE Flagship Stores
Would I repurchase: YES!
Website: www.bitebeauty.com

Sephora's value beauty sets are a beauty blogger's dream. I spotted these mini lip set for a great price, full of delicious holiday shades all tucked into a festive red mirrored tin. These are the BITE Beauty High Pigment Lip Pencils and is not to be confused with their other Matte Lip Crayon.

Each mini pencil is an exact packaging of the full size, featuring a rubberized body, twist up dispensing system and a capped end to show exactly what colour you are putting on your lips. I don't believe they are purposely fragranced but there is a faint waxy scent reminiscent of traditional lipsticks though the smell neither bothers me nor lingers.

Now if there's one thing I'd like to scream from the top of my lungs on a high building, it's that "THESE ARE SOME SERIOUS PIGMENTS". 

In fact, in my current experience dabbling in natural beauty products/makeup, it's rare to find something with such incredibly rich saturation and smoothness in a lip product. The formulation is very creamy which makes it easy to apply yet does not sink into lip lines. A single swipe will get you from drab to absolutely gorgeous full on colour. While these are described as a modern matte, they apply like a cream and sit like a cream to satin finish on your lips with a supple soft shine.

These are formulated with the brand's signature Resvertrol ingredient derived from grapes which is said to provide anti-oxidant and anti-aging effects but frankly as far as lipsticks go, you're not likely to get full benefits from it unless you are wearing this all day everyday.

With 21 shades in the collection, there are a few light pinks and neutrals to choose from but I think it's these bright colours that makes them really worthwhile. In fact, I'm pleasantly pleased that there 3 of the 4 shades in this set are brights. Winterberry, being my favourite, is especially beautiful on pale skin with a bit of blush and simple eye makeup in the snowy weather. 

These High Pigment Pencils wear an average amount of time, around 3 hours, before I noticed fading however due to their creamy nature they have a tendency to rub off onto cups (and faces, should you be stuck under the mistletoe). Despite this, I found they faded very evenly without leaving any odd patches and the brighter shades left a soft stain that lasted for quite some time after the top layer wore off.

Things to note: You'd benefit from wearing a lip liner with these as they are a bit hard to control around the lip line. There's no significant feathering but the creaminess means the colour will tend to travel easily.

If you've been on the fence about these BITE Beauty High Pigment Lip Pencils... read my lips: You. Need. Them. I am thoroughly impressed by the rich range of shade options, the serious saturation and the creamy formulation that feels great on the lips. Hard to believe it but these are also naturally based and made with food grade ingredients which is an extra bonus in my books. At the price right now for this quadruple mini, pick up one set for a friend this holiday and an extra one (or two) for yourself. I will definitely be going back for a full size once I polish off these.

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INGREDIENTS: Organic Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil**, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil**, Organic Cera Alba (Beeswax)**, Silica*, Organic Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil**, Organic Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter**, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax*, Organic Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax**, Tocopherol*, Natural Flavor*, Trans-Resveratrol*, Vitis Vinefera (Grapeseed) Oil*, Siraitia Grosvenori (Monk Fruit)*. May Contain: Mica (Ci 77019)*, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891)*, Iron Oxides (Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499)*, Carmine (Ci 75470)*, Fd&C Blue No. 1 (Ci 42090), Fd&C Yellow No. 5 (Ci 19140), Fd&C Yellow No. 6 (Ci 15985), Fd&C Red No. 40 (Ci 16035), D&C Red 6 (Ci 15850), D&C Red 7 (Ci 15850), Manganese Violet (Ci 77742)*. *Natural. **Certified organic. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

STYLE: Brescello | The Perfect Blogger Handbag

Let's talk about a few things. I have yet to buy a really expensive handbag. Not that I don't have my eyes on one (or two, or three) but the simple fact that I feel I do not have the type of lifestyle that will support taking care of an expensive bag. Sometimes it must set my bag on the floor, sometimes it gets banged around while squeezing onto transit or when I'm rushing between errands.

But the reality of the situation is that I was in desperate need of a respectable looking handbag that can accompany me to events while still allowing me to throw it around for everyday.

Well all I can say is, thank goodness for sales!

Regular: $55CAD | Sale: $27.50CAD | Shop

Wandering into ALDO during their Black Friday sale, I found Brescello stashed between a metallic crossbody and a furry clutch. She was perfect. I love her trapezoidal shape which by now is a new modern classic that I've seen from various designers. Though synthetic, the material had a good looking texture, the stitching was neat and the zipper perfectly straight. It measures 42cm at the widest point and is 25cm tall not including the handle The gold tone hardware plus the faux croc accents is trendy but not gaudy. Better yet it's deceptively roomy and can hold my Nikon D5200 dslr with a large lens plus my notebook and with room to spare for a pair of flats. There's a small removable zippered mini bag that fits into a front slot and a detachable strap that allows for this to be worn cross body if needed. The point of this post? This is major bang for your buck and if you're reading this on December 1st then the ALDO sale is still running. Go and grab one.

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