Melbourne Haul

On Monday, straight after touching down in Melbourne, I went to the DFO outlet at South Wharf. I’d been to DFO in Melbourne before, but just the smaller one near Etihad Stadium. I had no idea the one at South Wharf existed and I was so happy when the taxi driver took me there instead of the one I thought I was going to.

I thought I’d share my buys because I got some good ones. I really hadn’t planned on purchasing anything but when I saw there was a Sass & Bide store there I thought they might have some nice printed tees or something. That actually didn’t. Everything was basically current stock, or just a couple of months old so I picked up a new 100% silk, long flowy tank. It was only $90 down from $290 and will replace the $20 Seed silk tank I accidentally ruined and have been mourning the loss of. My only issue with the S&B store was the inconsistent pricing. Mum bought a top from there the other day on sale for $120 and it was $190 at the DFO store, which seems weird. They had some really cheap jeans ($30) and other super cheap items mixed in with some pieces that seemed over priced. Definitely worth a look, though.

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The Armani outlet was fantastic but not cheapy cheap. The discounts were big – 40% to 60% off, but that’s off things that can be thousands so don’t expect to go in there and walk out with a bargain basement item. These lavender pumps were calling my name. So comfy, just the right height and the perfect colour for me. I’m actually after some black pumps but these are close enough. Ha. At $480 down to $240 I cannot complain.

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I don’t really shop at Decjuba (do we even have one in Sydney anymore?) but I thought I’d pop in as I need some new work clothes. I ended up getting this cropped knit for $20. Perfect with long tanks and leather pants, even if I need to wait a few months to wear it. For $20 I don’t mind waiting. Excellent staple item.

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Another brand I never seem to buy anything from is Tony Bianco but their very clean and tidy shop drew me in because it didn’t seem like a sale shop. I picked up these leather sandals with diamantes for only $60. I have a pair that are kind of similar that I’ve lived in every summer for the past 3 years so I needed an update. I couldn’t believe the price. So cheap!

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Not from DFO but from Sydney Airport, this great palette from Victoria’s Secret was only $24. Unbelievable! I love the colours in it, and it also has three gel eyeliners. I don’t have the steadiest hand so I’m not sure that I’ll use those, but $24 for all those colours is a huge bargain so I’m very happy with it.

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So that’s it, my bargain shopping this week. Have you picked up anything nice lately?

January 7, 2015 at 9:40 am 3 comments

Beauty for Sweltering Summer Days

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I went to put makeup on yesterday and as I looked at my skin – glistening with sweat – I realised I really didn’t want to wear any. However, I have been really sick for a few days, am pale and blotchy and really needed to cover that up before I faced the world.

I was so thankful to have options other than full coverage foundations and powders that just cake up when you perspire. I’m sure a lot of people change their beauty regime from winter to summer but there must be others out there who are struggling to find products to match the weather so I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

Base

There’s not much point putting on makeup that will melt off with your sweat. Something that melts in to your skin, however, makes total sense, which is why I’m loving Perfekt Beauty’s Skin Perfection Gel. A favourite of Blake Lively, this gel feels like a mousse and works into the pores with a patting application that basically airbrushes your skin. Very cool. It is sweat/water resistant and primes the skin for other makeup while reducing pores and minimising redness and smoothing out your skin overall.

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Cheeks

Powder blush on sweaty skin is literally a hot mess. I turn to Benefit’s Posie Tint in summer as it’s light and the best shade of pink for skin that’s already a little sun-kissed. It’s glossy and pretty and you won’t need anything else to brighten your complexion. You can even double it up as a lip tint. I love its metallic packaging, too. Posie Tint is suitable for all skin shades and retails at $55.00.

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Eyes

I find myself rubbing my eyes a lot in summer due to the extra pollen so I like something light on my eyes in case of the dreaded panda eyes. Perfekt Beauty’s Lash Perfection Gel is a little miracle maker. Its gel formula goes on much more smoothly than regular mascaras and the brush truly picks up the most minute little lashes. It’s seriously the best!

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I’ve also been using this Shu Uemura x Takashi Murakami mini eyelash curler. My mum bought me this for my birthday in June and totally forgot about it, so I received it as a late birthday/early Christmas present. It’s so cute, I love the little smiling daisy! The mini size means it can grab those lashes on the outer edges of the eyes that might be missed by a regular lash curler.

Scent

I love Ferragamo’s Incanto Bliss for a barely there, light, summery fragrance. This one is pretty old now so you can pick it up for around $30. It’s perfect for when you don’t want to wear an over powering scent but don’t want to go without one, either. The pretty underwater scene on the bottle will also get you in a resort mood.

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Skin

Firstly, as we all know, the Australian sun is ridiculously harsh so covering up is essential. I love my Sensi Studio hat, which is the perfect mix of fashion and practicality. I own a million hats but this one covers my face enough and is in one of my favourite colours.

To glow and radiate health (which I obviously need right now!) you need to stay hydrated. I love love love Antipodes water, direct from New Zealand. The bottle is so minimalist and so not ‘me’ but I adore the look of it and the water is so pure. It’s available from Dan Murphy’s for around $3-$4 / 500mL.

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December 30, 2014 at 5:24 am Leave a comment

Maude

Firstly, let me again apologise for another post with dodgy photos. Again, I was out with just a small clutch so I couldn’t take my camera with me.

Maude had only been opened for a couple of months when I visited back in June. When I heard about Curtis Stone’s new venture – a small restaurant in LA’s affluent Beverly Hills, focusing on fantastic produce that complements a hero ingredient selected each month and transformed into a degustation menu offered each night for that month – I loved the concept and knew I had to go.

My friend, Heidi, came with me and our ingredient of the month was morels. The price of the dinner was slightly higher ($115) due to these cute little mushrooms being rarer than your average fungi but I still think overall – when you factor in the great service, exclusivity and beautiful produce – the price point is very good and generally under the $100 mark.

We were super excited and eagerly awaited our first course. When a paper bag filled with popcorn came out and had morels shaved over the top of it we became deflated pretty quickly. Was this what we should be expecting for the rest of the meal? Another 9 courses of cheaply-made movie fare? I SMS’d my mum with a picture and she asked if we’d be served choc tops next. Ha!

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We spent the rest of the night eating and drinking and laughing with our lovely waiters but the general consensus at the end of the meal was that we had not enjoyed it at all and that the whole thing was a bit of a rip-off and quite poorly done. It was only in the morning when we were flicking through all the pictures that we realised we were completely wrong. One by one, as each picture popped up, we exclaimed how delicious each one was.

‘NO, THAT one was the best!’

‘Oh, hang on *that* was my favourite.’

‘Awwww, I forgot about that dish…yep. I think that was the tastiest.’

We realised that all the food was exceptionally well made, with an array of flavours, a variety or techniques and textures and we had eaten a throughly good meal.

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Admittedly, the dessert didn’t go down too easily. As much as I love vegetables in dessert, I think mushroom is a hard one to transform. In lieu of the coffee we had declined we were given a little treasure chest with ice creams in it and that was probably the perfect way to finish the meal; Maude’s version of a choc top. My mum was right!

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Popcorn

Risotto

Soup

Rosemary, Oyster, Crackers

Kampachi

Avocado, Herbs, Passionfruit snow

Scallop

Wild Garlic, Watermelon Rind, Roe

Duck Egg

Summer squash, Horseradish, Smoke

Raviolo

Consommé, Truffle crumble,  watercress

Pork Belly

Jalapeno, Daikon, Carrot

Lamb

Green Garbanzo, Eggplant, Leek

Taleggio

Onion, Charred Peach, Nasturtium

Black Forest Floor

Dark Cherry, Chocolate, Hazelnut

So, a little lesson in how first impressions are very important. The popcorn? Not such a good idea. The rest of the meal, the wines, the price and staff? Perfection. Bonus tip – BYO is allowed (with a $50/bottle corkage fee) but the experience will be complete if you order the matching wines.

Maude
212 S Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA
+1 310 859 3418
Tuesday – Saturday
Dinner: 5.30pm – 10pm

http://www.mauderestaurant.com

November 29, 2014 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

High Tea – Petrossian Bar at Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

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One of the highlights of staying at The Bellagio was the little-publicised high tea.

This was my fourth of four high teas in three weeks and a very un-Vegas thing to do, which is why it may not be advertised as much as some of the other activities in the city or even the hotel.

The Petrossian Bar is just off the side of the lobby and the high tea is held in a small room at the back, which is set up like a French parlour. The decor is a little OTT (like everything in Vegas) but the plates and cups and saucers were just right and despite the hustle and bustle of the nearby casino floor, there is absolute calm in the room in which you sit.

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Basic high tea starts at $35. But for a glass of sparkling wine and jasmine (premium) tea rather than the regular tea menu it was only an extra $15. Even with the glass of sparkling and premium tea it still comes to a much lower price point than most high teas in Sydney and it was definitely worth it $50!

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There were three things I especially loved about this high tea:

  1. It was quite unusual in its offerings. The scones had crystallised pineapple in them, which was certainly nothing I’d eaten before at a high tea. It wasn’t just the scones that were different, though, each of the little morsels had something quirky going on but not to the extent that they were so out there that it would put off a fussy eater.
  2. The Assistant Chef walked past my table and we spoke about how the cranberry bread for the turkey sandwich came from a recipe her grandmother gave her. I like those kinds of stories and I it is really nice to hear things like that when you dine anywhere. It definitely makes the experience more enjoyable knowing how much tradition and thought has gone in to what you’re eating.
  3. A lovely afternoon spent enjoying tea is something nice for those who don’t drink. There are so many people who travel to Vegas who do not want to drink and/or gamble and aside from visiting the Grand Canyon, shopping, lying by the pool and going to shows there’s not much else to do. There is also a lot to do in the earlier hours of the day and the late hours at night but that 2-5 pm period can be a little boring, so this is a nice alternative to…nothing.

So, now, onto the food. I’ve already told you about the scones and they were gorgeous. Really tasty. They were finished with a glaze and a sugary drizzle. They were served with lemon curd rather than jam, which I’m normally not a fan of, but the tartness of the curd and the sweetness of the glaze worked so well.

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The interesting and welcome thing about the cakes in this high tea was that they were all fruity and light. Not only does this make for bright, happy photos but also allows you to walk away without that heavy feeling chocolate gives you. I wish more high teas were as balanced and held back on the density and volume of cakes served like this one did.

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There was a delicateness to all of the cakes, which you don’t often get at high teas. I find sometimes the pastry chefs go a little overboard and there’s a whole lot of nothing really enjoyable on the stands. This wasn’t like that at all.

The sandwiches were very classic. The cranberry bread, as mentioned above, was an exciting change from plain white or wholemeal. I have actually been noticing a bit of a trend lately with flavoured breads being served with afternoon teas- tomato being a very popular one.

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As you can see from the pictures, this is a very understated high tea. I would call this tea for beginners. It’s light and pretty, the flavours are traditional and nothing is too overwhelming. I really do wish this would be more heavily publicised by the Bellagio because it is an asset to their hotel.

Please do try it if you find yourself in Vegas.

For more information on high tea at the Petrossian Bar or to book, please see their website here.

November 25, 2014 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

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Soooooo, my time im Vegas started off *very* badly. I went to get cash out (I only use a debit card, no credit) a few hours before flying out of Chicago and my card wouldn’t work. I still had a fair amount of cash on me so I didn’t panic too much. I got to Chicago airport and tried again. No luck. I needed to pay for some luggage and my card wouldn’t work there either. It was at this point that I realised I was in trouble.

I freaked out for the whole plane trip from Chicago to Vegas but thought it might be different in another state (???). Card would not work at McCarren Airport either! Exhausted and stressed, I knew I had enough money on me to at least stay two of the four nights I’d planned to stay in Vegas for as I’d paid a large chunk of the booking already. Usually I pay everything in advance but the Bellagio’s booking system only requires a deposit.

When I got the front desk and explained that my card wasn’t working, the man at the desk told me they’d refund what I’d paid so far and basically find a new hotel. WTF? Isn’t the US supposed to have the best customer service? I was flabbergasted. Firstly, I’d just told this moron that my card didn’t work so it probably wouldn’t have even accepted a refund and secondly, I’d already paid for two nights in full. I can’t believe *I* had to suggest that to him. I told him I had enough cash to leave a deposit (which also meant I was able to use the $100 dining credit that came with my room) and he reluctantly and finally took my money and gave me a key to my room.

The room was revolting. It was overlooking the roof of a lower floor and it absolutely stunk of smoke. I was completely miserable.

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In the morning I went down to complain about the room and had the displeasure of talking to the most disgusting, smug, inept excuse for a hotel manager I’ve ever met. I ended up getting really angry so I had to walk off before I completely lost it. When I got back to my room I couldn’t believe it when hammering and drilling started. I rang the front desk immediately and was this time put onto someone lovely and she moved me to a different room immediately. She told me there was construction going on down that end of the hotel. I’m sure the idiot who checked me in put me there purposely after I refused to go to another hotel.

I was put into a gorgeous Fountain View room overlooking the Strip and the famous Bellagio lake and fountains. Much nicer and no construction work! It was here that I was able to relax a little bit more and finally made my way down to the stunning pools.

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It worked out that I did have enough money on me for the remaining two nights of my trip so I ended up staying. I enquired at a few of the surrounding hotels but it was just not worth the effort and the hassle outweighed my anger at the first staff member I encountered and that ghastly manager with the creepy, glassy eyes.

So what are the pros and cons of the Bellagio?

Pros

All the food outlets I tried were fantastic. I had so many good meals. I mean, you’re not eating anything special but everything was just spot-on and tasty. The portions are huge of course, and I thought things were very well priced. The best iced coffee EVER was from Jean Phillipe Patisserie but that was one expensive item at over $10 a pop.

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The pools are simply stunning. They were never too loud or busy and one of the reasons I chose to stay at the Bellagio initially was that they do not host pool parties like some of the other hotels. I just didn’t want to get involved in a pool party situation.

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The location is great. The best in Vegas. The Strip is sooooo long. You can see everything from the Bellagio and no matter where you are on the strip if you can see the Eiffel Tower (across the road from the Bellagio) you can find your way home. I looked in the lobby of most of the surrounding hotels and the Bellagio was easily the nicest in its vicnity.

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The casino is pretty nice for a casino. I like to gamble but not really on pokies or card games. You have to walk through the casino to get pretty much anywhere in the hotel but it wasn’t very smokey (honestly, less smokey than the first room I was put in!) and people were generally pretty well behaved and dressed nicely etc. I did gamble in one other casino across the road and it had a bit of a sleazy feel. The Bellagio didn’t feel sleazy and gross at all and I was awake at all different times of the day. The security was really quick to react to things- I saw one woman falling asleep at a machine and they gently woke her up and got her some water and made sure she was ok before suggesting maybe she should leave. I actually thought they handled it pretty well.

The shopping within the Bellagio is great. A lot of the better hotels have designer shops in them, I think the Cosmopolitan or whatever hotel I walked through that is next to it had the best, though. Bellagio had the usuals – Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada etc. and their gift shops were actually quite nice as well. You know, if you want non-tacky Vegas merchandise.

Cons

I encountered a lot of crappy staff. I don’t rate the Bellagio as an expensive hotel. Some say it is and that’s personal opinion, but considering it is touted as being one of the best in Vegas the staff should lift their game and act that way.

The check-in / check-out area is ridiculous. The lines are long and you just stand around like a bunch of cattle waiting to be slaughtered. Not ideal.

The lobby also gets incredibly busy because of the flower displays that are open to the public. If you want to see them and take photos without the bother of crowds, get there really early. I’m a very early riser when I travel so I was fortunate enough to enjoy the displays (and cafes)  with nobody around but it gets ridiculously busy from about 10am.

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The one thing about the food I wasn’t that impressed with was the buffet. It is rated so highly but there was nothing special about it in my eyes. I had the buffet lunch at Mandalay Bay one day and enjoyed it immensely. It was a lot cheaper than the one at Bellagio and far more relaxed. I also had some cocktails at one of the pool bars there afterwards and the staff were much nicer overall.

So that’s it from me on the Bellagio. I probably would stay there again but I also loved the look of the Wynn. I ended up going with the Bellagio based on location, which I was pleased with but given the rude staff I could easily be swayed.

I do have one more post coming on the high tea that is offered at the hotel. It is definitely worth a separate post!

November 22, 2014 at 10:23 pm Leave a comment

North Pond, Chicago

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I was booked in to have brunch at the gorgeous North Pond restaurant not long after I was due to arrive in Chicago but since my train was delayed by three hours I completely missed out. I was devastated as this was not going to be any ordinary brunch. Three courses, in a renovated 1912 skaters shelter, and did I mention they hold a Michelin star?

Since I wasn’t able to use my phone on the train at all I couldn’t even ring to say I was going to be late, so I was one of those dreaded no shows. I called the restaurant as soon as I got to the hotel and fully expected an annoyed maitre d’ on the other end telling me that the card details I left upon booking would be used to charge the price of the brunch. Quite the opposite! In fact, I was offered a table for dinner which I quickly accepted.

Upon arrival I was greeted with a glass of champagne for ‘the stress endured for the train getting in late’. How sweet!! Things just got better from there. The feel of the restaurant is so lovely. I was already deeply in love with Chicago before venturing out to the iconic Lincoln Park but it was a warm summer’s night, families were still out walking the park, couples were sitting by the lake and this cute old building had so much character and was the perfect place to have a cruisy dinner and people watch.

I apologise for the very dodgy photos. I only took a small clutch out with me so I only had my phone. Everything was bright and beautiful so it’s a shame I couldn’t capture that.

I’d eaten high tea just a few hours before so I wasn’t starving and decided to have just a main and dessert. The adorable staff organised for a seared foie gras to be brought over to me, though, and who am I to refuse? The rhubarb, whey sorbet, candied ginger and salsa were the perfect match for the liver and perfectly balanced out the taste and textures. I find that foie gras simply seared can be quite heavy but this dish went down quickly and easily.

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My second course was also nice and light for a perfect summer’s eve. I loved the sound of sour cream pannacotta, which was served with candied beets and pastrami. Another colourful and tasty dish that I could eat endlessly.

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The desserts alllll sounded fantastic but I am quite partial to savoury desserts. Savoury being not entirely made up of chocolate, caramel or fruit flavours, for example. I forgot to write down exactly what flavours I had but I’m quite certain there was some pumpkin ice cream, some ginger in there, cucumber gelato – you get the idea. All very quirky and a not-at-all sweet dessert that would certainly not be for everyone. I enjoyed it and it was very suitable to someone who had completely stuffed themselves in the space of a few hours!

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For a Michelin-starred restaurant the prices are great. The staff were WONDERFUL and the feel of the place was so relaxed and friendly. If you’re after a fine dining Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago, this probably isn’t the one for you, but if you want honest food made from local produce, interesting flavours, tonnes of texture and unique techniques then this is a winner. Even if you just go for brunch. (seriously, check out the brunch menu…see why I was upset about missing it?!)

North Pond
2610 North Cannon Drive (only about 100 metre into the park from the road, it’s easy to find)
Chicago, Illinois
773.477.5845
http://www.northpondrestaurant.com/

November 20, 2014 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

Afternoon Tea – The Langham, Chicago

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My third of four high teas in the US took place in the stunning Mies van der Rohe-designed building which houses The Langham, Chicago. The beautiful area to the left of the lobby where I took my tea is Pavilion, which overlooks the city scape of Chicago. It has a modern feel with its Czech glass globes hanging from the ceiling but the plush, dove grey couches provide an absolutely luxurious place to sit for what is the best high tea I’ve ever experienced.

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The tea selection is diverse and like nothing I’ve been offered before. I went for a pink tea to match my surrounds and the classic Langham Pink that is accented in the decor.

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I’m told that no scones are available on the day I am there, and that I would be served biscuits instead. It took a bit of getting used to but what the English and us Aussies call scones is what they call biscuits in the States, so it turned out well for me.

The sandwiches were next level. They really went above and beyond. Not that I have a problem with cucumber and cream cheese but you will not find anything that simple here. The sandwiches of the day were a meatball sub, a slider, a shot glass of carrot bisque with short rib and cheddar toastie and an olive tapenade and truffle sandwich. Woah.

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The desserts were chocolate heavy and included a dark chocolate cigar, seven layer cake, a sugary donut and another chocolate cake with bourbon ganache.

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There’s not really much else to say except go. Enjoy. Go again if you can and please report back to me with how much you enjoyed it.

High Tea at Pavilion at The Langham, Chicago is served between 3:00 and 4:00 pm daily. For more details, please see The Langham’s website.

November 18, 2014 at 8:49 am 3 comments

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