February 02, 2016

Sweet Things


If there’s one thing almost all of us enjoy, it’s taking a few moments for ourselves. Whether it’s kicking back at home with a cup of tea and a book or going for a relaxing walk, these moments of me time are often essential in keeping us happy campers in life. It’s a real treat to slip away and just retreat into your own little world of you. When I give myself some time out I usually like to accompany it with something delicious to eat, often of the sweet variety. I can at times have a shocking sweet tooth but fortunately for me, and perhaps to the joy of dentists everywhere, my love for sweets has diminished somewhat as I’ve gotten older although a little something something every now and then is always welcomed, and looked forward to.
 

When I first heard about Jersey Jack, I knew I had to pay a visit. A gelato bar and dessert parlor? How could I not? I love the concept of a standalone establishment specializing in desserts. Sometimes that’s all you want and need. Not a full meal before you can get to the sweets! Located in Como, I wandered through their doors on a Sunday afternoon during their first week of operation. A cosy spot that is dotted with armchairs along with table seating, I laid my eyes upon the selection of gelato and sorbet. When it comes to ice cream, I can be quite fussy. I prefer creamy gelato or refreshing sorbet and don’t enjoy the overly sweet ice cream creations that are devoid of that rich and good creaminess that gelato should have. These abominations I refer to as “ice cream confection”. Now that I have that off my chest, being an exceptionally sticky and humid day I knew sorbet was the only way to go and after sampling a couple of flavors, I knew mango was the one to go with.


Having enjoyed my cone of mango sorbet, I was delighted to be invited to attend the launch party which was held this past weekend. Again it was another uncomfortably humid day, so no better way to cool down than with a few frozen treats. I was given a champagne cocktail upon arrival which was served with a scoop of yummy strawberry sorbet. Told to sample and try as many flavors as I wanted, I did my best to oblige. I also helped myself to a fluffy cloud of pink cotton candy. No regrets.


My top pick that day was the tiramisu gelato. It tasted just like a piece of tiramisu and I loved the crumbs of savoiardi mixed throughout. What they are churning out at Jersey Jack is on point. Super smooth in texture with intense flavors, it’s easy to eat because it’s not heavy or dense despite the creaminess. Using only local produce, the milk used in the gelato comes from the Jersey cows, which are said to produce some pretty top quality milk.


In addition to the seating inside, there is a secret garden out the back and seating set up out front where you can chill out with your drinks and dessert. It’s a nice little place to while away the time and that’s exactly the intention behind Jersey Jack. Sure, if you’re looking for a quick delicious hit, they’ve got it but it’s also a place where you can take five to sit back and relax. Enjoyed on your own or with company, it’s a great spot to indulge yourself a little and sip that coffee just a tad slower.

January 29, 2016

Lip Service

 

My makeup routine is very simple and lacks a lot of fuss, or technique. I've never been one of those girls who could draw perfectly draw their eyeliner and I most certainly am not one who can contour an entirely new face for myself. In addition to lacking the skills, I also just prefer to use as few products as possible. I like my mineral foundation and blush, my lashes curled but devoid of mascara and my eyebrows brushed. Tinted lip balm is usually what's on my lips. That's the day-to-day. When it comes to occasions that call for a bit more face, I'll add in some basic eye shadow and mascara and go for a gloss over just balm. I feel uncomfortable in too much makeup, almost as though I am playing dress up. 


My cosmetics arsenal is quite small and contains only the products I actually use. I don't have the entire catalog of MAC eye shadows or trays of product sitting on my dressing table. I don't get that rush of excitement or the feeling of "I must have!" when it comes to cosmetics. No, that is reserved for shoes. Unsurprisingly then, that the one cosmetic product in recent history that has made me sit up and take notice comes from one of my favorite shoe designers, Christian Louboutin.



The Louboutin Charme lipsticks first caught my eye when I spied them over social media from beauty editors who had received an early preview of the product, and from that moment it was all over. The first thing that strikes you is the opulent packaging.


Encased within a stunning gold bullet, it’s like an objet d’art and they definitely lend themselves to a bit of art deco styling. The exception to this gold case is the signature Louboutin red, fittingly named Rouge Louboutin, which comes in a black case. If the first thing you notice is its looks, the second thing you’ll notice is how heavy it is. I don’t know if I’ve ever picked up such a weighty lipstick before! Threaded through the cap is a ribbon, as it was designed to be worn around the neck if you so wish. Hence the name, Louboutin Charme. I wasn’t going to risk any serious neck injury on account of the weight, so I removed the ribbon. It was also getting in the way when using and carrying around in my bag!


Released in three formulations – velvet matte, silky satin and sheer voile – the number of shades over the entire collection total a whopping thirty eight, with twenty of those shades sitting in the silky satin range. My personal preference was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the sheer voile but wanting to try something different I also decided on a velvet matte.
Survivita to the left, You You on the right
I tend to be a ‘your lips but better’ kinda gal, but decided to go all out and choose shades I wouldn’t normally wear. After having a bit of a play with all the shades, in the sheer voile I selected You You and the velvet matte was Survivita. My first pair of Louboutin heels were actually the You You style, so that was a cute little coincidence.
Survivita
You You

Both are similar red-based shades, with the matte Survivita being a cool toned red with a hint of pink peeking through, while the You You gives a lovely crushed berry hue to the lips.
Velvet Matte Survivita
As with any matte lipstick, good prepping of the lips beforehand will ensure a smooth application. True to its velvet matte name, it feels velvety on the lips and finishes to a soft matte. It lacks that overly dry and powdery finish that can be sometimes found with matte lipsticks. The color is extremely pigmented and long lasting, even after eating and drinking.
Sheer Voile You You
On the other hand, the sheer voile is a wonderfully glossy affair giving the perfect amount of color with shine. I love it. For a sheer formulation, there is no lack of pigmentation and it feels lovely on the lips. If you were to create a product from a lipstick and a lip gloss, I feel this is what you’d want. Great color performance with a shine that doesn’t have too much slip and definitely none of the stickiness of a gloss. The sheer voile is a definite winner in my books.

 

While it is an indulgent buy at US$90 a pop, I don’t believe you can dispute the quality of the product. Both the packaging and the product hit the mark. Though my makeup collection is not vast, I do have  lipsticks by Chanel, YSL and Dior and my thoughts on the Louboutin Charme are based on a comparison between these other brands.
Available online and in store from Louboutin, Saks and Sephora, you should definitely treat yourself. Or better yet, have someone treat you.

January 18, 2016

A New Year Do-Over

I’m not one for huge New Year celebrations. At least not those of the raucous and over-the-top variety. Smaller celebrations and more intimate parties are my preferred way to ring in the New Year; enjoying the company of those nearest to me preferably with the inclusion of a nice meal and well mixed drinks. Being in New York City over the festive and holiday season I was of course asked if I would be in Times Square for New Years Eve and I really cannot think of one place I’d rather not be at that time. At the best of times I don't rather enjoy Times Square!

Even in consideration of what did end up going down on New Years Eve, I'd still not have a Times Square ball drop at the top of my list. Without divulging too much of the specifics, of course to protect the identity (or perhaps more appropriately, the dignity) of the unfortunate party, most of my New Years Eve and the early hours of the first day of 2016 were devoted to the care of two badly cut fingers. Unfortunate though fortunate they were not my own fingers. When it comes to the sharp blades of a mandolin, man will lose every time, and of course man will blame woman (that being me) for the inattention that caused said fingers to fall victim to the blades.

Some of you are likely squeamish when it comes to tales of blood and other gory things, so I will hold back on the imagery but let’s just say I have never in my life seen so much blood! While concerned over the injury and how nothing seemed to quell the free flow of blood, I was also silently cursing that the spotless bathroom that I had cleaned earlier that day in anticipation of starting the new year with the apartment being all fresh and clean now had big splotches of blood all over the tiled floor and even the bathroom mat. Together we cobbled a makeshift dressing and made it to a friend’s party just in time for the countdown, and I do mean just in time. As I walked into the door, twenty seconds were left to the countdown at Times Square which was being shown on the TV.

We made it to the countdown, passed out the obligatory good wishes and then left for the hospital. A tetanus shot, a lesson in wound dressing and a few hours later we were done and discharged with only a couple hours of sleep to be had before we had to prepare for the dinner party that we had invited a few people to later that evening. Talk about great timing.

By the end of the first night of the new year, everyone was well fed and I had washed more dishes in one night than I probably would in a week. Having two cut fingers certainly does get a person out of a few chores. I rolled into bed exhausted, thanking my lucky stars that tomorrow night there would be no dishes to wash or any time at all needing to be spent in the kitchen because we had a much anticipated reservation at one of the best restaurants in the city. It was to be the perfect do-over for a slightly catastrophic ushering in of the new year.


Depending on who you ask or what list you consult, you could say that Eleven Madison Park is the best restaurant in New York City. It has three of those highly sought after Michelin stars, currently sits at number five on the San Pellegrino Top 50 list and of that list, it is the highest ranked restaurant in North America. Impressive stats. Offering a tasting menu, it was an almost four hour heavenly dining experience. As you would expect of such an awarded restaurant, the dishes were all impeccably created from the concept, to the taste, to the techniques through to the plating. The service was perfection. Highly attentive as you would expect but far from intrusive, which is what you want.


I won't even attempt to put into words or describe the composition and execution of each dish. What I will say is that it surely was an exceptional evening. Without a doubt, it is a costly night out but if you love your food and appreciate the sheer talent and mastery of chefs that are on top of their game, you will not be disappointed. I believe we were served fourteen dishes in total and I lamented that by the end I was actually quite so stuffed that I could not completely finish the last couple of dishes despite how delicious it all was. The duck was superb and I even had to fob off the last little forkful. Sometimes people scoff at tasting menus, despite the multiple courses, due to each dish being on the small side but it definitely all adds up in the end. After all, one of us had to undo the last buttons on their shirt...and it wasn't me.


Stand out dishes of the evening included the smoked salmon sabayon we were served as our second course. Superbly airy and frothy with an unbelievable flavour of the smoked salmon infused throughout. The restaurant's interpretation of the classic eggs benedict wowed. Served in a gorgeous little tin, the creamy hollandaise sauce sitting atop caviar and quail egg. The beautiful, beautiful duck which was shown to us tableside as a whole bird before taken back to the kitchen to be carved. Covered in a spice rub and festively stuffed with lavender flowers into its backside, it was just gorgeous. Lastly, one of our sweet courses which was on one side a serving of a delicious late harvest riesling and on the other side, a deconstructed dessert embodying all the flavors of the riesling. I could not believe how perfectly they pulled this one off. The sweet almond flavors of the riesling which ended with a hit of gingerbread (yes, actual gingerbread!) was recreated in this perfect quenelle of almond icecream and gingerbread crumbs. It was bliss.


As a final treat, the night ended with a game of guessing the milk used in making four different bars of Mast Brothers chocolate. Despite my penchant for chocolate, I let myself down this time and ol' Edward Scissorhands walked out the triumphant winner with all guesses correct.

December 11, 2015

The Road Ahead


I keep coming, and then I go. I would not disagree that in recent times I have become quite adept at the disappearing act. As you may have noticed, particularly so if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, my most recent jaunt across the seas was only a few weeks ago and in just two weeks I will be taking off once again. Unequivocally, I am enormously fortunate to traipse between two continents as I do (though not done anywhere near on the whim as some think – it’s actually a very well orchestrated mission) however that doesn’t negate how somewhat disruptive it is to my life here in Perth. This pattern of travel is going to continue into the first half of next year and it’s something that will require me to figure out the best way to navigate so that I can keep up with all that I do here and want to do. Not at all a whine or a whinge though, let’s be real now. New York every couple of months ain’t nothing to sneeze at, even if it does mean half a week of catching up on sleep and hundreds of emails in the work inbox to sift through. 


What I have been wanting to share with you all for a little while now was the Volvo Blogger Drive (hashtag #volvobloggerdrive on IG, y’all) I was a lucky little duck to be part of. For three weeks I got to vroom vroom around town in my own Volvo, kindly provided by Barbagallo Volvo in Cannington. Given the choice of the Volvo XC60 SUV or the V40 sporty hatch, I went with the sleek lines of the V40. My everyday ride is a Lexus IS250 and it being a full size sedan, I wanted the opportunity to drive a smaller car as I am in fact considering my next car to be something smaller. 


Upon picking it up and getting acquainted with all the features of the car, looked after wonderfully by Anthony at the dealership who most importantly synced my iPhone up with the car, I drove on out of the dealership and made the short journey home. While a car is first and foremost a means of transportation, it's undeniable that most people seek to make their travel as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. With so many of us spending a fair amount of time in our cars, especially making our daily treks to and from work and contending with sometimes horrendous traffic, an enjoyable ride can make all the difference. So in that regard, the V40 definitely ticked all the boxes. The seats were super comfy; ergonomically designed so were well moulded and sculpted allowing me to really sit back in comfort. Being on the smaller and shorter side, sometimes I do find it difficult to get comfortable in car seats particularly in adjusting the seat to accommodate being able to both see over the dash and still reach the pedals! The power controlled seats (with memory function) could be adjusted to a significant extent that I could find the best position for me. My biggest gripe is when I can't tilt or lift the seat enough, but no problems with the V40. 


The best way to really get a feel of a car and how it drives is to take it out of the city. The short trips around the metro area and the stop-start motion of city driving don't give you the best idea of how a car can perform and if it's really got the goods that will keep you satisfied over a couple hours of driving. So of course, out of the city I had to go and took my pal (and ever suffering photographer) Shu with me on a weekend away to York. Both of us were keen to see the fields of canola and wildflowers, which at that time were just coming into bloom and found that they were in abundance in the charming little town of York. We stayed at Laurelville Manor, which was a classic country house that was beautifully designed and styled, retaining little touches of the old mixed in with all the modern conveniences. The hosts welcomed us with afternoon tea (all the delicious morsels were baked in house) and breakfast the next morning was superb. 


Back to the Volvo though. The drive from Perth to York is neither overly long nor arduous but is different enough from city driving to feel how the car handles itself at longer distances and greater speeds. One thing to point out - though a smaller car it may be, do not understand its power and ability. The V40 T5 R-design, which is the particular variant I was driving, is fitted with a 2.5 litre turbo engine which means there is no struggle at all which sometimes can be the case with smaller cars. The V40 is definitely the not-so-little engine that could. 


The large display meant I could keep an eye on my speeds, which to be honest is a must when it comes to me as I'm known for the ease at which I tend to go over the speed limit. When using the navigation function, the information on upcoming road signs or fixed red light and speed cameras is another nifty feature. The factory fitted sound system delivers an awesome sound quality and this is important for me as tunes are a must even if it's a two minute drive.


I know that the popular belief tends to be that Volvos are family cars. That's not without good reason, as Volvos come with standout safety features and of course, when having children in cars you want to know they are travelling safe. However for me, as a professional woman in my early 30s who does not have children, I was highly impressed with both the aesthetics of the V40 and also all the little luxurious and premium features that I have become accustomed to having with my own car. Priced at $50,400 (the drive away price is $59,296) it fits into a segment of the market which I personally feel people such as myself would looking at purchasing in if they were shopping for a new car. The V40 offers exceptional comfort, performance and safety and is not at all short on features that allow for it to be considered a higher end hatchback.

While I was furnished with the use of this car by Barbagallo Volvo, my experience with the V40 is entirely my honest opinion and there is not really anything that I found fault with but if I was to be asked if there was anything that I felt could be improved upon or would increase my enjoyment of it, it would be that I found it somewhat strange the car did not have keyless entry. Whilst it is fitted with push start ignition (however, you still need to insert the key fob), there is no keyless entry which is something I am used to having and while you'll certainly survive without it, it's great to be able to just walk up to your car and have it unlock for you especially when you already have your hands full.

 

Despite that, I was a very happy and satisfied Volvo driver for those three weeks. If you're considering a new car and if it’s essential that your new car both looks good and drives good and if quality is important to you, I highly recommend you give the team at Barbagallo Volvo a call and take one of these little beauties out for a spin.

 

Volvo V40 T5 R-Design provided by Barbagallo Volvo
All photography by SOUL of SHU
Oyster & Pearl. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.