You already knew Daisy by Marc Jacobs, crowned with its now iconic flower. This, my friends, is the new déclinaison, Eau So Fresh. A spring fragrance par excellence, all senses. A bouquet of wild roses, just-picked raspberries, violets, grapefruit on a base of cedarwood and musk. It dances on your skin in elegant, light touches, just like a butterfly…
We’ve just come back from Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy, their latest creation. The kids are in bed, they fell asleep with smiles on their faces. I could stop there really, it sums up the experience quite well…
It was a little… like going to Disneyland. The wait, the anticipation, imagination gone wild, a thousand questions, the bouncing around on the day. Most of the kids will be wearing their favourite costume. Hundreds of princesses, Jessie, Buzz, Woody, little mermaids, a few pirates in the lot. You have stepped into a different universe, where pretend play is real, of course – between cotton candy and sparkles, anything can come true.
The lights went off. In the semi darkness shine magic wands, those with swirling colours, a whole constellation of them. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy arrive. My son looked from his fluffy toy to Mickey, back and forth – so he really exists! Ah, the suddent light in his eyes! It’s quite an adventure on stage, no time to get bored. James stared, mouth open, clapping constantly. He’s 4. My daughter is nearly 9 but she was taking in every single detail and colour. Ariel and Tinkerbell’s worlds were rather amazing, Disney magic at its best, choreographies spot-on, waves, butterflies, spring blooming. The children were all riveted, concentrating so hard, mesmerized.
Parents will probably prefer the Toy Story part, which really made us laugh. The choice of songs (Barbie girl, Come and Rescue Me, Africa, Leave me alone, I need to break free…) proved hilarious, perfect for each scene, unexpected. Ken and Barbie were memorable, trust me. As an adult, a kids’ show is often… a little bit of a sacrifice but we were the first to propose to go and see the next one in autumn: please, please, can we, kids?
Wembley Arena, London 17th – 20th April 2014
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff 23rd – 27th April 2014
Picture a Flemish painting. The Dylan has succeeded to capture the Amsterdam light to perfection, its pale crystal quality which transforms bland tints to a palette of pearl, ivory, luminous and elegant grey. If the building has kept its original charm (the restaurant features beautiful brick walls and even the original bread ovens, memories of a distant past when the room was just a bakery), the hotel has re-modernised some of the structural lines. A purer, more vibrant white, contempory art here and there, a balance between wood, leather and more daring colours, lilac sometimes, an asian inspired lock, a fold-up bar that any traveller would love to bring to each new destination. Some of the luxurious suites remind me of the such well designed New York penthouses. Irresistible charm.
Outside, the night is falling softly. We are in the lounge, the sculptural chimney throws amber shadows all around. We have walked around the city all day, the armchairs are comfortable, soothing the tiredness in our legs and shoulders. A pure moment of peace, which we celebrate with a glass of Apostelhoeve Riesling Brut 2011, produced using the Champagne method. Oh, such a lovely sparkle, fast lace keeping its pace quite a long time too, aromas reminiscent of musk but closer to lemon and vanilla in taste. As if each little bubble magically faded the real world away. The crisp acidity of the wine, making your mouth water for more, is a perfect match to the plump, fruity olives brought to our table.
We’re here for the High Wine. Quite a novelty, a sophisticated version of the afternoon tea. There will be no scones but four carefully chosen wines, each paired with a delicious bite (rather generous though, as you will see), three savoury and one sweet. It easily replaces dinner but with a playful side.
The first wine is a Sauvignon blanc, a Domaine Octavie 2012 from the Touraine region. A floral caress, white lily followed by apple and honey, very modern. This was served with thin slices of halibut, nicely framed by the tanginess of juicy grapefruit. Accompanied by tiny sweet cucumber balls, crunchy mini croutons, a really pleasurable contrast of textures.
The second chapter of this wine story opens on a South Australian chardonnay, a 2012 by Milton Park. look at the golden straw colour! It smells of nectarine, ripe peach, superb pear, a summer afternoon in an orchard, bottled. It is to be enjoyed with Red Gurnard, the pink flesh of the fish easily coming away as tender flakes. Underneath is a nest of freshly made pasta with a succulent, velvety, slightly spicy tomato sauce.
The tasting now turns to red, a poetically named Les Romanes. This Côteaux du languedoc is faithful to its promise: red fruit and spices from the Syrah and garrigue flavours that only the Grenache noir can bring… Soft but enchanting, with just a hint of grass and mint, it would also be perfect with a dessert.
But here, it highlights oh-so-so-so-tender veal slices. Asparagus, blanched to leave a little crunchy texture, a comforting mushroom risotto. All woken up by a touch of Savora mustard, with its famous notes of homey, turmeric, clove, nutmeg…
The High Wine concludes on a suprising Swiss dessert vintage by John & Mike Favre. This Sauvignon, a 2011, proves a real nectar, rich but well structured in sugar, both honeyish and floral. That with the moist banana cake, the kind that makes me think of my mother’s Sunday baking on rainy days, pure heaven. The addition of black pepper ice cream adds another dimension, brings the cinnamon to the fore.
Verdict? Cocooned, charmed by the wide palette of wines, soothed by the music of the open fire, it is rather difficult to find the will to get up and leave… This is an excellent alternative to a formal dinner, with a real refinement in the dishes served. Very romantic atmosphere too.
High Wine – 39.50€ / person
1016 GB Amsterdam
I love yogurt. It’s refreshing, of course, but to me, it’s like a blank canvas. From plain to fireworks of flavours…
Sprinkle, season, drizzle, flavour… An easy way to cook and experiment. My kids are allowed to make the funkiest creations as long as they eat them. In our fridge, a favourite is the Alpro simply plain – just the right texture and ideal in curries and soups as a final touch. I also do an express Eton Mess with their vanilla one (between the soya and the meringue, I figure we reach a balance on the calorie count).
For their new campaign, Alpro Tops (#AlproTops), I tried their two new editions. An excellent strawberry with rhubarb, slightly sweeter than their usual ones, with a girlie pink hue my daughter already adores in smoothies. And a lemon & lime, quite refined that I simply need to try with chicken breast. Or even as a dip.
This morning quite a vast selection of toppings arrived in the post, chosen by Alpro to shake and jazz up breakfast time (you can win your own here, by the way). Wow, what a range – and these are only a few. Quite a few I had not really considered so far: mulberries, goji berries, chia and flax seeds, cranberries… Endless combinations.
Like this savoury one. Eat your 5 a day! Well, herbs count too and they work really well with yogurt. This one uses fresh coriander and thyme with just a sprinkle of dried mint. Enjoy straight with a spoon or with poached eggs and a salsa.
Ispahan remains a constant inspiration to me. Lychees at the bottom of the bowl, a drizzle of rose syrup and the day is already much nicer isn’t it? Give it a twist - violet syrup and blackberries, elderflower cordial and green apple…
I found these edible dried petals in a Parisian épicerie. Delicate, each a different taste. A breakfast bouquet, simple but such a lovely effect on a table. It’s almost lavender season so try flavouring sugar with it. It’s also super easy to make homemade flavoured syrup with sage, basil, rosemary or spice (I have a recipe just here, effortless).
Fan of Bounty bars? Try this, much healthier: Alpro simply plain with coconut dust and dark chocolate curls… Add some icing sugar and it makes quite a nice cake icing too!
5 more ideas this Sunday. Meanwhile, have a look at hashtag #AlproTops to find inspiration!
4 days of freedom. Hoorray! Chocolate treats, BBQs, long walks, picnics, there is so much to do. Staying in London? Quick, scroll down to read our 20 fun ideas for this weekend…
1. A fab world street-food festival will settle on Southbank for the weekend. With… a wine bar, a cocktail bar and a craft beer bar!
2. Friday and Saturday, Sadler’s Wells has a special family program with rather magical kids shows.
3. Did you know the V&A owns a collection of historical puppets? On Saturday, they will take them out of the archives and do a small show around Shakespeare’s work.
4. Go on a chocolate egg hunt in the Design Museum, through the Paul Smith exhibition. Rewards will be sweet from the amazing Rococo chocolatier.
5. On Saturday, raise your glass at Ciderfest, a festival around 15 ciders and delicious hot smoked meats.
6. Don’t miss the new Saatchi exhibition, Pangaea, putting forward fantastic African and South American artists.
8. Mess Gallery launches an Easter afternoon tea, absolutely delicious and it will not break the bank at £12.50! Oh, and there’s a terrace where the kids can run and jump and give you a break…
9. It’s record store day on Berwick street this Saturday so go looking for a gem while listening to DJs and live music.
10. There’s a new mini-adventure in London, Fairground. 3 levels of mouthwatering food, music and fun workshops.
11. The Tate Modern has just opened one of the largest exhibitions ever done on Matisse. An absolute must-see for art lovers.
12. Need chocolate? Try Paul A Young’s afternoon tea. Divine and really surprising.
13. An IFO (Identified Flying Object) just landed near King’s Cross: a cage made of rainbow neons, a beautiful art piece by Jack Rival. Nice little detour to make.
14. Kensington Palace will also have an Easter egg hunt - a lovely place to keep the kids busy. All weekend.
15. You know the Chelsea bun. But did you know there is also the Hackney bun? You’ll find the recipes here. You can also join the bun fight by voting for your favourite on Twitter, the winner will be baked Monday at 17.00 on Trafalgar Square.
16. There’s a rather different pub crawl happening on Sunday. The Christathon. Yep. Come as Jesus.
17. Have a stroll through the Barbican conservatory, only open to the public on Sundays. An exotic break!
18. On Sunday, have a bite of the Ox Roast, a collaboration between The Ship, Wandsworth and Flat Iron, Soho. Expect a giant BBQ with superb meat basted over 24 hours with London Stout…
19. Kids are going to love Shakespeare on Monday. To celebrate his birthday, The Globe Theatre is turning into a giant super-playground.
20. Celebrate St George’s day on Trafalgar Square with a food market and a few concerts.
♪♫♪♫ Click on the map to locate the events ♪♫♪♫
In Matisse’s work, I see Tahiti. The vibrant colours. The ferns, the corals. The hibiscus blooms. The tifaifais, the local patchworks.
This is what I expected from the new exhibition opening at the Tate, one of the largest ever dedicated to the artist. I discovered a different artist in the process. When his health problems stopped him from painting, he became a sculptor. Not of stone, but of paper, cutting straight into it, scissors becoming an extension of his soul as the brush had been before. He could reposition the shapes on the canvas, trying different angles. You read about it beforehand but it only really makes sense when you see it.
Henri Matisse, the cut-outs is like glancing though the looking glass. Step closer – you’ll notice how the shapes are collaged, the meandering charcoal lines, the experimentation. Experts, when analysing Acanthuses, have counted no less than one thousand pin holes… On others, you can imagine a spiral, a grid to better grasp the architecture he had in mind.
A few more things that I held dear… The stained windows he made for the Vence chapel, glass not being a material I associate with Matisse, how the idea consumed him for a while. Oceania, a piece that started randomly, simply by not willing to discard a shape, putting it on the wall to hide an annoying default. Being inspired, transforming the whole room by adding corals, leaves, birds. And of course, the absolute must-see, the four blue nudes, reunited for the very first time. These voluptuous female silhouettes have a Picasso side to me, a de-constructed geometry carefully reinvented.
If you are not familiar with the artist’s work, this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see 130 pieces at once, fully absorbing his art (which you really should follow by a visit to the Matisse museum in Nice to fully grasp the colours, so very different in the light of the south of France, where they originated). If you already admire him, you will learn so much more about this techniques, be touched by his slight hesitations, his repositioning… This makes him curiously more human.
Henri Matisse, the cut-outs
Until September 7th 2014
London SE1 9TG
Ah that extra spoonful of sauce with so much magic it turns a simple recipe into memorable mouthfuls… Well, that is exactly the power the Vini and Bal’s rustic Indian curry sauces have: you may have bought them but your guests would swear it is home made. So you can… cheat a little, like for these lamb papillotes, which only require a few minutes preparation. Perfect for Monday evenings when you feel you have already lost all energy!
For 4 papillotes, you will need…
- 500g lamb medallions, thinly cut
- 1 onion peeled and sliced
- sage and tarragon, 10 leaves of each
- salt and pink peppercorns
- 1 tbsp of Jeera sauce by Vini and Bal’s
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
Cut a rectangle of baking paper and add everything: lamb, salt and pepper, tomatoes, a few leaves of sage and tarragon. Close tightly. Cook 35 min at 180 C (just enough time to enjoy a bubbly bath) and serve with rice and a rocket salad. Just what you need to remember the countdown to the week-end which, after all, has already started. Sit back and relax… Try this recipe with some white fish too.
Vini and Bal’s
Sainsbury’s, Booths, Ocado
You don’t expect it there. The Barbican. A maze of grey concrete. You have heard of it, glimpsed it from the outside but it was always closed. Vibrant green in a surprising conservatory, exotic flowers, Japanese carp, palmtrees, ferns. Discreet stairs lead you to the upper floor, offer an even better view. You almost expect colourful birds to fly by. It’s like a little holiday from the city…
The conservatory is open to the public every Sunday, free entry.
Barbican Art Gallery
Silk Street, London
So what’s a Dutch pancake? It’s all in the name. Pan-cake. Between a French crêpe and a cake, baked in a pan, but wait, in the oven. Why? You’ll be able to give it a really nice curve. Think edible plate! It’s a lovely effect on a kitchen table. Or for dessert. Imagine that with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce… You can make them a few hours in advance, they will hold the shape quite well.
But for this one, why not try a pineapple carpaccio? Give it a twist with a spiced syrup: cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, pink peppercorn, saffron. So good you will seriously consider drinking a glass of it.
You will need…
1 fresh pineapple, sliced thinly
For 2 Dutch pancakes:
- 10g butter
- 2 eggs
- 100ml single cream
- 120ml milk
- 125g flour
- 2 frying pans, 15cm diameter (The Tefal ideal mini chef is great for this, small base, high sides)
For the spiced syrup:
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 1 pinch of pink peppercorn
- 4 saffron stalks
- 200ml water
- 50g sugar
In a bowl, mix flour, eggs, cream and milk until smooth. Preheat your oven to 200 C. On you normal cooker, warm your frying pans, putting a little butter in each. Scoop some of the batter in, let it settle a few seconds then swirl it to the sides, slowly, letting it be cooked by the heat. When you have the shape you like in both pans, put them in the oven for 20 min. Careful when getting them out, the handle will be super hot! You can also use a muffin tin to try and do mini versions. Butter it first and cut the cooking time by half. Add a little chopped mint.
The syrup is super easy to do. Heat the water and sugar in a pan until it simmers. Turn the heat down, add the spices, wait 10 min, then take it off the stove and allow to cool down for another 10 min.
Try these Dutch pancakes on their own too with a mix of icing sugar and cinnamon…
My hair refuses to be tamed. Each morning brings a fight. And anti-frizz serum. Another one to make it smooth. There is a lot of sighing.
A hairdresser recently whispered to me “Sometimes, it’s all about the brush…”. Point taken. To be fair, having a 8 year old in the house meant a huge collection of Hello Kitty ones. I’m not even sure where they all came from. I can only remember buying one. The one I’m mainly using. It’s bright pink, the first I see when I am still on autopilot in the morning. If you’re a mum, you know. Some details you happily forget when you haven’t had a coffee yet.
Time to go hunting for a high tech adult version. Luckily, Ecotools, my beloved make-up brushes brand, has just launched a new range. Yes, you guessed right – 5 beautiful hairbrushes, each with a different skill. You’re sure to find the perfect one!
Why fall for these? Because they’re light but offer a good grasp, thanks to their ergonomic bamboo handle. Because the brand is eco-conscious (renewable bamboo forest, recycled and recyclable paper for packaging…) and yes, this is compatible with beauty. But also because they are equipped with an aerodynamic Eco-Vent system that dries hair 20% faster. Really? Yes. I have tried it and on still damp hair, do not even need a hair dryer any more. It’s brilliant!
Which one to choose? Depends on what you need. In order of appearance on the pictures… Styler and Smoother if you love styling your hair. Sleek and Shine finisher, ideal for longer hair, distributing the natural moisturisers nicely. For a brushing, two sizes of round ones: Quick and full volume styler. The first is better for short to medium hair, the other for more volume in the curls. And the magic touch, Smoothing Detangler, will make your hair knot free without tears.
The bonus point? Ecotools has created a synthetic versions of boars’ hair. Cruelty free but wow, what a shine!