Two worlds meeting. Ours and theirs. Who? Amazing women in the Philippines. Let’s backtrack a little – in 2011 Meredith Ramirez Talusan travels to Hildalgo to do research for her dissertation. There, she learns that the locals are forced to leave their ancestral territoris (the Banaue ricefields, UNESCO protected) to find better wages in bigger cities. An idea – what if she taught them to knit? The goods could then be sold to the tourists and support them financially.
And so a school, an ethical business is born. Everything is handmade, each person employed directly by Ricefield Collective to make sure they get the right salary. And behind each piece, a joy in have created something that may travel to the other side of the earth. Each hat, scarf… comes with a picture of its maker. Nothing to do with numbers in a factory – we are talking of a real community, a daily life. Have a look at the website to see these crafters - aren’t they brilliant, modelling their work?
Were you looking for a practical present, something with a meaning? Well, this is what you would call a gift that keeps on giving. The patterns and colours are modern and handmade. You will not find them in the shops, unlike those reproduced to infinity with a machine. In their own way, they reflect the beauty of a region. Even better, you know where the money goes, an invisible lnk between you and them. The miracle of a simple woolen thread…
How to play? Easy. Just leave us a comment below with en encouraging message to these women… They deserve it, don’t you think? The name of a lucky winner will be selected at random on December 12 at noon. Keyboard ready… Click!
Def: The Scent of rain on earth after a dry spell arising from the yellow organic oil that yields the scent.
What a lyrical promise! Even more appetising when you know they have been awarded their second rosette… It is a little gem but you could walk through Jermyn Street and not know it’s there, hidden on the first floor of The Cavendish hotel. Choose a table close to the windows – just to have the view on Fortnum and Mason. The restaurant proudly promotes sustainability and focuses as much as possible on British producers and farmers. Chef Nitin Padwal also brought his magic to the food, his skills turning the dishes in little pieces of art.
Being a Froggie, I will say it over and over again – a good meal is never complete without bread. Presenting me with a basket of savoury ones – rye, cerals, olives… – marks points with me. Especially if you have added creamy butter.
I remain in admiration of the presentation of each recipe – what you would see in magazines. Delicately constructed like a culinary painting. Have a look at these sumptuous Scottish Scallops, simply seared, their heart tender, followed by confit, melt-in-the-mouth chicken wings. These lay on a layer of smooth, luxurious celery and truffle mash. Do I need to say anymore? Sublime with a glass of Saam Mountain, a South African Sauvignon blanc unrolling tropical and gooseberry notes. I stayed on this one the rest of the meal, loving its perfect crispness.
Still on the starters – the Loch Duart Salmon probably is the most beautiful I have ever seen. I could have taken a hundred pictures of this – what an exquisite chequerboard! First a cress jelly then decorated with cubes of cured salmon, infused with dill and fennel, last lonting notes. In between, column of confit beetroot topped with horseradish meringue, its spicy hint kicking at the last second. Here and there fish eggs and edible flowers. Blooming in your plate…
Still on the original side, the Irish beef fillet takes a vertical turn. The meat is generous, so juicy, pure happiness at each forkful. Onion rings in a nice light batter are piled on it, as well as braised ox cheek. All crowned with breadcrumbs mixed with grated romanesco for an intense colour. Even the mash is different – smoked, matching winter beautifully.
Fancy something really comforting? Try the Suffolk chicken roulade. It’s so… appeasing in a way, like a little pillow of meat, tender, not too strong in taste, just the right level. Braized gem, king oyster mushroom with crumbled chorizo. And the most beautiful sauce – a truffle Hollandaise. Oh my!
It had been a while since I had had an Alaska – the temptation was too strong. Cloud like cake, fragrant vanilla ice-cream wrapped in the most supple meringue, which was just starting to caramelise. Pieces of orange flesh, juicy, topped with crystallized mint. The waiter then adds a little trick: he pours the orange coulis around it… Smile guaranteed!
If chocolate is your weakness, do go for the brownie. Not any brownie – this one is wrapped in raspberry, making it more nirvanesque and lighter at the same time, lip-licking good. The lime and white chocolate ice-cream is the perfect conclusion – it will not have the time to melt.
Take the time to try this address. Very creative, very skilled. Another good surprise? The lunch and pre-theatre menu is only at £20.50 for 2 dished, £24.50 for three AND this includes a glass of wine, a beer or a soft drink. Quite a few options – you’ll find the Loch duart salmon, the Suffolk chicken and the Alaska amongst other treats.
Petrichor at The Cavendish London
81 Jermyn Street
London SW1Y 6JF
London fashion brand Lipsy had already seduced us with their voluptuous clothes collections subliming curves, making them (and you in the process) even more irresistible, giving you the confidence to rule the world. And for the perfect match, this last touch to make you unforgettable, they have even designed a fragrance – it’s all in the name. Glam. Says it all. A gorgeous box marrying pink snakeskin and gold, diamond bottle, each facette mirroring the light differently, a scent made to madden the senses. Sweet and spicy: honey and saffron, juicy apricot followed bu a floral heat of orchid, jasmine, peony and concluding on incense. Spell binding.
For Christmas, why not give the gift kit with this jewelled perfume and the body lotion, a shimmery one?
Wondering what to do in London this week-end? Well, how about you start with a treat: Poppy& Sebastian have just opened on Kingly street. An, oh my, aren’t their cakes beautiful, as gorgeous as in any haute-pâtisserie in Paris. That is just what you need when reaching a Friday evening. 10 more London ideas below!
1. Wow – Krug champagne opens a divine and luxurious pop-up crêperie in Covent Garden.
2. Pub or ice-skating? You can both at the same time at the Leather Bottle.
3. Be crazy this Saturday and join The Outdoor Swimming Society for a tonic swim in a London lido. With a brass providing the background music.
4. To better enjoy winter, here are 10 hot and mulled cocktails to go and try in London.
5. Hurray! God’s own junkyard, a paradise lit in neons, reopens this week-end.
6. When china becomes a work of art… – have a look at these delicate objects made of porcelain in this exhibition. The vintage style cameras are striking.
7. Enjoy a free concert in the Spitafields Music Winter Festival.
8. A vos appareils photos! Get your camera ready – the Santa Race is back on Saturday.
9. That’s art, baby – make a detour to see this upside down house.
10. Fancy a Sunday roast? Try this mouth-watering pop-up, Holly Roast - they even do duck!
Christmas is on the way. Amazing inverse ratio between the diminishing number of chocolates in the Advent Calendar but the increasing number of lines on the wishlist to Santa. Why not, this year, cut down on the number of toys which are sure to be left aside in a couple of months? Why not, for once, replace objects by memories, a day out, a family time?
If, like me, you have a little girl who lights up at the word Disney and knows exactly where her tiara is, follow my advice. Under the tree, leave an envelope with tickets for Dare to Dream, the new Disney on ice show at the O2. Princess Tanya and Prince Naveen will take you to New Orleans for a musical adventure, Snow White will tell you her story with the seven dwarves. Rapunzel will, for the very first time, put her skates one – imagine what it will be like with her hair! Even Cinderella will add her magic.
This was no easy task to put together either. It takes 12 hours to make that stage. No less than 40 performers, meaning 178 costumes on which have been sewn more than 250,000 Svarowski rhinestones. A sparkling time guaranteed.
And for a child, how marvellous to see her heroines in the flesh and not just flat on a TV screen, to discover them in a new setting, new stories. And for parents, such joy in seeing the kids enthralled, radiant with pure happiness. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
Dare to Dream celebrates 75 years of Disney princess stories. The show will stop at the O2 between December 27, 2013 and January 05, 2014 offering a perfect day out for families.
We even have 2 tickets for you to win for Dare to Dream (date to be chosen based on your preferences and availability). How lucky, you cannot not give it a try… How to play?
2. Answer the following question in the comments below: Who are the two Disney modern-day princesses? (Hint: click here!)
The lucky winner of two tickets will be selected randomly on December 8th at 8pm – what a great way to finish the week-end! Keyboards ready? Click!
We sent our Special Reporter Gavin Sandison travel in time and fight zombies under Waterloo…
“Come on, there must be a way out of here!” shouts the overexcited American soldier as we, along with eight other wide-eyed and slightly bemused participants start tearing apart our small ‘bomb shelter’. We find ourselves desperately trying to imagine being in the midst of the Blitz, with low rumbles of planes and bombing emanating from concealed speakers. Just minutes ago we were enjoying tea and cakes, wondering what the Zombie Blitz experience had in store for us.
Quite a lot, actually. Soon we were crawling through inky darkness, thrust into a tale of manic proportions involving a cackling Nazi scientist, fearsome SS men and, of course, ZOMBIES! At each stage we were encouraged to be part of the unfolding story and take the initiative while being carefully guided by the two actors in our midst, reminiscent of a computer game adventure.
What an exciting way to explore the dank underbelly of Waterloo Station! Such a foreboding ambiance, lending to a pervading sense of doom: “What’s next?”, “When are we going to meet the first zombies??”. The ever-present fear factor was balanced by constant excitement and camaraderie, keeping the experience exhilarating yet safely below the level of sheer terror – yelling out “Ahhhh!!” several times seemingly in good humour (but, must admit, pretty much involuntarily). A sudden blood-curdling shriek, startling sight, blood-spattered undead advancing… and then the lights go out. Oooh dear…!
With roughly a dozen sets to experience during the two hour session we were often moving fast. Some inspired creativity culminated in unforgettable scenes, ensuring we felt like participants rather than spectators – even if the SS henchmen had to turn the occasional blind eye while we clambered out of sight. Oh, there were zombies, lots of zombies! Don’t worry though, they don’t actually bite, hopefully they feed them well before each session just in case… The adventure culminated in a mad dash for our lives through the dank cellars and corridors, somehow just escaping their grasp, always looking over one’s shoulder and expecting a gristly surprise around the next corner.
And the finale… Suffice to say, it was an explosive finish! We emerged into the graffiti tunnel full of adrenaline and smelling of cordite. Hand shakes all round – the actors had done a splendid job. A fantastic initiation to the young genre of ‘immersive theatre’. Can’t get enough zombies? For a more combative experience… Zombie Battle London! In a Greenwich nuclear bunker no less!
Zombie Blitz 1940 experience
Reservation only. £65 per person, minimum age 13
Quick! It’s a limited edition experience, don’t miss out!
I do love living in England. Year after year – and I have been here for a decade – I remain as fascinated by the culture. My accent will never rub off, I continue to discover expressions and I cannot repeat it enough, I love it. Still, from time to time, I enjoy a brief very French pause. Just to remember that I am lucky to enjoy the very best of two cultures. My favourite haven is at Selfridges – a look at the amazing shoe gallery then a hot chocolate and macaron indulgence at Aubaine in the heart of that supershop.
But wait - it gets better. Aubaine has now opened a brand new restaurant in nearby Marylebone. With lots more cakes but not only: It recreates the chic of Parisian brasseries, warm light filtering from the windows, inviting you to stop by, warm up, come on, it’s cold outside baby. Even more tempting now that they have decorated the entrance with festive wreaths and garlands.
ondering where to have that Christmas party? Well, there you have it. I stopped by last week to try some of the treats on their seasonal menu, go on, read it, have a look…
On each plate was waiting an adorable bag of gingerbread men, cakes or marshmallows (I never got to try mine – my son found them and devoured them all within exactly 4 minutes). Did you know that they bake all of their own cake and bread? Their baguette is said to be one of the best in London. So followed the starters, presented as canapé versions to let us try a nice variety: Savoury goat’s cheese éclairs topped with chives, salmon tartare on crispy bread, fig-red wine poached pear-blue cheese salad. Or would you prefer a velvety mushroom soup? Or a peppery lobster bisque?
As mains, we adored the melt-in-the mouth wild mushroom risotto, so very creamy, parmesan shavings as a lovely finish, hints of marjoram. The perfectly grilled sea bream served with an umami-sensation potato and roasted garlic purée. Oh, that superb cockles butter matching each texture! Such a happy alternative to the usual turkey, more elegant, much lighter, much more enjoyable, trust me.
I have to admit a certain Froggie pride for dessert. As soon as the bûche appeared, smartphones and cameras were out, clicking away. It still leaves me smiling happily. The butter cream was well balanced, not too sweet, not to heavy. A real bûche (if you are French, you know exactly what I mean). I am quite used to chocolate ones but the lemon one, ah, that was different. Very lemon curd like. I wonder if you can order one? There are other options of course, like the nougat macaron. Step back into the cold? Why, you haven’t tried the cherry and cranberry cake yet?
And this, my friends, is only a tiny glimpse of the dishes you can choose from. The whole list is here and is literally mouthwatering. Consider yourself warned.
Aubaine – Marylebone
7 Moxon Street
W1U 4EP London
I had succumbed, a while back, to the most delicious brunch at Cuccina Asellina – the best way I can think of to start a Sunday morning. I recently had the occasion to stop by to try their aperitivo and catch up with a good friend. What is this? The French apéritif time but Italian style… Ah, such pleasure to see that elegant, glistening room again with a whole transparent wall displaying a wine cellar!
This time, we settle at the bar. With our overloaded agendas, it proves so difficult to find time to see each other so a full dinner was out of question. And yet, we have so much news to share! The aperitivo proves a less formal option, savoury snacks to nibble on, relaxing you immediately, leading straight into conversation. And of course – cocktails!
We started with La Bianca White Sangria (Absolute peach, lime, lychee, moscato d’asti) highlighting nicely the Italian wine and a Vesuvio (Bacardi superior, martini bianco, lemon, sugar, egg white): Delicate, easy to drink but will add a nice blush to your cheeks. The waiter also brought us an antipasti assortment: Generous Nocellara olives, artichokes-ham-mozzarella skewers, brushettas topped with cheese and melt-in-the-mouth courgettes or sardines rillette. And the coup de théâtre: Cheese made with beer to be dipped in truffle honey. It takes over all your senses, such an intense scent and taste, refining the cheese, multiplying the strength of the flavours… You will vow to find such a honey (and you will, by the way, at the Borough Market and at Selfridges).
Laughs, cheerfulness, finger-food making conversation easy, in the end we stay longer than planned. Following the bartender’s advice, we now sip a Caupona that wakes up the tastebuds (Cuervo Golg, pineapple juice, green apple, lemon, black pepper even on the rim) and a poetic Delicata (Ketel One, Bombay Sapphire, Lillet Blanc et St Germain) with an enticing elderflower note. We could not resist a few more treats. Why not the calamari infused with marjoram and a drizzle of lemon juice, to the perfect crispiness? Or the mini-mozzarella balls, the melted cheese so comforting, a perfect match for the red pesto dip?
Tick-tock, time to go, delighted, our appetite satisfied, yet still the promise of a full evening at home… A perfect alternative – give it a try! The aperitivo is served from 17.00 to 19.00.
Planning a weekend escape to Nice? Here are a few ideas of places to see and dishes to try:
From the airport to the center:
No worry – quite a few buses do the trip. The 98 will bring you to the town centre, the 99 to the station. Count 6€ for a single ticket which you can buy on-board. The journey takes around 30 min.
Where to stay?
* Le Grimaldi, very close to the pedestrian street. There is even a mini-supermarket nearby if you need anything.
* Le Best Western Riviera, 2 min walk from the station, 1 min walk from the 99 bus stop to/from the airport. Very warm welcome.
What to do with kids?
* The water mirror is a must! It is part of the promenade du Paillon, a green space with swings and climbing structures, including a beautiful wooden whale.
* The castle hill – gorgeous views, no traffic, the kids can run as much as they like. There is a café at the top with more climbing structures as a reward. La promenade des Anglais, bien sûr, avec sa plage de galets pour ricochets et alourdir les poches de souvenirs.
* La promenade des Anglais – a classic, but you cannot beat the seaside. No sand but the kids will love the pebbles just as much.
On the cultural side:
* Not tested but comes highly recommended: The Modern Art Museum, MAMAC
If you love colours:
Where to eat:
* The Kiosque Chez Tintin (3 Rue Charles Péguy) for, it is said, some of the best pain bagnat in town. Yes, they are super good. And well-known, so come early! You can ask them to put one aside for you, to collect on your return.
* Les causeries de Blandine, a lovely tea room with fresh pasta and wonderful homemade cakes. You absolutely have to try the local specialty which they master beautifully, the sweet chards tart (Tourte aux blettes). You don’t really taste the vegetable (like in a carrot cake) but oh, the mix with apples, pine nuts and rum-soaked raisins is divine.
*Chez Pipo, a very simple restaurant but iconic in Nice. They do not take reservations, the locals love it so come as soon as it opens. Socca is a local dish – a pancake made of chickpea flour and slightly crispy on top – people will queue for these. Their pissaladière is pretty good too, as is their sweet chards tart.
* Le Boudoir: a culinary travel focusing on truffles and foie gras (and more!). A refined dinner, elegant space. Delicious indeed.
* The Hôtel Beau Rivage lounge bar, themed around pebbles. After a day walking around, it is the ideal place to cocoon. The team has selected their spirits brilliantly so get talking to them about Japanese whisky, liquorice Sambuca, pomegranate liqueur, cristal clear gins… Much better cocktails than the famous Negresco (long list of inspiring names but disappointing on the taste and structure). We tried and loved the Cherry Blossom (Cherry Heering, Cognac, triple sec, lime, grenadine).
* Also to be tested but closed during our trip, the Fenocchio ice-cream parlour where they make the most unusual flavours: tomato-basil, sweet chards tart, cactus…
* The superb olive oils by PPP but also their cutting board in oliver tree wood, their navettes which recipe was redesigned by Pierre Hermé.
* On the Cours Saleya, step into the Fragonard boutique and fall for their perfume dedicated to the flower market. The mimosa one is quite something too.
After all, why should the chocolate Advent Calendars only be for children? Don’t we deserve it too? After all, who is going to do that Christmas shopping, wrapping and cooking, mmmh? This is my seasonal call: Let’s replace the morning vitamins with a treat. It’s good for us, energy for the day and guaranteed to make us smile. Lindt has created a dark chocolate version, more refined, more intense. In its elegant packaging lit with golden touches are the usual 24 windows, each hiding a suprise sweet from the Swiss Maître Chocolatier. I did not resist very long before opening a few to get a glimpse of the pleasures awaiting: Cherry chilli or orange Lindor, 60% coffee Lindor truffles, 70% and 85% Excellence mini slabs, dark crispy fondant stick and of course chocolate Santas… I wonder – how long do you think you will be able to resist after the alarm clock goes off?