Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Toronto: Dufflet

love it or hate it...will still eat it

My relationship with Dufflet "is complicated".

I don't really have a sweet tooth, per se, but even if I did, I find most of their selection off-the-charts sweet.  My teeth are ringing just thinking about it.  And to be honest, I've had a few things that caused me post-food traumatic stress disorder.  Case and point would be the Caramel neither looks appetizing, nor does it taste good.  Again, in my opinion.  It might just be the cake-hater in me. 

That said, Dufflet has a few treats I love almost as much doughnuts...

One slice is never enough.
In their "Buttery Bundts & Coffee Cake" family they have a Lemon Zinger cake that is so good I get goosebumps.  A buttery, moist pound cake with a hint of zesty lemon tartness.  Omigoodness, it's so good.  There is no Dufflet by my office, but lucky for me, Dinah's has it.

Serve me up the entire bundt. 

Dufflet Pastries on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winterlicious: Be in the Know

Here we go again... 
the 2011 short list

They're taking reservations if you haven't stopped by the Winterlicious page, you should.  Wait!  Before you do, want some help?

The best, according to yours truly, are:

N.B. The Licious' overlap so if you miss this season, there's always summa summa time.

I myself am dying to try these two: Kultura - yes, there are doughnut holes on the menu - and Lucien.

If you want to hear from the 'experts', I suggest you read Toronto Life's picks here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Toronto: Mildred's Temple Kitchen

:Liberty Village:
my happy place

Mildred's Temple Kitchen is like my little cloud 9.  Although I have come to dislike that phrase due to recent how about we call it my little slice of heaven.

Huevos Monty

It's a welcoming, white, bright, open space of love.  Truly, it is.  A  perfect weekend haven on Hanna Avenue where friends, lovers, and strangers come to smile and eat.

This past Sunday, on one of the coldest days of the year, a few us gathered for brunch and started with the Biscuits and Scones.  We all agreed that the currant scones on the left were far better than the biscuits on the right, which isn't to say we didn't eat them all, we did.  Not a crumb was left behind.

I had Mildred's benedict - two perfectly poached eggs and lox on a flaky, buttery croissant...

But true happiness came in the form of the best blueberry pancakes in Toronto:

Mrs. Biederhof’s Infamous Light and Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancake
They REALLY do make people happy :)

Mmmm...what heaven tastes like.

Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Toronto: Novo Spa

spa fail

I pride myself on reporting on the good, the good-er, and the best.  Of course, we all know that there is also the ugly and bad.

In my search for a new place to get RMTs, my dearest friend suggested Novo.  This "premier spa in Yorkville" had so much promise.  They even recommended we come early to take advantage of their "Aroma Color Therapy Sauna".  Cool right?  So not.

Our massages were booked for Sunday afternoon and save and except the treatment, it was disappointing.

I took issue with their "Aroma Color Therapy Sauna".  Talk about false advertising, this complimentary service is a 3' x 2' box with coloured christmas lights.  Huh.

Upon check-out the RMTs mixed my friend and I up and we consequently didn't have the right therapist on our receipts.  The receptionist tried to rectify the mistake by whiting out the first name (because she somehow concluded my friend and I had the same last name?!?!).  When I advised her that an insurer would not accept a whited out receipt, she seemed confused.  After a brief pause, she told me that my therapist was in tomorrow and they would mail me a correct receipt.  I told her that I would just pick it up that afternoon.  She then asked me to call and ask them to do that.  Ask who?  Didn't I just ask her? 

This painstackingly annoying exchange could have been avoided if staff communicated.  I saw my RMT head out as I came up to the counter.  Mistakes happen, but it's how they're handled that determines the professionalism of any establishment. 

I called today to confirm my receipt was ready - that's how much faith I had in the competency of the staff.  And my doubt was not misplaced.  The guy stated he no idea what I was talking about.  He put me on hold only to come back and tell me that there was no record of me having seen the massage therapist I indicated.  I told him that the mistake had obviously not been rectified but that I would leave it to him to figure it out.  He told me I could pick my receipt up tomorrow.  How much would you like to bet that when I go in tomorrow, it won't be ready.  Fooey!

Update: I went in and it was ready.  Of course it took the girl (same one I saw Sunday) some time to figure out who I was and what I was talking about.  I guess I have a forgetable face. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Second Skin Cheek Colour by Laura Mercier in Lotus Pink

namaste Laura

:Pricey at $30:

It’s blatantly obvious I love Laura Mercier. What is less clear is why it took so long for me to discover the blush.

Second Skin Cheek Colour comes in a dozen or so tempting colours. I picked Lotus Pink for ma soeur. The sweet, sugary pink is as gorgeous as she is.

The blush comes packaged in a familiar compact – no puff, no pump, no sieve – an average case housing a velvety powder that sweeps on easily and evenly.

Love it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

fresh by Juice for Life


These restaurants started sprouting up all around town in 1999.  I have eaten here twice in my entire lifetime.  It serves vegan/vegetarian friendly food.  Fresh is most definitely wholesome...but I wouldn't say it's good.

My first meal was a protein shake (yummo) and the black bean burrito ($11.50 for a meatless burrito with gorgonzola, cheese makes everything better).  Look over their menu and you'll get an idea of what you're in for. 

If I absolutely had to eat a healthy no-animal-byproduct meal, I would eat here.  But Jiminy Cricket, when does that happen?  Oh right, August 2004 and last Tuesday.  My wonderful dinner date is participating in a 60-day challenge (the diet and health variety) so I was okay with forgoing taste in lieu of company.  We met at the one at Richmond and Spadina where I had the buddha bowl:

Yes, it was so very fresh what with all those raw cucumbers and tomatoes.  Remind me again, isn't an entire cucumber and tomato about $2?  So the peanut sauce, bean sprouts and 5 tofu pieces make up the other $7.50...

All in all, I felt like I busting from the seams with vitamins and minerals.  Course I ended up eating a burger and a bag of chips when I got home.  Tsk, tsk.

Fresh By Juice For Life on Urbanspoon

Mineral Powder Bronzer by tarte in Park Avenue Princess

you know you love me, xoxo

:Pricey at $38:

Bronzers are always more expensive than blush; I suppose it’s because quantity-wise you get more? I’m a bronzer-noob. I’ve only tried NARS’ Laguna, and have stuck with it over the years.

In celebration of the new year I went in search of one for my fairer skinned sister. My Sephoroda suggested tarte she did. Mineral-based bronzing powder it is.

Being a tarte product, it’s light and free of fragrances, parabens, sulfates and a bunch of other crap you don’t want on your face. It’s also full of vitamins which help to fight free radical damage. All that and it makes you look sunkissed fresh.  I think this bronzer is much more versatile than the NARS one; simply because it's got a shimmer to it and reflects light better.

Plus, with a name like Park Avenue Princess you can’t help but feel that this bronzer was made especially for you.

Like it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blue Corn 3-in-1 Cleansing Scrub Mask by Body Shop

the little blue tub that could
:Average at $16:

My sister loves this stuff.  It has been in her beauty regimen since I was very little.  I know this because I used to snoop through all her stuff.  *Big grin*

Now that we're both older and I'm no longer such a brat, she tells me her beauty routine, or lets me otherwise observe.  She uses this mask about once a month, so the little tub is quite the value.  The mask cleanses, exfoliates and moisturizes (that's 3), leaving the skin clean, smooth and balanced (that's 3 more, so it's like a 6-in-1).

We've established it does a lot.  My sister recommends it; that's reason enough for me.  How about you?  By the way, did I ever mention that my sister and I were tested and we both have higher than average intelligent quotients?  Ummm, ya.  Just throwing that in your face.

Sometimes I laugh out loud when I read the ridiculousness I share with you.

Like it.

Lashes: Eyelighter™ By Cargo in Pink

i love to highlight
:Pricey at $20:

I don't wear eye shadow often, but sometimes I feel like I need a little something, something. 

This highlighting pen is easy.  One end is matte, the other is shimmery.  It even tells you where to apply it.  I love make-up for dummies.  The Bay and Ulta still have Cargo, but last I checked the Pink is gone (only White or Gold).

I don't know if it instantly makes my eyes pop, but it makes me feel like I did something, although not $20 worth of something.  Hm....
Skip it.

Vanishing Lotion for Sensitive Skin by Spectro AcneCare™

Medicinal Ingredient: Benzoyl Peroxide Lotion 2.5% w/w

:Average at $9:

Works well to invisibly treat and prevent pimples
Can be used everyday in morning and evening
Specifically states it can be used for adult acne breakouts

I usually avoid Benzoyl Peroxide like the plague. It’s like kryptonite for sensitive skin. Yet my sister swears by this stuff. I like to think I’m always right, but it just so happened that my Shoppers was out of Clearasil. Sidebar: It really bothers me when big box stores are ‘out of stock’. They had none on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Indeed, I went back each day to check. 

I stood in the aisle and contemplated my dilemma. I’m getting a pimple on my nose. I can (a) let it errupt and being the vain person I am, hibernate until it's gone, (b) go to another Shoppers to see if they have my Clearasil, or (c) try the stuff my sister uses. I went with the latter.

My sister was right, but shhhh, let’s not tell her I said that.

Like my Clearasil, it can be used under make-up in the day, and then Mario Badescu the ish out of it at night.  That’s right – pimples I’m on you like white on rice.

Like it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bronzer Powder by NARS in Laguna

faux sun
:Pricey at $38:

The explicit answer is to feign tanned, glowing skin.  The implicit answer is that in doing so you enhance the structure of your face.  How?  YouTube it.  I wonder what people did before YouTube How-Tos?  I mean really, you can watch a step-by-step videos to do's a scary world we live in.

For me, Laguna used to be my is still by far one of the prettiest bronzers out there - brown with gold shimmer - but I am way too pasty right now to pull it off.  So until my tan returns, Laguna is benched and Park Avenue Princess just became a starter. 

Like it.

Clinique Uneven Skin Tone Kit

even out your imperfections
:Pricey at $63:

A $95 value for $63 is a deal, but it's an expensive deal.  I needed a new bottle of Even Better Clinical (EBC), so I figured why not get the kit.  I got the extra skin tone correcting moisturizer and 7 day scrub cream.  I have yet to use the latter, but that's because I'm going away soon and they are perfect travel size bottles.  I'll review them then.

The kit is a good deal for anyone who wants to try the the EBC because you get two more products that help to improve your complexion.  I imagine it boosts the results if you use all three in tandem.  I got my kit at Shoppers, go, go go.

I already reviewed EBC, so I won't bother saying much more.  This will be my third bottle and I think I'm well on my way to finally moving past the hell that broke loose...

I feel like doing a happy dance, but I'll wait until I'm done my bottle and my skin is really, even better.

Like it.

Vinoperfect by Caudalie

the caudalie challenge
:Pricey at $79:

It can be overwhelming to find a specialized crème/serum, and I have it in mind to create a chart. I love charts.

Until I do...I went to Sephora to pick up another bottle of Clinique, but got sidetracked by a huge display for Caudalie. I decided to give it a try. 

In my usual obsessive manner. I tracked the results to see what, if anything, this product did. This is the only way I can evaluate any product.  It requires patience and diligence, two things I have in surplus.
The price point is high (as is the case with almost all specialty crèmes, grumble, grumble), but my Sephoraoda convinced me. She told me that this product is more specific to helping minimize discolouration and scars than the Clinique. She said it would also boost the overall appearance of my skin leaving it more radiant and luminous. I will be the judge of that.

Here we are:
Left - September 2010     |     Centre - November 2010     |     Right - January 2011
I said before, and I’ll say it again. Some things are worth their weight in dollars. This is one of those things.  But now that the worset reminders of my rash are gone, I'm starting back on the Even Better routine.  Thank you Caudalie.  Love A Happy Customer.

Love it.

StayClear® Vanishing Acne Treatment Cream by Clearasil

Medicinal Ingredient: 3% w/w Sulfur and 2% w/w Rescorcinol
:Average at $7:

Works well to dry up and heal pimples
Can be used everyday in morning and evening

When I think back to my teenage years, I think about all the times I participated in under-age drinking in a park in my middle to upper middle-class neighborhood where spoiled kids ran rampant terrorizing people and got their kicks out of slumming and being dumb. So glad those days are over…

During all that nostalgia, I also think about Clearasil and Oxy?!?! I have NO idea why. Maybe because the trials and tribulations of adolescence includes paying close attention to commercials and ads depicting relatable teens. Honestly, that may be reaching, but those commercials have stuck with me over all these years. I was really lucky I didn't need to worry about zits, as they were called back then, but then if I had, maybe I wouldn't be going through a second puberty right now.

The point of my story is that Clearasil has been around a long, long time. It was helping teens back in the 1980s, and it helps me now.

Longevity is a testament to the quality and efficacy of something, anything, and everything. In this case, this blue and white tube has been a staple in my bathroom for more than ten years. I always have it around, whether it was for the once-a-year pimple, or more recently, the every two-week break-out. I use it once a day, from the moment I wake up, before I put on my make-up...

I couldn't resist.

Love it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Toronto: Beauty Line

cheap and cheerful, really
:King Street:

The mani-pedi world is a two-player fight.  

In the red corner we have cheap and crass (usually)Vietnamese-run nail shops, or as I like to call them “chop-shops”. 

And in the blue corner we have the "shishipoopoo" spas.

The cost differential is steep. For example, Lux Spa in Yorkville is where I like to get some shishi in my poopoo.  It's a nice treat, but it’s also $35 plus tax and tip (or more for their other treatments). Whereas the chop-shop cost a mere $10 no tax.

Who wins?  No one really.  I think the age old maxim  - you get what you pay for - applies here.  Of course, if you suffer from obsessicure (Definition: The obsessive-compulsive need to get a manicure and/or pedicure at least biweekly, if not more), by default you need to go cheap and hope that the chop-shop doesn't make mincemeat of your fingers and toes.


{cue music}

You could go to Beauty Line.  From the prices it sounds like your average “cheap” mani-pedi bar, but inside, it's not as toxic - cleaner, nicer, better ventilation and service.

There are two locations, but I’ve only gone to the King Street one. After five visits I am sparing five minutes to tell you about it because each time I’ve been happy with quality and longevity of my $10 (plus tax and tip) manicure. (A manicure and pedicure is $35.)

Might I recommend that while you’re waiting, you ask for a 10-minute massage ($10). Nails drying, shoulders relaxing, woosahhhh.

P.S. If I could afford to, I would go to Lux all the time, it's ama-jing!  Want to treat me?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vancouver: L’Abattoir

dine here with Don Draper


Mmm, scallops and oxtail dumplings
I love buzzworthy restaurants. I’m not sure if it’s because I sort of enjoy it when a restaurant falls flat on its face, or because I like the feel-good feeling  when one lives up to the hype. I suppose it depends. In the case of L’Abattoir, a little birdie told me it was great, so I read up on it. Sure enough, the reviews have been praising this Gastown establishment (for everything from it’s creative elixirs and witty cocktails to the décor and culture, oh, and of course, the food). L’Abattoir’s two principals have quite the resume. Grunber was a general manager at Market, a Jean-Georges restaurant, and Chambar, a former Rob Feenie establishment. Cooper also worked at Market, as well as Fat Duck in England. That concludes the history lesson, back to the fun stuff.

The appetizers sound intricate and include terrine of pork hock and foie gras and a poached egg, quinoa, and swiss chard concoction. I opted for the Dungeness crab and chickpea toast and got a delightful hollow cylinder of toasted brioche filled with a crab mixture. My dinner date had the salad of chicken. Although it was sooo not my mother’s chicken salad; instead, it was a plate of chicken mousse cubes and pickled cauliflower tossed in a foie-gras flavoured mayonnaise and lemon and parsley vinaigrette. That's gooder than momma's chicken salad (not better).  Now to the mains…

I had the roast flank steak and sweetbread. I will never look at flank steak the same:

Not what you expected right? It was luscious and rich. I could have done will a few less peppercorns but would have bathed in the potato fondants and sweetbread if I could?!?!

How does a girl balance all this savoury earthy goodness? Why with a nice piece of lemon meringue.

FYI, the service was impeccable. This meal was the start of my Buddha belly. You should see it, it’s pretty epic.

L'Abattoir on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vancouver: Sushi House

home of a happy stomach


So, like, there was a Sushi House on Kingsway in Burnaby.
Then it closed and re-opened as Nao Sushi but everything seems the same.
But there is also a Sushi House in Richmond.
I’m not sure if there was always one in Richmond? I can't recall.
But, like, this place is exactly like the one on Kingsway when it was still Sushi House.
So, I’m confused. Are they both Sushi House, or is Sushi House, Sushi House, and Nao was Sushi House, but not anymore, or perhaps, it never was?
My goodness, that's deep.

I mean honestly, who cares? If you read through that entire diatribe, I apologize and will keep the rest short.

Cheap, fresh, yummy eats. Check it out for yourself.

Sushi House on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vancouver: Hon’s Wun-Tun

not just noodles

It's not just a noodle house. To me, Hon's is my childhood.  I grew up off this stuff - my family went every Sunday after church.

It is/was a legendary Chinese restaurant, depending on who you ask.  It's not fancy, nor is it culinary magic, but I like it.  Although less so over the years, and it seems the public agrees as there are fewer and fewer locations.

My standard is wonton egg noodle soup with a side of Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce. But I really go to Hon's for the potstickers (and the pale red, sweet, sour, vinegar dipping liquid). It's BAD ASS.

I got some take-out for my sister. She ate all 12 in one sitting.

Hon's Wun Tun House (New West) on Urbanspoon

Vancouver: Nao Sushi

consistency is key

I liken Nao Sushi to McDonalds. The fast food variety of sushi – consistent, cheap, and yummy.

It used to be called Sushi House, but that was pre-renovations. My family still refers to it as Sushi House because not much really changed. It tastes the same to me. I can’t even describe how ridiculous sushi in Vancouver is, I mean just look at this sashimi…

And the chirashi:

And lastly, mmmm…oyster motoyaki. It’s a shame they cheapened themselves and served it in some dollar store foil tin. (Nao Sushi, stop cutting corners, you hear me?)

Nao’s not elaborate, and personally that’s how I like my sushi – it allows the fish to stand alone. Straightforward goodness. Only in Vancouver…only in Vancouver.

Nao Sushi on Urbanspoon

Touche Blush by Yves Saint Laurent

i’m so pretty, oh so pretty!
:Pricey at $60:

Dior is dead. Long live YSL!

Even with its hefty price tag this blush is the best purchase of the year (so far, after all, it's only January).

I love the puff applicator, and #2 is a pretty, peachy-pink pigment. That’s a lot of Ps, here’s one more, it’s perfection.
Love it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Vancouver: Pure Nail Bar

disappointment runs rampant

Not impressed. It’s like finding Paul Walker on the internet and then discovering he's actually Napoleon Dynamite.  That said, if I knew I was getting Napoleon I'd be happy, but if I was expecting someone else, well, you can see where the disappointment comes into play.

Pure Nail Bar is your run-of-the-mill mani/pedi chop-shop, but they hold themselves out as a classier nail bar. Not the case. I like chop-shops, but at chop-shop prices.  Sure they have Sex and the City playing, but the decor and furnishing are not well-kept, the staff is prickly, and the mani chipped within a day.  So, if you can get what Pure's selling but for less money (Harmonie is an option), wouldn’t you rather do that?   

In the alternative, you can pay a few dollars more than Pure and relax in the lap of luxury at some other spa (Absolute and Le Petit come to mind).

I don’t always get what I want, but you can learn from my mistakes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vancouver: Beard Papas

puff daddy

I should probably preface this posting by acknowledging that I am a conflicted eater. My sister always rolls her eyes at me because I shoot my mouth off about food, well actually, about everything. I say I don’t like a lot of things but then she’ll catch me eating it. Or, in extreme cases, I completely change my mind and love it. But don’t ask me to admit it, denial is my middle name. Case and point, I hate fried chicken.

I don’t like cream puffs. I’m just not whipped cream’s biggest fan. So as I said, I don’t like cream puffs but Beard Papas are evidently “the World’s Best Cream Puffs”, so suppose we say...I dislike them the least. Still following me?

My papa loves these, so ma mere picked up a box. I had one and next thing you know, I had three. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that the filling is custard and cream combined just before they’re filled. These yummy little buns are preservative free and baked fresh daily. A triple threat of a flaky puff shell, whipped cream custard, and a Bavarian dark chocolate glaze (those are the best of the bunch). Yeehaw.

Beard Papa's (Metrotown) on Urbanspoon

Winter Obsession

when I like it, I really like it

:Average at $10:

Last year I was rocking Black Onyx and Light My Sapphire, both of OPI, all winter long. This year I find myself fancying a purple-brown-grey blend. It’s hard to call it just one or the other, it’s a sultry, cool mélange of something, and I’m obsessed.

Here’s Essie’s Smokin Hot:

Left: Without flash | Right: With flash
And an equally sexy version is China Glaze’s Channelesque.

The colour seems inspired from Chanel’s Paradoxical, but without a shimmer, and not so intense.

Love it.

Vancouver: Cupcakes

the "original" but not the best
This is for all the cupcake lovers out there. Again, I’m not a fan of cupcakes. These used to be the coolest kid on the block, but now there are so many. Who’s to say who’s better. I picked these because they were the original. Of course, their show really bugs me.

I won’t go out and buy these, ever. But, if they’re around, I’ll eat them, but just these ones:

Red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting. A beautiful combination. A beautiful bite of sugar. That’s about it. But perhaps that’s all you want.

Cupcakes on Urbanspoon