Monthly Archives: March 2011

Beauty - "The Lovely" - Breakfast/Brunch - FOOD - "The Delicious" - Makeup Tools

A Green Table Brunch with EcoTools

March 31, 2011

By Nicci Jordan Hubert

EcoTools Eye Makeover On-the-Go set and Alicia Silverstone for EcoTools Train Case.

Makeup applicators can be a tricky business — not all are not created equal. When they’re too cheaply made, they shed and splotch. When they’re too expensive, well, they’re somehow heavier…as if just shelling out all that moola suddenly prohibits the enjoyment of their use (especially if the expensive brushes turn out to be cheaply made arghhh). So last week, when I had the pleasure of attending EcoTools’ launch their new spring lineup for BATF, I was stoked. I’ve long been a fan of EcoTools brushes because I found them like Goldilocks found her porridge — after testing many a brush, I found EcoTools’ weren’t too expensive, they weren’t too cheap… they were just right.

Spring flowers and mimosas at The Green Table in Chelsea Market

Luckily, the breakfast not only featured a gift bag (perks of the job…) but it was also hosted by The Green Table in Chelsea Market, a lovely nook well-renowned for its sustainable, delicious food. The space was bright and beautiful— just look at those flowers!!—and the ever-flowing glasses of Mimosas on a Thursday morning weren’t too shabby either. Who was I to turn them down?

After gawking at the menu and beautiful plate of pastries already on the tables, we were treated to a presentation of EcoTools’ new ventures, including an EcoTools by Alicia Silverstone line, launching in April. The line features some revamped EcoTools classics like their adorable Train Case, and some newbies like their 6-piece brush set & bag. All the bags are made out of natural hemp material and recycled PET lining.


...and biscuits

But the question remains: was it the presentation that had us sighing in bliss, or was it the ooey gooey spring-vegetable frittatas and mind-blowing cinnamon rolls we were scarfing during the presentation?

The food had a slight edge…until the presentation moved into EcoTools’ upcoming “Choose to Live Beautifully” campaign, which had us just as mesmerized. The campaign is designed around not only creating sustainable tools, but also using recycled products to do so. EcoTools is offering, to anyone who mails in their old beauty tools like brushes or loofahs, a coupon for up to $7.99 worth of product wherever EcoTools are sold (primarily: Target and Walgreens). That coupon actually goes a long way… Go to to find out more.

Which takes us to, in our opinion, the most remarkable reason for EcoTools’ appeal: apart from their high-quality, Earth-friendly products is the price point. Their brushes are surprisingly durable and extremely soft, but shed very little and apply makeup quite smoothly. I asked our hosts how EcoTools managed to sell such quality brushes at such a low price and the woman quipped with a wink, “Magic.”

The accessibility of the brand is admirable. It was clear at every moment of their presentation that although they’re incredibly proud of their brand, they have no need to be elite. They want everyone to have access to the right beauty tools. And to that philosophy, we raise our Mimosas.

Anyone other EcoTools fans out there? Tell us about your favorite brushes!

Bakery - Dessert - FOOD - "The Delicious"

Camera Cake from DeLush.Bakery in Chicago

March 30, 2011

DeLush Bakery camera cake

My brother and sis-in-law went to a birthday party this past weekend, and I could not stop gawking at the pictures they brought back of this camera cake made by Saba Khan of DeLush.Bakery. Sheer creativity.


Back view


Check out the attention to details! I swear if I didn’t know better, I’m pretty sure I’d just try to pick it up and try to clumsily use it instead of eating it (actually, it was probably better I wasn’t there). Saba, who has been decorating cakes for almost six years, made the cake for brother who loves photography. It’s not a cake made just to stare at though (although, I’d be totally game to admire this work of art all day) — the inside was a coconut batter with pineapple filling. DEE-vine.

Saba’s based in Des Plaines and pretty much caters to the Chicagoland area (and possibly beyond if requested). You can check out more of her cakes at her blog, which also includes a cake made into the shape of MAC lipstick…clearly, she speaks my language *sigh.

(847) 331-0416


Beauty - "The Lovely"

Talking Best of Beauty with Allure’s Amy Keller Laird

March 29, 2011

Allure's deputy/beauty director, Amy Keller Laird

Allure, the beauty authority magazine, recently unveiled their Best of Beauty winners, featuring top products from every category — hair, skin, makeup, you name it. I got a chance to talk with Deputy/Beauty Director, Amy Keller Laird this morning about some of her favorites from the list! Interesting side note: I used to work with Amy years ago at Shop Etc. magazine (RIP), and she always had an open door policy when it came to my beauty questions — one of the coolest gals in the industry by far! Read on as she dishes on some of her favorites and even some never-to-be-forgotten beauty secrets from Jennifer Aniston’s stylist and Beyoncé ‘s makeup artist!:

What’s the behind-the-scenes “Best of Beauty” process like?

Amy Keller Laird:
The whole process takes about half a year. We send out a very detailed form to all the companies, asking them to submit what they consider to be the best of the best. We also ask for specific products to test from what they’ve sent us that we also consider to be the best. Then we have a team of interns who basically log in everything for every single category separately. Since we had about 190 products last year, we need everything to be organized. The beauty department definitely tests every category that pertains to them and then the regular staff fill in the holes. After about six months, everyone gets a tally sheet of all the products they tested (they can also write in their favorites if it wasn’t on the list). We tally them up and those are the winners. Of course, there is back and forth discussion depending on the category — things like fragrance always elicit passionate discussion because it’s a very personal thing, so we try to find something that appeals to everybody.

You’re constantly testing so many products, how do you decipher which one really works the best for you?

AKL: Part of it is after you’ve been doing it for so long and you try something and you immediately have that delight and that sense of Oh My God, this is different — you love the smell, you love the way it looks and how it works. There’s that immediate gratification payoff and you just keep returning to it. It’s one of those things, like this curl cream I found from Shu Uemura, their Cotton Uzu for defining my waves. After discovering it, I just never want to try the new products for when they come in, but you know, I have to, it’s part of my job. But that’s kind of when you know that product is a winner — when you don’t even want to try anything else.

Shu Uemura Cotton Uzu cream, $33

Are there any products which consistently seem to make it on the list?

AKL: There are definitely brands and products that do win over and over. That’s the cool thing about Best of Beauty, it doesn’t always have to be new products. Olay and Pantene are some of the brands that always consistently won both in Readers and Editor’s choice. Even things like deodorants, Secret always comes on top for both categories as well.

Are there any specific products from those lines that you personally love?

: Personally, I love the Olay Definity line. When that foaming moisturizer first came out I thought it was the coolest. It pumps out like a mousse and is just so smooth on your skin. Another product that has won a number of times is the Olay Definity Eye Illuminator Illuminating Eye Treatment. It has this amazing velvety texture and a blend of mica that immediately brightens the area. It also has those long-term ingredients like niacinamide that’s working overtime. It has won Allure‘s Breakthrough Award which is the Holy Grail of Best of Beauty. Not only does it have the technology there that determines what’s a breakthrough product, but it shows that it’s something new and unique, and people just really love it. There’s not a lot of products that overlap like that. Pantene happens to have another one of those products: their Flat to Volume Shampoo. Pantene did all this research on the four different hair structures and found specific ingredients that work just for fine hair, so there was something very interesting going on technologically. Everyone with fine hair in the office really felt like it gave them volume.

Olay Definity Eye Illuminator won Allure's Best of Beauty AND Breakthrough Award

As a mother, I’m sure you’re even more short on time – what product has been a God-send?

: Anything that’s a time saver that I can just sweep on and off. I don’t wear foundation so I’m always looking for a great tinted moisturizer that can do double duty — you know, something that has moisturizer, SPF, and a little bit of a tint. I like MAC’s Studio Moisture Tint SPF 15. The cool thing about it I feel like with tinted moisturizer you’re either sacrificing a bit of hydration for color, or one kind of comes off and one doesn’t work that well, but this one just blends really well.

What’s the best way to transition a skincare regimen for Spring?

AKL: I would say go a little bit lighter on moisturizer and switch from a heavy cream cleanser to a lighter lotion or gel cleanser. The new liquid sunscreens are great for spring, like La Roche Posay‘s, because they really work and are actually hydrating but the formula is so fluid and light that it doesn’t feel heavy on your skin at all. Exfoliating is also key – it’s like spring cleaning. It’s time to shed those dead skin cells.

What beauty advice have you received in the past that you’ve never forgotten?

AKL: For the best defined waves, Chris McMillan [Jennifer Aniston’s hair stylist] told us at Allure that once you put your product in your hair, don’t touch your hair again until it’s dry. I always think of that everytime I put product in my hair and I have that urge to touch it again. But it’s totally true, I have much less frizz when I follow his advice. Another tip I was given when I was on a photoshoot once years ago with Mally Roncal, and it’s the most simple thing, but it’s to use a black liner and only line the inner rim of your lower lashes and nowhere else. It requires no skill at all and gives you instant definition.

Did any of your favorite products make the Best of Beauty list?? Hungry for more insider beauty tips? You can join Amy in a few minutes on Allure’s Facebook page for a live chat at 12:30 EST!

Beauty - "The Lovely" - Beauty on the Streets - Dessert

Beauty on the Streets: Nadia Hubbi of Sweet Pillar & Co.

Nadia Hubbi of Sweet Pillar & Co.

Name: Nadia Hubbi

Age: 28

Occupation: CEO & Founder of Sweet Pillar & Co.

Location: LA


“I believe in making wishes because dreams come true — wishing combined with hard work, of course. I’m an optimistic person.”

My style: colorful, city chic.

The best part about starting Sweet Pillar has been: waking up every morning and seeing my vision come to life. It’s such a thrill.

The most unique thing about my company is: it’s the first of its kind, literally introducing two cultures to each other by a simple cookie and a “Bon date” — our chocolate Medjool date truffles. It’s a fusion of East and West in the kitchen!

I always tell people who’ve never tried my products before to go for the: Date filled Mamool cookies – they are the perfect balance of sweetness. They’re crunchy yet they melt in your mouth. They taste amazing and look so cute! It’s Middle Eastern art in a cookie.

Treats from Sweet Pillar & Co.

People usually compliment my: Creativity

I’ll never forget the time: I received the phone call saying my product was approved to be on the shelves nationally. I know exactly where I was, what I was wearing and doing. I couldn’t sleep for days from excitement, and from realizing how much work I still needed to do to deliver!

For my skin, I love: Vitamin A & E

My favorite makeup tip: discover the wonders of concealer.

Current beauty product obsession: Laura Mercier creme blush. It makes look like I just came back from a vacation in Mexico. It blends in beautifully and looks so natural. It adds so much oomph without looking too caked on.

But I also can’t live without: Lancôme mascara and a blow dryer. If my hair looks good I’m ready to go.

Worst habit: constantly checking my email, I can’t sit still. it’s an addiction which I don’t think they have therapy for unfortunately.

My favorite scent is: Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise cologne for women

People might be surprised to know: I hate watching TV, I can go on weeks without putting the TV on but oddly enough I’m very up to date with the reality TV world; the information just comes to me, I swear.

My favorite hair product is: Biosilk Silk Therapy, it smells amazing and makes my hair look shiny and beautiful instantly.

I don’t understand people who don’t like: sushi! It’s so good I can eat it all day, everyday.

The restaurant I can never get tired of is: I love trying new entrees and a favorite place usually varies depending on my mood but I’m never disappointed when I go to Katana on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. The ambiance is great and the food is mouth-watering.

Though I can make a mean: I absolutely love to cook so this is tough, but lately I’ve been making a lot of Japanese chicken curry that everyone raves about.

Who inspires me: people who make something magnificent out of nothing and people who are not afraid to take a stand even if they are alone.

Find Sweet Pillar on Facebook at

BATF Giveaways - Beauty - "The Lovely" - Hair - Hair Tools

Giveaway! Clipless and Flat Iron Gift set from HerStyler

March 28, 2011

We’ve officially made it to the 1K mark on our Facebook fan page! To celebrate, I’m giving away a colorful gift set, courtesy of ONE BATF reader will enjoy a colorful HerStyler gift set that includes a 1.5″ ceramic straightener, one mini straightener, and a grande baby clipless curler (25″ base and 18″ end) valued at $425.

GIVEAWAY: HerStyler gift set

Entering is easy as always — do one of the following to enter, or ALL to increase your odds of winning:
(1) Leave a comment on this post about why you should win :)

(2) Tweet “Win a HerStyler clipless and flat iron gift set worth over $400 by retweeting this link @BeautyNDFeast”
(3) “Like” BATF’s Facebook page and leave a comment on the post mentioning this giveaway

Winner will be announced and notified April 5th. Good luck!


Beauty - "The Lovely" - FOOD - "The Delicious"

3 ways to get a jump start to summer

March 27, 2011

By Nicci Jordan Hubert

So ready to frolick on the beach

Back in February, Royal Caribbean aired one of the best commercials I’d seen in ages. It plays a song about embracing the chill of winter by snuggling up by the fire–“it’s winter again,” the crooner sings–yet images float of people snorkeling in a beautiful ocean, drinking ice-cold margaritas, and standing beside an open window with lightly flowing curtains. The commercial ends with a woman’s voice, “Don’t you just love February?”

Of course, nobody loves (the cold in) February — thus the irony. The commercial had me mesmerized, practically salivating for a cruise. Alas, my friends. Here it is, late March and I’m nowhere near a cruise line. As I write, it’s chilly outside, and raining to boot. Once again, winter has overstayed her welcome.

Is there any reprieve? Consider:


Beautisol Need I Glow More? self-tanner

I recently tried Beautisol‘s skin-type specific Need I Glow More? face tanner and I’m loving it. Although it took me a little while to get used to the process of applying facial self tanner–which includes q-tipping excess product and making sure it’s well blended into the hairline–I’ve found that I somehow feel warmer by wearing it. And I love that their tanners are customizable to skin type (normal-oily or dry). My skin tends to be oily, and I certainly didn’t break out from the tanner. I also applied their All Seasons Glow body tanner, just to my arms and chest, and looked honest-to-God as though I’d been a little sun-kissed. Over the past week, I’ve walked around knowing that although I haven’t been on any cruise, I look as though I’ve at least been outside for at least one gosh-darn second. The thing I like best is that the results are subtle — no one has commented on my new light tan, which I like because I’m not really into advertising my self-tanner use (umm unless it’s for a beauty blog).



Although the weather doesn’t want to cooperate with the date, seasonal fruits are still making their way to our markets. I bought strawberries yesterday that were so plump sweet, I ate the whole thing with whipped cream. It was summer in a snack. You can also find mangos, asparagus, and clementines at in-season prices.


Mexican food

Few foods feel summerier than Mexican. Guacamole…margaritas…fresh salsa… I’ve been craving Mexican lately and it doesn’t take a therapist to link the craving for Mexican to a craving for summer. In the end, I decided I wasn’t going to wait for the weather to catch up. I made fresh guac the other day with the simplest ingredients– huge avocados, cilantro off the stem, gorgeous garlic, and fresh-squeezed lime juice.

What are ways you prep for summer early?