Monthly Archives: August 2012

Beauty - "The Lovely" - Eyes - Face

7 products that make me happy.

August 12, 2012

I think I tried to start something more regular about all the new products I love just so you can keep up with them. And then I failed. But I’m going to try this again! Because these are products that I’ve A) been using and REALLY love B) are new and I’m REALLY excited them so you should generally know about their existence IMO. I’ll probably vary on how many I showcase each week, but without further ado:


Salon Series by Ouidad

The non-curly hair girl that I am gets pretty jealous at all the springy-haired whom Ouidad really caters to (see a Coveted Cut at Ouidad Salon as a reference). But alas, something for us all! This brand new launch brings the salon to you with their new formulations personally concocted by the hair guru Ouidad herself (plus, I’m digging the new, sexy packaging that’s very different from her regular more playful line). The three new products — Mediterranean Bay Leaf Exfoliating Hair & Scalp Treatment, Omega 3 Replenishing Hair Treatment, Biotin Lightweight Reparative Hair Serum — are PACKED with strengthening superstar ingredients (vitamins B3, B5, E, bay leaf, flax seed, and macroloba oil, lemon and apple extracts, etc.) that help bring radiance and shine back to your strands while keeping your scalp healthy. Seriously, I saw a brilliant difference after one dose of the Omega 3 Hair Treatment. Can’t wait to try the rest. Consider it your new secret weapon against the frizz. Prices range from $26-$42. Available at


Custom Eye Enhancing Kohl Kajal Eyeliner Trio

100% Waterproof, highly-pigmented kajals. Are you sold yet? LOVE these kajals (that come in a pack of 3) from Physicians Formula.

Custom Eye Enhancing Kohl Kajal Eyeliner Trio

They’re formulated so they’re safe to use on the inner rims of your eyes to make your eyes really pop. The three colors come in NATURAL, PLAYFUL, and DRAMATIC, and of course, in typical PF style, are based on what will really enhance your personal eye color (brown, green, blue, and hazel eyes). Here’s me playing with one of my faves in Purple:

Brown eyes, purple kajal

Be gentle though — the tips are quite soft and if you’re not careful, I found that you can nip the kajal off its handle. Price is at a very reasonable $11 for 3 kajals, available at drugstores and mass-market retailers.

3) Physicians Formula Laser Resurfacing Serum

Physcians Formula Laser Resurfacing Serum

While we’re talking about PF and all its glory, let me introduce you to their new Laser Resurfacing Serum. An amazingly potent serum that I can’t believe is available at drugstores — this new launch helps with dullness, fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration by supporting natural collagen levels and cellular repair while helping correct visible UV damage (that was a mouthful). How? With ingredients like 2.4% alpha hydroxy acid, BV-OSC (and ACTIVE form of vitamin C that’s rare to find in products), and a patented plant stem cell peptide. But what really made me pay attention to this specifically is how many testers said they would choose this over a laser procedure (a whopping 71%). In clinical studies, 96% of people saw brighter, more radiant skin in two weeks, and 71% saw less visible age spots and pores in four weeks. Not bad for $22 at your local drugstore.

4) Tarte Cheek Stain in Tipsy

Tarte Cheek Stain in Tipsy


This has quickly become one of my can’t-live-without products. You know that glowy sheen celebs have on their cheek bones? Right here. This has a beautiful hint of color and is so easy to apply (just swipe on your cheeks, and use your finger to blend), with just a touch of shine that doesn’t smear or crease.

So you can see how pretty it glides on..

Plus, it’s oil-free so it won’t clog your pores and for added measure, they threw in antioxidants like acai berry, and goji berry extract, and maracuja to brighten, soften, and protect against inflammation. Love. Obsessed. Available at for $30.

5) Rembrandt Deeply White + Peroxide Toothpaste and Reach Total Care Plus Whitening Mint Floss (OK these are two…sue me).

Rembrandt tootphaste and Reach floss

There was definitely a time I couldn’t go to the dentist without having to get a filling and now I’m sooo diligent about taking care of my teeth that I’ve been cavity-free for years (*pat on back*). The funny thing is whenever I go for my cleanings my hygienist asks me what I’m using to whiten my teeth and I really don’t whiten them — except if you count my toothpastes from Rembrandt. I use this one and their Intense Stain (which to be honest, I really prefer the taste of their Intense Stain mint toothpaste to their Peroxide one, which also re-builds enamel!). If not this, I’ll use Arm & Hammer Sensitive Whitening with Orajel (yeah I can talk allll day about toothpaste). Plus, I swear the difference has all been in being a regular flosser (this Reach one pictured above is my favorite). It has kinda been my mission to get all my friends to start flossing because I think I was smart enough to be a dentist in another life.

6) Cleansers from M-61

M-61 Power and Brilliant Cleanse

I owe my lack of breakouts to the powerful cleansers from the new line, M-61, by Blumercury’s founder, Marla Beck. I toggle between their Power Cleanse, that has glycolic acid, vitamin B5, and tea tree oil for the acne prone, and the Brilliant Cleanse, which gently exfoliates with glycolic, salicylic, lactic, and malic acids. A line that would put their money where their mouth is, I really found the products to be quality, powerful ones that get the job done. These go for $34 at

7) Aveeno Daily Detoxifying Scrub

Aveeno Daily Detoxifying Scrub

I like to make my more expensive cleansers above last, so I’ll slip Aveeno’s Daily Detoxifying Scrub in, especially before a big event when I’m going apply makeup. It has little microbeads that gently sloughs away dead skin cells and smooths the skin surface. My skin feels so soft and looks rejuvenated every time I use this! Available at drugstores for about $6.

So there’s my rant — what have you guys been using/loving lately?


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American - FOOD - "The Delicious" - French

Dining in the Dark at Dans Le Noir? in Midtown

August 9, 2012

A couple of years ago when my friend, Priya, and I were planning our trip to Prague and Berlin, she mentioned we should try to check out a “dark restaurant.” It was the first I had ever heard of its kind. These pitch-black restaurants (many with a blind wait staff) were a completely different approach to dining. I read more about them recently: “The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.

Dans le Noir

And similar restaurants began popping up around the world. Unfortunately, Priyers and I didn’t get a chance to check one out in Germany as planned in our short trip, but we always talked about how we wished we had. That’s why when Dans le Noir? opened in NYC, we were psyched to check it out together. The chain (which means “In the Dark?” in French), first opened in Paris in 2004, and grew to be so popular, it opened up more branches in London, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, and now NYC. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the restaurant, but I was hoping it would do the experience justice to what I pictured in my head…it went even beyond that

The first order of business is picking from four genres of pri-fixe menus: Vegetarian, Meat, Seafood, or Chef’s Surprise (which is a variation of all three menus). This is also the time you tell them about any food allergies and restrictions so they can make necessary adjustments. Since you’re dining in the dark and not supposed to know what you’re eating, they don’t tell you exactly what you’re getting in your three-course meal. Next, you sign a waiver which basically says you understand you’ll be in total darkness and seated by others you might not know, and they’re not liable for any injuries you incur as a result (I know, scary).

Priya signing the waiver

Then we were taken downstairs to a locker room where we had to put all our belongings — purses, watches, phones. Everything. I’m just realizing how creepy this sounds — being stripped of your belongings before eating a mystery meal in the dark. There’s more…

Lockers downstairs

This is one of those places where it’s imperative that you’re on time (brown people, I’m looking at you). We are to be led into the dining area as a group, so when everyone’s ready, we are lined up in two rows and you have to place your hand on the shoulder of the person in front of you (which is most likely someone you never met, since you’re standing the opposite row of the person you came with). Then our waiter (who is blind, by the way, as most of the wait staff here), adroitly guides the pack to the dark room.

Bar area outside the dark room

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I was in a room that was pitch black. Even at night when I turn the lights off in my room in my room, there are still remnants of lights peeking through my window from the streets. So the immediate feeling is a lot of things: a little bit scared, strangely claustrophobic, even vulnerable (it’s New York City, how am I supposed to be sure we’re not going to be locked in here and/or taken hostage at some point??). Plus, my hand is resting on someone I don’t even know (I learned later, his name was Michael, and he was celebrating his birthday with his wife). And how am I supposed to trust this guy I just met in the dark to not lead me into a ditch because clearly this place is meant to kidnap people, not feed them. Right?!

But I did instantly smell the aroma of cooking which almost warms the place as you walk in. Soon Michael is led to his seat, and since I’m the last in line this meant I’m temporarily left alone in the dark until our waitress, Maria’s, soft hands lead me to my seat. When I sit down, I feel around for my plate, my napkin, my utensils, and glass. And for the first time I feel a little comfortable. I felt odd calling out to Priya — I had no idea where she was — but soon realize she was sitting right across me. We were passed a pitcher of water, and Maria tells us the way to pour our water was to stick our finger into our glass to make sure it doesn’t overflow. I get pretty good at this.

Now I told you about all the somewhat frightening parts of the experience, but there were easily many fun parts about it to. For one, all your insecurities and shyness are thrown out the door. It’s easy to talk to everyone, and chime in on other conversations without getting a weird look (well, maybe you are but you won’t be able to see so who cares?) and it very much becomes a communal meal. At Priya’s mention of my blog to the nice couple next to us, I would usually find myself squirming in my seat, but didn’t even flinch. “Oh did you say you’re a food blogger?” a man asked us from seemingly a few seats away, “You should try Armani’s brunch — it’s amazing!”

People make jokes (“Guys, wouldn’t it be funny if we’re really just in a Febreeze commercial?”), people break and spill things, some say they can’t keep their eyes open and might have — they’re not sure — even taken a brief nap, and most agree that if this was life, there would probably be no wars. Think about it: you’re practically dependent on other people to help you get around (or pass the pitcher), and you can’t see anyone, only talk to them about yourself instead of finding reasons to disagree on at least superficial levels.

And the food! We first get a basket of warm bread, and on to the appetizers. I’m not sure what I’m biting into and ten seconds in, I put my utensils down and try feeling for my food. Hey, no one can see me eating with my hands so why not? I taste all the parts to my food, a hint of rosemary, something I think is a samosa, roasted potatoes, another our new friends guess is fried green tomatoes and mozzarella. Our waitress asks us after if anyone used our hands (how does she know?!). People start slowly mumbling confessions and I’m surprised I’m not the only one! “Ninety-five percent of people use their hands to eat in the dark.” I guess without our sense of sight, we rely heavily on all our other ones, including touch.

Our entree and dessert is just as splendid as the apps. I notice how much focus is on taste and textures (and thanking the Dans le Noir chefs for not dousing anything in messy sauces). Of course, I wish I could have taken pics, but obviously I couldn’t, and although we were shown a menu of everything we ate at the end, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for the rest of you ;).

This is a one-and-a-half hour adventure I think everyone should do at least once in their life. It’s really not just dinner, it’s an experience and a fun way to “look” at the world if you really couldn’t.

Restaurant Info:
Dans le Noir?

246 West 38th St.,
New York, NY 10018
(212) 575-1671


Meal: Dinner
Price: $$$ (Our meal would have cost us $124 plus tip — that’s total for 2 people for a 3 course meal, but we found a voucher on Bloomspot for $84 that we paid before hand and tipped at the restaurant)
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: This is kinda hard to rate when you couldn’t see anything…
Food: ***
Service: ***
Would I go back?: I think everyone should go at least once…I probably couldn’t often or regularly have meals in the dark like this but I wouldn’t mind going back for more.


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American - Breakfast/Brunch - FOOD - "The Delicious"

Waffles in the South Loop, Chicago

August 6, 2012

By Summar Ghias

The concept is simple. In a world where brunch still reigns supreme, why not open a place that focuses solely on waffles?

That place is literally called Waffles. We’ll knock off a few points for originality, but perhaps the intention was to be perfectly clear. The South Loop joint, which was voted best new breakfast by Time Out Chicago this year, pays homage to the doughy goodness by serving everything from zen green tea waffles to the more hearty and Southern inspired chicken-and-waffle combo with a spicy maple syrup.

My Mexican chocolate waffles with orange anglaise and shaved dark chocolate. I don't usually mix citrus and chocolate, but this proved I should go out of my standard food box more often.

At it’s simplest, the waffle-spot serves two types of waffles: the rich, chewy Liege waffle or the thick and crispy Brussels waffle with various kinds of fruit compotes. The more complicated waffle dishes incorporate my all-time-brunch favorite, eggs benedict, like the Filet and Waffle benedict with Liege waffles, poached eggs and aleppo hollandaise.

But, my mind was on the aforementioned Time Out Chicago review that spelled out a drool-inducing dessert-like dish: the Mexican chocolate waffles with orange anglaise topped with spicy cocoa powder and shaved dark chocolate. It was pretty darn good.

My friend, who is equally obsessed with all things red-velvet, got the red velvet waffles with strawberry compote, whipped cream cheese and topped with candied walnuts.

Red velvet waffles with strawberry compote, whipped cream cheese and candied walnuts.

We didn’t get a savory waffle, but we did get eggs on the side to even out the sugar. And while I do think perhaps I should have seen just how good the savory waffles were, I was pretty satisfied with the place overall. If you’re in the need to satisfy a waffle craving, this is definitely the place to go.


Meal: Breakfast/Brunch
Price: $
(Out of three stars)
Ambiance: **
Food: ** and a half
Service: **
Would I go back?: Yes — if only to try the savory waffles.

Restaurant Info:

1400 South Michigan Ave.,
at 14th St.,
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 854-8572

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FOOD - "The Delicious" - Recipes

Cooking with Emeril Lagasse’s Cookware for JCPenney

August 3, 2012

How to make a video featuring award-winning chef Emeril Lagasse’s cooking line at JCPenney when you’re not Emeril Lagasse? I tried practicing my “BAM!”, but seeing I wasn’t quite as convincing I’ve resorted to making a musical cooking video :).

Emeril Lagasse knife set

So using Emeril Lagasse’s amazing 15-piece stamped cutlery block set and 12″ non-stick skillet (provided by JCP), I made chicken fajitas.

Fajita spices

Emeril Hard-Enamel 12″ Skillet ($40):
The Emeril hard-enamel 12″ fry pan uses a high performance nonstick interior and a durable scratch-resistant surface to create successful meals with easy cleanup. (click here to purchase)
-Great for scrambling eggs or a quick chicken sauté
-Comfortable, stay-cool silicone grip handle
-Oven-safe to 350°F

Emeril 15-pc Stamped Cutlery Block Set ($80): Emeril’s 15-piece stamped cutlery block set is sharp enough to get the job done well and fast when making his signature dishes or yours.

-Professional, stainless steel blades
-Fine crafted to create a precise cut that minimizes friction
-Full tang extends the length of the handle for strength and balance
-Each knife slot labeled with name of knife for convenience

15-piece set includes:

8″ chef knife
8″ bread knife
8″ slicer with cullens
7″ santoku knife with cullens
3½” parer
six 4½” steak knives
8″ sharpening steel
Kitchen shears
Natural wood knife block. 15½x6½x15½”H.
Stainless steel. (click here to purchase)

CHICKEN FAJITA RECIPE DETAILS: Prep: 20 min. + marinating Cook: 5 min. Yield: 6 Servings
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
1/2 medium green pepper, julienned
1 chopped onion
6 flour tortillas (8 inches), warmed
Shredded cheddar cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guacamole and sour cream (if desired)


1) In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice and seasonings; add the chicken. Seal and turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
2) In a large skillet, saute peppers and onions in remaining oil until crisp-tender. Remove and keep warm.
3) Discard marinade. In the same skillet, cook chicken over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes or until no longer pink. Return pepper mixture to pan; heat through.
4) Spoon filling down the center of tortillas; fold in half. Serve with cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guacamole and sour cream (and tortilla chips!)

Thanks to Anika Abbasi for filming!


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Beauty - "The Lovely"

MAC By Demand products making a final encore

August 2, 2012

Thousands of MAC fans came together recently to vote on their favorite discontinued shades of Lipstick, Lipglass, and Eye Shadow and to meet their demands, MAC is making a final encore of selected products until they disappear for-EVER.

MAC by request shades

Lipsticks available online starting August 6th while supplies last. Lipglass available online starting August 8th while supplies last. Eye Shadows available online starting August 13th while supplies last. Check them out below to see if any of your favorites are coming back for a limited time!:

: CANDY YUM-YUM (Neon pink/matte), MOXIE (Bright pink/matte), ROCKER (Burgundy-red with glitter/matte)

Candy Yum-Yum



BAIT (Iris-pink with gold pearl/frost), CULT OF CHERRY (Clean red with red pearl/frost), FLASH OF FLESH (Light nude pink with pearl/frost)


Cult of Cherry

Flash of Flesh

: Guacamole (Light green with gold pearl/frost), JETE (Sandy coral/veluxe pearl); Moth Brown (Soft metallic grey/brown/frost)



Moth Brown

All will be available on their start date at Get them while they last!


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