Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tarte Rainforest of the Sea: Skin Twinkle Lighting Palette

This year, Tarte came out with a new collection called Rainforest of the Sea, which currently includes 23 products. What sets this collection apart from their regular range is the inclusion of Tarte's Rainforest of the Sea complex: Antioxidant-rich algae is mixed into a "nutrient-rich complex of marine botanicals that have been preserved in coconut oil" to provide a formula that is "hydrating, brightening, and fights environmental aggressors" and "promote an all-over radiant complexion." The Rainforest of the Sea collection includes skincare, makeup, and tools. The Skin Twinkle Lighting Palette, which is described as "a highlighting trio palette with three universal shades for strobing and perfecting... featuring a versatile trio of silky perfecting powders, [so] you can filter and reflect light for a soft focus glow. The middle Filtered Light shade is your go-to setting powder in a universal matte sand that brightens and corrects any darkness under the eyes. Paired with two full-size, luminous perfecting powders, they're perfect for illuminating the contours of the face for a natural-looking glow that flatters all skintones." It is housed in a gold rectangular mirrored compact with a teal-blue water design spanning the lid. Each Skin Twinkle Lighting Palette contains a total of 10.5 grams of product, and retails for $50 CAD online and in-store at Sephora and online at Tarte.

Sunlight, Filtered Light, and Moonlight

Sunlight, Filtered Light, and Moonlight

Sunlight is a light warm brightened champagne gold with champagne shimmer-sheen in a frosted finish. This is a permanent shade. It has a soft, finely-milled, almost buttery texture, and goes on smoothly and evenly. It has high pigmentation and opaque colour pay-off. It can be layered and blended out easily. It is darker and more muted than MAC Double-Gleam, cooler and more muted than Becca Champagne Pop, more gold than Becca Moonstone, more muted than Anastasia Beverly Hills Summer, darker and more muted than Anastasia Beverly Hills Sunburst, and brighter and more frosted than Hourglass Brilliant Strobe Light.
Filtered Light is a light-medium warm yellowed beige in a soft matte finish. This is a permanent shade. It has a lightweight, finely-milled texture, and goes on smoothly and evenly. It has low-medium pigmentation and sheer to semi-sheer buildable colour pay-off. It can be layered and blended out easily. It is similar though more matte than Hourglass Diffused Light, more yellow than MAC Light Plus Mineralize Skinfinish Natural, cooler and more beige than MAC Neutralize CC Powder, cooler and more beige than Ben Nye Banana Powder.
Moonlight is a light-medium warm peachy beige with champagne-silver shimmer-sheen in a frosted finish. This is a permanent shade. It has a soft, finely-milled, almost buttery texture, and goes on smoothly and evenly. It has high pigmentation and opaque colour pay-off. It can be layered and blended out easily. It is more muted than MAC Soft and Gentle, more beige and less metallic than MAC Beaming Blush, less pink than Anastasia Beverly Hills Crushed Pearl, more muted and less frosted than Becca Opal, more muted than theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer, lighter and more shimmery than Hourglass Euphoric Strobe Light.

When this collection first rolled out and reviews of this palette started creeping up online, it had really mixed reviews. But after playing with it for some time, I'm starting to think either Tarte fixed any production issues with it (I bought this one in the summer, and it originally launched in February or March) or people just don't know how to use this palette properly. First things first, the two frosted highlighters in this palette — Sunlight and Moonlight — are both incredibly smooth and finely-milled, with great pigmentation and full colour pay-off. They have a beautiful pearlized finish but they're not as bright or metallic as Becca's Shimmering Skin Perfectors, or MAC's Mineralize or Extra Dimension Skinfinishes. I'd say they're more in line with Anastasia Beverly Hills' Glow Kits, where they're not as creamy as the Becca ones, and they're softer than MAC's offerings (which are baked, so they don't have that buttery texture to them). Either way, they're easy to build up and easy to blend out, and they leave a lovely radiant illumination on the skin that isn't too blinding but isn't as subtle as, say, the Hourglass' Ambient Lighting or Ambient Strobe Powders. Both shades will work well on fair to medium-dark skintones, but I do think they will start to look ashy on dark to deep-dark skintones.

I think the issue most people have with this palette is the matte highlighter, Filtered Light. I've read that some people think it's too dry, too sheer, too stiff, too chalky, etc. And some people don't give it any love because they don't know what to do with it. I will agree that it is powdery — there is some kick-up and dustiness — but I have no issues with actually getting the product on to my brush, even after swatching it with my fingers (e.g. the powder didn't hold on to any oil to form build-up). I actually find that it works wonderfully as a soft undereye brightener and a great all-over face highlighter (especially for those who are oily and want to highlight their T-zone without adding more shine). People have to understand that it is not your standard "highlighter" — it works the same way as a colour correcting powder. It's sheer and is meant to add natural brightening and highlighting to the face. And because it's not as yellow as many colour correcting powders out there, it is actually a lot more universally flattering than many other similar products. I didn't find it to look caky or heavy, either, and it sits well on oily skin without creasing or fading. I've found myself reaching for this palette a lot, especially when I'm on freelance jobs. It really deserves more attention; I don't love all of Tarte's products, but they did really, really well with this one.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Makeup and Beauty Blog: Monday Poll, Vol. 451

This week's Monday Poll:
  1. Best pie? Lemon meringue pie. Followed closely by pecan pie (or butter tarts).

  2. How do you feel about cruises? They're really fun as long as you're not prone to seasickness. I've been on several, around the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and each time has been incredible. You see amazing sights and there's a ton of activities on the ship (magic shows and musical performances, casinos, swimming pools and lounge decks, etc.) and there's so much food (hello, midnight buffets!). That having been said, I don't know if I'd go on another one anytime soon. I mean, after you've been on four or five of them, they get less exciting. Plus, when you're on a cruise, you really only stay at any given destination for a day, which isn't enough time to do any real exploring. I prefer traveling to cities by plane and exploring them by foot.

  3. If your milkshake could bring all the boys to the yard, what flavour would it be? Nutella and salted caramel, like the one at Holy Chuck. It's not for everyone, but those with slightly more sophisticated palates would enjoy it. I don't want to bring all the boys to my yard, but a specific type, you see.

  4. Ugly cry or bitchy resting face? Well, I have a bitchy resting face, so I don't know what to say about this one. I will say, however, that an ugly cry really is incredibly satisfying.

  5. Would you rather walk around all day without your pants on or without your shirt on (you have to pick one)? Without my pants on. I feel more naked without my shirt than without my pants.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

So, I waited nine long years for A Year in the Life. When I caught wind last year that they were doing this with Netflix, I finally subscribed to it after years of six years of resisting for the sole purpose of watching this revival (I joined sometime in May because I didn't know when they were releasing these episodes but I had to be prepared). Gilmore Girls has been my favourite TV show since I was 13. In fact, I still have all the VHS tapes of all the original airings from Season 1 to 3. (Then they started releasing the show on DVD, so I didn't have to record them anymore.) I have watched every episode of every season at least 12 times through. So this revival, which premiered this past Friday, was meant to act as some kind of closure for us die-hard fans that Season 7 (the last and only season that creator and director Amy Sherman-Palladino was not apart of) lacked. And now that I've heard the final four words (a.k.a. the way Sherman-Palladino originally intended for the whole series to end), I've just got to say: What the actual fuck? You cannot end a series like that and not have every fan revolt after. I mean, isn't the point of a revival to give closure and not an open-ended cliffhanger? (Like what the Veronica Mars movie did for the series. I had closure from that world and I was satisfied.) I sincerely hope that this means there will be a future with Gilmore Girls. Because, seriously, they cannot do this to us. It's just mean. (And now I am going to go re-watch the whole thing again. Because I am a true, dedicated fan and that's just what we do until a second revival comes along.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday Nine: Baby's in Black (1964)

This week's Saturday Nine:

(Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.)

  1. Black is this week's signature colour because Friday, November 25, was "Black Friday," when retailers cut their prices and consumers flock to the stores. Did you score any "Black Friday" bargains? Yeah, I bought two black tops (the Ren Blouse and the Austran Blouse) and two blanket scarves (the Wilfred Free Mixed Stripes Blanket and the Wilfred Free Boling scarf that is no longer available online) from Aritzia, all at 50% off. In previous years, their "sale" was like, 10 - 20% off at most, so this is their best one by far.

  2. Feasting and football are also popular Thanksgiving weekend pastimes. Do your Thursday - Sunday plans include pigging out or watching a game? No, Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, so I am working this weekend. However, my weekend plans also include binge-watching all four parts of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix.

  3. At Thanksgiving dinners, Crazy Sam's homemade gravy is always a hit. (Probably because she's so generous with the cognac, which gives the gravy a nutty taste.) What was particularly delicious at your Thanksgiving table? Sadly, I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Or, at least, at anyone's house. My mom and I went to Swiss Chalet, but by the time we got there, they were already out of their Thanksgiving items (stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etc.).

  4. Among the biggest the Black Friday advertisers are Target, Kohl's, Macy's and Best Buy. If you could have a $100 gift card to any one of those stores, which would you choose? Macy's. I go to the Herald Square location in NYC, which has one of the best cosmetics departments, and I always end up spending hundreds of dollars there and end up feeling kinda guilty (but with no buyer's remorse). I'd probably spend it on a Jo Malone perfume or maybe on a couple Tom Ford lipsticks, which are things that I would love to have, but definitely don't need. Those are the types of things that are ideal to spend gift cards on. See, I would have said Target, but I feel like Target sells things that I would need to buy for myself all the time, anyway, and everything's affordable so I wouldn't feel guilty for spending money there.

  5. This week's song, "Baby's in Black," is about a girl who wears black because she's in mourning. Do you find that the colour you're wearing reflects your mood? Nah. 99% of my wardrobe is black and I'm not always in mourning or depressed or gloomy or whatever else black is usually associated with. That having been said, I sometimes choose my makeup looks by mood. Like, if I'm feeling festive, I might wear a red lipstick or glitter on my eyes. Or if I'm feeling cheerful, I might put on coral eyeshadow or purple lipstick.

  6. The woman who inspired this song, Astrid Kirchherr, has been friends with Paul McCartney since he and his bandmates (John Lennon, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best) met her in Hamburg back in 1960. Tell us what you believe are the components of a strong, lasting friendship. Loyalty, understanding, and respect.

  7. In the early days of the Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon began writing a play but abandoned it. Do you have a novel, painting, play, song, or poem that you're going to finish "someday"? Nah. It's why I pursued makeup in all of the different arts I was interested in. It's not a tortured medium and it's also temporary.

  8. When he was 16, George Harrison dreamed of moving to Canada, Australia, or Malta. In just a few years, he would visit all those places with Beatles and eventually decided there was no place like home and stayed in England. Have you ever thought about moving to another country? If so, where? I've always said that if I were to move anywhere outside of Canada, it'd be NYC. Not just the US in general, but NYC specifically — I love the culture and the food and the lifestyle and the attitude there. My brother also lives there, so if I moved there, I wouldn't feel super alone. However, given recent political events, I know it won't be any time soon. And, honestly, I kinda love Canada too much to move. I'd have to have a serious job opportunity over there to really make that kind of commitment.

  9. Random question: Finish this sentence — If you want me to give you "yes" for an answer, the best time to approach me is _____________________. When I'm at work. See, when I'm by myself at home, I have too much time to think. When it's my day off, I'm too lazy. When I'm at work, I'm the most coherent, energetic, and amenable.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Five: You, Too

This week's Friday Five:
  1. What are you too short to do? I'm only 5' 4", so a lot of things, you know, like reaching top shelves, playing basketball (or any sport that requires height, really), fitting into pants without hemming them, etc.

  2. What are you too smart to do? Repeat mistakes, get into a career that pays more but that I'm not passionate about, date for the sake of not being single, keep miserable or negative people as friends, sell and/or do hard drugs, drive fast in snow, etc.

  3. What are you too fearful to do? Lots of things, but among them: homicide, suicide, swim with sharks, travel to a foreign country alone, climb cliffs, be near anything poisonous, be alone in a room full of dolls and/or clowns...

  4. What are you too lazy to do? Re-organize my makeup. I'll do it like, once a year because my room gets overwhelmingly cluttered, but sometimes I just look at all the makeup I've accumulated and I get tired just thinking about organizing them. Makeup artist/hoarder problems. Also, I'm too lazy to take baths. It sounds counterintuitive, but I find baths to be exhausting rather than relaxing.

  5. What are you too young to do? Retire, get pension, die.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Luminous Blush in Snapdragon and Tigerlily

This past Spring, Becca released a new blush range called Shimmering Skin Perfector Luminous Blushes. As a blush fiend, of course, I needed to get my hands on these and picked up the two shades Sephora had released early for VIB Rouge members: Snapdragon and Tigerlily. They are described as "multi-dimensional, versatile blushes to create a subtle, shimmering flush. Specially designed to flatter all skintones, this collection is inspired by the fan favourite Shimmering Skin Perfector — just the right balance of colour and light. Wear them alone for subtle blushed luminosity, or as a blush topper layered on top of your favourite matte blush for an added pop of radiance." Initially, I thought Becca was going to replace their original Mineral Blush formula, which is my all-time favourite, with this new series of blushes, and I was ready to weep in despair... but they decided to keep both formulas permanently (yay!). There are currently six permanent shades of Shimmering Skin Perfector Luminous Blush, and they are packaged in a chocolate brown rubberized mirrored compacts with airbrushed metal lids. Each blush contains a total of 6 grams of product, and retails for $41 CAD at Sephora.

Snapdragon and Tigerlily

Snapdragon and Tigerlily

Snapdragon is a medium-dark warm brightened coral pink with a gold shimmer-sheen in a luminous radiant finish. This is a permanent shade. It has a soft, finely-milled, almost buttery texture, and goes on smoothly and evenly. It has high pigmentation and opaque colour pay-off. It can be layered and blended out easily. It is brighter and pinker than Becca Songbird, darker and brighter than Becca Flowerchild, brighter and more coral than MAC Peachykeen, more pink than MAC Fleeting Romance, darker and brighter than NARS Orgasm, brighter and more pink than NARS Torrid, and darker than Tarte Blissful.
Tigerlily is a medium warm brightened cantaloupe orange with a gold shimmer-sheen in a luminous radiant finish. This is a permanent shade. It has a soft, finely-milled, almost buttery texture, and goes on smoothly and evenly. It has high pigmentation and opaque colour pay-off. It can be layered and blended out easily. It is lighter and more yellow than Becca Songbird, brighter and more orange than Becca Flowerchild, lighter and more yellow than MAC Modern Mandarin, darker and more orange than MAC Style, brighter and more orange than NARS Luster, lighter and more muted than NARS Taj Mahal, and darker and more reddened than Surratt Beauty Cantaloup.

As with all my makeup, I hoard and hoard and hoard and then spend months going through new products, so yes, it's taken me over half a year to finally post a review about these, but better late than never because this formula is stunning. With the success of Blushed Copper last year, Becca decided to expand their Shimmering Skin Perfector range into blushes. Becca's Mineral Blush has been my favourite blush formula for a couple years now, and while I don't necessarily like these more, they are definitely tied for #1. The Luminous Blush formula has incredible pigmentation that gives full colour pay-off, and leaves a gorgeous illuminating glow. Like Becca's bestselling Shimmering Skin Perfectors, the Luminous Blushes have a very soft, buttery formula, so they blend beautifully and effortlessly. Plus, it has a long wear-time to boot, at least eight hours without fading. I must also note that a little really goes a long way here; I've often found that a gentle tap of my brush into the powder is more than enough to give sufficient colour to the cheeks, so if you're especially fair, you'll want to use really light layers when applying these unless you want to veer into clown cheek territory.

Comparing these with the original Mineral Blushes, I'd say that these ones are a bit creamier in texture, slightly denser in consistency, and a little more pearlized in finish — no massive differences overall, but they are there. Now, I will say that these are definitely expensive for blushes (more than MAC, NARS, Tarte, and Too Faced), but the quality is absolutely worth it and they are in line with Becca's pricing as a whole. That having been said, I would only get the shades that I'd use most often to lower cost per use. My only wish now is for Becca to expand their colour range. The six permanent shades now are lovely and encompass all skintones (an issue I had with the original Mineral Blush line-up which has now been revamped to include darker shades), but I do wish Becca would come out with softer and more neutral shades: a rosy bronze, a gilded peach, a golden nude, a plummy brown. Other than that, if you love shimmery blushes, I cannot recommend these enough.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Makeup and Beauty Blog: Monday Poll. Vol. 450

This week's Monday Poll:
  1. How long are your nails right now? I just cut them really short several days ago 'cause they were too long and driving me bonkers. But I'm wearing Cirque's Lichen nail polish and I really quite like it on short nails.

  2. How old were you when you started cooking? Maybe 14 or 15? I mean, nothing complicated, but like, eggs and grilled cheese. (Which hasn't really changed much now that I'm 30.)

  3. Describe your hair in three words? Blackened brown, medium length, choppy.

  4. What would/could you do if you only had 60 seconds to do your eye makeup? Apply a thin line of liquid eyeliner, curl lashes, and apply mascara.

  5. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? I'm Canadian, so our Thanksgiving was last month. But Thursday (which is American Thanksgiving) is actually my day off, so I am bringing my car into my mechanic's to get my tires changed to my winters because the average temperature here has officially dipped below 6°C and snow is just around the corner. I know, exciting, right?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday Video Love: Happy Little Pill, Blue, and Youth

Went to see Troye Sivan a couple weeks ago at Rebel Nightclub (formerly Sound Academy, RIP) and had an amazing time. These are the videos I took of him performing "Happy Little Pill," "Blue," and "Youth" from that night. It's crazy to see how big he's gotten — I hear his songs playing all the time at work and on the radio and at random retail stores. I've been following him for a few years now, and he's matured so much. He's gotten a lot more comfortable in his own skin and really gives it his all at his live shows.

Can't wait to see what the future holds for this kid.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday Nine: Cabaret (1972)

This week's Saturday Nine:

(Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.)

  1. In this song, Liza Minnelli encourages you to put down "the knitting, the book and the broom." Which of those three were you most recently doing: knitting, reading or housework? Reading. I don't knit. Or really do that much housework, come to think of it.

  2. She sings that we shouldn't allow "some prophet of doom to wipe every smile away." Do you know anyone who reliably looks at the downside of life? There's a girl at my work who tends to have a negative attitude towards everything. She's actually a nice person, but she tends to complain all the time which makes it hard for me to connect with her. In my personal life, I don't keep negative or pessimistic people as friends because misery loves company and those type of people will only serve to bring me down.

  3. In 1972, when this recording was popular, so was The Brady Bunch. In the two-part season premiere, The Bradys went to Hawaii. Do you have any warm weather vacation plans this fall/winter? Sadly, no. It's the busiest time of year so there's no taking any time off until January.

  4. Though not her uncle, just a friend to both of her parents, Liza always called  Frank Sinatra as "Uncle Frank." Is there an older person in your life who isn't a blood relative, but who refer to as "aunt" or "uncle"? Yeah, Chinese people call non-related elders "auntie" or "uncle" out of respect. For example, if I had a Chinese boyfriend, I would call his parents "auntie" and "uncle."

  5. Liza collapsed onstage during a Christmas concert in 2007. She says she'd been nauseous before she went on and simply fainted. Sam has never fainted. Have you? No. I don't think I've ever met anyone who has fainted.

  6. People are often surprised when they learn Liza is good friends with Gene Simmons — the KISS member with the long tongue. Tell us about one of your good friends. One of my best friends, Ronsee, is a paralegal. He's one of the hardest working people I know, and also one of the most knowledgeable people I know. He likes sports and camping and fishing and outdoorsy stuff. He has a great sense of humour, and we get along really well despite not having a ton of things in common.

  7. Liza told US Magazine that she loves to eat at Olive Garden. Do you? I remember loving the Olive Garden when I was a kid, but it doesn't exist in Canada anymore so I haven't gone there in years.

  8. She keeps apple juice and yogurt in her refrigerator at all times. Would we find either in your refrigerator right now? I have Greek yogurt in the fridge but I very rarely have apple juice. I'm more of an orange juice type of gal.

  9. Random question: Which would be a more frustrating dinner companion — someone who won't shut up, or someone who won't say a word? Someone who won't say a word, 'cause firstly, awkward, and secondly, I might as well have gone to dinner by myself. That having been said, if I went to dinner with someone who wouldn't shut up, I wouldn't go to dinner with them again 'cause that's just fucking annoying.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Five: Fair Use

This week's Friday Five:
  1. What was the last thing you put in the freezer not to freeze, but just to chill? A pack of Oikos Key Lime Greek Yogurt. I wanted it to be slightly firmer so it could be a frozen yogurt consistency 'cause I wanted a healthier dessert after dinner.

  2. What's a non-food item you're storing in a zippered, plastic bag? Shiseido Facial Cotton. I accidentally tore the bag open to the point where the squares wouldn't sit properly in there anymore so I transferred them over to a big Ziploc.

  3. What's the most unusual item you've used as a bookmark? A hotel key card.

  4. What's something unusual for which you've used a kitchen utensil? I have used a chopstick to hold up a plant that was leaning over too much.

  5. How many different kinds of balls do you have in your house? I have some Italian meatballs in the freezer... I also recently bought a box of Reese's Puffs, which are ball-shaped...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Birthday Dinner: Fring's

My friends and colleagues took me out for dinner for my actual birthday yesterday at celeb chef Susur Lee's and rapper Drake's restaurant venture, Fring's. It promises globally-inspired fusion comfort food served tapas-style in a hip, dimly lit, Brooklyn apartment-meets-saloon setting where hip hop music pumps loudly, girls walk around with drink trolleys serving up cocktails made with Drake's whiskey, and shameless selfie-takers rotate in front of the massive Drake-referenced neon wall installation by the bathrooms. In short, it is a place to see and be seen (and apparently, Drake can often be found here when he's in town). I don't really care so much about the celebrity aspect of the place, but I have dined at Susur Lee's other restaurant, Bent, and enjoyed it thoroughly, so I wanted to check this place out to see if it lives up to the hype. As the menu at Fring's comprises of well over 20 shareable plates, the six of us decided to partake in the $65 Chef's Tasting Menu, where they served us ten courses of the chef's choice (you can choose more courses that increase in $10 increments per extra course).

Grilled Octopus

Mom's Homemade Sweet & Sour Meatballs

Roasted Butternut Squash Toast

We started off with drinks and guacamole (not pictured here), which is served with homemade organic corn chips. The guacamole at Fring's is not your authentic Mexican guacamole, but it is incredibly tasty, maybe even more so than some I've had at Mexican joints. They mix a bunch of things in with the standard mashed avocados, like salsa and olive crumble, but they work really well together, and it's an surprisingly satisfying starter. Shortly after, all of our appetizer dishes from the Chef's Menu came at once: the grilled octopus, served with red pepper relish, white balsamic, tapenade and a side of potato salad, was incredibly soft, tender, and flavourful; the homemade sweet and sour meatballs, ultra-plush and made with three different types of meats, with breadcrumbs and crispy thin onion rings was a standout dish; the Caesar salad (not pictured here), featuring full stalks of fresh romaine lettuce tossed in Caesar dressing with parmesan, garlic croutons, and pork belly bacon, was reliably good though admittedly not particularly special or unique; and finally, the roasted butternut squash toast, layered with homemade ricotta, candied orange segment, and fresh mint, was surprisingly disappointing and the only mediocre dish of the bunch — the flavours were muddled, and as a whole, seemed like more of an after-thought filler food than a feature dish. 

Spicy Rigatoni Rosé

Pan-Roasted Salmon

Chicken & Waffles

Once we finished our appetizer dishes, they rolled out the main course dishes: the spicy rigatoni rosé with parmesan, sweet onion, fresh corn, spinach, and marjoram, was the unanimous favourite of the night, in which all the flavours and textures just worked so harmoniously together; the pan-roasted salmon, tender and flaky, drizzled with lemon hollandaise and served with grilled polenta and the best asparagus I've ever had (peeled and perfectly cooked so they were soft on the inside but still crisp on the outside) was fresh and simple, albeit a little boring, but was a satisfying seafood course; and the chicken and waffles, though heavy and quite overplayed in the current food scene, featured the most tender chicken with crispy panko-crusted shells to keep it from being too heavy or dense, and a fluffy, butter-drenched Hong Kong-style egg waffle with just the right amount of spicy kick and maple sweetness to keep it interesting. The chicken and waffles were followed by their truffle fries (not pictured), which were absolutely delicious, but really overkill since we were already bursting at the seams and serving more carbs seemed almost cruel at that point. 

Caramel Monkey Bread

And finally, dessert, of which there were two. The first one was churros — crisp, light, and airy — served with three dipping sauces (not pictured here). These don't seem to be on the regular dessert menu, so I think they're exclusive to the Chef's Tasting Menu. Not the most interesting or the most unique of desserts, and not really fusion in any way, but still pretty tasty and better than some of the churros I've had at Mexican and Spanish restaurants. The one to write home about, though, is the Caramel Monkey Bread, served with caramelized apples and berries, English cream, salted caramel, hazelnut ice cream. Just a myriad of textures and flavours and even temperatures working so well together; the apples and berries add a tartness, the caramel adds a salty sweetness, the ice cream adds nuttiness and a great contrast to the sweet gooey bread. It's almost like a hopped-up sticky toffee pudding, and it's positively delightful. For the most part, I think the food is excellent here and the quality of the ingredients and the presentation of each dish is top-notch, but ultimately, I don't think Fring's is really an accurate portrait of Susur Lee's culinary genius. A true foodie looking to experience his award-winning innovation and creativity is probably better off at Lee or Bent.

Our server was very nice but a little scattered and not the most attentive; food came out promptly, but glasses were empty for a while before he even noticed they needed refilling. They were fairly busy, especially given that it was a Tuesday night, but they just seemed a bit disorganized. I also thought it was a little ridiculous that, given how expensive the food is and how "upscale" and modern the place is, they couldn't split the bills when we live in a world where almost every single food establishment has a POS system that can split even individual dishes into quarters. Paying ended up taking up way more time than is ever necessary, mostly because of the inability to split the bills, and partially because the time in which it took our server to give us the bill and bring us the card machine was at least 20 minutes. Overall, I had a really good time with amazing friends and I would go back to try some of their other offerings that seem very promising, but they do need to work out some kinks. 

455 King Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 1K4
(416) 979-9696

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Birthday Dinner: Harbour Sixty

My friends Ronsee, Chelsea, and Corrado took me out for an early birthday dinner on Sunday night at Harbour Sixty (a restaurant I'd been wanting to try for ages). I don't write about a lot of my food adventures here anymore (they are mostly captured on my Instagram nowadays), but as long-time followers will know, birthday dinner posts are tradition here. Harbour Sixty is definitely a classic steakhouse, and even though the dress code is business casual, it has a very old-world upscale feel with a marbled lobby, brocade detailing, gilded mirrors, velvet banquettes, and dim lighting.

Buffalo Mozzarella Salad

The table is presented with a variety of warm, toasty breads in a basket, a dish of whipped herbed butter, and a little platter of nibbles that includes cubes of feta, pickled peppers, and black and green olives. We decided to start off by sharing the buffalo mozzarella salad, which features torn mozzarella, field tomatoes, arugula, olive oil, basil, and capers. I personally prefer thick cuts of mozzarella and beefsteak tomatoes (like the one at Wolfgang's) over the more deconstructed version at Harbour Sixty, but the cheese and tomatoes are fresh and flavourful and those who like caprese salad will be able to appreciate it.

Porterhouse Steak

It's hard to beat the quality of the top steakhouses in NYC, but Harbour Sixty definitely has the best steak I've had in Toronto so far (however, I haven't been to Jacob & Co. Steakhouse yet, which is more contemporary and more expensive, but more widely lauded and has higher ratings). The porterhouse I had was gigantic, more than enough for two people to share, and so makes the $70 price tag a little easier to stomach. It was a truly gorgeous, perfectly cooked medium rare steak: thick, ultra-tender, plush red centre, beautiful flavour, and spectacularly juicy. (And maintains this integrity even after re-heating, which I did at home for dinner the next day.) While Harbour Sixty has an excellent variety of seafood as well, it would be a waste to come here without eating the steak.

White Truffle Mac & Cheese

Buttermilk Fried Cauliflower

Since Harbour Sixty is a classic steakhouse and steaks are served as standalone items, we ordered a couple of sides as well, the first of which was the white truffle mac and cheese. It is definitely tasty, but not the best (that honour goes to the version at Prohibition Gastropub) — I think using a sharper cheese and a smaller pasta (maybe using actual macaroni instead of large shell pasta) would add flavour that I think it's lacking — though it does have that satisfying crunchy outer layer that is essential in any good mac and cheese dish, and has a good amount of truffle. The second side, and a must-have from here, is the buttermilk fried cauliflower, a dish I have have not found on any menu before. Crisp cauliflower is delicately coated and deep-fried, leaving a beautiful golden finish and satisfying crunch, and served with hot sauce and blue cheese buttermilk dressing to add an amazing harmony of tangy and spicy flavours. It is the perfect side to any of the steaks here.

Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

Nutella Banana Cheesecake

Finally, dessert! We decided on the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée and the Nutella Banana Cheesecake. The custard in the crème brûlée was soft and plush and pleasantly eggy with a perfect crunchy caramelized shell, and served with fresh berries to add some tartness and texture. It's a great option who want a dessert option that's not too heavy. But the Nutella Banana Cheesecake is the star on the dessert menu, a perfect marriage of flavours from the caramelized bananas, to the chocolate-hazelnut crémeux, to the Oreo cookie crust. The cheesecake is smooth and creamy and not overly dense, but it is still substantial, so I recommend this to share (if you even make it to dessert, 'cause we were almost-about-to-explode full after our steaks).

Service was impeccable; our server was knowledgeable, friendly, and accommodating, but not too stiff or uptight. He was attentive but it never felt like he was interrupting, and he never missed a beat. When a glass of wine or a plate of food was finished, he removed the it from the table like a ninja (e.g. without us even noticing him). He made sure to make me feel special by wishing me a happy birthday and adding a candle to my dessert and really making sure everything was to my liking. I would definitely visit Harbour Sixty again; it's perfect for all special occasions, from a birthday to a date to even a business dinner. 

Harbour Sixty
60 Harbour Street
Toronto, ON M5J 1B7

Monday, November 14, 2016

Makeup and Beauty Blog: Monday Poll, Vol. 449

This week's Monday Poll:
  1. Have you ever done a choreographed dance in public? Well, when I was maybe 8 or 9, I was taking ballet and jazz, so I did have to perform in recitals, but other than that, definitely not.

  2. Do you like to go antiquing? No, I'm not a big fan of antiques.

  3. Do you listen to music while you work? If so what kind of music gets you going? There's always music on at work; we actually have to have it on at all times by policy. The '90s playlist usually gets me going. It has everything from Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Veruca Salt to *NSYNC, Britney Spears, and Spice Girls. It's a really good time.

  4. I wish there was a _____ emoji. Steak. I'm always using the cow emoji, but it's really not the same.

  5. Have you ever been in a food fight? No. My mom would never have allowed that at home, and we would have been suspended if not expelled if we got into a food fight at school. Also, I don't even like getting crumbs on my shirt, so I don't think I would ever join in a food fight if I had the choice. (If someone throws food at me on purpose, however, it's on.)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday Nine: Ballad of Gilligan's Island (1964)

This week's Saturday Nine:

(Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.)

  1. This is about the fateful cruise of the S.S. Minnow. If you had a boat, what would christen it? In Omnia Paratus, which means "ready for anything" in Latin. It's the motto of the Life and Death Brigade in Gilmore Girls, and I've always loved the spirit of the phrase. And I think it applies really well to a boat.

  2. "No phone! No lights! No motorcar! Not a single luxury!" To Sam, those sound more like everyday essentials than luxuries. If you were shipwrecked with the gang, what standard amenity would you miss the most? Electricity. I am not a "be one with nature" kind of person. I need electricity.

  3. The uncharted isle was in the Pacific, near Hawaii. Have you ever been to our 50th state? No, but I actually really want to visit Hawaii one day. I'm not a beach person, but it's such a beautiful place with rich culture, and there's so much to see and explore and eat (!). Definitely on my bucket list.

  4. Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Howell, refused to divulge her age. Are you honest about how old you are? Or do you fudge it? I'm honest about it. I don't need to lie about my age. Most people think I'm way younger than I really am, anyway.

  5. Gilligan's Island featured many dream sequences. (Like the one where Gilligan dozes off and dreams that he's Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk.) Have you had any vivid dreams lately? I had one dream recently that was particularly vivid (so much so that I still remember it quite clearly even three weeks later), where I was on a beach surrounded by huge cliffs and I was surfing (weird already because I have never attempted surfing in my life) these insanely high waves (I'm talking waves the size of skyscrapers) and there were massive whales swimming underneath the water and when I got to shore, I was waiting with a crowd of people to greet a big submarine full of aliens that looked like humans (but in the dream, I know they're aliens). I woke up before I met any of the aliens, though.

  6. The pilot was filmed in November 1963, in Honolulu. The cast and crew were actually onset when they learned of President Kennedy's assassination. Because on location filming was so expensive, they couldn't afford to take any time off.  Tell us about a time when you had to work, even though your heart and head weren't in it. Usually when I'm sick or have a headache. I just want to be resting at home.

  7. During the show's run, Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) was the clear fan favourite, receiving twice as many love letters as Ginger (Tina Louise). Have you ever written a fan letter (or posted a fan tweet or Facebook post)? Well, from the ages of 4 to 8, I had written many letters to Santa. Come to think of it, though, they weren't so much fan letters as they were wish lists...

  8. Sam chose this week's song because it was going through her head, over and over again! Tell us a song that burrows into your head and stays there. Well, last weekend, *NSYNC's "Tearin' Up My Heart" played at my workplace (we were playing the "Retro" music station at work which features '80s and '90s music), and it was in my head for a week.

  9. Random question: You went to a discount store and got an amazing bargain — a pair of dress shoes for just $4.99. You go to a formal event and someone compliments you on those great shoes and asks where you got them. Do you tell the truth? Yeah, why not? Everyone loves a good bargain.