Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lashes: Curling Throwdown I

the orient express
Eyelash curlers are like people. No one is looking for the same thing...there are gold diggers (all looks and no substance), cheapskates (not just made in China but bought from Chinatown), heartbreakers (everything was going well until it broke and took some of my lashes with it), and of course, good ones (oh, love).

Here are four of the most talked about (in my circle of chatterboxes) that cater to Asian eyes.

From Left to Right:
Missha $8 - Shiseido $21 - The FaceShop $6 - Shu Umera $21
Let me break it down – cue music:

1 (crap) to 5 (super)

Full/secure contact of bridge to eye line aka ‘it grabs lashes, not skin'

The FaceShop 4
Missha 2
Shiseido 4
Shu Umera 3

Provides an even curl aka ‘bent eyelashes are not cool’
The FaceShop 4
Missha 2
Shiseido 4
Shu Umera 3

Is it gentle on lashes aka ‘please don’t hurt me’
The FaceShop 3
Missha 3
Shiseido 4
Shu Umera 4

Quality of mechanics and curler ‘the 100th pinch is as good as the first’
The FaceShop 2
Missha 1
Shiseido 4
Shu Umera 5

Longevity of curler (including rubber padding) aka ‘the center joint and padding don’t wear out before 3 months’
The FaceShop 3
Missha 2
Shiseido 5
Shu Umera 5

Survey says?


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Toronto: Le Sélect Bistro

terrasse in toronto

The strip between Spadina and Portland has two of my favourite restaurants in Toronto, Marben (closed down, revamped and now open) and Le Sélect.

It seemed fitting to take my sister to this Parisian bistro while she was in town – she hails from Montreal and loves her a terrasse.

I usually go to Le Sélectfor dinner. It’s charming and serves classic French food with flavourful flair at a good price. It’s also a nice place for brunch when the sun is out.  Their patio is the best way to say goodbye to the weekend - a cup of coffee in hand and a warm mini baguette to start. My sister found her Benedict on the salty side, but a bite of my house-made sausage saved the day. As for me, anything served with Rösti potatoes is, by default, amazing.


Sunday was warm and sunny – perfect for a sit on the garden patio. Two coffees, two classic dishes, me and her...goodness comes in twos.

Le Sélect Bistro on Urbanspoon

Toronto: Wanda’s Pie in the Sky

throw your hands up in the air
:Kensington Market:
I can, have and will eat a whole apple pie. Thank goodness there aren’t too many places in Toronto that can whip up a perfect one. I look for perfect buttery crust that’s a little flaky and between tender and firm. I like my filling fresh, sweet and tart. I know, that’s asking for a lot.

This little pie hideaway was in Yorkville, but formally celebrated its move to Augusta in the spring of 2008. Since then, it bustles daily with people stopping in to satisfy their sweet tooth.

I spent most of Saturday afternoon gorging on all day dim sum, so I figured my stomach could use something sweet to cut through the grease. They ran out so I had to buy a whole pie (grin).

So I suggest you take this weekend as your opportunity to revel in a slice of pie delight, or a little sumptin' else (she’s got cakes, cookies, tarts...). Nothing’s cheap here, but it’s cheerful. You can bat one for two, if you’re Wanda.
Wanda's Pie in the Sky on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Clog Dissolving Cleansing Milk by Bliss

blissfully clean
:Pricey at $31:

If happiness was a tangible element that could be'd smell like Bliss.

So, I should explain the anal way in which I wash my face.  It's anal because at any given time I have three products that I cycle in a very specific way.  The three are a premium brand, a drugstore favourite and my no-fail soap

Over the summer the premium brand was my Ole.  Now that fall's here, I like to change it up.  Enter its replacement.  It's a dual action product - wash on-off as a cleaner, or leave it be for 5 minutes as a mask.

It’s neither foamy nor soapy, just creamy. Alhtough it's supposed to be a gentle exfoliator, I think the enzymes are stronger than I find ideal.  My skin was mildly irritated during its first week, but that has abated. It definitely rids your skin of all debris and makeup leaving it squeaky clean and soft.

I wouldn’t recommend people who have sensitive skin use this everyday. I decided to adapt, so my 3-step cycle has become a 4-product regimen has so I can squeeze in a quickie...quickie mask that is.  Looks like I still need a new face wash...

Like it.

Black Charcoal Soap

simple, and great for you
:Cheap at $2:
The beauty secret hails from Japan, Africa, Korea, etc. and has existed for centuries. Charcoal is known to unclog pores, remove dead skin cells, and balance sebum production.

Oh, did I mention this one is just $2 at Daiso (one of the few reasons I’d actually go shopping in Richmond):

Don’t get swayed by the gimmicks or marketing. Keep it simple – look for unadulterated, unembellished black charcoal soap.

Never mess with history.

Love it.

Toronto: Dinah’s Cupboard

those who know

Pusateri’s is for everyone – especially those who try to be ‘in the know’. Dinah’s is a little something for those who just know. It’s been around a while and has changed hands since Dinah Koo was a partner. (For those who would like to continue being in the know, Dinah is one of Toronto’s better known chefs.)

I love this cubby hole – it’s rickety, with a side of country (countryside not Nashville country). The walls are lined from floor to ceiling with spices, herbs, crackers and other gourmet treats. Everything you need to create an inspired meal.

From Monday to Saturday they offer different premade foods to meet your lunch and dinner needs, as well as fresh soups, such as cold gazpacho or butternut squash puree. My personal favourite is their pasta of the day - always, always good and the teriyaki salmon – never have I met a piece of fish so perfect. They also have a to-die-for lemon butter cake, samosas, apple blueberry scones, biscotti, cookies, brownies...get it? Whatever it is, it tastes right.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Toronto: White Squirrel Coffee

right place at the right time
:Trinity Bellwoods:

 Service is exactly what you want on a leisurely weekend late afternoon, chipper and chill. And if you find yourself in the area, White Squirrel is a welcome change from the crowded Starbucks a block away (and I love Starbucks so that’s saying something).  The shop has a great location - it's right across from the park, next to some brick risings you can use as a place to sit your ass and relax.  They also serve Greg's ice cream and organic fair trade coffee, of course they would, it’s Queen West. While you’re waiting for your brew, go up the steps and check out the Archived City of Toronto map on the wall. Way cool.  Even if you don't LOVE the coffee, it's a great place to stop and chillax.

My latte was a strong and a little burnt, but it was made with a smile.  Works for me.  

White Squirrel on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Eyes: bareMinerals Liner Shadow by Bare Escentuals

liner for anti-liners
:Moderate at $16:

I’m really not all that big on eye liner, and I think too many woman take a heavy handed approach. Objectively speaking, I think my sister has the best eye lining skills, or it may be that I just like her feline eyes.

This product lets me define my eyes, without fumbling with pencils or paint brushes. It’s foolproof.

You can use it dry or wet for natural or intense eye-definition, respectively. You get all the control, what you do with it is up to you.  Best of all, it’s smudge-proof, water-resistant, and sensitivity-approved. Three yays.

Like it.

Vinoperfect Radiance Revealing Mask by Caudalie

the second in a sibline of three
:Pricey at $46:

There are three products in the Vinoperfect anti-dark spot/radiance regimen, and of course they recommend you use all three to amplify the effects. While it makes sense, I disagree. I tried the peeling mask because it would "boost" results versus using the serum alone.  (I've been using the serum for two weeks, we'll see how well it fared in another week or two.  The proof is always in the pictures). 

While Caudalie's mask left my skin bright, it was $40 dollars worth of brilliance.

In the end, I think one quality product and a little spoonful of patience is all you need. So I exercise my right to forgo this.  Let's hope the serum is the hotter sister.

Skip it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Toronto: Grace Restaurant

lucky charm
:Little Italy:
This place is so cute. It’s my idea of southern romance. The food is simple and pretty, and tastes delicious.

I recommended it to Aerie but she and her hubs thought it was “meh”. But they still love me so it couldn’t have been that bad. I would say that there is room for Grace to improve (mostly with attention to detail), especially given its name, but clumsiness shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

Grace Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Toronto: Café Diplomatico

playtime on the playground
:Little Italy:

We’re nearing the end of playing outdoors – the days and nights of patio-hopping and people watching are dwindling down. Little Italy has some of the best patios to pass your summer nights on, and now that fall is here, there are only a few more weeks to layer up and drink on. So go now.  Diplomatico is comfortable and casual. 

I like Diplomatico for two reasons: cheap food and big patio.

Cafe Diplomatico on Urbanspoon

Retinol Fusion PM by Peter Thomas Roth

what is retinol?

:Pricey at $72:

I can’t review this product without telling you a little bit about what retinol is, since that’s basically all it is (PTR’s serum is made of 1.5% retinol and Vitamins C and E). 

Retinol is the pure form of Vitamin A, which, in our world, is a jack-of-all-trades. It helps with wrinkles, tightens skin and pores, improves texture and helps with acne. If you want the mechanics of that, retinol basically stimulates collagen production in our skin, and that my loves, is mother nature’s botox.

People with sensitive skin should use retinol containing products with caution. I recommend a test patch and gradual use because it can cause redness and dryness.  I took my own advice and used it at bedtime once a week to start and now I'm up to every other day.

I can't honestly say it's helped when Mr. Pimple (Mister, because he's that big) shows up, but investing in a retinol product is a proactive move.  If you have the money to spare, it's an inside-out product worth the money - i.e. it regenerates skin from beneath the surface.  Yes, I dug deep (ignore the pun) to rationalize this purchase, but beauty brains everywhere agree that stimluating collagen production is vital to maintaining tone, texture and youthfulness.

Like it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Umbrian Clay Mask by fresh

natural dirt
:Pricey at $55:

This is my first product from fresh. I like their scents, but wasn’t all that familiar with their skincare line. I noticed that they are big on SOY. Sounds yummy.

The Umbrian mask was recommended to me as a detoxifying face mask to minimize pores and prevent breakouts, even for sensitive skin. Umbrian clay has many purposes, including soothing irritations, reducing breakouts, and removing toxins - three things my body didn't need anyway.

But if any of this sounds familiar it's because I said Pure + Simple has a French clay mask that does the same thing and...wait for's half the price.

Skip it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Luminizing Black Mask by Boscia

black magic
:Pricey at $40:

I was having a dreary Monday until I got home and tried this mask. It’s a peel-off mask that is supposed to instantly boost skin clarity and radiance.  Peeling crap off your face is fun and oddly satisfying.

As with all of its products, Boscia is preservative-free and rich in natural clays, minerals and extracts. I have not tried a peel off mask since my horrifying Biore incident*.

Since then, I still experience flashbacks and nightmares and other PTSD symptosm when I see Biore products or hear the word heat or mask.  Of course I’m also wiser and more selective with products, and know that the test patch is my best friend.

Seeing as I was already familiar with this preservative-free skincare line, I decided to buy the mask.  It's like shiny, silky black satin. So cool.

As instructed I put on a nice even layer. It dried in less than ten minutes. Sadly, it wasn’t easy to peel off. I was expecting a few swift motions but instead it was coming off bit by bit.

While it removed impurities and dead skin cells, the mask was more of a wash-off than a peel-off.

Skip it.

*The Biore Incident of September 1998:

Free samples of Biore self-heating mask were being given out during Frosh week. All the girls in residence decided it’d be fun to have a slumber party and put them on. I thought to myself, I have hypersensitive skin, “heat” doesn’t sound like a good idea. But the thought passed and I got caught up in the mob mentality of it all. It started to burn within seconds, but I figured it was okay. Then after a minute it was burning like the fires of Hades so I washed it off. My skin was salmon red. The next morning I woke up to a blistered face. I went to the doctor who basically told me I was dumb.  He prescribed some meds and then told me I would have to wait for my skin to heal itself.  I felt dumb and I looked like raw meat.  I spent the rest of Frosh week hiding.  Mortify-ing.

Detoxifying French Clay Mask by Pure + Simple

summer's officially over, reset
:Standard at $20:

I first mentioned this product when I introduced you to my spa.

I find that on the cusp of seasons I tend to go mask crazy. I think it has something to do with my need to purify and detoxify from one season to start fresh for the next. It really makes no logical sense, but in my mind, it works.

This mask is not only a great value, it works. I find that this mask balances my skin and dries out blemishes and sucks up excessive oil, without stressing my face. Plus it not only has soothing and softening properties, but can be used as a spot blemish treatment. 

Love it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Toronto: Lai Wah Heen

dim sum to the power of 3

The fact that Lai Wah Heen sits inside the Metropolitan Hotel clearly tells you it’s not your average dim sum. The restaurant itself presents like your usual haute Chinese restaurant – clean, simple and beige.

My experience was pure culinary pleasure at a cost of about $45. That’s a price tag I will swallow for a great friend. So, in honour of Aerie's birthday, we gathered to indulge in two orders of Chef Chan’s Innovative Dim Sum Prix Fixe and two of the Classic Dim Sum Prix Fixe ($30). After trying both I would recommend the Innovative menu because if you’re already going big, go with the biggest.

My favourites of the day were the steamed dumplings of Waygu beef, truffle and lobster escalopes, pan-seared cake of red wild rice, sticky rice, shrimp, pork and pickled vegetables, and of course, dessert – a yolkless egg tart and a mochi of red bean paste. The last two were enough to put me over the edge of happiness.

The service was what I would expect from any Chinese restaurant, and while there were no carts, there were glorified dim sum caddies who brought the freshly made dishes out so that a waiter could courier them to your table.

It was delicious in all its ostentatious glory.

You get what you pay for: classic dim sum amplified in flavour, quality, and of course, cost.

Lai Wah Heen on Urbanspoon

Pitta Facial Oil by Pure + Simple

i’m hot like fire

:Pricey at $40:

Oil is a commonly misconceived product.  Most people shun it, and instead, gravitate towards oil-free this and that.  Bu facial oils are a wonderful alternative to moisturizer, and fear not, it does not clog pores nor does it make your skin oily.

I value tradition over beauty fads, but sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing the two. I was recently introduced to Ayurvedic medicine, and while I don't embrace all of its ideas wholeheartedly, I think many of its principles have merit. 

Ayurvedic is native to the Indian subcontinent and has been around a long time. They believe there are five great elements – earth, fire, water, air and ether - and that people are comprised of these, with one being most predominant.  I am fire aka pitta.

Pittas have highly reactive and sensitive skin. Yup, that’s soooo me.

A month ago my skin started peeling, likely due to sun burn and irritation. By the time I made it to my facial, it was flaky and raw. This oil was recommended because it would not only gently hydrate my skin, but also soothe inflammation. At first blush it seems pricey, but it's actually a great value because a few drops are all you need to cover the entire face.

Pitta oil has been recruited. I’m starting to gather the troops in anticipation of chapped lips, wind chill, snow, etc. I’m aware it’s only September, but this is Toronto where the winters are merciless; it’s never too early to start preparing.

Love it.

Barbarella by NARS

seductive, sensual and sexy
:Pricey at $30:

Sometimes the right lipstick is all you need to put yourself in the mood.  Channel your inner heroine.  Put on a punch of peach.  KO.

Love it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Toner + Astringent

waste not, want not

I have never found toner and astringent bottles user-friendly. More often than not I spill too much onto my cotton pad. The Clinique bottle is most guilty of this.

Then I found this.
Quo has these great travel side containers that come with pre-printed labels. I simply pour my toner of choice into this bottle and tighten. Now a few sprays onto my cotton pad and I’m getting more of what I paid for.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Clarifying Lotion 2 by Clinique

one, 2, three

:Moderate at $28:

While the price may seem steep, the jumbo bottle (16.5 oz) of toner lasts long after your drugstore bottles are sucked dry.

Most of us know all about Clinique’s dermatologist-developed three-step system. So I’ll keep this short.

Exfoliation (not over-exfoliation, just exfoliation) is vital to the health, longevity and radiance of your skin. This lotion is a gentle daily exfoliator.

My custom fit is 2, what’s yours?

Love it.

Flavoured Lip Balm #1 by Kiehl’s

a balm by any other name

:Moderate at $10:

product that lives up to its name. I prefer the scented versions, especially mango. Make your lips number one.

Love it.

Montreal: Beauty's

what’s for breakfast mon cherie?

There is a real life couple behind this Montreal staple, meet Hymnie and Freda. When they decided to open this diner in the city’s Jewish district, I bet they didn’t expect line-ups of hungry loud mouthed Montreal Canadienne fans, hung-over visiting Torontonian undergrads, UGG wearing yuppies and their Burberry scarf donning boyfriends, or me and my leather-jacket clad entourage of Asians. But alas, they did.

The longetivity of this eatery is likely rooted in the excellent food and casual atmosphere.

I love their waffles and mac n cheese. Not together, that’s just gross. A little FYI, I wouldn’t get the bagel and lox platter because it’s overpriced.

The line-up is usually the only reason I may skip it.  On days I can deal, I’ll endure the wait, especially if I want waffles first thing in the morning…afternoon…depending on what I did the night before.

Beauty's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Montreal: Patati Patata Friterie Deluxe

two bite burgers

It’s tiny, charming, and utterly fabulous. You could also say it’s cramped, crowded, and utterly fabulous.

It may be you’ve walked past it during your adventures in the Plateau, although a line-up usually marks this corner. This little hole-in-the-wall doesn’t seat more than a handful of people and the menu is en français. But Quebecois or not, the two guys behind the counter will feed you good food; the best of which are in bite-size portions – mini burgers! You can dress the beef burger any way you want but the fish burger is a house specialty. The condiments are homemade and you can taste it. Their poutine got my stamp of approval – hot savoury gravy atop nicely fried potatoes and cheese curds. All you need is a couple of bucks. Crazy.

You may encounter a bit of a wait, but be patient for the front of the line is just two bites to food heaven.

Patati Patata Friterie de Luxe on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Garde Manger

my day off

:Old Montreal:

This place is "hot".

Perhaps because of the music (it’s killer, but really, really loud. Huh? I said it’s LOUD). Or the venue (it’s hidden and indiscriminate). Or the crowd (hip, trendy, and fun with a side of self-entitlement). Or the atmosphere (it’s dark and sexy). Or the chef (Hello Chuck Hughes. That’s right, chefs are the rockstars of my generation). But shouldn’t it be about the food (here I go)?

Bread n' butter?
Nope, Bread and delicious salmon spread

You absolutely need to make a reservation. My sister and I got the 9:30 seating and thought it’d be great to start with a stiff drink. The daily cocktail was tequila, and although I swore off this ish after 'TequilaGate' Whistler 1998, I threw one back. C’est la vie. It was a fresh grapefruit and soda cocktail that packed a mean punch.

Of the three dishes we ordered, I must have picked two bad ones because my sister was here a few nights ago and she liked it. Don’t worry Chef, it happens to many men, it is normal, and it’s okay. Or is it me? After all, I ordered.

The beef tartar was good, but there was way too much. I wouldn’t normally complain about quantity, but when the tartar is big chunks, after a while, even the biggest carnivore starts to feel cannibalistic.

That's a lot of raw beef...

My second choice was the wreckfish (since Hughes is known for his seafood). I didn’t like it. It may be that I wasn’t picking up what he was putting down?!?

The dish is still pretty, init?

The night’s saving grace was the jerk crab. It was delicious and messy. Oooh, I want to do it again. So yes, I will go back but this time, I won’t be ordering. Until then, don’t worry Chuck Hughes, I still like youghes.

Lip-smackingly good.

Le Garde Manger on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Café Olimpico

skim latte with one sugar please
:St. Viateur:

If there was ever a time for me to use the word bona fide, it’d be here. This café serves the best coffee in the city according to me, my sister, and the people, for the people.

Before you step in, you best be prepared:

1. Expect a line (but it moves quick).
2. Know your order before you get to the front. They don’t like dawdlers.
3. Skip the pastries.*

*I just added step 3. This past weekend I decided to try a scone. Whoops, we all make mistakes.

A cappuccino and latte for my sister and me. Respective perfection.

Café Olimpico on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Las Palmas Cafétéria

ay dios mio


Palms mark the spot.
Dos empanadas por favor…and GREEN SAUCE!

Green sauce has many names, chimichuri, sauce verte, or salsa verde. Ole! Las Palmas’ green sauce is Latin love. It’s a wonderful puree of tomatillos, herbs, and chiles creating the perfect bite of fresh, tart and sweet with a little kick.

Empanadas are Spanish/Portuguese stuffed bread. The filling varies but at this local eatery its beef and potatoes. They’re made so well that even after the first bite the wrap remains intact and the stuffing doesn’t burst out.

Green sauce + Empanadas = The Perfect Couple


Las Palmas Cafétéria on Urbanspoon