Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cream Eye Liner by Smashbox

too much smash-in-me-box
:Pricey at $27:

I think I OD-ed on Smashbox.  I never LOVED the company to begin with, but when I went to get the Limitless Liner, I threw in a couple other things that piqued my interest.

How unfortunate that the only think I liked was said liner.

This is their cream eye liner in Midnight Brown:

It was average.  For the price, I'd rather get MAC's Fluidline and spend less to sit above baseline.  I sit prettiest on top. 

Skip it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Toronto: L'Ouvrier

a worker's love letter
:Dundas + Bathurst:

Another restaurant opened up in hipsterville.  It's unassuming, so unassuming that Aerie and I walked right by it.  We almost got to Clinton when we realized we had gone too far.

Quality Aerie-GG time is not frequent enough so we always make sure to pick a place that will make our taste buds happy.  The last time we got any one-on-one action was Bannock, and that was questionable happiness.  Oh how times have changed, quality Aerie-GG time used to consist of getting completely wasted and tearing up the dance floor like we were the only two b*tches who knew how to dance...sometimes, we were.  It was like rhythm nation but two tiny Asians.

L'Ouvrier means worker, and the restaurant's philosophy has something to do with believing that food is less art and more hard work.  The space used to be an afterhours club, and well, you can tell.  It looks a bit like a pop-up restaurant.  The restaurant stripped everything down and kept the space raw and white except for some noticeable flashes of hot pink - one hot pink table and the aprons the servers wore.  I didn't like the decor, except for these:

Brunch should always be this pretty.
But after some digging, at least now I understand it: A friend, Courtney Wotherspoon, designed the installations for them:

The materials in the baggies are evidently from the reno.
Before I get to the food, I thought I should mention the napkins.  L'Ouvrier gives their patrons dish towel in lieu of napkins.  I don't know about you, but I don't like using dish towels to wipe my mouth or hands - at least not while I'm eating.  They look like your run-of-the-mill dish towel...they smell like them too.  I took a sniff while wiping my mouth.  Bad idea.

Now onto the food, Aerie and I had some quality time laughing over scones:

They were okay.  A little dense and dry. 
The preserve was mango; I would have preferred something else.
Comparing our choices (both served with really well-seasoned, well-cooked french fries):

Aerie's burger ($16) - She liked everything but the crumbling meat.
Fried egg sandwich with house smoked bacon ($13)
I really, really liked this.  The bacon was so good.
The bread was really, really buttery.  My hands were soaking in grease post-sandwich.

That is a perfectly cooked egg.
Yolk spillage.  Beautiful.
It was a lovely brunch.  And we worked off some of the delicious calories by taking a nice stroll through the city.  Quality time is so very precious. 

L'Ouvrier's brunch menu, because by now, you want to know more?  Right? 

L’Ouvrier on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Toronto: The One That Got Away

did he really get away?  or did you let him go?
:King West:


I have been waiting and waiting to eat here.  "Everyone" already came and went.  Now it's my turn.

I love the name (course if it got away, how'd they catch and cook it?)  I'm not sure how the name came about or what it is they're playing on, but that's okay because I love fish & chips and this place does sustainable fish - cooked on demand.  If I had to sum it up, I'd say this place is like Big Smoke but instead of meat, it's all about fish.  Same idea: simple drop-in decor and eat-in seating, reasonable prices, custom choice menu, and fresh ingredients made-to-order.  It is a winning formula.

Halibut is a classic so we ordered that:

And then I had to get the Barramundi because I like saying it:

I will definitely go back.  Although there was a bit too much excess batter, the fish inside was so buttery and meaty that I can still say I really liked it.  The fries were delicious, of course.  I've never had bad chips at fish & chips.

Next time I will be coming for the fish tacos...and chips.  Always have to have chips.

The One That Got Away on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Nude Lip Liner by Smashbox

definitive article
:Pricey at $19:

The Nude Lip Liner comes in four colours: Fair, Light, Medium and Dark.

This is Fair:

It's staypower is limited. 
Fair...how fitting, since this liner was just that.  It wasn't terrible, just forgettable.

Skip it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Limitless Eye Liner by Smashbox

know no bounds
:Average at $22:

I was looking for a new pencil liner and was feeling indecisive. It happens, a lot. So I threw a bunch of brands (MAC, Smashbox, Urban Decay, Bobbi Brown, and Lancome) into a bowl (I have a pretty glass bowl for such occasions).  

I pulled out Smashbox and then went and bought their Limitless Eye Liner. I liked how the name just rolled off my tongue.

It's not the sharpest point, and the colour didn't seem rich, but I gave it a go.

After 16 hours. I desperately need sleep.
It glides on and stays put.

Like it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Toronto: Smoke's Poutinerie

let them eat poutine


No this is not the first time I'm trying Smoke's.  Smoke's and I go way back - since the first on Adelaide.

It's not the Quebecois poo-tin I love, it's the downright dirrtttty honkey-tonk, smack-ma-face kind.  I love that too.

They've taken the traditional ingredients to great poutine and added calorie crazed ridiculously good toppings like bacon.  I love bacon.  I love bacon so much I think Canada needs a new holiday - National Bacon Day so that friends and family can gather to eat bacon following a moment of silence to remember the pig.

Over the weekend, after a messy but classy night with my sister, we popped into the Smoke's on Bloor.  She had never tried it. 

It was busy in there - they called number 264 when we entered.  We were number 292.  But they were as speedy as could be and apologized for the wait.  I didn't mind the wait.  I forgot about it, right after he passed me my two boxes.

We shared the bacon poutine (shocker):

And the chipotle pulled pork (a personal favourite):

I couldn't tear my sister away from the poutine.  She loved it. 

In the name of bacon.  A-men.

Smoke's Poutinerie Annex on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Foundation Primers

ask me anything

A few people have asked me about face/foundation primers.  Specifically, "what does it do?"

Now last week may answer would have been "no idea".   But just because I don't care about something, doesn't mean I won't put in the time to find out.  Now I have the answer.

I consulted my go-to at Holt Renfrew, a random at Sephora, and the Clinique woman at The Bay.  I also Yahoo'd and Google'd

Then it gets even better.  I went out and got myself the "Top 5".  Not my list, I think it was In Style's.  I have a stack of magazine clippings full of useful and useless knowledge.  In the interest of full disclosure, the Laura Mercier one was gifted.  I'm a big Laura Mercier fan and got some perks a month ago. 

Foundation primer is basically a pre-step, which to me implies it's not necessary; unlike powder, which is a required step in order to put your best face forward.
The most straightforward definition of a primer is that is a specific-duty moisturizer.  That specific duty being to fill in pores and lines to create the smoothest surface for your foundation or powder to rest.

Yes, it's that simple.

Is it good for you?  The experts side-stepped the question by saying it's best to use a primer that is free of perservatives and chemicals, oil-free and preferably mineral based. 
My advice, if you use foundation already, then you should absolutely use a primer.  It will create a healthy barrier between your skin and your makeup and increase its longevity.  See below.

If you do not use foundation, then don't.  Just don't.

Hence I will file this post under "Skip it".

But I'm no expert - at least not one that works in beauty.  I prefer to have beauty work for me.
For those that want a primer, let me break down my top 3:
1. Laura Mercier's Oil-Free Foundation Primer
Pricey at $40

It's lightweight and water-based.  I found it glided on my skin and didn't feel heavy.

2.  Smashbox's Photo Finish Hydrating Primer

Pricey at $50 

It's oil free and contains Hydraplex12 extract (derived from desert plants). I liked this a lot because my it absorbed it so well and left my skin super soft.

3.  Bare Escentuals' bareVitamins Prime Time
:Average at $26:

This natural product is jam-packed with plant extracts, antioxidants and vitamins. It was satiny and glided on.

Toronto: Mother's Dumplings

momma knows child, momma knows

I LOVE DUMPLINGS!  Of course, my mother's dumplings are infinitely better.  But that is because my mother is the best.  There is no one like my mother and thus, there is nothing like her dumplings. You would love my mother too.  She creates happiness in the kitchen.

But this is not about my mother.  This about Zhen's mother, and I like her dumplings.  They're homemade pockets of comfort.  Greasy, but very tasty. 

They moved locations a while back to a shiny and new place right on Spadina, south of College.  Normally I like shiny, but would it be so wrong if I preferred the dingy basement on Huron?  Because I did. 

In any event, they still serve a long list of different dumplings - steamed, boiled, and fried. 

My personal favourites are these babies:

Fried - Pork & Bok Choy - $6.95
My sister LOVED this:

Pancake - Chives & Egg - $5.49
And we all enjoyed these:

Steamed - Juicy Pork Bun - $6.10
If you have a fried dumpling fix.  Go to Mother's Dumplings to squash it.

Mother's Dumplings on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 11, 2011

Toronto: Taquería Burrito Bar


The last time lunch cost me that much was in my high school cafeteria back in 1998.  And it was disgusting when I ate it, which was not often.  I always waited for my friends to give me the nod to proceed.  The nod meant that no one put anything extra in the school's lunch.  Extra being spit, snot, garbage...I mean really, upper middle class kids stuck in a suburbia really have no shame and nothing better to do.  No nod meant I left the line and went to Subway.

There is a kiosk between the Bay-Cumberland and Holt Renfrew Centres. It's subground level, beneath the escalators that bring you to street level where the Swarovski is.  I have smelt it for several months now.  Taquería is not the nicest take-out joint. It has a dishevelled feeling. You order, and then they kind of slop your food together. It's all sitting there - premade, but well made (for fast food).  There really are dirty eats in Yorkville.  

I know it doesn't sound all that appetizing, but imagine my surprise when I get back to my office, turn on the TV (yes, we have a flat screen in our office for personal use) and bite into my taco.  Mmmm, tasty. 

Your choices are: burrito, burrito bowl (for anyone still on the Atkins diet), tacos (hard or soft, I like it hard), salad, or nacho platter.  Then you pick your meat (chicken, beef, pulled pork, pulled beef, fish and shrimp) and toppings (four salsas, cheese, beans, sour cream, lettuce).  All for $5.99 plus tax (and plus $0.75 if you want guacamole.)

I had the hard tacos - shrimp, chicken and pulled beef.  All three were good, but the beef was my least favourite.  A little too chewy/stringy and salty.  The lettuce was crisp (void of brown spots), the tomatoes were fresh, the salsa was flavourful (though spicy is not so spicy), and the cheese smelled and tasted just fine.

Adobe shrimp

But honestly, $6.77 for three full loaded tacos.   I'm really not about to write up some fancy critique.  Don't overanalyze - just eat.  It's cheap.  It's good. 

The only thing that could have made it better was Bana.  She loves Mexican food.

Taqueria Burrito Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Toronto: The Gabardine

in a sea of suits
:Business District:
Gigi and I made plans to meet up. As per usual, we had a long wishlist. I left it to her to narrow down the list.
The Gabardine won the draw, but we were the ones who got lucky.

A lot has been said about this place already. I agree that it doesn’t really fit on Bay Street. It’s a welcome change from the usual watering holes. From the moment I walked it, I forgot where I was. It reminds me of something I might find in Montreal; a comfortable clean space with white walls, framed images and antique-y hanging lights.

It’s a bit crowded in the front given the bar area, but the dining tables weren’t as cramped as some critics have made it out to be.

At the risk of sounding like a superfan, I loved this place. It was warm and welcoming, and the service was spectacular. I’ll say that again, because I don’t get to say it often – spectacular.  Our server anticipated needs, knew the food, was friendly and attentive, and aware of his surroudings (i.e. knew when to engage and knew when to be invisible) - basically, a bonafide superstar.

Gabardine’s menu includes a wide range of unpretentious food like grilled cheese, sirloin bacon cheeseburger, and chicken pot pie.

They say come in and get fed, well, Gigi and I are really full:

We shared some fries (of course) and the sweet corn hushpuppies with buttermilk poppy seed dressing ($9).

Really good.  Perfectly fried, moist and buttery.
I loved the mismatched plates, “Grandma’s china” as Gigi said.

She had the black cod with braised lentils and mushrooms ($24). For those of you that know a little about me, you know I love black cod. One of my favourites is at Blue Water in Vancouver. The Gabardine’s is a contender. It was really, really good. Delicate and delicious:

I had the shrimp po’boy with butter lettuce, tomato relish and aioli ($14). I’m a sucker for po’boys. It was really good. The bun/baguette was the way fresh bread should be – crispy outside, soft middle.

Potato salad - Purple and gold fingerlings
We finished with the burnt marshmallow ice cream sandwich ($7). I wanted to love it, but I ended up liking it. I wasn’t too crazy about the sandwich part. I may have been hoping for a graham cookie, but then again, I’m thinking s’mores. Now there’s an idea.

It really was fine grub.

Bird marks the spot.
Note: Staying true to form, they’re closed Saturdays and Sundays.

The Gabardine on Urbanspoon

Tinted Moisturizer by Laura Mercier

to tint or not to tint
:Pricey at $50:

By now it should be crystal clear that I do not use foundation.  I don't review it because I don't even want to try it. 
That said, there are rare occasions when I need to put forward a "perfect" face.  In search of a foundation substitute, I played around with some tinted moisturizer. I've also tried something called BB cream.  When I was in Asia a couple of years ago, it was EVERYWHERE.  For more information on BB cream, go check out that girl I told you about yesterday.  After further perusual, I decided I like her.  Something about her is genuinely sweet.  And oh, she uses foundation and BB cream.

Laura's moisturizer has a lot of support.  In Style listed it as a "Best Beauty Buy" in May 2011, and it made Allure's "Best of Beauty" in September 2010. 

Now introducing Laura's tinted moisturizer:

That's a dollop of nude.  The colour may not be exactly right for me. 
I will continue experimenting.

Left of the Line - Bare
Right of the Line -  Moisturized
That's pretty neat.  It won't mask imperfections, but it seems to give your skin a nice sheen.  It blended well and left my skin hydrated and natural looking.  My analysis would be that the pigments reflect the light to minimize uneven skin tone.

I'm not entirely sold on schlepping this on my face everyday, or even once a month.  I like fresh flesh so that every spot, scar, and indent can breathe free.  But, I would use this for special occasions. 

Like it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Doe Eyed Felt Eyeliner by Sephora

:Cheap at $12:

The Sephora ban is lifted.  Mostly because you can't punish the brand because of a few people.  Push them aside and march on sister... 

Now that we've taken care of that business, let's talk about my new eyeliner.  I marched into my nearest Sephora to get myself another UD 24/7 pencil liner, until I heard voices.  The sweet sound of kpop.  Yes, kpop was blaring through Sephora in downtown Toronto, Ontario.  Now, if you're not familiar with kpop, brace yourself, some say it's the next "fad" to hit the US.  Here's what I was hearing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0C03XBns9c.

The kpop reminded me to return to my new make-up movement - a little more avant garde, a little less girl next door - so I switched gears and racked my brain thinking of a liquid liner.  Lucky for me, I'm a visual person and I remembered this, a friend sent it to me.  I watched a few the other day.  I don't know much about this girl, but her tutorials are pretty good.

All the pieces in my brain came together and eureka, the answer came to me, felt tip liquid liner.  Sephora Collection has one and it's an often overlooked brand.  I think it may be the packaging.  It's bad.  But the products are good and the price point makes it quality.

Felt tip translates to a muted finish.  It's not as sharp or intense as a liquid liner, but applies like one.  It's softer and not completely opaque which, in my opinion, makes it more forgiving.  Especially for me - I have shaky hands and the attention span of 2 year old.

The update on this is that unfortunately it dries out fast.  So good until the end.  Too bad, so sad.

Mini cat eye
First try
Skip it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Flawless Skin Face Polish by Laura Mercier

poised and polished
:Pricey at $36:

Oh Laura!  I didn't know you had skin care.  I really like Laura Mercier.  She's my go-to for basics: eye primer, concealer, blush, and powder.  The latter is mostly for my sister since she's a pow(der)puff girl.  I'm more of a teletubby.
After I discovered Face Polish, I went out and got it.  I literally just washed my face.

The name is bold - Flawless Skin - and the colour is pretty.  It's not your run-of-the-mill exfoliating scrub.  It smells lovely too, like a mixture of apricot and rose.  Although, I'm getting over a cold, so I could be off.
It's described as a creamy clarifying scrub that gently exfoliates the skin.  It's also dermatologically and allergy tested.  I found it a bit harsh on my skin so I needed to use a lot more water to soften up the microbeads.

My skin is really soft right now.  Smooth.  Like a baby's butt.  It's also a little tight, which may be the clarifying properties of the polish.

Taking everything into consideration, I would skip it.  It was a little rough for my sensitive skin.  And at the price point, I would opt for a number of other products (e.g. Ole or Bliss).

Sorry, Laura.  You can't win them all.

Skip it.