Archive for January, 2009

Beauty products are a weird sort of animal. They make you pretty, but many are gorgeous stand-alones that make your makeup bag look pretty, too. When I venture into Sephora, I immediately bolt for the Fresh counter because, the design, the feel, the aesthetic of the brand is just so wonderfully calming. After mere minutes of sniffing the fig and apricot eau de perfum and testing out the sugar polishes, in their candy color-shaded glory, I am reborn! Yes, that particular scent is terrific, and yes, those glosses are gorgeous (if a tad sticky for my taste), but I just feel prettier holding them–that make any sense?


Freshs fig and apricot eau de parfum; photo: sephora.com

Since I am a major fan and proponent of quality product design, here are a few more beauty brands that, even if they had sub par products (which they don’t) would survive on appearance alone.

Acqua Di Parma

This Italian fragrance brand is understated luxury redefined. It’s perfect for gift-giving; each of one of their bottles would look gorgeous on a bathroom shelf or vanity.


Acqua Di Parma: so pretty to look at; photo: sephora.com

Benefit Cosmetics

With tongue-in-cheek retro packaging and amazingly versatile products, this brand is a go-to for sparkly highlighters and heavy-duty concealers.


Benefit's lovely-tinted Dandelion blush; photo: sephora.com

Stila Cosmetics

Intensely feminine with the largest selection of shimmering yet wearable eye shadow shades, Stila  has been my beauty crush since college.


Great shadow shades from Stila; photo: sephora.com


This is a French perfumery with a simplistic, classic design that also happens to make the best, most show-worthy candles ever.


These look elegant and smell exquisite; photo: instyle.com

Paul & Joe Beaute

From famed clothing designers Paul & Joe, this brand of soft shimmers, lip colors and more is so pretty–think French, feminine and bohemian, that I can’t bear to use a swirling pot of gloss I was given three years back.


Paul & Joe's pretty face color packaging; photo: handbag.com

Molton Brown

This is a bare-bones British brand with a decidedly home-country aesthetic. Their bath products in gorgeous turquoises and pumpkin oranges make me happy. A shimmering lotion I received more than four years ago is still a favorite.


A Molton Brown body scrub that looks downright regal; photo: heals.co.uk

I could go on. There are myriads of other brands I admire, Korres, C.O. Bigelow and¬† Red Flower to name a few. The people who run these companies seem to understand that when we’re forking over way too much money for some of these luxuries, we want them to double as eye candy; sorta like if you were to spend a lot on a fancy chocolate truffle, you’d want it to be beautiful, right? Even if it’s beyond delicious, but looks meh, something is taken away from the experience of eating it.

Mmm, chocolate truffle.


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Admittedly, New York City doesn’t have much street cred when it comes to dessert. Old world capitals like Paris, Brussels and even Rome may stick up their noses at this scrappy contender, perhaps citing that its purported piece de resistance happens to be a too-sugary but still tasty (yea, I said it, got a problem with that?) cupcake from a not-to-be-named bakery featured on a shall-go-anonymous primetime television show. I say ptooey! to all that. Those who know its sweet spots know that the city is awash with amazing cafes, patisseries, bakeries and even delicatessens serving up near-perfect iterations of both European and classically American treats.

I didn’t plan on taking a sweets tour around the city yesterday–it was a bone-chilling 20 degrees outside, after all; the whole thing just, well, sorta happened! Really! Here are the results:

First Stop: Bouley Bakery


Clockwise from left: chestunt macaron, white chocolate macaron, chocolate macaron; all from Bouley Bakery

I’ve become a sort of macaron fiend. There’s something about the combined texture of the crispy cookie and the decadent ganache that I find irresistible. Also, they just feel fancy when you eat them; the components are all so delicate. These Bouley Bakery ones were lovely: the flavors were unique (well, except for just plain chocolate), each macaron had just the right amount of ganache filling and the cookie was fresh, light and airy. Also, the filling wasn’t American-sweet, it was a reserved European sweet. The gold and silver dusting on the chocolate and white chocolate macarons, respectively, added to the regal decadence of these French treats. They seem to be almost as much about the appearance as they are the taste. Staple colors like cotton-candy pink and spring green are meant to make a statement. (Yea, I know, I so got the boring colors.)

Second Stop: Jacques Torres Chocolate

Jacques Torres's yummy hot chocolate

Jacques Torres's yummy hot chocolate

This is seriously one of the best dessert deals in town. The other day, I paid $3 for some dinky hot chocolate at a local-yet-generic Brooklyn cafe. For only 25 cents more, you can purchase a bit of heaven in a cup at Jacques Torres Chocolate on Hudson street. This hot chocolate coats your throat, sort of like cough syrup, but really, not at all. It’s a warmth-all-over sort of coating. I love the classic, but try the caramel, orange or wicked (a chili-flavored version) if you’re feeling at all adventurous.

Third Stop: Russ & Daughters

a must-visit

Russ & Daughters: a must-visit

Russ & Daughters interior

Russ & Daughters interior

Note to guidebook-wielding tourists from Europe: if you are planning a visit to venerable appetizing outpost Russ & Daughters, don’t just look around. Please, I implore you, try something! These kinds of places are meant to be sampled not toured! Russ & Daughters has been around forever and is a go-to place for Kosher-style appetizing like lox, white fish, herring, beet salad, chopped liver and the like. It also just happens to have some of the best desserts in the area. Their chocolate babka is perfection for the carb-and-sugar-obsessed and their rugelach is a richly nuanced combination of bittersweet chocolate, orange marmalade and walnuts.


Bouley Market (Bakery is inside)
120 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 791-1722

Jacques Torres Chocolate
350 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
Telephone: (212) 414-2462

Russ & Daughters
179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (212) 475-4880

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A Blanket of White

Carroll Street looking West

Carroll Street looking West

Prospcet Park

Prospcet Park

Prospect Park looking West

Prospect Park looking West

It was snowing today–a whirlwind of white. My Brooklyn neighborhood, Park Slope, felt like it was in a child’s snow globe. Snow brings a welcome calm to New York. The streets are quieter, as though the flakes themselves have the ability to silence car horns and screeching brakes. I love the feel of them, even as they sting my face and settle in my eyelashes, obscuring my vision. Maybe it’s the accompanying rituals I love–the hot chocolate, the sledding, the walks through the park–or maybe it really is the snow itself, which transforms ordinary life into something special, extraordinary.

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Priel's luxurious lavender and patchouli scrub

Priel's luxurious lavender and patchouli scrub

In the winter, my skin takes on a sandpaper-like texture. I am way too impatient to be an obsessive body lotion applier, so I do my moisturizing in the shower. I LOVE oil-based body scrubs for their remarkable ability to slough off dead skin (these aren’t your mother’s dainty scrubs), while leaving behind this amazing silky layer of sheen. They make skin insanely touchable for hours and hours. This Priel scrub, which incorporates Dead Sea salts and minerals, is a favorite. The lavender and patchouli scent is divine, and makes me treasure the 10 minutes I have in the shower before the water turns ice glacier-cold.

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