29 March 2013

Plate Up. Chocolate Crepes


Happy Easter Everyone. I hope you are all enjoying the long weekend as much as I am. In the spirit of this chocolate-filled holiday, here is my recipe for a decadent breakfast. Feel free to garnish with the eggs from your hunt!

What you’ll need
1 cup milk
¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

What to do
Whisk all ingredients vigorously until the batter is completely smooth. Allow to rest in fridge for 20 minutes before cooking.

Melt a little butter in a crepe pan and pour in 3 tablespoons of batter. Swirl the pan quickly to create a crepe and flip after a minute or so by loosening the edges and turning with a spatula (or freehand flipping if you’re especially nifty!). Repeat with remaining batter. Serve dusted with icing sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup and melted chocolate. Serves 4.

Photos by Krissie.

P.S. Voting for the Sydney Writers' Centre Blog People's Choice award is now open and Pearls is a nominee. Please click on the link on the right sidebar to vote for Pearls, it's on the 4th page. I really appreciate your support!

27 March 2013

Must Have. Hei Poa Monoi Oil

Long gone are the days of my silky soft virgin hair. Over the years, all in the name of fashion, my highlights have killed my locks. This product is the perfect moisture injection for those suffering like me. The oils are said to “balance, restore and moisturise”, whilst the 1000 flower scent will give your hair a beautiful aroma too. A regular investment at $35.

Photo by Hei Poa.

25 March 2013

Suitcase. Melbourne: my top 5

I have been to Melbourne too many times to count in my life (honestly, it would have to be in the hundreds) so I thought it was about time I shared some of my top picks for one of my favourite cities in the world. Over the years I have seen and done some fabulous things in this culture-rich city and never go more than a few months at a time without another trip to visit family (and do some much-needed shopping!).

Here are my Top 5 picks for Melbourne’s CBD:

  1. Spend a day at the Flemington horse races, after all, Melbourne is home to ‘the race that stops the nation’. There are plenty of carnivals on all year round if you can’t make it to the Melbourne Cup and they all provide a great opportunity for a day of fashion, fillies and plenty of bubbles. Plus you can shop for your outfit in Australia’s top fashion city; try Bourke Street Mall, Chapel Street (of course!), Bridge Road for a bargain or Chadstone for an indoor mall.

  1. If you’re in the city you’ve got to make time to wander the alleys and laneways. These little backstreets are an iconic part of Melbourne culture and are home to a veritable treasure trove of bars, restaurants, galleries and boutiques. I recommend DeGreaves Street (especially for breakfast, see my review here), Celestial Lane and Hosier Lane (home to some of the city’s most fabulous street art). There’s a handy app named ‘City Maps & Walks’ that will give you a great self-guided walking tour of Melbourne as well as 470 other cities.

  1. Victoria isn’t called the Garden State for nothing. On your next trip make sure you make some time to wander the many parks and gardens of the city. Some of my favourites include the Fitzroy Gardens, the Botanic Gardens (the tan track is great for running) and Albert Park, home of the Melbourne Grand Prix.

  1. If you’re a new-comer to Melbourne then I highly recommend making it up to the top of the Eureka Tower in Southbank, especially on a clear day. The views are panoramically breathtaking and really do provide a great vantage point for the city. You can see through the CBD, up to Carlton and the zoo, the East Melbourne sporting complex including the MCG and Rod Laver Arena, south to St Kilda and the ocean and over towards the West-Gate Bridge.

  1. Finally, make sure you explore the coastline (this activity is probably best on a warmer day as the wind off the water can get pretty chilly). Start your day with coffee and pastries from one of Acland Street’s many bakeries in St Kilda then just keep following the water. There are plenty of café’s, shops and photo opportunities and Elwood and Brighton have some beautiful beachfront real estate. If you’re willing to stray outside the city, then continuing along this direction, all the way to the Mornington Peninsular, is a fabulous trip. This area of Melbourne is like Victoria’s version of the Hampton’s, check out Mount Martha and Sorrento for some incredible beach-front property.

Photo by Melbourne Tourism.

P.S. Pearls is very excited to have a guest post on Mademoiselle Slimalicious today. MS is a great foodie blog providing all the best in European recipes by Cyndie, a French expat. I shared with her my recipe for Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli which you’ll find here. Cyndie has also recently founded a fantastic little company called Europe in a Box where a monthly subscription provides you with a hand-delivered box full of authentic European goodies including food, drinks and keep-sakes. Such a lovely idea!

22 March 2013

Must Have. Louboutin Pigalle 100 Patent Leather Pumps

Personally, rather than calling them Pigalle, I think these shoes should be named “Carrie”, after all they scream SATC. These glossy hot-pink heels would look great as a pop of colour against neutrals during the day, and with a LBD at night. I’d love a pair in my wardrobe. $500

20 March 2013

Eat Me. High Tea at Royal Pines Resort Videre, Gold Coast

I really love high tea. It encompasses all of my favourite things, champagne, delicious desserts, tea, scones and a feminine lunch/morning/afternoon tea date with friends. Which is why I was so excited when my beautiful friend announced her baby shower would be at high tea at Royal Pines Resort.

There are a few options for high tea at the resort; it can be had in the café on the lobby level or on the 21st floor at their fine-dining restaurant Videre. This is where we went. Videre is the new version of RPR’s, after a renovation in 2011 the restaurant has been remodelled to reflect a new design and a sleeker finish, but the fabulous view remains the same. Set in Ashmore, Royal Pines feels miles away from the usual Surfers and Broadbeach venues. Videre has a perfect 360-degree view of the Gold Coast; out to the surfers skyline and along the ocean north to south, down at Metricon Stadium and back out to the mountains. It really is breathtaking at night and even more so on a clear day.

Alex, a long-serving waiter at Royal Pines, looked after our group for the afternoon with his usual lovely service; he is professional, knowledgeable, and friendly yet not intrusive. We sipped champagne, had a selection of sandwiches (my favourite was the smoked salmon) and enjoyed a range of decadent desserts. The high tea includes, baby scones, macaroons, profiteroles, lemon meringue shots and raspberry mousse. Everything was delicious except the macaroons which weren’t quite up to scratch for me, they lacked the lovely tackiness they should have.

A glass of champagne, and unlimited tea, coffee, soft-drink and juice are all included. Sittings are available Saturdays and Sundays at 10am and 12.30pm. The restaurant is also open for dinner.

The views of Videre are fantastic and really make the experience. We have such beautiful scenery here on the Gold Coast yet it’s so hard to find a restaurant with a view. Look no further. 4/5.

Where: Ross Street, Ashmore QLD 4217
Bookings: essential
Phone: (07) 5597 8700

Photos by Krissie.

Videre Restaurant on Urbanspoon

18 March 2013

One Day. Closet-cleaning therapy

I’m definitely a bit of a hoarder, or as I like to call it, a sensible-keeper-of-things; I like to hold onto things for sentimental value like certain pieces of clothing that I wore ‘somewhere special’, vintage shoes and bags, hair ribbons and childhood jewellery like sparkly bracelets even though they couldn’t possibly fit around my wrist anymore. Now being a keeper-of-special-things means I always seem to have very limited closet space. That old rule of ‘when you buy something new, throw something out’ just doesn’t sit well with me. But every now and then the mood strikes me when I’ll have a big clean-out, because if you’re like me you’ll know that sorting through your closet when you’re stressed or upset seems to work wonders for the psyche. Who needs a therapist when you have overflowing shelves?

Trouble is every time the cleaning urge strikes, it’s followed by regret. The first day I do so well in sorting through everything, making piles, putting things away, giving things to charity and throwing others out, but the next day I will be sorely regretting it. No doubt I have given something away or thrown something in the bin that I really wished I had at that very moment. It didn’t seem to matter to me yesterday but today the need to have the item back is a matter of life and death. Of course this seems to happen 24 hours after every time I have a clean-out.

My latest regret was my beloved denim jacket.** Whatever possessed me to ditch this one I’ll never understand. Here was I thinking ‘denim jackets are officially out’ yet the next day I read an article detailing the fabulous uses for your retro denim jacket and now I see them EVERYWHERE.

This feeling of regret seems to happen to me a lot. I hold onto all these fashion items for so long to finally let them go when, low and behold, the next season they are back in style. Denim jackets, fedoras, long socks, high waisted shorts… Perhaps next time I should throw away everything I currently wear, knowing that all the other things will recirculate.

**To the welfare recipient out there who’s got my jacket you better consider yourself damn lucky and I hope your pairing it with your favourite summer dresses and maxis (because that’s what I would be doing).

Photo by Xakirzat.

15 March 2013

Plate Up. Baked Chocolate Fudge

Please forgive this last image's blurriness. I'm going with the excuse that the camera was so in awe of the delicious-ness that it couldn't take a clear photo. (New camera soon I promise!)

Yes. This dessert is delectable as it sounds and surprisingly simple to boot! A baked fudge is an American-style dessert that is somewhat like a brownie that’s crispy on the outside but wasn’t cooked all the way through so it’s still delightfully runny and tacky in the middle. I’m sure you’ll find all the ingredients in your pantry on any given day so you’ll always have a delicious after-dinner treat. Makes 4. Enjoy!

What you’ll need
100g butter
2 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
2 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

What to do
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. First, melt the butter. Meanwhile beat the eggs until light in colour and foamy, approximately 2 minutes. Pour in sugar and mix until thoroughly combined, about another 2 minutes. Next add the cocoa powder, flour and vanilla. Finally, add the melted butter making sure it’s not to hot, otherwise you’ll scramble your eggs. Mix on low until well combined but not for too long.

Fill a baking dish halfway with water. Place 4 ramekins in the dish and distribute batter evenly among them. Bake for 40 minutes. You’ll know the baked fudge is done when it’s crispy on the top but your skewer comes out DIRTY, opposite to a regular cake. At the same time there shouldn’t be any visible jiggle when you shake the pan.

Enjoy served with cream or ice-cream.

Photos by Krissie.

If you like this recipe you might also enjoy Chocolate Crunch Slice and Pavlova.

13 March 2013

Suitcase. 7 ways to save at luxury hotels

If you read Travel [in] style then you’ll know that the world of lavish holidays is definitely my niche, trouble is it’s tricky to enjoy them since they're not very affordable. The sluggish economy and tough job market certainly hasn’t dampened our love affair with luxury resorts, it’s just made it all the more difficult to get there. Here’s 7 ways to trim the costs on your holiday so that you can live the high life without overspending.

Get online
When booking a holiday, the first port of call should be the internet. Whether it’s flights, accommodation or holiday packages you’re after, there are always deals to find online. Search across a multitude of sites so that you know when you’re getting a good deal, then either go ahead and book online or call up the airline, hotel, etc and try to get this deal over the phone, if you’re lucky your deal might sweeten even more.

Shop around for your travel insurance
I know, I know, insurance, shemurance, but you’ll find yourself in severe denial if anything ever did go wrong and you found yourself without it. I always get my insurance with 1Cover, I find their prices are the most competitive and all things considered it’s pretty cheap for some piece of mind.

Be flexible with your dates
If you’ve got your heart set on a particular resort, understand that the prices are volatile and subject to change based on the day of the week, the season and the occupancy. Prices can often fluctuate as much as hundreds of dollars from one night to the next so the key here is to do your research. When does the particular accommodation dip its prices; mid-week, winter, following a public holiday? You’ll find you can get a significantly better rate if you’re flexible with your dates, you might need to shift them a few days, weeks or even months, so have an open mind.

Watch the currency
Always consider the exchange rate, is it currently fluctuating or has it stayed the same for some time? If it’s going up and down try to plan your exchange for the ideal time when you’ll get the most return, likewise do this for when you return home. If you can, try to exchange your foreign money while you’re still in the foreign country, you’ll get more of your home currency that way as the exchange is always better.

Enjoy a big breakfast
Stock up at breakfast. Whenever I holiday I always try to get a package deal including breakfast. Normally you can get a buffet included for two people for a few extra $$’s per night. That way you can enjoy a yummy hot breakfast and hopefully sneak out a few snacks for later in the day to tide yourself over until dinner.

Settle for a basic view
Whilst it is great to have a spectacular ocean view is it really worth the extra 25% it often costs? If you’re anything like me you won’t be spending much time in your room anyway, and if you’re out and about each day you’ll have plenty of time to explore and see some beautiful views without paying extra for it.

Step away from the gift shop
Tourist souvenir stores have a huge mark-up so be sure to steer clear. But if you really want some ‘we-were-here’ memorabilia try the local grocery or dollar-stores instead.

Photo by Columbia Beach Resort.

11 March 2013

Must Have. Michael Kors Black Hamilton Tote, Plain or Studded

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been a lover of neutral, earthy toned bags: creams, beiges, tans, browns; and I’ve always had an aversion to black. I think they just didn’t jump out at me enough. Until now.

I love this little beauty, it’s practical, stylish and the best thing about black is that it doesn’t dirty like my beloved neutrals. Featuring Michael’s signature gold lock and key and alternative arm and shoulder straps, this tote is also available in the studded version for that tough-luxe look.

Evening more exciting is that here in Australia, David Jones is now stocking Michael Kors! I picked up my Hamilton over the weekend while there was a 20% off promo and am in love. I think I’ll just stare at it on my shelf for a little while before I break it out. It’s just so beautiful.

£310 - shop here or here

Photos by Michael Kors.

7 March 2013

Eat Me. Social Eating House + Bar, Broadbeach

Right in the middle of the Broadbeach hub, yet a million miles away from the ‘Glitterazi’ of the Gold Coast is Social. The sister restaurant to fine dining Rock Salt, Social is a funky tapas bar with a cool, casual Californian feel. I visited on a Thursday night with my girlfriends after hearing the word spread about this unknown new GC restaurant.

Social’s décor is industrial with a hint of glam. An open chef’s kitchen is surrounded by bench seating, there’s a long wooden bar towards the back and several tables are scattered indoors and out. As its name suggests, Social’s focus is shared tapas; communal plates for small and large groups to enjoy whilst mingling.

Our waiter for the evening was nice but his service was a little mixed; it wavered between friendly and knowledgeable to pushy and rushed. We ordered the Potato Bombas, the Salumi platter with truffle and fennel and a half serve of roasted chicken. The bombas were delicious as always, you can’t really go wrong when you see these on any restaurants’ menu. The salumi platter had great flavour, but the selection was a little sparse; four types of salami on a platter served only with bread which was stale tasting. The roasted chicken tasted delicious but was a little misleading, it’s more like slices of teriyaki chicken, again not served with anything, it’s just chicken on a plate, but it did have great flavour.

So far mixed reviews. But, it gets better.

We ordered dessert to share; the dark chocolate and peanut butter marquise, with hazelnut soil, espresso ice-cream and salted caramel. Delicious. I love marquise cake and this one was a funky twist on the original; it was a spherical slice rolled in the soil with chilled peanut butter in the centre. The ice-cream was deliciously creamy and had intense flavour, and the salted caramel was everything a caramel should be; rich and sweet yet tart. It would have to be one of the most amazing desserts I’ve had in a while. Overall, not sure I’d return for a main meal the food was average and the price points were quite high, however I’d definitely go back with friends for an evening of desserts, you can’t go past it! 2.5/5 but 5/5 for dessert!

Where: 3 Oracle Boulevard, Broadbeach QLD 4218
Bookings: essential
Phone: (07) 5504 5210

Photos by Krissie (sorry for the poor quality, the lighting was terrible. I'll be getting a better camera soon I promise!).

Social Eating House and Bar on Urbanspoon

5 March 2013

One Day. 5 random facts for March

I’m linking up with The Style Hatch today and sharing 5 random facts for March. I think it’s a great idea because I love to read weird and wacky things about life and other people, trouble is the interesting things are always the most difficult to think of. Here goes…

  1. I love to eat frozen bread. I’m such a carb fiend and love all kinds of bread but I really I don’t know where this came from. Probably stemmed from when I was young and wanted a snack but couldn’t be bothered waiting for the bread to thaw or use the microwave. Now frozen bread is my go-to snack for when I’ve got the munchies, particularly in summer because it’s so cool and refreshing. Try it. I dare you.
  2. Did you know that in the average person’s lifetime you will walk the equivalent distance of going around the world’s equator 5 times! It sure does put travel into perspective. I'd like to think I'll do it 6 times, gotta stay above average!
  3. Finding Nemo is probably one of my favourite movies, top five. I love it so much that I can recite all 100 minutes of it, including Marlin and Dory’s conversation on the DVD menu screen. “I’ve always wanted to be in a film! You were in one, this one, Finding Nemo. No way I’d remember that!”
  4. When I smile my ears go up… quite noticeably… I like to think it’s cute.
  5. I have never seen a kangaroo in the wild, despite living in Australia. For all you non-Australians who think they are just hopping down Main Street all the time, it isn’t so.
Photo by Krissie.

4 March 2013

Plate Up. Beef and hokkien noodle stir fry

Here in Australia we are really lacking in the ‘national cuisine’ department – and no; sausages, meat pies, barbecued shrimp and pavlova don’t count. That’s why I love Asian cooking. You eat a distinctly oriental dish and voila, you are indulging in international culture. Last night I made this stir fry and it went down a treat.

What you’ll need
4 shallots
1 medium red capsicum
1 bunch pak choy
200g snow peas
1 packet bean shoots
2 cloves garlic
3cm piece fresh ginger
3 teaspoons of peanut or vegetable oil
450g packet fresh hokkien noodles
600g rump steak
2 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup preferred sauce (I used Hoisin but you could use black bean or teriyaki)
2 tablespoons chilli sauce (hot or mild, depending on your preference)
¼ cup water

What to do
Cut onions into chunky 2cm pieces. Finely slice capsicum and ginger. Heat a non-stick wok over high heat. Add a teaspoon of oil and cook beef for approximately 2minutes on each side. Remove from heat and rest.

Meanwhile soak noodles in boiling water and, once separated, drain well.

Reduce wok heat to medium and add the remaining oil. Stir fry garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add onion, capsicum, pak choy and snow peas and stir fry for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice beef.

In a small bowl, stir the cornflour and soy sauce until smooth. Return beef to wok and add cornflour mixture, preferred sauce, water and chilli sauce. Stir fry until mixture boils and thickens.

Add noodles and bean shoots and stir fry together over heat. Serve immediately.

Photos by Krissie.

1 March 2013

Suitcase. A wintery Hampton’s Day

The Hampton’s is renowned for its beaches, mansions, extravagant boutiques, high-end restaurants and trendy nightclubs courtesy of perspectives provided to us by Sex and the City and, more recently, Revenge.

This beautiful Long Island area attracts anyone wanting to escape from the city during the humid summer months; celebrities, politicians, models and affluent professionals. But this well-sought-after spot does remain ‘open for business’ during those chillier months from October to April and there’s still plenty to see and do…

Take a beach walk
Forget shopping and extravagant lunches, pick up a steaming cappuccino, throw on your cut-off jeans and head for the sand. I visited in November and whilst the water was definitely too chilly for a dip, the sandy shores and salty air certainly cleared my mind, plus the views of some of the biggest and most beautiful mansions, not to mention the ocean horizon, are pretty fabulous too.

Visit the Montauk Lighthouse
Whilst the lighthouse itself is closed for tours until mid-March, it’s pretty spectacular from the outside and the views out to the vast Atlantic Ocean are breath-taking too. Just make sure you’re rugged up because the wind whips off the water like knives during the cold parts of the year and after enjoying the views I was glad to shelter myself from the cold.

Lunch in East Hampton
Grab a bite away from the cold at Cittanuova. This European styled restaurant has beautiful décor exuding sophistication and the Hampton’s casual cool style. The food there was delicious, we all tried several things from the menu and everything was great. There’s a selection of traditional Italian pizza and pasta, as well as burgers, salads and soups. I had the CittaBurger which was huge, and very tasty. Plus if you’re warmed-up enough after your meal there’s a gelato bar where you can indulge in a gourmet scoop.

Indulge in some retail therapy
There’s plenty of designer stores and little unknown gems throughout Long Island. Be sure to check out the book shop in East Hampton and who can resist a look in Tiffany & Co. Their East Hampton’s store is quaint and cute; a miniature version of their Manhattan flagship store. Other places to throw down some cash include Cynthia Rowley, Southampton; Tiina the store, Main St; Michael Kors, East Hampton; and Hampton & Co, Southampton.

Visit a Hampton’s Winery
Unfortunately we ran out of time to do this last one but the Hampton’s area and eastern part of New York state is known for its winery scene. There are several to choose from including Wolffer Estate which does Tasting Fridays all year round (we drove by this one and it looked beautiful), Baiting Hollow and the Channing Daughters. The area produces all kinds of beautiful grapes including cab sav, gewürztraminer, pinot gris and sav blanc.

I’m looking forward to getting a chance to return in the summer and see how the classic Hampton’s lifestyle plays out.

Photos by Krissie and Hamptons Tourism.

Cittanuova on Urbanspoon