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FRED BUTLER MENTORS FOR SOMEWHERE_TO

If I had to nominate an inspirational creative to motivate aspiring British fashion designers, Fred Butler would be at the top of my list. Somewhereto_ saw the magic, too, and chose the colour-loving designer READ MORE...
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NET-A-SPORTER LAUNCHES 7-DAY BODY REBOOT

NET-A-PORTER has gone sporty with their 7-Day Body Reboot, a daily fitness and healthy diet program presented as a video series. I think this is brilliant for two reasons. First, it's a smart way to promote READ MORE...
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WeSC & ALTEWAI SAOME LAUNCH HIGH END STREETWEAR

Following the wrap-up of Stockholm Fashion Week is the launch of a new collaboration between two Swedish fashion greats, skate/street brand WeSC and design duo Altewai Saome READ MORE...
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MADE LONDON RETURNS TO MARYLEBONE

The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 READ MORE...
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SEA LIFE COMES TO TORONTO AT RIPLEY'S AQUARIUM

It's called Ripley's Aquarium of Canada (as opposed to Ripley's Aquarium of Toronto which would follow the format for their US locations), which is not helping the general READ MORE...
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BOOK REVIEW: LAND/SEA VOL.1

I opened the cover of a new landscape photography periodical I had just received called Land/Sea and began browsing the photos and words as I walked into my kitchen READ MORE...
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LC:M BACKSTAGE AT MATTHEW MILLER WITH TONI & GUY

Yes, this is a men's fashion post. And it feels right. This season's London Collections: Men was my first ever thanks to an invitation from long-term London Fashion Week sponsor Toni & Guy READ MORE...
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April 07, 2014

Review: 'Treat Petite' by Fiona Pearce

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There's something so irresistible about miniature food, the treats we love made into tiny packages you can just pop into your mouth - virtually guilt-free! (Unless you're me and can't help but eat your weight in them.) Fiona Pearce, owner of Icing Bliss in London where she specialises in vintage-inspired cakes, knows the 'Alice-in-Wonderland' charm of little delectables and has brought us 42 recipes for mini bakes and bites in her second book, Treat Petite. The sweets cover everything including sponges, meringues, chocolate, pastry, choux, and biscuits, while the savoury section begins with a lesson in making perfect puff pastry, followed by seven recipes for tasty, bite-sized canapes. 

What I love most about this book is the simplicity of the recipes so anyone can make them, regardless of baking experience. It's also great for introducing novices to certain dishes that may otherwise be intimidating. You can start off small - quite literally! - and master your technique before attempting the full version - if that still holds any interest after going tiny! And you can have lots of fun playing with presentation, arranging Micro-meringue Kisses, Mini Dacquoise Towers, and Pistachio and White Chocolate Florentines (one of many possibilities) on pretty plates to wow your family or guests - or yourself! And it may inspire you to experiment with your own creations - I'm beginning to imagine everything I cook in its scaled-down version.

Treat Petite is published by Ivy Press and is available to purchase at Amazon (£12.99).

Here's a peek inside the book, packed with beautiful photos of every recipe and detailed, easy-to-follow instructions: 

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I love madeleines and can't wait to try this even smaller version, flavoured with freshly ground Earl Grey tea leaves and glazed with sugar, honey and orange. 

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Coffee Bean Biscuits are made with fragrant coffee shortbread to resemble the real thing - wouldn't that make a charming and delicious accompaniment to your cup of Java? 

The artwork that introduces each chapter is so wonderful and fun:

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Gilded Caramel Shortbread Squares and Chocolate Ganache-filled Tartlets with chocolate pastry - yum!

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A savoury-sweet burst of flavour in a single bite, these Caramelised Onion Galettes with Goat's Cheese would be hard to walk away from after just one:

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 How delicious do these Caesar Salad Bites sound, with garlic butter-infused bread tart, crispy bacon, parmesan cheese and half a quail's egg? Add Mini Blini Stacks with Smoked Salmon for a very special brunch. 

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In addition to running Icing Bliss, Fiona Pearce also teaches cake decorating classes at Cakeology in South-west London. Her first book, Cake Craft Made Easy, was published in 2013. 

February 16, 2014

Learn in London: The Ultimate Soufflé Masterclass

Souffle

The soufflé is one of the loveliest dishes to eat, and one of the trickiest to get right. (I once made a dessert that was called a soufflé but involved freezing and was essentially an ice cream in the end, and I've been baffled by what I made ever since.) If you're in or around London and have always wanted to learn how to create perfect soufflés, The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant in Knightsbridge is offering the Ultimate Soufflé Masterclass. You'll be in good hands. Head chef Ian Rudge says: “A soufflé is one of the most technically challenging dishes to master as it must remain moist in the centre, yet fluffy and full of texture. Guests will be taught how to create this lighter-than-air dish, which they can showcase at home for their next dinner party.”

The event will be held in The Rib Room’s kitchen, where attendees will enjoy a glass of champagne accompanied by appetising canapés, whilst learning the step by step techniques of creating this sophisticated dish.

An innovative mix of sweet and savoury soufflés will be created and they include:

  • Apple crumble soufflé with bourbon vanilla ice cream and apple crisp
  • Classic dark chocolate soufflé
  • Pistachio soufflé with pistachio ice cream
  • Double baked goat’s cheese soufflé

(Oh if only I were in London. I would feel mighty powerful being able to perfectly produce any of those dishes!)

The Ultimate Soufflé Masterclasses are priced at £35 per person and run for approximately 90 mins. For dates and to reserve a place visit the Rib Room's website

December 31, 2013

Afternoon Tea, Art (and the Coolest Toilets Ever) at Sketch

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After screening the second #UnlockArt film in the Le Meridien and Tate produced series last month, we were treated to a fantastic afternoon tea at Sketch in Mayfair. It's a gallery/cafe/restaurant spread over two floors of a converted 18th century building, and it's just a magical place, one of the reasons London is such an incredible city to visit. 

We were taken to the Glade which is where Afternoon Tea is served, a gorgeous, jewel-toned room that had me looking at the walls, ceiling and everything else for several minutes - total distraction!

Glade_SketchPhoto from Sketch.co.uk

The most charming pastry case sits near the entrance of the Glade room:

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We went all-out and had champagne as well as tea which came in white porcelain teapots with bust sculptures as lid handles. 

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The finger sandwiches were lovely, some came topped with caviar and quail egg. My favourites were the mini croque monsieurs.

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I was full by the time I realised I hadn't yet had the parfait sitting next to my plate, but you know my rule, pretty food can't go to waste so I ate it right up, and I was glad I did as it was one of the most delicious things on the table:

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The decor throughout the spaces, from the walls to the ceilings to special installations, was intriguing:

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Now, normally I don't include the fact that I 'went to the bathroom' in a post, but I'm mentioning it this time because it was the coolest thing ever. I was directed to walk up these stairs...

Sketch_bathroomPhoto from RosieParsons.com. I think that's a DJ booth inside there. 

...not realising when I got to the top that I was actually in the bathroom until there was no where else to go, and then I clued in that the glossy white, egg-shaped pods all around me were the toilets:

Sketch_podsPhoto from People.com - Sketch made it on their '7 Public Bathrooms Nicer than our House' list

When I went in, my pod - which glowed pink - was talking to me in a male voice and I have no idea what it was saying. (And I only had one glass of champagne so that wasn't it.) Outside, the mirrors were definitely made to mess with your vanity - they were convex so your face looked warped. I got the message - it was 'Stop staring at yourself and get back to admiring this awesome toilet!' I had to find photos of it online because I don't normally take my camera into the bathroom, people tend not to like that. 

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Lastly, an exterior shot as the car pulled away far too early to take me to Kings Cross station to head back up to Newcastle - I'd love to see what they do for breakfast:

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Thanks to Le Meridien for another wonderful day!

Photos © The Swelle Life unless otherwise credited

November 20, 2013

Create an Avalanche in a Glass

AvalancheThis seems especially apropos today as I'm watching flurries flying about out the window. Too soon! Here's something cold and icy that's much more palatable. Piccadilly Institute have created a special cocktail for the holidays, called The Avalanche. Topped with a Lego man skier, this snowy concoction is like Christmas come early!

Here's the recipe so you can make your own Avalanche at home:

Ingredients:

12.5ml Ketel One

12.5ml Crème de banana

12.5ml Amaretto 12.5ml

White cacao

Milk to top

Prep glass with crushed ice; mix all ingredients together in a shaker and pour over. Top with extra crushed ice and garnish with crushed amaretto biscuit. Place Lego skier delicately on top of the avalanche.

With its sweet creaminess I'll bet it makes a nice alternative to the traditional, super rich egg nog. (I had to look into whether Brits even drink egg nog - I've not assertained this in my eight years here. Although it is said to have possibly originated in East Anglia, I'm still not sure!) 

November 18, 2013

Caged Creativity: Dinner as Performance Art

A wonderful film made of our evening captures the magic created by a Taste of Space 

Remember the dinner shrouded in mystery I alluded to previously as part of the Unlock Art series with Le Meridien and Tate? This is it. (It culminated in a completely unpredictable finale which will be revealed at the end.) Promised an 'immersive dinner', created by A Taste of Space, (formerly A Taste Full Space), the evening began with a knock at our door at 6pm in our rooms at Le Meridien Piccadilly. We were each delivered a turquoise wooden puzzle (seen below) which came with a note indicating that the codes we would need to Unlock our dinner experience were inside the puzzle. And that if we struggled to open it (that was me) we could get some help from Franz who was creating molecular cocktails for us in the Terrace Grill & Bar - now that's incentive to admit defeat! 

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After we were warmed up with our codes in hand, we were driven to a secret warehouse in Hackney where we walked through a candle-lit entrance:

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The doors opened to an expansive, dark space filled with elegantly set tables lit with candelabras in cage enclosures, the scene eerily highlighted with spotlights. The effect was so dramatic and mysterious I swear I thought we were enveloped in fog, but as the photos show we were not! 

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We wandered in like wide-eyed children trying to make sense of this magical scene, and unlike children, we were served delicious cocktails:

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We were told by our host, Laurie Trainor Buckingham who is the creative behind A Taste of Space, to expect an evening where anything could happen. We were all very excited!

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The first row of cages contained three tables which were set for the first course, but first we had to open the locks with our codes. 

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We were served organic Scottish salmon cured with beetroot, horseradish and Laphroaig whisky, with a smoked cod roe cracker and stained glass beetroot carpaccio with apple and dill, and hot borscht on the side. Wine was Chablis, Domaine Gilbert Picq et Fils 2009/2010 and complemented the gorgeous starter perfectly. 

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Dancer

While we were eating we noticed that in the next cage was a young woman who was watching us, then she appeared to be trying to slide under the barrier into our cage! We kept eating while watching out of the corner of our eye, expecting her to pop up beside our table at any moment. 

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We played musical cages and moved to the next set for the second course. It began with potatoes baked in a salted parcel and came with a mallet for breaking them out of - or Unlocking? - their hard shell. They were absolutely delicious, and I decided to try a bit of the shell as well - it was super salty - right as someone came by and told us not to eat that part. (I'm still here so it's ok.) Then a platter of the most tender lamb I've ever eaten, along with Jerusalem artichockes, was placed on our table. We'd heard the lamb was roasted for seven hours. 

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"Um, they're looking at us - what do we do?" Give them the platter of lamb, of course. I slid it under the barrier (thinking they were hungry) but they didn't devour it, they played with it! It's ok, we had finished, it wasn't wasted. 

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While we ate, the dancers - from a performance group called The People Pile - began to do their own thing, moving in all kinds of ways which began to engage and entertain us. This was just the beginning of that!

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What, you've never partied with a banana peel and candelabra? We found ourselves in one of the empty cages - how did they get us in there, they didn't speak! - circled around one of the candelabras. One of the performers who was standing amongst us produced a banana peel and whipped it down onto the floor. We had a laugh at the randomness and then she pointed at the group one by one and each person responded by doing something with the banana peel. It felt a bit Dada which is a great exercise in letting go of expectations to go with the flow and let things unfold as they will - as adults, how often do we get to do that? 

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Dessert, presented in the third and final set of cages, was molten chocolate cake inside a cage of sugar, served with sea salted ice cream and a coffee-based cocktail that was equally decadent. If that wasn't enough to leave one satisfied, a gorgeous cheese course followed and balanced the sweetness of the dessert. 

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Now for that unpredictable final act. After one of the best dinners I've had, and definitely the most unique dinner experience I've ever had, we found ourselves in the very last cage - again, how did they manage to round us up like that? Then the most amazing thing happened. The performers came up to us one by one and hugged us. This wasn't just any hug, it was a very loved-up embrace that really caught me off guard at how powerful it was; this was some serious, good energy they had harnessed. I know what you're thinking: 'Alcohol helps!' Yes, but in this case the experience was what was most intoxicating, and we got caught up in this great thing that unfolded around us. So after I had two of the most heart-felt cuddles ever - from mute strangers no less! - I stood back and took a shot of the scene. 

I think this photo proves it wasn't just me who felt the power of The People Pile:

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Pretty amazing, eh? 

A huge thanks to Le Meridien and Tate for giving us this truly spectacular evening. And to A Taste of Space and The People Pile for creating it.  

Photos by Dave Watts, except photos #2, #9 and last photo, by The Swelle Life

October 30, 2013

Piccadilly Institute Serves up the Ultimate Spooky Cocktails

Piccadilly Institute_Death Do Us Part low res'Death Do Us Part' is a sharer-cocktail served in The Chamber Room. Presented in a 'human heart' with smoking dry ice, it looks like something straight out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. The cocktail is a hearty mixture of Bacardi gold, Lamb’s, apricot brandy, shaken up with orange and pineapple juice. 

I can never get on top of figuring out and executing an awesome Halloween costume in time for the night, so creating my own scary spectacular isn't likely. It's just as well because I find it's more fun to let others host a night of fright for you, and one event that makes me wish I was in London this Halloween is the party at Piccadilly Institute. Serving the ultimate in spooky cocktails, the evening is described as 'like a rave set in a horror film' - how can you not want to go to that? 

Featured here are some of the cocktails you can indulge in with a friend - they're all for sharing - and enjoy a properly eerie and spine-chilling Halloween!

The Piccadilly Institute is located at 1 Piccadilly Circus, London, W1V 9LA.

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Piccadilly Royal, served in The Noir Room.  This cocktail is spooky enough to give you nightmares. It’s also the perfect accompaniment to anyone going dressed as the Grim Reaper in need of a skull. The Piccadilly Royale is the king of Halloween cocktails as it packs a frightfully delicious punch with a mixture of Eristoff vodka, Chambord, raspberry puree, lemonade, and prosecco. Warning: if drunk too quickly it may cause brain freeze!

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Bate’s IV Therapy, served in The Clinic Room. Every Halloween is undoubtedly blood thirsty and if Dracula had a choice in where to party it would be here. That’s because Piccadilly Institute has blood on tap. That’s right, the Bate’s IV Therapy cocktail is quite literally served through an IV bag on wheels, which is handy if you fancy a boogie and a constant supply of a tube-fed cocktail at the same time. A blood curdling mixture of Absolut Raspberry, Chambord, passion and raspberry puree and apple juice - although it looks like blood, it tastes a lot nicer!

October 25, 2013

Artisanal Treats at Le Méridien Piccadilly

DSC_4276Franz works his molecular magic in the Terrace Grill & Bar at Le Méridien Piccadilly. He created many scrumptous drinks for us including his twist on the classic cocktail, the Manhattan. 

One of my favourite things from my visits to Le Méridien Piccadilly is the food and drink. Every opportunity to make a moment special is explored and executed in a way that makes me squeal with glee (literally, I have to muffle it if that moment happens outside of my room). During Le Méridien's recent event in which they hosted the debut film of the Unlock Art series, made in collaboration with Tate, we were spoilt with so many sweet and savoury treats and I was determined to taste them all, whether I had room or not. As others politely declined as the trays came around the umpteenth time, I soldiered on to show my appreciation for the seemingly endless generosity of refreshments. There is no such thing as 'too much' when it comes to special things, and so mine was a display of pure gluttony. It's a rare opportunity to be able to gorge on molecular cocktails, miniscule croque madames and *gasp* candied bacon lollies, and I took full advantage! It was all presented to us by a team of smartly dressed servers in black, bespectacled with cool lensless glasses. (I loved them and went home with a pair - thank you, Laura!)

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Sweet, salty and savoury at its indulgent best were the bacon lollipops, candied in a crunchy, sugary shell and served in a pot of baby peppers. 

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If food can be adorable, the mini croque madames certainly were. Is that a fried quail egg on top? (I had four. I regret nothing!) 

Previous images © Dave Watts

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The presentation of chocolate-dipped strawberries hanging from colourful tags off umbrellas was pure joy! 

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Specially made fortune cookies were my 'greet treat' that welcomed me when I arrived in my room. (See them open here.)

There was an incredibly unusual and wonderful dinner event later that evening which was so special it deserves a post of its own so we'll save that. When I returned to my room I found a little package tied in cord resting on the door handle. It was a map:

 TheSwelleLife_Map

And then I saw this set up on the table:

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Hot chocolate! Piping hot, too, and exactly as I like it, semi-sweet. But what was in the treasure chest? I referred to the map and it gave me hints as to where the key was. I found it hanging from the doorknob on the wardrobe and I opened the chest to find a cinnamon stick, nutmeg, chocolate and a grater to top my hot chocolate with fresh spices. I was already so full from the fantastic dinner but you know my philosophy - when at Le Méridien! I settled happily into my big comfy bed with my cups of hot chocolate. (I would love to say I drifted off on cocoa clouds but the truth is I blogged until 2:30am!) 

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Afternoon G & T was also a treat I found in my room that day, it's a Le Méridien specialty and the last time I was there we were given a masterclass that introduced us to infusions and how to make their unique and lovely twist on the classic cocktail. You can see that here, and if you want to experience one yourself I highly recommend a visit if you're in London!

October 16, 2013

The #UnlockArt Film Series Experience Begins...

TheSwelleLife_3D (1 of 1)Upon arrival I was given 3D glasses so I could find my room which had my name encoded on the door - a new way of seeing things? This set the tone for what was to follow....

Here I am again at one of my most favourite places, Le Méridien Piccadilly in London, this time for their UNLOCK ART film series experience. It's only mid-afternoon as I'm writing this and already we've had a day packed with all kinds of wonderful delights ('we' is me and six other lucky bloggers), and we've been told there's a surprise to come before our "immersive" five course dinner experience with A Taste Full Space this evening. We've received instructions to be in our rooms at 6pm for the first surprise and I can't wait to find out what they have cooked up - if I know Le Méridien, it will be out of this world. 

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Click the image to watch the film at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site

This morning at the hotel we were treated to the Unlock Art debut screening of Bringing Performance Art to Life, the first of a series of eight exclusive films created by Tate in partnership with Le Méridien. It was brilliantly presented by Frank Skinner who delivered the most clever of scripts, written by Jessica Lack (with a bit of improv we've been told). The objective of the films is to make art inclusive and accessible to everyone, taking it from 'high brow to street level', to Unlock Art for those who may not otherwise have paid attention for whatever reason, be it they don't understand the art, or think it's not meant for them. Delivered with the perfect dose of respectful humour, this historical survey of this provocative genre was entertaining, engaging and educational, and I wasn't bothered about whether I understood at that moment exactly what performance art is - yes even as an art student I struggled to get my head around it - I just wanted to keep watching. For me, it opened the mind and bridged the gap between 'us' and 'them', and hopefully it will do the same for many others as well. This afternoon we had the opportunity to chat with Susan Doyan who directed and produced the series, and she was lovely. What a talent. This easily digestible tour of the arts, from Surrealism to Pop Art, will continue to roll out monthly at the Le Méridien Unlock Art site. In addition, The Guardian will also be posting the videos. 

Update: The BBC has also featured the story and video which you can see here

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And what better to follow than actual performance art? Pil & Galia Kollectiv's 'A Guide to Office Clerical Time Standards' is an instructional piece based on a corporate manual from 1960. The pamphlet is focused on the time necessary for the accomplishment of minute labour procedures in the office, from the depressing and releasing of typewriter keys to the opening and closing of file cabinet drawers. In the performance, seven costumed performers represent the different levels of management and employment while performing the actions described in the guide, accompanied by a live musical score. It was a very rhythmic performance that captured and held the attention of the audience throughout its repetitive acts. 

Now let's talk about the food. Jumping back to my arrival, I found a treat in my room after I entered be-spectacled in 3D. A trio of fortune cookies were waiting to be opened, and in them were these messages:

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I ate them up and was so excited to see what art was going to be unlocked for us. 

After the performance, a unique array of tiny cocktails and food, both savoury and sweet, were served. Never passing up an opportunity to make a moment special, they presented chocolate covered strawberries hanging from umbrellas which was just so neat!

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After the lovely talk with Susan Doyan I came up to my room and found this:

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Being a three-time (and counting I hope!) veteran of these Le Méridien experiences I knew what was in that teapot: an infused gin, one of the hotel's specialties, and tonic to mix for a totally unique G&T. (See more here.) I was so full after my Caligula-like ravaging of the mini foods (and drinks) but there was no way I was letting that pot sit idle and I poured a delicious cup (and kept going until it was all gone). And I ate more than that one bite missing from the macaron. As you can see, I really had no choice. 

Next up: Our immersive dinner. Hint: Hackney, locked cages, dancing zombie girls...

September 16, 2013

Tim Walker: Models and Treats

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AGYNESS DEYN, 
BERWICK UPON TWEED, NORTHUMBERLAND, UK, 2008
BRITISH VOGUE

A while back we looked at Tim Walker's still lifes of desserts, and now here are his portraits of models with treats or dressed up as them. Mostly. (Some are with bread or toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper can indeed be 'Vogue'.)

TimWalker_1MALGOSIA BELA, LONDON, UK, 2009
BRITISH VOGUE

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'CONSTANCE SPRY' - LINDER STERLING COLLAGE,
EGLINGHAM HALL, NORTHUMBERLAND, UK, 2010

TimWalker_3MALGOSIA BELA, LONDON, UK, 2009 
BRITISH VOGUE

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ROLLO HESKETH HARVEY & HIS BREAD AEROPLANE,
NORTHUMBERLAND, UK, 2009

TimWalker_2MALGOSIA BELA, LONDON, UK, 2009
BRITISH VOGUE

 

September 07, 2013

Sweet Paul Summer: Gelato, Happy Homes & Sri Lanka

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Technically it's still summer, right? Again I'm late, as this is the Sweet Paul summer issue and we're just a couple of weeks away from autumn, but as always there's too much of the (really, really) good stuff not to mention. So let's not waste any more time and get to it with a scrumptiously styled story on Gelato:

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Charlotte Gueniau tells us all about her passion for colour, evident in photos of her harmonious, rainbow home, in the story Color Me Happy! I thought I was great at living with colour but Charlotte is giving me serious house envy; I would love to visit and never leave! She sought to create a joyful home and clearly, she's achieved that. Notice how she's cleverly grounded the rooms with white so the colours pop and flow rather than compete for attention and make us cross-eyed: 

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Lotta Jansdotter takes us to her native home of Sweden and shares some of the traditional recipes she made for a special Sunday lunch in the garden for her friends and family:

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While amenable, I'm not a huge shrimp person (that sounds funny together). But these seafood recipes look so delicious they have me wanting to devour pounds of the meaty little creatures. If you love your fruits de mer you must take a look at Sun, Surfers & Seafood:

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 How gorgeous is this deco-styled summer cocktail story? Heaps. 

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If that Pancake Cake with Wild Blueberry Jam, from Nordic Summer Cooking, made you salivate (I literally did each time I saw that photo, and by 'literally', I do mean literally) and you need to switch to savoury temptations to save shorting out your keyboard with drool, there's also a gorgeous Sri Lanka curry story, with recipes of course:

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You can read the whole issue here, and get ready for fall - I've just seen a preview and it's already got me feeling better about the shorter days and chilly weather. 

Also, there was the loveliest peony story in this issue which I had planned to feature separately for Floral Friday, then I saw the fall issue flower spread (Sweet Paul never forgets the flowers regardless of the season), so it will join the peonies for double gorgeousness when it's out, which is very soon! 

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