2014 Favourites – Part Two: Perfume

Welcome to Part Two of my 2014 Favourites series – this time, it’s perfumes turn. My two favourites this year have been Elie Saab Le Parfum and Miller Harris, L’air de Rien.

IMG_1195 B&W

These, without a doubt, have been my two favourite fragrances of the year, and the ones I have reached for above all others.

Elie Saab was the first fragarance from Lebanese designer Elie Saab, and was designed by renowned perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. It has jasmine at it’s heart, with a base of cedar, patchouli and rose honey accord. To me, the jasmine is the most prominent note, and is one of my all time favourites, so this suits me happily. I think it’s both day and evening appropriate (I just scoosh it on a bit heavier in the evening), so a great one to carry a mini of in my handbag.

L’air de Rien is, to my nose, quite an unusual scent and feels very grown up and just a little bit sexy, and is the one I go for if I want something a little different – less fresh, and more overtly sexy. The back story to this scent is that sixties singer Jane Birkin was the muse and the final perfume was inspired by her favourite smells – “father’s pipe, floor polish, empty chest of drawers, old forgotten houses”. These scent memories were translated into notes of oak moss, neroli, musk and vanilla. Katie Puckrik memorably describes the scent as halitosis, bleach and mothballs, on her first impression but I’m happy say these aren’t what strike my nose on first sniff. This, perhaps the most out of the Miller Harris fragrance library, has gained a really cult following, and one that’s well deserved in my opinion.

In 2015, I’m hoping to get my hands on two scents I’ve long sniffed (and dowsed myself in, when in a store that carry them…) – Gucci Oud and Tom Ford Jasmine Rouge, though sadly, I may need to re-mortgage to afford either.

Let me know of any perfumes you think might be up my street, in the comments section below!

2014 Favourites – Part One: Tea

I simply cannot believe that is nearly 2014 over – looking back, I don’t feel I’ve achieved as many concrete goals this year but in spite of this, I do feel I’ve really moved forward and discovered plenty of beauty favourites, food favourites and general lifestyle favourites.

I started to draft up a post that was quickly becoming a book, so I’ve split it into a few separate posts – Part One is below. I hope you enjoy it, and do let me know your favourite finds of the year in the comments below!

IMG_1187 B&W

I am a major tea jenny, and have have two firm favourites for this year – one old fav, and one new discovery – they are Empress Grey from Marks and Spencer, and Jasmine Rose from Waitrose.

Empress Grey has long been a favourite of mine – well, let’s face it, it’s not just any tea… – I’ve long been a fan of the classic Earl Grey as my parents were big tea drinkers and tended to stray away from the usual English Breakfast, going for Earl Grey, Lady Grey, the intensely smoky Lapsang Souchong and so on, and Empress Grey is a new, vibrant, twist on this old classic.

It has a really refreshing, citrus flavour and is very clean tasting, featuring both orange and lemon oils. To my palate, it tastes far more expensive than it is (it’s around £2 for a box of 50 tea bags). For me, it would be heresy to add milk to this – I like to enjoy it pretty hot and neat, out of my favourite House of Rym cup and saucer. It makes me feel rather more sophisticated than I am for a few minutes.

The Rose and Jasmine tea is a new find of mine, but has quickly found second place in my favourites teas. This has a base of green tea, rather than black, which I am really enjoying at the moment and it has visible jasmine blossoms and rose buds. It has a gentle taste and isn’t too bitter, but is very flavoursome – one of my pet hates is tea that tastes of nothing more than hot water. This tea is lovely quality with very large leaves held in fine muslin bags, although at 19 per bag it is a bit more expensive than the Empress Grey but certainly not up there with the most high-end teas on the market.

No doubt my tea journey will continue in 2015, and I’ll be adding more favourites as we go – if there’s anything you think I should try, do let me know in the comments!

Dinner with Jacqueline O’Donnell and Miele

IMAG0314

IMAG0315

At the start of December, we took a trip through to Edinburgh (on a side note, isn’t Edinburgh looking fabulous?) for a rather interesting concept dinner – have you ever had to engage in some light aerobics as a precursor to your starter? No? Me neither!

The chef for the evening was Jacqueline O’Donnell of The Sisters Restaurant, and the aim of the game was to showcase Miele’s new steam oven – all held in the lovely surroundings of Mark Greenway’s restaurant in Edinburgh.

The audience was a mix of bloggers and foodie business types – it was lovely to meet them all, including Leila from Leil’Apetit and Iain and Kate from Citylicious.

Asmentioned, the evening kicked off with some aerobics and pilates style moves – this was a great icebreaker although I don’t think quite burned the suggested 500 calories suggested, which was to balance out the calories from the meal – in theory making it ‘calorie-neutral’.

Jak was an engaging and knowledgeable host – she spoke of using the convection combi steam model at home in detail, showcasing how it can be used in a residential setting and also talked us through the prep of each course.

I think it’s important to note that the whole menu was designed very much to demonstrate a concept – which to my mind it did very successfully – and would not necessarily be a meal one would replicate at home 100% faithfully – some courses may have benefited from a spot of butter or cream or a drizzle of olive oil.

For me, the high points were the first dish of steamed purple broccoli with cured salmon and almonds – I loved the flavour and texture combinations of this dish, and I think they really showcased the fantastic Scottish ingredients.

The venison served with wild berries was cooked to absolute perfection, just a little pink and unbelievably tender – the contrast of delicate meat and tart berries was wonderful.

I have to say, I think the menu Jak designed really showcased the ovens to their full potential and seeing them in action there were many facets of these ovens which I absolutely loved – their sleek modernism, the cleanlinesses, the health and flavour retention factors – sadly, owning one remains a touch of reach for me at the moment as they retail from £1190 for the basic built in model. One to keep in mind for when we move to the forever house, I think…

IMAG0321

Steamed purple broccoli with cured salmon and almonds – 90 calories.

IMAG0323_BURST002_COVER

Steamed beetroot with broad beans rocket and puy lentils – 80 calories

IMAG0324_BURST002

Prawn stuffed lemon sole with herb butter sauce – 135 calories 

IMAG0325

Wild Highland venison loin with Scotch brambles – 85 calories 

IMAG0326_BURST002_COVER

Steamed rhubarb and pineapple with coconut ice cream – 95 calories

(N.B. Apologies for the photo quality here – major rookie blogging error, forgetting to charge the DSLR – we had to make do with camera phones with dying batteries. Will do better the next time!)

With thanks to Jacquline O’Donnell, Miele, Stonehouse Media and Mark Greenaway.